I rise at very short notice indeed to raise a matter which I raised at Question time to-day, the supply of bound volumes of HANSARD to hon. Members. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has intimated that he will be present shortly, and I apologise to him for the very short notice that has been given. I would like to put a few points which have occurred, I think, to all hon. Members. Why should Members of this House be short of the necessary equipment to carry out their duty? Within the last two or three years the Prime Minister made a speech about the rebuilding of this House, and in it he said, if I remember rightly, that the House of Commons was of as great a value as a battleship, and that it should be properly equipped. What should we think if we found a battleship in which the sailors had to buy their own ammunition, and in which we found, when materials became rusty and unusable, that they were not replaced on the ground that there was too great a shortage and so no further equipment could be found? I think that we should at once question the conduct of the Admiralty in that connection. We should say that the Admiralty is responsible for equipping its battleships properly. In just the same way we say that the Treasury is responsible for equipping this House properly in the matter of HANSARD. I would go further than that and say that there can be few Government officials who would not complain if they did not get the necessary equipment and books of reference in their Departments. If Government officials are entitled to have their books of reference, surely this House is entitled to its books of reference.
I know it will be said that one can always go to the Library, but there are 615 Members of this House, and it is for their convenience that they should have these bound volumes of HANSARD at hand
so that they can get them, when they require them, in their own homes. I shall be told that the Select Committee has already reported on this matter. I would like to read the relevant passage in the Report of the Select Committee. Paragraph 5 says:
The decision to suspend the free issue of bound volumes of HANSARD was originally taken in consequence of the report from Your Committee in 1940.
I ask hon. Members to recall the conditions that existed in 1940; they were very different from the conditions which exist today. The Report refers to the acute shortage of labour and materials, and then we get this very revealing sentence:
Your Committee are informed that this decision resulted in an estimated annual saving of about three tons of paper.
All we ask—and hon. Members on all sides have asked it, I think, quite clearly this morning—is that three tons of paper should be released in order that we may have this equipment which is so necessary to our work. To-day industry is turning over in many cases from war to peace production. Surely in this very small instance we might have a turnover so that we can be given the paper we require. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he replies will take note of the very strong feeling in all parts of the House on this matter, and that he will realise that the public will not feel that the House of Commons in doing this are giving themselves something they are not giving to other people. The recommendation of the Select Committee is only a recommendation, and the House, of course, has the power to override it if necessary. Realising what the House feels on this matter, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do the sensible thing and will say that he is willing to reverse this very unfortunate decision.
I would like to support what has been said by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) in his request to the Treasury that this facility which has been taken away from hon. Members should now be restored. It is obvious that Members, during the time the House is not sitting, must of necessity be in their constituencies or at places where these official volumes are not available to them. It is essential, if they are to attempt to discharge their duties with that efficiency
which the public have a right to demand at this time, that any official documents—so desire them. In his reply at Question whether they be records of the proceedings of this House or other publications —should be available to Members if they time to-day the Treasury representative based his refusal on the Report of the Select Committee. Paragraph 5 has already been referred to by my hon. Friend. but I would like to quote further from that paragraph, which goes on to say:
No evidence has been submitted to show that the shortages in view of which the decision was taken have been sufficiently alleviated.
Was any evidence invited? As far as I know, no hon. Member who has raised this question and requested the Treasury to re-issue these bound volumes free to all Members, was ever called before this Select Committee, or, indeed, ever had an opportunity of expressing his views.
If my right hon. Friend bases his case on the shortage of labour and materials, evidence is constantly brought before hon. Members of an enormous amount of publications and literature which flood our post-boxes every day and in, I think, quite honestly the view of the majority of Members, quite unnecessarily. These have no connection at all with our official duties, but HANSARD is only available in the Library of this House, and, owing to the shortages, which we do not deny, is not available in the public libraries in our constituencies, and has been denied to the schools of this country, so that when we are in various parts of the country it is utterly impossible for us to consult this publication which is so essential for the efficient discharge of our duties. Some hon. Members of this House over a period of years have built up their own collection of these volumes. What this restriction really amounts to is a reduction in the salary of a Member of Parliament. We have, by the will of the House, agreed to make a contribution to the pensions fund which hon. Members enjoy under certain circumstances. No one quarrels with that. But here we have an additional charge which is deducted from our salaries in order to pay for these essential documents. The House has never agreed to such a course; the issue has never been submitted, and it must be obvious to the Financial Secretary and the whole House to-day that if the House had had an opportunity of considering this matter on its merits they might well have taken a different view from the Select Committee. In view of that, I hope my right hon. Friend will take an early opportunity of reconsidering his decision.
I am glad indeed that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) has raised this matter so very promptly after this morning's episode at Question time. I am quite sure that if more hon. Members had known that it was coming on now, and if it had not occurred at this particular time of the day, the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would have had a very much larger number of Members to deal with, and that, judging from what was said this morning, they would have been quite unanimous in their support of the remarks made by my hon. Friend. Both hon. Members who have spoken so far have quoted from Paragraph 5 of the report of the Select Committee, and I would like to repeat one sentence from that paragraph, to which the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Sir A. Evans) referred:
No evidence has been submitted to show that the shortages in view of which the decision was taken have been sufficiently alleviated.
I wonder why no evidence was submitted. Was no evidence asked for? Did not the Select Committee consider it their duty to go fairly deeply into a matter like this, and ask for evidence to be submitted to show whether extra paper was obtainable? The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff referred to the mass of pamphlets, leaflets and documents of all kinds which load our mail-bags. That is true, and I quite agree with him that a great deal of it is pure trash, and a quite unnecessary waste of paper. But, on the other hand, I can see that certain difficulties would arise if you tried to censor or stop the publication of pamphlets, or leaflets, or material of that kind; and in any case I believe—no doubt the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that all that kind of miscellaneous junk, if I may so call it, is almost always printed on what is known as free paper, and not on the paper which is allocated to publishers of either books or newspapers.
If the Select Committee had bothered —as I think they should have—to ask for evidence to be submitted about the alleviation or otherwise of the shortage, I think they would have found that in some respects the shortage had been alleviated. Newpapers and periodicals, within the last year, have been allowed one or two slight increases in their allocation of paper. Those increases have been a very small percentage of the toal consumption, but this increase we are asking for is infinitesimal. Three tons of paper a year must be an infinitesimal percentage of the total tonnage of paper consumed for all purposes in this country. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will think again and decide to take other advice than that of this Select Committee.
One point which I do not think was mentioned at Question time is that the Members of another place still receive, I believe, the bound volumes of their HANSARD free. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will also confirm or deny that. If that is the case, then this does seem to be the most extraordinary and unfair discrimination between the Members of another place and the Members of this House. As has been so rightly said, these volumes of HANSARD are really a part of essential tools of our trade. I personally, as quite a new Member of this House, find that the rows of bound volumes which I have accumulated already are quite invaluable when constituents call to see me at my home with their problems, or I have to write to them. Having the full index available is the greatest possible help in dealing with all sorts of problems.
There is another point which is not strictly relevant to this, but which I hope I may be allowed to put, since I gather that we have plenty of time. I was going to ask a question of the Chair, by Private Notice, about it in a few days' time. It is such a trivial point that I think I may detain the House with it for a minute now, rather than raise it by Private Notice later, at the end of Question time. Moreover, it also arises out of the Report of the same Committee, and although it is not a matter for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible—it is a matter which comes under the Chair—perhaps I may be allowed to put it on record now in the hope that Mr. Speaker, in his wisdom, may see fit to look into it. The
Select Committee have now decided that all the note-paper we use in this House, in the Library and elsewhere, is to have the crest printed on it instead of die-stamped. They have now decided that these horrible little mauve crests are to become the universal style of the notepaper of this House. I do not know what other Members feel, but I think these mauve printed crests look extremely shoddy and unworthy of the dignity of the House of Commons note-paper. I make that remark in passing, in the hope that Mr. Speaker may see fit to consider the matter and consult with other hon. Members to see what they think about this recommendation of the Select Committee —which already, unfortunately, has been put into effect, for the Report states that
the Serjeant at Arms was informed of these resolutions and gave orders to His Majesty's Stationery Office to print accordingly.
I think that was a most unfortunate decision, and I hope it will be reversed. In conclusion, I would only say how very warmly I wish to support my hon. Friend who has raised the question of the free issue to Members of the bound volumes of HANSARD.
I wish briefly to support what has been said. The whole question is this: Can Members perform their duties more efficiently with these bound volumes of HANSARD? There is no one who will deny that they can. If one has to keep the daily parts there is great difficulty in keeping them in order —at least, that is my experience—but a bound volume can be referred to much more readily, and it means a great deal of time saving in giving a quick answer to a constituent's question. I say that these bound volumes should be supplied to Members. As to the cost, there are many in this House who must give away 10 to 50 times the quantity of paper which is included in these volumes. Some time ago, for instance, I turned out my office and gave away more than three tons of paper for salvage. I understand that another three tons of paper is the amount involved in this request, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter. I am loath to say or do anything which criticises the work of a Select Committee, or any other committee, because I fully realise that their intentions are perfectly honest, and probably they had information which has been denied to us, but I think that this question is one which ought to be ruled by common sense.
I think that this is the first opportunity that the House has had of offering to the right hon. Gentleman opposite sincere congratulations on his promotion to the post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That seems to have gone down very well, so I hope that he will give a favourable reply to this request to mark his assumption of office. The position, so far as I can remember it, is that six or eight months ago the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor told the House that only some 60 Members of 615 were in the habit of buying bound volumes of HANSARD. That is about 10 per cent. and probably those who spent the sum involved, about £5 a year, were those who were best able to do so, which, as I tried to suggest in a supplementary question this morning, is rather placing an obstacle in the way of others, on the basis of ability to pay. That, as I am sure we would all agree, is quite unjustified, and I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will signify the Treasury's altered view. I think it is quite important not only to have the immediate bound volumes of HANSARD but those for the last two or three years, if that can be done. For an hon. Member preparing a speech on a particular subject, it is essential to look back to see what has been said on previous occasions. It is not simply a matter of answering questions by constituents; it is a matter of being able to prepare a proper case, because I am sure that most hon. Members find, as I do, that they are able to do better work at home than they are in the Library when the House is sitting.
I raised some time ago the question of the right of Members to have reprints of their own speeches, or other speeches, for circulation in their constituencies, if they desired, and were prepared to pay for them. The House will remember that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor announced that Members could have only 1,000 reprints of their own speeches, and were not allowed to buy reprints of other Members' speeches, even if they had their permission. In these days, when the amount of room that the national Press can and does devote to Parliamentary reports is limited, and in particular in connection with the reports of speeches made by the minority in the House, I think any other opening that Members have for circulating views that are not necessarily those of the Government should be as wide as possible.
I think the Treasury should now reverse the situation that arose six or eight months ago. I raised this matter at that time with Mr. Speaker, as one of Privilege. I see no justification why the Executive, the Government, should, by the direction of paper supplies and labour, limit the constitutional rights and privileges of any Member in a matter of this kind. It is a wrong interference by the Executive with rights which have been established for many years, since the time when Mr. Hansard gave up printing the daily parts and it was taken over by His Majesty's Stationery Office. Therefore this is a constitutional principle which should be supported, and I am sure would be if there were any way of testing the feeling of the House except by speeches alone.
We must always be aware of the risk of certain powers that be trying to derogate from the importance of Parliament and the rights and privileges of Members. I think the House ought one day to consider going a good deal further than we are asking it to go now. We are not just Members for our own constituencies but Members for Britain, and I think Members should have a right of free travel to any part of the country, provided that it is in performance of their public duty. I have often been asked, and I am sure others have, to go and investigate the situation in a certain dockyard at Portsmouth, or to go into the question of whether certain treatment was being meted out properly to various people. At present Members only have free travel between their constituencies and here, but it is important to bear in mind that we are Members of Parliament for the whole country, and, so long as we confine our journeys to our public duties, we should also have free travel as well as free copies of the bound volumes of HANSARD, and unlimited reprints of any speech that we might wish to have reprinted. The Executive must not, by direction of labour or paper, limit the privileges and rights of Members of Parliament. Last but not least, we should have the right to go free to address public meetings in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency.
When we consider whether or not it is desirable that we should have bound volumes of HANSARD, it is a matter that ought to be considered from two points of view. Is it in the interests of democracy that Members should have bound volumes, and is any good purpose served, such as economy of paper or economy of labour, by denying us that privilege? I believe it was estimated that the abolition of the bound volumes of HANSARD would save some three tons of paper. That was first brought up at a time when the question of the paper supply was undoubtedly of very great urgency. We should be able to appreciate that urgency more fully were it not for the fact that every day publications which in no sense whatever can be said to serve any useful purpose shower into our letter boxes. I do not believe that denying us the bound volumes of HANSARD results in economy of paper, but very much the reverse. A Member having bound volumes can refer to them at any time he chooses. Many Members have not been able to keep daily copies because some of us have been blitzed, and some of us have had to move our houses a very large number of times, and the only way to get the HANSARD to which one may wish to refer is either to make a journey to the House of Commons Library—and we are constantly urged not to indulge in unnecessary travel—or to apply to the Vote Office. A large number of Members have told me that they have done that and looked up the speech to which they wish to refer and then thrown the copy away. It would be interesting if an estimate could be made of the paper that has been wasted in that way. If that is the idea of economy of paper, no case has been made out for it.
I concur in every word that the last speaker said. I regard this as a matter of very real importance. There is no possible doubt that, if you wish democracy to work, you have to make it possible for Members of Parliament to do their work efficiently, and I believe that at present there are a very large number of barriers in our way. The question of travel is not only difficult but it is beyond the means of a very large number of Members. If we want secretarial help, an efficient secretary to-day is not only almost impossible to find but, if you find one, you have to pay a salary outside anything which a Member of Parliament, on the salaries they are paid, could possibly hope to pay unless they have private means. I maintain that a Member of Parliament should be able to do his work whether he has means outside his Parliamentary salary or not. All of us who attempt to serve our constituencies adequately are faced by the most appalling bill for postage and telegraphing. I believe that we should in the interests of efficiency be supplied with free, efficient secretaries and, where a Member does not need the whole-time service of a secretary, there should be secretaries to share the work of several Members. I do not ask for that as a privilege for individual Members of Parliament. I ask it as something to enable us to do the work we are sent here to do.
To be so pettifogging as to deny bound volumes of HANSARD and say that that is in the national interest for economy of paper, or because you have not a sufficient number of people to bind the volumes, is in my opinion to have no sense of relative values. Democracy is something that we have to fight very hard if we wish to preserve, not only in days of war but when the so-called peace arrives. Democracy is something which you have to work to preserve and which you have to arouse the interest of the people to preserve, and the best way to do it is to ensure that Members of Parliament shall be efficient and shall be given means whereby to do their work. To do away with the bound volumes is petty, stupid, idiotic economy, unhelpful to Members of Parliament and certainly unhelpful to democracy.
With regard to bound volumes of HANSARD, I gather that the actual trouble is the work of binding. There was a time when we were told we could not have HANSARD for two or three days, but the indignation of the House put that right in a few hours. Many things have been achieved during the war and we ought to be able to achieve the idea of binding HANSARD and not binding something else. If that is the trouble, it would be possible to have the parts stoutly stitched for the time being. One must remember, too, that there is this very considerable disadvantage in the day-to-day HANSARD. The natural result of the combination of Members who do not speak up and reporters situated some distance away from them is that there are inaccuracies in the day-to-day copies, which are corrected in the volume. On one occasion a quotation was made from a daily part, and the Member alluded to got up and said: "I said nothing of the sort and, if you look in the bound volume, it has been corrected." With regard to paying Members' fares, I would point out that before the last war the German Government—in ordinary matters the meanest on earth, and paying its Members a very small salary indeed—provided its Members with a season ticket over all railway lines. It may be that it would be wrong to do that at the moment, because we want to keep travel down, but I would ask the Financial Secretary to consider this. Let him get some of his experts to form an estimate of what it would cost to give a season ticket to Members of Parliament over all lines. I have an impression that it would come to less than 30s. a week. Let him see what he actually pays and he will find that it it a great deal more than 30s., so that it would be a saving for the Government as well as saving a lot of time and paper.
I do not know that at any time they provided secretaries in Germany but they do in Sweden, the United States and Canada. That is impracticable at the moment, because you cannot get a good secretary, I will not say for love, but certainly not for money. The time will come, however, when it will be possible. The employment of a secretary makes a tremendous difference to one's efficiency. If I had no secretary I should either go mad, or leave the House. If we start the next Parliament with the idea that every Member has to be given a competent secretary, it will make all the difference in the world to the efficiency of the nation and of Parliament, because the old gentlemen who are just passengers and have no use for a secretary, would be much more easily pushed out by younger men who would really do their job. There are Members who spend hours writing letters in the Library. If they once got the knack of having a competent secretary, they would save two or three hours a day in which they could study the points that they wish to bring up in the House. The only suggestion I have to make in addition to what the hon. Lady has said, is that it should be the duty of every appointed secretary to report on how much work she was getting, and if she was not getting enough work her employer should be "carpeted" by his constituency association.
I would have preferred this Adjournment discussion to have taken place at the normal pre-arranged time, because I have not ready the information that I really wanted. I have looked back at the detailed evidence that was submitted in 1940, when the decision on the bound volumes of HANSARD was taken. This matter has twice this year come before the Publications and Debates Committee, of which I am Chairman, and, relying on the evidence of 1940, we have seen no reason to alter our decision because there has not been much amelioration in the paper supply or in the labour available.
The Report of the hon. Gentleman's Committee says:
No evidence has been submitted to show that the shortages have been alleviated.
Did the Committee ask for such evidence —because, in fact, there has been a considerable increase in the amount of paper allocated, for instance, to periodicals and newspapers?
We made inquiries. We had no witnesses or written evidence before us, because it was obvious that the situation was not vastly different from when the original decision was made.
But we must be realistic about it; three tons adds up. I am one of the few Members who availed themselves of the free copy of the bound HANSARD. It used to go to my constituency, and was used for reference purposes by anybody who wished to consult it. I miss it and I would again readily avail myself of it, if it was possible to issue it, but I am not prepared to pay for it. It is obvious that while the war is on we cannot get everything as it was in prewar times, and there are bound to be a large number of restrictions. There seems to be no alleviation in the paper shortage, and there is certainly no alleviation in the labour shortage, and the Committee could see no reason why, this year, our previous decision should be altered. It may be possible to vary it in a few months' time—
Is it not true that six or eight months ago the Newspaper Proprietors' Association released 10 to 12½ per cent. more newsprint to the Press; that some of it was not taken up; and that the "News of the World," with a circulation of 4,500,000, was able by this increase to make it 5,000,000? We cannot, therefore, talk about lack of paper.
We did discuss that point, but not technically. We understand that newsprint is not suitable for the printing of HANSARD, which does not use the same type of paper. The Committee have considered the matter twice this year and they have tried to be realistic about it. We have to put up with a great number of discomforts and denials during the war, and this is one of them. After all, Members get two free copies of HANSARD every day.
Does my hon Friend appreciate that the ordinary daily issues have no index, and that, if one is anxious to look up a speech, there is no possible way of finding it? Did my hon. Friend's Committee take steps to consult representative opinion in the House, through the usual channels, to ascertain what Members thought of the restriction?
We did make inquiries, and the conclusion was that the general opinion of Members was, "We would be glad to have it as soon as it is possible to get it." I appreciate what my hon. and gallant Friend has said about an index. That is one of the reasons why I availed myself of the free issue. The Committee are now considering the question of an index separate from the bound volumes, with only a paper binding, so that Members can look up items in individual daily copies. The Committee are as anxious to make free bound volumes available as hon. Members are, but we ask them to be realist in the present situation, which is only a temporary one. The Committee will be glad to make the free issues available again as soon as it is possible to do so.
The hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) appealed to us to be realist in this matter, and we cannot do any better than ask his Committee to be the same. The suggestion for a separate index to the loose copies of HANSARD is too foolish to be considered. A Member who wants to go anywhere will, if he has to consult the OFFICIAL REPORT over a period, have to carry about 200 copies with him, with the separate index. The suggestion that the newsprint which has been released is not suitable for HANSARD is no answer. It is not the newsprint which is the trouble but the pulp. The question whether you produce paper for newsprint or for paper suitable for HANSARD is merely a question of what the mixture is for the making of the paper. Pulp is the controlling factor, and it is astounding that the Committee have not gone into it more closely. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), who, apart from being a Member of the House, is a distinguished member of the legal profession, has told us that he could not afford to purchase the bound copy of HANSARD. If a Member of the legal profession cannot afford to buy a bound copy, I do not know who can. Those Members who are dependent on their Parliamentary salary most certainly cannot.
There is something very fundamental about this question. One of the things which will be essential in the immediate post-war period is that the public of this country should have confidence in this House. One of the things which I fear is the growing cynicism about this House among the people. One of the reasons for it, is that so frequently this House is sparsely populated. Perhaps this is a point that I ought not to raise, because I have been an infrequent attender myself of late, owing to being otherwise engaged, but I am speaking of the pre-war period. The House is so often sparsely populated because so many Members are tied down in the Libraries typing letters for three, four and five hours a day. It is a disgraceful business that a man who comes here to represent 100,000 people, who has some knowledge of the difficulties of his people, and who has a contribution to make to the governing of the country and the prevention of future wars, has to make himself into a third-rate clerk and typist and spend most of his time typing letters to his constituents. He has to do that because he cannot afford a secretary. Membership of Parliament is the most sweated of all the industries. It is the only industry which has never had a rise during the war. I am not advocating that it should, because that would be unpopular. Nevertheless, it is true, and any Member who has tried to exist on £600 a year knows that it is a physical impossibility unless he lives near the borderline of poverty.
If we persist in treating Members as we do now, we shall perpetuate a system of subsidised Members of Parliament. They will be subsidised on the one side from industry, and on the other side from the trade union movement. Both forms of subsidy are undesirable. It will destroy the independence of the Member of Parliament. The Member, however, cannot exist unless he is subsidised in some shape or form. The Government ought to consider whether the time has not arrived when Members should be treated, at any rate, as well as those of some of our Dominions. When I was in Canada in 1942, I found that for every two Members of Parliament an office and a secretary were provided. Members are free to spend half an hour going through their letters before the House sits, and they are then able to go into the Chamber and do the job for which they were elected. In this House, if someone asks for you, you have to wander round draughty passages in order to find a seat, and then, in the full public gaze with people passing all the time, you have to discuss the most intimate details of cases which are brought before you. What a disgusting thing in this Parliament of the Empire that there is not a room—unless you care to take your visitor into the smokeroom, the bar, or the dining room—where you can discuss anything intimately with a constituent. It is a disgrace which the Government ought to remedy speedily.
There will be a big change in the constitution of this House after the present Parliament. I do not mean that politically. I am only pointing out that a lot of Members are not coming back and new men will be coming in. I hope that many of them will be very independent Members with no attachment. The job of a Member of Parliament is a full-time job, as it ought to be. It should not be something which a man takes up when he has reached the end of his industrial life and is no longer any use for controlling the companies in which he has directorships. It is something to which a man ought to come when he is at the height of his powers and is able to give of his best to the country. That is not possible now because there are very few men who can afford to come to the House unless they are prepared to live on a very low standard. That is disgraceful, and I hope that, as a result of this Debate, the Government will turn their attention to seeing that this House is able to fulfil its proper function in the best possible way.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Captain Poole) referred to the fact that the reason we are not getting the bound HANSARD is the shortage of paper pulp. The raw material of paper pulp is straw, and throughout the country there are stacks of straw all over the place unused and unwanted. May I suggest to the Government that they should take some of this surplus straw, convert it into paper pulp, and convert that puly into HANSARDS, and thus give us the bound volumes?
I have been here for 23 years and a fairly regular attender at that. Like other hon. Members I have missed the bound volume very much. I found it handy for reference purposes. I am not convinced by what the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) has said, because there is still plenty of paper coming by post to Members of Parliament. You cannot for instance say that there is a paper shortage when approved societies are attacked. I think that every Member has already received a bound diary for 1945 from Boots Cash Chemists. I can, of course, do with a bound diary, but a bound volume of HANSARD is much more useful. I wonder what happened to the Committee which dealt with this question and what they were afraid of when they arrived at their decisions. I have visited other Parliaments and I can never understand why we are so much worse off by comparison with a Member of Parliament of the United States of America. I do not want us to go quite as far as they do there. I understand that if we did, I could stand at this Box and say: "Mr. Speaker, here is my speech. I do not want to deliver it but I want it printed in HANSARD." I understand that they go further even than that. They can get copies of speeches printed free of charge, to send to their constituents. Some of us have talked about 100,000 voters, but the Americans can speak in terms of millions of constituents. Senators and Congressmen have marvellous offices in the United States of America as well as secretaries provided at public expense.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Captain Poole) referred to people coming here who have followed other occupations. As we are talking in a homely way as Members of Parliament, may I be allowed to say what has happened to me? Hon. Members had better realise that if one takes a very unpopular minority line in politics, as I do, he probably gets one of the largest post bags of all. Indeed, my post bag is very heavy. Before I came here, I was a full-time trade union official, and hardly ever wrote a letter with my own hand; I dictated my correspondence. I am entitled here to dictate my letters in the bureau down below by paying for it, but I cannot get anybody because of shortage of staff, so consequently I have a typewriter in my hotel, and one at home, and I do most of my correspondence myself on the type-writer. That is what a Member of Parliament has to do in order to perform his duties. I hope that this Debate, based upon the publication of bound volumes of HANSARD, will raise the very much bigger issues which I have mentioned. I have seen the Parliaments at Sofia, Belgrade and Budapest. In fact, I am not sure that the Members of Parliament in Iceland are not better catered for than we are here.
The trouble however lies in the Treasury, the Department represented by the right hon. Gentleman; and now that he is new to the job, I hope that he will do something drastic to blow the cobwebs out of the Treasury. Indeed, when the nation can spend £14,000,000 a day on this war and hon. Members never ask a single question about passing £1,000,000,000, why should we be quibbling about a trifle like the bound volumes of HANSARD? There are some journalist Members present. If they care to publish a book they can still get it published. There are plenty of new books published every week. I publish a book occasionally myself; but hon. Members cannot read them because they are in the Welsh language. I think there may be a bigger sale proportionate to the population for Welsh books than for English books just now. If an hon. Member of this House writes a book he can not only get it published; he can get it covered too. I am not sure that he would not get it covered more easily than he could get a bound volume of HANSARD. I do not want to talk party politics, but there is such a thing as a conservative-minded Chairman. If there was a radical-minded Chairman of that Committee on our official records he would make a plunge in favour of what has been claimed. Certainly, if he were a Socialist we should get bound copies for nothing, as was the case before the war.
I intervened only because the hon. Member said that politics were influencing me in this direction, and then went on to say that if the politics moved further to the Left, there would be more chance of getting what he wants. My intervention was to say that it would be done at somebody else's expense.
Surely I am perfectly entitled to say that a man who professes to be conservative in politics is more conservative and narrow-miruded than a Liberal or a Socialist would be. Is not that accepted everywhere?
I am building my argument on that point of conservatism. I conclude by making an appeal to the Treasury. The fault does not lie with the hon. Member for Newport. The trouble, of course, is beyond him. May I therefore ask the Financial Secretary, if he is going to reply to the Debate, to tell us that after a given date, not only shall we be able to get bound volumes of HANSARD free but that we shall also get back numbers covering the period for which we have not received them before
If I intervene now it is not because I wish to bring the Debate to an end—I have no power to do so in any event—but because, as I explained to the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) when he gave me notice at Question time to-day that he hoped to bring this matter up, I have an engagement at 3 o'clock this afternoon elsewhere, and therefore I shall not be able to stay here if the Debate continues. I am sure that my hon. Friend will understand that, and further will understand my difficulty in obtaining all the information I required for this Debate between 12 noon to-day, when he gave me notice that he was going to raise it, and Five minutes to One when the Debate began.
It is an admirable rule and practice of this House that hon. Members may raise anything they please on the Debate for the Adjournment, but it is also a wise Ministerial practice to reply only to those matters of which some notice has been given. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) will, therefore, forgive me if I do not discuss the questions of travel throughout the United Kingdom, free secretarial assistance for Members of Parliament, better accommodation in the House, and so on. The matter which my hon. Friend raised was the discontinuance since 1940 of the issue of bound volumes of HANSARD free of charge to Members of this House. I would make three observations on this matter. First, from the point of view either of money or of material, this is a very small matter indeed. In the second place, it is not a matter in which Treasury Ministers, who are answerable for the Stationery Office in this House, have any departmental interest. It is purely and solely a question for the House of Commons. The only concern which the Treasury have in the question is to endeavour, so far as practicable, to carry out the wishes of the House.
In this matter, the House is advised by the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) is the Chairman. I would point out in the first place that this economy, which was introduced in 1940, was not asked for, so far as I am aware, by His Majesty's Government. It was initiated by the Select Committee of that time. I have not very much doubt in my mind that they thought—I think it was in May, 1940—that it was desirable for this House to set an example of economy in some small way to the nation as a whole, and to give a lead to the great campaign initiated about that time for savings of all possible kinds.
What has been the result? Before the 1940 economy there were 294 Members of this House taking bound sets of the OFFICIAL REPORT. At the present time there are only 62. The decision taken in 1940 did not preclude a Member obtaining a set of the bound volumes. What it meant was that he had to pay for it if he desired to have it. I am not at all convinced that there is very much connection between the introduction of the charge for the bound volumes and the decrease in the number of bound sets which have been asked for. I believe that very many Members gave up taking their bound volumes in 1940, not because it was going to cost them £4 or £5 a year to obtain a set, but because they thought that it was the right thing to do.
I am not saying that there are not Members for whom the question of cost was decisive in this matter, but, speaking for myself, I do not believe that if the privilege of obtaining the volumes free of charge were now to be restored, the number of sets asked for would immediately go back to the number it was in 1940. Therefore, from the point of view of money or of material, I say that this is a very small matter indeed. It would involve only two or three tons of paper and probably less than £1,000.
Some persons are born mean, some achieve meanness and others have meanness thrust upon them. In this matter, the Treasury stand in the third category because we have to have meanness thrust upon us. The only concern of the Treasury here is to carry out the desires of this House which, so far as we have hitherto been able to interpret them, have been expressed by the Select Committee presided over by my hon. Friend who sits behind me. We have had this little meanness, as I expect my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) would describe it, thrust upon us; and when my hon. Friend points to the Treasury, and says "They are the people who are behind this," I can assure him that he is utterly and completely mistaken.
Now the hon. Member is trying to lead me on to a very wide issue. On this question all we are concerned to do is to try to carry out the wishes of the House itself. It was the wish of the House in 1940, I think, that this economy should be made and when the matter was brought up before the Select Committee as recently as 12th October last, the decision taken in 1940 was confirmed, upon a Division in the Committee in which, I believe, four Members voted in favour of the recommendation that the economy be continued and the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) voted alone in the other sense. There is, of course, a good deal of room for difference of opinion as to the value of the bound volumes. I have heard of cases in which Members have passed over their bound volumes to some public institution or political institution with which they have happened to be concerned. I have even heard of a case, in the old days when Ireland was represented in this House, in which an hon. Member's bound volumes found their way direct to a bookseller with orders to be realised forthwith upon the Member's behalf.
I have no doubt that they fetched something like the cost price. It is perfectly clear from the Debate we have heard to-day that there is a considerable number of Members who are desirous of having this privilege once more restored to them. Our only difficulty in this connection is to interpret the wishes of the House of Commons. There is set up, by Sessional Order, the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports. The Chairman of the Committee has expressed his view in this Debate today, and my hon. Friend opposite will also, no doubt, have something to say on the matter. This is essentially a House of Commons matter and the House as a whole will have a first-class opportunity of expressing its view on it when the new Session begins, and the Motion for setting up the Select Committee is once more before the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned that something like 297 Members indicated that they wanted the bound volume. He said that only 297 ever took it. I think they had to indicate somehow or other, at the beginning of each Session, that they wanted it. That figure represents about half the House of Commons. Could he not resume the old procedure by which those who want the bound volumes can indicate their desire in the old way, and those who do not want them do not have to have them at all? In any case why I should be prevented from having them even if there is a majority or not who do not wish me to have them, passes my comprehension.
This is a very short question. Is it not the case that at the beginning of every year, Members who took these bound volumes were asked if they could not reconsider their decision, and whether they would be gracious enough to do so?
From the Stationery Office point of view, there is no difficulty, certainly no insuperable difficulty, in increasing the number of bound sets of HANSARD available for hon. Members in the immediate future. This, I repeat, is a House of Commons matter. We should have got into a great deal of trouble if we had acted in the face of a recommendation of a Select Committee of this House. All we have endeavoured to do is to carry out the wishes of the House, and I feel sure that the Select Committee, having heard the strong expression of views by hon. Members here, will give the question further consideration. As I have said, hon. Members will have a very potent weapon in their hands when the new Session begins, because a Motion will then be put upon the Order Paper to re-establish that Committee, and at that stage hon. Members could raise a Debate and even, if they felt so inclined, take exception to the constitution and the composition of the Committee. I hope that the House will acquit the Treasury of any meanness on this subject. It is one on which we should be only too happy to spend a little more money if by doing so we should be carrying out the wishes of the House.
As a Member of the Debates Committee, I feel disinclined to allow the Chairman to have to bear the full brunt of the criticism in this matter. From my remembrance, this Committee was urged, with other Committees, to institute economies in the use of paper. At that time, there were general appeals throughout the nation that we should avoid waste wherever possible. I might say that upon this Committee there were at least four representatives of printing trade interests, and that it was up to them, as printing trade representatives, not to allow their sectional interests to interfere with their appreciation of the national interest. It was not only in the abolition of the free issue of HANSARD that we took action. We reduced the size of one or two publications, and we made other economies besides the economy of abolishing the free issue of HANSARD. I am very pleased to see the feeling here to-day in the direction of resuming the free issue of the bound volumes of HANSARD, but I must ask hon. Members to take into consideration that when this suggestion was first carried out, the Members of the Committee were dominated by national considerations, and were not as concerned as perhaps they might have been, with the individual desires of their fellow Members.
May I put this point to the Financial Secretary? He seems inclined to follow the wishes of the House. Could he put that a little more definitely than it has been put? I can well understand the Select Committee, in view of the need for economy and the desire to save the nation's resources, coming to the decision they did. Perhaps all of us would have done the same in the early part of the war, with things as they were. The position is a little easier now, and what is weighing upon hon. Members' minds is that, by every post, we get volumes of advertisements and printing matter of all kinds, and when there is talk of economy we wonder where it is practised, in view of the fact that we do not get a valuable document such as the bound volumes of HANSARD, because of some reasons which may be technical. [HON. MEMBERS: "Because you have to pay for it."] No, I understand it is very difficult to get at all.
In that case there is no excuse at all for the Treasury, seeing that the wish of the House that this matter should be reviewed again with a view to returning to the old footing is almost unanimous. I would like to ask the Financial Secretary whether he can give us some understanding on that point. I think Members of the Select Committee are convinced of the feeling of the House. Would the Financial Secretary give that assurance and not harp so much about meanness being thrust upon him—I am thrusting it from him now—and indicate he is prepared to follow the old system? The hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and I have given evidence that we ceased to take the bound volume because of financial embarrassment. I had taken it every year since I have been here, but when I was told I would have to pay for it I said, "I cannot afford it," and I did not take it. That is an example of what the present position means. I would like the Financial Secretary to give some assurance that he has been convinced by the free expression of opinion of the Members present which has been an endeavour to get him to change his point of view.
I wish to stand up here, first of all, in defence of the Treasury, because to-day they have adopted a new line and have definitely said that it is the sole desire of the Treasury, on all occasions, to carry out the will and wishes of the House. One is also interested to notice, if I interpreted the Financial Secretary's remarks correctly, that the Treasury think that this action was a mean action, and that they regret having done it. I hope that is not too wide an interpretation of his remarks. As has been said, this decision was arrived at because of the shortage of paper and national necessity. That may have been true in 1940, but I gather from the Report here that the Committee arrived at the same decision on 12th October, 1944, without going into the evidence at all, or asking, apparently, for any fresh evidence. I submit that it is the considered opinion of the House that this decision should now be reversed.
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary what steps will be taken by the Treasury to ascertain what is the real opinion of the House. Surely this right—not a privilege but a right—is not going to be taken away, if the majority of Members of the House of Commons do not wish it to be taken away. It is definitely a right that we should have available to us bound volumes, so that we can refer to them from time to time. I make a further plea to the Financial Secretary. Other matters have been raised which are perhaps as important as, or even more important than, the issue regarding HANSARD. These are matters which obviously demand very careful and serious consideration. Can the Financial Secretary indicate that these proposals or suggestions will be given the most careful consideration at some early date, and that an opportunity will be afforded for him to come to the House in this generous mood, and say, "What is the wish of the House? We shall carry it out."
I add my voice for once to those of the forces of reaction, so widely expressed in different parts of the House to-day. I hope we shall soon go back to what was the practice before I had the privilege of being a Member of this House. I came to the House in the early part of 1941, and it was a disappointment to me to find that, contrary to my expectation, I was not to be presented with bound volumes of the Debates. I have regretted it ever since. I think the attitude of the Committee in 1940 can be well understood, but we have now had various relaxations, particularly in connection with the black-out and so on. Things are not so difficult as they were, though there are still many difficulties before us. I hope all those concerned, particularly the representatives of the Treasury, are now convinced that in all parts of the House there is a desire that we should revert to what used to be the practice here, and I hope we shall do that now.
Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."