Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons Catering (Dismissals)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1952.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds North East

To ask the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, how many of the staff in the Members' Dining Room have been given dismissal notices; how many more dismissals are contemplated; and what alternative staff are to be engaged.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds North East

On a point of order. In view of the fact that the House rises tomorrow for the Recess and the action which is being taken by the Kitchen Committee on behalf of all hon. Members of the House, may I ask whether it would be possible for the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward) as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, to answer Question No. 106, Sir?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am afraid that the rules prevent that.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Droylsden

Further to that point of order. As it would be impossible for the House to do justice to this case because of the time factor involved, is it not possible for you to extend your indulgence, Sir, to a matter which is of prime importance because of the violation of very important trade union rules in this connection?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I have just looked at the Question. I am afraid I cannot relax the rule. Otherwise, there would be no end to it; every hon. Member whose Question was not reached would think he had a similar right. This seems, from the glance I have had at the Question, to concern the action of the Kitchen Committee, which is an all-party Committee. Surely there are other ways of dealing with this domestic matter, through the usual channels.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. I am afraid I must maintain the rules of the House.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

Further to that point of order. You said, quite rightly of course, that you must maintain the rules of the House, but the rules of the House have enabled you in previous months to allow a Question to be asked if the Minister has asked for permission, even at this hour of Question time. If the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward) asked your permission to answer the Question, would you allow the Question to be asked and answered, Sir?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If the hon. Member reflects, he will see that that procedure would land the House into numerous repetitions of the difficulty. The rule is quite clear; if a Minister, in the public interest, asks my permission to reply to a Question that has not been reached, and I approve, that can be done but I could not have such a breach in the rules as is suggested.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I must say quite definitely that if the hon. Member is trying to make me change my mind he is wasting the time of the House.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I was going to ask your guidance. You were good enough to say a minute ago that there were other methods by which this matter could be raised. I wonder if you would be good enough to say how, before tomorrow and before the dismissals take effect, it will be possible for us to raise the matter?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I did not mean that it could be raised necessarily in the House, but I gather that this is about the Kitchen Committee. The Kitchen Committee is an executive body elected by this House and contains, I understand, hon. Members of all parties. I suggest that hon. Members should get in touch with those hon. Members on the Committee to see if anything could be done.

Later

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

On a point of order. I beg to move the adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the decision of the Kitchen Committee to terminate the employment—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. Quite apart from the other considerations in this matter, we have passed that now. The hon. and gallant Member should have done it at the end of Questions. We have had a statement since.