Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Proceedings on any Motion for the Adjournment of the House moved by a Minister of the Crown be exempted, at Tomorrow's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House); and that at Nine o'clock Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without putting any Question.—[The Prime Minister.]
I rise for the purpose of drawing your attention, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, to the decision which has apparently been taken by the Kitchen Committee to dispense tomorrow with the services of many members of the staff of this honourable House. That seems to me to call for at least some public protest, if not for some explanation from the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee.
I want only to take the most convenient course in the argument that I wish to present to the House on a suitable occasion, and I shall be glad of your advice, Sir, as to which is the more suitable occasion of the two. My argument is that the House ought not to consent either to this Motion or the next one until the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee has satisfied hon. Members that the course it is proposed to take tomorrow with regard to the establishment is justified and right. It may be that this is the right Motion for me to oppose that, or it may be that it would be better to oppose the next Motion on that ground. All I want to do is to take whichever course is more appropriate in your opinion.
On that point, Mr. Speaker, may I ask for your guidance. Are the proceedings of the Kitchen Committee confidential to the members of the Committee, or would it be proper to indicate what were the votes of the various members of the various parties in this matter?
That does not arise on this Motion. I am perfectly clear that there can be no question about the Kitchen Committee on a Motion before the House, or at any rate on this Motion.
We will deal with the other Motion when we come to it. I will now put the Question.
That the Proceedings on any Motion for the Adjournment of the House moved by a Minister of the Crown be exempted, at Tomorrow's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House); and that at Nine o'clock Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without putting any Question.
I rise to oppose this Motion and to say that the House, as I respectfully submit to you, Mr. Speaker, would be acting very improperly in agreeing now to adjourn for several weeks without first satisfying itself that those who have served us so well during the time we have been in Session, and on whose continued loyal service we confidently rely when we re-assemble, are being fairly and properly treated in the meantime.
I do not pretend to have any special knowledge in this matter, and I am very far from having formed any final opinion of my own; but there was a Question on the Order Paper today which was designed to give the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee an opportunity of satisfying the House that these matters had been properly decided and that all relevant considerations had been taken into account. It was no fault of his that the Question was not reached, but he could have asked for your permission to answer it. He did not do so.
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House, even the most partisan of them, will appreciate that there is no question of party politics involved in this issue. Every single Member on both sides is, I am certain, as anxious as any other hon. Member to see that justice is done in this matter. There is absolutely no kind of party politics involved.
On a point of order. I have been sitting here patiently for the last few minutes trying to listen to the hon. Member. There has been a con- tinual muttering and murmuring by hon. Members on the Government side of the House—[Interruption.]—just as they are trying to shout me down now. I ask you to try to keep the other side in order.
It is a little difficult to make oneself heard above the continual murmur and moaning from the other side of the House. One has become accustomed to it. Although I should have thought that it was always improper on matters of partisan controversy, one would have expected that Members might restrain themselves on an occasion when they are being invited to discuss a purely House of Commons point in which there is no question of party politics involved.
I have no reason whatever to think that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are not just as concerned about this as anybody else, or that they have any greater desire to see an injustice done, or, indeed, that they have come to any conclusive opinion about it one way or the other. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman opposite ought not to continue to turn the barrel organ that he is turning now, otherwise the monkey in his face will become even more obvious.
I say that the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee is under a duty to the House of Commons to tell us exactly what it is that his Committee has decided and what are the reasons in favour of it, in order to remove the disquiet felt by all decent Members of this House.
So that hon. Members can keep in order, may I point out that it is in order for an hon. Member to object to this Motion for the Adjournment on the ground that a certain subject or subjects should be discussed; but the scope is very limited. The argument that the House should not adjourn does not put in order a discussion on the merits of the various matters which the hon. Member suggests should be discussed. So far the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is in order. If the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward), desires to speak in support of the Motion that we should adjourn as stated in the Motion, he can do so.
I wish to speak in favour of the Motion. The Kitchen Committee is not a party committee. It acts in the interests of the House as a whole. Any action recently taken follows a decision—an almost unanimous decision—of the Kitchen Committee. The needs of the House must come before the conveniences of the staff.
The needs of the House must come before the conveniences of the staff. Subject to this, the Kitchen Committee is eager to show the greatest possible consideration to each and every member of the staff who deserves it, either by long service or by courtesy and attention to Members. I shall be pleased to have a discussion with any hon. Member opposite who wishes to have such a discussion with me.
I must say for the guidance of the House that it would be rather an abuse of the rules of the House to go into a domestic matter of this sort when we have important public business to deal with. We are here to serve the public. Surely our own domestic matters can be dealt with in some way more seemly.
You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that on Tuesday morning I asked you whether you would be good enough to allow a Private Notice Question to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward). Your reply was that such a question would not be in order because there was already a Question on the Order Paper on this subject. As that Question has not been answered, and as the statement just made by the hon. Member does not in any way answer it, would you allow a Private Notice Question tomorrow on this subject?
I would rather not commit myself in advance. I remember the hon. Lady submitting her Private Notice Question. There were at that time other ordinary Questions on the Order Paper. It is a strict rule which Mr. Speaker has to observe not to allow a Private Notice Question to anticipate another Question on the Paper. If the hon. Lady submits to me a Private Notice Question for tomorrow, I will consider it. There are certain rules which bind Mr. Speaker as well as the House, namely, that in general it is the public importance of the question which should guide him.
Further to the statement by the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, is it not true to say that the big principle which concerns my hon. Friends and myself is that we are now about to go on a 10 weeks' Recess and the fact that that Recess would take place has been one of the conditions under which the staff have been employed. It would appear, despite the shortage of information contained in the statement of the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, that he is now, for purely financial reasons, dispensing with the services of members of the staff at a time when they should now be enjoying that period away from the House which has been taken into consideration in assessing their remuneration.
What the Chairman's statement amounts to is that he is determined to get an equilibrium between the costs and the income of the Kitchen Committee. This is one of the methods which he is using to do that. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the House is entitled to pronounce on this principle. I should have thought that once staff have been employed under conditions which include a Recess, during which period, or part of it, they can stay away from the House, the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee should honour that condition.
I should like to explain that I am supporting my hon. Friend who is opposing the Adjournment of the House. In the event of that Motion being unsuccessful, so that the House does not adjourn, we shall need the services of all the people working for the Kitchen Committee. I should have thought that that would be to the point.