I apologise for interrupting the debate on Kenya, which I know is a matter of vital importance and, perhaps, the keystone to the whole problem of Africa. I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in protesting that a full day was not given by the Government for a debate on Kenya. If the truth be told, I should have liked to speak myself on that subject, but obviously that was not possible today. I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen for not having taken more time, because that enables us to talk about the Reports which the Select Committee on House of Commons Accommodation have recently rendered. Equally, I think that the Government should have allowed more time for a debate on the Reports of the Select Committee.
Dull though the subject may be from the point of view of the public, it is vital for the efficient conduct of our affairs here. I do not know what sort of comments will be made about the attendance today, but I reflect that hon. Members are naturally an unselfish body of people and, knowing that they have left their affairs in the hands of trustworthy guardians, they are prepared to go about their duties rather than to sit here and listen to a stream of complaints and criticisms which the Select Committee in their Reports have had to make.
It is a domestic issue, and probably the public are not very much interested, but I am sure that, with the approval of the whole Committee, I can say that in all the recommendations we have made, whatever their cost, we are confident that if they are carried through they will greatly improve the efficiency of Members in the House, and that it will be money well spent.
The Committee made two Reports. Perhaps I should say that there were two Committees, because we worked in two Sessions, but starting last year and ending in the middle of May of this year we held 35 meetings, examined 34 witnesses and asked 2,500 questions, which is quite a formidable array as the minutes of evidence show.
I say at the outset that I have been pretty well all round the whole of this Palace and that the accommodation which we can provide here, and which should be provided and made comparable to that which prevails in the Dominion Parliaments, is impossible of achievement without extensive buildings and, of course, considerable expenditure. The Committee had only one purpose in mind when making its Reports, and that was how to make the best use of the existing accommodation in the interests of the efficiency and comfort of Members and of the very considerable staff attendant thereon.
We are all confident that if our recommendations are carried out they will prove to be of benefit to everybody. Perhaps I might emphasise that both Reports were unanimous. In fact, I think we had only one Division during the whole time. That does not mean that we did not quarrel occasionally, though the Division was not on a matter of what I would consider prime importance.
The object of the debate is to give Members the opportunity to discuss the proposals, inevitably to hear some sort of statement from me who very unexpectedly found myself put into the Chair, and either to approve the Reports or endeavour to improve them, and in the process to persuade the Government to take immediate action where legislation may be required and to carry out minor alterations without delay. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to say that the major alterations which would cost quite a considerable sum of money should be seriously considered for implementation in the next financial year.
Might I also say at the outset that the statement made by the Minister of Works on 28th January on the first Report of the Committee, which was published last October, has been very helpful indeed to hon. Members. Perhaps I might commend the Minister for his promptness in action. I am sure that the Select Committee is gratified that he so promptly replied to its recommendations. Many of the minor proposals made in the first Report have been adopted; some are in force and others which involve considerable expenditure are due to be completed during the Summer Recess, when quite a change will come over what is referred to as the kitchen accommodation, about which I shall have something to say a little later.
In the second Report—it was on the first Report that the Minister made his statement—there are three main conclusions. First of all, the Report endorses what the first Report said about unified control. The first Report urged that it would be in the interests of everybody that there should be unified control of the Palace of Westminster instead of this curious tripartite, quadripartite or goodness-knows-how-many-partite control which exists at present. We have the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Serjeant at Arms and the Minister of Works and Black Rod all fiddling about with no real co-ordination. That is not an extravagant statement. I have been Minister of Works, and the present Minister of Works is sitting opposite me, and I am sure that if he spoke he would endorse what I am saying. It is extraordinarily difficult to get things done, for reasons with which I will deal in a few moments. However, the main thing is that there should be unified control.
The second recommendation is the formation of a House of Commons Commission in place of the existing Commission, which stems from an Act of Parliament of 1812——
I was assured, Sir Charles, that I was entitled to talk on the Reports about any matter whatsoever to which they relate, having regard to the fact that the Reports are up for consideration.
There is a recommendation which involves legislation, but effect could be given to the same idea in part by setting up a House Committee. The other thing might follow later on. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) talked about a House Committee, he would get out of his difficulty.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). That was really the way we approached it. I prepared my notes on the assumption that I could discuss legislation. No legislation would be needed for the Committee which I suggest, although it might itself decide that legislation would be desirable. I take it, Sir Charles, that if I stick to that formula I shall not infringe your Ruling.
The third important consideration is an alteration in the accommodation on the Library level of the river front. That especially concerns Mr. Speaker's Library, which was intended originally to be part of the House of Commons Library, about which I shall have more to say in a few moments.
To deal first with the unified control of the Palace, the October Report urged that some machinery should be instituted whereby unified control of the Palace could be exercised. We had evidence from Mr. Speaker and the Serjeant at Arms, and both of them supported the view. If hon. Members will refer to Question No. 928 on page 79 of the Report, they will see that Mr. Speaker favoured the idea but pointed out some difficulties in carrying it through. The reaction of the Serjeant at Arms was:
Of course, unified control is bound to be better.
That is precisely the view which he held before the Joint Select Committee in 1945.
The reason why I, with a little experience as Minister of Works, press for unified control is that nowhere, in my experience, are there more vested interests than there are in the Palace of Westminster. They all conflict with one another, and nobody really has the say. There is no better organisation than exist here at present for passing the buck. It does not matter what one recommends; somebody can always do one down, because there is no real top decision-making authority which can correlate and is strong enough to decide between the requirements of Members of this House and the requirement of another place. I also want to say something else about that a little later on.
The House of Commons Commission or Committee is, as I have indicated, only a first step. The Commissioners, as they now are, were first constituted in 1812. I wish to point out to the Committee that the Commission really deals only with staff salaries and the Fee Fund; it does not deal with anything else at all. The poor Palace of Westminster is under the Lord Great Chamberlain, who has absolute authority over both Houses when Parliament is not sitting. That is a funny state of affairs. When we rise at 4.30 p.m. tomorrow the Palace passes back to the Lord Great Chamberlain, and the Serjeant at Arms has no say in it at all until the House sits again.
That raises one of the difficulties in respect of which we wish to propose alterations. The House itself is delegated by the Lord Great Chamberlain to the Serjeant at Arms while Parliament sits. The Minister of Works has been the keeper of the old and new Palaces since 1883 and is responsible for the maintenance of Government buildings. He has a general warrant from the Lord Great Chamberlain yearly to carry out what repairs may be necessary to keep the fabric of the Palace in repair. Also, for some reason unknown to me, he allocates Ministerial and other rooms via the Serjeant at Arms. This may be great fun for the Minister of Works, but it is thoroughly unsatisfactory, because his writ does not run the whole time. I am sure that a change towards greater unification would be desirable. If the Committee which we suggest should be formed saw fit at some future date to recommend legislation, nobody would be more delighted than I should be; but I will not pursue that point.
I now come to the second point, which is the question of the Commissioners as they now are and what they might be. Historically, the Commissioners were appointed in 1812 to regulate the staff payments of salary in place of what were called "perquisites." I do not know whether any hon. Member knows what "perquisites" means; there may be a Great deal behind it. The Commissioners consist of Mr. Speaker, the Secretaries of State, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Master of the Rolls, the Attorney-General, and the Solicitor-General, provided that they are all Members of the House. The Master of the Rolls at present is not a Member of the House and so he is disqualified. They are:
Responsible for pay, pensions, terms of service of all officers and officials employed in the House of Commons.
They are also responsible for management of the Fee Fund.
The Select Committee felt that times have changed and they hope that the Committee which it is now recommended should be formed will consider making some alteration. We do not think that the control which now exists is wide enough. If I might make a suggestion to the proposed Committee, we should like the Commissioners to be replaced by a body of experienced Members and Ministers, as the Report suggests, who would undertake the present functions of the Commission and deal with accommodation problems and the management of the House.
The Joint Select Committee of 1945 said that there should be a Committee of Members, to which all Members of the House could have access, to advise Mr. Speaker on the allocation of the accommodation under his control. The Joint Select Committee also recommended that it should form an ad hoc Joint Committee with the House of Lords Committee as occasion demanded.
I am in a certain difficulty because of the restriction which has been placed by you, Sir Charles, upon what I am trying to say. I do not object to that. I understand the position. Like the policeman who has just run me in for speeding, you have to do your job. However, we feel that the Commission or House Committee should give some guidance to Mr. Speaker on Estimates for the House of Commons; the allocation of accommodation; the Library and all its ramifications; the general services required by Members; and the general arrangements for kitchen and refreshment rooms, which are already carried out by Committees. In effect, the Library and Kitchen Committees would remain autonomous, except regarding expenditure. If hon. Members want to consider the composition of these Committees, it can be studied in the Report itself, though it would probably be out of order to stray into those realms. Such a Commission, when formed, could make a report to the House, embracing all the reports of the sub-committees. I think I shall have to leave it at that, because I do not wish to get out of bounds.
The third important point was the question of the use of Mr. Speaker's Library. I do not wish to say too much about that, except to thank Mr. Speaker for the kindly and patient way in which he received and accepted the representations made to him by me on behalf of the Select Committee from time to time. If hon. Members will study the Report, they will see on page 121 a plan, from the original plan of Sir Charles Barry, which clearly indicates that the room at present occupied as Mr. Speaker's Library was intended to be part of the Library of the House of Commons. I do not want to go into the historical facts of what has happened, but it is perfectly true that that room has never been used by anybody except Mr. Speaker since the Palace was rebuilt.
The reason for the alteration is clearly stated in the Report, and I want to say to the Lord Privy Seal that, if he will accept, and if Mr. Speaker will also accept, the cheapest and easiest alteration which we propose, which will cost practically nothing, there is no reason why it should not be carried out between now and the time in October, whatever it may be, when we are to come back.
The next cheapest operation would be the Rialto across the corner, which would not cost very much. I do not think it is necessary, because the cheapest of all is the simplest, and it could be done without any great inconvenience. What I would emphasise is that the whole Committee was completely satisfied that none of the other proposals that have been put forward will offer such relief of the congestion and such improvement of the amenities for Members as this change, which they have unanimously recommended, subject to the conditions stated in the Report.
It has been stated by the Minister of Works, in regard to the Star Chamber Court, that the arcade has to be rebuilt anyway, at a cost of £20,000. In that case, a first floor could be added on top of the colonnade, which would give another 2,380 square feet, which would be useful, but let not the Minister think that this accommodation could in any way take the place of the change in the Library front. Anybody who has studied the habits of Members of the House knows that they all congregate towards the east—to the river side of the Palace. In general, I believe, they want to be together, but one of the points made in the discussions in the Select Committee was that we do not want to spoil the character of this place by providing rooms so distant from one another that Members never see one another at all. We consider that this proposal which we have made offers the maximum best use of the existing accommodation, beyond the inordinate amount of space which is occupied by another place, but that is another matter.
I want to say a word or two about the Kitchen Committee's alterations which have already been approved by the Government. The proposals are contained in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the October Report, and there is no doubt that they would be of great benefit to Members. Perhaps I may draw attention to the fact that a plan showing the alterations to what is known as the Visitors' Downstairs Bar is now on exhibition in what used to be called the Old Map Room, and is there for all to see. I am sure that this would be an enormous advantage to Members, although, because none of us ever welcome personal change, some people will not like it.
I am quite certain that the alterations in the kitchen arrangements which have been accepted by the Kitchen Committee will lead to a better service, hotter meals and a considerable saving of about £3,000 a year. Another point not to be lost sight of is that much better accommodation for the staff will result in regard to changing and rest rooms which, in the past, have been absolutely deplorable. I am glad that the Minister is carrying out these changes, and that they will be completed by the time we come back in October. All this is included in the Supplementary Estimate of £34,000.
Now I come to the point about desks. A questionnaire was sent to all hon. Members inviting them to say whether they wanted to have pedestal desks. I found that quite a number of hon. Members did not know what a pedestal desk is, and I am bound to say that I did not know either. Apparently, it is a trade term for a desk where one's knees go through the middle and there are rows of drawers on either side. There were 295 replies from Members who said they would like to have one. What Ministers do not understand—and I hope the Lord Privy Seal will listen to this, because I have found people on my side of the Committee unsympathetic—is the fourth-form schoolboy conditions in which many Members of Parliament are expected to work. There is nowhere to leave things—books and papers—except a miserable locker like the one I had at school. I have never used mine; I have got the key, and I suppose it is still empty.
This accommodation is quite deplorable and inadequate, when we compare it with what Members of the Dominions Parliaments have. It is quite disgraceful and astonishing that Members have put up with it for so long, but I hope that, with this very considerable number of people asking for desks, something will be done about it between now and October. There is another reason. There is plenty of room on the Upper Committee Corridor, and I quite agree with the argument about other rooms in Old Palace Yard and Abingdon Street. It may be that all the 295 hon. Members do not want this, but it is very unlikely that 93 would have said "Yes" to Abingdon Street in reply to the questionnaire if not agreeing with the idea of a scheme in the Upper Corridor which would improve the efficiency and comfort of all hon. Members.
I do not know, because I never had a kneehole desk when I was a fourth-form schoolboy. Perhaps I was not brought up with such high-class people as the noble Lord. I call it a desk; but they call it a pedestal desk. [Interruption.] It is no use talking to me about it. I do not invent trade terms. I am an engineer, not a furniture maker. People here talk about blue prints, but blue prints do not mean to an engineer a rough sketch or outline. A blue print is a copy of the final—not a sketch. It is the end, not the beginning. If hon. Members like them, they can put their blue prints in their pedestal desks.
I want now to say a word about ventilation, particularly in the Library. The ventilation in the Library is deplorable, and I hope something will be done about it. Also, it was often reiterated by members of the Committee, and in the cross-examination of witnesses, that there ought to be better supervision of the temperature in rooms.
If visitors in the Galleries were allowed to take part in our proceedings now is the moment when they ought to break into loud applause. The Select Committee recommended that there should be a silent annunciator put up in the Chamber, so that people in the public Galleries may know who is performing on the Floor of the House. [Interruption.] "Performing" is not the right word. I should have said "speaking." One hon. Member has suggested that an annunciator might be useful on the Floor so that hon. Members might also know who is talking. I made this suggestion when I was Minister of Works and actually fitted a dummy behind the Speaker's Gallery. I thought it was a jolly good idea. Without giving the Lord President of the Council away, perhaps I might say that he did not like the idea very much.
I do not understand this shyness, although I am naturally timid. I do not understand the objection. Of course, the public know when well-known figures stand at the Box and speak, or when some Minister who has lost his job goes on to a back bench and speaks from there. The public are the people who send us here to represent them, and when they come to see what is going on, why should they not know who is speaking? More than a thousand people come here every day, and they ought to know who is speaking. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal can give us an assurance that before we come back in the autumn there will be a silent annunciator put up in the Gallery.
I shall not say much about the staff, or the whole question of Committee clerks, except that the Committee were unanimously of the opinion that the Clerk of the House should be given such authority and latitude as to enable him to be overstaffed with clerks rather than understaffed. Considering the amount of legislation that goes through today, it is intolerable that there should be a limitation on the number of clerks employed, and that the Clerk should be restricted and always be in the state of mind of arguing whether he can spare the expense and risk the displeasure of committees, or have rather more clerks than seem obviously necessary all the year round to meet the need. We were unanimously of the opinion that he should be able to meet the needs of the House. I hope that the point will be taken care of forthwith by the Government.
The Palace of Westminster is quite an enormous place. I do not think I have been into every room, but I have been round it a great deal more than anybody else. It is a fantastic fact that, leaving out the public but including Members of Parliament, an average of 1,011 people attend the House of Commons as staff every day while the House is sitting, and that in the other place, including their Lordships—when they attend—there are only about 300. That means a proportion of roughly 3½ to 1 in favour of the Commons.
Another fact is that the House of Commons occupies about 128,000 square feet, while the other place has about 70,000 square feet. If we reduce these figures to fair proportions, they mean that the other place ought to shed 24,000 square feet as close as possible to the House of Commons. We should then have more room to carry on our work. I do not see much possibility of getting that change made until we get both Houses of Parliament under unified control, and the sooner that is done the better.
I would comment particularly on one feature of the other place. I cannot understand why, as the October Report indicates on page 14, the Lord High Chancellor was allowed to remove the whole of his Government Department from the Law Courts and into the House of Lords. The Palace is a congested slum area, but the Lord High Chancellor—[Interruption.] It is no use the Lord Privy Seal saying that it was done by a Labour Lord High Chancellor. I am not interested in that. The fact is that it happened, and there is so far no sign of the Government tipping him out. In 1946, the Lord High Chancellor had 23 rooms. Now he has 36 rooms. Why should he be allowed to move into a slum area? He ought to be moved out again as fast as possible. That was the general view of the Select Committee, and was supported by the evidence.
My next reference is to the rationalisation of feeding. I understand that the cabmen's shelter has been shut down. I regret that: it was not a recommendation of the Committee. There are no fewer than 35 different staff messes, if we add them all up, and 27 places where Members can get food and drink. As time goes on, surely there should be some rationalised scheme of feeding. The Ministry of Works has a great scheme for building a new restaurant across the road in Abingdon Street, connected by an underground passage so that people will not have to go across the road. They can go underground. Something ought to be done about it here, because the present position is frightfully inefficient and takes up an enormous amount of space. I commend that matter to the attention of the Government.
I have finished, although I would like to have been able to say more had there been more time. I hope that hon. Members will feel that the Select Committee has not been tardy in carrying out its job, and that the recommendations which we have made are worthy of the Committee's support and of the Government's immediate attention.
No doubt the Committee appreciates that the Select Committee carried on and brought up to date work which was done by Select Committees in the past. There was Joseph Hume's Select Committee in 1834, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is in almost apostolic succession to him.
Conditions were very different in the House of Commons when Joseph Hume's Committee sat and dealt with conditions as it saw them in the social climate of its time. It remedied many extravagances and abuses in the House of Commons, and it had an even tougher job than did my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich and his Committee.
Looking at the office of Speaker in 1833, I note that prior to 1833, apart from his perquisites, he got something like £3,000 a year. When we were considering Members' expenses the other day, we thought that a daily £2 allowance was something novel. As a matter of fact, it is not, because Mr. Speaker used to get £5 every day he sat. What is more, in 1833 it was made into a salary of £6,000 a year. At every election of a Speaker, he was allowed 4,000 ounces of plate, or about £1,400 in lieu, and also £1,000 by way of outfit.
One of the things that the Hume Committee did—it is a testimony to its courage—was to reduce Mr. Speaker's salary by £1,000 a year and to buy the set of plate which we have at the present time and the outfit that is now part of the establishment of the House. The real reason it did that was that Speakers used to sell back to the House for their own profit the plate that they were given at each time of election. That was something belonging to the social climate of 1833.
Change was very much in the air. We often speak about the great Reform Bill, but it is useful to remember that that Measure only gave the vote to 4 per cent. of the adult population. Of course, it is a fact that we had a Parliament in this country long before we had democracy. I remember the Prime Minister saying to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that there was Parliamentary democracy long before the Labour Party was born. My right hon. Friend said that there was not; that there was a Parliament, but not democracy. He said to the Prime Minister, "Your people were here and mine were not." Any student of history will know that my right hon. Friend was not wrong on that occasion, if he has ever been wrong on any other.
Of course, it was after the widening of the franchise that the Joseph Hume Select Committee was set up. There are copies of the Report of that Committee in the Library, from the perusal of which one is able to see what manifold abuses it put right at that time. People in those days were born into the service of the House, and fees were tied up with Private Bill legislation.
It appears that the five Acts dealing with Officers of the House of Commons which came into force between 1812 and 1849 all went through "on the nod." There is not a word to be found about any debate on them at all. If we want to know anything about the history of the House at that time, we have to turn to the Report of the Select Committee of 1834, or to the earlier one.
Joseph Hume made the suggestion of appointing Commissioners of the House, and they were appointed from Secretaries of State extant at that time. That is the reason, of course, why the Master of the Rolls was a Member of Parliament He could not be one today.
When I first became interested in these things four or five years ago, I approached one or two of my colleagues and asked them whether they had ever met as Commissioners of the House. Many of the people who were Commissioners did not even know that they were, because the whole idea had fallen into desuetude. I imagine that the way in which Mr. Speaker used to carry on was to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer and one other right hon. Member, and that was that. I think that was proved by the evidence submitted to the Committee.
From 1830 onwards, Secretaries of State were not so busy that they could not reasonably manage the affairs of this House, but they met more regularly than they do now. In the course of time, this set-up became almost archaic. Indeed, if we take the trouble to study the matter, we find that many of the powers conferred on the Commissioners have been derogated to people almost five times removed from the original Commissioners.
As I say, the Commissioners very seldom meet. I do not think I am giving away any secret when I tell the Committee that they met on one occasion, not in the lifetime of this Government, to see whether the only lady member of the OFFICIAL REPORT staff should receive equal pay. I think that matter has now been put right. But Joseph Hume, having met the abuses of his time, the thing has fallen into decay.
Those who come into this House, particularly those concerned with great corporations and local government, know that this place is largely run by officials. People talk about Crichel Down, but that is a feather-bedding affair compared with what happens in this House. I put it to hon. Members, as a matter of self-respect, that the first thing that should happen in a democratic assembly is that the elected element should prevail. It does not prevail in the management of this House, and it should. The House of Lords has a Sessional Committee which does not recognise the right of the Lord Great Chamberlain or of any other court dignatory to push its Members around. That Sessional Committee has complete control over everything that happens in the House of Lords. Even the matter of whether a shorthand-typist holds the certificate of the Royal Society of Arts for a shorthand speed of 80 words a minute comes before that Committee. Anyone who examines the proceedings of the Sessional Committee knows that their Lordships have much more control over their procedure than we have over ours in this House.
It is very difficult, even if one has sat on a Select Committee, to work out the line of demarcation between the Serjeant at Arms, the Clerk of the House, Mr. Speaker, and what happens when the House prorogues. I think it reasonable that this House should see that privileges are stopped, and that hon. Members should at least bring themselves into line with the best municipal practice. The first thing that any such administration does is to ensure that any appointment to office within the town hall is open to all through advertisement and is completely competitive. The elected element manages its affairs, and all officials are under the reasonable discipline of the elected element. These things do not prevail here.
If we are going to be up to date, we need a different set of machinery. We do not need to take the steps suggested by Joseph Hume, because today public taste, morality and the general standard of public life are higher than they were in his day, but we need some of his probity in order to face up to the difficulties of 1954. The sort of organisation we want is not something which will run this House from day to day, or which will approve of the application of everybody who applies for a job, but generally an organisation composed of a body of people which will lay down the general principles on which the staff shall work and which will fully recognise the right of collective bargaining and free association of its servants, which is something that is completely absent at the present time
I would mention in parentheses that in order to get over this difficult business of trade union representation, Her Majesty has empowered the Ministry of Labour to negotiate all such questions on her behalf. In this alone of the Royal Palaces no trade union recognition exists. That is a statement of fact, and some sort of body ought to consider this matter and get it properly organised.
The conditions under which people are promoted or engaged are matters over which Members of this House should have control. I say quite emphatically that no town hall or municipal administration would behave in the way that we do. It would become almost a matter of public scandal if they managed their affairs in the way that we manage ours today. The Select Committee suggests the setting up of something like a general purposes committee which would manage the affairs of the House in these different directions.
This is a very uncomfortable place in which to work, and I think that every hon. Member knows that is so. It is not sensible that the little tubby hole, to which reference has been made today, should be the only allocation of space for Members. Broadly speaking, the amenities allocated to Members of this House are very much less than those of County Hall across the road.
Or, as my right boa. Friend says, of any other county hall.
There is another important point. Some time ago we were discussing Members' salaries. That maybe a distasteful subject; none the less salaries and conditions go together. There are any number of hon. Gentlemen on both sides who just have bed and breakfast in London for four nights of the week, come here with their bags on Monday morning, and have to shift their stuff out at the end of the week. Surely, it is not unreasonable that those Members should be provided with pedestal desks and, if necessary, facilities for filing their documents and papers. I am fortunate in being provided with full secretarial assistance and in living reasonably near London, but anyone who has seen his colleagues' dilemma knows that they need something more than is provided for them. Those desks could be put in.
If it is a matter of amenities for some people on the staff, there is a good deal of rushing round, but apparently nothing matters here regarding the convenience of the Members. I know that the Lord Privy Seal doubts the wisdom of this proposal, but if 60 desks were provided he would be surprised at the response. When this matter was first raised in the Select Committee by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price), I did not think much of it. I was later staggered by the number of hon. Members who approached me about it, and I am sure that the Chairman of the Committee was equally surprised at the numbers who would like a desk in this place.
Now a word about the Lord Chancellor's Department. No other Department of State is housed in this building. His Department is like any other Ministry and it is something of a scandal that the whole of it, from the Lord Chancellor himself to the office boy, is housed here. Having regard to the accommodation available it is quite indefensible.
In this great Palace of Westminster, with its long history and great tradition, it is quite insulting that visitors should be left to the mercy of some of the guides inflicted upon them. We should put ourselves in a respectable position by forming a proper corps of guides who would not provide the bowdlerised history which one often hears now. As Member for Leeds, West I usually get parties coming here at the week-ends and on Saturdays I join the public procession. I start with 30 school children and often end with 150. One finds a guide stuck in front telling the sort of story that almost makes one scream. Would it not be possible on Saturdays to have a guide in the Robing Room, a guide in the Princes Chamber, another in the Royal Gallery and so on, who could tell the story of that place as the people passed through? There have been some very reprehensible practices by guides and the Select Committee was made aware of that. It was told of instances which took place on such solemn occasions as the Lying in State of a Monarch. We must put the guides under the control of the Palace itself.
To summarise the position, this House of Commons is a living organism reflecting the social climate of its time. Hume and his colleagues reflected the climate of 1833 onwards. We could not do anything in 1945, but we have now moved back to our own House and we set up the Select Committee. I think the Select Committee's Report reflects the social climate of our time and that this House should bring itself up to date and adopt that Report.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) into all his history, because much of it did not very directly concern the recommendations made. I do not think that there are today any scandals in connection with appointments in this building. We went into that fairly exhaustively and I think that we were all satisfied that the methods of appointment were not open to serious criticism. Anybody who reads, not merely our Report but the various Minutes of Evidence and documents, will agree with me in that regard.
As a member of the Select Committee I am most grateful to the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) the chairman, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) who deputised for him for some three months while the right hon. Gentleman was selling blueprints abroad. Both of them worked us very hard, but, as a result of their efforts a valuable document has been produced—valuable, not merely because of the recommendations but on account of the great mass of evidence, which it is worth while to read both on historical grounds and for suggestions for the future.
We were unanimous, but there are various degrees of unanimity. We were very anxious about this because we felt that the major recommendations would be more likely to be accepted if the Committee was unanimous. However, I have not the same enthusiasm as the hon. Member for Leeds, West had for disturbing Mr. Speaker from his Library. That is Mr. Speaker's main workroom. Sometimes in the mornings one will see a substantial procession of officers of Government Departments going into his room—when examining Amendments for example—and there must be a suitable place for that work to be done with the necessary books of reference to hand.
With regard to the recommendation to build over the Star Court, that room will be 80 feet by 30 to 35 feet wide. That will provide an enormous amount of writing accommodation. I myself have an office five minutes from here and I am therefore not as dependent on the amenities provided in this building as are those who come to London for four days a week. Nevertheless, I realise what a burden they have to bear and what a difficult life they have to live. Though my constituency, my home and my office are nearby, I use the Library occasionally. I cannot recollect an occasion when I could not find a seat in the Library.
Again, I use the rooms underneath quite a lot in the afternoon. I have never found them all full. There are 20 of those small rooms. Some people suffer from claustrophobia and do not like going into them. We therefore took the doors off half of them, but I like to be in one which has a door. I like to be by myself and do not wish to do my work in public. There are others like me. Some hon. Members would like to use desks while standing in the passages. I should like to say, in fairness to my colleagues, that I was never convinced of the necessity to move Mr. Speaker from his Library, though others took a different view.
The hon. Member will accept that the Committee unanimously reported:
Your Committee are confident that Members would greatly benefit from these alterations. They therefore adhere to the recommendations which were made in the report of the Select Committee on House of Commons Accommodation in the last session.
I thought it was right that I should say here what I have said in the privacy of the Committee Room upstairs.
The proposal to build over the Star Court is a very valuable one and I hope that that will be considered. It will be possible to do it with great economy, since the damaged colonnade has got to be rebuilt and it merely means putting a new room on the top. That would be a most economical way of providing substantial additional accommodation in this building which, as everybody knows, is congested.
I am always annoyed when I read in the papers that Members of Parliament have their meals subsidised, when two-thirds of the meals consumed in this building are not consumed by hon. Members. The gentlemen of the Press, policemen, messengers, Office of Works staff eat here, and the public use the cafeteria, and I think there is a little loss incurred there.
As for the suggestion that appropriate accommodation might be obtained at the other end of the building, I do not see how it can be done. There is the Central Lobby, which is part of the House of Commons, and that is a natural division between the House of Commons and the rest of the building It would be difficult to work further on, in conflict with two lots of Division bells. I do not want to use the Lord Chancellor's rooms. They are 300 yards from here or thereabouts. We must think of distances in this building.
It is possible that the hon. Gentleman was not at the particular meeting when this matter was discussed in greater detail. It is not suggested that Members should have rooms in the other place, but some of the alterations suggested would make for easement on the river front at the Library level, and certainly if some of the rooms now occupied by the other place were moved further south, use could be made of the rooms now occupied by the staff of the House of Lords.
I have been around this building a great deal. I used to explore this building in war-time. I did fire-watching and I found a great many rooms which I had never seen before. I understand that there is now a chance—and I hope the Lord Privy Seal can say something about it—of making some proper use of the Victoria Tower. The reconstruction of the stonework is now nearly completed. But of course it is a horrible place to climb up to. In the days of the "doodle-bugs" that was my place of observation. I often used to speculate who would win if a "doodle-bug" hit the Victoria Tower—but that is in passing.
There ought to be a lift in that place. Its condition during the war was filthy. There are lots of old Acts of Parliament and other documents accumulating dust all the time, and we really ought to have a clean-up in the Victoria Tower. It is in an awful condition; at least, it was last time I was in there, and, as I have said, it is quite a climb to get up there.
Although no reference is made to this matter in the Report, I hope that consideration will be given to putting the Victoria Tower to some use in order to relieve the Library, because every year, so we are told, 40 yards of additional accommodation are required to house the vast number of public documents which are issued every year to Members of Parliament. None of us reads all of them, but they are all read by some Member or other—we all have our special interests—and it is very difficult to get at the documents, because they are spread all over the place. The Library spreads all over the corridors. Many of the old documents which are not often consulted might possibly, by agreement with the Members of the other place, be transferred to the Victoria Tower. That suggestion ought to be kept in mind.
Reference is made in the Report to the ventilation, and I do hope that somebody will see that this building is made decent. I sometimes attend meetings in a room upstairs which is so abominably hot that at the end of an hour I have to come away because I cannot endure it any longer.
The 1922 Committee occupies the same room as that in which the other lot have their meetings. For some reason they have their meetings early in the morning, and we meet rather later in the day. One lot of people go and quarrel upstairs, and then another lot go and have their quarrel—and why should they not?
Certainly. I hope hon. Members will look at this document carefully. We cannot discuss legislation, but we can set up a House committee. Whether later on that could become something rather different I do not know, but in the meantime, without any legislation at all, at the beginning of each Session we can set up a House committee consisting of experienced Members, who can be advised, to make sure that this place is run with greater comfort than today. It would be most useful if the ordinary Member who felt some grievance about something or other could have access to a House committee.
If we had a House committee, there is no reason why it should not from time to time confer with the corresponding body in the other place, because there is no reason why there should not be proper co-operation between the two Houses of Parliament in order that we may live in greater comfort and decency than we do at the moment. I would ask hon. Members who have not yet studied this document to read it with the utmost care
I do not know what announcement is going to be made today by the Lord Privy Seal. Perhaps when we meet again in October the Government will be in a position to make some announcement on the recommendations in this document. Certainly many of these recommendations are worthy of careful consideration by every hon. Member.
The danger of a discussion of this kind is that it may seem to deal with rather trivial points, and unless it is carefully presented, some people might say, "Has the House of Commons nothing more serious to discuss than whether it is to have lockers or a change in its eating accommodation and so on?" For that reason, I want to say two things. We have to remember that in this House we are not entitled to be too diffident about it, because we are only trustees; this House was here a long time before we were, and it will be here a long time after we have gone. I think it will help us to overcome our diffidence if we regard our job, as my hon. Friend for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) said, as one of trying to bring the contemporary House of Commons in its living and working conditions into tune with the job it has got to do.
I hope there will not be many cases in which we have to bring matters of detail to the House for discussion. That is why it is important that we should have a House Committee. I am glad that this Report is unanimous. It may be that when some hon. Members read this Report they will wonder why we were so modest. We do not ask for a great deal. We agree that the first thing we must try to do is to put our affairs in better order. We are not anxious to broadcast all the facts about the rather foolish and obsolete practices and misuse of space. If only we can get our own House Committee started we can make proper use of the space in the Commons, and we may then be able to live on better terms with the Lords. I do not usually speak in favour of the House of Lords, but nobody could have been a member of this Committee without being impressed by the fact that the House of Lords is run more sensibly than the House of Commons. I hope that it is not too high a target to aim at to run our affairs at least at the same level of efficiency as the House of Lords.
I should like to see the accommodation of the entire Palace of Westminster treated as one unit. If that were done there would be ample space to provide the staff and all Members with more civilised conditions than they now have. That, however, is outside the Report. We have to confine ourselves to the accommodation in the House of Commons.
I hope that hon. Members who are more fortunate in their individual circumstances—especially Ministers, who are a little selfish, because they have their private rooms—will remember that a higher percentage of Members of the House of Commons than ever before have to live and work here almost continuously during each Session. Many of us have been interested in this problem since 1949. It was not possible to make a start until we were back in our own Chamber. Again and again I have left the House when we have risen early and have seen elderly colleagues sitting in uncomfortable chairs at the end of the Tea Room. It is fantastic that we should have practically only two places in which to sit, and that those who have to live here most of the time have no privacy and very little comfort.
I do not believe that this is an efficient way to do our job. I hope that hon. Members will read the two Reports. We are trying to see that all officers and staff in the House can live in rather better conditions. That is one of the first things we ask for ourselves. There is practically no other room to which Members can go except what is now the Library. It is psychologically impossible to ask Members to go upstairs and downstairs. We desperately need one more large room in which to sit. I hope that we shall not have to argue on the Floor of the House whether Members are to have desks. I hope that while the House is in Recess during the summer the Ministers concerned will very quietly get going with this job. The present situation is impossible. I am sure that the public will be astonished to hear that Members of the House of Commons, while they can spend £25,000 in training a pilot, cannot so organise their own accommodation that there is at least one desk per Member.
I do not want to take up too much time, but I hope that these Reports will not now be set aside, but will be followed by action and legislation. I hope that in the course of time we shall get a House Committee, and that that Committee will quietly and graciously set about the business of bringing the accommodation and everything else connected with the House up to the standard which ought to exist in the year 1954.
I confess that I did not intend to take part in this debate, because I hoped that these two Reports, upon which we laboured for so long and about which we arrived at unanimity in the end, would have aroused the attention of sufficient of our colleagues for them to join in the debate. It has always seemed to me that Members of Select Committees should not push themselves forward when their Reports are being discussed and when other hon. Members may desire to express opinions. All I wish to do is to reinforce a great deal of what has been said by my colleagues, and to add one or two further points.
I feel profoundly that this Palace of Westminster should be made into a thoroughly efficient working place for the elected representatives of the people. Whether or not they like it, Members have to spend a great deal of their lives here while Parliament is sitting. I agree with the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) that the Members who need special consideration are those who, for financial or other chance reasons, have not the opportunity to make arrangements to do much of their work elsewhere.
I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) that the provision for Members is much better and more extensive over the water, at County Hall, than it is here. I have certainly not found that to be the case. The ordinary Member there has no pedestal desk; only one room is available for Members to read and write, and there is a library which inconveniently closes at 5 o'clock, although the Council may sit to midnight. I do not want to go far into these comparisons, because I hope that the House will agree—
I see. I would add, however, that the London County Council has been under the control of Labour Members for 20 years.
When I served on the Committee one of the matters which came to my attention was the grossly inadequate accommodation for many of the staff of this building. There again, I am afraid that I cannot agree with those of my colleagues on the Committee who say that a very high priority must be given to the convenience of Members—almost insinuating that the staff must be fitted into the rooms which Members do not need. If hon. Members look at some of the staff accommodation, both in this building and across the way in Abingdon Street, I think they will be surprised. When the Government consider these Reports, I hope that they will devote special thought to making sure that the staff of this building has the kind of accommodation and facilities which we should wish our own employees to have in whatever capacity we worked.
As a fellow Member of the Committee, I think the hon. Member will recall that certain grades on the staff are very adequately catered for, even to the extent of having their own private bedrooms. It is the lower grades, in terms of salary scales, which are so inadequately catered for.
It is perfectly true that there are different grades of staff, and that in some cases people come off relatively well. In other cases, however, they are extremely badly off, and I am sure that if our colleagues knew just how badly off they were they would join with us in supporting the need for improvements.
It will be argued that a number of the recommendations made would cost too much to put into force. The Committee was not formed to obtain financial estimates for everything with which it dealt, and I am certain we all recognise that it would be impossible to do everything at once. But it strikes me that in the past there has been an unduly tight hold upon capital expenditure in this building, compared with the free way in which money has been spent on maintenance and on staffing.
The Committee drew attention to the fact that the Ministry of Works maintained a staff of 292 people in the Palace of Westminster. Frankly, none of us was fully satisfied that so many men were necessary. Yet hitherto a number of very desirable improvements of a capital nature have been held up for lack of money, of which the most obvious is the provision of galleries in three rooms of the Library, recommended as long ago as 1946. Indeed, I am inclined to think that if it had not been for the setting up of the Committee, the very obvious move of the main kitchen from one floor to another would not have been carried out so soon, though it should have been done years ago for the sake of efficiency.
On that point of expenditure, I very greatly hope that, whatever else is not done, high priority will be given to the construction of a new writing room if that Star Court arcade has got to be pulled down and rebuilt. That is the most economical move of all whereby the House can provide itself with additional accommodation, and I think all of us in the Committee would greatly welcome it.
There have been indications of differences of opinion in the House about Mr. Speaker's Library, as indeed there were certain differing shades of opinion in the Committee itself. I do not give the high priority to that recommendation which some of my colleagues do, but I join with the recommendation made in both of the Reports that the whole matter deserves investigation and that there should be thorough inquiry into it. We certainly do not wish to inconvenience Mr. Speaker in any way. At the same time we want the highest degree of working efficiency made possible for hon. Members.
In all these directions I submit that the Committee has been correct in saying that the House as an organisation should be able to exert greater influence over the arrangements in the building than has hitherto been possible, leaving aside for one moment the question of the exact means whereby that is to be done. The hon. Member for Leeds, West discussed the staff aspect, and a great deal of important work was done by the Committee on that. I am happy to say that, although some scandalous events were suggested as having taken place, in fact the Committee's inquiries did not throw up any scandals, certainly not current scandals. What we have to do is not to call for a sort of cleansing of the Augean stables, because there are no Augean stables—there is no dirt lying about—but rather to make sure that we have a good working system for staff matters, giving general satisfaction for the benefit of all.
It must have come home to all of us on this Committee, whether we joined it in the attitude of mind of the hon. Member for Leeds, West with a great historical interest and a desire to bring about certain fundamental changes, or as I did simply because I felt this was an important House of Commons matter on which I had no strong preconceptions, that there are a great many matters in the Palace of Westminster which had not been looked at by the House of Commons or any Committee of the House of Commons for a considerable time. That is the aspect to which I attach the most importance. I am quite sure we need some new machinery whereby Members of the House, whether junior or senior, may have opportunity of getting their suggestions or problems relating to this building examined from time to time by a regularly established body. Might I give an instance of this, the curious smell on the Interviewing Floor which is referred to in the Committee's Report? I raised that matter with the Ministry of Works a considerable time before the Committee was appointed. I was told that I was the only Member who had complained about it, and there was not very much wrong. Now that it has been taken up by a Committee of the House, all kinds of interesting experiments have been made and the smell has been traced to the timber of the flooring.
In other directions too we should be able to exert more influence. I am sure the vast majority of Members would like some kind of annunciator in the public gallery for the benefit of visitors to this Chamber, so that our constituents and friends when they come here might have some opportunity of discovering what is going on, even at times when the actual proceedings may be almost incomprehensible to hon. Members themselves. That illustrates the kind of direction in which I feel there should be a channel whereby Members might join together and make representations, without party difference, so that improvements can be brought about.
On all these grounds, I regard as far the most important recommendation of the Committee the establishment of some kind of new body, whether a House Committee, or a Commission such as would require legislation, because we want to bring into the conduct of affairs of this House and the control of the building that flexibility which has been referred to by previous speakers. We want to make sure that nothing is so rigid that it cannot be altered; but that no alterations will be made except after careful consideration by responsible Members.
After listening to the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), I was very much reminded of that famous statement by George Orwell, that under Communism all Communists are equal but that some are more equal than others. certainly thought that we had a unanimous Report from the Select Committee, but it looks as if some of the members are more unanimous than others.
I agree absolutely with the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) about rooms. Looking back, I think there have been a lot of mistakes made when the House was rebuilt. One example of that comes to my mind, and that is the telephone facilities which it was decided to put downstairs. There we have got a most elaborate set-up for telephones but nearly all of us refuse to go there. We are rather stubborn in our habits, and so we insist on crowding down the stairs by the cloakroom Lobby to telephone and there is often congestion there.
That goes back to the point that we are creatures of habit and want our accommodation where we want it and not where a handful of people want to place it for us. We want the bulk of our accommodation as near to this Chamber as we can possibly get it. May I address the Minister of Works, because I believe he will be the chief engineer in this matter. During the 1945–50 period we established a number of writing rooms by St. Stephen's porch. They were excellent rooms, but hardly anybody used them. We would not go there. We wanted to be near the Chamber, even at the cost of great discomfort.
It depends largely upon the purpose for which one goes there. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman need worry. When Hungary were playing football the other day there were many more people there than there were at other meetings. It all depends on what is there, but, seriously, I doubt whether many hon. Members would use accommodation there if a lift was not provided. We must obtain for the use of Members all the accommodation we can as close as possible to the Chamber and shift people out of the rooms near the Chamber to rooms further away where they can do their jobs just as efficiently. I say quite bluntly that the interests of hon. Members should be paramount.
I do not want to be critical of what happened during the war, but when I saw at that time magnificent accommodation for certain members of the staff and contrasted that with the accommodation for Members, I thought that it was a pity that there was not then in existence a committee like the one whose Report we are now discussing. Unless we recognise the simple fact that we want the major accommodation near the Chamber, for members we shall fail in our job.
I concede quite willingly that one cannot do this job simply by setting up a Select Committee. As a result of the work I did before the Select Committee was set up and as a member of that Committee, I am convinced that the job of rearranging the accommodation will take about three to five years. When one shifts one part of the accommodation one upsets another part. We must learn by experience to shift this and that bit round and obtain the maximum advantage.
I agree absolutely with what has been said about having one authority concerned with the running of this building. I have not wallowed in the adventures of the respected Mr. Hume, but the simple fact is that the Palace of Westminster is a great historical institution and it has hangovers and spare appendages from the past. Unless one looks at the whole matter occasionally with the clear light that has been thrown on it this time, one cannot realise how much we are out of tune with events. Things have happened and we have got used to them. It is like the corn and the shoe. Suddenly, when one changes the shoe one realises how much the corn has hurt.
I do not disagree with what the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) has said about scandals. A very mild trace of nepotism shows at times through the evidence placed before the Committee, but I do not make any great point about that. All that I say is that anybody who is qualified to serve—and I include in that context not only technical ability but integrity and character—should have an equal chance with everybody else. That is reasonable. I am absolutely against the suggestion that a Committee of the House of Commons should make actual appointments, but we as Members should know what goes on. Therefore, I place very great importance on one of the final recommendations of the Committee, that once a year a report on what has happened should be presented to the House.
While I appreciate some of the great debates that the party in Opposition have staged on Supply Days, I am not convinced that either side of the House is wise to look upon the Estimates as something of a political cockshy. We would sometimes be far better employed in actually discussing the Estimate before us. One of the Estimates which has always been taken on the nod is that dealing with the House of Commons and its work.
I should like to say a few words about the Library, and I see that the Chairman of the Library Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), is in his place. I believe that there is enough in the evidence that was placed before the Select Committee to justify what I want to say. I say it with all due respect to my hon. Friend. I am not criticising, because I recognise that the Library is a hangover. Historically it started with a combination of a couple of Victorian gentlemen's private libraries. That fact permeates its character still.
Whatever I have to say is with no desire to hurt or wound anyone. I say it because I feel that some changes could be made to give us far better service. Lawyer friends tell me—this cuts right across any question of party—that we have a very excellent law library. These is an excellent service where hon. Members can get what they want. In the Parliamentary section I believe that is also true. If they want any references they have an excellent service, but let us look at the more general things we need as hon. Members. I remember watching my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition clamber on a set of steps on top of five or six flights—he is more nimble than I am—to look at one or two books. Really that is not good enough. Suppose one wants to study a particular subject, it is not sufficient to have to go to a Library attendant and ask him to get a book when it may be that one wants to look at half a dozen books to see if that is the sort of information required.
The Treasury and the Ministry of Works have played their part in the question of whether we should have a gallery round the Library. Whilst I make all due allowance for preserving the aesthetic appearance of the Library, I think there is a case for a gallery so that there may be reasonably open access to books. The Reference Library is a postwar innovation. I want to say a number of very direct things about what is there and research generally. If one pinches a bit out of one chap's paper it is plagiarism, but if it is taken out of half a dozen chaps' productions it is research. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield will not feel at all hurt, but a lot of what is called research work in the Library is not research at all. It is not sufficient when an hon. Member wants to know something about a particular economic subject or on some question of foreign policy that he should be given just a bibliography of documents to read. That is not research.
I make a present to hon. Members opposite of this. They had a wonderful research department two years after they got turfed into Opposition. I used to admire the way in which they came into the Chamber armed with a first-class digest of facts. That is real research. Unfortunately, my party has not reached that standard of efficiency.
There is nothing surprising about it; it is self-evident in the Chamber. In modern politics one cannot be really effective in this highly specialised age unless one has a highly competent research organisation behind one. The point I make most emphatically is that I do not believe the House necessarily wants political research from a party standpoint. Even if there were a really efficient research organisation behind the Opposition, it would be far better for the House and the country to have an efficient research organisation in the House of Commons. That certainly does not exist today.
The sort of place I want to see is a room as big as the middle section of the Library in which there would be six or eight desks with research officers, say two on foreign policy, one on finance, one on economics other than finance, and so on, where hon. Members could go to discuss their problems. They would not be presented with a bibliography of books to read or a big pile of books on the subject—but a digest of information that would be objective. It would be a service comparable to that supplied by the party machines, which I know is not necessarily objective because the views of political parties are necessarily subjective and slanted; that is the nature of politics. But I wish to see the same sort of facilities available to hon. Members as are available to parties today. I believe that that can be done.
What passes for research in this House consists of hon. Members going to consult some previous debate so that they can find that the right hon. Member for So-and-so said so-and-so in such and such a year whereas today he is saying the exact opposite. That is very often a basic element of speeches, and I have been appalled at it. It is pure poppycock. In this rapidly moving world of today one cannot maintain consistency of opinion when the whole of the facts have altered. I have always deprecated that particular type of Parliamentary debate which is largely made up of quotations of what somebody else said in different circumstances; but that type of debate still goes on.
I wish to make an emphatic plea for a really efficient research department as a section of our Library, and if hon. Members turn to the appendix on page 155 of the Select Committee's Report they will find that, in February this year, the total number of inquiries from hon. Members was 39. I believe that was one of the highest figures. In a House in which, if one excludes Ministers, there are 500 Members operating in a private capacity, the average number of inquiries to the Reference Library would, on that basis, be about eight a week. That is fantastic.
I plead most emphatically for the adoption of the section of our proposals which deal with the establishment of a proper Library Committee—I say this with no disrespect to the present Library Committee—a committee really endowed with powers which would enable it to take this department and really make something of it. I am satisfied that such a committee would have the fullest co-operation of the staff in the matter. There is the question of the qualifications of the staff, into which I do not propose to go, but of which I am very conscious.
I wonder whether, in beginning this task, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), and my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and Cannock (Miss Lee), and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) realised just what we were up against. What we were up against was not the history of the Chamber in terms of what we revealed, although I think we revealed quite a lot of interesting facts, but the status quo, the idea, "It has worked, it has ticked over," and therefore there is really nothing much wrong. When I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich open the debate, I looked at the very benevolent face of the Lord Privy Seal and thought how wonderfully he personified the status quo. Of course he does, be is the very essence of the status quo, and I have not the slightest doubt that when he replies he will demonstrate that up to the hilt.
I frankly admit that, as the hon. Member for Hampstead said, there is not much cause for alarm about the matters that are dealt with in the Report. There is, however, a really big constructive job to be done. We do not want to move out of this building, of course we do not. It was, however, built for something quite different from the purpose which it serves today. It was built in the time when Parliament was looked upon as a club for leisured people who really believed in the status quo; it was not the busy workshop that it is today. But we all love this place and we love most of its traditions, and we wish to preserve as many of them as we can.
Let us be quite honest. Most of us would be miserable if this was not the part of our lives that it really is. So I would plead with the Government, and particularly with the Lord Privy Seal, not to stone-wall this proposal, but to look at it fairly and objectively. Give us a chance, by the new form of organisation which we propose, to give new life to this dear old lady, the Mother of Parliaments, whom all of us love.
We have had an interesting debate and we have heard some forthright speeches. I am one of those, even after a long time in this House, who never quite know how Select Committees are selected. Sometimes we see the most docile of Members on Select Committees and at other times we see the most forthright of Members put upon other Committees. But I suggest to the House that they look at the names of those who were members of this Select Committee. I do not imagine that for many years past a body of Members more accustomed to speaking their minds without fear or favour were ever put on one committee—and of course I am not excepting our admirable Chairman, the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes).
I would say, therefore, that it is all the more remarkable—and I should like to say creditable as well—that after considering the mass of evidence, and after a great number of meetings, we are able to present a unanimous Report to Parliament on a subject which is of great interest, as indeed it must be of great interest, to all hon. Members. Naturally, in such a diverse Committee, there were many shades of differing opinion; and in order to get a general consensus of opinion, many Members had to forgo, or at least to shade down, their personal preferences.
I would urge everyone not to read more into the Report than is written in it. I have, for example, heard that certain people are frightened that Members of the House of Commons, corporately or individually, are in future to interview and select members of the staff. There is no truth whatever in that suggestion. There is no suggestion of it in the Report. Indeed, one opinion which we came to most strongly was that it would be absolutely wrong to put Members in any sort of position where they could be subjected to pressure, individually or collectively, in the selection of staff for this House. Therefore, I would urge everyone connected with the House to realise that that was certainly no intention of ours.
On the instructions of our Chairman our admirable Clerk—I should like to make special reference to the services that he rendered to us—did word in paragraph 4 of our Report what we all felt was our object. If I may. I will read the paragraph, because it is quite short:
The public duties which a Member is required to discharge have of recent years constantly increased. This trend does not appear yet to be at an end. Moreover, with longer and more constant attendance in the House, a greater part of a Member's duties have to be performed there. In their recommendations, your Committee have been influenced solely by what they consider desirable to facilitate the carrying out of these public duties by Members.
That was the sole object of everyone.
In passing, may I say that I hope that Members interested will read some of the historical material which has been printed at the back of the Report. I think that in future the Report will be of great use and interest to those who may be historians of the House. For instance, there is a most interesting and excellently worded account of the origin of the Library, as the hon. Member opposite has mentioned. There are also a great number of guides to Members if they do not know the rules and regulations surrounding the issue of tickets for taking people round the House and all the one hundred and one bits of instruction which they get otherwise piecemeal and which so often get lost or overlooked until the last frantic moment arrives when one has 50 people arriving to come round the House and one knows that one is allowed only 36.
The more we inquired the more impressed we were with the fact that in this archaic building, and looking after its unique and unpredictable assembly, the system works at all. It is only because of the enormous ingenuity of the average people of this country as exemplified by the admirable staff we have that the place works as well as it does. I should like, for my own part, and I believe that my colleagues will join with me, to pay tribute to the fact that we in the House of Commons are served under these great difficulties by a very devoted, loyal and able staff from all sections—custodians, clerks, office clerks and others.
We found in our investigations and the cross-questioning that we did a readiness to give us information, with nobody wishing to hold back anything, and a courtesy and charm which made our heavy work a pleasant one. I wish to pay that tribute to those who have helped us in our investigations.
Other hon. Members have spoken about the accommodation of Members, which is, of course, of vital interest. The idea of the new writing room came to us from the Ministry of Works, and I should like to pay tribute to them for it. This new large room which is proposed is very close to the Chamber. In parenthesis, I would say it is absolutely right to say that we are creatures of habit and that we will not go far from the Chamber. We hate going up or down stairs, except to the television room. This room, so close to the Chamber and on the same level, would make a most admirable writing room, and I hope that it will be considered as such.
If it can be made into a writing room with pedestal desks or writing tables, or whatever conjunction there may be of the two, it might be possible to relieve the strain caused by turning our Library into a writing room. The trouble with the Library is that it is not a Library but a writing room with a lot of books. If anybody wants to go in there to read the books, he finds that there is almost nowhere to sit except at the writing tables and that other people want to come in and to push him out because they want to write letters there. If we could have the great bulk of the writing accommodation in this vast new room which is proposed, then the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), who is chairman of the Library Committee, would be more pleased than anybody else, because then he could give us some more adequate chairs in which to sit to read books at our leisure and to our content.
I stand by everything that we have said in the Report about the Speaker's Library, but I should not place quite so much emphasis on it as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich. He knows that we are in the hands of Mr. Speaker in that matter. While on the subject of Libraries, I would say that I was glad that the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Dames) spoke at length on the subject of research. I am not happy with the present position. I believe that most of it just happened rather than that most of it was thought out.
I do not believe that anybody quite knows or that anybody has sat down and considered whether we ought to have a research department in the Library which could prepare our speeches for us, or at least help us to prepare our own speeches. I do not believe that anybody has considered whether we should go as far as the hon. Gentleman suggested and have a library which would do away with a great deal of work which the two parties do for their own Members at present, or whether we should have a research department here at all. I am not expressing any views on one thing or another. All I am saying is that the matter should be thought out and a policy agreed in this House, and then the policy should be carried out. That is not happening at present. I am sorry for the Librarian, and especially for the Chairman of the Library Committee, who is doing the best he can without any clear or specific instructions as to what the House wants in that respect. That is the comment made in paragraph 42 of the Report.
While the right hon. Member for Ipswich was unavoidably absent abroad, it was my duty to preside as his deputy over the Committee while it considered chiefly the methods of recruitment and the staffing of the House. I believe that we did a service by inquiring minutely and carefully into this matter and also by setting out plainly and clearly the principles by which all people on the staff of the House of Commons are recruited. In future no Member or anybody outside the House can say that he does not know how so-and-so got a job at the House of Commons, because it is all laid down in the Report. That is very valuable. The members of the Select Committee who urged us to go minutely into the matter did a good service.
I hope that the results of our inquiry and our Reports—I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) in this respect—will clear away many misconceptions which might otherwise be held as to how people get their posts in this House. We have a few detailed suggestions to make which we hope may still further improve the information about the jobs, the field from which people are recruited and the like, but these in no way alter the main methods for the selection of the staff. For myself—I am speaking only for myself here—I was very much impressed by the care taken by the heads of the different Departments in this matter.
I should like for a moment to refer to the position of the Committee Clerks. Sir Frederic Metcalfe informed us when he came before us that the establishment is for 35 Committee Clerks and at that moment there were only 33. We had a valuable memorandum by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) on this subject. We were impressed by the fact that the staffing of the Committee Office is not an easy matter. We in this House work by fits and starts, at some times of the year under the highest pressure and at other times, so far as Select Committees and the like are concerned, we have comparatively little to do; but it is essential that we should have sufficient Committee Clerks to meet the highest peak which the House wishes.
It would be the height of false economy not to be able to carry out the wishes of the Government, or the Members of the House of Commons acting together, because we did not have enough Committee Clerks. Therefore, we say in our Report that they should be recruited up to the maximum necessary adequately to meet the staffing needs of the House at peak periods, and we say that quite conscious of the fact that there will be comparatively long periods of time when those Clerks cannot be fully employed.
May I also refer in passing to the suggestion that we made that the Estimates Committees should be allowed, under permission from Mr. Speaker, to seek outside help from accountants and others in the elucidation of some of their problems, and not be entirely dependent upon the Treasury for their advice on all financial matters?
I should now like to refer in detail to one or two other small points which have not yet been mentioned, but which I think are important. On page 65 of the Report, the position of the Serjeant at Arms is gone into in some detail. The Serjeant at Arms was originally described as
the Sergeant ensign of Honour with which the King has been pleased to grace the Parliament.
and he is, of course, the direct servant of Her Majesty, but there was an interesting question asked of Mr. Disraeli—I think it was in the 1870s—about the Serjeant at Arms as to whether the House of Commons could offer any suggestion or advice to the Crown about the appointment of the Serjeant at Arms. Mr. Disraeli answered:
Sir, the appointment of the Serjeant at Arms is in the gift and entirely in the gift of Her Majesty the Queen. There is no person, whatever his position in this House, who has any influence whatever in that appointment.
Mr. Disraeli went on to say that he was quite sure that Her Majesty's advisers would take heed of any suggestions that might come from this House to that effect. If I might, without usurping the Royal Prerogative, I should like to suggest that Mr. Speaker be informally consulted on any occasion when a new Serjeant at Arms is to be appointed.
To come to another point altogether, I was very glad that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who enlivened and envigorated our proceedings a great deal and brought a lot of common sense into some of our arguments—although I did not always agree with him—referred to the matter of showing parties of visitors round the House. I do not think the present situation is at all satisfactory. It is inconvenient to hon. Members, and quite undignified for the Mother of Parliaments.
We go to considerable expense and care in order to provide custodians, attendants and others for those members of the public who are fortunate enough to be sitting and listening to the debate, but other members of the public, who have not had the opportunity of coming inside, are herded round this House, and unless Members of Parliament take them round themselves, might well have to pay for the guide who is conducting them. It would be much more dignified if some suggestions were worked out such as we have thrown out in this Report, in which we suggest that a corps of part-time guides should be recruited, preferably from custodians and ex-employees of this House, who appreciate the tradition of the House, and that they should be made available to show parties round, either on behalf of Members of Parliament or independently.
In general, our object was to make this House, under the limitations from which we suffer on account of it being too small and having been built over 100 years ago, as workable and useful as possible to Members and staff alike, though naturally the consideration of Members must be of first importance. We have made certain recommendations for bringing the control of House of Commons affairs closer to Members themselves, and especially in bringing the control of the Estimates of the House under our corporate responsibility.
I envisage a Sessional Committee as being an ever-increasing factor in the corporate life of this House. There are so many times when we are arguing, and when we fight and quarrel across the Floor of the House, that it is valuable also to have a body of senior Members from both sides always working together for the corporate advancement of the life of the House of Commons. I suggest that the criterion of who should be selected to serve on that Committee should not necessarily be party prowess; the choice should fundamentally be of good House of Commons men and women. The selection to serve would come to be regarded as a very high privilege and responsibility.
The time is coming, if it has not now arrived, when the whole question of how this House works—our debates, our Divisions, our methods of procedure—will have to be looked at corporately and critically, in the same way as we have been trying to look at the accommodation and the staffing of the House. When that is done, we shall have no need to fear that the House of Commons will not be able to face whatever problems the Welfare State and the position of this country may ask it to tackle in the future. It will do so with as much honour and as much respect as it has for so many hundreds of years.
I should not have risen had not the Library been mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) hoped that my feelings would not be hurt by what he said, but nobody could have been a member of the Library Committee for the last eight years if he had had any feelings left to be hurt.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend suggest that there should be a real and effective research department. Let me remind him that for eight years we have had two overworked members of the staff and no capital, and I am therefore not dissatisfied with the progress we have made with our research department. Even to get an extra typist we have had to fight the Treasury like tigers. My hon. Friend suggested that we wanted a very large research department; where is it to come from?
It is suggested that the Library should give up its reference section. My answer is: Give us the rooms and the staff and we will produce you a decent, reasonable reference and research section. The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) was entirely wrong in thinking that the research department, trivial though it may be, has not been thought out. All questions such as what we shall do, whether we shall prepare Members' speeches for them, how far we shall go in research for an individual Member, are matters under constant consideration and revision.
I do not quarrel with what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not believe that those are questions for the Library Committee to decide. They are too big for the Library Committee, and it is not fair to ask the Library Committee to handle them. The job of the Library Committee is to carry out the instructions of the House.
At the present moment the Library Committee has to wrestle alone with those problems. The key to everything in this Palace is more floor space. Suggestions about pushing people around cause almost as much trouble as they alleviate, because we cannot get a quart into a pint pot. The suggestion that we should build over Star Chamber Court and provide a writing room is only playing with the matter. We must have a good deal more than that. I remember that suggestion being put to me at our party meeting three years ago. We need at least two floors; it is no good having only one. The Writing Room would certainly relieve the Library, and it would enable us to provide more easy chairs. But something more than that is needed. We want more accommodation so that Members can relax, and I do not want them to relax and snore in the Library. I have sufficient complaints of that already.
I am not responsible for that.
There is no reason why we should not have two floors between the Chamber and the Tea Room. If we are going to increase our accommodation, let us do it on a proper scale and not have to take about half a dozen bites at the cherry at intervals of years. It is very easy to talk about what we ought to do, but it has been a very hard fight to get what we have got. One of our major difficulties is the fact that the Library, which has been one of the expanding activities of this House, has been utterly and completely cramped for room. We have had to fight for every inch of space in which to put a clerk. Give us the room and the staff, and I am sure that the Library Committee will be able to give the House the service to which it is entitled.
We have had a very interesting discussion, but I must say that I have been disappointed—I am not referring to the speeches—because I had hoped that we would hear the views of hon. Members who were not on the Select Committee. I am not surprised that the Chairman of the Library Committee spoke in the debate because so much has been said about the Library. But, as the Report purported to be unanimous—although I gather that there were some slight shades of difference, which did not go to the extent of disagreement—I rather expected that members of the Select Committee would support its recommendations and would amplify what is in the Report.
Speaking now not as a Member of the Government, but as the Leader of the House, I was hoping to get opinions from other hon. Members in the debate, because quite frankly, as far as I am concerned, it would have been just as useful if the Committee had come to me as a deputation and thrashed out the matter in my room, or in any other room. The debate is on record as a confirmation of what was put before the House in the actual Report.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) begged me not to stand here as the personification of the status quo. In fact, he felt that that was what I was.
I would put it the other way round and say that I am certainly not a red revolutionary, and, remembering the hon. Member's speech the other day I think that we have a good deal in common. But, of course, it is true that this House is constantly changing, not only its membership, but the needs of Members, There are the requirements of Members in connection with meeting their constituents, and so on.
As one of those who have been here for a long time—for 10 years I was on the back benches, so that I know something about what hon. Members feel from that angle—I agree with many speakers today that it is our job to see how we can adapt things. I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) put it better than anyone else. We ourselves are trustees for those who come afterwards, and we have gradually to fit into the circumstances of the times, without being either the personification of the status quo or the red revolutionary. I think that she would agree with it; I hope so, anyway.
This has proved a most interesting Report. I agree with my right hon. Friend that some of the information in the appendices makes fascinating reading. I do not know whether anyone else has gone to the trouble, as I have, of reading it through—including every word of the evidence. I must say that I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was a wonderful Chairman. He certainly allowed more latitude than would some other chairmen, and certainly took a vigorous part in the discussion of the evidence with the witness himself. For everyone who sat upon it, it must have been a very enjoyable Committee, even though it was somewhat unusual. I do not know whether if what is described as a House committee is set up, its activities are to be on those lines. If so, not only will it be a privilege and a honour, as my right hon. Friend suggested, to belong to it, but I should think that it will be great fun.
I might point out that it is proposed that Mr. Speaker should be the chairman of the proposed body to be set up, so I have no doubt that its proceedings would be conducted with a due degree of decorum. In regard to the other point, it was because of the difficulty of examining the witnesses that the Committee decided that the examination in chief should always be conducted by the Chairman in the first instance.
Yes, but of course that is a very odd procedure. As for the suggestion that Mr. Speaker should take the chair, I think the proposal was that there should also be a vice-chairman who—if I may say so without any disrespect to Mr. Speaker—would do most of the work.
As I see it, one of the complications about the whole problem is that the Palace of Westminster contains the two Houses of Parliament. If we were in one building and the other place in another, half the argument that goes on would not go on. Half the argument is very much the Naboth's vineyard type of argument—that the other place has all this room, and what is it used for, and the number of square feet it has, and so on. It is sometimes forgotten that, from the accommodation point of view, quite a number of the square feet are of no practical use to anyone. When one is adding square feet one includes such places as the Royal Gallery and the Robing Room. We are not always comparing like with like. If the other place had been in a building half-way along the Embankment or across the river, a good deal of the argument about control and the space available for Members just would not arise but there they are—and here we are.
The problem which was put to the Select Committee and put by the Select Committee to us, and about which we have to think so as to see what can be done, is the problem of how to get more accommodation. That is one aspect. A second way of putting it is how better we can use the accommodation that we have. Those two are by no means the same problems but they do get rather confused in this issue. As one hon. Member said, some people think that we have just to move everyone round, push out the occupants of three rooms here and find them three rooms elsewhere—but in the end not improve the situation.
Another answer is to see where there is any other accommodation. The chief recommendation, or at least the one which has been most spoken of, was somehow or other to try to see whether Mr. Speaker's Library could be made available. I must say that I think that if, as the hon. Lady said, we are trustees, so is Mr. Speaker a trustee. He has got to be the trustee for his successors as well, and while the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that in the original proposal at one stage it had been suggested that the room which is now the Speaker's Library would be part of the House of Commons, that particular proposal was abandoned before any development took place.
We all recognise that the Speaker of this House—the greatest House of Commons, the old Mother of Parliaments, and all the rest of the descriptions which can be given to it—requires suitable accommodation not only by the nature of his office—that counts for a great deal—but also by the nature of his work. I have looked through all the alternatives, and I cannot see anything comparable to his own present Library in which he should do the work in the representative capacity that he has. I am really putting my own views here. I was looking at the other suggestions as to where we can find more room. The taking over of his Library, as I understand, does not make any more room. It is merely a shifting round.
The Report, if I may say so, is not at all clear about the purpose for which it is suggested the Library should be taken over. Possibly no decision was taken;
I do not know. I do not want to be too long, but perhaps I may read a sentence from the First Report:
If it is true that that change could be made with propriety"—
that is, the taking over—
it would release a room that would undoubtedly be of the utmost value to Members, adjoining their Library and also near the Chamber. Either it could be used by Members for reading and writing, or alternatively it would facilitate a rearrangement of the Members' Library and enable one or more of the rooms on the Terrace, at present used for Library purposes. to be converted to a reading room where refreshments could also be served if so desired.
I merely want to make this point to get it clear on the record. I took the second part of that quotation from the Report to refer to rooms on the Terrace—that is to say, on the Terrace level. But the right hon. Gentleman was good enough, when I raised this point, to tell me that that was not what the Report meant. That is why I want to put it on the record, because it is by way of being an emendation. When it says
one or more of the rooms on the Terrace
it means overlooking the Terrace. It means one or more rooms of the existing Library.
Yes. The suggestion is that the Speaker's Library should be taken for extending the Library, or else, by some rearrangement, whether practical or not, to put in a new refreshment room. That was a suggestion which certainly does not leap to the eye, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman told me that that is what it meant.
Yes. I was merely quoting the original Report, and the words there are "rooms on the Terrace." The Library has rooms on the Terrace, and therefore anybody reading it would have thought that it referred to rooms on the Terrace and not to rooms on another floor overlooking the Terrace.
The question is whether there is any place where we can get more accommodation. A great deal has been said this evening about the proposal to provide more rooms over the Star Court. I must say that I personally am very attracted by that suggestion, because that would provide new space and would not involve merely shifting around in existing space. I know that that proposal will be considered. It might be possible to have a very handsome set of rooms there. Whether they would be used predominantly for writing or for sitting and snoring, time alone would show.
There is another place which has come to my notice since the evidence contained in these Reports was taken, namely, the Victoria Tower. There are improved chances that both Houses may be able to use it for storage purposes. It has got to the stage of very practical discussion, and now that the scaffolding has gone and the new floors are being arranged, it may well be that, with the installation of lighting and of a lift, which it is now more or less agreed should be put in, it will be possible to make available quite a lot of storage space. So there are two new important factors for actually adding accommodation rather than changing it round.
Various other points were raised, and I shall make it my duty to see that everything which has been mentioned in this debate will be considered in the right quarters. I am sorry that hon. Members who were not on the Select Committee did not take part in the debate. I suppose it is asking too much of them to read the OFFICIAL REPORT of this short debate, and, if they have any comments to make, either to inform me, as Leader of the House, or the "usual channels"—who, I am sure, would be pleased to help in matters of this kind.
The question whether the Library should become a real research library and write speeches impartially for both sides of the House is perhaps going rather far in describing what the hon. Member who proposed it had in mind.
The establishment of some sort of House committee is a suggestion which I certainly hope will be considered, although I agree with my right hon. Friend that its membership would probably cause considerable anxiety, because many hon. Members might want to serve on it, and there must obviously be a limit to its size.
What has been said about desks will be noted, but I am not sure that the prospect of desks in two or three of the rooms on the Upper Committee Floor would be quite as attractive as it sounds. While the desks might be useful, the necessity to climb up and down, especially when the Division bell rang, would not seem to provide the highest comfort for everybody concerned.
I did not particularly relish the idea of having annunciators in the Public Gallery so that those who came to the House could know who was performing. That is not a phrase which I like—nor is it what I am now doing. I very much doubt whether anyone does not now know who is speaking, because when a Member rises the Chair calls his name, and when people first enter they are told who is speaking. It must also be remembered that when the House is in Committee the names of speakers are not shown. It may happen that during the whole day all that one learns from the annunciator is that the Committee is dealing with a certain Clause, page, and line.
The idea of knowing who is performing reminds me of the proposal, after the Chamber had been burned down, that there should be constructed underneath a large room with television installed, where people could see and hear who was speaking, and also that the Chamber itself should be insulated, with glass walls all round, so that visitors could pass by and see who was speaking—
That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including a Revised Estimate and Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments and the Ministry of Defence Estimate, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.