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May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware of the considerable public doubt and anxiety on the general question of the nature and extent of Parliamentary privilege, and whether his attention has been directed to the Motion on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends? Will he be able to find any time for a discussion of this Motion?
[That it be an instruction to the Committee of Privileges, in view of the prevailing public uncertainty and anxiety on the matter, to prepare and submit to the House a report which shall define the nature and clarify the purpose of parliamentary privilege; and recommend a procedure designed to secure its equitable protection.]
No, Sir, not for the moment. Of course, it would be possible for a Member to ballot for a Private Member's Motion, but I will meanwhile give consideration to the Motion which has been put on the Order Paper. I ought, however, to draw the attention of hon. Members to some very valuable statements made in the Report of the Select Committee on The Official Secrets Acts of 5th April, 1939, which includes these very weighty words of Sir William Blackstone:
The dignity and independence of the two Houses are in great measure preserved by keeping their privileges indefinite.
I also draw attention to the other words of Sir William Blackstone which are included in that Report.
Therefore, while I will certainly bring to the attention of my colleagues on the Committee of Privileges the Motion on the Order Paper, with a view to doing anything that we can to clarify the situation, I would remind my hon. Friend of those weighty pronouncements.
May I press the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House once again on the question of the Service Estimates? Can he now tell us precisely when the House will have these Estimates? Surely it is now deferring proper consideration of the Service Estimates to put them off for so long. May I have an answer to that question?
They are in course of preparation and will be published as soon as possible. When they are published we intend, when we resume, to have proper debates upon them, according to our usual procedure.