Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [3rd February].
That this House welcomes the findings of the Tribunal appointed under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, to inquire into Allegations of Improper Disclosure of Information relating to the Raising of the Bank Rate, presented on 21st January, and accepts the Report.—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]
Which Amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
whilst not dissenting from the findings of the Report of the Tribunal appointed to inquire into Allegations of Improper Disclosure of Information relating to the Raising of the Bank Rate, regrets the prior disclosure on 18th September, 1957, by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer of secret information about the Government's financial policies to certain selected journalists and to officials of the Conservative Central Office and also calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take steps to obviate the present conflict between public duties and private responsibilities of part-time directors of the Bank of England."—[Mr. H. Wilson.]
We resume our debate saddened by the news of the death of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh). We on this side of the House will always remember the great assistance he gave us in research in past years. When he came to this House as an hon. Member he very quickly won the liking and respect of all hon. Members, irrespective of party. His sunny nature, his vigour and many-sidedness, gave him a sure place in our counsels and in places in which we meet outside the Chamber. I know I speak for all right hon. and hon. Members when I say we shall very greatly miss him and that our thoughts and sympathy go out to his wife and four young children.
It might be for the convenience of the House if, at this midway point in what has been a fairly rough debate, and which may yet still be a rough debate, I try to define some of the main issues that have arisen in its course. On one main issue there is, happily, no difference between the two sides of the House. We all unhesitatingly accept the conclusions and findings of the Tribunal—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It has been made perfectly clear from both Front Benches that that is the case.
There is, however, one point I should like to raise, because I am very puzzled about it. It seems to me to be quite against the general tenor of the Report. It occurs in paragraph 39, in the first sentence, and, frankly, I do not understand what it means. The words are:
Although we have come to the conclusion that there was no general leakage of advance information as to a rise in the Bank Rate, it does not, of course, follow that there may not have been individual cases in which dealings were prompted by the improper disclosure for use of confidential information.
Those words must have some meaning. I do not know what meaning they bear. They begin,
Although we have come to the conclusion …
They are quite out of accord with the general tenor of the Report and I raise the matter, because I cannot understand what they mean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] Of course I have read on. Since we are asked to accept the Report, we should know exactly what we are accepting.
The main issue which hon. Members opposite have tried to raise in the debate is an attempt to impute malice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). The Home Secretary set the tone, and I will deal with one or two of his arguments later, but the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) took upon himself the main burden of this task. His charge was that my right hon. Friend had abused his position in the House. Listening to the right hon. and learned Member, it seemed to me that he was attempting to use his position in the House to impute by innuendo charges of malice which he knew the rules of order precluded him from making directly. We think that his attempts to do this were both unworthy and ineffective.
The hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) was much more frank. He said that my right hon. Friend had denied any intent to abuse Privilege for improper ends, and he said,
… one must accept his denial at the Box."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958: Vol 581, c. 927]
That is the tradition of this House, a tradition which has not been very effectively accepted by many hon. Members opposite.
The evidence before us and the course of the debate makes it quite clear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton has nothing whatever to apologise for. The inquiry was abundantly justified. There was a case which had to be looked into, and the hon. Member who has said that most clearly is the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, who said that there was a case that needed inquiry. He said that very honestly and frankly at the inquiry itself and he said it again last night. I quote one sentence from what he said last night, as reported in column 950 of the OFFICIAL REPORT:
I do not suppose that anyone will dispute that the Kindersley transaction required close examination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 950.]
I hope that hon. Members opposite will bear that sentence in mind, because it completely justifies our contention that there was a case to be looked into and that, therefore, the inquiry was fully justified.
Desperate attempts have been made to falsify the main picture, particularly by the Home Secretary. This part of his argument rested on his attempt to show that everything started with the mention of Mr. Poole's name. He therefore started the account which he gave the House, as Leader of the House as well as Home Secretary, on 12th November, which was the date when Mr. Poole's name was first mentioned, but of course, the story starts much earlier. If one looks into the dates, there is no doubt at all that there was an overwhelming case for an inquiry quite independent of anything which may have been said by my right hon. and hon. Friends.
One has only to look at the dates. The Tribunal itself says, in paragraph 39:
… at an early stage … specific rumours started concerning substantial sales by Lazard Bros. & Co Limited and the Royal Exchange Assurance, with both of whom was coupled the name of Lord Kindersley, a Director of the Bank of England.
In paragraph 40, we read:
On or about the 25th September the Governor of the Bank of England learnt of these specific rumours.
The Governor learned of these specific rumours on or about 25th September. They must, therefore, have been around before 25th September. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton sent his first letter on 24th September. These two things were happening completely independently and the rumours were probably arising in the City and spreading around even before that first letter was sent by my right hon. Friend. On 27th September, only a day or two later and before any other step had been taken by any member of the Labour Party, the Governor wrote to the Prime Minister about these specific rumours and offered to give him further details.
Speaking of this letter of 27th September, the Attorney-General said that if it had been taken up it might have led to more extensive inquiries. Already by 27th September, there was evidence, independent of anything which was being said by members of the Labour Party, which justified a very close inquiry even at that early stage.
This was six weeks before Mr. Poole's name was first mentioned. The Home Secretary left out these vital six weeks in the story which he gave the House. This was an interval during which he might have said, had he gone into it, that the Government were trying to dodge inquiries and to fob everyone off with perfunctory investigations. It now appears that for the whole six weeks the Government were suppressing vital facts, such as the letter of the Governor of the Bank to the Prime Minister. Consequently, not only should there have been an inquiry, but the inquiry should have been held very much earlier.
In a leading article on 22nd January, the Manchester Guardian made it perfectly clear:
Long before Mr. Poole was mentioned in Parliament, the rumours had taken a firm hold in the City. When rumours are allowed to go unchecked it is only a matter of time before names begin to be bandied about. The error of the Government was not to take these reports from the City more seriously. Repeated denials did nothing to help: nor did the private investigation conducted by the Lord Chancellor.
As reported in column 833 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of yesterday, the Home Secretary said that if only the Labour
Party had agreed to the preliminary inquiry by the Lord Chancellor,
there would have been no reason to set up the Tribunal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 833.]
On that, let me say three things. First, it flatly contradicts what the Attorney-General says. He says that there was a case for an inquiry, and, therefore, whether Labour had agreed to this private investigation or not—
I do not think that the right hon. Member will find that I ever expressed any opinion on whether there was a case for setting up an inquiry tinder the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act. When I outlined the facts in relation to Keswick and Kindersley, I said that there were matters which required close investigation by that Tribunal.
That is what we say. The Attorney-General said this after the Lord Chancellor's inquiry. We were saying it before the Lord Chancellor's inquiry. That is the only difference between us. He made this remark after the Lord Chancellor had held his inquiry.
It now turns out from the Home Secretary's speech that we were not to be allowed to see the Lord Chancellor's report. What he asked us to do was to accept an inquiry in camera which came to secret conclusions, because we are not allowed to see the Lord Chancellor's report, which he says we ought to have agreed and which he says would have solved everything. If he wishes to substantiate his challenge to us, he must publish the Lord Chancellor's report: otherwise, his challenge is empty and diversionary.
The third point I want to make in this connection is that the Home Secretary suppressed a very important fact, namely, that my right hon. Friends had offered to accept an inquiry by a High Court judge inquiring into whether or not there was a prima facie case. The Home Secretary twits us with not accepting the Lord Chancellor, but he and his colleagues refused to accept the Labour Party suggestion that there should be an inquiry by a High Court judge into whether or not there was a prima facie case. This would have saved time had it been accepted, and time was very important in this, because in this interval bitterness grew and rumours spread in the City and elsewhere.
Another issue that has arisen clearly in this debate concerns the reputation of the City. The Home Secretary said yesterday:
… the high reputation which the Bank of England, and the City of London as a whole have enjoyed for so long … has been vindicated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 829.]
It certainly is true as regards imputations against individuals. These have been wholly cleared, but, unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman's remarks are not true in that wider sense.
The Report discloses much else about the City, and I suspect that it is this which underlies the real cause of the wrath of hon. Gentlemen opposite. One thing which was disclosed in the Report is the ease with which tax-free capital gains are made, and that is very valuable information. The Report also punctures the Conservative assumption that the City and the national interest are always and automatically identical. This certainly should be the case. They should be made to be identical, but the Report shows that they are, unhappily, not identical at the moment.
When all else has been forgotten in this Report, one sentence will continue to be remembered:
It is anti-British and derogatory to sterling, but, on balance, if one is free to do so, it makes sense to me.
To me, it seems that the important part of that sentence is the phrase—
if one is free to do so.
This means that it is the Government's policy which makes admittedly anti-British actions possible and, indeed, inevitable for men of honour.
There is one aspect of Lord Kindersley's activities in regard to the underwriting of the Vickers issue which I do not think has been mentioned, and which seems to me important in this connection of the identity or otherwise of the City's interests and the interests of the nation. It is that Lord Kindersley's first attempt was to get the raising of the Bank Rate postponed because of the underwriting problem. Let us remember what the situation was.
Lord Kindersley was honestly convinced that the Bank Rate should be raised, and that this was necessary to save the country, the £ and the reserves. He cut short his visit to Canada and came back in August to put this idea across. As early as 2nd September, he was urging this view upon the Governor—that the Bank Rate should be put up. He thought that this was essential in the national interest.
Yet, to avoid what he called indigestion in the underwriting market, he proposed a postponement of the measure—a measure which he himself thought was urgently necessary to save the £ and our reserves. He knew that a postponement must be for at least a week; in other words, for one week more there would have been, in his view, owing to failure to raise the Bank Rate, a loss of reserves and a further run on the £.
What is striking about this is that Lord Kindersley was absolutely unconscious of any conflict of interest whatever. He absolutely identified what was good for the City, to avoid indigestion in the City, with what was good for the national interest, although he himself had come to the conclusion that it was essential in the nation's interests to raise the Bank Rate. He was going on the automatic assumption that what was good for the City was good for Britain, and this, as he himself showed, is not the case. What we should have is that what is good for Britain is good for the City.
Then there is the question, on which a great deal has been said, of the part-time directors of the Bank of England, and I want to say only a few words about that—the question of a conflict of interest that arises where a person is a part-time director of the Bank of England and retains ordinary commercial interests. A good many hon. Members on the other side of the House have said in this connection—and I see the argument—that this is a common problem, which arises very often with many of us, and that all sorts of people find themselves in this position, in which they have to reconcile two capacities.
Yes, on both sides of the House, I quite agree. Everyone knows that is the case, and that many of us are in such a position, but I think that it is drawing a red herring across this particular trail, because the country—
On a point of order. If red herrings are to be referred to, surely the right hon. Gentleman should get his facts right? [Interruption.] The fact was that Lord Kindersley—
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, you gave a Ruling about malice, with which I completely agree. Surely, it is beholden on every Member of this House to use his facts correctly to prevent an impression of malice being created outside? In this case, the right hon. Gentleman has got his evidence wrong. I looked at the evidence. Lord Kindersley at this point tried to suppress the issue, not the Bank Rate.
I think that the hon. Member was here putting a point of argument in the guise of a point of order. There was nothing out of order in what the right hon. Gentleman was saying.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford and Stone has his facts wrong. It is true that the second time Lord Kindersley tried to get the underwriting issue postponed, but his first effort was to try to get the raising of the Bank Rate postponed. It is quite clear from the evidence why he went to see the Governor.
It is often said, and everybody agrees, that we all have this problem of two capacities or more, but nowhere else, excepting in this particular case of part-time directors of the Bank of England, does this problem arise so acutely or so starkly, and with so much at stake. It was this which led Lord Justice Parker, after listening to the evidence, to say that a reconciliation in this particular case of part-time directors—a reconciliation of conflicting interests—might call for superhuman qualities. It is, therefore, a problem different in kind from those we are talking about. Nobody says that the rest of us have to exercise superhuman qualities to reconcile our different interests.
In this case of part-time directors, it does involve, according to Lord Justice Parker, almost superhuman qualities, and this Report reveals many examples of that. This should be taken up and rectified by the Government, as our Amendment says, before we have the Report of the Radcliffe Committee; and I quite agree that many other big issues should be referred to the Committee. It should be the duty of the Government to remove people from this superhuman test, and that part-time directors should be people who only give advice, but do not accept and receive vital secrets of State.
The question of part-time directors raises wider issues, on which I want to say a word or two, about the organisation and functions of the Bank. What this Report and the evidence reveal is that the Bank and the City are extremely old-fashioned, clinging to their former glories and behaving as if nothing at all had happened in the world in the last generation. Sir Cecil Kisch, writing in the Daily Telegraph of 21st January, had a very apt comment on this, though I do not think that he intended it in the way I do. He said:
Probably, under Mr. Cameron Cobbold, things go on much as they did under Mr. Montagu Norman.
There has not really been any change in the way the Bank is run.
It appears from the Report that the City and the Bank are still dominated, still run by this charmed circle drawn primarily from the merchant bankers. Yet, although that was once justified, the fact is that today the merchant bankers are responsible for only a fraction of our overseas transactions. The great bulk of those transactions is now done by the joint stock banks. At least one conclusion emerges with which, I think, there will be little disagreement. It is that part-time directors should be drawn from a very much wider circle than now.
Another example of old-fashionedness is this stupid insistence on announcing changes of Bank Rate on Thursdays, so that everybody gets "het up" on Wednesdays—[An HON. MEMBER: "Except The Times."] Except The Times, which does not know the order in which the days of the week come.
There is a question concerning the independence of the Bank. When Conservatives talk in this debate about the need for an independent Bank of England what they really want is something that will represent the separate and distinct interests of the City. Even were it desirable, that is not possible any longer because, of course, changes in Bank Rate today directly affect the Government as such. They affect the level of the Budget; the charges on the revenue. They affect the sterling area and things that are the immediate concern of the Government as such. But the real point is that the Government and Parliament must ultimately determine the economic policies of this country.
There is a case, I think, for a distinction between the Bank and the Treasury. They have quite different functions, and there should be a division of labour between them. But the Bank should not be, as it would now appear to be, a sort of State within a State. We want a division of labour within a coordinated framework, in which the Government must hold the control. I think that we should look at many things here, such as interchange of staffs between the Treasury and the Bank of England. That would do both good. We want, probably, an inner court of full-time directors, and an outer court of advisory, part-time directors, both drawn, as I have already said, from much wider circles.
There is also something to be said—at any rate, it should be looked at—for the presence of a high Treasury official on the court. There are many examples in the world of this sort of thing. It is not something startling and new. In Australia, for instance, the Secretary to the Treasury is on the Board of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In the Bundesbank, in Germany, members of the Government are entitled to attend meetings of the Board—I think, myself, that that is going a little far. In Canada, the Deputy Minister of Finance—that is really the permanent head of the Treasury—is, ex officio, a member of the Board.
There is another way in which the Bank's methods seem to me to be very old-fashioned, and this certainly could be corrected without waiting for an enormous inquiry. In the United States, in Germany and in other countries, the central banks use the latest techniques for studying the economy. Unlike the Bank of England, they do not rely on hunches and instincts. Furthermore, they explain their policies to the public. They realise that public information is actually a part of the technique of controlling and affecting the economy. The Bank of England wraps itself up in secrecy. One first step it could take, I think, would be to improve its farcically inadequate Annual Report.
The last main issue of this debate concerns the former Chancellor's interviews. Here, there has been an attempt on the other side of the House to obscure a vital distinction—the distinction between normal occasions, and occasions on which high secrets of State, such as the Budget, movements of the Bank Rate and movements in the value of the £ are at issue.
Of course, it is often right for a Chancellor, or for any other Minister to see journalists and party officials, but not on such occasions as these, when great and high secrets are at stake. Our Amendment does not say that it is always wrong for Ministers to see such people; that they should never see them. It says that it was wrong on this particular occasion. That is our charge, and that is what hon. Gentlemen opposite must answer—not the charge that we are not making at all: that Ministers should never see these people.
Our Amendment picks out, particularly, the decision of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) to see party officials. After much thought, may I say that that seems to me to be indefensible and wrong. The Home Secretary went dredging very deep to look for precedents. I can imagine him going through our record with a tooth-comb, and his disappointment when all he could dredge out from the past was this one little minnow of Mr. Snowden. It seemed to me that he used a very odd argument. What he was saying was that even if Mr. Snowden did something wrong in 1931—and that was not the only wrong thing that he did at that time—even if he did something wrong as long ago as 1931, it can now be prayed in aid by the Government as an excuse for doing something wrong in 1957—
I do not think that it is necessary to go so far back as 1931. In 1950, in my then official capacity, I was given advance Budget information by officials working under Sir Stafford Cripps as Chancellor of the Exchequer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—about changes in the Purchase Tax on motor cars. This information, which was given to me a few days before the Budget, and which I passed on to motor manufacturers at the time, seems to be another example.
It is, of course, a common practice, and will be observed by the present Chancellor and by other Chancellors, for the Customs and Excise to give the absolute minimum of information to the directly-concerned interests when changes are in contemplation, and it is assumed that that information will not be improperly passed on. In any case, I was talking about party officials—
—and we have not got so low that the hon. Gentleman is an official of the Labour Party.
The disclosure to party officials on this occasion was not defensible even on grounds of usefulness. The argument that the right hon. Member for Monmouth used was that it was to enable the party officials to answer questions. Of course, the question they would be asked would be about Bank Rate, which was the one thing about which he could not tell them. Be that as it may, whether or not it could be defended on grounds of usefulness, on this occasion it was wrong and dangerous.
Our whole parliamentary democracy depends on a clear and precise distinction between the State and party machines. It is because our Governments depend on parties that they have to take immense pains not to transgress in the slightest degree the line that must be rigorously drawn between Government machine and party machine. And that line was transgressed on this occasion.
I was very shocked at one remark made last night by the right hon. Member for Monmouth. He said that he saw the party officials for the same reasons that the T.U.C. representatives were seen. This seems to me to be a total confusion of thought. What corresponds to the T.U.C. is the Federation of British Industries. What corresponds to the Conservative Central Office is Transport House. If the right hon. Gentleman is confusing the relationship which the Government ought to keep with its own party machine with that which it should keep with a body like the T.U.C., it shows that he does not understand this very important tradition and principle of our parliamentary democracy. There was a grave error on this occasion—
The T.U.C. is not affiliated to the Labour Party. The hon. Member had better get his facts right. In any case, he will surely admit that there is a difference between a paid party machine and the T.U.C., whatever its relations may be. These officials are paid by the Conservatives to carry out their own policy in the country.
This should never have been done. The Government should apologise, and say that it will never be done again. The issues raised by the inquiry throw the Government on the defensive. The inquiry certainly cleared individuals of grave rumours in a number of quarters, but it raised wider issues which will be long remembered and long debated. The Report will help to bring up to date our financial and monetary system and bring it—as it is not at present—into accord with the interests of the nation.
At the outset I should like to associate all of us on this side of the House with every word said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) about the sad death of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh).
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow him on all the points he has raised, though I shall refer to a number of them during the course of my remarks. He expressed a view at the very end of his speech which we found very surprising—the idea that this Report has thrown I he Government and my hon. Friends on this side on the defensive. I can only say that we do not feel very much on the defensive.
There are one or two aspects of the subject on which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I feel it my duty to make a few observations. These concern the Bank of England, and the relations between the Bank, the Treasury and the City. I want, first, to put recent events and the Report of the Tribunal into their setting against the background of the national interest. This country and the City of London have long enjoyed and. I trust, will always enjoy, in the world at large, an unrivalled reputation for financial rectitude and fair dealing. This is more than a matter of academic interest; it is something of which every one of us may feel proud. The efficiency and reputation of our financial system is really of vital importance to everyone in this country.
The value of the £ depends, of course, on many factors. It depends, first and foremost, I think, in present circumstances, on the Government's determination to maintain the value of sterling by dealing successfully with inflation; but it depends, also, on the confidence of those who throughout the world trade with us in both directions and of those who use sterling as an instrument of world commerce. That confidence, in turn, it seems to me, depends a great deal on the unrivalled reputation for probity and integrity which we have long enjoyed. I am glad to know that the value and standing of our currency is in no sense a party issue. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have made it just as plain as we have that, in the objective of maintaining our currency, there is no disagreement between the parties in Parliament.
There are, clearly, different views about the necessity for the recent inquiry. It has, however, taken place, and we must now consider what its effect has been upon the national interest to which I referred. There is no doubt whatever that, during the course of the investigation, opinion overseas was genuinely and quite properly concerned about its outcome. Rumour was rife, and if any of the rumours had proved to be justified the damage would have been very serious indeed. It is, therefore, a matter of the utmost gratification to the Government—as it should be to each one of us—that the outcome of a most searching and meticulous inquiry of this kind should have vindicated without any reserve at all the high reputation which the Bank of England, the City and we as a people have long enjoyed in these matters. Lord Pakenham's tribute to the City, to which reference was made in our debate yesterday, is a well-deserved one.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) in feeling rather sorry, in the circumstances, that the Opposition's Amendment should seek to delete the word "welcomes" from the Motion about the Report. I should have thought that everyone would welcome the terms of the Report wholeheartedly and without qualification.
The subject of our national reputation and its importance for world confidence in our currency is, to my mind, at any rate, entirely separate and distinct from the present organisation and functions of the Bank of England. The latter aspect of the matter is surely a perfectly proper subject for further inquiry, and inquiry is, in fact, to be made into it. No sensible person would argue that any existing system in this changing world must always be right and should not be examined from time to time with a view to improvement. Indeed, the Government, realising the vital importance of ensuring that our financial institutions and mechanisms are fully up to date and efficient for their purpose, set up last spring the high-powered Committee, under Lord Radcliffe's chairmanship, which is already at work. But such inquiry can be, and is being, made without casting any aspersions upon those who work the existing system and who have come through a most searching test triumphantly and with absolute vindication.
It has been suggested in some quarters that the proceedings before the Tribunal and the Tribunal's Report indicate that the relationship between the Treasury and the Bank of England is at present in some ways unsatisfactory, and I wish to say a few words about that. The relationship between the Treasury and the Bank of England, like the internal organisation of the Bank of England itself, is an absolutely essential link in the monetary system and it is, therefore, part of the subject matter which Lord Radcliffe's Committee is considering and will in due course report upon.
In saying that, I am not, of course, questioning in any way the responsibility of the Government for the control of the money supply. That responsibility exists with the Government and must remain with the Government. To carry it out, the control must be effectively exercised. If, therefore, the events leading to the increase in Bank Rate on 19th September have shown that the present relationship between the Treasury and the Bank was detrimental to Treasury control over the money supply, then there would, I agree, be a case for amending action right away. In fact, however, no such conclusion can properly be drawn, as I shall seek to show by describing the statutory relationship between the Treasury and the Bank and the way in which that relationship works.
As hon. Members will know, the statutory foundation for the present system lies in the Bank of England Act, 1946, Section 4 (1), of which provides that
The Treasury may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, they think necessary in the public interest.
The intention of that provision was explained at the time the Bill was introduced, and it has been accepted by the Bank as ensuring that ultimate responsibility for monetary and economic policy lies definitely with the Government and that, in the last resort, the Bank must defer to the Government. The present arrangements are, therefore, precisely those envisaged and provided for by the Act of 1946. In fact, no direction has been given to the Bank under the Section since the passing of the Act either by the party of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in power or by the Conservative Government.
The relationship has been, and is, that control of monetary and credit policy is exercised, under the overriding authority of the Government, through co-operation and agreement between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the banks, without the formal exercise, so far, of statutory powers over either the Bank of England or the banks. There is no difference between the view of the Government and the view of the Bank on this matter. I
do not think that I can improve on the words used by the Governor of the Bank of England when he defined the position in a public speech on 11th October last year. After describing the division of work between the Bank and the Treasury in the money market, he went on to say:
Over and above these different market responsibilities is the Government's overriding duty to ensure conformity of monetary policy with their general policy. This position, which has been recognised by my predecessors for many years past, now finds its legal expression in Section 4 (1) of the Bank Act, 1946, which, subject to certain provisos, empowers the Treasury to give directions to the Bank. In practice, all this, of course, means that the Bank and the Treasury must work in the closest contact all the time and must do their best to harmonise their policies. And in most of their work the relationship remains the traditional one of banker and customer. Obviously between two different institutions there will at times be honest differences of opinion, which have to be discussed and resolved. I can only speak from my end of the telescope and not for the Treasury. But, from an experience which now extends over some years both before and after the Bank Act, 1946. I judge that in practice this cooperation works out pretty well.
This co-operation extends to many matters besides the Bank Rate, but we are concerned today with the efficiency of the system as regards the Bank Rate particularly.
Suggestions in the Press since the Tribunal's Report, that the present arrangements do not work well, are based, in most cases, on the theory that the Bank of England ought not to be a separate entity, but an agent, or, indeed, as Sir Stafford Cripps once said in jest, the creature of the Government. I have seen in the Press a time-table of the events leading to the measures of 19th September with the implied criticism that, because of the present system, it took over a month to formulate a recommendation on the change of Bank Rate. The other criticism is, of course, that in the course of formulating that recommendation the Governors were in consultation with certain directors over a considerable period.
Neither criticism is well-founded. It is quite misleading to present the process of consultation between the Treasury and the Bank as indicating that a change in Bank Rate must involve a month's consultation. That assumes that the Treasury and the Bank of England consider Bank Rate only when there is a specific recommendation for a change. The truth is that Bank Rate, as an essential instrument in monetary policy, is continuously under review between the Bank and the Treasury.
The evidence before the Tribunal showed that in this case a definite recommendation to add the 7 per cent. Bank Rate to the other Government measures which were to be introduced was only formulated a few days before the decision was taken and carried out. Actually, the recommendation was made on the Monday and the decision carried out on the Thursday. That decision could not have been taken and acted on any sooner if the Bank had been merely an executive agent to which the Treasury gave marching orders.
Nor is it a criticism of the efficiency of the system that it gives the Governor scope for internal consultation with the directors as part of the process by which they formulate a recommendation for approval by the Government before taking it to the Court for final decision. On the contrary, while I do not wish in any way to prejudge the conclusions of the Radcliffe Committee, it seems to me to be a merit of the present system that the Bank should not be a mere executive agent of the Government, but should be able to give the Government independent information and independent advice.
I now come to the composition of the Court of the Bank and the part-time directors. There can be little doubt of the tremendous value to the Bank of having available the experience and knowledge of part-time directors. Through them the Bank have the benefit of the judgment and experience of persons who are actively and at the present time engaged in finance and industry. It would not meet the same purpose to have the advice of people who had been employed actively in industry but had retired from industry. Their advice might well be out of date.
The tributes to the value to the Bank of the expertise of these part-time directors that have been paid in many quarters, not least by the Governor in his evidence, seem to me to be something to which very great weight must be attached. Indeed, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), when he was introducing the Bill which became the Bank Act, 1946, seemed very conscious of this and acted upon that view in the proposals that he put before Parliament.
These considerations, I feel, must have special force when we consider the central bank of this country. London's eminence and position and our banking business is, more than that of any other country in the world, inextricably linked and intermingled with the conduct and finance of commerce of unrivalled variety both as to products and the number of countries with whom it is conducted.
I have seen references in the Press to the composition of the Court of the Bank which appeared to indicate that it is virtually a preserve of bankers. This, of course, is not true. Let me remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of the present composition. Of a total of 16 directors, three have their main interest in merchant banks, one in a clearing bank and one in a joint stock bank with its main business overseas. I agree that thirty years ago the situation was different. At that time, out of a total of 24 directors, 10 had their main interest in merchant banks and one in a joint stock bank with its main business overseas.
Today, apart from the five with banking interests to which I have referred and the four full-time executive directors, there are seven part-time directors, who have their main interest and experience in industry and commerce, including one director with special experience of organised labour in industry. It seems to me that the experience and knowledge called on is very wide and comprehensive at present.
I gained the impression from the right hon. Member for Smethwick that he thought it would be a good idea if there were more members of the Court who had experience in the clearing banks. We have to remember that there is, of course, a very close day-to-day relationship between the Bank and the clearing banks. Therefore, I think it would be a misconception to assume that membership of the Court is the only or most effective way of maintaining contact between the Bank of England and the clearing banks.
I think that the issue is not so much a question of the value of part-time directors, but whether the present arrangements put too great a strain on possible
conflicting loyalties. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) reminded us yesterday, Walter Bagehot considered this problem about eighty years ago. I know that times have changed, but Walter Bagehot had a way of saying very wise things which last with the years. Referring to possible conflict, Bagehot said:
You must not on this account seal up the Bank hermetically against living information … you must make a fair body of directors upon the whole and trust that the bias of some individual interests will disappear and be lost in the whole.
We are not obliged to pronounce—and I hope that we shall not pronounce—finally today on this matter, or upon the manner in which the functions of part-time directors are best carried out.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), speaking from firsthand experience, said in his informed and very well-reasoned speech yesterday, let us not make the mistake of thinking that this is anything but a fundamental problem. It is a most important problem and for that reason we should be very ill-advised to try to leap to immediate conclusions in the way that some hon. Members seem inclined to do.
Bearing in mind that the Bank of England is at the very centre of the working of our national monetary system, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said yesterday, it is the Government's view that consideration of the constitution and functions of the Court of the Bank fall squarely within the terms of reference of the Committee which is sitting under the chairmanship of Lord Radcliffe. I am very glad that Lord Radcliffe has confirmed this view. He has assured us that his Committee intends to deal with this important matter. I think it is the general view of the House that that is the most sensible way of dealing with it. I assure hon. Members that this is not an attitude of complacency.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick gave his views on how the external relations of the Bank might perhaps be made more positive. That is exactly the kind of consideration that will be well attended to by Lord Radcliffe's Committee. It may very well be that improvements can be made in the light of experience and after careful consideration of all the factors. It is exactly that kind of consideration that the Committee will give to this matter.
On the issue of conflict of loyalties, any doubts that anyone may have had a few months ago should be lessened rather than increased by the Tribunal's findings that, under the test of exceptionally difficult circumstances, all the individual directors concerned were completely exonerated from any failure of character or conduct. That gives us a good deal of prima facie evidence, at least, that there is not very much wrong with the present system. On every ground, I feel that the right action must be to await the full consideration by Lord Radcliffe's Committee against the background of its wide inquiry into other important matters regarding money and credit.
I should like to say a brief word on a point which arose in the debate yesterday and to which the right hon. Member for Smethwick has referred. That is, the interviews which my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) had with the representatives of the Press and the party organisation responsible for publicity and with the representatives of organised industry. I think it fair to say that it is generally accepted that there is nothing in the least improper or without precedent in what my right hon. Friend did.
What has been suggested—it was put in a quite moderate way yesterday by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) and by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and others—is that my right hon. Friend may have been injudicious in giving those interviews. That is a question of judgment. In the last resort, I cannot help feeling that the judgment with the best chance of being right is likely to be that of the responsible Minister who knew all the circumstances and was fully aware of the problems that he faced.
My right hon. Friend considered it essential that in the exceptional and important circumstances he should have talks with the newspapers, with those responsible for publicity in the party organisation and with the representatives of industry. He judged, after careful consideration, that he could do this without risk of breach of confidence or leakage.
I have not the slightest doubt. I am certainly not looking ahead to see what will be appropriate, but I am quite sure that as long as Her Majesty's present Government are in office Ministers will take the action that they consider right—and it will be responsible action.
My right hon. Friend judged that he could take that action without risk either of breach of confidence or leakage, and one should look at the results which have accrued. I do not think there is any doubt that the favourable reception which the announcement was given, not only in this country, but all over the world, played a large part in checking the run on sterling and averting the catastrophe that seemed to lie ahead at that time. In the end, therefore, to judge by results, my right hon. Friend fully achieved the results at which he aimed and he did so without any breach of confidence or leakage, as the Tribunal has found. Therefore, I feel that it was surely, in the circumstances, a sensible and right decision that he took.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick referred to the ease with which capital profits could be made. I may have been no more than average lucky, but I must say that if capital profits are easy to make I find capital losses at least as easy. There is a great inclination on the benches opposite for right hon. and hon. Members to talk only about capital profits. That is not my experience of life.
The right hon. Member had doubt about paragraph 39 of the Tribunal's Report. I suggest to him that the answer lies in paragraph 115. He raised the matter of Lord Kindersley. I would only say that Lord Kindersley was completely vindicated in every way in paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report. I shall not waste the time of the House by reading all the words.
The right hon. Member raised also the question of Mr. Keswick. There again, in
paragraph 77—I will read these words—the Tribunal found that Mr. Keswick
behaved with complete honesty and propriety in the difficult and embarrassing situation in which he found himself.
The Tribunal went on and specifically exonerated him in paragraph 78. In these matters, I see no reason to go beyond the findings of the Tribunal, which were perfectly clear.
The suggestions and insinuations which led to the setting up of the Tribunal have involved, most unfairly, much personal hardship and considerable expense to many individuals whose conduct has been found to be entirely blameless. In every single case, those suggestions and insinuations have been found to be without any substance whatever. The public, and, I believe, the majority of the Members of this House, have formed their own views—in many cases, very strong views—about the manner in which these suggestions were put forward and on the question of whether they should ever have been put forward at all.
I made no reference whatever in this part of my speech to Lord Kindersley or Mr. Keswick. As to who made the insinuations or suggestions, I leave it to anyone who has heard this debate to form his own conclusions about that; but, in the circumstances, I am bound to say that I simply cannot understand the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) in not expressing any regret at all for the trouble which his actions caused to so many innocent people. The City and the Bank, like the private individuals concerned, have emerged with their reputations and prestige untarnished.
Speaking as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I affirm without any fear of contradiction that whether the system is capable of further improvement or not—and if it is I have no doubt that in due course it will be so improved after proper consideration—the nation and the Government are, indeed, fortunate in having the fresh evidence furnished by this inquiry that our national institutions are manned and managed by men of high calibre and complete integrity. The world will have noted the outcome with warm approval, and perhaps with no great surprise.
I rise to put something which is, perhaps, an almost individual point of view, because I have a great deal of sympathy with the Government's Motion and would have been tempted by it but for my complete agreement with the very important Amendment tabled by my right hon. Friends, which raises vital questions on this matter.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made some animadversions yesterday upon these tribunals being constituted at all. I am in complete agreement with every word of that. I was employed as a solicitor before the Thetis Tribunal and also for John Belcher before a similar tribunal. I deplore the trial of people on unspecified charges, with no rules of evidence, the dragging of hearsay and the picking up of gossip, and the methods which the tribunals are compelled to employ. This is no criticism at all of the tribunals. Every single one of them has said that its situation is unpleasant and it does not like doing the job. Anyone who knows the tradition of justice in our courts would know that any High Court judge would hate the miserable job of trying to find out things from gossip. I deplore reputations being denigrated without evidence.
Would the hon. Member not agree that it is even more deplorable that there should be a public inquiry which is based, admittedly when people are called before it, on something which is not evidence at all—I refer to the evidence of Mr. Ellis and others—and that gossip is formulated into a Question in the House, in turn not based on evidence, which leads to an inquiry?
One anticipates that kind of intervention. I always said that Professor Pavlov need not have spent his time with those dogs at all. If only he had been present in the Strangers' Gallery he would have seen all those reflexes in evidence here.
I heard with approval the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. It is always a privilege to agree with him, but I wonder whether he believes those remarks himself. I do not want to be discourteous, but this was a rather sudden conversion. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite never believe these things when we on this side of the House say them. This was never said when John Belcher was on trial, and I should like to refer to that inquiry later. The right hon. Gentleman did not say it last Thursday, when his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary got up and destroyed the character of Mr. Basil Davidson by clear insinuation and emphasis which was intended to convey an imputation. There was no protest at all from that side of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he has been converted to this view at long last, I welcome it, because it is a view which I have always expressed.
Whether he be a Communist or a Fascist, let a man have a fair trial and know what charges are made against him. It will be remembered that in 1935 the inquiry into the conduct of "Jim" Thomas specifically reported—and I do not quote the words, precisely because the quotation is very long—"This man is being tried on unspecified charges with no rules of evidence." "Jim" Thomas did not think it necessary even to be represented by counsel until the inquiry had gone on for some days. He did not realise the extent to which his occupation, his position as a Cabinet Minister, his whole life and future were in jeopardy on gossip, on the same sort of evidence as was supplied to the Tribunal which we are now discussing.
I beg the House to realise that I am not trying to say that evidence should not have been accepted. I am trying to say that all "Jim" Thomas's intimate friends have told me that they did not believe that he deliberately betrayed this secret. But because he played golf with somebody and had been seen in someone's company and that person had indulged in minor financial transactions, not one-hundredth of the amount involved in this case, he was driven miserably from public life, from his high office and condemned at the bar of history. I do not believe that that should be done. Therefore, I agree with the first half of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, but I disagree with his concluding words.
My hon. and learned Friend talked about whitewash. If we are to have a tribunal which has no rules and no standard of conduct that it can apply, and no precedent upon which it can act, I would rather see whitewash than black-wash. Matthew Prior said:
Be to her virtues very kind;
Be to her faults a little blind;
Let all her ways be unconfin'd;
And clap your padlock—on her mind.
If that was its view, I personally agree with the Tribunal. While we are in a non-controversial mood, I should like to offer a few felicitations to the Lord Privy Seal.
I believe that the Tribunal's Report is an excellent one. I agree entirely with one observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson)—that the Report will not be forgotten. I believe that it should be the textbook and manual for the education of Socialist youth for many years to come. It contains material of great value. Therefore, I felicitate with the right hon. Gentleman and congratulate him on publishing it with due speed, and without first obtaining the approval of Admiral Strauss.
Some of my hon. Friends have been disposed to criticise some very distinguished personalities in this connection, and I should like to appear as an advocate on their behalf. Some of my hon. Friends have asked why the Lord Chancellor did not agree to a public inquiry earlier. Everyone agrees now that it would have been better had he done so. Sherlock Holmes would have spoken of the strange conduct of the Lord Chancellor in the night time. Dr. Watson would have said. "The Lord Chancellor did not bark during the night-time or the day." Sherlock Holmes would have replied that that was the strange conduct of the Lord Chancellor.
There were, of course, two reasons for it. The first was that, by chance, the Governor of the Bank of England forgot to give him the information and, therefore, he did not know it. Secondly, there was the Lord Chancellor's previous experience as Home Secretary, and everybody knows that the Home Office always decides that there is nothing to inquire into. If they had succeeded in hanging John Bodkin Adams before the nurse's notes turned up the Home Office would have said that such evidence was irrelevant, one could rely on the oral evidence of the nurses, and there was ample ground for conviction. There is a predisposition to say, "Let us not have an inquiry."
One point of some small importance is the position of the unfortunate Mr. Pumphrey. All our common law and much of our case law is based upon the conception of what is a reasonable man—the man on the Clapham bus, the man who does what he ought to do, the man who behaves like a figment of the imagination. Nobody had ever met him until Mr. Pumphrey turned up. [Laughter.] This really is not funny; I am trying to be serious. Here is a man who does everything he ought to do. He hears something which may be relevant. He passes it on to the appropriate quarter, my right hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, my right hon. Friend passed it on to the Prime Minister. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite dissatisfied with that? Why not? After all, it involved' the Conservative Central Office and there was a mild suggestion at the time that it had some interest in the matter. Surely it was the right thing to do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Divided loyalty."] He extenuated nothing and set down nothing in malice. The Tribunal found that he put every word down correctly.
Mr. Pumphrey was asked by the Tribunal why he did not ask the lady whether she meant it and see if she would alter her story. I am bound to say, coming from a High Court judge, that that appears to me to set out a new principle of our law. If anyone on the Clapham bus tonight hears someone discussing a possible murder, I hope that he will not go to the person concerned and say, "Look here, I overheard this, but did you really mean it?"
Then the Tribunal went on to say that the lady should have been disbelieved. Everyone agrees that here is a very charming, very young and reputable lady who did, in fact, use those words. There are only two possible reasons why the Tribunal should say that she should be disbelieved. The first is that any statement about a Bank Rate leak ought to be disbelieved. No one could suggest that this was the attitude of the Tribunal, which would be quite repugnant to the special circumstances for which it was appointed. Therefore, the only other possibility was because she was employed by the Conservative Central Office. Of course, if that is the fact, if the Tribunal had in mind the somewhat indiscreet observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) about the amount of credit that should be attached to a Conservative Election policy, one could understand it. But it is all very hard, extremely hard, I think, on the unfortunate Mr. Pumphrey.
I made some reference to the Governor of the Bank of England, and here I must confess myself in a minor difficulty. He was cross-examined fairly heavily by the Attorney-General on this. I am not suggesting that the Attorney-General was too tough. It has been said that he was, but I do not think it is fair. I thought it was nearly all Manningham and very little Buller. I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on resisting the temptation to ask Mrs. Campbell what was going to win the 3.30.
In page 205 of the report of the evidence the Governor stated:
I would have thought that the Prime Minister would wish to know whether I was satisfied that there was no irregularity, and the point to me appeared irrelevant whether it was for £10,000 or £1,000,000 or £500,000,000.
I say to the Leader of the House that this is one of the difficulties about this thing. No one wants to smear anyone. But what comment does one make on that? If I were to say that I did not believe that, it would be a reflection on the Governor's honour as a gentleman, and if I were to say that I did believe it it would be a reflection on his capacity as Governor of the Bank of England. In these circumstances, perhaps I should pass from that.
In this Report there is one piece of information which is, I believe, of extreme importance and which certainly will not perish from our recollection. The Tribunal properly asked for all the
transactions of Lazards, Mathesons, and so on, prior to previous announcements about the Bank Rate. It is fair to say that the evidence on this completely exculpated them from any possibility of ever having used information before. There was no suggestion whatever. It was Lazards who volunteered, very properly, information about some of their large dealings in Government stocks which they had made three weeks before a rise in the Bank Rate, but at a time when there was no Chancellor of the Exchequer, so there could be no possibility there of prior information, because we were engaged in a General Election. They sold stocks which were variously estimated, because of the question of what is gilt-edged stock, amounting to well over £2 million and possibly over £3 million. It was the biggest transaction of any kind that they had indulged in. Mr. Brand gave evidence in page 283 of the Report as follows:
10879. Is that memorandum dated 12th October, 1951?—Correct.
10880. And does the memorandum deal with the implications for Lazard Brothers & Co. Ltd., of a rise in interest rates on the assumption that a Conservative Government would be returned to power as a result of the then forth coming General Election…?—That is true.
Here we humble individuals have listened for years to Conservatives saying, "Of course, if a Labour Government comes into power there will be a fall in the value of the £, or there will be a fall in gilt-edged stocks." Yet here are a body of Conservatives a week before the Election—Lazards, a very great firm—saying, "We will sell £3 million worth of stock, because if one thing is more certain than another those stocks will go down the moment a Conservative Government goes into office." And they did. Most of them were short-dated securities which have since matured, but War Bonds, which then stood at 103¾, now stand at 9613/32 and Funding 4 per cent., which was standing at 103⅞, now stands at 87⅞. Somebody has lost that money.
The Chancellor said how easy it is to incur a capital loss. It certainly is if one happens to be a curate in a little village with a small sum to invest and does not know much about stocks, and the "wide boys" in the City who know it all are doing these manipulations.
Now I will deal with what appear to me to be one or two other problems which arise in terms of the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend. I want to say this to the Attorney-General: a few years ago he and I were members of a Select Committee dealing with what was called a Budget leakage, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—whose absence through illness today we all deplore—made a very casual statement, at a quarter past three, conveying information about a speech which was to be delivered at half-past three.
Who was it then who was talking about the Official Secrets Act? Who was it then who was trying to make this into a subject for prosecution? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, as a member of that Committee, moved an Amendment incorporating a reference to the Official Secrets Act which was defeated by the Committee. His sole supporter was the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, Mr. Oliver Poole, who was then a Member, having the courage and the decency to vote against it.
I do not want to convey the impression that I am trying to suggest anything that I am not trying to suggest. [Laughter.] I know it is difficult and dangerous, but I do say to the House that there is a different standard of justice applied in these tribunals. Members of the Tribunal themselves would probably say it, because there is no standard and no one can tell the members what standard to apply—I am sorry if I have got my notes mixed, but one of the pages is two inches short. I cannot remember what has been excised.
I ask those who have had experience of the criminal law in this country seriously to consider this proposition. If I were asked to defend a Post Office employee who had knowledge that certain gold ingots were being transported by van along a road, and if, that night, those gold ingots were "pinched" and the thieves were arrested, and if it could be shown that my Post Office employee had been seen drinking with the thieves on the night before and entertaining them at darts at the local "pub," and if he came along and said, "I say on my honour and conscience and oath that I told them nothing about the ingots, the question was not discussed and I should have been in a very embarrassing situation if it had been mentioned and I swear that I said nothing", then I should have to tell him that he had a chance of visiting a different moor for a very long time, where there would be little opportunity for grouse shooting. No one who has practised in the criminal courts would deny that. The one thing to be said for this Report is that it certainly provides a new code of conduct which, as Lord Melbourne would have said, had no damned nonsense about morals or ethics about it.
I would say this about the City. The innocuous terms in which right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about these "gentlemen of financial genius" do irk a little. I should have thought that I carried both sides of the House with me in saying that anyone sacked from the present Government for incompetence must be a nitwit, yet the moment Ministers are sacked they become directors of scores of these concerns.
I will have a word with the hon. Member about possibilities, but at the moment I am fully employed.
There is another serious implication. It is that the advice which the Governor of the Bank of England gave to Mr. Keswick about how one should behave in relation to what the Attorney-General calls an embarrassing situation and the advice which the Tribunal gave to Lord Kindersley are different. Lord Kindersley was told that his procedure was right, that all he must do was to take no part in discussions, that he must abstain from giving any information and retain a poker face. That Lord Kindersley obviously tried very sincerely and honestly to do. It is not easy, but there is one fault in the reasoning.
That might be all right if the question had been whether the Bank Rate was going up or down, but that is never the situation. Everyone knows, if the Bank Rate is to be altered, which way it is to be altered in certain circumstances. In the circumstances of September it would either remain as it was, or go up. There could be no question of its going down, so that once one abstains from discussion, one inevitably conveys the impression that it is going up. Fortunately, Lord Kindersley has none of those facial peculiarities from which some of us suffer. If he had, the position might have been difficult.
I remember a girl friend of mine who had been taking too much sunshine and who walked into an auction sale to get out of the sun. She stood there, surreptitiously scratching herself in various odd quarters, and then found that every scratch was a bid and that she had bought nearly all that was for sale. She came out with a pile of Roman bric-à-brac which included a genuine Horatius and a Spurius Lartius.
I do not want to be disrespectful, but supposing Lord Kindersley had suffered from one of those incipient winks —[Laughter.] It is no use hon. Members laughing about this. It could have been a serious situation. A red-haired friend of mine who suffered like that at the end of the war was shown around the harem of the Akond of Swat and he told me that he nearly started the war again and it was only by his signing a written apology and wearing a bandage that peace was restored.
This matter of diversity of occupation is not a new one. It has applied to all of us in our time. All of us who are practising solicitors and who become members of a local authority, or trustees of an estate, find a conflict of duties. I would have thought that there was never any question of where one's duty was. One's duty is in no way to act upon the information one receives, and if one is in a situation in which one either has to act on the information or to do an injustice to one's client, one's duty is to withdraw from the case. That is an almost commonplace event in the life of a local solicitor and it is always an unhappy one. Frequently one is consulted about matters on which one already has knowledge and there is no question about what the Law Society says—it is one's duty to say to one's client, "I cannot honestly advise you; you must go somewhere else."
It is putting it a little high to say that a diversity of occupation which involves advising the Governor of the Bank of England on whether the Bank Rate should be put up and advising people whether they should sell shares in the event of such a possibility is a very wide diversity of occupation. I do not doubt the honesty of Mr. Keswick and I make no criticism of him, because he was following an accepted course of conduct pursued by all business people in this situation. I make no direct or covert criticism, but I do say that it is a situation which should not be allowed to continue.
A right hon. Gentleman opposite who found one of his gamekeepers "pinching" game, and who recorded the explanation that the chap had a part-time job as secretary of the poachers' association, would regard that as a somewhat inadequate explanation. In any event, this was the classic defence of Mata Hari. They asked her, "When you were in the pay of the French secret police, why were you seen riding in the carriage of the head of the German secret police?" She said with simple dignity, "I was his mistress". They asked, "Why were you his mistress?" She replied with equal dignity, "Because he paid me for it". On this reckoning, that would be a complete explanation, but they shot her, poor wench which was a pity, because she had done a great deal in the way of providing comfort for the troops.
I found myself in a somewhat similar situation in regard to this matter in the days when Members of Parliament were suffering financial stress and when I nearly became Sister Constance of Dead Souls, which is, of course, a "Bemsley" publication, advising in the "Drooping Hearts" column. The whole House will know that Aunt Agatha wrote a political column as "Waxy", where he developed a tendency to megalomania, that he was a reviewer of television under the pseudonym "Bellevuer", and also wrote a financial column as "J. P. Morgan" which the Chancellor consulted first thing every Friday morning to find out what, if anything, the Prime Minister was thinking. All this kept him from his business of book reviewing, which was his main occupation.
This situation cannot continue. It is no criticism of the people concerned in the inquiry—many of whom were appointed by us to their positions—to say that it cannot continue. The other thing that has emerged from the proceedings of the Tribunal is the fact that many of these transactions have nothing whatever to do with disposing of shares, but are gambling transactions. If a Labour Government come in they must restrict the power of this licensed gambling hell. I believe in the principle of one man, one job.
Finally, I believe that we have to establish a standard of justice. As I have said, I appeared for John Belcher. I am well aware that the opinion of an advocate about his client is not of very great moment, but I would go into the witness box and swear on my oath that I never doubted his integrity. He played the fool, but he was broken over a single issue, the acceptance of a few bottles of wine from a very wealthy man who pushed them on to him—and he did write offering to pay—in connection with a series of not very important permits which were going through the Board of Trade and which had been going through with approval from the first, and were not altered at the time.
He was broken—and hon. Members opposite were then talking about the Socialist Stavisky case. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) took a very high view of the duties of a Member of Parliament and the necessity for a diligent application to his duties without any thought of financial reward outside. No one can deny that he pressed this inquiry with very great vigour. I sincerely congratulate the Attorney-General upon not having done it in the same terms.
I do not doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend must have felt very hurt when he deemed it to be his duty to bring Mrs. Belcher from her washtub in Enfield, when she had not been warned that she would be required—and when we had an undertaking that she would not be needed—drag her into a car, bring her before the Tribunal and put her in the witness box, and then find that she was in a mental hospital recovering from the shock. It may have hurt my right hon. and learned Friend's feelings then because, no doubt, he was living in a robe of political white samite. It is not a good thing to do. It is a procedure which I hope this House will not permit to happen again.
Although I believe in a good deal of law reform, we all believe that our system of law and of justice is still the envy and admiration of the world. With all its faults, no one has yet produced anything better. Nothing could more undermine our faith in that system than the introduction of this bastard procedure, which has no law, no standards and no character—nothing. I hope, therefore, that this will not happen again, and that we shall take the view that unless people have committed an offence there is nothing to try them for.
The duty of keeping secrets is the responsibility of the person who possesses them. In this case it was spread rather wide—a little too wide—and it may be that that fact made the Tribunal rather more necessary, and made its inquiries very much more extensive, but I hope that we shall never again resort to a system which is repugnant to the instincts of all those who respect and believe in British justice.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) made a speech of several parts. Of that part where he said that he was not being funny we were all of one mind that he was very funny indeed, and we congratulate him upon it. He went on being funny a little longer than he intended, and he intermingled in his humour some attacks and sneers with which I shall deal in due course, but I was extremely glad to hear him say that he welcomed the Report—because he always speaks with full sincerity. He is the first and only hon. Member opposite to say that. We have still not discovered why it is that other hon. Members opposite do not welcome the Report.
I turn straight away to the question of procedure. The hon. Member for Oldham, West and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) had much to say about their dislike of this procedure, and I can see much force in many of the points which they made upon that subject. We are probably all aware of the difficulty in which successive Attorneys-General have found themselves when working under this procedure. I do not think that many of us would have been prepared to attack one of the previous Attorneys-General quite so fiercely as the hon. Member for Oldham, West attacked him—in his absence—but we are all aware of the difficulty under which an Attorney-General works in these matters.
I wonder, however, if we are also aware of the difficult position of the witnesses. My right hon. Friends have pointed to the fact that much personal hardship has been involved in this matter. That is obvious, but I want to point to another way in which the men who gave evidence before the Tribunal have suffered, and may go on suffering. They will suffer because, in the course of their evidence—and I am not criticising my right hon. and learned Friend on this point—they made statements which referred indirectly to the matter under consideration by the Tribunal, but which were not so directly concerned with the matter that the Tribunal found it necessary to come to a specific conclusion upon them.
I want to give two examples. The first relates to the position of the Governor of the Bank of England. The matter that I have in mind was raised by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, when he said that the Governor of the Bank of England forgot to let the Lord Chancellor have the facts. It is a fact that in questioning the Governor the Attorney-General—at Question 7960 or thereabouts—appeared to be of the opinion that the Governor had failed in his duty to the Prime Minister by not disclosing, in his letter of 27th September, the amount of the transactions involved. The Governor gave his explanation, and one of the points he made was mentioned by the hon. Member for Oldham, West.
Another point related to the closing sentence in the Governor's letter, in which he used words to the effect that all the details were there if the Prime Minister or the Chancellor wished to have them. The fact is, however, that despite those explanations—and again I must point out that I am not criticising my right hon. and learned Friend, because he had to do what he conceived to be his duty—the Attorney-General returned to the point in his final speech to the Tribunal and said:
It is not for me to say, but the Tribunal might take the view that the arrangement of that letter"—
that is, the letter of 27th September—
was such as to make it appear, whether intentionally or accidentally, that really these City transactions were of a very minor character and capable of adequate investigation by the Governor of the Bank of England in one day …
Then he went on with words which I do not think it is necessary for me to read out.
That may be, but the fact is that the matter has now been left there. Nothing more has been said. The Tribunal was not asked to comment on that, and we are left in doubt about whether that view, apparently put forward by the Attorney-General, is shared by anyone else. I do not think that is good for individuals, nor is it good for the credit of this country or the credit of the City. Unhesitatingly I take the view that in all that the Governor of the Bank of England said and did in this matter he appeared fully to satisfy his duty to the nation and to the Prime Minister. I know that my hon. Friends—and it is apparently also the view of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer from what he said today—have the fullest confidence in Mr. Cobbold, the Governor of the Bank of England. I think that confidence is shared not only by people in the City, but in the world outside.
It is not just a formality, it really is important when matters have been left as they have been in these records and reports, that this House should express its confidence in the Governor. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will let us know his views on the part played by the Governor of the Bank of England. From what was said by the Chancellor this afternoon, I think it clear that he and his right hon. Friends have the fullest confidence in Mr. Cobbold. But if there is anything that can be added by whoever winds up the debate for the Government. I hope that it will be added to the advantage of us all.
My second example is that of Mr. W. J. Keswick. Many people, both in this House and outside, have seized upon the last sentence of his letter of 16th September, which is mentioned in paragraph 66 of the Report of the Tribunal. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) seized upon these words this afternoon. Unlike his usual self, the right hon. Gentleman quoted that one sentence right out of its context. Yesterday the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, clearly referring to these words, told us that he thought Mr. W. J. Keswick would go down in history as an anti-British man, but that this was undeserved, and, indeed, the opposite was deserved.
From the way in which he nods his head, I gather that that opinion is still held by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
Those words appear as the second of two sentences in the last paragraph of a letter which refers specifically to insurance companies. I will explain in a moment why that is important.
I wish first to remind the House of the tribute paid to Mr. Keswick by the Chairman of the Tribunal, reported in Question 4774 of the proceedings of the Tribunal, and of the Tribunal's conclusion, reported in paragraph 77 of the Report.
Now I ask the House to look at the paragraph in the middle of this letter of 16th September:
Kadoorie I know is worried about sterling and is scared. The more people like him who cry down sterling the weaker it becomes. It happens to be our currency and I feel it is up to us all to support it as much as possible. If sterling really goes we all go. But these are platitudes.
There is one point that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and his right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick overlooked altogether. It is that Mr. Keswick's advice on this occasion was not being sought about what a London company should do, but about what certain Hong Kong companies should do. These companies were not subject to sterling exchange control—
This is a fact which the Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well has existed for some time. If the hon. and learned Gentleman does not understand the meaning of it, perhaps he will understand this. These companies were trading mostly outside the sterling area. They were trading internationally and their liabilities were international. Therefore they wanted their assets ready to meet liabilities in the currencies of the countries in which those liabilities might occur. It is unreasonable for people to say—as was murmured so frequently yesterday from the opposite side of the House—that Mr. Keswick behaved in an anti-British style, without taking all these important facts into account. I say again that this is not a case of advice being sought by a London company, it is a case of advice being sought by companies outside the exchange control.
As I understand it, no money under Mr. Keswick's own control was concerned, that is, money in this country. That remained subject to his view about the importance of not crying down sterling. So far as I understand it. Mr. Keswick practised what he preached and nothing of his own was sold at this time.
I will give way in a moment.
As the evidence shows, he thought that a British company and a British Colony should support British bonds and British equities, but he was left with the commercial consideration which I have just mentioned. Though many of us, who are more accustomed than Mr. Keswick to having our letters and statements read out and examined under the spotlight of publicity, might think that the last sentence and paragraph of his letter was unwisely drafted, I think that Mr. Keswick was trying to express a perfectly honourable frame of mind. If I may say in my own words what I think he was trying to say—I am doing this without consulting Mr. Keswick—it would be, "Reluctant as I am to give you this advice which seems to be anti-British, I must on commercial grounds advise"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—perhaps hon. Gentlemen would listen—"advise you who are outside the exchange control that you should continue your policy to switch more of your insurance assets into North American bonds and equities."
It is not contrary to the sterling area's interests and to the interests of the British £ that it should be known all over the world that the City of London gives honest advice. Nor do I believe it is contrary to our own British interests—this is where I differ from Mr. Keswick's own censure of himself—that advice should be given to great firms like Jardine Matheson in British Colonies which would have the result of keeping their finances sound. Nothing could be worse for British interests than to have a vast organisation like that taking the wrong financial course and being unable to meet its liabilities.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Mr. Keswick, but we have Mr. Keswick's own opinion that what he felt compelled to advise was anti-British against sterling. That is the point. This gap being left open, he felt, very reluctantly, bound to advise anti-British action.
I quite see that, and I thought I had covered that by the explanation I have given. The hon. and learned Member is always fair and he must realise that he and I are much more used to drafting things that will look right afterwards than are people in the City when writing business letters on a personal basis to colleagues. Of course it is very easy to attack afterwards and say that a letter was unwisely drafted. It would be the greatest possible mistake for this House or for the Opposition to accept the point of view put by the right hon. Member for Smethwick this afternoon that the one thing that will be remembered about this Report will be that extract from that letter. That is completely unfair, and will not help the position of any Labour Government that might come into power in the next fifty years. I recommend the Leader of the Opposition to give it up.
On the last occasion on which we heard the right hon. Gentleman speaking powerfully he was defending most vigorously the system under which Mr. Keswick operated. What is the right hon. Gentleman's position today? Is he in favour of the system, of the way Mr. Keswick operated under it, of neither, or of one of them, and if so, which?
On the last occasion I spoke I contradicted the hon. Gentleman. I certainly am of the view that the sterling area system is serving a useful purpose, and nobody should go about saying that it ought to be stopped at once. Do I think that the system has suffered as a result of what Mr. Keswick did? I answer, without doubt or hesitation, "No." Look at where the £ stands today.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to answer the question I put and not an entirely different one. My question was not whether the system had suffered as the result of what Mr. Keswick had done, but whether the right hon. Gentleman defends today the system under which Mr. Keswick operated and the way Mr. Keswick behaved under it?
I certainly defend both and that is what I said.
I wanted to speak about part-time directors of the Bank of England, but as we have all taken far too long in our speeches in this debate I shall pass over that subject with the exception of one point. I very much approve of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if there was any reason for doubting the system under which part-time directors of the Bank of England had outside financial interests, that reason had not been increased but decreased as the result of the Report. To ask, as did the right hon. Member for Smethwick, that the system should be altered at once without waiting for the Radcliffe Report is wrong, is madness, and is, of course, contrary to what the Tribunal indicated in its Report.
Now I come to the attitude of the Opposition in this matter. The Opposition have, as I said at the start of my speech, consistently refused to welcome this Report; but they have done something else in this debate. They have purported to accept the findings, and then, almost in the same breath, have gone on either to repeat innuendoes against the persons who were subject to the Tribunal or to repeat the charges against those persons, although the charges were found quite wrong by the Tribunal.
While I was listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton—I told the right hon. Gentleman that I would talk about his speech but I note that he is not here—I noted down seven quite distinct smears, as I thought they were. Since reading HANSARD I am able once again to pay tribute to the extreme cleverness of the right hon. Gentleman in getting things not only into order but to look right. I believe there were seven occasions on which he tried to go back in one way or another on the absolute and certain clearing of individuals by the Tribunal, and indeed to add to them.
The first of these occasions occurs in column 846 and relates to the charge against my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) when the right hon. Member accused him of having what he called "misled" the House of Commons when he said there was no brief about the Bank Rate. Of course there was no brief about it. My right hon. Friend said so on a number of occasions, but this charge was persisted in by the right hon. Member for Huyton, despite what had been said.
The second occasion I regard as more important, because it concerns people outside this House. Having said that he and the Labour Party accepted all the conclusions about Mr. Keswick, Lord Kindersley and Mr. Poole, the right hon.
Member for Huyton then made reference to the transactions of Mr. Keswick's company and the three companies of Lord Kindersley. Why did he do this? I do not know, unless it was to add once again a smear on these gentlemen. It is not correct to state, as the right hon. Gentleman did—these are his words—
There are in this country 11,000 public companies. Only four of them sold in advance on any considerable scale, all four of them being closely associated with one or other of two Bank of England directors. The statistical odds against this happening by chance are very high indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 850.]
Why did the right hon. Gentleman use those words? What is the suggestion? Any hon. Member who reads the full report of the evidence will notice that there were sales by other companies and that they were thoroughly investigated by the Tribunal. The next point—
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way to me? Would he please note at the beginning of the paragraph from which he has quoted that my right hon. Friend said:
Nobody, however, can go on from there to say that there was no case for an inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 8501
The whole of the argument of my right hon. Friend was directed to showing that in a case in which only four public companies sold in advance on any considerable scale, and all four of them were closely associated with one or other of two Bank of England directors, there was a pretty good argument for an inquiry.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman would put that point and I am glad he has. That is what I had in mind when I said that the right hon. Member for Huyton was extremely clever. I paid tribute to that at the beginning. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), whose constituency is in Yorkshire, knows the expression used by Lancastrians of those who do this sort of thing. I think they are called "clever clogs," which is perhaps a rather unsuitable name to apply to the right hon. Member for Huyton in view of what he has told us of his early youth.
I come to the second leg of this allegation. The right hon. Member, after talking about Lord Kindersley and the policy decisions of 13th September, said:
… there was the extraordinary after-dealings sales on the Wednesday, when the decision had been taken five days before;
I imagine by that he meant dealings after hours. If he would only check his facts he would find in paragraph 47 of the Tribunal Report that there were no after hours dealings in the Lazard transactions. Perhaps he would be more careful before he casts these imputations about.
The third smear, as I call it, comes later in that same column of the OFFICIAL REPORT where the right hon. Gentleman referred to Mr. Gampell and said:
Though the Report does not comment on this; …
that is, a telephone message—
the evidence shows that the Chief Accountant had been given a very broad hint—what my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford would call 'a long wink '—by Mr. Gampell.
That really is amounting to a charge from the Opposition Front Bench that Mr. Gampell had leaked. Otherwise, what was the point of saying it?
Then we come in the next paragraph of the speech to the right hon. Member's comments on Mrs. Campbell and all this fun, which no doubt is rather humorous and enjoyable, about clairvoyance. What is the point of saying that, unless he was accusing Mrs. Campbell of perjury?
Later we come to a charge against my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. The right hon. Member for Huyton referred to Mr. Fry of the Manchester Guardian and said:
One of them, we understand, Mr. Fry of the Manchester Guardian, went out thinking that Bank Rate was going up, and, no doubt owing to inadvertence, he was the only one the Attorney-General failed to ask the routine question, 'Did you gain any impression one way or the other about what was going to happen to Bank Rate?'
What was the point of saying that? Finally, we come to the more general sweeping smear across the face of the City when the right hon. Member said:
One of the impressions which many people have formed is the essentially amateurish way
in which vital decisions affecting our whole economic well-being are taken—the 'old boy' network, the grouse moors …
and so on. That, apparently, is a conclusion which hon. Members opposite have come to as a result of this Tribunal. I notice that the Daily Herald came to the same conclusion—
All that is based on a few matters, taken out of their context, which were not the main subject of examination by the Tribunal. Because the right hon. Member kept trying to get the thing in balance, all that was quite contrary to the impression which he tried to give of his views of the importance of the credit of the City of London. I cannot understand how a man is able to attack the City and the way it conducts business for about three minutes of his speech and then give support to the statement of the Zurich banker which he quoted:
There is no other country in which a searching inquiry of this kind would be held. The Report wig put up the credit of London and of sterling."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 846, 850–1, 856, 861–2.]
How a man can couple that statement with the other smearing observations he thought he had to make, I still do not know.
This afternoon we have had a further smear from the right hon. Member for Smethwick about Lord Kindersley preferring his own good to the good of Britain.
He tried to tell us that Lord Kindersley had gone to the Governor of the Bank of England solely to try to postpone the Bank Rate increase. Lord Kindersley said in answer to Question 7428:
I did feel that it was wrong to do the two together.
Perhaps the right hon. Member will be a little fairer when next he tries to attack Lord Kindersley.
Would the right hon. Member turn to page 126 of the evidence where the statement of the
Attorney-General, based on Lord Kindersley's original statement, is reported in the fifth paragraph? There it says that Lord Kindersley:
discussed the possibility of postponing the Bank Rate decision, but the Governor of the Bank of England convinced him it was not feasible.
All I said was that his first aim was to postpone the raising of the Bank Rate, and that is fully substantiated by the evidence.
The right hon. Member would not make a very good member of the Tribunal if he pays more attention to opening statements by counsel than he does to the evidence. Surely he will acknowledge two things, first that the Tribunal—
I really cannot give way again. The hon. Member spoke for 45 minutes yesterday, which was longer than I have spoken or will speak. I really cannot be interrupted again.
The point I want to make is that this is one more case in which the Tribunal examined the evidence and cleared Lord Kindersley of any imputations, yet back there comes another attack from the Front Bench opposite on one of the men concerned.
The right hon. Member attacks me. What I said in my speech today was not that Lord Kindersley did this in his private interest, but in what he thought was the City's interest in the "indigestion" on the money market. I never made an imputation, indirectly or in any way, and it is monstrous of the right hon. Member to say I did.
That is really not so. The right hon. Member is doing himself less than justice. He tried to make the point that Lord Kindersley and other men affected by this Tribunal had put the City's interest in front of Britain's interest.
In support of that he said that Lord Kindersley's first inclination was to go to the Governor of the Bank of England and say, "Postpone the Bank Rate increase", and that he never thought of postponing the Vickers issue. What I have tried to show from the evidence—there are other passages which give the same answer—is that it is clear that Lord Kindersley's aim in discussing this was to put the point that he felt it wrong for the two to be done together. That is a completely different thing. That is not a picture of a man preferring his own narrow interests. [HON. MEMBERS: "Although he said it."] I am glad I appear to have touched a rather soft spot. Will the Opposition agree that Lord Kindersley acted throughout not only in the highest traditions of the City, but wholly patriotically, and there was never any case in which he put personal, firm, or City interests before the national interest? I presume that that is what the right hon. Gentleman is now saying.
The last point I want to make refers again to the right hon. Member for Huyton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] He must be very tired today. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could convey a suggestion to his right hon. Friend which I will now outline. There has been discussion as to whether we on this side of the House were charging the right hon. Member for Huyton with malice and with wrong intentions. It is quite true that not only at the Box but also on oath in the Tribunal the right hon. Gentleman said that he had no intention to hurt Mr. Poole or to accuse him of any corruption or anything like that, but he did not seem to understand the point which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) made.
The point is that the right hon. Member for Huyton used words which were generally understood inside the House and outside the House as imputing dishonourable conduct to Mr. Oliver Poole. Whether one does it on purpose or by mistake does not matter from the point of view of the damage one does to the individual. Subject to the complications of the law of defamation, on which the hon. and learned Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) addressed us yesterday, it does not affect the issue of liability to damage.
I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition might not suggest to his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton that he should make a statement to this effect: "After looking at this again and in view of what the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey said yesterday, I realise that, although I did not mean it, the words used on 14th November about Mr. Oliver Poole could have been taken and were taken as casting a serious imputation against him. I much regret this and I am sorry." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Why should not the right hon. Gentleman be sorry that that happened?
I do not think the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) has been here throughout the debate. Had he been here, he would well have understood that there were two quite separate points. If the right hon. Member for Huyton made the statement which I have suggested, he would have gone a long way to undo the feeling that right hon. and hon. Members can get away with saying things about people outside the House for which they would be liable if they were ordinary people. Perhaps it is asking too much, but the House of Commons likes apologies. The right hon. Member for Huyton could greatly add to a somewhat diminishing stature if he were to add to what I have suggested the words, "I was wrong to use those words", because that is what most of us believe.
My last plea is to the Leader of the Opposition. If he attaches importance to the credit of this country and to the credit of London, which is the heart and centre of the monetary system of nearly half the world, why should he not tell us tonight that he welcomes this Report? If he will not do that, then we and the country, too, will know that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends are still playing a dirty Parliamentary game.
I suggest that the right hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Sir T. Low) should take his own advice and draft another statement. He should write tonight to Lord Kindersley and Mr. Keswick as follows: "Dear Sir, Tonight between 5.30 and 6.0 o'clock in the House of Commons, I tore myself into a passion of tatters in over-defending you. Nobody was making charges against you. You have been acquitted by the Tribunal of any suggestion that was even in people's minds, but I have given the impression to the country and to the House of Commons that there was a great deal for you to hide. I therefore took upon myself the position of being prosecutor, judge and executioner, and I even went as far as to write pretty poor counsel.—Yours faithfully (signed) …"
If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that Mr. Keswick and Lord Kindersley are absolutely innocent, why all the fuss? Is he trying to convince himself? Why have we had this astonishing demonstration? I thought at one time that the right hon. Gentleman was about to have a seizure and apoplexy in proving that his friends were not guilty of a charge which nobody had brought against them.
I want to put to him a view about Bank of England directors which is shared by ordinary common people who have not so intimate a knowledge of the City as the right hon. Gentleman has given us to understand that he has. Ordinary people think that it is the duty of a director of the Bank of England to protect the interests of this country, and this includes the position of the £. They do not understand it when a director of the Bank of England gives advice to his friends to raid the £. This is something that they cannot understand.
The right hon. Gentleman argues that it is all right because it is in the interests of a company in Hong Kong. Does it matter to this nation whether the attack on the £ comes from foreigners, colonial people or our own people? It is an attack on the £. It does not matter from where it comes. For the right hon. Gentleman to argue that this is all right because it is keeping the Hong Kong company going is completely and absolutely to misunderstand what the people of this country are saying.
I will give way to the hon. Member later. I have only just started.
I, too, have an apology to make to the House, although I am sure that it is not the apology which the right hon. Member for Blackpool, North would like to hear. It must be clear to hon. Members that I am suffering from laryngitis and am speaking under some difficulty.
Last night, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) gave us a good deal of information about the law of libel, which he confessed that he did not understand. I want to make a comment on what he said. He made it clear that he is colour blind. In making a comment to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey said he assumed that my right hon. Friend had something to do with the New Statesman. Later, he went upstairs to HANSARD and, using his rights to correct a slip of the tongue, he corrected New Statesman to Tribune. He does not know the difference between pink and red. This is a lawyer who comes to the House and gives us in detail expert evidence! He needs some political spectacles.
Yesterday, the Home Secretary said that I made a curious remark in my speech of 14th November. He quoted me quite correctly as saying that Mr. Oliver Poole was not the first man to have his reputation tarnished—or an attempt made to tarnish it—in the House of Commons. I was impelled to make this remark by the preceding speech by the Prime Minister, in which he made much of what he called—
…the right of men, even in the highest places, who had been attacked by name, to defend their honour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 1154.]
He had referred to imputations against the Chancellor and against Mr. Poole.
When I rose to speak, I had the words of the Prime Minister in my mind. I began by making it perfectly clear—and it was the first opportunity I had had to do so—that I made no imputation against the honour of Mr. Poole. I repeated the statement in my memorandum of evidence to the Tribunal, and I repeat it now and ask the House to accept it. I made no imputations against the honour of the Chancellor, but I stated categorically in my speech that I made an imputation against his political discretion and his wisdom. I said that in my memorandum of evidence, and I repeat that statement this evening in the House of Commons.
It has been said, oddly enough and fantastically enough, in The Times that, until I mentioned Mr. Poole's name in the House of Commons, there was no special anxiety at all in the City. This comes well from a newspaper which, on 20th September, had talked about "inspired selling". Then, the Editor of The Times goes to the Tribunal and says, "What is really meant by that is a man with a crystal ball". I am told, by the way, that the younger members of that set called the "top people" who read The Times now refer to the Editor as "the old Printing House square."
The Editor of The Times asked the Tribunal seriously to consider that the English language—and this from a man who has doubled as a book reviewer throughout his whole life—had meanings like this. Five days later, and there has been no interpretation of these words at all, The Times, in an article on what was being said in the City, said:
… but it was clear on Wednesday that several City institutions were well aware that some Government announcement was imminent.
On the 26th, it returned to the rumours.
When Sir William Haley was asked who wrote this paragraph on the 25th about City institutions being well aware that a Government announcement was imminent, he said it was written by a Mr. Clarke, presumably a member of the staff of The Times. So far as I know, Mr. Clarke gave no evidence before the Tribunal to justify the words which he had written. It is, of course, possible that he submitted a memorandum of evidence, and I wish that it could have been possible for all memoranda to be published, including that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), my own and that of Mr. Clarke. I would have liked to have seen something else in the document, and that was the table of dealings to which the Tribunal referred. It would have been a very useful and informative document for the House to have before it for the present debate.
We have had no explanation from The Times why it was that Mr. Clarke used these words. I am not asking the learned Attorney-General to give any view on this at all. Whether he wanted that evidence or not, or whether he was satisfied with any memorandum submitted, is entirely his concern, but for The Times to adopt this attitude of saying that there was no anxiety in the City, when it had on three occasions illustrated the anxiety of the City, is really stretching the privileges of the "Old Lady" a little too much.
Of course, The Times is not the only paper—I was going to say responsible paper, but I had better say heavy paper—to carry on these rumours. I see that the Daily Telegraph, which now seems to be slightly ashamed of having published one of its rare scoops—the one in which it announced that the Bank Rate was going up—had this to say:
There was strong criticism in the city among gilt-edged dealers and in the discount market of some leakage of information of the forthcoming Government measures of the day before. In both quarters, heavy selling of gilt-edged stocks was reported late on Wednesday night.
I do not want to weary the House with quotation after quotation. The facts are there. Anybody who cares to go into the Library can see that.
Long before a Question was asked in this House, the Press were reporting the anxiety, the uncertainty, the real anguish that there was in some quarters in the City of London. Even the most inattentive back bench Member must know what was being said in the Lobbies of the House of Commons at that time, and what was being said when they talked to newspaper men outside this Chamber.
Yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey made reference to a paragraph in the Sunday Express which, as I said, and I repeat, ultimately convinced me that it was my duty to ask the Question which I did ask on 12th November. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out to the House that Mr. Poole had entirely the same interpretation of the purpose and meaning of that article as I had. There is no dispute about it. Any hon. Member who reads the newspapers carefully, who is not concerned only to find mention of himself, but who studies the newspapers thoroughly, will know quite well what a loaded story is and how a loaded story looks.
I was convinced after this that I had to go on with the Question that I asked. As the Manchester Guardian finally summed it up:
Long before Mr. Poole was mentioned in Parliament, the rumours had taken a firm hold in the City.
So, as the Manchester Guardian said on the 22nd January;
When rumours are allowed to go unchecked, it is only a matter of time before names are bandied about. The error of the Government was not to take these reports from the City more seriously. Repeated denials do nothing to help;"—
One example of that fact was given today in the acting Prime Minister's statement about the flying of hydrogen bombs over this country.
nor did the private investigation conducted by the Lord Chancellor. … If the trouble had been taken to look at the actual details and transactions"—
at the time when they had been raised, a good deal of anxiety, a good deal of time and some anguish would have been spared.
It is inconceivable to me that a Government which must have their ears to the ground—after all, there is a public relations officer in every Department—were not aware of what was being said. It is even odd that the Conservative Central Office, with its antennæ well out, did not disclose to Mr. Poole earlier than a fortnight before I asked my Question what was being said about him.
Looking back upon events is easy. Yet I think that Mr. Poole must now feel that he would have been well advised to have issued a statement long before his name was mentioned in the House of Commons on why he saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what the Chancellor of the Exchequer told him and what he did with the information. I think that it would have been wise, if he did not want to make such a statement, to have asked the Government to hold an inquiry. An inquiry would have shown that there was no culpability on his part and, in my view, it might well have made it quite unnecessary to hold the Tribunal. Mr. Poole would then have established months ago what nobody has doubted—that he behaved in a perfectly proper fashion.
Mention has already been made of the Questions that I asked on 12th November. It was the ingenuous evasion on the part of the then Chancellor that started the trouble. I did not ask him anything about the Bank Rate. I was specific and quite careful to ask him about what the Tribunal has now called the "restrictive financial measures." I never used the expression "Bank Rate" in my Questions at all. But the Chancellor jumped to his feet, boiling over like a tea kettle, and insisted on telling the House that there was no leak on the Bank Rate, that there was no brief on the Bank Rate, and that if I had any information I should have given it to him.
I was not then aware, of course, that the Prime Minister had seen Mr. Poole on the previous day, the Tuesday, and had told him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to make on the 19th a statement of such importance that the Prime Minister had to ask Mr. Poole to relinquish his chairmanship of the Conservative Party arid hand over the reins to Lord Hailsham so that, roughly speaking, the front pages could be clear for the announcement that the Chancellor was to make. It was the reference by the then Chancellor himself to the Bank Rate that sparked off my supplementary, in which I mentioned the worries there were in the City about the propriety with which the increase in the Bank Rate had been made, and brought in the name of Mr. Poole.
I deliberately refrained from interfering with the speeches of all right hon. and hon. Members on that side of the House. I decided that I would make my case in my own speech. I think that one of the regrettable features of this debate is the way in which hon. Members are constantly interrupted on points of no great validity but which are made simply to score a point that hon. Members think is worth scoring. If the hon. Member is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, he can make his points himself, or, if he fails to catch your eye, he can give them to some of his hon. Friends.
To go on with my argument, would it not have been better had the Chancellor told me whom he had seen, and for what purpose? His word would have been accepted by the House without any criticism at all. And it would have been a thousand times better had the Prime Minister himself taken the opportunity given to him by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to set up the inquiry that we had asked for—
How long is "later"? I do not think that I am under any obligation to tell the hon. Gentleman when "later" is. I am using my time, and I will allot to him what part of it I think appropriate and fair. He must, therefore, contain his usual impatience, and see what benison I bestow upon him.
I want now to deal with the question of the propriety of talking to a group of people, and giving them information, before publication, about matters of a serious character concerning the nation—because this has been my interest in this matter from the very beginning. I hold very strongly the view that a hand-picked number of Pressmen, and other people outside the Government, are not entitled to confidential information of the kind described by the Tribunal as "restrictive financial measures". On 14th November I asked what right had the Chancellor to call in a few selected newspaper men and to give them information at the expense of other newspaper men—
I suppose there must be some significance in that remark, but if that is the hon. Member's intervention, he has made it, and the time "later" has now passed.
On 14th November, I accused the Government of arrogating to themselves the prerogative of deciding to whom they talked, about what they talked, and when they talked. I think that it is bad for national public life for the Government to behave like that. The Home Secretary yesterday started to quote cases that had occurred before. In this he differed very much from the former Chancellor, because, in his evidence before the Tribunal, when he was asked why he chose those people in the way that he did, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said that in 1948 Sir Stafford Cripps had invited some Press representatives to see him before he published the White Paper on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices—but, said the ex-Chancellor, he did not lean on that precedent. He dismissed it. He did not regard it as a satisfactory precedent, but he said that he was sure that if a search were made, many precedents could be found.
I regret that the search was not made before the former Chancellor gave his evidence to the Tribunal. It would have been useful had he been able to find some real precedents. But all that the Home Secretary found was found as a result of poring over old biographies, and searching the newspapers to find out who had spoken to whom in 1931—nearly thirty years ago. And, of course, we had Lord Snowden thrown in our faces by the Home Secretary. That experienced, wicked and vile politician, Laval, once said that the Right, when it gets into a crisis, will always try to find its way out by searching the dustbins of the Left. Quoting Lord Snowden in this way really was a foraging in the dustbins of the past to justify an action that was, of course, completely and absolutely unjustifiable.
The statement has been made that I was behaving badly, that I was abusing my privilege, for, it was asked, after all, what was this but a routine Press conference? Was it a routine Press conference? That suggestion has not been made by the right hon. Member for Monmouth nor, so far, by any hon. Members opposite, but it has been made in newspapers supporting the Government. Sir, if one is to conduct a routine Press conference, one does not first go to the Cabinet and ask permission to hold a routine Press conference.
Of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew what he was doing. He knew that he was cutting a very dangerous caper indeed. His advisers must have told him that it was very risky to impart information of this kind to anybody. What is not clear is where the former Chancellor got permission to talk to Mr. Poole. I have read the right hon. Gentleman's evidence over and over, and in answer to Question 10701 he makes it categorically clear that he asked the Cabinet for approval before he gave information or guidance to the Press. In answer to Question 10719 he said that he had the Prime Minister's approval to give the information to Mr. Poole.
Did the right hon. Gentleman ask the Cabinet for permission to talk to Mr. Poole, or did he do it on the Prime Minister's "say-so"? Whichever he did, he knew the seriousness of discussing anything with Mr. Poole, because of Mr. Poole's official position in the Conservative Party. This is the dangerous situation into which one gets when one begins asking for permission to give information which should be locked up in one's heart until the right and proper time to reveal it.
Let us look at the reasons given by the ex-Chancellor for holding the Conference and the way in which he did it. In Question 10699, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General asked the ex-Chancellor:
Did you consider it to be essential, in view of the growing pressure on the £, that you should get as quickly as possible the maximum support for the policy you were putting forward?
To that question, the ex-Chancellor replied:
Yes, I did.
In the next Question, he was asked:
Or, if not, support, at least a willingness to give it a chance to work?
To which the answer came:
Yes, not only at home, but I was anxious that it should be presented fully overseas.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech to us today, said that immense good had been done overseas as a result of this conference. When? Did any of the newspaper men who were seen write articles which appeared overseas before the increase in Bank Rate or the restrictive financial measures were taken? Of course not. They wrote them afterwards.
Let us see which newspapers were sent for to obtain maximum support at home and abroad. They were the Financial Times, The Times, the Economist, the News Chronicle and the Daily Telegraph; and then the Reuter's man came in. The daily papers which were selected for the purpose of getting maximum support represented a total sale of about 2½ million copies out of a total of about 16 million copies altogether in the United Kingdom. Is this the way to get maximum support? Indeed, it was not until the next day that the Manchester Guardian was told.
The Manchester Guardian is a paper of the highest reputation. It is regarded with great admiration, because of its long history of integrity, in all the capital cities of the world. But the Manchester Guardian, this influential paper whose foreign sale in proportion to its total sale is many times that of the News Chronicle, for example, is left until the next day.
It is a more influential newspaper than the News Chronicle. It does not depend upon an odd mixture of Nonconformism and racing tips for what circulation it may hold. The Manchester Guardian is in a much more important position, and the ex-Chancellor should have realised that unless it was that he mistook the genuflections and sycophancy of the City Editor of the News Chronicle and its financial writers for importance.
Other newspapers which might have put the Government's point of view were not asked at all. Some of these newspapers are read by the small businessmen, who are the darlings of the Conservative Party; these small businessmen are among the first to feel the effects of what the Chancellor had to announce. These newspapers were ignored. Not being important enough, apparently, the Opposition newspapers were ignored, also. When Sir Stafford Cripps saw the Press, at least he saw all of it. In this case, the papers which were influential in the Labour movement and among trade unionists were not regarded as being important enough to be asked to the conference.
The evidence of Mr. Fry, the City Editor of the Manchester Guardian, is of particular interest. He was the one important newspaper man who had seen the ex-Chancellor but who was not asked whether, in his opinion, what he learnt from the ex-Chancellor resulted in his expecting an increase in Bank Rate. He was not asked that question at all, but I see in that wasting asset, the Spectator, the Parliamentary correspondent of which is now the most literate writer of dirty words on walls we have in the country, says that Mr. Fry did form the opinion that the Bank Rate was going up.
Whether Mr. Fry authorised this statement, I do not know; but I think that it would have been useful to have either from his own lips or from his own pen a statement of what his impression was.
Yesterday, the Home Secretary, I thought quite inadvertently, misinformed the House on one point. He said, referring to the meeting of the favoured few—one of them not knowing the meaning of the English language, or which day of the week it was—
Besides, there was no question of giving an unfair advantage to selected journalists. No one got a scoop, or anything like it. Why? Because well before any daily newspapers could go to press about the announcement my right hon. Friend held a conference at which representatives of all the Press were present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 826.]
But this is misleading. What the Leader of the House implied was that the ex-Chancellor saw the rest of the Press—I presume he means by that the Lobby correspondents—on the same day that he saw the selected few. He did not. He saw Lobby correspondents the next day. That is clear from the evidence.
Thus, the selected journalists who were in possession of the facts could have got a scoop if they had liked to publish what they had learnt. The fact that they did not do so does not exculpate the ex-Chancellor from his indiscretion in giving the information. It is like saying that if a careless turnkey left all the locks in a jail undone, but no convicts escaped, there is no criticism of the turnkey. The fact is that the ex-Chancellor had created an opportunity for men to have information to which they were not in any sense entitled.
Of course, it would have been wiser for the right hon. Gentleman to have kept his mouth shut on the Wednesday and had his meeting of Lobby correspondents, the City writers, the editors, Mr. Poole, and the staff of the Conservative Central Office all together after the announcement had been made. This would have been discretion. It would not have held up any representation of the Chancellor's views for a minute, because nothing was published in the papers as a result of what he had told the journalists until the day after the increases and alterations had been made.
I should like to draw to the attention of the House what I said to the Tribunal in answer to Question 1244:
I have never known confidential information to be given to journalists of so highly important a nature as these were.
I apologise to the House and, belatedly, to the Tribunal, for my appalling English. What I meant to say—and I think the point was taken—was that I had never known confidential information of so highly important a nature to be given to journalists prior to publication.
I have said some harsh things tonight about newspapers, and I want to say some kind things to the newspapermen who prosecuted their inquiries in this case.
Just because we do not like the lashes which the Press puts across our backs, there is no reason not to recognise that the journalists who prosecuted these inquiries were doing so because they thought it was their duty. If good results come out of this Tribunal, as I believe they will, certainly the men who pressed their inquiries are entitled to credit for the part they played.
I want to say something about the accusations in the Press that I have abused the Privilege of the House and to deal with the argument that the Privilege of hon. Members of this House should be restricted. Why? Suppose we make mistake after mistake. Suppose, for example, we abuse Privilege. Is it not necessary, nevertheless, that Privilege should be retained, perhaps, for the odd occasion when Privilege is used properly? I am not saying that a mistake has been made, but let me suppose that an abuse of Privilege had been made. Are we to say that the privileges of this House should be destroyed overnight so that lawyers can drag us into court for what we say? Is that the desire of right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite when they threaten us with what would happen if there were no Privilege.
As for the newspapr proprietors, I suggest to the House that there is not an hon. Member who has not had the greatest difficulty at times in getting a newspaper to withdraw a malicious, untrue, unfounded statement, and to publish a correction. There is not an hon. Member who has not experienced difficulty in having that correction printed in the same type and given the same prominence as the offending article. It does not do for newspaper proprietors who have grabbed for themselves privilege through power and wealth to try to interfere with the privileges of this House, which have come down to us through historical and democratic processes.
I shall not follow the arguments already adduced about the necessity for reconstituting the Board of the Bank of England. The economists can deal with this matter admirably. But I want to raise one point which requires attention, and that shows the way in which the conduct of our affairs is now becoming ludicrous. I wish to refer the House to that section of the Report that deals with this fantastic body, the Committee of Treasury. What does it say? Apparently, at 12.30 on 18th September, the Governor and the Deputy-Governor of the Bank, after consultation with the Government, go to see the Committee of Treasury and recommend that the Committee of Treasury should agree to the raising of the Bank Rate from 5 per cent. to 7 per cent. This recommendation received the approval of the Committee of Treasury, which consisted of Sir John Hanbury Williams, Mr. Sanderson, Sir George Bolton. Mr. Eley, Lord Bicester, Sir Charles Hambro and Mr. Babington Smith. The seven worthy gentlemen who constituted the Committee of Treasury all agreed.
So, the next morning—I think at a quarter to twelve—having had the approval of the Government and the Committee of Treasury, the Governor calls a full Court of directors. Who are among the Court of directors?—Sir John Hanbury Williams, Mr. Sanderson, Sir George Bolton, Mr. Eley, Lord Bicester, Sir Charles Hambro and Mr. Babington Smith. When the full Court met, were these seven gentlemen staggered to find that the Bank Rate was to be increased?
This is lunacy. Does a member of the Committee of Treasury understand what are his functions? Does he wear a different hat or different uniform when he is sitting on the Board of the Bank of England? Does he have a different title? Of what value to the Governor is a Committee whose approval he must get before meeting them the next day to demand their approval of something to which they agreed the day before? This is an impediment to speed of action, and it is part of the general atmosphere of fuddy-duddyism which still clings to those citizens who run the affairs of the Bank.
The Tribunal thought fit, in its Report, to repeat the exhortations of the Governor of the Bank of England that full publicity should be given to the Tribunal's Report so that the reputation of the City of London, upon which so much depends, shall stand untarnished in the eyes of the world. That is splendid. I speak for nobody else but myself on this matter. I do not believe that the future greatness of Britain depends on the City of London. I believe that it depends on the nerve and skill, the brawn, brain and courage and application of the miners, the engineers, the agricultural workers, the steelworkers the railwaymen, the shipbuilders, the fishermen, the workers of the country. I believe that it depends on the people who create the wealth of this country and not those who manipulate its wealth.
I hope that the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) will forgive me if I do not follow him once again over the whole range of evidence, particularly in relation to newspapers, in which, of course, he is very well versed. However, I am delighted to follow him, and I serve notice on the House that I am a staunch upholder of his doctrine to refuse to be interrupted by anybody. He has set a very happy precedent, and, if we had not spent the last two days interrupting each other, the hon. Member and I would have made our speeches yesterday and we would have had far more to say.
I wish to talk about the implications of this whole unhappy business, and also about the City. I am proud to declare an interest in respect of the City, for I have spent the whole of my working life in it. I think that I am the first person to be called so far in this debate who is in that situation. It has by no means been a depressing experience; it has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely and of which I am very proud.
I am glad to say that my own firm is not in the stock market and dealing with gilt-edged, so that I have no possible connection with the matters which were under review by the Tribunal. It is very easy for the hon. Member for Deptford to read out a list of names and say, "I wonder if these seven gentlemen knew each other when they met together the following day". But the point, with great respect, is a completely false one. He did not say that when they met on the second day there were eight other people there as well. He knows as well as I do, and as every other hon. Member does, that on many occasions we meet possibly in an executive capacity one day, and meet the next day as a council or full committee and put forward a recommendation. There is nothing in the least unusual about that, and to try to make a great debating point out of it and pretend that it is a reflection on the way the Bank of England is run is playing games with the House.
I should like to try to continue the debate in a peaceful, reasonable way. I hope that hon. Members opposite will bear with me. I believe that this matter is of intense importance. I do not want in what I am about to say to impute any motives to hon. Members opposite. By the same token, I hope that they will do me the honour of not imputing motives to me that are in any way unworthy. I agree with the articles in the Daily Telegraph, and indeed with Lord Pakenham, that this violent antipathy between the party opposite and the City of London is a very great misfortune for the country. I believe that it does a great deal of harm. Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that, if they once again become the Government of this country, to be at daggers drawn with the City and in a position where mud was thrown between the two sides would be a great source of embarrassment and weakness to them. Surely it cannot be in anybody's interest, least of all their own. That is the point that I wish to try to make. It is clear that there is a difference between us. I say this merely because I want to define the difference between us and not start this appalling argument all over again.
There is clearly a difference between us about what we regard as a smear. I ask hon. Members opposite to accept that hon. Members on this side, and those of us in the City, are genuinely and sincerely angry because we believe that hon. Members opposite have smeared us, and successively smear us, because they impute motives to us which are dishonourable and dishonest. The unfortunate remark by Mr. Keswick in his letter about somebody being anti-British has been the standard aside which we have heard. I agree that it has not been thrown up in a speech, but it is the kind of aside that one hears in the rumblings across the Floor of the House the whole time. The imputation is made quite clearly that we in the City are anti-British.
Hon. Members opposite cannot expect us not to resent such an imputation. They cannot imagine that they can talk about us like that and then expect us to sit quietly down and be friends. Therefore, when one feels in one's own conscience and one's own heart that one is behaving in an honest and honourable way, they must not be surprised that when they make those accusations people think that they are activated by malice. One certainly cannot feel that they are actuated by any kind of understanding.
To support that view, I should like to deal with a few points which have been made. We had the very long speech yesterday from the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot), we had the same phrase on two occasions in the speech from the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and today also the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred to the huge, extraordinary sales of gilt-edged. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North referred on several occasions to the "vast rush into liquidity". All these statements ae quite untrue. There was no vast rush into liquidity and there were no extraordinary, heavy sales of gilt-edged. If the market figures for the previous day had shown sales of gilt-edged of £50, £80 or £90 million, one might—I repeat "might"—have called that a rush into liquidity; but a turnover on the London Stock Exchange of £4 million is simply a drop in the bucket. To talk in the way that some hon. Members have been talking gets the whole thing completely out of proportion.
Four companies, in relation to, as the right hon. Member for Huyton said yesterday, 11,000 public companies. In fact, the total dealings by companies that day, I believe, were of the order of only twenty or thirty in all. That represents a very quiet day indeed on the Stock Exchange.
We in the City deal with volumes of money. In my own small firm the turnover runs into several hundreds of millions of pounds a year because we are dealing with vast sums of money relating to very large contracts. That does not, however, automatically make it sinister and mysterious. That is the imputation—I say it with respect and, I hope, with courtesy and kindness—which hon. Members opposite put on our dealings which makes us angry and apt to talk about malice.
If we take even the companies which did deal, the companies particularly with which Lord Kindersley and Mr. Keswick were concerned, the amount of gilt-edged that they sold was in every case a small fraction of the amount of gilt-edged that they held. They all held on to far more gilt-edged than they sold.
In the case of the Royal Exchange Assurance—I happen to know something about insurance—the need for liquidity was not, as the right hon. Member for Smethwick today and the hon. Member for Lewisham, North last night inferred, anything to do with the financial situation of the country. It was a need for liquidity at a given moment in the perfectly ordinary way of business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Of course it was.
I am sorry; I cannot give way.
There is no question whatever about it, it was in the normal course of business. There was a large bank settlement, a dividend payment was coming, and so on. All I am trying to say to hon. Members opposite is that if they would simply get these transactions in their right perspective, they might find the City not such a sinister and mysterious place as they try to make out. I am also trying to suggest to them that that would be very much in the country's interest and in their own interest.
Let me give an illustration. Amongst the many directors of the Bank of England there is Sir Alfred Roberts. I ask hon. Members opposite to consider for a moment in all seriousness what their reactions would be on this point. The trade unions and the Co-operative movement are very large holders of gilt-edged shares. Suppose that it had been found that on the day before the Bank Rate changed a trade union fund with which Sir Alfred Roberts was concerned had sold a large amount of gilt-edged shares, which could quite easily have happened. [HON. MEMBERS: "It did not."' I am not saying that it did. I am asking hon. Members to suppose that it did. It could easily have happened.
Trade unions, which hold large funds, as they must do, in the way of reserves, pension funds, benefit funds and so on, must buy and sell on the gilt-edged market and the Stock Exchange the same as everybody else. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not allowed to."] Of course they are. If they do not, they are in dereliction of their duty as trustees of the funds for which they are responsible.
It could quite easily have happened that a trade union with which Sir Alfred Roberts had been concerned had sold some shares that particular day. I wonder what the reaction of hon. Members opposite would have been. Would they have charged into it with all the vehemence and fury that they have done? Is it not possible that their judgment has been clouded or affected by the fact that they are shooting at somebody whom they do not like?
I am asking hon. Members opposite to consider nothing more than that. It is a perfectly fair question.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick today, as did the right hon. Member for Huyton yesterday, referred to the question of patriotism in selling gilt-edged shares. We always get it when there is a run on sterling. We hear about people getting out of sterling and we hear about those mysterious people, the bankers in Zurich. But the vast bulk of this business is, of course, the transactions of ordinary traders throughout the world. Sterling, thank goodness, still finances more than half the world's trade. That is why confidence in sterling is so extraordinarily important.
The main movements in the gold and dollar reserves, in and out of sterling, are not, as many hon. Members opposite try to pretend, reflections on some unpatriotic people in the City. They are a reflection of the actions of thousands of, presumably, perfectly decent, honest traders in seventy or eighty countries all over the world, who either owe sterling to somebody or are owed sterling by somebody in the ordinary way of their everyday business. They decide to move their sterling either quicker or more slowly as they think the value of that sterling might go. Every hon. Member opposite would do exactly the same thing, and the truth of the matter is that there is nothing in the least dishonest or dishonourable about it.
Again, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Sir T. Low) pointed out, Mr. Keswick's company was not even a United Kingdom company. It was a Hong Kong company. To suggest that companies in British Colonies must be ordered what to do from London is the worst kind of colonialism. [Laughter.] Of course it is. That is not a laughing matter. If hon. Gentlemen opposite travelled throughout the Commonwealth, as I do frequently, they would find that whenever there is any interference with how they want to run their finances from London, such companies object bitterly, and we can be darned certain that some Member of the Opposition will be on his feet at Question Time to object at the first possible opportunity.
No, I am sorry, but the precedent has been set.
I will make just one point in talking about confidence in sterling and in the City. It may seem almost ludicrous to hon. Gentleman opposite, but it is a fact that in proportion to the total trade done the reserves of the United States of America are only a tiny fraction greater than ours. The difference is confidence. The United States of America is fortunate enough not to have a large official and responsible body of people constantly attacking the system and trying to undermine it, either deliberately or not deliberately, I do not pass judgment on that. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite again to realise the danger that this has done.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) wrote an article on this point two or three years ago and said what must surely be in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they go on talking the way they have been talking and saying the things they have been saying, a General Election, with a Gallup poll showing them in the lead, will result in the greatest collapse of sterling we have ever had. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course it will. It will not be anything to do—[Interruption.] It is within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Member for Dundee, West wrote that in an article. I am speaking from memory, but I think it was in the New Statesman two or three years ago. There is not doubt that this is true. Again, it would be nothing to do with the City. It would mean that hundreds of thousands of people in the ordinary course of their business in every other country in the world, who had either sterling assets or sterling liabilities, would adjust those liabilities to protect themselves in time. That would be very serious.
Now I turn to some criticism of the City. I do not accept for one moment, and I do not believe hon. Gentlemen opposite in privacy would try to maintain, that there is any question of a smirch on the honour or integrity of the City of London. By the same token, however, I do not maintain that the City of London is above all criticism. The hon. Member for Deptford ended with a peroration extolling the virtues of the workers. It is easy to say, "This country is going to the dogs, except for my friends; whoever happen to be the chaps who vote for me, they are the salt of the earth, and everybody else is a rogue." I suppose that hon. Gentlemen opposite will laugh like fun when I recall what the late Andrew Carnegie, who went from one end of industry to the other, replied when he was asked which was the most important—labour, management or capital. I think he gave the best possible answer. He said, "I will answer your question if you will tell me which is the most important leg of a three-legged stool." I hope the point is taken. Of course the miners and the farm workers and the engineers are splendid fellows, but to try to suggest that they can save the country by themselves without management, without scientists, without banks, even—God bless them—without lawyers, is just plain nonsense, because they cannot.
I will make now what I hope will be taken as one or two constructive criticisms of the City. Here I part company with two of my hon. Friends; in the first case, I am sorry to say, with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend said in his speech, most of which I support, that the question of the public relations of the Bank of England, what information they should give and its relation to the City, was a proper subject for reference to the Radcliffe Committee. With very great respect, I disagree. I do not believe that those are the kind of things about which we need any high-powered Royal Commission to tell us what to do. They ought to be the decisions of day-to-day management, and that is one of the things for which I criticise the Bank of England.
Here I find myself in some difficulty. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not try to provoke me. I cannot entirely support my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North in his defence of the Governor of the Bank of England. There are quite a number of us in the City who have real criticisms to make of the Governor. We have in this House a very honourable tradition that we do not attack people who cannot defend themselves. I am also under the other great difficulty that although I wrote the Governor a long time ago and asked him to see me, because I do not like criticising a man until I have heard his side of the case, the Governor is at present completely in purdah, apparently refusing to see all Members of Parliament, so I am told. Personally, I question the wisdom of his decision. At first I thought he just would not see me, but several of my colleagues have told me that he has refused to see them too. So I am in a difficulty here.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Smethwick here. If the City in general would bring up to date its ideas of public relations and of explaining its case to the world, I believe that a lot of this trouble would not happen. I will give a specific case which I agree is not entirely within the prerogative of the Governor of the Bank of England, but I am certain he could have it altered within a week if he wished. I am referring to the publication of the figures of the London Stock Exchange. This has great significance, because if the London Stock Exchange published its daily turnover figures, as does every other civilised Stock Exchange in the world, and as many of us have been urging it to do for years, all the rumours of enormous dealings would have been scotched from the very first day. We would only have had to look at the newspapers to be able to say that there had not been enormous dealings because the figures were small.
If the Stock Exchange and the Bank of England would get down off their high and mighty horse and make their case to the world, a lot of this trouble would not happen. With the greatest respect, I believe that the Bank of England is the worst offender.
I would carry that point further and urge this on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. The presentation of statistics by the Bank of England in relation to sterling and overseas confidence is fantastic. As far as I have been able to find out, the only reason for this is that Mr. Gladstone said that was how it ought to be done. If we want to get the true figures of the strength of sterling, of our dollar reserves and of all the assets we command, we have to go, of all places, to the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, because it has these figures but the Bank of England has not. When confidence in sterling is so important, deliberately to publish figures which are misleading and make the position far worse than it really is, is very wrong. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something about it.
There has been some criticism about the ritual Thursday. I must confess that at first I was on the side of those who were against it, but the more I think about it, the more I am sure it is right. I mean the ritual, not the Thursday. Personally, I would prefer a ritual Friday because there are good arguments in favour of it. The decision has to be made whether to have a regular fixed meeting every week or to bounce it all over the place and make the announcement at odd times. There is no third choice. On balance, to have a regular fixed day is probably less likely to cause rumours and excitement than having, as one would have, a limited number of Fleet Street "narks" sitting on the steps of the Royal Exchange waiting to rush to telephone their City editors whenever the Governor of the Bank of England and three of his colleagues enter. With such a system there would be more rumours. There is, clearly, an argument for a fixed day, but I do not believe that Thursday is necessarily the best day.
I have another criticism which, funnily enough, has not yet been mentioned. That is about the way in which we adjust the Bank Rate. We do it by holding the rate steady for the longest possible time and then taking a violent lurch—a minimum of 1½ per cent.—in one direction or the other. I must say that the Americans and the Canadians do it rather better than we do. They adjust the Bank Rate not every week but very frequently by sometimes as little as one-tenth per cent. so that the Rate is fluctuating to keep pace with the indices as those who adjust these things see fit.
In a country where overseas confidence is so important, there would be great advantage in such a procedure. We would not get, as we do here, these long lags with tremendous build-ups of fear and suspicion and anxiety and then a great jump in one direction or the other. There is much to be said for more frequent, but much smaller, adjustments as we go along. That would upset confidence and cause crises of confidence and fears to a much lesser extent.
I want to say a few words about the position of the Court. I listened to the hon. Member for Deptford who enjoyed reading out a list of aristocratic names which sounded very impressive. He read the list very well. Of course, if we did what the Leader of the Opposition advocated on television recently and had an inner court—I believe that the right hon. Member for Smethwick referred to it again today—and then had a large advisory body, such an arrangement would be subject to exactly the same criticism with just as little or as much justification as one chooses to attach to the view of the hon. Member for Deptford.
It is wrong to defend the present system on the basis that we cannot get the advice of outside authorities. Of course we can. If we fired the whole lot tomorrow and had only the Governor and the Deputy-Governor and four others, it would be nonsense to suggest that those men would not be patriotic and responsible enough to give their advice when asked for it. But—and of course, it is a very big "but"—it is one thing to give advice and quite another to bear responsibility for it. I am sure that that is where the advisory council type of argument breaks down—and I flirted with the idea myself, because there are precedents.
One can send for anybody one likes for advice, but one is in a far stronger position when one has men with continuing responsibility and with a continuing check on their judgment and integrity. To turn the Bank of England into a creature of the Treasury would be ludicrous and would simply not work.
I am sorry, but we are sticking to the rule which we have drawn up. I knew that hon. Members opposite would not like it, but they supported it when it suited them.
I want, finally, to deal with the suggestion that directors of the Bank of England are in a position different from that of many others. That is not so. To take a simple case, there are both industrialists and trade union leaders on the boards of all the nationalised industries. They know in advance when certain large contracts are to be placed and in a very sensitive kind of stock market such as we have these days the sudden announcement that a great company has a £20 million contract for the British Electricity Authority or the Atomic Energy Authority could affect the prices of shares on the Stock Exchange very markedly and very quickly.
All of those gentlemen, whoever they are, are in a position of privilege, a position where their private interests may clash with their public duty, where, if their standards of integrity and honesty were not as high as they are, they could slip out and make a quick "killing" on the Stock Exchange. There are many people in advisory positions—for instance, that monstrous thing, the National Joint Advisory Council on Industry, where there are eminent men from both sides of industry—who are in a very strong position to know, long before even hon. Members, what changes in Government policy are likely to be due.
The Capital Issues Committee is a classic example. Members of that Committee know very well that the decision they take one morning and which will not be announced until the following day may affect the shares of some company, the decision being whether they will allow a company to go to the market. There are many people in that kind of position, and it is not true to suggest that because a man is a director of the Bank of England that is so different. It may seem a little more glamorous or exciting, but in principle the problem is exactly the same.
This is something which we should be the last people to denigrate. We are one of the very few countries which can get men to do these public jobs, not only to be directors of the Bank of England, but to give up time to sit on advisory committees and on regional boards of nationalised industries. There are not many countries where men of standing, integrity and experience in the community will give the time not only for precious little return, but in many cases with considerable sacrifice, sacrifice both in time and money, while also deliberately running the very grave risk that they will find themselves turned into a political or Fleet Street football because of something beyond their control.
That is something in which we can all take some sense of pride. It is something very important to this country, and now that the Tribunal has found that nothing was wrong, why should we come to the view that we ought to change the system? If the Tribunal had come to the conclusion that there was a great deal wrong, there would be a strong argument, but the Tribunal came to the conclusion that the system works very well, indeed.
I accept the argument of the right hon. Member for Smethwick that there is probably a good case for having one Treasury representative on the Court. That is something which has been done in other countries, and I see nothing against it. I should like to see one or two more clearing bankers and some working industrialists in contact with everyday life in industry also on the Court. However, the present system has been cleared.
The problem which we have to face, and the risk which we have run in maintaining confidence in the integrity and financial standing of this country, is not the risk that any director of the Bank of England will be indiscreet. It is the risk that he will be utterly unjustifiably smeared by his fellow citizens.
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) with much interest, but I found the first part of it rather irritating. It does not become him to lecture hon. Members on this side of the House on what their duties are. With the latter part of his speech I had a good deal of sympathy, but when he asked us not to criticise the Bank or the City because the Tribunal had found nothing wrong, I would point out that that was not what the Tribunal was inquiring into.
It may be that the Government were at fault. I have seen one or two criticisms in the Press that the Government should have given the Tribunal wider terms of reference, and that the Tribunal should have been empowered to consider matters which arose later. As I understand, however, the only thing that the Tribunal was asked to decide was the question: was there a leak? On that matter it came to its conclusion and it quite expressly reserved the other questions for this House to decide. That is one reason why we are having the debate.
The right hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Sir T. Low) asked why no one on this side of the House had used the word "welcomes" in speaking of the Report. I have heard most of the speeches made upon this subject. I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) use the word "accept". I may be wrong, but I understood that there was a procedural difficulty, and that since the Government Motion used the word "accept" we could not use that word. That being the case, if the Government Motion used the word "welcomes" the Opposition could not use it.
I welcome the Report. I do not think that there is anybody on this side of the House who does not welcome it. No one wants to see people of high repute or reputation smeared, or found to be in the wrong, when sympathy is with them, and everyone hopes that they will successfully evade the accusation and be found to be not guilty—
All right. We welcome the Report. I repeat that nobody on this side of the House intended to smear anybody—Mr. Poole in particular.
As for Lord Kindersley and Mr. Keswick, nobody on these benches knew that they were in any way involved before the Tribunal was set up. All the matters affecting them came to light after it had been set up. The only person who had been mentioned was Mr. Poole, who has been thoroughly vindicated.
Let us proceed to the things that really matter. There was an unfortunate reluctance on the part of the Government to set up the Tribunal. It has been pointed out that, week after week after week, the Government were pressed to deal with the rumours in the City and they failed to take any action. Then matters became more serious, and, instead of fobbing off the Opposition, the Government agreed to refer the matter to the Lord Chancellor.
Before the matter was referred to the Lord Chancellor, the Manchester Guardian said:
Long before Mr. Poole was mentioned in Parliament the rumours had taken a firm hold in the City.
The Government must have known that. Do Government representatives never look at the Press? Are Press cuttings not available for the Prime Minister or the Lord Chancellor? They must have been aware that the City of London was seething with rumours. They were going around with the velocity of a Sputnik. The same things were being said in the Lobbies here. I cannot understand how any hon. Member, seven or eight days
after the conference with the Chancellor, could fail to know that it was being said that certain people had profited from the information which they had received.
I agree with that observation, but does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that before there is an inquiry there should be some evidence, and not mere tittle-tattle—and that there was no evidence at all in this case; it was pure tittle-tattle?
That is a rather irresponsible interruption.
I was going on from the mere rumour, which the Government must have heard about, to the fact, when certain particulars were sent to the Prime Minister. It may be that that was not considered sufficient evidence to set up a Tribunal, but the matter went to the Lord Chancellor. What happened then? Before then Mr. Cobbold had written to the Prime Minister disclosing that certain transactions had been carried on by people connected with the Bank of England. In his letter the Governor said:
I have thought it my duty to investigate these transactions …"—
the date being 27th September—and he went on to refer to three cases having come to his ears. When that information was sent to the Prime Minister the Lord Chancellor was already inquiring into the matter.
The Governor offered to give details. We do not know, because we have not been allowed to see the Lord Chancellor's Report, whether the Lord Chancellor saw the letter which the Prime Minister had received from Mr. Cobbold saying that he had details. If he did not—it is a grave charge—the Prime Minister was endeavouring to cover up the facts. But if he did send it to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor was either negligent in not asking for details from the Governor, or was guilty of turning his back upon evidence which it was his duty to investigate.
In spite of what the hon. Member for Somerset, North says, it is a remarkable coincidence that the four companies, out of 11,000, which engaged in large transactions after the directors had been informed of a rise in the Bank Rate, ran back either to Mr. Keswick or to Lord Kindersley. If any lawyer had been asked whether there was a prima facie case for investigation, and had been faced with the evidence available here, he would not have reported that there was nothing to inquire into. I say that with absolute confidence.
A lawyer would have said, "This must be investigated. Here are these transactions, running into millions of pounds. It is a strange thing that only four companies are involved, and that they all lead back to two directors. This is a matter which requires investigation." He may have gone on to say. "There may be a perfectly good explanation. Everything may be above board"; but the fact was that at that point either the Lord Chancellor did not know those facts, or he did not take the trouble to investigate them. I think that the Government owe it to the country to tell us which is the correct version.
In spite of the reluctance of the Government, the Tribunal was secured. I suggest that it served a very good purpose and that we are far better off today, having had this inquiry by the Tribunal, than if the Government had continued to evade the issue and not had the matter investigated. The rumours which were passing round the City have gone; they have been dealt with. A light has been thrown on banking methods, particularly on the methods of the Bank of England, which has been of invaluable help to members of the Labour Party in their propaganda. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) said that this would make very good propaganda for any Socialist who wished to introduce his child to Socialism, or words to that effect. It will make first-rate propaganda, and has done so already.
Again, the inquiry brought to light the position of the part-time directors which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Somerset, North. It has also brought to light the conferences which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had with various persons. I wish to deal with the clearing up of the rumours. No doubt there were rumours. I do not want to repeat all of the opening speech of the Attorney-General before the Tribunal, but if anyone consults the evidence and this speech he will find a column-and-a-half in which the right hon. Gentleman mentions newspaper after newspaper which was reporting rumours, suggestions and the like. All the charges made as a result of that have now gone, and Mr. Keswick has been discharged—
Yes, honourably discharged.
In view of the findings of the Tribunal, no one can say that there was not a case to investigate so far as Mr. Keswick was concerned. The Tribunal said that there was. It said that what Mr. Keswick did was capable of a beneficent or a sinister interpretation. It was open to the Tribunal to find either way. If a director of the Bank of England acts in a manner which makes his conduct appear sinister, that would be a good reason why the Tribunal should sit, and the fact that a Tribunal should finally decide either in his favour or against him is a first-rate reason why such a Tribunal should have inquired into this matter.
Regarding the light thrown on banking methods, we in the Labour Party thought, when we passed the Act of 1945, that we had taken some measures to put the Bank of England at the service of the nation rather than the City. After reading this Report, I am doubtful whether we succeeded. Men who know considerably more about the subject than I do think we failed completely. Mr. Andrew Shonfield, speaking in the Third Programme recently, told us that the Tory Opposition at that time did not oppose what we were doing because, in fact, they knew they were going to rule the roost, and that was what they were still doing. It seems to me that there is a great deal of truth in this matter about which we want a thorough investigation, so that we may know whether there is any truth in what Mr. Shonfield had to say.
There is also the matter of the delay in changing the Bank Rate. I do not think that the hon. Member for Somerset, North mentioned it, but to me that seems one of the worst features of the present set-up. When there was this outflow of our gold reserves, it ought to have been done much earlier. This afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that they had acted with great promptitude. They met-on the Monday, and on Thursday the Bank Rate was changed. Surely, the matter did not start on that Monday. Lord Kindersley came back from Canada on 22nd August, because he was so worried. There was ample time between that date and 19th September. That was an intolerable time to have elapsed while our lifeblood was going out through the Kuwait Gap.
I say to the Chancellor that we should not wait for any Radcliffe Report before taking steps to see that that kind of thing never happens again. We should have far more rapidity of action and judgment in an issue of that kind.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to my remarks earlier today. The point I was making then was that the question of the Bank Rate is a matter which is under continuous consideration and review, and the interval between the dates to which he has referred was not really due to the present system at all.
I accept that from the right hon. Gentleman; he is a greater authority on these matters than I. But it does not affect the point I am making, which is that one thing that worries people who are not financial experts or economists is that there was, or appeared to be, intolerable delay before action was taken to stop the outflow of the reserves.
My next point which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Somerset, North relates to the time of the announcement. I agree that Friday is a much better day than Thursday, but in my view Saturday would be a better day than Friday to make such an announcement. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Sunday?"] There is no business on Sunday, so perhaps it would be better to make such an announcement on Sunday. But I suggest it would be better if there was no announcement in the traditional way, but that it be made by the Chancellor in this House. The right hon. Gentleman could make the announcement instead of it being made by the Bank and in that way a great deal of trouble would be avoided.
In criticising the Bank of England, one is referring to a mysterious institution far above the minds of normal men, something that Members of Parliament rarely get near, although the hon. Gentleman tried to get inside its portals and was refused. I think that the criticism made by Professor Sayers, during the Shonfield broadcast, is worth repeating:
The Bank of England issues a weekly statement of accounts, cast in a form dictated by a theory abandoned eighty years or more ago, and meaning scarcely anything. As a nationalised industry, it publishes an annual report in which it gives us a few new facts, some of interest but most of them only curiosities, and pads this out with a few pages of facts published elsewhere.
From all my inquiries I find that that is more or less a true statement of what happened.
We have been given recently, as the result of the inquiry, information in the Press as to what happens in America and Germany. The Federal Banks of those two countries are each provided with a staff which is responsible for collating statistics, thinking about the matter and putting out the policy of the bank in a "bulletin" which comes out once a month.
They are not nationalised, but I should have thought there was more reason for a nationalised bank to put out this sort of information than for an unnationalised bank, because the country is entitled to know what its bank stands for.
As a mere lawyer, it seems to me that the Bank of England and those responsible for it in the Government have not considered an up-to-date method of running that institution. It is shocking that in 1958, when the financial side of the control of sterling is vital to the country, I should be able to say that. I say it with great regret. I believed, when we passed the Bank of England Act, 1946, that something would be done to bring that archaic institution up to date, streamline it and make it efficient. Nothing has been done. Montagu Norman still runs it, in spite of the change. There may be arguments both ways about part-time directors, but the schizophrenia element is too difficult for most people to cope with. Lord Justice Parker himself came to the conclusion that the dual loyalty was too much to thrust upon any man. He practically said as much in answer to a question; that was the view that he expressed. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Well, that is how I read the Report and I am entitled to my view. If Lord Justice Parker had been asked in wider terms by the Government what should be done about it I think he would have reported that people are quite incapable of splitting themselves up in those circumstances. It is not fair that they should be put into that very invidious position.
I do not think that anything has been said about there being a wider circle from which these directors might he called. They are called from too narrow a circle. The commercial banks are entitled to representatives on the board of directors of the Bank of England; and no doubt it should have someone from the Stock Exchange and the insurance houses, perhaps the chairman of what I think is called the "Insurance Association." There is a chairman of the insurance world; a person of that kind would be of great value on the board as an advisory director.
I do not want to go on for much longer, as many other hon. Members wish to speak, but there are many other points that can be raised. We asked for a two-day debate for that reason. The Report is full of meaty stuff that ought to be well digested by this House. It is a pity that such a long time has been spent on matters which are not vital to the interests of the country, about who smeared whom. We should take up what is of value in the Report and see whether we can put our house in order.
Finally, I would read the last paragraph from a leading article in the Manchester Guardian yesterday. It says:
The greatest contribution which the present Governor and court could make to the survival of the institution they serve would be to design a new model bank fitted to play its part in a modern democratic society. This may be their last chance.
I say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "If you do not do it, we shall, and soon ".
I feel bound to disagree with the last remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen). I remember that I was the first Member of this House to welcome him to the House of Commons. I am grateful to him now. I have seldom been so pleased that a man should sit down, not because I was not enjoying his eloquence or because, even at this stage, I feel any immense enthusiasm about my own eloquence now: at any rate it will bring me that much nearer to dinner.
I cannot agree about this being the Bank's last chance. My reaction yesterday against the Home Secretary's announcement that Lord Radcliffe had been reminded of the width of his terms of reference was violently disapproving, although I am now prepared to think that I may have been mistaken, or any way excessive, in disapproving. It is not a really good moment for it. I have no doubt that the Bank of England could be enormously improved, like the hon. and learned Member for Crewe, me, and most other things. For all that I would assert to the contrary, if this incident had not happened this might have been a good date at which to try to improve the Bank of England, we should not choose a moment at which the institution has received, if not to everyone's judgment and in every sense a 100 per cent. certificate of good conduct, at least an unprecedentedly good certificate of good conduct: and also at this moment, and partly for that reason, there is maximum prejudice in the subject, the Opposition have a vested interest in believing that the Bank needs a great deal of change. Therefore, there is the maximum of prejudice and partisanship at this moment, and so far from this being the last chance, this is about the worst moment one could choose to expect to get the Bank of England properly thought out.
On a personal matter I must now refer to the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer): I do not complain of his being absent, and I may return to the subject later. The hon. Member slipped at least twice when he was speaking into I thought rather gratuitous insults or impugnings of presumably innocent parties. One was about a writer in the Spectator who, the hon. Member said, was the "greatest producer of dirty words in weekly journalism", or something to that effect. The other was when he spoke of the "fawning and sycophancy of the City editor of the News Chronicle". The News Chronicle is a paper for which I have no very great affection. I am not sure whether Sir Oscar Hobson or Mr. Paul Bareau is at the moment City editor, but I am certain that neither of them ought to be accused of fawning and sycophancy. If it be by any chance that Sir Oscar Hobson is intended—although he needs no testimonial from me— I would say that I have known him intimately all my life. I have known fairly intimately many other City editors and City journalists. I have never known anybody who did not speak with the highest respect of him, and I cannot imagine his ever behaving except in a way that I should admire.
I have a point on which I agree with some hon. Members opposite. That is in not liking this kind of tribunal and the inquisitorial procedure or habit of mind which such a tribunal almost necessarily has. I feel bound to say to other hon. Members who may agree with me in that dislike that I find it difficult to know what would be better. I have sat on a Select Committee where personal characters were at stake, and that is not a very satisfactory tribunal. I have read of earlier examples of them which certainly were not at all satisfactory, and I do not really know what is the better method.
There is a second or third point on which I agree with hon. Members opposite. I do not think it will do, as a great many people on my side—I will not say in this House, but in the country—were inclined to do, to react into assuming that the original call by the two right hon. Members opposite for a tribunal, or some inquiry, was quite unjustified and that there was nothing to be said for it. I do not agree with that. I have read much of the evidence—no one. I suppose, has read all the evidence—as carefully as I could. I think that in fact the amount of rumour there was was very much less than is generally assumed opposite. From the way in which rumour was partly collected and partly manufactured—I am not using the word "manufactured" in a smearing sense by journalists, and it is necessary when one chap asks another, Have you heard this?" and reports it back and forth again—I think on the basis of actual fact, even of the fact that there was a rumour, there was very little.
In my judgment, looking back, the weight right hon. Members opposite put on this was excessive, but I do not deny that they were entitled to their judgment on that matter and I have not to disprove that at the time when they made that judgment, upon their principles, and prejudices and so on, they made the right judgment. On all those things I am so far inclined to agree.
Then I come to a point where I do not agree with hon. Members opposite and where I fear they may think I am being controversial, but where I wish to be as little controversial as I can. I hope the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will not accuse me of pretending not to be controversial when I am really meaning to stab him in the back, or in the front, or anywhere else. When I say I am trying not to be controversial I hope he will do me the justice of knowing that I honestly mean it. He may know my wicked nature so well that he knows I cannot keep my promise.
I quite agree; all that matters is the nature of the controversy.
It was your own personal enquiries of Mr. Pumphrey which confirmed your view that the prima facie evidence of Mr. Pumphrey was such as to make it your duty to see the Prime Minister?—That is right, yes.
Later on there was the decision that Mr. Poole's handing of the paper to Mr. Dear had no validity and there was the decision that there was not a shred of evidence that Mr. Poole made any disclosure. I want if I possibly can to avoid imputing malice. Therefore, I must begin, and hope I shall be forgiven if it seems a little pedantic, and possibly even priggish, by stating what seems to me to be the proper relation between the privilege of freedom of speech in this House and scrupulosity about not causing unnecessary pain, which I suppose most people would agree to be a good principle.
The objection, the charge, is that hon. Members have, wittingly or unwittingly, used their position here unworthily, so as to harm individuals. It is not necessary to show that if they had done what they did here somewhere else, that would have led to swingeing damages. Whether it is useful or useless to show that, I am saying it is not necessary to show that. Nor is it necessary to say that a Member of Parliament must never under cover of Privilege say of an individual what may damage him and what without Privilege could not legally be said.
I think that that is more than is necessary; but what is necessary is that the aegis of this place should not be used to mention a name which thereby may be damaged or endangered except—and these are the exceptions, I think—except on strong evidence. What I read just now, and other quotations I could read, show there was not strong evidence in this case for a plain purpose. There has been no making plain what the purpose was. We have been told that it was not to accuse of a leak but not the positive plain purpose. And, last condition, any mention which, on balance, may prove to be regrettable should cause the earliest and clearest apology.
I hope those words, if dull and, as I say, a little priggish, are plain. The right hon. Member from Whitehall who has known best ever since he left Winchester—the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay)—must not laugh if people are a little scrupulous against being priggish; he really should not. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) denies, and I understand that generally there have been denials from the other side, responsibility for any accusation of a leak and still more for any imputation of a leak to the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party. I am sorry at this stage to have to be rather detailed, but I ask people, if they will, to attend to certain exact words. After discussion with his leader, he on 4th October wrote to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I know he has heard all this before, but it makes it very difficult for me to speak if he talks all the time. It is not a fair trick. He wrote of:
Prima facie evidence that the leak emanated from a political source.
"The leak": those words whatever they were intended to mean, did in fact imply that there was a leak. If he did not intend to imply that he should have told us long ago that those words were mistaken. He must have read those words over and over again, and been aware of the distinction between" a leak "and" the leak and so on.
The refusal to order an inquiry cannot be left. The Press and the City have more than a suspicion that there has been an improper leakage …
and so on. The next thing I would like the House to attend to is the letter to the Press by the Leader of the Opposition about there being no investigation, and the statement:
certain individuals in the City were led late on Wednesday afternoon to make heavy sales.
Again, I would not put a great accusation on the word "led", but at that stage the right hon. Gentleman must have been choosing his words very carefully. He must have known what a loaded paragraph is and what loaded sentences are, and it is no answer to this kind of criticism for him to say, "In another sentence a little later I said the opposite." That is the oldest of old innuendo tricks and it will not do.
The next point is where we come to the curious connexus which arises, and I am not trying to hint—it is honestly true that I have not been able to understand the exact relation between the right hon. Member for Huyton, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for Deptford, the Lobby correspondent—I do not know whether it is in order to discuss the Lobby correspondent, but I wish to refer to him as little as possible and in a completely anodyne way—and the Sunday Express. The Daily Express published the Questions—not the Questions as eventually asked but presumably those which must have been given to them. Presumably they were the Questions as originally drafted. I make no complaint about that. They told the world that this matter of
the alleged leak of the Bank Rate announcement is still being vigorously pursued by the Socialists.
Then the Questions were asked—different versions, no doubt for good technical reasons—and we had the supplementary question of the right hon. Member for Huyton about
the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, who has vast City interests"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1957 Vol. 577, c. 767.]
and what happened the day before the Bank Rate went up. All that was pretty loaded, too. If, as we are told, and we are bound to believe, there was no malice in all that, then right hon. Gentlemen opposite must not be too derisive of Sir William Haley, though, heaven knows, I am all for people being derisive of The Times newspaper in general; I think that with so sacred a cow, and so long-lived a cow, the more it is derided the better. But hon. Members opposite are not good at it or fitted for it if they do not know what the words they used in fact meant and implied.
That is the stage at which the character of the affair changed. We have had a lot of talk today about how the inquiry was justified or even the demand for the inquiry was justified. The inquiry was not justified. The demand for an inquiry certainly was justified. They proved not to have enough basis for justification. But when Mr. Poole was attacked in that way inquiry was justified from their point of view and necessary; that I think became true, and I can hardly doubt that the right hon. Member for Huyton and his right hon. and hon. Friends and any journalistic allies they had at the time well understood that. They tell us that they did not mean in any way to impugn Mr. Poole. What got them their inquiry? What got them their inquiry?
I have made it quite clear many times, in the House and elsewhere, that the reason for that Question was our attack on the Chancellor for seeing people on that day and his refusal to answer Questions. If hon. Members want to know what in our opinion—it can be only an opinion—led the Prime Minister to move for the inquiry the next day, it was what I stated yesterday—that on reflection he thought that this construction could be put on it, when no hon. Member opposite had thought so when it was said.
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), as he rises to his feet, physically to attack his hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), sitting immediately in front of him, and not to make an apology?
I am a small man and weak in both my arms. I must tell the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) that if I attack him I shall do so from behind when he is not looking, and it will look quite different from that "attack".
I am delighted with the right hon. Gentleman's answer; it is precisely what I wanted. He has said it over and over again; it does not mean anything. What does he mean by telling us that because we did not challenge him at the time when he was asking all these supplementary questions, therefore we saw nothing improper in the supplementary questions? That is the completest non sequitur in history. It was not out of order; that I know. I hope that I never consciously raise a false point of order, because I think that is a disgusting thing to do. Many hon. Members are very partial to it, but I think that to raise a false point of order intentionally is a disgusting thing and I hope that I do not do it. If any of us had tried to get in at that point by raising a point of order, everyone opposite would have howled at us that we were trying to shut down the discussion, and Mr. Speaker would quite properly have rebuked us.
All this becomes relevant when we read what happened the following day. On the following day the Prime Minister used a good many words. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] On the whole I was rather critical of the Prime Minister, inclined to think he would have been wise to say much less, but I think that if he were at all mistaken hon. Members opposite went out of their way to make him right. One of the things the Prime Minister said was about the prima facie evidence and the suggestion that the leak emanated from a political source. Then he dealt with the Lord Chancellor's inquiry.
I am sorry; I should first refer to HANSARD of 13th November, when the Prime Minister announced the decision to set up the Tribunal. He said:
I have decided that this is now the right course to take … this is now an attack on the honour of two gentlemen, and I think it right that they should have an opportunity to rebut this attack upon them…when an imputation is made, as it was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) yesterday which is in effect an accusation not only that the truth was not told but that a most disgraceful act of corruption was committed by Mr. Poole…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1957; Vol 577, c. 965–7.]
Then it becomes necessary to appoint an inquiry.
After a day's reflection, right hon. Gentlemen opposite talked about this, but they did not then say, "Why did we not stop it? Why not interrupt?" Nobody said that it was not true. They did not protest against it. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) did."] But he also said that Mr. Poole was not the first person to be smeared and would not be the last, no doubt thinking about his journalistic friends from the News Chronicle and the Spectator. That one will not do either.
I have spoken for longer than I intended and I will not long continue. The third point, seems to me pretty unanswerable: they did not want to smear Mr. Poole: they told us so. They did use words which were almost universally understood as smearing Mr. Poole. They were thereupon given what they wanted on the ground that they had smeared Mr. Poole. The right hon. Gentleman made no objection at all, and if the hon. Member for Deptford did make objection, in the next sentence but one he allowed himself to make nonsense of it.
The hon. Gentleman is misleading the House. In the first place, on 12th November, it would have been perfectly proper for any hon. Member to get up, and not necessarily on a point of order, because the hon. Member has just said that the Prime Minister said we were smearing the reputation of two persons, one of whom was the Chancellor. If I had done that, Mr. Speaker would immediately have stopped me, and he did not do so. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's comments are a reflection upon the Chair.
Secondly, he is quite wrong to say that nobody could have raised it on a point of order, because three hon. Members opposite raised this identical point of order on Business questions a week last Thursday.
Thirdly, in regard to the statement on the 13th November, no notice was given to this side of the House, or at most two minutes' notice, that a statement was to be made. Some of us could not be here. I myself could not be here for reasons which are adequate and which I should be glad to give to the House. In regard to the statement by the Prime Minister on 14th November, by that time the Motion was on the Order Paper and the matter was in effect sub judice.
I think that is an abuse of the right to interrupt. I listened to a very long speech by the right hon. Gentleman, and I did not interrupt him. I have once or twice interjected a word or two, but I have never interrupted anybody in the debate, and certainly not to make a long argumentative point.
Let me recapitulate the argument I have been trying to put. I will confess quite candidly that it did not occur to me—I cannot stop to read all the words again—that what the Prime Minister had said could have been objected to by speakers on the grounds which the right hon. Gentleman has said. That certainly did not occur to me, and I still maintain that there was no reason in the world why anyone on this side should have intervened at that stage and for that purpose, and it would have done no good if they had.
Does my hon. Friend remember that on 13th November, the Leader of the Opposition asked this question of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister:
Are we to understand from that reply that the inquiry would be limited simply to the particular imputations or allegations made regarding Mr. Oliver Poole or will it be into the whole question of whether there was a leakage, and what exactly happened?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 966.]
I hope that, although I have not spoken as clearly as I hope I sometimes do, I have made the point clear enough to everybody here, and I hope that anybody who will read my speech candidly will see what the point is. I do not suppose that it is the NA hole truth, and I do not flatter myself that it is unanswerable, but—[Interruption.]—it is not a completely false point; the continuous muttering by the right hon. Member for Huyton does him absolutely no good.
I shall not attempt to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) in detail because, first, it was obvious that he had some difficulty in following his own theme, and, secondly, because I have always had a kindly disposition. One thing I cannot help observing is that this two-day debate has been extremely valuable to the House because it has allowed us, at any rate, to clear up some of the side issues.
I have never claimed to have many House of Commons virtues, but I think I can say that I have done my honest best to speak with sincerity when I have had the privilege of addressing the House. Though, for my part, there can be few hon. Members who more thoroughly detest the economic and financial policy of the patricians of the Bank of England, and who would be more ready than I to do anything that I honourably might do to bring them down and discredit them, I hope that the House will believe me when I say that I am thoroughly relieved, nay, delighted, at the complete exoneration which they have received at the hands of the Tribunal so far as their integrity and personal honour are concerned. I must be honest and say that, whether by reason of active speculating, good fortune or naughty expertise, I have never really had much doubt that that would be the outcome, not necessarily for the reasons given by the Tribunal but for reasons which I will try briefly to make apparent to the House.
The Bank of England, with the knowledge which I have of it, always has had part-time directors who are directors of important banking and other financial concerns at the same time. The very reason for their presence as part-time directors was because it was believed that they would bring to their duties on the board of the Bank of England the expert knowledge, business contacts and general information which they acquired in their other businesses, and it was hoped thereby that they would be more efficient members of the board of the Bank of England and would have a contribution to make to it.
How can people who employ part-time directors of that kind be at all surprised that it is quite inevitable that, when they serve on other banking concerns, perfectly properly and honourably, and absolutely inevitably, they bring to the service of other financial concerns the up-to-date knowledge which they have gained at the Bank of England? Whether they should make use of secret and confidential information learned as directors of the Bank of England, and whether that would be wrong, is a matter for the honour and consciences of those directors who decide. Clearly, unless they are drawing their salaries from Lazards and the other banks by false pretences, they cannot sit idly by at the board meetings, the business of these bankers being, among other things, to sell and buy Government securities—
—and to make money, as my hon. Friend said, and it is not altogether the most unworthy preoccupation of human beings, and it is not altogether unknown in some members of the Labour Party. I tell my hon. Friend that he must suffer the consequences of my being sincere in addressing the House.
These gentlemen, in buying and selling securities as directors of private banks, are bound to bring, imperceptibly, though without any suggestion of a breach of confidence, the knowledge they have gained at the Bank of England to bear on their acitivities at the private banks. The actual use of an expressed piece of information, such as change in the Bank Rate the following morning, for sordid, personal gains would obviously be the wrong side of the line so far as the honour of those directors is concerned. I have never for a moment thought that they had been guilty of that, nor do I believe that to exonerate them from any suggestion against their personal integrity and honour it is necessary to engage in all the elaborate make-believe of a judicial tribunal, and to suppose that these gentlemen were able to compartmentalise their minds and engage in chronic and continuous psychological acrobatics the like of which have never been achieved in human history.
I wish to say in all sincerity that the Tribunal has not altered any of my esteem for these gentlemen, whom I do not personally know, and that they and others like them, within their rights and according to their own political and social principle, have a personal integrity and honour that will not be matched, still less exceeded, in other parts of the world. Their reputation, their standards and standing are a national asset, and I myself would be very loath to see anything done to injure it. While I agree with both my hon. Friends who want equal justice for humbler people, I see no reason for denying it to those people who had, as I think, a very grave ordeal, and undoubtedly suffered great personal inconvenience in the course of it.
That makes me all the more dismayed at the programmatic action on the other side during yesterday's and today's debate. Had hon. Members opposite been sincerely jealous of the good name of the City, of the Bank of England, and of those who control the reserves and central financial activities of the country, one might have thought that when they heard my right hon. Friend say, in the plainest possible terms, that he did not, and does not, asperse the gentlemen concerned, they would have accepted it. But the main objective of almost every speaker on the other side of the House has been, with programmatic zeal, to lash himself into transports of synthetic indignation about my right hon. Friend's alleged smear.
Had they been truly jealous of our national asset, had they been truly sympathetic about the ordeal undergone by these Bank directors and careful for their reputations, they would have been glad, in the debate yesterday and today, to welcome the fact that every responsible speaker on this side has emphasised the satisfaction we feel that the Bank of England directors, and Mr. Oliver Poole, have been completely cleared, and proved to be men of complete honour and of complete reputation—
Does not the hon. Member realise that the point that many of us on this side have been trying to make is simply that in so far as Mr. Poole felt himself aggrieved, and was aggrieved and injured, it was not possible, apparently, for the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) to express his regret that injury, maybe unintended, did occur?
The hon. Member is revealing even more clearly the justice of my criticism. He is not anxious to get from my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) a clear acknowledgement that the Tribunal was right, that there is nothing to be said, and that he never intended to say anything to the discredit of the personal honour and integrity of these gentlemen, but is trying to use the occasion to besmirch my right hon. Friend and humiliate him. He is trying to use the occasion for base party ends, and I want to say to hon. Members opposite that I hold it as deeply dishonourable on their part.
My right hon. Friend, from the very start of the debate, has made it quite plain how he stands, but every attempt has been made to provoke him, to stir him up into somehow withdrawing or qualifying the statement he made—which we were all glad to hear and which we all endorse—I know that I, personally, endorse it—that, on a realist basis, and without betraying any secrets, the Bank of England directors are in a better position than are other directors to advise the banking houses that they serve.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot have a bank director serving on the Bank of England and not have him doing his best for his own bank, because, in that case, he would cease to be an active bank director and so would cease to be of use to the Bank of England.
I am not sure that I am quite as tormented as some of my hon. Friends are by the so-called conflict of duty. The worst that can be said is that a director of the Bank of England may, by advising from a knowledgeable point of view the merchant bank he serves, inflict some moderate losses on the gilt-edged jobbers, but I did not really think that the Labour Party's prime function was to form itself into a protection society for the gilt-edged jobbers.
I quite understand our zeal to protect public morality. If there was any suggestion of these gentlemen playing the market with inside knowledge, that would be one thing, but the fact that being in touch with the Bank of England makes them better informed than others is inevitable. And I warn my hon. Friends that the problem will not be solved by calling the part-time directors an advisory committee.
What are they now? These part-time directors are only an advisory committee. Whoever is on the advisory committee will be in close touch with the Governor of the Bank of England. He will have intimate knowledge of how the Governor's mind is working, but with the added advantage that—unlike these other gentlemen who, I am sure, would feel bound not to speculate on the strength of that knowledge—they would be free, or freer than those actually on the board of the Bank of England, to use that knowledge in almost any way they wished.
One has the same dangers, fewer inhibitions, and a worse rather than a better position. Therefore, if hon. Members want to get rid of part-time directors, it must be on the grounds that they prefer not to have an independent Bank of England. So much for the findings, and for the integrity of these gentlemen.
Some people may have felt that things which have been said critically of the Report from this side were, in some sense, a qualification of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), unreservedly accepting this Report in relation to Mr. Keswick. So far as Mr. Keswick is concerned, I entirely endorse the first part of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said about him yesterday.
I would only say one word about the now-famous letter in which Mr. Keswick wrote: "I know that this is anti-British, but it makes sense"—or words to that effect. It is all right taking that out of its context. I do not know the gentleman at all. I only sympathise with him that he should have had this pillorying experience in the newspaper Press and at the Tribunal, but I venture to offer to the House, and to my hon. Friends in particular, this interpretation of that letter.
Mr. Keswick was clearly against these people going into dollar securities—at any rate, as their adviser—and when he wrote about this being anti-British it was written not as a mark of his enthusiasm, but as the last reminder he was able to give these people that, although it made sense commercially, they should keep in mind that it was not in the British interest. But while I say that, and I myself have not the smallest doubt about Mr. Keswick's personal integrity, on a realist basis of what his duties and obligations were—not necessarily the same view as the Tribunal had—I would ask Mr. Keswick to look closely into this matter in the light of the difficulties in which he found himself on this occasion.
Presumably, Mr. Keswick, as a member of the board of the Bank, started the liberalisation policy which made it possible for Hong Kong firms to have that sort of licence to move in and out of dollars as they felt inclined. He made it possible, as a director. Can he not now see the dangers of this policy, and the utterly impossible position created? I wholly agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton when he says that it is not Mr. Keswick who is to be blamed if it is anti-British to sell dollar securities; it is the Government and the Bank of England, who permit it.
The private person cannot be expected to put his own private embargo on that trade. I am sure that nobody expects that. If somebody allows me freely to import dollar timber when it is cheaper than British timber, but is against the British national interest to do so, the blame must not be thrown on me if, as a timber merchant, I buy it. The blame must be thrown on the Government that gives me the licence to do so.
It is cowardly and dishonourable to do otherwise, and I cannot help thinking that some of the efforts on the Government's side have been directed towards shifting the criticism that would naturally arise from this Report away from the Government in Whitehall, away from policies endorsed by the Government, on to relatively minor matters and, if possible, to raise the great cry of abuse of Privilege—and about Privilege I should like to say just a word, because it is of some importance.
We have seen the turbulent outpourings of certain newspapers, and of the Conservative leadership, in an effort to divert attention from the things that really matter in this Report. There have even been suggestions that our right to speak free from the risk of an action for libel or slander should, in some way, be curbed. Of course, if that right were curbed at any time it would be the end of a free Parliament. I could not have said anything that mattered in this debate without the risk of a libel action. One can say only nice things about people if one wants to avoid libel actions. It may sometimes be necessary and right to say things which are not so pleasant about them.
It is all very well for people to come here and say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton would be exposed to a slander action if he were not a Member of the House and would have £10,000 damages awarded against him. The answer is that that is precisely why Members of the House enjoy Privilege, so that they will not be harried in that way. I sometimes think that certain hon. Members opposite imagine that Privilege is given to us rather as a trumpet was given by his aunt to the small boy in one of H. G. Wells's novels; she gave her nephew the trumpet on condition that he promised never to play it. Apparently, some hon. Members seem to think that we enjoy Privilege on the same terms as the nephew was to enjoy his trumpet.
I want to come now to one or two of the matters which are, in my view, of fundamental importance, now that we have cleared up the first issue. Nobody now disputes the honour and integrity personally of the gentlemen who were brought before the Tribunal. Of the two matters which concern me most, the first is the Tribunal itself, and I wish to add my brief word in support of the many influential voices which have spoken in contempt of these proceedings by tribunal. They are iniquitous proceedings. They are the nearest thing to a lynching party which is permitted in this country. The victims of a tribunal, if they are half-way guilty, are crucified; if they are innocent, they get away will a good hustling and a few broken bones.
The idea prevails in some circles that if a man has nothing to hide, he does not mind a public inquiry. Of course, nothing could be more false than that notion. Nobody ought to be stood up in public and cross-examined about the intimacies of his private life, have his correspondence turned over and his pockets turned out, unless there is a good case against him for doing so. All this investigation could have taken place in private, but for the obstinate refusal of the Government to give some reassurance to my right hon. Friend. He implored them to have the inquiry conducted in private by a High Court judge.
I want Mr. Keswick, Lord Kindersley and Mr. Oliver Poole to realise that it is upon the Government that they must place the blame for the fact that they have been subjected to these intolerable and unfair proceedings, that smirches have been put upon their reputation, and that today, unrepentant, some hon. Gentlemen are seeking to use the occasion even now to try to revive the charges, the challenge to reputation and the like, although they have been firmly rebutted on this side of the House.
The Minister who is to reply to the debate has a very responsible job. I remember that, when he was appointed, I ventured to express the hope that his promotion was due to his virtues rather than his vices. I hope that we shall see the former on this occasion, and that—never mind the heavy lectures we have had from the benches opposite about what happened to sterling and what the City will do when the Labour Party gets in—he will not exacerbate matters which cannot be to the interests of the nation, cannot be to the interests of the Bank of England directors concerned and cannot be to the interests of our country's reputation.
I should very much like to adopt the suggestion made that we should leave over all other questions about the workings of the Bank of England, the appointment of directors, and the kind of policies we get, to another occasion. But, of course, our country's situation does not brook that we should miss an opportunity, which may be unique, to put the Bank of England in order. A very clear light has been cast upon the workings of the Bank, and what we see is really very startling and alarming. I have told the House before about the failings of the patricians of the Bank of England, about how the country's dollars have been going out of the Treasury and how working people, talented people, business people of the country, have, for the last 12 years, put out a great effort which astounded the world in terms of production and achievement and social discipline. Yet, while we toiled away on the treadmill, we find our dollar reserves never getting any better. I warned the House that this was happening as a result of the efforts of a number of bone-headed, obstinate doctrinaires in charge of our cash at the Bank of England.
We have had a very good light cast in the Report before us upon the nature of these gentlemen of the Bank, on their philosophies and outlook. I will not repeat what has been said here and elsewhere about the "Blimps" of the last century, about the nineteenth-century minds, the hardened mental arteries of these people who obviously have not a clue about the job in hand. It would be possible for me to take hon. Members on a very interesting journey. I would start at Brussels, go via Bonn to Zurich and Basle, on to the Middle East, to Hong Kong, via Kuwait, back through Singapore to America. The whole line of the route would be littered with millionaires and multi-millionaires who have earned their money out of the foolish blindness and obstinacy of the directorate of the Bank of England.
I am much more concerned today—I cannot let the opportunity to mention it pass—that the policies of the Bank of England directorate have meant that our dollars have been diddled away into the hands of every second-rate currency dealer on the Continent. Every commodity shunter has outwitted them. Every dealer in American stocks and shares appears to have been able to get hold of our dollars. Yet all the time the charades of the Bank are religiously maintained. Simple, honest, patriotic and highly talented people have, with great social discipline, continued their efforts to put the country on its feet again, and all the time their efforts have been frustrated because, at one stroke, these blind doctrinaires have poured out the wealth which our people have laboured so hard, so patriotically and with such discipline to produce.
We must really see that the Bank of England is subservient not merely to the Treasury, but to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and this House. Even a Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer is more likely to be acquainted with modern philosophy and economic thought than the gentlemen who inhabit the Bank of England directors' parlour. They are the most obstinate people. A Tory may be expected to learn something from his misfortunes, but not so the directors of the Bank of England. If they prescribe a hammer blow to cure a headache and the reply comes that the headache is worse, they say that that is because the man did not hit hard enough, and they recommend further blows.
The loyal people of this country, who know their financial betters, who never attempt to rend aside the curtain of mystery which the Bank of England has always taken very good care to surround itself with, say to themselves, "Well, it must be so. What do we know about balance of payments and complications of that kind? Presumably, we must save the £, and poor Mr. Thorneycroft has lost his job in trying to save it." They think they ought to do without their wage increases and without their cuts in hours, in order to allow the nostalgic hallucinations of these gentlemen in the Bank to have freer play than they have had over the last twelve years. It must not be thought that the House of Commons, once it is seized of this matter, will leave it alone.
Another point is this. When we hear about the fight for the £ that went on at this time, how was it that we had throughout this period no attempt by people who saw the dangers of convertibility and the liberality policy which I have opposed and spoken about over and over again in this House to mobilise these resources? I think that one hon. Member from the City said that the Bank of England makes mistakes in our dollar reserve because it keeps its books in a Gladstonian manner, and by its Gladstonian arithmetic we appear to have fewer dollars than the 1957 balance sheet, computed on the principles of the Companies Act, for example, would appear to show. That would not worry the Bank of England. It would not interfere with the Bank's Gladstonian practice to show that its dollar reserves are not at a correct level. That is a minor matter.
The Minister knows how worried we all are—we grant that he and the Government are worried—about the future of and fight for the E. He knows all about these dollar securities. The Treasury live in a blissful, academic aura of hard work and high thinking. We do not know about them, but we must know about them now. Can the Minister assure the country, which is very disturbed about this, that all these dollar securities lying at the present time in what are called authorised depositories, but which are owned by English citizens, will be used in the national interest?
We know that in time of gravest emergency—if we were starving, for instance—even a Tory Government would take hold of the dollar securities owned by British subjects and use them in the national interest. They did not save the £ by taking hold of these dollar securities on this occasion, because, as we now know, the veil of mystery having parted as a result of this Tribunal, the £ could have been devalued at any time in the middle of this crisis. We call up our lads in time of war—I am not suggesting that there is a lack of patriotism on the part of the party opposite—so why not call up the dollar securities?
Why ask busmen to sacrifice their claims, and also ask underpaid, overworked members of local authorities, who have admittedly a tremendous case for a rise, to make abstention in the national interest? Everybody is called upon, but last in the queue come the holders of dollar securities, who should he making a contribution towards fighting the dangers that exist for the £. It is an open question whether, even if public employees were to cut their low standard of living even lower, they would be doing much towards it. Public anxiety should be allayed, and those who own dollar securities should have it made plain to them that they hold them by tolerance of the Government and the Bank of England, and that they are part of the nation's dollar reserves.
We should know how much we hold in dollar securities. Any figure of dollar reserves which is published without citing them is not a fair representation if in fact, we have three, four, five or even ten times as much in dollar securities. Can we have an assurance that all these things will be looked into? As far as this party is concerned, I speak for all of us on this point. We will not rest after these disclosures until we see that the Bank of England, which has the control of the reserves of the country upon which depends the safety of our currency and the safety of our livelihoods, is made responsive to the democratic government of this country.
There seems to be an anxiety on the other side to fix slurs where none is intended. I repeat that I do not challenge the integrity and good intentions of the board of the Bank of England. I do not even challenge that as bankers pure and simple—that is, as discount merchants, buyers and sellers of gilts, bonds, notes and the rest—they are probably the best and most efficient bankers in the world. So far as honour is concerned they enjoy the highest reputation for integrity in the world. So far as concerns framers of financial economic policy in this century they are the laughing stock of the world and a continuing peril and ruin to our reserves of foreign exchange.
The hon. Member for Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) concluded by paying an eloquent and sincere tribute to certain attributes of the directors of the Bank and coupled it with severe criticism of their behaviour.
I am sorry, of their policy. The hon. Member is quite entitled to take that view.
All I would say is that under the Act which controls the activities of the Bank of England, which was brought forward by a Socialist Government in 1946, there is full power with the Treasury to direct the Bank of England to move in certain directions if the Treasury so desires, so that whatever mistakes the directors of the Bank of England may make, they could be corrected by a directive from the Treasury.
I do not, however, want to follow the hon. Member on that point. I feel much more at home with him in saying how much I agree that the tribunal instrument is a very fearsome one. Once it is established, no one is quite certain in what direction it will move. The two-page list of witnesses who appeared before the Tribunal includes many names of people who had no idea whatever that they would be even remotely connected with it.
The spotlight of publicity and of inquiry has moved from individual to individual. It started, one could almost say, with the famous conversation in the railway carriage in which Mr. Pumphrey took part. In the light of his evidence before the Tribunal, I cannot help wondering whether the testimonial given to him by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) would now be given in the same equally enthusiastic terms. The right hon. Member described him as
A man holding an important public position …
That is true enough, and his integrity has not been challenged. The statement by
the right hon. Gentleman continued by saying that Mr. Pumphrey's
… intelligence and sense of responsibility can be vouched for by a number of well-known persons, including Lord Attlee. …
I do not think that many of us would recognise in that the description of Mr. Pumphrey at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If hon. Members wish to form a conclusion, they will no doubt read the evidence given before the Tribunal.
The spotlight moved from Mr. Pumphrey to Mr. Poole. Then, suddenly, it seemed to move away from what we may call the political circles to City circles, and the names of Mr. Keswick and Lord Kindersley were brought into the inquiry—to the surprise, as has been stated, of hon. Members opposite—with complete vindication in the end.
I cannot help feeling that, as the examination of the evidence has gone on, a halt has not yet been reached. During the two days of debate, as in the Report of the Tribunal, persons mentioned have one after the other been cleared, exonerated and everything else; and perhaps the person who comes poorest out of the whole of these inquiries is the right hon. Member for Huyton.
I venture to make some suggestions to explain that view. Any hon. Member who is inclined to doubt it would be well advised to read the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn). The right hon. Member for Huyton has, after all, taken a great deal of time in this matter. He has been one of the most active and talkative of Members. He spoke for 75 minutes yesterday, as well as making interjections into the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.
Let us see what the right hon. Gentleman said in yesterday's debate about a question he asked on 12th November last:
After getting no answer to five previous questions, I asked this question, which the Lord Privy Seal has quoted:
'Will he not now, in order to allay public anxiety on this matter, state clearly whether he did or did not, or any other Treasury representative did or did not, see the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, who has vast City interests, the day before Bank Rate went up?'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 847.]
The fifth question must not be read in isolation. The question with which that should be read is the fourth question, which appears in column 767 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 12th November. I will quote the second part:
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House of the inquiries he has made about the sales of gilt-edged, and whether any of them were undertaken by companies connected with any of the people whom he saw, or any other representative of the Treasury saw on Wednesday afternoon?
Even that one must not be read in isolation. It should be read with the supplementary question referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer):
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the last part of his Answer will cause a good deal of concern and dismay, particularly in the City of London, where grave doubts are being expressed about the propriety of the way in which the Bank Rate change was announced? Will he now make a further specific and categorical statement as to whether or not prior information of his intentions was given to an ex-Member of this House, namely, Mr. Oliver Poole?"-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 766–7.]
That supplementary question was not quite as spontaneous as supplementary questions in this House are often thought to be, because if we turn to the evidence of the right hon. Member for Huyton in page 271 of the Report of the evidence before the Tribunal these words occur:
10504. You knew before those questions were asked that it was Sir Leslie Plummer's intention to mention Mr. Poole by name?—Yes.
10505. And you yourself mentioned him by name. I am only concerned with this: apart from what occurred in the Press you had no ground for doing so?—I had no ground for doing so, but when the Chancellor refused to answer the question I felt it right to press it again and again.
The question of Parliamentary Privilege has been raised and an hon. Gentleman opposite said that he did not wish to see it diminished. I share that view, but I cannot help feeling that, equally, I do not wish to see it abused in any way. Perhaps the clearest lesson that comes out of this inquiry and debate is the heavy responsibility resting upon all right
hon. and hon. Members as to how they conduct themselves in this House under conditions where they speak with terms of absolute Privilege. In that connection, I cannot help thinking that the remarks of the hon. Member for Deptford this afternoon in connection with the correspondent of the Spectator, and also the editor of a City paper, is a typical example of how Privilege should not be used. When I see Privilege used in that way, I am not surprised that the name of Mr. Oliver Poole was mentioned in this House in circumstances which compelled the Prime Minister to have an inquiry.
I do not feel that the City has lost anything of its character, its lustre and its reputation by the findings of this Tribunal. I believe that the loss of reputation, if loss of reputation there is, is firmly and squarely that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen), who used the phrase "the character of the people was thoroughly vindicated." Again, the hon. Member for Cheetham used the phrase "complete exoneration". I have looked through the very lengthy speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton to find any words that could compare in any way, and they were entirely lacking in the whole of the seventy-five minutes during which he occupied the time of the House.
The distinguished members of the Tribunal at paragraph 118 of the Report fully endorse the hopes expressed by the Governor of the Bank of England:
… that everybody who has it in his power to remedy the damage which has been done by those rumours will make every effort so to do, not least those persons who may have wittingly, or unwittingly, contributed to the circulation of those rumours.
This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Sir T. Low) went through yesterday's speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton, but he did not find any passage which in any way suggested that the right hon. Gentleman, with all the responsibility that he carries as a prominent member of the Opposition Front Bench, was aiding or assisting the country in that way.
I am happy to think that the right hon. Gentleman is not typical of the Labour Party as I know it. I was in the House with people like the late George Lansbury and the late Ernest Bevin. I am bound to say that had there been an investigation in the days of those giants, those great men for England, those great men for the Socialist Party, their opening words in a debate such as this would have been of pleasure at the complete vindication of some of their fellow human beings. Now we are in a race of pygmies. The right hon. Gentleman is one of their leaders.
The Report of the Tribunal, the evidence, and the debate of yesterday and today have been very interesting, because they have revealed the way the Bank of England system works and the relationship of the Bank of England to our economic system, and it is that to which I want to draw the attention of the House tonight.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) yesterday afternoon. It was very illuminating and informative and I greatly enjoyed it. I also listened to the speech today by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) and found it another illuminating and interesting speech. I must admit that I learned a great deal from both contributions.
I want to refer to what the hon. Member for Bath said about the difference between the Bank of England before and after it was nationalised. He said:
Before nationalisation, responsibility, in the final crunch, lay with the Court of the Bank of England. It and it alone was finally responsible for Bank Rate.
Later he made this observation:
By nationalisation, the situation was reversed. In the final crunch, responsibility alone lay in a direction from the Chancellor of the Exchequer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 914–5.]
I shall not challenge the theoretical truth of those two observations, but in practice during the last six or seven years the theory has not been followed. Paragraph 11 of the Report of the Tribunal says:
Any decision to change the Bank Rate is taken by the Bank of England whose constitution is governed by the Bank of England Act, 1946. Since under that Act Her Majesty's Treasury may give directions to the Bank, it
is the practice for the Governor to ascertain in advance whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer agrees with the proposed change.
That is a very illuminating paragraph. There we have in broad outline the established practice since 1946. The fact remains that if that paragraph is correct it is the Bank of England which makes the policy. The Chancellor may appear to have the final word, but the decision is that of the Bank, and there is a tendency for the Chancellor to be nothing but a rubber stamp.
It may be argued that the Bank of England Act was a Labour Measure. That is true, but the point is absolutely irrelevant. The purpose of the Act was to bring the Bank under public control in order to serve the national economy. If it has failed to do so in practice it simply means that the Act needs revision in certain material particulars. Hon. Members on this side of the House have always believed that the initiative should come from the Treasury, but the Report has revealed that the initiative comes from the Bank and distils itself down to the Treasury.
It is very noteworthy that after the resignation of the former Chancellor the chairmen of the joint stock banks almost unanimously complimented him upon his courage and tenacity, and upon the soundness of his policy. Why? Simply because the Chancellor was carrying out the policy of the Bank. His policy and that of the Bank were identical. It is our case that that policy was and is inimical to our economic welfare.
There was a crisis last August and September. We had entered into the second half of the year—a year which was claimed to be a prosperous one by recent standards. The trade position was fundamentally sound, according to speeches from the Government benches—and I accept their diagnosis of the situation. Our trade balances were substantially higher last June than they had been twelve months previously. Import prices were falling, and we were deriving benefit because we were able to obtain the raw materials for our manufactures 10 per cent. cheaper.
Then into that situation of relative buoyancy in our economy there suddenly came this financial crisis. How did the Government react? They reacted by adopting the policy of the Bank and the City. The gravamen of our charge is that the Government adopted a financial solution to the problem rather than an economic one. It is very often true that the policy of the financier can be in direct conflict with that of the economist.
The Bank's answer was the classical, mechanical and automatic one of the manipulation of the Bank Rate and the application of the quantity theory of money. According to the evidence in the Report there was no suggestion of any attempt being made in the City of London to discover a constructive answer to our economic difficulties. The answer we got on the Floor of the House was that the volume of money would be reduced and its supply restricted.
That is the answer to the wages question. It is said that there must be higher production before there are higher wages. Nevertheless, the policy of the Government is to produce less. That is the object of the credit squeeze and of the high Bank Rate. The desire is to restrict production—and that policy is coming into effect today in South, North and North-West Wales. There is unemployment in the South Wales brick and tile works and in my Division, and these works are closing down. Quarries in North-West Wales are going on short time. All this is a direct result of the bankers' remedy, which is no remedy at all.
The picture we get is one of paradoxes. When the trade position was improving, balances were increasing and the economy of the country was buoyant we had a slump in the £. No one can deny that statement. On the other hand, when the bankers' policy was adopted by the Treasury and brought about restriction, a tightening credit squeeze, an increase in the Bank Rate, lower production and a swelling of the ranks of the unemployed, when there was a restriction on our economy and our production was strait-jacketed, the £ leapt in value. It is a very strange world, and I want to speak of the angle from which we on this side of the House view these things. It might make sense to the banker, the City and the speculator, but it will not and cannot make sense to the producer who is driven to the employment exchange because of this silly policy.
What more does the Report reveal? Here was a crisis brought about exclusively by foreign speculation upon our currency. Foreign speculators caused our difficulties. They caused a loss of confidence in sterling. They expected the £ to follow the franc. It was not our fault. It was not the fault of the working classes of this country, although their wages were being blamed. It was not the fault of the wage earners. We were confident in our solvency and our economy. There is no evidence that any effort was made during the crisis to retain the buoyancy of this country and at the same time to sting the speculator so that he might learn a lesson he would never forget. All we have from this Report is evidence of telegrams being sent. We hear about Canada and about Hong Kong; about interviews, and comings and goings, and shooting on grouse moors. That was what was happening. Finally, there is a decision to put further restrictions on the economy of this country.
To hon. Members on this side of the House it is an old story, the story of looking at our economy through the spectacles of finance. It happened between the two wars, when we were looking after the prestige of the £, and 2 million people were unemployed for nearly 20 years to keep its prestige up.
I will conclude by referring to a story which we used to read in school about the farmer who was jealous that his neighbour had a better set of harness for his horse. The farmer thought he would have harness which was just as beautiful as that of his neighbour. But he did not have the cash to buy it and so he decided to get the cash by economising on the feed for his horse. Eventually he got the cash and he bought a most beautiful set of harness, but when he came to put it on the horse the animal was too weak to wear it. That is the position we are coming to. We are starving our economy to keep up the £. I am of opinion that the time is coming when we should link the £ with the economy and not the economy with the £.
The remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) about local unemployment developing in various parts of the country will be supported, I am sure, by many hon. Members. I hope that we shall be able to return to the subject before long. This evening I want, naturally, to concentrate upon the major subject of this debate, the Tribunal Report.
The number of hon. Members who still wish to speak and the course of the debate itself abundantly justify the request of the Opposition for two days. They justify the sacrifice we made in giving one of our Supply days to this debate. If it had not been for that, we should not have had the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) who, despite the massive and brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) yesterday, still managed to find something new to say.
Nor should we have had the benefit of the reflections of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the City and on the relations between the Treasury and the Bank, which we shall all study with great interest. Nor should we have had the pleasure of listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who achieves the remarkable feat of being extremely funny and extremely penetrating at the same time. Nor should we have had the delightful but rather hysterical speech of the right hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Sir T. Low). I will begin by referring to his speech.
The right hon. Member made what he expected would be a vigorous attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton. He accused him of committing nine, I think it was, different smears in the course of his speech yesterday. His first was a smear or an alleged smear against the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). My right hon. Friend is accused of having had the impertinence to say that the right hon. Gentleman had misled the House. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Monmouth himself would regard a phrase of that kind as a smear in the ordinary sense of that word.
What my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton complained about, and was perfectly entitled to complain about, was that the right hon. Member for Monmouth, when he had been Chancellor of the Exchequer, had said that there was no brief on the Bank Rate. It may well be said that there was no brief specifically on the Bank Rate; but there was a brief, with a paragraph on the Bank Rate cut out, which dealt with everything else. The right hon. Member for Monmouth never thought fit to disclose that the brief existed. Of course, it was the usual case of a Minister giving us a half truth by way of evasion. I do not regard that as necessarily a smear on the right hon. Gentleman. What I complain about is his complete refusal, when he was Chancellor, to disclose the facts about the people he saw the day before the Bank Rate was raised.
In particular, I cannot understand why he should have been so reluctant to let the House of Commons and the country know that he had seen Mr. Poole if in fact, as indeed it appeared to him, it was all perfectly harmless. What really was the objection to the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming here and saying, "Yes, I did see a number of journalists. I thought it right to see them and I saw the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party"? He would not do that; he refused to give any information and it was only persistent questioning which eventually elicited from Mr. Poole himself the statement that, of course, he had seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The next smear was the smear alleged against the City. What my right hon. Friend said on that I had perhaps better read in the exact passage to which the right hon. Member referred. My right hon. Friend was saying, and I am quoting as the right hon. Gentleman was quoting, from column 850 of the OFFICIAL REPORT:
we unreservedly accept the findings of the Tribunal on the actions of the persons principally named—Mr. Keswick, Lord Kindersley and Mr. Poole.
He went on to say:
Nobody, however, can go on from there to say that there was no case for an inquiry.
It was after that that he said:
There are in this country 11,000 public companies. Only four of them sold in advance on any considerable scale, all four of them being closely associated with one or other of two Bank of England directors.
My right hon. Friend was perfectly entitled to make that point as part of the argument for the inquiry. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Read on."] I will read on if hon. Members wish. It will waste a lot of time, but it really does not matter:
The statistical odds against this happening by chance are very high indeed and, clearly, only a Tribunal able to satisfy itself both as to the motives of each sale and as to the integrity of the individuals concerned could give the reassurance that was called for"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 850.]
My right hon. Friend has been under vigorous attack because he is alleged, so to speak, to have instigated by some undesirable means this whole inquiry. He is entitled to defend himself. There is a French saying—I will not venture my pronunciation on the House—which says:
This animal is bad; he defends himself.
My right hon. Friend defends himself, and he defends himself with very great effect.
The other attack on my right hon. Friend, made by a number of hon. Members, was that he was unfair, that he had slandered Mr. Oliver Poole. I personally accept the view of the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) that my right hon. Friend's statements before the Tribunal and at this Box make it perfectly clear that he did no such thing, but, since hon. Members go on with this matter, I think it only fair to my right hon. Friend to quote exactly what he did say before the Tribunal. He was being asked by one of the counsel what he thought about Mr. Poole's behaviour. Counsel asked:
Apart from your views about what he should or should not have done in connection with Mr. Dear, which we will leave entirely aside, do you, in your own mind, think…that Mr. Oliver Poole has ever made an improper disclosure or use of information?
My right hon. Friend replied:
I do not myself think it. I have no reason to think it, and I have said in the memorandum to the Tribunal that if anyone had suggested this to me I would have regarded it as fantastic. I have no reason to think at all he would do such a thing.
After all that it is quite ridiculous for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to seek any further statement from my rigth hon. Friend.
Some hon. Members opposite have taken great exception to the fact that we would not accept the Government Motion and in particular that in our Amendment we would not insert or arrange for the word "welcome" somehow to be used. It is only right that I should explain exactly our point of view in this matter. If I take the House, so to speak, behind the scenes for a moment, I hope that the Chief Whip will forgive me. We had originally contemplated putting down an addendum to what we expected the Government Motion to be, for we knew that broadly it would be in terms of approval. We found that if we did that we should restrict the scope of the debate very seriously, because the nature of the addendum which we had in mind was to bring in the two points to which we attach great importance—the conduct of the Chancellor of the, Exchequer on the one hand and the position of part-time directors of the Bank of England on the other hand.
We were therefore unable to put down an addendum, and we had to put down an Amendment covering our views on the Tribunal's Report. Even if we had wished to use exactly the same words as the Government Motion used, it would have been out of order for us to do so. We had to find some other words. I must make it perfectly plain, however, that for very good reasons we are not prepared to go as far as the word "welcome", and I will tell the House why.
The reason is that in these conclusions or findings there are remarks by the Tribunal about the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and indeed about the position of the part-time directors of the Bank of England which I am afraid we cannot wholly accept. We have made our position very plain on that on a number of occasions. While we certainly follow the general principle that when a Tribunal of this kind is set up one should accept the findings as far as they concern the individuals who have been attacked, nevertheless we are not prepared to say "welcome" to everything which the Tribunal says.
If hon. Members opposite wish me to say this and if it will help them at all, I will repeat what I said on television: I am glad that the gentlemen who were suspected or about whom there appeared to be some allegations regarding their conduct were fully exculpated. I would add for the benefit of the right hon. Member for Blackpool, North that of course I am glad for the sake of our country that the reputation of the City of London also has come out quite clean.
I will add, however, that only a Report of a Tribunal of this kind could have produced that complete exculpation. Equally, only a Tribunal Report of this kind could have spotlighted the problems of the part-time directors of the Bank of England. The Government themselves have said that this is a most important and fundamental problem. Those were the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon, which I took down. The Chancellor says that he does not want to come to a snap decision and that it will need careful thought. The plain fact is that if we had not had this inquiry this matter would never have been brought to light.
I have no doubt myself that we have a very real problem here. If I may, I will quote a little of the evidence given when Mr. Keswick was answering the Attorney-General. It begins at Question 4207, and reads:
Your position was a difficult one, was it not?—Yes, it is.
You had an obligation to give honest advice to Jardine, Matheson & Co.?—Yes, I did.
And you had a duty not to disclose anything directly or indirectly in relation to the Bank rate?—Yes, I did.
Which duty did you regard as the most important?—I regard them equally important.
When there became a conflict of duty between your duty to Jardine Matheson & Co. and the duty to the Bank of England, which duty would prevail?—I would not make the choice. I would, as indeed in this case, declare.
What do you mean by you would declare?—In the case of the Bank of England, if I had done anything for my own firm or for others which was wrong, or might appear wrong, I would declare it immediately to the Bank of England.
I think these questions and answers illustrate perfectly the dilemma in which a person such as Mr. Keswick finds himself, and I hope I carry the whole House with me in this, because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, this is a very serious issue. If I had the time, I would read some other extracts from the findings which bring this home even more clearly, but I will mention only one point.
When the Attorney-General was examining the Governor of the Bank of England, he asked him what advice he would give to a director such as Mr. Keswick if, in fact, there was a conflict of the kind that we know existed. The Governor of the Bank of England said that if it had been already clear that a change in the Bank Rate was imminent, then he would have told Mr. Keswick to forget about that telegram for two days, and not to answer it; but, as Mr. Keswick himself implied in an earlier answer, had that been the case, he would have been in an impossible position in regard to Jardine Matheson & Co. in Hong Kong.
I think the clear impression that we get from the whole of this evidence is the very difficult position indeed in which these part-time directors may find themselves. I am bound to say that, for my part, I think it is an almost impossible thing to ask somebody like Mr. Keswick, or anybody in that position who has received a letter from the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England saying that there is a possibility of a sharp rise in Bank Rate, to dismiss that wholly from his mind. I frankly confess that I do not know how that can be done. It is almost inevitable that it would affect him, at least sub-consciously.
The plain fact is that there is a clash here between public duties and private responsibilites, as our Amendment says, and we believe that this must be obviated. We do not say precisely what we think should be done, and a number of suggestions have been put forward by my hon. and right hon. Friends. I personally believe that it is not necessary for secret information of this kind to be given in advance to part-time directors of the Bank of England.
I pass now to the second question which has concerned the House during this debate—the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, here was no question of honour. This was a question, however, in our opinion, of wisdom and propriety, of whether it was wise to see these selected journalists, or most of them, the day before the Bank Rate was raised, and whether it was proper for him to see the officials of the Conservative Central Office.
Our views on this are, I think, well-known to the House. We think that he was unwise to see these journalists, all things being considered, on the day before such a startling change was due to take place. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Well, I wanted to influence foreign opinion", but is it not rather strange that he did not ask any single foreign correspondent to go to see him? I should have thought that if he wanted to influence opinion in America, in Europe and in other parts of the world, at least he would have invited one foreign correspondent to come along.
Although I do not pretend that there is an exact rule which we can lay down here, I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. It has always been the general convention that changes in the Bank Rate are in the same order as Budget secrets, and that, therefore, it is necessary to be extremely careful. It is also a well-known convention that before the Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer becomes inaccessible. Nobody can see him. He gets out of the way and goes into purdah, as we say. It would have been very much wiser if on this occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done the same thing because, although we cannot prove it, the fact is that the rumours were going round the City on the Wednesday afternoon, and it is possible at least that some of these rumours may have arisen from the fact that these journalists were going to see—and indeed, had seen—the Chancellor that very afternoon.
I am not sure what would have been the loss, so far as the Chancellor was concerned, if, instead of seeing these gentlemen on the Wednesday afternoon he had called a full Press conference in the ordinary way on the Thursday morning. He no doubt could have held it at 11 o'clock, and explained the whole thing—including change in the Bank Rate—to the Lobby correspondents, together, perhaps, with the financial correspondents or anybody else thought to be concerned. The case that the right hon. Gentleman made out seems to us, in these circumstances, to be completely unconvincing.
Nor can I accept the Home Secretary's view that the Chancellor may confide in anybody whom he trusts. That really is not in accordance with normal precedent, and it is a very dangerous doctrine. It is really saying, "It is all right, so long as the person does not give you away." That, if may say so, is a most unsafe rule to follow.
As to the party officials, I can say only that nothing said from the benches opposite has given us any adequate explanation why party officials should have received advance information. We were told that they were to answer questions. Questions from whom? Presumably, from local conservative associations. But why should they have had this particular advantage? The trouble is that the Government failed to make that sharp distinction between their function as a Government, on the one side, and themselves as representatives of a party on the other.
I come back to the major issue. The Opposition asked for an inquiry as early as 24th September, following Press reports of inspired selling. I venture to say that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had been in Opposition they would have done exactly the same thing. I do not think so poorly of them as to believe that they would have failed in their duty as an Opposition in such a matter.
Let us just follow the sequence of events after that request was made. My right hon. Friend writes to the Financial Secretary. What then happens? The Financial Secretary receives the letter on 25th September, and replies one day later saying that there is no case. Later, the Prime Minister alleges that full inquiries were made by the Treasury. What, in fact, happens?
The Governor of the Bank of England calls to see the Treasury, and he leaves two notes with the Financial Secretary—one in the morning and another in the evening. In the morning, he contents himself with saying that there were some rumours circulating about the probable Government statement, and that these rumours were thought to have given rise to some selling of gilt-edged on Wednesday evening. But he comes back, as it were, in the evening with a further statement and says:
Since speaking to you this morning I have made further inquiries …
and goes on to say that there was considerable talk in the City late on Wednesday evening. Obviously, by then he is
taking a rather more serious view of the situation.
He passes on a memorandum of a conversation with the Chairman of the Stock Exchange who, he says,
… confirms that there has been a good deal of talk in the gilt-edged market … that there was heavy selling on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning ascribed by the jobbers to knowledge of impending events.
He encloses a memorandum from the Government broker, who sums it up by saying:
The general consensus of opinion in the market is that there was no Bank Rate leak, but that there was some knowledge that a Government announcement was to be made and also that the Chancellor had seen some of the big bankers, and as a result of this becoming known, certain holders had decided to dispose of some stock at the current market levels.
That is the information that the Governor gave that day. What did the Financial Secretary do? He proceeded to turn down, out of hand, a demand for an inquiry, despite the fact that these rumours were known to be going round. It is true that, at that point, the Governor of the Bank of England had not disclosed—I am sure that it was only inadvertence—that there had been sales of gilt-edged by the Matheson group with which Mr. Keswick was connected. But that is not, I think, the important point. What the Governor said here alone justified at least further investigation and this the Government were not prepared to have.
The next and more important stage is the famous letter of 27th September from the Governor of the Bank of England to the Prime Minister, in which he disclosed that, presumably since the day before,
… private information has come to me … about transactions by three corporations in which Directors of the Bank of England … might be or be held to be, concerned.
He goes on to say, of course, that he is satisfied about it. As we know, the sales of these corporations—there was one other also—amounted to no less than £41 million, one quarter of the total amount of gilt-edged sold that day.
In his cross-examination, the Attorney-General who was pretty tough with the Governor of the Bank of England, made it plain that he considered that the Governor's letter was inadequate, that it should have disclosed more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackpool, North, asked me for my view on this important point, and I will try to give it. The Attorney-General attacked the Governor in his summing-up. It has been quoted several times, and I do not propose to waste time quoting it again. But what the Attorney-General was doing—I think he will agree with the paraphrase—was to imply that, if the Prime Minister had known the exact details, then he might perhaps have instigated a full inquiry right away.
Was the Governor wrong? Very well—I do not know. The Governor would reply that, after all, he said he would provide further information if it were asked for, and he did not think it necessary to give any more in that letter. I leave the Governor on one side. The question I ask is, Why did not the Prime Minister ask for the further details? What was the Prime Minister's view at that point? Why, despite the fact that he knew that no less than three corporations associated with directors of the Bank had been selling gilt-edged, did he simply accept one day's inquiry by the Governor as satisfactory? This, after all, was the vital point. The major cause of the rumours undoubtedly had been the selling of gilt-edged, but no effort was made to follow it up, despite the fact that the Governor, of course, could not possibly have taken evidence on oath. His inquiries in total lasted precisely one day.
One is bound to ask at this stage what an independent judge would have made of this situation. What sort of reaction would he have had if these facts had been placed before him? We asked for the appointment of an independent judge at that point, a few days later; but, of course, the Government refused it, and we had the Lord Chancellor's inquiry. I want to ask the Paymaster-General one or two questions about that.
First, was the Governor's letter of 27th September handed to the Lord Chancellor? Did the Lord Chancellor see the Governor of the Bank of England? Did he follow up the information contained in that letter? On 14th November, the Prime Minister said that the Lord Chancellor had recommended that there was no case for an inquiry
… after a most careful and searching inquiry into every aspect of the evidence produced and down every path to which that evidence might lead."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1957; Vol. 403, c. 1153.]
It is of the highest importance, if I may say so, in the interests of the Lord Chancellor, that we should know exactly what information was placed before him. I am bound to say that it is difficult to avoid one or other of two conclusions—either that the Lord Chancellor had this information, had the Governor's letter and did not follow it up, yet thought nevertheless, in spite of the fact that he knew that three corporations associated with the directors of the Bank of England had made sales, that there was no case for any further inquiry whatever, or that the Prime Minister did not pass the letter of the Governor of the Bank to the Lord Chancellor.
What conclusions are we to draw from this very tangled and to some extent alarming story? I am sure that the Governor acted from the highest motives. He announced that he was ready to cooperate in any inquiry. But I think he treated this matter too lightly. I do not think he realised how serious the suggestion of an association between directors of the Bank of England and the sales of gilt-edged could be. I do not think he appreciated that rumours were bound to persist in the City because of the facts behind them. Had he done so, I have no doubt that he would have preferred to have, and would have asked for, an inquiry straight away.
Whatever the Governor's position, the Prime Minister's attitude and the Lord Chancellor's attitude certainly call for further explanation.
The most charitable explanation is that the way in which these inquiries were conducted was extremely slovenly, but most people will say that it was, in fact, a deliberate attempt to cover up the situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]
It is fortunate that the Tribunal was finally appointed, thanks certainly to the persistent pressure of the Opposition and, particularly, of my right hon. Friend. It is very fortunate that it has cleared up everything; but the Government, who at every turn, obstructed the obviously necessary inquiry, come out of this inquiry with nothing but further discredit to their already tarnished reputation.
I will answer the points that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) has made. I will deal, first, with his last point. There is a very simple answer. The Governor of the Bank of England wrote to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the letter of 27th September which has been quoted on several occasions. It appears in paragraph 40 of the Report. He said:
As Governor of the Bank of England, I have thought it my duty to investigate these transactions personally to assure myself that there was no irregularity or improper use of advance information. This I have done and I am absolutely confident that in the three instances which have come to my ears, everything is entirely proper and there is no question of any irregularity whatever.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister replied that he was perfectly satisfied with the assurances given by the Governor, and the Tribunal has made clear that he was absolutely right.
The evidence submitted to the Lord Chancellor by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends was of a different character—for example, the famous Chataway conversation, of which the Tribunal said that it was difficult to see how this came to be taken seriously. It is perhaps easier to see why it came to be taken seriously, but that is another matter. That evidence was referred to my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. It has been suggested several times that the matter should have been referred to a High Court judge. He would have had no more powers than the Lord Chancellor. Greater powers can be achieved only by a Select Committee or Tribunal.
If the Opposition object to the procedure that was adopted, it is not on the grounds of the absence of the Lord Chancellor's powers; it is because they did not trust him. I regard that as an insult to my noble Friend and the office he holds. He investigated all the evidence put forward to him by right hon. Members opposite, as a result of which he came to the conclusion that there was nothing in them, his conclusion once again being entirely supported by the findings of the Tribunal.
I now turn to the Amendment, and will deal with the—
As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accepted the assurances of the Governor of the Bank of England and my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor investigated the evidence which the Prime Minister undertook would be investigated, and investigated it completely.
To turn to the substance of the Amendment, I am interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Opposition cannot welcome the findings of the Report. There has been some doubt about this. Some hon. Members who have spoken from the benches opposite, including the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), have talked about a judicial decision. The truth of the matter, I understand, is that the Opposition are prepared to accept the Report of the Tribunal except what is said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) and the journalists and the Central Office people and what it says about part-time directors. The Opposition, therefore, accept the conclusions of the Tribunal when it states that
we have unhesitatingly reached the unanimous conclusion that there is no justification for allegations that information about the raising of the Bank Rate was improperly disclosed to any person.
The Opposition also accept that
in every case the information disclosed "—
of the proposed restrictive financial measures—
was treated by the recipient as confidential and that no use of such information was made for the purpose of private gain.
The Tribunal also disposes in paragraph 43 of the question of rumours that
were supposed to be current in the City about an impending statement, and if the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) studies paragraph 43 he will find himself completely in error in supposing that that position was established at all.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is even more vocal and even less effective than usual.
I will deal next with the question of part-time directors, because this is a serious matter, to which I should like to give a serious answer. I imagine that the Leader of the Opposition would like to hear it, even if some of his hon. Friends do not. It is clear that there is some possibility of a conflict of loyalties which may affect individuals. On the other hand, the Opposition Amendment goes to the extent of saying that steps should be taken to obviate the conflict. That can only mean, in effect, doing away with the system of part-time directors. It is quite unrealistic—the right hon. Gentleman knows this—to suggest that part-time directors can be effective advisers if they are not given the information upon which to base their advice. It is really quite unrealistic to say anything of the kind. Without any doubt, the examination of this system by the Radcliffe Committee is the best way to get what the Tribunal referred to, an exhaustive statement of the evidence on this subject.
I turn next to the question—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about the letter?"] On the whole, perhaps I should turn to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton, but before doing that I will deal with the part of the Amendment which refers to the disclosure of information by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to selected journalists. What is the objection here? Clearly, it is accepted practice to see journalists in confidence before Government announcements are made. We all know that is a normal practice. Nor is there anything abnormal in selecting the journalists to whom a Minister speaks; in fact, it is obviously essential. One cannot speak to every journalist, so one must make a selection, and the Minister is entitled to make a selection of the type which he thinks best suited to serve the national purposes he has in mind.
There is a good precedent for this in that, before the publication of the Economic Surveys of 1949 and 1951, both of which contained information that had an immediate effect on the stock market, there was selective briefing of individual newspaper men by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day. That was entirely right and proper. I only say that, as this was done on that occasion, I do not see why it is held against my right hon. Friend now.
The only other point raised on the question of the journalists is whether there is a chance of private gain by risk of a leakage of information. I think that people who pitch this risk of a leakage too high, as the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) did on more than one occasion, rather underestimate the extraordinary sense of honour which runs through the whole of the British Press. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I believe it is true that Ministers have found this so consistently—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is perfectly true, and I am sorry that the Opposition do not think so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a fact—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
Order, order. I must ask hon. Members to listen to the reply—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Order. Hon. Members should not interrupt me when I am speaking. The Leader of the Opposition was listened to perfectly quietly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Order. At least, as long as I was in the Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members are really destroying the function of debate by not listening to the reply.
Order, order. If the House has to come to a decision, I think it would come to a wiser decision if it listened to the arguments of the right hon. Member who has the Floor.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I do not think that he can perhaps have appreciated fully the importance of the question I put to him. If he will turn to the final summing-up of the Attorney-General in this case, he will see how very important is this issue. The Attorney-General is reported in page 299 of the evidence as saying:
The matter to which I ought to refer which was referred to by Mr. Cross was in relation to the letter written by the Governor of the Bank of England to the Prime Minister on the 27th September. The comment to be made on that letter is not merely that it did not contain any indication of the total amount involved, but also that it did not contain any reference to the world-famous companies which were involved, and the well-known Directors of the Bank of England who were connected with those companies.
It is those matters together which have to be borne in mind, and also the arrangement of that letter. It is not for me to say, but the Tribunal might take the view that the arrangement of that letter was such as to make it appear,"—
Order, This is not the way to conduct a debate. Hon. Members must realise that time is running short. The right hon. Gentleman who has the Floor of the House, the Paymaster-General, has been very much interrupted. In common fairness, he ought to get the chance to say what he has to say. If he does not answer a specific question, that is no reason for holding up the rest of his speech.
The Paymaster-General was courteous enough to give way to me and I was endeavouring to explain to him why the Opposition attached such great importance to the question which I put to him and which he has not answered. I have read the relevant passage of what the Attorney-General said, and if he agrees with the Attorney-General the right hon. Gentleman will see that it was of the most vital importance that the Lord Chancellor should have this evidence.
I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—and his hon. Friends would extend to me the courtesy which the right hon. Gentleman has just said I have extended to him. It might assist our debate.
I have said about this letter that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was rightly putting all the points he should before the Tribunal. I have said, as I was authorised by the Prime Minister to say, he accepted the assurance which he received from the Governor of the Bank of England on these particular cases. I have further said that I shall not disclose, because the report from the Lord Chancellor was confidential, the document he received, or the people he saw. What I have said, and this answers the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's points, is that he was investigating allegations made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Order. This has really become a little ridiculous. If I were granted a little silence I could hear what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. There is a noise from both sides of the House; neither is free from blame. All I would suggest is that the time for coming to a decision is so near that I think the Paymaster-General should be permitted, in peace and in accordance with the traditions of this House, to continue his speech.
I am sorry if the right hon. Member thinks that I said something which is not true. When he consults the record I think that he will find that I did not.
I have dealt with the three specific points so far as the Opposition are prepared to listen. For people whose case is so strong they show singularly little liking for listening to the other side of the argument. We have listened in patience to many of the innuendos which appeared in the speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton, one after the other.
They were named by my right hon. Friend this afternoon—the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about how the Attorney-General, "by inadvertence", did not ask questions of the right persons; about the document which, by some "strange coincidence", was destroyed; about Mrs. Campbell's "clairvoyance", and the "long wink" of Mr. Gampell, this last completely going against the fact that the Tribunal found that the people who received confidential information had treated it as confidential. These were all examples of the technique of innuendo and smear on the part of the right hon. Member opposite.
We have got used to the right hon. Gentleman in his rôle of "cheeky chappie"—although we think that his right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South did it better—but in his new rôle we do not like him so much. It was clear that in his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman thought that if he could not salve his conscience he might, at any rate, save his face. It has been the purpose of the Opposition throughout to divert attention from the fact that of all the stunts that they have run in this Parliament this is the silliest and the vainest. They have sometimes given the impression that they accept the words of the Tribunal, but they have then come back to these attacks on the City and to these slyly phrased attacks upon individuals.
The right hon. Member talked about Tory mythology in matters of economics. I thought that he was performing a Socialist ritual dance of a very atavistic kind yesterday. We heard all these things about the wicked men in the City who make these tax-free profits. Very few capital profits have been made in recent months. There were the remarks used by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), referring to Mr. Keswick, and quoting a sentence from a letter which has never been quoted in full by any hon. Member opposite.
There was, again, the reference to Lord Kindersley and to his thinking what was good for the City was good for Britain. The implication was perfectly clear. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman read what was said in paragraph 57 on behalf of Lord Kindersley? The Tribunal says:
We are satisfied that he"—
that is, Lord Kindersley—
conducted himself with complete honesty and propriety during a period when he might at any moment have been placed in an embarrassing position.
If the right hon. Gentleman can accept that, how can he make statements about Lord Kindersley's thinking that what is good for the City is good for Britain? The two statements are not consistent—and he knows that they are not consistent.
Finally, I come to the right hon. Gentleman's attack upon Mr. Oliver Poole. I want to explain very clearly why we consider that this was an attack and why the right hon. Gentleman should have done something about it. In his supplementary question on 12th November he referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth seeing the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, who, as he put it "has vast City interests." That question immediately followed another, asking whether the Chancellor had inquired into the sales of gilt-edged securities:
and whether any of them were undertaken by companies connected with any of the people whom he saw, or any other representative of the Treasury saw on Wednesday afternoon?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 767.]
The one question followed the other and I should have thought that the imputation was as clear as daylight to anyone except the right hon. Gentleman. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance which he gave us yesterday that he did not intend in any way to reflect on the integrity of Mr. Poole. Mr. Poole thought he had and so, I should have thought, would the vast majority of the people of this country—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. The fact is that when this was debated on the 14th it would have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have said, "I am sorry that what I said has been taken in this way, I did not intend it and I want it to be clear that I did not intend it to be taken in this way."
The right hon. Gentleman wriggles out of it, or tries to, on the ground that because there was a Motion on the Order Paper, it was sub judice and, therefore, he could not say it. What absolute nonsense. His hon. Friend the Member for Deptford did say it, and in the same debate. And if the right hon. Gentleman could not say it inside the House, what about him saying something outside the House for a change? It is just not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to have left this statement on the record until the time of the Tribunal.
I do not want to enter into the question of Privilege, but I say this to the right hon. Gentleman. Those of us who claim and use our Parliamentary Privilege, as we think rightly, in the course of our duties, should take particular care not to do damage to people who cannot defend themselves. Therefore, when it became apparent, in this House and outside, that it was accepted by the overwhelming majority of people that the meaning of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman was thoroughly defamatory, he should have withdrawn them. If he did not intend that, why did he not withdraw them?
I started off endeavouring to deal coherently with a coherent if rather flabby argument from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I have endeavoured—
I will finish on this note. This vote will be like a vote of censure. But it will not be a vote of censure on the Government; they were exonerated by the Tribunal. It will be a vote of censure upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly on the right hon. Member for Huyton, whose conduct throughout is to be deplored. In that spirit we face this Division, believing it to be a vote of censure on the Opposition, and that we shall have the support of the great majority of this House and the overwhelming majority of the fair-minded people in this country.
|Division No. 33.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Aitken, W. T.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Duncan, Sir James||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Duthie, W. S.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hyde, Montgomery|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Errington, Sir Eric||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Erroll, F. J.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Ashton, H.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Fell, A.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Finlay, Graeme||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr, J. M.||Fisher, Nigel||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Forrest, G.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Balniel, Lord||Fort, R.||Joynson, Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot|
|Barber, Anthony||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Kaberry, D.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lansdale)||Keegan, D.|
|Barter, John||Freeth, Denzil||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Gammons, Lady||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kimball, M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lagden, G. W.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Gibson-Watt, D.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Glover, D.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Glyn, Col. R.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Godber, J. B.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Goodhart, Philip||Leavey, J. A.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Gower, H. R.||Leburn, W. G.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Black, C. W.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Body, R. F.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Green, A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Grimond, J.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gurden, Harold||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bryan, P.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maidon)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesfd)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Carr, Robert||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Hay, John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Cole, Norman||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hesketh, R. F.||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Madden, Martin|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hobson, John (Warwick& Leam'gt'n)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Holt, A. F.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hope, Lord John||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hornby, R. P.||Marshall, Douglas|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Mathew, R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Horobin, Sir Ian||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Mawby, R. L.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Howard, John (Test)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Drayson, G. B.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Teeling, W.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Renton, D. L. M.||Temple, John M.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Rippon, A. G. F.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Neave, Airey||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Robertson, Sir David||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, S. & Chr'ch)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Noble, Cmdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Roper, Sir Harold||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon, W. D.||Russell, R. S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Sharples, R. C.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Osborne, C.||Shepherd, William||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Page, R. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wade, D. W.|
|Partridge, E.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Peel, W. J.||Soames, Christopher||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Speir, R. M.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir p. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Pott, H. P.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich. W.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stoddart-Scott, Cel. Sir Malcolm||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Storey, S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Profumo, J. D.||Studholme, Sir Henry||Woollam, John Victor|
|Ramsden, J. E.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Redmayne, M.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Holman, P.|
|Anderson, Frank||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Holmes, Horace|
|Awbery, S. S.||Deer, G.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||de Freltas, Geoffrey||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Baird, J.||Delargy, H. J.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)|
|Balfour, A.||Diamond, John||Hoy, J. H.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Dodds, N. N.||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Donnelly, D. L.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Dye, S.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Benson, G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J.C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Beswick, Frank||Edelman, M.||Hunter, A. E.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Blackburn, F.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. C. A.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Janner, B.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Fernyhough, E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Finch, H. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Fletcher, Eric||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Foot, D. M.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Gooch, E. G.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Greenwood, Anthony||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Carmichael, J.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Champion, A. J.||Grey, C. F.||Kenyon, C.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Clunie, J.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hale, Leslie||Ledger, R. J.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Hall, Rt.Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Hannan, W.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Harrison, J. (Nottingham)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hastings, S.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hayman, F. H.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Healey, Denis||Lipton, Marcus|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Logan, D. G.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Parkin, B. T.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Paton, John||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Peart, T. F.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Pentland, N.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|McGovern, J.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Swingler, S. T.|
|MoInnes, J.||Popplewell, E.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Prentice, R. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|McLeavy, Frank||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Probert, A. R.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Mahon, Simon||Proctor, W. T.||Timmons, J.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Randall, H. E.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mason, Roy||Rankin, John||Usborne, H. C.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Redhead, E. C.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Reeves, J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Messer, Sir F.||Reid, William||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rhodes, H.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Monslow, W.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Moody, A. S.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||West, D. G.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herber (Lewls'm.S.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||White, Mrs. Eirene, (E. Flint)|
|Mort, D. L.||Ross, William||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Moss, R.||Royle, C.||Wigg, George|
|Moyle, A.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Short, E. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Neal, Harold (Boisover)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab tillery)|
|Oram, A. E.||Simmons, C. J. (Brieriey Hill)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Orbach, M.||Skeffington, A. M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Oswald, T.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Owen, W. J||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Padley, W. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Paget, R. T.||Snow, J. W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Sorensen, R. W.||Woof, R. E.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sparks, J. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Steele, T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Parker, J.||Stonehouse, John||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearscn|
|Division No. 34.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bishop, F. P.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Black, C. W.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Body, R. F.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Cunningham, Knox|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Deedes, W. F.|
|Ashton, H.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Digby, Simon Wligfield|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Browne, J. Nixon (Cralgton)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bryan, P.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Burden, F. F. A.||du Cann, E. D. L|
|Balniel, Lord||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Barber, Anthony||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Duncan, Sir James|
|Barlow, Sir John||Campbell, Sir David||Duthie, W. S.|
|Barter, John||Carr, Robert||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Channon, Sir Henry||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Cole, Norman||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fell, A.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooke, Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Cooper, A. E.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cordeaux, Lt. Col. J. K.||Forest, G.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Fort, R.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Lagden, G. W.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Lambert, Hon. G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Galbraith, Hon, T. G. D.||Lambton, Viscount||Profumo, J. D.|
|Gammans, Dame Ann Muriel||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Leather, E. H. C.||Redmayne, M.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Leavey, J. A.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Glover, D.||Leburn, W. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Glyn, Col. R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Godber, J. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gower, H. R.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Green, A.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grimond, J.||Longden, Gilbert||Russell, R. S.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Sandys, Rt. Hon, D.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Gurden, Harold.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Shepherd, William|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McKibbin, A. J.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Soames, Christopher|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Speir, R. M.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hay, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maddan, Martin||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maitland Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Storey, S.|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marshall, Douglas||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mathew, R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Holland-Martin, c. J.||Mawby, R. L.||Temple, John M.|
|Holt, A. F.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hope, Lord John||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Thompson, Lt. Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Moore, Sir Thomas||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Mott-Radolyffe, Sir Charles||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nairn, D. L. S||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Neave, Airey||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Hyde, Montgomery||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Ormsby-Core, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Osborne, C.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Page, R. G.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Partridge, E.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Peel, W. J.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kaberry, D.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Keegan, D.||Pitman, I. J.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pott, H. P.|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Powell, J. Enoch||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kimball, M.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Alnsley, J. W.||Hannan, W.||Oram, A. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Orbach, M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hastings, S.||Oswald, T.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hayman, F. H.||Owen, W. J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Healey, Denis||Padley, W. E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paget, R. T.|
|Baird, J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Balfour, A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paling, Will T. (Dewtbury)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Holman, P.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Holmes, Horace||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Benton, G.||Houghton, Douglas||Parker, J.|
|Beswick, Frank||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Howell, Denis (All saints)||Paton, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Hoy, J. H.||Peart, T. F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hubbard, T. F.||Pentland, N.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Plummer, Sir-Leslie|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hunter, A. E.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Probert, A. R.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Proctor, W.T.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Randall, H. E.|
|Brown, Thomas (Inoe)||Janner, B.||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. pncs, S.)||Reid, William|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Carmichael, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Champion, A. J.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Ross, William|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Royle, C.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kenyon, C.||Short, E. W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Cronin, J. D.||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lawson, G. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Ledger, R. J.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lewis, Arthur||Smith Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Deer, G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Snow, J. W.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lipton, Marcus||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Logan, D. G.||Soskice Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Diamond, John||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacColl, J. E.||Steele, T.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||MacDermot, Niall||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Dye, S.||McGhee, H. G.||Stonehouse, John|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGovern, J.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Edelman, M.||MoInnes, J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McLeavy, Frank||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mahon, Simon||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd. E.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mason, Roy||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mayhew, C. P.||Timmons, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mellish, R. J.||Tomney, F.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Messer, Sir F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mikardo, Ian||Usborne, H. C.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mitchison, G. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Monslow, W.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Moody, A. S.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mort, D. L.||West, D. G.|
|Grey, C. F.||Moss, R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moyle, A.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Mulley, F. W.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wigg, George|
|Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Willey, Frederick||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Williams, David (Neath)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)||Zilliaous, K.|
|Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)||Woof, R. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to submit to you the point of order that I tried to submit at what was, perhaps, a less appropriate moment. It arises out of two incidents which are, I think connected, and which, I believe, raise a substantial point with regard to the proper conduct of our affairs in this House.
After the announcement of the figures in the first Division there were a number of cries from the benches opposite—I do not identify the hon. Members who uttered them, though I know who they are—directed at my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is her] They were utterances which, I am quite certain, you would regard in themselves as not being in order.
I gather that those shouts and epithets were the direct consequence of the last part of the speech of the Paymaster-General who wound up the debate on behalf of the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] In his last sentences, the right hon. Gentleman did what I think any Member of the House is entitled to do, provided he does it in proper form and according to the prescriptions of our time-honoured procedure. He said that the vote which we were about to take was not a vote either on the Motion submitted by the Government or on the Amendment submitted by my right hon. Friends, but was really on a quite different question. He said that this was really a vote of censure on my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, from the character of the noise which has just emerged from the other side of the House, exactly why the point I am raising is of such importance.
While the conduct of any Member is always subject, if deserved, to the censure of our fellow Members, our long practice prescribes how the censure or opinion of the House of Commons on the conduct of one of its own Members should be arrived at. It is a long, elaborate procedure designed to protect Members from exactly such fantastic charges as were made in this case.
I want to ask you, Sir, whether the right hon. Gentleman who wound up the debate for the Government was in order and was right in what he said, that anything the House has done tonight can, in our practice in the House, properly be described or, could ever have been described, as a debate on a Motion of censure on my right hon. Friend. I think that, for the honour of the House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—on what may turn out to be a historic occasion, it ought to be made clear that we were not debating the conduct of my right hon. Friend, but the conduct or certain other people.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has raised two points. First, he tells me that there were certain opprobrious words shouted at the end of the Paymaster-General's speech. There was so much shouting that I could not distinguish one syllable from another, and as he himself does not identify hon. Members, or the words which were used, it is out of my power to do more than express my earnest hope that hon. Members will maintain, even in the height of excitement, a proper regard for our Parliamentary traditions of language and not use expressions of the character I am told that these were.
The hon. Member next raises a point with regard to the concluding words of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General, in which he indicated, as far as I am able to remember it—my memory has been refreshed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—that this was to be regarded as a vote of censure on the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson).
Of course, the fact really is this, that the Question must be the Question which I proposed from the Chair. No other Question is before the House, and the use of such language, if used by the Paymaster-General, must be considered as entirely metaphorical. I do not think that there is anything serious in this. The debate has now come to a conclusion with a certain amount of noise, but it is concluded according to our rules, and we must pass to our next business.