18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 3


THE. backwash of the Lynskey Tribunal was still eddying round the House of Commons this week, and on Monday the Attorney- General had to assure the House that the Public Prosecutor had considered the news-reel in which Mr. George Gibson had made his criticisms, but that as the reel had been withdrawn no action would be taken. The House was glad to know that those who had served on the Tribunal can be protected from " being scandalised," as Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe put it, but when Mr. Blackburn tried to raise again the whole question of Tribunal procedure there were unmistakable signs of impatience, and Mr. Emrys Hughes' attempt to call in question the Chancellor's removal of Sir Maurice Bloch from the Glasgow bench of justices met with no sympathy at all.

* * Otherwise Monday was a day of technicalities. First the House considered the report of the Select Committee on Hybrid Bills, and Members like Mr. George Benson, Mr. William Wells and Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, " back-room boys " who speak seldom but always with effect, re-argued some of the issues which divided them in com- mittee. Both Mr. Herbert Morrison and Mr. Lennox-Boyd, who took the lead, enjoy disquisition, and a dry subject soon became lively.

* * * The committee stage of the Juries Bill which followed was more tedious. Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe and the Attorney-General are both lucid, and at times speak with great force, but on the question of special juries they were so anxious to make themselves plain that they took eighteen columns of Hansard to argue what to a lay politician seemed comparatively simple points. This, no doubt, is as much a sign of the superficiality of politicians as of the exactitude of lawyers, but Conservatives at any rate had no stomach for it, for when the committee divided the Opposition only mustered 59. * * * *

Tuesday began harmoniously with Mr. Glenvil Hall and Mr. Douglas Jay reciting in chorus that they could not anticipate the Chancellor's budget statement, but a dissonance crept in when Mr. Walter Elliot, after condoling with Mr. Aneurin Bevan on the loss of his mother, plunged into party polemics of the most blatant kind on the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Bill. There is a similarity about Mr. Elliot and Mr. Bevan which both would unhesitatingly deny. Both feel passionately ; both speak so that one feels the words cannot possibly come fast enough to express the turbulence and variety of their emotions ; both get very heated ; and both allow themselves time to cool down by spinning out their sentences until thought asserts itself, a process which is never long delayed except by interruption. Yet oddly enough in the past they have been most often compared to such dissimilar characters as the late Mr. J. L. Garvin and Mr. Churchill.

* * * * On Wednesday Mr. Churchill was in the House for questions and made a surprising interruption on the topic of food. Foiled of his desire to move a vote of censure or even to speak on the Supplementary Estimates—suggestions which had apparently found no favour with his followers—he was none the less determined to reassert his charges of waste, and chose for his purpose the number of cars and inspectors which the Ministry of Food had sent to supervise the unloading of a ship. Dr. Summerskill, at her neatest and most erect, remarked that it was a very large cargo and that far from squandering the money of the poor the inspectors were defending their food. " That may have been the motive," replied Mr. Churchill, yielding a little to a feminine riposte, " but it is the method which is deplorable."

On the same day, incidentally, Mr. Speaker startled and almost shocked the House by throwing doubt on the plenary inspiration of Hansard. It is not the " Official Report " he affirmed. That description must be reserved for the " Journal," the daily summary of business done, drawn up by the Clerks at the Table, and circu- lated each morning with the Order Paper. Yet, as Lord Winterton was swift to point out, Hansard bears the words " Official Report " on its front page. Where are we ? A. M. C.