by Norman St. John-Stevas
WELL at Westminster the end of term is at last coming into sight, although as I write it is still uncertain whether Parliament will adjourn at the end of this week or not. People sometimes think that MPs get unduly long holidays but they forget two things.
First, most MPs still have some other job or occupation and the recesses give them the chance to devote some time to their own affairs. I think it essential that a fair number of MPs should have other occupations: a body of professionals with no practical ties to ordinary life would he a poor sub stitute for the present Parliament with its considerable group of men who are actively engaged in industrial, legal or trade union affairs.
Secondly, they underestimate the emotional and physical strain of public and parliamentary life. A Member who is active both in his constituency and in the Commons is certainly fully stretched for a large part of the year and needs sonic time to unwind and catch up on his reading. The pressure of parliamentary life today is such that we are in grave danger of being governed by men who never read a book but confine themselves to newspapers and official publications.
Government by illiterates is no more entrancing than government by full-time professionals.
Certainly the parliamentary scene has been transformed during this session. It is difficult to believe that it was only just over four months ago that the present government was returned on the slogan "Labour Government Works". What ever else may be said for the present government, that could hardly be singled out, even by its supporters, as one of its outstanding attributes.
Since the economic crisis
broke on the country last month there has been a feeling of a vacuum at the centre which has been one of the major causes of lack of confidence abroad. The Prime Minister's principal task as soon as he gets into the safe harbour of the recess must be to restore his own personal prestige and show himself once more to be in control of the situation.
He must also restore Cabinet government. For too long he has been operating a system of presidential government in Britain with everything dependent oil himself. He now needs to re-assert collective Cabinet responsibility and decision making.
One of the best ways of forwarding this would be an extensive Cabinet reshuffle. I do not believe, in spite of newspaper speculation, that Mr. George Brown will be moved from the Department of Economic Affairs and it would be a mistake to do so. Despite his recent failings in parliament, and his displays of temperament, he is the man best informed about the incomes policy and the whole policy of growth. I think he will be left where he is and that it is the Chancellor who will he moved.
In one sense Mr. Callaghan
gambled and lost when he declined to introduce a more deflationary budget after the election. On the other hand it is a fairly open secret that this is what he desired to do and was over-ruled by the Prime Minister and the rest of his Cabinet.
Mr. Callaghan's reputation, whichever interpretation one puts on his actions, has inevitably been lowered and just as Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's pay pause policy led to his removal from the Treasury so I imagine will the present freeze policy lead to Mr. Callaghan's translation.
In that event I nominate Mr. Roy Jenkins for the task. This able minister now stands out not only as a future Chancellor but as a future Prime Minister as well.
IT LOOKS at though parlia2meat is likely to be televised in the not very far distant future. As I write the Commons committee has not yet published its report but I have little doubt that it will recommend an experimental circuit of closed-circuit televisibn as a preliminary for full scale telecasting.
I think this an excellent thing. For many years now I have advocated the televising of parliament as a principal means of restoring the Commons to a central position in the nation's life. I believe there should be an edited version of parliamentary events each day and provision for the debates of outstanding interest to be televised in full.
The work of the committees upstairs should not be forgotten either. The recent committee on prices and incomes would have provided some of the best television of the whole session.
ON MONDAY the Home Secretary announced his intention of introducing legislation to provide that jury verdicts in certain circumstances would no longer have to be unanimous but could be reached by majority voting provided dissidents were confined to two.
Juries have been subjected to much criticism recently from authoritarian judges and half informed journalists. As my readers know I believe in the jury system but I think the suggested compromise a reasonable one which should satisfy all but the most doctrinaire critics of this bulwark of our liberties.