THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian) rose to move the
Resolution of which he had given notice with regard to the Business of the House during the remainder of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman said: In rising to move the Resolution of which I have given notice, I may just as well state at the outset that, on two points which I will presently explain, we propose somewhat to relax and modify that Resolution; but I will not refer to that matter now, we have already apprised the House that we shall propose—of course, we cannot tell on what day the discussions upon Supply and upon the Appropriation Act will come to their termination—but whenever that day does arrive we shall propose to adjourn till November 2 for what we have termed the Autumn Sittings. These Autumn Sittings are expected to last till the Christmas holidays, and I think before I propose the Resolution which would give greater stringency to the Rules limiting the proceedings in this House with reference to the increase of despatch, I ought to indicate to the House what are the views of the Government with respect to the employment of the time which will be made available during those Autumn Sittings should they be accepted by the House. I can assure the House that the Government are sensible to the difficulties of determining that question at the present moment. They have felt that it is their duty to remind the House that—? where the quantity of time is limited, which it would be in this ease—the limits of time are inexorable. They can only be accepted and submitted to, and the best way to turn that time to account is, in our judgment, carefully to view the calls upon us as a whole, and to make the best and fairest selection of Business that we are able to devise for the employment of that time, and not to hold out vague and indefinite hopes, when a laborious Session such as this has already advanced so far, which in all probability we may not be able to fulfil. We have considered many urgent claims upon the time of the House, and what we feel is that our only choice is to select the best and the most urgent claims among many which are both urgent and good, but which the time of the House, we fear, at present will not enable us to satisfy. We have arrived at the conclusion that there are two claims to which it is our duty to give a prominent place
during the Autumn Session. One of those is the claim attaching to the Bill relating to employers' liability, which has already reached an advanced stage, and with regard to which we think the labour bestowed upon it ought not to be entirely thrown away. The other is a Bill which, we believe, by the majority of the House, will be thought to have the highest of all claims upon us—namely, that Bill which is known by the name of the Parish Councils Bill. It would be premature if I were to endeavour minutely to point out the allocation of the time in the Autumn Session, from day to day and week to week, and that will not be expected. But the course which will be taken at the outset will be this: that we shall ask the House to read the Parish Councils Bill a second time, and, it having been read a second time, in the brief interval which would naturally occur before going into Committee, we should propose to take the Employers' Liability Bill, with the hope of bringing that to its conclusion. Looking at the two Bills, we think that the time between November 2 and the Christmas holidays will be amply sufficient in all reason for disposing of those measures. With regard to anything beyond them, our opinion is that we should not be justified, in the present state of circumstances, in holding out any expectation. It is a matter which hardly admits of an absolute mathematical decision, but in these cases it usually happens that expectations as to time are more apt to be exceeded than to allow of any economy. Therefore, I think it right to say, with regard to various questions which have been addressed to me as to other subjects which undoubtedly have a very high place in the minds of many hon. Members, that we do not see our way with any confidence to get beyond the amount of Business that I have indicated in connection with these two Bills, and we cannot bind ourselves to any other expectation. In our opinion, the two subjects I have named stand very distinctly, in public interest and importance, at the head of the list, and we have endeavoured to meet what we think is the prevailing opinion of the House in the selection we have made. With respect to the Resolution which I have propose, the House will re-
member, no doubt, that, under the peculiar circumstances of the present Session, the House, at an early period, placed at the disposal of the Government nearly the whole of its time; and, unless the House had taken that course, it is quite clear that we could have made no effectual progress with the important measure the discussion upon which was concluded upon Friday last. The ordinary Session of Parliament lasts from six to seven months, but I am afraid that the Session in which we are now concerned promises to last from eight to nine months, and we have, therefore, no desire in the remaining Sittings to ask for what is beyond the necessities of the case. There are two points upon which I understand, through various channels, that some uneasiness and anxiety prevail. While I believe that there is a very general wish to meet equitably the necessities in which we stand, and to give all reasonable facilities for greater despatch in carrying through the Business of the House, in the first place it is suggested that the absolute prohibition of what are called dilatory Motions in relation to Government Business is a stringent measure. This I am not altogether prepared to deny. In fact, the case is wholly presented to the House as a case of urgency, and a case, generally speaking, of necessity; but there is such a thing as satiety of contention, and if there be a limit to the human appetite in this respect I must say I think the rich banquet which we have enjoyed now for six or seven months must have produced a sentiment approaching to that satiety; and, therefore, we are not indisposed to meet any demand which seems to us not to be unreasonable. We therefore propose that the prohibition of dilatory Motions shall be limited to the hours before 1 o'clock, and shall not extend beyond that hour. There is another change which is of some importance, perhaps of considerable importance, with reference to the Autumn Sittings. The apprehension has prevailed that there was on the part of the Government a general intention, in fact, to temporarily abolish the Twelve o'Clock Pule, and to prolong our Sittings far beyond the hour of midnight. We think we may venture to give up the proposal to deal wholesale with the Twelve o'Clock Rule during the Autumn
Sittings, and the Motion will run in these words—
That for the remainder of the Session (unless the House otherwise order) the House do meet on Friday at Three of the Clock. That Standing Order 11 be suspended, and the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to every day of the week, and that the Question on any Motion appointing a Saturday Sitting be put forthwith. That, until the Adjournment for the Autumn holidays, Government Business, and the appointment thereof, may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House, except on Wednesdays:
—therefore, the Autumn Sittings will be exempted from any interference with respect to the Twelve o'Clock Rule—
and that, before One o'clock a.m., no dilatory Motion be moved thereon except by a Minister of the Crown.
The House has already shown its disposition to make great sacrifices in the discharge of duty. I believe that disposition is not yet exhausted. I feel sure that the House will think that the Government, in making these modifications of the Resolution, have done what they could to economise their limited means, and to make the proposals for such economy as acceptable to the various quarters of the House as it is within their power to make it. I beg to move the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That for the remainder of the Session (unless the House otherwise order) the House do meet on Friday at Three of the Clock. That Standing Order 11 be suspended, and the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to every day of the week, and that the Question on any Motion appointing a Saturday Sitting be put forthwith.
That, until the Adjournment for the Autumn holidays, Government Business, and the appointment thereof, may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House, except on Wednesday, and that, before One o'clock a.m., no dilatory Motion be moved thereon except by a Minister of the Crown."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Before I discuss the important statement which the Prime Minister has just made, I should like to ask him whether I have rightly caught the observation made in the earlier part of his remarks that the Appropriation Bill is 1892 to be taken before we adjourn for the holidays? That, surely, is an unusual course, and one which will be extremely inconvenient to the officers of the House, who will have to remain here during the week in which the Appropriation Bill is carried. Neither does it further Government Business, inasmuch as the Business of the Autumn Session could be carried on while many of the stages of that Bill were being proceeded with. I only throw that out as a practical recommendation. I pass now to the right hon. Gentleman's statement. He has told us that he means to have an Autumn Session, and he has told us what Bills of importance he means to take in the course of that Autumn Session. In my judgment, an Autumn Session is both unnecessary and inexpedient. I do not believe that the legislative machinery can work smoothly or effectually if you ask from it too much; and I think to ask the House of Commons to carry on not merely the ordinary Business of an ordinary Session, but business of exceptional difficulty, involving an exceptional strain on every Member of the House; to ask them to carry on that Business from January till the end of September, and then to meet again in November, after perhaps not more than a month's holiday, to discuss other questions which, whether they be controversial or not, are, at all events, very complex and very important, involving very great interests, is to throw a burden on the machine which I do not believe can properly be carried. I am afraid we shall find, when the Autumn Session comes, we are not in a position to deal as effectually with the very important problems brought before us as we might have been had we come to their consideration fresh after the ordinary Recess. It would be superfluous, and would lead to unnecessary controversy, to go in detail into the mismanagement which, in my opinion, has given that justification of their proposals which the Government allege to exist, and I shall content myself with the general protest I have made. I pass to say one word about the Business which the Government mean to take in the Autumn Session. I must say if the Government meant to select from their not inconsiderable programme two Bills which have not a Party character about 1893 them, and which are, I think, desired in some shape or other by a considerable number of persons in this country, I think they could not have done much better than choose the two Bills which they have selected. Whether it will be possible really to discuss these two Bills within the time specified is a question which I am quite unable to answer, as it depends not on Party considerations, but on the number of important questions which may be raised in the course of the discussion of those two important measures. With regard to the Employers' Liability Bill, I can only say that, though it is rot a measure which, to my mind, shows very great originality or grasp on the part of those responsible for it; though it is rather taken wholesale, without apparently very much meditation or consideration, from the programme of the Trade Unionists, yet I think it is possible when it is passed it may settle, not perhaps in the most satisfactory way, the question with which it deals for some time to come. Two great questions undoubtedly must be discussed upon it. They have not yet been discussed, and will have to be dealt with at length by the House. One is the question of contracting out, and the other is the question raised by the manner in which the Bill deals with the shipping interest. These are questions of very great importance, and I think it improbable that the House will be able to dispose of them quite as quickly as the Government hope. With regard to the other Bill, I need only say that, whatever be its merits or demerits, it is certainly not a Party question. We on this side are, at least, as anxious as gentlemen on the other side of the House to see the broad foundation of Local Government which we have laid completed. But I cannot conceal from myself that the Bill does raise a great many important issues, and, while it may require limitations in some directions, I think extensions in other directions ought to be attempted; and probably it will be found, when we come to discuss it—if the Government mean to deal in one Bill with the whole measure which they have sketched out to the House—there may be some difficulty in adequately and completely discussing it, unless we are to look forward to a repetition of those strange measures of furthering Government Business with which we have 1894 become too unhappily familiar in the course of the last few months. I pass from the Autumn Session, which only indirectly comes within the scope of the Resolution, to the discussion of the Motion itself, and I congratulate the Government in having on two most important points profoundly modified the Resolution as it originally stood on the Paper. When I heard the terms in which the Government couched their proposal I felt that a blow was being aimed at Parliamentary liberty, perhaps even more far-reaching in its character and more capable of abuse in the future than even those other extraordinary measures to which I have already alluded, and on which I do not intend to say another word. But the Government, in a conciliatory spirit—on which I congratulate both them and the House—have altered the Resolution in two great respects. They have altered it as regards the power of moving dilatory Motions, and they have altered the extent of their action in regard to the Twelve o'Clock Rule, so as to limit it strictly to the period which is to intervene between the present time and the beginning of our Autumn holidays. I think the Government were well advised in making the change with regard to dilatory Motions. What was the old procedure when some of us first entered the House? There was then no Twelve o'Clock Rule; there was no limit put upon the Business of the House except the fatigue of the Members. What protection, in those circumstances, had the minority when the small hours of the morning came? They had this protection only:—They proceeded to move alternately the Adjournment of the Debate and the Adjournment of the House until it became perfectly clear to the Government that the controversy was one which, if continued, would redound neither to the convenience of Members nor to the credit of the House, and after a brief period a compromise was arrived at and everybody went happily to bed. I do not know whether that was a very good system. I think it has been greatly improved by the employment of the Twelve o'Clock Rule. To abolish the Twelve o'Clock Rule and to sweep away the old system at the same time is to hand over the minority bound hand and foot to the majority, and, as we know, not this particular Opposition, but all Oppositions, are the 1895 people upon whom devolves the carrying on of such criticism of Government Bills as may be necessary. The Government themselves usually take so favourable a view of their own legislative projects that they think they are quite good enough to pass through the House without any discussion at all. It is plain that there would be a very great temptation to the Government, possessing, as they must always possess, a large majority towards the end of the Session, to carry to an undue length the discussion of their Business unless the minority had restored to them the weapon with which alone they could fight before the Twelve o'Clock Rule was established. I pass from the question of dilatory Motions— which does not prevent the Adjournment being moved before Business commences —to the other great concession which the Government have made—namely, that which refers to the time during which the Twelve o'Clock Rule is to be abrogated. As the Motion originally stood, there was to be no Twelve o'Clock Rule during the Autumn Session. I am glad the Government have not adhered to that view, and have now confined it to Supply; and, having done so, I hope they will not ask too much either of their own Party or of the officers of the House; and that if the Adjournment does not take place at 12, at all events the discussion will not go on for an undue length of time. Only one question remains for me to call attention to, and that is the question of Saturday Sittings. I had rather hoped that the provision in the Resolution about Saturday Sittings was to be confined, as the provision about the Twelve o'Clock Rule is confined, to the remainder of the present Session, and that the right hon. Gentleman did not contemplate in the Autumn Session requiring us to attend, not only from Monday till Friday, but on Saturday also. I think that is a power so easily abused, a power which throws such an enormous burden on the House, and such a crushing load on the officers of the House, that, when we are in Session treating of Bills, the Government ought not to be permitted to indulge in Saturday Sittings without being required to debate the question first. Of course, if the Government were content to confine this Resolution to Supply, they would only be carrying out the in- 1896 variable practice. I think the Government would not object, acting in the conciliatory spirit which they have already shown, to extend the limitation they have adopted with regard to the Twelve o'Clock Rule to Saturday Sittings. We are now in the eighth month of an arduous Session, and I think the Government really cannot ask us, when we come to the tenth month, to sit not only five days, but six days a week. When the Autumn Session arrives, if the Government find they have not sufficient time to carry out their programme, they will be able to come forward with some new proposal, which we can discuss in an equitable spirit. After the conciliatory speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I do not wish to sit down after having given expression to any criticism of which the right hon. Gentleman may think he has a right to complain; but I must say that I think our convenience would have been better consulted if we had had rather longer notice of the Motion, and especially of the terms in which it was to be proposed to the House. Owing to the want of that notice, we all came here expecting to have a more arduous battle to fight than, I am glad to say, now lies before us, and much individual trouble would have been saved had the House known what the Government intended to propose. Though I venture to hope that the slight further modification which I have asked for may be granted by the Government, I am happy to say that the proposals made are incomparably better than we had reason at one time to fear they would be.
§ *SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, that there was only one word in the courteous and conciliatory speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) of which notice need be taken. That was the word "unnecessary," which the right hon. Gentleman applied to the Autumn Session. The sole cause of an Autumn Session being necessary was the position that had been taken by gentlemen opposite with regard to the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill. The object of the Opposition had been that that measure should be held over to next Session. An offer had been made on the subject—[Opposition cries of 1897 "No, no!"]—he did not say by the Leader of the Opposition, but certainly an offer had been made by the organs of the Party with regard to that Bill. The object of the supporters of the Government was to deal with the Bill during an Autumn Session, in order that the course might be clear for the Welsh Disestablishment Bill next Session. The Prime Minister had spoken of the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill under a name which often filled him (Sir C. Dilke) with dread—the name of "The Parish Councils Bill." He was bound to protest against the use of that name, because it was not the proper title. The Bill applied not only to parishes, but to every inhabitant of England and Wales, and the portion which did not apply to parishes was of overwhelming importance. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) thought that the Employers' Liability Bill was likely to take a good deal of time during the Autumn Session, but it had been fully considered in Grand Committee, in which, in spite of the absence of a considerable number of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists, all sections of the House were well represented. Although it might be thought necessary to revive that discussion, the questions raised by the Bill could not be better argued out than they had been in Committee. He thought, also, that but little time need be expended on the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill, which was called by the Prime Minister the Parish Councils Bill, unless gentlemen opposite were so minded. He took it that the object of suspending the Twelve o'Clock Rule during the present Sittings was mainly to enable the Government to make progress with certain non-contentious measures which had been passed in the other House. In that connection he wished to know what the Government proposed to do with respect to the Bill for the abolition of the Presidency commands? He trusted that some of the moments after 12 o'clock might be devoted to the passage of that Bill, which it was absolutely necessary to pass at the earliest period if the Armies of India were to be placed in a position to meet any forces that might be brought against them. He should like to know, also, whether the Prime Minister would consider the advisability of devoting Saturday Sittings during the Autumn 1898 Session to the Eight Hours (Mines) Bill, and whether the Indian Budget would be taken during the current Session, which, he thought, would be more satisfactory than deferring it till the Autumn? He thanked the Government for the course they had taken, as he believed that their supporters in the country expected of them some such action. He thought, also, that the two measures which they had selected were well chosen, and hoped that, having initiated a strong policy, they would go forward with their programme and complete it in the course of the present year.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The Resolution which the Prime Minister recommends to the acceptance of the House, even with the Amendment which has been introduced, is a very strong order indeed. As it stood on the Paper it amounted to very little less than a revolution of Parliamentary practice and procedure, and as it stands now it is a very considerable extension of what has happened in previous years. As I understand it, there are three points on which the Government require the assistance of the House. In the first place, they propose to have an Autumn Session, and during that Session to take the whole of the time for Government Business. In the second place, they propose to extend all the Sittings, prior to the Autumn Session, practically till 1 in the morning. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] The Prime Minister, in suspending the Twelve o'Clock Rule and preventing dilatory Motions till 1 o'clock, will, I think, pro duce the result of prolonging the Sittings until I in the morning. The third point is that the Prime Minister proposes to reserve practically to the Government absolute discretion with regard to Saturday Sittings during the whole time that the House is to sit. With regard to the Autumn Session, my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) has enunciated a very curious doctrine. He said that it had become necessary, owing to the action of the Opposition with regard to the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill. But, as far as I am aware, the Opposition have taken no action whatever. I certainly know of no offer or compromise such as has been suggested having been made from the only quarter 1899 from which it could come—namely, the I Leader of the Opposition—and I challenge the Government to say whether any such compromise has been suggested to them? My right hon. Friend, with his experience of newspaper literature, actually took what appeared in what he was pleased to call the organs of the Opposition as though they were serious and bonâ fide offers from the Opposition to the Government. I venture to say that no such offer has ever been made. It is certainly a very strong thing that after such a Session as we have gone through we should be asked to have another Session in which, inasmuch as the whole time is to be taken up by Government Business, the constant attendance of Members will be necessary. It is that very thing that has made the present Session so burdensome to the Officers and Members of the House. We have not been discussing, as in ordinary Sessions, alternately Government Business and Private Business, which generally only interests a comparatively small proportion of the House; but for the whole time we have been discussing Business to which it has been necessary for the whole House to give its attention. However, I will assume that in the hole in which the Government find themselves they are obliged to do something. My right hon. Friend said that the course proposed by the Government was expected of thorn, and it is well known that the present Government always does what is expected of them from a certain quarter. The 1 o'clock extension, I think, was a proposal to which the Government might give further attention. It is proposed that the Ministers of the Crown only should make dilatory Motions. That is another extension of the responsibility and power of the Ministers of the Crown, and it is a precedent which may afterwards be found very distasteful to those who now support them. I gather that it is not the desire of my right hon. Friend that our Sittings should, as a rule, last till 1 o'clock; and if that is so, will he see any objection to arranging that a dilatory Motion cannot be moved by anyone other than a Minister up to 12 o'clock instead of 1? On another point, is it intended that there is to be any protection for Sunday, or are we to sit on Saturday nights until the Government have decided that they have done the requisite amount of work, 1900 without reference as to whether we have entered on the hours of Sunday or not? As to Saturday Sittings, I have only to express my entire agreement with the opinion that it would be an extraordinarily arbitrary thing to have them throughout the Autumn Session. I do not think that a Motion of this kind ought to be regarded as a Party question. If there is any advantage connected with the increased powers we are giving the Government, you may be sure that some other Government will benefit by them. Whatever the benefit is both Parties will share it, and we have to regard the matter only from the point of view of the interest of the House and of the Debates, and not from the consideration whether at the moment it will benefit one Party or another. Whenever a Government takes a new departure and extends an old precedent, as they are doing now, what they, perhaps, intend as an exception becomes hereafter the rule. No matter how much the Leaders of the Opposition for the time being may object to the extension, when it comes to their turn and they are subjected to pressure from their supporters, they will be obliged to follow the example. I think we have a proof of that in what has been going on in the present year. The Government have based their action this Session in regard to the Closure on a precedent which they themselves opposed at the time. They have felt themselves compelled not only to adopt the precedent which they disapproved of, but to go far beyond it. I say that, whatever you do to-day—and, for my part, I care very little how much or how little you do—it is our duty to warn you that what you are doing now your opponents will certainly do hereafter. As to the Business of the Autumn Session, I understood my right hon. Friend to say that the Autumn Session will terminate when the two Bills to which he alluded had been got through.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Of course, it is perfectly clear that these two Bills will take a considerable portion of the available time of the Autumn Session; but the point on which I want informa- 1901 tion is whether there will be an assurance that, supposing they are got through quickly, the Government will not bring on other Bills or Business? My right hon. Friend below me (Sir C. Dilke) suggests that they should take advantage of the Autumn Session to deal with the Eight Hours Question. Well, Sir, I am in favour of the Eight Hours Bill, and on two occasions have voted for it; but I would point out that the opposition during the Autumn Session will be of a very different character if it is understood that any spare time which may result from the diminishing attention of the opponents of the Government is to be employed in pushing-forward other measures of an extremely contentious character. I, therefore, think it will be very important that the Government should make it perfectly clear what their intentions are. As to the two Bills it is proposed to take, I entirely agree with what has been said as to their non-Party character, but they are highly controversial. If I take the Employers' Liability Bill, on which I consider myself somewhat of an expert, I may say that, although I do not think that Bill is likely to occupy a very lengthened time, a considerable number of days may fairly be claimed for the discussion of the very important points raised by it. My right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) referred to the discussion of that Bill in the Grand Committee. Well, that Committee was arbitrarily and tyrannically appointed by the Government to consider the Bill, against the wish and desire of the whole Opposition, and against the wish and desire, no doubt privately expressed, of a considerable number of the supporters of the Government. They thought that the Bill was one which might have been safely left to a Committee of the Whole House, and had that course been followed I am sure it would not have taken up more time than it will do now. Under the circumstances we are not going to give up our right of discussion upon Report. The Leader of the Opposition referred to several important questions arising under that Bill; but there are others which, in the interests of the working classes, ought to he discussed. The Bill, in my opinion, is extremely incomplete and imperfect, and will not do justice to those whose 1902 interests it is intended to serve. It will be our duty to extend and complete it. As to the Parish Councils Bill, my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) says there are very few points on which it will require discussion. Well, in the first place, there is the whole question of the administration of the Poor Law, which, for the first time, has been brought before the House in a Local Government Bill. There is also the whole question of the boundaries and grouping of parishes—a question which concerns and interests every parish in the country, and in reference to which several important points of principle have to be decided. In the last place, there is the question of the future administration and government of local charities. All these are questions of very great importance, and when they occur in a Bill of 71 clauses and two Schedules, I think the Government are rather sanguine in imagining that, without very strong measures indeed, they will be able to force them through in the Autumn Sitting. I have just calculated how many ordinary days there are in the Autumn Session. Reckoning five days in the week, there will be just 32 days. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: 37.] My right hon. Friend says 37 days. In that case the Sitting would last up till Christmas Eve. I have hardly attached sufficient importance to the zeal of the Government and their supporters. I thought that probably they would stop about a week before Christmas Day. Does the House know how long it took upon the consideration of the Local Government Bill in 1888, which did not raise any greater question of principle, and certainly no more questions of detail, than the present Bill—I mean in the shape in which it was presented? I do not think it, would he disputed—the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would not say it was of less importance than the Bill he is in charge of. Well, that Bill took 41 days; and if it took 41 days, it is reasonable to ask how long a Bill of this importance, plus the Employers' Liability Bill, is to take, and whether it will be possible, or anything like it, to get through both in 37 Sittings? That is a matter we can consider when we come back fresh from our holidays in November. I only want to say that, with a Bill of so much detail, 1903 the Government certainly do run some risk of finding that even their good intentions are a little falsified. We only ask the Government now to consider whether, with regard to the future as well as the present, they are really wise in pressing these extreme advantages and privileges both for the Autumn Sitting and the continuance of Supply?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W.HARCOURT,) Derby
I am sure, Sir, it must be a satisfaction to both sides of the House that a matter regarded by some as very contentious has been met in this friendly spirit. We all feel that there must be as much give and take as the circumstances admit of on all these questions of business. I am prepared to answer some of the questions; but there is hardly anything left to argue of a contentious nature. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in his courteous speech, asked as to the Appropriation Bill. It is not usual, but it is not unprecedented, to take it before the conclusion of the Session, and, under extraordinary circumstances, to take other business afterwards. That was done in 1882. We propose to do it this year. There are some financial difficulties which might be got over; but still inconvenience would be caused by putting the Appropriation Bill down for November. My right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain) asked as to the Indian Budget. It has always been the practice to take it during the progress of the Appropriation Bill, and we propose to take it during that period. I am extremely glad that my right hon. Friend has declared that the measures selected for the Autumn Sitting are not regarded as Party measures. I accept that declaration, and I think he need not have addressed to me those warnings against accepting the dogmatic declarations of Party newspapers. I am glad of his repudiation of the declaration of omniscient editors as to the policy of the great Parties in the State. We may take it that the two measures proposed for the Autumn are measures which everybody wishes to see pass into law in some form or other. My right hon. Friend said truly that powers taken by one Party to-day will be taken by another Party to-morrow. We do not act on any other 1904 assumption than that. The other day the Leader of the Opposition remarked that matters were discussed in a very different mnnner under the régime of the modern democracy from what they were were in former times in an uureformed Parliament. That is true. One of the consequences is this—that more power has to be given to the Government, who are the organic Representatives of the majority of the House. We are coming more and more to see that Bills cannot to any great extent pass except in the hands of the Government, and that is the reason why from year to year it has been found necessary to give to the Government more control of the time of the House than was given in former times. My right hon. Friend asked as to the method of dealing with other Bills besides those mentioned. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) asks for a day for a particular Bill. The Government feel, in asking for these powers from the House, that they are not at liberty to pick and choose other measures and give them precedence. We are asked if we intend to take any other measures. Our object certainly is to promote these two measures; and although we cannot bind ourselves for the House, it is not our intention to promote other measures than those two in the Autumn Sitting. I hope that is regarded as satisfactory. Something has been said about Saturday Sittings. It cannot be supposed that Ministers are particularly eager for Saturday Sittings. The Saturday Sittings are proposed principally, almost exclusively, for the purpose of concluding Supply. That is desired by us—desired, I think, by both sides of the House. With regard to the Autumn Sittings, it is not in our contemplation to use Saturday Sittings as an ordinary instrument; but we do not wish to exclude ourselves from the benefit, if necessary, in particular cases. My right hon. Friend referred to the Sabbatarian question of Saturday Sittings extending into the Sunday with the Twelve o'Clock Rule suspended. At present there is no protection against Saturday Sittings going on into the Sunday. I think he may trust us—
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
There is not the least protection now. I think the House may trust the Government—["No, no!"]—well, if you will not trust the Government, perhaps you will trust individual Ministers of the Crown that they will have no desire to prolong the Saturday Sittings. Under these circumstances, after the concessions which have been made, I think the Resolution may be taken as accepted by the House.
*MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he did not rise for the purpose of introducing a discordant note, but he desired to draw attention to the Government arrangements for this Session. Supply was always regarded by Ministers as a nuisance; but the House of Commons had always held that its main function was the control of Supply. But how could they deal with Supply if they had the Estimates thrown at their heads in the month of September? This was the first Session in which Parliament would have sat in every month of the year except one. He did not deny that when the House decided to bring the Session to a close, it was the duty of the Government to arrange the business for the remainder of the year. That was the course always pursued in the House. But he would point out that, in present circumstances, the House could not control Supply as it ought to do. The House was not a mere law-making machine. They had a function to discharge in reference to the expenditure of the country. The result of the present action of the Government would be that the acceptance of this Resolution would be converted into a precedent, and that they would be told in the future that the House of Commons had agreed to it unanimously. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Resolution, as amended—
*MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the word might have not been employed, but it conveyed in substance what the right hon. Gentleman meant. He wished to impress upon the House that the rights of private Members—their rights and privileges—had been diminished by the Government in the past, and now it was proposed still further to encroach upon them. He must especially enter a protest against the novel proposal that 1906 no Motions were to be accepted of a dilatory character unless from Ministers of the Crown. It was the first time they had heard of such a doctrine as that. He had always been under the impression that one Member of Parliament was as good as another; but that, it appeared, was to be the case no longer. The Government had taken a course that would altogether snuff out the rights of independent Members who in the Constitutional period before the days of "gagging" had been inaugurated, refused, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was aware, to be bound by any agreements which might become to between the two Front Benches when any interference with their privileges was involved. He protested against the action of the Government in this matter. He wished to know whether the Government gave a pledge that no business of a controversial nature other than Supply would be taken before the Recess?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The Government propose to take only one or two non-controversial Bills, such as the India Command Bill, before the Adjournment.
*MR. J. LOWTHER
said, of course he did not wish to press for an immediate statement in full detail, but no doubt the Government would be in a position in a short time to state distinctly what Bills they proposed to take before the Adjournment.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, so far as the Irish Members are concerned, I believe I can say with confidence that we wish to give the Government every assistance, and even to make all sacrifices that may be necessary, in order to enable them to carry their programme in the Autumn Sittings. The Irish Members will have to make considerable sacrifices—much greater sacrifices than other Members. [Laughter.] Yes; we will have to make greater sacrifices, because we live at a greater distance, and it is, indeed, a great sacrifice to have to come here. But, so far as that goes, we are perfectly prepared to do so. I am, however, inclined to urge upon the Government that when they make concessions after the experience we have had during the present. Session, I hope, and we hope, that they will not make any concession 1907 which would be likely to render the Autumn Sittings abortive, but that, out of consideration for all their supporters, they will take care that the Autumn Sittings will realise the expectation with which they are looked forward to by the British people. I observe that the Prime Minister, in the statement he made, did not make any specific reference to the Evicted Tenants Bill. I admit that the Autumn Sittings are extremely likely to be occupied by the Employers' Liability Bill and the greater measure by which it is to be succeeded; but I did not understand him to withhold the hope of making progress with the Evicted Tenants Bill. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) makes merry at the expense of the misery of homeless people in Ireland.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must resent that remark. I did not laugh at the people at all. I laughed at the idea of any progress being made with this Bill at that period of the year.
§ MR. SEXTON
If the hon. Member will be good enough to keep quiet when an inoffensive speech is being made I will make no allusion to him. The Government themselves a year ago appointed a Special Commission, and after that Commission had reported we balloted for a day and obtained one for a Bill on this subject. That Bill was debated throughout nearly the whole of a Wednesday, and I think, after the speech that was delivered on that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. J. Morley), we would have carried the Second Beading had not it happened that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) thought it convenient to rise at the last moment and talk the Bill out. Well, Sir, it is a duty I have to perform—it is a duty I cannot postpone—to make specific reference to the question of the Evicted Tenants Bill on this occasion. The Report of the Royal Commission was that the question was an urgent one. It is an urgent one. It is one of great gravity, and it is most intimately connected with the state of social order in Ireland. I think the Chief Secretary will acknowledge that, and there is no man in the House who knows it better. [Mr. J. MORLEY signified assent.] I only rise to say these few words indi- 1908 cating my view, and the view we take here on these Benches, of the ease. What I have to urge—and I urge it by way of a question—is to ask whether before these Sittings conclude the Government will be willing to take advantage of any occasion which may arise to enable us to receive, what I think we have a right to obtain, if we possibly can; and that is, firstly, a decision and an expression of the judgment of the House upon the principle of this Bill; and, secondly, whether the Government will be disposed to afford facilities, whether now or in the Autumn Sittings, to make further progress with it? In connection with that inquiry, I would also ask whether the Government themselves have come to any conclusion upon the Report of the Royal Commission which they appointed; and whether, if not, the subject is, at any rate, not excluded from consideration, and that we may hope that, in the near future, whether in connection with the Bill of the Irish Members or apart from it, Ave may trust the Government will consider it in their power to aid us in arriving at a reasonable conclusion?
MR. J. MORLEY
The appeal my hon. Friend the Member for North Kerry has made is one the Government ought to deal with without delay. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the question of the evicted tenants is one of great gravity and some urgency, and one that goes to the root of social order in Ireland. In all these propositions of my hon. Friend I cordially agree; and he only stated the truth when he said that no one had better reason for knowing the truth than I have. Both from what happened before the Session began, when, last August, the Irish Government nominated the Commission, from what passed in the discussion on the proceedings of this Commission, from what passed in the discussion upon the Bill to which my hon. Friend has referred—introduced, I think, by the hon. Member for North Leitrim (Mr. P. A. M'Hugh) —the Government earnestly feel the necessity of dealing with the question. And although, as I indicated on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Government could not accept all the details of the Bill, they did accept the principle upon which the Bill was framed, which was one of the principles laid down 1909 in the Report of the Evicted Tenants' Commission. We could not accept the doctrine of compulsory indiscriminating reinstatement; but otherwise we accept the principle of the Bill as laid down in the Report of the Commission on this question. As the House and my hon. Friend will understand, owing to the great pressure to which the House has been subjected upon Irish Business during the previous months of this Session, it would be asking almost more than human nature—political human nature—could be expected to give, for us to undertake to provide more time for discussion of another Irish Bill even so important as this. Therefore, the conclusion to which the Government have come is that the question is too important to be trusted to the chance of a Saturday Sitting, in which they would probably not carry the measure further for ultimate practical and effective purposes; and, therefore, the subject is one which can only be efficiently and satisfactorily dealt with by the Government themselves. Next year, therefore, it will be my business and my duty to lay before the House proposals for settling this question.
MR. J. MORLEY
Surely my hon. and gallant Friend must perceive that I have gone a good way in stating the intention of legislating next year, and that I can be hardly asked to state the precise mouth or week in which the proposal can be laid before Parliament. I think it would be unreasonable now to expect me to state it. I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend and the other gentlemen from Ireland will understand that. I began by saying, as I shall end by saying, that no one is more aware than I am of the importance of the question, and of the responsibility attaching to a Government which leaves that question open a day longer than is absolutely necessary.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he had risen at an earlier period to put a question to some Member of the Government, and had hoped that he might have the opportunity of doing it before the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke. The few remarks the right hon. Gentleman had made in his first speech had, to a certain extent, answered the question he (Mr. Stuart) 1910 had desired to put; but he was bound to say those remarks had filled him with astonishment and dismay. After the observations of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, however, in reply to an Irish Member, he felt emboldened to ask for a pledge on an English subject in which many of the supporters of the Government were deeply interested. Surely the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were aware of the pledges which had been made to Loudon to the effect that some measure of relief would be brought in for it. No assistance had boon given to the Metropolis in spite of the repeated promises made to its Representatives. There was a measure before them as uncontentious as any of those to be brought forward by the Government in the present Session—a measure passed without a dissentient voice, without a Division, at an earlier period of the Session. What steps did the Government intend to take with regard to this Bill—the Bill for the Equalisation of Rates in Loudon? What did they intend to do with this Bill, or some other measure for the relief of the London ratepayer—to whom the Government wore not only so deeply pledged, but so deeply indebted? He did not wish to occupy the time of the House unduly. The question was a very simple one. Many Private Bills dealing with London had been passed, but all that had done had been due to the exertions of London Members themselves. They had gained what they had gained because of the reasonableness of their demands. The measure for which they were now asking had received the sanction of the House in a Resolution which had been passed. The principle was not contested, and, under the circumstances, he urged on the Government, or some Member of it, to give an elucidation of what their action was to be. It had been intimated that in the Sittings that were to take place after the short Recess this, that, and the other measure were to be proceeded with. Well, he wanted to know what the Government intended to do as to the particular measure to which he had referred? He was a faithful supporter of the Government, but in this matter, speaking for hon. Members who sat around him—although he had had no opportunity of consulting them — and also speaking for the 3,500,000 ratepayers of Loudon who were 1911 groaning under excessive rates, he urged the Government to bring in a Bill to rectify the grievance of these people. They had voted for the Government in the expectation that they would grant what he (Mr. Stuart) was now asking for. He could not doubt that some satisfactory assurance would be given from the Front Ministerial Bench on this matter. He and his friends were bound to stand true to their constituents, and it was because of that that he raised the question at this moment.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he could not help noticing the very different treatment meted out by the Government to the London Members and the Representatives from Ireland. When Irish Members got up hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench craned forward and put their hands to their ears to take in every syllable that fell from their masters. But when an important London Member like the hon. Member who had just sat down, and who certainly represented a great number of London Members, spoke, not a single Member on the Treasury Bench listened to a word that he said. ["Oh!"] Yes; he had watched them all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been talking the whole of the time to the Prime Minister.
§ MR. HANBURY
Except the evidence of his own eyes, and the eyes of everybody sitting there. That was quite good enough evidence for them. It was a remarkable thing that the Government to the last did not know their own minds. Even on this, the last important night of the Session previous to the Autumn Sitting, they continued their old line of action—changing their Resolution at the last moment. It had assumed an entirely different shape to that in which it was originally proposed, causing considerable confusion to the House. Even now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on behalf of the Government, was unable to tell them the Bills it was proposed to bring forward before the Autumn holidays. The right hon. Gentleman said there were, perhaps, two or three non-controversial Bills they would bring forward, but he would not name those Bills, the selection not having been made. The right hon. Gentleman 1912 could not give a definite promise as to what Bills would not be brought forward.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he must refuse to give way to the right hon. Gentleman after the flat contradiction he had given him just now. He intended to pin the right hon. Gentleman to his own distinct declaration. The right hon. Gentleman would not run away from his own words. He had said that no controversial Bill would be introduced between now and the Autumn Sittings, and the only interpretation to be put upon that was that the Government would not bring forward Bills which the Opposition had any objection to.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
I must protest against the irascible tone adopted by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The matter is one on which both the Opposition and the Government have rights and opinions, and there has been a desire shown on both sides to arrive at a settlement. Up to the time when the hon. Gentleman rose the proposal of the Government seemed to be regarded as satisfactory to the House. The hon. Member said that no Member of the Government listened to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Stuart). I give that statement the most emphatic denial. As I had to reply it was my duty to listen to him, and I heard every word he said. The hon. Member finds fault with the alteration which has been made in the Resolution. Perhaps he would like the Government to go back to the original Resolution. The Resolution has been modified, having regard to the feeling which prevailed on that side of the House, and I do not think it is fair to taunt the Government for having adopted a modification in order to meet the views of those from whom they differ. The hon. Member asks us what we mean by "non-controversial." Surely the hon. Member is aware that that was the invariable term the late Mr. Smith used at this time of the year, and that he always declined to be drawn into a definition of what were and what wore not non-controversial measures. We use the term in good faith. The main part of my right hon. Friend's statement remains 1913 unchallenged, and my right hon. Friend particularly mentioned that in a day or two he would mention the Bills which would come within his description of "non-controversial." As to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch, I agree with all he says respecting the importance of the equalisation of the rates of the Metropolis; and if the Bill on that subject could be placed in the category of non-controversial measures, there would be no difficulty in passing it during the present Session. The Prime Minister stated the principle on which the Government has proceeded. They think that the time of the House will be quite exhausted by the two Bills they have mentioned; and, therefore, they could not add any others to the list. I would, however, remind my hon. Friend of one consideration. We are now in September. The framework of the Equalisation of Rates Bill contemplated its coming into operation in September. That, of course, is impossible. It is a question whether the Bill might be altered so that the measure might come into operation next March. On that point I will express no opinion; but I do not think the position of the Bill will be in any way prejudiced by the action the Government have taken. Not only is the Government pledged to the principle of the Bill, but the House is unanimously pledged to it also. There may be differences of opinion as to the way in which that principle should be applied, but I do not think that when the proper time arrives much difficulty will be found. There are many Members opposite who are anxious to see the Bill passed into law; and if any arrangement were made so that the Bill might be treated as non-controversial, the Government would be pleased to see it pass during the present Sittings. If, on the other hand, it is treated as controversial, we must reserve it for the future, at the same time renewing the pledge that we shall carry it at the earliest opportunity.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said, he was by no means satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's reply. Assurances had been given again and again that the Equalisation of Rates Bill would be carried during the present Session. Although the matter might not be 1914 absolutely non-contentious, it had reached its present stage with the assent of all Parties; and as the Bill consisted of only one clause, there could not be a very long Debate upon it. It seemed to him that those who differed respecting its provisions might very well settle their differences after an hour or two's Debate. He asked that an opportunity should be given for such a Debate. The private Member was now being snuffed out altogether, and the arrangements made with private Members respecting Bills in which they took an interest were not attempted to be carried out. Unless an attempt were made to pass this London Bill the Government would discover their mistake when the General Election took place. Many of the London Members had been in the House night after night supporting the Government, when other Members had been dining. The House now saw the result. He asked the Irish Members, and Members generally, to remember that the whole Session had been given up to the Home Rule Bill. The London Members now asked that a constituency almost as large as the whole of Ireland should receive some little attention on the part of the Government. The London Liberal Members had very little to thank the Government for, and when they were fighting the late Government they very seldom received much support from gentlemen occupying seats on the Front Bench. Unless London was going to throw overboard its claims, and to send Members to the House of Commons to be the absolute slaves of the Government in power, it was necessary for the London Members to make some stand. Though there might be some differences of opinion with regard to the details of the Bill, he felt persuaded that hon. Gentlemen opposite would recognise that, looking to the probable poverty of the coming winter, and to the thousands of men who were out of work, some consideration should be shown to the poorer residents of the Metropolis, and the least that could be done would be to lessen the rates in some of the overburdened parishes. He did not think the Government were treating the London Members fairly in throwing this Bill over, and he should feel himself at liberty to take his own course with regard to all their other measures unless they passed this Bill.
§ *MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said, it must be a great consolation to the Government to know that the threat which had just been made came after they had passed through the House the only Bill they wished to pass. Unfortunately, the independence of the hon. Member and his friends had come a little late. The Government had known it would come, and they had therefore arranged for the Monday after the Home Rule Bill had been sent up to the Lords to give the London Members their opportunity. The Government had been told by some of their supporters that if they did not pass the Equalisation of Rates Bill this Session, they would discover their mistake at the next Election. That clearly meant that the people of London cared a great deal more about equalisation of rates than they did about Home Rule. The Government knew perfectly well that no one could describe the measure as non-controversial. It was to the interest of some parishes in London to get the Bill passed, and to the interest of others to get it altered. Personally, he was most anxious to see it passed very much as it stood. He had received Petitions from various parts of London, which showed him that there were a great many other people who would like to see it altered. However, the Bill was not only more controversial than the Parish Councils Bill, but was rather smaller, and his complaint was that it had not been put in the place of the Parish Councils Bill. He did not know how the Parish Councils Bill, if it were to pass to-morrow, would do anything like the good the Equalisation of Rates Bill would do. It was more important, if the Government could be got to believe it, to equalise the rates of London than to pass what they themselves called the Parish Councils Bill. If the Government had really been in earnest in their desire to do anything whatever for Loudon they would have chosen the front place in the programme of the Autumn Session for the Equalisation of Rates Bill, and would have taken for it the place allotted to the Parish Councils Bill. This, he believed, would have satisfied every single London Member. But what was the consolation they got? They were told that the Government were pledged to introduce this Bill next year. How did they know where 1916 the Government would be next year? Again, they were told that they should not be prejudiced, and that the Government would turn the measure about so as to come into operation next March instead of in September. Yes, but in his constituency they would pay, for six months more, unequal rates. But this was not all. The Government had given a pledge to go on with a much more controversial measure than this Bill could possibly be, and which would take more time. They were pledged to go on with the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales; they were pledged to do something for the people who did not pay their rents, and, of course, they would neglect those who did pay their rates. He recognised that the people from whom the Government derived the most support had a far greater claim on their sympathies. With a Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales, and with a Bill to satisfy the ever insatiable tenants in Ireland, what earthly hope was there that any Bill whatever for the good of the overburdened ratepayers of London would receive any attention from the Government in the next Session? He contended that the Government ought to have given proof of their righteous intention towards the ratepayers of London by selecting their Bill for precedence instead of the Parish Councils Bill.
*MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them plainly that the Autumn Session was to be limited to two particular measures, and that the Government would not allow any portion of the time of the House to be allotted to other measures than their own. He could not help thinking the Government had been utterly wanting in feelings of compassion, for private Members of this House. They had all been called upon to make sacrifices during this Session. He believed the private Member had been the most self-sacrificing. He had never been so active as during this Session in the production of legislative measures, and never had he been so unfortunate in the progress—or rather no-progress— that had been made. What he wished to do was to call the attention of the Government to the fact that there were two or three measures of private Members that had advanced so far, that a 1917 very little time would suffice to place them on the Statute Book. He would name two. The first of these was the Places of Worship (Sites) Bill. After seven years' continuous effort, that Bill had passed through both Houses of Parliament, and at this moment the only point left undetermined was whether this House should, or should not, disagree with a particular Amendment introduced into the Bill by the House of Lords. He submitted it would be a great pity and a disappointment to a large section of the community if some fragments of time were not found for the completion of that measure. The other measure was the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill, which had been read a second time, and which had passed the Grand Committee. Under existing arrangements no progress could be made with those measures. He asked the Government not to close the door of hope against private Members, but at least to leave it open to consideration whether it might not be possible during the Autumn Session to find that little time for the completion of these two measures; which would afford some consolation to those who had been disappointed in finding opportunity for submitting other measures to the House.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, the Motion the Prime Minister had made upon this occasion differed from the Motions of a more or less similar character which had been made in past Sessions, because usually they were made at the fag-end of Supply, when it was not unfair to suspend the ordinary Rules of the House. But this year they were dealing with the substance of Supply. They had got, practically, all the Civil Service Supply to do, and it would have been much fairer if the Prime Minister had consented to alter his Motion so as not to take away the power of moving the Adjournment of the House or Committee after 12 o'clock. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was necessary the Government should have more power over the proceedings of the House; but that ought to be given by regular Rules, and he hoped the House would set its face against the abominable encroachment of the Government on the time of the House by endowing themselves with exceptional powers to use in the way that seemed best to them 1918 at the moment. Let these powers, as they must be given, be given under the regular Standing Orders. With regard to the Parish Councils Bill which he understood that the Government had decided to introduce, he fancied that Bill was a much bigger business than a good many gentlemen seemed to think. Personally, he wanted to see a Bill of this character passed; but the Bill of the Government, if it was to be satisfactory, would have in some respects to be largely amplified, and in other respects to be largely contracted. He regretted very much they should not be able to undertake the Parish Councils Bill when the House was fresh, and when there was plenty of time for its consideration. He was afraid that in the Autumn Session they should be obliged to have their Debates very much limited, or else this important Bill would be thrown aside or not properly discussed. Considering this reform, so far as they knew, was to last, humanly speaking, for all time, it was a thousand pities that a reform so admirable in principle would have to be hurried through or else not passed. He wished the President of the Local Government Board could persuade the Government to postpone that Bill until they were quite certain they had plenty of time to give it the consideration its importance demanded.
§ *SIR J. GOLDSMID (St, Pancras, S.)
said, with regard to the Bill to which the hon. Member for Shoreditch had referred, there could be no question that on the principle of it there was no difference of opinion amongst London Members. They were all agreed, he believed, that the rates should be equalised. He was not quite sure that they all thought it could not be done in a more satisfactory manner than that proposed in the Government Bill. He did not believe that the question need be considered from the point of view of the threats of hon. Members. His hon. Friend had told them that if this Bill were not passed, he would no longer give an independent support to the Government on any Bill. It struck him that these threats of independence of hon. Members, when too late to vindicate their principles, were rather absurd than anything else. The principle laid down by the Government in their Resolution was eminently unsatisfactory, because it curtailed the right of all 1919 Members of the House without altering the Rules of the House. He remembered the time when they used to sit to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, and there was constant complaint made with regard to the burden thrown on Members of the House, and it was by unanimous consent that the principle of 12 o'clock was adopted in order to limit that burden. But now day after day the Prime Minister or some other Member rose to propose the abrogation of the Twelve o'Clock Rule. He thought this was a great hardship to be inflicted upon them. If the principle was right it ought to be observed, and if it was not right it ought to be altered; but to infringe it day after day, without permanently affecting the Rules of the House, was a great mistake. Moreover, they were now going to apply the principle which used to have regard solely to Supply also to other measures. He know they had had Saturday Sittings over and over again late in the Session for Supply; but he did not remember ever taking an Autumn Session with Saturday Sittings in order to pass a Bill. It seemed to him that was an entirely new principle, and ought not to be accepted without considerable discussion. He thought it was a great hardship to Members who had other duties to perform in London and the country to be tied so many months continuously to the House of Commons without having that opportunity of doing their duty to their constituents elsewhere which, he was quite sure, most Members of the House desired to have. The principle of making the House sit for ten months in the course of the year was an entirely new one, and very unsatisfactory to the great majority of Members. It was certain that business was not conducted best by working the whole time at high pressure. It used to be said that all complaints in that House could be ventilated before Supply was granted. Now, however, they were going to be told that the Government had set out the time not only for Bills, but also for Supply. It reminded him of a schoolmaster who set a task to children, which had to be performed in a certain number of hours. The Government were now going to be taskmasters and the House their pupils, who, in a given time, would have to accomplish a given task. That was a new principle, which infringed largely on the ancient privileges of 1920 Members, which altered the whole system of Parliamentary government, and which certainly did not improve it. They had been told that this was the Mother of Parliaments. In his opinion the Mother of Parliaments had, of late, been setting a bad example to other Parliaments. The principle of bullying which had been applied to the Mother of Parliaments was not a good one, and it had induced one gentleman, at any rate, to threaten to be independent, a thing which appeared to be so novel that he felt it his duty to call attention to it. If a few more hon. Members would show their independence he was inclined to think business would be much better conducted.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I do not propose to continue the discussion with regard to the principle of the Resolution, but rarher to endeavour to state what we conceive to be—having now arrived at this point— the general arrangement for carrying out the pledges of the Government, because I am sure right hon. Gentlemen, as well as anyone, will be anxious there should be no misunderstanding with regard to any point raised. In the first instance, we understand that no controversial business is to be taken during this Session—before the Autumn Holidays; and I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or else the President of the Local Government Board, to say that Mr. Smith had generally refused to define the word "controversial," but that it was left, on the whole, to the good faith of the Government to interpret. I wish to be perfectly clear on this point—that Bills are not only controversial if they are objected to on this side of the House as against Members on that side of the House; but Bills would be regarded as controversial at this time of the Session which are full of detail, and would require a considerable amount of discussion. I should like to know whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite accept that proposition? For instance, I see a Bill down here in which I take myself considerable interest—the Building Societies Bill. That would not be controversial from the point of view of Conservatives or Liberals either supporting it or objecting to it; but still it is full of a great deal of important matter upon which controversy may arise between Members of the 1921 same Party. The point is that Bills if great importance—to which a particular class attach particular importance, and as to which there may be differences of opinion even in the same Party — would be considered controversial, even though not matters of Party. That I understood to be admitted in the sense that no Bills would be urged this Session which would be likely to take any considerable amount of time. I understand we are all agreed upon that. The next point on which I would like to say a word is the question of dilatory Motions. There I think that the Government have taken into their hands a very great power, and one which ought to be most sparingly exercised, and only upon an emergency. Then I wish the Government would give us to understand that we should not be made to feel the absence of this weapon in our discussions on Supply. Frequently, in past times, when this legitimate weapon was in the bauds of the majority, when the Minister in charge was not in his place, or if there was any matter to be complained of on the part of the minority, they moved to report Progress, in order to give the Minister an opportunity of attending in his place if absent, or of giving reasonable answers if they were present. When we are parting with this power, I trust we may rely on the Government to consider we have parted with a considerable weapon, and that they will use in their discussion of Supply that spirit of moderation and temper which would be the only excuse for not leaving us this power. The minority is more or less at the mercy of the Government as to its treatment when it parts with this power, and I have simply indicated it in order to establish a claim upon the consideration of the Government during the Debates on Supply. Thirdly, I wish once more to emphasise the question of Saturday Sittings, and to express the hope that the Government may see their way to meet the Opposition so far as not to extend the Saturday Sittings beyond the Sittings before the Autumn. If the power of taking Saturday Sittings is to be rarely exercised, would it not be better for the Government to withdraw that part of their Resolution subject to the power which the Government always have of making the Motion if they find it neces- 1922 sary when the Autumn Sittings begin? Precedents, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) has said, are always dangerous, and the Government are setting up a new precedent—they are taking Saturdays not only for Supply at the end of one part of a Session, but for the passing of Bills in another part, and without any limit whatever. I appeal to the Government not to extend this precedent to taking Saturdays, which might be really unnecessary, and which would be a precedent which might react in future. I do not think it will give such additional power to the Government as to make it worth while to set a precedent so dangerous and inconvenient. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see I have urged this in the most conciliatory manner, and not in the slightest degree from any point of Party advantage one way or the other. It is to the interests of the House generally that this part of the plan should be abandoned. It would not promote the passage of Bills. I really hope that, having gone so far as they have, the Government may see fit to make this further concession which the Opposition and so many of their own supporters desire.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
thought it was somewhat artful on the part of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speech he had just delivered, to omit all reference to the subject of the Loudon Bill, although he was a London Member. He thought London Members on that side of the House would recognise that in the complaints they had received no sympathy from London Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House? The hon. and learned Member for Deptford had expressed great affection for the Equalisation of Rates Bill; but when a definite offer was made by the President of the Local Government Board to treat it as a non-contentious measure, and it was not accepted by hon. Members opposite, if the measure was not passed before the Adjournment on their shoulders must rest the blame. He thought that most Members would recognise that the two Bills chosen for consideration in the Autumn were of the widest and most general interest, while they were also of a non-Party character. Scotch Members recognised the fact 1923 that the Employers' Liability Bill was looked upon with great interest in Scotland; but they had no immediate interest in the Parish Councils Bill. He hoped, however, that they might get an assurance from the Government that the passing of the English Bill would be only a prelude to the passing of a Scotch Bill in a subsequent Session. The Scotch Members were prepared to admit there were no large measures of a contentious character or of first importance affecting Scotland that they could expect the Government to press forward this Session, but amongst the minor Bills on the Paper that evening there were two affecting Scotland which everyone would admit to be of a non-contentious character—namely, the Fatal Accidents Inquiry Bill, and the Sea Fisheries Bill. Neither of these Bills was a Party measure. The Accidents Bill was non-contentious, and no special Division had been taken upon it, so that it might be taken as outside Party lines.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, with regard to the Seal Fisheries Bill, it embodied the recommendations of the Commission that dealt with the subject, and was supported by hon. Members who represented fishing constituencies, to whatever quarter of the House they belonged. He hoped it, therefore, would meet with approval, and pass the House as a non-contentious measure. If they had a promise from the Secretary for Scotland that he would meet those Members, half-au-hour or an hour would suffice to discuss and settle the Amendments on the Paper relating to the Bill, and it could be passed with very little discussion. He most earnestly hoped the Government would view this Bill with particular favour, because it would be productive of much good to an industry with which this House had great sympathy.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he had no intention of finding fault with the Government for producing general legislation, but he would like to call attention to the extraordinary flexibility of adaptation and change of front exhibited by the Prime Minister in proposing the abolition during the present Session of the Twelve o'Clock Rule. 1924 Hon. Members were aware that great agricultural depression existed in England. Well, there had been during the last nine months two agricultural Debates, which he thought had occupied about three hours, and he, as an humble agricultural item, had asked the Prime Minister whether he would suspend the Twelve o'Clock Rule during the course of those Debates? The right hon. Gentleman gave him to understand that the suspension of the Rule with regard to agricultural distress was absolutely outside the horizon of practical politics. And now the right hon. Gentleman came down, and with a light heart proposed to abolish the Twelve o'Clock Rule in order that the Committee might discuss matters about which no one connected with the land—the farmer, the labourer, and the landlord—cared a brass farthing! He should like to have from the right, hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) some indication of the newspaper in which the offer of compromise to which he had referred was contained. He should like to know whether it was The Sun, The Star, or The Police Gazette? If the right hon. Baronet would tell them that, the information would be received with satisfaction by the House.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, he was about to propose an Amendment, but he did not understand that it would preclude the discussion of the general question if the Amendment were put and debated upon.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley),
on a point of Order, asked whether they could return to the general question if the Amendment were moved?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he proposed by his Amendment to add after "Saturday Sitting" the words "before the Adjournment for the Autumn holiday," and submitted that the moving of the Amendment would not preclude the discussion of the general question if anyone desired to discuss it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, everybody in the House disliked Saturday Sittings. The feeling was not confined 1925 to one Party, but was spread over all. When Members came down to the House and worked on Saturdays scores of other people—officials and others—were compelled to work here also, and Members themselves, after five days of work, were in no humour for working on Saturdays as a general rule. He admitted that at the close of a Session such Sittings were usual; but they were held for specific purposes, such as to wind up Supply, or to pass a stage of the Appropriation Bill, or even to pass some special non-controversial Bill. The Resolution of the Government, however, was to take Saturday Sittings not for any of these special purposes, but for general purposes, and for any Bills the Government might propose to take during the Autumn Session. That was an unprecedented course. As had been pointed out, there were only 37 days available for the two Bills. These Bills had to be passed in another place. Was there to be no discussion in the House of Lords, or did the Government think that Assembly was going to record their demands in the same way as the majority in this House were prepared to do? The House would find that these Bills would take a certain time to discuss, and that Ministers, with the power of holding Saturday Sittings, would use it, with the result that hon. Members would be brought down here every Saturday. The Amendment which he now begged to move would limit these Sittings to the month of September, during which the Government proposed to deal with Supply. He hoped the Amendment would be accepted.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he would second the Amendment. He would second anything that was calculated to diminish or curb the tyranny of the Government Bench. He came down to the House to-day with fear and trembling, because he thought the proposal of the Prime Minister might curtail the undoubted right of the House to discuss Supply; but he was relieved to find that the Government had for once realised their duty to the House, and had afforded considerable opportunity for discussing Supply. Up to this time there had been 25 Sittings in Committee of Supply, and 64 Votes had been obtained; 1926 at the same rate of despatch the remianing 121 Votes would require 47 days— that was equal to eight weeks, including Saturdays, which would take them to the 30th of October. If the House met on the 2nd of November, that would leave the holiday to consist of three days— Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It would be better to begin a new Session. Three days would not be enough. Ho did not think an Autumn Session was required at all. Ministerial Members were all at variance as to the Bills to be taken, and would have to give up their own Bills in favour of the Government Bills, which were highly contentious. The Parish Councils Bill—which they were told was for the purpose of extending local government in the villages—would not have that effect. On the contrary, it would diminish the power of parishes with a population of less than 300, while the Employers' Liability Bill was one of the most monstrous inventions that ever proceeded from Radical brain.
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot discuss those Bills now. He must confine himself to the Question before the House.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, he did not know that hon. Members quite realised that the Government proposed to take Saturday Sittings, which implied that the Government asked for every minute of the week from Thursday at 3 o'clock to the succeeding Wednesday at 5.30 p.m. Why should they ask that they could take Saturday Sittings without debate upon such a proposal? Why should Ministers ask for the extension of privileges that were great enough already? To his mind, it was suspicious when Ministers and ex-Ministers exchanged compliments across the Table; it meant that the liberties of other Members were to be suppressed. He did not look with satisfaction upon what had been said from the Front Opposition Bench, and he hoped the independent spirit of many Members would assert itself in the Division. Who were the Government? They were only 36 placemen drawing £78,391 10s. a year— that was all that differentiated them from other Members. There was no difference, except that the Government filled the places and took the salaries. They were told this Resolution would 1927 be the Resolution of the House. By the House, he supposed, was meant the majority of a quorum of the House, consisting of 40–36 placemen and 4 unprejudiced Members. This 40 did not represent the House. They should adopt the American theory—
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, they were told on the Home Rule Bill that Saturday Sittings were not necessary. If that were so, how were they necessary now? It was said they were necessary to get through Supply. But if the Government would abandon an Autumn Session, eight weeks, without Saturdays, would be sufficient for the discussion of Supply, which was of more importance than any Bills. There was no discussion of Supply last year. There had been none this year— it could not be said they had had any— the Government bringing forward nothing but the Home Rule Bill, and, therefore, they were entitled to say that they ought to have Supply discussed. It was surely of more importance than any Bill that they should look after the taxation of the country, or that they should be concerned as to the treatment of the miserable remnant of a Newcastle Programme. There was no demand for these measures —for which the Government had sacrified, not eight or nine mouths, but the whole 12 months of the year. Ministers had done enough. They had kept their places this year. They might thank Providence for that. He thought they were now entitled to give time for the discussion of the Estimates, and then let them return to their constituents and take a verdict on the policy of the Government. He begged to second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, after the words "Saturday Sitting," to insert the words "before the Adjournment for the Autumn holidays."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
said, the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) was moved in a serious 1928 speech, but the arguments used were more against it than in favour of it. The hon. Member pointed out the limited number of days before the Autumn Session, and also the complicated and contentious nature of the Bills; and he argued that it was undesirable and unnecessary to use Saturdays.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, his Amendment did not preclude Saturday Sittings; they could be had in the usual way if they were wanted.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, they quite understood that; but that was where the fallacy lay. The usual way involved obtaining the assent of the House, and, as experience showed, the spending of a Friday to secure a Saturday; and the object of the Resolution was to obviate this loss of time by which they would be deprived of the beneficial use of the Saturday. The Resolution did away with that. It did not take the Saturdays; all it did was to enable the Government to propose that there should lie a Sitting on any Saturday without incurring loss of time in a Debate. So that the House would still have it in its power to express its opinion; but the Government would obviate the risk of losing a whole Sitting by the making of a Motion. They were not prepared to act in that way now—they did not wish to oppress anybody. They thought it was not an unreasonable privilege for them to seek. The Autumn Sittings were arranged for a definite purpose, and not for the pleasure of either the Government or other Members of the House—for the purpose of passing certain Bills into law, so far as this House was concerned at all events, which was all they could control; and for this purpose it was desirable that they should have this very minute power. It did not interfere with anybody. The only effect it would have was to avert what might be a most dangerous and a most useless waste of time, when there was legislation to be carried which had been accepted generally by both sides of the House this afternoon.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think it would be convenient to dispose of, as soon as possible, the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone, so that anybody who desires may again take up the general discussion raised by the Resolution. As the House will gather from the speech 1929 which I made before, I look with favour on the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The Prime Minister, in dealing with this question early in the day, told us that though the power of taking Saturday Sittings was given to the Government, the Government would use it with great reserve, if they used it at all, and we all looked upon that declaration with great satisfaction. If difficulties were to arise in dealing with Public Business, beyond question the Government would he entitled to take exceptional means for dealing with those difficulties; but it is not according to precedent for the Government to possess themselves of powers for dealing with difficulties that do not now arise, and which may never arise. What we ask of them, therefore, is to reserve action until the necessity does arise. It is true that, if they are not now given these powers, either of two courses are open to them. They can either move for a Saturday Sitting on the Friday previous, or they can move at the opening of the Autumn Session a general Resolution taking the Saturdays of the Session. We ask them to wait before taking action until we are in the Autumn Session, and not now set a precedent which may be a great danger in the future, for the purpose merely of averting difficulties which, for all we know, may not arise at all. It must be borne in mind that there is, under our modern system, no chance of wasting time on a Motion to take a Saturday Sitting.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There must have been exceptional circumstances in that instance. Of this I am sure—that any attempt to unduly prolong the Debate on a Motion for a Saturday Sitting proposed by the responsible Government of the day, under circumstances which justified it, would certainly, after reasonable discussion, be closured by the action of the Speaker. I, therefore, ask the Government to wait until the Autumn Session comes, and when the necessity which the desire to provide against is obvious, imminent, and inevitable. The harmony which has reigned over our proceedings to-day has been very creditable to us all, especially to those of us who oppose the policy of the 1930 Government; and I think that harmony would be still further maintained if the Government grant the request of my hon. Friend opposite.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I would willingly, if I could, settle this matter without a Division. It is not a matter of the most consummate importance, and it is one, I think, which we ought to settle without further Debate. I will state briefly why the Government must ask the House to take a Division on this matter. I have a very acute recollection of an attempt we made to get a Saturday Sitting, occupying us the whole of Friday. Then there is another matter. If we were to postpone this proposal till the beginning of the Autumn Session, we would have just such a similar discussion as we have had to-day, and we would bring back for the opening day of the Session Members who may wish to extend their holidays. I hope the House will now pronounce an opinion on the matter, and then go on with the Resolution.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 168.—(Division List, No. 286.)
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, lie had hoard the figures of the Division with great pleasure, because he bad voted to give the Government the opportunity of taking the time they asked for; and ho was now going to ask them to devote some of that time to the cause of London. He was one of those who thought the House should sit as long as it was necessary to get through the business of the country. He believed that they wore there to pass measures which they considered useful and for the welfare of the community; and it was because he held that opinion strongly that he now urged on the Government to deal with that which London wanted. Since the President of the Local Government Board had spoken early in the evening, they had had speeches from Members representing every section in the House, and there was not one of them that had not said that the principle of the Equalisation of Rates Bill was good. The Bill was not a controversial Bill according to the definition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. The right hon. Gentleman had 1931 said that a Bill might not be controversial in principle, and yet might be laden with details which might give rise to a large amount of controversy. But the Equalisation of Rates Bill, which had been supported from all sides of the House, was not a large Bill teeming with details. The main thing in it was its principle, which had been adopted by the House, and then came one clause which contained all the details of the Bill. No one would say that the claims of London were too greatly attended to in the House. It could not be said that the 4,500,000 of London had taken up much of the time of the House; and he, therefore, appealed to the Government to grant to the London Members that small modicum of time they asked for the consideration of the Bill in which they were interested. He spoke with some amount of freedom upon this question, because he did not represent a constituency that would receive a very large amount of relief from the Bill. He supported the Bill because he believed it was necessary to give an amount of relief to the poor struggling districts of London, and he thought the Bill ought to be taken up before the House adjourned for the holidays, let alone before the Autumn Session terminated.
§ *MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, it was really quite refreshing to hear some of the speeches to which the House had been treated that afternoon. He thought the Debate would stand out in the annals of the Session as showing that there was at last some sort of awakening amongst the hitherto inarticulate supporters of the Government, who felt that, after all, they had been neglecting their duties. The hon. Member who had last spoken, and others, had talked about poor suffering London. They had told the Government in bold and big tones that they would not stand the neglect of London any longer. The hon. Member for Leeds, in a speech at a dinner about March, 1892, had said the Liberals were going to have two Sessions of Home Rule. The first was to be Home Rule for Ireland, and the other was to he Home Rule for London. The London Members ventured to think that Loudon was as important as Ireland; it was as populous as Ireland, and yet it had been utterly neglected. It was a remarkable 1932 thing that the Prime Minister did not tell the London Members of his intentions before Friday. The right hon. Gentleman did not dare to let the cat out of the bag till he had got the Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill, lest he should lose the support of those Members who now protested with such a show of independence on behalf of the suffering poor of Loudon. The hon. Member for Shore-ditch had said the people of London had voted for the Government, expecting what they would get. The people of London now knew what they had to expect from the Government. The Unionist Members for Loudon had told the people in 1892 that these measures were only put forward till the Home Rule Bill was read a third time, and that they would then he dropped. When he asked, last week, whether the Government intended to go on with the Local Veto Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with one of those outbursts of satire for which he was so famous, said it would depend altogether on him (Mr. Bartley). Had he (Mr. Bartley) anything to do with the plan the Government had now set before the House? Why did not the Government put down the Local Veto Bill for the Autumn Session? Because they dare not do it. They knew that half of the Front Bench men would vote against it, and, therefore, that measure, which had been put forward to catch the votes of the teetotalers for Home Rule, would never be heard of again. In fact, a large number of measures had been mentioned in the Queen's Speech simply and solely to throw dust in the eyes of the people, and catch votes for the Home Rule Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer took the rôle of Leader of the House now that the Prime Minister had left them, and he thought it was a very strong order for the Prime Minister to leave Parliament the moment the Estimates were being discussed. [Cries of "Order!" and "Question!"] He knew it was the fashion to say because the right hon. Gentleman was very old and very distinguished that he should not be here; but he took it that it was not a proper thing, and was not in accordance with the constitution of the country that Parliament should be sitting without the Prime Minister being present in that House. If they were sitting too long for the Prime Minister, 1933 they were sitting too long for other Members as well. [Cries of "Oh!" and interruption.] He failed to catch the inarticulate observation of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, they had not been six years without the Leader of the House; and even when the Leader of their side was very ill indeed he attended the House, and ho thought they were entitled to remonstrate at Parliament being left without the Leader of the House. ["Question!"] It was the question; it was the question of the administration of the House, and the system by which it was being affected by the Government, which was a matter of serious importance to them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was unreasonable in the Opposition to refer to their changing the Resolution. They did not object to their changing the Resolution, but they objected to the general system by which Government put down double what they intended to ask for in the hope of getting a little more than they expected to get. The Resolution was so revolutionary that he believed some of the supporters of the Government resisted it; but it appeared to him that the main point had been forgotten, and it was this: What was the Government going to do, in addition to the Estimates, before they broke up for the holiday? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said they would take no contentious matter except a few Rills he referred to; but, in spite of his hon. Friend's request, the right hon. Gentleman would not state what those Bills were. The Government ought to state distinctly what Bills they were going to take. He thought he should not be out of Order in referring to the mass of Bills that were on the Paper for this very night; and if this Resolution were passed the Government would be able to take any one of those measures to-night. There were the Sea Fisheries Regulation (Scotland) Bill; Building Societies Bill; Public Authorities Protection Bill; Evidence in Criminal Cases Bill; Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Bill; Labour Disputes (Arbitration) Bill; Merchant Shipping Bill; Notice of Accidents Bill; Savings Banks Bill; Supreme 1934 Court of Judicature Bill; Bills of Sale Bill; Sale of Goods (re-committed) Bill; Copyhold (Consolidation) Bill; Trustee (Consolidation) Bill; Madras and Bombay Armies Bill; Statute Law Revision (No. 2) Bill; Pistols Bill; Naval Defence Amendment Bill; Light Railways (Ireland) Bill; Law of Commons Amendment Bill; Expiring Laws Continuance Bill; Conspiracy and Breach of the Peace Bill; Loudon (Equalisation of Rates) Bill; and the Vaccination Bill. This was a string of Bills all down for this evening, many of which would require a considerable amount of discussion; but if they passed the Resolution as it stood, the Government would be able, whether the Opposition liked it or not, to pass any of those measures without giving any opportunity of even considering them. That was an unfair position in which to place Members, and, in order to meet it, he would move to insert after the words "That Government business" the words "of Supply." If those words were put in, this Resolution would only apply to Supply, and Bills would have to be considered under the ordinary Rules. If the Government were in earnest, and meant what they said, they could not object to those words being introduced, because it would apply to Supply, and all non-contentious Bills would go through in the ordinary course. If the Government would accept the Amendment it would not be necessary to trouble the House with any further observations. He thought it was a very odd position to see hon. Members on the other side now clamouring for their political rights. They had been pent up in a sort of political Noah's Ark since the commencement of the Session; they found things were going wrong, and were beginning to be restive. The only thing he could conceive like it was the day when Noah let the animals out of the Ark; it must have been difficult for him to keep the tiger from eating up the lamb, and it seemed to him (Mr. Bartley) that the Government were in danger of having the political Ark capsized by the Members who had been pent up in the Ark so long, and who could hardly be prevented from eating one another at the present time, now that they were to be given a little liberty. He therefore ventured to move, in the fifth line, after "business," to insert "of Supply." 1935 If these words were introduced it would meet all the requirements of the case.
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The proper way would be for the hon. Member to move to leave out the word "Government," and insert the word "Financial."
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he rose with great pleasure to second it, and he agreed with every observation that had been made, even with those made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was not like the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles), who came down to the House with fear and trembling; he came filled with wrath and in full fighting trim. Ho was glad, however, that the Government had somewhat disarmed him, taken away his wrath, and made him somewhat more amiable than when he entered the House. He did not think half enough had been said in opposition to an Autumn Session on its merits. Why were they called upon to have an Autumn Session at all? He hated it, and no one wanted it—[Cries of "Order!"] Very well, the Amendment covered what he wanted to say, and he would not strain the point; none of them wanted Autumn Sittings, and he did not think it was necessary for the Government to bring forward the Resolution at all. Why were they brought to this? Simply by the action of the Government, who had consumed the whole time of the House for other Business, and they wore now all jaded and wanted rest.
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The Amendment is to leave out the word "Government," in order to insert "Financial," and the Question is that the word "Government" stand part of the Motion. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wandering both from the Resolution and the Amendment.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanot),
on the point of Order, said, his hon. Friend was seconding the Amendment, and he apprehended he was in Order in his remarks until the Amendment had been moved.
MR. JESSE COLLLNGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
presumed, when the Amendment was disposed of by a Division or otherwise, the discussion on the general question could be carried on?
said, in speaking of financial business, he presumed he might also speak of other business that might be proposed in lieu of the financial business, and show their reasons for preferring financial business for all other kinds of business. In looking to the other side he was reminded of the old proverb, and found that it was very likely to prove true. He did not quote the proverb offensively; but there was an old proverb that said—"When rogues fall out honest men get their just rights." He objected to any other business but financial business being dealt with; and in support of his contention that only financial business should be disposed of, he would quote a very high authority—namely, a writer in The Lancet, who pointed out they were all worn out and unfit for the Parliamentary duties they wore called upon to discharge. It was apparent, on seeing Members anywhere, that they had a more than usually jaded and worn-out appearance, and the writer said that the work they had been called upon to do must act injuriously upon legislation in the future unless they were able to recover, not only their political weakness, but their disordered brains. Therefore, he (Admiral Field) ventured to say they ought to confine themselves to financial business. A month's rest was not enough to recoup their wasted energies. If they had not been able to do other business it was not their fault; the gentleman responsible for that sat upon the Treasury Bench. He strongly objected to any other than financial business being dealt with during the remainder of the Sitting before the holidays, on the ground, among others, that as much time as possible should be given to the discussion of the Estimates, the supervision of which was of supreme importance to the country.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "Government," and insert the word "Financial."—(Mr. Bartley.)1937
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Government' stand part of the Question."
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HABCOUKT,) Derby
I do not think it is necessary for us to discuss this Amendment at any length, in view of the assurances of the Government, given earlier in the evening and accepted by the Leader of the Opposition and the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no controversial business would be brought forward before the Autumn. Then I am asked to specify those particular Bills the Government propose to proceed with, though it was agreed on the Front Bench opposite that it was enough to make the statement which is generally made on these occasions, that no controversial measures would be taken by the Government. The Government intend to adhere to that in good faith. My right hon. Friend below the Gangway alluded to a particular measure—that is to nay, the Bill with reference to the command of India. That is a non-controversial measure. If hon. Gentlemen opposite choose to regard the Equalisation of Bates Bill as a non-controversial measure we should be glad to take that, but it will depend upon hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it is so regarded. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said, reading out the list on the Paper—"You may take these Bills at any hour." I can assure him there is no such intention. In a day or two, I hope, we may be able to state to the House what Bills will not be taken, and we shall then discharge those Orders. That is the usual course taken when the Government have asked for special facilities of this kind; and, in the meanwhile, I ask the House to accept what has been accepted by the Leader of the Opposition—namely, the statement of the Government that they will not take any controversial measures before the Autumn Session.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
Now that we have a definite pledge from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in addition to that made before—namely, that the Government will not take any controversial measures; and, secondly, that in the course of a day or two he will state the Bills they will not take, I think the House ought to be satisfied. That 1938 has been our difficulty so far; there are a certain number of Bills down which it is clear the Government will not take; and what we wanted to have was a statement of the Bills the Government would not take. I am interested in the Building Societies Bill, and I cannot imagine that will be taken. I cannot help thinking that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made his statement earlier in the evening much time might have been saved.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
said, he had been anxiously watching the discussion, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Law-son) moving uncomfortably about from place to place; and be thought the hon. Baronet must be preparing to go into mourning for the Temperance Party at the attitude taken by the Government in regard to the Direct Veto Bill. Temperance men at the General Election were deluded by promises held out by the Liberal Party as to the immediate action to be taken in favour of temperance if only the Liberals were returned to power. During the hot days of June and July a great demonstration was held in Hyde Park in favour of the Local Veto Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was present, and had the greatest possible difficulty in dodging his dupes. He trusted that as the great temperance reformer of the day the right hon. Gentleman would be able to induce the Government to take up the Local Veto Bill during the Autumn Session. As there was now an Amendment before the House he was afraid he was a little trespassing, and he would not pursue the matter further than to ask the Government for a Temperance Saturday, which might, perhaps, be permitted to run into a Temperance Sunday.
§ *MR. FISHER (Fulham)
said, he would not, have intervened but for the demands made by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Buchanan) with regard to the attitude of the Conservative Members for London on the subject of the Equalisation of Rates Bill for the Metropolis.
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
I must point out that the Amendment before the House is that the word "Government" stand part of the Resolution.
§ MR. FISHER,
on the point of Order, asked if he might not reply to the remarks 1939 of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to their position in regard to the equalisation of London rates?
§ *MR. FISHER
said, in that case he felt bound to oppose the Amendment. If the Resolution stood unamended in the direction of the words of the hon. Member for Islington, Her Majesty's Government might have some time to give to the passing of the Equalisation of Rates Bill. The President of the Local Government Board stated that if that measure were treated as non-controversial Her Majesty's Government might find time for it.
§ MR. FISHER
Would find time for it; and the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Buchanan) thereupon asked—"Why do not you accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman?" That was an utterly absurd question, because although the great majority of Conservative Members wore in favour of the measure, it must in the very nature of things be controversial. It would result in the raising of the rates over a portion of the Metropolis, and the diminution of rates over another portion, and it was only natural that the Representatives of the constituencies whose rates would be increased would desire to discuss the Bill. The Employers' Liability Bill and the Equalisation of Rates Bill would have been a very useful programme for the Autumn Sitting, but the Government eared nothing for London; they said—"Ireland we know. Wales we know; lint you Londoners, who are ye?"
§ MR. BARROW (Southwark, Bermondsey)
said, that last February he moved a Resolution in favour of the equalisation of rates in London; and since then he had only heard of one district which was getting up an opposition to it. He did not understand why the President of the Local Government Board shirked the question; he said that advisedly, because an unconditional promise was made on the subject, and to his mind the action of the right hon. Gentleman showed a want of courage. The present position of the right hon. 1940 Gentleman on the subject was not at all on all-fours with that he took up when he accepted without reservation the unanimous Resolution of the House last February. Since that Resolution was adopted the right hon. Gentleman had introduced a Bill of one clause, in which he foreshadowed the taxation of the richer parts of London to the extent of £850,000 a year, which was to go to the relief of the poorer districts of the Metropolis. Did he now think the poorer districts were going to stand by and see the question indefinitely postponed? This was not a question of sentiment, for it resolved itself into hundreds and housands of pounds being saved to a certain proportion of London ratepayers. The voters of Loudon would receive the announcements of the Government generally, and the announcement of the President of the Local Government Board specifically, with nothing short of dismay; and if a General Election were to arrive, it would mean disaster for the Liberal Party in London. The London Liberal candidates put London Homo Rule as their second plank to Irish Home Rule. They had stood loyally by the Government, and now they were anxious to fulfil their pledges to their constituents. Were the Government going to back them? The Tory Members opposite were pronouncing in favour of this Bill; and what were the Government going to do for their own supporters, who had been most ardent in their desires for the passage of this measure? If the Government did not change their attitude on this question the Tory Members in London would take credit with their constituents for desiring to bring about the equalisation of rates in Loudon, whilst they would say the Government were against it. Of course, he was not suggesting that was true; but that was the way the case would be put. He appealed to the President of the Local Government Board to consider where he was on this subject, and whether he was not placing the Liberal Members for the London constituencies in a false position?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I desire only to say two or three sentences on this question which has formed the subject of the last two speeches. I should sympathise to the full—and I am sure every Member of the Government would 1941 —in the disappointment to which the hon. Member for Bermondsey has just given expression, if I thought that the decision we were asking the House to come to would necessarily involve the fate of the Equalisation of Rates Bill. It does not involve anything of the kind. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board said at an earlier stage of the evening, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated just now, that, under the Resolution as it at present stands, it is open to the Government not only to take Supply, but to take non-controversial Bills. [An hon. MEMBER: What is a non-controversial Bill?] Without giving an exhaustive definition, for this purpose a non-controversial Bill is a Bill in which nine-tenths of the persons interested in the question are agreed. If my hon. Friend is right in his facts—as I hope and believe he is, so far as the London Members are concerned, the only Members of the House who are directly interested in this Bill—there are only two or three who are opposed to the principle of the Bill. That being so, I venture to say this is a non-controversial measure. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] I say that, if it is not treated as a non-controversial Bill, or if, in other words, the Government are debarred from doing what they are most anxious —namely, of bringing in the Bill, or carrying it through before the adjournment to the Autumn, then the responsibility will lie with those hon. Gentlemen opposite who oppose this course. That, Sir, is our answer to the appeal of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. LONG (Liverpool, West Darby)
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has laid down a principle which is as novel as it is extraordinary. He has invented for himself a definition of the term "non-controversial." He has told the House—what must have astonished hon. Gentlemen opposite as much as hon. Gentlemen on this side—that a non-controversial measure is a measure upon which nine-tenths of those who are interested are agreed in principle. [Sir W. HARCOURT: Hear, hear!] Does the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is now the Leader of the House, cheer the notion that a measure is agreed upon because in principle it is approved? Does he 1942 suggest that the Committee and Report stages of a Bill are of no value? I hear the Homo Secretary say the Bill is a Bill of only one clause. What the House has agreed upon is that the House shall pass some measure in order to amend the principle on which the rates of London are paid and the burden of the rates is borne. But that the House is agreed on the Bill as it stands word for word, or with this method proposed in the Bill, is a totally different question; and I submit there has been no indication of opinion, from any quarter of the House, that this is a Bill which can pass under the ordinary definition of the term "non-controversial." I contend, Sir, that if the Government are going, at the last moment, to claim that this Bill is to be dealt with as one which is non-controversial, they will be departing from the spirit of the arrangement which they made earlier in the evening. It is idle for mo to suggest that I can speak for those who are interested in this question; but I know, from the communications that have passed between myself and those who have the honour of being the Leaders of the Party on this side of the House, that this was a measure in particular which was regarded as one which did not come within the definition and description of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know it was contended that this was a measure on which different opinions were held, and which could not, therefore, be regarded as a non-controversial measure. The Home Secretary now tries to make cheap capital out of the attitude of hon. Members on this side of the House; and finding himself, the Government, and his Party in stress and difficulty, he endeavours to shift on our shoulders the responsibility he and his friends ought to be strong enough to bear. It is not acting fairly by the House and by the Opposition, at the last moment—past 8 o'clock in the evening, when he is supported by his right hon. Friends, and when this (the Front Opposition) Bench is practically empty—suddenly to spring upon us the notion that this measure is held by the Government to be among those which are non-controversial, and is to be one of the measures which are to be taken. Now, Sir, the House will understand why it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier in the evening 1943 could not name those little Bills which might be added to the two he named. Now we understand his lapse of memory. He could not remember at that moment —he was not in possession of—the name of the little Bill that might be added to those already named. We find now that the Equalisation of Rates Bill is one of them, and this is to be bold up as a non-controversial measure! But, Sir, the Debate which took place on the Motion upon which this Bill is founded is within the recollection of Members of this House. It was initiated by the hon. Member for Hoxton, and I think that Debate proved that the principle of dealing with the question of rates in London was agreed upon in all quarters of the House, but the exact way in which it is to be dealt with is a totally different thing. I think, myself, this Bill is an honest attempt on the part of the President of the Local Government Board to deal with a very difficult question; but the President of the Local Government Board himself will, I am sure, agree with me that this is a most difficult question, and that it is extremely hard fairly to apportion the burdens of payment on the shoulders of the different people in London in proportion to the benefit they receive for the work done. The President of the Local Government Board, I believe, has done his best to arrive at a method, but I think there is a good deal to be said upon it, and I confess it amazed me—at the last moment in September, when we have been led by the Government to-night to believe that the labours of the Session are practically ended, and that we have to devote ourselves to Supply, and that only Bills were to be taken which were of a non-controversial character — to hear the Home Secretary get up and chide the Opposition, and tell them if they dare to regard this Bill as anything but a non-controversial measure the responsibility and blame would be theirs, and that they would take upon themselves the risk of losing the measure. I am bound to say I think it is an extraordinary proceeding on the part of a Minister of the Crown who occupies the high position that the Home Secretary does, and a very novel proceeding at this stage of our business. I venture to say that the only construction that can possibly be placed by men accustomed to 1944 the ways and methods and Rules of the House of Commons upon the word "non-controversial" is that it would mean a measure upon which everybody in the House was agreed, not merely in principle, but upon which any discussion would be of the most limited and almost perfunctory character. [Laughter.] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, and may endeavour if they choose, by discussion amongst themselves, to interrupt the remarks which, I admit, I am most insufficiently delivering on behalf of those who would be here if they had known this proposal was to be made tonight. I only wish my right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had been present to bear the proposal made by the Homo Secretary, because I can safely say he did not understand the position put by the Home Secretary, and certainly no one on this side of the House understood it. I am prepared to say that at this period of the evening, and after what has fallen from the Leaders of the Government to-right, it is not acting fairly and honestly by the House of Commons to regard a measure of this character, which is of first-rate importance, of very great complexity, and which will have a considerable effect on the ratepayers of London, as a non-controversial measure, and allow it to be passed at the end of the Session, when more than half the House has gone, and when many of those who, though they may not be Loudon Members or London ratepayers, are entitled to have their voices heard on questions of this kind, and entitled to ask that it shall not be dealt with in a moment or a hurry, and without the proper time for consideration which ought to be devoted to it.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch Hoxton)
wished to point out to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that the strictures he had endeavoured to bring upon the action of the Government were entirely out of place. The measure was under full discussion when the hon. Gentleman's friends on the Front Opposition Bench chose to leave the House; and not only was that so, but this measure was shown before they left to be obviously in a different position to other measures under consideration. The principle of this measure had been unanimously adopted by the House. That was not denied.
§ MR. LONG
I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He says the principle of the measure was unanimously adopted by the House. That is perfectly true. The principle that there should be an alteration of the method by which rates in London are dealt with was agreed to; but the way in which that principle is to be applied is the most important part of all, and upon that a great variety of opinions was expressed in different parts of the House when the Motion was discussed.
§ MR. J. STUART
had listened to the hon. Gentleman's interruption and explanation. The principle which this House assented to was a great deal more heroic, and went a great deal further than that there should be some alteration in the rates of London. It went to this—that there should be an alteration of the rates in London with a view to relieving the poorer districts of London. That was the principle to which the House assented, and which was embodied in the Equalisation of Rates Bill. There was no doubt it went further than the very formal outline which the hon. Gentleman had spoken of. Again, the measure was not a complicated one, but the simplest possible application that could be made of that general principle the House had assented to, and he was really very glad to have heard the Homo Secretary say that the Government were willing to consider this measure among the list of measures it would be possible to deal with. He thought it would be well if the Government would give an opportunity to the other side of the House and see if they would not let him have the Second Reading of this measure before they went away. All the London Members on that (the Liberal) side of the House had supported the measure; it was down on the Taper for that night, and he would suggest that it should be taken, as lie did not believe the London Representatives on the other side of the House wished to oppose it. He believed those hon. Members opposite had just as great a wish and desire to put the rates of London right as the Liberal Members had. This measure did not go beyond London; the whole money collected was restricted to London, and he would suggest that Members, like the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, who were not London Members, should stand aside in this 1946 matter. Why should they interfere in this question, which affected London alone? Let them leave the matter to be settled by the Loudon Members, and let them see if they could not get the Second Reading that night. That was the suggestion he had to make to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Long), who, he believed, understood the question, and who had, it seemed to him, got up at this stage of the Debate merely to try to make political capital out of it by endeavouring to put the Government in the wrong. He hoped before the Debate was finished the Government would see their way to make some definite decision with regard to this Bill. They must see that it was a matter of the deepest importance, not only to the London Members, but to the Government themselves. He urged them to make some more definite announcement, although he admitted that what they had said amounted to an admission that this was one of the Dills which it would be in their power to deal with.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, the hon. Member who addressed the House last had said that the Bill dealing with the question of Loudon rates was of a non-controversial character, and might, therefore, be passed through the House. The Government had taken up the whole time of the Session; and if this Bill was one upon which such stress was laid, he thought hon. Members interested in it should not allow the Government to take up time in that way—at any rate, they ought to have insisted upon the measure being brought forward. They could not deny that the matter with which such a Bill would deal was one in which London Members were interested. It was one, however, that was sure to give rise to discussion. He was glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, because there was some controversy between the right hon. Gentleman and himself early in the evening. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to mention the Bill that was considered to be non-controversial; and now they had a distinct statement from the Home Secretary that this Equalisation of Rates Bill was one of them. He would like to have a statement from the Chancellor of the Ex- 1947 chequer as to whether he agreed with the Home Secretary that this was a non-controversial Bill, which should be pressed upon the House before the Adjournment? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House the Bill was a non-controversial one, then he had nothing more to say. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed with the Home Secretary, then he thought he had not treated the House in the kindest way; for, when the Motion was introduced, he ought to have told them candidly that that was one of the measures the Government intended to bring before the House. The phrase "non-controversial" was, no doubt, very vague, and he thought they were entitled to some expression of opinion justifying this strange interpretation of the term. There seemed to be some difference of opinion as to what the Home Secretary did say; but they on that (the Opposition) side understood him to say that nine-tenths of those interested in the Bill were agreed, though the President of the Local Government Board seemed to think that the Home Secretary referred to nine-tenths of the House. There was a difference of opinion regarding that. The Home Secretary, however, was understood to refer to nine-tenths of those interested in the principle of the Bill. That might cover almost everything. How could they arrive at a calculation with regard to those who were interested? He (Mr. Hanbury) always thought they were all equally interested in the measures brought before the House. At all events, they were all equally interested in any Loudon Bill. The Members of the House had to live in London for six months—or, as this year, for nearly the whole 12 months— every year, and they were all, therefore, interested in legislation in regard to London. So that they would see legislation of this character affected them all, as well as the London Members. He protested against the policy which the Government had adopted of parcelling the House into sections, and saying that a particular section should have an advantage of this kind. This was the policy in the case of Ireland. Now a majority of the Welsh Members wanted Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, and the same policy was to be adopted. And, again, they had it in the case of the London Members. He was under 1948 the impression that they were sent there —the London Members and the rest of them—for the purpose of dealing with matters not only affecting each his own particular constituency, but relating to-general questions as well as to the term "non-controversial." He would point out that they might well agree to the principle of the London Bill on, say, Second Reading; but once they got down to details there might be a division of opinion. When they got into Committee, it might be—as in the case of the Home Rule Bill—that the Government themselves would have to introduce Amendments; that, as in that case, they would have changed their minds. Even if they wore all agreed on the principle, points might arise demanding consideration and long discussion in the House. For that reason this was not a step which they wished to discourage. What was meant by nine-tenths of those interested? Were they to count heads? Was it to be laid down as a principle, that if nine-tenths of the Members agreed to a certain measure that measure became at once non-controversial? They knew the struggle going on between Members from Ireland, Members from. London, and Members from Wales and Scotland for precedence for their Bills. The struggle was a keen one. Scotland complained that her interests were neglected, and claimed precedence for her Bills; Welsh Members objected, and said that their measures must have priority; then the London Members came forward with the same claim. Well, in reply to the demands of the London Members, the Homo Secretary-had enunciated a principle which applied more strongly to Welsh Disestablishment than to equalisation of rates in London. No doubt nine-tenths of the Welsh Members were in favour of that Bill; and if the Government backed up the Home Secretary's definition of a non-controversial measure, there was no guarantee whatever that the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Evicted Tenants Bill would not be brought on before the adjournment for the holidays. If the London Bill was treated as a non-controversial Bill, the Welsh Members, if they were true to the interests of the Principality, would insist upon having their Bill dealt with in the same way. The House was too jaded to deal 1949 with any but absolutely non-controversial Bills. What they had to guard against was bad work, and to avoid that they must avoid overtaxing the energies of Members. But if the principle laid down by the Home Secretary were to prevail, they would have a large number of Bills dealt with, and the Members would be at work until the commencement of the Sittings in November. They had in Supply alone—and they should certainly discuss the principal Votes—sufficient work to occupy their attention till the end of September. That being so, the Government, in their own interest, ought not to seek to protract the Sitting. The Leader of the House had already retired from the scene. The only excuse he could plead was his age. His conduct ought not to form a precedent, and they ought to take note of the fact that the man who passed stringent measures of this kind himself ran away and took his holidays. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been in the House much during the Debates on the Homo Rule Bill, and he could now come in in comparative freshness to lead the House. The right hon. Gentleman had purposely abstained from the discussions of the Home Rule Bill, while the whole of the Opposition had been engaged conscientiously discharging their duties. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would throw over the Home Secretary, and would refuse to support the strange and utterly unconstitutional view propounded by the right hon. Gentleman, but would tell the House that in making his former statement it was not his intention to include the Equalisation of Rates Bill among the non-controversial measures.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not think it necessary to take any notice of the offensive personalities of the hon. Member. [Cries of "Oh!"] If he thinks it of advantage to the House or to the country to talk of the Prime Minister running away—[Cries of "Oh!"]—I must leave the House and the country to follow their own judgment of the good taste of the hon. Member. The House is accustomed to violations of good taste on the part of the hon. Member. [Cries of "Order!"] Well, that is my opinion, and I speak it quite freely. With regard to the question before the House, 1950 the Prime Minister made it quite clear what would be regarded as controversial business and dealt with before the Adjournment, and to that the Government adhere in absolute good faith. As to the remarks of the Home Secretary, I will remind the House how they were called forth. The London Members on this side of the House appealed to the Government to bring on the Equalisation of Rates Bill. That appeal was supported by London Members on the other side of the House, who declared that there was no opposition to the Bill. Well, the Home Secretary stated that if the measure was accepted by those concerned the Government would feel themselves at liberty, and would be perfectly ready, to treat it as a non-controversial Bill. He did not undertake to determine whether a question was controversial or not. I am not going to take it from the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) whether a measure is controversial or not, and I am not going to adopt the hon. Member's courteous invitation and "throw over" the Home Secretary. The good taste of that remark was in keeping with that of the hon. Member's whole speech. I intend to support the Home Secretary; and I say that if a Bill is found to be a controversial one, then the Government will not proceed with it. If the responsible Loaders of the Opposition state that any particular measure is controversial the Government will feel bound not to proceed with it. That was the principle on which the late Mr. Smith acted in regard to the question of the Mombasa Railway, when I thought it necessary to press upon the Government of the day that the matter was controversial. I will take an early opportunity of stating what Bills shall be proceeded with—probably some day this week—what Bills may be looked on as doubtful, and which ones cannot be proceeded with. The responsibility will then rest with the Leaders of the Opposition to take objection to Bills that they consider doubtful.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that he considers it right that the view of the Opposition as to what is or is not controversial matter should be considered as of vital importance in deciding what measures shall be proceeded with. I would remind the House of the statement of the Home 1951 Secretary, that a certain measure affecting London would be proceeded with as a non-controversial measure.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
What the Home Secretary said was that if the Bill was treated by the Opposition as a non-controversial measure the Government would be able to go on with it. ["No, no!"] Yes; ho said nothing but that. He asked the Opposition to state whether or not they consider it a controversial measure? But it is no use carrying on a controversy on this point. I have made a statement with regard to the intentions of the Government, and to that we adhere.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Home Secretary, as I understand, laid down a definition to the effect that if nine-tenths of those interested in the question were in favour of the Bill, it would be considered non-controversial. That appears to us on this side of the House to be an entirely new definition of what a non-controversial Bill should be. I had the honour of addressing the House previously, and I endeavoured to elicit from the Government whether they accepted the point I attempted to put—namely, that a measure was not controversial if both sides of the House agreed to its principle, but a number of important questions were contained in it raising controversy, which would require full discussion. I do not wish to impute motives to the Home Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I must say it appears to me that an attempt is being made to put on the Opposition the responsibility for the loss of this measure, and that the Government and their friends behind them are "fishing" for a declaration from the Opposition side that this Bill is controversial. If we on this side held the Bill to be controversial the Government would say—"We cannot proceed with it; it is on the Opposition, and not on the arrangements of the Government, that responsibility must rest for the non-success of the Bill."
§ An hon. MEMBER: The Bill is not controversial on our part.1952
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No; but several parties are necessary to a controversy. In this case, neither the Government nor the Opposition are parties to a controversy; but there are a number of different and clashing interests to be consulted, and they require that the Bill shall be examined with considerable care, in order that all the various parishes affected shall be able to bring forward arguments and evidence as to the fairness and equity of their case. In time past I have taken a very considerable share in the equalisation of the rates of the Metropolis. I am not fond of speaking of my past, but I am not sure whether there is any hon. Member in the House who has taken so distinct a step in advance in the equalisation of rates as I have done in former years; therefore, I cannot be under suspicion as to my view of the principle of the Bill. What I say is that this Bill is controversial in the sense of raising a number of controversies in various parts of the Metropolis, not in the least from the Conservative, or Radical, or Moderate, or Progressive point of view, but of being fair to all interests concerned; and though we might consent en masse to the view that the Bill should be passed or might be taken in hand during the remainder of the Session, surely our constituents would be entitled to say—"You have sacrificed our interests." At all events, we wish that the case of our constituents should be put at necessary length before the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Fisher) assents to the principle of the Bill; but he pointed out distinctly that there were parishes which would claim to be heard, and he instanced one particular parish. Well, under the circumstances, considering the date at which we have arrived, and that Supply has still to be got through, I am inclined myself to say that the House did not expect, and could not expect, after the declarations of the Government, that a Bill of this importance, containing so much detail, would be proceeded with during the remainder of this Session. I venture to think that the Government share this view themselves. We may have some sympathy for them. They have been very hard pressed by their supporters in regard to this Bill; but in making their general arrangements for the work of the Session they ought to 1953 have taken the probability of being hard pressed by their London supporters into account. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will think it impossible to proceed with the measure, looking at its importance and the interest taken in it in the Metropolis; but I hold that the responsibility for not dealing with it does not rest with the Opposition, but with the distinct claims of the parishes concerned not to have the Hill passed without an opportunity of being heard. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will look at the Debates which have taken place in past times on Bills of this description, they will see that they have always required careful examination. When the proper time comes we on this side of the House shall be prepared to give the Hill every attention. We did not oppose it on Second Reading; but the President of the Local Government Hoard will admit that there are questions of principle involved in it. It is too much to ask us to discuss it at the period of the Session we have reached. I noticed that the Chief Secretary for Ireland promised that the Irish Bill to which his attention was called should be one of the first measures dealt with next Session. Well, if the Government are anxious to pass this measure dealing with equalisation of rates in London, why do not they give a similar promise with regard to it?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I have not heard the declaration that you will put it in the forefront of your legislation next Session.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then, let hon. Members from London be content with that. When the time comes for considering the Hill I am sure there will not be the slightest desire on the part of anyone on this side of the House to delay it. I may say I hope now hon. Gentlemen opposite will see that ratepayers' questions are not those of owners of property—as they contended they were when holding mo up to odium for relieving the rates. The Government seem to have been educated by the London Members into a knowledge of 1954 the fact that the rating question in London is really a question for the ratepayers. We on this side of the House have every sympathy with the ratepayers of London; and when the proper time comes we shall be ready to assist the Government in bringing this rating question to a reasonable conclusion.
§ MR. J. S. WALLACE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said that, as a London Member, he was glad to hear that this Bill would be placed in the forefront of the programme next Session. Being in close touch with the ratepayers of Loudon, he could assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, though they were delighted with the passage of the Home Rule Bill through the House, great dissatisfaction would be felt amongst them if this great claim of theirs was postponed indefinitely. Probably when the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed sympathy for an Equalisation of Rates Bill he was not Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, for that was one of the parishes which would have to pay largely towards the assistance of the poorer parishes. He was sorry that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite did not see their way to treat this measure as non-controversial. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Barrow) would be able to point out to his constituents the reason why the Bill had not been passed before the holidays.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the present discussion raised the question of the preference for financial business over various measures of legislation. Amongst those measures was the Madras and Bombay Army Bill, which, earlier in the evening, had had the special honour of being mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This Bill was strenuously opposed by two hon. Members—namely, the right hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Sir J. Fergusson) and himself. No doubt, if they had an opportunity it would be fully discussed; therefore, he submitted, with all respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this measure could not be considered as non-controversial. It must be placed in the category of highly contentious measures. The hon. Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart) had said that this question of the equalisation of rates in the Metropolis should be left to the 1955 Metropolitan Members solely; but that was a claim in which many Members could not acquiesce. For instance, he (Sir R. Temple) was not a Metropolitan Member; but a large portion of his time was devoted to the service of the ratepayers of Loudon, and he claimed an absolute right to discuss the Bill.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he remembered the occasion referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when that right hon. Gentleman, on the ground that the question was contentious, objected to the discussion of the subject of the Mombasa Railway. He did not think the whole history of Parliament disclosed a case in which a right hon. Gentleman, who had himself held Office, had taken a more severe advantage of a pledge given by a Government. He (Sir F. S. Powell) had deeply regretted the right hon. Gentleman's course at that time, as he had considered it opposed to the interests of humanity. What had happened since that unhappy evening fully proved that the proposal of the then Government was conceived in the interest of freedom, and of the liberty of the slave, and that the course adopted favoured bondage. He therefore felt, with this example before them, that they were entitled to keep the Government most strictly to their pledge. He hoped the Government would make an effort to pass the Bill dealing with Statute Law Revision. It was only objected to in a form which he did not think commended itself to the House, and which he did not believe to be in accordance with the Rules of the House. He trusted that the Government would overbear that opposition, and would take such steps as would bring about a reprint of the Statutes, so as to bring down the revision to the latest possible date. With regard to the Bill for equalising the rates in the Metropolis, he had been for more than 30 years a ratepayer in London, and for eight years he had been an active member of the Paddington Vestry. He agreed with the Bill in principle, but not with all its details; and he held that other Members from the Provinces, with himself, were fully entitled to speak on the subject. It was a matter full of difficulties and complexities, as had been exemplified in the case of Liverpool. That town, which was divided into many parishes, 1956 had attempted the equalisation of rates, but it had utterly failed up to the present. One figure in the Bill would show how difficult was the problem. A rate of 6d. in the £1 produced an enormous sum—no less than—
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
said, he was aware of the Rules of the House, but he was endeavouring to show that the Bill was complex, and could not be regarded as non-contentious. He wished to give one or two details to show—
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. Member can refer to the Bill in the ordinary way, but he cannot go into details.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
said, that without mentioning figures—["Oh!"] He would not be extinguished in his remarks by hon. Members opposite, however virulent and bitter they might be in opposition to him. The measure bristled with details. A small addition to the rates amounted to an enormous figure and as different views were held upon many of the details, the Bill could not be considered non-contentious. According to the text of the Bill, it was to come into operation on the 30th September, 1893. Clearly that would be before the consideration of the Bill could be completed. This circumstance proved that the Bill could not be regarded as non-contentious, because some discussion constantly arose as to the commencement of a Bill.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) had said the London Members had neglected the interests of London; and the hon. Member for South St. Pancras had adopted the same tone when he taunted them with giving a steady support to the Government during the progress of the Home Rule Bill. Well, in giving that support to the Government the London Members had only redeemed the pledges they had given to their constituents. They were now, in turn, asking the Government to redeem the pledges they had given to the London Members. It was significant that the only Loudon Member who had raised any objection to proceeding with this Bill was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square 1957 (Mr. Goschen), a district in the West where the rates were only about half as much as those paid by the constituency he (Mr. Pickersgill) had the honour to represent in the East End. The district the right hon. Gentleman represented would no doubt be hard hit by the Bill—
§ An hon. MEMBER: Then it is controversial.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
There was some difference of opinion as to what the Home Secretary had said. Well, he (Mr. Pickersgill) had been present all the evening listening attentively, and he had certainly understood the Home Secretary to say that if nine-tenths of the persons interested were agreed on a Bill, he should not regard it as controversial. That declaration, of course, was made with regard to this particular Bill. There were some measures which, although only concerning one portion of the country, would be very far-reaching in effect—the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, for instance, which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for Preston. But obviously the Welsh Disestablishment Bill did not rest on the same footing as the Equalisation of Rates Bill. The latter began and ended in London. Many Provincial Members might be personally interested in the Rating Bill through living in Loudon; but hon. Members did not come there to press their own individual interests on the attention of the country. All the Members who represented London, save the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, wore in favour of the Bill. ["No, no!"] Well, everyone who had spoken supported it. If there were London Members present who were opposed to the measure, he challenged them to get up in their places and say so. If they were not in favour of the Bill, at any rate the constituents who had sent them there were in favour of it. The Bill, as he had said, affected London only. Certain districts were paying towards common sanitary objects which equally concerned all the districts.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
asked if the hon. Member was not out of Order in going into the details of the Bill?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
said, he would merely point out that the object of the Bill was to equalise all over the Metropolis burdens which now fell with crushing weight on the East End. The character of the Bill distinguished it from every other measure before the House this Session. It was a Resolution of the House passed nemine contradicente. Moreover, it stood on the Order Book unopposed. Nobody—not even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's—had a word to say against the principle of the measure. Why on earth, then, could it not be read a second time to-night? This was not a subject which should be made a matter of arrangement between the two Front Benches. London Members on both sides of the House were deeply interested in the question. Most of them were not satisfied with the promise made for next Session. The pledge given by the Government was for this Session. London Members had been charged with neglecting the interests of Loudon; but why had they quietly lain by? It was because they relied on the pledge they had from the Government that they would, at any rate, take the judgment of the House upon it this Session. If the Government would make a strenuous effort to pass the Bill, or if they would carry it even to a Second Reading, if would go a great way towards redeeming the pledges they had given. It was desirable to see who were the friends of the Bill and who were its enemies. Let them, therefore, take the Second Reading to-night.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said, that a short time ago the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) had expressed great regret that the Local Veto Bill was not included in the programme for the Autumn Sitting. He (Sir W. Lawson) was very glad to hear that, for he attended a meeting with the hon. Member some months ago, when he said he would vote against the Bill unless it were extended to Ireland. He was glad to find that the hon. Gentleman was now more enthusiastic in favour of the measure; and he was sure many persons outside the House would be much more grieved than the hon. Member when they read to-morrow that the Bill was not to be included in the Government 1959 programme. He thought it might very well have been included. They had been liscussing for the last hour or two the meaning of the word "controversial," and he thought he might claim that the Local Veto Bill was a non-contentious measure. [Cries of"No, no!"] He meant that it was a simple Bill to carry out the policy of our present law. As everyone knew, we had rules and regulations of a very elaborate kind for protecting people from the liquor traffic; and this Bill was nothing more nor less than a measure for making efficient the present system. No simpler, no more just Bill had ever been introduced in that House. Why did he say the Government ought to have gone on with it? The hon. Member who had just spoken talked about a Resolution of the House on which the Equalisation of Rates Bill was based. One Resolution! Why, he (Sir W. Lawson) had got three. Thrice had that House, in former Parliaments, passed a Resolution that the policy embodied in the Local Veto Bill ought to be carried out; and the last time, nearly 10 years ago, the House declared that it was urgent. Another reason why the Government should have gone on with the Bill was the fact that they won the General Election much by that cry. [An hon. MEMBER: Home Rule!] Somebody said "Home Rule"; but the Local Veto Bill was just as good, and the Government would find that out by-and-bye. Let them look at the claims of the Bill. It was brought in on the 27th of February, and it excited more interest throughout the length and breadth of the land than many a Bill in the Government programme. [Cheers.] He was glad to hear the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for it showed that they had begun to understand this question at last. They talked about Petitions, but what Petitions had there been for any other Government Bill as compared with this? Very nearly 10,000 had been presented. [An hon. MBMBER: Home Rule!] Home Rule! There were no Petitions at all for Home Rule. Ten thousand Petitions were presented for the Veto Bill, and somewhere about half that number were signed officially on behalf of Public Bodies representing largo numbers of people. They had just heard shrieks for London; but the London County Council signed 1960 a Petition in favour of this very Bill, and, therefore, it was just as pressing for London as the Equalisation of Rates Bill. Local Bodies throughout the country, Boards of Guardians, and so forth, had petitioned for the Bill; and the hon. Member for South Belfast was quite right when ho mentioned the wonderful demonstration in London. People laughed at demonstrations, but they were of some value; and everybody admitted —at any rate the police admitted—that never in the history of London had there been such a demonstration as was held in favour of the Local Veto Bill. He maintained that he had made out a case of urgency for the measure. In what way was the Bill met when the right hon. Gentleman brought it in? There was not much argument against it, for Members could not allege that the people had not a right to say whether they wanted public-houses or not. The whole cry against the Bill was that it was brought in as a sham, and was not intended to pass. [Cheers.] He heard cheers from hon. Members opposite, and, no doubt, they had their little triumph. It was hotter to be frank. He admitted that they had a very plausible case for saying that. After the defeat they had met with this Session, it was well, perhaps, that they should have something to cheer at. But he did not echo the charge at all—ho only said it looked like it. He did not say that Her Majesty's Government brought in the Bill with the intention of deluding the people. He did not wish to revile on this occasion, because he did not sec any good in reviling people. He had done what he could with the Government. He had warned them over and over again, and his conscience was clear. Of course, he quite admitted that they had honestly and truly set themselves to see which measures it was most desirable, under the circumstances, to put forward, and they naturally thought that one Bill was more likely to be carried than another, so that the exigencies of time threw them in the course which they had taken. Still, he thought that they had made a great mistake. The House spent its time in legislating for many matters which were of much less importance than others which they never discussed at all. He often recollected an expression used by their 1961 Chaplain, when in one of his sermons he remarked that politicians wore in the habit of pursuing the infinitely little, while with the great misery, crime, and wretchedness surging around they made no attempt to deal, He could not lot this occasion pass without expressing on behalf of hundreds and thousands of people out-of-doors the great regret which they would experience when they heard of the postponement of this measure. He told his right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench honestly that they had taken a step which would considerably shake the confidence of the country in them. Yet he believed they had been driven to this course solely against their will. [Laughter]It was all very well to laugh, but why did they bring in the Bill? They brought in the Bill at the demand of public opinion, and that was what Governments existed for. All Governments existed in this country to carry out the dictates of public opinion. The Government attempted to do so in this case, and, as he had said, he was quite sure they had only been driven into this course because time was against them. He hoped, however, that before the Debate closed they would say that they were resolved that early next Session they would bring in the Bill again, and he hoped that they would do so with more satisfactory results than had been attained this Session.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he thought the hon. Baronet had correctly summed up what was the result of the Session—that it was an absolute and complete disappointment. He was grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his later interpretation, and ho thought it would be more satisfactory to hon. Members on that side of the House; but he would also beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider that the question of what Bills were to be taken by the Government during the period before the Adjournment for the holidays was not a question that ought to be decided by negotiations between a group of Members sitting on one side of the House and the Government, but a question on which the Government ought to be frank with the House as a body; and no Government should be more frank than the present Government, considering the position they occupied at the present moment. The Government were asking 1962 Members to come back for an Autumn Sitting after a protracted Summer Session, in order to carry a programme which, owing to their own indiscretion, they had utterly failed in during the present Session. And, further than that, the Government now proposed a most stringent Resolution under which the Business of the country—that was to say, the Business of Supply—was to be discussed by hon. Gentlemen who were sent here for the purpose. Under these circumstances, the Government should take into consideration the wishes of the House at large, and not commit themselves to any knot, of hon. Members who might be specially interested in one measure as against other measures in the House. He listened with a great deal of sympathy to the bitter cry that came from the Loudon Members. He could recollect a very important speech made by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, in which he told his audience that when Home Rule for Ireland was disposed of Home Rule for London would be proceeded with; and ho understood that the hon. Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart) and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Barrow) felt themselves in a precarious situation; but, because the seats of these hon. Gentlemen were unsafe, that was no reason why other hon. Members were to be kept there longer than was absolutely necessary to complete the Supply necessary for the service of the country. He would ask the Government to maintain a firm position on this question, and resist the appeals made to them by the various disorganised sections of their own followers; because if they yielded to one section they would inevitably be torn to pieces by the irritated followers of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson) or hon. Members from Wales, who had not shown any great consideration of late for the Government. Therefore, in the interests of the preservation of the Government itself, it seemed to be extremely important at the present moment to resist the appeals of the hon. Member for Bermoudsey (Mr. Barrow) and the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson).
§ MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
said, he thought that if the Government were 1963 considering how best to prolong their existence, they were hardly likely to look for advice to the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Macartney), who had been so free with his advice, and who said it was only the continued existence of the Government that he desired. To-night the Government had had the most remarkable testimony to the Newcastle Programme that it was possible for any Administration to desire. They had had one Member after another getting up, taking one item or another from the Newcastle Programme, and pressing that on the Administration as being the one desire of his constituents. When discussing the Home Rule Bill they heard that the country was not in favour of it, and they were told by the Opposition that it was carried simply by the other items of the Newcastle Programme. What was the position now? For the present, at any rate, that House had done with Home Rule, and they were about to attack the Newcastle Programme. That being so, the contention of the Conservative Party was correct, that the country wanted the Newcastle Programme; and, as they all desired to carry out the will of the country, they ought to assist the Government in making the best selection from the Newcastle Programme. If the Liberal majority was due to the promise of the Local Veto Bill, why should not the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth press it upon the Government? Why should not London Members press the Equalisation of Rates Bill? Personally, in various parts of the country he had spoken in favour of the Loudon Programme. [Lattghter.] Yes; the principle of the Liberal Party was to deal with these topics one by one. He confessed that, having observed what had been going on to-night, he had been led to the conclusion that what the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) said in one of his recent speeches was true, and it was this —that though the Government might get an Autumn Session, the Conservative Party would not allow them to pass any of their measures. He had a suspicion that it was not a question of what measure came first, but that there was not an item in the Newcastle Programme that the Conservative Party would not attack and be glad to defeat; therefore 1964 they were under the impression they had been spending a considerable number of hours upon a discussion that did not seem to be of such vital importance that it would be necessary to take all the time and prevent them getting on with Supply. He believed there was a general feeling that the time had come when some of them should have a little holiday. [Cries of "No; no holiday!"] If hon. Members wished to sit on for a month or two, he should not be discontented. He would stay with them, because he found London exceedingly enjoyable during the summer months. But he would suggest that they had pretty well threshed out the Motion before the House; and as he could see that the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) and the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) were yearning to get to the Estimates, he hoped they might now come to a decision.
§ SIR M. STEWART (Kircudbright)
said, it appeared to him that his own country of Scotland had been severely neglected. Although many promises were made, not only at the General Election, but long before and since, nothing had been done for Scotland. On that side of the House they were not in favour of drastic measures; but there were certain measures they thought it desirable to pass into law, as they were useful. Some of them thought that the Fisheries Bill, which was not really contested, would have been proceeded with at an earlier stage of the Session and carried into law; and, speaking for that part of Scotland from which he came and represented, he said there were several Amendments promised to be introduced into the Bill relating to the Solway Firth, which would have given satisfaction to many of the supporters of the right hon. Gentle man. But Scotland had been denied the very smallest amount of legislation; they had had nothing passed; and all that had been done had been an endeavour to keep together a homogeneous Party in order to satisfy them that the Government were in earnest about something. He supposed next Session would possibly be a Scotch Session. He did not know whether they would have Home Rule again—
§ MR. S. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
I rise to Order. Is the hon. Member in 1965 Order in referring to next Session as a Scotch Session?
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
I cannot say he is out of Order in referring to the wishes of Scotland, and suggesting that a Scotch Bill should be included. The Amendment has relation to Financial Business, and the hon. Member must confine himself to that.
§ SIR M. STEWART
said that Wales had also been neglected, and he dared say the Welsh Members would try their hands on the Government; and he hoped they liked and appreciated the letters the Prime Minister sent them from time to time. If his constituents had been so treated they would not have been so subservient. They had passed through a most extraordinary period of doing nothing, and they were now to be kept there some time longer, and then to come back again in November. If the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson) had insisted on his fair quota in this year's proceedings, no doubt he could have squeezed something out of the Government; but the hon. Member and his friends, though they made such great talk in the country, came there and sat dumb on their Benches. If the great Temperance Party were satisfied with their Leaders in that House they might as well ignore the matter. There were questions bearing on the social condition of the people which might and ought to have been brought in and discussed some mouths ago. The Employers' Liability Bill ought to have been discussed and carried some mouths earlier; and the Parish Councils Bill did not affect the people in the North at all; and yet hon. Members were to be brought back in November and December to discuss those measures merely to please the caprice of the Prime Minister and his Colleagues. The London Programme did not concern everybody equally; but if some London Members were so anxious for it, why had they not brought it on before? Instead of that they sat dumb, being squared by the Government, and nothing was done. The country was thoroughly dissatisfied with what had already taken place this Session, and they would be more dissatisfied when they heard the result of this Debate. The great friends and allies of the Government were not there to-night. They had gone to Ireland; and would they 1966 come back for the Autumn Sitting? Were they squared—
§ SIR M. STEWART
said, he would bow to the ruling of the Chair, having expressed some of the things he felt deeply upon.
§ *MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said, before the Division was taken on this Amendment he desired to offer his respectful sympathy to the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division (Sir W. Lawson), who took his place among other persons who had been deluded and tricked and taken in by Her Majesty's Government. It was painful to him to witness and to listen to the pathetic speech of the hon. Baronet, who alluded to the magnificent demonstration that was got up in London by himself and others in favour of the Direct Veto Bill; but, notwithstanding that demonstration, he was afraid that many people would go about London saying that the Direct Veto Bill was never meant to be anything but a sham, which had amply justified its right hon. author. He himself had received and presented to that House many Petitions in favour of that Bill, and with every one of them he had received a request that he would in this Session vote for that remarkable measure. To each of these applications he had always replied that having made a strict—
§ *MR. DARLING
said, he admitted that he had fallen—and he was indebted to the Chair for pointing it out—into a slight error. He was regarding this Bill as Government Business, and he admitted it was nothing of the kind. The Amendment distinguished between what was Government Business and what was not; and he reluctantly had to admit this Bill did not come within one-half of the category. He was further misled by following the remarks that were permitted to be made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson), who was allowed to allude to every topic on which he (Mr. Darling) was addressing the House.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 92.—(Division List, No. 287.)
§ Main Question put accordingly.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 162; Noes 95.—(Division List, No. 288.)
§ Resolved, That for the remainder of the Session (unless the House otherwise order) the House do meet on Friday at Three of the clock. That Standing Order II be suspended, and the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to every day of the week, and that the Question on any Motion appointing a Saturday Sitting be put forthwith.
§ That, until the adjournment for the Autumn holidays, Government Business, and the appointment thereof, may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House, except on Wednesday, and that, before One o'clock a.m., no dilatory Motion be moved thereon except by a Minister of the Crown.