§ Unless the House otherwise direct—
- (a) Until Easter Government Business shall have precedence at every sitting except the sitting on Wednesday and the sitting on Friday; and at the sitting on Wednesday Notices of Motions and Public Bills, other than Government Bins, shall have precedence of Government Business, and Notices of Motions shall have precedence of the Orders of the Day;
- (b) After Easter Government Business shall have precedence at all sittings, except the sittings on the first, second, third and fourth Fridays after Easter Day and the sittings on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth Fridays after Whit Sunday;
- (c) At the sittings on Wednesday, when Government Business has not precedence, Mr. Speaker shall at half-past seven of the clock, if the first Motion (other than a Motion for the Adjournment of the House made after the commencement of public business) has not been disposed of, proceed to interrupt the proceedings thereon and
522 such business shall be disposed of as if it were business interupted at eleven o'clock under Standing Order No. 1.
- (d) At the sittings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the House will first proceed with Unopposed Private Business, Petitions, Motions for unopposed returns, and leave of absence to Members, and giving Notices of Motions.
§ Captain BOURNE
There is one short comment I want to make on this proposal to amend the Standing Orders. In moving the first Motion, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that he thought it would be for the convenience of Members generally. In so far as we have one day for Private Members' Motions and the business is interrupted on that day at 7.30, I am perfectly certain he is right, but there is one thing as to which I do not know for certain whether this new Standing Order will be for our convenience. As hon. Members who have sat in this House for a few years are aware, Government time between the opening of the Session and Easter is very largely taken up with necessary financial and other business which must be got through. We must move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair three or four times before the 31st March. We must deal with Supplementary Estimates. We must also have Votes on Account on most of the fighting Services and on the Civil Service, and also before Easter, as a normal rule, pass the Army Annual Bill, with the result that there is very little time left indeed for Government Bills to receive a Second Reading.
As the Prime Minister stated, and I think everybody is agreed, this new Standing Order gives a little more time to private Members, but what I am afraid of is, that this time is given at the expense of Government time before Easter. It will make it very difficult indeed for the Government to get the Second Reading of any important Bills before Easter, and that means that such Bills cannot be sent to the Standing Committees upstairs until later in the Session. Those of us who serve on Standing Committees know how difficult it is in July to get important Measures through in order that they may be reported to the House before the Summer Recess. I do not know 523 whether, in the allocation of the available time for Government business and Private Members' business, if Private Members' business had been extended a little longer to Whitsuntide, Government business would be facilitated. I have no desire to oppose the Standing Order, because I realise the great advantage to the House, but I urge on all those who are responsible to try to permit one or two of the most important Government Measures to receive a Second Reading before Easter, so that the Committees upstairs may be able to consider them without being hustled, and may give full time to their consideration. What is equally important is that these Bills should go to another place in ample time to allow it to fulfil its functions as a revising Chamber.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
If I remember correctly, this Amendment raises a point on which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) found himself unable to agree with the majority of the Committee. I should like to know whether his point has been met, because I understand he drew a distinction between any new legislation which was controversial, and that which was non-controversial in private Members' Bills. The point is important, and I am not quite clear as to why the Noble Lord disagreed with his colleagues, or whether the Amendment on the Order Paper is a compromise which will effect the view which the Noble Lord expressed in Committee. I should like to have a word from some Member of the Committee as to the distinction between these two classes of Bills, and the effect of the proposed Standing Order.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
In the absence of the Noble Lord, perhaps I may be allowed as a Member of the Committee to say a few words. I do not think that the difference between the Noble Lord and the other Members of the Committee at all affects the Motion now before the House. I do not know how far it is the custom to reveal what takes place in a Committee of that sort, but I do not think I am breaking any confidence in saying that the difference between the Noble Lord and the other Members of the Committee was on the question mentioned by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), namely, that where Bills 524 were non-controversial they should have precedence when they came down to this House for the later stages. We considered that point and, although I do not think it would be wise for me to go into the reasons, we came to the conclusion that the proposal which the Noble Lord made, although possibly in some ways desirable, was not practicable, and consequently we did not include it in the recommendations which we made to the House.
§ Resolved, "That this Order be a Standing Order of the House."