§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Philip Snowden)
It will be remembered that last night, in the brief discussion which took place with regard to the Amendments to Clause 19, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) pointed out the difficulty of proceeding with the discussion of Clause 19, and mentioned that a considerable number of Amendments had not appeared on the Paper in time for discussion, and I promised to take that matter into consideration. I have done so, and I realise that it would be quite impossible to have a discussion of the Clause in the absence of the Government Amendments. Therefore, I place myself in the hands of the Opposition as to the procedure we should take.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I might withdraw Clause 19 and bring it forward as an amended new Clause. There is another alternative, and that is to postpone the consideration of Clause 19 until the end of the Committee stage. There is very little difference between these two suggestions. If the Clause were postponed, or if we were to bring forward a new Clause, it would really come in at the same point. I do not know that it would make any difference at all as to the amount of time available to the Opposition for the discussion of the amended Clause. However, I am prepared to take either of those two courses, and take the one which commends itself to the Opposition. I suggest that we should postpone the consideration of Clause 19 until we have reached Clause 37.
I have not accepted any Motion to postpone the Clause, because, if I accepted such a Motion now, it could not be debated at all. If I interpret aright the wish of the Committee, it is desirable that an 1632 opportunity should be given to ascertain the precise position in which it stands in relation to this Clause.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
I wish to raise a point of Order. I think it would be better to have the Motion negatived rather than postponed. If you, Mr. Dunnico, will allow me I would like to put the point that, whereas there is no difference from the point of view of the Government as between postponement and withdrawal of the Clause there is a difference because under the Rules of the House we cannot debate either the merits of the Amendments or the Clause on this Motion. May I call attention to a precedent which was set in 1918. On the 30th October, 1918, in Committee on the Tithe Bill, a Motion was made to postpone Clause 1, on which a discussion was desired, but my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean), who was then Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, pointed out to the Committee that possibly there was an alternative. These were his words:With regard to the point made by the hon. Member (Sir F. Flannery) as to a general discussion arising on the Motion, the discussion, if permitted, would be limited solely to the reasons for postponing the consideration of the Clause, and it could not touch the merits of the matter. There is a way open, of course, in Committee, which would provide for the discussion of the alternative scheme, and that would be to negative Clause 1."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1918; col. 1504, Vol. 110.]I suggest for the consideration of the Committee that, seeing that there are so many Amendments which are not covered by the statement last night, and so many issues that might be discussed with a view to getting an indication of the mind of the Government with regard to them, it would be much more convenient from the point of view of the Committee, and would not at all harm the progress of the Bill, but, indeed, might facilitate it, to negative the Clause now, under your Ruling, instead of postponing it.
The Committee must understand that this is not a point of Order on which I have to decide. It has been decided by the Guillotine Motion. If a Motion to postpone the Clause were proposed, I should have no option but to accept it without debate. I feel, however, that it is the general wish of the Committee that it 1633 should not be deprived of at least an expression of opinion. That is why, rather against the customary Rules of Order, I am allowing this strictly limited discussion. I assume that I have the assent of the Committee; otherwise, I could not permit it.
There is one point of difference between the two alternatives which the right hon. Gentleman suggested. It is true that in either case the discussion, whether of the postponed Clause or of the new Clause, would come on the same day, namely, on the Ninth Allotted Day; but, as I understand the matter, if the Clause is postponed, it would come into the first half of that day, because that is one of those days which are divided into two sections.
I understand that, if the Clause is postponed, it will follow Clause 37, after 7.30 on that allotted day, and the Guillotine does not fall until 10.30 on the following day.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, "That consideration of Clause 19 be postponed until after the consideration of Clause 37."
§ Question put, and agreed to.