§ 3.46 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move:That when an Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Parliament Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, notwithstanding that Notice of an Instruction has been given, and on the Committee stage of that Bill the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill, without Amendment, to the House without putting any other Question, and the Question so put shall be decided without Amendment or Debate.In the course of moving this Motion I do not intend to deal with the merits of the Bill, but with the procedure which we are asking the House to adopt. This procedure flows from the Parliament Act, 1911, and as I understand that that is now accepted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite as a very wise piece of legislation I hope that the proceedings on this Motion may not be too prolonged. I think it is as well, however, that I should explain to the House the precedents that exist by which we have been guided and the reason for choosing, of the two alternatives, the one that we have taken.
Section 2 of the Parliament Act, 1911, provides that where a Bill other than a Money Bill has been passed three times by this House and presented to the Lords within a month of the end of the third Session and is not then passed by them it shall become law. But there are certain obligations placed upon you, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the process, which makes it necessary for us to assure you that the Bill is the same when it leaves this House on the later occasions as it was when it was first passed by the House; and you have to give a certificate, when the Bill is presented to His Majesty for assent in the end, that the provisions of the Section have been duly complied with.
The issue that arises, therefore, is, What is the same Bill? For it is quite clear that there will have to be certain technical alterations with regard to dates that occur in the Bill. The provision of the Act of 1911, Section 2 (4) is thatA Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent up to the House of Lords in the preceding Session if, when it is sent up to the House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing 708 to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent any amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding Session, and any amendments which are certified by the Speaker to have been made by the House of Lords in the third session and agreed to by the House of Commons shall be inserted in the Bill as presented for Royal Assent in pursuance of this section:Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the second or third session, suggest any further amendments without inserting the amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and, if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.I have recited that Subsection at some length because there has been some comment in the Press that by the procedure we are adopting we have in fact prevented suggestions being made from this House. That is not so. The precedents of both 1913 and 1914 have established that the proper method for making suggestions is for hon. Members, possibly the Government, but any hon. Member of the House to place on the Order Paper an Amendment which is suggested; and in fact to the Welsh Church Bill suggestions were tabled.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
There was a three hours' Debate on that occasion.
§ Mr. Ede
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has looked up the precedent. If so, I am quite certain that he will confirm what I am now saying. These suggestions were put forward; but they are not a stage of the Bill. They are taken after a Motion such as this has been carried, but before the Third Reading, so that the House shall know when it votes on the Third Reading what is the Bill as printed and the suggestions which the House indicate that they would be willing to accept as amendments if they were acceptable to another place. In fact, on this occasion, no suggestions have been tabled and, therefore, the Government have not in any way precluded, and, in fact, cannot preclude, any suggestions which might have been tabled from being discussed.
In 1912, the House of Lords declined to pass the Government of Ireland Bill, 709 the Welsh Church Bill and the Temperance (Scotland) Bill. Quite obviously their attitude towards the various parts of the United Kingdom was quite impartial; there was no rigid preference about it. What we called in those days the Celtic fringes had it in the neck. In 1913, the Government of Ireland Bill was given a Second Reading in the House of Commons on 10th June after a two-day Debate, and the Welsh Church Bill and the Temperance (Scotland) Bill were given Second Readings after two days' and one day's Debate respectively. On 23rd June, 1913, the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Asquith, moved a Procedure Motion. I will, if the House desires, read the Motion, but I think that I can sufficiently paraphrase it. It was, of course, a more complicated Motion than this because it had to make arrangements for the procedure on the Financial Resolution as well as on the substance of the Bill. It provided, very much as this does, that there should be a formalised Committee stage, and both the Committee and Report stages of the Financial Resolution were to be formalised.
In moving his Motion, Mr. Asquith referred to the substantial majorities which the three Bills had received on Second Reading in the House of Commons, saying that they still had the strong support of the House of Commons so far as the principle of each Bill was concerned. He then pointed out that the Parliament Act, 1911, required the Bill in subsequent Sessions to be identical with the Bill that passed the House in the first Session, and that it would be a waste of Parliamentary time to propose Amendments which ex hypothesi could not be adopted without destroying the identity of the Bill. Finally, he referred to the suggestions procedure as the means by which certain Amendments could be made, but explained that this would have to be outside the procedure relating to the Bill itself.
The House of Lords, later in the same year, declined to give Second Readings to the Government of Ireland Bill or the Welsh Church Bill. They passed the Temperance (Scotland) Bill with Amendments, and sent it back to the Commons for agreement. At one stage, the Government refused to consider the Lords' Amendments and proposed simply to 710 ignore them. There is a discussion about this procedure in the Lords Debates for 7th March, 1913. Eventually, however, agreement was reached between the two Houses, and the Temperance (Scotland) Bill passed into law. I am not quite sure what its effect was at the time. Its extraordinary effect in the hotel in which I was staying was that the bar closed at 9 in the evening, but residents could get a drink up to 10, but not later. It did not affect me as a teetotaler, but it did save me money standing rounds of drinks to others.
In addition to the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Bill, the Government had difficulties with the Lords in 1913 about the Plural Voting Bill. In the Session of 1914, the Government of Ireland Bill was given a Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th April, 1914, after a five days' Debate. The Welsh Church Bill was given a Second Reading on 21st April after a two days' Debate, and the Plural Voting Bill was given a Second Reading after a one-day Debate on 27th April.
On 12th May, 1914, the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, moved a Procedure Motion. I think that I had better read, at any rate, the first part of the Motion because this is the model we are following:That on the Committee stage of the Government of Ireland Bill and the Established Church (Wales) Bill and the Plural Voting Bill the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill, without Amendment, to the House without putting any other Question, and the Question so put shall be decided without Amendment or Debate, and when an Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on any of those Bills, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, notwithstanding that notice of an Instruction has been given.In moving this Motion, Mr. Asquith drew attention to two small differences from the Procedure Motion in 1913. In the first place, it was not now proposed to allow any time for discussion at the Committee stage of the Financial Resolutions. As we are not involved in that, I do not think that I need deal further with it. In the second place, he said that the Government had committed an error in not cutting out discussion of any Instructions in 1913, and that was the reason for putting in that part of the Motion. The Lords did not formally reject the Government of Ireland Bill or the Welsh 711 Church Bill, but they declined to give them a Second Reading and both became law under the Parliament Act procedure. The Lords also declined to give a Second Reading to the Plural Voting Bill which came forward for the second time, but further action on that Bill was postponed by the war of 1914–18.
We are proposing the Motion that is on the Order Paper today. It is based on the 1914 precedent, subject to two points. As a result of consultation with the authorities of the House, the order in the Motion has been reversed to deal with what we believe is the chronological order of events; first with the action of Mr. Speaker, and then with the action of the Chairman of Ways and Means. The anomaly of the 1914 Resolution was that it first prescribed what the Chairman of Ways and Means was to do when the House went into Committee, and then went back and said what Mr. Speaker was to do when the House reached the stage of going into Committee. Secondly, of course, there is no Financial Resolution in connection with this Parliament Bill.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I do not understand—and perhaps other hon. Members do not either—the phrase:notwithstanding that Notice of an Instruction has been given.
§ Mr. Ede
As I understand the procedure of this House, it is open to an hon. Member to put down at some stage notice of an instruction to the Committee that they shall do this, that, or the other. It is more usually done now in connection with Private Bills, as an opportunity of raising a discussion on a Private Bill. If some corporation proposes a Clause to which certain hon. Members take objection it is not uncommon to see on the Order Paper a Motion that it be an Instruction to the Committee to omit, say, Clause 37 of the Bill.
Of course, we did not know until this morning whether there would be on the Order Paper an Instruction which Mr. Speaker might have had to call had not this safeguarding phrase appeared in the Motion. No suggestions have appeared, but I hope I have made it clear in what I said earlier—and I do not want unnecessarily to labour anything on this Motion—that had suggestions appeared it would 712 have been open to the Government to consider giving time for the consideration of suggestions. On 27th April, 1914, in answer to a Question, the Speaker of the day said that if no Standing Orders were passed applicable to suggestionsthey would come under the ordinary procedure applicable to all Resolutions. … They would be discussed as Resolutions, and there would be only one stage for them to go through."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1914: Vol. 61, c. 1348.]That is to say, should a suggestion be tabled, there is no First Reading, Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading with regard to it; it is just a Resolution to which, presumably, Amendments could be made. Finally, there would be the one Question put, "That this suggestion be approved by the House." There is no such suggestion on this occasion, and therefore the issue does not really arise. However, I think it is desirable that it should be stated that the Government accept the view that was put forward by Mr. Asquith and accepted by Mr. Speaker on these earlier occasions with regard to what the procedure should be.
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)
Is there still time before Third Reading to put down a Motion, or are we now in the position that we cannot put down a Motion at all?
§ Mr. Ede
It is not for me to deal with a point such as that. I am not saying whether there can be or not. Quite clearly it would be wrong of me to presume on an issue like that to say what the action of the Chair should be.
After the Division last night there is no doubt that the Bill now before the House has the support of a substantial majority of this House. It has been fully Debated in the Session which ended at the beginning of last week; it had a full day's Debate yesterday, and the House has evidently made up its mind that this Measure shall, if necessary under the procedure of the Parliament Act, become the law of the land. It is necessary that it shall be the same 713 Bill as that which was passed in the last Session. Any discussion in an attempt to amend its wording in Committee other than by the suggestion method would represent an attempt to thwart the declared will of the House. Therefore, I move this Motion which will formalise the Committee stage and thus ensure that if the Bill gets a Third Reading today it will be returned to another place in the same form as it was in when we sent it there last Session.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
On a point of Order. May I ask for your guidance, Sir, on one matter in connection with the right hon. Gentleman's speech? Would a manuscript suggestion be acceptable to the Chair at this time or later in today's proceedings before we come to the Third Reading?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think the Home Secretary made an error in referring to an Amendment. It could not be an Amendment; it would have to be notice of a Motion, and that would require to be put on the Order Paper. A manuscript Amendment could not be accepted for a Motion.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
It should have fallen to the lot of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) to reply to the Home Secretary. Unfortunately, owing to indisposition, he is unable to be present. I am afraid I cannot claim the deep knowledge of procedure which I think hon. Members on all sides will attribute to my right hon. and gallant Friend.
I must first congratulate the Lord President of the Council on his choice of the Home Secretary to move this Motion. The Home Secretary enjoys such a bland pedestrianism of manner that it very often conceals the enormity of the matter which he is putting before the House. Some who listened to him this afternoon must really have thought when he sat down that this was merely a minor matter, well buttressed by precedent, which we are discussing. But I think there is one thing which will bring home to hon. Members exactly what it is we are doing. The last Government Business which we transacted last night was to pass, I think without dissent, a Resolution that this Bill be committed to a 714 Committee of the Whole House. The first Government Business which we transact this afternoon is to say that that Committee when it meets shall not debate, that that Committee, not having debated, shall not divide, and that that Committee, not having either debated or divided, shall not amend. Well, legislative bodies which are allowed to exist but not to debate, to divide or to amend are, of course, well known in certain forms of constitution; but up till now they have, I am glad to say, been a rarity in our form of Parliamentary Government.
I do want to deal with the position, first as it arises under this particular Bill, and then as the action of the Government of today may set a precedent for other and quite different forms of legislation. The right hon. Gentleman gave a perfectly fair account of the methods open, not only to the Opposition but to any Member of the House, to suggest an alteration in a Bill which has been passed. He has, of course, made plain to the House the fact, which some people discussing this matter are not always aware of, that the authors of the 1911 Act had in their minds the possibility and, indeed, the desirability of Amendments sometimes being made, and provided a certain procedure for dealing with them. He has explained to us that that procedure consists, not in a Committee stage, but in a sort of intermediate stage between the Committee stage and the Third Reading when Motions can be moved.
With regard to this Bill, I will say at once that, having considered that procedure, we decided on this occasion not to make use of it. The precedents the right hon. Gentleman quoted dealt with long and complicated Bills to which Amendments might properly be moved which did not affect their general structure. For this short Bill it was possible to find only two Amendments on Committee stage, and up to yesterday we considered that both of these went so much to the root of the Bill that they were more easily discussed and more easily decided on the Second and Third Readings. I say "until yesterday," because after last night's Debate we might on one of these points have come to a different conclusion.
715 Of the two Amendments we moved on the previous occasion, one dealt with the period, but the period being the fundamental matter in dispute between us that Amendment is quite clearly covered by our whole opposition to the Bill. The second point on which we moved an Amendment was in regard to the retrospective character of the legislation. Up to yesterday we thought that that was also fundamental to the Bill as put before us. We had always believed that the object of the Bill was to pass the iron and steel Bill through the House, and that without this retrospective legislation it could not have been done. But, of course, we are learning, although perhaps it is more correct to say that we were told differently yesterday. We are told now that this Bill has nothing to do with the future prospects of the iron and steel proposals, and if we had known that before yesterday we should—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The right hon. Gentleman says that they knew only yesterday that that was the view of the Government and that therefore it was not until yesterday they thought the point worth questioning, but surely I am right in saying that the Lord President said it in his speech last Tuesday?
§ Mr. Stanley
That is perfectly true, but we on this side of the House never take anything the Lord President says quite seriously until he has said it twice. Be that as it may, we came to the conclusion that the two possible points upon which this Resolution procedure might be used, being fundamental to the Bill, were better dealt with—[Interruption.] I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has had his briefing and that I am not disturbing him in any way.
I would point out a very fundamental difference between the use of the Committee stage and the use of this Resolution procedure., If the Committee stage is not taken away, as it has been on this occasion, no one can prevent Members from introducing the Amendments they desire, and if the Committee passed an Amendment it would then be quite possible for the Government on Report stage to ask for its withdrawal on the understanding that they would 716 introduce a Motion in its place. Therefore, every one would have a chance of putting before the Committee the Amendments they desired to be carried, and this could be done in a way which would not involve the defeat of the Bill. If we rely, as we are told now that we must, on the Resolution procedure only, it will be understood that we are then completely in the hands of the Government. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say in one part of his speech that it was the Government and the Government alone who would decide whether time would be given for the discussion of any Motion we put down, and knowing this Government and other Governments, it is very doubtful whether time would be provided for Motions of which they did not approve. I think that for the sake of future procedure this is an extremely important point, and I. want to clear up what might appear to be a contradiction in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not desire any misunderstanding on this matter of precedent. It was Mr. Speaker in 1914 who said that as the Government had control of the greater part of the time of the House, the Government would probably be able to determine which suggestions should be discussed. Thus, the Government might find time for the discussion of a particular suggestion but not for others. If the Government did not choose to find time, Members would have to find that time for themselves.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, because that puts the point very plainly and underlines the very danger I was contemplating. I had thought that at one moment in the right hon. Gentleman's speech he had said the Government could not preclude discussion of these Motions. I was extremely relieved about that, because it seemed that the rights were safeguarded. But the quotation he has just given proves that that is not so, and that the Government intend to retain the right to pick and choose Motions in a way they would not be able to do on a Committee stage. It is for that reason that we object to this precedent of 1913–1914 being taken as one which is apparently always to be applicable to Bills under this procedure.
717 We object to a doctrine which will on all occasions deprive the Opposition of the only opportunity which they have of putting forward, without the kind permission of the Government, those matters which they want discussed and, if possible, accepted. We believe that occasions will arise in future where the deprivation of the Committee stage may be a real attempt on the liberty of this House and the rights of the Opposition, and it is for that reason that we shall certainly divide against the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has advanced.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I intervene for only a few moments because I think the Government have no option but to follow the precedent followed between 1911 and 1914, as the rights of this House have been limited by the Act of 1911. All this, however, shows the absurdity of the position we are compelled to take up today, when the liberties of this House are so restricted that we have to pass exactly the same Bill in exactly the same form in three separate Sessions lest we lose the chance of having the will of this House carried through. This is a hollow farce, and the time has come when the whole procedure should be altered. What an opportunity was missed when we all but came to agreement about the change that was necessary in connection with the Second Chamber. I can only express, once again, my deep regret that that was not carried through.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I should like to take up a few minutes to put on record what I am sure will be felt widely on these benches, namely, the extraordinary conduct on this matter of the Opposition, which I am completely unable to understand. It may well be that the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) is only trying to play his part in what he said he himself regarded as a petty party pantomime, in which case we can congratulate him on the contribution which he makes to our entertainment. I think we also owe him a little gratitude for one other thing. He has told the House how we should proceed if we wish the Opposition to take us seriously. He seems prepared to take seriously anything we say twice—
§ Mr. Silverman
That, of course, makes it more extraordinary than ever, because it now seems that while the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to take seriously what the Lord President says twice, he is not prepared to pay the same attention to what the House as a whole says twice. What is clear is that the House has said firmly, and with a large majority, on two occasions, that it wants this Bill and is determined to have it enacted and placed on the Statute Book. If only the right hon. Gentleman would pay the same courtesy to the House as a whole as he is prepared to pay the Lord President, we should be able to get on with our business and nobody would be worried by this Bill any more.
Until today I thought I understood the Opposition's attitude to this Bill and this Session. They were saying—and although I did not agree I saw the force of it and, from their point of view, it was not an unreasonable attitude—"The nation and the world are faced with very serious matters and the Government insist on wasting our time in discussing irrelevancies." That has been their objection to this Session and to this Bill. If that is their position why do they not accept the Motion, and let us get on with the real business they want discussed? Who is holding up the time of the House now? [HON. MEMBERS: "You are."] Right hon. and hon. Members opposite are making one of their normal mistakes. They are supposing that their opinions are universally shared, but they are not. I do not regard this Bill as an irrelevance. They do. I am doing my best to make a contribution to a serious constitutional issue. I may be doing it badly, but I am doing it as honestly as I can and to the best of my ability. I am exercising the right of every Member of this House, and I am entitled to do so because I regard the issue before the House as an important matter.
But it is very different with Members apposite, who have said throughout that this is not an important matter and that its discussion is only diverting our attention from matters they want to discuss. HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is such a thing as laughing and whistling 719 to keep up one's spirits. It is the Opposition themselves, by taking up this attitude, who are making nonsense of the attitude they took up last week, when they said, "Let us get rid of irrelevancies and on to the serious matters which the House ought to be discussing." They now insist on taking up time in preventing the House from getting on to those serious matters. There is a Prayer on the Order Paper and there is also the Adjournment. Surely, these are the important matters they ought to be discussing.
The Opposition have never pretended that their objections to this Bill are Committee points, and I understand that the right hon. Member for West Bristol does not say so now. The right hon. Gentleman said that last night we passed a Motion to commit this matter to a Committee of the whole House, and were now deciding that that Committee should not function. It is a fair debating point, but would it not be equally fair to say, on the other side, that the right hon. Gentleman is now pleading for a Committee stage that he does not want? Supposing we had a Committee stage, what would he do with it.
§ Mr. Silverman
In a normal Committee stage there is discussion of Clauses for the purpose of trying to alter and improve them. Otherwise, there is no point in the Committee. But there are no Amendments down for this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says he does not want to put Amendments down, that he does not want to alter the Bill, that it is bad and that no improvement which could be made in Committee would reconcile him to it.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
It is also a function of Members, during a Committee stage, to discuss a Clause and perhaps destroy it.
§ Mr. Silverman
Undoubtedly, but we are not departing from that power. If we pass this Motion the Committee will be entitled to vote on the Question that the Bill be reported unamended to the House, and will be entitled to defeat that Motion if it wishes. There is only one Clause in this Bill that matters. The other points about time and things like that are Committee points which the 720 right hon. Gentleman discarded in his argument. It is, therefore, quite clear that there is no point whatever in opposing this Motion except to play a part in a petty party pantomime, and for that the right hon. Gentleman is very well qualified. He does it very well indeed and we are all grateful to him.
He endeavoured to rescue the argument by saying, "I concede that there is no objection to this procedure on this occasion, but I am registering a protest against it and we are going to vote against it because on some other occasion unknown and unguessed at it may be a wrong procedure." We today are not deciding what we are going to do on some other occasion, but whether this procedure is applicable to this Bill in these circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it applicable and fair, right and proper and there is nothing else we can do. Yet he is going to lead his Party into the Division Lobby against it in order to demonstrate that they do not deal in irrelevancies. Some people may understand that, but I am quite certain that the country will not understand it. For my part it seems to me that the Government have no option whatever—
§ Mr. Silverman
I am afraid I do not understand the question. Perhaps the noble Lord will explain himself. I will gladly give way.
§ Earl Winterton
What right has the hon. Gentleman to express an opinion like some demigod as to what the opinion of the country is?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am just as well qualified to ascertain the opinion of my constituents as the noble Lord is to ascertain the opinion of his. I am immodest enough to say that I am more capable than he of drawing a correct inference from what 721 I see and from what I hear. I do not know what countries the noble Lord may have in mind. I am talking about the country that this House represents and which he represents so badly. The noble Lord has devoted a long experience of the House of Commons to being as offensive and as rude as he can be to everybody in it, and I tell him that if he still gets my vote, it is because I am one of the few Members left in the House who still have some affection for him. Therefore, I am still capable of being hurt a little sometimes by what he says, but I assure him I am almost unique in that and that if he continues his present behaviour a little longer he will lose his only supporter in the House. I repeat that it seems to me that the country will no longer understand the Opposition's behaviour. They will have an excuse for that, because the Opposition do not understand it themselves.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I hope the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) will excuse me if I do not go into his speech but come straight back to what was said before us by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who is the Leader of the Liberal Party. He said that this proposal converting the House into Committee will also prohibit the House doing something in Committee and that that is really an absurd position. We have got the whole of the procedure on this Parliament Act into a very difficult and very complicated position which is not at all worthy of the House of Commons. I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be wise in the interest of the House itself, apart from any controversy in connection with this Bill, to get that procedure a little clearer for the future.
I should also like to draw the attention of the House to that part of the Act with which the Home Secretary dealt, namely the proviso to Subsection (4). That gives the House of Commons a real opportunity of making a suggestion which can be put down in the form of a Motion. It may be accepted by another place and put into the Bill and then we can agree to it. If I may say so with great respect to the House, I am sorry that it has not found it possible to give more time between the Second Reading and the Third Reading of the 722 Bill so that we could have gone more closely into this Motion and its possible use. Perhaps, too, there might have been more time for negotiations.
Another thing about this Motion which is unfair to the House as a whole is that it must make ineffective a Motion under the Act unless the Government themselves find the time for it. In other words, unless it is agreed before and is already on the Order Paper, there will be no time for the House to discuss a Motion of this kind. Surely that is unfair, because there may well be occasion in connection with this Bill at a further stage when a considerable change of opinion might take place in either of the great parties. The foreign position is not so easy that we can really afford to keep this kind of thing in a closed, watertight department depending on the Government of the day. There could be circumstances in the course of the next year when it may be we shall be forced to come to some compromise on this legislation and on this method of procedure. It would not have been any harm today if the Liberal Party or any other party had put down a Motion which might have embodied some of the suggestions on which agreement was nearly reached in another place. That might have been useful and it might on this occasion have made things easier all round.
I mention these facts not necessarily because I agree with all of them, but because I think it is absolutely essential on this occasion that we should keep pointing to the fact that there is to this part of the Act a very important proviso. It was drawn up, it will be remembered, in 1911 by some of the cleverest lawyers who were ever in this country and sponsored by a Government which was suffering under the great difficulty of being dependent on the Southern Irish Members of Parliament. It is rather humorous to recall that one of the things which was passed by that Government with the help of the Southern Irish was a temperance Measure for Scotland. I cannot imagine the Southern Irish people doing that for the sake of Southern Ireland. That was the state of the then Liberal Government, and look at the state of the Liberal Party today. There is one Member in this House at the moment and he is a Member whom we all respect.
723 I rather wonder whether the adoption of this precedent by the Government, this abuse of power by the Government, this action of the Government to cut out the Committee stage and the discussions which usually take place during Committee has been done with any sense of grief. We who have suffered under them for the last three years know that there has never been a Government who have so ruthlessly abused their power. There has never been a government which has been hated by so many of the people at once. Although there is not much similarity between them and the Liberal Government, it is possible that those who come after us in 30 years' time will be pointing to the present unfair action taken by His Majesty's Government, to this cooking of the deliberations of the House of Commons, and that this act will lead
§ to the beginning of that pressure which will bring the party which is in Government today down to a very small party. Today that party tries to control the House of Commons by arbitrary legislation and is always trying to use every rule for the good of itself and not for the good of the House and of the people of this country.
That when an Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Parliament Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, not-withstanding that Notice of an Instruction has been given, and on the Committee stage of that Bill the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill, without Amendment, to the House without putting any other Question, and the Question so put shall be decided without Amendment or Debate.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 154.727
That when an Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Parliament Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, notwithstanding that Notice of an Instruction has
been given, and on the Committee stage of that Bill the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill, without Amendment, to the House without putting any other Question, and the Question so put shall be decided without Amendment or Debate.