§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I beg to move,That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:—
§ 1.—(1) The remaining Proceedings in Committee of the whole House on Clause 1 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Eleven o'clock on the second of those days; and the Business Committee shall report to the House their recommendations as to those Proceedings not later than the first' day of February, nineteen hundred and sixty-three.
§ (2) When the Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on Clause 1 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, notwithstanding that notice of an Instruction has been given.
§ 2. The Standing Committee to which the remainder of the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill except Clause 1 and Schedule 1 to the House on or before the twenty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty-three.
§ Report and Third Reading
§ 3.—(1) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Eleven o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purpose of Standing Order No. 41 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
§ (2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their recommendations as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill except Clause 1 and Schedule 1 to the House.
§ Business Committee
§ 4. The recommendations in any report made under Standing Order No. 41 (Business Committee) may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in paragraph 1 (1) or 3 (2) of this Order.
§ Procedure in Standing Committee
§ 5.—(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
§ (2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the 765 Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for the Motion from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
§ Order of Proceedings in Committee
§ 6. In any Committee on the Bill, no Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the recommendations of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.
§ Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee
§ 7. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill, the Chairman shall report the Bill (or such of its provisions as were committed or re-committed to that Committee) to the House without putting any Question.
§ Dilatory motions
§ 8. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
§ Extra hour on allotted days
§ 9. —(1) On an allotted day the Proceedings on the Bill shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for one hour after Ten o'clock.
§ (2) Any period for which Proceedings on the Bill are exempted under paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) shall be in addition to the said period of one hour (or in addition to any longer period for which the Proceedings are exempted under Standing Order No. 1A (Exemption from Standing Order No. 1)).
§ Standing Order No. 12
§ 10. Standing Order No. 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) shall not apply on an allotted day.
§ Private business
§ 11.—(1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and shall be exempted by this paragraph from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for a period of three hours from the conclusion of those Proceedings or, if the Proceedings on the Bill are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
§ (2) The foregoing sub-paragraph shall not apply on a day on which a Motion is made under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) and no opposed private business shall be taken on such an allotted day.766
§ 12.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—
- (a)the Question or Questions already pro-proposed from the Chair, or necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
- (b) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
- (c) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
§ (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
§ (3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) which apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
§ (4) If, on an allotted day, a Motion is made under the said Standing Order No. 9, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any time after Seven o'clock shall be deferred for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the said Motion under Standing Order No. 9.
§ Supplemental orders
§ 13. —(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion two hours after they have been commenced, and the last foregoing paragraph shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.
§ (2) If any Motion moved by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order is under consideration at Seven o'clock on a day on which any 767 private business has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock, the private business shall stand over and be considered when the Proceedings on the Motion have been concluded, and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for a period equal to the time for which it so stands over:
§ Provided that this paragraph shall not apply on a day on which a Motion is made under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) and no opposed private business shall be taken on such a day.
§ (3) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required on a Motion moved the following day by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
§ 14. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall—
- (a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
- (b)prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
§ 15.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on Third Reading include references to Proceedings at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of re-committal.
§ (2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.
16. In this Order—
allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday or the day on which this Order is agreed to) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day;
the Bill" means the London Government Bill;
Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
§ All Allocation of Time Motions, or Guillotine Motions, cause resentment. Some cause anger, but very few surprise 768 the House of Commons. Yesterday, when the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) made some comments on my announcement, they said that they were surprised that this Motion was being introduced, and claimed that it was unjustified. However, from the moment the Government announced their intention—and it is long ago now—to legislate on the subject, an Allocation of Time Motion was, if not inevitable, at least probable.
On a number of occasions, the Opposition have made plain, as is their undoubted right, that their parliamentary opposition to the Bill would be intensive and formidable. On occasions, they have gone beyond that and have indicated that it would be obstructive as well. I quote from the speech by Lord Morrison of Lambeth in July, 1961:
I beg to serve notice on Her Majesty's Government that, if they do think of bringing in an Act of Parliament to implement this silly Report, I will see to it that the Labour Party and a lot of Tories in the House will fight to obstruct the Bill. I will mobilise all the support I can to obstruct the Bill Clause by Clause and line by line, even if I have to do it myself.
We were also warned officially, perfectly fairly, by the Labour Party, in the most explicit terms last June:
We shall fight this Bill Clause by Clause and line by line in the House of Commons…Let the Government not imagine that it is going to have an easy passage.
The argument for putting on a guillotine, even before the Committee stage of the Bill started, was probably stronger in this case than when the same Lord Morrison of Lambeth, then Mr. Herbert Morrison, decided to do exactly that with the Iron and Steel Bill in 1948, when he said:
The Opposition have declared, as is their right, that they will fight and oppose this Bill from the beginning to the end. Therefore, we have to face that position. We seek to get this Bill through. That is what it was introduced for.
He went on to defend the introduction of the guillotine—I emphasise that it was even before the Committee stage had started—saying:
Now, we are a very reasonable Government, and we feel that the best course is to let the Opposition know where we stand from the beginning of the proceedings, in order that they can make their plans so as to make the
most effective use of the time available…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1429–31.]
Every word is clearly applicable to the Motion before the House today.
§ We decided, in spite of this very clear precedent, that it would be right to start the Bill in the ordinary way in Committee and to take on the Floor of the House Clause 1 and its related Schedule, the First Schedule. I should mention that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government approached the hon. Member for Fulham some time ago to inquire whether it was possible to arrange a voluntary timetable. Nobody will be surprised to find that it was not possible. Nor will anyone, knowing the strength of the Opposition's feeling on the Bill, blame the hon. Member. Still, that is the position and that is the reason why I must now proceed to justify the Motion to the House.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to what was said by Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he then was, on the 1949 Iron and Steel Bill. Surely the difference between that and this occasion is that in 1945 we had a mandate from the electorate to go on with that Bill. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what mandate he has for this Bill?
§ Mr. Macleod
I will deal specifically with the question of a mandate, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to do so in due course.
When such a Motion is before the House, the words which the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan once used are always true. On the guillotine on the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill, he said:We all know very well that, when a Motion of this kind is brought before the House, it is necessary now to establish it, not on grounds of constitutional propriety, but purely on empirical considerations; that is to say, do the circumstances of the case warrant the Motion?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 51.]Everyone will agree that that is the question before the House today. Is this, then, an appropriate Bill for an Allocation of Time Motion, and, if so, is this an appropriate Allocation of Time Motion to bring forward?
I need not trace the origins of the Bill and, in any case, it is out of order to debate the Bill's merits. However, it had its origin in the unanimous Report 770 of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, on which we had a two-day debate. We had a two-day debate later on the Second Reading of the Bill, to which reference appeared in the Gracious Speech. It has been known for a long time that the Government intended to make this one of the main items in their legislative programme now before us.
I now take up the point made by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), the question of the mandate. The argument is that the Government should not proceed with a major Measure of this kind if it were not envisaged in their General Election manifesto. I do not think that that argument is sound, for both general and particular reasons. The general reason is that no party—and this can be checked by a reference to the manifestos of the parties at the last or any General Election—specifies each major piece of legislation which it will carry through during the course of its tenure of office.
In the Conservative manifesto of 1959 there were not more than half a dozen specific references to legislation, whereas about 200 Bills will have been passed, of which I would reckon that at least 50 would fall into the category of major Bills. No doubt if the Labour Party had been elected, its legislative programme, at any rate in volume of Bills, would have been roughly of the same order.
On the general point, it seems to me quite unrealistic, and, indeed, out of keeping with our practice, to maintain that such a major Measure has to be included. In the case of the London Government Bill, I think that there are further and cogent particular reasons, some of which were put forward by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on the Second Reading debate and some of which were put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) in Committee a few days ago.
The position is that the Royal Commission was set up in December, 1957. It reported in October, 1960; it was in full swing and, I suppose, beginning to come to the drafting stage at the time of the General Election in October, 1959. Obviously, no party would commit itself to adopting, in whole or even in part, the Report of a Royal Commission which 771 it had not seen. Yet in our General Election manifesto there were these words:We look forward to reforming and strengthening the structure of local democracy, in the light of reports from the Local Government Commissions for England and Wales.One really cannot argue that by that one was committing oneself to take no action in relation to London because we had shown the priority that we attached to London by setting up the Royal Commission. Indeed, the logic of this particular argument only has to be stated to see how absurd it is, that no action could be taken on any Royal Commission sitting at the time of a General Election until the next Parliament but one.
It may be argued that this perhaps otherwise cogent argument which I am presenting to the House is invalidated to some extent because we have not adopted in the whole the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Few Governments ever do accept all the recommendations of a Royal Commission, but the two main points of divergence here are the educational arrangements and the size and groupings of the boroughs. At least as far as the second is concerned the Royal Commission went out of its way to say that its proposals were provisional and had not the same authority as the rest of its conclusions. Hon. Members will find a reference at page 193 of the Report.
Again, I think that it may be argued from the size of the majorities on Clause 1 of the Bill, which varied from 66 to 26, that the case for an Allocation of Time Motion is weakened. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Well, I might as well lead with my chin on this. The true test of the Bill of course, is the majority on Second Reading and this, after a two-day debate, was 78. Similarly, the two-day discussion that we had earlier on the Government's proposals resulted in a Government majority of 104. It is no doubt true that on Clause 1 and the First Schedule hon. Members on both sides of the House and a number of hon. Members on this side have particular points of view which they wish to put forward.
Perhaps I may illustrate this from my own Borough of Enfield, part of which I represent in the House, and which is very much affected by the Bill. Enfield has only recently become a borough. Because it is in Middlesex it is unable to look forward to the powers of a county 772 borough and realises, with many other boroughs in and near London, that its hopes lie in such a Bill as is before the House.
I think that it is true to say that practically nobody in Enfield, of any political party, dislikes the idea of the Bill. But there is argument in Enfield—and as there is an Amendment on this point I will not refer further to it—as to the appropriate grouping of the boroughs in the North-East part of the Greater London area.
§ Mr. Mellish
That will be the only concession that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make.
§ Mr. Macleod
But I do not want him to.
Similarly, many Members who are glad to see increased powers going to the boroughs do not necessarily agree with the Government's view of how the boundaries should be drawn.
For some time the Labour Party has sought to argue that this Measure is one dictated by party considerations. This has involved them in a number of absurdities. It is hard to believe that the members of a Royal Commission which recommended the disappearance of the L.C.C. were so minded. It is also impossible to believe that town clerks called in to assist the Minister would for a moment take such political considerations into account in making their recommendations. Moreover, it is unquestionably true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said, that whatever the general approval for the Bill may be a number of Conservative Members and Conservative constituencies would wish to see other boundary arrangements made.
It is also perfectly true that some, although I hope few, go further and do not like the Bill at all. The Opposition will remember paragraph 210 of the Report of the Royal Commission, which says:The London Labour Party is not only a policy-making body, but is also the party machine for organising the party and fighting elections. It appeared to us that its principal, and perfectly legitimate, object was to ensure that as far as possible any reorganisation of London government would facilitate rather than impede its task as a party machine of gaining and maintaining political power.773 What is the Labour Party, after that, to say that political considerations on this side of the House affect this Bill?
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Is the Minister therefore saying that we should not advance an argument because the idea is already in our minds, but we are wrong to say that the idea is in his mind?
§ Mr. Macleod
Not in the least. All I am saying is that it involves one in abstruse and complex argument if we start arguing that political considerations motivate this side of the House, or, indeed, have produced this particular Bill.
There have been four Amendments on Clause 1 and the debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" and those took up two days on the Floor of the House, with an extension on each day, which the Opposition voted against, and then there was a short debate on the beginning of the First Schedule and we reached no decision on it. If this Motion is accepted Clause I and the First Schedule will have occupied the House for four days, with some extensions of time, plus any time which we can take today on the Schedule. This would mean—forgetting altogether any possibilities of debate today—that for one Clause and for one Schedule the equivalent of at least 12 sittings of the Standing Committee is proposed.
A leader in The Times this morning compared this with the eight sittings that there were for Clause 1 of the Betting and Gaming Bill. That, of course, was sitting upstairs, as compared with sittings on the Floor of the House, and the true comparison is that at least 12—and, if the House wishes it, more—sittings could be taken for this Clause and this Schedule.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves this point, will he say whether it is any part of his case that the length of discussion so far has in any way been improperly prolonged or that there has been any fillibustering?
§ Mr. Macleod
Improperly prolonged, of course, is a matter for the Chair, and I am too old a hand to fall into that particular trap. Shall we say that there has been no marked anxiety to complete the proceedings.
774 I should now like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Fulham, East, that this Motion is being taken at very short notice. This is quite true, although I would point out that it is customary for a Guillotine Motion to be considered as a matter of some urgency. There is, moreover, a special difficulty in this case which is linked with the other part of my business statement yesterday.
There are many precedents for taking such a Motion after one day has elapsed. I have not the records for such pre-war Motions as there may have been, but the reason that we are taking this Motion today, and not on Wednesday, which, I agree, would be more in accordance with precedent, is that I understand it is the desire of the House, on both sides, to have a two-day debate on defence.
These two conflict. Clearly, it would not be possible to arrange the two-day debate on defence on consecutive days without the procedure which we are suggesting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not blaming anybody. This simply happens. The right hon. Member for Belper will remember—this was about the only thing on which we agreed yesterday —that he welcomed the second day being given to defence. He must follow the logic of that argument.
The main features of the Motion were given to the House by my statement yesterday and my answers to supplementary questions. In response, however, to a reasonable request from the hon. Member for Fulham, I arranged for copies of the Motion to be made available even though the great bulk of its text was in common form. We did a rapid operation on that. Literally hundreds of copies were provided and were available by six o'clock. It is, perhaps, some measure of the synthetic indignation that we have to some extent about this matter that the total number of copies asked for was four. Nevertheless, I am glad to have been of service to the House and to have provided an opportunity to four Members to read the Motion.
The Report of the Business Committee is not before us yet, but I should like to refer to that presently because it is of great importance that a detailed allocation should emerge from the Committee's consideration. There is one point which should be made. If we argue—as, I am sure, the Opposition will, and as I 775 would argue if I were in their place—that four days, excluding today, or 12 sittings of a Standing Committee in equivalent time is not sufficient to dispose of a Clause and its related Schedule, we are getting near to saying that if a Bill of this nature is opposed—and, for that matter, perhaps even if it is not opposed—it can never hope to get through the House of Commons without a guillotine.
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) came near to arguing that. Indeed, he was arguing it on Second Reading on 11th December. There was a great deal in what he said. Certainly, the history of the controversial Measures since the war, starting with the great nationalisation Acts, seems to suggest that that is the case.
I suggest that sometime, not in the context of a particular debate, not in the context of a particular Allocation of Time Motion, but simply as a method of considering the procedure of the House, it would be very suitable if, as a House, we turned our attention to this problem. I genuinely believe that the last Leader of the House from the Labour side was very near the truth in some of his observations on Second Reading.
As to the Business Committee, it is normal simply to give a block of parliamentary time to the discussion of a Clause or, in this case, of a Schedule. If we were to do that, however, we might have an utterly unsatisfactory position in that the whole of the time could conceivably be taken by earlier Amendments to the Schedule. We might find ourselves in the same sort of position as we did in 1947, when, out of a total 127 Clauses and 13 Schedules in the Transport Bill, 35 Clauses and five Schedules, not to mention 197 Amendments, simply were not discussed in Committee.
Therefore, what we might do is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who would be a member of the Business Committee, would probably wish to propose to that Committee that the actual allocation of time—and this would come back as a Motion in due course—should be drawn in such a way that each of the groups of Amendments provisionally selected by the Chair for discussion should have a separate time allotted to 776 them. It is for the Business Committee to work that out, but the House will, I think, feel that some Amendments to the First Schedule are of greater importance than others. I think that the House as a whole would wish that the Report of the Business Committee reflected that.
My next point concerns the Business Sub-Committee for the Standing Committee. It is suggested that seven weeks should be allocated, apart from Clause 1 and the First Schedule. Again, it is for the Business Sub-Committee to allocate time. If, however, three sittings were arranged, it is easy to see that in addition to the 12 or more downstairs, there could be 21 upstairs—at least 33 in all.
In these circumstances, there are always two courses for a Government to follow. The dilemma never varies. Either the Government can guillotine the Bill, or they can abandon it. Both sides of the House of Commons and the House as a whole dislike an Allocation of Time Motion. The Government dislike it because they lose time in bringing it forward and because it puts the Bill in a straitjacket. The Opposition dislike it because it may curtail their ordinary rights of criticism.
I have two observations upon that. First, if one did not recognise that in certain circumstances a guillotine could be introduced on a Measure, this could be tantamount to saying that the Opposition, or, for that matter, any group of Members, on any side of the House, could veto a Bill. No Government could accept that position, nor could any Opposition, who, naturally, hope one day to occupy the position of the Government.
Secondly, this is a Bill of the very greatest importance. The House may, however, recall that such procedural Motions have been applied, for example, to Bills that were even more important, like the Parliament Bill of 1911, the Ottawa Agreements Bill of 1931–32 and a considerable number of Irish Bills.
I do not doubt that the hon. Member for Fulham, who, I believe, will follow me, will make his usual courteous, witty, acid speech. He knows, however, as we in this House know, that in these Motions there is always something of an element of shadow boxing. From the very first time that this matter was debated in the House in 1887, when it was moved by 777 Mr. W. H. Smith and replied to by Mr. Gladstone, in whose shoes the hon. Member for Fulham stands today, Governments and Oppositions have said exactly the same thing.
There is only one argument basically on each side. The Government say that without such an allocation of time they could not get within a reasonable period a Bill to which they attach great importance. Definition turns, of course, upon what one considers to be reasonable. The case of the Opposition, particularly as one comes nearer to a General Election, is always, without exception, that they do not object in general to a guillotine, but that they object to a guillotine on the Bill in question. We know that that is exactly the same argument that we have all used ever since Gladstone's day. It is exactly the same argument that the hon. Member for Fulham will be using in a few minutes' time.
The truth is that this is a long, complicated, difficult, immensely controversial Bill. The Opposition have said that they have no intention of letting us have the Bill if they can help it. I make it plain that in their position and feeling, if I did, the same way about a Bill which they produced, I would do and say exactly the same. There is nothing between us in that respect.
In that case, however, if the Government attach great importance to a Bill which, without such a Motion, they could not reasonably hope to obtain in a Session on which they have embarked, their only course is to ask the House of Commons for allocation of time procedure. That is precisely the purpose of the Motion that is now before us.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The purpose of the Motion which the Leader of the House has just moved is to squeeze and truncate discussion on the London Government Bill. The arrangements for the introduction of the Motion have themselves been squeezed and truncated. We have here haste upon haste, guillotine upon guillotine. The Leader of the House, in effect, admitted that there is no precedent for the indecent speed with which the Motion has been thrust before the House.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted yesterday a precedent from 1949 which 778 showed that he had completely failed to take the point that was being made from this side of the House. As he showed, in 1949 the text of the Guillotine Motion was first put on the Order Paper and subsequently the Motion itself was tabled. That did at least give us, in 1949, an opportunity, when the Government announced they were to introduce the Motion, to know what the Motion was. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and the House as a whole to notice what was done here. Even those of us on this side, who, by the ordinary courtesies of procedure, would be informed first, only knew about three o'clock that this was what was to be done.
The House itself was informed at 3.30 that it would be required to debate today a Motion the text of which would not be officially on the Order Paper until this morning.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Scandalous."]—That is not the proper way to conduct the business of the House; and, apart from the failure to let hon. Members see the text of the Motion sufficiently early, it is extremely undesirable that the announced business of the House should be altered except for very grave reasons.
We all know very well that the work of an hon. Member is not done exclusively in this Chamber. Hon. Members have many other engagements which are quite properly part of their parliamentary work, and a conscientious Member tries to fit in his time, some in the House some outside, so that he can be employed to maximum usefulness all the time. But if he is to do that he is entitled to a little advance notice of what business is toward in the House. That is why we have the business question on Thursday and are told the business for the following week and the next Monday.
Once that is announced hon. Members are entitled to arrange their time and their engagements in the light of that fact. To have business interfered with afterwards is a grave inconvenience to hon. Members. It is also an inconvenience to the many people outside the House who have an interest in the business that the House is doing. There are an enormous number of people interested in this Bill which is proposed to be guillotined. Some of them might quite reasonably have expected that if there was to be a Guillotine Motion on 779 it, there would be reasonable notice of that so that they could make arrangements, if they could, to get into the Public Gallery. That has been denied them.
Then—and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said nothing on this—what about people in the trade union movement who have made arrangements to come and listen to the discussion on the subject we were to have been debating this afteroon? We are debating this Guillotine Motion today because Her Majesty's Government have been pleased to thrust somewhere into the future the Contracts of Employment Bill. That is an interesting comment on the Government's sense of priorities. This Contracts of Employment Bill was part of their Industrial Charter. It was to be one of the great achievements of this Government The moment the need for this rather shoddy manœuvre arose they pushed it off.
I say that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in permitting himself to be used in this procedure has shown that he has no proper regard for the duties of his office. In his position it is his business to concern himself not only with the Government's convenience, but with the proper performance of their duties by all hon. Members of the House. He has exposed them to inconvenience. He has exposed members of the public to inconveniece; and he has given no adequate reason why he should do so. He said that we have to take the Motion today because we had already agreed to give tomorrow to defence.
The right hon. Gentleman gave no adequate reason for not leaving this Motion until next week. Had he done that, and even if there had been a Motion as rigid as it is, it would have added at the most one week to the time taken to get this Bill out of Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House gave us no adequate reason at all why Her Majesty's Government was not prepared to allow that further week in order that we should be treated in a proper manner. I say that about the circumstances in which the Motion was introduced and the responsibility of the Leader of the House in the matter.
780 I now turn to the larger question of the justification of a Guillotine Motion at all in these circumstances. The Leader of the House was good enough to tell me what speech I should be making on this occasion. I was happy to be told that I stood in the shoes of Mr. Gladstone; and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, presumably stands in the shoes of Mr. W. H. Smith—who, I believe, was immortalised by W. S. Gilbert as the First Lord of the Admiralty in the opera "H.M.S. Pinafore".
It seems to me that he has cast me for the more splendid rôle on this occasion. But I shall disappoint the Leader of the House. I am not going to make a kind of "midnight oil speech" with an account of what was said in 1897, 1943, or whenever it was. I would ask the House, first, to consider what are the basic principles on which our rules concerning guillotines and Closures are based. I believe that they are based on two twin principles, two principles that are firmly tied together. One is that the will of the majority is, in the end, entitled to prevail. The other is that minorities have as absolute a right to be heard, to take part in a discussion and to seek to alter proposed Measures as much as they can.
Those principles are principles on which not only our procedure is based. They are the principles of democratic government itself. Democratic government cannot be established unless it is understood that the will of the majority is, in the end, to prevail. But having said that, one must immediately say that if the majority are to claim that right they must give to the minority the right to argue, to discuss and to see that whatever is proposed comes under the light of public opinion. Those two principles are interlocked.
If the minority seek to do more than they are entitled to do, if the seek to be purely fractious, flippant or obstructive they cannot complain if, in the end, they are overridden; but conversely, if the majority deny to the minority the right to put forward and promote proper discussion, then the majority cut away from themselves the whole moral authority on which the principle of their own will rests. That is the situation, in principle, with which we are 781 faced; and the purpose of those two interlocking principles is that not only should the will of the majority prevail, but that the will of the majority should be an informed will, formed after free discussion and argument, and not the hasty decision of a clique that happen to be the majority at any particular moment. That is what those principles are for. Our rules of procedure are so designed as to see that those principles are carried into effect.
If I have carried the House with me so far I think that I can now develop the argument as follows: that if that is what we are out for we can say that a Guillotine can be justified, and only justified, in the following circumstances: first, if it can be shown that the minority have gone beyond their right of discussion, argument and opposition and have behaved in the full sense of the word in an obstructive manner. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, made only a half-hearted attempt to prove that and then gave it up. He adduced evidence to show that we had expressed strong opposition to the Bill, but that is not to the point.
The right hon. Gentleman adduced, in the end, one passage from one speech made by the noble Lord Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in natural indignation, when the Government first announced their intentions. But I would have thought that even if there were anything particular in that passage, that would have justified the right hon. Gentleman's colleague moving a Guillotine Motion in another place and not in this Chamber. Or perhaps that is the Government's intention?
The only other piece of evidence which the right hon. Gentleman advanced was that I had declined suggestions made to me by the Minister for a voluntary timetable. Since the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned that, I think the House should have the whole truth of it, and it is this. The Minister asked me whether I would consider some kind of agreed timetable on the Bill. He will bear me out that I did not return to him a flat and permanent "No". I said that I could not answer that question until we had begun the proceedings in Committee; that we should have to consider that in the light of what happened in Committee. I think that 782 that was a perfectly proper position to take. I think that it is wrong to start agreeing timetables before the Committee has even begun. It is not fair to back benchers to do so.
If we had had a few meetings of the Committee, and the Minister had then come to me aid said, "We cannot be satisfied with this progress, will you agree a timetable?", that would have been a different matter, but that is not what happened. I think that it can, therefore, be said that the Leader of the House had adduced no evidence to show that the Opposition have gone beyond their true rights and obstructed, and later I shall show, from the history of the debate so far, that we have not obstructed.
A second circumstance which might justify a Guillotine Motion is if the Government have made every effort to allow proper time for the discussion of the Bill and still are not able to get it through. I shall show shortly, by reference to the history of the Bill, that the Government have not made any such effort.
Thirdly, a Guillotine Motion might be justified if it could be argued that the Bill was really so slight that only a factious and tiresome Opposition would want to take much time over it, or if it could be shown that there was a passionate public demand for the Bill, or if it could be shown that the overriding interests of the State demanded the swift passage of the Bill. I shall show shortly by reference to the nature of the Bill that none of those conditions is fulfilled in this case. This Bill is not slight, nor is there a strong public demand for it, nor is it one of which it may be said that the interests of the State require its speedy passage.
Let me take the point I was making that the history of our debates on the Bill so far clearly shows that the Opposition have not gone an inch beyond their true right of argument, opposition and discussion. Anyone who was here during the two days in Committee of the whole House must know that that is so. During the whole of that time only once, I think, after many formal Questions put from the Chair, did the Government think it necessary to move, or the Chair think it right to accept, the Closure. How many occasions have there been when, during two days of 783 discussion of a Bill in a Committee of the whole House, the Closure has been moved only once? Not many, I think. This does not suggest that during those two days the Government thought that they were being unreasonably held up.
Look at the attitude of the Chair on the matter. We have all known discussions in Committee of the whole House when the Chair has become anxious and distressed at the eagerness of some hon. Members to prolong the debate on a particular point. If the House will allow me to say so, I remember seeing a former Chairman of Ways and Means, Sir Charles MacAndrew, as he then was, rise, and, with a look of pain and distress on his face, say to Members still trying to catch his eye, "I do hope that the Committee will be willing to reach a decision now". No such pain or distress was shown by the Chair at any time during those two days of debate. At no time did the Chair think it right to remonstrate either wildly or seriously with any Member for wasting the time of the House.
I have rarely known two days of debate in Committee of the whole House during which there were fewer points of order. Indeed, there was only one which took up any perceptible time, and that arose when one hon. Gentleman opposite called one of his hon. Friends—I use the word "Friend" in its technical sense—a renegade. He called him a renegade explicitly, and implied that he was complacent and cowardly.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
I am the hon. Member to whom the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is referring. I took the matter up with the so-called hon. Member. He has never had the decency even to apologise for what he did under those circumstances.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am referring not to the hon. Member who is now on his feet, but to the hon. Member who revealed that interesting little revelation about a past incident.
§ Mr. Stewart
It was, as you say, Mr. Speaker, extremely interesting, and, to 784 us, helpful. It is reasonable to say that the question whether "renegade" is a Parliamentary expression is worth a little time as a point of order, unless we are to take it as common form that these pleasantries are to be exchanged among hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There was nothing in the attitude of the Chair to suggest that we were wasting time, nor in the attitude of the Minister to whom I pay full tribute for the diligent, courteous replies he gave to the points raised, but if he reads his speeches he will see that in those replies he clearly took the point that he was answering serious arguments. If he read those debates he could not contend that he was being asked to reply to frivolous or obstructive points. Neither the attitude of the Chair nor the attitude of the Minister will bear out a charge of obstruction.
We are obliged to notice, too, that a perceptible proportion of those two days was taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they are to be given time for the discussion of the part of the Bill in which they are most critical of the Government, it is unreasonable if the guillotine is to be clamped down when we approach those parts of the Bill on which we are most critical of the Government. I say, then, that the first condition is not fulfilled. The charge of obstruction made against the Opposition cannot be made out.
What about the second condition which I argue might justify the guillotine? Can it be said that the Government have made every effort to get the Bill through by a reaonable time, and have diligently sought so to arrange their timetable as to get their business without having to plague the House with a Guillotine Motion? To answer that, let us look at the history of the Bill.
We were told that we had known for a long time that a Bill of this sort was coming. But a Bill of what kind? It is true that right back in February of last year we debated a White Paper and knew for certain then that the Government were to introduce a Bill, but the intervening months have not enabled anybody to prepare for discussion of that Bill, because all through those months the Government have been altering the target. They have changed their views, and are to change them 785 again, on what ought to be done about the control of London's traffic. We have had at least three different plans for education thrown up and rejected before the one finally put in the Bill.
The powers of the Greater London Council, particularly with regard to housing and planning, are likely still to be modified by the Government, and, as for the boundaries, we have moved far away from the proposals made by the Royal Commission. Then, almost at the last minute, the Government hurriedly announced that they were going to put the Metropolitan Water Board in the Bill, and they then announced that it was to be taken out again.
The result of all these wriggles of policy was that although the Government knew more than twelve months ago that they were to have a Bill on London Government, they were still hurriedly scribbling out the last drafts of it in the autumn of last year. Had it not been for those wriggles and delay the Second Reading of the Bill could have taken place at least three weeks, and possibly a month, before it did. We are having to pay now, by this Guillotine Motion, for the time the Government lost by their own vacillation earlier on the contents of the Bill. I am told that there are to be further Amendments on Report.
I am not going into detail to any great extent on the actual provisions of the Motion before us. I will make one or two special comments, of which the first is this. I see that only two days are to be allowed for Report and Third Reading of the Bill. It seems to me to be wholly inadequate. I understand—I hope, Mr. Speaker, that if my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) catches your eye he will be able to develop the point, since transport problems are especially in his sphere—that it is the intention of the Government to put down important Amendments to that part of the Bill on Report.
So, apart from all the rest, we shall have to consider important new material, for which the Government will be responsible, in those two days on Report. It cannot, therefore, be said that the Government have shown proper expedition in the earlier stages 786 of the Bill, and there is no justification for asking the House to see its time truncated because previously the Government have been vacillating and too lazy.
I said that the third condition which might justify the imposition of a guillotine might arise from the nature of the Bill. Is it a Bill of so slight a nature that only the factious would wish to prolong discussion on it? Is it a Bill for which there is such a strong public demand that we can brush aside the Opposition in this House? Is it a Bill necessary for the welfare of the State and so one which we must hurry through this House? Let us have a look at the nature of the Bill to see how it stands up to any of those tests.
Is it a slight Bill? The Bill introduces something quite new in the local government of this country. What is being created in Greater London is a semi-region in population, in resources and in powers. This is something quite new in local government. This is a major change. One could almost have argued that it should be treated as a constitutional Bill, and the whole of the proceedings taken in Committee of the whole House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has himself referred to it as a long, complicated and difficult Bill. It is a Bill which contains a reversal of the previous national policy about how education should be administered. In recent years we have tended to see the necessity for putting the responsibility for education into the hands of larger authorities. In respect of Greater London we are to reverse that policy and put it back into the hands of smaller authoritions. That is not a light matter.
Another comment on the seriousness of the Bill comes from the Minister's own remarks on 24th January, when he said:We realise that this operation of reform makes all the progress we want on the housing and planning front more difficult for a couple of years.There is to be two years' delay in the actual work of housing and planning in order to get through changes in the machinery.
§ Mr. Stewart
The Minister said:…we are doing this because we believe that it will improve things after that period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1963; vol. 670, c. 326.]Certainly. But does not the Minister realise that the first sentence is a statement of fact which everyone will accept? The second is a statement of the Government's view, and that is exactly what is in dispute. The House is entitled to full time to consider whether the reforms, so-called, contained in the Bill are so valuable as to justify delaying housing in London, of all places, for two years at this time.
Is it a Bill for which there is any great public demand? There has been some argument about the question of mandate and it was taken up by the Leader of the House. I will say a few words about it. But, first, may I make clear that I certainly do not argue that the Government are not entitled to introduce a Bill at all unless they had a mandate at the last election. I do say that when a Government not only introduced a Bill, but do so towards the end of their life as a Government, and then ask the House to accept a Guillotine Motion in respect of it, and when it cannot be shown that the Opposition have been obstructive, I think that they ought to be able to show some evidence that behind the Bill there is not only the will of a stale Government, but a clear expression of public will as well. That the Government cannot do.
It is silly to tell us about the vague general statements regarding local government reform that the Conservative Party made at the last election. Did they tell anyone that they proposed to destroy the councils of London and Middlesex? Did they dream of telling anybody that they would take the education, health and child care services of the counties and cut them up into a dozen or more bits? Did they tell their hon. Friends who represent Surrey constituencies that they would cut off two-thirds of the population of that county and leave the truncated remainder to manage the rest of the services?
The Government know perfectly well that even had they thought of doing so, they would never have dreamed of saying so before the election. It is in the absence of any such evidence of public 788 support that we say that the justification for moving a Guillotine Motion vanishes. Yet, despite the size of the Bill and the lack of any public support for it, we are being asked to toil through it in the Committee stage in seven weeks. The Leader of the House suggested 21 sittings. What we are having for Clause 1 and the First Schedule is equivalent to 12 sittings. Has the right hon. Gentleman ever put those figures side by side and looked at what is in the Bill?
I make the right hon. Gentleman a present of this. I should have accepted four days for Clause 1 and the First Schedule. We think that entirely reasonable. Had I been asked at the start how much time we wanted for Clause 1 and the First Schedule, being in Opposition, I should probably have said five days. I should have been perfectly content to settle for four. But surely the Leader of the House, if he has read the Bill, must realise that if four days is a reasonable allocation for those parts of the Bill which, after all, only establish the boroughs and delineate their boundaries, when we come to the reconstruction of practically all the local government services of 8 million people, an offer of only 21 meetings is absurdly out of proportion. If the equivalent of 12 meetings is right for Clause 1 and the First Schedule—I accept that it is—the provision made for discussing the rest of the Bill is ludicrously inadequate, and the Government must be aware of that.
Finally, is this an urgent Bill? Can the Government say, "We are truncating the discussion; nothing in the way in which the Opposition have behaved justifies us in so doing. We are inconveniencing the House and abusing the Guillotine procedure by using it where it is not necessary. But we do so because the safety and welfare of the State depends on getting the London Government Bill through in this Session"? Is that to be seriously argued? Has not the Government occasionally cast an eye on some of the other problems which might be occupying their attention at the present time?
I can tell the Leader of the House—I think he knows—why the Government are so anxious to get the Bill through in this Session. Because it provides for the election of the new local government bodies in the spring of next year. Why 789 does it provide for these elections then? It was not the original intention of the Government. In February, it was explained to us that those bodies were to be elected in the autumn of 1964. Suddenly, that is brought six months' nearer, and that is supposed to give urgency to the passage of the Bill. Why was this brought six months' nearer—to avoid the popular judgment on the Bill before the Government had managed to push it so far that they hoped that what they had done could not be undone?
Is the Leader of the House going to pretend that there is not an element of political manœuvre all through the passing of this Measure? We oppose this Motion, not just because it is common form for an Opposition to oppose a Guillotine Motion, but because the timing of this Motion and the method of its introduction is an affront to the House; because it is not justified by anything either in the conduct of the Opposition 01 the nature of the Bill and because it comes from a Government whose behaviour, whose fortunes and whose standing in the public eye is such that not only have they no authority for the Bill, but no authority for any other of their policies.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Oram (East Ham, South)
I want to add my protest, as earnestly as I can, to the magnificent protest made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) against the procedure which the Government are adopting in connection with this Bill. I do so partly on grounds of general concern for good procedure in this House, partly because of its application to this Bill and, thirdly, I confess, because I am concerned about the effect of this Guillotine Motion on the due discussion of the case I hope to present on behalf of the borough which I have the honour to represent.
Listening to the Leader of the House moving the Motion, it seemed to me that he was not sufficiently aware, or conscience-stricken, about the very serious step involved in the introduction of a Motion of this kind. All authorities stress that the introduction of a Guillotine Motion, particularly at such an early stage as this, is a drastic step and one which should be taken only in the most extreme cases.
790 I recall that soon after I came to this House I had the temerity to suggest the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the whole procedure of Parliament. Later, I had the honour to serve on that Select Committee. When I got there I found that my senior colleagues were not so much concerned about points of procedure which I at that time thought of great significance, as with others which were more mysterious to me.
One, in particular, which I remember was very much debated in that Select Committee. It was one upon which the Committee ultimately made a recommendation, this question of the use of the guillotine. We had before us many expert and highly respected witnesses, including my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whom I see in his place. All of them expressed their utter dislike of the use of this drastic procedure of the guillotine. I shall not attempt to quote from many of those expert witnesses, but I ask the House to consider the views of two of them.
Mr. Speaker of that time, Mr. Speaker Morrison, gave his view to the Select Committee. I quote his answer to Question 928, in which he said that a compulsory timetable isa most regrettable step if it can possibly be avoided.He described it as an instrument oflast resort and a disagreeable one.I ask the Leader of the House whether, in this case, he can justify the use of such a step as a disagreeable last resort, or is it being taken, not in that serious sense, but merely to serve the purposes of his Government and party?
The second expert witness I quote was the Clerk of the House at that time, whose services we all recall with great respect. Sir Edward Fellowes, in answer to Question 254, said:I regard the guillotine as a serious Parliamentary offence.That is a very appropriate phrase to use in connection with the Motion which is now before the House. It is "a serious Parliamentary offence".
Both these witnesses, Mr. Speaker Morrison and Sir Edward Fellowes, made the point, which, I think, applies especially to this Bill, that the imposition of an Allocation of Time Motion acts 791 particularly to the disadvantage of Government back benchers who may be critical of a Bill. In answer to Question 253, Sir Edward Fellowes said:I consider that it is bad for legislation, because it tends to shut out Government back benchers.Mr. Speaker Morrison said that a timetabletends to be parcelled out amongst…those issues which have caused the greatest dissension between the two parties and all the non-political parts of the Bill escape any scrutiny at all.Presumably by "non-political" he meant the non-party-political parts.
I therefore urge the House that it is particularly bad to impose this Motion in the case of a complicated Bill such as this concerning which Government back benchers feel particularly aggrieved. When we are considering legislation which is not only in dispute between the Government and the Opposition, but in many important respects is in dispute between the Government and their own supporters, the only reasonable and fair way to proceed is by way of a voluntary agreement on a timetable, taking into account the wishes not only of the Opposition but of the other interests which have expressed themselves on the matter.
It is no use the Leader of the House or the Minister of Housing and Local Government saying that they have made an attempt in this case to get such a voluntary agreement. I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham gave the House the full facts regarding the quite inadequate approaches which appear to have been made in this sense. Certainly, with a Bill of this kind it is necessary to let matters proceed in the ordinary way to get the feeling of the various people concerned before there is any possibility of a voluntary agreement.
I agree with my hon. Friend also in relation to what he said about the two days we have so far had for discussion of Clause 1. No case can possibly be made that in any sense the debates during those two days were unduly prolonged or obstructive. I wish to give two illustrations in connection with those debates which, I think, utterly refute any suggestion that hon. Members on this side of the House were in any way attempting to make unnecessary speeches, or had had their full 792 opportunity of putting forward their case as they saw it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) had a number of important points to make on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." She sat very diligently through the debates and sought to catch the eye of the Chair, but she was prevented from making her speech by the moving of the Closure and she has not yet had an opportunity of stating her case.
I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) is present. He will recall that during the debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" both of us were seeking to catch the eye of the Chair because we had a number of general points to put before the Committee at that stage. But when I saw that he was attempting to speak we had a quick consultation and agreed that I would not further seek to catch the eye of the Chair and that only he would attempt to speak.
I am not saying that that is of great importance. I merely put it to illustrate the atmosphere which existed on this side of the House at that time. It shows that my hon. Friends and I were not seeking to make every possible speech, but only to put reasonable cases: and then to state them adequately and not at too great a length. I suggest that even on Clause 1 there was not adequate time for every point to be adequately dealt with.
I now turn to a point on which I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. He said, in relation to the Motion, that, in his view, the two days being allowed to discuss Schedule 1 were sufficient and that he would have settled for such a time limit had he been engaged in negotiations on the matter. I question whether two days will be sufficient.
I invite the House to consider why the Government decided to bring Clause 1 and the First Schedule before a Committee of the whole House. I would like to think that it was because they regarded the matter as of constitutional importance. It is traditional that constitutional matters should be given the status and dignity of consideration by a Committee of the whole House.
793 If it is appropriate that the constitution of a quite small Colonial Territory should come before the whole House, surely it is equally important that we should consider the constitutional rearrangement of the whole of the Metropolis in that way. That is obviously a vital piece of constitutional machinery which should come before a Committee of the whole House and, possibly, the Government had that in mind.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I would not like silence on this point to be taken as consent. The reason I thought it right to ask the House to consider Clause 1 and the First Schedule on the Floor of the House was, frankly, not so much because I regard them as in any definition of the word "constitutional"—because I do not—but because they affect so many hon. Members' constituencies. That is, with respect, a different point.
§ Mr. Oram
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having made that point, because I expected that that was the main reason why the Government brought the matter before the whole House. I recall, for instance, that during business questions on a number of Thursdays my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) pointed out that a great number of hon. Members were directly affected by these matters and that it would be impossible for them all to serve on a Committee upstairs, thus depriving them of an opportunity to move Amendments concerning their constituencies. I imagine that it was in response to that sort of representation that the Government decided to bring the matter before the whole House.
But if that was the reason, surely it is all the more important that full time should be allowed to enable all hon. Members to make their points, move Amendments and adequately discuss the affairs of their localities. In the Royal Commission's Report it is stated that 109 constituencies are directly affected in the review area. That means that 109 hon. Members are directly entitled to consider the Bill in relation to the boundaries of their constituencies. In addition, the other constituencies and local authorities in, say, Essex, Kent and Surrey are almost as directly affected because the remnants of those authorities are very much concerned. Thus there are a considerable 794 number of hon. Members who should be given an opportunity to state their points of view.
A study of the Order Paper reveals that about one-third of such hon. Members have a direct interest in the Amendments which have been tabled. I did some arithmetic this morning and I think that I am right in saying that 36 names appear in connection with the Amendments to the First Schedule. That does not take into account the other hon. Members who are entitled not to put down their names, but who may want to oppose the Amendments from the point of view of their local authorities.
It should be made clear that it is not a question of the House being divided on party lines. I counted the party affiliations of those whose names are on the Order Paper and discovered that there are fewer concerned with Amendments from this side of the House than from the Government side. I am open to correction, but I gather that there appear the names of 14 Opposition hon. Members and the names of 22 Government supporters—or perhaps I should say "Government supporters generally" since many of them do not support the Government on this issue. It is important to recall the views I quoted, especially those of Sir Edward Fellowes, to the effect that a Guillotine Motion of this kind acts even more to the disadvantage of Government back benchers than it does to Opposition hon. Members.
I am also concerned with the case of the borough which I represent, together with my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North. We are interested in a number of Amendments, in conjunction with our colleagues who represent neighbouring boroughs. I have checked the figures and have found that the Chair had indicated that eleven groups of Amendments were selected for the ordinary process of debate had this Motion not been brought forward.
No doubt when the Business Committee becomes active that number, eleven, may be reduced. Even so, and even if it is reduced to six or seven groups of Amendments which will have to be considered on the remaining two days, one must take into account other important aspects which are time consuming. There are, first, the hon. Members directly concerned—those promoting 795 the Amendments. Secondly, adequate time must be provided for hon. Members to state contrary views. Thirdly, we hope to receive full answers from the Minister, including full interventions from the Opposition Front Bench. Fourthly, we must take into account something which is so often forgotten; that a great deal of time is taken up in the Division Lobbies.
A four or five-hour debate is often truncated by voting and it will be found that on such important matters as local authority boundaries, and so on, hon. Members with a full and reasonable case' to adduce will be confined to just a few minutes each in which to establish often complicated and important cases.
It is natural for each hon. Member to regard his own case as especially important. I notice with trepidation that the cases of other local authorities like Bermondsey, Wandsworth and Wembley will be considered before the cases of East Ham, West Ham, Barking, and so on. I shall not be able to complain if my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) considers that Bermondsey is worth a good deal of detailed discussion. I fear that the later Amendments will be squeezed for time because of the very natural and understandable enthusiasm of other hon. Members for their cases. I have not the same enthusiasm for them, of course, but I am very anxious that there should be adequate consideration of the case of the part of London that I represent.
Already, East Ham is aggrieved at the way in which it has been treated. I have a letter here from the Town Clerk of East Ham concerning the review which was made by the four visiting town clerks when they examined the boundary proposals of the Bill. I will quote a few sentences from his letter about what went on at that inquiry:So far as metropolitan Essex was concerned a meeting was held, with all twelve authorities present, which lasted little more than a day and merely consisted of a short statement by each authority with a few questions by the Town Clerk of Plymouth, who conducted the meeting. He then made a quite cursory inspection of the area by car. No opportunity was given of challenging statements made, in cross-examination, and the view of many authorities present was that the whole thing was largely a waste of time and effort…796 That is an accusation of inadequate consideration being given to an important case. During the debate on Clause 1 the Minister said that he was prepared to think earnestly about proposals for different borough groupings. In our case a mistake which is so easily made by an outsider is to assume that because East Ham and West Ham are similarly named they should automatically be merged. It is obvious to anybody with a knowledge of the localities that an entirely different case emerges and that East Ham and Barking are more appropriate for merging than East Ham and West Ham. I hope to have the opportunity to develop that case later.
According to the Town Clerk of East Ham, our local case was not adequately heard. There may have been reasons for that which I do not know. However, if there was inadequate consideration at the local inquiry there must be adequate consideration of it here in the House of Commons where the final decision is made. It is because I believe that the timetable on the First Schedule is liable to truncate the discussion of this important case in East London, because what I feel about my own case is liable to be repeated throughout the whole of Greater London, and because this is a matter of great constitutional importance—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Is my hon. Friend aware that neither of the two inquiries which took place, which were good and thorough investigations, namely, the Sir Edwin Herbert Committee and the Commission, recommended this proposal?
§ Mr. Oram
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It illustrates my point that there is much to be said that only adequate time will allow to be properly deployed. We are not likely to get adequate time.
I was saying that I believe that it is not only this local consideration which I have been trying to explain which makes the Motion particularly deplorable. The Bill determines the future government of the most important capital city in the world. Such sweeping changes as are here proposed ought not to be the victims of this highly undesirable and unwarranted Motion.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
The hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) made two references to Government back 797 benchers being prejudiced by Guillotine Motions which aroused considerable sympathy in my mind. It was a reminder to the House that there are two oppositions in any House of this kind. One is the Opposition on the left-hand side of the Chair, which is an Opposition to the Government of the day. The other is the opposition of back benchers, certainly against the Government Front Bench, sometimes indeed against both Front Benches.
Any Guillotine Motion provokes a feeling of opposition among back benchers on both sides of the House against those who are responsible for the Motion. We all find any Guillotine Motion irritating and inconvenient, but that is a fault of the Motion and I do not think that in general Guillotine Motions can be regarded as an abuse of the procedure of the House. However, I have one very clear criticism of the Motion. At the risk of upsetting my right hon. Friend, I must add my protest about the short notice which has been given to the House of this change. It is obvious from looking round the House that hon. Members who are considerably concerned with the details of the Bill and who would have liked to have been here today have not found it possible to come today because of the extremely short notice given to them.
It follows from that that there is an obligation upon the Government to do all they can to minimise the inconvenience caused when fixing a timetable and, so far as possible, to ensure that each one of us who has perhaps a purely local point but nevertheless a point of importance has the time to make our point properly.
Having made that criticism, I must say that my general view of Guillotine Motions is that they are extremely sensible. They are an ordinary businesslike procedure. I am not a great admirer of the proceedings in the French National Assembly, but the French have a sensible habit of referring a Bill once it has received general approval to what is called a Commission of Presidents of the Parties to work out an agreed timetable for consideration of the details.
Although I agreed with much of what the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, I disagreed with his statement that he thought it was a mistake to have too early a timetable Motion. In 798 a complicated Bill if there is to be a timetable Motion the earlier we have it the better. When he spoke to us there may have been in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House some extension of the timetable procedure, but I do not think that we have found it necessary for the great bulk of Bills. They work themselves out in the ordinary course of events, but what therefore happens is that the guillotine procedure becomes necessary in practice only for highly controversial Bills. The procedure then ceases to be what on the surface it is designed to be, namely, a procedure to enable the House to give proper consideration to a Bill. It becomes a weapon in the hands of the Government in order to govern and a weapon in the hands of the Opposition in order to oppose. We have been very familiar with them in the past and I suspect that today we shall again listen to a number of speeches designed to obstruct the passage of this Motion and to that extent to obstruct the Government in securing the passage of the Bill.
I should like to see a timetable Motion become not a challenge to the Opposition and not a weapon in the hands of the Government capable of abuse, but a Motion in the hands of the House to enable the House to give better, more logical and more well-defined consideration to Amendments. It seems to me, therefore, with respect to this Motion that for the orderly running of our proceedings a great deal turns upon the Business Committee and its ability so to divide the time that a fair hearing is given not merely to individual hon. Members but more particularly in this case to the localities which they represent.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Is the hon. Member not aware that usually a Guillotine Motion is brought in when there is a wide divergence of opinion between Government supporters and the Opposition, but on this Bill a number of hon. Members opposite are, rightly, very much opposed to it and they will take up a great deal of the time which in our view properly should be the time of the Opposition? A timetable Motion is usually so arranged as to give fair play to the Opposition, but we have no means of controlling the period for which hon. Members opposite will use the allocation of time which rightly should be ours.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I think that the hon. Member is supporting the point of view which I wanted to urge, which was that it was important that the Business Committee should so sub-divide the allotted time as to be certain that on these constituency and local points each district affected is afforded time. There is nothing to prevent the time being so allocated to particular Amendments as to ensure that each local case can be properly put.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Let us assume for argument's sake that an hour or two is allowed for a particular Amendment. If an hon. Member opposite speaks, he can take up half or even the whole of that allotted time if he wishes. No one can stop him. He can take up the time which should be alloted to others on the Opposition side to debate the issue.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The hon. Member is assuming that that habit is confined to this side of the House. It would be easily possible for an hon. Member opposite to do that.
§ Sir H. Linstead
These are Amendments where the opposition is not confined to this or that side of the House, but to putting particular cases. All I ask is that the Business Committee should attempt to ensure that each of these local points is properly put, no matter whether by my hon. Friends or by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Marsh
This is an important point. Is not a case being properly put until such time as it can be said that somebody is improperly obstructing the business? Is it part of the hon. Member's case that some of the people who have put points so far have been obstructing business? If they have not been obstructing, then surely they are entitled to go on putting those points.
§ Sir H. Linstead
It is not part of my case that there has been obstruction on the questions which we have considered so far, and particularly on the Question that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill. I am anxious to secure that when we come to the local points in the First Schedule, an opportunity shall be given, through the recommendations of the Business Committee, to ensure that par- 800 ticular groups of the community are not denied the chance to have their case deployed to the House. I do not wish to go further than that.
I want to come back to the general principle which I enunciated earlier and to say that I gathered from what the Leader of the House said when he moved the Motion that there was in his mind some possibility of a Select Committee examining the whole question of the guillotine procedure. I would welcome it, not in relation to a specific Bill such as this one, but as a general question of our manner of conducting business.
Guillotine procedures which are simply a challenge to the Opposition and merely sharpen their objections to a Measure are not designed to ensure that our business is carried through in the best way. They are also liable to abuse in that a Government, no matter of what party, may use them to force through business without proper discussion. I am sure that we want to devise a system whereby we have timetable Motions designed not for the advantage of the Opposition or of the Government but essentially for the advantage of the House, to enable it to do its business properly.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Is not the hon. Member aware that the Government already have their opportunity? They can move the Closure at any time if they like on any Question, and subject to Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker feeling that an adequate discussion has ensued, the Closure is put so that there can be no attempt at filibustering.
§ Sir H. Linstead
Since I was in the House between 1945 and 1950 I know something of filibustering from the point of view of the filibusterer, and having been in the House for the last seven or eight years I have experienced filibustering from the other point of view. Without Guillotine or timetable Motions, any determined Opposition can wreck any Government programme.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Even though the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) has given general support to the Government's view and to the Motion, and even though he has gone further than that and has presented a case in favour of more and more timetable Motions, I still think that he 801 deserves to be congratulated, because as far as I know he is the only back bencher opposite who is seeking to intervene in the debate. During most of the debate there have been three back benchers opposite and now there are five or six, with three Ministers, and one Parliamentary Private Secretary, which does not add up to a full House by any reckoning.
The hon. Member for Putney gave as his reason for the emptiness of that side of the House the fact that hon. Members had not received proper warning because of the Government's haste. That may be the explanation, or there may be others. There may be other activities going on in the Palace of Westminster. Hon. Members may be murdering the Common Market or electrocuting the Minister of Power, or engaging in some other desirable activity of that sort. But, whatever they are doing, I hope that it is noted, particularly in London, how few hon. Members opposite have intervened in the debate.
I hope that none of those who have refused to come here and oppose the Motion today will go to their London constituencies and say that they did not have a proper opportunity to put the case in the House for their part of London. No Conservative Member of Parliament who has failed to turn up and participate in the debate has any right at a later stage to protest at the speed with which the Government have put the matter through.
Mine is not a London constituency, but I do not believe that a debate of this kind should be monopolised by those who are directly concerned with the Bill. The Bill concerns the whole country and the whole House of Commons. Even if that were not accepted hitherto—and I should think that it would be because the government of London can have a great effect on the whole country and on the world—the fact that this Motion comes before us today and, in particular, the reasons given by the Leader of the House for presenting it underline that the whole country is very much concerned. This is the aspect of the matter to which I shall come in a few minutes.
It may well be thought that the case presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) was so overwhelming and devastating that it demolished the Government's case completely and there is nothing further to 802 be said. I certainly agree that it was one of the most devastating speeches I have ever heard in the House. At the end of it, there was not a scrap of the Government's case left. However, there were some remarks made by the Leader of the House which deserve comment in the interests not only of London but of the House of Commons.
The Leader of the House said that there is really only one argument on one side and one argument on the other side of the House in these debates. Presumably, what he means is that the Government say that the majority must have its way and the argument of the Opposition is that the minority has the night to state its case, and that is really what it is all about. The right hon. Gentleman spoke almost as though debates on Guillotine Motions were a kind of game. He produced quotations from what had been said on previous occasions, suggesting that the matter could be lightly dismissed in that fashion. That is the way he approached it today, and that is why he was so effectively demolished by my hon. Friend. Indeed, if there were only one argument on the Government side, the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the arguments which he did produce in support of his case, would have been wiser to stick to that one argument.
What were the claims which the right hon. Gentleman made? First, he quoted his precedents—only two, so far as we could discover—to prove the charge that the Labour Party was determined to obstruct the Bill. He quoted Lord Morrison and he quoted a statement made by the Labour Party. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said, this was no reason for introducing a Guillotine Motion in this House. All the statements he quoted about alleged prospects of obstruction were made months or even years ago.
In another part of his speech, the Leader of the House boasted that he wanted to be frank with the House. If he intended to cite those precedents, he would have been much more frank with the House if he had said at the beginning of the Bill that he intended to have a guillotine on it right away. He had no right whatever to produce, as reasons for bringing forward this Motion, statements about obstruction made many months ago which were 803 fully known to him when the Bill was introduced in the first place. So those arguments do not stand up.
Dealing with the speed with which the Motion had been put on the Order Paper, the Leader of the House said that he and the Chief Whip had been grinding out the stuff on the duplicating machine and they had managed to get 400 copies into the Vote Office. They were aggrieved that only four people had taken copies. Apparently, the Chief Whip's arm is still aching, and the two right hon. Gentlemen are much aggrieved.
I did not have the curiosity to go and look at the Motion. One does not have to read between the lines of an edict of Nero to know that it is tyrannical. I knew perfectly well that the kind of Motion which they would spend all the afternoon typing out and duplicating would be the kind of thing we have before us today. I think that it is to the credit of the acumen of all but four Members of the House that they did not have any curiosity about what would be in the Motion.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The Motion, when produced, did provide for what the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) described as a generous provision on the Floor of the House for the remaining parts of the First Schedule.
§ Mr. Foot
We all knew that the Government, particularly when they spent the whole afternoon on the matter, would have a little sugar to coat the pill. Of course they did. But the whole Motion is unsatisfactory and, as my hon. Friend says, it is tyrannical and obstructive to the proper performance of its duties by the House. That argument does not stand up.
Next—I thought that this was the most offensive part of his speech—the Leader of the House sought to say, as most Ministers have, that the Bill had nothing to do with party politics. Such a thought never crosses their minds. Never, even in the most secret recesses where they decide these matters, has that possibility been mentioned. It never occurs to them that there are any political implications in the Bill at all. That is the claim of the Leader of the House. He really should not lay it on as thick as that. He 804 does have another job. He is head of the Conservative Central Office. Perhaps it is not so easy for him to keep his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde activities readily and permanently separated. I dare say that even Dr. Jekyll himself had occasional illicit passions, even if they did not land him in trouble with the General Medical Council. Even the Dr. Jekyll we have here may, occasionally, have thoughts occurring to him which he should properly have only when he is Mr. Hyde across the way. It is quite absurd for the Leader of the House to pretend that no partisan matters arise.
What are we left with in the argument of the Leader of the House? He quoted a speech made by Aneurin Bevan on one occasion, and he thought that he was quoting with great effect. He said that both sides argue about Guillotine Motions but that each Motion has to be judged on its merits and has to be judged on the particular case. I do not think that anyone contests that view. But, if that is to be the basis on which the speeches of the Leader of the House are to be judged, what then? If the case for a Guillotine Motion is to be judged on the particular facts of the particular case, it is absolutely essential that the Leader of the House should prove that there has been some form of obstruction. That must be proved.
What we had from the right hon. Gentleman today was not even the slightest attempt at such proof. In reply to one of my hon. Friends who asked whether he was saying that there had been any obstruction, his answer was that, at least, one could say that there had been no marked anxiety on the part of the Opposition to get the Bill through. Of course not. If that is the justification for a guillotine, one could have a guillotine in any case where the Opposition showed no marked anxiety to get a Measure through. Thus, the only basis upon which the Leader of the House founded his case today, applied to this particular Guillotine Motion, is one on which one could have a guillotine on almost any Measure which a Government brought before the House of Commons.
This is why I think that the speech of the Leader of the House was extremely dangerous for the House of Commons as a whole, not only from the point of view of London. If a speech of that kind were to be allowed to pass without dissent 805 or comment, the situation would be serious indeed. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite had responsibilities in this matter, but most of them have not discharged their responsibilities today.
We have had so many Guillotine Motions over the past two or three years that the numbers of people who turn up to discuss them are getting smaller and smaller. This is very serious. I can remember the days, not many years ago, when debates on Guillotine Motions were very fiercely fought. Today, there is a number of hon. Members on this side and very few hon. Members opposite. This process suits the Government. The Government like Guillotine Motions; they do not mind them. It is an easy way for them to get their business through. But Governments get changed.
We are discussing something which concerns the whole House of Commons. It is very serious that a Motion of this kind should be proposed on such flippant grounds, it is very serious that the Leader of the House should not think it important to put forward a substantial case to try to convince the House of the need for it, and it is a further aggravation that the House of Commons itself has become so used to this procedure that it thinks that the Motion can go through in a short time.
I do not say that it would not be possible to find a single precedent in the opposite sense, but I can remember the time, not many years ago, when it was regarded as almost certain that if the Government proposed to introduce a Guillotine Motion they had to devote a full day's debate to it. I do not say that if we ransacked the archives we should not find a single case in which something different happened, but I am sure that hon. Members who have been members of the House for many years will agree that up to a few years ago almost every time that the Government wanted to introduce a guillotine a whole day's debate had to be given up for it. It is right that Governments should have to do this because it is one of the deterrents to their introducing Guillotine Motions. That is not the case now.
The Leader of the House has very grave responsibilities. I am not sure how long he has been Leader of the House, but I guarantee that he has intro- 806 duced more Guillotine Motions than any other Leader of the House for many years. I doubt whether a Leader of the House has introduced as many Guillotine Motions in a period of office of one and a half years as the present Leader of the House. This is a very serious state of affairs. We had the guillotine on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. Earlier we had the guillotine on the National Health Service Bills and on the Pipelines Bill. I have not the exact figures, but in his short spell as Leader of the House, not yet two years, the right hon. Gentleman must have introduced six or seven Guillotine Motions.
§ Mr. Foot
It is becoming common practice, and, of course, if the House allows it, the Government will go on doing it. They will not restrain themselves. When they hear speeches of the kind we have heard today encouraging them to go ahead and introduce more Guillotine Motions, they will be very eager to do it.
The hon. Member for Putney apparently thinks that it is good for the House of Commons that debates on every major Bill should be fixed in advance by a timetable, with everything orderly and arranged, with half an hour for this and one and a half hours for that and votes at regular intervals, and I am sure that members of the Government would agree with him. The Chief Whip would love it. The Minister would not have to show any deference to the House. He would not even have to show any courtesy to the House. He would not have to consider whether it was advantageous for him to give way, or whether he should think about certain matters again. It would all be cut and dried. The Minister would know exactly when he would get his Bill and it would not matter what anyone said in the House.
The only sanction which the House of Commons has over discourteous Ministers who will not listen to what they are being told is to disrupt the Government's timetable. All the theorists outside who say that it is unwise and stupid that there should be all-night sittings in the House of Commons, and that the House should be kept up late and prevented from going 807 home, and who consider it an extraordinary way to run the affairs of a great nation, do not understand the process of discussion in the House. We can enforce proper sanctions on the Government only if we can dictate to them how long the discussion will be. But if the Government can dictate to the House of Commons on how long the discussion will be, all power is in the hands of the Government. This is the situation to which the Government, and, in particular, the Leader of the House, are working.
§ Mr. Foot
He has left the debate. He went a long way towards enunciating in plain open words the doctrine which I am attributing to him. He took a sentence of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and misconstrued it. As I understood it, he said that he thought that we had reached the stage when all major controversial Measures should be subject to the guillotine, that it was becoming accepted more and more that this was how we should conduct our affairs in the House. Certainly, from his conduct, that appears to be the basis on which he is working.
Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this is what has happened with most controversial Measures in the past. But that is not true. A large number of highly controversial Measures have gone through the House since 1945 without the imposition of the guillotine.
I suppose that few more controversial Measures than the National Health Service Bill have passed through the House since 1945. It was such a controversial Measure that it was opposed on every conceivable occasion by hon. Members opposite who were then in opposition. They voted against the Second Reading. They even went to the extreme course of putting down a reasoned Amendment against the Third Reading, a very rare occurrence on a Bill such as that, as hon. Members will know. They tabled many Amendments and there were bitter discussions in Committee. Discussion of the Bill took up many days and there was bitter controversy about it in the House reflecting the controversy outside. But that Bill was carried through the House without the imposition of the guillotine. 808 Many other Measures which were just as controversial and just as far-reaching as the Bill before us now were passed between 1945 and 1951 without the imposition of the guillotine.
The Government, in thinking that they can ram through a Measure of this kind without even having made the effort to get it through the House by proper debate, are debasing the House of Commons. They have no right to do what they are attempting to do. To add to the offence, they have not sought to justify their action in the House today. All that the Leader of the House did was to say, "Let us make our old ploys in the guillotine game. I wash my hands of it. I have a Conservative Central Office meeting to attend"—or whatever the meeting may be—"and the House of Commons can go hang". I do not blame the few back bench Members opposite who have turned up for this state of affairs because presumably they are here for some purpose, although it is an un-revealed purpose at the moment. But what about the others? They do not care a scrap what happens to the House of Commons. They do not care a scrap that this Measure is being forced through by this quite improper Motion.
The Government are not merely slashing and tearing the Government of London, as I understand from my hon. Friends who represent London constituencies, for their own party purposes in a manner which is utterly disgraceful, but in the process they are inflicting the gravest possible injury on the House of Commons itself, and it is time that the House protested.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I speak today with an apology because I have not been in the House as long as other right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken and who have had considerable experience of this procedure, either in Opposition or in Government. I do not think that anybody is endeared of the guillotine procedure. My particular complaint, touched upon by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), is that we have had such short notice of this Motion. He drew attention to the fact that so few hon. Members are present. This is not due to discourtesy by hon. Members on either side of the House but to the fact that they had such short notice of this Motion.
809 The London Government Bill covers an enormous range. It encompasses not only the rights and privileges of thousands of people working in the county councils but also those of the boroughs and their boundaries. It is one of the longest Bills I have seen since I entered this House. It covers an inordinate number of matters.
One of my objections to the Government's policy on this matter is that there is perhaps a tendency for the Bill to be rushed through without sufficiently detailed examination of each Clause and the effect which it will have on the electorate. I must be careful at this point, because we are only discussing the Motion as related to the London Government Bill, but it is fair to say that the Bill will affect, in some degree or other, about one-fifth of the country's population. I believe, therefore, that the Government have been wrong in serving such short notice of this Motion, and have also erred on the mean side in the amount of time to be allocated to consideration of the Bill.
There have been suggestions, to which I am not a party, that the guillotine is necessary because certain hon. Members are blocking the passage of the Bill. With the exception of today, I can honestly say that all the speeches I have heard from both sides of the House have had behind them genuine and deep feelings, expressed by hon. Members not only on behalf of their constituents but as a reflection of their own feelings and consciences. On the other hand, one must face reality. We obviously cannot have this Measure going on for the entire Session, important though it is. Other Measures must also be considered.
My chief concern is one which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead)—the question of timing. If Amendments to the Schedules are to be given proper consideration it would be more equitable for an equal amount of time to be given to the discussion of each Schedule, otherwise hon. Members, being also extremely annoyed over the first three Schedules, will devote an inordinate amount of time to them. This will mean that those who are unfortunate enough to be concerned with later Schedules—I am in the middle so that I can be fair to those who come before and after—will not get a fair share of the time. We must be absolutely 810 certain that when the timetable is drawn up there is a method by which a reasonable amount of time is allowed for discussion of each Schedule. The Government consider it sufficiently important to have Clause 1 and the First Schedule on the Floor of the House. These matters are of great local importance in the London area and adequate time should be devoted to them.
I do not want to detain the House—
§ Mr. Marsh
Would not the logic of that argument lead to the conclusion that an issue like this should be passed formally? This involves curtailment of Parliamentary discussion, which the hon. Gentleman admits offends a great deal of Parliamentary opinion. Yet he objects to spending long in discussing it.
§ Dr. Glyn
The hon. Gentleman has come to the point with which I intended to deal. We are, first, discussing the guillotine as it affects the Bill. Many hon. Members have gone further. In that respect I am with them. I think that the whole question of the guillotine procedure should be carefully looked at. Obviously, it is the aim of any Government to secure a Measure in the minimum amount of time in many cases.
§ Mr. Marsh indicated dissent.
§ Dr. Glyn
The hon. Member shakes his head, but this is a means by which debate can be curtailed to the length which the Government wish to have. Whether one agrees or not with this machinery is another question. Personally I think there is a lot to be said for what has been suggested by hon. Members—that the whole question of timetable Motions and proceedure should be looked at by a Select Committee. I do not like the idea of the 811 Guillotine. I wish there could be some other Parliamentary means to ensure hon. Members adequate time to express their views without having to resort to this type of machinery which I believe we all agree does not produce the best relations between the two sides of the House.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Gentleman referred to a Select Committee. I sat on a Select Committee in the 1958…59 Session which put up all sorts of ideas to the Government. But this Government are notorious for setting up Select Committees in order to stave off crises. Broadly speaking, the results of our considerations were completely wasted by the Government, who never intended to do anything about this matter anyway. As Aneurin Bevan once put it, the hon. Gentleman does not want to gaze into the crystal when he can read the book.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I do not think that it would be in order if this debate were to turn into a review of Parliamentary procedure. What we are debating is the Motion in relation to this particular Bill.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Of course we accept your Ruling but, with great respect, I ask you to reconsider it because, in effect, the whole of the discussion today is on a matter of Parliamentary procedure. The Guillotine Motion is a procedural Motion. I should have thought it relevant for an hon. Member to say that a Select Committee had considered alternative systems. That is the point which I put. The question is whether we need this procedure to curtail Parliamentary discussion. The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Glyn) asked, quite rightly, whether there was any other way. The hon. Member in his ignorance said that we ought to set up a Select Committee in the future. I reminded him that a Select Committee had already considered this in the quite recent past.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Reference in passing is in order, but we have a Motion before us and the debate should be kept to that as far as possible.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am sorry if I have trespassed and I will not continue the argument which the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was kind enough to take up, except to say that I hope that we shall not have to debate a Guillotine Motion in future and that there will be other means of accommodating the House.
This is a Guillotine Motion on a specific subject and I do not think that I will be out of place if I say that I hope that, if it is carried, the Motion will not result in my right hon. Friend forcing his will on the House on each occasion. I hope that he will use the Guillotine with discretion and not force hon. Members into the Lobby against him by refusing to listen to our arguments on the various items which come up.
Finally, I make one last appeal to those on the Business Committee to make sure that an equitable allocation of time is given to all the Amendments so that each constituency point can be given the consideration which it merits.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The Leader of the House paid me the compliment of alluding to my speech on Second Reading and saying that I was very near the truth. An hon. Friend of mine said that I was an expert witness. There is a well-known epigram which indicates that expert witnesses are very remote from the truth. All I did was to deal with the facts of the case.
I got my copy of the Bill from the Vote Office. It contains 205 pages, 17 Schedules and nine parts. It is not possible to get a Bill of this size through the House of Commons without a guillotine, and I said so. That does not mean that I like the guillotine, particularly when I am on this side of the House. During the short time that I led the House, I had a majority of only six, and any Leader of the House who proposes a Guillotine Motion when he has a majority of six will find that he is the first victim. Even during the terror at the time of the French Revolution one or two of the people who were very near the top when the thing started never ran the risk, if 813 they could avoid it, of getting too near the instrument.
This is a Bill which wipes out local government as we have known it in London and the suburbs and elaborately, through 17 Schedules enacts an altogether new machinery. The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), who played a distinguished part in opposing the Bill last week—and all credit to him for it—has hinted at the real trouble. When the House resumes in Committee and we return to the First Schedule, we shall lay out the pattern of local government in areas over the whole of this great part of the country. I have put on the Amendment Paper an Amendment, No. 36. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has put down one, No. 35.
If it is decided by the Business Committee that the end of Amendment No. 35 shall be the end of one compartment of time under the Business Committee's Report, I shall be very happy, because I shall start the next stage with my Amendment No. 36. But when we reach Amendments Nos. 32 and 33, the hon. and learned Member, whose Amendment I intend to support if it is called, will be "sweating on the top line", as we used to say in unhappier times, and will be wondering whether he will be allowed to speak.
From my knowledge of the area with which his Amendment deals, I know that about 350,000 people want his Amendment to be discussed. Whether it is discussed depends on the kind of luck which operates while that part of the Bill is being discussed. I hope that the Business Committee will see that the compartments of time applied to the First Schedule are quite small so that each of the areas concerned can have a chance of having its future adequately discussed. We can be certain that when the Bill is passed and the Royal Assent is given, it will be a good few years before any rearrangement of authorities in the London area is undertaken.
If any future Leader of the House asks the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Leader of the House for advice on introducing a Bill to rearrange the areas of local government in Greater London, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will reply, "You leave it where I left it". Unless he is a member 814 of my party, the right hon. Gentleman would not advise him to bring in any such Bill.
Let us face the fact that the House still preserves too much of the atmosphere of the House of Commons of the eighteenth century, when there were about a dozen gladiators—I am talking of the period before the abolition of the Irish Parliament—and about 550 Members who came here merely to take part when a Division was called. I sometimes think that we have almost got back to it when I am asked whether there is to be a Division and when people say that, if there is not, there is no need to worry. The type of Member we now have has so changed in the 170 years since that time that every hon. Member is now expected by his constituents to take an active part in the business of the House. I am talking about the House as it is.
I think that we have to face up to the fact that one cannot get great Measures through easily. It was no surprise to the Leader of the House that I said what I did on the Second Reading of the Bill. He has quoted a similar statement that I made on a previous occasion. We have now to face the fact of the review of London government which, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) pointed out the other night, in 1953 I said was a matter which demanded attention. I still think so. I am glad that the present Government have been foolhardy enough to bring in this Bill so that in the next Parliament, whoever is leading the House, will not be worried by anything of this kind.
§ Mr. Ede
I would like to see my hon. Friend trying to use his blandishments on whoever may be the Leader of the next House. I know that the proposition is well-nigh irresistible but he would find that the irresistible force of my hon. Friend's bonhomie had reached the irremovable obstacle of Government necessity.
People all over greater London will find themselves grouped with other people under this Bill, it may be without any discussion of their particular problem at all unless the Business Committee 815 sees that the compartments on this particular page are very small. I have tabled Amendment No. 36.
I know how keenly all my fellow burgesses in Epsom and Ewell feel on this issue. I know from my contacts with members of the Croydon Town Council how much they hope that they will not be brigaded with Coulsdon and Purley, and how the constituents in Coulsdon and Purley of the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East are quite determined that if they can avoid it they will never become any part of any local government unit which consists, apart from them, of Croydon. These antipathies exist. The jealousies which exist between neighbours are one of the difficulties that any reform of local government always have to contend with.
I regard the remainder of the First Schedule as the most important part of the Bill as far as the main aims of local government are concerned. The local government machine should exist to create communities, groups of people who feel that they owe a common loyalty to the community in which they live. Where such communities exist it is very dangerous indeed to attempt to divide them or to link them up with somebody else who does not quite hold all the same ideals that they do. Inside such a community there can still be strong parties, although their loyalty is to the whole human mass of population that makes up that community.
I know that as far as those parts of the county of Surrey are concerned they resent very much indeed the way in which they are being torn away from their own county and some of them put into London and others linked up with boroughs with whom they feel they have no great concern. They will take a long time to become new communities which will be imbued with a sense of local patriotism that will enable the work there to be done adequately and appropriately.
Last week I was astounded at the way so able a Minister as the Minister of Housing and Local Government suddenly found that somebody who drafted the Bill had managed to bring in principles which I had never heard of in connection with local government. The size of a community has nothing to do with the principle. I cannot give way 816 on this, because the Government have decided that 60,000 is the number and—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to tease me, but I was talking about the size of a council, as he will remember. I am sure that he does not wish me to be less than candid with the House. I could easily have got away with saying that I was going to reconsider the size, having secret reservations about still imposing the maximum, but I thought it my duty to explain the full extent of the concession I was prepared to make.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sorry; I was so absorbed in the problem of 60,000 at one time in connection with the new communities that I forgot that I was temporarily alluding to the number of councillors who will be elected to the new bodies. I do not believe that there is any principle in that.
I served on an urban district council of nine, which we increased to 12 and then to 18. Then the area was incorporated with an adjoining area and the council now consists of 40 members. I started in 1908 and I have come right down to the present day, and during the whole of that period the efficiency of the local government of that area has not depended merely on the number of councillors, but on the number of councillors who are willing to give sufficient time and attention to be able to formulate policy that commends itself to the community.
I saw the Surrey County Council grow from 77 to just over 100—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Member, but this is not an occasion to go into the merits of what is in the Bill. We are discussing purely an Allocation of Time Motion.
§ Mr. Ede
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think that I have made the point that I wanted to make.
What we want to get is a feeling all over this great area that although it is very difficult sometimes to find the physical boundaries, that we create a group of communities which can each be self-contained and yet play a vital part in the whole area. I regard this as the core of the Bill.
817 I believe that London has never been quite able to establish itself as a unit. Therefore, I have always felt that it was necessary that as the mass of people grew in number there should be some revision. I want the revision to be made, however, on the basis of trying to get the willing grouping of these people into communities that are viable, that can take a pride in themselves and that can carry on the tradition of local government, which, on the whole, has been very sound.
Unless the Business Committee is careful in the way in which it recommends the House to deal with the remainder of the First Schedule, I do not believe that we shall get that ideal. If Coulsdon and Purley, and Epsom and Ewell and numbers of other places get no chance of having their voice heard on the Floor of the House of Commons in this matter, there will be a continuing grievance that will embitter public life in those and other areas for a good many years.
There has been too much attention to detail in the Bill for it to receive adequate consideration on the Floor of the House. Therefore, what we do on the remainder of the First Schedule I regard as being a test of whether the Bill, when it becomes an Act, can adequately deal with the many problems that will confront the great community which it ought to serve.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I rise for only a few minutes, because I have not been present for the whole of the debate and I regret that I have to leave presently. It is not right, therefore, to detain the House for long.
I endorse the remarks of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—except, of course, when he was out of order—that he was kind enough to make about my constituency, the way it has been treated and the feelings that undoubtedly will be aroused there, and in me, if, when we come to the Amendment in the First Schedule, in page 89, line 42, column 2, to leave out from "Croydon" to the end of line 43, we are in any way prevented from putting our quite genuine views.
I also thoroughly endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the necessity in the Bill of getting agreement among the people affected so far as is possible. I do not know whether my 818 right hon. Friend the Minister intends to steamroller the Bill without considering Amendments, or without attempting to obtain agreement simply because he has a guillotine. If he does that and it is simply a matter of looking at the clock, he will leave behind a very bad taste.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
The hon. and learned Member realises, I am sure, that, to mix my metaphors, the guillotine must inevitably steamroller some of the Amendments. The timetable will inevitably ensure that some Amendments are not even considered.
§ Mr. Doughty
I do not know how long each Amendment will take; we must wait and see. It also depends upon the Minister. That is why I stress that if he is reasonable, gives way and tries to accommodate hon. Members who have put down Amendments, on whatever side of the Committee they sit, the Bill is likely to go through a great deal more quickly.
If, however, the Guillotine Motion is for the purpose of getting the Bill through without any possible agreement, or without Amendments being accepted in whole or in part, what is the point of the Committee stage? We might as well have a guillotine of an hour for the whole Bill, half-an-hour for each Front Bench. If the Bill is got through in that way, the Minister must know that it is not 630 Members of Parliament who are affected, but 8 million people, who will say that he was the person who stood in their way.
For those reasons, I cannot support the Guillotine Motion. If there had been, even on a Bill which I do not support, obvious filibustering—and I have been a Member of the House long enough to recognise it when I see it—I should have supported the Motion, because I cannot agree with filibustering. I have, however, served in Committees of the House for the whole of the period during which I have been a Member. Although Clause 1 and the first part of the First Schedule did not go fast, there was certainly no suggestion of filibustering, bearing in mind that the matters discussed were extremely important and vital.
To impose a guillotine before the Committee upstairs has even met is certainly rapid work. I am choosing my words 819 carefully so as to cause offence to nobody. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will take careful note of what has been said by the right hon. Member for South Shields about the views of those affected by the Bill. I refer not to Members of Parliament, but to the 8 million people around this big city. I ask him to look at the Amendments before we consider them and to do his best, where possible, to accept Amendments which would make the Bill a better one and would certainly leave a better taste in the mouths of those affected by the passing of the Bill than otherwise would be the case.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I am glad that the Leader of the House has returned. After making his "maiden" speech, he left the House and has not been back for long. I am sorry that he missed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). It was a speech to which the Minister should have listened above all others. My hon. Friend put his finger on the important points.
It is all very well to say that Guillotine Motions are fun between the two sides of the House, but they are not. Debates on such Motions must necessarily be about what this House is about. I always thought that it represented the best of democracy. I gathered, however, that in matters of this kind, when democracy is held up, the Leader of the House treats it as a "lark". That is not what it is.
I may well differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale in saying that at the end of the day a Guillotine Motion may well be necessary for a Government to get their business through. In the instances where a Guillotine Motion is introduced, however, it must be proved beyond doubt that the Opposition have abused democracy and have adopted methods which make it impossible for the Government to get their business. But for a Government to say, as the Government have said on today's Motion, that even before we go upstairs into Committee they will impose a Guillotine Motion, is an indication to the next Government—which, I pray, will be a Labour Government—that the Conservative Party invites them to bring in a Guillotine Motion with every controversial Bill which it introduces. That would be a monstrous abuse of democracy.
820 I have not put the position as effectively or as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. I wish that the Leader of the House could have listened to my hon. Friend's speech, because one can feel passionately about the principle of Guillotine Motions irrespective of the Bills to which they relate.
I feel strongly about the Bill. I admit that to stop the Bill I would do almost anything short of pulling out a revolver and shooting the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I am, however, a democrat and I recognise that in the House of Commons, one can go only so far on a point of debate. Naturally, I would put down as many Amendments as I could to hold up the Bill. The stage would have been reached when, because of my enthusiasm, the Minister would be compelled to introduce his Guillotine Motion. Then, no doubt, I should have been quoted as a good example of why the Government were compelled to introduce such a Motion.
In the debate on Clause 1, I spoke on only three occasions, for not more than ten minutes each time and from the Front Bench. On no occasion could I have been accused of filibustering. We heard in Committee from a number of hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead). Their argument is to the effect that those in the Conservative Party are a little bit worried about the guillotine, but that they do not mind it provided their own points are discussed. What happens after that does not matter.
So long as we can discuss Putney, or Clapham, or East Surrey, all will be well. That is not what the Bill is all about. It is a question of whether we are all to be able to discuss matters which concern all our constituencies in this Greater London area.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I know that the hon. Member would not want to do me an injustice. I was patricularly anxious to point out that when we came to the timetable relating to the First Schedule there was an obligation on the Business Committee to see that every community mentioned in that Schedule had a fair share of the time and that time was available for each.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Gentleman has been a Member for a long time—for as long as I have—and he knows that it is 821 impossible for the Business Committee to do so. It would be impracticable to discuss the First Schedule on the basis of exactly how much time there should be for each area; and let us be fair. If debate is worth anything there must be debate.
If the hon. Gentleman mentions Wandsworth, and what he says is accepted, then that discussion would end immediately and the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied. But it all depends upon the debate and the answers which flow across the Floor of the House. We cannot ask the Business Committee to work out in detail all such matters of principle. That is why this Guillotine Motion is so disgraceful. I have done some homework on the Minister's own Motion. Perhaps he does not care very much about it. If Enfield comes out all right perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has lost whatever small interest he may have had. Perhaps all he was worried about was Enfield.
In 21 sittings upstairs we are to deal with 86 Clauses and 17 Schedules, which means that on every sitting we must get through at least four Clauses. Really! I know that some Clauses are not important and that one, for example, is called "Title", but there are at least 80 that are of fundamental importance and are of importance to one in five of the electorate.
We are accused of preaching in this House the importance of London, of getting emotional about the greatest city in the world; but not only the area of London of which I am proud to be part, but one in five of our population is affected, and four Clauses will have to be dealt with at every sitting. How can we possibly have a proper debate?
§ Mr. Mellish
No; and some Clauses are really several Clauses. I do not know how it could be done. We have discussed what kind of timetable could be produced and when the Minister gets up he had better answer the questions about the timetable. This provision is not good enough for the debating of such a Bill. 822 We have been sneered at and jeered at for arguing that there is no mandate for the Bill, anyway. I will not go into the merits of the Bill, but it is a fair point to say that in my view the Government cannot introduce a Bill for major reforms of this kind, the first for many years, and affecting so many people, and expect the House to deal with it within a certain period of time in the manner signified.
I have been a Member of Parliament long enough to know that one does not disclose what one gets from what are called "usual sources". I will not, therefore, disclose where I got the information, but I understand that on Part II, dealing with traffic and highways, the Government intend to put down either a new Clause or a series of Amendments in order, if I may quote the words used to me, to allay some of the fears which have been generally expressed outside. We have not seen the new Clause or the new Amendments, but when we do we shall need a lot of time to consider them and we may have to table Amendments to those Amendments. I am advised that it may be that those cannot be put down until the Report stage of the Bill.
This is not the way to deal with a Bill. It is not right, on the one hand, for the Government to produce a Bill and say that they will amend one part of it in advance because they have made a mistake when, already, we are to have a guillotine on the Bill as it stands, with Amendments to come, which we have not yet seen, and which have to be included in the consideration within this time. It really is a monstrosity and it adds up to this: the Leader of the House has made clear that if the Government of the day want their legislation through and it is controversial they have to bring in with it a timetable Motion. If that is so I can only say I am ashamed that the House, and particularly the other side, takes it so much for granted.
An hon. Gentleman opposite has said it makes a farce of the whole thing. If the Minister of Housing and Local Government is determined that the Bill is not to be altered then he might as well pack up, send us all home, and say that he wants merely a vote on the Floor of the House for the whole of the Bill, that it does not matter a damn about 5 million people, about local government and other things, and all the historical associations 823 of London. The people of London do count, unless they are in the City. The way in which we are dealing with the Bill is a disgrace to this House.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
We have now had speeches from three back bench Members on the other side and although none has threatened insubordination at least, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House earlier this afternoon, they have greeted it with a marked lack of enthusiasm. I hope that this will make the Leader of the House consider that we are not engaged, as he seems to have suggested we should engage, in a mere matter of shadow boxing.
I have had the misfortune to hear a number of speeches introducing a Guillotine Motion. The Leader of the House moved the Motion today in an agreeable but rather lighthearted speech. I have never heard such a Motion moved with less conviction than he showed today; indeed, speeches which we have now heard from other hon. Members on his side of the House will, I think, reinforce my reaction to the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He used a number of well-known phrases and clichés to justify what is the Government's own negligence and mismanagement of time and their incompetence in getting their business through.
As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), this escape procedure is something we are getting used to. We are having a Guillotine Motion on many occasions. Only a few months ago we had such a Motion on the Pipelines Bill. Although the Bill was not such a significant Bill as this, it was, like this, a lengthy and complicated one; and the Government then adopted the doctrinaire kind of attitude that they are adopting on this Bill. Under that Bill private monopolies were given rights hitherto enjoyed only by statutory undertakers after many safeguards had been satisfied.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), instead of indulging, as the Minister thought he would, in shadow boxing, disappointed him by dealing with the demerits of the Motion and the need for the House, on behalf of 8 million people, 824 to examine the Bill as carefully as possible and to make what constructive suggestions are possible.
In introducing the Motion, the Leader of the House said that, according to col. 536 of yesterday's debate, the Government were not satisfied with the progress that had been made last week. It seems to me that it is important to consider that evidence, since that is the reason given by the Government for introducing this Motion at this time. Clause I, which is the Clause dealing with the setting-up of—I was going to say the new monsters—of the due consortia of the new London boroughs, is a long Clause of 60 lines and deals with what is, from the point of view of the Government in relation to this Motion, a most important element in their reorganisation. In fact, to this long, complex, and basic Clause only five Amendments were tabled of which two were taken together. There could have easily been many more. When the Clause came before the House there was a discussion on the Money Resolution. This was dealt with with a brevity which commends itself to all back benchers. The speeches of both of my hon. Friends leading for this side of the House and that for the Government were completed in three minutes.
We then proceeded to the first Amendment, which dealt with a distinction—and I mention this to describe the point of evidence to which the Minister referred — in incorporation orders between inner London and the outer London boroughs. We wanted to know the reason for this discrimination. Seven hon. Members took part in the discussion on this second Amendment, apart from the Government speakers who intervened twice. The entire discussion was completed in 59 minutes. Can anybody say that on this important principle of distinction between the inner and outer London boroughs there was any obstruction? To levy such a charge is most unjust, not only to hon. Members on this side of the House but to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
We then passed to the second Amendment, which I moved, and which was taken with an Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). This Amendment has already 825 been referred to. It was a matter of some importance, because, as I said—and I think that the view was shared by those who took part in the debate—it went to the root of representative local government, because the Clause as drafted reduced the number of councillors by over 1,000. I moved a moderate Amendment—and it was so called by hon. Gentlemen opposite who took part in the discussion on it—to free the Minister from his arbitrarily small maximum of 60 councillors. I could not be accused of taking up unnecessary time, because my speech lasted not longer than 10 or 11 minutes.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I am glad that it commended itself to my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), as indeed it did apparently to those hon. Members opposite who took part in the discussion. In fact, 14 hon. Members took part in the discussion, seven of whom were from the Government side. Every hon. Gentleman opposite who took part in the discussion gave a degree of support to the Amendment, so much so that some hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for it, while others hoped that the Minister would consider it. This debate, in which 14 hon. Members, apart from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary both of whom intervened twice, took part was completed in about two hours. If an Amendment dealing with a principle which goes to the root of representative government is supported by an equal number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, surely it cannot be said that undue time was taken if the discussion was completed in just under two hours. Again, I say that the right hon. Gentleman stands condemned for trying to justify this Motion on this basis.
We then discussed the two Amendments. The first was disposed of within an hour, and the second within two hours. We then came to the third Amendment, which dealt with the rights of the public in the Greater London area to make representations about the size and compositions and the arrangement of wards in the new boroughs. I pointed out then, and I still believe, that the citizens of London were being denied opportunities which are available outside 826 the review areas. Outside the review areas ordinary citizens, apart from local authorities, have opportunities of making representations on two or three occasions at public inquiries. This right is not being given to the citizens in the review area proposed for the Greater London Council and the boroughs. The Clause as drafted, therefore, not only fails to provide this right, but takes away the right now contained in Section 25 of the Local Government Act, 1939.
I put the case, in a short speech, lasting about 10 minutes. My case was supported by two of my hon. Friends, but not, I think, by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Parliamentary Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister intervened briefly. The whole discussion was completed within an hour. Thus it was that these three Amendments, which were not of a trivial character, and which were not put down to obstruct the progress of the Bill, were dealt with in about four hours.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Perhaps my hon. Friend will recall that on the last Amendment to which he referred the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department took up quite a lot of time explaining something which was not clear to the House, and that we spent quite a lot of time cross-questioning the hon. and learned Gentleman to discover what he was saying.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I should have added that as a result of this last Amendment to which I have referred, which sought an opportunity for any 10 electors to have the right to make representations, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said that individuals would have the opportunity to object within one month of the publication of the incorporation orders.
This provision was not in the Bill, and unless a circular had been sent to local authorities this was the first public information we had about it. Had the Amendment not been tabled, we should not have obtained the information in that way on that day. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me about it. The result justifies our having tabled the Amendment, because now every elector knows that he has a right which is not incorporated in the Bill.
827 Taking this series of Amendments which I have described, I do not think that anyone can say that time was wasted, or that the Amendments were without substance. I think that their value can be judged by the number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who took part in the discussion.
The rest of the day was spent discussing an Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, Southwest (Mr. A. Evans).
The following discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," was curtailed by the Government. This is an important Clause. It is the basis of this part of the structure of local government for over 8 million people, and I therefore do not think that anyone could say that an undue length of time was taken discussing the matter. If the Leader of the House says that the justification for the Motion is that the Government were not satisfied with the progress being made, it shows that he has failed to look at the evidence of what actually happened. He has also failed to justify it by proving that hon. Members made over-long or unnecessary speeches, or speeches that were not strictly relevant to the business in hand. The right hon. Gentleman has not attempted to justify it on those grounds, nor do I think that he can. It is almost flippant and insulting not only to Members on this side, but to hon. Gentlemen opposite, to try to justify the Motion on the grounds advanced by the right hon. Gentleman.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, we all knew that at some point a Guillotine Motion was inevitable if the Government were to get the Bill within a reasonable time. Irrespective of whether there was any obstruction by the Opposition, this is a long and complex Bill dealing with a number of changes about which people outside the House are deeply interested and about which they want us to inquire. The Bill deals with changes in local government and welfare services, apart from the composition of the new boroughs and authorities. It is intolerable that the Leader of the House should have advanced the arguments that he did to justify a Motion to limit time upstairs on the Bill so drastically.
828 If after a few sittings, or even before the proceedings of the Standing Committee had started, the right hon. Gentleman had said, "We know that there will be opposition and we are taking this action to get the timetable Motion out of the way", that would have been honest and frank. But I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has been honest and frank about the reasons which he gives for introducing the Motion.
With reference to the 21 sittings of the Standing Committee which we are to have, I wish to emphasise something which was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. The Bill has 86 Clauses dealing with vital and important services. There are also 17 Schedules to the Bill. The Twelfth Schedule covers five pages and contains 16 paragraphs. The Ninth Schedule runs to 15 pages and 22 paragraphs. The Second Schedule is not so long, but is highly important in that it deals with the setting up of the Greater London Council.
The London County Council has existed ever since the Act of 1888. It may be that the Greater London Council will not have anything like that length of life. It depends on what happens in the national arena in the next few months. As an Opposition we should be failing in our duty, as would back bench Members opposite, if we omitted to give proper consideration to these important Schedules. Some of them will need a great deal of explanation by the Government. They are not allowing enough time.
I recall what I consider to be the disgraceful episode relating to the complicated pipelines legislation, when whole Clauses were dealt with without any discussion in either House. Some of the Schedules to that Measure affected local authorities because of new provisions which came into force. Having regard to the length of the Schedules and its complexities, I think that the Bill now before us should receive more consideration. Its provisions will affect intimately 8 million persons in the area. Its effect will not be related only to one facet of activity. The welfare services are affected; and education, which is a very important matter for our children, our young people and for students. The welfare services for the old are dealt with. There could not be a Bill more important from the 829 point of view of its effect on every citizen. In fact, the Greater London Council will be a microcosm of government itself, so that to try to push this Measure through in 21 sittings of a Standing Committee is a fantastic suggestion. In view of the marked lack of enthusiasm of hon. Members opposite, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, even now, reconsider the proposed timetable.
As the Committee stage proceedings are to start on Tuesday, I should like to have an undertaking that we shall not find that the Schedules are being discussed on the Floor of the House at the same time. It has been the unfortunate experience of some hon. Members who have served on Standing Committees to have to make speeches in the Committee and then rush to the Chamber to try to do their duty here. We know when the sittings of the Standing Committee are to take place and I hope that there may be an undertaking that the Schedules will not be discussed on the Floor of the House on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the Committee is sitting.
I conclude by saying that this Motion reflects no credit on the Administration who have proposed it, and reveals their lack of consideration for the public outside.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I must apologise for not having been present to hear the whole of the discussion, although I heard most of the speech from my right hon Friend the Leader of the House. Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), I feel that I cannot support this Motion. That is not on principle, because it is obvious that Guillotine Motions must be introduced from time to time in our discussions especially on occasions when there is obviously some filibustering taking place, although as yet there has been no indication of that in connection with this Bill. I cannot support the Motion because of the length of time allotted for the various stages.
When my right hon. Friend announced that there would be two more days for the discussion of the First Schedule I thought at first that that was reasonable. But having looked again at the number of Amendments to the First Schedule I do not think it is sufficient time to allow for an adequate discussion.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
Is the hon. Member aware that many more Amendments could have been put down and that some hon. Members, although they do not wish to filibuster, would like to raise points relating to their constituencies when the Amendments already tabled are discussed?
§ Mr. Russell
I appreciate that. But there are seven pages of Amendments as it is, and some raise very important issues affecting boroughs in the area concerned which are of interest not only to hon. Members who have tabled Amendments but to other hon. Members as well.
I ask my right hon. Friend to think again whether this timetable provides sufficient time to discuss the First Schedule in view of its importance. From that point of view it represents virtually half of the Bill. It is the part which proposes the amalgamation of various existing boroughs. The rest of the Bill deals in the main with the counties and consequential matters. It is very important that everyone wishing to express a view on the subject should have a chance to do so.
I am not personally concerned with that part of the Bill which will be discussed in the Standing Committee. In general, I agree with its provisions. But I wonder whether the suggested maximum number of 21 sittings will be sufficient to discuss this part of the Bill, bearing in mind that there are 86 Clauses and a large number of Schedules. I shall be glad not to be on the Standing Committee, because it will be a wearisome business.
Is there such great haste to get through this business and to report the Bill to the House by 21st March? There is another consideration which would now seem to arise. Apparently the negotiations in Brussels regarding our entry into the Common Market have been adjourned. I know that my right hon. Friend has not had time to think out this matter, but had this country been joining the Common Market there would presumably have been a need for legislation later in the Session which would have been of a very controversial kind needing a long time to pass through its various stages. Presumably, that is no longer the case. Although I know that the Government always have legislation which they desire to introduce, I should 831 like my right hon. Friend to consider whether more time can now be given to this important legislation, in view of the fact that even more important and controversial legislation relating to the Common Market will not now need to be discussed.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
I shall be very brief and to the point. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) that it would be a very bad thing for Parliamentary democracy if the incident we have seen here today were to go unchallenged by a sufficient number of hon. Members.
I have been in this House for a long time. I have listened to many Guillotine Motions being submitted, but I doubt whether I have ever heard a speech in support of one which annoyed me as much as the one we heard this afternoon. The Leader of the House has been referred to by a number of hon. Members who spoke of the flippant way in which he dealt with this matter. His effort to justify the Motion with the reasons he gave must be about the lowest performance I have known him give in this House. He certainly cannot feel very pleased with himself but, after finishing his speech, he sat here obviously enjoying the situation for some time. We are dealing with a very important Measure which intimately affects millions of people, but the right hon. Gentleman did not treat the matter seriously.
I am very sorry that we do not have our proceedings televised so that millions of people may see exactly what happens in this House. It is the performance that counts when arguments are put forward. It must be a matter of regret to the right hon. Gentleman that some hon. Members opposite have condemned the indecent haste which is being shown. Although they did not say "indecent haste", they implied it. The hon. Member for Clap-ham (Dr. Alan Glyn) complained about this and said something which I know is true: other hon. Members would have been here if they had had more notice that this Motion was to be discussed today. In the performance of my Parliamentary duties I was elsewhere, and it was only at lunchtime that I learned about this Motion. I know that other 832 hon. Members would also have been here and not away on other Parliamentary duties if they had known.
When he replies to the debate, will the Minister explain why it was essential to give so little notice of this Motion? The Leader of the House has not given any reason for this indecent haste. There are people who suspect the reasons why this has been done. Constituents of mine came to the House to hear our debate on the Second Reading of the Contracts of Employment Bill. Two gentlemen came some distance to hear about that important Measure. It is something for which the Government, after a very sordid performance over the last year or two, sought to get some credit as at last they were to do something about contracts of service. Trade union people are interested in that matter. Did the Leader of the House lightly cancel that other business? I have a duty to my constituents to protest at the way in which this has been done.
The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) mentioned the number of Amendments which were put down for the Committee stage. In my constituency people are deeply concerned about the proposed grouping. If we had wished to filibuster, we could have put down another Amendment, but we were well satisfied with the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). Party politics do not come into this. It is a question of the best interests of the people, on which we must combine. That is what we decided to do on this matter.
It is necessary to ask why so little time has been provided for this consideration. If there were not bitter protests such as there has been up to now there would not be parliamentary democracy, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) spoke. We might as well shut up shop and go home. I could go over the reasons for this procedure, but they have been adequately dealt with. I hope that when the Minister replies he will do very much better than the Leader of the House did. The Leader of the House came to his office with a good reputation, but he has in no way enhanced it. Today, I think he touched rock bottom.
I have the utmost respect for the Minister. He has great capacity. If 833 the Tory Party can persuade the people again to give them a term of office he will do well in whatever Ministry he is given. It was obvious to any hon. Member in the earlier rounds of discussion of the Bill that the Minister did not have an adequate grasp of its contents. I am not blaming his lack of capacity, for it is a very bad Bill. Far too little thought has been given to it. No person, no matter what his ability, could have shone, especially when on the opposite bench there was my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, (Mr. M. Stewart). His performance in these debates, because of his knowledge of local government, has been splendid. If the Minister does not like what I said previously, I think he will give credit for that.
I urge at this late stage that there should be some further thinking on this matter. The Leader of the House should take matters into consideration a little more seriously than he obviously has done up to now and try to see if adequate time can be given so that every aspect of the Bill, many of which affect 300,000 or 500,000 people, shall be considered. Does he appreciate the position he is putting hon. Members in when they represent such a big section of the people who feel deeply about the proposals put forward? This is a very serious matter. I am very worried, but I hope there will be some new thinking and that proposals will be made which, if they are not satisfactory, will at least not cause us the concern which we feel at present.
The Minister when he was hard pressed in the last round of discussions obviously thought that he had a very big point to make. He said that most of the opponents of the Bill had been suggesting that there was a great wave of opposition to it. He went on to ask, if that were so, how could we say that the Government were to get a political advantage? Then it was pointed out to him that it was possible so to gerrymander a Measure that one is prepared even to disregard one's own supporters if the profit to be got out of it is enough.
There has been a shoddy performance this afternoon by the Leader of the House. I believe that the whole basis of the matter is that not enough thought has been given to the Bill. What thought has been given has been in order to gerrymander and to destroy the London County 834 Council, which could be interfered with in no other way. No one who supports the L.C.C. has not admitted that improvements should be made in it. This Bill, even if it is sincerely believed to be an improvement, should be adequately discussed, but the provisions under the Guillotine Motion do not allow that. I make my bitter protest against the Motion.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I join with my hon. Friends in protesting against this Guillotine Motion. I approach the matter from a point of view slightly different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds). I agree with him that we all felt that the speech of the Leader of the House was deplorable, but I am not sure that I agree that he enjoyed making it. I give him credit for having felt in a very unhappy and miserable situation in having to make it. I think it was a disgraceful thing to do. I also regret that he was not present to listen to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot).
What is happening today, particularly in the light of the speech of the Leader of the House, gives an affront not so much to democracy as to Parliamentary government and to this House as a legislative chamber. I do not share quite the same views about the Bill as some of my hon. Friends. I do not propose to enter into its merits or demerits. I have never used vitriolic language about the Bill as some of my hon. Friends have. One does not have to be a rabid opponent of the Bill in order to take the most violent objection to this Guillotine Motion. I am prepared to say that the Government may have had some courage in introducing a measure of London government reform. My objection goes much deeper and is quite different from being an objection to the Bill itself.
My objection stems from the attitude of the Government in depriving hon. Members of their legitimate opportunities of trying to improve legislation. The Bill is one of vast complexity. It has some good parts, and a lot wants improving, but what affronts me is that any Guillotine Motion deprives hon. Members of their primary function of exercising their rights as legislators and 835 being able to table constructive Amendments to Bills. No one has suggested that there has been any obstruction, and it is admitted that the result of any Guillotine Motion must be to limit the opportunities for debate. In this case the Leader of the House is deliberately limiting the rights and duties of hon. Members to table Amendments and present points of view, whether on behalf of their constituents or not, in order to improve a Measure of this kind.
I am appalled that the Leader of the House should have thought it consistent with his duty to present the Motion in such a perfunctory—I will not say flippant—manner. He seemed to think that it was enough merely to say that the Bill was a complicated, long and difficult Measure and that, therefore, there must be a Guillotine Motion. That is a complete non-sequitur. The more complicated a Bill the more necessary it is that the House should have the elementary right of dealing with it in a sensible way.
I will not repeat the arguments which have been adduced by a number of hon. Members, except to say that there has been no attempt at obstruction. I took part in the first and second day's debates and I recall that we had a short debate on whether the inner London boroughs were as much entitled to a charter as the outer London ones. The outcome was that the Minister, who had not appreciated this point fully, undertook to consider the matter. I have no doubt that, if adequate time were permitted, a great many other points would come to light for the consideration of the Minister, his Department and the Leader of the House, resulting in many improvements.
I have witnessed a great number of debates on Guillotine Motions. Some of them have been justified. Some perhaps not. But one thing has been common to all; no one can say that any Bill has ever been improved because there has been a Guillotine Motion. The last Measure with which I was associated and in respect of which there was a Guillotine Motion was the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. I am not arguing whether or not that Motion was necessary, but I do assert that as a result of it certain parts of that Act were not adequately 836 discussed, the result being imperfections in those parts which were not discussed.
That is a glaring case because, as the Leader of the House probably recalls, certain sections of that Act were discussed in considerable detail. A number of Amendments—coming from both sides of the House—were accepted. It was a novel Measure and it was improved as a result of discussion. Experience in the administration of the Act has already shown that there are gaps and lacunae in it as a result of the failure of the Leader of the House to allow adequate time for it to be discussed. Thus I join my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in protesting most strongly against—and I must choose my words carefully—the callous way in which the House is being treated tonight. I think that the Leader of the House is really treating hon. Members with contempt. He is, in fact, reducing a great number of hon. Members to legislative impotence. He is taking away from them their function as legislators. He is depriving them of their opportunities to improve this piece of legislation. For him now to say, almost as if it is a normal thing to do, that it really needs no justification, is an abrogation of his responsibilities. We are coming to the point, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, when the Government seem content to treat the passage of Bills as something perfunctory.
If that sort of thing persists it will destroy Parliamentary government. It is notorious that the esteem with which Parliament is held by the public is getting less than it was, and that in itself is deplorable. That tendency will be encouraged if the Leader of the House thinks that it is part of his duty to allow Bills, simply because they are complicated, to go through in this perfunctory way, for it is obvious that whole sections of the Bill cannot be adequately discussed.
If we are to discuss Clause 1 and the First Schedule in the equivalent of 12 sittings of a Standing Committee, how can we adequately consider the rest of the Bill in 21 sittings? It does not make sense. It means that there will be some debates and improvements but that whole chapters of the Measure, which covers a vast field of activity, will go through without being debated at all. That is a 837 situation which can be justified only if at some stage there has been some obstruction or deliberate holdup. There has been nothing of the kind and it is not good enough for the Leader of the House to quote what Lord Morrison of Lambeth has said. He is no longer an hon. Member of this House. He can say what he likes in another place and, in any case, a number of hon. Members do not entirely agree with his attitude.
While some hon. Members have voiced their complete opposition to the Bill—including some hon. Members opposite—others have voiced their desire to try to improve it—and goodness knows it needs a great deal of improvement. I thought that there was one redeeming feature in the speech of the Leader of the House, because he seemed to display an awareness of this problem. While he is Leader of the House does he really want, as it would appear, to embark on a course of conduct which, if unchallenged, will lead the House of Commons into much greater disrespect than it is today?
I thought that in a part of his speech the Leader of the House admitted that Guillotine Motions are unsatisfactory. The trouble is that things are getting worse and will have a serious effect on Parliament unless the tendency is checked. It can easily be checked and I hope that as a result of this debate—and I am trying to be constructive—the right hon. Gentleman will give serious thought to methods by which we can improve our Parliamentary procedure so that Guillotine Motions of this kind can be avoided.
One obvious solution is this. The reason why this Guillotine Motion has become necessary is, it seems, due to an archaic and artificial fear that one cannot carry over a Bill from one Session to another? Why not? After all, Royal Commissions sit from one Session to another, as do Select Committees. There may be a Motion to justify it. It is the absurd fiction that a Bill must be completed in the Session in which it is introduced that leads to the astonishing situation in which many Bills, we are told, have to be rushed through with this indecent haste. Is there any justification for the fiction that if a Bill does not reach the Statute Book in one Session it cannot be carried over at the stage which it reached at the end of one Session to the next Session? That would 838 be the sensible arrangement to make in any sensible Parliamentary organisation. There may well be Bills—this may be one of them—which ought not to have to pass into law in one Session. It should be stated at the outset that a Bill is one which should be spread over two years, that it should get as far as possible in the first Session and be continued in the next Session. There is no justification now for thinking that a Bill must be completed in the Session in which it is introduced.
I do not know—probably my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale knows—whether there was in the seventeenth century some historical justification for that. There may not even have been any justification. It may not have mattered then, but in the mid-twentieth century with the growing complexity of legislation it has produced an intolerable absurdity and is now used as an excuse for Guillotine Motions.
I am anxious to prevent Guillotine Motions. I am anxious to go further and prevent there being an excuse for them. I hope therefore that the Leader of the House will give serious thought to this point. Perhaps he will refer it to the Select Committee on Procedure which is already considering certain matters. Perhaps at the same time he will refer to that Committee the whole question of whether there are not other methods by which we can be saved from the indignity, indecency and stultification of Guillotine Motions.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
With great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), it would be a great mistake to regard the Minister, as my hon. Friend did, as one who is forced to carry out an unpleasant duty with which he would otherwise find himself in disagreement. There may be a very good argument for looking at our present procedure, but there can be no argument at all for introducing this Motion only two weeks after returning from a Recess.
If the Leader of the House finds that because of changes in procedure and because of the number of hon. Members who want to take part in debates it is no longer possible to deal with controversial Measures except by introducing time-table 839 Motions, which both sides agree are intolerable, there are other channels through which he can deal with it. However, there is no justification for using that argument to impose this time-table Motion on this Bill.
Whatever arguments are adduced in this debate, the merits or demerits of the Bill are not involved. There are two issues. The first is the inconvenience and the undoubted undemocratic practice of timetable Motions. The second factor, as my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) said, is this particular timetable Motion. Although one would want to argue very much about whether discussion should be stopped or curtailed on a particular Bill, hon. Members on both sides will accept that a timetable Motion on any Bill should be properly discussed and is a matter of importance.
There has been talk tonight of hon. Members with other engagements. I represent a London constituency which is affected by the Bill. It is a very old and historic constituency which is to be dissolved and is to become part of the Borough of Woolwich. When I heard that there was to be a time-table Motion, I was in Norwich. This was last night. I had to catch a train this morning to come here to try to make known my point of view on the Motion.
If the debate is to be curtailed on a discussion of this kind, whatever the arguments may be for or against curtailing the debate on the Bill it is beyond argument that hon. Members are entitled to advance points of view for or against the time-table Motion. It is monstrous that with no notice at all the Order Paper was changed. Hon. Members away on Parliamentary business, in many cases 100, 200 or 300 miles from London, heard on the radio in their hotels that the debate on a major Bill was to be curtailed without any warning. They then came galloping down here in an effort to take part in the discussion.
I have no sympathy with the Leader of the House. There was no need for him to do this at this stage. We have been back from the Recess for only two weeks. I appreciate that at some stage he might have felt impelled, in an effort to get the Government's business through, 840 which is his job, to introduce a timetable Motion. It is impossible to justify time-table Motion without hon. Members having any opportunity to take part in the debate. This is an even bigger point than whether or not discussion on the Bill should be curtailed.
I have not any long experience of timetable Motions. I have taken part in the debate on every one which has been introduced since I have been a Member. As the right hon. Gentleman inferred, they seem to be very much like the ritualistic mating dances of the flamingo, where both parties express a great deal of emotion but know that the result is inevitable and nobody is very surprised when it happens.
However, there is quite a different position tonight. This is the first time-table Motion which I have known since 1959 and the first one which I can find in previous debates when every Government back bencher has opposed the Motion. This is not a case of a clash between the Opposition and the Government. Nobody on the back benches opposite who has been actively involved with the Bill has supported the Government. This is an important factor.
The hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and the Leader of the House made much play with the fact that Governments do not necessarily have to have an electoral mandate for every Measure they push through. I accept that entirely. I do not believe that all strong Governments are good Governments, but I believe that all weak Governments are extremely bad and dangerous Governments. The job of the Government is to govern. They have a majority and they are entitled to get their business through. It is for this that they have a mandate.
However, certain principles must be accepted if Parliament has any purpose at all. One principle is that there must be time for reasonable arguments to be deployed reasonably. If this is not so and if Governments can use their majority to prevent reasonable arguments being employed reasonably, it is a complete negation of democracy. If we accept that, any Government at any time can prevent embarrassing arguments being continued merely by going through the Division Lobby. This is entirely different from using their majority to push through legislation which they believe to be essential.
841 Are there any arguments to be deployed on the Bill? I should not have thought that there was any doubt about that. I have discovered in my constituency more feeling on this subject than on any other domestic issue. I am not arguing whether my constituents are right or wrong. But to quote one example—and I do not want to be controversial—since I have been a Member of the House I have had 12 letters about defence and the bomb.
It may be that the priorities are wrong, but I have had on this subject nearly 500 communications from constituents. They are from parents who are worried about their children, they are from teachers, local government employees, and people employed by the L.C.C., and from the local authorities themselves. Now we have had the unusual situation where Conservative local authorities have written to Labour Members saying, "Will you support us against our own party in the House of Commons?"
I am not arguing whether these people are justified or not. I merely say that this is surely evidence that there are arguments to be adduced and pursued. This is not a dispute between Government and Opposition, between Conservative Party and Labour Party where the Conservative Party has found itself in an impasse and has had to use its majority to get out of it. The Leader of the House has only to listen to the speeches of his hon. Friends who have put forward arguments. Some of them feel so strongly and so passionately that they have taken the occasion, not light-heartedly as all of us would understand, of voting against their own party in the Division Lobby.
There are disputes and not only among politicians. There are strong feelings among teachers, architects, people responsible for child care, local authority members and almost every sector of the community. It cannot be argued for a moment, therefore, that this is not an issue on which there is no genuine and reasonable feeling. It cannot be argued that this is a simple issue, or a partisan issue on which the Opposition are making the ritual noises against the Government and putting up opposition just for the sake of opposition. I would defend the Opposition even if they did that.
842 I think that it is the job of the Opposition to put before the electorate all the case against Government Measures, and it is the Government's job to put all the case in their favour. It is also the Opposition's job to stop that legislation coming into effect if it can. Bi-partisanship in Parliament is a complete negation of democracy. This is not a case of that sort. This is a case that cuts right across Parliament. It is not confined to any one section and there are many detailed and expert arguments to be produced.
We are entitled, therefore, to ask if our arguments have been reasonably put. Any Opposition are entitled to go through three stages. First, they can go through the stage of putting arguments as well as they can. When they have exhausted all their arguments they are in a position to try to prevent the Government putting through legislation with which they disagree. At the second stage, the Government are entitled to use their majority to force legislation through. But what they are not entitled to do is to ensure that the electorate have no opportunity of knowing what arguments would have been adduced if time had been given.
The Opposition has put forward arguments, and I speak here of opposition to the Bill and not Her Majesty's Opposition. A large number of hon. Members opposite are sincerely opposed to the Bill and they have been reasonable about it. I have gone through the reports of the debate. There has not been a speech from a back bencher which has lasted more than 20 minutes. Most of the speeches have been very short, lasting about 10 or 15 minutes. There has not been an occasion where the Chair has felt it necessary to intervene. There have been only two sets of points of order. One was a point of order put in his customary dignified fashion by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis). The other was a rather sordid and grubby squabble between a couple of hon. Members opposite who were calling each other names. There has been no attempt at a filibuster.
When I asked the Leader of the House, earlier, whether it was any part of his case that there was obstruction, and organised obstruction, he rather brushed the matter off. He has much more knowledge of Parliamentary procedure than I 843 have, but I should have thought that this was an extremely important question to answer and that we are entitled to an answer to the point. Is it any part of the Government's case that there has been any obstruction to the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman's answer to that was that the Opposition had not shown any enthusiasm for it. Does he really suggest that if the Opposition do not show enthusiasm for a Bill they ought to be stopped from expressing arguments about it?
The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) said that the Government had now lost their greatest impediment to the Bill in that the negotiations on entry into Europe had collapsed. The crusade has fallen through and it looks as though we shall not get in. The hon. Member said that we shall not now have those Bills concerned with the Common Market and the Government will have more time at their disposal. The hon. Member, with respect, was missing the whole point. If we take the argument of the Leader of the House there was no reason to have debate on those Bills either, because they also are contentious issues.
A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have views about the way the Government were selling everybody down the river. There were hon. Members on both sides who were not enthusiastic for the way in which the Government were breaking some of the pledges they had given. Some of us would have wanted to speak against the way the negotiations were carried out but, according to the Leader of the House, if there is a contentious Bill, with which the Opposition disagree, the Opposition should be automatically stopped from talking about it, because it is inconvenient. I should have thought that those were precisely the Bills that should have been debated at some length.
I appreciate that this is a big Bill, but are we to say that this is not a special occasion and that the right hon. Gentleman has discovered that if we had a big controversial Bill in the House it could not legitimately be discussed? A number of hon. Members opposite, all opposed to what the Government are doing, have said that they hoped the time would be made available for a fair discussion of the various points. With respect, fair dis- 844 cussion on the points in the Bill is the amount of time that an hon. Member can devote to putting forward reasonable, germane points. If he is prevented, or his speech is truncated, then as long as he was relevant in making points and was not being repetitive, it is not fair discussion. Now the Leader of the House says that if there is a big Bill we cannot debate it if the Opposition are not enthusiastically for it. We are entitled to have from the Government a simple statement. What is the Leader of the House getting annoyed about or muttering about?
§ Mr. Marsh
That is fair enough, apparently it is a private debate between the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I had an idea that it was part of the debate in which the rest of us are taking part.
I should have thought that we were entitled to ask either of the right hon. Gentlemen to tell the House clearly and simply whether they believe that hon. Members on either side have been trying deliberately to obstruct the Bill, as has happened in the past on the part of both parties on all sorts of issues. If hon. Members have not obstructed, will the Government also tell us in what way the Bill is different from any other large and contentious Bill? Are we now to accept that all future Measures which are involved and contentious must be guillotined in this way.
The second question we are entitled to put is equally important. May we have an explanation of why it was necessary to apply this timetable Motion in circumstances which clearly made it impossible for some hon. Members to arrange to be here to take part in the debate today?
§ Mr. Marsh
It is really quite impossible to be held responsible for the combined speeches of Lord Morrison of 845 Lambeth and the late Aneurin Bevan. Of course we reject it. What Lord Morrison of Lambeth said in the House or anywhere else has nothing whatever to do with the way in which this House conducts its business.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
Perhaps I should make a small point purely on a question of fact. I did, of course, refer to Lord Morrison of Lambeth's speech. I made another quotation, which will be read in HANSARD tomorrow—I did not want to go into detail about it—and this was not from anything said by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but from what was said by the Leader of the Labour Party. Absolutely fair notice was given that the Bill would be fought Clause by Clause and line by line. I put that as a purely factual point. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is so.
§ Mr. Marsh
I accept the point which the right hon. Gentleman makes. But, as I am sure he will accept, this is perfectly legitimate. It does not mean that, the moment the Opposition announce their opposition to a particular Bill, the Government must impose the guillotine. This is the moment when the Opposition have done it. We are only just past the second day of the Committee stage. If it had happened at the end of a week, or two weeks, I could understand it. The Government could then say that it was clear that the Opposition were determined to prevent their getting the Bill through. Many of the speeches on the Bill so far have come from Government back benchers who have supported the Opposition. Yet, as soon as that happens, the rest of the proceedings are curtailed.
I do not want to take a long time, because I know that there are other hon. Members—
§ Mr. Marsh
I am grateful for support from my hon. Friend, but, nevertheless, I still do not want to take long.
The issue is not whether one is in favour of or opposed to the London Government Bill. I happen to be violently opposed to it, and so are many hon. Members on both sides; but that is not the argument. It is not an argument about whether the Government are justified in introducing legislation of this kind, with or without a mandate. What 846 terrifies me is the speech of the Leader of the House in introducing the Motion. What he says, as I understand it, is that any Bill of this size which evokes strong feeling in the House cannot proceed without a timetable Motion, regardless of whether or not the debates are conducted in a perfectly reasonable fashion.
This, I suggest, has very serious implications. It means that the very issues which ought to be debated fully in the House can be debated only to the extent which the Government approves. At the moment, the Government can exercise their democratic responsibilities by ensuring that there is, at least, reasonable time given. If the time comes when a Government decide that they are the sole arbiters of the amount of criticism which can be directed at a Bill, the House will find itself on a very slippery slope indeed.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South West)
We are at a great disadvantage in conducting this debate because, until now, some four hours after the beginning of it, we have heard nothing whatever from the Government side, apart from the speech of the Leader of the House in introducing it, to explain why the Guillotine Motion is necessary. We cannot know what the Government's supporters think about it. Only two of them have given the House the benefit of their thoughts on the matter, and both those hon. Gentlemen spoke strongly against the Motion. There has been no support for the Motion that the guillotine be adopted.
It is a scandalous state of affairs when the Leader of the House can make a proposal of some constitutional importance without at least some measure of support from the House of Commons. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman is the person mainly responsible for the Motion.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I am reluctant to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I think that he has not got the facts quite right. Four hon. Members opposite have spoken, and each one of them opposed both the Bill and the Guillotine Motion.
§ Mr. Evans
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I heard only the speeches of two Government supporters, and both were opposed to the Motion. My hon. Friend tells me that there were two 847 speeches from Government supporters which I did not hear, and those also did not support the Motion. I repeat that it is a scandalous state of affairs when the Leader of the House—our Leader—
§ Mr. Evans
No. I shall come to that in a moment when I discuss the role which the Leader of the House is supposed to play. It is a scandalous state of affairs when the Leader of the House of Commons can move a Motion which evokes no expression of support from any quarter of the House. All we have to go on is his own speech, and a very short and perfunctory performance I thought that was.
I suppose that the Minister guiding the Bill through is also partly responsible for the timetable Motion—his name is down to it—but he is only a secondary figure in this procedural device. The main responsibility is on the Leader of the House of Commons. He has failed the House of Commons on this occasion. He is in a very special position. It is not his sole job to get Government business through. He should know that by now. He has not been in his job very long, and he lacks the experience of his predecessor, but he should know by now that he has another duty apart from having to see that Government business proceeds. He has a duty to the House of Commons. It is his duty, as I understand it—I have been here a number of years—to feel the pulse of the House, to gather the voice of the House, to try to get the House to proceed with its business in as smooth a manner as possible. That is one of his duties, and on this occasion he has failed to perform it.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is his responsibility to see, as far as he can, that the rights of the Opposition are not violated. In his speech today, he made no mention of the rights of the Opposition to oppose the Government. It is part of his duty to ensure that Her Majesty's Opposition are able to perform their functions as an Opposition. He is not doing very well as Leader of the House. He has yet to gain the full confidence of the House as its Leader.
I put it to him that he can be too sure of himself and that, in this early stage of his career as Leader of the House, he 848 has yet to learn quite a lot. If he is to reach the high level of his predecessor as Leader of the House, he should have more consideration for that part of his duty which concerns the House as a whole and that part of it which concerns the rights of the Opposition. [Interruption.]I think I heard one of my hon. Friends say that the right hon. Gentleman who was Leader of the House before the present Leader of the House was no good. I beg to differ from him, because I think that the right hon. Gentleman who preceded the Leader of the House in that office had some measure of good will on both sides of the House. He did consider the general feeling and attitude of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman gave as his main reason for tabling this Motion the fact that, in his view, not enough progress had been made in the two days' debate which we have had in Committee on Clause 1 and the First Schedule. The right hon. Gentleman must have known that Clause 1 and the First Schedule were of great consequence to many people and to a very considerable number of hon. Members. I hazard the guess that as many as 60 to 70 Members of Parliament are affected by Clause 1 and the First Schedule in some way or another. It must have been because so many members were affected by them that the Government decided that they should be taken by a Committee of the whole House. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman knew in advance that the two days' debate on the First Schedule and Clause 1 would necessarily involve the interests of a very large number of hon. Members and that he could not expect that we should proceed on that Clause and on that Schedule with the expedition which we experience in Committees upstairs. Therefore, to base a judgment on our progress during those two days of dealing with the vital Clause 1 and the vital First Schedule was unfair.
The right hon. Gentleman had no basis on which to judge the progress which we made. He merely had the experience of those two days, when we were dealing with a special Clause and with a special Schedule.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
There is one comparable precedent. The Vassall Tribunal has taken days discussing whether the fellow wore a nightshirt or pyjamas.
§ Mr. Evans
I will not pursue my hon. Friend's reference to nightshirts and pyjamas, but I am obliged to him for reminding me that the Vassall Tribunal is concerned with justice, and that in seeking justice time should become a secondary consideration. Today, in the House of Commons, however, the Leader of the House is concerned with speed and with rushing this Bill through. He is not concerned with the justice of the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman had no guide as to how we would proceed in future. He should not have made a judgment on the progress which we made during those two days, but should have allowed us in Committee in discussing a subject involving the interests of many Members of Parliament, to take a reasonable time. I admit straight away that later in Committee it would probably have been necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to think about introducing a timetable Motion. That would have been a right course, it would have made plain his respect for the House of Commons and he would have been taking action, after the Standing Committee had met, in keeping with precedent. But to judge our progress on this complicated Bill by two days' debate on Clause 1 and the First Schedule was an unfair basis on which to come to a conclusion about how we should get along. The right hon. Gentleman made a mistake in being so quick to bring in this Motion and in not delaying his decision about it at least until the Standing Committee had begun its proceedings.
If the Leader of the House—it seems inevitable that I should address him because no hon. Member opposite has spoken in support of the Motion—had examined the Order Paper, and I suppose that he does look at it now and again, he would have seen that Amendments are tabled in the names of Members of all parties. The two days on which the right hon. Gentleman makes his judgment are claimed by the House of Commons as a House. This is not a party Order Paper. It does not contain predominantly party Amendments. A glance at it would show anyone that Members of all parties, even a Liberal Member, have tabled Amendments. Certainly hon. Members opposite have their share of the Order Paper. Their 850 names appear in equal numbers with those of members of the Opposition.
Looking at the Order Paper, one would have thought that the Leader of the House would have said, "The House as a House, and not a particular part of it, wishes to speak extensively on this First Schedule and Clause 1". It should have been obvious from the Order Paper, even to the Leader of the House, that the House as a House, irrespective of party, wanted to discuss Clause 1 and the First Schedule at length, and I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have decided that the House must have its way. After all, the House of Commons is of more importance than the Leader of the House. It is the final arbiter of all we do. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, on seeing that there were Amendments tabled in the names of Members of all parties and that the House of Commons was itching and ready to discuss Clause 1 and the First Schedule at length, would have said, "The House of Commons wishes to talk at length about this. It is not my business nor any part of my duty to prevent the House as a House from discussing this Clause and this Schedule at length."
But apparently the right hon. Gentleman decided that he must use his authority—it is an abuse of authority, as I conceive it—to subjugate the House of Commons to his own will. He is not merely limiting the speeches of hon. Members on this side of the House; he is limiting the speeches of the House of Commons as a whole.
If one examines the OFFICIAL REPORT for the two days we have spent on Clause 1 and the First Schedule, one can find nothing there to support the decision to introduce this Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) went through the speeches, and it is clear that there was fair discussion by hon. Members on both sides of the House. This was possibly the House of Commons at its best, with cross-debating. That is different from today's situation. I suppose that the Leader of the House has put on the Whips to silence most of his back benchers. They will carry out his wish to silence the House on this Bill.
851 There is no ground for his contention that time was wasted last week and that there was obstruction, resulting in the Government's business being unfairly held up. The Minister of Housing and Local Government himself made three speeches, each lasting 20 minutes, and he also intervened quite frequently. He helped the Committee considerably. We all got along quite well and there was no waste of time. The Amendment which I moved, on which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary was able to make a small concession, took only 12 minutes to dispose of. The Leader of the House's claim that progress has so far been inadequate on this Bill has no justification at all. His decision to limit free discussion is unjustified.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, because I find that the question of the government of London is rather like Scottish business. If I had ventured before to speak on the Bill, no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) would have claimed that I was keeping him out.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
As my hon. Friend has mentioned me, perhaps I should make it clear that I was hoping that he would get into the debate because he is an expatriate cockney, and I felt that he would be able to add force to our arguments.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am an Essex-born man, not a Cockney, domiciled in Kent and representing a Yorkshire constituency. I can perhaps take a more urbane view of things than a Member who just represents Deptford.
§ Mr. Pannell
In my time I have sat on four local authorities which are covered by this Bill. For a long time 852 I was involved in local government in Kent. I notice that the right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) has tabled an Amendment about her area. She does not want it to be contaminated in any way by the Borough of Erith, where I used to be mayor. She wishes to strike out everything which would interfere with her electoral chances at the next election.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)
If the hon. Gentleman were more closely aware of the representations made by the Borough of Erith and by the Urban District of Crayford he would know that they made representations in writing to the town clerks stating firmly that they had no affinity with my area and that they thought it wrong that Chislehurst and Sidcup should be joined to them. These representations were first brought forward by Erith, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his allegations.
§ Mr. Pannell
When I see the Parliamentary representation of Sidcup and Chislehurst, I do not blame Erith and Crayford. I can only consider that if the Borough of Erith, which is the banner town of Labour in Kent and has had a continuous Labour majority since 1938, were in any way mixed up with Chislehurst and Sidcup, undoubtedly there would be another Member of Parliament at the next election. It so happens that apparently the feelings of the Borough of Erith and the Urban District of Crayford now line up with the wishes of the right hon. Lady and her area. I am sorry if I misreported her.
I want to correct my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) on a point of detail. He seems to think that the Leader of the House has something to do with leading the House. That is a curious doctrine. Most of the duties my hon. Friend ascribed to the Leader of the House are duties which fall on Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. A. Evans
No doubt my hon. Friend is an authority on these matters, but surely a Leader of the House, to fulfil his office effectively, should, as far as possible, try to carry the whole House with him and have in mind the rights and duties of Her Majesty's Opposition.
§ Mr. Pannell
I have never known any Leader of the House to construe his job exactly in that way. The origin of the office goes back to the days when the Prime Minister used to sit in the House of Lords. Therefore, the person who led the Government in this House was known as the Leader of the House. He was always, and still is, a Government spokesman. The trouble lies in the fact that the present Leader's predecessor adopted a bipartisan tone and always tried to hold the House to the idea that somehow or other he represented this side as well as that.
My right hon. and hon. Friends "fell" for that kind of talk. I never did. I have always recognised that the Leader of the House is the Leader of the Government in the House, a man who tries to get the Government's way. That is all there is to it. The sooner we drop the idea that somehow the Leader of the House has cast upon him duties which are, in fact, discharged by Mr. Speaker, the better. We must recognise him as the enemy of this side that he is. He is no friend of ours and I do not want him to be.
The Leader of the House announces the business for the week and the Leader of the Opposition takes him up on it. Every time the Leader of the House wants to dull down the spirit of battle on this side, he says, "I think, on behalf of the whole House …". But the only occasions when he really does act on behalf of the whole House are ceremonial occasions, such as announcing the names of delegates to foreign parts.
The right hon. Gentleman represents one of the boroughs affected by the Bill. My right hon. and hon. Friends should recognise the political facts of life. It is undoubtedly true that, had things gone as planned and we had joined the Common Market, this Motion would not have been brought in. But the Government have been sold short. The Prime Minister, having sold General de Gaulle short when he connived at the Polaris settlement, has now been sold short himself by the present French Republic.
Everything has gone wrong for the Government. Unemployment has gone up and their arms programme has come to nothing. They are now on the horns of a dilemma about how soon they can 854 have a General Election. That is the reason for all this business. Until a week or two ago, I used to think that we would not have a General Election until 1964, because I thought that the Government had to have the time necessary to work out a story about going into the Common Market. I happen to be a European. On balance, I am in favour of our going into the Common Market, and I am personally disappointed that the President of the French Republic has behaved in a way—
§ Mr. Pannell
Who is calling me to order? Not the Leader of the House. When Mr. Speaker wants to tell me that I am out of order for explaining why this Guillotine Motion has been brought forward today, I shall be willing to bow to him, but my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West has made his speech and he must allow me to poodle on in my own way.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
Will my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) tell the House precisely what he means when he says that he wants to poodle on in his own way?
§ Mr. Pannell
It may be; I am using it in the context of Europe. I will use the expression "amble on" if hon. Members prefer.
The difficulty in which we now find ourselves arises because the Government are short of time. What was the business which was to have come before the House today? It was the Contracts of Employment Bill, a Bill with which the Leader of the House had something to do when he was running the Conservative Political Centre and before he knew anything about the Standing Orders of the House. It was a Bill which he "cooked up" at that time to bring about a classless society in Britain. The idea was to give everybody a contract of service so that the blue collar workers and the white collar workers should be of equal esteem.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
Order. The hon. Member is being very ingenious in keeping on 855 the fringe of order, but if he goes into the details of that Bill he will be definitely out of order.
§ Mr. Pannell
With the greatest respect, I should have thought that I could refer to the original business which was pushed aside in order to make way for this Motion, which is to shackle the free expression of Parliament. I find it very difficult to talk about a procedural Motion if I cannot refer to what the House has not been allowed to do today.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
What I am pointing out to the hon. Member is that he can do that, but that he must not go into the details of the Bills which have been pushed aside. He can certainly refer to them, but he cannot go into them in great detail.
§ Mr. John McCann (Rochdale)
On a point of order. Surely we are allowed to refer to the importance of the legislation which has been pushed on one side to allow this timetable Motion to be discussed.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Certainly. That is what I am saying. The importance of those Bills can be mentioned, but to go further than that and to deal with their merits and demerits and details would be out of order.
§ Mr. Pannell
I was referring to the Bill which should have come before the House today. Instead, we have had this procedural Motion. It is obvious that hon. Members opposite take no interest in it, or do not know what it is all about, for when I have come into the Chamber from time to time hon. Members have been castigating the Motion, and I can only assume that at the end of the debate the dumb, driven cattle will be taken through the Lobby to vote for it.
If hon. Members opposite do not know what the Motion is about, they do not know about the business which should have been taken today. That business has been waiting since 1947. It is the elementary duty of anyone, occupying, as I do, the position of the honorary secretary of 856 the trade union group of the Labour Party, to say what it is all about and the importance of the business which should have been considered and which we are not considering. That is the difficulty in which I find myself.
It would be an impertinence for anybody to tell you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what was coming on today, because I am sure that you know all about it, but we are protesting that the very weighty business which should have come on today has not come on today and that instead we have had a Guillotine Motion which is designed to stop the free expression of the House.
The history of this guillotine procedure goes back into the mists of time when the House sat for I do not know how many hours during the old Irish trouble—perhaps my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) can tell me—and Mr. Speaker Brand, without any Standing Orders to aid him, adjourned the House. The guillotine procedure had to be introduced, but it was never considered to be something which could be turned on and off as the majority thought fit. Everything has shown that the Government do not now command a majority in the country and yet, almost at their death gasp, they bring in a Motion whose object is the gerrymandering of London constituencies. This is a high constitutional matter.
There is no doubt that the previous Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), was very much upset when, in 1949, the Conservatives only just missed winning a majority on the London County Council. He has always intended that he would get even for that, and the Government must not be surprised if we construe this Bill merely as an attempt by a discredited Government to rig constituencies for the next election. I have not seen anything quite like it since the last Boundary Commission Report, when all sorts of constituencies were fixed up in a most curious way. I still do not understand why it is that in Wimbledon we have a pocket borough at the disposal of the Conservatives in Surrey and, at the same time, we have the present boundaries of Mitcham. It is things of that sort which puzzle me extremely.
I do not know whether the Labour Party can win the election on this issue, but I believe that events are overtaking 857 the Government and that when the election comes, we shall undoubtedly be returned with a considerable majority. I have no doubt that the constituency of the Leader of the House, in Enfield, East, is as safe as safe can be. I know the area fairly well, for I spent a great deal of my boyhood days in the area. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is Enfield, West."] It is a pity that it is not Enfield, East, because people mostly turn their eyes to the East to see the glories of the salvation morning. I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that Leeds, West votes in the right way and that I cannot understand why Enfield, West does not do so.
I always think that the House looks at its worst when bringing in these procedural Motions, and when the common sense of the House is not shown. In that way, our business is not given the importance which it deserves.
§ Mr. Pannell
That is the worst of this place. One can never make a speech in comfort and in the belief that anyone is listening to what one has to say, except the many impatient Members who are only waiting to leap to their feet and get into the debate. I will not hold up the House for very much longer, but I want to refer to the size of the Bill.
Bearing in mind its importance, no one can say that too much time has been spent on it. Of course it has not. I have no doubt that the right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst could dilate upon her Amendment and the necessity to keep her constituency as it is for the best part of half an hour and make an interesting case about a part of the country of which I am fond.
In constituency after constituency, not only Members of Parliament, but members of local authorities and officials have spent a lot of time in seeking to prove the case against the Bill. I speak not in a political sense, because many people who protest against the Bill are Conservatives in local authorities. Does the Minister contradict that? Any number of protestors against the Bill are Conservative local authorities. The Minister agrees with me that Conservative local authorities in the London area do not like the Bill. There can be no argument about it. Consequently, they want to protest about it.
858 One could not imagine more of a high priest of Conservatism than the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). I used to think that none of us was as good as the gospel we preached, but few of us are as black as the hon. Member for Wimbledon. On the other hand, the hon. Member made an impassioned speech with all the fervour of an ex-president of the Band of Hope Union. It was remarkable. He even went into the Lobby with us against the Bill.
We heard the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), who represents a highly marginal constituency, which he will not occupy after the next General Election. He made an impassioned speech against the Bill. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member really think that he will keep his seat after the next election?
§ Mr. Pannell
Well, well. I have heard that a pessimist is a man who wears a belt as well as braces. What an optimist is, I should not like to say. Nobody except the hon. Member can believe that he will hold that seat after the next election.
All the Conservative local authorities, whose town clerks may find themselves without a job, are agitating against the Bill and saying that it is a bad Bill, a gerrymandering Bill and a Bill that will wreck not only the educational structure of London, but its town planning structure. Letters have been written to that Left-wing journal The Times on the subject. Nobody has had a good word to say about the Bill, and yet the Government—
§ Sir K. Joseph
I do not want to claim too much, but I think it is true to say that half the borough groups which have been proposed in the Bill have not provoked a single Amendment on the Order Paper; and a substantial number of the local authorities in the borough groups to which I refer come from each party.
§ Mr. Pannell
I have examined the Minister's position. He is an hon. Baronet by virtue of being the son of on ex-Lord Mayor of London and he brings a nice degree of objectivity from the City of Leeds. Both the right hon. Gentleman and I have served London 859 in our way and we have gone to Leeds and are both much better off. Nobody would represent a London constituency if a Leeds seat was available. That is common sense.
The right hon. Gentleman has a considerable majority in Leeds. He goes there and can look at London with a nice degree of objectivity. He surely cannot believe the statement which he has just made. It is not the boroughs who put down the Amendments, but hon. Members who represent the boroughs. Looking through the Notice Paper, one sees the names of all the hon. Members representing the London boroughs who have put down Amendments.
I have already referred to the hon. Member for Wimbledon. He has been chairman of the Surrey County Council. He is not exactly one of us—or I hope not. Other Amendments appear in the names not only of the hon. Member for Clapham, but of the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn)—I wonder what he has to do with London—the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), the hon. Member for Wimbledon and the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). That is a fairly formidable lot of Conservative Members putting down their names to Amendments on the Bill.
Others include the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) and the hon. Member for "Tottenham Hotspur" (Mr. A. Brown), who finds himself on the other side of the House, but will find himself out on his neck at the next election. It is no use the Minister talking about the local authorities who put down the Amendments. They have got going on their Members, in exactly the way that the City of Leeds lets the Minister and me know of its discontent.
I can only assume that the Government want the Bill for their own gerrymandering purposes in the belief that somehow it will do for them the same as the Boundary Commission probably did for them in the 1950 election. I am sorry about all this. This massive Bill needed major consideration in Committee upstairs. In the old days, it would have been worth the whole of a 860 Session, three mornings a week, and at the end we might have done something which was for the good of London.
I do not want anybody to think that I am in favour of London growing bigger. One of the curses of London is that it is far too big and sprawling. The Government have allowed the North—the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, where goods are made right from the beginning—to be denuded of the traditional industries. The whole pattern of life in the North has been distorted. The Government have done nothing to guide London or canalise it into a proper size or proper administration. Then, somehow, they blame London for the sprawl that they themselves have created over the years.
When we say that this is a serious matter which we want time to consider, a procedural Motion is brought in, not on the merits of the Bill, but simply on the merits of how far the Government can last and whether they can last at all. I know that a number of other hon. Members on this side are bursting to get into the debate, but I hope that I have made my protest.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
It was said on one occasion that the then Government Front Bench was an extinct volcano and that is a very good description of the Administration at this stage. Now, however, it has suddenly erupted into feverish activity with the London Government Bill. Consideration of our proceedings today gives one cause to ponder over the Government's priorities, because there was on the Order Paper for today the Contracts of Employment Bill, which many of us looked forward to discussing, because it had been built up by the Government as an enormously important—indeed, almost revolutionary—social Measure which would affect the fate of our working people and improve their status. What has happened to it? It has gone through the window to make way for the Guillotine Motion.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) still in his place. During his speech, he took the view, which a number of his colleagues have shared, that broadly speaking he approved of the use of the guillotine as a constitutional measure provided that 861 it was used with discretion. As I understood the approach by hon. Members opposite to discretion, it was to, be exercised to enable them to put their point of view.
The difficulty about the guillotine is that it is not an instrument that is given to discreet use. Once it is decided to use it and the guillotine falls, there is an inevitable finality in its operation. The purpose of the operation is to truncate debate, to truncate discussion, and I could not help feeling that the hopes of the hon. Member for Clapham and other of his colleagues that nevertheless it would be possible to use this guillotine machine in conditions which would enable them to do their duty by their constituencies were somewhat optimistic.
This guillotine will fall when we reach the stage of discussion of the First Schedule. The only quarrel that I have with the otherwise devastating speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is that in his view the allocation of time contemplated for the First Schedule is reasonable. I share the view taken by several of my hon. Friends that the First Schedule is the very essence of this Bill. It certainly is the essence of the Bill from the point of view of many hon. Members, because the effect of it is to achieve a guillotine of the most drastic type, in the case of the Borough of West Ham, which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and I represent, it has the effect of achieving its death.
One feels that this Guillotine Motion will inevitably limit discussion of changes which will alter the whole pattern of government and of local loyalty, which in the case of West Ham have existed since 1889. But there are other areas and boroughs of great standing which have achieved their own traditions and established their own standards whose fate as individual boroughs is now in issue.
It is intolerable that in this situation the prospects are that those local authorities which have run upon the voluntary efforts of many men and women, and which are administered by devoted officers, should be placed in the position that when they ask us to represent their points of view we have to say to them—and I hope that hon. Gentlemen oppo- 862 site will say this to their local authorities—"We are very sorry. We cannot adequately put the point of view which you have asked us to represent in the House. The Tory Government do not give us the opportunity to do so". I trust that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have so bravely spoken will take their courage in both feet and vote with us in the Lobby when the Motion is divided on tonight.
We have reached the stage of beginning the discussion on the first Amendment to the First Schedule. After we have traversed the separate claims of Paddington, Greenwich, Deptford, Bermondsey, Wandsworth, and the rest, by the time we reach the rarified air of East Ham and West Ham I suspect that the allocated time will have been consumed.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I have not omitted Stepney by design. I agree with my hon. Friend. There are many other boroughs whose whole fate is in issue. Many loyalties are being challenged by this discussion. In fact the efficient administration of London is being challenged. This is not merely a question of loyalties. There is a deep division of opinion as to what is best for the community.
At an earlier stage my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) intervened and suggested that there should be full discussion in circumstances where the Bill departs from the terms of the Report of the Royal Commission. My hon. Friend referred expressly to West Ham, the continuing existence of which the Commission recommended. The Minister seemed to shake his head. Whether he was denying that statement of fact I know not, but that is indeed the case. The Commission made that recommendation about West Ham, and this is one of the many illustrations where this Measure has departed from what that distinguished body recommended.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was shaking my head because it was about the possible borough groupings, or borough futures, that the Royal Commission was particularly tentative. It was the only part of its Report on which it was tentative. It said that it had not gone deeply into this question at all, and therefore it put forward suggestions on this subject very diffidently.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I follow that. There was not the full machinery of investigation by a boundary Commission into these proposals, nor was there before the Government produced this Bill which is equally tentative, but, unhappily, prejudiced politically in favour of the Government. This is the deep anxiety that we feel, and the accusation that we make against the Government, that the reason for this indecent haste is not purity of mind about the failure of public administration in London, but a desire to achieve a quick political advantage.
We are not impressed with this casting of a white sheet which the Leader of the House endeavoured unimpressively to impose on himself with a smile on his face at the beginning of this debate. It did not impress the House, and I do not believe that it really impressed him. He is too old a hand in this matter of the business of politics.
I do not think that it is much of an exaggeration to say that each of these Amendments goes to the root of a pattern of politics and life which call for the most serious and anxious deliberation. One of the features of the Bill is that the questions which are asked are by no means posed in a partisan way from one side of the House only. The Minister will be aware that not only in this debate, but during the Committee stage, his colleagues have been deeply anxious not only because of the hope of winning a few votes at the next General Election, but for reasons of persuasion by those who have informed them of the possible consequences of some of these provisions.
This is not a Bill where an alignment of political forces on one side of the House against the other is necessarily involved, although I cannot escape the fact that that is to some extent the case. It is not essentially a case where the subject matter of our discussion is purely on party level. There is real anxiety on both sides of the House about the alteration of a system of government which has stood in high standing for so long, and which has established the London County Council as one of the most efficient and distinguished of all local authorities, particularly in its achievements. There is real anxiety about what is admittedly a very difficult problem of reorganisation. The House should therefore ask itself whether this Motion is really called for in the circumstances.
864 One of the things that shocked me was the information given by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham at the beginning of the debate that there had been no approach from the Government to this side of the House for the imposition of a voluntary timetable. I attended the discussions in Committee. There was not hint from the Minister that we were taking too long. There was never a stage during the discussion in Committee when he said that we must get on, that we were wasting time. He listened with great courtesy to, and answered with great care, the arguments advanced during the debate, and at no time was there anything approaching repetition. I do not even mean repetition of the kind which would be noted by the Chair. But there was no time when there was anything other than a serious consideration of the merits of the important Amendments being discussed. Accordingly, it is deplorable that, without any kind of approach to the Opposition Front Bench, the House of Commons should be presented with this ultimatum.
I confess that I find the issue of whether, in order to make the Government work and achieve their programme, circumstances might arise which made a Guillotine Motion necessary not easy of solution. I can conceive of cases where such circumstances might well arise. But surely in such a Bill as this, which effects great constitutional changes an approach should be made to this side of the House regarding a voluntary timetable. I have little doubt that we could have achieved a reasonable compromise, giving enough time for reasonable discussion and enabling the Government to get through what legislation they deem necessary.
In this country we pride ourselves on having Government by consent and the basis of that is government by discussion. This kind of intrusion of the mailed fist into our debates can be justified only in circumstances of urgency, and in the most extreme cases, where it becomes obvious that there is a deliberate programme of obstructionism which is rendering the process of government impossible. No such accusation has been made against the Opposition on this occasion. The furthest that the Leader of the House went was to say that on this side of the House there was no enthusiasm to advance the progress of the Bill. Of course there is not.
865 This is a case where, first, the Government have got their priorities all wrong. We have reached the stage where the Government are almost totally discredited. Their foreign and economic policies are in ruins. Massive and urgent measures of change and planning need to be introduced. This is no occasion where the functions of the House of Commons should be distorted by the exercise of the guillotine.
I protest most strongly at the truncation of the debate. That should happen only in extreme circumstances, which do not exist save in the wish of the Government to rush through this Measure as soon as possible.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
I am concerned not so much with the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the guillotine as with the overall position arising from the endeavours of the Government to curtail our discussions. These are vitally important matters. They concern the question of bringing people to live together in certain communities and the extent to which there may be a desire by people to live together. How far ought the Government to impose their will upon people who may desire to live together in a particular community? How far should the Government go to compel them, if they do not desire to do so? To what extent should the Government be the arbiters of fate for the individual, and to what extent should the Government interfere with the liberty of people in such matters as this?
It is not only a question of efficiency. The groups concerned could be larger or smaller, or composed in a different way without regard to the ultimate efficiency of the organisation from the point of view of local government. That does not come into the picture at all. The Government have decided on a formula to be applied, and because their majority has shrunk to such a small size in respect of this Bill they are determined to curtail the discussion so as to ensure that they do not suffer defeat at some stage—as they might well do in view of the recalcitrants among their supporters and the lack of interest on the part of others who are not particularly concerned.
In a matter which affects the lives and wellbeing of 8 million people one might 866 think it important that the fullest possible measure of discussion should be afforded in order to allow all points of view to be fully explored regarding the desirability of this Measure. What is it that the Government seek to achieve? Do they want government for the people by the people, or a community of interest in which people are happy with the relationship which has been established? Or are the Government seeking to impose by force majeure something they consider desirable for the people, irrespective of the desires of the people? This is not a question of party politics. It is a question of the interests of the people. That has been said by hon. Members opposite and it arouses considerable misgivings about whether the proposals of the Government are acceptable to the people. That is what really matters in a democracy.
The government of London has its place in the overall pattern of local government. But it also has a special meaning for the people of London. That is why the ordinary standards of the local government boundary commissions do not apply to London. Its problems have been considered separately, and a Royal Commission came to conclusions vastly different from those which the Government seek to impose on the people of London. But, presumably, the Government have decided that they must have their way. What lies beneath all this? What are the underlying principles? It cannot be a matter of overall efficiency, or that what is proposed will give London so much better government at a much lower cost. The chances are that it will cost more, anyway.
What were the Government's objectives? One can only assume that this was a political move to destroy the London County Council and, in the process, to destroy a number of other local units in order to achieve that. One can only assume that this is the basis. Whether that is so or not is not the issue at the moment. The question is whether all these things ought to be settled by free discussion in this House, whether or not we are the guardians of democracy in which the voice of the people is heard, or whether it is to be subject to the dictates from the Government Front Bench that this legislation has to go through in accordance with a certain timetable.
867 If the news from Brussels had been different today the Government would have gone ahead with a very difficult programme to assimilate Britain into the Common Market, or something of that kind. They would then have said that they must get this matter through urgently and that they were not prepared to let the matter of London government stand in the way because there were matters of greater urgency and more important to the State to be dealt with. They would have said, "Let us get this out of the way so that we can discuss these other major questions of importance to Britain and the Commonwealth as a whole". But that was not the case.
What is the degree of urgency which would require this matter to come back from the Committee in such a limited time? I am not concerned here with the particular structure of a borough. I am not concerned with whether a borough is to be composed of certain units or divided into certain units. This matter is important to the people immediately concerned. Looking at the overall pattern, we see matters of grave importance to discuss in regard to the social organisation of the services with which they are concerned, the importance of the human services, how they should be broken up, whether they ought to be broken up into units, and how far those units may become better as a result of breaking them up.
These are not matters to be settled in accordance with a preconceived timetable with a few hours for this particular Amendment and an hour or two for that and an intimation that if we want to discuss one we cannot discuss another. That is what it comes down to in the last analysis when we are forced into a decision in which vital matters of concern to millions of people will not be discussed at all. This is of grave concern to the people. It is of grave concern to us as a democracy. It is of grave concern to the good name of this House which, in the last analysis, is the guardian of the people. We are not here to obey the dictates of a Government who set themselves on a certain course, particularly in these matters of so much domestic concern.
I can understand it in great and important matters of overall State concern—not that 8 million people are to be ignored, 868 but assuming that we may partially ignore them in looking at the question of 50 million people, or the Commonwealth. These are things which affect the daily lives of large numbers of people. The Government have come out with a spurious device that their intention is to create locally better government. It is up to the Government to prove their case and to do so in free debate, not in a curtailed debate which will give advantage to Government Amendments and no advantage at all to Amendments which spring from bodies of people, from local authorities, boroughs and counties, from the people who know the problems with which they are faced in day-to-day administration. These people know the problems of divided loyalties and how those divided loyalties can be brought into a unity of purpose for the good of the community as a whole.
This is the most disgraceful and misguided use of the Guillotine Motion that has been devised since I became a Member, in 1945. I can understand that in the problem of steel a Government at some stage might say, on either nationalisation or denationalisation, that these are matters they have to get through in a particular time. They make an impact on the life of the people, but they have not the same impact on the life of the people as social services have. It is these things of which the House should be the most jealous guardian. We ought to be concerned that what we give to the people in this sort of matter they will feel is something which is useful and worth while to them.
Can we go to them and say, "We are very sorry, but the Amendments put down so that there can be a discussion on the particular merits of this or that form of structure in regard to a particular social service cannot because of the timetable, be discussed"? Could there be a more disgraceful or discreditable accusation made against any body claiming to speak in the name of the people? The fact is that the Government can no longer claim to speak in the name of the people, either nationally or locally. The sooner they move out of their position the better for all concerned. If all the rumours of a General Election in May turn out to be true we shall get rid of this Bill in the process of getting rid of the Government. That is the best we can hope for.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
As well as being a Minister the Leader of the House is a servant of the House and, in that capacity, he must take careful account of the wishes of hon. Members. The Bill under discussion is not, or should not be considered, a political issue. It deals with the reform of London government and proposes very great changes. Indeed, each Schedule might in itself be described as a Bill and no one will dispute that this one piece of legislation involves tremendous problems of a social as well as an organisational type. It is all the more important, therefore, that we should probe every part of it.
Considering the complexity of the Bill and accepting for the moment that the Government have had proper regard to the matter, one must surely expect the Government to be anxious to see that such a wide, sweeping Measure is considered so thoroughly that no part of it is left untouched. I put it in that way because that describes how all hon. Members should approach the matter.
I have been an hon. Member for many years. I have seen a large number of Measures passed through the House and have taken part in many of the debates on them. I have always been under the impression that any Bill which affected my constituency required me to take part in its discussion, sometimes to put forward Amendments but always having ample opportunity of adducing my point of view. After all, what is the House of Commons for? Is it not a debating chamber which deals with many legislative Measures? Should not every opportunity be given to hon. Members to present their views on behalf of the people they represent?
Unless it can be shown that there are exceptional circumstances, ample time should be allowed for every Measure to be discussed on Second Reading, in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading. No obstruction should be put in the paths of hon. Members which would prevent them from taking part in such discussion. Why and in what circumstances should the guillotine be imposed? I appreciate that in certain circumstances—on the face of it they should be very few in number—the guillotine may be necessary.
870 It may be said, for instance, that it might be required if the Opposition were being obstructive—deliberately employing tactics to prevent a Measure going through—in such a way that the obstruction prevented serious debate taking place. No such accusation has been made against the Opposition on this Bill. I was present on the days devoted to the Committee stage when various Amendments were discussed in detail. It was never suggested that there had been anything wrong in the conduct of my hon. Friends in those debates. It cannot be said, therefore, that there is any suggestion of obstruction.
On the other hand, it might be said, "We want this Bill urgently. It is important and we do not have the time to get it through without limiting the opportunities for discussion". That might have been said, although even that is doubtful, had there not been a breakdown in the Common Market negotiations. It is obvious now that the Government have plenty of time in which to discuss the Bill. All the time which the Government proposed to devote to necessary Measures in connection with the Common Market is now available. Why is there such frantic urgency to put this Measure on to the Statute Book?
It would be patently dishonest for the Government to attempt to advance either of these arguments—first, that there has been any obstruction by the Opposition, and, secondly, that there is any urgency about the Bill. What is the Government's objection to the Bill being treated in proper form? I have dealt with the possible objections. I invite the Government to say how they can make any case in answer to my argument.
I said at the beginning that in a sense the Bill is not a political Measure. The Government say that it is not a political Measure. We on this side are very suspicious about that. We believe, and are right to believe, that the Government are anxious to do some gerrymandering here. They bring the Bill forward for political reasons. If the Government are right in saying that there is no question of this being a political Measure, that it is merely a Measure in which the Government seek to do what is best for the reform of local government in London, why not give the House the opportunity of debating the Bill properly, of going into every aspect of it in Committee, and 871 allowing a Bill to come forward finally as a result of everyone taking part in proper consultation?
I am very much impressed by one fact. I have heard it said—I suppose it must be accepted as true—that no approach has been made to the Opposition to agree a voluntary timetable. If the Government had said, "This is a very big Bill. There are many things in it. We want to give you ample time to deal with it. We think it should be discussed in detail. Let us try to work out a timetable between us", one could understand the Government's attitude if the Opposition had refused.
We are still in the early days. We have had only two days in Committee. This is the third day of discussion, but this debate is on the Guillotine Motion, not on the Bill. At this early stage the Government have the impertinence to introduce this Motion. The Leader of the House, with his casual and flippant manner, spoke about precedents and other Bills in connection with which Guillotine Motions had been imposed. Has a Guillotine Motion ever been imposed in such circumstances as this? Have any Government ever sought to impose a timetable on a Bill which they have said is meant to be for the good of London? Has this ever been done? What attitude will the Tories adopt, what few of them remain, when the Labour Party is restored to power at the next General Election and ventures on an important Bill on a proper occasion to introduce a Guillotine Motion?
It horrifies me that we are discussing this Measure with only four Tories present, apart from the two on the Front Bench. This demonstrates the enormous interest taken in this matter by supporters of the Government. What has happened is very simple. Hon. Members on the Government side are outside the Chamber, somewhere in the precincts of the House. They will come in and vote for the Government and they will not have the slightest idea what they are voting for. They have not heard a single argument and they do not know anything about the case for or against. It is disgraceful that our affairs should be dealt with in this manner. It is particularly disgraceful when it is remembered that we on this side of the House are not only pleading 872 our own case but are upholding the case of many hon. Members opposite. I doubt whether a single Member opposite who has spoken on the Bill supports this Motion for a moment. This is a disgraceful step on the Government's part. It is a step which shows the desperation they are now in. It is one of the last things they are doing before they have to go to the country and suffer the defeat which they thoroughly deserve.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House, because I believe that by now most of the points to be made in the debate have been made from these benches. But I do not feel that I should let this opportunity pass without saying a few words on this most important Motion.
I should like to reiterate what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) said about the interest taken in the Motion by Conservative Members. Judging from their attendance, there appears to be little support for the Motion, with so few even caring to listen to the debate at this time of day and, for that matter, almost throughout. I have been a Member of Parliament for twenty years and I have never before seen such an important matter before the House dealt with in the way that this has been dealt with by the Government, and in such a short time. Obviously, Conservative Members do not know much about the situation and it is for that reason that the Government have brought forward this Motion.
I was present during the Committee stage proceedings on the Bill last week when some Conservative Members, at least, were in their places and played their part in taking up time to discuss Clause 1. But even they now appear to be conspicuous by their absence. I wonder whether the Government Chief Whip has told them, "You dare speak tonight and you will see that something will happen to you between now and the next General Election." This is the sort of disrepute into which the House has been put, the sort of situation in which hon. Members opposite who had the courage to speak against the Government in Committee find themselves. I wish that they were now here to listen 873 to me. Perhaps they could then answer me.
I make the strongest possible protest against this shocking Motion being introduced so quickly. During my membership of the House I have never listened to a more proper discussion during the Committee stage of a Bill than we had on the Bill last week. No time was wasted. Very important matters affecting millions of people in London, including my constituents, have been under consideration. The time was shared equally between that side of the House and this. But I had a curious feeling last Thursday night when I saw the Leader of the House sitting in the corner seat of the Front Bench watching us with a twinkling eye as we were going into a Division at ten o'clock and thinking, "I will get you". That is the sort of Leader of the House we have now, a Leader who is prepared to bring in a Motion like this without any reason and without any complaint from either side about a waste of time.
For what purpose is the Motion being introduced? According to the Queen's speech, we take it that the Bill is the major item of legislation this Session. After two days in Committee on this major piece of legislation, we have the Guillotine thrust upon us. What sort of democracy is this? Is the Conservative Party becoming a Fascist party? It seems that the Tories are taking the same line as the Communists and the Fascists in denying the democratic rights of Members of the House to put the case of their constituents in a proper and dignified manner, without the Guillotine hanging over their heads.
The people of east London are gravely concerned about the Bill. One or two hon. Members opposite may giggle, but they, perhaps, have no connection with the subject matter of the Bill. It may please them to giggle, but they should come to the poorer parts of London and see what will be the effect of the Bill there and how worried people are about it. When we are denied the opportunity of expressing the opinions which our people want us to express, it is the very negation of democracy, and the Government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
In spite of what the Leader of the House said today, it cannot be denied that 874 no time has yet been wasted on the Bill. There is a lot of this Session left, and a reasonable amount of time could have gone to the Committee stage on the Floor of the House before ever the Government could accuse anybody of delaying the Bill by obstruction.
What is the reason behind it? Without doubt, it is political. The Tories are determined to ensure, as far as they possibly can, that London will not be governed by Labour again. They have tried their hardest since 1934. They failed with the electorate, but they are trying now, by Communist or Fascist methods, by use of the guillotine, to see that the government of London passes into Tory control and away from the democratically elected London County Council.
They want to put the government of London in the hands of the Tories, but for what purpose? They want to do it so that the Tory ratepayers' machine can grind the people of London as it did before 1934 but has never been able to do since.
It has been said optimistically by the Tories that they will win the next General Election. If they will, why rush the Bill through? They could introduce it again. Is it because they are afraid that they will lose the next election and that they will lose London electorally and parliamentarily and want to have control of London's local government? That appears to be the only reason why the Government should propose this Motion. Apart from the gigglers opposite, have they no sense of decency with regard to democracy? Perhaps one of the gigglers will get up and answer me. Perhaps they have not a sense of decency.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
There is no one on the benches opposite to answer my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Edwards
There is a giggler there. Although some hon. Members opposite do not belong to London, they should take this matter seriously. London is taking it seriously and that is why we strongly object to the Government's action in denying London Members of Parliament the opportunity to put their constituents' case before the House in the proper way.
I have never seen anything as shameful as this action. I thought that the Government had reached the depths of 875 shame, but this takes their shame even lower. I doubt whether they could get any lower than this.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) was right in his concluding remarks, namely, that we have reached a new low. I have listened to the debate for five hours, and, like most hon. Members speaking at the tail-end of a long debate, I find difficulty in seeing how I can underline the arguments which already have been put forward.
One thing which surely must be a precedent in this House is that since the opening speech of the Leader of the House not one contribution from either side has defended the Motion. For five hours hon. Members on this side have had nothing to answer except the statement of the Leader of the House. That was thoroughly demolished and scattered to the four winds by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). Since then, we have had to plead and push in every possible way in order to try to make some indentation on the thick skulls of the occupants of the Front Bench opposite.
A second precedent must be that we have a Guillotine Motion after two days of debate in which all the speeches from both sides, except two small contributions at the end of the second day, opposed the Government's proposals. In the first two days of the Committee stage the only defence for the Bill came from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. The Motion has been dealt with in a perfunctory way by the Leader of the House. There was never any serious charge of obstruction and yet the Guillotine Motion will be passed when the Whips get hon. Members opposite to vote.
I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that those of us who jumped to our feet when he was called were not impatient. We listen to his contributions with a great deal of pleasure. Whenever he gives us information about the procedure of the House, we always enjoy what he says. I welcomed his description of the duties of the Leader of the House. He referred to the job of the right hon. Gentleman to announce delegations to foreign parts.
876 Having heard the contribution of the Leader of the House today, the sooner he announces his own delegation to foreign parts the happier I shall be.
I wish to take up the point raised by a number of hon. Members about the constituency nature of the debate which we are having as a result of the Motion. The number of times when hon. Members are able to represent their constituents' point of view in this House are few and far between. We talk about great international matters and matters of national import, but there are few occasions when we have a specific and immediate duty and responsibility which keenly affects every one of our constituents. This is one of those occasions.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) pointed out that more than a hundred Members are affected and have been subjected to pressures on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) told of the 500 letters he has received. We are all in much the same position. In our local papers there are leaders and correspondence week after week. How can we justify our position to our constituents, because this Motion will not permit us to put the arguments we would wish to put on their behalf?
I have two Amendments on the Order Paper which are to be lumped together with 11 others. There will thus be an omnibus discussion with all of us keeping one eye on the guillotine. Consequently it will be impossible to make an effective contribution to try to secure the changes we wish to see made to this Bill in Committee.
The Minister himself has made the point that a number of hon. Members representing constituencies affected have not put down Amendments seeking to bring about changes in the boundaries proposed in the First Schedule. That, however, is merely a self-denying ordinance on their part. Hon. Members on both sides have sought all the time to be constructive and helpful, realising that if the Bill goes through we shall have to face its consequences in our constituencies. There has been no attempt at any stage to move frivolous Amendments.
Considering that more than a hundred hon. Members are directly affected, the number of Amendments has been 877 kept remarkably low. The nature of the Bill is extremely wide. The Seventeenth Schedule alone covers 22 pages dealing with 165 parts of Acts of which some Sections are to be repealed or altered. However, this Motion means that we shall not be able to safeguard our constituencies from the consequences of these repeals.
A few years ago another Measure was forced through the House. It was the occasion of deep division between the two parties. This time, however, there is no great division between the back benches on both sides of the House. The division is mainly between these benches and the back benches opposite and the Government. In 1957 the Rent Act was forced through, but before the ink was dry the Government had to introduce the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act to safeguard the position for the following three years.
The proposals in this Bill are so far-reaching that we may well have to come back for some temporary arrangement, once it is passed, in order to be able effectively to deal with the points we wished to make during its passage but where we will now be ineffective because of this Motion.
My own area of Willesden dates back at least to the Domesday Book. It has taken 1,000 years to reach its present position. Now the Government want to rush through drastic alterations in a few weeks. To hold only 21 sittings of the Standing Committee is thoroughly unfair, and the short time in which they must conclude is unfair to those of us who have other duties to perform.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) has also been sitting here for five hours, waiting to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I will therefore close my remarks although I wanted to make several more points, because I hope he will have the good fortune to be called. Most of the contributions made in this debate have come from people with the interest of Parliament at heart, concerned not only about the guillotine on this occasion but also with our institution and the way in which it is organised.
I hope that those who did not have the pleasure of hearing the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw 878 Vale (Mr. M. Foot) will read it tomorrow and see the logic he advanced. If we take this to its conclusion, then the House will become just a rubber stamp for whatever the Government want to do.
The way in which the House is becoming lowered in the estimation of the public was well put in the Guardian this morning. One of the shrewdest political commentators of our day is Norman Shrapnel, who wroteThis rather old-world idea that the Government's actions are controlled by the House of Commons seemed to intrigue many members and attract a great deal of sympathy …It is knowledgeable criticism of that kind giving a general impression of our standing which underlines the importance of this Guillotine Motion. Those who are utterly opposed to the way in which the Government ignore every decent precedent of the House and the way in which they seek to be entirely autocratic in their approach must bring the maximum pressure to bear in the Lobbies when the matter is taken to a Division.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Cliffe (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
Notwithstanding the amusement of some hon. Members opposite, the guillotining of this Bill is something which we ought all to feel to be extremely dangerous to any parliamentary democracy. We could have appreciated the Bill being pushed through if general conditions in London were so appalling that it became necessary to protect not only the people of London, but those hundreds of thousands if not millions who come into the City during the course of the year, if the administration had been in such a state of chaos that public services were breaking down.
But Ministers themselves and those who have spoken in favour of some parts of the Bill have admitted that the facts are that although there is ground for an examination and even improvement in some aspects of London local government, a certain amount of time is required for the smooth transfer of responsibility for functions like children's welfare, old people's welfare, the rehabilitation services and so on from London County Council to the Greater London authority and the enlarged borough councils. But the Government have insisted all along the line that there must be a deadline.
879 I am sure that they hoped that the two-day Second Reading debate would be an occasion for filibustering and frivolous speeches, so that they would have some justification for a guillotine. But what happened was that every hon. Member who spoke, from either side of the House, made serious submissions and expressed the overwhelming views of his constituency. How many hon. Members took part in that debate? I had one opportunity to explain what had happened to my constituency, how, in 1952, Shoreditch and Finsbury had been amalgamated so that the two areas lost one Parliamentary seat and three seats on the London County Council, how within a period of less than 10 years it was now confronted with a major surgical operation so that one part of the area would go to Islington and the other to Hackney and Stoke Newington. Is it seriously believed that we can continue to operate a democratic society—administratively, not politically—if situations like this are to arise every 10 years or so?
It has been said that the justification for the Bill is that nothing has happened for the past 60 years concerning the review area although there have been fundamental changes and movements of people from central London and other areas and the perimeter of London has been built up and, therefore, it is necessary to introduce the Bill and to get something done as quickly as possible. What has happened, and what, surely, concerns any hon. Member with a sense of decency, is that whilst all these alterations have taken place within London—and we admit some of them—there is need for examination, although not of the kind that the Government have presented.
The City of London, with its population of less than 5,000, is being left entirely alone. This, surely, must represent to everybody that there is something political about the Bill. A wonderful institution like the London County Council, which performs duties in practically all spheres of welfare work and education, which has been admired and envied by people from all parts of the world, is to disappear, while nothing is to happen to the City of London.
The Government are accused of political gerrymandering and that is what people are entitled to think. For 880 my part, I have made the accusation right from the start. They are now trying to force the Bill through because nobody has been able to defend it. When it was first introduced, the Minister of Education fumbled for words but could find nothing to say in defence of the educational policies proposed by the Government, who have since climbed down slightly. Nobody on the Government side has been able to present a case for the Bill. Of course, the Government want to get it out of the way.
I know that time must be allowed for other speakers, but at least I have had the opportunity of getting this off my chest. Whatever has happened is to the discredit of the Government. Despite the fact that they have said that the Bill is necessary, there is no reason to believe that they are any more right in this matter than they have been about their economic policies, their foreign policy, their defence policy and their Common Market policy. This is just another of their failures which can be added to all the others which they have had so far.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I am sure that everybody in the House will agree especially with the last few words of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe). An interesting part of the debate to those who heard it was the extreme difference between the half-hearted, ill-prepared and weakly argued speech of the Leader of the House and the quite devastating speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).
Nobody could feel that the Leader of the House had even thought that there was the slightest chance of making a case for the Guillotine Motion and, therefore, he made no real attempt to do so. He seemed to take the line—it was the only point he made—that since there had been timetable Motions dating back to 1887 and since the Government of the day had always moved them and the Opposition had always opposed them, they were, therefore, to be regarded as a piece of what he called shadow boxing on every occasion and were not to be taken seriously.
The fact that the right hon. Gentleman told us that since, when in Opposition, 881 he had made the same sort of speech which he thought my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham would make today—but which my hon. Friend did not, in fact, make—and he expected us on this side to behave similarly, is too juvenile a form of debate to be worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. There may well be some Guillotine Motions of which that can be true, there might well have been some in the past of which it was true, but each Guillotine Motion, like every other Motion which is offered to the House, must be dealt with on its merits.
The Minister tried to refer to precedents, but surely the great point about all precedents of timetable Motions is that there must be some reason for the Government resorting to them, and, above all, some evidence that the majority was being obstructed in getting its will by unreasonable behaviour on the part of the minority. There has been no attempt to show that here. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham pointed out, there could not be. That is no doubt why the Minister did not attempt to do so.
What is happening is very different. I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) when he referred to something which has been mentioned several times recently in the debates on these timetable Motions. This Conservative majority in the House has become just about the laziest majority there has been in the House for a very long time. No attempt is now made to get controversial Measures through by allowing time for debate. We never sit late any more. The Government do not want to sit late. The old fierce debates which went on into the early hours of the morning never take place now.
As the Minister said in a revealing phrase, once it becomes apparent that the Opposition have deep feelings about a Bill, one can be sure that the Government will resort to the timetable Motion to get it through. The terrible thing about it is that they really believe this. They really believe that time should be allowed for debate provided it is not a fiercely contested Bill, in which case a lot of time will not be needed for debate, but if it is a fiercely contested Bill on which there would be debate, time should not be allowed to discuss it.
882 One would have thought it impossible for the Minister to adopt a more ridiculous posture from a democratic point of view, yet this is what the Government are doing. If the Government wanted the Bill through by Easter, they should have set about trying to get it. If it had then become apparent that we were holding it up by filibustering, or any of the time-honoured practices, they could then have come along with a Motion such as this, but they never even tried. They fixed upon their timetable. They decided on Easter. They looked at the number of days available between now and Easter and said, "Very well, we shall resort to the guillotine."
The tragedy is that the Members who make up the Government's majority are supposed to be sitting on the benches opposite, but they are not, though no doubt when the Division bells ring they will come dashing in to vote for something about which they know nothing. The majority are prepared supinely to support this kind of approach by the Leader of the House, in their dying days. One would have thought that some would go to their inevitable defeat with some of the flags flying.
I know of no precedents, except the Motions which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced since he took over the office of Leader of the House, where there has been no evidence offered or required of obstruction before the timetable Motion was introduced.
The second point with which the right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to deal with the question whether this was an appropriate Bill for the guillotine. This Measure differs from all others. It is designed not only to alter irrevocably and on a drastic scale local democratic government for more than 8 million people, but to redraw political constituencies. Surely, if the form of democratic practice and procedure is to be observed, if such a Bill does not go through with agreement between the two sides, it must go through only after the minority affected have had the right to examine it?
This is a gerrymandering Bill. It is all very well for the Leader of the House to try to deal with this as a frivolous joke. He said that it was somehow absurd of us to accuse the Government of playing politics. I thought that he 883 felt that we would play politics. That is not much of a point, but it gives us the case. He is saying that we cannot accuse the Government of playing politics, even though they are doing so. That is not much of a defence. A murderer can hardly say to the judge, "I am not sure that you would not have done the same thing had you been in my place", and expect to get off.
The point is that the right hon. Gentleman is playing politics, and chairmen of Conservative associations have attacked him for doing so. It is true that the chairman of the Bromley Conservative Association—whom I have quoted before—made a public statement to the effect that by the Bill the Conservative Party was trying, through legislation, to get what it could not get through the ballot box. When the Government are redrawing the shape of constituencies in a manner which will affect our Parliamentary life and in due course will affect Parliamentary elections as well as local elections, to resort to the use of a timetable Motion becomes indefensible. To do it before we have started on the process of debate seems to me utterly indefensible.
The Minister mentioned the background to the Bill. He tried to show that the Measure was very respectable, and came from a highly respectable Royal Commission. Some town clerks had been involved somewhere in the picture. I got the idea that the right hon. Gentleman thought that if he could find a town clerk to support what was being done, the Government were home and dry. I feel bound to tell him that that is not normally regarded as the height of democratic procedure. The Minister did not deal with the point about the background of the Bill which is that there is practically no democratically elected authority in the whole of the area concerned, whether Conservative, Labour or independent in its political alignment, which is not opposed to the Bill, in whole or in substantial part.
Many people want the Bill to be properly debated, and, if possible, they want it to be amended, if they do not want to see it wholly rejected. When faced with such a situation, surely it becomes totally indefensible for the Government to resort to a time-table Motion to prevent any of 884 that from happening. Conservative authorities and other local authorities have written to hon. Members on this side of the House asking us to put down Amendments to the Bill for them. Obviously, these authorities feel that the Conservative Members of Parliament who represent them might be a little unreliable in this matter. I had an approach from the distinguished town of Barnet, where I once lived. Apparently Barnet felt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might somehow be unreliable in this connection. They asked that we put down Amendments and argue their case. I am not referring to Socialist authorities. This timetable Motion will prevent that from happening. The attempts of the Minister to deal with the issues surrounding the Bill were of a most shabby kind.
The right hon. Gentleman tried to deal with the question of a mandate. As I listened to him, I thought of the political events which might occur during the year. I thought that his speech was one for which we may be grateful later. I do not propose to subject it now to any close analysis, the better to be able to make use of it later. If the Government are pushing through a Measure which did not appear in their election manifesto, it makes the use of the guillotine procedure highly indefensible. The effects of this Bill will be greater than any Measure which the party opposite ever indicated that it would introduce. Putting aside all questions of party, I cannot feel that anybody who heard the Minister's speech could think that he made any case at all for introducing a timetable Motion at this point in our proceedings.
Let us look at the Motion itself, and since I do not wish to repeat what has been said already in the debate, I will come straight to a point made by my hon. Friend regarding the fact that two days are to be allowed for Report and Third Reading. It will not take very many important Amendments by the Government to mean that there will be no effective discussion on Report in the House at all. The Minister cannot say that there will not be substantial Amendments on Report. The opportunities of the Minister of Housing and Local Government for doing the necessary work in Committee have been so limited that he will be bound to use the Report stage for purposes for which otherwise the 885 Committee stage would be used. Obviously, two days for Report and Third Reading will be an absolute mockery.
There has been some discussion about whether my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham was right or wrong to say that he would have settled for four days for the Committee stage in the House on Clause 1 and the First Schedule. The fact that he said he would have asked for five days had he been approached and that he was thinking of settling for four days shows that we were not obstructing or holding up procedure. As he has pointed out, we are faced with no more than 21 sitting days to deal with the rest of the Bill. Has anyone on the other side of the House had a look at what is involved in the rest of the Bill? Almost any part of this Bill could be regarded as a major Bill in itself.
Of the 80 or more Clauses, 70 are major Clauses, and there are 17 Schedules What the majority are forcing the House to do is deal with the rest of the Bill virtually at the rate of four Clauses and one Schedule per sitting. This is a gross affront to democratic government. This is indefensible unless we start from the assumption that talking in Parliament is a nuisance and the only purpose of Parliament is to allow the majority to get the business they decide they want.
If hon. Members opposite are in any mood to be reasonable, and to approach their Parliamentary duties practically, let them look at Part VII of the Bill. There are local government functions as to health and welfare services, local health authorities, old persons, welfare, children authorities and the whole list of others. To say that they should be taken at the gallop, even if the Business Committee makes the best arrangement it can, at the rate of four Clauses and a Schedule per sitting, is something I should not have thought any hon. Member opposite would want to defend.
We want to hear whether the Minister can make any case for this proposal. I have allowed him all the time for which he asked and a little bit more so that he can have no ground for saying that he was not able to make his case. So far, there has been no case except that hon. Members opposite do not want to sit late, that Ministers find argument in 886 the House a bore and that they want to get the Bill through for some reason connected with their own political timetable, whether it be clearing the decks for an early General Election or to push the gerrymandering of the local government and constituencies forward as soon as possible.
It is for only these shabby—and, in a democratic sense, indecent—reasons that the House is asked to agree to this Motion today. Even at this late hour I ask some hon. Members opposite to stand up for Parliamentary democracy and to come with us into the Lobby against this Motion.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I mean no disrespect at all to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when I say that I think he has picked out some of the arguments which were introduced first by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and has emphasised them graphically and vividly. I therefore have to answer in general the case which was made by the hon. Member for Fulham in reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House who moved the Motion, supplemented to some extent by the speeches of hon. Members in the debate.
The hon. Member for Fulham developed, as he can be relied upon to do, a powerful argument on a chosen sector of the front. I shall try to deal with all the points he raised. He accepted that the Government have a right to get their legislation provided there is due consideration of the views of the minorities. I do not think that he will dissent from the way I have worded his remarks. He then said that to justify a timetable Motion the Government had to show either that there had been obstruction or faction or that there was strong urgency or that there was strong popular demand.
I suggest that we consider those three points. Is there urgency in this case? My hon. Friends and I believe that there is, but let me put it in a way which might appeal to the House. Is it not urgent that the uncertainty which is hanging over the Measure and which has hung over London government—not just since this party returned to power but since hon. Members opposite first approached the 887 subject of London local government reform—should be brought to an end? Hon. Members opposite may say that we cannot adduce popular demand, but popular need is not always reflected in popular demand. My hon. Friends and I believe that there is the strongest need, for the sake of the people of London, to put the Bill on to the Statute Book.
I turn to the point which hon. Members opposite have most emphasised; namely that the Government have not been able to point clearly to any evidence of obstruction and faction. There has, in fact, been every evidence that there was going to be an attempt to delay the passage of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."] Hon Members opposite have brought this out in their speeches, I recall the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Certainly the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), in one of his usual attractive speeches, went so far as to say that he would stop at nothing, save actually shooting me personally. If that is not evidence, what is? I recall also the speeches of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) and the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher).
Then the right hon. Member for Belper said that the Bill is particularly unsuitable for a timetable Motion. Having read most of the debates on timetable Motions in the last few years, I must say that it is obvious that each side distinguishes its own precedents. The right hon. Member for Belper said that the Bill was particularly unsuitable because it alters borough groupings. He did not realise the trap into which he had marched, because it was the hon. Member for Fulham who said that the one point on which he had no complaint was that enough time was being given to discuss this matter of borough groupings. So that cock will not fight.
§ Mr. G. Brown
The Minister is using a word which has two meanings. I was not discussing borough groupings. I did not mention them. I said that ultimately the Bill would redraw constituencies, Parliamentary constituencies, and that, therefore, it was not a suitable measure to be forced through under the guillotine.
§ Sir K. Joseph
It has only an implication for constituencies, because it affects 888 boroughs and their boundaries now. The hon. Member for Fulham said that we should have taken the Bill to a Standing Committee upstairs in the normal way to have seen how things went. I confirm that he reported accurately the exchanges between us. But obviously no Government can plan its business on the basis of a hypothetical answer which might be given at a hypothetical time to a hypothetical question.
If we are told that it is a novelty to put a timetable Motion before the Committee has got into its stride, I must quote what my right hon. Friend quoted earlier—some remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison when he was an hon. Member of this House. He said:…I am dealing with the new chapter in our island story…whereby an Allocation of Time Order is being imposed from the beginning of the Committee stage, and not after the Commitee stage has been operating for some time".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1948; Vol. 458 c. 1428.]The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), in a speech which it was a pleasure to listen to and which it will be an education to read, said that the House was not taking timetable Motions sufficiently seriously. All he said applies equally to the reception of timetable Motions under the Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman said that there were very few timetable Motions under the Labour Government. I do not know whether that reflects on the co-operative attitude of the then Opposition. All I know is that it was not all the Government's virtue. The right hon. Member for South Shields when Home Secretary said this:My experience of the House has been that under no Government of modern times has legislation been too swift. The danger to Parliamentary democracy in this country is not from the speed but the slowness of the forms that were used…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 125.]That is what the right hon. Gentleman said when he was Home Secretary, but as Leader of the House he brought in no Guillotine Motions. We are asked to believe that this was a virtue. That is what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale would claim, but the right hon. Gentleman himself blew the gaff. He said that he did not bring in a Guillotine Motion because he had a majority of only six behind him and his own head would have tumbled. I think that there should be 889 less claim of virtue on one side and vice on the other.
I come now to the point which all right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have failed to take into account. It is that obviously the Government recognise that they are entitled to get their business only if they pay due heed to the views of minorities. Nobody challenges this. I emphasise that the Government have the obligation to foresee whether they will get the business that they count as of major importance for the country. That is the consideration which has been absent from the arguments of hon. Gentlemen. Owing to the evidence that was before the Government from speeches outside the House and inside the House, owing to the evidence which has been confirmed by speeches by at least five Opposition Members today, the Government could clearly foresee that unless they took some such steps openly and candidly at this stage there would be grave danger of not getting the Bill on the Statute Book by the summer. The Government's majorities on the White Paper and on Second Reading entitled them to claim that they should have the Bill on the Statute Book.
I turn now to the arguments of detail. I will first deal with the First Schedule. A number of hon. Members—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), my hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), and Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) and the right hon. Member for South Shields—have all shown natural anxiety that there should be full opportunity to discuss borough groupings. The hon. Member for Bermondsey said that it was not possible for the Business Committee so to arrange affairs that when we reach the First Schedule each group of Amendments affecting a group of boroughs can be given an allocation of time so that things will not be skimped. I am glad to be able to assure the House that this is not true and that, so far as I am advised and subject always to the ruling of the Chair, it is possible so to divide the two days, each with an extra hour, which are to be allocated so as to ensure that a group of Amendments dealing with each group of boroughs will in each case have time allotted to it, so that one lot 890 of discussions cannot exclude a series of other discussions.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I listened very carefully to this point when it was made and the Minister has not answered it. The point was that, although it may be easy to allocate a given amount of time to a given borough or group of boroughs, one cannot determine who shall speak or for how long any hon. Member may speak. One hon. Member might utilise virtually all the time in that allocation.
§ Sir K. Joseph
That is a question for the Chair. I think that only in two cases are there Amendments mutually conflicting dealing with one lot of boroughs. In every other case all the Amendments tend towards the same objective.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington asked whether hon. Members would be placed in the awkward position of having either to be in Standing Committee or in the Committee of the whole House. I can assure the House that arrangements will be made which will prevent the Standing Committee and the Committee of the whole House clashing at the same time. [An HON. MEMBER:"A genius."] The Leader of the House referred to seven weeks being available for Standing Committee. He said that if three sittings were decided upon for each week that would add up to 21 sittings, equal in total time, including those days we are spending on the Floor of the House in Committee, to about 33 sessions of Committee, which does not compare unfavourably with the average of 25 to 36 sittings of Committee during the Socialist guillotines.
We had thought to start the Committee this Thursday, but obviously this will not be convenient, and therefore we propose to start the Standing Committee next Tuesday, and the seven weeks mentioned by my hon. Friend will run from that day. Naturally, it is for the Business Committee to decide whether there shall be three sittings per week, or more, or less, and it is open to the Business Committee to change the number of sittings each week by bringing a new Motion before the House if it so desires.
I accept that there is an obligation upon the Government, because of the timetable 891 Motion, to put down their own Amendments as soon as they possibly can. I am glad to relieve the fears of the hon. Member for Bermondsey that the House will be presented on Report with a massive group of transport Amendments. I am assured that those Amendments will be put down before we reach that part of the Bill in Committee.
I am sure that for all we may differ on the Motion we can on all sides accept that we are more likely, because of it, in view of the controversial nature of the Bill to have an orderly debate. I remind the House that on the three major Bills for which the Socialists put down a timetable Motion, about 40 per cent. of the Clauses and Schedules were not even discussed.
Evidence has been dragged in by hon. Members to suggest that there is some sinister motive in the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) came nearer to it when, talking about events in Brussels, he said that this country was in need of massive reforms and policies. But this is one of the massive reforms. Let me claim the support of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) when he acknowledged that bringing in the Bill needed some courage. Here we are with boundaries being altered to meet our view that metropolitan purposes need to be served by a Metropolitan authority and the remainder put in the hands of regrouped boroughs. There were bound to be some groupings emerging which would be unpopular.
Do hon. Members opposite think that if we were really seeking votes we would go about it in this way? Let them see that some of my hon. Friends do not altogether approve of some of the groupings we are suggesting. It would be easy enough, if we were gerrymandering, to please them instead of displeasing them. The right hon. Member for Belper teased us for asking town clerks to help us. We would have been far more open to teasing if the Government had come to all these decisions, with the implications on the boundaries, entirely on their own without outside and objective advice.
How do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we stand to gain politically when a number of our own supporters have objections? They are 892 not objections to the purpose of the Bill as a whole. I know of only one of my hon. Friends who is solidly against the Bill as a whole. But how do hon. Members opposite think we stand to gain when a number of our supporters disapprove strongly of some parts of the Bill? How do they think we stand to gain politically when they keep on telling us that the Bill is so massively unpopular outside and is out to achieve the wrong object in the wrong way and will gravely injure London? How do they then at the same time accuse us of doing this for motives of gain?
The fact is that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are so backward-looking and so retrograde that they do not recognise that there is any need for reform. How is it that all the allegations about London government are always quoted about the L.C.C. and never about Middlesex or about Greater London as a whole? They have not realised that 8½million people live in the Metropolis not just 3 million.
No one on this side—that is going too far—no Member of the Government and very few hon. Members on this side wish to point any finger of discredit or blame in any way at the London County Council or the existing boroughs. [HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."] That is true. I pay a public tribute to what the authorities are doing. But it is only sensible to recognise that the powers given to local authorities in the Greater London area are either inadequate or wrongly distributed.
It cannot be said that a Government who are willing to take their courage in their hands and embark upon a Measure which hon. Members opposite recognise needs courage, that a Government who are willing to affront—only temporarily, I hope—some of their own supporters, that a Government who are willing to follow at record speed a Royal Commission Report and to take up the vast majority of its recommendations, that a Government who are willing to give four days on the Floor of the House, which the hon. Member for Fulham says he would have found satisfactory, for the discussion of the borough groupings, are doing anything but trying to serve the interests of the public.
I am, alas, not free to discuss merits at this stage. But if it is open to the 893 hon. Member for Bermondsey, whom everyone in the House, I think, respects, to make momentarily an impassioned appeal and say that he regards the Bill as evil, it is, I hope, equally open to me to say that I believe profoundly that the Bill will bring the very greatest benefit to Londoners and it is the duty of the Government to obtain orderly debate on it and get it on the Statute Book as quickly as possible.
We have the support of the bulk of our hon. Friends on every part of the Bill. We have the support of all our hon.
§ Friends, except, I think, for one, on the principles of the Bill as a whole. We have had massive majorities on the White Paper and on Second Reading. That is why, in order to make sure that we have both orderly debate and a due consideration of the Amendments and in order to get the Bill on the Statute Book by the summer, I hope that the House will approve the timetable Motion by a massive majority.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 261, Noes 188.897
|Division No. 34.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Digby, Simond Wingfield||James, David|
|Allason, James||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Drayson, G. B.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||du Cann, Edward||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Duncan, Sir James||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Eden, John||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Balniel, Lord||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Barber, Anthony||Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Barter, John||Emery, Peter||Kimball, Marcus|
|Batsford, Brian||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Bell, Ronald||Farr, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Fell, Anthony||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Fisher, Nigel||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bidgood, John C.||Forrest, George||Longbottom, Charles|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Foster, John||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Freeth, Denzil||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gammans, Lady||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Gardner, Edward||MacArthur, Ian|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||George, Sir John (Pollok)||McLaren, Martin|
|Box, Donald||Gibson-Watt, David||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk Central)||Macleod, Rt. Kn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Glover, Sir Douglas||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Braine, Bernard||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Macpherson, Rt.Hn. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Brewis, John||Goodhew, Victor||Maddan, Martin|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Gower, Raymond||Maginnis, John E.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Grant-Ferris, R.||Maitland, Sir John|
|Brooman-White, R.||Green, Alan||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Gresham Gooke, R.||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest|
|Bryan, Paul||Gurden, Harold||Marshall, Douglas|
|Bullard, Denys||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Marten, Neil|
|Burden, F. A.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn.Sir D. (Belfast, S.)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mawby, Ray|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Mills, Stratton|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hay, John||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Chataway, Christopher||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hendry, Forbes||Morrison, John|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Cole, Norman||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Neave, Airey|
|Cooke, Robert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hobson, Sir John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hocking, Philip N.||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Corfield, F. V.||Holland, Philip||Nugent, Rt Hon. Sir Richard|
|Coulson, Michael||Hollingworth, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hopkins, Alan||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Hornby, R. P.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Curran, Charles||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Peel, John|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Percival, Ian|
|Peyton, John||Seymour, Leslie||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Sharples, Richard||Turner, Colin|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Shaw, M.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Pitman, Sir James||Shepherd, William||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pott, Percivall||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Smithers, Peter||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Speir, Rupert||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Walder, David|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Walker, Peter|
|Stodart, J. A.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wall, Patrick|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Studholme, Sir Henry||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Pym, Francis||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Talbot, John E.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Ramsden, James||Tapsell, Peter||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Redmayne, Rt, Hon. Martin||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Rees, Hugh||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Wise, A. R.|
|Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Teeling, Sir William||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Temple, John M.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Ridsdale, Jullan||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Woollam, John|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Roots, William||Thomas, Peter (Conway)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|St. Clair, M.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Mr. Graeme Finlay.|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Ainsley, William||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Albu, Austen||Forman, J. C.||Manuel, Archie|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mapp, Charles|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Marsh, Richard|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Mason, Roy|
|Bacon, Mlss Alice||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Baird, John||Gourlay, Harry||Millan, Bruce|
|Barnett, Guy||Greenwood, Anthony||Milne, Edward|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Grey, Charles||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Beaney, Alan||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Moody, A. S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gunter, Ray||Moyle, Arthur|
|Bence, Cyril||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Neal, Harold|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hannan, William||Oram, A. E.|
|Blyton, William||Harper, Joseph||Oswald, Thomas|
|Boardman, H.||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hayman, F. H.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bowden, Rt.Hn. H.W. (Leics, S.W.)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Parker, John|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bowles, Frank||Hilton, A. V.||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Boyden, James||Holman, Percy||Peart, Frederick|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Holt, Arthur||Pentland, Norman|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hooson, H. E.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Houghton, Douglas||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hoy, James H.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hunter, A. E.||Probert, Arthur|
|Collick, Percy||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rankin, John|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Janner, Sir Barnett||Redhead, E. C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Reid, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jeger, George||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Darling, George||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kelley, Richard||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robinson. Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Deer, George||King, Dr. Horace||Ross, William|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lawson, George||Russell, Ronald|
|Dodds, Norman||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Short, Edward|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Doughty, Charles||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Lipton, Marcus||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Loughlin, Charles||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lubbock, Eric||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Small, William|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||MacColl, James||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Evans, Albert||MacDermot, Niall||Snow, Julian|
|Fernyhough, E.||McInnes, James||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Finch, Harold||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fitch, Alan||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Steele, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Eric||McLeavy, Frank||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||MacPhereon, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stones, William|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. John||Thorpe, Jeremy||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Vauxhall)||Wade, Donald||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Wainwright, Edwin||Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Swingler, Stephen||Warbey, William||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Symonds, J. B.||Watkins, Tudor||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Taverne, D.||Weitzman, David||Woof, Robert|
|Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Whitlock, William||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)||Willey, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thornton, Ernest||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|