THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved:—
That the Proceedings on the Reports of the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means and other Committees authorising the expenditure of Public Money may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
thought the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to make an explanation with regard to the Motion. It went considerably further than the Motion of previous years. He would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman included the Report of the Vote on Account in this Motion.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, it would be as well that the House should understand exactly 1061 what was intended by the Motion. He would like to know whether the so-called Twelve o'clock Rule was to be frequently suspended. This Rule was very convenient and highly popular with Members, and proceedings carried on during the small hours did not afford their constituents and the public those opportunities of taking cognisance of their Debates, which he thought were highly appreciated throughout the country. There had been several suspensions of the Rule during the present Session. He was not sure that the first experience of the suspension of the Rule was such as to encourage the House in any very frequent repetition of that process. Quantity of work was not always in keeping, so far as quality was concerned, with what they desired to obtain, and the very prolonged proceedings in connection with the new Sessional Orders were rather occasions which they would desire to avoid. Another occasion on which the Rule was suspended was in connection with the all-night sitting on Committee of Supply last week. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he could give an assurance that, except in times of financial stress, it was not the intention to take Committee of Supply after Twelve o'clock.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government did not like all-night sittings or late sittings any more than he did. The predetermination of having an all-night sitting was never made by the Government, but by those over whom the Government, unfortunately, had no coercive influence. It was the intention of the Government, as far as possible, to keep discussions on Supply within the limits of the Twelve o'clock Rule. This Motion applied only to Report of Supply, and was merely a repetition of the Sessional Order which had every Session for the last few years been passed without debate or dissent. There was an addition which he hoped the House would not think militated against the utility of the Rule. It was that the formal stages of the Money Committee in the case of certain Bills should be capable of being taken after 12 o'clock. These stages need not and ought not to take any length of time, and it would be convenient for the general progress of business if 1062 the Rule dealing with ordinary Report of Supply dealt also with the Report of these Committees.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, the First Lord of the Treasury need not think that it was private Members who always desired all-night sittings. He did not think anybody desired them; but, with regard to that all-night sitting last week, it was entirely the fault of the Government in putting down too much business for one night. Any man who looked through the proceedings of that night would see that no undue discussion took place on any item. On the contrary, numerous sums of money were voted without any discussion at all. The discussion which did take place was very moderate considering the nature of the subjects. He should constantly vote against any extension of the Rules having for its object the discussion of any of the stages of Supply after 12 o'clock.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, that when this proposal was introduced by the late Government it was strongly opposed by several Members of the present Government, who alleged that it interfered with the freedom of Debate. He sincerely hoped they would take a discussion on the Motion.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
thought the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House now regretted the course he took last year on the very same Motion. It was then proposed, not merely as a Sessional but as a Standing Order, and if the right hon. Gentleman had had a little more prescience it would have become a Standing Order. It was a Motion which was always made from the other side of the House, and if there was a Division he should support the Government.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
also commented on the fact that a similar Motion last year was strongly resisted by several Gentlemen on the Government Bench. Now, however, they proposed to apply the Resolution, not only to Supply, but to Bills. If the Government carried out their present policy they would be called upon to bring in all the Bills. In future hon. Members would have to do their work, not on the Second Reading, but on the Committee stage. He was glad that they were further trenching on the Twelve o'clock Rule.
§ Motion agreed to.