HC Deb 28 January 1902 vol 101 cc1114-9
MR. JOHN ELLIS (Notts., Rushcliffe)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, what course he proposes to take to afford the House an opportunity of discussing as a whole the changes in its procedure to be proposed by the Government, and whether the terms of such changes will be printed and circulated after his introduction of them, and a reasonable interval take place before the matter is again brought before the House.


The hon. Member was good enough to put off this question till to-day; and perhaps I may now state what I think will be the most convenient course to take, if the House approves, with regard to the proposals which I shall feel it my duty to lay before the House in connection with its Standing Orders. I have looked into the precedents, and have done my best to form a plan which I think will give an opportunity to the House for considering these proposals. I would suggest that on Thursday next—I am assuming that the Address will be finished to-day or to-morrow—I should make a general survey of the proposals of the Government. I hope the House will consent, immediately that is over, that the subject should be adjourned for such time as will give the House an opportunity, not merely of considering the statement which I shall make, but also of seeing in print the alterations of the Standing Orders and the new Standing Orders I shall have to propose. Many of these changes are in the nature of Amendments to existing Standing Orders, and they will appear of course in that form upon the Order Paper when we have to discuss them. But from an Order Paper of that kind a very imperfect idea would be obtained of the character of the rules which I desire to substitute for the existing rules; and therefore I think it would be convenient to the House if I were to circulate to every Member a copy of the rules as they would stand if the proposals of the Government were accepted. Therefore, if the House generally agree to that proposal, I shall move on Thursday something of this kind—the exact terms will have to be considered:— That the House will on such and such a future day take into consideration proposals concerning the Standing Orders of the House. That would give the House an opportunity upon the succeeding day, which would be some time next week, for what I may call a Second Reading discussion of the proposals. I hope the House will be content, not merely to let the debate drop on Thursday next, when I bring in the proposals, but that they will not make the Second Reading debate of too long or protracted a character, because I may remind the House, they will have an opportunity on each of the rules of very fully discussing the changes which the Government propose. I may, perhaps, take it for granted that the general outline of business which I have sketched will be agreeable to members in all parts of the House. If that be so, I will tomorrow give notice of the necessary Resolutions. If the House agree to that plan, immediately after I have made my statement I would move a Resolution, as has always been done on similar occasions, taking the time of the House for that discussion.


The last words of the right hon. Gentleman I think require a little explanation.


Well, the House is aware that the actual time under our existing rules which the Government have for discussing these questions is Monday and Thursday. I do not think that any Minister has ever attempted to ask the House to deal with this question without taking facilities for the discussion. That is all I propose to do. I wish also to pass a simple Resolution, if the House will allow, stating that whenever Supply is put down first on Friday it shall be taken. I do not propose that the House should pass the Supply rule on Thursday, but I think it would be convenient if we could at once begin to use Fridays, or one day at least in the week, for Supply; and in order to do that we shall have to pass the simple Resolution I have sketched out. I hope I have made myself clear.


The explanation which the right hon. Gentleman has given will, in the main, I think, meet the desire of the House—namely, that we should be given an opportunity not only of considering the scope of the changes in the rules which he proposes for the acceptance of the House, but also of discussing those changes en bloc, in their general effect, as well as in their details when we come to that further stage. With regard to what he said in expressing a hope that the discussion would not be protracted at what we may call the Second Reading stage, perhaps I may remind him that it depends very much on the nature of the changes he proposes. He will not expect the House to pledge itself in any way in respect to that. But I should hope that, at all events, the discussion will not be more protracted than the importance of the changes demands. Will the right hon. Gentleman say what business he proposes to proceed with on Thursday after he has made his statement, and what will be the business on Friday? What, also, is his idea of the length of the interval between his first statement and the Second Reading debate?

MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman have the proposed alterations of the Orders printed in italics?

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that nothing shall be said after he has described the Government proposals? Will he not allow 15 or 20 minutes for Questions?


I am very much in the hands of the House in regard to the interval which should elapse. I hope that three or four days will be enough, and that we may begin on Monday next. [Opposition cries of "Oh."] Of course, I do not wish to unduly press the matter. In reply to the hon. Member for South Longford, I have already given directions that the proposed changes in the Standing Orders shall be printed in italics. I can only repeat my hope that on the first day the House will be content to receive my statement without debate. As to the business on Thursday, the first Order will be my statement; and the second the taking of the time of the House for the discussion of the rules and for taking Fridays for Supply. Then if that is all over at a convenient hour, as I hope, my right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board will introduce the London Water Bill. On Friday next I propose to take Supplementary Army Estimates.


Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take Tuesdays and Wednesdays?


The form in which this Motion has always been moved is that whenever the subject of Procedure is put down first it shall have precedence; but these rules will take some time to discuss; and if that forecast is in any way justified, as I think it will be, it will not be fair to private Members to deprive them of all the Wednesdays before Easter. I shall be very glad to meet the general views of the House.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

May I ask my right hon. friend whether, in view of the fact that these rules cannot, I presume, be circulated until after the statement is made, and will not be in the hands of Members at the earliest untill Friday, Monday is not rather an early date?


I think I can only indicate to the House that if it really desires a longer interval I should not think myself justified in standing in the way. I hope, however, that when the rules are in the hands of Members they will see that whatever may be their value, they are not, at all events, obscure in their character, and that they will not require any long consideration on the part of Members.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to bring the Debate of the Address to a close to-night having regard to the fact that to-morrow there is a Bill down about pensions, which attracts great interests on both sides of the House?


That is practically a request that the closure may be asked for at a particular time, and it is hardly a proper one.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep Tuesday next clear for private Members? I have a very important Motion down for that day.


It depends on when we begin the general discussion of the new rules. If we do that on Monday, I am afraid we shall have to take Tuesday. I regret the necessity.