MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I desire to ask an important question on a point of order arising under the new Rules. There is down for the Evening Sitting, under the head of Private Business, the London Water Purchase Bill, which is really a public Bill, although it is considered necessary to deal with it as a private Bill. Under the order of the House of May 1 it is provided that private business set down for the afternoon sitting and not disposed of at a quarter past two o'clock shall be postponed until the evening sitting of such a day as the Chairman of Ways and Means may determine. But it is also stipulated that on one of the allotted days for Supply—and this is an allotted day—no business other than the business of Supply shall be taken before midnight. I submit that this precludes the Chairman of Ways and Means from setting private business down for one of the allotted days the evening of which may otherwise be wholly diverted from the consideration of Supply.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
May I ask whether it was not the distinct understanding when we passed this Rule that the Chairman of Committees should allocate private business as evenly as might be among the evening sittings, subject only to the exception of the day of the week which, between Easter and. Whitsuntide, is allotted to private Members?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think there is no doubt that the origin of these words—"on an allotted day no business other than the business of Supply shall be taken before midnight"—was this:—On an allotted clay the business of Supply must be the first Order of the day; and the intention was that the Government should not be able on such a day to break off the consideration of Supply, in order to bring on other business on the Paper. I agree that there is a certain amount of ambiguity when this Order and others are read together; but I take the meaning to be that no business other than the business of Supply can be taken except such as is ordered by the other Standing Orders. There is one Order which says that when 1129 the adjournment of the House, is moved—and it may be moved on an allotted day as well as on others—the debate shall be taken at the evening sitting. That, therefore, is clearly an exception from the words on which the hon. Member for King's Lynn relies; and in the same way, inasmuch as the Standing Order relating to private business says that the Chairman shall allocate such business between the evening sittings, and he has allocated it to an allotted day, that case is also an exception to the words. I quite agree that there is a certain difficulty in construing the words; but I think that in what I have said I have construed them in accordance with the intentions of the House.