§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, with a view to secure more adequate time for private Members' Bills when supported by decisive majorities in the House, he will either accept the Motion for a new Standing Order on this subject placed on the Paper or embody the principle of that proposal in his own proposals when the Rules of Procedure are again taken up.
The Motion referred to is as follows—"Special Precedence for certain Bills,—To move, as a new Standing Order:—When a Public Bill, other than a Government Bill, has been read a second time after a division, and it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than three hundred Members have voted, and that the majority for the Second Reading is not less than fifty nor than one-third of the number of Members voting against the Second Reading, thereupon any Member in charge of the Bill may forthwith move that the Bill have precedence after Whitsuntide over all Bills, other than Government Bills, as to which no such Motion has been made and carried on an earlier day in the Session, and such Motion shall be decided without amendment or debate, as a Motion consequential on the Second Reading."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have looked at the proposal of the hon. Gentleman which is on the Paper, and, owing, I presume, to some misprint, it appears to me to be unintelligible as it stands. Broadly speaking, I think his idea is that you ought to give precedence to Bills in proportion to the size of the majority they are able to secure upon the Second Reading. I do not think that would be, as far as I am at present advised, a good plan, for this reason: the fact that a Bill secures a great majority on the Second Reading is not a proof, not even a presumption, that it is going to have a peaceable time during its later stages. I may remind the hon. Member that the Education Bill last year was approved by a majority of 402 votes to 165. If you 1035 are going to give precedence to Bills which have a large majority, irrespective of any other peculiarity, you will entirely absorb the time after Whitsuntide for possibly one Bill which will never get further, but which, by the mere fact that it is discussed during the two days after Whitsuntide, will absolutely preclude any possibility of passing into law the least contentious measures, which, I venture to say, are the best field in which private Members can exercise their legislative ingenuity.
IS the right hon. Gentleman aware that the more important Bills are prevented from being discussed by the present Standing Orders permitting unimportant Bills to be placed before them. I beg to give notice that I will draw attention to the whole subject at the earliest opportunity.