HC Deb 05 August 1907 vol 179 cc1663-73

, in moving a Resolution allocating three days to the Report stage and one day to the Third Reacting of the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill, said he trusted it would not be so keenly criticised as his previous Motion in connection with the Small Landowners (Scotland) Bill. The Resolution which was in similar terms to those adopted in the case of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill, provided that on the first allotted day new clauses and Clauses 1 to 5 should be disposed of; on the second day the I other clauses to the end of Part II.; and on the third day the remaining clauses of the Bill and the schedules. In the case of the one Bill, as of the other, the Government had endeavoured to allot the time in such a way as to give the best opportunity for considering important matters. On the first day the House would be able to discuss the relations between the central and local authorities; on the second day the compulsory acquisition of land; and on the third day the machinery of the Bill. He hoped the Opposition would admit the desire of the Government to secure at any rate the best use of time and a sufficient occasion for the consideration of all matters of primary importance. He trusted that the Motion would be found to be free from some of the difficulties which had stood in the way of the earlier Motion.


pointed out that the reprint of the Bill supplied to the Committee from day to day did not show where the new clauses were intended to be inserted, and until a reprint of the whole Bill could be obtained hon. Members were not in a position to criticise the allocation of time which the Prime Minister proposed.


said that that was a matter for discussion. The Prime Minister had no doubt a copy of the Bill and had drawn up his Resolution in accordance with its provisions.


said that thanks to the kindness of Mr. Speaker he bad been able to obtain a copy of the Bill. It was, he believed, a proof but without it it would have been impossible for him to have moved any Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. There were many Members who were not so fortunate as he in this regard, and he objected to the Motion on the ground that the Bill as reprinted with the new clauses was not obtainable in the Vote Office and that, therefore, it was not possible for them to move Amendments to the Motion. He spoke with great deference, but he never recollected any occasion where the guillotine had been moved before the Bill was printed, and before hon. Members had had an opportunity of giving notice of Amendments.


said the Motion had been most carefully drafted with reference to the clauses in the Bill as reprinted in the course of the proceedings in the Committee from day to day, and except that it contained a provision between the first and second subheads the division of the Bill into parts remained the same as they were.


said that the right hon. Gentleman did not quite appreciate the position. There were seven new clauses which were now incorporated in the Bill and the situation of those clauses could only be known to those who had seen the Bill. It was impossible therefore for any hon. Member to move an Amendment to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman on the ground that he did not think the time allocated was fairly proportioned.


, in reply to the point of order, said it was unfortunate that the House was not in possession of the Bill as reprinted, but, still, he had no doubt the Prime Minister would give every information, and he did not think he could rule that the Motion should not be put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Report Stage of the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill be brought to a conclusion in three allotted days; and

  1. (a) That the new clauses and Clauses 1 to 5 of the Bill be proceeded with and proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the first allotted day; and
  2. (b) That the Clauses of the Bill following Clause 5 to the end of Part II. of the 1666 Bill (if and so far as not previously disposed of), be proceeded with and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the second allotted day; and
  3. (c) That the remaining Clauses of the Bill and the Schedules and any other matter necessary to bring the Report stage of the Bill to a conclusion (if and so far as not previously disposed of) be proceeded with on the third allotted day, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on that day.

Any day on which the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill is put down as the first Order of the Day shall be considered an allotted day for the purposes of this order.

At 10.30 p.m. on any allotted day on which proceedings on any business allotted to that day are to be brought to a conclusion, or if that day is a Friday at 5 p.m., Mr. Speaker shall, if those proceedings have not already been brought to a conclusion, put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed successively to put forthwith the Question on any new Clauses or Amendments moved by the Government of which notice has been given (but no other Clauses or Amendments), and on any Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded, and in the case of Government Amendments or of Government new Clauses or Schedules he shall put only the Question that the Amendment be made or that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill, as the case may be.

Any Private Business which is set down for consideration at 8.15 p.m. on any allotted day shall, instead of being taken on that day as provided by the Standing Order 'Time for taking Private Business,' be taken immediately after the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill for that day, and any Private Business so taken may be proceeded with, though opposed, notwithstanding the Standing Order "Sittings of the House."

At 11 p.m. on the day on which the Third Reading of the Bill is put down as first Order of the Day, or if that day is a Friday or Saturday at 5 p.m., Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any question necessary to complete the proceedings on that stage of the Bill.

After the passing of this order on any day on which any proceedings on the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill stand as first Order of the Day, no dilatory Motion on the Bill, nor Motion to re-commit the Bill, nor Motion for adjournment under Standing Order 10, shall be received unless moved by a Minister of the Crown, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith without debate."—(Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.)


said, under all the circumstances of the case, unless he were ruled out of order, he thought he should best perform his duty by moving the adjournment of the debate, in order that those who desired might have an opportunity of seeing the Bill, and of moving any Amendments which they thought right to submit.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Chaplin.)


said that a considerable number of Members on that side of the House, who had no violent view upon this Bill, felt that a measure of this kind was one touching many questions of deep political interest, upon which they thought they had a right, he would not say a right, but something approaching a right, to speak. The new method with a Bill of this description was to send it upstairs. It was quite true, and if the Prime Minister urged it he would concede the point, that by searching the newspapers and all the official documents they might apprise themselves; from day to day and week to week of what was going on upstairs; but the right hon. Gentleman could hardly reproach them for not having done so. When the new rules were passed they believed that in the case of a Bill sent upstairs they would have an opportunity of reviewing the work of the Grand Committee as a whole and pronouncing their opinion upon it. But even that opportunity was limited by the guillotine. Surely, in view of this guillotine Motion, they had a right to consider what portions of the Bill they would select for discussion. What was to become of the House as a debating assembly? This was one of the great Bills of the Government; it was not a minor matter. The Prime Minister himself introduced his land policy at a public meeting, assisted by the Undersecretary for the Colonies, and he announced that this was one of their main lines of policy. They used a certain amount of imagery to impress the importance of the case upon the public. They said the curtain had rung up on a play that was to have a long run. What run was the play to have if the curtain was rung down before the band played the overture? The Opposition were in earnest about this matter, because Englishmen must take an interest in a measure of this kind. They might differ, but they would be glad to agree. There was no settled determination on the part of the Opposition to resist this Bill, but they thought that they ought to discuss it. They thought that the Prime Minister ought not to introduce a policy affecting land tenure in England, one of the oldest civilisations in Europe, without allowing them an opportunity of discussing what parts of the Bill they would desire under the guillotine to debate. They had not yet seen the Bill nor considered what portions of it they should discuss and what parts the Government should have their own way about without discussion. The Prime Minister, he believed, was the oldest Member of the House. He appealed to him, not as Prime Minister but as Father of the House of Commons, to agree to this Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and to say that it was not unreasonable for the Opposition and for the whole House to have one or two days in which to study the Bill in the form in which it had been put in Committee by only a small section of the House.


said he was a member of the Small Holdings Committee, and naturally he knew more than a good many Members of the House what the contents of the Bill were. Owing to circumstances over which he had no control, however, he was unable to attend the Committee during the last three days when the new clauses were discussed. Therefore he was just as much in the dark as to those new clauses as other hon. Members. It was difficult even for Members of the Committee to discuss the limitations under which the Bill should be debated until the Bill was printed, and they had it in their hands. Every Member of the House must admit, and the Prime Minister himself, he thought, would not deny, that an entirely new situation had arisen. The Prime Minister, in his passion for the guillotine, in his desire for uniformity of treatment of measures, had forgotten that comparative harmony and peace characterised the discussion of this Bill under the very able management of his colleague. There was no dealing with the closure, such as stained the consideration of the other Bill in connection with which they had just had a discussion. It was only when the Bill came before the House that they applied the guillotine; but in this instance the House was asked to pass this resolution actually before the Bill was in print, or had got out of its swaddling clothes. In the interests of proper discussion and of the Bill itself the Government ought to accept the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. The Tribune, a newspaper highly respected by Ministerialists, had declared that the opposition to the Bill did not come from those Members around him, but that the discussion had come mainly from earnest Radicals advocating vague schemes of land reform. In view of the interest which different sections had in the Bill, the large interests involved, and the general desire they had to make it a success and not obstruct its progress, he thought they might be spared the insult of this guillotine Motion until at all events they had an opportunity of knowing to what parts of the Bill they would desire to give their attention. He hoped the Prime Minister would accept the Motion.


said that a copy of the Bill as amended had been in the hands of the right hen. Gentleman opposite, who had been conducting negotiations with regard to it with the First Commissioner of Works. As the Bill had been reprinted down to the 40th clause, he could not see any ground for complaint. There were, of course, one or two new clauses to be inserted. Whilst he admitted that it would have been better if they had been able to place a complete copy of the Bill in the hands of hon. Members, he did not see any reason at all for adjourning the debate.


said the Prime Minister was wholly inaccurate in regard to what he had said about his having taken away the copy of the Bill. He had seen merely a proof of the Bill and he had only been allowed to do so by the courtesy of Mr. Speaker. No one else had seen it and nobody else had had the opportunity of seeing it. As seven new clauses were going to be added to the Bill it was quite impossible for any hon. Member not acquainted with the way those new clauses were going to be allocated to move any Amendments to the guillotine Motion. The Prime Minister had offered no reasonable reply or excuse which met their objection to the situation which had arisen, and that being so he would press the Motion.

MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

said he required to criticse the guillotine Motion in regard to one of its provisions.


The hon. and gallant Member must wait until the guillotine Motion is taken as a substantive Motion.


said he understood that he could debate that point on the Motion for adjournment.


The hon. and gallant Member understood wrongly.

MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)

said that during the first two days under the guillotine they had to pass some twenty-two clauses and seven new clauses which had been accepted in Committee. It made the greatest possible difference where those clauses came in the Bill when it was printed. In regard to the proceedings which had taken place in Committee he felt sure the hon. Baronet the Member for South Somerset would agree with him that there had been a good sound debate all through the Committee stage and no obstruction whatever. He thought the Government would be adopting a wise course in postponing this question until some opportunity had been given them of seeing the Bill as it would appear when the new clauses had been inserted. He was sure the hon. Baronet opposite realised the importance of these new clauses and perhaps he might be able to induce the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision and agree to the adjournment of the debate.


rose to a point of order. He wished to ask how, if any Gentlemen on either side of the House desired to move an Amendment with regard to the modification of the compartments, he could do it, not having the Bill before him showing the clauses as they would stand for discussion. It seemed to him that there would certainly be Amendments moved dealing with the allocation of the time.


The advice I would give him would be to borrow a copy of the Bill from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon, who has borrowed my copy.


said that that answer was surely conclusive as to the line which ought to be taken now. The House should not be asked to pass a guillotine resolution like the present which required them to deal in three days with a Bill of forty-seven clauses which had never been before the House at all. It was really carrying tyrrany too far to ask them to make their Amendments as to the allocation of time when the only Bill available was one belonging to Mr. Speaker, which had not been laid on the Table of the House, and which by the courtesy of Mr. Speaker had been put in the hands of one individual. He wished to make an appeal to the common-sense and fairness of Gentlemen in all parts of the House, hoping that the Leader of the House would find it impossible to resist the appeal.


said that as a private Member he protested against the business of the House being left entirely in the hands of the two front benches. Private Members had some right to take part in the discussions of the House. He thought it was an insult to be told of private arrangements between the right hon. Gentlemen on the two front benches.


reminded the Prime Minister that the rank and file had a duty to perform in criticising the legislation brought before the House. Surely they had a right to know what they were called upon to vote for. At present they did not know what the compartments were going to include. How was it possible for hon. Members to discuss these matters under the circumstances? He was sure the Prime Minister would see how unfair it was to propose the Motion under the circumstances. During the many years he had been in the House he had never known a case in which it was more incumbent on private Members to speak out.


thought the Prime Minister had excelled himself on the present occasion. He and his friends wanted to know where they were in regard to this Motion. Private Members were not to receive any consideration from the Government. They protested against being so treated. He thought the request they were making was a most reasonable one. How was it possible for private Members to discuss a Motion with regard to a measure which they had had no opportunity of seeing? He was not a Member of the Committee, and he had not the faintest idea of what Amendments had been moved upstairs and what Amendments had been accepted by the Government. The newspaper reports were of a very meagre character. He had heard that seven new clauses had been introduced and accepted in Committee. It was absurd for the Prime Minister to ask hon. Members to accept this Motion before they had seen those clauses. He thought private Members might be afforded greater opportunities for taking part in the discussions than they had at present. If the true feeling of the House was indicated in the division lobby there would be no uncertainty about carrying the Motion for the adjournment.


admitted that it was a matter for some degree of regret that Members had not been, put in possession of the Bill. He had fully expected that by this afternoon the Bill would have been in the hands of Members, but it was not owing to the absence of the Member of the Government who had been most keen in accelerating the business arrangements upstairs that the Bill had not been available.


The Bank holiday.


said he was searching about for a reason why the Bill was not in the hands of Members. He believed the inconvenience was of the most infinitesimal kind. He did not think the fact that they had not the Bill in their possession should affect the putting down of Amendments as to the allocation of time under the guillotine, but still he admitted that it was hardly dealing fairly with Members to invite them to put down Amendments to the Bill which they had not seen. He was impressed by that, and, therefore, he would not resist the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, but as the Government could not afford to lose a day they would take this Bill and other Government business on Saturday.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.