§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [20th March], "(1) 1531 When a Bill has been read a second time it shall stand committed to one of the Standing Committees, unless the House, on Motion to be decided without amendment or debate, otherwise order. But this Order shall not apply to (a) Bills for imposing taxes, or Consolidated Fund or Appropriation Bills; or (b) Bills for confirming Provisional Orders. (2) The House may, on Motion made by the Member in charge of a Bill, commit the Bill to a Standing Committee in respect of some of its provisions, and to a Committee of the whole House in respect of other provisions. If such a Motion is opposed the Speaker, after permitting, if he thinks fit, a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes and from the Member who opposes the Motion, shall without further debate put the Question thereon."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said that when the business of the House was interrupted last Wednesday, he was endeavouring to state some of the objections he felt towards the Motion. He had shortly stated why he thought the most important part of the business of the House was not so much its legislative as its deliberative business. The most favourable opportunity of doing their best was when the whole House sat in Committee for deliberative purposes. The Government's proposal, however, would destroy that opportunity, and set up a wholly inadequate substitute. He ventured to think that only Gentlemen who had not been very long in the House would believe that this new rule would not add to the labours of Members. It would add to them, because though there would be no diminution of the evening sittings, there would be an increase in the morning sittings. But if it were true that a Standing Committee sitting at 11.30 would free hon. Members from some of the sittings of the House, none the less would such a proceeding be intolerable to those engaged in professional and commercial pursuits. If practically every Bill was to be sent to a Standing Committee, and if they were to sit for a considerable portion of the session, the result would be to dismiss from the House 1532 all those Members who depended on commercial or professional pursuits for their livelihood. The House would be composed of the leisured classes and those who made politics their profession. Such a thing might recommend itself to hon. Gentlemen opposite, as it would tend to payment of Members, which payment would have to be sufficiently high to attract the best men; but it was a matter which would require most careful consideration. It was a noticeable fact that when the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Scottish Committee as part of his general scheme, he made no mention of England. It did not appear to him necessary to consider England or English rights. He (Lord R. Cecil) opposed the proposal to set up a Scottish Committee, not only because he thought it would be unfair, but because he believed the scheme was constitutionally unsound and that it misconceived the true representative character of the Members of that House. He did not admit that a Member represented only the constituency which sent him there. True, he represented the majority of the opinions of that constituency, but beyond that he represented a fraction not only of this country, but of the whole Empire. It was on that theory that our representative system was built up, and upon that theory it must always rest. He denied that those who represented Scottish constituencies were pre-eminently qualified to discuss Scottish questions. The whole merit of the House of Commons was that it was a House composed of a great many gentlemen who had no special qualification to discuss any particular subject, but who were qualified to discuss all subjects. To take a section of the House which had special private and personal interests in the subject of legislation submitted to it, and to confine the discussion to those Members, was really to weaken the power of discussion in that House. These objections to the details of the scheme were not, however, vital. The vital objection to the scheme as a whole might be condensed into the one word "futility." The hon. and learned Member for Waterford was abundantly justified in saying that this scheme, like all other schemes, was brought forward by its author with the object 1533 of restoring the vitality of the House, but that it would do nothing of the sort. The scheme was totally misconceived, because it did not take into account the disease which it proposed to remedy. He did not deny that the House of Commons was in a difficult position. It did not command the same confidence in the country that it commanded in the past. The disease from which it suffered no one would have any difficulty in diagnosing. It was simply that there were too many hon. Members who took an active interest in the business of legislation, and who desired to address the House, and to address it at great length. On the Ministerial side it was called obstruction; on the Opposition side, activity. If any attempt was to be made to cure that disease the symptoms must be recognised. Various cures had been suggested. That of the hon. Member for Waterford pointed to Home Rule all round. That might be compared to the cure of suicide in order to avoid death. It meant the destruction of that House altogether. It reminded him of the old story in "Pickwick," of the man who shot himself after eating a large number of crumpets, in order to prove that his doctor was wrong, and that they would not kill him. Another cure was that they should have more stringent rules of procedure. It was possible, of course, to have rules so stringent as to destroy debate altogether, but the remedy would also destroy the House of Commons. Nor did he think the present Government would have the courage to propose it. They would never go to the country and say their policy was to destroy the House of Lords and to muzzle the House of Commons. But he thought all these remedies missed the true cause of the disease, which was that the debates had become to a large extent unreal. Although nominally addressed to move opinion and to gain votes, it was perfectly well known that although they might move opinion they certainly did not affect votes. The real evil was the rigidity of the present Party system. That was the evil which all sides of the House would have to consider and to see if it was possible in the conduct of a debate to avoid repetition and use only the most cogent argument. If that were possible it might affect votes, but if it was quite apparent that no such result would be 1534 attained, then they might be driven by a counsel of despair to continue repeating arguments at great length. There was only one other alternative, if there was no relaxation of Party discipline within a measurable time, and that was that they should leave the present Party system and proceed to a system of groups, which would make a very material difference in the methods of their debates. That would restore reality to their discussions, and make it worth while for every Member to take care to put his argument in a compressed form. Until that fact was impressed on hon. Members none of these miserable little remedies of setting up a Committee here and a Committee there would avail. He did not believe that any sensible man believed that the rule now proposed would make any difference, except that it would diminish that stage of a Bill in which the best work was done by the House.
§ MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)
said he was a Member of the House when the previous Scottish Committee was set up, and he could assure the House that that Committee did really good work, and it was hoped at that time that the Committee would be permanent. The noble Lord had denied that Scotsmen were pre-eminently qualified to settle Scottish business; but if they were not, who were? Those who represented Scotland were quite capable of dealing with their own business. There were Englishmen representing Scottish constituencies, and there were Scotsmen representing English constituencies. The appointment of four Grand Committees would, to a certain extent, relieve the very much overcrowded House. If they could not adopt the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, at any rate a Scottish Grand Committee had been very successful before. Some of them would like to see the new Scottish Grand Committee entirely composed of Scottish Members; but for himself, being what was described as half English, he had no objection to seeing fifteen Members from England added. He would be very glad to have the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone among them, for doubtless they would then proceed with greater rapidity. He hoped they 1535 would come to a decision on the matter before Easter, and that such Bills as the Scottish Education Bill and the Small Land Holders Bill would be sent to the Scottish Grand Committee. It was said that the latter Bill was so very important that it might be applied to England. Well, they did not oppose its being applied to England. But they proposed to get the Bill for Scotland first, and leave the other to follow. He sincerely hoped that these four Grand Committees would be set up, one to deal exclusively with Scottish affairs. It would be of advantage to the House, and especially of advantage to Scotland, in which he was more deeply interested than in England. It was essentially to the advantage of Scotland that Scottish measures should be thoroughly thrashed out in a Grand Committee upstairs.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
said the Prime Minister was not altogether to be congratulated on the amount of support which his proposals had received up to the present time; and he did not think that he hon. Member who had just sat down had helped the case, because he had frankly indicated that, while he entertained great hopes in regard to these new Resolutions, he preferred that of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The hon. Member must be very sanguine to indulge in such rash hopes in regard to these Resolutions, considering, whatever might be said of them, that they were exactly the reverse of the suggestions made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and, as indicated by him, were not in the direction likely to lead to devolution of the business of the House. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that he had remedies of his own which he would have been glad to see adopted; and, like him, he had himself, frequently in private discussions with hon. Members opposite, suggested his right hon. friend's plan as the best way to secure a better division of Parliamentary business and a more rapid performance of Parliamentary work. He was bound to say that he had never heard from anyone on the other side of the House the suggestion now to be found in these Resolutions, that work which properly 1536 belonged to the House should be sent to a series of Committees upstairs. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy advocate the remedy which they had suggested, but he had never heard him suggest that the remedy should take the form of Grand Committees, by which the work should be done. His right hon. friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would like to see a business Committee appointed, one of whose duties would be to deal with the closure by compartments system. He believed that was the natural and proper corollary of the method of closure by compartments. If that proposal were adopted, he believed that it would not only immensely shorten the period of debates, but, almost of necessity, remove the feeling of friction and soreness which arose when the method was adopted by the Government. It would shorten debates for this reason—that it too frequently happened that debates in Committee were allowed to. go on for a very considerable time before the Government made up their minds that the time had arrived for closure by compartments. It followed that the greater part of the earlier time taken up by the debate was wasted, and that an immense amount of the discussion was upon portions of the Bill which were not of the same interest as later portions, and then, when closure by compartments was applied, annoyance was naturally caused by the insufficient time given to the more important points of the measure under discussion. If the suggestion made by his right hon. friend were adopted, it would not only economise time, but would remove the feeling of bitterness which was sometimes aroused under existing conditions, and would do a great deal more than these Resolutions were likely to do to facilitate the discharge of the business of the House. But he went still further, because it would be possible for such a Committee as his right hon. friend suggested to decide which Bills should remain in the House, and which should go to a Committee upstairs. The right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had said of him that he would not be able adversely to criticise the business done by the Grand Committees, especially 1537 when that business was properly conducted by those who presided, and by those who were responsible for the Bill under discussion. Certainly, he had had considerable experience of the work in Grand Committees, and either as Minister in charge of Bills, or as a private Member, he had probably sat on more Grand Committees than most Members of the House. If Bills were of 1he right kind, and if the Committee was kept properly in hand, he believed they could not possibly have a more businesslike or a more satisfactory tribunal for the work. But it all depended upon those two conditions, and one of those conditions would be rendered impossible if the present proposals were adopted. The, right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had told them that there was to be found in support of those proposals a wonderful array of authority, and he had quoted authorities going back to a distant time. It had more than once occurred that hon. Members opposite, when authorities going far back were cited, had looked with some contempt on those musty records. If the right hon. Gentleman was right, as he undoubtedly was, in regard to the array of authority in support of these proposals, on the other hand, they who were opposed to them believing that if carried they would destroy the authority and power of the House, and involve a complete revolution of the House of Commons, could find in support of their view authority, not drawn from the distant past, but from comparatively recent times, from Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench. In the debate on the Aliens Bill, which was in charge of his right hon. friend the ex-Home Secretary, there was hardly a man on that bench, from the Prime Minister downwards, who did not adopt, in unmistakable terms, the views which the Opposition were at present urging. They admitted that Grand Committees were admirable institutions for the discharge of certain work, but contended that their success was almost entirely dependent on the kind of Bills sent up to them. Before passing to the Resolutions he wanted to say a word or two about the amendments of the existing system, which, be believed, would give the House more time and facilitate its work. He believed that they might do 1538 great good by largely extending the Provisional Order system. There was a kind of legislation which sometimes led, for purely local reasons, to prolonged debate, and that invariably occurred in cases which might be dealt with if the Provisional Order system were extended to private Bills. There appeared in private Bills provisions which, if they had been tested and examined as were Provisional Orders, would have been rigidly excluded. His right hon. friend had spoken with reference to the Scottish Grand Committee. Scotland had been specially favoured in the arrangements made by the House, Scotland had obtained a system of procedure for her private Bills devised by the late Government, of which he had the honour to be a Member. That plan had worked with complete success, and it might with enormous advantage be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom. He was not sure whether it would not be possible, with perfect safety to the constitutional rights of Parliament, for that tribunal to do even more work than at present. But all these things found no place in the Prime Minister's proposals. What they were now called upon to consider was a radical change in the method of doing the work of the House. They were asked to send to Grand Committees Bills introduced by the Government, and there was a very slight limitation as to what Bills should go upstairs—a limitation so small that he did not think it necessary to refer to it. All the great Bills which the Government introduced, if these Resolutions were adopted, would pass from the House to the Committee stage upstairs. [No."] Yes, they would.
§ Sir HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
We do not say that all Bills shall be sent. The House has got its veto.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he did not quite follow. The House had its veto; would the right hon. Gentleman deny that if the proposal of the Prime Minister were adopted, it would place in the hands of the Government of the day power to send upstairs all Bills except those excluded by the Order.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
denied that that was so. The right hon. Gentleman was not quite fair when he said the House had the power of veto. If they had that power now, why should this Standing Order be proposed? The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that no Government had even attempted to send upstairs to Grand Committees Bills of the first importance containing matters in which they were controversially concerned. Therefore, it was not quite correct to say that the Government had that power now. It seemed to him, from their Resolutions, that the intention of the Government was that when a Bill had been read a second time, unless it came within the two subsections, it should pass to a Grand Committee upstairs if the House did not decide otherwise. If there was power to send all Bills to the Grand Committees upstairs, one saw that a temptation was offered which no Government was likely to be able to resist; nor was it likely that the majority who supported the Government, knowing that they had the power to send Bills upstairs, and knowing the demand made upon the time of Parliament and upon their own time, would fail in aiding the Government, and the result would be that all those Bills which had hitherto been considered in the House of Commons would be sent to the Grand Committees upstairs. The Prime Minister the other day had dealt with the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition before the Committee which inquired into this subject. His right hon. friend had taken the number of Members of the House, and the number of Grand Committees and Select Committees etc., and the Prime Minister had sought to show that his right hon. friend had exaggerated the demand made upon the time of Members. He ventured to say that his right hon. friend had not exaggerated at all. The Prime Minister had forgotten altogether to exclude from his calculations the large body of Members, he believed over 100, who belonged to the Bar, and many of whom could not attend their professional duties in the Courts if they had to attend the proposed Committees. Then there were 1540 in the House business men who were certainly not the least valuable or capable Members of that assembly. How was it possible for them to be in attendance on the Grand Committee in the morning and in the House in the afternoon and evening, if they were to give the smallest attention to their own affairs? Then there were private Members, for whom an hon. Gentleman opposite had pleaded with eloquence and force the other evening, when he said that many of them had important and necessary work of their own, which they could not neglect; and how would it be possible for them to attend Grand Committees in the morning, and the House in the afternoon and evening, and at the same time attend to their own duties as ordinary citizens? It was impossible. He himself had no calls of that nature on his time, but he had, to the best of his ability, been a hard working Member of the House of Commons for nearly thirty years, and he could safely say that if a man did his duty by the work of the House, if he tried to make himself familiar with what was going on in the country, he would find enough to occupy his time from morning to evening. It would be extremely difficult for him to do that work efficiently, if in addition he had to be in Committee from half-past eleven in the morning, and in the House later in the day. He had himself sat on Select Committees and private Bill Committees which had lasted four weeks; and he had the honour at one time of being the Chairman of the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee which sat into July. The Prime Minister and others had forgotten, he thought, the time at which very important work would have to be considered in Grand Committee. They talked as if the work could be spread over the whole session and 600 Members would be available for work to be divided up amongst them, from the meeting of Parliament in February to the rising of Parliament in August. They were proposing that Bills of importance, great controversial measures, should be sent to Committees upstairs. When would those measures be available for Committees upstairs; how many had they sent to the Committees already in existence? How many Bills 1541 were ready to go to the Select Committees? How many Select Committees had been appointed? The right hon. Gentleman must know that the time when it was almost impossible to get Members to serve on these various Committees was not March or April when the amount of Committee work was comparatively small, but in May and June when the work was excessively heavy, and Committees sat from day to day. He had himself sat five days in the week, and had had to ask the leave of the House to sit. In no other way could they get through the work; and some of them were serving on two Committees at the same time, besides being on the Grand Committee. Was it possible to add the fresh burden which the Government proposed, and even hope to get for the consideration of Parliamentary work that calm frame of mind and that strength of body which were necessary if the work was to be well done? He ventured to say that the proposal was absolutely impossible. The hon. Member who spoke the other day on behalf of the Committee of Selection based his conclusions largely on the present condition of the House. He thought the hon. Gentleman had forgotten that the present House was largely composed of new Members. Many of them were young in Parliamentary age, and young in experience of Parliamentary work. Let them wait until they had had three or four weeks experience in summer of a hot Committee room; until they were wanted to form a quorum on another committee; until they had had six weeks of a keenly contested Bill, with a long array of counsel—all in the hot days, and all to be done before they were called upon to attend in the House for the afternoon and evening. Any Member who had not been on a Committee could see what was happening when he came down to the House in the afternoon. What did he see? He saw Member after Member walking towards him from the House. If he asked why they were going when the House was just beginning, the answer was that they had been on a Committee since eleven o'clock, that they were tired to death, and that they must go away and get some fresh air. Yet they were going 1542 to ask Members to sit on four Grand Committees instead of two, in addition to their work in the House, and they imagined that in that way they were going not only to promote business, but enhance the harmony of their proceedings. Not only would Members be jaded physically, but it was not in the least probable that they would come to the consideration of important business with that mental vigour which was so necessary if the discussions were to be productive of really valuable legislation. The right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had forgotten one part of the question which he would like the House to consider. He was speaking as one who had served for a great many years in public departments. The one advantage which they derived from Grand Committees was the presence not only of members of the Government, but of permanent officials at the right hand of Ministers ready to be consulted at any moment with a view to assisting the Committee to arrive at a decision in regard to Amendments. Those permanent officials had a hard task already to get through the work of their Departments. Many of them were heavily overworked, and were unable to leave their offices until late at night. Yet they were to be called upon in the morning when the work of the Department was at its greatest pressure, and instead of having two sets of these permanent officials for Grand Committees they would require four for Committees which would sit for weeks together. Was that a way to avoid arrears of departmental work? He ventured to say that if the system were adopted it would strike a heavy blow at the administration of the various Departments, which would very soon be felt in the House, whatever other results might flow from these Resolutions. Let them take the Local Government Board, the Home Office, and the Board of Trade. It frequently happened that they had two or three Bills, produced by the heads of those departments, which they desired to have properly discussed, and which would employ the permanent officials, who were also to attend the Grand Committees. The proposal was practically impossible. If that were true of ordinary Members of Parliament and of permanent officials, how much more true would it be of the Law Officers of the 1543 Crown. Hardly a Bill of great importance went upstairs which did not require the presence of the Law Officers. On the Land Tenure Bill in Grand Committee last year it was absolutely impossible to secure the attendance of a Law Officer. The Attorney-General was absent through illness, and the Solicitor-General had other demands upon him. When the Bill came down to the House, how different was the effect. The Law Officer was present, and he was bound to admit that the arguments and criticisms which had been offered in Committee were well founded. Yet they were going to introduce a system for the consideration of Bills in Committee when they knew, from their experience of the Land Tenure Bill, that such consideration could not be complete, and they were going to trust to a subsequent stage to correct all mistakes made upstairs. If that was the foundation of the proposal, all he could say was that it rested on a very insecure basis indeed. His noble friend had just now expressed the view that the real remedy lay in some relaxation of the Party system. In Grand Committee they found a complete relaxation of the Party system, and the present Government, he thought, would not be quite so confident in making these proposals if it was not for the fact that they had got so large a majority behind them that they could to a large extent disregard considerations which a Government with a smaller majority would be bound to bear in mind. But even this Government with its overwhelming majority had experience of the difficulty of getting Bills through Grand Committee. He had spoken of the Land Tenure Bill. It was not the fault of the Member of the Government representing the Agricultural Department that changes were made in it upstairs; the Grand Committee decided against him, and what was the result? When the Bill came downstairs the Government had to employ all their force to alter the measure. Surely the Government were not going to send their important Bills to Committees upstairs, knowing that the work would have to be done again on Report! If they did they would double or treble the work which had to be done on the Report stage. Anybody who was familiar with the way in which work was done in 1544 the House must know perfectly well how frequently it happened in Committee on a Bill that some point suddenly arose which had not been foreseen by the Minister in charge or by the Government. It produced a great deal of feeling in the House of Commons, and on the part of the supporters of the Government, and of the particular measure. All of a sudden it became evident that unless something was done there would be a risk of the Bill being defeated. What happened? The Minister in charge of the Bill did his best, and there was a hurried consultation, frequently on the front bench, but sometimes in the room of the Leader of the House. The Minister came back to the House, and speaking with the authority which he could only possess after consulting his colleagues, intimated the decision at which the Government had arrived. The announcement having been made the Government stood or fell by it. How was that going to be done when a Bill was before the Grand Committees? The Minister in charge could not consult his colleagues. If he were beaten in the Grand Committee were the Government going to accept that defeat as if it had occurred in the House? Even with this Government, strong as it was, such a case had occurred twice in different forms. It occurred in connection with the Land Tenure Bill when a certain decision was announced. Great consternation arose, and a Cabinet Minister was put up to drive home the arguments and to do his best to smooth the troubled waters. That was not sufficient, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then the Leader of the House, was sent for, and the right hon. Gentleman announced definitely that the Government had considered the question in all its bearings, and called upon the supporters of the Government to support the decision at which they had arrived. That could not be done in Grand Committee. Another case which proved the importance of this point arose on the Workmen's Compensation Bill. The Minister in charge of the Bill refused to accept an Amendment to include domestic servants. A large number of Members took exception to that course and determined that they should be included. The head of the Government afterwards came to the 1545 House, threw over his colleagues, and agreed to accept the Amendment as the result of the expression of opinion which had taken place. If controversial legislation of that kind was sent to the Grand Committees, such cases were certain to arise. Were they going to alter the present system and say that there was to be no consultation, and that all the points were to be considered on Report after the Cabinet had been consulted? If that was the case it meant that the machinery would be wholly insufficient for the purpose to which they were applying it. He thought they ought to know what steps the Government proposed to take in order to meet the particular case which he had described, and also whether the Government, having put forth all their strength in the Grand Committee, would accept a defeat there in the same way as if it had occurred on the floor of the House. If not, they were making one of the greatest changes that had ever been made in the procedure of the House. Everybody knew that on the Committee stage difficulties arose which led to complete changes in a Bill. Those alterations, whether good or bad, were often of a drastic character, but in a Grand Committee upstairs there would not be the same opportunities for freedom of discussion. No communication had been made regarding what the Government proposed to do as to giving publicity to the proceedings upstairs. He was not sure but that the Government would be compelled to adopt some means of rendering what took place in the Grand Committees as fully open to the public as the proceedings in the House itself. He was not quite sure whether the record of the Grand Committees would remain as good as it was at present. He was not sure that, once it became known that speeches delivered upstairs would be reported fully with all the glories which were supposed by some people to attend the publication of their utterances, the opinion which his hon. friends opposite entertained in regard to the work hitherto done by the Grand Committees would remain the same; but if that change was to be made it would be little short of a scandal if important proceedings in Committee which ought to be in the possession of those outside the House, who were 1546 interested in what went on there, were not reported. The existing conditions under which the work was done were, he thought, quite sufficient for the kind of work to be performed. His right hon. friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division, who spoke with authority on this subject, said in 1904 that Parliament must be very careful indeed as to the kind of Bills which were sent to the Committees, and that the Aliens Bill was an unsuitable one to be sent to a Grand Committee.
§ *MR. ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
I was speaking of the Committees as they stood with their procedure at that time. The procedure in the Committees has been altered.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he understood from what his right hon. friend had now said that the whole merit of these proposals was to be found, not in the transfer of business, not in devolution, not in anything of that kind, but in the conferring upon the Chairman of the Grand Committees of the power to apply the closure.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that one of the proposed changes was to have four instead of two Grand Committees, and the other was to enable the Chairman of the Grand Committee to apply the closure. There was no other change in the procedure or constitution of the Committees. The Prime Minister had expressed himself in favour of Bills being discussed with the greatest publicity and in the fullest way. The right hon. Gentleman had also expressed the opinion that every Member, whether he was a trade Member or a lawyer, should have an opportunity of expressing his opinion on measures. That was the opinion which the Members of the Opposition held now. This was not only the greatest change which had ever been made in the procedure of the House, but it deprived Members of the opportunity of hearing, if they chose, the debate on a Bill. A Member might not desire to take part in a debate, but he had a right to know what was going on. If all these Bills were to be referred to the various Standing Committees, not only lawyers 1547 but others would be prevented from taking part in the debates. He knew that lawyers were not the most popular Members of that assembly, but he believed that they would get on very badly without them. In the Committee stage they brought to the consideration of Bills trained minds and experience which they had gathered over long periods of years. They would not be able to attend the sittings of the Grand Committees at 11 o'clock in the forenoon and remain in attendance at the House during the afternoon and evening. The proposed change was not only revolutionary but thoroughly bad in its character, being destructive of what had hitherto been one of the best parts of the work of Parliament. He did not believe it would give more time or facilitate the progress of business. It would lead to prolonged debates on the Report stage; the Report stage would be necessarily protracted, for they would have to fill up the blanks which were always left when they were discussing big measures in Committee. They would have to correct the blunders which were made in Committee upstairs. There was room for considerable improvement in procedure, but be believed the proposals now made would deprive large bodies of private Members of the opportunity of taking part in the debates on Bills and conceal from the general public some of the most important work Parliament had to do.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OR THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Sir Henry Fowler,) Wolverhampton, E.
said that the right hon. Gentleman had drawn a very lurid description of what was going to happen in the future. He had given two illustrations as to the working of the system, but they were drawn from two rather controversial Bills which were before the House during the last session of Parliament, and which were sent to Grand Committees; but the most valuable results were obtained on the Report stage in the House.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he was arguing, not in respect of the two Bills which had been sent to Grand Committees, but in respect of other greater measures which might be sent to Grand Committees.
§ Sir HENRY FOWLER
said that the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, had ignored the history of the question. According to the views of the right hon. Gentleman this was an entirely novel method of procedure, and there was no authority for it. As a matter of fact, however, the subject had been discussed and considered by eminent authorities on procedure, of different shades of political opinion, and all having special claims on the consideration of the House. He referred to the Hartington Committee. But long before the appointment of that Committee Sir Erskine May raised the question of Grand Committees in 1854; next there were the Committees of Sir John Pakington, Sir James Graham, Sir Stafford Northcote, and Lord Hartington's Committee in 1886. The last-named Committee consisted of thirty-three able and experienced Members, men who had been Cabinet Ministers, great Party leaders, men who were proud of the House of Commons and who were held in deservedly high respect by the House. That Committee, with three dissentients, recommended the system which was practically that of the Government. The Members included Sir M. Hicks Beach, Mr. Bright, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Courtney, Mr. Dillwyn, Sir J. Fergusson, Sir W. Hart Dyke, Sir J. Gorst, Mr. Goschen, Sir W. Harcourt, Mr. Healy, Sir John Mowbray, Mr. Raikes, Mr. W. H. Smith, Mr. Stanhope, and Mr. Whitbread, and several other distinguished men. They could not cast the opinion of all these men behind them and say that they did not know what they were talking about. The Committee sat for three months, was always fully attended, and most of the divisions showed very large majorities. The first Resolution of the Committee proposed—That every public Bill, after the second reading, except a Bill originating in Committee of Ways and Means, or a Bill for the confirmation of any Provisional Order, unless the House shall otherwise order, shall be referred to a Standing Committee of this House.The division on that vital question was in the proportion of twenty-one to five, and that twenty-one included nearly every one of the most distinguished and competent Members of the House. The Government scheme was based practically on the recommendations of that Committee. 1549 They had further had advantage of the advice of many competent gentlemen—notably the present Leader of the Opposition, who gave the Committee most valuable assistance. The right hon. Gentlemen seemed to imagine that the Government intended that every Bill should go upstairs. But the words of the Prime Minister were—I can assure you that this is the spirit and intention of the Government in proposing this rule: they have no intention of sending any Bill upstairs to which there would be any reasonable objection.It was sometimes asked, "Why not appoint an independent business committee?" The House would not find the Government indisposed to entertain that suggestion. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham raised the question many years ago, and it had been suggested that the House should follow the example of the United States Congress and appoint a body similar to their Rules Committee. But the Rules Committee of Congress possessed a power which he should be sorry to see used by any Committee of the House of Commons, for they settled everything as to the precedence and procedure in that Assembly. There was a great deal to be said, however, for an independent authority to settle procedure in the various stages of Bills. The great difficulty would be to fix on the body that should select the Committee and secure their independence and see that minorities were duly represented. The "guillotine" was hateful, but it was a necessity that the Government should possess it, and should use it if they meant to transact business. The system of Grand Committees had been in use for seventeen years, and he thought that the Grand Committees had done remarkably good work; he did not think there had been that incompetence and blundering which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had just described.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that he entirely shared the views of the right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division as to the good work which the Grand Committees had done.
§ Sir HENRY FOWLER
said he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say 1550 that the Grand Committees had been rather ineffective bodies. He would like to hear the Leader of the Opposition say how he proposed to cope with the difficulties of passing legislation by means of the present machinery of the House. This proposal was brought forward in the interest of the House, and he himself felt as strongly as any Member that the manner in which public time was wasted was not creditable to them. He did not think that the demand upon the time of public men in the House was very excessive, or that a pedestrian who crossed over Westminster Bridge of an afternoon and saw how hon. Members were engaged on a certain spot would have any idea that a Member of the House of Commons was usually over-worked either in the House or upstairs. They had the very great advantage that when they did not want to hear a man they could go out, and it was a privilege of which Members of the House frequently availed themselves. The extra Committee which was to be appointed to deal with Scottish business would not only facilitate business, but save the time of Members of the House. Leaving aside heroics, was it not the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Members of the House knew nothing about Scottish politics, and indeed hardly understood the language in which they were expressed? Was it not the fact that every word of Scottish law differed from English law? The two things were quite distinct, and, as he had mentioned, they had Bills which dealt with Scottish affairs purely, notably the Burghs Police Bill. That was dealt with in a Committee upstairs. That Bill, which contained a large number of clauses, was discussed in Committee upstairs and discussed very much better in a Committee mainly consisting of Scottish Members than it could be discussed across the floor of the House in the course of an hour or two where the majority knew nothing about Scottish business. What rational objection could be raised to getting Scottish business done in that way and getting rid of a complaint of the Scottish people that their legislation was pushed aside by English business and that to that extent they were injured? It had been said there was no such provision for England, but English business 1551 prevented everything and no injury was done to England. Could the right hon. Gentleman point out any English business which had been prevented from being accomplished by Scottish votes?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
instanced the Parish Councils Bill in which the majority was largely composed of Scottish and Irish Members against the majority of the English Members present.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said his memory did not go back to the discussions and divisions which took place, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was correct, because the Scottish Members knew they were to have their own Bill the next year and they had it.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that was his point—that the majority of English Members voting on the English Bill were out-voted by the minority of English Members voting with the Scottish and Irish. The right hon. Gentleman would remember that the Government of that day never had a majority of more than forty with the Scottish and Irish Members voting with them. It was clear, therefore, that in any Party division on an English Bill the majority must have been made up of Scottish and Irish Members.
§ Sir HENRY FOWLER
said that a very large section of the Conservative Party also voted with the Government, so it was by no means clear that the wish of English Members was defeated. At any rate, the present system was working badly, and the House was in a congested state and its machinery was being clogged up and stopped in an immense number of ways. Those arguments which did not appeal to reason, which became the means of obstruction, had greater play in the Committee stage than at any other stage of a measure. In other words, the details of many measures were far better discussed, not in a Committee of the Whole House, but in a Committee consisting of a limited number of Members upstairs. The House itself would under the present proposal reserve to itself the fullest and amplest control. It had 1552 been suggested that the Report stage ought to be limited, as there was a great deal of time wasted upon it, and that no Amendment should be moved at that stage except by a Minister of the Crown or by the Member in charge of the Bill. The Government proposed no limitations of that sort, but, of course, upon that stage no hon. Member could speak twice. He wished that rule could be more widely applied. Of course, this change was tentative, as all such changes must be, but the Government repudiated the idea of applying the rule to any great measure of the session. One hon. Gentleman opposite had said that no Government could carry more than one great measure in a session, and that it would be a monstrous thing to send a measure of that sort upstairs. A measure upon which the power of the Government depended ought not to be sent upstairs, but in the wear and tear of the Parliamentary struggle at present much minor legislation had to be abandoned, because there was not time in which to pass it. The Government wanted to give the House the opportunity of passing such Bills, and proposed to give the Chairman of the Committee upstairs larger powers than he at present possessed. There was nothing startling or revolutionary in these proposals, and he thought the House would be well advised to give them a general assent, with a view of seeing how they would work.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had appealed to the House to conduct the debate upon non-Party lines, and the Prime Minister had made a similar appeal, and he thought the discussion had been carried on on those lines, with a view to seeing if they could not make the machinery of the House work more smoothly in order to get through the business. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Hartington Committee. That Committee presented a very important Report, which revolutionised the procedure of the House twenty years ago under Mr. Gladstone; and the proposals of the Government were equally revolutionary. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the object of the change was to deal with non-contentious business; but he 1553 would like to ask him what he meant by the words. If there was any reasonable objection to o Bill would it be sent to a Committee upstairs? His great objection was not to the sending up of departmental and uncontentious Bills, but to the sending up of Bills on which there was great contention, and which might lead to friction between the two parties. Where that class of Bill had been sent up the procedure of Grand Committees had not been a success. The objection that the Government might lose control over their Bill was a most important one, because that was a thing that had happened more than once. They lost control over the Workmen's Compensation Bill last year. In the Committee on that Bill they were defeated three times—outvoted by their own side. The eloquent speeches of the Solicitor-General, the Home Secretary, and the Under-Secretary were of no avail, and they were defeated. What was to happen in the future? Were the Government to take their defeats in Committee mom seriously? Were they to resign on defeat or what were they to do? How was the new principle going to act in practice? Could Ministers with their arduous duties in their offices afford to spend their mornings in Grand Committee? He was afraid it would be found that they could not. He thought that it would not be wise to found too great an expectation on the desire of hon. Members to work hard on these Committees, because when a man had served on a Committee from 11.30 to three o'clock, he was not fit to begin work again in the House. He thought the rules ought to be so drawn that a Member could devote his time to the business he took most interest in. It was not fair to expect a man to sit in a Committee all day, and then expect him to work in the House in the evening. Then again the quorum of a Committee was twenty, and it was well known that on many occasions Committees had to wait twenty minutes or half an hour before there was a quorum. Under this new rule were they going to get sufficient Members to form a quorum? It was often difficult enough to do now, but he thought in the future the difficulty would increase. Then as to the Government's power to manage their legislation in Grand Committee. If it happened 1554 that they lost control of a Bill, as was the case in the Workmen's Compensation Bill, and they had to accept Amendments, they had either to abide by the decision of the Committee, or reverse its decision on the Report stage, which would be very much resented by the members of the Committee. He thought the true remedy was to shorten the Report stage, by allowing only Amendments to be moved in regard to alterations which had taken place in Committee, or Amendments moved by the promoters of the Bill. Such a system would much shorten the proceedings in the House, and would make the Report stage what it should be, namely, the maturing stage of a Bill after it had been considered in the Grand Committee. He hoped the Prime Minister, having appealed to the House, to consider this proposal in a non-Party spirit, would accept Amendments which would be moved from the Opposition side of the House with the sole object of improving the Resolution and making more efficient the machinery of the House.
§ *MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said from what the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this proposal had said it was perfectly apparent that the proposals of the Government were based on the highest constitutional authority. No names had ever been read out in the House that carried more weight than the names of the Hartington Committee, and they made even stronger recommendations than those of the Government. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for South Dublin take so general a view of the work done by Grand Committees, because the right hon. Gentleman himself had taken a very active part in the work of Grand Committees, and there were few, if any, Members of the House who understood the work done there better than the right hon. Gentleman. If it was desired to save time and get rid of Party spirit, and to have practical work done, that should be looked for in a Grand Committee rather than in Committee of the Whole House. What happened in the case of the Workmen's Compensation Bill was exceptional, principally because the members of the Committee were new to their work. On the whole he believed the work done as it was done that morning in a Committee upstairs was certainly done 1555 in less time than it would take in a Committee of the Whole House. The noble Lord the hon. Member for Marylebone, who had referred to the patriotism of England, did not do justice to the weight that English opinion had in the legislation passed for Ireland, and if, in exceptional cases, Irish and Scottish opinion affected the legislation for England, the weight of that opinion was not to be compared with the influence exerted by England over the legislation of Ireland and Scotland. He therefore did not think that English Members, if these rules passed, could grudge Scotland the Committee if it was a success. It would not prevent English Bills being referred to an English Committee. During the twenty years he had been in the House he had taken an interest in Imperial and Scottish legislation, but he confessed he did not take much interest in English, Irish, or Welsh legislation. One of the trials of a private Member was to work on a Committee and in the House afterwards; but a greater trial to him was to wait about the House for something to turn up in which he was interested; and it was because the proposal before the House was to distribute the work better, and to apply Members to work in which they were interested, that he thought it would have a very important effect upon Members in increasing their interest in subjects which came before the House. Older Members could fill up their time when in attendance, but it was a very bad training for the young Member to find himself without work to do, and often to find the time of the House taken up with work in which he himself had no direct interest. It was impossible to suppose that a Member from one division of the United Kingdom could, as a rule, take the same interest in work appertaining to other divisions as he took in matters affecting his own division. The Scottish Committee which it was proposed to set up under these rules was one for which Scottish Members had long asked. At present, for want of some means of attending to the business of Scotland, they were governed really by an administrative bureaucracy who were under very little supervision; and, if Scottish administration and Scottish legislation were brought more directly under the supervision of Scottish repre- 1556 sentatives, they would be able to breathe more life into that administration. English Members should not fail to remember that they were in London, with all their administrative department around them; they could thus obtain a much greater hold of them, and infuse, much more vigour into them, than was possible in the case of Scottish Members, whose departments were situated in Edinburgh. For many years Scottish education, and other details of Scottish business, had never come before the House at all, and in the consideration of Scottish Bills they were told, on a Saturday afternoon or at some other limited period, that they were either to take them or leave them. The Scottish Grand Committee would get them out of that difficulty, and he was heartily grateful to the Government for their proposal. There had been some discussion as to the kind of Bills which should be considered in Committee of the Whole House, and there might also be a question raised with regard to whether all the Bills brought in for Scotland should be referred to that Committee. He agreed that there were Bills which ought not to go upstairs, but ought to be considered in Committee of the Whole House. Although he approved of the Scottish Committee, he would prefer that it should be composed of all Scottish Members, without the addition of Members from other divisions of the United Kingdom. Most Scottish Bills, whether dealing with education or with matters connected with the Church or many other subjects, were far better dealt with by Scottish Members alone. But again there were Bills which ought to be considered in Committee of the Whole House, and he thought there might be some cases in which Bills, brought in even for Scotland, might be better considered by a Committee of representatives of the Whole House than by Scottish Members alone. He referred to such Bills, for instance, as effected great reversals in social and economic policy. Those he thought would be better dealt with by a Grand Committee upstairs, representative of the Whole House—Billsunlikely to be restricted to one division of the United Kingdom. Let them take, for instance, a Bill the principle of which he heartily supported, namely, the taxation of land values. That might be 1557 brought in either for England or for Scotland; but he thought that was a class of measure which could be far better considered in a Committee representative of the Whole House than in a Committee representative of one division of the United Kingdom. A Bill involving large public grants was another class of Bill which should not be considered by a Committee representing any one nationality, as for example the Irish Land Purchase Bill. He was not speaking from the national point of view; he was dealing with the subject from the point of view of public business. He was aware that any one coming from the Celtic fringe would be liable to be under suspicion where any question of nationality might be invoked; at any rate he was dealing with the whole question, and he wanted efficient conduct of Parliamentary business. Then a Bill might be brought in dealing with the affairs of a section of the country with which the Parliamentary representation was hardly competent to deal. For example, a Bill might be brought in dealing with agriculture for Scotland, at a time when the Parliamentary representation was almost entirely urban. In that case he thought the Committee would be strengthened by the presence of such an hon. Member as the representative of South Molton or his hon. friend who represented the tenant farmers of this country, as well as the presence of others versed in the practical affairs of agriculture. Under such conditions Bills of that character would be much better discussed by a Committee representative of the Whole House than by a Committee composed exclusively of Scottish Members. But as he had said, such Bills were exceptional, and for ordinary Scottish Bills he believed it would be better to have the Committee composed entirely of Scottish Members. With that slight exception the proposal would have his most hearty support, and he thought that hon. Members who opposed would find that they would have to discover some alternative method to the conditions under which the work of the House was done at present. As had been pointed out, in foreign Assemblies and at Washington much of the work was done by Committees. At Washington they had an extremely efficient system of Committees by which the work was 1558 carried on. That system was not wholly applicable to us; but no one who had seen that system at work could fail to understand the necessity of supporting such a modified scheme as that which was now proposed. He was certain that there was no country in the world where public business was conducted on a system better calculated to prevent any legislation taking place at all than was the case here; they had been only too long in trying to find a solution of the problem, and therefore he trusted that the very moderate proposals of the Government would be put in force with the least possible delay.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said he had very little to say on this question, for, the evidence he gave last year being on record, it was not necessary to repeat at length what he then stated. He wished to say, however, that nothing he had heard said in defence of this proposed Standing Order seemed to him to get rid of any of the objections which on that occasion, before the Select Committee, he had ventured to urge. Right hon. Gentlemen, however, had full right to make what use they could of what they called the principle of authority. But since the finding of the Committee of 1886 an experience of no less than twenty years had shown that even under the existing Standing Orders Committees sat shorter hours than they would have to sit under the proposed new Standing Order; there were at present fewer Committees to be manned; and although there was some kind of discrimination between Bills sent up to such Committees, yet they even now found great difficulty in obtaining a representative and authoritative attendance of Members. He gave before the Committee last year some figures which ought to have been considered sufficiently striking. At all events they showed that on Bills dealing with exceedingly important matters, the divisions by which they were decided had only a small number of Members taking part in them. Sometimes as few as thirty, and seldom more than fifty, Members voted. If they came to think, he thought they would see that that difficulty was not going to be got rid of by this proposal at all. They 1559 were going to have more Committees working, and they were going to send up indiscriminately more Bills to those Committees. Therefore the present difficulty would not only not be got rid of, but to a certain extent it would be aggravated. It was obvious that there were only two ways by which the attendance difficulty could be got over, and neither of those was dealt with in the proposed Standing Order. One was to diminish the number of Members composing the Standing Committees from eighty to sixty, or even fewer. It was obvious, however, that if they diminished the minimum number, they also very seriously diminished the authority of the Grand Committees with the House and with the public outside. The other alternative, and this was the alternative which the Government had not had the courage to adopt, was boldly to say that they were going to have four Committees, and that those four Committees should have power to operate simultaneously on four different Bills at once, by sitting in different rooms during the time of the ordinary evening sittings of the House. The fact that the Government shrank from that showed how dangerous were the logical conclusions by which alone their system could be tested. The difficulty of securing a sufficient attendance arose from the fact that they could not get the busy men who were engaged in professional or mercantile occupations, and he hoped the day would be far distant when the House of Commons would be composed of men who were not wanted anywhere else. The great difficulty they had always had was that if the Bills before them were of so non-controversial a character that they were considered safe to send to a Grand Committee, they did not attract a quorum. On the other hand, in the case of Bills sufficiently controversial to attract a quorum, the procedure of Grand Committee had not been a success. Under the proposed plan he foresaw great loss of time and labour, for, after all, the bottle-neck of the whole system would remain the Report stage in the House itself; because, assuming that the Committees were successful in respect to the actual quantity of their output, the greater would be the diffi- 1560 culty of running the necessary business through the narrow opening it had to pass at the Report. The Scottish Committee, he supposed, would deal with both Government and private Members' Bills and that Government business would have precedence. If that Committee were composed of none but Scottish Members it would be easy to work, under certain circumstances, so that it might run counter to the fundamental principle of the united Parliament, that the prevailing balance of opinion should, as in the whole House, prevail in the Committees for all parts of the area legislated for by the united Parliament. It would be possible for a Radical Scottish Committee to pass Radical measures even in a Conservative Parliament. No answer had yet been given to the question why, if there was to be a Scottish Committee, there should not be also an English Committee. The answer to that question was that with an English Committee the trend of legislation, would be Conservative and Unionist. If this rule became operative, of course all Members of the House would do their best to make it a success in the interests of the House itself. At the same time, he did not think he would have done his duty if he had not, out of his experience, pointed out some of the difficulties which he conceived to be in the way. He thought it would add very greatly to the labours of Members of the professional and mercantile classes at a most inconvenient time of the day.
§ *MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said it had been admitted in speeches made on both sides of the House that there were difficulties in this matter. It was stated by some that the supposed remedy would be the means of lessening the work in the House, but he, on the contrary, believed the work of the House would go on increasing in spite of this temporary palliative. He believed the proposed new procedure would add enormously to the work already placed on Parliament. In view of the difficulties that had been pointed out, he could only hope, not only that the matter would be discussed from a non-Party point of view, but that the right hon. Gentleman would give his attention from that point of view 1561 to the Amendments moved, when they came to be discussed, and let the House decide upon them without regard to any preconceived or partisan ideas. The right hon. Gentleman, when introducing this Motion, took as similes what took place in Continental Legislatures. He would have preferred if the right hon. Gentleman had gone to younger countries. In Australia, for instance, where the total population was less than that of Greater London, there were no less than five legislative Assemblies as well as a central Parliament; in the United States, with a population less than double that of the United Kingdom, there were fifty-three besides the central body of Congress. It was, he thought, upon the line of multiplying the legislative and administrative Assemblies or national councils in this country that the remedy could be found for the atrophy of the House of Commons which had been so universally admitted. With regard to the establishment of an English Committee the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer must have overlooked the fact, when he asked why such a Committee should not be appointed, that the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone had an Amendment on the Paper for the appointment of an English Committee of sixty Members. He himself shared that view, and he would like to see the matter carried to its logical conclusion by the appointment of such a Committee. While he thought that particular care should be given to these recommendations he admitted that he regarded the question of a Scottish Committee as a prelude to a larger scheme of devolution. He hoped this Committee would be merely the forerunner of a Committee which would have power given to it to enable it to sit for a certain portion of the year in Scotland, and take its proper and rightful part in Scottish administration. With regard to the question of whether this Committee should be composed exclusively of Scottish Members, it would, in his opinion, be much easier, when setting up these new bodies, to add more Members to a small Committee than to take away Members from a large one, and he hoped the Government would, at any rate, in the first instance, appoint the Committee as such. It was instructive to contrast the words of Lord 1562 Seafield, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland 200 years ago, who was best remembered by posterity to his lasting discredit by the single sentence—There's ane end of ane auld sang;and who, in closing the last session of the Scottish Estates that very day the 25th of March, 1707, said—The public business of this session being now over, it is full time to put an end to it,with the words of the present Lord Chancellor, who, when in this House in 1888, said he thought it would be a very great calamity if a mixed Committee were appointed to discuss Scottish business, and further that he would not for a moment ask for a Committee, or even care to see one, which did not consist exclusively of Scottish Members; and again last week, speaking from the Woolsack, that devolution was as certain to come in this country as the sun to rise to-morrow. Scottish Members should consider this question very seriously before they voted upon it. He thanked the hon. and learned Member for Waterford for kindly promising to support them in carrying out their wishes. When he moved the Amendment of which he had given notice he would state what he believed to be the opinion and wishes of the Scottish people as to this proposal; wishes which would prove that Scotland, far from agreeing to the auld sang being ended, was determined that it should have a future as marked and as nationally characteristic as in the past. While, therefore, approving in the main of the proposals of the Government he reserved for himself liberty, from a non-partisan point of view, to take the course which he considered best fitted to protect the interests of Scotland in the matter.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had admitted that the question of a Scottish Committee stood in an entirely different category from the other proposals embodied in the new procedure, and that it might be discussed apart from the question of expediting business. That was almost the only reference to this question which the right hon. Gentleman made in his weighty speech. The hon. Member for North 1563 Aberdeen had made some admissions which would perhaps be found convenient on the Opposition side of the House in regard to that part of the Resolution which referred to Scotland. In the opinion of many people of weight in Scotland the proposal of the Government was not only dangerous, but was an insult to the country. It was a curious and not uninteresting fact that on the two hundredth anniversary of the day that saw the Union between England and Scotland they had to meet what he regarded as an insidious attempt to introduce a breach into that Union, a breach which would be a serious blow to Scotland first of all. The noble Lord beside him and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, while holding the same opinion as himself in regard to the inexpediency of the proposal as to Scotland, seemed to think it was a benefit which could not properly be denied to England. That was not the view which he and others took of the proposal. The hon. Member for the Leith Burghs had stated what he thought of the position of Scottish administration. He yielded to no one in earnestness for having the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of Scotland maintained, and her traditions and history, and special national features fully defended, but this was not the means whereby that could be done. He agreed with the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs that Scottish interests were to be maintained by making certain that the administration of Scottish affairs was in the hands of men who understood them, men who were well known in Scotland, men who sympathised with her aspirations and were fully acquainted with her requirements. All the changes of recent years had been directed to attain this special point. The administration of Scotland was so arranged that it was in the hands of Scotsmen who were acquainted with the needs of the country. It was by maintaining the principle of having the administration in the right hands that this Parliament would maintain the right to govern Scotland. He wished that some of the Scottish Members had occasionally raised their voices much more powerfully in aid of his, when, as he believed, a wrong was done to Scotland by the Treasury. 1564 He believed it was not in the House that the danger to Scottish interests arose. He had no doubt that in the House justice would be dealt out to Scotland, but the danger lay in the recesses of the public offices, and it was in having the administration moulded on Scottish lines that they had their remedy. But what was this proposal to lead to? An indication had been given by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen. Did the hon. Member think it was likely to lead to the realisation of the proposals which he, with strength of conviction no doubt, had made known—proposals which involved the holding of a Parliament in the city of Perth? Did he think that the aspirations which he had so eloquently uttered on behalf of Scotland were likely to be brought about sooner by the present proposals?
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
said he was delighted to have that admission from the hon. Member. They now knew what was the bait held out by the Government to their supporters. He thought the hon. Member's Parliamentary foresight was hardly to be put on a level with that of the hon. Member for Waterford who declined to have a Committee of this sort for Ireland, having made a demand for a national Parliament for that country. The admission of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen gave at the same time a valuable warning which, whatever might be the impression made on the Ministerial benches, would be read by a wider audience throughout Scotland. It was for the advantage of Scotland that Scottish legislation should be dealt with not in a hole-and-corner way, but by the whole Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. That was the vital principle involved in the Union, and with which the prosperity and just ambitions of Scotland were bound up. The Statute-book of Scotland was important enough to deserve and demand the full attention of the House, and if it delegated any part of its duties to any Committee, that Committee must reflect the colour and opinions of the House itself. Did Scotland always choose her representatives in proportion to their exact knowledge of, and close sympathy with, her life, and as citizens of her own community? Scotland was proud of such 1565 Members as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for India, and others whom he could name, but surely they were chosen for other reasons. They were chosen because of the capacity and genius they possessed for Parliamentary life, and not because they were peculiarly of Scottish origin or acquainted with Scottish life. It was by choosing her representatives in that way that Scotland had shown her intention that Scottish affairs, in their larger aspect, were not to be dealt with in any hole-and-corner way. The Prime Minister had told them that in the Scottish Committee they should have the presence of the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord-Advocate. [An Hon. Member: Two good men.] No doubt they would be excellent members of the Scottish Committee. But he was afraid their demands would not stop there. They must have the Prime Minister himself, the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for India, the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and indeed half of the Government must devote themselves to the discussion of Scottish affairs. [An Hon. Member: And the ex-Prime Minister.] The ex-Prime Minister was an instance of a man who knew something about Scotland and who would be excluded from this Committee. In Scotland they had hitherto held their place on a free field with no favour. They had met the Members even from the "predominant partner" itself on the larger lists, and they were prepared to meet them there again. They were not anxious to have their combats banished to a little pen of their own. They had hitherto moved along the broad stream of Imperial politics, and they did not wish to be sent down a narrow channel hemmed in by embankments of parochial narrowness and Party prejudice.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said that Irish Members had no desire that a Committee should be set up to deal with Irish affairs. Therefore, he, for one, could look upon the question more or less in a spirit of detachment. As a disinterested person what struck him was that the proposed change in procedure, by which the vast majority of Bills which had hitherto been considered by the House as a whole were to be sent to a Grand Committee, was an enormous one. 1566 And yet how much interest had the proposition aroused amongst Members generally? There were 670 Members of the House of Commons. He doubted whether anybody had seen 670 Members present in the House. The only occasion on which it might have been said that they were—with few exceptions which could be accounted for—was on the eve of the division on the Irish Home Rule Bill. He had come into the House at Question time, had remained ever since, and had watched very carefully what was going on. He had quietly to himself counted the House and found that on several occasions there was a bare quorum present, and never more than 100. That meant that hon. Members took so little interest in the question under discussion that they would not even come in to listen to the many excellent speeches that had been made. It proved conclusively that there was nothing in the proposals of the revolutionary and destructive character of which they had heard so much from the Opposition side of the House. It did not appear that hon. Members, as a whole, shared the opinion of the hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, who seemed to imagine that if Scotsmen had something to do with the management of their own affairs it would break up the Union. He was astonished to hear that the Union was threatened in some other direction. Everything which had taken place of late inside and outside the House was an attempt, especially on the part of Irish Members, to break up the Union. It was refreshing to find that the latest attempt to break up the Union came from Scotland; that on this two-hundredth anniversary of the Union between England and Scotland there was a daring conspiracy to break up the Union and establish in Scotland a free and independent nation—if there ever was such a thing. He had watched Scottish, Irish, and Welsh debates in the House, and from long experience he could say that when a Scottish Bill was going through Committee there was never anything like 5 per cent. of other than Scottish Members present. It was practically a Scottish Committee. Members would come to the door, and ask the whips in which lobby they were to vote, and they went away. So it was with some Irish 1567 Bills. He remembered a discussion on an Irish Bill in 1903 when one would have imagined they were in an Irish House of Commons—not a single English Member being present, except perhaps a representative of the Government. So also with Welsh Bills. The new procedure would make no difference from that point of view; but it would enable Bills to be considered which would never go through the Committee stage of the Whole House. He thought the Scottish Members were exceedingly well advised in adopting the suggestion that Scottish Bills should be sent to a Committee upstairs largely composed of Scottish Members, and the Irish Members would be only too glad to give them their support in obtaining that small measure of control over their own affairs. The hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities had said that to send a Scottish Bill to a Grand Committee was to make its consideration a "hole-and-corner" affair. He considered that the right of Scottish Members to manage their own affairs was a "hole-and-corner" affair That was not, he was sure, the view of the great majority of the people of Scotland. No Irishman could have failed to notice that many a Bill anxiously desired by the people of Scotland was killed for want of time for its discussion in the House. A great deal had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin about the work to be performed by hon. Members in reference to the proposed new Committees. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he frequently met hon. Gentlemen at three o'clock in the afternoon after work in the Committee rooms upstairs driving home quite unable to face the added labour of attending in the House itself, and that it would be quite impossible for human nature to stand the double strain of Committee work and the work of the House. His own experience was that if it were not for occasional work upstairs, life in the Palace of Westminster would be absolutely intolerable. A great deal of nonsense was talked about the work of Members of Parliament. He might be rather disabusing the impression on the minds of constituents, but, after all, what was the enormous work which hon. Members were called upon to do? 1568 The average Member came down to the House at a quarter to three and listened to the Answers to Questions, which really was the most interesting time of the Parliamentary day. But directly Questions were over, what happened? Seven-eighths of the Members promptly got up and walked out of the House. And where did they go? As many as could find room in the smoking room—which he admitted was far too small—went there. Others went, in the summer time, to the terrace, or to the library, or elsewhere. But where was the work in that? Why, for the vast majority of Members there was absolutely no work! There was, if they liked, constant attendance which was tiresome; and if one attempted to leave the House he was arrested by one of the Whips, as if he were one of His Majesty's prisoners, and brought back. But there was no work for Members who wanted to take an intelligent interest in the business of the House. He maintained that the great majority of hon. Members would be very glad to gain the experience and information to be derived from attending those Grand Committees, but let it not be said that they could not stand the additional strain of taking part in them. He admitted that members of the Government were hard-worked, and it might be also said of some members of the Opposition when they made up their minds to have an all-night sitting. So far from an objection being made to these Grand Committees on the score of overwork, he believed that hon. Members would find a new interest in their lives by going on to those Committees, and would feel that they were actually doing the work which their constituents had sent them to Parliament to perform. From their special point of view, he thought the Nationalist Members would welcome the idea of giving the Scottish Members a Committee to deal with Scottish business.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said that during the greater part of the evening the debate had turned not upon the new Standing Orders as a whole, but upon the proposal to establish a new Standing Committee for Scotland. He did not under-rate the immense importance of that change, but he proposed to reserve what he had to say upon it until 1569 they reached an Amendment in regard to it which was on the Paper, and not to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon what was, he would not say the least important change that the Government proposed, but a change of less general interest than the proposals of the Government as a whole. Whether in its ultimate effect it might prove most generally important he did not know. The point he wished to discuss was the proposal which the Government had made to the House that they should abolish the Committee stage for the greater part of their work and that they should throw all the detailed elaboration of that portion of their work upon the Report stage. Let them brush away at once, as he thought they ought to brush away, the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division and supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Those two right hon. Gentlemen both spoke with great authority, but they attempted to lead the House of Commons to believe that the Government were reviving, and doing no more than reviving, the long series of recommendations made by the Hartington Committee of1886. That suggestion was entirely illusory; the Government proposal was not that of the Committee of 1886 and had no resemblance to it. Undoubtedly the proposal would throw more work upon Members, and that the hon. Member for Clare considered a blessing in disguise, believing that the excitement of a Grand Committee relieved the intolerable tedium of Parliamentary life. It would greatly increase the hours of attendance, which the suggestion of the Committee of 1886 did not propose. A revival of that recommendation would remove a large block of his objections, but this was a different proposal. All questions of Parliamentary procedure should be considered from the points of view of the majority and of the Opposition, to bring about impartiality of judgment; and so looking at the Resolution, he considered its effect upon Grand Committees, a part of the legislative machinery which had done some excellent work. In so far as a Grand Committee was set to work upon long, complicated, useful, but rather dull, 1570 uncontroversial Bills, it had proved an admirable legislative instrument. He noticed, however, that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy seemed to regard the proposal from different points of view. The Prime Minister contemplated the sending of all Bills, with rare exceptions, to Grand Committee, only retaining for Committee of the Whole House measures exciting acute controversy and upon which revolt would arise should such Bills be handed over to the secret councils of eighty gentlemen upstairs. On the other hand, the Chancellor of the Duchy seemed to imply that Bills really controversial should not be sent up to the Committee, and it would be well to know which plan it was proposed to adopt. There was much to be said in favour of the plan of the Chancellor of the Duchy.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said that all Bills were controversial, but what he meant was that great controversial measures of the Government should not be sent to these Committees.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
thought the right hon. Gentleman's language went further than that. Even now he was not quite sure whether the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy saw eye to eye on the matter, because the latter thought that controversial matters should be sent up but not great controversial measures. It was important to know what was the Government design and to see what was embodied in the Resolution. The Government would only have to remain silent and the Bill would go upstairs without debate or division. ["No, no."]
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
read the proposed rule and pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition or any Member could move that the Bill be considered in Committee of the Whole House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said it was not clear from those words whether they carried with them this procedure. Supposing the Second Reading of a private Member's Bill was got by closure at five o'clock on a Friday afternoon, would it be competent to ask for a second division to decide whether the 1571 Bill was to go to a Committee upstairs. It did not say so, nor did he believe the new Standing Order carried out that view. But, leaving that subsidiary point, his main contention was that on important measures exciting deep religious feeling or touching great commercial or other interests the Grand Committee could not properly do the work required. So much for the first question of how it would affect Grand Committees. The next question was of more importance, namely, how would it effect their legislative work? He thought legislative work would be affected disastrously in two or three ways. In the first place, the Government could not give the proper amount of time to control all the work of the Grand Committees. There were not sufficient law officers to be present at all the Grand Committees to be established under this rule. The permanent officials could not be in Grand Committee day after day. They could not possibly give the time. Again there could not be the organised system with Grand Committees that there was in the House. Questions often arose in Committee which it was far beyond the competence of the Minister in charge of a measure to decide. How was the machinery to be provided in Grand Committee by which in those circumstances he could consult the Leader of the House or his colleagues? He had had great experience in this matter, and the present Leader of the House would confirm him when he said that he had been responsible for passing a great many difficult and controversial measures through the House, If a difficult Bill was going through the House he would have been very sorry to have been out of the reach of his colleague who was in charge of the Bill and to have been unable to have come into the House and given him such assistance as he could afford him. All that was impossible in Grand Committee. His noble friend who had spoken earlier in the evening, who had an inborn objection to all kinds of party organizations, had enforced Ministerial responsibility under the present system for legislation, especially of a controversial character. He believed, on on the whole, the Government of the day must in the main be responsible for the 1572 lines of legislation of the day, especially when it was of a controversial character, and he did not believe it was possible to throw upon Ministers, in addition to the difficult duties of attending Cabinet Committees, doing their work in their offices, and attending the House when it was sitting, the burden of coming down to the House at 11.30 and sitting on a Grand Committee. For the pleasure-loving gentlemen, whom those below the gangway so well represented, that might be an agreeable distraction, but for a Minister of the Crown it meant a slavery which would end in very imperfect work being done either in their offices on the one hand, or in the Grand Committee on the other. That was a great objection, but it was not the main one, and here he thought he ought to take up the challenge thrown out to him to suggest an alternative. Although it was not the business of an Opposition to provide an alternative, he reminded Ministers that he had to the best of his ability provided one in the proposals he made some years ago for the amendment of the rules of the House. He was prepared to grant that to go over in the whole House every detail of a great measure was to throw on its Members an unnecessary burden, a burden which resulted in an enormous amount of in quiry and in many cases wasted a great deal of time. Then the question arose, if it were a matter of common admission on both sides that a full discussion both in Committee and on Report was undesirable, with which of those stages ought they to interfere. Without hesitation he said the stage they ought to curtail was the Report stage, and not the Committee stage. It had been urged that as a Member could only speak once on the Report stage, therefore the Report stage should be left alone. In the Committee stage they could speak more than once, therefore let them curtail that stage. That was plausible; but he believed that of all who could speak only once on Report the Minister in charge of a Bill was most injured by the limitation. It was true he could speak again by leave of the House, but the limitations he was then under were embarrassing, and if he guarded against his comparative defencelessness, against the development of fresh 1573 attacks by anticipating them in his original speech instead of confining himself strictly to the point raised at the outset, nothing would be so likely to prolong debate. The speech of the Minister would in the first place be long and would be just of the character to provide material for obstruction to hon. Gentlemen who had not the ingenuity to secure that material for themselves. Would that save time? If hon. Gentlemen went through a debate that was obstructed they would see that the obstruction was not maintained by one man on the same amendment. It did not usually begin with the amendment first proposed. It began on points taken up by one speaker from another. He believed the plan was called "passing" at football. If he carried the House with him so far, he came to the ground which everybody must admit was the most serious objection. In the case of the Plural Voting Bill last session, in consequence of the criticisms passed on the Government, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill promised a number of changes which he asked the House to allow him to consider between the Committee and Report stages. The right hon. Gentleman could not have done the necessary drafting on the spur of the moment in Committee. No man had more capacity than the right hon. Gentleman, but it was beyond his ingenuity to do it. Nothing would conduce more to slovenly legislation than to compel even the most skilled draftsman to produce amendments of a complicated and far-reaching character without consideration. If the House was going for the first time to leave their discussions over to the Report stage, when there was no opportunity to consult the draughts men, then, of course, the amount of slovenly legislation for which they were responsible would be greatly increased. He thought the House was sometimes unduly attacked in regard to the drafting of its Bills. When Judges put an interpretation upon an Act of Parliament which was obviously not the intention of the Assembly that passed it, they always made some sarcastic references to the Government draftsmen or to the law officers of the Crown, or to some other more or less innocent person. Undoubtedly, there was some slovenly draftsmanship, and it might 1574 be in the recollection of the House, that John Stuart Mill was so impressed by that that he thought drafting ought to be done by a separate Committee; that the House should only decide on policy and that a Committee should advise it from the drafting point of view. If they were going to get a Grand Committee to do the drafting after the House had settled the policy there would be a great deal to be said for it; but that was not the plan of the Government. The House had never really taken a Grand Committee as an authority, and would never yield to its opinion in a matter of controversy. Therefore, whenever a Bill was really controversial, it would be revised from top to bottom on the Report stage, and he ventured sincerely to tell the House that if he was right in the view he had put forward, they would not only spend on Report all the time they now spent in Committee, but they would spend it to much less advantage, and the result would be that measures would be ill-defended and ill-advised—not from the point of view of policy, but ill-drafted and ill-expressed in legal language. If they took the plan which he advocated, the House would enormously reduce the time on the Report stage, which would be left for what it was designed, namely, the going over again, not the policy of the amendments, but to see that the necessary changes promised in Committee had been carried out. The Government would have his support in any policy of reform which would prevent the same weary debate being repeated on Report which had originally taken place in Committee. That would leave it to the House either to start new questions which the Government might think necessary, or to discuss the manner in which the Government had carried out changes in a Bill which they had already proposed in Committee. That appeared to him a practical suggestion. It would really relieve the House without diminishing its efficiency. It would save the time of Members without impairing their effectiveness as legislators. The discussion they had had and the consideration he had been able to give to the matter confirmed him in the view that the Committee stage, which was characteristic of the House—he admitted no other Assembly had it— 1575 was one of its greatest glories; it marked them off as a legislative body, to their advantage, from any other legislature in the world; and he thought it would be an evil day for them and their successors if in the vain hope of really diminishing the labours and burdens thrown upon them by modern legislative work—it would be an evil day if, in aiming at this most legitimate object, they were to destroy a stage which was characteristic of the House, and with which he was convinced they could not do away without inflicting a permanent blow on the efficiency of the legislative machine.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
said that, following the example which had been set in the speeches that afternoon, he hoped that they would avoid anything of a partisan character in connection with these proposals, which, he thought, ought to be decided outside their ordinary divisions on one side of the House or the other, or between one part of each side and another. There were Members who honestly believed that the House of Commons legislated too much, that a great many unnecessary, and therefore mischievous, Bills were passed, that the slower they went the better, and that if a Government turned out one or two Bills in a Session they had done pretty well. The idea entertained by a large number of Members was that the House had fallen woefully behind in legislation, and that there were large arrears to be made up, that the country required, whether it were alive to the advantage of it or not, a great deal of legislation which in present circumstances could not be passed. He ranged himself, and the Government ranged themselves, among the second party, and it was in order to accelerate business, and to have a livelier and more effective method of conducting it, that they wished to see alterations made in the rules. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had made an interesting and powerful speech earlier in the evening, but he had never heard a stronger speech in favour of Home Rule—unintentionally, he thought, in favour of Home Rule—in favour of that side of 1576 the question of Home Rule which regarded, not so much the wants of Ireland or Scotland, or any other part of the United Kingdom, as the necessity of the House itself, which looked to the devolution of business. That sort of Home Rule had received a strong amount of advocacy, unconscious and unintentional, from the right hon. Gentleman. He argued that the proposed changes would be disastrous, and he implied that he would be content with certain little emendations of a subordinate character. He was afraid he could not accept the right hon. Gentleman's view. They would not be doing their duty to the country if they did not enlarge their powers, and, by some means, hit on a more effective method of passing measures through the House. The Chancellor of the Duchy and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division had referred to the recommendation of that most notable Committee—the Hartington Committee—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had pointed out that the Government's proposal was not the same as the proposal made by that Committee. Why was it not the same? That Committee proposed to refer all Bills to Standing Committees. It added—When the business of the Standing Committee shall require it the House may order, on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown, after not less than two clear days notice, made at the meeting of the House and put without Amendment or debate, that on Thursdays and Fridays, until the House shall otherwise order, the morning sitting shall be appropriated to the business of the Standing Committees, and the House on such days shall meet for ordinary business at nine o'clock.Thus they had two half-day holidays. That was said to vitiate the Government's proposals. All he could say was that if the proposals were accepted and the Standing Committees proved to be a success, and if it was found—as he thought it might be found—that circumstances admitted of it, there was no reason at all why there should not be one holiday a week given to the House at large. That would be a considerable relief. That Committee, he was told, also recommended that the House should be relieved from the duties now discharged by private Bill Committees. Well, his withers were unwrung in regard to 1577 Private Bill Committees, because he had urged, session after session, that the discussion of private business should be sent away from the House in order to relieve the strain upon members. The next point was that no controversial Bills ought to go upstairs. What was a controversial Bill? Every Bill was, or might be made, a controversial Bill. He would be disposed to say that a Bill which expressed a controversial doctrine and had a controversial object was a controversial Bill, But there was many a Bill which had an object which attracted the sympathy of all parts of the House which yet, in some of its provisions, might introduce controversy. They could not treat those two classes of Bill in the same category. The Second Reading disposed, so far as that House was concerned, of the controversial note of those Bills whose main object and purpose was controversial. Others must also go up to the Standing Committees, and they must take their chance of smaller controversies showing their heads there. But the Government had no desire to send the great measures of the session, which almost necessarily were controversial, to Grand Committees. They would still be retained under the control of the House. But there were very many measures, which might be long and elaborate, but which not only could be dealt with by Standing Committees, but had been dealt with with the greatest success by them—Bills such as factory Bills, full of the most delicate and complicated details, all arousing strong feelings and attacking certain interests. The right hon. Gentleman had made a great point that it might not be easy to have the requisite advice and control of the members of the Government. It might impose a great strain upon members of the Government. As to law officers, he regretted very much it was not possible to adopt a provision which he had always been in favour of, that they should have a third law officer—namely, the Judge-Advocate-General, and that he should always be available—which was quite consistent with his office—to give that legal assistance which was required of the Government in Committee. But when the present Government came into office they found that a permanent arrangement had been made, and there- 1578 fore they were deprived of that resource. But he could not help thinking that there might be means whereby legal assistance might be given on Committees, even although the two law officers were otherwise employed. Then the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the effect upon the Report stage. But he thought the fallacy which underlay what he had said was that he spoke as if they were proposing that the Committee stage of a Bill should be completely suspended. A Bill might be as thoroughly examined and as successfully altered and adjusted in a Committee upstairs as in Committee of the Whole House. He rather thought that it would be better adjusted upstairs than there, where there was a tendency, natural to them all, to make speeches for speaking's sake. He did not see that that House of 670 members was a more favourable authority to settle the details of a Bill than a businesslike Committee upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman had attacked them very fiercely because of the habit they had introduced of giving facilities for and adopting private Members' Bills. Undoubtedly the Land Tenure Bill last year was an imperfectly drafted Bill, and they suffered for it through the Report stage. He quite made that admission. But they came into office so immediately before the commencement of the session that they were unable to have their own Bills drafted, and they, therefore, adopted that Bill. But let them not found their expectations of what was to happen in the future under these new rules upon any such experience as that. It was quite an unusual, and, let them hope, it would remain an unusual, experience. Now that they had had this prolonged discussion on the general conception of, and the main purpose which underlay, these Rules of Procedure, which was that the business of examination in Committee should for the most part be referred to Standing Committees, and that it should be only exceptionally important Bills that were kept for the direct control of the House, he hoped they would be able to proceed to the Amendments.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
moved to substitute for the proposal of the Prime Minister a Resolution providing that there should be a 1579 business committee of the House, consisting of Mr. Speaker and six other members nominated by Mr. Speaker, who should be representative of the various sections of political opinion in the House, and that all Bills, when they had been read a second time, should stand committed to either Committee of the Whole House or to a Grand or Special Committee in accordance with the decision of the business committee. He said that from the remarks of the Chancellor of the Duchy it appeared that the right hon. Gentleman did not approve of the course he proposed. He admitted that it was a somewhat bold step for a private Member to put forward a proposition of this kind. There were undoubtedly great difficulties in the way of forming such a Committee. Having disclaimed any intention in making this proposal of bringing the Speaker into controversial matters, he said the object he had in view was to give to the House the power which the Government desired to retain for themselves. After what they had heard he believed it was all the more necessary that they should adopt some practice of this sort. Notwithstanding the statements which had been made by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy they were still in very much doubt what particular Bills were going to be sent to the Grand Committees which had not been sent in to them in the past. It had been stated that the great Bills of the session were still to be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. If that was so, of course a good deal of the argument of the Prime Minister as to a Grand Committee's being a superior body for producing a better drafted Bill than Committee of the Whole House fell to the ground. But it was evident that the Government themselves acknowledged that the whole House was capable of dealing with Bills in Committee; no instance, so far as he knew, had been given of any Bill which had not been sent to a Grand Committee, and which would be sent under the new system. The Prime Minister had appealed to the whole range of the Factories Bills; but they had for years been sent to the Grand Committee. There had never been any disposition on the part of the House to refuse their consideration in Grand Committee. It was acknow- 1580 ledged that it was just that sort of Bill which could, with great advantage, be relegated to a Grand Committee for consideration. They were lengthy Bills dealing with technical subjects, and, in the main, they were not controversial from the Party point of view. Last session the House sat for a great number of months, but only three Bills were dealt with in Committee of the Whole House, namely, the Education Bill, the Trade Disputes Bill, and the Plural Voting Bill. He thought that Bills which affected the franchise should be excluded from the Standing Order, because they knew that on such matters the authority of a Grand Committee would not be accepted by the House. He thought, before they proceeded further, they should have some clear statement as to what special Bills would be sent to the Grand Committees which had not been sent before. His proposal was that there should be a small Committee, consisting of Mr. Speaker, and such men us the Chairman of the Panel, the Chairman of Committees, and others of experience, to say whether a Bill should be left to be considered by Committee of the Whole House, or sent to a Grand Committee. He believed such a scheme would work admirably, and that it would remove a good deal of friction and controversy. Possibly, if such a Committee gained the confidence of the House, it might in the future be given even greater powers, such as deciding the time that should be allotted to the consideration of particular Bills. The proposal had some authority behind it in the evidence which was given before the Procedure Committee last year. Sir Courtenay Ilbert believed such a scheme could be worked out, while Lord Selby, though he afterwards receded from the position, expressed the opinion that a Committee, consisting of the Speaker, two Members of the Government, and two members from the other side of the House, chosen by the Speaker himself with reference to their character and standing in the House, would be an ideal tribunal for dealing with the question.
In line 1, to leave out from the beginning to 'But,' in line 3, and insert 'there shall be a
Business Committee of the House, consisting of Mr. Speaker and six other Members nominated by Mr. Speaker, who shall be representative of the various sections of political opinion in the House.All Bills, when they have been read a second time, shall stand committed to either Committee of the Whole House, or to a Grand or Special Committee, in accordance with the decision of the Business Committee.' "—(Mr. Laurence Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'when a' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said he quite appreciated the motive of the hon. Gentleman in moving his Amendment, but the answer to the hon. Member's proposal was that given by Lord Selby himself. If the hon. Member had proposed to constitute a Committee to deal with the time to be devoted to Bills so as to get rid of the guillotine he would have been inclined to give it a very favourable reception. The hon. Member had quoted the evidence of Lord Selby; but had stopped short in his quotation. What Lord Selby said was—If you had not to consider the important point of keeping the Speaker free from all these questions, I should say that a very small Committee, consisting of two Members, taken, we will say, two from the Government side, and two from the other side, but chosen by the Speaker himself with reference to their character and standing in the House, would be an ideal tribunal for dealing with that question. Then, of course, the Speaker must decide if they differ.And Lord Selby went on to say—I am not recommending that, because I foresee that it would throw upon the Speaker at times probably a somewhat difficult task, and it might place him in a very unpleasant position. I do not think if one reasonably and cooly considered it, it ought to place him in a difficult position, but people, unfortunately, are not always very reasonable and very cool in dealing with Parliamentary matters, and therefore I should hesitate to recommend it.Then, in reference to this ideal tribunal's consisting of two Members of experience taken from the two sides of the House with the Speaker, and in answer to the question whether if they differed would not the Speaker be placed in the unpleasant position of having to decide the question, Lord Selby said—Yes; but you must have somebody to decide it, and you could not have it decided by anything that could be said to be a political majority.1582 In fact, it would throw upon the Speaker the burden of deciding upon a political question. He could not accept the Amendment which he believed to be wholly unworkable.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said it would not only be unworkable, but unrealisable. There was a general tendency of human nature to shunt off the decision of difficult questions on to somebody else. It was easy to imagine a heaven-sent Committee above all mundane passions; but he feared that that was an impossible ideal. He was afraid that the proposal would place on the occupant of the chair a duty which might be very disagreeable when there was an equality of votes on a particular Bill, such as a Licensing Bill.
§ *MR. McCRAE (Edinburgh, E.)
said that the hon. Member for the Ashford Division had made out a very poor case for the Amendment which he had moved. As a member of the Committee who had listened to all the evidence, he was assured that the great majority of the Committee felt that however desirable in theory some such suggestion as had been made by the hon. Member for Ashford might be, it would, in practice, be unworkable. If the hon. Gentleman would consider the whole of Lord Selby's evidence he would see that the late Speaker really departed from the suggestion before he had finished. He himself put a question to Lord Selby—After all it is the Government which is responsible for the business of the House and for the bringing in of the Bills?"—"Yes." "And therefore you see no objection to the Government's having the responsibility of deciding which Bill shall be sent to Standing Committees, and which shall be kept in Committee of the Whole House?"—"No; it has always been understood that the Leader of the House for the time being has a duty to both sides of the House in a question of that kind.The hon. Member had no weight of authority to support his case. His proposal was quite impracticable.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)
said that he was a member of the Committee, and he confessed that he did not take the same view as the hon. Members for East Edinburgh and 1583 the right hon. Member for Hallam. He quite saw the difficulties which surrounded the whole question, but he did not wish to thrust on the Chair any duties which might bring upon its occupant a stigma by having to decide a Party question. On the other hand, he saw great advantages in the suggestion of his hon. friend if they could only find a body, other than the Government, which would decide what Bills should be sent upstairs. The Chancellor of the Duchy had said that no important Government Bills on which the fate of the Government might depend would be sent upstairs, and the Prime Minister had made a similar statement. That modified the objection which he had to sending all ordinary Bills upstairs. From his experience on Grand Committees he held that they could not deal successfully with measures which involved much controversy. Those Committees had been excellent bodies for dealing with administrative measures, and Bills on the principle of which there was general agreement, such as factory legislation and workmen's compensation. He wished nothing to be done which would tend to break down the Grand Committee system. At the same time he wished that there could be some body other than the Government to decide which Bill should be sent upstairs; and he did not think it would pass the wit of man to devise such a body; for instance, it might be formed out of the members of the Chairmen's Panel. Such a Committee could decide on the delicate question of what Bills were to be sent upstairs, and also on the time limit, He thought his hon. friend behind him had made out a case for the House to consider carefully whether the questions ought not to be referred to an impartial Committee before Bills were sent upstairs. He did not readily give tip the old idea that they might be able to find some Committee which would be able to deliberate upon and decide such a question, and which should have the complete confidence of both sides of the House. His object was in no way to thrust a partisan duty upon the Speaker because, he believed nothing would inflict greater s injury on the House than to put the Speaker in an equivocal position.
§ MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)
said he was reluctant to touch upon this question, but as a Member of the Committee which considered it he felt it his duty to do so. He would do nothing to jeopardise the good relations which had invariably existed between the House of Commons and the Chair, and they could not leave out of sight that the whole question of whether or not the system which the Government sought to set up would work smoothly and well depended upon whether the Bills which were sent to the Standing Committees were really controversial or not. It was that question, and that question alone, that they were concerned with, in considering whether they should accept the Amendment. Who was to decide whether the Bills which would be sent to the Grand Committees would be controversial or not? Under the proposals of the Government as they stood it would be the Government, and it would therefore be the very persons who introduced and were responsible for the Bills to be considered. Who would decide whether or not a Bill was controversial? That was not, to his view, a wholesome position, not only from the point of view of that House of Commons, but from the point of view of any House of Commons to be constituted in the future. They knew that it was not the intention of the present Government to send large controversial measures to these Grand Committees, but they had no guarantee that the Government, in days to come, would abide by the spirit of the Resolution as now interpreted by the Government. That was a point which was evidently in the mind of Lord Selby, who naturally spoke with great authority on the subject when he was good enough to give evidence before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division took up the point that there was no danger of His Majesty's present Government abusing the powers entrusted to them, and Lord Selby said he thought there was no danger of that sort in regard to present Parliamentarians, but in regard to those of ten or fifteen years hence Lord Selby said it was difficult to say what a new generation, unaccustomed to the present practice, might do. That meant that 1585 some Government, less scrupulous than the Government now in office, might find it convenient to stand upon the words literally translated, instead of upon the spirit of the Standing Order. At present there was no danger that highly controversial Bills would be sent upstairs, but there might be the danger of a Government who would say—We are in a tight place; we are anxious to have certain measures carried out before we part for the recess, and we shall take our stand upon the words of the Standing Orders, and not upon he spirit which was expressed when they were passed; and we shall send these Bills upstairs.Then he thought they would be face to face with a state of things which His Majesty's Government contemplated, but from which they shrank. He thought it would be advisable for the House as a whole to safeguard themselves in some measure against what they all admitted would be an abuse of the powers of the Government. Such a safeguard was suggested by his hon. friend behind him.
§ As Lord Selby said, the question ought not to be decided by a majority behind a Minister; the fact that he had a minority before him was what he had to consider. Surely if they could, without jeopardising the Chair, constitute a Committee consisting of Members of both sides of the House, presided over by the Speaker, which should decide which Bills should be sent upstairs, it would be the better course. For himself, he could not see how, under the proposal of his hon. friend, the position of the Speaker could be put in jeopardy. The minority would bow to the decision of the Speaker, and it would not be thrown in the teeth of the Government that they were imposing their will upon an unwilling House of Commons. The course suggested would avoid trouble in the future
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 257; Noes 35. (Division List No. 91.)1587
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Duncan, C (Barrow-in-Furness|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda||Brodie, H. C.||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Brooke, Stopford||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)|
|Agnew, George William||Bryce, J. Annan||Elibank, Master of|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Ellis, Rt. Hn. John Edward|
|Alden, Percy||Burke, E. Haviland-||Erskine, David C.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Evans, Samuel T.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Eve, Harry Trelawney|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas.||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Astbury, John Meir||Byles, William Pollard||Faber, G. H. (Boston)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Ferens, T. R.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Ferguson, R. C. Munro|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Cheetham, John Frederick||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace|
|Barker, John||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R, R.||Fowler, Rt. Hn. Sir Henry|
|Barnard, E. B.||Cleland, J. W.||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Clough, William||Fullerton, Hugh|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.||Clynes. J. R.||Gill, A. H.|
|Beale, W. P.||Coats, Sir T. Glen(Renfrew, W.)||Glover, Thomas|
|Bell, Richard||Collins, Sir W. J. (S. Pancras, W.||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Corbett, CH(Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Gooch, George Peabody|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams(Devonp'rt||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Grant, Corrie|
|Benn, W. (T'wr Hamlets, S Geo.||Cory, Clifford John||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Bennett, E. N.||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Gulland, John W.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Cox, Harold||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Bertram, Julius||Cremer, William Randal||Halpin, J.|
|Bethell, Sir. J. H(Essex Romford||Crombie, John William||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Crooks, William||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Billson, Alfred||Cross, Alexander||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Black, Arthur W||Cullinan, J.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Boland, John||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbysh., N. E.|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Brace, William||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Branch, James||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Brigs, John||Duckworth, James||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Herbert, Col. Ivor (Mon., S.)||Montagu, E. S.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Mooney, J. J.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Searvens, J. H.|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Shackleton, David James|
|Holden, E. Hopkinson||Murnaghan, George||Shaw, Rt. Hn. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Murray, James||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Hooper, A. G.||Myer, Horatio||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Nicholson, Chas. N. (Doncaster||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Nolan, Joseph||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Hudson, Walter N.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Snowden, P.|
|Hutton, Alfred Eddison||Nuttall, Harry||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Idris, T. H. W.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Jackson, R. S.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.|
|Jardine, Sir J.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Partington, Oswald||Summerbell, T.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Paul, Herbert||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Jowett, F. W.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Pearson, W. H.M.(Suffolk, Eye)||Thorne, William|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Pirie, Duncan V.||Verney, F. W.|
|Lamont, Norman||Power, Patrick Joseph||Walters, John Tudor|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Walton, Sir J. L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Priestley, W. E. B.(Bradford, E.||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Pullar, Sir Robert||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Levy, Maurice||Radford, G. H.||Wardle, George J.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Raphael, Herbert H.||Waring, Walter|
|Lough, Thomas||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Lundon, W.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Wason, John C. (Orkney)|
|Lynch, H. B.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Redmond, William (Clare||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs||Rees, J. D.||White, Luke (York, E.R.|
|Maclean, Donald||Richards, Thos. (W. Monm'th)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'm't'n||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|MacVeigh, Chas. (Donegal, E.||Richardson, A.||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|M'Callum, John M.||Rickett, J. Compton||Wiles, Thomas|
|M'Crae, George||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Roberts, Chas. H. (Lincoln)||Williams, L. (Carmarthen)|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Robertson, Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Marnham, F. J.||Robinson, S.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Menzies, Walter||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Rowlands, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Mond, A.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J.|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Samuel, Herb. L. (Cleveland)||A. Pease.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir A. F.||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Nield, Herbert|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Duncan, Robert(Lanark, Govan||Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.||Fell, Arthur||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Finch, Rt. Hn. George H.||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Forster, Henry William||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Helmsley, Viscount||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hervey, F. W. F.(BuryS. Edm'ds||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cave, George||Hills, J. W.|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor CW||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Dublin, S.||Mr. Laurence Hardy and Mr. Rawlinson.|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Magnus, Sir Philip|
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said the Amendment he now proposed to move would have the effect of restricting the operation of this new departure to Bills 1588 for which the Government was responsible. He freely admitted that, if the Amendment were accepted, considerable consequential Amendments to the 1589 Standing Orders would be necessary. Private Members' Bills would still be free to go to the Standing Committee, but they would go there only when the House chose to send them there by Resolution. He had two reasons for making this proposal. He had been very much impressed, in the course of his experience, with the great waste of time through the labours of Members being insperative under our present system. In this Standing Order the Government appeared to lose sight of the profound difference between Committees of the Whole House and Committees upstairs. Committees upstairs were unable to avoid the duty of considering a Bill and making some return to the House. A Committee of the Whole House could get rid of that difficulty by refusing to consider a Bill further, or the Bill could be withdrawn, or a Committee of the Whole House could pass a Resolution suspending its proceedings. He had therefore been much impressed with the waste of time involved by Members considering Bills in Committee which had no chance of going further. It was for that reason he left the private Bills in their present position. He desired that in a great change like that now proposed the House should proceed by steps, by way of experiment, and not proceed too fast until they found by experience that the course proposed was possible. He begged to move.
In line 1, after the first 'a,' to insert 'Government.' "—(Mr. Stuart Wortley.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Government' be there inserted."
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
thought that they ought to have some reply, although personally he did not agree with the Amendment. If all the Amendments moved from the Unionist side of the House were to be treated in that way; if it was to be understood that it was the intention of the Government to force rules of this revolutionary character through the House without giving any reason for their being so forced, without their taking the trouble even to answer important Amendments, then he thought the result might be disastrous, so far as 1590 saving any time in discussion was concerned. If the Amendment were carried, Government measures would go to the four Committees automatically, and private Members' Bills would be in the same position as at present. He had watched very narrowly private Bills for the last ten years, and they had all gone upstairs. ["No."] Well, nearly all; he had found that in nine cases out of ten private Members' Bills had gone to one of the two Grand Committees upstairs. He was not defending the principle, because, as a rule, private Members' Bills were all bad, but it was no use blinking at the fact that they did go upstairs in the manner he had stated. Therefore, if his right hon. friend went to a division, as he hoped he would, then he would excuse him if he voted with the Prime Minister on this occasion, unless, of course, the Prime Minister accepted the Amendment, in which case he should have to vote against him.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said the hon. Baronet evidently loved the Prime Minister little, but loved the Amendment less. If he were not a member of the Government no doubt he would be ready to maintain that there was a good deal to be said in favour of the Amendment, because there were certain private Members' Bills which might not be so much designed to enrich the Statute-book as to carry out pledges, win popularity, or fulfil other purposes. But, being a member of the Government, he was bound to save them from the imputation of favouring themselves, by drawing a distinction between Government measures and private Members' Bills. It was therefore impossible for the Government to support the Amendment.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the Prime Minister had not altogether appreciated the argument on which his right hon. friend had based the Amendment. He thoroughly understood that the Government did not desire to discriminate between their own and private Members' Bills; but might he point out that private Members' Bills which were read a second time on a Friday were invariably sent to Committees upstairs? When those Bills came from Grand Committees further 1591 consideration of them was reserved until after Whitsuntide, when there were only two days set apart for them. If the ground taken up by the Prime Minister and the Government was to be maintained, they could not stop there; they would have to give increased facilities for private Members' Bills. At present the proposal of the Government simply meant that the Grand Committees would be called upon to do what they had already done, namely, consider measures which would have no chance of proceeding further when they came back to the House. Therefore—he did not use the words offensively—the scheme was a delusion and a snare. In reality they were not giving private Members' Bills the same advantage as would be given to the Bills of the Government, who had control of the time of the House, and could give their measures priority on the Order Paper. He did not think the Prime Minister had fully appreciated the great importance of the Amendment, which appeared to him to go in the direction the Government wished to follow. He thought that by drawing a distinction between Government Bills which had a fixed and definite prospect, and private Members' Bills, which had no such prospect, they would be furthering rather than retarding their own proposal.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
said it was not often he found himself in agreement with the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, but he did so that night. Those Members who had sat in former Parliaments were aware, of course, that there was a considerable waste of time in Grand Committees over Bills which had little chance of being passed into law. He thought, however, the remedy for the difficulty was to be found in other ways. In the old days some of the best of the statutes were brought in by private Members. There were changed times before them. Whether Liberals or Conservatives were on the Government side of the House, they would find that the atmosphere of the House of Commons was different from what it had been in the last twenty years. In the changed times he hoped there would be a recrudescence of the opportunities for private Members' Bills passing into law. The Amendment was, in his opinion, open to the gravest objection. He thought 1592 that private Members' Bills should not be put in an inferior position in respect of their reference to Standing Committees to Government measures. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that there were other means of avoiding the waste of time besides that which he had suggested. It would be perfectly possible to change the time when Bills were placed in the order of precedence. They could be given precedence two or three weeks earlier in the session, and that would give them a chance of passing into law. There were other ways which he need not indicate at present. He hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
said he had not been absent from the Standing Committee on Law on more than one or two occasions in many years. Speaking, therefore, from long experience, he thought there ought to be some limitation, and that Bills ought not to be referred to that Committee in the light-hearted manner suggested by the Government. He had prepared a list of the Bills which had been referred to the Standing Committee on Law, and it seemed to him that the House in referring Bills should have regard rather to their character than to their magnitude. The passing of the Factories and Workshops Bill, which had been referred to with great force by the Prime Minister, was an interesting illustration of the good work which could be done by a Standing Committee when all parties desired to pass a Bill. That measure brought about a most salutary reform of the law. It was not produced in a hurry. The sittings were prolonged and the inquiry was most careful. Another extremely interesting Bill was that dealing with education, which was passed under the auspices of Sir John Gorst. That Bill was much amended in Committee, but the discussions were conducted in the most friendly and kindly spirit. The Bill dealing with the employment of children was a most difficult one, but it was dealt with in the same spirit and with the same happy result. Another most important Bill dealt with by Grand Committee was that which was necessitated by the great scandal which arose years ago in consequence of the practice of imputing. 1593 blame to candidates for Parliamentary election. Many Members lost their seat on account of the accusations. A Bill passed through the Standing Committee in one or two sittings making those scandalous proceedings corrupt practices Therefore he had come to the conclusion that there ought to be some definition o the character of the Bills to be referred to those Committees. He would support the Amendment, though he did not say it proposed the best method of doing what he desired to see done.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
thought it was desirable that there should be some distinction between Government Bills and unofficial Members' Bills. After Whitsuntide the Government had the whole time of the House, except ten hours. He did not think that a Grand Committee should be asked to spend its time in considering private Members' Bills, when there was no prospect of their becoming law. The right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had said there were other means of getting out of the difficulty. This Resolution came to the House with the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, for he was a Member of the Government at the time. If there were other means he did not put them before the Procedure Committee. Why did he not do so? He would certainly vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
said it seemed to him that the Government were trying to protect the rights of private Members, while the Opposition were trying to strengthen the hands of the Government. It would be a misfortune if in passing these procedure Resolutions they were to pass them in such a way as to make a distinction between Government Bills and other kinds of Bills. A Bill introduced by a private Member might become a Government Bill. There had been two instances of that already in the present Parliament, and it would be exceedingly awkward if they started by making distinctions as to how the Bills should be dealt with. If a large number of Bills were sent to Grand Committees with no. chance of their passing through the 1594 subsequent stages, there would be a large amount of valuable time wasted. One result which suggested itself to his mind was that the House would possibly be far more careful in passing Second Readings if it knew that the effect would be, not merely as sometimes happened at present, to shelve the measure, but to send it to a Grand Committee. He could not support the Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
remarked that as between Government Bills and private Members' Bills there was a distinction, and he thought there ought to be. The Government ought to be, he would not say the controllers, but the guides of the House in matters of legislation. In former days some of the most important legislation was brought in and carried through by private Members. But as Parliamentary life became more strenuous it would be found less and less possible to carry out that plan. The advice of the Government should be an important factor which the House had to take into account before coming to a decision. His hon. friend's ideal of perfect equality between the Bills of the Government and those of private Members would not bear examination in the light of the facts. At present the great mass of private Members' Bills were treated not so much as actual projects of legislation as the occasion of fruitful discussion. Nobody supposed that a really controversial Bill in the hands of a private Member, introduced on the third or fourth Friday in the session, had the smallest chance of passing, and no heartburning arose. But if they provided machinery whereby those Bills would be advanced another stage, that of Committee, it seemed to him it would really raise expectations which must be perpetually defeated. If, however, such Bills did pass the Report and Third Reading stages, there would undoubtedly be a great mass of very crude legislation. Besides, the Committee stage of those Bills would occupy from eighty to 100 Members in hard work for a great many days in the session, and unless the Bills were passed, all that labour would be thrown away. His right hon. friend's Amendment appeared to him perfectly sound in principle, although it would require 1595 some small consequential Amendments later, and he thought the Government would be well advised to confine the proposals to their own measures.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 42; Noes, 281. (Division List No. 92.)1597
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir A. F.||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. SirH.||Dalrymple, Viscount||Nield, Herbert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J.(City Lond.||Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers-||Pease, Herb. Pike (Darling on)|
|Banner, John S. (Harmood-||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Percy, Earl|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fell, Arthur||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Forster, Henry William||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hardy, Laurence(Kent, Ashford||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Helmsley, Viscount||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hervey, F. W. F.(BurySEdm'ds)|
|Cave, George||Hills, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Cavendish,Rt. Hn. Victor C.W.||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H.||Mr. Stuart-Wortley and Sir Francis Powell.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Dublin, S.|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, K. E.)||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Abraham, Wm.(Rhondda)||Brodie, H. C.||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)|
|Acland, Frencis Dyke||Brooke, Stopford||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)|
|Agnew, George William||Bryce, J. Anna||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Elibank, Master of|
|Alden, Percy||Burke, E. Haviland-||Ellis, Rt. Hn. John Edward|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Erskine, David C.|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Stroud)||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Ambrose, Robert||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Evans, Samuel T.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas.||Eve, Harry Trelawney|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herb. Henry||Byles, William Pollard||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Astbury, John Meir||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Faber, G. H. (Boston)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Ferens, T. R.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.||Cheetham, John Frederick||Ferguson, R. C. Munro|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark||Cherry, Rt. Hn. R. R.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cleland, J. W.||Foster, Rt. Hn. Sir Walter|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Clough, William||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Barker, John||Clynes, J. R.||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.||Fullerton, Hugh|
|Barnes, G. N.||Collins, Sir W. J. (S.Pancras, W.||Gardner, Col. Alan (Hereford, S.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gill, A. H.|
|Beale, W. P.||Corbett, C.H.(Sussex, EGrinst'd||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John|
|Beauchamp, E.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Glover, Thomas|
|Bell, Richard||Cory, Clifford John||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Gooch, George Peabody|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp't||Cox, Harold||Grant, Corrie|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Cremer, William Randal||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Crombie, John William||Gulland, John W.|
|Bertram, Julius||Crooks, William||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Bethell, Sir J.H.(Essex, Romford||Cross, Alexander||Halpin, J.|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Davies, David(Montgomery Co.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Billson, Alfred||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Boland, John||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Harvey, W.E.(Derbyshire, N.E.|
|Bowerman, C. W||Dickinson, W. H.(St. Pancras, N.||Harwood, George|
|Brace, William||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Bramsdon, T.A.||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Branch, James||Duckworth, James||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Brigg, John||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Rowlands, J.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Massie, J.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Henderson, J. M.(Aberdeen, W.)||Menzies, Walter||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Mond, A.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Scott, A. H.(Ashton under Lyne|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Montagu, E. S.||Shackleton, David James|
|Holden, E. Hopkinson||Montgomery, H. G.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Hope, W. Bateman(Somerset, N.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Murnaghan, George||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Murphy, John||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Hudson, Walter||Murray, James||Snowden, P.|
|Hutton, Alfred Eddison||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Idris, T. H. W.||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Nolan, Joseph||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Jackson, R. S.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Jardine, Sir J.||Nuttall, Harry||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Summerbell, T.|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Partington, Oswald||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Paul, Herbert||Thorne, William|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Pearson, W. H. M.(Suffolk, Eye)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lambert, George||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Verney, F. W.|
|Lamont, Norman||Pirie, Duncan V.||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Walters, John Tudor|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Walton, Sir John L.(Leeds, S.)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington||Priestley, W. E. B.(Bradford, E.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Pullar, Sir Robert||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|Levy, Maurice||Radford, G. H.||Wardle, George J.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Raphael, Herbert H.||Waring, Walter|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Lough, Thomas||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Wason, John Cathcart(Orkney)|
|Lundon, W.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Lupton, Arnold||Redmond, John E. (Waterford||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Lynch, H. B.||Redmond, William (Clare)||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Macdonald, J. R.(Leicester)||Rees, J. D.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Macdonald, J. M.(Falkirk B'ghs||Richards, Thomas(W.Monm'th||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Maclean, Donald||Richards, T.F.(Wolverh'mpt'n||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Richardson, A.||Wiles, Thomas|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Rickett, J. Compton||Wilkie, Alexander|
|M'Callum, John M.||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|M'Crae, George||Roberta, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Winfrey, R.|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Robertson, SirG. Scott(Bradf'rd||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robinson, S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Marnham, F. J.||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
moved an Amendment of which the hon. Member for Ashford had given notice restricting the Bills to be sent to Grand Committees to those read a second time by a majority of two-thirds of the Members voting in a division. Though not a complete solution, he thought it was an approach to a distinction between controversial and non-controversial Bills, and there were precedents for proportional majori-
§ ties. There was something of the kind in the original rules of 1882 as to the application of the closure. In those rules it was necessary before the closure could be applied that there should be 100 Members in the House, and that the majority for the closure should be forty. The emergency rules of 1881, which were only current for that single session, provided that the closure must be carried by a majority of two-thirds of the Members 1599 present. With these two precedents before them it was not possible to say that the idea involved in the Amendment was foreign to the procedure of the House.
In line 1, after the word 'time,' to insert the words 'by a majority of more than two-thirds of the Members voting in the said division.' "—(Mr. Stuart-Wortley.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words there inserted."
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said he could not accept the Amendment, for which he saw no necessity. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted certain precedents, but they were not very valid precedents, because experience had shown that they were unworkable. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that unimportant Bills might be sent upstairs—Bills which were separate from controversial measures. He did not want any distinction to be drawn, but the intention was to retain for Committee of the Whole House only measures of great importance such as the Government made the main business of a session. He did not see that there was any necessity for the rigid rule laid down in the Amendment, and he hoped it would not be pressed. The hon. Member for Ashford, who had given notice of it, evidently did not think it important, as he had abandoned it.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
asked if they were to understand that there was to be no limit at all to the Bills that were to go upstairs? But for the activity of hon. Members the chief of whom was the present Deputy Chairman, whose knowledge of procedure they all recognised, the Bills of private Members read a second time would be 1600 more numerous than they were. If certain hon. Members desired to break down this rule they had only to allow a number of Bills to pass Second Reading, and the Grand Committees would be flooded with a number of badly-drafted and crudely-drawn Bills, which hon. Members must know would only come down to the House to be thrown out, although the Committees might have spent a long time in trying to put them into shape. Without a limit that would become a stumbling block of a serious character. One reason why the Grand Committees had done good work hitherto was that they had seriously considered the Bills sent to them with the view of passing them into law, and under the present system only one or two could be passed into law unless they were taken up by the Government, although probably eight or nine had been read a second time after inadequate discussion on Friday afternoons. His own belief was that if hon. Gentlemen who had sat week after week on Grand Committees on Bills discovered that all their labour had been in vain, it would soon be found that no quorum would turn up on the Grand Committees to consider the Bills remitted to them. It was for that reason that he supported the limitation suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said he had been reluctant to intrude too much on the attention of the House, but he had not, as the Prime Minister suggested, abandoned his Amendment. He was only too glad to think that it had been taken up by his right hon. friend. He still thought it was desirable to have some means of deciding in the House whether Bills were of a nature to go to a Grand Committee or not; and the Amendment 1601 would show that in the opinion of the House there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the Bill going upstairs. He hoped that his right hon. friend would push the Amendment to a division.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
thought that there must he some sifting process under which Hills should be sent to the Standing Committee. To send every Bill to the Standing Committee must inevitably in time break it down. He believed himself, strange as the remark might appear to some hon. Members, that more time had been wasted in Grand Committees by waiting for a quorum than by undue deliberation and the prolongation of debate. He therefore thought the extension of the system was hurtful. He was sure that it involved a waste of time of the House, and it was no compliment to hon. Members to ask them to come down, at great sacrifice of convenience and time, to attend to public duties, when the Bill which they had to consider had no possibility of passing into law.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
supported the Amendment, which he thought was a very useful one, to which he could see no objection. He understood the Prime Minister, in advancing reasons for refusing to accept the Amendment, to say that all Bills were controversial, but that large Government Bills would not be sent up to the Grand Committees. Was he right in that?
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he understood then that all Bills large or small would go up to these Committees.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he was at a loss to know what was intended. What was wanted on his side of the House was, that before they passed these procedure rules, they should frame a rule defining what Bills were to go to a Grand Committee and what Bills were not. At this present moment the only Bills which were not to go to Grand Committee were measures imposing taxes, Consolidated Fund or Appropriation Bills, and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders. He did not want to cast any aspersion upon the intentions of the Front Bench opposite, but it was one thing to say such and such a Bill would be reserved for the consideration of Committee of the Whole House, and it was quite another thing to pass a rule under which they did not know what Bills were going to Grand Committee and what Bills were not. In order to meet that point his right hon. friend had suggested words restricting the Bills to be sent to Grand Committee to those "read a second time by a majority of two-thirds of the Members voting in a division." He thought that was a very reasonable proposal, and there was a precedent for it in the proceedings of the House itself, because between 1882 and 1888 there was a limit under which the closure could not be applied unless a hundred Members voted for it. There were a considerable number of Bills in regard to which opinion in the House was not very decided. A large number of Members coming up from the smoking room or the dining room met friends who induced them to go into the "aye" or the "no" lobby when there was a division, but if those Bills were to be sent upstairs there would be 1603 greater deliberation on the part of hon. Members as to the way they should vote, and he thought the Amendment would secure that. It was a great change that was proposed, and they wanted to secure that, before a Bill went to a Grand Committee, it was a measure which in the opinion of the House should go upstairs and be given facilities for passing. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy that they ought not to look upon this as a Party question, and he agreed with his right hon. friend the senior Member for the City of London that they should look upon it from both points of view—that of the Government and that of the Opposition. The acceptance of his right hon. friend's Amendment was not likely to hurt the Government, because they had such a large majority, but it might hurt the Unionist Party if they came back with a small majority. The Amendment would establish a precedent which would enable the House to exercise some control over the Bills to which it gave a Second Reading. The only result of the new rules, unless something of this nature was done, would be to increase tenfold the power of the Government. When right hon. Gentlemen opposite came into opposition they would find, unless the Amendment were adopted, that they had put a very great weapon into the hands of the Government. One of the great complaints against the Unionist Party, no doubt sincerely made, was that their new rules of procedure had taken out of the hands of private Members a power which
§ formerly belonged to them and put that power into the hands of the Government, so that the Government practically became dictators. These new rules would in his opinion strengthen the influence of the Government and weaken the influence of private Members. He challenged any private Member to get up and deny that what he said was right. The only result of passing the rules would be to enable the Government to do anything they liked. The rights of private Members ought to be safeguarded. They had a right to investigate the Bills of the Government and to express their opinion upon them.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said the difficulty of the Amendment was that if a Bill was carried by less than a two-thirds majority it would not go to a Committee of the Whole House, and it would require a special Resolution. All this rule did was to ensure that one division should be taken instead of two. The true remedy was not to read the Bill a second time if it was desired not to cumber the Standing Committee with a measure that had no chance of going any further. He saw great difficulty in adopting the Amendment, because no provision was indicated and no adequate provision could be made for that class of Bill which passed its Second Reading by less than a two-thirds majority.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 296. (Division List No. 93.)1605
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex. F||Banner, John S. Harmood-||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Bridgeman, W. Clive|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Butcher, Samuel Henry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J.(CityLond.)||Bignold, Sir Arthur||Carlile, E. Hildred|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bowles, G. Stewart||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.|
|Cave, George||Helmsley, Viscount||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Hervey, F. W. F.(BuryS.Edm'ds||Renton, Major Leslie|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hills, J. W.||Rutherford. W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Hunt, Rowland||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham)||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col, W.||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Dublin, S.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Magnus, Sir Philip||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||William, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Duncan, Robert(Lanark, Govan||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Fell, Arthur||Nield, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington||Mr. Stuart-Wortley and Mr. Laurence Hardy.|
|Forster, Henry William||Percy, Earl|
|Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Causton, Rt. HnRichard Knight||Gooch, George Peabody|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Grant, Corrie|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cheetham, John Frederick||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Agnew, George William||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Gulland, John W.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cleland, J. W.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Alden, Percy||Clough, William||Halpin, J.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Clynes, J. R.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Coats, Sir T. Glen(Renfrew, W.)||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cooper, G. J.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Harwood, George|
|Astbury, John Meir||Corbett, CH.(Sussex, E.Grinst'd||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Baker, Joseph A.(Finsbury, E.)||Cory, Clifford John||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Baring, Godfrey(Isle of Wight)||Cox, Harold||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Barker, John||Cremer, William Randal||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Crombie, John William||Henderson, J.M.(Aberdeen, W.)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Crooks, William||Henry, Charles S.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cross, Alexander||Herbert, Colonel Ivor(Mon., S.)|
|Barry, Redmond J.(Tyrone, N.)||Davies, David(Montgomery Co.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Beale, W. P.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Beauchamp, E.||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Bell, Richard||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams(Devonp'rt||Dickinson, W.H.(St. Pancras, N.||Hooper, A. G.|
|Benn, W (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hope, W. Bateman(Somerset, N.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Horridge, Thomas Gardner|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Duckworth, James||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bertram, Julius||Duncan, C.(Barrow-in-Furness)||Hudson, Walter|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.(Essex, Romf'd)||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hutton, Alfred Eddison|
|Billson, Alfred||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Black, Arthur W.||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Jackson, R. S.|
|Boland, John||Elibank, Master of||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Jenkins, J.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Erskine, David C.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Brace, William||Esslemont, George Birnie||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Evans, Samuel T.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Branch, James||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Jones, William(Carnarvonshire)|
|Brigg, John||Everett, R. Lacey||Jowett, F. W.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Ferens, T. R.||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Brooke, Stopford||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Lamb, Edmund G.(Leominster)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lambert, George|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fullerton, Hugh||Lamont, Norman|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Gardner, Col. Alan(Hereford, S.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Gill, A. H.||Lea, Hugh Cecil(St. Pancras, E.)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Gladstone, Rt. HnHerbert John||Leese, Sir JosephF.(Accrington)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Glover, Thomas||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Levy, Maurice|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Partington, Oswald||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Lough, Thomas||Paul, Herbert||Snowden, P.|
|Lundon, W.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Lupton, Arnold||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Pearson, W.H.M.(Suffolk, Eye)||Stanley Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Lynch, H. B.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Stewart Halley (Greenock)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Strachey Sir Edward|
|Macdonald, J. M.(Falkirk B'ghs)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Maclean, Donald||Price, C.E.(Edinb'gh, Central)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Priestley, W.E.B.(Bradford. E.)||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|MacVeigh, Charles(Donegal, E.)||Pullar, Sir Robert||Summerbell, T.|
|M'Callum, John M.||Radford, G. H.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|M'Crae. George||Raphael, Herbert H.||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Thomas, Sir A.(Glamorgan, E.)|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr)|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Thorne, William|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Redmond, William (Clare)||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Mansfield, H. Kendall (Lincoln)||Rees, J. D.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Marnham, F. J.||Richards, Thomas(W. Monm'th)||Verney, F. W.|
|Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Richards, T.F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Massie, J.||Richardson, A.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Rickett, J. Compton||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Menzies, Walter||Ridsdale, E. A.||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Ward, John(Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wardle, George J.|
|Mond, A.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Waring, Walter|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Robertson, Sir G. Scott(Bradf'rd||Wagon, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|Montgomery, H. G.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Wason, John Cathcart(Orkney)|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Robinson, S.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Morrell, Philip||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Whitbread, Howard|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Rogers, F. E. Newman||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Munaghan, George||Rose, Charles Day||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Murphy, John||Rowlands, J.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Murray, James||Runciman, Walter||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Myer, Horatio||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Nicholson, Charles N.(Doncast'r||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Nolan, Joseph||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Scott, A. H.(Ashton-under-Lyne||Wilson, Henry J.(York, W.R.)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Sears, J. E.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Seaverns, J. H.||Winfrey, R,|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Shackleton, David James||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Sherwell, Arthur James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|O' Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
, on a point of' order, asked whether his vote could be recorded. He passed through the lobby door, and the tellers had already gone before his vote was recorded.
MR. STANLEY WILSON
I received no warning that the discussion had been concluded. The other lobby had not been cleared before I passed out.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I called "door, door" to the 1608 whip on the other side, and he announced to me that the lobby had been cleared. I, therefore, came away from the door.
§ MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington) rose.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
There is no use in continuing the discussion. Another time the hon. Member for Holderness must get through the lobby rather more quickly.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
moved to insert after the word "time" the words "during the time for opposed business," so that the Standing Order would read, "After a Bill has been read a second time, during the time for opposed business it shall be committed to one of the Standing Committees." He said that the Amendment was suggested to him by the remarks of the Chancellor of the Duchy, who had stated that in any case so far as the Second Reading of a Bill was concerned the House would still have a veto. Unless some provision of this kind was inserted, the House, as a matter of fact, would have no veto at all. If a Bill which was put down for Second Reading was not reached till after eleven o'clock it would go through in the twinkling of an eye should there be no one on the alert and ready to say, "I object." Having in that way got a Second Heading, it would go to a Grand Committee, though had it not come on at the tail end of a long sitting, it would not have obtained a Second Reading. He did not think it was contemplated by the Government that Bills, the Second Reading of which was got in that way should be sent to a Grand Committee. It was important to safeguard the veto of the House on Bills in danger of accidentally slipping through the Second Reading stage at a late hour, and when no debate could by the rules of the House occur.
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
seconded the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had already pointed out that if any section of the House desired to break down the work of the Grand Committees it would only be necessary to allow various Second 1610 Readings to pass after eleven o'clock. In that way the work of the Grand Committees would accumulate, and there would be no practical result. It would be in the interest of the business of the House that that possibility of obstructing measures should be removed. He thought all Members should have an opportunity of expressing their opinions at some early stage of a Bill. Unless the House adopted the Amendment, Members might not have such an opportunity until the Report stage.
In line 1, after the word 'time,' to insert the words 'during the nine for opposed business.' "—(.Mr. Bowles.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
opposed the Amendment. If a Bill came up for Second Reading after the time for opposed business, a Member had only to say "I object" in order to stop the Bill. He could not accept the proposition that a Bill which passed the Second Reading without opposition should not go to a Grand Committee.
§ Sir E. CARSON (Dublin University)
said a Member might be willing to let the Second Reading go through, but wish to discuss certain details, and he might not have any opportunity at all of being on the Committee. Small Bills which might be very useful would be put an end to by this procedure. He believed the rule would work out in a way entirely different from what had been anticipated.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said there was a point which had not been touched upon in the debate. In the case of a highly contentious Bill under discussion at ten minutes to five on a Friday afternoon, 1611 the closure might be moved and accepted. There would be a division on the closure, and another division on the Second Reading at ten minutes past five. The Second Reading might be carried by a small majority, and under present circumstances the House would never think of sending it to a Grand Committee. But under this rule it would necessarily go to a Grand Committee. In the case of a private Member's Bill, the only way to prevent that would be for the Government to give an opportunity on some other occasion to move that it be not sent to a Grand Committee. In the case of Government measures it was a common thing for the Second Reading to take place after eleven o'clock. Each of these Bills would in future go to a Grand Committee, although the Government might not desire it. It might therefore be necessary to make a Motion on a subsequent day in order to prevent its being sent to a Grand Committee. But the House would not necessarily have the right of vetoing a Bill going to a Grand Committee It would entirely depend on whether a Motion could be brought on at a later stage to determine whether that could be prevented or not. Surely therefore, the Amendment was necessary.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said the Prime Minister, in refusing to accept the Amendment of his right hon. friend, stated that he did not want to draw a distinction between private Member's Bills and Government Bills. He thought that was such an excellent argument that he voted with the Prime Minister on that occasion. He did not want the Prime Minister to be inconsistent. If the Amendment was not accepted there would be no opportunity for anyone after eleven o'clock to state his reasons why a Bill should not be sent to one of the Grand 1612 Committees. It was quite true that on the following day a Motion could be made if the Government gave time, but they all knew that the Government would not give time. The result would be that if this Rule were agreed to no private Member's Bill would be passed. Under these circumstances, although personally he was not much in favour of private Member's Bills, he believed the rule to be disadvantageous.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he did not rise to discuss a question of policy, but what he wanted to know was how the Government thought their Resolution would operate. He would take a case familiar to the whole House. Supposing a Bill were discussed from twelve o'clock to ten minutes to five on the Friday, followed by a division on the closure and a division on the Bill, it would be by that time ten minutes past five o'clock; and the Bill would automatically go up to the Grand Committee. It could not be brought back, except by a new Resolution bringing it out of the purgatory of the Grand Committee to the heaven of the whole House. He did not wish to delay the House, but he hoped the Government would give a reply on that point. Suppose it was a Government Bill, and carried by closure, the same thing would happen.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said that if the Government were of opinion that a Bill was strongly contested, and should not go upstairs to a Grand Committee, they would make a Motion to that effect immediately after the division on the Second Reading, and that motion would be divided upon at once, and without discussion. [Opposition cries of "It cannot be done."]
§ LORD E. CECIL
said that in future the Motion that a Bill be not referred to 1613 a Grand Committee would be in the same position as the Motion now to refer a Bill to a Standing Committee.
§ Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said that his right hon. friend had stated the intentions of the Government. If they were not carried out by the words of the Resolution on the Paper, Amendments would be proposed by the Government.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said he wished to point out that a greater difficulty might arise at the end of a Second Reading debate. A Motion might be made by the Government to except the Bill, and another by a private Member to send some portions of the Bill to the Grand Committee, and retain the remainder of the measure for the consideration of the Committee of the whole House. It was quite evident that some provision must be made for the consideration of that important point.
MR. STANLEY WILSON
said that the Government seemed to have got themselves into some difficulty, and in order to give them a chance of thinking over their proposals again, he moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.