§ (ALLOCATION OF TIME).
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,
in moving a Resolution in regard to the allocation of time to the various stages of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill, said:—I wish candidly to say, what must be present to everyone's mind, that this Resolution which I have placed upon the Paper is a novelty. We are not unaccustomed to time-table Resolutions, but we usually introduce them in another way. The usual course has been that we enter into the Committee stage of a Bill and we go on with it possibly sometimes with great minuteness and great expenditure of time until at last it becomes an imperative—an absolute—necessity to intervene and prevent, by any further extension of time, any interference with the progress of the general business of the session. Then in a hurried way the Government of the day introduces a guillotine Resolution of this kind, allocating a certain amount of time to certain parts of the Bill. That is always open to the objection that we flounder 1368 in the first portion of the proceedings and we scramble in the second. Neither one nor the other is a very businesslike way of proceeding. The Bill we have under our consideration to-day is a peculiar Bill. The natural course after the House had adopted certain new Rules of Procedure which occupied our attent on some time ago would be for this Bill to be sent to a Committee upstairs, with the exception of the financial clauses, which must remain to be considered here. That would have been the natural course, and I should have thought that this was a Bill that might be very properly dealt with in that manner, because we are all agreed with its main purpose. I trust there is in no part of the House any disagreement of opinion with regard to that. We are agreed as to the main purpose of the Bill, and I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will recognise that this is not a mere hasty effort to hang up a fancy and perhaps pretentious scheme with a view to gaining a little political advantage, and that they will all admit it is a subject which has received the most sedulous and serious consideration by my right hon. friend the 1369 head of the War Department and those who have advised and collaborated with him in the matter. It is also a Bill of much detail, and the detail is wholly connected with the machinery for bringing the Bill into operation. It is not machinery which involves to any great extent anything in the nature of principle, and therefore both Parties must be united in recognising that it is a Bill for a praiseworthy object, and the result of praiseworthy attention and preparation. On the ground also that the nature of most of its provisions is just that which should be considered by a Committee, I should have expected the Bill would have gone without much grumbling to a Committee upstairs. But objection was taken to that on the ground that, as, after all, we were dealing with a very important matter, namely, the safety and defence of the country, the Bill had a claim to public consideration perhaps greater than some other Bills that come before us. We wished to meet that objection, and accordingly it was announced by my right hon. friend that we would not take the usual course, and send the Bill upstairs, but would leave it to be considered by a Committee of the Whole House. Having made this concession we think it should not be made the means of impeding the general progress of business by too particular and minute discussion upon the details of a principle to which the House has already agreed. As that is our object, and this Resolution has been framed with a view of attaining that object, I hope that after all there will be substantial agreement on the subject. It seems to be a perfectly fair, equitable, reasonable, and certainly a straightforward course to take. But then two things were said: the first was that no proceeding such as this should be recommended to the House except as part of a general method of dealing with business of this kind, and the other practical suggestion was that we should have a Committee of Business to allocate the time. I have through long years express ad myself as being in favour of a Committee of Business. But a Committee of Business is not set up in a minute. An attempt was made a few weeks ago to have a little conversation on this subject, but it passed over, and I have not repeated the attempt. The truth is we have spent a great deal of time over Procedure this session, and I do not 1370 think we can devote any more. Undoubtedly if any proposal as to a Committee of Business were brought forward at this time of the session, a great deal of time would be spent. Therefore, we have to deal in the best way we can with the matter in the absence of any such provision. And I really think that we could not do anything better, nor take any course more in accordance with common sense and with business propriety, and in the interests of the House, than the course to which we are asking the House consent. I will go through the Resolution, and I think I shall be able to show that we have apportioned the time in a fair spirit, and on a wall thought out plan. In the first place, we give ample opportunity for discussing the really important points. We do not wish important points to be smuggled through and crashed out of the debate. There is ample time by this arrangement for hon. Members to look ahead, and to reserve themselves for the really important points; and, at the same time, we have regard to the necessity of advancing public business as rapidly as is consistent with the proper discharge of our duties in the consideration of the Bill in Committee. If hon. Members will look at the Bill they will see that what I give is an accurate account of the effect of the Resolution. On the first day we propose that we shall take Clauses 1 and 2 and the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution. Clause 1 constitutes the associations. That is a very important clause. It is a great step in the way of decentralisation, and it adheres to and puts in force the principle which has been generally accepted, of the separation of command and training from the mere work of local administrative business and financial control. That, as I say, is an important clause. I do not enter upon the merits of the particular plan; that would be out of place just now. To that clause we give, naturally, a considerable portion of the time, as we recognise its importance. Clause 2 provides directions as to the Army Council's giving proper powers to the associations. I would say of that clause, although it seems somewhat elaborate, that it consists of detailed provisions which are illustrations of the things which ought to be done; and the action of the associations will be brought annually before Parliament 1371 for discussion, condemnation, criticism, or approval, every year on the Vote, which will be a separate Vote, taken for the Territorial Army. It merely gives power to the Army Council to do certain things. On the second day we propose to take the report of the Financial Resolution, and Clauses 3 and 4. What are Clauses 3 and 4. Number three deals with finance. The money will be spent partly by the General Officer Commanding, who takes the troops out for training, with which the association has nothing to do, and the money spent is controlled and audited according to the Army Vote under the military system which we have at present. The rest of the money is handed over to the decentralised body—the associations, and they also will be subject to a regular system of control and audit, which has been devised with a view to making them as perfect as possible, and I believe that end has been successfully attained. On the third day we propose to take Clauses 5, 6, and 7—those affecting the raising and maintaining of the force. The principles on which those forces are composed have been so fully discussed on the First Reading and Second Reading—about four days being occupied by the debate—that really I doubt if there is much more to be said. We approach this subject with a full knowledge of the arguments which have been used on previous occasions on both sides of the House. On the fourth day we take the clauses from 8 to 12, which affect enlistment in the service and discharge; these also have been very fully discussed. I do not think this is asking too much. On the fifth day we will take Clauses 13 to 27, the first of which is to make provisions as to the annual training and embodiment, the arrangements for which are substantially identical with, or at any rate do not go beyond, the rules to which the Volunteers subject themselves at present. Volunteer corps, as we all know, adopt rules which are signed by the Volunteers when they join, and this Bill expresses those Rules with some necessary modifications. That does not seem to be much for the fifth day. On the sixth day we take the clauses from 28 to the end of the Bill. These relate to the special Reservists. We allow two days for the Report stage, and one day for the Third Reading. And we have a provision in the Resolution which secures 1372 that the time of those days shall not be interrupted by private business.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That shows our catholic spirit. That is the disposition with which we approach this subject. I really think, when we consider it, that the ordinary and natural course for a Bill of this kind would be to send it to a Committee upstairs, and then that it should come down to the House; but we have agreed to keep it in the House in order that hon. Members may be satisfied that they will have ample opportunity for discussion. We only guard ourselves against a waste of the time of the House on smaller matters, which would have been better expended on important points, and against any operation which might be desired—as in the course of my experience of the House of Commons has sometimes occurred—not so much in the interests of the Bill as in respect of the interests of some other measure, which for the moment might not be immediately under the consideration of the House. I think the objects of the Resolution are legitimate objects, and that those provisions will really prevent what I have described as the method of floundering for half the time find scrambling for the other half, while enabling hon. Members who are interested in the subject to secure, if they like, a good opportunity of discussing the really important points. In that sense I think it is a business-like proposal, and I submit it with confidence to the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Committee stage and Report stage of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill, including the Financial Resolution relating thereto, shall be proceeded with in the following manner: (a) That Clauses 1 and 2 and the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution be proceeded with, and proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the first allotted day; (b) That the Report stage of the Financial Resolution and Clauses 3 and 4 be proceeded with, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the second allotted day; 1373 (c) That Clauses 5 to 7 be proceeded with, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the third allotted day; (d) That Clauses 8 to 12 be proceeded with, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the fourth allotted day; (e) That Clauses 13 to 27 be proceeded with, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on the fifth allotted day; (f) That the remaining Clauses of the Bill and the Schedules, and any new Government clauses and any new Government Schedules, and any other matter necessary to bring the Committee stage to a conclusion, be proceeded with and brought to a conclusion on the sixth allotted day, and that the Chairman report the Bill to the House without Question put; (g) That two allotted days be given to the Report stage of the Bill, and that new clauses and Clauses 1 to 15 of the Bill be proceeded with on the first of those allotted days, and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on that day, and that the remaining clauses of the Bill and the Schedules, and any other matter necessary to bring the Report stage to a conclusion, be proceeded with on the second of those allotted days and the proceedings thereon brought to a conclusion on that day.
§ "After this Order comes into operation, any day (other than a Friday) shall be considered an allotted day for the purposes of this Order on which the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill is put down as the first Order of the Day, or on which any stage of the Financial Resolution relating thereto is put down as the first Order of the Day, followed by the Bill.
§ "At 10.30 p.m. on any allotted day on which proceedings on any business allotted to that day are to be brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Speaker shall, if those proceedings have not already been brought to a conclusion, put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed successively to put forthwith the Question on any Amendments moved by the Government of which notice has been given, but no other Amendments, and on any Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded, and in the case of Government Amendments or of Government new clauses or Schedules 1374 he shall put only the Question that the Amendment be made or that the clause or Schedule be added to the Bill, as the case may be.
§ "At 11 p.m. on the day on which the Third Reading of the Bill is put down as first Order of the Day, or if that day is a Friday at 5 p.m. the Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to complete the proceedings on that stage of the Bill.
§ "Proceedings to which this Order relates shall not, on any allotted day on which proceedings or any business are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order, be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House.
§ "After the passing of this Order, on any day on which any proceedings on the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill (including the Financial Resolution relating thereto) stand as first Order of the Day, no dilatory Motion on the Bill, nor Motion for Adjournment under Standing Order 10, nor Motion to postpone a clause, shall be received unless moved by a Minister of the Crown, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith without debate."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has performed what I have no doubt was to him a distasteful task, with great moderation and amiability; but I do not think that anybody who heard the speech in which he defended the proposals, and which you, Sir, have just read from the chair, would be likely to be seriously moved by the arguments he has advanced. The right hon. Gentleman admits that he has invented on this occasion a new kind of Parliamentary guillotine. I do not know whether the inventive powers of the Government in other departments of legislative activity show to great advantage during the two years they have been in office, but certainly no one will deny that they have shown ingenuity in dealing with the liberties of this House, and they have been fertile in expedients for limiting those opportunities of debate by which they set such marvellous store when they were sitting on this side of the House. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to read a short quotation from a speech which he made, 1375 not upon the occasion of any closure or guillotine Resolution moved by his predecessors in office, but upon the occasion when the whole of the Rules were under consideration, and when the late Government brought forward a scheme which was in part accepted by the House, and under which we are now working, for the improvement of our procedure. The speech to which I refer was one moderate in tone, and in which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman was not moved by any of those Party considerations which at at the time he vehemently, and, I think, quite sincerely excluded. The right hon. Gentleman spoke thus. I ought to remind the House that he was describing the importance of this Assembly as being the great "inquest of the nation"; and he went on to say—''For my part I will go so far as to say that efficiency in the conduct of business,—that is to say, efficiency in carrying through legislative projects—is mainly secondary to I lie maintenance of those rights of winch I speak, and it would be better that the House should be less efficient in its transaction of business,—that is legislative business—and retain the full faculty to exercise the functions to which I refer,—namely, the grand inquest of the nationrather than that it should be diminished and the House should become the most perfect legislate e machine in the world.Those were the principles which weighed with the right hon. Gentleman at that time.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I gather from the cheers with which the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters greet the quotation that he holds them now. But I fear I shall get nothing from the right hon. Gentleman but his cheers. While I cannot allow that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have made the House a perfect legislative machine, they have devoted infinite time and trouble to making it a more rapidly working machine—not a better, but a quicker machine.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Let the House notice how the grand-inquest of-the-nation theory works. The right hon. Gentleman has now allocated nine days in all for the remaining stages of this Bill. On not one of those nine days, representing between two and three weeks of Parliamentary time, will it be possible to move, even in the most urgent circumstances, the adjournment of the House in order to discuss any matter of public interest. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman seriously maintains that his object has been to give the critics of the Government freer scope than they had before he took this business in hand. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are more afraid of criticism than their predecessors, but I think they will be the first to admit that the actual practical result of what he has done will be to diminish the power of the House to deal as critics with the action of the Government. As to whether he has made this House a more perfect legislative machine I will not inquire, but I entertain grave doubts on that subject. What is the plan of the right hon. Gentleman? He has referred in his speech to a scheme which has often been adumbrated, under which some machinery should be devised of an impartial character in older to allocate the time to be devoted to Government measures. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that he has always been in favour of a scheme of that sort, and in making that statement he finds sympathetic auditors on the Opposition side of the House. But may I point out this to the right hon. Gentleman and to hon. Members who do me the honour to listen to me: that nothing in the world can be more difficult than the elaboration of an impartial tribunal to allocate the time of the House is shown by this scheme under which the Government make themselves judges in their own cause. An impartial tribunal would have to consider not the amount of time that remains between now and the time at which the Government propose to terminate the session, but the inherent and intrinsic importance of the questions brought before them; otherwise a Government which chose to bring in an unconscionable number of measures of the first class would be able to squeeze the discussion of them into an equally unconscionably brief space of time. Any 1377 tribunal dealing with the time to be allotted to particular Bills ought to consider the normal amount of work thrown upon Parliament, and the amount of time which can fairly and properly be devoted to the discussion of any particular measure The right hon. Gentleman appears to be under the impression that, although the Government have constituted themselves judges in their own cause, hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House ought to say, "We thank the Government for the liberality of their treatment: they might have sent the Bill upstairs, but they have kept it down here, and allowed time for discussion." But we really cannot accept that view It is quite true, as the Prime Minister says, that there were protests—not, I think, entirely from this side of the House—against sending the Bill upstairs, but what was the alternative present in the minds of those who made the protest? The alternative was keeping it down here. I cannot accept the contention of the Government that the retention of the Bill in the House for Committee, coupled with the conditions of this closure Resolution, is liberal treatment of the Opposition. Personally I would have preferred free discussion in a Committee upstairs and free discussion on Report in the House to limited discussion in the House at both stages. Just consider for a moment what the allocation of time is. The right hon. Gentleman has gone through the clauses of the Bill, and he has come to the conclusion that there is ample time under this Resolution in each Department for dealing with all the clauses, and he bases that contention partly on the fact that we have had a very long discussion already upon the proposals of the Minister for War. The Minister for War made some very interesting speeches last year, and produced some interesting plans, which received a certain amount of discussion. Last year's debates, on which the Prime Minister partly founds his contention as to the adequacy of the time now given, are irrelevant to this debate. The Government are either greatly under-rating the importance of their own proposals or greatly under-rating the time the House would have occupied in debating them if left free. I observe that he has devoted five days out of six to the question of the Territorial Army, and the allied question of the county committees. One day only will be available for the 1378 discussion of what I personally regard as by far the most important part of the Bill—lhat part which creates the Special Reserve and by implication destroys the Militia. Surely that is wholly absurd. To discuss the creation of the Special Reserve and the destruction of the Militia, the Prime Minister appears to think that one whole day between the hour of four in the afternoon and eleven at night will be amply sufficient. I must say that I cannot agree with him, and if he will reflect on the matter he will see how difficult his position is to defend. The Militia is a historic force deeply rooted in the traditions of the country, and they have played a most important part in the past in our general readiness for war. Although I admit that the strength, organisation, and training of the Militia leaves much to be desired everybody will be ready to admit that in a serious conflict the Militia can be used, and ought to be used, to relieve the more highly trained troops in the service of the Crown. The House does not yet know what it will cost to convert the guns for the Volunteer artillery, be create the ranges, and they have no information upon the more important question of the Regular artillery. The right hon. Gentleman and I have had conferences across the Table on the subject, and I have never yet got to the bottom of his mind upon it. I have always understood that he meant to destroy 3,800, or some number of that kind, of the Artillery. Personally I regard that as absolutely disastrous; but while it would be out of order to argue that point, it is strictly relevant to this question to say that although we know what the policy of the Government is in regard to the Regular Artillery, we really cannot form a judgment as to their policy in regard to the Volunteer Artillery. The two things are intimately bound together. We do not know what the policy is, and until we know how can we discuss it? All that information has to be elicited from the Government under those privileged conditions which enable the Government to answer or not to answer just as they like, for they know that when the automatic hour strikes the debate comes to a conclusion, and questions asked and unanswered remain asked and unanswered, no answer or cross-examination is possible; the Chairman has automatically to put the 1379 question at the appointed hour, and the House may finish its debate as ignorant at the end as it was at the beginning on matters which are really material to the decision of the problem the Government have laid before us. The Prime Minister told us just now that under the former system of guillotine the House floundered in the earlier and scrambled during the later part of the discussion. At all events, there is to be said for the former procedure that the liberties of the House were not curtailed until experience had shown to the Government of the day that such curtailment was necessary. Here you mean to shut up and to confine a possible malefactor, not because he has I done anything wrong, but because he may do something wrong. Of course, that may be consistent with the views of the Government on Parliamentary procedure, but it is not in accordance with the laws of ordinary criminal jurisprudence. I want to know whether this process of floundering and scrambling is going to be avoided, or is likely to be avoided, by the plan proposed by the Government. The advantage of some impartial tribunal, who shall allot the time, if it can be carried out, is that there should be some kind of consent and co-operation between the two sides of the House, and that the critics in the House, naturally not all drawn from the Opposition side, would feel that they were not being trampled upon, and that they should co-operate with the Government in seeing that the most important questions had most time allotted to them. How are you going to attain that under this Motion? Do the Government really think that those who desire to criticise the Bill regard this as fair treatment? Do they think they can claim this system of co-operation, which under a different system, and in happier circumstances, they might be able to command, and if they cannot command that hearty and zealous co-operation, what is to prevent the floundering and scrambling under this Motion reaching the same pitch as it has reached under other systems, and in connection with other measures? I regret the course the Government have taken, and I wonder whether they do not feel themselves that, of all Governments, they are the administrators who ought to be most sensitive that there should be full House of Commons criticism 1380 of the Bill, because they have announced their intention that there shall not be full control in the second chamber of measures which leave us and go elsewhere. I might be out of order if I were to discuss either the merits or the demerits, the utility or the inutility, of a Second Chamber. But everybody who sees a Resolution of this sort on the Paper must be conscious that the result of it may be, and very likely will be, that a great measure affecting the value of our Army in war, and closely connected with the fortunes of the Volunteer and Auxiliary Forces, may leave this House imperfectly discussed in Committee and on Report, and that when it goes to another place the House of Lords will not have before them the mind of this House, and the result of our criticisms and discussions, for we shall not have criticised and discussed it. I confess if I were engaged in the crusade in which the right hon. Gentleman has, rightly or wrongly, embarked in connection with the ancient Constitution of this country, I should be very careful, when trying to establish a system of one Chamber Legislature, at all events to see that the liberties of that one Chamber were sedulously safe-guarded. The right hon. Gentleman has not taken that course, and I shall certainly resist the Motion which has been proposed.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the Leader of the Opposition had touched upon a most important subject in regard to guillotine Resolutions. Such Resolutions would undoubtedly help and support the House of Lords in connection with the consideration of Bills. The difficulty was not, he thought, that the Resolution struck the organised and regular Opposition in regard to the curtailment of debate. The difficulty in connection with guillotining a Bill, and especially one of this character, was that the guillotine, rightly or wrongly, in practice prevented Amendments being moved. There was not the same liberty to move Amendments, and unless an hon. Member could persuade the Minister in charge of the Bill to accept an Amendment there was no discussion of it if it was not reached within the time allowed by the guillotine Resolution. He had personally to thank the Minister in charge of this Bill for meeting him 1381 and others in regard to points to which attention was directed on the Second Reading. The difficulty to his mind in regard to the guillotine was that it stopped Amendments, and that was particularly dangerous in the ease of a Bill of this description. Notice of Amendments, some of which he could support, had been given from more than one quarter of the House, and the House should have an opportunity of considering them. But the answer was that the course now proposed was inevitable. What else could they do? It was inevitable if the House were to sit for only a very limited portion of the year, and if the Government had a large programme, having regard to the fixed claims on their time for the discussion of Supply. It was impossible to deal with large measures in these circumstances except by the use of the guillotine. The discussions of Supply and on the Budget were making enormous drafts on the time of the House, and the only way they could make progress with other questions was by sitting through the autumn or by using the guillotine. Unless they were prepared to sit through the autumn, it was undoubted that they must continue to use the guillotine on every great Government measure. There was a tendency to extend its use, and the remedy was for the House to sit through a larger portion of the year. The financial considerations in connection with this Bill were material considerations. The right hon. Gentleman had truly said that the Government had not yet given the House a fair estimate in regard to the cost of their proposals. But the Secretary of State for War had promised to give a revised estimate before the House went into Committee on the Bill, and in reply to many questions from different quarters of the House the right hon. Gentleman had made statements which had greatly extended their knowledge and confirmed the view some hon. Members had taken on the Second Reading, that the scheme could not be put in force for the amount originally suggested. There would be under the proposal now made to the House an opportunity of debating more adequately some of the constitutional questions which lay at the basis of the finance, and of dealing with the criticism which had come from both sides of the House that the effect of the Bill was to strengthen the financial hold 1382 the Army Council had over the funds voted by the House for the Militia and the Yeomanry, and to weaken the control of the House, which had always been thought essential, by taking the finance out of the purview of the Comptrollor and Auditor-General and of the Public Accounts Committee. The alarm felt on this subject had been to some extent dispelled by the answers of his right hon. friend, but at the same time it was satisfactory that on the Report stage of the financial Resolution there would be an opportunity of discussing that question. The objection he had to take personally to this Resolution was not based on the financial aspect of the question or on deficiency of information. Some hon. Members made the same objection, from the point of view of finance, in the discussion in 1902 in connection with the guillotine proposals on the Education Bill. Those who had difficulties on many points of the Bill would be barred out from all opportunity of effectually amending the Bill in Committee of the Whole House, for no Amendment of any importance could be carried except those proposed by Ministers themselves. This was a Bill which would pass in another place; in fact, some of them believed that it had been drawn to be passed in another place. But if Amendments were to be made after this Resolution was passed, they would be Amendments passed not by the House of Commons but by the House of Lords.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent Ashford)
said that the Prime Minister, in introducing this Resolution, had informed them that it was a novel procedure; but the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten that the first attempt to apply it was in the case of the Plural Voting Bill last session, when, However, the Resolution was passed after the House had entered on the consideration of the Report stage. This Army Bill made a very large demand on the House in one peculiar way. Those who remembered the debate on the Second Reading would recollect that in the speech of the Secretary of State for War many changes were foreshadowed in connection with the right hon. Gentleman's original scheme. But at present not a single Amendment appeared on the Paper relating to those changes, and the House did not know whether the changes were to be made by the Bill or not. They 1383 were to be allowed at any rate a very narrow margin of time to discuss Amendments, except those which might be put down by Ministers themselves. It had been said that the Bill would not be passed without full discussion of the main merits of its financial and constitutional proposals. But there were interesting details in other and minor clauses of the Bill which should be considered by the House; and there was nothing in the Resolution which provided that those clauses should be discussed at all. On the allotted days all Amendments except Government Amendments would be swept away into the waste-paper basket. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was perfectly right in saying that there were some points in certain classes of Bills upon which, if thoroughly discussed by the House, a different view might be taken from that of the Minister in charge of the Bill, not as a matter of censure on the Minister or Government, but from consideration of the various questions discussed. He thought that this proposal was one of the most dangerous innovations that had ever been introduced in regard to the procedure of the House. In the case of a Bill of importance the main principles were generally fully discussed on Clause 1 or Clause 2, and it was only after that that the guillotine was brought in. No doubt the Government were obliged sometimes to undertake the duty of curtailing debate, but if a Bill was non-controversial and did not raise great Party issues it seemed to him that it was a most dangerous precedent to introduce the principle of this Resolution, and the Opposition were entitled to enter a strong protest against it—all the more strongly when they remembered what had taken place during the past few weeks. During the debate on the new Rules of Procedure it was stated that no first-class Bills were to be sent to Grand Committees—that they would be retained for Committee of the Whole House, and that in the case of important measures sent to Grand Committees full power would be retained over them by the House. But under this Resolution the Government did not intend to give the House the same opportunity of consideration as would be given in the case of Bills sent upstairs. The Government gave evidence of that by the concession they made in regard to the discussion on Report 1384 stage of Bills which came downstairs from Grand Committees. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that this Resolution would give a great deal more power to the House of Lords than they would otherwise have; and those who desired that the House of Commons should remain in possession of its full liberties could not accept the Resolution as it stood. He himself had put forward a scheme for the appointment of a Standing Business Committee of the House which should arrange the business of the House and draw up a time-table, but it was not accepted, although he thought it better than the proposals of the Government.
§ MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
thought that the case put forward by the Opposition against the Government guillotine proposals had been greatly strengthened by two speeches from the Ministerial side of the House. He presumed that the Army Bill was a measure of considerable importance, and no one could say that nine days were sufficient to enable it to be discussed and dealt with with deliberation and care. The Secretary for War had said that time must be given to the War Office in regard to the pattern of the new cavalry sword, but they had already taken a year to deal with that subject, and if they were to take eighteen months surely they could give the House greater time for the consideration of the entire reorganisation of the Army. He did not for a moment dispute that it was sometimes absolutely necessary to apply the closure automatically, especially in the case of a measure, such as the Education Act of last year, which excited keen religious controversy. The time came in regard to that Bill when the Government saw they must apply the closure, but he would ask the House to say whether in regard to this particular measure there had been any sign on the part of those who opposed any detail—very few opposed it in principle—of a desire to offer captious opposition to the Bill. It was a measure of great length, and if the eight and a half pages of Amendments were looked at, he defied the Secretary of State for War to say that any of them were captious or obstructive. They might be Amendments with which the right hon. Gentleman did not agree, 1385 but they were put forward by hon. Members to express their feelings, and it seemed hard that they should be debarred from bringing them forward. He had a proposal which had for its object that the Militia when they joined the Army should retain their territorial name. That might be an impossible proposal or one which the Government could not adopt, but he did not think it could be suggested that it did not deserve some sort of discussion and consideration. He did not, however, see how, under the proposed arrangements, it could ever be discussed any more than the new clauses of private Members. He thought some sort of change should be made in the way in which these guillotine Resolutions were brought in, and his hon. friend for Rye had a suggestion on the Paper that Mr. Speaker should appoint a Committee to allocate the time for the discussion of different proposals. It seemed to him that was an excellent suggestion, although it was somewhat hard that Mr. Speaker should have another difficult task placed upon him. Under the present system it was the people who were interested in cutting short discussion on the Bill—the Government—who allocated the time, and it was possible, having regard to human nature, that if they saw an Amendment down which might embarrass them and cause some of their supporters to vote against them, they should so arrange their guillotine Resolution as to prevent the discussion of that Amendment. He thought they ought to guard against that, and if they could arrange for an impartial tribunal to deal with the question of those guillotine Resolutions a great deal of the objection to them would be taken away. Under existing circumstances he should oppose the Resolution.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said that there were really two questions before the House, both of which were great importance. The first question was the propriety of this innovation and of the Government bringing in a Resolution of this character before the Committee stage had began. With that phase of the Resolution the Prime Minister had in the main dealt with, but he had, not touched upon the other question which he wished to bring before the House. In the main the Prime Minister, had excused himself for the policy he was 1386 pursuing and said he would prefer other courses to this violent proceeding, but those who had heard the speech of the Prime Minister and the reply of the Leader of the Opposition would agree that they might leave the matter where it was as the argument was complete, and until somebody reinforced the Prime Minister's somewhat meagre statement he was content to leave it there. But there was another question, namely, that of applying this novel principle to this particular Bill and the manner in which it was to be applied. He thought they were entitled at some early stage of the debate to hear a speech from the Secretary of State for War, because he imagined that the right hon. Gentleman was the responsible person for thinking that nine days was sufficient time in which to discuss the Bill and for having allocated the days to the various clauses. This was a Bill to which a proceeding of that kind ought, never have been applied. To have done so seemed to him to be somewhat of a wanton act on the part of the Government and one in which he was surprised to think the right hon. Gentleman acquiesced, because he had certainly understood from him in the course of the previous debate that he was in favour of discussing the Bill downstairs in this House and not upstairs in a Committee room. He also understood from the right hon. Gentleman that it was not unreasonable to hope that an amicable arrangement might have been arrived at. It had not come to his ears that any amicable arrangement had been suggested, although no doubt it would have done had such a suggestion been made. Personally, he would have been glad if such an arrangement could have been arrived at. Nine days were too few for the discussion in view of the magnitude of the proposals before them and their very far-reaching effect upon the military organisation of the country, and the allocation of the time was, in the opinion of the Opposition, inappropriate to the relative importance of the matters to be dealt with. Under such a Resolution it was impossible either for the Opposition or for the supporters of the Government who were interested in particular forces to bring certain definite matters of importance before the House. Therefore, the point was taken that it was not merely that the total number of 1387 days was too few, but that the time allotted to particular subjects made it impossible to peg an argument to one particular point when the Government were unwilling that such a point should be raised. Those who had superintended the passage of Bills through the House knew that the Government often gained in time and added to the beneficence of their measures if they disposed of certain issues before they proceeded to the consideration of other portions of the Bill; but when the House came to work under this iron rule it would be detrimental to their proceedings. They would not be able to bring discussions to a head, and matters of far-reaching importance would be passed without due discussion and without the possibility of being afterwards reviewed. They had no complaint to make of the right hon. Gentleman's treatment of the Bill in its earlier stages. He had told them over and over again that he was open to argument on certain points. The right hon. Gentleman went, he thought, so far as to say that he would entertain the idea of the larger portion of the men in the Militia enlisting in the special Reserve. That was opening a door which might lead to very large consequences. It would be a modification of the Bill which might reconcile him to its provisions far more than was at present the case. Was it to be said that before they knew the full power and value of that undertaking and the exact meaning of the right hon. Gentleman the portion of the Bill dealing with the subject was to be passed? Many other similar indications had been given by the Secretary of State in regard to which he (Mr. Wyndham) did not see how the right hon. Gentleman could do justice to the hopes he had raised if the House were to be bound by this iron discipline. As to the allocation of the time he also wished to pass some criticism. This Bill was somewhat of a draftsman's Bill, and was not a good Bill for displaying the relevancy of the subject matter. He ventured to think also the allocation of time was a draftsman's allocation and did not satisfy any critic of the Bill or any supporter of the Bill who wished to bring out a certain point. He thought he could make that clear. A day was given to Clauses 1 and 2 and another day to Clauses 3 and 4, and the finance of the Bill was to be 1388 discussed during those days. The financial aspects of these clauses and of the whole Bill were very important, and he was not sure that they could discuss them on the financial Resolution. It was always a matter of doubt, because that question was decided by the Chair with more or less elasticity. He did not understand that any body of opinion in the House was opposed to the right hon. Gentleman endeavouring to establish a Territorial Force which should be more efficient than the existing Volunteers, and the only two really important points embraced in Clauses 1 to 4 were questions of finance and of the value the nation got for its money. He marked in Clause 2, moreover, a tendency to go back to the danger of the old principle of the muster under which the officer got so much for the men he mustered. These associations were going to be given a certain amount of money for different purposes. When they were dealing with the allocation of money for the purposes of the payment of troops the only points which were had regard to were the number of men and efficiency. Those two important points were embraced in Clauses 1 and 4. Another subject of importance touched upon by the Prime Minister was the system whereby the right hon. Gentleman was going to divide the commands from the administration. It might be a good plan to divide these commands, but he doubted whether it was wise to have the two covering the same district. But important as those points were there was nothing in them that was irretrievable. If the right hon. Gentleman found that there were executive and administrative generals covering the same ground and that there was an excess of staff he could alter it. The right hon. Gentleman had given them a hint that he might find some stronger and fresh method of finance and some different system of administration. He made no complaint about the giving of two days to discuss Clauses 1 and 4, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had favoured these clauses to the prejudice of clauses which raised points of equal, and even of greater importance, dealing with sound finance and complexity of administration. And, inasmuch as these questions involved the taking of steps which were irretrievable, their opinion was that the greater part of the time at the disposal of the 1389 House should be given to these subjects, and that the House should be free to keep the discussion alive round these points of novel departure until it under-stood what the Government meant and was seen to be generally favourable to those intentions. The Secretary of State would be the first to deplore rushing the Bill through under these circumstances, because he would recognise that it had not the support of the nation and the country behind it, and, therefore, would undoubtedly fail. The present allocation of time rushed some of the clauses of great importance through in company with a number of others. During the early part of the Bill the only proposal bearing on this great issue was the sub-section of Clause 6, which gave power in regard to the turning of portions of the Territorial Force into bodies or corps and to amalgamate portions of that force with the other forces of the Army. That was a clause of such latitude that it would take three hours of close, reasoned debate to elicit from the Minister exactly what it was that the Government were asking leave to do. If the House was not under these rules the probable course would be to move, not as a dilatory Motion to waste time, to postpone that sub-section and put it back in the Bill among other clauses to which it was germane. There was this clause giving these powers and Clause 33 giving similar powers, and between them a whole lot of clauses dealing entirely with different matters. The proper way of procedure was to group the clauses and have a free debate during the remaining days, even if there was not to be a free debate of Clauses 1 and 4. He would sooner see Clauses 1 to 4 guillotined, and then as many days allocated as the Government could give to the rest of the Bill, so as to arrive at matters of first-class importance. The questions of first-rate importance I were three: (1) that the training for war should be prior to the crisis of war; (2) in making provision for training these men they should not discard some of the men who were now trained more adequately than was proposed; and (3) if such provision was made, thon the pay and the emoluments should be sufficient to get the right class of men for sufficient early training at a sufficiently early period. Those three points had never been put fully before the House, and they had 1390 never been understood nor assented to by the House.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, made an appeal to him, to which he ventured to give the strongest response. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman about taking into consideration the great body of opinion outside as well as inside the House, but he was combatted by the right hon. Gentleman's own arguments, for not even the right hon. Gentleman during the course of his speech could prevail on the House to show that there was the least agitation prevailing about any infraction of the constitutional liberties of the House. Scarcely a dozen Members were present a short time ago, and everywhere there was an acquiescence in that attitude on the part of the House that the Government in acting thus was doing a sensible thing. The right hon. Gentleman had given a number of instances of various matters which, however, grouped themselves under two heads. First, he had indicated that the whole procedure was an innovation, which was admitted, and the second was that the time allotted was too short for the Bill. What were the circumstances? The Bill had not only been debated at some length on the introduction and the Second Reading, but there had been a great deal of discussion as to the Army on the Estimates. They were now discussing the reorganisation of the Territorial Forces and the provision for wastage of war by means of the new third battalions. The latter part of the Bill merely conferred certain powers of administration which might be used or not. But when a Bill came up for consideration in Committee it came before the House as a broad scheme of administration whose principles had received the general assent of the House. All the Bill did was to leave the Government the requisite power to carry out a plan of organisation which had already been debated by the House. He was sorry he had not made himself clear about the Artillery. What really happened was that he had laid down certain plans and time was required to carry those plans out. He was at work on them, but he had not taken a single man off the Artillery yet. Whether it was so, or whether it was not so, was a matter left wholly untouched by any clause of the Bill which they had to consider. 1391 Therefore, he thought they might leave the Artillery when they came to the allocation of time in Committee. It was the same with all questions of general principles of that kind. When they got to the last part of the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, they had followed the precedent which had been observed in Bills in regard to Army reorganisation in the past. laterally and strictly two-thirds of the topics discussed on the First and Second Readings were irrelevent when they came to deal with this Bill in Committee, and that was one of the things which he had in his mind when he made this allocation of time. As to the question of associations, he thought it a very important one, and that there would be a great deal of discussion upon it; but there were two or three broad principles which could easily be compassed in the course of a single day. The Bill had been very carefully drafted and matters had been arranged in such a fashion that they had been able to bring them within the compass of the allocation. The second day's work dealt with questions of finance, and again he would make the observation which he had made before, that the Bill did not refer to the way in which the financial machinery was to be worked out. He had promised his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean to lay a statement upon the Table of the House before they went into Committee, or on going into Committee, on that point He would do so only to show the fashion in which the Government contemplated using the administrative powers arising under the clause. They meant to preserve the financial control of Parliament, and the Bill did not touch the question one way or the other. When they came to the parts of the Bill which they would be discussing in the next two days, as the Prime Minister had said, they would be discussing things most of which were in the present rules of the Volunteers, and the other matters were simply reproductions of the clauses in the Yeomanry and Volunteer Acts. The whole importance of the matter was how they would use these powers, and that would come up in future for discussion, because if this system were adopted, a Vote for the Territorial Force would be put down each year on which the arrangements for the rear would be subject to the review of the House of Commons. The hon. 1392 Member for Ashford, who was a very great authority on this matter, had been misled by the notion that in the Committee stage on the Bill all those questions which had been discussed in connection with the scheme, the number of adjutants and the pay of the Artillery forces, and all those topics which belonged to administration, would come up on the clauses; but if they read the Bill they would see that beyond the principle of organisation nothing else appeared in the Bill. Once they passed the Second Reading, and they had passed that stage, they had disposed of such questions as whether the Militia, Volunteers, or Yeomanry were to be separate bodies. That was essentially a Second Reading question, and when the House had passed the Second Reading by a majority of over three to one against the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment it must be taken that the House had assented to the broad principle that they were to organise on a two-line and not on a three-line basis. If that were so, it was plain that they could not discuss that Second Reading point again and again on the clauses.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the Militiaman like everybody else could be enlisted in the third battalions, into the special reserve, and thereupon he would become liable to go abroad. He would be very glad to see individual Militiamen enlist into those third battalions, and to see their officers joining the reserve of officers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover misunderstood him if he thought that he suggested that the Militia was the unit which would become the third battalions.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
was understood to state that under certain circumstances 250 of one battalion of Militia would be accepted for the Reserve.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he would be only too pleased to have 250 Militiamen individually; more than that, he would take 500 if he could get them All he asked was that they should enlist individually. It would be all the bettor if they had an influence upon each other, 1393 and if they could bring in a reserve of officers whom they could use for the purpose of training. That was nothing new; it had always been a part of the plan. They had not tried to make it difficult for people who served in the Militia to take a new part in the organisation of the Army. On the contrary, they had tried to make it as easy as they could, and they would continue be try to make it easy. The only relevance of that observation was for the purpose of pointing out that this question of the Militia joining the third battalions was not prejudiced one way or the other by the last part of the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. This Resolution was doubtless an innovation, but he hoped that it would be the beginning of a more sensible course which not only this Parliament but future Parliaments would follow. He thought it would be enormously better that they should try to make a better distribution of their time in future. He quite agreed that it would have been better if they had had machinery ready to hand to do it now but that not being so, and the principle being one which they believed the majority of the House were agreed upon, they had done their best in fie matter. The misapplication of the time of Parliament was becoming a sandal. He was responsible for the allocation of time; he might have erred, but if he had tarred it was bona fide. He had tried to do his best to parcel out the time allowed in a way that seemed to him to be fair At first he thought that five days would be enough, and he still thought so but he had allowed six in order to leave a magin. He thought, knowing the inside of the Bill, that full time had been left, bearing in mind the discussion; which had taken place on the First and Second Readings with regard to the principles of the measure, and that they had now only to deal with the powers which depended on those principles. His mine would not be rigidly closed to suggestions in Committee. They wanted to make the best Bill they could out of this, and consequently he hoped it would be found that they were open to suggestions. Hut it followed that in order to make the best use of the time before them it was necessary to provide in some fashion for its distribution. He admitted with his right hon. friend that this allocation of time was a new practice, but he hoped that in future it would be very fruitful, not only 1394 to hon. Members on that side of the House, but to hon. Members on the other side.
§ * MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said he did not rise for the purpose of making any complaint regarding this innovation; he thought that every Government in the time to come in that House would require to ask for powers such as were now being asked for. But what he would suggest was that the Government in allocating the various days for the consideration of the Bill had been a little bit niggardly. The fact was that if this scheme was carried, not a single Amendment would have the slightest chance of being passed unless a private Member had been successful in persuading the Minister for War that his Amendment was necessary. The vicious part of the scheme was that it took away from the House its power to amend the Bill and placed it in the hands of two Gentlemen who conferred together behind Mr. Speaker's Chair or in any other private place. He felt certain that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to do anything of the kind. Those whom he (Mr. Macdonald) represented had several Amendments that they would like to put down; but they were all economists, and they wanted to serve the national finance. Now really why should they take the trouble to put down those Amendments? not a single word of them would be discussed. At any rate the more important of them would not be discussed under this scheme, and it was simply wasting public money to add to the agenda paper Amendments which they knew there would be no possible chance of considering. There was another very important consideration, and it was the fact that this scheme would take away considerably the authority of this House. Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in Opposition used to protest very loudly against handing over the authority of the House to the Cabinet. He; ventured to suggest that under this; scheme they were handing over more of the authority of the House to the Cabinet. The defence which the right hon. Gentleman had made for this proposal seemed to him to be very inadequate. He had told them that the principle of the Bill had been accepted on the First and 1395 Second Readings, and that was perfectly true. He regretted that the new Standing Orders were not put in operation with regard to this Bill. There were certain clauses, not of detail which followed from certain general principles which had been accepted, but of principle, and they ought to be fully discussed. The better course would have been for the more detailed clauses to have gone upstairs to one of the Standing Committees, and those other clauses to have remained for further discussion in the House. The first three clauses contained matters of principle which were not discussed on the Second Reading. There were certain provisions in Clauses 2 and 4 which hon. Members voted for on the understanding that they would be able to move Amendments so as to change those clauses, not only in detail, but in regard to their scope. There was, for example, the relation between the county associations and the Universities. That involved a great political principle. Thon there were the provisions with regard to cadet corps. That was a question that was not a matter of detail following by logical necessity upon the principle accepted on the Second Reading. Those were matters of great political and civil importance which the House as a whole ought to discuss and decide upon a definite Amendment and not merely upon the general debate. They wanted some explanation of the sub-section dealing with county associations and Reservists and ex-soldiers. They wished to know what the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind when he put that sub-section in the Bill. But Clauses 1 and 2 were going to be dealt with on one day. Clause 1 dealt with the question of county associations, and when that subject came on there would not be much chance to discuss anything else on that day. In Clauses 3 and 4 the important financial provisions were placed in the forefront, so that neither on the first nor the second day would they have an opportunity of discussing that very fundamental point of the relation between the civil life of the country and its military organisation. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that behind him there were very strong opinions hold on these points, and there was also a very strong feeling upon them outside the House. He suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that they ought to have a day for discussing the 1396 county associations, and the next day might be devoted to a discussion of the very important alteration proposed in regard to the civil relationship of the people with the military force. He did not desire to embarrass the Government in regard to this guillotine Resolution; in fact the Labour Party would assist them in carrying it; but he hoped that the Secretary for War would meet them on the points he had raised, namely, those of civil and political importance, which were not matters of detail, but of principle, which ought to be discussed more fully in the House, upon which there ought to be a sort of ad hoc discussion and not merely the discussion of general principles which took place when the Government got such a big majority on the Second Reading.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
moved as an Amendment to the Prime Minister's Motion, "That it is inexpedient that any further resolutions dealing with the allocation of time for particular Bills should be passed except as part of a general system by which the liberties of this House shall be properly safeguarded. "He said the speech they had just heard from the hon. Member for Leicester displayed the attitude with which the Secretary for War seemed disposed to approach this matter. There were under this scheme very serious principles which would have to be discussed. The War Secretary had referred to the indifference of the House to the question of the general principles involved in the Resolution and he seemed to regard that indifference with some satisfaction. He admitted that the Ministerial side of the House at any rate seemed very indifferent whether this new departure in their procedure were carried or not, but the War Minister and the Prime Minister were evidently under no delusion as to the magnitude of the change that was being made in the procedure of the House of Commons. It was not only that it was the first time the guillotine had been applied before there had been even an attempt at discussion in Committee, but it was the nature of the Bill to which the guillotine was being applied. No one had suggested that the discussion on the Second Reading was unduly prolonged. There was a strictly relevant discussion 1397 taken part in by hon. Members equally on both sides of the House, and he was at a loss to understand what the Prime Minister meant when he said that the proceedings in the House might be made the means of impeding the progress of business. He did not think such a suggestion ought to have been made in view of the way the Opposition had treated this Bill up to the present. It was undoubtedly a measure which ought to be submitted to the free and unfettered discussion of the House of Commons. If the House of Commons sanctioned this Resolution it would deliberately lay down that for the future all discussions upon important Bills should be carried on under similar arrangements. What effect would that have upon the Constitution of the country? It meant transferring the power of legislation from the House to the Cabinet. That was what the House was doing, and it was being done with the assistance of the votes of the Liberal Party. As had already been pointed out by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean one result of that would be to increase the necessity for a Second Chamber to deal with measures which were passed sub silentio in this House. The proposed procedure meant the gradual extinction of the unofficial Member. If hon. Members would consider the Parliamentary history of the last century they would conclude that this was the greatest change that had come over the House of Commons. In 1784 when Pitt was returned by a popular mandate with a great majority, and when he enjoyed immense popularity, he was utterly unable to pass through the House of Commons any measure unless it had obtained the reasonable assent of the House. That was the case right down to the time of Mr. Gladstone, and except on certain questions the House of Commons constantly took its own line, as hon. Members were allowed to vote for; what they thought right and not simply for what the Cabinet thought right. The change might be partly due to these Resolutions and partly to other causes, but while it no doubt affected the Opposition it affected hon. Members on the Government side even more. It utterly deprived them of all power of producing the slightest effect on the legislation of the country. They all 1398 knew that there were in the House of Commons many hon. Members who had great experience in administrative matters, but for any useful work they did they might be replaced by three or four hundred men selected from any street in the neighbourhood. They were merely and necessarily under these rules ministerial voting machines. The other great result was and must be that the whole of the debates in the House entirely lost their reality. What was the use of attempting serious argument if they knew that the Minister had merely to sit silent, that at the end of the evening the guillotine would be applied, and that the ministerial voting machines would come in from the library and the smoking-room to vote down arguments which they had not been in the House to hear? It was really a very serious matter, and one which must be considered by hon. Members sitting, not only on the Opposition side, but in all parts of the House. He was convinced that unless something could be done to restore the reality of their debates and the independence of Members, the reputation and the personnel of the House would seriously suffer, and the result would be progressively to throw more and more power into the hands of the Government of the day, so that the proceedings in the House of Commons would become less and less important, and they would have destroyed that which they valued so highly—the representative nature of the Government and of Parliament. He felt that it was not only those Resolutions that had contributed to that position; it was much more largely, no doubt, the rigidity of the Party system. That was not a matter that could be dealt with by any Resolution of the House. It must be dealt with by some combined attack on the Party machine, and that must be by some Corrupt Practices Act or something of that kind. But these Resolutions did make the House of Commons a less independent, less real, and less genuine representative Assembly and less able to reflect the opinion of the people of the country. He felt very strongly that if they were to have such rules the House should insist that they should not be a kind of Act of Attainder against Parliamentary freedom on particular measures; They should have a general system or plan of dealing with discussions in the House and applying to all measures, but 1399 not applied at the will of the Government to a particular form of coercion, or to a particular Bill. Whether the best plan would be by means of a Committee of Business, which would settle at the beginning of each session or of each measure the particular amount of time to be allotted to that measure, or by some other plan, he was not quite certain, and he did not ask the House to express any opinion as to what the precise plan should be. His own inclination was to believe, not that a Committee of business was the right solution, but that some greatly extended power should be conferred upon Mr. Speaker with the view of curtailing unnecessary and useless debate, which was not really advanced in the interest of any object which was legitimately desired by any Member of the House. He himself thought that what would be more useful than a Committee of Rules, or an extended power of closure conferred on the Speaker, would be the restoration to Members of their Parliamentary self-respect, the re-creation of independence of hon. Members, so that they could appeal with some hope of success by reason and argument to hon. Members who constituted for the time being the majority of the House. He begged to move.
§ MR. MILDMAY (Devonshire, Totnes),
in seconding, thought that it was universally recognised by all on the Opposition side of the House that the Secretary of State for War was the last man to wish that the discussion on his proposals should be unduly curtailed. A good many of them knew that he was conscientiously desirous that his Bill should receive all the consideration due to so important a measure. And further they acknowledged that so eminently fair was his nature that least of all the Members of the Cabinet was he likely to have assented to these closing proposals as part of a policy of forcing a number of undiscussed Bills through the House of Commons with a view to bombarding and confounding the House of Lords. The time allotted for the discussion of the various stages of this Bill might be adequate or inadequate. To the Opposition, naturally, it appeared that, in comparison with guillotine proposals on 1400 other measures, the allotted time erred on the side of inadequacy. But however that might be, that was not the quarter raised by the Amendment. The noble Lord who proposed the Amendment and they who supported it wished to give the House of Commons the opportunity of declaring that these Resolutions dealing with the allocation of time for different stages of particular Bills were a hand to mouth expedient, and an unsatisfactory method of dealing with the difficulty. They wished the House to declare that it was time that the difficulties were properly faced. They wished for a declaration that the duty of laying down general rules in this connection, applicable to all Bills, should no longer be shirked. The Prime Minister in the course of his speech had taken great credit to himself for the improvement in his guillotine methods, but he (Mr. Mildmay) could see no improvement. The only change was that the guillotine was proposed at an earlier date and was to be more drastic in its action. The Prime Minister had described in his speech how they had been in the habit in the past of floundering through the first half of a Bill and scrambling through the second half. The process was to be very little changed; in future, it appeared, they were to scramble through the whole of the Bill. Luckily this was not a measure which, so far, had been provocative of violent Part antagonisms. Most devoutly did he hope that hon. Members would not allow it to become so. But let them take the two Education Bills which of late years had been carried through the House of Commons by both Parties. Could the guillotine Resolutions in connection with either of those Bills have been discussed under circumstances more fatal to the fair and dispassionate settlement of a time-table? Governments in the past had been in the habit, first of introducing a Bill, perhaps a very controversial Bill, and then, after days of heated discussion thereon, when full play had been given to Party bitterness, when the Members of the House were all on edge, coming down to the House and trying to force through a Resolution curtailing debate on the remaining stages to an extent which invariably appeared to the Opposition to be wholly unjustifiable. The necessity of doing something to cope with the excessive discussion on the Committee 1401 stage must have been recognised by all. Many years ago the Leader of the Opposition had said—It is absolutely necessary to do something to curtail the efforts of those who desire to deal with legislation not by arguments, bat by obstruction.The power of applying the closure had been effectual in preventing undue discussion on the First, Second, and Third Readings of Bills. But it was not effectual at the Committee stage. They all knew that a Bill could be swamped by the weight of Amendments. The closure applied to each Amendment was an impossible way of coping with the difficulty. But, on the other hand, every fair-minded Member of the House must admit that closure by compartment was a most clumsy expedient and quite indefensible, because under such schemes most important Amendments, and most vital provisions of the Bill might go undiscussed. The fact that there had been or was likely to be obstruction did not condone the wholesale slaughter of Amendments good, bad, and indifferent. Then there was another argument which ought to weigh heavily with the supporters of the Government. Let them consider how closure by compartments so repeatedly employed had over and over again proved the usefulness and, indeed, the absolute necessity of the House of Lords. That must, he thought, be very distasteful to hon. Gentlemen opposite. He would put it to them, would it have been possible to guillotine the greater part of the second Home Rule Bill, to force the greater part of that Bill through the Committee stage without any discussion at all, but for the fact that the House of Commons knew that the House of Lords was behind it? Let them take a less ambitious measure—the Education Bill which was passed through the House of Commons last session. Was he not right in saying that largely, if not wholly, in consequence of the curtailment of debate in the House of Commons the Government Amendments passed in the House of Lords to their own Bill had bulked more largely than all the Amendments carried by the Opposition in that House?They knew the debates on these guillotine proposals so perfectly well. Each side always accused the other of being a worse offender than itself in the past. The same tu quoque arguments were repeated, there were the same recriminations which tired those 1402 who had listened to them for twenty years past. The Government had a large majority in the House; he appealed to them to take their courage in both hands and to tackle the question. It was not an easy question to tackle. Mr. Speaker might be unwilling to assume a greater responsibility than the heavy responsibility which was already his. But if he were willing to give to the Government his valuable help and advice in this connection, and if the Government approached the consideration of the question with an earnest desire to act in accordance with the general feeling throughout the House, he thought that it ought not to be impossible to improve upon the present guillotine methods of dealing with the difficulty, which methods must be so unsatisfactory, and, indeed, so repugnant to all who had the efficiency of the House at heart.
To leave out all after the word 'that' to the end, in order to add the words ' it is inexpedient that any farther Resolutions dealing with the allocation of time for particular Bills should be passed except as part of a general system by which the liberties of this House shall be properly safeguarded.'"—(Lord R. Cecil.)
§ * MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
said he had a good deal of sympathy with the observations which had been made upon this matter by the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment. Like all Members who had known what it was to sit in Opposition, and to be part of a small minority, he did not like guillotine Resolutions. But under existing methods of doing business they could not be avoided by any Government. They were a kind of a Government net to catch the torpedoes of the Opposition, and if they did not use their powers they would fall into disgrace through having their Bills and schemes destroyed. The principal object of an Opposition in the House of Commons, as a matter of fact, was twofold: first to turn out the Government of the day as speedily as they could; and secondly, to prevent the passage of as many Government Bills as possible which, to them, 1403 were obnoxious. It did not matter whether it was a Tory Party or a Liberal Party who were in Opposition. A Liberal Opposition would try to prevent obnoxious Tory Bills becoming law, and a Tory Opposition would try to prevent obnoxious Liberal Bills becoming law. In order to attain that end it was necessary for the Opposition to discuss measures at considerable length, and to occupy as much of the time of the Government as they possibly could, because in that event the fewer Government measures would be passed into law. For that reason he had never spoken of obstruction in a disparaging manner, as he recognised that under existing conditions it was a fair Parliamentary weapon. He well remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, speaking on a guillotine Resolution, with candour said that he had obstructed Government measures when he was in Opposition, and that when he was in Opposition again he hoped to obstruct again. He was not at all sure that the right hon. Gentleman was not correct in his employment of obstruction as a fair Parliamentary weapon. But in order to prevent these methods being successful the Government were obliged to pass Resolutions like the one now proposed, which also was a fair Parliamentary weapon. Let them never forget that the country, as a whole, did not mind how drastic their methods of closure in the House were; but what they wanted was that they should get their work done. He thought the Government should make some alteration in regard to guillotine Resolutions, because they seemed to have one for every separate Bill. He thought that all Bills ought to be read a second time early in the session, and thon there should be a comprehensive Resolution with a time table which might be applied to them all. Of course, they must always protect the rights of minorities, and they should consult the Opposition with regard to the allocation of the time. The Government should say how many days they could afford to devote to a Bill and ask the opinion of the Opposition as to the manner in which they should be allocated. He was inclined to think that any Opposition which understood its business, as the present one did, would agree to such a proposition, as 1404 under the present practice the Opposition lost valuable Parliamentary privileges and opportunities. What happened now after a guillotine Resolution had been passed? The Opposition usually commenced, as soon as the Bill was brought in, to discuss some unimportant Amendment. Speeches were made on it on both sides of the House, it was often ended by closure, and no consideration was paid to the fact that at 10.30 the guillotine would fall. In this way the Opposition lost valuable Parliamentary opportunities. They lost the opportunity of making speeches on difficult and embarrassing Amendments. True it was that no one had much hope of converting the Minister in charge of the Bill by such speeches, but it must always be remembered that speeches in that House were partly delivered in order to influence opinion outside, and to lose the opportunity of making such speeches was for the Opposition a serious loss. Then, too, under existing methods they frequently lost the opportunity of making supporters of the Government vote on embarrassing Amendments. Such Amendments could be moved to almost every Bill, and to lee supporters of the Government escape from voting was to lose a valuable Opposition opportunity. If, therefore, by means of a business Committee some such arrangement as he had suggested could be brought about they would at once see the end of obstruction. It would become an injury to the Opposition, and hence would speedily be considered bad Parliamentary form. And, as a matter of fact they would, never abolish obstruction until it became bad Parliamentary form. So far he had dealt with the matter from a purely Party point of view, but of course there was a much higher point of view, that of the public service. In the interests of the country it was advisable that every difficult point of importance should be debated across the floor of the House. When obstruction was ended, that could be done, legislation would be better and the influence of Parliament would increase.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
said that the hon. Member for Barnstaple had made an exceedingly shrewd and valuable contribution to this extremely important discussion. The hon. Member 1405 had admitted that Resolutions of this kind were an abuse, but he had defended them on the ground that in the present state of business some such resort as the guillotine was necessary to any Government in power. The hon. Gentleman had said that he had never spoken disparagingly of obstruction; and they on the Opposition side of the House were obliged to him for the statement, for they all recognised that the hon. Gentleman was a considerable authority on the matter. It was not very long ago that a very important Motion standing in the: name of the hon. Member referring to a very technical question was, on the sole request of a single member of the Cabinet, no doubt to his dismay and consternation, withdrawn. The hon. Gentleman had said that such drastic treatment of the House of Commons was necessary because it was imperative that they should get on with their work. It was important to consider for a moment what was the cause of the confusion and what was the work which the House of Commons did. Was it; that when the Government produced an important Bill or a certain mumber of Bills the whole work of the House of Commons consisted in passing them into law with the greatest expedition? If that was really the correct view of the function of this House, Resolutions of this kind were absolutely necessary; but if that was not their function then such Motions were absolutely indefensible, mischievous, and dangerous in a high degree. On the Opposition; Benches they had recently remarked as extraordinary that in what he believed was called a democratic Parliament, under a democratic Government, the first action taken should be to destroy the House of. Commons as a democratic body. That was a very significant and formidable state of things. The hon. Gentleman had suggested that the people of the country did not care about the deliberative qualities of the House of Commons, and that all they wanted was to have forced upon them without discussion through a muzzled Chamber the decrees of the Government. If that were true the usefulness of the House was entirely destroyed, and it became perfectly ridiculous for any man with any views at all to give up his business time and his leisure and to come and sit there merely in order to help forward the democratic 1406 desires of right hon. Gentlemen. The truth was that the function of the House was not merely to pass Bills but to pass good and workable measures, and he hold that measures merely proceeding from the back rooms of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench and put through the House without any opportunity being given for really discussing them, would never be either good or workable in the real sense of those words, and would afterwards have to be amended or reversed, which would take up the time of Parliament in later years. He utterly disliked the whole of these proceedings, and he did not admit that it was necessary to limit even the total time which the House was to take in considering a Bill of this gigantic and fundamental importance. He believed it was only by letting the House of Commons "go" at a Bill of this kind that they would make a workable piece of legislation, arrive at a final settlement, and save time. But whilst on general grounds he objected to the Resolution, he was bound also to say that when they came to the particular divisions in regard to time he was even more confirmed in his opposition. The right hon. Gentleman had said he had given a great deal of trouble and consideration to the allocation of the days, so that proper time should be given to each point of importance. He (Mr. Bowles) was no authority whatever upon Army matters, and there was only one question in the Bill upon which he felt fit or capable to say anything at all, but that was an extremely important point. He referred to the financial Resolution and the financial portions of the Bill. The House would observe that according to the right hon. Gentleman's plan they were to have only the fag end of one day to deal with the financial Resolution, and the fag end of the next day to deal with the Report stage. What did those financial proposals mean? They set up an indefinite number of spending authorities having powers, also perfectly indefinite, over sums of money, which were evidently going to be enormous. The whole of the stupendous power in regard to these moneys was under the Bill to be given to the right hon. Gentleman. In his opinion the finance of the Bill would wreck the scheme in the end, and was the real danger and difficulty in regard to it; but apparently they were to 1407 have this tremendous financial revolution forced upon the country without any discussion in the House. The financial clauses might never be reached at all. That surely was not a proper allocation of time, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would, in his heart at all events, admit that to make a change of that kind under these circumstances was to reduce the House of Commons in its most important aspect to a derogatory position, and to treat it with contempt. He disliked and distrusted the whole of this system of guillotine closure. He believed that it was totally unnecessary, and that arrangements could be made under which the House without provisions of this kind could exercise the great deliberative functions which were its great glory. It was not to pass Bills that the House of Commons existed, but to discuss them and to see that they were not ridiculous, unnecessary, and dangerous. The House of Commons was not there to support Parties, but to control and enlighten, and when these invaluable privileges were attacked, as they were by the Resolution before the House, he should always feel bound to resist proposals of that kind in general, and he felt bound to resist in particular these proposals, which produced a revolution in the character of the House, would go far beyond this present Parliament, and would have a far-reaching effect upon the legislation under which the country was to live in future.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said his only excuse for intervening was that, in common with many hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, he wished this Bill to pass with unanimity, believing as he did that if it passed leaving any sense of injustice in the minds either of hon. Members below the gangway or of hon. Members opposite the Louse had better not pass it at all. The Bill imposed an obligation upon people who were not obliged to do anything at all, and if it were passed in a manner which gave rise to any sense of injustice its efficiency would be destroyed. Therefore he would not support the proposal of his right hon. friend if he supposed that it would cause a great grievance to hon. Members opposite. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite that the 1408 whole of these guillotine Resolutions were detestable, and it was a fact that the more guillotine there was, the more obstruction was provoked, It had been said by an hon. friend of his that there were three ways of governing a country: by bullets, by priests, and by talk, and talk was the best of the three, and so far as they abolished talk they would have to resort to other measures. But while he objected to guillotine Resolutions in general and this one in particular, he would urge upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the time given under this proposal was not really unduly short. He remembered they had in the last Parliament to urge the Leader of the Opposition to give more time for the discussion of another far-reaching scheme of Army reform. The right hon. Gentleman met them with extreme generosity, and took the scheme out of guillotine Resolution and gave them two or three days for the discussion. He remembered, however, the immense difficulty they had in keeping the debate going. The fact was that the number of Members who took part in Army debates was very small, and although when in Opposition they all protested there was not enough time given for them, when it came to the point there was a difficulty in keeping the debate going. It had been so in the past, and he suggested it might be so in regard to this Bill, if his right hon. friend were to regard this Resolution as being passed not as a law of the Medes and Persians, but as a thing which could be altered. He thought there was a precedent for that, and that similar guillotine Resolutions had been altered after they had been passed. He would urge his right hon. friend to meet the Opposition and give them further time, believing that the Bill could never be a success unless it was accepted by general consent. He thought, however, that when it came to the point there would be ample time for discussion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
thought there was much sound sense in what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but it was not so easy to modify guillotine proposals as he suggested. There was a method by which it could be done if the Government were willing parties to the transaction, for all guillotine Resolutions had in them the fact that 1409 such a thing was to be done on an allotted day, and if the Government desired to increase the length of time for the Bill, they had only to put down some small measure as the business of the day, and then afterwards discuss the particular Bill to which the guillotine Resolution referred. The flank of the Resolution was then turned. The hon. and gallant Gentleman professed to say that the difficulty of keeping an Army debate going was so great that six days were sufficient for the purpose. His own experience of the past did not load him to take that view. He reminded the House than far larger questions were raised by this Bill than were ever raised by the former Army Bill to which reference had been made, and the time given for discussion was much shorter. The number of questions raised was very large, and he believed it would be found difficult to compress all the questions into six days, with the result that a great number of questions that the House most wanted to discuss would not come before it at all, but would simply be formally pat from the Chair after the fatal hour of ten o'clock arrived. He could not agree with the Secretary of State for War when he said that, so far as this was an enabling Bill, it did not require very lengthened discussion. The House was not discussing this as an enabling but as a positive measure. If it was not a positive measure it was nothing. If it was not intended to create a great change let them not discuss it for six days. The Government had brought in a positive Bill in an enabling form. That, however, might be regarded as more relevant to many other questions than to the particular Amendment which his noble friend had moved. He proposed to vote for that Amendment. He had himself made proposals in favour of a general scheme, and that which seemed to find most favour was one giving to a Business Committee the power of allotting the time to a particular measure The plan of a Business Committee, which should make a plan for the whole session, was one which he was afraid would be beset with great difficulties. He was far from ruling it out as impossible, however, and thought it well worthy of careful discussion. His mind had been rather turning in another direction. He had often wondered whether they could nut make their debates really interesting and 1410 important by settling upon a series of propositions in connection with important Bills, which could be discussed seriatim downstairs on the floor of the House, the discussion in each case being stopped by closure; then the Committee upstairs, having been seized of the separate propositions, might be trusted to do the drafting part, the detailed and machinery part, and when the Bill came back to the House on Report it would be felt that all the essential elements had been discussed in the true and only theatre of debate, namely, the floor of the House, and with the full knowledge of the House and the public. In the Committee stage at present it was difficult for anybody outside to follow the course of the debates. The real thing which every body who cared for the House—and nobody outside the House really cared for it—ought to aim at was to try and make their discussions both full and interesting. He had given a great deal of reflection to this problem, and, though he did not profess to have come to a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion, he was inclined to think the plan he had adumbrated promised the best results. He did not think the plan of throwing more responsibility upon the Speaker was a possible one. The House already threw a burden of responsibility upon the Chair which was almost too great, and he could never be a party to increasing the burden. And he thought there were great difficulties in getting the Opposition and the Government to agree as to the amount of time to be given to every Bill. Let them imagine a Committee at work on this Bill. The Secretary of State came down and said he had looked through the Bid with his draftsmen and was convinced that it could be discussed in six days. The Opposition said they could not do anything of the kind, there were many important points to be discussed, and it could not be done in the time. The whole thing would thon break down. He believed they could arrive at some arrangement in this way. They could draw up together the propositions each side wished to have threshed out, and if that were done the debate on each proposition would be finished as other debates were, by closure if not by agreement. Having had to give some considerable thought to this whole question, both as Leader of 1411 the House and as Leader of the Opposition, he hoped the House would not mind if in a tentative form he threw out a suggestion, which he was sure was worthy of consideration, and which he thought would be more productive in the long run than any attempt to settle the matter by a Business Committee drawn from both sides of the House. Personally he thought the Government asked the House to deal with too many Bills in the course of the session; but if they threw upon a Committee the duty of deciding how long each Bill was to take, were they to take into account the general programme of the Government in regard to legislation or not? If they did not, how were they going to deal with the allocation of time? He believed his plan would give the House more freedom than it possessed now. A large number of Members who voted for the Second Beading wanted the Bill changed in really important particulars, and those hon. Members would never Live an opportunity of asking the House to come to a decision on the matters in which they were interested. The questions would remain untouched and undealt with, or if dealt with at all they would not be dealt with within the walls of that Assembly. The situation was admittedly a grave one. Everyone must feel that each time one of these closure Resolutions was passed they were not fulfilling either in the eyes of the public or in their own eyes the functions for which they were sent there. They were sent there to debate and to discuss and anything which curtailed debate and discussion pro tanto diminished their utility. He admitted in Opposition, as he had urged when in office, that discussion of details might easily go too far, might easily reach the point when, though not irrelevant and obstructive in the technical sense, it became wearisome and useless. But while admitting all this, he still thought that they could not rest content with these guillotine Resolutions, which were essentially an absurdity when applied to an Assembly the whole reason of whose existence was either to criticise the administrative actions of the Government or to deal with the details of the various legislative proposals which the Government or private Members brought forward. For these reasons he would 1412 show his sense of the gravity of the situation by supporting his noble friend in the lobby.
§ MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.)
said the contributions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in questions of this kind were always important and interesting, but they could not with any advantage discuss the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition on this particular Resolution, though he entirely agreed with him that something would have to be done in the near future if the House was to be an effective and efficient machine. But the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would really add a stage to the proceedings on a Bill, and he did not think any of them desired to add to the number of opportunities for debate, for besides Committee upstairs, they had the First and Second Reading stages, and Report, which afforded ample occasions for debate. But surely the principle which underlay the proposal of the Government was the right one. It was the only time that a Member of the Government had proposed, before going into Committee on a Bill, a guillotine Resolution of that kind; but he believed that taking into consideration the matters dealt with by the measure it was a fair allocation of time. After all, there was not very much to complain of in the length of time to be given. It was surely better to proceed thus, than that they should discuss day after day the first clause of the Bill, and then find at the end of six or seven days that the Government had got only six or seven words of it. The result of that was that they did not get to the really important parts of the measure which everybody in the House desired to see discussed. He hoped it would be entrusted to the Procedure Committee to see whether anything could be done to devise something in the nature of a Business Committee such as had been suggested, which would give the House full and fair opportunity for discussion. The right hon. Gentleman had said that only Members of the House cared for the House of Commons, and that the country did not care for the House of Commons at all. That might be an epigrammatic statement containing some truth, but he thought it was true only in so far as the country had come to 1413 the conclusion that they were wasting time by constant and miscellaneous discussion. After all, it must come back to this—the conscience of every Member of the House to do what was right by Parliament in making not too long, or too frequent, but only what were necessary and fair contributions to debates, in order to get at the bottom of measures under consideration. As to the Amendment, he was not a little surprised to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was going to vote for it. It merely said that they must not have the guillotine Resolution on any Bill during the existence of the present Government unless they first of all agreed upon and brought into effect a proposal for dealing with the general business of the House. He believed a fair measure of time had been allowed for discussion of the Bill, and in the confident belief that the Government had taken the right course in proposing this guillotine Resolution, he would vote for it and against the Amendment.
§ MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said that as he would have no opportunity of moving the Amendment which he had on the Paper, he desired to say a word on the Amendment now before the House. He made no apology for intruding in a debate of this kind, because he felt that the Resolution went further than the Bill to which it applied and was no mere question of procedure In his view it invited them to take part in the formal; inauguration of bureaucratic Government, and even the youngest and least experienced Member of the House was justified in making a vigorous protest against the proposal of the Government. The Prime Minister had claimed that sufficient time had been given for the discussion of the Territorial Army Bill. He did not agree with him. But even if the time were sufficient, he still thought that they ought vigorously to oppose the Resolution, because the principle was the same whether the time allowed was sufficient or not. If in future discussion on all Bills was to be restricted, the Government of the day ought not to be the sole arbiter as to the extent of that restriction, because they necessarily looked at the question of the allocation of the time of the House from the point of view of their load of legislation, rather than from the point of view of the particular 1414 merits of the Bill. If, therefore, restriction of debate was to become an established thing, he hoped some such scheme as had been suggested might be discovered and adopted. Surely it was desirable that someone as independent as possible should decide the allocation of time on the merits of each Bill when it came before the House, and that not merely the amount of time should be given which the Government thought they could afford. The Prime Minister said they could spare nine days. On the other hand a Business Committee would look at the matter from exactly the other point of view, and would say what time should be devoted to this or to that clause of a Bill according to its importance. At all events, they would produce a much more equitable system than was contained in the Resolution of the Government, who kept the sole decision in their own hands. The Prime Minister had said that he was in favour of such a Committee, but that it was impossible to set up one this session. Why was it impossible? He did not see why it should be. The Prime Minister smiled. He felt that it might be somewhat impertinent of him to challenge the opinion of one of the Prime Minister's great experience, but he certainly thought that it might be possible for the House, without any long or serious debate, to set up an independent Business Committee. The Secretary of State for War had said that six days for Committee was sufficient, because the House had already approved of the general principle of the Bill on the First and Second Readings. This Bill dealt, inter alia, with the whole of the Auxiliary Forces, and practically placed them under a new organisation. The House knew how very varied were the conditions which prevailed throughout those forces. It must inevitably often happen that some of the particular points affecting certain regiments might seem unimportant to hon. Gentlemen in touch with some other part of the country. It might also happen that only a few hon. Members would be qualified to give a reliable opinion upon the points arising in a Bill of this character. It was of great importance, in order to get an efficient scheme, that those experts should be heard, in order that the result of their experience should be embodied in the Bill. The Territorial Army Bill was likely to be deficient and a failure as 1415 regarded individual regiments if those who hold strong opinions on the subject were not afforded an opportunity of expressing their views. John Stuart Mill, in his work on "Liberty," said—If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no mote justified in silencing that one person than that one person would be justified, if he had the power, in silencing mankind.He did not think one day was sufficient for the discussion of the financial Resolution. Important provisions like those, contained in Clause 13 ought not to be left as one of the six or eight clauses to be discussed in a single day. He urged the right hon Gentleman to endeavour to find some system which would make the debates on this subject interesting and do away with the wholesale use of the guillotine. If the Government could not meet them in this way he hoped that some system would be adopted under which the guillotine might be applied in such a way that the Opposition would not feel that they were being robbed of opportunities of free discussion at the whim of the Government.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
said they had been told that the Resolution would destroy the efficiency y of the House of Commons, which was being turned into a mere machine to register the decrees of the Government. The noble Lord opposite had said that if they took 400 members from the street and brought them into the House they would be able to carry this Resolution just as well as it was being done by hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side. He wished to point out that there were many
§ hon. Members who did not follow the Government just as they were told, and he had always voted according to what he thought was right. He wished to appeal to the House to consider this question from a business standpoint. He was sure hon. Members had been simply astounded at the deliberate waste of time that took place in the House of Commons. This measure had been considered in the House for eleven and a half days, and he would like to ask was there any Committee of business men outside the House which would have taken that length of time to deal with the subject. There were certain men in the House of Commons who talked upon every conceivable subject which came before them, whether they had any knowledge or not, with the result that the House was bored to death and did not want to listen to them. He might take the last speech they had heard as an example, because with the exception of the noble Lord opposite there was not a single member of the Opposition listening to him. If every Member of the House of Commons was to be allowed to speak on every subject, it would be impossible for the Government to get legislation through. What the country had returned hon. Members to the House of Commons for was not so much to discuss, as to pass legislation. If the Prime Minister went out of his way to give any more time he would disappoint his supporters who were of opinion that sufficient time had been allotted already for a thorough discussion of the matter.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 324; Noes, 84. (Division List No. 157.)1419
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.B||Barlow John Emmott(Som'rs't||Boland, John|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Bowerman, C. W.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Barnes, G. N.||Brace, William|
|Agnew, George William||Barry, E. (Cork. R.)||Branch, James|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Barry,RedmondJ.(Tyrone,N.)||Bright, J. A.|
|Alden. Percy||Beauchamp, E.||Brocklehurst, W. B.|
|Allen,A.Acland(Christchurch)||Beck, A. Cecil||Brooke, Stopford|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bell, Richard||Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs.. Leigh)|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Benn, W.(T' w'rHamlets.S. Geo.||Brunner,RtHnSirJ.T(Cheshire|
|Asquith.Rt.Hn.HerbertHenry||Berridge, T. H. D.||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Astbury, John Meir||Bethell,SirJ.H.(Essex,Romf'rd||Buckmaster, Stanley O.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Bethell,T.R.(Essex,Maldon)||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Billson, Alfred||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Baker.Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.||Birrell,Rt. Hon.Augustine||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Black, Arthur W.||Buxton, Rt.Hn.SidneyCharles|
|Baring,Godfrey(Isle of Wight)||Blake, Edward||Byles, William Pollard|
|Cairns, Thomas||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Meehan, Patrick A.|
|Cameron, Robert||Harwood, George||Menzies, Walter|
|Campbell- Bannerman,SirH.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Carr-Gomm. H. W.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Causton, RtHn.RichardKnight||Hayden, John Patrick||Mond, A.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Chance, Frederick William||Hazelton Richard||Mooney, J. J.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Hedges, A. Paget||Morgan, J.Lloyd(Carmarthen)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R,||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Morley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Clarke, C.Goddard(Peckham)||Henry, Charles S.||Napier, T. B.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Herbert,ColonelIvor(Mon.,S.)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Clough, William||Herbert, T. Arnold(Wycombe)||Nicholson, CharleslN.(Donc'st'r|
|Clynes, J. R.||Higham, John Sharp||Nolan, Joseph|
|Coats,SirT.Glen(Renfrew,W.)||Hobart, Sir Robert||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Hedge, John||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hogan. Michael||Nuttall, Harry|
|Corbett,CH(Sussex,E.Grinst'd||Holden, E. Hopkinson||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ey Mid|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Hope, W. Bateman(Somerset,N||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Crooks, William||Horniman, Emslie John||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Hudson, Walter||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Crossley, William J.||Hyde, Clarendon||O'Dowd, John|
|Davies,M.Vaughan-(Cardigan||Idris, T. H. W.||O'Grady, J.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Illingworth, Percy H.||O'Kelly, James(Roscom'on,N.|
|Delany, William||Jackson, R. S.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Jardine, Sir J.||O'Shee, James John|
|Dickinson. W.H.(S.Pancras,N.||Jenkins, J.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Dillon, John||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Partington, Oswald|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Jones, William(Carnarvonshire||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Duckworth, James||Jowett, F. W.||Pearce, Robert(Staffs. Leek)|
|Duffy, William J.||Kekewich, Sir George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Duncan,C.(Barrow-in-Furness||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pearson, W.H.M.(Suffolk.Eye)|
|Dunne.MajorE. Martin(Walsall)||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Philipps,J.Wynford(Pembroke|
|Elibank, Master of||King, AlfredJohn(Knutsford)||Philipps.OwenC.(Pembroke)|
|Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Erskine, David C.||Laidlaw, Robert||Pollard, Dr.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lamb,EdmundG(Leominster||Price,C.E.(Edinb'gh,Central)|
|Essex, R. W.||Lamb, Ernest H.(Rochester)||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Lambert, George||Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E,)|
|Evans, Samuel T.||Lamont, Norman||Radford, G. H.|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Law,Hugh A.(Donegal,W.)||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Lehmann, R. C.||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Lever, A. Levy(Essex,Harwich||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Levy, Maurice||Rea, Walter Russell(Scarboro'|
|Ferens, T. R.||Lewis, John Herbert||Redmond, JohnE.(Waterford)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Lloyd-George,Rt. Hon. David||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Field, William||Lough, Thomas||Rees, J. D.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Lundon, W.||Renton, Major Leslie|
|Findlay, Alexander||Lupton, Arnold||Richards, T.F.(Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lynch, H. B.||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Macdonald, J. R.(Leicester)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Macdonald, J. M(FalkirkB'ghs||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs).|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. HerbertJohn||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Robertson,RtHnE.(Dundee)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Robertson,SirGScott(Bradf'rd|
|Glover. Thomas||MacNeill,JohnGordon Swift||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Goddard. Daniel Ford||Macpherson, J. T.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Gooch, George Peabody||MacVeigh, Charles(Donegal, E.)||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Grant, Corrie||M'Crae, George||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Rowlands, J.|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||M'Kean, John||Runciman, Walter|
|Grey, Rt. Hon.Sir Edward||M'Killop, W.||Russell, T. W.|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Samuel,HerbertL.(Cleveland)|
|Gulland, John W.||M'Micking, Major G.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Maddison, Frederick||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Mallet, Charles E.||Scott,A.H.(AshtonunderLyne|
|Haldane, Rt.Hon.Richard B.||Manfield. Harry (Northants)||Sears, J. E.|
|Halpin, J.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Seddon, J.|
|Harcourt, Rt.Hon. Lewis||Marks,G.Croydon(Lanaceston||Show, Rt. Hon. T. (HawickB.)|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Marnham, F. J.||Sheehy, David|
|Harrington, Timothy||Meagher, Michael||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Torrance, Sir A. M.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Silcock, Thomas Ball||Toulmin, George||Whitley, JohnHenry (Halifax)|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Ure, Alexander||Whittaker,SirThomasPalmer|
|Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Verney, F. W.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Smyth,ThomasF.(Leitrim,S.)||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose||Wilkie. Alexander|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Walker.H. DeR. (Leicester)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Stanger, H. Y.||Walton, Sir John L.(Leeds, S.)||Williams, Llewelyn(Carmarth'n|
|Stanley,Hn.A.Lyulph(Chesh.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Williams, Osmond(Merioneth)|
|Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Ward,John(Stoke upon Trent||Wilson, John Durham,Mid)|
|Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||Wardle, George J.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Waring, Walter||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Wason,Eugene(Clackmannan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Summerbell, T.||Wason, JohnCathcart(Orkney)||Winfrey, R.|
|Taylor,TheodoreC. Radcliffe)||Waterlow, D. S.||Wood.T. M'Kinnon|
|Tennant,SirEdward(Salisb'ry||Watt, Henry A.||Young, Samuel|
|Thomas, Abel(Carmarthen,E.)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Thomas,SirA.(Glamorgan,E.)||Weir, James Galloway||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Thomas,DavidAlfred(Merthyr||White, George (Norfolk||Whitley and Mr. J. A.|
|Thompson,J.W.H.(Somerset,E||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)||Pease.|
|Tillett, Louis John||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Craig,CaptainJames(Down,E.)||Nield, Herbert|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Craik, Sir Henry||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Aubrey- Fletcher.Rt. Hon.SirH.||Dalrymple, Viscount||Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington|
|Balcarres, Lord||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Percy, Earl|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Duncan,Robert Lanark,Govan||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Balfour, RtHn. A. J. (CityLond.)||Faber, George Denison (York)||Rawlinson,JohnFrederickPeel|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fardell, Sir T. George||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry,N.||Fell, Arthur||Roberts,S.(Sheffield,Ecclesall)|
|Beach, Hn. MichaelHughHicks||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Fletcher, J. S.||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Forster, Henry William||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gordon, J.||Sheffield.SirBerkeleyGeorgeD.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Haddock, George R.||Smith,AbelH. (Hertford,East)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hamilton, Marquess of||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hardy,Laurence(Kent,Ashford||Starkey, John R.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Thomoson, W.Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J.H. M.||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hills, J. W.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Houston. Robert Paterson||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kenyon-Slaney,Rt.Hon.Col.W.||Wilson, A. Stanley(York, E. R.)|
|Cave, George||Keswick, William||Wortley, Rt. Hon.C.B.Stuart-|
|Cavendish, Rt.Hon.VictorC. W.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Younger, George|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Liddell, Henry|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone.E.)||Long,Rt.Hn.Walter(Dublin,S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Chamberlain.RtHn.J.A.(Wore.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Cocbrane, Hon.Thos. H. A. E.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Viscount Valentia.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
Bill read a second time, and committed.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH (Derbyshire, W.)
moved to leave out the words "including the financial Resolution relating thereto." He was somewhat encouraged to hope that the Government would accept this Amendment. He understood that the argument in favour of including the financial resolution in the closure proposal was based on two grounds. One was that this was an enabling Bill, and the other that a great number of the points had previously been dealt with to a very considerable extent on the Second Heading. He 1420 did not think it could be claimed that the scheme, either in regard to the amount it would cost, or in regard to a matter which, to his mind, was much more important, namely, its form and purpose, had received adequate discussion in previous debates. At Question time there had been a certain amount of elucidation given by the Secretary of State for War in answers to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the method of extracting information by Question 1421 and Answer as to the real proposals of the Bill was unsatisfactory, and ought not to be encouraged to any considerable extent. He and his friends were only anxious that there should be an opportunity for the financial proposals in connection with this measure being adequately discussed as a whole, and not in the partial or detached manner in which the debates had hitherto been conducted. The right hon. Gentleman had given them some reason to hope that he would accept this Amendment, for only that day he had stated in reply to a Question by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that on the Committee stage of the financial Resolution he would make a statement, and further that he would consider the possibility or desirability of laying a statement on the Table of the House. That, at any rate, was sufficient to show that the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the House of Commons was not yet fully apprised of the intentions of the Government with reference to the financial operation of the measure. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to see his way to remove the financial Resolution from the operation of the guillotine. Personally he did not think that the discussion of the Resolution would take very long. He was very much in the dark at present, and while he did not wish hostilely to criticise the right hon. Gentleman, he wanted to know the exact nature of the proposals, how the accounts would come before the House of Commons, how they would be dealt with in the Committee stage, and how they would come before the Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General. It was upon these questions that short explanations from the right hon. Gentleman would clear away many doubts and uncertainties which existed in their minds at present. It must be evident that if they followed the course laid down in this Resolution, to all intents and purposes it would be practically certain that on the Committee stage of the financial Resolution there would be no discussion, for it was to be taken at the conclusion of the first day. He did not know whether the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had been informed on the matter, but he did not think the House of Commons had been informed 1422 that it was the intention of the Government to take the Report stage at the beginning of the second day. It must be obvious to the House that the Report stage on such a Resolution afforded by no means an adequate opportunity for discussing it. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench when in opposition attached very considerable importance to the constitutional point of view, and maintained that the rights of the House of Commons should be safeguarded by having due time for the discussion of such Resolutions. It was the almost universal feeling that this safe guard should not be dispensed with unless there was grave and sufficient reason for so doing. The practical effect of the guillotine Resolution would be to exclude this constitutional check on the expenditure of the country which had been one of the privileges of the House Commons. He might be told that questions which could be raised on the Resolution could also be raised on the clause of the Bill. There were a good many alterations which he felt inclined to suggest to the Government by way of Amendments to that clause. He had hitherto refrained from putting an Amendment on the Paper because he did not know exactly what the Government proposed to do finally; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to clear up this point, as there was a very general desire in the House that more definite information should be given. The Resolution, although technically not a part of the Bill, was yet a distinct stage in its passage through the House. He begged to move.
In line 2, to leave out the words 'including the financial Resolution relating thereto.'"—(Mr. Cavendish.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
asked whether the financial Resolution, being a distinct proceeding, ought not to have a particular time allotted to it. Sub-section (a) said that Clauses 1 and 2, and the Committee stage of the financial Resolution were to be brought to a conclusion on the first allotted day. It was obvious if that 1423 reading was correct that the financial Resolution might not be discussed at all.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said he did not think that the fears of the hon. Members were well founded, since the Report stage of the financial Resolution must be taken first on the second allotted day. There was. moreover, nothing to prevent the House saying that discussion of any Bill should not be taken at all.
§ MR. HALDANE
said that Mr. Speaker had anticipated his reply to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The difficulty on which the right hon. Gentleman had dwelt was purely imaginary. The procedure was that Clauses 1 and 2, and the Committee stage of the financial Resolution should be discussed and concluded on the first allotted day. The Committee stage of the Resolution was a pure matter of form, because the whole thing could be discussed over again on the Report stage. Then Section 1 of Clause 3, in the Bill itself, must be discussed on Committee stage and also on the Report stage, which would serve as good a purpose for discussion by hon. Members opposite. Then there were subsequent sections of Clause 3, on which there would be an opportunity for full discussion on the financial proposals. That was the answer as regarded procedure. In respect to substance he had undertaken to make a statement in Committee, or to lay a Paper before the House—possibly he would do both—explaining the mode of working the finance of the Bill. He repeated what the Prime Minister had said, that it was the intention of the Government to apply to that part of the money spent through general officers commanding the Territorial Forces the strict rules of Army finance. When they came to the money raised and spent locally from the sums in the hands of the Volunteers the application of the Army Finance Act would not be so strictly enforced.
§ CAPTIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said that the right hon. Gentleman had said that the financial Resolution could be discussed fully on the Report stage, but he had forgotten that all the time that discussion was taking place the other parts of the Bill on which many hon. Members desired to have a full discussion would be blocked. On 1424 questions involving expenditure of large sums surely it was important that the powers of control which the House had looked upon with much jealousy in the past should not be handed over to parties outside the House without full discussion. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman had not fully realised how strongly feeling I would run outside the House on this question of the disposal of the money. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if the Opposition would picture themselves; as business men sitting down to work out the details of a Bill, the whole thing could be got through in a few days. He did not pretend to be a clever business man, but he thought that the Committee of business men would not at the end of six or seven days feel that they had done justice to it. The hon. Member for Barnstaple had admitted that the Secretary for War might have trusted the Opposition with the possession of a little common sense which would have led them to come to an arrangement for full and fair discussion. If the right hon. Gentleman was desirous that the Bill should go through in an impartial spirit, and be made a Bill good for the Army and good for national defence, he could not secure his object in a better way than by accepting the spirit of the Amendment just moved.
And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, arid there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.