§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
The Resolution which stands on the Paper will seem at first sight to be sufficiently long and comprehensive, but there is one small point which could not be expressed in any such Resolution, and which it is necessary for me to deal with. In order to bring myself within the express terms of Standing Order 66, I take this opportunity of saying 57 that the Motion required for the charge which would be imposed by a clause dealing with salaries in the Small Landholders Bill is made with the requisite recommendation of the Crown. Having acquitted myself on that necessary point, I now proceed to move this Resolution. This Motion for allocation of time differs from any that I have found it my duty to propose to the House during the last two sessions, and, as far as I am aware, from any proposed by those preceding me on this Bench. The Motion proposes a more summary method than we have been accustomed to. It is undoubtedly a novelty, and it is therefore necessary that I should justify what is an unusual proceeding. That justification I find amply provided in the circumstances of the case. I am glad to say that I think I can make good the justification and explain the circumstances without any reference to the controversial merits of either of these two Bills and without any reproach addressed to either of the Houses with respect to their dealings with this matter. What ever we may feel on this matter, it is not necessary for my purpose to say a word on any such subject. What are the plain facts of the case? I take first the Small Landholders Bill. When this House was invited to consider that measure last session, it was already practically familiar with its general scope and with its provisions. It was no new measure. It had been brought in in the previous year—in July, 1906—and it had been before the country during the autumn and winter of that year. Very little notice, I daresay, was taken of it in England and Ireland, but in Scotland it was hotly canvassed, closely examined, and received, as we believe, a predominant amount of favour among those who were interested in the matter. Last session ample opportunities were given for the further consideration of this Bill. Let me remind the House of the facts. The greater part of a day was given to the First Reading. Two days were given to the Second Reading. It was sent to the Standing Committee at the end of April, and after twenty-two sittings, lasting until the end of July three days were given to the Report stage, and a Friday to the Third Reading. Therefore, when in August, 1907, the 58 House of Commons expressed its final judgment on this Bill, it was a mature, well-informed, and definite judgment that we pronounced. Now is there any reason to suppose that since that time there has been a wavering of opinion with regard to this Bill among the mass of the people of Scotland? And, after all, it is the mass of the people of Scotland who are mostly interested in this Bill. There is no reason whatever to believe that there has been the slightest alteration except in the direction of intensification of the feeling in favour of the Bill. On the contrary, everything tends to show that the object and the provisions of the Bill are more and more heartily approved and more and more eagerly desired. Let me, in passing, mention another fact that deserves notice. Hon Members will remember that when this question of small holdings came before us last session there was expressed, as regards both England and Scotland, an extraordinary willingness on the part of the landowners to concede land for small holdings. But great doubt was expressed as to whether there was any corresponding desire on the part of those concerned to obtain small holdings. The House will remember all the questions that were asked about certain returns which were held to show that the agricultural districts were wholly apathetic. Since last summer the Small Holdings Bill for England has become law, and its reception, and the action taken on it, has placed beyond doubt the reality and strength of the demand for small holdings, a demand which, as any one who knows anything of the two countries is aware is even more vivid and urgent in Scotland than in England. So much for the Small Holdings Bill. I have traced its career to the time when it was carried along the passage to the other House. I turn now to the Land Values Bill, containing the much-combated principle of the separate valuation of land. Was this a rashly precipitated measure, an unheard-of revolutionary proposal which required an extraordinary amount of time for its consideration? Why, during the period of office of the late Government, at a time when the Conservative majority was almost supreme within these walls. Bills embodying that principle were on four separate occasions submitted to the 59 House, and on two occasions received the approval of the House of Commons We claim, therefore, that both these measures were well understood in this House and out of it, and we further claim that they answer a real and urgent need, and that the House of Commons has pronounced a settled opinion upon them. These Bills, however, failed to pass into law. How was that? They were sent up in the expiring days of August—perhaps I should more correctly say in the days of expiring August. The larger measure was subjected to some criticism, and then the debate on the Second Reading was adjourned sine die, and the intention openly expressed by its opponents was that the Bill should be entirely remodelled, and that provisions of another kind altogether should take the place of those which we put forward. It became obvious that in the last days of August so large an operation could not be carried out and discussed in both Houses during what remained of the session. It was the more hopeless because the views indicated by the opponents of the measure in the other place involved a strong prejudice—I will say no more—against the cardinal principles of the Bill, one of which is the establishment of a Court for the fixing of rent, and the other the granting of a fixed tenure of occupation, and they being the matter of dispute it became, I will not say impossible, but obviously extremely difficult, to arrive at a reconciliation of the views entertained by the advocates and the opponents of the Bill. Therefore this Bill came naturally to an end. The Land Values Bill, on the other hand, was denied a Second Reading. Much exception was taken to its principle, but the main reason alleged by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords for rejecting the Bill was lack of time. Lord Lansdowne on 26th August said—I say of this present Bill in particular "—something had been said about the practice always complained of, and legitimately complained of, by the House of Lords that Bills were sent up too late for their proper and full consideration—that I do not believe you could find any Bill of this great importance having been 60 presented to this House within twenty-four hours of the prorogation.And again, at the end of his speech he used these words—Therefore, my Lords, if we refuse to read this Bill a second time this evening, I trust it will be understood that we are in reality only doing that which the First Lord of the Admiralty has suggested that we should do, deferring the further consideration of this Bill and its consequences until a more opportune moment.His reference to the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed to some things that had been said in the course of the debate on the policy of a possible Parliamentary procedure of carrying over a Bill which had been advanced considerably in its stages, or which, at all events, had passed through one House, and resuming consideration of it in another session. It is to gratify this view of Lord Lansdowne, which I admit is a reasonable one, that we reintroduce both of these Bills in the earliest days of this session. I wish to point out that, in carrying out the course now proposed, we are fulfilling the undertaking which I made in this place towards the end of last session, when I announced that the Small Holders Bill would not be further proceeded with. I said then—We abandon the further progress of this Bill with the greatest regret, but the provisions of the Bill which are thus objected to will be reintroduced at an early date, and will be pressed through this House in as speedy a manner as possible, and then we shall invite the other House either honestly to reject those provisions or to pass the Bill with reasonable Amendments consistent with its main purpose and principles.But I must refer to something else that happened last session. A resolution was adopted, on my motion, by the House of Commons affirming the principle that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons should prevail. I then explained in rough outline the scheme by which we proposed to accomplish this object. Is what I am now doing inconsistent with that scheme? It differs from it in some particulars, naturally. There has been no law passed, but is it in flagrant inconsistence with what we indicated as that which we deemed to be the desirable procedure in the future? 61 Not at all. The procedure we recommend the House to adopt is in strict accordance with the spirit and intention of that resolution, and with the general scheme which I indicated to the House, whereby effect was to be given to the Resolution. Let me recall the features of that scheme, which are apposite to what we are doing to-day. I said—The Bill, either the same Bill, with or without modifications, or a similar Bill with the same object "—these are the same Bills—might be reintroduced after a substantial interval, and by a substantial interval I have in my mind a minimum of, perhaps, six months.I do not know whether the six months are quite expired, but I think it will be considered that it is a very convenient period of the session at which we take this action. We are to do this unless in case of great urgency. I said—This Bill would be passed through its various stages, in the House of Commons under limitations of time, limitations of time adapted to the requirements of the case, discussion being restricted as far as possible to the new matter, if, any, introduced. The Bill would then be sent up again so that the other House would have ample opportunity to consider it.We are, therefore, carrying out to-day an announced and considered policy, and no one can complain that any surprise has been sprung upon them. Our recommendations constitute an innovation. I have already said they do. This is the first time, I believe, in the history of this House that Bills have been a second time sent up to the House of Lords within the compass of a single Parliament. But so was the Resolution passed by this House last year an innovation, and, as I have said, both Houses have had full warning as to the course that would be adopted.
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks seems to imply that there would have been no occasion for this Resolution had the necessary machinery for regulating the allocation of time been set up. I am in favour of a much more regular proceeding than the ordinary motion which we know as the guillotine motion. So, I believe, is everybody, but I confess that I must have been carried away by a little of the sanguine spirit of youth, for I think that the difficulties in the way 62 of forming a committee of business seem to grow upon one the nearer one comes to it. Therefore, the Government are most anxious to find some solution, and, as a matter of fact, are earnestly engaged in considering the matter. But, be the virtues of such an arrangement what they may, I cannot believe that they would have availed for this particular instance, because this transaction is one, first of all, requiring to be immediately dealt with, and is also one that must be justified by considerations which have never before been submitted to the House, and which, I believe, the House would not be disposed to relegate to any Committee whatever. I think that is a weak argument to use, weak ground to take, against this Resolution, but, weak as it is, it is very much firmer than another argument which might have been used if it had been proposed, in opposing this Resolution, to found a claim for the House of Lords to be able, when it chooses, to put this House to all the trouble and annoyance and sacrifice of useless, dilatory, and superfluous debate on a matter so recently decided. These Bills are to go up to the House of Lords for reconsideration. Why should we waste the time of this House threshing a fresh matter which has been so recently considered by the House? I hold that by this Resolution we are maintaining the dignity and we are saving the time of this House. Under this scheme an opportunity is allowed for moving an Amendment, and an invitation is addressed to the House to reaffirm the opinion it has so unequivocally recorded once at a recent date. This seems to me to be all that is required to meet the circumstances of the case, and I confidently submit the Resolution to the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That in the case of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill and the Land Values (Scotland) Bill, the Committee on the Financial Resolution (if any) relating to the Bill shall be deemed to have been set up as required by the Standing Orders of the House, and the Second Reading, Committee Stage, and Report Stage of the Bill (including the Financial Resolution (if any) relating thereto) and the Third Reading of the 63 Bill shall be proceeded with in the following manner: (a) The Committee Stage of the Financial Resolution (if any) relating to the Bill, and the Second Reading of the Bill, shall be proceeded with and brought to a conclusion on the first allotted day; and the Bill shall when it has been read a second time, stand committed to a Committee of the Whole House without Question put; (b) the Report Stage of the Financial Resolution (if any) and the Committee Stage of the Bill, and, if the Bill is not amended in Committee, the Report of the Bill to the House, and the Third Reading of the Bill, shall be proceeded with and brought to a conclusion on the second allotted day, and on the conclusion of the consideration of the Bill in Committee the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without Question put; (c) if the Bill is amended in Committee, the Report Stage and the Third Reading of the Bill shall be proceeded with and brought to a conclusion on a third allotted day. After this Order comes into operation, any day (other than Friday) shall be considered an allotted day for the purposes of this Order on which the Bill is put down as the first Order of the day, or on which any stage of the Financial Resolution (if any) relating thereto is put down as first order of the day followed by the Bill. On any allotted day on which proceedings on any business allotted to that day are to be brought to a conclusion, the Speaker or Chairman shall at 10.30 p.m. if the day is one on which Government business has precedence after 8.15 p.m., and at 7.45 p.m. if the day is one on which Government business has not precedence after 8.15 p.m. (if those proceedings have not already been brought to a conclusion) put forthwith the Question 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 he shall put only the Question that the Amendment be made or that the clause or schedule be added to the Bill, as the 64 case may be, and on the Committee Stage of the Bill the Chairman, in the case of a series of clauses to which no notice of amendment has been given by the Government, shall put the Question that those clauses stand part of the Bill without putting the Question separately as respects each clause. Proceedings to which this order relates shall not on any day, on which any proceedings or 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. In the case of an allotted day being a day on which Government business has not precedence after 8.15 p.m., the time at which the proceedings or business to be brought to a conclusion are so brought to a conclusion shall, if that time is later than a quarter past eight, be substituted, for the purposes of Standing Orders relating to the precedence of business at different sittings and to the time for taking Private Business, for 8.15 p.m. On an allotted day no dilatory Motion on the Bill, nor Motion to re-commit 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 any debate. Nothing in this order shall—(a) prevent any business which under this order is to be concluded on an allotted day being proceeded with on any other day, or necessitate a day being allotted to any such business if the business to be concluded has been otherwise disposed of; or (b) prevent any other business being proceeded with on an allotted day in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House after the business to be concluded on the allotted day has been disposed of (King's Recommendation of the payment of any Salaries, Compensation, and other Expenses that may be incurred in pursuance of any Act of the present session to encourage the formation of Small Agricultural Holdings in Scotland, and of the payment of an Annual Grant for the purposes of such Act, signified)."—(Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
There was one part of the speech of the 65 Tight hon. Gentleman in explaining his Motion in which, I think, he really tried to convince us on a matter which I, at all events, require no persuasion. I do not regard this Motion with any feeling of surprise; I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that he has indicated before that he proposed to proceed by some such Motion as this; and I fully anticipated not the extreme length of the Resolution which you, Sir, have just laboured through from the chair, but that some Resolution of the kind would be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman early in the session. That caused no surprise. One part of his speech, I think, did cause surprise, and it was that in which he explained to the House that he thought the House of Lords was perfectly justified, considering the time at which an important measure was sent up, in declining to proceed with it in the course of last session. I am glad to hear that admission from the right hon. Gentleman, but I find it very hard to reconcile with the innumerable speeches made by himself and by his friends in the course of the autumn and winter campaign. I remember making a rough calculation that some Member of that distinguished Bench had spoken, on an average, every three days during the autumn campaign in Scotland upon the subject of these two Bills. Every speaker dwelt rather on the demerits of the House of Lords than on the merits of the Bill-; and every speaker, so far as I remember, put in the very forefront of his indictment against the House of Lords the fact that they had rejected these Bills. It is gratifying to learn after all this enormous expenditure—I had almost said waste—of eloquence and argument, that the Prime Minister himself comes down and tells us to-day that, taking all the circumstances of the last session into account, he cannot deny that the Lords were thoroughly justified in declining to discuss these very important questions towards the latter end of August. We do not always agree on the subject of the House of Lords, but I imagine that on this particular occasion, and in this particular controversy, the Prime Minister and myself are entirely at one. The right hon. Gentleman has not anticipated in his speech the sort of objection which I feel disposed to take, 66 as far as I am concerned, to the Resolution he has brought before us. There are two aspects of that Resolution—one strictly concerned with procedure, the other pointing to those larger issues of policy to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in the closing portion of his speech. I may, perhaps, say a word before I sit down upon this latter aspect, but I may be permitted to begin with that which, I think, is the more important point, at all events, the more strictly relevant point, in this discussion. He tells us that he has initiated to-day for the first time a new experiment in our sessional orders. I think that is quite true, but, frankly, and for my own part, I think some Of his other experiments have been greater violations of Parliamentary tradition and practice than the one he asks us to debate tonight. At all events, this I think clear, that the House of Lords has no ground to complain of the step which the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to take on the present occasion. The House of Lords has on various occasions during the last half century urged this House to adopt some method of what is called "carrying over," by which a Bill which is not adequately discussed in the course of one session may be resumed in the course of the next, and time may thus be given to both Houses of Parliament adequate to the various clauses. That has been the request of the House of Lords formally made to this House, sometimes in one shape and sometimes in another by very strong and important Committees of that House, but, so far, never adopted by this House. And so far as the House of Lords is concerned, I think that the precedent which the right hon. Gentleman has set to-day is a good one, because the House of Lords clearly will always be justified, when they have not time at the end of the session, in saying: "This is not a Bill which we have time to discuss adequately during the few days left to us. If the House of Commons can show that there are no inconveniences inflicted upon them by the rejection of the Bill, they can get through all its stages at the cost of a few hours debate at the beginning of the next session, and thus give us time really to debate in detail the very important measure which they have 67 sent up to us." So far the right hon. Gentleman is carrying out the request of the House of Lords which his predecessors have always refused to carry out. And therefore quite frankly, and as far as the relations between the two Houses are concerned, I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a new departure which must in the future give the House of Lords an opportunity of dealing in detail with the measures sent to it by this House which it has never sufficiently enjoyed in the past. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that not under one Government alone, but under more than one Government, Bills have, owing to the exigencies of debate in this House, been sent up to the House of Lords too late. Everybody admits it. It happened in the time of the late Government; it has happened still more in the time of the present Government. The successive Governments are not really responsible for that. It is the procedure of this House which makes it impossible very often to finish a great Bill before the second week in August—before a period when it really is unreasonable to ask either House of Legislature, dealing with great complicated and controversial details, to deal with any measure sent to them. Therefore, I am glad from the point of view of the House of Lords, at all events, and the discussion of our measures by the House of Lords, that the right hon. Gentleman has devised a plan which is applicable, of course, to other Bills as well as to this one, by which, without any undue labours being thrown upon this House, the other House may be able to deal at length and adequately with any proposals sent up to it. Well, my objection, therefore, from the point of view of procedure has nothing whatever to do with the relation between the two Houses. It has simply to do with the procedure of this House. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has fresh in his mind the Reports of the various Committees which sat upon this and on cognate subjects during the last fifty years. I was myself a member of a Committee which sat in 1890 upon this very question of carrying over, which this is in effect, and I was myself the draftsman of the 68 report which that Committee finally adopted. But the object that the majority of that Committee had in view was that Bills brought into this House should be thoroughly discussed in this House, even at the cost of extending the discussions on them into a second session. I am not pressing on the Government that they should accept the Report of that Committee as it stands. Many things have happened in regard to the procedure of this House since the year 1890; but still the broad problem which that Committee attempted to deal with remains unsolved, and we have not found a method by which Bills can be adequately discussed in this House before they are sent up to the other House. Now what was the objection taken by an important minority to the plan that we proposed? We proposed that Bills should be carried over. "No," said the minority, led by Mr. Gladstone, supported by Sir William Harcourt, and containing a large number of men of light and leading at that time constituting the Opposition; "No," they said, "it will be a great disadvantage to carry over from one session to another," and the first reason they gave against that proceeding was that no Government ever brought in Bills a second time without having, through discussion in this House and the country, seen reason to modify and improve proposals that they made on the first occasion. So that here you have two alternative plans discussed by the last Committee which sat on this question. There was the plan which we favoured on this side, which undoubtedly gave full opportunity to this House to discuss all the proposals brought before it. You had the objection raised by Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt that, whatever merits there might be in that scheme, it had the enormous demerit that the Government bringing in the Bill would not have that opportunity of revising it, recasting it, and remodelling it which the necessity of bringing in a new Bill would throw upon them. Well, I think there was force in that argument, as there certainly was force in the argument used on the other side. What is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? He has set himself to work, and he has found a plan 69 which combines the disadvantages of both schemes and the advantages of neither. He has devised a plan by which the House is never allowed fully to discuss a Bill, and a plan which prevents the Government from remodelling a Bill when they bring it in a second time—a plan equally repugnant to the argument used by the majority and the minority of the Committee of 1890. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am painting in too dark colours the plan he has adopted let me just ask the House to recall how much discussion there was upon the Small Holdings Bill last session. The right hon. Gentleman has given a list of the days spent either in the House or Grand Committee, and says that a great deal of time was spent either in the House or in the Grand Committee. I never will admit that this procedure in Grand Committee is the equivalent, though it may, under appropriate circumstances, be a substitute, for debate in the whole House. They are not the same thing, and nothing will make them so. I do not quarrel with the principle contained in the hint thrown out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said he favoured a plan by which the uncontroversial parts of a Bill might be sent to a Grand Committee; but that was not the plan adopted by the Government last session with reference to the Small Holdings Bill. That Bill, be it a good or a bad Bill, at all events deals in a very drastic manner with the whole system of landed property in Scotland, whether the property of the owners or of the cultivators of the soil. It attacks or modifies profoundly the whole system under which landed property in Scotland is now held whether by owners or occupiers; its importance is prodigious, its controversial character has never been denied. That Bill never was discussed for a day in Committee of the Whole House, and it is perfectly absurd to say that opportunity for discussion was given to so many men so well qualified to speak upon it. I turn from that fundamental and initial objection to the whole procedure on the Bill. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that discussion upstairs is equivalent to discussion in the whole House, and that we may take the Grand Committee as a true microcosm of the House of Commons how much of the Bill was discussed? I 70 have here a copy of the Bill, with all the clauses marked which were passed without discussion under the closure moved by the Minister in charge. I do not argue whether or not the closure was justified; but what I do argue and what is undeniable is that, as the result of the closure, the great principles in this Bill were not discussed, even in the imperfect manner in which a Grand Committee admits of discussion. The right hon. Gentleman told us just now that one of the cardinal principles of the Bill was the erection of a tribunal for fixing rent. That tribunal was not discussed, except in so far as salaries were concerned. It was not discussed in Grand Committee at all—the cardinal principles of the Bill was never discussed, unless you call it the cardinal principle that somebody's salary should be raised from £1,000 to £1,200 a year. Next to the constitution of the tribunal I should have thought that the method of dealing with the existing owner and occupier of land in Scotland, and of constituting new holdings would have been, at all events, a subject which the Grand Committee might have had an opportunity of discussing. They did not have that opportunity, and surely it is ludicrous for the right hon. Gentleman to come down and tell us that, as this Bill has been thoroughly discussed in the course of last session, we should be wasting our time if we were to devote any more of our valuable leisure to debating it, and that all we can do is to send it up at once by this novel and summary process to the other House. With regard to the other Bill which is unequally yoked with the Small Holdings Bill in this Resolution, that was not closured in Grand Committee. So far as Grand Committee was concerned, I daresay the discussion was adequate. Not having been a member of the Committee, I am not qualified to speak; but I well remember that when it came down to this House and we got the opportunity, for the first time, of dealing with the details of the measure, we were kept up till four in the morning by the two learned Gentlemen in charge of the Bill, and had to discuss it in circumstances in which, as everybody knows, rational discussion is almost an impossibility. Now what does the right hon. Gentleman say in answer to that? He says 71 the House was well acquainted with the Bills, for one was brought in July, 1906, and as for the other, two Bills something like it, have been discussed on some private Member's Friday, in the course of the preceding Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman is laughing at us. That is the kind of argument which may impose on persons outside the House who know nothing of its procedure; but to say it without a smile on his countenance to Gentlemen well acquainted with the proceedings of the House was really to ask them to accept courteously a travesty of Parliamentary argument, which is, I think, hardly worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. He knows as well as anybody else that when a great and far-reaching measure, dealing in a revolutionary spirit with long-established principles, is brought into this House, it is never taken seriously by the House until it is taken in charge by the Government of the day, and not even then until the Government of the day gives adequate time for discussion. That time never has been given by the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that these private Members' discussions on Friday never have been, and never are, seriously taken [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh"] as more than a general expression of opinion that something in the direction of the Bill ought to be considered by those responsible for guiding legislation. The Government will not have carrying over which would give us an opportunity for full discussion, and they have not yet produced any alternative plan by which full discussion can be obtained. They always tell us that they are anxiously looking out for a plan. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the closer he approached the problem, the more difficult it appeared to be—as he neared the fence, the more difficult it appeared to be to get over it. What has he done? He has adopted a plan which has the evils of every other plan, which does not ensure full debate, and does not give Ministers an opportunity of revising their Bills. Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt said, with reference to our proposals for carrying over—The great advantage would be lost, as pointed out by the Committee of 1851, of altering 72 in a new session the freedom and scope of a measure. There are few Bills of the first importance which, after full discussion and with a more complete knowledge of the sentiment of the House and the country, could not with advantage be recast.Well, that is the view of such experienced legislators as Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt. They have been followed by successors more successful in the drafting of Bills, happier in their power of grasping public opinion; more careful in their method of drafting—gentlemen whose powers of prevision are such that they can forecast all objections, although they may have taken care that those objections should never be reached in this House, and who, no doubt, if an opportunity had by accident been given to us for urging objections, would have found an answer so adequate, so complete, that they would be absolutely justified in bringing in a Bill a second time in its old form, with not even a comma altered. Happy is the right hon. Gentleman in having colleagues whose legislative capacity so far transcends anything that Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt found possible. It is somewhat astonishing, however, that these two Bills, with their innate perfection, so absolutely free from any taint of original sin, are the two Bills on which more especially the Government themselves happen to be divided, and have publicly expressed their opinion. We know perfectly well, as far as the Valuation Bill is concerned, that the policy which the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer look forward to founding on that Bill is fundamentally and totally different from the policy of the Solicitor-General for Scotland. We know so far as the Small Holdings Bill for Scotland is concerned that one of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman has expressed his regret that the cardinal principles of this Bill have been adopted; he would have liked to see quite a different set of cardinal principles adopted, viz., those which are embodied in the English Bill, on the success of which the right hon. Gentleman is already congratulating himself. With every respect to the capacity of the Scottish officers, when I find them claiming infallibility and waving that infallible flag in the face of their own colleagues, 73 I think the right hon. Gentleman would have been not ill-advised if he had carried out Mr. Gladstone's suggestion, and taken advantage of such criticism—small enough—as was permitted in this House and as was given under freer circumstances in the country. It is upon these considerations that I base chiefly my objection to this proposal. If we had been allowed fully to discuss the measure last session, if we had sent it up too late to the House of Lords for them to discuss it, and if the House of Lords had objected on that ground, I should have thought the method proposed for carrying over the Bill had something to be said for it; but when we are asked to pass in this manner a Bill of which the main provisions never were discussed in this House or in the Grand Committee, I can only say that the novelty of the procedure with regard to a Bill which comes to us in a new session, under these auspices and with these antecedents, is only of a piece with all the other ingenious methods by which the right hon. Gentleman has been dealing with the ancient liberties of this House, which he admits to be regrettable and even deplorable. He desires to find a remedy, and frankly tells us that he has no remedy in view, and such visions of a remedy as he entertained last session seem to be vanishing in the dim and hazy distance. That is my main objection to this Resolution as a matter of procedure. The right hon. Gentleman referred at the end of his speech to another and a larger question. He has told us that this is part of his plan for dealing with the House of Lords, and a kind of instalment of that method by which he desires to reduce to impotence the other branch of the Legislature. We all know perfectly well that this is part of the plan of filling up the cup. It was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others that they were going to pursue this course, and they have never denied pursuing this course, in order to get a case against the House of Lords. I have only two observations to make on that. One is that the occupiers and owners of land in Scotland and the ratepayers of Scotland ought not to be made pawns in this game which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to play against the House of Lords. I think when you are dealing with interests as great as those affected by these 74 measures you ought to try to bring in measures which are intended to pass, and not measures which are obviously intended not to pass. It is perfectly clear from the whole action of the Government in regard to this Bill that they are not now trying to improve the lot of any class in Scotland—owners, occupiers or ratepayers. Nothing would disappoint them so much as seeing their measure become law. Is that an uncharitable statement? Have you not proofs of its accuracy writ large in the last additions made to the Statute-book last session? We know what the principles of the Government are with regard to small holdings for the greater part of this island; we know what their principles are with regard to Ireland, because we have an eloquent speech in favour of peasant proprietors whenever the Chief Secretary for Ireland addresses us upon law and order in that country. We know, therefore, their views are diametrically opposite to the principles embodied in this Bill. The inference is obvious. This Bill is not intended to carry out a legislative policy; it is intended to be part of an attack upon the other House of Parliament. I think that very unprincipled; I also think it very inept. These constitutional revolutions are not as easy as the Prime Minister appears to suppose. Any party who mean to carry them out must take a little more pains in the methods they adopt and use those methods at a more fortunate moment for themselves. You will never get up genuine enthusiasm for Bills so preposterous in their framework as these two measures. I do not deny that at this moment Scottish Members opposite represent by far the larger number of Scottish constituencies, and that they would naturally look with a favourable eye upon any legislative proposal brought forward by their own Government, especially when they are told it is going to further some ulterior political object such as that of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken with such candour to-night. But the Bills, apart from that, excite no enthusiasm in Scotland. Your measures for the purpose for which you have adopted them are bad. They are particularly bad as Bills. They are bad as machinery for getting up public enthusiasm against 75 the House of Lords. Even if they were much better—even if they were masterly performances, which we should suppose by the manner in which they are brought in, without the alteration of a single comma, the Prime Minister thinks them, and even if they were as good as some of the Prime Minister's colleagues think them bad, I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he and his Government are now in no condition to carry out these great revolutions. I do not now and I have never attached undue importance to by-elections. I do not now and I never have, whether they were against the Party of which I am a member or in favour of it, and I think it is quite possible to exaggerate their significance. At all events I do not build on them more than this, that a Government which has had the experience which the right hon. Gentleman's has recently had may have it in its power to do a great deal of legislative work, but it is not in a condition to carry out a great revolution. The huge battalions opposite may be diminished only by a unit or two here and there, but you cannot carry out revolutions unless you have something more behind you, and that something the right hon. Gentleman has lost, never to be regained. I am not, of course, forecasting the destinies of the great Party of which he is the leader; I am speaking of this Parliament, and this Parliament has already lost the power to carry through great revolutionary methods. That power has gone, and will never be recovered. So far as this Resolution relates to procedure I have stated my objections to it; so far as it is a part of that larger campaign which the right hon. Gentleman is directing against the other House I say that it will not only fail, but that everybody knows it will fail, that its failure is writ large and already its doom is sealed and that that part of the programme of the right hon. Gentleman he had better abandon as quickly and with as much dignity as he can.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
The right hon. Gentleman has been betrayed in the stress of his peroration into rhetorical audacities some of which I think, after sober reflection, he will 76 a little regret; yet his speech as a whole contained so many valuable admissions, so few serious criticisms of the Resolution of my right hon. friend, that I think I ought really to be rather grateful for the admissions than disposed to deal in any very grave spirit with the criticisms. But in view of his concluding remarks I must repudiate in the clearest and most emphatic terms, not only on behalf of the Prime Minister but on behalf of the whole Party who sit on these benches, the character which the right hon. Gentleman has thought it worthy and becoming to attribute to us—that we are playing the part of gross, almost avowed, political hypocrites, pretending to have the interests of the Scottish agricultural population at heart; that we are really like unscrupulous gamesters staking trust money for the purpose of gaining some private ends of our own. That is not a representation which it is becoming of the right hon. Gentleman to make of his political opponents, and it is not one which will awaken any response in any part of the kingdom. When he tells us that by some secret process of divination he knows that the people of Scotland do not care for this legislation, I venture to tell him, with all respect to him as a most distinguished Scotsman, that I go elsewhere if I want to find an authentic organ of public opinion. I go to the representatives of the Scottish people, and when I find that by an overwhelming majority, and without any change of opinion this year as compared with last, they are in favour and have the strongest desire for both these measures, we have the strongest reason for believing that we have the opinion of the people of Scotland behind us. Now let me go further and deal with the more serious part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the Motion did not come upon him as a surprise, but on the contrary it was the result of distinct and definite pledges which my right hon. friend the Prime Minister gave to the House and the country last year—an admission I gladly note. He told us further, that so far from regarding the Motion as disrespectful, he considers it convenient, and even deferential, to the House of Lords. I am not sure that it 77 was entirely conceived in that sense, but we are very glad to find it possesses that virtue in addition to many others. What really is the right hon. Gentleman's criticism? He tells us this proposal embodies in a particular case—I shall say a word or two in a moment as to the case itself—the principle of what used to be called carrying over—a principle of which he says he has long been an advocate—although I do not remember, by the way, that he has done much to carry it to fruition, but which was denounced and repudiated by two such great Parliamentary authorities as Mr. Gladstone and Sir W. Harcourt. What was the ground that Mr. Gladstone took in objecting to carrying over? It was the ground, first, that public opinion in the country might have shown a change of direction, and, secondly, that it would preclude the House of Commons from reconsidering in the light of fresh sources of information the precise form in which legislation was sent to the other House. If those are arguments against carrying over, neither of them applies to this Motion. This is not carrying over. On the contrary, it proposes to give to the House the opportunity upon a Second Reading debate of declaring whether or not they, as representing the opinion of the country, are still in favour of the principles of both these measures. I was rather amused to hear the right hon. Gentleman's arguments against cast-iron legislation. When I cast my memory back, as some of us can, to the proceedings of the last Parliament, and when I remember the Education Act of the right hon. Gentleman—I am speaking of the Bill of 1899, which was spoken of as if it were inspired and of which we were not allowed to alter so much as a comma, and which, after being sent to the House of Lords, was passed into law—you have not only here an opportunity of a Second Reading, and therefore the means of saying whether the House of Commons, as representing the country, is of the same opinion or not, but we are also giving the House the Committee Stage in which reasonable Amendments may be brought forward which will receive the respectful consideration of the Government. So that whatever objections there may be to the principles of carrying over, whatever arguments Mr. Gladstone and Sir 78 William Harcourt used against carrying over, they have no application whatever to the present Resolution. What does the right hon. Gentleman's argument come to? Analysed and sifted it is reduced to one single point, namely, whether or not during last session these Bills did or not receive adequate discussion. Upon that point I join issue with him. I take the Scottish Land Bill. No one suggests that it did not receive mature and adequate discussion on Second Reading. It is true it was sent to a Standing Committee, and that, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, was a nefarious proceeding, because the Bill contained a number of controversial proposals. Why was it sent? Because it was a Scottish measure dealing entirely and exclusively with Scottish interests, and the only way of bringing to bear in detail the expert and the conjoint opinion of the representatives of the people of Scotland was to send it to a Committee on which every one of the Members for Scotland could sit. It is true that there was a small knot of English Members on the Committee. I attended one day part of the day.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Yes, and that half-hour was quite enough to give a good sample of the way the Committee spent its time. I do not believe there is anybody who sat on that Committee—I see the hon. Baronet the Member for London is in his place. I do not know whether he was a member of the Committee or not, but I am quite sure that if he was he was a most assiduous attendant.
§ MR. ASQUITH
But I will say that if by some chance or mischance some of the English Members had removed themselves the Bill would have taken about half the time in Committee that it did. I am not saying anything invidious as to the value of the contributions they made; I am simply stating a plain matter of fact. The right hon. Gentleman has said, and I was 79 astounded to hear him—because he, like myself, was not present at the proceedings of the Committee—that not a single one of the main pivotal principles of the Bill was ever discussed adequately in that Committee. I can only say that, in the opinion of the Secretary for Scotland, who is in charge of the Bill, and I think I may say the great bulk of the Scottish Members, there was not a single cardinal principle that was not discussed and divided upon. The right hon. Gentleman gave us an illustration in the question of the Land Court, but if I am right, the question not of the composition of such a Court, but whether there should or should not be a Land Court was discussed and divided upon by the Committee.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The right hon. Gentleman asks what a Committee is for but to discuss details. The whole point of his charge is that there was no time to discuss the principles.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman unintentionally misrepresents me. What I complain of is that the cardinal principles which ought to have been discussed in detail were not discussed in detail at all.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The facts speak for themselves. For about three months the Bill was in Committee upstairs, then it was three nights here in the House on Report, and there was a debate again on Third Reading, and I say it is idle, under modern conditions, to speak of any measure which has passed through that ordeal as if it was a measure which did not represent the considered and mature judgment of the House. The Valuation Bill was a very complicated measure. It went through the Standing Committee in so business-like a spirit that the closure was not once moved, and I never heard anybody until to-day say the details were not adequately threshed out. The subject had been before the House on three or four occasions, we had debates 80 on Second Reading, session after session, in which not the "irresponsible faddists," but the greatest authorities representing all the different sections of the House took part. It is idle, therefore, to say that the measure was sprung by the Government on the House for the first time when the Government introduced it last year. On the pure question on tactics, therefore, which is the only question remaining when the right hon. Gentleman's indictment is analysed, I say that both these Bills last session were amply and adequately discussed, and that the additional facilities which the Government are affording in this Resolution for their further discussion now are quite enough for any legitimate purpose.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said whatever might be said by Members of the front Opposition Bench those who sat on the back benches ought to enter a very strong protest against the new procedure introduced by this Resolution. Everyone desired to do away with guillotine Motions, but whenever a new one had been proposed the Opposition had been faced with the tu quoque argument that whatever the Government was doing their predecessors had done the same thing. This Resolution, however, was not supported by any precedent; it was an entirely novel proceeding and anybody who looked at the Paper must admit that the Resolution was one that absolutely destroyed the legislative character of the House of Commons. The Resolution was a means of putting before the House certain Bills, and at the same time of withdrawing from the House any opportunity of deliberately discussing them. To give them the limited time of two days was not fair, having regard to the consideration which should be given to any Bill, even if it had been considered to the fullest extent in the past. He desired to enter the very strongest protest at the first opportunity against such a precedent having been made. It was remarkable that almost the first business the House had to transact was to pass a more stringent form of guillotine than anything they had had before, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, on the debate on the Address, when he was taxed as to 81 measures being carried without adequate discussion—We shall try by some common agreement to arrive at a better method of disposing of our work ";and ended up by saying—We ought to find ample opportunities to discuss our extensive programme. At any rate, we are going to make the attempt.Was this the attempt to give them adequate discussion for that large programme which was put forward, when two Bills were going to be passed in four days? Was this the sort of spirit in which it was likely the Government could call upon those who were opposed to them to come to some mutual workable agreement as to the conduct of business? He confessed it did not look as if they were going to have any such reasonable proposal in regard to procedure as he had hoped might be arrived at, so as to avoid constant appeals to the House to pass guillotine Resolutions. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the ample discussion given to the Bills of last year, and had said the facts spoke for themselves. The unfortunate thing was that they could not refer to the facts. There was no official report to which they could turn and know what went on in Committee. He would have thought every Scottish Member of Parliament could very well have taken part if they had had these Bills in Committee of the Whole House. They had undoubtedly a special prerogative last year in connection with the Scottish Committee, a privilege not extended to English Members when dealing with a similar Bill early last session. But there were questions in that Bill which required very careful consideration at the hands of English Members. There was the great question of the dividing up of the Board of Agriculture. They had in this session had the suggestion that the Board of Agriculture should be given a higher status and elevated to the rank of the older offices of the Crown. Would it be as important a body if it had the whole of Scotland separated from it? Would the country only in the last few days have been altogether satisfied if, when that sudden outbreak of contagious disease happened at Edinburgh, they had known there were two State departments interested in agriculture instead of 82 only one, and that instead of being able to go straight to one Board of Agriculture in England, any matter which affected both countries would have to depend upon the procedure and policy of another office in Scotland. This question was of vast importance, and yet it was never discussed in the House at all by those really interested in the matter. It might have been discussed upstairs, but on Report the special provision in regard to the Board of Agriculture never received full discussion. Therefore, he did not think if they took merely that particular instance it could be said that it was fair that English Members should be shut out from the discussion, or that the Bill had been fully discussed at the hands of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister had said the chief principles of the Bill were the land court and fixity of tenure. It seemed rather a curious thing that only a very few months before this Bill the Government were dealing with the question of agricultural holdings, and they passed an Act which dealt with land tenure for agricultural holdings, and yet they did not say the chief features of agricultural tenure in Scotland were a land court and fixity of tenure. It was only subsequently that they found these principles were to be the chief features of the Bill. The Prime Minister had spoken of the increasing popularity of the Bill in Scotland, but could not bring any proof of it save that the English Bill had proved popular. If the method adopted in the English Bill had proved popular he would have thought that supported the action of the House of Lords in wishing to extend it to Scotland. He remembered last year when the guillotine Resolution was passed in connection with the Land Bill, the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the closure had only been asked for fifty-three time in the Grand Committee and only given fifty times—an average of one to two-and-a-half or three hours discussion. A Bill which had been closured fifty times in Grand Committee was in a very exceptional position. They had been told that the Land Values Bill and the English Bill passed without a single closure; and that neither under the old nor the new procedure had he ever put the closure on any 83 Bill before him in Grand Committees. When one knew what was the usual experience in Grand Committees, to say that a Bill had not been closured in the most extraordinary way seemed to be carrying the argument a little too far. The Land Values Bill had been read a first time under the ten minutes rule early in the session, and read a second time in the middle of July. It went to the Grand Committee late in July, and came up for Report and Third Reading on 8th August. That could hardly be said to have been a satisfactory discussion on a Bill, the importance of which now they perhaps rather minimised, but the importance of which at all events to English Members was very great. They had always been told that if the principle of the Bill was accepted in Scotland, it was to be made a precedent for action of a similar character in England. When they had had before them the difficulties in connection with this matter, Members not representing Scotland must take a deep interest in this Bill, and must feel satisfied that, coming from a Governmental source, and not from a private Member, it had not received adequate discussion at the hands of Members not connected with Scotland. Both these Bills were forced through the House, perhaps for certain reasons, under circumstances which placed a great number of Members under great disadvantage in the discussion, and therefore when they came forward again, whether they were in the same words or not, they should certainly receive a great deal more discussion than they would get under this Resolution. It was all very well for the Government to say they had done this to give the House of Lords full opportunity of discussion, but they could not forget that when an appeal was made from below the gangway last year to the Prime Minister to pass one portion of the Agricultural Holdings Bill which was thought to be desirable and necessary, they were told they were not to have that which was beneficial to their constituents, because it was not tactics. That was at the bottom of the whole thing. The Government wanted something to found their campaign upon. Surely that remark vitiated everything that could now be put forward in connection with these two particular measures. 84 He thought they were bound to protest and that the protests ought to come from those who were entirely unconnected with official life. It was those Members who had no official position whose rights and privileges were most attacked by Resolutions of this sort. It was high time that they declined to add precedent upon precedent in connection with this particular form of procedure which was distasteful to every Member of the House, and it was for that reason that he raised his solemn protest against it.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said that with respect to one of the Bills dealt with in this Resolution he was of opinion that no reason was advanced in response to objections made to the vital principles of the Bill, whereas in the case of the other Bill the objections were fairly and squarely met. He had seen too many years of time wasted in the House to be very particular as to the means taken to shorten unnecessary discussion, and so far as the prososals now being made were concerned they would have his support. Nevertheless, he had his doubts as to whether they would further the passing of legislation, but the Government were the best judges in their own case, and he would support their Resolution. He did not think sufficient distinction had been drawn between the two Bills or between the manner in which they were to be discussed. In the case of the Land Values Bill it was carried without the closure, and the objections raised were fairly and squarely met after full discusson. Many important Amendments were freely accepted by the Lord Advocate, and they would have to be tested by experience before any actual change was made in the law of rating. He thought the Opposition were making a vast mistake in regard to this question of the readjustment of the incidence of local taxation, or even the re-allocation of revenue from building values. It would not be for ever that those would reap who had not sown in regard to land values. The Opposition had no alternative scheme and they had already exhausted their powers of initiative in the Agricultural Relief Rating Act. With regard to the other Bill he did not blame the 85 House of Lords for refusing to consider it on the last day of the session, and the reasonable business course for the House of Commons to take now was to send it back to the Upper Chamber with as little delay as possible. In the House of Commons they had had their full say upon it, and it was a serious proposal. Although no doubt it might be improved, yet it contained an essential element in any effective policy. As to the Scottish Small Landholders Bill the situation was different. If there was any hope of altering it it would be worth while opposing the closure, but he did not think there was any such hope. It had been suggested that this Bill had been brought up as part of a strategical movement against the other House. He had never suggested that himself, but if any foundation could be found for such a statement it was evident that there had been a missfire, because this particular Bill would rehabilitate a second Chamber and in fact create a raison d'être for a separate Chamber. The need for land reform was a serious reality, but this Bill, with singular perversity, missed the evils which ought to be remedied and detroyed the good which had already been achieved. He was now advancing reasons why no time should be wasted on this particular Bill, and he suggested that another day should be given to the Land Values Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that it was merely a question of method between the English Bill and the Scottish Bill, but to his mind it was a question of vital principles. But those principles having been accepted by the Government and the House he could not see the object of wasting time over the application of the methods of applying those principles. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of methods, but was the importation into Scotland of dual ownership and the abolition of responsible management merely a matter of method? Was the abolition of the economic standard of rent a matter of method? To his mind they were vital principles. No doubt the Secretary for Scotland had made conflicting statements upon this point, but they were nevertheless all points of first magnitude, on which it was hopeless to expect that there could be any way found for adequate 86 discussion on the Closure Resolution. If the House and the Government accepted those pernicious principles then it was a matter of perfect indifference as to the particular way in which they were introduced into Scotland. Those being the real issues, he did not think they needed to waste any more time upon the details. He claimed to know something of the people living on the country side of Scotland, and he might state that he had never met anyone whose opinion was worth having who believed in this Bill. The Solicitor-General had stated that the opposition to the Bill was due to class ignorance.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he had read a statement to that effect. He knew of his own shortcomings and he was aware that there was ignorance, and that he was among the ignorant, but he had such knowledge of the land and the people to feel impelled to back his policy either wholly or in part against the policy of the Government. He was not so sure that he had as good a right to speak for the urban population, for if anyone had been returned to the House by the landless it was himself, and it was on behalf of the landless that he had given his opposition to this Bill and his support to alternative proposals. The real way to promote land reform at the present time was not to wrangle over the details of a dead Bill but to perfect a true and effective policy. They all wanted to see more people brought back to the land. They had before them the inquiries which had been held, including the independent inquiry into the working of the Crofters Acts and their applicability to the rest of the country. He would take one day off the time to be allotted for the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill and give it to the Land Values (Scotland) Bill because the chances of that Bill were unnecessarily but gravely imperilled. The true starting point for the reform of land values was the Report of Lord Balfour's Commission. He thought the Lord Advocate attached considerable weight to that Report, but he 87 did not know what weight was attached to the Report of the inquiry into the working of the Crofters Acts. Nor did he know how the Government allowed so long a spin to that March hare—the breaking of feu-contracts. A great many innocent people had suffered from that proposal, and that had really prejudiced the cause of this Bill.
§ MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
thought the House might discuss this question on broader grounds than that taken by the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs. The question was really one of Parliamentary procedure, and it was a mere incident in the discussion that the proposal submitted by the Prime Minister referred to two Scottish Bills. From the point of view of the minority section of the House they must always approach such proposals as the Government had made that afternoon with a great deal of suspicion. The minority must not lightly allow freedom of discussion to be taken away by any guillotine Resolution under any excuse whatever. The question which they had seriously to discuss was whether this was a guillotine Resolution which deprived the minority of the right of free discussion. If it was, the Labour Party in the House was not going to give the Government any support, but rather active opposition in the attempt to carry the Resolution. If it was not, the Labour Party was prepared to consider the proposition on its own merits. Since the Labour Members came into the House nothing had struck them more than the desire to discuss, to rediscuss, and to re-rediscuss every proposal, Bill, or Amendment, brought under the notice of the House. When adequate discussion had taken place they were told that the privileges of Members of the House necessitated discussion again. Jealous as the Labour Members were of the rights of minorities in the House, they were not going to subscribe to that absurd proposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London divided his speech into two parts. In the first part he complained that the Government were in too great haste, and in the second part that they were not hasty enough. The right hon. Gentleman stated that although the 88 Small Landholders Bill was before the Standing Committee twenty-two days, the cardinal principle dealing with the land court was not even discussed. Surely that was a very serious reflection on the Members of the Standing Committee. Although he was not a Member of the Committee he knew from reports which had leaked out how the time was consumed. They were told who had made many speeches and who had repeated their speeches. He was, therefore, not in the least influenced by the statement that although the Committee sat twenty-two days the cardinal principles were never discussed at all. That was the fault absolutely of the Committee. The Bill was intricate; it contained very important proposals, and it sought to establish important principles, but there was not a single business Member of the House who would not say that in the course of twenty-two sittings—some of which were prolonged—there was not adequate time to discuss those important principles. Supposing there was much more in the argument than there actually was, what guarantee had they that if the Government had introduced the Bill in the ordinary way and asked a Second Reading under the ordinary rules of the House, it would be more adequately discussed this session than last? What was the use of asking them to spend twenty-eight days of the precious time of this session in discussing the Bill, and then to be told after the whole process had been gone through that the cardinal principles of the Bill had never even been considered by the Members of the Committee? If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had given a guarantee that afternoon that if the Bill had been introduced under the ordinary rules of the House, and that the cardinal principles would have been adequately discussed and settled within twenty-two sittings, the Opposition would have been giving the Government an adequate offer why the guillotine proposal should not be carried. They all recognised that the business machinery of the House was not quite so good as they would like it to be. They had an experience last session which they were not going to repeat at the end of this session. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal was 89 that twenty-two days should be given to the Committee stage, three days to the Report stage, and three days to the Third Reading stage. Why should they waste twenty-eight days in coming to precisely the same decisions as were arrived at last session? They saw no reason during the past few months for changing their decisions, and therefore they should go on as fast as possible with the other business which would be brought before them in due course. There was a great deal in the argument that this guillotine Resolution would be taken as a precedent to justify the rejection of Bills in another place if they were sent up after a certain date. The Labour Party had no objection to the other place taking that course. When they did take that course the Labour Members would make the same speeches about them in the country as they made during the recent recess, and the same result would take place. The result had been that the Labour Party candidates at the by-elections had enormously increased their votes and come much nearer to winning elections than ever before. If there were any outstanding difficulties that were to be brought to a head by this procedure on the part of the Government the sooner they were brought to a head the better. The Labour Party would be only too delighted to assist the Government in bringing these difficulties to a head. They supported the Resolution for two main reasons. In the first place it was not an attempt on the part of the Government to protect itself against free discussion, but it was an attempt made to protect the House against another place. This Resolution did not raise the question of the limitation of free discussion; it simply protected this House against the inducements the other place might have to compel it to waste its time session after session upon Bills which the other place would not accept. The second reason was that this was a Step forward in the readjustment of the Standing Orders which would enable the House to use the work done in previous sessions. As to the best scheme for carrying that out it would not become him to enter on that question at all. If the Government had made up its mind that the Bill did not require redrafting it was perfectly entitled to say so to the 90 House, and it had a right to say that it would carry the Bill through its remaining stages in the way proposed so that the other place might continue the studies which were so rudely interrupted by the shooting season which unfortunately opened about the middle of August. Therefore, because this was a defence of this House against another place, and because they took this as the first step towards a business-like and working arrangement for carrying over the work of one session which remained uncompleted to the next session, the Party with whom he was associated would give it their most hearty support.
§ *VISCOUNT HELMSLEY (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
said that the hon. Member for Leicester had shown quite clearly that the real object of the procedure embodied in the Prime Minister's Resolution was to strike at the other place. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, however, most indignant when it was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that that was really the object. He thought that no clearer condemnation of this Motion could have been made than that which came from the hon. Member for Leigh Burghs, who said that the Bill was so bad that the sooner it got to the House of Lords and was there done away with the better, because no amount of time spent upon it could by any possibility amend it. That was one view to take of the Bill, and to his mind a very natural view, but it was hardly the view that one would suppose could be taken seriously—for the reason that if applied to other Bills of a similar kind it would be rather a strong argument for enforcing the closure in this House. As to whether the discussions of the Bill last session were adequate or the reverse, he wished to reply to what had been said by the hon. Member for Leicester which reflected very seriously upon Members of the Grand Committee. Allusion had been made to the land court, and it was said that that question came up very early—when Clause 3 was discussed—and that twenty-two days had been spent on the Bill altogether. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer failed to recollect the circumstances and was 91 not quite accurate in saying that this question came up almost at the beginning of the proceedings of the Grand Committee. On turning to the official Report of the Committee, which was very short, he found that the question of the Land Court was never discussed at all on its merits. The first point that arose on Clause 3 was that it should be postponed. And there was sound reason for that Motion, because later on in the Bill Clause 19 referred to the jurisdiction of the land court and it was considered advisable by those opposed to the Bill that Clauses 3 and 19 should be in juxtaposition. The mover of the Motion to postpone Clause 3 under a very strict ruling of the Chairman was not entitled to discuss Clause 3. Therefore the question whether a land court was to be set up or not was never discussed at all. The Report said—That the Secretary for Scotland claimed that the question be now put.That closured the question of postponing the clause; and the next question put was that all of Clause 3 down to the words "not exceeding" should be agreed to—thus sweeping away pages of Amendments. It was, therefore, not right to say that the cardinal principles of the Bill had been adequately discussed. He strongly resented the hon. Member of Leicester's insinuation that there was a great deal of repetition and useless discussion especially by English Members. He absolutely denied that insinuation. He asked any hon. member of the Committee whether he thought, for an instance that the first three days discussions were in the least wasted. There was an Amendment dealing with the question of fixity of tenure, the fixing of rents by the land court, and the bringing in the whole of the rest of Scotland under the same procedure as the crofting districts. He denied that these discussions were fruitless or wasted or that Members did not treat these great and important questions in the serious way they deserved. He would be right in saying that for a considerable time more Members spoke in favour of the Bill than against it, and he thought that insinuations of the kind made by the hon. Member for Leicester, who was not present a single day in Committee, were not justified. The hon. Member began his 92 speech as if he were going to see whether the Liberal Party intended to stick up for or ignore the rights of minorities; but he concluded by saying that he and his party had agreed to support the Government. The reason for that was not far to seek. The Motion was a part of the attack on the House of Lords. He wondered whether when the hon. Member talked of the rights of minorities he seriously thought of what the effect such a Motion as was now before the House would have on the House itself? The present Government had carried the system of guillotining Bills to a far greater extent than any proceeding Government, and already they had deprived private Members of the right of discussing important measures. Last session the two most important Bills were the English Small Holdings Bill and the Scottish Small Landholders Bill. Both run concurrently through Grand Committees and both were of great interest to many on that side of the House who thought they ought to have an opportunity of discussing them; but that was impossible. This was one of the gross infringements on the rights of private Members, to remedy which and to restore the dignity of the House of Commons the Prime Minister came in with his large majority. That was one right gone; but they were now to have another right taken from them, and that was, even going through the farce of discussion in Grand Committees, because to allot three days for the discussion of this Small Landholders Bill was nothing but a farce. He wondered if any hon. Member had taken the trouble to read through the Bill as now introduced and compare it with the Bill as passed by the House of Commons last session. But supposing the Bill was identical with that carried through the House last session, he asked whether it would be possible to move even the most cardinal Amendments which ought to be discussed? He did not believe anyone thought it would be possible to discuss the Bill even in a superficial way in the time at the disposal of the House. This further enroachment on the rights of private Members might have very disastrous consequences in the future. What was to prevent the Government coming down to the House in the future and saying: "Here 93 is a Bill to carry out some proposal"—no matter what it might be. "It has been talked of in the country; it is well known to everybody; the arguments for it are quite obvious; therefore we will give you one day for discussion "? That would be only going one shade further than what was now proposed, and therefore the rights of the House of Commons were being gradually taken away from hon. Members by the Executive. It seemed to him to be perfectly ridiculous for them to be sent to the House to represent their constituents if they were to have no opportunity whatever of either discussing or modifying legislation. Some hon. Members opposite seemed to be quite content to sit quiet and allow all their advantages to be taken from them, although when in Opposition their conduct was very different. It was, therefore, very necessary that someone should rise and protest against the invasion of the rights of private Members. He would like to say a word about the aspect of the Motion with regard to its violation of the rights of the House of Lords, for that was at the bottom of the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It gave the Resolution its importance and was the cause of a great deal of the fondness with which hon. Members opposite regarded it. Hon. Members talked as if the House of Lords wasted the time of the House of Commons, and as if the House of Lords was not a factor which the electors had in their minds when they returned the present Government to power. It was, it seemed to him, assumed, a great deal more than hon. Members, even with their great majority, were entitled to assume, that everything which they proposed must be the will of the country and that the House of Lords must be coerced into passing it. He did not know whether that assumption was one which hon. Members entertained, but he was certain of this, that the by-elections had shown one thing very clearly, and that was that if it had not been for the presence of the House of Lords, which had suspended judgment over some of those measures which were brought before it, the majority of the Government would not have been so great as it was. He desired to enter his most hearty protest against this Resolution.
§ MR. NUSSEY, (Pontefract)
who was indistinctly heard, was understood to say that he did not see how it was possible in these days to get any Bill which was a controversial one—and these Bills were highly controversial—through the House of Commons without some kind of closure. The days had gone by when Bills, even of second-rate importance, could be passed without it. When an Opposition was called upon to consider a particular closure, they always found it the very worst kind of closure which had ever been put forward, and the Government that brought forward the proposal always thought that it was the best possible scheme suggested by the best possible Government. He had voted against the closure when he was on the opposite side of the House again and again, and he should support it from that side of the House with equanimity. There was a great deal of cant talked up and down the country and in the House of Commons about closure. But he would at the same time like to point out that there was one novel point about this particular Resolution which had not been referred to that afternoon. It was that this was the first time they had two Bills included in one guillotine Motion. Hitherto they had always had Motions dealing with a particular Bill, or a particular stage of a Bill, but here they had two Bills—the Small Landowners Bill and the Land Values Bill—brought within the one Motion, and he did not see why if that was done on this occasion it should not be developed in the future so that they might have half a dozen Bills next session similarly dealt with, and in the next Parliament they might have the Government mapping out the time of the session and saying that so many days should be devoted to each Bill. He did regard that as a very grave and novel proposition, and thought that the point was worthy of consideration by the House, whether they should permit this innovation of grouping Bills, by way of one guillotine Motion, and so push any number of Bills through in one discussion in the House of Commons. The point had been raised that these Bills could not be properly discussed or amended, and it seemed to him that the time given under the Resolution was either too short or too long. If the Bills 95 were amended in Committee they would have three days discussion, but every one knew that they would not he so amended, and that the amount of time which would be allowed to them would be two days, which he submitted was far too short a period. If, however, it was intended to send these Bills up line by line as they were to the House of Lords then the time was too long. Coming back to the point which he had before made, he regarded the grouping of Bills as a very serious matter, and as one which ought to be seriously considered.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
did not think he could congratulate His Majesty's Government on the motives of the support accorded to the Resolution from their supporters on the other side of the House, or their allies below the gangway. The hon. Member who had just sat down told them that he had voted with equal pleasure for the closure and against it, and that he himself was prepared to increase the power of the closure, and he thought that in the best of all possible worlds the more they had of it the better. Following up the hon. Member's argument, he presumed he would be glad, and for himself he would not be surprised if the Government shortly proposed that all Bills mentioned in the King's Speech were comprised in one happy dispatch and appointed to become law within a limited measure of time. But the Government had another supporter in the hon. Member for Leith Burghs who said that he would vote for this Resolution. And on what ground? Because he thought that the particular Bill to which it referred was so hoplessly bad that it was not worth discussing and that any time devoted to discussing it—even the three days allotted—would be lost time. They knew the hon. Gentleman's feelings towards that Bill. He was one of the most effective critics of it, and there was one thing which made his criticism more serious, and that was that no one on the Committee was better acquainted than he was with the circumstances with which the Bill professed to deal. The Government had also had another supporter in the hon. Member for Leicester, who affected to disregard the interests of the Scottish people and to 96 look to something larger, the general privileges of free speech in the House of Commons. But what were the limitations of that privilege which the hon. Member as the protagonist of the Labour Party was prepared to agree to? He hoped that his followers would take note of the exact limits of free speech which were claimed at the hands of the Government by the Labour Party. It was a free speech which meant that when a certain number of days had been given to the discussion of the Bill, without inquiry as to how that discussion had ranged, without inquiry as to what were the important principles involved in the Bill, simply because so many days and so many hours had been spent upon it, that was to be pronounced to be an adequate allowance of time, and the hon. Member as representing the Labour Party said he would be satisfied with that dole from the Government. But the hon. Member said something more; he said the Government might have withdrawn this Resolution, or given a longer time to the Bill, or done away with all restrictions, if the Leader of the Opposition had guaranteed that the measure would not be discussed for more than a certain number of days. He did not know whether the members of the Labour Party were disposed to take from their Leader any such strict orders as to the limitation of their speeches and the time of discussion, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman upon whom he looked as his Leader would be prepared to pledge his followers under any circumstances, and no matter what were the difficulties of the questions involved, to confine the discussion to a certain number of days prescribed by the Government. They asserted for themselves, whatever the Labour Party might do, some more serious measure of liberty of speech in this House. Could there, he asked, be two Bills more impossible than those now under discussion to yoke together in this Procrustean bed? The one was a Bill with many clauses, many principles, and a vast amount of machinery to settle. Not one of the clauses of the Bill could be discussed without hearing the arguments of the experts on both sides. The other Bill was a tentative one, and 97 involved a very serious and they thought a pernicious principle, though he knew that the Solicitor-General held that their opposition was only due to crass ignorance. But the principle could be discussed within certain limits as it involved no elaborate details. How the Government could say that these two Bills could be measured by the same standard he could not understand. It was not only, however, the provisions of the Bills but their history which differentiated them. The Land Bill went before a Grand Committee of Scottish and other Members upstairs. It was in charge of the Secretary for Scotland. For the first few days, the proceedings were conducted perfectly amicably, and during that time the arguments and the speeches were furnished quite as much by the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman as by his opponents. But a ukase went out that speeches were to cease, and from that time they came exclusively from the adverse critics of the Bill. Those who wished for some modification or who were doubtful in regard to the proceedings sat silent at the behest of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland. No arguments were advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, who time after time with automatic regularity rose and said that the Government had carefully considered the question; they had made up their minds that this was the proper course to be followed, and he must now move the closure. That was the only argument for that course that the right hon. Gentleman thought proper to pursue. They all knew his general courtesy and were not disposed to be hard upon him in any way, but the right hon. Gentleman was not made to be a tyrant. He was made with better qualities, but, unfortunately, he had thought fit to abandon argument and to proceed by automatic closure, which was moved as many as fifty-three times in the Committee. What was the course with regard to the other Bill, which was in the charge of the Lord Advocate? The closure was never once moved, and in two or three days the Bill was passed through Committee and, pernicious as they thought its central principle to be, it was, at all events, to some extent adequately discussed. The 98 Prime Minister said they were determined in their action because they knew that they had the great mass of the opinion of Scotland behind them. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had not always been so adamantine in their views or so faithful to them. There was a Land Bill in 1906 as well as in 1907, and in the interval between the two the views of the Government had very materially matured. They would have liked to know how much further the views of the Government had matured in 1908. In the Valuation of Land Bill the evolution of the views of the Government was even more remarkable, because though the Government voted in 1906 for the Second Reading of a private Member's Valuation Bill, the Lord-Advocate said he could not; admit the principle embodied in that Bill as to the taxation of existing feu duties. Before the end of 1906, the Solicitor-General at least had come to a very different opinion as to the taxation of feu duties. The House would like to know if that Bill was revived again, with all the fresh knowledge and new considerations, whether the difference of opinion between the Lord-Advocate and Solicitor-General for Scotland had developed or had ceased; whether the facts in regard to the taxation of feu duties had shown any fresh divergence or not. The Prime Minister, he believed, had given an assurance that no existing contracts would be interfered with, and the House would find great difficulty in reconciling that assurance with the statement of his views by the Solicitor-General. He was ready to admit for the purposes of argument that the Government had a majority of Scottish opinion in their favour at present; they had the largest number of seats in this House. But in their wildest moments did it not occur to the Government that there were hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland who doubted the wisdom of this proposed legislation? Did the Government doubt that, though they won in the last general election, there was a large body of opinion in Scotland that doubted the wisdom and the expediency of the Government's proposals? Did they imagine that they would initiate wise legislation which would be broad based 99 on the people's will if they did not conciliate the doubters by at least showing them that their arguments were listened to? And did they think they would conciliate them by an indiscriminate use of the closure? People of Scotland were very different from what he believed them to be if they were conciliated by such a process. Even the Government's own supporters would look with distrust on a procedure which turned a deaf ear to the arguments of their opponents and administered the closure indiscriminately in this way. It was not a question of closuring those who spoke in this House. It did not matter much whether their mouths were closed or not. It was a question of the men who were behind the Members of Parliament, the men in the country who, mistaken as the Government believed them to be, had opinions and who were disappointed and almost rebellious when they believed that their opinions were denied a hearing in this House. Did the Government think they would conciliate those men by telling them that the opinions they wished to see represented in this House, and the doubts which they honestly entertained had been crushed into silence? The hon. Member for Leicester had said, let the Government do with this Bill as they liked. It was their business, let them change and alter it as they pleased, he would vote for it within the limited time of three days which they allowed. But so far as he (Sir Henry Craik) was concerned, he and those who thought with him claimed some larger measure of Parliamentary freedom than that indicated by the hon. Member.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said that what they had to consider was whether the Bills had had adequate discussion, and whether hon. Gentlemen opposite were justified in fighting against the closuring Resolution. He thought they would find that not only had there been ample discussion, but that they were singularly fortunate in having another opportunity of discussing the Bills at all. The Licensing Bill of the last. Conservative Government had not been discussed in the country when it was introduced. It came up in the House for the first time and though 100 passed no doubt by large majorities it was not passed by such large majorities as the present Bills. It then went to another place, and, fortunately for hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were in power the other House was a "bourne from which no traveller returned" These Bills, passed as they were by vast majorities, were returned once more and hon. Gentlemen had been offered a second time to discuss them. It appeared to him that the time proposed to be allocated to the Bills was quite ample. Nothing would be gained by any longer discussion, and opinion neither in the House nor in the country would be altered. A good deal of discussion had taken place as to proceedings in Grand Committee. He was a member of that Committee and he was present at every sitting but one. He would not bandy charges of obstruction, but if in twenty-two days they could not discus-the Bill in such a Committee, then Parliamentary institutions were futile. Did hon. Members opposite say that if they discussed the Bill for twenty-two days in the House of Commons, as at present constituted, its mind would be changed in any essential detail? He did not for one moment believe it. Of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite might say that they wanted to show them up to the country. But he did not believe that there had been any Bills in the present generation which had been more considered in Scotland. They had had two recesses in which unfortunate Scottish Members like himself had had to talk about nothing else. He confessed he was sick of the Bills himself; they had talked so much about them. They had had speeches, not only by Scottish Members, but by Peers and Conservatives, led by the Leader of the Opposition. Scotland had been seldom so much honoured by Parliamentary talent, and it was all upon these Bills. They had had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman was on the Grand Committee, and led the Opposition to the Bills. The Opposition created sometimes a considerable amount of heat and temper; but he could say that he doubted whether at the end there was any Member of that Commission more popular with the Scottish Members than 101 the right hon. Gentleman. He came to Scotland and represented the view against the Bills. They had the Leader of the Opposition, who devoted the whole of his speech at Glasgow to the measures. There were no doubt some points on which the Scottish people did not thoroughly understand the political views of the Leader of the Opposition, but his view on these Bills was understood clearly and distinctly by everybody in Scotland. Not only had they had these leading lights, but they had had Lord Rosebery. He was accustomed to ploughing a lonely furrow, but it seemed to him (Mr. Crombie) that on this occasion he emerged from his lonely furrow and engaged in a regular ploughing match. Under these circumstances he claimed that it could not be said that the Bills had not been discussed threadbare. If they were discussed for weeks they would make no change in the opinion of the country, or in the voting of the House of Commons. Therefore, in the interests of Parliamentary time, was it possible or conceivable that more than two or three days should be wasted on the measures? He thought that if the Government had consented to give more time than they had done they would as trustees of the time of the House of Commons have committed a most serious offence.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said the Prime Minister had put forward as a reason for this Resolution that the Small Landholders Bill had been adequately discussed, because so much time was devoted to it in Committee upstairs. He wished to protest against the idea that a discussion in Committee was in any sense equivalent to a discussion in Committee of the Whole House where the speeches were reported, and the attention of the country was called to the measure. That advantage was altogether lacking in the Committee upstairs. Although this Bill had been discussed at considerable length, it had not had much effect upon public opinion. In regard to the Small Landholders Bill, that was a measure in regard to which he took a prominent part, and a distinct line of policy was pursued throughout in regard to it by the Unionist Party. They 102 tried to induce the promoters of the Bill to accept an alteration with regard to the crofting areas, and to apply the principle of the English Bill to the South of Scotland. If the discussion had taken place on the floor of the House, public opinion would have been more influenced. He did not agree that further discussion would have no effect. They might just as well adopt the suggestion that after the introduction of the King's Speech the Government should bring forward a Closure Resolution closuring by compartments all the measures in that Speech, and providing that they must be passed in a month. The Unionist Party had fought this Bill throughout on recognised principles, and whenever the Small Landholders Bill was passed he ventured to say that it would be based on lines consistent with the attitude adopted by the Unionist Party on the Committee upstairs. He felt sure that if Scottish Members were left absolutely free to follow their own opinion they would gladly accept a compromise on the lines he had indicated, which would work for peace and happiness in the country districts in a way which the Government plan could never do. Had the Government last session accepted such a compromise this question would now have been comfortably settled on lines upon which similar portions of Scotland and England would have been treated alike, and the Crofters Act would have been extended in those districts where it was most suitable. That system would have suited the people of Scotland better [Cries of "No."] There were hundreds and thousands of Scotsmen who were in the habit of appealing to English Members for representation. He had received petitions from Scotsmen asking him if he could do anything to save them from their Member; consequently in that House he had not only to do his duty to his constituents in England, but he had an interest in Scotch legislation. He honestly believed that the Small Landholders Bill was never intended to pass. ["Oh, oh."] It was drafted in such a way to show that it was never intended to pass, but it was thought that it would serve as one of the snowballs with which the House of Lords was to be pelted. By such tactics, instead of undermining the 103 position of the House of Lords the Government would find that they were fortifying and securing its position in the opinion of the great bulk of Scottish people. He could congratulate the Prime Minister upon a great many things, but not upon the ingenuousness of his ingenuity upon this question, although he could congratulate him heartily upon the transparency of his tactics.
§ MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)
said the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition were always interesting if not illuminating. He thought the speech he had just delivered might be described as thin and thrilling. The right hon. Gentleman had asked that the Small Landholders Bill should have adequate discussion; but what did he mean by that? He had had the honour or rather the painful duty of sitting on the Committee which dealt with this Bill, and as a new Member he confessed that he was more than surprised at the tactics adopted by those who were opposed to the measure. He might be wrong, but he held a very definite opinion that behind the rail for the public there were legal minds trained in all the trickery of forming and framing Amendments simply for the purpose of offering opposition for the measure. Many of those Amendments were merely repetition and when they failed the phraseology was altered, although the intention was actually the same, namely to waste the time of the Committee. Twenty-two days were occupied in that way. The hon. Member for Leith Burghs said he represented an urban district. He was wondering whether it was the Laird of Dalmeny rather than the electors of Leith Burghs. He claimed to know something about those electors, for he had addressed a meeting of probably some 2,000 or 3,000 on the Leith Links, and if the hon. Member for Leith had been present he felt sure that he would not have got the vote of confidence he seemed so confident about. He was prepared to challenge the hon. Member to meet him on Leith Links to defend the part he took during the proceedings of that Committee. With regard to what had been said about the Labour Party, they might be "young men in a hurry," but they had had a very severe training, and they were quite conscious of the needs 104 of the democracy in this country. They knew there were a large number of people suffering terrible privations who were paying attention to Parliamentary action and watching their proceedings. It was his duty week by week to go all over the country, and he was continually being asked: "Why don't you do more?" When he complained that it was the fault of the Parliamentary machine he was asked: "Why don't you smash it?" Therein lay the danger. If hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side wished to save a catastrophe they ought to help to use the time of the House to pass useful legislation instead of framing so many Amendments. He appealed to the Opposition to save themselves. This Resolution was that two Bills which had been adequately discussed both in Parliament and in the country should be passed with limited discussion. The Scottish Small Landholders Bill occupied more than enough time during the twenty-eight days it was under consideration. As one who was looked upon as an extremely dangerous young man he had hazarded a recommendation or an appreciation of this particular Bill, and he was bound to confess that amongst audiences avowedly opposed to the Government he had heard very little objection to the Bill as an instalment of land reform. After the time which had been used in the country and upstairs discussing this matter he thought the Government were justified in bringing forward this particular Resolution. The Labour Party did not accept the statement that minorities must suffer; at any rate if they had to suffer they were not going to suffer silently. If the Closure was not applied to this measure the same brigade who opposed the Bill on the last occasion would be present again to carry out the same tactics, and in the interests of the dignity of the House and social reform the Government were justified in bringing forward this Resolution, which he hoped every Member of the Labour Party would support.
§ MR. J. F. MASON (Windsor)
said the Resolution seemed to be an ingenious method of dodging round the Constitution, leading gradually towards government by oligarchy instead of by the free representatives of the people. But undoubtedly 105 the Government deserved a considerable amount of well-justified criticism for suggesting that two Bills of such immense importance as these should be carried in the course of from four to six days, Bills both of which dealt with the whole incidence of local taxation, and one designed to arrest the flow of landlord capital on to small holdings. It had been alleged that the Small Landholders Bill had been adequately discussed, because it occupied twenty-two days in Grand Committee, and that nothing could be gained by further discussion, because the whole of the Party opposite had a closed mind on the subject, and were not open to conviction. Whatever might be the case as to the amount of time devoted to the discussion in detail of the Bill, the important fact remained that large blocks of it went through the Committee stage without any discussion whatever. The consequence was that many Amendments were never reached, and it was quite evident therefore that the Bills had not been adequately discussed. If the passing of these Bills through that House was meant as a serious attempt at legislation, and if it was really desired that they should go upon the Statute-book, was it not reasonable that, although they might dispose in some such method as was proposed, of such parts of the Bill as had been discussed, some provision should be made that those portions which had not been touched upon at all should receive some discussion? Otherwise they went through the House without any real expression of the opinion of Members upon a very large proportion of the measure. If the object was not to put them upon the Statute-book, but merely to fill the proverbial cup, he had no objection to the proposal, and he thought the Bills would form a beverage to pour into that cup which the other House would have very great justification in refusing to swallow in their present form.
§ *MR. MONTAGU (Cambridgeshire, Chesterton)
wished to say a few words as one who had a great distaste for the guillotine. He could instance that by the fact that he had addressed two questions to the Prime Minister last Session from which they learned that the Government were considering plans to 106 avoid as far as possible the use of closure by compartment. All the objections that had been raised to the discussion of the Scottish Small Holders Bill last session as inadequate were due to the fact that the guillotine was employed—the best Parliamentary weapon then in existence. But this Motion seemed to stand differently from any other guillotine Motion that had ever been proposed. It was not a Motion for the infringement of the liberties of the House, but one for their protection. Could any hon. Member honestly say that in his opinion it would be to the interests of the House to spend a large portion of the session once again in discussing two Bills that had already been discussed. Supposing that the discussion last year was inadequate, by going over the clauses that were inadequately discussed did anyone think the discussion would thus become more adequate? There would simply be a repetition of the same Amendments, the same speeches and the same results. The hon. Member for Glasgow University objected to the two Bills, one of which he said was, and the other was not, adequately discussed, being considered in the same guillotine Resolution. Both Bills, apart from their merits and the treatment they had received, stood to-day in the same category, because both had been discussed and passed through that House, and therefore it was fitting that they should both receive the same treatment in order that they might be sent to obtain adequate discussion in another place. It had been again and again said upon the other side that these Bills were never intended to become law, and were merely useful for filling up the cup. Was it impossible to persuade hon. Members opposite that there was no necessity to fill up the cup of the House of Lords? Their case against the House of Lords seemed to him to be an obvious one. It was simply and solely that the people of this country were denied Liberal or Labour Government when or if they voted Liberal or Labour in the same sense that they could have Conservative Government when they voted Conservative. Political history, both modern and recent, gave ample evidence of this contention, and he was perfectly confident that when the Prime 107 Minister went to the country to ask for their judgment he would find that no process of filling up the cup had been required to prove an obvious proposition. He was an English Member representing an English agricultural constituency, and he wanted this Bill to pass because it would provide small holdings for the people of Scotland. He knew that the English Small Holdings Act had been a great success. Did he know anything of Scotland he would in his ignorance have suggested that the Scottish smallholder would be very well served with the English Small Holdings Act, but he did not know anything about Scotland, and just as they, English Members, obtained for their constituencies an English Small Holdings Act which they considered advantageous, so he was anxious that Members representing Scotland should obtain for their constituencies that Bill which in their almost unanimous opinion they considered to be to the advantage of their constituents. No one could fail to have been struck by the large number of views raised as to the opinions in Scotland on the merits of this Bill. The right hon. Member for Shropshire said Scotsmen did not like it. The Leader of the Opposition also knew that Scotland very strongly condemned the measure. The hon. Member for Leith Burghs also said Scotland did not like the Bill. But it was remarkable that not one of these gentlemen happened to have been returned for a Scottish constituency whose inhabitants would directly profit by the Small Holders Bill. Although one ought to be deferential to the opinions of experts such as the hon. Member for Leith Burghs, there could be no reason to doubt that the right person to approach such a subject as this was the man who had been returned by a Scottish constituency which was to profit by the Bill, and who had reason to know more accurately than anybody else what would be of advantage to him in his constituency. Scottish Members were almost unanimous in saying that the Scottish Small Holders Bill was best calculated to produce Scottish small holders. For that reason everybody interested in small holdings ought to support the Bill, and if they desired its passage it was surely almost preposterous to ask 108 that they should go over again the weary course of last Session and debate what had been debated, which would delay the passage, not only of that Bill but of a large number of other reforms which they were all desirous of seeing passed. There was very little sympathy in the country for those who protested against the guillotine. The voter read his daily paper and knew all that there was to be known and had thought all that there was to be thought about the Bill after reading a leader on it in the Daily Mail. The country was always impatient of prolonged discussions in that House. It therefore behoved the House to be particularly careful about the curtailment of discussion on any topic of general interest such as this, but he could not feel that any Member was really in earnest in thinking that anything either in free discussion or in the Amendment of the Bill could be gained by doing over again what had been done. He could not but believe that the only result of such a course would be to curtail discussion of other measures for which there was an urgent demand. All that this had taught them was that the sooner that careful consideration, which the Prime Minister and the Government were now undertaking for doing away largely if not wholly with the cumbrous unscientific method of the guillotine, reached a point at which the House could take action, the better for proper and adequate discussion of their measures.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Eye)
said he wanted to draw attention to one or two inconsistencies in the somewhat curious arguments which had been used by supporters of the, Government in favour of the guillotine Resolution. Some said the Scottish Bills had been fully discussed in the House last Session; others that it was true the Scottish Bills had not been discussed in the House, but that they had been discussed in Scotland and that was sufficient. The Chancellor of the Exchequer justified the action of the Government in sending these Bills to Grand Committee on the ground that it was better than a discussion in the House because one of the measures applied only to Scotland, therefore it only 109 required discussion by Scottish Members. The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten, however, that the Land Values Bill was treated in the same way as the Small Landholders Bill, although it was stated over and over again that later on the principle of the Land Values Bill was to be applied to the south of the Tweed as well as to the north. If that were so he failed to see why the principle should be discussed solely by Scottish Members and what justification the right hon. Gentleman had for stating that such a discussion was as good as a discussion by the whole House. The thing was manifestly absurd. He believed the Government had other reasons for re-introducing the Small Landholders Bill. From whatever point of view they looked at it they were bound to come to the conclusion that it was desired in the form proposed simply as a weapon to be used against the House of Lords. They were told last year over and over again that Scottish agriculturists, especially in the lowlands of Scotland, desired the measure, but he failed to see how that could be so. The Scottish Chamber of Agriculture had declared itself unanimously against it. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were really so desirous of bringing in the measure in a form which would carry with it the greatest good to the people of Scotland, surely they should have taken some account of the resolutions in opposition to it that had been passed at meeting after meeting of agriculturists in the lowlands of Scotland. However much hon. Members opposite desired to see the measure upon the Statute Book they could not deny that there was a great division of opinion in Scotland upon the subject. Something should have been done to meet that opposition. On the other hand if a good Bill had been brought in, it might have passed in another place and from the Government's point of view that would never do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had declared that the reason the Bill had not passed last session was because of the iniquitous action of another place. If that were so, why did the Government seek to introduce the measure again this session in precisely the same form. Was 110 the House of Lords likely to change its mind in so short a time? Surely, if the Government desired so earnestly to help the people of Scotland it should bring in a measure which would not run so great risk of rejection by the House of Lords. There was one other point. The Prime Minister had excused his guillotine Motion on the ground that these Bills had been adequately discussed as far as the Commons were concerned last session, and that it was the Government's desire now to give the House of Lords an adequate opportunity of considering the measures. If that were so, why had not the Bill been introduced this session in the House of Lords? The whole thing came back to his first point. Whichever way they looked at it they were bound to come to the conclusion that the Government's whole motive for introducing the Bills word for word as they left the House last session was simply that they might be used as a weapon against the House of Lords. He was certain, however, that neither the people of this country nor the people of Scotland would support the Government on so transparent a device.
*MR. GEORGE FABEE (York)
said an hon. Member on the other side of the House had pointed out that this Resolution was unprecedented, in that it comprised identical guillotine proposals with respect to two Bills. That led him to ask whether the Bills were so similar in character that they should be treated in exactly the same manner. The two Bills were entirely different in character. If a period of three days was enough for one why should it be enough for the other? He had come to the conclusion that the decision to give each Bill three days had been come to in a slap-dash fashion without adequate consideration. The same hon. Member had stated that he was in favour of this procedure for all Bills. He did not think that even this revolutionary House of Commons would be prepared for that. The proposal in this Resolution was against constitutional procedure as they had been accustomed to regard it. Erskine May said that Parliamentary procedure was interrupted by a prorogation. Surely then if a Bill failed to become 111 law during a particular session, when the next session came on it became a new matter, and they had no right to try and shorten debate upon it because it had been thoroughly discussed in the previous session. Of course the reply to that argument might be that just as the King could do no wrong, Parliament could do no wrong if it chose to pass a Resolution dealing with the matter. Still the constitutional law did stand that if a session concluded without a Bill becoming law the matter ended there, and when the next session came round, if the Bill was re-introduced, the House was entitled to re-discuss it thoroughly in all its stages. So much for Parliamentary procedure; but after all he supposed that the broad question was whether justice was being done in this matter. He ventured to doubt it. At the beginning of last session when the new Grand Committees were set up they certainly were led to believe that no contentious Bill would be sent upstairs, but would be discussed on the floor of the House. No sooner, however, had that promise been made than it was broken. This Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill was one of the most contentious measures introduced last session. It involved the whole question of procedure in regard to land tenure in Scotland, yet it was sent upstairs to a Grand Committee and ordinary Members heard nothing of what was going on there, as the proceedings were not reported. He was interested in land in Scotland as well as in England, and he knew no more of what happened upstairs in regard to this Bill than the man in the moon; and scores and scores of hon. Members were in exactly the same position. Therefore, he did not think they had been fairly dealt with, when the Government began by breaking their promise and now proposed to adopt this wholly unprecedented procedure. This Government would not go on for ever; he did not suppose that the most sanguine Member on the Government side of the House would deny that the trend of opinion in the country was turning and that in a short time it might happen that those now in opposition would sit on the Government Benches. That was just as sure as day followed night. And what would happen? They would 112 be inclined to retaliate upon those at present in power. Hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches must not then complain, if the same measure which they had meted out was in turn meted out to them. If he spoke for a moment on the question of tactics it was only because the Prime Minister treated the manner in which he was proceeding with regard to both the Bills mentioned in the Resolution as a matter of tactics. The Government wanted to hurry the Bills into another place, but what were they going to gain by that? An hon. Member on the Government side had said: "Let us hurry through the Small Land Holders Bill as quickly as possible." And what reason did he give? "Because the Bill was dead; because it was a corpse." They wanted to fill up the cup of the iniquities of the House of Lords. But could they not see that instead of filling up the cup of the House of Lords they were only filling up their own cup or, if he might complete the metaphor of the hon. Member, they were only filling up their own coffin, and why? Because Scotland did not want the Bill. The agriculturists of Scotland did not want it. Prom his own standpoint he held that the Scottish landed interest—whether represented by landlords or tenant farmers—did not want the whole landed system of Scotland upset, seeing that it had served them in the past better than any other system could have done. Moreover, the proposed system had ruined Ireland and before it was finished might cost the taxpayers of the country £200,000,000 to get rid of. What was the hurry from the Government's own point; of view? Were they so anxious to get on with the rest of the legislation for the session? Were they wildly desirous of reaching the Licensing Bill? Little birds sometimes sang falsely, but little birds were intimating in strong tones that there was not complete unanimity in the Government or amongst their supporters on that Bill. Were they so anxious to reach the Education Bill or the Roman Catholic University for Ireland Bill, or the discussions on the Navy? Therefore he would have thought that from the point of view of tactics the Government ought to spend as many days as they possibly could over these two Bills, 113 on the principle of "lingering sweetness long-drawn out." In any case they were only marching to their own funeral. The Bills would undoubtedly be thrown out, or largely amended, in another place, and therefore there was no necessity for this exceptional Resolution. They did not suggest the adoption of the system of carrying over Bills from one session to another, but tried to arrive at the same conclusion by a sidewind. He believed that the boomerang which the Government had thrown into the air would fall back disastrously on their own heads.
§ SIR P. BANBURY (City of London)
congratulated the hon. Member for York on his speech, with the exception of one point. He thought the hon. Member made a great mistake when he told hon. Gentlemen opposite that they would probably receive the same measure which they meted out now to those in Opposition when places were changed and the Unionists returned to power. They were men of principle on that side of the House and had, therefore, a great respect for the rights and privileges of the House of Commons. And although he was only a a humble back-bencher, he could assure hon. Gentlemen that they would not be led away by the bad example of the Prime Minister and those who were going to support him to-morrow. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, who was private secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave three reasons why he should support the Resolution. First of all, because he was against the guillotine. But if ever there was a measure which was going to be forced through the House by the guillotine, it was this Resolution. The hon. Member said that he had had a satisfactory conversation with the Prime Minister, who assured him that he was considering a plan which would avoid the necessity of the guillotine. But the Prime Minister had told them that afternoon that he had been unable to devise any scheme which would do away with the guillotine; therefore, the first argument of the hon. Gentleman fell to the ground. The second argument of the hon. Gentleman was that when he talked to the constituencies about the privileges and rights of the House of Commons the constituencies did not care; that, in fact, it was rather difficult to find an elector 114 who cared about them. Surely if the hon. Gentleman had studied the utterances of his Leader he would know that the Prime Minister, in his election address, stated that the late Government had by the unprecedented use of their unrestricted power, abused the procedure of the legislature, impaired its authority and reduced it so far as was in their power into a machine for registering the decrees of the Executive. Therefore, it was quite evident that the Prime Minister did not in 1906 share the views of his supporter, that the electorate as a whole paid no attention, or did not care whether or not the rights of the House of Commons were curtailed and the legislature reduced to a machine to register the decrees of the Executive. Sometimes words came home to roost, and he must say that he thought this was an instance of that fact, because what did this Motion mean except that the legislature was to be converted into a machine to register the decrees of the Executive? The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said he did not pay much attention to the position taken up by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs, because his constituency would not benefit by the Bill, and he thought that the votes of hon. Members who sat for constituencies which would benefit by it and who would gain advantages for themselves ought to be considered. It came to this, therefore, that they were not to consider whether a measure was right for the country as a whole, but whether any Member whose constituency would gain some advantage by it, supported it. Was that the doctrine of the great Radical Party? He must confess, and he said it with great humility, that he had not any opinion of Radical ideas, but he did not think that they were so low as to avow that their object was to find out what any particular electorate wanted and give it to them.
§ *MR. MONTAGU
did not want to interrupt the hon. Baronet, but he wished to point out that he had grievously misunderstood his argument on all the three points he had dealt with.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he should be glad if the hon. Member would correct him in any way. The speech of the hon. Member for Leicester was heralded with 115 great triumph by the statement that the principle that he had to consider was whether or not the rights of the minority were going to be affected. If they were affected, then the Labour Party would stand to a man against oppression. Then he found all of a sudden that this was not going to interfere with the rights of the minority, and therefore the Labour Party were not concerned to take up that attitude. What were the rights of the minority if the power to discuss a measure for which they did not care was taken away from them? They had no other Tights in that House, except rights of discussing. He remembered Sir William Harcourt, who was a great Parliamentarian, saying that the meaning of the word "Parliament" was that it was the debating house of the nation, but hon. Members opposite, and the Labour Party especially, seemed to think that the House of Commons was a machine to turn out legislation which would benefit their particular supporters. It never was anything of the sort. It was a place where measures should be discussed and where Members should meet together and debate all the proposals of interest, not to one particular party of the community, but to the country as a whole. The hon. Member for the Newton Division said that he went down to his constituency, and they said: "Why are you so slow in the House of Commons; why do you not get on quicker? "He replied:" It is the Parliamentary machine which gets on so slowly," and then he was received with these words: "Why do not you smash it?" That was exactly what this Motion was going to do—smash the machine; and that was why they on that side, who were Parliamentarians and great admirers of the Mother of Parliaments, were opposed to any such Resolution. The hon. Member for Leicester appealed to those Members who were business men, and asked what business man would say that a discussion which took twenty-two days in Committee was not sufficient. The reply to that was that there were only eighty-five members of the Committee, and 670 Members of the House. If a board of business men was going to consider a matter which affected the whole undertaking, they would not refer it to a sub-committee. 116 This was one of the most important questions that could be brought before the House of Commons, and it referred to a Bill for revolutionising the whole land system of Scotland. It was therefore absolutely necessary that such a Bill should be discussed. He had the honour of being a member of the Committee, and he ventured to say that the supporters of the Government occupied as much time in discussion as the Opposition. On one day, for thirteen or fourteen speeches made by Radical Members, only seven or eight were made by the Opposition. Some of the supporters of the Government took a strong line and said they did not like the Bill, and would have nothing to do with it, and he hoped to find that consistency for which he thought the Radical Party were so" well known. But he was disappointed, as they did not vote, and on one occasion the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty voted for the closure on his own Amendment. The Leader of the Opposition had a copy of the Bill in which the portions of it which were closured were underlined in red ink. He had looked at it, and refreshed his memory, and he found that the closure was applied to nearly all of the most important provisions of the measure. They were promised a discussion on certain portions of the Bill later on, but did not get it, as those parts were also closured without debate. He thought he had proved to every reasonable man that there was no such thing as free discussion upstairs in Committee. An hon. Member who spoke from the Labour Benches made an attack upon the Unionist Members for going behind the bar of the Grand Committee and communicating with one legal gentleman who was looking up references. Why should they not? What about the officials of the Department who did not sit behind the bar but at the table in the Committee-room, beside the right hon. Gentleman, and who were paid public money to be there? At all events, they paid their one man with their own money and not out of public funds. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire argued that as the Small Holdings Bill had been successful in England, it was right to have this Bill, which differed from it in every principle, in Scotland. That seemed to him a most ludicrous 117 argument, and after all the hon. Member must first show that the Small Holdings Bill had been a success in England. The impression of people in the agricultural districts was that they were going to get land for nothing and that the State were going to pay their rates and taxes for them. When they found that nothing of the sort was the case, hon. Gentlemen would not be received with such cheers in their constituencies as they had hitherto been. He thought he had given substantial reasons why this Motion should not be passed, and he believed that if they had a vote by ballot upon it, it would not be carried.
§ *MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
said that in 1902 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in that House, quoted the late Mr. Gladstone on this very subject, Mr. Gladstone said very justly that the majority must prevail, but that still an equally important thing was the manner and the spirit in which the majority should prevail. He thought that quotation was a very good guide to them now, and that they should approach the consideration of this Motion very much in that kind of spirit. He would draw the attention of the House to this further fact, that on that occasion the present Prime Minister laid down certain principles which should guide them in considering this very matter. He was then dealing with a proposal to closure a debate on a certain measure, but to-day he had brought in a Motion which would automatically shut out discussion on two Bills at once—a kind of right-and-left shot. This, no doubt, would satisfy his supporters more than it would the rest of the country. The Prime Minister then laid down some principles for the guidance of the House. They ought, he said, in examining the Motion first of all to consider its texture and nature. Well, many who looked at the texture and nature of these Bills, which technically they had not seen but which they knew something about owing to the slight provision made for their discussion last year, were not by any means enamoured of them. They considered them revolutionary in their nature, and by their texture calculated to set up that very unsatisfactory state of things which at present 118 existed in Ireland, namely, dual ownership. The Government recognised that in Ireland dual ownership was a curse, and were attempting to deal with it. It was set up in comparatively recent times and everybody had already seen the immense evil which could result from such a mischievous proceeding. Yet the right hon. Gentleman proposed in the texture and nature of one of these Bills to set up dual ownership in a country where it did not now exist, save in the crofting areas. He proposed to extend the principle to areas in which there was no demand for it, and where it would only result in inflicting a similar curse to that which it had inflicted in Ireland—a curse which would have to be dealt with in the future by legislation as unsatisfactory and objectionable in character as the Irish legislation of recent years. The House was also told that they ought to consider the origin of the Bills. They did not like them even when they considered their origin. They considered, and they were justified in saying they considered, that the origin of these Bills was to be found in party spite. His right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition had adduced conclusive arguments and conclusive proofs that these measures were brought before Parliament last year, and were to be brought before Parliament this year, simply for the purpose of picking a quarrel with another place. His right hon. friend had said, and in his opinion with justice, that these measures were not intended to pass; that they were window-dressing measures and merely intended to destroy the good understanding which had hitherto existed between the representatives of the people of this country and the House of Lords. Hon. Members also recognised that in their origin and their character these Bills were socialistic, and for that reason, if for no other, they considered it was unjust and wrong that they should be asked to give them the exceptional facilities which they desired to obtain for their consideration by the application of the guillotine. The Prime Minister also pointed out to the House that they ought to consider the feeling the Bill raised. They had had sufficient illustrations from Lord Rosebery of what the feeling of the country 119 was with regard to the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill. The measure last year was condemned root and branch by the noble Lord, who contributed more than anyone else in the country to its being rejected. The feeling in the Lowlands was that this provision was not wanted; they did not want the curse of dual ownership. In the opinion of many hon. Members the feeling raised by these two measures did not warrant the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. They were also invited to consider the urgency of the matter, but the most earnest supporter of the Government would not claim that there was any urgency for these Bills. There was no apparent urgency except that this procedure would enable the right hon. Gentleman to come to close grips with the other House, a thing he was apparently not anxious to do. Hon. Members were also exhorted to consider the evil consequences of delay. The right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him might consider that there would be some evil in delay, but others thought the longer the delay the better it would be for all concerned. If these measures were not intended to pass, a certain amount of delay would not affect them much, and if they did pass they would only do harm. The last word of guidance which fell from the right hon. Gentleman was that they should consider in a matter of this kind the nature of the obstruction which had made it necessary to bring forward such a Motion. The measures not having bean before the House, hon. Members had not had an opportunity of looking at them or considering them, and did not know if their provisions were identical with those which the House had a cursory glance at last year. Therefore, it could not be claimed that there was great urgency on the ground of obstruction. There had been no obstruction last year in the consideration of these Bills. There had been no opportunity of obstruction because they were so rushed through the House that hon. Members had no opportunity of discussing them, and many of the principles of the measures were not discussed in detail on any occasion. Therefore, upon the principles which the right hon. Gentleman himself laid down in 1902, all the reasons for the 120 necessity of his Motion fell to the ground. And further, to quote the words of the Prime Minister—Although on those grounds no case had been made for this Motion, it was intended to inflict this grievous blow on the privileges of Parliament on its account.That was on account of these two Bills. In respect to the question to which he had referred, namely, the Motion before the House in 1902, and—if it applied to that Motion it equally applied to the Motion now before the House—the President of the Board of Trade said—It suggests the termination of the debate by violent measures.He could not do better before sitting down than quote the closing words of the Prime Minister in his speech in 1902. The right hon. Gentleman said—referring to the present Leader of the Opposition—What is his cure for the ineffectiveness and impotence of Parliament? It is to suspend the privileges of the House of Commons. It is to institute government by executive decree, it is to take away the powers of Parliament.Yet the right hon. Gentleman now came down to the House, with no ground at all to warrant his action, to bring before the House a complicated Motion, the effect of which would be to bring about exactly the state of things which he, in 1902, said ought never to obtain in Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman by means of this Motion would cripple freedom in debating measures of far-reaching importance: measures which were calculated from a socialistic point of view to do a large amount of mischief; and which, if once placed upon the Statute-book would result in such an amount of mischief in Scotland, as had already been brought about in Ireland, and destroy the peace of that at present peaceful and prosperous country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Henry Forster)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.