§ The PRIME MINISTER
moved to amend paragraph (2) of Standing Order 81 (Speaker), by leaving out the words, "House is informed by the Clerk at the Table of the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Ways and Means," and inserting, "Chairman of Ways and Means is absent."
Perhaps I had better read paragraph (2) of the Standing Order, as it now appears on the records:—At the commencement of every Parliament, or from time to time, as necessity may arise, the House may appoint a Deputy-Chairman, who shall, whenever the House is informed by the Clerk at the Table of the unavoidable absence of the 1178 Chairman of Ways and Means, be entitled to exercise all the powers vested in the Chairman of Ways and Means, including his powers as Deputy-Speaker.The effect of the Amendment will be to give the Deputy-Chairman all the powers of the chair when the Chairman is away. It is, perhaps, desirable to give the House a very brief narrative of the causes which have led to our Standing Orders taking the shape in this respect which they at present do. Standing Order 26, which deals with the closure, in its third paragraph contains this proviso:Provided always that this Rule shall be put in force only when the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means is in the chair.That was not an original part of the Closure Rule as it was proposed by Mr. W. H. Smith in 1887, but it was moved as an Amendment by him in the course of the Debates on the Standing Orders on the ground that there was, of course, no definite chairman in those days, and he wished to distinguish between a casual occupant of the chair and a Member who takes the chair as a result of the vote of the House. There was no Deputy-Chairman then, but 1179 there was, as there is now, a panel of five Members appointed by the Speaker empowered to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested by the Chairman of Ways and Means, and any Member, whether on that panel or not, could take the chair temporarily on the request of the Chairman. Therefore, it was thought necessary, when the power of assenting to or withholding assent to the Closure was conferred on the Chairman, to exclude from its exercise these temporary and casual occupants of the position. The appointment of Deputy-Chairman, which we owe to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour), was first made in 1902. The occasion which gave rise, to it was the simultaneous illness of the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means, which practically brought our proceedings to a deadlock, and it was thought right, and experience has well justified the course which was taken, that we should have permanently in the service of the House a deputy to the Chairman of Ways and Means. The power of vetoing or not vetoing the Closure was not at that time given to the Deputy-Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, speaking on 10th February, 1902, said:—I think it is proper to add to the powers of the Deputy-Chairman the power of applying the ClosureThe late Sir William Harcourt had some doubts about it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), who spoke in the course of the same discussion, said:—Closure is the great instrument for preventing obstruction.The late Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man, then Leader of the Opposition, said:—If the House is to have a Deputy-Chairman to sit in the chair, he must have the power of the Closure.However, the power at that time was not conferred upon him. The Chairmen's panel gave, in a Report in July, 1905, I may remind the House, who the Members were. There were Sir James Fergusson, a very experienced Member of the House; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. John Ellis), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), the hon. Member for the Ashford Division of Kent (Mr. Laurence Hardy), and the hon. Member for North Wexford (Sir Thomas Esmonde). They represent a combination of experience and of Parliamentary authority which is very great. They reported that, in their 1180 opinion, it was not desirable to refer to Standing Committees actually contentious Bills, but that, in the event of Standing Committees having still to deal with Bills of that character, then in addition to the power of ending Debate already possessed by the Chairman, the principle of Closure should become part of the procedure of the Committees as it is of this House* Since then, acting upon the recommendation of the Chairmen's panel, the House conferred the power of putting the Closure, under Standing Order 26, on the Chairmen of Standing Committees.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman will see that the Report of the Chairmen's panel specially excluded the power of closuring part of a clause. It was only to be a simple use of the Closure, which had been used up to that time in rather an informal way.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There was always some doubt as to whether the Chairmen of Standing Committees had the inherent power of assenting to the Closure. I believe it was put in use for the first time by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman when he was acting as Chairman of one of these Committees. That was ten years before the power was conferred under the Standing Order. Some of his successors acted on his example and others did not, and there were considerable doubts about it; but those doubts are now completely set at rest, because the House conferred on the Chairmen of Standing Committees the unlimited power of Closure. That was by an Amendment which was passed in 1907. The present situation, therefore, is this, and it is a very anomalous one: The Chairman of Ways and Means, when he sits in the Chair, has the power of Closure, and the Chairmen of Standing Committees sitting upstairs have the power of Closure, the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, if at the commencement of the sitting the Chairman is indisposed and the Clerk so notifies to the House, has during the whole of the sitting the power of the Closure; but if the Chairman of Ways and Means is not indisposed or unavoidably absent at the commencement of the sitting—and that might happen, and it has happened-and the Deputy-Chairman is in the Chair, there is no power under our rules which would enable him as Deputy-Chairman to exercise the power of assenting or withholding his assent to the Closure during the whole of that sitting. That is a very anomalous and, indeed, very 1181 absurd state of things, and, in our opinion, and I hope it is the opinion of the House, if the Deputy-Chairman is entrusted with the power of assenting to or withholding his assent to the Closure to or withholding man is notified to be unavoidably absent, and if the Chairmen of Standing Committees are entrusted with the power—and, so far as our experience has gone, it has been with advantage—I think the time has come when it might be reasonably extended to the Deputy-Chairman also, particularly as in the case of Bills which necessitate minute discussion and prolonged sittings, it is physically impossible for the Chairman of Ways and Means himself to retain his seat during the whole of the sitting. His absence is just as much unavoidable absence when he is obliged to take some rest or repose in the course of a sitting as it would be if he were indisposed or away at the time the sitting commenced. In these circumstances I hope the House will agree to the very slight Amendment I am now proposing in the Standing Order. I have shown that it has behind it a considerable amount of authority, and certainly it is necessary, if we are to carry on our business in an effective manner.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Standing Order."
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
You, Mr. Speaker, have, I understand, taken the view that we cannot discuss the two Amendments to be proposed by the Prime Minister together, that we cannot have what has often been the case, a second reading Debate upon the Rules of Procedure of the House, because in your view these are matters quite separate and distinct, and must be dealt with separately and distinctly. If I may say so, with all respect, I should have thought it the right thing to take them together, but I presume that I am not prevented by your ruling from making now some reference to the second proposal of the Government, namely, that at the very moment when they are putting the Deputy-Chairman on a precise equality with the Chairman of Ways and Means, they are greatly augmenting the responsibilities and adding to the power of the Chairman. So that, really, although those two proposals are in a sense quite distinct, it is hardly possible for us to deal with the first, which abolishes all distinction between the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman, without remembering 1182 that it is proposed, by substantive Resolution to be moved to-day, to arm both Chairman and Deputy-Chairman with very important exceptional powers, and exceptional powers as to which, if I may say so, it seems to be very difficult that the two Chairmen should exercise them contemporaneously. I do not wish to dwell upon this too much for fear of trespassing upon what I understand to be the effect of your ruling, but I hope the House will understand from that point of view that I do not think that we can consider these two proposals as absolutely isolated. The proposal to put the Deputy-Chairman on an exact equality with the Chairman when no alteration in their powers has been suggested is quite a different proposition from asking us to put them on an equality when great and novel powers are attempted to be added to both. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith), in his narrative and in his statement of the existing position of affairs, has talked as if the Deputy-Chairman was in a wholly different position from both the Chairman and the Chairman of Standing Committees. There is a difference, I agree; but the difference is not precisely what the right hon. Gentleman has, I think, inadvertently led those Members of the House who did not very carefully follow his statement to suppose. The Chairman of Standing Committees has indeed the power of Closure. Whether that power is too unlimited in its present shape at all events, I agree that some power, perhaps with more limitations than now exist, ought to be given to the Chairmen of the Standing Committees, though I frankly admit to the House that my personal experience of Standing Committees is so small that I have had to judge entirely by the report of those who have served upon them. There is not any identity, and there will not be any identity, after you have passed the whole of the programme which the Government suggest to-day. I do not believe that it has ever been contended by the Chairmen of the Standing Committees that they are to select the Amendments to be discussed. Therefore, it is an inaccurate view of the Government proposals to say that they are putting the Deputy-Chairman now for the first time in the position not merely of the Chairman but of the Chairman of Committees. That is not accurate.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
No, I think not. There are three cases of Closure: the Closure of a question before the House, and the Closure of a clause down to a certain point, and there is a new suggestion, which comes on for discussion later, the Closure down to a certain point in the Bill with the selection of certain Amendments. Those are three different forms of Closure, and I do not understand that the Chairman of Standing Committees has more power than the first. I speak with great diffidence on that, because I have already told the House that my experience of those Committees is very small. But I understand that it is not the custom of the Chairman of a Standing Committee to -move down to a certain point. That is not done.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Then my statement of the former position of Chairman of Grand Committees is in that respect inaccurate. Whether that power has ever been used I -do not know. The real objection which I feel to this Amendment is that which was suggested but not emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman who moved it. My real objection is based on the fact that this proposal is clearly and obviously to facilitate the continued succession of all-night sittings. That is the plain and manifest object. The right hon. Gentleman has supposed a case, happily of most rare occurrence, in which the Chairman of Committees being perfectly well at the beginning ceases to be in that happy condition before the close of the business; and certainly the conduct of business by the present Government and the number of hours during which he has now to sit gives an opportunity for a great many changes in his condition. It may very well be that a man may be well at the beginning and ill at the end. And it really might happen that he would be rich at the beginning and poor at the end. The cycle is so long that all the changes and chances of human life might really have occurred in the time. But, after all, I do not think the Government will deny what I have said as to the object with which they suddenly discover that they want two chairmen armed with all greater powers than those 1184 which in one chairman have been found amply adequate in the history of this House for dealing with the business. The reason was admitted but not dwelt on by the right hon. Gentleman. It is that it is beyond the physical capacity of one chairman to sit through the proceedings which the Government have imposed in the past, and intend to impose in the future, on the Members of this House. I do not in the least deny that the strain put upon the Chairman is more than the Chairman can properly be asked to undergo. I quite agree with that. But the strain on the Chairman, remember, under the existing system even can be relieved by his deputy, and the strain on the Chairman is not in the least greater than the strain on the Members, on the supporters of the Government, on the Ministers in charge of the Bill, or on the Whips. They have got to follow the various matters under discussion with too rare intervals for repose, from the beginning of the sitting to the end, and that which is too great for the Chairman is too great for the Members.
The Government have entirely altered their view as to the amount of labour that may legitimately be thrown on Members of this House. When they first came into office their view was that their predecessors had required the House to sit through too long hours, and they were very proud of the Amendment which they passed, which was enthusiastically supported by all their Friends, that the sittings should conclude at 11 o'clock. Now it appears that the Government desire not merely that we should go on beyond eleven, but that we should discuss the most difficult and complicated provisions of a most difficult and complicated Bill for hours so prolonged and continuous that you have to alter the Rules of the House so as to find two chairmen instead of one who may be always ready to carry on the work. Are you to have two Chancellors of the Exchequer, or is the present Chancellor of the Exchequer going, in the stress of these all-night sittings, to delegate his powers to somebody else? If he did it would be a most improper thing, and I do not suppose for one moment that he would do it. The Minister in charge of the Bill cannot always be in his place, of course, even if our proceedings were less prolonged than they are. It would be unreasonable to ask him, and we never ask him, but of course he must be superintending it, and it is absurd to expect that he can do his work 1185 when you admit that your Chairman cannot do his work. The Government in the first place may look after the health and strength of their own Members, but may I put in a humble plea for those who have duties to discharge in respect of dealing with this Budget, and draw attention to the strain put upon them. I suppose there is nobody who thinks that the Budget ought to pass without Amendment, or who thinks that the criticisms which have already been devoted to it have proved fruitless. Everyone must admit that it has deserved criticism, and that it may be improved by further criticism, and I think it perfectly preposterous that in the very middle of the Bill you should, under the guise of bringing forward a general Amendment to make the position of the Deputy-Chairman logical, to make it conform to the position of the Chairman of Grand Committees, and to make it identical with that of the Chairman you should do it in a way that everybody knows is not in the least intended to be a general improvement, or, if it is, is intended to be merely a secondary consideration. Your real object is to bring on an ad hoc Resolution to enable you to compel, without the whole machine breaking down, this House to sit to the hour which you expect in the future, and to which you have compelled them to sit in the immediate past.
I understand that the view of the Government is by this expedient they wish to force through the House this Budget by a series of small proposals without recourse to Closure by compartment. I do not know why they object to Closure by compartment in this Bill, when they are so enamoured of it in other matters, but I do not see any great distinction between preventing discussion altogether and compelling discussion from two o'clock to seven o'clock in the morning. It is absurd to say that discussion at those hours is discussion in any true Parliamentary sense of the word. It has all the external forms of discussion. The Chairman is in the Chair. The officers of the House are here. All the forms of our procedure are observed as they are at earlier hours. But to say that efficient discussion can go on at these hours is absurd. It is perfectly true that not merely this Government but other Governments, going right back through all our Parliamentary history, at any rate going back for a century and a half at least, have had to resort to these very prolonged sittings in order to deal with an obstructive minority which from time to time rendered that force 1186 necessary. Nobody who knows Parliamentary history will deny that. I believe it is the experience of other assemblies in other parts of the world, and I by no means criticise the Government for saying that at certain periods in our Parliamentary procedure this in an inevitable, though regrettable, method. But it is not a legitimate method if you are going to make it a continual practice. Under the thinnest of disguises, perhaps under no disguise at all, it is the plainly avowed intention of this change in the Rules to enable the Government without breaking down the machinery of this House to compel its Members, whether they sit continuously, as many of them have to do, or in batches as hon. Members propose, to compel them to sit 12, 15, or more hours day after day, discussing a measure of this extraordinary technical difficulty. That is the real object of the charge which was advocated by the Prime Minister in his conciliatory presentation of the case. It is not that I begrudge to the Deputy-Chairman the powers which, in certain circumstances, he has to exercise now under our existing Rules; but the gravamen of my objection to the proposal is that it is directed towards as great an interference with our discussion of the Budget Bill as if the Government came down to propose Closure by compartments. For these reasons, not because I have any objection to this or that small reform of the status of the Deputy-Chairman, not because I have the least objection to the gentleman who fills the chair, not because I have any objection to the broad principle laid down by the Prime Minister, but because I object to the almost—"cynical" is, perhaps, too severe a word—calm manner in which he comes forward, with all the airs of a reformer of our procedure, and with all the airs of a gentleman impartially looking around on the anomalies which here and there may be found, and in the spirit of the true reformer, comes down and makes a speech of that kind, when everybody knows that his whole object is to break down by sheer fatigue those who criticise the Budget Bill.
§ Mr. JOHN ELLIS
I have watched very closely and admired many times the extreme ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman, but I think that he has surpassed himself this afternoon. Though the proposal before the House is a simple one, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged at the outset of his remarks, yet with his 1187 dialectical skill he has enlarged the ambit of the discussion for a purpose, of course, entirely outside the purview of the Amendment. It is a very simple matter. The Prime Minister proposes to strike out certain words from the Standing Order, and to insert others. I entirely reserve my judgment as to the second Motion, which is a very different matter. But in reference to these words which it is proposed to strike out they really have remained in the Standing Order more or less by accident. The office of the Deputy-Chairman was created by the right hon. Gentleman at the cost of a thousand a year to the public. It was supposed, and I think that there was some reason for thinking, that the House would be very jealous of committing to the five temporary Chairmen, of whom I was one, the very great power of the Closure. The right hon. Gentleman found himself in a difficulty, for he could only substitute the Chairman by one of the temporary Chairman, who had not the power of Closure, and the Deputy-Chairman was therefore appointed. It was always intended, I suppose, by the House that the Deputy-Chairman should assume and have the powers of the Chairman of Ways and Means. More or less by accident, as I have said, the words have remained in the Standing Order, and the Clerk at the Table, therefore, would have to intervene at the commencement of the sittings and inform the House in a formal manner that the Chairman was unavoidably absent. As the Prime Minister observed, the "unavoidable absence" may take place thirty minutes after he takes the Chair. Really, the whole thing comes to this, that we wish the Deputy-Chairman to take the place of the Chairman, with all his powers. That is really a very simple question. The right hon. Gentleman has wandered into the consideration of some particular Bill, and into the subject of all-night sittings, although I am happy to say that I have nothing to do with them. I did my duty when there were all-night sittings in the eighties, but I do not intend to do it again.
I would respectfully suggest to the House that what the right hon. Gentleman said has nothing whatever to do with the particular matter before us. I am entirely in favour of clothing the Deputy-Chairman with all the powers of the Chairman, and therefore quite apart from the merits of a particular Bill, or the number of hours during which the House sits, I am 1188 entirely in favour of the Prime Minister's Motion to strike out these words which the Procedure Committee also proposed to strike out. I am quite aware that when we are in the turmoil of a particular Bill it is not a good time to interfere with our Standing Orders. I grant that fully and freely. The thing is, in a nutshell, do we mean the Deputy-Chairman to be Deputy-Chairman really and truly? From that point of view, and apart from all other considerations so very skilfully raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I am entirely in favour of the Prime Minister's proposal.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman opposite said he admired the ingenuity of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition; but I also admire the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Ellis) with reference to this question, remembering as I do what he said in the last Parliament, that he never took part in guillotine Motions. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be able to reconcile that statement with his general support of the Government who have introduced the guillotine into the daily lm of this House.
§ Mr. JOHN ELLIS
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that I very rarely supported the guillotine, excepting during the year when I took the King's shilling on that Bench.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
That is hardly a sufficient answer to this House after the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to it some years ago. Certainly, listening to the speech of the Prime Minister, one would have imagined that the alteration was introduced for the sake of consistency and of bringing our Standing Orders in some general sense into concordance. But if there was such an intention this Amendment will not accomplish it. This Amendment seeks to establish the Deputy-Chairman as Chairman of Ways and Means, but, if that be so, why is it not equally necesary to make some similar provision in regard to the Chairman of Ways and Means as Deputy-Speaker? That also presents the same difficulty which is sought to be dealt with here in regard to the Deputy-Chairman. If the Amendment is necessary for the sake of consistency in the one case, it is equally necessary to make it for the sake of consistency in the other. I should be very glad to hear an answer from the Government as to how they mean to consider paragraph (3) of Standing Order 26, after we have passed the Amendment now be- 1189 fore us. That paragraph distinctly states that only the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means are to exercise the powers of Standing Order 26; and, while they are putting down other Amendments, I notice that the Government have not put down an Amendment to insert the words "Deputy-Chairman" in that place. Perhaps the Government will inform us whether they do or do not intend that these powers of Standing Order 26 are to be included in the powers of the Deputy-Chairman. If that be not their intention, then how are they to reconcile their attitude with reference to the words in paragraph (3)? So far as the present Amendment is concerned, I myself put down an Amendment when we were discussing the Rules to give the ordinary powers of Closure to the Deputy-Chairman, as I thought that when you gave them to the Chairman of Standing Committees they ought to be extended to him. The Government prevented my bringing it on by moving the Closure on me. Therefore, so far as the ordinary Closure is concerned, I shall be in favour of this Amendment.
But I am afraid that none of us can hide from ourselves the fact that this proposal is connected with other new powers which are being sought, and with reference to these new powers I am strongly of opinion that they can never be exercised by two Chairmen successfully. The Government and the Patronage Secretary having arranged that the Budget Bill shall be dealt with by reliefs of Members, they are now bringing forth an Amendment providing that there shall be a relief of Chairmen. Therefore, when we see that new and extended powers are being sought in other directions, we cannot look upon this Amendment as a simple proposal, and we are bound to oppose it on this occasion. I would like to know what the Government really mean by the words "when the Chairman of Ways and Means is absent." There is another occasion when it seems to me they would be useful, and that is the occasion when the Chairman of Ways and Means is taking the position of Deputy-Speaker in the absence of Mr. Speaker. Is he absent when he is in the chair of the Speaker, and when the Deputy-Chairman goes into the place of the Chairman of Ways and Means? It seems to me to be rather a peculiar position, that at the time the Chairman of Ways and Means steps out of the chair in the presence of the House and assumes the duties of Deputy-Speaker, he should yet 1190 be technically considered absent as Chairman. It seems to me that some words more appropriate than those which we have before us might be moved. Outstanding Orders are not always clear to the lay mind, and when we are altering them it is just as well to be perfectly clear in the words proposed to be substituted for those existing in the Standing Order. I do not think that the words proposed are very appropriate, and I do not think that, at the end of the Session, when we should be concluding our labours, we should be suddenly switched off from the business we are upon to consider a reform of our procedure. It does look as if there were ulterior motives behind it, and therefore very naturally those who are on this side of the House look with suspicion on these proposed changes.
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
The Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that these proposals of the Government are intended to force the House to sit until very late at night. I understand them in exactly the opposite sense, that they are intended to shorten our proceedings and enable us to get home to bed at a reasonable hour. The reason why I give cordial support to the proposals of the Government is because I understand them to be an alternative to the guillotine. My right hon. Friend has expressed his dislike of that hideous lethal machine, and I can assure him that I share it. The application of the guillotine is the act of the Executive; but under the Amendment now proposed closure will be the act of an impartial official of the House of Commons and not of the Executive. Is there any objection to that proposition? I suggest that the Chairman of Committees is an impartial officer of the House of Commons. Nobody charges him with partiality. Is he not elected by the House of Commons? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."]
§ Mr. BYLES
He is Chairman of Committee, and while the guillotine is the act of the Executive, Closure by the Chairman is the act of the impartial servant of the Committee. That makes all the difference in the would, I think the House of Commons ought to carefully safeguard its own privileges, and not let this Executive or any other Executive encroach upon its privileges. They are constantly doing so, although sometimes no doubt quite legitimately. For example, when this Parliament began we had half a dozen independent critics sitting below the Gangway who were of the greatest use to the House of Commons when it came to a conflict with the Executive of the Government. They have been gradually sucked across the Gangway till they are now entirely official in their demeanour, or reticent as regards speech. We are impoverished by that, but no doubt they are enriched. We do not complain of that. As what I have already said as to the office of Chairman is disputed, I claim that the Chairman of Committees is during our Debates in Committee in the position of a judge or referee, and I think he is respected by both sides of the House. I am not speaking of the present occupant of the Chair, because I do not want any personal dispute about any single individual. May I remind the House that you yourself, Mr. Speaker, occupied that position, and I am quite sure your decisions were always respected by Members on this side, and I am equally sure your decisions were respected by Members on the other aide. The Chairman of Committees is regarded by the House as impartial. Why, I ask, when, say a Member of the Government or a private Member moves the Closure, and it is accepted, why do we hear these cries of "Gag," "gag," "gag"? The Closure is not applied by the Government; it is applied by our own referee upon his own judgment. Therefore I would appeal to the House to respect their Chairman just as they respect their Speaker, and to do all that they can to make the Debates seemly, and not to interfere with the decision of the House when the House is perfectly prepared to arrive at a decision. Our Debates are prolonged intolerably, and to such an extent that the House cannot stand it. We are smothered by Amendments so that we can never come to a decision. I claim that every Member of the House, on whichever side he sits, who desires to make the House of Commons a useful instrument for the public 1192 service, should allow the House to arrive at a decision when the question before it has been adequately and thoroughly discussed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but it must be admitted by my hon. Friend that questions have been delayed this Session over and over again after they have been amply and thoroughly debated. Therefore I do believe the powers we are now proposing to give to our Chairman are such as ought to be willingly and welcomely conceded by all Members of the House, and that greater respect should be shown to his decisions and the decisions of the House of Commons.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman has informed us of the capable Members of the House who sat below the Gangway, and who have been sucked across the Gangway. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not contemplating a similar sucking, because I am sure we should lose a very valuable critic if, unfortunately, he was to be so sucked. The hon. Gentleman has devoted the greater part of his remarks to upholding the authority of the Chairman. I am sure every Member in the House, on whichever side he sits, agrees with me that we have a most impartial Chairman, and that nobody disagrees upon that point. May I point out that this is not a question of the impartiality of the Chairman, or affecting the Chairman, but that it is a question of the altering of the powers, not of the Chair, but of the Deputy-Chairman. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Byles) says it is better than the guillotine. Personally, I do not see that the change proposed, if he includes the second Amendment, is any better than the guillotine. I am rather inclined to think that it is worse. The question before us now is whether or not we should confer the power of Closure upon the Deputy-Chairman in the absence of the Chairman himself. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. John Ellis) is in favour of this, and he has advanced the argument that the words in the Standing Order which the Prime Minister proposes to omit got into the Standing Order by accident, that they were not intended to be put in there, and therefore that this is a good time for omitting them. He admits though that his idea is that the Standing Orders should be altered at the commencement of Parliament, when nobody knows what the effect of the alteration will be. I venture very humbly to dissent from the view of the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not 1193 think those words got into the Standing Order by accident. I have not referred to the Debates of the time, but I believe that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John. Dillon) and other hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had a good deal to do with those words appearing in the Standing Orders. My recollection is that when the question of the appointment of a Deputy-Chairman arose hon. Members below the Gangway were very doubtful as to what powers of Closure ought to be given to him. I believe those words were inserted as the mature deliberation of the House, and not in any kind of way by accidental circumstance.
The Prime Minister has advanced two arguments in favour of this alteration. His first argument is that the Chairman of Grand Committee has the power of Closure, and that therefore it is wrong that the Deputy-Chairman should not have the same power. That only shows what evil results have come from altering the Rules and Regulations of this House. If the power of the Closure had not been conferred on the Chairman of Grand Committee, then the argument of the right hon. Gentleman would have disappeared. Personally I have had some experience of a Grand Committee, and I have never found that the power of Closure has been exercised in a manner which has conduced to the good conduct of the Debate. I have been a Member of a Scotch Grand Committee on several occasions. I remember one of the Scotch Grand Committees, in which the Closure was used ruthlessly, and the result was that the proceedings were very late, bad feeling was engendered, and nothing whatever happened with regard to the progress of the Bill. On other Scotch Committees of which I was a Member the Closure was not moved, and the proceedings were much more harmonious, much quicker, and carried on in a much better manner. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister why, if he thought that the Deputy-Chairman should be in a similar position to that of the Chairman of Grand Committee, why, when he brought in this Rule two years ago, he did not at the same time alter the position of the Deputy-Chairman. If it really is that he thinks, the fact that the Chairman was put into an invidious position compared with the position of the Chairman of Grand Committee, surely he had the power two years ago to alter the position instead of doing it now. May I point out 1194 that the Chairman of Grand Committee is in a very different position to the Deputy-Chairman, because he is always Chairman of the Grand Committee. I hardly ever remember a case in which the Chairman of a Grand Committee has not been in attendance. If he did not attend his place was taken during the whole and not through part of the sitting. The result is that the Chairman of Grand Committee knows what is going on has followed the Debates, and is able to form an opinion as to whether or not the Closure shall be exercised.
The position of the Deputy-Chairman would be quite different if this Motion was carried for this reason, that the Deputy-Chairman will come into the chair, say at eight o'clock, when the Chairman goes to dinner. He may not have been in the House before that, he may have had other duties to attend to, he may have been refreshing himself by slumber after the very late hours, and the fatigue to which perhaps he has been put on the previous night. He may not have been in the House at all from five o'clock to eight when the discussion has been going on, and then suddenly coming into the House he is to be supposed to give an impartial and correct judgment on a Motion for the Closure when he has not heard what is going on, when he does not know whether there has been any obstruction, or anything whatever that has occurred during the Debates. I venture to appeal to hon. Members below the Gangway, especially to the hon. Member for East Mayo, who has had considerable experience of, what shall I say, Debate in this House, whether he does not agree with me in the criticism which I have ventured to make upon this particular Amendment. Speaking from the Prime Minister's point of view, I do not think he is going to lose anything by not carrying this Amendment. What is the present position? At present the Deputy-Chairman, if the Chairman is away, can announce his absence, and then during the sitting he will have all the power of the Chairman. That is all the Prime Minister wants. The Deputy-Chairman in such a Case is able to exercise those powers because he is thoroughly conversant with what is going on, and is able to form an opinion of the Amendment and clauses under discussion. If this Motion is not carried what will happen will be that if the Chairman is at dinner or tea that the Deputy-Chairman while in his place at the table for an hour or an hour and a half, that, during that period, the Closure cannot be moved. 1195 Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite are not so enamoured of the Closure that they cannot even contemplate the interval between five and half-past five, or the interval between eight and nine o'clock, when the sacred instrument of the Closure cannot be moved. It seems to me that the only effect of this Amendment will be to give power to the Deputy-Chairman on these particular occasions—unless, of course, it is contemplated that we should sit up until six or seven o'clock in the morning, and that the Chairman of Ways and Means should go away at 10 o'clock and not come back until the following day. In that event, no doubt, a good deal would be gained by this alteration from the point of view of the Prime Minister, but I hope that nothing of the sort is under contemplation. If it is contemplated this is not only an alternative to the guillotine, but it is very much worse; because, after all, under the guillotine everyone knows what is going on and can make his arrangements; whereas, under this particular form, the Deputy-Chairman might come in at any hour, knowing nothing of what was going on, and, although perfectly desirous of exercising his duties impartially—as I am certain he is—he would be unable to arrive at a just and proper conclusion. I hope the Prime Minister will reconsider the Amendment. It is not a very important one from his point of view, but from the point of view of the House it is of importance. The Closure has always been reserved to one or two officials of the House, chosen with great care, and any extension ought to be very carefully guarded. In my opinion, the position of Chairman of Ways and Means is the most difficult in the House, and it is very hard to obtain a man competent to fill it. The Chairman of Ways and Means is chosen, not by the House, but by the Government. Possibly the appointment might be challenged, but I have never known it to be, and I do not know that it is possible for it to be; but the Prime Minister simply gets up and proposes that Mr. So-and-So take the Chair, and that ends the matter. Therefore, the Chairman is not the servant of the House, and I hope in these days of revolution—revolution in the forms of the House, in Budgets, and in other matters outside—before everything is altered beyond recognition, the Prime Minister will reconsider this matter. We are, it may be hoped, almost at the end of the Session, and surely we might wait a little while before the change is made. 1196 It surely cannot be proposed with only the Finance Bill in view, and I hope the Prime Minister will postpone the alteration at any rate until next Session.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
It is not to be expected that a permanent and small minority such as the Irish Nationalist party would welcome any extension of the Closure, and from the commencement we have always adopted a critical attitude in this matter. What I wish to press strongly upon the House is that when you embark upon the course of giving these great powers to the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman, you ought to place those two Gentlemen in the same position of impartiality and independence as Mr. Speaker. I have stated on previous occasions, and I still hold that the House made a great and far-reaching mistake in not recognising the fact, that when you gave the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman this great power of curtailing freedom of Debate, and of depriving Members of their constitutional right of submitting Amendments and arguments to the House, they should have been placed in a position of equal detachment from party with that of Mr. Speaker himself. A strange mistake was made by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) in speaking of the Chairman of Committees as a servant of the House of Commons, in the same sense and to the same degree as Mr. Speaker. The Chairman of Committees is a Member of the Government and a Member of the party; and, although it is maintained that he is put into the Chair by the Vote of the House, I do not think in the whole history of the House of Commons such an appointment has been challenged. It is absolutely a matter of course. At the beginning of the Session the Prime Minister simply moves that Mr. So-and-So take the Chair. It is a recognised principle that the gentleman appointed is a partisan, and that he is put into the Chair having first of all been nominated by a Member of the Government—the Prime Minister. Therefore the Chairman of Committees is not an impartial servant of this House in the same sense as Mr. Speaker. Let hon. Members contrast the procedure of nominating Mr. Speaker with the procedure of nominating the Chairman of Committees. Mr. Speaker is always nominated by a senior Member of the House, but always by a private Member, and thus the fact is emphasised that he is a servant of the House, that when he takes the Chair he 1197 divests himself of all party affiliations and becomes absolutely impartial between the two parties. It is not for me to say anything which could in any way be tortured into a reflection on any Chairman of Committees—and I have sat under a good many—but, speaking from an experience extending over 25 years, and as one who has taken a somewhat aggressive part in scenes in which heat has been generated, I say there has been on many an occasion a very marked difference between the mental attitude of the Chairman of Committees and that of Mr. Speaker himself. It could not be otherwise. Men moved into the Chair in the solemn way in which Mr. Speaker is would be very strangely constituted, indeed, if they did not after their election assume a totally different attitude towards the House. On the other hand, the Chairman of Committee, in many instances—at any rate, this is my impression—feels a kind of obligation to his party to get business through. It is only natural that he should, seeing the way in which he has been put into the Chair.
I suppose we are bound to go on developing the Closure until there are very few rights left to private Members; but what I desire to impress upon the Government and upon all who may be responsible for these successive developments of 'the Closure is that at least all officers vested with the power of protecting minorities against Ministers—because that is really what it should be—should be placed in a position of absolute detachment from party affiliations, and that they should be proposed by some unofficial Member of the House, in the same way as Mr. Speaker, so that they would command absolute confidence from all quarters. Another extremely important point is that the Chairman should have a permanent tenure—at any rate for the Parliament. The Chairman of Committees is not a permanent official. He is open to promotion, and may be promoted into the Ministry any day. Therefore in all respects he is a party man, and he cannot change from being a party man one day into a non-party man the next. Some of the scenes of disorder which have taken place in this House have been due to the fact that there does not vest in the Chairman of Committees the same authority as vests in Mr. Speaker. If the appointment of Chairman of Committees were a permanent appointment for the life of the Parliament the nomination would be made with a much greater sense of re- 1198 sponsibility, and much greater care would be taken to select a proper man for the position, because then, as in the case of Mr. Speaker, we should know that he would be in the Chair for the whole Parliament, and that our whole chance of conducting the affairs of the House in an impartial and dignified manner depended upon the character of the Gentleman appointed. No such sense of deep responsibility at present surrounds the selection of the Chairman. He is selected as a party man, and frequently without any reference to his qualifications for the position. There is the feeling that if he does not turn out well he can be shifted to another office. That is not the way in which the Chair should be filled, and I desire once more to press my strong view that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should be appointed on the same tenure and under the same procedure as Mr. Speaker himself.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
Under ordinary circumstances I should be of opinion that the present Motion was a reasonable one, but it is impossible for us on this side to dissociate from the Motion the occasion on which it is made. The Government know very well that they are bringing forward these Motions with the object of pushing through the Finance Bill at high pressure, with continual all-night sittings, such as those from which we have suffered during the last few weeks. I do not think the Prime Minister approves of that method. It is a "method of barbarism," applied to his colleagues, to Members sitting on this side of the House, to officials of the House, and to the Chairman of Committees. I know the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot enjoy these all-night sittings, and I do not think he approves of them. At any rate, he did not in the time of the last Government, because in a speech delivered in 1900 he said:—It was absurd to say that matters could be discussed after 12 o'clock. Such discussion was really no discussion at all, as it would be absolutely ineffective in calling public attention to the questions considered. After midnight the House was not in full command of its temper and faculties—Is not that true?and to press important business after that hour was simply to provoke a repetition of the scenes recently experienced.Well, I think that just previously to that speech we had had an all-night sitting, and we did have them occasionally. But what we complain of now is the continuous all-night sittings, like those of Monday and Tuesday of last week, when this House sat on. Monday for 15 hours and on 1199 Tuesday for 16 hours. It is impossible that the House should do its business properly under those circumstances. What we feel on this side of the House is this—and the Prime Minister will excuse me in saying so—we feel that we, a small minority, are being coerced by an overwhelming majority in physical endurance. We know that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Whip sent out a whip to his colleagues to find out when it would be convenient for them to attend the House. I do not know the result of that appeal. But it shows the right hon. Gentleman is in a position that he can bring relays of his followers to come here at certain hours, and compel us on this side of the House to sit all the time, because we cannot afford to go away or to make relays. Consequently, there is a feeling of injustice created. I say that the right hon. Gentleman is taking advantage of the vast powers he possesses to force through the Bill, and now he is appealing to-day by these two Resolutions for further power in order to still further press us by these all-night sittings. We do not think it reasonable under these circumstances, and we shall oppose these Motions.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
I do not follow the last speaker quite in his remarks about long sittings, but I am strongly opposed to this proposal on the general ground of principle. After all, these powers which are proposed to be given are powers of extraordinary importance and great influence. It is only because they are so constantly used in this House—I refer to the Closure—so often applied, that I think one has got a little hardened to them, and one is apt to forget how important these powers are. Of course, they have been entrusted to Mr. Speaker, but the position of Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out, is wholly different from that of the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman. Impartial men are very difficult to find, and, no doubt, it is difficult to find impartial men for the positions of Speaker, or of Chairmen, but impartiality comes far more easy to Mr. Speaker because of the immense dignity of the office and the extent with which impartiality is, as it were, associated with the traditions and with the practice of the office. But if you are going to extend these powers, you need to look very carefully to whom you extend them. It means that you desire not two, but three impartial men, and you get a third man, who is presumed to be impartial. That 1200 man is not hedged about with all the dignity of the Speaker's office, and he is a man who, as has been pointed out, is an officer of the Government of the day, and cannot, therefore, feel the same sense of continuity of office or dignity that is felt by the more permanent officers. It is said, of course, why should not you give these powers to the Deputy-Chairman—that is, the power of Closure—when it is given to the Chairmen upstairs? I am one of those who doubted very much whether it was wise to give these powers to the Chairmen upstairs, but the reason why it was given was that the Government got into the habit of sending highly controversial Bills to these upstairs Committees. I think it was because that was done that these officers upstairs were invested with these particular powers. If the old system had remained, and uncontroversial Bills sent upstairs, then it would have been entirely unnecessary to have invested the Chairmen of these Committees with these particular powers. It is no argument to use that because you have given the Chairman of Committees upstairs these powers, that you ought to invest the Deputy-Chairman in this House with these extraordinary powers. I am bound to say, if you are going to select an opportunity or an occasion for so doing, you could hardly have selected a worse one than the present. You want to make use of the powers, not in relation to ordinary measures and in ordinary times, but in the case of the most controversial measure introduced into this House since the Home Rule Bill. You are making it difficult for the officer to exercise that degree of impartiality that the House has a right to expect.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If I were able to consider this in the light in which the Prime Minister attempted to present it, and that in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. John Ellis), in the exercise of that innocence which he habitually uses to cloak the iniquities of his friends, looked at it—a proposal for a genuine Amendment to the rules of the House—I should still conceive on general abstract lines, without reference to the particular and highly controversial Amendment in the discussion of which we are now engaged, that it was open to a great deal of criticism. I think the most substantial criticism that it was open to in that aspect was the criticism brought against it by my hon. Friend the Junior Member for the 1201 City of London (Sir F. Banbury). That criticism is that you are giving to an officer, who is not sitting throughout the proceedings of the House on a particular Bill, or even throughout the proceedings of the House on a particular day, all the powers which you have hitherto reserved for the officer who for the day, or for the Bill, was responsible for the conduct of affars in the Chair. That is a very great and undesirable change to make. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the Chairmen of Committees upstairs. Chosen at the commencement, they follow the discussion of the Bill from beginning to end, become acquainted with the points raised, and know what is important and what is not. The same thing applies to Mr. Speaker in this House, and to the Chairman of Committees in this House. It applies, though in a less measure, to the Deputy-Chairman or the Deputy-Speaker, especially the Deputy-Chairman by the necessities of the case, because he takes the Chair less often. But it applies in some measure even to the Deputy-Chairman. But while the Prime Minister proposes that the Chairman shall get into the Chair, shall leave the Chair, and that the Deputy-Chairman shall do likewise, and that these two officers shall, alternatively, and without having either of them followed the Debate consecutively or consistently, shall have these wide powers to regulate our discussions, and exclude matters from our purview, or prevent Debate taking place, I feel that in itself, quite apart from the circumstances which have given rise to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, is an undesirable change to make in our procedure. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman should have proposed it. For my part, I find it quite impossible to attach the slightest credence to this pretence of a general independent desire to improve our rules. Hollowness is shown even in the arguments which the Prime Minister made use of. He said, "The Chairman of Committees may be taken ill half an hour after the business has opened, and the whole of the sitting thereafter we shall be without the power of the Closure." What a disastrous thing! But that may apply equally to Mr. Speaker. Suppose Mr. Speaker were taken ill—not having been declared unavoidably absent by the Clerk at the commencement of the sitting. Exactly the same case arises. The right hon. Gentleman has not thought it necessary to amend the rules with regard to the Deputy- 1202 Speaker. He is making this Motion for one particular purpose, and that only in order to enable the Government to continue a practice which was breaking down under the strain which it put upon the officials of the House—let alone upon the Members generally—namely, the practice of forcing Bills through, not by any system of Closure, but by physical exhaustion from continuous all-night sittings. There are many ways of shortening Debate, and of getting Bills through without habitually resorting to prolonged sittings, as contemplated by the Prime Minister, and alleged by him as a reason for making this Amendment. This Standing Order is the very worst that any Government can employ. It is most uncertain and arbitrary in its action. It is one which is most certain not to secure any selection amongst the topics to be discussed. It is one which leaves the country and the House itself least informed about the measure which we are discussing. It is in order to continue this practice of all-night sittings, or of sittings so prolonged as to be an intolerable strain upon the physique of the Chair, that the Government make this Motion. They make it at what moment? I am unable to forget the circumstances which preceded the publication of the intentions of the Government to amend our Standing Orders. They make this proposal just after an occasion fresh within the memories of those who were present, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved to Closure down in such a very extraordinary and exceptional manner that his Motion was refused acceptance by the Chair. The Chairman was thereupon attacked from the Benches opposite and in the public Press, and it is immediately after an incident of that kind and an attack upon the Chair—of happily a rare character—made by a Member of the party opposite, and a supporter of the Government in one of the principal organs which favours their policy, that this Motion is brought forward. I say it is quite impossible to regard a Motion of this kind in the abstract, when it is introduced in such very special circumstances. Having regard to the circumstances in which it is introduced, it can only be regarded as a direct instrument of tyranny, forged by the Government to overcome legitimate opposition, and to override the scruples of impartial Chairmen.
§ Mr. G. N. BARNES
I have listened for about an hour and a half to this Debate, 1203 and the impression left upon my mind is one of admiration for the marvellous ability of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in making speeches on the point of a needle. It seems to me the point is a very small one. The question has been touched on about Closure, and the constitutional question as to the rights of minorities has been raised, but it seems to me that the introduction of the Closure is not involved by this proposition at all. If the Closure was being proposed in a new way we on the Labour Benches would probably have something to say about it, although for my part I might say here and now that I am more concerned in maintaining the power and the effectiveness of this House in giving expression to the will of the nation. However, the question of Closure is not under discussion, and it seems to me there is nothing of that kind proposed. Neither is there any proposition as to the powers of the Chairman in contradistinction to the powers of the Speaker. The small point under discussion is, shall we arm the hon. Member who happens to preside over the House for the time being as deputy with sufficient authority to carry on the business of the House with all the adjuncts with which we have armed the Chairman? That is a simple proposition which does not seem to require very much consideration.
I cannot go into the historical aspect of the matter, something has been said as to the circumstances under which the Deputy-Chairman was set up some years ago, but I look upon that from the point of view of experience. I have been now here three or four years, and I have seen as a matter of experience the Chairman of Ways and Means sometimes presiding in the House, sometimes the Deputy-Chairman, and I have seen no difference between them from the point of view of ability to carry on the business of the House, and that being so I fail to see any reason why there should be any difference in the powers vested in the two men. The only, semblance of argument brought to bear against the proposition put forward by the Prime Minister is that which was used by the Junior Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), that the Chairman of Ways and Means would be more fully acquainted with the matters before the House than his deputy could be. The hon. Member seemed to put forward the idea that the Deputy-Chairman is only in possession of the business before the House by becoming acquainted with it when he gets into 1204 the Chair. But that is an absolute fallacy.
If we had a man as Deputy-Chairman who only made himself acquainted with what was before the House when he got into the Chair there might be some reasons for withholding from him the full powers, given to the Chairman. But, as a matter of fact, that is not the position at all. The Deputy-Chairman, if he is doing his duty, and I have no reason to believe but that he is doing his duty, makes himself acquainted with all the business that comes before the House long before he gets into the Chair. He makes himself acquainted with what is coming before the House in the privacy of his own office or somewhere else, so that when he takes the Chair he is just as competent to be invested with full powers as is the Chairman himself. For these reasons I shall vote heartily for the proposal of the Prime Minister, because I believe it is an instrument which experience has found to be necessary. We have a Deputy-Chairman well qualified to use it, and I would add that from the constant repetitions of speeches I have heard from hon. Members above the Gangway it is more than necessary that such a power should be put into operation at the present time.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member who has just sat down has lectured the House in a manner with which we are not unfamiliar from the Labour Benches. I am not aware that hon. Members below the Gangway have any particular title to dictate to other Members of the House how they should discharge their duties. Now, in respect to this particular proposal of the Prime Minister's, I wish to say that the question of whether it is or is not desirable to confer upon the Deputy-Chairman the powers of the Chairman seems to me to depend to a very large extent upon whom the Deputy-Chairman is. I am not going to say a word against our present Deputy-Chairman, and, it being evidently improper to make any criticism of that kind, it seems to me to be rather an unreality to discuss this proposal on its merits. The hon. Member who has just sat down says the Deputy-Chairman is quite as competent to discharge the duties of presiding at the House and exercising the powers of the Closure as the Chairman, because he no doubt makes himself familiar with the whole business and the Amendment immediately before the House. That, of course, is not the point. The point is whether a Gentleman who is just 1205 brought into the House and has heard nothing of the discussion that has preceded is really cognisant of what is going on. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is under the Gallery."] He may be under the Gallery, but there is nothing to compel him, or that even makes it usual for him, to sit in the House except when he is actually on duty or in, the Chair. He is not really in a position to know exactly what is going on. And considering that the Government are proposing in another Amendment to very greatly extend the powers of the Chair it seems to me to be a matter of some doubt whether it is wise to entrust the Deputy-Chairman with all the powers of the Chairman. I wish to ask the Government a question as to the drafting of their Amendment. They propose to insert the words "Chairman of Ways and Means is absent." No doubt they have considered these words carefully, but I would like to know from the Government what exactly they mean. Do they mean temporarily absent, or absent from the precincts of the House? I suggest, and I do not make this suggestion without some authority, that it is at least doubtful whether the words as drafted will cover the temporary absence from the Chair or whether it can be supposed that the Chairman is absent when he has merely left the Chair. He may be sitting in the House or in the immediate precincts of the House. I should like at any rate to know what the Government mean. Do they mean to cover the temporary absence of the Chairman or only the case of the Chairman not being within the precincts of the House?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not propose to say more than a very few words in reply to the arguments used by the various speakers. Very little argument has really been directed against the principle of this proposal. Indeed, frankly, the whole objection taken by the Leader of the Opposition was as to the time at which the change is being made and the purposes it is supposed for which it is to be used. Our views are that it is needed in the proper conduct of public business. The only solid argument, if I may venture to say so, directed against the proposal is that which proceeded, as it very often does, from the junior Member for the City of London. He said that for the purpose of exercising your judgment in the matter of Closure it was important that the person in whom that trust was reposed should be present and have an opportunity of 1206 following the course of a discussion. There is no doubt there is a good deal of force in that, but at present, and under existing, conditions, when the Chairman leaves the Chair, which he necessarily must do for an hour or an hour and a half each evening, he is in exactly the same position when he returns as the Deputy-Chairman would be in the case put by the hon. Baronet opposite. What is that position? It is that he collects from the person who occupies his place while he is away his sense of the general course of business and its bearing upon subsequent Amendments, exactly in the same way as the Deputy-Chairman collects from him, and no doubt pays very great attention to his opinion and advice, on the exact matter under discussion when he takes the Chair. It is an inconvenience if you like, but it is an inconvenience incidental to any arrangement in which the same person is not continually and automatically in the Chair during the whole of the proceeding. Then, with regard to the question put by the Noble Lord, the object of the Government, of course, is to cover all cases of the temporary absence of the Chairman from the Chair, irrespective of the question whether he has left the precincts of the House or not. It may be that it would be more desirable to make that perfectly clear, and, therefore, I propose to meet the Noble Lord by inserting the words "from the Chair" after the word "absent." I think that makes it perfectly clear, and, if the House will permit me, I will move the Amendment in that form.
§ Mr. G. RENWICK
There is one point that the right hon. Gentleman seems to have lost sight of, and that was the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. John Ellis). He pointed out that the present is an inopportune time to alter our course of procedure, and he pointed out, very properly, that any such alteration should be made at the beginning of a Session of Parliament. I do think that was a point which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House should have taken into consideration. It is certainly palpable that the reason why this Motion is brought forward at the present time is to facilitate the passing of a particular Bill, and not for the purpose of facilitating the general business of the House. There is a very great difference between granting facilities for the passing of a Bill without 1207 discussion and for passing it after adequate discussion. If the object was to facilitate the passing of the Bill after adequate discussion, I would not oppose this particular Resolution. I would be quite willing to give my vote in support of the Resolution now on one condition, and that is that the right, hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House would postpone its operation until the Budget has passed through the House, because I can quite imagine that when a new Parliament comes in such a Resolution as this might, in certain circumstances, be very valuable to Members of the Government when hon. Members who are now sitting on the Government side of the House are sitting on the Opposition Benches. I do most strongly object to give any vote whatever at the present juncture to facilitate the continuance of all-night sittings. Undoubtedly that is the reason why this Motion is brought forward at the present time. I appeal to hon. Members, especially those below the Gangway, who are always assuring us of their love of fair-play and freedom of speech, very gravely to consider this question before they vote. Depend upon it, this is a two-edged sword. It may be useful at this moment to the present Government, and it may be more useful to future Governments; and if hon. Members vote for this Resolution now they may have reason before many months are over to regret it. I ask the House to pay attention to the suggestion made by the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. John Ellis) that this is not the time to alter our procedure. For that and other reasons which I have already given I shall vote against this Motion.
§ Mr. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY
I do not understand, from the speech of the Prime Minister, that he founded his argument upon the special Report which has been referred to. I think it is necessary that, as far as I can remember, I should make it plain what was in the mind of the Committee when they recommended that the Standing Committee Chairman should be invested with the powers of the Closure. What we had in mind during the whole of our discussion was the regularisation of the existing usage. There existed a usage giving a sort of informal Closure, and, I think, the first precedent was set by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman about the year 1886.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I am not sure what year it was, but that is when the usage began. That usage had sprung in itself from conditions and attributes of the Standing Committees which constitute the one profound difference between their procedure and that of the whole House, and that profound difference I conceive to be this: That a Standing Committee, unlike a Committee of the whole House, is under an obligation to make a Report of some kind at some time, and it cannot escape from that duty. As a matter of fact, it is necessary for the Chairman to see that work through. That consideration led the Chairmen to ask that they should no longer be expected to rely upon a usage founded upon a series of precedents, but upon an analogous power to that exercised in the whole House. The Chairman of a Select Committee must be presumed to have the same power inherent in him to bring the proceedings to an end at such a time that the Committee can fulfil their inevitable and necessary duty of making a Report to the House and obeying the Orders of the House. I think that shows how little analogy there is between the recommendation of the Chairman's panel upon that occasion and the present proposals of the Government. Another argument which I draw from general considerations is that, so far as this proposed Amendment of the Standing Order is connected with the carrying on of all-night sittings, it abolishes a very natural and proper safeguard, namely, the limits of the endurance of the Chairman. When the Chairman has been serving so long that he has to go away for rest, refreshment, and relief, I think that is a sure sign that the proceedings of the House have gone on to a sufficient length and the sitting should be suspended. Under this proposal the Chairman's power of endurance is a matter immaterial to our sittings. The Chairman's endurance really provides a most useful and rational check upon the undue length of the proceedings, and I am sorry the Government are proposing to abandon that by this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Standing Order."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 75; Noes, 199.1177
|Division No. 369.]||AYES.||[3.40 p.m.|
|Agnew, George William||Dewar Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Jowett, F. W.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Dobson, Thomas W.||Kelley, George D.|
|Barker, Sir John||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||King, Alfred John (Knutstord)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Lament, Norman|
|Barran, Sir John Nicholson||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)|
|Beale, W. P.||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lehmann, R. c.|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Essex, R. W.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Bertram, Julius||Everett, R. Lacey||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Falconer, J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Fenwick, Charles||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Findlay, Alexander||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Branch, James||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||M'Callum, John M.|
|Brigg, John||Fullerton, Hugh||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Gibb, James (Harrow)||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes., Leigh)||Gill, A. H.||Maddison, Frederick|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Marnham, F. J.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.)||Massie, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Masterman, C. F. 3.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Cameron, Robert||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Middlebrook, William|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Gulland, John W.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Mond, A.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Hall, Frederick||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Chance, Frederick William||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Morrell, Philip|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-sh.)||Nicholls, George|
|Clough, William||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Haworth, Arthur A.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)|
|Cooper, G. J.||Hedges, A. Paget||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Partington, Oswald|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Higham, John Sharp||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Cox, Harold||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hodge, John||Pointer, J.|
|Crooks, William||Holland, Sir William Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Holt, Richard Burning||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Cross, Alexander||Horniman, Emslie John||Rees, J. D.|
|Crossley, William J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Curran, Peter Francis||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Richardson, A.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Soares, Ernest J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Watt, Henry A.|
|Robinson, S.||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Summerbell, T.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Rogers, F. E. Newman||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Winfrey, R.|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tomkinson, James||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Toulmin, George|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Scarisbrick, Sir T. T. L.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.|
|Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Seely, Colonel||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Fatherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Balcarres, Lord||Forster, Henry William||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Glover, Thomas||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gretton, John||Renwick, George|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Starkey, John R|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Heaton, John Henniker||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hermon Hodge, Sir Robert||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hill, Sir Clement||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Hills, J. W.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Jenkins, J.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Acland-Hood, and Viscount Valentla.|
|Faber, George Denlson (York)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Fell, Arthur||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Division No. 370.]||AYES.||[5.35 p.m.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Forster, Henry William||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Balcarres, Lord||Foster, P. S.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon A. J. (City, Lond.)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Percy, Earl|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gretton, John||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)||Renton, Leslie|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Renwick, George|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Harrison-Broad ley, H. B.||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Starkey, John R.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hermoh-Hodge, Sir Robert||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire))|
|Clark, George Smith||Hill, Sir Clement||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Kerry, Earl of||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Kimber, Sir Henry||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lambton, Hon. Frederick William||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Allred||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C B. Stuart|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||MacCaw, Wm J. MacGeagh||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Fell, Arthur||M'Arthur, Charles|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir A. Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Agnew, George William||Cross, Alexander||Jackson, R. S.|
|Alden, Percy||Crossley, William J.||Jenkins, J.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Curran, Peter Francis||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Astbury, John Meir||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Jowett, F. W.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Kelley, George D.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Barker, Sir John||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lamont, Norman|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Evans, Sir S. T.||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Everett, R. Lacey||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Barran, Sir John Nicholson||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Beale, W. P.||Falconer, J.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Fenwick, Charles||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Findlay, Alexander||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Gill, A. H.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon Augustine||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.)||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Brace, William||Glover, Thomas||Marnham, F. J.|
|Branch, James||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Brigg, John||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Middlebrook, William|
|Brooke, Stopford||Gulland, John W.||Mond, A.|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes., Leigh)||Hall, Frederick||Montagu, Hon, E. S.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hancock, J. G.||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Morse, L. L.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nicholls, George|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Cameron, Robert||Harvey, A. G. C (Rochdale)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Partington, Oswald|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Haworth, Arthur A.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Chance, Frederick William||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Phillips, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Hedges, A. Paget||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hemmerde, Edward George||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Clough, William||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Pointer, J.|
|Ccbbold, Felix Thornley||Henry, Charles S.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Radford, G. H.|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Higham, John Sharp||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Cooper, G. J.||Hobart, Sir Robert||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Rees, J. D.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hodge, John||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Holt, Richard Durning||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)|
|Cox, Harold||Horniman, Emslie John||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Richardson, A.|
|Crooks, William||Hudson, Walter||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Idris, T. H. W.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Summerbell, T.||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Robinson, S.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Rogers, F. E. Newman||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Thomasson, Franklin||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Tomkinson, James||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Scarisbrick, Sir T. T. L.||Toulmin, George||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Scott, A, H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Walters, John Tudor||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Sears, J. E.||Walton, Joseph||Winfrey, R.|
|Seely, Colonel||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Shaw, Sir Charles E. (Stafford)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.|
|Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Strachey, Sir Edward|
§ Question, "That the words 'Chairman of Ways and Means is absent,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Further Amendment, after the word "absent" to insert the words "from the Chair," put, and agreed to.
proposed to add to the Standing Order, after the words last inserted, the words "and the House by Resolution so orders." The full powers at present possessed by the Chairman are now, according to the step which has just been taken, to be conferred upon the Deputy-Chairman, and the Amendment which I propose is intended to provide that that power can only be exercised after the House has passed a Resolution so ordering. I must confess that in the first instance I thought the Prime Minister's Motion meant absence from the House, and not, as he has explained, absence from the Chair. The effect now that the Prime Minister has added those words is, of course, slightly different. The point I have in mind is this: If anything were to happen to the present Chairman, or Deputy-Chairman, if, for instance, they were to receive Government appointments, and a new Chairman and a new Deputy-Chairman were appointed, I do not think the new Deputy-Chairman should have all these powers until the House has passed a Resolution granting them to him. We know our Deputy-Chairman, and what steps he will take in regard to the business of the House, and we are able to accommodate ourselves accordingly, but I think a new Deputy-Chairman should, for a certain time, be on probation, without having the full powers of the Chairman of Ways and Means. If after two or three months' trial of the new Deputy-Chairman in the Chair we are prepared to give him the full powers of the Chair, then, and not till then, should he have those full powers.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not sure I quite understand the hon. Gentleman's purpose in moving this Amendment, but, so far as I do understand it, the words he proposes would be totally ineffectual to carry it out. If I understand him rightly, what he wants is not that it should be necessary whenever the Chairman leaves the Chair to pass a resolution ad hoc as to whether or not the Deputy-Chairman should take his place, and, if so, with what powers, but that when a new Deputy-Chairman is appointed he should have a kind of trial trip, or a probation term, during which he would be divested of all powers of all sort or kind. He will sit in this Chair an impotent lay figure, unable to call any hon. Member to order for a breach of order, however gross, unable to determine whether any Amendment was or was not in order; and unable, so far as I can gather, to put any question from the Chair. Until he has shown in this truncated, mutilated, manacled condition that he is fit to exercise the powers of the Chair, he is to have no power to do anything at all. Is that the hon. Gentleman's proposition?
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
moved to amend Standing Order 26 (Closure of Debate) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following paragraph:—(3) A Motion may be made (the assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not having been withheld) that, with respect to certain words defined in the Motion, or a certain clause or schedule, the Chair be empowered to select the Amendments to De proposed. Such a Motion shall be put 1213 forthwith and decided without Amendment or Debate. If the Motion is carried the Chair shall then and thereafter exercise the power of selecting the Amendments to be proposed on the words, clause, or schedule.The effect of this proposal is that a Motion may be made subject to the same consent on the part of the Chair as is needed for the Closure. The Chair may consider whether or not the putting of a Motion to the House would be an abuse of its rules or an infringement of the rights of the minority. A Motion may be made with the consent of the Chair, and not otherwise, which would give the Chair from that time onwards in regard either to the clause or to the particular words in reference to which the Motion was made, what I may call a winnowing or selecting power of dealing with the Amendments on the Paper, or which have been handed to the Chair. If the House carries the Motion with the requisite majority, that is to say, the same majority as is now needed for a Motion of Closure, it would then, within the ambit of the subject matter included in the Closure, be in the power of the Chair to rule Amendments out of order, which otherwise, under our present procedure, lie would be obliged to put, and to select for discussion, and to be put such Amendments within that ambit which appear to him not only to be quite in order, but of substantial importance. The hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) described our former proposal—and I think he intended it to apply to this also—as of a revolutionary character. There is nothing at all revolutionary about this. It is simply a proposal to regulate, and in some cases to simplify, a power which has already been exercised by Speakers and by Chairmen of Committees, with the assent of Leaders of the Opposition, in this House upon more than one occasion. Let me recall to the recollection of the House—it will be within the memory of those who have sat in the House within the last 20 years—some of the occasions on which these powers have been enforced, because I shall, by referring to them, best be able to show the reasonableness of our present proposal, and the desirability of making it an express and intelligible part of the Closure Rule. The Closure was adopted, substantially in its present form, as I stated in dealing with the other Resolution, on the Motion of Mr. W. H. Smith in 1887. During that year, as some of us very vividly remember, we were kept up late almost every night discussing a highly 1214 contentious measure which went by the name of the Crimes Act, or the Coercion Act, and which dealt with the criminal law in Ireland. It was under the charge of the present Leader of the Opposition, and it was during the Committee stage of that measure that the question of the application of the Closure Rule first became, I think, a subject of contention and controversy. On the 7th of June, 1887, in the course of the Committee, Mr. Smith, who was the Leader of the House, moved that a certain clause should be put. The Chairman (Mr. Courtney) then gave this ruling. He said:—None of the Amendments on the Paper to the clause are of sufficient importance for discussion, but two or three provisos require some debate.In other words, he intimated that he would put the Closure on the whole clause unless the House was content and the persons interested in the Amendments on the Paper were content to abandon all those Amendments, except the two or three provisos he singled out, and which he regarded as really important. Sir William Harcourt, who was at the moment acting as Leader of the Opposition, said:—After that expression of opinion by the Chairman I think we ought to act upon it.The Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), one of the most astute Parliamentarians we have ever had in this House, and in whose name one of the Amendments about to be passed over stood, said:—After your expression of opinion, Mr. Courtney, I will not move my Amendment.In that way the immediate fall of the Closure was avoided, but upon the terms that the Amendments regarded by the Chairman as of real importance should only be put to the Committee. That was the first occasion on which that procedure was adopted. I come then to another illustration, also taken from the history of a highly controversial measure, which again, I think, gave rise to all-night sittings—the Agricultural Land Ratings Bill, 1896. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), on May 21st, 1896, moved that a certain part of the clause down to section (3) should be put. The Chairman (Mr. Lowther) said:—One Amendment to the sub-section is of importance and merits certain discussion, but need not occupy very long.It was upon the terms that discussion should be confined to that Amendment, and that Amendment only, that the Closure was not put. Then, three years later, in the course of another Bill of a similar description, the Tithe Rent Charge (Rates) Bill, 1215 the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Leader of the House, whilst in Committee, on July 11th, claimed to move that the words of the clause stand part of the clause be now put.The CHAIRMAN: There is an Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for North-West Durham which I think the Committee should have an opportunity of discussing. If the Committee would be prepared to discuss that Amendment I should decline to accept the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury, but if the Committee do not accept that view I shall be compelled to accept the Motion.Mr. DALZIEL: May I ask, on a point of order, in what way the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman would be put in the event of any arrangement being arrived at by the acceptance of the Amendment you have mentioned. I submit that the proposition should be accepted or refused.The CHAIRMAN: I said I could not accept the Motion of the Leader of the House because I thought there was an Amendment on the Paper which should be discussed, but of course if the Committee decline to discuss that Amendment I shall be compelled to accept the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, after claiming consideration for another Amendment which stood in the name of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought up Sir William Harcourt, and this produced the following ruling from the Chairman:—The CHAIRMAN: I have followed a precedent which is in my mind and in the mind of many other Members of the Committee which was set by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin a good many years ago. In endeavouring to protect the rights of the minority it seemed to me that there was one substantial Amendment which would be shut out if I accepted the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I was endeavouring to protect the rights of the minority in that respect, and endeavouring to procure for them a discussion of that Amendment, but if the minority do not wish the course I suggested to be taken, of course the only alternative for me is to accept the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury.Thereupon Mr. Courtney- got up and said:—Perhaps, I may be permitted to recall the circumstances to which you have referred. The Committee at that time was in a very excited condition, and it had had a protracted Debate over many Amendments to the Irish Crimes Prevention Bill, and a Motion was made that certain words should stand part of the clause. I said that if that Motion were accepted it would cut out one or two Amendments to which I directed attention which in my judgment were substantial Amendments and I therefore hesitated to accept the Motion. Thereupon the members of the Committee agreed practically without any vote taken on the subject to drop all the intermediate Amendment except the one or two to which I called attention, and to proceed with the discussion. If the Committee had not followed the suggestion made of saving the one or two substantial Amendments to which I have referred, I should, not perhaps immediately, but after a short interval, have accepted the Motion that certain words should stand part, even though they did cut out those substantial Amendments, because it is impossible as I can see for the Chairman to do otherwise, having regard to the conduct of business as well as to the rights of private Members and of the minority. If business is so conducted as to render progress impossible, then at whatever cost it is inevitable that certain substantial Amendments may come to be overlooked.1216 Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, in substance, assented to that. The Members-who had intervening Amendments agreed to give way, and the Amendment which the Chairman held to be substantial was thereupon discussed, and in that way the precedent was created. I have gone at some length into that case, because it seems to me to be a very important ruling.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
What I meant to say was that the precedent established in 1887 was followed. There is one later case, and only one, to which I wish to refer. It took place in the present Parliament with the Speaker in the Chair. It was on the Education Bill, 1906—on 18th June. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, I was temporarily in charge of the House. I moved that the Question be now put, whereupon Mr. Speaker said that the Amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition ought to be considered, and if the right; hon. Gentleman were prepared to move it at once—which would exclude intermediate Amendments—he (the Speaker) would withhold his consent to the Closure Motion. Thereupon the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition moved this Amendment forthwith. These are the facts. Although the instances in which this procedure has been resorted to are not very numerous, they are quite sufficient in number and in point of authority to justify one in saying that the occupant of the Chair, whether Mr. Speaker in the House or the Chairman of Ways and Means in Committee, is entitled, upon the true construction of our present procedure to rule, when the Closure is moved, that he will put the Closure, sweeping away Amendments both substantial and unsubstantial, if those hon. Members in whose names Amendments considered unsubstantial appear are not prepared to withdraw them and give way to the hon. Members in whose names the substantial Amendments stand. In principle there is nothing revolutionary—there is nothing in the way of innovation in the proposal I am making to the House, but it has this very great advantage. The present position is illogical. The Chairman is in this dilemma. If he grants the Closure he does so knowing that, by so doing, he is going to exclude what he himself considers to be substantial Amendments. If, on the other hand, he refuses it, he is necessarily allowing a discussion 1217 upon Amendments which he regards as unsubstantial. That is a very invidious position in which to place the Chairman. He cannot prevent the moving of unsubstantial Amendments except by granting the Closure out and out, and if he does that he is obliged to cut out Amendments that he regards as substantial—Amendments upon the discussion of which, in his opinion, the time of the House may be profitably employed. On the other hand, if he does not grant the Closure out and out he knows that he involves a waste of time in discussing unsubstantial Amendments. It is in order to get rid of that difficulty and to regularise this proceeding that we make this proposal, which, in our opinion, is simpler and more rational. Under these circumstances, if our proposal were carried, it would not be necessary to make a Closure Resolution at all. What would be done would be to make a Motion with regard to a certain clause, empowering the selection of certain Amendments to be proceeded with. The Chairman would not put such a Motion unless he thought it was a proper thing to do. He would not put it in other words if he thought that the effect of his exercising the power of selection would be to exclude the discussion of important topics. Therefore the minority will always have the same safeguards against the improper exercise of the power I of selection as they have now against the improper exercise of the power of the Closure. But supposing the Chairman thinks the Motion a proper one and puts it to the House it must be carried under the same conditions and by the same majority as the Motion for Closure. If it is debatable you will have a discussion how far the Amendments are important or unimportant, and whether they ought to be moved or excluded. If the Motion is carried I would call particular attention to the words following, which, I think, have been somewhat misunderstood: "Shall then and thereafter exercise the powers of selecting the Amendments to be proposed." In other words, the Chair will have exactly the same power which on the Closure Motion it now possesses without the disadvantages and invidious conditions to which I have referred. The words "then and thereafter "indicate that the Chairman is not to be obliged at once to say in regard to the Amendments on the Paper or with regard to possible Amendments which may be subsequently handed in, "I rule these out as unimportant." It may be as the discussion goes on—it very often is the 1218 case—that the first Amendment he selects will tend to show that other Amendments are either important or unimportant, as the case may be. Light will be thrown on this point by the discussion of that particular Amendment, and it will be very useful in enabling him thereafter to say whether or not subsequent Amendments should be discussed. The proposal gives elasticity to the powers he may exercise during the course of the discussion until the end of the clause is reached.
I hope I have made clear to the House the real effect of this proposed Amendment of Standing Orders. I do not complain of the statement which has been made that we should not have put down these Amendments to Rules at this particular moment. That is a merely abstract or academic ground. At this stage of the Session the Government have something else to do than to alter its Rules of Procedure and to bring them into accord with reason. I do not deny that we hope, in putting these down, they will be useful in carrying through our legislation. I need not specify any particular measure. The House has only to look at the Order Paper to see that there is a considerable number of measures which may benefit by this proposal. Certainly the alteration will be of use in enabling the Government to carry through their legislative programme, and I believe it will be equally of use as an Amendment of our procedure in years to come. I submit the proposal as a natural development of procedure already resorted to—procedure resting upon the highest authority. It is simply in order to simplify that procedure that we propose it. If; renders the procedure more rational. It is in no sense an infringement or possible infringement of the privileges of the A minority. It safeguards in every way the rights of free discussion, and it places both the Chair and the minority in the House in a much better position than at present, while at the same time it is calculated to facilitate the progress of public business.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The narrative which the right hon. Gentleman has given of the development of the idea upon which this new Standing Order is based was very interesting, and I think it was instructive, and I believe it to be perfectly impartial. I think he has given us, as far as my memory serves at all events—he has given us, not only a complete but an accurate summary of what has occurred since 1887, when the germs of this present proposal, as he has described it, were first sown. 1219 But it clearly appears, from the narrative which the right hon. Gentleman delivered, that it was only on three occasions in 22 years that the precedent has been followed.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I understand that there were two or three other occasions. Let me say, five or six of these occasions in the 22 years that have elapsed since Mr. Smith set the earliest precedent. The very fact that the precedent has been so rarely followed, and that it has been followed only on exceptional occasions, while now it is intended to make it an ordinary and habitual practice of the House, if it does not go the whole length in justifying my hon. Colleague's epithet of revolutionary, does show very clearly that a very important and new departure is going to be made in the procedure of this House. Do not let anybody imagine that all the Prime Minister and the Government are doing is to put in a convenient and logical form the ordinary procedure of this House. That, I think, is not the intention of the Government. I am quite sure it will not be the effect of the Government's proposal, and I am perfectly certain that if this passes we shall from this date have a quite new procedure regularly adopted whenever a highly controversial or difficult Bill is before the House of Commons. I think we ought very seriously to consider whether that innovation is, or is not, expedient, and that we ought not to be, I will not say misled, but over impressed, by the view of the Prime Minister, that we are really only going on by a process of natural evolution, and that there is a hardly discernible line of demarcation between the procedure of this House in Committee before the end of July, 1909, and the procedure which will obtain in Committee after that date. That is not the fact. The House is going to take a very important decision. It is going to make—if you do not like the word violent—it is going to make a very great change in our traditional mode of conducting our Debates, and it deserves, and I have no doubt it will have, the most serious consideration of men, to whatever party they belong, whether they hope to profit by this innovation when they are in the majority or whether they anticipate that they may suffer under it when they find themselves in a minority.
1220 In the first place, I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether this is really the alternative which he proposes to lay before us to the perpetual use of Closure by compartment, which has become so unhappy a practice in the last few years. Is this the alternative to which he looks as applying, if not a complete remedy, at all events an important palliative to the disease from which this House, by the admission of all, is at present suffering? That is the first question I should like to ask, and upon that we have no light whatever thrown by the Prime Minister. The whole object of his speech, perhaps the natural object, was to minimise the proposal—his whole object was to say that the precedent was on his side, and all he had to do was to make the precedent logically easy of application, but I think he knows we are doing much more than that. I think he knows that, for good or evil, he is suggesting an immense and far-reaching change, and I should like to know, and I hope before the end of this Debate we shall know, how he regards this great change which he has moved in the light of the general problem of dealing with the Debates in this House—in the light of many controversies which we have had across the floor of the House, as to how we should proceed to deal with freedom of Debate in this House, how we could manage to do our business and yet remain a free Assembly. I should like to know, with regard to the procedure which he himself was obliged to adopt so often, in the shape of Closure by compartment, whether this is the whole solution with which he looks forward with hope to the difficulties and congestion from which we are suffering, and, no doubt, shall suffer again. That is the first question. The second question I should like to ask is this. As I understand, this is a rule moved to put the House temporarily under martial law. The Motion is to be made, it is to be carried without Debate, and when the Motion is carried we work under entirely different Rules and under Chairmen with entirely different powers. The Rule is analogous to martial law, and just as martial law may be well administered or ill administered, just as under martial law the rights and liberties of the citizen may really substantially be respected, so also under martial law the gravest violation of his rights may occur, and the citizen may well feel that, however adequately he has been treated, his liberty depends not upon an established code but on the will, possibly the caprice, of one 1221 single individual. This is martial law which you propose to introduce; it may be right, but you do propose to introduce martial law under this proposal.
I feel most alarmed at this procedure in relation to the position which will henceforward be occupied by the two Chairmen who preside, and who will henceforth preside with equal authority over the deliberations of our Committees. There was a very interesting speech made in the Debate earlier in the afternoon by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon), whom I do not see in his place now, but L who dealt with the comparative position I occupied by the Chairmen of Committees and the Speaker respectively, and pointed I out that while Mr. Speaker was always nominated on the advice of an unofficial Member of the House and was elected by the House to his high office, and, indeed, had to obtain consent to his occupying that office from the Crown—that while all these ceremonials surrounded the position of the Speaker, the Chairmen were always, and at any rate in my experience this has been it the case, party men. I mean party men who emerge from the party and return to the party, who might have had and may I still retain the hope of office—the natural I expectation of office, and have only emerged from the ordinary party surroundings for the purpose of carrying out their duties in the Chair, and I think the hon. Member for Mayo might have gone I further than he did, and might have pointed out that as soon as a Member of this House is elected to the high office of Speaker, he not only ceases to be a Member of a party from the moment that he occupies the Chair, but it is understood practically now that never again in this House will he occupy a position of party. It is assumed, as the result of long tradition, that as soon as Mr. Speaker ceases to exercise his great office, he no longer returns as an ordinary Member to these Benches, and therefore, when a Member of this House is elected to that high office, he takes leave then and for ever of the position of a party man, and so far is that tradition carried out, that, as everybody knows, it is not the custom to contest Mr. Speaker's seat. It is very rarely done. It has been done on especial occasion, but very rarely. It is not, also, the practice of Mr. Speaker to make speeches on controversial politics of the day, either to his constituents or to any other body of men.
No such ceremony surrounds our selection of Chairmen. They are neither re- 1222 moved in the same way from temptation, nor does anybody in this House expect or desire them to put off, when they are not in the Chair, their traditional, their natural traditional position of party politicians. It is inevitable, under these circumstances, that these Gentlemen should exercise their very responsible duties under very special difficulties, and, in my experience, they have carried them out on the whole with the general acceptance of the House, whichever party was in power and however severe the controversy might be which was going on within this Chamber. I do not mean, of course, that either the majority or the minority have always agreed in the rulings of the Chair. I do not think that is the case. I think very often the minority have felt themselves aggrieved; they have thought that they had not got the liberty of Debate to which they thought they were entitled, but, per contra, I have known cases where the majority thought that had the Chairman seen eye to eye with them that the business might have been expedited, and might have been pressed through with greater speed, and yet legitimately and without any undue oppression of minorities than was the case. Everybody knows that those two opinions are constantly held, and are constantly repeated by Members of this House; it is so difficult for the Chairman to exercise his responsible function so as to please everybody, and it is equally impossible even to escape equally honest criticism, either from the majority or the minority. I do not think that position will be disputed by anybody who knows what really goes on in this House. Then, if that be so, is it not a very serious thing to add to their responsibilities and to add to their duties as this Rule will do if it is carried out5 as it must inevitably be carried out?
What are you asking the Chairmen to do by this rule? Under the precedent cited by the right hon. Gentleman, and, I assume, also under two or three other precedents, which he did not think it necessary to cite, what had happened was, that there had been violent obstruction and a multiplicity of Debates on Amendments which had been urged to a very extreme point. Great tension was existing, business was blocked, and it was tolerably obvious that in a particular case there was only one Amendment which was worth discussion among a multitude of Amendments, to which even the framers attached no great importance and which 1223 were put down to prevent business rapidly progressing. The decision in such a case is tolerably easy, and yet I venture to say that the Chairman, on the five or six occasions when that decision was come to, did it with considerable misgiving, much self-examination, doubt, and hesitation. It was done by way of compromise and arrangement, and in almost every case the Prime Minister has cited there was, after a sort of discussion on a point of order, which naturally takes place on these occasions, common agreement between the minority and the majority that the compromise suggested by Mr. Speaker between the Closure moved by the Minister and the Members of the Opposition who had Amendments to put before the House, was a compromise, broadly speaking, which both sides might accept. You are not going to do that at all. You are going to have a Motion in favour of martial law, and thereafter it will be the duty of the Chairman to go in advance, as it were, of any suggestions made to him, to form a separate judgment on every Amendment on the Paper, and, in the light of the best judgment he can frame, to have a kind of modified Closure by compartments, and say to the Opposition, "You may discuss so much, and only so much, among the Amendments which are down upon the Paper."
Do not let the House suppose that the duty you are thus throwing on the Chairmen of Committees has more than the smallest analogy to the duties he has performed on the five or six occasions to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. If the Chairmen are to carry out this duty, for the life of me I cannot see hew are they to carry it out, not merely after that long and anxious consideration of the details of a Bill which every Chairman has to undertake in order that he may know whether an Amendment is in order, whether that is the right place for it to appear, what relation it has to future clauses, and similar very difficult questions. He will have to consider not merely what the Bill says and means, but what everyone who puts down Amendments says and means. You give him no machinery for forming a judgment. He will have to find his machinery. Where will he find it? I picture to myself that if we pass this. Rule as it is proposed, the Chairman, if he wishes to carry out the new responsibilities thrown upon him, will have to call into 1224 council the draftsman of the Bill and the Minister in charge of the Bill. I do not see how we can help it. There will have to be long and anxious consultations over the import of every Amendment on the Paper, and every Amendment handed in in manuscript, as to whether it is really an Amendment of substance, and, if it is, whether it is of sufficient importance to enable it to escape the general fate meted out under martial law to its contemporaries. How is the Chairman to carry out these duties unless he also consults the Opposition, unless he also consults the Member who has put down the Amendment, and unless he really informs himself, not of the minute arguments in its favour, but of the broad lines of contention which the Member means to advance to the House?
I do not know what tin: House will feel about that state of things. It appears to me it will put the Government draftsman in an entirely new position; it will put the Minister of the Crown in an entirely new position, and it will put the unfortunate Chairman of Committees-under the necessity of perpetual consultation on questions of policy, both with the Government and with the Opposition. That is a great change. It is even a violent change, and we must not disguise from ourselves that precedent does not in the least diminish the magnitude of the change. Surely the difficulty of carrying it out will be seriously augmented by the fact that you now entrust these duties to-two separate Chairmen, and that you obviously contemplate that those two' separate Chairmen should alternately be in the Chair during the same discussion during the course of the same night and on the same Bill. The Chairmen, therefore, will, in addition to consulting the Government draftsman, the Minister of the Crown and the Members of the Opposition who have put down Amendments, have to be consulting each other as to the exact line they propose to take, so as to keep up some continuity of treatment between different clauses of the same Bill. We could not discuss these two Amendments proposed by the Government together, but that is a difficulty which might well have been dealt with under the last proposal of the Government. I think it will be found to be a difficulty of considerable magnitude, especially if you are really going to use these powers during the prolonged hours of all-night sittings taken in rapid succession. It is almost impossible for any human brain to remem- 1225 ber all the details of the questions raised by Amendments beyond a certain point. I have had to conduct a great many Bills through the House, and certainly I never thought of preparing or considering the Amendments on any Bill of which I was in charge beyond a certain point. You knew perfectly well that the House could not get beyond a certain point, but now no human being will know how far we may get. Members in charge of Amendments will not have the smallest notion when they ought to be in their places to move the Amendment, and those who criticise and those who defend, those who are responsible for the measure and those who are opposed to it, will equally be embarrassed by these sudden leaps and bounds which I gather are to be taken without notice and without any possibility of fore-cast.
These are the chief reasons why I look with the greatest misgiving upon this new departure. Many of the difficulties I have stated are difficulties of practice, which will be found, I think, greater than the Government suppose. To me the most fundamental is that I think you are throwing upon the two Chairmen whom you have now made co-equal arbiters of our Debates in Committee, a function which is practically new in its magnitude and scope, which will require of them a knowledge and a power of concentration and a legal apparatus which they do not possess, and which will bring them into entirely new relations with the Government and with the Opposition, and which, in the perpetual exercise of a new power, will make it even more difficult than they have felt it hitherto to be to retain, not merely the reality of impartiality, but that appearance of impartiality which is absolutely essential if the House is to continue what it has been hitherto, a place where minorities and majorities alike feel that they are met together on equal terms to discuss measures of common interest to both. We are dealing with a most difficult and most delicate matter. It cannot be disposed of by precedent, and with the experience of our Debates in this House, and the relations between the House and those who preside over our Debates in Committee, and with the knowledge how Amendments develop, what difficult points are raised in connection with them, how hard it is for the Chairman or even for the Government to know what it is that the Mover of an Amendment has in his mind—with all those considerations before them, I hope and believe they will hesitate before they 1226 hastily accept the suggestions made, I doubt not in all good faith, by the Leader of the House.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Lewis Harcourt)
I am sure the House will appreciate, as the Government do, the moderation with which this matter has been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman. He has dealt with this, as an old Leader of the House and as the present Leader of the Opposition, with a sincere desire to contribute his own views on this matter and to contribute to the general convenience and the advantage of the House, on whichever side he may sit. He said in the earlier part of his remarks that there had been very few-precedents for the application of a process of selection in the last 10 years, but he omitted to notice that the rarity of these precedents has really arisen from the commoner use which has been made of the process of the guillotine, of the time Closure, or of the Closure by compartments, whichever it may be called. When the Government has carried a time-Closure Resolution applicable to a whole Bill, the Closure moved casually on a clause or on an Amendment practically disappears. Therefore there is never an opportunity for the Chairman or the Speaker, on a casual Closure Motion, to exercise that discretion; and it is, I think, only human nature that when it is known that the so-called guillotine is going to fall at half-past ten, Members on both sides should be left to make their own selection of what they will do, knowing what will be the result to themselves and to the clause under discussion at half-past ten if they have been so unwise as to select only unsubstantial Amendments for discussion. That is the reason that precedents for the exercise of a power of selection by the Chair have not been more frequent in recent years. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister had spoken of this measure as if it would make a hardly discernible demarcation between our past and our future proceedings. I certainly hope that in its effect in the future it will make a very considerable demarcation between the course of our Debates and those which we have been, unhappily, accustomed to in the last 10 years. The Leader of the Opposition asked if this was our alternative to compartment Closure. It is certainly my hope that it will prove in the future very largely an alternative to compartment Closure. I have not been very 1227 long in the House, but I have known of the House for many years behind the Bar, and though I have no right to speak as if I was greatly experienced in its procedure, I have, from what I have observed in the House, always disliked the Closure in all its forms. But I have become convinced of its necessity, though I use it as little as possible, either here or upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman said the Amendment which we are making to-day is in effect imposing a temporary martial law upon the House, and when such a Motion as is made possible under this Amendment has been moved we shall be acting under different Rules and the Chairman will be acting under different powers. Surely the analogy of martial law, which is the suspension of all law, is far more applicable to the present clumsy method of moving the Closure of a whole clause, and thereby excluding all those Amendments which we are anxious to have admitted by the process of selection to be exercised by the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour) observed that the Speaker, as part, I suppose, of the reward of his impartiality, was rarely or never opposed at an election. I think the right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the opposition which was offered to Mr. Speaker Gully—an opposition which was believed to be at the instigation, or, at all events, with the knowledge, of the right hon. Gentleman, and which drew a public protest against the action taken by him from the then Leader of the House, the late Sir William Harcourt.
The right hon. Gentleman said that on those previous occasions when selection has been made by the Chairmen they have apparently acted with the general agreement of all parties in the House. But that is hardly surprising, for what was left to the minorities in different parts of the House was only Hobson's choice. Under the offer of the Chairman, at all events, they were going to get something; they were going to be allowed to move some Amendments, but if they did not accept the situation then the Chairman or the Speaker was prepared to accept the brutal Closure of the whole clause, which might be moved by a Minister. I think the right hon. Gentleman can hardly say that it has been a voluntary acceptance of such a position on the part of hon. Members, because the acceptance of it was necessary in order that they should receive any rope at all. The right hon. Gentleman also pointed out, or he seemed to be under the 1228 impression, that we should be imposing a new difficulty on the Chairman in considering what was the meaning of every Amendment when such a Motion was made. But surely the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience on the Treasury Bench and on the bench opposite, does not think that the Chairman gives a decision as to whether an Amendment is in order without considering what it means, and when the Chairman has gone so far as to consider the meaning and orderliness of an Amendment he is in a very fair position then to decide whether an Amendment involves a matter of substance worthy of discussion.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that this alteration of the Standing Orders will impose a new duty of consultation between the Chairman, who has been sitting some hours in the chair, and the Deputy-Chairman, who is going to occupy the chair, or vice versâ. That, as the right hon. Gentleman must know, is the common practice in our daily business. The Chairman does not bolt out of the Chair, leaving papers or no papers there, without informing his successor of what his been taking place, what are the points decided, and what he thinks is the general position of the clause or Motion before the House. No further duty will be imposed on these Gentlemen than they habitually perform to-day. I think the last suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman with which I need deal is that hon. Members in any part of the House might not know, or would not know, how soon their Amendment could be reached, implying that they would be ignorant of the rapidity with which the business was proceeding. Under a system) by which there will be the habitual power, and, I hope, the habit of selection, it is quite certain that many of these Amendments will not be reached so rapidly as under a system by which the whole of the Amendments are wiped out when a Motion is made to add the whole clause to the Bill. In conclusion, I would express the hope and belief that the House, after having tried this simple Amendment of our Rules, will find that it has arrived at a position which, at all even-s, will greatly mitigate the necessity for the application of that most odious of all procedure—guillotine procedure.
§ Mr. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I rise with some diffidence to take part in this Debate. I am not one of the older Members of the House, and a three years' Membership has only taught me how exceedingly difficult it is to conduct business 1229 here. However, sitting here and observing the methods as well as one possibly could, I am bound to say I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing more unsatisfactory than the present system of Closure. Business must be got through, and yet surely if the House would apply its intelligence to the devising of a new method of getting through business it could devise something much better than the clumsy block system of a Minister getting up—sometimes it is very difficult to find why he does not get up an hour before, and sometimes it is difficult to understand why he does not allow the Debate to go on an hour longer—at any odd time without warning, and apparently without exercising any real discretion, and moving "That the Question be now put," or moving that a certain specified number of lines be added to the Bill, or something like that. That is the most awkward, unscientific, and unbusinesslike way of getting business done.
This new proposal comes before us now, and I am bound to say when I saw it on the Paper first of all I failed to understand what its scope was. I think that is the difficulty of the House this afternoon. If the power were exercised, as the First Commissioner of Works said, habitually, I am not quite so sure that I would favour it, but if it is exercised, at any rate to begin with, temporarily, then I am in favour of it; But if I vote for the Amendment, as I propose to do, I do so expressing the hope that the Chairman, who is going to carry it into practice, will be exceedingly careful as to the occasions when he will accept the proposal of the Closure. Then one perfectly obvious corollary to this power, if it is to be given, is that the status of the Chairmen must be altered. The Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman are at the present moment drawn from the party in power. Those of us who have considerable political feelings must have marvelled very often at the impartiality of Chairmen appointed in such a way as that, but, nevertheless, there is a limit to human impartiality. The Chairmen, with the very best desire in the world to protect the rights of the minority, are bound to remember that part of their function at any rate is to facilitate business, and to that extent they are always partial to the Government, whether a Conservative happens to be in the Chair when a Liberal Government is in office, or a Liberal is in the Chair when a Conservative Government is in office. From the very nature of their position they are in favour of the 1230 party in office who want something to be done. Really I think they would hardly be human if they were not to assume certain political leanings which might lead them to give certain rulings on points of order, but when all that is taken into account you have to remember—and this is becoming more and more apparent every day—that if the Chairmen who administer the Standing Orders have a duty to perform in protecting the rights of minorities, they have also a duty to perform in protecting the rights of majorities. It is perfectly conceivable that a small, or even an insignificant, minority can by certain well known processes, not only vindicate its right to discuss questions and to counsel the Government, but even to defeat the majority from having its way carried out. Therefore I am perfectly willing to support such an Amendment of the Standing Orders as will protect the rights of the majority against the rights of the minority when the minority use their opportunities in certain objectionable ways.
I only wish to put two questions. First of all, does this Amendment of our Standing Orders increase the power of the Chairman? I venture to say it does not. If this Rule is put into operation, the Chairman will have precisely the power which the Chairman has now. What is the power he has now. A Motion is made from the Front Bench "That the Question be now put," regarding, say, a clause. The Chairman has to consider whether the clause, as a whole, has been adequately discussed. He has to consider whether there are any Amendments which, up to that time, have not been discussed, but which are of sufficient importance to justify him in withholding the Closure. All he can do now is to consider whether the Closure is to be given to the clause. What is the alternative now proposed? He would have to consider whether the Closure should be given to the clause except with respect to certain Amendments that are put down on the notice Paper. The House ought to think very accurately, and bend its mind to grasping precisely the point before us. The practice now is to propose that the clause, or certain words or lines, be Closured, plus all the Amendments. The proposal now made is to Closure the clause, or certain words or lines, less some Amendments which, in the judgment of the Chairman, ought to be considered before the Closure is given. I venture to say that that is not an increase in the power of the Chairman. The Chairman, if he does his duty now in 1231 exercising his power of Closure, has to consider the nature of the Amendments which, if the Closure is accepted, cannot be considered. The second point is this: The Standing Order, in its amended form, will increase his responsibility undoubtedly, because it gives him a larger field over which to exercise his discretion, and it is because I think this field of responsibility is increased by the proposal now made that we must, sooner or later, I hope sooner, withdraw the Chairmen from being in the position of holding partisan appointments, and give them the same impartial and detached position which the Speaker occupies in this House. I am bound to say as a practical and common-sense person, and waiving aside all the finnicking objections which can be taken to this proposal, I consider it my duty to support the Amendment, and to give the Standing Order in its amended form a chance, and if further Amendments are required in any direction I will then be prepared to support the Government in making those Amendments.
§ Mr. HAROLD COX
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald), I have not been long a Member of this House, but I have for many years had an opportunity of watching the proceedings of this House from a position of great advantage and some responsibility, and therefore I would be able in some ways to form a judgment of the proceedings of this House which is not open even to Members themselves. I fully agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said, that this is a very great change which has been proposed. It is a great change, and I support it very cordially. We have got to face the alternative between some such change as is now proposed, which seems to me the right course, and a continuance of Closure by means of guillotine, which it seems to me is the absolute destruction of all Debate. Nothing is so fatal—I do not say to the intelligent consideration of business by this House itself, but to the intelligent consideration of the proceedings of this House by the public—as the use of the guillotine. Directly the guillotine is imposed Members cease to take an interest in the business; the Press cease to take an interest; the public cease to take an interest; the House virtually ceases to exist. Therefore any alternative which we can devise as a substitute for the guillotine I think ought to be wel- 1232 corned. I think that this change can be fairly welcomed on its own merits, provided always that the House agrees with what the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) so strongly insisted on, that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should cease to be representatives of party and become representative of the House. I believe that that is the unanimous wish of the House. I foresee difficulties in immediately putting that wish into effect. We cannot at the moment alter the methods by which the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman are appointed, but we are all agreed that it is from this moment the wish of the House that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should become as the Speaker is. If that is done I think the power which it is proposed to entrust to the two Gentlemen who hold these offices is a very valuable power, and a power which will be very useful to the House.
Think what the alternative is. It is said that we are giving to these two men—who, like other men, are human—very great responsibilities indeed. It is true we are giving them very great power—the power of saying what Amendments they consider sufficiently substantial to be debated by the House. But what is the procedure at present? The power which is proposed is to be given to these picked men—because they are picked—but under our present Rules we give to an individual in this House the power of wasting the time of this House by discussing something which is unsubstantial. Is not that a more serious thing than the proposal which is now made? Is not it more serious that a person without any responsibility can get up and waste time—with the assistance of other men waste a considerable amount of time—by discussing matters which are of no great importance? The Leader of the Opposition spoke in his earlier speech of the causes which have led to this proposal. I think we all admit that the cause is the long Debates on the Finance Bill. On that point I have no hesitation in saying that I agree entirely with him. I am as strongly opposed to these clauses which have been discussed as any man in this House. But when he argues that we cannot treat these things as being purely philosophic because there is a particular cause for their introduction, surely he forgets that we never do anything in this country from purely philosophic considerations, and that we do not propose a reform until the occasion for it has arisen. Therefore. I do not think it is any objection to these proposals that they are prompted by a particular state of 1233 things. That is always our way. A difficulty arises and then we deal with it. What we have got to consider is whether this means of dealing with the difficulty is a just one, and whether a permanent alteration in our Rules is required. It seems to me that, subject to the understanding that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman are to be as impartial as the Speaker, it is a most desirable thing in the interests of the whole House that there should be some method of selecting substantial Amendments so that the House may concentrate on points which are really of interest to the majority of persons, and not have its time frittered away by discussing points which are of interest only to a very small minority.
§ Mr. HENRY CHAPLIN
It is as one of the oldest Members of this House that I ask permission to say a very few words on the question which is of supreme importance to every Member of this House. With much of which has been said by the hon. Member sitting below the Gangway (Mr. J. R. Macdonald) I am in entire concurrence. He began by telling us when he first read the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (the Prime Minister) he was much alarmed at it. I was also alarmed, and, unlike the hon. Member, I am still alarmed at the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. And? think they deserve most careful thought and consideration in all parts of the House before they are finally adopted. The hon. Member went on to say that at all events he was greatly dissatisfied with the system under which our labours are carried on at present; and there also I am entirely in agreement with him. That is the opinion I gather also of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Cox) who has just sat down, and who, I understand, supports this proposal as an alternative to the guillotine to which he is entirely opposed. In the old days when these questions were being discussed I remember having suggested, I think more than once, an alternative proposal to the general Closure which was at that time resolved on; and that was to try to give effect by legislative rules to what was in the old days in the House of Commons the most perfect form, both of individual and general Closure, that I have ever witnessed; that was the old practice of crying "Divide, divide." In former days that never failed. The business was happily conducted with freedom from obstruction and freedom from the delay which attends upon our labours at present. It was con- 1234 ducted in a way I have never seen improved on since those times. Those happy days have disappeared owing to the energetic and able body who followed Mr. Parnell from Ireland, and it has been necessary to seek for other proposals since that time. I was one of those who believed, and I still believe, that at that time that principle of individual closure which was so effectual, and which I have described might have been given effect to in rules, and have had substantially the same general effect, one of the great advantages of which was this, that it made every Member who rose to speak in this House as the first desire upon his part anxious to obtain what was called at that time "the ear of the House." I am afraid, however, that times have changed very considerably since then; and I do not dwell to-night upon proposals which I thoroughly believed in then, but which may not be so well adapted to the rather extreme circumstances in which we find ourselves situated in these days.
I pass from that, but there are one or two further words supplementary to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) with regard to the precedents which were quoted by the Prime Minister in support of this proposal. As far as I was able to follow him, I thought there were four. The first was the case of the Crimes Act in 1887. Then there was the Rating Bill of 1896, for which I was myself responsible, and there was the Tithes Bill in another year. And then he quoted an instance also which made up the four, and which, I think, happened during the present Parliament. But, as my right hon. Friend has already pointed out, and it seemed to me perfectly truly those instances present no analogy whatever to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and for this reason: They were merely isolated cases occurring at long distances of time over a number of years, whereas what the right hon. Gentleman suggests, this Rule which he asks the House of Commons to accept, is to become the habitual and ordinary practice of the House with regard to all important Bills which are presented to it from this time forth and for evermore so long as the Rule, if it should be carried, remains in force. That is a totally different position from that which was described by the right hon. Gentleman in the precedents which he quoted. And remember the new rule is confined not to particular occasions, not to any special or particular, but they are to what the right hon. Gentle- 1235 man himself described to us as the legislative programme of the Government as a whole. Why, when we come to precedents, I remember the precedent, perhaps the most important of all, where a Debate which had occupied the House of Commons not only for the time of an all-night sitting but for three days and three nights, if I recollect rightly, was put an end to by the action of Mr. Speaker Brand without any Rules or Regulations whatever to support him in what he conceived, and rightly conceived, to be his duty in order to maintain the character, the traditions, and the dignity of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman might just as well have quoted that as a precedent as have quoted the instances which he has given to the House. And now may I say as briefly as I can why I am utterly opposed to the proposal which he has submitted to the House? I regard it myself as the greatest infringement, as the most serious inroad upon the privileges of Members of this House, and upon that freedom of speech which has been the most ancient right of Members who sit in this Assembly that has ever been proposed by any responsible Government in this country.
The effect of this Motion will be that at any time upon the Motion of the Government it may, and no doubt will, put into the hands of the Chairman, and of the Chairman alone, the power of deciding what questions shall or shall not be discussed in any Bill that comes before the House of Commons. In my judgment, that is a proposal which is open to the gravest objections on a whole variety of different grounds. In the first place, I regard this as an intolerable interference with the rights of Members generally in all parts of the House, and, above all, as I am afraid will be the case, with the rights of those who are called unofficial Members of this House. In the second place, it throws an immense and wholly unwarrantable responsibility upon the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of our Committees. Thirdly, as my right hon. Friend stated just now, I know not indeed how this is to be carried out unless the Government takes into consultation first of all the Members of this House who are sitting on the Government Bench opposite to me, and then, as a matter of course, Members who are sitting on the Front Opposition Bench. There I am entirely in agreement with my right hon. Friend, but I think that he omitted some- 1236 thing else, because all Members have equal rights so far as the privileges of this House are concerned. The Chair is the common guardians of all; and in this respect, at all events, every one of us wherever we may sit, has a right to be treated on a footing of perfect equality. If suggestions are to come to the Chairman from the Government Bench and the Front Opposition Bench, in my humble judgment they must also come from independent Members in all parts of the House, who should have the same right to press their Amendments upon the consideration of the Chair, as is enjoyed, or as I suppose will be enjoyed, by those who sit on the two Front Benches. The House might consider for a moment if that is so—and I really do not think there is any exaggeration in what I say—what does all this mean? What does it all amount to?
Take, for instance, the long list of measures of first-class importance that are contained in the Finance Bill, and in respect of which I think this Resolution is-really moved. Take all the other measures of first-class importance which are now before the House, together with the aggregate of all the Amendments put down. Why, the mass of those Amendments would be something enormous. They would be numbered by many thousands, and yet you are going to impose upon the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Committees the duty of forming a complete and comprehensive knowledge of the nature and importance of every one of these thousands of Amendments. That will be an absolute necessity for the due and equitable performance of that duty, and the difficulty of the task that you are going to place upon them is in itself sufficient to make an unanswerable case against the proposal of His Majesty's Government. I have never been myself a thick-and-thin supporter of the present Rules under which the business of this House is conducted. On the contrary, some years ago, when I was sitting on the other side, I did my best, as an outsider, to secure—and I think I did succeed in securing—some very important modifications of the Rules which were then proposed. I do appeal to the House, with all the earnestness and seriousness in my power, to pause before they consent to the proposal before us at this moment. I speak, not only with many years' experience and recollections of changes of procedure in this House, but I believe I speak with absolute impartiality in everything I say to- 1237 night, because after a career, of which I believe really more than forty years have been spent in this House, it seems impossible that it can be otherwise than that my race, at least so far as political work is concerned, must be nearly run. But I wish to appeal to the House on this point, because I believe that Members are asked to take upon themselves a most grave and serious responsibility, and, above all, I appeal to independent and unofficial Members to be careful and determined not to part with what is left to them of the rights and privileges they enjoy at present, nor risk, not only their own interests, but the interests of this great historic Assembly.
§ Sir FRANCIS CHANNING
As I have taken a very great interest in this particular proposal for many years, I should like to be permitted to offer one or two observations. In the first place, I think we owe a great debt to the Leader of the Opposition for his exceedingly temperate and sagacious analysis of the general aspect and the particular aspects of this proposal, and of the actual difficulties which will result from it. I was exceedingly glad that the Leader of the Opposition at once raised the point which has been alluded to by several other speakers, as to whether this proposal would not lead to something more important and more revolutionary. If one could say it is a revolution, then I most cordially welcome it as a practical suggestion and alternative to the detestable practice of closuring Bills by compartments. I speak with a free hand in this matter, for I have for many years past—I think 14 years—refused absolutely to vote for any proposal to Closure by compartments, by whatsoever Government proposed. Therefore, I am entirely free to deal with this matter. I do welcome this suggestion as an alternative to the process of Closure by compartments. What we have witnessed again and again in the course of highly controversial measures, is that when the Closure has been proposed upon Bills, it almost invariably happened that the greater part of the time had been wasted on Amendments which were of no vital importance. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) referred to the old-fashioned method of getting rid of obstruction by shouting down those who obstruct. In the present age, however, we have arrived at the stage in which we prefer the cultured mind, the balanced judgment, and responsible conscience of a first-rate man in the Chair. An important part of the subject is the actual posi- 1238 tion of these Gentlemen in whose hands we are going to place this very great and very responsible trust, under certain circumstances, of selecting the Amendments which, in their opinion, are of vital importance for the House to discuss before the actual conclusion of the discussion is arrived at. I listened with much interest to what fell from the First Commissioner of Works, but I think he a little omitted, in considering the limitations of this proposal, limitations which I myself distinctly welcome. This proposal as to selection comes into operation only when the Closure is moved to a certain number of words, to a certain length of the clause, or perhaps even to a certain group of provisions in the Bill. It is not a proposal to be used every day for proceedings on a Bill, and I rather imagine that the very existence of such powers as these will tend to diminish the frequency of their use. You now have the Paper loaded with Amendments, a very large proportion of which, as we are perfectly well aware, are of no real and vital importance. We know perfectly well that there are certain Amendments on great controversial Bills which absolutely determine the whole scope and the whole meaning and the whole result of the legislation under discussion. The effect of this proposed Amendment of the Standing Order which is now before the House would not, in my opinion, tend to become of stereotyped and everyday practice. It would rather be the ultimate sanction of the ordinary carrying out of the business of the House, and would tend irresistibly to better order in the conduct of our proceedings, and to a better concentration of the activities of the House and Committee upon Amendments which are really of vital importance. It has been suggested that these proposals would not be readily carried out unless there is a complete change in the status of the Chairman of Committees and the Deputy-Chairman. Although there is some force in what has fallen from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that point, it is somewhat exaggerated. I have been sitting in this House, not as long as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon, or the hon. Member for East Mayo, but I have sat under many Chairmen of Committees of this House, and I venture to challenge contradiction when I say that, during the 24 years I have been a Member, not one of those Chairmen in any portion of that time has acted in the Chair as a partisan or as a Member of the party to which he nominally belonged. Possibly it may be 1239 advisable to create a more definite status for the Chairman as a servant of the House, and especially responsible to the House, by some other form of Motion to place him in the Chair, but I venture to think, from my 24 years' experience, that you will make no difference in the reality of the impartiality of the Chairman, whoever he may be, who occupies that Chair, or in his absolute fairness in dealing with questions that come before him. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to a question which, I think, is of very great importance, indeed of supreme importance. He referred to the question of the exact way in which the Chairman would have to exercise his highly responsible duties of selection of these Amendments. That, I think, with all respect to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, is one slight point, one narrow point, perhaps I may say, on which I am inclined myself from the long consideration I have given to this particular point to have some little doubt as to the working of this proposal. I have repeatedly myself placed a Motion to alter the Standing Orders in this sense, and to meet this special point.
I think that there is a great deal in what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has said as to the Chairman exercising this delicate responsibility of selecting the Amendments after Closure, of his being able to consult the Members of the Opposition, the special Member concerned, and the special groups of Members interested in the Amendment. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to private Members who move Amendments, as well as those of the whole party, the Chairman ought to have some opportunity, so that he might arrive at their point of view as well as the point of view of the Government or those who are specially responsible for the Bill actually before the House. The Leader of the Opposition has, in previous Debates on this subject, often alluded to the possibility of having a Committee representative of different bodies in the House. I venture to think that perhaps, on fuller consideration, he may admit that the proposal now before the House, if it is sufficiently guarded and qualified in the sense I have indicated, namely, that there should be the responsibility on the Chairman of exercising this privilege and consulting all sections of the House before he arrives at his decision, and when he fully considers 1240 the question, will see that the proposal of endowing the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman with this power of selection would be a better expedient than the appointment of a Committee such as he has suggested. I look at this suggestion as a matter of supreme importance. I have had special opportunity of consulting and discussing this question with those who know the course of procedure at Washington (United States of America). I know there the opinion of men of the greatest mental power and the greatest responsibility in the United States has been that the Rule Committee, that the fixing of the time, the compartment Closure, and all the paraphernalia they have there, with their partisan Speaker and their partisan Chairman, has been absolutely destructive of the spirit and meaning and purpose and results of true Parliamentary life.
I do as a humble contribution to this Debate appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to realise what this proposal really means. Of course it imposes great and enormous responsibility on those we place in the Chair. I ask if it does not impose upon them the noblest sense of duty, of conscientious duty, to the life of Parliament itself. If we separate them from the partisan spirit, if we create in them the sense that they cannot exercise the supreme power without fair play, and without the fullest consideration of those who have a right to be considered in every portion of the House, I venture to say we shall have carried out in the noblest and the wisest way the true spirit of English institutions, and we shall have secured in its best form freedom of Debate. There will be reality of discussion concentrated on what really counts and on what is really important in arriving at supreme decisions of national importance. I wish to emphasise this point in the presence of the Prime Minister, the immediate selection of the Amendments immediately on the Closure moved frequently at a moment's notice is a matter which requires careful guarding, careful consideration, and does impose a serious responsibility on the Chairman. I cannot imagine anyone occupying the position of Chairman under such a Standing Order using such a power except with the utmost caution, and almost declining to use it until he has previously satisfied himself, and more than satisfied himself, of the actual duty which lies upon him in selecting the Amendments. The reckless, hasty use of such a 1241 power would be ruinous to Parliament. The wise, deliberate use might tend to improve our Debates once more to the purer, loftier standard at which they stood 30 years ago.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken and other hon. Members do not seem to have the least notion of the far reaching and revolutionary character of the proposal now before us. As to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who is an old Member of the House, I absolutely differ from him as to the estimate of the working of this rule on which he based his support. He says he regards this rule as a measure which will be only used under very exceptional circumstances. My objection to it is based on the precisely opposite conception. I regard it as a Rule that is intended, as indeed the First Commissioner of Works stated, to be used continually, or, as he said, habitually. It is for that reason I think it so serious. The Prime Minister went into what are called precedents, and therefore I need not refer to them again; but I hope hon. Members thoroughly understand that the precedents are altogether precedents against this procedure, otherwise it would be unnecessary to move the Resolution. Reference has been made to this course having been taken on three or four occasions in Parliament. The last occasion, and the one which was quoted, was that with reference to the Tithe Rent Bill. The Chairman on that occasion refused the Closure, and suggested that there were two Amendments he should like to have discussed. Then Mr. Courteney (the Member for Cornwall) referred to previous cases. I myself protested against the power of the Chairman to make that selection on that particular occasion. The Chairman immediately said that he, of course, had no such power, and that he had passed over no Amendments; all that he did was to say that he would probably accept the Closure, putting out all the Amendments, unless those who had Amendments he did not wish to accept gave way. He had no power to make them give way, whereupon, as on a previous occasion when the Member for Bodmin exercised it in 1887, those who had Amendments to which the Chairman objected withdrew, and those who had Amendments which were accepted by him moved their Amendments. This, like many other bad things in this House, had its root and origin in an Irish Coercion Act. It is a singular and interesting thing 1242 that all these instances were for the purpose of getting a Coercion Act through the House.
The reason I object to this proposal is that I think it would be far more revolutionary and far-reaching than many hon. Members dream of. In what we are now doing I am convinced we are making a change in our procedure which may become the everyday habitual custom. There is another aspect of this case which has not been alluded to by any of the speakers, and which I think is exceedingly serious. In all these other Closures, which have become fairly common, the Motion, say, to have certain lines of a Clause stand part of the Bill, the Chairman exercises his judgment ad hoc in reference to the amount of obstructive Debate that may have taken place and the progress of business. He does not exercise his judgment against any individual Member but simply after prolonged Debate, because a Motion of that kind is never made except after very prolonged Debate, and it is generally proposed to expedite business, and to enable fair discussion to take place, or to enable progress after a prolonged Debate. That Motion is impartial as regards the general Amendments, but now by this procedure you will have the Chairman coming into-collision daily with individual Members. I think that is most serious new departure. Every Member whose Amendment is struck off or blue-pencilled by the Chairman will feel himself aggrieved. He will have no opportunity of submitting his reasons or even the grounds on which he thinks his Amendment is important. Therefore the Chairman will be, day after day and week after week, brought into personal conflict, and irritating personal conflict, with individual Members who will feel they have a grievance. I think that is a very serious consideration which has not been dwelt upon, and which will tend to weaken and' injure the position of the Chairman in conducting his difficult duty in the future. That is one of the grounds on which I object to this proposal. I confess my main objection is that it is, in my opinion, as I have stated, going to be an habitual practice. The other Closure has been looked upon, though all those Closures in process of time and under pressure of business become more and more constant in their use, but still the other Closure of lines or a clause has been only used after prolonged Debate, but now you are going to apply this without any waiting to see how the Debate goes on at all. That is necessarily before the Debate opens.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
Surely the Prime Minister does not imagine that consultation can go on at that Table as to the relative merits of a whole pile of Amendments while the Debate is going on. I think that is impossible, except on the assumption that the Chairman is really going to exercise his judgment without any proper sense of responsibility at all, because all of us who have taken a very active part in the proceedings know that, no matter how able a man the Chairman is, to ask him to decide on the relative importance of a great number of Amendments while he is sitting in the Chair and trying to follow the Debate, is really asking him to do a thing which is absolutely impossible. That is one of the aspects of this case which has not been dwelt upon except by the Leader of the Opposition. As to the machinery by which this Rule will be carried out I am perfectly convinced that the machinery will be that, practically speaking, the Chairman of Committees in consultation—and he must have a draftsman or somebody else—that in consultation he will go over the Bill before the proceedings open, and he will actually blue-pencil and cross out those Amendments which he thinks are not of primary importance. If he did not do that I do not think he would be doing his duty. That, in my opinion, is an extremely invidious position in which to put the Chairman of Committees, and I am afraid it will not tend to those good relations which ought to exist, and which it is essential in the conduct of Debate should exist, between the Chairman and the individual Member. We are bound always to say that we believe in the impartiality of the Chair. After my experience of the strenuous battles in which I have taken part, I do not hesitate to say that in my opinion I and my colleagues have been victims of partiality—doubtless unconscious—on the part of Chairmen of Committees in days gone by. I do not blame the Chairman of Committees. I think, in the position in which he is placed, he may absolutely unconsciously be irritated by prolonged opposition and fierce Debate into being partial and prejudiced against certain individuals or groups who he thinks are prolonging Debate unnecessarily. I believe in the weakness of human nature, and I greatly fear that in the working of this Rule, as time goes on, and the practice becomes habitual, the Chairman of Committees, especially if he remains a party 1244 man, with the possibility of being taken from the Chair into the Ministry, will gradually come to strike out Amendments, because they are inconvenient or dangerous. We know perfectly well that there are some Amendments which Ministers consider to be foolish and small, but which split the Ministerial forces. Some of the most critical Divisions I have known have arisen on manuscript Amendments which have been drawn up in consequence of the course of the Debate. Such Amendments have sometimes split the Ministerial forces of the day, and have had extremely inconvenient results. These Amendments, to a large extent, will, in all probability, be shut out under the operation of this Rule. I have not that unbounded confidence in human impartiality. I am afraid that a practice may arise under this Rule of "blue-pencilling" and striking out inconvenient and dangerous Amendments. Therefore, if this Rule is passed, there ought to be as little delay as possible in surrounding the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman with every possible safeguard in the directions I have before indicated.
§ Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT
I differ entirely from the arguments which have been used, which all seem to point to the elongation of Debate. There seems to be a sacrosanct view that Debate is a good thing. I think Debate is a very bad thing. What we are here for is to legislate, not to talk. There is no business in the country which could be carried on for one month on the same lines as the business of the nation is carried on in this House. Even Tory Members may be engaged in business, but none of them would carry on their business in the way in which they carry on the Opposition. If this Motion is in favour of discussion, I am absolutely opposed to it. I think discussion in this House is perfectly futile. How many Members have ever been, influenced in their votes by Debates or speeches on one side or the other? I confess that I was once, and that was by a speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. H. Cox), but I have forgotten what it was about. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) has reminded us in eloquent and moving language that he entered the House before some of us were born, and he has told us of the conditions which then prevailed. We have altered all that. We want to get on with business. Therefore, if there is any question of giving powers to any Chairman for Closure, Closure, Closure—vote for the Closure.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The speech to which we have just listened is an admirable example of the condition to which Members of this House have been reduced. With regard to the present proposal, I agree with the First Commissioner of Works in thinking that it is a very serious change indeed, and that it means a complete alteration in our procedure. Many Members have supported it because they say that anything is better than the guillotine and sitting up all night. I agree that it is better than the guillotine or sitting up all night; but I am not convinced that because it is better than the very worst device ever invented for conducting the business of the House, therefore it is a change which ought to be supported. I deeply regret that the Government have taken the course of proposing what I think will turn out to be a revolutionary change in our procedure without any inquiry at all, and very much to the disappointment of some of us, who have been led to believe that the Government were not averse from appointing a Committee to consider this very question. Before the House was asked to sanction a change which is likely to be of the utmost moment to our discussions, there ought to have been an impartial inquiry by a Committee of the House, not necessarily drawn from official Members, which would have considered this and other proposals prior to their being put before the House for acceptance. I cannot help feeling that this proposal is defective, because it docs not meet the real difficulties under which we labour. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir F. Channing) appealed to the Opposition to respect the reality of Debate. I quite agree that the great disease under which this House labours is the unreality of its Debates. But I attribute it to a set of causes different probably from that which would be assigned by the hon. Member. To my mind the difficulties under which this House labours are due to the exaggeration of the party system. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Beaumont) said that he had never been converted by Debates in this House. I do not wish to say anything in the least offensive to him, but does he listen very regularly to the Debates I [Mr. BEAUMONT shook his head.] The hon. Member admits that he does not. That is precisely what I expected. He is not likely, if he is on the Terrace, to be influenced by Debate in this Chamber, and that is what happens with the great mass of the majority—they do not attend the Debates. I do not altogether blame them 1246 for it, because they know they would only be preparing for themselves doubts to which they could not give effect. If the Debate should in fact convince them, they would have to vote against their consciences. On the other hand, if it does not convince them it is no use their listening to it. The result is that the Debates are carried on, as on the present occasion, in an almost empty House, and the Members who decide the question have not heard the Debate. That is one thing. Then there is another. When hon. Members do come in at the call of the Division bell, they do not inquire what has been the course of the Debate; they inquire of the Whips, "Which side are we?" It is just as well that the public should know the way in which the Mother of Parliaments actually carries on its business. Troops of Members come in; at the door they ask the Whip which side they are to vote, and they vote accordingly. That is necessary, because the fate of the Government may depend upon the result of the Division. But what is the result? The result is that argument and Debate becomes quite useless with the rest of the House; there is no point in arguing with the House at large, because those who hear the arguments are not those who decide the questions submitted.
What, under these circumstances, are the resources of an Opposition? They have three resources. They can protest by continued discussion and Debate. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) appealed to the Opposition not to go on debating things which are unnecessary, and to avoid what he described as obstruction. But he must put himself in the place of an Opposition who think that a proposal which is fundamentally bad is being submitted to the House. What are they to do? They cannot convince the House; the House does not give them the opportunity of convincing it. The House is not there. They may take the course of emphasising their opposition by continuing the Debate, by calling public attention to the matter in every possible way, and by making things as disagreeable as they can for the Ministry of the day, so as to make them more careful what they propose in future. What other resource is there? They may hope to convince the Government by their argument and to get some modification accepted by the Minister in charge. Or they may do another thing, and this is really their most hopeful course. They may persuade the supporters of the Government who are in 1247 the House that there is a great deal in what they suggest, so that the supporters of the Government may go to the Government and say, "We really think the Opposition is right this time; you ought to give way." All these operations, which are the only courses open to the Opposition, take time and involve the power of being able to bring up a question more than once on a single clause. That is essential if the Opposition is to have any power in moulding legislation in this House. It must be able to convince Members opposite that there is something in its proposals, and there must be time for its arguments to weigh with the Government. The whole of that process—and that is really the only process left to the House of Commons—will be destroyed by this proposed change. The Chairman will necessarily select the Amendments, and, if he waits to hear a little of the Debate before he does so, he will probably exclude all those Amendments which seem to raise the same points of discussion as those which have already been brought forward. That will prevent effectively the Opposition from pressing the Government in question. I personally regard that as a very serious change. I have said so often before that almost the most serious question that the country has to consider is the present position of the House of Commons. I have heard a great deal of the rights of the minority and of the rights of the majority; but the real question is the position of the House of Commons. That is really the vital question. If you take the House of Commons away, you have nothing to put in its place, and you dislocate the whole Constitution. I must honestly say that I am convinced that that opinion is shared by a great many people outside the House, who believe that the position of the House of Commons is not what it was: that it is rapidly declining in public estimation. I said that in a previous Debate, and the Prime Minister replied with what, if I may venture to apply a colloquial expression to so exalted a personage, was a little delicate chaff of myself. He said: "The House of Commons cannot be such a very bad place, because there are many people trying to get into it, and those who are in are anxious to retain their seats." I think he made some reference to my own personal position in that observation. I do not deny that I value my position as a Member of Parliament. But I do not wish to become, like the hon. Member who 1248 last addressed the House—I do not mean personally—but I do not wish to share his melancholy experience of membership of the House of Commons. I do not want to become a mere item in a Ministerial majority. To be a free Member of a free Parliament is a great thing; to be merely at the beck and call of the party Whip is a (miserable experience. I say that because II feel convinced that all these attacks on the private Member of Parliament, all these diminutions of his power to exercise influence on the Ministry of the day, and on the legislation of the day, are destroying the House of Commons. I do think the matter is a very serious one, and I do deeply regret that the Government have come down quite suddenly with a proposal which has not been examined by any impartial Committee, and are going to force it through by their majority. I do not think that is the way to deal with a serious question of this kind. I think we have a right to complain that their proposals have not been submitted for our consideration, and on the grounds I have given, not because I prefer the guillotine or to sit up all night, or that this proposal will not work fairly and justly, but that I am satisfied that it is going to increase the power of the Government of the day, that I shall vote with a clear conscience against the proposal of the Government.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
The Noble Lord who has just sat down has given us a very interesting survey of the defects of our Parliamentary methods. It is difficult to see precisely to what conclusion he wishes to lead the House. I gather from what he said in respect to this Motion, and in respect to the procedure of the House, that he believes that serious argument is ineffective in this House, and that the only thing left is a trial of en durance—
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
Between the sup porters and the opponents of any Motion or any Bill. He believes that by merely wearing out the patience of those making any proposal is it possible in any degree- to secure effective opposition in Parliament. His words would seem to lead to that conclusion, that obstruction is a thing to be fostered and cherished—
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I explain. I think all obstruction is a disgusting thing. 1249 I deplore it as much as any Minister on the Treasury Bench. But what I did say was that there are other proposals which ought to have been submitted to an impartial Committee which I should myself be very glad to see appointed. They would have been superior to the proposals of the Government for dealing with what I quite agree is a very great evil.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
It is impossible to discuss the Noble Lord's proposals. They are not before the House. The conclusion which really any of us would draw from his speech is that he is opposed to these proposals of the Government on the ground that it is desirable that the Opposition should have full power to wear out the patience—
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
That that is the only method by which the Government can be influenced. It is necessary to give the present power of discussing the same question, the same clause, again and again, since that is the only means by which an effective opposition can be maintained.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am very sorry to interrupt. But really, the right hon. Gentleman, unintentionally I am sure, misrepresents me. I said a certain amount of repetition was desirable in order to give the opportunity to the Government to consider a proposal. I never meant to say, and never said, that you were to repeat and repeat and repeat without any object at all.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
I do not see that the Noble Lord is entitled to say that in our own proposals, when this new Rule comes into force, there will not be ample opportunity for any Member of the Opposition to bring any really substantial Amendment effectively before the attention of the House and the country. For it is certain that no Chairman who is worth his position would for a moment exclude through this Rule an Amendment which had a real force and substance in it. I think this proposal is likely to stand against any fair criticism directed to it. There are two objections which have been raised to this plan. The first is that, it is said, we shall be throwing upon the Chair too heavy a task. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that it would be necessary for the Chairman to enter into an elaborate conference with the Minister in charge of the Bill, with the Movers of Amendments, with the drafts- 1250 men, and possibly with the officials of the House, before he is able to decide which Amendment should be ruled out of order, and which should be allowed. It has been suggested, again and again, by critics of this proposal that since you are going to parallel the powers of the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman it will occasionally arise that the Chairman may have only recently taken the Chair, and will be called upon to decide matters in a Debate which lie is not familiar with from the be ginning. It should be pointed out, in answer to this objection, that the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman have now to decide the most delicate and most difficult questions, which necessitate that they should have the fullest knowledge of the Amendments. They have to decide whether any given Amendment is in order or not, or whether an Amendment is in the right place or is a repetition of what has gone before, and how far they will be justified in accepting the Closure. Further, it is essential when the Deputy-Chairman takes the place of the Chairman that he should have a full and complete report of what has transpired, and the probable course of the Debate in the near future. Well, where the Chairman is now placed in a difficulty where a Motion for the Closure is made, he will be relieved under the new plan which the Government pro poses. At the present time he is continually put in a dilemma as to what will justify the Closure, and as to the substantiality or otherwise of Amendments. He will be able to select in the future without running the risk of excluding those Amendments which ought to be discussed. We are, it is true, imposing new duties upon the Chair, but at the same time we are relieving the Chair from duties which are now exceedingly difficult; to fulfil. The second objection which has been raised in eloquent terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimble don (Mr. Chaplin) and the Noble Lord who has just sat down, is that we are injuring the reputation and prestige of this House. The Noble Lord said that we are destroying the House of Commons. After all is the present position so very satisfactory—
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
Is there no room for improvement in our methods of procedure in the course of Debate? I do not think any man will candidly deny that on controversial Bills there are many futile and 1251 unsubstantial Amendments put down, which only take up the time of the House. From time to time there is an object lesson given which must shock new arrivals to this House. That is the arrangement come to by Whips on both sides that the Government are to have this or that clause, and they will go no further that night; and so whole pages of Amendments which otherwise would have taken hours for their discussion disappear in a way that seems to suggest that hon. Members attach no importance whatever to them. [Cries of "No, no."] They are put down for tactical reasons. [Cries of "No, no."] Once the arrangement is come to they disappear, and are heard of no more. If we are going to escape from methods of procedure like that we shall be not detracting from, but adding to the dignity and reputation of the House of Commons. The new procedure will, we hope and believe, render less necessary the resort to the guillotine as a method for facilitating progress on controversial measures. The guillotine, which was invented by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, has become necessarily so in our present procedure more and more a method of dealing with different Bills which raise points of great dispute. We hope and believe by this new procedure that this Government and Governments of the future will find it less and less necessary than hitherto to resort to what all of us realise is an objectionable form of Closure. There was a time when the Closure was first introduced that it raised the gravest doubts of old Parliamentarians. When the Closure was first proposed as a method of facilitating the business almost all the veteran Parliamentarians of that day regarded it as a revolution of the gravest character, and as likely to detract permanently from the full and necessary freedom of Debate—[An HON. MEMBER: "So it has"]—and from the dignity and reputation of this House. I should like to know if there is any Member of this House who would desire to see the Closure Rules repealed. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I can well understand that of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who believes that we come here not to legislate, but to prevent legislation, and who has frequently expressed himself here that he would desire to see the Closure Rules repealed. I feel convinced that the majority of the Members of this House, who come here for a serious purpose, to endeavour to pass 1252 laws for the country and for the benefit of the people, would indeed view with dismay and scout with indignation any proposal to revert to the old state of things, where the clamour of the House was the only means of stopping Debate, and when there was no means for shortening discussion. Unquestionably our present system is an immense improvement on what has gone before. No one would want to go back to the system that existed in those days. The conclusion we may draw from that example is one, if one may venture to prophesy, is the conclusion that will perhaps be drawn by those who come after us—that is, that so far from this lessening the reputation of the House, it is likely to raise the credit of the House in the eyes of the public and in the estimation of the country generally. This House, we say, should so frame its Rules as to enable the public business to be conducted in a common-sense and a businesslike way, and that is the purpose of this new Rule, and for this reason we trust it will receive the sanction of the House.
§ Mr. JOHN MOONEY
We who are on the Irish Benches look upon these Rules neither from the point of view of the Government Front Bench nor from the point of view of the Opposition Front Bench, because we always find when Rules tare brought forward dealing with procedure in this House the Front Benches on both sides look upon them from a different point of view from that of the private Members. The Government consider them only from the standpoint of getting through their business with as little delay as possible, and the Front Opposition Bench look upon them from the point of view of men who may themselves be confronted with similar difficulties and anxieties. I object to this Motion of the Prime Minister from a different standpoint to any of those put forward as yet. I do not for a moment wish to impugn the impartiality of the Chairman of Ways and Means or of the Deputy-Chairman, but the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Deputy-Chairman, from their method of selection, are not officials of this House. They are selected by a strict party vote with the party Tellers on, and they are in no sense officials of Parliament. Yet: you are going to place in the hands of officials of the Ministry, and not officials of the House of Commons, the power of saying what are the proper Amendments to be moved on a particular Bill which is before the House. You are placing that power in the hands 1253 of men who hold the position which they occupy in the House not apart from party politics. Impartiality is all very well, but in the position of the Chairman of Ways and Means it is practically impossible. He is supposed to sit in a judicial capacity—to be entirely free from party prejudice—but he is supposed to set that aside occasionally to advance the business of his own party. The two positions are absolutely indefensible.
I noticed with considerable amusement this afternoon that a good many speeches made in support of this measure were made in support of it on the assumption that you were to change the status of the Chairman and the Deputy-Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us that this Rule makes no change in the status or in the duties of the Chairman of Ways and Means. He said that at the present moment the Chairman has to select the Amendments on the Paper, and to see whether they are in order or not, and whether they ought to come on at a particular stage of the Bill or not. I agree, but this is not the Resolution which is brought forward. You have brought forward a much stronger one. You put upon the Chairman of Ways and Means the power of at any moment getting up and making a selection. He need not say whether the Amendments are in order or out of order, but without any reason given he can at any moment say, "I will take such and such an Amendment and no other." That would be all very well if we were always to have an impartial Chairman, but in view of the fact that the Chairman of Ways and Means is selected by the Government, we Irish Members may some day find ourselves in this position, that if the Government of the day brought forward a Bill to which we were violently opposed, every Amendment which we put down to that Bill might be ruled out of order. No doubt if we challenged the ruling of the Chairman we might be told to put down a Vote for the reduction of his salary. Well, we all know that that is a mere mockery.
The power which this proposal confers upon the Chairman ought not to be given to any man who is selected by the Ministry. It might be given to a Chairman selected by the House of Commons who was above all party in the discharge of his duty. An hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Labour party said he would not support this Rule only that he believed that it was one which would not be used but would be held in reserve; it was only 1254 to be brought out very occasionally, and in very occasional circumstances. I do not know whether the hon. Member ever took the trouble to read the speech in which Mr. Gladstone introduced his first Closure Resolution. It was looked upon as an innovation, and Mr. Gladstone himself said it was an innovation which was only going to be put into the armoury of the House of Commons, and was only to be brought out in case of emergency. We all know that emergency. It is now the settled practice of the House of Commons. During my short time in Parliament I have seen changes in the procedure of the House which we have been always told were only to be used in exceptional cases, but we find that the exceptional cases become the ordinary rules. And if you pass this measure, instead of its being used on exceptional occasions it will become the rule of the House in connection with every big Bill.
The only explanation which can be given for the breakdown of the present system is only too palpable. Hon. Members above the Gangway on the Opposition side do not agree with us in that. You are now going to take away from private Members the right of discussion on any Bill. It is all very well to say that hon. Members will have an opportunity of putting down their Amendments again on Report stage. The real fact of the matter is, of course, that the House is not able to do the work that is placed before it, and year after year we see tinkering alterations made in the Rules. We have always advocated a way in which you would be able to get considerably more time for legislation, but you are not going to do it by these coercive measures. I think it is a very serious thing indeed to take out of the hands of this House and out of the hands of the officials of this House what particular Amendment is or not to be discussed in this House and to put that power into the hands of persons who are the nominees of the Government of the day and who must, therefore, have a certain regard for the interests and the wishes of the Government of the day in connection with any Bill. To put into the hands of the Chairman the power of saying without any reason given that certain Amendments are in order is to take a course which the House ought to consider very carefully. If the Prime Minister wishes to maintain the Standing Order and to carry the present Resolution in its present form, then let the Standing Order read they ought to leave out the lines which 1255 say that a Closure Motion is to be carried unless it is an infringement of the rights of a minority. If this Resolution is carried in its present form it will be one of the greatest infringements of the rights of minorities of this House, and your Standing Order will be a farce.
§ Lord WILLOUGHBY de ERESBY
An hon. Member opposite has given as one of the chief reasons for supporting this Motion that it would be easier for the Government to turn out legislation. There are some of us in this House who do not look upon this House as merely a machine to see how much legislation can be turned out. We think there are very nearly sufficient Acts of Parliament on the Statute Book, and although legislation in certain directions is required, it is not altogether fair to say that the House of Commons exists to "turn out legislation." If that were the case, it would be better not to meet at all and have no Debate, but simply pass as many Bills as we could by walking through the Division Lobby. I have always considered that the difficulties of the Chairman of Committees are very great. At times when I have heard questions and conundrums of a most difficult character hurled at the Chair from all parts of the House, and long disputes on points of order, I have felt that I should always readily support any measure which, in my opinion, would make the Chairman's task a lighter one. The Chairman has a very difficult task indeed to fulfil. Not only has he to do his best to get the business through, tout he is also the guardian of the rights of the minority, and long may he continue to be so. I believe these proposals must have the effect of making his task even harder than it is at the present moment. I cannot conceive what would be more likely to cause friction in this House, and raise again the temperature of the House, than when a large number of hon. Members find their Amendments are closured whilst one or two other Amendments are picked out. I am sure this would give rise to great dissatisfaction, and I feel absolutely certain it means blotting out the rights of private Members. I have been a Member of this House longer than three-quarters of the present Members, and I have noticed the tendency of the Debates, the moving of Amendments, and the general business to fall more and more into the hands of a certain number of hon. Members. Under this new Rule the Amendments proposed 1256 by Members of the Government, the Front Opposition Bench, and the Leaders of parties below the Gangway will be given a preference. The consequence will be that when it comes to distinguishing between these different Amendments on the Paper the private Members might just as well not put down any Amendments at all. There will be confabulations behind the Chair, the Minister in charge and the Leader of the Opposition will be found talking to the Chairman of Committees, as well as others in high positions, with the result that the private Member, although he may know twice as much about the subject as the Member called upon, will be forbidden from moving his Amendment. We have heard a good deal about hon. Members of this House having equal privileges, but we have not got equal privileges, and I am certain that if Amendments are allowed to be closured in this way the effect will be the curtailment more than ever of the rights of private Members to have a hearing in this House. I believe it is the opinion of some hon. Members that in regard to private Members, if they happen to belong to the Tory party, the less they say the better. I wish to point out that there may come a time when the legislation may be proposed by a Government of which they do not approve, and I fancy they will not be so keen upon this matter when they find their Amendments are ruled out en bloc by the Chairman. This proposal must be the means of very greatly infringing the rights of private Members, and it will also be the means of preventing many valuable Amendments being introduced into a Bill. I have frequently seen in regard to Bills in Committee Amendments proposed by supporters of the Government or Members of the Opposition which the Government of the day have refused a: first to accept but have afterwards, yielded and inserted the same Amendments in their Bill, with the result that the measure has been greatly improved. We need not go back very far for an example, in fact, we need only go back to the history of this Session. In the case of the Finance Bill, when the Amendment was moved exempting agricultural land from the Increment Duty the Government would not accept the words put forward by the Opposition. The subject came up for discussion on four or five different occasions, but after pegging away at the point on both sides of the House the Government eventually yielded, and granted the Amendment. If you establish the principle of this proposal it will be 1257 absolutely certain that those Amendments which to a certain extent have been partially discussed beforehand must of necessity be ruled out when the Chairman accepts the Closure. The result will be that many Amendments which might otherwise have been inserted in the Bill, and would have improved it, will never find their place upon the Statute Book, and the Bill will become an Act without those improvements. I think you are depriving not only the Opposition but also the supporters of the Government of a very great weapon which they have at present for forcing their views upon the Government, and you will be hindering the endeavours of private Members to turn Bills out as good Acts of Parliament as possible. I am certain this proposal will have the effect of making the Prime Minister a greater autocrat than he is at the present moment. I am certain even in nay recollection of the House hon. Members have become more and more mere voting machines than they were in the past. There are not nearly so many independent Members in the House who do not mind whether they vote against the Government or not, or whether they leave their party. Party discipline has become stronger and stronger, and I feel certain that if the Chairman of Committees is to be made an instrument of the Prime Minister, to help him in carrying his legislation, it will reduce this country more and more to the position of being governed by one man and one man alone. I have heard several hon. Members say that we are only living in "castles in Spain" when we hold that view, but some of us still hold that Members of the House of Commons can, to a certain extent, influence the Prime Minister and Ministry of the day; and repeated discussions in this House, and having them reported throughout the country, has frequently had the effect of a Minister changing his policy and the Prime Minister not being absolutely able to conduct the business and to pass whatever legislation he likes. I am perfectly certain that every year, as privileges are torn from Members of this House, and as each Member who comes down from his constituency and takes an independent line is threatened with excommunication, Members will become more and more mere voting machines and blind partisan followers of the Prime Minister. I fully admit that under present circumstances it is extremely difficult to get a long and contentious Bill through this House, but I still think there are far 1258 better methods of doing this than by stifling discussion and not letting Members either speak or move Amendments. One of the things which causes the greatest obstruction is the interminable length of speeches. Unfortunately, the hon. Baronet who was so long a Member of this House (Sir Carne Rasch) is no longer a Member, and he has therefore not brought forward his annual Motion, which had for its purpose the shortening of speeches, but it always seemed to me that in Committee the Mover of an Amendment might be allowed some latitude in the way of speaking, say ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, to place his proposal before the Committee, but that any Member rising to support an Amendment could probably say all he has to say in five or certainly ten minutes. Obstruction is caused in this House to a great extent, not so much by Amendments being moved by private Members, but by one man after another rising to support an Amendment, and speaking perhaps for 20 minutes, 25 minutes, or even half an hour. We have not perhaps reached the distinction which has been reached by Members of other Assemblies in other parts of the world. I have heard of Members who have spoken for six, seven, or eight hours at a stretch. We do not go in for record-breaking speeches here, but there are undoubtedly a large number of Members who are exceedingly interesting to listen to, but who might cut down their speeches to rather shorter length, and I believe, if we wish to move in the direction of shortening discussion, it should not be by muffling the private Member in the way of not allowing him to move an Amendment but rather by having a time-limit for those who only rise to support an Amendment. That, I believe, would lead to very considerable improvement in the oratory of a good many Members, and the Mother of Parliaments would not only, as has been her glorious boast, be an example to all the other Assemblies in the world by the fairness and the ability of our Debates, but also, I should hope, in a few years' time, be a model for all speeches in the world for short, concise, terse, and witty arguments.
§ Mr. G. RENWICK
I have listened with the greatest interest to the closing remarks of the Noble Lord with regard to the shortening of speeches, because on more than one occasion I had the honour of seconding the Resolution of Sir Carne Rasch, and I hope the solitary represen- 1259 tative of the Government and, indeed, of the Liberal party present, will bear in mind the remarks of the Noble Lord. I agree with him it would be a good and much better alternative if, instead of bringing forward this Resolution, the Government had brought forward one for the shortening of speeches. I regret that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster did not explain how time was going to be found by the Chairman of Committees to pick out Amendments he thought ought to be discussed after the Motion had been moved and accepted. I cannot imagine how, with a crowded Notice Paper and while the Chairman is occupied in keeping order and watching the course of the Debate, he is going to find time to pick out these Amendments. Surely the Government does not mean that before the Sitting commences they are going to arrange with the Chairman which Amendments are to be put and which left out. It seems to me that that very likely was the object the Government had in view. I very much prefer, instead of a Resolution of this description, one to Closure by compartments. No doubt the object of this Resolution is to pass the Finance Bill. Why do they object to Closure it by compartments? They do not object in regard to other Bills. I should very much like to know why they have this rooted objection with regard to this particular Bill. Surely they must have some ulterior motive. We heard something from the Noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Robert Cecil) about the decadence of the House of Commons. It is a remarkable thing that the decadence of the House of Commons has proceeded pari passu with the increase of Closure Resolutions. We never heard before the guillotine was introduced of the decadence of the House of Commons, and if we pass this Resolution I think we may look for a still further decadence. Do not let the House forget that as this House decreases in power there is a decadence of the House in the eyes of the people, and you can depend upon it that the power of another House will increase in proportion. If measures are not to be discussed fully and fairly in this House the country will demand that they should have ample discussion in the other House. I maintain, therefore, that as you decrease the power of this House, you will inevitably increase the power of the other House. Is that what the Government and their supporters want? I cannot believe by their speeches in the 1260 country that is so. We were told last night by a very prominent Member of the Government, the President of the Board of Trade, speaking, I think, at Sheffield, that they were going to hammer the Finance Bill through the House. Is this Resolution to enable them to hammer the Bill through the House? If ever there was a Bill which required ample discussion it is the Finance Bill. Instead of being hammered through the House, it ought to be very fully discussed. The Prime Minister told us that this Resolution would in no way whatever curtail the liberties and privileges of the minority and of the Opposition, but that is the direct object and aim of the Motion: it is to further curtail the liberties of the Opposition. I may remind the House that those who bring forward the most Amendments are Members of the Opposition, and it is their Amendments and not the Government's Amendments that are going to be closured. How then can the right hon. Gentleman say that this Resolution is not going to interfere with the liberties of the Opposition? I, at any rate, am at a loss to understand. Another object the Government has in view is to attempt to put a quart of liquor into a pint pot—in other words, they are seeking to get more legislation out of the House of Commons than it can possibly pass. Who wants this legislation? I do not find in the country any great desire for legislation. The country wants measure, passed after discussion, which any ordinary man can understand without consulting a lawyer as to the meaning of the different clauses. It is well known that the law-courts are congested. Why? Because cases are being carried through the courts right up to the House of Lords to decide as to the meaning of Acts which have been passed in this House. What has been the course of discussion on the Finance Bill? Conundrums have been put by lawyers on one side and on the other which no ordinary man could understand. What we want is a measure that an ordinary lay mind can understand. I am sorry that the Government has introduced this Resolution at the present time. What a change there is as compared with the views of right hon. Gentlemen when they were in Opposition in the last Parliament. I remember discussions there with regard to the Closure, and the Members who are now supporting the Government were then in Opposition. They were fighting for the right of free speech, and it may be refreshing to quote some extracts from 1261 "Hansard" of that time. Take the case of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a question of forcing Bills through the House, and on 20th July, 1904, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had evidently come to the conclusion that all they had to do was to formulate their proposals, and that the House of Commons had not to discuss but to pass them. That is exactly what the Government are proposing to-day. But the right hon. Gentleman added these words: "It is time the Committee made it perfectly clear that this is a position they cannot accept. The prime function of the House is to discuss matters and remedy grievances." Yes, that is the function of the House to discuss matters and to redress grievances. If that was true in 1904, is it not equally true to-day? Or has the right hon. Gentleman changed his mind? I imagine that if he had been in Opposition at the present time, and had seen these proposals introduced by a Tory Government, he would have repeated his language of 1904. He at that time had something to say also in regard to late hours and their effect on free discussion. He said: "I call it absolute folly and farcical to carry on the discussion at this hour of the morning." It was then four o'clock. But that is the object which the Government have in view at the present time. They want more all-night sittings. They want to force their Bill through the House. There was at the same time another right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the office of President of the Board of Trade. He, too, spoke on the question of free speech, and on 15th March he said that "elaborate procedure was the only method by which the minority could defend itself and assert its influence in the country."
§ Mr. RENWICK
No, he had then become a Radical, and he added these words to those I have already quoted: "If he had to choose between the indignity of the House of Commons and its freedom, he would pronounce for its freedom." That is the position I am in at the present time. I am in favour of freedom of speech, and I oppose any effort on the part of the Government to interfere with it. It is because I believe that this Resolution directly interferes with liberty of speech in the House of Commons that I oppose it. May I remind hon. Members below the Gangway they will not always have a Radical Government in power. Sooner or 1262 later, and possibly sooner, there will be a Unionist Government in power, and then they will find it is too late to protest against the use of the Closure.
moved to insert, at the beginning of the Prime Minister's Amendment, the words: "In Committee of any Bill other than a Finance Bill." This Amendment is one which, I think, will commend itself to all those who desire to have freedom of discussion, at all events on Finance Bills. The proposition of the Prime Minister is to give extended powers to the Chairman of Committees, and the Amendment I desire to move is to make it perfectly clear that these increased powers shall not be granted where a Finance Bill is concerned. I therefore propose to move to insert the words at the beginning "in Committee of any Bill other than a Finance Bill." The Prime Minister has had to acknowledge that these alterations are being brought forward primarily in order to get the Finance Bill through the House of Commons; but then the President of the Board of Trade has said that no alterations of the Finance Bill will be tolerated by the Government if they take place in the House of Lords. If the other place is not allowed to alter the Finance Bill which is at present before this House in any shape or form, then I think we should try most jealously to guard our rights of criticism in this House; otherwise one of the greatest Finance Bills, not only in my memory but in that of others, will not be adequately discussed. I think that all Money and Finance Bills should, at least in this House, be discussed fairly and squarely, by private Members as well as by Members of the Front Benches, and the Amendment which is proposed to the Standing Orders will, in my opinion, very considerably curtail in this House the free discussion which is desirable, and if no Amendment in another place is to be tolerated then we ought to fight to the very last to secure the utmost possible Debate in this place, so that the country may understand exactly what is taking place with regard to the Budget.
I think it is very important to bear in mind that all who have supported this suggestion from the Government side have done so on the ground that the operation proposed should not be a fitful one, taking place once in every few years, as, according to the precedents, has hitherto been the case, but is to be part of the regular machinery in Committee on all future Bills in this House. I do not wish to put 1263 anything into the mouth of the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Lewis Harcourt) which he did not say, but I gathered from his speech that it was to be part of the regular machinery of the Committee work in this House. If that is to be so, in future no suggestion, manuscript Amendment, or verbal Amendment, thought of at the last moment, no matter how important it may be, could get any consideration under this new Standing Order as it appears on the Paper. If that is so, then I say it is more necessary for us to make quite sure that this most drastic method of dealing with Amendments will not touch in any way the finance of the country. As it is, in Committee of this House, millions and millions of money are voted away without adequate discussion, and here the Government coma forward and actually suggest that when a great measure of finance is brought before this House it should be possible for the Chairman of Committees to take the action which is suggested. I am not reflecting in any way upon the Chairman, and wish to give him all the latitude that he can have, but I say that if, when he is sitting in that Chair, surrounded by Members who are all anxious to speak, and some of them to interrupt and to cross-question across the floor of the House, and, having to control the Debates in Committee, he is called upon to make up his mind which of the Amendments on the Paper are, in his opinion, proper to be moved, it is very difficult for him to do it. But he either has to do that, sitting in that Chair, or he must do it in the morning before the Debate commences, after consultation with the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer and with Members who have Amendments down on the Paper; otherwise how can he choose the Amendments which are really important? Either he has to make a rough estimate of what are important Amendments, on the spur of the moment at the Table, which I hold it is quite impossible for any person in charge of any proceedings to do while questions are constantly flung at him from all sides of the House as to precedents and questions of order, or he has to consult the Law Officers of the Crown, the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and those who are interested in the Amendments, and I hold that that proceeding is also absolutely futile.
The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) related that one of the most extraordinary predicaments he ever saw the House in 1264 was when an Amendment was handed in to the Clerk at the Table at the last moment, and I myself bear in mind an occasion which happened in the last three years, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) handed in a manuscript Amendment across the Table. It was a most important Amendment, I think, to the Trade Disputes Bill, and if it had been handed in under this new Rule it would absolutely have been cut out, and I do not see how it could have been considered, and yet it caused a considerable amount of interest, both on the Front Bench opposite as well as on our Front Bench. Some thought it was ill-timed, and others thought it was very judicious, but, at all events, it was an Amendment which turned a very considerable point in the Debate. Take this Finance Bill now before the House. If some important point of that nature is sprung at the last moment you would have the House or the Committee absolutely tied down by the Standing Order, and the ruling of the Chairman under it, and the Chairman absolutely bound down, after he had been obliged to declare the Amendments, as they had appeared to be important to him. If he puts the question that the words down to a particular line in a particular clause stand part and names some Amendments which he thinks are important, and should be discussed, then a critical time would arise, because after the first Amendment something vital to the whole aspect of the question may arise, but an hon. Member may hand in a proposal which is most important, but I take it, the ruling of the Chair having been given, that Amendment would lie out of order.
The Prime Minister himself to-day had to make a verbal Amendment to the Amendment he had on the Paper. That just shows how complicated these things are when they are run so fine as that. It struck me as rather odd that on the very first occasion on which this great question of giving greater powers to the Chair was brought forward the Prime Minister himself had to do a thing which under his new Rules he would not be able to do if the House happened at the time to be in Committee. That is a condemnation of the proposed change. When it relates to the finances of the country and the Budget of the year it becomes most dangerous in its procedure. The reason that I have moved this Amendment is to safeguard on the finances I of the country some of the privileges which 1265 we have enjoyed in the past. If it is a measure passing through Committee which does not deal with vast sums of money this particular idea, objectionable as it is, is certainly less objectionable. We ought to try to safeguard the rights of private Members, and if the Amendments have any bearing on the subject and are in order they ought to have a chance of being discussed. I can recollect a case in Committee upstairs where one of the best Chairmen I ever served under, towards the end of a very protracted Debate on the Universities of Ireland last year, disallowed an Amendment of mine. When we came to the next line the Government themselves were obliged actually to ask leave to insert the Amendment that I had put on the Paper, and they promised to do it on the Report stage.
We all make mistakes. I put down Amendments myself occasionally which are out of order; but, at all events, it is with the earnest desire to study the Bill and to take part in moving in a right manner. This right is to be taken away from us. We cannot take all the Bills dealing with finance home and study them carefully. We have not the time when there are all-night sittings, and we are bound to go back to the old system of handing in manuscript Amendments, and it will be very wrong to work the House at full pressure on the Finance Bill of the year and at the same time make it impossible for Members to get their Amendments on the Paper. It may be all very well for the Government officials who take part in the Bills in which they are interested and no part in the Bills with which they have nothing to do. They have time to obtain the necessary advice to conduct their Bills, and leave the others severely alone. At the same time the majority of their supporters take no interest in the measure whatever. When Finance Bills are on the Opposition have to take an active part in the Debates if they are to show the country what they think of the matter, whereas those on the Government side of the House retire and sleep most of the night and come in when the Division bell rings. An hon. Baronet opposite said he would have the bell ringing all the time and not allow any discussion at all. If that is the principle the Government are going upon it is quite consistent. That is their idea to rush through legislation without discussion at all. I think we should fight to the very last to have the 1266 privilege of representing our constituencies and of saying what we think in their interest should be the attitude adopted on certain questions. The proposals of the Government appear to me to rob us of a considerable amount of our rights. This Motion would not be put down by the Government unless it was to have a very bad effect on the House in discussing the weighty matters which come before it. It is no use our sitting silent when these obnoxious suggestions are made. They have put it down as a direct assistance to them in getting through this Budget. Our object, and it is as legitimate as theirs, is to prevent the Budget getting through.
§ Lord MORPETH
I beg to second the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. I would suggest that the deadlock in the business of the House may be quite as much due to the demerits of the Finance Bill as to the demerits of the procedure of the House. It is obvious from the deadlock which has arisen that there was no chance of passing that measure into law if we were to proceed in the way we were doing. There has been a plentiful crop of rumours as to the devices by which the Government were intending to obtain the passage of the Bill. It was said that part of the Finance Bill was to be sent upstairs to the Grand Committee. I am a comparatively recent Member of this House, but I have observed the working of the Grand Committees with perhaps fewer prejudices than the older Members. I regard the working of these Committees as most successful. I have had the honour of sitting under the chairmanship of two right hon. Gentlemen opposite while conducting Bills through Grand Committees. In three of the Committees important and complicated Bills were conducted without a single application of the Closure. That, I think, shows that the constant resort to the Closure and the moving that certain lines which have never been discussed in any shape or form stand part of a clause is due not so much to the demerits of our procedure as to the demerits of the Bills, because the Government, knowing that in this House they can fall back on the Closure, become indifferent to the practicability of their Bills, which they overload with clauses which are really so complicated and contentious that there is no hope of passing them into law except by this method. It is obvious that any attempt on the part of the Government to send any part of the Finance Bill to a Grand Committee was impossible.
1267 Then there was the alternative of Closure by compartments, but for reasons which I suppose the House can very well surmise, the Closuring of the Finance Bill by compartments was equally distasteful and impracticable. I should welcome almost any kind of procedure, however bad in itself, to Closure by compartments, which I regard as the most vicious and destructive of Parliamentary liberties of the many forms of Closure we have in this House. The Government have fallen back on the ingenious scheme which is embodied in the proposals we are now considering, and which seems to have some authority in precedent. It has some specious show of good business. We can well imagine that when these proposals have been passed it will be, as the First Commissioner of Works has said, the habitual method of procedure in this House. The House cannot adopt the system for partial operation, for when it is seen to greatly expedite business it will infallibly become the normal procedure, and, therefore, we have to consider that, should the Government succeed in passing this proposal, we shall in future see this method habitually employed by all Governments desirous of passing legislation. I maintain that with regard to the Finance Bill this new procedure will be most injurious to the financial interests of the country.
I wish to point out that in future the Chairman of Ways and Means will no longer be merely a Judge of points of order, but he will be a judge of questions of policy. He will have to adjudicate between Amendments, not as to whether they are in order, but whether one Amendment rather than another raises an important question of policy. However studiously fair the Chairman of Ways and Means may be, that work must be beyond his power, because, naturally and quite apart from any question of party bias, certain classes of questions will appear to him to be more important than other classes. There are in this House not only the two main parties, but a great number of groups of men who advocate policies which are not supported or believed in by the great majority on either side, but these groups consist of Members representing sections of the community, and they are entitled to make themselves heard. When their views are not approved by the bulk of the Members of the House we are apt to call them faddists, but, nevertheless 1268 they are sent by the electors to represent these views, and I can foresee that under the working of this system introduced by the Government the Chairman of Ways and Means, with every desire to be scrupulously fair, will pursue a course under which the Amendments of a small minority will be ignored. That I regard as very disastrous, especially in regard to the Finance Bill, upon which all shades of opinion as to the way taxation will fall on classes of taxpayers and individual taxpayers are worthy of consideration. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said that majorities have their rights as well as minorities. I suppose that most Members of the House will agree with that sentiment, but, although it is true, I cannot think that it is so important to protect majorities as to protect minorities, because I have noticed in this House that majorities are very well able to protect themselves. Indeed, a majority is to a certain extent in a hopeless position, because no amount of argument, except under rare circumstances, alters the votes of the majority. The majority are always able, in the last resource, to vote down their opponents, but there is one factor which even the largest majority is not able to cope with, and which provides a sort of automatic protection for a minority against a majority overriding opinion in this House or the country, and that is when a Bill which is so contentious and complicated as the present Finance Bill comes before the House, it is impossible to consider all the details, and, therefore, it is dragged down by its own weight. That is the greatest protection which a majority can have, and if the Government are able to clear the ground to such an extent that that dead weight is removed, and if they are able to push the Bill through at an m reasonable speed without its defects being considered, the last protection of minorities will have disappeared. The Finance Bill is the most important legislation which this House has to pass, and, of all legislation, it is especially such a measure to which the new procedure ought not to be applied.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Mr. HARCOURT
I trust that the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Craig) who moved the Amendment will not think that I mean anything personally offensive to him if I suggest that this Amendment is exactly one which, if the rearrangement of the Standing Order were in operation, 1269 might very well have been omitted from the consideration of the House on this occasion.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
No; I should rather have said from the point of view of any Chairman whom the House could have appointed. But I would ask the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Craig) first of all why he wishes to make an exception of "any" Finance Bill. If he had said "the" Finance Bill, I could have understood it, having regard to the views which he holds so strongly and which he expresses with such force in this House, but why he wishes to exempt any Finance Bill from the operation of this particular rule passes my comprehension. No such exemption is made of any Finance Bill in the rule of general Closure. He would, therefore, be inflicting on a Finance Bill alone a more savage form of Closure, whereas Ave are anxious to afford an intelligent and industrious Opposition full opportunity of utilising the time at the disposal of the House of Commons for bringing forward those Amendments which seem to be of substance to the House and with the Chairman.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
All the Amendments which appeared to be of substance and importance to the Chairman in the exercise of his discretion. But I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the wording of this Amendment would apparently limit the operation of this proposal only to the Committee stage of the Bill. He would therefore deprive Mr. Speaker of any power of selection of Amendments and he would allow the selection to be made only by the Chairman or Deputy-Chairman, and he would also exempt all Motions from the operations of the new procedure Rules. That is not a position which the Government could accept or which I believe the House would impose upon itself or upon the Speaker. The hon. and gallant Gentleman desires the House or the Opposition should be allowed to discuss fairly and squarely the Amendments which they put down. This, at all 1270 events, is a step in that direction and modifies the brutality of the ordinary Closure, which is at present used. He referred to a phrase which earlier in the day I believe I used in which I said that in my personal opinion the use of the new Rule has become habitual in this House. Perhaps it may be necessary for me to explain what I meant; the phrase was not that this other Rule would become more frequent but that it would become habitual as an alternative to that which has already become habitual in this House to the more severe form of Closure to which we have become accustomed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that manuscript Amendments, which all of us agree are undesirable as far as they can be avoided, but which in certain circumstances are essential, would be excluded by the Amendments which the Government propose to make to these Rules. That is not so. Manuscript Amendments will not be cut out, though, of course, after the acceptance of such Motion as is made possible by this Amendment, they will be subject to the same discretion of, selection which is given to the Chair in all Amendments of a particular class. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also seemed to think that the whole selection of the Amendments to be dealt with on such a Motion must be made at the moment and at the same time. That, again, is not the case. I would direct his attention, just as the Prime Minister directed the attention of the House earlier in the day, to the words in the Motion that then and thereafter the Chairman shall select, which means, of course, that he will select them at different times. He will have to consider the Amendments before him both on questions of order and questions of substance. It is quite clear that other Amendments may arise on those Amendments which he selects for discussion, and on those Amendments his power of selection will, of course, be exercised; and he will not in any way resent the presentation of verbal or manuscript Amendments. I hope that with the explanation which I have given the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press his Amendment.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. L. Harcourt) seemed to assume that there is only one alternative to the adoption of the granting of this power to the Chairman, and that is the guillotine. Our point of view is that neither is applicable to a Finance Bill.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
I am not suggesting the guillotine. I said that this was an alternative to the brutal Closure of a clause. I was not dealing with the guillotine at all, but instead of Closuring the whole clause a Motion can now be made by which the effect of the Amendment on the clause can be discussed.
§ Sir W. ANSON
I certainly understood, and I think the line of the Debate has been, that this particular power with which the Chairman was to be vested was a desirable alternative to the guillotine. I quite agree that as against the guillotine it is better that the Government should dictate to us the subjects which we are to discuss than that they should put a limit on the time for the discussion of a large portion of the measure. But in this particular question of a Finance Bill I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would hardly contemplate putting a whole clause to the vote without the consideration of some Amendment. What we object to is applying the proposal to a Finance Bill to which neither the Closure nor the guillotine, I believe, until the present Session has ever been applied as a mode of shortening Debate.
§ Sir W. ANSON
Constantly during the present discussion the Closure has been applied to the Finance Bill. The general feeling of the House is against any shortening of discussion where taxes are concerned. In a Finance Bill, if anywhere, the difficulty which the Prime Minister himself puts before us applies. The Prime Minister suggested—and I think this destroys the greater part of his case—that the Chairman, in selecting one Amendment to a Motion for discussion, might come to the conclusion that some Amendment which he thought of no importance, and which he was about to rule out, might be of importance, and then he would bring them forward. That seems to me to show that the Chairman cannot, by a mere inspection of the Amendments, form an opinion as to the force with which they may be urged in Debate, or as to the impression which they may make upon His Majesty's Government. I can only say that at the very close of the last all-night sitting, during the last two hours of the discussion on Wednesday morning, Amendments were put forward and were 1272 accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Finance Bill was to that extent very considerably improved. But it is quite possible that a Chairman of Committee, glancing over a whole series of Amendments might have ruled out several of those which ultimately, under pressure of discussion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was compelled to admit, and which considerably improved the Bill. Unless His Majesty's Government agree to accept some of the Amendments which come later on for discussion, I cannot say that I should be prepared to admit that this mode of procedure was applicable to a Finance Bill. Then there must be some means by which the Amendment can be considered by a larger body than the individual Chairman or Committee, unless the Member proposing the Amendment has some opportunity of stating his purpose and convincing the Chairman in Committee one way or another that the Amendment is a desirable one or is one which should be ruled out. Then it is always possible that some miscarriage may arise in the conduct of the Bill, that some Amendment which is of substance may be ruled out by the Chairman which would be disastrous to any Bill, and particularly disastrous in the Finance Bill. Admitting that the guillotine is a brutal form of shortening Debate, and that the Closure of the whole clause without consideration of any Amendments is almost inconceivable in dealing with a Finance Bill, I still maintain with my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment that it would be better, unless the Government is prepared to accede to the suggestion that the Movers of Amendments should have some opportunity of stating their purport, that this method of procedure is wholly inapplicable to a Finance Bill.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
After listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, one comes to the conclusion that the House entirely misunderstood the whole purport of the proposal of the Prime Minister, because, according to him, the object of these new changes is to diminish the harshness and severity of the present Closure Rule, and to give greater opportunities to minorities in the House to discuss particular proposals. We are told now that the Chairman or Deputy-Chairman are to be allowed, after having vetoed particular Amendments, and after discussion has taken place, to reconsider their decision and allow the vetoed Amendments to be discussed, I cannot see it is 1273 possible for any Chairman of Committees to bear that terrible burden of work, because he has to deal with questions of order, he has to observe that hon. Members are keeping order, and that the Amendments under discussion are in order. While he is carrying on that work with one part of his brain, another part of his brain is to be engaged in considering whether, in view of the discussion which has taken place, a particular Amendment, two hours ago considered unimportant, has now become important. I say, to ask him to do that is to put far too great a strain upon, not his impartiality, but upon the powers of anybody who may fill the Chair. I did not at first quite understand the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I must say it seemed to me to carry the idea that he refused, as it were, to the Speaker the power which he would allow to the Chairman of Committees. I take it, however, that his reason was this, namely, that it would not be necessary, even from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, to give any such power to the Speaker. Of course, discussion on Report is conducted under far more stringent rules than apply in Committee. A Member cannot speak more than once on Report, and therefore it would be unnecessary to give any such power. That, I understand, was the meaning of my hon. Friend, and he had not any desire to cast a slur on the Speaker or refuse to give him the power which he proposed to confer on the Chairman.
As to the second part of the Amendment, my hon. Friend wishes to leave out the Finance Bill. I think there are very strong reasons for doing that under present circumstances. As regards this new Rule, the Prime Minister put it on the ground that, having reviewed the whole question of procedure, it was found necessary to introduce some new method of meeting difficulties in Committee. So far as I understood him, he repudiated the idea that this particular Motion was brought in respect of the Finance Bill, which has been 12 days in Committee, or in order to facilitate the passage of that measure through Committee; but that it was brought forward in order to make it possible to do away with the guillotine. That was his contention. If that be so, obviously the Government would clearly lay themselves open to the construction that that was their object if they do not, as my hon. Friend wishes them to do, except this Finance Bill and other Bills from the operation of this particular pro- 1274 posal. The right hon. Gentleman below me stated one or two very strong reasons why the Finance Bill, or taxing Bills, should be exempted from the operation of a Rule of this kind; but there are two additional reasons which he has not stated, for this exemption. Of course, the Finance Bill is the peculiar province of this House. I am not going into the whole constitutional question about the Amendment of Finance Bill in another place, but obviously it is of far greater importance in respect to Finance Bills than in regard to other measures that the very fullest opportunity should be given, not to the majority alone, but to minorities of every kind, however small, to state all their objections and move all their Amendments. Of course, the right of this House to deal purely with financial matters is one that is not to be exceeded, and it might happen that the Government would bring in a Finance Bill which would deal not only with finance, but would do what is called "tacking," that is, attempt to deal with matters such as valuation and questions of that kind, which are alien to the Finance Bill. There, again, it is most essential, in a matter of that kind, that every opportunity should be given to the minority to move Amendments.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite, I think, stated that he regarded this particular procedure as an alternative to the guillotine. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself said that he regarded it not so much as an alternative to the guillotine as an alternative to the peculiarly drastic procedure which he laments so much at present. He looks back to the old days of the Finance Bill of 1894, which I believe was passed without any appeal to the Closure at all. Personally, and here T think I differ from many hon. Members of the House, I do not regard with so much terror the idea of Closure by compartments or the guillotine. Of course, it may be used as an extremely cruel instrument, or, if fairly conducted, it may be proper for saving a Bill and sending it to another place, but it depends on how the matter is raised. I should not like to see the arrangement of the allocation of days left to the Government of the day; I should much prefer some such suggestion as that of my right hon. Friend, that it should be left to a carefully selected Committee of the House. I should object strongly to the sort of measure applied to the present House in the case of the Housing and Town Planning Bill, to which two days is given, though it consists of 70 or 80 clauses. 1275 I very well remember, on a particular occasion in 1904, when the Licensing Bill was before the House, what an immense difference was made in our discussion by the introduction of the guillotine. Up to that time there had been a good many days in Committee, during which there was on the part of the Opposition a great deal of obstructive talk, but as soon as the guillotine was introduced, and as soon as certain clauses were assigned special days, and as soon as the Opposition knew that it was of no use talking at large because it would not delay the conduct of business, they settled down to the work in Committee; everybody feeling that mere obstructive talk would be of no value, they at once devoted themselves to discussing the important points of the Bill itself. The difference is that instead of leaving the selection of a number of Amendments that are to be moved and discussed to the Chairman, the matter is left to the Opposition, and the Opposition among themselves settle upon those Amendments in which they are most particularly interested. Therefore, as regards the Opposition, the compartment or guillotine system is a far fairer way of settling those Amendments than by leaving them to the Chairman.
There must be, of course, very grave difficulty for a Chairman to decide on the importance of Amendments. A great deal has been said about the difficulties of a Chairman in dealing with these Amendments on the basis of order, and that, in order to decide whether Amendments are in order, he has got to go into them as a whole to ascertain their value. I can hardly think that must be so, but I think that in deciding the relative value of different Amendments there is a very great danger that, shall I say, small or local Amendments affecting localities, or particular interests, may be entirely crushed out. I give an instance from Amendments of my own, although I do not wish to plead for them previously. I put down Amendments with regard to municipalities, and particularly as to the municipality of London. They are all of very great importance to the municipality, and it is quite conceivable that a Chairman—I do not mean the present Chairman—but some Chairman, who is not familiar with municipal government, might think that they were small or trivial, and not of importance to the whole country, and that they might be put aside for some more resonant and flamboyant Amendments. I give another 1276 instance in an Amendment down in the name of the right hon. Gentleman as regards the exemption of cider from the Finance Bill. The Chairman might not realise the importance of cider to the inhabitants of Somersetshire and other countries, and in that way the Amendments might be crushed out. Then as to a great number of Amendments, I am quite certain it is absolutely impossible, on the face of them, to have any idea of their importance, because it has happened again and again, not only in this House, but in any assembly where discussion takes place, that apparently on the most innocent, harmless, and easy-going looking Amendments the most valuable and the most far-reaching discussion most frequently take place. I can conceive that the Chairman, acting with the best wishes in the world, would lay himself open to the most disagreeable charges because he had shut out an Amendment which, as I say, though apparently innocent, covers the most important principles.
Then in the interests of the great officers of the House, for, after all, we have got to answer to the public outside—and what answer could a Member give to his Constituents as to Amendments which had not been discussed? If you say the Chairman of Committees, or the Deputy-Chairman, did not think those Amendments important enough to be discussed, that would be in the nature of an attack on the great officers of this House, a proceeding most repugnant to the feelings of any Member of this House, and especially repugnant to myself. Yet it would have to be done to defend one's self against the charge of ladies or slackness, because it might be supposed that one had not been sitting up to three or four o'clock in the morning, though the matter was due to one of the officials sitting at the Table. There is the instance of the Amendment moved by the Noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Robert Cecil) the other day, which on the face of it was an unfair Amendment, and which was described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a grotesque Amendment. It was to the effect that the cost of valuation should be thrown on the Commissioners, but the Noble Lord pointed out that he moved it in that form because he could not suggest that the cost should be thrown on the Government, because that would be out of order. That Amendment was moved because the Noble Lord felt that in no other way could he raise a principle of the gravest importance. That was whether the cost of valuation should 1277 fall on the Government or on the individual taxpayer. Yet I think that nine Chairmen out of ten, and certainly 99 Deputy-Chairmen out of 100, looking at that particular Amendment, would say it was an absurd Amendment put down for obstructive purposes, and that it had got no substance. An hon. Member suggests that might occur unless the Chairman saw the Member privately. Personally I should have no hesitation in pursuing the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman from pillar to post. I should call him up by telephone to explain the immense importance of the particular Amendments that I was going to move. That would go on so that he could not escape from one's importunities, and you would have the spectacle of groups of Members hanging round the unfortunate Chairman, trying to persuade him that there lurked in their Amendments some great principle of the most supreme importance. It is an entirely impossible position in which to put the Chairman or the Deputy-Chairman. I think it is bad in the ease of most Bills, but peculiarly so in the case of a Finance Bill, which lays a tax on persons and not on things. Under these circumstances I heartily support the Amendment. You may work your will in this way on other measures, but on a Finance Bill which comes peculiarly within the province of the House of Commons, it should be most strongly the right of any individual Member to move his own Amendments and to have them discussed in a proper way in the House.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech said that this was an Amendment which he thought would have been ruled out of order if this new Rule had been in existence. I should like to give one instance why it would be an extremely difficult thing for the Chairman of Ways and Means to rule this particular Amendment out of order. You have only got to go to the back of the Finance Bill, and what do you read? You read that this Finance Bill is ordered to be brought in by the Chairman of Ways and Means—Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Hobhouse. As long as you have that connection of the Chairman of Ways and Means, with the Government, and until they follow the advice given by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon) and the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) and remove him from all connection with the Government, there is good reason that the Chairman of Ways and 1278 Means, who is one of those who brings in the Bill, and who then has to sit as Chairman to select the Amendments, should not have that power, as has been suggested by this particular Amendment. It is also suggested there was no reason for confining it to the Committee stage. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the whole of the precedents, such precedents as there are, were all in connection with Committee stage of the Bills.
§ Mr. HARDY
There is the Criminal Law Appeal Bill, the Agricultural Rating Bill, the Redemption Bill, all of them were in Committee. There was one question which was ruled by Mr. Speaker on a Motion for allocation of time and which I do not refer to at the present moment. All the others were on the Committee stage of Bills, and, as everybody knows, after there had been long discussion.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
There was one case on the Report stage of the Education Bill of 1906, with Mr. Speaker in the Chair.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
The Motion was by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "That the main question be now put," on 18th June, 1906.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman will find that that was on the allocation of time Motion.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
Mr. Speaker said that there was an Amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition which ought to be considered, and that if the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to move it at once he would withhold his consent to the Closure; and the Leader of the Opposition did move it at once.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
That was on the allocation of time Motion; it was not on the Report stage of the Bill at all. When the precedents were being brought forward, it would have been just as well if the Prime Minister had alluded to one or two others, because it is rather an interesting fact that in connection with two of the precedents, one of which was not mentioned at all this afternon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself in the unfortunate position of being named for having on those occasions objected to the selection of Amendments. Both on the Rating Bill and on the Defaulting 1279 Authorities Bill the right hon. Gentleman took exception to the Chairman's decision in reference to the selection of Amendments, and rather than give any authority to it he sat in his place and was named. Several other Members of the present Government were also named on the same occasion bcause they disliked this idea of the selection of Amendments by the Chairman; they took the objection that the Amendments in which they were interested were of a very substantial character, and ought not to be passed over. It is rather interesting to find that when a certain amount of selection was attempted—it was merely a statement by the Chairman that unless Members took a certain course he was prepared to give the Closure on the whole question—in the very first case Mr. Courtney actually allowed other Amendments to be moved. He did not rule out all the Amendments; he merely said that there were Amendments which ought to be moved, and that unless Members gave way he could not give the Closure. Neither was the Closure given at the time nor at the end of the clause. The clause was passed without the Closure, after he had once refused the Motion. Therefore, these precedents had to be looked into very carefully. Even if there had been certain precedents which established a certain analogy to the particular proposal now before us, they could not possibly apply to the Finance Bill, because the Finance Bill has always been considered to be a Bill which should be exempt from the Closure. The First Commissioner of Works ought to be the very first to admit that principle, because a relative of his who had charge of the most controversial Finance Bill before the present was able to carry it through without the Closure. When it is remembered that the Closure in its ordinary form has not, as a rule, been applied to the Finance Bill, it is certainly a good reason why we should not proceed now to apply these more extensive powers to that measure. Earlier in the evening the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said that the Standing Orders were passed for the protection of minorities as well as of majorities. If the Standing Orders are examined, I think it will be found that they have all been passed for the protection of majorities, and not of minorities. The protection of minorities exists through the old customs and traditions of this House. The Standing Orders have been introduced in order to 1280 limit the rights of minorities, and to enable majorities to carry out their will. They are to enable the Government to get through their business. They may be necessary, but they are not in any way connected with the rights of minorities. Therefore when we have a new procedure suggested, when we know that the Closure is not, as a rule, regarded as an adjunct to the discussion of the Finance Bill, and when we have the fact that the Chairman of Ways and Means is a Member of the Government, and not an officer of the House, I think there is some ground for the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend, and that he is not open to the charge that his Amendment is a worthless and unsubstantial one.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I think it is necessary that we should press upon the Government the omission of the Committee stage of the Finance Bill from the operation of this Rule. This proposal, as the First Commissioner of Works frankly admitted, is an alternative to the guillotine, though I think the right hon. Gentleman might as well abandon, the idle pretence of saying that it modifies the brutality of the guillotine, and that it is a much less severe form of Closure. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the question of applying the guillotine to the Finance Bill was discussed by the Government. They did not dare to put the guillotine on the Paper in respect of this particular Finance Bill, so they have decided on a new form of procedure, designed ad hoc, in order to extricate themselves from a position which is really almost impossible.
I want for a moment to follow up the question of the relation of this Motion to the impartiality of the Chairman of Committees. That, on this particular Finance Bill, is of vital importance. I start by observing what is known to all, namely, that the Chairman of Committees and the Deputy-Chairman are nominees of the Government. They are placed in their positions by the Government; the sanction of the House is not asked to their appointment; and they occupy a wholly different position from that of Mr. Speaker, who is proposed by a private Member, seconded by a private Member, and conducted to the Chair after his election by private Members. That does not apply to the Chairman of Committees. The material point is that to the complicated clauses of the Finance Bill there are pages and pages of Amendments, and the Chairman of Committees cannot by himself determine 1281 whether or not they are actually important or substantial. During the last ten days, time after time, Amendments have been moved, not merely from this quarter, but from other quarters of the House, which have been dismissed in airy fashion by the Attorney-General as unimportant. The Debate develops. A quarter of an hour afterwards their importance is admitted by the whole of the House. Half an hour afterwards the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised either to accept the Amendment or to put in equivalent words in a later clause on Report. I assure the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that that very thing has happened a dozen times already in the Committee stage of the Finance Bill. Here we have got the Attorney-General, the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, the Solicitor-General, with occasional inroads by the Secretary of State for War, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—all these giving day by day consideration to this Finance Bill. They have got the whole of the Government draftsmen, yet in spite of that, owing to the extraordinary complexity of this Bill, it has been proved and acknowledged impossible for Ministers to detect the importance of these Amendments. It is no good for the right hon. Gentleman to laugh. It is the case.
The Chairman of Committees, I assert without fear of contradiction, cannot, on this Finance Bill, look after the conduct of the Debate, answer questions of Members, go on in the Committee from the beginning to the end of the sitting, and give the attention to the discussion which it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to pay, and at the same time determine which of these six or eight pages of Amendments are of material substance. What is the Chairman of Committees or the Deputy-Chairman to do? He has to settle beforehand to which Amendments he is going to put the red-ink mark to say whether they are substantial or not. In order to do that, unless the Chairman of Committees is going to work 23 out of the 24 hours, there must be active cooperation with the Government, and the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Committees will undoubtedly have to confer day by day with the authorities on the Treasury Bench—who, it must be remembered, placed him in the Chair—as to which Amendments are important and which are not. Now, the effect of that cannot be anything but to take away from the Chairman the independence which he 1282 now possesses. It is not his fault. The Chairman of Committees cannot be expected to detect the whole ramifications of the Amendments which the Ministers in charge of the Bill have even failed to detect themselves. He will have to have help from the Government draftsman, and from the Ministers in charge of the Bill. Again, as soon as he has made his decision and some Amendment is accepted, some new flaw will be exhibited in the Bill, and a whole series of Amendments which might have been in his opinion unimportant before, suddenly assume a real and vital interest. I say the difficulties you are placing upon the shoulders of the Chairman are really of a very grave character, and you are undoubtedly, by forcing the Chairman of Committees to have regular consultations with the officials of the drafting department or with the Ministers on the Treasury Bench, materially reducing the independence which we look to in that official. I myself regret very much that the Government is determined to apply this guillotine Motion—for it is nothing less—to the Finance Bill. If anybody reads the amended clauses in that Bill in these interlineations and brackets there is ample proof that the Debates in this House have been business-like and to the point, because the Government has been driven on every third line to make one or more Amendment. The only group of lines in which there are no interlineations and brackets are those which have been Closured down. I regret that the Government should be applying this to the Finance Bill, because it simply means an alternative form of guillotine. It simply means that the Government will jump down a few lines or a clause at a time, and to this extent the Bill will be less considered than it should be by this House.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
It is not very obvious why this proposal should be represented as an improvement of the existing Standing Orders, because everybody knows perfectly well it is an attempt to give additional driving power to a Bill which stands very much in need of it. It is very difficult to separate this discussion from the discussion on the whole question of the proposed new Standing Order. A great drawback of the whole proposal is that it tends to drag the position and attributes of the Chairman out of a question of order into a question of policy. Some of us who took part in the discussion on the Rules in 1897–8 remember the extraordinary reluctance with which Mr. Glad- 1283 stone consented—or rather the energy with which he opposed—these Rules on the very ground that they tended to bring more and more questions appertaining to Debate into the purview of the chair. The hon. and gallant Member proposes to cut the Finance Bill out of the operation of the Standing Order, and anybody looking on certainly would have thought that the Government, in the case of a Ministry which is looking forward to possible complications as regards the Finance Bill in connection with the powers of another Chamber—to whose limitations no effective legal sanction can be given—would have thought they would take extra pains to be as far as possible within limits that would give the greatest possible moral weight and au-
§ thority to the sittings of this House in regard to that Bill. It is idle to contend that to withdraw from the decision of this House an Amendment on the Bill is not exactly the same thing as resolving that Amendment in the negative. The practical effect is exactly the same. Therefore, of course, when this Bill goes to another place it will go there to a very great extent robbed of the weight and authority that it would otherwise possess as being the considered opinion of this House. If the majority of the House want this state of things, they should bear the responsibility.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 207.1285
|Division No. 371.]||AYES.||[10.15 p.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Du Cros, Arthur||Percy, Earl|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Fell, Arthur||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fletcher, J. S.||Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Forster, Henry William||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Foster, P. S.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gardner, Ernest||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gretton, John||Starkey, John R.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hills, J. W.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Clark, George Smith||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Winterton, Earl|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||M'Arthur, Charles||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cowan, W. H.||Marks, H. H. (Kent)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Newdegate, F. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain Craig and Viscount Morpeth.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott-||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Peel, Hon. R. W. R.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bryce, J. Annan||Dobson, Thomas W.|
|Agnew, George William||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Alden, Percy||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Byles, William Pollard||Essex, R. W.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cameron, Robert||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Evans, Sir S. T.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Astbury, John Meir||Cawley, Sir Frederick||Falconer, J.|
|Baker, Joseh A. (Finsbury, E.)||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Fenwick, Charles|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Clough, William||Findlay, Alexander|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Gibb, James (Harrow)|
|Beale, W. P.||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Gill, A. H.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Cooper, G. J.||Gladstone, Rt. Hun. Herbert John|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St Geo.)||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Glover, Thomas|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon Augustine||Cox, Harold||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Crooks, William||Gulland, John W.|
|Brace, William||Cross, Alexander||Hall, Frederick|
|Branch, James||Crossley, William J.||Hancock, J. G.|
|Brigg, John||Curran, Peter Francis||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Mallet, Charles E.||Seely, Colonel|
|Harwood, George||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Shackleton, David James|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Marnham, F. J.||Shaw, Sir Charles E. (Stafford)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Menzies, Sir Walter||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Micklem, Nathaniel||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Henry, Charles S.||Middlebrook, William||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Mond, A.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Montague, Hon. E. S.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. K.||Morse, L. L.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Hodge, John||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Summerbell, T.|
|Hooper, A. G.||Nicholls, George||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hudson, Walter||Nuttall, Harry||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Hyde, Clarendon||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Jackson, R. S.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jenkins, J||Partington, Oswald||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Tomkinson, James|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Toulmin, George|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Pointer, J.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Kelley, George D.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Lambert, George||Rainy, A. Rolland||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Lamont, Norman||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Cloucester)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wardie, George J.|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Rees, J. D.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Rendall, Athelstan||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Richardson, A.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Lough,, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Robinson, S.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Lynch, H. B.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Maclean, Donald||Rowlands, J.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Macpherson, J. T.||Rutherford, v. H. (Brentford)||Winfrey, R.|
|M'Callum, John M.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.|
|Maddison, Frederick||Seddon, J.|
Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY moved at the beginning of the proposed new paragraph (3) to insert the words, "If a Clause has been under consideration for a reasonable time.…" I think some words of this sort are necessary, and it is better to move it in this form. This Amendment is rather a test of the manner in which the Government intend to apply this new Rule. Is this new process of selection to come into operation when a clause has been debated at undue length, or when unsubstantial or trivial Amendments are being moved? I would point out that the Prime Minister seemed to say that the words at the beginning of the Motion, "the assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not having been withheld," were of importance in this particular case. The House is a little apt to forget that when a Motion has been made for the Closure the Chairman has to accept it if it does not come within two exceptions, either the abuse of the Rules of the House or the infringement of the rights of the minority. I do not think a Motion that Amendments are to be selected could be considered to be an abuse of the Rules of the House. It is quite clear it does not stand on all 1286 fours at all with a Motion to Closure, whether it be words, or part of the clause, or the clause itself. Therefore the power the Chairman has of refusing the Closure is practically taken away from him. The Government say this process of selection is really to promote the rights of the minority, and, therefore, the Chairman would be deprived of the liberty of refusing to accept the Motion on that ground. It seems to me it would be almost impossible, if the Motion was made on the part of the Government, to refuse it at any time, even quite at the beginning of the clause. I, therefore, desire to move this Amendment to test how far it is intended this Motion shall go, whether it is proposed in order to carry out the desire expressed by the Prime Minister in the very moderate speech he made at the beginning of the Debate, and also to discover whether the first or the second speech of the First Commissioner is to be our guide in reference to this question. He used, in his first speech, the words "habitual habit of selection," and they do portend a very much more extensive use of the Rule than was 1287 adumbrated by the Prime Minister, or was suggested by the second speech of the First Commissioner. Some words of this sort are very necessary in order that the rights of the minority may be protected, and that we may be sure this Rule is not to be used as an ordinary vehicle of Debate, but only of exceptional occurrence, and when it is clear that trivial and unsubstantial Amendments are being moved.
§ Mr. E. H. CARLILE seconded the Amendment.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
The purpose of the New Standing Order is to secure the elimination from our discussions of what are really trivial and unsubstantial Amendments. Such Amendments may be moved not only to a clause. The hon. Member's proposal would, however, limit the application of the Rule to Amendments moved to a clause. I do not see why the procedure should not apply to the schedule of a Bill.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I believe a schedule has always been considered as a clause, and they have been closured under paragraph (2).
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
There may also be occasions for the application of this procedure to Motions or Resolutions of the House, which have frequently in the past been obstructed in a manner which should be checked by the application of a Standing Order such as this. The hon. Member really carries the matter no further by this Amendment. He merely says the Motion is not to be accepted until a reasonable time has elapsed. Who is to have the decision as to the length of time to be considered reasonable? Obviously, the Chairman. The Chairman already is bound by a Standing Order not to accept the Motion if it in any way infringes the rights of the minority or if it is an abuse of the rules of the House. Consequently, the Amendment of the hon. Member carries us no further, whilst it is a limitation of the phraseology of the Rule, and to a large extent destroys the Standing Order.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has made no adequate answer to the Amendment. His first objection was that the phraseology did not cover the whole of my hon. Friend's Amendment, and he cited the case of the schedules. But my 1288 hon. Friend has shown that the Amendment doe3 apply to the schedules. "Then," said the right hon. Gentleman, "it does not apply to Resolutions"! This is an entirely new idea in connection with this matter; it is the first time we have understood from the Government that the new procedure is not merely intended to deal with Bills, but with a particular Resolution. I venture to say that particular Resolutions have always been adequately dealt with under existing Orders. It is possible if there is undue obstruction to move that the whole Resolution be accepted, and it is not in the least necessary we should alter our machinery in regard to that. But there is a much more important point to which I earnestly beg the attention of the Committee. The effect of the Amendment is this, that the Chairman shall not exercise these new powers until he has seen how the Debate is going on a particular clause. I think that is absolutely necessary not merely for the protection of the minority, but for the protection of the Chairman and of the Speaker himself. The right hon. Gentleman says that if this is moved too early in the clause it will be refused by the Chairman. But how is the Chairman to judge of the scope of the discussion on a particular clause? How unless he is ommiscient can he really judge how the discussion on a particular clause is going to develop. It has been suggested there "should be a reasonable time." Surely the Government do not contemplate that the Chairman of Committees is to come down here for the consideration of a clause armed with a copy of the Amendments marked in blue pencil showing those which are to be accepted, and those which are to be rejected—what are important and what: are not important. It is surely intended by the Government that the business of the Chairman shall be to say whether the discussion is of a businesslike description. How until lie has realised that can he say what Amendment should be accepted and what should be eliminated? You do not give your Chairman a fair chance unless you protect him by accepting this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Chairman can protect himself; but if the Minister in charge of the Bill gets up at the beginning and moves that the Chairman be empowered to select the Amendments to be proposed, how can you protect the Chairman unless you accept the words of the Amendment? How can the Chairman 1289 refuse the responsibility thus thrust upon him? How can he deal with the appeal of the Minister in charge of the Bill? Before he can decide how the discussion is going he must have time to watch its development. Unless you accept this Amendment it means that almost before a discussion on a clause is commenced the Chairman shall be armed with a ruling as to what ought to be discussed. That destroys every remnant of elasticity in our Orders, and I do earnestly suggest that the Government would do well to accept the Amendment, which does not necessarily deprive them of the powers they ask, for it only provides that these powers shall be exercised after the Chairman or Speaker has had power to survey the questions before the House, so that when he is asked for the all-important decision he may be able to give it with some knowledge of the subject on which he has to decide. I would therefore ask the Prime Minister whether it would not add greatly to the smooth working of the new Rule if he asked the House to accept it in the form proposed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think this will add anything to the effective safeguards of minorities or of the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman might just as well have said on the Closure Rule that the Chairman should not accept the Closure until a reasonable time had been given. Who is to judge of a reasonable time? The Chairman himself. There is no other possible tribunal or judge available, and therefore this does not give any additional protection to the Chairman or the minority, whereas it docs by the introductory words impose what I think is a very undue limitation upon the scope of our proposals. For this reason the Amendment of the Standing Order as it stands will apply equally to a discussion on a Motion, and if these words are accepted the new power could only be given in regard to a clause in Committee on a Bill. The Government do not intend so to restrict it, and the addition of the words "for a reasonable time" import nothing, because they only suggest to the Chairman a limit which every Chairman conscious of his duty would impose upon himself, namely, to take into account whether the matter under consideration had been adequately discussed or not.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman has laid down with great clearness—and, I think, it is a declaration of which the House should take note—that no Chairman will ever exercise 1290 this power until the clause or Motion has been discussed for some time.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
For some time, I said, and I think he used the words a reasonable time. That is obviously what he considers a reasonable time, but there is nothing in the Motion to indicate that that is the course which the House expects the Chairman to take, and my right hon. Friend and the Mover of this Amendment, and we here think that there ought to be an indication in the Order to the Chairman that that is the course which he is expected to follow and not only that there ought to be such an indication, but that it is due to the Chairman that it should be recorded in the form of the Motion itself, in order that we may protect the Chairman against impatient or intolerant action by a Minister or a majority of the moment. I do not know whether the Prime Minister heard more than a sentence or two of my right hon. Friend's speech. I know he was not in during the whole of it, and I am not certain at what point he came in, and, therefore, I do not know whether it was deliberate, or the result of accident, that he passed over another observation of my right hon. Friend that the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy was the first intimation that we had that this proposed Amendment of the Standing Order was intended to apply to Motions as well as to the portions of a Bill, and my right hon. Friend observed upon that that it was a great extension of the Amendment, as he had understood it, and as the House had hitherto discussed it, and that it was an entirely unnecessary extension of this Amendment, because a discussion on a Motion can easily be dealt with by the existing form of Closure. The Prime Minister made no attempt to answer that observation, which I think will command the assent of everyone who considers the difference between a Bill and a Motion, and the different effect of the use of our ordinary powers of Closure on the one and on the other. You can bring any Motion to a conclusion by practically a single use of the Closure. You may require heaven knows how many uses of the ordinary Closure in order to finish a Bill or a particular stage of a Bill. The two things are not at all alike. What may be required for one is not necessarily and naturally required for the other, and it needs some justification in argument 1291 which we have not yet had from the Government before we apply this great extension of power to Motions as well as Bills. They are two separate questions, and the Government must not suppose that because it may be granted that increased powers are required for Bills it follows that increased powers are required for Motions. There is a question that I wish to put on the construction of the Amendment to the Standing Order as it stands. If my hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted I think it is quite clear that it would limit the exercise of this power to a particular portion of a Bill then under discussion, a clause or a schedule, as the case may be. Is the Government's Amendment, as one might gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, intended to permit of a Motion being made under the first section of the Amendment, which refers to certain words defined in the Motion, to include not one clause, but many clauses?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It will be strictly confined to a clause, schedule, or lesser portion of a Bill, a sub-section, or particular words?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That is a concession for which I am grateful. It removes my doubts in the most satisfactory way.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
May I ask your ruling, or advice, upon this question? The Government are of opinion apparently that this Amendment does not apply to Motions. The words of the Resolution are these: "With respect to certain words defined in the Motion, or a certain clause or schedule, the Chair be empowered to select the Amendments to be proposed." I observe that refers to paragraph (2) of Standing Order 26. Paragraph (2) reads in this way:"… if a clause be then under consideration, a Motion may be made (the assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not having been withheld) that the question, that certain words of the clause defined in the Motion stand part of the clause, or that the clause stand part of, or be added to, the Bill, be now put." It will be observed, therefore, that under 1292 paragraph (2) only clauses end schedules are under consideration. I would ask whether, in these circumstances, the Amendment of my hon. Friend varies at all from the actual language of the existing Standing Orders which govern the whole scope of the new proposals of the Government?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If it is to be a separate paragraph it would stand by itself. This being the third paragraph of the Standing Order, it would not be governed by the words of the second paragraph.
Mr. J. W. WILSON
Would not one of the objects of the hon. Member for Ashford be more suitably accomplished by adding the words "under discussion" after the word "schedule"? That would show quite distinctly that it is not to be used at the beginning of a clause or before a clause was discussed at all.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
May I say that is a very reasonable suggestion. I will read the paragraph as it will stand: "A Motion may be made (the assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not having been withheld) that, with respect to certain words in a Motion, clause or schedule under discussion defined in the Motion, the Chair be empowered to select the Amendments to be proposed."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It restricts it to a Motion or clause already under discussion, and to certain words, and not to the whole clause—a very substantial modification.
§ Mr. H. W. FORSTER
May I point out that the Amendment suggested by the Prime Minister does not in reality in any way meet the case. A clause is technically under discussion when it is called from the Chair. It would then be open for a Member of the Government to rise at once and make a Motion which I think the House generally feels ought not to be made until the discussion of the clause has proceeded for some little length of time. But we have to deal with Bills the subject matter of which is not generally known to Members of the House, and cannot be generally made known to or fully appreciated by the Chairman. Take the case, for instance, of an Irish Land Bill, which is so much Greek to the English lay Member of the House of Commons, and which may be exceedingly difficult for the Chairman of Committee to 1293 understand. If he is called on by a Motion made from the Government Benches to deal with the problem, the moment a particular clause is called by the Chair, then I think you are putting a burden upon him that he ought not to be called upon to undertake. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give us an assurance on this point that will satisfy us.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My object in accepting the words "under discussion" is for the purpose of preventing a Motion of the kind being made before the clause has actually been discussed. I thought, and I still think, that the words "under discussion" would indicate to the Chairman that he must not exercise his power or accept a Motion enabling him to exercise his power until there has been a discussion, which means a Parliamentary discussion, and is not merely putting it on a technical footing at all.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I think that the words "under discussion" are certainly more satisfactory than "under consideration"; I am willing to accept the Amendment suggested, and to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
moved, after "words" ["with respect to certain words"] to insert, "in a Motion, Clause, or Schedule under discussion."
§ Mr. H. W. FORSTER
The words "under discussion," I think, are very technical in meaning. We could have the substance of what the Prime Minister desires if he would agree to accept the words "under consideration."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid that "under consideration" is still more technical. I am not sure that "under Debate" would not be a better phrase, and I would suggest that.
§ Question proposed, after "words" ["with respect to certain words"] to insert "in a Motion, Clause, or Schedule under Debate."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
As a consequential Amendment I have to move the omission, after "defined in the Motion," of the words "or a certain clause or schedule."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
moved to leave out from the proposed new paragraph the word "certain" ["with respect to certain words defined "].
I move this Amendment with a view to the insertion of the further words, "a Committee of Business, consisting of the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, and three other Members." I think it is desirable in a discussion of this sort that we should urge the extreme desirability, for the sake of the Chair itself, that this business should not be left entirely to the Chair, but that it should be remitted to the Committee. I would ask the Prime Minister to carry out the idea which I think was in his mind in connection with an appeal that was made to him very largely from the House to appoint a Committee to consider what is really the best method of meeting the difficulties associated with the whole of this Closure question. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was willing for a Committee to be appointed. If it were a thoroughly independent Committee, free from party or Ministerial influence, I think it might be able to find a better means than has yet been discovered of conducting our business without resort to the disagreeable methods such as are included in Closure Resolutions, and which I fear are included in the Resolutions which we are discussing to-night. The Government are now inserting in the Standing Orders what it will be difficult to remove, and thus prejudging the question to some extent; but I would earnestly ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the question, and give an opportunity to the House itself to take into consideration the whole of the fact, in order that we may, if possible, arrive at some better solution than we have done.
§ Mr. STEWART BOWLES
I second the Amendment, which raises the question how far the difficulties in which the House stands at this moment in the opinion of the House on all sides should be dealt with by the House itself rather than by the Executive. I think everybody has felt throughout the Debate that the real trouble which we are suffering from is the exaggeration and extreme development of the party system, and the continued encroachment of direct power over the House of the Executive. I do not think any better instance can be found of that than the Debate and proceedings of this afternoon. Here is a difficulty in which 1295 the whole House is put in regard to its business. It has been suggested for many months that it should be taken into consideration by an impartial Committee of the House, free from party, Executive, or Government influence, to consider not merely this difficulty, but the whole situation of the procedure of the House from the point of view of the House itself. We were given to understand that that suggestion was not altogether received with disfavour by the Government. But nothing has been done, until at last the Government find themselves in a difficulty with regard to one particular Bill. What happens? Immediately the Government make their own proposals, and bring them before the House. The party opposite has not been here in very large numbers during the greater part of the Debates. There is no doubt that these proposals will be carried out, not by the serious consideration of all Members in all quarters of the House, but by merely the mechanical party majority of the right hon. Gentleman. This plan will not be in any sense a solution of the difficulties under which we stand, but will be a solution put forward by the Executive of the moment, and forced upon the House by a party majority. I think it is a very good instance of what we are really suffering from, and that to escape from and get rid of such difficulties some such plan as that suggested by my hon. Friend should be adopted, namely, that the whole question of the situation of the House of Commons in regard to its procedure should be considered apart from the influences of the Government of the moment, by an impartial Committee such as I had hoped and some of us believed the Government were ready to set up. Some such suggestion has really been essential for a long time, and is rendered more and more essential after the proceedings of to-day and the opinions expressed from all quarters of the House. While, I agree there is a good deal to be said in detail on this matter, I content myself at this time by seconding the Amendment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In the two speeches which have been made in support of the Amendment two entirely different points are raised. No one, I think, would suggest that in the course of the Committee of a Bill the Committee suggested by the hon. Gentleman, consisting of the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, and three other Members, should 1296 consider deliberately whether or not certain Amendments ought to be preferred and certain others excluded. There could not be a more impractical way, and I do not gather that it is seriously intended. With regard to the other point, the totally different point raised by both hon. Gentlemen, I am still, as I always have been, in favour of such a Committee as they suggest. I have a reference already drawn of submission to such a Committee, on which, I think, the non-official Members of the House should be in the preponderance. I hope that Committee may yet be appointed and may have a fruitful inquiry. With that assurance I hope the hon. Gentleman will be content and will not persist in this Amendment, which is entirely impractical at the present moment.
§ Mr. ROBERT DUNCAN
I rise to speak as a somewhat raw Member, as far as the procedure of the House is concerned, on this question, which has produced great difficulty in so many quarters of the House. It has been admitted by every speaker, or at least by speakers from every part of the House, that this proposal is of a most exceptional nature. It is a most discreditable party proposal and is being pressed forward by party means. We think that the method by which the Government are proceeding is unseemly. Speaking as a new Member, I would say that it is only by an absolute faith in those who decide such questions as these that we can go forward with any confidence, and we have confidence in the personal judgment of Mr. Speaker. Many instances have occurred during recent Debates of Amendments, apparently unimportant and frivolous, which on discussion have proved to be of exceeding moment.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am glad to hear that the Prime Minister does seriously contemplate the appointment of a Committee to consider the whole question. May I respectfully ask that the Committee should be appointed without unnecessary delay? If it is thrown over to next Session there is great danger, owing to other things, that it may be lost, sight of altogether. Even if it were appointed only for the purpose of recommending its reappointment, that would be a great thing from the point of view of those who desire that some practical step should be taken.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
moved to insert after "the Chair be empowered to select the Amendments to be proposed," the words "but this power shall not be exercised by the Chairman of a Standing Committee."
It is hardly necessary to say anything in support of this Amendment, because there has not been a single word in the whole Debate which would in any way imply that the Government intended to extend this power to the Chairmen of Standing Committees. [Cries of "Agreed."] In that case I need say no more. I had intended including the Deputy-Chairman in the Amendment; but I will not move that, as the Government would evidently not accept it.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I quite agree, but I think we had better put it in the form of a proviso at the end of the subsection: "Provided that this power shall not be exercised by the Chairman of a Standing Committee."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
moved after the word "Debate" ["Such a Motion shall be put forthwith and decided without Amendment or Debate"] to insert "except that each Member who has duly given notice of an Amendment which appears on the Order Paper and is not obviously out of order and which, if the Motion were carried, would be cut out shall be allowed to explain in a speech not exceeding five minutes the nature and effect of his proposed Amendment before the Motion is put."
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the reason I wish to see these words withdrawn is a very simple one. It will give hon. Gentleman on both sides of the House the opportunity to point out to the Chairman the reasons for the acceptance of their Amendments. Unless some power is given it will be absolutely impossible, however impartial that Chairman may be, that that Chairman can give a right consideration to the innumerable Amendments that may be down. I venture to say that it will be quite impossible for any Chairman of Committees, or even you, Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely certain, without explanation, of the meaning of, say, some hundreds of Amendments on the Finance Bill. 1298 Hon. Members may laugh. What is there to laugh at? Take as an example what has been going on this evening. We have had a very simple Amendment to the Standing Orders which ought to have been certainly understood by the right hon. Gentleman and those who have been assisting him. But even in the first Motion words had to be added from the Chair, or we should have found that the Motion could not have carried out what the right hon. Gentleman intends. When the right hon. Gentleman, with all the knowledge of the experts behind him, makes that little error, it is not impossible that a Chairman of Committees may not understand the effect of every Amendment on a complicated question. I beg to move.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
I second the Amendment; and I think we have just had an object-lesson of the importance of having some discussion before Amendments are disposed of. The hon. Member (Mr. Laurence Hardy) moved an Amendment, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy told us it was quite impossible to accept, yet after a short discussion it was accepted by the Prime Minister, to the general satisfaction of the House. That in itself proves how very desirable it is that some discussion should be allowed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think neither of the two hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken have given me very much encouragement in the course I tried to pursue of putting this Amendment in a form most agreeable to the House. As regards this particular Amendment of the hon. Baronet it would render the new rule absolutely futile. Just consider the situation it would create? Every hon. Gentleman, full of parental pride in the Amendment he had put upon the Paper, finding his offspring about to be brushed aside, is to be entitled to rise to give all the arguments which he would have used in Debate in support of his Amendment against such a course. I need not say more in reference to this matter than point out that in regard to every Closure Motion the rule is that it should be put without discussion.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I do not deny that there are difficulties in the way of the course suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for the City, but at the same time he has raised a point on which I should really like to hear the views of the Prime I Minister. He raised the point that the 1299 Chairman should have the assistance explicitly, and in the House, of the views of the Member who put down an Amendment as to the meaning of that Amendment, so that the Chairman should be able to form some judgment with knowledge as to whether the Amendment is one of substance or not. I quite agree that if any Member in charge of an Amendment is to have the right of discussion the rule would be quite unworkable and would be reduced to an absurdity. But it would be excessively difficult for the Chairman to lay down what are important Amendments and what are not unless he is in communication with the persons who put them down upon the Paper. Everybody knows, and none better than those who have had charge of Bills, that it is almost impossible to know exactly what a Member who puts an Amendment upon the Paper intends until he has had an opportunity of developing his views. Of course the meaning of some Amendments are perfectly plain—their object is on the face of them—but there are valuable Amendments of which it is quite impossible for anyone to comprehend the full scope and significance without ascertaining the views of the hon. Member who put such Amendments on the paper. I do not advise my hon. Friend to divide, and I agree with the Prime Minister that you could not work the system under the particular plan suggested by my hon. Friend, but the difficulty is a real one, and it behoves the Government to find a way out of it. Unless the Chairman is going to communicate privately with hon. Members, I cannot see how he is to obtain the knowledge requisite to enable him to give a decision. My hon. Friend's plan is that the information should be given in public, but that may lend itself to abuse. I do not deny that that is possible, but that some communication between the Chairman and Members is absolutely necessary is plain upon the face of the rule, and I should be grateful to the Prime Minister, who apprehends the difficulty, if he would tell us how it is to be got over.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Even under existing conditions, communications of the sort referred to by the right hon. Gentleman are constantly taking place. Hon. Members go to the Chair, hold informal conversations with the Chairman and explain what they mean, and in a couple of minutes the whole thing is made perfectly clear. If the Chairman was still left in 1300 doubt after communications of that kind as to whether a particular Amendment was worthy of discussion, he would certainly be inclined to give the Mover of the Amendment the benefit of the doubt.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
I think everybody who took part in our recent Debates will appreciate that there is a point of substance in this Amendment. I do not know that we ought to adopt exactly the words which have been proposed, but it is only fair to hon. Members who are desirous of doing their best to deal with a specific piece of legislation, that they should have an opportunity of doing so. I think we have all appreciated the enormous care and trouble which the Chairman has taken to give reasonable satisfaction to all sides of the House. That satisfaction has been given, but I fail to see how anyone sitting in the Chair could carry out his duties if constant informal conversations are going on with him while the Debate is going on. I think on this matter some of us will be given credit for a sincere desire to improve our procedure, and I think we ought to unite in every possible way to see if any suggestion can be made to improve our procedure on reasonable lines, and if any such suggestion is made it ought to be adopted. It makes very little difference which side of the House we sit on in regard to a point of this sort. When complicated matters are discussed in Committee, all we want to secure is a reasonable discussion of such Amendments as are reasonable and of substance. There is not an hon. Member in the House who would not welcome the exclusion of Amendments which are out of place and of a trifling character.
It would be very much better for those who have serious Amendments to follow if some trivial Amendments do not stand in the way and forestall discussion. It occurred to me to suggest that Amendments naturally fall into several categories. There are Amendments obviously out of order, and I do not think we need hesitate to adopt any machinery to sweep them out of the way at once. It would be of great help to have them swept away in advance. Then there are mere drafting Amendments. The Government would have an opportunity of seeing them on the Paper, and, if they did not choose to admit them, they might be just as easily set aside. There are also Amendments of a trifling character, and they might be brushed aside in the same way. There are, however, Amendments, the object of 1301 which is not obvious. They may have to be taken in conjunction with Amendments lower down on the Paper, or even with Amendments on another clause, and it is not apparent at once whether they are Amendments of substance or not. It would, I think, be a great pity for them to be summarily set aside without the hon. Member having the smallest opportunity, even of two minutes, of explaining what they are about. There are two or three ways of dealing with this matter. The Chairman may, without any explanation, public or private, be called upon to deal with it to the best of his judgment.
I do not think that is what the Prime Minister suggests. He feels that would be unfair to a private Member who has put down an Amendment of substance, the object of which it is not easy at first to see. Then there is the suggestion of the Prime Minister that there should be this informal talk with the Chairman, but I venture to think, after practical experience, that that is impracticable. It is imposing upon the Chairman an impossible task. It would prevent him attending to the business of the Debate. There is, thirdly, the suggestion that there should be a short interval, and practically an adjournment, of the proceedings. That also is impracticable, because clearly, when the House is sitting in Committee, it must go on with the business; there is no room for adjournment. It would be loss of time. I suggest the Chairman should have the right to sort out all the Amendments which are obviously out of order, out of place, trivial, or of little or no importance, and that he should call upon the other Members who have given notice of Amendments which are not obviously within those categories, and, if they are Amendments of substance, they ought, in a very few words, to be able, not to argue the merits of them, but to explain them. The Chairman could then, of course, if he chose, rule them out. He and the Members of the Committee would then, at all events, have an opportunity of understanding what the merits of the Amendments were. It is for that practical reason, and with a sincere desire that the procedure in Committee may be improved, and not approaching this matter at all from the party point of view, I have put down my Amendment and have made these observations.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
I wish to ask a question with regard to the attitude of the 1302 Chairman after the Motion has been I carried. Will he then have a right to choose the Amendments on the Paper and say which are of sufficient importance to be discussed, and will he then make a declaration stating which Amendments he does not consider of sufficient importance to discuss?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is anticipating a discussion which will probably come up after this Amendment has been disposed of.
§ Mr. RENWICK
I want to appeal to the Prime Minister to meet us in regard to this Amendment. Probably it does go a little too far, but we want some assurance that the Mover of an Amendment shall have some opportunity of explaining to the Chair the importance of his Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman has told us he is willing to entertain the idea of appointing a Committee to deal with this question. I should like to move the adjournment of the Debate to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of considering this question. I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The House has decided that this Debate shall go on after 11 o'clock and I cannot therefore accept a Motion for adjournment.
§ Mr. W. BURDETT-COUTTS
I rise to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of London. The suggestion that every Amendment should be discussed is impracticable. But, on the other hand, the idea that the matter should be settled in a private whispered conversation with the Chair is not in accord with the spirit of this House. It is better that these things should be done openly, otherwise it might seriously interfere with the performance of the duties of the Chair. I think the House would prefer to leave it open for the Chairman to call upon a Member to explain his Amendment. He could do so very briefly and the Chairman then could decide what Amendments are trivial. I think the object might be secured by inserting after "Such a Motion shall" the words, "if the Chairman do so decide." That would leave it in the power of the Chairman to call upon a Member to explain his Amendment, and it would satisfy the requirements evolved in the course of this short discussion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, but there is no force in what the hon. Gentleman says. The question is here, whether the 1303 Motion should give power of selection to the Chairman. That I think is clear, and when the power of selection has been given to the Chairman, no doubt other points will arise, but they do not arise at this stage.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I imagine that these words "Such a Motion shall be put forthwith" make it impossible for the Chairman to call upon a Member to explain his Amendment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, that is not so. It simply gives the Chairman, if the Motion be carried, the power of exercising it. It does not say Show he shall exercise it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am perfectly willing to withdraw, in the hope that the discussion which has taken place will lead to some result.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
moved after the word "Amendments" ["If the Motion is carried the Chair shall then and thereafter exercise the power of selecting the Amendments …"] to insert "or any subsequent Amendments which the debates arising on the selected Amendments may show to be desirable."
I think it possible that the Prime Minister may regard this Amendment as unnecessary, because of the word "thereafter" but that word is not very clear, whereas my Amendment is. Even if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the word "thereafter" covers my Amendment, it does not make any difference to him if he accepts the words I propose, because they make clear what is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is important that there should be no doubt about the point when it arises. Only the other day in the Standing Orders there was a doubtful word, and I put a question to the Prime Minister about it and he said I was wrong, but if the Debate is referred to it will be seen that the late Prime Minister, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, intended to convey what I wished to impress upon him. It is all very well to say now what will be the result, but new Members come into the House and new interpretations are given. Therefore, under the circumstances, I hope the Prime Minister will accept the Amendment, which will only carry out what he himself desires.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My Amendment, as it stands, really gives a wider power to the Chairman than that which the hon. Baronet proposes to confer on him, because, under my words, the Chairman is not bound to proceed to an immediate election or selection, but may at any time in the course of the Debase exercise his power of selection. The hon. Baronet confines to later stages of the Debate Amendments arising on the selected Amendments, and is really limiting the Chairman's power of selection to a greater extent than I propose.
§ Mr. H. CHAPLIN
The paragraph says, "Such a Motion shall be put forthwith and decided without Amendment or Debate, If the Motion is carried the Chair shall then and thereafter…" What is the meaning of the word "then"? I suppose as soon as it is carried he is to take action.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He has the power not only then but thereafter. He has, during the whole course of the discussion, the power of selecting Amendments, not only those on the Paper, not only those which arise out of those on the Paper, but those which may be handed in from time to time.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
But with regard to the first one with which he is to proceed at once. If it is in the hands of an unofficial Member who has had no opportunity of consulting him, he will be deprived, at all events, of the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman agrees he ought to enjoy.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made, to leave out the words "clause, or schedule" ["to be proposed on the words, clause, or schedule"] and to insert the words "so defined."—[Mr. Herbert Samuel.]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move at the end of the proposed new paragraph to insert the words, "and the Debate upon such Amendments shall not be subject to Closure." The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) stated in an earlier discussion that he would support the proposal of the Government then before the House because he objected to the clumsiness of the procedure which enabled any hon. or right, hon. Gentleman to rise and move, "That the Question be now put." He thought anything would be 1305 preferable to that method of procedure. Now that the hon. Member has got his way I am sure he does not wish that it should be possible to apply the old and bad method as well as the new and better one.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry that the Prime Minister shakes his head. Apparently he is going to have it both ways. The right hon. Gentleman is going to give the Chairman power to select Amendments and very much shorter discussion—a power which may prevent any number of my hon. Friends from moving their Amendments—and then at the same time he reserves the right of moving the Closure on the Amendments which the Chairman has selected. I cannot conceive why the Prime Minister, who is one of the great champions of freedom of speech in this House, Hyde Park, and elsewhere should propose to give this new power to the Chairman and at the same time reserve the power of ruthlessly Closuring those Amendments and saying that they shall not be discussed. The Amendment I now propose would give the Members who are fortunate enough to have their Amendments selected by the Chairman the power to discuss them without their being Closured to suit the convenience of any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who may be desirous to force a Bill through the House.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am sure that the hon. Baronet does not expect the Government to accept this Amendment. There is no Motion or Amendment of any sort that can be proposed in this House which is not subject to the Closure at this moment. The hon. Baronet now proposes to create, for the first time, a privileged class of Amendments which may be discussed ad infinitum. Why are particular Amendments to be selected by the Chairman? It is because they are of a substantial character, but a mistake may be made, and it may turn out that they are not substantial. Let us assume that an Amendment which has been selected by the Chairman is of a substantial character. Is it to be debated for all time because it has received that imprimatur?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have complete confidence in the present occupant of the Chair, and that is why I resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I would advise my hon. Friend not to press this Amendment. I have a misgiving that if these words were inserted in the Standing Order, no Amendments would be selected by the Chairman. He would be so afraid of the possible consequences that he would hesitate to do that which, under other circumstances, he might be prepared to do, and it is for that reason I think my hon. Friend's own object would not be so well served by the carrying of the Amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I believe when the two Front Benches agree I ought to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
moved to add to the new paragraph: "Provided that nothing in this paragraph shall render it incompetent thereafter to propose Amendments to the Amendments so selected and proposed."
I have not the slightest doubt that the Government really do mean this, and I should think that they will be prepared to accept it. It is quite clear that when you have got a whole lot of Amendments, what is going to happen is the Chairman is going to select the first of them and say it is an Amendment of substance, and have a discussion on that, and the whole House knows that constantly in the course of a discussion like that the Government say, "We agree entirely in spirit, but it is not quite what we want." We want words put in that will make it perfectly clear that nothing shall make it incompetent to have an Amendment to the Amendment selected and proposed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think my hon. Friend (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson) can think that the words suggested are necessary. The case supposed is this, that the Chairman has rejected a certain number of Amendments and has selected one. It is competent for anyone to move an Amendment to the one so put from the Chair. It must be according to the ordinary Rules of the House, and therefore it cannot be necessary to provide expressly for that which is implied, namely, that the 1307 moment that the Question is put from the Chair an Amendment can be proposed. I think he will see that his Amendment is quite unnecessary.
§ Lord BALCARRES
If the verbal Amendment is moved to the selected Amendment does the Chairman lose the power of selecting the Amendment to be proposed?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. LAURENCE HARDY moved to add to the paragraph
"Provided that no Amendment containing any point of substance shall be passed over."
The speeches of the Prime Minister and of the First Commissioner of Works always used that word "substance," and if in passing the Closure Rule it was thought desirable to define what was the occasion when the Chairman should accept the Closure, so I think it necessary in some way to define your meaning in the selection of Amendments. I do not know whether these words are the best, but I do think that some words are necessary.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. LEWIS HARCOURT
I think these words are not necessary. It is quite clear that the whole object of this amended Rule is that Amendments of substance should not be passed over, but that is a matter left to the judgment of the authority of the House to whom we are giving this power.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
Of course we all appreciate the very great care and ability which has to be brought to bear by the various occupants of the Chair. That is within the memory of almost every Member of the House. But to all the gifts which the Chairman possesses, we are asked by the Government to practically add that of prophecy—a very valuable gift—but how is the Chairman in advance to know whether an Amendment has a point of substance or not? Is he to be allowed, or is he to consider himself as having, the discretion to pass over Amendments that may have points of substance? The whole discussion has gone upon the basis that if an Amendment has a point of substance it ought to be capable 1308 of being submitted to the Committee. In Standing Order 26 it is distinctly laid down that the Chairman in the exercise of his powers shall have regard to the rights of minorities, and some indication is given as to his line of conduct. But the Motion we are now considering, even if amended by my hon. Friend, leaves the Chairman without the smallest guidance. He is practically allowed, almost without question to himself, to select any Amendments he may think fit. I certainly think that an exceedingly large order. Although I would heartily join in improving the business of the House, I think we ought also to have regard to the right of every Member of this House to take part in the discussion of any subject that is before the House. Rather than that a valuable contribution to legislation should be lost, I personally should prefer to spend an hour or two upon discussing Amendments that might otherwise be left alone. We have to decide between two evils, and we ought to be exceedingly jealous that we do not prevent some useful contribution to legislation being brought before the House and the Committee. I think if the Government could be induced to accept this Amendment, with the words, "which the Chairman may consider to be a point of substance," I think even that would be better than to leave out all reference to any guide in the whole of the paragraph. I understand my hon. Friend would be willing to insert words, which I will move, if permitted to do so, and which would make the Amendment read, "Provided that no Amendment which the Chairman may consider contains any point of substance, shall be passed over."
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment not seconded.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I would appeal to the Government to reconsider the decision not to accept this Amendment for the reason that the Government say this merely expresses their own wish. In precedents quoted by the Prime Minister earlier in the Debate it was shown very conclusively that this expresses their own wish, because it was always on the ground that one or two Amendments were of substance that the precedents quoted were arrived at. It is very desirable that it should be put on the face of the Rule, so that the Chairman should have some indication of the kind of ground he was to consider in deciding whether an Amendment should be passed over. If the Chairman passes 1309 it over as not containing a point of substance the hon. Member can rise and explain very shortly the point of substance which may be overlooked by the Chairman. It would take a very short time and be a great protection to hon. Members. I cannot help thinking, since the only objection raised by the First Commissioner of Works was that this merely expressed in words what the Government intended, that it could possibly do the Government any harm to put those words in. I venture to think it would be a very material protection to any abuse of the Rule which might take place in after ages.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think myself that these limiting words would be desirable, because a "point of substance," after all, is a very curious thing. There are very few things in these words which, under certain aspects, could not be regarded as points of substance. If the Chairman was absolutely prohibited from passing over any Amendment which had any point of substance in it, I am afraid his powers of selection would be very seriously curtailed. While I say that, at the same time, in order to meet what I think is the real point, I am quite willing to accept, I do not say the precise words, but in substance, the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition indicated a few moments ago, which will enable the Chairman to call upon any Member who has put down an Amendment on the Paper, in regard to which he has any reasonable doubt as to whether it is an Amendment of substance or not, to give some explanation as to the object. I think that would meet the requirements of the case. I will ask the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment in order that we may adopt some form of words which will carry out the form.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for what he said, but I hope he will not think it looking a gift-horse in the mouth when I say I should have thought the qualification proposed by my hon. Friend might be a useful guidance to the Chairman that what he considered questions of substance should not be passed over. I quite agree that i£ you are to have this Rule at all, the matter must be left without that appeal to the Chairman. But if it is the view of the Government that the Chairman is really to allow us to discuss questions of substance—and that was most explicitly stated by the First Commissioner of Works 1310 —I think it would be wise to put in a direction to the Chairman that Amendments which contain questions of substance should be spared.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
moved to add at the end of the paragraph the following words, "Except that the Chairman may, if he thinks fit, ask any Member who has given notice of an Amendment to give such explanation of the objects of the Amendment as may enable the Chairman to form a judgment as to its character." The Amendment speaks for itself, so I need say nothing further in moving it.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am prepared to accept the Amendment in substance, but its form may be slightly improved. The word "except" is not necessary, and the word "Chairman" would exclude Mr. Speaker. The following is the form which we would prefer: "The Chair may, if the Chair thinks fit, etc." That would cover, whether the occupant of the Chair were masculine or feminine.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
moved to add at the end, "The Chair may, if the Chair thinks fit, ask any Member who has given notice of an Amendment to give such explanation of the objects of the Amendment as may enable the Chair to form a judgment upon it."
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. GEORGE RENWICK
I want at this point to move the adjournment of the Debate. We have heard the Prime Minister to-night say—
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
moved to add to the amended paragraph the words, "Provided 4hat the power of selection shall not be exercised by the Chairman of a Standing Committee."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
moved to add to the amended paragraph the words "but this 1311 Motion shall not be made after 1 a.m. of the clock, and on Friday after 5 p.m. of the clock."
We have at this moment rather light-heartedly entered into what I venture to describe as a revolutionary procedure. We have altered our Rules of Procedure because, apparently, the Finance Bill cannot be got through. I do think that even the Prime Minister will not insist, in addition to this very important alteration in the Rules of the House, that we ought also to be subjected to all-night sittings in order that the Rules may be carried out. It will be quite impossible for Chairmen of Committees to decide, at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, what Amendments ought or ought not to be selected. The Prime Minister, I will not say admitted, but hinted, that possibly these new Rules may not work very well. Had he not better, therefore, see how these new Rules work when we are awake, and understand what we are doing, before we extend them to the small hours of the morning, when by unanimous consent the House is not in a fit condition to discuss business. I beg to move.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Member is wrong in his suggestion that I intimated any doubt as So the successful working of these new Rules. On the contrary, I expressed the greatest confidence in them, and I hoped that we might be able to extend them to the Chairmen of the Standing Committees As regards the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, he might as well have moved that the House should never sit after 1 o'clock. If the House is not competent to transact business after
§ 1 o'clock it is pre-eminently a time to make a selection of the Amendments that should be moved—
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I think we have now approached so near the hour mentioned by my hon. Friend that I shall not attempt to make a long speech in defence of his Motion, though I heartily agree with it. One of the great evils I anticipate from this new Rule is that it is the deliberate intention on the part of the Government to force through the House by means of their two Chairmen, acting under these new Rules, very difficult, very complicated, and very controversial Bills. We take away from the Government; by this Amendment no power any Government has ever enjoyed of compelling the House to sit all night. That very necessary power is still left to them. What we do say is, if you really mean that this is to be an improvement upon our ordinary rational daylight discussions you should not confine it to that and not make it an instrument of forcing upon a wearied and over-wearied Chair-man, and on a wearied and over-wearied House, methods which may expedite your business but do not do anything to add either to the credit or the dignity of your discussions. Although I do not strictly adhere to the hour of the clock and should be pre pared to make it 2 o'clock if the Prime Minister prefers it, I do think there should be a limit after which the power should not be allowed to be used dimply to augment the capacity of the Government to force through legislation at unearthly hours of the morning—
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 55; Noes, 167.1313
|Division No. 372.]||AYES.||[12.20 a.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B'y St. Edm.)||Renwick, George|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hills, J. W.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hunt, Rowland||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Keswick, William||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Clark, George Smith||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Valentia, Viscount|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lowe, Sir Frances William||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. Charles Scott||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Doughty, Sir George||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wortley, Rt. Hol. C. B. Stuart|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.|
|Fell, Arthur||Morpeth, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir Frederick Banbury and Lord Robert Cecil.|
|Forster, Henry William||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S.W.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Gretton, John||Percy, Earl|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Gulland, John W.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Agnew, George William||Hail, Frederick||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Allen A. Acland (Christchurch)||Hancock, John George||Radford, G. H.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Astbury, John Meir||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Harwood, George||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Richardson, A.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Hedges, A. Paget||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Beale, W. P.||Hemmerde, Edward George||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Robinson, S.|
|Boulton, A. C. F,||Henry, Charles S.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Higham, John Sharp||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Brace, William||Hobart, Sir Robert||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Holt, Richard Durning||Rowlands, J.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Hooper, A. G.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Brooke, H. C.||Horniman, Emslie John||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes, Leigh)||Hudson, Walter||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Hyde, Clarendon||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jenkins, J.||Seddon, J.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Shackleton, David James|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kelley, George D.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Causton, Rt Hon. Richard Knight||Lambert, George||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Lamont, Norman||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Clough, William||Lehmann, R. C.||Summerbell, T.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Collins, Sir Win. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Cooper, G. J.||Lewis, John Herbert||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cox, Harold||Macpherson, J. T.||Tomkinson, James|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||M'Callum, John M.||Toulmin, George|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Maddlson, Frederick||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Crossley, William J.||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Marnham, F. J.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Massie, J||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Micklem, Nathaniel||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Duncan, J. H. (York, Otley)||Middlebrook, William||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Mond, A.||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Essex, R. W.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Morrell, Philip||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Evans, Sir S. T.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Everett, L. Lacey||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Falconer, James||Nlcholls, George||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Nuttall, Harry||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Parker, James (Halifax)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Partington, Oswald||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Gill, A. H.||Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Plrie, Duncan V.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton,|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Pointer, Joseph|
§ Question put, "That those words, as amended, be there inserted."1314
§ The House divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 79.1315
|Division No. 373.]||AYES.||[12.30 a.m.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)|
|Agnew, George William||Brodie, H. C.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Brooke, Stopford||Cox, Harold|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes., Leigh)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Crosfield, A. H.|
|Astbury, John Meir||Bryce, J. Annan||Crossley, William J.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Byles, William Pollard||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Duncan, J. H. (York, Otley)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Beale, W. P.||Charming, Sir Francis Allston||Essex, R. W.|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Clough, William||Evans, Sir Samuel T.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Brace, William||Cooper, G. J.||Falconer, James|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Macpherson, J. T.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||M'Callum, John M.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Maddison, Frederick||Seddon, J.|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Marnham, F. J.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Massie, J.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Middlebrook, William||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Gulland, John W.||Mond, A.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Hall, Frederick||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Summerbell, T.|
|Hancock, John George||Morrell, Philip||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nicholls, George||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Harwood, George||Nuttall, Harry||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Tomkinson, James|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Partington, Oswald||Toulmin, George|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Walsh, Stephen|
|Henry, Charles S.||Phllipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Pirie, Duncan, V.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Pointer, Joseph||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Hooper, A. G.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Radford, G. H.||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rea, Rt. Hon. Gloucester)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Hudson, Walter||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hyde, Clarendon||Rendall, Athelstan||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Jenkins, J.||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Richardson, A.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Lambert, George||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Lamont, Norman||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Robinson, S.||Winfrey, R.|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Rowlands, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Rutherford, V. H. Brentford)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B'y S. Edm'ds)||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hayden, John Patrick||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hazleton, Richard||Reddy, M.|
|Carle, E. Hildred||Hills, J. W.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Hogan, Michael||Renwick, George|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hunt, Rowland||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Keswick, William||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Clarke, George Smith||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)|
|Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Crean, Eugene||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Lundon, Thomas||Staveley-Hil, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. Charles Scott||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Dillon, John||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Meagher, Michael||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent Mid)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Fell, Arthur||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ffrench, Peter||Mooney, J. J.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Forster, Henry William||Murnaghan, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentla.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir W. (Ilkeston)||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Gretton, John||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Nolan, Joseph|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. J. W. WILSON moved, in paragraph (3) of the same Standing Order—["Provided always, that this Rule shall be put in force only when the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means is in the Chair"]—to insert after the words "Ways and Means" the words "or Deputy-Chairman." 1316 This is a very small consequential Amendment which, I submit, is desirable in view of the alteration made in Standing Order 81. It brings Standing Order 26 into line with Standing Order 81, and although it may not be absolutely necessary, it may lead to misunderstanding if it is not made.1317
§ Lord BALCARRES
On a point of order, Sir, I venture to ask, is an hon. Member entitled to move an Amendment of a Standing Order without notice?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Standing Order 26 is one which we have been discussing the whole evening. The hon. Member would not be entitled to take the first Standing Order and propose an Amendment, but this is one which has been before the House the whole evening, and he is entitled to move an Amendment.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I doubt whether this is really necessary, because this particular paragraph of Standing Order 26 was there very long before the Deputy Chairmanship was created, and therefore it was for the purpose of excluding Gentlemen who were called temporary Chairmen that it was framed in this way; I well remember the genesis of that paragraph. We have passed Standing Order 81, clothing the Deputy-Chairman on all occasions with the power of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and if you repeal this paragraph now, you are clothing the Deputy-Chairmen with extraordinary powers which they do not want.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
But it is not so; the effect of the proposal is not to repeal the paragraph but to add the words "or Deputy-Chairman."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not sure myself this Amendment is necessary, but it cannot do any harm. It is consequential on what we have done to-day and to bring the Standing Orders one into harmony with the other. I therefore do not object to it.