HC Deb 08 October 1909 vol 11 cc2344-6

Captain NORTON (Lord of the Treasury) (for the Prime Minister) moved: That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn until Monday, 18th October.' Perhaps I might mention that we placed this Motion on the Paper in order to suit the general convenience of the House. It was done with the approval of the Opposition and with the object of enabling us to conclude the business of the House, it is hoped, about dinner time.


I do not wish to raise a discussion on this question because, of course, it is evident it is for the convenience of every section of the House that we should have a slight interval in view of the fact that we have been sitting here from 12th February. I have only been away one day from the House, and then a Bill got through which ought not to have got through, so I made up my mind that I would not go away again. I rise to make a protest against the manner in which the question of the adjournment has been moved. The Opposition are placed in this position, that either they are compelled to allow the Development Bill to be discussed in a totally inadequate manner or the Government must have a Saturday sitting, which, in view of the exhaustion of Members and especially of the officers of the House, no one on this side of the House desires. I am quite aware that the Government have proposed an alternative, namely, that of coming back on Monday. That would have been quite impossible, because we should have brought back all the officials of the House, and prevented them having a clear week's holiday. It would have been extremely difficult to have had Members on this side of the House or Members on the other side of the House, and discussion would accordingly have been an absolute farce. Therefore the only alternative for the Opposition was to acquiesce in the desire of the Government that the Development Bill should go through all its stages to-day. I only raise this protest against the manner in which this Bill has been brought before the House. It had no discussion in the Grand Committee upstairs, to which it ought never have been committed, and it has had no discussion in the House. I hope the country will recognise this Bill is a Bill which becomes law with the nominal assent of Parliament, few Members understanding or knowing anything about it.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Samuel Evans)

The course we have taken has been taken, I think, with the assent of all parties in the House, as the hon. Baronet has said. I only want to say that I do not think the Bill has been inadequately discussed at ail. We had a very business-like discussion yesterday. We were engaged on it for ten days in the Committee upstairs, and if we have anything like a business-like discussion to-day I do not think that any part of the Bill which requires discussion will pass un-considered. I am sorry that such pressure has been put on hon. Members. I am in a worse position than the hon. Baronet, for I have not had a single day away.


I am glad to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Bill was discussed yesterday in a thoroughly businesslike manner, and certainly so far as I am concerned, and I speak for those on this side of the House, we have nothing to complain of, but everything to approve of as regards the way the hon. and learned Gentleman has conducted the Bill. I must, however, beg to differ altogether as to the sanguine estimate of the hon. and learned Member of the character of the discussion which can follow this afternoon. According to him the discussion yesterday was of the most business-like character—but what did we succeed in accomplishing—one Clause out of a Bill containing 20. I have given the best attention in my power to this Bill, and I cannot imagine that the discussion of the remaining 19 Clauses of the Bill could be carried out less satisfactorily than it can in this case if they are to be disposed of during one afternoon sitting along with the third reading of the Bill. In my judgment it is absolutely impossible that the remaining portions of the Bill can be discussed as adequately as they ought to be. However, we are placed in this position by the action of the Government, and we are absolutely powerless. All we can do is to continue a businesslike discussion as long as our strength permits, and then leave it to the public to judge of the character of the Bill and apportion the blame where it is due. The Prime Minister himself, when he announced the business for the remainder of the Session, expressed the opinion that he was not in the least sanguine that this Bill would receive the assent of Parliament. In spite of that it has been forced upon us, and whatever be the ultimate character of the Bill when it leaves the House, the Government alone must take the responsibility.


The right hon. Gentleman's complaint is a day too late. When it was suggested that the House should not sit next week the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur Henderson) opposed the suggestion on the plea that next week might be profitably spent in discussing this and other measures. That suggestion found neither sympathy nor support from the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. If he was so very anxious to talk, that was the proper occasion. I rose especially to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he can give us any information as to the administration of the grant for unemployment. The distress committees in different parts of the country are again finding themselves very bard pressed to meet the necessities of the situation. In Glasgow it has become very serious indeed though, owing to the revival in trade which is now proceeding, the number of persons out of work in Glasgow is nothing like so large as it was twelve months ago, but the proportion is still sufficiently heavy to tax the energies of the distress committee to its fullest extent, and, if the right hon. Gentleman would say what is being done to meet the necessities of the case in the way of the administration of the grant, that would be some encouragement to distress committees, and would relieve the minds of those who are specially concerned in the subject.


I had no notice that this important subject was to be raised this morning. I can only say that the various distress committees throughout the country are in frequent communication with the Local Government Board, and in the light of the experience of previous years the relationships between these committees and the Local Government Board are satisfactorily proceeding, and what help the Board can give is being given.

Question put, and agreed to.