HC Deb 15 March 1911 vol 22 cc2247-9

Before I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary about the business of next week I will ask him about the intentions of the Government in regard to to-night. I understand that the Government hope to get Vote A1, and I ask him whether he does not think, in view of the fact that there are a very large number of hon. Gentlemen who desire to speak, also in view of the fact that it has been the practice of the House to give more than two days to getting the Speaker out of the Chair, and in view of the fact that of the one day we have had the Government themselves have taken up nearly or quite half of the whole time available for discussion, the Government could find it in their power to give us at least one more day, which, I would remark, does not bring us up to the ordinary average given in this House to this discussion.


The Government quite recognise that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman are not without force, and they were earnestly desirous of acceding to his request, but the state of public business at the present time does not justify—does not enable us to give another day on the Committee stage. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Report stage will give other opportunities of discussion next week, and my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary would like to discuss in the ordinary manner, whether on Report stage facilities could not be given which would to some extent meet the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman. Meantime I would like to say we will move the suspension of the Eleven o'clock rule to-night, which will enable hon. Gentlemen wishing to take part in the Debate to some extent to have their wish. With regard to the business of next week, it is hoped that the Prime Minister may be back to-morrow, but in any case a statement will be made tomorrow.


Of course, I will defer any question I have to put about business next week in accordance with the request of the right hon. Gentleman, but may I ask him with reference to the answer which he has just given whether the Patronage Secretary has it in his mind that it has been ruled that upon the Report stage a general discussion is not permitted in this House. In my opinion it is the general discussion which is the most valuable one, and if the Government think it is possible in point of Parliamentary time to allow us the ordinary amount of discussion upon the Committee stage, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is possible by any arrangement across the floor of the House, with your leave, to relax the general rule under which the discussion of the broader questions raised by Votes A and I is confined to the Committee stage? I do not say it would meet our views if that were done, but it would certainly mitigate the extreme feeling of hardship under which gentlemen, certainly on this side, and I suspect on the other side of the House, too, feel the limitation of their powers in Debate on this and other important questions.


I should like to ask whether the Government would consider whether they could not give further time for a general discussion of the Army Estimates later in the Session following a precedent which the Home Secretary will remember very well, set by the Conservative Government when Army Estimates excited an unusual degree of interest and the Government put down a Resolution after the termination of the financial year and gave a further opportunity for discussion?


I think the Noble Lord might put that question to the Prime Minister when he returns.


In reference to the question put to me by the Leader of the Opposition, of course, if I were assured there was a general consensus of opinion that it would be desirable to relax the rule in regard to the limitation of Debate upon Report I should be quite ready to fall in with such an arrangement in order to suit the general convenience of the House. The matter arises in this way. On the first Vote the general rule is that a dis- cussion upon all the Votes is open in Committee, but it is not open on Report. On Report the Debate must be confined either to the number of men or to the salaries of the officers and men and no other matters may be discussed. Of course, if there is a general consensus on all sides of the House that for that occasion only, the rule should be relaxed I should be quite ready to fall in with that view.


I am greatly obliged for the ruling you have given from the Chair, but I am not at all sure that the suggestion made by my Noble Friend is not the best way out of the difficulty, and perhaps we had better defer till the Prime Minister comes back any further discussion on the policy to be pursued.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)

I think that is the most satisfactory arrangement which we can suggest just now. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Votes A and 1. According to practice, two non-effective Votes also are usually taken on the first night. I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to exclude these to-night, as no controversial questions arise in regard to them. The practice has been followed in the whole of my experience. I may remind him, too, that we are suspending the eleven o'clock rule.


Is it the intention of the Secretary of State to adhere to his statement that he intended to introduce the Coal Mines Bill on Friday? He said last week that there was no desire to rush the Bill through in a few hours on Friday.


I stated quite clearly that the Government would be in the hands of the House, and especially of the Opposition. That means that they will not attempt to force it through in the face of opposition. I earnestly trust the measure may be taken.


Will the right hon. Gentleman try and arrange when the next statement of business is made that some information may be given to the House about the Easter recess?