§ The PRIME MINISTER
That the proceedings on the Committee stage, Report stage, and Third Heading of the Revenue Bill shall, unless previously disposed of, be proceeded with and brought to a conclusion at the time and in the manner hereinafter mentioned.
The Committee stage shall, if not previously disposed of, be proceeded with on Tuesday the 28th day of March, and brought to a conclusion at 11 p.m. on that day; on the conclusion of the proceedings the Chairman shall immediately report the Bill to the House, without Question put.
The Report stage of the Bill shall, if not previously disposed of, be proceeded with on Wednesday the 29th day of March, and the proceedings on that stage shall be as shown in the first column of the table annexed to this Order, and shall be brought to a conclusion at the times shown in the second column of that table.
As soon as the proceedings on the Report stage of the Bill have been brought to a conclusion, if it be then 11.30 p.m. or later, and if not, then at 11.30 p.m., the proceedings on the Third Reading of the Bill shall be brought to a conclusion.
For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed under this order, and have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall, at the time appointed under this Order for the conclusion of those proceedings, put forthwith the Question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed successively to put forthwith the Question on any Amendments, new Clauses, or Schedules moved by the Government of which notice has been given, but no other Amendments, new Clauses, or Schedules, and on any Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded, and in the case of Government Amendments or Government new Clauses or Schedules, he shall only put the Question that the Amendment be made or that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill, as the case may be.
Any Private Business which is set down for consideration at 8.15 on any day in which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order shall, on that day, instead of being taken as provided by the Standing Order, "Time for taking Private Business," be taken after the conclusion of the proceedings to which 908 this Order relates for that day, and any Private Business so taken may be proceeded with, though opposed, notwithstanding any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
On any day on which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order, proceedings for that purpose under this Order shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House.
On any day on which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order, no dilatory Motion on the Bill, nor Motion to re-commit the Bill, nor Motion to postpone a Clause, nor Motion for Adjournment under Standing Order 10, nor Motion that the Chairman do report Progress or do leave the Chair, shall be received unless moved by the Government, and the Question on such Motion shall be put forthwith without any debate.
Nothing in this Order shall—
- (a) prevent any proceedings which under this Order are to be concluded on any particular day being concluded on any other day, or necessitate any particular day or part of a particular day being given to such proceedings if those proceedings have been otherwise disposed of; or
- (b) prevent any other business being proceeded with on any particular day or part of a particular day, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House after any proceedings to be concluded under this Order on that particular day, or part of a particular day, have been disposed of.
§ This Order shall have effect notwithstanding anything in Standing Order No. 71, and notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the stages of any Bill imposing taxation.
|Proceedings to be brought to a Conclusion if not previously disposed of.||Time for Proceedings to be brought to a Conclusion.|
|New Clauses and Clause 1||5 p.m.|
|Clauses 2 and 3||6.30 p.m.|
|Clauses 4, 5, and 6||8.30 p.m.|
|Clauses 7, 8, and 9||9.30 p.m.|
|Remaining Clauses, Schedules, and any Questions or Proceedings necessary to dispose of the Report Stage||11.30 p.m.|
I very much regret that it has not been found possible to arrive at an arrangement which would have obviated the necessity for the Motion which I am about to make, and which would have saved time about to be spent in its consideration, for further discussion of the Revenue Bill. But such an arrangement having been found impracticable, I think in a very few minutes I shall be able to satisfy the House that a Motion such as I am going to submit is not only urgent but irresistible. The Budget for the current financial year 1910–11 was, as Budgets go, of a singularly unambitious character. It proposed no new taxation at all, and its taxing provisions were confined to proposals to continue for another year the existing rates of the Tea Duty and the Income Tax, and also to make provision for the Sinking Fund. There was annexed to these taxing proposals a number of Clauses—not very many—which were suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the experience we had then had of the working of the Finance Act of the previous year. I think I shall rightly describe those Clauses if I say of them compendiously that they fall, with some possibly trifling and insignificant exceptions, within one or other of three categories. They were either concessions to meet cases of proved or alleged hardship; they were explanations or definitions to meet cases of ambiguity or supposed obscurity; or, as was the case with the proposals in regard to the relations between local and Imperial taxation, they were provisional and transitory in their character. That is absolutely true of the Revenue Bill as it was introduced into this House in the present Session. When it became necessary in the interests of public business to dispose comparatively summarily of the taxing parts of the Finance Bill of last year, I and other Members of the Government gave assurances which I will textually prove in regard to what would happen as to the Clauses that were held over which belonged to the categories I have just enumerated. Speaking myself on 18th November, 1910—I am quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT—I said:—
What the Government propose to do is, under a procedure resolution which I shall move on Monday, and which will be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen to-day, to confine the discussion during the remaining stages of the Budget to these taxes and Sinking Fund provision. At the same time it should be clearly understood that we do not intend to withdraw from Parliament the opportunity they ought to have, sooner or later, of discussing these provisions in connection with the general finance of the nation. Therefore, with the undertaking of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—all such undertakings being now—I
hope that is clearly understood—subject to unforeseen contingencies—with the undertaking, subject to these contingencies, on the part of my right hon. Friend, that he will reintroduce and submit for consideration, with full opportunity of discussion before the close of the present financial year the remaining provisions of the Budget, which for the moment he is obliged to drop——"[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1910, cols. 83–84.]
I am afraid my sentences are anacoluthon, for here I was interrupted by an hon. Member, who said:—
In the present Parliament.
And I replied:—
Before the close of the financial year.
The same evening, and in the course of the same Debate, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated, in his own language, what I had already said. I will again quote his words from the OFFICIAL REPORT:—
Hon. Members probably come from their constituents with some individual grievance against some individual tax, and they are entitled to propose amendments, and get them considered. We are moving certain amendments to the Death Duties and the Licensing Duties, and we have also promised some amendments with regard to the Land Tax. I can imagine that there may be other Members who would also like to move amendments, and I think full opportunity for discussion ought to be permitted upon them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1910, cols. 126–7.]
A little lower down in the same column the Chancellor of the Exchequer says:—
That opportunity will be given if we are responsible for the conduct of affairs as soon as this House reassembles before the end of the financial year.
As regards the statement made on behalf of the Government last November the only other speech which I need quote, or which is relevant to the matter is the statement made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Joseph Pease) who said, on 21st November, 1910:—
We propose under the new Bill in next Parliament to extend the discussion over the whole range of our taxation system, and it will be permissible next Session for hon. Members to move new clauses as they usually do—say clauses for the reduction of the land duties, or any new clauses of that kind—although we will have no resolution covering new taxes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1910, col. 221.]
As things turned out, it was necessary to have such a Resolution, "that it was expedient to amend the law relating to Customs and Excise." Those are the statements, those are the assurances and promises made on behalf of the Government in November, 1910. I am going to show to the House with the greatest possible ease that they have been fulfilled in the spirit and in the letter, every one of them. When the new Parliament reassembled, and the Debate on the Address was concluded, we had a discussion upon Government business. On 16th February, in the present year, I made a statement—a very full and detailed statement on behalf of
the Government as to our proposals for business between then and Easter. I will quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 16th February, 1911, I said:—
Let us see first of all how we stand in regard to compulsory business.…By compulsory business I mean business that has to be transacted and got through before 31st March, the last day of the current financial year.
§ 4.0 P.M.
Then I dealt with Supplementary Estimates, Votes of Supply, and the Consolidated Fund Bill, and I go on as follows:—
Then, as to the second stage—I am still dealing with what I call compulsory business before 31st March—we have a special claim upon our time and attention this year in the second stage of the Finance Bill, the first stage of which was passed in the last Parliament. I promised because we proceeded to carry through our drastic form of Closure in regard to the first stage—that on the whole of the part which actually dealt with the imposition of taxes—there should he a reasonably full and adequate opportunity for discussing the other clauses and for raising on Second Reading all the questions which are properly raised with regard to finance. In redemption of that pledge we have first of all to introduce, as we shall on Monday, by resolution or by a series of resolutions in Committee of Ways and Moans, that which will lay the foundation on which we hare to prosecute the Bill through its various stages, and we propose to give for these purposes six-and-a-half days.
That is to say, for the Resolutions, the Second Reading, and the various stages of the Bill.
The House will therefore see, as regards compulsory business of finance, which has to be brought to a close before 31st March, not before Easter, we are giving thirteen-and-a-half days to what I might call the normal business of Supply, and six-and-a-half days to this exceptional business, namely, the second stages of the Finance Bill of last year—that makes twenty days."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1911, cols. 1253–4.]
When I made that statement it was received with no kind of protest or demur from any side of the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman had not seen the Bill, but the Bill, when it was subsequently introduced, was a Bill containing the substance of the remaining Clauses of the Budget Bill which had been passed in the November of the previous year, together with further explanations and concessions.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Further concessions and further explanations in response to the pledges given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
There was other matter which, under no circumstances, can the right hon. Gentleman claim to call a concession.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
There is the taking away of half the Land Taxes from the local authorities.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
A very large concession. We are giving the local authorities a great deal more, but I do not want to enter into a controversial discussion of the Clauses of the Bill. I am point out to the House that on 16th February, this year, I announced, as part of the Government programme, the business which had to be carried through before 31st March, and that six-and-a-half days would be given to this Bill. That announcement was received without demur or protest or caveat on the part of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted me said this:—The special financial difficulties of the Government are of their own creation.That is common form, of course.But, when you have allowed for their financial difficulties, there is no necessity for this motion whatever.This was a motion taking the time of private Members away.If I followed the right hon. Gentleman rightly he has before the end of the year enough time for all the necessary financial business of the year without intruding upon private Members' time at all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1911, cols. 1259–60.]That was the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman then. Let us see what has happened since. Six-and-a-half days was what I offered, always with the condition that this Bill must be got through before 31st March. What is the time that actually has been given? I will split it into two parts. The general discussion, such as we promised in November, not upon the details of this Bill, but upon this Bill and upon the Bill of last Session in their larger relations to the whole question of finance, takes place, according to our procedure, upon the Resolutions in Committee, upon the Report of those Resolutions, and upon the Second Reading of the Bill. I find, upon those stages, two days in Committee of Ways and Means, a portion of a day on Report, and a day on Second Reading—twenty-one hours—were given. Our Parliamentary day, under modern conditions, may, I think, fairly be said to be a day of seven hours—from four o'clock to eleven o'clock. That is a very fair estimate of the length of a Parliamentary day. I am stating a simple arithmetical proposition. Seven hours is the normal length of a Parliamentary day. 913 Therefore, if twenty-one hours were given, as they were to these Resolutions in Committee and upon Report, and to the Second Reading, three Parliamentary days were given to the general discussion. So far I shall command the general assent of the House. Then we went into Committee, no longer the appropriate stage for a general discussion, but for the discussion of details, and two sittings, I use a neutral term, have been given to the Committee stage which have occupied between them twenty-two hours. Let us go step by step. Twenty-two hours, by a simple sum, dividing by seven, are rather more than three Parliamentary days. Therefore, we have had now upon the preliminary stages, upon the second stage, and upon the Committee stage, six Parliamentary days. I anticipated the Noble Lord, whom I see opposite (Earl Winterton) was going to ask me to advance from the plane of common to that of higher mathematics.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, on the contrary. I was not here, and I am not making any comments of any sort or kind, except that I think everything that was done, so far as the Government was concerned, was done perfectly in order. Let us assume—I am going to make a large concession—that when you are dealing with an all-night sitting—I will not say who was responsible for its prolongation—you must make a certain amount of deduction from the number of hours spent in order to assimilate it to an ordinary and normal sitting. How many hours shall I deduct? I will make the very most generous concession a Minister has ever made. I will deduct eight hours. What hour did the sitting conclude?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will assume it concluded at two o'clock. Let us assume, for the purposes of argument, that eight hours are taken away from that all-night sitting, and you have still five full Parliamentary days given to the discussion of this Bill. I offered six and a-half, and, if we were not here discussing this Motion which is going to subtract, most unnecessarily, time from the further consideration of the Bill, and which very reluctantly I am compelled to move, you would have Monday a full Parliamentary day, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The 914 House would have had eight days for the discussion of this Bill for which I estimated six and a-half. Where is the breach of pledge I Where, so far as I have gone now, is there any failure on the part of the Government to comply with the assurances and promises which they gave to the late House of Commons or to this House? We are going beyond what we promised, considerably. Why, then, you may ask, am I compelled to make this-Motion? The reason is very simple. We have gone through the Committee stage of this Bill, so far as all the original clauses proposed by the Government are concerned. There are upon the Paper new Clauses proposed by the Government, every one of which is a fresh concession in response to demands made by hon. Members opposite.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know about the new Clause regarding Dews-bury. Leave it out of account. All those not of local significance are concessions to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Noble Lord (Viscount Helmsley) will not be able to vote against any one of them.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
They are concessions; that is admitted. Leaving out those new Clauses which are proposed by the Government, and which are concessions, what do I find on the Notice Paper? One hundred and thirty new Clauses. I have had a pretty long Parliamentary experience, and I have seen Bills of great magnitude and complexity introduced and carried through this House, but I cannot charge my memory with any Bill, not even the Home Rule Bill itself, to which the ingenuity of the Opposition was able to put down 130 new Clauses. This is the first occasion upon which we have had such an extraordinary demonstration of legislative fecundity. I am not going to speculate, I do not feel in any way bound to speculate, as to the motives which have led to this exuberant efflorescence. It is unprecedented; it is singular. It is singular for this reason. These 130 new Clauses, ranging over the whole domain of finance, and raising, I believe, almost every question which was considered and discussed—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—at any rate, a very large majority of the questions which were considered and discussed in the great 915 Budget of 1909 are put down now in regard to a Bill which does not impose a single tax, which is merely ancillary to the finance of the year, and which consists as I have said, almost entirely of concessions, explanations, and transitory provisions which must be brought into operation, it we are to regularise our financial arrangements before the 31st March, and which will be followed, as every one knows, and must be followed in the course of a very few months, by the Budget Bill of the new year, in regard to which every one of these proposals, in so far as they are relevant or in order at all, can be raised. Are we really going to be asked deliberately, are right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench going to ask us on the 27th March, in regard to a Bill which must receive the Royal Assent upon the 31st March, to discuss 130 new Clauses, or even half of 130 new Clauses—I daresay a great number of them are out of order—raising all these intricate and difficult questions of national finance which, if they are to be adequately and properly discussed in the full sense, would take weeks and months of Parliamentary time. The thing is farcical and absurd. A promise was made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that opportunity should be given for the full discussion of the new Clauses, such as are usually put down. But is this the usual form in which new clauses are put down. No, it is not usual. This very much smaller Bill has been seized upon for the very first time in our Parliamentary history for the erection of this gigantic structure of the Amendments and new Clauses. Unless the House of Commons is going to be rendered absolutely futile through its own action, unless it is to become an absurd Parliamentary machine, it is necessary that it should assent to some proposal, such as I am making. I conceive that we are not only amply redeeming our pledges, but we are giving a wide and even generous construction, and the most liberal interpretation to these pledges when we ask the House to bring to a close the further stages of this measure on Wednesday night.
The right horn Gentleman the Prime Minister has spent a great deal of time and ingenuity in trying to persuade an astonished House that he is carrying out here in the month of March pledges so generously and even so lavishly given in the month 916 of November. I remember that when the first of those elaborate series of pledges was given in November my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) asked if there were any statutory obligations on the part of the Government to carry them out. The right hon. Gentleman, with a considerable show of indignation, said no statutory safeguards were required, and, after the pledges were given by the Government, the interests of the House were safe in their hands if they were returned to power. We now have, with the fullest information before us, an opportunity of seeing how far the interests of the House, in the full meaning of those pledges, have been safeguarded in the hands of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that Bench. We have only to consider the extraordinary straits which the Prime Minister has been put to in order to make out his case to see, at all events, that he has suffered some anxious quarters of an hour in trying to bring into something that looks like harmony the generosity of the promises and the niggardly character of their fulfilment. Just consider! The right hon. Gentleman even tried to make a calculation of the time already given to this Bill, and he counted—with some deductions, the principle of which I did not perfectly understand—the hours of an all-night sitting.
The right hon. Gentleman made a deduction. I do not know why he deducted eight hours. At all events, the result was that he found himself able arithmetically to represent a single sitting as a sitting on two parliamentary days.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The two days are made out of that sitting and of the Friday sitting.
The House debated the Bill from four o'clock one afternoon till about ten o'clock the next morning. From that the right hon. Gentleman deducts eight hours, and he therefore considers there was a legitimate discussion up till four o'clock in the morning. [HON. MEMBERS: "Two o'clock."] At any rate, during those eight hours which the right hon. Gentleman so glibly deducts we had new proposals made to this House which were not suggested in the original promise, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor 917 of the Exchequer, I presume, did not contemplate last year, and which, as introduced this year, are entirely novel proposals, going to the root of the finance of every local authority in the kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman, in a spirit of paradox audacious and almost unexcelled, represents these proposals as a concession to this House. Is there a single man off the Treasury Bench who thinks it is a concession? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] There are two hon. Members perhaps. I listened to that Debate. I heard man after man get up behind the Ministerial Front Bench and denounce the proposals from the point of view of the local authorities. I heard hon. Gentlemen from Ire land explaining that they meant the ruin of the interests of intermediate education in that country——
And I believe it is only the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister who thinks that the local authorities have cause to bless them for the new provision now introduced into the Bill. It would be out of Order and extremely inexpedient if it were in Order, for me to discuss the merits of that Clause. It was a new Clause—a new Clause not contemplated when the original promise was made. It was not known to the House when the right hon. Gentleman talked about this six and a-half days, and yet that is the Clause of all others which the Government select to begin to discuss at a quarter-past four and to finish at ten o'clock in the morning—a most amazing specimen of Parliamentary strategy.
Then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to talk of the amazing outburst of legislative activity shown by the fact that the 130 new Clauses have been given notice of. He himself subsequently stated that probably a great many were out of order. A very small survey of the Order Paper would also have shown him that a great number were duplicates and were down in more names than one. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman should give to the House and the country this suggestion, seeing that so many are new Clauses in name only, being down in duplicate.
I cannot say. I did not come down prepared with statistics on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman did. My complaint is that his statistics are fallacious on the face of them. I am amazed 918 on another point on which the right hon. Gentleman laid great stress. He told us that the Budget itself was simply a collection of concessions, and that the new Clauses were outside its ordinary provisions. So they are; but it was distinctly contemplated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by himself that new Clauses should be moved raising general questions of taxation. It is only by new clauses that Amendments to the existing system of taxation can be introduced, and when the right hon. Gentleman says there will be a new Budget in some months it is a strange expression. We live and learn as to the methods of bringing in Budgets of the right hon. Gentleman. Usually May is late for the Budget; April is the ordinary month. The right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that either April or May may see the next Budget; it is to come after some months! That by the way. The point is it was perfectly present to the mind of the Government when they made these pledges that the Budget had all the qualities which now the right hon. Gentleman attributes to it. It was a Budget dealing only with relatively uncontroversial matters, and with temporary provisions, and it would have to be followed by another Budget in a certain number of weeks or months. Both right hon. Gentlemen knew all that when they made the pledge, and both he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer distinctly contemplated that there would be asked for by the opposition and given by the Government full and ample opportunity for surveying the whole field of finance. I think one of the strangest pleas which the right hon. Gentleman put forward in extenuation is that he announced early in the Session, before anybody had seen the Bill or knew that it was a different Bill to that which we had had before that, he contemplated giving six and a-half days to it before the end of the financial year, and that none of the Opposition rose and protested against the exigeous allowance of time which he and his friends were prepared to give us. The right hon. Gentleman's experience is sufficiently long for him to know that it is not the business of an Opposition to calculate the time necesasry, nor are they in a position to do so. They cannot foretell any more than the Government—in fact, they are less able—how long a time they will require to give to these questions. They cannot foretell because they have not seen the Bill and the Government have. Has an Opposition before a Bill 919 was introduced ever suggested the number of days that they think proper for its discussion? Has any Opposition ever committed itself to a proposal of that kind? Did an Opposition ever rise and protest before a Bill was introduced that a suggested allowance of time was insufficient? No. We assumed, as it turned out, rashly and foolishly, that when we were promised ample opportunities for discussion, ample opportunities would be given. We assumed that the Government knew the Bill, and would arrange the time of the House so as to provide the proper time for discussion. We did not get up—it would have been unfair to the Government to do so—at that stage and say, "You really do not mean to carry out your promise to give us ample time for discussion, and we ask you to give us more." We assumed, of course—I do not know why I say "of course"—we assumed that the Government would carry out their promise and would see every pledge fulfilled in the amplest form. I think of all the many preposterous arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has urged, the most preposterous is that we did not protest as we do now protest before we had seen the Bill, or before we had an opportunity of making out a timetable, and that we acquiesced patiently and silently in his calculations. That is not the kind of silence that gives consent. It has never been considered to give consent, and the right hon. Gentleman must have known with all his Parliamentary experience that before a Bill is introduced no Opposition has ever thought of saying what time they require for discussion.
What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say. He said that opportunity will be given if we are responsible for the conduct of affairs as soon as this House reassembles before the end of the financial year. What is the meaning of the phrase "as soon as this House reassembles." Listening to that we assumed, and were entitled to assume, that when the House met, and if a majority was still found for the present Government, they would devote their time before the end of the financial year to giving the amplest opportunity for discussing this Bill. They have not done so; they have avowedly not done so; and we all know why. We all know the reason the right hon. Gentleman has not given us adequate time is that he chose to take one day out of his legislative time for dealing with a controversy with his 920 Friends below the Gangway about a matter which might perfectly well have been settled after the financial year was over, and to give a week—more than a week, I think—to the discussion of the Parliament Bill. That is the reason, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite no doubt think it a sufficient reason. I do not think it is a sufficient reason for breaking a pledge. I am aware that immense pressure was put upon the Government by the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side and hon. Gentlemen opposite not merely to get the Parliament Bill through this House, but to get it through with great speed. I am aware that unless the Government hurry on with that Bill at the cost of private Members' time and of their own pledges with regard to these financial discussions, it is thought they will not be showing that they are sincere. I think that is very hard upon the Government. I do not think they have shown any want of sincerity in this matter. Of course, there is no doubt that if they wish to get that Bill through the House of Commons, they can do so without the least difficulty in the course of the present Session, and carry out their pledges and without taking the time of private Members. There is no difficulty to anybody who knows anything about Parliamentary matters, and why they have been driven against their will to sacrifice the rights of private Members and the freedom of discussion of this House—to sacrifice the security with which we have hitherto looked to the pledges given by the Government I am perfectly unable to understand.
It has nothing to do with the passage of the Parliament Bill through this House, which, in the hands of the majority which the Government command, is of course, an absolute certainty if the Government desire to do it. Nobody doubts that. Then why are we not getting that which we were promised? Why has the right hon. Gentleman reached the climax of his career as a curtailer of the liberties of the House and private Members' privileges? There was a time, after the right hon. Gentleman had had a long experience of this House, and within a few months of his taking office in 1905, when he made the last of a series of speeches against myself and my hon. Friends who were at that time in office. He accused us, and used much invective, of being conspirators against the liberties of the House. The violence of his invective could not have been exceeded it I had been another Cata- 921 line. If hon. Members want to look back to a finished specimen of violent invective I would recommend them to study the method of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was made upon a Motion to enable the Estimates to be carried through before the end of the financial year. Then we could not carry out the statute law unless we got what we asked for with a view to closing supply. Then we had not taken a single moment of parliamentary time for our legislation; we had used, to the best of our ability, all the time that did not belong to private Members for carrying out our financial obligations before 31st March. That was our case. Those were the circumstances in which the right hon. Gentleman came down and denounced us as destroyers of parliamentary liberties—people who recklessly sacrificed the ancient traditions of the House to our party exigencies—and he was backed up by the serried ranks who are now sitting silent and forgetful—who are obliged to be silent and find it convenient to be forgetful, and who nevertheless, if they would only refresh their memories, would see that I have by no means exaggerated the line taken by their party and their Leader, the Prime Minister, on the very eve of taking office.
It is quite clear, I think, that looking at the matter altogether apart from ordinary party politics, one party cannot be expected to give up the advantage of using all moves taken by the opposing party; but there is no resemblance between the case of closure by compartments by the Government's predecessors and their own. There is no comparison whatever. I think, in ten years, we did it about eight times, and they have done it about twenty times in five years. They have dealt with three Budgets, and have had somewhere about twenty other closures. They have started a precedent of that character, no doubt, whether it is to be a usual precedent or not. I do not deny that the closure by compartments is occasionally necessary; I never have denied it; at least, I have not denied it ever since the earlier days when these changes in our rules began to be made; but I say that this Government have been absolutely reckless in their use of it, and their recklessness is incomparably cynical if you look at the professions by which it was immediately preceded. They were not content with ordinary Parliamentary attack of this proceeding, their attack was excessive in its violence, and their professions 922 of principles were blatant; but on the first occasion they not only fall to the low level of their predecessors, but they tumble infinitely below it. They have added to the general error, particular errors, which I think ought to call down upon them the severest condemnation of this House, and for this reason, that they for the first time in this Session deprived private Members of their rights, secured to them when we reformed our rules. For the first time on this occasion also, as I have ventured to show to the House, they have stretched and twisted their own speeches in order to carry out their own policy, or the policy forced on them by others.
The results, so far as the House is concerned, are disastrous. What does a Member see, who came into the House for the first time after the election of 1910, of the liberties of the House? I speak for a good many on both sides of the House who have never seen any Parliament before 1910. The Budget of 1909–10 was deferred until 1910–11. When it came on in 1910–11 it was closured and the proper Budget of 1910–11 was first put off, at the instance of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond), from the summer till the autumn, and put off again, at the instance of the hon. and learned Gentleman, till November. And we now see, again under the influence of the hon. and learned Gentleman, how those pledges were carried out. As to the rights of private Members, they, for the first time, and for no reason whatever that I know of, have been absolutely destroyed. Had the Government done what it ought clearly to have done and used the time at their disposal for the financial business of the year, that financial business being swelled by the new Budget, we might have felt we had not time to discuss all these things as we should have liked, but, if it be true, as the right hon. Gentleman has assumed, though he did not say it, that this Bill must be passed in order to keep the law before 31st March, we should have understood that when 31st March approached, if all the time had been given to financial business, the Government were in the same unfavourable position that their predecessors were in in 1905, and the right hon. Gentleman would no doubt have felt that his speech in 1905, though a masterpiece of eloquence, was almost too relevant to be an agreeable recollection, and we, on our part, if the Government had really done their best by giving the whole of the time for the busi- 923 ness which they declared to be necessary, should have felt, whether we liked it or not, that there was a great deal to be said for the Government when they curtailed our liberties. But now they have not only broken their pledges, but they have broken them unnecessarily. They cannot plead necessity. Had they used the time of the House as we used the time of the House in 1905, had they only dealt with fianncial business or the Budget of the year, they would at all events have done their best to carry out the promises they made in different circumstances. As it is, and with the history of the last few weeks present to our minds, I can only say I think the treatment which the Government have meted out, not merely to the Opposition, but to the House generally, and the discredit they have thrown on Parliamentary pledges given by responsible Ministers are of the most serious and fateful import to the future proceedings of this House.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
We propose to support this Resolution, and the reason for our doing so can be expressed in a very few sentences. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour), for about the half-dozenth time since this Session started, has accused the Government of seriously breaking pledges. We are getting rather accustomed to it. I was under the impression that the accusation of breaking a pledge was something so very serious that it was not to be put to daily use when it suited the Opposition to make it. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman himself has confessed, by the extracts to which he refers, that what the Government said was that adequate time should be given to the discussion of financial business before the end of the year, and, after all, the question, therefore, is not whether a pledge was broken, but whether ample time was given. Following upon that, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking for the Conservative party, assumes that he and they alone are the only section of the House that is to be considered when the Government is devising its business and adjusting its programme.
I desire on behalf of a minority, of a party in this House quite as independent as the Conservatives—[Cheers]—that rouses the ire of hon. Gentlemen opposite; I am delighted to repeat it—quite as independent as the Conservative party—to put in a claim, and to do everything I can to insist upon that claim being observed, for having a share in the settlement of the business of the House, whatever Government may 924 be in office. And when hon. Gentlemen opposite come and tell us that because they desired finance business to have been taken from the time that the Speech from the Throne was settled to 31st March, I for one, and on behalf of my friends who co-operate with me, put in a caveat against that. We have as much right to have days set aside for the discussion of our interests as the Tory party. Therefore, after all, if we thought that the pledge consisted in the Prime Minister coming to an agreement with the regular Opposition to give up the whole of the time between the be ginning of this Session until the end of this month to finance business, we certainly should have put in a most emphatic protest, and carried it if necessary to the Division Lobbies.
The pledge given was that ample time should be given for the discussion of this Bill. What time has been given? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) has said nothing about the three days to be devoted to the discussion of the Bill today, to-morrow, and the next day. If those three days had been devoted to the discussion of the Bill does anyone seriously mean to say that such of these new Clauses as are in order, and such of them as are serious, could not have been discussed adequately and the Report Stage and the Third Reading taken before Wednesday night. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had some other object in view good and well, but they must not assume an amazing amount of innocence on our part, which is certainly not our own possession. I saw, before this House met at all, what seemed to be rather inspired paragraphs in the Conservative Press that Committees were going to be appointed for the purpose of bringing collective wisdom and ingenuity to bear upon the drafting of Amendments and the devising of new Clauses for this Bill. Not that the Bill itself might be made better than it is, not that this House might re-assert its control over business and not that the taxpayers of the country might be benefited, but all these things were to be done, all these conclaves were to meet and all these Amendments to be put upon the paper to throw the Bill over 31st March. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said so?"] That was the suggestion in the newspapers. Hon. Gentlemen deny it. It is simply a matter of common knowledge, so much so that I never assumed for a single moment that hon. Gentlemen opposite would contradict it. But supposing it is so. Who is going to stand up with this Order Paper in his 925 hand and tell us that the 130 new Clauses which are down are meant simply for the purpose of improving legislation? After all, we must consider these things from the point of view of men of ordinary experience and ordinary commonsense. There never has been a Finance Bill, a first-class Finance Bill—and this is only a fourth class Finance Bill—that has been subject to such a flood of new Clauses. The fact of the matter is that if these three days had been given to the discussion of the Bill there is not a single important proposal that is germane to the Bill or that would have been raised in the ordinary course of the business of the House, which could not have been adequately discussed and the Bill gone through all its stages by eleven o'clock on Wednesday evening.
What I am concerned with is the dignity and efficiency of this House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) referred to the Prime Minister as the curtailer of the liberties of the House. I think we are in grave danger of the Leaders of certain parties taking up such attitudes as would justify us in applying to them the epithet of abuser of the privileges of this House, of putting what is not the liberties of private Members but the licence allowed to private Members under our Standing Orders into operation. After all, those of us who want some real work done, who want the time of the House economised, and who desire that the House should remain an efficient debating assembly and an efficient deliberating assembly as well, must protest and take such action as we are going to take as soon as hon. Gentlemen opposite allow us—I mean, going into the Lobby in favour of the Resolution, against this elongation of discussion, which, after all, may be quite within the bounds set down by the Standing Orders but is not always within the bounds of the spirit of the Standing Orders. The business that is before us to-day is a business germane to the assertion of the House of Commons of authority over itself. This proposal of the guillotine is an unpleasant one. It is not the sort of thing that one cares to support, but nevertheless under the circumstances and under the conditions of business, more particularly as displayed by the Order Paper which will presently be before us, such a stop is absolutely inevitable, and the Government would not be doing its duty if it did not take it. We have now come to this state when a small party, even this small party here, if we cared to do so, could practically block the 926 most important business that comes before the House. All we have to do is to lay our heads together and to take the ordinary opportunities given up under the Standing Orders. I hope the hon. Members with whom I act will never adopt such methods to make their will felt and to carry out what little authority they may have in this House. We are now in the position when a small body of men can make it practically impossible for the majority of the House to initiate discussion and to carry on business such as it desires. The move that is before us is so apparent, so naked, so gross, that so far as I am concerned, I shall vote with the greatest pleasure to assert the power of this House to do its work as it desires and to carry out its pledges to its constituents.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The independence of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) and the party to which he belongs is well illustrated in the attitude taken up in the speeches which he makes. I do not think that any one, not even his own party, who gave a very frigid reception to the speech, will accept without further proof his statement that he belongs to an independent party. There never was a party in this House so under the heel of another party as the Independent Labour Party. When the hon. Gentleman gets up and in his best Cicero style makes such a speech as that to which we have just listened, he may please his Constituents at Leicester, but he does not convince the House of Commons. We have had an illustration this afternoon of the disadvantages of having Government not by one party, but by three parties, and I do not know how many sub-parties. We see that such a Government has resolved itself into not what we have hitherto enjoyed, Government by one party, but into a sort of mob rule, in which any one, even the hon. Member for Leicester, can lead the House of Commons. It is rather remarkable to hear such a speech made by the hon. Member when you compare it with some of the speeches which have been made by the hon. Gentleman's Friends in the course of previous Parliaments. I do not myself attach much importance to what they said during the 1900 Parliament, for they were then in Opposition, but if the right hon. Gentleman opposite will cast back his mind to the speeches which were made by himself and the Postmaster-General in last Parliament and in the previous Parliament, he will see that 927 the course now proposed to be taken is not quite consistent with their previous utterances. On 28th July, 1909, the Postmaster-General, speaking of the "Kangaroo" Closure said:—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 as 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1909, col. 1251.]I would ask the House of Commons to notice that the right hon. Gentleman and his Government then realised the inconvenience and the degradation of financial discussion under what is known as the "Kangaroo" closure. They have thrown over absolutely that method of procedure, and they now go back to the old closure, which they refused to have then. It is obvious, therefore, that so far as hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are concerned, they have scored a considerable triumph this afternoon. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) and the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel) on the success they have achieved as the result of the negotiations which have been going on upstairs during the past four days. They have succeeded in making the Government go back on their pledges and alter their procedure as well. Although it may be a little hard for them to continue to sit with the broad steps of the Gangway between them and the Treasury Bench, still they have the consolation that if it is not possible for them to sit on the Treasury Bench, it is possible for them to drive in front of them those who sit on that bench. In this respect hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are in the position of people who are anxious to catch a train in order to reach their destination. That destination is the passing of the Parliament Bill. I do not quarrel with that attitude from their point of view, but what I do quarrel with is that they should be able to look upon the Government as a sort of booking office to facilitate their getting to that destination. We have never before had a Government 928 supported by three parties, and one of those parties keeping the Government of the day in absolute subjection.
If the attitude of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway is capable of explanation, the attitude of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway is, in my opinion, hardly capable of explanation. They have no wish, so far as I know, to see this grand revolution hurried on at the pace proposed by the Government. I trust that the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) and others will raise their voices in protest against this proposal. They have raised their voices against similar proposals earlier in the Session. I can only understand the attitude of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on the assumption that some of them hope that by supporting and voting for this Resolution they will so facilitate the progress of the Parliament Bill that they will obtain the rewards which they are hoping for at an earlier date than they otherwise would do. I can only say that if hon. Gentlemen hold that view their honour has been bought at too high a price, and that price is the degradation of the House of Commons. Apart from that I cannot help feeling that the coronets will press somewhat heavily on some of their brows. That is clear so far as hon. Members above the Gangway are concerned when they give support to the Resolution. I have not the slightest doubt that the Resolution will be passed by an overwhelming majority. I am absolutely certain that a Government which proposes a Resolution of this kind—one of a long series of Resolutions shackling the House of Commons—has lost the right to be called a Government and has become an instrument of tyranny. What I think is the nauseating part of the situation is that hon. Gentlemen who do these acts of tyranny justify them by saying that they are only carrying out the will of the people all the while. I hope that the people of this country will be delivered at an early date from having such servants, and that this House which so subserviently follows them will be preserved from having such masters. I have only one advice to give to hon. Members opposite, and that is the next time they march to Limehouse they will have another banner, bearing the inscription, "The Prostitution of Parliament."
Mr. J. W. WILSON
I wish to offer a few observations in regard to the remarks that fell from the Leader of the Opposition, and particularly in regard to private 929 Members' time. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that if the Government had introduced the Estimates early in the Session, and gone forward without taking the private Members' time, and had devoted all the time they had at their disposal to the consideration of the Revenue Bill there would have been ample opportunity for fulfilling the pledges which he alleged were given in November last. I submit that by taking the private Members' time between 16th February and 31st March, amounting to nine Parliamentary days, the Government have taken the best course possible. The Leader of the Opposition admitted that there was a certain amount of time necessary for the discussion of the Votes, and we know that the Opposition have been pressing for more days than the Government have given to the Army and Navy Votes. Therefore, I contend, that by the course the Government adopted in borrowing, so to speak, the private Members' time, and devoting all that time to the consideration of the Parliament Bill and giving all the rest at their disposal to the Revenue Bill, they have more than fulfilled the pledges which were given.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
The hon. Member (Mr. J. W. Wilson) has endeavoured to defend the Government against the charge of having placed the business of this House in a muddle. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) always says two things when he addresses the House. In the first place he says that he leads an independent party, and secondly that he endeavours to support the rights of private Members in this House. He also speaks of the dignity and the power of this House. I should like to ask him whether he really thinks that on this occasion, when an extension of the Closure is proposed he is effectually asserting the rights and privileges of private Members. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House who are Members of a new Parliament, come here ostensibly to support the Government, and they are prepared to carry out the mandates and obey the behests of the Government whatever they may be.
But they should realise that they will not always be supporting the Government of the day, and when they are on these benches they will realise, as we have been able to realise in the short time we have been in the House, that the rights and privileges of private Members are entirely a thing of the past, and that power is 930 gradually and more than over being placed in the hands of the Government to do exactly what they want with regard to all the business of this House. I am perfectly convinced that the people of this country who send us here, and believe that we are in a position to put forward their views, are entirely in ignorance of the real state of affairs in this House or the manner in which the Prime Minister has increased the use of the guillotine so that the private Member has very little power of putting forward those views with which he has been entrusted by his constituents. With regard to this further extension of the use of the Closure resolutions, there are a great many matters on which it is possible to comment. We heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he proposed that there should be full opportunity for discussion given to the Revenue Bill, and we were also told by the Prime Minister—I do not know whether he quite used the expression, but it was used by an hon. Member below the Gangway—that only the serious clauses should receive discussion in this House. I do not know that the Prime Minister or any hon. Gentleman on that side of the House has a right to judge what a serious clause is. The Prime Minister tells us that the Bill which we are discussing is a replica of the old Budget, that it imposes no new taxation, and that it is composed merely of concession to hon. Gentlemen in this House. I think he almost made himself responsible for saying that they are concessions to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. That does not happen to be the case; but when we are told that it is the old Budget we must remember that 130 Members of this House who sit on this side were returned with the express purpose of criticising what is known as the people's Budget, and that since they have been in the House they have had no opportunity whatever of discussing that question because the Government passed that Budget by what they called their unprecedented majority. I suppose no further Member is to be allowed to have any further discussion whatever on it.
The Prime Minister has made a great point of 130 Clauses. He knows perfectly well that a great many of those are duplicates and a great many are not in order and cannot be discussed, and when we hear hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that the majority last January was due to the rejection of the Budget and the desire of the people to have that Budget, it is only 931 just and right that those 130 Members who were returned to this House for the purpose of criticising the Budget should have full opportunity for discussing it and should be able to put forward the views which they were returned to put forward. That is a view which seems to have escaped altogether the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Prime Minister has told us that he has given ample time for discussing the Clauses of the Revenue Bill. He might quite as well wipe out the whole of that unfortunate occasion when the right hon. Gentleman at present on the Front Bench opposite (Mr. Churchill) was occupied in making his most lamentable experiment of leading the House. The recollection of that night will not pass from our memory. The Prime Minister referred to the solid eight hours' discussion of that Bill, but I venture to say that from the moment the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) took up the leadership of the House in the absence of the Prime Minister the discussion which followed should be entirely eliminated, when considering efficient discussion, because a more truculent attitude than that adopted in leading the House has never been displayed by any individual called upon to lead the House of Commons. I have no doubt he will regret that night to his dying day. I do not think that his subservient followers who sit behind him or below the Gangway, or either side of the House, can look back to the manner in which he led the House on that occasion with feelings of satisfaction. I do not think that any one can contend that the discussion of the Revenue Bill has been of an adequate character. There are matters in it of the gravest importance, and to say that these Clauses have not the right to be discussed and gone into to the fullest extent is to remove all the previous ideas which we have held with regard to the House of Commons.
When it is said that there are only a few days possible for the discussion of this measure we must remember that that is not the fault of hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House. The fact that the Budget has been relegated to this month of the year is due to the manner in which the Prime Minister has conducted the business of this House. It has been completely postponed, as the Leader of the Opposition told us, and been postponed for no ostensible reason. It was perfectly possible instead of flying to the country in December last to discuss the whole of this Budget that month, but the 932 right hon. Gentleman thought entirely differently, and that he had some reason, with which we are not fully acquainted at the present moment, for taking the opinion of the people with regard to a Parliament Bill of which they knew nothing whatever. Then we are given six-and-a-half days to discuss a Revenue Bill of the greatest possible importance, and to discuss it at a time when the House of Commons is of a different character, and when the views of those hon. Gentlemen are brought forward in the Clauses they have put down for insertion in the Revenue Bill. I need hardly say I have never lost an opportunity in this House of objecting to the closure, even in the mild form in which it was brought in when I first came into the House, but since that time I have seen extensions of the guillotine resolutions, which I am sure would have astonished the right hon. Gentleman if he could have contemplated how greatly they would develop in the five years; and I shall with the greatest possible pleasure record my vote in opposition to this Motion.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
I rise to utter my protest against the course which the Government propose on this occasion, not so much because of the curtailment of time, but because I think the proposals go to very first principles and may have very far-reaching effects. There are some people in the country who still think that this country is governed by what is called a representative Government. That is very far from the fact at the present day. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Balfour) referred to those who had been in Parliament only since the beginning of 1910. I speak as one of those, and, judging from my own experience of what I have seen here since that time, the proceedings of this House are a mere travesty of representative Government. Members of Parliament who are sent here by their constituents in the hope that they may be able to put the views of the constituents before Parliament find that they cannot do so. We are governed by a committee of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Treasury Bench, and who are called the Cabinet of the day. They have succeeded in getting together a majority of those who sit in this House—I need not tell hon. Members by what methods—and they have had to try to keep them together first of all by infringing upon all rights of private Members, and then postponing, perhaps, the most important business of the year, 933 the financial business. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said just now that he really wished this House would get to something like real business. I suppose he does not consider the financial questions of the year real business. He does not consider the multiplication of taxation or considering the interests of the taxpayers as real business. Nothing of the kind is real business in his opinion. He must begin the work of destroying the Constitution of the United Kingdom. I submit that at the present moment representative Government does not exist. Things could not be worse if we were living under the uncontrolled tyranny of an oligarchy. [An HON. MEMBER: "We might be better off if we were."] I am rather inclined to agree with that hon. Member who says, "We might be better off if we were."
Take, for instance, these proceedings. I submit to hon. Members on both sides of this House that they are a gross breach of faith, and an unnecessary attack upon the privileges of this House. Who was responsible for there not being sufficient time to discuss the finances of the year? [An HON. MEMBER: "The House of Lords."] I do not think that any hon. Member in this House would say that the proceedings on this Revenue Bill either before or since Christmas have been discussed at any undue length. I submit that the real reason was that the Government, in November, for their own party purposes, and for no other reason, suddenly made up their minds to go to the country. There was no other reason. They had a majority behind them in this House. There was no deadlock between this House and another place, but for some reason or other they thought they could get a party advantage out of this, and they suddenly decided to split their Budget in two. There were certain pledges given to us on that occasion. Some of them have been referred to to-day. There is one which has not been referred to of which I would remind hon. Members below the Gangway who have shown great independence of mind on other occasions. Some of them since the last election, I am sorry to say, have not come back. The Prime Minister in November last, when he brought in his guillotine Resolution, admitted it was introducing a novelty into the procedure of this House. He said:—And here I agree that our proposal is a novel one both in substance and to some extent in form. It is novel in substance because I do not think that what are called guillotine resolutions have ever been formally applied to the finances of the year.934 Those are the words of the Prime Minister himself, and though he is the Leader of the so-called Liberal party, I do think that he, at all events, still has some respect for the rights and privileges of private Members of this House. I think he seemed to have some qualms of conscience as to what he proposed, and that it was done because of the action of members of his own party who sit below the Gangway. The Prime Minister went on to say:—I am strongly of opinion that the House of Commons should not only maintain its exclusive control over finance, but should not be deprived of the opportunity which from time immemorial it has enjoyed of criticising these proposals at every stage and at the fullest possible length.The right hon. Gentleman further went on to say:—Therefore, If I thought that the proposal I am now making would have the effect of depriving the House of that power, I should not only be very loth to make it, but I do not think I could bring myself to make it at all.I submit this was a distinct pledge that we should have an opportunity of discussing the Revenue Bill, and that we should have an opportunity of proposing modifications of the taxation or of discussing the Revenue Bill at every stage to the fullest possible extent. Have we had that opportunity? There can only be but one answer to that, I submit. No. It is only in the Committee stage that hon. Members have an opportunity of making proposals for the alleviation of taxation in favour of the taxpayer; but we are deprived of that opportunity. The Prime Minister in the same speech, though he did not quote it to-day, said:—Nor do we intend, as it appears from what I have already said, to deprive the House of Commons of the power it possesses and should always possess, whatever may be the new taxes of the year, to take into consideration the general scheme of the taxation of the country and proposing, if occasion requires, modification of taxes which are already on the Statute Book, and which must be done by the machinery of the new clauses. I think the House should maintain that control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1910, cols. 204–205.]That is just what we on this side of the House wish to do. There may be 136 or 138 new Clauses—I have not counted them—but there are some, at all events, which are brought forward in a business sense. [An HON. MEMBER: "The whole of them."] I cannot undertake to vouch for everybody's new Clause, and I tell hon. Members perfectly frankly that I have not read them all; therefore I cannot express any personal opinion as to the whole or some of them. I know, however, that certain of the new Clauses have been brought forward by hon. Members in a business sense 935 for the express purpose of representing the views of their constituents, and for the purpose of alleviating unjust taxation. I myself have one new Clause on the paper which, if it could have been passed through this House would not have been on party lines at all, and I think in all probability it would have received support from all portions of the House. But what chance have I of moving that new Clause? Not the remotest. I shall have no opportunity of putting the views of my constituents before the House in the Committee Stage, and I submit that it is most unjust to private Members of this House. There has been a gross breach of faith and of the pledges that the Prime Minister gave in his place in this House on the 21st November, 1910, and that is one of the reasons why I strongly oppose the Resolution. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister, had he been left to himself, would have taken this course. Having regard to what he has said on previous occasions, and the desire he has shown, even during this Session, as far as lay within his power, to protect the rights and privileges of this House, we are forced to the conclusion that, such is the pressure which has been put upon him, that such are the exigencies of his position, and such are the difficulties raised by the heterogeneous party, composed of different sections, each pursuing its selfish and particular ends, he has got to take this course. Why is the Prime Minister not here? I should have liked to say this to his face, for it is worth repeating. In November of 1910 he was protesting that he could never bring himself to do this thing, and now, two or three months afterwards, he is proposing to take the very course which he then said ought not to followed. It is left to him as the Leader of this misnamed Liberal party to once more strike a serious blow at the liberties of the people and destroy one of the most valued privileges of this House of Commons.
§ Mr. GEORGE YOUNGER
I desire to join in the chorus of protest that has been made on this side of the House against this very astounding Resolution. I wish the Prime Minister had been in his place, for I desire to say that he has submitted it with much less than his usual fairness and candour. I have never heard the Prime Minister during all the time I have been in this House bring forward such weak arguments in favour of any position which he has taken up. He was very much 936 put to it to find any arguments at all, and those he did find were not worthy of his great ability. What did he place before us?—the fact that there are 136 new Clauses placed on the Notice Paper, Some of these we know are duplicated. Others, we are told, are out of order. I doubt that very greatly. Because it is not very easy to find a Clause dealing with a Budget of this kind and with the taxation it imposes which is out of order. I believe most of the Clauses are in order. I am certain that those for which I am responsible are in order, not because I myself am a great authority on the Rules of Order, but because I took very good care to consult those who are great authorities. Therefore, I think that, under the circumstances, we are entitled to protest very strongly against being deprived of an opportunity of having these new Clauses discussed. I object to the Prime Minister laying stress on the fact of these new Clauses being proposed, because nobody knows better than he that it is only by such Clauses it is possible to deal with these questions at all. What would be thought of the Opposition which only put down 120 or 130 ordinary Amendments to a Bill of this class? They would be thought to be neglecting their opportunities; they would be thought not to be giving proper food for discussion. If you analysed these Clauses carefully—the Prime Minister has only done so to suit his own purposes—it would be found that there is not a single new Clause on the Paper which traverses or deals with many of the subjects of taxation which were entirely novel and which were produced in the Budget of 1909–10. It was open to the Opposition, if they had chosen, to raise every tax in the schedule, and propose a reduction of it; and the fact that we have not done so is the very best proof we can give in this House that there was no intention of raising factiously any questions of that kind.
As we thought, on the Second Reading of the Bill, the proper time to do it is on the Budget of next year. Surely we are entitled to some credit for that. Therefore, if hon. Members will carefully look through these Clauses they will find that, for the mast part, they deal with questions of administration, and with very great cases of hardship which have arisen under the new taxes. The Clauses we have put down deal with questions as to which even the Government themselves believe that alteration should be made. Some of them, I grant, will be in time for the taxation of the present year; others will not be in time for the taxation 937 of the year if they are not reached now, and those Clauses cannot possibly be reached under this guillotine Resolution. The earlier Clauses which are on the Paper will occupy the whole of the time tomorrow, and fewer will occupy the time on Wednesday; yet this is what the Prime Minister told the House, in November of 1910, is giving proper time for the consideration of this great scheme of new taxation imposed on the country in 1909–10, and which we have not been in a position to discuss at all until this very moment. This is the first opportunity we have had of discussing or moving anything in relation to those taxes, or as to the manner in which they are being administered. It is all very well for the Prime Minister and the Government to deal in this kind of way with public interests, outside this House. It is all very well to come down with a show of indignation against the Opposition, who are doing their best to remedy a great wrong. It is all very well to come down in the heavy father style as not being a bad thing for us, but a little of that heavy father style on this side of the House would not be a bad thing for them. A more lame and feeble proposal than that of the Prime Minister today I have never listened to. I say it is grossly unfair, and that our position has been gravely misrepresented.
The Government are responsible for having got the business of this House into a tangle. The responsibility rests with them. It is said it is necessary to get the Bill by the 31st March. I have very great doubt about that myself; I do not believe they will require the Bill by that date; I should very much like some one in authority to tell us whether we are right or wrong as to the negal necessity of having this Bill by the 31st March. If there is that legal necessity, then the Government should have sought to carry out their pledges, and not played fast and loose with the time of the House since February, when we met. We are entitled to protest, and we do protest, against important interests being compelled to suffer. I believe in regard to many of these Clauses that, if they had been discussed by the Government in the spirit in which I am sure we should have discussed them, Ministers would have realised, as they do now in many cases, that some concessions are required, and many of these people who are suffering serious hardship would have gained some little relaxation. We cannot do so now. Even if we get these concessions on the next Budget, they 938 will be rather too late to affect some of these taxes. Under these circumstances, I do think it a very great scandal that the time of this House should be so mismanaged, and in many cases so thoroughly wasted, that great interests, which are deserving of some consideration, cannot, for lack of time, receive it.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
There are many unpleasant features, I think, in this Debate, and not the least unpleasant is the Fact that the Prime Minister puts this Motion down and then goes away, and does not listen to anything that is said. That, I think, shows his contempt for this House, and which he has exhibited on so many previous occasions. We have the privilege of seeing the Home Secretary in his place. Of course, the Home Secretary is accustomed so much to nimble juggling, and so often indulges in words, pledges, and promises, that our faculty of resentment is really nearly exhausted. In fact, we rather admire that nimbleness with which he does it. We had not come to regard the Prime Minister in the same attitude. We had thought, all except my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) who occupies this seat, that the Prime Minister's pledges were things to be observed. We have now learned this Session that they are not. I confess I would rather that the Prime Minister came down to the House and frankly said that circumstances had been such that he is unable to observe those pledges than that he should try and get out of them by the ridiculous quibbles with which he indulged the House this afternoon. What did he say? He said we were going to have full opportunity for discussion before the end of the financial year. I would call the attention of the House to those words, "the end of the financial year," to show what was intended to be done. Those words were no doubt intended to be a concession to us on this side, and a promise that we should have the fullest possible opportunity of discussing those parts of the Budget which were left over before the end of the financial year. Those words, if they meant anything, were intended to be a benefit to the Opposition, and now the right hon. Gentleman comes and twists those words to mean a pledge that the Budget had to be finished before the end of the financial year. Therefore, he is pleased to observe only one part of the pledge, and not that part of it which dealt with full opportunity of discussion.
939 Enough, perhaps, about pledges. We, as the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) reminded us, are often finding ourselves in the position of having to accuse the Government of breaches of pledges. I agree with him it is unfortunate, and most unfortunate, that it is so. But I think the fault lies not with us, but with those who break their pledges in the wholesale manner to which we are now accustomed. Another most unpleasant feature of the discussion was one about which we are not in the least surprised, and that was the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. The hon. Member indulged in that cant which is the peculiar property of the Labour party, the cant of independence, the cant of caring for the liberties of this House, when they are neither independent on the one hand, nor care a fig for the liberties of this House on the other. In fact, I do not believe they care for liberty anywhere. The last thing the Labour party want is liberty. The one thing they want to indulge in is tyranny over those who support them in the country. As an illustration of that in the country, I read this morning of what took place in South Wales, where there is a strike. They took a ballot which is sup posed of all things to be the most secret, and the way they took that ballot was to give to each man two pieces of paper, one of which he was to put into a box——
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
On a point of Order, may I ask if the strike in South Wales has anything to do with the Motion?
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
As an illustration of the sense of liberty and the desire for tyranny which is indulged in by the Members of the Labour party over their followers in the country who have been egged on by them to those acts. The illustration is that they have a ballot and each man has two pieces of paper given to him going into the ballot box. One of those pieces of paper is to be put into the box and the other can be carried away. A pin is provided, so that the men may pin those pieces they carry away on to their coats so that their fellow workers know how they voted. That is the way the Labour party or their followers or dupes in the country take a ballot, which is always considered to be the freest possible expression of opinion. If the hon. Member 940 for Leicester had his way, no doubt, that is the way he would like to have this House. No doubt he would like to see this House reduced to being a House of dupes of himself and his friends, in the same way as he has made so many wretched and unfortunate people in the country the dupes of his party.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
If the hon. Member is talking of notices to quit of cottages I do not know to what he alludes. If he is talking of the freedom of election I think he had better investigate his own trade union conditions. Not one word has been said by the Prime Minister of the importance of the things which are contained in the Amendments and new Clauses. The Prime Minister says that it is not an ordinary Bill. He rides off on another quibble that the new Clauses are not such as are usually put down on a Finance Bill, but has there ever been a Bill before like that of the Budget of 1909–10? Has the Prime Minister forgotten that this Revenue Bill is necessitated under the Budget of 1909–10 by the gross, wilful, and malignant perversions of justice which have taken place. Has he forgotten that that Budget was originally designed and intended as a trap? Has he forgotten that happy phraseology of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of which we heard? Has he forgotten all about the Licensing Taxes, and how, when the Licensing Bill was rejected, that those in the Licensing trade were to have their tails twisted by those taxes? Has he forgotten all those episodes which has brought about this Revenue Bill which we are now discussing and seeking to amend? Does he not realise in full all that complexity and all those particulars of injustices, both wilful injustices and heedless injustices, which have been amply availed of by the Exchequer, and that there must be many occasions for discussion of details? Does he not realise, therefore, that this discusison should inevitably take place in this House?
I wonder if the Prime Minister, with that equanimity with which he seems to regard this closuring of Debate in this House, realises how many people there are in the country who are feeling, not alone the burden of taxation, but the effect of absolute poverty and ruin by these taxes? Has he forgotten that a great many of those taxes which were meant only to hit landlords and the 941 wealthier classes—licencees and brewers, who could afford it—have fallen upon people in very small circumstances, and on people who are feeling, and feeling bitterly, from day to day, the injustices done under this iniquitous Budget of 1909–10? Those people have been looking to this House for the opportunity they think ought to come to amend those taxes and to correct some of those monstrous anomalies. What do they find? The opportunity comes, but no sooner has it come than it has gone, and gone because it has been filched away from them by the Prime Minister, who a few years ago, with his colleagues, said that they were going to restore the dignity of the House of Commons. Why does not the Prime Minister come down and say the real reason for this guillotine. We all know what it is. It is not in the least because it is necessary to get this Bill through before the 31st March. Everybody knows that that is not in the least essential. The Bill could perfectly well be postponed to April or May, and nothing would result from it. It is not because he wants to make way for the Parliament Bill, because it is perfectly obvious to anybody in this House that the Parliament Bill could perfectly well pass, even if there was ample discussion, three or four weeks even, of this measure. The real reason is that he dare not have these new Clauses discussed because he has no answer. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to be sneering at the people in this House putting down these new Clauses. He tries to make the House think that it is a matter of obstructive tactics. He seems to find fault, or the hon. Member for Leicester finds fault, because there had been an organisation on the part of the Opposition to deal with these questions.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I thought the hon. Member had referred to it. That criticism failed to recognise that it was all the more reason why they should be discussed because they had been carefully thought out. They are not put down casually. They are Amendments and new Clauses which have been put down after careful consideration and discussion on the Paper, with people well qualified to advise the people who put them down. Moreover, they are put down to rectify grievances which have been brought to our notice from outside. The real reason for this guillotine is that these questions 942 cannot be answered by anybody on the Government Bench. We have had ample means of proving that so far as we have had any discussion at all. Look at the Land Clauses—and here I should like to say I deplore, and we all have cause to deplore, the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the reason for his absence, but I do not think that that absence and the failure of anybody else on the Government side to be able to take up his work is sufficient justification for stifling discussion. Is there anybody else on the Government Bench? There is not a single man on the Government Bench who can deal with these Land Clauses, because none of them know anything about them. The Prime Minister has, I believe, taken up the Licensing Clauses, and I believe he knows them, but he knows I am speaking absolutely what is correct in saying that not another Member of the Government understands or had studied the matters concerned with the land question. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was here very rarely deigned to answer questions. He talked a great deal about them, but he did not often really touch upon the point. We have had the Secretary to the Treasury and the learned Attorney-General dealing with this question, and I am sure anybody who heard them will realise that they did not know even what was in the Budget of 1909–10, let alone know or realise the points which we wanted to put into the Revenue Bill.
I really think it is rather pitiable that the Government, in order to avoid that criticism which becomes inevitable from the working of the most complex financial measure ever brought before this House should come down and stifle discussion, especially when you have all those people in the country anxiously looking forward and hoping to find that their grievances would be discussed and remedied. Take a question they do not want to have discussed at all—that is the question of agricultural land being taxed under the Budget. Hon. Members opposite do not, of course, want it discussed, because their election literature was filled with statements that agricultural land was not taxed under the Budget. They know very well if they had a discussion on that question in this House, and if they were called upon to vote against some of the new Clauses, that they would be in a very awkward position. They know that what they stated is perfectly untenable. As a matter of fact, agricultural land is very heavily burdened by the Budget in a great many 943 cases. Then look at the other important Clauses, dealing with licences, Income Tax, motors, tobacco, and every other sort and form of taxation which is proposed by the Budget. What becomes then of, and how perfectly monstrous and irrelevant is the suggestion that those Amendments are not serious Amendments, and that those new Clauses do not deserve the amplest and the fullest discussion which the right hon. Gentleman had promised. I wonder the Government have not paid some attention to the advice which has been so frequently given by the hon. Member for Hackney. I really think that it is a strong point. If this House is going to claim the whole financial power of this country, and says that no other House shall discuss Money Bills of any sort or kind, then I really think it is rather a strong order that the discussion of Money Bills should be turned into the farce which this discussion is coming to to-day. Can any body deny that it is a farce? Look at the terms of this Motion. How much does the Prime Minister allow for the Report stage of all these new clauses? An hour.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. J. A. Pease)
You can take a full day if you like.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
The Chancellor of the Duchy does not even know the terms of the Motion. Before he comes to represent the Government he might, at any rate, read the Motion. Had he done so he would have known that the report of the new clause and of Clause 1, in addition, has to be brought to a termination at five p.m., and our discussions usually begin about four o'clock.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
I beg the Noble Lord's pardon for my interruption. I was thinking of to-morrow, the first day in Committee.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I particularly said the Report stage. That is a very valuable stage, because some of these new clauses might be acceptable to the Government in theory, but not in terms, and they might ultimately be accepted in some form. The Government, however, give themselves no time between the Committee and the Report stages to consider whether they can adopt them or not, and on Report stage they will not even be reached. If we divided on each Clause without discussion we should not get through them in the time allotted. 944 That is the kind of discussion given to a Money Bill by this House which proposes to arrogate to itself alone the right to deal with all Money Bills. It only shows the sort of farce to which the Government are reducing Parliamentary Government. I really wonder why we waste our time in this House. We might as well have voting machines to record votes for the Government on the other side, and against them on this side. If we are not to be allowed to discuss matters it is reducing Parliament to an absurdity, and the House of Commons to a level it has never hitherto approached. Moreover, it is making the House of Commons the laughing-stock of those who sent us here, more especially when it is remembered that the Government propose to make this House, under the Cabinet of the day, the supreme power instead of one of the three elements in the Constitution which we have hitherto had.
§ Viscount MORPETH
It is well known that the Liberal party, despite their name, are autocratic in the measures they propose, and that they are constantly showing themselves more dictatorial in their policy, and more ready to give orders to the subject than the party on this side of the House have ever been. I do not suppose that the House as a whole very much regrets the time of private Members, except those Members themselves who have resolutions to bring forward. Private Members' proposals are not generally practical politics but the Finance Bill is in a very different category. It is, or should be the main work of this House. The control of finance is the origin of the power of the House of Commons. If the ample and complete control over finance should be taken from this House by the Executive Government it will sap the strength and influence of the House of Commons in the country more than any other measure that could be imagined. The present proposal is defended upon one ground, and one ground only. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) put it most clearly when he said that he advocated this interference with liberty in the cause of greater liberty. We all know what liberty means, but we do not all know what greater liberty means. There is no novelist preaching immorality at the present time who does not call it the higher or greater morality, and the hon. Gentleman's "greater liberty" would be something like the "greater morality" of the novelist. There is no tyrant who has not paved his way to the 945 usurpation of liberty by promising the people under his sway that liberty will be greater under him than under a Parliamentary system. The demagogic method of endeavouring to procure that greater liberty, which is tyranny, is exactly the same whether carried out by a party or by an individual.
The Labour party, being a new party in this House, have no experience of being in Opposition. Ever since they became a Parliamentary party they have been a part of the coalition majority. Consequently they have never experienced the humiliation and bitterness not only of being outvoted—that is inherent in a minority—but of not being allowed to put forward the arguments and reasons which they were expressly elected by their constituents to submit to the House of Commons. The Liberal party, whatever may be their temporary success, when they consent to these continual proposals for taking away the power of discussion which we have had in the past, are pursuing a very dangerous policy, and one which must eventually lower the prestige of this House in the eyes of the people. The only basis upon which Parliament can deserve consideration or respect is that its discussions shall be free and unfettered, that all opinions may be put forward in this House, and that the minority, equally with the majority, although they cannot control the vote, shall have an opportuity of putting their views before the people. The hon. Member for Leicester says that our reasons for urging these views to-day are naked and apparent to anybody who has the meanest capacity to consider them. If our objects are naked, the reason of the Government for hustling their business through is equally transparent. They desire to get rid of all these financial questions, to put aside all the difficulties and the unpopularity which are accumulating upon their heads by reason of the last Budget, and to hustle on the Parliament Bill. Take the policy pursued by the Government with regard to the local authorities, and the method by which they first obtained support by promising them half the proceeds of the Land Taxes, and then after the election withdrawing that promise: I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will find their proceedings in that matter a millstone about their necks when they go once more before the constituencies. They will find that to make promises before an election and repudiate them after the election upon a matter so vitally affecting the budget of 946 hundreds of local authorities is indeed bad policy on their part.
I agree that these protests against the taking of the time of the House by the Government have become wearisome, because although we protest we never succeed in getting any adequate reply. The moment when you are proposing to set up this House as the sole Chamber in finance and fundamentally to alter the Constitution, is the very worse time to impose further chains and trammels on our Debate, and to lower still further the prestige and influence of this House. If there were no other reason for protesting, this would be a peculiarly opportune occasion on which to do so, because the action which the Government are now taking shows how dangerous it will be to entrust the control of finance to a Single Chamber.
§ Mr. COOPER
The significant feature of this Debate is that the Prime Minister, in bringing his Motion before the House, has not succeeded in raising sufficient enthusiasm among his supporters to induce any of them to get up and support him. I have observed during the last year and the present Session that when any question of the rights and privileges of private Members has been at issue there have generally been Members on the other side who have so far as they dared endeavoured to defend those rights. Why is it that on the present occasion the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel) and the hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) have sat absolutely quiet, hushed, gagged? This Motion is a very good illustration, if illustration were needed, of the indecent haste with which the Government are compelled to carry on their legislation. Their position being that of a coalition, it cannot at the best of times be a very enviable one. We can gauge the feelings of hon. Members below the Gangway on either side of the House when we recall the following statement made by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) on the 16th instant:—Until that great issue (the Constitutional issue) is disposed of we are prepared, although to me it is a very difficult task, to swallow measures which, were we free from the influence of that issue, we would oppose to the bitterest extremity."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1910, col. 2538.]I can only conclude that what is compelling a large number of Members to do what is absolutely opposed to their consciences is also driving them to remain absolutely silent, and preventing them from supporting or even opposing, as 947 doubtless many would like to do, the Motion of the Prime Minister. When the Education Bill of 1902 was before the House, the present Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) went so far as to compliment the Prime Minister of that day (the present Leader of the Opposition) on his patience in having allowed thirty-eight days in Committee on the Bill before bringing in his closure Motion, and after doing that he complained that he and his party were unpatriotic in the line they were taking. We who know how closely the Home Rule movement is at the back of what is going on at the present time question, and, I think, with much justice, the patriotism of the Prime Minister and his party. We do so the more when we bear in mind that we are hearing very little in this Parliament of the rights of England as opposed to the rights of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, although England, in this Parliament, has sent a majority of thirteen Members against the Parliament Bill and in opposition to the Government. On the occasion to which I have referred the Prime Minister himself laid down what I think is a very just explanation of when the use of the closure is justified. He said:—The criterion of the proper length of debate is the extent, character, and value of the amendments and additions made.The point I want to make upon this is that we are still dealing with the big, bold Budget. No one will dispute, and I think that history itself supports my contention, that the principles of this Budget are very extensive in their character and value, and have a very far-reaching interest for everyone in this country. In this Revenue Bill, which is virtually the Budget of old, or a section of it, you are positively dealing with a Bill upon which it is not a question as to whether or not this Government has got a mandate. You are dealing with a measure which you, in this present Parliament, have a mandate against. You could not pass in the last Parliament this self-same Budget. You could not, you did not, pass this big, bold People's Budget—because the 1910–11 Budget was identical with the 1909–10 Budget—you have not yet passed it, and we can only fairly assume, as we assumed last year, that it is a question of arrangement or bargain—perfectly justified it may be under our present system—between the Prime Minister and the sections of his coalition Government. He has got to satisfy them before he is going to get their support. On the occasion I 948 referred to the Prime Minister, in the case in which it was admitted that the Prime Minister of the day, now the Leader of the Opposition, had been extremely patient, referred to the Closure then as being an arbitrary and drastic measure. The right hon. Gentleman said:—The closure is inconsistent with the elementary rights and privileges of a debating Assembly,Of course, it is so. We on these benches maintain that the use of the Closure, except in very exceptional circumstances, which we might assume would be apparent to the Whole House, is inconsistent with the elementary rights and privileges of this House. The late Mr. Parnell was once asked by a young Irish Member how he could learn the rules of this House. Mr. Parnell tersely replied: "By breaking them." I only hope that the political position of the day is not imbuing the Prime Minister and the Government with too much of that spirit, so that in order to teach us to discover the value of the Parliamentary system, and the proper rights and privileges of debate of private Members in this House, he is enlarging these occasions and thus breaking through precedents when the use of the Closure may be legitimately employed.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition very properly referred to the feelings of the new Members who had been in this House only since January last. Rightly or wrongly, it is a fact that a large majority of the new Members are beginning to wonder, however fitted one may possibly be as a representative of any constituency, whether the so-called public representation of the constituencies which we, every one, boast of when talking to our Constituents, the whole system, in a word, is not an absolute farce from beginning to end I In my opinion the action that the Prime Minister is taking on this occasion in moving this Motion is serving to back up the speech that was made by the right hon. Gentleman's corner-stone—the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley). [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not think that any hon. Member opposite will suggest that the hon. Member for South Hackney is any particular friend of the party who sit on these benches? But we do recognise that he has a remarkable faculty for expressing the general prevailing opinion of the man in the street.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
He is in favour of the Parliament Bill.
§ Mr. COOPER
He may be in favour of the Parliament Bill, but if one follows out the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney as to what is going to happen to the Prime Minister and the Government on this issue, there is a very great divergence of opinion between respective hon. Members. It is still very much in doubt, I would like to remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs, as to whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney is going to support the Prime Minister on the Third Reading of the Bill. As representing a constituency which believes that I and others who come here to logically represent their constituencies in some logical manner, I do protest most emphatically against what I regard as certainly the unjust—perhaps I cannot say illegal—use that is being made by the Government in depriving us of our rights and curtailing the privileges of this House.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
We have had a speech from the Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone (Viscount Castlereagh). We have had a speech from the Noble Lord the Member for the Thirsk Division (Viscount Helmsley). We have had a speech from the Noble Lord who represents one of the Divisions of Birmingham (Viscount Morpeth), and I think we may say, in the absence of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who, like Achilles, has retired to his tent, that the cream has been skimmed off this Debate. I think we might now be allowed to get on to the very interesting 130 clauses. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham aroused my interest—I have not read these 130 clauses—by stating that a good many of them dealt with the Land Taxes. Nobody can claim that I am not anxious to have the Land Clauses of the Budget discussed. I feel certain that the Noble Lord will agree with me that they will give rise to a very interesting discussion, and that the sooner we get on with them the better it will be. The Debate this afternoon is really defeating its own object. We want to discuss all these 130 clauses. Directly the rest of the Opposition cease to talk and allow us to get on with them we shall be able to see how far is genuine the vast interest of the Opposition in passing the Budget.
950 The Government have had two courses open to them, or perhaps a third. They might, as so often occurs, have come to terms with the Opposition. In the very regretful absence of Mr. Belloc, I can only say I am very glad that they did not come to amicable terms with the Opposition. Or they could pass this guillotine Resolution, which we have before us. I do not like guillotine resolutions as a rule, but if it is the only alternative to coming to terms with the Opposition I prefer it. It is certainly necessary that this Budget, which is last year's Budget, should be passed into law before 31st March. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] With these two alternatives before them I can only congratulate the Government on this occasion in coming to terms with their own followers, and not coming to terms with the Opposition.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The gods must have inspired the soul of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to put himself forward as the sole independent supporter of the Government. When we bear in mind how recently he spoke on another occasion we might have expected a passionate speech on this Closure Debate——
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I confess that, after listening to the speech of the Prime Minister, I find it very difficult to deal with the Motion which he has made. He read to us the major portion, undoubtedly, of the passages in the speeches either of himself or colleagues, on which we have relied when we assumed that we would have adequate, and even full opportunity, for surveying the new taxes which have not been in operation for a year, as well as the general field of taxes, for which this is ordinarily an opportunity. He read these passages, and he proceeded to state that they were perfectly consonant with the course he now takes. He did not attempt to prove that they were. I confess that I am entirely unable to understand how he has been able to read his words and those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and yet permit himself to make a Motion of this kind without at least offering time in lieu on some other occasion, in which the promises held out to the Opposition might be fulfilled. The House must remember that in consequence of the promises which were made the discussion of the truncated Finance Bill, passed last year, was very brief indeed. The Second Reading passed 951 without any debate whatever. The Committee debate and the consequent stages were very brief. We were told that discussion did not arise on the small part of the Finance Bill which was passed last year, but would arise on the part of the Finance Bill which was postponed until this year.
I think this is a strong measure itself, and incompatible with the promises made that the Government should now preclude us from having an opportunity which we were then led to expect. A great deal has been said about the number of the new Clauses. Following the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition immediately pointed out that that had no meaning whatever. The number of Amendments on the Paper never teaches you anything unless you examine them to see how many are Amendments of substance. Passing from that, there are undoubtedly an unusual number of questions raised by way of the new Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues expecting that to be the case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, in the Autumn Session, called attention to the fact that the great changes in his Budget of 1909–10 having now become law, there was a specially wide field which Members would desire to discuss, which they were entitled to discuss, and which the Government would give them an opportunity to discuss. If the right hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to study the Amendments which appear upon the paper and the new clauses, he will see that, very far from having reason to complain of the constitution of the Committees of the Opposition who go into these questions and settle what Amendments should be moved, that procedure on our part has resulted in raising a series of very important questions that have caused grave discontent, and as which no one can deny either their importance or right to occupy a fair proportion of the time of the House. If I fail to understand how the right hon. Gentleman thinks his course of action reconcilable with his language, I confess I also fail to understand why in the circumstances he thinks it worth while even to pretend he can reconcile one with the other. I share with my hon Friends on this side the inability to understand the reason why this Bill must be passed before the 31st March. I invite the Government to state what provision of this Bill must be passed before the 31st March. The hon. Member who 952 spoke last reiterated that it was necessary, but he did not explain why.
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
Why is it necessary to pass it before the end of the financial year? It was not necessary to pass the Budget of 1909 by the end of the financial year, and the Government declined to attempt to do so. It is not, therefore, in the nature of Budgets that they must be passed by the end of the financial year. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will save about a million"] The hon. Member (Mr. Wedgwood) has at last given us a reason. He thinks it will save about a million. Will he tell us how? That is pure nonsense, for which there is not a shadown of foundation. It would have saved money if the Budget of 1909 had been passed before the end of the financial year, because the Government were not collecting their taxes because it was not passed, but they are collecting their taxes now; they have authority to collect them, and therefore there would not be a penny saved by passing this Bill before 31st march. The hon. Member is quite mistaken in his statement. What reason, therefore, is there why the Bill should pass before the 31st March? I do not know of any. I do not believe it is necessary in order to carry out the Sinking Fund proposals; indeed, I am certain it is not. The Government are not obliged to pay away the whole of the Sinking Fund immediately after the financial year, and there is nothing in the Sinking Fund that necessitates its passing before the 31st March; I believe there is nothing in the Local Taxation Clauses, and I believe the only necessity for passing it before the 31st March is the convenience of the Government. If that be so there seems to be less excuse for pressing it in defiance of their own pledges. Why do they even make a pretence that they are carrying out their pledges? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has given the case away. He went straight from the all night sitting where he was a prime actor to a meeting of the National Liberal Club, and there he did not explain that the Government were doing anything necessary for their financial business, but he stated they were setting up a military supremacy in the House of Commons. It is in order to continue what he calls that military supremacy that the Government broke their word once and are breaking it again.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman has, I am glad to say, throughout the greater portion of his remarks shown a note of moderation, and, if I may say so without offence of tameness of demeanour which is, I think, very satisfactory to those who sit upon the Government side of the House, and is in very happy contrast with his recent utterances on this subject I regret, however, to have heard the right hon. Gentleman conclude his speech by reiterating the old stale and and utterly untrue charge that the Prime Minister and the Government have, in the first place, been guilty of a breach of faith. It is very easy to say that your opponents have been guilty of a breach of faith; but it is a great mistake to splash the paint about so freely that your words cease to have any real meaning and cease to carry any sense of affront even to those to whom they are applied, and cease to bear any connection with any genuine feeling of indignation on the part of those on whose behalf they are spoken.
Why look at the condition of the House? We could not have had a more satisfactory Debate from the point of view of the Government or one conducted in a calmer or more friendly way. No doubt the Opposition would like more time to discuss this Bill, and no doubt the Government would like to give more time, but that it is not possible, having regard to the condition of public business, and it has not been possible at any period since the beginning of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the 31st March. He was the first speaker who has quarrelled with the 31st March. From the very beginning of these discussions last year in November we have always aimed at getting the Finance Bill of last year through by the 31st March. There never has been any doubt about that. Over and over again in the communications made to the House, the 31st March was the date stated by which we desired to conclude the stages of this belated finance. The reason is very obvious. There are provisions in the measure that would be hampered if they did not come into operation on the 31st March, but quite apart from the question of finance, it is the regular practice of this House to dispose of the business of each financial year in the currency of that year. The only reason why a departure was made from that practice was because of the extraordinary series of events familiar to everyone in the House which led to the throwing of all our financial apparatus out 954 of gear and deranging completely the course of financial business and about which each party is entitled to blame its opponent. But the case is so well known to the House in general that it would be waste of time for us to accuse hon. Gentlemen opposite, and waste of time for them to accuse us of bringing about the state of things which exist. We aim at restoring the financial balance by clearing off the financial business for 1910–11 within the scope of the current year. That is the convenient practice, and we have always said we desire to do that. The pledges given by the Prime Minister had reference to the 31st March and to that alone.
If I understood the argument of the Leader of the Opposition, he said there was no reason whatever why you should not dispose of the Finance Bill of last year by 31st March, if you had not interposed discussion on the Parliament Bill and on the Navy. Seven days he said were wasted or consumed on the Parliament Bill, and on the discussion with regard to naval expenditure, and these seven days he declared were the cause of the difficulty and the congestion and the pressure under which we are now working. How can that statement be reconciled with the protests which were made by the Leader of the Opposition and by hon. Gentlemen opposite against taking the time of private Members. The right hon. Gentleman said when the Motion to take the time of private Members was under discussion:—If I follow the Prime Minister rightly, he has before the end of the year enough time for all necessary financial business of the year without intruding upon private Members at all. … There is no necessity for depriving private Members of their rights in order that that decision may be arrived at in the year.The right hon. Gentleman told us there was no difficulty in disposing of the compulsory financial business before the 31st March without taking the time of private Members. We took the time of private Members, as I make it out. thirteen and a-half days of private Members' time. We took six Tuesdays and six Wednesdays, each of which are half Parliamentary days. That makes six Parliamentary days, and we took seven Fridays which are counted as ordinary days, making thirteen days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Fridays are not full Parliamentary days."] Well, even if you like to make a certain deduction and not count Fridays as full days, it is quite clear we took from private Members a great deal more time than was consumed in the discussion of the Parliament Bill, and the Motion in regard to the Navy, and there- 955 fore if we had followed the advice of the right hon. Gentleman and not taken the time of private Members and not devoted any time to the discussion of the Parliament Bill, we should be in a worse position by three or four days at the present time, and be in a state of greater Parliamentary congestion and pressure than exists now. I think that makes it clear that the right hon. Gentleman knew very well when he was speaking on that Motion to take private Members' time the limits within which discussion on this Bill was possible. The Leader of the Opposition made rapidly in his mind a calculation, and he said:—Assume you take all the time for the discussion of the necessary business, you can get it all through by the 31st March without taking the time of private Members.The only day in which you could have obtained that result would have been by giving three days less to this Bill than we are proposing to do.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to say that I do not think he need labour that point. I made that calculation from notes taken during that discussion, and the House knows the way it has to be done. I was then acting on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition. I took rapid notes of the calculations on which the Prime Minister based his argument, and I accepted his statement as the basis of my argument as to the time required for financial business. I also said that it was the introduction of the Parliament Bill in addition to the necessary financial business, which had made it necessary for the Government to curtail the time of private Members. I took, for the purposes of my argument, the Prime Minister's own calculations of the time that would be required for the financial proposals, and now the right hon. Gentleman chooses to say "You must be responsible for it." Very well, then, I made a miscalculation. I had not then seen the Finance Bill, or the character of the measure the Government were going to propose, and I do not think I had seen the Supplementary Estimates. Consequently, I did not realise how long the Financial business was going to take.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has seen fit to revise his calculation. But quite apart from what the right hon. Gentleman said in February we have had the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he reproached the Government 956 for taking the time of private Members, and for pressing procedure upon the Revenue Bill. I have shown that the time taken from private Members has enabled us to make a more generous provision for the discussion of the Revenue Bill than would have otherwise been possible. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Supplementary Estimates. It is true that the Government have given a day or two longer for discussion on the Supplementary Estimates, but at whose request? The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well it was done to facilitate discussion on points of interest, mainly by the Opposition, to promote the smooth passage of Parliamentary business. On the general question of the time allotted to this Budget I have only to say that there has been no breach of faith, and this is proved by the statement made by the Prime Minister and by other facts known to every hon. Member of the House. On the merits of the question, I do not believe it can be honestly contended that the Budget provisions of the year 1910–11 are receiving too meagre an allowance of Parliamentary discussion. It must be remembered that in the last Parliament we gave altogether six days of discussion to the Budget provisions of 1910–11, and we are now in the present Session giving, as the Prime Minister has shown, eight days before it is completed—that is fourteen days will have been consumed upon the discussion of the Budget provisions of this year. I have not been able to look up this case in detail, but I venture to think that by the practice of this House many Budgets which have contained no new proposals for taxation have been disposed of in less than fourteen days, or nearly three Parliamentary weeks.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That is exactly what I supposed. The Second Reading of the Finance Bill last year was taken without more than a single sentence spoken by me on behalf of my hon. Friends, in which I said that, as the Government, having reduced discussion to a farce, we should take no part in it, but reserve our discussion for this Bill. That is put down on the right hon. Gentleman's list as a full day. That is an example of the careful accuracy of a Minister's statement.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The fact that the right hon. Gentleman, in a fit of pique, did not take advantage of the Parliamentary opportunities afforded him is no ground for impugning my words or the accuracy of my statement. What I respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman now is: Whether he and his hon. Friends are not now engaged, by prolonging this discussion, in repeating the self-same error which he fell into in not utilising the day which could have been devoted to discussion when this Bill was put down for Second Reading in November. It is quite clear the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well throughout that the limits of discussion before 31st March available for this measure were necessarily narrow. It is obvious that they could not have been very lengthy. We have never departed from the first proposal we made of six and a-half days except to extend the time more generously to hon. Members opposite. When the total amount of time spent this year on this Budget is added to the time spent upon it during the last Parliament, it will be found, for a Budget with no new proposals for taxation, the time given to it does not fall below the amount of time given to many similar measures of non-controversial finance.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
In one respect the right hon. Gentleman has exercised a very wise discretion, for he has said very little in answer to the charges we have made. I think the right hon. Gentleman shows great discretion when he declines to speak at length in regard to a charge of a breach of faith. I will pass on to what he said about it being necessary to pass this Bill into law before the 31st March. The first thing the right hon. Gentleman did was to throw over his rather unwise supporter on the bench opposite, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), because that hon. Member assured the House that it was absolutely necessary to pass this measure before 31st March. The right hon. Gentleman at once threw the hon. Member over, and I have not the slightest doubt he was right. If it is not necessary to pass these proposals by 31st March, what is the meaning of this guillotine Resolution? That argument is put forward as one of the justifications of the assertion that the whole of the finance of the country would go to ruin if you gave more time to discuss these new Clauses. The Home Secretary said there were certain financial details which would hamper the Government if we did not pass them by 31st March. You were not so 958 anxious this time last year to pass your Budget. Parliament met on 15th February last year, and what day did you bring your Budget forward in this House? Not until 20th April. Now you profess to be such financial purists that you cannot give us an extra day, when last year you did not bring your proposals before the House until 20th April.
If you want to find a reason why this guillotine Resolution is now brought forward you will have to look a little back into history. The right hon. Gentleman says the Government cannot give us any more time because it is not possible. Why is it not possible? Whose fault is it? It is impossible to discuss these unprecedented attempts to stifle discussion on financial business without going into past history. The real reason for this Resolution is on account of the political trickery to which the Government have resorted during the past year for the purpose of remaining in office. They did not bring in their Budget of 1909 until late in the year, and they left no time in the earlier part of last year to discuss the financial operation of this Budget. They had another chance in the autumn Session. Surely it was a businesslike and the only decent and honourable course to have adopted in the autumn Session to have brought this Revenue Bill on then and there and carried it into law. Why did they not do it? They determined to have a gambler's throw, and they precipitated a General Election on issues for which they were not unprepared. They anticipated that they might get a real Liberal majority instead of the precarious coalition majority which they then enjoyed. Consequently, they threw away their chance in November last year of discussing the Budget of 1910, and that is why we are here to-day asking for more time to discuss it. The Government failed to get that real majority they wanted, and the reason we are forced to have this; stifled discussion is because you failed to get that majority, and you are still under the dictation of hon. Members below the Gangway, who insist that you shall not give the necessary time because they want you to go on with the Parliament Bill for reasons which we know too well. I will not now go into the details of these new Clauses, but will any hon. Member who has read them tell me they are not important. The Prime Minister did not venture to say they were not important, neither did the Home Secretary. They have two main objects, one of which is to remove 959 some part, or, at any rate, some of the more flagrant injustices which have come to light under the Budget of 1909.
The other object is to remove some of those obscurities and difficulties which have made the Budget of 1909 almost unworkable. Parliament is entitled to discuss these matters, and you refuse it. In the country you are the champions of democracy and of free speech, but when you come here you care neither for the one nor the other. You care not for democracy, and you scout at the idea of free speech. You encourage the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) to summon his battalions over from Ireland. Perhaps I ought to say, you request and humbly beg, and your request is graciously acceded to. He issues a peremptory summons bringing hon. Members over from Ireland. What for? Not to talk of finance. They do not care about English finance; they come over for the purpose of stifling and shutting the mouths of representatives of England and of gagging and closuring the representatives of a majority in England. They come here for the purpose of guilloting us on a subject which is admittedly the most important subject which this House could consider, namely, the question of finance. We know perfectly well it is not to talk about finance or gagging Resolutions that they really come. They really come to pave the way for Home Rule, which the country has never discussed.
Why are hon. Members belonging to the Labour party going to support this gagging Resolution. They want to get on with the Parliament Bill, but not for the same reason the Government say they want to get on with it. The Government want a Second Chamber; the Labour party want a Single Chamber. They want to get on with the Parliament Bill, not to help Home Rule like hon. Members from Ireland, but to help their scheme of Single Chamber Government. This is a travesty of Parliamentary practice, and there sits the Prime Minister a helpless figure, the victim of his own incapacity. I see many other victims sitting on that Bench of the same type. You are supposed to be the custodians of free speech. The Prime Minister, under the rule of his associates from Ireland, has come here to-day to stifle free speech. You may defeat us to-night, but I am certain that the spectacle which you to-day present, and the precedent you are setting for the future, will in due 960 course bring you that condemnation which you have done your best to deserve.
§ Mr STEEL-MAITLAND
I must enter one protest, if I may, against the language which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Butcher) has addressed to the Secretary for the Home Department. I really think he was extremely ungrateful for the eminent services the Home Secretary always renders to this side of the House. When any business, in the language of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) is really likely to be done, and when the Debate, to use the Home Secretary's own language, has exhibited a tameness which he welcomes, he always remedies the defect himself when he rises in his place. Hon. Members opposite are no doubt cheered by his pugnacious attitude. That is all very well when the Debate is to come to an end at the given time, but when it delays business I should have imagined my hon. and learned Friend would have welcomed the Home Secretary almost as trying to lead the Conservative party in obstructing the business of the House from being accomplished. We have had the statement from the Home Secretary that there has been a coolness in the Debate the whole evening, and he of all people advised my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) not to splash paint about too thickly, because it might make people think he has no genuine feeling of indignation.
§ Mr STEEL-MAITLAND
Let us take each of the phrases separately, if the Home Secretary wishes. The Home Secretary advises people on this side not to splash paint about too freely. I do not know whether he objects to that quotation. I wonder from whom we have learnt the valuable lesson of splashing paint about. Who is it who has been saying there is no despotism in this House, and who begins to talk about military supremacy when he goes outside to deliver a speech? The other phrase is that too much reiteration takes the edge off a genuine feeling of indignation, or makes people think it does not really exist. I wonder whether anyone credits the Home Secretary, who has used reiterated phrases on many subjects with that genuine feeling of indignation which he says does not exist on this side of the House. If we come down to the actual arguments of the Home Secretary with 961 regard to the time of the House and the Revenue Bill, what do they really amount to? He stated that thirteen or thirteen and a-half days of private Members' time were taken in order to enable the necessary financial business to go through. That is at least no excuse for having taken four of those days for the Parliament Bill. Those four days might have been devoted to financial business. When the Home Secretary made this calculation he really could not have reflected that the Supplementary Estimates this year have been of a perfectly unusual and inordinate character. There is no need, because the House has been treated to the spectacle of thoroughly bad finance in the matter of Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, why it should be treated to further bad finance in the lack of discussion on the Revenue Bill and the new Clauses proposed in regard to it.
We are told by the Home Secretary that at least it had been the regular practice of the House to pass the Finance Bill before 31st March. Practice and precedent in the mouth of the Home Secretary? Is Saul also among the prophets? He did not mention, however—and it is really essential to the case—that the Finance Bill of the year is based upon reasons for getting money which do not apply to the Revenue Bill. If the Finance Bill has had to be passed in other years, it was because the revenue would be affected thereby. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) seems to think there would be a loss this year, but, with the exception of a certain amount of awkwardness, absolutely no loss will accrue. It is perfectly possible for the date of the Finance Bill to be postponed before it passes into law this year more so than last year, when the Government chose to postpone it to April or May. The Home Secretary recalled the number of days spent on uncontroversial Finance Bills, but, speaking from memory, I am inclined to say his calculation does not hold true with regard to most Finance Rills of anything of the character of the Bill before us. The Clauses we have to debate are Clauses which do not apply to any ordinary Finance Bill. They are consequential on the Land Taxes and need discussion and ventilation. Some of them are absolutely necessary. Take the case about market gardens. There is a subject which absolutely needs legislation. That Clause is a consequential Amendment on the Finance Act of last year, and urgently needs to be passed. Take the 962 Clause about sugar. After the remissions given by the Treasury with regard to tobacco in Ireland there is every reason—economic and otherwise—why the whole question of sugar should be thoroughly debated, especially as we were not given the opportunity last year.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
The Home Secretary has challenged us with regard to breaches of faith. We none of us wish to use strong language but sometimes he calls for language which is not Parliamentary. We were told last November we were going to have full and ample discussion this spring and now we are told we are to have full and ample discussion on the next Budget. What reliance are we to place on these pledges and promises? We can have no trust whatsoever that we shall have full and ample discussion on the next Budget if we are not given it at the present time. The hon. Member for Leicester comes down and asks his supporters to follow the Government on the ground that they are vindicating the freedom of the House of Commons and getting business done, but I can hardly think there ever was a more absurd travesty placed before Members of this House for their acceptance. What the hon. Member for Leicester has vindicated is a system whereby business cannot be properly done. The real way, if he wishes to get business properly done in this House, as many of us are anxious to get it done, is to go considerably deeper than he has done this afternoon. If there is ever obstruction in this House, what is the cause of it? It is the necessary and inevitable corollary of the system that obtains at this minute, the autocracy of the Government. The Home Secretary has already stated—he corrected himself after a sentence or two—that seven days were wasted on the Parliament Bill and the Navy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcestershire was complaining of the use of this time, and I was speaking for the moment from his point of view and not from our point of view.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
It does not really affect the point under discussion, although I have no doubt that the Home Secretary, being unable to defend himself, is grateful to the hon. Member who has just intervened for seeking to take up the cudgels on his behalf. If there is ground for objection to what the hon. Member for Leicester was pleased to call obstruction, it is really to be found in the autocracy which prevails at the present time, and which prevents the real feelings of the House being given expression to. In fact real discussion cannot take place. The Home Secretary stated in the debates a few weeks ago that there could not really be a despotism when on this side of the House there had been a yielding to public opinion on the part of private Members, and upon the other side the Government had yielded to public opinion on the part of some of its supporters. But there never was a despotism in history which was not tempered at some time by panic, and the fact that it was tempered by panic affords no real proof that it was not a despotism. What is the case at the present moment? There is not a single division taken in this House the result of which is not determined beforehand.
There is not a single division affected one way or the other by the speeches made in this House, and if any hon. Member can get up either on the Government Bench or anywhere else, and deny that state of affairs let him do so. If that state of affairs exists, then I think no one can deny that there is a despotism existing in the House which is entirely to the disadvantage of private Members and to the House itself. Therefore when the hon. Member for Leicester comes down and thinks he vindicates the freedom of the House by the action he is taking, I say he is doing nothing of the kind. What he is really doing is this: he is doing his best to continue a system like the present which means that if there is any way of opposition it can only be by means of obstruction, and if there is any measure which is opposed it cannot be amended on its merits. If he wishes really to vindicate the real freedom of this House, he must do it in some other manner. I think a suggestion was made by an ex-Member of this House, whose opinion is well worthy all respect, that possibly some remedy might be found in sending more Bills to Grand Committees upstairs, where the whole party organisations do not exist in the same rigid 964 way. I think as soon as a Bill is sent upstairs——
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I will endeavour to confine myself more closely to the question at issue. May I be permitted to remark that what I am pleading for is more freedom for this House, and some means by which Motions brought forward by private Members may be adequately discussed? At the present moment, in connection with the Revenue Bill, we are going to be debarred from having the measure discussed, and I appeal to hon. Members not to support the Government in this guillotine proposal, but to realise that if they want good business done, if they want to get forward with legislation on such subjects as are dear to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and to others, it will not be accomplished by carrying Motions such as this. They really must have some more far-reaching remedy, which would enable the House to have fuller freedom in real criticism, greater power to discuss and move Amendments and new Clauses, and a more real expression of the sentiments of its Members in the legislation that is passed. Under the present system, the freedom of the House has been diminishing year by year until it has almost reached vanishing point, and the House itself has become almost the travesty of a deliberative assembly.
§ Mr. BYLES
I am sorry I interrupted the last speaker for a moment, but I did so solely with a desire to elucidate a small question of fact. I wanted to point out that the Home Secretary, although he did use the word "wasted" in regard to the number of days spent in the discussion, instantly withdrew it and substituted for it the word "occupied," following that up with the word "consumed." I only wanted to bring that point out.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I do not wish to quarrel with the hon. Member's statements, but I would point out that the word "wasted" that slipped out so aptly really described the truth of the case, and that was the real reason for using it.
§ Mr. BYLES
I have listened to the whole of this Debate with a feeling of sadness. I do not think the quality of pugnacity is entirely absent from my nature, but I have no desire whatever to join in the attacks which have been made on one side 965 or the other. I want rather to make a nonparty speech, and to appeal to the whole of my colleagues in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has described himself as "a House of Commons man." I like that title for him, and I would like it to apply to all of us. I want the reputation of this House maintained and enhanced. Every time a Motion of this kind appears on the paper—I do not care whether it is put down by a Tory Government or by a Liberal Government—it is a reproach on the House of Commons; it is a suggestion that we are not able to conduct our Debates in an orderly and businesslike manner. What is the need for putting this Motion down at all? The need is well known to us all. I do not want to say one word that can be regarded as harsh by anybody, but nobody can deny for a single moment that what has been called obstruction, and what hon. Members may regard as justifiable delay in public business, is the reason for this Motion being put down.
Obstruction is now a pretty old enemy of this House. It was invented by the ostensible and avowed enemies of the House. When Mr. Parnell elaborated his scientific methods he came down saying he wanted to destroy the operative powers of this House and to bring the assembly into disrepute. But surely a method that was invented by enemies of this House in order to destroy its powers is not necessarily to be adopted by the friends of the House. I know perfectly well this method is now adopted by both sides indifferently. I daresay it is a case of six to one and half-a-dozen of the other. But I do venture to assert that this House will never recover its usefulness until obstruction is regarded as a descreditable thing, and I appeal to both sides of the House and to Members in all parts of the House in the interests of the House of Commons and out of loyalty to the House which we all love, to put down obstruction. I do not believe for a moment it can be done to-day or to-morrow, but I want to get that idea into the minds of my fellow Members, and especially of the new Members of this House. I want them to regard obstruction as a disreputable method to resort to, and to realise that until we get rid of it we cannot hope to restore the House of Commons to what it used to be. In fact, its usefulness will be destroyed. There was one observation in the Debate I was very glad to hear from the Leader of the Labour party. He told us that if ever he had the power he would not resort to what he knew would be an 966 efficient and effective method of hindering legislation—in other words, he would never resort to the practice of obstruction. Now, I would suggest that if we were some Collegiate Debating Society we would not stand obstruction for a moment. We would either find some means of putting an end to it, or else we would put an end to the society altogether. A batsman when he is bowled at cricket goes back to the pavilion without a murmur, but if the defeated side began to knock the bails about and to make bowling impossible of course the whole game would be brought into discredit. In regard to obstruction, I do not blame one side more than the other. I only say that the honour of putting down this mischievous weapon will rest with those who begin the movement. I hope it will come to be regarded as a discreditable proceeding. Hon. Members opposite know quite well that they cannot beat us in the end. They can only lower the reputation of the House of Commons, and for that reason I venture, with all respect, to my colleagues on both sides of the House, to advance this plea that obstruction is a weapon which we ought to discredit.
Mr. STANLEY WILSON
I wish to add my humble protest to those that have gone before against the passing of this resolution. We have been told by the Home Secretary that tempers are not rising. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why they are not. I will also tell him that if he wishes he can easily make them rise. He can do so by once again taking charge of the House during an all-night sitting. The reason why tempers are not rising on the present occasion is because after five years of the infliction of this Government in office we are gradually getting accustomed to the operation of being guillotined. We have had many of these resolutions in these five years, but surely everybody must admit that this is absolutely the most drastic performance that even the present Government has undertaken during its tenure of office. I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that previously to 1906 their cry in the country was for free food and free speech. What have they done? They have done more than anybody else to deprive this House of the liberty of free speech. They have done more in that direction than any previous Government. Where are those supporters of the Government who, previous to 1906, when we occupied those benches opposite, whenever we brought in a guillotine resolution, made the strongest and 967 sturdiest protest upon those occasions? Where are they now? They are ghosts of the past. I venture to say they will come to life again after the next General Election, when the present Government is relegated from those benches to these. Then we shall have the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir Henry Dalziel) and other hon. Members, if they are not in the House of Lords, rising in their places and protesting against the guillotining of a Tariff Reform Budget. That is the precedent which I tell hon. Gentlemen on those benches they are setting us when we come into office. I look back a few years, and I remember almost at the commencement of this Government's tenure of office the Chief Secretary for Ireland, on one of those occasions when we were protesting against the imposition of the gag, as we have had so frequently to do, told us that minorities must suffer. That is the principle which has been adopted by this Government ever since the right hon. Gentleman expressed that view. But they seem to forget that in those days we on these benches were only 160 strong, and now we are 100 men stronger. The Government are not going to gag 260 Members in this House in the same way as they used when we were 160 Members. I would ask Members also to remember that we are 260 Members, representing somewhere about half of the voters of the United Kingdom. And I ask once again why is it necessary to stifle discussion with regard to this Budget? The Government on a former occasion did not consider it necessary to pass the then Budget within the then financial year. Why was that? The reason was that the hon. Members for Ireland told the Government that they had to go slow, but now the position is reversed and the hon. Members for Ireland are telling them that they have to go fast. They have to get on with their work and pass the Parliament Bill. The Government are always under the heel of the Irish Members, and they obey them in everything that they are told to do.
The Home Secretary has told us that it is not necessary for this Budget to be passed by the end of the financial year, and what does a day or two more or less matter? I tell the right hon. Gentleman in spite of everything that he and the Prime Minister have said that they have broken their pledges once again. They promised us the fullest discussion of this Budget, and what did they give us? They gave us an all-night sitting. Is that what 968 they call the fullest discussion of this Budget? Under the Home Secretary we were compelled at 4.15 a.m. to discuss Clause 10, which was of the utmost importance, indeed of immense importance to all local authorities of this country. I quite agree with what one of my hon. Friends has said that many of the new Clauses have been put down in a business spirit. I should like to point out one which was put down in that spirit, and that was the Clause which I placed upon the Paper. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members may jeer, but I think they will jeer no longer when I tell them that the Clause was so important that it has been adopted by the Government, and it now stands on the Paper in their name. It will therefore, as my Clause has been accepted by the Government, be unnecessary for me to move the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name. The reason the Government accepted my Clause was that they were under a pledge to me a year and a half ago, that they would accept it, and they have the satisfaction of knowing that at any rate they have fulfilled one of the pledges they gave. I do not wish to delay the House at any length. I only wish to say in conclusion that surely, in view of the promises that the Government have made to us in the past they ought to reconsider this Resolution, which they are endeavouring to force through now, and give us further facilities than those proposed.
§ Mr. MILLS
I venture to think that any newly-elected Member of this House must have been rather shocked at the Resolution which the Prime Minister put forward. We are beginning to sorrowfully realise that those high ideals which we have heard of as prevailing in the House as to its efficiency to have complete control of the finances of the country must be very powerfully modified, and we think that our constituents, not only those of them who voted for us, but the whole of them among whom we have lived most of our lives, and whose grievances we know, will be disappointed. We know that they have certain just claims, and it is our duty on such occasions as the discussion of these new Clauses to bring those grievances under the notice of the House of Commons, and I venture to think that the average citizen of this country, whether he be Radical or Conservative, probably takes more interest in the practical provisions of the Finance Bill, and whether the Licensing Clauses, the Land Clauses, or any other Clause affects him personally 969 than in a wide Constitutional question, and I think the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman opposite will feel less the oppression of the hereditary peers than they will do some of the hardships of the clauses of the Budget which we are seeking to remedy. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) drew a striking parallel between this Debate and a cricket match. He said that, having been bowled out, we must not tamper with the bails but go out, but what we complain of is, not that we have been in and been bowled out, but that we have not been allowed to go in at all.
The House represents a business nation, and, if that is so and if we are agreed that this Finance Bill does contain vital provisions which must affect the business of citizens of this country, surely we can allow the high constitutional question to wait for a moment while we are given time to consider these matters. We are told that the Government wish to press on with the Veto Bill. That is what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) euphemistically calls getting to business, but a better way of getting to business would be to give adequate discussion to these Clauses and allow the Veto Bill to wait for a few weeks. Even supposing hon. Members opposite are right in their contention as to this Upper Chamber, the people of this country have been groaning under the heels of these aristocrats for years, and most of them can afford to wait another few weeks in order to have that grievance removed. We have heard much in recent times about the opinion of the moderate man, and both sides have been desperately angling to try and get the moderate man to vote for them; and we all say on platforms what we think the moderate man thinks. We all know, however, that the moderate man, if asked, would say that the best reform which could be carried out in this country would be the closing of Parliament for a few years, and it is such frankly unbusinesslike management of the business of the country which this Government is carrying on which has brought discredit upon this Assembly and caused more men to hold that opinion.
§ Mr. PETO
In his speech the Home Secretary referred to the use the Government have made of private Members' time which he made out to be thirteen days or thirteen days and a-half so far, and he claimed as a great virtue that that time had been occupied in discussing the Parliament Bill and in giving one day to a discussion desired by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. That seems to me 970 to be adding insult to injury, because 100 or 105 new Members of this House elected in January last have never had any opportunity of discussing the Revenue Bill or the previous Budget, of which this one is the Siamese twin, at all. At all events, therefore, at least in the case of 100 or 105 constituencies which returned Members on this side of the House to take the place of Members who formerly sat on the other side—at all events on this occasion, we who represent them were sent here by constituencies who are opposed to this great people's Budget and who have deliberately decided that they do not want it. There is another point beyond that, not only have we had no opportunity of discussing the 1909–10 Budget and the 1910–11 Budget, which is the same with some slight differences, but the country has had an opportunity of trying that Budget for a considerable length of time. It has found out whether Clauses which were intended, and which the country were assured could only operate to the injury of rich people who could afford it had hurt other people who are neither rich nor highly placed. The other night on the First Reading of the Parliament Bill, the Home Secretary informed the House that it was the mission of the Liberal party to redress grievances and to carry measures of reform. It was, he said, an unending task to which they were bound, and when we put down these new Clauses our one aim and object in most of them is to point to some grievances which have been found out, and in regard to which this Budget has not operated to the advantage of the community. The Home Secretary is very quick in leaving the unending task of the Liberal party on this occasion.
The great majority of these Clauses and, at any rate, the ones which I have put down on the Paper are devoted simply, and not in any party spirit, to showing where grievances exist, and the Government take the greatest possible care that there shall not be any Debate on the subject whatever. The Home Secretary also pointed out, as the Prime Minister did before in other words, that there are no new proposals in this Revenue Bill, hut that seems to me to be the strongest reason why he should have given to us an opportunity of discussing it, such as the Government were pledged to give us after nearly eighteen months. We should, I think, be given an opportunity of discussing a Revenue Bill which contains no new proposals, but which contains the proposals. 971 our constituencies sent us here to discuss. I would like briefly to refer to this question of Clause 10, and I only want to point out something beyond what has been alluded to already this evening. It is true, as the Prime Minister said in his speech this afternoon, that the Government purport to offer to the local authority something more in money than that which they are taking away. But they are offering something which is a tolerably constant quantity, which is not likely to increase, and they are taking away an increasing source of revenue. The whole argument for these Land Taxes was that they would grow, and that is the use that has been made of them by hon. Members below the Gangway and also by the Lord Advocate of Scotland. He pointed out that one of the great merits of this tax was that it would ultimately enable all rates and taxes to be placed on the land. It is this, from the revenue point of view, which has such a glorious future in money returns—this by which all rates are ultimately to be placed on land, rates as well as taxes. It is this which has taken from it the half of it which was promised to the local authorities, and the whole of it will be thrown into the National Exchequer. I do not think any such exchange has ever been proposed and justified as being a proposal which is equitable as a division between the National Exchequer and the local authorities.
Then the hon. Member (Mr. Byles) made an appeal to Members in all parts of the House not to continue the "game of obstruction." The Leader of the Opposition referred to what new Members have seen since January last. I am only speaking for myself, but I cannot recollect a single occasion on which there has been anything approaching either adequate or free debate, and I have not seen a single occasion on which there has been anything which could justly be termed obstruction, and certainly with regard to the new Clauses of this Bill there was absolutely no occasion, in my opinion, for the hon. Member's speech at all. These Clauses have not been put down for any obstructive reason whatever, and I really fail to see why hon. Members opposite, many of whom in time past have proved themselves to be adepts in this method of obstruction which the hon. Member now condemns, should bring any such charges against Members on this side. Although I have not had an opportunity of seeing a single 972 Debate conducted with freedom and adequacy, I have, in the short time I have been here, come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister is an absolute master of Machiavellian art, and undoubtedly for combinations and intrigues he would give that old master a great many points and a beating. I also think this Closure Resolution proves that in another art he would give points to Cæsar Borgia. He, I believe, was a master of political assassination. The Prime Minister does not proceed by such methods of detail. He proceeds to smother the whole of the Opposition at one fell swoop and in a moment. It has been one of the difficulties of private Members to find out all the various breeds of closure which can be applied on various occasions. I think we have to-night a new variety. There is nothing of the light and graceful kangaroo about it. A Juggernaut car is driven over the whole Opposition and everything which they propose, and it is propelled by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on both sides, who claim, and will expect some day, to receive some fairer treatment when hon. Gentlemen on this side take the places of hon Gentlemen opposite.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I rise for the purpose of making an appeal to the House which, I hope, will not fall on either side on deaf ears. It is obvious that all the time which is given for the further continuation of this Debate is so much time subtracted from the consideration of the Revenue Bill, and I should, therefore, think it is the general desire that this Debate should be brought as soon as possible to a conclusion. It is essential to the proposal of the Government that this Bill should receive the Royal Assent by Friday next, and the House will observe that the Resolution proposes that the Report stage and Third Reading shall both be brought to a conclusion on Wednesday next. That is done for two reasons, in the first place because we think that is sufficient time for the purpose, and next, though it may seem a strange reason to some hon. Gentlemen opposite, in deference to the House of Lords. The House of Lords, though in our view it has no power to interfere with finance, has a right to discuss it, and we thought it only respectful to give them some few hours at any rate. I hope what I am about to suggest, though it will not mitigate the hostility of hon. Gentlemen opposite to this Resolution, may, at any rate, enable us to come to an immediate decision. I would suggest an Amendment to the 973 Resolution by which proceedings on the Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.0 p.m. on Thursday instead of at half-past 11 on Wednesday. That will give the House of Lords the remainder of that evening for the discussion of the measure, and it will enable us here to introduce some legislation which is now somewhat in arrear. I shall be prepared to move that Amendment, then we can take a division on the whole Motion, and we can then resume the discussion of the Revenue Bill without further delay.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a substantial concession to the Opposition. I suppose as substantial a concession as he can make if he be right in saying that it is a practical necessity that the Bill should be got by 31st March. That necessity, I am bound honestly to say, has never been proved, but it has been assumed through all the Government speeches. Assuming that the Government are right, it is manifest that they cannot carry the discussion over Thursday, and if they are to give the Lords any opportunity of making observations I am sure they will feel great pleasure at the encouraging view which the right hon Gentleman took of their duties. But that does not reconcile us to the way in which we have been treated in the past. The Prime Minister's proposal relates necessarily only to the future, and we are bound to make a protest in the Division Lobby against the method in which the Government have extended the time during the earlier part of the Session so as to press us thus severely towards the end of the financial year. But beyond expressing in the Lobby our views as to the manner in which we have been treated, I do not think more can be extracted from the Government than that which is proposed simply because there is nothing more to be extracted. The right hon. Gentleman has given us all he has, and even the most reasonable of Oppositions cannot ask more, even of the most unreasonable Government. That being so, I think, perhaps, we should do well to express by a Division our sense of the manner in which we think we have been treated by the declaration I made in November and by the manner in which they have not been fulfilled in March, but to accept, with that protest, the right hon. Gentleman's proposal in its outline.
I think, myself, that a more convenient method might be adopted. I should have thought that if he substituted in the schedule and in the earlier part of the 974 Resolution 8.0 o'clock on Thursday for 11.30 on Wednesday he need not decide how much time ought to be given to the Third Reading stage and how much to Report. Under the plan of the Government it is left to the Opposition to decide whether they would like to go on with the new Clauses up to the final moment at which the guillotine falls, or whether they should devote part of the time to a more general discussion which is possible on Third Reading. I should have thought that liberty might still be left to them. Possibly my friends would prefer carrying the discussion on the Report stage later than 11.30 on Wednesday and to continue the discussion on Thursday, reducing the proportion given to the Third Reading to a smaller amount than that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The substantial difference between my proposal and that of the Prime Minister is not very great, but it leaves more latitude to the critics of the Government measure, and I think will be more convenient to my friends on this side.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The usual time. I will move to omit the schedule altogether, and to substitute 8.0 p.m. on Thursday for 11.30 p.m. on Wednesday.
§ Amendment proposed, in the third and fourth paragraphs, to leave out the words, "on that stage shall be as shown in the first column of the table annexed to this Order, and shall be brought to a conclusion at the times shown in the second column of that table.
§ "As soon as the proceedings."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I have no desire to stand between the right hon. Gentleman on the two Front Benches, but I think those of us who sit in this part of the House expect to be consulted in such an arrangement as this. I have been unable, owing to circumstances over which I had no control, to be present during the whole of the Debate, but I think I have heard what I may call, without any disrespect to any hon. Member who has taken part in the Debate, the effective speeches on both sides of the House, and I am bound to say that I have not been impressed by the reasons put forward in favour of the extension of time. The statement originally made by the right hon. Gentleman still holds good, and I do think 975 that, in view of all that has taken place this Session, Ministers ought to have been taught now by bitter experience this is not the way to get business done. I respectfully and quite emphatically enter a protest
§ against the Amendment of the Resolution as now proposed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 49; noes, 356.977
|Division No. 81.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Hinds, John||Rowlands, James|
|Barnes, George N.||Hudson, Walter||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snowden, Philip|
|Crooks, William||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jowett, Frederick William||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lansbury, George||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Logan, John William||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Wardle, George J.|
|Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Goldstone, Frank||M'Kean, John||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Hall, Fredrick (Normanton)||Morrell, Philip||Wlikie, Alexander|
|Hancock, John George||Ogden, Fred||Wlison, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Grady, James|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. George Roberts and Mr. James Parker.|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Butcher, John George||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Falconer, J.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Alden, Percy||Byles, William Pollard||Fell, Arthur|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cameron, Robert||Ferens, Thomas Robinson|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Campion, W. R.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cartile, E. Hildred||Ffrench, Peter|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Field, William|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Cassel, Felix||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cator, John||Finlay, Sir Robert|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Cave, George||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Fleming, Valentine|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r)||Forster, Henry William|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Chancellor, H G.||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Furness, Stephen|
|Balcarres, Lord||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Gardner, Ernest|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lend.)||Clancy, Jon., Joseph||Gibbs, G. A.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Glanville, H. J.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Clive, Percy Archer||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Barnston, H.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Goldman, C. S.|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Goldsmith, Frank|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Grant, James Augustus|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wolts, Wilton)||Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Greene, Walter Raymond|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)|
|Beale, W. P.||Courthope, George Loyd||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Gretton, John|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Benn, W. W (T. H'mts, St. George)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Crumley, Patrick||Gulland, John William|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Dalrymple, Viscount||Hackett, John|
|Bigland, Alfred||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Haddock, George B.|
|Bird, Alfred||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Davies, Timothy (Lincs-, Louth)||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Boland, John Pius||Dawes, J. A.||Hamersley, Alfred St. George|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Delany, William||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)|
|Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith-||Dewar, Sir J. A.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S.||Harmsworth, R. L.|
|Boyton, James||Dillon, John||Harris, Henry Percy|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Donelan, Captain A.||Harrison-Broadley H. B.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Brigg, Sir John||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Harwood, George|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Brunnel, J. F L.||Edwards, Allen C. (Glamorgan, E.)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Burn, Colonel C. E.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hayward, Evan|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Essex, Richard Walter||Helmsley, Viscount|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Mooney, John L.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Higham, John Sharp||Morgan, George Hay||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||St. Maur, Harold|
|Hoare, S. J. G||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Mount, William Arthur||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Muldoon, John||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Munro, R.||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Horne, William E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Neilson, Francis||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Seely, Colonel Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Newdegate, F. A.||Sheeny, David|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Hunt, Rowland||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Spear, John Ward|
|Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath)||Nield, Herbert||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Hunter, W. (Govan)||Nolan, Joseph||Steel Maitland, A. D.|
|Ingleby, Holcombe||Norman, Sir Henry||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Norton, Captain Cecil W||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Summers, James Wooley|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Swift, Rigby|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Keating, Matthew||O'Malley, William||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|King, J. (Somerset, N.)||O'Shee, James John||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Kirkwood, John H. M.||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Touche, George Alexander|
|Knight, Capt. Eric Ayshford||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Lamb, Ernest Henry||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Lane-Fox, G. R||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rothernam)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Waring, Walter|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Lewisham, Viscount||Perkins, Walter Frank||Watt, Henry A.|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Peto, Basil Edward||Weigall, Capt. A. G.|
|Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Philips, John (Longford, S.)||Wheler, Granville|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Pollard, Sir George H.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm, Edgbaston)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Lundon, T.||Pretyman, Ernest George||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Lynch, A. A.||Pringle, William M. R.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir T. P.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanever Sq)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Lyttelton Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Radford, George Heynes||Wiles, Thomas|
|MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Williams Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|MacGhee, Richard||Rainy, A. Rolland||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Macmaster, Donald||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Reddy, M||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|M'Curdy, C. A.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Remnant, James Farquharson||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Marks, G. Croydon||Rice, Hon. Walter F.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Meagher, Michael||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Menzies, Sir Walter||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Roche, John (Galway, E.)||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Ronaldshay, Earl of||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Rothschild, Lionel D.|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Royds, Edmund|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in paragraph 4 of the Resolution, after the word "stage," to insert the words "and on the Third Reading."
§ Amendment proposed, in paragraph 4 to leave out the words "have been brought to a conclusion, if it be then 11.30 p.m. or later, and if not, then at 11.30 p.m., the 978 proceedings on the Third Reading of the Bill shall be brought to a conclusion," and to insert instead thereof the words, "shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 8 p.m. on Thursday 30th March."
§ Amendment proposed, to omit the Table to the Resolution.979
§ Question put, "That this Resolution, as amended, be the Resolution of the House."980
§ The House divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 158.