HC Deb 16 November 1911 vol 31 cc527-30

I desire, Sir, to ask your ruling on a question relating to the Blue and White Papers of this House. On Saturday last we received the Blue Paper with Amendments relating to the Insurance Bill as it affects Scotland. These were to be discussed on Monday. The Scottish Members met on Monday morning and discussed these Amendments, which had appeared for the first time on the Paper. Among them was an Amendment (p. 47, line 15) in the name of the Chancellor, extending to seventy-three lines, with many Sub-sections. The White Order Paper of the day, which comes out shortly before the House meets, it seems, materially differed from the Blue Paper, as the last Sub-section was entirely omitted. In this case we were working under great pressure, as the Amendments were of great length and had only just come out. The whole discussion proceeded on the assumption that the Papers were the same, and that the Amendment was as put down on the Blue Paper. No notice was given at any time during the Debate of withdrawal of a portion of the Amendment on the Blue Paper. Being very long, it was not read over when put, but merely moved "as on the Paper." A very material section was really omitted, which I now read to show that it was a matter of substance, and, I may add, a matter to which great importance is attached in Scotland. (8) A person appointed in terms of Section forty-six of this Act to hold an inquiry shall report to the authority appointing him, and any further action following on such inquiry which, in accordance with the provisions of that Section, is to be or may be taken by the person making the inquiry shall not be taken by him, but, subject as after-mentioned, may be taken by that authority after consideration of the report, and that Section shall be read and construed accordingly; provided that that authority shall not themselves make an order (other than an order relating to expenses), but in lieu thereof it shall be lawful for the authority, with the approval of the Lord Advocate, to apply for such an order by summary petition to either division of the Court of Session, or during vacation or recess to the Lord Ordinary on the Bills, which division or Lord Ordinary are hereby authorised and directed to do therein and to dispose of the expenses of the proceedings as to the said division or Lord Ordinary shall appear to be just. A Debate took place actually upon this very Clause, and it was referred to by hon Members. I may read what was said with regard to it. The hon. Member (Mr. Millar) said:— With regard to the Amendment dealing with the result of the inquiry by the Local Government Board, I think the Amendment a distinct improvement We have already powers under the Local Government Board to deal with inquiries in regard to sickness, and I am glad to think that the Scottish system is being recognised as it stands at the present time, and that instead of the person who makes the report having the right to be the final judge in the matter, it is to be left to the Local Government Board to deal with it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1911, col. 138.] Under these circumstances I ask your ruling as to, first, whether it is in order to alter the Blue Paper in the White Paper materially? Second, whether the Bill as amended is not wrongly printed, and whether it should not include this Subsection which the Committee assumed was moved by the Lord Advocate as that of which notice had been given in the Blue Paper; and, further, whether as we are working under a Closure Resolution which expressly says Government Amendments must be those of which notice has been given, the Blue Paper is not the only Paper which complies with this rule of notice having been given, and what is the meaning of the words, "of which notice has been given?"

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)

I regret that my hon. Friend did not put this question last night, as I begged him to do, on the Adjournment, when I could have given the House the reasons why we altered the Amendment on the Paper. I can now only address you, Sir, purely on the point of Order. It is true the Amendment appeared in the form referred to on the Blue Paper. It appeared purely through inadvertence, and when my attention was drawn to it I immediately gave instructions that the Sub-section should be withdrawn, and I understand, so far as the White Paper is concerned, it did not appear on the Paper at all. So far from the Guillotine Resolution affecting it, it was not moved under the Guillotine. There was a full debate upon it before the Guillotine fell, and not only that, there was another Amendment after this had been disposed of, and therefore the whole proceedings took place not under the Guillotine, but with a full opportunity for discussion. Further, there was another hon. Member who pointedly called attention to the fact that this had been omitted, and the Lord Advocate who was in charge of the Amendment gave a full explanation of all the seven Sub-sections which remained, and there were Amendments moved by the Scottish Members right up to the end of the Clause.


I am obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for giving the House the information which I already had. I shall reply to the hon. Member's three questions in the reverse order in which they were put to me. The hon. Member asked whether, under the circumstances detailed, the Bill should not be amended and the alteration made. Of course, that is impossible. The Committee accepted the Amendment which was on the Paper, and there it must remain. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just pointed out, this particular Amendment of which the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) complains, was not inserted in the Bill under the Closure Resolution at all, but was taken and discussed before the Closure became operative, and, therefore, it was open to the hon. Member to take objection then, or to move to insert the portion appearing on the Blue Paper which had had been left out of the White Paper. Then he asked me, What is the technical meaning of notice? The technical meaning of notice is notice which appears on the Blue Paper. I think the House will see that that must necessarily be so, because hon. Members receive the Blue Paper the first thing in the morning, and it may well be that a Member, seeing an Amendment down on the Blue Paper, may rest satisfied and may absent himself from the discussion if he is occupied by other public business, and may expect that the Amendment on the Paper will come on, and will be disposed of under the Closure Resolution. A notice of Amendment appearing on the White Paper is not a proper notice. Sometimes it is necessary to make a difference between notices of Amendments on the Blue Paper and the White Paper, but that should only be done by the authorities of the House, and should be limited to questions of misspelling, or the alteration of a name, or the order of notices, and so on. The general rule is that Amendments which have once been handed in at the Table should not be altered in the interval between Friday night and Monday morning. I have already given a ruling on that point on 23rd October, 1906, and I see no reason to depart from the ruling I gave then.