HC Deb 09 October 1912 vol 42 cc367-70

I desire to submit a point of Order of some importance to the regularity of our procedure. There is a Notice of Motion on the Paper "That the proceedings on the Temperance (Scotland) Bill, if under discussion at eleven o'clock this night, be not interrupted under the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)." You will recollect that yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer submitted a Motion that the proceedings on the Temperance (Scotland) Bill, if under discussion at eleven o'clock "this night or to-morrow," be not interrupted. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) moved to omit the words "and to-morrow." That Motion was accepted by the House, and thereby the House decided that the Eleven o'clock Rule should not be suspended to-day. I submit that there is a well-established rule that the same Question shall not be offered twice in the same Session. As long ago as 1844—indeed the rule goes back, I believe, to the seventeenth century—one of your predecessors said specifically that, the House having once given a decision on a specific Motion, the Motion cannot be renewed. When a proposition has been made and negatived the House cannot entertain another to the same effect. In 1886 there was a similar decision in reference to a matter of local taxation, where an Amendment was moved, and the Question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question" was put as a preliminary to inserting other words. The Question was negatived, and therefore the words stood part of the original Question; and when it was proposed to add words similar to the Amendment which would have been moved if the Question had been' decided differently, the Speaker held that the words could not be moved because, although the House had not actually voted on the Question, the decision of the House had been, in effect, contrary to the words then proposed. I quite recognise that this is a technical question, but I am sure you will agree that the only protection for minorities is the strict observance of the rules of the House. I submit that since we specifically decided yesterday that the Eleven o'clock Rule should not be suspended to-day, it is not open for the House now to consider the question.


The Noble Lord has quite correctly stated the general proposition, but he will have observed from the way in which his statement was received that he has assumed that the House decided something which the House had not any idea that it was deciding. What happened yesterday, as I understand it, was that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) proposed to omit from the Motion the words "and to-morrow," in order that to-day the House might have an opportunity of reconsidering the question. I am sure the House would have been very much taken by surprise when the Government accepted the Amendment if Members had been told that by the acceptance of the Amendment the House was precluding itself from considering the question of the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule tonight. I quite agree that it is extremely desirable, in fact, absolutely necessary, to keep to the Rules of the House as strictly as may be; but in doing that it is also necessary to bear in mind the intention of the Rules and as to what the intention of the House is in coming to a certain decision. The House never intended by accepting the Amendment yesterday to say that it would not sit beyond Eleven o'clock tonight. I am confirmed in that by the observations of the hon. Baronet who moved the Motion, and who said in the course of his remarks: "Why should we decide today to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule tomorrow?" If the hon. Baronet had desired, if it had been his intention, to ask the House not to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule to-night he would have distinctly have said so.


As you have alluded to me, Sir, perhaps I may put myself right with the House on this particular question. If you remember when I began my speech you unfortunately ruled me out of order and said that I could not make the speech now which I ought to have made on the previous Motion. I said that the reason that I made the observation I did was that I was contending that the Government having done one disorderly thing were now proposing to do a second disorderly thing, and that was what we objected to. I said that what they ought to have done was to bring in a Motion suspending the Eleven o'clock Rule to-night and another Motion for to-morrow—that is to-day. I humbly ventured to suggest to the Government the better course. I then moved to alter the course they were proposing to take. I asked: Why this hurry? We are going to stay here until March. Why not, then, take time to consider carefully Scottish temperance? It is a subject of great interest to Scottish Members, and I want to hear their opinions upon it; hut I do not want to hear them at three or four o'clock in the morning, when I am sleepy and when I shall not be able to give that weight which I always attach to the views of Members from Scotland. Apparently I am going to hear the views when I am sleepy, the thing I do not want to do. I wound up by saying: Let me appeal to the Government to show a little consideration to those whose shoulders are tender after not having worn the collar for two months, and not to keep us out of our beds daring the small hours of the morning so soon after our return from a pleasant vacation."—[Official REPORT, 8th October, 1912, col. 163.] That was a very frank explanation of my views as to sitting up at night. I would, further, humbly submit that this question is a question of what the House did, and not what I said. I may have said all sorts of things, but I find that what I say often has influence on the other side. The fact is that I did propose a Motion to omit certain words, and the House agreed to it. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not quite understand what he was doing—and I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a rule, does not understand what he is doing—I am sorry for him.

Mr. LEIF JONES rose—


There is no Debate going on. The speech of the hon. Baronet was supposed to be addressed to me. If the Government desire to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule, the better course to adopt is to put down a special Motion under the Standing Orders. The House yesterday, however, in coming to its decision, did not mean to decide what should happen to-night. I will not go so far as to say that the Noble Lord and the hon. Baronet are even technically right. I am not a Court of Law for construing documents or Statutes strictly. I am here to interpret the general Rules of the House in accordance with the general views of the House upon those Rules. Under those circumstances I am bound to rule that the House did not intend by accepting yesterday the Amendment of the hon. Baronet to preclude itself from reconsidering the question again to-day.