HC Deb 22 April 1913 vol 52 cc279-80

If the Committee will extend to me their indulgence, I have two more matters to which I wish to call their attention. This year we propose to introduce or rather to reintroduce a change in procedure with reference to the Finance Bill. It is due very largely to Mr. Speaker's ruling in respect of the Parliament Act Mr. Speaker ruled, either last year or the previous year, that certain Amendments which we had introduced into the Finance Act of 1911—I am not sure that the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) was not responsible for them—


I do not think I was the villain in that piece.


I think he was responsible, and did a good deal of mischief in that direction. Amendments were introduced in 1911 which had the effect of putting the Finance Act outside the category of Money Bills under the Parliament Act. That, of course, was a very serious ruling. A good many Amendments were moved last year. Some of them I regarded with a favourable eye, but we could not see our way to accept them, because on the analogy of Mr. Speaker's ruling in the preceding year, we felt it would convert the Bill into a Bill which was not a Money Bill. That is a very serious state of things which we cannot possibly allow, and with which we must deal, inasmuch as every year these Amendments are increasing. Some of them are quite good Amendments; some of them, Amendments we are quite willing to consider; therefore, I do not think it is fair to either the Government or the Opposition that this element should be introduced to disturb the judgment, as it were, of the House, when it comes to reflect whether or not it will add certain Amendments to the Bill. We have therefore decided this year to recur to a practice, which was only abandoned in view of the controversy between the two Houses, of having two Bills. One will be a Bill dealing with the taxes which we propose, and the other will be a Bill dealing with all the Amendments to the law which the Government propose, or which any Members of the House propose. The Amendment introduced by the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) into the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill has rendered this even more imperative. He has imposed upon the Government and upon the House of Commons what is practically a time-table for Taxation Bills. I am not complaining of that, because I accepted the Amendment, and I think, on the whole, it was a very wise suggestion, but it makes it almost impossible for a Government, within the time it is laid down by that Bill, to get through its purely financial business and to give full opportunities to the House to move Amendments in reference to revenue proposals. We shall, therefore, introduce two Bills. There are certain Amendments we ourselves propose to the Licensing Provisions of the Act of 1909 and to the Land Valuation provisions of the 1909 Act. I have no doubt there are several other Members of the House who would also like to try their hands at amending those provisions.

I should also like to point out to the Committee that this is to meet a rapidly growing difficulty, apart altogether from the ruling of Mr. Speaker. I think the Government and the House of Commons are driven to revert to the ancient practice in this respect. About ten years ago the Amendments to the Finance Bill numbered—perhaps it is a little more than ten years ago, for I have some recollection of a very pleasant evening being spent in moving a good many more Amendments to a Budget of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—but certainly, when I came to the House the Amendments to the Finance Bill of the year numbered something like a dozen or twenty at the outside. Now they number anything between 100 and 150. It will be quite impossible for any Government in the future to carry through its taxation proposals, and give facilities for a full discussion of every revenue proposal in the middle of the Session, without completely dislocating every other business. It would have the effect of strangling the business of every Government. For that reason we propose to confine our Finance Bill to the renewal of temporary taxes, and to introduce a Revenue Bill on the basis of a Resolution for the general amendment of the law. I will not now indicate the Amendments which we propose. I shall have to do so when I move the Resolution.