HC Deb 23 January 1913 vol 47 cc643-5

May I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a question which arises in connection with the Franchise Bill and the Government Amendments to that Bill? I submit that those Amendments make such a material difference in the Bill that in accordance with the practice of this House, a new Bill should be introduced and read a second time. In support of that view may I call your attention to what happened in 1889? On that occasion Sir William Harcourt, who was then leading the Opposition, pointed out that the Government had put down important Amendments to the Tithe Rent Bill. Mr. Speaker Peel, in giving his ruling on the subject, said:— The Government have put new Clauses on the Paper, and, on comparing the Bill as it would stand with these new Clauses embodied in it, with the original Bill, that, namely, for the introduction of which leave was given and which was read a second time, I am bound to say that I see a complete difference between them. I submit that the Amendments which the Government have put down make, in this case, also, a complete difference between the Bill as it was introduced and as they now propose to pass it. In giving his judgment upon this point, Mr. Speaker Peel said:— I express the practice of the House rather than the rule of the House, if I may distinguish between them. The practice of the House has unquestionably been, when a. Bill has been so transformed, as in my opinion this Bill has been, that a new Bill should be introduced, that leave should be given to introduce it, and that the Second Reading stage should be gone through when the general principles of the measure, as distinguished from its component Clauses, can be affirmed. I express my opinion upon this point without the least hesitation, and I desire to affirm that opinion very strongly. Having said this much, I think I ought now to leave the matter in the hands of the House and the Government. It is needless to say that on that ruling the Government withdrew their Bill. May I point out to you that the position in each case was precisely the same? No Amendments had been made in Committee. Mr. Speaker Peel gave his ruling solely on the ground that the Government had put down Amendments which they intended to move, and I submit to you that the Government ought now to take the course that was then taken by that Government.


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having given me previous notice that he was going to raise this point, and I have had an opportunity of looking into it. It is perfectly true that Mr. Speaker Peel gave his ruling before any of the Amendments had been inserted in the Tithe Rent-Charge Bill in Committee. The Bill at that moment was in Committee, and I think some Amendments had been passed, but not the Amendments of which the Government had given notice. It is with great respect I say so, but I think that the ruling was a little previous on that occasion, I mean the time at which it was given was a little previous because it might have been, although it was not very likely, that the Amendments would not have been inserted. I do not think on this occasion, I ought to assume that the Amendments are all going to be inserted in the Bill, that is, the Amendments which now appear on the Paper. Indeed, the Amendments have been changing from day to day, and it may well be before next Wednesday, when the Amendments to which the right hon. Gentleman refers will be reached, that they may again be in another shape. Therefore, I do not think that I ought to pronounce at the present time any opinion in regard to them. There are also other Amendments relating to Female Suffrage, which, of course, would make a huge difference if they were inserted, and at the present time Heaven only knows in what shape the Bill will; emerge from Committee. Therefore, I think it would be improper for me to give any ruling with regard to the particular point now, but, for the general information of the House, I may say that the general principle appears very clearly stated on page 491 of the last edition of May, and, broadly speaking, it is this: that if such substantial Amendments are made during the passage of a Bill in Committee as materially to affect the form and substance of the Bill in such a way as to make it, for all practical purposes, a new Bill, then it is necessary for that Bill to be withdrawn, and a new Bill to be introduced. That is simply the general statement, and there, I am afraid, I must leave it for the present. We must wait and see in what position the Bill reappears.