§ 1. Mr. JAMES HOGGE
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the only Government time given to any Scottish business or measures this Session was limited to five minutes required for the formal Second Reading of the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill; and whether, in making his promised statement about the business for the remainder of the Session, he will bear this fact in mind and redress the balance?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I will deal with this and the following question in the statement I am about to make.
§ Mr. KING
had the following question on the Paper:—To ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a number of Bills, many of a non-controversial or non-party character, which have been the subject of many days' discussion in this House or in Committee, are now in danger of being lost; and whether he will propose a Motion by which Bills that have passed Second Reading or subsequent stages at the end of this Session may be regarded as having the same position at the beginning of next Session as they have achieved at the end of this Session?
As the right hon. Gentleman has not answered this question, I appeal to him to seriously consider the matter—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move, "That, during the remainder of the Session, Government business shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered on at any hour though opposed; at the conclusion of Government business each day Mr. Speaker shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn and, if that Question shall not have been agreed to, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than half an hour after the conclusion of Government business; and on Fridays the House, unless it otherwise resolves, shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday."
The appeal which has been made by my hon. Friend (Mr. King) is one to which any Leader of the House, to whatever party he belongs, is accustomed on this annual occasion to listen. It is a question which really affects our general procedure, whether Bills which have reached a certain stage of progress should be carried forward from one Session to another—a matter which, I know, is under consideration of the Committee on Procedure now sitting upstairs. I cannot make any proposals of so novel and far-reaching a kind until the Committee has concluded its labours and given us the benefit of its advice. My duty, although a painful, is a simple one—to see what is the minimum of legislation we can reasonably hope to get through during the remainder of the Session. I have already indicated that it is the intention of the Government, with certain exceptions, which I specified last week, to confine the business to be taken before the Prorogation to Bills that will pass—Bills which are of such a character 2295 that, in accordance with our ordinary practice, though they are not perhaps strictly non-controversal in the fullest sense of the term, are at this time of the year habitually considered on Fridays or after eleven o'clock at night.
We are proposing the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule at a rather later stage of the Session than has been customary in the past, in order that those Bills may have a chance of finding their way on to the Statute Book. I indicated also that it was the intention of the Government to advise, after the Prorogation had taken place, that a new Session should begin in "early winter"—a phrase which seems to have given rise to some criticism, and which has been treated in some quarters as unduly ambiguous. As I said the other day, the calendar does not in these respects altogether conform to popular understanding and current usage. When I spoke of the "early winter," what my colleagues and I had in our minds was some date roughly corresponding to the last week in November or the first week in December—I cannot at the moment say which is the more probable date, but that is the sort of date which we have in view.
I now come to the Bills for which we are responsible, and in regard to which I have to state to the House what are our present intentions. Though it is a formidable list in point of numbers, it includes very few Bills of what is called "first-class importance," or of a highly controversial character. First of all I will take the Bills we intend to drop. They include first and foremost—
§ As I have said before, if the last-named Bill were treated as of a 2296 non-controversial character, the Government would be only too anxious to persevere with it, but indications have reached the Home Secretary which prevent him entertaining any such hope, and I fear it will have to pass into the category of controversial measures to be dealt with next Session.
§ Then I come to the Bills as to which we hope, and more than hope, that we can pass them without making any extravagant demand on the time of the House. There are two which are awaiting Third Reading. One I think is on the Paper to-day—
§ and the
§ both of which, I believe, will pass without any difficulty or without taking any exceptional time. There are a number of Bills which are awaiting the Report stage, and which we hope, with the suspension of the Time Rule, to pass without any undue encroachment on the convenience of the House—
§ as to which my right hon. Friend tells me that although there is a formidable list of Amendments on the Paper, he thinks there will be no serious opposition;
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am coming to that. I am taking the Bills according to the stage that they have reached. I take first the Bills that are waiting the Report stage. The Scottish Bill is in a very happy position, and it takes precedence. I come now to the Bills which I think are in Committee, or most of them are. There is—
§ and there is—
§ The Merchant Shipping Bill, both of which are small Bills of a kind usually discussed after eleven o'clock at night. Then there are Bills which have passed the Second Reading, but have not yet got through Committee. There is—
§ the principle of which Parliament sanctioned last year, and another small measure about which all Irishmen are in absolute agreement—
§ I come then to the Bills which are either awaiting Second Reading or which have been promised and not yet introduced. There is—
§ the necessity of which is, I believe, admitted on both sides. It is a Bill of only three Clauses.
§ which is also a very small measure, and which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary thinks ought to pass; and, I hope,
§ Then there are two of those Bills which always appear at this time of the Session, but not yet introduced—
§ There are certain others, such as
§ promised by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, and an
§ to amend not Part II., but the other part, the general scope of which has already been indicated. We do not propose to introduce either of those Bills this Session. They will have to take their place in the programme of next year.2298
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND rose—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am coming to that. The Labourers (Ireland) Bill we hope to get through. We believe that Bill also meets with universal support in Ireland. We hope to get through two other Bills which, though not of a popular character, are very much needed in Scotland—
§ It is a question of time. If they are controversial, we shall have to drop and postpone them until another year. I think that almost completes my List with the exception of
§ as to which what I said last week I now repeat—that we hope it may be treated on both sides of the House, not as a measure which does not require discussion, but certainly as one which will not excite party controversy, and of which one Clause—that dealing with the provision of necessary housing accommodation at Rosyth—is urgently needed, though I say that without any disparagement of the other provisions of the Bill. There is one measure to which as the House may have observed, I have so far made no allusion, and that is the
§ I personally, and I think all my colleagues are, very strongly in favour of this Bill, and very anxious to see it passed into law in the course of the present Session. But it has, I am informed, been most relentlessly, yet at the same time ably, opposed in its progress through Grand Committee. It has now, I think, reached the Report stage, and has the prospects before it of having to encounter again, unless something can be done, a very long series of amending proposals, to which it would be almost impossible, if they are persisted in, for the House within the limits of time now available to give proper attention. I earnestly hope that some arrangement may 2299 be come to between the promoters of the Bill and the small but very tenacious group of opponents which it has been its misfortune to encounter—an arrangement which, at any rate, will narrow the ambit of the controversy, and enable us to retain the Bill as one which we hope to put on the Statute Book in the course of the present Session. I should very much regret, particularly having regard to the main object in view, if the time and energy which have been devoted to the discussion of the measure almost from the first night of the Session should be altogether wasted. There are three other Bills which I have omitted, but which I ought to mention—
§ and two Bills which I believe are entirely unopposed—
§ I see that the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) shakes his head; but I think there is a very large body of opinion on both sides of the House in favour of their being carried into law. I have said nothing about Bills introduced by private Members, although I need not say that strenuous and most moving appeals have been made from various groups of private Members, who have made some progress with their Bills, that those Bills should be kept alive and at any rate have a chance of passing into law. The first is the
§ which I believe might be carried if the controversial portion were dropped. There is only one controversial Clause, I believe, and if that were dropped, which is a matter for the promoters of the Bill to consider, I believe there would be at any rate a good possibility of that Bill finding its way to the Statute Book. Then there is the
§ the Report stage of which has been begun on one of the post-Whitsuntide Fridays. 2300 That, I am sorry to say, is a Bill which I am afraid must, for this Session, at any rate, meet with an untimely fate, but no doubt we shall see it again. And finally, there is a Bill in which my colleagues from Scotland are interested, and upon which a great deal of time has been expended upstairs—
§ I am afraid that even by the utmost stretch of language it is impossible to treat this measure as being of an uncontroversial character, although many of its provisions, in my opinion, are very much needed, and do not really raise any acute controversy. I will not to-day pronounce its final doom for this Session, because I hope that some arrangement may possibly be made; but if it should turn out that that hope is unfounded, my hon. Friends in charge of the Bill know that the Government are in entire sympathy with its main principle, and they would themselves undertake the burden of introducing, I do not say precisely the same Bill—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Of introducing a Bill in the course of the next Session. Now I have come to the end of my somewhat wearisome recital. I do not think we shall be placing any unnecessary or unusual strain upon Members if we ask them before the prorogation to dispose of this programme. In other respects my Motion follows the customary form. There is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the Noble Lord opposite (Lord R. Cecil), which I presume refers to Addresses, Orders in Council, and matters of that kind.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
It refers to two things. It refers to Addresses and Orders in Council, and also to Motions under the Parliament Act, asking that Bills shall not be presented for the Royal Assent. That is a new matter which ought to be saved, if the provision is to have any reality in the future.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
As at present advised I see no objection to the first part, at any rate. That seems perfectly reasonable. Otherwise my Motion is in common form.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, this is a normal proceeding. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] It is also our usual procedure that the Leader of the Opposition is expected to say something by way of comment. I shall certainly follow the precedent of the right hon. Gentleman as regards the time I shall occupy. I do not think it would be fitting that I should deal in detail with the Bills which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned I may, however, say this, with which I think there will be a certain amount of agreement on both sides. We have heard men described as getting the best of both worlds. As regards Members of this House, looking at the matter from their point of view, the Government have, in my opinion, in the arrangement which they have made, succeeded in getting the worst of both worlds, so far as the convenience of Members is concerned. The position to which we have come is really this, that we are to have a very protracted Session—for the right hon. Gentleman has given us no indication as to when the end will come—and we are to have in practice the inconvenience of an Autumn Session as well. I think that is just about as bad an arrangement as could possibly be made. In this connection I should like to say a word or two, in regard to which I wish it to be understood that I have not consulted any of my colleagues; I am expressing only my own point of view, but on a matter of personal convenience I suppose I am entitled to do that. I think it is a great disadvantage that the House should sit at the time of year which is now upon us.
It would be a great convenience if the arrangements for the meeting of Parliament could be of such a nature that we were able to rise at the latest at the end of July. [HON. MEMBERS: "June, if you like!"] Perhaps I am influenced by considerations which I am sure affect other Members in all quarters of the House. Those of 2302 us who have children at school find by this arrangement that we are not free at the one time of the year when we should like to be, and as far as I can see by the arrangement the right hon. Gentleman is making for the autumn, he is bringing about this additional disadvantage: that we shall be occupied during a large part of the Christmas holidays as well. I think this is a very bad arrangement, but, as I say, I do not in the least commit my party or anyone else to any change. It seems to me that this ought to be a matter arranged to suit the convenience of the largest number of Members of the House, and I certainly hope that some such change as I have indicated may be made now or later. This is the worst possible arrangement for this Session. I think—and I shall not speak in an unnecessarily controversial tone—it is due to very bad management on the part of the Government. We have wasted a great deal of time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I will give instances of waste which will not produce cheers from the benches below the Gangway opposite. In this connection I would refer to the long list of more or less non-controversial Bills which the right hon. Gentleman has given. Hon. Members opposite speak of the danger "of our losing a portion of our precious cargo." I think there is that danger; but probably some of us have different views on the question of the cargo which is in danger of being lost.
As regards these non-controversial Bills, I do think that the fact that we get through so few of them in any Session is due mainly to this, that they are not introduced early enough. The House does not take advantage of the opportunity in the early part of the Session. They are brought in late; as a consequence, it is found impossible to carry them. The reason for that is, of course, that the heads of the Departments are not ready in time with these Bills. That is the sole reason. That comes also, I think, from the habit that we have got into of recent years—I was not alluding to the habit of putting things off as long as possible. What I was alluding to was the fact that you have persistent Autumn Sessions, and it is impossible for the staffs of the different Departments to get through and to make in advance, and soon enough, the necessary arrangements for this House. I do hope that this, or whatever Government may be in power in the future, will 2303 in regard to these Bills—many of which are of as much importance as those on which we spend hours fighting—make some arrangement by which they can be introduced earlier, so that there will be a better chance of their being carried into law. I am not going to refer to any of these Bills except two. I do not think it is worth while referring to the Scottish Land Bill, which has created different views as to its nature on the two sides of the House. The Prime Minister told us in effect that that Bill was dead, so we need not waste time in burying it. One hon. Member opposite said, "What we want is a strong Bill." My hon. Friends say it is too strong. It is not a question of strength at all. We have different ideas of what strength is. What hon. Members opposite may consider strength I very likely would consider weakness. The objection to this Bill is that it is not fair, and that it is not a question of strength or weakness in any way. The two Bills to which I am going to refer are the Housing Bill and the Revenue Bill. I do not think the Prime Minister has any serious idea that the Housing Bill can be carried at this stage of the Session. I believe I am not doing him any serious injustice when I say that it is simply an advance copy of his election address. From that point of view the result probably will be achieved nearly as well by having introduced it as by wasting time trying to carry it through.
As to the necessity of a Housing Bill, everyone has been agreed for a very long time—except the Government. They have been in office eight years. I think most of us in reality believe that improvements in housing would have been the greatest social reform that would have been carried. They have done nothing to help it, except to stop Bills which were introduced and got a Second Reading in this House with the idea that some aid might be given. They have done nothing about housing directly, but they have done something, a great deal, indirectly by the People's Budget—by the People's Budget they have done more, in my opinion—of course this is a very controversial subject—to stop the building of houses, and to prevent the supply of houses, than can now be done to remedy it by any Bill that can be introduced by any Government. I noticed the other day that the hon. Member for Northants (Mr. 2304 Chiozza Money) put a question to the Prime Minister. I think it was to point out what a tremendous fall there had been in recent years in the number of new houses built. Of course the hon. Member did not draw this inference, but I think the rest of the House may draw it—to a large extent the country is drawing it!—that this result is directly due to this fact, that the building of houses has been treated by this Government as in a different category from every other business. They have therefore done everything in their power to prevent the natural supply of houses going up.
That brings me to the Revenue Bill, which has a very close connection with the first question, because the House will remember that last year we were definitely promised that the Revenue Bill would be carried through the House—and it contained provisions which were agreed upon by all sections of the House—to remedy admitted defects. It was not carried last year. Now this year it is calmly postponed to the Greek Kalends, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year definitely promised that it would be introduced early this year. I allude to that from its effect on housing, but really it has a much more important bearing than that. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted the plan of splitting the Finance Bill into two, I think he made a definite promise—at all events it was clearly understood by the House—that instead of diminishing our opportunities to consider the financial proposals of the Government, it would increase them. What has happened?
The Government have confined themselves to the Finance Bill pure and simple, which has prevented every opportunity, of discussing any financial proposals which were not contained in the new taxation or suggested in the new taxation of this year. As the House knows, they went a step further, and in order to save time, and prevent Members of this House from being weary—and the Government from being inconvenienced—they closured the Finance Bill, so that we are now in this position: that one half of the Finance Bill we are not allowed to discuss at all, and the other half we are discussing under conditions which have never been heard of in the House of Commons. I do not think it is necessary to say more about this, because in the Debate the views of the House were shown pretty clearly, and they were shown pretty clearly in the Division which took place. I said we have got into 2305 this very undesirable arrangement—I mean as regards this Session—owing to want of good management. What an amount of time was wasted, absolutely wasted, by the muddle with which the Budget was introduced! We wasted days and days in discussing proposals which were dropped and of which we have heard nothing more, and will hear nothing more until next Session. The truth is that in the early stages of this Session the Government seem to have adopted, as a universal habit, the practice of letting things drift, until they come to a precipice, and that brings them to a standstill! I think the Government wasted time at the beginning of the Session. There was no object at all, or at any rate I do not think that they had any object, with the result that they have made it impossible for the proper discussion of the financial arrangements. I shall not take up further time. I am sure a great many of these Bills that the Prime Minister still hopes to carry will not be carried, and I am human enough to express the hope that we shall end this part of the Session, at least, at some reasonably early time.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There is, at any rate, one fact mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition which will meet with the entire agreement of the Whole House, and that is, that we should know much more definitely from the Government the arrangements about time that can be made from Session to Session. I think everybody will agree with the request which has been made with regard to spending the summer holiday with our children. I think the House is in agreement on that point. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Bill which I happen to be responsible dealing with the Scottish land laws. I am in the position, as a private Member, of having got two Bills through Second Reading and Committee stage. Before I address myself to the Scottish Land Bill, may I ask the Prime Minister if he could not give some more consideration to the rights and privileges of the private Member? Every private Member knows that we are up against two obstacles in this House in dealing with private Bills—the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). I do not know, whether it could be arranged for these two Gentlemen to have much longer holidays than the rest of us, so that we may 2306 have an opportunity of dealing with our private Bills. With regard to the Scottish Land Bill, I should like to draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that first of all we have a claim upon the Government because of the small amount of time given to Scottish affairs. I pointed out, in a question to the Prime Minister, that as a matter of fact Scottish measures, or even the Estimates of the Scottish Department, have only had five solitary minutes of Government time this year. I think the Prime Minister must agree that is an unfortunate allocation of time so far as Scottish Members are concerned. Now if the Scottish Land Bill was my own Bill and was in the same position as a private Member's Bill, I would not make this appeal with the same amount of force, but the Bill for which I am responsible is the Bill of my Scottish colleagues on this side of the House.
§ Mr. HOGGE
With, I believe, the exception of a Gentleman who does not desire to be associated with his colleagues, I say that the whole of the Scottish Liberal Members on this side of the House desire that Bill for Scotland, and desire that time should be given for its further stages. The Leader of the Opposition made the charge against us that the Bill was unfair, but as the right hon. Gentleman has now left the House, having made his statement without arguing it, I do not need to meet his argument. Why should one? If the Leader of the Opposition, as a responsible leader, has put that forward as a reason why this Bill should not be passed, he ought at all events to listen to the argument that it is a fair Bill, but presumably he has left the matter in the hands of his capable lieutenant the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Then the hon. Gentleman has taken charge of it compulsorily. What I want to suggest to the Prime Minister is this. I am perfectly certain that our Irish colleagues and our Labour colleagues and our English colleagues in this House would be perfectly content to sit up all night to give the Opposition an opportunity of showing the people of Scotland wherein this Bill is unfair. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well, as a Scottish Member, that there are at this moment between 5,000 and 6,000 small holders in Scotland waiting for the Board of Agriculture to provide them with 2307 land, and I would suggest to the Prime Minister that it is much more necessary for the Government to find time for the provision of land for the Scottish small holder than it is to preserve any bubbles in the South Sea. I put that suggestion forward to the Prime Minister, and I hope he will accept it. He was able to say that the Scottish Small Landholders Bill was not yet dead, and that if an opportunity could be found the Government would assist as far as possible in putting it through its other stages. I put it to the Prime Minister whether or not the Government could not arrange to give a day for the Report stage of this Bill, and, if necessary, give an entire day and part of the night and early hours of the next day—in order to ascertain whether the Opposition are really opposed to this Bill, and in order to let the people of Scotland know that it is opposed by the hon. Baronet and the party opposite, who only represent one-fifth of the people of Scotland and are a minority in this House. If they were sitting in a Scottish Parliament they would not carry on this opposition, but they take all the advantage they have in this House by the forms of the House of depriving the people whom they should represent of the benefits of this measure. I do not mind being beaten, as the hon. Baronet knows, in any fair contest and on fair terms, but let us at least have the opportunity of fighting fairly. We know there is a great amount of amendment required, but there is a large part of the measure upon which we are both agreed.
I know there is a certain measure of disagreement, but let us have time in this House to discuss the points on which we are agreed. We do not need to occupy much time on those points, and if on the points upon which we disagree the hon. Baronet and his Friends insist upon taking up an extreme amount of time, we shall know where the opposition lies. I do not think that that is an unfair request to make. I feel certain that our Irish and Labour colleagues would support us in making a ring for the contest, and I suggest that the Prime Minister should referee and give us that opportunity in order that the Bill amending the Scottish Smallholders Act may be put upon the Statute Book in order that the just claims of many people may be satisfied. Let me put one case to the Prime Minister. The 2308 right hon. Gentleman will remember that certain men in the Western Highlands were imprisoned in Calton Gaol because they had gone on to land which did not belong to them. These men and others in a similar position have been told by the Secretary for Scotland that the passing of an amending Bill would create conditions which would obviate these men doing an illegal act. If this Bill is not passed this Session anything might happen before next Session, and it is much better to have a definite bird in the hand this Session than the promise which the Prime Minister gives with regard to the next Session. The Prime Minister knows that in Grand Committee a great many things were omitted from the Scottish Smallholders Bill which Liberal Members would have liked to have put in, but we refrained because we did not want the Bill to occupy too much time when it came back to the House. If this Bill is lost now and the Prime Minister has to bring in a Bill on his own responsibility, we hope it will contain a great many stronger conditions than this Bill, and it might contain some of the strong recommendations of the Land Report which the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests with regard to Scottish land. We cannot be satisfied with the Act as it stands now. We are willing to discuss these questions on the floor of the House and have the proposals put fairly, and I appeal to the hon. Baronet opposite who is always a capable and extremely decent opponent, at any rate, to use his influence with his own side, to arrange that we should get an opportunity of seeing how Parliament can make progress with this measure.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
I am glad to respond to the appeal made to me by the hon. Member opposite who takes a very great interest in this Bill. Although it is a private Bill it was practically taken charge of by the Secretary for Scotland in Committee, and there is no disguising the fact that it is largely a Government measure. Under these circumstances I am entitled to say to the Prime Minister that we hope he does not intend to pass those unfair Clauses. The Bill as it stands now is not only in some respects ruthlessly and scandalously unjust, but it is a gross breach of the concordat upon which the original Bill was passed. So far, no justification has been shown for any such breach of that agreement. I say quite frankly to the House that I am very 2309 strongly in favour of a great many of the provisions of the new amending Bill, and I think improved machinery is required to make the Act work satisfactorily. We have contributed so far as we could in Committee by our judgment and experience to the moulding of those Clauses, and many of them are valuable and useful and would be an immense advantage if passed into law. But we cannot and will not agree to one or two provisions of that Bill put in against our strong opposition, and as a gross breach of the agreement previously made. I say to the Prime Minister if he would be good enough to look into those matters, and if he is willing to become the honest broker between the two sides, I think we shall have no difficulty in pointing out what Amendments we require in order to allow the Bill to pass. If we have an opportunity of telling the Prime Minister what those Amendments are, and of giving our reasons for them, I have every confidence that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that they are perfectly just and reasonable.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
If such an arrangement were come to, would the hon. Baronet regard it as an implied condition that no other Bill would be introduced?
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
There will not be much opportunity of introducing any other Bill in this House. The original Bill was passed as an agreed measure on certain conditions, and nothing has occurred in the main to entitle this House, or any party in the House, to break those conditions. It is perfectly useless wasting time on the Report stage unless those conditions are to be upheld.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I have nothing to do with the other place. Any arrangement which is to be made about this Bill should be made in the House of Commons, and it is no use if it is not made here. The Prime Minister is no doubt fully aware of the difficulty. There is the question of an appeal from the Land Court and proper compensation. I do not think the Land Court ought to, occupy the autocratic position which is given to it in the Bill, and there ought to be some appeal from its decisions. I think it would not be a difficult matter to take away the whole of these difficulties, and make a simple, effective, and proper appeal possible from 2310 a Court in which we have no confidence. I am desirous to see the machinery of this Bill passed into law, and I believe we could make some arrangement satisfactory to this side.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I was very sorry to hear the statement of the Prime Minister with regard to one Bill which he says must be dropped, and that is the Hop Substitutes Bill. Upon this measure I wish to make a further appeal to him for reconsideration. I know it is a measure which interests a comparatively small number of hon. Members in this House, but it is a longer debt than any of the other Bills which are going forward. There is no truth in the statement that there is any opposition to it in its present form, and I ask the Prime Minister to give us a chance in regard to this Bill amongst the other Bills which may come on at a late hour. The second Bill that I should like to allude to is the Plumage Bill. I do hope that the Prime Minister will take a firm line in connection with this Bill and give it the utmost chance possible. We know that the opinions expressed in the House on its Second Reading were overwhelmingly in favour of it. I do think, therefore, that it is the duty of the House to make some special effort to get this Bill through, if not in its present form at any rate in such a strong form that will enable the matter to be dealt with at once, instead of there being further delay. It must have struck the House that so far the discussion has been entirely confined to what is to take place after eleven o'clock at night. I think that the House would be glad to know what is going to occupy us in the hours previous to eleven o'clock, in order that we may be able to judge how long we are going to be kept here. We had an outline the other day of the larger subjects that are to engage our attention, and I did hope that the Prime Minister, after some days' consideration, might have been able to give us some idea how long is going to be given to the consideration of the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill, because it is by that other matters will have to be judged.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I should like first to follow the concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and say that as no mention has been made of the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill I suppose that we may assume that it is going to be taken on Monday, and that the Second Reading is 2311 going to take two days. I understood that was the statement made yesterday, and that if any alteration was to be made it would be announced at twelve o'clock to-day. No mention was made by the Prime Minister of Monday's business, and therefore I suppose that we may assume that it stands as announced yesterday. I hope that the time is not far distant when the House as a whole will deal with the time of its sittings. It is one of those questions which drift on year after year. We are all agreed that July and August are very bad months to be sitting, especially August, but no combination of Members seem to take the trouble to get the wishes of the House made effective. I suppose that in the Report of the Committee on Procedure we may find some reference to this matter. It is surely time, if I might suggest it as a comparatively new Member, for Members on all sides of the House to lay their heads together to put an end to this absurd period of the sittings. The House of Commons for those who do the work in it day in and day out is becoming the most dangerous trade, or the most dangerous profession, if that expression is preferred, in the whole community. Anyone who looks at the casualty lists of all parties will see that in these days they are becoming perfectly alarming. I believe that it is possible to arrange the business of the House not only to suit our convenience, but to suit much more serious considerations than convenience of private Members—I mean their health and various other matters like that. I hope that this is the last time when the House will be asked to sit practically through the whole of August in order to do absolutely necessary business.
With reference to the Bill, there are two in which the Labour party are specially interested. I would put in a very strong plea for the Education (Administrative Provisions) Bill. The Prime Minister stated that there was one Clause of that Bill which was controversial. There are three provisions in the Bill, and I understand that two would be generally accepted on all sides of the House. I am in a position to say that if we can get the Bill with the two provisions we are quite prepared to meet the general will of the House relating to the most controversial, so that need not stand in the way of the Bill becoming an Act of Parliament. The Bill received its Second Reading without a Division, even with the most contro- 2312 versial provision in it. Therefore, if hon. Members' plea for the Plumage Bill, with which I associate myself, is sound on the ground that it received a very large majority on Second Reading, my plea for the Education (Administrative Provisions) Bill is still sounder on the ground that it received its Second Reading without a Division at all. The misfortune of the Bill has been very largely accidental. It was sent to a Committee which was blocked. It was transferred to another Committee, and at the moment of transferring it Government measures were put in front of it, and that Committee got blocked. It was sent to a third Committee, and then, owing to the convenience of a Minister, the opportunity for practically immediate consideration was lost. There was a Milk and Dairies Bill, and it was postponed because the Minister for Agriculture could not find it convenient to attend. Otherwise, it would be on the list of Bills that have gone through Committee and await Report stage here. I hope that it will be possible for us to co-operate with Members on all sides of the House to get this Bill through as practically a non-contentious measure. I wish to state quite categorically and definitely that we are prepared to consider the objections made to the first Clause, and, provided we get the other part of the Bill, we are prepared to yield to pressure in the circumstances, of course under a certain amount of protest.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Yes, I think so. It would be perfectly easy to negotiate. I am expressing the intention and the spirit of those who are responsible for the Bill. I hope, also, that something is going to be done with the Coal Mines Bill. It is only a Bill of three or four Clauses amending the Coal Mines Regulation Act. The Prime Minister said something was to be done, but I rather put it down on my list of somewhat doubtful Bills.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I am very glad. I feel perfectly certain that the Prime Minister will get the support of the vast majority of Members of this House if he sets his face rigidly in the direction of getting this Bill carried this Session. Anything we can do both inside and outside this House to support him in that 2313 effort will be done. It is a Bill that ought to be put on the Statute Book. If it has any faults at all, it is too weak. None the less we will take it, and we think that it ought to be carried without delay. We are very glad that the National Insurance Act, 1911 (Part II. Amendment) Bill is going to be pushed through. That is very essential, and again every ounce of support that is necessary will be given in order to get it. Then there are two private Bills. There is, first of all, a small Bill relating to the amalgamation of trade unions. It is a Bill which is meant to remove a source of provocative irritation in the minds of trade unionists. It is of no great importance, but if it is carried it will enable trade unions to do that which they very much desire to do in the way of amalgamating with another. Suppose there are two trades unions, in the engineering trade or in the building trade. The members of both follow practically the same trade, but they cannot unite unless a vote is taken of two-thirds of the membership, and unless the decision to unite is carried by a majority. If, however, they come under the National Insurance Act and want to pool their interests, a mere majority vote will enable them to do so. I do not understand why in the Trades Union Act this two-thirds provision was inserted. If a majority of the members of two unions wish to unite, why should they not be allowed to do so? It is one of those petty-fogging safeguards which are so annoying. Time after time unions have desired to amalgamate, and, although a large majority of the members have been in favour of amalgamation, yet by reason of this provision they have not been able to get over the borderline. We have introduced this Bill to remove that obstacle. I am rather sorry that the Government hape not tried to give facilities for it, and that they did not ascertain how far it was really opposed on both sides of the House. I hope that even now the Prime Minister will endeavour to ascertain what fate it is likely to meet with, and possibly he will make a communication to me on the subject later on.
The other Bill to which I wish to refer—and, by-the-by, it is a Government Bill and not a private Bill—is the Check-Weighing in Various Industries Bill This is a very important Bill, and the way for it has been prepared in a manner which has been experienced probably by no other Bill on the Order Paper. No fewer than four Committees have sat upon the Bill—in 1906–7–8. They were presided over 2314 by Sir Ernest Hatch, whose work on that sort of Committee is very well known to every Member of the House who takes an interest in industrial matters. The purpose of the Bill is to enable workmen who are paid by weight or measure in certain industries to ascertain the correctness of the wages they receive. That question I have said, been referred to four Committees, which have, I believe, reported unanimously. The Committees were constituted of representatives both of employers and employed, and this Bill simply carries out their recommendations. It applies to iron and steel manufactories, chalk quarries, cement works, limestone quarries, lime works, and dock labourers. The sole purpose of the Bill is to enable workmen in these industries to see that they are not being cheated. We are told that soundings have been made and that the Opposition is blocking this Bill. I hope it is not the case. I hope the Opposition is not going to take the responsibility upon its shoulders of preventing this Bill being carried. If hon. Members opposite interested in social reform will be good enough to look into the provisions of the Bill, and into the Reports on which it is based, they will see it is a Bill to which they should give the warmest support so as to get it through immediately, in the interests of thousands of men who have very good grounds for complaint they are constantly making, that some employers cheat them in paying their wages by their methods of measurement. These are the Bills in which the Labour party are most interested at the present time. I hope they will all get through, and I trust that in respect of the Trade Union Bill further representations will be made which will enable trade unions to get rid of this very pettyfogging and provocative impediment towards amalgamation.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
There are two or three remarks made by the last speaker to which I should like to give support. I join with him in the hope that the time may come when it will not be compulsory for this House to sit during the hot holiday month of August, but I think that if that time is to arrive we shall have to abbreviate our holidays at Easter, Whitsuntide, and other periods. Then I should also like to support very heartily his appeal on behalf of the Feeding of Children Bill—his desire that it may be allowed to survive, and be included in the Prime Minister's category of useful, un- 2315 ambitious, non-contentious measures. I have listened with great attention to what has been said by the Leader of the Labour party, and I wish to join in his plea. For a long time this question of feeding children in the holidays has been the matter of acute controversy. I believe it is no longer so, and that is shown by the fact that no Division was taken on the Second Reading of the Bill. If the Prime Minister will make inquiry of the Board of Education—and I am glad to see the President of that Board is at his side—I think he will get an assurance that if the local educational authorities could he polled on this measure, there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of it being carried in the somewhat non-contentious form suggested by the hon. Member for Leicester. After all, half a loaf is better than none, and, certainly, for these poor children half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all. I hope, therefore, that this measure may be carried through, so that the various local education authorities may be able to set up machinery during the autumn by which they may, in the Christmas holidays, provide food for necessitous children—children who we agree ought to be fed during the period they are obliged to go to school.
I wish also to appeal to the Prime Minister to include in his category of useful, unambitious, non-contentious measures a little Bill which I have piloted so far through the House and through Grand Committee, and which deals with the morals of young people. I mean the Ready-money Football Coupon Betting Bill. That is a Bill promoted by the Football Associations. It is unanimously supported by them. It has met with no objection from any Member of this House except the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) and the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), the latter of whom has made himself a champion of this form of betting. The Bill, too, is backed by Members on every side of the House.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The hon. Member objected to the Bill going through last night. He was the only Member who did so object.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I should not have been pleading for it now had it not been for the hon. Member's objection, because the Bill would have gone through. As I have said, it is supported by Members in all parts of the House, by the whole of the Football Associations, and by the sporting papers themselves. It deals with a peculiarly pernicious form of betting. It does not deal with bets made by adults who are looking on at football matches, but it deals with a sort of betting which goes on in factories and workshops, and is largely induced by men who get commission for their efforts in inducing young people to indulge in this particularly foolish form of betting. I say particularly foolish, because they have very little chance of winning anything, while the practice makes large fortunes for certain people who cannot conduct their proceedings in this country, but have to go abroad in order to do so. I think it is very desirable therefore that this little Bill should be put into the category of useful, unambitious, unpretentious measures, and I hope it may be spared and may become law.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher) knows that he has made one of his usual very unjustifiable assertions. When I came into the House he was stating that I had made myself the champion of this form of betting. When I asked the foundation for that statement he said he did not get his Bill through last night, without a word of discussion, because I had opposed it. I did so because certain Members had asked me to do that, and others were here to oppose it as well as myself. I have not made myself the champion of any form of betting, but the fault I find with the Bill is that it is not worth the paper upon which it is written and will not accomplish its object. He has had that flaw pointed out to him, but he has been too indolent or neglectful to adjust the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has not had the courtesy to speak to me upon the subject of the Bill. I attended the Grand Committee where the Bill was supposed to be considered. The proceedings were a farce. I saw that the right hon. Gentleman was running about the corridor trying to get a quorum to come in for a minute, and when they came in they passed the Bill, and scooted out again. He got his quorum by going to people who were interested in another Bill before the same Committee upstairs, and making a corrupt bargain that he 2317 would help them to make a quorum. He got his quorum by that means, and immediately decamped himself, and did not stay to help my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh with his Bill which followed.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I cannot allow that statement to pass unchallenged. Although I was opposed to the Bill of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, I said I would stay there, and I did stay there to support him until he obtained a quorum for the rest of the proceedings.
§ Mr. BOOTH
That is entirely wrong. I attended the Committee myself. I drew the Chairman's attention to the fact that there was not a quorum present, and the Chairman stopped the proceedings while hon. Members went out to fetch the right hon. Gentleman. They could not find him, and the proceedings were stopped because the hon. Member went away.' So much for what happened. The Bill was not considered at all, and there was no discussion upon it. The right hon. Gentleman simply begged people to come in, like they do at some directors' meetings in the City, to sign their names and make a quorum, and then go away again. The objection I have to the Bill I have already stated. It has been pointed out to me by specialists on this matter that it will not accomplish the purpose the right hon. Gentleman has in view. The only effect it will have it will have is to bring discredit upon this House. The suggestion that because someone will not take his word that it is a perfect Bill, one is therefore in favour of a particular form of gambling is a most unworthy charge, and should not be brought in this House. Because you object to a particular Bill which has never been discussed, hon. Members feel that they are at liberty to go up and down the country and tell meetings of old maids and young people that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) and I are two spiteful ogres and too wicked for anything.
As to the Motion before the House I should like to draw attention to one point. I do not like what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asid with regard to an early adjournment. He asked for it upon the ground that the heads of Departments could be framing Bills for next Session. Of all the reasons one has ever heard for an early adjournment, that is the worst. The idea seems to be that 2318 whenever this House adjourns public officials should be spending their time in framing legislation. As a matter of fact they have all their pigeon-holes full of Bills. There is not a Government Department which is not eager to come into the limelight and to advise Ministers to pass legislation. They have a mania for it. The idea that they should be encouraged to bring in more Departmental Bills fills me with a considerable amount of concern. I hope I shall always be the champion in this House of effective administration. These Departments bring in their Bills in order to divert the attention of the House from bad administration of the law. A bad workman complains of his tools, and when a new Minister comes into a Department and wants to know why men, women, and children are doing things he does not like, the permanent official at once says, "We want a new Bill." That is one of the particular dangers of to-day, and it is particularly dangerous to the genius and principles of democracy that we should pass Bills whether they are wanted or not. I wish that hon. Members, both on this side and the other, would be a little more charitable to me. If I do what is a most painful thing to me, namely, oppose Bills passing without discussion, it is because I attach much more importance to administration than to legislation. We have far too many Bills on the Statute Book. They are not understood. That is the reason why they are not enforced. It is our duty to secure a better record before we get a new avalanche of legislation which the country does not require.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Leader of the Labour party began his remarks by stating that he was in entire accord with the Leader of the Opposition that this House should not sit in July, and especially in August. I quite agree with him. He went on to say that he was surprised that a large number of Members in this House did not join together to enforce that which he thought was right. The reason why they do not do that is the conduct of the hon. Member himself. The moment he had said that, he proceeded to ask the Government to pass, in addition to the long list of some twenty Bills they are prepared to pass, several other Bills in which he himself is specially interested. That is the reason why we have to sit for a longer time. Every hon. Member who happens to have a Bill thinks that his Bill is the only one worth considering. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Dogs 2319 Bill!"] No hon. Member in this House has ever heard me object, either to my being stopped after eleven o'clock or to the fact that the Bill has been defeated. I have never made any wild objections or cast aspersions on any hon. Member who was against me on that occasion. Everybody has a right to his own opinion, although on that particular occasion I cannot conceive why anybody should have objected to the Bill. The Dogs Bill is not alive and has nothing to do with the question I was discussing. We cannot adjourn early because every single Member in the House who happens to have a Bill is anxious to get it passed, although, as the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Booth) said, they are all bad Bills and are drafted in a hurry, either because it is a particular fad in regard to which somebody who is a friend of the hon. Member has asked him to proceed, or because he thinks he is going to catch a few votes or for some unworthy consideration of that sort. That is the reason why we are obliged to sit through the hot weather when we ought to adjourn. May I have one or two words with the Prime Minister? He said that the Labourers (Ireland) Bill is one of the Bills which is to be taken. I believe I am correct in saying that that Bill will cost at least £1,000,000. Is it fair to keep the House in these hot months sitting up late at night in order to spend another £1,000,000 upon Ireland? I presume we are going to have a Home Rule Bill and that Ireland is shortly to govern itself. Surely it ought to attend to its own labourers. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has come into the House. I was pointing out that the question should be dealt with by the hon. Gentleman when he occupies a prominent position in the Irish Parliament. It is not fair to keep this House sitting late at night in order to pass that Bill.
Then there is the question of the Housing Bill, which has not yet had a Second Reading. To sit up late till two, three, or four in the morning, when the House is tired, with few Members in it, all of them desirous of getting to bed, in order to pass big measures of this description, is to do what is utterly wrong, and only leads to Bills being passed without the House knowing what they are doing and which immediately require amending Bills. I do not think that any hon. Member who has been accustomed to 2320 study the House and be in it at all times can deny that Bills which are passed late at night, especially in the hot weather, never receive that attention which they ought. The Leader of the Labour party said that this House is dangerous to the health of Members. I do not agree with him. I have not found it so myself, and I have been here for twenty-two years, and there are few Members who are more assiduous in doing what they feel to be their duty in this place. But there is one thing which you, Sir, would perhaps agree with me is injurious to health, and that is the continual late hours night after night, keeping your attention on Amendments on a variety of subjects which come before you till three, four, or five in the morning. That is the only thing which is injurious to health. May I ask the Prime Minister to be easy with us during the remainder of this Session? We are going to have, I understand, what is really an Autumn Session, though it is called by another name. If we are going to have an Autumn Session, may I remind the Prime Minister of the black man who said, "Preachee and floggee too!" Preach or flog, but do not do both. Either let us have an Autumn Session, in which case we might go away early now, or do not let us have an Autumn Session. The Prime Minister is going to do both. He is going to keep us here with a long list of Bills—I think twenty—and then, when we have got through that, which may be, with a great deal of trouble, somewhere towards the end of August, we are to come back again in the early winter in order to pass more Bills. I am sorry that the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones) is not in the House, because about three weeks ago he rather upbraided me across the floor of the House for having stated that I did not think we should discuss the Revenue Bill this Session, and he said the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given him a pledge that we should discuss that Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Well, "promise." I got up and made a prophecy. My prophecy has come true. We are not going to have the Revenue Bill this Session, and I thoroughly agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we have not been treated fairly in this matter of the Revenue Bill. This is only the second time that we have had the Revenue Bill 2321 under the new procedure, and on neither of the two occasions, notwithstanding the promise or pledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, each time we have been put off with an excuse and have not had an opportunity of discussing the Bill. Some two or three years ago I asked the right hon. Gentleman, when this Motion was before the House, whether he could make some arrangement as to not sitting up too late, and I think he rather gave me some hope that that might be done. I hope he will remember that, and that during the remainder of this Session, we may come to some arrangement—of course, there must be concessions on both sides—and that the Patronage Secretary will not expect to get too much, always provided that there is no obstruction on this side of the House.
§ Mr. A. F. WHYTE
The two hon. Members we have just heard take up a peculiar position in regard to legislation. I think I am not misrepresenting their opinions when I say they object to all legislation.
§ Mr. WHYTE
Very nearly all legislation. The hon. Member, if we may judge by his actions rather than his words, objects to most legislation which is proposed unless it happens to be that which in our political jargon we call first-class measures proposed from the Front Bench. The Rules of this House as they at present exist, give a great deal of power to such hon. Members and enable them to push gradually forward, throughout the Session, a number of small and useful Bills till they reach the guillotine, which falls always at some date in July and decapitates those unfortunate measures. I do not know whether the Procedure Committee, which is reviewing the whole procedure of the House, has taken that circumstance into consideration, but I hope it has, because I am sure that means could be found to give a reasonable liberty to the hon. Baronet and his twin in safeguarding what they believe to be the public interest as they see it, and yet give Members in this House, who probably have a large body of support behind them for small and unimportant, but yet valuable measures, an opportunity of carrying their measures into law. I was very glad to hear the support which was given from both sides of the House to the idea that this House as a whole should control its own time. I think the House has handed over far too large a measure 2322 of control to the Government. After all, the convenience of this House, as representative of the national will, is, I think, superior to the convenience of the Government. I do not mean that this House is ever likely to take up the position which, for instance, the French Chamber takes up towards the French Executive of the day. I am sure the party tie in this country is much too strong to allow the average man, who is elected here to support a Government of given party, to take action which would seriously inconvenience the Government. If the hon. Baronet's friends were on the Front Bench he would be doing exactly as we do. He would not yield to the appeal which we make, just as we will not yield to his appeals. We should arrive at a better state of affairs if we had something in the nature of a business Committee, which would Lake into serious consideration the programme of legislation as set out by the Government in the early part of the Session, and do its best to allocate to the various parts of that programme a reasonable amount of time for its enactment into law. I am sure, if that were the case, a great deal of the incentive which the Opposition now have to consume time would be removed, because it would be quite well known that appeals to the Government to give more time would necessarily fall on deaf ears if the time were already allotted by a business Committee representing all parties and all interests.
Turning from the general question to one particular item in the speech of the Prime Minister, I gather that he has spared and condemned Bills according to the amount of opposition which was offered to them, and he practically condemned the Bill amending the Small Landholders Act of the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge), on account of the opposition offered to it by hon. Members on the other side of the House, and at the same time he expressed the hope that the Plumage Bill would be passed into law. I am in favour of both those Bills, but if I am asked to choose as between the two measures, I say unhesitatingly I want the Scottish measure and not the Plumage Bill, not because I share the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) in regard to the Plumage Bill. I am strongly in favour of that measure, but I am still more strongly in favour of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act Amendment Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a growing opposition!"] 2323 The hon. Member says that it is a growing opposition. I know that it is opposed by a group of Parliamentarians who know well how to prevent it from passing. So far as I have been able to discover there are a great many Members on this side of the House who would be prepared to sit up very late indeed to see the Small Landholders Bill passed into law this Session.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I wish, in the first place, to say on this occasion, as I have said on many previous occasions in discussions of this kind, that I find myself very largely in agreement with the speech, especially the earlier part of the speech, of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Whyte). I have always had immense admiration for my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and I have also had some admiration for the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), but I do feel that they have pressed their rights to the very extreme limit of what is practical. I agree with the hon. Member opposite that a very large number of Bills are killed in this House which it would be better to have on the Statute Book, just as a considerable number of Bills are passed which it would be very much better if they were not on the Statute Book. I believe that most of these Bills—I do not say all of them—most of the Departmental Bills are Bills which are not really legislation at all, in the true sense of the word, but merely Bills to put right small defects which have been discovered in matters of administration, and which it is right should have a chance of passing into law every Session. They only represent a few of the measures which the Departments desire to see passed into law, and which are really needed for the ordinary administration of the country. I certainly do regret the system under which we work, and which gives to a single Member a kind of liborum6 veto similar to that which existed in the Polish Constitution, and which brought very great disaster to that country. If hon. Members persist in using their right in the relentless way they use it, you will see that the right will be curtailed by the general feeling of the House.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am quite sure that the hon. Member will surprise us, but he will not necessarily convince us. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made reference to a number of Bills, and I am not going to go through them. I am very glad to hear that he does propose to proceed with the County and Borough Councils (Qualification) Bill, and I earnestly hope that, in spite of the opposition of one great objector, the measure will be passed into law, for I believe that my hon. Friend is practically alone in objecting to it. There is a little Bill which I do not in the least say should be passed into law this Session, and I merely take this opportunity of calling the Prime Minister's attention to it, and that is the Solicitors (Qualification of Women) Bill. That Bill has received the warm support of the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General. It has been practically approved—that is, perhaps, putting it too high, but we have a right to say that there has been a valuable intimation from the Master of the Rolls with reference to the desirability of some change in the law in the course of a judgment in a case to which I can refer the right hon. Gentleman. Though I do not suggest that it would be right or reasonable to ask the Prime Minister to take up the Bill and pass it into law this Session, I hope that if the Government survives till another Session, he will consider whether he can put it into the list of Departmental Bills.
The only other matter of any importance to which I wish to refer is the House of Lords Resolutions. The Prime Minister in sketching out the business for the rest of the Session omitted to mention that. That was probably because he had already mentioned it on other occasions. But I think we have a right to ask him when he proposes to proceed with that matter. It is, after all, of very vast importance, and it is one affecting the whole Constitution of the country. It does seem to us—or some of us, at any rate—reasonable that it should not be taken up lightly without any previous indication of what the proposals of the Government are. I think the right hon. Gentleman should put the Resolutions on the Paper without further delay, and give us some kind of indication of the occasion when, and the form in which, he proposes to proceed. He has stated over and over again that he proposes to deal with the matter this Session. I personally am very glad to hear that he does propose to proceed with it this Session, and the 2325 sooner it is proceeded with the better. It is unnecessary to recall the pledges, Parliamentary and extra Parliamentary, as to the importance of this matter, and I ask the Prime Minister to let us know without further delay what his proposals are, and particularly when he intends to bring them on, because it is a matter of which those who care for the Constitution of the country should have full warning, so that they may be able to make their arrangements to deal with it as it ought to be dealt with, looking to its importance. I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman in one word for the acceptance which he has intimated of the Amendment I have on the Paper.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have been looking more carefully into the Noble Lord's Amendment, and I can meet him by inserting in his Amendment, after the word "Parliament," the words "requiring any order, rule, or regulation to be laid before the House of Commons." That would meet the case of Addresses and Motions of that kind in regard to matters which arise under statutory requirements as to Rules to be laid on the Table of the House. I rather gather that the second part of his Amendment is in regard to measures which come under the Parliament Act.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I understand that I shall be allowed to move my Amendment. When I do so, I will explain to the right hon. Gentleman what is its precise meaning. I cannot think that the Government intend by this Resolution to take away from the House at large the right which at present exists under the Parliament Act.
§ Mr. COWAN
My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), in urging upon the Prime Minister the importance of giving facilities for the further progress of the Bill to amend the Smallholders Act of 1911, seemed to imply that I was the only independent critic of the Bill on this side of the House. That is far from being the case, and evidence of that fact will be found by perusing the Amendment Paper. There are numerous Amendments on the Paper in the name of hon. Members on this side of the House as well as hon. Members on the other side. I have no sympathy with the opposition to the Amending Bill so far as it emanates from the benches opposite. My hon. Friends opposite object to it 2326 because it is too drastic, but my opposition to it, which is a very friendly one, is because it is too conservative. My own view is that the Bill, having been introduced three years after the passag6e of the original Act, ought to be a Bill of a comprehensive nature, embodying a reasonable attempt to remove the main weaknesses which experience has shown to exist in the original Act. My hon. Friend has succeeded only in dealing with a few points which, however important, are of minor importance compared with others to which attention has been drawn by myself and other Members. I would hesitate very much to oppose in any way any measure for improving the condition of small holders in Scotland. My hon. Friends opposite suggest that if the Amending Bill, or a Bill of any sort, is passed by agreement between the two sides of the House there is an implied understanding that no further Amendments shall be made during the lifetime of a particular Parliament in which the original Bill was passed. It would be a very dangerous thing for those who desire to see drastic land reform in Scotland to accept a Bill now which is of so inadequate and trivial a character and does not relieve the small holders of Scotland from the many grievances which still continue under the operation of the Act of 1911. I hope that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh will fall in with the suggestion of the Prime Minister, and not press for the passing into law of the Bill this Session, but will accept the Prime Minister's offer to introduce on behalf of the Government a really drastic measure in the coming winter to amend the Act of 1911. The Act of 1911 has done much to ameliorate the position of the Scottish small holders. But it contains many imperfections, and does not by any means go far enough, and unless it can be amended in the sense which will make it valuable and applicable to all small holders in Scotland, I for one would rather wait until a satisfactory Amendment Bill were introduced. Therefore I hope either that we shall have an assurance from the Government that if the present Bill is passed into law we shall not be debarred by any concordat or agreement with the other side from obtaining a stronger measure next Session, or, failing that, that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh will take the wise and patriotic course of subordinating his own personal interest in a Bill—
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
Before moving the Amendment which stands in my name, might I ask the Prime Minister to give us a little more definite information with regard to the Revenue Bill? He stated that the Revenue Bill would be dropped, but he did not say whether he was going to introduce it in the so-called Winter Session or whether it is being dropped altogether. I think it rather significant that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
After the statement that this Revenue Bill was going to be carried into law, and after the way in which he resented the suggestion made from this side of the House that it would never become law, I think it a pity that he is not here now to raise his voice in protest, as other Members have done in reference to particular Bills being killed. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell me if the Revenue Bill is to be proceeded with?
§ Mr. GWYNNE
Am I to assume that the Revenue Bill has been dropped, or does the right hon. Gentleman intend to bring it on in the Winter Session?
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
On a point of Order. If the hon. Member moves his Amendment, will it be possible to refer to the Plumage Bill?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
When the Question is put as a whole, whether amended or not, the hon. Member can then refer to it.
§ Mr. MORTON
I suppose that when we have finished with this Amendment we shall have an opportunity of referring to other subjects?
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
Perhaps the hon. Member would postpone his Amendment to enable a discussion on the Plumage Bill to take place. It will not last long, as there are only one or two minor points to be raised.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I beg to move, after the word "Session" ["the remainder of the Session"], to insert the words "on any day after the day on which this Order is passed."
I do not wish in the least to stop hon. Members from referring to the Plumage Bill, but if I do not move my Amendment now I may be debarred from moving it later on. When my Amendment is disposed of, hon. Members can refer to the Plumage Bill. I merely want to get from the Prime Minister information which he seems to resent giving to me.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not resent it in the least. I have already given it most fully to the House.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I have not understood whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that the Revenue Bill was to be introduced this Winter Session or not.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If the hon. Member will do me the courtesy to read what I said to the House, he will see that I expressly said so.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I hope the right hon. 6Gentleman will not think me discourteous, but it seems to me that what he said last week did not apply to-day, because other hon. Gentlemen last week told us that the Revenue Bill was going on now, and now we are told that it is not. I was not quite clear as to what will happen. Those who listened to the right hon. Gentleman's statement to-day are at a loss to know what is the actual position of these Bills. It is very important to know what are the Government's intentions in regard to the Revenue Bill. If it is to be introduced and carried in this Winter Session before Christmas, then the circulars which have gone out in regard to the payments may possibly be reasonably acted on. But if there is no intention or very little intention on the part of the Government to introduce the Revenue Bill, then I think that local authorities ought to be definitely informed, so far as the proposed proposals were concerned. If that is not the case, I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should give some explanation, because after all the promises which were contained in his speech, that they are going to get a definite Grant, at any rate, we might be given some explanation as to why the Bill is dropped. Last year, when the Revenue Bill was withdrawn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer then said, in regard to certain Clauses which were not disputed, that they would be introduced early this Session, and he gave a definite pledge to that effect. That was not done; and now that they have been introduced they are calmly dropped again. I think it is very unfortunate that these statements should be made each year, and that, when the time comes for killing Bills, nothing further is done with regard to them. The effect of the Amendment which I have moved is that we should not go on to-night after five o'clock discussing the work of this House. I do not think it is an unreasonable request. We are starting a strenuous time under the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule, and I think that we ought not to be kept here to-day to discuss matters which the Prime Minister himself has referred to as important. It would be unfortunate, not only in regard to the inconvenience to the House, but so far as the results are concerned, I think that all sides of the House are agreed that we ought not to sit after five o'clock in order to force legislation through, and that everybody is anxious to get away. I can quite understand that the Govern- 2330 ment wish to get through three or four more important measures, but I do not think we should be called upon to stay after five o'clock, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will give an undertaking to that effect, I will not press my Amendment, and the general discussion can proceed.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)
There is no intention on the part of the Government to have any prolonged sitting this afternoon. At the same time, we do not want to give any undertaking that we will adjourn at the hour of five. There are three Orders we propose to take after this Resolution, and I hope they will be passed by the House as absolutely non-controversial. We do not propose to proceed beyond the third Order on the Paper. The first Order is the Merchant Shipping (Convention) [Money] Resolution, and it is necessary that this particular Resolution should be passed to-day to enable the Committee to sit upstairs to deal with its business on Tuesday next. The Committee met yesterday, but were unable to deal with their business as this particular Resolution had not been dealt with in the whole House. It was necessary to adjourn the proceedings of the Committee until Tuesday, and I believe the Report as to the Merchant Shipping (Convention) Bill is one which is unopposed. In regard to the Government of the Soudan Loan Bill, in Committee, I believe it may be regarded as an almost purely formal stage, the Bill being a non-controversial one. With regard to the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Bill, down for Third Reading, it has already been discussed in this House and upstairs very fully. I believe that every point of substance has been met by the Government, and there is no amendment whatever to the Bill, nor, so far as I am aware, any objection whatever to the passage of the measure into law. We do not propose to pass beyond those three Orders which are of a non-controversial character, and after they have been disposed of, we shall be able to move the Adjournment. I do not suppose they will occupy long after five o'clock, and it may be that they will be concluded considerably before that hour; therefore, I appeal to the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I think the Government are unreasonable in asking to keep the House after five o'clock, without having given hon. Members any notice or intimation that they intended to do so. My hon. Friend is perfectly right in moving this Amendment, and in regarding the Government as really unduly greedy and avaricious in this matter. I desire to enter a strong protest against the course that is proposed to be adopted, and I think that the Government are not treat-
§ ing the House courteously or well. I hope my hon. Friend will press his Amendment to a Division. If hon. Members on either side of the House were not absent in such numbers, probably at lunch, or otherwise occupied, I think we should have had considerable support from hon. Members behind the Government.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The house divided: Ayes,72;Noes,210.2333
|Division No.181.]||AYES.||[2.12 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Denniss, E. R. B.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fell, Arthur||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gilmour, Captain John||Sandys, G. J.|
|Baring. Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Barnston, Harry||Goldman, C. S.||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gretton, John||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bird, Alfred||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Blair, Reginald||Harris, Henry Percy||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Helmsley, Viscount||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Bowden, G. R. Harland||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Boyton, James||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Tickler, T. G.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hoare, S. J. G.||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Horner, Andrew Long||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Butcher, John George||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Campion, W. R.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hltchin)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.||Younger, Sir George|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Malcolm, Ian|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mount, William Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Croft, Henry Page||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Mr. Rupert Gwynne and Sir J. D. Rees|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Cotton, William Francis||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cowan, W. H.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Adamson, William||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hackett, John|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Crooks, William||Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)|
|Alden, Percy||Crumley, Patrick||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cullinan, John||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Barnes, George N.||Dawes, James Arthur||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Delany, William||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dillon, John||Hayward, Evan|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Donelan, Captain A.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Doris, William||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Duffy, William J.||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Boland, John Pius||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hewart, Gordon|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hinds, John|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hodge, John|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Esslemont, George Birnie||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Falconer, James||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Farrell, James Patrick||Hudson, Walter|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ffrench, Peter||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Field, William||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Fitzgibbon, John||John, Edward Thomas|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Gibbs, G. A.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Ginnell, L.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Glanville, H. J.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Goldstone, Frank||Joyce, Michael|
|Clynes, John R.||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Kelly, Edward|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Kenyon, Barnet||O'Connor, T. p. (Liverpool)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Doherty, Philip||Rowlands, James|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Dowd, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||C'Malley, William||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Sheehy, David|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|McGhee, Richard||Parry, Thomas H.||Sutton, John E.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherha'n)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Pratt, J. W.||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs, Ince)|
|Meagher, Michael||Price, Sir R. J. (Norfolk, E.)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Pringle, William M. R.||Wardle, George J.|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Radford, George Heynes||Waring, Walter|
|Molloy, Michael||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Mooney, John J.||Reddy, Michael||Webb, H.|
|Morgan, George Hay||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Morison, Hector||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone. E.)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Muldoon, John||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Robinson, Sidney|
|Nuttall, Harry||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Mr. SANDYS
I beg to move, after the word "Session" ["during the remainder of the Session"], to insert the words "except on such days as may be set apart for the discussion of matters connected with Irish policy."
The object of this Amendment is to exempt from the operation of this Motion all Debates taking place upon Irish policy, so that when those questions are under consideration, instead of the Debate being prolonged, as is possible under the provisions of the Motion, to after eleven o'clock, the discussion may not take place later than eleven o'clock at night. The Debates to which this exemption would apply must from the circumstances of the case be very numerous during the remainder of the Session. Therefore if I am to carry the House with me in this proposal I am aware it will be necessary for me to bring forward very weighty and substantial reasons for proposing such a far-reaching change in the Prime Minister's Motion. I submit, and as I hope to show in the course of my remarks, the matters which we have to deal with in respect to these Irish questions are of such extreme importance and of such grave consequence to the country that it is absolutely necessary that we should discuss and decide upon them under the most favourable conditions possible. As has already been 2334 pointed out in this Debate, these prolonged sittings carried on in the early hours of the morning are invariably unsatisfactory even when matters of ordinary public business are under discussion, because while the Debate falls to a lower level party feeling invariably rises to a higher temperature. I recollect very well some of the most unsatisfactory Debates which took place upon the Insurance Act were those which dragged on into the early hours of the morning. I think that is a criticism which applies to every Bill discussed under those conditions. I am of opinion that one of the causes for the present difficulties, constitutional and political, with which this country is faced to-day is that the credit of the House and the prestige of Parliamentary institutions in general have been generally lowered in public estimation. The people's confidence, both in the good sense and in the good faith of Parliament, has been shaken. Now that we are entering upon a period of supreme crisis, and are called upon to make decisions of the most far-reaching consequence to the country, it is our duty to see that the discussions take place in such a way as not to lower, but to raise and restore the prestige and authority of this House. The position in Ireland at the present moment is so difficult, so dangerous, and so exceptional, that I certainly think—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member cannot discuss the details of the Irish question on this Amendment.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I am entitled to give reasons why there should be some exception made with regard to those discussions, am I not?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I have a good deal of doubt whether the Amendment is permissible at all, for the very reason that hon. Members might follow the example and discuss the merits of various Bills under cover of similar Amendments. That is not desirable, and the hon. Member must keep to the narrow issue involved.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I should desire to argue that it would have been very much better if these important questions had been dealt with earlier in the Session, before it became necessary, owing to the congestion of business, for the Prime Minister to move a Resolution of this kind.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That might be proper on the main Question, but not on the Amendment with which we are now dealing.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I have no wish to go beyond your ruling in any way, but I desire to urge that, in view of the fact that discussions of this serious character cannot satisfactorily be carried on or decisions properly arrived at in the early hours of the morning, it would be far better, so far as important Irish Debates are concerned—and I have specially in mind the Amending Bill—that the discussions should come to an end at eleven o'clock at night. It is extremely unsatisfactory that all these matters should have been deferred until this period of the Session. Had they not been so deferred it would have been unnecessary for me to move an Amendment of this kind. The reason which makes such an Amendment necessary, especially with regard to the Amending Bill, is the policy of the Government in introducing that Bill in the House of Lords instead of in this Chamber. Had the Government followed the ordinary precedent and introduced the Bill in this Chamber, the democratic House, where the representatives of the people sit, instead of taking the remarkable course of introducing it in the hereditary Chamber, this difficulty would not have arisen. I hope that, in the circumstances of the case, it may be possible for the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I beg to second the Amendment.
We know quite well that Debates prolonged into the early hours of the morning are not reported in the Press, and the public at large have no opportunity of knowing what goes on at such times. The difficulties of the Press Gallery, we know quite well, prevents their reporting such speeches. If important questions relating to Irish business arise at those hours we do not know what turn the Debate may take, or what new announcement may be made in the course of the discussion. We know quite well that the Government are drifting from hour to hour without a policy in regard to this question. At any moment some new statement or some startling enunciation of policy may be made. That may take place in the small hours of the morning, when the House is only sparsely attended, and Members cannot adequately grasp the importance of the announcement made, while to the public outside it is absolutely unknown. Because of the important developments which may take place in any Debate on Irish questions, because of the tremendously critical issues involved, it is absolutely essential that such discussions should not be shoved aside into the small hours of the morning, but should take place at a time when the House can be fully attended, when the attention of Members is ready to be given to the questions at issue, and the public can be advised through the ordinary channels of Press reports of what goes on.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
I do not think that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment can have really believed that the Government could accept their proposal. Not only is such an Amendment unprecedented in connection with the course usually followed at this period of the Session, when every Member is anxious, if we are to have a winter or a late Autumn Session, that we should rise as early as possible in the month of August, but it is essential that we should proceed with certain financial arrangements before the 4th or 5th August. We have also to take the business to which the Prime Minister has already alluded, and to consider the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill. If an Amendment of this kind were accepted, it is obvious that many of the uncontroversial Bills which we hope to be able to place on the Statute Book, would be jeopardised. This Amendment would apply not only to the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill, 2337 but to other Bills dealing with Ireland. There are one or two uncontroversial Bills of that character, and the Amendment would apply to the days upon which such business was set down. Quite apart from the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill, it is impossible for the Government to accept an Amendment of this character. In regard to the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill, we are as anxious as hon. Members opposite that there shall not be prolonged proceedings. I hope, and I personally believe, that there need be no prolonged sittings even in the event of its requiring a few days' discussion in this House. But it is very undesirable, at this period of the Session, that we should go up to eleven o'clock and then be prevented from pursuing Amendments in connection with a Bill of this kind, if the House so desires. I might remind the House that the policy of the Government has been illustrated during the present Session by not overtaxing the physical capacity of Members in asking them to sit up very late. There has not been a Session within my recollection in which there have been a fewer number of days on which the Eleven o'clock Rule has been suspended. I cannot myself recall any very protracted or late sitting which the Government has asked the House to undertake during the present Session. The Prime Minister, I know, is very anxious not to have protracted all-night sittings, and I am quite sure that he and his colleagues are very anxious to meet hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite so far as they can, in asking them only to sit to a reasonable time at night. At this period of the Session it is inevitable that we must suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule if we are to proceed with the business of the House, and get measures on the Statute Book which are essential in the interests of the country—the view taken, I believe, by the majority of Members of this House. For these reasons I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am afraid I cannot quite agree with the last part of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that the measures which the Government are going to propose are necessary in the interests of the country. I am not quite sure whether it is in order to mention it, but as the hon. Gentleman referred to it, it is quite in order to follow him, and to point out that he is mistaken in that idea; for I believe it would be for the benefit of the country if these mesaures were to go 2338 —along with the Government and the right hon. Gentleman himself! I will deal with the real arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, so far as they can be called arguments. First of all, I should like to thank him for the conciliatory way in which to a certain extent he met the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend. I quite agree with him that up to the present time we have not been asked to stay up very late this Session—doubtless owing to the conciliatory behaviour of the Opposition! But that is all the more reason why we should not have late sittings now. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was an unprecedented Amendment. I think that is so. While he was speaking I was trying to remember an Amendment of this sort, and I do not think I can. The whole position is unprecedented! I do not want to allude to it or to particularise any business more than necessary, but the fact that these Irish Bills will be introduced at this time, and after this Motion has been made, is unprecedented. I am not quite certain, but I think it is only on rare occasions that a measure is introduced for the first time after this Motion has been passed.
It must be remembered that there are certain Bills which we are thinking of which have never been yet introduced. I think that is almost, if not quite, unprecedented. The right hon. Gentleman said that the effect of the Amendment would be that on the days and nights on which Irish business is set down no other business can be taken. That is quite true, but that is easily got over. This Amendment could be withdrawn, and an Amendment adopted providing that this Motion shall not apply to Irish business. That would meet the objection of the right hon. Gentleman, that while you could not take Irish business after eleven o'clock you could proceed with other small measures. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would receive a suggestion of that sort with favour, but if he would, I would endeavour to induce my hon. and gallant Friend to meet him. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that such a modification of the Amendment, if accepted, would do him much harm? He may agree with me that in all probability Irish business would not be taken much after eleven o'clock. There is the argument brought forward by my hon. Friend who has just left the House, one of the Members for the University of Glasgow (Sir Henry Craik).
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I wish there were two, and that they voted on this side of the House. It is undesirable to go on after a very late hour, because it is necessary that the country should know what we are doing with important measures, and it is impossible for the Press to report accurately and at any length speeches that are made after eleven o'clock, or which are made towards midnight. So I really do not think the right hon. Gentleman would do himself very much harm by agreeing with the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend. There is another point which has not been mentioned—that is, that it is necessary that a Bill of this sort should have a full House. Hon. Members in all parts of the House ought to know what they are doing. How can you get a full House under the circumstances? Everybody knows that Members lie about the benches and go to sleep. I do not blame them, of course, but it is a fact that they do it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not know that we are discussing a matter now of very enormous importance. The Amendment is perfectly clear. Everyone knows what it is, and it is not necessary to listen to arguments.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Hon. Members understand the position, but I am not quite certain that the hon. Member who interrupted me is not right. If I may say so, probably he has a very acute disposition, and it may be that what was passing in his mind is this: "That it is hoped
§ that Members on our side of the House"—that is, his side—"will not listen to the arguments during this Debate, because if they do they will vote against the Government." Possibly that is one of the reasons why he is desirous that the Debates that follow should proceed when hon. Members of the House are asleep and are incapable of understanding what they are doing. I thank the hon. Member for having brought forward that argument, which did not occur to me, but it is such a strong argument that I am sure that those who listened to it will support it, and possibly it may even induce the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment. I am afraid that my eloquence—such as it is—has not made any impression upon the right hon. Gentleman, but may I take it that his conciliatory remarks were meant to have this meaning: that it would be understood that we shall not be kept up late at night on the Irish business, and that about 11.30, or thereabouts, we shall adjourn? I put it in more simple form in this way. If a particular Clause is under discussion, that Clause should be finished, of course, but no new Clause or important Amendment should be entered upon after eleven o'clock. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman means, I do not know what my hon. Friend may think, but I certainly should be satisfied with it. The right hon. Gentleman has not been able to make up his mind. Perhaps he will think over it, and I will ask my hon. Friends to continue the Debate for a short time in order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of considering whether he will do so or not. I hope he will consider it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 74; Noes, 217.2341
|Division No. 182.]||AYES||[2.46 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Campion W. R.||Hamilton, C G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Harris, Henry Percy|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Helmsley, Viscount|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)|
|Barnston, Harry||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Craik, Sir Henry||Hoare, S. J. G.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Dalrymple, Viscount||Horner, Andrew Long|
|Bird, Alfred||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hunt, Rowland|
|Blair, Reginald||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C Scott||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Duncannon, Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Bowden, G. R. Harland||Fell, Arthur||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Boyton, James||Gibbs, G. A.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Gilmour, Captain John||Malcolm Ian|
|Bull, Sir William James||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C (Honiton)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Goldsmith, Frank||Mount, William Arthur|
|Butcher, John George||Grant, J. A.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Rees, Sir J. D.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Ronaldshay, Earl of||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Tickler, T. G.||Younger, Sir George|
|Staveley-Hill, Henry||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Valentia, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Stewart, Gershom||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)||Mr. Sandys and Sir Frederick Banbury.|
|Talbot, Lord Edmund||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Adamson, William||Harcourt, Robert V, (Montrose)||O'Malley, William|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Hardie, J. Keir||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Alden, Percy||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hayden, John Patrick||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Hayward, Evan||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Barnes, George N.||Hewart, Gordon||Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Higham, John Sharp||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hinds, John||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Hodge, John||Pratt, J. W.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hogge, James Myles||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh Central)|
|Boland, John Pius||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Price, Sir R. J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hudson, Walter||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Radford, G. H.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Illingworth, Percy H.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||Reddy, Michael|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley 0.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Joyce, Michaei||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kelly, Edward||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Robertson,'J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Kenyon, Barnet||Robinson, Sidney|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Kilbride, Denis||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Clynes, John R.||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Rowlands, James|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lundon, Thomas||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Crooks, William||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sheehy, David|
|Cullinan, John||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||McGhee, Richard||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Maclean, Donald||Strauss, Edward (Southwark, West)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Sutton, John E.|
|Delany, William||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Dillon, John||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Doris, William||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Meagher, Michael||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Molloy, Michael||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Falconer, James||Molteno, Percy Alport||Wardle, George J.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Mooney, John J.||Waring, Walter|
|Ffrench, Peter||Morgan, George Hay||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Field, William||Morison, Hector||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Webb, H.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Muldoon, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Glnnell, L.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Norton, Captain Cecil W||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Nuttall, Harry||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Gulland, John William||O'Doherty, Philip||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Mr. Wm. Jones and Mr. Geoffrey Howard.|
|Hackett, John||O'Dowd, John|
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I beg to move, after the word "business" ["at the conclusion of Government business each day"], to insert the words "and of proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament which shall be taken immediately after Government business."
My Amendment has received a sort of qualified blessing from the Prime Minister, and he has only expressed a doubt as to how far he can accept it. Perhaps I may just explain what the point raised is. Under the second part of this Resolution provision is made that "at the conclusion of Government business each day Mr. Speaker shall propose the Question, 'That this House do now adjourn,'" and after half an hour he has to put that Question. Of course, it is intended that nothing but Government business shall be taken during the remainder of the Session, and, as far as that is concerned, of course we accept it. That is the purpose of the Resolution, but there is an effect which I do not think is really intended, because the Resolution takes away from private Members a right which is given by the Standing Orders to bring up a certain kind of Motion after eleven o'clock. That is not a right which has been opposed or can be opposed, but it is a valuable right, and it is one which it is really essential to preserve if you are not to make nonsense of a great number of Sections of Acts of Parliament which provide that certain matters shall be laid upon the Table, and if within a certain number of days an Address is moved and carried those Regulations may be withdrawn.
From this day forward, unless something is done to preserve that right, it is reduced to a perfect nullity. The House is still sitting, and time begins to run. The Regulations may be made, and the days begin to run, and they will become, by the mere effluxion of time, the law of the land, in spite of the fact that by the very Sections giving power to the Government to legislate in that way power is reserved to any Member of the House to move an Address in order to preserve that right. At ordinary times Standing Order No. 1 provides that at 11.30 the House shall be adjourned unless proceedings made in pursuance of an Act of Parliament are under consideration. That gives to any hon. Member of the House the right to move, in pursuance of the Act of Parliament, an Address dealing with those Regulations, and, as the House knows quite well, that is not prevented by the operation of the Time 2344 Rule. It is the first purpose of my Amendment to preserve that right. There are other Acts of Parliament which also preserve rights to the House, and give hon. Members certain privileges under certain circumstances, and wherever an Act of Parliament gives such powers to the House it gives to every Member of the House a right to take proceedings. Whatever the rights of hon. Members of this House are, I submit that they ought to be preserved in spite of this Resolution. I do not wish to extend those rights in any way, but whatever they are they ought to be preserved. That is the whole point, and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will see that this is a reasonable request, and whatever rights we have ought to be preserved, unless there is some good reason given for taking them away. One point which I have got in mind is the right reserved to the House under Section 2 of the Finance Act. The House will remember that by the first Subsection it is provided:—
"That Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty."
It seems to me that it is arguable that that is a right which is preserved at present to hon. Members of this House to act upon after eleven o'clock by the first Standing Order, because it is a proceeding made in pursuance of an Act of Parliament. I may be wrong. I only say if it is a right, and I do not wish to prejudge it, it ought not to be taken away by this Motion. It is a very important matter, and the House of Commons ought to have a right to interpose at the last moment to say that it does not think, under the circumstances, it is desirable that an Act should be signed by His Majesty. That is a right which is preserved to the House of Commons by the Statute, and it ought to be kept in full effect in spite of a Resolution dealing with the ordinary procedure of the House of Commons. I know the Prime Minister imagines that my Amendment is designed to extend that right. I have carefully followed the words of the Standing Order, and I ask the attention of the Government and the House to the fact that my Amendment merely re-enacts the Standing Order which prevents the abrogation of the Standing Order by the Resolution. It only says that in addition to Government business there shall be preserved, 2345 "proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament." Those are the exact words of the Standing Order, and all it says is that by this Resolution you shall not take away from the House whatever rights it would have had to proceed under the Standing Order in respect of proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament. I cannot help feeling that that is a very reasonable proposal, and I hope the Government will see their way to accept it. I think it would be very unfair indeed that by a Resolution dealing with the procedure of this House there should be taken away from hon. Members a very important right which is reserved to them by the Parliament Act. I do not like the Parliament Act, and I think it was a mistake to pass it, but I think everybody will admit that it embodies a change of vast importance, which was very carefully considered by the Government, and they preserved what rights they thought proper to the House and gave to the other House what they thought it was right to give them. By this Resolution you are taking away from hon. Members a very important right which otherwise they would possess, and I cannot think that that is the intention of the Government. I hope the Government will accept the Amendment as it stands, for it will do no more than preserve to every hon. Member of the House whatever rights he has under the Standing Order at the present moment.
§ Mr. PEASE
The first part of the Noble Lord's speech dealt with a privilege and right which the Government have no desire to withdraw from the House of Commons. It is very obvious that regulations in matters of that kind ought to be laid before the House for twenty-one days in some cases, and for different periods in other cases. I think that right ought to be preserved in an effective way and hon. Members ought to retain the opportunity, in spite of a Resolution of this kind, of moving an Address to draw attention to the regulations on matters of that character which require an Address to be moved. With a view of meeting that point, I am authorised by the Prime Minister to move amending words to those proposed by the Noble Lord which, although he may regard them as being of a somewhat restrictive character, will, at the same time, enable the right to be effectively preserved to the House of moving an 2346 Address on such matters as he has referred to. I propose after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "requiring any order, rule or regulation to be laid before the House of Commons." The Amendment would then read, "And the proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament requiring any order, rule or regulation to be laid before the House of Commons which shall be taken immeditaely after Government business." Those words, no doubt, do not quite go so far as the Noble Lord's words, but I am informed that the further points he made are really arguable points, and the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, who have considered this matter, have come to the conclusion that they would not be justified at the present time in going any further than introducing the limiting words I have suggested, and in that form accepting the Noble Lord's Amendment.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman has said that this is an arguable point, but he has not favoured us with any arguments. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not here. I am not making any complaint on that ground, but, if the matter is as I understand it—I do not profess to have looked into it before—from my Noble Friend's speech, then any reason which has made the Government accept the Amendment in the form they propose would apply equally to the other branches of the proposal of my Noble Friend. The position is this: He does not in the least wish to interfere with any powers or rights you have under the Parliament Act. We may like it, or dislike it, and you may be very sensitive about it, but I never understood that you desired more powers than are given by the Act, and all my Noble Friend asks is that by this Resolution you should not add to your powers given by the Parliament Act, and should not take away from the House of Commons any powers which it still has in connection with that Act. If I understand the matter correctly, there is some provision in the Parliament Act that this House has the right to consider whether or not a Bill under the Parliament Act shall be presented to His Majesty for his assent. I think that is the point. It may, of course, be held that depends upon the Government. It may be held that the meaning of that Act is that unless the Government introduces the Motion, no private Member has any right to introduce it. If that is the meaning of the Parliament Act as it stands, 2347 my Noble Friend's Amendment will not in the least interfere with it. You will still have precisely the right which you profess to have. If, on the other hand, the Parliament Act as it stands means that any private Member has the right to claim that the subject shall be discussed, then what you are doing by this Resolution is to add to the powers of the Government in connection with the Parliament Act, and to deprive Members of the power which you gave to them at the time the Act was passed. If that is the correct interpretation, I can imagine nothing more arbitrary or unfair than that by means of a Resolution of this kind you should add to the powers of the Government in connection with this Act and deprive the House of Commons of rights which it has now by a Statute, and by a Statute which was passed by this particular Government. I certainly think, unless some answer can be given to show that my interpretation of the point is not correct, it is utterly unfair to refuse this Amendment.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
Now that the Attorney-General has come in, I think some light ought to be thrown on the authoritative legal point of view on this very important point. I will try to recapitulate for the benefit of the Attorney-General what my Noble Friend said with regard to the latter part of the Amendment. He contended that the provisions of the Parliament Act, both in Sections 1 and 2, as to a final opportunity for the House of Commons to discuss any Bill proposed to be passed under that Act before it is submitted to the Sovereign might be construed, and ought to be construed, as involving the right of private Members of this House to initiate such a discussion. I will just refer the Attorney-General, first of all, to Section 1 with regard to Money Bills, which says, "If a Money Bill has been sent up," and so on, "the Bill shall, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament." The same thing is repeated in Section 2 with regard to general legislation: "A Bill on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords shall, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament." My Noble Friend contended that under the wording of those two Sections it was clearly implied that Members of this House had a right to move that the Bill 2348 be not so presented. I would first ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, as a point of law, that is so or not? Even if it does not confer that absolute right, I submit that it is certainly intended to mean this House, and not the Government—I want to draw a distinction between the two—should in the case of these great Bills have the opportunity of a final word before a Bill becomes law which may have irreparable and disastrous consequences. If it were not so, once a Bill were sent to the House of Lords for the third time, this House would lose control completely. The House of Lords has lost control, the Bill goes automatically forward, and nothing can prevent it going forward to the Sovereign unless the Government go out of their way to put down a Motion, which will in effect be a confession of mistake and stultify their previous policy. It is not very likely that Governments will do that. It is most improbable. I want to draw a distinction between the House and the Government. I do think that the House, on its own initiative, on the initiative of its Members, ought to have this opportunity, whether it has it strictly in law or not. It is quite true that my Noble Friend's Motion does not extend the law, but, if the law be not what is supposed, I should certainly submit that it ought to be extended. Anyway, the result will be that in the future it will only be on the initiative of the Government that this provision can take effect at all, because these Bills will always be dealt with at the end of the Session when Motions of this kind are in force, and when, therefore, any Motion that a Bill be not presented to His Majesty cannot be discussed unless it is Government business. All I want for the moment is the Attorney-General to state distinctly whether the words of the Parliament Act do not confer a right on Members to have an opportunity of moving a Motion like this with respect to Bills before they are sent for the assent of the Sovereign.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
This is a very serious matter that has been raised. Whether we agree with the Amendment or not, no one can say that it is not an important question, and I must express my surprise that the Attorney-General has not so far thought fit to enlighten the House. The position is an exceedingly simple one. By the Parliament Act the House of Commons has the right, if it so thinks fit, to say that a Bill shall not go up for the Sovereign's assent under that Act. If, as 2349 appears to be the case—and upon this we should like to be enlightened by the Attorney-General—it is an existing right of a private Member to bring forward a Motion to the effect that a particular Bill under the Parliament Act shall not be sent up for the Sovereign's assent, then we propose by this Procedure Resolution to take away from private Members that right. The rights of private Members, of both Houses for that matter, are restricted enough under the Parliament Act; but, if you are going to take away from the private Member, and from this House also, one of the few remaining rights left under the Parliament Act, and to take it away not even by an Act of Parliament, but by a Procedure Resolution, then I say you are doing a very ill service to the course of free discussion, and you are grossly and improperly further restricting the rights of the House. My Noble Friend does not ask the House to say whether or not a private Member has this right. What he asks the House to do is to leave the matter open, and not to prejudge it, and, if it appears that a private Member has the right to bring forward a Motion of this sort, and to say that a Bill shall not go up to the King under the Parliament Act, to allow him to exercise it, and not take it away from him by this Resolution. It may be a matter of small importance in one sense what the Government think is the true interpretation of these words. If they think the true interpretation is that the private Member has not that right, they will take away nothing by their procedure. But if they are wrong, and a private Member has in fact the right, they are making a serious inroad on the rights of private Members by taking away this right by Resolution. All we ask is that the Government shall leave the rights of private Members as they are, and not to deprive the House of one of its few important privileges remaining.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
The words to which reference has been made are "unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary." They are words to which attention has been directed many times in the course of examination of the Parliament Act, and I cannot help thinking that the claim now made is based on a misapprehension. Assume first that the Government did not at this stage of the Session take the time of the House. Assuming we went on without any suspension of the Eleven 2350 o'clock Rule, or anything of that sort. What is it that hon. Members suggest they would, in fact, be able to enjoy, which they are now being deprived of?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
It depends on a Standing Order which possibly the right hon. Gentleman has got before him, Standing Order No. 1, Sub-section (2), which reads:—
"At half-past Eleven o'clock, the Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put.… unless proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament or Standing Order.… be then under consideration."
The result would be, supposing there was put down on the Paper a Motion that the Bill be not presented to the King for assent, and that Motion so put down was not a Government Motion, but was put down by one of my right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench, or by any other hon. Member, and it was not reached before eleven o'clock, it could, nevertheless, assuming that I am right in my interpretation of this Standing Order, and assuming it applies to a Motion that the Bill should not be presented, come on at any time of the night, just in the same way as a Motion for an Address to disagree with some regulations. The Government agree that the right to move an Address to disagree with a regulation shall be preserved, but they wish to confine their preservation of the rights of private Members to that. I say it is clearly unfair. If we have that right under the Parliament Act, which I do not ask the Government or the House to decide, then it should be equally preserved with the right to move to disagree with a regulation. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting him, but I am anxious the point should be clear, and I honestly believe we have that right.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The Noble Lord has no reason to apologise. On the contrary, I ought to apologise for not having been in my place when he made his speech. I am only sorry I did not hear what he said. But it comes to this: If the contention now put forward has any substance at all, it is because of the language of this Standing Order. I will go into that in a minute, but apart from that, let us see how this matter stands. It is quite true the phrase "unless the Government propose otherwise," and the phrase in the Parliament Act "unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary," are not necessarily the same. 2351 On the other hand, as has been pointed out by the Prime Minister more than once, according to our ordinary practice, if there is a general desire in the House that a matter should be raised at such a time of the Session as this, it must be by means of the Government that it is raised. I do not say that of the two interpretations of the phrase in Section 2 of the Parliament Act, "unless the House of Commons should direct to the contrary," no Motion is in order unless it is moved by the Government. I do not say that, but I certainly do say, when we find in the Parliament Act the phrase, "unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary," that is not the same thing as consider proceedings made in pursuance of an Act of Parliament.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The point is this: I am very anxious to get it clear, but it is difficult to do so. The right to move an Address is given in precisely the same words. It is absolutely on all-fours.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I really think the Noble Lord is carrying his supposed analogy further than it goes, and I will tell him why. The point is difficult and wants examination no doubt, and I will try and contribute to that examination. I am not standing up to say the view I am suggesting is the only view an intelligent human being would take. There may be more views than one to be considered. Suppose you have got an Address, for instance, to disallow a Regulation by some Government Department. That is consequential upon the provision that that particular document lies upon the Table of the House for so many days. It is subject to conditions of that sort. I cannot do more than express my opinion, but I cannot agree that Standing Order No. 1, when it talks about the Speaker adjourning the House without Question put unless proceedings made in pursuance of an Act of Parliament or Standing Order are under consideration, is intended to be extended to a new case because of the language in the Parliament Act. This provision of the Parliament Act, as the Prime Minister has again and again explained, was not at all intended to come into normal operation. Whenever a Bill had been three times through this House, and was about to be presented for Royal Assent, it was intended to provide for a conceivable but very exceptional case, and the sort of case it was intended to provide for would be this: Suppose between the 2352 time the Bill went up from this House for the third time, and the time it was to be presented for Royal Assent, the constitution of parties had been so changed in this House by bye-elections or otherwise that there was not a majority of Members here who wanted it to be presented for the Royal Assent. It would then be a proper thing for a proposition to be made to the effect that the House of Commons, at this late stage, reviews that which it has three times done already, and directs that the Bill shall not go forward. But when the Bill has been not once, but three times carried through this House, unless there should be a majority which desires that it should not be presented for Royal Assent, obviously the meaning and intention of the Parliament Act is that it should be so presented. The idea that these words, "unless the House direct to the contrary," should be construed as meaning something quite different is surely preposterous. The other construction means this: That we have carried the Bill, once, twice, and three times, and, after the other House has had every opportunity of considering what they would wish to do with it, and have rejected it three times running, then it is suggested that we are to have a fourth discussion on the subject. I do not understand that at all. In the matter of legal interpretation I have no reason, right, or desire, to set up my own view in preference to that of other persons, who may be more competent, but I can only say, so far as I understand the matter, the Standing Order has not the slightest reference to a case like that.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I really do not see, greatly as I admire the ingenuity the Noble Lord has shown in putting this forward, the preciseness of the parallel. The substance of it is this: At this time of the Session, if we pass any Resolution at all, it must be by the action of the Government in substance that an opportunity is provided. I have no doubt that if there were a general desire, or anything approaching a general desire, that such a proposal should be put forward under these words in the Parliament Act, it might be well done with the co-operation of the Government.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
If it were asked for by the Front Opposition Bench, would it be given by the Government?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not say one way or the other. I do not pretend to interpret the words in the Parliament Act as meaning that it would be beyond the power of anybody except the Government to propose that we should direct to the contrary, because "the House of Commons" does not mean only the Government. It is clear at this stage of the Session, for all practical purposes, whether you propose the Resolution we are discussing or not, that unless Government provides the time for such a Resolution it cannot be effectively discussed. That must be obvious. Consequently, the idea that we are in substance depriving anybody of rights they now enjoy will be found on examination to be incorrect. It is more a matter for the Chair to rule. I should say that is the interpretation of the Standing Order. The interpretation of a Standing Order is not for me or anybody in the House. The utmost I can do is to do my best to suggest to hon. Members here what I think is the true construction of the Standing Order and the Act of Parliament. Therefore, I submit that as long as we accept the variation, which I understand my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education has suggested—
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot do more than say, with a desire to meet the case which the Noble Lord points to as being obviously desirable to provide for, that we are willing to accept that Amendment to his proposal. We are not willing to accept anything more, and do not see any justification for giving more. If, on the other hand, it became the general desire that there should be an opportunity given, the fact that the Government have taken the time of the House does not mean that that opportunity will not be provided.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The speech of the Attorney-General is really the best argument against his own case. He says the Chair has to rule. It must be obvious to him that he is preventing the Chair from ruling.
§ Sir J. SIMON
What I said was that the question of the true construction of the Standing Order is not a question for a law officer, but a question for those who decide these matters.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I entirely agree. We want to preserve to the Chair the opportunity of ruling in this case. If we adopt the restricting Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, we have taken away from the Chair the power of ruling, because we specifically limit the case to the particular points in which there is an Address moved in cases of schemes and regulations. What we claim is that possibly the words of the Parliament Act are on all fours with the words contained in various Statutes giving the House the right to present Addresses against schemes or sets of regulations. If that is so, we claim that the Chair should have the right to say whether or not that is so in this case, and, if the Chair holds that this right of the House of Commons to direct to the contrary would enable a private Member at any time, whether the Eleven o'clock Rule was suspended or not, to move an Address just as he does in the cases of certain Regulations, he should be able to do so. In that case the Chair could rule. That is the case now, and we should preserve the right under this Resolution. The words of the Parliament Act are:—
"Unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary."
The common form where a Statute gives the right to the House of Commons to move an Address against certain Regulations or schemes, is this:—
"Unless an Address be presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament."
In neither case is there any suggestion that the Government have got to do it. In neither case is it said that any individual Member of Parliament is to do it, and in each case it is left perfectly open for any Member of Parliament to do it. If a private Member of Parliament can move an Address in these circumstances, and you are going to preserve his right now by the Amendment the Attorney-General has accepted, it is certainly arguable that he could do it in this case under the Parliament Act. At all events, why should the House decide the point by accepting the limiting Amendment of the Attorney-General, and why should it rot be left to Mr. Speaker to decide the point, as he would if we were not to pass the Amendment? If the Attorney-General is really sincere, as I have no doubt he is, in saying that the Chair is to interpret, I suggest that we should let the Chair 2355 interpret, and pass the Amendment in the form suggested by the Noble Lord. If we are wrong in our contention, the Chair will rule that we are wrong; and if we are right, the Chair will rule that we are right. In any case the Chair will decide, and not the Government. I cannot understand the argument of the Attorney-General that this is to be a matter merely for the Government. He argued, if a Bill had been passed three times, that unless the Government, owing to a change in the composition of the House or for some reason of that sort, brought forward a Motion that the House should direct that a Bill be not presented to His Majesty, the House had no right. The words in the Parliament Act do not say that at all. They say nothing about the Government; they simply say
"unless the House of Commons directs to the contrary."
The suggestion underlying the latter part of the speech of the Attorney-General was that the House of Commons and the Government were identical terms. We are sometimes led to believe, from the action of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that that is the theory on which they act, but I have never heard it so naked avowed as it was this afternoon. I am reminded that a similar case arose in connection with the Suggestion stage under the Parliament Act. The Government ruled it out altogether. My belief is that we on this side missed an opportunity and that, if we had liked, we could have demanded a Suggestion stage and could have taken it after eleven o'clock, and that we should have been perfectly right to do so, notwithstanding the fact that Government business was closed. However this is matter, not for the Government, but for the House of Commons, and if it is for the House of Commons it means any Member of the House of Commons, and we cannot limit it in any way. The suggestion of the Noble Lord cannot be resisted, that, without the House prejudging, we should leave it open and allow Mr. Speaker to decide when the matter arises.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I do not think the Attorney-General should have said that the Government have sufficiently met the point that the Amendment does not give to anyone, whether under the Parliament Act or any other Act, any power that they do not possess. All it does is to preserve 2356 to Members of Parliament the rights that they may have, whatever they may be. It is not necessary to decide what the true interpretation of the Parliament Act is. The Attorney-General may very likely be right, but it is not necessary to decide it. All we say is that a Resolution of this kind ought not to take away from Members of Parliament rights given them by Statute, whether the Parliament Act or any other Statute. The Parliament Act has been very much under public notice, and has been so closely scrutinised that this particular phrase has naturally been noticed and observed, but there may be other Acts of Parliament in which similar phrases occur. But the Government take the strangest of all courses. They do not, deny that in respect to a great number of Acts of Parliament it would be wrong to deprive Members of Parliament of the rights given them by Acts of Parliament, but they put in limiting words so that only the rights descending from particular Rules and Orders laid on the Table should be preserved, and no other rights. On what conceivable principle do they do that? The plain principle is that you should leave the matter as it stands, as the Amendment proposes. Whatever are the rights under any Act of Parliament, those rights should be left and a Business Resolution of this kind should not be suffered to invade rights which are assured to the House by Statute. But to select out of the rights belonging to Members of Parliament a particular set and safeguard those, which is what is proposed by the Government Amendment to the Amendment, is incapable of defence, and the Attorney-General did not attempt to defend it. He spoke interestingly about the interpretation of the Parliament Act, but that is not a direct issue. It is a side issue. The important thing is that we ought to preserve to Members of the House all the rights which belong to them under any Act of Parliament, and that is done by the Amendment without the Government Amendment to it.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think the Attorney-General has shown us rather clearly, on the point with regard to the Parliament Act, to what a position the Government has reduced the House of Commons. Under the Parliament Act it was clearly intended and proposed to pass certain very contentious measures upon which the House of Commons and the country were thought to be very keenly divided. Under the Parliament 2357 Act we have certain stages which have to be gone through before a Bill passed, in spite of the House of Lords, can be presented to the Crown for signature. Once, twice, and thrice these Bills have to pass through the House of Comons. Once, twice, and thrice they have to be rejected in the House of Lords, and then there is one final stage only reserved for the representatives of the people of this country before those Bills are forced up to the foot of the Throne, and before the Crown is asked to signify its assent. That last final stage, to my thinking perhaps the most important stage of all, is that after the Bills have gone through and been rejected there is still locus penitentiœ reserved to the people's House, or the people's House itself may direct to the contrary before those Bills are sent up to the Throne. What did the Attorney-General say with regard to that? He suggests that unless there has been a change in the composition of the House of Commons—I presume he means by a General Election in the interim—there could not be a possibility of such a Resolution as this being passed. I suggest that in the minds of the framers of the Parliament Act there was something else. There was not merely a possibility of a change in the Constitution of the House of Commons, but there was a possibility of a change in the honesty of the House of Commons. There is left here just that one loophole which would enable a coalition, such as we see now, forcing these Bills through Parliament, at the last moment to break up, and Members of the House might vote in accordance with their principles and their real honest ideas on any particular Bill. That is the particular point that the Attorney-General thought was impossible, and therefore he said, "We will not reserve this last right to Members of the House of Commons. We will do away with it by this abolition of the Eleven o'clock Rule, and we will not accept the Amendment because we do not wish to preserve that last simple chance of an honest vote in the House of Commons to prevent the presentation of any one of these Bills to the Crown for its assent."
May I suggest the extreme responsibility which the Government is under in refusing this Amendment? There are Bills going through under the Parliament Act. I need only refer to the Home Rule Bill. That is a measure which has been passed here and will shortly be rejected, I pre- 2358 sume, and will be sent up, failing a Resolution of the House of Commons, under the very provisions that we are now seeking to enforce, to the Crown. It will be sent up, possibly at a moment of dire conflict in the country, and of strong feelings on both sides of politics, when everyone will be seeking for some means of preventing possible bloodshed and war in Ulster, and I suggest that in the interests of peace, and in the interests of the country, this last right should be preserved to the House of Commons of saying the last word in this matter as to whether this Bill should be sent to the foot of the Throne or not. I can quite understand that the Government do not want that last right preserved to the House of Commons. They do not want the possibility of the coalition breaking up, as it might well break up if bloodshed were on the point of starting. This is the exact point that arises on the Amendment. The most urgent possibilities and difficulties might be arising in Ulster. There might be a demand on the House of Commons to present a Resolution to prevent the Bill being put before the Crown and the Government say, "Take the whole time. There is no possibility of it." I want to suggest a comparison with one other Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the Act of Parliament relating to the Resolution for the appointment of new judges some few years ago. Possibly he will remember that last Session we on this side of the House did move an Address to the Crown after 11.30, when the Government had taken the time of the House. I believe I moved it myself in order that we should get what we should not have got otherwise exactly under the provisions of this very Standing Order which he has discussed this afternoon. There may be other Acts of Parliament, but whatever those Acts are the rights under them should be preserved to the House of Commons in order that, however late at night, after the Government have done their business, if the House as a whole, or any section of it, thinks that under any Act of Parliament a petition to the Crown is desirable, we at least should have that last right preserved to us. I care nothing for the view that the Government is the House of Commons. I stand simply as an ordinary private Member on the Back Benches, and as such I claim the right to preserve every possible right that any single Act of Parliament has given to myself or any other Member on this side of the House.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I think the Attorney-General must rather feel that all the argument in this discussion has rather gone against the contention which he put forward, and I am rather disappointed that the Prime Minister has not been here with a free hand to act in this matter after what passed between him and my Noble Friend earlier in the course of the discussion. I understood that the Prime Minister was willing to consider arguments which would be advanced under the Parliament Act. I suppose we must assume that the Attorney-General has full authority to concede this point, if he considers it desirable to do so, but I cannot help thinking that if that is the case he really is bound to recognise that all the weight of argument in the contention so far put forward has been in favour of the case of my Noble Friend. The hon. and learned Attorney-General himself said in regard to the Clause in the Parliament Act, which has been referred to, that he did not interpret it to mean that it was only the Government which could initiate a Resolution in the House of Commons, and he particularly guarded himself from adopting that interpretation. But at the same time he said that he was not taking away any right from any private Member of the House, because no private Member would raise the point without the Government knowing of his intention. Surely in that he was making a mistake, and falling into the error which was pointed out earlier in the Debate as to the ignoring of the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders distinctly say that after half-past eleven a private Member has power to raise this question if it is on all fours with the procedure which requires that Regulations and Orders made under any Statute shall be laid on the Table of the House. Therefore, I do not think the contention of the Attorney-General on that point is a sound one. I think it is demonstrably an inaccurate one. He based his defence on the fact that the phrase in the Parliament Act did not contemplate that it was to be a normal operation of the House of Commons. He said that when the Government passed the Parliament Act, although they put in these words "unless the House of Commons directs to the contrary" they did not contemplate that such a Resolution would be a normal operation of the House of Commons. Of course, that is so, but what amount of weight does that consideration give to the argument. I do not suppose 2360 that the Government, when they passed the Parliament Act, thought they could foresee the complications which might arise by the ruthless application of that measure to Bills passed in this House. I put it to the Attorney-General whether it is not a great usurpation by the Government to go so far as they are doing by taking away from the House of Commons this power which it enjoys under an Act of Parliament. The learned Attorney-General knows quite well that there has been during the discussions of the Home Rule Bill, a considerable body of opinion in the House anxious to arrive at some settlement, and that there are a great many Members who, however convinced of the necessity of some form of Home Rule, are yet not convinced of the desirability or necessity of it, especially when the situation has developed to the extent it has at the present moment.
If this Amendment is not passed in the form proposed by my Noble Friend, it prevents the House of Commons, no matter how strongly opinions may differ, and no matter how much moderate people on both sides of the House might wish to do so, from putting pressure on the Government to prevent them from drifting, as apparently they have been drifting. It would prevent that party from having an opportunity of raising the question whether or not the Bill should go for signature to the King. If the Attorney-General can say that that is a matter of less importance than the giving of an opportunity for the discussion of rules and regulations made by a Government Department, he is capable of telling the House anything. I think the House will regret it, if it takes at its face value a proposition of that kind. Surely it is evident that nothing could be more important than that the power of the House of Commons, if it does exist—that is a matter which has to be decided by the Chair—should be preserved, and not taken away by the Government. I think it is a point of the utmost substance and importance. I cannot believe that anybody can think that this action of the Government is taken in the interest of the House. It is obviously taken in their own interest. It is the object of the Front Bench to prevent Members of the House from moving a Resolution of this kind. In the face of the grave situation at the present moment—I think everybody will admit that it is a grave situation—I hope the House will not, by refusing this 2361 Amendment, close any door which might otherwise be left open to the possibility of a peaceful settlement.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) has endeavoured to give new interest to the discussion after it had fallen to considerable depth. In the hands of the hon. Member the case which was made with some ingenuity by the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) was reduced to absurdity. As I understand the hon. Member, he holds that it was intended that the most important stage of any Bill passing under the Parliament Act should be taken after eleven o'clock at night.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not wish, of course, to misrepresent the hon. Member. He put this case, that Bills under the Parliament Act passed three times, should finally, after their last rejection in the House of Lords, come here, and that then this House, as a kind of locus penitentiœ,after eleven o'clock, should resume the paths of common honesty, and turn away from those which we have been pursuing.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The locus penitentiœ is reserved to this House, since the hon. Member puts it in that way.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Then the hon. Member does not understand the Amendment he is supporting. I think the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) will agree with me that, according to his argument, the House of Commons has the right, under the terms of the Parliament Act, to do something which is equivalent to the moving of an Address to the Crown against giving Assent to Statutory Rules, and that the time for moving such an Address is at the end of Government business, namely, after eleven o'clock. The Noble Lord is afraid that if the Procedure Resolution is passed without his Amendment, this right will be lost to the House of Commons, and that consequently for the rest of the Session, should any private Member desire to deal with this matter in the House of Commons, he will not be able to move a Resolution after eleven o'clock. Therefore, I am right in saying that the real effect of the argument of the hon. Member for Brentford is that the most important stage under the Parliament Act may be taken after eleven 2362 o'clock at night. I think I am right in describing the hon. Member's argument as the reductio ad absurdum of the whole business. The Opposition about an hour and a half ago supported the Amendment to this procedure Resolution to prevent anything being done in regard to Irish policy after eleven o'clock at night, and now the main point is that the whole controversy should be settled after eleven o'clock. This shows that, whatever may be the interpretation of the Parliament Act, it was not the intention of that Act that this procedure should be taken after eleven o'clock. It was obviously intended that if the House of Commons was going to reconsider a measure and change its mind, it would be possible to give to the consideration of the matter more than one day, and to have all the forms observed with due deliberation in this House. Consequently, I think that that consideration is conclusive as. against the very ingenious argument of the Noble Lord. The Noble Lord's argument that Bills under the Parliament Act are on the same footing as Orders and Regulations laid on the Table is conclusive against himself. We all know that these Orders and Regulations are matters of comparative unimportance which are considered to be of minor importance in reference to the main provisions of the Acts under which they are made. The duty of making these Orders and Regulations is delegated to public Departments. They are matters of administrative detail, but it has been in many cases thought right that this Parliament should reserve to itself a veto in the form of these Addresses which may be moved to the Crown. That is an absolutely different case from a great question of public policy such as a Bill under the Parliament Act. Obviously, Parliament could not have intended that the procedure which was applicable to mere administrative matters like Rules and Regulations should apply to a large measure of public policy such as the grant of Irish Home Rule or the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I quite agree that there is no other procedure available for a private Member. I quite agree that this was intended, as was constantly stated during the Debates on the Parliament Bill, to give an opportunity to the House 2363 of Commons, if the House of Commons had really changed its mind, of saying so. In the interval between the passing of the Bill through the House of Commons for the last time and its rejection by the House of Lords there might be an adverse vote in the House of Commons, and, as a result, there might be a change of Government, and it was felt to be necessary in the Parliament Act to give the House of Commons an opportunity of deciding that when a Bill passed in these conditions it should not be submitted for the Royal Assent. The words in Section 1 and Section 2 provide that. That was the only object, and that was the obvious intention of the Act.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
The long experience of the hon. Gentleman, I suppose, justifies the superior tone which he has adopted. Of course, if the hon. Member is wrong, the Amendment of my Noble Friend would operate. When the Government business comes to an end hon. Members ought to have this opportunity safeguarded to them on that occasion. If it did only operate after eleven o'clock that only proves how necessary the Amendment of my Noble Friend is, because in the position in which a Government is prepared to disregard the wish of the people, is it not likely that if there is some change in the situation it will be prepared not to disregard but to evade the decision of this House.
§ 4.0 P.M.
The President of the Board of Education in his speech said that the Government were not at the present moment disposed to go further than their Amendment to meet the Noble Lord. The Attorney-General was not in the House at the time, and therefore lost the opportunity of hearing the argument addressed by the Noble Lord to the President of the Board of Education. I do not think that he ever quite got hold of the case of the Noble Lord. What the President of the Board of Education said was that they were not disposed at the present moment. Did he by that reservation mean that the Government were going to give the House a further opportunity, possibly later on, of discussing this question? I understood from the Noble Lord that he had had from the Prime Minister an assurance that the Government would move an Amendment to the Amendment of the Noble Lord, but the President of the 2364 Board of Education further added that in the opinion of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General they were not disposed at the present moment to go further than the Amendment which the Government proposed to meet the Noble Lord. It struck me from the use of these words that the Government would very likely afford the House a further opportunity of possibly either altering the Resolution before the House or giving this House some further opportunity of debating this question. It seemed to me that the President of the Board of Education was always quoting the Attorney-General, though he was not in the House at the time, and perhaps we could now have some further information from him on this point.
§ Mr. NEWTON
May I point out that the Attorney-General told us that ho did not consider this matter as he did not know that it was going to be raised, and that a short time before that when he was not in the House the President of the Board of Education told us that the matter had been carefully and thoroughly considered by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I point out that the Standing Order does undoubtedly reserve other proceedings except Addresses? I have a very strong recollection of an instance which actually took place a very few months ago, but on which I cannot put my finger just now. There are many instances. A very familiar instance is the Army (Annual) Act which is exempted from the Eleven o'clock Rule because, as I understand it, it is a measure brought in in pursuance of the Army (Annual) Act of 1881 or whatever the year was.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I will not contradict the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The point is that we should not desire to bring on measures under the Parliament Act after eleven o'clock, but the fact that we had that right reserved would ensure that the time would be given to us for the measures. That is the point, and it is really a matter of very great importance. I do not suggest that that would be the most suitable time, but it does really mean that the House is not in this matter entirely at the mercy of the Government. I am very sorry that I have not received 2365 support from hon. Members opposite in regard to the interests of private Members. It is really not a question between the Government and the Opposition; the issue is more important than that. By this Motion you are really taking away rights which otherwise would exist for private Members. That is the whole
§ point. The Government admits that it ought not to be done in some respects, and I do not see why they cannot extend that so as to cover all the rights.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 219; Noes, 82.2367
|Division No. 183.]||AYES.||[4.6 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Goldstone, Frank||Nolan, Joseph|
|Adamson, William||Geig, Colonel J. W.||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Alden, Percy||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Nuttall, Harry|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Gulland, John William||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Hackett, John||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||O'Dowd, John|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Barnes, George N.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hardie, J. Keir||O'Malley. William|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Boland, John Pius||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hewart, Gordon||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hinds, John||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hodge, John||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hogge, James Myles||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Pratt, J. W.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hudson, Walter||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Radford, G. H.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, Rt.Hon. Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Reddy, Michael|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Clynes, John R.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Kelly, Edward||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Kilbride, Denis||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Crooks, William||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Cullinan, John||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Rowlands, James|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lundon, Thomas||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Delany, William||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Dillon, John||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||McGhee, Richard||Sheehy, David|
|Doris, William||Maclean, Donald||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Duffy, William J.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Sutherland, John E.|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Sutton, John E.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Meagher, Michael||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Falconer, James||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Thomas, James Henry|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Moehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Molloy, Michael||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Field, William||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Mooney, John J.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morgan, George Hay||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||Morrell, Philip||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Morison, Hector||Wardle, George J.|
|Ginnell, L.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Waring, Walter|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Muldoon, John||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Webb, H.|
|White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Whyté Alexander F. (Perth)||Yeo, Alfred William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)||Mr. Wm. Jones and Mr. Geoffrey Howard.|
|Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Currie, George W.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Dalrymple, Viscount||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Denniss, E. R. B.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Duncannon, Viscount||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fell, Arthur||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Barnston, Harry||Gibbs, G. A.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gilmour, Captain John||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Grant, J. A.||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Bird, Alfred||Greene, W. R.||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Blair, Reginald||Gretton, John||Stewart, Gershom|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Harris, Henry Percy||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Bowden, G. R. Harland||Helmsley, Viscount||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Boyton, James||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Bridgemap, William Clive||Horner, Andrew Long||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hunt, Rowland||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Butcher, John George||Ingleby, Holcombe||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Campion, W. R.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Kerry, Earl of||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Chaioner, Colonel R. G. W.||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Younger, Sir George|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Mr. Evelyn Cecil and Major White.|
§ Proposed words, as amended, there inserted.
§ Question proposed, "That the Resolution, as amended, be the Resolution of the House."
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
In the general Debate a great deal was said about the Plumage Bill and its prospects of reaching the Statute Book. I understood the Prime Minister to say that he would regret the dropping of this Bill, and he seemed to express a hope that it would be possible to come to some agreement with those who were opposing the Bill, so that it might get through this Session. It is an invidious thing to take up the position of opposing a Bill which has the reputation of the Plumage Bill. What I would ask the House to remember is that the Second Reading came on one night quite suddenly, and the Bill was described very briefly by the right hon. Gentleman in charge. I confess that I was one of those in the House at the time who, because the Bill came on quite suddenly, had not read it. I listened to the description given by the right hon. Gentleman, and voted for the Bill. I am certain that nobody who listened to the right hon. Gentleman's description of the Bill as a measure to prevent cruelty and the destruction of rare birds could, if he had not read the Bill, have done anything else but support it. Of 2368 course everybody would support such a proposal. Those who have opposed and are still opposing this Bill realise that they are in danger of being considered inhuman. Already, not in the House itself, but in the Lobbies and in the Press campaign, we have been described as such, and all kinds of ulterior motives have been suggested as prompting our action. I think it only right that I should explain to the House what I believe to be the attitude of those of us who are opposing this Bill in regard to the suggestion that there should be a compromise upon it. I may say at once that, as far as I know the views of those with whom I have been associated in opposing this Bill in Grand Committee, I am satisfied that it is absolutely impossible that any compromise should be arrived at upon this Bill.
If hon. Members will look at the Bill, they will see that they have no right to say that those of us who take that view are not as keen to bring about the general objects of the Bill as the promoters themselves. The Bill is an example of a measure having an excellent object, but attempting to achieve that object in the worst possible way—in the way which will bring about the greatest interference with legitimate business and create a great deal of unnecessary injustice. Keen as I am to support legislation with objects such as those as were described by the right 2369 hon. Gentleman when introducing this Bill, I say that it is our duty, however keen we may be to prevent injustice, not blindly to pass a Bill which achieves that object with the most ruthless disregard of interests with which we have no right to interfere unnecessarily. That shows that we are and must be earnest in our opposition to the Bill. It is no answer, I admit, to the Prime Minister's suggestion that it is possible that some compromise may be arrived at. What I should like the House and the country to understand in regard to the difficulties of such a compromise is this: That upstairs, in Committee, Amendments were moved which would in our opinion have made the Bill work. Those Amendments were absolutely disregarded. We were, it is suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, voted down; but the Divisions were such as these: 15 to 15, and 16 to 15. Twice in vital Amendments the Government upstairs were defeated, once by 16 to 15, and once by 14 to 13. Other Divisions were: 13 to 14, 14 to 15, 18 to 16, and 11 to 13. The right hon. Gentleman says that there was tenacious opposition upstairs. That is not obstructive opposition. You cannot convert the Committee in that way and with Divisions of that sort, unless there is genuine substance in the proposals that are put before them.
Those provisions—if the Bill is to come forward—and those considerations have to come up in this House. If now all these points are to be met by some kind of negotiation outside this House the whole Bill has got to be entirely remodelled. It is all very well to say that the provisions of the Bill can be altered to advantage by making a Schedule of excluded birds. Once you do that you have altered the whole structure of your Bill. I doubt whether it would really be in order to proceed with such a Bill without again sending it upstairs to Committee. I do not know that I have any right to offer advice to the promoters of the Bill, but if I did so, it would be to advise them that they should cease in their Press campaign to suggest lack of humanity on the part of the Members of this House who are opposing this Bill, and who are now taking the position that it is impossble that this Bill can be made a satisfactory one, and that they should approach those who have considered the Bill with a view to its being brought in next Session and going upstairs in its revised form. Speaking for myself, I can say that I, 2370 instead of being an opponent of the Bill, will be one of the hon. Gentleman's most ardent supporters. I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. It was not until I got into the workings of the Bill upstairs that I realised that we have no business to create such an injustice even for so good an object, especially when the object could be achieved without any injustice. It was then that I first became a ruthless opponent of the Bill as it now stands.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that though opponents to the Bill are to be found on both sides of the House, there are very many more opponents to the Bill in its present form. It is no use to take the number who voted against the Second Reading as any criterion of the opposition; there are many more opponents than that suggests. No plea has come from anybody that we would be more likely to meet than that of the Prime Minister. It is only because we are satisfied that it is absolutely impossible in the time at our disposal at this period of the Session to produce an agreed Bill and put it through the House, that I am unfortunately unable to accede—and I think it is right to say so—and with all the risk one takes of attacks made on false grounds to say so now quite openly in order to save the time of the House. Having said that about the Plumage Bill, I should like for one moment to associate myself with the expression given utterance earlier in the Debate that whatever else we may do, however little legislation we may pass, whatever time of the year we may meet, we ought to be allowed to get away so that we can enjoy the holidays with our children. Amongst the disadvantages that I as a Member of Parliament suffer the greatest is that one never sees one's children, and it does seem a stupid thing that men of intelligence, with normal paternal feelings, cannot arrange their business so that they can spend three or four weeks, or a month, with their children during the summer holidays.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I desire in a few words to refer to a Bill that I and a good many other Members of the House are specially interested in, and that is the Soldiers, Sailors, and Absent Voters Bill. The object of that Bill is to give to soldiers, sailors, commercial travellers, and other persons of that class an opportunity of exercising the votes which Parliament has already declared they are entitled to. The complaint I have to make against the Government is this: They have spent a 2371 very large number of hours in this House in passing into law Disfranchising Bills, and they have wasted the time of the House with other measures, but they have not raised one finger to give effect to what Parliament has already enacted in regard to the votes of soldiers, sailors, commercial travellers, and others. It would not be in order to go into the methods by which we propose to get over the existing hardships, but may I be permitted to say this much in order to show that this is both an urgent and an important factor. Take the case of soldiers. They are given by Parliament a theoretic right to vote, yet they are practically denied that right when it comes to the question of exercising it. A soldier stationed in a constituency gets upon the register. Then he is ordered away to another constituency before the election comes on. And when the election comes on he is unable to exercise his vote. He cannot vote in the constituency where he is registered because of the large cost of travelling expenses, and he cannot vote in the new constituency because he has not had time to get upon the new register; the result is that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred soldiers are practically disfranchised in this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight got a return the other day showing the magnitude of this hardship and illustrating the large number of soldiers who never have an opportunity of voting at all. He obtained a return of the military units, who at the time of the last election were unable to vote in the constituencies in which they were quartered, not having been there for a sufficient length of time. In the return it was shown that there were in that position no less than fifty-eight battalions of Infantry, eight battalions of Foot Guards, thirteen regiments of Cavalry, seventy-one batteries of Field Artillery, eleven batteries of Horse Artillery, three units of Royal Engineers, and three units of the Army Service Corps. One naturally inquires, do the Government mean to disfranchise various qualified citizens because they have to serve as soldiers of the King. There is only one other class, and that is persons like commercial travellers and fishermen who have votes in the constituencies in which they live, but who, when it comes to election time, may be away on their business or vocation for the day and 2372 have no chance of exercising their vote. I call that a most gross hardship in the case of a soldier or a sailor who leaves the constituency because he has to discharge his duty. In the case of the commercial traveller and the fisherman, they leave the constituency because they have to go and earn heir living. I think neither of those cases ought to disqualify a man from exercising the franchise. The Government are promoting a disfranchising Bill for avowedly party purposes in the case of the Plural Voting Bill, because they imagine that the plural voters are going to vote against them. Instead of doing that I think the Government would be better occupied in promoting a measure to enable men who have got one vote to exercise it. They have not chosen to take that course, and therefore I say that we have a right to demand an assurance that, if not in this Session, at any rate at the earliest possible moment—if they do have another moment in the future—they will bring in legislation for remedying these undoubted hardships, and in that way prevent thousands of deserving citizens now entitled to vote from being deprived of their privilege.
§ Mr. MORTON
I want to mention several matters affecting my own Constituency. I wish to impress on the Prime Minister the absolute necessity for passing the Small Landowners (Scotland) Act Amendment Bill. The Act of 1911, owing to faults in the administrative Clauses, has practically become a failure, especially so far as Sutherlandshire is concerned. We were told by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) that there had been some bargain or agreement with regard to this Bill in 1911. I strongly repudiate that there was any such bargain, or that anybody had a right to make a. bargain which affected the rights of the people of Scotland. If any such bargain was made between hon. Members, it was corrupt. You cannot make bargains of that kind as to the rights of the people of Scotland to have improvements in land policy or the Land Acts generally. What we want to prevent is the depopulation that is continually going on, and we want the principle of the Smallholders' Act carried out. The Bill brought in by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) mainly deals with administration and improvement in regard to the Land Court and the Board of Agriculture. I think we are entitled to ask for that, especially as we have had no other opportunity of 2373 discussing this matter, and I think at least a little time might be found for considering a matter of such vital importance to the people of Scotland. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will do something for us. It is all very well for the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) and others opposite to intervene and try to dictate what shall be the policy of Parliament, but they ought to remember that they represent a very small minority of the country. If you take out the Members elected where there were three candidates, it is very small indeed, and it is therefore wrong that they should be allowed to dictate to Parliament as to what reforms should be carried out in the interest of the people of Scotland. I hope it will be remembered that they only represent a very small proportion of the people of Scotland, and that they are likely to represent less in the time to come.
Practically, the passing of this Resolution to-day means that we shall be guillotined out of every right we possess or suppose that we possess. I am particularly interested in some of the Estimates. There are the Estimates of the Postmaster-General and of the President of the Board of Trade. Within the last fortnight I have brought matters concerning my Constituents before the Committee when these Estimates have been considered, but I have utterly failed to get any answer from either the Postmaster-General or the President of the Board of Trade. I want to ask the Prime Minister if he will take care that I get an opportunity of bringing these matters again before the Committee so as to endeavour to get answers from those right hon. Gentlemen. I especially want one with regard to the provision of third-class sleepers and with regard to postal and telegraphic matters in Sutherland itself. Ministers ought to reply to us. These are not party matters; they are matters affecting the interests of the people of Sutherland, and we are entitled to be answered. They may say that they are going to treat the Member for Sutherland with the contempt which he deserves, but I am not surprised at the dwindling majority of the present Ministry when they treat their own supporters in the way they have treated them during the last fortnight. I, therefore, want the protection of the Prime Minister so that I may get these matters brought forward, 2374 and, although he is not here, I hope that he will see that the heads of both Departments I have mentioned, and also the Secretary for Scotland, attend to the affairs of the people of Scotland. It is, as everybody knows, the most orderly and best—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This does not seem to be in the least relevant to the Motion. We are not, unfortunately, discussing the Adjournment of the House.
§ Mr. MORTON
As far as I have been able to bring these matters forward, I trust that, in the interests of my Constituents, who no doubt I unworthily represent, they will receive attention from the right hon. Gentleman.
Now that the Postmaster-General is present, I should like to say a few words as to the Plumage Bill, and explain, if I may, my attitude in regard to it. I am very strongly in favour of a Bill which will effectively prevent the slaughter of rare birds, and also cruelty in connection with the plumage trade, and if the present Bill can be so altered as to effect these objects, without any un-necesary injustice to the working classes or the trade, I will cordially support it. I see, however, very great difficulty in altering the present Bill. The Government had their opportunity in Committee, and it was pointed out to them time after time, but they were rather obstinate in the matter, and I am afraid it is now too late. Still, I will repeat the offer at the eleventh hour. If the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to accept the suggestions that have been made, it might be possible perhaps to get a really effective Bill. The present Bill would be absolutely futile. It would not save the life of a single bird, but it would injure and destroy an industry, and throw out of employment a very large number of skilled workers who, having served an apprenticeship to their trade, would find it very difficult to get other employment.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I rise to a point of Order. Is it in order, on the Motion before the House, that Members should get up on each side and tell each other the reasons why they support or oppose a particular Bill? It seems to me to be out of order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It seems to depend a great deal on the amount of discussion which takes place. The hon. Member will remember that the Prime Minister 2375 specially referred to this Bill, and said that if certain arrangements could be made, he was in hopes it might pass after eleven o'clock. That opened the door for hon. Members to suggest alterations which could be made, and in turn others gave their reasons why the Bill should not pass. It is a matter of degree. I do not think we ought to occupy the afternoon by discussing the Plumage Bill altogether, because if we did that with regard to that Bill, and if we went through the whole programme, we should be here a very long time. I hope hon. Members will see it is not desirable to go at any great length into their reasons for supporting or opposing Bills.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
That was the point I specially desired to bring to your notice. It did seem to me that, on the Motion before the House, Members were not entitled to enter into unlimited discussion on their reasons for opposing or supporting a particular Bill, and that, in so doing, they were abusing the forms of the House.
I have very little to say with regard to a possible compromise. One could be brought about on the Plumage Bill, if the Postmaster-General could see his way to accept the suggestion I made before the Bill was really before the House and again during the Committee stage, and since, that we should have a body, including experts in whom the trade could have confidence, to draw up a Schedule prohibiting the importation of certain birds, instead of providing for the exclusion of all birds of every description, except the ostrich and the eider-duck. If the right hon. Gentleman would accept the suggestion for a Committee to act in conjunction with the Board of Trade to draw up a proper Schedule, it might be possible for a compromise to be arrived at. Otherwise, I am afraid I must join with the hon. Member for Stepney in continuing to pursue the policy of opposing the Bill to the end.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Hobhouse)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word or two on the subject mentioned by the last speaker and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney. Gentlemen who were anxious to prevent the slaughter of birds and who were very keen to bring at out the objects of the Bill—if I may quote sentences from their speeches—have 2376 taken the most curious course I have ever seen taken in this House. The Bill took up an unprecedented number of days in discussion in Committee. We were constantly interrupted by Motions for the adjournment of the Committee.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
The Committee sat from 9th March to May, and a Motion for the Adjournment was only made once.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
Is it in order on a Motion suspending the Eleven o'clock Rule to go into the proceedings in Committee on the Plumage Bill?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have already given my ruling upon that point. The Prime Minister introduced the subject, and I do not think I ought to deprive hon. Members of the opportunity of following it up.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
There is undoubtedly a very large majority of Members of the House in favour of this Bill. I do not think the provisions of the Bill are unduly stringent or restricted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] I am answering questions put to me. If I do not answer them I should be accused of discourtesy. I am addressing myself very briefly to the arguments. I am very anxious to get the Bill, and am only too willing to meet its opponents, if I can. Certain negotiations have taken place outside the House in the hope that I may meet them. I have even gone so far as to ask my hon. Friends who have taken the matter up outside the House for me to invert the Schedule.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardineshire and others were acting on my behalf. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quite the other way'"] I have endeavoured to invert the Schedule to meet objections, and also to leave out the provisions for the possession of plumage being penalised. I have now repeated to the House the proposals I am willing to accept from the other side, but I do not see any acceptance by ray hon. Friends behind me of my modifications of the Bill as it stands. If the offer I now make is accepted, I am willing to modify the Bill to that extent. When the time 2377 comes—I hope we shall get time for it—I shall ask the House to accept the Bill, which has unusually stirred public feeling, quite apart from party. Mention was made of a Press campaign. There is only one large daily paper circulating in the provinces which has not advocated this Bill and stirred the Government to pass it. There is not a single provincial paper of any importance which has not advocated the passage of this Bill, quite irrespective of party.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
There are some chambers of commerce who have objected. I am quite willing to say that. There has seldom been a Bill brought before the consideration of the House which has so largely stirred public opinion in its favour, and for that reason I think the House ought to give fair consideration to it and pass it, even subject to the modifications which here to-day I have expressed my willingness to accept.
§ Sir J. D. REES
May I ask as to the fate of the Peace Conference Conventions Bill, which is a very contentious measure; whether ten minutes' Bills are permitted under the Resolution; whether more new Bills can be introduced in order to be dropped, and when is the House likely to rise; when may parents join their children and bachelors whoever they want to join, and when will the whole thing come to an end?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I understand the Bill the hon. Gentleman mentions is dropped, and there is nothing, as far as I know, to prevent him introducing a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, and taking it off the Paper afterwards.
Amendment made in the proposed Amendment: After the word "business" ["half an hour after the conclusion of Government business"], insert the words "or such other proceedings."
Question put, "That, during the remainder of the Session, Government business shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered on at any hour though opposed; at the conclusion of Government business, and of proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament requiring any Order, Rule, or Regulation to be laid before the House of Commons, which shall be taken immediately after Government business, each day Mr. Speaker shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn and, if that Question shall not have been agreed to, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than half an hour after the conclusion of Government business or such other proceedings; and on Fridays the House, unless it otherwise resolves, shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday."
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 78.2379
|Division No. 184.]||AYES.||[4.54 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Clancy, John Joseph||Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson|
|Adamson, William||Clynes, John R.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Alden, Percy||Cornwall Sir Edwin A.||Ginnell, L.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cotton, William Francis||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Cowan, W. H.||Glanville, H. J.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Crooks, William||Goldstone, Frank|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Crumley, Patrick||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Barnes, George N.||Cullinan, John||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Beale, Sir William phipson||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Gulland, John William|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Dawes, James Arthur||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Boland, John Plus||Delany, William||Hackett, John|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Dillon, John||Hail, Frederick (Normanton)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Donelan, Captain A.||Hancock, John George|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Doris, William||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Duffy, William J.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Luton, Beds)|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley 0.||Edwards. John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Esmonds, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Falconer, James||Hewart, Gordon|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Farrell, James Patrick||Higham, John Sharp|
|Cawley, Sir Ferderick (Prestwich)||Ffrench, Peter||Hinds, John|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Field, William||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Fitzgibbon, John||Hodge, John|
|Hogge, James Myles||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Muldoon, John||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Hudson, Walter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Rowlands, James|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Nolan, Joseph||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nuttall, Harry||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sheehy, David|
|Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Doherty, Philip||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Donnell, Thomas||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Dowd, John||Sutherland, John E.|
|Kelly, Edward||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Sutton, John E.|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Malley, William||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Thomas, James Henry|
|Law, Hugh A. (Dunegal, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Outhwaite, R. L.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Lundon, Thomas||Parry, Thomas H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Lynch, A. A.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Waring, Walter|
|McGhee, Richard||Pratt, J. W.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Maclean, Donald||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Webb, H.|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pringle, William M. R.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Radford, G. H.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Reddy, Michael.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Meagher, Michael||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Wilson, W T. (Westhoughton)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Molloy, Michael||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Mooney, John J.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Morrell, Philip||Robinson, Sidney||Mr. Wm. Jones and Mr. Geoffrey Howard.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Dalrymple, Viscount||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Denniss, E. R. B.||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fell, Arthur||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Ganzoni, Francis John C.||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gibbs, G. A.||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l., Walton)|
|Barnston, Harry||Gilmour, Captain John||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Goldsmith, Frank||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bird, Alfred||Grant, J. A.||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Blair, Reginald||Greene, W. R.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Gretton, John||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Bowden, G. R. Harland||Harris, Henry Percy||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hills, John Walter||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Horner, Andrew Long||Valentia, Viscount|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hunt, Rowland||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Ingleby, Holcombe||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Butcher, John George||Joynson-Hicks, William||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Cave, George||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Younger, Sir George|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C.||Helmsley and Sir Henry Craik.|
|Currie, George W.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That, during the remainder of the Session, Government business shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered on at any hour though opposed; at the conclusion of 2380 Government business and of proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament requiring any Order, Rule, or Regulation to be laid before the House of Commons, which shall be taken immediately after Government business, each day Mr. 2381 Speaker shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn and, if that Question shall not have been agreed to, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than half an hour after the conclusion of Government business or such other proceedings; and on Fridays the House, unless it otherwise resolves, shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday.