§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I rise to move, "That, until the House otherwise determines, and so far as the House does not otherwise determine, on every day on which the House sits—
45 The Motion standing in my name deals with the conduct in the immediate future of the business of the House. But it is impossible for me, or for any of those whom I am addressing, to forget that since we last met there has been taken from us, in the prime of his powers, a colleague who, friends and opponents alike, had come to regard as one of the first authorities in all matters of Parliamentary procedure and management. Percy Illingworth—we who knew him called him by that familiar name—was, if anyone ever deserved the title, a House of Commons man. This Chamber, with all its associations, its interests, it struggles, its vicissitudes, its varying fortunes, had become the centre and core, of his active and strenuous life. He was not an old Member. His Parliamentary career begun when some of us, of whom I am one, had already been here for the best part of twenty years. No man among us—I think Members in all parts of the House will agree with me—imbibed and assimilated with more zest and sympathy that strange, indefinable, almost impalpable atmosphere, compounded of old traditions and modern influences, which preserve, we always think, a unique and indestructible personality for the most ancient deliberative assembly in the world. He was sensitive to its pulse, responsive to its currents, alive to all its shifting and often incalculable moods, never dominated by or subservient to it, and always, in the midst of whatever the hurly-burly might be, cool, clear, true and courageous in discerning the issues of the situation, and master of himself.
- (1) Government Business do have precedence;
- (2) At the conclusion of Government Business 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 one hour after the conclusion of Government Business if that Business has been concluded before 10.30 p.m., but, if that Business has not been so concluded, not later than 11.30 p.m.;
- (3) If the day be a Thursday the House shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday;
- (4) Any Private Business set down for consideration at a quarter-past Eight o'clock on any day shall, if Government Business is concluded before that time, be taken at the conclusion of Government Business, and, for the purposes of the preceding provisions of this Order, shall be deemed to be Government Business."
This was the more remarkable to those of us who knew him well, because he was a man of stern, clean-cut convictions, indisposed by nature to compromise, with pronounced likes and dislikes, a manlike combustible temper, and with the full endowment of a Northern Englishman's lust for battle and joy in the victory. No man in our day, I think I may say, brought into the public arena a larger portion of the spirit of sportsman and gentleman. He has gone before his time, and in the full measure of his vitality, and among the many cruel strokes of destiny which in these latter years have thinned and impoverished our ranks, the House will believe me when I say that none has affected me more, because during the critical 46 months and years of stress and troublous and anxious emergencies he was my faithful and trusty chief of staff, the daily partner of my most intimate councils, never afraid to maintain and defend his own judgment, never failing either in candour or courage, and always ready to carry out, loyally and unflinchingly, without hesitation or reserve, the final word of command. I will not venture to say more than that I could never have conceived that things would have been so ordered that it should fall to me to say these few imperfect words of affection and regret. It is some solace to those of us who were his friends to feel assured that by the party which he served so loyally, by this House to which he was devoted, and by the country to which he set an example of a life well spent and duty well done, his name and services will not be forgotten.
I pass to the actual terms of the Motion I am now making. It is customary and right, when the Government proposes such an inroad as this Resolution amounts to upon the ordinary procedure of the House, that it should justify or at any rate seek to justify what is suggested by reference to precedent. I do not propose to make any such attempt upon the present occasion, because the truth is that there is no precedent which is in any way to the point. How do we stand to-day? All our efforts and our energies as a people are concentrated upon the War, and we are all in absolute agreement that it behoves every man among us, here or elsewhere, by active service or, if that is impossible, through such other channels as may be open to him—of these appropriate Parliamentary criticism is not the least important—to subordinate every interest to the one overmastering purpose. It would not only be idle but I think it would be offensive to the good sense of the nation to proceed at such a time with controversial legislation or with the more or less academic discussion of possible social and political reforms. The Government, by this Motion, are asking private Members to give up their usual opportunities, but in return private Members are entitled to demand from the Government—the demand is a perfectly reasonable one—that so long as this Order is in force they will introduce no legislation of a party or a contentious character, and that they will, indeed, confine, as we 47 propose to confine, their legislative proposals, unless in some exceptional ease in regard to which there is general agreement, to such measures as may be found necessary to facilitate, financially and otherwise, the successful prosecution of the War. That, Sir, I hope is clearly and unambiguously stating the grounds upon which the Government ask the House to assent to the Motion.
There are two subsidiary points which, I think, are new, although in this Motion they are merely points of detail, to which it is right I should draw attention. The first is the proposal that the House should not sit on Fridays. While Fridays at this time of the Session are consecrated to private Members' Bills, I am sure it will be felt generally, in the absence of legislation of anything of a controversial kind, that that day might well be spared, not only to Ministers who are hard pressed by administrative duties, but also to the bulk of Members, who, quite apart from discharging their functions here, are engaged, I believe almost without exception, in self-imposed labours of a patriotic kind. The other innovation in the Motion as compared with previous proposals of the kind, is to give to the House, when the Motion for Adjournment is put by Mr. Speaker from the Chair, instead of a half hour—the usual interval—one hour after the conclusion of Government business for the discussion of such urgent matters as may from time to time arise. I think that is a fair and proper concession to the exigencies of the case and to the claims of private Members, and I am perfectly certain advantage will not be taken of it but for any legitimate and public purpose. On these grounds, shortly stated, I submit this to the House as an emergency Motion in the conditions in which we stand and live, and I trust the House will accept it.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
In the special circumstances in which we are now met, I do not think that the proposals of the Government are unreasonable, and I have no intention of offering any opposition to them. I know that in many quarters of the House there is a feeling, to which some expression was given below the Gangway earlier, that the Front Benches are not to be trusted when the interests 48 of private Members are at stake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to find I am right in that view. There is an impression, which I shared myself till I knew better, that to be seated on the Front Bench is in itself a privilege. That is a delusion. I speak from long experience. With the exception of two or three of the most prominent men on either side, a Member who sits on either Front Bench, instead of having special privileges, is really handicapped so far as his opportunities are concerned of taking part in the deliberations of this House. That is true, and for this obvious reason, that as a rule a Member on the Front Bench only speaks when he is asked to do so and is not free, as other Members are, to take part when Mr. Speaker calls him in any debate in which he is interested. But whether or not I am right in that, and I strongly think I am, I am quite sure that the privileges belonging to private Members, of which the Government now intend to deprive them, could not be usefully used in the circumstances. I am sure of that, and I am sure the majority, in fact I hope the whole House, will take the same view. On the other hand I think the special circumstances require that the Government should give special consideration to the desire of Members of the House, in whatever quarter they sit, to discuss subjects which ought to be discussed. I think, for instance, that such subjects as were mentioned yesterday, the question of the high price of necessaries and the question of the method in which we deal with alien enemies are subjects which should not be left to a discussion on the Adjournment of the House, but in regard to which the Government should give proper facilities so that they can be properly discussed at a proper time. I am sure I do not need to press this on the Government for it is obvious in the interests of the House as a whole, and indeed in the interests of the Government, that not merely at the request of the official Opposition but where-ever there is a general desire that any particular subject should be discussed, facilities should be given for the discussion of that subject.
There is only one other observation in connection with this Motion which I should wish to make. At ordinary times an Opposition would very reluctantly give 49 such powers into the hands of a Government, and in my judgment the fact that the Government make this claim itself implies, as has indeed been stated by the Prime Minister, that our Government intends to act as the Government of France has acted, and as I am pleased to see the Government of the Dominion of Canada intend to act, and that is to treat this Session as a War Session, and so long at least as the War lasts to introduce no controversial business. I intended, for I think it is well that we should have no misunderstanding, that it is possible to avoid, rather to press this, but after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and after the words yesterday of Lord Crewe, for which I am sure he accepts responsibility, I think it is unnecessary to say more. Those words were:—So far as the conduct of business is concerned, we do not propose to introduce any contentious business, but to confine ourselves entirely to such business as is concerned one way or the other with the Prosecution of the War.I entirely accept that declaration, and have therefore nothing more to say on the subject.
The relations between the Leader of the House of Commons and the Chief Whip of his party are the most intimate, I think, which can arise in our public life. We can therefore all appreciate how deep is the sense of personal loss to which the Prime Minister has just given such warm expression. I had noticed the accounts of the illness of Mr. Illingworth, but I never supposed that his life was in danger, and the announcement of his death came to me, as to all of us, as an unexpected loss. Indeed, even now it is difficult to realise that the alert athletic figure with which we were all so familiar, and which seemed to me suggestive of reserves of physical energy and vital force, will be seen in our midst no more. I had not the privilege of knowing Mr. Illingworth intimately, but during the last year or two I met him occasionally in connection with the business of this House. I found him invariably in the highest degree courteous, straightforward and reliable, and I know that my Noble Friend, who was brought in constant contact with him, will endorse every word that I have said. He was personally liked by us, who are his political opponents, and I can well understand how warm is the feeling of attachment which he must have 50 inspired among those with whom he came intimately into contact. I desire therefore for myself, and on behalf of my friends, to join in the expression of heartfelt sympathy with his widow, who must now be enduring almost the keenest suffering which can fall to a human being, and with his little children, who in being deprived of the care and tenderness of a father have suffered a loss the full extent of which they may never realise.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
One cannot help recognising that in present circumstances the Motion which has been made by the-Prime Minister will be accepted by the House without hesitation. I rise only for the purpose of bringing before the Prime Minister one matter which I think would come under his definition of being an exceptional matter. Not only is it an exceptional matter, but I think it is connected with the War. I refer to a Bill, which has been before the House on three or four occasions, connected with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. It has been introduced two or three times by private Members, and has been read a first time twice, and has been reported upon by a Departmental Committee, and the reason I draw the Prime Minister's attention to it is that I think a communication has already been addressed to him last month to ask him whether he could not take it up as a Government measure. Shortly the reasons are these: The Royal College is really carrying out a national service. It cannot do it under present circumstances without more money. It desires to raise more money. It is not asking the nation to give it more money, but asks for power to alter its constitution so that it may raise more money from its members. It is at present to a certain extent living upon its capital, and unless it can get more income it really cannot carry out the duties which have been imposed upon it by its charters and by the various Acts of Parliament which affect it. The War Office have approached the College with a view to providing more veterinary surgeons, not only in this country but also abroad, and they cannot be provided in sufficient numbers at the present moment, and the result is that in future the duties and obligations which will be cast upon the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 51 will be greater than they have boon in the past, and their difficulties will be increased. I only want to draw attention to the fact that this Bill has been approved by the Privy Council. It was read a first time in 1911, again a first time in 1912, and was presented in 1913. Under the peculiar circumstances of the House we were never able to get it read a second time, and I should like to draw attention to what was said about it in the Departmental Committee's Report:—The lack of funds seriously hampers the work of the College. With a view to improving its financial position the College is seeking power in a Bill now before Parliament to charge an annual fee of one guinea on each of its members and fellows. This Bill, we understand, has the support of the great majority of the profession, but so far little progress has been made with its consideration We are of opinion that the College is performing work of great national importance, and that its efforts to maintain a high standard of veterinary education in this country are worthy of every encouragement.I would appeal to the Prime Minister whether there is any possibility of his seeing his way to pay attention to the representation which has been made to him by the council of this very important body which is carrying on what is really a national work, and which, under the circumstances created by the War, it will be still more difficult to carry on in the future than in the past. I would ask whether he cannot make this a Government measure, because, unless that is done, it has no chance whatever of relieving the necessities of this national institution. I would ask the Prime Minister, if he cannot answer now, to give the question his consideration.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I regret, although it may run a little counter to the general feeling of the House, that I consider it necessary to speak against this Resolution. I am afraid that the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition have both overlooked one important fact relative to the situation in which the Session proceeds, and that is the fact in regard to private Bills that municipalities, and even by private trading concerns, are bringing in their measures, that these will be fought out in this House, and that Divisions will be taken. Already lobbying has commenced in regard to one or two of these Bills. I have been interviewed both by promoters and opponents—I dare say other Members have also been interviewed—and that is indication of the fact that there will 52 be the strongest opposition to some of that private Bill legislation. I am afraid, if that takes place, the moment the bell rings for a Division over some questions in regard to some extension of borough boundaries, it will be very difficult indeed to make the thinking men of this country understand what we are doing. I quite agree that some special arrangements for the business of this Session are absolutely necessary, but I think that no case has been made out for taking the whole of private Members' time. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, and other Members will take it as a sincere expression from me when I say that I have rarely found myself able to support the legislation proposed in private Bills. But the fact that one finds himself in opposition to many of the proposals is no reason for preventing the private Members of the House from having the opportunity of speaking and influencing legislation. I maintain that time might be well spent during the Session, busy as it is, in considering the vast question of education. I should have thought myself that the House might have received great benefit in listening to proposals even from Back Bench Members suggesting improvements in our educational system. I mention that as one case which presents itself to our thoughts. The Germans have introduced an educational system which has suited them, and they are reaping the fruits of it to-day. They taught the children in the schools certain ideals, and they are reaping the fruits of them. I am not quite sure that our educational system has suited our children so well as the German system has suited theirs. I do not know that there could be any time better than the present, when youths are still at school, and when we are asked to continue business as usual, to look around and take stock of our whole educational system. This War is showing the deficiencies of our educational system. It is pointing out to us a good many elementary facts, and I should have thought that one of the immediate results would be very drastic alterations in our training of the young. The German people have certain ideals based entirely on the Prussian military idea, and they took advantage of their opportunities and produced the system they wanted. We have certain ideals here, and yet our 53 educational system seems to have been put together in a very haphazard fashion.
I know that there are many private Members of the House who have given a great deal of care and attention to this subject, and I can see no possible harm, but, on the contrary, there might be a great deal of good, from having their proposals brought forward as to improvements in our educational facilities. I think great good might ensue from having the subject debated in the House, and I venture to say that, while we shall have time night after night to discuss Private Bill legislation which is opposed, people will not understand why it is that we are discussing comparatively small things which have nothing to do with the War, while the private Member is debarred from the opportunities which he ought to have. I never balloted for a Bill or for a Motion, but I have always felt that one of the cherished privileges of private Members was that they should have the opportunity of doing so if they felt so inclined. I am sure it will be a Session of disappointment if this Resolution is carried in its present form. I venture to make another appeal to the Government and the House.
We had a Committee sitting last year on procedure, and the Leader of the House was kind enough to give very important evidence before the Committee, Every witness who gave evidence spoke of the lot of the private Member as increasingly dull, and the Committee, and the Prime Minister himself, speaking from great experience, conferred as to how they could make the House more interesting by giving better opportunities to the private Member who was sincere in desiring to serve his country. I think what is now proposed is a step in the other direction. I cannot see any use of the Committee sitting. I do not know whether it is the intention of the two Front Benches to set up the Committee again, but I do not see the necessity for it if private Members are to be deprived under such a Resolution as this of their opportunities. I venture to submit that the House in future will find it increasingly difficult to get business men to stand as candidates. We have had business man after business man, and even busy working men, withdrawing from the House 54 disappointed that they have not found a sphere for the exercise of their ability. What attraction is there to a man who has felt and shown his capacity in other directions to sit through such a Session as this will be under this Resolution? I am perfectly certain that that is a great drawback in this House. I consider that it should be made even more attractive to Members to take part in the deliberations. Of course, this Resolution suits the two Front Benches. I do not wish for a moment to challenge their sincerity, but I entirely join issue with the Leader of the Opposition in regard to an illustration which he gave. As one who listens to these Debates, I think as much as any other Member in this House, I say that the experience of the debating chamber is not such as he alleges. I take one instance.
There was brought forward by a Member of the Opposition the question of the administration of the Insurance Act in the County of London. Two able speeches were made from those Benches by Members who knew the subject and had taken pains to verify their facts and put forward the result. On this side of the House there were three or four hon. Members who were not merely experts in reference to the Act, but knew the administration in London through and through. There was the hon. Member for Walworth (Mr. Dawes), who I believe is now serving his country with the forces, who was chairman of the Londou Insurance Committee. Then there was the hon. Member for Hox-ton (Dr. Addison), who is now in the Government, and his knowledge of insurance? has been recognised by the fact that he has been employed in answering questions from the Front Bench. I do not think that I need put any further the claim that it was a subject with which he was familiar. In addition, there sat on these Benches the chairman of the Middlesex Committee, and a London Member (Mr. Glyn-Jones). They were familiar with these matters; they knew all the facts and conditions. They rose to take part in the discussion. A Member rose from my own Front Bench and was accorded priority. He was called upon. He was new to the work. He had not in his possession the facts which were in the possession of my colleagues who sit near me here. There 55 was another speaker from the other side, from the Front Bench. Again a Minister rose from this Front Bench. Although my three friends rose, not one of them was called upon. Not a single private Member on this side of the House was called upon. These hon. Members were specially qualified to deal with this point. They had official responsibility for 1,600,000 injured persons in London. They were given no opportunity of saying what they knew about the matter, and then we hear from the Front Opposition Bench that they have no privileges with regard to the matter of speaking. I do not know how many Members were in the House at the time, but those hon. Members who had prepared speeches and had the facts at their finger ends were so disappointed that they walked out of the House and did not wait to hear the Minister speak from their own Front Bench, although they are exceedingly loyal supporters of the Government.
Incidents like that do not confirm the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Oposition, that he thought that private Members of this House occupied a position of privilege as compared with Members of the Front Bench. I submit that private Members are entitled to the opportunity. If they make mistakes, let them suffer. On many occasions on Fridays, they have brought forward proposals which have been defeated, proposals which I have had occasion to criticise severely. What has been the experience of both sides? Experts have come underneath the Gallery and into the Gallery representing the industries or classes concerned. They have interviewed the Members who have brought forward these measures and have shown them the consequences which they would have in their own constituencies. If these Bills had not gone down on Friday, such a thing would not have taken place. It is only when the question is brought forward that the people in the country who are connected with the subject take it upon themselves to come forward in a body and enlighten this House. That has been a very beneficial experience. It is a reason for Bills being brought forward; it is not a reason for stifling the opinion of private Members in their legislative exertion. There is another point. There is an 56 opportunity given to private Members, when bringing forward Bills on Friday and Resolutions on other days, to show the Front Bench on either side, as they are entitled to show, what is in them. We have had a remarkable instance of that during the last Session. The hon. Member for North Bucks (Sir Harry Verney), who is now, I am happy to think, a Member of His Majesty's Government, to the satisfaction of all parties in the House, representing the Board of Agriculture, gave faithful service during the procedure of the Irish legislation as private secretary to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Last Session he was able to show something more, because opportunity was given to him here on a private Bill on a Friday.
After its Second Reading here the Bill went upstairs. He was in charge of the Bill when it came down here again, He failed in carrying that Bill, but he did not fail in one thing—in impressing upon Members of the Opposition, as well as upon Members of his own party, that he was an able politician, that he was courteous and dignified, and that he was a man of his word. And I am perfectly certain that the experience of the Opposition in seeing that he was sorely tried in the conduct of this Bill, and in seeing that his last chance of getting the Bill through was vanishing as the hands of the clock advanced, caused them to admire his patience, his civility and courtesy up to the last moment. Therefore when the hon. Member was promoted to the Government, to the great delight of those of us who sit behind, he was all the more welcome because the House was familiar with him. It had seen his deportment and was conscious of his dignity, and it gave him a very hearty welcome. I submit that this Resolution may be repeated next year once again, and I want the two Front Benches to realise that it is making this House in a large measure less and less a place of opportunity for the man who has the wish to do something substantial for the improvement of the country. I may be permitted to point out that I am impartial myself for the reasons which I have given, and if I can get hon. Members to support me, though they may have taken me as an enemy of private Members, yet on the Select Committee upstairs I am prepared, if it goes on, to give them extended 57 privileges. But, as one who usually has not taken advantage of those, I do plead that hon. Members in this House should at least have this opportunity, which hitherto has never been denied in the history of Parliament, of bringing forward any proposals and letting them stand the racket of discussion and acquitting themselves either to their credit or discredit, but at any rate enabling the House if it wishes to pass that measure. On behalf of those Members I plead with the Government to relax this Resolution in some way, or at any rate to understand that it does not meet with the universal approval of this House.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I do not wish to oppose this Resolution, but I wish to offer some remarks, first with regard to the question of privilege given to private business, and next with regard to public measures brought forward by private Members. None of the private Members can have the smallest idea of the weight of the responsibility, the crushing responsibility, which rests upon the heads of the Government at this time, and, for my part, I am prepared within reasonable limits to support any proposal they make during the continuance of this War. Having said that, I wish to say where I think they are impinging badly, I will not say on the rights of Members, but upon the prerogatives of the House as a whole. I will take the case of private business first. Private business is promoted, as a rule, by private individuals for a mercantile object, or by corporations who go to great expense. Many of these corporations are municipalities, and they use the rates of municipalities to promote legislation, very often which affects private individuals vitally. I want to know why we, who are surrendering the national right of bringing in our Bills on public subjects, are to give exceptional treatment to municipalities and others to do for private interests—whether they be municipal or sordid interests, I care not which—what is not allowed to be done for public interests. I must say that I think in many of these private Bills there have been many obnoxious proposals, and we all remember the action which the late Sir Henry Fowler, afterwards a Member of the other House, in regard to the powers asked for by private Bills, and the public meetings 58 which were held in regard to them; and in the present Session, I understand, hon. Members are already being lobbied by those who are interested in private Bills. I want to know why, in this Session of War, we should give promoters of private Bills extra facilities when we are denying to ourselves facilities in regard to great public questions. I certainly think that when we are giving up the rights of private Members the promoters of private Bills might well be expected to suffer the hazards of war to which we are being subjected. I must say that the more experience I have on the subject the more I think this is not the time, as regards private Bill legislation, to give the promoters extra facilities.
With regard to the second point, I think the Government are doing in the month of February what they may be sorry for in March or April, or at any rate June, July, or August. I think that in the February condition of mind this is a reasonable proposal, but as the Session goes on there will undoubtedly come occasion when it might be deemed very unfortunate if a sudden closure should be put upon the discussion, and that we should be turned out, like children, when some important proposal is bang brought up. I think something of this kind ought, to be done. When the Horse has deposed of public business, at seven or eight o'clock, it should be left in the hands of the Speaker fairly to interpret the feeling of the House as to whether the hour should be extended or not. I quite agree that if a debate is taken at ten o'clock it would be unreasonable that the hour should be extended beyond eleven o'clock. How often was it the experience last Session that the House rose at six, seven or eight, o'clock and discussion was shortened when the half hour expired. As regards the hour, I think the Resolution is far too fixed, and that we should have an opportunity of reconsidering it. The Government are not dealing in this case with hostile critics; they are dealing with friends; we are all of one mind in this House as regards the prosecution of this War, and therefore every one of us is in the position which the Government occupies in this matter. And there is one other point I should like to mention, and that is how the right of priority to raise 59 questions in the hour allowed is to be determined. There may be complaints by Members of their being ostracised, and apparently one hon. Gentleman on this side seems to think he was ostracised, although my own experience is that it was rather the other way. At all events, be that as it may, I should like to have some explanation as to the right of priority to speak during that hour. I can assure right hon. Gentlemen that, in this matter, as in any other, at this time, on which they may call upon the House of Commons, I think they will find that the House as a whole is with them in the enterprises they have at heart.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I do not rise to oppose this Motion, but rather to obtain information on one or two points, and to make a few comments on the Motion itself. I think it is a pity that the Government should take away the right of private Members to introduce Bills, and the position in future will be that if any Member wishes to get any proposal placed before his constituency, or to be considered in the country, he will have to go to the other side of the corridor, and ask a Noble Lord to introduce it in the House of Lords, and to supply copies of the discussion to those of Ins constituents who are interested. I do submit that the right to introduce a measure should be reserved to Members of this House. It would not, I imagine, be taken great advantage of, but there are cases in which measures might be introduced with usefulness to the country, or on which we might have the advantage of a discussion. That could be done on the next Motion, which is really governed by this one, by simply limiting the right of Members to the introduction of a Bill, and no further proceedings after the introduction. I beg the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to consider that proposal. I am not very hopeful that any proposal put forward by private Members, after the experience of last Session, is likely to receive very much consideration from the Front Bench. But I do submit that Members ought to be protected in their right to introduce a Bill, even if it is not further proceeded with. I heartily support the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite in regard to 60 the one-hour Adjournment as not being sufficient to raise a question of great importance. We have had the experience often that a Member gets in his one speech and entirely cuts out a more important question, and thus we have a zigzag discussion and really no agreement at all.
The Government are taking away the rights of every one of the private Members, but there are checks which can be employed without limitation of the Adjournment, If a Debate is not wanted by the Whips, they can arrange the Adjournment very quickly by having no quorum. I do think the Government might well consider whether they could not trust the House of Commons sufficiently to take away the limitation of time. No questions, it may be fairly anticipated, will be raised unless they are urgent, what I may term War questions, and, as I have pointed out, we have various checks and precautions against any abuse of the Rules. I think it would be a concession to the House, I do not think it would be abused, and I think it would be appreciated by Members on all sides of the House. There is one question I wish to put to the Prime Minister, namely, what is the contemplated length of the Session? An hon. Member expresses surprise, but the question is a very important one in regard to another point I am going to put. I do not suppose, as the Government are not going to introduce controversial measures, that there will be very much ordinary business before the House to discuss, and, therefore, there will not be much of it to consider. An understanding has been arrived at between the Front Benches that no controversial matter is to be brought forward, and I presume that covers a Bill a long way off at present, but which is still of some importance to us, and therefore of some importance to the Government after the War is over—I refer to the Plural Voting Bill. Under the Parliament Act this is the third Session of that measure. If that Bill be not brought forward or no Motion made safeguarding it for the future, all the work in connection with the Bill, I imagine, will be lost, I hope it is not so, but I should like it to be clear on the point. It is just as well that we should have these matters clearly stated 61 now. I have no doubt the Leader of the Opposition knows exactly how the matter stands, but I would ask to have some information as to that Bill now placed before us. If in some form it is not dealt with the value of the Bill will be lost. If I am wrong no doubt some Member of the Government will correct me, but I think it is a point on which we ought to have some information. I see no alternative to voting for the Motion, but I would make an appeal to the Government, as they are now practically here with full power and without any criticism, that they would pay a little more attention to some of the suggestions that are put forward from all quarters of the House relating to matters of present vital importance. Many points were made in the short Session of last year as to which the Whole House was practically unanimous, and with regard to different points as to different departments the Government treated all the suggestions, and. I say it advisedly, with supreme contempt. I hope they will not do so during the present Session, and I imagine that, after all, the House of Commons has still some views on great public questions.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not desire to oppose the Motion, which appears to me under the circumstances to be eminently reasonable. I do not in the least share the views put forward by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), because, however just his criticisms might be in an ordinary Session, they are beside the point on the present occasion. I do agree most heartily with what has fallen from the two previous speakers, who pressed very strongly on the Government the desirability of removing the hour limit. I think the House will be quite ready to put themselves in the hands of you, Sir, and that it should be understood that when there was good reason for it the Closure might be moved at any time during the discussion on the Adjournment Motion so as to preclude anything in the nature of the dilatory, or obstructive, or traitorous discussions in this House. I am sure we should all agree to that. What we do dislike, and I speak personally very strongly on the point, is the hard and fast limit of an hour. I do not think it makes a very great difference whether it is an hour or half an hour, but it is the iron limit 62 of an hour or half an hour which is so destructive to all real useful discussions. I do very much press on the Government that they should allow the second paragraph of the Resolution to conclude with the words "that this House do now adjourn," and then it would read "At the conclusion of Government business Mr. Speaker shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn," it being understood that the Government should be at any time entitled to move the Closure, and if you. Sir, thought that the discussion had lasted long enough nobody would complain if you accepted it. That is a suggestion I venture to make, and there is-another point I wish to mention.
I wish to support what fell from the hon. Member who has just sat down about the necessity for complete clearness in the understanding as to the way in which we are to conduct our discussions this Session, as nothing is so provocative of friction and misunderstanding as any doubt. I confess I have no misapprehension on the position. I understand that the Prime Minister assented by the well-known Parliamentary method of nodding his head to my right hon. Friend when he read out the passage from Lord Crewe's speech which very clearly defined what was to be the course of business until the end of the Session. I have here Lord Crewe's words, which seem to me quite clear and unambiguous. I do not think there can be any doubt at all from his words as to the real intentions of the Government, but I do beg and pray that we may not be left in any doubt whatever as to what the real intentions of the Government are. That is essential to the clear conduct of the business of this House, and is the only way to avoid those unhappy misunderstandings and recriminations which took place not very long ago in this House, and which I earnestly hope and pray may never take place again.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I wish to give general support to the Resolution which has been put forward by the Government. Probably no one in the House has contested more the restrictions imposed on private Members than my colleagues on these Benches, but I do feel that the suggestion put forward by the Government may well be tried, and if it is found in practice that the hour on the Adjournment does not give sufficient time, then I, for my part, have 63 sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that if they are communicated with there will be a disposition to meet the general wishes of the House during this abnormal Session. The point I wish specifically to call attention to, however, is that raised by the hon. and learned Member opposite, who referred to the liberty which is to be given for the introduction of private Bills, and called attention to what happened in the case of some controversial private Bills of last Session, and who imagined that they might be brought forward again during the present Session. I venture to disagree from that view. Controversial points which raise acute differences even in private legislation will in my view, having regard to the sense of the House at present, not be advanced. I think there will be a consensus of opinion in the House that matters of acute controversy, even if they come under private business, shall not be advanced. The hon. and learned Gentleman forgets that some private Bills will be put forward by municipalities which have in view the absorption of labour after the War is over. I have in mind several Bills of that kind, and one in particular promoted by the borough council of the constituency I have the honour to represent. That Bill seeks powers for the widening of a bridge across a river which at present will not take all the traffic it has to bear. The borough council desire so to advance their plans that when the War is over they may be in a position to absorb labour which may very well find itself in acute difficulty at the conclusion of the War. Municipalities which have in mind schemes for the absorption of the unemployed when the War is over must have their plans advanced at this stage by the passage of such Bills. Therefore, I make an appeal to the Government to stand by their suggestion of allowing facilities for private Bills, since it is so very important from the point of view of giving work to the unemployed when the War is over, and when the present boom in certain industries has finished its course.
§ Mr. MOONEY
I should like to address a question to the Prime Minister. I understood him to say that the Government intended to take away all privileges of private Members, but that on every day 64 the House sat private Members would have one hour on the Motion for the Adjournment to submit any proposal they might desire. May I suggest to the Prime Minister that the Motion on the Paper does not give one hour on the Adjournment, but only gives one hour on the Adjournment if Government business has been concluded before 10.30 o'clock, and if Government business has not been so concluded Mr. Speaker is to put the question of Adjournment at 11.30 o'clock. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that an hour was to be given, but in the case I have mentioned it is not.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am sorry I did not make myself quite clear. The House hitherto has had only half an hour, and I am sure it is the general desire of the House not to sit later that 11.30 o'clock. We anticipate that as a rule they will rise considerably earlier, and we are giving a half-hour more than they had before.
§ Mr. MOONEY
Hon. Members have always had half an hour, and therefore what the Prime Minister gives us in case we sit until 11 o'clock on Government business is still only half an hour, and the proposal does not carry out what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, namely, that hon. Members would get one hour on the Adjournment Motion to discuss any matter they wished to put forward.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section—(2) At the conclusion of Government Business 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 one hour after the conclusion of Government Business if that Business has been concluded before 10.30 p.m., but, if that Business has not been so concluded, not later that 11.30 p.m.May I remind the House that what the Government is asking us to do is to surrender ten and a half hours for a possible two hours. At the present moment the private Member is entitled to two and 65 three-quarter hours every Tuesday and two and three-quarter hours every Wednesday, and the whole of Friday from twelve to five o'clock. For those ten and a-half hours we are offered two hours, or a maximum of four hours, and one-half of that we are already entitled to since it is the ordinary half-hour on the Adjournment. I confess to a considerable amount of disappointment that the only speech that has been made from amongst those representing the Labour party in this House has been in support of the restrictions which the Government propose to make on the private Members of this House. I would recall to the members of the Labour party the speech which the right hon. Gentleman their Chairman (Mr. A. Henderson) delivered from this corner Bench yesterday, and in which he complained to the Prime Minister of the interminable Adjournments of the House that had taken place, and held out in very vigorous fashion the suggestion that now that the House was meeting that it should meet much more frequently and regularly, and that more opportunities should be given for discussion. I confess, therefore, I say, to very considerable disappointment at finding Members of the Labour party supporting the Government in so crushing a suggestion to the British House of Commons. An hon. Member asks me if I am going to divide the House against the Motion. The hon. Member will see that I have an Amendment on the Paper, and I am going to divide the House, and I will be very glad if the hon. Member will tell with me.
I do not feel confident in myself to state the whole argument for the private Member on an occasion of this sort, but I do hope that the Prime Minister, or some other Member of the Government who is going to reply to the whole of this Debate, will give us some substantial reasons why the Government are taking the whole time of the private Member. The Prime Minister himself told us that this is a Motion without precedent, and on that account he has made himself a very short speech. I consider that, while it may be without precedent, it is a very serious matter for private Members who are not on one or other of the Front Benches to have the opportunity for taking part in discussions 66 taken away from them. The Leader of the Opposition, for example, agreed very heartily with the Prime Minister's suggestion, and, of course, it is easy for the Leader of the Opposition to do so, and to say that there are ample opportunities for discussion, because the discussion which is denied to us in the House of Commons can be continued in the House of Lords, when the House of Commons is not sitting, by the right hon. Gentleman's friends in that particular place. They can meet when they like, and they can criticise what the Government is doing, and the Government are compelled to allow the hostile Lords to meet and demand answers from them, and the Government take no notice of private Members of this House and of their own supporters—an excellent Liberal example. I consider that the Prime Minister ought to make out a case that there is an urgent need for the Government taking the whole time in the House. I have never known myself a case in which the Government did take the whole time of the House unless there was urgent need for it. Is there urgent need at this moment? Consider what happened when we were called together in November. The Prime Minister then got up and moved a Resolution in favour of taking the whole time of the House up to Christmas. What did that amount to? The Prime Minister and the Members of the Cabinet knew that they had no intention of sitting up to Christmas or any period approaching it. They met for a fortnight, and every day the House was up very early, which meant that the Cabinet did not require the whole time of the House in order to discuss its business.
I want some Member of the Cabinet to prove to the House, and to the private Members whose time they are proposing to take, that the Government require the whole time of the House. I think we are entitled to have that made clear before the time is taken. That leads me to ask this question: Is the Government going to employ the whole time of the House? If there is one thing in these circumstances more inconvenient than another to the average Member, it is the way in which we are called together, and the uncertainty as to the hours that we are going to sit. We cannot make any kind of arrangement either with regard to 67 our own domestic affairs or with regard to our business affairs in our own cities or Constituencies. We come here at Question-time, and we do not know how long Government business will take, or whether we shall be up at five o'clock, or seven o'clock, or eight o'clock. If the Government are going to take the whole time of the House, they should occupy the whole time while we are sitting with Government business, so that at any rate we should know where we are. I would remind the Prime Minister that already the Cabinet have shut the mouth of the Press in this country, and they are now proposing to shut the mouths of private Members in this House. The Prime Minister makes a remark which is inaudible.
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is the case, and the documents can be produced. [An HON. MEMBER: "Produce them!"] The documents can be produced, in which the Press Censor attempted to prevent the comments of the Press. The Prime Minister must also know that the prohibition was taken off twenty-four hours afterwards, and the Press were then allowed to make their comment. If that is not so, may I draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that there is a very fine article in the "Edinburgh Review" of this month, written by a former Member of this House. 68 These charges are there made. Presumably the Press Censor ought to see what is being published, but he has not taken the trouble to prevent that article from being published. I repeat deliberately that the Cabinet have suppressed the free expression of opinion in the public Press of this country, just as to-day they are trying to shut the mouths of private Members in this House. What has the Prime Minister to fear? Is there any Member of this House who has made any hostile criticism, or any criticism to which the Prime Minister himself objects, since the War broke out? Is it not the case that every one of us has tried his level best to support the Government in the great issues in which we are involved? Nothing has been done in any part of the House which can call for any degree of criticism from the Front Bench. Why are they not willing to trust us? The adjournemnt must come every day and, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, it requires forty Members to maintain a discussion. I would also remind the Prime Minister that if the subject proposed to be discussed was in any way dangerous to the policy of the Government the Government could move the Closure without the subject being discussed, and they could put on the Government Whips—if they could get them back from active service at the Front.
With regard to private Members' Bills, I do not understand why they should not be allowed to be introduced. Does it mean that the only ideas with regard to legislation are to come either from Members of the Government or from Government Departments? A great many things are happening while we are not meeting, which ought to be discussed and have the sanction of this House. For instance, I notice that while we have been in recess a Committee has been appointed to control the issue of new capital in this country. That has been appointed by a Department of the Government without any discussion in or sanction from this House. That may be a good or a bad thing; but I do not think it is complimentary to Members of this House that that kind of thing should happen when Members are willing to come here and give their time to discuss these questions. We shall probably be told that we can discuss all these matters on the Estimates. My view is that we do 69 not sufficiently attend to the Estimates as Estimates when they come before us. Members always attempt to discuss some large public question which it is then possible to raise, but which is not concerned with the actual expenditure of those Estimates. I submit that in a year like the present, when we have plenty of time, the Estimates should be discussed in the ordinary way, and that special opportunities ought to be given for raising the questions in which we are interested. One of the phrases used most frequently in the country is that in this time of crisis we should continue busines as usual. But in the House of Commons business is of the most unusual nature. It is confined entirely to registering the wills of departments over which separate Members of the Cabinet preside. We are not allowed the opportunities that we ought to have as private Members responsible to our constituents for advocating and pushing those matters in which our own constituents are interested. I humbly and respectfully submit that a great many opportunities will occur to the Government in which they ought to allow the private Member to develop his taste for legislation, and to use his right to bring before the House those matters in which he is keenly interested.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD rose—
§ Mr. KING
As the Prime Minister intimates that he will not accept the Amendment, I will give a few more arguments, if he will listen to them, as to why he should do so. A strong man may change his mind, and the Prime Minister is strong enough to be generous even to his supporters in a little matter like this. There is one fault about this Resolution and about the speech in which the Prime Minister introduced it which has not been sufficiently noted by the House: I mean 70 the indefinite character both of the Resolution and of the speech. The Resolution appears to apply indefinitely, not only to the present time, not only to the present Session, but, as I read it, to the next Session of Parliament and until the House otherwise orders. That seems to me to be a very objectionable proceeding. We are likely to have a General Election this year, and the next House of Commons, even if it is elected in war time, ought to meet in a free and unfettered condition. I also object to the way in which this proposal has been put forward. There are many questions about which the Prime Minister might have given us information, but he has not done so. For instance, I would like to ask whether the Resolution is actually interpreted by Members on the Front Opposition Bench, both in this House and in the other House, in the same spirit in which we, the supporters of the Government, interpret it. The Prime Minister spoke of no contentious legislation being undertaken. Has he observed that a Member of the Front Bench in the other House, the Duke of Devonshire, has introduced legislation, connected with the Welsh Church Act, which is of a very contentious nature? I suppose that that Bill will be passed; certainly it will be if anybody on the Front Bench in the other House wants it passed. I think the Prime Minister ought to assure us that there will be no tampering with the settlement already arrived at in connection with the Welsh Church. Inasmuch as there is a certain, I believe rather insignificant, though individually somewhat influential body of men going about attempting to tamper with the Welsh Church settlement, I think we ought to be definitely assured that these matters, which we believed had been settled, will not be interfered with in a party sense.
Another matter to which the Prime Minister might devote a few words is the Plural Voting Bill. If that is definitely to be dropped in this Session we ought to know. There have been throughout the country, especially in the South of England, great hopes based upon the passing of that Bill, and if it has now definitely passed into the abyss we ought to know the worst. We ought to know something about the length of the Session, and what it is contemplated to do after the financial 71 business has been disposed of—whether the Session will be brought to an end and a new Parliament elected, or whether there is any intention of prolonging the life of this Parliament into another year. That is a matter of very serious importance to many Members of this House. In the whole of the West of England, in which my Constituency is situated, Liberal agents have been prevented from going to the War, or offering their services, because they have been told that they must stop until the General Election is over. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
§ Mr. KING
If that is not general, and if it is not to be maintained, let the Prime Minister say so. It would be a great relief to many people to feel that party conflict was really suspended, both above ground and underground. I have myself, again and again, privately pressed for a statement to this effect, and if the Prime Minister can now give us an assurance upon this point, and give us an assurance, moreover, that so far as lies within his power the next General Election shall not be fought on party lines if the War is still continuing, I think he will do a great service to us as Members and to the country at large. I want also to urge upon the Prime Minister the claims of one class of legislation which I think he might very well take under review—I mean those Bills not of a contentious mature which have been introduced in previous Sessions by private Members and have passed further than their Second Reading. I will name two: there is the Public Rights of Way Bill; that has been passed by the House of Lords. At the end of last Session it had almost passed into law. There were only one or two minor points which had to be settled, and the Bill would have passed on to the 72 Statute Book. Another Bill is the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill. This was a measure that got a great deal of support on both sides of the House, and in both Houses of the Legislature; it is really not a contentious Bill at all. A great many people who are not politicians are anxious to see that Bill passed. Why cannot the Prime Minister give the private Member special facilities for introducing special legislation of this kind, which is not contentious, which has already proceeded far on the way to the Statute Book, and which in this Session there would be plenty of time to put through without offending the susceptibilities of anybody?
I would refer to one more Bill, I mean the Plumage Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I only say regarding that measure, that those who were opposing the Plumage Bill last year—and it very nearly got on the Statute Book—were opposing it because of the great trade in plumage between London and Germany. If the War has brought any legislation nearer to being unanimously supported it is this Plumage Bill. If it hit any industry at all it would hit the trade in millinery with Germany. I will not say anything more, or I might say a great deal to relieve my feelings in connection with the disappointment which I, with other Members sitting around me, have experienced at this new encroachment on our time. I trust the Prime Minister in his reply will take some notice of the suggestions which have been made in a really practical, and in no sense hostile, spirit. We desire one and all to facilitate the work of the Government at this time. We know their burdens are heavy. We know the claims on their time and energy are very great. But we still think there are various directions in which some time might be given by the House for putting through legislation and discussing questions which are really of very great public importance.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
May I ask, Sir, if you are putting the question one and a half lines down, because I propose afterwards to move what was suggested, though not moved, by my Noble Friend, namely, in Sub-section (2) to omit the words from: "That the House do now adjourn" to the end of the paragraph. 73 It would shut out my Amendment if you put the Question as a whole.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not complain in any way of the character of the discussion which has taken place. The Resolution, I think, in all its essentials commands the almost unanimous support of the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) imparted a somewhat aggressive tone into the Debate, and I confess I thought his observations were wanting in fairness and justice. Otherwise the Debate has been conducted in the spirit and with the general desire that we should co-operate, so that we may arrive at a unanimous result. There is no desire to curtail the legitimate opportunities of private Members for criticism. I submit that this Resolution does not so curtail them, or take from private Members their opportunities of bringing in Bills and notices of Motion on the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday and on Fridays, or in any way circumscribes the existing traditional powers of private Members to criticise the action of the Government. We are simply taking away the power of legislative initiative, of introducing proposals of their own of a—I will not say more or less academic kind—but measures which are not to be immediately embodied in legislation. Every opportunity of the private Member under the normal procedure of the House of criticising the action of the House is retained unimpaired and uncurtailed by the Resolution, and I strongly deprecate the interpretation put upon it. We are giving an hour instead of the half-hour to which the time has been limited under previous rules of this kind, and during which private Members might address the House on adjournment. As a matter of fact, we are not, either in design or in fact, interfering with the powers of criticism of private Members on the action of the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Cork made some reference to private business in the sense of Private Bills introduced by promoters for special purposes. He seemed to think that we ought to have dovetailed into this Resolution some limitation in the prosecution 74 of private legislation of this kind. I am not altogether sure whether I follow my hon. and learned Friend?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Some of the Bills now before the House have already been rejected in former Sessions, and at least the prohibition ought to apply to these.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That limits the scope of my hon Friend's suggestion. It must be remembered, in regard to a large number of these Private Bills, that a considerable preliminary expenditure has been incurred—there are many of them designed for objects of public utility—and I think it would be a very great pity if the wheels of private Bill legislation were altogether stopped in consequence of the War, while at the same time, going so far as my hon. and learned Friend to say, that if the particular Private Bills raised questions of a public character and of a contentious nature, the Government will naturally feel disposed to prevent further progress.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I hope that I have made it clear in the few remarks with which I introduced this Motion that it is put forward simply in view of the special and exceptional conditions under which we are met. To listen to some of the criticism offered in this Debate, one would not realise that a great War was being waged, and that six millions at least of men in arms are fighting one another to the death. We, at any rate, believe—and we give our enemy the same credit that they believe—that this is a great and a supreme issue, and that every energy and every effort that we as individuals, that we as a community, above all that this House of Commons, the trustee of the great traditions of the nation possesses, should be brought to bear, and ought to be brought to bear, with a single mind and with concentrated purpose, in order to achieve successfully and gloriously the end that we have in view. I do not believe there is the faintest echo outside in the country of some of the complaints which we have heard here to-day of the necessary curtailment of the ordinary privileges of the private Member in regard to notices of Motion and Bills. These Bills may be 75 important. In normal times they are very important. I am not minimising their importance. But to introduce these topics for discussion at the time when the nation's thoughts and the nation's heart are miles and miles away from the whole field of such discussion, is wholly undesirable. That is the appeal I make to the House, and, in making that appeal, I hope I may be dispensed from going into detail.
With regard to the general situation, I agree with the Noble Lord opposite that it is most desirable that there should be no misunderstanding. I myself have had a long and somewhat painful experience of the difficulties which may arise, and the misunderstandings which may be generated by the use of vague and not sufficiently precise words. This Resolution assumes that its operations extend to such a time, and to such a time only, as the War shall be going on. The words of the Resolution profess this: "Until the House otherwise determines." That does not in any way fetter the liberties of the House, if and when the opportunity should arise to allow the resumption of our normal discussions. I have been asked to say how long the Session will last, and when we are going to have the General Election? How can I say that! We are now in the presence of great, of terrible, of unspeakable possibilities. No human being can take upon himself the responsibility of naming the day or the hour when we shall be free to resume—as we shall resume in full force and with undiminished convictions—our domestic controversies. We are dealing here with what is to be done while the War goes on. Everything that I have said—and the right hon. Gentleman opposite will agree with me that everything that he has said is limited and strictly limited to the time of the operation of the War. My hon. and right hon. Friends are interested just as I am interested in the fate of various measures, including the Plural Voting Bill. There are other legislative commitments which under normal circumstances we are bound, and absolutely bound, owing to the pledges and promises which we have given in this Session to fulfil. So long as existing conditions prevail, and until, through, as we hope and trust in the counsels of Providence the 76 issue may be determined, and at no very distant date, determined in our own favour, these things must be postponed and adjourned. There will be no prejudice to them. I say it both in regard to measures—one in particular I have in my mind—in which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are interested, and in regard to measures such as the Plural Voting Bill, in which my Friends here and I myself are interested.
Until we are free once more to resume consideration of these matters we shall be able, I hope, by general consent and agreement to take such steps as will prevent the temporary non-fulfilment being more than a temporary non-fulfilment, in view of the pledges and assurances which we have given. For the time being we are immersed in a situation to which everything else must be subordinated. I am a strong party man myself. I am as strong a party man as sits anywhere in this House. It is because I believe, as Gentlemen opposite believe, and my Friends below the Gangway believe, the Labour party believe, that, in the working of our party system, and the triumph of our own political party, the best interests of the nation are to be preserved. Whichever party is best qualified to attain that end, party men we are, and party men I hope we shall always remain, for I believe party is the salt and the essence of British public life. But there are times, and this is one of them, when these things must be held in abeyance. We are not sheathing our swords more than the requirements of patriotism and of national duty dictate. We are not compromising our convictions. We are not in any way foregoing the political purposes which we respectively have in view in saying, as I say now, and as I hope I may say speaking with the voice of the united House of Commons, that this is not the time to define limits, which no man at this moment can define, to which all these differences must be put aside in subordination to one common national purpose.
§ Mr. GINNELL
This discussion has been of a general character with reference to the whole Resolution, although an Amendment has been proposed on a single point. I respectfully ask you, Sir, to consider before the Debate closes, whether 77 yon would afterwards go back to line 1, and insert "until the Easter adjournment." I should also ask you on substantial grounds whether, after that, you would allow an Amendment to be moved in line 4, after "Government Business," to insert the words "including an Irish Land Bill, and an Irish Town Tenants Bill." My reason for the suggestion would be the fact that last November a Resolution similar to this one was moved and passed, nominally applying to the entire United Kingdom. But side by side with it was passed a Bill to promote the drainage of land in England, while no Bill was introduced or passed for a similar purpose in Ireland, though the need for drainage there is notoriously more urgent than it is in any other part of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister's two speeches aimed at accomplishing the purposes of the Resolution by intensifying the war fever, for there was no other reason for the Resolution than the desire to divert the attention of the country from ultimate remedial legislation. No other case has been made or even attempted for this monstrous Resolution. No doubt the House has been edified to hear the Prime Minister graciously promising to give hours and days, thus reversing the actual situation, because on this Paper he asks the House to give him and his Government certain hours and days. He looks at the matter from the machine party point of view, and, while nominally on the Paper asking the House to surrender its own time and liberties, when speaking from the Treasury Bench the right hon. Gentleman actually assumes the attitude of a man graciously conceding hours and days to men from whom he is taking hours and days. The House has been edified by the Prime Minister's two magnanimous concessions to the private Member. First, he is actually deprived of Friday, which has hitherto been his; secondly, he is offered an hour at the end of Government business. Could magnanimity go further? It amounts to cutting off the private Member's head, and then clipping off his ear and throwing it to his relatives. On examination, however, it is found that the Prime Minister does not really give a clipping from the unfortunate private Member's ear. He does not give the additional half hour of which he boasted. 78 He gives only up to 11.30. The private Member has always had up to 11.30, so he had better now drop upon his knees to thank the Prime Minister and the Government for nothing.
My reason for intervening on this occasion is, however, a more serious one. I have mentioned it already in the unfair application of the Resolution of last November which no doubt will also operate under the present Resolution. Great though the war fever is, and great though the efforts of the Prime Minister are to maintain it at due fever heat, he and his Departments do not forget remedial legislation for this country, which is far less in need of it than ours. This country has been so carefully attended to by this Parliament that none of its interests, national, political, local, or business, would materially suffer if there were no domestic legislation for the next half-century. Yet the practice under the former Resolution, and certainly under this, will be to attend to every fiddle-faddle reform required in England, and to leave vast tracts of the country in Ireland submerged under several feet of water for month after month. If the Government should assume to rule Ireland and to make laws for it—should assume constitutional responsibility for that unfortunate country—if they would now go to Ireland and talk to the people as they are talking in this country about growing wheat here, and beetroot there, and what not somewhere else, how could they face the fanners of Ireland, whose land over miles and miles of country upon which such crops ought to be grown, and upon which they could be grown if drainage had been attended to during the last twenty years, are at the present moment submerged under several feet of water? If the Government ventured into those districts and preached such doctrines to these suffering people they would soon learn what their responsibilities in the government of the country amounted to. Notwithstanding the extreme urgency of the case of men whose land is in this condition, there is a greater subject—
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, is an hon. Member justified in reading the same page twice? We do not object to hearing the same page once, but—
§ Mr. RUTHERFORD
My point of Order is this: The hon. Member who has risen to address the House has read to us the same page twice. If he is in order in reading his speech at all, I respectfully submit he is not in order in reading it twice.
§ Mr. GINNELL
The interruption is an impertinence and is untrue. I was about to say that there is a greater subject even than the drainage of land, urgent though that is, upon which the Government should introduce a Bill, or should allow a private Member to introduce a Bill, and should take care that it is passed this Session, notwithstanding the Jingo war fever, and that is an Irish Land Bill to complete the process of land purchase. Besides all other reasons for urgency in completing that great problem there is this fact, that we hope and trust that this is the last Session in which Irish Members will trouble this Parliament in their present numbers, and that this last Session in which we are here in full force should see legislation passed for the completion of that ameliorative process of land purchase. I may be told that the Government are pledged to lose no time in introducing a measure of that character, but we know what a Government pledge is. The chief pledge in this connection that has been referred to—not here, but elsewhere—is that given on the 16th October, 1912, in this House. The House was then in Committee on the Government of Ireland Bill. The Prime Minister was absent through ill-health, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, taking his place on that bench, uttered these words:—What the Prime Minister is most anxious to have said to this House is that this Committee, and everybody must clearly understand that it follows as a corollory, from the reservation of this most vital subject, that this Government, at all events, absolutely recognises its full and complete responsibility, quite apart from the future fate or fortune of the Bill now in Committee, whatever may happen to that, whatever can happen to that, and quite apart from that, the Government take upon themselves to make such alterations as can be made to facilitate and accelerate land purchase. … I will undertake to say that in my judgment and for the moment, and only for the moment, the completion of land purchase is more important than Home Rule itself. … What I want the House to understand, and I am speaking now on behalf of the Prime Minister, is that we are giving a most solemn pledge and assurance that whatever may happen to this Bill, one way or the other, will in no way affect the sense of our obligation not to leave land purchase in Ireland in the position in which it is at present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October, 1912, cols. 1273–7. Vol. XLII.]80 5.0 P.M.
I submit that when scraps of paper are talked about as sacred things, that that is a scrap of paper which ought to have been redeemed without loss of time. The Government recognised that fact and introduced a Bill in 1913 to honour that scrap of paper. At the end of that Session they withdrew their Bill when it had served its purpose of blocking the way for any other Bill on the same subject. They repeated that process in 1914, introducing the Bill to complete the land purchase, but they did nothing further. At the close of that Session they withdrew the Bill, and again it had achieved its purpose of blocking progress. I myself proposed to introduce a Bill last Session and again yesterday, and you, Mr. Speaker, without any authority on either occasion, blocked me in that purpose. I resent that, not on my own account, because that treatment is really too contemptible, but I resent it—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to make attacks upon me now, when I cannot reply to them. If the hon. Member is honest in his attack upon me, all he has to do is to put a Motion down on the Paper to-night and it will appear to-morrow, and if it is such as the Prime Minister thinks ought to be discussed, the hon. Member will be given an opportunity to discuss it, and I will stand or fall by the decision of the House.
§ Mr. GINNELL
The Speaker of this House is not entitled to do what the Standing Orders of this House give him no power or authority to do, and that is what you have done.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I do not rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend, but I would like to say a word or two about the reference of the Prime Minister to my hon. Friend's speech. I think the Prime Minister has, to some extent, misconceived the spirit in which my hon. Friend brought forward and moved his Resolution. My hon. Friend has got strong convictions and he speaks strongly, but I have never known him speak discourteously or unfairly or with bad temper, and I would deprecate very strongly the reference which has been made to the spirit of his 81 speech. My hon. Friend has that he is one who values the privileges of hon. Members of this House, and these are valuable privileges which have been allowed to develop and grow up through the wisdom of our ancestors. They have fulfilled a useful and a vital function in the organism of this House, and for this reason they ought not to be unduly suppressed, because by the undue suppression of any vital or important function there is always sure to arise grave disorders in the future. With regard to the merits of the Resolution which is on the Paper, I am unable to offer any opposition to the proposals there put forward. I believe that in the altogether exceptional circumstances of the case the Government, as a Government, is entitled to extreme consideration from hon. Members in all quarters of the House. It is not merely that we are at war—we have been at war before—but we are still in the state of preparing for war. I saw a statement attributed to Lord Kitchener, in which it was said that he had been asked when the War is going to end, and he had stated that he could not say when it would end, but he would say when it would begin, and he said he thought it would be some time in the spring. I do not know whether that is true or not, but, at any rate, it corresponds with the facts, because we have not yet put forward our full strength in the field.
I know we are making unparalleled exertions to organise our strength and to put it into the field. Efforts are being made, not merely by the War Office in enlisting and drilling men and collecting ammunitions and arms, but by every other Department of State to adjust the delicate organism of social and financial life to the altogether unprecedented revolutions which have been brought about by these novel conditions. I think Ministers are entitled to concentrate their energy on this problem and to be relieved from the necessity of considering other legislation brought forward by private Members of this House. There is one question upon which I should like some information. I see the Chief Whip present, and I would be glad if he or some other person could throw a little light upon the undertaking which was given in another place yesterday, and which was repeated here by the 82 Prime Minister, with regard to the abandonment of all controversial legislation. I do not think that anyone will dispute the necessity for the abandonment of all controversial legislation under present conditions. What I would like to ask is, How far does that undertaking go and what extent of time does it cover? Is it an undertaking for this Session, or for this Parliament, or is it an unlimited undertaking for the whole length of this War? If it is an undertaking with regard to this Session, or even with regard to this Parliament, I think that is something with which no one is entitled to cavil, and even if it extended beyond that I would not be the first to cavil so long as the existing conditions remain. Who is there that can place a limit upon the duration of this War? It may be over this year or the year after that, but who is prepared to give a guarantee that it will not last longer? Europe has been convulsed before by wars which have lasted longer, and it is possible that we may have to contemplate the possibility of this War lasting over a considerable period of years. Are we then to have the vital functions of this country suspended and suppressed over an indefinite period? We do not legislate merely for fun or amusement; we legislate because the country requires it. It is possible that in the course of the next three or four years the conditions may require measures which we cannot contemplate at the present time. Are we to take it that a pledge is given now that so long as this Government is responsible, however long the War may last, no legislation whatever is to be introduced of a controversial nature? I think that would be too great an undertaking. I have no measure which I wish to advocate, but I can see the possibility of some question not yet perceived on which legislation might be necessary and upon which there might be controversy in this House in regard to such legislation necessary in the vital interests of the country, though it might not be really War legislation. I would therefore urge upon the Government that it is desirable that any undertaking which they give should not be an unlimited and indefinite undertaking, but that it should be an undertaking from Session to Session or from Parliament to Parliament.
83 I have referred so far to that part of the Resolution which deals with legislation. The other part of it deals with the time which is usually accorded to private Members, not for legislation, but for discussion and criticism and the ventilation of questions which are of public importance for the time being. That discussion fulfils a very useful function. It is one of the few means which the Government has got of keeping itself in touch with public opinion, because Members who speak in this House speak in a representative capacity, and are supposed to be to some extent, if not completely, in touch with public opinion. I do not know how better the Government can keep in touch with public opinion than through discussion in this House. There is some misunderstanding as to the effect of this Resolution. The Prime Minister seemed to indicate that so far from curtailing the opportunities for discussion available to private Members this Resolution really extended them. If the ordinary business of the House were finished before 10.30 then, instead of having half-an-hour as they had had in the past, they would in future have an hour. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury can inform us if that is really the effect of the Resolution. I understood that up to the present if the ordinary business finished, say, at nine o'clock, a Motion for the Adjournment would have to be submitted, and that it could be discussed up to eleven o'clock, or, if the ordinary business ended at seven o'clock, that then the discussion might proceed also up to eleven o'clock. It seems to me that under present conditions Members may have several hours' discussion every night when the ordinary business ends early, but now by this Resolution that opportunity for several hours' discussion is being limited to one hour. It really does seem to me that the opportunity for discussion is being curtailed instead of extended.
I do not feel inclined on that account to vote against the considered opinion of the Government, but as they seem to have been under the impression that they were extending the privileges of discussion instead of cutting them down I would urge that they should really take that in view, and that they should consider whether they 84 cannot agree to some extension of the limits which are laid down by the Resolution as it stands. I will give one additional reason for reconsidering it. Do the Government undertake that a similar procedure Resolution shall be introduced into the House of Lords by some representative of the Government, limiting not merely the time for legislation but also the time for discussion? I do not urge that they should do so, but if the reasons which induced them to bring forward that limitation of discussion here are valid, they should be equally valid in another place. Indeed, I think it might be argued that from some points of view—I do not wish to introduce anything controversial—discussion in this House might be more useful in keeping the Government in touch with public opinion than discussion in the other place; and if this House voluntarily—it can only do so voluntarily—fetters itself and muzzles itself, then it will come to pass that the House of Lords will be the only part of the Parliamentary machine in which we can have full and free discussion of the important questions which are being raised in so many departments at the present time, and which are of the utmost interest to the people of this country.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
If that has been the case for years I think that is some reason why you should not extend it. I would therefore urge very strongly that this aspect of the Resolution should be reconsidered and that some concession should be given so as to extend the facilities which will be available for this purpose after the Resolution is carried.
§ Mr. RUTHERFORD
I did hope that the words we have heard from the Prime Minister that the Mover of this Amendment would have seen his way to have withdrawn it, and that we could have passed the Resolution. I confess that I came here to-day with the deliberate intention of opposing it. When I read it my sympathies were very largely those that have been expressed at more or less length by two or three hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite on the third bench up. I confess I felt myself in very great difficulty. There are some important subjects upon which the Press is 85 entirely silent. There is, at all events, one upon which we know that the Government deliberately muzzled the Press and which at an appropriate moment will be thoroughly discussed. They withdrew the muzzle twenty-four hours afterwards, but it enabled them to get off that envoy to the Pope, a most objectionable proceeding with a muzzled Press. What are we going to do to-day? We are setting to work today to effectually muzzle the House of Commons. All opportunity of even getting a Bill printed, let alone getting it discussed, is taken away. The usual two or three nights which we always gave to Members who were lucky enough to draw a place in the ballot have gone, and the Prime Minister must have been under some astounding misapprehension when he actually referred to the Motion as extending the time for discussion on the Motion for the Adjournment. It is perfectly obvious that under existing conditions the House will probably be adjourning about seven or eight o'clock. If we did not pass this Resolution and if the Government business were over at eight o'clock, we should have three hours in which to discuss the Motion for the Adjournment if there, were really any object in doing so. When I read this Resolution through, I find, whether the subject is important or not, and even if the House of Commons desires to go on discussing it, after nine o'clock that it will under these circumstances be absolutely impossible to do so, because you or your Deputy in that Chair will be bound summarily to adjourn the House without Motion put.
What is the condition? It is that with a gagged Press—there is really no other expression which fits the case—the private Member is to be deprived not only of his opportunity of introducing Bills and moving Resolutions, but also of the opportunity which he undoubtedly would have if this Resolution were not passed of bringing forward matters on the Motion for the Adjournment on evenings when Government business is disposed of early. I confess, however, that when I listened to the appeal which the Prime Minister made just now it went home to me. There is hardly a man in this House who has not had the point brought home to him in his own household. I know that I have in my household. My son has gone, and I have 86 only one. Many of us have had it brought homo to us in our business. The Government ought, under these circumstances, to have anything they ask for, however unreasonable some of us may think it is. Let me point out another thing. I have had, as representing Liverpool, to be obliged to address a very large number of communications to Members of the Government. I receive every week a vast number, and I have to forward the points—some of them very difficult and intricate—to the different Government Departments to which the business relates, and I am bound to say that I have been surprised—I have been perfectly astounded sometimes—at the promptness and the fullness and the completeness with which the Government is discharging its duties under these exceedingly difficult circumstances in almost every Department. I could have well understood it if the Prime Minister had gone on to ask that the business on these Motions for the Adjournment should not be such as to involve the attendance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, but only, say, on a Thursday, or anything of that kind, and we ought to agree to it. Let us, as a House, make allowance for the tremendous strain upon the Government. Let us remember the self-denial with which the Leaders of the Labour party and the Leaders of the Opposition have met the Government, and let some of us whose instincts are in favour of free speech and against any unnecessary curtailment of discussion on this occasion put those views on one side and give the Government the Resolution for which they ask, and have confidence in them endeavouring to do their best under the strain and difficulty with which they have to conduct their business.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think the majority of hon. Members will agree that the first arguments used by the hon. Member were better than his second criticisms of the proposal now before the House. There is no desire on our part to embarrass the Government. The House of Commons, since this War began, has on every occasion shown its eagerness to help the Government in every possible way. In the early days of the War controversy of every kind was suspended. When we met again in 87 November we had a short sitting, during, which every facility was given for Government business, and, on that occasion, we also agreed to a long adjournment, although many of us at that time felt, and still think, it would be more in the public interest to have an earlier meeting of the House of Commons. What has happened in the interval? The House of Lords did not follow our example, but decided to meet in the beginning of the year, and, in a great part of the Press the Upper House has been held up as an example of a patriotic legislative assembly which had come together at a time of crisis in order to assist the Government by its criticisms and suggestions, while we laggards in the House of Commons were hiding ourselves away and doing nothing. We must remember also that this criticism was echoed here in this House yesterday by the Leader of the Labour party. To-day the Government is making a demand upon us which in effect will take away all opportunities for criticism and suggestion on the part of private Members, unless at any time it may be convenient for the Government to listen to them. The Leader of the Labour party is not here to-day. Apparently he is not concerned that he should be able to make suggestions or criticisms at any time. At one time he was anxious to have an opportunity of discussing the question of the wheat supply. There are many questions of an analogous nature. There is, for instance, the question of alien supervision, on which the Home Secretary himself addressed a letter to the editor of a newspaper, apparently being willing to discuss the matter in the columns of a newspaper, but not to do so in the House of Commons.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I do not know to what the hon. Member is alluding.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The right hon. Gentleman must not forget that one evening last week in the columns of the "Evening News" a letter appeared from his private secretary challenging a certain statement which had been published in that paper, and the editor of the paper answered it to the extent of a column and a half.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think the hon. Gentleman is a little in error. A certain statement 88 appeared in that paper, and I asked my private secretary if he would write to the editor and inquire what was the authority for the statement. He subsequently wrote a private letter. The editor of the paper, in return, wrote to him asking it he might publish the letter, and my private secretary replied that he had no objection. The letter was not written by me, nor was there any intention on my part that it should be published.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but I think in substance we are agreed. Here was a criticism of his Department by an evening newspaper—a criticism which could not be made in the House of Commons. Apparently the Home Secretary has more consideration for the editor of an evening newspaper than for Members of the House.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am sure my hon. Friend does not wish to misrepresent the facts, but they are really not as he puts them. A certain statement was made. Whether it was a criticism on me or not I do not remember. But a certain statement of fact was made that something had occurred, and I asked my private secretary to write to the editor in order to find out from him what was the foundation for the statement. It was not a question of dealing with criticisms of my Department. It was simply an effort to find out whether a statement which had been published was true, because, if it were true, I felt that, in the exercise of my duty, I ought to ascertain the facts.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am quite glad to accept the right hon. Gentleman's recollection, although it differs from my own. My recollection was that the question between the Home Secretary and his critic was as to the responsibility of his office, and it seemed to me that the question of the responsibility for dealing with aliens was one which should be threshed out in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not wish to make a personal point; it is merely an illustration of principle; it is not really an attack on the right hon. Gentleman. The question is whether it is not better to have these things threshed out here, where 89 both sides are face to face, rather than in the columns of a newspaper. That is a principle with which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will entirely agree.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
What is the situation? These matters can only be raised on the Civil Service Estimates. I think that is so. We know there are Supplementary Estimates to come before the House, but they are not very numerous. Then we are to have the Army and Navy Estimates, and it will be at least three or four weeks before we reach the Civil Service Estimates. Consequently nobody will have an opportunity, except in this precious hour, to raise questions regarding food prices and alien enemies, except with the goodwill of the Government. I think the House of Commons should, before that time, be able to deal with certain aspects of these questions. On a previous occasion, when this House was asked to give the Government similar powers, a question was raised about the time of limitation, and a suggestion was made, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who has been accused of being unnecessarily aggressive, that if any matter arose which was of sufficient importance to require more than half-an-hour for discussion then the Government themselves should move the adjournment before the last Order of the Day was called, so that there would be unlimited time up to eleven o'clock for the Debate. Certainly on one occasion, and I think on more than one occasion, application was made to the Government for the adjournment to be moved under this condition, so that there might be longer time for discussion. It was made in regard to matters of very considerable importance, yet on no occasion was it granted! In view of that experience, it is not fair to ask the House now to tie itself down to the single hour—a very restricted allocation of time.
I am somewhat surprised that the Govment have shown no indication of yielding on this point. The appeal has come from all quarters. It has been made from every part of the House, and it seems to me, in view of this general feeling, the Government might very well have granted concessions. After all, they have their remedy. 90 If there is any unconscionable use of the opportunity, the Whips can always manage to bring about a count-out, especially if something is being discussed which they do not desire to have debated. And apart from the machinery of the count, it is always possible for the Government to ask for the Closure, and in the present temper of the House of Commons there is not the slightest doubt that, if it were in the public interest, it would be granted. I hope that, in view of these circumstances, the Home Secretary, or the President of the Board of Education, will signify the willingness of the Government to grant the concession. I know my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment has no desire to press it. It is really a very small concession, after all, but let us remember that the House of Lords is free to discuss anything it pleases. The Government have perfect confidence in the patriotic judgment of that body. Why should they not have equal confidence in the patriotic judgment of the House of Commons? Are we to understand that, by turning a deaf ear to this appeal, the Government wish to convey the impression that they will not trust this patriotic House of Commons to the extent of one hour?
I wish to put a question on two points. The first is with regard to the Plural Voting Bill. I understand the Prime Minister said there was some kind of understanding that if that Bill was not introduced during this Session, but was brought in in a subsequent. Session, there was some kind of agreement that it would pass as an agreed measure. But the Bill divides the House of Commons to such an extent that I think it is quite hopeless that it should pass as an agreed measure, and I want to know whether, if it is not passed this Session, we are to lose the benefit of the Parliament Act. Discussion was suspended in this House on the understanding that the position of any Bill under the Parliament Act should not be either worsened or bettered by the suspension of controversial legislation. If this measure is not dealt with this Session, but has to be brought in in a subsequent Parliament, I want to know if we have any undertaking on the part of the Leader of the Opposition that the second and third Session stages will 91 not be insisted upon, and that the Bill, if once passed, will actually go on to the Statute Book.
The other point is with regard to the liquor traffic, and its conduct during the continuance of this War. Last Session we passed the Temporary Restriction Bill, which has been effective within certain limits, but has not given satisfaction to men in many districts where it is desired to see this question dealt with. I hope we shall have more opportunities during the present Session of bringing this matter forward, and I want to know from the Home Secretary whether there is any intention on the part of the Government to bring in a Bill strengthening the Act in any way. Undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman will have appeals from persons in all parts of the country who have been watching the operation of this Act—appeals to make it more efficient in several directions which I will not now indicate. But may I point out the increasingly vital importance of the question in view of the enormous increase in the cost of our food supply? From many points of view it is desirable that the question should be dealt with, not perhaps on entirely uncontroversial lines—because no question touching the drink traffic can be dealt with on those lines. But I do want some kind of assurance from the Government that the question will be revived this Session, and that private Members will not be deprived of an opportunity of reviving it. I hope the Government will take the matter into consideration and bring in a Bill to make the Act more effective before the present Session ends.
§ Question, "That Sub-section (2) stand part of the Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That, until the House otherwise determines, and so far as the House does not otherwise determine, on every day on which the House sits—
- (1) Government Business do have precedence;
- (2) At the conclusion of Government Business Mr. Speaker shall propose the Question, That this House do now adjourn, and, if that Question shall
92 not have been agreed to, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than one hour after the conclusion of Government Business if that Business has been concluded before 10.30 p.m., but, if that Business has not been so concluded, not later than 11.30 p.m.;
- (3) If the day be a Thursday the House shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday;
- (4) Any Private Business set down for consideration at a quarter-past Eight o'clock on any day shall, if Government Business is concluded before that time, be taken at the conclusion of Government Business, and for the purposes of the preceding provisions of this Order, shall be deemed to be Government Business."