HC Deb 20 December 1916 vol 88 cc1502-4

Order read for consideration of Lords Amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."


I would like to enter a respectful protest and to call the attention of the Government and the House to the conditions under which we are asked to consider these Amendments. This measure went to another place at the end of October. It only left that other place last evening. The Amendments could not be circulated with the Votes this morning. I myself, being interested in the Bill, have inquired for the Amendments at the Vote Office several times since the House met this afternoon, and it is only within the last hour that any Member, including myself, has been able to obtain a copy of it. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that these Amendments cover seven pages of print and are more than fifty in number. On the face of them, some at least are very important. It is impossible to say how many are consequential unless one goes through them all, co-ordinating them with the Bill, and there really has not been time for any Member, however industrious, and even if he had got them at the earliest moment which was a few minutes before half-past three, to do that necessary work of co-ordination for their consideration. I do not know what the Government propose to do. I know that the time is very short in view of the Prorogation on Friday, but I do think in arranging the business between the two Houses that matters might have been so arranged that these Amendments might have been available at the beginning of the Prorogation week. If we are asked to consider these Amendments before we have had time to go through them, it reduces the work of this House to a simple farce. It is an important Bill which took up a considerable time in this House, and these Amendments do really require something more than that formal and perfunctory consideration which can be given to them if they are to be proceeded with before the House has even had time to read them through. I do make a protest against one way in which things are proposed to be done if this is to be the way in which we are to proceed in such matters, it really seems to me that the conduct of affairs, to quote a phrase used by my right hon. Friend yesterday (Mr. Asquith), partakes more of the nature of bustle than of the nature of business.


I desire to associate myself with the hon. Member who has just spoken. We approach this Bill from different points of view, but whatever view we take as to the merits of the Bill I do think the House has been treated very unfairly in this respect. I went to the Vote Office early to try and get the Amendments, but they could not be given to me. I went again at half-past two, and they could not be obtained then. I only got them at half-past three. There are pages of Amendments, and to my unlearned eye—I am not a lawyer—they are extremely complicated. How can the Home Secretary expect the House to consider these Amendments properly and intelligently when no notice of them is given on the Paper? Surely there must be some very bad management somewhere. There are some very important Amendments which I support, and with which probably the hon. Member opposite does not agree, and it is not giving the House that opportunity of discussion to which we are entitled to ask us to take them this afternoon.


I beg to move "That the Debate be now adjourned."

I am very anxious to treat the House fairly, and I can assure hon. Members that it is through no fault of mine that these Amendments were not printed and available until a very short time ago. As a matter of fact, I do not think the discussion would occupy much time, because all the Amendments are either Amendments inserted at the instance of the Government, or Amendments accepted by the Government in another place. I quite agree, however, that hon. Gentlemen are entitled to examine them for themselves, and that being so, I propose to accede to the suggestion put forward. We will endeavour to deal with this Bill to-morrow, and I hope that it will not take long.


I would like to express my appreciation of the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Thursday).