§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Third Reading of the Finance Bill may be proceeded with this day after the Bill has been reported to the House as amended on recommital, notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the interval between the various stages of a Bill relating to finance."—[Mr. McKenna.]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry that the rignt hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to renew this Motion again to-day. The right hon. Gentleman told us last week that it was necessary to obtain the two stages on one day, because of the delay which would otherwise be occasioned in connection with his borrowing powers. The only possible delay would be one day, and I cannot conceive that could make any difference, but, supposing it did, it is not the fault of the House; it is the fault of the right hon. Gentleman, who might have brought his Budget forward earlier and deferred till a later date some other measures to which we have devoted a certain amount of time. This question is very much more important than appears at first sight. The right hon. Gentleman says that he must have the Bill to-day, because otherwise he cannot get on as quickly as necessary, but what is to prevent the right hon. Gentleman coming down next year and saying the same thing, or perhaps giving a better reason, and so overriding altogether an excellent Rule which has been in force for a large number of years. That I am right in thinking that something of this sort may occur if the House is too lenient is shown by the fact that the present Secretary of State for War when Chancellor of the Exchequer was continually putting the Finance Bill off year after year, and, though remonstrances were made, they had not the slightest effect, and the result was that what is commonly called the "Bowles Act" was placed on the Statute Book to compel the Government to give proper time and means for the discussion of the earlier stages of the Bill. I am afraid, if the House is willing to abrogate its Standing Orders dealing with finance because the right hon. Gentleman says that he is in a hurry, the only result will be that in the future finance will be postponed to the end of the Session, and 692 the right hon. Gentleman will then come down and say, " I am very sorry, but I really must get this through at once or I cannot borrow my money or impose some tax." The House will have to dispense with its Rules, and the control of the private Member over the Government will be gone. Now I do hope that private Members on both sides of the House will exercise a little supervision over the Government. The Government up to now have treated with contempt the protests of private Members. They know perfectly well that whilst we may make protests nothing will happen. I do hope that private Members on this side of the House, and those who sit on the other side as well, will take some steps. They need not be in the least afraid that if we go to a Division and beat the Government the Government will resign. There is not the slightest chance of it. All that will happen will be that the Government will see that the House and the private Members are not to be altogether disregarded, and that they must not come down and treat the private Member like dirt, and do away with the whole of the Rules of the House, expecting that we will all follow at their heels without any protest.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman who is anxious to divide is, of course, going to support the Government.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have watched the career of the hon. Member, and I am convinced that he will vote with the Government for anything. However that may be, I am not concerned with the interruption of the hon. Member. I believe he was one of the hon. Members who supported the abrogation of the power of the House of Lords, because they thought it was necessary that the House of Commons should have sole control over finance, and now when we endeavour to obtain that control for the House of Commons he does not choose to listen, and does not desire to oppose the Government, who are taking away from the House of Commons its ordinary control over the finance of the country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Motion. If not, we must divide against it, because it is utterly unnecessary, and because it is a gross breach of the Rules of the House, 693 and there has been no reason advanced why we should give way upon this subject.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
It is because my proposal is a breach of the ordinary practice of the House that I ask by this Motion that the House should allow me to take this unusual step. I admit it is unusual, and it is only under the stress of circumstances that I ask the House to allow me to take the two stages of the Bill on the one day. I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It is identical in form, substance, argument, and motive to many speeches which I have heard from him during the last twenty years, but they were all delivered in times of peace. They were appropriate to the occasion and represented very proper arguments to be used by an hon. Gentleman on the part of the Opposition to the Government of the country. But I suggest to him that they are absolutely inappropriate to the circumstances of the present time. I have endeavoured to arrange the financial business according to such information as I could get in order to secure that I should have sufficient borrowing powers to last me up to the requisite date. I am not, and nobody can be, in a position to fore-tell at the present time what rate in a particular month our expenditure is going to be. I estimated for expenditure at a certain rate which the House knows was £5,000,000 a day, but for reasons over which I had no control and which I could not foresee, the expenditure for some time now has been over £6,000,000 per day. That is a fact of the War. As a consequence my borrowing powers are being exhausted.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I expect on Wednesday or Thursday, certainly not later than Thursday. It depends on the rate of expenditure. Certainly not later than Thursday, possibly on Wednesday. It is impossible to say up to what exact date I have got borrowing power. Is it worth while making this bother about-a matter which is one of real practical convenience? It is the State which suffers; I do not suffer. The State is the only one that suffers. If you take the borrowing powers away it is a financial loss, and I ask the House, does it really think that the State 694 should be at a loss? I can make a complete and absolute explanation as to the way in which we have acted, and I have not the slightest fear of my personal exoneration or the exoneration of everybody connected with the Government. The question is, should I be doing my duty if I allowed my borrowing powers to lapse without telling the House and did not ask the House to give me the necessary power to get over this inconvenience. What is it I am asking? Already now we have had the ordinary number of stages of this Bill and an additional stage on the ground of recommital. That recommital was really necessitated by one Amendment; we had a Clause substituted by another Clause which the House preferred. We have already had one extra day in consequence of that recommital, and I ask the House to refrain from requiring a second extra day, and to allow me to take the Report stage of the recommital and the Third Beading on the one day. It is a question for the House. There is upon the Order Paper one Amendment in the recommital Report stage, an Amendment put down by myself, an Amendment which I might have accepted originally on Thursday, but did not do so because by way of assurance I wanted to consult the draftsman as to the best form of words. This is the Amendment substantially which my hon. and learned Friend put down on Thursday to fulfil a pledge, and by way of protection on this single question it was put back to the Report stage, and it might be disposed of and passed after a few minutes' conversation upon the subject. What prejudice will there be to the Rules in respect to financial business if we also take the Third Reading to-day? I ask the House in a time of War, and under the circumstances I have explained, to allow me this breach of the ordinary practice of the House, and to take the two stages to-day. It is for the House to determine, and I am perfectly willing to leave the question to the House. If the House decides against me it is at the cost of the nation alone; it is not at my cost. I hope the House will not be misled by peace arguments, and that it will accept this real business solution of the question.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The right hon Gentleman has stated that he has been accustomed for many years to listen to the speeches of my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) in peace times, bat I may tell him 695 that we are getting very sick of the kind of war speeches which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have been accustomed to make for the past to years. Everything they want to do, or to keep back, they say, " It is a war occasion"; whether it is Papers, or Resolutions, or debates, or discussion, "you cannot do anything because the exigencies of the War require otherwise and the right hon. Gentleman comes down to-day and says, "We have been so busy this Session and we have found so many difficulties in getting the work through that I must ask the House of Commons to break through the Rules which have been acted upon for so many years with a view to protect the financial interests of the country." So far as I am concerned, if the right hon. Gentleman had shown any grounds of a case of emergency, I should have at once consented, but he has shown none whatsoever, and, as a matter of fact, at the very last moment of the Finance Bill he brought in a Clause which changed the whole system of legislation and exemption which had existed since 1852, and he did that without any notice whatever to the House, and without having put upon the Paper the change he proposed to make. He has brought the whole of this upon himself, and then he falls back and says, "Are you going to be so unpatriotic that you will not allow me to get this, and enable me to provide for the War?" That is the only circumstance that he has brought forward. If he had shown any reasons, but he does not even say when his borrow ing powers will cease——
§ Sir E. CARSON
This is only Monday. He can get the Royal Assent on Wednesday. There is no difficulty about that. But the difficulty is that the Government has got into that condition that they think they can do anything they like, and I think the sooner they know that both the 696 country and the House of Commons are waking up to this and wish them to preserve the externals of decency in this House, in relation to the Rules of Order and Procedure in this House, the better. What is to prevent them getting the Bill on Wednesday? He can get time to finish it to-morrow, and the House of Lords is a very obliging place, having no power over finance now, and they can sit, one or two of them can sit, to-morrow and do it in an hour. The right hon. Gentleman seems to forget also that he and the late Government have taken away all the powers of the House of Lords over finance; therefore, the House of Lords need not be considered at all. The very fact, however, that you have taken them away from the House of Lords makes it all the more incumbent on this House that it should realise its full responsibilities in regard to finance. I submit to the House that the right hon. Gentleman has made no case whatsoever. He simply comes down here and says, "I tell you, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, that you must pass this Bill"; therefore the Bill is to be passed.
§ Sir E. CARSON
It may be called the ordinary Coalition Government argument, which is "Do what we want, or the Government service is prejudiced." I do not believe it will be prejudiced; therefore, so far as I am concerned, if there is a Division, I shall vote against this Motion.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the very last to say that this House has ever been reluctant in any way to deal generously with any request that is made by any occupant of his Office.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Therefore I am rather sorry and surprised at the ground upon which my right hon. Friend has defended this Resolution to-day. He must remember that the Government have full control of the time of the House. They have taken all the time of private Members. We are not even allowed ten minutes to introduce a Bill. That has been the case 697 from the beginning of the Session, with the general approval of the House. That puts the Government in a very peculiar position in regard to their responsibilities to the House generally. We waive all our privileges in order that they may have full opportunities for all legislation connected with the War. In view of that fact it is unreasonable to come down at a time like this and say that because of losing one day the State might lose a considerable amount of money and great difficulties will arise. They ought to have some degree of perspective with regard to the business of the House. We are not sitting our full time at the present moment; we are only sitting four days a week. One day more would have made all the difference. We should not have had any necessity for this Debate, and the right hon. Gentleman would not have had any reason to make this demand. I associate myself most thoroughly with the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) in resenting what I may call the war argument which the Government puts forward. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is an old debater. He knows the value of choosing his own ground. He comes to the House and says, "Anyone who is against adopting this course is interfering with the progress of the War." That is an unworthy argument to come from that bench, because it is not true. Any man who may vote against this Motion is not voting on an issue with regard to the War at all. The whole question is whether the Government have shown full cause for altering procedure which has always been carefully guarded by the House. The right hon. Gentleman asks us to take two important stages of his Bill on one day.
§ Mr. McKENNA
One is the Report stage of a recommitted Clause, in respect of which there is only one very small Amendment on the Paper, and that is in the name of the Government.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I refuse to enter into the question of the value of particular proposals in respect of which new stages have become necessary. The only point I have to consider is whether the Government have shown sufficient reason for breaking away from Rules which are well established. In my opinion they have not. They ought not to have allowed this pos- 698 sibility of the loss of a day to cause any loss to the State if they did not get the Bill through. They ought to have asked the House to sit on an extra day.
§ Mr. McKENNA
We could not sit on Friday because the Finance Ministers of Russia, France, and Italy had a Conference with me during the morning and afternoon of Friday.
Sir H. DALZIEL
He could have taken the previous Friday. The right hon. Gentleman has allowed his business to get to such a point that if the House exercises its privileges, according to him we are causing a loss to the State. No one in charge of the business of the House ought to have allowed matters to drift to such a stage. There is no reason whatever why the Government could not have had a margin of time in this case. Is it fair to the House to say that because the right hon. Gentleman is working up to the very last minute and because his engagements take him away, therefore the House ought to give up its ancient privileges? I do not look at this Motion as affecting the moment only, but from the point of view of the precedent that is set. We all know the operation of a precedent of this kind. My right hon. Friend or his successor in office will say again next year what he has said to-day, and will probably ask for three stages to be taken on one day. With regard to finance, it is a sound principle that only one stage should be taken on one day, and I am sorry my right hon. Friend should have found it necessary to ask us to give up the practice on this occasion.
§ Mr. KING
I want to assure the Government that although they have been attacked by three right hon. Gentlemen there is at any rate one hon. Member who is going to support them entirely. We had better get on with business instead of talking about how we are going to do the business. That is what I came here for, and, personally, I am not at all averse from doing two or three days' work in one. That is what we are going to do to-day. I am rather surprised, however, that we have only just been told, incidentally, that the expenses of the War are now over £6,000,000 a day. That to me was new. Perhaps I am rather behind what is known to other hon. Members. It came to me as a surprise. I want to take this opportunity of saying that I hope the House will be 699 taken fully into the confidence of the Government. If they see a steady rise of expenditure going on we ought to be told, in order that in our little way we may assist them all the more. The idea of a Friday sitting on an emergency which was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Dalziel) is one that
§ ought to be considered by the Government. We might very well have a short Debate on a Friday without any inconvenience to the Government or to hon. Members, and then such occasions as this would not arise.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 29.699
|Division No. 36.]||AYES.||[4.10 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Hazelton, Richard||Prothero, Rowland Edmund|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Radford, Sir George Heynes|
|Arnold, Sydney||Herbert, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Reddy, Michael|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Hinds, John||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Holt, Richard Durning||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Bird, Alfred||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Boland, John Pius||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boyton, James||Jones, William S. Glyn-(Stepney)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Brace, William||Joyce, Michael||Rowlands, James|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Kellaway, Frederick George||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Kerry, Earl of||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Bull, Sir William James||King, Joseph||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Butcher, John George||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, W.R.)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Campion, W. R.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Cecil,Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Egbaston)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Macmaster, Donald||Tickler, T. G.|
|Cosgrave, James||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Cowan, W. H.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Macpherson, James Ian||Wardle, George J.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby R.||Meagher, Michael||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Fell, Arthur||Morison, Hector||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wiles, Thomas|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, West)|
|Field, William||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. Doncaster)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||O'Grady, James||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Malley, William||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Gulland and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Guinness, Hon.W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Newman, John R. P.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Horne, Edgar||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hunt, Major Rowland||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Younger, Sir George|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Martin, Joseph|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grant, James Augustus||Meysey-Thompson, Major E. C.||Sir F. Banbury and Sir H. Dalziel|
|Gretton, John||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|