§ Mr. DILLON
May I ask the Leader of the House a question about public business? He is going to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule to-night. How far does he propose to go with the Orders on the Notice Paper, because I observe that undoubtedly the Supplementary Estimates are of a very extraordinary character. They raise very great and wide questions, and will lead to a considerable discussion. Can the right hon. Gentleman say how late he intends to ask the House to sit?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I do not intend at all that the House should sit late. The Eleven o'clock Rule will be suspended only with the idea that we may be very near to the conclusion of a Vote towards eleven o'clock, and it might be worth while going on a short time to finish it.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
No, Sir. I beg to move: "That Government Business, if under discussion at Eleven o'clock this night, be not interrupted under the Standing Order (Sittings of the House), and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is worth while, as he does not intend to proceed at any late hour to-night, to begin so early in the Session to move the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule? I have always strongly objected to the suspension of the Rule unless there has been very urgent and strong grounds for it. Towards the end of the Session it may be necessary in order to enable business to be transacted before the House rises. I am not quite certain what we did a year or two ago, but without exception, if it was done, then it is certainly a novel proceeding to begin to suspend the Rule in the second week in which the House has met. The Address has been voted in two days, quite a new experience. It has generally taken at least a week, and sometimes more. There has not been the slightest sign of 462 obstruction in any quarter of the House. Everyone, as far as I know, has come here with a desire to assist the Government and to enable it to carry on the business which is necessary to win the War. Under these circumstances, with all humility, I say to my right hon. Friend, that it is a little discourteous to the House immediatey after the first week to take such steps as necessitate the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule. I am quite convinced that any legislation which takes place after eleven o'clock is bad. People do not know what is going on, especially at the present moment when it is difficult to get home, and I very earnestly appeal to my right hon. Friend not to press this Motion. I am sure the House is only too anxious to allow everything to go through which is reasonable should be taken, and I appeal to him to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. DILLON
In all humility I beg to differ absolutely from the right hon. Baronet. During the existence of the late Government on several occasions I rose to protest against the dilatory and outrageous way in which the House was treated. Some of us come from a distance. The right hon. Baronet has a home in London and does not care a straw how long the House sits, or how slowly it does its business, but those who come from 500 or 600 miles away and have to leave our homes are anxious to get through the business, and I think the Government is absolutely right in suspending the Rule to-night, because it has put upon the Notice Paper business which will inevitably provoke very considerable discussion. The right hon. Baronet is absolutely right in saying there has been no sign of obstruction. There never has been any sign of obstruction since the War broke out, and I do not believe any question of obstruction will ever arise as long as the War is in duration, but that is no reason why vitally important business should not be fairly discussed, and I hope the spirit in which the Government has made this Motion will govern their proceedings as regards the business of the House throughout the Session, and that they will not keep us here sitting sometimes for two hours three times a week, as we did last year, but that when the House is called together they will set to work to get through the necessary business and then allow the House to adjourn, which is the best way to allow the Government 463 to attend to its multitudinous duties, which appear to increase at an intolerable pace every day, and which they can better discharge when the House is not in Session.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
In all humility I should like to ask the right hon. Baronet not to press his appeal to me. The hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) has quite correctly explained the situation. The Motion is put down with no idea whatever that the House intends to obstruct the Government in what we are doing. It is put down simply as a matter of convenience for the House itself. It would, I think, be a great pity if we had had a long discussion on the Vote, which at eleven o'clock was nearly completed, but that we should have to close and begin all over again. I would also say this: My right hon. Friend sa3rs he does not think any legislation is any good after eleven o'clock. I doubt very much whether he thinks any legislation is good before eleven o'clock. In any case what the Government desires is to do what the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) wished us to do. It is to get out the business as quickly as we can, without imposing any undue restriction on the freedom of the House in regard to discussion. The spirit in which I have put down the Motion is for the convenience of the House, and I am convinced that the great majority of Members think the course I have adopted is not unreasonable.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LYNCH
Before this Motion passes I would Ike to say a word or two. If the Debate continues, will the Government promise that there will remain on the Front Bench someone competent to entertain the sense of the Debate or even to answer questions? Yesterday we had a most important Debate. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement, and he was replied to by a leading member of the Opposition. After that display, or shortly afterwards, he disappeared from the House. I believe the House will agree that some of the most useless and hollow contributions to the Debate are precisely those that come from the Front Benches, mainly because they are marked by insincerity, and there is not a corresponding amount of ability to make up for that defect. On the other hand, certain Members desire to speak with some sense of reality and some sense of proportion, and 464 they enter into the very pith of the subject. There was nobody on that Front Bench to hear what fell from them, and I do not know to this hour whether any of those remarks have been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's cognisance. Some of the remarks were directed to the Prime Minister, who has adopted the wise course of not visiting the House at all. I say the wise course, because during my short sojourn here I have noticed that the reputation of those right hon. Gentlemen who come to the House seldomest stands highest, they being taken at their face value. I believe some of those who have now fallen might have retained their reputation to the end if they had not committed the imprudence of coming to the House. Before I sit down I would make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. There are certain Members of this House who have really something to say. Will he either remain himself, or, if that be too great a tax on his patience, will he have some trusty and intelligent lieutenant left here?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I was not away from the House or its precincts yesterday except for an hour, and during most of the time I was going backwards and forwards.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member makes an appeal to me coupled with a request with which it is obviously impossible for me to comply. He has asked that there should be someone on this bench competent to deal with such a speech as his, and at the same time he has informed us that there is no one on either Front Bench who is in that position. All that I can say is that we shall do our best.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That Government Business, if under discussion at Eleven o'clock this night, be not interrupted under the Standing Order (Sittings of the House), and may be entered upon at any hour though, opposed.