HC Deb 15 August 1919 vol 119 cc1861-7

I understand that a message has come down from the Lords dealing with the Welsh Church Bill, and I beg to move, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."


I do not at all quarrel with the Government, because no doubt they have very good reason for bringing on this Bill at this rather unexpected hour. I am not suggesting that anything like an assurance was given, or that a breach of faith has been committed, but I did understand that the Amendments to the Welsh Church Bill would be taken on Monday. Suddenly the Amendments are taken now. It may happen to be a convenient course, but very few of those who are interested in the Bill are present now. But the reason why I rather object to it being taken now is not on the merits of the Bill, but because it will prevent us taking the Order which immediately succeeds—that is, the Sex Disqualification Bill. I have been credibly informed—I cannot say whether it is true or not—that certain junior members of the Government have been going around to the Scottish Members and urging them not to curtail their eloquence. It is not generally necessary to do that on a Scottish Bill, but I am told that certain Scottish Members who had not proposed to trouble the House on the Second Reading of the Bill have been induced to make considerable orations, no doubt greatly to the advantage of the House and the clearer understanding of the Bill. But it is rather odd that they should have done so. I am told that the object was to prevent the Sex Disqualification Bill being taken.


I assure my hon. Friend that he is wrong. So far as the Scottish Members are concerned they did not want to discuss the Bill at all. They preferred to do that on another occasion. Very few of them made speeches of longer duration than ten minutes.


I did not suggest that the Government Whips have been with the hon. Member. They are intelligent men, and I imagine would not trouble the hon. Member with any such request. What I want to point out is this Here is a Bill with a rather curious history. Many months ago a Bill with this object was introduced into this House. It was a much more extensive Bill than the Government measure. Upstairs in Committee a very odd thing happened—it was passed without Amendment. It came down here, and was allowed to go through Report without amendment or discussion. Then the Government tried to throw it out on the Third Heading, and I am glad to say they failed, and the Bill was passed and sent up to the House of Lords. I agreed entirely with that Bill which originated, I think, with the Labour party. Nothing was done with it in the House of Lords for a considerable time, and then, at the request of the Government, it was rejected, and the Government introduced another Bill. That Bill is, from my point of view, certainly a very inadequate Bill, but it was coming down to be discussed this afternoon, and we hope to debate it and to be able to amend it, and to send it back to the other House, if necessary. In that state of things the Government have quite suddenly decided to take the Welsh Church Amendments. Why do they do it? The Amendments could easily have been put off till Monday. Even supposing there is some difference of opinion between the Houses, the Amendments could easily be disposed of on Monday or Tuesday. I confess that I think it is a very unfortunate proceeding. It certainly bears the appearance that once again the Government of the day, whether Liberal or Conservative or Coalition, is engaged, not in defeating the demand by women, but in postponing it, and getting rid of it. That, I maintain, is what the Motion before the House means. It is an attempt to shelve another Bill, and that is the reason why I venture to draw attention to it, and to express the hope that the Government will not insist, but will allow the Order of the day to come forward, so that we can see whether they have any objection to the Amendments put down.


I join in the protest, but not for the reasons put forward by the Noble Lord. I feel that when Ministers come down on a Friday after 4.30, having neglected to put in an appearance from twelve to 4.30, although a first-class Government measure is being taken, one is entitled to ask the Home Secretary for what reason he asks the House to agree to these Lords Amendments. The Prime Minister is present, and I would remind, him that this is the third time that the business has been interrupted by other business of which we have had no notice. Quite early in the afternoon Mr. Speaker interrupted the proceedings to deal with some Amendments to the Transport Bill with which the Lords had disagreed. Then the proceedings were again interrupted by Black Rod, and now, when a Bill which ought to have its turn is due for consideration, and when those Members who are interested in seeing that Bill put through are here, down comes the whole Government. I see the Government Bench filled at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon, although, we have been assured that the Prime Minister has not time to attend the House of Commons, and that his time ought to be occupied in thinking. Well, he is thinking. What does he think now? What does he think about coming down on a Friday afternoon in order to keep off an inconvenient Bill, so that some Amendments from the Lords might be considered? After all, who are the Lords? I have heard the Prime Minister on the subject of the Lords, and I would like to repeat his phraseology. I generally keep it for the platform, where I can pass it off as original. Why should this matter be so particularly urgent this afternoon? After all the House of Lords are not Welshmen, as far as I know. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of them!"] I do not believe the Lords are entitled at this late hour to ask us to upset our business. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is committed to the policy of sex disqualification removal. He has got to see it through. He has the authority and can wipe on one side the Home Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal. He can get up and say that he is going to do it now. That is the policy on which he came into office, and now he is proposing to do something else. I appeal to him to put off the Welsh Bill now. He can cut half an hour out of his speech on Monday, and that will enable us to deal with the Welsh question. We will give him all the time he likes on Monday. Let us get on now with the other Bill and give the widest possible distribution of the franchise to every man and woman above a certain age. That is real democracy. The Prime Minister is a democrat, and I hope he will not now pursue this Welsh discussion.


I do think it would create a most unfortunate impression if this Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill is not discussed. On last Monday the Leader of the House informed me that the Government hoped to find time for this Bill. The time has come now, and something else is put up to keep it off. The House knows very well that the Government can easily discuss this Bill now. The Government are pledged up to the hilt on this question, and I am willing to refer to the pre-election pledges of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. Their conduct on the Bill, which this House passed and which was rejected in another place, will make a most unfortunate impression in the country. I do not believe the Prime Minister wants that. I believe that he wants to fulfil his pledges to women who are expecting those pledges to be fulfilled, and I appeal to him now. It will not take very long to discuss the Sex Disqualification Bill, and surely the Amendments to the Welsh Church Bill can be taken on Monday. We were told that this Bill would be taken yesterday, and yesterday we were told that the Committee stage could be taken to-day, and Members came down prepared to discuss the Committee stage. If this sort of plan is to be adopted, why were we not told before? Surely it is hardly worthy of a strong Government like the present Government to treat the country in that way. I do assure the Government that it will create the very worst impression amongst their followers in the country, and especially among the women, who have waited a good time for this Bill. I hope the Prime Minister will listen to what has been said. It will not take long to pass this Bill, and I am sure the House will assist him to expedite the business in the fastest possible way.


I hope that the Lords Amendments to the Welsh Bill will not be taken till Monday because they were only inserted this morning and we have not seen them on any Paper. Hon. Members do not in the least know what they are, and there is no means of seeing them except in a manuscript copy which is very difficult to follow at the Table. There is a considerable number of very important Amendments. I hope that the Government will be able to leave them to the unfettered discretion of the House. We should have the opportunity of seeing them. I could give instances where there are most reasonable Amendments which ought to be considered impartially by those who are anxious for a settlement of this question. I do urge the Government to put them down for Monday when we can have a fuller time to examine and discuss them and to discuss then amongst ourselves rather than come to a definite decision this afternoon. I think it is only fair to the Welsh Church that every opportunity should be given to those Members who are interested in her future and her

present, and I hope the Government will proceed at once with the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

I wish to join in the request to the Government to proceed with the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill. I know nothing about the controversy between Englishmen and Welshmen in regard to their respective, churches, but I voted with the Government originally on the first Bill on the grounds that they would themselves introduce a Bill for the removal of the sex disqualification. Having voted with the Government in that instance, I think it is up to the Government to fulfil their promise and to take this Bill now. This is a Bill which, I venture to say, every woman in the country is watching with eagerness and anxiety, and there will be great disappointment throughout the country if the Government do not take this Bill to-day.


It seems a pity to waste time which might be devoted to either of these Bills in a discussion as to which of the two should be taken, but I think the women are entitled to the preference. They were badly sold on a previous Friday afternoon, and I appeal to the Prime Minister to give them a chance to-day.

Question put, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."

The House divided: Ayes, 55 ; Noes, 34.

Division No. 108.] AYES. [4.39 p. m.
Baird, John Lawrence Higham, C. F. (Islington, S.) Purchase, H. G.
Baldwin, Stanley Horne, Edgar (Guildford) Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)
Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen) Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur
Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith- Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Seddon, J. A.
Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H. Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow) Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)
Clyde, James Avon Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Lindsay, William Arthur Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)
Dawes, J. A. Loseby, Captain C. E. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Stirling) Sugden, W. H.
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Macquisten, F. A. Sutherland, Sir William
Forestier-Walker, L Malone, Colonel C. L. (Leyton, E.) Wallace, J.
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Morden, Col. H. Grant Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Parker, James Wardle, George J.
Gilbert, James Daniel Parry, Major Thomas Henry Warren, Sir Alfred H.
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike Young, William (Perth and Kinross)
Goff, Sir R. Park Perkins, Walter Frank
Green J. F. (Leicester) Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.
Griggs, Sir Peter Pratt, John William Talbot and Captain F. Guest.
Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Adair, Rear-Admiral Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark) Lort-Williams, J.
Benn, Capt. W. (Leith) Entwistle, Major C. F. Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W. Graham, W. (Edinburgh) Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.) Greig, Colonel James William Newbould, A. E.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Griffiths, T. (Pontypool) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University) Gritten, W. G. Howard Raffan, Peter Wilson
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.) Johnstone, J. Rose, Frank H.
Sitch, C. H. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhmpton, E.) Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.
Spoor, B. G. Walsh, S. (Ince, Lanes.)
Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander Williams, A. (Consett, Durham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Taylor, J. (Dumbarton) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton) Hogge and Major Hills.

On a point of Order. I desire to ask you, Sir, why Standing Order No. 43 has not been complied with? That Order reads Lords Amendments to public Bills shall be appointed to be considered on a future day, unless the House shall Order them to be considered forthwith. If I am not mistaken no Order has been made by the House to consider the Lords Amendments forthwith. No Question has been put at all on that. It is stated in Erskine May's Volume, and I believe it is the practice of the House— If objection be taken, consideration of Amendments may be deferred.




No doubt, but the whole practice is that Amendments are only forthwith considered when they are of substance—and not merely verbal—when it can be done by general consent. I would ask whether these proceedings are regular?


The House has a right to decide, and it has decided.


Was the Question put that the Amendments be forthwith considered?


That is what the House has just divided upon.


On a point of Order. Was not the Question put, "That the Lords Amendment be now considered "? Is that the same?


I desire to move to re- post Progress, and ask leave to sit again, and for this reason—


That is out of order.

Lords Amendments considered.

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