HC Deb 19 February 1919 vol 112 cc1077-92

The following Motion stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. BONAR LAW: To move as a new Standing Order, That in respect of any Motion or Bill under consideration either in Committee or on Report, Mr. Speaker, or in Committee the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the Deputy Chairman, shall have power to select the new Clauses or Amendments to be proposed, and may, if he thinks fit, ask any Member who has given notice of an Amendment to give such explanation of the object of the Amendment as may enable him to form a judgment upon it. Provided that the power of selection shall not be exercised by the Chairman of a Standing Committee.


I beg to move the new Standing Order standing in the name of my right hon. Friend. I do not think I need add any words in support of this proposal, but I would like, if I may, to introduce a word into the first line, so that it will read, "in respect of any Motion or any Bill under consideration." Then, I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you have added, after the words "either in Committee," the words, "of the Whole House." I propose also to omit the last sentence.


With regard to this proposal, it has been asked whether it would add to the dignity of the proceedings of this House. I remember very well the discussions we had on the Parliament Act and the Welsh Disestablishment Act, and how this power was used. It casts a very great responsibility on the Chairman, but as far as my observations went I think that power was exercised both by Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means with a very great regard for the rights of minorities. It is perfectly true that you could not by any human in- genuity meet all the difficulties and injustices which are bound to arise. Sometimes an Amendment was selected which looked quite the right one, but in the course of Debate it was several times discovered that another Amendment would have been a better one. Therefore, we cannot in this matter get a perfectly working machine, and we have to take things just as they are. I may say that the experience which I had in the Chair was all in favour of a proposal of this kind with some safeguards. As far as I am concerned I just wish to say that my experience is in favour, on general grounds, of the proposal of the Government.


It is an advantage to have the valuable experience of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, who has advised the House from a wealth of experience and with the greatest sincerity. I rise to ask whether the Government could not at this early stage indicate whether they will not give some security as to the use of this power which they are now introducing to the House. I think it is a much better way to have what is called the kangaroo closure method fixed in the Standing Orders and not merely called for on particular Bills when feeling runs high, and when there is a great divergence of view as to the priority of Amendments. I think it would be better if we had that system definitely laid down in the Standing Order apart from any considerations of that kind. As my right hon. Friend has just said, it casts a very great responsibility on the Speaker and the Deputy-Speaker, and if the suggestion is adopted of associating a few of the most experienced Members of the House with the Speaker, and the Chairman of Ways and Means as a Consultative Committee on the exercise of this very far reaching power, I think that would commend itself to the general acceptance of the House, and it would make it easier for many hon. Members, who cordially support what we believe to be a great improvement in the interests of business, and it would remove at the same time those elements which make the proposal open to criticism. I hope my right hon. Friend will indicate whether the Government are open to suggestions on those lines.


There are two objections to this proposal. The first difficulty is that of making quite certain that the Amendment you have chosen is really a good one, and whether or not when it is debated it turns out to be rather different to what the selector of the Amendment thought it was. The reverse also applies, and an Amendment which looks hardly worth attention very often turns out to be a very important one, and one which has sometimes led to great alterations in a Bill. The difficulty is to know which is going to be taken and how does this work. You put Amendments on the Paper. Suppose the kangaroo is in operation, and I have an Amendment on the Paper. Of course, I am wondering whether it is going to be selected or not, and I go to the Chairman, and I say to him, "Do you think my Amendment will be selected?" Of course, he answers "Yes" or "No," and it is difficult to give an explanation in such a short time while the attention of the Chairman is being given to the business of the House. Consequently, many Amendments must necessarily be rejected and not discussed in the House at all.

Another point is that it very often arises in discussion that it is necessary to move a manuscript Amendment. How is that going to be done under this proposal? Is that to be dependent upon the consent of the Chairman? If consent is withheld again a very difficult situation is produced. Then there is the great responsibility which it casts upon Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the Deputy-Chairman. My right hon. Friend said it had worked well during the last few years, but he should remember that during that period we have been fortunate in having an exceptional Speaker and Chairman of Committees and Deputy-Chairman of Committees, and we might not be so fortunate in the future. It must also be remembered that we are making this alteration for all time. We know that Mr. Speaker is going to leave us shortly, and it is a very dangerous thing to make this alteration at the present time. I have been reading the Official Report lately—it is very interesting reading—and I have come across some very nice remarks made about this closure when it was first introduced. My right hon. Friend and colleague the Member for the City of London, who is now the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Balfour) then said: If it does not go the whole length in justifying my hon. colleague's epithet of revolutionary, it does show very clearly that a very important and new departure is going to be made in the procedure of this House. Do not let anybody imagine that all the Prime Minister and the Government are doing is to put in convenient and logical form the ordinary procedure of this House. That, I think, is not the intention of the Government. I am quite sure it will not be the effect of the Government's proposal, and I am perfectly certain that if this passes we shall from this date have a quite new procedure regularly adopted whenever a highly controversial or difficult Bill is before the House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1909, col. 1219, Vol. 8.] We are going still further now. We are not going to adopt it when there is a highly controversial or difficult Bill before the House, but we are going to adopt it in all cases. He goes on to say The House is going to take a very important decision, There is one part where he alludes to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. He says: As soon as a Member of this House is elected to the high office of Speaker, he not only ceases to be a Member of a party from the moment that he occupies the Chair, but it is understood practically now that never again in this House will he occupy the position of party politician. No such ceremony surrounds the selection of chairmen. They are neither removed in the same way from temptation nor does anybody in this House expect or desire them to put off, when they are not in the Chair, their natural and traditional position of party politicians. It is inevitable, under these circumstnces, that these gentlemen should exercise their very responsible duties under very special difficulties, and in my experience they have carried them out on the whole in the general acceptance of theHouse."—[Official Report, 28th July, 1909, cols. 1221–2, Vol. 8.] Then he goes on to say that it is putting a very difficult task upon their shoulders and one which it is not wise that the House should do. Later on there was a Division, and all the Members of the present Government, including my Noble Friend who I see below me (Lord E. Talbot) voted against the proposal. What has changed the position? Why should a new House, which is supposed to be devoted to the business of the nation, be suspected of being prepared to do all sorts of things before we know what it is like? Further on there is a very drastic proposal. The right hon. Gentleman said that he supposed it was going to be an alternative for the Closure, which gave power to take the whole of the remaining stages of a Clause. We have on this Paper a Motion which says that that rule is to be extended so that whenever the Closure is first moved the whole of the Clauses may be taken at once and the Bill reported to the House without any further discussion. Surely that is enough for anybody. I do not know whether the Attorney- General is going to insist upon that proposal, but surely if he is, he will not insist upon this one. If he does, then the private Member might just as well go back to his constituency and not come here at all, for all the influence that he will be able to exercise in Debate.


I am entirely at one with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in thinking that this particular alteration in the Rules is unnecessary and altogether too drastic. We must remember how much we have already given up to the Government. The number of the Bills that are to be kept on the floor of the House is very small indeed, according to the intention of these proposals. The House will no longer be congested with Committee business on minor or even important Bills. The Bills taken in Committee of the Whole House will be so limited in number that there will be time available for the consideration of all points raised in the House. With regard to the Report stage, this Rule seems to be entirely unnecessary and too drastic. The majority of the Bills are to be taken out of the cognisance of the House in their Committee stage and to be sent upstairs, and the only occasion that Members will have of raising various points for discussion and consideration in this House will be on the Report stage. Those of us who have had experience of this House for a number of years know very well that if a Member raises frivolous objections or Amendments which have no importance even on the Committee stage the House soon gets weary of his interruptions and his efforts die away. Frivolous Amendments with no weight or substance are still more difficult to support on the Report stage, because each Member can only speak once, except the Mover. This particular Rule, as has been pointed out, places far too great a responsibility on the Chair. We have seen this happen in days of stronger controversy. This Rule is really the most drastic Closure that has been used in this House. The House does not like these Rules, and it does not properly or seriously discuss business if it is shackled in this way. I venture to suggest that the Rule is really unnecessary. We ought to leave the business which is conducted on the floor of the House that measure of liberty which we have always hitherto known and which has only occasionally and in seasons of great stress been abused. After all this is a new House of Commons, and we are here with the spirit to get through the business. Why then trouble the House in this way? Why not give, it an opportunity to deal with its business, in a business-like way, without shackling it with drastic Rules before it has been in Session for little more than a week I think hon. Members should be given liberty to discuss those points which the House wants to debate. The House will signify its disapproval of the action of any Member or group of Members in raising frivolous and vexatious discussion, and I think the Government should be satisfied with the very great advantages they will gain from the alteration already made in Standing Orders.


I want to ask if the right hon. Gentleman will accede to the request made to him to give some indication whether he can guide the House as to any safeguards which can be introduced such, as that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean). I am diffident in, making suggestions on this matter in the presence of those who are much more experienced than I am. I assume that the Government, in putting these proposals down, must have anticipated one of three things: either that there would be frivolous and vexatious amendments, or those which are deliberately and maliciously obstructive, or that there is a greater number than can possibly be dealt with in the reasonable amount of time allotted for discussion. One of these possibilities I imagine must have been in the mind of the Government in putting down this drastic Amendment. I agree it is better to embody this in the ordinary machinery of the House than to introduce it in a spirit of panic at the last moment. I also believe it is much the better of the two methods to adopt this than the other form of Closure which we are told is going to be suggested later on. This method, commonly called the kangaroo method—Closure by selection—is better than Closure by accident which may deprive without rhyme or reason Member or Members of an opportunity of introducing Amendments of considerable value. I should have been glad if the right hon Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), who himself has had much experience in these matters, had indicated the kind of safeguard to which he attaches importance.


I hope the House is prepared to accept the proposal of the Government in the form in which it stands. Let me say one word as to the extent of the proposal. It is no more than making a permanent attribute of the authority of the Chair that which is now an occasional attribute, and which needs a special Motion to bring it into operation. It has been suggested in more than one quarter that this proposal would be acceptable if some safeguard or other were promised or adopted. As I gather, the safeguards so far suggested are two in number. It is suggested in the first place that Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, should have recourse to the Chairman of the Standing Committee. I imagine that that is the first thing he would think of. Then it is suggested that Mr. Speaker in the one case or the Chairman in the other case should be advised by a Committee in the selection of the Amendments to be discussed. I am sure the House will observe this, that if deliberation there is to be between Mr. Speaker or the Chairman and a Committee that involves the assumption that the Amendments from which the selection is to be made are before the selecting body in order that they may come to a decision upon them. Unfortunately in practice that is not the case. What happens is that a certain number of Amendments are on the Paper, and it is not easy to see beforehand what may be the importance attributed to particular Amendments. As the Debate continues, as the controversy develops, an Amendment which appears to be important may become relatively unimportant, while one which appears to be unimportant may assume considerable importance. It is a fluctuating and uncertain problem. And the difficulty does not end there. In addition to the Amendments on the Paper, there develop in the course of discussion impromptu Amendments and Amendments to Amendments which are handed to the Chair, and, as my hon. Friend said just now, they are often Amendments which are necessary to meet an emergency that has arisen. They are, therefore, of the greatest importance. How is it possible that Mr. Speaker, with the help of a Committee, should be able beforehand to judge the value of Amendments which may arise in the course of Debate? I do seriously suggest to the House that, anxious as we are that this difficult task of selection should be performed with the utmost care, it is not possible to provide against these contingencies.

Again, it is suggested that the Amendments which ought to be selected are those moved with the general consent of the House. But how are you going to ascertain beforehand what is the general consent of the House? That point can only be decided by Mr. Speaker or the Chairman according to whether he is satisfied that a particular Amendment is one which it is generally desired by the House to have discussed. But what is the criterion for dealing with such Amendments, and upon what data is the judgment to be formed? I suggest the only way in which the Chair can judge is from its experience and knowledge of the House, from its appreciation of the Debate, and from its appreciation of the fluctuating and changing importance of the several topics which the Amendments involve. For myself at the moment I cannot conceive any procedure which could have the effect of safeguarding this selection of Amendments, but, on the other hand, I do think that the Government proposal will produce adequate and better results. It is on those grounds that, while we should be very glad to meet the suggestions in a practical way, we ask the House to assent to this plan in the form in which it now stands.


I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words, That in respect of any Motion or Bill under consideration either in Committee or on Report, Mr. Speaker, or in Committee the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the Deputy-Chairman, and to insert instead thereof the words, When a Bill has been reported from a Standing Committee no Amendment or new Clause shall be moved to such Bill or Report unless—

  1. (a) notice has been given of it within five days after the Report has been made, being days on which the House has sat; or
  2. (b) it is moved by a Member who has prepared and brought in the Bill; or
  3. (c) it is moved with the general consent of the House;
and no Amendment to an Amendment shall be moved except by the leave of the Speaker. The Speaker, after consultation with the chairman of the Standing Committee. The Government proposal does not affect Standing Committees if almost every Bill goes to a Standing Committee, therefore we have only to deal with the Report stage, with Mr. Speaker in the Chair. In any case the main question now is, what is to be the procedure upon the Report stage? I agree that in order to make the system of Standing Committees work well you must be guarded against excessive discussion upon Report, because you will have a large number of Bills coming down as it were together from the Standing Committees approaching the month of July, probably, and you will have to pass those Bills through their Report stages before a reasonable time in the month of August. Therefore, you do need some precaution; otherwise you will have a great congestion of business on the Report stage, much more than under, the present procedure, because you will have all the Bills coming down for Report at nearly the same moment. I also agree with the Government that probably the least objectionable restriction of Debate is to give a power of selection. But the power of selection is open to very grave criticism if it is exercised without deliberation. If it is exercised from moment to moment as the Debate on a Bill, is going on in the House, I do not care how skilful the Speaker may be, or how desirous he may be of giving those Amendments that deserved consideration the best opportunity of discussion, it is almost impossible for him amidst the pressure of Debate going on around him, to do the duty in an adequate manner. Moreover it puts the Chair in a very invidious position in regard to the Government and the majority, because if the Chair has to decide from day to day and hour to hour, as the Bill progresses, there is a constant pressure on the part of the Government and the majority, who see the time running short, to get the selection made more and more rigid and fewer Amendments considered. Therefore I believe that selection after deliberation is the right plan.

I quite recognise that it is not very easy to invent the machinery by which that selection after deliberation can be worked. The Attorney-General stated the difficulties very clearly. The difficulties are that you want Amendments considered, and that many of them come in at the last moment. That argument of the Attorney-General applies unanswerably to the Committee stage. I do not think it is unanswerable to regard to Report, because when you reach Report stage the whole Bill has been gone through by the Standing Committee, the chairman of the Standing Committee must know what Amendments are important and what are unimportant, and it must be possible for him to advise Mr. Speaker quite accur- ately as to what Amendments deserve consideration. It is quite easy, too, for those hon. Members who have sat on and have attended the proceedings of the Standing Committees themselves to know what Amendments ought to be brought before the House on Report and to put the Amendments down in goodtime. The unexpected ought not to arise on Report after careful examination in Committee. Therefore I see no reason why Members should not be required to put their Amendments down within a specified time. I suggest five days after the Report has been made to the House; that represents one Parliamentary week. Those are the only Amendments I would allow to be put as a right except Amendments moved by those in charge of the Bill.

I would also allow Amendments to be moved by the general consent of the House. The Attorney-General is apparently unaware that that is what in his profession would be called "a term of art." It has a quite definite and well-understood meaning. For example, you cannot take the Third Reading of a Bill on the same day as the Report stage of that Bill, except by the general consent of the House. That does not mean that any individual can stop the majority doing what they wish. It has been ruled from the Chair that you must have a considerable body of opinion, a section of the House, to stop it. I know that it is not precisely defined how many, but it is possible to take, by the general consent of the House, proceedings which are not opposed by any considerable section. Of course there are some things which can only be done by universal consent. I therefore propose that an Amendment which may be for the general convenience shall be accepted. I have handed in additional words in manuscript to meet any criticism made by the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Suffolk dealing with the case of a consequential Amendment arising upon an Amendment which had been put in on Report without the consequences having been fully foreseen. It would be necessary to insert such a consequential Amendment, and I therefore propose to insert the words "unless in the opinion of Mr. Speaker it arises out of an Amendment already agreed to on Report and ought to be considered by the House," that is, in common phrase, with the consent of the Chair, with the exception that I propose to give in the Standing Order directions to the Chair how to exercise this discretion. With that machinery it will be quite possible to work deliberate selection.

10.0 p.m.

Like all elaborate machinery its details are open to a great deal of criticism. You must do something. I do not think you can leave Report quite as free as it has been, because you will have a congestion of business towards the close of the Session. Selection is better than Closure by compartments or even Closure under the Rule, that is, Closure down to certain words or of particular parts of the Bill. Closure by selection is infinitely better if it is made once for all, not from time to time, and is made deliberately. Therefore I suggest that although there may be certain inconveniences in the machinery I am proposing, on the whole this is the best course to take. If you have deliberate selection made once for all by Mr. Speaker, you get the maximum of security against an obstructive and dilatory Debate and the minimum of injury to the legitimate opportunities of those who are anxious to oppose a Bill in a proper and Parliamentary manner. I am sure that every Member of experience in the House will agree with me that the moving of Amendments, whether moved in Committee or on Report, is not only defensible if they are legitimate improvements of the Bill, but is also defensible if they are part of a detailed opposition. It is a perfectly legitimate exercise, if it is not done obstructively, and it is the right of opponents to a Bill to expose the weak spots of a Bill by moving Amendments. A great many people often speak on the amending stages of a Bill, either Committee or Report, as if they were only entitled to put in small detailed Amendments about which there was no particular controversy. There is a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary object in exposing the weak points of a Bill by detailing them on this and that point all the way down. Notoriously it had the greatest possible effect on the Home Rule Bill of 1893. This procedure has often been used in more recent times, and is, as I say, perfectly legitimate. It is not to be confused with obstructive or purely dilatory tactics, which are often indulged in merely to take up the time of the House. I conceive that the selection proposed, properly and deliberately made, would exclude that sort of detailed criticism of a Bill which was dilatory and obstructive, while, at the same time, it would not exclude Amend- ments designed to expose the various weak points of a Bill which were really part of an elaborate Opposition. So I put forward this rather elaborate machinery in the hope that it may engage the attention of the House and receive the favourable consideration of the Government. Before I sit down I would direct attention to the last words of the proposed Amendment in my name which appear at the bottom of the Amendments to the proposal of the Government: No Bill reported from a Standing Committee shall be considered until the Speaker has completed the selection of new Clauses and Amendments and such selected Clauses and Amendments have been printed and circulated. This would, of course, secure that every Member would come down to the House knowing precisely the business before the House, and would not be taken by surprise. Human nature being what it is, it is often very vexing and upsetting to come down and find that an Amendment to which one attached importance and on which one was prepared to speak was not going to be taken. This other way would enable the business of the House to be more efficiently conducted.

Viscount WOLMER

I beg to second the Amendment.


I desire, if I can, to avoid the repetition of what I said a few moments ago upon the proposal of the Government. The Noble Lord was quite right in thinking that careful consideration has been given to the Amendment, and that every argument he has put before the House has been taken into account. I was at first disposed to favour this Amendment, but upon further and closer examination, I am bound to say that I myself am unable to accept it. Let us just see what is the subject-matter of this Amendment, and what exactly is the change that the Noble Lord proposes to make in the proposal of the Government. The Government proposal is in reference to Amendments and new Clauses in Committee, and upon Report. It makes the proposal that in dealing with Amendments Mr. Speaker or the Chairman shall have power to prescribe and select the Amendments which have to be discussed. That is the proposal which the Government makes. My hon. Friend's Amendment falls really into two parts, the first part deals only with Amendments and new Clauses upon the Report stage, but when we come to the last and unfinished sentence of the Amendment that, because it is going to be tacked on to the Government's proposal, will refer no less to Committee than to Report.


If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Amendment he will see that I cut out the Committee altogether. If accepted the Amendment would not change the procedure in Committee at all. That would remain as it is now. The effect is to leave out all reference to Committees.


If that is so I have not quite followed it, but at any rate it does not affect what I am about to say. Let me deal first with that part of the Amendment which comes before the last sentence. The proposal is that where a Bill has been reported from Standing Committees no Amendment or new Clause shall be moved unless, and then follow three conditions, everyone of which has to be satisfied. One of these three conditions has to be satisfied. The observation I make is that in regard to the first it is impracticable. It involves this, that notice has to be given of the Amendment or new Clause within five days after the Report has been made, being days on which the House has set. Five days is a full Parliamentary week. That would involve a period far too long, especially at certain periods of the Session. The difficulty is that as soon as one begins to think of any particular number of days the same practical difficulty arises. My Noble Friend may say that that is not the whole proposal. There is an alternative proposal, and that is that no Amendment of the Clause is to be moved except by the Member who has prepared and brought in the Bill. Why should the power, whatever it may be, of moving Amendments or new Clauses at that stage be in any degree limited to the Member who has prepared and brought in the Bill? Thirdly, it is said that an Amendment or a new Clause may be moved if it is moved with the general consent of the House. Does that mean more than this, that Mr. Speaker or, as it may be, the Chairman, is satisfied that it is the general desire of the House that a particular Amendment should be moved? When one looks at all these proposals, what is there in them—I say it with all respect—which improves upon the plan of the Government, the essence of which is to leave it to the discretion, the experience, and the wisdom of the Chair to deal not beforehand but at the time, with the changing, fluctuating course of the Debate itself, and to select those Amendments, which may be on the Paper, or which may be manuscript Amendments, which in the opinion of the Chair ought to be discussed. I say in all seriousness that, having considered the matter with care, there is nothing in these proposals which in our opinion practically improves the proposals which the Government have put upon the Paper. There remains one thing further: my Noble Friend goes on to suggest that the Speaker shall make his selection after consultation with the Chairman of the Standing Committee. It is not to be suggested seriously that the Speaker would refrain from consultation. Is it not obvious that that is the very first step he would take?


He might not have the opportunity. Many questions might come on without notice, and there would be no opportunity of consulting anyone.


No doubt, with regard to Amendments which were not on the Paper, he might have to make a selection, but with regard to all Amendments which were on the Paper, and which were capable of consultation Mr. Speaker would consult the Chairman of the Standing Committee. There remains, the further Amendment that is to provide that no report from the Standing Committee shall be considered until the Speaker has completed his selection. That again, involves a delay which, in particular cases, might be an intolerable delay. The whole of this suggestion is based on the main proposition that the task of selection should be performed, as my Noble Friend says, not without deliberation. It is never performed without deliberation. There can be deliberation beforehand about Amendments which appear to the Paper. The point that I am concerned to make is that in order that there may be deliberation no such interval as is suggested is required, and no such machinery as is proposed by this Amendment if practicable.


I am not satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment of the Noble Lord, at any rate, does help us on the right road. I cannot for the life of me understand why when a Bill, which has been considered upstairs, comes before us we should not have a full opportunity of discussing it. This is the only opportunity we have of discussing it. According to the new Rule we are going to hear what takes place upstairs. When the Bill comes down this is the only opportunity we have of discussing it, and we should be allowed to discuss it without any of these elaborate precautions to prevent discussions which are put forward by the Government Amendments. I would like to know when the Speaker does not approve of an Amendment whether he is going to send for hon. Members and cross-question them about what they mean by the Amendment. Are we to stand in a queue to come before him to be cross-questioned by him? It is not fair to the Speaker. Is he going to set up a sort of confessional and have we to confess before him what we think and what we do? That is not what we want. We want to discuss the Bills after they come downstairs. We want to discuss them in a straightforward manner. I defy any new Member to understand what is meant by these elaborate proposals, and the elaborate arguments of the Attorney-General. I do sincerely hope that the Government will not press this question. I know perfectly well what it means. I know that when the Bill comes down from upstairs we shall be told that it has been well considered upstairs, and that it is quite unnecessary to have further discussion upon it, and when we put down Amendments to the Bill they will be cut out or closured. I therefore sincerely hope that the Government will accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. It does not go as far as I would like it to go, but it does go a step in the direction of preserving some means of discussing the measures when they come downstairs on Report.


I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment. I will go further than that. There is one thing which the Government in connection with these proposals seem to forget altogether. By the Amendment of the Rules they want to save the time of the House of Commons, and at the same time want to limit the opportunities of private Members to discuss the various Bills which come before the House. Under the new procedure a Bill may be passed through Committee by twenty or twenty-one Members of the House, and unless this Amendment is carried the decision of eleven Members of a Standing Committee will, practically speaking, be an Instruction to the House.

In saving the time of the House we ought to see that there is ample opportunity to discuss Bills on the Report stage. The Government may attempt to stifle discussion on Bills here, but they are not going to stifle discussion of those Bills in the country. It is better to go slowly in there form of procedure than to go quickly. I think the Government are going the wrong way about the matter. There is one thing which seems to have escaped the attention of the Government and I am afraid of my right hon. Friend here, and that is the human clement in connection with the proceedings of the House of Commons. We have been told about Scottish Grand Committees and I think we have certain Members here who can see nothing but Scotland. We have got to remember we are sent here not to legislate for Scotland or England or Wales, but to legislate for Great Britain and Ireland. That being so, I advise the Government to go slowly on this matter. Members are extremely jealous of the rights and privileges and powers of the House, and therefore I hope the Government will accept this Amendment, or at any rate will adjourn the Debate, and consider the advisability of bringing forward an Amendment of their own to meet the situation. Personally, I have no jealousy of Members as to their rights and privileges, and I do not want to see the power of Parliament taken out of the hands of this Assembly and placed in the hands of eleven Members of a Standing Committee.

Amendment negatived.

Main Question again proposed.


I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned." I do this in order that the Bill, which was taken a stage yesterday, which is urgent, and in regard to which I think there is no opposition, may be now taken.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.