- (1) When a Bill has been read a second time it shall stand committed to one of the Standing Committees, unless the House, on Motion to be decided without Amendment or Debate, otherwise order; and such a Motion shall not require notice, must be made immediately after the Bill is read a second time, may be made by any Member, and may, though opposed, be decided after the expiration of the time for opposed business. But this Order shall not apply to—
- (a) Bills for imposing taxes or Consolidated Fund or Appropriation Bills; or
- (b) Bills for confirming Provisional Orders.
- (3) Where a Bill has been committed to a Standing Committee, or has been so committed in respect of any provision, then, at the Report stage of the Bill or provision, the Rule against speaking more than once shall not apply to the Member in charge of the Bill or to the Mover of any Amendment or new Clause in respect of that Amendment or Clause.
I observe the Noble Lord, the Member for Oxford University in his place. I think it only fair to draw his attention to the fact that his Amendment standing on the Paper is not correctly an Amendment to the Amendment put down by the Leader of the House, but is a separate Amendment. If he wishes to move it, he would have to move it first. I understand its purpose is to send a Finance Bill upstairs?
§ Lord H. CECIL
On a point of Order. I want to make the Amendment so as to send a Finance Bill upstairs. I also want, with great respect to my right hon. Friend, to oppose his proposal. I understand I must do that separately, and that I must first move my own Amendment.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I beg to move, in paragraph (1), to leave out(a) Bills for imposing taxes or Consolidated Fund, or Appropriation Bills; or.1070 I desire, rather briefly, under the distressing, Rule of the House which gives no interval for dinner—and I am now approaching the point when mental activity is hardly possible, owing to growing feebleness from starvation—to say that there is really no reason why the Finance Bill should be excluded by permanent Rule from the operation of the general practice of sending Bills to Standing Committees. I do not say that necessarily every Finance Bill should go to a Standing Committee, though, personally, I believe a Standing Committee in a better body for dealing with Bills than a Committee of the Whole House. But there seems no advantage in having an absolutely wooden rule by which no Finance Bill would ever go to a Standing Committee. There are many Finance Bills not of a specially controversial character which might easily be dealt with by a Standing Committee—Bills which do not raise any great issue of fiscal policy, but which contain a great many detailed proposals which could be dealt with very well by a Standing Committee. Therefore, I see no advantage in the rule excluding Finance Bills from the general practice of sending Bills to a Standing Committee. An Appropriation Bill is usually, of course, a Bill which would not be sent upstairs, because the Committee stage is a matter of form, and there is no advantage in sending it upstairs. But a Budget Bill might, I think, with great propriety go in most cases, or certainly in ordinary cases. At any rate, I submit, to the House that there is no reason for having a definite and unalterable rule by which a Finance Bill alone is never to go to a Standing Committee.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sorry my right hon. Friend seconded the Amendment if the only reason was to get a speech from me, because, like my Noble Friend, I am not desirous of speaking more than can be helped at the present movement. I cannot accept the Amendment. We have to consider what the general feeling as to the change we are making would be. I have conducted through the House two or three Finance Bills. I cannot help thinking that that financial sense of what is thought proper—of which we had so many examples yesterday—would have received a shock from which it would never have recovered if it were suggested that 1071 the Finance Bill, which settled the taxation, should be sent to a Standing Committee. I do not think, in the present state of public feeling inside and outside the House, that the proposal would be acceptable, and I hope, therefore, my Noble Friend will not press it.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I do not desire to press the Amendment against the wishes of the Government, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I do not think this is a very great improvement. The paragraph provides that where a Bill is Reported from a Standing Committee, the ordinary rule which prevents Members speaking twice on the same question when the Speaker is in the Chair is so far relaxed that the Member in charge of the Bill is allowed to speak as often as he likes, and also the Member who moves an Amendment. I do not think that is a very serious invasion of the normal rule that a Member should not speak more than once when the Speaker is in the Chair, and in respect of the Member in charge of a Bill it is very convenient. It is convenient in both cases, but there cannot be any doubt that it is convenient to a Member in charge of a Bill, and the strict rule is never kept when it applies to Report from Committee of the Whole House in respect of the Member in charge of the Bill. He is always, by the indulgence of the House, permitted to speak more often than once. If a rule is never kept, it is not desirable to have it. It does not promote the proper conduct of Debate if unofficial Members see that Ministers in charge of Bills are allowed to ride over the Rules of the House and speak as often as they please. It would be much better, in my judgment, instead of altering the Rule in regard to Standing Committees, for the Government to alter the Rule in regard to all Report stages of Bills so far as the Member in charge of the Bill is concerned, because the practice of the House has already altered it. We ought to endeavour to keep to the Rules which we have, and if a rule is found so inconvenient that it is never kept, it should be altered. The Government, instead of altering an incon- 1072 venient rule, are substituting an inconvenient rule for a convenient one. They are taking away a convenience which exists in respect of Report from a Standing Committee and making the proceedure on Report from the Standing Committees the same as procedure on Report from Committee of the Whole House by which the inconvenient regulation is laid down that even the Member in charge of a Bill can only speak once. It is very inconvenient, and it is never adopted even when it is the Government, which has several Ministers who are available. When a private Member has to conduct a Bill through Report it is quite impossible, because he has no assistance and has to depend only on himself. As we have got in this Standing Order a very convenient relaxation of the normal rule, a relaxation which might be very wisely extended, we should not abolish it really to save an infinitesimal amount of time at best, and only to produce a situation which would involve the habitual breach of a Rule of the House, and the scandal and mischief that comes from such a breach.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My Noble Friend has really put only part of the history of this Rule which it is proposed to alter. He has told the House that it is never observed by the Treasury Bench, which always speak on Report stage on a Government Bill as often as it likes. He goes through the formality of saying "by the leave of the House," but no one ever dares say to such a great person as a Minister that he must not speak again, and therefore as a matter of fact the Rule does not apply to the Treasury Bench. A private Member's Bill will go upstairs to Grand Committee and the Member in charge of it when it comes down for Report will have to explain it, and it will be very difficult for anyone, without speaking more than once on an Amendment, to state the reasons why it should not be accepted. Again, there is this reason, and it is a very strong one: When you propose an Amendment, even if you are such a clear speaker as my Noble Friend, it does not at all follow that you can always impose your meaning upon the mind either of the Government or of the House. An hon. Member says, "I cannot accept this Amendment because it is going to have this effect." You say "this is a misunderstanding; it does not have this effect at all." 1073 Over and over again I have seen that happen, with the result that the Amendment is accepted. That is all going to be done away with, and the only resource you will have will be to turn to your friend next to you and ask him to get up and say, "That is not the effect of the Amendment." Unless he has been working with you, he will not be able to do that, and consequently your Amendment will be lost.
Perhaps the House will be interested to know the history of this rule. It was instituted in the year 1907, when Sir Henry campbell-Bannerman sent all Bills up to Grand Committee. The question arose as to what would be the procedure on the Report stage when the Bills came down. The arguments used by my Noble Friend and myself at that time appealed with such force to the whole of the Unionist Party that my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) moved that not the mover of an Amendment or the Member in charge of the Bill, but every Member, might speak more than once upon the Report stage. There had been a little misunderstanding as to what the Government was going to do. We thought it was going to accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, but it turned out that they did not intend to go as far as that. But they met us eventually by putting the Standing Order in the form in which it is now. My right hon. Friend was very angry, and said:His Amendment was a perfectly plain and distinct one, and had exactly the same meaning to-day as it had on Thursday. He would add that anything he might say would have the same meaning to-morrow as it had to-day.I felt quite certain, after that, that he would have voted with my Noble Friend and myself against this alteration. I have the Division List here, which is very interesting reading. In support of the Amendment that every Member should speak as often as he liked on the Report stage of a Bill coining from Grand Committee, I find the names of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour), one of the Whips, my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson), the late Home Secretary, the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil), the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law). Here is the name. "Law, Andrew Bonar, Dulwich." I was going to make as earnest appeal to my right hon. Friend not to alter this very modest proposal, when only a few years ago he himself was in favour of a much stronger one. I do not know whether my arguments appeal to the Attorney-General, 1074 but I trust he will consider them and that we shall be allowed to have this very small privilege, which will not waste any time but will add to the efficiency of the conduct of the business of the House.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I really think this is a suggestion which must find a large degree of favour from the Minister in charge of the proposal. In addition to what has been said by the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, with such feelings and experiences may I just add two other points? First of all, it is quite obvious that the Report stage will be of much greater importance than ever before. The second point is that the House will in all probability shortly give to the Chair the unlimited power of the selection of Amendments so that, although the Report stage will be more important than ever it was, the power of the Government because of the ascendancy of the Chair over the Debate, will be much greater than ever it was. How the Government can resist the appeal of the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken I rather fail to see, and I do hope that it will be acceded to.
§ Sir G. HEWART
After listening to the philosophy which we have heard, from my Noble Friend below the Gangway; to the history which we have heard from the right hon. Member for the City of London; and to the combination of the two which we have heard from my right hon. Friend opposite, I am always persuaded that we ought not to persist in this proposal. I am quite persuaded when I look at the remaining proposals that we have on the Paper with regard to selection, and therefore I shall not persist, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.