HC Deb 23 October 1919 vol 120 cc241-4

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn till Monday next."


While the Government, speaking through the Leader of the House, is entitled to move, "That the House do adjourn till Monday next," we ought to have sonic explanation for that simple announcement in the form of a Resolution. I did not hear the Debate which has taken place, and I am not going to enter into the merits or it, but I think the Government ought to explain why other business cannot be gone on with. They ought to tell us whether they regard this defeat as so serious that they do not intend to continue in office. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask Pringle ‡"] It is unusual in my experience for the Government to move the Adjournment over one Parliamentary day when other business has been provided for. We have been brought together in an Autumn Session to get through the business, and there is no reason why we should not go on with other work if the only object of the Government is to secure time to consider their position in regard to this one Bill. I should not have thought that a Government such as sits on that bench would have required a week-end to make up their minds what they are going to do, because they were beaten on the vote on which they have taken off their own Whips. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no‡"] In any case we are entitled as a House to hear a little more as to the Government's intentions, to know what they have in contemplation, and why they will not take any other business on the Paper.


With the leave of the House, I should like to say a word or two in reply to the speech we have just heard. First of -all, I wish to relieve my hon. Friend of the anxiety which I am sure must be very deep-seated, as to the possibility that the Government will regard this as a vote which implies a change in those who represent His Majesty in this House. I shall relieve his anxiety as far as I can in regard to that matter. That will depend on the view of the House of Commons as a whole. We are here as long as we are confident that we have the support of the majority of the House. When we cease to have that confidence we shall no longer be here to represent His Majesty. I think old Members of the House will recognise that the course I suggest is the only possible course open to us under the circumstances. Like the hon. Member opposite, I was not in the House, and I did not anticipate such a grave calamity as a Government defeat. In any case, such a defeat when the Government Whips are on is something that has to be taken into consideration. In order to take it into consideration, His Majesty's Government must meet and discuss the situation, and come to a decision as to what course they will take. That is all we propose to do. As regards going on with other business, I think that in any case the House will hardly be inclined to proceed with other subjects, not knowing what will be the attitude of the Government in regard to this matter. Apart from that general consideration, which I am sure will commend itself to the House as a whole, it is a fact that the only business for to-day and tomorrow was the very Bill the consideration of which I have asked should be postponed.


What about the Rats Bill?


The Rats and Mice Bill will be postponed till Monday. The only business arranged for to-day and tomorrow was this Bill. I suggest that the course I have taken is not only, as I believe, in accordance with precedent, but is a course which the common sense of the House will approve.


I think the House will agree that the Motion made by my right lion. Friend is a very reasonable one. It would of course be impossible to pass to unexpected business. It might put Members interested in the other Bills at a disadvantage. I also agree with my right hon. Friend that there ought to be no gloomy anticipation and indeed no joyous anticipation at to what may occur simply because we have upheld a vote in Committee upstairs on a matter of this kind. While I agree that there should be this delay, may I say I hope that my right lion. Friend will make use of that delay to carefully consider the course that the Government are taking with regard to the other Clauses of this Bill. I hope they will try to get their minds back to the real importance of the methods with which we are dealing with aliens in this country. I think I can assure my right lion. Friend that many of those who have been most sympathetic with the Government have all through this Bill been greatly disappointed at the way in which the lessons we learned during the War seem to be fading away. We seem to be getting back—at all events the Government seem to be getting back into their minds the condition of leaving the country to take care of itself as far as foreigners are concerned—a condition which brought us to itch great disaster during the War. I vent are to hope that the vote just given by the House will be fully realised by the Government as an indication that when we said that, at all events as regards matters relating to the defence of this country, we were not going to risk foreigners being in a position either as spies or otherwise to point out the easiest way to attack our country--when we said that we meant what we said, and we mean it now. We hope that the Government will carefully consider whether they arc not going too far in modification of the Bill passed upstairs.


Without going into the merits or demerits of the question before the House a little time ago, I simply rise to say that in my opinion the Government have taken the right course, a course distinctly in accordance with precedent, in adjourning the Rouse until a convenient time, which on this occasion is Monday. It does not appear, as my right hon. Friend said, a very serious matter that an adverse vote should have been given, and I am not attaching too much importance to it, but I am glad to find that the Government are acting in accordance with precedent in the course they are now taking.

Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter after Seven of the clock, till Monday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.