§ Considered in Committee. [Third Day.]
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)
After the two late sittings that we have had, I should be very reluctant to ask the House to sit late again, and, if we can make reasonable progress, I think we must try and rise as near to Eleven o'clock as possible to-night. I am not making any pledge, but I do not want to fix a particular point to which we should go, because, if we make reasonable progress, I think the House is entitled to expect to rise early on one night.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night we wanted to continue the Debate, but, unfortunately, some of the Government supporters who had Amendments down were not present, and, therefore, Progress was reported, in order that those Amendments might be discussed fully today? Is he, further, aware that we desire to get a discussion and a Vote on certain new Clauses that we have put on the Paper? It was perfectly well understood, when we came to our arrangement as to how far we should go last night and to-day, that those Clauses would be reached, but if we rise at Eleven we shall not reach them, unless the Government closure their friends instead of closuring us, as they were doing last night. Can the right hon. Gentleman make any arrangement—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I simply wanted to ask a question. Can the right hon. Gentleman make any arrangement whereby, if we rise at Eleven without 1332 reaching the Amendments to which we attach great importance, we shall be able to have our next day, or two days, on the Finance Bill, not next week, but the week after, so that they may be discussed?
No, Sir. I certainly do not want to initiate a discussion, but it is a little difficult to know how far I can answer the hon. and gallant Member's question.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it would be better to move to report Progress.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. Hogge.]
The hon. and gallant Member's question—and in putting it he made a good many statements which, if he will permit me to say so, were of doubtful accuracy—was whether I would arrange that the fourth day, granted at his request for the Committee stage of the Bill, should be, not next week, but the week after. That is a request with which I am sorry to say I cannot concur. It is very desirable, when we deal with a Bill of this kind, that we should, as far as the Rules of the House and the necessities of Supply permit, deal with it consecutively, at any rate as regards a particular stage. As at present advised, I propose to take the fourth day, which, in response to the hon. and gallant. Member's request, we agreed to give for the consideration of the Committee stage of this Measure, on Monday. As regards what happened last night and the night before, I was in the precincts of the House on both occasions, and was in the House itself last night. The night before last an appeal was made, as I understand, publicly, across the Table, for an extra day, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that. he would give a fourth day, on the understanding that the Committee stage would be finished in those four days—he will correct me if I am wrong—without sitting beyond a reasonable hour. We sat last night till past three o'clock before the Motion to report Progress was made. I make no sort of complaint or suggestion that there was any kind of breach of faith.
I am sorry the hon. and gallant Gentleman says he does, but, at any rate, it will not alter what I am going to say. My right hon. Friend, making one of those bargains which are customary across the Table of the House of Commons, and are always honoured when so made, said ho would give an extra day on the understanding that the business was finished within those four days, within reasonable hours. I think that hon. Members might have expected that we should not have sat as late as three o'clock in those circum- stances, but portions of the Bill were more contentious, perhaps, or gave rise to greater difficulty than one would have expected, and we had this late sitting. At, I think, something near half-past three, my right hon. Friend moved to report Progress, and stop the business for the night.
Because we had already sat past a reasonable hour, for which my right hon. Friend had himself stipulated as a condition on which he gave his assent to the fourth day. I say again that I am not charging any section, or suggesting against any section of the Committee, that there was any breach of the arrangement made. I think circumstances were too strong. The Amendments took longer than any of us anticipated. But to suggest, as the hon. and gallant Member said he did, that on the part of the Government there was a breach of faith because they did not try to sit after four o'clock, or after half-past three, is to suggest that which is palpably incorrect on the facts which are known to the Committee. I am very sorry the hon. and gallant Gentleman should for a moment have made such a suggestion. I think, having regard to the two late nights we have had, we ought not to ask the House to sit late to-night, if that can, by any possibility, be avoided and if there is a fair prospect that we can finish on Monday, and unless it be necessary to sit late to-night in order to be sure of finishing on Monday—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is all right, If you can sit to-night sufficiently late to divide the work there is to be done equally between to-day and Monday, we shall be satisfied. The difficulty at 1334 present is that if you rise at Eleven o'clock to-night, you cannot finish on Monday without sitting till Five o'clock.
I cannot undertake to say what exactly is the time likely to be taken by any particular stage of the Bill or any particular Clause or Amendment or new Clause. I feel that, in the interests of hon. Members who have made sacrifices these last two nights in order to get on with the business, we ought not to ask them, unless it be absolutely necessary, to sit late to-night. A considerable portion of the time yesterday was taken by supporters of the Government, but, after all, they are in a considerable majority and, perhaps, may sometimes be allowed to express their views and to raise points of interest to themselves or to their constituents. But if there was waste of time or if the discussions were needlessly prolonged, it was not so much yesterday, when we were discussing for the most part new matter of considerable complication, but rather the day before.
When we made no complaint, though we might have done, at the repetition of Amendments, speeches and arguments which have been familiar to the House for several years past on every stage of the Financial Resolutions and of the Bill in Committee and on Report.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May I be allowed to explain what I meant when I said I thought there had been a breach of faith on the part of the Government? When the Government gave us an additional day for discussing the Finance Bill in Committee, an arrangement was come to whereby they were to get certain stages on the two days. Last night they were to get to Clause 26. [Interruption.] The point was that we were dividing up the three days that remained into equal sections so that every section of the Bill should be adequately discussed.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman omits an essential part of the statement my right hon. 1335 Friend made, that he consented to this on the understanding that we finished at a reasonable hour each night. When we speak of a reasonable hour in Parliamentary phraseology we do not mean 4 o'clock in the morning.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
We were trying to divide up the work so that each part of the Bill would be adequately discussed, and we were to get to the end of Clause 26 last night and to the end of the new Clause dealing with the Beer Duty to-night. I will not say that was an absolute pledge, but it was an agreement come to with the Chief Whip and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Labour party last night took no part whatever in obstruction. As a matter of fact, the real reason why we sat till half-past three was that the Government were forced by their own followers, after a Debate lasting nearly two hours, to withdraw Clause 14, and, after continuing to sit in order to take the very serious Amendments on Clause 16 till three o'clock in the morning, the moment that was over the Government reported Progress, because the next Amendments were down in the name of their own followers who were not present. If they had gone on last night for 10 minutes they would have got through the next seven Clauses and got down to the stage at which they promised to get in order to complete that section of the Bill. They did not go on for the very sufficient reason that their supporters were not here to move their Amendments.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The hon. Member was here, but he was the only one. Therefore to-day we are to go through a short day, dealing with a small amount, and then on Monday, the last day for discussion of the Bill, the Committee will have to sit till five or six in the morning to do all the rest of the work. That is not fair to the House of Commons. The arrangement come to to divide the remaining portion of the Bill into equal sections was a right arrangement, and should have been stuck to by the Government.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says an arrangement come to across the Floor between his representatives and the Patronage 1336 Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been broken. My right hon. Friend entered into no arrangement for the partition of the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.