HC Deb 30 May 1922 vol 154 cc1931-3

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do meet to-morrow at Eleven of the Clock."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]

Captain W. BENN

I want to take advantage of this Motion to ask the Leader of the House a question as to what form the Motion for Adjournment is going to take to-morrow. There has been a growing practice of late to put down a Motion "That this House at its rising do adjourn" to a certain date, and, that having been passed without debate or opposition, then to move "That this House do now adjourn." Small minorities thus suffer, because, as soon as the De- bate has proceeded to a certain length, Members are absent, the House is counted out, and Members are deprived of their only opportunity of bringing forward matters to the notice of the Government. Therefore, I wish to ask the Leader of the House whether to-morrow he will either put down the ordinary Motion "That this House do adjourn to 12th June," which is the old form, or, failing that, whether he will, through the usual channels, give some undertaking that as long as Members desire to raise points of public interest a House will be kept?


This is a point which I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman raised on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House at Easter. I propose to follow what is now the ordinary course. It is a course which the hon. and gallant Gentleman disapproves at present while he sits in Opposition, but which he will consistently and gladly follow the moment he comes to this Bench. I propose to put down the Motion "That this House at its rising do adjourn to Monday, 12th June," and, when that has been disposed of, to move "That this House do now adjourn." On the second Motion, the first I hope having taken no time and having been unanimously agreed to, hon. Gentlemen can discuss as long as they care to keep a House, but I do not think that it is a reasonable claim to make that the Members of the Government party, who, after all, have to bear the great burden of keeping a House for the purpose of the business of the country, should also keep a House for any individual Member who cannot get thirty-nine of his own friends or Members of the House to listen to him.


It was I who raised this question on the Easter Adjournment. While, of course, the Leader of the House is entitled to exercise the power that sits behind him in preventing minorities from making their points, he must remember, and he does remember, that this form of Adjournment was altered during the War for a specific purpose. It did not obtain in pre-War days. Surely my right hon. Friend is not going to contend that, unless any individual Member can secure specific pledges from forty other Members of this House, he cannot discuss anything on the Adjournment. Over and over again the Leader of the House has told Members that opportunity would arise for discuss- ing questions on the. Motion for the Adjournment, and ordinary and private Members expect that, because they cannot very well interfere with the larger business of the House. It is true that the Adjournment Motion does provide the opportunity which is denied to the private Member over and over again, and it surely says very little either for the discipline of my right hon. Friend's party or the courtesy of the Leader of the House that he cannot, by arrangement with his Whips, keep a hundred of his Members in the House in order to closure any subject which he thinks a private Member may be using as an excuse. If any private Member cares to raise a question on the Adjournment, which is an outrage on the forms of the House, the Government can closure it. They require to keep 100 Members to do that. It is because the Leader of the House does not care to keep 100 Members in the House for the purpose—


Hear, hear!


That makes the case worse, because it is the duty of the Leader of the House to carry out the functions of the House, and one of the functions of the House is to afford private Members that opportunity on the Adjournment. It is an abuse, and a scandalous abuse, of the forms of the House that this Motion, imported for a certain purpose within the last few years, should be utilised to prevent the minority from exercising their undoubted rights.


Will the Secretary of State for the Colonies speak first to-morrow?


Yes. As soon as we get the Motion for the Adjournment my right hon. Friend will make his statement.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. McCurdy were nominated Tellers for the Ayes; and Mr. Hogge was appointed Teller for the Noes; but, no Member being willing to act as the second Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Resolved, "That this House do meet To-morrow, at Eleven of the Clock."