HC Deb 26 April 1923 vol 163 cc723-51


Considered in Committee.

[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]


I think, perhaps, the Committee will pardon me if, before proceeding to the discussion of the Vote, I make a very short statement, which for greater accuracy I have committed to writing, as to matters arising out of what passed on the Board of Agriculture Vote on Thursday last. It happens from time to time that strong appeals are made, either to Mr. Speaker or myself, to allow discussions to take place on matters which are congruous to some subject set down on the Paper, but which at the same time are not in order upon it. It is not always easy to decide on such appeals. No one would wish the rules to be interpreted in a narrow or pedantic spirit, but, on the other hand, they are not there for nothing, and, if they were lightly waived by the Chair, something like Parliamentary anarchy would result. On two occasions, I have come to the conclusion in Committee of Supply, that owing to the importance of the matter, the place it occupied in the minds of hon. Members, and its connection with an Order of the Day, I was justified in waiving a rule in order to allow freer discussion, subject always to the assent of the Committee.

The second occasion was on Thursday last. I had indicated my intention, through the usual channels, and, on taking the Chair, I expected something to be said on behalf of the Opposition parties as to whether they agreed or not to the course proposed. When, therefore, the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) indicated his dissent, I thought it natural to ask whether or not he spoke for his party, and, as soon as the hon. Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Phillipps) said that he did so speak, I ruled that the suggested Debate could not take place.

I have since made some inquiries as to precedents, and I am bound to say that the general practice has been to make the waiver of a rule dependent at any rate upon the tacit acquiescence of all the Members present in the House. I wish to say that I neither had, nor have, any intent of setting any new precedents overriding this practice. I desired only the convenience of the House, and I had no wish whatever to derogate from the existing rights of individual Members.


Might I ask you, arising out of what you have just been good enough to say, whether you have seen the Motion on the Paper standing in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) and some other hon. Members to the following effect: That, by the immemorial practice of this House, the Committee of Supply is the proper occasion for the redress of grievances and not for the discussion of legislation, and that the right of a Member to demand that the Committee of Supply should be so used is in virtue of his election to this House, and regardless of whether or not he is a member of any political party, or claims to speak on its behalf. Might I ask whether we are to understand, from what you have just been good enough to say, that you would accept that Motion as truly defining the rights of Members and the practice of the Chair?


My attention has been drawn to the Motion. It appears to me to admirably express the soundest Parliamentary doctrine, and I entirely agree with it.

Captain BENN

I should like to express my thanks to you, Sir, for the statement which you have just been good enough to make to the Committee and, with the permission of my hon. Friends. I propose to withdraw the Motion.


I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said.

  4. cc724-51
  5. MINISTRY OF LABOUR. 10,322 words
  6. c751
  7. ROYAL ASSENT. 57 words