HC Deb 03 July 1924 vol 175 cc1508-12

May I inquire what business will be taken next week?


On Monday we contemplate taking the Foreign Office Vote; but I would ask the House to regard this as a provisional arrangement, because the Government are considering whether any effective steps can be taken in regard to the rejection, in another place, of the War Charges (Validity) (No. 2) Bill, and the business for Monday may, for this reason, have to be varied.

Tuesday: Finance Bill, Committee.

Wednesday: Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill, Report; Pacific Cable Board Bill, Consideration of Lords Amendment; Carriage of Goods by Sea Bill [Lords], Report and Third Reading.

On the assumption that much of the work on Wednesday will be non-controversial, we propose to ask the House to discuss the Address in respect of the appointment of two additional Judges to the King's Bench Division and to that end we propose to sit after Eleven o'clock, if necessary.

Thursday: Foreign Office Vote.

Friday: Old Age Pensions Bill, Committee; Pensions Increase Bill, Committee; Telegraph (Money) Bill, Second Reading; Isle of Man Customs Bill, Second Reading; Public Works Loans Bill, Second Reading.


Do I understand that the Address is to be presented for the appointment of two additional Judges in the small hours of Thursday morning, and can the right hon. Gentleman not see has way to place such a Motion down so as to give a more reasonable opportunity for discussion?


Not presented in the small hours, but the discussion would have to be prolonged if the House required it.


With regard to Monday's business, does my right hon. Friend realise that many of us in the House who are in favour of the passing of the War Charges (Validity) (No. 2) Bill would very much object to anything being rushed through the House in one day, namely, Monday, without having anything like adequate notice of what scheme the Government are really going to propose? I think in regard to a matter so important and difficult as the reversal of the action taken in another place, we should have full warning and full notice before the Government attempt to put it through.


I am not overjoyed at finding this defence of the action of the House of Lords coming from my right hon. Friend.


Will the Lord Privy Seal tell the House whether he will enable us to see the new Bill, or make it understood what the procedure is which he proposes to follow before asking the House to give any vote upon the matter? I do not know whether a Financial Resolution will be necessary, but will my right hon. Friend remember that the House of Lords have decided to read this Bill upon this day six months, and that carries us to the 1st January next? Does my right hon. Friend propose to anticipate that action on the part of the House of Lords?


We are quite aware of the uncertainty and the urgency, and it is because of this uncertainty that we want time to see whether to-morrow a definite announcement can be made as to any alteration in Monday's business. As to whether the business will be varied will depend upon the course of the conversations that may take place in the interval.


May we take it that sufficient time will be given to hon. Members of this House to understand the procedure which the Government propose to take in considering any Bill which they propose to pass?


As I have stated, if any action at all is to be taken, it will have to be taken upon Monday.


Would it be possible for the Lord Privy Seal to make a statement on the Adjournment to-night, because time is very vital in regard to this matter, and on this side of the House we have every desire to facilitate the passage of the Bill?


I think it would, and I shall endeavour to do so.


Will the right hon. Gentleman also make a statement with regard to the discussion on the appointment of the two Judges? My right hon. Friend must realise that this matter is bound to be controversial. The appointments must be substantiated by a great many facts and Members of this House are anxious—I think I can speak for the Whole House—to have a full and adequate discussion on so important a step. I would therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of those who act with me, to place that Order for the discussion of the Address earlier on the Order Paper. It is too much to ask the House of Commons to discuss so important a matter as that at so late an hour.


Those considerations have been present to our minds in reaching a decision on this question. This question is urgent because of the great arrears in the Courts; it is for this reason we are putting it down for Wednesday.


Do I understand that, if the Foreign Office Vote is taken on Monday, a second day will be given for it on Thursday?


Two days have been allotted to Foreign Office questions next week on our programme.


Seeing that the action taken in another place on the War Charges (Validity) (No. 2) Bill was largely due to the feeling about the milk twopences, will the right hon. Gentleman, before bringing forward a Bill in substitution of the War Charges (Validity) Bill, consider the possibility of a second Bill which would refund those twopences to the people to whom they belong, namely, the producers?


Does my right hon. Friend realise that there would be no objection in any quarter of the House to the Bill in a modified form. What is important is the judgment which has been given, and the proceedings before the Courts. If my right hon. Friend wants an easy passage for this Bill in a short time, then he should acquiesce in the view that such cases should be exempted. In that case there would be little difficulty in passing it. But if he persists in trying to restore the Bill to the form in which it left this House, the same opposition will be applied to it, and therefore we may fairly ask for a full opportunity for debate.


These are matters of argument into which I cannot now enter. I can only say in general terms that the Government will not alter the substance and character of the Bill in order to meet the views of another place.


When is it proposed to take the Housing Bill?


We expect to be able to give at least one day to the Committee stage of the Housing Bill in the week following next week.


The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that on Wednesday a good deal of the business is expected to be non-controversial. Has the Minister of Labour informed the right hon. Gentleman that the Unemployment Insurance Bill is extremely and highly controversial, and that this House will need a good deal of time to discuss the very important new policy, which is entirely different from the last policy of unemployment insurance, which has been introduced into the Bill by the Minister?


That is not my information.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to when the Representation of the People Bill will be considered in this House? I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that it passed the Committee stage some time ago.


No, Sir. That is a question which should be put down on the Paper.

Captain BRASS

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Unemployment Insurance Bill is non-controversial?


Yes, he said it is simplicity itself.


I had in mind not so much that particular Bill as the other Bills which I named for Wednesday next.