HC Deb 16 June 1925 vol 185 cc296-9

May I ask the Prime Minister what business he proposes to take on Thursday?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

It has not been possible to arrange for an Allotted Supply day on Thursday, and, instead, we propose to take the Second Reading of the Tithe Bill, and the Report and Third Reading of the Merchant Shipping (Equivalent Provisions) Bill [Lords], the Merchant Shipping (International Labour Conventions) Bill [Lords], the Public Health (Scotland) Bill, and the Roads Improvement Bill; and, if time permits, other Orders on the Paper.


May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he has the conduct of the business to-night, and as he has put on the Paper, in accordance with his promise, the Motion of which he gave notice last night—may I ask him, having regard to the fact that, as I understand, a Private Bill is going to be discussed to-night which will take some time, and there is the new Clause with regard to Lace, which may occupy some time, whether he would not think it preferable, seeing that this new principle is being introduced, that this Clause should be postponed until to-morrow, so that the discussion upon it may be taken at an early hour? I think it would facilitate business if it were possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see his way to do that.


My right hon. Friend has asked me to deal with the question of this current transaction. The only wish of the Government is to facilitate the task of the Opposition in bringing up for public discussion under the best conditions the points on which they differ most from the Government. That is the only view that we have in the conduct of business, apart from reaching a conclusion at a reasonable period. In introducing the new Clause dealing with this topic—which we do not regard as creating a new principle, and which we do not regard as one of very great importance—we had hoped to meet the situation by putting it down on Report. That, I think, was thoroughly in accordance with the general practice. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made a strong complaint, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, and we deferred to their wish. Then I suggested that we should put this down to-day and that there should be a discussion to-morrow. Then the Leader of the Opposition expressed the hope and expectation that we should get all the new Clauses to-night, and in consequence of that I accelerated the final drafting of the Amendments that were necessary, and the draughtsmen were kept to a late hour of the night in order to meet the convenience of the House. In consequence, this was second on the list of new Clauses. In making up our minds to do this we had in mind the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that we should not lose time by facilitating the wish of the Opposition parties on the matter. Now we are entirely in the hands of the House so far as the arrangement of business is concerned. This is a matter not, as we think, important, but certainly controversial, and if it be the wish to have it discussed to-morrow afternoon, we might go straight ahead with the old new Clauses to-day and reserve this special matter for a controversial discussion tomorrow, so long as it is understood that we get to the end of the Committee stage at a reasonable hour to-morrow night. That would entirely meet the views of the Government, and certainly would conduce to the most strenuous and vigorous discussion of the topics at issue.


I can only speak for myself and my friends here. In so far as we are concerned the suggestion was not put forward with a view to prolonging the proceedings—I think it might have a contrary effect—but rather with a view to having a discussion upon what is, after all, a new principle, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman says now. At any rate, it is a very important proposal that he has put forward and it is desirable to have a discussion upon it in broad daylight rather than that it should be divided. We might, for instance, begin before eight and go on after eleven or twelve. That would be obviously undesirable, and therefore I suggest very strongly that it should be put down the first thing to-morrow, and I should say, at any rate, it would not tend to prolong the proceedings of the Budget as a whole if the Government could see their way to that course.


I only wish to make the suggestion that it would be a great pity to have to sit late two nights running if it can be avoided. On one day or the other we shall have to sit considerably beyond the usual hour, but it is a matter causing unnecessary inconvenience if we sit two nights running beyond the hour and yet make no effective progress.


I think that it will be three nights running, but I have no objection at all. I thought it was possible to get this new Clause discussed in daylight to-day, but it does not matter. I understand that by the end of tomorrow's sitting the Committee stage will be finished. It is simply a matter of placing the horses, if the horse is not only to run, but to get through. I am quite willing to facilitate the business and to meet the convenience of the House.


If that is the wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs the Government will accept it.

Captain BENN

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is well aware that the Schedules are the last matter to be discussed on the Bill. Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister whether any further Amendments on the Silk Schedule were to go down, and he intimated not. I see two new Amendments of some importance to the Silk Schedules were put down last night. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether any more Amendments will be put down, because it is extremely difficult to fight this new tax or to criticise or examine it if the Government's proposals are to change every night.


It is quite reasonable to ask that the Government should not take part in overcrowding the Paper with Amendments to their own proposal. The bulk of the Amendments are purely drafting, and there are two minor points. I will give an undertaking that no further Amendment shall be put down, except of course that we may have to meet some point that arises. Anything else will be reserved to the Report stage, but substantially this duty is now in its final form.