HC Deb 08 March 1926 vol 192 cc1926-41

Motion made, and Question put, That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Order No. 15, the Proceedings on Report of Supply may he taken this day after Eleven of the Clock, and that such Proceedings be exempted at this day's Sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."—[The Prime Minister.] The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 96.

Division No. 67.] AYES. [3.50 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gee, Captain R. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Moore, Sir Newton J.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Glyn, Major R. G. C. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Albery, Irving James Goff, Sir Park Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Gower, Sir Robert Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Grace, John Murchison, C. K.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Grant, J. A. Nelson, Sir Frank
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Apsley, Lord Greene, W. P. Crawford Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Grotrian, H. Brent Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Penny, Frederick George
Balniel, Lord Gunston, Captain D. W. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Perring, Sir William George
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Hammersley, S. S. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Berry, Sir George Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Pielou, D. P.
Betterton, Henry B. Harrison, G. J. C. Preston, William
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Hartington, Marquess of Ramsden, E.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)
Blundell, F. N. Haslam, Henry C. Remnant, Sir James
Boothby, R. J. G. Hawke, John Anthony Rice, Sir Frederick
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Headiam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Brass, Captain W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Ropner, Major L.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Henn, Sir Sydney H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Salmon, Major I.
Briggs, J. Harold Herbert,S.(York, N.R.,Scar. & Wh'by) Samuel. A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Briscoe, Richard George Hills, Major John Waller Sandeman, A. Stewart
Brittain, Sir Harry Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Sandon, Lord
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. J. Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Holland, Sir Arthur Savery, S. S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y) Holt, Capt. H. p. Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Buckingham, Sir H. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Bullock, Captain M. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belf'st.)
Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Hopkins, J. W. W. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Smithers, Waldron
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Campbell, E. T. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester. City) Hume, Sir G. H. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Wlll'sden,E.)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Hurd, Percy A. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'land)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Charterls, Brigadier-General J. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Chilcott, Sir Warden Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Cope, Major William Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Couper, J. B. Kindersley, Major Guy M. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry King, Capt. Henry Douglas Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Tinne, J. A.
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Knox, Sir Alfred Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Lamb, J. Q. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Curzon, Captain Viscount Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Dalkeith, Earl of Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Waddington, R.
Dalziel, Sir Davison Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Loder, J. de V. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Dixey, A. C. Looker, Herbert William Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Wells, S. R.
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Elveden, Viscount Lumley, L. R. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) MacIntyre, Ian Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Everard, W. Lindsay McLean, Major A. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Fairfax, Captain J. G. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Falle, Sir Bertram G MacRobert, Alexander M. Wise, Sir Fredric
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Fermoy, Lord Makins, Brigadier-General E. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Malone, Major P. B. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Forrest, W. Margesson, Captain D. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E. Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Ganzoni, Sir John Meyer, Sir Frank
Gates, Percy Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry Barnston.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West) Grundy, T. W. Rose, Frank H.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Ammon, Charles George Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Scrymgeour, E.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hardie, George D. Scurr, John
Baker, Walter Harris, Percy A. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hayes, John Henry Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Barnes, A. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Barr, J. Hirst, G. H. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Batey, Joseph Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snell, Harry
Bromley, J. Kelly, W. T. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Buchanan, G. Kennedy, T. Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kenyon, Barnet Stamford, T. W.
Cape, Thomas Lee, F. Stephen, Campbell
Cluse, W. S. Livingstone, A. M. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lowth, T. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Cove, W. G. Mackinder, W. Thurtle, E.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) MacNeill-Weir, L. Tinker, John Joseph
Dalton, Hugh Maxton, James Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Montague, Frederick Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel Harry Morris, R. H. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Dennison, R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Dunnico, H. Naylor, T. E. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Palin, John Henry Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Paling, W. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Gibbins, Joseph Pethick-Lawrence, F. W Windsor, Walter
Gillett, George M. Ponsonby, Arthur Wright, W.
Gosling, Harry Potts, John S. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Purcell, A. A.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Riley, Ben TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Warne.
Groves, T. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)

I beg to move "That on Tuesdays, 16th and 23rd. and on Wednesdays, 17th and 24th March, Government business do have precedence."

4.0 P.M.

In moving the Motion which stands in my name, and which is moved every year, it is usual to give reasons why it is made, and I will do so as briefly as I can. Owing to the fact that all the financial business has to pass through this House, and as far as the Consolidated Fund Bill is concerned it has to pass through both Houses by the end of the month, every Government about this time of the year find themselves in a position that they have to do one of three equally disagreeable things. One is to sit up late; the second is to move a guillotine Resolution and the third is to take a portion of the time of Private Members. The last course, is perhaps, the one which causes least inconvenience to the greater number of hon. Members, and although that proposal is always made with reluctance, it is necessary on this occasion. May I point out that, in asking to take Private Members' time in this instance, I am asking to take considerably less than did the Leader of the Opposition, who will no doubt vehemently oppose this Motion in a few minutes. I am asking for two Tuesdays and two Wednesdays, and the Leader of the Opposition asked for three Tuesdays, two Wednesdays, and two Fridays. I may remind hon. Members that this is no new thing. The Liberal Government before the War used to have to do it, and in the days of the Coalition Government Private Members' time was taken away wholesale. What I am asking for to-day is no more than I believe to be necessary in order to finish the financial business.

I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I remind hon. Members what the financial business is which is yet incomplete. We have to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on the Navy and the Army Votes, and take the necessary Votes in connection with those two Services in Committee and on Report, We have to take, as we propose to take to-day, the Air Votes on the Report stage. We have also to get the Civil Service Vote on Account, both Committee stage and Report stage. We have to get the Consolidated Fund Bill through all its stages, and that has to be passed through this House in sufficient time to allow it to go through another place by the end of the month. There is besides that the Northern Ireland Grant-in-Aid Estimate. All the Supplementaries have been disposed of, which, I think, is proof, if proof be needed, that the House has attended very strictly to its business this Session already, that there has been nothing in the shape of organised obstruction, and that we have done our work day after day with diligence and some success.

There are still two Estimates the Report stage of which has to be taken, and, as often happens, there are Excess Votes. There are three this Session, which, I believe, are already in the Vote Office. The Unemployment Insurance (Northern Ireland) Agreement Bill, of which we have taken the Financial Resolution both stages, if I remember rightly, has to be passed. Then there are the Trade Facilities Bill, which has now come to the Committee stage; the Imperial War Graves Endowment Fund Bill, and the Second Reading of the Economy Bill. There is also the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill. An Act of that nature expires on 31st March, and it is necessary to read this Bill a Second time before that date, even if it be impossible to make further progress with it. Before we separate for Easter, I am very anxious to get the Electricity Bill through its Second Reading. The earlier that Bill gets through its Second Reading, the better, because there will be an enormous amount of work to be done on the Committee stage. If we cannot get that Bill before the end of the month, there should at any rate be no difficulty in getting it the moment the financial business is out of the way. With those few words of explanation, I beg to move.


I am always willing to try not to disappoint the Prime Minister, but when he prophesies that he is going to have my vehement opposition this afternoon, I am not quite sure that he is right. It is perfectly true, as he says, that year after year Governments have found it necessary to take some part of private Members' time before Easter. He was a little unkind, I think, about his reference to Fridays. I do not want to rake up these old days, but I would remind the House that we were most unwilling to take those sacred Fridays, and we only took them because we wished to have a bargain with hon. Members opposite, and that the Resolution which we moved should be unanimously accepted. It was under pressure from them that we put the Fridays in the Motion. It was only because the Prime Minister was good enough to throw his mind back upon that matter that I myself was compelled to throw my mind back upon it. There was no grievance one way or the other.

The fact of the matter is that for some years—I do not think it was the case last year—private Members' time has had to be taken. Surely that means—does it not—that the whole question of business before Easter should be considered. If it be a good year, and there be exceptional circumstances—either more Supplementary Estimates than usual, or that the Chairman of Committees is more a poacher than usual, as I believe he has been this year, in putting down Private Bills before Easter—then that exceptional case, if made out, will have to be met. But on the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon—and I quite agree with him, because I have had some experience—this is not a case for exceptional treatment, and that is where the seriousness of the situation comes in. The prospect now is that every year some four, five, or six of the times allotted to private Members by the Standing Orders of this House must be taken from, private Members, in order that the ordinary business of the House shall be dealt with. I think it is the duty of an Opposition to keep pressing the Government—I am sure the Prime Minister would do it if he transferred his seat from that side to this, and nobody would object—to make arrangements by which this constant invasion of private Members' time shall be obviated. I do not want to make suggestions how it shall be done, but the Prime Minister will remember that he did ask us to meet one week earlier than was originally intended to enable us to get our business through, and we did it gladly. Now it seems that was not enough, and four evenings are to be taken from private Members.

I have risen, because I want to press upon the Government that it must not in an easy-minded way imagine that it can come down here year after year, and make this Motion. Some arrangement ought to be made—I would suggest that the Session should start earlier—so that certain necessary preliminary business can be taken, say, before Christmas, and so that then we can get right away on to our financial and other business. There is another serious matter in the present state of congestion of business before Easter. The Prime Minister has read us a most formidable list, not of financial business but of legislative business, that he would like advanced a First or a Second Reading stage. I want business done, but I want business done in decency and in order. To rush business through, and to confine and limit a thorough examination on Second Reading of a Bill like the Electricity Bill is really a serious thing. The House of Commons is a debating Assembly. It is a business Assembly, but it is business after debate and not before debate, and I am sure the Prime Minister will agree it is absolutely essential that the Opposition and the Government's own independent followers should have full opportunities of examining every proposal made, especially in a Bill like the Electricity Bill which affects the organic unity of the business side of our nation before it goes upstairs. A Second Reading should only be given after very ample and generous time for debate. I make these observations, and I shall divide against the Motion, because we must press upon the Government that this cannot be an annual affair. I admit that it is necessary to-day, and that is not why I am dividing—not at all. But I hope, before next year, some people will be able to lay their heads together, and that we shall come to an agreement by 1927 whereby it will not be necessary to have this Motion.


The necessity for moving this Motion to-day has almost become annual, and there appears to be only one way, or perhaps two ways, of avoiding it. The first is that the Government should, as far as they can within the limits of their liberty, restrict the number of Votes that have to be dealt with as Supplementary Estimates. A great deal of the time since the House met has been absorbed by the discussion of a large number of Supplementary Estimates. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury applauds this way of dealing with our national finances on the ground that it tends to accelerate or facilitate the economies which the Treasury desire. One of the effects is that the time of the House is absorbed by the discussion of comparatively unimportant matters at a period when the necessary financial business of the country should be proceeded with in due course. The first suggestion, therefore, I would make to the Prime Minister would be that he should urge upon the Departments the necessity of dealing with their Estimates once for all when they are first presented to the Treasury and that they should cut down the Supplementary Votes as far as possible, and certainly to much closer limits than those of this year.

The second suggestion I would make has already been hinted at by the Leader of the Opposition, and it is that we might well start our Session according to the precedent, not of this year, but of that which the Prime Minister himself set up some 15 months ago. We have never heard any good reason why the experiment made then has not been followed out in the present Session. Surely it does not pass the wit of man to take some of the preliminaries of our Session's work, as, for instance, the Debate on the King's Speech, before Christmas. Let us get that out of the way, then we can proceed with the necessary financial business without undue delay. If the Prime Minister, in rearranging the business of the House as recommended by the Leader of the Opposition, will take into account the possibility of improving our procedure, giving us more time, and reserving to private members their rights which are now being reduced to a minimum, by getting rid of the necessary financial business before Christmas, he will bring about a reform which will meet with approval in every part of the House.


It may be a matter for amusement to hon. Members opposite that the voice of a single private Member should be heard when this Motion is being brought forward, but to me it is a matter of surprise that there are not a dozen private Members who wish to get up and protest. I think this, is a fitting occasion for a private Member to say what he thinks about this Motion. I was completely unimpressed by the arguments which the Prime Minister brought forward. He said, first of all, that it had been necessary to introduce this Motion in the days of the War. Obviously, there were considerations ruling then which do not rule to-day. He also quoted, as a precedent, the Labour Government when they came into office, completely forgetting that they had a very brief period in which to prepare their financial business. Those were excep- tional circumstances and do not form reliable precedents for this Motion. I believe this Motion gives an opportunity for raising one or two matters which I trust you, Mr. Speaker, will rule in order, this being the only occasion that we can bring them into discussion. The first is a question relating to Parliamentary Questions. Private Members' rights are not only being encroached upon—


Parliamentary Questions are governed by a separate standing Order. They are not dealt with by this Motion at all.


I was not going to discuss the Standing Order relating to Parliamentary Questions. I was going to point out that, quite apart from the Standing Order, private Member's rights are being encroached upon in this way. A diligent Member will put down a question on a subject which, perhaps, he has been watching over a long period of months. Then, when the Minister is ready to make his answer, he invites some Member on his own side of the House or a leading Member of the Opposition to ask a question, and thus takes the matter entirely out of the hands of the private Member.


That has nothing whatever to do with this Motion.


Then I will leave that question I only touched upon it as showing that this is not the only respect in which private Members' rights are being encroached upon. I have a long list of them here, but, in view of your ruling, as they are all parallel or relating to the question I have already raised, I shall have to take some other opportunity of trying to make my protest in connection with them.


I understand from this Motion that the total amount of private Members' time to be taken on the four evenings in question amounts to about 11 hours. Surely, there is another way in which the situation might be met, though I am not sure whether the suggestion I am going to make will meet with the approbation of Members of the House or of the shorthand writers upstairs. It is that, if the Government want to gain 11 hours, they might do it in one week by meeting at Twelve o'Clock. That would mean that they would get exactly another 11 hours. I do not know whether the Government would be prepared to consider that?


I hope we shall not divide on this Motion before we get some reply from the Government Bench on this question of re-organising the time of the House. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) have both pointed out what I think all old Members of this House know full well, namely, that, if we met in December, and got through the Debate on the King's Speech and, perhaps, took the Second Readings of some of the big Government Bills, we should be able then to preserve private Members' time and also time for dealing with financial business. As it is, we cannot get any big Bills to Committee upstairs until after Easter, and we lose, therefore, all these early months of the year, when we could be dealing with the Committee stage of important Bills as well as allowing time to private Members.

There is one point which I think might have been made in reply to the Prime Minister. He says he is taking only four evenings, and that, although he is a sinner, he is only a little one as compared with some of his predecessors. As a matter of fact, however, I think this is the first Session in which the Eleven o'Clock Rule has been suspended regularly every evening, thereby depriving private Members of the opportunity of debating on the Motion for the Adjournment, which has previously been a rather useful addition to the ordinary private Members' evenings. This Session has been quite exceptional in that regard, and I think that if, when the Government are considering the re-arrangement of the time of the House, and are proposing to start the new Session earlier at the end of this year, they would also bear in mind that these Debates on the Motion for the Adjournment are very often the only means a private Member has of voicing something of vital importance to his constituents, they will be doing a real service to private Members, and, if we could get any form of pledge in that direction, we should be very glad to let the Prime Minister have his four days now; but what we want is such an arrangement next year and in future years that private Members shall have a better chance, and that we shall end this age-long habit of pretending to give facilities to private Members and then taking them away with a smile after they have been given by Standing Orders.


I want to add a word on the point that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I asked the Prime Minister a question the other day on business about the deprivation which private Members suffer through the loss of the half-hour's Adjournment Debate owing to the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule, and on that occasion he replied with exactly the same arguments that he has used to-day in asking for these four evenings. I assumed from his answer that the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule was going to be a sufficient taking of private Members' time, without this further demand upon the very few evenings that we have, and, if I might put in a perfectly orderly fashion the point that was put by the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) in a disorderly fashion, when one comes to look at the position of a back-bencher, deprived of the half-hour on the Motion for the Adjournment, deprived of the evenings allotted by ballot, and deprived of full and adequate answers from Cabinet Ministers to Questions put down on the Order Paper, the private Member is more and more being reduced to a mere cipher in this House. The House of Commons is changing its character and its functions in a very alarming way, which will reduce it, in the ultimate, to a mere nonentity, a mere cheering machine for an all-powerful Cabinet, and I, for one, want to lodge my protest. One or other of these deprivations might have been accepted as being a legitimate concession that the Government of the day might ask from the private Members of this House, in order to facilitate business, but, when the Prime Minister comes along and asks us to give up all our rights, I think it is going much too far.


Before the Prime Minister answers, may I ask him whether he will consider, if he is really thinking of a change in the procedure of the House, the possibility of transferring some of the business of the Estimates to a Standing Committee of all parties upstairs, as it seems to me that that is the only possible way?


I want to ask the Prime Minister, with regard to the Electricity Bill, taking what has been adumbrated as contained in that Bill, whether he would take the risk of asking the Government to put the Closure on that Bill? Does he consider the question of the Vacation of more importance than that Bill?


With the permission of the House, I may, perhaps, reply in two or three minutes to one or two of the observations which have been made. With regard to the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), the experiment was tried some years ago of having an Estimates Committee upstairs, though not, perhaps, on the lines he suggests. That experiment was not a success. With regard to the point raised, not for the first time, as to meeting in the morning, the difficulty, as hon. Members know, of asking the House to meet at Eleven or Twelve o'Clock is that, even with the House meeting at a Quarter to Three, it is difficult enough for Ministers to get through their business in their offices. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), while I have every sympathy with him, I think that, when his experience in this House has been as long as mine, he will know that ciphers change in size, and I remember that ciphers which years ago were the size of an egg are now the size of a balloon.

I am very reluctant to ask the House to take this step, but the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who is leading the Liberal party this afternoon, have both put their finger on the spot. Of course, there are only two ways in which this annual trouble can be avoided. One is to meet for the new Session in the early winter, and the other is to bring the financial year into accord with the calendar year. That, indeed, would be an earthquake in our finance, but it may be that it may come. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said he thought that we had not asked for any time last year. He is very nearly right; we only asked for one evening, and I attribute that to the fact that the House did meet at the beginning of the winter, before Christmas. The practical difficulty of that is that in these days, when every Government attempts to do more in the way of legislation than it can accomplish in a given time, every Government finds itself, by the end of July, in such a state of congestion with its business that it is almost compelled to carry over business into the autumn. It would be possible, of course, to deal with business thus carried over in the autumn and then adjourn for a short time and meet again. These are matters which, I think, might well be considered this year, and I shall be very glad to take counsel with the Leaders of the Opposition parties on the subject. It is always my desire to do what I can to make the necessarily difficult progress with business as easy as possible for the bulk of the Members of the House, and I will devote some attention to it in the months that are to come.


What about the Electricity Bill?


I would remind the Prime Minister that the reason why last Session went so late into the year, and why the House did not meet in December, was because the Chancellor of the Exchequer was introducing new taxes at the end of the year. That was what kept the House busy very nearly up to Christmas, and, if that practice is to be followed, it will be impossible for our Sessions to start in the Autumn.

Question put, That on Tuesdays, 16th and 23rd, and on Wednesdays, 17th and 24th March, Government Business do have precedence.

The House divided: Ayes, 220; Noes, 97.

Division No. 68.] AYES. [4.27 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Davies, Dr. Vernon Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Howard, Captain Hon. Donald
Ainsworth, Major Charles Edmondson, Major A. J. Hudson, R.S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)
Albery, Irving James Elliot, Captain Walter E. Hume, Sir G. H.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Erskine, Lord (Somerset Weston-s.-M.) Hurd, Percy A.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W.Derby) Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Iliffe, Sir Edward M.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Everard, W. Lindsay Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.
Apsley, Lord Fairfax. Captain J. G. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Falle, Sir Bertram G. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Balniel, Lord Fermoy, Lord Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Kindersley, Major G. M.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. King, Captain Henry Douglas
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Ganzoni, Sir John. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Gates, Percy Knox, Sir Alfred
Berry, Sir George Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Lamb, J. Q.
Betterton, Henry B. Gee, Captain R. Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)
Blundell, F. N. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
Boothby, R. J. G. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Goff, Sir Park Loder, J. de V.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Gower, Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere
Brass, Captain W. Grace, John Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman
Brassey, Sir Leonard Grant, J. A. Lumley, L. R.
Briggs, J. Harold Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen
Briscoe, Richard George Greene, W. P. Crawford Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Brittain, Sir Harry Grotrian, H. Brent MacIntyre, Ian
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol,N.) McLean, Major A.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Gunston, Captain D. W. MacRobert, Alexander M.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-
Buckingham, Sir H. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Bullock, Captain M. Hammersley, S. S. Malone, Major P. B.
Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Harrison, G. J. C. Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hartington, Marquess of Meyer, Sir Frank
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Campbell, E. T. Haslam, Henry C. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hawke, John Anthony Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Moore, Sir Newton J.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Moore-Brabazon Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Henn, Sir Sydney H. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by) Murchison, C. K.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hills, Major John Waller Nelson, Sir Frank
Chilcott, Sir Warden Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Cope, Major William Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Holland, Sir Arthur Penny, Frederick George
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Holt, Captain H. P. Percy Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Dalkeith, Earl of Hopkins, J. W. W. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Pielou, D. P. Smithers, Waldron Wallace, Captain D. E.
Pilcher, G. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Pownall, Lieut-Colonel Assheton Spender-Clay, Colonel H. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Preston, William Sprot, Sir Alexander Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Price, Major C. W. M. Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden,E.) Wells, S. R.
Ramsden, E. Stanley, Lord (Fylde) Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H
Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Rice, Sir Frederick Steel, Major Samuel Strang Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Streatfeild, Captain S. R. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Ropner, Major L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H. Wise, Sir Fredric
Salmon, Major I. Tasker, Major R. Inigo Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Templeton, W. P. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Sandeman, A. Stewart Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton) Woodcock. Colonel H. C.
Sanderson, Sir Frank Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Sandon, Lord Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell- Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Tinne, J. A.
Savery, S. S. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major Hennessy and Captain Margesson.
Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Waddington, R.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Rose, Frank H.
Ammon, Charles George Hardie, George D. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Attlee, Clement Richard Harney, E. A. Scrymgeour, E.
Baker, Walter Harris, Percy A. Scurr, John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hayes, John Henry Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Barnes, A. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Barr, J. Hirst, G. H. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Batey, Joseph Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Snell, Harry
Bromley, J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Buchanan, G. Kelly, W. T. Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kennedy, T. Stamford, T. W.
Cape, Thomas Kenyon, Barnet Stephen, Campbell
Cluse, W. S. Lee, F. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Livingstone, A. M. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Collins. Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Lowth, T. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Cove, W. G. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Thurtle, E.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Mackinder, W. Tinker, John Joseph
Dalton, Hugh MacNeill-Weir, L. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Maxton, James Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel Harry Montague, Frederick Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Dennison, R. Morris, R. H. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Dunnico, H. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Naylor, T. E. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Forrest, W. Palin, John Henry Windsor, Walter
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Paling, W. Wright, W.
Gibbins, Joseph Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gillett, George M. Ponsonby, Arthur
Gosling, Harry Potts, John S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Warne.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Purcell, A. A.
Groves, T. Remnant, Sir James
Grundy, T. W. Riley, Ben

Remaining Resolutions agreed to.