§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move.That this House regrets that the growing difficulties in the coal industry and the increasing distress and unemployment amongst the miners have been neglected by the Government, upon whom, particularly after its actions of last year, a special responsibility rests; and calls for immediate action to secure an efficient organisation of the industry and of the sale and use of its products; and to deal with the embarrassing condition of local relief authorities, the recruitment of labour, and the treatment of the vast number of miners on short time and out of work.I think there will be no division of opinion on any side of the House that the coal industry is in a very critical and a most unhappy position, nor can there be any division of opinion that the coal industry cannot be dissociated or isolated from our general national industries. I do not think there will be any division of opinion on this much more serious statement that the coal industry to-day is passing through a transforma-which requires careful consideration and handling, not only by those who have money invested in it, not only by those whose labour is employed in it, but by the Government itself.
The days when people used to talk about industry being dissociated from politics are as dead as Queen Anne. What we raise by this Resolution is the coal situation, but if this Government and this House imagine that you can discuss the coal situation and deal with it by a Departmental reply, that shows once again how utterly incompetent the Government are either to understand or handle this problem. I have been told to-day that the Government reply is going to declare that its only conception of the coal situation is the Board of Trade conception. We are going to raise issues to-day which are not Board of Trade issues at all. Nobody knows better than the Prime Minister that he never can answer our attack unless he answers it himself as a representative of his Cabinet and his Government. The country is a spectator of all this. My first point is that in the arrangement that has been made by the Government 1068 for the Debate to-day the nation has once more got a demonstration of how blind the Government are to the problems with which they have to deal.
The present situation has not arisen since last year or since the dispute of 1925. The present situation has been heralded through a goodly number of years by a procession of worrying events, one after another coming up rank upon rank, which every man with eyes to see and a mind to comprehend, must have understood. Last year the Government took a certain view at the end of that procession, and at the time when the procession showed itself to be critical. The Government view was this: "Accept lower wages, accept longer hours, and we will guarantee a better condition of the industry." The other day I was reading a speech delivered by a representative of the owners' association. It showed that that is the frame of mind of the owners officially even now. We were told miners' wages must still come down, and, not only that, but that the wages of outsiders who co-operate in the handling of the coal, in the haulage of the coal, and in the transport of the coal must also come down. In fact, what this nation is up against is that there is on the part of very important people, very powerful people organised in this country, a view that you can make national industry flourish upon sweated conditions. Last year we fought the Government upon this and we said: "You are making a mistake. When you get wages down, you have to improve the condition of the industry." You have got the wages down and there is this Debate to-day, and there is not a single fact that any of my hon. Friends behind me can bring forward in this Debate up to eleven o'clock to-night that is new to 1927. Everyone of them was brought before the House and the Prime Minister last year was asked to consider them seriously in an economic setting and not in a political aspect and he refused to do so. To-day you have production increased. To-day you have overhead charges reduced. To-day we are producing coal at less cost per ton than we did last year. To-day our coal is selling in foreign markets at shillings per ton more than it did last year. To-day British coal is being sold in Berlin, not at 6d. less than German coal, not at a 1069 penny or two less than the foreign producer can sell his coal, but I am informed by one whose word I take that when he was in Berlin the' other day he found English coal was being sold at four shillings per ton less than its nearest competitors.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
If there be any doubt about it, I hold in my band an extract from the "South Wales Journal of Commerce," which is pre-eminently a mineowners' journal. It says in a leading article:The fact that the much lower price of British coal has not brought salvation to the trade is sufficient proof that factors other than that of cost of production are responsible for the present depression of industry.It goes on to say:It is quite true that the costs of production are comparatively high, but so also are the costs of production in every other country relatively to those ruling in pre-War years, and in so far as labour costs are concerned the figures for this country are more favourable than those of either Germany or the United States. In the States the labour cost is probably to-day at least double what it was in pre-War years. In the Ruhr, according to the latest return of the Westphalian Syndicate, it is at least 40 per cent, more than it was in 1913, whereas in South Wales the last audited return showed an increase over the pre-War level of some 30 per cent.Those are the facts. The Government policy of last year has absolutely failed. They did one thing. We all remember that they asked this House to pass a Mining Industry Bill for eight hours. That was their compensation for standing alongside of the owners and behind the owners in forcing a certain industrial issue to a certain result. What have they done? A question was put to the Minister of Mines the other day as to what effect this Mining Industry Bill had had. The Minister replied, "It is not time to reply." Should I go very far wrong, should I be exaggerating very much if I suggested that the reason he gave that answer was that he had nothing whatever to say.
But there is more than that. The Prime Minister himself in asking this House to accept certain proposals he was then making, made a statement—I have 1070 had it looked up again, lest my recollection or impression betrayed me—which gave us to understand that he had come to a bargain. Here are his words:I have received positive assurances from the owners that on the basis of an eight hours' day"—Then he corrected himself:I have not received them myself but one or two of my colleagues received them before I would consent to introduce this change which I am advocating this afternoon—there are certain districts, producing approximately half the output of the country, in which the men will be offered a continuance of their existing wages for July, August and September and that over more than half of the rest of the country the reduction asked, if one is asked at all, will be something materially less than the 10 per cent, drop that the offer already made by the owners on the eight hour basis contemplated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1926; col. 2148, Vol. 196.]In moving the Third Reading the First Lord of the Admiralty held out to us the prospect, that the operation of the Bill would certainly, if accepted, either reduce unemployment or produce very much less unemployment than any of the other alternatives. Are the Government going to tell us to-day that when they took the action they did last year, both administrative and legislative, they had not persuaded themselves on having received assurances from the owners that lower wages and longer hours were going to relieve the industry of the strain it had to bear then? If they did not, I leave it to the reflection of the country. If they did, I want them to tell us to-day what they are going to do in order to undo their own mistakes of last year. We have had in recent days renewals of a faith in optimism. I am an optimist, but I am not a lotus eating optimist, and the mere declaration of optimism under conditions such as those under which we are to-day is doing the country's energy, the country's heart and the country's will very serious damage indeed.
I ask the Government what is the position. First of all, production. The figures show that, if production can be abstracted from everything else, if the problem of production is solved the moment you can announce certain figures of tons having been sent up from the bottom of the pit to the top of the pit, that problem has been solved, because production merely on figures is not so bad. But everyone knows that solves 1071 nothing at all. First of all, the great problem in coal now is the transference of coal into power, and this country is seriously behind the Continent in experiments in that direction. The question of how coal is to be transformed into oil and into certain other valuable by-products essential to the continuance of national prosperity is not a matter for individual enterprise, is not a matter for simply those who are making profits in coal getting. It is a matter to which no Government who understand the duties of a modern Government can close their eyes and blind themselves. What are the Government doing in relation to this? What interest are they taking in all these scientific experiments and explorations directed to discovering how these black lumps of fossilised vegetable can be translated into power? That is the first thing that must be settled in connection with the coal problem to-day.
The next point is: When the coal is produced, how is it going to be disposed of as coal? We are told a great deal about the competition the British coal-owner has to meet in the market, and by a kind of sleight of hand trick that competition is palmed off as though it were a competition between foreign countries and ourselves. It is nothing of the kind. The figures I gave regarding Berlin show, as a matter of fact, that the competition from which we are suffering is competition between British owners themselves trying to get to the same markets. It is not the competition of the Ruhr versus South Wales; it is the competition of South Wales exporter versus South Wales exporter, and while that competition is going on every advance in production, every reduction in the cost of production is going not to benefit industrial capital, not to benefit labour. It is not going to be controlled and managed as a pool of advantage in which the great producing elements in the country are to share. It is simply going to be used as a pool of advantage which will enable English capitalist or exporter A to cut down his prices against English exporter or capitalist B. The result is that the lower the wages, the longer the hours, the greater the production; there is absolutely no benefit that is going to accrue to the miner or improvement of the social conditions of the trade.
1072 We found that when the Government gave the subsidy. It was simply squandered in internal competition. Hardly a penny of it was paid for the purpose of building up the industry so as to make it stronger to resist the competition it had to meet, and so it is to-day. The Government gave the subsidy, and they permitted the owners to reduce wages and gave them the eight hours' day, and precisely the same economic and industrial result has followed from the second blunder as followed from the first. The owners themselves are beginning to see that, and they are talking now about forming syndicates and cartels, and all that sort of coordinated selling activity. Here, again, the Government responsibility comes in. The Government know perfectly well that if they allow these syndicates to be formed without any sort of social and commonweal control, it is only putting the whole of that industry in the hands of the economic power to use the industry as it likes itself. That is an impossible position for a Government to take up. Industrial efficiency, selling efficiency is all very well, but if that selling efficiency simply means more power for the combined wills of a few individuals to put coal on the home market at any price they like, to put coal on the foreign markets at any price they like, and to have the Government in their pocket as far as hours of labour are concerned, then let us speak in plain terms. That is a system of industrial slavery. In fact, if there be any variance in that interpretation of what is going on it belongs to a dead generation.
There are two questions relating to production—the use of the materials produced and the organisation for selling and marketing materials, and in neither department can a Government of this country in 1927 refuse to take an active and a serious interest, and we want to know from the Government what they are doing in this respect. Then we come to the other point which to-day, of course, is the most serious, because it is the most dramatic. Yet I am bound to say that to-day that which is most dramatic is not always that which goes down to the positive root of affairs. The most dramatic thing to-day is, of course, the condition of the miner and his family. The right hon. Gentleman spoke last year 1073 about a 10 per cent. reduction. How blessed scores and thousands of our people in these islands today would be if that reduction were 10 per cent. The fact of the matter is—I can only give it as I was told by decent, truthful women who have to spend the money and to produce results from Sunday morning to Saturday night—that in great parts of our country to-day while we hear talk about averages and basic prices, and all that sort of thing, that is not what happens to the pocket and the purse of the working miner. I have cases given me where for a run of weeks the net wage was 25s. It is very common to have net wages varying from. 25s. to 30s. a week. I have a letter which came for me since I arrived in the House this afternoon—I happen to know, I think, the writer. I do not say it is an average; I do not want to exaggerate the case at all, because a case stated in the most minimum way is the strongest case in the matter we are raising now. The writer says:I should like to ask certain Members what their wives would do with 6s. 5d. for a wife and family to live on. I have not averaged £1 a week since April. Our wives and children are destitute, with nothing to look forward to but drudgery and misery. We are trying to exist on, as we cannot live. I know two cases who have committed suicide during this last fortnight through low wages and getting into debt and no signs of getting out. I am cutting my name off the checks, as I know what they would do if they found me out.With that letter the writer enclosed two checks. The first shows a gross wage of 15s. 4d. for the week.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The hon. Member does not live on shifts. He lives on half-crowns, or pounds or five-pound notes. If there is no shift, that is one of the tragedies. If the hon. Member has discovered any other way of living, I would like very much if he would communicate it to me, because I should benefit very much from it. If I have no order for my work, at the end of the week when I have to make my income, it means that at the end of the month when the cheques come in, I am short of cheques, and have to do without necessities. Shifts or no shifts, there is his pay-sheet and his week's wage. On his pay-sheet is 15s. 4d. He did not pocket that, however. He has various deductions—they are all in front 1074 of me—and all the money he pocketed to enable his wife and children to live decently was not 15s. 4d., but 13s., after deductions were made. That is the first sheet. It was dated the end of last month. The second one is dated this month. In this case the gross wage obtained is 8s. 9d. and the net wage paid, the actual money handed over, is 6s. 5d. I am not saying that is an average—not at all. It is not. I am simply saying that in the ordinary operation of your industry—and I give my own experience in the last three or four weeks—you will hardly go through a single mining village, I do not care whether it is South Wales, Durham, Northumberland, without getting cases like these.
Then as to unemployment. The figures were given again to-day, and I will not take up the time of the House by repeating them. But on that we have got to remember three things. First, the actual figures as registered, and, secondly, the figures of short time, like these. These were short time checks. But there is more than that, and this is really where the Government must exercise some forethought. This is what is going to happen. I have heard, since the beginning of this week, of a pit employing, when it is fully working, 1,200 men, or thereabouts, and another pit, also when fully employed employing something like 1,800 men, where notices have been posted or are about to be posted that both pits will have to be closed. Therefore, the Government in considering the whole situation must not merely consider the figures that are registered; they must consider the figures that are going to be registered. They must anticipate, because all these movements and figures are absolutely meaningless unless this meaning is attached to them. The whole of the industry is in a state of flux and readjustment, and it must emerge at the end somewhat different in its organisation and proportions from what it was before the War.
Therefore, in dealing with the coal industry to-day, the Government have to deal with the question of the adjustment of population to new industrial conditions. We have been hammering at this for a long time. The other day, in the Debate on the Insurance Bill, my hon. Friend, who replied for the Ministry, produced a book which I wrote, I think, somewhere about 1912. I am awfully 1075 glad that these books are read with such study and consideration in Government Departments. I wish I was more convinced of the sound effect of the reading of the ideas, but I stand by that. Given industry as a going concern, there are two risks, first of all, the risk of fluctuation, and, secondly, the risk of very temporary dislocation like a coal-shaft geting into disrepair. But given industry under these conditions, you can insure for unemployment, because the thing you are insuring is something to which you can give a mathematical meaning.
That is not your problem at all to-day. That is only a little bit of your problem. The problem to-day is that a great crowd of people is being recruited and amplified from both ends, which is not unemployed in that sense at all, but is out of industry. You are giving very old men—you get them in hundreds in these mining districts—who have been in industry and are insured. They never will be in industry again. They are not yet ready for old age pensions. The right hon. Gentleman can bring down his age for old age pensions as low as the finances of the country will allow him, and yet those people are not touched by this beneficence. What are you going to do about them? You cannot make them a burden upon insurance funds which were intended, not to meet those people's needs and circumstances, but a totally different industrial risk carefully valued out. Then, from the other side, you are having a still more ominous crowd of young people, boys and girls, who have never been in industry at all, who will never be insured, and will never put themselves in the position of being insured persons as industrial workers.
What are you to do about them? You have that standpoint illustrated very tragically indeed in the present coal situation. You go to the mining villages now, and you will see. I will give a little illustration of a pit that before it was closed was employing round about 900 or 950 men. That was the standard of employment. It is now employing 250. Men go there day after day religiously, although they know it is all humbug and a farce, lest there should be a vacancy—it might be due to an accident in the pit—of some kind or other, and ask for a chance of being taken on and are turned away. If they live for the next 1076 20 years, that is going to be their experience. On the other hand, you go to your recreation grounds, those small places cut out from the sides of the mountain. I have an actual case in point. I see it in front of me as I address this House. This little ground, cut out from the side of the mountain, is full, at the middle of the day, of young people who have passed the school age, young people who normally would have been down the pit assisting their fathers and being taught the art and mystery of coalmining. They were not in the pit, and were without the ghost of a chance of ever going down the pit with tools to enable them to become coalminers. Right hon. Members sit calmly and wait until the laws of God operate, because they cannot devise laws of man to meet the circumstances of the situation. That crowd of uninsurable persons is a national concern. It is not a local concern; it is a national concern.
We want to know what the Government are doing in order to fulfil their responsibility to unemployed miners. What they are doing now is this. They are knocking many off the insurance, and are considering a Bill which will systematically drive men on to the Poor Law. Then the right hon. Gentleman comes along—from a strict red tape position, I do not quite know that he would challenge it very much—and says, "Oh, the Poor Law is not meant to be for you." Of course, it was not meant to be. The only thing we object to is that he finishes his song in the middle of the tune. What was meant for you? We say that the Government's policy in this respect is a most disastrous policy. Knock them off the insurance fund! Put them on the Poor Law! Then put a sieve on to the Poor Law; sift them out of the Poor Law, and what beggary and destitution! The Government sit and look on, and makes speeches, sympathetic and optimistic, but keep their hands in their pockets. The opportunity that they had last year to settle this as a quid pro quo was lost. We are now in the same position as we were then, and we ask the Government: What are they going to do? The Government cannot go on merely relieving the unemployment insurance fund. They cannot go on merely relieving the rates. They must produce a positive policy. A policy that remains 1077 negative is bad, but a negative policy has a most positive effect upon the revival of industry.
It is all very well to publish White Papers about Bedwellty. Bedwellty might be the greatest sinner that local government has in this country. What has happened? Owing to the way in which our rates are levied, the very districts that are hardest hit now are having the heaviest burdens imposed upon them. I think it is a very open question—the Colwyn Committee came as near to the truth as any Committee ever came—that direct taxation has a much less evil influence upon industry than a great many people imagine; but a higher rate has a direct, a specific, and an unescapable evil effect upon industry. They go to Bedwellty, they go to Chester-le-Street, and they say to the miner, "Off insurance."
The board of guardians are upset. The board of guardians give the relief. The board of guardians refuse to give relief that is neither one thing nor the other. The board of guardians feel that, if it is going to be relief at all, it ought to be a satisfactory relief. But we know perfectly well that if that policy is continued up will go the rates, and, if rates go up and trade is bad, the property paying the rates goes down in value, and the basis of rateable value is reduced. Therefore, the cost of unemployment and bad trade gets steadily shifted off the big properties on to the small properties, when the big properties are doing their level best to throw off these titanic powers of bad trade that seem to be fixed upon them and trying to reduce their cost of production and trying to conduct industry efficiently. In the very worst places those big industrial concerns are crushed down by the evil effect of the bad trade through which we are passing. Can any economic and industrial policy be more insane than that, which is the policy the Government are pursuing?
The Exchequer has to come to the aid of local government, but we want to know what the Government are doing. What are they proposing to do? With all due respect, the President of the Board of Trade is not the Minister who can answer this question. From another point of view, everybody with some sort of strength of mind and determination who faces this problem will see that it is essential that there should be a very close and a very intimate exchange of opinion 1078 between the owners and the men. The Government this year were terribly moved in their hearts and souls—I am sorry not only because of the reason why I was not here, but because of the pleasure I should have had in sitting here to hear that this moral exercise was being pursued by the Government—because one workman coerced and boycotted another workman. That is so contrary to British tradition that this Government produced a Bill to make it impossible for a trade unionist who did subscribe to political funds to boycott one who did not. If the Government's principle was sound, it was also equally sound regarding employer and workman.
What is going on in the coalfields to-day—in Durham, Northumberland? In South Wales—I aim speaking now not from correspondence and from what I have read—you get employers who say, "You belong to the Labour party?" "Yes." "You were an official in the lodge, were you not?" That is the Miners' Union. "Yes." "Well, you can come here for the next quarter of a century, but there is no work for you." A man, a leader of his chapel, a man who has been employed for years and years in the pit, a man whom I am perfectly willing to confess when we got into trouble with what we call extremists and all those blithering people, we used as a good, straight, level-headed man to keep his men firm and to make them proof against all the silly blithering nonsense to-day, is out of employment. He cannot get in. He will not get in. I ask the Prime Minister, does he still believe in all this boycotting sentiment that produced, at any rate, certain Clauses of his Bill of this year? If he does, what has he to say to that? There is a miners' official whom I have known a great many years and who is known to hon. Members on all sides of the House—Mr. Straker, the secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Union. Everybody knows Mr. Straker. Everybody knows that he is a quiet, reasonable—I was almost going to say godly—clean man. Mr. Straker wrote in his circular the month before last a statement which really ought to move this House, and which would certainly move the Government if they had any meaning in nine-tenths of the speeches they deliver. This is what Mr. Straker says:If I speak strongly regarding this matter it is because I feel strongly. At some 1079 of our pits—exceptions, I am glad to say—colliery officials in both high and low places are treating the workmen under them in such a tyrannical way that all co-operation between them and their workmen is simply impossible. If I had been told only two years ago that such a reign of blind tyranny could have existed at any of the coal mines of Northumberland, I would have refused to believe it.Co-operation, consultation between employers and men is absolutely essential, and it is being prevented, and the Government gave the owners the power which enables them to do these things. I have seen the condition of certain sections of people in South Wales. I have seen the process of human deterioration. I have seen marvels of bravery in the capacity of the women, which made me feel a prouder man than ever I have felt in my life that these mothers were precisely of the same stock as our own mothers. I have talked to them and I have seen them staring, as it were, into the blank outlook ahead. Families who have been careful have mortgages upon their houses and are being compelled to surrender. They are coming nearer and nearer to the day when the surrender must take place. There are public utility societies going bankrupt. Families have tried to pay, but the vast majority cannot pay. One co-operative society, I am told, has closed its doors. Shopkeepers do not know what to do. They are beginning to be impatient with this House. They are beginning to become impatient with political matters. They are beginning to wonder whether, after all, there is not some swifter and more decisive method. They are living, as I have said, under a reign of terror in some places, and certainly under a reign of boycott.
As far as I am concerned and as far as my friends are concerned we are still in favour of the political method as the only effective method of bringing about changes, economic or constitutional, in this country; but one despairs when one sees men, as I saw them the other day, trudging down from the top of a valley, compelled by the rules of the Labour Department to walk 2½ miles down the valley and the same distance back again, making five miles in all, in order to register their names to qualify for unemployment benefit, with the rain pouring in torrents. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour must understand 1080 and the Government must understand and it would be well for the country to understand these things. If it was that alone, one might get impatient with complaints. Hon. Members must use their imagination and try to visualise what has happened in all these months. These men have had small wages; then there comes the boycotting experience, the men find themselves out of work, they suffer; some of them have been out of work for a year, some out of work for three years, and now they have to turn out in the mornings and trudge up and down that mountain road, five miles, in order to register for unemployment benefit. One can understand the feelings that are growing in the minds of a great many of these men. I am sorry. It is a Government affair; it is not a Departmental affair. There is no Department that can handle this situation. It is a question of Government policy. It is a Cabinet policy that is required, and I appeal to the House, irrespective of party, to make up its mind to mobilise its credit, to mobilise its conscience, to mobilise its intellectual capacity in order to put this industry on a satisfactory and efficient footing.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order. I want to put it to you: Are we not acting perfectly Parliamentarily in our method of procedure?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Is it not according to precedent what we are doing here today? Are we not acting perfectly Parliamentarily?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Motion which has been moved deals with a very serious matter, a matter which the House wishes to hear discussed, but, as I said before, if I am compelled to adjourn the House it will suit me quite well.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
If the miners' representatives do not desire to have the matter discussed in the House, I beg to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Shall I be in order in moving, "That the President of the Board of Trade be not heard"?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That was the view put by the Leader of the Opposition, and hon. Members are entitled to their view, but I called upon the President of the Board of Trade, who rose in his place. The President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is not the case that our Motion is an arraignment of the policy of the Government and not an arraignment of the policy of the Board of Trade? If I am correct in so describing our Motion, is it not perfectly reasonable for hon. Members on this side of the House to ask the head of the Government to reply?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I wish emphatically to protest. The Leader of the Opposition has impeached the Government on a very serious matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—which the country is up against, and we ask the Prime Minister to reply. We will not—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to make a speech. If this disorder persists, I shall immediately adjourn the House. I call upon the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. HARDIE
On a point of Order. Is it not the custom of this House that when a Vote of Censure is moved against the Government, it is replied to in the first instance by the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. MITCHELL BANKS
Is there not a great difference in the procedure of this House between disorderly interruptions on the one hand and the well-known cry of " 'Vide, 'vide"?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is it not a fact that during the debate on Chinese slavery the Liberal party howled down the late Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, because they wanted the Prime Minister to answer? The Prime Minister has been impeached to-day, and he is putting up the President of the Board of Trade, a man who knows nothing whatever about it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I believe I was present on that occasion on one of the benches, and my recollection is that the disorder which then took place did not achieve the purpose designed.
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that during the last two or three mining debates the situation has been handled very badly. The Government have made a regular policy of putting up a Departmental representative, but there are forty men on this side of the House who come from famine areas—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to make a speech now. The President of the Board of Trade.
§ Sitting suspended accordingly at two-minutes after Five o'Clock.1083
On a point of Order. I should like to ask whether in your recollection, Mr. Speaker, there is any precedent for a Vote of Censure being moved in the name of the Opposition, by the Leader of the Opposition, and for the Prime Minister of the day, when present and in a position to take part in the Debate, to refuse to do so?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is not a matter of order for the Chair. I have not looked up precedents, but I think I can recollect other occasions.
While it may not be a matter of order, it is a matter that affects the whole position of the House of which you, Sir, are guardian. We have endeavoured to find a precedent, we have failed to do so, and I submit to you, very respectfully, that the Motion is a censure on the Government as a whole, and that that Motion, moved by the Leader of the Opposition, indicted the Government, exploring the whole field. The Minister who is called upon to reply—he will quite understand that I make no personal reference—I understand on his own previous request, but certainly on the instruction of the Government, when the difficulties that we are dealing with to-day were a subject of debate last Session—the Minister who is replying to-day was prohibited from taking part.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
On a point of Order. Arising out of what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said, is there any precedent in the history of the House, when the Government have been asked to give a day for the discussion of a matter of interest to the Opposition, for the Opposition to dictate the order of the speeches to the Government?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That, again, is not a matter of order for the Chair. I have called upon the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There cannot be a point of Order. As hon. Members apparently do not wish the Debate to proceed, under the powers of the Standing Order I adjourn the House.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seven Minutes after Six o'Clock.