HC Deb 19 July 1929 vol 230 cc782-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Third Reading of the Colonial Development Bill may be taken immediately after the consideration of the Bill, as amended, notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the Report and Third Reading stages of such a Bill."—[The Prime Minister.]


Before this Motion is put, I should like to raise a point of Order. The Colonial Development Bill was passed in Committee last night. It has not been possible to reprint it as amended, there has been no opportunity of putting any Amendment down, and the Government, while the Bill was going through Committee yesterday, definitely promised that certain Amendments should be discussed on the Report stage. We have not seen these Amendments on the Paper. Yesterday, we had the Bill discussed in Committee, the day after its Second Reading, so that it was very difficult to get Amendments on the Paper then, which was not so much an inconvenience to the House as to the Minister concerned. It was not his Department, and consequently he could not be coached by his Department on the various manuscript Amendments. This is worse. Here it is impossible for any Amendment to be put on the Paper, and I understand it is the usual practice of the House not to take on the Report stage any Amendments that are not on the Paper, so that the Report stage becomes futile so far as amending the Bill is concerned. I submit that we ought not to take the Colonial Development Bill on its Report stage before it has been printed and before the Government Amendments have appeared on the Paper, and that private Members ought not to be deprived of their legitimate right of putting down Amendments to the Bill so that they may be discussed.


The right hon. Gentleman has raised a point of considerable substance, and I am rather surprised that the Prime Minister did not give his reasons for putting down the Motion, which is of an exceptional nature. I want to make our position clear. Ordinarily, we should have opposed this Motion, and we hope it will not be taken as a precedent if we do not oppose it today. The reason for our action is this. We have been regarding all this legisla- tion directly affecting unemployment as emergency legislation, and we have given every assistance to getting the business through. There is another reason which would have no weight if we had not the substantial reason I have already given. I understand that, if the Bill cannot leave this place to-day, it will delay proceedings in another place, and it would mean that all Members, and all the staff of the House, and the personnel, would be kept in London over the week-end for nothing else than just to complete this Bill on the Monday or Tuesday, it might be, of the week after next. For these reasons, we do not propose to offer any opposition to this Motion to-day, but we hope the Prime Minister will say it is an entirely exceptional circumstance and that he has no intention at all of making it a precedent, because the arguments put by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) are perfectly substantial, perfectly sound, and perfectly good.


Discussion at this stage is irregular as I understood from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) that he was raising a point of Order, There is really no point of Order about it. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, he can discuss the Motion when I have put the Question.


I have no objection to the Motion. What I object to is taking the Report stage. The Motion is that the Report stage be followed by the Third reading. That does not matter a bit. The real difficulty is that no Amendment can now be taken on the Report stage, I understand.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald)

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I have said nothing in moving the Motion, because I understood it would be better if the explanation came afterwards. When this Resolution was handed to me, I naturally took objection to it myself on the very ground raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend, but the circumstances mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition arose before me, and, in addition to that, I was assured that it had been the subject of discussion by the representa- tives of various Departments and that they had agreed that the considerations mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition were so very grave that the Motion was justified. I want to assure the House that it will certainly not be taken as a precedent. It is only under the circumstances that I ask the House to pass it.


May I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government Amendments that were promised yesterday will be moved to-day?


Yes, they will be moved to-day. I understand that various pledges were given yesterday, and the Amendments were agreed to. They will all appear on the Report stage.


May I ask you, Sir, to give a Ruling on the point whether it is in order to allow the Report stage of a Bill before the Bill is printed and available to Members of the House.


It would be quite in order if a Motion of this kind were put on the Paper.


I do not think this Motion has anything to do with the Report stage; it deals with I he interval between the Report and Third reading. I want to know whether it is in order for the Report stage normally to be taken before the Bill is printed.


Yes, that would be in order.


We en these benches have agreed to the course that is being taken, but we do so under duress, and I think a stronger protest than has yet been made should be voiced in order to prevent a recurrence of these circumstances. A Bill which is a very important one, with consequences extending over a long series of years, and by no means limited to immediate emergency legislation, was presented, the Second Reading was parsed by the House, and the Committee was taken on the day immediately following with no sufficient opportunity for the consideration of Amendments. Many Amendments had to be moved in manuscript without having appeared on the Paper. The Report stage is taken on the day immediately succeeding again, without any opportunity of seeing the Bill in print in its amended form as it passed through Committee, and the Third Reading is to be taken on the same day as the Report stage. I am surprised to learn that this is essential in view of arrangements in the other House, for the other House has the whole of next week for dealing with these Measures. This is a Measure which arouses no controversy in any quarter. It may indeed be certified as a Money Bill, in which case the other House would have no reason to discuss it at all. Although we agree to the proposal, I think it should be made known that it is most distasteful to the whole House and ought not to be repeated on any future occasion. Frequently, at the end of the Session protest is made in another place against legislation being unduly hurried there to meet the convenience of the House of Commons. I think, if in future such protests are made in another place, this instance may be quoted in the other direction, and it may be accounted unto us for righteousness.


I should like to clear up one point. The Government withdrew a manuscript Amendment in order that it might come on the Paper and be considered, and various other hon. Members did not press Amendments in order that they might be able to consider the Amendment the Government intended to put down. Are we to understand that that Amendment is going to be moved on the Report stage although it has not yet appeared on the Paper, and, if so, can some arrangements be made so that we may be able to see the Amendment, and consider it before the Report stage comes on?

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. J. H. Thomas)

I do not know the exact details. The Prime Minister explained that he looked upon this Measure as emergency legislation, and that is, I think, the spirit in which everybody has accepted it. I understand that arrangements are being made for copies of the Amendment to be made, so that they may be distributed and in the hands of hon. Members interested before the Report stage is completed. It is the best that we can do under the circumstances.


I should like to refer to the very difficult position in which some of us are placed. I had an Amendment on the Paper yesterday with refer- ence to forced labour, and I withdrew it on the understanding that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would endeavour to frame an Amendment which would meet the views of all parties. Whether he will be successful in doing that I do not know, particularly in view of the fact that he was most anxious to have an Amendment which would meet the views of all parties in the House, which seem to me to be widely divergent in some respects. If the Amendment is not satisfactory to every hon. Member interested, what is our position? Can we still bring up our own Amendments at a later stage or not? I only raise this question, because I think we are placed in rather a difficult position.


The Amendment to which the hon. Member referred is covered by my previous statement and will be circulated. I cannot say at this stage whether it will meet with the acceptance of everybody. I hope that it will. The best that I can do at this stage is to say, "Wait and see—and hope".

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Third Reading of the Colonial Development Bill may be taken immediately after the consideration of the Bill, as amended, notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the Report and Third Reading stages of such a Bill.