HC Deb 19 June 1931 vol 253 cc2105-99
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

I beg to move, That, notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order of this House, Standing Order No. 27a, relating to the power of the Chair to select amendments, shall apply with respect to the proceedings in the Standing Committee to which the Consumers' Council Bill is allocated. In rising to move this Motion, I note that there is on the Order Paper an Amendment, amongst several, in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in which he makes a claim for free discussion. I should be very much obliged myself, and I am sure the House would be interested, if he would tell us what he means by free discussion. Does it amount to this, that open and confessedly dilatory tactics may be pursued, and if they are pursued, either here or in any Committee of this House, they belong to what is defined as the rights of private Members? The Amendment also refers to the fact that there is a Committee on Procedure sitting at this moment, and that until it has presented its report this House, in order to protect its right of free discussion and its right to have business transacted with reasonable expedition, should do nothing. Nothing that I propose to-day or that I have proposed on a previous occasion is a precedent for what the House may do when the report of that Committee on Procedure is under discussion here.

The Resolution I move to-day is the same as one moved in November, 1930, on the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill. I will not weary the House or disturb hon. Members opposite by quoting from speeches made in connection with that Motion their prognostications of evil and all that sort of thing, but the fact remains that with the assent, I believe, of everybody who sat on that Committee the Chairman exercised the "kangaroo" with great discretion and with a very fine sense of fairness, and the result was a most happy one indeed. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] The experiment was a great success, and I am going to ask the House to repeat the experiment. This Bill has been introduced twice—last Session and this Session. Last Session we tried to get it through without any closure, except the ordinary closures that a Chairman can exercise. The result was that at the end of the third day the following words stood part of the Bill: With a view to enabling the Board of Trade to obtain information in respect to That was the fruitful harvest of three sittings of the Committee last year. The fourth sitting made a further contribution: the production, distribution and With all due respect, that sort of procedure is a farce. Take the present Bill and the work of the Committee up to now. The right hon. Gentleman, in opposing the Resolution in November, 1930, said it was a very bad thing to institute this closure or any kind of closure right away; that first of all a Committee should have an opportunity of showing what they were doing. I am not at all sure that I was wise when I took the right hon. Gentleman s advice. I move this Motion now, not before we have had experience of the work upstairs but after we have had experience of it. In the first four sittings four lines of the Bill were dealt with, and that was only possible because my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is in charge of the Bill, moved one of those jumping forms of closure which is legitimate. After four sittings of the Committee four lines of the Bill have been disposed of, that is, rather less than half a line an hour. [Interruption.] There have been five meetings. The information I had preceded the last meeting of the Committee. I leave the last meeting of the Committee out of account. If I included it, the horrors of my argument would be in no way diminished. At the present rate of progress at least another 100 days of 4½ hours each will be required before the Bill gets through. It may be magnificent dilatory tactics, but it is not business. Again and again in the course of the four days Motions were moved "That the Committee do now Adjourn" and "That the Chairman do leave the Chair," and so on, and there was a peculiarly long, and unfortunately unilluminating debate, upon the functions of ministers of religion in public life.

The dilatoriness was not confined merely to the number of speeches but included the tortoise pace at which some of the speeches were delivered. I have, I think, as great a respect as the right hon. Gentleman opposite for free discussion, but I have no respect whatever for the abuse, palpable and confessed abuse, of free discussion. At the end of the fourth day there were 97 Amendments remaining on the Paper. I cannot profess to have gone through them all, but I looked through about the first half, and found that three-fourths of those are of no substance whatever. In the interests of business, without claiming any unusual powers at all, with a desire that every point which is a point of substance should be discussed, honestly and fairly discussed, but wishing also to protect the Government against any sort of combination which does not mean discussion but block, I have pleasure in moving the Motion.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:— this House declines to invest the Chairman of one Standing Committee with such powers as may result in the curtailment of the rights of Members to the free discussion of one of the chief measures of the Government programme, and declares that it will await the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure before assenting to any such changes in procedure. I rise once more to protest against any form of combination that muzzles discussion in this House. The Prime Minister has asked me to define free discussion. There is nothing so difficult as to define things which all of us can understand and know when we see them. I defy anybody in this House to define what a gentleman is, though there is nobody in this House who does not know one when he meets one, and who does not know who is not a gentleman. I maintain that this Motion is not free discussion. I wish to make a few observations on that point, and I will try to put them into a very few words.

I always feel that it is a very serious thing when any Leader of the House comes down and asks the House to alter the Standing Orders. There are times when this is necessary and when we all do it, but Standing Orders ought never to be altered without close examination or without discussion, and the House taking a deliberate discussion upon it. I think we are all agreed upon that. I may add that we on these benches protest against this procedure because when we put it into force we had an enormous majority, and the present Government are putting it into force with the aid of another party in order to succeed in stifling discussion in the House of Commons. It should never be forgotten that there are already considerable powers upstairs in Committee for the control of debate. The Chairman may accept the Closure, and it is entirely in his power to accept it down to any given point in certain circumstances. That is a power of which the Chairman availed himself by request during the discussion of this Bill upstairs. That is in itself a power which has always been used, which will be used in the future, and which gives considerable weight to the Government of the day. The Prime Minister has already said that that is quite legitimate, and can be done under existing rules.

It seems to me to be an odd thing that the Government are taking this step once more while they have in existence a committee examining procedure, and examining the very things which we are now debating; they are going to report upon them and give their considered opinion upon them. Instead of waiting for the decision of that committee which is considering this question the Government have decided to apply the Closure in this way, although no time would have been wasted by the ordinary method which would have enabled all the clauses to be dealt with effectively, and in a comparatively reasonable time.

I do not propose to follow the Prime Minister in regard to what he said about the proceedings upstairs, but I would like to observe that all his information must necessarily be second-hand, and so is mine. There is another story which will be told by hon. Members, with firsthand knowledge, of what has taken place, and I must confine myself to the general principle. I object most strongly to the curtailing of debate in this way on committees upstairs. I have protested before, and I am protesting now, and I shall probably protest again. We must remember, however, that ill deeds have their consequences, and I am sure in that I shall carry the House with me. There are many practices which we condemn and which we afterwards employ ourselves. Once a practice of this kind has been sanctioned, as it will be sanctioned in the House of Commons, after deliberation, I am afraid it is a practice which will become general, and which we shall employ when we come into office, as we shall do some day. Gradually in this way we get to a curtailment of debate.

I do not think that the Prime Minister has moved this Motion with enthusiasm, and he is not a man who wishes to curtail the freedom of this House. On this occasion the right hon. Gentleman may feel that he has been driven to it, and so gradually we get to our old friend the slippery slope, which ends in bringing our debates into contempt in many places when they see whole passages of important Bills go through without discussion or examination, which results in legislation going through in a form which leads to great trouble in interpretation and litigation, and leads people to say that the House of Commons ought not to send out legislation which has not been properly framed. Therefore, that is a bad thing, and for that reason I shall continue to oppose it.

I have spoken generally, and now I want to say a few words on the particular Bill upon which it is intended to invoke this practice, namely, the Consumers' Council Bill. It is a coincidence, and nothing more, that we are applying this method to the Consumers' Council Bill. That makes one wonder how much the House of Commons will swallow. I have no doubt they will swallow this Bill and a good deal more, but that should not prevent us making our protest. The Prime Minister spoke about dilatory proceedings, but, if there has been any such proceedings, it has been on the part of the Government. The Bill was introduced on the 13th of November last and the Second Reading was not taken until the 30th of March. The Committee stage was only begun on the 3rd of June. If the Government had attached importance to this Bill, they should have introduced it for Second Reading soon after its formal introduction. The House met early, and there was ample time to get the Second Reading and send the Bill up to Committee. It is true that a brief holiday intervened, but there was ample time to get the Bill up to the Committee before the 3rd of June. The Government could have given it preference or they could have set up a fresh Standing Committee, but none of those things were done, and, if there has been any trouble about the Bill, the trouble is not ours. These proceedings make one wonder whether the Government really attach importance to the Bill. It would be interesting to know whether this Bill is intended to be passed through before the summer recess, or whether it is a Bill which will have to be jettisoned before the Session can be brought to an end.

The Bill itself, without going into any details, does affect an enormous number of people. It affects practically all the producers and traders in the country. The President of the Board of Trade, I think, said that it covered about half the number of those persons in the country. That shows the importance of the Bill receiving full consideration. Where a Bill comes to Parliament which really does touch in their daily lives an enormous number of people, there are naturally an enormous number of points which come up, and which deserve consideration. It is not a kind of Bill which ought to be hurried through, and it is not a kind of Bill of which portions ought to be passed without examination, as must result from any process of Kangaroo. It gives great bureaucratic powers to a Government Department. Hon. Members may think that that is good or they may not, but it is a thing which a great many people in this country, of all parties, regard with some apprehension, and at any rate they ought to be satisfied that, before these powers are given, the Bill which gives those powers should have the most careful and meticulous examination in this House.

Of course I am quite aware that there was a certain delay over the Bill last year, but I remember that the Bill was dropped last year with no tears from any bench in the House—none that were visible. Whether there were any that were not seen, I do not know. I will not, as I have said, deal specifically with the question of the dilatory tactics upstairs; there are other Members who can make their case on that matter, and they can be contradicted by hon. Members opposite. The only information that I have is that, more recently at any rate, the Bill has been going with tolerable rapidity. [Interruption.] Of course I quite agree that the terms "tolerable" and "intolerable" are apt to change their meaning according to the portion of the House in which we sit.

There is just one other point, as to the Report stage. We do not know what the Government have in mind with regard to the Report stage, but, of course, a Report stage must vary in its length according to the treatment that the Bill has had in Committee. If a Bill comes down to this House short of examination, if it comes down with any obvious defects, if it comes down with large portions of it unexamined and uncriticised, that Bill must have consideration on Report which, had the Bill been properly discussed in Committee, would not have been necessary. It is an (impossibility to curtail all the stages of a Bill in the House of Commons.

I have yet one other point. Of course this Motion will be carried; there is no question about that. I ask once more whether the Government, if they insist on this procedure and if they are keeping the Bill upstairs during the time that the Finance Bill is running, will agree that, so long as the Finance Bill may be on the Floor of the House, there shall not be any sittings of this Committee upstairs. I need not labour that point. It is an obvious point, and I think it has the general sympathy of Members of the House. Moreover, the Solicitor-General is a member of the Committee upstairs, and, wherever he is a member of a committee, he is bound to be an important member; and I think that in present circumstances it would be quite impossible to conduct any debate on the Finance Bill downstairs without the Solicitor-General. I know that that point meets with agreement from Members of the Government.

In conclusion, I would repeat what I said at the beginning. I regret this procedure for the sake of the House of Commons, and I shall continue to protest against it as long as this Parliament lasts. [Interruption.] I would remind hon. Members opposite once more that, while I can protest against this with a clear conscience, there is not one of them who may be in the next Parliament—I do not know how many they may be—[Interruption]—I shall be very glad to see them—there is not one of them whose weapons are not already knocked out of his hands for any purpose of effective objection to it in the next Parliament.


I have always been in favour of the extension of the kangaroo Closure to Committees upstairs. As far as I am concerned, it is not a question of the merits or demerits of this particular Bill. I cannot imagine why the Chairman upstairs should not be armed with the same powers for getting a Bill through, and for securing full and free discussion, as the Chairman downstairs. The Chairman upstairs has very much wider powers than the kangaroo, and powers which are very much more dangerous and which I think interfere far more with free discussion, if you have a bad Chairman, than the powers which the Prime Minister invites the House to extend to this particular Bill. He has the power, for instance, of applying the Closure to several lines of a Clause. For instance, after discussion of two or three lines, you can move that the whole Clause stand part without the rest being discussed, and he has the power of putting that. Surely that is a very much wider power, and a very much more dangerous power in the hands of an incompetent Chairman, than the power of picking and choosing Amendments, and I cannot understand why you should give that power to the Chairman of a Committee upstairs and deny him this very reasonable power.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he wants full discussion upstairs. This is not the way to get full discussion. I am not making any charge of obstruction, but I have informed myself as to what has happened. There has been a very large series of Amendments, colourably different but not more than that—that clergymen should not be members of the Consumers' Council, that members of rural or parish councils should not be members, that candidates for Parliament should not be members. There has been a month of discussion upstairs, and practically only two or three lines of the Bill have been passed. At that rate, it does not matter when the Government sent it to Committee; we should not have had it back for the whole of this year. That is not full discussion; it is not free discussion; it is really the way to prevent reasonable discussion altogether. The right hon. Gentleman must have spoken ironically when he talked about "express speed." That is the Conservative view of speed. And, really, two or three lines in a whole month is hardly the slippery slope.

I think it is generally acknowledged that there has been no amendment of procedure which on the whole has given more general satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman himself. He slipped into a phrase. I am never a believer in taking advantage of a slip, but it just happened that this slip expressed what I am certain was his view. He said that his objection would continue as long as this Parliament continued. I have not the slightest doubt that, when he comes into power—[Interruption]—I am taking his own estimate, and I like to be courteous. Taking his own view of the future political probabilities—I express no estimate myself—when he comes into office I have not the faintest doubt that he will find it absolutely necessary to extend powers of this kind, and, if I have the good fortune to be in this House then, he certainly will not find me opposing the application of the Kangaroo to proceedings upstairs. I have never done it. I have always been in favour of it, and I make that statement now.

The Prime Minister has moved a Motion of this kind once before this Session. I am only sorry that we could not have a Standing Order which would save the necessity for anything of this kind. On the whole it has worked well in this House. Chairmen of Committees have used their powers fairly, and, I think, to the general satisfaction of the House. I do not think there has ever been a feeling that their powers have been abused, and I do not think they will be abused. I do not like to use the word "obstruction", though we have all done it in our turn, but this kind of what the right hon. Gentleman calls meticulous discussion really means no discussion at all. This kind of minute examination of every word and comma, in a great Assembly of this kind, does not lead to a real discussion of the Measure itself. I can say from experience and observation that it has never really improved a Bill. It has landed governments in concessions which have made Bills worse in order to get them through. I am all in favour of discussion that is real, because I believe the House of Commons can help Governments to make bad Bills less bad, to make indifferent Bills fairly good and good Bills infinitely better, but they can only do it where there are powers vested in the Chair to enable the discussion to be relevant and not to pass it into the hands of—I do not like the use the words "professional obstructionists" but skilled obstructionists, men who have the art of spinning out, men who toil but do not spin on Committees. I support the Motion without any particular reference to the Bill itself, but merely on general grounds, and I think it ought to be adopted.


The right hon. Gentleman was in his youthful days a past-master in the art of spinning out, and speaks on it with authority. I think I remember an occasion when the leader of the Liberal party trounced the right hon. Gentleman severely for prolonged obstruction to a Bill upstairs, and the House much enjoyed both the right hon. Gentleman's performance and the eastigation that was administered to him. When one who has practised the art so assiduously and so successfully delivers his opinion upon it, the House naturally listens with interest, but really the most interesting part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was contained in half a sentence which, as he said, slipped out, perhaps inadvertently. Why he objects to discussion is because it obliges Ministers to amend their Bills. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement of his reason as being the motive which animates the Government in proposing this Motion. Because the object is to prevent amendments being made in ill-considered and ill-worded Bills, I oppose the Motion.


I have been a member of the Committee on both occasions and have sat there hour after hour listening to what seemed to be almost futile Debate. It may be argued by those who are strenuously fighting the Bill that the Minister in charge does not deal with the proposition in a fair and open manner. Last time we had in charge the President of the Board of Trade, and everyone will agree that no more tactful or patient man could be in charge of a Measure. But sometimes you can overdo what is called patience. The right hon. Gentleman used all the tact that he is capable of and he managed to get three or four lines. This time the Bill has been put in the charge of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he has brought to bear upon it something of the breezy manner of the sea. He has tried another method. He has tried to get it forward by being more brusque and more direct than the President of the Board of Trade, but he has not made much progress. It proves to us the utter futility of attempting to be fair or to use reason with the other side in matters like this. They are determined not to allow the Bill to go on the Statute Book. They are quite emphatic about it. If that is so, it is up to us to see that it does go on, and we are determined to get it there. Hence we have brought forward this Motion which I hope will be carried. I come from a class of people who have always believed in fair and open debate, and I am against any attempt to stifle legitimate criticism. I should be the first on the floor of the House to take exception to any attempt like that. But I realise that this cannot be termed fair and legitimate criticism and, if the House is to make any progress at all, it has to make this a business assembly and see that Bills are carried through.

Let me give one or two instances. We have had during these five sittings 20 minute speeches on end from Members like the hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Colfox). I want hon. Members to imagine what a 20 minutes' speech from that hon. Member means. His own friends have squirmed under it as much as we have. On one occasion a member of the Opposition got up and protested against the length of time that he was taking. We, being more gentlemanly in the matter, did not object. The hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) evidently thinks that this is an opportunity for him to give us long speeches. I have seen him so often that he is almost in my dreams now. Then there is the greatest man of all, the ex-President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister), who arouses my admiration every time he gets up to speak by the way in which he can weave words and keep in Order in debate. He is really a wonderful man in that way. If it were not for the delay occasioned, I could very often listen to him, because he is really an attractive speaker. Hon. Members realise that there are distinctions in every great society. There are the good, the bad, and the indifferent, and he is good. That is what happened in the Committee on both occasions. On the last occasion there was not the slightest chance of any progress being made, and, if we are allowed to go on in the same way, it will be several Parliaments before the Bill gets through.

I have figures before me showing what has happened. We have had five meetings, on the 3rd, 9th, 11th, 16th, and 18th of June. There are eight Clauses in the Bill and two Schedules, covering ten pages, with about 40 lines in each page. We have got through about five lines and 40 words, and, relying on that ratio of progress, one realises what length of time it would take to get the Bill through. In the last Session we expressed the opinion from these benches that the Bill was very much needed in the interests of the community. That is our idea, and, if we really mean what we say, it is up to the Members of the House of Commons to use all legitimate means to get the Bill put on to the Statute Book.

I hope that this will be a lesson for the future. I have not agreed with my own party when I have been in Committee, and they have used the same tactics. It is not fair. If we come to do business, let us treat matters as they ought to be treated. If we cannot stop a Bill from getting on to the Statute Book by fair means, at least do not let us stoop to means which are despicable in an attempt to prevent it. If the Government of the day are doing things wrong, the electors will say afterwards what their opinion is upon the matter. The country sends certain people to represent them in the House of Commons, and they should be allowed to have their say, and the time of reckoning will come when they have to go to the country. That is why this morning I am emphatic in supporting a kangaroo Motion for the purpose of lifting Parliament to the status which, I think, it ought to occupy and not be checked and hampered by means which are unworthy of Members of Parliament.


The House has listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and to the tale which he has told of the proceedings in that Committee upstairs. At the same time, I think that I detected smiles through his tears. He obviously enjoyed a number of the speeches delivered in Committee upstairs and derived a certain amount of profit from them. As a member of this much criticised Committee, I feel somewhat hurt and disheartened by the criticisms which we have heard to-day, and particularly by the fun which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has poked at Amendments which have been put down. I remember, not very long ago, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke on a similar Motion there was no question of principle involved. It was a question of whether or not he liked the Bill under discussion. When he was speaking just now, I wondered what he would have said had he disliked the Bill instead of liking it. It comes to this. If in his memorable words he can say, "I like it, I like it," then every form of Closure, Guillotine and so forth is to be recommended, but if, on the other hand, he says "I dislike it, I dislike it," then all the different forms of Parliamentary obstruction are perfectly permissible. The hon. Member for Leigh referred to the conduct of the sittings upstairs by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should be the last person to desire to criticise the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is true that interruptions may have been made during the speeches on our side, and that criticisms may be offered which provoke a certain amount of counter-retaliation. In this case, the quarter-deck manner occasionally has been obvious, as well as the co-operative manner, and retaliation has been forthcoming. I do not put any blame upon the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is merely an instance of the proverb, "That naval communications corrupt good manners."

The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister founded some of his arguments on the precedent of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill. History is strewn with precedents used by rulers to justify most despotic acts, and I am not, as a new Member, very much impressed by the arguments relating to precedents. Precedents may be bad, and, in any event, it is very seldom that the circumstances are the same. In the case of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill the argument was that it was urgent because of the spring sowing and the operations of nature. No such argument as spring sowing or autumn sowing applies to the Consumers' Council Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Autumn sales!"] It may be that the Prime Minister has mixed up the words of the poet and thinks that "In the autumn the tradesman's fancy softly turns to thoughts of lucre." In any event, the arguments which justified the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill procedure have no relation at all to the Motion now before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) has pointed out that the Government themselves have been most to blame for dilatory action, and, also, it is apparent from the terms of the Consumers' Council Bill that there is no inherent urgency for the Bill. There is something to be said for the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill in connection with unemployment. What earthly use is the Consumers' Council Bill to the unemployment problem? No use at all. There is no question of rising prices as was the case during the War to justify a Measure of this kind. On the contrary, it is a question of falling prices, and economists are actually at their wits' end to know how to stop prices from falling. The Bill must, after all, rest upon some main principles. It cannot be that our actions and decisions should be based upon the personal likes or dislikes of any Member of the House for a particular Bill. There must be general principles behind it.

There are four issues upon which I should like to say a few words. The first is one which I feel some diffidence in mentioning. It is the position of Chairmen of Standing Committees. It would be most unbecoming for a new Member to cast any reflection upon the chairman of a Standing Committee, for whom I have the greatest respect, but it is permissible to ask, why is it that the House has made such a distinction between the powers given to Mr. Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees here, and the powers given to the chairmen of Standing Committees? That has been a long practice of the House and it must be based upon some principle of reason. It is also legitimate to infer, without casting any reflection upon the chairmen of Standing Committees, that the House has made this distinction because it believes that the power can be safely entrusted to Mr. Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees in the House, but cannot be so safely entrusted to the chairmen of Standing Committees. Whether that may be due to lack of experience or to the fact that it is part of the duty of the chairmen of Standing Committees to speak and vote in Debates in this House affecting the Bills under discussion in Standing Committee, it is not for me to say, but it is obvious that the House has been of one mind, that there should be a broad distinction between the powers given to Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees and to the chairmen o£ Standing Committees.

In the present case the Government may say that the Bill is of minor importance and that these powers can be entrusted to the Chairman upstairs. In their mouths that excuse cannot hold good, because we have been told ad nauseam that the Consumers' Council Bill affects half the income of the country, and the whole of its inhabitants. Private Members have a right to protest when their liberties are affected by a Motion of this kind. The position of the private back bench Member is not an easy one. He is subject to the ordinary Closure, the chilling frost of which nips the most promising speech, but there are various ways of making his voice heard. In Committee upstairs he has an opportunity to put down Amendments in his own name, as the result of representations from his constituents, and under present procedure he can have them discussed. That is a valuable privilege which this Motion will take away. Moreover, although it is a much smaller point, the Debates upstairs are less terrifying than the Debates on the Floor of the House, and the private Member often gets a valuable opportunity of practising speaking in Committee upstairs which is denied to him here. On general lines, I object to the proposed curtailment of speech because it is a curtailment of the liberty of speech. The Prime Minister will recollect the saying of the ancients, that the greatest misfortune that could befall any man was the loss of the liberty of speech. He might be subjected to any other disagreeable penalties, but if they took the liberty of speech away from him, all was lost.

We are all rather nervous that the country generally is losing its interest in the proceedings of Parliament and not attaching that respect to its Debates that it used to do in the old days. One further method of increasing that lack of respect for the proceedings of Parliament is to deprive Members of the interest that they themselves take in our proceedings. This is another further step down the slippery slope. I can sympathise with the Government in their desire and the desire of every Executive to push forward business and to stifle discussion in order to get on with business. It may well be that Members of the Front Bench on this side see a silver lining in the cloud, because they in their time will utilise this to-day's action as a precedent. None the less, whatever Executive does it, particularly a minority Executive, and especially if it does it with a view to damaging its opponents, it is acting like a blind and stupid Samson by bringing down upon all parties the pillars of the edifice which shelters us.

12 n.


As one who all his life has stood for the freedom and liberty of speech I desire to take part in the Debate. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Ramsbotham) and I wondered whether he has considered the implications of his speech. Has he considered that liberty may develop into licence and that that licence can have the effect of preventing the liberty of other people in speaking? If there was any necessity for giving proof of the fact it is to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the meetings of the Standing Committee which last year considered the Consumers' Council Bill, and the attitude which was adopted by certain Members of the party to which the hon. Member for Lancaster belongs, in exercising freedom of speech to such an extent that it prevented others from speaking. I hope the House will forgive me if I bore them with a quotation from the speech of an hon. Member during the proceedings last year. He was speaking on a very small Amendment relating to the appointed day. This is what he said: It will then be open to argument, first, what should be the authority charged with the appointment of the appointed day, and, secondly, what shall be the appointed day appointed by the appointing authority-appointed to appoint the appointed day? We cannot argue these complicated points about the appointed day till we get the substantive Amendment on the somewhat complicated point of appointments. The Amendment comes into its place at this moment in order to safeguard the appointment later on, and, whatever views we may have upon the wisest date to appoint, we cannot set the Bill in motion before the appointed day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee D), 5th June, 1930, col. 2132.] The hon. Member went on to develop his argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"]. I do not want to mention his name, because he is not present and I have not given him notice that I was going to raise the matter. He is well known. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"]. The hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Colfox). So irritated were the members of his own party at what was admitted to be obstruction—certainly no one could say that it was the reverse of obstruction—that four Members expressed their opinion in no uncertain terms. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) asked the chairman if there was any rule that would enable him to tell the hon. and gallant Member to sit down. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) protested to the chairman, and left the meeting. Another hon. Member representing one of the Divisions of Stoke protested that he had a right to speak. Had not those hon. Members a right to express their opinions? Had not their liberty been impinged upon by the licence that had developed from the freedom to express opinion which, obviously, was not intended to help the proceedings of the Committee?

In my younger days I was influenced by the writings of John Stuart Mill, who said that the suppression of opinion was an assumption of infallibility. John Stuart Mill could not have listened to the Debates in the House of Commons, or to the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams). In the case of the Consumers' Bill I remember that when it was before Standing Committee on a former occasion we have five meetings and did not reach the end of the third line. The Government as a rule had a majority of 25 to eight, and these eight Members were able to prevent the will of the electors being carried into effect, because the Consumers' Council Bill was before the electorate at the general election. Those who voted for the Labour party knew what they were voting for as regards this particular matter. This may be a minority Government but if it gets the support of the majority in the House I think the wisest course has been taken. I do not want to lend any support to the suppression of opinion, but when it can be shown that it is merely the prostitution of an opportunity to prevent things being done it is time that the House of Commons took cognisance of the matter and took steps to deal with it.


I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Tottenham South (Mr. Messer) in his defence of this Motion except to say that we have only had the pleasure of his company in this House for the last two years and, therefore, he does not remember what has taken place in the past. He may have heard an account of the great deeds of two Members who were known as Pringle and Hogge, and he did not know the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) at his best. He would not have expressed such indignation, which was evidently genuine, if he had known what some of his own friends have been capable of in the past.


Does the hon. Member agree that it is right because some of my hon. Friends have done it?


I have not risen to debate that point at all. I want to deal with this matter as one who has been selected for the last two or three years to preside over a Committee upstairs. I am sure that every Chairman does his level best to be fair, but I contend that it is not fair to the Chairman of Committees to put these powers into his hands. There is a great difference between the Chairman of a Standing Committee and the Chairman of Committees in this House. The Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Committees in the House are taken away entirely from the hurly-burly of party politics. They do not contribute to our Debates or vote in the division lobby. They have a position of respect and importance and their decisions are usually accepted unanimously by the House. The Chairman of a Committee upstairs is in a different position.

In recent years there has not been any very serious instances of the sport of chairman baiting—I hope it has by now been relegated to the past along with bear baiting and other forms of cruelty. But it has been practised and accusations have been made against the impartiality of the chairman. I call to mind one particular case. I was presiding over a Bill introduced by the late Government, the Unemployment Insurance Bill, and after a very full discussion on an Amendment I accepted the Closure. Immediately there was an uproar in that Committee, nobody could be heard. The various Motions were carried through in a state of uproar. If a chairman is as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. That is the only time such a drastic form of closure has been necessary, as far as I am concerned, but I know nothing more calculated to bring protests from hon. Members than to give the chairman the power to select Amendments. At every sitting hon. Members would want to know why their Amendments had been passed over. It must also be remembered that the Chairman of a Standing Committee has no power to call Members to order. He cannot ask an hon. Member to leave the room, he cannot report him to Mr. Speaker. The only power he has is to adjourn the Committee, which is the very thing desired by those who are creating the noise. Being a party man he is liable to be attacked by the Opposition as being a party hack, and if he deals a little severely with hon. Members of his own side he is accused of being a coward and wanting to curry favour with the opposition. He is liable to both these charges.

In regard to the Kangaroo, I had to preside this year over many sittings in connection with the Architects Registration Bill. The hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. McShane) was most courteous and I am not going to suggest that his attitude to that Bill would have been altered if I had had the power of the Kangaroo and had exercised it with regard to some of his Amendments, which were Amendments of substance and ought to have been discussed. But if I had had the power of selection and had not exercised it then the supporters of the Bill—it has now become law—would have asked why I had not "Kangarooed" the hon. Member for Walsall. And if I had done so the hon. Member for Walsall would have had a sense of grievance. Take the Town Planning Bill, which has been for a long time before Standing Committee D, of which I am Chairman. I can fairly say that there is not an Amendment that has been discussed which could have been reasonably and fairly "Kangarooed," because they were all worthy of some debate. That Committee has been sitting for eight weeks. It is an important Bill which deserves meticulous discussion. I do not think I could have ruled out more than one or two Amendments. But what would the Government have thought if I had refused to Kangaroo Amendments on that Bill? They would probably have said "here is a chairman who will not use the power of the Kangaroo. He is a member of the Tory party"; and probably there would have been a Motion on the Order Paper to censure the chairman.

That is the position into which you are putting a chairman of Standing Committee by this Motion. Either we shall have to decide that Bills which go upstairs must not be highly controversial or raise matters which will give rise to party passion, or we shall have to change our procedure and take the chairmen of Standing Committees out of the hurly-burly of party politics, pay them a salary, and thus get mem of experience in the work. This work really does require a great deal of experience. The chairman has not only to understand the Bill but also the implication of every Amendment on the Order Paper, and there is an extra amount of work entailed if you give him the power of Kangaroo. This is not a power which should be given to the chairman of a Standing Committee, unless we change our procedure and increase his power. Unless we do that it is not fair to the Chairman.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I do not want to emulate the proceedings upstairs by delaying matters at all, and I rise only to ask the Prime Minister a question which arises out of the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I agree with one line of the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin). Why is it that we are investing the Chairman of one Standing Committee with these powers? That question follows from the speech of the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts). He would object to the Kangaroo, apparently, on the Town and Country Planning Bill. I gather that he would not use it because there has not been obstruction yet on that Bill, in the sense that we are complaining of obstruction on the Consumers' Council Bill. My submission is that the Standing Orders should be altered and that the Kangaroo powers should be given to Chairmen of all the Standing Committees. We are going to spend a considerable time to-day in discussing this Motion. We shall lose practically a day of our time on the Motion. Why take so many bites at a cherry? Why not alter the Standing Orders? It may be said that we are waiting for the report of a Committee on procedure. How many Committees on procedure have sat? Forms have always lagged behind. The Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition and all Members of experience know it.

I entirely agree with one sentence in the speech of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Ramsbotham), in which he spoke of the loss of interest by the public outside in the proceedings of this House. It is not only loss of interest but loss of patience. I ask the hon. Member of Lancaster to think during the week-end of what has happened during the past week—the ridiculous schoolboy tricks on Monday, when the Opposition engineered a snap Division, ridiculous schoolboy foolery when it is said that Europe is heading for economic disaster. I say to hon. Members that this country will follow Europe if we do not pull ourselves together. People are treating our proceedings with increasing impatience. Then on Tuesday there were the proceedings on the Liberal Amendment, and throughout the week the proceedings on the Finance Bill under the Guillotine. The whole country is sick of it. Meanwhile there is urgent work waiting to be done. We have to suffer the humiliation of hearing our representative at Geneva, our Government criticised because of the dilatory tactics in this House because the Government are not allowed to implement our pledge" in the case of the Washington Convention. The reason for the delay is notorious; it is that time cannot be found. Why cannot time be found? Hon. Members do what I have done in the past, they take advantage of the cumbersome machine and hold up business.

The hon. Member for Ecclesall spoke about me at my best. If he likes I will say at my worst. It is true that I have helped to kill Bills upstairs—literally kill them. I was playing the party game. There were the late Mr. Hogge and the late Mr. Pringle, and there is the present First Lord of the Admiralty. We objected to a Bill, the Merchandise Marks Bill, brought forward by the Conservative Party. I objected to it because it affected adversely the fruit merchants in my constituency—a very large body of people. My right hon. Friend the First Lord objected to it because it affected the co-operative movement. We four set to work and we killed the Bill. We two are poachers turned gamekeepers to-day; I am supporting him and he is supporting the Motion.

I would refer to an earlier case, the Railways Bill of the Coalition Government. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, having made his speech, has gone out of the House. He sets a bad example to younger Members. The Railways Bill was badly needed and on the whole was a good Bill. It was for the amalgamation of the railways into groups. The Scots, for economic and other reasons, were to have their own group, and they objected. Under the leadership of Sir George Younger, as he then was, the Scottish Members deliberately held up that Bill until the half-bankrupt Scottish railways were amalgamated with the wealthier English lines. The proposal was resisted on its merits and by economic argument. The hon. baronet the Member for North-West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward) and myself objected to the Hull and Barnsley Railway being taken away from us. We made a contract with the Scots, and we held up the Bill until the Scottish railways were amalgamated with the English railways. It was a quite unsound proposal. The Scots promised to help us, but when Sir George Younger and his. Scottish colleagues had got their way—I say it to his shame—they threw us overboard. It was a non-party Bill and it was a case of sheer blackmail by the Scots. What is going on now? Because certain hon. Gentlemen object to the opening of cinemas in London on Sundays they are holding up another Bill that comes in front of the cinemas Bill. They are obstructing the Bill for the licensing of bulls. They do not really object to the bulls Bill, but they pretend that they do. I am interested in the cinemas Bill as I am a member of the Committee that is to deal with it.


If the bulls Bill is so important why is it that, after we sat yesterday, we adjourned until next Thursday at the Minister's wish?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is a very apt pupil in these matters. There are very good reasons. I do not pretend to know the details of what happened yesterday, but I am on the Committee that is to deal with the cinemas Bill, and it has been admitted to me by hon. Members who will be with me on that Committee that they are helping to delay the bulls Bill in order to keep off the cinemas Bill. That is the way in which the machinery of the House is being used. It has become a public scandal. Therefore I ask, why do we not alter the Standing Orders and give greater power to the chairmen of Committees upstairs? I do not share the fears of the hon. Member for Ecclesall that chairmen will be attacked on partisan lines, for I have seen too much of the work of chairmen upstairs. I believe that on the whole, irrespective of party, the gentlemen chosen to be chairmen do their work most admirably. I think they should be entrusted with these powers. When the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) talks about what Mr. Gladstone said to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in 1894, I wish he would recollect that things were entirely different then. We have an immense amount of legislation that any government which does its work must introduce. The tentacles of the octopus of Parliament stretch out into every department. We have to interfere with the lives of the people, to regulate and plan and control, and we shall have to do far more of that in future.

In the days when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham learned his Parliamentary arts, the process of government was more simple than it is to-day.


The hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension. The intervention of Mr. Gladstone to which I alluded was made for the purpose of denouncing the persistent obstruction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I know that. And why was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs obstructing at that time? Because it was the party game of the time, and hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing the same thing now, because it is the old party game. But we have gone beyond those days when obstruction was considered right and proper. I admit that I have played that game myself in my time, but in this case we are dealing with an important Measure and a Measure which is needed. The hon. Member for Lancaster spoke of the fall in prices. That is why this Bill is so urgent—because wholesale prices have fallen and retail prices ought to come down also, but certain hon. Gentlemen opposite are so tender of vested interests, that they are playing the old party game and holding up the Bill. I am glad that the Government have brought in this Motion. My only regret is that they are not going the whole way and altering the Standing Orders so as to make the machinery of this House more suited to modern conditions.


The House has listened with a mixture of amusement and apprehension to the heartfelt confession of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). He has recounted the misdeeds of Parliament in the past, taking us as far back as the amalgamation of the railways, and bringing us up to date with what I understood to be a quite unreasonable objection to the Scottish bull. [HON. MEMBERS: "The scrub bull "]. But the general tone of the hon. and gallant Member's speech was so critical of Parliament and political parties that, if I were one of his colleagues and attached importance—as no doubt they do—to his continued allegiance to the party opposite, I should be apprehensive lest there were to be one more of those kaleidoscopic changes in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's political outlook and we should find him, in company with the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) denouncing Parliament and all its works.

Lieut - Commander KENWORTHY

Perhaps it is because I cannot change fast enough.


The hon. and gallant Member has certainly in the past shown no slowness. During this Debate also, the House must have felt that a certain amount of sympathy with the First Lord of the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) made a speech which amused and at the same time rather pained the House, because he drew a distinction between the President of the Board of Trade and the First Lord of the Admiralty which, though it may be quite inaccurate—it is not for me to judge—was not perhaps tactful. To me, the effect of that speech was deeper, because, on referring to a book of reference, I discovered that the hon. Member either is, or had been at some time, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty. We must, in future, I suppose, agree that no man is a hero to his own Parliamentary Private Secretary.

We are in a certain difficulty in discussing this Motion, because we know that under present conditions nothing that we say and nothing that hon. Members opposite think will have any effect whatever on the course of procedure. No doubt arrangements have been made beforehand with hon. Members below the Gangway. At any rate, it came as no surprise to the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) announced his complete support for the Government in this matter. We realise that the brief spurt of independence which was, apparently, engendered by a combination of the atmosphere of Edinburgh luncheon tables and the presence of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) has long ago subsided, and that we can expect the same loyalty from the right hon. Gentleman's party as they have shown in the past. The right hon. Gentleman went further and explained that, apart from the question of political expediency, he had a personal predilection for the Kangaroo. It is not perhaps, surprising that he should find some affinity with that eccentric animal which, like himself, carries its party in its pocket.

I wish to discuss this Motion, not from the point of view of the Bill to which it refers, but on the line of thought started by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. He asked why did we not apply by Standing Order, powers such as these to all Committees. It is always difficult to discuss a Motion of this kind because of the contrary views taken as to its objects and effects by those who sit on different sides of the House. Hon. Members opposite or hon. Members supporting the Government in any case, are likely to over-emphasise one side of the problem, and to be blind to the other, just as we on this side are apt to take exactly contrary views. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk merely in terms of obstruction—but I ought not to say "obstruction," because, whatever we think in our hearts, none of us likes to declare on the Floor of the House that any hon. Member could be guilty of obstruction. Let me copy the Prime Minister, that master of genteel paraphrase, and use the term "dilatory practice."

Hon. Members opposite naturally feel a great deal of irritation at what they regard as unnecessary prolongation of debate and unnecessary waste of the time of people who have plenty to do elsewhere. I am not referring to the Bill under discussion at this Committee. I understand that, in regard to it, there has been nothing, so far, more than the careful consideration of vital amendments. But the memories of hon. Members opposite are apt to be short. Some of those memories do not extend back for two years. Some hon. Members have forgotten what they thought two years ago. They are unable to realise and appreciate the point of view of the Opposition on this question. I expect that a number of hon. Members have read a book written by a German upon England and English politics, which was made available to those who, like myself, are comparatively ignorant of the German language by the skill of an hon. Lady who sits opposite. One of the points which Professor Dibelius made in that book was that, for all our boasts of Parliamentary democracy, what, in fact, happened was that this country met every five years to elect a dictatorship, and, as soon as the election had occurred, and a particular party had, either by their appeal to the electorate, or, subsequently by purchase, secured a majority in the House of Commons, that Government was for all practical purposes the dictator of the country. It is perfectly true that its plan may be influenced behind the scenes by the apprehensions and enthusiasm of its supporters, or by the propaganda of powerful and organised bodies outside, but as soon as a Measure appears in the House of Commons, it is, for all practical purposes the decree of a dictator which has to be passed into law.


Does the hon. Member accept that view?


I do and it has been strengthened. I read that book a year or so ago and I was inclined to accept it then, but it has been very much strengthened by the events of the last few months and even of the last few weeks. The Opposition, in fact, for all its representation in the country, is powerless in these days to make any change. It may not have been so in the old days, but to-day, with a vast electorate, with the expense of an appeal to the people, and with the necessity, therefore, of the party machine, discussing and voting in the House of Commons, has become a mere formality. I think that, if I might join in ascribing causes for the decline of public interest in Parliament, I should attribute it more than anything else to the inevitability of Parliament, to the fact that Parliament is becoming more and more a registration machine, and that a Parliament, however good, is unable to amend or improve a Government, however bad.

The Opposition to-day have only one way in which they can bring any pressure whatsoever to bear upon the Government. If they try appeals to sentiment they find the Government with hearts of stone; if they try appeals to reason, they find the Government, I was about to say, with heads of wood, but that would not be either courteous or in order. The only weak point in the armoury of the Government of the day is the question of Parliamentary time. Let a Minister be frightened that if he is not conciliatory, if he does not give way to the Opposition, he will be unable to obey the call of the grouse moor or the deer forest which comes up to him in the early days of August—

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Where does the hon. Member begin stalking deer in August?


My hon. and gallant Friend, who, I know, in the moments when he is away from this House, is an enthusiastic adherent of blood sports, surely knows that it is quite possible to stalk in Scotland during the month of August.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

The hon. Member said early in August.


I do not think I said early in August, but the middle of August.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

The hon. Member said early August.


I will not continue a discussion which was to have been so painful to right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite. The only way in which we can obtain conciliation from a Minister is by putting pressure upon his Parliamentary time. I do not pretend for a moment that it is the ideal way for an Opposition to go to work, I do not pretend that it does not entail a great deal of unnecessary time, but I do say that before you provide some alternative means for the expression of the will of the Opposition or give the Opposition some possibility of affecting the course of legislation, you have no right to deprive it of the only means that it has got; and I object to ad hoc Resolutions of this kind, which are becoming more and more frequent and which may, as has been suggested, slip into the general procedure, which deal only with one part of the problem and do not attempt to deal with the equally important other side of the problem, and that is the power and rights of the Opposition. I certainly should oppose any Resolution of this kind until we have had a chance of seeing the Report of the Committee on Procedure, which is now sitting, and until we are able to produce some form of procedure which may curtail unnecessary and obstructive discussion, but will not, by doing so, merely add, as it does to-day, to the already too great dictatorial powers of the Government of the day.


There is a natural disinclination on the part of all private Members and back benchers in this House to agree to give undue powers to the Executive to restrict discussion of any kind; and in regard to this Motion as it stands, it seems to me that there are perhaps two points of view that one may consider: the general procedure of this House, with which a good deal of this debate has dealt, and the particular Bill to which this Kangaroo Motion is to be applied. I confess that I am reluctant, after my experience of the Standing Committee discussions, to deprive myself of the perhaps quite unusual delight that I have had in listening to some of the speeches addressed to that Committee.

One of those speeches has already been referred to, and I must confess that I had immense delight in listening to the arguments why a minister of religion was quite incapable of acting fairly on a Consumers' Council. It is true that Members of this House, owing to the hours at which we sit, are deprived of means of entertainment that the ordinary citizen enjoys, and one is rather loth to lose the opportunity of perhaps hearing other speeches which might be equally amusing, but if one is considering this Motion from the point of view of doing the real business of the House, then I think that those of us who have sat on this Committee must realise that some such means are necessary if free discussion is to be preserved, because the only alternative, as has been pointed out, is that the Minister in charge should move the Closure by compartment and trust that the Chairman will accept it.

We have been dealing in the main with two broad arguments in that Committee. We had, first, a long series of Amendments as to the purpose of the Consumers' Council—not what they are, but what they might be. Now we are dealing with the question of the selection of the council, and we are doing that by a series of Amendments that proceed, not by declaring what kind of person is to be on the council, but by declaring what kind of person is not to be on the council. Bearing in mind that we have in this country a population of, say, 40,000,000, if we are going to select a Consumers' Council of seven members by a process of elimination, we have to eliminate 39,999,993, and if we are going to debate all the reasons why anybody should not be on the council, the vista that opens up for the Members of the Committee and the possibilities of orderly debate which may arise and of arguments that may be addressed as to the elimination of those persons, are rather appalling. Therefore, I confess that I think the Opposition must realise that, as far as this particular Motion is concerned, they have been literally asking for it. The nature of the Amendments that have been put upon the Order Paper has obviously been such as would almost compel any Minister in charge to ask for special powers to get the Debate carried forward and to give an opportunity for those real points that arise for discussion, in some of which we on these benches are interested, and to see that at least the time of the Committee is used in discussing the really interesting or vital points and Amendments.

We realise that on the Floor of this House we are perfectly content to leave, both in your hands, Mr. Speaker, and in the hands of the Chairman of Committees of the House, the full power to select Amendments, and I confess that my sympathies are with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in saying that those powers ought to be extended to the Chairmen of Committees upstairs. I see no objection to it, and I would be quite prepared to change the Standing Order in that respect, because I do not regard the mere taking in rotation of Amendments that have been placed upon the Order Paper as the best possible way of conducting a Debate reasonably in this House or in a Committee upstairs; and while one may recognise that hon. Members who act as Chairmen of Committees upstairs may not have the same experience as either Mr. Speaker or his Deputy or the Chairman of Committees here, after all, experience has to be acquired, and possibly it is true of this as of every other walk of life that you learn by making mistakes.

If occasionally a Chairman did make a mistake in selecting Amendments, and did omit something that might be regarded of importance by the individual who had placed it on the Paper, if you take the broad advantages I think there is a distinctly greater advantage in allowing the Chairman to select the Amendments on the Paper than in compelling the Minister to use the Closure by compartment. To that extent you are really assisting free Debate, and assisting a number of Members of this House to get an opportunity of making their own contribution to the Debate in the Committees upstairs.

Here I might say one word as a new Member of this House. Those of us who come fresh to this House find that it does take us some time to acclimatise ourselves to its manners, customs and rules. I am one of those who would rather endorse what was said by the previous speaker. I do not know that you want to make it too easy for a Government to get its legislation through. I am prepared to admit that the only weapon an Opposition has in this House is to prevent the Government from carrying its Measures, and the only way by which it can be restrained is the fact that it is limited by Parliamentary time and Parliamentary rules. But if you are considering the real interest of restoring, as some people think, the prestige of this House—I am not expressing an opinion as to the view the public hold as regards this House—I am not quite sure that they despise it as much as some Members of this House think. I am not quite sure that there is any slackening of desire to see representation in this House, and I do not think that we serve either the prestige of this House or any useful purpose in this House itself by continually suggesting that the prestige of this House has been lowered. I, myself, have seen no signs of it. I come as a new Member, although I have some knowledge of other kinds of assemblies and other kinds of public service and public work, and what has impressed itself upon my mind more than anything else is the wonderful generosity of this House, and the wonderful way in which it carries on the business of this country. To my mind, we have no reason to despise or utter words that are derogatory to the prestige of this assembly, of which I, for one, say frankly I am proud to be a Member.

The private Member has to bear in mind the growing amount of work which is falling upon this House, and a point, which we, perhaps, do not always recognise, that we have ceased to be a purely legislative machine. At one time the great purpose of this House was to make laws, but there has developed in recent years a growing amount of public service which is purely administrative work, which is being carried out directly under the control of this House, and I do think it will be necessary, if the power and the influence of this House are to be maintained, and if the private Member is to have any sort of control over the administration—nowadays, if he is a Member of the Government, he is coerced; if he is a Member of the Opposition, he is cajoled or endured—but if he is really to make the effective contribution he might make, you have got to change the whole system, and, to my mind, the only way is to take away from the executive the power which they possess to-day of dissolving Parliament by being able to advise the King on their own initiative to dissolve Parliament whenever they wish. If you did that, it would change the whole atmosphere of this House. I cannot develop that on this occasion, but I do suggest in this particular case, as a Member of the Committee, that the discussions in that Committee will be improved if the Chairman of the Committee has power to miss a number of Amendments which are quite similar, and are obviously put down to take up the time of the Committee. We enjoy the speeches of the movers of the Amendments immensely, but we are there for some other purpose than to be amused, and I think that the free discussion of the Measure will unquestionably be enhanced if the Chairman has the right of selecting Amendments which is enjoyed by the Chairman in this House.


The Prime Minister outlined to us the argument for giving these powers to the Chairman of a Committee upstairs. He then proceeded to apply his argument to the particular case of the Consumers' Council Bill. As far as that part of his speech was concerned, as far as his argument was applied to this particular Bill, I thought that his case was entirely destroyed by some observations of the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin), because the right hon. Member pointed out—and it is a point which no one on the other side of the House has dared to try to answer—that the Government introduced the Bill into this House last November. All that stood between the introduction and the Committee stage was the Second Reading, to which, if my memory serves me, one day was allotted. The Government took seven months to get that Bill from its introduction to the Committee upstairs, and when we are told that Members on this side of the House are responsible for the fact that little progress has been made in Committee in less than a month, what answer have the Government got to the argument that they themselves wasted seven months? There was no reason why the Bill should not have been in Committee upstairs early this year, but the Government made no effort to get it there, and I submit that that completely destroys the Prime Minister's case for the application of these powers in respect of this Bill.

I do not desire to follow the general argument any further, because it has been dealt with already by many Members, and I do not desire to repeat arguments which the House has already heard. But I do want to say a word or two on the subject from the standpoint of one who has been a Member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill last Session, and which is dealing with the revised Bill this (Session. I think that in Committee upstairs we suffer from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty is not very closely acquainted with the history of the Bill. He showed that by an astounding statement on a public platform a few days ago, to the effect that the first Bill was dropped because it was impossible to get the Closure applied in Committee. With regard to that statement, there are two things that may be said. The first is that, as a statement of fact, it is untrue; and the second is that it is a severe and entirely undeserved reflection on the Chairman of the Committee before whom the first Bill went. The right hon. Gentleman, having made that astounding statement, went on to say, not in so many-words, but clearly to imply that it was still impossible to apply the closure in Committee, and for that reason they could not make progress with the present Bill. Hon. Members in all quarters of the House know that that is a grotesque misrepresentation of the position, and I, for my part, cannot imagine why the right hon. Gentleman, even if his knowledge of the earlier history of the Measure is a little sketchy, should have made that astounding statement.

With regard to the argument that has been put forward that the proceedings in Standing Committee C are unsatisfactory, that they are unduly slow, I venture to say that if there is one individual who should certainly share a large part of the blame, whatever blame there may be in the proceedings of Standing Committee C, it is the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty himself. Let me for the benefit of hon. Members who are not Members of that Standing Committee refer to what has actually occurred in the Committee. We have had five meetings. On the first day, the right hon. Gentleman intervened on four occasions. Once was to suggest the Adjournment, once to move the Closure, once to say that he did not propose to give much consideration to arguments put forward because the subjects in question had been discussed when a Bill of the same name, but different contents, was in Committee last Session; and once to answer a point in debate. I do not think that hon. Members on reflection will consider that that was a very helpful contribution to the Committee for its first day's work. On the second day, the right hon. Gentleman moved what is technically known as the Closure by compartments, that is to say, part of the Bill was passed over without discussion.

I ask hon. Members to put themselves in our place for a moment and to suppose that they were opposing the Bill. Would it be calculated to soothe them and to make the proceedings go smoothly if on the second day part of the Bill, on the Motion of the Minister in charge, was passed without discussion being allowed? On the third day the right hon. Gentlemen did not trouble to come to the Committee at all. That again is surely not calculated to make other members of the Committee zealous in their duties in get-tang on with the work. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman had some engagement which he felt was of more importance, but he did not attend the Committee, and I heard no suggestion made on his behalf why he should not be there. He left the impression that he had something better to do.

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

The hon. Member should be a little more fair. The leaders of his party were privately approached by me on that particular day, and undertook, in view of the circumstances that prevented me from being present, to do their best to see the proceedings carried on.

1.0 p.m


I had no idea of that, and I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for suggesting that he had not advised the Committee. What I said was true, however, I was there the whole time, and no reference was made by the Parliament Secretary to the Board of Trade to the right hon. Gentleman's absence. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman was not there. On the fourth day, by way of helping on the proceedings, the right hon. Gentleman made an extremely bitter speech. I will not trouble the House with the whole speech, but will just give a sentence from it to show the kind of speech it was. This is the sentence: Hon. Gentlemen opposite will repeat for political purposes the most lying misrepresentations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 16th June, 1931, col. 164.] I have no desire to be unfair, for I know the right hon. Gentleman was provoked by a speech which had been made on our side of the Committee making reference to promises made by Socialist Members of Parliament at the last election, and contrasting those with the performance of the Government. It annoyed the right hon. Gentleman. My point is that, if the Minister in charge is going to allow himself to be put out of temper by criticisms from the Opposition, and to make speeches including language such as I have read, surely he must bear the blame if the proceedings tend to become prolonged and discursive. On the fifth day of the Committee, the right hon Gentleman devoted part of the time to suggesting, despite the fact that this Motion was on the Paper, that we should sit in the afternoons as well as the mornings. I have said enough to show that any undue delay that may have occurred upstairs can very largely be attributed to the way the right hon. Gentleman conducts the business for the Government. He has not said it in so many words, but in his manner he has given us to understand that he is really rather too big a man to come and take another Minister's Bill, that he is rather bored with the proceedings, and that his only interest is not the discussion of the Measure, but to get done with it and to be quit of it. The right hon Gentleman may be perfectly right for all I know. It may be that he should be in charge of the Budget, and that the President of the Board of Trade should be in charge of his own Bill, but that is not the fault of the Committee. We have not passed the right hon. Gentleman over, we have not treated him as a sort of Under-Secretary to the Board of Trade. It is not our fault, and it is a bit rough that he should vent his resentment upon the Committee.

I say without any hesitation that any Member of the Committee who has sat through those days must realise that the way in which the right hon. Gentleman conducts the business is not conducive to the smooth passage of the Bill. To sum up, I say that there are two arguments of great weight against the passing of this Measure. The first is that if a month has been wasted upstairs, the Government themselves let seven months slip by before sending the Bill to Committee. The second is that before the Government come to this House for special powers for the Chairman of the Committee, they should give us a Minister who will conduct the business of the Bill before the Committee in so tactful a manner as to be likely to expedite its passage.


My experience as a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Consumers' Council Bill in 1930 led me to take up a very definite attitude. We had sat hour upon hour discussing the first two lines of the first Clause of the Bill, and the patience of many Members was exhausted. As a consequence, I felt it my duty to appeal to the Chairman on a point of Order, and to ask him if there is no form of protection for Members who have come here seriously to discuss the Amendments to this Bill? Is there no way of stopping this criminal waste of time?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee D), 5th June, 1930, col. 2140.] That was my observation at the second sitting of the Committee in June of last year. I am glad that the Government have decided to cut down irrelevant Amendments, and I hope that facilities will be given to cut down irrelevant speeches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I shall try and be as brief as possible in covering all the points which I think will be of value to the House. I value very highly the time of this House, realising that there are tremendous problems waiting to be dealt with for which legislation is necessary. There are problems of poverty which are a standing disgrace not only to the House but to the nation as a whole, and there is no way out except by way of legislation if we are to give the people suffering from poverty a greater share, a reasonable share, of that which they produce. I have not been impressed with this House in the way that the hon. Member for Mid Bedford (Mr. Gray) has been impressed. I do not look upon it as a great institution. I have said so outside the House, and I have had the courage to say inside what I think about it. But at the same time I hope I have done my little bit to help to improve it [Laughter].

May I remind right hon. and hon. Members who are developing a sense of humour where it is not entitled to be present that no small tribute—and I make these observations with a due sense of modesty—can be attached to my action in regard to the measure before the House this morning. [Interruption.] My action upstairs on the Consumers' Council Bill had its influence in that particular direction. I am as anxious as any Member of this House for the prestige of it, am as jealous of its prestige as any Member of it, but I want the House to be equal to its responsibilities, and from that point of view I have not been impressed. During the last two Sittings of this House I was wondering why the revenue authorities had not taken advantage of the opportunity to collect entertainment tax. That was the position we had got to in the matter of amusement amongst Members. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Kedward) was a Member of the Consumers' Council Bill Committee last year, and here are some of his observations at one of its sittings— I am not bound by any particular theory. Are hon. Members opposite satisfied about their own origin? Do they agree with the old verse— 'Where did you come from, baby dear? Out of the everywhere into here. Where did you get those eyes of blue? Out of the sky as I came through.' It was the Consumers' Council Bill that was being discussed.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member entitled to quote verbatim from proceedings in Committee upstairs?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Robert Young)

The hon. Member is entitled to quote anything from the speeches delivered there if it shows the necessity for the Motion before the House.


I have not finished with the short quotation. The hon. Member for Ashford continued: That seems sufficient for a number of hon. Members anyway. [Interruption.] Does this Bill go carefully into the origin of the sausage? [An hon. Member: Or beer.] Let us pursue the sausage. 'Oh, where, oh, where, has my little dog gone.' 'Oh, where, oh, where, can he be? ' Every time I see a sausage I stop and whistle."—OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee D). 19th June, 1930, col. 2164.] After that I wonder why there is so much objection to the desire of our Government to cut down irrelevant amendment and irrelevant speeches. [An HON. MEMBER: "And obstruction."] Yes, obstruction to the point of enabling the community to get a real conception of the attitude of mind of hon. Members; of this House. It would certainly please me if some measure could be introduced making it compulsory for all the speeches in this House to be broadcast—and speeches in Committee too. [An HON. MEMBER: "You would not be here very long."] I hope I should never trouble the House with any form of irrelevancy. Neither should I, as Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister wants to do—


The hon. Member has been long enough in the House to know that he ought not to address other hon. Members by name.


The ex-President of the Board of Trade. I beg his pardon, and yours, Sir Robert. I do not want, as did the ex-President of the Board of Trade when this Consumers Council Bill was before the Committee, to have the question of housing introduced for discussion. I never knew that houses were a consumable commodity. [Interruption.] Some people have great digestive powers. The hon. Member for Ashford might have been thinking that he was addressing his observations from a pulpit instead of addressing the Consumers' Council Bill Committee. Fortunately the Chairman of the Committee ruled houses out of order and we were able to get on with the business. These are three points which will justify me in voting for this Motion to-day. I hope it will not stop here. I want further restrictions in order that Members may be compelled to filter the best out of their speeches before they address the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "You make a start."] Such a thing would not disturb my peace of mind at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor ours."] I am not concerned about what other people think about my speeches. I am only concerned about what I think about them, and the hon. Member's interjection leaves me quite cool. I am pleased the Government are stepping out in this matter and hope that in future other measures may be taken to restrict this criminal waste of time.


We have been living lately in an atmosphere of depression and restriction, and I quite understand the feelings which have been so ably expressed from this side of the House. I do not feel qualified to speak with the same ability as those who have addressed the House, but I want to point out that in this Bill we are dealing with a large number of important measures affecting the trade and business of this country. We have already seen in regard to another Bill which is being dealt with under the Closure, that most important matters affecting business men, and the business of the country have not had a moment's discussion, and most of the time devoted to discussion has been wasted on minor matters which do not deal with the important economic issues which are affecting the whole country. If we are still further to restrict discussions in Committee it will become a very grave matter, and we shall have to consider how far this House is fulfilling its duty to the country.

I feel this is such a vital matter that I am bound to support the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin). The giving of the power to the Chairman of a Committee to select Amendments must necessarily put a great burden on the Chairman. I am quite sure that the Chairman of the Committee which is considering the Consumers' Bill, and other Chairmen, are anxious to do what is fair and right, but in this particular case you have a mass of Amendments of a complicated character, and how is the Chairman to decide whether they are Amendments of substance or not? It is quite possible that the Chairman has not had any experience upon that side of the question. I submit that it is not right that questions of this kind should be left entirely to the discretion of the Chairman of a Committee. I admit that, on the Committee which has been considering the Consumers' Council Bill, points have been discussed which are not matters of real substance. That is unfortunate, but, if we are to do justice to the Bill, I think it is agreed that the Amendments of substance will take a long time to discuss.

I protest against further restrictions being put upon the discussion of a Measure which vitally affects the business community. Of course, I feel sure that the Motion will be carried, because it will receive the support of the Liberal party, although the Liberal party are supposed to stand for liberty and for the interests of trade and commerce. If when the Report stage is reached this Measure is closured, we shall have a very dangerous state of affairs. I cannot help feeling that the whole question of how to deal with commercial Measures which affect the economic interests of the country calls for further consideration. At all events in regard to this Bill we should wait for the report of the Committee which is now dealing with the Standing Orders of the House, and I protest against this Motion, not only as a Member of this House, but also on behalf of those with whom I am in touch in the country.

I resent the fact that we have not been allowed to discuss business questions in this House, and I protest that there should be this still further restriction placed upon the consideration of trade and business. We were prepared to tackle this question in the ordinary way and deal rightly with these problems, and I wish to express the strong feeling which exists among those for whom I am more qualified to speak than some hon. Members, against this Motion, and I trust that whatever happens great care will be taken in the selection of Amendments to see that the trade and business of the country is fully protected by the Chairman of the Committee.


As one of the new and younger Members of this House, I came here with a perfectly open mind, and one of the things that impressed me was the appalling waste of time that goes on. When I was appointed to my first Committee upstairs, the Committee on the Consumers Council Bill, I said to myself, "Here is a Committee considering a Bill of first-rate importance, dealing with the question of the unduly high prices that are being charged for the necessities of life." We started on that Committee, and, after five meetings, we got only through one sentence due to waste of time and obstruction. When I spoke to some hon. Members opposite upon the point, they replied," Your side did it when we were in office." My argument is that whichever side does it, it is equally wrong, and, as a new Member wishing to see things done, I desire to express my very sincere regret, and disapproval not only that it has taken place in the past, but also that it is taking place now. The feeling of people outside this House is one of disgust and can be summed up in the phase "Cut the cackle and get on with the job," and I think we should all help in this matter, because it is a quite justifiable request. I do not think Front Bench Members can be absolved from blame, because there are many occasions when a Front Bench speaker feels that he ought to speak for half an hour or three quarters of an hour when a quarter of an hour would be sufficient to say all that he has to say, and I hope they will take the hint, and give a lead.


We cannot criticise the proceedings in this House. We are dealing now with the proceedings in Committee upstairs.


I am speaking in reference to the proceedings upstairs, and I say that on many occasions upstairs Cabinet Ministers and ex-Ministers talk for half-an-hour or more when 10 minutes would be quite long enough to say what they have to say. Time is precious when so many important things are waiting to be attended to, and great social evils require remedying. Consequently Front Bench Members on both sides should cut the cackle and get on with the job just as much as hon. Members on the back benches.


I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. H. Gibson), and also with a great deal that was said by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Gray) in dealing with the question of the prestige of this House and whether our proceedings were not lowering it in the eyes of the people of this country. It is not, however, the question of our conduct of business, either in Committee or on the Floor of the House, that worries the people of this country; it is the surfeit of legislation that has been brought in during the last few months. Measures of first-class importance have been introduced one after the other. Measures which ought to have taken the greater part of a Session for deliberation in Committee have been introduced at the latter part of the Session, and then hon. Members opposite complain about the machinery being clogged.

I was amused by the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). It was a case of Satan rebuking sin. He admitted frankly that in the past he had been an arch-priest of the obstructionist fraternity, and I believe he was, but I can assure the House that at any rate he does not worry us nowadays: he has retired as an obstructionist Member during the last month or two. Some of us have a good deal of Committee work to do, and take our duties with a sense of responsibility. I am at the moment serving on five Comimittees so that every morning of the week is taken up fully, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that I am very much averse from any prolonged proceedings in Committee, because, like the hon. Member for Mossley, I want to get on with the business.

Let us consider the Measure to which this Resolution relates. We were told that a Bill was introduced last year and had to be withdrawn on account of certain tactics of the Opposition. Very garbled accounts have been given of what happened in that Committee. Let us have the real facts of the case. They are these. I was a member of that Committee; I attended every meeting, and heard every speech; and I know exactly why the President of the Board of Trade withdrew the Bill. He told us why he withdrew it. The fact was that it was so drawn that it was going to inflict the greatest hardship on the smallest people; the people who would suffer most under its provisions were the small shopkeepers who were unable to defend themselves, the large monopolists of whom we have heard so much were going to escape. Letters were sent to Members of the House by their constituents pointing out this fact—


I did not hear the discussion to which the hon. Member is referring, but it is impossible to go into the merits of that Bill on this occasion.


I know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you were not present when this point was mentioned, but the point was made by the Prime Minister and by other speakers on the opposite side that that Bill had to be withdrawn last year, and the reason stated was, as the Prime Minister said, dilatory tactics, or, as other hon. Members, with a little more bluntness, have described it, obstruction. I want to state that the Bill was not withdrawn on that ground, and to give the real reason, if I am in order, in reply—


I cannot allow the hon. Member to go into the merits of the Measure.


I am not going to speak on the merits of the Measure; I am speaking entirely on the reason why it was withdrawn. A charge has been made against myself and other Members who served on that Committee, that certain tactics were pursued, and it was said that those tactics constituted the reason why the Bill was withdrawn. I say, on the evidence of the President of the Board of Trade himself, that that was not the reason. Anyhow, I am satisfied to call hon. Members' attention to it, and they can look it up for themselves in the Report. The President of the Board of Trade said frankly that his object was not to attack the small shopkeeper, but to get at the monopolist, and the Bill was withdrawn to be re-drafted and re-introduced.


As a member of that Committee, I challenge that statement, and no doubt some of my hon. Friends will be able to answer it.


If the hon. Member will read the Report of the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, he will see that what I have said is true, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman said that it was not his intention to attack the small shopkeeper. I notice that the composition of the present Committee is entirely different from that of the last Committee as regards Members of the party below the Gangway. On that Committee there were Members of the Liberal party who had, in speeches in this House, criticised the Consumers' Council Bill severely. The hon. Member for the Kirk-dale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Sandham) has quoted extracts from speeches made by Members of the Liberal party during the proceedings of that Committee, when they expressed themselves and voted against many of the provisions of the Bill. It is astounding to me that we now have an entirely different set of Members of the Liberal party serving on the Committee. It would be interesting to know what has happened in the Liberal Whips' room to some of those Members.


Surely, that question does not arise now. We are not concerned with the composition of this Committee or of the last Committee.


Surely we are dealing with the question as to why this Resolution is necessary. We are told that it is necessary because of certain tactics that have been pursued in the Committee, and surely I have a right to refer to the Members of the Committee and the tactics they have pursued. When, not long ago, another Bill was in Committee upstairs—the Trade Disputes Bill—we found that there it was not a question of speeches made by Members of the Opposition retarding progress, but speeches made by supporters of the Government, because, on two occasions at any rate, no Member of the Opposition made a speech at all. I want to know why the Government did not introduce such a Resolution in regard to that Bill. It seems to me extraordinary that they should do so in regard to this Bill. One of the things that this House has to guard against is slipshod legislation, and I would remind the hon. Gentleman who is now in charge about a certain Bill which went through the House in 1929 with the full agreement of all parties. I refer to the Widow', Orphans' and Old Age Pensions (Amendment) Bill of that year. As in the case of many other Bills on which there is full agreement, it received very little discussion in Committee, and very few Amendments moved; and the consequence has been that the Government, owing to the bad drafting of that Bill, which could have been remedied in Committee if it had received careful examination, deprived 10,000 widows of their pensions for quite a considerable time.


Where were you?


If the hon. Member had read the reports and had watched the questions that I put in the House since, he would realise that I brought before the Minister time after time the fact that this had happened owing to the bad drafting of the Bill.


I cannot allow the hon. Member to proceed on those lines. It is not possible to go back to legislation passed two or three years ago. What we are dealing with is the Resolution before the House.


Certainly, and I am dealing with the Resolution before the House.


The hon. Member must accept my Ruling.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

On that point of Order. May I point out that my hon. Friend was interrupted two or three times, and was replying to an interruption? You did not call to order the hon. Member who interrupted, and, therefore, I suggest that my hon. Friend might be allowed to reply to the interruption, as he was doing.


If the occupant of the Chair had to rise and speak every time an interruption was made in this House, there would be no time for anything else. The good sense of Members should enable them to neglect or refuse to be drawn by an interruption.


It is very necessary to examine this Bill in detail.


The hon. Member must not do that now.


All through the discussion this morning references have been made to exactly the same things of which I am speaking.


On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to discuss your Ruling with you?


The hon. Member should accept the Ruling of the Chair. I have ruled that he cannot discuss the details of other Bills. It is in Order to say that a certain Bill went through the House and had not received sufficient discussion, and pass on, but not to go into details of the Bill.


I want your guidance, Sir. I do not want to be discourteous to the Chair and I never have been since I have been a Member of the House. I want to point out that it is bad for the House and for the country to have slipshod legislation and that it is better to examine Bills in detail. I was quoting as a case in point, a particular Measure that went through, and a certain badly drafted Clause has caused a good deal of hardship. I do not want the same thing to happen with this Bill. Shall I not be in order in doing that?


It depends how the hon. Member puts his point whether he is in order or not.


I am doing my level best. [Interruption.] The hon. Member really ought to keep quiet. He has had his show and has made the best or the worst of it, and he ought to leave it there. I am afraid, while I have every confidence in the bon. Member who will be in the Chair, certain Amendments that have been put down on behalf of interests that are affected will not get a chance to be discussed, and I am anxious that they should be. The Bill is badly drafted. For instance, in Clause 2 (2) we are told that the Council can investigate the price of any article in common use.


Again, the hon. Member is entering into the merits of the Bill. The only question that arises deals with the point of the Clause as to selection of Amendments or not.


On a point of Order. The reason for this Motion is that waste of time has taken place in Committee on various Bills and, in particular, on the Consumers' Council Bill. Your predecessor allowed the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Sandham) not only to go into what took place on the Bill in 1930 but read a report of speeches that were made there to show that there was waste of time. I submit that my hon. Friend is in order in showing that in the case of other Bills, owing to want of discussion, there has been bad legislation, the point being to prove that discussion is necessary, and that what he is doing is really in order.


I understood the hon. Member for Kirkdale read a quotation showing that time was wasted. I understand the hon. Member now is referring to an Amendment on this Bill which he says is badly drafted. It may or may not be badly drafted, but if I were to allow him to criticise that Amendment, other Members would criticise many other Amendments. I was under the impression that many Amendments were put down simply for the purpose of ensuring correct drafting. The hon. Member cannot go into the merits of this or any Bill. We are dealing with the power to be vested in the Chairman of that Committee.


Certainly, it means a great narrowing of the Debate from now onwards, and I am rather sorry on that account. It cannot be charged against me that I have delayed the Committee upstairs, because I have sat there for five days and only uttered one sentence. I think I have a right to express my view on the Resolution. What I wanted to point out, especially to back bench Members on all sides of the House, is that, if they vote for a Resolution such as this, they are giving away a very valuable privilege which private Members have to put down Amendments and to explain why they should be adopted. The Chairman will exercise his judgment fairly as between the parties concerned, but it is natural to expect that he will pay special attention to Government Amendments. He must do so.

I put down for to-day an Amendment dealing with the point, and Mr. Speaker suggested that it would be for the convenience of all Members if I made my observations on this Amendment instead of moving my own. It provides that the power of the Chairman shall not extend to any Amendment proposed by the Government; in other words, that Government Amendments should be cut right out of those from which selection is to be made. That might help matters considerably, because the Chairman must of necessity call Government Amendments. I take it that it is a matter of common usage that the Chairman should give a second preference to Amendments in the names of the leaders of the Opposition. That cuts out the private Member considerably when the Kangaroo is in action.

I have, on behalf of some retail trading communities, at their special request, put down certain Amendments which, I am afraid, may not get a chance of being dealt with at all. That is why I was going to point to certain portions of the Bill which are badly drafted and to show how necessary it is that Amendments should be fairly considered to correct any such bad drafting. It is possible that, under the Kangaroo Motion we cannot deal with those things at all. I think it is a very bad thing from the back bench point of view that this should be done. I sympathise a good deal with Members who entered Parliament at the last election. When I came in in 1924, one of the first big jobs I had was to serve on a Committee. Members put down Amendment after Amendment, and I felt that it was an awful waste of time, and I said so on the public platform outside. But I do not say it to-day. Experience has taught me that it is far better to delay putting legislation on the Statute Book than to put it on in a hurry and regret it afterwards.

One useful function that this House serves is to examine carefully proposals that are put before it. People have said, "Why do you not do your business as they do on county and town councils?" The difference is that in one case you are legislating for the whole of the people of Great Britain, and in many cases the legislation affects wide interest, while in the other it is a question of administration. We are not an administrative body yet. The Departments do that. If we pass legislation that is harmful, many people will suffer, and it cannot be rescinded on the reading of the minutes at the next meeting as can be done with ordinary local bodies. You cannot have things rescinded in that way. You have to have an amending Act of Parliament in order to alter an existing Act, whether it be good or bad. I suggest to hon. Members on the back benches opposite that while it may seem that they are gaining some sort of advantage by supporting the proposal in regard to this Measure, it is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) said a weapon which can be used on some future occasion. I am always against setting precedents which are bad. While I had to sit and suffer for something like 110 days on a Committee dealing with the particular Measure I have mentioned, I got used to it in time and realised that it was perhaps the best thing that could be done in having the Measure thoroughly discussed. Even then, and although the Bill was brought in by the Government I supported, Clauses which I said at the time would be unworkable were kept in the Bill in spite of the careful examination given to them. Goodness knows what the Measure would have been like if it had not had that examination.

It will be folly for this House to pass the Motion. It is all very well to talk about what hon. Members describe as obstruction. Reference was made by the hon. Member who acts as Chairman of Committees upstairs to what is happening with regard to the Town and Country Planning Bill. It is a Bill with a larger number of clauses than the Bill to which this Motion applies. He pointed out that it has not been necessary to bring in such a Motion as this because the Minister in charge of the Bill has done his level be3t to see that business is conducted in such a way as to ensure perfect harmony in the Committee. The Amendments so far moved in that Committee have been far more numerous than the Amendments on the Order Paper in regard to the Consumers' Council Bill. We have had negotiations between the two parties and frank discussions on various questions, and the Bill is going forward with fair rapidity, simply because of the method of handling. The learned Solicitor-General, one of the youngest Members of the House, has shown himself a master of tactics and of conciliation in handling that Bill, and if we had a few more Ministers in charge of Bills like him there would be no need for a Motion like the one on the Order Paper to-day.


I do not want to go into the wider questions which are raised by the Motion, or whether it is or is not desirable, as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. H. Gibson) said, that we should cut the cackle and get on with the job. I am inclined to think with hon. Members in all parts of the House that there is too much legislation at the present time. We are crowding one big Act upon another to such an extent that there is a surfeit of legislation from which it would be well for industry and the country to be rid. I remind hon. Gentle-men opposite who are so anxious that this particular Bill should go through, that whether you desire legislation to be facilitated or not depends entirely upon whether you think that legislation is good or whether you think it is bad. I can understand hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), being anxious to see the Bill put upon the Statute Book. If they realise that it will do infinite harm and harass and hinder the trade of the country they will not be so anxious in assisting the Government to carry out their purpose. Hon. Members opposite must remember that, while on this particular occasion they may be anxious to facilitate the progress of the Bill, on another occasion they may well equally be anxious to impede the putting into force of what they believe to be disastrous and evil legislation.


I hope that the Government of the day in the future will use the same weapon as we are using.


I am glad that the hon. Member has drawn attention to that point, which has already been emphasised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin). It is a very dangerous weapon which can be used by both parties in the House. I say both parties, because I do not suppose that there will ever be an opportunity for the party below the Gangway to exercise it. It is a weapon which may well be used in defiance of the wishes of hon. Members now sitting on the opposite side of the House. I do not want to discuss the broad issue involved so much as the particular issues raised by the introduction of a Motion for the purpose of pushing on with this Bill. It is urged that this is a piece of legislation to which the Government attach considerable importance and value and which they would like to see put upon the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.

It is argued that the opponents of the Bill are not co-operating as wholeheartedly as the Government would wish in promoting the passage of this Measure. I am waiting anxiously—and I think the whole House is waiting—to hear the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, explain why this Measure, if it is of such importance and will confer such benefits upon the community, was not proceeded with earlier? Why was it left for six months or more hanging about before it was introduced into this House? The Government have been proceeding with legislation in which nobody is really interested. The electoral reform Bill and other Bills of that nature in which nobody in any quarter of the House, except possibly the representatives of the Liberal party below the gangway, can have the least interest, have been dealt with.

If the Government really believe that the Consumers' Council Bill is going to do some good, surely it should have taken precedence of other minor Measures which have been thrust upon the House. The Government made no endeavour to get the Bill placed before the Committee, and, when it was placed before the Committee, the Minister in charge of the Bill did not take very urgent steps to see that the discussions upon it were ample and sufficient for his purpose. During the first five sittings of the Committee we sat in the morning. Now the right hon. Gentleman has threatened that, in spite of the carrying of the guillotine Motion to-day, he will insist upon the Committee sitting in the mornings and in the afternoons. If the right hon. Gentleman attaches so much importance to the Bill, and if he had believed that its progress was being hampered, he could have asked the Committee at an earlier stage to sit in the afternoons and he need not have brought this Motion before the House asking it to give the Chairman the power to kangaroo, and at the same time ask that the Committee should sit in the afternoons as well as the mornings at great inconvenience to many Members of the Committee.

The Government have adopted a most peculiar attitude. They first blow hot and then blow cold. In November they took no steps to further the progress of the Measure, and now, suddenly, they come down to the House, after the Bill has occupied ten hours of the time of the Committee, and ask for almost unprecedented powers to be given to them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talked very largely and wildly about the Bill having been before the Committee for a month during which only five lines of the Bill had been discussed. In fact, the Bill has not been before the Committee for more than a fortnight, or three weeks at the outside.

The Committee has actually been occupied in discussion 9½ hours, because more than half-an-hour of our time was spent in discussing whether we should sit in the afternoon, and there was waste of time in the First Lord of the Admiralty moving the Closure when it was not necessary to do so. That was done for show or, if not, it was a sheer waste of time for the Minister to move the Closure when no Member of the Opposition rose to speak. I imagine that it was done in order that he might say that he had had to move the Closure on so many occasions. We are not so foolish as not to be able to see through that. The right hon. Gentleman talks about dilatory tactics, and the impossibility of making further progress with the Bill. During our five sittings he has only had to move the Closure on three occasions. I say "had to," but I would rather say that he moved the Closure, because I do not think that on any of the occasions it was necessary to do it. However, he thought fit to bring the discussion to a close. Certainly, on the fourth occasion he need not have moved the Closure, because no Member of the Committee rose to his feet.


In time.


It was not a question of rising in time. I saw no desire evinced by any member of the Committee to speak.


Before I moved the Closure four hon. Members rose to speak prior to the last speaker being called.


My memory differs from that of the right hon. Gentleman. If that be so, it is rather remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman was given his Closure without a Division.




We have tried to be conciliatory in face of very great obstacles. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) hit the nail on the head when he suggested that the First Lord of the Admiralty, with his breezy, nautical manner, was trying different tactics, in order to get the Bill through, from the tactics adopted by the President of the Board of Trade a year ago. That may have been one of the reasons for any delay that has taken place. The First Lord of the Admiralty has adopted sledgehammer methods. He has tried to force his way through and has not gone out of his way to conciliate those opposed to him. Furthermore he has been responsible for much of the irrelevant argument advanced in the Committee. In his peevishness, his excitability, and with a rush of blood to the head, he has constantly introduced totally irrelevant points, to which hon. Member" on the other side of the Committee have felt justified in replying.

2.0 p.m

I prefer the methods of the right hon. Gentleman to the methods of the President of the Board of Trade. I am always suspicious of those frank, conciliatory, suave methods. We never succeeded in obtaining much from the President of the Board of Trade, in spite of his conciliatory and benign attitude towards us. It reminds me of those men who go round seeking for work and asking for charity in order that they may get their tools out of pawn and go to a job. I have been deceived, and no doubt many hon. Members opposite have been deceived by such people, but it is only those with the manner of benignity and pleasantness of the President of the Board of Trade who succeed in getting away with it. The First Lord of the Admiralty would not succeed in that method. I do not think that he would ever succeed in getting a penny out of my pocket in order to get his tools out of pawn. The methods of the two Ministers have been completely different, but, unfortunately, the effect has been exactly the same. The First Lord of the Admiralty might have helped the Committee had he adopted a more conciliatory attitude, and had he endeavoured to meet us in some way and paid some attention to our arguments. Neither he nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade made any real attempt to answer our arguments.

One hon. Member to-day referred to the discussions we have had in Committee up to now on the composition of the Council. Surely, the composition of the Council is of supreme importance and requires ample discussion. The hon. Member said that we were trying to arrive at the composition of the Council by the process of elimination. We have only tried to do that in order to get some information from the Government as to the type of person whom they wish to appoint. Surely, that is a matter of importance and one on which the Government should give information, but they have made no reply and have not endeavoured to make a reply. Then there was the question of whether women should serve on the Council. We have been unable to discover why the Government should have included two women as members of the Council. These are points which deserve consideration, and they would have been settled had more consideration for our argument been given by the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, hon. Members opposite are anxious to see this Motion carried, although they have taken no interest in the proceedings of the Committee. Only one member of the Committee has spoken. The members of the Liberal party, except for the Liberal Chairman of the Comimittee, have for the most part been with us in spirit rather than in flesh to-day. On several occasions there have been no members of the Liberal party present.

Hon. Members opposite and below the Gangway do not mind the discussions of the Bill being hampered by the Kangaroo Closure. As for the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Sandham) I am surprised at his audacity and impudence in speaking in a debate of this sort.


"Impudence" is a word which has been ruled to be improper and should not be used of another Member.


I will withdraw the word "impudence," and suggest that the hon. Member has shown extraordinary audacity in daring to intervene in a Debate of this sort. I think I am right in saying that on more than two occasions he has been ordered to leave this House for vulgar and irrelevant interruptions. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have restrained his enthusiasm for the curtailment of the liberty of discussion, seeing that he has been such a flagrant offender in the past. I can understand that were all Members of the Committee of the same calibre as the hon. Member for Kirkdale the right hon. Gentleman would have every excuse for introducing this Motion. The irrelevant, persistent interruptions that typify the hon. Member's attitude in this House—


On a point of Order. Is this a Debate on the personal conduct of the hon. Member for Kirkdale, or on the Motion before the House?


The Debate is on the Motion before the House, but the hon. Member is referring to interruptions which delay business.


Is not that more in your prerogative than in that of the hon. Member?


The hon. Member can leave the matter to me.


I do not need to take any hints on conduct from the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Beckett).


You are quite impervious.


On principle we must strongly resist this Motion, and on the ground of its application to this particular Bill we must also resist it. The Government have made out no case for it. Any delay has been due to the delay of the Government in bringing forward the Bill, and during the discussions in the Committee any delay has been largely caused by the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, who, until this Motion was introduced, seemed to me to desire not to get the Bill on the Statute Book this session.


I was not a member of the former Committee which considered this Bill, but I am a member of the long-suffering present Standing Committee which is now debating it, and this is an opportunity for hon. Members on this side of the House, which is denied them in the Committee itself, to express their opinion as to the methods adopted in that Committee. The experience of a new Member usually inclines him to the view that a great deal of time is wasted. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) has said that he has useful Amendments to this Bill which he wants to be discussed, but what opportunity is there for useful Amendments to be discussed if we spend our days in discussing whether a parson shall be a member of the council, which gives an opportunity to members of the Opposition to make long lectures on the previous history, the family life, and other things of the parson, and also long speeches as to whether Members of Parliament are fit to sit upon the council. What opportunity is there in such circumstances to get on with the serious business of the Committee? Speeches are useful if they illustrate a particular point, but not when they are spun out at great length for the purpose of delaying the proceedings. This Motion is as much in the interest of the Opposition as it is in the interests of the poor individuals who sit on the Government side of the Committee. It is painful, and amusing, to some of us to watch the efforts of hon. Members opposite to spin out their speeches in order to delay the proceedings. We sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Colfox). I have here a specimen of his handiwork—


The hon. Member must make his criticism in a general way.


The criticism which I am now applying to a particular hon. Member applies practically to all hon. Members on the Opposition side of the Committee. The speeches are long drawn-out and do not serve any particular purpose. It has been said that Labour Members take no interest in this Bill, because we do not take part in the discussions. We realise that the best interests of the Bill are served by not supplying ammunition which hon. Members opposite can throw back at us, but to let them have their say. We are best serving the interests of the Bill if we turn up, vote up, and shut up, and when we have done that, we feel that we have done something useful in not encouraging hon. Members opposite to waste time. Most of us have our local newspaper, or what is called the local "rag." Some are reputable and some are disreputable. The newspapers who support hon. Members opposite are disreputable and, of course, ours are always reputable. Sometimes they are in the habit of twitting us. I have been twitted with being a silent Member. I am silent, because, realising the position of the Government, I feel that we should not waste time by talking. What is required is common sense and level headedness, not verbosity and gas. My experience on the Committee convinces me that something must be done; otherwise, we shall never get the legislation which the country demands. It is impossible to do the business of this House if these obstructive tactics are carried on indefinitely, and in my opinion this Motion is absolutely necessary if we are to carry those Measures which our constituents have sent us here to demand.


As a member of Standing Committee C, which has been so much criticised by the Prime Minister who has taken no part in its proceedings, I think I am entitled to give facts which were not given by the Prime Minister in introducing this Motion. The Prime Minister says that this Committee has been responsible for wasting five days, but, if he thinks this is an important Bill, then the Prime Minister is responsible for wasting five months. This Bill was introduced last November, and five months have been allowed by the Prime Minister to go by before proceeding with it, although he now complains of an alleged loss of five days. Let me come to the exact position of the Bill. I should like to know what the Government are going to do about the present Session. Is the present Session coming to an end within six weeks or two months? If so, this Bill has no chance of receiving adequate discussion. Last year the Government found that they had introduced the Bill into Committee, on their own admission, too late. They did not introduce it until the 3rd of June, 1930, and in order to get over that difficulty they have to introduce it on exactly the same day this year. We have had so far five days in Committee on the Bill. Last year after four days in Committee, and when we had arrived at about the same point in the year as we are now, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said: The necessary time is not available for giving that full consideration to this very important Bill that I am sure the Committee would like to devote to it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 26th June, 1930, col. 2233.] Last year the Government withdrew the Bill because there was not time to discuss it. This year they are going on with it, although there is not time to discuss it. They want the Bill without that adequate discussion which they admit it ought to receive. I must point out to the First Lord, with all courtesy and without any ill will, that a good deal of the delay has been caused by the points he has raised, quite unnecessarily, when we have been discussing small Amendments. At the start of the Committee he announced in his most bland manner that he did not think it necessary to say much about that particular Amendment, because it was discussed by the Committee last year. That is an entirely new Parliamentary doctrine, and it is not unnatural that the Minister who makes such a serious mistake in debate should be held responsible for the considerable discussion which naturally ensued upon this amazing assertion. We maintain that this is a different Bill and a different Committee, and we intend to discuss the Measure thoroughly. On another Amendment the First Lord began to argue as to whether or not the Kangaroo should be applied to the Bill. That is hardly a Committee point; that is a matter to be decided by the House of Commons.

So I ask the First Lord to remember that he has been responsible over and over again for greatly enlarging the scope of the debates of that Committee which has been so unjustly assailed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Here is a Bill which is said to be of the utmost importance and urgency. The First Lord announces that the Government intend to pass it. I always thought that Bills were passed by the House of Commons and not by the Government, but that is a point into which I shall not go now. This Committee has suffered from prolonged sittings before. I can remember that when we were trying to discuss a Bill, not to make food cheaper, but to cut off food supplies altogether—the Trade Disputes Bill—we had to listen to speeches of 30 or 40 minutes from Members of the present Government. The House ought to be made aware of the fact that if we carry this Motion it will apply to a Committee which is to be asked on Tuesday next to sit in the afternoons. That is a matter which bears very closely upon the question whether we ought to grant these excessive powers. Let me quote the evidence of the Prime Minister before the Committee dealing with the hours of this House. The Prime Minister said: I think it is very undesirable as a rule that important Committees "—


On a point of Order. Is it not out of order to refer to evidence given before a Select Committee unless that evidence has reached the House?


I can quite understand that the First Lord, although he insists on all these rules in the Committee, has not taken the trouble to read the evidence of his own Prime Minister. I obtained the Report of that evidence from the Vote Office, and it was published last year. I am not aware of any rule which prevents my acquainting the House with information that is available to every Member. Let me finish the quotation from the Prime Minister's evidence. I think it is very undesirable as a rule that important Committees, Standing Committees, should sit when the House is sitting, because the effect is to divide the House of Commons into sections, and I am all for keeping the unit in the House of Commons.


Do I understand that the Report is already in the hands of Members?


I got a copy of it in the Vote Office yesterday, and from the Report I copied the words which I have read to the House. It has been said that the Standing Committee referred to is not as good a Committee as it ought to be. I have had the experience of sitting upstairs listening to interminable speeches from the Labour benches and then having to vote in Divisions in the House on matters of which we upstairs had heard nothing. It is most undesirable that Members should have to run backwards and forwards between the Committee room and the House. That is a thing in which we shall be involved under this suggested procedure. I will not go at length into the Bill, because it would not be in order, but if it is suggested that we are prolonging the Debates unnecessarily I reply that on the contrary there are certain vital matters affecting the Bill on which we have been unable to get any information. For instance, we cannot ascertain whether the Government propose to fix prices at all points—retail, distribution, and the origin of the goods.


It would not be in order to pursue that subject.


We have failed to get information which we were anxious to get, and the blame does not rest entirely on one side of the Committee. There is one point on which the Government might attempt to justify their procedure. There has been a great change of opinion on a number of matters on the Government Front Bench since the Government came into office. They have found a great many things that they thought they could do but now cannot do. There is, therefore, something to be said for getting the Bill through on the ground that it will educate the Cabinet and make them learn that no one has ever been able to fix prices. The Government will therefore find that their scheme will be a failure.


I should be soon ruled out of order if I followed the right hon. Gentleman very far in his last point. ID would be best, therefore, for that point to be debated in the Standing Committee. I do not think any really new points of substance have been introduced into to-day's Debate. The points introduced by the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) to-day were introduced by him on the occasion of the last Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has put the same kind of general objection to the use of the Kangaroo in Standing Committee as he did last year, and has added to his statement what force he could from the proceedings on the present Bill. But I am bound to say that I think the Prime Minister answered that point very effectively when he said that all the fears of the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion, with regard to the Agricultural Land Bill, had not materialised, that the proceedings went very well indeed, and that if they had only gone as well in another place we should have made substantial progress with that particular Bill.

The right hon. Member for Bewdley referred to the need for the meticulous examination of Measures of this kind upstairs. I can assure him, as one who has had experience of the Committee, that "meticulous" was the right word to use regarding the proceedings. They have been very meticulous, but they have not been as careful in examination as we should desire, because a great number of the Amendments have been quite unnecessary and really irrelevant to the real purpose of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that under this procedure a Bill of this kind might be put through Committee without discussion. I am sure that is not so. Under the Kangaroo Resolution giving selective powers to the Chairman regarding Amendments, there will not be a single Clause of the Bill which can pass without discussion in Committee. It is true that there are already powers existing under Standing Order 26 for a Motion to be moved, after the Closure for certain words to stand part of the Clause to a certain point, but that has nothing to do with the Motion before the House to-day. One thing I was very sorry to notice in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and that was his reference to the Report stage. The right hon. Gentleman is so fair always in the way he addresses the House, but it seemed to me that his reference to the Report stage was really a kind of threat as to what was to happen when the Bill passed through Committee.


indicated dissent.


I am glad to have that disclaimer. If it had been otherwise I should have pointed out that I am sure the right hon. Gentlemen, with his much superior parliamentary experience, would have been the first to say that that would be a matter for Mr. Speaker to decide when the Amendments appeared on the Paper. The right hon. Gentleman's last point was his reference to the fact that if we are to sit during the afternoons in the Committee upstairs it will be a little difficult because of the proceedings on the Finance Bill in the House. I have been spoken of in very strong terms both here and upstairs, and I raise no objection. I say here that the Government want to get their Bill. We think that the Bill is needed. We want it this Session. We think that we can get it this Session, if we have reasonable time upstairs for discussion. If we can see a reasonable chance of avoiding the dilatory proceedings which have undoubtedly taken place during the five days of the Committee, I shall be very happy to negotiate with the right hon. Members who have been in the Committee to see whether we can avoid sitting during the afternoons. But I must say that the progress already made makes it very difficult for me to state that we can get the Bill through without afternoon sittings.

The right hon. Gentleman knows from experience with Hills of this character, such as the Companies Bill and one or two other Bills under the last Government, that it was absolutely essential to have afternoon sittings in order to get those Bills through. I had some experience then, in Opposition, and I do not think it unreasonable to ask that, in the present circumstances, we also should have afternoon sittings. I repeat, that if it can be shown that we are going to make much quicker progress than has-been made up to now, sitting in the forenoons only, I shall be very glad to try to negotiate with the representatives of the Opposition in the Standing Committee, in order to see if we can avoid afternoon sittings during such period as the Finance Bill is actually under discussion in the House. To the more personal references of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) I am not going to reply. I do not wish to enter into any sort of acrimony, although I do not think those references were made in an acrimonious spirit, as much as with a view to exciting my ire. To-day I do not want to be excited. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) said that the Bill of last year was withdrawn because the President of the Board of Trade admitted that it was badly drafted. I will not say that that is a misrepresentation, but it is not a, statement of the facts, and a reference to the proceedings upstairs last year will support me in that contention.

There is only one other point of substance which has been raised in the Debate. The Opposition claim that as the Bill was introduced as long ago as last November, and as its Second Reading took place in March, and as the Committee Stage only began in June we have no reason to complain at all. That is the general claim—that we might have expedited the proceedings much more than we did. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, in dealing with a similar Motion in November last made use of one or two interesting observations. He said: The Kangaroo has not often been imposed until a Bill has had, at any rate, a run in the House. We have had a Second Reading and we have had five days in Committee. Then he said: The business of this House can only be carried on by a great deal of compromise and whenever the House gets into a difficult position and the parties are not working together that is always bad for the business of the House as well as bad for our own tempers. … But when a Bill has been before the House for some little time the country gets acquainted with it and the Government, if they care for public opinion, then have the opportunity of finding out what people think of their Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1930; col. 932, Vol. 245.] The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the interests involved thus had time to study it and make their representations for the consideration of the Government. What has happened in the case of this Bill? We introduced it in November; it received a Second Reading in March, and, although the Committee proceedings—largely because the Committees were choked with business—did not start until June, we got a great number of Amendments which were held back and only put down at the last moment. In this case the Bill was not only before the country last year but was introduced in its present form as long ago as November. The House and the country and the trade interests had all these months in which to consider Amendments, and, if the trade interests were really anxious, they had that time in which to negotiate with the Government. All that ought to have meant an expedition of the work of the Committee. Instead we got all these Amendments at the last moment and when we ask for powers to expedite the proceedings in Committee we are faced with the statement that the Bill has already been before the House and the country for many months, and therefore, apparently, we have not troubled with it.

We regard this Bill as urgent. The leader of the Opposition made one or two speeches which I have in mind in 1924 on this subject. He said then that it was an urgent question and he appointed a Royal Commission, almost as soon as the signatures of office in his Cabinet were dry, so concerned was he about its urgency. That Royal Commission recommended the creation of a body with statutory powers, and although the right hon. Gentleman did not see fit, at that time, to appoint a body with statutory powers, he was never backward in telling the House that the moment the body at present called the Food Council needed statutory powers he would be prepared to introduce legislation. We feel that on the right hon. Gentleman's own programme in 1924 and on his own case, the body with statutory powers which was recommended by the Royal Commission—appointed by the right hon. Gentleman—is a matter of urgency for the country. That is why we intend to get the Bill passed this Session. As I say, I have no desire to go into the more personal matters mentioned in this Debate, and I hope that the Committee will now proceed to a Division on the Amendment.


The right hon. Gentleman blamed Members of the Committee for not putting down their Amendments earlier. How could we put down Amendments until we knew which Committee was going to take the Bill and what Members would be on it?


The Amendments could have been ready. The right hon. Gentleman must be well aware that between each of the five meetings of the Committee many more Amendments have been put down, although they have had all of that six months to which I have referred, as well as a week or two in addition.


The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord is the only Member who has spoken who has shown a real knowledge of the habits of the kangaroo. Everybody else displayed great ignorance on that point. I can understand my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who represents a seaport town, talking about the octopus—a creature, I would remind him, which discharges an inky fluid in order to conceal itself from its pursuers.


Is it in order for the hon. and gallant Member to malign the octopus by ascribing false habits to it?


If there was one speech which was more calculated than the procedure of the Government to bring the House of Commons into contempt it was the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull. He has hitherto represented himself to be the apostle of liberty but having committed, in the course of a long and worthy Parliamentary career, every possible political crime he is now turning King's evidence. There was another speech which displayed a certain inadequacy of zoological knowledge, and that was the brilliant and philosophic speech of the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Stanley). He said that the kangaroo was an animal of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) ought to have a particular knowledge, because it carried its party in its pocket. That was a very witty observation, but I should have preferred to hear my hon. Friend, representing, as he does, the Conservative party, tell us something about the habits of the beaver. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has displayed a real knowledge of the kangaroo, because he has leapt over all the main criticisms which have been levelled against it.

This Motion, in its scope, is not a serious Motion. It contains nothing which might be described as either novel or revolutionary. Any Motion which might have those adjectives attached to it would never be espoused by the present Prime Minister, who does not believe in anything novel or revolutionary. He believes in the inevitability of gradual-ness, and if the House of Commons is to be destroyed, one may depend upon it that the operation will be effected under an anæsthetic. There is nothing either novel or revolutionary in these proposals, and the only circumstance surrounding them which might inspire anybody with fear is that the right hon. Gentleman came down here with a bodyguard, and that the three Ministers for the Service Departments had to surround him during the whole course of this Debate.

There is no reason, of course, in logic why the Kangaroo Closure, so-called, should not be extended to the Chairmen of Standing Committees. It is a power which is vested in you, Sir, and in the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman who preside over our Committee Debates in this House, and it is exercised with a moderately good effect. Certainly in logic there is nothing to prevent its extension. There are, however, certain objections to it which ought fully to be considered, not only because of the merits of that particular process, but because the Chairmen of Standing Committees do not consecrate their whole time to the service of this House in the same way as do the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Committees here, and they are not so thoroughly removed from party controversies; still, that could be got over. If this method is to be applied at all to Committee Debates upstairs, it ought to be universally applied, but the object which the Government have in view is clearly not the object of getting the Consumers' Council Bill through. That has been made quite plain. The object is to withdraw from this House, during important Debates, hon. Members who are sent here by their constituents to participate in those Debates. That is their object, and I submit that that is the outrage on this House of Commons.


On a point of Order. Should not that point be discussed on a later Amendment?


The hon. Member's remarks are more appropriate to another Amendment.


I say that no one ought to allow this Motion to pass in the particular circumstances of its introduction, because if the Motion is passed, it will involve hon. Members, and in particular capable hon. Members, being deprived of their opportunities of participating in our Debates here. That is the real danger with which the House of Commons is confronted to-day, that Members are used here merely as voting machines. They are expected to come down here from the Committees upstairs on the sound of the bell and to vote in the Division Lobbies on a matter which they have not even heard discussed. By introducing this Motion, the Prime Minister is patting his endorsement upon that procedure, and the House of Commons can abandon for ever its deliberative character and recognise itself merely as an assembly of delegates. It is not to be forgotten that the Budget is being discussed under the Guillotine. That curtails discussion very considerably, and if Members upstairs on a Committee are deprived of discussing even such proposals as are still permitted to be discussed, surely the House of Commons will find a difficulty in recovering from the outrage which is being inflicted upon it.

It is all part of a consistent policy. The right hon. Gentleman complained just now that Members did not put their Amendments on the Paper in time for this Committee. Does he forget that only last Monday the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down here and proposed the most radical Amendments to his own Finance Bill? He gave the House of Commons no notice of them whatever. This is all a process of great degeneracy, and I must say that I prefer the methods of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to those of the Prime Minister. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is at any rate downright. He is the first man in this country since Charles I, at any rate, who has ever claimed to govern by divine right. He comes down here and claims to represent the Creator, and to have a mandate from Him. [Interruption.]


On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to refer to another hon. Member's speech as dirty rot?


Such a remark would not be in order, but I did not hear it.




I certainly had intended to take no notice of an interruption of that kind, because it is the only contribution that hon. Members opposite can make to our Debates. It is, if they wish to silence ordinary discussion altogether, a very convenient method for Ministers who are not prepared to face criticism. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer does these things quite candidly and frankly. We had a revelation once from Mount Sinai, and we have recently had one from "Snowden," and I do not know which is the more alarming or which will have the longer and greater effects; but the Prime Minister has quite a different method. He comes down here in a much more sentimental mood, and he says: "I love the old ship of State, and I could not bear to scuttle her. I adore the Parliamentary flag." He preaches language of that kind, yet he leaves a bomb in the hold of the very vessel that took him to Downing Street. This is a gradual process of the dissolution of Parliament. One by one all its liberties are being curtailed. I remember that my hon. Friend who has just interrupted me, the hon. Member for Peck-ham (Mr. Beckett), was frank enough to come down and seize the Mace. He only seized the symbol of our liberties; it is left to the right hon. Gentleman to affront the reality.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 222; Noes, 100.

Division No. 336.] AYES. [2.45 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hardie, G. D. (Springburn) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Harris, Percy A. Perry, S. F.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Haycock, A. W. Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Alpass, J. H. Hayes, John Henry Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Phillips, Dr. Marion
Angell, Sir Norman Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Pole, Major D. G.
Arnott, John Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Potts, John S.
Aske, Sir Robert Herriotts, J. Price, M. P.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Pybus, Percy John
Ayles, Walter Hoffman, p. C. Quibell, D. J. K.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hopkin, Daniel Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Barr, James Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Rathbone, Eleanor
Batey, Joseph Hunter, Dr. Joseph Richards, R.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Isaacs, George Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Jenkins, Sir William Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central) John, William (Rhondda, West) Ritson, J.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Benson, G. Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne) Romeril, H. G.
Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Bowen, J. W. Kelly, W. T. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Broad, Francis Alfred Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Sanders, W. S.
Brockway, A. Fenner Kinley, J. Sandham, E.
Brothers, M. Lang, Gordon Sawyer, G. F.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Sexton, Sir James
Burgess, F. G. Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Law, Albert (Bolton) Sherwood, G. H.
Calne, Hall-, Derwent Law, A. (Rossendale) Shield, George William
Cameron, A. G. Lawrence, Susan Shillaker, J. F.
Cape, Thomas Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridgs) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Lawson, John James Simmons, C. J.
Charleton, H. C. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
Chater, Daniel Leach, W. Sitch, Charles H.
Church, Major A. G Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S. Leonard, W. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lewis, T. (Southampton) Smith, Lees-. Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)
Cove, William G. Lloyd, C. Ellis Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Logan, David Gilbert Sorensen, R.
Dagger, George Longbottom, A. W. Stamford, Thomas W.
Dallas, George Longden, F. Stephen, Campbell
Dalton, Hugh Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Strauss, G. R.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Lunn, William Sutton, J. E.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Day, Harry MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Denman, Hon. R. D. McElwee, A. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. McEntee, V. L. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Dukes, C. MacLaren, Andrew Thurtle, Ernest
Duncan, Charles MacNeill-Weir, L. Tillett, Ben
Ede, Jams Chuter McShane, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Edmunds, J. E. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Tout, W. J.
Elmley, Viscount Manning, E. L. Vaughan, David
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) March, S. Viant, S. P.
Freeman, Peter Markham, S. F. Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Marley, J. Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn) Marshall, Fred Watkins, F. C.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mathers, George Wellock, Wilfred
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) Matters, L. W. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley) Maxton, James West, F. R.
Gillett, George M. Messer, Fred Westwood, Joseph
Glassey, A. E. Mills, J. E. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Gossling, A. G. Milner, Major J. Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Gould, F. Montague, Frederick Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm (Edin., Cent.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Gray, Milner Morley, Ralph Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Mort, D. L. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Groves, Thomas E. Muggeridge, H. T. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Grundy, Thomas W. Naylor, T. E. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Noel Baker, P. J. Wise, E. F.
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Oldfield, J. R.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Palin, John Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hardle, David (Rutherglen) Paling, Wilfrid Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Thomas Henderson.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bawdley) Beaumont, M. W.
Albery, Irving James Balfour, George (Hampstead) Betterton, Sir Henry B.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.) Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Balniel, Lord Bourne, Captain Robert Croft
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Bracken, B. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Remer, John R.
Brass, Captain Sir William Greene, W. P. Crawford Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Briscoe, Richard George Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Bullock, Captain Malcolm Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Salmon, Major I.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hartington, Marquess of Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W.) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Savery, S. S.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hore-Belisha, Leslie Skelton, A. N.
Colman, N. C. D. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Colville, Major D. J. Iveagh, Countess of Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Leighton, Major B. E. p. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cooper, A. Duff Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Lymington, Viscount Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Macquisten, F. A. Thomson, Sir F.
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol. West) Maltland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Thomson, Mitchell-. Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Dalkeith, Earl of Marjoribanks, Edward Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Meiler, R. J. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Eden, Captain Anthony Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Elliot, Major Walter E. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Fermoy, Lord Penny, Sir George Womersley, W. J.
Fielden, E. B. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Forestler-Walker, Sir L. Perkins, W. R. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Captain Margesson and Sir Victor Warrender.
Ganzoni, Sir John Power, Sir John Cecil
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Ramsbotham, H.

Main Question again proposed.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to move, in line 5, at the end, to add the words: Provided that the Standing Committee shall not sit on any day on which the House does not meet nor at any time during the sittings of the House. I would not have thought it necessary to move the first part of this Amendment, but the present Government pay so little attention to the rights of private Members, that they are quite capable of asking the Committee to sit on a Saturday, and even on a Sunday. Therefore, I thought it necessary to provide against that in the Amendment. The second part of the Amendment is of greater importance. The Prime Minister has expressed the view that Committees should not sit at the same time as the House. I hoped, when the First Lord was speaking, that he would show some slight sympathy with the Amendment, but he only made some reference to the sittings of Committees while the Finance Bill was before the House. A great many other Bills of importance come before the House as well as the Finance Bill, and we should not be asked to sit while the House is considering any Bill. For instance, when the Agricultural Marketing Bill comes before the House, many of us who are interested will be on the Committee upstairs, and we shall either have to neglect our work upstairs or to neglect our duty down here.

The Government are trying to press Members too hard. We have to consider the Amendments to the Bill, prepare our speeches and write our letters, and it is impossible for us to do our work properly if we are asked to sit upstairs in the mornings and afternoons. The Government might show a little more sympathy and kindness to the ordinary back bench Member. It is impossible for Members to do their duties to their constituents when the Committee upstairs is sitting at the same time as the House. They simply become voting machines. When they are upstairs working on a Committee and the Division bell rings, they have to come down here and vote without having heard a word of the discussion, and they often do not know what they are voting on. Members who wish to listen to discussions and take part in the speeches ought to be given a chance of hearing the Debates and deciding how to vote, but that is absolutely impossible if we are forced to sit upstairs when the House is sitting. In view of the way that the Government are trying to dragoon the House and trying to prevent us taking part in the discussions, I hope that the House will approve of the Amendment.

Captain BOURNE

I beg to second the Amendment.

3.0 p.m

I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I am not a member of this Committee, and my interest in this question is not how it affects the particular Bill to which the Motion refers, but that I fear the Motion will become a precedent. Bad as I consider the precedent to be, I should like it to have at least one redeeming feature. It is part of my duty to sit upstairs on the Committee on Procedure, and, if one thing has been more notable than another, it is that every witness who has come before us has commented on the fact that it is highly undesirable that the Committees should sit when the House is sitting. Members have come before us from all parties and have expressed every shade of opinion, but they have all said that one of the things that in their opinion has not added in recent years to the prestige of this House has been the fact that so many of our Debates are sparsely attended by hon. Members. One of the reasons which has been stressed by every witness who has come in front of us has been that the multiplicity of duties which are now thrust upon the Members of this House prevents many of them from attending Debates in which they are interested. Debates are often matters of great importance to the country as a whole, but, instead of listening to Debates, Members tend to degenerate into mere voting machines because of the extra duties placed on their shoulders of attending to work upstairs while Debates are taking place. It is obvious that nobody can listen to a debate in the House and at the same time take part in a Committee upstairs. When a Member is on a Standing Committee, it is his duty to take an interest in the Measure before the Committee, and, while he is attending to that duty, a question may come on in the House which may be of great interest to him personally or of vital importance to his constituency. It may be a subject on which he wishes to hear the arguments, even if he does not wish to avail himself of the opportunity of addressing the House. In view of the pressure of work and of the importance of the Debates in this Chamber, it is essential that nothing should be done to prevent the free attendance of Members.

We have to consider how we fare in the eyes of the public. We sometimes forget that members of the public listen to our Debates, and we should ask ourselves what they think when they listen to us and watch us, and see perhaps on the Government Bench two Members of the Government and a Whip, and not many more Members on the Opposition side. If inquiry is made as to where the Members are, we are told that Committee A is sitting on something, that Committee B is sitting on something else, that Committee C is also sitting, and that Members are also engaged on a private committee. Hon. Members, in point of fact, are not absent because they do not wish to attend, but because other duties have been placed upon their shoulders which necessitate their being absent. They only come back into the House when the Division bell rings to vote on a subject of which they are completely ignorant and about which they have not heard a word of discussion, and they only know which way to vote by being told by the Whips.

My view has been re-enforced by the evidence before the Committee on Procedure, that the function of the House is to deliberate, and to discuss and criticise every proposal brought forward by the Government of the day, and that one of the objects of Debate is that the arguments brought forward by one side of the House or the other should make some impression on the opposite side. If the arguments are bad, it is obviously easy for hon. Members to contradict them. If they are good arguments, I still believe that they will have some effect on Members, however much they may be governed by preconceived ideas. What is the use of the most eloquent, the most persuasive and the most appealing argument if it is delivered to empty benches? So long as Committees sit upstairs and hon. Members are bound to attend, so long will argument in this House be ineffective, because, however good it may be, hon. Members will have been compulsorily prevented from listening to it.

One of the points on which every member of the Procedure Committee is, I believe, more or less agreed, is that sittings of Committees upstairs on Public Bills are highly undesirable at the same time as the House is sitting downstairs, and should only be resorted to in the last extremity, and then only by express permission of the House. In the old days, and there are some remnants of it in our Standing Orders, no Committee was allowed to sit after prayers, and if it did so sit its proceedings were invalid. It is true that by a later Standing Order power was given to the House to permit a Committee to sit on occasions of great emergency. I do not think anyone would wish to remove that power, but I support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend, because I feel it is a power that ought to be exercised very sparingly. Only on occasions of great emergency should the House sanction the sitting of a Committee at the same time as the House is sitting.


It may be convenient if I intervene now to make one or two observations on the Amendment. It might be deduced from some of the speeches that the Motion before the House introduced a new principle of Committees sitting in the afternoon, but it has been the practice for Committees to meet in the afternoons as well as mornings, and therefore that is not a new feature. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has spoken at some length on the question of whether it is or is not desirable for Committees to sit in the afternoon when the House is sitting. That is an interesting subject for discussion, but if an alteration is to be made in that respect—and I am expressing no opinion as to whether it is desirable or otherwise—I suggest with all respect that it ought to be undertaken as a general alteration in the procedure and not as a special development in connection with one Bill alone. I think that is a sound answer to the argument in favour of this change.

In regard to the procedure on this Bill itself I do not think hon. Members can complain about what has been done so far. Yesterday, at the conclusion of the proceedings, my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty moved that the Committee should sit in the afternoons as well as the mornings. An appeal was made by hon. Members on the other side that, if there was not some definite understanding on the point, at least consideration should be given to the convenience and the rights of members on days when the Finance Bill was before the House. In response to that request my right hon. Friend very readily conceded the point that the Committee should not meet on Tuesday afternoon, in view of the important Debate in the House on that day. I think that may be taken as an indication of what the attitude of the First Lord will be in so far as future proceedings are concerned.

Of course the Government, in seeking to pass this Bill through the House, must have some consideration for its opportunities of reaching the Statute Book. I want to say, in supplement of what the First Lord of the Admiralty has already stated, that if it is possible—although it is a Bill of some importance it is not a long Bill, and it should not need an unreasonable length of time for Debate in Committee—if it is possible to make reasonable progress during the morning sittings the Government will be quite ready and willing, and indeed anxious, to meet the wishes of hon. Members opposite in refraining from meeting in the afternoon. We would be quite willing to consult with them at any time on this point, but any understanding in the matter of avoiding meeting in the afternoon must be subject to reasonable progress being made with the Bill in order that it may get through all its stages before the House rises at the end of the Session. Having given that explanation, and on the further point of the undesirability of affecting any change in relation to one Committee only, in the method under which Committees meet, I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite will not press the Amendment.


The hon. Gentleman has made a rather remarkable answer, and one which it is not difficult to show is not a very sound one. He contends that the suggestion as to the Committee not sitting while the House is sitting is a matter which ought to be dealt with on procedure as a whole, and not in relation to this Bill. But why did the Government come down on this particular Bill for a Guillotine Motion instead of leaving that to be dealt with as one of the ordinary matters of procedure?


The Motion which is made to-day is made under existing Standing Orders which have been accepted by the House.


The Motion being made by the Government is one for special treatment and powers being given in the case of one Committee, which under the Standing Orders of this House are not given to a Standing Committee. When the hon. Gentleman and the Government ask for these special powers, surely we are justified in asking for one special limitation. The hon. Gentleman's argument was no answer to the Amendment. If I were forming an opinion on this simply from a party point of view and as a party politician, I could wish nothing better than that the Government Motion should go through without Amendment. If there is one way in which, not so much the House of Commons but the present Government are losing prestige in the country, it is by reason of the fact that important matters are not being sufficiently discussed, and that an endeavour is made to force through the legislative programme of the Government without allowing those reasonable opportunities for criticism for which this House exists. Anybody who is interested in the Parliamentary system must, on a matter of this kind, feel that mere questions of party advantage fade into insignificance compared with the necessity of trying to do the best we can, even under our present procedure, to maintain the prestige of this House.

What is it that we are asking for now? According to the Government's own statement every Parliamentary day until we rise in the autumn, or at the end of the summer, is to be occupied with business of really first-rate importance. If that is the case, it certainly is important that those hon. Members who take the most interest and the largest part in the Debates of this House should be free to attend in the House during the Debates on these important matters. The hon. Gentleman who has replied on behalf of the Government, acting in a way which is becoming very typical of the spokesmen of the Government, has been inclined to plead, "Leave it to us, and, if we find it convenient, we will try and do our best for you." We know that the Government do not find it convenient to do what we want. The Government, apparently, do not find it convenient to allow us opportunities for discussing the very important matters which they are bringing he-fore the House. The hon. Gentleman himself, apparently, realises—and here, perhaps, he rises superior to most of his Front Bench colleagues—the importance of there being a reasonable attendance in this House during those limited opportunities which we have of discussing the present Finance Bill. If a member of the Government realises that, surely it is not too much for us to ask that hon. Members should be left free to attend those Debates, and this is certainly a case in which none of us, from past experience, can feel that, if we are to rely upon the mere tender mercies of the Government, we are likely to be given fair and full opportunities of doing that.

There are two parts to this Amendment, and I think I am right in saying that practically nothing has been said up to the present with regard to the first part, namely that the Committee should not sit on days when the House is not sitting. The hon. Gentleman who replied on behalf of the Government did not give any indication whatever as to his view on that point. I do not know whether he is prepared to indicate to me at once whether the Government would be prepared at least to accept that part of the Amendment. I take it that that is not so—


It is quite unnecessary.


I do not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman—


That suggestion is quite unnecessary. We do not intend to do it, and there is no need to put it in.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that the Government do not propose that this Standing Committee should sit on any day when the House is not sitting. While we wish to press the other part of this Amendment, I hope we make take it that that is one of those undertakings given across the Floor of this House which we may rely upon—


indicated assent.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I rely upon it that the Committee will not be called upon to sit on any day when the House is not sitting, and that relieves us of any necessity of discussing that matter further. I would only ask that the Government, if they have that good will which has been expressed by their spokesmen to-day, should go a little further, and, in the interests of their own reputation as well as the reputation of this House, should agree to accept the Amendment, and thereby agree that this Committee shall not sit during the time that the House is sitting.

Colonel ASHLEY

The First Lord just now announced that he did not intend that the Committee should sit on days on which the House was not sitting, but that did not amount to anything because under the Standing Orders they cannot do so.


I rose, first of all, to say that it was unnecessary to have that in the Resolution.

Colonel ASHLEY

I have always been a strong opponent of the principle of allowing Committees to sit upstairs while the House is sitting. When I first came into the House, in 1906, no Committee was allowed in any circumstances to sit after four o'clock unless a special Resolution had been passed by the House giving them permission to do so. It was so jealously safeguarded that it was only under the most urgent circumstances that permission was granted. After 1909 the downward path began, and we have now reached a stage at which it has become a habit, and a bad habit, for Committees to sit while the House is sitting. It is bad for all concerned. It must hamper the work of the Department for the Minister to be absent four times in the week, from eleven till one and from four till seven—four great chunks of time taken away from the work of the Department. The work that the Minister has to do must be intensified, making him work late at night, and it puts the whole business of the Department back. It delays the preparation of Bills, just like autumn Sessions, which have done far more damage than the House understands in preventing the ordinary routine departmental work being carried on. Prom the point of view of the Minister alone, it is very undesirable that, except under exceptional circumstances, the Committee should sit while the House is sitting.

Then, from the point of view of Members themselves, surely nowadays when the life of a Member of Parliament is a very strenuous one—and, whatever may be thought outside, it is a very strenuous one indeed—it is really too much to expect a Member to carry on his work efficiently and well, and be healthy and strong to carry it on, if you are going to make him work in the morning and afternoon in the Committee and remain here till half-past eleven at night. This undesirable practice has sprung up because so many Members seem to think the criterion of the success of a Government is the amount of legislation that is passed. That, to my mind, is a great fallacy. We ought to aim at excellent administration and detailed meticulous examination of finance, but as little legislation as possible, because legislation means more officials and more complicated life for the people of the country. Therefore, on all counts the practice of a Committee sitting while the House is in Session ought to be deprecated and terminated as soon as possible. With regard to the particular question as to who has been most to blame for the alleged slow progress of this Bill up to now: It has been the First Lord himself. [Interruption.] I will prove it. The First Lord on the occasion of the first meeting of the Committee came down evidently very dissatisfied and disgruntled because he had to look after the Bill and did not in the least want to take on the job.


I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not repeat that I was disgruntled. So far from being disgruntled, I volunteered.

Colonel ASHLEY

The right hon. Gentleman for whom I have the greatest respect, especially because of the way he conducted the Opposition to the Electricity Bill in 1926, at any rate gave the impression that he was not very happy there and wished to be somewhere else. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who are Members of the Committee that, when the first Amendment was moved, the First Lord gave a most amazing answer. It is true that it did not consist of more than two or three sentences, but the substance of the sentences was amazing. He said that he was absolved from giving any answer to arguments put forward by hon. Gentlemen because the answers were given on similar Amendments last year. That had relation to a different Committee sitting upon a different Bill. It was a different Minister, a different Bill, and a different Committee. All through the Committee stage except on the last day, the right hon. Gentleman—I do not wish to misrepresent him but I am telling the House the impression which was conveyed to my mind—gave the most brief answers. In fact, he never answered the arguments at all. He would say that he did not consider such and such an Amendment a good Amendment, and implied that he had a majority behind his back, together with such Liberals as were present, generally not more than two and sometimes only one.

With all deference to the First Lord of the Admiralty, that is not the way to conduct a Bill. He ought to have been a little more sympathetic towards our point of view and to have followed the example of the Minister of Agriculture on the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill who conducted the business without the necessity for the application of the Closure at all. [Interruption.] I do not see the necessity, from the point of view of the Government, for refusing the Amendment. They have the powers which are inherent in the Chairman to secure the Closure down to any named line. They have, by reason of the Motion passed an hour or so ago, the power to use the Kangaroo. Surely with those two very drastic powers, and with the Committee sitting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, they ought to be able to accept the Amendment and give us and their own Members the assurance that the Committee will not be called upon to sit upstairs while the House is sitting.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD

It is true, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said, that it is a practice for Standing Committees to sit during the time that the House is in Session here, but it is a practice of comparatively recent growth and one to be in no way commended or encouraged. I would ask the House to look at the question from the point of view of a member of the panel of chairmen, on which panel my name has the honour to appear. It may be that the Committee of which he is chairman has been ordered or requested to sit during the afternoon. At the same time a matter in which he is profoundly interested is being debated on the Floor of the House. Therefore, it may be that the matter is one in which his constituency is profoundly interested. He may not have the intention of addressing the House, but it is his duty to be present and listen to the Debate. It is his duty to his constituents to be here, but the Committee of which he is chairman is sitting and it is possible for him to do so.

Look at the matter from the point of view of questions. He may wish to put a question on a particular subject, but it may be that on the days on which he could obtain an answer from the Minister, Tuesday or Thursday, the Committee is sitting and he is unable to be present to ask the question. Therefore, he is guilty of a technical discourtesy in not being here to ask the question. For these reasons, I suggest that, in spite of the fact that it has been the practice of recent years for Standing Committees to sit while the House is sitting, it is not one to be encouraged. Looking at it merely from the point of view of those members who are on the panel of chairmen, it is placing them in an almost impossible position, inasmuch as they have to choose between neglecting to some extent their duty to their constituents or, on the other hand, to insist on being here, thereby disorganising to some extent the proceedings of Committees upstairs.


It is indeed pitiful that members of the Liberal party, particularly the front bench Liberals, have not made any protest against this great invasion of the rights of the liberties of the House of Commons. We have had two of the venerable and rather voluble Liberal Members from Cornwall here to-day, but neither of them has protested, although their lifetime conviction must have urged them to protest, against this monstrous invasion of the privileges of the House of Commons. Despite the airy generalities which poured forth from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, one must feel that there has been no attempt whatever to meet the case of the Amendment, which was so eloquently moved. As the Consumers Council Bill affects every important trade in the country and harasses every trade in the country, we ought to be allowed much greater time to debate it, not only upstairs but in this House.

I observe that the First Lord of the Admiralty boasts that he volunteered to pilot this Measure through Committee. On the platform and in the pulpit the First Lord of the Admiralty has held forth about liberty. This is a nice kind of liberty. It comes ill from the First Lord of the Admiralty that he should have so much time on his hands. He would do much better to pay some attention to the campaign of his cooperative societies to reduce their pitifully low wages than come to the House of Commons—


That has not any bearing on the Question before the House.


I apologise for introducing the point, and I only did so as an illustration of the tyrannical methods of the present Government. I really do think that we should have an explanation from the First Lord of the Admiralty, such a lifelong defender of the liberty of free speech, why he comes down to this House and tells us that the Kangaroo must work upstairs while the Guillotine works downstirs. I appeal to hon. Members of the Liberal party, those who are awake and those who are asleep. [Interruption.] What is to become of the House of Commons if we throw away our liberties downstairs and are compelled upstairs to assent to any sort of decisions which may be imposed upon us by some upstart Minister. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite have a very pitiful method of intervening in Debate. Their gruntings have no effect upon argument. Look at what the Liberal party is doing. It is giving away the rights of free speech. I see the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Grey) laughing. I am almost a resident in his constituency—[Interruption.]—and I tell him that all the little grocers and all the little butchers—


The Question before the House has nothing to do with butchers and grocers.


All those who believe in free speech and who voted for him at the last election will severely censure him when the time comes for him to ask for their support again. I see here my own Member of Parliament. How can he support a proposal of this kind. To force this important Measure through by mere brutal and bullying methods is really preposterous. I am not going to take up any more of the time of this House. [Interruption.] Having had so much applause from hon. Members opposite I think I ought to continue my speech because every word I say must burn into the minds of hon. Members opposite—[Interruption]—and into the minds of the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones) and the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) and into the minds of all Liberal Members who are joining in this conspiracy to reduce the House of Commons to a mere deaf and dumb regiment marching through the Lobbies.


The First Lord of the Admiralty a little while ago boasted that he had volunteered to conduct this Bill in Committee. Such a decision does more credit to his heart than to his head, and the refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment does more credit to their heart than to their head. There are one or two reasons why the Government should accept this Amendment. There is, first of all, what I may call the humanitarian reason. Hon. Members come to this House at great trouble and naturally desire to take part in the Debates of Parliament. They desire to be charmed by the seductive and conciliatory remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be instructed by the learned and instructive expositions of the Lord Advocate and edified by the pure and simple language of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones).


What about the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill).


I thank the hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne). There again I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite are extremely anxious to listen to and to be delighted by the entertaining and instructive orations of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). They are to be deprived of one of the few relaxations which this House affords, by the action of the Government in opposing this Amendment. Members of the House have not many privileges, and most of what they have are steadily being overridden; and to deprive them of their few entertainments is frankly brutal and an unkind action which I would not have expected from a Government pledged to a belief in the brotherhood of man. But there is a more serious and more vital objection to the resistance of the Amendment. It has, been mentioned by various speakers but it has not been followed to its logical conclusion in this Debate. To ask members of the Standing Committee to sit in the afternoons, as has been pointed out, is to deprive them of the right or the duty which has been given them by their constituents to take part in Debates in this House.


Tea on the Terrace.


I am obliged to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Manning) for that irrelevant interruption.


It was not I. I am sorry.


I am sorry, too. The procedure is calculated to reduce Members of the House to a mere voting machine. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that, if the proposal is carried to its logical conclusion, the general public may find a cheaper machine than one costing £2,400,000 a year to do its legislative business. At £400 a Member per year a voting machine is rather an expensive one. I am not a scientist or an engineer, but I think I could suggest something that is more efficient and cheaper.


Have you any sympathy with Guy Fawkes?


I suggest that this proposal of the Government is reducing Parliamentary government to an absolute farce. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite cheer, but they are the defenders of democracy and Parliamentary government, not I. I have always held that any assembly elected on a universal franchise must inevitably collapse. Hon. Members opposite are the supporters of democracy and the universal franchise, yet they are the people who are striking this blow.


The hon. Member is getting rather wide of the Amendment.


I apologise for allowing myself to be drawn wide of the point under discussion. I suggest that a Motion such as that before the House and the refusal of an Amendment such as that which has been moved are the kind of thing that is bringing Parliamentary government into contempt. Unless such Motions become rarer I fear that this House and the system of Government which it represents will go finally to destruction.


I would like to see the Amendment accepted because I agree with hon. Members opposite that nobody ought to be overworked and if the Amendment is not passed Members of this House will be overworked. They will be kept running backwards and forwards between two places and while, no doubt, exercise is good for us, we ought to hear the discussions before we come to the Divisions. Historically, Parliamentary Debate is the way in which the affairs of this country have been conducted. Parliament is a peculiarly English institution. We come to compromises by hearing Debates and not by not hearing them. The Scottish never had a Parliament because they had no patience with each other. The Irish worked by secret societies, and the Welsh by craft, but Englishmen discussed and debated and came to conclusions or compromises.

We lost the freedom of Parliament because the Irish were so troublesome that we introduced the Closure. I wish it had never been introduced. It would have been better had there never been any Closure. Then nothing could have been forced on the community unless it had been carried with practical unanimity. That was the way in which Parliament used to be governed and that is why it was a success. But if it is going to be carried on in this way so that the Closure is to fall unreasonably, not only on general discussion in the Chamber but on discussions in Committee, what will be the result? We saw an instance last night of a Member of the Government deliberately talking us all out and abolishing the ancient conveyancing system of Scotland.


The hon. and learned Member is now speaking on the Main Question and not on the Amendment.


I wanted to point out that this Amendment is practically the same thing. The Government proposal means that a number of Members will perforce have to vote automatically upon questions without hearing those questions discussed. They will have to do that either in Committee or on the Floor of the House and, in spite of the developments of science, I do not think we ought to be turned into political robots. To do so would be a bad thing for Parliamentary Debate and a bad thing for confidence in Parliament. The purpose of Parliamentary Debate is that the nation may know on what we are voting. I admit that our discussions are not sufficiently interesting to get as much space in the Press as we would like, but most of us are reported in our local newspapers, if we are only wise enough to send on the OFFICIAL REPORT to them. If this Amendment is not passed, and if this important Bill is to be Kangarooed or pole-axed through Committee, or whatever sort of antediluvian or antipodean idea is to be applied to that end, then the Bill will lose all its prestige and weight, and every man who is made subject to its conditions, or who is hauled up before the courts of justice under it, will feel that his case was not adequately stated in the forum where his interests ought to have been defended.

Commander SOUTHBY

This is a matter which effects Members on all sides of the House. The Government plead for this Motion on the ground that it would not interfere with the adequate discussion of any Bill in Committee, that Amendments of substance would be bound to be taken, and that there would be time for real consideration of those Amendments. But the real intention is further to curtail the discussion in Committee. There are Members who are interested, particularly, in a Bill before Committee, but who feel it their duty to be in the Chamber during the discussion of some all-important question here. Those Members will be torn between their desire to be in the Committee room and their desire to be in the House and the probability is that they will sacrifice attendance in the Committee room for attendance in the House. Therefore the Government will be stifling expert discussion upon vital Amendments in Committee, because the Members who would wish to speak upon those Amendments will have to attend here. Although hon. Members opposite may be inclined to scoff at the suggestion, they should consider that this is a matter which vitally affects every hon. Member in the House. The pressure of Parliamentary business bears very hardly upon Members who attend this House. If they are expected to sit morning and afternoon in Committee and yet give attention to the Debates here, while also attending to their duties to their constituents, the burden may well become intolerable.

One point which seems to have been overlooked is this: We often hear during our discussions taunts thrown across the Floor that a Member who is speaking was not present at the beginning of the Debate and did not hear the opening speeches, and the suggestion is that he is not therefore entitled to contribute to the Debate. May I point out that that condition will be made ever so much worse, because a Member who is in a Committee upstairs is unable to be here to hear what is the most vital part of the discussion, namely, the introduction of a Measure or an Amendment? A Member comes down from a Committee, he has not heard what has gone before, he has missed points in the Debate on one side or the other, and he labours under a considerable disability as compared with those who have been able to sit the whole way through the Debate.

Any hon. Member opposite who views the matter dispassionately must agree that this is a very dangerous precedent to accept. I understood from one hon. Member that the proposal was one that was provided for in Standing Orders, that it was not suggested that this was anything new, but, with great respect and humility, I think he misunderstood the situation, because I understand that the Kangaroo which is allowed for under the Standing Orders does not operate in Committees upstairs at all, and that it was never intended that it should so operate. Therefore, this is really a new departure.


That is not the Question before the House at the moment.

Commander SOUTHBY

One hon. Member opposite laid considerable stress upon the fact that there were important questions to-day which it was necessary to discuss in this House. With that opinion I agree, and yet the hon. Member will doubtless go into the Lobby and support the Government in resisting an Amendment which would make it possible for every hon. Member to be present in the House and to discuss some of those very important questions which he says need discussion. It seems to me that the ordinary back bench Member here is giving away his rights, privileges and liberties, in this matter. If the Government are really anxious to get on with

the business in the Committee, and if they are sincere when they say that this Motion is not going to infringe the liberties of hon. Members and that it is only moved in the interests of expedition, why do they resist this Amendment, which will merely make it possible for Members who wish to attend both in the Committee and on the Floor of the House to carry out their duties adequately and without undue fatigue to themselves? It is obvious that this Amendment is in the interests not only of hon. Members themselves, but of those whom they represent and who expect us to be here, taking part in the debates on major points, and not to be spending too much of our time in the Committee rooms upstairs.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 95; Noes, 216.

Division No. 337.] AYES. [3.56 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Ferguson, Sir John Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Fermoy, Lord Perkins, W. R. D.
Albery, Irving James Fielden, E. B. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Power, Sir John Cecil
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Pownall, Sir Assheton
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gower, Sir Robert Remer, John R.
Balniel, Lord Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Beaumont M. W. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Greene, W. P. Crawford Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Boothby, R. J. G. Gunston, Captain D. W. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Salmon, Major I.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bracken, B. Hartington, Marquess of Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Briscoe, Richard George Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C (Berks, Newb'y) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Savery, S. S.
Bullock, Captain Malcolm Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Skelton, A. N.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton Iveagh, Countess of Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Leighton, Major B. E. P. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Colman, N. C. D. Llewellin, Major J. J. Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.
Colville, Major D. J. Locker-Lampion, Com. O.(Handsw'th) Thomson, Sir F.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Thomson, Mitchell-. Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Macquisten, F. A. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Margesson, Captain H. D. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Culverwell, C. T, (Bristol, West) Marjoribanks, Edward Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Dalkeith, Earl of Meller, R. J. Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Mline, Wardlaw-, J. S.
Eden, Captain Anthony Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Elliot, Major Walter E. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Major the Marquess of Titchfield and Captain Austin Hudson.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Barr, James Broad, Francis Alfred
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Batey, Joseph Brockway, A. Fenner
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Brothers, M.
Alpass, J. H. Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)
Ammon, Charles George Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Burgess, F. G.
Angell, Sir Norman Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Burgin, Dr. E. L.
Arnott, John Benson, G. Calne, Hall-, Derwent
Aske, Sir Robert Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Cameron, A. G.
Attlee, Clement Richard Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Cape, Thomas
Ayles, Walter Bowen, J. W. Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Chater, Daniel
Church Major A. G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Richards, R.
Cluse, W. S. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Kinley, J. Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cove, William G. Lang, Gordon Ritson, J.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Daggar, George Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park) Romeril, H. G.
Dallas, George Law, Albert (Bolton) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Law, A. (Rossendale) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawrence, Susan Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Day, Harry Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lawson, John James Sanders, W. S.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Sandham, E.
Dukes, C. Leach, W. Sawyer, G. F.
Duncan, Charles Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Sexton, Sir James
Ede, James Chuter Leonard, W. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Edmunds, J. E. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Sherwood, G. H.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lloyd, C. Ellis Shield, George William
Elmley, Viscount Logan, David Gilbert Shillaker, J. F.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Longbottom, A. W. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Freeman, Peter Longden, F. Simmons, C. J.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn) Lunn, William Sitch, Charles H
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley) McElwee, A. Smith, Lees-. Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)
Gillett, George M. McEntee, V. L. Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Glassey, A. E. MacLaren, Andrew Sorensen, R.
Gossling, A. G. MacNeill-Weir, L. Stamford, Thomas W.
Gould, F. McShane, John James Stephen, Campbell
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Strauss, G. R.
Gray, Milner Manning, E. L. Sutton, J. E.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne). March, S. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Marley, J. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Groves, Thomas E. Marshall, Fred Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Grundy, Thomas W. Mathers, George Thurtle, Ernest
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Matters, L. W. Tillett, Ben
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Maxton, James Tinker, John Joseph
Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.) Messer, Fred Tout, W. J.
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Middleton, G. Vaughan, David
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Mills, J. E. Viant, S. P.
Hardie, David (Rutherglen) Milner, Major J. Walkden, A. G.
Hardie, G. D. (Springburn) Montague, Frederick Walker, J.
Harris, Percy A. Morley, Ralph Watkins, F. C.
Haycock, A. W. Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Wellock, Wilfred
Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Mort, D. L. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Muggeridge, H. T. West, F. R.
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Nathan, Major H. L. Westwood, Joseph
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Naylor, T. E. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Herrlotts, J. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth) Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Hoffman, P. C. Oldfield, J. R. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Hopkin, Daniel Palin, John Henry Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Paling, Wilfrid Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Palmer, E. T. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Isaacs, George Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Jenkins, Sir William Perry, S. F. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
John, William (Rhondda, West) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Phillips, Dr. Marion Wise, E. F.
Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne) Potts, John S. Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Price, M. P.
Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston) Pybus, Percy John TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Kelly, W. T. Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Mr. Hayes and Mr. Charleton.

Main Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 90.

Division No. 338.] AYES. [4.4 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Cameron, A. G.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Cape, Thomas
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Benson, G. Carter, W. (St. Paneras, S. W.)
Ammon, Charles George Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Chater, Daniel
Angell, Sir Norman Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Church, Major A. G.
Arnott, John Bowen, J. W. Cluse, W. S.
Aske, Sir Robert Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Cocks, Frederick Seymour
Attlee, Clement Richard Broad, Francis Alfred Cove, William G.
Ayles, Walter Brockway, A. Fenner Cripps, Sir Stafford
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Brothers, M. Daggar, George
Barr, James Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Dallas, George
Batey, Joseph Burgess, F. G. Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Burgin, Dr. E. L. Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
Benn, Rt. Hon Wedgwood Calne, Hall-, Derwent Day, Harry
Denman, Hon. R. D. Law, A. (Rossendale) Ritson, J.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Lawrence, Susan Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Duncan, Charles Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Romeril, H. G.
Ede, James Chuter Lawson, John James Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Edmunds, J. E. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Leach, W. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Elmley, Viscount Lea, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Leonard, W. Sanders, W. S.
Freeman, Peter Lewis, T. (Southampton) Sandham, E.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lloyd, C. Ellis Sawyer, G. F.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Logan, David Gilbert Sexton, Sir James
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) Longbottom, A. W. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley) Longden, F. Sherwood, G. H.
Gillett, George M. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Shield, George William
Glassey, A. E. Lunn, William Shillaker, J. F.
Gossling, A. G. MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Simmons, C. J.
Gould, F. McElwee, A. Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) McEntee, V. L. Sitch, Charles H.
Gray, Milner Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) MacNeill-Weir, L. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Smith, Lees-. Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)
Groves, Thomas E. Manning, E. L. Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Grundy, Thomas W. March, S. Sorensen, R.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Marley, J. Stamford, Thomas W.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Marshall, Fred Stephen, Campbell
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Mathers, George Strauss, G. R.
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Matters, L. W. Sutton, J. E.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Maxton, James Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Hardie, David (Rutherglen) Messer, Fred Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Hardie, G. D. (Springburn) Middleton, G. Thurtle, Ernest
Harris, Percy A. Mills, J. E. Tillett, Ben
Haycock, A. W. Milner, Major J. Tinker, John Joseph
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Montague, Frederick Tout, W. J.
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Vaughan, David
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Morley, Ralph Viant, S. P.
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Walkden, A. G.
Herrlotts, J. Mort, D. L. Walker, J.
Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Muggeridge, H. T. Watkins, F. C.
Hoffman, P. C. Nathan, Major H. L. Wellock, Wilfred
Hopkin, Daniel Naylor, T. E. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) West, F. R.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Westwood, Joseph
Isaacs, George Oldfield, J. R. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Jenkins, Sir William Palin, John Henry. Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
John, William (Rhondda, West) Paling, Wilfrid Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Palmer, E. T. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Perry, S. F. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Kelly, W. T. Phillips, Dr. Marlon Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Potts, John S. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Price, M. P. Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Kinley, J. Pybus, Percy John Wise, E. F.
Lang, Gordon Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Richards, R.
Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Law, Albert (Bolton) Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Mr. Hayes and Mr. Charleton.
Alnsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Albery, Irving James Dalkeith, Earl of Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Davison, Sir W. H. (Keneington, S.) Llewellin, Major J. J.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Eden, Captain Anthony Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)
Balniel, Lord Elliot, Major Walter E. Macquisten, F. A.
Beaumont, M. W. Falle, Sir Bertram G. Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Ferguson, Sir John Margesson, Captain H. D.
Boothby, R. J. G. Fermoy, Lord Marjoribanks, Edward
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Flelden E. B. Meller, R. J.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mline, Wardlaw-, J. S.
Bracken, B. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.
Briscoe, Richard George Gower, Sir Robert Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Bullock, Captain Malcolm Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Perkins, W. R. D.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Greene, W. P. Crawford Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton Gunston, Captain D. W. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Power, Sir John Cecil
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Colman, N. C. D. Hartington, Marquess of Remer, John R.
Colville, Major D. J. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Conway, Sir W. Martin Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Hore-Belisha, Leslie. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Iveagh, Countess of Salmon, Major I.
Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Somorville, A. A. (Windsor) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart Southby, Commander A. R. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Saseoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Steel-Maltland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Savery, S. S. Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Skelton, A. N. Thomson, Mitchell-. Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Klnc'dine, C.) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain Austin Hudson.

Ordered, That, notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order of this House, Standing Order No. 27a, relating to the power of the Chair to select amendments, shall apply with respect to the proceedings in the Standing Committee to which the Consumers' Council Bill is allocated.