§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
May I ask the Leader of the House what business he proposes to take to-morrow and next week?
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)
To-morrow, the first Order will be the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill, Third Reading. The second Order will be the Allotments (Scotland) Bill, Second Reading: and the Third Order, War Services Canteens (Disposal of Surplus) Bill, Second Beading. Also minor Orders on the Paper.
Next week we allocate for Monday the Debate on the cattle embargo.
On Tuesday, I shall have to make a Motion in regard to the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley). This is a preliminary Motion. The effective Motion will be taken at a later stage. I do not suppose the House will require any Debate in connection with this Motion.
I shall also, on Tuesday, make a statement as to the Business which the Government propose to take before the Adjournment, on the Motion that the Eleven o'Clock Rule be suspended for the remainder of this portion of the Session. Afterwards, we shall take the Electricity Supply Bill [Lords] Report, the Allotments Bill [Lords] Report, and minor Orders on the Paper.
On Wednesday, the twentieth allotted Supply Day, we propose to take the discussion on The Hague Conference, on the Diplomatic and Consular Services Vote. The Committee stages of the outstanding Votes in Supply will be put from the Chair at Ten o'clock.
On Thursday, the twenty-first allotted Supply Day, we shall take the Civil Service Arbitration Board, on the Treasury Vote, and the Report stages of all outstanding Votes in Supply will be put from the Chair at Ten o'clock.
2284 On Friday, we shall take the further stages of Bills on the Paper.
As regards Wednesday's discussion, I should like to utter a word of caution. I am not quite certain what is the present position in regard to The Hague Conference. The telegraphic reports that we have received leave me in some doubt. If the Conference has not finished and is in an inconclusive position by that time, I think that it would be inconvenient to take that particular discussion on that day, and that it would be better to reserve it for one of the stages of the Appropriation Bill. It is, I think, essential for the proper conduct of the Debate that the principal British delegate at the Conference should be present and make a statement to the House, and that the Government should have an opportunity of conferring with their representatives at The Hague Conference before the Debate takes place.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The question of the particular Debate to which the right hon. Gentleman refers can be, arranged between the usual channels. With regard to the business for Friday, I would ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware that there is strong objection on the part of a large number of Members of the House to this contentious Bill, relating to the surplus profits of the canteens, being taken on Friday at all, particularly as the third Order, and especially on this Friday, for a reason with which the right hon. Gentleman is well acquainted. In view of that fact, which I think cannot be doubted, will he not agree to take the Canteens Bill on some other day than on Friday next, for, if it is taken as third Order, is he not aware that there is very little chance of its being reached except at a late hour, when there can be no effective Debate at all?
I do not know on what other day it can be taken. There are large sums of money which cannot be distributed to the service men, who are the beneficiaries, without this legislation. If this Bill is to be treated as highly contentious, and fought throughout, I do not see what result can follow, except to deprive these men of the benefits of the funds, and I hope that the House will co-operate with the Government. It was in deference to the appeal from my Noble Friend the 2285 Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that the Government postponed the Bill from an earlier date this week until Friday, and I hope that the House will deal with it then, not in the interests of the Government, but of the beneficiaries, who are suffering from the delay which there is in dealing with the matter.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government have already distributed several millions of money without coming to Parliament for their authority, and, therefore, whether the Bill be passed on a given day or on some other day makes no difference; and, further, is he aware that there is very strong opposition to this Bill on account of the ex-service men, who believe that the Bill deprives them of about £2,500.000 of money which they were promised by Lord Kitchener?
Would it meet with general consent if the Bill were taken as the first Order to-morrow? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
I do not think that the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill will take any time. I hope that the Scottish Bill, which is non-contentious, will not take time, and I believe that it will not, provided that we do not disturb the equanimity of the Scottish Members by appearing to cast any slur upon the importance of Scottish business. As regards this money, I understand that a certain amount has been distributed, but the propriety of the distribution has been questioned, and no further distribution can take place without the authority of the House of Commons now that that difficulty has been raised. Therefore, until the House of Commons disposes of this question. the beneficiaries can derive no further benefit from the funds which await disbursal.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the accounts were only published last Monday, and we have been asking for them for two years?
Yes. They were published as soon as they were completed As I said two or three days ago, in reply to my Noble Friend, though the accounts occupy 30 pages, there is a memorandum 2286 prefixed to them, of not more than seven pages, which makes the whole position perfectly clear.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Will my right hon. Friend say, approximately, when he hopes that this part of the Session will end? Is it intended to have an Autumn Session?
It is. There must be an Autumn Session, for Irish legislation in any circumstances, and. as there is to be an Autumn Session, I imagine that the House would prefer to rise as early as possible, since it must assemble again before Christmas. I propose to make a statement about business, and incidentally to indicate what my hopes are rather than my expectations, on Tuesday next. What has just passed shatters my hopes. If hon. Members feel that the business which is necessary is business which they cannot co-operate in disposing of, then I am afraid that I shall have to recast altogether the prospective programme which I was going to lay before Parliament on Tuesday, and that I shall have to indicate a much later date of rising than I had hoped to do.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
In reference to the Motion with respect to the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) and in consequence of the many various statements which have appeared in the Press from time to time, may I ask Mr. Speaker whether he has made up his mind as to what the line of procedure will be after the Motion is made?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have a pretty clear idea in my own mind as to what would seem to follow. We shall follow the precedents that obtained in similar cases in the past.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
In reference to the Canteens Bill, as the opposition to this Bill is, I believe, not so much on account of the Bill itself as in reference to the preparation of the accounts would it be possible to deal with the Bill by giving a promise to those who wish to criticise the preparation of the accounts, or facilities for dealing with the subject on some other occasion, because I have been a member of the Canteens Com- 2287 mittee myself, and I know the circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, and the possibility, if the Bill does not so forward, of the United Services Fund being deprived of some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. I think that that would be a gross blunder which is not intended by the Noble Lord or by anyone else in opposing this Bill. Therefore I hope that some arrangement can be made, so that the Bill should be passed to enable the service men to get the benefit of (he fund, while not precluding my Noble Friend and others from criticising generally the management of this account.
I do not think that I can promise an early day before the Adjournment for the discussion upon the Bill, nor do I know whether the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) interprets rightly the mind of my Noble Friend, who has been a warm opponent of this Bill and who says that the Bill itself is entirely contentious. I am desirous of facilitating its progress, and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Colonel Ward), the Noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer), and those concerned will consult with my colleagues at the War Office and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, we on our side will do anything that we can to facilitate the rapid progress of the Measure, so that the money may be distributed among the prospective beneficiaries.
With regard to the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule, are we to understand that it is in order to get the business cleared out of the way for taking the Trade Union Act, 1913 (Amendment) Bill?
I think it would be convenient that I should deal with the business the Government propose to take on Tuesday when I make my Motion. That is the usual practice, and it will be convenient for me to make a general statement then instead of dealing with particular items by way of question and answer.