§ Order for Consideration of Lords Amendments read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."—[Mr. Brocklebank.]
§ 11.8 a.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I should like to know what is the exact position of the House on this matter. Here we are on a Friday morning, only a few privileged select persons, and we are asked to consider these Amendments without knowing what they are and what their bearing is. It is a very important Bill—marriage goes to the whole root of family life—and it is not a matter that should be dealt within this way. The Bill has had very little discussion. It is not a contentious measure, but one which nearly everyone of us wants to see pased into law and here we are having thrown at us certain Amendments from another place. We have no proper means of knowing what they are, and we are asked to discuss them in the air, just having them read out to us. I should like to ask for some explanation. There must be someone in authority, whether the Parliamentary Secretary or one of the Law Officers. I think we ought to be told the exact position of the House before we enter into any discussion of the matter. It is quite common form for some explanation to be made why it is necessary to accept the Lords Amendments as a whole before we come to detailed consideration of them. As a humble private Member who does not take very much part in these Debates, I feel myself in a state of confusion, and I ask for this information if someone will give it to me.
§ 11.10 a.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I want to join for once with the hon. Member in this very important issue. I follow probably as much as most Members of the House the
§ procedure adopted in carrying Measures through into Acts of Parliament, and I am in a difficulty, and the whole of the Opposition is in a difficulty, in knowing to-day exactly where we stand. Here is a Bill that alters the hours during which marriages may be solemnized. I went to the Vote Office on Tuesday last and got a copy of the Bill, and I understood then that there were Amendments coming from another place. I have asked several times for them, but have not been able to get them yet. I have an impression that they will be read out from the Table this morning, and I do not think the House ought to be treated in that way. I protest against this method of bringing Amendments from another place to us. There has been ample time to print them and to let us have them in the usual way. When the Government wants any documents printed, it is done within a few hours. The Unemployment Bill as amended in the Commons up to about eleven o'clock one night was printed and reached our addresses at 8 o'clock on the following morning. Consequently, it cannot be a problem of printing, and it cannot be a problem so far as the administrative staff of the Parliament Houses are concerned. There is something sinister behind all this.
§ The Government have already adopted several dictatorial methods against the Opposition, and we are very much afraid that there is something secret, something-deep, something fundamental in the Government's declining to let us have these Amendments. The Bill has never been discussed at all in this House yet. Not a word has been said by way of argument in favour of it. I hope that the Attorney-General's voice when he speaks will tally with that of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. Their speeches on occasion do not agree on party politics, but on this Bill I think they ought to have a unanimous voice and explain this difficulty with which we are met.
§ Question put, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 45; Noes, 15.2021
§ Lords Amendments considered accordingly.