HC Deb 03 December 1934 vol 295 cc1377-90

Order for Committee read.

11.42 p.m.


May I raise a question? I do not know whether it is necessary for me to move the Adjournment. There is nothing before the House at the moment.


It depends on what the right hon. Gentleman is going to ask.


I wanted to ask the Leader of the House how long he proposes that the House, or, rather, the Committee should sit to-night.

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)

I am sorry I was not in the House earlier, but I have been very much engaged to-day. The suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule was moved in order to secure the Financial Resolution on this Bill. We are very anxious to get this Bill passed into law.


Of course, we did not need the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule for that, as, being a Financial Resolution, the rule would not apply. But the point is that we really want to discuss that Resolution, at least to some extent, and it is now about a quarter to Twelve. I would like to know how long that discussion will take, because we shall not be able to discuss it on Report stage. I wondered whether we could adjourn the discussion of the Financial Resolution now.

11.43 p.m.


If the right hon. Gentleman asks how long I think it will take, I should say that, from the Government point of view, the discussion will not be at all protracted, and therefore I should hope that we could get the Committee stage of the Resolution without undue delay. Of course, it will be perfectly possible to discuss it on the Report stage to-morrow. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that we have to get the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Financial Resolution before we can proceed with the Committee stage of the Bill itself; and as the Government take the view, and I think the whole House will share it, that the sooner we get this Bill into law the better it will be, we must proceed as quickly as we can with the Financial Resolution. At Question Time on Thursday my right hon. Friend asked for more time to be given to this Measure, and conversations were opened through the usual channels, and as a result the Government found it possible to concede Friday. That arrangement was announced on the Floor of the House on Friday and, as I understood, it was agreed to by those who can speak on behalf of the different sections of the Opposition. Therefore I must honestly admit that I did not expect the Opposition would to-night raise any objection to our securing the Committee stage to-night.

11.45 p.m.


All that the right hon. Gentleman says is true. There has been a long stream of criticism from a fairly large number of the Government's supporters to-night, and a number of my hon. Friends have not been able to take part in the discussion. The best opportunity, we think, should be on the Financial Resolution, but that will be denied to us unless we sit until the small hours of the morning. The right hon. Gentleman does not quite realise the strength of the opposition upon his own side; I do not complain of that at all, of course, and I rather enjoy it. It does take away from the ordinary Opposition, however, the full opportunity, which they ought to have, for discussing these matters.


On a point of Order. I wish to ask if it would be in order for me to move the adjournment of the Debate.


Not at this stage. We had better get to the Committee stage first.

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of meaures designed to facilitate the economic development and social improvement of the depressed areas; for the appointment of Commissioners for those purposes; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—

  1. (a) of such sums, not in the aggregate exceeding in the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, the sum of two million pounds, as may be required to defray any expenses incurred by either of two Commissioners appointed under the said Act in initiating, organising, prosecuting, and assisting measures designed to facilitate the economic development and social improvement of the areas to which this Resolution applies, not including the provision of financial assistance by way of grant or loan to any local authority except for the purpose of contributing towards the cost of any works for which no specific grant is payable by any Government Department or towards the provision of small holdings or allotments; and
  2. (b) of such sums as may be required to defray any expenses incurred on behalf of the Commissioners by any other Government Department; and
  3. (c) of any increase in the amount of contributions payable to county councils by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries under Section two of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1926, not exceeding the amount of any contributions made by the said Commissioners towards the provision of small holdings.

The areas to which this Resolution applies are the following areas, that is to say:—

Depressed Areas in England and Wales.

In the administrative county of Durham—

In the administrative county of Northumberland—

In the administrative county of Cumberland—

In the administrative county of Monmouth—

In the administrative county of Glamorgan—

In the administrative county of Brecknock—

In the administrative county of Pembroke—

Depressed Areas in, Scotland.

The counties of Dumbarton, Lanark (excluding the city of Glasgow), and Renfrew;

The parishes of Ardrossan, Beith, Dalry, Dreghorn, Dunlop, Fenwick, Galston, Irvine, Kilbirnie, Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs, Kilwinning, Loudoun, Riccarton, Stevenston, and Stewarton, within the county of Ayr;

The parishes of Falkirk, Grangemouth, Muiravonside, and Slamannan, within the county of Stirling so far as situated south of the London and North Eastern Railway line from Castlecary to Linlithgow;

The parishes of Bathgate, Ecclesmachen, Kirkliston, Livingston, Linlithgow, Torphichen, Uphall, and Whitburn, within the county of West Lothian so far as situated south of the London and North Eastern Railway line from Linlithgow to Ratho;

The parishes of Kirknewton, Mid Calder and West Calder within the county of Midlothian." (King's Recommendation Signified.)—[Mr. Stanley.]

11.50 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."

I submit this Motion to obtain from the Government some idea of what the present position is regarding this Financial Resolution. When we were sitting as a House this question was raised by the Leader of the Opposition and certain answers were given by the Government Chief Whip. May I say to him that the situation has been slightly changed, and wise men, having changed conditions to meet, would meet them with changed ideas and changed methods. The Leader of the Opposition rightly said that on the Financial Resolution the opportunity would only arise for certain points to be met. But the importance of that becomes the greater because of what I said earlier. One of the reasons why the situation has altered is this: No attempt has been made to reply to any of the constructive points raised in the Second Reading Debate. The only chance the House can now get to have some of these matters dealt with is on the Financial Resolution. Consequently, what might not have been so serious before now becomes a very important problem. Members who made speeches earlier to-day may now get a reply on the Financial Resolution—at least, they have a chance of getting a reply—but it would be unfair that this should happen in the small hours of the morning.

I admit that there was an agreement across the Floor. There was an understanding among us all that the Division would be taken round about eleven o'clock, and the Government have only themselves to blame that that did not happen. If the Government had given a reasonable reply, there would have been no continuing of the Debate. I am sorry that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is not in his place. I had intended to appeal to him, for he is one of those who still have some regard for propriety in such matters. But I would appeal to the Patronage Secretary to give us fair play in this matter. We shall soon be engaged in debate on India, and I would ask Members here whether they would have been satisfied at the end of a Debate on India with such a reply from the Government as we have had to-night? What would they have done if they had put up a case and somebody had afterwards got up and made a reply such as we have had to-night, a reply which had no relation to the Debate I Would they have stood it? I venture to say that they would not. They would have insisted on a proper Government reply.

Our numbers are small, but numbers, whether small or large, do not affect the justice of a case. I would say to the Conservatives that they should be more jealous to see these rights secured when the number of Members concerned is small than when the number is large, because large numbers can always demand their rights. To-night we have seen an exhibition that they would not have tolerated if India had been the subject of debate, and Members have no right to tolerate it to-night. I ask for no more than fair and equal treatment. I do not say that the depressed areas are more important than the future government of India, but I submit that the one subject is entitled to the same treatment as the other at the hands of the Government, and we have not re- ceived it to-night. Conservatives are proud of their sportsmanship. I ask them to show it towards the representatives of the depressed areas and to support us in securing the Adjournment of this Debate, so that the points raised earlier can be replied to and so that we may meet with decent treatment. If there has been delay, we cannot be blamed for it. The fault was the Government's in their method of handling the Debate, and they ought now to agree to the arrangement that we suggest. I think that the Opposition are justly entitled to claim that this Debate should be taken at a reasonable hour when Members can have a proper reply to the points raised earlier.

11.55 p.m.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give very serious consideration to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)? If the Government cannot see their way to waive taking the Financial Resolution to-night, I am afraid it will mean several hours' debate. That will not be because we desire it, but most of the Amendments on the Paper have been put down by supporters of the Government, and, indeed, a good deal of the criticism of the limitations of the Measure has come from Government supporters. It is clear that we on these benches have been driven into a very bad position. I am sure that, if the right hon. Gentleman had been present during the Debate, he would have agreed that whatever arrangements have been made on this matter could hardly hold in the face of what has taken place here to-day. The Labour Government had at least some support from its Members, even in its worst days, but in all my 15 years' experience of the House I have never seen such a House as I have seen to-day, in which the Government have been wholly bereft of support. I think the Government would be wise, both in the interest of the House generally and of their own Members, to waive taking the Financial Resolution to-night and allow us to debate it under proper conditions.

11.57 p.m.


I think it will be realised by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that I have not opposed the Bill; indeed, I support it; but I find myself in a difficulty. The last thing that we on these benches would wish to do would be to break through any engagement solemnly entered into, and therefore we are in some sense in the hands of the Patronage Secretary; but, having put forward, not opposition, but reasoned criticisms of the Bill, and having had no answer to any one of them such as we might have expected from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour or anyone who normally would have replied, we feel that the normal course of debate has not been followed, and therefore we can only ask the Government whether, in view of circumstances which certainly we, and I think they, did not anticipate, they would reconsider the course of debate which had been previously arranged.

11.59 p.m.


I feel very much in sympathy with the Motion which has been moved, but for quite a different reason. Usually the taking of a Financial Resolution has been more or less a formal matter, but the procedure which the Government have elected to follow on the present occasion, of putting practically the whole of their Bill into the Financial Resolution, has had the result that the only adequate Committee discussion must take place on the Financial Resolution. When we come to the Committee stage of the Bill itself, it will be practically impossible, so far as I understand it, to move any Amendments, and the only discussion that can then take place will be on the Question that the Clause stand part. For these reasons I have much sympathy with the Motion.

12 m.


I should like to add my support to my hon. Friend's words. It is clear that the discussion upon the Resolution will be of a wider and more important character than is general on Financial Resolutions of Bills of this kind. I have listened to practically the whole of the Debate to-day and I feel that we are entitled to a more comprehensive and a more powerful reply to the questions that have been raised than the House has been given. These are very important matters upon which a very large amount of popular feeling has been aroused in many parts of the country. I should very much deplore the fact that the Debate is limited to the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. I hope the Government will see their way to agree to the Motion and secure that the very important points which must be discussed upon this Resolution—as I understand the Rules they cannot be discussed upon the Bill itself—should be taken at a time more consonant with the proper debating of such a question. I do not wish to oppose or to delay the Bill, but in view of what has happened to-day—we cannot ignore what has happened—I hope the Government will see their way to accept the Motion.

12.3 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

As one who has been in the House since four o'clock to-day, and endeavoured to take part in the discussion, I should like to say that the time seems to me to have come when the Government might perhaps give us the possibility of further discussion, at a better hour, of this Resolution. We have thoughts on this subject, but find it somewhat difficult to register them within the terms of a Financial Resolution. Human nature is limited and possibly if the Resolution should be taken on another day we could employ better language and more convincing arguments. I support the Bill. I believe it forms the basis of a real constructive effort to meet the sad and unhappy situation in the depressed areas. Therefore, in the interests of the Government, and of the House and of the country, which should get a balanced picture of what the feelings in the House are, it might be a good thing if those who believe this is a good Measure, calculated to do definite good, might have an opportunity of placing their views at a better hour before the House.

12.4 a.m.


I should like to make the position perfectly clear to the Committee. At Question Time on Thursday the Government was pressed to give more time to the Second Reading and the Financial Resolution. They said they were prepared to consider the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition, and asked for negotiations to be entered upon through the usual channels. The negotiations took place, and it was agreed that, if the Government could give more time to the Committee stage and Members who were unable to make their speeches on the Second Heading could make them on the Question that Clause 1 stand part or on the appropriate Clause, whichever it might be, that would meet the wishes of all those who were anxious to deliver speeches on this most important subject. That was the agreement come to with those able to speak for the Opposition before me and the Liberal Opposition below the Gangway and it was felt that, if we could get the Committee stage by Friday, Members who were debarred from catching the Speaker's eye to-day would get their opportunity either on Thursday or Friday, and thereby we met the wishes and convenience of the House. It now appears that what was agreed to at the end of last week does not meet the wishes of the Committee. The Government always have been most anxious to try and meet the wishes of the House as a whole. Therefore, to-night I make a further suggestion in the hope that we may be able to come to an agreement in all quarters of the House. It is that we continue and dispose of the Committee stage of this Resolution, which need not necessarily take long, on the understanding that on Thursday the Report stage is taken up to 7.30 o'clock, or longer, if the Committee so desires. Anyhow, up to 7.30, and from 7.30 to 11 on Thursday night, and from 11 o'clock until 4 o'clock on Friday, we deal with, and dispose of, the Committee stage of the Depressed Areas Bill. If, on the other hand, Members think that they would rather have the whole of Thursday for the Report stage of the Financial Resolution, and would be prepared to say that they would give us the Committee stage of the Bill by Friday, the Government are prepared to accede to that request. The Government—and I believe they will have the Committee in agreement with them—are anxious, as quickly as possible, to pass this Measure into law so that the benefits to be derived from it may be obtained as soon as possible.

12.8 a.m.


I say frankly that the Patronage Secretary has stated fairly the arrangements to which we came. Personally, I do not want to re-hash what has already been said about this Debate, and about the fact that we practically had no reply to the questions that we put and to the appeals for further information. That has all passed, and we have to face the situation in which we now find ourselves. The difficulty about the Report stage is that the discussion will not be as wide as it would be to-night. We cannot make any arrangement about that, but for my part—and I hope that my hon. Friends will agree—I should not like the Committee stage to be proceeded with to-night if it were possible for us to have, say, an hour or an hour and a-half to-morrow night. If we could finish the Shipping Money Resolution at 10.30, we might devote the remainder of the time until about 12 o'clock to this matter, and the Government could then get their vote. If we then thought that it was necessary to devote a short time on Thursday to the Report stage, we could afterwards go into Committee en the Bill, and agree to the Committee stage finishing on Friday. I should like the Patronage Secretary to consider whether we could not adjourn the Committee stage of the Resolution to-night and give some of the time to-morrow to the Committee stage, so that we may have the advantage of dealing with the Resolution in a more general way than is usual on the Report stage. Then, if he felt it to be necessary, I should have no objection to devoting some part of Thursday to the Report stage. That also could be settled by discussion through the usual channels.

12.10 a.m.


I would like to associate myself with what the Leader of the Opposition has said. I agree with all that he has said, but I would add that I hope the Government will make it possible for us to have this discussion to-morrow night at a more convenient hour than this, say at half-past ten, and if necessary, take the Report stage on Thursday.

12.11 a.m.


I do not want to spoil what looks like a reasonable, amicable arrangement., I simply want to point out that to-morrow's business in reference to the shipping subsidy is important business and that it involves considerable sums of money and the question of the employment of a large number of men. It seems to me that the Government have not treated us fairly in this matter. More time should have been made available both for to-day's business and tomorrow's business without our having to make an agreement which means that in order to get this matter fully discussed we have to give up time allotted to another Debate. I accept the agreement, but I hope that on future occasions we shall not have to make these difficult choices.

12.12 a.m.


I am glad that agreement has been reached all round. The Government agree to the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman, that we take the Committee stage, of the Financial Resolution to-morrow evening, beginning at not too late an hour. The Report stage may be taken on Thursday, if necessary. The remainder of Thursday evening will be given to the Committee stage of the Bill and that will be concluded at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. Therefore, we shall be prepared to accept the Motion.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.