HC Deb 26 July 1934 vol 292 cc1932-5

asked the Prime Minister whether, arising out of the report of the Select Committee on Procedure, he can state what action, if any, the Government propose to take?


The Select Committee appointed to consider the Procedure of this House, which sat in Sessions 1930–31 and 1931–32, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend, the Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), took a great deal of evidence, and the Government are indebted to the Committee for the time and care which they devoted to their inquiry. The Committee consisted of Members of all parties, and, after the consideration of weighty evidence, came to the unanimous opinion that the Procedure of Parliament is sufficiently flexible to meet all the demands made upon it. The Government have given most careful consideration to the Committee's recommendations, and I propose to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the decisions to which the Government have come.

The chief recommendations of the Committee refer to the Estimates Committee and the work of Standing Committees. The Government propose to accept the recommendation that greater powers should be conferred upon the Chairmen of Standing Committees by giving them the power to select Amendments, and will propose, as a necessary corollary to the acceptance of this recommendation, the appointment of a panel of Members to act both as Temporary Chairmen of Committees of the Whole House and Chairmen of Standing Committees. Mr. Speaker has consented to appoint this panel. The Government consider that the grant of greater powers to the Chairmen of Standing Committees and the change in method of their appointment are important improvements in procedure which will make for the more efficient working of the Standing Committee system.


Will the House have an opportunity of debating the report?


Yes, Sir. We purpose proceeding with this business after the Recess. Communications will take place through the usual channels, and sufficient opportunity for debating these matters will be afforded.

Following are the decisions:


Estimates Committee.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 2nd May, 1933, in reply to a question asked by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Sir V. Henderson) the action proposed by the Government on this recommendation, so far as it relates to the work of the Estimates Committee.

The Government are in sympathy with the suggestion that opportunities should be provided, if desired, for discussion by the House of the Reports of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committees. The questions raised in these reports are, however, frequently of a technical and intricate character, and it does not seem likely that they will invariably include matters which call for a Debate. The Government do not, therefore, think that it should be necessary to contemplate the regular provision every year of a day for discussion of the reports, but they consider that it should be practicable to arrange for discussion whenever it is desired on one of the allotted Supply Days.

The subjects debated on Supply Days are, by custom, chosen by the Opposition parties, and, accordingly, their agreement is being sought to an amendment of the Standing Orders to make provision for the consideration, if desired, of the Reports of the Estimates and Public Accounts Committees on an allotted Supply Day.

Chairmen of Standing Committees.

The Government agree that the power to select Amendments should be con- ferred on the Chairmen of Standing Committees, but they consider that, in view of the responsibility which this power entails, the method of appointing the Chairmen should be altered. It is proposed that Mr. Speaker should nominate at the beginning of every Session a panel of not more than 10 Members to act both as Temporary Chairmen of Committees of the Whole House and as Chairmen of Standing Committees.

Recommendations on Minor matters.

Financial Resolutions.

The Government are not in favour of altering the present procedure with regard to Bills which have to be founded on financial resolutions.


Mr. Speaker has been consulted on this recommendation, and is of the opinion that a new class of question for written reply to be distinguished by a dagger when a Member desires rapid information, might prove confusing to the House. The Government do not, therefore, propose to accept the recommendation. It is the practice of Ministers to reply as expeditiously as possible to questions for which a written answer is required, but it will be appreciated that where detailed information is sought a slight delay is sometimes unavoidable.


The Government, in arranging the terms of the Time-Table Motion for the Unemployment Bill, 1934, took into consultation the Opposition parties and Members specially interested in the Bill. It is the intention of the Government to follow that course in the future when a Time-Table Motion is applied, and to adopt, as an experiment, the suggestion that the time available for the discussion of the different Clauses and stages of a Bill should be allocated by a small Committee representative of the Opposition parties and Members specially interested in the Bill.


The Government do not propose to accept this recommendation.

Standing Orders.

Mr. Speaker nominated a small Committee to revise the Standing Orders, and the amendments proposed by the Committee were passed by the House on the 14th November, 1933.

Departmental Rules and Orders.

The Government consider that the reading by the Clerk of the House, after Private Business, of the titles of Rules and Orders laid on the Table would not serve any useful purpose.

Sitting of Standing Committees during the Sitting of the House.

The Government feel that the question whether or not a Standing Committee should sit while the House is sitting is one best left for the Standing Committee itself to decide.

Private Members' Rights.

During the present Parliament, private Members' time on the Motion days has, in the opinion of the Government, been used to good advantage. The Government are not aware of any general demand for an alteration in the present arrangements, which have only been in operation since 1927. The Government, therefore, do not propose to accept the recommendation of the Committee.

The Government feel that an invidious duty would be placed on the Committee of Selection if they were given power to review the progress made, or likely to be made, by Private Members' Bills with a view to determining precedence on the Standing Committees, and accordingly do not propose to accept the recommendation.

The Government do not consider that the proposal to allow a full half-hour's discussion whenever a Member has the opportunity of raising a question on the Adjournment previous to half-past eleven o'clock is practicable.

Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act.

The Government cannot accept the recommendation to set aside a limited number of Fridays for the discussion of Church Assembly Measures. As the Committee point out, such Measures vary in importance, and, in the opinion of the Government, sympathetic consideration would always be given to any substantial demand for a discussion at a reasonable hour of a Measure raising issues of great public interest.

The amendments to the Standing Orders to give effect to the proposed changes will be placed on the Order Paper.