HC Deb 13 November 1934 vol 293 cc1781-8

Order for further Consideration of the Bill, as amended, read.

3.45 p.m.


I venture to adumbrate, for I can do no more, to the House a suggestion which may be for the convenience of the House and the efficiency of our Debates arid which I dare say would not be unacceptable to Members who took part in the long discussion of last night. In order to do so, I venture, purely, for technical reasons and to put myself in order, to move "That the Debate be now adjourned." I wish first to say that although we sat very late last night it was a very good-tempered discussion.




The right hon. Gentleman cannot move that Motion, because there was no Debate in progress when he rose to speak.


I presume, then, that this must be treated as a party conversation. I was saying that the Debate of last night although protracted was good-tempered, and for my part I certainly acknowledge the good temper which was preserved by the great majority of Members. The position which we have now reached is that we may consume the whole of to-day's sitting in the discussion of Amendments and only reach the Third Reading of the Bill in the late hours of to-night or the small hours of to-morrow morning. Thus there would not be a proper opportunity for any general discussion at all. Is there no means by which we could have a general discussion or a discussion as general as possible on Part II of the Bill? We have now reached Clause 21, the Clause which you, Sir, were about to call upon, and if it were agreeable to this House I suggest that we might have on Clause 21 a discussion covering the whole question of Part II of the Bill. That would enable a discussion on wide lines to take place, and I imagine it would greatly lighten the proceedings on the Third Reading of the Bill, although the two discussions would not be strictly analogous and would not cover exactly the same ground. Yet there would be an opportunity during the afternoon to cover the main issues raised in Part II and that should certainly abridge the discussion upon the Third Reading. I only throw that out as a suggestion which would be of advantage to the House.


I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is addressing his suggestion to me or to the Government.


I was hopeful that I might first see an indication from the Government that such a course would be agreeable to them, provided that you, Sir, saw fit to associate the House with it.

3.48 p.m.


I think I may say on behalf of the Government that they are always prepared to enter into any negotiations and arrangements which are agreeable to the House as a whole, provided that the Government obtain the business which has been set down for discussion. Any proposal put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will naturally receive our careful consideration. It seems to me that his proposal that we should have now, on the first Amendment on the Paper, a general discussion of Part II—provided that that was allowed by you, Mr. Speaker—would dispose of one important point which is in controversy. But I think I ought to ask the right hon. Gentleman and his friends and the House as a whole whether it is understood that this first discussion, rambling over the whole of Part II, will be brought to a conclusion about dinner-time so that after dinner-time we can proceed to discuss such of the other Amendments on the Paper as are called by you, Mr. Speaker, without protracting the Debate. In that way, if the House as a whole approves, we might dispose of all the Amendments on the Paper say by 11 o'clock. Then in whatever time remains between 11 o'clock and the time at which the House is disposed to go home, the Third Reading Debate could take place. If the two Oppositions, and also the Opposition led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, agree to that proposal, and the House in general accede to the arrangement, I am certain, speaking for the Government, that we should be prepared to carry it into effect.

3.50 p.m.


I think I am pretty well expressing the opinions of hon. Members on these benches when I say that we are always glad to enter into an arrangement which is generally accepted in all parts of the House, but having sat here until after five o'clock this morning, we must be doubly sure, before the right hon. Gentleman starts on this general Debate on Clause 21, that the Amendments on the Order Paper that are called are going to be taken at a reasonable time, and the Third Reading too. There are so many parties in the House at this moment. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is a newly adopted leader from last Tuesday evening, and we do not know how long he will be the leader of the malcontents on the Government benches. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman does speak for the hon. Members for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), and several other very active Members in the House on the Government side, and we can be assured that, after the general Debate on Clause 21, we are not going to be left to hold the baby until well into to-morrow morning, I am sure we shall be willing to enter into such an arrangement. Hon. Members ought to appreciate, of course, that the general Debate between now and, say, 7.30 p.m., would only be on Part II of the Bill, but as Part I has been talked about at length and learnedly, especially by the right hon. Gentleman since he took over the leadership last Tuesday evening, perhaps we forfeit any claims we may have for lengthy orations on the Third Reading. If it is agreed that, following the general Debate, other Amendments will be dealt with very quickly, and there is an assurance of reaching a conclusion at an early hour, then I am sure my hon. Friends will agree.

3.52 p.m.


I think there is some ground of complaint on the part of those who are opposed to the Bill that we have not had an opportunity of discussing Part II at a normal time. It is a very important part of the Bill, raising very considerable issues, and this arrangement would give us an opportunity of debating that part of the Bill earlier in our proceedings to-day, so that to that extent I associate myself with the request that has been made. I think it is fair to ask that those of us who did sit yesterday right through the proceedings, on the assumption that the Bill would be carried through in the present week in accordance with the Government's announced programme, should be able to rely now upon those who are opposed to the Bill giving the majority of the House a chance to get it through without being put to the inconvenience that kept us here until after five o'clock this morning. I think there is no reason why the suggestion now made should not be carried through without any proper arguments on the Bill being unduly abridged, and, therefore, I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the request.

3.53 p.m.


At the end of the Amendments on the Clauses there come Amendments to the First Schedule, which has nothing to do with Part II of the Bill, and I would therefore make an earnest appeal that, as a full discussion on Part II is proposed until dinner time, those who have to move Amendments should let us have a reasonable time for discussion on the Schedule, which I regard as vital to the Bill. The Amendment to which I particularly allude, is one standing in my own name, which affords an alternative to a proposal by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) to limit the profits that can be made out of the totalisator on dog tracks. That question has not been discussed on the Floor of the House at any appropriate hour or at any length at all, and, therefore, I hope we shall be able at a reasonable hour to discuss that question fully.

3.54 p.m.


I gather from conversations that there is a substantial number of Members who want to take part in the general Debate, and I imagine that the Patronage Secretary would not object to the Division upon Clause 21 rather later than 7.30 if as a consequence less time was taken on the subsequent Amendments. The other point that I want to put is whether it would be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to indicate what Amendments you are likely to call on Clauses 21 to 28, so that the general discussion may touch as lightly as possible on the principles raised by those Amendments.

3.55 p.m.


On the point raised by the hon. Member for South Croydon. (Mr. H. Williams), I think it would be better if those hon. Members who could not get into the Debate on Clause 21, say, by dinner time, should reserve their remarks until the Third Reading stage, which would be taken subsequent to the Amendments being disposed of. I make that suggestion, which I hope will be complied with, in view of what has been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto). If we were to allow the general Debate to be protracted beyond 8 o'clock, there would be a chance of important Amendments on the Paper not being reached until an unduly late hour. Therefore, I hope that my suggestion that those who cannot get in before, say, 8 o'clock, should reserve their remarks to the Third Reading stage, will be found acceptable.

3.56 p.m.


I take it that the House would like to know whether I am going to call Clause 21 at all. I think it is generally understood that I do not call Amendments to leave out Clauses, which obviously should have been discussed in Committee. I am always in the hands of the House in these matters, and if it appears to be for the general convenience, not that of one section of the House only, that I should make an exception in this case and call the Amendment which seeks to leave out Clause 21, I am prepared to do so, but I should not like to do so unless with some definite object, either for the saving of time or to prevent a prolongation of the Debate. If those reasons for my calling the Amendment to leave out Clause 21 are agreed upon, and it is for the general convenience of the House, I shall be pleased to call that particular Amendment. It must also be understood that the discussion on it must be confined exclusively to Part II of the Bill, not to any other Part.

3.58 p.m.


It seems to be all clear except the time at which it is proposed to take the Division on the Third Reading. Some hon. Members may feel that they want to go on talking still for a long time on the Third Reading, and it is no use making these agreements unless we are agreed that the Third Reading should be taken some time between 12 and 1 o'clock, and not later. It does not affect me, because I have made up my mind not to sit up on this Bill, and nothing would induce me to do so, but I should not agree to this proposal, to ask Mr. Speaker to make this great exception, and to allow something to be done which he says is not customary, unless we had some agreement as to the final time to which the House is expected to sit by those who are interested in the Bill. I think that is only a fair and square request to make.

3.59 p.m.


From the Government's point of view, we want a termination of the Debate as soon as the House is prepared to come to a vote, but in this matter it is not for the Government to make a decision. I think that, with agreement on all sides, we might say that we will aim for ten minutes to one o'clock, and then, if we run ten minutes over one o'clock, we shall expect to get a Division on the Third Reading then. If the House will agree to that, I am sure that all will work towards that end.


Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that, if the House sit until one o'clock, a large number of us cannot get home by train, and it means hiring a taxicab, which is a rather expensive matter?

4.0 p.m.


No one can say that we do not want to meet the accommodation of the whole House. I do most sincerely, but if we go on until one o'clock, as far as most of my friends are concerned, they might as well stay here right through the morning. I am considering the convenience of my friends, and, therefore, if we ask Mr. Speaker to take the line that he has suggested to us, I think we ought to ask the Government definitely to get the Division at a quarter-past 12 o'clock. If the House goes on until half-past 12, the trains are all lost. The last train on the Underground is 12.24 a.m. My friends who are interested in the Bill do not mind staying if we cannot come to this agreement, because in that case they might as well stay here and enjoy the entertainment.

4.1 p.m.


Would it not be just as well that the House should give the Government its Bill without any consideration, seeing that at the moment we are not considering the merits of the Bill, but trains? One thing that has not been discussed is whether the Bill is right or wrong, and now we are brought to the stage of log-rolling. We are not discussing Measures but running Parliament to suit so-and-so's convenience. I think that the work of Parliament consists of the Measures before it. I, personally, have no wish to upset any arrangements come to, but I reserve the right to discuss the Bill.

4.2 p.m.


May I be permitted to point out one thing about this arrangement. It will mean a few comparatively long speeches. I am indifferent about the arrangement, but it does mean that the ordinary Report stage discussion will be eliminated. I would accept the arrangement as far as I am concerned for to-day, but I think that if the House of Commons goes on with this kind of thing, the Report stage might just as well be eliminated, and have about three Third Reading speeches.


In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Government will do their best to get the Third Reading at a quarter-past 12.

4.3 p.m.


As one who has been in opposition, and still is in opposition, to the Bill, I am not in agreement with any academic discussion about giving something which the House of Commons has no right to give without discussion. But I am in agreement so far as the Opposition is concerned. There is a tacit agreement with regard to the distressed areas, and that ought to be carried out, and if necessary this Bill should be dropped. A bargain has been arrived at with the Opposition with regard to the distressed areas, and the subject should certainly come on to-morrow. The present posi- tion is the fault of the Government for not introducing this Bill earlier. I reserve my right to raise every objection I can to obstruct the Bill, and to see that it does not get through.


I have tried to gather the general view of the House, and, if it be the wish of the House that this general arrangement should be made, we will proceed with the business.

Bill, as amended, further considered.