HC Deb 04 December 1935 vol 307 cc132-45

2.50 p.m.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I beg to move, That, until the Adjournment of the House for Christmas, Government Business do have precedence on Fridays; and that no Bills, other than Government Bills, be introduced and that no ballot be taken for determining the precedence of such Bills. Yesterday I gave a brief explanation of the circumstances in which this Motion is submitted to the House. I may point out to the House that in practice only one Friday will be affected by the Motion. There are three Fridays between now and Christmas. The first of these Fridays, the Friday of this week, will be occupied by the Debate on the Address. On the last of these three Fridays the House may or may not be sitting, but, if it be sitting, almost certainly that Friday will be the day of the Adjournment. Thus the Motion affects only one day. In these circumstances there have been communications through the usual channels, and I gather from what I have learned that it is to the general convenience of the House that the procedure specified in the Motion should be adopted. There is no intention on the part of the Government, unless something quite unforeseen occurs, to interfere at all in the course of this Session with the usual regulations for the conduct of Private Members' business.

2.53 p.m.


I desire to say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we realise that the proposal in the Motion is a reasonable proceeding. We understand that we do not really lose anything by it because, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, it affects only one day before Christmas. We are glad to have the assurance of the Prime Minister that there is no intention on the part of the Government to take private Members' time after Christmas.

2.54 p.m.


I certainly understood through the usual channels that this proposal was pretty well agreed to, but I felt that I could not agree to it without entering certain dissents here. I do not agree that it is a good practice to take even one or two private Members' Fridays and to postpone the ballot for Bills until after we return from the Christmas holiday. It would have been possible to have taken the ballot for Bills during the period between now and Christmas, and then those Members who had secured the right to introduce Bills, having intimated the Titles of their Bills could, during the period of the Recess, have prepared those Bills. Thus we could have started right off with those Bills after the Christmas Recess. This Motion means that at least one, or, at the maximum, three private Members' Bills are going to lose their chance as against the procedure of having the ballot and intimating the Titles of the Bills during this part of the Session and proceeding directly with them on the first Friday after the Recess.

I should not be particularly hot about this question because the chance of either myself or any of my hon. Friends here getting the right to introduce one of these Bills is, I think, on a calculation of the odds, about 150 to one against. Therefore I am not going to be unduly excited about the matter, but I know that the Prime Minister made a similar statement in the last Parliament to that which we have heard to-day and then came back here after the Christmas Recess and moved that the whole time of private embers be taken by the Government. I know, too, from speeches he has made here that he does not hold private Members' time in very high regard. In this House he has expressed a somewhat contemptuous view of the use made by private Members of such time as is available to them. It may be true that much of the private Members' time is not very well used. On the other hand, valuable Measures have reached the Statute Book through the medium of private Members' Bills. I think private Members ought to be very jealous in safeguarding every minute of the little time that is still available to them. I suggest that the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury should reconsider this proposal with a view, at least, to having the ballot before we adjourn for Christmas. That would put some 500 of us out of misery. It would prevent our spending Christmas in the belief that we might have a Bill to introduce, whereas, if we are enabled to know exactly where we are, by having the Ballot before Christmas, we can spend our holiday in the proper Christmas spirit. I ask the Prime Minister, therefore, to reconsider his Motion, and to hold the Ballot before we adjourn.

2.58 p.m.


I rise with more than the usual trepidation because I know I am doing an unusual thing, and therefore I shall not ask the usual indulgence of this House. I rise with no moral hesitation whatever, on a point of principle, on a point of conscience. I am the junior burgess of the University of Oxford, the elected mouthpiece of innumerable clergymen, the trumpet—or second trumpet—of 20,000 bachelors of arts; and I have been sent here, I do believe at a very unusual election, by my constituents largely to stop, or try to stop, the kind of thinking that is behind this Motion. The Prime Minister, I understand, is taking away from us private Members what he says is only one Friday, and he has mentioned three reasons why that is good. First he says that he understands there is no objection among the Opposition Whips. In my comparative inexperience I wonder what that has to do with it in any way. Is it not a contradiction in terms that the Whips, who are the symbols and the officers of the machine, the slavery, the organisation—whatever you like to call it—should be able to barter and give away the free time of private Members which, ex hypothesi, is not theirs to give? Secondly, the Prime Minister made what is, I suppose, the oldest excuse for the oldest offence. He says it is "only a little one." It is only one Friday. Well, it is true that there are 52 Fridays in the year but bow many Fridays are there in the year of the private Member? Last year there were none at all. This year I do not know if there will be four or five, six, seven, or eight, but at any rate whatever the figure is, one will be quite a high proportion of it. I understand it is not only a question of this particular Friday, but during this unspecified period we shall not be able even to have our private Bills printed, and even I know that that is a very formidable and important weapon in the armoury of one who tries to educate opinion.

Thirdly, the Prime Minister used what I thought was the most extraordinary reason of all when he said that this was being done for the benefit of the victims, because back benchers and private Members, being uncivilised, backward, and unintelligent, had not had the time to prepare their contributions to the safety of the country and the legislation of the future. I seem to remember that that was the excuse put forward by Signor Mussolini to defend his descent upon the Ethiopians. I hope the Prime Minister will not think that all private Members are quite so deficient in imaginative and constructive power as that. At any rate, in answer to that point, let me tell him that I have in my hand a Bill which I am ready to introduce next Friday, or on the Friday after, or on all the Fridays, until it is passed into law; and I swear that it shall be passed before this Parliament is over. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. But I must remind them that all the serious politicians laughed when I disclosed any obscene designs upon my almost virgin University. They said that with my extraordinary opinions I ought to go to Hoxton, to the taverns, to the racecourses of our land, and hope perhaps to scramble together a discreditable vote or two, but that to go to Oxford, the citadel of Christian enlightenment and the stronghold of orthodoxy, a constituency with more parsons to the square vote than any other constituency besides—this was lunacy. However, I went on, and the walls of Jericho fell down. Therefore, I would ask hon. Members in the North-East corner of the House to consider again before they laugh at my intentions.

At all events, here is this am trying to observe your injunctions, Mr. Speaker, about the cut and thrust of debate, and to reply to the Prime Minister's observation that we miserable private Members had no Bills ready to offer to the country—to introduce next Friday. Here is this Bill—and it is not a feeble little Bill. It is called the Matrimonial Causes Bill. It is a Bill to reform the indecent, hypocritical, cruel, and unjust marriage laws of this country. It is a Bill which carries out or is based upon the recommendations of the Majority Report of the Royal Commission which reported 23 years ago, and I am ready, as I say, to introduce it next Friday.

In your wise advice to us the other day, Mr. Speaker, you mentioned the decline of public interest in the proceedings of this House. I know I must not take your injunction about the cut and thrust of debate so seriously as to start a debate with you; but I was wondering then whether some part of that decline might not be due to the fact that so many high and great problems are discussed in the House which are not understood or understandable by the common people, and that simple human problems such as are dealt with in this Bill, and which the common man does think he understands, are so seldom mentioned here, and when they are mentioned are dismissed as frivolities.

In regard to the other point made by the Prime Minister, about Government time, I have been watching the proceedings of this House for many years with close attention, and I am very tired of hearing that the Government have no time to do this or that. With great respect to the Prime Minister, who quoted it, that seems to be a foolish observation of Mr. John Bright that you cannot drive 20 wagons through Temple Bar. One answer to that is that no man with any sense would attempt such a thing; and another answer is that if any man did desire to drive 20 wagons past this point or another, either he would widen Temple Bar or take some of the wagons round another way. The more I hear about Parliament having no time to do this, that, and the other, the more the Prime Minister and other defenders of liberty and democracy are in danger of driving me towards the camp of my old football captain, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). So many years go by so many Sessions, so many Parliaments, and nothing is done about these things. If we mention them at General Election time, we are told that we must not trespass upon what are called the major issues. If we mention them after the election, we are told that since they were not mentioned at the election, the Government have no mandate for them. At the beginning of a Parliament the Government have no time to do anything; at the end of a Parliament they have no courage to do anything; and in the middle of a Parliament there is a change of Ministries. We are told that a party Government cannot do this thing, and it seems that a National Government cannot do it, though it would seem to me that if any Government could be fitted for such a task, it would be a National Government which claims to represent all sections of society.

Indeed, the conclusion seems to be that there is no conceivable combination of political conditions in this great democracy which would ever be favourable for tackling or even discussing these problems; and now, when I come here pledged especially by that great constituency, the most remarkable and unlikely constituency to give this message, the first thing that happens is that the Prime Minister says, "The first day on which you might move your little Bill is taken away by the Government." This little Friday, which cannot mean very much to the Government, might mean a great deal to me and to the thousands of unhappy souls who might benefit from this Bill if it were passed into law. [Laughter.] I am surprised at hon. Members on the Labour benches laughing; they are always talking to us about the human problems, and I should like to ask them by what feat of political chemistry they can isolate the problem of the slums from the problems of the sexes, the problem of unhappy souls who may live in the grandest house in Park Lane but would still be wretched, because of these laws. How can they dare to say to me that the bricks and mortar questions of housing are important, but not those problems of the home which our marriage laws create?

I would ask the Ministry, What is the use of a salaried, sterilised midwife to a woman whose husband has deserted her and gone to Australia, or is an incurable drunkard, or is incarcerated in a lunatic asylum or in one of His Majesty's prisons for life? What is the use of saying that that is not a social problem just as exciting and interesting as the slums and housing? I was surprised indeed to hear the ribald laughter, especially from that quarter, but there it is. I apologise for taking up so much of the time of the House, and I thank you, Sir, for giving me this opportunity, but still, I do not think I have delivered my message. It is a serious suggestion, that this little Friday should be given—since nobody else seems to have anything particular to do with it—not to me, but to the Commons, so that this great question, which goes not only to the social life of the people but to the roots of relations between Church and State, can be discussed fairly and squarely on Second Reading on the Floor of this House without Whips or trickery and talking out, and all the rest of it. I cannot accept the view that this is the kind of indecent controversy which cannot be discussed unless some private Members are successful in the lottery, and then only for an hour and a half at the fag end of a Friday. I seriously make that suggestion, though I do not know in what formal terms it should be proposed.

Sir, I have not come here to make jokes; it appears that the faculty of humour is sufficiently developed in one corner of the House already; though I would remind the House that every joke and every laugh is only another form of criticism. I have not come here to do that, nor yet to collect an agreeable background for a work of fiction, nor with any personal political ambitions. I have come here to raise my small voice for a large number of small people who think, rightly or wrongly, that a number of small but important things like this are, in the midst of our mighty cares, being thrust aside or wrongfully neglected. If I cannot make that voice effective, I will go back to my books and plays. It was never my intention to start my Parliamentary career by dividing the House against His Majesty's Government, with which, on the whole, I am in sympathy. I am prepared to do it upon this point of principle, but apart from that, whatever may be said on the matter, and whatever may happen, I should like to say that I am proud indeed to be standing in this place among the faithful Commons of His Majesty the King.

3.13 p.m.


I do not want to detain the House, and for that reason I did not rise after the Leader of the Opposition had sat down, but, as the Motion is being opposed, I would like to tell the House that my friends and I think it our duty in all the circumstances to support it. Perhaps I may be allowed to extend our congratulations to the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. P. Herbert) on his witty, weighty and courageous maiden speech. I hope that he will have many opportunities of delivering the message with which he is charged and which, I am sure, the whole House is anxious to hear. This Motion is not such as we discussed a year ago to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. The proposal then was to take the whole of the private Members' time, and against that proposal we here, and I certainly, should strongly fight. I attach the highest importance to those opportunities which are given to us private Members, and if any serious encroachment were suggested upon those rights I should certainly resist them.

In this case, however, it is true, as the Leader of the House has said, that all parties were consulted, and I would ask the hon. Member for Oxford University to realise that the Whips are not slave drivers, but very helpful and faithful servants of all the Members of the House. It is not possible for the Prime Minister to consult every Member of the House, and it is only natural that he should, in trying to obtain the views of the House, consult the Whips. In this case I really think that the Motion is in the interest of private Members themselves. If we had a ballot now it would mean that nobody could know what Fridays would be available. It would mean that the hon. Member for Oxford University might find that his best chance was the last Friday in January and put his name down for that day, and then find that the House was not sitting. He would, therefore, be deprived of his opportunity. I do not resist this Motion because I believe it to be in the interests of private Members themselves, at least as much as, if not more than, in the interests of the Government. If it had been put forward merely in the interests of the Government and contrary to the interests of private Members, I should have resisted it, but I believe that the Government have consulted the interests of private Members in this case.

3.15 p.m.


I cannot allow the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) to go without some answer. It is not correct that in the last Parliament he defended the interests of private Members. Both he and the official Opposition allowed a similar Motion to go through unopposed. This group challenged a Division and a few members of the Labour party voted with us. The argument then was the same, that it was for the good of private Members, and we found, as soon as we came back from the holidays, that this Motion for the good of private Members was repeated and the whole of our time was taken.


It so happens that I looked it up in the OFFICIAL REPORT this morning, and it is not as the hon. Member says.


The facts are as I have stated them. At the beginning of the last Parliament the first Division was called by this group on a similar Motion, and the only people who voted were ourselves and one or two Labour people. The position now is that there is nothing to prevent the Prime Minister coming back after the holidays and saying that the situation has altered and that it will be necessary to take private Members' time. The arguments he has put forward for taking one Friday can be applied to all the Fridays. I am surprised at the attitude of the Labour Members. I understood that they were here to keep the Government from doing as little as possible, but on this Motion they are supporting the Government. The duty of the Opposition is to oppose. I understood that this was a bad Government, but now we are told they are not bad, but are entitled to an extra Friday on which to do their bad work. I understood that there were great issues between the Opposition and the Government, but I wonder what the difference is.

We are told that private Members will not have time to prepare their Bills, and the Leader of the Liberals has adduced another reason for fie Motion. The Prime Minister did not think of it, so the right hon. Gentleman produced it in order to defend the Government. It was that if we balloted now we might not know what Fridays were available. With regard to the Prime Minister's point, all that private Members are asked to do is to walk to the Clerk who guides us and tell him the name of the Bills they wish to introduce. We are not asked to prepare the Bills yet, but only to announce their titles. Is there a member, even the most inexperienced, who could not go to the Clerk and tell him the name of the Bill he wanted to introduce? All they are asked to give is the headline. There is not one of the 150 Members sitting on the Labour benches who did not during the Election mention some small reform which could be the subject of legislation who could not walk to that Table and say that he wanted to introduce a Bill on the subject. We are told that if he delayed doing so until after Christmas it might be done better.

Another great and weighty reason put forward is, "Oh, but we might not know the Friday." To that objection there are two answers. First, the Chief Whip knows the date of the adjournment—he knows it now—and knows also the day on which we are coming back. It reminds me of what happened last Autumn when we were asking the date of the General Election and the Prime Minister got up and solemnly said that it would be 14th November, though everybody in Great Britain knew it already. The Chief Whip knows now the date of the adjournment and could rise and tell us. So that is not a serious objection—unless anyone wants to make objections. I could manufacture objections; anyone who is in a frame of mind to manufacture objections can do so. The truth is that at least one Friday for the Private Members is gone, though they have little enough time in these days.

But what concerns me even more than the question of the Friday is the fact that the Prime Minister's statement does not give us a firm guarantee of every Friday after. All he said was that if business of a serious character did not arise he would allow the arrangement to go on, but it is he who will determine that question. We propose to divide today not merely on the principle of the Friday. We do not argue, as the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) argued, on the merits of a Bill. When his Bill comes up I shall be in a different cart from him. We claim the right to oppose the Government. We come here primarily for the purpose of opposing the Government and limiting their time and their opportunities, because we think they are a bad Government, and we intend to divide to-day.

3.23 p.m.


As another Member who feels under no obligation to obey the crack of the party whip, I feel there is one more word which ought to be said in defence of the interests of the private Member. If we are to lose one Friday before Christmas we might at least ask that the Prime Minister should promise us another Friday later. It has been the custom of the Government to take away the time of Private Members after Easter. I do not know whether that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman in this case, but, if it is, it reduces the available Fridays to a very small number, and I think the Prime Minister might at least be good enough to spare a Friday after Easter.

There is one more point I wish to make. The plea has been put forward, and it is a reasonable one, that private Members have not had time to prepare their Bills. I would point out that there are a number of Measures which have already been "through the mill" in several previous Sessions, some of them in several previous Parliaments, and have gone a considerable way towards the Statute Book. To take one instance, there is the Bill which bears somewhat on the same subject as that to which the Junior Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. P. Herbert) alluded in his delightful maiden speech, because it also has to do with "The state of Holy deadlock." It is the Bill which proposes to take away from husbands and wives the right, which they enjoy—in this country practically alone among the civilised nations—of completely disinheriting the surviving spouse, whether widow or widower, even though it means throwing the survivor on the tender mercies of the Poor Law, if they wish to leave their money to another lady or a cats' home.

I take that Bill as an example, but there must be many others in the same position. That Bill has already gained a Second Reading in two Parliaments. Why is it that so much trouble is to be taken to take away one Friday from private Members in order that new corners may have a chance, when there are in print Bills which have already gone a certain way, have weathered the storm of public opinion and attracted a considerable amount of attention in the House, waiting to be given another chance? I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot forgo this Friday, he will at any rate see that private Members shall not have their small modicum of

opportunity cut down, but that another Friday is given them later.

Question put, That, until the Adjournment of the House for Christmas, Government Business do have precedence on Fridays; and that no Bills, other than Government Bills, be introduced and that no ballot be taken for determining the precedence of such Bills.

The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 5.

Division No. 1.] AYES. [3.27 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Dunne, P. R. R. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Eckersley, P. T. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Elliston, G. S. McKie, J. H.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh) Elmley, Viscount Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Emery, J. F. Macquisten, F. A.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Emmott, C. E. G. C. Magnay, T.
Atholl, Duchess of Entwistle, C. F. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Erskine Hill, A. G. Mander, G. le M.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Benson, G. Everard, W. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bernays, R. H. Fleming, E. L. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Fox, Sir G. W. G. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Bird, Sir R. B. Furness, S. N. Mitcheson, G. G.
Blair, Sir R. Fyfe, D. P. M. Moreing, A. C.
Boulton, W. W. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)
Bcwater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Gluckstein, L. H. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Goodman, Col. A. W. Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Broad, F. A. Granville, E. L. Munro, P. M.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Gridley, Sir A. B. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. M.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Grimston, R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Bull, B. B. Groves, T. E. Palmer, G. E. H.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Guest, Ivor (Brecon and Radnor) Peake, O.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Peat, C. U.
Cartland, J. R. H. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Perkins, W. R. D.
Cary, R. A. Guy, J. C. M. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Cautley, Sir H. S. Hamilton, Sir G. C. Petherick, M.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hanbury, Sir C. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hannah, I. C. Pilkington, R.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.) Harris, Sir P. A. Plugge, L. F.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Harvey, G. Ponsonby, Lieut.-Colonel C. E.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Porritt, R. W.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Radford, F. A.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ramsbotham, H.
Clarke, F. E. Holdsworth, H. Rankin, R.
Clarry, R. G. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Cluse, W. S. Hopkinson, A. Rayner, Major R. H.
Clydesdale, Marquess of Horsbrugh, Florence Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Cobb, Sir C. S. Hewitt, Dr. A. B. Reid, Captain A. Cunningham
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Hunter, T. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) James, Wing-Commander A. W. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'sf'r S. G'gs) Jarvis, Sir J. J. Ropner, Colonel L.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh. W.) Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Keeling, E. H. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Craddock, Sir R. H. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Rowlands, G.
Crooke, J. S. Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities) Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Kirkpatrick, W. M. Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Cross, R. H. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Crossley, A. C. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Crowder, J. F. E. Leckie, J. A. Salt, E. W.
Daggar, G. Leech, Dr. J. W. Sandys, E. D.
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Lees-Jones, J. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Day, H. Leigh, Sir J. Savery, Servington
De Chair, S. S. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Seely, Sir H. M.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Levy, T. Shakespeare, G. H.
Denville, A. Liddall, W. S. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Dodd, J. S. Lindsay, K. M. Simmonds, O. E.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Lloyd, G. W. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Drewe, C. Loftus, P. C. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Sinclair, Col T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Dugdale, Major T. L. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Duggan, H. J. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Smithers, Sir W. Touche, G. C. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Somerset, T. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C. Wise, A. R.
Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.) Turton, R. H. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Southby, Comdr. A. R. J. Wakefield, W. W. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingtley
Spender-Clay Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H. Ward, Irene (Wallsend) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Stanley, Rt. Han. Lord (Fylde) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd) Warrender, Sir V.
Strickland, Captain W. F. Waterhouse, Captain C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wedderburn, H. J. S. Sir George Penny and Lieut.-Colonel
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Wells, S. R. Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Tinker, J. J. White, H. Graham
Garro-Jones, G. M. Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Stephen, C. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. McGovern.
Maxton, J.

Question put, and agreed to.

3.38 p.m.


I beg to move, That no Notices of Amendments on going into Committee of Supply be given until the first Thursday after the Adjournment of the House for Christmas. I trust that this Motion will not arouse controversy in any part of the House. I may remind old Members, and I will tell the new Members, that the custom always was to hand in these Notices of Amendment at an early stage of the Session. Until recent years the Session almost invariably began in January or February, and the Estimates to which these Amendments relate came on in March. That is to say, the ballot and the Notices of Amendment were put in quite a short time before the Estimates were taken.

Since the more modern custom has become a rule, of the House meeting for the new Session in the autumn, it has also been customary to move this Motion to defer the ballot and the handing in of Amendments until a time nearer the time at which the Estimates themselves will be taken. It is considered to be for the general convenience, for the reason that if the Amendments were settled perhaps four months before the Estimates some other subject of importance might swim over the horizon and Members might not desire to adhere closely to the Amendments they had decided upon so long before. The arrangement prejudices no one's position, and carries out the old idea that this particular matter should be taken, as it always was, a comparatively short time before the relevant Estimates are taken.