Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday, 4th February; provided that if it is represented to Mr. Speaker by His Majesty's Government that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the Adjournment, and Mr. Speaker is satisfied that the public interest does so require, he may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and the Government Business to be transacted on the day on which the House shall so meet shall, subject to the publication of notice thereof in the Order Paper to be circulated on the day on which the House shall so meet, be such as the Government may appoint, but subject as aforesaid the House shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to the day on which it shall so meet, and any Government Orders of the Day and Government Notices of Motions that may stand on the Order Book for the 4th day of February or any subsequent day shall be appointed for the day on which the House shall so meet."—[Sir J. Simon.]
§ 11.14 a.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out "4th February," and to insert "21st January."
Under normal conditions we would naturally agree to this Motion, but to-day we are in an altogether different situation from the normal. A mining crisis is rapidly developing and the next few weeks will be important weeks for the mining industry. The miners have agreed that they will hand in their notices, which will expire on 27th January, when the industry will be brought to a standstill. Before that happens, this House should meet and have an opportunity of discussing the situation in order that we can know what steps the Government are going to take to help the miners in their crisis. We want to give the Government an opportunity of doing something to help the miners, which they have not done up to the moment.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
Everybody knows how the mining situation has developed, and that notices are going in which may cause a stoppage unless some kind of settlement be reached. The Motion before us speaks of matters "of public interest." We wonder whether the mining situation would be regarded as of sufficient public interest 2168 to cause the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to call Parliament together. Those words might be intended to refer to the international situation, so that we could be called together if a crisis arose there, but we are in doubt whether the Government are taking the same keen interest in the mining industry as we are, and we want to hear from them whether Parliament will be called together before the expiry of the strike notices or not.
§ 11.16 a.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT G. WILLIAMS
I am not complaining of the right of hon. Members to submit this Amendment, but I think reasonable notice ought to have been given to the House, because at least three days ago a question was addressed to the Prime Minister asking whether steps would be taken to ensure that the House could be summoned back at an early date should any emergency arise, and the Prime Minister said that it had become a common practice to submit on the day of the Adjournment a Motion which would enable Mr. Speaker to call the House together at short notice. It is obvious that if for any reason whatever there were a risk of a general paralysis of industry in this country any normal Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Normal!"]—well, any Government in any way more intelligent than a normal Socialist Government—would obviously regard it as an occasion, if it seemed in the slightest degree probable that an earlier meeting of Parliament would be likely to appease the situation.
The general body of Members are entitled to some consideration. Most of us, in addition to being Members of Parliament, work for our living; whether that is general on the benches opposite I do not know; I am speaking for myself. The bulk of us try to do our duty conscientiously as Members of Parliament. Most of us have gone through a fairly strenuous Autumn. I do not know whether this is an experience of hon. Members opposite, but I think that fighting a General Election is about the hardest work one can find. Since Parliament reassembled we have had, though not a long Session, a fairly strenuous Session. Almost from time immemorial it has been the practice for Parliament to meet on the first Tuesday in February, though it is true that on account of the heavy pressure of business in recent years 2169 Parliament has on several occasions met a week earlier than usual. This is a time of year when some Members, at any rate, try to get a little rest and an opportunity to attend to their normal occupations and their private affairs. Once the Parliamentary Session opens in February we have before us an almost unbroken Session until the end of July, and I see not the slightest reason why we should this morning commit ourselves to meeting a fortnight earlier merely because of some hypothetical circumstance.
If it becomes manifest to the Government sometime about the middle of January that a very grave situation is likely to arise, obviously the Government will take what steps they think necessary; and if they should feel that a national disaster lay ahead of us and that a meeting of Parliament might avert that disaster, I cannot imagine that they would abstain from communicating with Mr. Speaker; and though we are not entitled to anticipate the decision which Mr. Speaker would take, I cannot imagine any Speaker, in a grave national emergency, refusing to comply with such a request. I regard this Amendment as merely a little bit of propaganda in order that certain people may go back to their constituencies and proclaim, "See what marvellous friends of the miners we are. We have actually proposed to take a fortnight off the holidays of Parliament in order to defend the miners," and innocent people, who do not understand Parliament, will think they have a most marvellous Member because he has proposed this quite stupid Amendment.
§ 11.21 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I think I should have more sympathy with this Amendment if hon. Members opposite were quite certain of the date which they wish to substitute. Apparently they do not know whether they want Parliament adjourned until the 21st or the 24th of January, and I feel we are entitled to an explanation as to why there is any doubt on that point. We know that the mining situation is very delicate, and I suggest to hon. Members that they might try to arrange for the date when the notices are to be handed in to be postponed. They have great influence with the miners, and they might suggest that the notices should be handed in in February instead 2170 of January. That would bring the advantage that the country as a whole would have a longer time in which to deliberate upon the dispute between the miners and the employers, and the longer time we have for deliberation the less chance there will be of hot-headed action. As far as I can judge, hon. Members opposite seem anxious to get the date nearer rather than to postpone it. I am only too anxious to see this dispute settled and settled on just terms, and I suggest that hon. Members opposite should use their influence to postpone the date when the notices are handed in rather than ask for Parliament to be called together earlier.
§ 11.23 a.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
I rise simply to express my agreement with the observation already made that this Amendment is ill-advised. Everybody in the House must have full sympathy with the desire of hon. Members opposite to do anything they can to help the miners in their present difficulties; indeed, the sympathy of the House has already been expressed in favour of a settlement of this difficult and embarrassing question; but that hon. Members opposite should desire to take a fortnight of the time of hard-working Members of the House of Commons when we are all looking forward to some measure of rest is to ask too much. If hon. Members opposite work as hard during the Session as many of us here do, they themselves will require a little rest. I think we can leave it to Mr. Speaker to summon the House if any emergency arises, and I hope that for the convenience of their fellow Members the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment will not press it.
§ 11.24 a.m.
§ Mr. BROCKLEBANK
I am sorry that I cannot support my hon. Friend the Member for the Spennymoor Division (Mr. Batey), for the very simple reason that he is doing something which, from the point of view of us on the back benches, is not a very wise thing to do. His Amendment makes no provision for private Members' Motions on Wednesdays or for Private Members' Bills on Fridays. I may be one of those back benchers who never speak, in which case the Benches opposite are safeguarded from my speeches and from the 2171 Bills which I might otherwise introduce on Fridays; but in any case the hon. Member for Spennymoor does not make provision for it. I am afraid that were this Amendment to be taken to a Division, I should not be able to support the hon. Member.
§ 11.26 a.m.
Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN
I cannot see my way to support the Amendment. The House realises the difficulties in which hon. Members are placed if they are overworked, and the last thing hon. Members desire to see is anything like a disintegration of the House of Parliament. We must, therefore, have the breathing-space which is given to us by sufficient holidays. Many hon. Members have engagements during January in their constituencies, and unless matters that arise are of the first importance, it is better that we should rely upon the power given to Mr. Speaker to recall the House if it is considered that the matter which has arisen is of sufficient importance. I cannot, therefore, see that we should agree to the Amendment that the House should be called upon to meet earlier than is provided for in the Motion on the Paper.
§ 11.27 a.m.
§ Mr. REMER
I also oppose this Amendment. My principal reason is that in the period between 21st January and 27th January, delicate negotiations will be going on among the Government, the employers and the employed. It is very desirable that, when those delicate negotiations are going on, the House of Commons should not be sitting, otherwise we know the kind of thing that will happen. All sorts of poisonous questions will be put above the Gangway, and they will be a hindrance to the negotiations and inimical to the amicable settlement which we hope will be achieved. It is of vital importance that the House of Commons should not be sitting on 21st January, and therefore I strenuously oppose the Amendment.
§ 11.28 a.m.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
I venture to submit to hon. Members opposite that the Motion which is on the Paper adequately covers their point. Perhaps the words of that Motion are not sufficiently present in the minds of hon. Members 2172 opposite, so I will read it to them. The Motion is:That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday, 4th February; provided that if it is represented to Mr. Speaker by His Majesty's Government that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the Adjournment, and Mr. Speaker is satisfied"—
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
The wording does not seem to have been taken in by hon. Members. It is my contention that the words of the Motion cover their point. It goes on:that the public interest does so require, he may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and the Government Business to be transacted on the day on which the House shall so meet shall, subject to the publication of notice thereof in the Order Paper to be circulated on the day on which the House shall so meet, be, such as the Government may appoint, but subject as aforesaid the House shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to the day on which it shall so meet, and any Government Orders of the Day and Government Notices of Motions that may stand on the Order Book for the 4th day of February"—[Interruption.] Hon. Members are making such a noise that I do not think they can have heard the last sentence. I must therefore read it again. I would point out that I am speaking under an unaccustomed difficulty, owing to the fact that I have just smashed my glasses. The sentence is:the House shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to the day on which it shall so meet, and any Government Orders of the Day and Government Notices of Motions that may stand on the Order Book for the 4th day of February or any subsequent day shall be appointed for the day on which the House shall so meet.I submit that that Motion adequately covers the point which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to put.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 64; Noes, 94.2173
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[11.32 a.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Holland, A.||Quibell, J. D.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Jagger, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rowson, G.|
|Bellenger, F.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Benson, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cape, T.||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, D. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McGhee, H. G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gallacher, W.||Mander, G. le M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Marklew, E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Messer, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Paling, W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parkinson, J. A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Potts, J.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Hannah, I. C.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hannon, P. J. H.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Blindell, J.||Harvey, G.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Bull, B. B.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Channon, H.||Leckie, J. A.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Lindsay, K. M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Lloyd, G. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Clarry, R. G.||Lyons, A. M.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Turton, R. H.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Magnay, T.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||White, H. Graham|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliston, G. S.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Sir George Penny and Commander|
|Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Southby.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Plugge, L. F.|
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 27.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
Now that we can consider the manuscript Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) more at leisure, I should like to offer to the House one or two considerations which I hope may induce it, and which I hope may induce hon. Gentlemen opposite, to see that, when we deal with 2174 this question seriously as a point of procedure, the proposal standing on the Paper in the name of the Prime Minister is really the one which the House should adopt. I would point out to the House that in recent times it has been usual to make provision, when we have a long adjournment, that the House can be called together in case of urgency, notwithstanding the date which has been fixed in the Motion, at an earlier moment. I recall that only yesterday or the day before, when the Prime Minister announced the proposed date to which we should adjourn, he was asked to give the assurance that there would be such an opportunity, and he gave it. If hon. 2175 Members will look at the terms of the Prime Minister's Motion, they will see that it is in the terms which again and again in recent years have been included in such Motions, and there is no reason why we should depart from those terms on the present occasion.
It is not, of course, that anybody disputes the gravity or the importance of the particular trouble which the hon. Member for Spennymoor has in mind in moving his manuscript Amendment, but what I wish to point out to the House, if I may, and to hon. Gentlemen opposite in particular, is that this scheme by which the House, in case of need, when it adjourns during a critical period, may none the less be called together earlier, is a piece of machinery which has more than once actually been put into operation. It is not a dead letter or a formality, it is not put in as an excuse in order that everyone may be assured that, whatever happens, they will have their full length of holiday. I can recall off-hand at least two occasions when the House was called together under this very provision. I think it was done about the time of the Ottawa agreements. But at any rate there is a more recent occasion, which will be in the memory of the House. This provision that we might in case of need be called together at an earlier date was included in the Motion for the Adjournment when we separated last summer; and it was taken advantage of and the House in fact met a week earlier than the date which was prescribed by the vote of the House as the normal date for its re-assembly. Therefore, I would venture to say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that, while the anxiety which they feel is, I know, a very deep and sincere one, and one which, I am sure, they will do us the justice of believing is shared by everyone, it would be better, now that they have had their little "try-on," if we were to follow the usual procedure and allow the Motion to be carried as it stands. There is one reason for this with which I venture to think hon. Members opposite will be in agreement. The thing which they want most of all, and the thing which we all want most of all, is that, in this terribly anxious situation in the coalfields, matters should take a good turn. For a moment—but only for a moment—let us indulge in a little optimism. Supposing 2176 that it did so work out, thanks to the influence in the cause of peace which is exerted, I know very well, in all parts of the House, nevertheless, if we passed the Amendment and if things remained reasonably quiet until the 4th February, we should be compelled to meet on the 21st January. I suggest that we should follow the usual procedure and provide this opportunity, which is not a sham, but which is regularly used in case of need.