The following Motion stood upon the Order Paper in the name of the Prime Minister:
That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
On a point of Order. I desire to ask your guidance as to whether any decisions taken to-day will in any way affect the decisions taken last Wednesday? The question that has been arising since Wednesday has been: if a decision has been arrived at in the House, how is it possible to go back upon that unless you recommit the whole matter to the House, which cannot be done under the Rules? May I ask your Ruling as to whether any decisions now taken can affect the decisions taken last Wednesday?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The only decision that can be taken to-day is the Question before the House, "That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply."
§ Mr. MABANE
May I ask for your guidance, Sir, on the scope of the discussion to-day? I regret that I have not given you longer notice. The Motion is, "That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply." The last occasion on which such a Motion was submitted to the House was on 11th April, 1923, and the Speaker of that day on many occasions in the course of the discussion said that it was out of order to stray beyond the narrow scope of that Motion. He made the point that Members who wished to raise general topics could raise them on the main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." On five or six occasions in that Debate, which was eventually adjourned in the early evening, the Speaker gave very definite Rulings on that point. For example, referring to a Member who was dealing with the general topic he said:That is quite out of order. We cannot enter now into these general questions. A Debate on this subject will take place to-morrow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1923; col. 1262, Vol. 162.]2442 I notice that on 8th September, 193[...] there was a Resolution that the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means, and a general Debate on the crisis took place on that Motion. I do not think that is entirely parallel, because this is a Motion preliminary to another, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." I ask for your guidance so that the House may know whether on this occasion it is definitely going to adopt a course at variance with the course that the House adopted on the last occasion when this took place. I ask whether, if we adopt this course, it may be possible in future for Members to challenge the matter that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply, and raise a general Debate on that subject?
§ Mr. EDE
May I draw your attention, Sir, to one difference between the position on 11th April, 1923, and the position in which we find ourselves today? On that occasion the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that he would make a statement on the matter on which the House was defeated on the following day on the renewed Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." Your predecessor in the Chair said, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) was getting to the Question which had previously been before the House:I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to ask the nature of the statement that will be made to-morrow, because that would open up other questions. He is entitled to ask that when the Question is moved and the Amendment is moved tomorrow a further Debate will take place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1923; col. 1258, Vol. 162.]The Prime Minister stated on Thursday that on this Motion to-day he intended to make a statement dealing with the issue on which he was defeated on the last occasion. May I further remind you that on the last occasion, although there was no doubt what was the matter before the House, the Amendment in fact had not been moved, and it was not moved until the second Motion, and I suggest that to-day, in view of the notice that the Prime Minister has given us, we are in an entirely different position from the unfortunate occasion in 1923 when 2443 we were being led by the present Lord President of the Council and the Debate did not proceed for very long.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am practically asked the same question that I was asked on Friday in regard to what will be in order on the present occasion. Then I gave the Ruling that any question dealing with the Civil Estimates could be raised on this Motion, but that questions with reference to the Service Estimates and matters relating to the Defence Forces could not be raised. That is the Ruling that I gave then, and it is the same that I shall give now. The occasion to which the hon. Member referred and which took place in 1931 was "That the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means." I take that to be very much the same as this Motion. I give practically the same Ruling that I gave on that occasion, that any question can be raised, but on this occasion with the exceptions which I have named.
§ Mr. EDE
I understand your Ruling is that on the Motion that the Prime Minister is about to move it will be open to any hon. Member who may catch your eye to raise any question that arises out of the Civil Estimates. It is usual, on a matter like a Motion for the Adjournment, for it to be arranged that the discussion shall take place in sections so that there shall be an orderly Debate and one subject fully disposed of before we proceed to another. Will there be any arrangement to-day by which we may be assured that those who wish to discuss the constitutional issues raised by the Prime Minister's speech will be taken consecutively and those who like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) as one gathers from the Press wish to raise foreign affairs will also be taken in a separate section of the Debate so that there may be some order and continuity in our discussion?
§ Miss WILKINSON
When we have taken a vote, assuming that the Debate goes on until 11 o'clock, will the decision, whichever way it may go, have any conceivable relation whatever to the Amendment that I moved on Wednesday?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Division, if there is one, will be on the Question whether this House resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is asking for what amounts to a Vote of Confidence, will not the discussion be in effect a Vote of Censure limited by the fact that it must be connected with the Civil Service?
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Is not the Motion necessary in order that the business of Supply may be transacted?