HC Deb 08 July 1936 vol 314 cc1212-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this day, notwithstanding anything in Standing Order No. 14, Business other than Business of Supply may be taken before Eleven of the Clock."—[The Prime Minister.]


I would like to raise a point with regard to the business to be taken to-day. I am not sure whether it is strictly a point of Order or whether it is a matter for the Leader of the House, but I will put it briefly. To-day is the 13th Allotted Day for Committee of Supply. It is proposed to move to report Progress in Committee of Supply and then to take a Motion to be moved by the Opposition. I would venture to recall to the House the circumstances of last Thursday which gave rise to this. When the Prime Minister was announcing the business of the week last Thursday, he said: Wednesday.—Supply; Committee (13th Allotted Day). Treasury Vote. The Leader of the Opposition then said: On Wednesday we propose to put a Motion on the Paper dealing with the subject of Malnutrition, which concerns a number of Ministries. It will give an opportunity for discussing that subject without being hampered by an ordinary Departmental Supply Vote. To this the Prime Minister replied: I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's statement of how he proposes to utilise Wednesday."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 2nd July, 1936; col. 620, Vol. 314.] It seems to me that the institution of Allotted Days in Committee of Supply is one of the most ancient of the forms of procedure of this House, and it has become more and more a tendency recently—I think this is the second time within the last two months—for a Supply Day to be contemptuously cast aside and in its place for some Motion to be moved. All I desire to do is to draw the attention of the House to the fact that I hope this is a form of procedure which will not become more common, because it seems to me that if the Opposition do not wish to raise any matter on an allotted day, why should not the supporters of the Government be given an opportunity of raising some administrative matter in Committee of Supply rather than an allotted day should go by default and an official Resolution be moved from the Opposition benches? I hope that the Leader of the House and you, Mr. Speaker, will not mind my having drawn attention to this point, which really does concern the procedure of the House.


I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has raised this matter in any way as a point of Order, because, of course, it has nothing to do with me.


I quite agree in thinking that it is not a point of Order, but I shall be very pleased to refer to it. I am not aware that what we are doing this afternoon is a matter of very recent practice alone, for such a treatment of a Supply day has been taken advantage of more than once this Session. While I think it is perfectly right of my right hon. Friend to call attention to the matter, which is one in which naturally any Leader of the House must be guided by the sentiment of the House with reference to it, yet my own view is that if a request such as I received the other day be granted and prove to be for the general convenience of the House, I feel that the Leader of the House is quite right in granting the request. Had it been a question of discussing legislation, a question remote from Supply, that would be another thing, but here you have the case of malnutrition, a subject of first importance, a subject in which hon. Members on our side are interested no less than hon. Members opposite.

When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put a question and used the word "hampered," he had obviously not been very careful in his choice of a word in which my right hon. Friend might pick a hole, and he might have expressed himself more carefully, but what he meant was that here was a subject which can be brought up under four different Votes, those of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Education, all of which have to deal with this subject administratively, and of course administration is the very question which comes up for discussion, and sometimes for dispute, on a Supply day. Therefore I think that in this case we have not done anything against the spirit of the work of an Allotted Supply Day.

So far as I am able to exercise any control, I shall use my own judgment to see that what I believe to be the principles of a Supply day are not in any case infringed. I must just allude to the instance of the Foreign Office Debate the other day. That was a Supply day, and we agreed to the procedure that was taken in order that the Opposition might put down a declaratory Resolution. I think that sometimes such a Motion is one which should come before the House. It focuses our discussion on foreign affairs and is a very suitable debate to have on a Supply day in Committee. I think the House will feel that in coming to this arrangement to-day we have done nothing against the precedents which have been set, or against the spirit of the allocation of proper time for Supply days, and that in this case the procedure that has been adopted is for the general convenience. I am convinced that it will lead to a debate of very great interest to a large number of Members.


In thanking the Prime Minister for his statement, I would ask him what he proposes to do to-day in the event of the Eleven o'Clock Rule being suspended?


We are not moving the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule. We have moved only the first part of the Motion on the Paper.

Question put, and agreed to.