§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move:That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended by the omission of Standing Order No. 69.I felt it to be my duty to place this Motion on the Order Paper and to move it, in order to call attention to a serious matter that affects all the Members of this House. I deemed it to be my duty, as Leader of the Opposition, to call attention to what I consider to be the danger of Members losing their privileges in this House. There is no party issue raised. It is a matter entirely for this House as a whole. I hold that it is vital that we should preserve this House as the greatest democratic assembly in the world, and that we should not allow its former rights to be taken away by the growth of usages entirely contrary to its traditions.
There is nothing out of order in the least in the way in which the Government are dealing with the House in putting down Money Resolutions and in framing those Money Resolutions. It is not a matter on which we can seek your protection, Mr. Speaker, because you have to carry out the Standing Orders of the House, but it really is a question as to the way in which our machinery is being utilised. This House has never been a mere assembly for registration. It has never been a mere debating society. It has never merely been a House which the Government use as an instrument of registration. It has never been a House to which the Government say: "Here is our suggestion. You may take it, and say 'Aye' or 'No.'" This House has always taken an active share in legislation. The Members have shaped legislative proposals. A Bill is brought in, it is discussed in principle, it is taken to Committee, it goes through Report, and by the time it has been through these various stages, although it is the Government's Bill, it has been framed by the co-operation of the Members of this House. Where certain Members oppose the Bill in principle they take an active part in trying to make it workable. Therefore, every Bill that goes through the House becomes in that way the work of the whole House.
816 The importance of that procedure is that the experience and ideas of the Members of the House are brought into the common pool. That is the traditional British method and the democratic method. There is another method that obtains in other countries. In some countries a Dictator frames legislation and submits it to a Grand Council, but the Grand Council has no right to say anything but "Aye" or "No"; and it always says "Aye." There is a danger that this House may be turned into the equivalent of a Fascist Council through the operations of Standing Order No. 69. I am seeking to return to the procedure which obtained for 200 years till 1919, indeed, until 1922. Although the Motion on the Order Paper deals with a technical matter of procedure, it really concerns this vital matter. It concerns the question as to whether we have an opportunity, a full opportunity, of amending legislation.
Let us consider what is the purpose of a Financial Resolution. The Financial Resolution machinery was introduced in the reign of Queen Anne, and was originally introduced as a weapon of this House against the Executive. In those days this House was far more concerned in withstanding the Executive at every point, and its purpose was to ensure that this House should control the imposition of any charges placed upon the subject by making it necessary for a Financial Resolution to be carried whenever any piece of legislation involved a charge. Later, it became an instrument in the hands of the Government, because it prevented the Members of this House from increasing the charge in any Bill beyond that degree which the Government thought desirable. In fact, it has now become a weapon of the Executive against the Legislature.
There are two elements to be considered in this matter; First, the King's Recommendation, without which a demand for the imposition of a charge cannot go forward and, then, the Financial Resolution, which, once it is passed, becomes part of the Bill and cannot be amended. The old procedure of 1919 which lasted up to 1922 was that a Motion was made setting up a Committee to consider the Financial Resolution, and to that Motion there was attached the King's Recommendation. The result of that was that that Motion, containing a certain amount 817 of restriction on what the House could do having the King's Recommendation attached to it, laid down the limits, but the Financial Resolution which came forward had not the King's Recommendation attached and, therefore, could be amended. That is the prime distinction between that method of procedure and that which we are following at the present time. In 1919 it was decided to short-circuit the procedure. The Motion to set up a Committee has disappeared, and what we have now is a Financial Resolution to which the King's Recommendation is attached.
The practice in the early days was to draw the Motion very widely and to confine it strictly to the financial parts of the Measure, those Clauses in the Bill which were put in italics, and, if hon. Members will look up the debates on Financial Resolutions, they will find that they were strictly confined to financial questions, and if hon. Members strayed from the purely financial aspect, the Chairman called them to order. The result of the new procedure has in effect made the Financial Resolution unamendable. The effect of the King's Recommendation being attached to a Financial Resolution is that only the Government armed with this Recommendation can amend it. No great evil would follow from that if the Financial Resolution were kept general, but what has happened has been that more and more the Financial Resolution has been extended and more and more detail has been put into it, until in effect, almost the whole of the operative Clauses of a Bill are put in the Financial Resolution. Instead of dealing broadly with the provision of money, instead of dealing broadly with the objects of the expenditure, we have them set down with great particularity. Let me quote what the Prime Minister said last Thursday:The drafting of this Resolution was very carefully considered with a view to avoiding any restrictions on the Debate other than those necessarily involved by the principle which I have stated before in answer to a question on the subject, namely, that the Government cannot divest themselves of the responsibility for determining with that degree of particularity the purposes and conditions for and under which money is asked for should be set out in the Motion to which the King's Recommendation is to be signified. The Resolution that stands on the Paper particularises these purposes and conditions only in so far as they are fundamental to the financing of the Government's legislative pro- 818 posals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1937; col. 544, Vol. 321.]I suggest that that is exactly where you get an entirely false conception. It is not the business of the Government to lay down with great particularity; it was not the custom in times past to lay down with great particularity. If you lay down conditions with great particularity, you leave nothing whatever for hon. Members of the House to do. I do not dissent in the slightest from the contention that the Government must decide on the spending of money; there is no contest with regard to that. The whole point arises as to the degree of particularity. I want to call the attention of the House to what has been happening of late years. On Bill after Bill there has been a protest against the way in which the Financial Resolution has been drawn. It is not a party matter relating to any particular Bill. We had a long discussion on the previous Special Areas Bill, and a long discussion on the Financial Resolution to the Tithe Bill, during which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) moved the Adjournment. It was pointed out by the Home Secretary that the Financial Resolution embodied an interlocking arrangement, and that the House could not alter any part of the arrangement, because the whole was so closely locked together. It aroused a good deal of protest because the House was being asked to admit or reject something without any possibility of amendment.
The matter was raised again on the first Special Areas Bill by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), and it was pointed out clearly by the Deputy-Chairman that:It is the right of the Crown to ask for money from this House for a specific purpose, and it is not in my power or in that of the House to put a limit on the discretion of the Crown as to how far these purposes may be defined in the Resolution."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 5th December, 1934; col. 2725, Vol. 295.]Therefore, this is not a matter in which we can be protected by the Chair. It is a matter for the House itself to decide. Let me recall what happened on the first Special Areas Bill. In the Financial Resolution there was set out with great particularity every single area which was to be brought in. There was no need whatever to have set them out in the Financial Resolution. The old form of Financial Resolution would merely have 819 set out the Special Areas, but the result was that hon. Members of the House who were interested in particular areas found that there was no chance of bringing them under the Bill. The Government had, in fact, decided on the scope and the application of that Measure. Look at the present Money Resolution? There, again, we have great detail put in, quite unnecessary detail to my mind. We should have had a Financial Resolution dealing with the money to be provided, and with the purposes, in general terms, but if hon. Members look at the Financial Resolution they will find a succession of details. The exact purposes are laid down. The Commissioners may assist in respect of "industrial undertakings hereafter established." Why should they not deal with one already established. You cannot deal with them under the Bill, because it has already been settled by the Financial Resolution. In paragraph (c) there is power to give financial assistance to areas outside a Special Area, on conditions which are laid down in detail, which makes it impossible for the House to suggest that there may be other conditions, or even the omission of some of the conditions. You then have a very careful provision with regard to site-companies. That is all in detail. Finally, one comes down to a remarkable thing to be included in a Financial Resolution and that is a definition Clause:'Special Areas' means the areas specified in the First Schedule to that Act.It is quite unnecessary to put in that definition. It could have been done in the Bill. Why has it been put in the Resolution? The great trouble on previous Special Areas Bills arose from the fact that there were areas left out and Members wanted them put in. All those Members who are interested in other Special Areas cannot move to have any area put in because of the fact that this definition is in this Financial Resolution and the Resolution has the King's Recommendation attached to it.
That is the immediate issue, though there are other points that could be raised on this Financial Resolution. I am now dealing not so much with this particular Resolution as with the whole course of procedure which is gradually taking away from this House its control of legislation. Look at what is happening to-day. Members get indignant. It 820 is found, when a Bill comes forward in which they are interested, that the whole matter is dealt with in the Financial Resolution. With great care they draft Amendments, but those Amendments are out of order. They find it is no good waiting for the Bill because the Bill is governed by the Financial Resolution, and the Financial Resolution having been passed they cannot get their Amendments called. That is not fair to this House. I am certain it is not fair to our Chairman of Committees, for he is put in a very difficult position.
Members now find themselves in this position. They can speak and out of their varied experience they can make suggestions, but they cannot take part in putting forward Amendments with the expectation of getting them accepted. The result is that the procedure of the House is being steadily stultified. Debates on Financial Resolutions have come more and more to be Second Reading Debates. In fact through the usual channels we hear that we shall get a full opportunity for Debate on the Financial Resolution and that we shall not need so much time on the Second Reading. That would not have happened in old times. Then Members were confined to financial questions on Financial Resolutions. Something more follows: The Committee stage becomes a farce. Amendments are put down to the Bill and it is found that only one can be called. It is generally an Amendment that raises the whole of the issues and you get a Second Reading Debate in Committee and no real Committee discussion at all. The same thing happens with the Report stage, which becomes a farce. All you can do is to speak generally on the Motion that a Clause remain in the Bill.
What is happening to-day is that our legislation is being framed in detail by civil servants and experts. Sometimes it is even worse than that. It is framed outside by bargainings with outside interests, and the whole opportunity of bringing to bear on legislation any opinions of Members of the House, experts with practical experience of everyday men and women, is lost altogether. The only check on the bureaucratic mind is the Minister and he may have a bureaucratic mind himself. The Minister and the officials and the Whips all say that this is saving them trouble. We have had instance after instance that it does not 821 save them trouble. They get seriously into trouble when they try to make this House swallow their proposal without having a chance of Amendment. That idea of saving trouble and preventing this House from amending legislation brought down the right hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) and it will bring down the right hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) if he does not depart from that habit.
I am moving to revert to our former practice. It shall be told that this will not be remedial, that the Government will still frame their Resolutions so as to prevent Amendment, that they could frame the Motion for setting up a committee so as to prevent Amendment. I am raising this matter so as to get back not merely to the former practice but to get back to the former spirit in which we worked the procedure of this House, for this House has never depended on the exact words and letter of our procedure; it has always depended on the spirit in which it has worked. Let me give an example of how the old system worked. It is one of the last example I could End. On 29th March, 1922, there was a Bill which aroused great interest, exactly the kind of Bill on which this House wanted the practical experience of Members brought to play. It was not a Special Areas Bill but an Unemployment Insurance Bill. Look what the procedure was. The first procedure was that the Government Whip put down a Motion "Unemployment Insurance [Money]," which set up a committee to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of increased contributions towards unemployment benefit. It went on to refer to authorising the Treasury to make grants out of the Consolidated Fund, and except for a certain amount of technical work that is all there is. Perhaps that was too wide. But that Resolution was carried by the House, with the King's Recommendation attached. It was carried without a Debate.
There then followed the Unemployment Insurance Money Resolution. It was a complicated and technical business, but the core of the whole thing was that grants from the Treasury were to be approximately equivalent to a sum which would be produced by weekly contributions paid in respect of insured persons at the rate of 3d. in the case of men, and 2d. in the case of women, boys and girls. 822 If that had been brought forward under our present procedure, with the King's Recommendation attached, we could not have amended any of those details. The Chairman of Committees laid it down very clearly exactly what the effect of the old principle was. He pointed out that we were controlled by the Motion setting up the Committee; we were not controlled by the Money Resolution, and we were not prevented from amending it. And actually we were able to increase the charge.
Perhaps that Motion was drawn a little too widely. There is the greatest distinction between the breadth with which that was drawn and the narrowness by which we are bound to-day. That was an example of the old method. I want to see the House reverting to the spirit of the old method. I want to see the House do its work efficiently. I think there might be changes in Standing Orders which would help to efficiency. Time would be saved and better work would be done. I have never stood for obstruction, but what is happening to-day is that the whole purpose and function of this House is passing away, and I am not prepared to sacrifice democracy to the supposed efficiency of dictatorship. We can carry through our business in this House without impairing our own established rights, without losing valuable co-operative work in Committee. I want the House to consider this matter not in the least as a party question, but as one of vital importance to the working and the life of our democratic institutions. We have protested here on many occasions. In view of the protests that were made from all sides of the House on the previous Special Areas Bill and on the Tithe Bill and on other occasions, one would have expected that the Government would have learned its lesson. There would have been no need for this action if the Government had realised the strong feeling in the House on the question. They would have drawn this Money Resolution widely and we should have had full opportunity for discussion.
This Bill has been brought in as a continuance of the former Act. It may be suggested, therefore, that this is not as strong a case as some cases that we have had before. I think it is all the stronger, because in fact it is continuing an Act on which this House found itself hampered and unable to do what it wanted. The 823 House protested against the continuance of that Act just because it had been hampered by the Money Resolution, and now we find the old Act brought in again and entire Amendments set down in a Money Resolution in such a way that this House can do nothing but say "Aye" or "Nay" to the Government.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
On a point of Order. The other day I asked you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would, as on a previous occasion, give the House guidance on the matter of this particular Financial Resolution. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has said, this does not appear to the House as a party matter but rather a matter as between the Legislature and the Executive. May I very respectfully ask whether you consider the moment now opportune to give the House guidance as to whether this Financial Resolution really contravenes the spirit of Standing Orders?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member asks me, on a point of Order, whether I would make some remarks upon this Motion. The House will understand that the course of this discussion has put me in rather a difficult position. After all, my duty ever since I have occupied the Chair has been, to the best of my ability, to protect the minority in this House and to safeguard the rights of Members, and on any question of controversy, if it comes to controversy, it is very difficult for me to give a decision. My business has always been to carry out in the letter and the spirit both the rules of the House and the Standing Orders, where Standing Orders exist. The House will recollect—certainly it is not allowed to forget—that I made some remarks on this question on 3rd December, 1934, when the original Special Areas Bill was introduced.
It must not be gathered that my remarks on that occasion can be used to cover every case. The Bill on which my remarks were made, although on the same subject, was a different Bill from the present one, for which the Money Resolution is submitted. The original Bill, in December, 1934, was an entirely new Bill, and what makes the difference is that it was not founded upon a Money Resolution. It was not a Money Bill—I do not mean that in the sense of a Money Bill 824 under the Parliament Act, but in the ordinary sense of the word. Its main function was not money. The Bill which we shall shortly be discussing, after the Money Resolution is disposed of, is founded on a Money Resolution. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, it is distinct from the other Bill in that it is a continuing Bill; that is to say, it continues the old Bill, and is not a new Bill in any sense of the word. I do not think my remarks on the occasion to which reference has been made can be held to have a bearing on the present situation, and, as far as a Ruling is concerned, I must leave it entirely to the House to decide.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Baldwin)
It might meet the convenience of hon. Members if I made some observations at this point on the matter which is before the House, and I will try to emulate the Leader of the Opposition in the tone and temper of his speech, recognising the importance to the whole House of the matter we are discussing. It is quite true that it is no party question; it is also true that every Opposition wishes to see the terms of these Resolutions widened and every Government, in its turn, desires to widen them as little as possible. But I think that to-day we want to look a little beyond that, and I hope the House will be patient with me if I take rather a longer time than usual, because I think it is very important that we should try to realise what is the reason for the Rules of Order, and how, during the last 20 years, the circumstances of legislation and the kinds of legislation have certainly altered.
There is the world of difference—and I would say this apropos of one of the early remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition—between what I may call ordinary legislation and legislation founded upon a Money Resolution. I hope, indeed, that Parliament will take an increasing part in framing legislation, especially legislation such as we have had much experience of since the War. But Bills founded upon Money Resolutions are different in character and different in their origins, and there are very grave reasons why the Government of the day should adhere closely to the financial procedure involved. The Motion is:That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended by the omission of Standing Order No 69.825 I should like to premise there that the whole of our procedure is really based on Standing Order No. 63. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that and told the House something of its origin, on which I desire to say a word or two more. It says:This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the consolidated fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, unless recommended from the Crown.That is the basic rule. It was passed as a Resolution about 230 years ago. It was put in the Standing Orders a year before George I came to the Throne, and it embodied the constitutional principle that the right of initiating or of increasing expenditure should be reserved to the Government for the time being. I want for a moment to look a little further back than that. As long as the main function of the House of Commons was to put a limit upon the expenditure of an irresponsible Executive, it had been unnecessary to state that principle explicitly, but after the Civil War the principle of appropriation came in, where the House acquired the power of preventing money from being spent against its wishes. There was a long constitutional fight on that point, and the principle of Cabinet Government began to emerge and Parliament acquired the power not merely of checking expenditure, but of checking and, if necessary, expelling the Government of the day.
At this juncture the House in its wisdom was very swift to see the necessity of passing this Standing Order to which I have just referred. It was an Order of self-abnegation, but it was done on a principle, and the principle was this, that there would be a real danger if the control over the spending of public money got into any other hands than those of the Government, and a Government controlled by the House. They felt it was not a thing that should be in the hands of private Members or of private parties. There were temptations in a democratic assembly to pursue another course. But they pursued that course, and they kept to their true function of criticising proposals of the Government, and if they could, and so desired, turning the Government out or defeating the Government when an election came. For two centuries that prin- 826 ciple has been unchallenged. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman really means to challenge that principle now.
§ The Prime Minister
I quite agree. The principle is not challenged, but it has been suggested on more than one occasion—and the right hon. Gentleman made that part of his speech to-day—that the power entrusted to the Executive has been abused by reason of the details in which the Financial Resolutions are drawn up. I think that wants examining. I am sure the whole House, especially those hon. Members who have been in the House for many years, would agree that the number and complexity of legislative proposals that involve finance and involve a charge upon the Exchequer has increased enormously in modern times, especially since the War. Therefore, it seems to us that the ancient Standing Order of the House, to which I have referred, would be rendered completely valuless if the Crown's Recommendation was to be signified to a Financial Resolution brought in in such general terms as to enable Members of this House, other than Ministers, to initiate proposals for increasing the charge in ways that had not been contemplated when the Crown's Recommendation was given for the Resolution. To-day the calls upon the Exchequer are so many and so various, and come from so many quarters and with such strong support, that it would be difficult indeed for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep the nation's expenditure within its income if he did not possess this ancient power of limiting the initiative for expenditure to the Government. The Estimates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are naturally formed by taking into account what he calculates may be the expenditure resulting from the legislation of the past year, and indeed of the legislation as it goes along, because he has to make his Estimates for the future also. If his Estimates were likely to be upset—in other words, if he were unable to control to the extent that he does by Financial Resolution expenditure on this Bill or on that Bill—in my view it would make the task of a Chancellor of the Exchequer—the hardest task perhaps of any Minister—incomparably harder even than it is to-day.
It so happens that there have been introduced lately Bills of considerable 827 complexity and, in the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, with interlocking finance, and it has been impossible to avoid having the intricate details interwoven with the financial charges. Where you have a case such as that—and, after all, it is only in a minority of Bills that you have such a case—a long and a detailed Financial Resolution becomes absolutely inevitable. In those cases the Government have done what they could to mitigate the situation, although, as I understand the Leader of the Opposition, it does not mitigate it from his point of view. I was going to say they mitigated it by giving a much longer time for discussion, although that would not be regarded as an advantage by the Leader of the Opposition, who would say that if it does not give the opportunity of amending, no amount of discussion is the same thing. Here, again, perhaps on. Members opposite may smile, but we are conscious that these Financial Resolutions do impose certain restrictions in debate and in desiring to do what you want, but we know that some time we shall be in Opposition, and therefore we have given instructions during the last two years that the Resolutions should be drafted as flexibly as is consistent with the fundamental principle of that underlying Standing Order No. 63, The instructions have been adhered to, but for the reasons given both by the Leader of the Opposition and by myself, it is too much to hope that in the future the necessity for drafting a Resolution at some length, in considerable detail and with what may appear to the House to be some rigidity will be avoidable.
The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is that Standing Order 69 should be rescinded. If that were done, the procedure would then rest on Standing Order No. 68. The right hon. Gentleman told us what he imagined would be the consequence, and I shall say a word about that later. Standing Order 68 was the procedure on which we normally relied up to 1922. Up to that time the procedure had been for the House to resolve that on a future date it would resolve itself into a Committee to consider a Motion for a charge. I may allude here to something which the right hon. Gentleman or one of his friends mentioned in a question in the last two or three 828 days. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition who referred to a letter from an old and respected servant of this House, Sir Bryan Fell, which appeared in the "Times." That letter suggested that the practice of drafting a detailed Resolution was an innovation which had grown out of the disuse of Standing Order No. 68. It is only right to remind the House that two old Members of this House, both with a wide knowledge of its procedure and particularly its financial procedure, dissented from Sir Bryan Fell's view. One was Lord Kennet and the other was Lord Rankeillour, who for many years was Chairman of Ways and Means.
I do not wish to dwell upon that point, but I would like to say a few words at this stage on what happened in 1922. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will probably remember that time. I remember it very well, because I had spent four years at the Treasury just before then, and I have refreshed my memory on these matters since. Standing Order No. 69 was one of the results of certain changes in procedure which were carried out following on the recommendations of a small but extraordinarily expert committee which had been examining the procedure with a view to quickening the pace. Hon. Members will recall the amount of legislation that had to be carried through after the close of the War, and if a day could be saved here and another day there, it was a matter worthy of consideration. On that Committee, in addition to two or three Ministers, were Mr. Speaker Lowther; the then Chairman of Ways and Means, afterwards Mr. Speaker Whitley, and the then Clerk of the House, Sir Lonsdale Webster. At that time the procedure, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded as that which preceded the introduction of this peccant Standing Order 69, involved three stages on separate days. There was the setting-up Resolution—and although this may sound rather dull, I ask the attention of the House to it, because there is a point connected with the setting-up Resolution which touches closely on what we are now discussing.
The setting-up Resolution was to the effect that on a future day the House would resolve itself into a Committee to consider the voting of money for a certain object. That stage was formal and could take place immediately after Questions, 829 or at the end of Public Business, and the King's Recommendation was given at that juncture. When the House went into Committee it considered the object in view and the passing of the Resolution, of which it was by no means the general practice to give notice on the Paper. I wish the House to observe that. The Resolution, more often than not, was read at the Table, and not put on the Paper as it is to-day, and that has an important bearing on the question. Then came the Report stage, and the first proposal made in 1919 was that of an alternative procedure, and the purpose of the new Standing Order, as the then Attorney-General, now Lord Chief Justice, pointed out, was expedition. That was to be achieved by doing away with the setting-up Resolution and providing that the Committee and Report stages of a Money Resolution could he taken on one and the same day. But—and this was a very curious thing—the Standing Order was permissive. It was to apply only in cases where notice of the Resolution appeared on the Order Paper. I confess I had forgotten that, and it is a very curious point. It led to a great deal of discussion in the House.
That Standing Order was very like the one which emerged in its final form in 1922. I will not weary the House by reading it. I only want them to remember that it was permissive, and only applied if the Financial Resolution had been placed on the Paper. An interesting small point arose at that time. I have said that it was proposed to take the Report stage of the Money Resolution on the same day as the Committee stage in order to save a day's time. That provision was strongly objected to by the champion of Private Members' rights, Sir Frederick Banbury, as he then was, who fought it for three years, and finally won—which shows what Private Members can do. The Standing Order then read and still reads to-day:When notice has been given of a resolution authorising expenditure in connection with a Bill the House may, after the recommendation of the Crown is signified thereto, at any time after such notice appears on the Paper resolve itself into Committee to consider the resolution.That did not come into general use until 1922, and what really brought it into general use was the decision given by the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means to which allusion had been made. 830 That decision was that the effective Resolution which governed a Bill was the first one and not the second one which, in practice, had always been the tighter and closer Resolution. In effect, that decision threw open a question that, to the best of my belief, everyone at that time thought had been settled for two centuries. It was after that decision that the practice which has subsisted ever since was made general. The King's Recommendation which the Deputy-Chairman said only covered the setting-up Resolution now applies to the actual Resolution which governs the Bill. Since then, successive Governments have invariably followed the procedure which Standing Order 69 prescribes in dealing with these cases. The Governments of hon. Members opposite in 1924, 1929 and 1931 followed this procedure, and although they experienced difficulties in the House on certain Resolutions, no suggestion was made by them of which I am aware of an alteration in the procedure.
§ Mr. Attlee
Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point which I made? I did not make the point that we should be allowed to increase the charge. My point was that this Resolution refers to the operative Clauses of the Bill and contains many things that have nothing to do with finance, and that even although alterations might be made which would not increase the charge, yet we cannot discuss them because of the Financial Resolution.
§ The Prime Minister
With regard to the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention, I would like to have that point examined and replied to, in the course of the general discussion. We feel that with regard to the Special Areas, this Resolution is restricted to the points which are fundamental to the financing of the Government's proposals. The Bill itself is restricted to financial matters and so much so that it requires not only to be supported by a Financial Resolution but to be founded upon one. I drew a distinction when I began between Bills which are founded on Financial Resolutions and those which only require to have Financial Resolutions moved during their progress through the House. In regard to Bills founded upon Financial Resolutions, it is commonly the case that the Resolution is, and must be, largely identical with the Bill. If it were not so, it would 831 be giving the House a blank cheque instead of keeping the responsibility in the hands of the Government, with whom alone that responsibility ought to rest. As the Resolution has to cover the whole of the Bill, it is inevitable that this should generally be the case. As far as the alteration of procedure is concerned, I cannot see that it would touch the principle, because what the Leader of the Opposition said would inevitably happen. Whatever Resolution was the pertinent Resolution governing the Bill would be drawn in such a way as to protect the right of the Government to initiate expenditure and we should be as we are. In view of those considerations, I regret that I am unable to accept the Motion.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The Prime Minister has made an interesting excursion into Constitutional history, but I cannot help feeling that he has failed to meet the case which was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the official Opposition, and he has failed also to meet the points which are in the minds of those of us who support this Motion. Nobody has called in question, when this matter has been raised in recent years and certainly the right hon. Gentleman did not call in question to-day, the principle which underlies Standing Order No. 63, passed in the last year of the reign of Queen Anne. Nobody suggests that the initiative in matters of finance should come elsewhere than from the Government. The point with which we are concerned is not whether we should abrogate Standing Order 63, but the choice between Standing Orders 68 and 69, and it is that part of the case that the Prime Minister has failed to meet. We are not suggesting that private Members should be put in the way of temptation, as it were, and that they should have all sorts of opportunities of moving to increase the charge. Our criticism is that these Resolutions have been used, not simply to limit expenditure and to protect the public purse, but in order to determine both the purposes of the Bill which follows and the methods by which those purposes are to be carried out. That is an entirely different thing from merely giving protection to the public purse.
My hon. Friends and I propose to support this Motion to-day. I listened 832 to the Leader of the official Opposition with pleasure and a certain amount of surprise. If I may strike a personal note, some weeks ago I happened to draw a place in the ballot for Private Members' Motions, and I put on the Paper a Motion designed to draw attention to this matter and to certain similar matters. When I proposed that Motion, so far as I was allowed to get, I dealt at some length with the particular point with which we are now concerned. It is true that I also dealt with certain other matters, such as the procedure by way of regulations under the Unemployment Bill, to which the right hon. Gentleman made a passing reference; but anybody who listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day would have supposed that I should on that occasion have had the enthusiastic support of the right hon. Gentleman and of all his followers from above the Gangway. Nothing of the kind occurred, and in fact the party above the Gangway, with the connivance of their Whips, managed to engineer a count for the express purpose of stifling discussion of my Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am not speaking of all the Members above the Gangway on the back benches, but certainly those on the Front Bench must take the responsibility.
§ Mr. Foot
I am naturally gratified to see a somewhat different attitude on the Front Bench above the Gangway to-day, and I welcome the change of heart which hon. and right hon. Members have experienced on this subject. We certainly welcome their enthusiasm on this matter, however sporadic and uncertain it may be. To-day we are called upon to judge, not the motives of hon. Members above the Gangway in putting this Motion down, but this Motion on its merits, and on its merits we propose to give it our support. It is unnecessary for me to go over all the ground so clearly covered by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the official Opposition, but he made the point, which I think should be in the mind of every hon. Member, that the old procedure served this House perfectly well up to the year 1919. It was not until that year that Standing Order No. 69 was introduced, and it received its present form in the year 1922.
I was particularly interested in the explanation that the Prime Minister gave 833 as to why this change was brought forward. He said that it was to expedite procedure. If any hon. Member cares to look up the Debates that took place in 1919—my recollection is that there was no discussion in 1922, although an Amendment was accepted from Sir Frederick Banbury—he will see that that was the only reason given for this change, and it was suggested that, whereas the old procedure had to take at least three days—because there had to be, first of all, a Motion to go into Committee on a future date, then there had to be the Committee stage, and then, I think on a subsequent date, the Report stage—the point was made by the Attorney-General of that day that this would only take two days once the matter had appeared on the Paper.
The original intention, as the Prime Minister said, was that it might have been done in one day, but that was circumvented by Sir Frederick Banbury's Amendment in 1922. The whole reason that was given, and as I suggest the only reason which the House had, for making this change in procedure in 1919 and 1922 was in order to expedite the manner in which we were able to deal with Money Resolutions. It was never suggested by anybody from the Front Bench at that time, and certainly it was never contemplated by the House of Commons, either in 1919 or in 1922, that this new machinery would be used in the way in which in fact it has been used by successive Governments ever since; and, in spite of what the Prime Minister has said, I submit that this machinery is now being used simply to fetter effective discussion in this House.
There were protests, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred, made in 1934 on the last Special Areas Bill, and again in 1936. What was the objection then made? We all have in mind the particular Money Resolution which has given rise to the Motion on the Paper. The main objection to the 1934 Bill and to the form of the Money Resolution in 1934 was that we were prevented by the form of that Resolution from adding in any way to the Schedule of Special Areas. That was of particular importance at that time, because we all knew, and the Minister then in charge of the matter himself admitted, that the selection of Special 834 Areas in the first place had been entirely arbitrary and haphazard. They were not selected, and they never have been selected, on any kind of scientific principle. They were simply the areas that happened to be visited during the short time available to them by the four Commissioners whom the Government sent out to inquire and investigate in 1934.
The objection that was taken at that time, and which applies, as I submit, with equal force now, was, first, that it was impossible for any hon. Member to move to add any different areas during the Committee stage, and, second, that we could not even put in machinery for adding new areas. My hon. Friends and I had down an Amendment on the Paper to give the Minister of Labour power, if certain conditions were fulfilled, to add other areas to the Schedule which was to appear in the Bill, but even an Amendment like that was ruled out of order by the terms of that Money Resolution. There was some excuse for it then, because of the defence put forward by the then Minister of Labour, who said, "We are dealing with something that is purely experimental; we are acting in a hurry; we have just taken these areas—I admit they were arbitrarily chosen—and we are seeing whether this is the right way to deal with them." He intimated that if it did turn out to be the right way, in due course there would be further and wider legislation in which the results of their experience would be applied.
That was the reason put forward in 1934 for this method; and that was the defence put forward by the Minister, but that cannot possibly apply to-day. We are not now dealing with an experimental Measure. This is to be the basis, as I understand it, of the Government's permanent, considered policy for dealing with the Special Areas, and so the defence which they put up then certainly does not avail them to-day. We had the protests that were made then and those made on the Tithe Bill last year, but all were of no avail because we again have this particular Resolution on the Paper in this form. The suggestion in the Prime Minister's speech was that it would have been impossible to draft this Financial Resolution with less detail, but I would ask hon. Members to look at paragraph (c), and in particular at the proviso. Paragraph (c) enables the Treasury to give financial 835 assistance for any area outside the Special Areas, but it does not stop there, because it goes on to say:Provided that such financial assistance shall only be given either by means of subscription to the share capital of site-companies incorporated for the purpose of providing factories in such areas with a view to inducing persons to establish industrial undertakings therein, or by means of loans to such companies …Why should it not have been sufficient to put in paragraph (c) and to leave out the proviso? If the Government are prepared to argue this matter on its merits, they could very well have carried their point as to the particular way in which this financial assistance is to be given to these areas outside the Special Areas on the Committee stage of the Bill itself, but I cannot see why it was essential to their purpose and to the framework of this Money Resolution to insert that proviso in the Resolution. In fact, we have some reason for believing that it was simply put in in order that there should be no effective discussion of this point in the Bill, because the Prime Minister would not, I think, deny that the insertion of this proviso will prevent any other suggestion being brought forward, when the Special Areas Bill is under discussion, in order to relieve or assist these particular areas which are not in the Schedule to the 1934 Bill.
It seems to me a pity that these somewhat technical matters are not more fully appreciated outside. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the official Opposition that this is a matter of vital importance to the future of Parliamentary Government in this country. Nobody who is supporting this Motion does so as a mere stickler for Parliamentary etiquette. In these days almost all important legislation comes in the first place from the Government of the day. The number of private Members' Bills which reach the Statute Book is very much smaller than it used to be, and if they are to reach the Statute Book at all, they can only deal with small and non-controversial matters. That means that in these recent years the initiative, with regard not simply to financial matters, but to practically all legislation, has passed into the hands of the Executive of the day, and that makes it all the more important that we should have every opportunity to scrutinise and examine all 836 the Measures which the Government choose to bring forward.
In relation to Government Measures, we have two powers, the power to reject and the power to amend, and it seems to me that the power to amend is almost as important to the authority of this House as the power to reject outright. Again and again we have had certain things that cannot be amended, things like agricultural marketing schemes, for example, and we have had Members from the other side of the House finding themselves in this dilemma, that they object very strongly to some particular provision in a scheme, but are unable to express their objection in the Division Lobby without rejecting the scheme as a whole. It is precisely that difficulty in which hon. Members are put when we have Money Resolutions so tightly drawn.
There have been various practices adopted in recent years in order to deprive this House of the right to amend. We have the notorious example of the Unemployment Act, by which the means test was governed by regulations incapable of Amendment, and we have year after year Money Resolutions drawn with all this unnecessary detail. Ministers on the Front Bench, particularly, I think, the Home Secretary, are given to making speeches in the country to their supporters, contrasting our happy state under a parliamentary democracy with the state of servitude in which people in dictatorship countries have to live. What is the difference? In each case the Government from time to time seeks some kind of mandate from the electors. The difference simply lies in the constant Parliamentary supervision and control. It is not just that the Government are elected; it is that those in authority have their actions, their administration and their proposals subjected to the constant scrutiny and informed criticism of Members in all parts of the House. That is the vital difference, and it seems to my hon. Friends and me that it entirely disappears if the Government are going to cut down the right of effective criticism in this House so that the House simply becomes a machine for registering the decrees of an omnipotent executive.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill
The House of Commons naturally regards with considerable misgivings and feelings of jealousy any 837 proposal which seems to curtail its rights of Debate and Amendment; and a Motion such as that which has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition naturally draws a good deal of support in all quarters of the House. I do not think, however, when one looks carefully into what is proposed, that there is as much in this Motion as might appear. I have been long enough in the House to remember the procedure under the old Standing Orders, and if I may recall it, it was roughly this: There was first a formal setting up Resolution that the House would, on a future day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider certain financial proposals. That was a formal stage. There was no notice of it on the Paper, for it was the kind of Motion that did not require notice, and I think that there was practically never any Debate. At that stage, however, the King's Recommendation was signified by a Minister of the Crown. The next stage was that the actual Financial Resolution arising out of that setting up of the Committee appeared on the Paper. The Prime Minister said that it often did not appear on the Paper, but I think that it generally did. So far as I remember, instead of having, as we see to-day, against it the words "King's Recommendation to be signified," there were against it the words, "King's Recommendation signified," because the King's Recommendation had been signified by a Minister at the time of the setting up.
If the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition were to be carried, and if we were to go back to the old procedure before 1922, he would, as he himself admitted, gain nothing at all, because it would be possible for the Government to draw their setting up Resolution just as widely or just as narrowly as they desired. In fact, even if Standing Order 69 were to go, technically the Leader of the Opposition would not really gain any actual advantage from it. We have to consider another aspect of this question. If it be true—and I think it undoubtedly is—that Financial Resolutions to-day are drawn very much tighter and in greater detail than they used to be, the reason is not because there is any great desire to stifle discussion, but because the whole attitude of the House of Commons with regard to finance and expenditure has completely altered in the last generation. In the old days a widely drawn Financial 838 Resolution may have come up with possibly no limits to the expenditure proposed. It could be amended, and it was nearly always amended, if at all, by some Members who were exponents of economy getting up and moving an Amendment to limit the amount of the expenditure.
The reason why in the old days it was possible for Governments to draw Financial Resolutions widely was that there was not the tendency that there is to-day in the House and the country to demand more and more and greater and greater expenditure for all kinds of things. Formerly, the House of Commons used to be considered the guardian of the public purse. To-day, if it is anything, it could more properly be described as the despoiler of the public purse. It is this changed attitude as regards expenditure in this House that is, I think, the real reason why it has become absolutely necessary for Governments to draw their Financial Resolutions much more closely and tightly and in greater detail than they did before. I know that the Leader of the Opposition in his most conciliatory speech, to which no hon. Member could take exception, said—and he honestly meant it—that it was not his intention in any way to try and get behind the ancient Standing Order of the House which provides that the Government alone must be responsible for expenditure. What he and those who think with him are really aiming at is that private Members should be given greater lattitude than they have now with regard to proposals which will involve expenditure.
§ Mr. Attlee
I should like to correct the right hon. Gentleman. I never suggested that. My whole point was not as to the amount of expenditure, but as to the objects and methods of the expenditure.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
If the Financial Resolutions were to be drawn much more widely, it would surely be, as the Prime Minister said, probably in order that in certain cases Amendments could be accepted, the effect of which would be to increase the charge upon the people. I feel that in these days, when there is so much expenditure, it is more necessary than it ever was before in the history of Parliament to maintain unimpaired the two great principles on which our financial procedure in this House rests, namely, that no proposal for expenditure can be made except on the recommenda- 839 tion and the responsibility of the Government, out of which follows automatically the principle that no Member, other than a Member of the Government, can move to increase any expenditure recommended by the Government. Much as one would like to think that the House of Commons was to be given greater powers in these matters, I feel that in the conditions of to-day the Government really have no alternative but to frame these Resolutions much more strictly than they used to do. Even though the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition were to be accepted by the House, it would, as he himself admits, put him in no better position than he is in to-day.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) has based almost the whole of his speech upon an erroneous assumption. He suggested that we were trying to upset the ancient constitutional principle that proposals for expenditure can be made only by the King's Ministers. We are proposing nothing of the kind. We may or may not agree with the full extent of that principle, but it is not any part of our present Motion to suggest that it should be in the slightest degree altered. Therefore, in rising to support the Motion proposed by my right hon. Friend, I want to say that we are not actuated by any desire to change the constitutional principle, nor by any sense of rectitude in matters of Parliamentary procedure. I think that the Prime Minister made too much of the technical considerations involved. They can be very simply stated. There may have been some confusion because the years 1919 and 1922 have been mentioned, but the alteration of which we complain was initiated in 1919 and was not put into full operation until 1922. Prior to that time, the House approached its consideration of Bills involving financial grants under the looser rein of Standing Order 68. That Standing Order left us free to decide the amount of money that should be spent on certain objects and the precise objects on which it should be spent. We were able to exercise that freedom by the right which the House possessed to grant the Financial Resolution which followed the first Motion under Standing Order 68.
Within certain limits it was within the power of the House to amend the Finan- 840 cial Resolution, even to the point of increasing the charge. Even under the less restrictive procedure of Standing Order 68 the House has begun to chafe, and many authoritative opinions, including that of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), have strongly urged that the House should have greater freedom of discussion and Amendment if not, indeed, in some cases, of the initiation of monetary grants. Already it had begun to be felt that it may occasionally be just as necessary in the public interest to press for increased expenditure as to resist expenditure, and that more and more circumstances were arising in our social progress in which it might be more imprudent not to make financial proposals than it might be to make them. In order to give greater authority to the point I have just made I should like to read some general words on this subject which are found in that able work on the control of Parliamentary grants which was written by Colonel Durell. I notice that the book is dedicated to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who has made perhaps more proposals for expenditure and taxation than any other statesman in any country in the world. Colonel Durell writes:While on the one hand cases may from time to time occur in which the House of Commons waives its right of control by accepting a policy of which the majority of its Members may as individuals disapprove, on the other the cases are probably far more frequent in which it brings pressure to bear and causes the Government to adopt a policy which it did not initiate and would not have formulated but for that pressure. It is, moreover, only by this means that the House can secure that proposals for new or increased expenditure are brought before it, for under constitutional practice no Member other than a Minister is permitted to propose grants which have not been demanded by the Crown.If that constitutional principle is to stand it is imperative, in our judgment, that the safety-valve for proposing new expenditure should not be locked. Standing Order 68 provides that safety-valve for the House. Standing Order 69, if I may use another metaphor, not only requires us to cut the coat according to the cloth, but enables the Government to decide in advance what the pattern of the coat is going to be. It was in the light of all these considerations that the Select Committee on National Expenditure in 1919 proceeded to examine not the 841 possibility of increasing the initiative and control of the Executive but of diminishing both. There was a widespread feeling that there should be no further restrictions upon the initiative of private Members, and to indicate the strength and the prevalence of that feeling in 1919 I propose to quote the written words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. I was not then familiar with his personal characteristics, but, judging by later observation, I presume to say that even 20 years ago he was not the man to commit himself, in writing at any rate, to any rash or revolutionary proposition. This is what he wrote to the Select Committee on National Expenditure in 1919, in reply to an inquiry from that Committee, which interrogated all the greatest authorities of the day on this subject:I think that this antiquated procedure might well be abolished. It probably dates from a time when the business to be transacted was read from the Chair and the House did not then, as now, have it in print.It may interest my hon. Friends to know that the late Mr. Arthur Henderson expressed a similar view. Since that time the procedure has not been modernised, it has even been allowed to develop into greater genuine antiquity, and a year after this committee made its findings, it was tampered with by the Executive, who have superimposed upon the ancient procedure Standing Order 69, the Standing Order which we are proposing to obliterate. A great deal has been said to-day as to why that Standing Order was added to the Standing Orders of the House and a great many reasons have been advanced, but in fact there was only one reason. The alteration was made in the interests of despatch. It saves a day, and, if I may quote Sir Bryan Fell on a contention which has not been contradicted by any of his contemporaries:It enables a Government to bring a proposal before the House and say 'Take it or leave it.'The function of the House of Commons, as we understand it, is not despatch but deliberation, and we recognise that the great safeguards against financial maladministration are responsibility and publicity. The elements of responsibility are provided by the Treasury, by the Departmental Minister, and by the House itself. Publicity is provided by the House alone. If, therefore, when Bills of immense importance, as this one is, are brought in, we are to be hedged about in our right 842 of discussion and Amendment by arithmetical considerations, or restrictions which have been put into the Bill by the Government lawyers in order to prevent the moving of Amendments which are obnoxious to the Government, we shall bring our Debates into considerable disrepute. The House should mark well that the Financial Resolution which is the proximate cause of our Motion is of little service as a restriction upon expenditure. The House cannot deduce from it whether we are to spend £10 or £10,000,000. The only restriction contained in the Resolution is under heading (d) which limits the amount for loans to persons carrying on certain business, the limit being £2,000,000. There is no limit whatever upon the expenditure other than that one, and amounts which are entirely unspecified can be expended under the other heads.
I wish to say a word upon the answer which the Prime Minister gave to the Leader of the Opposition last Thursday and repeated to-day. He said the Government must determine with what degree of particularity the purposes and conditions will be set out. I feel very curious to know who was bold enough to put those words into the mouth of the Prime Minister, because if that claim is to go unchallenged we shall find that these Financial Resolutions will more and more particularise purposes and conditions and will less and less conform to their original purpose of particularising finance. The Prime Minister to-day, to the amazement of many Members, said that the Financial Resolution and the Bill must be in terms which are largely identical. If that is to be acknowledged, and if, for reasons of despatch, and not for deliberation, the House of Commons is to be bound to that procedure, the Cabinet will have been very successful in placing a "half-nelson" upon the Debates of this House.
I speak only with the authority of a Member representing his constituency, and I make no claim to be well versed in these precedents from, as is the case with most of them, more corrupt times, but I am greatly concerned with this matter in its practical aspects, because I know that shortly the Government will introduce a Bill for the complete reorganisation of the fishing industry. That Bill will affect the lives and the well-being of large numbers of my constituents, and I venture to pre- 843 dict that it will represent an arrangement arrived at by parties outside this House and be presented to the House as a take-it-or-leave-it Measure, and that we shall not be able to propose Amendments to it which represent the policy upon which many of us were elected to this House, and that is an aspect of the matter which causes me great concern.
I think that the House, which has always shown itself ready to forget party predilections when questions which transcend party are before us, will desire to secure the removal of this Standing Order. If the press of business really becomes so great as to require greater despatch from us, that is a situation which we can meet in other ways, such as by delegating to Select Committees some of the business which will still remain under the control of this House. I hope we shall begin to resist these tendencies by expunging Standing Order 6g from the rules of the House.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Viscount Wolmer
This is a House of Commons matter and I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition raised it as a House of Commons matter and not as a party matter. It affects all parties, but it particularly affects the House of Commons as such. What my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) said is no doubt very true, that if it is true that the procedure of the House has altered a good deal during the last few years it is because the legislation dealt with by the House has to a very large extent altered, and above all because the attitude of Members of the House towards questions of expenditure has altered. That is no doubt perfectly true, and what the Prime Minister said in the same sense is also true, but also, I feel, there is very great substance in what fell from the Leader of the Opposition, and I very much hope that the matter will not be allowed to rest where it stands to-day or be disposed of with the Motion which the Leader of the Opposition has moved. It seemed to me that everything the Prime Minister said was right, and that everything the Leader of the Opposition said was right, but the fact remains that we are in a very unsatisfactory position.
I should like to dissociate myself entirely from suggestions which I think 844 have been made during the Debate that the Government have deliberately tried to throttle discussion and Debate on the Special Areas. I do not believe that to be the case at all. I think that the Government have used what has become the normal procedure of the House of Commons during the last 15 years, in what they consider the normal way. The result is exceedingly unsatisfactory. The Prime Minister told us that the procedure had to be altered because of the need for expedition and because Parliament could not get through its duties in time. That, again, is not the end of the question. I suggest that we have to find a proper compromise between speed and the deliberative duties of the House of Commons. Just as the Minister of Transport has to find a compromise between speed and safety, I suggest that the Leader of the House of Commons ought to find a compromise between speed and the liberties of the House of Commons.
That is the position into which we have drifted, and it is a matter of development and drift which is exceedingly unsatisfactory. The Special Areas Financial Resolution is typical, as has been said, of what has now become the normal practice on a number of subjects. Just consider the position in which it puts hon. Members of all parties. The Financial Resolution is the Bill; it is the Special Areas Bill, and anybody who wishes to make an impression on the Bill has to devote his attention to the Financial Resolution. Therefore the effective Debate on the Bill takes place on the Financial Resolution. That means that you have to have a Second Reading Debate and a Committee stage Debate lumped into one. If an hon. Member wishes to make a Second Reading point he has to make it on the Financial Resolution. If another hon. Member wishes to make a Committee point he has to do it in the same Debate. The Debate on the Financial Resolution is therefore a jumble between the Committee stage Debate and the Second Reading Debate. We are dealing alternatively with points of principle or points of detail, according to what happens to interest the Member who is speaking at the time. That is not the best way for the House of Commons to do its business.
There is the further inconvenience that if the Government wish to meet any hon. 845 Member by giving a concession on a Committee point, the only way in which they can do it, as I understand the rule of procedure, is by withdrawing their Financial Resolution and introducing a new one. That is an exceedingly un-businesslike and unsatisfactory way of doing business. I submit that in all these Measures there is room for a Second Reading Debate and a Committee stage. It is not merely a question of what is the best ultimate solution of the particular problem; the primary duty and function of the House of Commons is to educate instructed opinion in this country, and to enable every point of view to be ventilated, examined, answered and debated on the Floor of this House. You cannot do that satisfactorily under the procedure into which we are drifting, but you can do it, and this House has done it for generations satisfactorily, by discussing points of principle on the Second Reading and points of detail in the Committee stage.
I quite see that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not a solution of the problem, and also that what my right hon. Friend said was true, that unless you can get back to the old tradition and spirit of this House in which it was not the thing, and was not done, so to word your Financial Resolution that Debate on the Bill was unduly and unnecessarily cramped, the end of the right hon. Gentleman will not be achieved. I suggest that the Government should appoint the small committee of experienced Members to consider the problem with which we are faced, and to consider how we can balance the relative claims of expedition and proper deliberative function in the House of Commons.
The Labour party will be making a mistake if they think it is possible to go back to the old procedure. This Debate has established that point; but I think also that the Government are making a mistake if they think we can remain exactly where we are at the present moment. It is not right or satisfactory that we should be driven to discussing this very important question in the very inconvenient method of a Financial Resolution, to which the King's Recommendation has been attached, and one comma of which we therefore cannot alter, however much we may desire to do so. The Prime Minister said that instructions had 846 been given that this Financial Resolution was to be as widely drafted as considerations of Government control of expenditure would allow, or words to that effect. I understood the Prime Minister to say also that the Minister of Labour had not exceeded those instructions in drafting this Resolution. If that is the case, it surely shows the need for some alteration in our rules of procedure. Just look at the points of importance in which, I maintain, the House of Commons has a right to take an effective part, but which are excluded, in the drafting of this Financial Resolution.
The Prime Minister says that you cannot allow private Members to induce the House to carry expenditure for which the Government cannot make themselves responsible, and that initiative in regard to expenditure must rest with the Front Bench. We all, of course, agree with that. Nobody, not even the Leader of the Opposition, is suggesting this afternoon that any other criterion or principle should prevail; but if we look at this particular Financial Resolution we can easily find matters of great interest and importance which are included in such a way as to make effective debate on the Committee stage of the Bill impossible. For instance, if I may give an example, there is the whole question of the boundaries of the Special Areas. I am not saying that the Government are wrong in maintaining those boundaries, nor in the way they have fixed those boundaries, but that is certainly a question which ought to be debated on the Floor of this House in an effective manner. I believe it would have been possible to draft the Resolution in such a way that the questions of the boundaries could still have been discussed on the Committee stage of the Bill, but the Prime Minister has assured us that the Minister of Labour has not exceeded instructions in not drafting the Resolution one degree more tightly than was necessary for him. It therefore seems that something ought to be done about the procedure of the House of Commons.
Let me take also the question of the Commissioners. The Financial Resolution lays it down that the money which Parliament is asked to vote should be administered by the Commissioners, in the manner set up by the Special Areas Act. A number of Members—of whom I do not say I am one—who have special knowledge of the problems, feel 847 very strongly that the time has come when the powers of the Commissioners ought to be modified. There is a well-known school of thought, in which I think Sir Malcolm Stewart is included because, in a paragraph in his last report, he suggests that it is not necessary to continue the office of Special Commissioner, which feels that a great many of the duties of the Special Commissioner ought to be administered by Government Departments. I do not know whether that is right or wrong and I am not suggesting whether it is right or wrong, but it is a matter upon which the House of Commons ought to have a free and business-like Debate. The proper time to debate that point would be on the Committee stage of the Bill. You cannot mix up a point like that with a point like the boundaries of the Special Areas into one Debate in which, by the Rules of the House, Members may speak only once. You cannot debate two questions at the same time, much less can you debate three or four questions at the same time. There is also the question of the certified area. This Resolution goes even to the length of giving the words of the certificate that the Minister will be required to issue under the Bill, but we cannot discuss the wording that the Minister will have to give. It has been found necessary to put that into the Financial Resolution, notwithstanding what we were assured by the Prime Minister as to the Minister of Labour not exceeding his instructions.
If this is becoming the normal procedure of the House of Commons, the House will not be able to deal as effectively with matters which will be brought to it in future as it ought to be able to deal with them. I do not think this is a time when we can afford to be indifferent to the efficiency of the House of Commons in its primary functions or as regards public opinion of the House of Commons. That is why I sympathise with the manner in which this question was approached by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House. We have to face the fact that the House of Commons is passing through a difficult time. Much less public interest is already taken in our Debates than was taken 30 or 40 years ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If hon. Members disagree with that statement, I would ask them 848 to compare the amount of prominence given in the newspapers of all parties to Debates in this Chamber with what is to be found in the files of the newspapers of 30 or 40 years ago. They will see that what interested the public in those days is not, to a very large extent, what is considered to be of interest to the public to-day. There are numerous causes why the House of Commons is going through a difficult time and one is the size of Parliamentary majorities. The mere fact that the Opposition, in numbers and often in debating power, is very much weaker than the Government of the day—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If hon. Members do not agree with me, I will not pursue the question of debating power. If hon. Members will consider the question of numbers they will see that the relative majority of the Government over the Opposition has been very much greater since the War than ever was before.
I am not going into the various matters which have weakened the power of debate in the House of Commons, but I think everyone will agree that it has been weakened from one cause or another. All that I am suggesting is that it is the duty of all Members of this House to try to arrest that process if they can. If we find that there is a fault in our Parliamentary procedure whereby, without any blame being attachable to the Patronage Secretary, the Minister in charge, or the Government as a whole, the House of Commons is required to do its business in a manner which is not practical, which is not common sense, we ought to try to improve our procedure. I hope that the Government will consider very carefully whether the complaints that have been made this afternoon and on previous occasions, both in this House and outside, do not render it advisable that they should appoint a small committee of experienced Members to see whether our Standing Orders can be amended in any fashion so that the liberties of this House are not unduly cramped, without sacrificing the speed which is required to carry out legislation.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
The Noble Lord has said that one of the consequences of this procedure is to reduce the already low degree of interest which is being taken in the House of Commons by the country as a whole, and which he compared with 849 the interest that used to be taken in the proceedings of Parliament many years ago. I think, however, that the Noble Lord entirely missed the import of the speech of the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister said in so many words that the reason why Financial Resolutions are now much more narrowly drawn is that people are taking a great interest in the affairs of the House of Commons. He specifically said that one of the justifications for the narrowing of Financial Resolutions is the necessity for protecting the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the importunities of the House of Commons; so that the exact opposite of what has been represented is the case.
I shall probably disturb the amiable atmosphere that has existed until now. Everyone, with one or two exceptions, has been treating this Debate as a formal matter of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, when, to be quite blunt, to give, in the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, an honest-to-God opinion, this is a conspiracy of the Government to prevent the House of Commons from calling it to book for its treatment of the Special Areas. Hon. Members should recall the atmosphere of the House last autumn when we considered this matter, and when, in response to a revolt of Members in all parts of the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to agree that proposals to deal with the Special Areas would be brought in in the early spring of this year. At that time hon. Members in all parts of the House said that what was required was a new Bill, and we understood, though it was not expressed in language of that kind, that when the problem was again approached it would be by the instrumentality of a new Bill. It is a masterpiece of irony that the Prime Minister should stand at that Box to-day and reproach my right hon. Friend that he made a mistake in not realising that, whereas the forthcoming Measure is to be founded on a Financial Resolution, the original Bill was not. We wanted a new Bill, and not a new Financial Resolution.
I sometimes get rather tired of the indirectness of Parliamentary language, which merely serves to obscure the real issue. The position, as I see it, is that the Standing Orders of this House with respect to financial affairs were drawn up largely in order to protect the House of 850 Commons against the importunities of the Crown, and such Amendments as have been made in them have been merely accretions to that original precedent. What is now happening, however, is that that position is being reversed, and our Standing Orders are being altered in order to protect the Crown—the Government—against the House of Commons. The Prime Minister in the course of his speech did a great deal of stonewalling; he made no runs; but there were one or two occasions when he ought to have been declared out, leg before. He said that the Financial Resolution was now drawn up with particularity, in the first place, because of the complexity of the legislation of the present day, and, secondly, because of the increased financial expenditure involved in that legislation. In other words, the House of Commons is being brought to deal more and more with the problem of what has been described as the condition of the people. A Member of the House of Commons is more and more exposed to the pressure of democracy outside; he is more and more being watched by his constituents, who look to the House of Commons as a source of redress, and expect that he will seek every Parliamentary opportunity to redress their grievances; and the procedure of the House of Commons is now being changed in order to protect the Member of Parliament against the pressure of his own poor constituents.
That is what the Prime Minister's own language means. He says that it is necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be protected. That means that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be hedged around with complicated Standing Orders in order to prevent Members of Parliament from getting at him. Why do they want to get at him? Because he is the man with the money. In the past, the House of Commons had the money and the King wanted it; now the Chancellor of the Exchequer has it, and we want it, our constituents want it. Hon. Members opposite are weeping crocodile tears over the distressed areas. They say—and they mean what they say—that the distressed areas need more money, that they need more help; but the Prime Minister says that the Money Resolution is being drawn up in such a way as to prevent them from getting help for the distressed areas from him. No amount of obscurantism can conceal what is being 851 done at the present time.. The reason why the Standing Orders have changed, or rather, the reason why the Government have altered their treatment of the Standing Orders—because everybody knows that the Standing Orders are so worded that they can be moulded and shaped to mean anything at all—is in order to deal with the increased embarrassments of the rich who want to protect themselves against the importunities of the poor.
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the removal of Standing Order No. 69 would make it easier for Members of the House of Commons to get money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Bevan
The request of my right hon. Friend was not that the House of Commons should have the opportunity of actually increasing the amount allotted for a particular piece of legislation, but, as we understand it, the machinery is entirely wrapped up in the Financial Resolution at the moment. We might want to make Amendments; indeed, we have already made representations to the Prime Minister from the Welsh Parliamentary party that the Commissioner should be got rid of and a Cabinet Minister should be responsible for this job; and my right hon. Friend has also made recommendations in his report on the distressed areas which is available to hon. Members who care to read it. If the Commissioner were got rid of, and we had a Cabinet Minister in charge, whose position would depend upon the way in which he dealt with the problem and who would be exposed to very great pressure in this House, do you think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could get away with £2,000,000? The sort of machinery that you contrive determines the amount of money that you are going to have to spend, and, although it is true that our proposals do not involve any actual right to say that the £2,000,000 should be £4,000,000, or £6,000,000, or £10,000,000, they do involve such a change in the machinery as would expose the inadequacy of the sum. The hon. Member shakes his head; probably he will have in the course of the Debate an opportunity to reply.
The same thing is true about the areas that are not Special Areas. If a number 852 of other areas were added to the existing Schedule, it would, of course, expose the utter poverty of the amount of money allotted for this purpose. You would have a larger number of Members engaging in a tug-of-war for the same amount of money, and you would consequently have a demand in the House for a larger amount of money to be spread over those areas. Our complaint now is that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons are being deliberately used in order to prevent Members from discharging their obligations to their constituents. It is no use hon. Members opposite deploring this, because they themselves have been beneficiaries from it. I have been in this House now some seven or eight years, and have heard this Debate on every important Bill. We heard it on the Unemployment Insurance Bill in 1934, when it was described as flagrantly cheating the people out of their constitutional rights. The issue as to the amount of money that should be allotted for the redemption of the debt of the Unemployment Insurance Fund gave rise to a most acrimonious debate. No Amendments could be moved, because of the way in which the Financial Resolution had been drawn up.
Again, with regard to the means test, hon. Members have never since 1931 been placed in the position that they have had to vote in the Lobby on the question of the means test. They have been protected all along by Standing Orders. Hon. Members who were in the House in 1934 will remember that time and again we tried to test the House of Commons on more than one principle, but they were able to get away with it. I read some of the speeches made in the country by hon. Members opposite, in which they said that the reason why they supported the Bill was not because they agreed with all of it, but because there were certain things in it which would be advantageous; they relied upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister to avoid putting them in a position in which they would have to vote for anything but the general Bill. They cannot, therefore, complain; they have been given an electoral alibi for the last five or six years, which leaves them in the position of deploring these disadvantages but, nevertheless, being constrained to vote for them in consequence of the advantages with which they were inextricably interlocked.
853 I want to protest against the position in which we have been placed by this procedure of the Government. After this Motion has been disposed of we go on to discuss the Financial Resolution, and after that is disposed of we shall come to the Bill. I have seen this thing happen on more than one occasion in the House. If an Amendment can be moved, it puts the House of Commons in charge of the whole atmosphere of a Debate on the Bill itself. If hon. Members can be faced with a particular Amendment, only the merits of that Amendment can be considered. Some hon. Members have been in South Wales. They have gone around to clubs and meetings of various kinds expressing their disapproval of the existing situation, and at the same time saying that they would, when the occasion came, do their very best to try to improve it. Here is their opportunity. This it not a Vote of Confidence. It is not a matter of the consequences that would follow the carrying of the Motion, because the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear, and it is understood by everybody, that, even if it were carried, it would not prevent the Government from doing what they are doing. It is, therefore, a token Resolution. Its carrying would indicate dissatisfaction with the procedure that is being followed and it would be an instruction to the Government to withdraw the Financial Resolution and bring it in in a form which would enable us to amend the Bill.
It would, therefore, be possible for hon. Members opposite to go into the Division Lobby for the Resolution without involving the overthrow of the Government and without involving abandonment of the rearmament programme. It would be a real assertion of House of Commons rights against a gang of political tricksters. There is not a Member in any part of the House—the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself would not dare to go to the country and justify the provisions that he proposes for the distressed areas with the astronomical sums that he proposes to spend on armaments. There is not a Member anywhere in the House who will dare to face that comparison in his constituency. All their protestations about the dignity, the prestige and the vitality of the House of Commons means nothing at all. Here they have an opportunity of asserting the rights of the private Member without any of the usual risks 854 accompanying such a declaration of independence. Can we, therefore, expect that they will go into the Lobby with us? Of course not. Although they will make their protestations in the House of Commons, privately they will congratulate the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor, who gives them a new alibi again.
This is the sort of defence that we are having now for Parliamentary democracy, the kind of defence that the Prime Minister has been giving it for the past TO years, defending it by word of mouth and stabbing it in the back whenever he has the opportunity. They will go to their constituencies and say, "Of course there are millions of people unemployed. Of course there are hundreds of thousands under-nourished. Of course the distressed areas are the most formidable problem with which we have to deal. Of course these people are the victims of 10 or 15 years of idleness and demoralisation. But it cannot be helped, because the House of Commons Standing Orders are too complicated."
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Beaumont
If I may, I will now return to the subject-matter raised by the Motion. The hon. Member who has just spoken has made a very moving speech. All that he says may be perfectly true. If every word of it is true, it will not be affected one iota by what we do on this Motion. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for raising this matter, which is one of very great importance to all Oppositions and all private Members. I dissent, to a certain extent, from some of his premises, and I dissent from his conclusions, but I agree with my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that the present situation is most unsatisfactory. While I did not disagree with what the Prime Minister said in reply, I disagreed with what he did not say, if I may use the phrase, because it has occurred to me that he did not realise what the grievance was. I am talking about the point of procedure. The point which is raised by the Motion, and which was put forward admirably by the Leader of the Opposition, is this. You get Bills which raise points of supreme importance. They are discussed on Second Reading. You then get a Financial Resolution which narrows the whole scope of the discussion, and in Committee you are not able to move Amendments on the points that were dis- 855 cussed on Second Reading, because they would be ruled out of order by the narrowing Financial Resolution. It is fettering the discussion of the House.
The classic case was that of the Education Bill. Owing to the operation of the Financial Resolution, it was not in order to raise the question of junior voluntary schools in Committee. When the Bill went to another place, an Amendment was actually inserted dealing with that question. It is true it was dissented from and struck out when the Bill came back, but it need not have been. The other place could and did deal with an important matter of principle which could not be dealt with here owing to the nature of the Financial Resolution. I agree with my Noble Friend. I am convinced that this is no deep conspiracy by the Government to fetter the discussion of the House. What happens is perfectly simple. The draftsmen draft these Financial Resolutions in such a form as to get them through as quickly as possible. They draft the tightest Resolution possible, and the Government accept it because they want the Bill through quickly. Protests are raised, but a sulky majority, unwilling to defeat their own side, vote for the Resolution. Promises of amendment are made, they say they will not do it again, and so it goes on till it crops up next time.
§ Mr. Beaumont
Yes, certainly. The Government accept responsibility for anything that they bring forward. No one questions the Ministerial responsibility. I was only describing the process and not trying to shift the responsibility from the Government. That is how it happened, and it has grown up since the Standing Orders were changed. But there is a point here which I think should be made clear, because the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) fell into the mistake of believing that Standing Order 68 inherently gives more right of discussion than Standing Order 69. It does not. The only difference is that the setting up Resolution was drafted not by the Treasury but by the Public Bill Office. That was not a matter of obliga- 856 tion but merely a matter of practice. If you repeal Standing Order 69 to-night, there is nothing on earth to prevent the Government, if they wish to do so, having that setting up Resolution drafted by the Treasury just as tight as the Second Resolution. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is a question of practice rather than a question which will be directly affected by this Motion.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I understood very well that under Standing Order 68 the Government could lengthen the Motion and make it more complicated, but I joined with my right hon. Friend in thinking that we should go back to the old practice.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member, but he gave me, and I think others, the impression that he thought that Standing Order 68 of itself gave more freedom for discussion than Standing Order 69. That, in fact, is not the case. I think the House ought to distinguish between Bills founded on Money Resolutions and Bills which a Money Resolution follows. I am not saying, in connection with this Special Areas Bill, that the Government are right or wrong to have introduced the Bill founded on a Money Resolution. It is open to Members in any part of the House to say that that is the wrong way of setting about this question, but I do say that, if you are to have a Bill founded on a Money Resolution, it inevitably follows that the Financial Resolution must be drawn much tighter than it would have been if the Resolution followed a Second Reading. Erskine May says this—and I think that it is important and relevant:Where the main object of a Bill is the creation of a Public Charge, resort must be had to this procedure (that of setting up a Committee of the Whole House to consider the Money Resolution) before the Bill is introduced, and upon the Resolution of the Committee of the Whole House, when agreed to by the House, the Bill is ordered to be brought in. If the charge created by the Bill is a subsidiary feature resulting from the provisions it contains, the Royal Recommendation and preliminary Committee are not needed before the introduction of the Bill.The significance of that, as I understand it, is that, when a Bill is founded on a Money Resolution, the Resolution must contain the main provisions of the Bill. It is the main object of the Bill. It is unreasonable to suggest that, in that case, a considerable amount of detail should 857 not be put in the Money Resolution. While it is perfectly open for hon. Members to say that such a Bill should not be introduced in connection with the Special Areas, when you have got the particular procedure there is very little in the Money Resolution to which exception can reasonably be taken in view of Erskine May's definition of a Bill founded on a Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I am not disputing that point, which does not come up on this particular Motion. If you want to say that Bills dealing with important subjects should not be brought in on a Financial Resolution, you should change the Rules of the House accordingly. That is not what is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. This is not a general discussion upon the alteration of the whole of the Standing Orders, but a discussion to amend matters arising out of one Standing Order, and the particular grievance voiced by the hon. Member does not arise out of that Standing Order but out of something different. I do not think that if you are to choose this particular Resolution there is very much about which there can be grievance. On the general question of the drafting of Financial Resolutions, the. House has a very serious complaint. Whether it be intended or not, the fact remains that discussion is unreasonably fettered. Matters arising on the Second Reading of the Bill are, in fact, prevented from having proper attention in Committee, and from having Amendments moved in respect of them. I could give case after case. For instance, there is the Tithe Bill, the Maternity Services Bill, and the Education Bill. In the eight years that I have been in the House, I can think of countless cases. It is not, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a party question. It is likely to occur under any Government where discussion is unreasonably fettered.
The House has to consider what is the best method of dealing with this matter. The Leader of the Opposition admitted frankly that his Motion by itself would not form a remedy, but he put it 858 forward in order to raise discussion. What is it he wants to do? Most of us want to ensure that legitimate discussion on all subjects raised by the Bill can be had on the Committee stage, and that Amendments can be moved on any matters of principle which the Bill raises, but without running counter to Standing Order 63 or impairing the monopoly of the Government to institute financial expenditure. I have given some thought as to the method by which this might be achieved. It would not be achieved by the Motion on the Paper. It has been suggested that an Amendment of Standing Orders would achieve it. I am not an expert on these matters, and I am subject to correction, but I have formed the view that an Amendment of Standing Orders could take only one of two forms. You could either direct that the Financial Resolutions should be drafted as heretofore by the Public Bill Office. That would be a completely new departure. To direct how any Financial Resolution should be drafted, or by whom, would be contrary to the practice and the spirit of this House. I do not believe that that is a course which the House would be prepared to take. Or you could lay down in the Standing Orders definite limits within which a Financial Resolution must or must not fall. That is to say, you could lay down—it would be difficult, but I think it could be done—certain definite rules which would prevent Financial Resolutions being framed to preclude discussion at a later stage. I do not believe that that action would commend itself to the House either. It might take the view that such a restriction would be difficult to frame adequately, and for that reason I do not believe that the Amendment of Standing Orders is the right way to deal with it.
But there is another method which I think would meet the case. It is an old practice in this House, when it does not like the rules of procedure framed too carefully, to pass a Resolution generally expressing its wishes. Such Resolutions have been in the past interpreted by the predecessors of Mr. Speaker and by servants of the House in conformity with the wishes of the House. To quote a precedent, the whole of the Rules of Evidence before Select Committees are founded on a Resolution of the House passed about zoo years ago, and they have worked very well because they have been subject to 859 liberal interpretation. I suggest that the House should, after consideration, pass a Resolution laying down the broad lines upon which it wishes Financial Resolutions to be founded, and that it should be left to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House to see that Financial Resolutions come within those broad lines. In that way hon. Members would have, if they have not at present, protection by you, Sir, when, in their view, a Financial Resolution was too narrowly drawn. You would be able to safeguard the rights of the Government under Standing Order 63, and I believe that by that method, and by that method alone, this difficulty in which we are now placed can be met. I cannot, for reasons which I have indicated, vote for this Motion. [Interruption.] Why should I vote for a Motion which is entirely ineffective?
§ Mr. Lawson
Of course, you would not. We do not expect you to be interested in this question of the Special Areas.
§ Mr. Lawson
We will let you know before the night is out. You are dealing with the lives of men and women. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has treated the House in this way but he will not treat us so. You can take that from me.
§ Mr. Beaumont
The hon. Gentleman seems unable to apply or give his mind to the matter in hand. I will resume the discussion of the subject which is before the House. The hon. Member can scream and howl as much as he likes about the distressed areas when we come to discuss them. At the present moment we are not discussing the Special Areas—
§ Mr. Beaumont
—but a matter of extreme importance to this House, notwithstanding the fact that it does not interest the hon. Gentleman. It interests the Leader of the Opposition sufficiently to cause him to move a Motion, and if it interests him sufficiently to do that, 860 then we have a right to speak about it—a right which has been fully enjoyed by hon. Members opposite. I repeat that there is no conceivable object which I can see in voting for this Motion, because it does not have any effect at all.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I understand the reluctance of the hon. Gentleman to vote in a manner which would not meet with the approval of the Government, but if we removed Standing Order 69 from the Rules of the House, how could that be interpreted otherwise by the Government than to mean that they should revert to the procedure which was in operation before Standing Order 69 was passed, that is to say, to the procedure under Standing Order 68? How could Mr. Speaker otherwise interpret the bringing in of Motions under Standing Order 68 in future than that they should be brought in in the same manner and be subject to all the precedents prior to 1919 and 1922?
§ Mr. Beaumont
No, Sir. The hon. Member opposite has prolonged my remarks, but I do not think that that is the case at all. It is true that it would indicate that the Government would, in fact, be compelled, if Standing Order 69 was suspended, to act under the procedure of Standing Order 68, but I doubt whether you would feel impelled, Mr. Speaker, to insist, if indeed you could insist, under the Rules of the House, on the drafting of the Resolution in a certain way. I doubt whether, in the event of the Government producing a Resolution that was in order under Standing Order 68, however tightly it was drawn, you could interfere. My objection to the proposal, and the reason why I am not going to support it, is that it will not produce the result we require.
§ Mr. Attlee
It will have one very important result. It will stop straightaway the action of the Government in trying to put down this particular Financial Resolution on this Bill, because this Order, which appears to-night, will have to seek a new procedure.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I appreciate that point. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman heard me, but I pointed out that I had no objection to this Financial Resolution, and I gave my reasons, and for those reasons I am not going to vote 861 for this Motion now. I hope that something will come out of this Debate. It is all very well for the hon. Member opposite to taunt me with reluctance to vote in a way that displeases the Front Bench, but I do not think that the Government, and particularly the Patronage Secretary, are as convinced of that reluctance as the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) seems to be. He was not a Member of the last Parliament and therefore he does not know of several contretemps in which that charge could not have been made against me. I hope that some results will come from this Debate. I have suggested what I believe is the correct solution, but if the Government or the House as a whole do not approve of that suggestion, my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot suggested the appointment of a committee of those competent to discuss and advice on this matter. It is a subject of supreme importance, and I urge the Government to take notice of the views expressed in the Debate.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
Towards the end of his remarks the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) furnished a complete justification for the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), because it is clear that he does realise the safeguard that the insistence on Standing Order No. 69 affords for those hon. Members who do not desire to give accounts to their constituents of a series of votes that may perhaps be unpopular.
§ Mr. M. Beaumont
I wish the hon. Member would elaborate that statement. I cannot for the life of me see what there is in Standing Order No. 69 which is not in Standing Order No. 68 and prevents us from having free discussion.
§ Mr. Ede
I am coming to the point if the hon. Member will allow me. He is provocative, but I did not interrupt him, and we do not want him to be screaming and howling for the remainder of the evening about Standing Order No. 68. What is the position? When the House of Commons passes the Money Resolution with regard to the Bill as it is now drafted all that remains to the House in the Committee stage is to deal with certain niceties of wording. We can have very interesting discussions on that point but we cannot deal with any question that is really vital and that very much interests 862 the people who are concerned in the country.
The hon. Member alluded to the Education Act of last year. I served on the Committee which dealt with that Bill, under the very able and impartial chairmanship of the senior Member for Bolton (Sir Cyril Entwistle). There were several matters in that Bill which had been the subject of violent controversy on the Second Reading, matters on which hon. Members opposite were as anxious to secure Amendments as hon. Members on this side of the House, but every one of those Amendments had to be ruled out by the Chairman on the ground that they were not covered by the Money Resolution. The hon. Member himself gave the history of one particular Amendment on which there was the keenest feeling on the part of the hon. Member for North-East Leeds (Sir J. Birchall), the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) and other hon. Members opposite, who wanted to secure additional assistance for Church of England junior schools. That Amendment was ruled out in Committee, but it was inserted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in another place, and when the Bill came back here the President of the Board of Education did not resist it on any ground of principle but on the ground that it would have violated an arrangement that had been reached outside both Houses of Parliament by the varying interests concerned, thereby reinforcing the statement of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that too often this House is engaged merely in carrying through bargains that have been made outside the House, and that Members of this House can do very little to influence the course of the Measure.
There was an even more remarkable incident in connection with that Bill. When we came to the Report stage, on 26th May of last year, the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. Leckie), a supporter of the Government, moved an Amendment. He said:I beg to move, in page 2, line 24, to leave out 'An' and to insert 'No'.On the face of it, that was a very innocent Amendment. The remarks of the hon. Member began, according to the OFFICIAL REPORT, at 5.2 p.m., and we discussed the Amendment at considerable length. At 6.11 p.m. the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. Ernest 863 Evans) began a speech, and after he had been speaking for two or three minutes, you, Mr. Speaker, interrupted him and said:Before this Debate proceeds any further I find, after having listened to the discussion, that I am placed in a difficulty. When I read the Amendment first, it did not appear very important, as it was putting the onus upon one authority instead of upon another. From hon. Members' speeches I find that the main object of the Amendment is to diminish exemptions, and in that case the Amendment would be out of order, because it would create a charge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1936; cols. 1879, 1902–3, Vol. 312.]Hon Members who were interested in the Bill were, therefore, placed in this positon, that after a discussion lasting an hour and a quarter, on an Amendment moved by a supporter of the Government—it was not raised through the wicked machinations of a Member of the Opposition—the Amendment was ruled out of order because, however obscurely, it appeared that it might create a charge.
The House would do well to listen to what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). There is no doubt that the House of Commons is deteriorating in the estimate of members of the public because of the extent to which it is becoming merely a place where the ukase of the Government has to be registered. The most effective way, according to my experience in three Parliaments over a period of 14 years, in which that position is being brought about, is by the way in which Money Resolutions are drafted. I represent a Special Area. I have been in my constituency during the week-end and I am only too well aware—after mixing not with my own supporters but with those who would not vote for me if there was a General Election—of the feeling of great disappointment that there is with regard to the Measure that will form the basis of discussion when this Motion has been disposed of. I have spoken with men who are dealing as members of the local authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and in other ways with the day-to-day life of a great industrial borough. They desire to have raised—in the belief that this is a matter which concerns the national conscience and not the convenience of parties—issues of detail that they had hoped would be included in the Measure. Having read the Resolution I 864 have reached the conclusion that any Amendment to secure what the supporters of the Government want on this matter would be ruled out of order once the Financial Resolution has been disposed of.
We come here as Private Members of Parliament to endeavour to secure for the country the best results that we can from the legislation that is submitted to the House, and we ought to be able to take part in the deliberations of the House in a constructive manner, with the knowledge that on a vital matter like this, which may not affect the countryside of Buckinghamshire very much but which for the million people living on Tyneside really means whether they are to exist as a community or not, we can have our Amendments considered and not have them ruled out because the Cabinet have decided to draft the Financial Resolution in such terms that only very limited proposals can be considered. We might just as well be living under a dictatorship if we are merely to preserve the forms of a democracy. I would remind the Prime Minister that democracy is not a matter of form but of spirit—the spirit in which contending parties can approach matters of controversy. It becomes very difficult for those of us who represent the Special Areas to think that we are dealing with this matter in a democratic way when we are faced with the kind of Financial Resolution which has been tabled on this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if it were some virtue that our financial procedure was founded on the experience of the people who lived in the reign of Queen Anne. There is a rumour in intelligent quarters in this country that that distinguished lady is dead. In the course of a year or two it may eventually reach the Treasury Bench that she is seriously ill. Perhaps it would shock the right hon. Gentleman to realise that he is living in the lifetime of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and not in the lifetime of his distinguished ancestor who gave some lustre to the reign of Queen Anne. If democracy is to survive in this country, as elsewhere, it will be because it will be able to let the spirit of the twentieth century move freely. To attempt to confine us within precedents that were laid down when Parliament had only the very limited range that was given to it in the time of Queen Anne, is to do a very great disservice to democracy.
865 It may be, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury says, that the effect of the Motion would not be to do all that we on this side of the House hope. I imagine that the delaying powers and the accumulated experience of Parliament for many centuries will not be burst through by one Resolution of this kind, but a big vote in the Lobby for the Resolution tonight would be properly interpreted by the Government, and would be more effective than the hon. Member's speech in convincing the Government that a change of attitude is necessary. The Government managed to survive what the hon. Member did in the last Parliament. I think the only effect was that he ceased to be a Parliamentary private secretary, and I very much doubt whether he will go much higher as a result of the attitude he has adopted today. May I assure him that if he wants to get the House of Commons moving in the direction that he indicates, a very good way would be for him to swell the numbers that will vote for my right hon. Friends Resolution?
The House of Commons has a duty to the new democracy of to-day no less important than the duty it had to the very limited oligarchy who controlled it in the reign of Queen Anne. The people have been told by no one more frequently or more emphatically than the Prime Minister that democracy is the system in which they can trust. They will judge it, as Englishmen judge every institution, not by what people say about it but by what it does. We are not and we never have been a people who deal very much in theories in politics. We have insisted that the political machine should produce the result that the people who are associated with it want. The existing Standing Orders of the House, as far as securing effective participation for the majority of hon. Members in legislation is concerned, have failed, and my right hon. Friend has put down this Motion as a protest against what has happened in recent months and years.
I hope hon. Members will make it plain to the Government that we desire to be associated with them in measures which are concerned with the people of this country and that we cannot accept the idea, no matter whether we sit on one side or the other of the House, that we have discharged our duties as representatives of the people the moment we 866 have passed a Financial Resolution which limits the scope of any Amendments we may desire to pass afterwards. It ought to be possible within the limits of sound and prudent public business for the Standing Orders to be framed in such a way as will enable a private Member who knows anything about the subject or is interested in it, to make his constructive contribution during the course of a Measure through the House. Time and again when we are serving on Committees we find that the most innocent looking proposals are ruled out of order merely because the Financial Resolution has been so meticulously drafted as to make it impossible to amend the Bill in any way. When we look at the way in which the various Clauses of the present Financial Resolution have been dratted it makes us wonder whether the Cabinet themselves do not spend far too much time in the early stages of a Measure discussing mere points of detail instead of dealing with the great principles involved. Take paragraph (b):enabling the Commissioners to make grants towards expenses incurred by local authorities in the repair or improvement of streets in any Special Area which are certified by the Minister of Transport as being wholly or mainly required for purposes other than those of through traffic, and to contribute towards expenses incurred by owners or occupiers of agricultural land in any Special Areas in connection with the execution of works of field drainage notwithstanding that the land is occupied for the purpose of gain.My constituents are concerned because of the fact that being a county borough the Trunk Roads Act does not apply to them. A trunk road is not one of the roads specified in the Financial Resolution and if I put down an Amendment to bring a trunk road within the Bill I shall be told that the Financial Resolution rules it out. If I want to deal with a question relating to agricultural land other than field drainage, I shall be told that the powers of the Committee are limited to field drainage. I may perhaps be allowed to move an Amendment which would more closely define field drainage, but anything which would make the money available for any other agricultural purpose would be ruled out. I merely give that as an example of the limiting effect of Financial Resolutions drawn in this way. If this House desires to convince the people of the country that they are living under a democracy which is real and concerned with the issues of to-day, 867 they will vote for the Motion and compel the Government to restore to private Members the right of being able to take their constructive part in the legislation which is submitted.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew
Unofficial Members of the House of Commons must, I think, be highly gratified with what has been done to-day on their behalf by the Leader of the Opposition. In some cases the speeches have gone rather wide of the actual Motion, but I think hon. Members, to whatever party they belong, will feel that this is a matter of vital importance to them. I listened with great care to what the Prime Minister said, and I could not help thinking that he was rather adding Standing Order 63 to Standing Order 69. No one has ever suggested that rights should be given to private Members to increase the charge, and certainly the Leader of the Opposition did not put forward that point. His whole case was that the tight drawing of Financial Resolutions prevented Amendments being moved by unofficial private Members. You, Mr. Speaker, have referred to-day to a Ruling you gave in December, 1934, when you expressed the opinion that it was no concern of yourself what the Financial Resolution had in it providing it conformed to the Rules of the House. That is the point which we must consider. Although the Prime Minister said that instructions had been given that Financial Resolutions were to be drawn more flexibly, my experience in the last few years is that they have been drawn more tightly and more narrowly.
A short time age I was Chairman of a Standing Committee, and the Financial Resolution on which the Bill was founded was 63 lines, compared with the 49 lines of the present Financial Resolution. Obviously, a Financial Resolution drawn in that way diminishes what can be said in the Committee stage, and as the Chairman of that Committee I felt it was my duty to go to the draftsman and complain that the Resolution had been so closely drawn. The reply was that it was a copy more or less of the Financial Resolution on a similar English Bill which was passed through during the last Session. From the Chairman's point of view it may be an advantage to have as 868 few Amendments as possible, but, nevertheless, I hope unofficial Members will keep awake and safeguard their rights. It is quite possible, if things go on and these Financial Resolutions are drawn still more closely, for the draftsman by fixing a minimum charge to draw the Financial Resolution in such a way that any Amendment at all either on the Resolution or in the Committee stage would be out of Order. It is only one more step to that position.
There has been some suggestions to-day about cancelling Standing Order 69 and going back to the old procedure. Ever since I have been in the House Standing Order 69 has been regularly used for Bills which deal with financial matters, and I can hardly visualise our procedure without that Standing Order. I would suggest that a very slight amendment of it might get us over the difficulties which many hon. Members feel. Standing Order 69 says that notice has to be given of a Resolution, and the word "notice" also appears later on in the Order. I would suggest that we should insert the words:Such notice shall only state the main object of imposing a charge on the public revenue.That is what we want. We want to discuss it without it being put down in detail in the Financial Resolution. It may be that the words I have suggested are rather wide, but I have taken them from the-Manual of Procedure, and they are words well known in the House, and are easily understood. The Public Bill Office understands them, but if there was any doubt unquestionably they would refer to Mr. Speaker. I think Standing Order 69 wants to be drawn in such a way that these "notices" are widely drawn not so closely and narrowly drawn as to preclude any Amendments being moved in Committee downstairs or in Committee upstairs as well.
I desire to support the suggestion of the Noble Lord that there should be a Select Committee of those who understand these things and have had experience of their working in this House. I do not think our Standing Orders are working now as they used to work; they are working against the unofficial Member, and if a Select Committee were appointed to go into this matter—I certainly cannot support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman—they would be able to suggest 869 amendments to Standing Order 69 which would meet the point of many hon. Members.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
I am sure that many of us on this side of the House are grateful for the support—a somewhat modified support—which has been given by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and Bute (Sir C. MacAndrew) to the protest we are making. I want to join in the protest, and I hope I may be allowed very briefly and simply to illustrate by evidence from my own constitutency how these tightly-drawn Money Resolutions have created a grievance in that area. It is a grievance which is felt not only by hon. Members on this side of the House but by many people in my constituency who are not normally our supporters. We must remember that the position to-day arises out of the fact that when the Special Areas Act was included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, at the end of last Session, the protest which was made at that time about not dealing more definitely and effectively with the Special Areas obtained from the Government a promise that they would make better proposals in the early part of this Session. The desire of hon. Members at that time was that it should be possible to frame an entirely new Bill dealing with the Special Areas, but we are faced to-day with the determination on the part of the Government to continue unaltered the Special Areas Act, 1934, and it is in that connection that I put forward the illustration I want to put to the House.
In the Schedule to the 1934 Act the constituency which I have the honour to represent is divided into two, although the characteristics on one side of the line, which is scheduled as a depressed area, are similar to the characteristics on the other side of the line. I have never been able to discover why it was that that particular line was drawn through the county of Linlithgowshire. It was thought to be a mistake by my predecessor in this House, a supporter of the Government. He protested at the time, but, owing to the fact that in 1934 the Money Resolution had been so tightly drawn, it was impossible to get the other part of the county included. Since that time it has been possible for the county council covering the whole area to go in for schemes south of the line, with the 870 assistance of the Special Areas Act, and they have gone in for drainage and sewage disposal schemes and the like which have created a considerable amount of work. But north of that arbitrarily-drawn line they have been unable to do anything of that nature. The county council have been anxious all the time to have the same freedom to initiate schemes north of the line as they have had south of it. In the northern part of the county during the passage of the Commission which has been out under the charge of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) the urge all the time, not by Labour people only, but by those of another political complexion, has been that the northern part of the county should be given the opportunity of enjoying the privileges of the Special Areas Act.
Not only does this apply in respect of the county, but the county town itself is divided by this arbitrarily-drawn line, which is the London and North Eastern Railway line. We have the spectacle of people who are in similar employment and who lose it because of the closing down of a factory, being eligible for treatment under the Special Areas Act if they live south of the railway line, but if they are unfortunate enough to live north of the railway line, they are denied the facilities available for those who are living in Special Areas. That applies not only to the work which can be provided, but, as hon. Members will know, there are voluntary agencies which are catering for those who are living in the Special Areas and which are getting some support from the Commissioner. In that connection it was arranged in 1935 that a number of these people should have the opportunity of having an assisted holiday. All of them got it in 1935. The line was not drawn strictly at that time, but when it came to 1936 someone discovered that there were certain people living on the wrong side of the railway line who were getting the advantage of the concession, and when the time came for arranging for the assisted holiday in 1936, quite a number of the people who had enjoyed the facility in the year before were denied it, to their great disappointment and chagrin.
To-day we have the Financial Resolution which is to follow this discussion so tightly drawn that there is no possibility of our getting the advantage of the 871 Special Areas Act extended to the northern part of the county of Linlithgow or even that part of the town of Linlithgow which lies north of the railway line. There we have a clear illustration of the iniquity of drawing these Financial Resolutions so very tightly that it makes it quite impossible even to urge a common sense solution of problems such as that which faces me in my county. It is not that this problem is not known to the Government, because I have made it my business to acquaint the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Labour of the acuteness of the position with which my constituents are faced. They cannot say that they have sinned in ignorance. This thing has been done deliberately, and I am glad to have had the opportunity of making a protest.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
No one, I think, can have followed this Debate without feeling that there is a widespread and almost universal dissatisfaction with the situation in which we find ourselves. It cannot contribute to the efficiency of our discussions, or in the long run even redound to the credit of government, that large and complicated measures should be introduced in a form which renders them practically insusceptible to amendment later on. In the 25 years and more I have been in this House I have never known a Measure of any importance which has not been improved, even from the Government's point of view, by suggestions coming not only from its own supporters but from every quarter of the House, and anything which prejudices that proper function of the House of Commons and imposes on Government a function which, in the long run, is not even in the interests of government itself, must be unfortunate, and ought to be remedied. I am not prepared to suggest what the remedy should be. It may very well be the simple suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend. It may be that we shall even have to go further and affect the whole position of Financial Resolutions. It may be that Financial Resolutions should come at a later stage of our discussions. I should like very respectfully to suggest to the Government that it would be in accordance with the general feeling of the House if they gave sympathetic consideration to the view 872 expressed by my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that the time has come when this matter is deserving of special examination by those most qualified to give it.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I cannot speak with the experience and authority of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but as a new Member, not quite 12 months old in this House, may I join him in his appeal? There has been a good deal of controversy in the Press about this House, and a good deal of comment has been made that for long hours the benches are empty. The other day in my constituency I was asked if that were true and, secondly, if it were true, to what I ascribed the apathy and lack of interest in the work of the House? I gave it as my opinion, after a very short experience, that it is true, but, after a fairly intensive experience of public work, that one of the reasons for the apathy and the lack of interest in the work of the House is that the ordinary Member is not given an opportunity of contributing to that work. This is a deliberating assembly. We come here with varying experiences from constituencies of varying character. Legislation comes up which deals with the lives of our constituents and affects them intimately, and we desire to understand the legislation so that if questioned later we shall be in a position to give an intelligent reply. Secondly, we desire to take part in the discussions. We are prevented from doing that because time after time legislation is brought forward in this way. We get a few hours' debate, there is a vote on the Resolution before us, that ends it in Parliament, and we go away ignorant of its provisions.
May I give an example? About i8 months ago this House, after a Debate of a day or two, approved by a Vote the first Regulations issued by the Unemployment Assistance Board. In the interval between their passing through this House and their coming into operation, Members on both sides went to their divisions and were questioned as to the real effect of the Regulations. Unemployed people came to them and asked, "How do they affect me?" They gave replies according to how they understood the Regulations. Then there was a storm in the country and Members opposite got up and said, 873 "We gave wrong answers. We did not understand the Regulations. We misled our constituents, and as a consequence we have now to apologise and say that the Regulations meant something entirely different from what we said." That was because there was not adequate discussion in the House, because the real power was taken away from this House. It had ceased to be a deliberating assembly. It is essential with every Measure which passes through the House which bears intimately on the lives of our constituents that Members should have such opportunity of discussion, of listening to explanations and of moving Amendments that they will be able to explain the provisions of any Measure which comes before the House when they go back to their divisions.
The Leader of the Opposition has moved the Motion, first in order to try to reassert the rights of this House, but we have done it for a specific reason as well. This Financial Resolution is probably going to be the Government's last word upon the Special Areas. We have had other Bills. We have had no end of Measures. We have had a large number of Commissions and reports of Commissioners. Every attempt the Government have made has been trivial, and has created intense disappointment, not only on these benches but in the country and on the benches opposite. The consequence is that for months past hon. Members have questioned the Minister of Labour as to when the new Bill was coming forward. He has replied, "I am not in a position to say. The matter is being carefully considered. The Cabinet are giving it careful consideration." I saw that a special Cabinet Committee had been appointed to go into it. The House and the country have been misled by the Minister of Labour. Every time this matter has been referred to in question and answer and in the speeches of Ministers outside the House, the House and the country have been given the impression that when this matter came before the House next time it would come in the form of a Bill—a Bill to deal with the Special Areas. The Commissioners have been appointed and have made their reports. The Government would not now be bringing in their Financial Resolution were it not for the agitation in the country and the third report presented by Sir Malcolm Stewart. He said that it would 874 be no good carrying on the Act, that it was no good his continuing his office and that it would be futile for the Government to appoint a successor unless this successor had more power and more money. It was because of what the Commissioner said in his third report that the Government gave promise to the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Government would bring forward a new Measure based, so the House and the country were led to believe, on the Commissioner's third report. Now that we come to discuss the matter, the Government bring forward the Measure in such a way as to prevent any hon. Member making a contribution towards improving it.
This is our biggest, gravest and most vital social problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) feels very warmly on this matter, and I suggest respectfully to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) that if he lived in Chester-le-Street, in Northumberland or in South Wales, he also would feel warmly about it. Let him have the job which hon. Members in South Wales have every Monday, and he will feel warmly about it. Every Monday we bring young boys and girls to London. Every Sunday some parent knocks at my door and asks whether I am going to London on Monday, and if so will I please take Tommy or Jenny. The hon. Member for Aylesbury would feel warmly about this matter if he saw his people driven from their homes, and no attempt being made to provide them with work.
§ Mr. M. Beaumont
I do not know why the hon. Member thinks I do not feel warmly on this matter. All I ventured to point out was that, in my view, it does not arise on this Motion. I agree entirely with the hon. Member and with all hon. Members opposite on the importance of this subject.
§ Mr. Griffiths
With all respect, may I point out to the hon. Member that there are on the Order Paper 27 Amendments, half of them in the name of hon. Members on his side of the House? They went to the Special Areas, to Merthyr Tydvil, and they met last week and expressed themselves as being profoundly dissatisfied with the Government's proposals because they are trivial in comparison with the problem that has to be dealt 875 with. Every one of these Amendments, I gather, will be ruled out of order. We shall be prevented, by the form in which the Financial Resolution is drafted, from making our contribution to the Measure and from amending it. Hon. Members on these benches have given time and thought to the matter. We have had wide experience of the existing provisions and we have seen them in practice. We believe we can contribute towards making this Measure, which will be the last Measure of the Government, a better Measure. We believe we can make a tangible contribution towards this problem. It is because we shall not get another opportunity of doing so that we make this protest. When the Financial Resolution is before us, to-night or tomorrow night, we shall vote on it, and having voted on it, that will be the end. Having made their protest, hon. Members opposite will vote for it because the Government will make the matter one of confidence. That will be the end of legislation on the Special Areas as far as this Parliament is concerned.
I am speaking on behalf of a derelict area that is not scheduled as a Special Area, and I wish to put one point to the Minister of Labour. I and other hon. Members, have led deputations to the right hon. Gentleman and asked him to give attention to our areas. They are derelict areas that were not scheduled in 1934, but since that time they have change from areas that were not completely derelict into areas that are more derelict than some of the scheduled Special Areas. That is true of some of the villages in my division in South Wales. I have led deputations to the Minister of Labour and presented the case to him. I have given facts and statistics almost entirely drawn from replies that he has given to questions. Every time he has said, "I cannot commit myself or the Government, but the Government are considering whether there is a case for scheduling these areas; we are considering the revision of the whole of the Special Areas Act; we will consider what you have said about your area, and eventually, when our Measure is brought forward, we shall be able to give a reply." What is now the position? I was able to lead a deputation to the Minister of Labour to put before him the case of the Llanelly area, but I shall be prevented 876 from putting forward an Amendment to include that area in the Bill. Such an Amendment will be ruled out of order because of the way in which the Measure is brought forward.
Parliamentary Government is reduced to a farce. We have seen industries go from our areas, we have seen the pits closed and the mills either transferred or rationalised out of existence by combines, and we feel that our areas ought to be included. But what is the position? The other areas say that if our areas are brought within the Bill, there will be less money for them. Thus we have competition between the Special Areas. One area says that another must stay outside because if it comes in the money must be spread further. That is what the Government are doing in this Measure. Behind the Financial Resolution, behind the Standing Orders and behind this procedure the Government are hiding the ineptitude of their policy. They have no policy for the Special Areas. The only policy they have is for munitions work. I live in a village where they set up a munitions works and brought 7,000 people to work there, but when the War was over, they abandoned it and left the people there, and they are there still.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I bow to your Ruling, but I urge the House to vote for the Motion to-night. If they do so, the Government will be defeated in the Division Lobby and will have to bring in another Measure to deal with the Special Areas. This is our only real opportunity. When we vote to-morrow night, the Whips will be on. I remember that on a previous occasion hon. Members opposite made speeches against the means test outside this House, but in the House they voted for it. Hon. Members opposite have been to South Wales and have given, if not pledges, at least promises—although they were under no obligation to give those pledges and promises—that the Government would bring forward a Measure which would deal with this problem in a tangible and fundamental way. Unless the Motion which we have moved is carried, then all that we shall be able to do will be to record our votes tomorrow, and once more the Special Areas 877 will be tragically disappointed. For these reasons I hope the House will not miss the opportunity to declare to the Government that they must withdraw this Measure and bring it forward in a form which will enable hon. Members to make their contribution.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Entwistle
I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and while it has been the almost universal practice of hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, to pay lip-service to Standing Order No. 63, in fact the burden of nearly all the speeches has contravened the spirit of that Standing Order. The Prime Minister told us clearly that the Rule of this House, with which we are all familiar in Rulings which are constantly being given from the Chair, that an Amendment is out of order because it creates a charge, is because of Standing Order No. 63, which says that there can be no Motion to create a charge on the public revenue unless recommended from the Crown; in other words, unless initiated by the Government. A Financial Resolution permits a charge on the revenue because it is recommended from the Crown and initiated by the Government. But as I understand it, the criticisms which have been levelled against the Government have really been that the Government ought to frame a Financial Resolution in such wide terms that, in fact, they will allow private Members to initiate a charge on the public revenue. That really amounts to saying that Standing Order 63 should be rendered largely nugatory by the Government's own action in creating such a broad umbrella that almost anything would come within its ample confines.
Let me take some of the instances which have been advanced in the Debate. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred to a Ruling which I gave in the Standing Committee, of which I am Chairman, that was dealing with the Education Bill. That Ruling was simply on the following point. As hon. Members know, the Education Bill made provision for grants to be given for buildings which were necessitated for senior schools by the raising of the school-leaving age. Hon. Members know that church bodies and various associations wanted to extend those grants to junior schools. I ruled—and I think there is no doubt that 878 the Ruling was accurate—that that would be outside the terms of the Financial Resolution. How does that compare with the arguments which have been made this evening? Surely that was a question of initiating a charge on the public revenue which came within the spirit of Standing Order 63 and was the responsibility of the Government. The criticism that should have been aimed at the Government in that respect was not that the Financial Resolution was too tightly drawn, but that the Government ought to have initiated the grants for the larger purpose.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
Not at all. One might as well criticise the Government for not suggesting more taxes in the Budget for various purposes which hon. Members might suggest. We know that it is a very salutary rule that the initiative for a charge on the revenue should rest with the Government, and I think that private Members are very thankful it is so. When one considers every vested interest that is seeking to raise a tax on this or that thing, and for various purposes, it is obviously very salutary that the broad policy of deciding as a whole, taking all the interests of the country into account, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to do in framing his Budget, should be the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is probably just as sympathetic to a great many of the objects which hon. Members have as they are themselves, but he has to balance his Budget and to take a broad and comprehensive view. It is for that purpose that Standing Order No. 63 is designed.
The underlying principle of all the criticism advanced on this so-called question of procedure is contravening that broad and salutary view that it is the responsibility of the Government to initiate a charge on the public revenue. With regard to the point I made about the Education Bill, there were many representations made to the Government before the Bill was brought forward. It was not because the Financial Resolution was too tightly drawn that the matter was not discussed. It could have been discussed, and was discussed, when the Financial 879 Resolution was passed. It has been assumed in the Debate this evening that what is omitted from the terms of this Financial Resolution cannot be discussed, and that the Government cannot be criticised on those matters, but that is not the case. When we come to the Financial Resolution, we shall be able to criticise the Government for omitting various objects which hon. Members think ought to have been included. Naturally, there can be no Amendments moved which increase the charge, any more than private Members can add to the Budget or increase expenditure in any direction.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
It is not so much a question that it is not possible to move Amendments which increase the charge, but that the terms of the Financial Resolution as it is are such that no Amendment can be moved.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
I was coming to that point, and certainly did not intend to overlook it.
We have heard a lot of generalities, but has anyone dealt with the terms of the Financial Resolution as illustrating the points made by hon. Members about close drafting? We have heard the distinction between a Bill which originates in a Money Resolution and one to some of the provisions of which a Financial Resolution is merely subsidiary. This is a Bill which originates in a Financial Resolution. Its purpose is to give money to certain interests in the Special Areas, and, therefore, it has to be founded on a Financial Resolution. Surely if the general objects of the expenditure were not defined, it would be open to any hon. Member to move any Amendment, however much it would increase the charge on the revenue, for any purpose connected with the broad objects of the Bill. That would be against the spirit of Standing Order No. 63.
I ask hon. Members to examine the Financial Resolution. Is it drawn so very closely? What does it come to, looked at as a whole? Paragraph (a) enables the Commissioners to let factories in the Special Areas and to contribute to subsidising the rents of those factories. Paragraph (b) enables grants to be made towards expenses in respect of streets and works of field drainage. Those are fairly broad objects. If they are not 880 broad enough, that is the Government's fault, and a matter on which they can be criticised, but that does not say that the Financial Resolution itself is too tightly drawn. There have been ample opportunities for Debates in this House on the Special Areas. Hon. Members have advanced their own solutions and proposals. The Government are familiar with the objects of those proposals and the Government have decided that the broad objects, indicated in the Amendment, are to be objects of this Bill. But what is there narrow about the terms of the Resolution. Paragraph (c) has been criticised more than any other, but is it narrowly drawn? It enables the Treasury to give financial assistance for any area outside the Special Areas—[HON. MEMBERS: "Read on!"] Yes, there is a proviso, but that deals with the form of the financial assistance. What the first part of the paragraph does is to define the area to which the financial assistance is to be given as one in which there has been severe unemployment, and in which it is not probable that industries will soon revive. Surely that is broad enough, in all conscience.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
If the hon. Member will read the second part of paragraph (c) —the proviso—he will see that it is very tightly drawn.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
I am dealing first with the question of the objects of the assistance, and the objects of the assistance are not specified. It is only the area which is defined. The proviso does not limit the objects of the assistance in those areas. It says that the assistance shall be given either by subscription to the share capital of site companies or by means of loans to such companies. That is keeping it very broad. It says that these site companies are to be companies not working for private gain, and that the assistance provided to any such company is not to be more than one-third of the capital subscribed. That is very broad. It is important that there should be some limit, but when one looks into the Resolution, all this facile talk about close drafting is not borne out by its terms.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
As the hon. and learned Member is dealing with paragraph (c), may I draw his attention to the words at the end of the first part of it:by reason of general depression in those industries.881 Does he realise that, as a result of that wording, an industry in an area may be as badly off as possible, but if in other places there is prosperity in that industry, it is impossible to get anything done?
§ Sir C. Entwistle
It may be said that a definition is not satisfactory, but that does not mean that it is not expressed in broad terms. It is the responsibility of the Government to initiate charges on the public funds, and I submit that there is nothing in the Resolution which contravenes the spirit of Standing Order 63. What remedies have been proposed? It has been shown clearly that the carrying of this Motion will not improve matters. It will merely mean bringing us back to the procedure under Standing Order No. 68, and it has been shown that the setting-up Resolution under the old procedure could be drawn just as tightly as the Financial Resolution under Standing Order No. 69. I think it was the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) who suggested that some improvement would be effected if Financial Resolutions under Standing Order No. 69 were drafted by the Public Bill Office, as used to be the case, rather than by the Treasury. But does anyone believe that it would make much difference in regard to the tightness or otherwise of a Financial Resolution whether it was drawn by the Public Bill Office or by the Treasury? The real remedy is the spirit in which these Resolutions are drafted. You cannot limit or modify it by altering the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister has given the only assurance which is important in dealing with these criticisms. He has told us that instructions have been given by the Government to the draftsmen to draw these Financial Resolutions with as much elasticity as possible. In my view, no justification has been made out for the criticisms of this Resolution which have been offered.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I listened to the eloquent and passionate protest of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) against the drawing of this Resolution in such a way as to prevent him from raising certain matters which he regards as of great importance to his 882 constituents. I feel strongly that under the terms of the Resolution I shall not be allowed to raise certain matters which affect my constituents. Two issues, it seems to me, emerge from this Debate. The first is the protest against dealing with this subject in this way and depriving us of the opportunity which we feel we ought to have, of raising certain matters in connection with the Special Areas Bill which are of deep concern to our constituents.
The second issue is that to which the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) addressed himself, and to which I also wish to address my remarks. That is the question of the efficiency of our Parliamentary procedure. The hon. and learned Gentleman made an extremely interesting speech, based on the great personal experience in these matters which he has enjoyed in the Chair, both in Committee of the Whole House and in Standing Committees. But he tried to draw the House off after a red herring. He tried to make out that hon. Members who spoke from this side in the Debate had taken a line which the Leader of the Opposition deliberately refrained from taking, and that the protest raised upon this side was an effort to obtain for private Members the right to initiate expenditure. That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition said he did not wish to demand; it is, certainly, not a demand with which I would associate myself, and I do not believe that any large number of hon. Members are making that demand. What we want is greater freedom of debate on questions of principle which do not necessarily involve finance.
A number of such questions of principle arise on this Bill and on this Resolution. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton asked whether anybody had dealt with these questions. The answer is "Yes." My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) dealt with a number of them, and so did other hon. Members. In particular they dealt with the notorious paragraph (c) of the Resolution. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton disposed of their criticisms in a very simple way. He read paragraph (c) part by part, and he asked, rhetorically: "Could anything be wider than that?" Of course it is open to him to assert that it is wide, but the real test would be for the hon. and learned Member to suggest to the 883 House any Amendment which could be moved to that paragraph, and give us an illustration of what he, with his great skill and experience in these matters, could do in the drawing of such Amendments, if he were in our shoes. As he did not offer any illustration, I think we are justified in concluding that no Amendment of substance to this paragraph would be in order.
I propose to give an illustration of the narrowness with which this Resolution is drawn. I am anxious to raise the question of making the Highlands of Scotland a Special Area. I would, of course, be out of order if I attempted to go into the merits of that demand now, but I ask hon. Members to believe that a strong case can be made out for it, not necessarily based upon financial expenditure. It would not be necessary for me in order to argue that case to demand the right to add to the charge imposed by the Bill. I realise that it is not open to me to demand more money, but I can make two demands which would, it seems to me, come well within the area of the constitutional principle indicated by the Prime Minister. I can make the demand that the area of expenditure under the Bill shall be extended to include the Highlands of Scotland, without increasing the total amount. But I am not allowed to do so as the Resolution is drawn. Or, I could say that the "certified area" procedure is not going to be a great advantage to the Highlands of Scotland, and that what we want is co-ordination of effort, which would be carried out by the Special Commissioner, working with special powers and applying his mind in co-operation with the appropriate Government Departments to the problems of the Highlands. But I am not allowed to argue that case on the Resolution as it is now drawn.
Lastly, the hon. and learned Member wound up by repeating the point which was made by the Prime Minister against the Leader of the Opposition. He said that if we passed this Motion, we should be no further forward than we are now. That is not really true, because what we should have done would have been to have removed something which would have to be replaced in some form or another. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition would dissent from that. 884 He wants to remove some part of the structure of our Parliamentary procedure which we are finding restrictive, but he realises fully that it would have to be replaced by something else. I hope that the Government, therefore, will listen to the plea which was advanced by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), who suggested that there should be a Select Committee to consider this question of procedure and what should be substituted for this Standing Order. I understand that that proposal has found favour with a number of hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion, which has been conducted from the very first speech, that of the Leader of the Opposition, with a notable absence of party spirit. We are all, I feel, in all parts of the House, anxious to co-operate in making the most of this Bill, to found which the Government have brought this Financial Resolution before the House. Above all, it is more as loyal Members of Parliament that we are anxious to co-operate one with another in whatever part of the House we sit, in making the procedure and machinery of Parliament more efficient, and I would ask the Government to consider whether they could not agree to the suggestion which was made by the Noble Lord, a suggestion which, I feel, would meet with the wishes of Members in all parts of the House.
§ 7.48 p.m.
Mr. Lloyd George
I should like to say a few words by way of supporting the appeal which has been made by my right hon. Friend and by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, though I am afraid it is rather late in the Debate to do so, that the Government should reconsider the terms of the Financial Resolution which we are discussing with a view to meeting what seems to me to be the very general sense of the House. Speaking after a pretty long experience of this House of Commons, one can always feel what the general sense of the House is, though it will not be reflected in the Division Lobbies. Party loyalty will rally to the support of the Government and induce hon. Members to vote for a Resolution about which they have very grave misgivings, but I have no doubt at all that if the Government were to give way to a certain extent, they would meet, not merely with the acceptance of this side 885 of the House, but with a great sense of relief on their own side of the House as well. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) has addressed to the House a very ingenious and, as one would expect from him, a very able technical argument in favour of the Resolution, but when you are dealing with what is one of the gravest, if not the gravest, social evils in this country since the War, and in other countries as well, I think this House of Commons ought to get away from these arid technicalities.
It is a very serious issue. I cannot discuss it at the present moment, and I shall only point one or two considerations in order to enforce my appeal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went to Edinburgh last week and announced with great satisfaction that the unemployment figures would only be 1,600,000. That is after 15 or 16 years of chronic unemployment, and the numbers have not gone down, even in days of prosperity, by less than 1,000,000. Now, when we are supposed to be at the peak of the boom, they are 1,600,000, and to prevent the House of Commons, which represents this great nation, which is its final court of appeal, which is responsible for the wellbeing of every householder represented in those figures, from discussing issues which every man in this House in his heart would like to see raised and debated, and to see reason for, seems to me to be an act of supreme folly on the part of those who have the wellbeing, good order, and good government of this country in their charge.
Take that paragraph referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton. He was not very candid there, if he will allow me to say so. The proviso there, in my judgment, defeats the whole purpose of the paragraph and destroys any element of goodness in it. I rejoiced when I saw the first part of it, but when I read the second part I saw that it was worthless. It simply circumscribes it by confining the expenditure of the Government to schemes and experiments which have not been very successful up to the present and to the provision of industries outside the particular areas. Why confine it to factories with share capital and all sorts of conditions? Why do you do it? For instance, I know of cases in which it would have been helpful if you had taken that out, to have had 886 agricultural experiments—many cases of that kind, where you could find excellent employment. My right hon. Friend has referred to the Highlands of Scotland. I could have referred to several cases in Wales where there is considerable unemployment, but where, if you could have the system of training maintained in the Special Areas extended outside those areas, it would provide considerable employment, improve the whole value of the land, and make some contribution to the well-being of the State.
I am not attacking Standing Order No. 63. I think it is right that the Government should have the right of initiation, but if they draw that bow too tightly, if they employ the whole of their ingenuity to prevent discussion of the greatest social evil of the day, they will not merely defeat their purpose here; they will destroy Parliament. And if you destroy it here, it goes everywhere. The dictatorships have thriven on the fact that Parliament, with its rules and its ineffective methods in various countries, has not tackled the problems from which their respective countries have been suffering. That has been their case. The dictators have convinced their own people that that is right, and if you go on with Resolutions like this, you will provide another argument for dictatorships, and you will destroy the respect for Parliament. You have 1,600,000 out of work in the very days that, I am told, are abounding in prosperity—and so they are in some cases—and you are not allowed to discuss the best method of dealing with it. What other issues have you before you which are more important? What other issues are there which Parliament should consider which are more worthy of its deliberation and of its action? You are going to prevent deliberation, you are going to prevent discussion, and by something which is a piece of chicanery you are going to rule out the possibility of Parliament insisting upon action. You say, "Ah, well, initiation is ours," but the old rule—the Prime Minister himself admitted it—was very liberally interpreted, and I do not think any harm came from that.
I have myself piloted through this House two great Bills whose very essence was financial. One was the Old Age Pensions Act, and the other was the Insurance Act. I do not say that every Amendment involved increased expendi- 887 ture, but a very considerable number of them did, and from that Bench, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I had many times to get up and say, "This is an excellent Amendment, and I should be very glad if it were possible to accept it, but my resources are limited"; and in reckoning up how much could be expended without extending the limits of taxation beyond what the country would endure—by Heavens! Income Tax was then only is in the pound, and when you suggested another 2d. the Government were nearly defeated —I have never seen the party behind me refuse to accept that reason. There were two or three occasions on which such an overwhelming case was made that I felt it necessary that I should take the risks, but they were well within the risks which my advisers at the Treasury told me that I could accept, and they were improvements upon the Bill, coming, some from the Opposition, some from hon. Members behind me.
Those were two great financial commitments, and I experienced no difficulty in getting them through. This Resolution indicates a fundamental distrust of the common sense of the House of Commons. I have never seen them refuse to respond to a definite statement of that kind when the Chancellor of the Exchequer came up and told them definitely what the position was. Why cannot the Government trust their own supporters? There has never been a better disciplined House behind the Government; there has never been a party that has responded so loyally and so promptly to the crack of my right hon. and gallant Friend's whip, and why cannot they do it on this occasion? Three years have passed since we had our last discussion on the Special Areas. Things have not improved very much, not very much. There is great misery, there is great distress throughout these areas, and, what is still worse, there is great despair. It is a despair which has become a sort of heartbreaking lassitude of spirit in a very high-spirited people.
Why cannot the Government give us a chance of discussion? It is not a question of obstruction. I have taken part in obstructive Debates in my time, and I have been surprised at the inefficiency which is displayed by my successors. One of the best examples I saw was last Friday week. That was very well done and it 888 filled me with admiration, although it affected me because I was expecting to speak on a Welsh Bill. There is practically no obstruction in the old sense at the present moment. I can well understand the Government taking precautions when they have reason to fear that if they allow too great latitude there will be so much time taken. I do not believe they have ever failed to come to an understanding with the Opposition as to the time which has to be occupied on a discussion. In this of all years to deny the Special Areas with their real distress the chance of putting forward, through their representatives and through others, every practical suggestion to bring hope to their people, is something for which I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have shrunk from taking responsibility. I finally appeal to him, before he closes his mind altogether, to reconsider this matter. I do not mean that he should give an unlimited latitude, but this Resolution is drafted with demoniacal ingenuity to prevent the raising of every vital issue that affects the Special Areas. Give the House of Commons a fair chance. Give Parliament a chance to show that it is capable of dealing with these issues. I make that appeal.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has given moral support on the side of reconsideration for this Motion. I do not think that those who have defended the Government's action sufficiently realise the strength of feeling there is about it. We do not wish to upset Parliamentary procedure or to initiate a system whereby private Members will be able to institute charges upon public funds. We realise that that is the normal Parliamentary procedure which it i5 not for us to change. What we feel so strongly is that by the drafting of this Financial Resolution all discussion of important aspects of the Bill is precluded. The danger is that this kind of thing shows signs of increasing. We are being governed more and more by methods of this kind. I remember the feeling there was only last Session when we had a Debate very much along these lines, although there was not the same amount of feeling because it was an agricultural Measure. It was the Tithe Bill, and many of us felt, when it was before 889 the House, that the Financial Resolution on which it was based precluded a proper discussion of the issues involved. Many of us wished to see the tithepayer relieved at the expense of the tithe receiver, but the Government so cleverly drafted the Financial Resolution, and they tied it up to the Consolidated Fund in such a way, that we could not move an Amendment without at the same time making a charge on the funds. The result was that the whole discussion was hamstrung.
We feel that the same thing will happen here. An important report has been issued by the Commissioner for the Special Areas and he has made about 20 recommendations. Three of them are very important, but I understand that not one of the three can be discussed with this Resolution drawn as it is. One of these recommendations is to the effect that there ought to be a Minister in charge of the Special Areas to deal with this grave and serious problem. The most important question which concerns the constituency I represent is the extension of the scheduled areas. I represent one which is classified as a distressed area. It is not regarded as so serious as a Special Area, but it is one in which unemployment is sufficiently bad to make it necessary for some consideration to be given to it. My Lancashire colleagues, too, feel that their areas ought to have more consideration than they are getting or than they will get under this Resolution. All we get under the Resolution is a number of conditions which entirely alter the first part, which at first sight appeared to be very useful.
For instance, I am faced in my constituency with the problem of coal mines which are gradually working out. There are large iron ore deposits below the coal deposits. They have been worked successfully in times past but they cannot be reopened because of the water. In the Forest of Dean the water is always a great problem and money would have to be spent for de-watering these deposits. That is not impossible in view of modern methods of electrical pumping, but capital will be required and I doubt whether we could get the private interests concerned to take up the matter. It is clearly a case for public initiative. We want to get that work done, but all we get under the Government scheme are grants for the purpose of site—companies, presum- 890 ably for the purpose of attracting new industries. That is important as far as it goes, but there are far more important matters to be dealt with, As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, there are also schemes which affect agriculture, such as drainage. This is apparently the only time when we shall be able to discuss these questions, the scope of the relief given to the areas, and the extension of the areas themselves. We shall not be able to discuss any of these things when we come to the Bill.
There was a leading article in "The Times" to-day saying that more exceptional powers would have to be provided than those which the Government have provided as yet in their proposed legislation. That view is widely held. Another question we shall not be able to discuss is whether we can have a Minister in charge of the Special and Distressed Areas. I should like to see the appointment of a Commission to advise a Minister in charge, who could avoid delay by means of Orders in Council—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member is getting perilously near to discussing the merits of the proposed Resolution.
§ Mr. Price
I am trying to show how strongly we feel that this is the only chance of being able to raise these important questions. We must face the question of the extension of the areas and these other problems on behalf of our constituents, and if we have no other opportunity now is the time when we hope to make them.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Hardie
This Resolution reminds me of the gangster stories we used to read as boys, when the villain said "Hands up! We have the dope on you; you cannot move." This is a gangster type of Motion. The Financial Resolution as it is printed represents the Chancellor of the Exchequer in all his meanness. The attitude of the Prime Minister comes very badly from him, for he has been talking a long time about the great need for preserving democracy in this country. I want to deal with paragraph (a) which enables the Commissioners, for the purpose of inducing persons to establish industrial undertakings—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must raise that on the next question. We are now dealing with the repeal of Standing Order 69.
§ Mr. Hardie
This is what I am trying to bring out. We are allowed to read this thing, but not to discuss it. If this thing is properly drafted—
§ Mr. Rowson
On a point of Order. The point that has been raised by the hon. Member has been covered by other hon. Members and no objection has been taken. It has been developed at considerable length by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam).
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have not heard some of the speeches, but the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did attach his argument to the question of the control this House has over Financial Resolutions. It appeared to me that the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) was attempting to argue the merits of the Resolution itself, which has no relation whatever to the question of the control by this House.
§ Mr. Hardie
I was using the wording to illustrate my argument that there was no control. This Financial Resolution does not say what the control is to be. No Minister is suggested, and even when there is a mention of a Commissioner it is put in a negative form. Does it mean that this control will not look towards the building of a factory but only to keep on those which are still in existence?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is a question which ought to be raised on the next Order. It is concerned solely with that Order, and not a question whether the drafting of the Order is in such a form as to enable the House to amend it.
§ Mr. Hardie
I have been taking this line to emphasise what I said about democracy and the Prime Minister, because I think this is an exhibition of how he has done his best to curb the freedom of every Member of this House. We might as well be muzzled, just as a dog is muzzled. To think that the Prime Minister, who has been prating about his interest in democracy, should come along with a Resolution like this! After that, 892 we shall in future have two doubts about what he says. The Financial Resolution will enable the Treasury to give financial assistance, and one would have thought that in that case the control would have remained with this House. It has always been the custom when we have come to border-line points to take the safety line, to step on the ice which we think is going to bear, but when we find the Chancellor of the Exchequer drawing this Financial Resolution so tightly and trying to ruin the methods of Parliamentary procedure, it indicates that there is something to hide. Those who have honesty behind their proposals never fear the House of Commons. They have nothing to fear if the thing is good and honest, but when there is something hidden behind it we get this kind of drafting.
I am surprised that the Government have not camouflaged the proposal even more by putting it in formula form, as they did in the case of another Bill, where we have figures between brackets and additions of Y and X and pence represented by A and B. They might have given some further camouflage to this little trick they are playing on the House. The site-companies which are mentioned in the Financial Resolution show that the Prime Minister has taken the first step he could, in a way that is no credit to anybody, to try to prevent this House from having any say about the Resolution, even in that little matter. I hope that even among the supporters of the Government we shall find enough people who still believe sufficiently in democracy and in the rights of the Members of this House to demand to have their say unrestricted by any kind of rule, except that rule which allows honest, open and fearless criticism.
Why should any Government fear criticism? If it is honest in its policy and its purpose and has nothing to hide, it need not fear what this Government seems to fear to-day. Why should not Members be free to discuss this Financial Resolution as men have always been free to discuss things? On the contrary we find that the man who has talked most about the safety of democracy in this country is the man who has put the muzzle on Members of this House as far as he can. But that process cannot go on. There is a great danger, and not only to those who would like to do something approaching the muzzling of the Opposition. The 893 people outside will get to learn about this, will get to know that though they may send representatives here those representatives will not be allowed to take part in the proceedings in the way that has been customary, and that is to Debate everything that comes up, and thereby to give to the public the understanding they should have of all that comes before the House. We are not to be allowed to try to tell the public what this Financial Resolution is going to mean to them. By the restriction which is being put upon this Debate every unemployed man and woman is being insulted, in addition to having to suffer privations.
Yesterday I was thinking of what was going to take place in this House to-day under this Ruling. The snow was falling, everything around seemed chilly and cold, and in the district where I was there were houses without any fuel or any warmth. To-day we are being restricted under this rule from pleading for the right, the democratic right, to say what we think about subjects brought before the House. I hope the Prime Minister will think this matter over again. Perhaps it has been handed to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I introduced my speech by saying what I think he is, and how I look upon him personally, and his actions seem to justify what I have said. I hope that the Prime Minister, for his own sake, and if he wishes to retain any of the attributes which are not associated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will see his way to make a change in this Financial Resolution.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
While we are discussing this matter from the point of view of the House controlling the expenditure of money, we cannot ignore the fact that we are dealing with the lives of men, women and children, many thousands of whom are suffering hardships because they cannot find somebody who will provide them with an income. This matter is being dealt with by the Government in such a way as to restrict this House from placing on the Paper with any surety Amendments that will be successful. I was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) endeavour to prove the great width and breadth of this Resolution. He read out certain portions of it, but he did not explain that they had such restrictive 894 language that it was difficult to put forward Amendments. Those who know Lancashire and its suffering for the last 10 or 12 years will understand why the county had to be dealt with in sections, many of which were classifiable as distressed areas, but under the language of the Resolution that county's sufferings can be relieved only with difficulty. I had hoped that the Government would have appreciated by this time the necessity of this House having an opportunity to discuss this problem and putting forward ideas, but they have determined that we shall not have any control over this expenditure. They have, as they are entitled to do, limited the amount which they propose to spend, but, not satisfied with that, they have restricted by this Resolution in an ingenious way the opportunities of spending it.
Even though the Standing Order were removed, I am not sure that we should be in the position we require. We need some opportunity for Parliament to do the work for which it was elected, and of explaining and indicating to the Government the best way of spending the money to the advantage of those who are intended to benefit by it. Strong feeling has been shown by hon. Members on this side of the House; I am surprised that we have dealt with it so patiently, when we know what suffering there is at the present time and what little prospect of relieving it there is in the proposals of the Government. I am not permitted to discuss in detail what the Financial Resolution contains, but one needs merely to glance through its paragraphs to realise that the Government have made up their minds that the method to be adopted will give the House no opportunity of amending it. We can certainly raise matters in the discussion on the Bill, as I hope to do, but it will be difficult to place practicable Amendments on the Paper. Realising that we are dealing with families who are suffering because they cannot find some other citizen to employ them, the Government do not intend to advantage them or to help them out of their difficulties. Those of us who live among those people cannot understand a Government being prepared patiently to sit back and allow those people to continue in their present plight. I hope they will adopt the proposal which has been moved from these benches, will remove the Standing Order and will withdraw this restrictive Resolution.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I am very interested in this Resolution. The Minister of Labour will agree that since I have been in the House I have repeatedly asked him to think about the semi-Special Areas. I see a proposal on these lines in paragraph (c) of the Resolution, which has been made the subject of controversy by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and one or two other hon. Members. I remember last December, that the Y.M.C.A. set up a howl—[Interruption]—I am referring to the Young Men's Conservative Association, consisting of hon. Members who sit on the benches opposite. They are the young Tories, who are coming on. I remember that the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) said to the Chancellor of the Exchequer: "We want you to be brutally frank." That was his text. To-night, the Young Men's Conservative Association are as meek and mild as an ice-cream wafer on a hot July day. Only one member of them, the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wollner), who is chairman of the association, has spoken. All the others have gone out, although they pressed the Government last December to bring in a great Measure.
They wanted a great Measure. They said that they had been down to the distressed areas. I remember the speech of the hon. Member for King's Norton and of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). The former said that he had seen the problem at first hand, and the latter said that we must now look after the distressed areas because those hon. Members had been to see them. Some of us chaps who sit on this side have not been to see the distressed areas for a week-end trip, at cheap booking and back again, but we know all about them because we live in them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member's argument appears to be more directed to the next Order than to the narrow Motion now before the House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
When I am on the field I get "off-side" pretty often. The young men's Conservative association framed 17 Amendments, but they were 896 all ruled out of order. Because that sweet 17 are out of order, they have left this Chamber. I want to know why they are not assisting to press the Motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. They will not be able to come forward with their Amendments when this Financial Resolution is discussed. I will try to keep in the centre of the field. I was desirous, if at all possible, of putting a point regarding paragraph (c), which enables financial assistance to be given to areas outside the Special Areas. I am very much concerned at the moment about the boys who are being transferred. I brought a boy to London a fortnight ago, and he was fixed up, but he fell sick last Monday. About half an hour ago I was speaking on the telephone to his boss, and his boss knew nothing about him, although the lad has been away from work for six days. He was not interested, but I told him he had got to get interested. The other week I was in Northampton [HON. MENIBERS: Offside!"] I am speaking about the semi-depressed areas, of which I am from one. Some of these boys have been transferred to Northamptonshire. I was told, and I would ask the Minister of Labour to take note of this, that boys have been transferred who are in private billets—
§ Mr. Griffiths
On a point of Order. I had an idea that this would come under paragraph (c), because that paragraph enables financial assistance to be given to other areas besides the Special Areas. These boys come both from Special Areas and from semi-Special Areas, and when they come home from the factory in Northamptonshire they have to get out of their billets inside three-quarters of an hour and stop out on the streets till a quarter past 10 at night.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not wish to express any opinion as to whether this would or would not he in order on the Financial Resolution; I would only point out that that is not what we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I tried to put that ball in the goal, but I do not know whether it went outside or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was not on the field."] Whether it was on the field or not, it scored. I want to draw attention to something that 897 was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) the other night. Last Thursday he said we must take more interest in Parliament. I say that this Financial Resolution is so framed that, instead of helping Members of Parliament to have a greater interest in what is taking place in Parliament, it is helping to muzzle us completely. It simply means cracking the whip, and in future there will be no need for any debate. When I saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping coming in, I thought, seeing that this Motion was on the Paper, that he was bound to stop till II o'clock to-night, that he could not leave, because this was a matter of democracy, a vital matter to the individual private Members of the House, and he was bound to help us; but, as soon as Questions were over, he went out, and the Lord knows when he will come back. He will be back on armaments; he will be back on foreign policy; but during the three years that I have been here he has spent 10 minutes in this House on unemployment, and that was one night after II o'clock when we were discussing the Special Areas. On that occasion he spoke for three minutes. And yet only last Thursday he said that we have to preserve the private Members' opportunities and privileges in this House. We ask that the Y.M.C.A., who have gone out to dinner and are stopping out to tea, should, when we go to a Division, be in the Lobby with us.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Rowson
I desire to add my protest to what has been said by other speakers on this side. I should not have risen but for the expression of opinion by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle). He seemed to he making out a case for the Government's Resolution which is on the Paper, and he tried to make a very strong case against the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition. I desire to express the feeling of restriction which seems to be placed upon us by the Resolution on the Paper, and I feel that the Leader of the Opposition is justified in putting down his Motion asking that the Standing Order should be suspended. I represent a constituency in Lancashire, and am very well acquainted with certain other constituencies, and I would like to see the powers that will be given under the Money Resolution con- 898 siderably extended. It seems, however, that we are not to have any liberty to move Amendments. My constituency is concerned mainly with cotton and coal. I will say nothing about the mining industry in that area, but I understand that in the Farnworth Division over 20 cotton mills have been closed down since 1924. It ought to be possible, if a new process were introduced by anyone in that area, apart from the site business mentioned in the Resolution, to move an Amendment to extend the provisions to that particular kind of industry which anyone might propose to introduce. For instance, I know that a certain firm are trying to adapt an old cotton spinning mill for the purposes of artificial silk and so on, but, if financial assistance were required in that case, it would be impossible for me, during the discussions on the Bill, with a Money Resolution like this, to move that any assistance should be given in such a case. I feel that we are being restricted by the proposals of the Government in a way in which we ought not to be restricted. The hon. Member for Bolton referred to the phrase in the Resolution:as to which the Minister of Labour certifies that there is and has been for a considerable time"—and so on. The Minister of Labour is to be the arbiter in a case like that, and he has my sympathy, because he seems to be involved in almost every Bill that comes forward. The Conservatives last week tried to push a lot of responsibility on to him, and now he is to be the arbiter in a case like this. As regards my own constituency, probably I should not have a big call in comparison with some districts in Lancashire. No doubt the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) could put up a better case for North-East Lancashire, but there is a good case in the West of Lancashire. Proposals might be put forward for that area which would be very helpful indeed.
We shall not be at liberty to bring forward Amendments to deal with the case of Hindley. When I went to live there in 1923, there were 15 coal mines and three cotton mills working regular time. The whole of the pits are closed down, two of the cotton mills have been razed to the ground and one has been turned into a varnish and paint factory, employing 40 people. Should it not be 899 possible to introduce an Amendment to couple that up with the other Special Areas and to propose certain remedies? Certain sections of the Wigan area are as distressed as anything that you can find in Durham, South Wales, Scotland or Cumberland, but we can do very little for them with this restriction that the Government are proposing. I should like to move an Amendment to the proviso of paragraph (c). The coal trade in Lancashire is bucking up a bit. There are two collieries in Blackrod and ViIesthoughton, and I am given to understand that for £3,000 expended in pumping they could be re-opened. What more useful expenditure could there be? It is not a case of the pits having closed down for economic reasons. They have been deliberately flooded because of a quarrel between companies. It ought to be possible to move an Amendment to extent the grant to enable the industry to be re-started.
I am surprised that hon. Members opposite are not putting up some sort of case for the sections of Lancashire which are distressed. It is deplorable that we are not receiving any support from the other side. It is obvious that in all parts of the House there is a feeling against what the Government are doing in this restricted type of Resolution. I hope, if there are one or two from Lancashire who have anything to say, they will raise their voices in protest and join with us in trying to get the Motion carried.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
As a very new Member of the House I have often tried to understand the nice points of Parliamentary procedure. I have not grasped them up to the present by any means. As I have sat listening to the Debate, I have become alarmed that the Money Resolution is going to crib the opportunities of amending the Bill. Facts and figures on paper do not really matter very much. What matters are the human beings in the Special Areas. We should be able to move Amendments that will bring hope, and life, and joy to them. The unemployed in my constituency are all looking forward to this new Bill. All classes of people, all creeds of religion and all political parties are asking what is going to be done. Am I to go back 900 and tell them that, owing to the cribbing, confining nature of the Financial Resolution, nothing can be done except to take hocus pocus what the Government are offering us? In that Special Area to-night there are mountains of snow. Perhaps the boys and girls are not feeling the pinch of malnutrition, but they are going about with scanty clothing, not fitted to keep out the weather. We want to do something to remedy the defects that are there, and evidently this Financial Resolution is going to prevent that. The medical men in the Special Areas are appalled at the physical condition into which the people are sinking. The teachers are pointing out how much could be done for the children. Under the Bill we shall not be able to bring it forward. I shall not be able to bring forward a report which has been issued by some business experts appointed by the Commissioner dealing with Durham. A doom has been pronounced on that district. The only recommendation that the report contains is the demolition of the villages there. Nothing is mentioned about pit drainage, nothing about calcium carbide, nothing about afforestation. All these things are going to be ruled out because the Bill is founded on a Resolution which ties our hands.
My constituents have instructed me to move Amendments. What will they say when I go back? They will not understand Parliamentary points of procedure. When I say that alterations cannot be effected owing to tightness of drafting, they will conclude that Parliamentary democracy is a sham. Is there to be no chance of doing something more than the Bill envisages? If the passing of this Motion would give more liberty of discussion, I appeal to Members in all parts of the House to support it. We have lately been discussing the Financial Resolution to the Defence Bill, amounting to £1,500,000,000. When we look at the Financial Resolution for the Special Areas, we find a meagre £2,000,000 for this purpose, in addition to £11,000,000 of commitments previously entered into, which in comparison with the need is nothing at all. Are not the unemployed worthy of defence? The country is worthy of defence and, therefore, the people in the derelict areas are worthy of defence. This is a Financial Resolution, but it gives very little finance, and shows no resolution on the part of the Government to tackle this big problem. I find that we have a new 901 name for one kind of area. It is the certified area, so that we have special, distressed and certified areas. How many more we shall have before we have finished I do not know, but I say definitely that the people of Durham, South Wales, and Scotland, who have been looking forward to a new and real Bill, will be utterly disappointed.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Dunn
When I came to this House as a Member I was under the impression that Members of the House of Commons were responsible in Parliament and to the country outside for the general provisions of finance, but I find myself in a considerable dilemma because of the restrictions placed upon the House of Commons by the Financial Resolution. I have never seen—and I have spent a good deal of time in public life—an occasion when the policy of putting the cart before the horse has been as pronounced as I find it this evening. There could not have been anything more disturbing to a new Member of the House of Commons than what I have witnessed to-day. I shall be expected during the week to explain in the country the meaning of this Financial Resolution and its general application to the problem of the distressed areas. It will be very disturbing to say that, in consequence of the action of the Government and of the Cabinet—that is what I understand it boils down to —the House of Commons is being suppressed in general criticism and discussion of the Financial Resolution. I understand that to be the real meaning of the position, and that is why Members on this side of the House, through the Leader of the Opposition, have put down their Motion this afternoon.
It is most disturbing in a democratic country and to those of us who uphold democracy that we should have to go from this House of Commons and tell the country that Hitlerism is prevailing in this country so far as finance is concerned. We are entitled to discuss the Financial Resolution and all its implications. An hon. Member says, "Why Hitlerism?" I say, frankly, that, while I am quite satisfied that we have political freedom in this country of the broadest possible kind, I am not convinced that we have economic freedom by any means. We on this side of the House are fighting for economic freedom in the country, and I as a Member of the House feel that I am 902 justified in asking for an opportunity to discuss this Financial Resolution or other matters of the kind, and to be able to put down Amendments, if necessary. Surely, one of the most vital principles for which British democracy stands is involved here. We ought to be entitled to put down Amendments and not be tied down by a Resolution of this kind when one of the most perplexing problems has to be faced. It is all very well talking about rearming the country. We on this side of the House are talking about the need for feeding the people of the country, just as much as hon. Members opposite are talking about the other question. I suppose that it would be in order to put one or two questions in regard to paragraph (c) of the Financial Resolution to whoever is to reply to the Debate tonight. This paragraph makes provision:enabling the Treasury to give financial assistance to any area outside the Special Areas.I have made it my business this afternoon to examine a whole series of figures, which I wish briefly to put before the House. While I do not want to say a word about Durham, Northumberland, Scotland or Wales, I feel that within this part of the Resolution I am entitled to state the case for the county from which I come, and about which there has been very little discussion in this House.
§ Major Procter
On a point of Order. Does the subject-matter which is now being spoken to concern the Resolution moved by the Leader of the Opposition, or is it not really relative to the Financial Resolution?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I cannot appreciate to what the hon. Member is speaking until I have heard what he has to say.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Surely, the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite would have known the business had he been present?
§ Mr. Hardie
The subject-matter referred to in that Resolution has to-night been spoken upon i8 times, and, without casting any reflection upon the Chair, whenever a change takes place in the Chair it takes some time to get the sense of the Ruling and to know what is going on. But if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been in his place and had heard all these things, he would not have wasted the time of the House by asking such a question.
§ Mr. Dunn
Surely, if we are not entitled to move Amendments, we are entitled to state our case on any one of these paragraphs. I want to submit these figures, which have been taken from the official record, and are very interesting I will take Cumberland, and quote two towns. Although I have taken out the figures for July, 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1936, I will quote only the figures for July, 1936. The figures from the official record for Maryport in July were 50.9 per cent. and for Whitehaven 45.3 per cent. These figures, within the provisions of the Financial Resolution, are classified as applying to Special Areas.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have had an opportunity of listening to the hon. Member, and it seems to me that his argument would be more relevant to the Financial Resolution than to the Motion now before the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I would point out to the hon. Member that the Financial Resolution is not now before the House. We can discuss what the hon. Member may or may not do when that Resolution is before us.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The fact that the hon. Member is perfectly entitled to argue that under the Standing Orders of the House it would be better to be able to move Amendments, and the fact that he cannot move an Amendment to the Resolution, does not necessarily preclude him from arguing that point when the Resolution is before the Committee.
§ Mr. Dunn
Without submitting my case from the standpoint of the figures, I merely want to point out that the fact of our not being able to state a case on behalf of areas which are far worse off or as badly situated as any of the dis- 904 tressed areas, and because we are not allowed to move Amendments to the Financial Resolution, surely entitles us to state a case.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member cannot state the case on this occasion, but that will not necessarily preclude him from stating the case when the Financial Resolution comes before the Committee.
§ Mr. Lawson
Would it not be within the limit of your ruling for the hon. Member to put a straight question to the Attorney-General as to whether when the Resolution comes up he can move an Amendment?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is very obvious that that is a question which the Attorney-General cannot answer.
§ Mr. Dalton
Is it not in order, in supporting the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to argue without an excess of statistical details, that in a particular constituency, or in a certain area, conditions are such that that area should be included in the Special Areas, and to proceed from that point to draw the conclusion that under the Financial Resolution such an Amendment cannot be moved at a later stage? Is not the impossibility of moving such an Amendment at a later stage an argument which can be advanced in support of my right hon. Friend's Motion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It depends entirely upon the way in which the point is put. If the hon. Member puts the argument in the form that the draft of the Financial Resolution will prevent him from moving an Amendment, he is in order, but he is not in order in trying to develop the Amendment that he would like to move if he could.
§ Mr. Markham
Is it not a fact that the only points to be discussed under the Motion before the House are points relating to Standing Order No. 69, without any reference whatsoever to the Resolution?
§ Mr. Gibbins
The Motion calls attention to the operation of Stand905ing Order No. 69. Is not the hon. Member in order in seeking to prove that the operation of that Standing Order is restrictive, limited and strictly confined, and in proving it to give some facts?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have listened very carefully to the Debate, or to a good deal of it, and in so far as the hon. Member is merely arguing that the Standing Order prevents him doing something he would like to do, he is in order, but when he attempts to develop an argument which is pertinent to the Resolution itself and not to the Standing Order, then I must call him to order. There is a distinct line between the two, and I hope hon. Members will realise that.
§ Mr. Dunn
I will content myself at this stage with offering as strongly as I can my protest against the Standing Order. I, like many other hon. Members, came to this House under the impression that I was entitled to debate matters of this kind, but having regard to your Ruling I will content myself by saying that I hope at a later stage to call attention to one area I have in mind that is very drastically affected by the Financial Resolution.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I wish to join in the appeal that has been made from these benches to the Government to accept the Motion that was so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I notice that the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury is not in the House. A few minutes ago he seemed to be extremely restive and anxious as to when the protest against this deliberate restriction of the rights of Members would come to an end. I am entitled to assume from the plea which the Prime Minister made earlier this evening that the purpose of this Money Resolution and the way it has been drafted is to expedite business in this House. Neither the Patronage Secretary nor the Prime Minister can expect the Members to do other than adopt every conceivable artifice to obstruct any attempt to restrict their rights.
Were the Patronage Secretary not as obdurate as he customarily is, and had le reflected on a situation for which I am inclined to think he has been partly responsible, he would have appreciated 906 the fact that if there is one thing that the Member jealously guards in this House it is the right that he has enjoyed for many years. It should be brought home to the Patronage Secretary and to the Government that as long as we are able to protest and to obstruct—I will be perfectly frank—and hold up the business of the House, we shall be more than fully justified in doing so in view of this robbing of the right that ordinary Members have enjoyed for so many years. The Member to-day realises that he is the custodian of the rights of the people who have sent him to this House to administer the affairs of the country. I hope the Government will be under no illusion at all that hon. Members on these benches will use every power they have, will adopt every pretext and every artifice, to fight jealously, and I hope effectively, to protect rights within the House of Commons which are theirs.
If the Government are sincere in their protestations that they desire to help the Special Areas, I am amazed that they should have deliberately restricted the Debate on these areas. There is every conceivable reason why this restriction should be removed. Since the first Special Areas Act was carried, we have accumulated a tremendous experience. No one knows better or realises more clearly than the Minister of Labour the egregious failure of the schemes which have been adopted up to now. Since the Special Areas Act was passed we have had investigations and inquiries; we have had the splendid report of Sir Malcolm Stewart, his second and final report with the splendid and intriguing recommendations which he made in that report. In addition, we have had private inquiries and investigations, and experts of all kinds going into the Special Areas. We have had most elaborate surveys conducted with a view of suggesting ways and means of reviving the industrial, economic and social life of these areas. We have a vast structure of knowledge in our hands to-day, and I regret more than I can express in words these restrictions upon an opportunity of hon. Members to help the Government to evolve some coherent and constructive scheme which would really revive conditions in these areas.
What have we got? We have got a crazy patchwork quilt; a patch here and 907 a little assistance there, everything unco-ordinated, stupidly and most ineffectively sporadic. In this Financial Resolution there is nothing constructive, nothing coherent, absolutely nothing hopeful so far as the Special Areas are concerned. This restriction on the right of hon. Members to proffer suggestions to the Government, to put plans and schemes before them, is the most abject act of cowardice I have witnessed since I have been in the House. It is a cowardly refusal to face a problem which is admittedly huge, and on which every hon. Member could make some contribution towards a solution. It is an expression on the part of the Government that at last they have abandoned every real attempt to revive the industrial and economic life of the areas. The Government can prove that my charges are not true by withdrawing the Financial Resolution.
Some of my hon. Friends and I have sat down quietly in committee to see what amendments we could suggest and what help we could give to the Government in a desire to evolve some constructive policy. We have submitted, honestly and sincerely, Amendments to this Money Resolution. We have put in all this work in our efforts to help and assist the Government out of the ignominious hole in which they are at present. The Minister of Labour laughs, but I am sure he is uncomfortable. Will he dare to get up and tell the House, as an honest and sincere worker, not as a professional politician, not with his usual superficial glibness, but as an honest man talking to honest men, that this Financial Resolution embodies a scheme, a policy, which will contribute—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must remind the hon. Member that the Financial Resolution is not at present before the House.
§ Mr. Davies
I bow to your Ruling, I did not get off-side deliberately like the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. E. Dunn). I was trying to place before the House the reasons why the Financial Resolution should be withdrawn, why the Government in their own interests should withdraw it, and why we construe it as an admission on their part of their failure to tackle seriously the problem of the Special Areas. During the next week- 908 end we shall all be facing our constituents in these desperate areas. We shall be asked why we did not suggest this and the other to the Government why we did not move Amendments on obvious matters so far as the people are concerned. We shall be asked why we did not do it. How difficult it will be for anyone to tell the people, to explain to them in Merthyr Tydvil the reasons why we were precluded from telling their experiences. Not even the Minister of Labour could give an explanation that would be accepted. If he thinks he can, I will invite him to come to Merthyr next Sunday, or on any day convenient for him. With all his experience, with all the gifts of rhetoric and persuasiveness that he possesses, I am certain that, whatever the people of Merthyr Tydvil think of the Minister and of the Government now, after that meeting their disgust and contempt would be more pronounced.
We are extremely disappointed. We had persuaded ourselves that we could have made a helpful contribution in any honest effort to improve the machinery and add to the resources now in use in connection with the distressed areas. There are men on these benches who come from the Special Areas. The people there are our own people. We were born among them, we have lived among them, we have fought, wisely or unwisely, with them, they have shared our experiences as we have shared theirs. We on these benches will not stand the ignominy that has been poured on us and on our own people, and we will not be partners to any attempt to prevent them from articulating their sufferings and aspirations in this House. I appeal to the Government to withdraw this miserable artifice, to give the people opportunity of talking about their troubles and difficulties, an opportunity of placing before the House constructive and remedial proposals. I appeal to the Government with all the sincerity that I have, and without the remotest desire to make any party capital out of it. Remove the barriers, cut away these restrictions, give us an opportunity of helping any sincere worker on the Government Benches to make proposals that will, if adopted, improve the conditions of the people in those areas. I appeal to the Government to withdraw this miserable pretext, and to give the House an opportunity of facing up to this grave and serious problem.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Captain Macnamara
One cannot help, when one listens to hon. Members who come from the distressed areas, feeling a certain amount of sympathy with them because of the fervour with which they put their case. At the same time I cannot begin without some criticism of the hon. Member who has just spoken. The tone with which he put forward his case was very different from that of the Leader of the Opposition, who led off so moderately from the House of Commons point of view this afternoon. The hon. Member accused the Government in strong terms. He said that the Government had abandoned every effort to revive industrial life in the Special Areas. That is not true. I have been a critic of the Government in these respects—
§ Captain Macnamara
There have been several hon. Members on this side who have been, and are, critical of the Government's handling of the Special Areas. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) has criticised those hon. Members and myself for not being here throughout the whole of this Debate, and he asked what our attitude is now. I assure him that we have left the Chamber only for the purpose of partaking of a little of his margarine. We have, nevertheless, made our attitude clear. We have taken a strong line on this matter, and we continue to take the same line. We had hopes of an entirely new Bill. I wish to point out to him that the initiative in this respect came from Conservative Members on this side. I do not want to make any party capital out of it, but I want to remind him of it because he made some criticism of us. There was nothing in the King's Speech which foreshadowed any new Bill dealing with the distressed areas, but as a result of the Debate last November the Government agreed to include the Special Areas Reconstruction Act in the Expiring Laws Act until 31st May, and then we thought we were going to have a new Bill. Hon. Members who agree with me were disappointed with what they discovered in the White Paper. 910 As we made some criticism, I am putting forward our case. We submitted certain Amendments and found that every one of them was ruled out of Order as a result of Standing Order No. 69. We cannot see that all the subjects we had in mind in those Amendments necessarily have anything to do with the initiating of extra financial burdens on the State. We cannot, for instance, see that the enlargement of the extent of the distressed areas necessarily means an extra burden on the taxpayer. We cannot see that the taking over of the Poor Law relief for the whole country by the State is necessarily an extra burden on the general taxpayer. It might mean a levelling and a sharing of the burden, but, on the whole, it might not mean an increase of the burden. Finally, we cannot understand why the substitution of a Minister for the Commissioner to deal with the areas is necessarily an extra burden on the hard-pressed taxpayer.
We admit that it is the Government which must be responsible for initiating taxation if they are to be responsible for spending the money, but we cannot understand why it is that legislation should be introduced into this House in such a form that we are merely to be a rubber stamp. Perhaps in London we are a long way from the Special Areas, and perhaps some of us forget the distress that there is in some of those districts, but if I may, without being out of order, bring home this point, I wish to say that there are Members on this side of the House who are very genuinely and earnestly concerned with this subject. We intend to fight on this matter tooth and nail, but we see no point in fighting on it if it is merely to be a debating society discussion. We are prepared to, fight to-night for the principle as to, whether the legislation should be introduced in this form or not. On the other hand, if hon. Members vote in such a way to-night that the Financial Resolution can go forward as it is and that no, Amendments can be introduced on the Bill, we are not going to waste our time coming here to debate about this or that area. We hope that this House will be a House of action and not merely a House where one discusses, talks, pats backs or patronises. We are prepared to come here to work, but we are not prepared to come here merely to discuss and to win a point this way or that.
911 On the general principle, we do not like a Bill which is introduced in such a form that one cannot amend it in any way. Such a Bill makes hon. Members mere puppets and of no use whatever. We have seen what has been happening abroad during the last few years, and I have watched the Fascist revolutions both in Italy and Germany right through. I am very much alarmed at the trend that politics is taking in other countries, and I very much deprecate any such criticism being levelled at us. I do not think we ought to put ourselves in a position which will allow such criticism to be levelled at us. It might be necessary to do this or that, but where we,can avoid it, especially during such a period in world history, is it wise for us to take the risk that others may say, "You are coming round to our point of view"? If it be a question of time, surely there is some other way of organising our Parliamentary procedure so that we can get over that matter. Is it absolutely necessary to damp down democracy, to shut the safety valve, on the plea of time Is it wise at this period of history, particularly European history?
From the point of view of all the younger Members of this House, I think we should be most unwise to give our approval to legislation being introduced in this form. We have to look forward not to the lifetime of the Government Front Bench, but beyond that. We have to realise—and I say this with no ulterior motive against hon. Members opposite—that there may be a time shortly when more ruthless kinds of administration may be in power than is in power to-day. Any hon. Member who does not put himself in the position of having stood up for democracy in 1937 may find that the weapon may be used against him in opposition in future. Any form of dictatorship in this country, whether it is a dictatorship of a single man or that of a caucus, is alien to our spirit. It entirely and absolutely prevents the growth of something that will come afterwards. To paraphrase the words of the Prime Minister, I will ask him to go to Worcestershire and to look across from his own home towards the Forest of Wyre. He will see a beech tree, and he will realise once again, as he himself has described, that dictatorship is like a beech tree, splendid to look at from a distance, inspiring, firm for a time, but nothing grows underneath it.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I wish to support the view put forward by hon. Members who have spoken from this side. I do so because I believe that hon. Members on this side and hon. Members opposite would be entirely failing in their duty if they allowed this Financial Resolution to go forward as it is on the Paper. I am not an expert in Parliamentary procedure, but I remember how, when we were discussing the Education Bill, the form of procedure crippled and confined the discussion on the Bill when it was before the House. On that occasion hon. Members received resolutions from all over the country, requests from school teachers who had interests of the children at heart and shoals of letters asking us to support this, that or the other proposal in relation to education. but we found that we were unable to do so at the crucial moment owing to difficulties of procedure. I suppose that I am unable to discuss this Resolution to-night but I want to make my protest and to support the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition, because I want to be in a position, when the gagging starts, to go into the country and tell the people why we have been gagged.
I am astonished at the Prime Minister's attitude. We know that there have been several phases of his career. Years ago an Election was fought on the cry of "Trust me." The right hon. Gentleman lost on that occasion. Another Election was fought on the cry of "Honesty" and the right hon. Gentleman won it, but the reputation which he gained is being shattered now, and I fear that he will not be Prime Minister any longer when the next General Election has been fought. But I would like him to go out of office without being as badly advised as he is being advised at present. I wonder that he is not taking to heart the lesson which he ought to have learned last week, the lesson of the London County Council election. It appears to me that those who advised him in regard to that matter, are advising him to-day on this question.
I have had experience of a depressed area. The area of Haltwhistle which I know is depressed because the staple industry in that area closed down. There is an abundance of coal there, but it is not being worked. A Labour Commission has been travelling about the coun- 913 try and we would be in a position to offer practical suggestions in the form of Amendments if we had the opportunity —just the same as the young rebels on the other side, of whom we heard so much just before the Christmas Recess. Certain provisions are made in the Resolution with regard to sites and rents, but I can see nothing which would allow an area such as the one I have mentioned to re-employ its men in the coal industry. Questions of drainage and of agricultural land are mentioned in the Financial Resolution, but under it I should probably be precluded from moving an Amendment to enable something to be done to help the coal industry. I do not want that to happen, but if it does happen I want to be able to say that I have made my protest against such a procedure. The men whom I have in mind have been unemployed now for five years. In 1932 the first pit in that district closed. In the following year, a second pit closed and the district became derelict and is derelict to-day, although there is abundance of coal to be worked, if the resources were there to work it. I am pleading here for those men whom I have known for years and who are simply wilting away and whose children—
§ Mr. Taylor
I shall be careful, Mr. Speaker, to keep in your good graces. I am only trying to show that if Standing Order 69 is to operate, this Financial Resolution will preclude me from doing anything to help those men. I had been looking forward to the new Special Areas Bill as a contribution to the solution of this problem, and I was particularly interested to know if the Bill would provide for some elasticity of procedure as compared with the present procedure in the Special Areas. I have described the position in an area where the coal mining industry has been shut down. We in Northumberland have practically no other industry but coal mining, and if a pit closes down it is possible to have 5,000 men out of work in a very short time. Standing Order No. 69, I submit, will prevent me from moving any Amendment o give consideration to new areas. I have had some experience of the Minister of Labour. Once or twice he has led me up the garden. Only last year when there 914 was a surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Fund, I remember with what gusto he came down to the House and said he was making a present of £2,000,000 to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that the hon. Member will get out of my good graces if he pursues that subject.
§ Mr. Taylor
I want to show that if the present Minister of Labour continues in his office, as to which I understand there is some doubt, and if he continues to be so anxious to please the Chancellor of the Exchequer—if we still have the same Chancellor of the Exchequer—then it is, evident that under Standing Order 69 we shall have the greatest possible difficulty in calling attention to the hardships of certain areas because of the attitude which the Minister will be able to take towards us when we put forward the claim of people who are not at present covered by the Special Areas arrangements. I put that suggestion forward not as any form of obstruction. If this Standing Order No. 69 were removed, and this limiting, cribbing, confining regulation, which you, in your duty, will have to enforce on this House, were taken away, the combined wisdom of the House would be given free play to deal with the greatest problem that this country has ever had to tackle, and which, up to the moment, it has absolutely failed to solve. Do not let hon. Members believe that they are solving unemployment in the distressed areas, or those areas that may be distressed, on account of the money that we are spending on armaments. Where there is no money coming from armaments you have stark, dark despair being suffered by our people, and for that reason I support the Motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
The most tragic thing about this discussion is the obvious desire of so many Members to have certain areas in this country included within the terms of the Special Areas Act. There is, in their very efforts to argue against the Standing Order which has been invoked so much, a childish pathos, because the assumption underlying each plea to have a given area included is that something would be done for them if they were included in the Special Areas Act. Nothing would please me better than to move 915 the elimination of the Rhondda from the Special Areas Act, in order to give the Minister an opportunity to demonstrate its worth, and if he can in this House demonstrate that the Special Areas Act does anything of value within the Rhondda, I will withdrawn my opposition to it. Nothing is there, but I can understand my fellow Members of this House pleading for the opportunity of bringing their areas within it and, at the same time, of enlarging the powers which the Government have seen fit to suggest.
Charges have been made from this side of the House against the Government that, in bringing forward this Resolution, they are committing an act of cowardice, misleading the people, and, in fact, betraying the people of this country. The only attempt that has been made to defend the Government has been made in terms that our endeavour to have this Standing Order withdrawn is an endeavour to broaden the thing out unduly—in the words of one hon. Member, to have an umbrella wide enough to cover anything—and pointing out that, after all, since this is a Resolution to provide money, the initiative rightly lies with the Government. Is that all that can be said about this matter? Is this simply a question of the Government using their initiative to bring a Financial Resolution before this House? I submit that in Winging forward this Resolution in these terms, the Government are betraying Members of this House generally, the people of this country generally, and even their own promises. For three years in succession suggestions have been made—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is dealing entirely with a particular Financial Resolution, but the Motion before the House is for the omission of Standing Order No. 69, and Standing Order No. 69 applies to every Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
But the reason why we desire the omission of this Standing Order in this instance is that the Government, in this particular Resolution, have broken every pledge they have made in connection with the Special Areas. We all desire to broaden the proposals with regard to the Special Areas. We want to give the Government an opportunity even to fulfil their own promises, but what we find is that in bringing this Resolu- 916 tion forward the Government are running away from their own promises in this regard, Indeed, if one might use metaphorical language, one would say that the Government promised a horse to do certain work, and then, before providing the horse—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is still dealing with the Money Resolution and not with the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Motion before the House is to omit a Standing Order which applies to all Money Resolutions, and not only in respect to this specific Resolution.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
With every respect, I quite understand that Standing Order No. 69 applies to every Money Resolution of this kind, but we have suffered in the past more than once from this same thing, and on this occasion, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, here is the most tragic issue of the day, the most fateful problem that this country has to face, and in regard to this particular problem the Government have utilised the narrow, restrictive conditions of Standing Order No. 6g to bring in their legislative proposals in regard to the Special Areas. The Government have led the people in this country to believe that something would be done. Even hon. Members on their own side have been led to believe that the Government were doing something. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other responsible Ministers on behalf of the Government have said the same thing, and—
§ Mr. Speaker
I must again point out to the hon. Member that this has nothing to do with the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
But, Sir, it is an argument against the Money Resolution, and because of that, it is an argument also against the Standing Order which prevents us from broadening it out. How can we argue against this? We must bring in an argument that we desire to extend the proposals, and on that there are hon. Members on this side who could keep this House going from now till doomsday. Everyone of us can produce a thousand reasons why we require to extend these terms and why this Standing Order which stands in our way ought to 917 be removed once and for all. The whole thing has got to be reviewed in the light of the promises that the Government have made. They said that they would do something for the people, and instead of that they are to-night mocking the depressed people of this country and hurling in their teeth all the promises that have been made for months past. When the people of this country have been led to expect that something would at last be done for them, the Government to-night turn round, hurl everything back at them, and say that there is nothing o be done for them except within the restrictions of this Financial Resolution. Using the terms of this Standing Order, the Government are sending this reply to the poor people of this country, and I only hope that the poor people of this country will take an opportunity of hurling this insult back at the Government that is treating them in this way.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The Debate to-day has ranged over two topics, which are related to each other. It has been concerned mainly with the Standing Order which we propose should be omitted. But it has been possible within the rules of order to illustrate some of the arguments by considering its effects upon the Resolution which we are to consider next. I do not think that anyone could have sat through this Debate without realising that it is probably a fortunate thing for future Debates in this House that this Standing Order has been raised. In all but two of the speeches there has obviously been reflected the general sense of disturbance as to the use to which the Standing Order has been put. The Government have had many speakers on their own benches, hut only two have supported them in the the attitude which the Prime Minister took.
The Government will have taken note in particular that from a number of Members of great experience, concluding with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), there has been a demand that the Government should appoint a Select Committee in order to deal with the anxieties which the House has expressed. The appointment of a Select Committee will not dispose of our own immediate difficulty because it will still leave us incapable of intelligently discussing the Bill 918 on the Committee stage. Apart from that particular limitation, I would say, speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friends here, that I hope for the sake of Debate in the House in future that the Government will accept the suggestion. Indeed, unless they do accept it, I foresee that there will be an endless and continuous repetition of Debates such as we have had to-day until some solution of this difficulty is found.
The Prime Minister devoted—quite rightly—the whole of his speech to Standing Order 69 simply as a part of the procedure of the House. He expressed great anxiety as to what might happen if this Standing Order were repealed and it appeared to me that his apprehensions were very excessive. They were very fanciful, especially in view of the fact that the Prime Minister has been in the House for nearly 30 years and that for about half that period he has lived under the system in which there was no Standing Order 69. While he lived under that system there were no complaints of any dangers of the types that he described. It is since Standing Order 69 was enacted that there has been a continual series of complaints and Debates and Speaker's Rulings. The technique of the matter has been explained a good many times, but in order to put my argument I will repeat what it is. Under the old system the first step that was taken was that the Minister moved a setting up Resolution in very wide terms, and it was to that Resolution that the King's Recommendation was signified. Because it was in wide terms there were wide discussions without any dangers arising. The Prime Ministers spoke about dangers, but there was not a line of Debate about them in the House.
Then in 1919 and 1922 the setting up Resolution was abandoned, and by Standing Order 69 the House made arrangements to go right on to the Financial Resolution proper, which has always been purely detailed; and since it was to that Resolution that the King's Recommendation was given, the whole discussion almost automatically was in danger of being unduly restricted. Standing Order 69 has been completely twisted out of the purpose for which it was enacted. In the Debate in 1919, Sir Frederick Banbury distinctly warned us of the dangers. He said at the end of his speech on the subject: 919This is another attempt to whittle away the privileges of private Members.'The satisfying answer which was given to him by the then Attorney-General, now the Lord Chief Justice, was:That is the reverse of the proposal, which is for the simple purpose of expediting the procedure in connection with financial business.That is clear, because at the same time there was passed Standing Order 70, which was for the purpose of taking the Committee, Report, and Third Reading stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill on the same day in order to save time. What happened was that gradually the Departments began to realise that a new power had come into their hands. Gradually, the volume of complaint in this House grew in intensity. Hon. Members opposite say there were complaints when the present Opposition were in office. At any rate, it gradually grew, and in the last three years complaints have grown greater than ever.
Again, it is not only in our discussions here that we realise the restrictions of the Standing Orders, because in Standing Committees upstairs we constantly find our discussions curtailed. Complaints arose over the Education Bill, and there were complaints on the Maternal Mortality Bill, the Tithe Bill, and the Special Areas Bill in 1934. I think it was most unfortunate that by far the most ruthless example of the prevention of Debate by use of Standing Order 69, an example so ruthless that it called forth the observations of Mr. Speaker which have been quoted again and again, should have been in connection with the Special Areas Bill.
Without going into any details I would like to point out the extent to which debate will be rendered impossible on the Financial Resolution which we are shortly to discuss. I am not going into the details, Mr. Speaker, but will give only the headings. A few days ago all Members of the House had the report of the North-Eastern Development Board, an official body set up, I believe, by the Ministry of Labour itself. The first proposal in that report was that there should be a special Cabinet Minister charged with supervising the Special Areas policy. Surely that is a subject which we should be allowed to discuss on this new Bill, but under Standing Order 69 discussion can be prohibited and it is prevented by 920 this Financial Resolution. Another instance is provided in the third report of the Commissioner himself. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) reminded me of it, and I looked it up. The Commissioner suggests that his office should be abolished and that the power should be spread among Ministers. Surely we ought to have the power of discussing that recommendation, but under Standing Order 6g, and by the drafting of this Financial Resolution, we shall not be allowed to say a word about it or to move any Amendment in Committee.
There are other examples, and I will take one which will be in the minds of all hon. Members, because it came up this morning. This morning there was published the very exhaustive report, in three volumes, of the investigations into the economic situation in South Wales. I cannot say that I have read that report, but I read the leading article upon it in the "Times," and I find that the recommendation in that report which the "Times" had picked out as one which was easy and practicable, and could quickly be carried out, was that which pointed out that the actual boundaries of the present Special Areas were inconvenient and might be altered—a small proposal but a practical one. I then looked at the Financial Resolution and at Standing Order 69, but found that no Amendment could be moved to the Bill even to that extent, or any Amendment to the finance of the Bill. I could go on with other examples, some of which have already been quoted, but I think I have given enough to show that no proper debate can take place when once this Financial Resolution has been passed.
I should like the House to consider the effect on the nature of our Debates of the exaggerated importance which now attached to Financial Resolutions. In the case of many Bills we spend more time on the Financial Resolution than on all the other stages—we did so on the Defence Bill—and as a result all our Debates are becoming lop-sided. It was never intended that the real, vital Debates should take place on the Financial Resolution. The whole procedure of the House was built up on the principle of having a Second Reading Debate, and then a Committee stage, during which one could move Amendments, provided that they did not increase the charge on the public.
921 What happens now? When you put down Amendments on Committee stage you find they are ruled out because they are outside the terms of the Financial Resolution, and your only chance then is to put down your Amendments on the Financial Resolution itself. If you do, you do not get a proper discussion because, apart from other things, under the Financial Resolution you are prohibited not only from increasing the charge—to which we do not object—but from extending the scope and spreading the charge over a larger area, which would have no effect upon finance; but that is one of the rules of Financial Resolutions. Therefore, we are in the position in which the main Debate is on the Financial Resolution, while there can be no proper Debate on the Financial Resolution; and when that is passed, no proper Debate is allowed on the succeeding stages.
I would refer 'to one feature of the situation into which we are now moving, and which I think has not been mentioned, although it is one of some danger. I may say that it appears to me to be dangerous to the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) who has evidently thought a very great deal about this subject. I think we are moving into a condition in which we are asking Mr. Speaker to perform functions which he has not been expected to perform in the past. Those who have read the Debates on procedure in the past know that it has always been a most careful procedure that Mr. Speaker should be the guardian of the Rules and Standing Orders. He should pronounce as to the way the Rules and Standing Orders are being carried out, but he should have protection from having to give an opinion upon the wrongness or rightness of Government policy, and upon matters which should become the subject of ordinary legitimate Debate in this House. That very Ruling, which Mr. Speaker gave some time ago, has been quoted. Suppose that hon. Members had wished to defend the Government, and had got up to do so; they could not have defended the Government without attacking Mr. Speaker. We are getting into a condition in which Mr. Speaker is asked to give Rulings on subjects which have been carefully kept to the House itself in the past.
922 We must do something to get out of this position, which will continue under the proposed Bill. I have mentioned it because it seems to me a very great objection to the otherwise very careful proposal which the hon. Member for Aylesbury put forth. It seems to me that there is no conflict of view on the two sides of the House, but that what is arising is a difference which represents a difference in the outlook of the civil servant and that of the Member of Parliament. Ministers are advised by civil servants. Hon. Members who have been Ministers know how valuable that advice is, but the purpose of the civil servant in advising the Minister, for example on this Financial Resolution or the Bill, is quite legitimately to see that the Ministers shall get through their Bills as easily, with as great a success and as little trouble as possible. That is their natural outlook. It is not the business of, and not the natural outlook of the civil servant to consider what will ultimately happen to Parliamentary institutions if Debates in this House are atrophied.
That is why I think, almost insensibly, these Financial Resolutions have been tightened up, out of a desire on the part of civil servants to help their Ministers, and that is why, if we allow the matter to remain where it is, these discussions and difficulties and complaints will undoubtedly continue to recur, because the civil servants will be just as zealous in the future as they have been in the past. Because we wish to express the view that Standing Order No. 69 has been twisted away from the original object on account of which the House was induced to accept it, we move that it be omitted.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
Everyone, I think, has welcomed this Debate, and not the least myself, who have had the honour and privilege of listening to most of it. Many contributions have been made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in different quarters of the House. No doubt some of those contributions have, been more constructive, so far as the actual subject-matter of the Motion is concerned, than others, but I think the bulk of them, at any rate, were agreed that the question of House of Commons procedure is a question for the House, and is a question of great importance. I always like, and 923 I am sure that none of them will grudge me the satisfaction, to hear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite expressing a desire to stand on the ancient ways, and quoting with fervour the maxims uttered in this House by so staunch a Tory as Sir Frederick Banbury. In these matters history is of very great importance, but I am not in the least one of those who think that we should be entirely restricted and confined within the limits of what our fathers and forefathers did. If, however, we are going to appeal to history, it is worth while getting the history right.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) suggested that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a mistake in that part of his speech in which he referred to the origin of Standing Order No. 69 and the changes made by it. I do not think that my right hon. Friend made any mistake, and I think that the majority of those who have attributed a mistake to him have not quite realised what was the pre-1922 procedure as understood by the House before 1922. Under Standing Order No. 68 there was a preliminary or setting up Resolution. That was a formal matter, taken without debate and without notice. It was followed by a Resolution similar in kind to that which appears on the Order Paper to-day, and on that Resolution debates normally took place, if the subject-matter was one which excited the interest of the House. Before 1922 it had always been assumed that the later detailed Resolution defined the limits within which Amendments could subsequently be moved.
In 1922, on the Unemployment Insurance Bill, the Deputy-Chairman of that day ruled, to the surprise of the Committee, that it was not the detailed Resolution but the setting-up Resolution, when the King's consent was given, which laid down the lines within which Amendments could subsequently be in order. That setting-up Resolution was drawn in the widest and most general terms, which extended the area within which Amendments would be in order beyond anything that had been contemplated prior to that date, and it was because that Ruling introduced an element into the procedure which had not previously been contemplated that as from that date successive 924 Governments have adopted Standing Order 69 instead of the old procedure.
It is, of course, a little complicated. It is true that Standing Order 69 was originally introduced in order to save a day, but it was only in 1922 when the Deputy-Chairman ruled that under Standing Order 68 procedure any Amendment within the setting-up Resolution was in order that Standing Order 69 become the normal practice. It is also true, that being so, that, if this Motion were carried, it would be possible for this or any Government to have as rigid a system under Standing Order 68 as under Standing Order 69. The setting-up Resolution will be drawn in exactly the same terms as this Order that is on the Paper. I am not in the least seeking to make a technical point on a Motion which has served to raise a valuable and interesting discussion, but in fact the Motion would not effect any of the objects which hon. Members opposite have in mind. [Interruption.] Perhaps it is worth pointing out at the close, as it was at the beginning of our discussion, that the Motion on the Paper in any case would not effect the object of the one who is moving it. That may have some bearing on the difficulties of the problem with which the House is faced.
Some hon. Members have suggested that Standing Order 69 is a reason why less interest is taken in our discussions than used to be taken. I do not know whether, in fact, that is so, still less, if it is so, whether it is our fault because our discussions are less interesting, or whether it is due to the fact that other matters superficially, perhaps, more attractive but really less important, are put before the public for daily consumption than those which were put before them 30, 40 or 50 years ago. I cannot really believe that the existence of Standing Order 69 plays any really vital part in the question, if it is true, of the diminished interest of the public in Parliamentary affairs. Some hon. Members have suggested—I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did not originate the idea—that we were really in danger of assimilating our institutions to those of the dictators whom we see in other countries. Surely, that really is to talk with complete irresponsibility and without any real sense—
Mr. Lloyd George
I do not want to be held responsible for that statement. I said that, if our discussions were limited on matters of vital issue, and Parliament was not free to take cognisance of questions which affect the welfare of the nation, you would end in dictatorship, and that was the justification of dictatorship in its inception.
§ The Attorney-General
The right hon. Gentleman seems fully to have justified the reference I made. Such a suggestion is merely devoid of all foundation and all reality, and I should have thought that the proceedings this afternoon were sufficient evidence of the distinction between our institutions in this country and the institutions to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and one need not really go very much further. I do not want to be controversial on this matter, but merely to try to point out that some of the speakers have really gone a little wide of what I believe to be the real issue of the discussion. That brings me to the next point. A number of speakers this afternoon have stated that this use of Standing Order 69 prevents discussion. That is quite wrong. It does not prevent discussion at all.
§ The Attorney-General
I will merely say exactly what it does mean. Many hon. Gentlemen have said that it prevents discussion. On this Financial Resolution, and on the Second Reading of the Bill founded upon it, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen can say, in as unmeasured terms as Mr. Speaker will allow, that these provisions are inadequate, that wider areas should be included in the provisions of the Bill, and that the whole system is wrong, and anything that occurs to them in criticism of the Government.
§ The Attorney-General
Let us be quite fair. We can discuss it. If the hon. Gentleman had sat here, as I have, from a quarter to four till 20 minutes to 11, he would have heard speaker after speaker say that the application of this Standing Order and this Resolution prevented discussion. I thought it much better not to interrupt because interruptions, except in exceptional circumstances, do not faci- 926 litate debate, but now that my time has come I am entitled to point out, without interruption from those whom I did not interrupt, that that statement is entirely inaccurate. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He really is quite wrong. It does not prevent discussion.
§ The Attorney-General
It does prevent a Motion on which a vote can be taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "And discussion."] Not discussion. Take an ordinary Supply Day. Is that no use? [Interruption.] I was asked as to the use of discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "On the Bill."] I have said that it does not prevent discussion. Let us approach the kernel of the problem. The kernel is Standing, Order No. 63. That is an old Standing Order. It is not necessarily a wrong or a bad Order because of that, though I agree that every Standing Order is entitled to be called upon to justify itself in certain circumstances as time goes on. Standing Order 63 is the Order which says:This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the consolidated fund or out of money to be provided by parliament, unless recommended from the crown.The Crown demands, Parliament grants. That has been stated in books on Constitutional law. I believe that the principle embodied in that Standing Order is an absolutely sound one. It is as the Prime Minister said. It prevents private Members making Motions for the grant or use of public money, and I believe that students of democracy and of the Assemblies which we believe ourselves to be the chief would say that that principle embodied in that Standing Order has been one of the great factors in making democracy work in this country and in making this House of Commons the responsible and effective instrument of Government which it is.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not dispute that. He is not seeking to challenge Standing Order No. 63. The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said the same. I am not sure about the right horn Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. His plea was that on any matter which Parliament from time to time felt was a matter of real gravity affecting the lives 927 of the people, he wanted the discussion —which for the purposes of this Debate must be discussion on an Amendment which can be moved and voted upon—to be perfectly free. Therefore, he wants Standing Order 63 to go when the matter is, in his opinion, sufficiently serious. Let us face that. I believe, and I believe the House as a whole will on consideration feel, that that would be a mistake. It is very easy to realise the sort of points that might be discussed, I believe that that general principle ought to be very jealously preserved by those who sit on these benches to-day, and by those who sit on the benches opposite, and who may be on these benches some day when we are on those benches.
If Standing Order 63 is to be preserved it must be preserved so far as Bills are concerned in cases where those Bills involve the spending of money, whether that is the main primary object of the Bill or whether it is only the subsidiary object. It is important to realise that one of the causes, the particular cause of the putting down of this Motion, is that this is a Bill founded on a Money Resolution. It is laid down in Erskine May that when the main object of a Bill is the creation of a public charge, resort must be had to the procedure by which the Financial Resolution is passed by the Committee before the Bill is introduced. If the financial charge is subsidiary, the Bill first gets a Second Reading, and the Financial Resolution follows.
We are dealing here with a Bill which is based on a Financial Resolution. If anybody has the curiosity to look back to the Debates in the last century they will see that the point was raised as to whether Amendments were in order which increased the charge under a Bill if they were within the Financial Resolution. They will get the feeling, pretty clearly, I think, from the Ruling of the Chairman of those days, that Amendments increasing the charge under a Bill may be in order if they are within the Financial Resolution, but it was felt that such Amendments, though in order, were not really within the spirit of Standing Order 63. I think it is worth while to consider that point, and also to consider what is really the only effective and proper way by which Standing Order 63, if we want to preserve it, can be applied to a Bill the main purpose of which is 928 the spending of money. It would be out of order for me to go through the specific points which have been made on the Resolution, but hon. Members will on consideration, I think, realise that nearly all of them would involve an increased charge.
§ The Attorney-General
Suppose you get into the Bill an Amendment doubling the size of the areas, surely it is a matter of common sense that you are not going to treat the areas in the Bill twice as badly as already. It must be that you are going to maintain the standards—
§ Mr. Attlee
On the previous Special Areas Bill a huge list of districts was given and we could not add a single district. No question of the number of districts arose in relation to the money. Many of the points which were raised did not and could not increase the charge because the Government said that that was the utmost amount of money they would give.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not want to raise any controversial matter, but I should have thought it was a matter of common sense that if these duties were to be carried out within area x a certain amount of money would be expended. If the area was 2x, the expenditure would be increased. I cannot think that the Minister of Labour would receive a very cordial reception at this Box, assuming an Amendment of this kind was carried to increase the areas, and he had to make it quite clear that hon. Members who already represent the areas would get so much less money. I do not want to go into any detail on this point, but, of course, it was perfectly in order to refer to it as an example of the general principle raised by the Motion. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot) criticised the proviso to paragraph (c). There again it is obviously out of order to defend that on its merits. The proviso deals directly with the extent of the financial provision to be made by the Exchequer.
There are two ways of limiting and defining financial expenditure. One is by stating a lump sum—£1,000, £5,000,000, 929 £1,500,000,000, whatever it may be. If you do not limit the sum, the only other way in which you can carry out the duty imposed on the executive of defining the amount of money you demand is by specifying the purposes for which it is to be used. If you simply leave the matter at large and stop there the executive is not carrying out the duty which it owes to the House of defining to the House the amount of money which is to be appropriated. Hon. Members can say that the executive should have extended the purposes for which the money is demanded and that these purposes are too narrow. Where you do not specify the sum the only possible way of defining and controlling the expenditure and carrying out the duty which is placed on the executive to do so is by defining strictly the purposes for which money is required. When you are dealing, as here, with a Bill which is so essentially a Bill for the providing of finance, that it has to be founded on a Money Resolution, you do in fact find and always must find the bulk of the Bill in the Financial Resolution. That is the main aspect of this discussion as it appears to me. We defend this Resolution on the Paper, having regard to the subject-matter with which it is dealing, and my right hon. Friend is prepared to meet all criticism which will be open and in order on the Financial Resolution and on the Bill.
I do not wish anything I have said to be taken as minimising the importance of the general issue which has been raised and the importance of the House generally keeping under constant review its procedure and the working of that procedure. We have had speeches from the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) and other Members making contributions based on great knowledge and serious study of the procedure of this House. The suggestion of a Select Committee has now come from the right hon.
§ Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), and the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) referred to it. It has now been made by the two Front Opposition Benches. That is a new point since the Motion appeared on the Paper. The House will remember that the Prime Minister stated earlier in the Debate that instructions had been given to draft these Financial Resolutions as widely as possible provided the principle of Government responsibility for expenditure—which is accepted, I think, in nearly all quarters of the House—was preserved, and it is perhaps difficult to see how it would be possible to secure greater latitude on general lines than was embodied in the instructions to which my right hon. Friend referred.
§ I am, however, authorised to tell the House that the Government are equally prepared to consider the matter and if, after discussion with the Leader of the Opposition, it seems desirable to set up a Select Committee to make further inquiry and to consider the working of the Standing Order and the instructions which had been given, in relation, of course, to these Bills which involve finance, the Government will be prepared to do so. I hope the House will take that as an earnest of our realisation of the vital importance of the general issue, and that all proper avenues will be open for discussion and for voting; but we must see that we do not inadvertently and without due consideration render inoperative what I believe is one of the most fundamental principles of democracy in this country, namely, the proper and full application of the principles embodied in Standing Order No. 63.
That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended by the omission of Standing Order No. 69.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 208.933
|Division No. 100.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Batey, J.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Bellenger, F. J.||Cove, W. G.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Benson, G.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Bevan, A.||Daggar, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Broad, F. A.||Dalton, H.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Bromfield, W.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Brooke, W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Burke, W. A.||Day, H.|
|Altlle, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cape, T.||Dobbie, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Charleton, H. C.||Dunn, E. (Rother Vaitey)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Chater, O.||Ede, J. C.|
|Ban, J.||Cluse, W. S.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Kirby, B. V.||Rowson, G.|
|Frankel, D.||Lathan, G.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Lawson, J. J.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Lee, F.||Sexton. T. M.|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Leslie, J. R.||Shinwell, E.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Logan, D. G.||Short, A.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Angletey)||Lunn, W.||Silkin, L.|
|Gibbint, J.||McEntee, V. La T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||MoGhee, H. G.||Sinolair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||MaeLaren, A.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Maclean, N.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||MaoNeill, Weir, L.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mander, G. le M.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Groves, T. E.||Marshall, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Messer, F.||Thurtte, E.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Milner, Major J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Montagje, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Muff, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwiok)||Naylor, T. E.||Walker, J.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, F. G.|
|Hollins, A.||Owen, Major G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Hopkin, D.||Paling, W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Jagger, J.||Parker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Pethiek-Lawrenoe, F. W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Potts, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|John, W.||Price, M. P.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pritt, D. N.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ridley, G.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Whitdey and Mr. Mathers.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Culverwell, C. T.||Hepworth, J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Denville, Alfred||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Despenoer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dower, Capt. A. V. C.||Horsbrugh, Florenco|
|Assheton, R.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Astor, viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Duggan, H. J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Duncan, J. A, L.||Hunter, T.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampsteao)||Dunglass, Lord||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Eastwood, J. F.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Eckersley, P. T.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Blinded, Sir J.||Ellis, Sir G.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Kimball, L.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Emery, J. F.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Errington, E.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Everard, W. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Lewis, O.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fleming, E. L.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Bull, B. B.||Furness, S. N.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Burg in, Dr. E. L.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J|
|Butler, R. A.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Cary, R. A.||Gluckstcin, L. H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Goldie, N. B.||MoCorquodale, M. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Grant-Ferris, R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.)|
|Channon, H.||Granville E. L.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S, (E. Grinjtoad)||Grimston, R. V.||MaoDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Colman, N. C. O.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Maequisten, F. A.|
|Colvilte, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Magnay, T.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E,|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.I||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hannah, I. C.||Markham, S. F.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hartington, Marquess of||Mayhew: Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hatlam, H. C. (Horneastle)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswlsk)||Ropnar, Colonal L.||Titohfield, Marquess of|
|Moore-Brabazon, LI.-Col. J. T. C.||Rota, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Train, Sir J.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Rota Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Rowlands, G.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Munro, P.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Turton, R. H.|
|Neven-Spance, Major B. H. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Nioolson, Hon. H. G.||Salmon, Sir I.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Samuel, M. R. A.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Patrick, C. M.||Selley, H. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Panny, Sir G.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavartree)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Petherick, M.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Windsor-Cliva, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wise, A. R.|
|Porritt, Ft. W.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wolmer, Rt. Ho I. Viscount|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Prooter, Major H. A.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingslay|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Spena. W. P.||Wragg, H.|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Rathbona, J. R. (Bodmin)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Remar, J. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Rlekards, G. W. (Skipton)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Lleut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Ward and Sir Henry Morris-Jones.|
Question put, and agreed to.