§ Sir Richard Acland
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable His Majesty during the present emergency by Order-in-Council to direct that any Bill which has passed certain stages in either House of Parliament in any Session may be introduced into the same House in the following Session and may be thereupon treated in that House as if it had passed in that Session some or all of the stages which it had in fact passed in the previous Session.This is a Bill to enable His Majesty during the present emergency to direct, by Order-in-Council, that any Bill which has passed certain stages in either House of Parliament in any Session may be introduced into the same House in the following Session, and may thereupon be treated in that House as if it had passed in that Session some or all of the stages which it had, in fact, passed in the previous Session. Since this Motion was put down a number of hon. Members have asked me whether this Bill does not destroy a valuable constitutional right of the Opposition, no matter which party may be in Opposition, namely, their right to defeat a Government, not by force of numbers in the Division Lobby, but by wearing them down by keeping them up at night—night after night, week after week—so that their Bills have not become law when the Session comes to an end. In reply to objections of that kind I would draw attention to the fact that this Bill of mine begins with the words "During the period of the present emergency," and that all the powers contained in it are only for this emergency, and surely there can be no question, as long 721 as the war lasts, of any Opposition employing tactics which are described as "wearing the Government down." Therefore, nothing which is of constitutional value to this House will be harmed under this Bill.
The Bill is in general terms and in terms which apply to any Bill. Any Bill may be dealt with in this way; an Order may be made which will lie upon the Table of the House for 28 days and if not objected to will then become effective. The Bill will then pass through certain stages and it will go forward into the next Session in the same stage. The Bill does contain within itself an exception made in favour of the Criminal Justice Bill which is now before the House, and I think it is clear to anybody that this Bill is introduced with special reference to the position in which we now find ourselves in relation to the Criminal Justice Bill. As there are not 28 days left in this Session, I have suggested that an Order might be made with reference to that Bill without it having to lie upon the Table of the House at all, and that seems reasonable to me because if the House should pass the Bill which I am now asking leave to introduce with reference to the Criminal Justice Bill, it would be a fair indication that the House would be in favour of that Bill being introduced into the next Session in the stage in which it is now.
I appreciate that there are in this House many sincere opponents of the Criminal Justice Bill as it now stands, but I do not think they would oppose the Bill which I am now introducing, because I understand that the whole, or almost the whole, of the opposition to this Bill is centred round the Clause which abolishes flogging. I wish this opposition were not here. It would be a magnificent thing if in this time of brutality, horror and tyranny throughout the world it could go out that this country had given up the power to impose flogging. During these last months minorities here and above the Gangway have sacrificed their political views for the sake of national unity. What a maginficent thing it would be if those who are in favour of flogging and who were a minority upon the Committee could have upon this occasion sacrificed their personal views for the sake of securing that national unity of which we so often speak. No doubt, they have 722 been threatened and warned that any continuation of their opposition would jeopardise their chances of promotion.[Interruption.]I am told that this was not done. That is interesting to me and will surely be interesting to many back bench Members on this side of the House who have so often been requested by our Whips not to take a certain line and not to say certain things, not for the sake of our party, but for the sake of the party opposite. I confess it is a surprise to me to learn that in this matter no effort has been made on the other side of the House to quell the opposition by appealling to their public spirit, and by using all those arguments about national unity which are so often addressed to us by our Whips and to which we have listened with such sympathetic and patriotic attention.
The fact that there is opposition has been recognised, and it has been agreed on all hands—it is no secret—that if this Bill is carried forward by this Government in time of war the flogging Clause is to be dropped at the instance of the Government. That being so, I cannot understand why anybody who is opposed to the abolition of flogging should oppose this Bill since we have had an assurance through the usual channels, I think, that the flogging Clause is to be dropped. I think we are all agreed about the Bill. I understand that the Committee upstairs were all agreed except in regard to a few drafting points, which I appreciate will require months of the draftsmen's time. There may be provisions in this Bill which require building—building construction which cannot be undertaken in time of war. I ask that this Bill be passed, because if it is not passed now the Criminal Justice Bill will die in war. If it is passed now that Bill can yet be saved.
§ Sir Herbert Williams
I am amazed that this proposal should be before the House at this moment. The speech of the hon. Baronet was devoted to another Bill altogether. If proof were ever wanted that Liberalism is really in eclipse it is this Motion. Judging by what I have read in the newspapers, this Session of Parliament will be prorogued and there will be a new Session. At a critical moment the Sergeant-at-Arms in defence of our rights will close the door because the King's representative is seeking to enter this honourable House. It is not 723 by chance that we go through that ceremony whenever there is a Royal Assent and whenever His Majesty opens Parliament, because the Commons of the Houses of Parliament, devoted as we are to His Majesty, and loyal subjects as we are, understand and appreciate the balance of our Constitution. It is easy to carry a Bill forward. In 1932 we carried forward into another Session a Bill of which I did not approve—the London Passenger Transport Board Bill; it was a hybrid Bill. The hon. Baronet comes forward and proposes that we should introduce into this House something which would have horrified Cromwell, namely, the right of His Majesty to come into this House and regulate our procedure, and it is no disloyalty to His Majesty to say that. I am horrified that from the Liberal party should come this extraordinary reactionary constitutional proposal. After all, in a few days' time when a new Session of Parliament is opened we shall hear a Speech of His Majesty and come back here and then Mr. Speaker will read to us the Speech which he officially has heard on our behalf; then, before we can consider for a moment the business which His Majesty has outlined to us, the Clerk will get up and read the Outlawry Bill for the first time, in order to assert our constitutional rights, and transact our business before we consider any-business that His Majesty has directed us to consider. Has the Liberal party entirely forgotten those constitutional principles? I think it has. That is why Liberals occupy one bench opposite instead of the whole of that side of the House.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable His Majesty during the present emergency by Order-in-Council to direct that any Bill which has passed certain stages in either House of Parliament in any Session may be introduced into the same House in the following Session and may be thereupon treated in that House as if it had passed in that Session some or all of the stages which it had in fact passed in the previous Session,
put, and negatived.