HC Deb 29 November 1939 vol 355 cc97-116

2.54 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I beg to move, That, during the present Session:

  1. (1) Government Business do have precedence at every Sitting;
  2. (2) no Public Bills other than Government Bills be introduced;
  3. (3) whenever the House adjourns from Thursday to the following Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday Members desiring to give Notice of Questions for Oral Answer on a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday may send Notices of such Questions to the Clerks at the Table, and any Notices of Questions so received by them before Five of the Clock on a Friday or Monday or Tuesday can be accepted as Notices of Questions for Oral Answer on the following Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, respectively, and be printed and circulated with the Votes"
I informed the House yesterday that the Government intended to take the whole time of the House for Government business and to provide for the presentation of Government Bills only during the present Session. I now rise to move the Motion which is on the Paper to carry out those proposals and, in addition, to continue the arrangements made last September by which individual Members may send notices of Questions to the Clerks at the Table on the days when the House is not sitting. In taking this course the Government is following the precedents of the last war. In the Sessions 1914–16, 1916, 1917–18 and 1918 similar action was taken. At that time the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, said that every effort was concentrated upon one purpose, namely, the successful prosecution of the war and that the time was inappropriate to bring forward controversial legislation or matters of academic interest. He added: So long as this Order is in force the Government will introduce no legislation of a party or a contentious character, and they will, indeed, confine … their legislative proposals, unless in some exceptional case, … to such measures as may be found necessary to facilitate, financially and otherwise, the successful prosecution of the war."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 3rd February, 1915; Col. 46, Vol. 69.] The position to-day is the same as it was then. We must confine our efforts to the consideration of those matters which are urgently necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. In those circumstances I had hoped that we should have the general consent of the House, but I see that the Leader of the Opposition has tabled an Amendment in regard to Private Members' Bills. I think, perhaps, it will be convenient if I deal with that point after the Amendment has been moved. At times like these we cannot follow our normal procedure, and the precedents set by the Liberal and Coalition Governments during the last war justify the action which we are now proposing to take.

2.56 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

I beg to move, in line 4, to leave out paragraph (2).

I think the Prime Minister will agree that in all parts of this House there has been every disposition to facilitate the business which was necessary for the prosecution of the war. Indeed, I think this House has played a very noble part, and it has been done because this House, quite rightly, has been careful to see that in a war we carry out to the full our duties as representatives of the people in a democratic House of Commons. We do not object to Government business having precedence, and no question arises on the third part of this Motion, but on the second part whereby all introduction of Private Bills is prohibited we shall require a very great deal of persuasion. There is a tendency in war time to take more than is absolutely necessary, and we had an instance of that in the regulations which we discussed a few days ago and which have now been reconsidered. I think in all parts of the House there was complete readiness to give the Government the necessary powers, but also great vigilance is necessary in order that no excessive powers are given.

Will the introduction of a Bill by Members either under the Ten-Minute Rule or by the ordinary way of introducing a Bill really do anything to hamper the proper carrying on of the war? I suggest nothing of the sort. I believe it is an extremely useful thing that legislative proposals should be brought before this House quickly and with certainty. It may be said that that involves the expense of printing, but I do not think that is a very large expense, and I am quite sure that in many respects there are other quarters in which economies will be made. It may be said it is futile because the Bills will go no further, but in this House there are always a great many Bills introduced which go no further. It is a method of ventilating a question and of putting proposals before this House and before the country in a concrete form. I think it is a desirable thing. There is no reason to think it will unduly impinge on the time of Government business, and I do not agree that we ought to be bound by the precedent of the Parliament that sat in the last war. I hope we are not going to be bound by the precedent set by that Parliament throughout.

We must have from the Prime Minister some definite reason why it would be wrong to have a Bill introduced under the Ten-Minute Rule. It might be a Bill which the House desired to pass. The Government are not putting any legislative proposals before us this Session, so it is not due to pressure of time. We should be very careful in this House-because this is not a party matter—before we give away any of our rights, and I have heard nothing yet to convince me that we ought to surrender the right to introduce a Private Bill.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot

I am bound to say that, in spite of the precedents of 1914, I find myself in a good deal of sympathy with the Amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. As he has said, there is no objection to the other two limbs of the Motion, but the issue which is raised by his Amendment is whether private Members in all parts of the House should entirely surrender the right of initiating legislation, of every kind, into the hands of the Government of the day. The Prime Minister, when he introduced this Motion, cited the precedents of the last war. I should like to make one or two observations with regard to the precedents he mentioned.

First, it seems to me that the private Member to-day is in a very different position—and a very much worse position—from that which he occupied in 1914. The rights of private Members have been consistently cut down, beginning with the reforms of procedure just after the war and continuing by various devices through recent years. Although we make no complaint, of course, of the manner in which it is exercised, since 1914 the Chair has been given the right to select Amendments, thus cutting out in many cases Amendments which hon. Members might wish to move. We have had some- thing which was unknown before the last war, the introduction again and again of restrictive Money Resolutions under Standing Order 69, which was not introduced until 1919. Except for a few days at the outset of this war, the practice of having Debates on Motions to introduce Government Bills has dropped; and we have had the new practice, which has grown up in the last year or two, of taking Report stages and Third Readings of Government Bills on the same day. With regard to Government Bills, hon. Members have fewer opportunities of discussing them and of shaping and amending them than they had in 1914. I suggest that we ought to be more jealous of our rights now than we were then, because we have far fewer rights to preserve.

There is this distinction, too, that in 1914 the change was a matter of agreement; there was no division between the two sides of the House. Although it is impossible to speak authoritatively on this, one wonders whether Mr. Asquith would have insisted on that change if it had been objected to by Mr. Bonar Law at that time. But an undertaking was given by the Government, and anyone who reads Mr. Bonar Law's speech accepting the Prime Minister's Motion to take private Members' time will see that the undertaking given by the Government played a very large part, and acted a good deal on the minds of the Opposition. In his speech, on 3rd February, 1915, Mr. Bonar Law referred particularly to an undertaking which had been given on behalf of the Government by Lord Crewe the day before. Lord Crewe said: So far as the conduct of business is concerned, we do not propose to introduce any contentious business, but to confine ourselves entirely to such business as is concerned one way or the other with the prosecution of the war As far as I know, no such binding and categorical assurance has been given on this occasion. Perhaps we may be told whether it is the intention of the Government to give an assurance of that kind? Here we have a Motion being introduced to prevent Members who are not members of the Government from initiating any legislation at all. So far as I know, no similar Motion is being introduced in the other place. If that is so, we are left with this rather remarkable position, that, while no Member of this House may bring forward any Bill, however small and non-contentious it may be, any Member of the other place will be able to bring forward any legislative proposal he pleases throughout the duration of the war.

I do not know what part was played before the last war by the Ten-Minute Rule, but it does seem to me that in the last year or two it has been a very useful device. There have been quite a number of occasions during the last three or four years when Bills which have been matters of general agreement have been introduced by private Members under the Ten-Minute Rule. There was the case a year or two ago when the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) introduced an Amendment to the Vagrancy Acts. Everybody agreed with it. I believe the Bill was drafted in consultation with the Home Office. The Government were not prepared to introduce it, but they accepted it, and it was passed. The following year the hon. Lady who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health brought in a Bill dealing with the sale of red biddy in Scotland, and that was passed. Then there was another Bill—I think it was in the last Session. I am speaking now from recollection, but I think it was introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward). It was a Bill to protect the position of old age pensioners inside institutions.

All those things were done by general agreement. They all brought about results which Members of every party desired, and which were welcomed by public opinion outside. They would not have been brought in as part of the Government's legislative programme, although the Government in each case agreed with the objects of the Measure. If we pass this Motion, in its present form, we are going to deprive ourselves of that very useful procedure, as it often turns out to be; we are going to deprive ourselves, as Members of this House, of the opportunity to propose any new legislation whatever. Not only should we be prevented from bringing in Bills under the Ten-Minute Rule, but we should be prevented from handing them in at the Table. The power of initiative would be lost by the House, and handed over simply to the Government of the day.

3.9 p.m.

Mr. Charles Williams

As one who has been in this House for some time as a Private Member, I feel that before we surrender this privilege of private Members we should know very clearly where we stand in regard to the various methods that we have of introducing legislation. I can quite realise that at the present time, when the House of Commons is sitting almost continuously, and probably will be doing so throughout the war, it will not help the proceedings of the House, but will create difficulties in many ways, if we are to have a lot of private Bills. That is a very real difficulty. I venture to put forward what, I think, is another objection to this Amendment: that is, that there are a large number of our fellow-Members who are away from this House, and there are other Members on Service who come here from time to time with considerable difficulty—far more difficulty than the ordinary Member experiences. [An HON. MEMBER: "No"] Very often, at any rate.

If time is to be taken for private Members' Bills and Motions, if we are to have a long series of Bills, which come under the Ten-Minute Rule, and something happening at the end of the day which, I believe, is called "blocking," it is going to lengthen the proceedings of the House at a time when it is not desirable to do so, except on matters of very vital importance. It might be possible to meet the opinion, which, I think, exists in every part of the House, if we could have one day a week or some similar alleviation of the very strong position we have here, so that an agreed private Member's Bill could be brought in under the Ten-Minute Rule. We might find a way in that system whereby it would be possible at the present time not to take away the whole of the private Member's rights, but to leave some initiative in the hands of private Members. If there were agreement on all sides so that that initiative might be enabled to take place we might pass some Act such as the Acts mentioned by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot).

I put forward that suggestion, although I am perfectly ready to support the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I understood that hon. Members above the Gangway were in full support of the Government in the prosecution of the war. I think all the time which is needed by the House for that purpose should be used, and it should not be made unduly difficult for Ministers to carry out their other duties. For that reason I ask whether it is possible to meet the House of Commons situation by giving one day a week for Private Members' Bills under the Ten-Minute Rule? That might help the position. I am sure that there cannot be a large number of Bills while the war is on, but there may very well be certain Bills which might be brought in and which would do a great deal of good. Although, as I say, I shall support the Motion as it stands, I think it might be possible to provide some alleviation of the stringency of the position as it stands.

3.12 p.m.

Mr. Lewis

In rising to support the Motion of the Prime Minister, I would like to call attention to one point which has not been mentioned by any previous speaker. One effect of the taking of private Members' time will be to give the Government more time for such measures as they may desire to introduce. I wish to express the hope that as the result more consideration may be shown to Members of this House in the matter of the presentation of such Bills than has been the case lately. No doubt it is inevitable at the beginning of a war that Measures, very complicated and dealing with very important matters, should be brought before this House in such a way that Members had no proper opportunity to consider them, and consequently not able to take a valuable part in the Debate upon them. It seems to me that that process has been rather abused of late.

The House may remember what happened in the case of the National Loans Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must have been perfectly aware when war broke out that it would be necessary to introduce that Bill, and no doubt the matter was present in his mind considerably before that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, having taken two months in which to consider the provisions of this very complicated and important Bill himself, had it put in the Vote Office here one morning, and invited us to give it a Second Reading on the afternoon of the same day. That, to my mind, is treating this House as though it were a sort of glorified rubber stamp. It is in the hope that it will not be necessary in the future to protest about similar cases that I mention the matter now. Perhaps whoever is to reply on behalf of the Government will be willing to give us some assurance, if this Motion is carried, that Bills introduced by the Government will be presented to this House in such a way that hon. Members may have a reasonable opportunity to consider their provisions before they are put down for debate.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. Alan Herbert

Perhaps I may be allowed to detain the House for a few moments, because the first speech that I had the temerity to make in this House concerned a very similar question and nothing that has happened since then has altered my opinion of the value of private Members' time and, on the whole, the meritorious use they make of it. At the present time, at the beginning of the Session, we must all, as I am sure we all do, pay due attention to the advice of those organs of public opinion which, from time to time, instruct us in our duties. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) used the old phrase "rubber stamp." I saw that phrase last Sunday in the "Sunday Pictorial," against which I cannot be expected to have any prejudices, because I used to write for it, and my relations with it were, and continue to be, most friendly. But I was shocked and alarmed on Sunday on seeing an article headed, "Rubber-Stamp M.P's," which put a great many rhetorical questions about the future Session, to all of which unfavourable responses were given. How are the M.P's facing up to this gigantic task? With imagination? 'No.' With enthusiasm? 'No.' With energy? 'No.' They have fallen back on the automatic rubber stamp, of approval for each and every Government measure that is put before them. The 'Yes-men' are at their sorry task. I was not only shocked and alarmed, but very surprised to see these observations, because, being a regular reader of that organ, I had seen only three weeks before another leading article by the young and vigorous editor which was headed, "The House of No-Men," with a not very flattering representation of the Prime Minister, and a rather more handsome silhouette of the Palace of Westminster at the top. The burden of this article is that Members do nothing but nag and attack the Government for their admirable schemes: That is why our M.P.s are wasting their time in these fractious debates… They are proud of saying 'No' to the Government's war-plan. As I said, the editor of this paper is young, vigorous and patriotic, and no doubt he will learn. But it might seem that he was almost guilty of that kind of vagueness and vaccilation which he would so rightly deprecate in the Ministers. However, we have to pay attention to these pundits. And now I find myself in the situation of part "Yes-man" and part "No-man" I entirely support the Amendment and the terms in which it has been moved and supported by hon. Friends opposite. I say "Yes," rather reluctantly to the first part of the Motion which the Prime Minister has moved. I am not absolutely persuaded that we ought to give up all our time. It may be that the compromise suggested by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) would provide a solution. But it is one thing to take away private Members' time and a very different thing to take away their power to initiate or even suggest legislation. One is to put a decent check upon the too prolific fathers of Bills, and the other is an operation which would have to be described in much more drastic terms. After all, this power of initiative is based upon the assumption, agreeable, I think, to private Members and not, I hope, offensive to others, that the stock of creative legislative wisdom does not cease at the southern end of the Treasury Bench. I see no reason, however grave the war may be, why that assumption should be abrogated. But there is more. Ministers have frequently and handsomely admitted that the rights of private Members in regard to the initiation of legislation may be good not only for the nation but for the Government. There are important questions which private Members can bring forward which Governments, for one reason and another, cannot touch. I have one particular example in my mind.

The Prime Minister, quoting Mr. Asquith, spoke of "controversial matters of academic interest." There are many controversial matters which are not of academic interest. Take the subject of betting or of football pools. Those are controversial matters but by no means of academic interest. The football pools have come back—in a form which I believe to be illegal, although that, I know, is a matter of dispute; and they are not taxed. Betting is not taxed even now. These are matters which may well have to be faced before this Session is out. I introduced a Betting Bill, which I should like to introduce again, but it will not be possible to do that if the rights of private Members in regard to initiating legislation are taken away for this Session. The Prime Minister said rightly yesterday, and I think we all agreed with him, that we have generous opportunities for general discussion in debates on the Adjournment, but he knows very well that it is impossible to discuss matters involving legislation on a general debate on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Take the Betting Bill. I proposed to make cash betting lawful and to confine off the course pool betting to fixed odds. There are one or two other details of that Bill which if I approached more closely you, Mr. Speaker, would stop me. It is only by the power that we have of producing Bills that we can raise these subjects. I hope the Prime Minister will consider what has been said very carefully. By his Motion he seems to be taking away a right which is valued by the private Members and valuable to the nation. Moreover, I cannot see what harm would be done by allowing private Members to introduce Bills under the Ten-Minute Rule. What, after all, is ten minutes at the end of questions? If the House does not like a Bill, it can be thrown out, and in any case if the Government think it a nuisance the Whips know how to deal with matters of that sort. In conclusion, although it is irrelevant and perhaps out of order, I have just heard from an hon. Member sitting next to me that this is his last attendance in the House after 21 years' membership, and I at least should like to give him a cheer.

3.23 p.m.

Colonel Wedgwood

I wish this Debate had not turned so much on the question of private Members' rights. I do not think private Members' time is specially important as an opportunity for individual Members securing the distinction of passing a Bill. The real advantage of private Members' time is the public advantage it affords to our constituents and to the community as a whole. The time of the House is taken up between the Government and the public, and if the Government now take away private Members' time they will be taking away opportunities for discussing questions which are of interest to the public, and will be depriving us of the opportunity of ventilating those questions. I do not think it is very convenient to have too many of these questions raised when the Government are very busy, but it is not wise to use the emergency of the war for side-tracking political education on questions which we shall have to discuss when the war is over. The Conservative attitude towards political education is, I am afraid, always the same; they do not want these questions raised, but it is in the interests of the country as a whole that they should be raised, and that we should carry certain private Members' Bills into law.

The ventilation of grievances and the introduction of Measures to deal with specific grievances is an advantage to the country generally. It is not, therefore, a question simply of depriving private Members of their rights, but of depriving the public of rights with which we are now concerned. From that point of view I should think that everybody in the House ought to be anxious to see the Amendment carried, and still more anxious to bring pressure upon the Government to find some substitute for the public right to discuss questions not initiated by the Government. Personally, I have no love for private Members' Bills, which are mostly badly drafted, and often seek to put some perfectly innocent person in prison. It is valuable, however, to have these questions discussed, however much we may disagree with those who bring them forward.

What is far more valuable is that we should have more time in this House in which to discuss the different new Ministries that have been set up. I do not know whether the Government have arranged to give us more than the 20 days per Session for discussing the various Supply Votes. There are all these new Ministries, and I submit that if the Government are going to take away the right to initiate discussion of Bills and Motions, they might give us more opportunities of discussing some of the vagaries of new Ministries. There is a public impression that a great deal of money is being wasted and that a great deal of unnecessary interference with the people is taking place. If they gave us those opportunities we should get a quid pro quo for what are called Private Members' rights. I hope that, however the Division goes, the Government will give much larger opportunities for discussion of Supply, so that every one of the new Departments that have been set up may have at least one day for discussion of its affairs each year.

3.28 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

Under our Constitution and Standing Orders, private Members have very little opportunity of doing anything and of bringing forward matters in which they are keenly interested. In the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves now, with the Opposition in co-operation with the Government in regard to so much of its programme in the prosecution of the War, it is all the more important that the little rights that small minorities in the House have had of expressing their point of view, should be safeguarded. Those opportunities were little enough in the past, and I think the Prime Minister should seriously consider allowing private Members still to have the right to introduce Bills under the Ten-Minute Rule. I know that that arrangement does not permit of very much, but it does at least give an opportunity for a particular Measure having some consideration. Moreover, it has a certain propaganda value. Much of the most important legislation that has been passed ultimately by the House of Commons was initiated by Private Members, very often after the Government and the Opposition have been very contemptuous about it. Ultimately they found that the hon. Member had something which was really worth while considering. So many rights are going at the present time that it appears to me that Germany, even if she is defeated in the field, will have a fair chance of winning in the region of ideas. This Motion is in line with the development of totalitarian government in this country. I certainly object to filching away the small rights of Private Members, and I hope that the Prime Minister will seriously consider allowing them to be retained.

3.31 p.m.

Mr. Poole

I must apologise for inflicting myself on the House on this matter. I am a comparatively young Member and I have not had the good fortune to be successful in the Ballot and introduced a private Members Bill. I cannot understand the argument which is being advanced in support of the Motion. Time seems to be the factor. How often is this House sitting? At the present moment it is a half-time House. We are sitting only three days a week, and if time is the factor which prevents private Members promoting legislation, what is there to prevent this House sitting on an additional day each week? The time factor is not the real reason behind the argument. How much time does Private Bill legislation take up? It is remarkably small; and time is not the real argument. The word "freedom" is banded about in this struggle, but the only freedom which we are asked to support is freedom to acquiesce in everything which the Government want to do. That is not a function which I desire for myself, or which, I think, should be the desire of the Opposition.

We desire to retain our freedom to criticise and our freedom to initiate legislation. Many of the Bills which pass through this House are to correct anomalies which are not revealed in Government Acts of Parliament until they are put into effect. I despair of knowing how a private Member is going to deal with many of the difficulties which arise among his constituents unless he has the opportunity of promoting small amending Bills to remove the anomalies which are revealed. I know of many cases, through my own correspondence, in which a private Members' small Bill is needed in order to correct the great hardship which is entailed upon individuals through mistakes in the drafting of Government legislation, and I am not prepared to subscribe to taking away this right from private Members. I hope the Government will seriously reconsider this matter and endeavour to meet us either by extending the sittings of the House or by allowing us to retain the limited right to initiate legislation.

3.36 p.m.

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the House will understand that the Government in no way desire to limit the work of Parliament and the assistance which hon. Members in all parts of the House can give to the ťask of prosecuting the war with the utmost possible energy. I freely acknowledge that the Debates which we have had upon measures connected with the war have been very helpful, and in some cases have enabled us to make modifications or alterations in our proposals which have been for the general benefiť. Therefore, I do not disagree with the right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in the illustration he gave of work of that kind. But we are not talking of that sort of thing at the present ťime. We are talking of private Members' Bills, and what we have to remember is that the country is expecting this House to give its whole time to the prosecution of the war. When the whole ťime is being taken by the Government, private Members' Bills which are introduced under the Ten-Minute Rule and go no further, are not contributing to the prosecution of the war. It is merely taking up the time of Parliament and, what is of equal importance, the time of the officials in the Departments, which should be given to more important matters.

The right hon. Gentleman very lightly brushed aside the precedents which I quoted in the last War. Whatever hon. Members may think of the political opinions of the late Lord Asquith, everybody knows that he was, at any rate, a greať parliamentarian and a great House of Commons man. There is no one who had a greater regard and respect for the rights of Members of Parliament, and he would have been the last to attempt to curtail the rights of private Members in time of peace. But, as he poinťed out, the situation is entirely different in time of war. May I quoťe what he said on 16th February, 1916?: Listening to this discussion, some of my hon. Friends seem to me to be exceedingly wanting in perspective. They do not seem even now to realise the conditions under which we are living. If they did they would appreciate more clearly than some of them seem to do that the country does not want a mass of private Member's legislation put upon the Table, printed at the public expense, never to be discussed, and there for no useful purpose of any sort or kind. The Government are less disposed than ever to curtail the liberties and privileges of this House, but under pressure of public duty they feel that the legislation of the House ought to be confined, in the conditions under which we live, to matters which are urgently necessary and considered necessary by those responsible for the effective prosecution of the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1916; Col. 74, Vol. 80.] That is precisely the position in which the Government find themselves to-day.

Mr. Foot

But Mr. Asquith accepted an Amendment.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member said that Mr. Asquith at that time gave an assurance that the Government itself would not introduce partisan or contentious legislation, but would confine legislation to matters connected with the prosecution of the war, and the hon. Member also said that no such assurance had been given by the present Government. In my remarks I intended to convey that assurance, but if I did not make it clear I give it now. This is a case where everybody must surrender a little of their rights which they would claim in ordinary circumstances, and while the Government are asking private Members to give up their right to introduce private Members' Bills they are themselves willing to place themselves under the restriction which I have mentioned.

Mr. Foot

Is it not a fact that at the end of his speech on 16th February, 1916, Mr. Asquith accepted an Amendment limiting the operation of the Motion to six weeks?

The Prime Minister

He did limit the motion at that time but it was continued later. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) pointed out that there might be subjects which in the ordinary course had been embodid in private Members' Bills and which were generally agreed as being desirable in themselves, and he asked whether it was not possible to give some opportunity for the consideration of such Measures. I think it would, but not necessarily in the way he suggested. I think it is conceivable, although perhaps it would not occur very often, that there might be such subjects which private Members would desire to bring to the attention of the Government and which would receive general acceptance in all parts of the House. There is nothing to prevent the Government from taking up such a Measure and bringing it in themselves. I think I may say generally that the Government certainly would not desire to take up a non possumus attitude in regard to such a suggestion, and that if it were found that there were Measures which hon. Members generally would like to see passed, the Government certainly would give most favourable consideration to anything of the kind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) complained that sufficient time had not been given between the moving of the Second Reading of Bills and subsequent debate on them. I recognise that under the pressure of the large amount of legislation we had to get through quickly, there was some ground for that complaint, but I hope that now we have got through the most urgent Measures, it will be possible in future to avoid bringing the various stages of Bills too close together, and that hon. Members may have an opportunity for consideration after the Second Reading of Bills and before they become the subject of further debate.

The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that I must give some reason for the proposal I was making. I think the reason is the same as that given by Mr. Asquith in the passages I have quoted. We want generally to let the country see that the war has to take precedence over everything else, that we are not going to spend time in academic discussions, in discussing legislation which cannot be brought to a conclusion, and that we have to allow the Departments and the Departmental officials to give their whole time to the Measures which are necessary for winning the war.

Mr. Attlee

I do not understand the Prime Minister's reference to the Departments, because unless a Bill is acceded to by the House and goes beyond Second Reading, the Departments have nothing to do with it.

The Prime Minister

That is not so. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have had sufficient experience when in office to know that if a Bill is drafted and published, it must be examined by the Departments.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

Will the Prime Minister answer the question that was put by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) as to whether members of another place have the right to initiate legislation?

The Prime Minister

We have no jurisdiction in this House over another place.

Miss Wilkinson

Is it not a fact that a Private Member's Bill reaches its Second Reading and is not touched by the Department, and that departmental work comes after that? It is not even proof-read by the Department, but by the Member himself, and the Department has nothing whatever to do with it until it goes beyond Second Reading?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady is mistaken. All Bills have to be examined by the Departments and this takes up a certain amount of time which in present circumstances ought not to be so taken.

Mr. G. Macdonald

If in another place a Bill obtained a Second Reading and eventually was passed, would it come to this House? Does the Prime Minister tell us that he has no jurisdiction to deal with such a situation?

The Prime Minister

We have no jurisdiction in this House as to what they should do in another place.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Surely, the Prime Minister is under a misapprehension. Under the Ten-Minute Rule, there is a Motion asking for leave to bring in a Bill and the Bill qua Bill does not exist at that stage. It is a mere title. How can that involve work on the part of the Departments when they do not know the text of the Bill?

The Prime Minister

As soon as the text of the Bill is made public, of course the Department has to examine it.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 115.

Division No. 1.] AYES. [3.46 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Drewe, C. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Albery, Sir Irving Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Lancaster, Lieut.-Colonel C. G.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Duncan, J. A. L. Leigh, Sir J.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's) Eastwood, J. F. Levy, T.
Aske, Sir R. W. Eckersley, P. T. Lewis, O.
Assheton, R. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Liddall, W. S.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lindsay, K. M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lipson, D. L.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Ellis, Sir G. Little, Sir E. Graham-
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Little, Dr. J. (Down)
Beechman, N. A. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lloyd, G. W.
Bird, Sir R. B. Erskine-Hill, A. G. Loftus, P. C.
Blair, Sir R. Fildes, Sir H. Lucas, Major Sir J. M.
Bossom, A. C. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Lyons, A. M.
Brass, Sir W. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley) MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Broadbridge, Sir G T. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. M'Connell, Sir J.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. McCorquodale, M. S.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Gowar, Sir R. V. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, H. W. Gridley, Sir A. B. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Caine, G. R. Hall- Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) McKie, J. H.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Magnay, T.
Carver, Major W. H. Grimston, R. V. Maitland, Sir Adam
Cary, R. A. Gritten, W. G. Howard Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hannah, I. C. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cazalet, Major V. A. (Chippenham) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Markham, S. F.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Harris, Sir P. A. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Channon, H. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Chorlton, A. E. L. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Mitchell, Col. H. (Brentf'd & Chisw'k)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Molson, A. H. E.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Colman, N. C. D. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Hepworth, J. Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Higgs, W. F. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Craven-Ellis, W. Holmes, J. S. Nall, Sir J.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Hopkinson, A. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Horsbrugh, Florence Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Nicolson, Hen. H. G.
Cross, R. H. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Crowder, J. F. E. Hume, Sir G. H. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Culverwell, C. T. Hurd, Sir P. A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Davidson, Viscountess James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Palmer, G. E. H.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Jennings, R. Peake, O.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Peters, Dr. S. J.
Davison, Sir W. H. Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
De la Bère, R. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Plugge, Capt. L. F.
Denman, Hon. R. D. King-Hall, Commander W. S. R. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Doland, G. F. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Purbrick, R. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Pym, L. R. Simmonds, O. E. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Radford, E. A. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A Thomas, J. P. L.
Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st) Touche, G. C.
Ramsden, Sir E. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Train, Sir J.
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Tree, A. R. L. F.
Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Smithers, Sir W. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Reid. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Snadden, W. McN. Wakefield, W. W.
Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Somerset, T. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Ross, Lt.-Col. Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsand)
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Warrender, Sir V.
Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld) Wayland, Sir W. A.
Russell, Sir Alexander Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Weston, W. G.
Salmon, Sir I. Storey, S. Wells, Sir Sydney
Salt, E. W. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.) Strickland, Captain W. F. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Samuel, M. R. A. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Sandeman, Sir N. S. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Sanderson, Sir F. B. Suteliffe, H.
Selley, H. R. Tasker, Sir R. I. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Shakespeare, G. H. Tate, Mavis C. Captain Dugdale and Mr. Munro.
Acland, Sir R. T. D. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Adams, D. (Consett) Grenfell, D. R. Muff, G.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Waylor, T. E.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Groves, T. E. Oliver, G. H.
Adamson, W. M. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Paling, W.
Ammon, C. G. Hall. G. H. (Aberdare) Parker, J.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Pearson, A.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hardie, Agnes Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Banfield, J. W. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Poole, C. C.
Barnes, A. J. Hayday, A. Price, M. P.
Barr, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell, D. J. K.
Batey, J. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)
Beaumont, H. (Batley) Hills, A. (Pontefract) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Horabin, T. L. Riley, B.
Bromfield, W. Isaacs, G. A. Ritson, J.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jackson, W. F. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Buchanan, G. Jagger, J. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Burke, W. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Sexton, T. M.
Charleton, H. C. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Shinwell, E.
Cluse, W. S. John, W. Silkin, L.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Collindridge, F. Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Cove, W. G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Daggar, G. Kirkwood, D. Stephen, C
Dalton, H. Lathan, G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'njs)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhlll) Lawson, J. J. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leach, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leonard, W. Thorne, W.
Dobbie, W. Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Logan, D. G. Viant, S. P.
Ede, J. C. Lunn, W. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwelty) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Wilkinson, Ellen
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) McGhee, H. G. Williams, E. J. (Ogmare)
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) McGovern, J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Foot, D. M. MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Woodburn, A.
Gallacher, W. Maxton, J. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Gardner, B. W. Montague, F. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Garro Jones, G. M. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Mathers and Mr. Whiteley.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That, during the present Session,—

  1. (1) Government Business do have precedence at every Sitting;
  2. (2) no Public Bills other than Government Bills be introduced;
  3. (3) whenever the House adjourns from Thursday to the following Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday Members desiring to give 116 Notice of Questions for Oral Answer on a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday may send Notices of such Questions to the Clerks at the Table, and any Notices of Questions so received by them before Five of the Clock on a Friday or Monday or Tuesday can be accepted as Notices of Questions for Oral Answer on the following Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, respectively, and be printed and circulated with the Votes."