HC Deb 03 December 1941 vol 376 cc1141-4
Mr. Lees-Smith

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of the large number of Members who wish to take part in the Debate on Maximum National Effort, he will make any arrangements for an additional day to be given for this Debate?

The Lord Privy Seal

We are quite ready to meet the wishes of the House and, as so many Members wish to speak, I think it would be generally convenient if we made arrangements for the Debate on the Government proposals to be continued on the Third Sitting Day. We propose, therefore, to ask the House to pass the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill through its remaining stages on the Third Sitting Day and then resume the Debate on the Government Motion, which will be concluded at the end of that day. This will mean the postponement of the Education (Scotland) Bill.

It may be convenient to the House if I make a statement in regard to the arrangements for the new Bill, which will follow the passing of the Motion. At the end of the Debate on the Third Sitting Day we shall ask leave to bring in the necessary Bill. Copies will be available to Members that same day together with an explanatory White Paper. We propose to take the Second Reading on the First Sitting Day after this week, and in view of its urgency it will be necessary for us to ask the House to take the Committee and remaining stages on the following days so that the Bill may be sent to another place the same week.

A further statement on Business will be made at the usual time. In arranging the programme we shall endeavour to meet the wishes of the House, but I think I ought to warn hon. Members that it may be necessary for us to sit on an additional day following each of the next two series of Sitting Days.

Mr. Lees-Smith

In regard to the Committee stage of the Bill, does the Lord Privy Seal recognise that we cannot at this moment say how many days will be needed for such a very complex Measure, and will he bear in mind that it may be necessary to adjust the Business accordingly?

Mr. Attlee

Certainly, we are prepared to give the fullest possible time, and there is always the possibility of an extension. If, when Members see the Bill, they need a greater length of time, we may have to meet a day earlier, which I understand does not meet the convenience of Members. However, I think that there will be adequate time in which to consider the Bill.

Mr. A. Bevan

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are in a position to indicate your attitude towards the Amendments to the Prime Minister's Motion which appear on the Order Paper? May I ask you to bear in mind, in coming to your decision, that these Amendments have been prepared under great Parliamentary difficulties? We did not know what the Motion was to be until the weekend, when Members had dispersed. We were faced with the Prime Minister's Motion yesterday, and we had to leave the Debate in order to consider whether an Amendment should be put down. May I submit to you, Sir, that the Govern- ment ought to consider the convenience of the House a little more than this?

Mr. Speaker

The House will realise that this procedure of having a Government Motion prior to the introduction of a Bill is somewhat new. It is new in a sense, but in a sense it is old. The old practice of reading a Bill the First time has been done away with long ago, and we are reverting to it now in the form of a Motion. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I am not prepared to say. In regard to the Amendments, I would point out that I am always anxious to meet the convenience of the House but these particular Amendments make discussion as inconvenient as they possibly can. Supposing I took either of the Amendments, it would cut the Debate off from the Motion and confine discussion to something quite new and different. I should have to be very strict in my Ruling and see that the real subject-matter of the Motion was not discussed, and that the Debate was confined to the subjects raised in the Amendments. If, in order to suit the convenience of the House, another form of Amendment was put down, I should be prepared to consider it, so that the Amendment and the Motion might be discussed together. The House must understand that these Amendments suggest the addition of words at the end of the Motion, which would confine the discussion entirely to the Amendments and not to the Motion. If the Amendments left out certain words, so that I could put the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," it would make discussion possible on both the Amendments and the Motion. That is the only way in which I can consider Amendments to this Motion.

Mr. Bevan

The House is, I am sure, very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for your Ruling. Do I understand that if an Amendment is put on the Order Paper which rejects the Motion of the Prime Minister, or refuses assent to it, because of certain things not being done, it will therefore be in Order?

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment should take the form of what is known in this House as a "reasoned Amendment." Reasoned Amendments, which are often put down in the case of a Second Reading, seek to leave out all the words after "That," in order to say something else. The Question is then put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," which allows the House to discuss the substance of the Question and the Amendment.

Mr. Stephen

Would that allow the two questions to be put? It appears that there are two questions here. Firstly, there is the general question of the approval of the Government's Motion, and, secondly, there is the question, in which Members are also interested, that the Motion should not be approved unless contingent steps are taken. I hope that the House will have an opportunity to vote on each of these questions. For example, I and my colleagues are not in favour of the Motion even if the Government agreed to this contingent legislation. We are against conscription altogether.

Mr. Speaker

I would advise the hon. Members to put their heads together with the other hon. Members and devise an Amendment which I should be able to consider.