§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move,That during the present Session—In the course of my speech yesterday I informed the House of the Government's intention to propose a Motion to take up the whole time of the House for Government Business, and I gave an explanation of the reasons for asking Private Members to forgo their rights during the Session on which we are now entering, following the precedent of the last four years. The Motion now before the House is in the usual form, except that it contains a new proposal, which I also mentioned yesterday, in the interests of Private Members, namely, to enable them to have the right of that half-an-hour at the end of Business for raising matters on the Adjournment. I think there has been in the past quite a definite hardship, but I am quite sure that in exercising that right hon. Members, as they always do, will notify the Minister concerned and realise that in a very protracted Debate it is sometimes difficult for the Minister to be present all the time. This additional right does, of course, make it a little uncertain as to when the Minister will be called upon. I do not 76 think I need repeat what I said yesterday, namely, that it is the desire of the Government to give Members every opportunity for raising points in which they are interested. We shall endeavour throughout this Session to give all the facilities we can, so that the House can express its opinion on public matters.
- (1) Government business shall have precedence at every sitting;
- (2) The following provisions shall have effect as respects public Bills:
- (a) no Bills other than Government Bills shall be introduced;
- (b) whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of amendments, new clauses or new schedules (whether they are to be moved in Committee or on Report) received by the Clerks at the Table at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on the last day of adjournment may be accepted by them as if the House was sitting;
- (c) notices of amendments, new clauses or new schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before a Bill has been read a second time;
- (d) a new clause may be moved on Report without notice, notwithstanding anything in Standing Order No. 37.
- (3) Whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of questions received by the Clerks at the Table at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on the last day of adjournment may be accepted—
- (a) if received before 4.30 p.m. on the penultimate day of adjournment, as if they had been given on that day at a time when the House was sitting, and
- (b) if received thereafter, as if they had been given on the last day of adjournment at a time when the House was sitting.
- (4) For the purposes of this Order the expression 'day of adjournment' means a day on which the House is not sitting, not being a Saturday or Sunday.
- (5) Paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 1 shall have effect as if all the words after 'clock' were omitted and the following words were substituted therefor:—
- 'or, if proceedings exempted as herein after provided from the operation of this Order are under discussion at or after the hour appointed under paragraph (3) of this Order for the interruption of business, half-an-hour after the conclusion of such proceedings, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without question put'
(6) The following paragraphs shall have effect in substitution for paragraphs (8) and (9) of Standing Order No. 1:—
- (8) A motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown, either with or without notice and either at the commencement of public business or at any time thereafter, to be decided without amendment or debate, to the effect either—
- (a) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order 'Sittings of the House'; or
- (b) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order 'Sittings of the House' for a special period after the hour appointed for the interruption of business.
(9) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the business so specified shall not be interrupted if it is under discussion at the hour appointed for the interruption of business, may be entered upon at any hour although opposed and, if under discussion when the business is postponed under the provisions of any Standing Order, may be resumed and proceeded with, though opposed, after the interruption of business. Provided that business exempted for a specified period shall not be entered upon, or be resumed after the expiration of that period, and, if not concluded earlier, shall be interrupted at the end of that period, and the relevant provisions of paragraphs (3) and (4) of this Standing Order shall then apply. (10) Provided always that not more than one motion under paragraph (8) may be made at any one sitting, and that, after any business exempted from the operation of the order is disposed of, the remaining business of the sitting shall be dealt with according to the provisions applicable to business taken after the hour appointed for the interruption of business."
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid (St. Marylebone)
The Motion that is before the House asks Private Members to forgo their privilege of having one day every week for Private Members' Motions, for having one day a week for Private Members' Bills, and it also asks them to forgo their right to introduce Bills under the Ten Minutes' Rule. This has been an annual war-time procedure, to which, I think the Government will agree, Private Members have submitted with good grace, but on this occasion we have the agreeable information that we are to be rewarded for our forbearance by a nice dollop of jam with the pill.
During the war practically the only time that has been left for Private Members' Business has been the daily Adjournment period. But the definition of this remaining Private Members' Parliamentary privilege has been "something he seldom gets." Recently, out of 16 consecutive Sitting Days, 13 Members who had been waiting, sometimes for many weeks, for a chance of introducing a matter that concerned them, were deprived of that opportunity because Government Business invariably overran the allotted Adjournment period. In sporting parlance, a Member's chance worked out at 5 to 1 against. On all these abortive occasions Ministers have had to go to a considerable amount of trouble to prepare their briefs, and come down to the House and all of no avail.
To-day, in a concession that is of the utmost importance to Private Members, the Government are prepared to make certain that if a Member has been allotted the Adjournment period on a Sitting Day, he gets it, providing of course, that he is in his place and that he catches Mr. Speaker's eye at the psychological moment. Looking at this concession from another angle, it means that there will be possibly 50 more opportunities per year for Private Members to initiate their own Debates, and I think the House will agree that this amounts to a major Parliamentary reform. As I and a number 77 of my colleagues had a Motion on the Paper asking that this privilege should be granted and that the Standing Orders should be altered accordingly, I feel sure that those who have associated themselves with me in this would desire me to thank the Government for the very practical regard that they, the Government, have shown for the rights and privileges of Private Members.
This reform would not have been brought about if it had not had the approval of the Government Whips. I myself have not always looked with approval on the Government Whips—a sentiment that has been heartily reciprocated by "the boys in the back room." When I sponsored this certain half-hour Adjournment period it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that it flitted through their thoughts, "Why should we hand the hon. and gallant gentleman for Marylebone and one or two other hon. Members that we have in mind a certain opportunity of making nuisances of themselves?" But if I had ventured a bet that in the circumstances a spoke would have been put in that wheel, I frankly admit that I should have lost. As it is, I am faintly bewildered and slightly disconcerted. There is a popular expression, "To kill with kindness." Is it possible that that has been tried as a last resort? Anyhow, I do know this, that as the powers-that-be are prepared to concede this welcome privilege, I, for one, do not intend to abuse it.
§ Petty Officer Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
While joining with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in thanking the Prime Minister for this concession, I hope I may say without causing any disharmony that I wish we had a little more. It appears to me that the time has come at this stage of the war when more of the rights of Private Members should be restored. Eight years ago I shyly intervened on a similar Motion. I lave no reason to regret what I said then, and I propose to say it again. It may be said, I think, without offence to anyone that creative power, originating talent and philanthropic impetus are not necessarily confined to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who find their way for one reason or another to the Ministerial benches. It is often remarked nowadays that this House is "old and jaded." That may be. But when I peer through 78 the heavy whiskers of the older Members I see new faces everywhere, especially over there. It is a sad and shocking thought that there are, I suppose, a hundred Members of the House who are perhaps delighted by this little half hour the Government have thrown them, as men throw buns to a bear, because they do not know what the rights of Members were in the good old days. Perhaps, as one of the hoary veterans, I may explain to the new boys. We had first of all Wednesdays—perhaps I should say second Sitting Days—reserved for private Members. On those days after a complicated series of Ballots we were permitted to discuss our own Motions. I cannot quite remember whether those Motions were subject to the hamstringing rule about proposing anything that involved legislation. I must warn the boys who come here eager to make a better world and think they are going to do a great deal in a creative way in Debates on the Adjournment that when they come to the meat of the matter they will be told by you, Sir, that they cannot suggest anything that involves legislation and therefore no concession in the way of Adjournment Debates is of any value to anyone in the creative, constructive line, as opposed to mere comment or criticising. Those Debates on Wednesdays were great ventilators and sometimes led to very important results. My practical suggestion is that if we are going to sit for X days I suggest that when the Government do not require X-plus-one day that day should be given over to Private Members' Motions. I leave it to the experts to work out the machinery.
With regard to paragraph (2), about Government Bills, I must again tell the new boys that on Fridays Private Members for the first two-thirds of the Session were able to introduce Private Bills. They had always a great educative value, whether they came to anything or not. They added to the education of Members, because it is very easy to sit in the smoking room and say "Why do not the Government do this?" It is very easy to criticise the drafting of a Government Bill. But it is a very different thing when they have to do the thing themselves, to express clearly what is in their mind, to satisfy the Rules of the Public Bill Office and so on. It is educative for them and also for the public, because all kinds of matters are discussed which 79 would never be discussed while the Government had control of the whole of the time. It was an education for everybody. Sometimes the Government said that the Bill was a "Tinkering" Measure and too trifling to be discussed; sometimes they said it was much too big for a Private Member. The House was Counted or talked out: there were lively Debates and manoeuvres, and it all gave the Private Member something to exercise his wits upon. If all the junior Ministers had had that drill perhaps there would be fewer scenes of ineptitude at that Box. And sometimes of course there were some real results. I do not suggest that there is time at this stage of the war to restore all the rights of Private Members; but I suggest that we should be entitled to introduce Bills up to the First Reading stage, that is to say, that they should be ordered to be printed. That would have two effects. It would make it necessary for Private Members to put their ideas into concrete legislative form, and also there would be a reservoir of Bills ready both for public discussion and for the day when Private Members' time is restored. For I know exactly what will happen. On the first day when the Government do not wish to take Private Members' time it will be said, "Private Members have no Bills ready, and they had better not have their time at all after all."
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that the introduction of Private Members' Bills should be done under the Ten Minutes' Rule?
§ Petty Officer Herbert
I do not see why we should not be able to do that: but they would have to stop there. I quite agree that we cannot have the whole thing back, but I hope the Government will consider both points, (1) that when they do not want X-plus-one day they will let Private Members by some arrangement discuss Motions, and (2) that we be allowed at least to have Bills printed. Members should be able in some degree to come here and say, "Take it or leave it, here is my constructive contribution to the law of the land, and the well-being of the people."
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
I have a great deal of sympathy with the views expressed by the two hon. and gallant Mem- 80 bers who have addressed the House. I think that hon. Members will generally agree that the old method of Private Members' days and the right of Private Members to introduce a Bill or to present a Motion was extremely valuable, and it was a great pity it was abandoned. I do not pretend that at this stage it is possible to resume the old method, but if the Government could consider whether occasionally, when there is no pressure of business, it is possible for Private Members, not to introduce a Bill because I do not think that would be appropriate, but to submit a Motion which could be discussed, it would be extremely useful. Hon. Members sacrificed an extremely valuable privilege when this was taken from them. Most hon. Members who were here before the war will recall the interesting and, indeed, exotic Debates we had, particularly on Fridays. They were frequently exotic, particularly when my hon. and gallant Friend the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) intervened. There were occasions when he introduced Bills. I am not sure whether it is desirable to introduce Bills now because, apart from one or two, they never came to anything.
§ Petty Officer Herbert
Samuel Plimsoll began his great career by introducing—at first unsuccessfully—a great Bill in this House.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That would naturally encourage me to ask for a resumption of the old method. What I particularly wanted to say to the Lord President of the Council was this. The Motion before us provides a limited and modified concession which in the circumstances we are bound to accept, but I wonder whether it could be tidied up. The present method is that if hon. Members are dissatified with replies to Questions, they give notice to raise the matter on the Adjournment. Some hon. Members do not take advantage of the opportunity, and they fall out. That is a disadvantage to other hon. Members who are debarred, because of lack of time, from presenting their point of view on the Adjournment. Would it not be possible to state on the Order Paper at the beginning of each week, or even every day, the Adjournment notices that have been presented by hon. Members? I understand that there is an arrangement to furnish such information through the usual channels, and that is so far satisfactory, but it is not generally known to hon. Members. 81 If it appeared on the Order Paper, we should know what was coming up, and in addition it would meet the point raised by the Lord President of the Council. He mentioned the special difficulty that Ministers are in. They are perhaps engaged in a Debate during the day and have to hurry off to a conference or to ordinary administrative tasks, or perhaps they are tired or want a meal. If they knew from the Order Paper that on a particular day they were to be called upon to be present to hear a Member put his case, it would be valuable to them. I think that something of the kind should be attempted. We must not lightly abandon all the privileges of Private Members, and if on occasion the Government found it possible to allow hon. Members to discuss Motions of a private character, it would be greatly appreciated by everybody in the House.
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
I think that on the whole Private Members are disposed to accept the proposals of the Government on this occasion, particularly with regard to the loss of the right of moving Motions on Wednesdays and Private Bills on Fridays. I would like to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to give us a little more specific information about the Ten Minutes' Rule. It can, I think, hardly be suggested that Private Members should not have the right to introduce Bills under the Ten Minutes' Rule because of insufficient time. The time factor cannot be of great importance. I shall be glad if the Deputy Prime Minister will state what in the Government's view is really the grave objection to allowing Private Members to exercise their old right of introducing a Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
May I follow that point? The hon. Member has referred to the Ten-Minutes' Rule, but that was the unusual method of presenting a Bill. The customary method was merely to present it. Eight years ago I introduced a Bill and got it through all its stages. It was an agreed Bill. On two occasions I have succeeded in carrying Bills in which there was agreement. There was no Debate here, but certain Amendments were made in another place, and these were got through at eleven o'clock at night without difficulty. I see no reason why the Government should deprive Members of the right to present Bills so that they could be read the First time and printed, 82 and so that, if there is no opposition, they could get through all their stages. That has happened on a great many occasions. I see no reason why we should be debarred from that right. It is unfortunate that we are discussing this Motion without having had prior notice of it. There is no need for it to be passed to-day. It could be taken later. In the meantime my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) might slip one or two Bills in, but I do not think he will have any ready. The Chief Whip has been very good in meeting the desires of Private Members for Debates at times when the Government's programme was not pressing. The Government, however, are going to have a heavy programme of legislation. If they attempt to carry the Education Bill, for example, on the Floor of the House, we shall be for weeks discussing nothing else until we are bored stiff with it, however important it may be. Therefore, the opportunity for Private Members to have days for discussing important matters will be restricted. We have to realise that we shall have to sit more days in the week and that we are getting to the time when our main function will not be the conduct of the war but making preparations for the peace. We must face up to that.
Is it necessary to pass this Motion to-day? Why not postpone its consideration until next Sitting Day, in order that the Government may consider the various points that have been raised? We are grateful for the concession that has been made. I was one of those associated with the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) in the Motion which has led to this discussion. I would ask the Government, however, to consider whether it is really urgent that this Motion should be carried to-day. I do not think anybody has got a Bill ready to slip in. If he has, no harm will be done if we postpone this Motion so that the Government can consider the various points raised.
§ Major Sir George Davies (Yeovil)
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) said that Private Members had been called upon to give up a great many of their privileges. That is true, and in the exigencies of the war it has been essential, and it has been done without too much grumbling. I think, however, that the principle here raised goes much further 83 than the mere question of the voluntary surrender of many of our privileges. We have had to face from outside, sometimes from inside, a good deal of ignorant criticism about the lack of activities inside the House of Commons. Some of that criticism is entirely misplaced, but in my submission some of it is deserved and arises from the fact that so many of the privileges of Private Members have been surrendered that there has been a loss of vitality in this great Parliament of ours, which is not only the mouthpiece of the people who have elected us but also an assembly of those whose prime consideration is the welfare of the nation. When we surrender everything, as it were, to the Government there are two bad effects: It kills the real, live spirit of the House of Commons as a whole, and it tends to allow those in the responsible position of Ministers to think they have merely to arrange matters among themselves and bring a fait accompli before us, and that we have, in the briefest possible time, to give our approval thereto in order to promote the more efficient carrying on of the war. I believe that is a dangerous principle that has had very undesirable effects on the live activities of this House.
This is not the time to go into details, but there was the case of the elimination of Standing Committees. I am glad to know that that question is being reconsidered. A Standing Committee affords an opportunity for giving more meticulous examination to the actual details of a Bill than can possibly be given in Committee of the whole House. But there is something more important. We have what I may call as an old Member, a large "new entry" in this House. Quite a number of Members have come into Parliament without electoral contests, and they have never known what the real hard working technique of the House of Commons is. Whatever changes there may be when we have another General Election, I think it will be disastrous if there is not a large proportion of Members who have had some training of the kind that we older Members have been through in our earlier years, to which they are utter strangers. It is true that some may say that a debate upon a Resolution or the introduction of a Ten Minutes' Rule Bill is just beating the air, because nothing practical comes of it. 84 That may be true from one point of view, but from a long point of view I believe they are fundamental factors in the life of this House. Therefore, without making any detailed suggestions such as have already been put forward, with which I find myself in considerable sympathy, although there are difficulties whichever way we look, I urge upon the Government that they should go as far as possible in restoring facilities to Private Members rather than try to swing in the opposite direction and give as few as possible. We are all anxious to promote the war effort of the nation, but for the considerations I have endeavoured to put forward I believe the Government would be well advised to follow the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) to postpone immediate action on this matter and give it a little further consideration. Above all, the Government should seriously consider to what extent they are justified in restoring to us a measure of those privileges which we have cheerfully surrendered, a sacrifice which, I humbly submit, has had rather a deteriorating influence on us.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
I should like to ask the Government to reconsider the two points which have just been raised, the restoration of Standing Committees and the other, which I consider personally of more importance, the re-introduction of the Ten Minutes' Rule for Bills. I am one of the comparatively few Members who have been able to get a Ten Minutes' Bill through the House without any discussion at all. A reply which was given to a Question indicated that an anomaly had been discovered in one of the Public Health Acts, and I considered it advisable to introduce a small Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule to end that anomaly. The Minister of Health at that time supported the Bill, and it went through the House. The Committee stage lasted not more than ten minutes. It also passed the other House. Very little time was spent upon it—practically none at all. The result of passing that Bill was that many people who might have been evicted from their houses have been permitted to remain. That is a small example, but there have been many other Bills introduced under the Ten Minutes' Rule which have not caused any great loss of time. Even with an opposed Bill, it only means that it is moved with a speech 85 lasting ten minutes and is opposed for ten minutes, and then goes to Committee if it is passed. It may take time in Committee, and it may be opposed there or it may get through, but the time the Government lose is certainly not very great. I think the Government ought at least to restore to Members the small privilege of being able to introduce Bills under the Ten Minutes' Rule.
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
I should like to add my voice to that of other Members who have asked the Government to consider whether they could not go further than this Motion proposes to go. Even if this Motion is adopted, the right of Private Members will still be restricted to the opportunity of raising matters on the Adjournment. I do not regard that as affording at all an adequate opportunity to Private Members. In the first place, there is a limit to the problems one can raise on the Adjournment. The Adjournment may be a suitable occasion for raising a personal case of injustice, but it is not an opportunity for raising matters of far-reaching importance. The second difficulty is that there is no finality in raising matters on the Adjournment. At best the Private Member has only some 12 or 15 minutes in which to state his case, because he must leave the Minister a corresponding time in which to reply, and whatever the Minister says, whether it be satisfactory or unsatisfactory, that exhausts the opportunity, so there is no finality about it. The third difficulty is that there can be no vote. When a Member introduces a Motion he can divide the House upon it, but he cannot divide the House upon the Adjournment. I support the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that we should put on the Order Paper each day the name of the Member who has the Adjournment and the subject with which he is going to deal. Most of us only get to know the subject by accident, and it would be for our convenience to know beforehand.
The most important thing I want to say is that I do not believe there is any solution for this problem except that of meeting on more days of the week and giving more time to Private Members. There has been a good deal of criticism outside, whether well founded or not, about our meeting only on three days a week. In the past we used to meet on 86 five days a week, and then the Private Member did get a reasonable look in. In those days, too, we did not sit for only seven hours a day, but we sat for as long as the occasion required, and sometimes that was all night. There has been a tremendous cutting down of the total amount of Parliamentary time and a savage cutting away of the rights of Private Members. I urge upon the Government to reconsider this matter. By giving us the opportunity to raise things on the Adjournment every day the time in which a Member will get the Adjournment will be reduced from three months to six weeks. I submit that the Government's proposals do not meet the case of Private Members, and they ought to come to us again with further proposals based upon the idea of giving us more Parliamentary time and making a definite allocation of more time to Private Members.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
I want to put forward one or two points, partly for the consideration of the Government and partly for the consideration of those "new boys," to whom the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) alluded. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the value of Private Members' legislation was in any way to be gauged by the number of Private Bills which reached the Statute Book in days past. A few Bills initiated by Private Members did reach the Statute Book. The hon. and gallant Member and I have both been associated with successful Private Members' Bills. Much more frequently what happened was that the Private Member would introduce a Bill, perhaps on one of the Private Members' days, and would bring it forward Session after Session. He would manage to roll it up the hill as far as time allowed each Session. Before I was a Member of the House I remember no fewer than four Bills which were introduced on the initiative of a body of women with which I was associated. We got Private Members to take the Bill up, and they brought it in, sometimes getting it as far as the Report stage and sometimes as far as only the Second Reading. Afterwards, there was no further time for it.
Nevertheless, the introduction of those Bills obliged Government Departments to go thoroughly into the case for the Bill, and it resulted in evidence being accumu- 87 lated so that later the Department could take over the matter and introduce their own Bill, and in that way something was done, and Private Members' legislation brought about results. Also the Private Members put their proposals forward in a much more concrete and uniform way in a Bill than they would have done in merely talking about them on the Adjournment, and Government Departments were obliged to do a great deal of constructive work in thinking matters out and getting evidence about them before legislation was actually accomplished. I think something could be done without taking up too much of the time of Parliament or of the Government and that it would be very valuable if the procedure could be adopted by which Private Bills were allowed to go to a certain stage, even if they were not carried through altogether. I hope some restoration of Private Members' time may be possible, but, on the other hand, the time of Private Members would be involved, taking them away from their work in their constituencies, and it would mean a very heavy drain on the Ministers who had to attend, when they ought to be getting on with the war rather than debating other matters in the House of Commons. I do beg the Government to give very careful consideration to the question of how far they can restore Private Members' legislation rights without putting too great a burden upon themselves or upon their Departments.
§ Mr. Attlee
The hon. Lady has put before the House some very real considerations in her concluding remarks. We do want to give the utmost scope to Private Members, but we must remember that we have to do those things which are essential for the carrying-on of the war. I doubt whether hon. Members quite realise how much time has been given to Private Members. If hon. Members will carry their minds back to the Private Members' days, I would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Sir G. Davies) that those Private. Members' days were not, as a rule, the best attended, although they might have been, and often were, valuable in ventilating particular subjects. Most of the time of the House was taken by Government Business, and unless people were prepared to put down a Vote of Censure they could 88 not get another day. During the last Session there were 27½ days given for Motions on the Adjournment, some on the war and some on other subjects, during which there had been opportunities for Private Members to raise all kinds of matters. The Private Member has been looked after to quite a large extent during the last four years, and during the last year.
§ Sir H. Williams
Surely there were many occasions when the Prime Minister or some other notabilities occupied the whole time and the Private Member did not get a look in.
§ Mr. Attlee
Certain of the Debates were opened, it is true, by the Prime Minister, but I am not aware that Private Members were unable to get in, or even front bench Members, like the hon. Gentleman.
Let me now look at some of the suggestions that have been made. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) made the very interesting suggestion that we should put upon the Order Paper the name of the Member and his subject for the Adjournment each day. That is a matter we might consider, but I would like to put it before the House that one of the purposes of raising matters on the Adjournment is to deal with something which requires instant redress. If the matter became a routine and it became established that always, at the end of every evening, there was a chance for somebody, the whole time would get filled up. We should then have to make elaborate arrangements. As hon. Members know, in the past there were often a number of matters for the Adjournment, and it was often arranged between the Members as to which went first. It is a consideration that we ought to bear in mind, but I will certainly look into the matter. The question of which member is called on the Adjournment is a matter for Mr. Speaker.
The next point is with regard to the Ten Minutes' Bill. Without taking a certain amount of time, even if facilities were obtained for getting such a Bill through into law, it is difficult to see how it would fit in with the present arrangements in war-time. I doubt whether it would be very impressive to have a number of Bills introduced on subjects which would almost necessarily be unconnected with the war. We must remember 89 that for such Bills to go through, as the hon. Lady said, would involve Ministers who are fairly hard pressed, and their staffs, who are also hard pressed, going into these Bills. If hon. Members look back, I think they will find that the greater part of the Private Members' Bills tended to fall upon certain Ministers, particularly those dealing with social services, such as health, and it would be a very big burden upon those Ministers.
On the whole, looking back, I think a very large amount of time is given to Private Members. We have tried to meet what I think is a real grievance, and that is the failure to get the Adjournment. Let me say to the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) that that was not due so much to Government Business as to the fact that appeals were made to the Government that they should extend the hours of sitting. The matter originated, too, because our times had been shortened. With regard to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil, I stated yesterday that we are going to look into the point of the Standing Committees. I entirely agree with him that it is unsatisfactory that a large number of Members should be in the House who have not had the practice and the discipline of Committee work upstairs. That is why we are going to look into the matter, but I can see no reason at the present moment why this Motion should be postponed. We should only have to trample over the whole ground again.
§ Sir H. Williams
It might be a different field to walk over, because the Government might reconsider the matter if we postponed it.
§ Mr. Attlee
We will take into consideration all these points, many of which are not closely connected with the Motion. I therefore ask the House to give us this Motion now.
§ Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
I agree that the Government have been extremely generous in giving Private Members time for discussion when the Government have learned that there is a widespread desire in the House for a dis- 90 cussion on some particular subject, but such Debates have never taken place on Motions. For example, other hon. Members and I put down a Motion about Service pay and allowances. Because there was a widespread feeling in the House that that matter should be discussed, a day was given, but we could not vote on it. We were given an opportunity for a discussion on the Adjournment, but we were given no opportunity of dividing the House should the Government's attitude be unsatisfactory. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and I would ask that, before the Motion is put, the Government might say whether, in giving time to Private Members for a discussion on a particular subject, they will also see that if there is a Motion on the Order Paper a vote may take place on that Motion.
§ Mr. Attlee
We are trying to meet the point by seeing whether we can widen the scope of debate in Supply. It will be agreed that what we want is to unite us all in this war, and sometimes a Motion could only tend to divide us unnecessarily.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I do not feel altogether happy about the way in which this matter has been met as a result of what the Lord President of the Council has told us. I am speaking specifically about the right of Private Members to introduce Bills. I understood the Lord President to say that the Government would consider whether they could give that right. The main value of Private Members' Bills being introduced is, in my opinion, that they would be a contribution by Private Members to reconstruction after the war. It has been quite right up to the present to concentrate all our attention on the war, and nothing else, but, now that the Government themselves are coming forward with proposals looking to the day of peace, it seems only wise and right that Private Members should have the opportunity of introducing Bills. That will let people throughout the country know the sort of ideas that Members have. The Government would benefit, too. A great many Members now, unless they have a job of some kind, really have nothing much to do. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members, under present conditions, are not able to fill up the whole of their Parliamentary time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] That is the impression I have got. Private Members' Bills would enable 91 Members to make a proper contribution. New Members who do not know what things were like' in the old days would be educated. I believe that our prestige in the country would be raised, and that people would be made to realise that we are thinking very hard indeed about what is to happen after the war.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
I am an opponent of the Government, and I do not expect to get much sympathy from any hon. Member; but I would appeal to private back-benchers. Are we not being treated rather like babies? A great number of quite sensible suggestions has been made by a number of Private Members, and, if I may say so, the most sensible of all was made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), who suggested that this matter should be held over until the next Sitting Day. He suggested that no harm could be done by that, and that we could discuss, through the proper channels, whether the Deputy Prime Minister had given correct grounds for turning down these proposals. It seems to me that we are being treated like babies. We are being given a little bun, for which we are grateful. The majority of hon. Members on the Government benches do not ask for any more: they say, "We are right, and you are wrong." I would ask the hon. Member for South Croydon whether he could not, quite quickly, translate his suggestion that this matter be brought up again on the next Sitting Day into a manuscript Amendment, and I would suggest that Private Members should then vote for that Amendment, to show the Government that they must treat these suggestions with a little more respect than they have done.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I am loath to take up time. I will not take up more than a minute and a half. [An HON. MEMBER: "Half-time."] The hon. Gentleman seems absolutely unaware of the rules of football, but I think allowance is made for time taken up by interruptions. The Deputy Prime Minister spoke of the necessity for general agreement. He ought to be warned, first, that not everybody thinks that what is most necessary for the increase of the influence of Private Members is an increase of the length of Private Members' time as such: the length of time allowed for Private Members in Debates on Government business seems to some of us more important. 92 Secondly, on a technical point, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke of the necessity of altering the rules of what is in Order on Supply. His Majesty's Government ought to be warned that they may well lose as much agreement as they may get by going down that avenue.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I want to raise a point which I have raised on several other occasions. If the Government would reinstitute the Scottish Grand Committee, a considerable amount of time would be available for Private Members to discuss matters. I am sure that every Member who was present at the last discussion on a Scottish subject will agree that it is a waste of the time of this Chamber that the Scottish Grand Committee should sit here discussing the Committee stage of a Bill. That is what actually happened. Only the Scottish Members and about three English Members were present, and the day, in effect, was taken up by the Scottish Grand Committee discussing the Committee stage of the Bill on Scottish rents. If the Scottish Grand Committee had been in existence, we could have discussed the Committee stage of that Bill somewhere else, and the whole of the time that day could have been available for a discussion on workmen's compensation or on Private Members' business. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister seriously to consider reintroducing the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That during the present Session—
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
On a point of Order. There is inset in the Order Paper issued to-day a Motion on Standing Orders relating to Private Business. Is it expected that that shall be passed to-day?