§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Eden
I beg to move,That during the present Session—
- (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 hereinafter 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 he 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 specified 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 he 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.78Provided 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.The Prime Minister, in his speech yesterday, referred to the Government's intention to propose a Motion to take the whole time of the House for Government Business. My right hon. Friend then gave some of the reasons for doing so. I think this is a step which every hon. Member, wherever he sits, whether on the Government bench or anywhere else, ought profoundly to regret, because we have all—or most of us—sat on back benches, and most of us will probably sit on back benches again. Therefore, we ought to have a due sense of humility in these matters, and we ought therefore to be careful of Private Members' rights, even though, for the moment, we happen to be on the Treasury Bench. I would like to remind the House that certain special arrangements which were made for the convenience of the House, are continued by this Motion, certain rights about sending in Amendments and Questions when the House is not sitting, also the power to suspend the Rule without notice, and to suspend it for a limited period of time, to which the House agreed in 1942, as well as the arrangement about the half-hour Adjournment Debate.
This Motion safeguards the arrangements made last Session by which Members retained their right to raise matters during the half-hour Adjournment time at the end of Business. That was often lost in the past through the suspension of the Rule or other reason. We want now to continue the practice, which I think has been generally acceptable to Members, by which the half-hour is not lost, unless we sit very late at night. That is provided for in the Motion. I ought also to say, that though we are seeking to take this time from Private Members, we intend to continue the practice which we developed in the 79 last Session, of giving opportunities for Debate on subjects in which the House is interested, and giving time for these, so that hon. Members are as free as ever—freer if they so wish—to criticise the Government and so that they shall have full opportunities of doing so.
§ 11.33 a.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I agree with everything my right hon. friend has said, but I wish to raise one point. The right hon. Gentleman may reply that he cannot bind future Governments but if and when the pre-war arrangements as to Private Members' time are restored, I hope we shall not then be told that, in consequence, this most valuable concession we have been given, with the approval of the Chair, of being able to raise any matter on the Adjournment, when notice has been given, and having the half-hour Adjournment Debate in any case, will be taken away. I think it is the most valuable concession we have had, and in many respects is more helpful than the old arrangements under pre-war practice. I would like to put in a word now to prevent future Governments from taking away that right.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
With regard to the provision in line 5, thatno Bills other than Government Bills shall be introducedwill there be a certain amount of modification with regard to that? I understand that the practice in another place is that Members there give notice of Private Bills——
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Petty-Officer Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
I beg to move, in line 5, leave out "introduced," and insert:set down for a Second Reading. No Bill shall be introduced under Standing Order No. 10.80 I feel rather a pig in moving an Amendment to a Motion standing in the name of the Prime Minister, on the Prime Minister's birthday, but I hope he will overlook it. My Amendment is a very modest suggestion. The effect of it is that we shall be able to give notice of Bills, get them printed and that will be the end of it. The second part of the Amendment is that no Bill shall be introduced under Standing Order 10, which relates to the operation of the Ten Minutes Rule. Therefore, if this Amendment is carried, no time will actually be spent on the Floor of the House in discussing such Bills.
I think it right and desirable that every year, when we surrender our rights, we should make some formal protest, if only to remind the House of what our liberties are. Since this Parliament began, 208 new Members have been added to this House, which is rather a commentary on the familiar assertion that this is the same old jaded Parliament which assembled in 1935. More relevant to this Amendment is the other figure that, since the war, 130 Members have been elected to this House. Many of these 130 Members have not the faintest idea or experience of what their rights are to move Motions or to introduce Bills on Fridays, in an attempt to be creative. Suppose we have some young Samuel Plimsoll, unsuspected among us, and he wishes to amend the Merchant Shipping Acts. He cannot do anything of that sort on the Motion for the Adjournment, or on Fridays. If this Amendment is passed, he will be able to get a Bill drafted, and go to the Public Bill Office, which will assure itself that the Bill is not hypothetical or obscene, or anything of that sort, and then he can get it printed. Then it becomes subject to discussion in the papers which are interested, and a body of opinion can be created in its favour.
Secondly, if it is a good Bill, and gets popular support, and is not too long, it may be that the Government will take it up. Thirdly, when the great day comes when our rights are restored, there will be a reservoir of Bills ready to proceed, and it will not be possible for the Prime Minister to tell us, as we were told last time, "We are not going to give you Private Members' time, because Private Members have no Bills ready". I hope that this Amendment will not be objected to on the ground that it will make labour 81 for the staff, or use up paper, or anything of that sort. I do not suppose that many Members will want to take advantage of it, but I hope that I shall have the support of my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House in trying to establish, at least this relic of our rights, not merely to criticise but to create.
§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I cannot understand why there should be any objection to this proposal. We do not propose to take up any Parliamentary time. Many of us have had experience of passing Bills through all stages without one word of discussion in this House. I, myself, was responsible for the Electricity Meters Bill some years ago, when a crisis arose through the action of the East Ham Corporation. All parties agreed on that Bill. I also succeeded in getting through an Amendment to the Bills of Exchange Act, on which everybody was agreed. That was passed, "on the nod," at 11 o'Clock at night. It is true that some good Amendments were made in another place; and those also were agreed to, without discussion, at 11 o'Clock at night. I do not see why the Government should deprive us of the opportunity of bringing in non-contentious Measures, which may be of great value to the State, and I hope that consideration will be given to this Amendment.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Eden
I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) for the way in which he has presented this Amendment. I admit that it appears to have certain attractions on the surface, but I must look a little deeper than that. I recognise that his suggestion takes account of the Government's need for the time of the House, and I am grateful for that. But we must see where this is going to lead us. It is proposed that these Bills shall be printed, and my hon. and gallant Friend himself said that it may be that the House will like them, and that, eventually, some of them will pass into law without discussion, thereby not taking up the time of the House. I leave out for a moment the question of whether it is desirable that that should happen very often—about which I have some views of my own. Apart from that, all these 82 Bills have to be examined by the Government Departments concerned. They have to go into the merits of each of these Bills, and give hon. Members the reasons why they think that this is good, or that is not good. That is going to put a further burden on Government Departments at this time, when their energies must continue to be concentrated on the conduct of the war.
§ Sir H. Williams
Ordinarily, the Government Department can decide in five minutes whether they ought to block a Bill or not.
§ Mr. Eden
I certainly will not accept that view. I hope that it is not the position. If Private Members bring in Bills, they are entitled to have those Bills properly examined by the Government Departments concerned. If my hon. Friend were right, I should deplore that situation. I have sympathy with the idea behind this Amendment, but I could not undertake that we would examine the number of Bills, dealing with a wide range of subjects, which might be put forward. I will say that, so far as it lies within our power, we will not make it a pretence for refusing Private Members' time, when hostilities are over, that Members have not had time to get their Bills ready, but I do not think that hon. Members should put upon Government Departments now this additional burden.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I have been a very loyal supporter of the Government far five stormy years, and on every occasion I have supported them in getting the whole of Parliamentary time. I am sure that I was right, because the dominating need of the war must influence the affairs of this House, and our energies must be concentrated on that. But I think that this is a very reasonable request, and to object to it is a little pedantic. I cannot believe that 600 Members would all take advantage of this, to bring out of the 83 pigeonholes a great number of Bills. I have greater confidence in the common sense of the House. I think that if this very small concession is granted, Members will use it with discretion, and that the only Bills which are likely to be presented are those which will make a practical contribution to the solution of post-war problems or will deal with urgent questions that the Government have overlooked. I hope that this is not the last word of the right hon. Gentleman, and that he will not resist the very reasonable suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert).
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
When I anticipated the moving of the Amendment by the hon. and gallant Member, I was raising a point as to the right of Members to introduce Private Bills, equally with Members of the Government, and the Leader of the House, when replying to the discussion, did not deal with the point raised in my question. It seems to me that the elected representatives of the people should not be placed in a more unfortunate position, with regard to the right of introducing Bills. I think that would be quite indefensible. I hope the Leader of the House will deal with this question, because I understand that, in another place, Bills can be introduced by those who are not Members of the Government, and the House of Commons should certainly be jealous of its own privileges in this respect.
I think, after hearing the answer of the Leader of the House, that nothing which the right hon. Gentleman said showed any material or substantial reason why the Amendment should not be accepted. I go further and say that the rights of hon. Members to introduce Bills under the Ten Minute Rule should be granted to hon. Members again. If the Government afterwards find that this is putting a heavy strain on the Departments, then they could come to the House, and I have no doubt that hon. Members would be just as generous and sympathetic to them as they have been in the past. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), I do not think that a Government Department should get into a state of excitement when some hon. Member introduces some small 84 Bill. A great deal might hapen in the few months remaining of the life of this Parliament, if we were allowed to bring forward certain questions which, up to now, hon. Members have been debarred by their own action from raising. I certainly would like a definite answer from the Leader of the House on the question of whether the House of Commons is going to allow certain people, who have not been elected by the people, to be in a privileged position in having the right to get Bills printed and brought before the House—a right which the elected Members of Parliament do not at present possess.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
I think the House ought to give rather more serious consideration to this Motion. It is one of a series of attacks by the Government on Private Members' privileges. Any civil servant may put forward what amounts to a Private Member's Bill. He can draft something which has the force of law, and which later becomes the law of the land, and people can be charged as criminals under that law. I say that, to allow any clerk in any Government Office to introduce Private Bills in that way, is an outrage on the liberties of this House. I hope the House will give really serious consideration to that point, because these encroachments on the liberties and privileges of this House have been going on continuously, ever since the present Government came into power. Unfortunately, at the time when the Defence Orders were passed, the House was rather hysterical and divested itself of an immense number of its prerogatives and privileges. Ever since, we have been getting continuous pressure from people outside—the electors of this country—who have been telling us that we ought to try to preserve the liberties of Parliament for the benefit of the nation, but, one by one, they are filched away from us. This is one more example.
If I may say so, the defence of the Leader of the House was not complete, and was rather disingenuous. The idea that a Government Department is going to spend days, and to be diverted from the conduct of the war, in looking at Private Members' Bills to see whether or not they are in general accordance with the policy of the Ministry concerned is, as I say, somewhat disingenuous. My own experience, as one who has taken an 85 active part in the conduct of the war, and the production of munitions for it, is that it would be a jolly good thing if some staffs of Government Departments were diverted for a short time to the examination of Private Members' Bills, instead of interfering with industry and lessening production. If hon. Members had been as actively concerned as I have been in the production of munitions, they would not think for one moment that there is any lack of time for Government servants to do this. These people are interfering with production, and surely it is monstrous to say that staffs may not be diverted for a few minutes, in most cases, to look into the draft of a Bill and advise the Minister whether it is in accordance with the policy of the Ministry concerned or not.
I hope the House will make its protest. We have gone much too far. I remember, when the Government came into power, reminding the House what happened in another period when it was being robbed of its privileges and prerogatives, one by one. That ended in a civil war, due to the fact that Parliament, in those days, allowed the Crown to assume more and more of the powers which belonged to Parliament. The resulting state of affairs was such that only by civil war could a solution be found.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I am not so much concerned about Orders made by civil servants, so long as they are good Orders. If these people were able to make Orders freely, there might be quite a lot of faces missing from this House. But I would like to see hon. Members' rights given back to them at the earliest opportunity. After listening carefully to the Prime Minister, I want to put a question to the Leader of the House. The Prime Minister, speaking for the Government yesterday, gave a definite impression to this House and to the country that the time lying before us was going to be wasted, or not fully utilised. I want to ask the Leader of the House, before he invites the House to support this Motion, if he will give a pledge that the time that is being taken, will be utilised to rush through legislation and will not be played about with, as was suggested yesterday by the Prime Minister. That is the one thing with which I am concerned, and with which I am certain hon. Members of this House 86 and the people in the country are much concerned. Already there is a lot of discussion about what was said yesterday. We are concerned whether the time the Government have taken will be used for a good purpose, for the speedy carrying through of legislation. I want an answer to that question.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
It ought to be possible for us to discuss this matter here without attacking the civil servants, expressing our views on the merits or otherwise of delegated legislation and exhibiting passionate leanings towards the totalitarian States. We have in front of us a very simple proposition. The proposition made by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) is that Members should have restored to them the right of introducing—and I emphasise the word "introducing"—Private Members' Bills. That, and that alone, is the issue in front of the House. I listened with attention to the reply of the Leader of the House, and if there is an answer to the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University the Leader of the House did not produce it. It may be that there is a case against what the Senior Burgess for Oxford University said, but the Leader of the House did not produce it. He rested his case on one point, and one point alone—the argument that this would place an additional burden, which might conceivably be a heavy burden, upon the already over-burdened staffs of Government Departments. I know something about the staffs of Government Departments. It has been my job to speak for them all my life, and I can tell the Leader of the House that, speaking for them, they would be very happy to shoulder any burden which may be involved. The plain truth is that no burden is imposed upon the State. If it were the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford University that we should have the right not only to introduce Bills but to discuss them, then, indeed, there might be some measure of work imposed upon public servants. It would then be necessary for them to examine the Bills and to advise Ministers as to the Departmental re-action to them. But the Amendment does not propose that the House should have the right of discussion at all. It merely proposes that we should have the 87 right to introduce Bills. The only public servant upon whom this would impose any burden at all is inside this House itself, in the Private Bill Office. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that Members who introduce Private Members' Bills can probably be counted on the fingers of one or two hands. No one is going to spend unnecessary time in drafting and introducing a Bill unless he believes that a very genuine public purpose is to be served thereby. While I cannot speak for other hon. Members. I would certainly claim this to be the case. There may be an answer to the Amendment but we certainly have not had it from the Minister, and unless we get a better reply, with great regret, with deep charity in my heart but with a definite purpose in my head, I shall vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ 11.59 a.m.
§ Mr. Eden
I think that if the House will allow me to say a further word it may facilitate matters. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear enough and did not meet the point, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman opposite put the case I have to meet. If I understand the right purpose of my hon. and gallant Friend—and it is a very reasonable purpose or would be in normal times, when, of course, it would be taken for granted—these Bills would be examined. There is no purpose in just printing Bills if no one examines them. My hon. and gallant Friend was good enough to make it plain that if the Government liked the Bills some of them would be passed into law. That is quite a reasonable point of view. Obviously a Bill cannot be passed into law unless the Government examine it. Therefore, Bills do require examination. The hon. Gentleman says they do not need examination and that all that is required is that they should be printed. That is not the purpose at all. The hon. Gentleman who was interested in the liberties he thought we were filching from the House said that we were getting into civil war. Surely he knows well that the last time this was done there was not a civil war at all. He is grossly and historically incorrect. The last time it was done was by Mr. Asquith in the last war, and the moment the war was over all powers were restored to hon. Members, and as far as this war is concerned they will be restored. The hon. Member need not get 88 out his blunderbuss or rapier. I will read a quotation, which is quite short, of what Mr. Asquith said on that occasion.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.May I say one more general word to the House?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to imply that the filching of the liberties and prerogatives of Parliament and of the people now were anything like what they were in Mr. Asquith's time? And, further, I do not suppose that we would have civil war, because under the present conditions the dispute would be between the Executive on one side, and Parliament, the Armed Forces and the Crown on the other side.
§ Mr. Eden
I am very glad that my hon. Friend feels no apprehensions, but as regards the taking of powers, the powers taken in this respect in the last war are exactly the same as those which are taken now. I was saying that there is this difference. In this war, particularly, the Government have tried, and we shall go on trying, to meet the House in certain respects to enable subjects to be debated in which the House takes particular interest. That has been done this time which was not done during the last war, and that, I pledge myself, the Government will continue to do, and it is, I think, a real service to the House. This policy, which has been created in this war, is retained to meet the convenience of hon. Members. My hon. Friend grossly exaggerates the position when he says we are filching away the rights of the House. That is not our policy. These Bills, if presented, must be seriously examined by Government Departments. I would not think it right that Members should just produce Bills and let them lie about. That is not the way to treat Bills. They must be examined and that means considerable work. Private Bills, in my experience, have often come before the Cabinet. I cannot hold out any hope that we can do anything of that kind at this still serious stage of the war. I hope that the House will accept my view that this is not an attempt to whittle away 89 rights, and that they will be restored as soon as possible. As to the reference to another place, we have our own rules and act as we think best in our own way.
§ Mr. Stephen
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether Bills introduced by private individuals in another place are studied in some over-burdened Department?
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)
I would not like the House to make a decision on the Amendment without at least one of those Members who have come in during the war rising to support it, and, therefore, I rise to do so. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment rightly said that those of us who have come into this House during the war have not had a full opportunity of using our privileges as Members. It may not be a very great hardship or loss to those of advanced years who have come into the House during the war to be deprived of these privileges, but yesterday the Prime Minister referred to the rising
§ generation in this House and the Members who come in young with great responsibilities for the future. Unless those of us who have come in at an early age have an opportunity of really serving a useful apprenticeship and getting to know how to use the machinery of the House, we shall not be able to fulfil the duties which the Prime Minister said will rest on us for some 10 or a dozen years from now. Although I do not want anybody to think that I am saying that I, as an individual, will necessarily as of mathematical certainty be here 12 years from now, it is certain that there are some of my generation who have come into this House who will be here 12 or 15 years from now. On their behalf, Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this Amendment so that we may have the opportunity of getting to know how to use our rights and privileges.
§ Petty Officer Herbert rose——
§ Question put, "That the word 'introduced' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 33.91
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[12.6 p.m.|
|Adamson, Mrs. Jennie L. (Dartford)||Culverwell, C. T.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Cundiff, F. W.||Gretton, J. F.|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Davison, Sir W. H.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Apsley, Lady||De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Grigg, Rt. Hon. Sir P. J. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||De la Berè, R.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Douglas, F. C. R.||Guy, W. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G.||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Baillie, Major Sir A. W. M.||Drewe, C.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kens'gton, N.)||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Dunglass, Lord||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Eccles, D. M.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)|
|Benson, G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Hepworth, J.|
|Boulton, Sir W. W.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hewlett, T. H.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Edwards, Walter J. (Whitchapel)||Higgs, W. F.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Ellis, Sir G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Elliston, Captain Sir G. S.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Burden, T. W.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Frankel, D.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Hulbert, Wing-Commander N. J.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Gallacher, W.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)|
|Cary, R. A.||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Gibbons, Lt.-Col. W. E.||Hynd, J. B.|
|Clarry, Sir R.||Gibson, Sir C. G.||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Glanville, J. E.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Goldie, N. B.||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.|
|Colindridge, F.||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Comdr. R.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Jewson, P. W.|
|Cook, Lt.-Col, Sir T. R. A. M. (N'flk, N.)||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||John, W.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Pearson, A.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Keatinge, Major E. M.||Petherick, M.||Studholme, Major H. G.|
|Keir, Mrs. Cazalet||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Peto, Major B. A. J.||Suirdale, Colonel Viscount|
|Kimball, Major L.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Kirby, B. V.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lawson, J. J. (Chester-le-Street)||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Price, M. P.||Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Pritt, D. N.||Thorne, W.|
|Levy, T.||Procter, Major H. A.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Lewis, O.||Purbrick, R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Pym, L. R.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Ladywood)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Turton, R. H.|
|Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Richards, R.||Viant, S. P.|
|McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)||Ward, Col. Sir A. (Hull)|
|Magnay, T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Maitland, Sir A.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Manning, C. A. G.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Mathers, G.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Salt, E. W.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||White, H. (Derby, N.E.)|
|Messer, F.||Savory, Professor D. L.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Montague, F.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Selley, Sir H. R.||Windsor, W.|
|Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)||Shephard, S.||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.||Sidney, Major W. P.||Woodburn, A.|
|Muff, G.||Silkin, L.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Neal, H.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||York, Major C.|
|Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Nunn, W.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Oliver, G. H.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Major A. S. L. Young and|
|Parker, J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Hardie, Mrs. Agnes||MacLaren, A.|
|Barr, J.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Harvey, T. E.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hopkinson, A.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Horabin, T. L.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hughes, R. Moelwyn||Stephen, C.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Keeling, E. H.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E)|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Lawson, H. M. (Skipton)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Foster, W.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lipson, D. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Granville, E. L.||McGhee, H. G.||Petty-Officer Alan Herbert and|
|Mr. W. J. Brown.|
Main question put, and agreed to.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid (St. Marylebone)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:(11) The House shall not be counted during the first half-hour of any debate upon a Motion for the Adjournment made between two Orders of the Day or after the Orders of the Day have been disposed of, or after the interruption of business.
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. I beg to submit that this Amendment involves an Amendment of Standing Orders and to ask whether an Amendment of a Standing Order should not be put forward as such and not in connection with this Motion.
I think the Amendment is in Order. The Leader of the House has 92 put down an Amendment to Standing Orders, and surely that Amendment can be amended at the discretion of the House, so long as it is relevant to the main Amendment.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
I should like in my remarks, and further to that point of Order, to point out that this particular matter does not appear in Standing Orders at all. I think that is an omission of which the House is not aware. The question of the quorum and the count is not laid down in Standing Orders, though I think it is something which ought to be dealt with in the near future. For that additional reason the Noble Lord's point of Order would fall.
93 About this time last year I put down a Motion, which was supported by a considerable number of Members, that the daily Adjournment period should be certain, and not an event so precarious that the odds against getting that opportunity worked out at about five to one. The Government, as stated by the Leader of the House to-day, recognised the fairness of our request by altering Standing Orders so that the Adjournment could be taken whenever and however late Government Business was completed. Everybody was pleased and all went happily for a time, until it was made apparent that though practically the whole House desired that Private Members could use this, one of their few remaining privileges, any one Member, animated by frivolous, prejudiced or revengeful motives, could upset the whole apple-cart. Such power resting with one individual cuts right across the rights of Private Members as a whole and makes Parliament ridiculous to the outside world.
This Amendment, which stands in the name of myself and other hon. Members, though it does not exclude a count on the Adjournment under any circumstances, would, at least, ensure that the House could not be counted out for the first half-hour of the Adjournment period, and would enable a Private Member anyhow to state his case and receive a reply from the Minister concerned, and Members of the public who were interested in what was being debated could thus hear what was the Member's and the Government's view. If I could have the attention of my right hon. Friend for one moment, I would say that I feel that this suggestion, which is being put forward in the shape of an Amendment, should appeal to the Government's sense of justice, because, as they have taken away from Private Members most of their privileges, they should be anxious that the only worth-while one remaining should not prove to have a false bottom. As things are now, the Adjournment period can be made abortive by the count, and I would again emphasise that this count or quorum rule is not a rule except by usage. It has become a practice of the House and through some omission has been left out of Standing Orders. I trust that when this omission is put right and before a quorum rule is laid down, in black and white, in Standing Orders, there will be an opportunity for this House to 94 debate it, because this rule by usage, as I say, has developed into something which is wrong as applied not only to Private Business but also to Public Business—though the latter point, of course, does not arise under this Amendment.
I would like to read these words at the end of the Amendment, because it has transpired that they may require explanation:made between two Orders of the Day or after the Orders of the Day have been disposed of or after the introduction of business.Though care was taken in drafting this Amendment, I understand that official quarters are not quite certain as to our intention, and I wish to make it clear that so far as supporters of this Amendment are concerned, all we want is one clear half-hour per day. The Amendment does not mean, as I believe some thought it meant, that if, for example, the Business of the day ended at 4 o'clock, we would have a certainty of not being counted out between 4 and 4.30 and then, when at 6 o'clock the Adjournment Motion was formally put again, we would expect another half-hour. We expect only one certain half-hour per day; after that it can be free for all, and anybody who is sufficiently evilly disposed can have count-outs to his heart's content. We only want to have this half-hour assured to us when the Government Business, and that which concerns the public's pockets, is completed and there is, therefore, not the same necessity for Members to remain in the House to watch the public's interests.
On the completion of Public Business Members are, naturally, entitled to go home, and, in fact, the majorty do so, and it is rarely that on the Adjournment, 40 Members remain in the House, and 40 is the quorum necessary for the House to continue sitting should Mr. Speaker's attention be called to this deficiency by any one Member. If anybody in the House wanted to be really bloody-minded he would not have much difficulty under present conditions in counting the House out practically every evening. This could also be done if only for the purpose of demonstrating into what nonsense this rule has developed.
The quorum rule as it is now understood is wrong. As applied to Government Business, it does not have the effect for which it was originally intended, and I hope on some other occasion to have 95 an opportunity of going into that aspect of the matter. As applied to Private Members' Business on the Adjournment, this rule is unfair. Anyhow, I ask the Government to improve matters by accepting this Amendment and not allowing to be counted out during the first half-hour of the Adjournment period the few stalwarts who remain in the House at the end of the day.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so I should like to refer briefly to what I, personally, consider a rather regrettable series of incidents a few weeks ago. One evening on the Adjournment the hon. and gallant Member was counted out by an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, an hon. Gentleman who, incidentally, very rarely, I think, favours the House with his views or indeed with his presence. On the following day I equally regret that the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) saw fit to retaliate in kind and deprive the House of the Foreign Office reply to a very interesting although rather impromptu Debate on the future of Germany I do not think either of those incidents was particularly good for the credit of this House outside, where the niceties of our procedure are not always fully understood. Therefore, I think that the hon. and gallant Member is really putting a very good and a very strong case for the prestige of this House when he suggests that it should not be counted out during this half-hour Adjournment period.
At a more modest level it may be argued that it is unfair to some backbench Member who has perhaps been waiting for weeks, or even months, for the opportunity to raise some purely local constituency grievance, which normally will attract only a dozen or two Members in the last half-hour of the day, if some hon. Member can just wander in from the smoking-room, and perhaps frivolously, or even vindictively, call for a count and get this purely local little grievance suppressed.
I mentioned that this does affect, to my mind, the prestige of Parliament. People outside do not always fully understand what goes on here. They see in the 96 newspapers, unfortunately, that only 20 or 30 Members were present, when what looks like some tremendously important Debate was taking place on some subject which is intrinsically important, such as the future of Germany, or whatever it may be, and they do not understand that that was probably not, in fact, what I might call one of the full-dress Debates of this House. Then, when one goes to one's constituency or gives a lecture to some unit in the Army, one of the questions is almost always "Why is it that there are so many absentee M.P.s? How is it that only 20 or 30 people can bother to be present when the future of Germany is being discussed?" That does undoubtedly have a deleterious effect on the prestige of Parliament in the country and generally. For these reasons I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden
I have considered this Amendment and, in my view, this is not a matter upon which the Government, as a Government, should pronounce. It is a matter for the House entirely and, therefore, the very few observations I shall make I will make as Leader of the House and not as a Member of the Government. They will be purely personal observations which will not bind my colleagues at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right. There is no Standing Order on the subject, but it is a very old practice, the counting-out, and I should have thought that the House would hesitate awhile before it makes any modification in that. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman is really suggesting is that Private Members should have a power which the Government have not got. At first sight the Amendment sounds attractive. But you never know. Later on, some much more sinister Government than this one might come along and then it would not be so good. I would commend great caution in the matter and my personal vote, for what a personal vote is worth, will be given against the Amendment. As to the point raised by the Noble Lord, whether a Standing Order should be considered, this is not a Standing Order but only practice. In my view, this is a matter for the House to decide for itself and, in my judgment, the House would be wise not to do this without further thought.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I, also, would like to suggest that the House should reflect before passing this Amendment. At first sight it sounds very attractive, but if we examine the consequence, it might well be that it would work in the opposite way to which the mover intends. For example, I see no reason why the first half-hour should be exempted from the counting-out. Why only the first half-hour? As a matter of fact, if the first half-hour is exempted, it would lead to the temptation to count the House out when that half-hour is over.
§ Mr. Driberg
There is already one modification of our practice—the normal luncheon hour, when, by Standing Order, no count can be called. But there is no temptation to call a count immediately the luncheon hour is over.
§ Mr. Bevan
Surely my hon. Friend would not try to press that as a parallel, because the reason why there is no count during the luncheon hour is that the House could be completely disrupted, and the Government would not be able to get their work through at all. The arrangement with regard to the luncheon hour is in order to reserve the right of the House to go on with the other Business of the day, as, otherwise, a very difficult situation would be created.
What I have pointed out has some substance in that it applies to Private Members. Another reason which occurs to me on reflection is, if there is no counting-out, what is going to happen is that the individual who has got the Adjournment is under no obligation to see that 40 Members are present, and the other Members who may want to speak afterwards are under no obligation to keep a House. It may be that only the Minister would be present. This would aggravate the matter to an enormous extent. After all, if an hon. Member is raising a matter of some importance, it is not difficult for 40 Members to remain to keep the House. Even if he is not raising a matter of importance to the House as a whole he would like 98 to have same hon. Members listening to what he is saying, but if there is no counting-out—no necessity for 40 Members to be present—he would very probably find himself addressing empty benches except for the Minister. So, on reflection, the Amendment is not so attractive as it might seem at first sight.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
I want to refer first to the one little argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who seems to have detached himself from the Government in this matter. I gathered that he felt, as an ordinary Member of the House, it was a little wrong to give a particular half-hour special sanctity as against other half-hours.
It is worth while pointing out that that does happen during the luncheon period. There are certain hours in the day, or certain half-hours, when a count cannot be called. To add one more period cannot matter very much. I suggest that the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman is not a very strong one. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said that if a half-hour is made sacrosanct there is a strong temptation for some mischievous people to come in and stop the Debate at the end of that half-hour. I would hesitate to put my-self against the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale as to the working of a mischievous mind. Then, he said, there would be no House. Very often, in the literal sense, there is no House at any time during the Adjournment. I myself have discussed a few very important things on the Adjournment, and heard very many important things raised by other hon. Members on the Adjournment, when there were only about five people in the Chamber. That state of affairs has received publicity; it has appeared in HANSARD, and it has very often extracted from the Government some improvement.
It would be a matter of great regret that such discussion should be stopped. I do not think that the knowledge that there could be no count would make the attendance in the Chamber any smaller. I think the people who would attend would be those who wanted to hear the Debate at the time, and were not only interested in reading it in the newspaper the next morning. There is a great deal 99 in the point. As the right hon. Gentleman, who was speaking for the Government, said, this half-hour in wartime is a matter of the utmost importance. It is the Private Member's only chance, and I am in favour of giving Private Members that chance.
§ Mr. Pritt
I am dealing with the general argument now. That half-hour is the one chance Private Members have got. It is peculiarly susceptible, too, because of the time of day at which it comes. If the opportunity to count out the House is to be given not only to the mischievous, but to those who seriously desire to prevent some particular point from being discussed, it provides a private weapon against a Private Member's only remaining chance. I have raised matters on the Adjournment which I have thought were important, and I have sometimes got very valuable public ventilation. I have sometimes even got something from the Government as a result, and I think if the House were to give this additional sanction to Private Members' rights it would be a great thing.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I was at first very much attracted by this Amendment, because I have always thought that the weapon of counting-out the House in order to gag either a subject or an hon. Member was a most unworthy one, and one which should not be tolerated by this House. However, when I consider this matter further, I am doubtful whether it would be wise for the House to accept the Amendment as it stands, because it appears to me to be exceedingly illogical, and I think we should hesitate before we accept an illogical Amendment in order to avoid an abuse which, in point of fact, rarely occurs. As far as I know, it has occurred only on two occasions during the last year or so, and on the last occasion—which I think was a quite outrageous one—I happened to be the victim. If this Amendment were passed, as worded on the Order Paper, it would not avoid a repetition of that abuse in the slightest degree.
May I remind the House what happened? I raised a matter which I thought 100 was very important—naturally, every hon. Member who raises a matter on the Adjournment thinks it is important—on a Friday at about half past two. It affected the fate of, I thought, thousands of our Allies inside Germany, and it was a Debate which ranged over a wide number of important matters. In that Debate the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) made a speech. When, later in the day, at about 5 o'clock, an official reply was being given by the Foreign Office representative, that representative had barely opened his mouth to make a few preliminary remarks when the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone got up and counted out the House. I felt very angry that he should have taken that action, and I thought that it was quite outrageous that he should have prevented the Government making a reply in an important Debate in which he himself had taken part.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
What the hon. Member has been saying sounds very much like a "Tribune" article, because he has only stated one side of the case and has avoided mentioning that the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone was himself counted out on the previous day on the same subject and, indeed, counted out four times previous to that.
§ Mr. Strauss
If some hon. Member does a silly and unworthy thing in counting out another hon. Member there is no reason why the hon. Member counted out should do the same thing, particularly in a Debate in which he has had ample opportunity of developing his own argument. The point I am making is that we would not avoid this abuse by adopting this Amendment, because the Amendment merely makes the first half-hour sacrosanct and, consequently, when a Debate on the Adjournment takes some time and the Minister who is replying for the Government winds up at the end, there will be nothing in this Amendment to prevent the hon. and gallant Member, or anybody else, getting up before the Minister has spoken and counting out the House.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
I want to explain that the hon. Member has misunderstood the purpose of this Amend- 101 ment. We want to ensure that an hon. Member bringing up a matter for discussion on the Adjournment can have sufficient time to state his case and for the Minister to answer directly afterwards, as generally occurs.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not see why this half-hour should alone be sacrosanct. The Adjournment sometimes takes three-quarters of an hour, or longer, and it seems to me quite illogical to suggest that that half-an-hour should be freed from the weapon of counting-out the House. As I have said, I dislike the weapon of counting-out. But I am perfectly sure that we should be making a mistake if we put in our Orders for the Session an illogical rule such as this, that the first half-hour of a certain type of Debate should he free from the abuse of counting-out. For that reason I suggest to the House that, whatever it may feel about the Adjournment and the weapon of counting-out a Member with whom there is disagreement or who is disliked, it should hesitate before inserting this illogical Amendment into our Orders for the coming Session.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
I do not want to detain the House for more than a moment or two in order to put one point which I do not think has yet been mentioned. The arguments are nicely balanced on either side and there is a good deal of supposition as to what the result will be, but I personally think that we should try this proposal for one Session to see whether the fears expressed by the Leader of the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) are justified. I suggest that we try this out for this Session in order to see what the result will be.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Major Peto (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I have listened to this Debate with great care, and I think we are inclined to split hairs on the question of whether the time should be half an hour, three-quarters of an hour or a little longer. I believe that something more fundamental is involved in this matter, and it is that back bench Members feel that their last privilege may possibly be whittled away. The half-hour customarily given on an Adjournment is a precious privilege, and in these times almost the last one we have. 102 In saying that, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid). I suggest that we safeguard the privilege of back benchers to the utmost limit of our power until happier times arrive and we are given back some of the powers we used to have.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
In view of what has taken place, and as we have had an opportunity of ventilating our case, Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to withdrawn my Amendment. In doing so, I hope that in future after what has been said there will not be any countings out for purely vindictive reasons.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
That during the present Session—
'or, if proceedings exempted as hereinafter 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—
(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.'