HC Deb 15 November 1945 vol 415 cc2363-412

Question again proposed,

"That this House doth agree with the Committee in the general recommendations contained in their Report."

5.5 p.m.

Sir J. Stanley Holmes (Harwich)

The Procedure in the Public Business of the House has changed little for a very long time. It is 27 years since I first became a Member, and the alterations in the conduct of Business during that time have been few and trivial. In the previous two generations, apart from the Closure, the "Kangaroo" and the right of Mr. Speaker and the Chairmen to select Amendments, there was was no important change. Obviously the tempo of the world has become quicker with the introduction of the telephone, wireless, aeroplanes and many other things, so Parliamentary Business must be speeded up, particularly as Parliament today has so much more to do than it had in the old days. I feel, therefore, that a good case has been made out by the Government for certain alterations in our procedure, and I think some of the suggestions made by the Select Commitee are good. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in what he has said on other matters, but I want to refer to a matter which at the moment has not been referred to in there port of the Select Committee. The Lord President of the Council said that he hoped the Select Committee would give further consideration to certain matters, and I hope that the particular matter to which I am going to refer will receive consideration not only by the Select Committee but by the Lord President of the Council and the Government. It concerns the rights of Private Members.

What rights has the private Member today? He has only the right to the half-hour Adjournment, or a little longer than a half-hour if the ordinary business does not run the full time. What has happened in the past? Up to the beginning of the war in 1939, the private Member had practically two days a week. Every Wednesday we used to ballot for the right to introduce Motions, and on the following Wednesday, one at 3.45 and the other at 7.30, the two successful Members would introduce their Motions. Those were most valuable in enabling private Members to put forward their point of view and take part in forming the policy of the Government of the day. There was also the additional advantage that, on those Wednesdays, those who did not want to take part in or listen to either of the Motions could take a day off and could accept an engagement in their constituency. But more important than those Wednesday occasions were the private Members' privileges on Friday. Most of the Fridays of the year were devoted to the consideration of private Members' Bills. Immediately a new Session was started, in November, we had a ballot, and about the first 13 or 14 who came out of the hat had the following 13 or 14 Fridays. It was always considered by Mr. Speaker that if a Debate on a private Members' Bill on Friday ran from 11 till 4 he would give the "Closure" if the private Member could get 100 people to support the motion. The latter would then get his Second Reading, and his Bill went upstairs.

I would like to point out that some very valuable Bills have been put on the Statute Book in that way, some by Members still in this House. The right hon. Lady the Minister of Education passed through a very valuable Act in 1939 regulating the hire-purchase trade in this country in a manner which has worked equitably ever since. The Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir Alan Herbert) carried through this House the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1938, dealing with divorce, which was long overdue. If I may with due modesty refer to the fact, the hon. Member for Harwich in 1938 put on the Statute Book the Inheritance (Family Provisions) Act, which had the effect of putting the law with regard to inheritance in this country on an equitable basis and removing very much unfairness. In years gone by a great many important Acts of Parliament have been introduced by private Members; I cannot refer to all of them, but I would remind the House that one of them was the Daylight Saving Act, and another the Copyright Act, which was introduced by Mr. T. P. O'Connor and which only recently has had the distinction of being the subject of a film designed to show the general public what was accomplished. That was another Private Member's Bill.

I recognise that in raising the standard of the private Member I am probably doing so at one of the most difficult times in the country's history. We have a new Parliament with an enormous number of new Members in every party, and the new Members have never had the opportunity of knowing and appreciating what private Members' rights were. I would remind the new Members that in altering the procedure of this House we are not doing so merely for this Parliament or for the next five years. What we do today will probably, like the procedure in the past, remain unchanged for two generations or more. If private Members are today deprived of their rights—it may seem harder at the moment to those of us on the Opposition side than to those on the other side, who after all have got the power and are helping to pass their own Bills—but in five years' time it may be the other way round—the Government supporters may find that they have made a rod for their own backs in taking away the private Members' rights which they will later desire to have.

I know perfectly well that any Government—it does not matter what party it is—is opposed to private Members' rights. Ministers regard back benchers as merely "Division Lobby fodder"—

Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)

Would the hon. Gentleman produce evidence of that? It is far better to be considered as lobby fodder than as cannon fodder, as we have been considered by the Conservatives.

Sir J. Stanley Holmes

So far as the Ministers are concerned, they want their people to go into the Lobby in the way they are told, and as a matter of fact if a supporter of the Government goes into the Lobby as he is told by the Whip, Ministers do not care whether he knows what he is voting for or not. I want to give the House two reasons for Private Members' rights being preserved. The first is that many valuable Measures have been placed on the Statute Book by Private Members, and the second is that many of those Bills would never have been introduced by the Government of the day.

Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)

How does the hon. Gentleman know that?

Sir J. Stanley Holmes

In the case of the Act to which I have already referred, the Matrimonial Causes Act, no Government, either Conservative or Liberal, would for years introduce a Bill for the reform of the divorce law, owing to the fact that there were so many internal differences in each of those parties on the matter, and for that reason neither party was prepared to deal with divorce. It is a very clear example, and there are many others.

Sir Robert Young (Newton)

The hon. Gentleman is criticising the action of the Government in taking Private Members' time, but he is not dealing with the Report presented by the Select Committee over which I have the honour to preside.

Sir J. Stanley Holmes

I hope the Committee over which the hon. Gentleman presides will take note of what I am saying and when they present their further Report will include in their recommendations the suggestions I am making to the House.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Does not the Motion we are discussing deal with the present Report and not the future Report of the Select Committee?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

The hon. Member for Harwich (Sir S. Holmes) is getting rather wide of the Motion. I would ask him to confine his remarks to the Motion that is before the House.

Sir J. Stanley Holmes

I have almost finished my remarks, Sir. May I point out that the Lord President of the Council referred to certain things which were not recommended by the Committee and said that he hoped the Committee will reconsider them. That is exactly what I am doing. I am dealing with the past procedure of the House and calling attention to the fact that the Report omits an essential part of that procedure, and I am asking that consideration be given to its being re-inserted in the procedure of the House. In raising the question of the rights of Private Members, I would like to quote something which the Prime Minister said in his speech to Congress a day or two ago: In the world today we must assure the common man a fair deal. All I ask is that the Select Committee and the Government give the Private Member a fair deal. The bus workers are trying to prevent people from standing up. I want Private Members to have the right to stand up in this House. Let every back bench boy—[Interruption]—and as the hon. Member opposite suggests, every back bench girl, in every party demand the maintenance of Private Members' rights in this Parliament and in the Parliaments that will succeed it.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Webb (Bradford, Central)

As this is the first time I have sought to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I trust the House will give me their usual consideration. It is particularly necessary in my case, since for many years I have sat in another part of this building exercising judgment on the speeches of hon. Members, and I am afraid my judgment was sometimes harsh and ungenerous. Now that I am delivered into your hands, I trust that on this occasion at least the judgment of hon. Members will be kinder and more generous than was my own. I thought I might speak for the first time in this House on this subject because I am a Member of the Select Committee, and it seemed to be no bad thing to start off on something one knew something about, no matter what temptations one has to face later on.

It was said at the time that the recommendations of the Select Committee were published that they did not amount to very much. They were small. I recollect that "The Times" on that occasion seemed to be rather frigid about them, but then, of course, "The Times" is frigid about most things these days, and perhaps that is not very significant. But it is not true that virtue always lies in size. A thing is not necessarily poor because it is small. We have only to look at the Liberal Party to see the truth of that statement. It is true that these proposals are small; it is important we should understand that they are small, that they do not enter into the more fundamental problems of reform which this House and the Select Committee still have to face. The Committee themselves declare in their Report that they desire at the outset to emphasise the limited character of the present Report and to make it clear that it is made without prejudice to any wider proposals for the reform of Parliamentary procedure which they may later recommend. It is important, I think, not only to recognise the advantages of this scheme, but equally to recognise its limitations. It should be understood particularly by the Government that these proposals can do no more than create a rather wider channel for the flow of legislation. They do no more than that. They do not deal with the wider problem of how we can secure a more effective use of the whole of the time at our disposal. They do not deal with the problem of how we can expedite Government Business without sacrificing the essential function of political scrutiny in this House. Nor do they deal with how Parliament can sustain the new burdens which must now be faced in the light of contemporary conditions. Those problems remain.

I do not share the view of those—some in my own party perhaps—who believe that Parliament was designed by a cunning ruling class to frustrate the aspirations of the common people. I think that history proves that to be quite an erroneous opinion. The practices of this House have actually grown out of historic clashes of principle and interests which, in their own way, were as fundamental and as stark as those which now face us. Therefore, we have evolved a Parliamentary system which at heart, in my judgment, is really sound. But I think it must also be said—and said from these benches—that that system is not constructed to deal with the new problems of government. It is not fitted in its present shape, and the tempo which is possible in its present shape is not adequate, for the burdens which are now before us. Parliament now must take an increasing responsibility for the management of the country's economic affairs. That will be so whichever party is in power. If it should so happen that the party opposite come back into power after the next Election, while they might have a different approach from that of hon. Members on this side to economic affairs, undoubtedly they would have to be responsible, or take responsibility on behalf of the Government, for the control and direction of a large sector of the economic activity of this country. That is inevitably so. That being so, it is important that we should see that the House does not break down because we have not redesigned and reconditioned our methods in the light of these new responsibilities. Clearly, the proposals now before the House do not do that. They await the attention of the Select Committee, and I call attention to them because it seems to me important, as I have already said, to recognise the limitations of what it is we are now doing.

Now, I would like to raise one or two considerations which are prompted by the Report. First, I would like to express the hope that the public outside will recognise that very heavy physical burdens are to be placed on Members of this House. I support entirely what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said in that respect. It is important that the public should apprehend that. Members of all parties in this House will be faced for a very longtime with very serious physical burdens and the extra work in these extra Committees will add to those burdens. I hope that my colleagues in the journalistic profession will not in future venture to suggest to the public that Members of this House are not doing their business if these Benches are not always crowded on occasions of this kind.

The second consideration I would like to put is this. I want to suggest to the Government that it will be necessary, if the best use is to be made of Parliamentary time, for the Government to plan their legislative programme with greater precision. That has not been done in the past. It seems to me there has been an extraordinary lack of planning in the business of bringing legislation before the House. It has been a very haphazard business largely determined by which Minister was most articulate or artful inside the Cabinet. The Lord President of the Council, as the Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee show, confessed that he himself, because he was rather more articulate and artful than other Ministers, managed to get priority for Bills which, on their merits, ought not to have had priority. I think that is a bad thing. I think it is wrong that the flow of legislation should primarily be determined by the individual artfulness of Ministers. I think that the Cabinet should see that the feeding of legislation into this improved and enlarged machine is more skilfully contrived in the future than it has been previously. If it does not, it is clear, as a result of the scrutiny which Members of the Select Committee have been able to make on this matter, that the advantages the Government hope to get will not accrue.

I want next to underline the observations in the Report on the staff of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The recommendation is: The Committee feel bound to record the view of the Editor of the Official Report that in existing circumstances he could see his way to provide for only four Committees and that at the present rate of salary it would not be possible to recruit more reporters of the very high standard required. The Lord President of the Council has indicated that the Government are aware of this problem and intend to look into it, but he did not touch on the heart of this matter. I want to suggest to him that the Government's inquiry into this problem will be fruitless unless they decide at the outset that they are prepared to pay these excellent craftsmen more money for their services in this Assembly. It is quite true that there is now, and will be for a considerable time, a shortage of competent, expert shorthand writers, but if this House is to have its share of that limited supply, if it is to attract more of them away from the more glamorous life of the newspapers, it must offer higher material rewards. I venture to say that the present rewards are hopelessly inadequate. They are quite unfair, and the men who do this excellent work for us are entitled to more money. I hope the Government will see that they get it. I think that any man who is prepared to make a profession out of listening all day to the speeches in this House deserves the highest reward.

I have only one further observation to make. It is on a matter that was raised by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington in another connection. Many people believe that this experiment in extending the Committees may develop into a complete Committee system. I know that idea has very many attractions for a large number of people. I think the scheme should develop and that more work might be done in Committee, but for my part I am entirely opposed to turning this Assembly into some sort of exalted town council. I think that would be quite wrong, and I think it would vitiate the real merit and quality of this House in the defence of the cause of democracy in this country. I think we should be ill-advised to destroy the central function of this House as the great forum of debate on public policy, and a general clearing house for the people's aspirations. We must preserve that at all costs and adjust our extension of Committee activity to it without destroying that central function.

That is all I wanted to say, but, as this is my first speech, may I conclude with this general observation? I would like to declare my own personal faith and belief in Parliament as the most valuable British institution. I would rather have a Parliament in the control of the party opposite, alarming as that would be, rather than no Parliament at all. If this institution were to go, our established system of democratic liberty would go with it, and great darkness would descend upon the land, but, if it is to survive, in this institution, which it is our business to work in these troubled times, it is essential that we should remove any weaknesses that we may find in its structure. It is imperative that we should not place tradition before the public good, although we should not be reckless in discarding anything which tradition has shown to be both prudent and desirable. We must constantly have in our minds the need for scrutinising our methods so that we march abreast of events, and if we see that the machinery of government, which has its centre and pivot in this Assembly, matches the questing mood of our people at this time, we may be sure that this ancient House has yet to see its most glorious and most fruitful years.

5.32 p.m.

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

I am very happy that it falls to my lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb) upon his maiden speech—an outstanding maiden speech, in my judgment; well informed, constructive, thoughtful, and one upon which he had obviously been cogitating for some time. It is well that the hon. Member has been a member of this important Committee and it is good that he should have chosen this particular subject, upon which he has been so well informed, as the subject of his maiden speech. Those of us who have known him in other capacities are delighted to hear him, and I am pleased it has fallen to my lot to congratulate him upon his maiden speech. I hope we shall hear him very often on the subjects about which he is so well informed. I am glad, also, to feel that, having seen us from another angle, he still has such a high opinion of this great Mother of Parliaments. That is encouraging to us who have never been able, perhaps, to see ourselves as others see us.

Those hon. Members who were able to hear my views when this Committee was in prospect will, perhaps, not be surprised if I do not give to its report the praise which some hon. Members might think it deserves. I never felt very happy about this Committee, although I recognise—as who does not?—that there is always room for improvement and amendment in our procedure. I have had a feeling all along that the major object of this Committee was to facilitate the production of the mass of legislation which this particular Government has in prospect, much of which legislation is, in my judgment, unnecessary, and much of it likely to be something with which I would fundamentally disagree, and yet this Committee was set up to facilitate it. I wonder they did not recommend that we should have some form of endless belt from the Government factory that produces these Bills into this Chamber, but, at any rate, if things go on as they seem to be going on, and legislation increases at the same rate, we shall perhaps not only be discussing questions of our own "time rates" as we are to do later, but also questions of our own piece rates for dealing with this mass of legislation.

I do not see where the time of the House is going to be greatly saved by these proposals. Certainly not the time of hon. Members, and, after all, the time of hon. Members is the time of the House, and I cannot see how we are going to have any more time to give attention to our duties through the proposals of this Committee than we had before. We are getting choked and overwhelmed with business, and the real solution is not to alter the procedure but to ease the burden of legislation which is thrust upon this House. Many Bills are, in my judgment, entirely unnecessary. I do not like the tendency of the present day to restrict the time given to Bills in this House. In the old days, we used to have several days given to a Second Reading. Those of us who read our Parliamentary history and have studied HANSARD in the past know that several days used to be given to the Second Reading of quite ordinary Bills.

I would give one example. When the Bank Charter Act was considered in 1844, the House of Commons gave seven full days to discussing the Second Reading. What did we give to the Bank of England Bill? Just about one day, or rather less than that. That is a sign of the times. This tendency to go in for upstairs committees to give detailed consideration to major Bills is not one to be commended. Many of us are going to be prevented from voicing our criticisms in Committee, and, if so, we ought to have a longer time on the Floor of the House for Second and Third Readings of Bills so that full discussions can take place and so that those not members of the Standing Committee can have an opportunity of giving their views.

The wartime practice of having one day, or two, for Second Reading was all right, because we had the Committee stage on the Floor of the House and because the Committee stage enabled a Bill to be gone into fully without the discussion being curtailed. But now, when the Government propose so often to take away the Committee stage from the Floor of the House, I think it is of fundamental importance, in the light of the historic traditions of this House, that we should definitely have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in view of the fact that so many of these important Bills are to go away upstairs to a Standing Committee. Will the Government consider taking into account these considerations and say that they would be sympathetic to a longer time being provided on the Floor of the House for the Second Reading of Bills?

I feel that it is nonsense for some hon. Members opposite to suggest that it is of importance to discuss Bills that are of economic importance upstairs in Committee and discuss Bills of constitutional importance here. I cannot see in the least why that distinction should be made, and I think it is quite unconstitutional to suggest it. There is nothing in the history of Parliamentary procedure or Parliamentary tradition to suggest that there is something more sacrosanct about matters of economic importance and interest than about matters of constitutional importance. Indeed, I thought that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite attach very much greater importance to economic questions than to constitutional questions. Why, then, should they say that constitutional questions should come here on the Floor of the House and economic questions go upstairs in Committee? There seems to me to be no logic in that argument. Perhaps it is because so much of their legislation will involve them in economic questions and not as yet in constitutional ones.

I do not think it cuts much ice to talk about the immense burden of indispensable legislation which has been one of the major causes for setting up this Committee. There is really no indispensable legislative burden; the legislation may be indispensable to the convenience of the Government, but not to the country or to the House. I think that is a mere excuse, and it is unfair to use that excuse to get through this mass of legislation in their revolutionary programme. I cannot see why this side of the House should be so co-operative about it.

What is the idea behind the whole business? It is to overthrow, as far as possible, the well-tried procedure of Parliament just to suit the book of the Government—to suit Socialist ideas. Why should we hasten on the Socialist millennium in this way? We have no part in that whatever, and I see no reason why I should be asked to be co-operative in that respect. Another point which I think is important to mention is that the Opposition must have the fullest possible opportunities of exposing bad legislation, and never was that more important than now, and never will it be more important than it is likely to be in the immediate future with the bad legislation that will come along and bad Bills that will be placed before the House. These opportunities are being curtailed by these proposals. That is wrong and it is a retrograde step. Some mention has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down about questions of staff and indeed it is an important question. I appreciate that the Committee gave sympathetic consideration to it, but it is a serious problem. The whole question of staffing these Standing Committees and of hon. Members' attendances at the meetings have not, I think, been thrashed out sufficiently satisfactorily to all parties concerned, and I only hope that as this scheme is of an experimental character we shall be able to make adjustments to suit those who are as interested in this particular question as Members of Parliament themselves.

Finally, procedure, in fact, makes the Constitution, and not vice versa. That seems to me to be the fundamentally wrong basis on which these proposals have been placed before us. I say that procedure in this House gradually builds up the constitution, just as it has done through past years, and now, to try to alter procedure and say that it has nothing to do with the constitution is, in my opinion, fallacious. I am very glad that these proposals are only to be experimental. I am quite sure that many hon. Members on this side will want to take a very active part in criticising any further efforts to curtail the opportunities of hon. Members for full discussion on the Floor of the House.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)

As this is the first time I have attempted to address the House, I ask for the usual indulgence given to new hon. Members. I have, naturally, had no experience of procedure in the House, but, following the hon. Member opposite who has just down, I feel that it is necessary to emphasise that there is possibly a different point of view in this House now from that which has existed before, and also a very different task to be done.

We are aware that in the past this House existed largely to keep things in this country as they were. There are a different party, a different majority, and a different Government in this House precisely because great changes have to be made. This country cannot continue unless enormous changes are made, and we have to make them for the sake of the people of this country, and for the sake of common decency and humanity we have to make them as rapidly as we possibly can.

Something has been said this evening about overwork. I do not find myself overworked in this House; indeed, I have been astonished at the small calls that have been made on my time. I agree that I have had to write a lot of letters, and have to deal with a lot of small details. It seems to me, however, that those things could be dealt with much better by some sort of Committee arrange- ment which got down to settling these many problems at the base, instead of leaving them to individuals to tinker with and bother Ministers and ministerial Departments about. So far as the Committee system is concerned, as I see it that system must continue to develop so that every hon. Member can be fully employed.

I speak as a new Member, and I am told that I shall bow down presently before the old traditions of this House. Frankly, I hope I never shall, and I am putting this on record so that I can look back to it in the future in case I find myself slipping. It seems to me essential that the Members of this House should have special and intimate knowledge on all matters connected with Government, and it would be excellent it there were a Committee of Members associated with every Minister and Ministerial Department so that they would understand right from the base. There should be Committees that can call for evidence, Committees that can interview officials, Committees that can have close association with the various Government Departments. That will be necessary in the very near future. The Ministers of the Crown, faced with the tasks they have before them, cannot possibly deal with these matters adequately; they should have people closely associated with them who can go into various parts of the country, investigate, produce reports, take up various phases of their work, so that there is always somebody in this House who has a close and intimate control of all matters connected with Government. These ideas may be all wrong; possibly in two or three months I shall realise that I am wrong but at present this is how I feel about it and I am encouraged in this because I remember, when I was about 18 years of age and first joined the Socialist movement, that I was told then that my new ideas were all wrong and that I should learn better. Look at the result today after 40 years. Therefore, I am not altogether discouraged because I have new ideas.

There is one matter which has been mentioned in the Report, and by the Leader of the House, which I do not think is having the consideration it should have—the question of accommodation. I think we have learned in recent times that the kind of accommodation in which we carry on any activity is of tremendous importance. We have learned that in order to achieve production in factories, we have to lay out our factories properly. Our office buildings have to be properly and adequately arranged. The same thing applies to this Palace of Westminster. We are told there are difficulties and that there are not enough rooms for the staff and it is indicated that the authorities—whoever they may be—will deal with that problem. I think that is a problem about which we Members should have something to say and, on the face of it, it seems to me obvious that improvements should be made very rapidly. Now I am not going to advocate that the old House of Commons which was destroyed should not be rebuilt I think it should be rebuilt, but not now. We should use our present opportunity to put on that site a prototype or experimental House of Commons which could be built, if we wanted it done, by next August or September, quite easily. We have experience in this country in putting up buildings of a similar character. The size of such a House would be equal to a cinema seating from 1,000 to 1,500 persons, it would have a light steel frame, brick filling, asbestos roofs, and the best possible ventilation, lighting and acoustics that the modern mind can conceive. Those are the things we have to think about, and if we could get this building up, we could have an experimental period during the life of this Parliament to see how that House could be worked and the best way to carry on business. We could try various methods of seating the House, various methods of voting, and put an end to the waste of time and make it possible for every hon. Member comfortably to hear what the Ministers and other speakers were saying. We shall never get Ministers who are worth listening to until we can hear them properly. It is absolutely impossible on many occasions to hear the mumbling back-scratching that goes on between those two Front Benches.

While this is happening, I suggest that the whole accommodation of this House should be remodelled. There is plenty of space here to give adequate accommodation for all our needs and, if we employed good modern technicians we could, over the next four or five years, entirely remodel the whole accommodation of this House. At the end of that time we could decide upon the right sort of Parliament Chamber, we could take the experimental building down, rebuild the old House of Commons and, I suggest, build an entirely new House on the gardens towards, I think, the South end of this building—a real, permanent, new House of Commons. Under those conditions it need not necessarily follow the architectural style of the present House. Hon. Members can go to Manchester and look at the new Manchester library associated with a gothic type building and see what a magnificent result is possible. We could build that House at the end of five years. It would take about four years to build and, at the end of that time, we would have a magnificent new House of Commons, two splendid Committee Rooms—this Chamber and the rebuilt House of Commons—and aremodelled Palace of Westminster. If we could have these rooms adequately planned and properly arranged it would be possible to carry on the procedure and business of this House in a businesslike and effective way, and that is what this Parliament is required to do now and in the future. We shall not be judged by the people of this country on the procedure that we adopt, we shall be judged by results, but we Members of the House of Commons, if we are to produce the right results, must have procedure and buildings which will make that possible.

5.53 p.m.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

It is always a pleasure for an old Member of this House to have the opportunity of congratulating a new Member on making his maiden speech. It is, in my case, with peculiar pleasure that I congratulate the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. T. Braddock). Indeed, when I heard the first part of his speech, I wondered if there was much use my following him because, in the first part of his speech, he expressed very much what I myself would have liked to say in his eulogy of the Committee system, the extension of the Committee system, and the better use of hon. Members. I am sure the whole House was very interested in his speech, for the virility and the eloquence with which he set his ideas before us, and the vision that he had of what ought to be done if the present Government is to justify itself and the great ideas that are in the minds of the people with regard to its work. However I want to make a few comments in Spite of the excellent statement of the hon. Member for Mitcham with regard to the Committee system. I have been in the House a long time. I came here when there was an overwhelming Tory majority in the House—

Major Lloyd

The good old days.

Mr. Stephen

—and in those days we very often had legislation put before us which was most objectionable to members of the Labour Party. I myself very often had to play a fairly strenuous part in trying to prevent much of that legislation going on to the Statute Book. I think at that time I contracted a technique of obstruction, but it had a very ill effect on me afterwards and tended to make me very prosy and slow in addressing the House. We had experience in those days of trying to prevent Tory legislation passing which we considered was not in the interests of the country, and I can quite well realise now, when I am anxious to see a Socialist Government put legislation on the Statute Book which will lead towards the realisation of Socialist ideals, that there have to be great changes in procedure, great changes in the way in which the Government of to-day handles the problems which have to be faced. After all, we live in a time when the function of Parliament is very different from what it was in the days that are past. Then, Parliament existed as an institution very largely to impose the taxation for the year—that was practically its main function. There was a certain amount of legislation dealing with the conditions of the people, but, in the main, the dominant political philosophy of the day was the philosophy of laissez faire, and there was a very widespread Tory and Liberal opinion in the country that the less the Government had to do with the ordinary affairs of business and the conditions of the people—apart from arranging a suitable system of taxation for carrying on the machinery which would provide the Government with its Armed Forces and its police forces—the better.

It is very different today. The Parliamentary machine of our time has to deal every day with new problems in connection with the conditions of the people. There has been a great volume of social legislation passed in the last 20 or 30 years, and the Parliamentary in- strument required today is entirely different from the Parliamentary machine which in very large part we are still using, and which was created to meet the problems of the beginning of the 19th century. I remember, when I came here, the Father of the House, Mr. T. P. O'Connor, when some of us were feeling very vexed, and thinking how useless was much of the time we were spending in the Chamber, saying to us that he was surprised at our thinking that we could carry out legislation with the machinery that was the proper machinery for the beginning of the 19th century.

I welcome the indication that the Government today are going to try to make the machinery of the House of Commons adequate for the problems of our day. In my opinion, from the experience of having been in the House—except for the gap from 1931 to 1935—since 1922, there should be a possibility for Members to be much more intimately associated with the various Government Departments, by a system of committees, than is the case at the present time. I am sure that half of the difficulties in connection with many of the problems, that are already pressing most hardly on this Government, such as the problem of demobilisation, would have been greatly lightened if there had been a Commitee of this House meeting regularly with the Service Ministers to discuss it. However, we have not got that; but I hope that this Committee will hear the representatives of my own party, the Independent Labour Party, and will give full consideration to the ideas that were very largely those of an old Member of this House, the late Mr. F. W. Jowett.

The other maiden speech made a short time ago was also a very worthy one. I want to comment on one point in connection with it. The hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. M. Webb) said, "We do not want to make this House into a glorified town council." I am sure that there is general agreement that we do not want to make it into a glorified town council, but I would say to him, and to others, that a phrase like that is a very easy phrase to use, but we should remember that, while we do not want to make this House into a glorified town council, we do want to take advantage of what experience in town council machinery has shown to be very useful in providing for the needs of the people.

With regard to the more immediate proposals before us, I think that they are very sound. It is obvious that there should be more Standing Committees to deal with Bills. How often have we seen four or five Bills waiting on the list to come before a particular Standing Committee? It was a very easy matter for some of us, who did not like a certain Bill on that list, to spend hours in a Standing Committee, on some colourless Bill, in order that we might block a Bill which was later on the list. I have seen that on many occasions. I hope that with the extension of the principle of Standing Committees the Government will be able to put through this House much legislation that is urgently required, in order to improve the conditions of the people.

There is one point I want to make, however, and that is that I am somewhat doubtful whether it is a sound proposition that the quorum of a Standing Committee should be only 15. I realise that the quorum for the House of Commons is 40 with a membership of 640. Perhaps that quorum could be with advantage increased to a much higher number for the House generally. But I wonder if with a Committee of 50 Members, 15 is an adequate number of persons to have as a quorum for that Committee in its consideration of a Bill. It certainly will make for expedition in getting Measures through, but there are many experiences of poor Parliamentary Secretaries getting sore feet, trudging round and round the building here, trying to drive up so many Government Members to a Committee, to get a Bill through. I remember when the Tories were extending the waiting period of the Unemployment Insurance Bill, and the Labour Party was making a valiant attempt to keep the waiting period at three days, how they were worn almost to a shadow in trying to hunt Tory Members into the Committees. I wonder whether this is not just too small a number for a quorum. I am not going to put down an Amendment to increase the number, but I think it might be worth while trying out; and I suggest to the Lord President of the Council that it is one of the points over which he should keep a careful watch. I hope that the Government in [...]geting its proposals through, will also get good Standing Committees, and that we shall have very many Measures put on the Statute Book.

I hope the Lord President of the Council will not get angry with me for making this last point. It is as a Scottish Member that I make it. Some of the Scottish Members think that Bills might be expedited here a great deal, if the Government would take this opportunity to have a certain amount of devolution, by allowing us, in Scotland, to manage our own affairs. It would save a lot of time in the House, and take away from the interest of the House in many ways, but I am sure it would be beneficial to Scotland, and I hope that this Committee, when considering the proposals will also have in mind the possibility of the Scottish Grand Committee being given greater powers, meeting in Scotland, and transacting much Scottish business, without making it necessary to come to this House for approval.

6.11 p.m.

Major Conant (Bewdley)

I agree that the granting of Home Rule for Scotland might save more time to this House than the recommendations which we are now considering. The Committee were required to report on what alternatives they thought desirable for the more efficient despatch of public business, and they also had an instruction to report, as soon as possible, on a scheme for the acceleration of public Bills. This first report, which we are considering now, is concerned solely with the acceleration of public Bills and I would suggest that speed and efficiency do not always go hand in hand. I think, therefore, that we must consider this report, bearing the fact in mind, that efficiency is not always the complement of speed.

I would criticise these proposals not on the ground that they would not enable us to pass more legislation, and commit more crimes in consequence, but rather that they would reduce, to some extent, the time that should be given to the careful consideration of all proposals, and would limit consideration of the minority view. I have yet to learn that the country that passes the greatest number of laws, in the shortest possible time, is the country which is best governed. In the last six years, we have passed a vast number of laws, in a very short time, and, by co-operation, we have achieved results which have astonished the whole world. Now that we have returned to party Government, we must expect, and I do not deny the right of the Government to introduce some controversial legislation; but I cannot but feel that the problems with which the Government have to deal are not so small that they can afford to dispense altogether with the co-operation of other parties, or the experience of minorities, even though they may be small in number.

I hope that the Government will accept the Amendments on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. and right hon. Friends, which are designed to increase the consideration given to the minority viewpoint. They would not, I think, open the door to obstruction, either from the Opposition or from the Government side. There is one point which is not, as I see it, covered by the Amendments, and that is a point of considerable importance in connection with the timetable. The Committee recommended that, when a timtable is proposed, the Guillotine Motion should take the form of the naming of a day by which a Standing Committee would have to report. The details, of course, would subsequently be allocated by a Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee. That, I think, is to be preferred to the proposal in the Government's Memorandum that an Emergency Business Committee, consisting of the Members of the Chairman's Panel, with others added, should undertake the whole allocation of time. I think that the Select Committee's proposal is much to be preferred, but it has this objection, that the fixing of a date by this House takes no account of the absence of a quorum on Standing Committee and this often happens in Standing Committee, as hon. Members are aware.

I would, therefore, suggest to the Government for consideration that the allocation of time order made by this House should be in hours and not by the fixing of a date. I do not think that would open the door to obstruction in any way because of the fact that the Government, particularly in this Parliament, can themselves always secure a Quorum. Unless this is done there is no certainty that the number of hours which the Government when they fixed the date considered necessary for the consideration of a Bill is actually available for that purpose owing to the wastage of time caused by the absence of a Quorum. If it is decided as necessary that legislation should be speeded up, and I am not myself convinced of that fact, I believe that these recommendations represent a reasonable experiment which this House should try. I have yet to be convinced that there is any justification for speeding up legislation at this time. I do not believe that the way in which one can best secure an improvement in the conditions of the people is, as suggested by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), by the passage of Bills. I do not believe that, but I consider that these proposals are the best method of securing the end which the Government have in view.

6.17 p.m.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

I do not propose to occupy the House for long, but there is obviously a conflict of principle and outlook between Members on the other side of the House and the Government and their supporters on this. Hon. Members opposite have never been very anxious to get legislation passed. They are quite ready to go on the old rule of thumb principle, but we are anxious, in the course of the four or five years at our disposal, to put through as much important legislation as we can. It is obvious to anyone who has tried to study Parliamentary procedure that something on the lines of these recommendations is necessary. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) almost invited himself and his party to give evidence. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) will consider that, because I am sure that the Members of the I.L.P. have had a lot of experience in obstruction and things of that kind, and their evidence as poachers turned gamekeepers might be invaluable, from the point of view of the next report which the Committee issues.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) thought that because the Standing Committee was so small—that it was now to be reduced to a maximum of 50 Members—it could not possibly be reflective of the experience of Members in this House, and he suggested that the Report stage should be longer. The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) suggested that the Second Reading should be longer. They seem to me either to have conflicting reasons for suggesting that, or they have the same reasons. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington was wrong in suggesting what he did, because, after all, the Committee stage is to try and fit in, by the use of the proper words and phrases, the general intentions of this House as expressed in the Second Reading Debate, when the general principles of the Bill are agreed to by the House.

I should have thought that there was no point in having a longer Report stage if the Standing Committee has done its work properly, as I should have thought that they are concerned with the wording of the Bill line by line and word by word. Of the two suggestions I think I would more agree with the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew that a longer time for Second Reading would probably be more useful. The Government point of view is obviously that they wish to try to get as much time of the House clear of long discussions as possible, and they do not particularly want long Second Reading Debates or long Report stage Debates or long Third Reading Debates. I should have thought that, having given a reasonable time, as we have done in the past—there has been no rushing of the Second Reading—the ordinary normal time given in the House was sufficient, so far as we have seen in this Parliament, for the House adequately to discuss on Second Reading the particular Measure before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington referred to a speech by the Prime Minister in 1937 in which he was praising the activities and the work of this institution by saying that all Members from all sides of the House, having regard to their various experiences and points of view, helped to mould legislation. It was an effective quotation. On the other hand I wonder how far that would fit in with the present situation, when we find that the great majority of Members in this House are concerned to do things by legislative action which are literally revolting to Members on the other side of the House? They are not going to help us mould our legislation at all. They are going to try and stab it in the back as much as they possibly can. They are going to hold it up, obstruct as much as they can, and the quotation of the Prime Minister's speech, coming, as it did, from the right hon. Gentleman, seemed to me rather inapt in view of the obstructive tactics which they will undoubtedly be up to as soon as they feel strong enough.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

Can the hon. Member give a single instance in which Members on this side of the House have obstructed the Government in their business so far?

Mr. Bowles

The Statutory Instruments Bill was one.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to suggest that Members on this side of the House have been guilty of obstruction, and is it in Order to refer in that way to proceedings before a Standing Committee, in which most of the time has been taken up by speeches of Socialist Ministers and Socialist Members?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT)

It is not out of Order to make such a statement.

Mr. Bowles

Hon. Members opposite are already getting touchy. I was anticipating what the attitude of the hon. Member and his friends is likely to be in the near future.

I should like to put one point to the Leader of the House on the question of private Members' time. He will remember that I have raised the question with him on Business. When there is any Business which is followed by a Division, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the time of the Adjournment is cut down by the amount of time occupied by the Division, which in the last few evenings has been something of the nature of 15 to 20 minutes. I hope he will consider bringing in some kind of statutory order giving hon. Members the full half hour in any event.

In this Report by the Select Committee there is reference to the inability to obtain enough reporting staff, and to the wages or salaries at present being paid by the Government. I well remember that during the last Parliament there was always too much readiness on the part of the Executive to resist reasonable proposals from hon. Members who were anxious to do their job properly—that the Executive could not provide money, could not provide the paper, could not provide the labour and so forth. That is a completely unconstitutional argument for any Executive to put up to this House. The Executive's inability or unwillingness to pay something, or their refusal to stop calling up labour, should be no excuse for their disabling us from doing our job of work properly. I hope we shall hear no more about this inability or reluctance of the Government to pay the HANSARD reporting staff properly, in order to attract enough people of the great skill and ability that are necessary to enable them to do their job properly.

With reference to having a Debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part," which is dealt with in the Report on page 8, paragraph 19, it is quite clear that in the event of there having been a reasonable discussion on an Amendment which has been lost, or even on the Question "That the Clause stand part," the Chairman has the right to prevent repetitive argument. Therefore the Government should accept the recommendation of the Committee in that respect.

The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew complained that these proposals would not really save the time of the House, and he used a curious expression that if it was not saving time of Members it was not saving the time of the House. That seems to me to mean nothing. What we mean by the time of the House is the number of Parliamentary days, and the fact that Members work a particular number of hours is not the same thing as saying that the time of the House is not being saved. It is obvious that if we divided ourselves up into say twelve Committees, working whole time, it would not save the time of the Members involved, but quite obviously the House of Commons and the Committees would get through a great deal more legislative work. The hon. and gallant Member finished his speech by regretting the tendency shown on the part of Front Bench speakers opposite to co-operate with the Government in this matter. We do not really expect their co-operation. If it is offered we shall look at it rather like looking a gift horse in the mouth. We know that they do not want us to get on with our programme. What is here proposed is necessary to enable us to do so. I wish the Government every success in their programme, and I hope they will press on with it.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I hope the Government will press on with the broadest programme imaginable, and make use of all assistance they can get from the Select Committee in saving time and ensuring the passage of legislation. Whatever hon. Members on the opposite side of the House want in regard to legislation, no one can deny the fact that the broad masses of the people in this country want big changes, bigger than have been suggested so far, in economic and social conditions in this country, which will stagger hon. Members opposite. It will be necessary to adopt every possible means to get that legislation through. I hope that in any further recommendations they make the Select Committee will be much more radical. We do not want longer Second Reading Debates or longer Report stages. I suggest that when we have a Second Reading Debate, the example set in Scottish Debates should be followed, namely, that those who were introducing a particular Motion should get a fair amount of time, but that every other speaker should limit himself or herself to 15 minutes. If any one wants to speak for more than 15 minutes he should go and tell the Speaker—and then the Speaker should not call him.

I have heard it suggested, on what grounds I do not know, that I have spoken quite a lot in this House, but I am prepared to go through HANSARD with any Member, and I will guarantee he will not find more than two speeches, if there are two, of mine in which I have spoken for more than 15 minutes in any discussion. There has been a reference by the Leader of the House to the part of the Report in which the Select Committee discuss repetition. I have heard Members get up here and speak for 45 minutes; the next Member on the same side has got up and said that the hon. Member before him has mentioned all that there was to be said on the subject, and has then gone on to repeat all those things for another 45 minutes. Another thing which I hope will be prohibited by the Select Committee would be the Mem- ber who gets up and says "I wish to detain only this House for a few minutes." The Speaker should crack down on him right away there and then.

Another thing that I am very much interested in is the Guillotine. I would like to see the Guillotine erected right there on the Floor of the House and I would make a job of the hon. Members on the other side. [Laughter.] Seriously, I hope that these propositions will be taken up and utilised to get the very best results in the way of providing new and better conditions for the people of the country. That is what we are here for. I am quite certain that these proposals are going to work out like that. The Select Committee mentioned the question of particular discussions on particular Clauses and particular Amendments not needing any further discussion on question "That the Clause stand part." In the Scottish Grand Committee, when we had discussed Clauses of Amendments we never took up any time on the question "That the Clause stand part." We Scottish Members know how to do business if we get a chance of doing it.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) says that I have a bee in my bonnet. I can only say that there are a lot of bees and a lot of bonnets in Scotland. We have, very occasionally, a Scottish day. I ask hon. Members to see what happens. You can hear hon. Members in the Lobbies asking each other, "What is on to-night?" And one says, "It is a Scottish night," so the other says, "Then I think I will go to a show. "That is general so far as the English and Welsh Members are concerned. There is an exodus from this House when they know it is a Scottish night. But look at the time that is given to us. We get three hours to discuss Scottish health, three hours to discuss Scottish housing, while other Members are going round London, maybe getting lost in the wilds of London. If that Scottish business had been discussed in Scotland, that day could have been used for other business. Take yesterday. I guarantee that if we had been discussing foreign policy in Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece or any other European country, the Members of this House would have understood more about what was being discussed than they understood yesterday about Tummel-Garry. They ask, "What is it?" and "Where is it?"

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must point out to the hon. Member that he must be more relevant to the Motion under discussion.

Mr. Gallacher

I was illustrating how time is lost. I ask the Leader of the House if Scottish Members had been discussing the Tummel-Garry scheme in Edinburgh, at St. Andrew's House, what would have happened? The ordinary business would have been cleared up and a decision taken to send a Parliamentary delegation to Tummel-Garry to find out what was actually going on there.

The Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member cannot talk about Tummel-Garry on this Motion. He must address himself to the Motion before the House.

Mr. Gallacher

I am concluding my remarks now. I support the proposals of the Select Committee. I hope that hon. Members will do everything possible to see that Parliamentary work is expedited, so that the people can get what they expect to get, big changes for the better.

6.35 p.m.

Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)

Like many other new Members of this House I believe that I shall get the kind indulgence of the House on addressing it for the first time. I speak with mixed feelings, and I am inclined to agree with an hon. Member who addressed us earlier on from these benches and said that his impressions of the House were not very favourable up to date. I would not like in my present frame of mind to pass judgment on it but will leave it to the future to determine. But it has seemed to me with the Debates that I have so far listened to, that the depth and width of the gulf between the two sides of this House are obvious. The party opposite seem to approach every social question from the point of view of looking backwards, whereas we on this side of the House must look forward.

One hon. Member on the opposite side said earlier that he could not see any need for the mass of legislation which the Government intended to try to put through this Session. He said it was only in the interest of the Government, and not in the interest of the people. The same hon. Member went back to the Bank Charter Act of 1840 for an illustration of the point of view he wanted to put forward, and he told us that when that Act was passing through this House, there were seven days in which to discuss it. I would like to remind the Members of this House that many things have happened since then. In the first place, the speed of change has tremendously accelerated, and if this Parliament of ours does not keep pace with that change, then Parliamentary institutions will fall into disrepute, and hon. Members who try to delay the pace of the change will inevitably help that fall into disrepute of the institution of which they think so much. I remember that in the Debate when the Select Committee was set up, a good deal of play was made of the statement made by the Home Secretary when he referred to criticism having brought democracy into disrepute, or words to that effect. If he had used the word "talk" he would have been absolutely right, because wherever you look in the world in the last 20 years or so, if there is one thing more than any other which has been the cause of the downfall of many democratic institutions it is the fact that those countries have been unable, by talk, to meet the needs of the common people.

The 19th century saw tremendously important developments in the social life of this country and one of them was the emergence of the positive State. I would like to ask this House to consider the implications of that emergence. It is 30 odd years since I read Professor Dicey's book on the law and constitution of this country, but I believe he remarked that in the last quarter of the 19th century there had been a development of collectivism and that collectively the people had been able to do better things for themselves even in those spheres that have hitherto been left to the individual. If you look at the history of the middle of the 19th century, to which reference has already been made, what do you find was the attitude of Parliament towards the life of the people in those days? The attitude of Parliament was simply that of keeping a ring for the individuals who were trying to help their own interests.

The positive and fundamental belief of the Members on this side of the House is that the State and the community as a whole have positive responsibility for the welfare of every individual citizen. If you want an illustration of that you have it in the development of the poor law from its early days, and through it various phases until it has become the social welfare institution of this country. Or you have it in the examples which Sir William Beveridge gave in his report about the growth of the social services in this country from their very small beginnings to the high figure which they reach at the present time. Another revolution has been the emergence of industrial control. The fact is that the Factory Acts in the middle of last century saw developing in the legislation of this country a system capable of infinite expansion. From being merely negative you have their emergence to a positive relation between the State and the individual. In order to illustrate the relations in this country purely from the business side, the right hon. Gentleman who is at present representing this country at Washington has said: Modern capitalism is absolutely irreligious, without internal union, without much public spirit, often though not always mere congeries of pursuers and pursued. I ask hon. Members opposite: is it possible to allow a system without moral basis to run untrammelled through a society such as ours, and, if not, does it not come down to this, that Parliament is responsible for exercising some kind of control over all industrial organisations in the interests of the welfare of humanity?

I have been struck in several Debates in this House by the care and solicitude which hon. Members opposite have had for my political soul as a new Member of this House. It has seemed to me that in that care they have shown such a tremendous belief in the traditions, the institutions and the procedure of this House, that they themselves are in greater danger than the new Members on this side. Their danger is that they look upon the traditions, the institutions and the procedure as ends in themselves, rather than as means to an end. The institutions and the traditions of this House, of this Parliament, are not an end in themselves but means to an end, and Parliament will be judged not by the love which hon. Members feel for them but by their capacity to serve the ends for which they came into being.

This Parliament of ours has a glorious tradition. It began by serving the interests of the barons, then of the landed aristocracy and then of the indus- trialists. In our age it must serve the interests of the common people. The growth of our Parliament is one of the glories of this country. It has continually been expanded in order to meet the needs of the various kinds of people who have dominated it. This is the age of the common man, according to the words of the former President of the United States of America, but the requirements of that age can only be met by fundamental changes in the social structure of this country. Two and a half years ago I had the privilege of reading the farewell letter of a young airman who gave his life for this country, and in that farewell message were these words, written to his parents: Thank you for all the ideals you have given me. I can only hops that my end has not been in vain and that you will live to see the realisation of some of those ideals in happier times. That lad was brought up in a Socialist household. I know from contact with him that the ideals of which he spoke were socialist ideals. It is not merely because the people of this country sent this party to the House of Commons to effect Socialist Measures, but it is because hon. Members on this side of the House must keep faith with the lads who have offered their lives in order to achieve those ideals, that we believe in accelerating the passing of legislation through this House. It is not merely because it is in the interests of the Government, but because we believe it is in the interests of the people of this country as a whole.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

My first and very pleasant duty is to congratulate my hon. Friend who has just resumed his seat on a maiden speech to which I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House have greatly enjoyed listening. We are pleased that he took part in the Debate, and we very much hope that we shall hear him from time to time on other subjects and on other occasions.

I would like to thank the House very much for the generally friendly way in which the proposals of the Select Committee and of His Majesty's Government have been received. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that it would not be unreasonable to expect rather more time allocated for the Report stages of Bills if the practice of sending nearly all Bills to Standing Committees upstairs was pursued. I think, in principle, that is a fair point for consideration, and I have no doubt, as was revealed in the evidence, that Mr. Speaker will give proper weight to that consideration. I agree it would not be improper—indeed, it would be right—that the Government, if they make a Guillotine on Committee upstairs, and Report downstairs, should also take that point into account. As to the degree to which it should be taken into account, and its consequences on the time on the Report stage, there might be room for differences of opinion, but I agree that if a Committee stage is taken in Committee upstairs the rights of the House are rather more pronounced on the Report stage than if the Committee stage is taken in a Committee of the whole House.

The right hon. Gentleman thought, in relation to that argument, that it would be better to have some higher upper limit in regard to the Committees, but we are proposing that the upper limit should be 50. I think the upper limit—and I will be corrected if I am wrong—was about 70 or 75. I cannot see that the difference of 25 Members would really affect the argument as to the length of the Report stage. I think there is an argument as to whether it is upstairs or downstairs, but I would not have thought that to that extent it is material. While I do not in the least wish to be intolerant of suggestions, I do think if we are going to increase the number of Standing Committees upstairs, that it is inevitable that we shall have to reduce the numbers of each of the Standing Committees below their present considerable maximum, otherwise we shall not have enough Members to spread round.

The other point is that I am bound to say from my own experience that, taking the Committee stage for what it is—namely, a somewhat detailed examination of the Bill—I think 75 Members are rather a large body of folk to form a Committee, and it is substantially bigger than quite a number of the full councils of municipal corporations in various parts of the country. I think, therefore, that 50 is reasonable, but we will watch, in the light of experience, whether it works or not, and the Government will watch whether the Government majority is enough to give sufficient cover for mishaps which may happen from time to time in Standing Committees upstairs. Therefore, we will all watch how it goes in the light of experience.

The right hon. Gentleman put an argument, with which I do not agree, on an aspect of the matter which was dealt with in evidence before the Select Committee; namely, that it was proposed to keep Finance Bills and Bills of first-class constitutional importance on the Floor. I hope I do not misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman when I say that I think he was seeking to argue that in the modern kind of legislation affecting economics, Bills which provide for considerable economic change—for example, the socialisation of industries—are, in principle, Bills raising first-class constitutional issues. I think he was arguing that point, and that therefore they ought to be dealt with on the Floor. I do not agree that if Parliament, upon the advice of the Government, proceeds to transfer the ownership of private industries to public ownership, and to convert capitalist industries to socialized industries, it is a constitutional change. It is a considerable change and, I believe, a beneficial change. However, that is a matter of opinion. I do not accept the view that it is a constitutional change. It is deciding that in economic affairs the country will get its living in one way instead of in another, but I do not think that is of constitutional importance.

The right hon. Gentleman, in making that argument, was rather falling back into the earlier state of mind of the Conservative Party, in which they took the view that anything which in any way impaired the free working of the capitalist system of production and distribution was in itself revolutionary and involved constitutional revolutionary doctrine. An argument about how best a nation can get a living does not in any way involve revolution one way or another. It involves an issue of good sense for which there are arguments for and against, but I do not agree that it involves issues of first-class constitutional importance, although the issue can be exciting from time to time. Let us hope the issues will be exciting as the House gets on with its work.

The right hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that it is hoped to start on the basis of a fair trial, and that it will not be assumed that the Opposition are going to be obstructive. I have been a Member of this House o nand off—on, now, for quite a good time; I have been lucky—and I have seen a good deal of parliamentary obstruction. I am bound to say that up to now, in this Parliament, I have seen very little of it, if any, but mind you I have not been upstairs and I do not know what has been going on up there. I am bound to say I have seen little or no obstruction on the Floor of the House in this present Parliament. It may be that the Opposition are finding their feet. They have had power for a long time and it may be they have not yet got into form. I would only say about the business upstairs, and indeed with regard to obstruction down below, that I have always felt, whether in the Government or in Opposition, obstruction can be a pretty childish and disgusting business from the point of view of the dignified conduct of parliamentary affairs. I entirely agree that if a Government is utterly tyrannical and terrible, and is doing things which it is reasonably clear that the body of public opinion is against, the Opposition are rendering a public service by obstructing that Government for all it is worth. On the other hand, if the Government are acting within the limits of reason—although the view may be taken that it is wrong—and within the realm of the Mandate that it has got, it is open to question as to whether it is dignified for speeches to continue to be made and Amendments moved which, as everyone would recognise, have no serious purpose at all. It makes Parliament look rather foolish, and in those circumstances I hope we have finished with that sort of Parliament altogether. I do not believe it is good, and I do not believe it is useful.

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? He was speaking of the conduct of Standing Committees upstairs. I hope when he is studying this subject, his attention will be drawn to the Standing Committee on the Industrial Injuries Insurance Bill, where I have had to make the most moving appeals for some progress on the Committee stage in face of continual speeches from his own supporters.

Mr. Morrison

I have a hazy recollection of having heard rumours to that effect concerning Standing Committee "A" upstairs. In the light of what the right hon. Gentleman says—I know him too well to believe that he would deliberately mislead me—I will certainly make further inquiries. In these Standing Committees—I am talking about Standing Committees in particular, because a bit of fun in the full House is more understandable, and it is very enjoyable—in the handling of the Bills from day to day, and in particular in the making of decisions concerning the Clauses within the overall Guillotine, I hope very much that there will be a spirit of good sense, co-operation and give and take. If that tradition can start, develop and be maintained it will go through many parliaments and possibly for all time. I am not in any way suggesting that we should not quarrel, nor metaphorically knock each other about and give and take hard blows in debate. I am all for it. In fact, I do not think we have had enough first-class rows in this Parliament, but that is another matter. I am, therefore, not repeating Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's appeal for a Council of State, which I thought was nonsense at the time and which I would not advocate in this Parliament. But Committee work is Committee work, and I would like the spirit of Committee work conducted so that there is give and take on both sides—brief speeches, mutual tolerance and all-round consideration.

With regard to the work of allocating the time of the Standing Committee within the overall Guillotine period, I would say this. I hope that the Ministers, the leaders and Members on the Government side of the Committee constituting the majority will recognise that in that particular matter, on balance, the minority or the Opposition have somewhat more rights to consideration than have the majority. It is they who are the potential critics. It is their liberty of unrestricted opposition that is being limited. They are being somewhat fettered in their style in the discharge of a duty, because the Opposition have a duty to be critical, and I think that on balance the Opposition are entitled to somewhat more consideration than the majority. If the Committees will try to handle the matter in that spirit, and the Opposition will try to conduct themselves in Committee style, I believe that, under this new era, we can build up Standing Committee that will work on business lines, leaving the rather more free-for-all controversies for the Report stage and Third Reading on the Floor of the House.

Therefore, I reciprocate in spirit what was said by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He wanted me to consider whether we would not make allowances for the absense of a quorum on Standing Committees. I do not want to do that, because so often in the past one has gone past a Standing Committee room and found quite a number of hon. Members standing outside deliberately preventing a quorum from being formed. I do not think that is a very good practice. Committees must realise that there is an obligation on Members of both sides to make up the necessary quorum, and I should be sorry to concede the point asked by the right hon. Gentleman, because it might encourage the old practice to persist. The right hon. Gentleman said that the success of these new proposals will depend largely on how the Government apply them, and he gave me a little good advice, a moral homily, on how I should conduct myself as Leader of the House, which I will certainly try to live up to; but I agree that the success of this plan will depend a great deal upon the spirit in which the Government and the majority apply it. I would add also that its success will depend to a great extent on the Opposition. It is for both of us to play our part and make our contribution in order that it shall succeed. The Report of the Select Committee on procedure is itself, up to now, really an example of good sense obtaining and of expedition, and a sensible Report has come before the House. Let that spirit continue.

The hon. Member for Harwich (Sir S. Holmes) gave us a considerable speech on Private Members' time, Private Members' motions, and Private Members' Bills. If he will forgive me for saying so, I could not see that it was very closely related to the matter we are discussing to-day, and perhaps we might consider that on some other day when it is really relevant.

Sir J. Stanley Holmes

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to point out that we are discussing alterations in the procedure of the House? Part of the procedure for many generations has been the right of Private Members to certain time. This right is now being taken away from them, and surely that is a matter which is relevant to this Debate.

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir, this Report deals with a part of the procedure of the House with respect to public business. It is not a Report about Private Members' time at all, and whilst the hon. Member's speech was obviously in Order I should get off the main track of the argument if I attempted to follow him.

I am very sorry that I missed the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb), I am sure that I should have much enjoyed it and I am exceedingly sorry that I missed it. It is due to this evil habit of Ministers going to have a cup of tea. I forgot that it was likely that my hon. Friend was coming into the Debate, otherwise I would certainly have been here, I would also have been here for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock), which unfortunately I missed. It is true that the hon. Member for Central Bradford made a maiden speech, but they were certainly not maiden observations about Parliamentary affairs or Parliamentary business, because we have read, from time to time, at least I have, his able and witty observations on our Parliamentary business, and with great pleasure. He is no stranger to Parliamentary business and Parliamentary procedure. He comes here very well endowed, for he was one of the most distinguished of our bright and brilliant Lobby correspondents, and was already familiar with the procedure of the House. I am exceedingly sorry that I missed his speech. My hon. Friend, in his observations, expressed the hope that the public will recognise that they place a very considerable physical burden on Members of Parliament. I think he is quite right. If a Member of Parliament does his duty, does his share of Committee work and work on the Floor of the House and in writing to his constituents, it is a pretty heavy life. Many Members of Parliament manage to do other things as well, and in my own view it is good that they should have something else to do, because if this were a cloistered place, Members of Parliament having no living and running contact with the world outside, it would be a pity. But that is a personal view. Nevertheless we recognise that the burdens upon our Members of Parliament are considerable.

My hon. Friend suggested to the Government that it will be necessary in the future to plan its legislative programme carefully and in advance. I entirely agree. My own impression is that nearly all legislative programmes, nearly all King's Speeches, of all Governments, of all parties, have been largely accidental aggregations, largely a matter of catch-as-catch-can on the eve of the Session, and then the legislation tends not to be ready. As I conceive it, if a party has control of Parliament and has a constructive job it not only ought to draw up a legislative programme for the Session but for the Parliament, and, indeed, plan it beyond that Parliament into the next one, in anticipation of winning the next Election, as we anticipate that we shall. Moreover, the decisions must be reached earlier in the year than hitherto, so that the Bills can be ready. This is one of our troubles—that, inevitably, not sufficient Bills could be ready, though we have not done badly with the number of Bills we have produced in quite a short time. But we must produce them earlier, so that the flow of legislation can be more even and we can plan the legislative programme of the Session far better. Therefore I am entirely sympathetic to the observations of my hon. Friend upon that point.

He said he was opposed to turning Parliament into a glorified town council. I understand from his argument that he did not want to over committee-ise the House, that the House as a corporate physical entity must maintain its being, and that only on certain occasions, on certain days of the week, should we adjourn the House in order that the Committees upstairs might get on with their work. In spirit I agree. It is a great mistake to draw a close analogy between Parliamentary government and municipal government; they are very different. Both have their virtues—I should be the last to say that local government has not its virtues—but it is no good drawing automatic deductions. Local government and Parliamentary government are entirely different, as many hon. Members who have spent a considerable time on town councils find when they come to Parliament, and are disconcerted to note the differences between the two systems.

The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) wanted longer periods for Second Reading as well as longer Report stages. With great respect I cannot quite see that that is a fair request. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock), whom I congratulate very warmly on his maiden speech, said that he found himself not overworked but, on the contrary, with not enough to do. I am very glad to hear it, because the Whips will no doubt take notice and see that he is put on an additional number of Standing Committees. I like hon. Members not to exaggerate their labours, nor to minimise them. He said that accommodation was very important and wanted a proper lay-out of Parliament, and went on to advocate a great building like a cinema that would hold 1,000. He said we should make it comfortable and a place in which it was easy to hear Ministers who were apt to drone and whisper on the Front Bench.

I sympathise with him about Ministers who do not talk up enough. Sometimes one gets in the habit of talking to the Front Bench opposite and forgets the rest of the House. This is very bad; I have been told about it myself and I put my head on the block and I apologise to the House very much indeed. But if this House were to meet in a place like a cinema, I think it would be just awful. I like this smallish building where you finish up a Debate with a crowd at that end and at this, and it is all very exciting; it is only after you have experienced that sort of thing that you become opposed to a large Chamber.

The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was glad to see that the Government intend to adapt the Parliamentary procedure to modern needs and to carry through a great Socialist plan. We are very glad to have that observation. He was very doubtful about reducing the quorum from 20 to 15. It seems to be logical, as it did to the Select Committee, that, if you reduce the maximum membership from 75 to 50, it is not unreasonable to reduce the quorum from 20 to 15. If the quorum is unduly large, it may add to the difficulties of getting a Committee started, just as there have been difficulties before. I am inclined to think that the proposal is right, although the hon. Gentleman does not agree. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Major Conant) wants quality and not speed, but I gather that he is not too shocked about the proposals of the Government that are before the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) is obviously anxious that there shall soon be a flare-up between hon. and right hon. Members opposite and the Government. We all sympathise with him, and we will see what we can do about it. If I can give any under-taking to do anything to start it, we will have a go. I really must make a note of this. I shall have to see the Chief Whip and go into this and see what we can do. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) was anxious to erect a Guillotine in the middle of the floor of the Chamber to deal with hon. Members opposite. I am certain that, if a Guillotine was put there and the hon. Member was told, "Now start your bloody work," he would weaken in the faith, and would say, "Please, I would rather not. I rather like the chap."

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is using the term "bloody" in its old sense and not in its modern sense.

Mr. Morrison

I was using it in its proper sense, but the hon. Member for West Fife gets milder every week and I am shocked at the way he is developing a highly nationalist outlook and is becoming petite bourgeoisie in character. If he goes on with these nationalist tendencies, and this excessive good fellowship to all on earth, I shall think that he is not a revolutionary any longer. It almost makes one desirous of joining the Trotsky-ists out of hand. I can only say once more that I am grateful to Members in all parts of the House for the general friendliness with which these proposals have been received.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House doth agree with the Committee in the general recommendations contained in their Report. Motion made, and Question proposed, That—

  1. (1) For the remainder of this Session paragraph 1 of Standing Order No. 47 shall read, 'As many Standing Committees shall be appointed as may be necessary for the consideration of Bills or other Business committed to a Standing Committee, and the procedure in 2403 those Committees shall be the same as in a Select Committee, unless the House otherwise order. On a Division being called in the House, the Chairman of a Standing Committee shall suspend the proceedings in the Committee for such time as will, in his opinion, enable the members to vote in the Division. Any notice of an Amendment to a Bill which has been committed to a Standing Committee shall stand referred to the Standing Committee. The quorum of a Standing Committee shall be 15. Strangers shall be admitted to a Standing Committee except when the Committee shall order them to withdraw.'
  2. (2) For the remainder of this Session Standing Order No. 48 shall read, 'Each of the said Standing Committees shall consist of twenty members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, who shall have regard to the composition of the House; and shall have power to discharge members from time to time, for non-attendance or at their own request, and to appoint others in substitution for those discharged. Provided that, for the consideration of all public Bills relating exclusively to Wales and Monmouthshire, the Committee shall be so constituted as to comprise all Members sitting for constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshire. The Committee of Selection shall also have power to add not more than 30 members to a Standing Committee in respect of any Bill referred to it. to serve on the Committee during the consideration of such Bill, and in adding such members shall have regard to their qualifications. Provided that this Order shall not apply to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills.'
  3. (3) (a) A Standing Committee to whom a Bill has been committed shall meet to consider that Bill on such days of the week (being days on which the House sits) as may be appointed by the Standing Committee at half past ten o'clock and, if not previously adjourned, at one o'clock the Chairman shall adjourn the Committee without Question put:
Provided that the first meeting of a Standing Committee to consider a Bill shall be at half past ten o'clock on a day to be named by the Chairman of the Committee. (b) Government Bills referred to a Standing Committee shall be considered in whatever order the Government may decide. (c) Nothing in this Order shall prevent a Standing Committee meeting at hours additional to those set out in sub-paragraph (a) of this Order."—[Mr. H. Morrison.]

7.15 p.m.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)

I beg to move, in line 16, leave out from the second "time," to "and," in line 17.

The object of the Amendment is simple. Under this new arrangement the nucleus of the Standing Committee is to be reduced from 40 to 20. Four Standing Committees—A, B, C and D—have been set up with 40 Members, and the membership will have to be reduced to 20 by the Committee of Selection. We can only do that under two heads, first, if hon. Members ask to be taken off and secondly, if they do not attend. This is to give power to reduce the main body of the Standing Committee.

Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. H. Morrison

The point raised comes under the existing Standing Order which is being continued. The Committee of Selection can discharge Members from a Standing Committee for specific reasons—for non-attendance or because Members themselves wish to be discharged. It would be necessary under these proposals to discharge some Members of the Standing Committee, to bring the numbers down whether they have attended or not, and perhaps whether they wish to stay on or not. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is that the Committee of Selection should have a general power to discharge Members, it being understood that they shall exercise that power in co-operation and with good sense. I think that that is the purpose of the Amendment and that it is a sensible Amendment. I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and, I propose, if the House agrees, to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The next Amendment and the one that follows might be discussed together,

7.18 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester)

I beg to move, in line 21, to leave out "more," and to insert "less."

As you have said, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think it would be convenient to take this and the next Amendment together. They are concerned with the size of the Standing Committees. The present position is that to the nucleus of the Committee of 40 there is power to add another 35, and you must add a minimum of 10. The total size of the Committee under the Standing Order is 50, and a maximum of 75. These two Amendments together would have the effect that the Committee would have not less than 30 but not more than 50, and accepting the new nucleus of 20, that would make the size of the Standing Committees proposed to be set up vary between 50 and 70. The argument with which I support that is that the generally increased responsibilities which devolve upon the Standing Committee suggest that the present minima will be too low. We ought to have at least 50 Members as a minimum in our Standing Committees if these Committees are to handle more work than they do at the present time, and also Bills of greater range and scope. The whole object of the changes in Standing Orders is to enable the Standing Committee more and more to undertake the burden previously borne by a Committee of the Whole House. If that be so, it means that Bills of much greater range and scope must be sent Upstairs than have hitherto customarily been committed to Standing Committees.

The Lord President of the Council just now told us that these Bills whereby the Government propose to effect very fundamental changes in the structure of our economics were not, in his view, matters of great constitutional importance such as to limit them to the Floor of the House. He has told us that we shall have upstairs Bills of very great importance. I think the proposal to limit the maximum of the Standing Committee Members to 50 does not show a proper appreciation of the contribution which Parliament can make to legislation. It is in fact on the Committee stage of a Bill, and there only, that the average Member of Parliament gets an opportunity to make his full contribution. The number of hon. Members who try to catch the Speaker's eye during a Second Reading Debate is always greatly in excess of the number who succeed in doing so, and many an hon. Member has sat through a Debate with a speech, carefully prepared, in his pocket and gone home with it. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen… Where the hon. Member gets a chance to influence the course of events is in the Committee stage of a Bill, and there only. It is equally true that on the Report stage and Third Reading the ordinary Member of this House, unless he is very lucky, gets little chance. Upstairs, he can bring his local knowledge to bear, and the constitutional importance of Parliament is a territorial one. It calls together into this Chamber, and into the Committees, hon. Members from every corner of the United Kingdom, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the result is that we do get British legislation when they are allowed the chance in Committee to express themselves.

I do not think that if this proposal before us is followed and a limit of 50 is imposed on a Standing Committee, no matter how important the Bill may be, that we shall get that national outlook and national contribution brought to our discussions. After all, 50 is about one-twelfth of the Members of the House and 50 is to be the maximum—the number may be less. Surely, a twelfth should be the minimum, and the Government should not bind themselves now but should leave-sufficient elasticity in the future, for a Bill of great importance, to have a total in Standing Committee of 70. You cannot say here that we shall not have remitted to Standing Committees Bills of such a range and scope, that a Committee with 50 Members would be quite unable adequately to cover them. There is no stifling Parliament; no possibility of that. The problem of the Government and of all of us in trying to amend our procedure, is that we are up against the eloquence or loquacity of Parliament, and some of the proposals for timetables and so on, although they may have their uses, are rather like Mrs. Partington trying to sweep out the Atlantic with a mop.

I would like the Government to leave that elasticity I have spoken of, so that for a small technical Bill on which only a few experts need be gathered together and which is relatively non-controversial, you could have a small Standing Committee. But, if you are going to use the Standing Committee, then it should be of a size and universality capable of standing the burden you propose to put upon it. Otherwise I am certain the scheme will not work. I do not think anyone can say that this minimum I am proposing is too high. I cannot imagine why the Government should not set themselves the task of giving us a Committee of 50, with power to add, and I am quite sure that if the Government persist in this course, they will be asking the great bulk of Members of Parliament to abrogate their functions of discussing Bills in Committee and I am sure that the end of that procedure will be worse for Parliament than its beginning.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

I have listened with very great care and attention to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. His concluding argument was that we were in danger under this proposal of a maximum of 50 Members of leaving a considerable number of Members without adequate opportunities of Committee work upstairs. We have all had experience of attending these Committees upstairs, and it is, of course, the case that it is not every Member who can serve on Committees upstairs. That has to be assumed to begin with. What the proportion is of Members who cannot, through their own affairs, serve on Committees upstairs, I do not know, but it will be a fair proportion. Secondly, it must be remembered that in addition to Standing Committees, there will be Select Committees from time to time. These also have their work to do, which occupies many Members. Then the political and Parliamentary responsibilities of Members vary very much indeed. Therefore, I would not have thought that this provision of 50 would have created any danger of manufacturing Parliamentary unemployment amongst the Members of the House.

It seems to the Government that the proposal that is before the House is right. It did represent the majority view of the Select Committee upstairs. Indeed, in order to work a new system of additional Standing Committees, it is necessary to limit the size of the Committees. Even in the case of a highly important Bill, I am inclined to think that 50 is a good number to examine it, because a Bill has to come down here for consideration thereafter. I think a Committee with 20 permanent Members and 30 added for the purposes of the Bill is an appropriate number—is not too small and is not too large for Bills of some substance. It might be too large for what the right hon. Gentleman calls a limited technical Bill but even for an important Bill I do not think it would be too small. In the circumstances I hope that the right hon. Gentleman would not press the Amendment. In any case, it is an amendment of which I could not ask the House to approve.

7.28 p.m.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

Surely we are only making provision here for a minimum and a maximum. If you do not give proper representation to the minority parties in this House, then a great deal is lost in discussion in Committee stage, and if you restrict the Committees to 50, it seems to me possible that minority opinion will not be properly represented on Committees. We are only asking for a minimum.

Mr. H. Morrison

I do not think the Noble Lord is in any way intending to confuse the House on the issue, but he will appreciate that, whatever the number is, we would seek to give the Opposition a fair share on the Committee.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

If you have seven Standing Committees in operation, each of 50, you are going to spread the minority opinion in the House almost to vanishing point. Clearly there will be many occasions when all these Standing Committees will not in fact be meeting; you may only have two or three Committees meeting at the same time. To say that there must be only 50 Members on, each of the Standing Committees is to give no chance to other Members of the House to participate in the functions of the Standing Committees. My right hon. Friend referred to that point, and the Lord President of the Council took it up and said he desired that Members should have a full opportunity to participate in the work of the House. If only two or three Standing Committees are sitting, how are Members to take their part in the activities of the Committees? I do not think that the Government's answer to the Amendment is adequate, and I join with my hon. Friends in asking for its reconsideration.

7.31 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

I wish to put the case of two very small minorities of about a dozen Members, and if the Standing Committees are to be constituted as is proposed none of us can expect to see more than one of those Members on any one of those Committees. In the case of the illness of that Member, that particular party will be put out of representation altogether. Were the number of the Standing Committee increased to 70, the minorities might have two Members on the Committee and the strain upon those Members would then not be so great. If the Lord President of the Council thinks, as he said a few minutes ago, that the minorities should have the benefit of any opportunities, then it is almost logical that he should find himself disposed to accept the Amendment. On behalf of the small minorities I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give way on this matter.

7.32 p.m.

Sir Robert Young (Newton)

I apologise for intervening, but it seems to me that the Amendment now before the House would make very little difference to the Standing Committees as they exist now. We are suggesting a Committee of 20, with 30 added, making 50 Members. It is not usually understood that the supplementary composition of the Committee is purely permissive. If the Selection Committee put on the full complement, the number would be 50, and that, we think, is a very fair number. During the consideration of the Select Committee it was stated that about 200 Members of the House would not be available for these Standing Committees. If you take 200 from 640, without allowing for absences,

and if you have seven Committees with 50 each, we can see what the position will be. We shall need 350Members for the Committees out of just over 400 Members. The position would be very difficult if the membership of the Committee were increased to 75. Very few Committees under the present Standing Orders, except the Scottish Committee, have so large a number. The Selection Committee can appoint 40 Members instead of 50 and then increase its number to 60 by additional Members, under the present Standing Orders. The reduction of the number to 50 was a consequence of the fact that they would not have sufficient Members to supply more than seven Committees at a time.

Question put, "That the word 'more' stand part of the Question, as amended."

The House divided: Ayes, 258; Noes, 123.

Division No. 20.] AYES. [7.37 p.m.
Adamson, Mrs. J. L. Daines, P. Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Haworth, J.
Alien, Scholefield (Crewe) Davies, Edward (Burslem) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Alpass, J. H. Davies, Harold (Leek) Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Deer, G. Herbison, Miss M.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) de Freitas, Geoffrey Hewitson, Captain M.
Attewell, H. C. Delargy, Captain H. J. Holman, P.
Austin, H. L. Diamond, J. Horabin, T. L.
Awbery, S. S. Donovan, T. House, G.
Ayles, W. H. Douglas, F. C. R. Hoy, J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Driberg, T. E. N. Hubbard, T.
Bacon, Miss A. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Balfour, A. Dumpleton, C. W. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Barstow, P. G. Durbin, E. F. M. Janner, B.
Barton, C. Dye, S. Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)
Battley, J. R. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Belcher, J. W. Edelman, M. John, W.
Berry, H. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Bing, Capt. G. H. C. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Keenan, W.
Binns, J. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Kenyon, C.
Blenkinsop, Capt. A. Ewart, R. Key, C. W.
Blyton, W. R. Farthing, W. J. Kinley, J.
Boardman, H. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Lavers, S.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Follick, M. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge) Foot, M. M. Lee, F. (Hulme)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Forman, J. C. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Foster, W. (Wigan) Leslie, J. R.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Freeman, P. (Newport) Levy, B. W.
Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Gaitskell, H. T. N. Lewis, J. (Bolton)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Gallacher, W. Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Buchanan, G. Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Lindgren, G. S.
Burden, T. W. George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Burke, W. A. Gibson, C. W. Little, Dr. J.
Byers, Lt.-Col. F. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Longden, F.
Champion, A. J. Gooch, E. G. Lyne, A. W.
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R. Gordon-Walker, P. G. McAdam, W.
Clitherow, R. Grey, C. F. Mack, J. D.
Cluse, W. S. Grierson, E. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Cocks, F. S. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) McKinlay, A. S.
Coldrick, W. Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side) Maclean, N. (Govan)
Collins, V. J. Gruffydd, Prof. W. J. McLeavy, F.
Colman, Miss G. M. Gunter, Capt. R. J. MacMillan, M. K.
Cook, T. F. Guy, W. H. Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe) Mann, Mrs. J.
Corlett, Dr. J. Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Marshall, F. (Brightside)
Corvedale, Viscount Hardy, E. A. Mathers, G.
Mayhew, Maj. C. P. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Tolley, L.
Medland, H. M. Robens, A. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Messer, F. Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire) Turner-Samuels, M.
Middleton, Mrs. L. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Ungoed-Thomas, Maj. L.
Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Rogers, G. H. R. Usborne, H. C.
Monslow, W. Sargood, R. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Montague, F. Scollan, T. Viant, S. P.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Scott-Elliot, W. Wadsworth, G.
Morris, R. H. (Carmarthen) Segal, Sqn.-Ldr. S. Walkden, E.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.) Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M. Walker, G. H.
Murray, J. D. Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Nally, W. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Watson, W. M.
Naylor, T. E. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Skinnard, F. W. Weitzman, D.
Noel-Buxton, Lady Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester) Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)
Oliver, G. H. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Orbach, M. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Paget, R. T. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Wigg, G. E. C.
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Smith, T. (Normanton) Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Snow, Capt. J. W. Wilkes, Maj. L.
Palmer, A. M. F. Solley, L. J. Wilkins, W. A.
Pargiter, G. A. Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T. Sparks, J. A. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Stamford, W. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Paton, J. (Norwich) Steele, T. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Pearson, A. Stephen, C. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Peart, Capt. T. F. Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Piratin, P. Strachey, J. Williamson, T.
Porter, G. (Leeds) Strauss, G. R. Willis, E.
Pritt, D. N. Swingler, Capt. S. Wise, Maj. F. J.
Proctor, W. T. Symonds, Maj. A. L. Woodburn, A.
Pryde, D. J. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Woods, G. S.
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wyatt, Maj. W.
Randall, H. E. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley) Yates, V. F.
Ranger, J. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R. Thomas, John R. (Dover) Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.
Reeves, J. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Reid, T. (Swindon) Thurtle, E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rhodes, H. Timmons, J. Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Simmons.
Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H. Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C. Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.
Astor, Hon. M. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.
Baldwin, A. E. Hope, Lt.-Col. Lord J. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Howard, Hon. A. Raikes, H. V.
Beattie, F. (Cathcart) Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.) Ramsay, Maj. S.
Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.) Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Boothby, R. Jarvis, Sir J. Renton, D.
Bower, N. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A. Jennings, R. Robinson, Wing-Comdr Roland
Braithwaite, Ll.-Comdr. J. G. Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W. Ropner, Col. L.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Keeling, E. H. Ross, Sir R.
Buchan Hepburn, P. G. T. Lambert, G. Scott, Lord W.
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Channon, H. Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lloyd, Brig. J. S. B. (Wirral) Snadden, W. M.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Low, Brig. A. R. W. Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.
Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M. Lucas, Major Sir J. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.
Cuthbert, W. N. McKie, J. H (Galloway) Studholme, H. G.
Davidson, Viscountess Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster) Sutcliffe, H.
Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Marlowe, A. A. H. Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)
Drayson, Capt. G. B. Marples, Capt. A. E. Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
Drewe, C. Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin) Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Duthie, W. S. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Turton, R. H.
Eccles, D. M. Maude, J. C. Vane, Lieut.-Col. W. M. T.
Erroll, Col. F. J. Medlicott, Brig. F. Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.
Fletcher, W. (Bury) Mellor, Sir J. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.
Gage, Lt.-Col. C. Neven-Spence, Major Sir B. White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'br'ke) Nield, B. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)
Gridley, Sir A. Nutting, Anthony Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Grimston, R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L. York, C.
Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Osborne, C. Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Haughton, Maj. S. G. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Pitman, I. J. Major Mott-Radclyffe and Commander Agnew.
Hogg, Hon. Q. Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.