HC Deb 08 July 1946 vol 425 cc41-6

Order for Consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Ivor Thomas)

I beg to move, That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of the Amendments in Clauses 28, 32, 35 and 5r, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Ivor Thomas.

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I fully realise that at this stage we cannot enter into a discussion about the arrangement of Business, but I should like to raise my voice in protest against the growing practice of recommitting Bills in respect of considerable numbers of Clauses. Here, we are recommitting a Bill, after it has been in Committee upstairs, where inevitably it has taken a certain amount of time. I cannot, of course, discuss whether that time is deserved or undeserved—we shall deal with that later—but the points on which the Bill is being recommitted should have been thought of and dealt with before. It is not as though we were recommitting the Bill on a few small points. If the recommittal of a Bill is to involve about one-seventh of the whole of the Clauses, if we are to follow this habit of having a Bill recommitted in respect of whole blocks of Clauses, we are practically introducing a second Committee stage, which I think is a bad practice.

I could easily produce a good many more reasons for objecting to this course, but I have no wish to do more than to protest against the obstinacy of those in charge of the Bill because it has to be recommitted, at this stage, in respect of matters which should have been dealt with in the Committee. Of course, I realise why the Attorney-General laughs at that. Naturally, he rejoices in incompetence. We all know that that his strong line. Naturally, this amuses him because, so to speak, he is of it. But I think it is against the best interests of the House that the Government should come, time after time, asking us to recommit Bills for consideration of Amendments to large numbers of Clauses. I would add that we have had no explanation from the Government why the House should be put to all the trouble of going back on the Committee stage of a Bill. Two of the Clauses concerned here are large ones, and a third is fairly large. This is one of those instances in which it is unfortunate that the Government did not do their thinking long before the Bill had reached this stage. It shows that the people who are really holding up the House are the Government, with their own grave lack of ability to know precisely what they are doing. That was well explained the other day during a speech by one of their own Cabinet Ministers.

Mr. Ivor Thomas rose——

Mr. Williams

No, I am sorry. I wish to make it quite clear that I am not reflecting in any way on the Minister who, I am quite sure, is absolutely harmless, and completely without any ill-intention.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I could give him no explanation until the Motion was opposed. Half the proposed Amendments for which recommittal is sought, are designed to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The others are for purposes which I am sure the House will appreciate.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

I am sure we on this side of the House cannot accept the observation of the Parliamentary Secretary that one-half of these Amendments are designed to meet points raised by us. I hope that when we get a little further he will amplify that statement and the fallacy of it will then be clear to the House. It is quite untrue. It would be ungenerous on our part if, having had some of our points met—as we have—we then objected to this recommittal; but the hon. Gentleman grossly exaggerated the number of Amendments which are, in any sense, a concession to points made by the Opposition. I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) in drawing attention to the fact that this recommittal is largely the result of the overloading of the legislative programme of the Government which prevents them from bringing Bills before the Committees upstairs in a proper form and one which really meet the points which the Government have in mind.

We had a very important point which we were anxious to raise on the Report stage but we realised that as it would involve a charge upon the Treasury, it would be impossible for us to raise it without the Bill being recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House. We knew, as this point was one we were anxious to make, that the Government would not provide us with the facilities for recommitting the Bill. Therefore, I do not think we can allow the Govern- ment's use of this method to pass unchallenged. We have had three months of hard argument about this Bill in Committee upstairs. Many were the journeys that were made by Ministers one to the other and to their advisers.

The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

Three months?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sorry. We had six to seven weeks' hard discussion on this Bill. Many were the journeys by Ministers to take advice from one another. Many were the opportunities to improve the Bill. We now register our protest that it has been thought necessary to recommit the Bill in respect of these various Amendments.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

This protest is thoroughly unjustified. How many times have we listened to protests from hon. Members opposite about not getting the time necessary to discuss all the points in Bills which, they said, were being rushed through by the Government? The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has made it quite clear that he objects to the Bill being recommitted, and submitted to the House, with further Amendments as a result of the Committee's work. What is the point of bringing back the Bill, if the Minister cannot propose Amendments as a result of the work done upstairs?

Mr. C. Williams

Will the hon. Gentleman permit me to say——

Mr. Scollan

What the hon. Gentleman is doing is making a protest against the very procedure that has been asked for——

Mr. Williams


Mr. Scollan

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is protesting against the very procedure which hon. Members opposite have been asking time after time should be put into operation. Repeatedly we have heard right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite complaining about legislation being rushed through, and protesting that the necessary time was not being given to it. Now, when they are getting the time, they are making a further complaint. I ask the House to treat this protest in the fashion in which it ought to be treated. It is simply another method of getting in anti-Government propaganda

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

That is quite wrong. It is not a question of time; it is a question of form. There is plenty of time on the Committee stage for the Minister to put down his Amendments, for my hon. and right hon. Friends to put down theirs, and for those Amendments to be debated at length. What we are objecting to is the invasion of the rights of the House on the Report stage, by a recapitulation of the Committee stage, which ought to have been completed upstairs. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council were here. It was he who devised the elaborate process of having five Standing Committees upstairs in order to get through the business of the House. That idea of his is now breaking down. This is not the only example. We had the same thing last week in the case of the New Towns Bill. The Government do not carry through the process devised by the Lord President of the Council, in regard to Committee stages upstairs. Instead, they leave points over raggedly, and bring them down to the House on the Report stage forcing the House to go into Committee and making it necessary for you, Mr. Speaker—although you will of course make no complaint about it—to leave the Chair and go to your apartments and return later. Hon. Members attend expecting a Report stage but find instead they have to bother with another Committee stage for perhaps an hour or two. The thing is getting out of hand. I hope the Lord President will be informed of the way in which his own ideas are breaking down.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

When the new procedure was adopted I thought it obvious that as so many more Committees were being set up it might be necessary to modify the former practice in the House. I am surprised that Members of the Opposition have taken up this attitude. The Government are anxious to meet them. After the discussion of these matters in the Committee upstairs, the Government are anxious to come to the House and give hon. Members a bigger opportunity than they had in Committee to deal with these points. For Members of the Opposition to protest against that, shows to me their mental instability and weakness. Surely, the Government are showing a certain generosity. They are not seeking simply to rush things through without giving opportunity for recommittal on points which have emerged in the Committee upstairs.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

May I bring the discussion back to the remark of the Parliamentary Secretary to the effect that a number of these Amendments had been put down in order to meet the wishes of the Opposition? [HON. MEMBERS: "Half."] May I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to that on Clause 28, page 18, line 7, and the following Amendment, to which the name of the Minister of Supply appears? These have not been put in to help the Opposition on the Committee stage, but merely because the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend had forgotten——

Mr. Speaker

We cannot discuss the details of Amendments which are to be discussed in Committee.

Sir T. Moore

I was merely pointing out, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman made a mistake in stating that so many of the Amendments were put down to meet points which had been raised by the Opposition.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]