Motion made, and Question proposed,
(b) As soon as may be after an Allocation of Time Order relating to a Bill committed to a Standing Committee has been made, Mr. Speaker shall nominate the Chairman of the Standing Committee in respect of that Bill and seven members of the Standing Committee as constituted in respect of that Bill to be members of the Business Sub-Committee to consider that order, and those members shall be discharged from the Sub-Committee when that Bill has been reported to the House by the Standing Committee. The Chairman of the Committee shall be the Chairman of the Sub-
Committee; the Quorum of the Sub-Committee shall be four; and the Sub-Committee shall have power to report from time to time to the Standing Committee.
(c) All Resolutions of a Business Sub-Committee shall be printed and circulated with the Votes. If, when any such Resolutions have been reported to the Standing Committee, a Motion, "That this Committee doth agree with the Resolution (or Resolutions) of the Business Sub-Committee," is moved by the Member in charge of the Bill, such a Motion shall not require notice, and shall be moved at the commencement of proceedings at any sitting of a Standing Committee; and the Question thereon shall be decided without amendment or debate, and, if resolved in the Affirmative, the said Resolution (or Resolutions) shall operate as though included in the Allocation of Time Order made by the House.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out "or to be committed."
This Amendment and the next Amendment in my name—in line 3,'to leave out from "shall," to "stand," in line 4—hang together. The object of these two Amendments is to make sure that an Allocation of Time Order—that is to say the guillotine—is not applied until it has been found that it is necessary. This Order is the same as the one we passed last Session, but it was never tried at all. I was against it, and I moved several Amendments. I do think that, if there is going to be a guillotine, it ought not to be put on in advance. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the good feeling in these Standing Committees is a great asset in getting the work done. A guillotine always produces ill-feeling. That is my experience. I think if the right hon. Gentleman would wait until obstruction shows itself, that that would be soon enough. I am quite convinced that any of the Chairmen, if there were obstruction, would be willing to say so, and to get an Allocation of Time Order then. I think it is a mistake to put it on in advance. There were two difficult Bills last Session. I was Chairman of the Standing Committee on one—the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill. I do not think there has ever been a more controversial Bill upstairs. We got through it exactly as required, without any idea of a time table. I was Chairman also of the Committee on the Industrial Injuries Bill. Had there been an Allocation of Time Order for that Bill, it would have been absolutely absurd. The Opposition on that Bill came from the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Tom Smith), who defeated the Government. I 1122 do not think we should make up a time table in advance until we see which way the wind is going to blow, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, who was not very kind to me on the last Amendment, will accept this Amendment now. The right hon. Gentleman was polite and nice in the previous case, but he did not, accept my Amendment. But, then, I was very polite to him—he broke a rule in my Committee room, as he will remember. But I do think this is absolutely reasonable, and I am sure that I shall be backed by the other Chairmen.
§ Mr. Bowles
May I ask one question? Suppose a Chairman of a Standing Committee feels that there is obstruction, what happens? Does he go to the House? Is the Committee abolished for the time being? What happens?
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
Personally, I would go straight to the Lord President and say that there is an obstruction going on in my Committee, and that there should be an Allocation of Time Order.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
There is a good deal of talk about obstruction, but some of it is not quite fair. On the last Bill I had, which was the Hill Farming Bill, there were a good many hon. Members who were keen to get the Bill, but if I had not known that, I should have said that they were obstructing it, because they talked and talked.
§ Colonel Ropner
I beg to second the Amendment.
This, I think, is very largely a matter of psychology, and the Lord President, rightly or wrongly, has the reputation of being a great psychologist. It is a threat to any Committee to have an Allocation of Time Order standing over it, or imposed upon it at its first meeting, and I entirely endorse what has already been said, namely, that it is likely to make the work of the Chairman harder; and it is likely, in my view, to expedite the work of the Committee if an Allocation of Time Order is imposed before discussion of the Bill has started. The right to impose an Allocation of Time Order is always there; there can be no question that if there is needless obstruction upstairs, an Allocation of Time Order can be imposed, and I think hon Members on both sides will agree that it is highly undesirable for an Allocation of Time 1123 Order to be imposed unless it has been proved by experience to be necessary.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I am very sorry that I had to change my mind about the last Amendment, but I am bound to say that the more the discussion went on, the more convinced I felt that my provisional conclusion was wrong. Therefore, I am the more sorry to have to disappoint the hon. and gallant Gentleman with regard to this Amendment. As I understand the purpose of the Amendment, it is shortly this. As things are, before a Standing Committee begins its proceedings on a Bill, we can, under the existing Sessional Order which I am proposing to renew, move an Allocation of Time Order which would automatically then stand referred to the Standing Committee, and it or its Business Sub-Committee would then take the necessary consequential action. It is perfectly true that under the Sessional Order, we could take another course also, of letting the Bill make progress or fail to make progress in the Standing Committee and, when it became clear that there was that difficulty in the Standing Committee which is commonly known as obstruction, we could come along to the House and ask for an Allocation of Time Order. In the opinion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, we should adopt the second method, and drop the power to impose an Allocation of Time Order when, or before, the Bill goes to a Standing Committee.
I do not think there is much advantage in the change, and in certain circumstances I can see a disadvantage. It is perfectly true that the Government and the Opposition, by good sense on both sides, had conversations—I will not say made agreements, because that would be going too far—in which hopes and beliefs were expressed on both sides as to the time by which Bills in Standing Committees might reasonably be finished, and in fact I think in every case they were finished within that time. It was an admirable example of cooperation, which cooperation I trust will continue. The Government for their part tried to be reasonable on what they thought was the proper time, and I am also bound to say that the Opposition were reasonable in the time which they thought. It is perfectly true, as has been said, that it is not always the Opposition which may be the source of trouble, and it 1124 is a fact that some of the trouble on one Committee did not come so much from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) but from some of my own hon. Friends who had strong feelings and made themselves a bit of a problem for quite a time. It was assumed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment that we would never think of guillotining Government supporters—I do not mean that literally. especially during this week. I mean that we would never think of having an Allocation of Time Order if we experience I trouble from the Government's own supporters. But if it were necessary, if there were trouble and obstruction from the Government's own supporters, the Government must have an equal right to apply an Allocation of Time Order, as much to them as to the Opposition
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
—but if you try to set up an Allocation of Time Order in advance, you have not the slightest idea who are the people who want the most time. Nowadays the draftsmen are very crafty—perhaps that is the wrong word, I should say very skilful—and put most of the contentious points in the first Clause. Once you get past the first Clause, you generally go ahead at full speed, and with, say, a six-Clause Bill, it might very easily be a reasonable thing to give five out of six days for one Clause. You cannot anticipate in advance, that is the point
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Whenever the guillotine begins to fall, or begins to be sharpened up and prepared for action, in the sense of an Allocation of Time Order, you are bound to have the problem of estimating, as best you can, how much time should be given to the various parts or Clauses of the Bill, whether you do it at the beginning or later on. It is quite true, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, that the tendency nowadays is for the contentious part to be put in at the beginning. That is because legislation starts clean at the beginning by saying that such and such a thing is to be done, and the other clauses tend to be consequential, which is quite logical and sensible. But consider the position from the Government's point of view, in all fairness. We freely 1125 negotiated with the leaders of the Opposition last year, and I think we are both to be complimented on the sense and good feeling with which it went through, but I do not disguise from myself—I do not know whether it bad any effect on the position, but it had an effect on my position and bargaining powers, I think—that to be quite frank I am in a stronger position as things are.
The Opposition know that I do not want to put this in any unkind or brutal form, but we did start on the basis that there could, forthwith, be an Allocation of Time Order, but that if we agreed, there would not be such an Order. If we made an Allocation of Time Order, I, personally, would still seek to be fair to the Members of the Committee. I have got the possibility of an Allocation of Time Order in the negotiations with the Opposition; if I had not got it, and the Opposition were difficult—or indeed, which might be the case, if they made a mistake, because they did not know what the mood of their followers would be, and they cannot tell that in advance any more than I can tell the mood of the Government's followers—we should be faced with a possible loss of time, which we should think a waste of time, over a fortnight or perhaps three weeks, because we should have to let it run a bit before we could say that they were really being troublesome. If having lost that time, we came to the House and asked for an Allocation of Time Order, with the Committee probably in a bad temper and possibly the House as well, it would all be put back on the Committee and the guillotine would fall.
That is how we left it last year, though I admit that we came to an arrangement. We said that the Opposition must understand that if it did not work we could bring in an Allocation of Time Order at a later period. But we might have a Bill—there could be one this Session, there all sorts of Bills about and I know of one that might be very troublesome, though I will not mention it because I am not asking for trouble—on which people might have such deep feelings that they really would fight it line by line and Clause by Clause. If the Leader of the House and the Whips know that that is going to be the situation, we really must face the logical consequences and have an Allocation of Time Order from the beginning. I want the power, not because I wish to 1126 use it brutally or without consideration, but because I am in a stronger position. It may be that in the case of a coming Bill there will be, I will not say "blue murder," but heavy fighting, line by line and Clause by Clause, and then we can say from the beginning that we want this. I am always sorry to resist anything which the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and Bute (Sir C. MacAndrew) wants. I have great respect for his work as a Chairman. He is so kind and reasonable. Moreover, he is one of the Opposition Members with whom no one ever quarrels. There are no excitements between us, but I am afraid, for the reasons I have given, that the Government ought to have the power to bring in such an Allocation of Time Order. If all is well, and we can continue in a reasonable and cooperative spirit, although there must be fighting between the Government and the Opposition, which I believe in, I shall be happy if I can say at the beginning of the next Session that, although I have not used it, we still want it again. I think it will help us in the negotiations. We might have a Bill where it was necessary to apply it in the beginning, and, with regret, I must therefore advise the House to resist the Amendment.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
I am really sorry that the Lord President of the Council has taken this line. This Sessional Order was new last year. It was experimental, and our experience, as the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, was that it was not necessary to have this power. He has gone out of his way to say that all the hopes and beliefs he had about passing the major legislation of the year, as a result, to use his words, of "some talks" with those who sit on these benches, were achieved. He held this weapon in terrorem,but it was not used, and it was therefore not necessary. He now says that there may be a Bill on which there is deep feeling, which may have to be fought line by line and Clause by Clause. What does he think happened with the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act? It was exactly such a Bill, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr and Bute Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew), who was Chairman, will bear that out. This Opposition is a sensible Opposition. We stand up for the rights of the Opposition, but we recognise that just as a minority has a right, so has a majority. A majority not only has a 1127 right, but the power, which we have not, to get them through. There is no doubt that this possibility of putting on a timetable,, before a Bill is even started, is unpalatable. The right hon. Gentleman says that it puts him in a stronger position. Does it put him in a stronger position? The Lord President of the Council has nearly 400 Members to support him. Does he really think that this little weapon makes all that difference? I do not think that it does.
Frankly, the existence of these powers leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Last year this power was found to be unnecessary, and now is the time for it to go. That is the point of having an experiment; otherwise there is no experiment, because if we go on doing the same thing, whether it is necessary or not, it passes the experimental stage and becomes a bad habit. The assumption behind this particular proposal is one to which I must take most exception. The assumption is that before a Committee has ever met, before Members have become acquainted with one another and with the Chair, it is assumed that straight away it is going to be an unreasonable body. A Committee has to be on good working terms with the Chair, but this means that a large proportion of the Committee will pay no heed to the guidance which is so often given by the Chair in these matters.
I think it is an unfortunate assumption to make, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not closed the door to my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment. The weapon has not yet beeen used. I cannot say, any more than the right hon. Gentleman, whether it will be necessary this Session, but we had some extremely controversial Measures last Session. We got through without this weapon, or without any complaint to the Lord President from the Ministers in charge of the Bills. They got what they wanted; we did not get what we wanted by a long shot, although we brought forward all the necessary and relevant arguments. The Lord President is apt to lose sight of the point we made strongly in the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, where we re-emphasised the powers which already reside in the Chair. Those powers have been extended in recent years. After all, it is years since the Lord President sat on a Standing Committee, and all the better for him, because there is not all 1128 that fun. It is a long time since he has been either leading the Bill or has been in opposition in Standing Committee, and he may not have realised the cumulative effect of the changes of the last 10 or 15 years, the major one being the greatly extended powers given to the Chairmen of Standing Committees.
This is one of the things which helped the legislation during last Session, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not keep this weapon this Session. He admitted, on the one hand, its employment in terroremand, on the other, that he needs cooperation. It is hard to be cooperative when someone has a big stick. The right hon. Gentleman has all the stick he requires in the Government's majority, and in his handling of the House, and all the rest of it. He does not need to take these powers, because as soon as the Chair let him know that there was some difficulty I am sure he would not be slow to come forward, possibly with justification, and bring an Allocation of Time Order before the House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the experiment of keeping this weapon in the Standing Orders last Session showed that it was not necessary, that Government legislation was not hampered, that the Government got all they wanted—more than they hoped for—and that it is not necessary this Session. If, as a result of its being abolished this Session, that experiment is no good then there is still another year in this Parliament for him to change it.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council whether there is any precedent for this, whether it has ever been used before.
§ Mr. Morrison
It was a Sessional Order last Session. It is true we did not use it but, nevertheless, it was an Order. Last Session was the first time it existed.
§ Mr. Williams
Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I know the right hon. Gentleman had the Order last Session, but is there any precedent for putting the closure on at the beginning of a Bill, directly it leaves here? Has it not always 1129 been, in the past, the practice to let the Bill go from here, have a discussion, and then put on the guillotine if necessary?
§ Mr. Morrison
Until this Sessional Order was made last Session there was no power to put the guillotine on the Committee upstairs. The power to guillotine has been exercised on the Floor of the House. Sometimes the Allocation of Time Order for the Committee stage of a Bill on the Floor of the House was moved and carried during the Committee stage, and sometimes it was moved and carried before the Committee stage began. There are precedents both ways.
§ Mr. Williams
As far as precedents are concerned, it does not much matter one way or the other. The main point which I wish to make is that the right hon. Gentleman, earlier in the day, laid down that last year he got on very well, and did very well indeed. Now he is seeking to change this thing—
§ Mr. Williams
He is now seeking this power, and I would say, quite frankly, on the argument already put forward, that it is really far better to have your Committees upstairs working well than to have provocation by an Order of this kind. The Opposition is possibly getting a little stronger than it was. I would say that, after having the advice of two or three people; that the right hon. Gentleman should accept this Amendment in the interests of the working of the Committees, with the knowledge that they did work smoothly before. In those circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman would be far wiser to accept the Amendment and to carry on with this sympathetic working. But, as I understand his present attitude, he is not inclined to be quite so helpful as he was earlier. If he does this, I do not very much mind; but I think that on the whole he is likely as a result to get less cooperative work on the committees upstairs, which may or may not be a pity. He need not come round to some of us and say that we did not warn him: it will be his own fault if there is not quite as much cooperation as he got last year. I think it a pity that, at this early stage of the Session, he should show this very obstinate frame of mind.
§ Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)
I only want to say to the hon. Member for Tor- 1130 quay (Mr. C. Williams) that I think that he has made a case for my right hon. Friend, namely, that if the Opposition is getting stronger, this is all the more necessary.
§ Captain Crookshank
My hon. Friend was not necessarily referring to the official Opposition being stronger.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.