§ 7.28 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I beg to move,That—
- (1) Notwithstanding anything in paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 47. 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 in that paragraph, fifteen shall be substituted for twenty as the quorum of a Standing Committee.
- (2) Standing Order No. 4S 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, 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 thirty 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) (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—
- (i) the first meeting of a Standing Com mittee to consider a Bill shall be at a time and on a day to be named by the Chairman of the Committee;
- (ii) if, in the opinion of the Chairman, the proceedings on a Bill could be brought to a conclusion by a short extension of the sitting, he may defer adjourning the Committee until a quarter past one o'clock;
- (iii) if proceedings under the Standing Order 'Closure of Debate' be in progress at the time when the Chairman would be required to adjourn the Committee under the preceding provisions of this Order, he shall not adjourn the Committee until the questions consequent thereon and on any further Motion, as provided in that Standing Order, have been decided.(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 paragraph (3) of this Order, but not earlier than two o'clock on any day.Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to make a fairly general statement. It is just over a year since, on 15th November, 1955—
§ Mr. Morrison
This progress! We get on at such a rate that one finds it difficult to be accurate as to dates. It is just over a year since, on 15th November, 1945, that the House discussed the proposals for the reorganisation of the Standing Committees which were contained in the important first Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, and it was then that the House approved the Sessional Orders setting up the Standing Committee arrangements which operated last Session. The Government are asking the House today to agree to the continuance of these arrangements during the present Session of Parliament. It will, perhaps, be for the general convenience if I deal with the various Sessional Orders which are to come before us. I think that the whole House can congratulate itself upon the smooth and efficient way in which the scheme, introduced last year, has worked in practice. When I say, the 1104 whole House I mean that, because the ciedit belongs to all parties and sections of the House, for without their cooperation we could not have had the advantage of the smoothness and efficiency with which the system has worked. The system has substantially relieved the House itself and, if I may say so, its effectiveness is a tribute to the commonsense and spirit of cooperation of Members of all parties. We are, I think—and here I know that the Members of Standing Committees will be with me—in particular, indebted to the Chairmen of the Standing Committees for the skill with which they have performed their duties and for the way in which they have shouldered the heavy burden which has inevitably fallen upon them.
The Chairmen of Standing Committees of the House of Commons do not get a great deal of public notice for their labours; they certainly work without fee or reward in that respect, and I think that perhaps makes us additionally indebted to them for the time, painstaking attention and unfailing courtesy and fairness which they give to their duties. To them I would like to express the thanks and appreciation of everybody who works in this House. I am sure that they would agree. however, that without the cooperation 10 which I have referred their task would have been infinitely more difficult; that is to say, the cooperation of hon. Members of all parties. We also owe a considerable debt to the Members of the Committees for the hard work which they have put in because, undoubtedly, the service of hon Members on Standing Committees upstairs is a serious and material addition to their Parliamentary duties. It certainly was the case in the first Session of this Parliament, and we very much appreciate their labours.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough, since he is being so very effusive, to say that he is not speaking only on behalf of the Government? I hope the Government is not paying us a compliment, but that his remarks are made on behalf of the whole House?
§ Mr. Morrison
I think that was a most irrelevant and unfortunate intervention. Obviously, I am expressing thanks on behalf of the House. Why the noble Lord in a manner, and with manners which are becoming increasingly common, should want to use an occasion like this for a dig at the Government—
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope the noble Lord will read what he said. Perhaps I misunderstood him. As I was saying, we owe' a considerable debt to the Members of the Committees for the hard work which they have put in. The average level of attendance has been creditably high and the pressure at times heavy. I may say that the six Standing Committees between them considered 27 Bills, as compared with 56 kept on the Floor of the House, and the Standing Committees met in all on 153 days. The Sessional Orders which the Government are proposing for the approval of the House today, are substantially in the same form as last year, and, apart from purely drafting amendments, the changes which we propose to make are only on points of detail. In paragraph 3 of the Sessional Order on Standing Committees, sub-paragraph (a,ii), the Chairman is given discretion to extend the sitting of a Standing Committee until 1.15 p.m. if it appears that a Committee stage of a Bill could be completed in a short time and thereby avoid the Committee sitting on another day. I understand that there is an Amendment coming up in that respect, and I will say something about it when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr and Bute, Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew)—who has great experience—moves it.
A case occurred last Session, in which the time was slightly extended by resolution with the approval of the Chairman. I must say that this experience is perhaps fairly typical of the extraordinary way that British Parliamentarians and others can work round a spot of bother with a little informality. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Chairman, the Committee, which would have required another sitting if he had not been so ingenious, was able to save a good deal of inconvenience by suspending its sitting at one o'clock and resuming it at one minute past one o'clock. The Bill was completed at two minutes past on? o'clock and another sitting was avoided. Credit for that ingenuity belongs to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr and Bute, Northern, one of our highly respected Chairmen of Standing Committees of the House, who, as I have said, has great experience.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
Should the right hon. Gentleman not also include the good sense of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee?
§ Mr. Morrison
Quite true. The hon. and gallant Gentleman did it with the cooperation of both sides. I entirely agree, and I am quite sure he would wish to say so himself.
In sub-paragraph (a,iii), provision is made for extending the time beyond one o'clock in order to complete a division on the Closure if in progress at that hour and to complete any contingent Motion arising there from, as provided in the Standing Order (Closure of Debate). In sub-paragraph (c), it is proposed that a Standing Committee should not meet earlier than two o'clock after its Adjournment at one o'clock, or at 1.15 p.m. or at the end of divisions on the Closure. This means, in effect, that a Standing Committee cannot sit continuously without a break. A break is necessary for the sake both of hon. Members and of the reporters.
In the Order about the attendance of the Law Officers in Standing Committees, two changes are made. The Lord Advocate is placed next after the Attorney-General. This is a point which was raised last time by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), in which he caught the Government not quite perfect in its order of precedence as between the Law Officers. Secondly, it is made clear that a Law Officer serving ex-officiodoes not form part of the quorum of a Standing Committee. This confirms the practice adopted last year. I hope that brief explanation will commend itself to the House.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I think the right hon. Gentleman is fully entitled to pay tribute to the action of the House, and I regret that he misunderstood the question which I put to him. The right hon. Gentleman has been in this House long enough to know that it is always unpalatable to an Opposition to have any credit of any kind given to it by the Government. I would like to reply that, while the right hon. Gentleman may have reason to complain of my manners, we also have some reason to complain of his, possibly as the result of events earlier in the week. What I do 1107 want to say, as one who takes some interest in this matter and who was a Member of the Committee on Procedure, is that this new arrangement, which arises out of discussions which have gone on upstairs and behind the Chair, has, on the whole, been to the benefit of the House. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to say that it was a good example of the way in which we adjust ourselves in this ancient and historic Assembly to the needs of the times. I entirely agree with him, and I think that the example which he gave from the Committee upstairs is typical of the way in which we get over our difficulties. Having delivered these observations, and having delivered myself of the fear that the right hon. Gentleman was paying me or someone else a compliment, I resume my seat.
§ Mr. Speaker
It seems to me that both the Amendments to this Motion which appear on the Order Paper are connected. In that case, would it not be more convenient to discuss them together?
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
With the greatest respect, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that they cover different points.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
I was going to urge that the hon. and gallant Member who is to move the Amendments, in case he was not taking them together, should do so. They do hang together and both serve the same purpose, that of leaving some latitude in the hands of the Chair.
§ Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)
They could be taken separately, but the idea which I have in mind is that they are connected.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am in the hands of hon. Members. I want to do what is most convenient for the House. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to take them together, he has my permission to do so.
§ Mr. Morrison
If I may say so, I think we should be able to come to some arrangement at the end of the discussion. If we could have a general discussion on the two Amendments I think it may be possible to reach agreement.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
I beg to move, to leave out lines 26 to 28.
1108 Before doing so, I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman most sincerely for his kind remarks about myself and the Chairmen of the Standing Committees, which, I am sure, will be very much appreciated. The right hon. Gentleman said the new Sessional Orders had worked well last Session. I heartily agree. I congratulate him on the success they have attained. The object of this Amendment and the other Amendments is to keep the first Order as it was previously. They really bring that Order back to what it was last year. This Amendment proposes to leave out paragraph (3a ii) which gives power to the Chairman to defer adjourning a Committee until a quarter past one o'clock. The other proposes to omit the provision regarding a Committee meeting not earlier than two o'clock. The incident to which the right hon. Gentleman referred occurred in the Standing Committee which was dealing with the Hill Farming Bill. It adjourned at one o'clock, met again at 1.1 p.m. and finished at 1.2 p.m. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that there was anything cunning about what was done. On that occasion, we had the cooperation of his colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, who, I am sorry to see, is not present tonight. If he were, I am sure that he would bear me out that what we were able to do was of immense advantage to all concerned. I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), who was also on that Committee, will agree that the Order, as it originally stood, was a great advantage. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the idea of stopping at one o'clock was to enable the Official Reporters to go to lunch. As a rule, the real difficulty in Standing Committees is not to carry on after one o'clock, but to get the people to stay until one o'clock, especially as Standing Committees now start at 10.30 a.m. instead of at 11 o'clock. I hope that I have made the point perfectly clear. What I would like is that the Order should remain as it was originally.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope that the Government will accept these two Amendments which have been so accurately described by the Lord President because, as the Order stands at the moment, the Chairmen and Members of 1109 Standing Committees can, as he says, "walk round a spot of bother." The Members and Chairmen of. Committees are very sensible of their own convenience and that of the servants of the House. No Chairman and no Member of a Standing Committee would desire to deny to Members, to the servants of the House, or to the Official Reporters, some break in the middle of the day, or make it inconvenient for them to get their lunch But it seems to me that the Government are making matters more difficult by the proposal about a Committee not meeting earlier than two o'clock on any day. The ingenious procedure adopted during last Session enabled a Committee to adjourn at 16 minutes past one o'clock. If the Government's proposal is agreed to, a Committee would have to meet again at two o'clock, even if it had adjourned as late as 1.15. I believe that the Government can rely on the good sense of Chairmen and Members of Standing Committees, and that they would be well advised to leave the Orders as they are at the moment.
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
As you, Mr. Speaker, and the House have agreed to take these two Amendments together, perhaps it would be as well if I were to say that I support the first one. As a Chairman of a Standing Committee—although I have only had experience in mat capacity for one year—I think that discussion should be allowed to go on for longer than 15 minutes after one 'clock if necessary and that a Committee should not be tied exactly to 15 minutes. I hope that the Lord President will see his way to delete the words which the Amendment proposes to omit and to insert "within the discretion of the Chairman," or other words to that effect. As regards the second Amendment, which deals with a meeting before 2 o'clock on the same day, I think that that is altogether unfortunate. Could the Committee not meet at some later time in the afternoon, say, after Question time, in view of the fact, already pointed out, that we have to study the convenience of the staff, the draftsmen who sit with us, the clerks and the Official Reporters? I think it would be a reasonable compromise to leave it to the discretion of the Chair man whether or not to go on after one o'clock, and then, to meet the convenience of the House, by sitting again in the after- 1110 noon after Question time, if that is the general wish of the Committee itself.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
The hon. Member will not be able to carry out what he wishes to do under the first Amendment, unless the second one is carried. The Committee would have to stop at one o'clock.
§ Mr. Bowles
I suggest that we should insert the words, "at the discretion of the Chairman." I believe that that is one way of getting over the difficulty, a difficulty of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself has had experience. Unless there is an alteration in the sense of giving Chairmen of Committees discretion, it might not be, possible—supposing we have an allocation of time relating to a Bill and the discussion has come to an end exactly at one o'clock—to catch up with and pass the number of Clauses allotted for that particular day. If the Government could see their way to give Chairmen of Standing Committees some discretion, and not limit the extra time to 15 minutes, and not let the Standing Committee meet before, say, 3.30 p.m., then the objection which I foresee, and which the hon. Gentleman opposite foresees, would be avoided.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I wish to say a few words in support of the Amendment. Apart from the Minister, I believe that I am the only person who has spoken so far who has seen a considerable amount of work in Standing Committees upstairs, but who has never been the Chairman of such a Committee. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted by the Government. The strongest reason given for accepting the Amendment was that put forward by the Lord President himself. It has already been proved that, by the ingenuity of a Chairman, we are able to get over the one o'clock difficulty. Therefore, there can be no excuse in the future for a Chairman not knowing how to get over it. As I understand it, a Chairman will only be able to adopt that course so long as he obtains the good will of the Committee. With the good will of the Committee he should be able to get through in a short time.
Under this new Order, a Chairman is able to say, "Let us carry on till 1.15."I have no objection to that, and no 1111 objection to doing it under the present system, but I think that it is going too far to lay down a rule, which, as far as I understand it, has no other precedent in the House, whereby a Chairman has the option to extend the time of sitting of a Standing Committee. A Standing Committee represents the Committee of the House; it is a substitute for it. It is a pity to put in this Amendment which raises rather a new point, that of giving the Chair the option to continue. I would much rather that the Government should maintain the present position, for which we have a precedent, and which enables us to get on with the Bill. If there were no good will and there were opposition in the Committee, I think it would be dangerous to accept the position which would be brought about by the Amendment. I do not wish to go into that, because quite likely it might never happen, but I can foresee that if we begin giving to the Chair the option of extending the time of a Standing Committee it might very well be taken further as time went on; it might extend from 35 minutes on one occasion to half an hour on another occasion. That is the kind of thing which, I think, is likely to happen in the future if we do away with the good will which has enabled us to get over so many difficulties, and, for that reason, I hope the Amendment will be accepted.
§ 7.51 P.m.
§ Sir Robert Young (Newton)
I hope my right hon. Friend will find some words other than the last words in the Motion. If we were to settle the time at a quarter past one, and left the matter to the discretion of the Chairman, there would be a possibility that the Committee, if it did not agree, might fail to maintain a quorum at one o'clock, and consequently it would render the position untenable. I would suggest that the last few words should read:That the Chairman shall be permitted to extend the time, with the consent of the Committee.That is to say, at one o'clock the Chairman would say, "It will only take us ten minutes to get through the remaining business. Do the Committee agree?" and if the Committee were in agreement they would get rid of the work.
With regard to meeting at two o'clock, I agree that that is an unfortunate time.
1112 I, for one, am always protesting about committees of any kind meeting during Question time. Whether they are Government committees or private committees, there is always a difficulty in getting a quorum in such circumstances; those who wish to be there turn up, but the majority do not. Members say, "We cannot attend. We have something of more importance; we have Questions down." Therefore, if there is any extension, it should be after Question time in the House of Commons. After all, Question time is really important.
§ 7.53 P.m.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
Great tributes have been paid to the Chairmen of Committees for the way in which they conduct the Business upstairs. I entirely agree with those tributes. But these new arrangements for fixed time limits work against the idea of giving the Chairmen of Committees the latitude which it is claimed they exercise with very great ability and, in certain cases, with very great ingenuity. My regret about these proposed Amendments to the previous Order is, that they lay down a rigidity which is not necessary. The Chairmen can exercise considerable discretion, having, of course, to get the approval of the committees over which they preside. My opinion with regard to the two proposed Amendments—and this is why I was rather anxious for them to be discussed together—is that unless both Amendments were given effect to, I would like to retain the position as it is, giving a certain elasticity at one o'clock to enable the Business to be carried through. I realise the difficulty of calling together a Committee at an hour like two o'clock. If it is to be called specially for a time in the afternoon, then by all means, if there is to be a time fixed—although I do not think it is necessary—let us fix a time other than two o'clock.
I regret that I have no Amendment down to state the matter according to my own way of thinking, but my suggestion would be—and I hear it mentioned by other hon. Members on the lines which I have in mind—that in paragraph (3) (ii) the words, "until a quarter past one o'clock" could be deleted and the words "for a brief period with the general concurrence of the Committee" could be substituted. That would cause the second proviso to read: 1113if, in the opinion of the Chairman, the proceedings on a Bill could be brought to a conclusion by a short extension of the sitting, he may defer adjourning the Committee for a brief period with the general concurrence of the Committee.No time is mentioned there. We have a rule, or an arrangement, in this House for the presentation of Private Members' Bills. It is called the Ten Minutes Rule, but there is no mention of ten minutes in it at all. It is only by custom that it has become described as the Ten Minutes Rule. It is a short period allowed for the introduction of a Bill. I am pleading for elasticity here. There might be an occasion when 1.15 would prove equally as irksome as one o'clock, if it were put down rigidly. I think in the majority of cases the extension by a quarter of an hour would save the situation, and would make thinks very much easier than the rigid application of the rule of rising at one o'clock precisely.
My objection to the second Amendment is that if we fixed the time to which the Committee might be adjourned, we would prevent the possibility of the Chairman exercising his ingenuity of adjourning for one minute and calling the afternoon sitting immediately after one o'clock, in order to finish the uncompleted business—the ingenuity which was so greatly praised by my right hon. Friend when he was moving the adoption of this new Order. I am certain that the sense of what I am saying is the right method to apply, and I believe that if the words which I have suggested could be inserted the convenience of the House and certainly of the Chairmen of Committees and of the Committees themselves would be met.
§ 7.59 P.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I am afraid it is so often the case that when we discuss procedure we rapidly get into some sort of a tangle. The tangle here, as I see it—and I support the Amendment for the reasons given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr and Bute, Northern (Sir C. Mac Andrew)—is this: He and other Members want the elasticity necessary to get over what I may, perhaps, call the one o'clock difficulty.
§ Mr. Bowles
We ought to have some definition of the phrase "proceedings on a Bill could be brought to a conclusion," because in my speech I referred to the timetable, and it might be that the proceedings on that Bill for that day would be Clause 16.
§ Captain Crookshank
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite right. The words "conclusion of a Bill" are quite common form in these matters. They mean the last day. If there is a timetable, it is laid down in the timetable itself what is to happen, and all the business has to be concluded in the period stated. The purpose of my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment is primarily to keep the Order as it is now, because under the Order as it is now, when there was a difficulty over a particular Bill, the difficulty was got over by adjourning and having another meeting. Therefore, in order to maintain that position, my hon. and gallant Friend has to move two Amendments. The second Amendment would make the first procedure impossible. That is a separate problem, and on that issue I entirely support my hon. and gallant Friend, because I think that, generally speaking, it is better to leave things as they are now. We are talking only about the last day of the Committee, by which time the Committee will probably have become rather wearied of the Bill in any case, and if it were a question of two or three minutes, it would much rather finish with the Bill than have another meeting.
But there is a subsidiary issue which has arisen because of the wording of the second Amendment, which, if one does not read it in connection with the first Amendment, raises a separate point as well; namely, supposing there was, not in order to get over the one o'clock difficulty, but in the ordinary way, another meeting of the Committee—for paragraph (c) has nothing to do with the last day, but deals with the ordinary business of the Committee-then I think the Government are at fault in putting the period as early as two o'clock. If, as it is now, the time is one o'clock, or if the proposal which has been made is accepted—although I do not think it will be—and it is 1.15 p.m., three quarters of an hour is too short a time, not only for Members to have lunch, but for the number of other people who are concerned with the running of a Standing Committee. There are the officials, the 1115 reporters, and indeed, on a long Bill, there are other people whose interests are affected, and who, as we know, sit in the gallery of the Standing Committee all the time. In present circumstances, particularly if the House itself is crowded on a given day, for other reasons, no hon. Member could guarantee that he would be able to get suitable refreshment, or that the other people concerned could do so, within three quarters of an hour. Moreover, if the Committee has started at half-past ten in the morning and gone on until a quarter past one, to resume at two o'clock would mean very hard work for the Members of the Committee who are concerned with the details of the Bill. One wants a little time not only for physical refreshment, but for a little mental rest, in order to study the further Amendments that will come along.
Furthermore, even if one got over those difficulties, which I think are more of a personal nature both for hon. Members and for the others who attend Standing. Committees, it is absolutely wrong, as the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) pointed out, that a Standing Committee should sit during Question time. Not only does Question time affect everybody, but one has to remember that Standing Committees nowadays are much smaller than they used to be, and if five or ten Members had Questions down on a given day and wanted to be in the House to receive the answers, the Standing Committees would have difficulty about getting a quorum, and there is nothing more annoying than for a Standing Committee to have to hang about waiting for a quorum. From the point of view of the business of the Standing Committee, it would fall for the day. Presumably, those of us who are in Opposition would not necessarily object to that, but we are discussing the Orders of the House, and not dealing with party matters. I think it would be wrong, if there is to be any time mentioned at all, to mention a time as early as two o'clock. I am not sure that it would not be right, irrespective of the other issues, to say definitely that Standing Committees should not meet during Question time, and as, during this Session, Question time goes on until 3.30 p.m., in this Motion there should be a time bar for meetings of Standing Committees.
§ Sir R. Young
I hope that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is making that valuable suggestion from my point of view, he will go further than 3.30 p.m., because very important statements are often made after Question time.
§ Captain Crookshank
I was merely following the lead of the hon. Gentleman, who presided over the Select Committee, in which we took his lead on many occasions, including one occasion when he had to give a casting vote. I think that four o'clock would be still better, because then one could entirely dismiss the possibility of many Members being concerned with being in the House. Indeed, the fact that an important statement was likely to be made would wreck the meeting of the Standing Committee. But I put to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President the suggestion of his hon. Friend, that if he wants to tidy up the whole thing, the Order should say that Standing Committees must not meet until four o'clock. But that is another issue, and I come back to the primary point, which is, to get over the One o'Clock Rule. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has been able to devise some manuscript Amendment to meet these points, but if he has not, and would like to take back this Motion, and bring it forward again tomorrow, I do not think we will take any exception.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Before this Debate began, I had a conversation with my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, and while we wanted to listen to the discussion and to make any ideas that we had subject to the discussion, we were disposed to accept the first Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and Bute, Northern (Sir C. Mac Andrew); but I am bound to say that the more the discussion has gone on, the more I have been disposed to think that would perhaps not be a wise course. I will say something about the provisions of the second Amendment in a moment or two. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman's first Amendment were accepted, it would mean that the Standing Committee would have to adjourn at one o'clock, but that would make impossible, would it not, what was done last year when, by the ingenuity of the Chairman of the Standing Committee, the Committee adjourned till 1.1 p.m., and passed the rest of the Bill by 1117 1.2 p.m.? If the Committee has to adjourn by one o'clock by specific Sessional Order, it seems to me that the discretion of the Chairman is completely taken away. On the other hand, if we take out some reference to time, then we get into the dilemma that the Committee would not be able to adjourn at all—it would have to go on. Therefore, what are we to do, on balance? We are trying to get a bit of elasticity between one o'clock and some reasonable period thereafter. If the Chairman were to put it to the Committee whether it would like to go on until half-past one, many hon. Members would almost certainly object, and it would be inconvenient to them. I think the best guess we can make is that there should be discretion as between one o'clock and 1.15 p.m., and leave it there.
§ Mr. Bowles
Does my right hon. Friend mean discretion in the Chairman alone, or with the consent of the Committee?
§ Mr. Morrison
The provision is that if, in the opinion of the Chairman, the proceedings on a Bill could be brought to a conclusion by a short extension of the sitting, he may defer adjourning the Committee until a quarter past one o'clock. That is clearly the discretion of the Chairman alone in actual form, but I should have thought that no Chairman of a Standing Committee, in the exercise of his discretion, would exercise a discretion unless he had the general assent of the Committee. I would not resist words to say with "general consent," but I would be sorry to put them in, because I have such a high opinion of the discretion of the Chairmen of Committees that I am sure they would not exercise that discretion without general consent. Therefore, the problem is what "general consent" means. Does it mean the consent of every Member of the Committee? I should be disposed to leave that wording as it is.
With regard to the second Amendment, I agree that on the face of it two o'clock, as compared with even one o'clock, or as compared with the possible quarter past one o'clock, is rather early; and, therefore, I should be disposed to accept the view expressed by the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) and the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and, up to a point—though he went beyond half past three o'clock—with the right hon. and gallant Member 1118 for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). But I would be disposed myself there to put in half past three o'clock which means only that the Committee should not resume earlier than half past three o'clock. Therefore, if the Committee desired to make it four o'clock it would be perfectly free to do so. But I want it to have freedom to meet earlier if it wishes, because it may have substantial business to do and might get it through. Therefore, I suggest that when we come to the appropriate paragraph we could make it "not sooner than half past three," instead of two o'clock. The Committee can then meet again in the afternoon, but not earlier than half past three o'clock. If the Committee like to make it four o'clock or even later it will be competent to do so. Normally, a Committee in the morning will terminate at one o'clock, but in the discretion of the Chairman, who, I am sure, will take into account the general feeling of the Committee, it can go on until a quarter past one.
§ Mr. Morrison
Of course, on the last day. In the ordinary way, if there are afternoon sittings, it can resume not earlier than half past three, but it may be decided by the Standing Committee itself. I think that that is the best way to meet the general agreement of the House.
§ Mr. Bowles
Are we to understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is now withdrawing the Amendment?
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
If, by leave of the House, I may speak again, I would say that this is just exactly what I do not want. I have no wish to be difficult but I think we might reconsider it. This does not meet my point at all.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think we had better get through this tonight. If we find something wrong as the Session proceeds, I should be perfectly prepared to receive representations on the subject, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or if the House, decides that Standing Committees in the morning must sit later than one o'clock. With great respect to the ingenuity of the Chairman of that Committee and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-port (Mr. R. S. Hudson) he has really no right to ask for ingenuity, outside the Order, and I suggest that this is the best way round. If we come to the conclusion 1119 that this ought to be amended again, we can look at it later.
§ Sir C. MacAndrew
I am afraid that the stupid English may think that by "afternoon" we mean after lunch instead of 12 o'clock.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman withdraw the Amendment?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I beg to move, in line 38, to leave out "two," and to insert "half past three."
This would mean that the Standing Committee would meet after the morning sitting not earlier than half past three o'clock, which is coincidental with Question time, but if the Committee wish to take some later time it would be free to do so.
§ Amendment agreed to.
(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 paragraph (3) of this Order, but not earlier than half-past three o'clock on any day.