HC Deb 02 April 1947 vol 435 cc2179-82

Motion made, and Question proposed, That so much of the Lords Message [1st April] as communicates the Resolution, 'That it is desirable that the Local Government (Scotland) Bill [Lords] be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament,' be considered forthwith."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

11.17 p.m.

Mr. MeKie (Galloway)

I would like to submit that the House ought to be entitled to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland for an explanation of this rather unusual Motion which appears on the Order Paper. As I understand it, the House is now asked that this Bill—the Local Government (Scotland) Bill—having gone through all its stages in another place, be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament before it is introduced for Second Reading in this Chamber. I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

The hon. Member is out of Order. The meaning of the Motion before the House is to the effect that the Resolution be now considered. Obviously the hon. Gentleman cannot discuss it until the Motion that it be considered has been passed.

Question put, and agreed to

So much of Lords Message considered accordingly.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That this House doth concur with the Lords in the said Resolution."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

Mr. McKie

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for having corrected me and I apologise for having been premature in rising to catch your eye. May I now ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will be so good as to explain the appearance of this somewhat unusual Motion on the Order Paper? I have been in this House now for some 16 years, and I have been a very regular attender. I cannot, to the best of my recollection—though I may be wrong—remember ever seeing a similar Motion on the Order Paper. We are asked, if this Motion is agreed to, to allow a Bill which has been introduced in another place and passed through all stages there, to be referred to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament before it has been considered in the House of Commons even on Second Reading. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to explain the reason for that.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sorry, the hon. Member is quite out of Order. This is a Bill originating in another place, and this House does not know, and it is not competent for the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member to discuss, what is in the Bill, which has not so far come before this House. The only question is whether this House concurs with the Lords in referring the Bill to a Joint Committee. That is the only question which can be discussed. It is almost formal.

Mr. McKie

May I ask, with great respect, whether it is usual to have a Motion such as this? I tried to obtain a copy of the Bill from the Vote Office tonight and I was told that it was impossible to get one.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is quite clear, as I have indicated, that the Bill is not before the House. It is not, therefore, available, but it will be available at a later stage.

Mr. McKie

With respect, I think I am entitled to say this before I resume my seat. This Bill is highly controversial and I just want to ask the right hon. Gentleman for his reply.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I invite your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on this matter. Suppose hon. Members do not agree with the Lords in the said Resolution. I have stayed here for the last hour because I believed this was a very important Bill on Scottish affairs, but the Secretary of State has not the support of Scottish Members on this side of the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

A Member's course of action is clear. He votes, if he so desires, in the negative against the Resolution.

Sir W. Darling

And speaks, I take it, Sir.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would like to ask for a little information, for, like my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) I am rather a new boy in this place and I would like to know the actual situation. The Secretary of State for Scotland has been good enough to be here like myself for a long time, for it is a great Scottish occasion, and yet, when it comes on, apparently nothing can happen at all. Are we not to have some statement of the position?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps the House will forgive my saying to one who has described himself as a new boy that this is a preliminary stage. At a later stage, assuming that the Bill is approved by the Select Committee to which it is proposed to be referred, it will come before the House in the normal course, and hon. Members will then have an opportunity of speaking on its merits. This Resolution is a preliminary stage.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)

We are following old established constitutional procedure in connection with a Message coming from another place. When that Message has been agreed to—the Bill having been introduced in another place and having received a Second Reading—it will be possible to proceed further with a Bill which is not wholly a consolidating Bill. If it had been otherwise it would have gone through another procedure. I cannot enter into the merits of the Bill until such time as there is agreement between this House and another place.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the Secretary of State quite right in saying that it is a consolidating Bill? [Interruption.] I thought he said it was purely a consolidating Bill. The words in brackets, "1st April," do make things very much more difficult. I have nothing more to say.

Mr. McKie

On a point of Order. May I ask the Secretary of State to tell us the reason why it has been necessary for a Message from another place to ask us to allow this Bill to be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament?

Mr. Westwood

The reason is quite obvious. It is to enable us to proceed with the Bill. It is constitutional procedure.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must tell the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) that this is not a point of Order.

Mr. McKie

May I ask, with respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for an opportunity to differ, because—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must remind the hon. Member that he has spoken more than once. His point of Order is, in fact, not a point of Order.

Question put, and agreed to.

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.