HC Deb 17 March 1947 vol 435 cc29-32
45. Sir Robert Young

asked the Prime Minister whether the last Report of the Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedure has now been considered; and when a statement regarding its recommendations will be made.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)

I have been asked to reply. The Government have given careful consideration to the Report, for which the House is greatly indebted to the Chairman and Members of the Select Committee. The Government are in general agreement, subject to certain modifications, with the recommendations of the Select Committee for the reorganisation of Supply procedure; they are favourably disposed to the new scheme for Private Members' time for use when such time can be restored, and they accept the proposal for making up time spent on Adjournment Motions under Standing Order No. 8. The Government have also reviewed, in the light of the Report, the suggestions which they themselves submitted to the Select Committee and have decided to put to the House three of these, of which the most important is the formalisation of the Report stage of the Budget Resolutions. It is the Government's intention to afford time for a Debate on the Select Committee's Report before the end of this Session, so that those changes in procedure which are accepted by the House may be brought into operation at the beginning of next Session. With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a detailed statement of the Government's conclusions.

Sir R. Young

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that means in a month or two months' time before the new Session?

Mr. Greenwood

It is very difficult to say. When I did suggest that we might rise fairly early this Session, it was received with disapproval by the House. What I think is important is that we cannot at this stage in the Session have new Sessional Orders. Well before the time we meet next Session, when it is intended to apply the new procedure, there will be an opportunity for discussion with a good deal of time before the actual Sessional Orders are made.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has made no reference to the very important proposal on the constitution of the Public Expenditure Committee, and is that referred to in the detailed statement that is to be circulated?

Mr. Greenwood

I have already said that the proposals of the Government will be in the White Paper. The answer to that question is. "No. Sir."

Captain Crookshank

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is rather disappointing, in view of the fact that this Report was signed in the last Session of Parliament, that no action is apparently being taken this Session, and that it is problematical in the next Session, in spite of the fact that when the House got up, the Committee, without precedent, was asked to sit during the Recess? I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will at least speed up the Debate upon this subject.

Mr. Greenwood

We accepted some Sessional Orders last Session, which we began to operate this Session, and the Opposition did not like them.

Mr. S. Silverman

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the House is to infer, from the fact that no step has been taken this Session to continue the existing Select Committee on Procedure, that the Government think the whole scope of the reform of the procedure of this House has already been covered in the Report of the Select Committee? If not, will he say whether it is contemplated that such a Committee should again be set up?

Mr. Greenwood

That is a matter for further consideration. If I gathered from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we should implement a Report which we have not had time to consider, that is a matter for the future. As I pointed out, we must discuss these Rules before they come into operation.

Following is the statement:

In their Third Report (H.C. 189, presented on 31st October, 1946), the Select Committee made five main recommendations, the Government's views on which are summarised below:

  1. (1) Reorganisation of Supply Procedure.—The Government agree with the Select Committee's proposal, except that they consider that there should be 26 allotted days instead of 28, and that there should be no limitation on the number of occasions when debate may arise on the motion: "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
  2. (2) Inquiry into Delegated Legislation.—The Government consider that such an inquiry would be premature, so long as the scope and form of subordinate legislation is influenced by wartime 32 powers, and until experience has been gained of the working of the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946.
  3. (3) Public Expenditure Committee.—The Government are opposed to this proposal, since they hold that the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee have distinct functions which would be confused by amalgamation. The Government will continue to give the utmost possible help to both Committees to enable them to be effective instruments of the House.
  4. (4) Private Members' Time.—When Private Members' time can be restored, the Government would favour the introduction of a scheme on the lines proposed by the Select Committee.
  5. (5) Adjournment Motions under Standing Order No. 8.—The Government agree with the Select Committee's proposal.

The Select Committee also considered, but did not accept, seven suggestion by the Government. In view of the Select Committee's objections, the Government are prepared to drop four of their proposals, but propose to put the following to the House:—

  1. (1) In Committee of Ways and Means on the Budget Resolutions, all the Resolutions except one should in accordance with present practice be taken immediately after the Chancellor's Budget speech, the Committee dividing if necessary, and on the Report stage, the Question should be put without Amendment or Debate.
  2. (2) There should be a Committee of the House, consisting of the Members of the Chairmen's panel and five other Members nominated by Mr. Speaker, with the function of sub-dividing the time allocated, by Guillotine Resolution or voluntary agreement, to the Committee stage of any Bill taken on the Floor of the House, or to the Report stage of any Bill.
  3. (3) In any proceedings in Committee, the Chairman should have power to disallow Debate on the Question: "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," if he is of opinion that the principle of the Clause, and all substantial points arising thereon, have been adequately discussed on Amendments.