HC Deb 04 November 1947 vol 443 cc1763-83

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the several Amendments to Standing Orders, and new Standing Orders, relating to Public Business, hereinafter stated in the Schedule, be made.


Standing Order No. 47, line 1, leave out "Not more than five," and insert "As many."

Standing Order No. 47, line 2, after "appointed," insert "as may be necessary."

Standing Order No, 47, line 3, leave out "referred," and insert "committed."

Standing Order No. 47, line 15, leave out "twenty," and insert "fifteen."

Standing Order No. 48, line 2, leave out from "of," to "members," in line 3, and insert "twenty."

Standing Order No. 48, line 7, leave out from beginning, to "and."

Standing Order No. 48, line 15, leave out "less than ten nor."

Standing Order No. 48, line 16, leave out "thirty-five," and insert "thirty."

After Standing Order No. 48, insert new Standing Order (Meetings of standing committees)—

(1) 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 of the clock, unless the committee otherwise determine:

Provided that—

  1. (i) the first meeting of a standing committee to consider a Bill shall be on a day and at a time to be named by the chairman of the committee:
  2. (ii) no standing committee shall sit between the hours of one of the clock and half-past three of the clock.

(2) If a standing committee is not previously adjourned, the chairman shall adjourn the committee without question put at one of the clock:

Provided that—

  1. (i) if, in the opinion of the chairman, the proceedings on a Bill could be brought to a conclusion by a short extension of 1765 the sitting, he may defer adjourning the committee until a quarter past one of the clock.
  2. (ii) 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 this paragraph, 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.

(3) Government Bills referred to a standing committee shall be considered in whatever order the Government may decide.

After the last new Standing Order, insert new Standing Order (Business sub-committee)—

  1. (1) An allocation of time order relating, or so much thereof as relates, to the committee stage, made in respect of a Bill committed or to be committed to a standing comittee, shall, as soon as the Bill has been allocated to a standing committee, stand referred without any question being put to a sub-committee of that standing committee appointed under paragraph (2) of this Order.
  2. (2) (a) There shall be a sub-committee of every standing committee, to be designated the business sub-committee, for the consideration of any allocation of time order or part thereof made in respect of any Bill allocated to that standing committee, and to report to that committee upon—
    1. (i) the number of sittings to be allotted to the consideration of the Bill;
    2. (ii) the hours of any additional sittings;
    3. (iii) the allocation of the proceedings to be taken at each sitting; and
    4. (iv) the time at which proceedings, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be concluded."

(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 subcommittee 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 subcommittee 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 at the time 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 the 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; but, if resolved in the negative, the resolution shall be referred back to the business subcommittee.

After the last new Standing Order, insert now Standing Order (Attendance of Law Officers in standing committees),—

Mr. Attorney General, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Solicitor General, and Mr. Solicitor General for Scotland, being members of this House, or any of them, though not members of a standing committee, may take part in the deliberations of the committee, but shall not vote or move any motion or form part of the quorum.

After the last new Standing Order, insert new Standing Order (Adjournment of House to facilitate business of standing committees),—

In order to facilitate the business of standing committees a motion may, after two days' notice, be made by a minister of the crown at the commencement of public business, in either of the following forms:—

  1. (a) "That this House do now adjourn" in which case, if the question thereon be not previously agreed to, Mr. Speaker shall put the question half an hour after it has been proposed), or
  2. (b) "That this House do now adjourn till seven of the clock this day" in which case the question thereon shall be decided without amendment or debate):

Provided that if, on a day on which a motion in the terms of paragraph (a) of this order stands on the paper, leave has been given to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, or opposed private business has been set down by direction of the chairman of ways and means, the motion shall be moved in the terms and subject to the procedure prescribed by paragraph (b) of this standing order.—[Mr. H. Morrison.]

3.0 a.m.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

I beg to move, to leave out line 13.

I think it might be convenient to take the following two Amendments together because they are on the same point. The Amendments are: in line 14, leave out "thirty," and insert "fifty."; in line 14, at beginning, insert, "Standing Order No. 48, line 15, leave out 'ten,' and insert 'thirty.'"

The point which now arises is that we have left the third Report of the Select Committee on Procedure and we are embodying into Standing Orders various Sessional Orders passed previously and employed in previous Sessions. The first question for consideration is whether the present method of appointing and manning Standing Committees is right. The Government have suggested that instead of there being only five Standing Committees and a Scottish Grand Committee, as many as are necessary should be set up and that, of course, will mean there may be a larger number than five. In order to get over that possible difficulty, the Amendment which the Government have carried previously and which they propose to incorporate now represents a change, not only in the membership of the permanent nucleus of Standing Committees, but also the number of members who are added.

The difference between the point of view I want to express and the Government point of view is this. They wish the permanent nucleus to be fixed at 20 and, over and above that, that there should be power to add not more than thirty, but they do not make any provision for adding any at all. Under their present scheme, the Government could keep a Standing Committee of 20 within the wording of this Standing Order. In the past one had to add somebody. The existing Standing Order proposes that one has to add not more than 35, or less than 10. It was incumbent to add some. It is not so any more, and that is my first objection. It is quite possible to have a Standing Committee of 20 under the Government plan, but the total number who can be added is 30, thus making a Standing Committee of 50.

The proposal I make is to leave the permanent nucleus of 20 but to say that the Committee of Selection should add not less than 30 or more than 50–that is, that a Standing Committee would be at least 50 strong and, in some cases, where it was thought necessary, it could go up to 70. This is based on practical experience. During the last two years since the size of the Standing Committees has been reduced—and I make no complaint about that, because it was a step which the House thought fit to take—experience has shown that when we consider the proportionate membership of the House and the manning of the official Oppositions, every Opposition on Standing Committees is very small. I put it to the Government that we are now altering the Standing Committees and adding to them at a time when the Oppositions are not numerically as small when compared with the Government side of the House as they have sometimes been and as they may well be again.

I say quite frankly in regard to the size of the Standing Committees that it has been far from easy to carry on the proper work of Opposition. The Government will probably concede that we have done our best to see that the Opposition point of view was put forward, but they would realise from the nakedness of the land on some occasions, due to illness or other unavoidable absence, that the forces arrayed against them were very small—and this out of an Opposition of a united size that we have now, in the region of 190 or 200. Suppose you have an Opposition which might well be 100 as has happened during my own lifetime, or of only just over 50. It would be absolutely impossible properly to man the committees if they were so small because the Opposition proportion would be so small. They will have only two or three members on any Standing Committee and if one of them goes sick or is absent, the Opposition will collapse because there is no-one there to carry it through. It is a danger and a consideration we ought to bear in mind. A minimum of 50 is really the lowest which you can reasonably expect the House to work even in the proportion which we are to the Government today. We have to envisage the possibility of one side—I do not say which side it might be—being even smaller. The proportion in the Standing Committee is too small and the proportion is unworkable.

It is to the interest of the Government that Bills should be opposed or criticised. No one has said that more often than the Lord President himself. If the whole Opposition in Committee is represented by three Members that would not be possible. Therefore, as we have changed the Standing Orders now and have had experience of the last two years with reduced numbers, I put it to the Government that it has not been an unqualified success. Therefore, the figures which I suggest and those which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) put before the Select Committee in 1945 have been proved by experience to be the right figures.

3.7 a.m.

Mr. Ede

In this matter we have had the experience of two Sessions. I have listened with great attention and interest to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) has said. This is the first time that any intimation has been made to us that the Opposition have these feelings with regard to possible difficulty of manning these Committees. If I knew he was going to raise this point I would have been glad of an opportunity of discussing it with him before. I feel the experience we have had indicates that these Committees have proved both workmanlike and satisfactory. We think the experience that we have gained under Sessional Orders warrants us in feeling that they should now be embodied in the Standing Orders.

Captain Crookshank

Is that all the right hon. Gentleman is going to say? I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought I ought to have come and dis-

cussed with him the Amendment on the Order Paper. It was perfectly clear what this meant and I have had no suggestion from him that I should discuss this matter. I do not know what my answer would have been if he had extended an invitation.

Mr. Pickthorn

Am I to understand that the suggestion now is that, although the Government paid no attention to the recommendations of the Select Committee, if there is a conference between one Gentleman from the Treasury Bench and one from the Opposition side of the House, that would make a difference to the way these things are done? Is that the suggestion?

Mr. Ede

I think it is not an unreasonable suggestion.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 42.

Division No. 19.] AYES. [3.10 a.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Attewell, H. C. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Shurmer, P.
Austin, H. Lewis Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Barton, C. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Simmons, C. J.
Bechervaise, A. E. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Skeffington, A. M.
Beswick, F. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Skinnard, F W.
Bing, G. H. C. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Blackburn, A. R Keenan, W. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Blenkinsop, A. Kenyon, C. Steele, T.
Blyton, W. R Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Stross, Dr. B
Bottomley, A. G. Kinley, J. Stubbs, A. E
Braddock, Mrs E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Logan, D. G. Swingler, S.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Longden, F. Symonds, A. L.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Lyne, A. W. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Mack, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) McKinlay, A. S. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Collindridge, F. Mann, Mrs. J. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Comyns, Dr. L. Mayhew, C. P. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Medland, H. M. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Crossman, R. H. S. Middleton, Mrs L Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Daggar, G. Millington, Wing-Comdr. E R. Tiffany, S.
Deer, G. Mitchison, G. R. Tolley, L.
Delargy, H. J Monslow, W. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Dobbie, W. Moody, A. S Watkins, T. E.
Dodds, N. N. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.) Watson, W. M.
Dumpleton, C. W. Nally, W. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Neal, H. (Claycross) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Evans, A. (Islington, W.) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) West, D. G.
Fairhurst, F. Orbach, M Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Farthing, W J. Pearson, A Wigg, George
Fernyhough, E. Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Wilkes, L.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Popplewell, E. Wilkins, W. A.
Gibbins, J. Proctor, W. T. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Gibson, C. W Pryde, D. J. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Gilzean, A. Randall, H. E. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Ranger, J. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Grierson, E. Reid, T. (Swindon) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Willis, E.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Robens, A. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Hannan, W (Maryhill) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Woodburn, A
Hardy, E. A. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Woods, G. S.
Herbison, Miss M. Rogers, G. H. R. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Hewitson, Capt. M. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Zilliacus, K
Holman, P. Royle, C.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Scollan, T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hoy, J. Shackleton, E. A. A. Mr. Snow and Mr C Wallace.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Duthie, W S. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Birch, Nigel Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Ropner, Col L
Bottom, A C. Lambert, Hon. G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Bowen, R. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Studholme, H. G.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Touche, G. C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (B'mley) Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Butcher, H. W. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Carson, E. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Mellor, Sir J Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Morrison, Maj J. G. (Salisbury) York, C.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Digby, S. W. Pickthorn, K. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Drewe, C. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O Major Conant and
Lieut.-Colonel Thorp
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

Captain Crookshank—the Amendment to line 39.

Captain Crookshank

Not the Amendment to line 37, to leave out Section (3)?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No, Mr. Speaker has not selected that Amendment.

3.16 a.m.

Captain Crookshank

I am sorry about that, because the Government are taking powers which they have not got at present.

I beg to move, in line 39, to leave out from the beginning to the end of line 75.

This raises a point which, again, I ask the House to consider very carefully. It is not much good asking Ministers to consider it very carefuly, because they are treating us very cavalierly at the moment; but others may treat it very carefully. Our view is that it is premature to make this Standing Order out of a Sessional Order of last year; that is, the Sessional Order which set up the Business Sub-Committees to deal with the allocation of time in Standing Committees. It was an experiment. It was a proposal which was made by the Select Committee, and I take no exception to it at all; but I do not think it is wise, when we have something so novel as this, and only a very small amount of experience of it, to make it part of the permanent arrangements.

I have not myself been on one of those Standing Committees which has suffered under an allocation of time order, but no doubt some of my hon. Friends who have will be able to tell the rest of the House how the experiment has worked. I have been more fortunate. I have been a Member of Committees which have dealt with long Bills during this Parliament—the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill and the Agriculture Bill—on which there was no timetable, on which the relations were very friendly between the two sides of the Committee, under the guidance of an admirable Chairman, so that we were able to get both those Bills, after discussion of all points to the satisfaction, so far as I know, of both sides of the Committee, in the period which, unofficially, I happen to know was the period which the Government was aiming at, and by the end of which they wanted the Bills to be through the Standing Committee.

We have always taken the view, on this allocation of time order, that it is far better to try and see how far the Committee can get before it is threatened with a time table. The Government have not accepted that view. They want to start with it straight away. Erskine May points out, on page 455, that it has been unusual up to now for an allocation of time order to be moved until the rate of progress has provided an argument for its necessity. I think it is much wiser that that should be the practice in future. I suppose we have not had one for the Debate tonight because the Government did not think about it in time.

Mr. H. Morrison

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman would be surprised what we think about.

Captain Crookshank

I thought I had expressed my surprise fairly adequately earlier today, and now I wish to express my disgust that we should be discussing important matters without the Government paying regard to the recommendations of the Select Committee. It is entirely the fault of the Government that anything of this sort should have occurred. I do not want to be carried away by the right hon. Gentleman. I am getting tired of his accusations, and I will make some attack of my own one of these days. I have plenty in my locker when I choose to open it.

It would be far better, more harmonious, and much more likely to get business discussed shortly if the Government had prided themselves on managing our affairs in a democratic way. It would also be better if the Government prided themselves on Bills passed through this House under an allocation of time order being adequately discussed, but the experience last Session does not make it possible to claim that. If they will look at what happened to Bills on which there was not an allocation of time order, they will see they were discussed to the satisfaction of both sides. The word "satisfaction" is perhaps not fair, because we did not approve the Bills. Actually the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Electricity Bill did not have timetables put upon them, and I gather that they were adequately discussed by those whose duty it was to discuss them.

On the other hand, those which had a timetable were not adequately discussed, and part of the reason for that was that the Business Committee, in spite of all its good intentions to make the most successful allocation of time, could not do so. I think that must be the deduction. Whatever the reasons, the time has not yet come to make this a permanent Standing Order. I think it should continue this Session, at any rate, as a Sessional Order, and see how we get along. But the only way we have of protesting is to move the total rejection of this proposal. I am against the total rejection because I want this experiment to continue and the Business Committee to try this still further, but I do not want it to become a permanent feature as a Standing Order.

3.25 a.m.

Mr. H. Morrison

It is difficult to please the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), despite all our efforts. He and his friends have been complaining vigorously for the many hours we have been debating these Standing Orders that we have ventured to disagree—which we have, with regret, but nevertheless with conviction—with the Select Committee, especially when it has re-affirmed a decision and refused to reconsider it. Here is a case where a Select Committee in 1945 made the recommendation embodied in this Standing Order. They did not entirely approve of the Government's proposals on the point, because they suggested modifications; and we accepted the view of the Committee, embodied it in a Sessional Order in 1945–46, continued it in the Session 1946–47, and are now proposing to embody in a Standing Order, what the Select Committee recommended. Now that is wrong. We are wrong when we do not agree with the Select Committee. We are wrong if we do. There is no pleasing the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

He has been arguing about the merits of an allocation of time order. But that is not before the House now. What is before the House is the question, assuming there is such an Order, of what is the best way to operate it? Is it best to let the representatives of the Committee settle it for themselves, or is it best to impose a method on them? We, being a tolerant and conciliatory type of Government, think it better that a small committee representing the various elements should get together and, within the overall limit, settle it themselves. I do not like allocation of time orders any more than anybody else. It is the kind of thing we should do only in cases of real necessity, when you cannot get agreement with the Opposition on the approximate time when a Committee should finish, and especially when the Opposition have been breathing fire and slaughter. I do not like Guillotines, whether in Government or Opposition, but if you are going to avoid them people on both sides have to be reasonable.

But we are not on that question. The question we are discussing is, assuming that we have them, what is the best way to operate them? The Government have been very forbearing. We did not use the Guillotine in 1945–46. We did in the case of two Bills in 1946–47. We did it with regret, but circumstances, including the attitude of the Opposition, made it necessary. I am sorry that was so, and the Government were sorry to do it.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not referring to the Transport Bill?

Mr. Morrison


Sir C. MacAndrew

There was no opposition there.

Mr. Morrison

I know, because I conducted the negotiations for the first Session. The spirit, the possibility of reaching accommodation with the Opposition about the handling of these things, was better in the first Session of this Parliament than in the second. I am not grumbling. The Opposition have a perfect right to act as they choose; but in so far as it has been necessary, it has been tried out, and it has worked. I hope it will not be necessary to have any more Guillotines in this Parliament, but I cannot promise it. It may be that it will be necessary, but nobody will be happier than I shall be if it proves not necessary. It is in the nature of the case that the amount of experience you get of the proposed Standing Order is going to be limited unless either the Opposition goes haywire or the Government goes haywire, or both go haywire, in which case we will have an awful lot of these Guillotines. That is unlikely. I should be sorry if it occurred. So far as it has been operated, I would suggest to the House that it has worked, and I think that as it has been recommended by the Select Committee and as it has been in Sessional Orders for two Sessions, it is not unreasonable to add it to Standing Orders.

If we find it is not working, if we find as we go along that it is imperfect, even if it is a Standing Order, we could still consider its amendment. My own opinion is that it works, and there is no reason why it should not work. Either the Government impose their own will on Committees upstairs or a body representing the Committee get together and work out for both sides what is mutually convenient to both majority and minority. I have always said—I said it in giving evidence before the Select Committee, and I say it now—that if I were serving on a Business Committee my bias would be to let the Opposition have their own way in using their time within the over-all allocation. That would be better than the majority forcing its own tactics on the Opposition. They should have the balance in the matter so far as possible.

3.33 a.m.

Mr. Butcher

The House has listened to an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman and I am sure the vast majority of Members have found it as unsatisfactory as I have. What we are being asked to do is to add to the Standing Orders governing the future business of the House this experimental measure which, as he says, was introduced on the recommendation of the Select Committee, but which was not used for the first 12 months after its introduction. It was used during the last Session and as a result of it, Bills left this House to go to another place in a condition in which no self-respecting legislative body would have allowed them to pass. The Bills would have been complete and utter nonsense if it had not been for the self-sacrificing service of another place. In trying to introduce this kind of alteration in the Standing Orders at this time of the morning, the right hon. Gentleman is doing all he possibly can to bring this House into contempt.

3.35 a.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I should like to add to what has been said by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher). The right hon. Gentleman comes before the House at this hour of the morning purporting to be a fairy godmother conferring joy on the House. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman does not look like a fairy godmother. If I am not guilty of using unparliamentary language, I would say he does not appear to us to be one either. Rather, I would say that the Minister of Fuel and Power seems to have influenced the right hon. Gentleman to some considerable extent, because even the arguments adduced by the right hon. Gentleman will not wash.

What does all this come to? It boils down to this, that an experiment was tried two Sessions ago. It was found that it was not needed. Last Session it was tried again, and was found to be of use twice. The effect of that use has been clearly and succinctly demonstrated by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston—namely, that Bills, when they left the House, were in a condition of chaos. It is now proposed to reintroduce this experiment in permanent form. There cannot be any advantage to the procedure of the House, or to the consideration of these Bills, in perpetuating this form of treatment. If the right hon. Gentleman wants it again, let him try it as a Sessional Order. He may find that he does not need it again. What is the good of going to the trouble of amending Standing Orders, which the House realises is not an easy matter, by accepting a Standing Order which may never be needed again; and particularly what is the good of inserting in Standing Orders an Order which has by no means proved to be an unadulterated advantage to the House? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be to his advantage, if not to the advantage of the Standing Committees, to try this proposal again as the Session goes on.

Mr. C. Williams

The Leader of the House, in remarks of a sort to which we have become accustomed, said that the Opposition accepted a report if that report suited them; if the Government refused to accept a Committee's report, the Opposition maintained that they ought to accept it, and if they accepted a report, as in this case, the Opposition disagreed with them. That is precisely what the Government have been doing during the whole of the day. They have been taking advantage of everything in the report of the Committee which helped them with power to dragoon Parliament, but when the Committee was sensible, the Government refused to have anything to do with those sections of the report.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman always lives in his world of 1930 and the Transport Bill. He cannot get over the time when upstairs in Committee he had to conduct a Bill through Committee, and was not very happy. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not going to take this matter further than that; but he always seems to have it in his mind that somehow or other the Opposition are always going to make things difficult for him. There is this extraordinary proposal today, this long Amendment brought forward, which will make permanent for the House, and for the Committees upstairs, a thing which was only experimental 12 months ago. There have been Bills which went through with consent between the various parties. Those Bills were in a fairly reasonable state of order. Under this system which it is proposed shall be laid down, I think the words which most appeal to the Leader of the House are, the question thereon shall be decided without amendment or debate. That has been a prevailing idea of his throughout today—to cut down debate as much as possible. Where that was done in the Committee upstairs, there was complete and utter chaos in Bills which, in another place, were found to be unworkable and had to be amended. It is little use the right hon. Gentleman protesting to the House that he does not like the Closure, and that sort of thing. He is always telling us that, but there has never been a Leader of the House who cut down the time of hon. Members so much. There has never been a Leader of the House—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I presume that the hon. Member realises that he is getting quite out of Order.

Mr. Williams

I accept everything which you say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the right hon. Gentleman was saying at some length how much he deprecated having to do these things, and I was merely saying that however much he deprecated doing these things, he goes on doing them; and it is very hard on us, who are always having our time cut short on these matters, for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he does not like doing it. It is a curious state of affairs, and it is still more curious that we should be forced into dealing with these important matters at this time of the morning. All the Leader of the House does is to make the sort of statement he made just now and in no way does he show any desire whatever to preserve either the amenities of the House from the point of view of discussion or the freedom of the people's representatives here.

Mr. Pickthorn

I should not have spoken on this Motion were it not for the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to say something more? I do not know how many of the hon. Gentlemen who make a practice of interrupting speeches of Members on this side who have been sitting here all day and who have tried very hard to understand this difficult technical question—[Interruption.] I have not been out of the Chamber for more than 40 minutes today, and I have not spoken for more than 20 minutes, and if I wish to speak now, I will go on doing so. What brought me to my feet was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman about alleged inconsistencies from this side of the House. He said that we were sometimes complaining of something being done—[Interruption.] When we are trying to debate with the right hon. Gentleman fairly, he ought to do us the courtesy of trying to listen to us. The argument he used was that when the Select Committee was not followed by him, we complained of that; and that when the Select Committee was followed by him, we complained of that too. But there was a distinction here of which he must have been perfectly well aware—complaints, if that is the right word, were about not following the third Report where it was unanimous and where its recommendations had been referred back to it by the Government, and it had stuck to them.

The Select Committee's approval of a point which he prayed in aid was on a point on which there was a Division and on which no one except Socialists voted for the view which he was putting, and that view in any case does not clearly bear out his argument tonight. What the Select Committee recommended was not that there should be a permanent Business Committee, but that where the Government wished to prescribe a time limit and so on, there should be a committee of this sort. The recommendation of a Business Committee was hypothetical and on condition, and it is extremely unfair to use the argument that we are inconsistent in our use of the Select Committee's Report.

I say this to the right hon. Gentleman in perfect seriousness: does he really honestly consider that it is proper, decent and consistent with the dignity of the House that we should be discussing these matters at this hour? We all think that the other chap speaks at too great length, but I do not think he would accuse the official Opposition of anything like organised obstruction. I have been here for 13 hours and I do not think that I have spoken for 20 minutes. Does he really and honestly think that there has been obstruction? How much time has been wasted? Two hours? Would he say two hours?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sorry, but that question really does not arise on this Amendment which has to do with a Business Committee. The question of wasting time does not arise.

Mr. Pickthorn

Could I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is possible to move the Adjournment of the House in order to raise that question?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 41.

Division No. 20.] AYES. [3.46 a.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Attewell, H. C. Grierson, E. Nally, W.
Austin, H. Lewis Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Neal, H. (Claycross)
Barton, C. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Bechervaise, A. E. Hannan, W (Maryhill) Orbach, M.
Beswick, F. Hardy, E. A. Pearson, A.
Bing, G. H. C. Herbison, Miss M. Plans-Mills, J. F. F.
Blackburn, A. R Hewitson, Capt. M. Popplewell, E.
Blenkinsop, A Holman, P. Proctor, W. T.
Blyton, W. R. Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth) Pryde, D. J.
Bottomley, A G. Hoy, J. Randall, H. E.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Ranger, J.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Butler, H W. (Hackney, S.) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Collindridge, F. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Rogers, G. H R.
Comyns, Dr. L. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Keenan, W. Royle, C.
Daggar, G Kenyon, C. Scollan, T.
Deer, G. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Delargy, H. J. Kinley, J. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Dobbie, W. Logan, D. G. Shurmer, P.
Dodds, N. N. Longden, F Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Dumpleton, C. W. Mack, J. D. Simmons, G. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McKinlay, A. S. Skeffington, A. M.
Evans, A. (Islington, W.) Mann, Mrs. J. Skinnard, F. W.
Fairhurst, F Mayhew, C. P. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Fernyhough, E. Medland, H. M. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Middleton, Mrs L. Steele, T.
Gibbins, J Millington, Wing-Comdr. E R Stross, Dr. B
Gibson, C. W Mitchison, G. R. Swingler, S.
Gilzean, A Monslow, W. Symonds, A. L.
Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Watson, W. M. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Willis, E.
Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) West, D. G. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Woodburn, A.
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wigg, George Woods, G. S
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Wilkes, L Younger, Hon Kenneth
Tiffany, S. Wilkins, W A Zilliacus, K.
Tolley, L. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Watkins, T. E Williams, D J. (Neath) Mr. Snow and Mr. G. Wallace.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Ropner, Col. L.
Birch, Nigel Lambert, Hon. G. Stuart, Rt Hon. J. (Moray)
Bossom, A. C MacAndrew, Col. Sir C Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Bowen, R. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Touche, G. C.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (B'mley) Wheatley, Colonel M. J
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Butcher, H. W. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Carson, E. Mellor, Sir J. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Conant, Maj. R. J. E Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) York, C.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Pickthorn, K. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F. C. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O Mr. Drewe and Mr. Studbolme.
Digby, S. W. Ramsay, Maj. S.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

3.54 a.m.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I beg to move, in line 81, to leave out from the first "or" to "form."

The object of this Amendment is to enable Law Officers on the Standing Committees to move Amendments. The present position is that they shall not vote and do not form part of the quorum; but as the Law Officer has to be there he might as well be allowed to move an Amendment. There may be some legal quibble against this, but my point is that moving a new Amendment is quite simple because someone else can do it and he can explain it; but if there is an Opposition Amendment which the Government cannot quite accept and the Law Officer wants to explain it, he cannot amend the Amendment and move it unless he is allowed to move it, and at present he is precluded from doing so. My proposal would make for simplicity of working, particularly from the Chairman's point of view.

3.55 a.m.

Mr. Butcher

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not need to add very much to the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr and Bute, Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew). I feel that if the Law Officers had the opportunity of moving Amendments, it would facilitate the work of the Committees it it may be that with their particular skill they would be able to put an Amendment into terms which would be agreeable to the Committee. If that is the case, it seems stupid to have them draft it, and pass it to another representative of the Government, sitting in Committee with them, to move it. I hope the Government will see their way clear at last to accept some of the admirable suggestions put forward from this side of the House.

3.56 a.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I would like to say "Thank you" to the Government even at this late hour for having put straight a defect in the original Order by clarifying the position of the Law Officers on Standing Committees. I think I raised the point on 24th April after what had happened in one of the Standing Committees when the matter was still in some doubt. I think these Standing Orders in their present form resolve that doubt. The right hon. Gentleman, when he moved that the Law Officers should attend Committees, did so on the grounds that they should be there to assist. He made the distinction that they should not in any sense or form be members of the particular Committee; that they should not vote or form any part of the quorum. In my view, while I think one should have great regard for the views of the Chairmen of Committees, the suggestion that other Members of the Government could not move Amendments themselves is not one which might perhaps be universally acceded to.

3.57 a.m.

The Solicitor-General

As the hon. and learned Gentleman says, we were anxious to clear up what was a slightly anomalous position arising out of the wording of the present Sessional Orders. We have given careful thought to it and we have taken the view, which we hope the House will accept, that it is more consistent with the position of the Law Officers that they should not move Amendments in Committee than that they should. The idea is that they should be there in a capacity to advise and assist and not in any other capacity. They cannot vote. They must not form a part of the quorom, and we feel that they should not be allowed to participate in the deliberations to the extent of moving Amendments. For these reasons, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.