HC Deb 19 March 1951 vol 485 cc2246-61

10.53 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

This Order can be prayed against until 11th April. Therefore it cannot be regarded as really urgent. But, even if there were other considerations, we need not reach a decision on it tonight. I think it is as well that, as on this Motion we cannot discuss the merits of the Order, we should have an opportunity of considering the way in which this House is being treated by the continual moving of these Prayers for no other reason than the physical exhaustion of hon. Members and Ministers of the Crown.

A speech was delivered last week in a village which I know very well, the village of Banstead. In that speech it was announced that harrying was to be carried on. I had an uncle who was a Master of Harriers for an area which covered the village of Banstead. Harriers are used to hound hares. The Opposition has chosen the wrong hound for the animal it is hunting. We are not hares. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rabbits."] Nor rabbits. We are an animal which, when attacked, has another trick besides that of running away.

I suggest to the House that it is time we considered where the reputation of this House will go if there is a much longer continuation of the process to which we have been subjected during the past few weeks. Let me say at once that I have no objection to all-night sittings and, in fact, during the last Parliament, and in others in which I have sat, my appearance at about 11.30 p.m. has frequently been received with groans because it has been regarded as an indication that we were going to sit until the early hours of the morning. My view is that, if we are going to have an all-night sitting, let us have it, and not break off at about three o'clock with the maximum amount of inconvenience for hon. Members and the staff.

We are told that the Opposition wish to work according to rule, and that they rely upon the rules of the House to enable them to continue this pressure; but past majorities in this House have ensured that the majority, no matter how small, shall be able to get its way if it is determined to do so. Down to 1881, there was complete free speech in this House. The debate started, and could be continued so long as there were hon. Members willing to speak because the rules of the House were drawn up in the eighteenth century by two parties, whose members mainly consisted, as regards the back benchers, of fox-hunting squires; and it is from them that we get the name of "Whip" for those who see that people are in the pack when required.

Then, the Irish came, and they were neither fox-hunters nor squires—[An HON. MEMBER: "They were fox-hunters."] Perhaps, but not the type of fox-hunter who had come here. On 1st March, 1881, they had kept the House sitting for forty-one hours, and Mr. Speaker Brand entered the Chamber at nine o'clock in the morning and, without any Standing Order, announced that he was going to put the Question. He did so, in order to maintain the dignity of this House; and from that date, successive Oppositions, by pursuing the same tactics, have compelled a steady diminution in the free speech formerly accorded in this House, and we have had the Closure, the Kangaroo, and the Guillotine as subsequent processes.

His Majesty's Government are anxious to maintain the maximum amount of free speech in this House—[Interruption.] Well, during the past week we have seen how greatly that spirit has been appreciated by the Opposition. I have had hon. Members opposite coming to me and asking during the night, "When are we going to have the Closure?"

Mr. Erroll


Mr. Ede

Never have such indignities been inflicted by an Opposition upon their own Members. The other night, eleven hon. Members on the other side were on their feet when the Deputy Chief Whip moved the Closure. They were so bored by one another that when the question was put, they did not challenge it. They have shown a strange reluctance, after arguments which ought to have ended not in a Prayer but in a motion for impeachment, to go into the Lobby in support of their own Prayer. It was suggested to me by two ingenious friends of mine that the back benchers opposite had received orders from the Front Bench not to go into the Division lobby and, of course, any two tellers that the back benchers provided might have been severely censured. After all, if all the people who had been denouncing us had gone into the Lobby, they could not all have been disciplined, even by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Not even Lord Margesson would have attempted that.

This House has a very great and honourable tradition, which it is the duty of each succeeding generation to maintain in order to pass it on to its successors. This is the first time that on matters of administration it has been made perfectly plain, not merely by irresponsible back benchers like the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) but—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about 'The Red Flag'?"] If the hon. Member had been here on the day "The Red Flag" was sung, he would have known that it was not the first song that was sung on that day. The first choral effort came from the Opposition. Not merely by an irresponsible but ebullient back bencher like the Member for East Aberdeenshire but, on Saturday night by the Leader of the Opposition, this policy has been endorsed.

It is part of the duty of the House to keep a close check on the Executive. It is one of the fundamental duties not merely of the Opposition but of every Member of the House, to see that a close check in kept on the Executive. One of the ways of doing it is by the Prayer method. We are anxious that there should be no denial to the Opposition of this method of checking the Executive. But it is only reasonable to say that this method should be operated in circumstances which enable the House to perform its duty of checking effectively. That has not been done during the past fortnight or so.

We are exceedingly anxious that this method should be continued effectively and we are willing to enter into conversations with either the right hon. Gentle- man who marshals the forces opposite or the platoon-sergeants who are put up each on his appropriate night to conduct the guerrilla warfare in order that the House may be kept out of bed. We do not think that is an effective way of the House discharging its duties, but we are willing to consider with those who have this sudden excess of piety the way in which they can pray at a time when they are more likely to be effectively heard both in this House and in the country.

One of the astonishing things is that the whole of their efforts have passed unrecorded as far as the details of their criticisms have been concerned, and we are most anxious that they should not be put at that disadvantage any longer. Many suggestions have been made to me by hon. Friends of mine sitting behind me as to the way in which this could be done, but I should prefer tonight not to deal with any of them, but to leave the field quite open for free discussion, so that the House can discharge its historic duty in circumstances that will enable it so to act as to reflect credit on itself and to make its criticisms effective.

I sincerely hope that this offer, which is made in all sincerity and genuineness, will be considered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. For let me tell them this, that the casualties in any war of attrition will not be on this side of the House. Too many of my hon. Friends have spent all their lives on one night shift a week for them to be deterred in any such contest as this. But I make this appeal, in the name of sound democratic government in one of the few places where that still flourishes, that we shall bring an end to the episodes which have done no credit to this House during the past few weeks, and that we shall seek to discharge our duties in a way that will ensure that the public interest shall be served and that this House shall retain its just reputation as a place for reasonable discussion.

11.8 p.m.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

The right hon. Gentleman has signified his assumption of office—the Leadership of the House—tonight in a somewhat unexpected way. I hope that he will not mind my saying that I thought the latter part of his speech not quite up to the earlier part, because he tended to lecture us all; but I know that in his earlier career that was his job in life; I hope that he will not really find it his duty as Leader of the House, because he has shown, only last week, that he felt that he was in an impartial position, and that he really wanted to give us all guidance.

In so far as he was giving us guidance and suggesting that the present method of dealing with Prayers was not entirely satisfactory to his own party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to make this into a riot, they can, but I was proposing to reply to the right hon. Gentleman's offer that he made for the House to decide. What I was going to say was that he took this line, that the recent late night debates—which are not as unusual as all that: his memory must be fairly short if he thinks they are—had somehow broken the great and honourable traditions of this House. [Interruption.] But he said that never had such indignities been seen as when a number of hon. Members accepted a Closure Motion and did not themselves proceed to vote against it. Either the right hon. Gentleman's memory must be very short or else, during the Leadership of the House of the Foreign Secretary, he absented himself from the House more than I thought he did.

Certainly during the last Parliament we were constantly being twitted by the Lord President of the Council—in the days when Members opposite used to say that they were the masters now—that we were an incompetent Opposition because we did not sufficiently oppose. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are still in the same position."] Those who were in the House then will recollect many occasions on which taunts were thrown across the Table. Now, because there has been a certain amount of opposition, nothing very terrible, although one might think the world was coming to an end— [Interruption.] I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this is not a question of Privilege.

This is a question of how the House, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, should deal with the question of Prayers because he and his friends object to the fact that a great number have been put down during the last few weeks. They have been put down because they raise matters which my hon. Friends thought should be raised. I may remind hon. Gentlemen of this fact, of which they may not be aware, that it has been for a very long time our view that we have far too much delegated legislation. Not only over the last two or three years, but for a very long time, speeches have been constantly made on this point, and I do not think anyone has led the argument in the country about it more than my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll).

We have observed in recent weeks—hon. Gentlemen opposite may not—and we have perhaps wrongly connected it to some extent with the opposition to Orders by Prayers—that the numbers of Orders issued has gone down enormously. In the last marshalled list there were only 14 in the week, when in previous weeks there have been over 100. To that extent our opposition has borne fruit in the reduction in the number of Orders.

It may be, of course, an entire coincidence, but it is a strange coincidence that this should have happened at this particular moment. As a matter of fact, any right hon. Gentleman opposite would probably tell us if he got up, of his own experience if he is in a Department which is a rule and order-making Department. He would probably admit that much more care is being taken today in laying orders and rules than was done during the last Parliament when the Government and Ministers could rely on an enormous majority to steamroller whatever they wanted. These are the facts of last week's marshalled list.

I take what the right hon. Gentleman said in good faith. He has that touch of humour we all enjoy, but I think he is making a mountain out of a molehill in this matter when he says that these episodes have done no credit to this House, and he speaks of casualties in a war of attrition. I have long noticed the more excited the Socialist Party gets the more martial the metaphors. But the right hon. Gentleman puts forward a point of view when he says that after all it is perhaps not the best way of dealing with delegated legislation by having them laid and prayed against.

Well, it is not a very original thought even from his side of the House, because we have argued that for a very long time, and if the right hon. Gentleman would look through the discussions and the evidence of the last Select Committee on Procedure that sat at the beginning of the last Parliament, of which I was a member, he will find that it was one of the matters which was discussed at very great length—how to treat delegated legislation, orders, rules, regulations, and the rest of it and put them under the ultimate control of Parliament. On that as an issue there is nothing between us.

However, the right hon. Gentleman comes down tonight—[Interruption]—at this hour, without any warning and suggests, and makes an offer, that the Government would be willing to consider with us somehow whether a better method could be found than the present one, which, of course, happens to be statutory. A good many issues would be raised. I say at this time of the night, and hon. Gentlemen jeer. But proposals of this sort are generally put through the usual channels, in order to make sure that the Leader of the Opposition and his intimate advisers can come to a reasoned decision.

I am certainly not in a position—and the right hon. Gentleman fully realises that—tonight to say "Yes" or "No" to that proposition. But I shall, of course, take the earliest opportunity of consulting the Leader of the Opposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"] I have no doubt he is paired with the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] I would only like to say to the Prime Minister, who has now come in, that I am very glad that he is well enough, because this morning, when I read about his going into the nursing home—[Interruption.] Well, if the courtesies of the House are to be abandoned, I am quite prepared to go into Billingsgate language, if you will allow me. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are perfectly capable of that."] And so is the hon. Gentleman.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Bevin)

As I represented Billingsgate for a good many years, I object to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman putting them on so low a level.

Captain Crookshank

I was merely saying that I did not expect the Prime Minister to be here, because I did not think he was very well. But the fact that he has come in, accompanied by all the senior members of the Cabinet, merely adds point to what I was saying before he came in. That is, if this important offer was going to be made to us, that we should have an investigation, as the right hon. Gentleman said, into a more seemly way of dealing with Prayers, it would have been better if the proposal had been made through the usual channels in order to ensure that my right hon. Friend could have been able to deal with it at once. That is all.

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the validity of what I am saying, and so does every hon. Gentleman behind him, but I undertake, of course, at once tomorrow, to consult my right hon. Friend in order that— [Interruption.] Of course, there has been a Cabinet meeting. I shall consult with him tomorrow and no doubt the opportunity will be taken of sending a considered reply, or of making one in the House, but there would be nothing surprising if we were to accept it. It has been fully investigated already within the last five years, though the Select Committee could not find an alternative method of dealing with it. Of course, others can try, and others may be more successful.

I reiterate in the presence of the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues that it is a pity this proposal was not put before us earlier so that it could be settled now. It cannot be settled now. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that I am not in a position, nor are any of my hon. Friends who happen to be here at the moment, to settle this now. The Motion we are discussing is that we should adjourn the debate. On behalf of my hon. Friends, I am prepared to accept that Motion. The only comment I can make is this: The reason why it is moved is that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends cannot take it.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

Until very late in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) I was not sure what was going to be his attitude. The Motion before the House is that the debate be now adjourned. This has been moved in order that the offer that has now been made by the Leader of the House on behalf of His Majesty's Government should be considered by the Opposition and other hon. Members of the House, including myself. We should accept that offer.

This House is far and away greater than any party in it, and certainly far and away greater than any individual who is a Member of it. It has a dignity and tradi- tion which every Member of the House has a duty to maintain. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I have already said I regret very much that a large part of the powers of this House have been taken away—not under this Government: it began a long time ago. The House is no longer the initiator of a great deal of legislation, which has become delegated legislation, to which I naturally take stronger objection than anybody else in this House.

Furthermore, it is the right of every individual Member of this House, if he is so minded, to take exception to anything that the Executive does, to express his view and to take advantage of such measures as the Constitution allows him to oppose. But it has to be a real and true and sincere opposition. If advantage is taken of such powers as the House gives to individual members in opposing the acts of the Executive to stop the work of the House, and thereby to stop the administration of the Government of the country, then it is a misuse of these powers.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has rightly referred to the past. We of the Liberal Party have always placed in the forefront of our principles the right of free speech, and have insisted on that as being the main principles of the legislative assembly. It was left to us to bring in as a Liberal Government the Closure merely because the right of free speech was being misused so as to render this House incapable of carrying through its ordinary duties. Furthermore it was left to us to bring in the Kangaroo. I am anxious that this great institution shall be carried on and that it should fulfil its duties, especially at a time when democracies and democratic institutions throughout the world are threatened. I hope the Opposition will not only accept the motion moved by the Leader of the House, but will also accept the offer made by the Government so that we shall meet and discuss what is best for fulfilling our real duties and of maintaining the dignity of this House.

11.27 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

It is ten years ago since a number of hon. Members, of whom I was one, decided that the time had come to submit delegated legislation to critical examination, and a small group was formed, of which I had the honour to be chairman until I lost my seat in 1945. As a result of the activities of that group a great many changes were introduced, such as the explanatory note which is characteristic of delegated legislation and the Select Committee. The Foreign Secretary will remember the many discussions I had with him informally which resulted in the setting up of that Select Committee. That group was formed of hon. Members who were supporters of the then Government, though at the same time they were critical supporters—there was nothing party about our activities. During that period, alone among hon. Gentlemen I have examined every document of this kind published—some 30,000 of them—and I claim to speak with some knowledge of this subject.

For many weeks past I have been perturbed about the steady rise in the cost of living, as shown by the numerous orders authorising increases in prices. It was as a result of that, that some of us decided, a fortnight or so ago, to table a number of orders all of which involved increases in prices. We were perfectly well aware of the facts, that increases in wages, freight rates and raw materials made these orders inevitable, but our purpose was to draw attention to the policy behind these orders. Accordingly we put down seven Prayers—we were all back benchers—dealing with this subject.

Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

Why did you not vote?

Sir H. Williams

I shall explain if the hon. Gentleman will listen. We put down those Prayers for Thursday, 8th March, because we thought the debate on the Army Estimates would not go on for a prolonged period. When we put them down the Prime Minister's Motion to suspend the 10 o'clock rule was not on the Order Paper. It was the action of the Prime Minister in suspending the 10 o'clock rule for that evening which made it—[Interruption.] —Hon. Members have only to read their Order Papers—which made it possible for the debate to go on for a much longer period, and the debate continued long after 10 o'clock. If hon. Members will read their HANSARD they will see that several hon. Members on the Government side spoke long after 10 o'clock that evening on the Army Estimates.

Now, the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) attached his name to all these Prayers, because that made it possible for him to prevent their adjournment to another evening. At half-past one in the morning the debate on the Army Estimates was still continuing; it had nothing to do with those who had put down the Prayers—[HON. MEMBERS: "After the last trains had gone."] The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) rose to his feet at 11.33, and hon. Members opposite were speaking long after the last trains had gone. At half-past one in the morning I approached the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church and suggested to him that it might be just as well if we postponed the seven Orders till another day; and I explained that in particular the one to which my name was attached, which raised a not unimportant constitutional issue, might be postponed.

The hon. and learned Member, who I think is now present, thought there was something in my argument. He approached his end of the usual channels and came back to me and said he thought something might be arranged. I then also approached his end of the usual channels, by which time it was nearly two in the morning, and made the proposal that the debate on these orders should be postponed. The answer I got was "It is already after half-past one"— which had nothing to do with these Prayers—and my proposal was rejected. We therefore had no option but to go on with them, otherwise we might have lost our opportunity.

At 13 minutes past two my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) moved the first of these Prayers. He did not get very sustained attention. At seven minutes past three I rose to move the one standing in my name, which related to furniture. It was on that one that I wished to raise an important constitutional issue. My speech would not have taken more than ten minutes, but I was in my place, up and down, for 52 minutes because not for ten seconds during that period did I receive free speech from hon. Members opposite.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

How many times did Mr. Speaker call the hon. Gentleman to order?

Sir H. Williams

If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough, as I have been, to read that report carefully he will find that Mr. Speaker did not call me to order once, because being rather experienced I never was out of order.

Mr. Thomas

He described it as "nonsense."

Sir H. Williams

The reference to "nonsense" was made much later, I think it is rather unfortunate to drag that in, because every one of us regrets the cause of the absence of Mr. Speaker. It was as a sequel to that particular part of the discussion that on the following morning Mr. Speaker, quite properly, tendered an apology——

Mr. Thomas

Not to the hon. Gentleman.

Sir H. Williams

It was all part of that discussion. It arose before the next Order was considered. Mr. Speaker tendered an apology to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). I think it is most undesirable that hon. Members opposite should drag Mr. Speaker into this matter. If they take the trouble to read HANSARD they will find that at no stage was I ruled out of order. For 52 minutes I endeavoured to address this House and I could have said what I wanted to say in ten minutes. During those 52 minutes I was completely denied free speech in this House by hon. Members opposite, who are primarily responsible for the fact that people outside have been bringing this House into discredit.

11.36 p.m.

Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

I should not have spoken had it not been for the history of a certain episode related just now by the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). I was sitting with the Deputy-Chief Whip that night when seven Prayers were introduced by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Croydon, East, wanted to withdraw them, but the Deputy-Chief Whip, quite rightly, said, "You have kept our people here until after two o'clock in the morning by your filibustering, and we will go through the business now, no matter how long it takes." Hon. Members opposite moved seven Prayers and did not vote on any one of them. I hope that, after having heard about the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) if we cannot make an arrangement with hon. Members opposite we shall keep them up in the way in which they have been trying to keep us up.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I hope the House will soon be willing to come to a decision.

11.38 p.m.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)

I want, if I can, to ascertain in a little more detail the meaning of the offer which the Government have made. Like most hon. Members on both sides of the House, I can think of many far more satisfactory ways of dealing with delegated legislation than that which the House has for some time been compelled to adopt. I am not quite clear, however, whether the discussion offered by the Leader of the House is a discussion on legislation, because, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) has pointed out, the present procedure is governed by legislation.

Do the Government mean that they are prepared to bring in legislation, for example, for substituting a positive resolution for a negative resolution and that they are themselves prepared to find time for the Prayers that at present we are compelled to put down at this late hour? If so, the offer might have considerable attractions. But in his speech the right hon. Gentleman did not make it clear whether the discussions into which he was inviting the Opposition to enter were discussions about possible legislation to deal with the matter on some such lines.

The other question which I hope some Government Front Bench speaker will make clear is this—what is the effect on certain orders which have already been put down? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House quite naturally drew our attention to the fact that there would be other opportunities to discuss the particular Order which was the subject of the Prayer moved tonight. That, I take it, was in his view, quite rightly, a germane part of the argument. But it may be that some of those other orders which may be the subject of a Prayer are more urgent than that. What is going to be the position regarding debates on such Prayers during the period of these discussions? If the right hon. Gentleman could make those two points clear, I think it would assist many of us to reach a conclusion on the merits of his present proposal.

There is only one other matter to which I wish to allude. Some hon. Members opposite seem to think that it is never justifiable to discuss anything unless there is a subsequent Division. That seems an extraordinary doctrine. Do they attach no value at all to debate? Is the Division Lobby the only thing in which they take the slightest interest? If that is not their meaning, their cries and jeers seem singularly ill-chosen. I hope that what the right hon. Gentleman said in moving the adjournment of this debate means that the Government are determined that, as far as in them lies, they will provide increased facilities in their own time for discussing delegated legislation. If that is the case, these discussions can lead to a good conclusion; but I do not believe that any opposition party—and I hope that this will command agreement among some, at any rate, of the Government's supporters—will agree to the House being deprived of the opportunity to discuss delegated legislation, even in the inconvenient hours which at present are necessary, unless some proper time is offered by the Government as an alternative.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I do want to press the Leader of the House as to what his proposal means in respect of the orders which are at present notionally lying on the Table. He knows, of course, that they are not actually on the Table, but are in the box in the Library. The 40 days during which, under the Statutory Instruments Act, they can be debated, are running out. In the case of some of them, that period is running out tonight. If there are to be discussions of a possibly prolonged nature, and if in the interim the present means of debating them is to be removed from the House, a number of those orders will pass into a zone in which they cannot be debated while discussions are taking place.

The only way in which the right hon. Gentleman, can deal with them, as I understand it, is to introduce an amendment to the Statutory Instruments Act extending, in respect of those Instruments, at any rate, the period of 40 days in which they can be debated by a period sufficient to cover the period of the discussions. I think that that is not an unreasonable proposition to put to the right hon. Gentleman, so that the House shall not lose control over a certain number of Statutory Instruments while discussions are proceeding with a view to working out a better means of procedure.

One other matter is, do the revised proposals which the right hon. Gentleman, has in mind, contemplate the possibility of dealing, at the same time, with one of the unfortunate characteristics of the present control? That is, will they enable a long Statutory Instrument which has, perhaps, one defect, to be debated in some other way than on a Motion to annul the Instrument? A good deal of time is inevitably wasted in this House because an hon. Member, who desires, quite genuinely, to deal with one particular aspect of a long Statutory Instrument has no other possible method of raising it than to put down a Motion to annul the whole Instrument.

If the right hon. Gentleman will deal with those two points, I shall be grateful; namely, the position of Instruments at present lying, in respect of which time is now running out; and secondly, the actual technique of dealing with long, detailed Instruments with perhaps one objectionable feature. If the right hon. Gentleman will do that, it would strike me that his proposal has much more merit than when he put it originally.

11.46 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I should like to respond to the requests made by the last two hon. Members who have spoken. I am grateful to the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) for his reception of the suggestion I made. It is a speech the like of which I have come to expect from him with great anticipation and pleasure since we have been together in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is in a minority."] This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition was in a minority in his own party, but in view of the atmosphere which is prevailing, let us not try to raise the temperature.

I have taken into account the fact that the opportunity for debating some Statutory Instruments is running out. The two with which we are concerned tonight do not present any question of urgency because the first is "alive" until 11th April, and the second to 25th April; but I shall take into consideration any other Statutory Instruments which may be time-expired—[Interruption.] I dislike using another military metaphor, but once a soldier, always a soldier, as I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows. I shall take them into account. I have set no limit—I was very careful not to do so—on the range of these discussions.

I am sincerely anxious that this House should have every opportunity for all critical examination of these Statutory Instruments, and I do not want to be regarded this evening as taking part in a "deputies' conference," drawing up a programme for our principals to discuss in the near future. I shall endeavour to see that this matter proceeds with all convenient speed, and to make quite certain that, in the meantime, the rights which hon. Members now enjoy will not be jeopardised; and, further, to hope that the offer which I make, with the full consent of all my collegaues, will be accepted by all hon. Members in the genuine spirit in which it is tendered.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned; to be resumed upon Tuesday, 3rd April.