§ Order read for consideration of Lords Amendments.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Lords Amendments be now considered. [Mr. H. Brooke.]
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I rise to oppose the Motion which has been moved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The way in which we are being asked to deal with constitutional processes this afternoon is reducing the relationship between the two Houses—
§ Mr. Ede
As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, the way in which we are being asked to deal with constitutional processes this afternoon is reducing the relationship between the two Houses to something which involves us in proceedings here which can have no effect if we wish to express our opinion as a House. We are to be asked today to consider Lords Amendments to four Bills. A similar protest could be made on each of the Motions, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered", but I am an old enough Member of the House to realise that that would not greatly advance the case that I am putting now.
I raise the matter, therefore, mainly as a question of principle, whether, on the last day but two of the regular sittings of the House before an Adjournment for three months, it is right to bring before us four sets of Lords Amendments to Government Bills, and to have on the Order Paper, also the question of consideration of Lords Amendments to three Private Members' Bills in which, although the Government have not formally adopted and starred them on the Order Paper, I understand they have some interest, and have been helpful, at any rate, to the hon. Members promoting the Bills during their progress through the House.
When the Motion is accepted, as I have no doubt it will be because of the 1655 Government's majority and in spite of what the arguments against it may be, we shall then proceed to consider the Lords Amendments to each of these Bills. Presumably, we are still a free enough House to be able, if a majority suddenly bursts all the shackles that have bound us during the past Session, to decide that we will reject one of the Lords Amendments, and, when the Question is put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment" to vote it down. In addition, we might even, although I am sure that the Treasury Bench would regard that as an extreme example of recklessness, amend one of the Lords Amendments.
On the last Government Bill which we are to consider I have been reckless enough to put down an Amendment. I do not intend to enter into the merits of it now. During the early hours of tomorrow morning I might get an opportunity of doing that, but I should like to read to the House a paragraph from a letter which has been written to me by the Minister, who, I understand, will be in charge of that Bill. It says:We shall be somewhat embarrassed by the time factor, as I think you will understand.Ministers always put it in that patronising way, as if one has just about enough intelligence to realise what they say although one may not have sufficient intelligence to be able adequately to reply to it.
If we either reject or amend one of these Lords Amendments, the procedure then is that a committee is appointed, consisting of hon. Members of both sides of the House. They meet in a little room behind your Chair, Mr. Speaker, and assign a reason for taking this view of the efforts of another place. Negotiations then go on, and an effort is made to reach some accommodation which will enable the Bill to be passed.
I am sure that any Minister who replies to me will say that the Patronage Secretary will be able to assure him that it does not matter; this will all go through because we have decided what we are going to do on the Lords Amendments. That will happen, and, therefore, this is all theory.
The power of the House to dissent from the views of another place, and to amend its views, is part of the heritage we have, and we ought not to acquiesce in this 1656 kind of procedure on the last working day of the Session for this purpose because of the agenda before us. There was a week at Christmas which might have been devoted to the business of the House. That might have enabled some of these Measures to be brought before us at an earlier date, even with Lords Amendments.
It is quite evident that the Government have made up their mind, and I am not going to be so foolish as to suggest that we should come back on Monday to deal with the matter. I have an engagement at Epsom Downs on Monday which I intend to fulfil, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members will also be seeking rest and refreshment in less salubrious places.
§ Mr. Ede
They might possibly be more profitable, but not more salubrious. Hon. Members have made their arrangements for next Monday, and, therefore, I protest, and I hope that I protest on behalf of all the right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as on behalf of any hon. Gentlemen opposite who still retain a slight respect for the British Constitution which, we understand, it is their special delight to preserve and admire, at this way of treating the House of Commons.
I suggest that the Patronage Secretary should endeavour to give us an assurance about future Sessions while he retains that position. Of course, we do not know whether he, also, is to be moved or transferred, or given a governorship like our former right hon. Friend, Mr. Buchan-Hepburn. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman is indicating that he is not being moved, and I thank him for that assurance. We know that too frequent a change of Chief Whip makes the work of members of the Opposition somewhat hard.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is extremely agreeable, but it is a long way from the Question, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered".
§ Mr. Ede
I hope that the Chief Whip will be able, in future Sessions, to arrange that on the last working day of the Session for this purpose we are not 1657 confronted with four, or possibly seven, sets of Lords Amendments to consider. It would not make for the smooth and agreeable working of the House if such a situation arose, because he could not expect on a future occasion that one would merely be content with making a protest against the procedure.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
At all costs we must enable the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) to get to Epsom Downs on Monday. I hope that we shall also use our best endeavours to enable him to move his Amendment to the Betting and Gaming Bill today and not tomorrow, so to speak.
I agree that it would be undemocratic if we were to assume in advance that everything will go smoothly and that there will be no contretemps and no difficulties during the day. The right hon. Gentleman realises that I am responsible for only the first of these Bills which, I am glad to say, has gone through to this stage with a degree of unanimity which I cannot remember with any similar Bill. As no Amendments have been put down to it by the Opposition, I trust that I shall not be thought by him to be rendering the business of the House more awkward and more impracticable.
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I do not arrange the business of the House. This business was announced last Thursday and, as far as I can recollect, no protest was made at that time. It has been made clear, too, that we do not seek to take tonight the Private Member's Bill and certain other Government Bills on the Order Paper; they will be held over until October.
The right hon. Gentleman asked the Government to take into consideration what might happen in future Sessions, but I hope that he will forgive me for saying that we have first to finish this Session. This is not the last working day before the Recess, and certainly not the last working day of this Session. In view of the fact that until the right hon. Gentleman rose and exercised his democratic right there had not been any protest against these four Bills being put down for today, I hope that he will agree 1658 that we should seek to make such progress as we can with them.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Lords Amendments considered accordingly.