§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.I move this Motion in the spirit of Christmas, and I hope that the Secretary of State will respond in the same spirit. Apart from the fact that we are getting near Christmas, we have made good progress today. The Minister cannot count against us the three hours that were spent discussing the Motion which, for reasons which I have never quite understood but which must have been good to him, he himself introduced. He must have been gratified that his Motion was thoroughly discussed. That is what all Members want when a Motion is introduced. Again, I do not know why in the end the right hon. Gentleman voted against his own Motion. None the less, we had three good hours spent on something which the Secretary of State himself brought before the Committee. He cannot in any sense reckon that against us.
We would have been willing to start the Bill straight away. It was the Minister who decided that it was necessary to do otherwise. There is no question that we would have had at least one more big Amendment or group of Amendments under our belt if the Minister had not chosen, as he is perfectly entitled to do, to bring that Motion before us. Therefore, when reckoning the progress that the Committee has made, the Minister must count it as if we had passed one more Amendment or group of Amendments than we have done. But for the right hon. Gentleman, we would have done so. The fault is his, not ours.
In spite of that slight curtailment of our time, we have passed no less than twelve Amendments grouped together in three groups, each of which dealt with a fairly considerable issue and one of which dealt with one of the big issues in the Bill. No reasonable-minded 1284 person could deny that we have made good progress if we deem ourselves to have passed one more set of Amendments than we have done. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will be able to say that we have such good progress behind us and have been moving so fast that he could not have hoped to get further, and that in the spirit of Christmas, which we extend to one another here as the season approaches, he will be able to accept the Motion.
§ Mr. Mellish
Are we not to hear from the Leader of the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Motion is agreed."] Is it now agreed? Can we go home?
§ Mr. Profumo
In the spirit of Christmas, I hope that the Committee will feel that we should have a few more presents before we depart tonight. I am not attributing to hon. Members opposite the fact that we spent part of our time discussing an elucidation which I wanted the Committee to understand. We have, however, made sufficiently good progress since then for me to feel the spirit of Christmas, although the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) rather put the spirit of April Fool's Day in what he said. We are in an aura of Christmas and, with the spirit of good will, we might make much more progress still than we have made up to now.
I am thinking rather more of the New Year than Christmas, because I want to get progress on the Bill. As I said on Second Reading—[HON. MEMBERS: "How far tonight?"] Hon. Members are quite right to ask me how far we are going tonight. We have only just moved the suspension of the Rule. To ask that we should break off on the Bill just after the House has voted on the suspension is asking too much, even in the spirit of Christmas.
Therefore, I suggest we should make a considerable amount of progress. The last group of Amendments provided very good debate. There is no question of extra time being taken on them. I rather hope that we can proceed with as much alacrity as possible, and a little later we can consider what progress we have made. In the spirit of Christmas, I ask the Committee to see whether we cannot make a little more progress before we agree to a Motion of this kind.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Surely the right hon. Gentleman can do better than that. In spite of his lapse earlier today, when he moved to report Progress to allow my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to make a personal statement, it was on his initiative that the Committee spent two hours or more discussing his own Motion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has been very reasonable, but he said that if the Government did this sort of thing, and we were surprised that they did them, they should take the blame and not blame the Opposition because we had not got on faster. We are now on Clause 1, the most controversial Clause of the whole Bill, and if the right hon. Gentleman will not be reasonable, whether it is Christmas or not, he must expect that there will be considerable discussion on the Clause.
If therefore he only told us, for example, that he wants Clause 1—[HON. MEMBERS: "What, Clause 1?"]—it might help to speed up matters a little. In spite of there being no Christmas spirit among some of my hon. Friends, I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman met us we would try to meet him. But if he goes on in the way he has just spoken about, he must expect, Christmas or no Christmas, that we shall spend a long time discussing the Clause. I hope therefore that he will be a little more forthcoming than he was a moment or two ago.
§ Mr. Mellish
I agree with hardly anything that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has just said. I am all for the Christmas spirit and good will and all that, but this is a Bill which is bitterly opposed by many of us. We think that it will do a grave injustice to the percentage of the population which it affects. That being so it is proper that we should fight it line by line and word by word. That is what Committee work is all about. In spite of the delay caused by the Secretary of State for War, we ought not to take the next Amendment now, because we shall be a long time on it. Both it and the Amendment which, according to the list in the Lobby, is to follow are fundamental, and I suggest respectfully that we could not possibly reach a decision on them until the early 1286 hours of the morning in the present situation. As to the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill, we shall have a Labour Government before we reach that.
Seriously, we ought to start the New Year afresh on the Bill. It is not an urgent matter for anyone. It may be that its powers will never be used by the Secretary of State. What sort of people are we to be going on at this time of night on a Bill which might never be put into operation? I am glad to see the Leader of the House here. He has had a tough time lately. Some of us are sorry for him. He keeps getting himself superseded by the Home Secretary, but the Home Secretary knows how to handle us. It is about the only thing that he knows. He would have said, "Let us take one more group of Amendments" and we might have listened to him. If the Leader of the House starts off in a spirit of good will now, I assure him that when 1962 comes I shall come back in a spirit of good will, but if he says, "You are going to stay here until I think you can go home", I can promise him that not only will there be a late night now but many late nights in the New Year.
§ Mr. Wigg
My words are addressed to the Leader of the House. It is within his power to control the use of the Closure, and it was discourteous to impose the Closure on the group of Amendments which we have just been discussing. The Secretary of State for War had made a most important announcement. On Second Reading and in Committee he had broadly outlined the arrangement which he was to make for the appeals tribunal. Some of us were prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt and believe that for purely humanitarian reasons he was setting up this independent tribunal in order that—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is going rather beyond the procedural Motion which we are discussing.
§ Mr. Wigg
We are now discussing the Motion to report Progress, a Motion which is debatable. I am using the occasion to address some remarks to the Leader of the House, showing that if he wants to get Progress, whether in the spirit of Christmas or any other 1287 spirit, he must have some regard to the rights of the Army and the efficiency with which the Bill is considered. It is no good having a Government Whip strolling in and bluntly moving the Closure because it happens to be a certain time. The Government will not make any progress with the Bill if that happens. Somehow or other we will find out what this tribunal means and how the Minister proposes to administer it.
It may be that his kindly heart and purely humanitarian reasons have made him set it up, but there are some of us who share the suspicions of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that what the Secretary of State will eventually do, however kindly his original intention, is to pass the buck. He is passing the buck in a very inefficient way. It has taken him seven weeks to make the announcement about the chairman of his tribunal.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am arguing why, if we want to make progress, the House should consider the Bill more efficiently. If that is not within the terms of the Motion to report Progress, I have failed to learn any lessons while I have been in the House of Commons. I am arguing that the Secretary of State has just announced the chairmanship of this tribunal, having peddled it all round Whitehall, and then we learn that the chairman is the chairman of S.S.A.F.A. Hon. Members know what that means.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am arguing on the issue of making progress and saying that the Leader of the House has allowed steps to be taken which do not make for progress but impede it. The Secretary of State has just made an important announcement which should have been made not in Committee but in the House, so that we might have had an opportunity to consider it before—
§ Mr. Wigg
With respect, Sir Gordon, the Motion before the House is that we report Progress and ask leave to sit 1288 again. I am giving reasons why we should report Progress so that the Leader of the House can consider the handling of the Bill. If the Closure is to be moved automatically, without regard to the feelings of the Committee, or the state of opinion in the Committee, we will make no progress. I, for one, have been trying to make progress up to this moment, but if we are to have automatic closures, I will start to filibuster. I am rather out of practice, but I am willing to learn again. If the Leader of the House starts to move the Closure, that will be a game which two can play. We are entitled and the country is entitled and young men in the Services are entitled and their relatives are entitled to the Committee's consideration of what the Minister has done. He is using his machinery to settle matters which are difficult for him. If this—
§ Mr. Wigg
With all respect, I am willing to learn, as always from the Chair and always to obey your direction, Sir Gordon. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has moved to report Progress and I am arguing, for the benefit of the Leader of the House, that we have failed to make progress because of the action taken by one of the Government Whips. If this happens again we shall not make progress, we shall pedal backwards.
The Committee is entitled on this procedural Motion to invite the right hon. Gentleman to give us further information. If I am out of order, what was the Committee doing in the three hours of the first part of the debate? For we ranged over the whole policy then, to meet the convenience of the Government and the Chair. If we did that for their convenience, surely I am now entitled to ask how comes it that an important announcement of this kind was made then and not at the end of Questions?
§ Mr. Wigg
We are all concerned with progress with this Bill, I would have thought, in the interests of the Government, the Opposition and the Chair. 1289 Surely, then, I am entitled to use this occasion—not to ask—but to invite the Secretary of State and the Leader of the House to consider, when making announcements of this kind, that we are determined to probe them and get to the bottom of them, and in doing so we are concerned not with the rights of the Labour Party but with the reserve forces, the state of the Army, and the young men and their relatives. We are concerned that we shall not have an announcement of this kind and, while some of us are still on our feet, the Government Whip move the Closure. Against that I protest.
If, Sir Gordon, you rule this out of order, we must seek some other occasion, as, for instance, the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. This conduct by the Government is not the way to get the co-operation of the Committee. So far there has been no filibustering or wasting of time whatever. Speeches have been made by hon. Members on the Government side who wanted to make them. This is a matter which runs across party lines, and we are all of us concerned with it. Parliament does not work without some courtesy, and we must be entitled to plead for the efficiency of our proceedings, and so some regard should be had to hon. Gentlemen who want to speak. I am not pleading for myself but for the Committee as a whole. An announcement should not be made and then the matter brushed aside as the Government did brush that aside, for if they go on like that the Government will get a worse Bill than the Bill now is.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I rise only because I think the Secretary of State completely misunderstood the purpose of this Motion and the spirit in which it was moved. If I may say so to the Leader of the House, we really have received very little assistance from him in our problems these last few weeks. I ask him to address himself to this. My right hon. Friend moved the Motion with the purpose of inquiring the intentions of the Government, a perfectly proper thing to do, a regular thing to do; but from the Secretary of State we received no indication at all. All we had was a rather brusque reply, obviously intended to be flippant, to the effect that, "We shall go on and see where we get."
1290 I strongly say to the Leader of the House, supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has just said, that if the Committee is treated this way there are ways and means by which the Committee can protect itself. Progress is not made simply by Ministers saying, "Well, let us get a bit more progress." We are entitled to discuss at this stage what the Government have in mind.
There is, I gather, no complaint made by the Government side of the Committee that they have been ill-treated today. On the contrary, the Secretary of State has gone out of his way to pay tribute to the progress and the speed of the progress after we had got rid of his Motion and—if I may use the phrase—his own filibustering on that. Since then, he says, we have made great progress and proceeded very speedily. It is not the business of the Committee to proceed speedily; it is our business to proceed properly, giving every due consideration to the provisions in the Bill; but if the Secretary of State is able to say that the only Motion on which we really spent any long time was his Motion, then I think that a very good basis on which to treat the Committee fairly afterwards.
We have just disposed of twelve Amendments, and with no complaint. We might have made some complaint about that, but we did not. We now have another group of Amendments to be taken together. They are of considerable importance. They apply to young men in very important employments, whose call-up, if taken, will involve very great hardship to them and other people. If we were to take those, we should have taken a very considerable next step. It cannot possibly be promised that those can be taken quickly or easily. They are Amendments of fundamental importance.
If the Secretary of State, in asking us to continue the debate, is intending to go beyond that tonight, I must tell him and the Leader of the House what they already know, that there are ways and means by which the House of Commons can protect itself against this abuse of the Government's majority.
I now address myself to the Leader of the House. I repeat that on these occasions he ought not merely to listen 1291 to us but to intervene and help us. I ask him to state his intentions tonight. Would he be satisfied if we were, after reasonable consideration, able to get the next group of Amendments? I can give no undertaking but would be very willing to consider that and consult my right hon. and hon. Friends if that is what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind?
On the other hand, if he is not yet ready to make up his mind, I must point out that there is a great deal to be discussed on this group of Amendments and it will be easy for us to arrange that he has plenty of time while these Amendments are being discussed to make up his mind.
But I should have thought that at this point it was not at all unreasonable to ask the Government to stop playing with us and tell us what they have in mind. I think I have said enough to tell the Leader of the House what we think would be reasonable, and I hope that he will now give us an idea of his intentions.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The most worrying thing about the state into which we have got ourselves is the complete contempt with which the House of Commons is being treated by Government supporters. The importance of the issue that we have to debate is not in issue. Yet, at a time when three hon. Members are on their feet in an effort to speak to the Amendments before the Committee, a Government Whip strolls in and moves the Closure, and the debate is closured.
§ Mr. Marsh
I do not wish to discuss the last Closure, Sir Gordon, except that there has been a process of things culminating in the situation in which the Secretary of State, who was asked in the most courteous and pleasant terms to give the Opposition some indication of the Government's proposals, treated us with contempt, said "I will probably let you know some time later" and sat down. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has intervened at a dater stage and addressed remarks to the Leader of the House, 1292 but apparently we are not even to be honoured by any comment from the right hon. Gentleman.
On an issue as important as this, we are entitled to be treated with a little more courtesy than has been shown so far by the Secretary of State or the Leader of the House. The only filibustering and wasting of time was that by the Secretary of State. The fact that the Leader of the House has got the House and the Government programme into a mess is no reason why discussion on the rest of a Bill as important as this one should be speeded up to a stage where it is impossible to give it proper consideration.
There is no reason why the Committee should be kept here at this late hour with no idea how long it will be expected to sit, with Government Whips walking in and moving the Closure to ensure that there is no proper debate, with the staff being kept up to a most unreasonable hour, when it is apparent to everybody that it is impossible to get all these Amendments this evening.
It is equally apparent that it is possible to make progress. We are entitiled to protection from the Chair and to co-operation from the Leader of the House, for we are dealing with peacetime conscription in a highly contentious Bill. Hon. Members opposite lost interest in the Bill some time ago or were told that they must not join in the debate, and apparently my hon. Friends and I are no longer to be allowed to debate the Amendments. I appeal to the Leader of the House for co-operation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] We have only one Leader of the House, despite appearances. I ask him to tell us how much further he wants to go with the Bill tonight. We can then determine whether he will be able to go as far as that.
If he agrees that we report Progress now, we shall return after the Recess to deal with the remainder of the Bill. The Leader of the House may by then have decided to return to the Colonial Office and we may have a different approach to the Bill. But clearly we shall not make much progress tonight unless we receive at least a certain amount of courtesy from the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I emphasise that there has been every co-operation from this side of the Committee from the time that our discussions on the Bill started today. The way in which the Secretary of State sought our co-operation was unprecedented; he was in difficulty earlier and he appealed to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to get him out of the difficulty. It has rarely been known for the Government to move a Motion and then to ask for the reasons for the Motion to be given by an Opposition back bench Member. I thought that a transfer fee of the order of that paid for Jimmy Greaves should have been paid for my hon. Friend in order to get him to put the Government case.
We discussed at considerable length the difficulties into which the Government had got themselves and tried every possible way to get them out of their difficulties. It therefore seems unfair that when we reach 10.45 p.m. the Government are not prepared to accept a proposal that we should have adequate time to consider these Amendments. In the Recess we should be able to study these most important Amendments. We have had a heavy day at the end of a long and heavy Session; because of the way in which the Government have handled business from time to time, we have been under pressure since the House reassembled. It is, therefore, a reasonable request that the Government should give some indication of how long they intend to keep the Committee tonight.
There has been great co-operation from my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who always brings expert knowledge to debates on this subject. Time after time he helps the Government to understand what they are trying to do. Even if the Government agreed to the Motion to report Progress as a thank-you gift to my hon. Friend, that would be most acceptable.
I am sorry that the Leader of the House cannot intervene to help us. He is the servant of both sides of the Committee, and we are looking to him for guidance. When the Committee gets into difficulties of this kind, we ought to 1294 get a clear-cut decision from the right hon. Gentleman which will cut through some of the verbiage and allow us to get back to something positive.
This is an extremely important Bill. Every hon. Member has received letters about it from people who may be affected, and who feel that they are being unfairly treated by being asked to continue for a further period after completing the service for which they were called up. Because of our duty to our constituents, we cannot stop the debate at an early hour, and, if the Government want to, we must be prepared to discuss it all night.
I hope that the Government will have further thoughts about this. We have a heavy responsibility, and unless we discharge it effectively we will not be doing our job as Members of the House. I hope that the Minister will appreciate this, and will try to do his duty and discharge his responsibility in the way that we are endeavouring to discharge ours.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I think that at this point we should have some clarification from the Secretary of State for War of the remarks he made about Christmas and the New Year. Surely he realises—and if not the Leader of the House can explain to him—that in Scotland Christmas is really New Year, and New Year is Christmas. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman draws the line of demarcation at Christmas, and is not prepared to extend the spirit of good will to the New Year.
This is an important ideological point. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is already making his New Year resolutions, and that the first of these is never to move a Motion to report progress to oblige my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
I suggest that the time has come for a pause, and that this is the appropriate moment for the Secretary of State for War to follow the example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour and agree to a pause so that at his leisure, between now and the 22nd January, he can make an objective examination of the Amendments which have been tabled and decide whether they will improve the Bill.
1295 As my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) said, this is the time when we ought to be consulting our constituents. I am thinking not so much of my constituents, but of the constituents of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), because it is at this time of the year that we meet a number of our constituents who are about to board midnight trains from St. Pancras and Euston.
The first question that they will ask the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is, "What are you going to do about these sanguinary Amendments to this sanguinary Bill?" We are entitled to give a sanguinary answer, but I can see considerable difficulties ahead because some of my constituents went into the Army from the mines. Now they are asking themselves, "How can we get back from the Army into the mines?" They are viewing with increased apprehension—
§ Mr. Hughes
I was illustrating the sort of questions the hon. Member and I will be asked on the 11.40—
§ Mr. Hughes
This is the opportunity we will have to get into contact with our constituents who are in the Army and who are extremely interested in the Bill. I am giving only one illustration, in passing. Some soldiers are likely to have an extra term of service.
§ The Chairman
That point concerns the merits of the Bill. We are now discussing a procedural Motion.
§ Mr. Hughes
I shall find great difficulty in explaining this to my constituents, as will the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire. I suggest that we now have an opportunity for reflection, and for the calm consideration that is necessary before further mistakes are made. I therefore ask the Secretary of State to accept the Motion to report Progress, in order that we can return to discuss the Bill with the care and consideration it deserves.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
There is one overwhelming reason, in equity, why the Government should accept the Motion. The Committee is being punished for something which is not its fault. We are being kept in after school because teacher made a mess of the last two study periods. Why should we be expected to tolerate this? Why should the country be expected to tolerate the fact that its legislators are having to work on for a period during the night when they are not at their best, because fatigue is setting in, and should have to consider Amendments of intense and intimate importance to every citizen in the country? Why should we be expected to do this, simply because the Government have not yet learnt to run their affairs properly?
It is quite inexcusable. I—and no doubt many other hon. Members are in the same position—am torn in two at this moment between two claims, two duties, two desires and two obligations—
§ Mrs. Castle
On the one hand, I have a pile of letters that I have received from constituents, complaining about the Bill and its application to their sons and husbands—
§ Mrs. Castle
I am trying to say—if I may be allowed to finish a sentence—that I want an opportunity to bring before the Committee, at a time when it is fresh and able to reason, arguments contained in letters from my constituents—and, my heavens, the Secretary of State cannot think clearly at six o'clock in the afternoon; what will he do at midnight?
We shall shortly be coming to some most important Amendments about the rights of appeal against the unfairness of the Bill and its application in individual cases. I certainly intend to play my part in the debates. On the other hand, I am as anxious as anybody else in the Committee to get a reasonable night's sleep and be in a reasonable state of health when Christmas comes, because I am a human being and I have domestic obligations. If that applies to me, it applies equally to the women staff 1297 whom we are keeping late and whom we are expecting to work here from six o'clock in the morning until the Committee deems fit to allow them to go home.
The contraction of business is not due to some great urgency of Government business or to some great crisis in national affairs. If that were so, we would all of us have to stretch a point occasionally. But the Committee is unable to get ahead with its normal business at a normal hour because the Government cannot get their arrangements straight. This is not the first such occasion we have had in the last few days—it is becoming a daily occurrence. There have been the cases of the Swiss loan and the B.B.C. Charter and the mess-up with the Money Resolution of this Bill. The Committee and the House have spent as much time in the last few days discussing how the Government can get out of procedural difficulties they have created as it has spent on the contents of the legislation before it.
I suggest that it is not only I who need more sleep but the Government as well, in the interests of legislative efficiency and of progress, any Government that was either awake or sane would agree that it would be far better to recognise that they are getting end-of-term and stale, that they had better go home for the Recess and come back afterwards able to present procedural guidance to the House and the Committee and put their Bills in the right order, so that we can get our work done quickly.
It is time we heard from the new Sphinx imported into the Government Front Bench. We have a new phenomenon in Leaders of the House—someone who believes in the strength of silence. We have had to endure the unflappability of the Prime Minister which nearly landed this country in major disasters. Now we have to endure the phlegm of the Leader of the House. This is acting as a drag on the smooth running of the affairs of the House and this Committee. We needed that running to be oiled by more efficiency from the Government Front Bench, together with more clarity and more charity than the Government have shown. If they began by showing a bit more charity tonight to hon. Members, who have committed 1298 on crime, and showing more charity to the staff, they might end by showing a little more clarity as well.
§ Mr. Hale
The curfew has long since tolled…the knell of parting day,the lowing herd has wound…slowly o'er the lea,and if the ploughman has not yet plodded home his weary way, his wife is probably wondering whether he has offered his libations to Bacchus or to Venus. Shadows of the evening are creeping across the sky, and it would now be proper for me to reveal a personal interest. I am the Member who had what I thought two days ago to be the luck to be allotted the Adjournment debate for tonight. I am beginning to regard it with more mixed feelings.
I do not want to detain the Committee. I suggest only eleven reasons why this Motion should be carried, and I will put them briefly and seriously. The first is that it is very bad policy, and always has been, to discuss major measures at this hour. Bernard Shaw, who was not bound by the rules of Parliamentary order, observed, somewhat improperly, that Parliament was in the habit of making decisions at midnight which no sane people would make at noon. One is bound to say that that is a danger.
The second reason is that many Conservative Members will be wanting to make personal explanations. [Interruption.] I see that the Leader of the House is leaving the Chamber. I do not think that my hon. Friends are protesting. For my part, I apprehend that the Leader of the House is going to the Library for the purpose of arming himself with notes in order to make his reply to my speech. I was about to refer to the second reason why the Government should accede to our request. It is that many hon. Members of the party opposite, who have not been present during our debate except to come in and vote somewhat gratuitously and without any great cognisance of the effect of the call-up on married soldiers, may be wanting to prepare personal explanations.
The third, and perhaps most important of the reasons, is that Ministers themselves are very tired. The Secretary of State for War has shown himself to be tired throughout the afternoon, and 1299 some of us have shown sympathy towards him. His must be an exacting task. I do not ask him to accept my view, but if he would consult with his hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) I am sure that he would get confirmation of the belief that the Secretary for War has not looked his best all the afternoon and evening. The right hon. Gentleman needs a rest and time for reflection.
Fourthly, there is the obligation to the staff who serve us so faithfully throughout the year. To keep them so very late so that they lose their last trains only a few days before Christmas when they must have many things to do at home is a bit cruel and quite unnecessary.
Fifthly—and this is related to what I have just said—the Secretary of State told us at an earlier stage that he is not going to do anything about the Bill for months and months. He does not propose to make a call-up for about six months and, therefore, there really cannot be any urgency about it at all.
I would suggest that the seventh reason is that there ought to be a period of consideration before we proceed further, and certainly before we ever dreamed of the idea of getting beyond Clause 1—which the Secretary for War has said is not directly concerned with the Money Resolution and which we ought to be able to look into as there has been a quite unprecedented amount of opposition.
The right hon. Gentleman has prophesied that at some future date he would endeavour to amend the Financial Resolution which is most important in relation to Clause 7. If we debate an Amendment which we have not seen there is no doubt that we shall be on the wrong road; and the longer the journey will be back and the more arduous and difficult will be the task. We may even injure the whole endeavour. It is a matter of personal opinion whether that would do any harm. It would certainly leave my personal withers unwrung.
The eighth reason is really important. The Secretary for War was not at his best when he told us about Christmas. When the soldiers of Oldham, maintaining widowed mothers, or those who have 1300 relatives on National Assistance, read his references to Christmas they will say with Scrooge, "Out upon you and your Merry Christmas—your Christmas is all humbug." Eleven years ago this Christmas the Labour Government died and since then there has been doubt, difficulty, and uncertainty.
These are my main reasons; there were some more but those are sufficient. I declare the innings closed at that. The right hon. Leader of the House has not, I regret, had time to return, but I hope perhaps that the argument may be carried on by some of my hon. Friends until he has had time to consult the books and the references.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I want to say, Sir Gordon, how astonished we are at the way in which the Committee is being treated. We moved a Motion to inquire what were the Government's intentions, but we have been brushed off with a reply that did not even pretend to deal with our request. A little later, so that no time was wasted, I rose quite out of turn in order to put it to the Leader of the House, so clearly that he could not misunderstand me, that that was our intention in moving the Motion.
I put to him, as I had no obligation to do, a suggestion about the way in which we might make progress tonight, and I invited his comments. To that, there was no answer at all. At a later stage, when across the Floor I tried to invite him to give an answer, I was brushed off with what seemed to be a very rude commentary. Now, in the middle of this discussion, the Leader of the House has thought fit to walk out of the Chamber. In all the years I have been here I have never known the House or the Committee to be treated in this way on a Motion on which the Leader of the House alone is the final authority. It is to the Leader of the House to whom we are at this moment addressing arguments.
It is pretty clear what is going on. The Government have decided not to bother with our arguments. After a certain time, the Whip who now occupies the end seat on the Treasury Bench proposes to move the Closure. The Government have already behaved in that way and are no longer even bothering to go through the forms—the Leader 1301 of the House does not even regard it any longer as being part of his duty to listen to this argument.
I am bound to put on record that this treatment of Parliament makes the whole business of Parliamentary democracy an absolute farce. If the Government want to proceed in this way, although they can get every Motion—maybe with your co-operation, Sir Gordon—every two hours or thereabout, they can get no more than that—there are other Motions that they will have to fight for every two hours or thereabout. To be treated in this way, with Ministers neither listening to us nor producing reasonable arguments—nor even being able to look interested enough to stay while the argument continues—is the most outrageous treatment of Parliament I have known in the fifteen years I have been here.
This Motion began as a genuine attempt to find out what the Government wished to do, how far they wished to get, and what co-operation would be forthcoming. At the end of an hour and ten minutes we have had nothing at all except this quite gratuitous treatment by the Leader of the House, who cannot speak when he is here but sits absolutely silent all the time, who is now so ashamed of his silence that he has walked out of the Chamber. The sooner the Home Secretary is brought back to handle the job the better for us all, and the better for the conduct of Government business.
I am bound to ask the Secretary of State, since he is now left here alone: will he try again? Do the Government desire to make progress tonight, or do they just wish to spend every two hours arguing some Motion? If they do, they will make no progress. I draw their attention to the fact that had they accepted the proposition I made almost an hour ago they could have had these Clauses by midnight tonight. They will not get those Clauses by midnight tonight, whatever happens now, and whatever co-operation there is. They will not get past this Motion for a little time yet.
We shall be here until 2 o'clock in the morning for the Clauses which they could have had by midnight had the Leader of the House been on his job. When they have those Clauses, we can 1302 examine other propositions, and if they sit here until 6 o'clock in the morning they will have made very little progress beyond the point they could have reached at midnight if we had had a Leader of the House who could speak or take an interest.
It is not our function to facilitate the Government's business, but I say to the Government that, if they want to make progress with a hotly contested Bill, in a House of Commons in which they have a clear majority hut where they do not have a real concerted desire to have the Bill, then they must work with co-operation, and that means with our co-operation. That we offer. If we are to be treated in this disdainful way, then they will wait and wait. In the end, they will, I suppose, do what they want to do—force the Bill through without discussion—but it will add not to their glory, it will add not to the way in which the Bill is received in the country, and it will add nothing to the dignity of our proceedings.
I ask the Secretary of State, in the disgraceful and contemptuous absence of the Leader of the House, to send someone out to him, or, if not to him, to the Home Secretary, to ask him to reconsider the way in which we are being treated.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
It is astonishing that, at the end of more than an hour's debate, neither you, Sir James, nor any other Member of the Committee has the faintest notion of what the Government's intentions or wishes are. It is disgraceful. I can understand that, if a Minister is in charge of a Bill and he is having a somewhat difficult time, not seeing his way very clear ahead, he might very well be inclined to be obstinate at any suggestion of curtailing the discussion at too early an hour. No one will complain about the right hon. Gentleman if that is his view. But, if he wishes to go on like that, it is his plain duty to make up his own mind exactly how far he would like the Committee to go this evening.
If he makes up his mind, then it must be his duty to tell the Committee what it is that he wishes the Committee to do. All he has done so far, except for a lamentable reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) at the beginning, is sit in solemn 1303 silence listening to plea after plea from hon. Members who asked to be told what the Government want, what was their intention, and what sort of constructive idea, if any, lay behind this obstinacy. He has not said a single word.
The right hon. Gentleman had the courage in his speech to say something about the spirit of Christmas. I am bound to say that of all Ministers I have ever seen at that Box, this one looks less like Father Christmas than any I have known in a long time. He has not had a single concession to make to anyone. His bag is not only empty, but he has left it outside the Chamber. He has had not a thing to give away, not even a piece of his mind. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has no beard."] If I could do anything whatever to repair the right hon. Gentleman's deficiencies, I should be prepared to assist. It is not only a beard he lacks. It is the heart he lacks.
The Secretary of State does not know where he is. He has been so bamboozled and knocked about during the earlier part of our proceedings today that, at this time of night, he is not merely incapable of knowing what he wants to be in the Bill or out of it; he does not even know how much of it he wants to get tonight or what he will do with it when he has it.
Judging by the speeches the right hon. Gentleman has made, if we gave him all the stages of the Bill before midnight tonight—Committee stage, Report, Third Reading, summoned the absentees in another place to resume their duty and had the whole thing ready for the Royal Assent, even to bringing Her Majesty out of bed at seven o'clock tomorrow morning to give her assent to it—the right hon. Gentleman would not know what to do next. He has told us that he does not know. He does not know whether he wants to use any of the Bill's provisions. If he does, he does not know which; and, if he does know which, he does not know when.
The right hon. Gentleman does not have a glimmer of an idea. And now he does not even have the Leader of the House in the seat beside him to "Macleod" the issue. The right hon. Gentleman is completely lost. Talk 1304 about the spirit of Christmas! The right hon. Gentleman is a "Babe in the Wood". He has had over an hour in which to consider the matter. He has lost the whole of this time. From his point of view, nearly an hour and a quarter has been completely wasted. At the end of this time neither he nor any hon. Member will have any better idea than we had at the beginning what we are to do tonight and how long we are to sit to do it.
Cannot the Secretary of State pull himself together a little? Cannot he make up his mind? Is there some official secret about how much of the Committee stage he wants before the House rises, or has the Leader of the House not yet told him? Let us consider how much progress we have made today. The first three hours were devoted to a discussion which the right hon. Gentleman himself invited. He contributed not a single word to that discussion until it had been going for two and a half hours—and then he made a half-hour speech to explain to the Committee that the whole thing was perfectly simple; that nothing needed explaining; that there had been no need for the discussion and that nothing was wrong. And now the right hon. Gentleman complains that we are not making enough progress.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to make any such complaint, it is his business to say how much progress will satisfy him. He knows no more about that than the Government will know what they want when they go to the discussions in Paris about Berlin, which has been put forward as the excuse for having this Bill. They never know where they are or what they want. All they are doing is fumbling and fiddling about, bringing in ill-considered, ill-prepared Bills without knowing what they want.
What about hon. Members opposite? Many of them agree with much that has been said against the Bill by my hon. Friends. Cannot we hear from even one of them? Are they, too, going to sit in solemn silence? The hon. Gentleman the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) generally shows a little courage. I am prepared to resume my seat if that hon. Gentleman wishes to speak.
§ Ma. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I suggest that we get on and see how far 1305 we can manage to get in the next hour. Then we can discuss the matter again—and start another hour's conversation.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am disappointed in the hon. Gentleman. He really had nothing to say. It was not one whit different from what the Secretary of State had to say—and the hon. Member for The Wrekin has had to wait ten years for that. He had to wait until this time, on this night, on this Bill to find something on which he could agree with his Front Bench. I had better leave it there.
I hope that at long last the right hon. Gentleman may have reconsidered the matter. The fog may have cleared out of his mind, he may have had a new look at the Bill, at the Amendments on the Paper and at the clock, and he may now be able to tell us what he wants the Committee to do before we adjourn tonight.
§ Mr. Paget
I take it that the Leader of the House has been taken ill. We have all known him for a long time and we have known him as a man of courtesy. I feel certain that he would not have behaved as he did just now other than for reasons of acute physical illness. It is for that reason that I welcome the arrival of the Patronage Secretary, because in the absence through illness, doubtless, of the Leader of the House, somebody who can speak for the Government on this issue must be here. In a way, we hoped—but perhaps he is not available—that it would be the Home Secretary, who might have reverted to his old job which he handled with such skill and tact. In his absence, however, we hope that the Patronage Secretary will be able to assist. Therefore, I want to put to the Patronage Secretary what has happened.
An hour and a quarter ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) put, good-humouredly, this Motion to inquire the Government's intentions. That is not unreasonable. This is not a Bill on which anybody has suggested that we have been filibustering or spinning things out. I have been engaged in filibusters in my time, but this certainly has not been one. The Secretary of State will agree that on two or three 1306 occasions, I have actually asked my hon. Friends to come to a decision to get along with the Bill, which, whilst it is unpopular and there must be proper discussion, none the less is one which we have no wish to obstruct.
At the appropriate hour at our last sitting to discuss the Bill, I had a few words with the Secretary of State and with the Patronage Secretary about what the Government wanted. They told us. We agreed, not to all they asked, but to a substantial amount, and it worked. That is what we imagined would happen tonight. It was in that spirit that we moved the Motion.
There is no suggestion as to the stage which the Secretary of State wants to reach. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made a proposal, which he was under no obligation to make, that discussing four more Amendments might be considered to be reasonable progress. He put that directly to the Leader of the House, but we have observed that the Leader of the House was taken ill and was unable to reply to it—that is what in charity we must assume. But that does not mean that there ought not to be a reply.
I have been a Member of Parliament for a good many years and I have taken part in a good many late sittings, but I have never yet known an occasion on which, asked for their intention and what they wanted to do by an Opposition who have admittedly not been uncooperative, the Government have flatly refused to tell hon. Members. It is intolerable that that should now be the case. Here we are—and we do not want to keep the servants and staff of the House of Commons up—having absurdly spent an hour and twenty minutes waiting for a reply from the Government on a Motion of which we could have disposed in ten minutes, had the Government dealt with it in a normal manner, not in a clever way, but in the normal way in which the Government should deal with this sort of thing. What are the Government playing at in behaving like this? Now that the Patronage Secretary is here, we must assume that he is deputising for the Leader of the House, and surely he will give us some reply about what the Government want.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I rise to support the Motion, because most hon. Members now realise that the position is far more serious than we thought at first. Is is now quite clear that the Government are completely unable to govern and that this is not just one incident—although it is bad enough—but the culmination of many of a similar nature which have arisen in recent weeks and which started with the question of the position of the Mace. [Interruption.] On behalf of the whole Committee, may I express our gratitude and say how delighted we all are to see the Leader of the House now recovered from his illness? I am sure that all hon. Members hope that he is now fortified and fit for several hours yet, Sir James.
Sir Gordon, those of us who study the permutations of football pools have been watching in the last few moments the permutations of Chairmen and Leaders of the House and Patronage Secretaries as they have moved in and out of the Chamber. I hope that the "new look" which we now have, compared with a few moments ago, means that we will now be given that information to which we are clearly entitled.
I join in the protest of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). It was shocking that we should have been given an important Government announcement at the end of a debate which lasted three hours, and disgraceful that the announcement should not have been made at the beginning of the debate so that it might shave been properly considered by hon. Members. I think it is one of the reasons we are entitled to make our protest in this way by debating this Motion.
The Secretary of State, as is well within the recollection of all Members of this Committee, before the Committee reached the end of the other debate, made this important pronouncement, and then, before any hon. Member could discuss the important new aspect of affairs, the Patronage Secretary forced the Closure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) drew attention a moment or two ago to the fact that every two hours the Closure is moved. As we have been discussing this Motion for one hour and sixteen 1308 minutes we apparently still have a little time in which to discuss it. It is really astounding, and some Members of the Committee must protest about it, that the Government are not discerning and discriminating in allotting time to any Amendment. The first debate, in which I did not take part, was on twelve Amendments, and the Closure was moved to that debate—on twelve Amendments—as though it was just any other debate. It was scandalous when we were discussing such questions as the service of married men or men who had given notice to marry—
§ Mr. Howell
What I am trying to do, Sir Gordon, is to show that the behaviour of the Government does not justify our continuing our deliberations tonight, and that we should, therefore, report Progress. We had the Closure moved on the previous Amendment irrespective of its merits or—
§ Mr. Howell
The speech I was going to make was a good one, but if I am not able to talk about hardship tribunals, National Service grants, reserved occupations, and so on, I will pass on to the next lot. The point I am trying to make is that the scurvy treatment by the Government of the Committee on those important matters gives me no confidence that we should now proceed with the next series of Amendments concerning people in Government service, the police, the ambulance service, the fire brigades, and, no doubt, the hospital service, and other ancillary services, whom we are to be called upon to discuss. I, as a local government man, having spent ten years in local government before arriving here, strongly—
§ Mr. Howell
I am trying to explain, Sir Gordon, exactly why we should not discuss the next Amendment, not only now but in a few minutes' time. I am strongly opposed to discussing any more Amendments tonight, particularly those relating to those matters.
1309 There is another matter one ought to discuss and that is the question of tomorrows business. The House will be discussing an extremely important matter tomorrow, the question of Berlin, and the Members who are concerned about the situation in Berlin are the very Members who will be here tonight discussing whether National Service meets the Berlin situation. These two things are not divorced. The question of how many men we have in the Forces to deal with the Berlin situation is a matter which is bound to affect the judgment of Members on the political problem of Berlin.
§ Mr. Mellish
Does my hon. Friend realise that some of us—though I am speaking, for myself at the moment—are determined, because of the attitude of the Leader of the House, to have some fun and games on the question that the House should adjourn till 23rd January?
§ Mr. Howell
I am delighted my hon. Friend mentions that, because I was about to draw attention to the fact that tomorrow we shall discuss not only Berlin but the general question of loans from Switzerland—a subject a great many of us find very involved and intricate and upon which we require time in which the prepare ourselves—and the further question of the Adjournment Motion.
There are so many crises facing the nation at the moment that one does not know in which of the three important debates tomorrow one should prepare to take part. [HON. MEMBERS: "Take part in them all."] I am aware that hon. Members would like to hear me speak more often; but at this hour it is impossible to prepare properly.
My essential point is that the leadership of the Government has now completely broken down. One after another, Bills introduced by the Government have got into an unholy mess. The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill has hardly started on its course, but the Government had hoped to get it by Christmas.
§ Mr. Howell
I merely mention it, Sir Gordon, as an illustration of a Bill 1310 which has got no further forward, comparatively, than this one. Because of the complete breakdown of the Government and the leadership of the House, I join my hon. Friends in saying that all this is lamentable. The most lamentable thing is that servants of the House are being kept here for a long while on the eve of Christmas. They are loyal people to whom we owe a debt. This is because of the ineptitude of the Government and the disastrous and disgraceful way in which the House of Commons is being treated. For this reason, I support the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker).
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
We are discussing a Motion moved by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again". Normally, that is entirely a matter to be dealt with by the Minister in charge of the Bill. It is undeniable that the debate on it has gone considerably wider, and a number of requests have been made that I should intervene in the debate, and I am very ready to do so.
I should like to put my position simply to the Committee. I am going to advise the Committee that we should accept the Motion so that we report Progress and ask leave to sit again, but I want the Committee to be quite clear about what is in my mind.
I have studied the progress of the Bill. When we have available HANSARD for this debate, hon. Members will be able to study some speeches, and I particularly recommend to them the speech of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). Therefore, although I shall recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to accept the Motion, it is only right for me to tell hon. Members that when tomorrow afternoon I make a statement about the business for the first week after the Recess, I shall announce that I shall be inviting the House to consider an allocation of time Motion both for this Bill and for the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
One on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, and Thursday also, if necessary.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Some of us indicated earlier how surprised we were at the cavalier treatment which the Leader of the House dealt out to the Committee. Because he walked out so contemptuously, I had to say what I had to say while he was not here. I should like to repeat it now. During the sixteen years that I have been in the House of Commons, no Leader of the House has treated the House as the right hon. Gentleman has done. What he has just come back to tell us, having left us in a temper and returned in one, I think he will regret.
He suggested that we should consult HANSARD. Let us have it on the record that the first three hours of the debate were taken up with a Motion to report Progress, before we had started, moved by his own Minister, who wished to clear up misconceptions into which the Minister himself had led hon. Members the last time we discussed the Bill. That had nothing to do with this side of the Committee or the whole Committee; it was the Minister's own decision and it was the Minister's mishandling which caused it.
We then had debates until just after ten o'clock. If the Leader of the House is not too contemptuous of us, perhaps he will look at HANSARD, where he will find that the Secretary of State said of his own free will that he had no complaint. Further, if speeches in the Committee mean anything to this contemptuous Leader of the House, the Secretary of State said that we had made very speedy progress with the Bill.
At 10.10 p.m. we sought to ask the Government's intentions. The fact that we are still debating the Motion at 11.40 p.m. is not our fault. It is the fault of the Leader of the House, who was unable to tell us the Government's intentions, who preferred to sit silent and who then walked out contemptuously in the middle of the debate, leaving the Secretary of State unable to speak for want of any authority to speak. Out of the whole of the day we have had four and a half hours wasted by the Government's own actions and behaviour.
It is humbug now to say that the decision to put on the Guillotine was taken in the last half-hour, since the Leader of the House walked out with that dramatic gesture. This was something which the Government had up 1312 their sleeves. This is why he sat, not mute of God but mute of malice. He did so in order that he could pretend in a petty way that he had some reason for a Guillotine.
When he was not here I made a comment which I will repeat: had the Government been willing and had he been competent to take up the offer which I made when I first spoke, they could have had the next batch of Amendments by now. The Government need not bring in a Guillotine. This is a Bill which I heartily detest and I am not obliged to make any offer about it, but I offered the Government the next batch of Amendments if they would be happy with that progress. The Leader of the House had neither the grace nor the decency either to refuse my offer or to ask me to discuss something further, which is what the Home Secretary and other previous Leaders of the House used to do. He neither accepted my offer nor asked me for something better. He thought it consistent with his dignity to flounce out of the Committee in a fit of temper and then to come back and to say, "We shall have a Guillotine and it will stop all this nonsense about discussion".
Let me tell him straight away that, with his majority, he may force this on the House for a time. But he cannot crush a decent Parliament in this way, or cloak his incompetence by an appeal to an automatic majority for a Guillotine. We have been treated tonight in a way which is no credit to the Government. They have brought in a Bill which a large part of the country thinks is wrong. They are entitled to do that.
We have co-operated tonight. We offered co-operation beyond what was due. We have put up with the most crass display of incompetence by the Minister filibustering on his own Bill. We have put up with silence from the Leader of the House on his duties. Any imposition of the Guillotine now will be the final confession of the absolute failure of the Government to do their own homework, an inability to maintain their own discipline, and an inability even to operate the machinery of the Committee. The Guillotine is a verdict on the Government, not on us.
§ Mr. Wigg
Before the Leader of the House goes to sleep tonight, will he reflect on this, that when we have all gone there are certain things left behind us. I suggest to him—and he knows that I believe this—that the Army is bigger than him or me or anyone here. It is a disciplined force. It carries within its ranks men of all political opinions who are required to carry out orders, and it has been the tradition of the House for as far back as my reading goes, and the object of successive Secretaries of State for War, to keep the Army out of politics, and for politicians, although they are carrying out a political function, to carry out their duties in the House, and make their speeches in the country, as far as they can on a noncontroversial basis. I believe that if the Leader of the House looks he will find no example during the last fifty years of the Guillotine being used as he proposes to use it tonight.
The Leader of the House will recall—and here I make no party point—that in 1950 the Labour Government, with a majority of six, were faced with the issue of the Korean war. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, a number of my hon. Friends detest conscription and detest the use of arms and all that stands for, yet they took their courage in their hands and carried through an acutely controversial proposal without recourse to anything like this.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) wants to say that, I do not dissent.
The approach tonight was made because the Secretary of State for War is the leader of the Army and not exclusively a party politician. I should have thought that as regards this Bill—and I draw a distinction between this Bill and the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill—it was in the interests of the Government, in the interests of the country, and, above all, in the interests of the Army, to rely on the honour and good will of the Committee to come to an agreement if it could, and to have second thoughts before taking the irrevocable step which the Leader of the House has proposed.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
This is a sad day. It is a sad day for the Committee. It is a sad day for the Leader of the House. When he was appointed Leader of the House, I thought that he was going to be a very good Leader of the House, but he has turned out to be a very bad one, and he has given us an example of his bad leadership tonight.
The right hon. Gentleman has declared war on the Opposition. We accept the declaration of war. We will fight this war. There are plenty of means available to fight it. We take up his declaration. He has these two big Bills in Committee of the whole House. He has five Bills in Committees upstairs. He has the Finance Bill to come. He has to place the Defence White Paper before the House. There are plenty of opportunities in our system of Parliamentary democracy, when the Opposition are justly angry, to fight and fight against bad leadership, dictatorship, and the rule of an automatic majority. We accept the declaration of war by the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. W. Yates
I support what the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said about the use of the Guillotine in Measures concerning the Forces. I speak as a serving Territorial Army officer, and I know that those in charge at the War Office, and especially the Ministers, try to get legislation concerning the Reserve Forces of the Army through in as non-controversial a spirit as they can. As a serving member of the Territorial Army, I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether, before finally deciding to use the Guillotine procedure, he will try, through the usual channels, to make more progress with a Bill which is not only in the interests of our countrymen, but in the interests of the nation, and for the safety of the nation, as a whole.
§ Mr. Mellish
Because the Leader of House referred to my speech as one reason why the Guillotine procedure should be brought in, I rise to ask him to read the report of it in tomorrow's OFFICIAL REPORT. It lasted no more than a quarter of an hour. It was certainly relevant to the Amendment, and it expressed a view in which I passionately believe. I believe that, at the end of the day, conscription is inevitable. That is not a popular point of view to hold at 1315 this time. I said that this Bill would not serve the purpose for which it was intended.
All I say to the Leader of the House is that, since he was not here when I made my speech, it is a piece of first-class humbug for him to refer to it as he did. [Interruption.] He was not here to hear my speech. I know who was on the Government Front Bench at the time. The truth is that he is convinced that I and some of my hon. Friends are associated in a desire to fight the Government with all we have. I should have thought that that was what we were elected for. I back up my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). If the right hon. Gentleman wants a fight there are many of us here who are looking forward very much to it, and he can start thinking now about his Transport Bill upstairs.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I had no intention of intervening in the debate until the Leader of the House made his grave statement a short time ago. I hope he realises haw the Opposition feel about this. He has already been told—and I do not think he can deny it—that the reason why the Government are in such difficulties about the Bill is not through any filibustering by the Opposition but because of the complete muddle into which the Government have fallen in the confusing way in which the Bill has been brought forward.
The right hon. Gentleman also surprisingly mentioned the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. It is astonishing that at this hour of the night, when we are debating another Bill, he should announce to the House, to the world, and to the Commonwealth, in particular, that the Government will impose a time table on the Immigrants Bill. For him, as an ex-Colonial Secretary who prided himself on his ideals and his belief in the brotherhood of man, I find it a very odd thing to do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Humbug."] It is not humbug. Most of us have been astounded that the right hon. Gentleman has remained on the Front Bench and has supported the Bill. We thought he meant what he said, but now we know that he did not. It is the business of the Leader of the House to 1316 try to get the business of the Government through without using the Guillotine procedure and without using the automatic majority he has at his disposal.
I will say this for his predecessor, the Home Secretary: he has a pretty good record in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman has started extremely badly. I can assure him that his reputation among hon. Members on this side of the Committee has sunk lower than it has ever been, after tonight. We feel very deeply about the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, and we believe that the Government are also very wrong in this Army Reserve Bill.
What the right hon. Gentleman has done is to throw down a challenge to us—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has said—and I can assure him that we shall take it up. Means are open to us, over a wide front, to make things very difficult for the Government. He has asked us to do this, and we shall do it. He has given us notice. We can make our plans, too. I am sorry he has done this. It is bad for the Commonwealth, bad for our defence services and bad for the House of Commons, but he leaves us no option. War is declared. When we come back we shall show him what we mean. I venture to say that before many weeks or months are over he will be regretting bitterly the statement he has made tonight.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I should like to reply to two points, not to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. The points were made by the Leader of the Opposition and by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). First of all, the right hon. Gentleman asked why I mentioned the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. Of course, I could have left it out—perhaps it was even out of order—but it seemed to me right to say it now rather than be accused tomorrow of not having told the whole story tonight. Naturally, the Leader of the Opposition feels deeply about a Guillotine. Every Leader of the Opposition always has done, and quite rightly, on every occasion.
I say this to the hon. Member for Dudley. He cares very deeply about the Army. I and the Committee know he does. I myself served for six or seven 1317 years in the Army and I care about it, too. I simply believe that, if he studies what we have managed to do in these two days, he will agree that it will be more credit to the Army to take the remaining stages of the Army Reserve Bill properly, as we can do under the procedure I have indicated, than in the way we have proceeded in the last two days in Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.