I beg to move, in page 13, line 19, to leave out from the beginning, to the second "the," and to insert:
This is largely a drafting Amendment, bringing this Clause into line with the decisions reached earlier relating to the age of call-up."No person who attains the age of eighteen years on or after."
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates)—in page 13, line 20, leave out "fifty-four," and insert "fifty-one "—might properly be discussed with this Amendment, if the Committee wishes. Does the hon. Member for Ladywood wish to speak?
I take it I am to move my Amendment now?
The hon. Member may do that if and when the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is disposed of.
In view of the great importance of my hon. Friend's Amendment, would it be possible then to have a Division upon it?
Certainly, when the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment has been disposed of.
May I seek your guidance on one matter, Major Milner? Is it your intention to call the Amendment standing in the names of myself and my hon. Friends—in page 13, line 20, leave out from beginning to "except," and insert:
"thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-nine"?
No, I am afraid the hon. Gentleman's Amendment has not been selected. The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) is associated with that in the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin)—in page 13, line 19, leave out from "Acts," to end of Clause, and insert:
"shall continue in force only for such time, and subject to such provisions, as may be specified in an annual Act of Parliament, bringing into force or continuing the same."
I have been trying to understand what this Amendment is about. As far as I can make out, it makes complete nonsense of the Clause. Were it to read, "in page 13, line 19, after 'of' insert" the words suggested, the Clause might make sense, but when reading it with the present Amendment as printed on the Order Paper, I do not think that it makes any sense at all.
In order to clear up the matter, I would explain that this Amendment should be taken in connection with the Amendment to be proposed to line 20. The Amendments must be taken together in order to make the Clause read sensibly. As amended the Clause will read:
"No person who attains the age of eighteen years on or after the 1st day of January, 1954, shall be liable under the National Service Acts to be called upon to serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown; and accordingly those Acts shall continue in operation only with respect to persons who have attained that age or who have been called up for service under those Acts before that date:
The short point is that up to 1st January, 1954, men will be liable to be called up under this Bill. After that date none will be liable to be called up unless the Committee makes other arrangements. Those men who have been called up under the Bill will carry their obligations beyond the date when the Bill comes to an end.Provided that His Majesty may by Order in Council substitute for the said day such later date as may seem to His Majesty expedient."
On a point of Order. If these Amendments, which amount to a new Clause, are carried, will that preclude discussion and possible Division on the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) in page 13, line 20? If the present Amendment is now carried, it appears to commit the Committee to 1954.
No. I want to make it clear that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) may be discussed and divided upon.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 13, line 20, to leave out "fifty-four", and to insert "fifty-one".This is next to the last Clause but it is by no means the least important. In fact, it is fundamental. I feel rather sad that up to the moment we have not been able to make any great impression upon the Government in regard to the general principles of this Bill. I have opposed conscription, but in this Amendment I am asking the Committee to agree that the period of the duration of this Bill should be two years instead of five. When it was first suggested that this Bill should be introduced, the great fear in the minds of my hon. Friends and myself was that for the first time we were introducing into this country a permanent system of peacetime conscription. It will be well within the recollection of the Committee that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked whether it was in the mind of the Government to make military conscription a permanent part of the life of the country, he replied that it was difficult to give a literal translation of the word "permanent."
Naturally, we had fear, and today we have equal fear about the real intention of this Bill and whether it is to be a permanent Measure. We are justified in those fears because when the Military Training Bill was first introduced by the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain it was a Measure which was not so far-reaching as this. That involved only a six months' period of training and yet Mr. Chamberlain realised at that time, because of the action of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, that in their minds there was a fear that it would become permanent. That was in 1939. Here we are today asking that this shall continue until 1954. 9.0 p.m. I would like to quote from Mr. Neville Chamberlain's speech on that occasion. It emphasises the fear in minds then and the fear in our minds today. He said:"I do not ask to see the distant scene, One step enough for me."
That is, to my right hon. Friends:"I want to conclude by making an appeal to. the party opposite."
Later in the same speech he said:"… I think we fully realise what this word 'compulsion' connotes in their minds. They hate it. They have believed, and I daresay they do believe now, that once you introduce compulsion it is difficult to stop it. It might spread until it affected every aspect of national life."
1939—"It is a limited Measure which is designed only to meet immediate and temporary needs"—
I submit that when Mr. Neville Chamberlain introduced a Measure of that kind the fear that it might be permanent was justified. Today we are considering a much more far-reaching Measure, one which asks in 1947 for conscription to be imposed from 1949 to 1954. Why does the Government insist upon a five-year period? Perhaps they will tell us. At the General Election there was no question about conscription. There was no mandate on this issue. In that pamphlet which we have so often held up in this House, "Let us face the future," there was no reference to military conscription. I suggest to my hon. Friends that so far as our own party is concerned and our own party conference, neither the Labour Party Conference nor the Trades Union Congress has ever passed a resolution in favour of military conscription in time of peace."It will be framed specially to emphasise its temporary character."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1939; Vol. 346, C. 1351.]
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to point out that this Debate is confined to the length of the conscription period and is not concerned with the merits or otherwise of conscription?
I will endeavour to confine myself to the essentials of this Amend- ment, Mr. Bowles. I am asking why this should be for five years. After taking office, the Government decided to introduce an interim scheme with a call-up only for two years. Why should we now have a Bill for five years? If I am not out of Order, I suggest that when the last Labour Party Conference discussed the issue whether the present policy of the Government was one to cater for immediate needs, it was made quite clear that what the Government were concerned with was immediate responsibilities.I am asking tonight whether the Government consider that it is really necessary that we should have a Bill upon the Statute Book imposing conscription for a full five years. I want to suggest why I consider it should only be introduced for two years. Of course, if I could have my way, I would not agree to it at all, for any period, but I do suggest that it is morally indefensible that a Government which came to power as this Government did in 1945 should proclaim that they have the backing of the country in imposing a Measure of peacetime conscription for four years beyond the next General Election. The next General Election is due in 195o, that is, if we go the full constitutional period. May or June, 195o, will normally be the time when the Government should go to the country, and I am asking the Committee to agree to limit this conscription Bill until the January following the time of the next General Election if it is held in June, 1950. The Government should be able to tell us, in 195o, what progress has been made through the United Nations, for what commitments we are considered to be responsible, and whether, as it is hoped, the situation will be such that it will not be necessary to have conscription at all. At least I think we should be able to see the position clearly. The Foreign Secretary has just returned. We understand. the difficulties of the international situation, but he has told us that things are not so bad, and that, after all, it is expected that there will be an improvement. Is it not reasonable to expect that before the next General Election, or at least by June, 1950, we shall know precisely what our commitments are? At least, I think it is reasonable to expect that we ought to do so, and that at that moment the Government could go to the country, if they felt that conscription must continue, and put the issue clearly to the people. I submit that this is a fundamental issue upon which we ought to have a mandate from the country. Though I am not denying the right of the Government to face their immediate responsibilities, I do not think in the circumstances it is necessary to place a Measure upon the Statute Book which extends that responsibility from 1949 until 1954. I want this Government, and our movement, to face the country with completely clean hands, and I believe that I am making a reasonable request in asking that there shall be a limitation of the duration of this Bill. It is a reasonable request, and it is one which I am sure the country will fully appreciate. I disagree entirely with the necessity for this Measure, but of this I am absolutely convinced, that there is no justification whatever for imposing it upon the country for five years, before we even know in firm detail what the requirements of the nation are now or will be within the next few years. I urge the Government to give the fullest consideration to this matter. I am not moving this Amendment in a frivolous manner. I recognise the Government's responsibilities. I am only asking that they shall take out this figure and face the country in 195o and get a Mandate if they want to go further with it.
In view of the Ruling which you have given on this Amendment, Mr. Bowles, I may be in some difficulty in keeping in Order. It is difficult to support an Amendment that would bring this matter before the nation in the General Election of 1950 without telling that Committee why we want that done. I wonder whether I would be in Order in telling the Committee why this thing should be placed before the people before it is imposed as a permanent institution on the nation? This nation has consistently, in the most dangerous periods of its history, resisted the conscription of its manpower when it was confronted with conscript countries all over the Continent. It becomes difficult to know exactly how to approach the matter in Debate. Would I be in Order in referring to the Second Reading Debate, when I told the House that there was a hint that if we accepted the principle of conscription for the nation, the Government would take out 18 months and give us 12 months? That hint has proved to be correct. If I am still in Order, I would repeat that the military caste, after every war, has immediately taken control of the destinies of the youth of the nation, as far as they could.
A decision was taken by the House of Commons upon the Second Reading of the Bill, and it was in favour of conscription until 1954. The hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) has moved an Amendment to alter that date. I must, therefore, ask the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) to confine himself to the subject of the Amendment.
I bow to your Ruling.
Does the hon. Member include in the military caste of which he spoke those hon. and gallant Members of the Committee who are opposing conscription?
I can only say that the hon. Member is flattering himself if he thinks that he is one of the military caste. The main reason given by the mover of the Amendment why the duration of the Bill should be reduced from 1954 to 1951 is that a General Election is due to take place in 1950. That brings me to a very important point. It is rather amusing that the Minister of Defence, who could not rise in this Committee and say that he had received a mandate and that the mandate was contained in "Let us Face the Future," could yet go to the Cooperative Congress and claim there that there was.
That is not amusing.
It is not amusing.
But the hon. Gentleman said it was.
Yes, it is rather amusing that he is not here to hear it. One of the main reasons why it should end on 1st January, 1951, is obviously because it will be too near the period of the General Election for the matter to be ignored, and, consequently, they will have to explain to the people at that Election what the crisis is now.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman—
No, the hon. Gentleman may not. What is the crisis which faces this country at the present moment and which makes it necessary for us to have conscription in peacetime? In a vague and general way we were previously told that the international situation was of such a character that we could not depend upon U.N.O. being a success, and that we needed some kind of intimidating Armed Force behind the Foreign Secretary so that he could negotiate and get good conditions for this country out of the various conferences, international and otherwise. If that is the case—
Will my hon. Friend allow me—
No, I cannot,
On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Bowles, for my hon. Friend to misreport a statement made by the Minister of Defence to the Co-operative Party Conference?
It is up to the hon. Member who follows him in the Debate to correct the hon. Gentleman if necessary.
There are many ways of getting in an interruption on points of Order. The point I was trying to make was that if the Government go to the country in 1950, they' will have to tell the people—since conscription is going to finish on 1st January, 1951—what was the particular crisis that justified them making it a permanent institution on the people of this country in 1947. It is the principle they want; they do not care whether it is a year, six months, or a fortnight.
The principle of conscription has already been decided.
With respect, Mr. Bowles, they have only got it up to Clause 24; they have still to get the other Clauses. Therefore, I think that I am entitled to point out that the main thing in the Bill is the principle of conscription in peacetime.
The hon. Gentleman cannot refer to the principle; he can only argue whether the length of service is to be five years or two.
On a point of Order. I am not quite sure, Mr. Bowles, whether you really meant the words you just uttered. Surely the matter under Debate now is not the question of five or two years' service; it is a question of whether for five years or for two years there shall be compulsory service for one year. It is quite a different point.
Surely, the point is that the Bill, which has passed its Second Reading, provides that compulsory military service should continue until 1954, and the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) seeks to reduce the period by three years.
I will try to keep within your Ruling, Mr. Bowles. The idea of conscription is accepted today because it was necessary in wartime. One of the most aggravating things about the whole of the discussion on the Bill is that one no sooner draws attention to the objections to the principle in peacetime, than somebody dubs one as a pacifist. I am not, and never was, a pacifist, but, at the same time, I do not see why this should be shoved on for another four years after the next opportunity for the people to say whether they want it or not. Therefore, I cannot see why the Government cannot accept the Amendment. Obviously, if they are going to say that conscription is necessary to carry them over the crisis, they will have to tell us, some time or other, what is this crisis. What are these commitments, all these things that we are told about in a vague, nebulous sort of way? Is there somebody round the corner waiting to pounce on us? [An HON. MEMBER: "The Front Bench."] I do not know if anybody on the Front Bench would pounce, but I have seen quite a lot of it on the second bench. I ask the Government to consider the fact that one of the cardinal principles of the Labour Party is that the people should be consulted before a change of this character takes place.
; If this Amendment is not accepted, it will mean that this Committee, by rejecting it, will have decided that 10 and II year olds will, in due course, be conscripted into His Majesty's Forces. The argument that has been used is this, that where we are making a serious decision without precedent in our national life, and that decision is being made by a new Government of a different kind, it is right and proper that that Government:, introducing this new principle into Britain's peacetime life—
The hon. Member has heard me rule before that there can be no discussion on the merits of conscription. The only argument permissible at the moment is whether it is to be for two years or five years.
With respect, I submit that if you had allowed me to continue to the end of my sentence I was not going to challenge the merits of conscription at all. I was about to say that at least the length of it ought to be subject to the decision of the next General Election. I really did mean to say that, and I am not now attempting to evade your Ruling. I know we are not to discuss the merits of conscription. Clearly, this Amendment would place the lifetime of conscription roughly within the lifetime of this Government. It would enable the country itself to pass some judgment, either on the merits of the case—which I should be out of Order in discussing—or upon the length of it. I cannot see why it is essential for the Government to have this particular period of time. Why have they said 1954? Why not 1955? If there is a case to be made out—and we are entitled to have it made out—for 1954, the person who makes out that case must demonstrate why 1954 is better than 1955 or 1956; and he must demonstrate also that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of accepting our Amendment.Although the Committee have accepted the principle of conscription, I hope that those who believe that these major changes in our national life should not be carried through without the utmost care taken to submit them, in the fullest possible way, to the people as a whole will accept our argument that it is wrong for this Government to embody such a period in a Measure of this kind, and to carry its life to 1954, which is three and a half or four years beyond the elected period of this Parliament. We ask from the Front Bench a quite specific and clear justification for the date of 1954. We are not to be put off by vague assertions that it helps administratively, and that any Government which succeeds this will be assisted by the date of 1954. We want the facts upon which that decision is based. We want the complete case against 1951, and we want complete justification for 1954. Unless we get those answers we shall go into the Lobby against the Government, and I hope very many other hon. Members will also.
I should like to reinforce the argument that this Bill makes a great change in the constitutional position. It makes the change in the constitutional position not immediately, but in 1949, when no one knows what the situation will be. The Amendment puts forward the real and sensible situation. If there is to be a change, what justification can there be for this date of 1954 in regard to a position about which we shall not know until 1949? In that problematical position the speculative two years is far preferable, and is far more justifiable than the five years proposed in this Bill. For that reason, I hope the Government will find it possible to accept the Amendment.
I had not proposed to intervene in this Debate at all. I have been tempted to speak because of the nature of the Amendment and of the arguments by which it has been supported. I voted against conscription on the Address, and I voted against it again on the Second Reading of this Bill. I did that on two occasions, although I am not a pacifist and never have been one. I did it on general grounds which to me seemed good. But I cannot possibly sit silent and abstain from voting on an issue of this kind. I am really astonished at the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) and the lion. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) supporting the Amendment in the way they have done, or putting it down at all. Both those hon. Members, as is the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. H. Morris), are opposed to conscription in principle. They do not want it. They do not want it for five years, and they do not want it for two. Is it possible for anyone who opposes conscription in principle to propose to this Committee that we can accept it for only two years? That seems to me an utterly illogical position to try to sustain, and I am surprised at the arguments used to support it.
It is perfectly true that we have opposed conscription, but the House has accepted it, and I have no alternative but to try to reduce the period.
If one cannot possibly touch a thing so evil, one cannot buy it in small packets. This Amendment is really a wrecking Amendment.
On a point of Order. Upon this Clause, there is no way of challenging conscription under your own Ruling, Mr. Bowles—except by amendment of the proposed period.
I have accepted the Amendment, and so I do not regard it as a wrecking Amendment.
Of course, an hon. Member can oppose the Clause. But I said that this was a wrecking Amendment—and that, is in fact, what it is—
On a point of Order. You said from that Chair, Mr. Bowles, a few moments ago, that you did not regard this as a wrecking Amendment, for otherwise you would not have called it. We now have an assertion from my hon. Friend that it is a wrecking Amendment. Is that in Order, after you have stated quite specifically that you do not regard it as a wrecking Amendment?
The position is perfectly clear. I have accepted the Amendment because I do not regard it as a wrecking one, at all; but the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton) is perfectly entitled to describe it as a wrecking Amendment if he thinks it is.
I propose to say why I applied that term to it. It is because I believe it is a wrecking Amendment that I choose to intervene for the first time in 24 hours, after listening to, and exercising great restraint in, the Debates all last night. The reason why I say that is that, whatever one may think of the Government's plans as laid down in this Bill, at least, they are logically constructive. They have a serious meaning. It has been explained over and over again, in this Debate and in the several Debates on the Bill, that there is a specific reason for the period that is proposed—that it is quite impossible to have this Bill at all, and the machinery of conscription that is proposed, unless we also have an adequate period in which it is to operate. I should have thought that that was now understood by everybody in the Committee. Because, quite clearly, this attempt to limit the Bill to two years completely and wholly destroys the Bill and its purpose, I call it a wrecking Amendment. I oppose conscription root and branch, but I do not propose by this sort of thing, and this sort of completely inconsistent tactics, to attempt to destroy the Bill.
I and my colleagues have not the slightest desire to obstruct the passage of this Bill. Although I speak for myself, of course, I think that a few words may be expressed as indicating my own point of view and that of my hon. Friends. I cannot understand the remarks of the last hon. Member who spoke, who seemed to suggest that it was a case of all or nothing. I cannot understand that, especially in view of the fact that the hon. Member is a well-known advocate of the abolition of capital punishment who, on more than one occasion, has tried with others to put a limit to that particular sentence. Every one of us, in this party or the party opposite, can, if he likes, associate with others, because we take the lesser of two evils, and, therefore, I cannot see why we cannot object to the length of time of a principle while realising that the principle has been sanctioned by the House, even though we would prefer that that principle was not in operation. I think it is fairly clear that the length of time in the Bill is largely determined by the reason for the introduction of conscription, and that reason varies according to different sections of the party in power. There is a minority who believe that conscription is the best way of rationing out the respnsibilities of the people of this country, and there is another section which feels that, for some years ahead, the circumstances of the world and our own commitments—
I am very sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is out of Order. He must either say that he is in favour of five years or two years, or, as another hon. Gentleman has said, the people of the country should be consulted before the decision is taken nearer 1950.
I think if you had listened to the end of my sentence, Mr. Bowles, you might have given me permission to continue with the point I was making. If you will give me a moment's latitude, may I say this? The length of time of conscription, I say, was deter- mined by the reason for the introduction of conscription, and, therefore, the second reason which I was about to adduce was that, if the country requires conscription for a certain period of time, and there is perhaps an adequate reason for extending conscription for another two or three years, it does not follow that it will have the same justification. There will be new, and, we hope, improved conditions in the world, and we trust that there will be less tension between the Powers, and that is a reason which I would submit to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. While I can see a reason for extending conscription for a certain period of time, there is no justification for continuing it beyond that time, because the situation should be reconsidered in the light of the conditions which then exist, and which we all hope will be an improvement on the present situation. I hope that this Amendment will receive consideration.
The point of view of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton) is one with which, at first glance, I have considerable sympathy because those of us who opposed peacetime conscription in principle, are now faced with a Bill which has been accepted in principle by the House of Commons and by this Committee. We now have a choice to make. The choice before us is in this Clause, which says that the Bill shall cease to have effect in 1954. The hon. Member for Norwich said that he would vote against the Clause—
I think the hon. Member misunderstood. I was challenged as to what should be done to express opposition to it other than by voting for this Amendment, and I suggested it could be done by voting against the Clause standing part.
I shall deal with that. The hon. Gentleman suggested that opposition could be expressed by voting against the Motion that the Clause stand part, but this Clause limits the operation of the Bill and, if one voted against the Clause, then logically the result of the vote would be that one was prepared to commit the country indefinitely without a time limit to the continuance of this provision. Do we accept the limitation in the Clause that conscription shall cease to have effect in 1954? Faced with that choice, we say that if the House of Commons is imposing conscription, and if we regard it as an evil thing, then we must do all we can to restrict its scope and limit the term of its operation. We do not regard it as desirable or necessary for the country to be committed to conscription indefinitely, and in those circumstances it is perfectly logical for us to take the line, at this stage in the Committee, that we must support this Amendment which will restrict the operation of this evil thing to two years.It has been argued that the purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the matter of conscription in peacetime will be an issue at the next General Election, and that is reasonable. Nothing could be more desirable than that the country should have an opportunity of discussing it and voting on it at the next General Election. I believe that were this an issue at the General Election, it would dwarf every other issue. There is only one weakness in the argument, and that is to assume that the next General Election may not be held until shortly before 1951. That may be so or that may not be so. It is for that reason that my hon. Friends and I put down an Amendment to limit the operation of the Bill to one year, because we do not think that Parliament should grant these powers except for one year. That Amendment would have the effect of making conscription an issue whenever the General Election is held. There is one further argument I wish to adduce in support of this Amendment. In yesterday's Debate the Minister of Defence said that he was defending the first conscription Measure of its kind ever introduced in "a reasonably normal peacetime period." That means that this Bill is not introduced by the Minister of Defence as a Measure in time of emergency but that he accepts this as a reasonably normal peacetime period. Have we any reason to believe that world relations will have deteriorated so far that it will be necessary to prolong this Measure until 1954? In view of those words I submit that it is the duty of this Committee to limit the term of compulsory military service as rigidly as possible. For that reason I support the Amendment.
I would not have thought it necessary to intervene, but for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton). Apart from my hon. Friend there seems to be a complete silence on the part of those who are presumably going to vote against the Amendment. I wonder why? Let me examine the argument of the only Member of the Committee who has so far attempted to defend the Government's position. He says the first objection is that it would be a wrecking Amendment. By that I take it he means that if the Amendment were passed the Bill would prove unworkable, or useless. I do not admit that for a moment, but let us suppose for the sake of argument that he is right and that if we were to pass this Amendment the Bill would be rendered unworkable or useless—what objection has my hon. Friend to that?
I will give way in a moment. I want to finish one point first, and then I will willingly give way. My hon. Friend told the Committee quite frankly that he was against this Bill. He said that he voted against it before ever it was introduced. As soon as it was foreshadowed in the Address from the Throne he voted and, I think, spoke in favour of the Amendment to the Address. He told us again that he voted against the Second Reading. He is against this Bill, as much against it as I am against it. Therefore, if an Amendment were proposed the success of which would have the effect of rendering the Bill useless and unworkable, he ought to vote for that Amendment tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) with his usual courage has intervened in this Debate although he heard neither the mover's speech nor the seconder's speech, to which I replied. Had he been here to hear those speeches, he would understand why I took that line.
My hon. Friend is perfectly right. I certainly did not hear the speech of the mover of the Amendment, but I think I know what was in it. I heard other hon. Members' speeches and I certainly heard my hon. Friend's speech. He said in his speech quite clearly that he was against this Amendment because if we passed the Amendment a Bill which he is against anyway would be rendered useless and unworkable. Here is a man who is against a thing, but refuses to vote for something which renders the thing he is against useless and unworkable. It is an astonishing position for any hon. Member to be in.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne completely misunderstands the nature of the argument I was using. I was attacking those who were sponsoring the Amendment because I believed they were indulging in wrecking tactics which were not good for them and the position they occupy.
My hon. Friend was a Member of this House before I was and his knowledge and experience are greater than mine. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was not"] If I am wrong he will correct it, but I think he was here before I was first elected in 1935.
Then I need not be as humble as I intended to be. Out of the depths of my longer experience I would say to my hon. Friend that there is nothing wrong with moving an Amendment to a Bill which one is opposing, because the effect of this Amendment would be to give one one's way. There is nothing unparliamentary about it, and certainly there is nothing wrong about it. That is one of the reasons I am in favour of the Amendment, because I think if I had my way it would not be worth the Government's while having a conscription Bill at all for two years. That, therefore, is a very good argument in favour of the Bill.Let us come to the second point. I suppose there is no Member of this Committee and certainly there is no Member on this side who would not agree with this proposition that in a democratic country, if it is proposed to alter the fundamental constitutional life of the land, it should not be done, unless it is impracticable to do otherwise, without first submitting it to the electorate and getting a mandate for what is being done. I do not think that anyone on the Government side of the Committee will dissent from that view. The Government case is that in the circumstances that have arisen they had no option but to do it without consulting the people. Certainly it is not in "Let us Face the Future," and the Government have always been very careful in their courageous far-reaching legislation never to go beyond what they thought was advisable or for which they had a mandate in the document to which I have referred, and on which they were elected, except in this one instance. I do them the justice of admitting at once that they would not have departed from that democratic principle except that they were convinced that in the circumstances they had no option but to do it. I do not agree with them but I honestly concede that they—
Let me finish my sentence. As I was saying, I do not agree with them in that but I honestly concede that that is their justification, and I am sure they would not claim any other for having voted a Bill which not only fundamentally alters the constitution of our country, but which goes against everything for which this Party has stood.
The hon. Member must not discuss the merits of this question, but he must confine himself to whether the Bill should apply for two years or five.
I fully appreciate that and I hope that I am not attempting to discuss the merits. I only said that for this Government even more than any other to do this without electoral sanction could only be justified on the grounds of necessity. I do not argue the ncessity but I concede that that is their belief.
I want to remind the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that "Let us Face the Future," was written and the General Election was fought before the war was ended.
I concede that most of it was written before the war was ended, but the General Election was fought when the European war was over. I do not know what the relevance of that is or what difference it makes. I concede that the Government did not believe that it would be necessary when they fought the Election to introduce a Bill like this, and, therefore, they did not ask for a mandate.They have introduced this only because circumstances have not changed as rapidly as they hoped. That brings me back directly to the terms of this Amendment, because whatever excuse there is for bringing in the Bill, as they did without a mandate from the electorate, which they could not have obtained and which they did not seek, there can be no excuse for continuing it beyond the time of the next election without first submitting it to the electors.
What Government has ever done that with any Bill?
My hon. Friend must remember that we have a new type of Government now. I know that former Governments proceeded on quite different principles, but we reject those principles. It is not only this party that never consulted the electorate about conscription; neither did the Tories, the Liberals or anybody else consult the people about conscription. I quite agree that the Liberals had a very good reason. They had no intention of introducing it.
The hon. Gentleman is discussing whether any Government should bring in a great constitutional change without consulting the people. I would point out that in 1910, before the change in regard to another place, we did go to the country and get a mandate.
My right hon. and learned Friend is unusually indignant. I was making no attack. I think that the record of the Liberal Party on this point, if on no other, is perfectly clean.
Is not the hon. Gentleman's point about the mandate quite as much an objection to the Amendment as to the Clause? There is no earthly reason, if the Government think they should have a mandate, why they should not go to the country tomorrow.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is the very last hon. Member who ought to attack an argument like that. I heard him only this afternoon, and I have heard him on many previous occasions, plead most eloquently and forcefully the argument for democracy. He is against regulations with a negative Prayer against them. He does not think that that is democratic. He does not like to see this Bill which contains these provisions, and he voted against the provisions because they do not give the direct positive.
On a point of Order. Are we to be allowed to discuss again the question about the negative Resolution?
That must not be discussed and the hon. Member knows it.
I am not discussing it at all.
I think the Committee will agree that we cannot go into a discussion on democracy and that this point about negative Resolutions has been made on previous Amendments. The hon. Gentleman should relate his remarks to the Amendment now under discussion.
The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) was anxious to see that the rights of Parliament are protected. He ought to be more anxious to see that the rights of the electorate are protected. That is the point I am making. I was using the previous point about positive and negative resolutions, not because I want to discuss their merits but because I would have expected that hon. Members who are anxious about democratic principles being safeguarded so that Parliament can have a direct sanction for Bills of this kind, ought in consistency to say that the argument is an a fortiori argument so far as the electorate is concerned. I expect those Gentlemen to vote with us for this Amendment. I do not want to detain the Committee much longer—[Interruption.] I can quite understand that those who have uneasy consciences about the matter want me to sit down even quicker than I intend to do.Whatever may be true of the Tories and the Liberals, as soon as my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side get the opportunity of submitting this, I think, great deterioration of our system—though they think this great reform, but whichever it is—to the electorate for a mandate for or against it, they ought to take it and ought not to seek to prolong the operation of this Measure one day longer than they have the opportunity of consulting the people of this country about it.
I do not propose to detain the Committee for any length of time because it would appear that the Amendment submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) is an exceedingly narrow one. It does not affect at all the general principle in the Bill which has already been approved by the House; it merely argues that its period of operation should be reduced from five years to two. The short answer to that Amendment, in the first place, is that it would be quite impossible for the Government to accept it because it would not provide us with the number of reservists that we require for the planning that has to be done—and has to be done now. In the second place, reference has been made to the date proposed by my hon. Friend when the Bill should cease to be operative because it would then be near to the date of a General Election, and something has been said about the unwisdom of my party and the Government having brought this Measure in without a previous mandate from the electorate.Let me say first of all, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), that the programme we put to the electorate was put in wartime with a pledge to prosecute the war against Japan to the full until final victory had come. There was also the page in "Let us face the future" which, in referring to the general international question, told the electorate that military insecurity was a menace to peace. That was largely the background in which the Labour Party sought the electorate's sufferages upon this kind of issue, although I agree that the specific issue of conscription as such was not put for the mandate of the people while the war was still being carried on.
On a point of Order. I thought you ruled, Mr. Bowles, that we were not to discuss the principle of conscription. We believe that this country should be militarily strong and so does the right hon. Gentleman. I thought that on this we were not to discuss the principle of conscription. Conscription is a method. Hon. Members opposite thinks it makes the country strong. We think it makes the country weak. Surely that cannot be argued on this Amendment?
The issue of conscription is not the issue here. The right hon. Gentleman was in Order in that the argument about fixing the period at two years, namely until 1951, was that it would make it very close to the next time when this Government and other parties in this House will have an opportunity of going to the electorate.
I need only add one thing. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that the Government did not claim that they had a special mandate from the electorate when they brought this thing in. That is right. The facts are quite clear. We had to bring it in because the previous authority of the House extending the call-up of national service men would come to an end in 1948 and we would be left with a period in which we had to meet our immediate commitments and plan for the subsequent future while we were getting the world more safe and the proper organisation of U.N.O. proceeding. Therefore, we had to bring in the Measure now in order to give proper notice and organisation to take the place or those men who will have finished with the Services at the end of 1948. I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment, because it would destroy the whole basis of the planning and the commitments on which the Bill is based and for the principles of which we had the approval of the House on Second Reading.
I hope that the Committee will regard this Amendment as the most important put forward since the Second Reading of the Measure, and those who take that view will go into the Lobby in support of it. I cannot understand the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence; and if he does not mind my saying so, I think I am as capable of interpreting Labour policy as he is. What is this plan he talks about and what are our commitments? We have never been told what our military commitments are. Will he tell us what special merit there is in 1954 as against 1951? How comes it about that the Government want to extend conscription for 10 years after the end of the war? We are reminded almost every week that our troops are coming out of India, out of Egypt, out of Burma, and ultimately, I suppose, they will come out of Germany, Italy and Austria, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "And Palestine."] I suppose we shall have to come out of Palestine some day. In any case we cannot police the world, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests.Are we to assume that the whole world has got to be straightened out before we abolish conscription in this country? Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Do I understand him to say that we are to continue conscription, until we have developed the atomic bomb? I think we are entitled to ask that question. I would like to ask another question. Have we entered into any commitments at all with the American Government to pass this Bill? Then I would like to ask something else. What are our commitments to U.N.O.? They will not tell us; there is something very ominous and menacing in some of the suggestions in Government speeches on this issue. So far as I understand it, it is; "We will carry on with the voluntary system to safeguard the interests of our country and Empire, but in order to provide our quota for U.N.O. we must in addition impose conscription on our people until 1954." Let the Committee understand something else—this is not only until 1954, conscription is to continue beyond 1954 by Order in Council. As stated, this is the most important Amendment we have put forward, and I hope we shall rally a goodly number in the Division on our side. Let me add, as one who has been in this House almost as long as anybody, I believe that the fate of this Government may well be in the balance on this Bill. In any event, the fate of the Labour Movement outside is in this Bill. When the Tories support the Government on Measure like this, they are treading on very dangerous ground. Let me say finally, therefore, that we attach great importance to this Amendment, because I for one, who have fought as many Elections as anybody—and have not lost one yet, by the way—do not want the Labour Party to go to the next General Election with the fact against us that we have fastened military conscription on our people for good. I want us to say to the electorate: "If a future Government care to continue conscription, let them do it, but the Labour Party, at any rate, will face the country with clean hands in this matter."
I think it would be a mistake for the Committee to part with this Amendment without a further explanation from the Minister of Defence after the very feeble explanation he gave. This is a constitutional matter and it has nothing to do with conscription at all. The point is, Are we prepared to take this matter to the country at the next General Election or not? That is why the date 1951 has been decided upon. The Minister's answer was that we could not do that because it would weaken the country, and the reason why it would weaken the country is that we should not get the reserves that we required. I think that I have not misinterpreted the argument that the Minister put up at that Box. I want to ask the Minister of Defence, What difference is there likely to be in 1951 in our reserve strength, under the Amendment, or under the Bill as it stands? What difference? Answer. There is no answer to it, because there is no difference. The Minister of Defence now says that there would be a difference. He gave an indication that there was a difference. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Can we have an answer? This is the crux of the Amendment. My point is that the Amendment would make no difference to the reserves. The Bill now says that the National Service Acts
For that date it is proposed to substitute "1951." The Bill goes on to add:"shall cease to have effect on the first day of January, 1954."
In other words the reserve commitments go on. There is no difference except that we limit the application of the Bill to two age groups instead of to five age groups. We should go to the country in 1950 and ask whether the people want to go on with it. It makes no difference at all to the reserve strength of the country. Will the Minister deny it? I give him the chance to do so."except as respects any liability thereby imposed on any person before that date."
I would point out to the hon. Member that he cannot expect the Minister to give him an answer unless he resumes his seat and gives way to the right hon. Gentleman.
I know that the Minister of Defence is tired, but one cannot always tell for what reason he is nodding his head at any particular moment. I did not know that he was waiting for me to give way. This is an important matter. The Amendment is not a pacifist Amendment in any way at all.
Let me repeat what I said before. I said that we have to have a plan, and that to limit this Bill to two years of operation only would provide ultimately for a total rather less than, and certainly not more than 400,000 reserves. We have planned on a much bigger basis of reserves than that.
The Minister of Defence must riot mislead the Committee on this matter.
I am not.
Yes, he is doing so, by the words which he used. What he tried to tell the Committee by the way in which he dealt with the Amendment was that we cannot stop conscription in 1951 because we should have no reserves coming into the Forces between 1951 and 1954. That is how the right hon. Gentleman gets the difference between 1,100,000 and 400,000. That is wrong, and that is misleading the Committee. We have to compare like with like. We have to compare the situation in 1951 under the Amendment with the situation under the Bill, and that will be the same; or we have to compare the situation in 1954 under the Amendment, which depends entirely upon the mandate the Government receive from the people—if they get a mandate from the people—
We do not seem to be losing any by-elections.
I am not in the least challenging that.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the candidate at the Jarrow by-election made it perfectly clear that he was against conscription?
I was not aware of that. I was wondering why the majority—
We are not discussing the Jarrow by-election, but whether conscription should go on until 1954, or should stop in 1951. The hon. Gentleman has stated that whether it stops in 1951 or goes on till 1954 will make no difference in the number of reserves.
I apologise, Mr. Bowles. I was drawn away by the Minister's intervention. The Minister should not mislead the Committee on this matter. He knows just as well as I do that the position of reserves and the total number of people in the Forces in 1951 will be exactly the same under this Amendment as it will under the Bill. That has not been denied, and the Minister cannot deny it. The real point of this Amendment is whether the matter should be taken to the country at the next election, and whether the Government should come back with a mandate. On that constitutional point I agree with hon. Members of the party above the Gangway. Are they so kern to get this conscription Measure that they are not prepared to put it before the country at the next election?
I think that every Member of my party is committed to the principle of conscription, as opposed to Members of the hon. Gentleman's party who are against it. I do not think that that relieves the party above the Gangway of putting that straight to the people of the country at the next election. That is the point of this Amendment. It makes no difference to the strength of our reserves in 1951. The point is the constitutional question. Are they prepared to put it to the country, or are they frightened to do so?
The hon. Gentleman did not catch my eye. Does he wish to address the Committee?
I have always stood up for that purpose, Mr. Bowles. I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He said two things which I thought were immensely sensible. In the first place, and as far as this Amendment is concerned, he said that it was deserving of support, because, if the period was reduced by three years, it would then render a Bill which we dislike—
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I would point out that I expressly said that I did not accept that view. I added that if I had accepted that view it would only have made me all the more determined to get this Amendment carried, if I could.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his correction, although I do not think that it alters the situation very much. However, he drew to my mind the fact that the intention of this Amendment was to reduce the value of the Bill, and that seemed to me to be a good reason for supporting the Amendment. He then said something which I thought was very interesting. He said this was a new type of Government. Indeed, it is a new type of Government. An Amendment has been moved striking at the root of the proposal in the Bill; the Government have had one supporter from their Front Bench, so far as I know, and a large number of their own closest supporters have been supporting the Amendment. That seems to be a very curious position, and I thought it was worth commenting on it. There have been few other signs, except of incompetence—
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that he cannot base his speech on the obiter dicta of other hon. Members. He must confine himself to the Amendment.
No, I would not use the obiter dicta of other hon. Members as the basis of my speech. I am basing my speech on the proposal to reduce the period from 1954 to 1951. The object of my speech was to draw the attention of yourself, Mr. Bowles, and of the Committee to the fact that we have this very interesting position: This is an Amendment which would undoubtedly have a wreck-
Division No. 198.]
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Bower, N.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Crowder, Capt. John E.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Braithwaite, Lt-Comdr. J. G||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V,||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Daines, P|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Amory, D. Heathcote||Burke, W. A.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Carson, E||Diamond, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Digby, S. W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Challen, C.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Champion, A. J.||Donovan, T.|
|Baird, J.||Channon, H.||Drewe, C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Chater, D.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Balfour, A.||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barton, C.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Clitherow, Dr. R.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Cobb, F. A.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Ballenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Colman, Miss G. M||Dye, S.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Beswick, F.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Cook, T. F.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Corbel, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Binns, J.||Corvedale, Viscount||Erroll, F. J.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Crawley, A.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Boardman, H.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
ing effect, or a near wrecking effect, on the Bill because, as the Minister of Defence has said, we would not be able to build up the reserves. If I support the Government in the Lobby, I will do so for this reason; I was returned for the purpose, among other things, of building up, in connection with any party which might be in power, the defences of this country in such a way that we might defend this country and be effective in carrying out the work of the United Nations. We have had the word of the Minister of Defence—
On a point of Order. What has this argument got to do with the proposal to reduce the period from 1954 to 1951? It has nothing at all to do with the Amendment.
I am seriously trying to keep very much to the point of the Amendment, and very much to what the Minister of Defence said. He appealed to his own supporters—not to us—and said the longer period was necessary from the point of view of defence and of U.N.O. I am saying that if I vote on this Amendment, I shall vote for the longer term, because I do not see how otherwise it is possible either to defend our own country or to enable our country to play its part in U.N.O., and that seems to me to be one of the main objects of this Bill.
Question put, "That fifty-four 'stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 261; Noes. 36.
|Ewart, R.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Farthing, W. J.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Lindgren, G. S.||Ropner, Col. L|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Fool, M. M||Linstead, H. N.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Lipson, D. L.||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Low, Brig. A. R. W||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Sharp, Granville|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||McAdam, W||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||McAllister, G.||Shawcross, Rt. bin. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||McEntee, V. La T.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Gibson, C. W||Mack, J. D.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Gilzean, A.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Gooch, E. G.||McKinlay, A. S.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Cordon-Walker, P. C.||McLeavy, F.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Steele, T.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Grimston, R. V||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Gunter, R. J||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Guy, W. H.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hall, W. G.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Marquand, H. A.||Swingler, S.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hardy, E. A||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Testing, William|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Mellor, Sir J.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Houghton, S, G.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Morrison, Maj. J G. (Salisbury)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F|
|Hewitson, Captain M.||Mort, D. L.||Thorne, Ernest|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Tiffany, S.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Moyle, A.||Titterington, M. F|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Wadsworth, G|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Walkden, E.|
|Howard, Hon. A||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Hubbard, T.||Nutting, Anthony||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H||Warbey W. N.|
|Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Oliver, G. H.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L||Weitzman, D|
|Irving, W. J.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Palmer, A. M. F||West, D. G.|
|Janner, B.||Pargiter, G. A||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Parker, J.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pearson, A.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Pearl, Capt. T. F.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Pickthorn, K.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Plaits-Mills, J. F. F.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Keenan, W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Kenyon, C.||Prescott, Stanley||Williams, J L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Price, M. Philips||Willis, E|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Proctor, W. T.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||Woods, G. S.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Ranger, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Leonard, W.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Rhodes, H.|
|Lever, N. H.||Robens, A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Levy, B. W.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Mr. Simmons and|
|Alpass, J. H.||Goodrich, H. E.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Bowen, R.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Longden, F.||Shurmer, P.|
|Byers, Frank||McGhee, H. G.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Cooks, F. S.||McGovern, J.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Collins, V. J.||Manning, Mrs. L, (Epping)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Morley, R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Wilkins, W. A|
|Dodds, N. N.||Nally, W.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Piratin, P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Rankin, J.||Mr. Yates and Mr. Scotlan|
On a point of Order. Would it be possible for the lights to be switched on in the Division Lobby while Divisions are being taken, in order that hon. Members may be able to see with whom they are consorting?
I do not think this is a point of Order, but I will pass on the request to the authorities.
Could you also, Mr. Bowles, see about hon. Members opposite getting, some mental light?Amendment made: In page 13, line 20, leave out from "fifty-four," to "before," in line 21, and insert:
"shall be liable under the National Service Acts to be called upon to serve in the armed forces of the Crown; and accordingly those Acts shall continue in operation only with respect to persons who have attained that age or who have been called up for service under those Acts."—[Mr. Isaacs.]
I beg to move, in page 13, to leave out lines 23 to 25.The short argument for this Amendment is that there is always a tendency for Governments to gather to themselves more and more power, and the only way by which they can be curbed in a Parliamentary State is by full Parliamentary Debate. An Order in Council does not prevent Parliamentary Debate, but it can, possibly, prevent Parliamentary amendment. This Bill, when it becomes an Act, will remain on the Statute Book until 1954, which means that we shall have another six years' experience of its operation. I do not think that, in a rapidly changing world, we can expect conditions to be the same in 1954 as they are today. We shall undoubtedly have a great deal of experience of the effect of this Bill on the young men of 18 years, and also its effect on industry, apart from a great deal of experience with regard to the Armed Forces. We do not know exactly what the military situation will be. In these circumstances, there is only one thing which a democratic Government can do, and that is, instead of ramming Acts on to the Statute Book by sheer brute force, to introduce a new Bill framed in the light of the experience of the six intervening years. I hope I shall get the support of the Committee for the elimination of these three lines which establish the continuance of this Bill, as an Act, by means of Order in Council.
The effect of this Amendment would be to prevent the scheme for compulsory national service being continued beyond the end of 1953, unless an entirely fresh Act was passed for the purpose. The Government might have introduced legislation in a completely permanent form, or on a basis which would have required an Order in Council to terminate the powers in the Bill. But we were very sensible in saying that the need for compulsory national service in peacetime should come under review by Parliament at the end of what we consider a reasonable time. To meet these conflicting points of view, Clause 24 was devised. The provision in that Clause is admittedly in the nature of a compromise. On the one hand, it provides that without positive action the National Service Act shall come to an end on 1st January, 1954. On the other hand, it provides for the positive action to be taken by means of an Order in Council, and safeguards Parliamentary control by the requirement that any Order in Council under this Clause shall require an affirmative Resolution by both Houses of Parliament. The purpose of that proviso is, while reserving full Parliamentary control to make it unnecessary to introduce fresh legislation if circumstances at that time necessitate the maintenance of the scheme. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) that the procedure of an Order in Council which will require an affirmative Resolution, would not give adequate Parliamentary debate on a major issue of that kind.
Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me to state that I said nothing of the kind? I said that it would not admit of effective amendment, which is quite different.
I should say that one would be able to put down a very effective Amendment to an affirmative Resolution, tabled by the Government for the passing of an Order in Council.
Does the right hon. Gentleman insist that it is possible for an hon. Member of this House to put down an Amendment to an affirmative Resolution?
Hon. Members can certainly exert a tremendous amount of pressure on an affirmative Resolution, and in the course of Debate on such a Resolution can bring very effective representations to bear upon the Government.
What the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting a moment ago was that you can in some way or other amend this Bill, by amending an Order in Council under this Clause. I am sure that he did not mean that.. The only Amendment which could be put down to an Order in Council would be about the date, or the period, or something of that character. You could not amend the Bill.
I think probably that is right.—[Interruption.] I do not think that there is any necessity for rude interruption from the hon. Member opposite who seems to think that he is the only hon. Member with Parliamentary experience in the House. I probably dealt with these Resolutions and Orders in Council in the House before the hon. Member ever entered the place; and I have probably carried more Prayers to debate in the House about that kind of thing than he has ever done. I ask him not to make such rude interjectory remarks. We are unable to accept the Amendment because we think we have taken all proper precautions to see that Parliament remains master in this matter. It is essential, under the Bill, for an affirmative Resolution to b put down for the approval of an Order in Council, and we think that the interests of Parliament and of the nation are adequately protected.
The right hon. Gentleman has not at all answered the point, on the desirability of being able to amend. He started his speech under the impression, apparently, that an affirmative Resolution could be amended. It does seem to me to be an affront to the Committee when a Minister of the right hon. Gentleman's rank comes to it with such a ridiculous misconception. I really think it would be a good thing if we could now have an answer from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General on the point. The answer we have had from the Minister is completely worthless. Perhaps the Attorney-General would be prepared to answer the Amendment which was moved in very reasonable terms by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) and which has considerable support in all quarters of the Committee.
Before the Attorney-General replies I should like to say that I thought my hon. Friend underestimated the cunning and cleverness of the Minister of Defence. It is perfectly true, as he told the Committee, that an affirmative Resolution is not amendable and it was for that reason, I believe, that the Minister of Defence rightly resisted this Amendment. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I must admit, I should have gone into the Lobby in favour of an Amendment such as this, for the very reason that the affirmative Resolution does not permit of Amendment, and the necessity of introducing legislation is one of the essential safeguards of Parliamentary discussion. But of course the Minister's experience of Amendments to this Bill has been unfortunate and he did not want to be faced with the problem henceforth, or even to have one of his successors confronted henceforth with a revolt of Members of his own side and compelled to give in in a humiliating fashion.
We have spent considerable time in debating the date for the expiry of this Bill, unless prolonged by Order in Council, and there has been an unusual display of what must normally occur in the party meetings of Members opposite. This Amendment does raise a question of considerable importance and one which I do not think this Committee ought to discuss with any degree of levity or heat, because we are really considering making the ambit of conscription for young people greater. It is a serious matter for this Committee to determine what will be incorporated in this Clause with regard to the termination or prolongation of this Measure. The right hon. Gentleman was on this occasion commendably frank with the Committee in saying the proposal to prolong by Order in Council was a compromise. He was in my opinion inaccurate in saying the compromise provided for full Parliamentary control. It certainly does not do that. It provides for some degree of Parliamentary control, but no one with any knowledge of the practice of this House can say it provides for full Parliamentary control when there is no power of amending the Order in Council.This point must be recognised by the Government. Whether you have the Bill with no date for termination in it, so that it can only be brought to an end by an Act repealing it; whether you have the Bill with a fixed date of 1954 in it and no machinery for prolongation, so that it can only be extended by another Bill; or whether you have extension by Order in Council there is no means whereby the Government of the day can avoid a Debate on the question. I think that one must approach this subject with that in one's mind, and then consider what is the best way of having that Debate so that the wishes of the people and the country can be reflected in the wishes and views of Members of Parliament. We on this side have always taken the view that prolongation of Acts of Parliament by Orders in Council is wrong. We have expressed that view in the Division Lobbies on a number of occasions, and no reason has been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman which would convince us that it would be right on this occasion to depart from the practice that we have followed up to date. Therefore, bearing in mind that whether you have an Order in Council, or a one-Clause Bill extending this Measure from 1954 onwards, there must, in either case, be a Debate, possibly a full Debate, in this House. I, for one, see no reason to depart from the attitude and the course that I have followed on previous occasions when this issue has arisen. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman, if he is still in charge of the matter when it comes before the House in 1954, if he wishes to extend it, to introduce a one-clause Measure for that purpose, to include it, if one likes in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill or something of that sort, and there really has been no ground put forward by him this evening for the adoption of this machinery for extension of Acts of Parliament.
I wish particularly to address the Minister of Defence. It is, of course, the mere negligible bathos of Parliamentary humbug to accuse of rudeness those who propound arguments to which you do not have the answer or which convict you of misstatement of fact. Therefore, I do not in the least resent the accusation of rudeness, but, really, a Minister of Defence is a new office in this country, and one of the reasons why it is a new office is because it was felt to be an office too great for any man to hold short of the Prime Minister. When a Minister of Defence is in charge of a Bill of great constitutional importance, a Bill which is to be forced through by sitting practically continuously for 36 hours—and I think I have been in the Chamber for 34 of the 36—when that is to be done, it is really necessary for the Minister of Defence to acquaint himself with the simpler principles of the technique which he is discussing. We have had very difficult matters to discuss during the last 36 hours, and any of us could easily fall into technical and even material errors, and no doubt I have myself done so more than once. But that anybody who is in charge should, when challenged, proceed to say "probably" and "that may be so" about matters ascertainable, really is treating this Committee with a contempt. There is another thing the Minister of Defence has said. He said there was a challenge from below the Gangway, when anyone on this side of the Committee was prepared to question the doctrine of mandate in these matters. I do not propose at this hour to detain the Committee to explain what I think the doctrine of mandate means, but I would say shortly that I question—
I think the hon. Member will agree that what he is now talking about does not arise on this issue.
With respect, I can make quite clear the exact relevance of what I am trying to say. The matter before us is whether we shall, or shall not leave in the Bill a proviso
and so on. The Government may take the responsibility upon themselves of proposing conscription for one year, for two years, for five years, or' for an indefinite period. But, what is seems to me a Government cannot decently do is to impose conscription for a short period, leaving it open for themselves, or their successors, in peace time to continue that period by a process less serious, and less difficult than the process of a Bill. If there were any doubt that that is an improper claim on the part of any Government that doubt would be removed by the excessive emphasis which hon. Members opposite attach to the doctrine of mandate because it is quite clear that whether or not right hon. and hon. Members opposite have a mandate to impose conscription of two, three or five years, what they have not a mandate for is to impose conscription in the way proposed if this proviso is left in the Bill. That is the relevance of what I was saying about the doctrine of mandate. The Minister of Defence appealed in this connection to the Jarrow by-election result—"that His Majesty may by Order in Council substitute for the said day such later date"
He is shaking his head, but I am within the recollection of the Committee—
Surely, the hon. Member wishes to be quite correct. I did not mention Jarrow. I said we were not losing by-elections.
Really, on this day, the right hon. Gentleman refers to by-elections and does not mean Jarrow.
On a point of explanation. No doubt the hon. Member will recollect that we have not lost an election since we introduced this Measure.
This emphasises the danger of introducing extraneous matters.
With respect, there is some relation, and it was not I who introduced the subject. I am surely entitled to reply. The allegation was that the matter was made safe by the avoidance of loss of by-elections, but it was immediately pointed out—
Whatever reference was made, it was made on a previous Amendment, and not on the one now under discussion.
I think it was made on both occasions. In any case it happened on the same Clause. The point is quite simple; hon. and right hon. Members opposite are backed at Jarrow by someone who was against conscription, that is all.
I want to mention only two arguments in respect of this Amendment. When anyone is introducing in peacetime such a tremendous innovation as compulsory military service, it is essential to set before the country the terms on which it is being introduced. Therefore if the only power we have of prolonging that Measure is by Order in Council, we are not setting a definite term to the operation of compulsory service. We on this bench are against this inno- vation. There should be a definite term set to it, and at the end of that term the Government should come before the House with a new Bill. My second point is this. It has been argued that the House will have an opportunity of discussing the principle of the draft of the Order in Council and, therefore, will be able to discuss it year by year, but we consider that conscription is such an infringement of civil liberty and such a big thing that the impulse to introduce an Act of Parliament would surely be far greater than the impulse to introduce an Order in Council.
a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in Order? He is speaking on a particular proviso to a particular Clause. What he is now saying does not seem to relate to the Amendment which we are considering.
The hon. Gentleman is in Order.
As I was saying—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."]—I am told that some hon. Members cannot hear what I am saying, and I will speak up in order that they may hear me. I will bring my second argument again before the Committee. What I said was that conscription was such a tremendous thing that it could only be justified through an Act of Parliament, and that the impulse to bring in an Order in Council is far less than the impulse to bring in an Act of Parliament. We consider that conscription is an evil, and, therefore, when the Government are seeking to renew it they should justify it up to the hilt, by bringing forward an Act of Parliament. It is the only method whereby we can see perfectly the way in which conscription operates in the experimental period. For those two reasons we support this most excellent Amendment. If there is any hon. Member who did not hear my first argument, I will repeat it—
We heard it.
That happens to be the part of the hon. Member's argument which I did hear.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 162; Noes 97.
Division No. 199.]
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Hewitson, Captain M.||Price, M. Philips|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Hobson, C. R.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Holman, P.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Hoy, J.||Randall, H. E.|
|Balfour, A.||Hubbard, T.||Ranger, J.|
|Barton, C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Rhodes, H.|
|Ballenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Robens, A.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Irving, W. J.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Rogers, G. H R.|
|Binns, J.||Janner, B.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Jay, D. P. T.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Boardman, H.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Jeger, Dr. S W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Sharp, Granville|
|Bowles, F. C. (Nuneaton)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Keenan, W.||Smith, S. H. (Hult, S.W.)|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Kenyon, C.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Camyns, Dr. L.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Cook, T. F.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Steele, T.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Leonard, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lever, N. H.||Swingler, S.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Levy, B. W.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Diamond, J.||Lindgren, G. S.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McAdam, W.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Mack, J. D.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Tiffany, S.|
|Dye, S.||McLeavy, F.||Walker, G. H.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||West, D. G.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mellish, R. J.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Mitchison, C. R.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Morgan, Dr. H. B||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Farthing, W. J.||Mort, D. L.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Fletcher, E. C. M. (Islington, E.)||Moyle, A.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Foot, M. M||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Oldfield, W. H.||Willis, E.|
|Gilzean, A.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Gooch, E. G.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Wise, Major F. J|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Woods, G. S.|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Pargiter, G. A.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Zilliacus, K|
|Gurter, R. J.||Parker, J.|
|Guy, W. H.||Pearson, A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F||Mr. Simmons.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Popplewell, E.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S (Southport)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Digby, S. W.||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Drayson, G. B.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)|
|Birch, Nigel||Drewe, C.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Boothby, R.||Duthie, W. S.||Low, Brig. A. R. W|
|Bowen, R.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H|
|Bower, N.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||McGhee, H. G.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Erroll, F. J.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Bracken, Rt Hon. Brendan||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P G. T.||Gage, C.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Byers, Frank||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Carson, E.||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Challen, C.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Channon, H.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Haughton, S. G.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Head, Brig. A. H.||Nally, W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, G.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Howard, Hon. A.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Nutting, Anthony|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Wadsworth, G.|
|Pickthorn, K.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Prescott, Stanley||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Studholme, H. G.||Yates, V. F.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Tealing, William|
|Roberts Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ropner, Col. L||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.||Mr. Emrys Roberts and|
|Scollan, T.||Vane, W. M. F.||Professor Gruffydd.|
|Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Viant, S. P.|
Clause as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."It might be opportune to ask the Government what their intentions are now that we are about to approach the new Clauses. It is for the Government to decide whether they shall be discussed after a universal refreshment of mind, or whether we are to continue with the present methods. Any enlightenment that the Front Bench opposite can bring to the situation will be, if not gratefully, at least politely received.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in the discussions through the usual channels this morning, it was arranged, in view of the lengthy discussions on the Bill, that we should deal with the Bill tomorrow as well as today. There were no guarantees given, but we asked for the help of the Committee, with that extension of time for Debate, in getting the Bill tomorrow. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done on the Bill, but I suggest for the consideration of the Committee that we should sit a little longer tonight and get a little further so that we can be sure of getting the Bill to the end of the Committee stage by a reasonable time tomorrow.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he will forgive me saying that this is almost back to the Admiralty days, and it is the vaguest nautical definition I have' ever heard. What does "a little further" mean? How far are we to go? How many nautical miles, if I may appeal to the right hon. Gentleman's previous experience, are we to proceed? In other words, how many new Clauses are in the Government's mind? If the Committee is to do useful work, it should know what is expected of it.
We thought if we could finish the next two and a half pages of the Amendments — [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] that would cover a proportion of the new Clauses and leave a reasonable day's work for tomorrow, but I am willing to receive suggestions.
At a very early hour this morning when a large number of us had sat through the night, it was suggested to us that we might continue, difficult as the circumstances were, and work right through. A number of us continued to sit on that assumption. Then, at 11 o'clock, we were surprised to be asked to break off, for no real reason at all, for at least three hours. There are some of those on both Front Benches, who have had a difficult time—as we all have had in this matter—and who are as tired as we are. I do not dispute that, but now, despite the fact that we threw away more than three hours after eleven o'clock this morning, it is proposed for no conceivable purpose, that at a quarter past eleven at night, we should begin discussions which even at a minimum estimate are bound to carry us well beyond midnight. That means for quite a number of hon. Members, yet another night out of bed. I should not have minded, had the Government been sensible at eleven o'clock this morning. But to be asked at this time of night to make up for something that we could have done at eleven o'clock this morning, is not fair, and I hope we shall not continue the discussions
I want to say a word in the same sense as my hon. Friend. This morning shortly before eleven o'clock, I pointed out that there was no purpose to be served by wasting some 31¼ hours, particularly if the effect was to be to add it on to the late hours this evening and the early hours of tomorrow morning. We were at that time assured that that was not the intention, but that an arrangement had been reached through the usual channels which would prevent our sitting very late tonight and would en- able the Government to get the Bill tomorrow. The Government have done very well about this; we have gone a long way. It is true that the last two Amendments have taken a little time, but except for those, we have made remarkable progress. [Interruption.] That is my view; anyone who holds the contrary view will have the right to say so. I say we have done remarkably well, and although there is a substantial amount still to be done, we can well do it tomorrow with the same co-operation as that which we have enjoyed this afternoon. I hope we shall decide now, after 36 hours or more with just that interval of three hours, which ought never to have taken place, that we have done very well, and may now adjourn until tomorrow morning.
It would perhaps facilitate business if I tried to see whether we could come to an arrangement convenient to all sides of the Committee. We could perhaps meet the situation tomorrow, if we took tonight just the two Government new Clauses, and finished at that point. If all my hon. Friends, in all parts of the Committee, will do their best to help us, we should be able to get the Bill tomorrow.
I think we ought to congratulate the Minister and thank him very much for one of his remarkably rapid decisions.
I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said, and it seems a reasonable arrangement, which we on this side will certainly not oppose. The only remark I have to make is that I have been looking at the pages of Amendments yet to be discussed, and I do not want to have any misunderstanding. It seems to be pretty heavy work for tomorrow, and I do not think the Government can necessarily guarantee to carry it through. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] We cannot; the Government must understand that it is not the Opposition which has been taking up the time of the House We should certainly like to finish tomorrow, but when I look at the number of Amendments that will be left if we stop at this point, I think the Government must bear in mind that they are leaving a pretty heavy task for Friday. They should bear that in mind, and address their minds tomorrow to the prob- lem of meeting the convenience of the Committee. If they do so we will help them.
May I say a word to the Committee on behalf of those people—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] In case hon. Members opposite did not hear what I was saying, may I say that I was addressing my remarks principally to this side of the Committee—
On a point of Order. I distinctly heard the hon. Member say he was addressing that side of the Committee. Is it not customary in this Committee to address the Chair?
I assumed that the hon. Member was addressing the Chair, since it is customary to address the Chair.
I am sorry, but I was not permitted to finish the sentence. I was about to say that I was addressing this side of the Committee through the Chair as is customary. I wanted to say a word on behalf of those hon. Members who up to now have not spoken on these matters but have solidly supported the Government, and who are prepared to support the Government for so long as the Government are prepared to go on. But we ought to make it clear there is a considerable demand on the physical strength of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and perhaps when we come to some consideration of this matter the Committee ought to regard the question—[Interruption.]
Let us go on talking then.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will permit me to hear what the hon. Member is saying.
On a point of Order. I heard the hon. Member say that, through you, Mr. Beaumont, of course, he was only addressing his own side, and you ruled that that was in Order. Why on earth are we to be made to listen?
I appreciate the point of that remark, but I was trying to ascertain whether the hon. Member was in Order. Unless I hear what is said, I cannot give a Ruling.
This is purely of interest to those hon. Members who attended throughout the night until this morning, when there were only a few Members on the other side of the Committee. I am very sorry if I excepted these ten or twelve hon. Members who had the courtesy to discuss this matter throughout the night.
I think it would be desirable if we now came to a determination with regard to this.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.