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Agriculture Bill

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

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Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

3.42 p.m.

I beg to Move,

"That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 15, page 12, line 44; Clause 30, page 31, line 30 Clause 45, page 42, line 11; Clause 59, page 51, lines 11 and 21; and the new Clauses (Power of tenant or landlord to apply for dispossession of owner or occupier under supervision) and (Application of Part IV of Act to councils of county boroughs) standing on the Notice Paper in my name."

May I ask, Mr. Speaker, are you going to call my Amendment to the recommittal Motion—in line 7, at end, to add:

"and in respect of the Amendments in Clause I, page 1, line 7; Clause page 1, line 10; Clause 12, page 9, line 37; Clause 15, page 12, line 39; Clause 23, page 24, line 3; Clause 81, page 65, line 29; Clause 100, page 81, line 13."

I gave the Amendment great consideration, but I am afraid I do not propose to select it.

I am rather surprised at that, if I may respectfully say so, Mr. Speaker, because I thought it was the normal course, when one is advised, as we were, that an Amendment put down on Report stage would require a recommittal if it was to be discussed. For that reason we had to put down this Amendment last night, for which I apologise to the House. It was purely technical advice which we received only at the last moment. Now I understand you do not propose to call the Amendment at all. I suppose it would not be proper for me to ask if there is any reason for that?

I have told the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that I have given the matter considerable thought. The plain fact of the matter is, if I selected this Amendment to the recommittal Motion it would be, to some extent, giving the Amendments there referred to, my approval, and it would be very harsh to the Chairman of Ways and Means, because it would mean I had already said to the House: "These are Amendments which can be selected." I did not think that would be fair on him. I tell the House quite frankly, had they been normal Amendments on Report I should not have selected them in any case. The Amendment in Clause 1, page 1, line 7, would not have been taken anyhow; the Amendment in Clause 1, page 1, line 10, had a whole day in Committee; the Amendment in Clause 12, page 9, line 37, is exactly the same, and was disposed of in Committee after some debate; the Amendment in Clause 15, page 12, line 39, is partly met by a Government Amendment; the Amendment in Clause 23, page 24, line 3, is exactly the same as an Amendment put down and disposed of in Committee; the Amendment in Clause 81, page 65, line 29, was also dealt with in Committee; the last Amendment, in Clause 100, page 81, line 13, is, I am sorry to say, out of Order on Report of the Committee in any case, because it deals with matters outside the Money Resolution. As I say, I gave the matter a lot of thought, and came to the conclusion that I had better not select the Amendment about which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has asked me.

3.45 p.m.

I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for your kindness in giving us these reasons. I appreciate the point you make, that if the House accepted this Amendment to the recommittal Motion, then in your view the Chairman of Ways and Means in Committee would be more or less morally bound to select the Amendments to which you have referred. Of course, that is not a matter upon which I can make any comment because obviously I do not know what would be in the mind of the Chairman, or whether he would or would not take that view. I do, however, appreciate the point. On the other hand, when you kindly pointed out that you would not yourself have selected any of these Amendments—had they been in Order on Report, without a recommittal Motion—largely, unless I misheard you, on the ground that they had been discussed considerably in Standing Committee, then I respectfully put to you that the whole object of the Report stage, surely, is that major points of importance, even if they had been discussed in Standing. Committee for three or four days, should have the opportunity of coming before the whole House, whereby 640 Members will have a chance of expressing their views as opposed to such of the 50 Members as are able to attend the Standing Committee from time to time.

I do not know whether we are to deduce from that, that if any matter is discussed at any length in Standing Committee—however important the matter may be—it will not be rediscussed in the House on reconsideration. If that line is to be taken in future, it seems to me that we must consider whether we ought ever to put down any important Amendment in Standing Committee at all, but should not rather reserve our attack on the Government on major issues until the Report stage, when we can at least appeal to the larger body of Members. I put it to you, Sir, as the defender of the privileges of the minority, it would be a very difficult Ruling for us to accept for all time, that because matters have been discussed at length in Standing Committee—even if they are important, and even if, as in the case of one of these Amendments, they come before the House at this stage, as the Minister knows, with the full support of two, if not three, partners in the industry—they are not to be discussed at this stage. We are very disappointed.

It does not necessarily follow, because an Amendment has been debated at length in Standing Committee, that I will or will not select it. I have to consider the relative importance of the Amendments as a whole; I select them bearing in mind their relative importance, and the relative periods of time that they have been discussed.

The Amendment in Clause 1, page r, line 7—at the beginning to insert:

"It is hereby recognised and declared that a healthy and efficient agriculture, providing, by good estate management and good husbandry, the most favourable conditions for the carrying on and development of all classes of agricultural production is an essential national need, and in conformity with this declaration."
—is worded differently from the Amendment which was discussed in Committee. It is true it covers to some extent, but not entirely, the same ground, and—

I do not think we ought to discuss the Amendment now. After all, there is on Report a very similar Amendment in the name of the hon. Member. He must wait and see whether or not I select it.

We were advised that it could not be taken on Report stage. It is, in fact, exactly the same Amendment and it is a matter which a large number of agriculturists in this country' consider very important. The Liberal Party put down the Amendment in one place in the Bill; we put it down in another. Apparently neither of us has been lucky enough to have the matter discussed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]