I beg to move,
(1) Government business shall have precedence at every sitting;
(2) The following provisions shall have effect as respects public Bills;
(a) no Bills other than Government Bills shall be introduced; (b) whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of amendments, new clauses or new schedules (whether they are to be moved in Com- mittee or on Report) received by the Clerks at the Table at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on the last of the days on which the House is not sitting (excluding any Saturday or Sunday) may be accepted by them as if the House were sitting; (c) notices of amendments, new clauses or new schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before a Bill has been read a second time;
(3) The following paragraph shall have effect in substitution for paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 7:—
'(4) Any Member who desires an oral answer to his question may distinguish it by an asterisk, but notice of any such question must appear at latest on the Notice Paper circulated two days (excluding Sunday) before that on which an answer is desired:
Provided that questions received at the Table Office on Monday and Tuesday before 2.30 p.m. and on Friday before 11 a.m., may, if so desired by the Member, be put down for oral answer on the following Wednesday, Thursday and Monday, respectively.'
(4) Whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of questions received at the Table Office at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on either of the two-last days on which the House is not sitting (excluding any Saturday or Sunday) shall be treated as if either day were a day on which the House were sitting at 4.30 p.m. and the notice had been received after 2.30 p.m., and notices of questions received at the Table Office at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on a day before the penultimate day shall be treated as if they had been so received on the penultimate day:
(5) The following paragraph shall have effect in substitution for paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 1:—
'(2) The House shall not be adjourned except in pursuance of a resolution:
Provided that, when a substantive motion for the adjournment of the House has been proposed after 10 p.m. Mr. Speaker shall, after the expiration of half an hour after that motion has been proposed, adjourn the House without question put.'
(6) The following paragraphs shall have effect in substitution for paragraphs (8) and (9) of Standing Order No. 1:—
'(8) A motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown, either with or without notice at the commencement of public business to be decided without amendment or debate, to the effect either—
(a) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order "Sittings of the House"; or (b) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order "Sittings of the House" for a specified period after the hour appointed for the interruption of business.
(9) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the business so specified shall not be interrupted if it is under discussion at the hour appointed for the interruption of business, may be entered upon at any hour although opposed, and, if under discussion when the business is postponed under the provisions of any Standing Order, may be resumed and proceeded with, though opposed, after the interruption of business:
Provided that business exempted for a specified period shall not be entered upon, or be resumed after the expiration of that period, and, if not concluded earlier, shall be interrupted at the end of that period, and the relevant provisions of paragraphs (3) and (4) of this Standing Order shall then apply.
(10) Provided always that not more than one motion under paragraph (8) may be made at any one sitting, and that, after any business exempted from the operation of the order is disposed of after 10 p.m., the remaining business of the sitting shall be dealt with according to the provisions applicable to business taken after the hour appointed for the interruption of business.'"
This Motion is in very much the same form as that submitted to the House in the early part of the last Session.
Before the Lord President continues with his speech, may I ask whether it would not be for the convenience of everybody that the first paragraph should be taken separately from the rest? I have reason to think that there may be considerable opposition to the proposal for Government Business to take precedence, whereas there might not be so much opposition to the other more formal matters. If the Motion could be so moved or, necessary, a Division called upon that part of the Motion without affecting the rest of it, I think it would be more convenient.
I have no objection to the spirit of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. I was not proposing to say much about the other parts of the Motion because I recognise with him that the controversial part is at the beginning, and he would have found that in a few more sentences I would have been off the remainder of the Motion and concentrated upon the admittedly controversial part. As to the second part of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion that there may be a possibility of a Division on the first part of the Motion, subject to your view as to Order. Mr. Speaker, I would not object.
I think the matter is quite simple. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has only got to move an Amendment to leave out paragraph (1), and then we can concentrate on that paragraph. Subsequently, we can take the Motion as a whole. I think that is the solution.
I was about to say that the House will probably think that it is unnecessary on my part to go in detail through the somewhat specific and detailed points which are raised in various paragraphs of this Motion. I think it will be fair to say that, except for the part of the Motion which deals with Private Members' time, broadly speaking the rest of the Motion could be regarded as non-controversial. Those parts of the Motion make the usual provisions for the convenience of the House and hon. Members generally, on such matters as sending in Questions and Amendments during the period of an Adjournment, safeguarding the half-hour Adjournment at the end of the day, and so on. I would only observe, with regard to the half-hour Adjournment, that there have been representations made to the Government from time to time, notably by my hon. Friends the Members for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and Maldon (Mr. Driberg), to the effect that the right of Private Members to the half-hour Adjournment discussion at the end of the Sitting should be guaranteed at whatever hour that may arise or whatever the state of Business may be at that particular point. We thought that that was right, and part of this Motion takes care of that issue, which I hope will be acceptable to the House.
The question upon which I imagine that the Debate will largely turn, and which is, admittedly, potentially controversial, is the issue of the Government's taking Private Members' time—that is to say, the time which is set aside under the Standing Orders for Private Members to bring in Bills and Motions, subject to their good or ill fortune in the Ballot. It is proposed under this Motion that those facilities to Private Members should, in this Session again, for the third time in this Parliament, be denied, and that the Government should have the exclusive right to bring in legislation and, generally, to take the time of the House, subject to what I shall say later on. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, in the light of all the circumstances of the time, after very careful consideration, and sympathetically taking into account the arguments which have been advanced in favour of Private Members' time, we have come to the conclusion that, in the general public interest, it is necessary to ask the House and Private Members to give up the right to Private Members' time in respect of legislation and Motions. It is, of course, the case that all Governments, whatever their composition, have, at one time or another, taken the time of the House for Government Business. The circumstances have been different. Sometimes it has been a matter of congestion of Business; sometimes the circumstances have been heavy legislative programmes; sometimes the impelling circumstance has been war.
Briefly, the reasons for the present Motion are the same as the reasons which were advanced in the last Session of Parliament. In the Government's view, this step is inevitable and essential if the House is to devote adequate attention to the legislative and other Business before it, which is, in our judgment and, I think, in the judgment of the House, with certain reservations, appropriate to the circumstances of the time. The difficulty of providing for Private Members' time is, of course, increased by the generally urged necessity for an autumn Budget. That has been urged upon the Government from various political quarters and various quarters of serious economic thought outside; and, obviously, its coming along fairly late in the consideration of the Session's programme has disturbed the balance of Parliamentary Business. But it has been adjudged in many quarters necessary, and that is one of the reasons which makes it necessary for us to bring this Motion forward today.
It has, also—in the opinion of the Government, which we shall defend, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did yesterday, and as others of us will on other occasions—it has also been adjudged necessary on the part of the Government to bring in a Bill to amend the Parliament Act; and, whilst it will be a short Bill, there will be, no doubt, some talk about it; and a certain amount of time must reasonably be allowed for it. Moreover, if past experience is any guide, allowance must also be made for urgent Business. Much of it will, probably, be of an economic character arising out of the general situation. No doubt, various occasions will be taken for these discussions on Supply days and otherwise, and it may be that it will be necessary for us to co-operate amongst ourselves to provide facilities for the discussions which it is right that Parliament should, within reasonable limits;, engage upon in the light of the difficult economic situation at the present time.
It is a little curious that this Motion should come up in a Session in which it is proposed to amend the Parliament Act, 1911. Incidentally, the existence of the Bill to amend the Parliament Act, 1911, should be a contributory factor—I put it no higher—in favour of the implementation of this Motion. I have been looking up the Parliamentary records. There was a similar Motion to take Private Members' time because of the original Parliament Act, 1911; the Motion being brought forward by the Liberal Government of that time, who thought it necessary to limit Private Members' time because the House would have to devote attention to the Parliament Bill of 1911 which subsequently became the Parliament Act. It is curious how often the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is useful to the Government. It is extraordinary. Whatever issue we are debating in this House, when the Government are taking a line and the Opposition is attacking it, it is a thousand to one that we can find something in the history of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition which justifies the attitude which the Government are taking.
During that Debate, in which, as far as I can see, the primary case for the Motion
was the Bill which became the Parliament Act of 1911, the Government proposed to put a limit on the amount of Private Members' time. [HON. MEMBERS: "But did not take it all."] No, they did not take all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] It is all very well for hon. Members to say that. They would have been just as sticky about it then, as they are going to be about this. It really does not make any difference. The argument was just as fierce, the indignation just as great; and the indignation was about as unreal then as it is going to be today. I can assure the House that is so. Hon. Members can look up the Debate in due course. The right hon. Gentleman the then Home Secretary, now the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Conservative Party, in justification of the Motion—he went rather wide then of the Parliamentary Bill of 1911 and made an overall case with which I have a lot of sympathy—said:
"The congestion of Parliament is a disease, but the futility of Parliament is a mortal disease. And, Sir, if the rights of Private Members are important, the rights of the people of the United Kingdom are also important. It is in the name of the people of the United Kingdom that the Government have brought forward their Motion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1911; Vol 21, c. 1370.]
It is in the name of the people of the United Kingdom that the Government have brought this Motion forward.
On that occasion had not the Government of the day just come back with a mandate from the people for a Parliament Bill?
I am not at all sure that that was admitted by the Conservative Party at the time. I promise the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I will get my research assistants to look into it, and see if it was so or not; but I never knew the Conservative Party ever to admit that there was any mandate for doing anything with which they disagreed. That explains their whole attitude to the existence and the functioning of the Second Chamber. I expected my hon. Friends to enjoy the quotation from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I was not a bit surprised that hon. Members opposite laughed. After all, when they are embarrassed, they have to do something, and if it is a choice between looking embarrassed and miserable, and bluffing and laughing it away, they probably will do the latter. That was what was said by the right hon. Gentleman in 1911, and that is what I say today. It is the choice of the Conservative Party whether it follows the Liberal Home Secretary of 1911 or whether it follows its own bent as a reactionary Conservative Party today.What I have said does not, of course, mean that there will not be opportunities, apart from those open to the Opposition, for matters of topical interest to be debated. In the two previous Sessions of this present Parliament His Majesty's Government have not really been ungenerous in allocating time for Debates to meet the general wishes of the House.
Twelve hours for the Loan.
We try to meet them to the best of our ability. The hon. and gallant Member should not raise the memory of the Debate on the Loan, because the Conservative Party on that occasion was in a state of the utmost confusion. We propose to continue these amicable and friendly arrangements through the usual channels, which, by some miracle of nature, seem to stand outside the class struggle and politics; and we shall do our best to meet the general convenience of the House with regard to facilities for admittedly urgent and important Debates, provided, of course, that the proper consideration of the Government's programme is not thereby prejudicedI fully understand and am not without sympathy with the strength of the feeling amongst a number of Private Members on this subject, and their very natural desire for the early restoration of the right to initiate legislation and Debates on their own Motions. I venture to suggest to the House, however, without prejudice to the settlement of this issue in due time, that the advantage of those facilities should not be exaggerated. It is perfectly true that a certain number of legislative achievements by Private Members can be quoted which have been useful. There are about three which usually do service by being mentioned on these occasions. I think they are the Plimsoll Line, Miss Wilkinson's Hire Purchase Bill, and the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) on the reform of the divorce law. Those three keep coming up every time we discuss this matter of Private Members' time.
What about the Bill I introduced in this House and carried through all its stages, the Abolition of Tolls on Bridges and the Highways Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman incorporated in his Road Traffic Act?
A fair point. But what happened about that Bill was—it is perfectly true, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind my mentioning it—that I encouraged him to bring in that Bill because I had the question of toll bridges down in the Road Traffic Act of 1930. I encouraged him, and we had private conspiracies behind the scenes. Much of his Bill found, I think, incorporation in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, if my memory serves me aright. I agree it was a useful contribution. It was not, however, exactly as revolutionary as the Matrimonial Causes Act of the hon. Gentleman the junior Burgess for Oxford University. I only say in regard to the hundreds if not thousands of Private Members' Bills that have been introduced, that this is not an enormous legislative achievement. The fact is that there was a good deal of the academic about those Debates. Sometimes Ministers used those Bills, as I did, as the means of getting into the machinery of the legislative programme, things which they had failed to get through in the appropriate Cabinet Committee.That is really Government use of Private Members' time, and sometimes it provided interesting opportunities for debate. I remember our late colleague, Mr. Alfred Short, when Under-Secretary to the Home Office, being baffled Friday after Friday—and I am not sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) was not in the same boat now and again—in finding reasons to side-step or obstruct Private Members' Bills. I doubt whether in relation to the amount of Parliamentary time expended a great deal of harvest was reaped.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the Slaughter of Animals Act which released 16 million animals a year from the torture of the pole-axe?
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider the Racecourse Betting Control Act academic?
These are fair points, but in relation to legislation by and large, and to the possibility that the Governments of the day would have done many of these things anyway, I honestly doubt whether there is as much in it as is sometimes argued.With regard to Private Members' Motions, they sometimes produced embarrassing situations for the Whips. They were expressions of opinion, and sometimes they had to be sidestepped by the Whips promoting Amendments convenient to the Government of the day. I suggest that they had a little bit of the flavour of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions about them, though I do not want to be sensitive about that at the present time. I am not disagreeing, because I think these Oxford and Cambridge debates are most interesting and stimulating. However, I am not sure that the amount of time that the House of Commons spent upon Private Members' Motions was justified in relation to the time the House of Commons could have spent on measures for the definite social advancement of the people. These are personal expressions of opinion, and everyone has a right to his opinion. I would not close the door against the argument the other way round, because it may be that as time goes on we may be able to relax the present tendency for the Government to take over Private Members' time. I want a balance to be brought into the argument. The "overwhelming" case which is argued for Private Members' time is really not so overwhelming as hon. Members sometimes assume it to be. At the same time, I think there is a tendency outside the House—I would not say inside, because the House is too familiar with its own procedure—to get the position out of perspective, and to suppose that when the Government take Private Members' time they are thereby monopolising the time of the House, and that Members are deprived of most of their opportunities for ventilating their individual views. The House of Commons is, of course, fully aware that this is not the case, but the public outside, hearing that the Government have taken the whole time of the House, sometimes assume that the whole initiative as regards Business is in the hands of Ministers, which as the House knows is not true. Erskine May has something to say about this. I thought that I had better take Erskine May with me when I went on holiday this year, as well as Mrs. Morrison. I took with me that very large volume of well over 1,000 closely printed pages. I do not know how many Leaders of the House have read Erskine May right through, but I thought that it was time one did, and I got through over one-third in one holiday. I will go on with it at Christmas and every other Recess until I have finished it, and then you had better be careful. I found it very interesting to read the book every evening in the hotel in Guernsey, and this is what Erskine May says. This was the first time that the thought had ever occurred to me. He says, on page 284, which I marked, "Make a note of it for the Debate on Private Members' time when it comes."
You had decided then already?
I would say that I had a sort of healthy instinct that things might work out this way. I would go no further than that. This is what he says, and I thought it was a good idea:
In the first place there are certain items of Business which, under various Standing Orders or under the practice of the House, may quite properly be taken in Government time, or for which the Government may find themselves obliged to find time. Examples are Motions for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order Number 8, complaints about breaches of Privilege, votes of censure; and there is an important category from the point of view of Private Members' time, namely Prayers, which are tending to increase, which is quite understandable and about which I do not complain. In addition there is a more important group occupying much time which exists primarily to give opportunities for criti- cising Government policy, and in which the Opposition or Private Members have in practice the right to choose the subject of criticism. I have often said in the House that it is not for the Government to choose the subject but for the Opposition, and it is for Private Members to try to persuade the Opposition to choose the things in which they are interested. Indeed, I have encouraged some of my hon. Friends to see what they could do in the general interest of the House. That is quite legitimate, and it has been done the other way round. The main items in this group are the Address in reply to the King's Speech, Motions for the holiday adjournments, Estimates, both main and supplementary, other business on Supply, and such Measures as the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill. These all give opportunities for reviewing administration and for criticism of the Government. Therefore, the idea that when the Government take Private Members' time they are monopolising the whole time of the House is wrong. It is constitutionally right that in our Parliamentary practice, and to some extent in regard to the Standing Orders, provision should be deliberately made whereby the Opposition have the undisputed right to choose the issue and attack the Government on whatever ground they think it right. That is the basis in many respects of our Parliamentary system. This is to say nothing of the opportunities which Private Members have of influencing the choice of subjects for discussion by the Opposition and the Government itself, nor of Question Time and the half-hour Adjournment. Indeed, when one goes into the matter one finds that the proportion of the time of the House which the Government cannot truly be said to have at their own disposal is substantial. I have had analysis made of the 164 sitting days in the last Session. Of these, about 83½ were devoted to legislation, and 5½ to Business of a miscellaneous character, relating, for example, to Privilege cases, which are no easy to classify. Of the remainder, at least 45 days were devoted to the discussion of subjects chosen by the Opposition or, , the case of Adjournments for Recesses, by back benchers. There were, in addition, days devoted to Adjournments moved for special Debates to meet Opposition requests or me general wishes of the House. This is the background against which, I suggest, the question of Private Members' time should be considered. That is not to say—and I do not say it—that the loss to Private Members is not material. Nevertheless, the matter is one of priorities. Our legislative programme for this Session has been carefully planned in relation to the available time, and it is quite clear that we cannot complete the task to which we have set our hands without asking Private Members again to give up their time. The House will see, as the days go on, that Bills will be presented with admirable and sufficient regularity and speed. That will show how well organised the Government are, how competent is their Parliamentary programme. We believe that in so doing we are studying the nation's interest at what is a very difficult period. Time for Private Members' Bills or Motions could only be given at the expense of important legislation outlined in the Gracious Speech or other essential Government Business, or even at the expense of the traditional opportunities of criticising Ministers, or debating general matters of policy at the initiative of the Opposition. It is in all these circumstances that the Government have come to the conclusion, not with any celebration or joy, but with some degree of regret, because we like to meet the views of Members and minorities in the House, that this must take place again for the third Session of Parliament. It is in that spirit of respect to the House, and having put all the facts before it, that I submit the Motion to Members for their sympathetic consideration."It is only when distinctions are drawn in the business which the Government has to sponsor and put down on its own days that it becomes apparent that the monopoly of time by the Government is in some respects more nominal than real. For a good deal of what is nominally Government time is devoted to matters of routine, which are designed to give opportunities for criticism, and is regulated by long-standing practice and by conventions which give the initiative to the Opposition."
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out paragraph (1)I must admit that I am somewhat astounded at the line which the Lord President of the Council has taken in his speech, although I imagine that it was really intended to exercise that gift of leadership which was so absent from our Debate yesterday and to try to rally the party behind him. The trouble is that the right hon. Gentleman has entirely missed the point. What we are talking about today is Private Members' time, not Opposition time. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Erskine May, and made the revealing statement that he had looked at the passage with the possibility of curtailing Private Members' time, although the grounds he put forward were the economic situation, amendment of the Parliament Act, and an autumn Budget—all last minute decisions.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not a member of the Cabinet these days, so he does not know. These things have been before us for quite a time. All three things have been discussed in the country for months.
The economic crisis has been before the country for a long time, and we were all under the impression that there were some grounds for thinking that it had by-passed the Government. They were the ones who did not know. I do not wish to go into details, which are of interest to no one except the right hon. Gentleman, as to when he did or did not read Erskine May, but he said that a good deal of time which was reputed to be Government time was at the disposal of the Opposition. We are talking, however, of the time which used to be at the disposal of Members on both sides of the House, not about anything to do with the reasonable time which is at the disposal of the Opposition. I hope the Lord President will allow the Amendment I have moved to go to a free vote of the House, because it concerns every Member of this House. He said that all Governments, at once time or another, had had to move the sort of Motion which he had moved. Without having an opportunity for research while sitting on the Front Bench, I will take it from him that all Governments have done it. I should doubt it myself, but whether they have all done it or not, I should be safe in asserting that except in time of war no Government had done it for three successive Sessions. That is the situation with which we are faced today.The Lord President tried to reinforce himself by quoting something that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said on a previous occasion. Just as the new Secretary of State for War accuses the Conservative Central Office, quite wrongly, of having specially detailed reporters after him, it looks as though the Lord President has some "research assistants" spending all their time reading my right hon. Friend's past speeches. I can only express the hope that those research assistants are on the pay roll of Transport House, and are not civil servants. I do not see why the State should pay civil servants to do it in order to give points to the Lord President. They ought to be doing something for the good of the State as a whole, and not educating themselves and the Lord President. I am astounded that the right hon. Gentleman, this year, could make a speech on this subject without making any reference to the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, which the House set up to investigate this problem, among others. Last year it would not have been possible, on the corresponding occasion, for the Lord President to have said much about it This Committee, on which I had the privilege to sit at the order of the House, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young), was appointed in August, 1945. It was instructed to sit in spite of the fact that the House was not sitting. We worked hard and produced three Reports, the last of which was presented, not in the last Session of Parliament, but in the one before. That report was dated October, 1946. I must say in the absence—I cannot see him—of the hon. Gentleman that, speaking for my colleagues on this side of the House who sat on that Committee, we think it regrettable that the Lord President did no even refer to our recommendations on this subject of Private Members' time. We do not ourselves boast that we did good work, but we put our time at the disposal of the House, and I think it rather discourteous that the right hon. Gentleman did not even mention the fact that we made some suggestions on this subject. He says, as I suppose others before him who have had to move a Motion of this kind have said, that it is necessary to get the Government's business through. He, more or less, put it on the grounds that it was necessary to get the Government's legislation through. I only hope that after this Debate some hon. Gentleman will find it sufficiently interesting to look through our Report and, possibly, through some of the evidence, and he will find that, in point of fact, the right hon. Gentleman did not believe in Private Members' time at all. He is not for it. He does not think it a good thing. Therefore, he is quite happy to come here today and suggest that we should not have any this year. He is on record as saying, in the evidence on page 140:
that is Private Members' Debates—"Quite honestly, I thought them"—
Later, in reply to a question from myself, he said:"for the main part a waste of Parliamentary time."
The trouble is that the right hon. Gentleman belongs to that very select company of Members of this House who got office almost at once after entering the House, and if one looks up his very distinguished Parliamentary record one finds that he was only on the back benches for less than one year; and people like myself who sat on the back benches for ten years, and others who sat much longer, do realise the value and importance of Private Members' time. I thought that the Prime Minister would have welcomed Private Members' time because it gives opportunities to Private Members and also many opportunities to junior Ministers. One could have tested their strength and failings and one might have had quite a different change in the "second eleven," even before now, if some of the young secretaries had had to come Friday after Friday to win their spurs. Private Members have had, under Private Members' time, real opportunities in raising matters of interest to themselves or their constituencies, subject, of couse, to a ballot which they would not have had otherwise. It is no answer to say that there is plenty of time given to the Opposition. The Opposition is an essential part of the running of the House and of our general constitutional system, but so are Private Members. Let us be quite clear about that, because the right hon. Gentleman I do not think gave a satisfactory reply to that fact. I think that more than half of the present Members of the House have had no experience of Private Members' time, and they can only take the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman or by me or some of my hon. Friends who have sat here for a long time. We must be quite clear that there are two questions at issue. There are Private Members' Bills and Private Members' Motions The right hon. Gentleman tried to make out that there had been only three Private Members' Bills which ever amounted to anything, and I think that the reference which he made in his speech suggesting that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) had in some way tried to make a stooge of him, was going a bit far. To take Bills first, the opportunity has been afforded to hon. Members in the past to promote Bills and they were not always party Bills; that is to say, they received support from all parties, and a great number were passed. They were by no means limited to the three to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. A note by the Clerk of the Committe on page 169 of our Report shows the average number of Private Members' Bills passed in any Session. This may be rather astonishing news to the House. In the 20 years between the two wars the average number of Private Members' Bills per Session which passed into law was 10.8 I do not know what.8 of a Bill is, but that is where one gets in statistical matters, and we will make it 11 for the sake of argument. Eleven Bills became law whereas 56.3 were introduced but not passed. That is a creditable achievement of legislative output on the part of Private Members. We are going to be deprived of that possibility. The second thing is Private Members' Motions. That is an entirely different question. It is open to Private Members to initiate Debates, again as a result of a ballot, and I feel rather tenderly about that loss of Private Members' time, because it was on a Private Members' Motion that I first made a speech in this House; and it is a good opportunity for other people to make their first speeches. A great number of those who subsequently obtained distinction in the House will be found to have spoken then for the first time. It gives an opportunity for hon. Members to raise all sorts of matters, whether of great consequence or trivial consequence to their constituents. While it is true that under the present system of Adjournment Debates they have half an hour every day, and something has been done, it is nothing like as much as used to be the case, and no one can pretend that half an hour was enough for the great bulk of the questions raised on Adjournment Debates daily during the last Session. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the whole position and not to press this Motion today. I say that the right hon. Gentleman is definitely against Private Members' time. He does not like it. He has no personal experience of it, and he wants to do away with it. Every successive year that this Motion is passed makes the chances for the future more remote. We may hope to get over what may be for one year, but now it is two years and next it will be three years. If this Parliament ends and there has never been any Private Members' time at all, I wonder if it will ever come back? If it does not come back the right hon. Gentleman will have had his way, because he does not believe in it. There is no doubt about that because the evidence says so, and he does not contradict it. The curious part is this—and this is another point which I want to put because I think that it is important—that the gist of the right hon. Gentleman's speech today has been that it is necessary to have all the legislation which the Government want; that there are certain opportunities for right hon. Gentlemen here on these Benches to initiate Debates as the official Opposition, and that that is quite enough. That is the gist of his argument."I am bound to say that I did not miss the loss of those Private Members' days, and I do not believe I would if I were a Private Member I think the time of the House could be occupied with something much more useful."
And for back benchers to take part.
That is different from initiation. I think that, without revealing Cabinet secrets, it can be said that the plans which the right hon. Gentleman puts before his colleagues would be considered by him to be quite different from those of other right hon. Gentlemen about which he talks. Initiation is something in the past which has been open to hon. Members as a result of ballot—the best method so far devised for the purpose—and that is quite different from speaking in the Debates. The right hon. Gentleman confused the two points. It is not a question of Private Members speaking in Debates initiated from the Opposition benches: that is different from a Private Member raising something in his own time. It is not the same thing at all. It may be that the same speeches will be made because the occasion may permit the same speech to be made, but it is a very different motive which actuates the Private Member in his action on that occasion.I was saying that the right hon. Gentleman lays a good deal of his case—I do not want to be long on this subject; it is a matter for Private Members—on the fact that it is necessary to get a great mass of legislation through the House. He does not think himself, or he professes not to think, that that is the most important function of Parliament. Listening to him today one would think that that is what we were really here for and what really mattered, but the right hon. Gentleman, giving evidence before the Select Committee on Procedure, said something different. In reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who no doubt will remember it well—in fact I will not read out what the hon. Gentleman asked because it is rather long—the right hon. Gentleman stated what was the most important function of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman had asked him what was the primary function of the House, and he said that in the legislative field he thought the initiative should largely be with the Government. In other words, he does not believe in Private Members' time. Then he goes on to say:
this is what the right hon. Gentleman said then though one would not have thought it from his speech today—"I think that, is right. I would not myself say that legislation is the most important function of Parliament, because I think"—
Why not give the Private Members some opportunity of exercising that function? That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman is taking from the Private Members by this Motion. He admits that legislation is not as important as the check on the Government, but apparently he wants that check to function only on the initiative of His Majesty's official Opposition. As a House of Commons man I say that a certain part of that function should devolve on the Private Members. If hon. Members have read the history of Parliament and how our Standing Orders came into being they will find that in the beginning Private Members had all the time, then the Government gradually took some of it and now in this third Session of the present Parliament the Government propose to take it all. When we were discussing this matter on the Select Committee it was put to us at that time that it was unrealistic—that was the word—and academic to discuss this at all, because we were so near the end of the war and there were a lot of transitional Measures, Orders and all the rest of it to be dealt with. Despite that we put it to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that we thought it was right that Private Members' time should be restored. The Government in reply in their Memorandum said it was unrealistic for the Select Committee to discuss this, but they added that if the Select Committee put up a scheme, of course the Government would give it every consideration. I do not find any sign of the Government having given the Committee's scheme any consideration at all."the check on the Government perhaps is the most important function."
Tell us what the point was?
It arose through cross-examination, and then there was a supplementary document on the part of the Government and the phrase is there that if the Select Committee put up proposals, the Government would consider them.
Please wait a minute while I quote from the Government's statement of 21st March, 1946:
that was what I was saying and this was March, 1946, not October, 1947, which is a big difference—"The Government are disposed to agree that plans might well be devised for increasing the usefulness of Private Members' time. The whole matter, however, is academic at present"—
that was the document which we as a Committee were discussing—"since the Government continue to find it necessary to take all Private Members' time. No detailed comments are therefore offered on Sir G. Campion's proposals under this head"—
That was the position and we gave them an opportunity of considering the matter further in our report and there is no evidence——"the Government would welcome an opportunity of considering the matter further."
I think I would rather finish because this is a perfectly accurate statement. I do not want to bore the House with all the details of this matter but if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne has any relevant point to put perhaps he will put it now.
I hope the right hon. and gallant Member will forgive me if he thinks I am interrupting him unnecessarily. My own recollection is that he is mistaken in what he says. I was under the impression that the Select Committee did not make any recommendation on that at all.
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Sections 47 to 52 of our Report deal with Private Members' time and one of the recommendations is:
here again nothing is said by the Lord President—"Your Committee recommend that facilities for Members to initiate business should be restored as soon as possible, and that, in any case,"—
There is no suggestion of that. It is swept away. The Government do not appear to have paid any attention at all to our recommendations. All I want to say in conclusion is that we as a Committee considered the matter and put up an alternative scheme because we recognised that the present arrangements were not very good. It is immaterial to discuss exactly how we proposed to make the alterations. They are on record for the House to see and consider, but I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he has entirely confused the issue. He himself admits that the most important function—as I have pointed out from his own evidence—of the House is criticism of the Government, not legislation, and for years now that function of criticism has been shared, though not exactly jointly or on a fifty-fifty basis, by the official Opposition and by Private Members. I might add that Private Members are not the people who sit behind me, for Private Members also sit on the opposite side of the House. In the past they have had legitimate opportunity given them under the Standing Orders of raising points of criticism, and so carrying out what the right hon. Gentleman himself stresses is one of the most important functions of Parliament. I say that to deprive for the third Session running this House of Private Members' time and of those ancient rights—because they are well established in the custom of Parliament—is an absolute outrage. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members on all sides of the House will join with me now when we go into the Division Lobby to amend this Motion and to take out the reference to Private Members' time. I hope that the Government are going to lock at it again and consider the recommendations which we have made to see whether they cannot bring in a Motion to modify the "Standing Orders, as they are likely to do, I understand in other fields, so that they will not, on the second day of this new Session, deprive Private Members of all rights of initiative."the provisions of Standing Order No. 10, which enables Members to bring in Bills under 'The Ten Minutes' Rule' should be made available again."
I am deeply grieved that the Government are not prepared to meet Private Members even in the slightest degree on this question. I should not be doing my duty to the House if I sat quiet whilst a Motion like this went through the House. It is ten years since I came into this House, and in eight and a half of those ten years there has been no Private Members' time. It is exceedingly fortunate for me, at any rate, that I have had the benefit of one and a half years of Private Members' time, because if I had not had it I might not feel so strongly on this matter. I feel all the more strongly on it because we had no assurance from the Leader of the House that Private Members' time would ever come back. I very carefully took a note of his words and he said that "it may be as time goes on we will be able to relax." Knowing the right hon. Gentleman as I do I do not regard that as an assurance. Rather do I regard it as almost a positive assurance that unless the utmost pressure is put upon my right hon. Friend, we shall never see Private Members' time again.It is unfortunate that there are so many Members in this House who do not know the value of Private Members' time. A very right and proper point was put by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) when he said that Private Members' time was not merely a matter for the Opposition Members of Parliament, but was a more important and fundamental matter for the people who sit on these benches. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are more of them."] Never mind about there being more of us. The point is that Opposition Members of Parliament have the advantage of Supply days, when they select the subject. Hon. Members on these benches have no choice, other than speaking upon a subject which the Opposition have chosen, or of continuing to be marionettes dangling on bits of string for the benefit of the Lord President of the Council. In a Parliament such as this I do not think we can afford to risk Members being deprived of any rights of expressing opinions upon Government legislation. Powers that are developing and are being concentrated in certain hands are such that Private Members have a responsibility to their constituents and to the country. I was deeply sorry that the main argument which my right hon. Friend used in support of this Motion was to depreciate the value of Private Members' time. I regard Private Members' time as of very great value in this House. In the past we have been subject to the limiting handicaps of the Ballot box, but the Ballot box was not more heavily weighted against us than the Ballot for the half-hour Adjournment now is. To suggest that the Motion for the Adjournment in some way compensates for Private Members' time is one of the most ludicrous things that has ever been heard in this House. Has the Lord President not examined the book which is in Mr. Speaker's office? Has he seen the number of people who have put their names down and how long one's name has to appear daily on the book before one has any hope of being heard? By the time one gets to that half-hour Adjournment, of what value is it? The subject may have been completely swept away, so that it is no longer of use to make any point about it. It does Members an injustice to suggest that they should accept the half-hour Adjournment Motion as some compensation for the loss of Private Members' time. There are many non-political matters on which Members on this side hold common views with Members on the other side, and which require righting. They will never be righted by the Government, whose hands are full, rightly so, with the economic and political matters of the day. Many matters can only be redressed by Private Members bringing Measures into this House. We are now to be denied that right for the third year of the postwar era, and for the ninth year of my time in this House. Unless we are prepared to make a fight for it we shall be deprived of it for all time. Unfortunately, I have seen Parliaments on the Continent of Europe where Private Members' time has gone entirely. I know the Parliaments of Hungary, Roumania, and Bulgaria, and Private Members' time has gone there. While I do not suggest that there is any parallel here, I am not prepared to be reduced to the position of a Member of Parliament who comes here solely for the purpose of endorsing a line which the Executive may have taken. I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to reconsider this matter of Private Members' time. A lot of people who sit behind the Government desire to help them and are prepared to do so. Instead of languishing here and making no contribution, we ought to have the opportunity of Private Members' time. I regret that I shall not be able to support the Government in taking the whole of Private Members' time.
I am sure the House has enjoyed the humorous digressions of the Lord President of the Council. He quite obviously enjoyed his holiday in spite of Erskine May. I refer to them as digressions because, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) said, they were totally irrelevant to the Motion with which we are faced this afternoon. The arguments were given by the Prime Minister yesterday when he warned the House that he was going to introduce this Motion. He said that it had been his intention—no doubt his good intention, and we all know where good intentions lead to—to give Private Members back their time after Christmas, but unfortunately, owing to three Measures mentioned in the King's Speech, namely, the Budget, the agreement with Burma and the constitutional situation in Ceylon, he had had perforce to give up those good intentions.I would like the House to consider those three subjects to which the Prime Minister referred. The Prime Minister regarded them as something that made it impossible for Private Members to get back their time, but it seemed to me, first of all, that the Burma business must have been known for many weeks, if not many months past. The Agreement has been negotiated over a very long time. Therefore, the Prime Minister could not have been rushed suddenly at the last minute into having to defer giving Private Members back their time for that reason. The constitutional situation in Ceylon is a matter about which negotiations have also been going on. It does not seem to me that giving away chunks of the Empire is any really good excuse for not giving Private Members an opportunity of discussing those matters in the House. As regards the Supplementary Budget which the Chancellor is to introduce, the Chancellor was warned months ago that there would be a financial crisis. He knew that it would be essential to produce an autumn Budget, and there was no ignorance about it. Every one of the arguments which the Prime Minister used yesterday in order to deprive us of our time has been proved absolutely fallacious. During the war it was a perfectly good argument to say that Private Members' time could not be given. That was a Coalition period. It was not a question of the time being required by the Government, but of being doubtful whether it would be an advantage to introduce controversial discussions. As soon as the Lord President of the Council can give me a little of his time instead of carrying on his private discussions, my task in making this speech may be a lot easier. I am dealing with the subject of Private Members' time, when the Lord President is able to consider that subject. I was trying to make the point that during the Coalition period it was evident that the Government could not give us our time, not because they needed it, but because there was a risk of controversial Measures being introduced, which would have been inadvisable at such a period. Private Members, without the responsibility and knowledge of Members of the Government, might well have raised issues that would be embarrassing. During the first hilarious Session of the new Parliament, when exciting and thrilling adventures, lay ahead in building the brave new world—almost as thrilling as the sadistic desire to pull down the old one—it was natural that the Government should take Private Members' time so as to enjoy to the full the newly-found pleasure and capacity to harm the interests of our country. Now we have come to a different period in our history and in the history of the Government, when the future certainly lies in a very much more insecure lap of the gods than it did two years ago. I imagine that during that period the zest for destruction has been somewhat assuaged. I imagine also that the passion for the brave new world has been a little weakened. But I cannot think that with 400 well-trained, well-Whipped automatons at their disposal to pass through official Measures even by the Guillotine when the power of argument has failed, the Government find it impossible to give back the one free method by which Private Members can express their opinion and restore one of the traditions of this House, which we, at any rate, value most highly. Indeed, it is very painful to me to see those cohorts opposite, the majority of whom have never tasted the warmth, the colour and the interest of a free House of Commons, willingly assisting the warders in clamping the shackles on their traditional liberties. I can only suggest that they are still so bemused by the outmoded document, "Let Us Face the Future," that they can think only of the future and can learn nothing from the past. Quite a lot could be learnt from the past, as they themselves will learn. [Interruption.] Judging from those cheers and the stereotyped speeches we have had during the Recess, the only thing in the past about which they are allowed to speak now is the misdeeds of the wicked Tories. I imagine that the Socialist Member of Parliament of today will in the future tell his grandchildren, not what Gladstone said in '86, but bloodcurdling tales of what the wicked Tories did in '36. I now come back to the question of Private Members' time, referring both to the Motions on Wednesdays and the Bills on Fridays. I apologise for reminding the House that I have been here for nearly.23 years. I have heard a lot of these Motions, and I have always listened with interest because they represented something which generally concerned the public at that particular time. They were topical. They always referred to matters in which at any rate one section of the community was interested, and, therefore, in the aggregate the Motions before the House during any one Session represented a broad section of the opinion throughout the country. As my right hon. and gallant Friend has said, they give the Government a means of judging the timber of their Parliamentary Secretaries, and also give back benchers an opportunity to take an interest in the work of the House. One of the greatest problems which any overweighted Government can have is how to keep its back benchers employed, interested, constantly in touch and proud of what they can contribute to the House as a whole. When I look at those well-trained rubber stamps opposite, I feel very grieved for them that they have not the opportunity which Private Members' time gives of showing their mettle and incidentally of contributing to the general welfare and good of the country. Indeed, from the Government's point of view those Motions provided a far more important weather vane of public opinion than the well selected by-elections on which the Government so consistently rely. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sour grapes."] I would like now to refer to the question of Private Members' Bills. Again, with some modesty, I would like to remind the House, if they think it worth my while reminding them, that I understand that I still hold the record in this House for Private Members' Bills, having brought in and carried through eight during my period in the House. I am not making any song and dance about that, because I think there are other hon. Members who have brought in far fewer which were probably of much greater advantage to the community as a whole. As my right hon. and gallant Friend has reminded us, the one brought in by the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) certainly relieved a great deal of the human sufferings involved in unhappy and ill-assorted unions. I would modestly refer to my Slaughter of Animals Act which, as I said earlier, relieved from the torture of the knife and the pole-axe 16 million animals yearly. Those two alone justify Private Members' time. If no other Measures had been introduced, apart even from that by Miss Ellen Wilkinson and that by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald), if we got two or three really substantial, vital and human contributions to the happiness of our people today in this austere time, surely it would be well worth while? What Measure is there in the Gracious Speech, apart from those initiated by Coalition White Papers, that will relieve the suffering of anyone? What Measure will not probably give a lot of suffering to many? What opportunities have Private Members today of relieving the sufferings of both humans and animals? After all, that would be something—I was going to say to be proud of—to welcome and about which to be not unhappy. I do not know whether the Lord President will pay the slightest attention to the most cogent speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend. Every word was to the point, every argument was convincing; and if the Lord President had his mind open—I am doubtful whether it ever is—the only retort he could make to my right hon. and gallant Friend would be, "I have sinned, and I withdraw paragraph (1)." This Motion which he has moved accords exactly with his policy of reducing newsprint to the papers; in other words, to cloud and prevent the free expression of opinion inside this House and outside. That is obviously the policy of the Lord President, and I do not know whether any of us can achieve anything by bringing pressure or convincing arguments to bear on the situation. I do not believe that the Lord President came to the House to receive any arguments. He came to lay down the law to his supporters behind him, knowing that he has a two-to-one majority and that wherever he leads, they will fall in and follow. That is not the way in which I thought our Business should be conducted in This House. In my earlier days I thought it was a matter for argument, and that if one could bring forward convincing reasons for a certain course of action which was recognised by the House as a whole, irrespective of party, that had some weight. But apparently that is not so today. It is merely to what the Lord President lays down that his sycophantic supporters behind him give adherence. I bitterly resent that we should have come to this situation in which we are prevented from playing that part which our constituents wanted us, and still want us, to play. We have been deprived of that opportunity by the will of the Lord President, and the responsibility and the blame for anything that may happen at the next Election when the electors find they have been frustrated over this matter, will lie fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Lord President.
I have some difficulty in recognising myself in the role of a marionette dancing on a string for the benefit of the Lord President of the Council, a difficulty which I imagine my right hon. Friend will share. I believe that the greatest service a back bench Member of Parliament can render to the House, to his constituents, and to the country is in the fearless exercise of his own conscientious judgment on issues as they arise, and his willingness to say what he honestly thinks it necessary to say, and to vote in accordance with his conscience as opportunities for voting occur. I have also been in the House to enjoy the warmth, taste and colour of a House dominated by a Tory majority for 10 years under the instruction of the most iron-willed Chief Whip the House has ever known. In spite of all that, I do not believe that any responsible Member of the House today could vote for the Amendment which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has moved. The effect of that Amendment would be to deprive the Government, in these extremely difficult days, of every Wednesday and every Friday throughout the Session.
There would be no difficulty about the Government conceding an odd Friday, for instance, once a month.
My hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that it is really quite impossible for me to make all my speech at once. At the moment I am dealing with the Amendment moved from the Front Bench opposite, and I am saying that no conscientious Member of this House could honestly vote for that Amendment because the effect of it would be to deprive the Government of every Wednesday and every Friday for the whole of the Session and I say that no Member of the House on either side dare take that responsibility.
I think the hon. Gentleman is doing my argument less than justice because I said that if the Amendment were carried, the Lord President would have an opportunity of looking at it again when he brings in other Amendments to Standing Orders, and could then incorporate into our procedure the suggestion to which the hon. Gentleman assented, which was that there should not be any Wednesday or Friday at all, but something quite different.
At the moment I am not dealing with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument, but with his Amendment, and I am saying that no hon. or right hon. Member could responsibly vote for it. I am relieved to hear from his intervention just now that he is not in favour of it himself. What he is saying is that he moves it, not in order to get it carried because he does not think it ought to be carried, but to enable the Lord President to move something else.
That is precisely what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman just intervened to say. If I have it wrong, I will give way to him.
Yes, the hon. Member has got it wrong. The whole point of the Amendment is to maintain Private Members' time. The hon. Member has said that the present system is not the best way to do it, but that it should be maintained——
I am coming to that
But if the Government carry this Motion, they cannot do it at all, because they will then have said that there will be no Private Members' time. I am arguing that there should be Private Members' time, and the hon. Member must not twist my words.
I am not twisting the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's words. I am coming to his words in a moment, and to his argument, too; but what I am dealing with now is his Amendment. I say again, and I challenge him to deny it, that if the House were to accept that Amendment and nothing else happened, and that is all that is put forward at the moment, for he has not proposed what he could have proposed, namely, to leave out paragraph (1) and insert something else——
There could not be a manuscript Amendment.
It is not for me to say, but I should have thought, Mr. Speaker, that you might have looked with sympathy on a proposal not merely to leave out that paragraph in order to produce a result which nobody wants, but to leave it out and to substitute something that somebody might want. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not done that, and therefore I can deal only with his Amendment. That leads me to the argument with which he thought I was not going to deal. I am sure he did not wish to mislead the House in any way, but all those who have not recently read the report of the Select Committee might possibly have been misled by the way he put his argument, into believing that the Select Committee thought that Private Members' time, as we used to know it in the days of colour and taste and romance and all the rest of it, ought some day to be restored. The Select Committee, of which he was a member, recommended unanimously that that should never be restored. Let us be quite clear about it. Nobody on the Select Committee on Procedure thought that the old Standing Order about Private Members' Motions on Wednesdays and Bills on Fridays should be restored.That Committee recommended something totally different. They recommended that there should be, as soon as possible—and I can see that in the opinion of some Members it might be possible now, though in the opinion of others it would not be possible now—not the restoration of Private Members' time as it used to be, but the provision of 20 Fridays, and 20 Fridays only, throughout the Session divided equally between Motions and Bills. I voted for that recommendation, and I still think it ought some time to be implemented. I think some other things might be done, too, but do not let us suppose that anybody who has looked at this question at any time has ever thought that the old procedure ought ever to be restored. And for good reasons. Nine-tenths of it was never Private Members' time at all. I accept the distinction which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman drew between Opposition time and Private Members' time. I think that is right, and I thought my right hon. Friend rather confused the two things. I agree entirely with the constitutional right of the Opposition to raise questions for debate at a particular time and for ascertained constitutional purposes. It has nothing whatever to do with Private Members' time, and the two things ought not to be confused. In the old days nine-tenths of both the Motions and the Bills were put into Members' hands by the Government Whips on the one side and Opposition Whips on the other.
Is the hon. Member suggesting now that whoever put into the Ballot Box a Motion or Bill to be brought forward was compelled to accept what his party's senior officials thought?
I am not saying anything of the kind, and anybody who said that would be quite wrong. The interesting thing is that, without there being any compulsion, nine-tenths of them did it. It is a strange commentary that, without any compulsion, nine-tenths of them did it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] My estimate may be wrong, but I would say that a very substantial majority certainly were Motions or Bills put into the hands of Private Members with the intimation, "If you are successful in the Ballot, move one or other of these Motions or one or other of these Bills." It is quite true that there were exceptions but in the majority of cases it was so, and it was used by the machines of both parties as a convenient opportunity to snaffle, either for the Government or for the Opposition, time of the House that could not normally be won for either side.I am sure we ought not to go back to that, but I would like to say to my right hon. Friend that the one thing which the Select Committee thought ought to be restored immediately is a thing that could be restored without sacrificing anything of value to the Government or anything essential in the allocation of Business of the House. That is the very valuable right that a Private Member had at the end of Questions on any day in a short speech to move a Bill which raised a particular point. I do not know why that should be resisted. It could never on any particular day take more than 20 minutes of the time of the House. It was called the Ten Minutes Rule, but of course there was no actual rule that it should be ten minutes. The Standing Order said "a short speech," but the short speech was usually interpreted as a ten-minute speech. One speech was made in support and one speech against, and that was the end of the matter.
There might be a Division.
There might be a Division and it would take another few minutes if we divided, but it is not a great matter. I feel absolutely certain the Government could have made that concession without sacrificing anything essential.I think they could do two other things without sacrificing anything essential. They could give, say, on a Friday once a month, a Private Member's Motion—I do not say a Bill, because a Bill has the consequence that if it is moved and is given Second Reading by the House, the Government are in honour bound to provide further time for it. I think a day could be given for a discussion which a Private Member genuinely wished to raise. There is another way in which the Government could allow Private Members to initiate Business. From time to time Motions outside the ordinary run of party programmes are signed in many parts of the House by a large number of Members. When there is a Motion of that kind, raising some question which cuts across party divisions altogether, and with wide all-party, or more than one-party, backing in the House, I should think that occasionally the Government might find time for a Debate on such a Motion.
Arising out of the suggestions of the hon. Member, with which I find myself in full agreement, in order to achieve what he has in mind would it not be necessary to carry the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. and gallant Friend?
I think that if my right hon. Friend wished to make these concessions he could himself move a suitable Amendment. I do not think it is necessary for that purpose to carry the Amendment which is before the House. But, if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, instead of merely moving the deletion of paragraph (1), had also moved to insert what I am proposing, I might have found myself in greater difficulty than I am in at present. I do not believe that Private Members are seriously handicapped in their activities by the failure to provide Wednesdays or Fridays, or any portion of those days. A back bench Member of this House who wants to play his independent part in the conduct of the Business of the House has ample opportunities for so doing, and better opportunities for doing so in the conduct of the day to day Business of the House than in the rather refined and remote questions which are usually the subject of Private Members' Motions and Bills. If back bench Members really wish to have a live House of Commons, and really wish to restore—if it is lacking—the confidence of their constituents in the independence of their activities, they can do so best by employing themselves in the conduct of the daily Business of the House as it appears on the Order Paper, and not by chasing these remote will-o'-the-wisps of Private Members' Motions.
With much of the criticism made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) I agree. I agree with his criticism of the system as it prevailed before, and with his appeal to the Lord President of the Council to modify his Motion, and I hope the Lord President will listen to that plea. I wish to put another consideration altogether. The status of every Member of Parliament, whether he sits upon the Treasury Bench, the front Opposition Bench, or merely on the back benches, is precisely the same. It is a status common to all, and enjoyed by all, in whatever part of the House one sits and whatever office one holds, whether one belongs to the great majority or to a very small minority. It is the status of representing in this House one's own constituency.
Not only in theory, but in practice. An hon. Member carries a twofold responsibility. Every hon. Member represents the whole of his Division. It is his duty to represent every person, and to meet the needs and demands of every elector, irrespective of that person's political colour or party allegiance. There is a large number of issues covered by that alone, where there is common ground between Members of Parliament, whatever party they may support in the House. The other function and responsibility is entirely different. No hon. Member represents every shade of opinion in his Division. He may represent majority, or minority, opinion, but he represents party opinion, and that party opinion is for the convenience of the government of the country. It is a great convenience for the carrying on of the government of the country that there should be majority opinion on general issues and that we should divide as far as we can in blocks. The one great difference between the Government of the day and the official Opposition on this matter is not so fundamental as the difference between them on other matters, as might be illustrated by the Brighton Conference.The Government of the day, having the bulk of opinion behind it, has the first power to initiate legislation and carry it through. The official Opposition party can express its opinion and organise opinion and, on specific days, initiate Debates. That has nothing to do with private Members, but it has to do with the main political division of the country. There is no opportunity there at any stage, whether chosen by the Government or by the Opposition, for a Member of Parliament to carry out his other role. Private Members' time, in some form or other, is the only means whereby that can be done. I believe that the old method of drawing lots by ballot did not meet it. There may be better methods, and I think that is the force of the appeal made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) to the Lord President of the Council to reconsider the matter. I should like to enforce the plea for the Ten-minute Rule by which Members could bring before the House issues which were not only alive in their own Division, but were matters of common ground between Members of all parties. Today the overwhelming majority happens to be in the Socialist Party. The minority parties have some opportunity on the main issues of voting against or criticising the Government, but not of initiating policy. Therefore Private Members' time becomes more important to them. However, it is not upon that basis that I urge it, but upon that of the common status of every Member of Parliament alike—that there should be the opportunity for every Member to initiate legislation. That status should be recognised, and for that reason I hope the Lord President will listen to the appeal of his own supporters, even if he will not listen to the powerful plea made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough.
Another writer Member of this House, I believe another Independent, Mr. William Cobbett, after having listened to all the swells on his first night in Parliament said, not very unprovocatively, "Sir, it seems to me that I have listened this evening to a great deal of vain and unprofitable conversation." That was not a very unprovocative opening for a maiden speech, and I am not going to repeat his words now. I think that the discussion has been in "vain" in the sense that we shall get nothing out of it from that inflexible man the Lord President of the Council on the Front Bench, or rather not on the Front Bench, but it has not been "unprofitable." The things which have been said so well on both sides of the House should be said every year until we get these rights back. So many people seem to think that the rights of Private Members are merely an opportunity for Private Members to prance about and express themselves and have their private arena, and so on. There is a great deal to be said for that. Especially when we have a Government which has only one idea of its own, it is not a bad thing that Private Members should be able to put forward other ideas.But there is something more important than that. Private Members' rights are a very good piece of machinery for getting things done, and especially for getting things done which no Government, however courageous, however well-meaning, can, very often, dare to do. There has been an almost embarrassing—to me—amount of talk about divorce in regard to the old Bill, which had nothing to do with me. All the Private Members were responsible for that—all the Private Members together. I remember saying two years ago to hon. Members opposite that if I could bring in a Bill, which I then had in my pocket, to abolish the decree nisi, all Members of all parties would have been together on the subject. Since that time the decree nisi has been, not abolished, but suspended, not by legislation but by round-the-corner, very wise administrative action—and all thanks to the Lord Chancellor, and his Committee, and the Judges, for doing it. But my point is this: ten years ago I tried to do that in a Bill. All that I am saying, modestly, is that unless that agitation had been started ten years ago, this reform would not have been so easy now. It is easy to talk about successes, but it is the failures which matter as well. If one brings in a Bill which fails, at least a seed is planted, and an idea, a doctrine, is spread about. So do not let us talk about waste of time because a Bill has been brought in and rejected or talked out. "Nothing is wasted" is the great rule of life; and nothing is wasted in this department of our work. Take another example, a subject like betting. All this, of course, is highly hypothetical; but supposing that it were the case in this country today that there was a vast betting industry the dimensions and the disorder of which were a national scandal, and supposing that that industry was taking out of the pockets of the people hundreds of millions of pounds at a time when we had a great savings campaign, and a campaign against inflation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to introduce an interim Budget to reduce spending. Supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to tax this industry's activities. Supposing the Ministry of Labour was embarrassed because too much labour was being used but could not get at that manpower because the industry was not organised or controlled, because the bookmakers and their staffs were not licensed or registered. Supposing that no Government had the courage to deal with that industry in the only way in which it is possible to deal with it effectively. It might well be that there was a humble, modest Private Member, perhaps even an Independent, who had a Bill ready, a Bill based, perhaps, on a Royal Commission of 1932, a Bill which, in fact, was ordered to be read the first time and printed ten years ago, a Bill which was debated first—the first failure, if you like—on 13th May, 1938. Would it not be a good thing if the Government had that sort of legislation behind them now? Might it not be a good thing if a Private Member were able to introduce that Bill tomorrow, not for his glorification, but to pull the Government's chestnuts out of the fire, to make a contribution to the public good which no Government dares to do? That is the one point I wish to make today. We all talk too much, first of all, as though time is wasted when ideas are put about in this House, and are not immediately accepted. Secondly, we certainly talk too much as if Private Members' time was a kind of Private Members' playtime. I take this matter very seriously, as I always have. I see by the papers that I am one of those about to be abolished. I am bound to say that, as this House is now conducted and led, I could hardly care less.
I listened with interest to what the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) has said. He started a new train of thought in my mind that nothing succeeds like failure, which is comforting to those who have striven so long in this House to put things over and to get things done. I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), speaking as one of the heavily Whipped and badly harassed automatons who usually support the Lord President of the Council, that I think the hon. and gallant Member overstated his case, and spoiled it in so doing. He got what the Prime Minister said yesterday completely wrong. My right hon. Friend stated that he had contemplated giving Private Members' time until Christmas. I regret that it has been found necessary to withdraw what was originally intended. I committed myself rather rashly last year to a course of action this year—not that I propose to deflect in any way from my course. I have spent two years wooing the Lord President, but have made no impression of any kind upon him. I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) should get himself out of his own dilemma by assuming that the Lord President will do anything about the matter simply because he asks him. I do not think that he will, and that is why I propose to go into the Lobby against the Government tonight.I think my hon. Friend is wrong in his interpretation of what would happen—not immediately—if the Amendment were carried. It would give the Lord President just the opportunity which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne desires, to bring in just those amended proposals which my hon. Friend wants. I am not impressed by the answer of the Lord President, having spent two years wooing without success. He reminds us that we have got the half-hour Adjournment restored to us. I think it suffers through the present balloting system. One may be unlucky for ever. I practically always am, and I rarely speak; in consequence everyone gets a wrong impression. I am taking the opportunity of starting the new Session well. I have got such a number of matters which I wish to raise on the Adjournment that if I were successful at the next General Election, I am doubtful if I could get through them. The Lord President should take steps to give back benchers more opportunity. It is no use saying that the Chief Whip has had an analysis made of the last Session which shows that there were nine days given to Adjournments moved for special Debates to meet Opposition requests or the general wishes of the House. That does not help the back bencher. What happens is that rows of Front Benchers get up, followed by a lot of Privy Councillors whom no one wants to hear, and the enthusiastic, intelligent, keen loud-voiced back benchers are not called. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should go back to the old system. I did not have very much experience of it. I only came here in 1938. I would, however, like something more than we have at present. I agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that we might have a Friday occasionally. I do not see why we should not have that opportunity. I understand that the Select Committee suggested 20 Fridays. If we adopted my hon. Friend's suggestion and had one Friday a month, there would be about nine Fridays. I do not think that that would do the Government very much harm. It might do them a great deal of good. At any rate, it would give some of us an opportunity to tell them some of the things which we do not get an opportunity to talk about now. That would be all to the good. The present Adjournment arrangement is not altogether satisfactory. There is never really enough time to develop an argument or for anybody else to join in. There is never really enough time to get a reasoned answer from the Minister standing at that Box. Usually the Minister who replies starts by saying, "In the very short time at my disposal," when, incidentally, he has already "cooked it" up by persuading somebody else to get up and waste the time in between. We all know what happens. There is no secret about it. Why cannot we consider extending that half-hour Adjournment to an hour so that we might get some reasoned sort of Debate? I am disappointed with the Lord President. As I said, I have wooed him twice, spoken to him in the softest tones, given him the broadest smiles and the greatest possible encouragement and, almost always, I have done practically everything he has asked me to do. What have we got out of it? Nothing whatever. The only way to force upon his attention the fact that we really do mean business is to go into the Lobby against him.
I am glad to note that the right hon Gen leman the Home Secretary is keeping an eye on matters at the moment. He happens to be one of the comparatively few leading Members of His Majesty's Government who spent a considerable time as a back bencher before he attained high office. It is impossible to realise the position in regard to Private Members unless one has been a Private Member for a reasonable period of time. I remember the old days when Private Members had time at their disposal. At that time, the party to which I belong had a considerable majority, as, indeed, the party opposite has today. I say without hesitation that without Private Members' time, the degree of frustration which must be faced by the cohorts of a Government who have very few opportunities of speaking must be very great. The stray two speeches a year do not give an opportunity to back benchers to discover what speaking in the House of Commons means. I know that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) contrives to speak a great deal, and I congratulate him upon it.
Anybody can do it.
It is not so easy as all that, particularly if a man comes in new with a large army at the same time. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was here before the present landslide brought in an enormous number of new Members of the Labour Party.
The hon. Member will remember that as a result of the 1931 Election, for instance, there was a much larger proportion of new Members than there is now.
That may be true. I do not suggest for an instant that we should go back to the Wednesday and Friday of every week. That is impossible in present conditions. A degree of Private Members' time is absolutely essential if we are to get the best out of the House of Commons. It is well to remember sometimes that it is the House of Commons and not the Executive who are the elected representatives of the people. Many of the elected representatives of the people, particularly on the Government side, get very few opportunities of speaking, and that stultifies their endeavours. It is true to say that, except in the case of a genius, it is impossible to become an effective Member of the House of Commons unless one has a certain amount of practice. Practice is absolutely essential. Anybody who thinks differently should be reminded of the story of the young cricketer who was invited to play in an eleven captained by W. G. Grace. When Mr. Grace was drawing up the order of batting, he turned to the young man and said, "Do you bat or bowl?" "Oh," said the young man, "in all my life I have never made a duck." Grace replied, "The place for the gentleman who has never made a duck is No. 11." The new Member has to learn the job and he can only learn by getting a fairly free run as a Private Member.There is a wider aspect from the point of view of the Government. The junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) was very modest in the observations he made. I remember when the Matrimonial Causes Bill came before Parliament as a Private Bill. No Government would have touched a Bill of that sort at that time. There were too many repercussions, too many difficulties, right through the Bill. I do not think there was a single Minister on the Front Bench who could have piloted such a Measure through the House. It happened that the junior Burgess was able to get that Measure introduced as a Private Bill and it was owing to his work, above all else, that it became law. If we had not had Private Members' time, neither that Government nor this would have touched the Bill. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to remind us that when we have Private Motions and Private Bills we have the Whips handing out suggestions for Members to adopt if they are successful in the Ballot. These things were only handed out so that persons who balloted and who had no ideas of their own would have something to say.
That is the whole point.
Is that the whole point in the brave new order? Does the hon. Member suggest that if Private Members' time came back, his army of colleagues would have no ideas and would need suggestions from the Whips?
In actual fact, it is true on both sides of the House that in the great majority of cases a man who succeeded in the Ballot put down, not an idea of his own, but an idea from the Whips' Office. That does not prove that he was subservient but that the number of subjects outside the programme of the two parties that were crying out for elucidation was very limited
To some extent certain Measures did come from Private Members' Bills that were of advantage to the Government of the day. It was not a bad thing that that medium should be used. The fact remains, however, that, apart from that, we had a number of opportunities where the Government could test the opinion of the House. I would give one example. The Access to Mountains Bill was introduced about 1938 as a Private Bill from the Socialist Benches. The Government noted that that Measure received a good deal of support from both sides of the House. As a result, efforts were made to facilitate its passage and it passed through the House very rapidly as a Private Members' Bill. I do not think that with the congestion in the Government's programme that Measure would otherwise have been introduced in that Parliament. There are many other examples of that kind.I apologise to hon. Members for taking up so much time. These are points on which those of us who have known Private Members' time in the old days can speak without political bias and with a certain amount of knowledge which it is impossible to have unless one was a Member at a time when that arrangement was in force. I was very much intrigued by the opening statement of the Lord President following on what the Prime Minister said the previous day. It will be within the recollection of the House that the Prime Minister said he had hoped to be able to give some Private Members' time up to Christmas. The Lord President said that, in view of the fact that a new Parliament Bill would be introduced, there was no time to be given to Private Members, and one can assume that, long before yesterday or the day before, the Prime Minister must have been fully aware of that fact, and we may take it that the time required for the Parliament Bill has probably been the deciding factor in reaching the conclusion that Private Members' time could not be restored. The Lord President went on to quote some observations made by the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the Parliament Act, 1911, and he quoted with satisfaction that, at that time, the Leader of the Opposition said that Private Members' time must be limited in view of the great importance of that Measure. But if Private Members' time was to be limited, there would be no objection by either side of the House. It has not been limited on this occasion, but is being abolished, and it is of great importance that we should hear a Government pronouncement on whether the same degree of time is to be given to the House of Commons to discuss the Parliament Bill of 1947 as was given to it to discuss the Parliament Bill, 1911. If that is what the Lord President meant when he emphasised the necessity for time for that Measure and for the abolition of Private Members' time, it is an interesting question, and it will be exceedingly interesting to see if the House is prepared to meet the right hon. Gentleman when that Bill comes before it. Finally, I would add that I am speaking non-politically. I believe that, unless Private Members' time is brought back, it will remain, like so many other things, in desuetude. It will never come back, and, if it never does come back. Parliament will be the weaker for it. It is the individuality of the ordinary Member of Parliament, who now never gets a chance in our ordinary Debates, that has made Parliament so valuable, not only from the point of view of the country, but sometimes from the point of view of educating the Executive. I hope this battle will be carried on until every ordinary Member of Parliament is able to do something on his own, if he gets the opportunity.
I rise only for a minute or two because I understand that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsboroagh (Captain Crookshank) regretted that I was not in my place when the discussion began. I can assure him that it was through no discourtesy to the House, and that my absence was simply due to a physical incapacity which prevented me from being present. As Chairman of the Select Committee, I am only concerned with the recommendations of that Committee, and I have no intention of entering into controversy between one side of the House and the other. Some of us may think that Private Members' time should be restored, while others take a different view, but the recommendation unanimously submitted by the Committee was that the Government should "as soon as possible" restore Private Members' time. The words "as soon as possible" seem to me to be important. I take it that, when we passed that recommendation, we realised that the only people likely to be able to say when "as soon as possible" could be determined were the Government themselves. We are new living in a time when the Government of the day are not passing one or two important Measures in a Session, but a great galaxy of Measures, and, if they consider that these Measures are well worth passing, it is up to the Government to deter mine whether they can restore Private Members' time on the present occasionI feel that it would be altogether wrong that anyone should come to the conclusion that the Select Committee recommended the Amendment submitted by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough. There was only one definite recommendation, and that was that the introduction of a Bill under the Ten-minute Rule should be restored. I heard the latter part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), and I agree with what he said. The definite recommendation was that the Ten-minute Rule, as it is called, should he restored immediately. I think it is a pity that the Government have not accepted that recommendation. It would not have taken up very much time, and it would, of course, have enabled some hon. Members with some good ideas to propose Bills or Motions. I quite agree with the hon. Member who said that no one in this House should say a word against those who have in the past introduced Bills or Motions, and the hon. Member himself referred to two important Bills as proving that the time was rightly and profitably used. I could recite quite a number more from my long experience, including one with which the late Miss Ellen Wilkinson was associated. However, the only really definite recommendation made by the Committee was that concerning "as soon as possible." I say that I regret that the Government have not accepted that recommendation now, because it would not take up very much time and it would enable the House to hear and discuss the speeches made by hon. Members on the introduction of a Motion or Bill. The other points of the Select Committee's recommendations were dependent upon the Government restoring Private Members' time, and we ask that the Government when they come to restoring Private Members' time should take the other three points of our recommendation into consideration for allocating the days and the purposes for which those days are allocated. I think it is a good recommendation, and I hope that the Government, when it comes to the time for restoring Private Members' time, will give due consideration to that recommendation. The Government of the day may rest assured that hon. Members will always be ready to oppose them from one side or the other on the question of Private Members' time, because it is a valuable feature of Parliament from many points of view. As Chairman of the Select Committee it is my duty to make sure that the House realises what we did propose in our recommendations, and, in my estimation, the Committee meant that the Government should, "as soon as possible," restore Private Members' time. I, as Chairman, must submit to the conclusion of the Government that the time has not yet arrived for the restoration of this privilege, though I regret that decision. Our second proposition recommended that the Ten-minute Rule should be restored, and I regret that this has not been accepted. After all, when the House appoints a Select Committee, it appoints them to make recommendations, and they can make those recommendations either definite or somewhat indefinite. We did not say that Private Members' time should be restored immediately. We said "as soon as possible," and, in these circumstances, even as Chairman of the Select Committee, I feel that, in opposing the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough, I am not acting in any way contrary to the Committee's conclusions.
I feel certain that all hon. Members will welcome the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) whose knowledge of the House of Commons is very extensive, and whose experience of it covers a very long period. No one could possibly accuse him of being otherwise than a Member who has done a great deal to help to keep the position of Private Members high in this House.I have been greatly encouraged in the words I wish to say today by the wisdom, tact and helpfulness that fell, during the Lord President's absence, from the lips of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). The hon. Member for Ipswich, who has now departed—though not too far; I see he is just below the Bar—told us that it was necessary to become tough with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, or words to that effect. I will take that advice. Even though I cannot be tough, I can, at any rate, try to put my case in such a way that it is not too meek or mild. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was really very useful indeed. He said that the real trouble with the House of Commons was that Back Bench Members did not use to the full their opportunities for intervention. I can assure him and the Lord President of the Council that I will remember that advice, and will try to see if I cannot get an opportunity from time to time. I feel sure that I shall be helped from every quarter in occasionally trying to make myself heard in this House. I hope that the Lord President will be rather less brutal, cruel and really un-British than he has been in the last few years in the abominable use of the Closure. I put that as a preliminary so that I may not always be prevented from speaking my mind. What really are the suggestions that have, so far, come up in this Debate? Let us look at the Ten-minute Rule. To my mind, if we had the Ten-minute Rule one day a week, it would be far more advantageous than having half an hour at the end of the day on all four or five days of the week for the purpose of raising a grievance. Under the Ten-minute Rule, both sides can put their points immediately after Question Time, when a grievance would receive publicity. If the public outside think it is a good idea, they can then do what is right, and put pressure on hon. Members to insist that the Government give Bills proper consideration
Is not the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) considering two entirely different points?
The advantages of a Private Member's Bill are many. It may be a Bill on which there is a strong difference of opinion on both sides of the House, and it enables hon. Members, of whatever party, to put forward a Bill and to get it discussed, whereas, otherwise, it would not be discussed, because neither all the Government nor all the Opposition are at one on the subject. There would always be a minority in a Government against a Bill dealing with a subject such as this marriage question. The Ten-minute Rule would enable a Bill to be printed and to appear on the Order Paper, and, if the House rose early, then there would be a chance of getting on with it. That is why I would prefer to have the Ten-minute Rule than almost anything else. If Private Members could get half an hour three days a week immediately after Question Time, instead of half an hour at the end of one day of the five days a week, they would make a very good bargain with the Gov-, ernment and it would help the Government in a great many ways to get rid of awkward questions. Nothing would induce me to accuse this Government of being either kind enough or wise enough to accept such a proposal.The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made another suggestion which I think is worth considering. After all, the Ten-minute Rule has been approved by the hon. Member for Newton, who spoke with great knowledge. He said it was really a pity that it could not be reintroduced. His main reason for saying that was, undoubtedly, because it comes quickly after Question Time. I see that idea hurts the Lord President. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne put forward another idea—and it is one which has been ventilated on a great many occasions—that, if a large number of hon. Members sign a Motion, time should be found to deal with it. Quite frankly, I feel that if such an innovation were accepted, is a sort of quid pro quo for Private Members' time, only one signature a year should be allowed, as, otherwise, we might have the abuse of 50 hon. Members saying that they want it on several occasions. If one hon. Member were allowed one vote a year, and if we had six or eight half days on a Motion on which there was feeling all over the House, I believe that such a Motion might do something to meet what is happening at the present moment. Such an arrangement would tend to produce a type of Motion which has really some feeling behind it in the country, and would be better than some of the Ballet results which we used to have under Private Members' time which, though excellent, were not of so much value as they would have been if put forward by individuals at the time. Having said those few things about the position in which we find ourselves today, there are one or two further points I wish to make. The first thing we should remember when considering Private Members' time, is that, when we are asking for it, we are not taking anything away from the Government. We are asking that Members of Parliament, who have been elected by their constituents to come here to represent them and to put forward their grievances, should have restored to them the time specially set aside for that purpose. That time has been stolen from their constituents and not from hon. Members by the Government of the day for their own purposes. We as hon. Members are nothing. We come and go, just like Ministers—sometimes here and sometimes there. I have been rather surprised at some of the faces I have seen here. I suppose it is coming back, and seeing them below the Gangway. But that is neither here nor there. Quite frankly, we are talking of the time which we use as if it were something belonging to the Government or ourselves. It is nothing of the sort; it is really the time we are able to have in this House for carrying on the affairs of our constituents. I fail to see how any hon. Member, no matter to what party he belongs, could say that the time which we have had for so long should be taken away from us at the behest of the Government of the day. The Government have their programme, and they have any amount of time in which to carry it forward. It is not our time but our constituents time which is being taken away. There must be hon. Members opposite as well as on this side of the House who have received indignant letters asking, "How long are you going on without having those hours which we thought we gave you when we elected you?" Today the initiative is with the Government and not with the Private Member; that is what is wrong. We want the initiative to be with the Private Member who very often is much closer than the Government to the people of the country. To whom are we asked to hand this time? To this Government who have made the most unexampled mess of our affairs, wasted our time, and which has less knowledge than any government in the history of our country. We are asked to give them more time in which to make a greater mess and to upset more trade and industry. It is a folly to give more time to this of all governments—this Government which has squandered its time and opportunity. One only has to look at affairs outside and read Government speeches which are always telling us what a mess we are in. The Government are responsible. They said they would put us on our feet. They have. They have made us walk and have taken away our means of getting about in any other way. Let me give one illustration. Yesterday we had a speech from the Prime Minister—the Leader of the Government, and the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence—who told us quite clearly that he had not got the haziest idea of the position of the Home Fleet. It is a monstrous suggestion that such people should have the time which is taken away from Private Members. I see the Lord President smiling. That reminds me that he made a speech on this subject earlier in the day. He said that he had read Erskine May up to page 200, I think. [An HON. MEMBER: "Page 284."] Well, whatever the page was, I suppose he has read about one-third of Erskine May. I think he was very wise to begin to read Erskine May. What he has read so far may be very nice for him and may fit into the picture today, but he may find it more useful to know Erskine May backwards and forwards. The Government are a sad lot. It is hurtful to my kindly feelings that I should have to say such things about them, but we were urged to do so by those who have spoken earlier from the other side. If we do hand over this time, what are the Government going to do with it? The Lord President did not tell us much about that. Of course, there are the contents of the King's Speech, and there is legislation. But a great deal of that legislation could be brought forward by Private Members. Indeed, it could probably be done much better by Private Members, and we might get on much faster. It is in the King's Speech alone that we can judge why they want this time. According to them, they have a programme, but much of it we could deal with quite easily in Private Members' time. The Government do not seem to know whether they want us to work together as a nation or whether they want us to be controversial. I have tried to be controversial sometimes, and not so controversial at other times, but surely in this programme of their's a large amount of the legislation is not controversial. Some of it is highly controversial, of course, and could be thrown overboard without doing any harm to anyone, but the rest of it could be passed quite easily. That brings me to the third point which this House should consider very seriously. This Parliament having been in existence for two years, with a great number of new Members on both sides with little or no chance of having this time given to them, might it not be an advantage to the Government if some of those new Members occasionally had a chance of putting forward and supporting Private Members' Bills? It might help the Government to find someone who was really good at putting forward his views. It might, on the other hand, give a chance to some of those square pegs or round pegs who are no longer in holes, to come back again. They might prove themselves to be really efficient. Then again, there is the chance which would be afforded to the Opposition. There are two or three smaller Oppositions below the Gangway. Is it not right that one or two of those hon. Members—Members of the smaller Liberal Party, for example—in view of the great revival with which they are threatening us, should once or twice in a Session have the power to show whether they are capable of making any difference between a Second Reading speech and a Committee point? Is not that an argument which might pursuade the Lord President, out of the kindness of his heart, to give some opportunity to these smaller parties to bring forward legislation? I would like to emphasise two points. In this Parliament there has been a remarkable devotion to duty by the ordinary Member under very great difficulties, and he should have much greater consideration than he has had from the Government during the past two years. Hon. Members opposite came into power flushed with a new programme, and they naturally wanted to see it put into force. But is it not right that that part of Parliament which is of such great value—the independence of thought of the ordinary Member—should have the chance for which we are asking today? I do not expect the Government to give us back our Fridays and Wednesdays, but surely they might have sufficient human kindness, thoughtfulness and judgment to give us back the Ten-minute Rule and the occasional day in which we can have a discussion on points put forward not by an official body but by a Private Member—points which cut right across party feelings. Those are the matters to which I think the Government might very well give some consideration. They have not come from only one side of the House. The Ten-minute Rule has been mentioned in two speeches from hon. Members opposite, and there is also the powerful plea which was made by a former Chairman of Committees. In the circumstances, this Debate is no longer merely an academic discussion between a Government and an Opposition as to whether or not this time should be given. The point is that the Government, having taken the full time for over two years, should make some concessions to Private Members and should restore that right to Members of this House as representatives of the electors of Great Britain.
I rise to speak as a comparatively new Member of this House. I have never had the blessings of enjoying Private Members' time, so that I am not familiar with what those blessings are. It has appeared to me, however, long before I entered Parliament, and since I have been a Member, that one of the common complaints for many years has been the chronic congestion of Parliamentary Business. We were told this afternoon by the Lord President that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made this complaint in 1911. Today the Lord President makes the same complaint. It seems that so long as this is the state of affairs in the House, any Government of any complexion can make the same demand as has been made upon us today.What I suggest is that, rather than suppress the rights of individual Members, it would appear that there is a duty upon the Government to discover ways by which this congestion can be eased. It can be eased by arranging that functions which are at present performed on the Floor of the House are performed elsewhere. I suggest to the Lord President that he should give very serious consideration to the recommendations made by a great Socialist, a great Scotsman and a former Secretary of State for Scotland, in the Gilmour Report of 1937. In that Report recommendations were made whereby the Scottish Grand Committee could have its functions extended. [Interruption.] Did I hear somebody say "Oh"? That is one of the things to which we who represent Scotland object—that attitude of mild tolerance. These suggestions were made seriously by somebody who, at least, had some knowledge of the feelings of Scottish Members and of the practice of this House, we suggested that the function of the Scottish Grand Committee should be extended. I do not want to go into the details of the manner in which he suggested the extension; but the point relevant to this Debate is that the recommendation was made by him and one of the reasons given was to relieve the congestion of Business, and to give more free time on the Floor of this House for Business pertaining to the United Kingdom. I want to suggest that the Lord President gives these recommendations the fullest consideration. I am confident that English Members, who consider Scottish days as being holidays, would support them, that Scottish Members would also support them, and that the people of Scotland would certainly consider them worth while. We should also achieve what we are trying to achieve now—the gaining of more time on the Floor of the House. I suggest, therefore, that the Lord President give this matter serious consideration.
I naturally am not going to follow the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) on the question of what might be done about the handling of Scottish business. It is, I think, significant, and cannot escape the notice of the Government, that this year, on this occasion, no Member has yet risen to give his whole-hearted support to the suggestion that all Private Members' time should be taken away. I remember very well in 1945, when this Parliament first met. those of us who pleaded for more Private Members' time were described as obstructionists. Last year there were some mild murmurs from the benches opposite. This year hon. Members have been far more vocal in their demand that there should be some concession in this matter. I am myself in agreement with the views put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He did not agree with me when I intervened to suggest the best way to achieve what he had in view. He suggested, first, that we should have restored to us the facilities of the Ten-minute Rule, and secondly, that there should be an allocation of Fridays on which Private Members' Business could be taken. I want to suggest to the Government, particularly to the Home Secretary, if he is to reply, that here are grounds for a very reasonable compromise on this matter between all sections of the House.This Debate, after all, has not been a Debate between the Government and the Opposition. It has been a Debate between Private Members and the Executive. It has so proceeded since it was initiated by the Lord President. The right hon. Gentleman has been many years in this House, many of them, I think, on the back benches. I rather suspect that he would say that we do not get anywhere with the Ten-minute Rule, and that all that we have is an opportunity at the end of Questions for a Member to get up to make a short speech in 10 minutes, and for someone who disagrees with him to make another short speech; that then the House goes to a Division, that that is the end of the matter, and that the Bill is printed, but no further progress made with it. I want to suggest to the House, and particularly to hon. Members who are with us for the first time in this Parliament, that there we have a most valuable instrument for the airing of matters. I remember very well a Private Bill of my own which made no progress, but which did have certain consequences. I remember its being printed; and in consequence of its being printed, correspondence started in the newspapers, and local bodies of one kind and another began to discuss it, and the main object of the Bill was, in fact, achieved and the matter was put right through the pressure of public opinion, without the Bill going through the House at all. I want to suggest that that is one rather important function of the House of Commons. A matter can be aired, and if public opinion is sufficiently strong something may be done about it. The matter may be quite a minor one. My Bill was about a minor matter. If public opinion is sufficiently strong the complaint, whatever it may be, is removed because there is a possibility of legislation in this House to deal with it. That not only achieves the objective of the Private Member but, incidentally, saves the time of the Government and of the House of Commons and of all concerned. The same applies to what we used to call the Friday Bills. The Home Secretary will remember many occasions when such Bills got a Second Reading but, owing to lack of time, the congestion upstairs in Standing Committees, or for one reason or another, never got through, never got to the Third Reading stage. None the less, they did have an impact on public opinion which was of the greatest value in airing a particular grievance and getting it put right. I believe that to be an argument which, in the third year of any Parliament, is of considerable weight. His Majesty's Government for the first two Sessions were engaged in the full flood of their Election manifesto. The further the Government get away from their mandate, the more they lose touch with the electorate. No clearer evidence of that can be shown than their fiddling with the House of Lords. Their fiddling with the House of Lords is an instance of how they are getting away from their mandate. Now we shall pass legislation with which public opinion is more likely to disagree than any of the past two years. I do suggest that the third Session is the time to give Private Members some kind of concession. Few of us hope to be as fortunate as my hon. Friend the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) in passing some great Measure such as his Matrimonial Causes Act. No Government would have touched a Bill of that kind, with all the cross currents that there were running across the House about it. One would, however, have the opportunity of putting forward matters which certainly would not be initiated by the Government, and are unlikely to be initiated by the Opposition when the occupants of the Front Benches change places. If the Government have listened to the Debate—as I know they have—in which there is almost unanimous agreement about what ought to be a concession, I do hope that they will give it us. The hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young), who for many years was Chairman of Ways and Means, and who has great knowledge of the subject, lent his support to the idea of the restoration of the concession. I was not clear whether he lent his support to the allocation of Fridays; but this is a perfectly honourable solution, I suggest, and an honourable compromise. I hope the Government are not going to ring the bell and fetch in the big battalions who have not heard the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary having just come in made me fear that we were about to have the first closure of the Session. I hope that is not coming yet. The Home Secretary has been a regular attender at our late night sittings. He is generally here. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should translate himself in imagination for a moment to the back benches he once adorned? Whether he were sitting here or behind the Government, I think I know the kind of speech he would make. He would say that the Government have an important programme and that we cannot expect them to surrender all Private Members' time; but I think he would say—as I am hoping he will say, so that we can get on with other Business—that the Government should restore the Ten-minute Rule as a token that the right of Private Members is still accepted, and will not be overridden, and that they should take Mondays and Fridays up to Easter—it has been done before now—and then look at the matter again at Easter. Then, if they still think Private Members' time is necessary, they can bring in another Motion, instead of saying here and now that they are seizing all the time of Private Members until July. That is a long time to look ahead. His Majesty's Government may not be here in July. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne knows better than anyone else the vanity of human wishes in the House of Commons as anywhere else. It is a long time from now until the end of July. I suggest that at Easter the matter should be reconsidered in the light of the progress of the Government's programme. By agreeing to this the Government would show that they are in earnest in wishing to preserve the rights of Private Members. If they take the decision now to take away Private Members' time, and steamroller us despite all that has been said today, we can regard it only as further evidence of their determination to proceed along the totalitarian road.
The eloquent and impassioned speech of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) to which we listened with such rapt attention would have been more impressive, were there any single subject under the sun on which he as a Private Member had not found it possible to speak remorselessly, relentlessly and loquaciously in the Session concluded on Monday. I have only one reason for intervening today, and that is to ask a question, although I would preface it with one observation—that I agree with so much of what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Holder-ness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) that I should like to say "ditto." I am quite sure that there is no Member on these Benches who views this proposal of the Government with complete and unalloyed pleasure. We should like to see time given back to Private Members, but it is our duty to support the Government when they say they have need of it for public Business. I have myself an important Bill for the amendment of long leaseholds and the reform of leaseholds and to give the right of enfranchisement to the lessees. It has had a certain amount of discussion. The Gracious Speech told us only of major Measures. I wonder if the Home Secretary is in a position now to tell me whether the Government do intend to introduce a Measure of leasehold reform? It would make it very much easier for me to forgo the rights I should otherwise want to retain to introduce a Measure myself.
This has been a most remarkable Debate because there has not been one speaker on either side of the House who has supported the Lord President of the Council. Even the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) was very interested in a private Measure, and illustrated the necessity for the measure of concession for which we are pressing. He happened to be concerned with one particular Bill—although I believe that because of the rapidity with which he speaks he would have an unfair advantage under the Ten-minute Rule, for the hon. Gentleman would get two Bills through in that time. I want just for a moment to consider what has been said in all quarters of the House on this matter. Not one voice in support of the Leader of the House has been heard.There is a misunderstanding both by the Leader of the House and one or two other Members in regarding this as an issue between the Government and the Opposition. It is not that at all. It is an issue between Members of the House and the Executive, and Members of the House of Commons are endeavouring to discharge their true function of keeping proper control of the Executive. Of the speeches from the other side I remember in particular the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) who endeavoured to persuade the House that he did not often speak himself and had spoken only twice this year. I know that when we start each Session we deal with a Bill which refers to persons representing two seats at once. I can only say that it seems that we have the reverse situation existing at Ipswich, which, obviously, has two Members who closely resemble each other. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) presented us with a more serious situation, because he said that he would vote against this Amendment. He endeavoured to persuade hon. Members opposite that they would be wrong to support the Amendment, and he put forward a specious argument which might well mislead hon. Members as to the true position if it were not answered. What the hon. Member said was that no one who was honest, conscientious and had a sense of responsibility could support this Amendment. I am fully alive to the fact that the hon. Member and myself may have very different ideas on what is honest, and conscientious, and what is a sense of responsibility, but I can tell him that according to my standards I have no hesitation in supporting this Amendment. The hon. Member fell back on the old technique of putting up an argument with which we are not concerned and then destroying it. The hon. Member said that we could not possibly go back to the old system which existed before the war, and then proceeded to destroy the case for going back to the old system. No one has suggested that we should go back to Wednesdays and Fridays. Various suggestions have been made, but it is not for us to decide what the procedure shall be; it is for the Government whose supporters in the majority have urged them to put up a scheme for Private Members' time.
Perhaps the hon. and learned Member will give way, if only to enable me to make it clear that I had no intention of questioning the good faith of any Member, whichever way he voted. My argument about consciousness and re- sponsibility depended in my view on the fact that if this Amendment were passed the effect would be to restore the old position, and that every Wednesday and Friday, up to Easter at any rate, would be lost to the Government. All I said was that no responsible Member of this House would support that.
I had not intended to give the hon. Member an opportunity to make a second speech when I gave way.
I thought I would make it all the same.
The hon. Member occupied the time of the House for a considerable time while I was waiting to make a speech. I hope that I may now conclude what I have to say. Perhaps I may reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne by pointing out that I had already answered his point before he made that interjection. The point is that we cannot bring in some new arrangement in regard to Private Members' time without first getting rid of the Government's request to occupy all the time. We want to arrive at some new arrangement to provide Private Members' time, and the first step towards that must be to prevent the Government having all the time. Clearly, if the Government have it all there is no time for Private Members. After all, the Motion before the House is a Government Motion to take up all the time. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), by his Amendment, asks that the Government should not have all the time. He says it is not our business to arrange the time of the House, but let us discuss how we can come to some arrangement whereby there can be some Private Members' time.The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has put forward a purely specious argument. We are dealing with the question of whether we are to have Private Members' time or not. That is the sole issue, and I hope hon. Members in all parts of the House will concentrate on that, voting for or against this Amendment according to whether they agree with Private Members' time or not. Hon. Members who have spoken appear to agree, and I hope therefore that everyone who has done so will have the courage to give expression to his view in the Lobby. Hon. Members have only themselves to blame if they vote against this Amend- ment and then, in due course when they go back to their constituencies, if they are asked why they have not dealt with this or that which they were requested to attend to, they have to say, "I made it impossible for myself to do so, because I voted against Private Members' time."
I wish to add my plea to the Government to give some measure of Private Members' time. I am quite sure that if we had many more Members in this House who had had experience of the days when there was Private Members' time—I do not mean to be offensive in saying that—the pressure on the Government would be very severe indeed. I am sure that all Members who, like myself, have been Members for some years will support me when I say that Wednesdays and Fridays were very valuable. I sometimes think that we shall not maintain the very essence of democracy unless we safeguard the freedom of individual Members of Parliament.It is very rarely that I find myself differing from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) but I do not accept his argument that there are plenty of opportunities for Members to show their courage and independence. There are not plenty of opportunities. Let us be perfectly frank about this. We are tied to our party. We, behind the Government, on any particular issue not only have to give consideration to its merits or demerits, but cannot vote independently of the fact that we are voting either for or against the Government. In the overwhelming majority of cases, consideration has to be given to whether or not the life of the Government is affected, in addition to the merits or demerits of the measure we are debating and voting upon. Only under conditions where a Private Member brings in a Bill is that position removed, because the fate of the Government is not involved. Over and over again, because the Government was not involved, I have seen Members independent, and bold enough to walk into a particular Lobby against the advice of the Government. I do not wish to impute motives to the Leader of the House, but Private Members' Motions and Private Members' Bills do create awkward situations for the Government of the day. Many times a Government is put in a very awkward corner, because it so happens that the majority of the House, quite independent of party, wants a particular Measure. I am wondering if that is not part of the reason why we have not had the Government meeting us in some measure as far as Private Members' time is concerned. I have heard it said today, and before, that many of those Debates were academic. I can remember Debates on Private Members' Bills. How many times, when we were in Opposition, did we, Friday after Friday, year after year, bring forward a Bill to nationalise the mines? That first Bill was a poor, reedy, thing, because of inadequate experience, but subsequent Bills were better and better and, what is more important, they educated public opinion outside. One of the functions of this House is not only to criticise the Government, to put a check on the Government, to bring forward legislation, but is to be the leader of public opinion in many respects, to show the way. The mass of our people usually want to be shown the better way. I worked in the pits for some years, and I can remember the antagonism of the miners towards pit-head baths. Miners were afraid to wash their backs more than once a week in case they caught a chill. The miners of those times were fearful of, and prejudiced against, pit-head baths. I use that illustration to drive home the point that we in this House have the function of educating the people as well as responding to the demands made upon us. There is no better way of doing this in a democracy than by the Private Members' time which we used to have on Wednesdays. Those Wednesdays were very valuable in a broad general sense, and they also provided opportunities for men now sitting on the Government Front Bench. I remember that the present Minister of Education did not make his mark so much in legislation about education, because there was not much chance, but he spoke eloquently and powerfully on Motions which came up about education from time to time.
The Home Secretary.
No, I mean the present Minister of Education. Do not stop me. I remember my right hon. Friend taking part, time and time again, in Debates on education. I beg the Government to be more flexible in this matter, to meet us in some way or other. It is essential for the life, health, and well-being of this institution, and democracy itself, that there should be some restoration of Private Members' time.
It is seldom that I find myself in agreement with anything which the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) says, and therefore it gives me real pleasure now to say that I agree with every word he has just said. This Debate has run for some three hours, and if the Government spokesman had shown the same House of Commons sense of realism as the hon. Member for Aberavon has done, I feel sure that the Home Secretary, when he comes to reply, would have been in a position to make a valuable concession. I would like to associate myself with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who paid a tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) who, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, spoke with a great sense of responsibility. The hon. Member for Newton has been a Member of this House for many years, and once had the honour of sitting where you are now sitting, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member knows the importance of Private Members' time to the ordinary back bencher in this House, no matter where he happens to sit. He rather damned the Government with faint praise, and said that it was with great regret and several mental reservations—he did not actually say this, but it was easy to see from his embarrassment that it was what he meant—that he would support them in the Division Lobby. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman said he would do that, because he is a man who has had long experience in the Chair.This will be the tenth consecutive Session in which Private Members' time has been taken away. We are in serious danger of reaching a state of affairs where, if things go on like this, Private Members' time will fall into desuetude altogether. We are getting near the danger line; the red light is burning very brightly and vividly in this direction, and in many others which it would be out of Order to mention. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who is a very good House of Commons man in many respects, has said that he remembers only one Session—and he has been here 10 or 11 years—when he was able to take the opportunity, as a Private Member, of participating in the valuable advantages which Private Members, in the old days, used to enjoy. We were given all the Wednesdays up to Easter in an average Session, and all the Fridays up to the Whitsuntide Recess; 30 days of the ordinary Parliamentary Session were given over entirely to discussion by Private Members. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon, if he will allow me to call him my hon. Friend, that the discussions and legislation proposed by Private Members were very valuable. He said that very often the legislation which was introduced by a Private Member dealt with a controversial subject. Every Member who has had experience of the old days will agree with that. That was notably the case with regard to the Matrimonial Causes Act, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert). Our post-bags, at that time, were filled with pleas from people as to how they desired us to speak and vote in regard to that legislation. It would be ridiculous for the Home Secretary to maintain that the legislation proposed in those days was not followed with the deepest interest in the country. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that it was. I am sorry that we have not had more speeches from hon. Members on the other side. I do not want to approach this matter in the spirit of Government and Opposition, and I wish that we had more Members on the Government side urging on the Government the necessity of making some kind of concession on this all-important matter. I am loath to agree, but I must agree, that perhaps it would be undesirable to restore the whole of the time. In present conditions that would probably be impracticable and even undesirable, but I think that we should have some concession, and that the Home Secretary, when he replies, should be in a position to say that he is prepared to make a concession. This is a one-sided Parliament, and it is something like the Parliament in which I first had the honour of sitting in 1931. On that occasion there were only some 52 Members in Opposition. The Home Secretary had not the advantage of sitting in that Parliament because he had suffered electoral defeat, but the new Minister for Economic Affairs will well remember the difficulties which he had as one of the leading Members of that small Opposition. Only twice in that Parliament was it found necessary to take Private Members' time, and that was owing to the great pressure of legislation necessitated by the fiscal change-over in 1931–32 and in the last Session in the autumn of 1934 when the Government of India Bill was subject to a very searching investigation in this House. There are many Members in the present House who may never sit in another Parliament and if they are not able to gain some kind of concession from their own Home Secretary this afternoon, they will go from this House for ever, when the Dissolution takes place, without having sampled the benefits and' experiences which must come from Private Members' time. I hope that the Home Secretary, having heard the views of the House in all quarters, will say on behalf of the Government that he is prepared to yield not only to the pleas of Opposition Members but to the real temper of the whole House, and to give us some restoration of the liberties which we feel we have had for too long taken away from us.
I will not keep the Home Secretary too long from his task, but I would like to point out one thing to the House. There are a good many new Members, and one thing which sticks in my memory more than anything else since I first came here in 1931, is the value set on Private Members' time in this House by men now sitting on the Government Front Bench. The Government are now asking the Private Members of this House to give up their private time. I would ask the Government to consider the way in which the Debate has gone this afternoon. Every Member who has spoken and every supporter of the Government who has spoken on this matter today has taken the Private Members' view. There is no one to my knowledge who has put forward any party view at all on this matter. I have risen to ask a question of the Home Secretary and when he replies, I hope that he will answer it. There have been many times in days gone by when I have asked questions and have been ignored. I ask the Home Secretary seriously to consider this question: Will he persuade his colleague the Lord President when this matter comes up for revision, if no concession is made now, to see that the Whips are not put on, so that his own followers for once, at any rate, may have the chance of expressing by their vote their own private opinion?
I am somewhat embarrassed by the tributes paid to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braith-waite) and the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) in alluding to the years I spent on the back benches. I have some recollection of those days. So long ago as 1929 to 1931 when one Member of my own Font Bench came into the House On a Friday, he said, "I was not quite sure what day of the week it was until I heard you speaking." It might almost have been true of the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough in those days, because if there was a Bill that his side did not like, he generally put in a few minutes—at least it only seemed a few minutes if one did not judge them by the clock because of the way in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has of dealing with a serious subject in the House—in the hope that he would reach four o'clock before the Question was put. I recollect talking out a Bill introduced by Sir Dennis Herbert, and he never bore it against me when afterwards he resumed his seat as Chairman of Ways and Means.Do not let us be under any misapprehension about one important thing that has happened today. No one has asked that we should go back to what used to be the case, and would still be the case, if the Standing Orders are not suspended in this matter. It is true that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not make his own attitude in regard to that point absolutely clear until the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but he did then seem to be agreeing that some alterations were necessary. I think we can say that, at any rate, this Debate marks the end of the old system by which so large a part of the most valuable section of the Session was given to Private Members, and that any arrangements that may be made in the future will be on a new basis. In considering that new basis the House will have the advantage of considering the Report that has been made by the Select Committee on Procedure to which reference has been made by both sides of the House. So far as the hon. Members who have been elected to support the Government are concerned, I think that they have a very easy task in front of them in deciding the attitude they should adopt. When we finish this Debate we shall resume the Debate on the Gracious Speech from the Throne; in that are set out the Measures which the Government regard as essential for the proper government of the country during the period of this present Session. I have not heard any suggestion from this side of the House that any single Measure in that Speech is unnecessary or undesirable. The Government, after most carefully calculating the time available, believe that in order to get that volume of legislation through, they will require the whole of the time of the House. It is true that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) has a little Bill of his own and he asked me if that was on the Government programme among the Bills that are described as "if and when" Bills. May I say that in itself the Measure is not uncontroversial? I could see it arousing some considerable interest on both sides of the House, but let me say this to him, if he can give us an assurance that the people on the other side of the House interested in the matter will co-operate and that the Bill will go through "on the nod" in all its stages, then it is one of the Measures we shall see will be included.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the last sentence but not for the first, because I cannot imagine any Measure with which I am associated going through as a Measure agreed by both sides of the House. I do not think it is possible to expect that, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will try to meet me
In these matters it is a question of priority, and I could not ask my colleagues in the Cabinet or my right hon. and hon. Friends on the back benches here to regard the important Measure to which the hon. Member has alluded as having priority over Measures we have felt it necessary to include in the King's Speech.
What a pity.
Do give me time to come to them all. The hon. Burgess for Oxford University—[An HON. MEMBER: "Senior Burgess."] There was a Debate yesterday as to whether the hon. Gentleman was senior or junior Burgess or whether anyone could be senior or junior once he became a Burgess. The hon. Burgess for Oxford University who spoke in this Debate—that I hope will distinguish him from his colleague in the representation of the University—produced a Bill from his pocket which he said was on betting, and as a native of Epsom I realised the importance of betting even before I became Home Secretary. Again, I cannot suggest to my colleagues that that Bill in the present circumstances of the country, carefully as it has been linked up with those circumstances, is one that they should regard as having priority over Measures that are included in the Speech.I hope the hon. Burgess will not object to my alluding to the Divorce Reform Bill, of which he is often said to be the author. Unless my memory serves me wrongly, he did not, in fact, present it to the House. I believe it was the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) who introduced the Bill to the House. I want new Members to understand the position because it illustrates one of the points that have been made, that these Bills are sometimes not really the creation of the Member who introduces them. A Member who had a Bill to introduce would get a little group together and they would agree that if one of them came fairly high in the Ballot that Member would introduce the Bill. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it, but great point has been made today, especially at moments when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has not been here, that as there are so many new Members in the House they do not understand the way the thing works. In case that might be true I was just trying to explain exactly what did happen in the past, and I do not think I have said anything so far which is inaccurate.
With reference to the new Members, I myself was merely referring to the lack of knowledge as to this Private Members' Bills business. As far as I am concerned, it is a matter of experience and nothing else.
That was precisely why I was mentioning the case. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said that he was very unlucky in the Ballot, and inasmuch as I cannot conceive of any other way of dealing with this matter ultimately than by a ballot I cannot see why he should expect, if he has been unlucky in the past, that his luck should turn under some new rule. The whole of this matter of Private Members' business was a matter of luck in the Ballot except for the Ten-minute Rule Bill.
I was not suggesting that we should go back to that.
With regard to the Ten-minute Rule, let us again realise exactly what happened. The Ten-minute Rule applied to the First Reading of a Bills An hon. Member would say that he had certain ideas but he thought they would be better in legislative form. He explained his Bill and he hinted it would be very interesting to read. If an hon. Member were in any doubt about the Bill, at any rate he could vote for it, and then he would have a chance of reading it. I am quite sure that hon. Members here have often heard that argument used, perhaps jocularly, on more than one occasion by Members promoting Bills under the Ten-minute Rule. There is something to be said for seeing a Bill before you vote against it. After that a Member's chance with a Bill depended on no one saying "I object" after eleven o'clock at night. The Member would then put the Bill down for Second Reading for some night and he would sit on the back bench hoping that anybody who was interested would not vote against the Bill or the Government of the day, irrespective of party, which did not want to get the Committees clogged up with Bills, would allow the Bill to go through. Anybody saying, "I object" would kill the Second Reading for that night. The Member then put it down for another night. I am speaking entirely from memory, but I can remember only one Bill under the Ten-minute Rule which ever got through and that Bill was introduced by Sir Herbert Williams to deal with a legal difficulty that arose over electricity meters, and in that case there was strong feeling on both sides of the House.
I also am speaking from memory, and I would not like to be dogmatic about it, but was not a Bill of Miss Horsbrugh's about adoption which became a Statute passed under this Rule?
I thank the hon. Member, for I had forgotten that Bill. That did go through.
I believe that there have been other cases. I introduced a Bill in 1936. I asked leave to introduce it on 30th June and I went into the other place to hear it receive the Royal Assent on 30th July. It would be a simple thing to let the House have that time back.
If anything that illustrates the point I was making, that unless it was a Bill that commanded general assent the Ten-minute Rule procedure was not a very effective measure of doing more than getting a short speech made in support and then a short speech against it. I understand that the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who spoke while I was having tea—it is no novelty to listen to the hon. Gentleman, so I hope he will not think I was discourteous in going out—said that he would prefer the Ten-minute Rule to be restored rather than to have the half hour on the Adjournment. I am not suggesting that they should ever be regarded as alternatives.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but what I tried to say was that I would rather have the Ten-minute Rule one day in the week for certain, and have the half hour at the end of the day upon three days a week instead of upon five days a week. That was my suggestion.
I am sorry if I have misstated what the hon. Gentleman said. He will realise that I was speaking from a report of what he said. I want to suggest to the House that when the time comes for consideration of the report of the Select Committee with regard to the restoration of the Ten-minute Rule procedure, the Debate that we have had today and the preferences expressed for the restoration of that procedure, will undoubtedly weigh with those who have to take part in the discussion.
May I ask what the right hon. Gentleman means by "when the time comes"? Does that mean that the Government propose to allocate a day or so for the discussion of that report?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that the time of the House is not allocated by me; but it is clear that a report of that importance will remain as a standing record of the views of not inexperienced Members of this House on the best way that the time can be allocated. I have no doubt that at some time or other the report will have to be debated, and the recommendations that have been made, to which I understand that in some instances the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a consenting party, will then receive due weight in all quarters of the House.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Select Committee, when it was considering the matter, taking evidence and deciding what recommendations it would make, had regard to the conditions then obtaining, and that the report and recommendations were made in June or July, 1946, that is to say, towards the end of the Session immediately preceding the last? If, when my right hon. Friend says "when the time comes to consider that report" he is thinking of the early future, I have no complaint to make whatever. If he is thinking of an indefinite or remote future, I should think that the recommendations might be out of date by that time.
The suggestion of my hon. Friend will, I have no doubt, be borne in mind whenever the Debate takes place. The Government have placed before the House a programme that they hope to get through in the present Session. I have said earlier that I have not heard any hon. or right hon. Friend of mine make any suggestion that the programme is too big, that any of it is inopportune, or that the time of the House could be better spent than with the Measures proposed in the King's Speech. I share the view that was expressed, I think by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman when he quoted from the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) with regard to the important function of Parliament. I share the view, which I believe is the correct, historic, constitutional one, that the first function of the House of Commons is to act as a check upon the Executive and that legislation is a secondary function.I have never known any Government seriously perturbed by a Division that went against them in Private Members' time. I introduced a Private Members' Bill, which Miss Susan Lawrence, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, violently opposed. We had three Divisions before we could get that Bill on that Friday afternoon. When we went to a Division on it I managed to carry the Bill against the Government, but so far as I know that fact made no difference to the Government. I regret to say that not sufficient time was found for the Bill to go any further. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was it?"] It was a Bill for the admission of the Press to meetings of local authorities. I regarded it as very useful and the majority of the House favoured it upon the Second Reading; but it got no further. In the important task of providing a check upon the Government, Private Members' time has never been of any value. It has, on occasion, been of value in enabling people to bring forward questions that would otherwise have been shelved. In that respect it has had its value in the past. One of the objections of hon. Members opposite to the present Government is not, as I understand it, that we do too little, but that we attempt to do too much, in the way of legislation. We cannot be expected to share that view. We have most carefully con-
Division No. 1.]
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Bramall, E. A.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Alpass, J. H||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Deer, G.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Brown, T. J, (Ince)||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Diamond, J.|
|Attewell, H C.||Buchanan, G.||Dobbie, W.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Burden, T. W.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Donovan, T.|
|Ayles, W. H||Chamberlain, R. A||Dumpleton, C. W.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Chater, D.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Dye, S.|
|Balfour, A.||Cluse, W. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Cobb, F. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Barton, C.||Cocks, F. S.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Battley, J. R.||Coldrick, W.||Evans, A. (Islington, W.)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Collindridge, F.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Benson, G.||Collins, V. J.||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Berry, H.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Ewart, R.|
|Beswick, F.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Farthing, W. J|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Corlett, Dr J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Corvedale, Viscount||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Fool, M. M.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Daggar, G.||Forman, J. C.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Daines, P.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Gallacher, W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Ganley, Mrs C. S|
sidered the programme for the coming Session and I say, personally, with some regret, that we have come to the conclusion which the Prime Minister announced yesterday that, in view of the legislation which must be obtained during the coming Session, it is not possible during this Session to do other than to ask the House to agree to the forfeiture of Private Members' time.
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."I do so in order that His Majesty's Government may have more time to consider their attitude and that Private Members who are interested in this matter might have more time to consider Amendments that were put in this morning——
The hon. Member has already spoken and has therefore exhausted his right to speak. He cannot address the House.
Surely, Sir, I can move a dilatory Motion.
The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak.
I would like to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
The House divided: Ayes, 263; Noes, 165.
|Gibson, C. W||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham,|
|Gilzean, A||Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)||Smith, S. H (Hull, S W)|
|Glanville, J E (Consett)||Marquand, H A||Snow, Capt J W|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C||Medland, H M||Soskice, Maj Sir F|
|Grenfell, D. R||Mellish, R. J.||Sparks, J A|
|Grey, C F||Middleton, Mrs L||Stamford, W|
|Grierson, E||Millington, Wing-Comdr E R||Steele, T|
|Griffiths, D (Rother Valley)||Mitchison, G. R||Stephen, C|
|Griffiths, Rt Hon J. (Llanelly)||Monslow, W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Griffiths, W D. (Moss Side)||Morgan, Dr. H B||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gunter, R. J.||Morley, R||Stross, Dr B|
|Guy, W. H||Morris, P (Swansea, W.)||Stubbs, A E|
|Hale, Leslie||Morrison, Rt Hon H (Lewisham, E.)||Summerskill, Dr Edith|
|Hall, Rt Hon Genvil||Moyle, A.||Swingler, S|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Nally, W||Sylvester, G. O|
|Hardy, E A.||Naylor, T E.||Symonds, A. L|
|Haworth, I||Neal, H (Claycross)||Taylor, H. B (Mansfield)|
|Herbison, Miss M||Nichol, Mrs M E (Bradford, N)||Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)|
|Hicks, G||Nicholls, H R. (Stratford)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Holman, P||Oldfield, W. H||Thomas, D E (Aberdare)|
|Holmes, H E (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G H||Thomas, I O (Wrekin)|
|House, G||Orbach, M||Thomas, John R (Dover)|
|Hoy, J||Pagel, H T||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hubbard, T.||Palmer, A M F.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Hudson, J H. (Ealing, W)||Pargiter, G. A||Tiffany, S|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Parker, J||Timmons, J|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parkin, B I||Titterington, M. F.|
|Hughes, H D. (W'lverh'pton, W)||Pearson, A||Tolley, L.|
|Hutchinson, H L (Rusholme)||Pearl, T F||Tomlinson, Rt Hon. G|
|Hynd, H (Hackney, C.)||Perrins, W||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Hynd, J B (Attercliffe)||Piratin, P||Ungoed-Thomas L|
|Irvine, A. J (Liverpool)||Popplewell, E.||Viant, S P|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Walker, G H|
|Isaacs, Rt Hon G. A||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Wallace, G. D (Chistehurst)|
|Janner, B.||Proctor, W. T||Wallace, H W (Walthamstow E)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Pryde, D. J.||Warbey, W N|
|Jeger, G (Winchester)||Pursey, Cmdr H||Watkins, T E|
|Jeger, Dr S W (St. Pancras, S. E)||Randall, H. E.||Watson, W M|
|Jones, D T (Hartlepools)||Ranger, J||Webb, M (Bradford, C.)|
|Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)||Rankin, J||Wells, P L (Faversham)|
|Keenan, W||Rees-Williams, D R||Wells, W T (Walsall)|
|Kenyon, C||Reeves, J||West, D. G|
|Key, C. W||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Westwood, Rt Hon J.|
|Kinghorn, Sqn-Ldr. E||Robens, A||White, C F (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Kinley, J||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Whiteley, Rt Hon W|
|Kirkwood, D.||Robertson, J J (Berwick)||Wilkes, L|
|Lawson, Rt Hon. J J.||Rogers, G. H R||Wilkins, W A|
|Leslie, J R.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Willey, F T (Sunderland)|
|Lever, N H||Royle, C||Williams, D J (Neath)|
|Levy, B W||Scott-Elliot, W||Williams, J L (Kelvingrove)|
|Longden, F||Segal, Dr S.||Williams, W R (Heston)|
|McAdam, W||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williamson, T.|
|McEntee, V La T||Sharp, Granville||Willis, E|
|McGhee, H G||Shawcross, C. N (Widnes)||Wills, Mrs E. A|
|McGovern, J.||Shurmer, P.||Woodburn, A|
|Mack, J D.||Silverman, J (Erdington)||Wyatt, W.|
|McKinlay, A S.||Silverman, S S (Nelson)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Maclean, N (Govan)||Simmons, C J.||Zilliacus, K|
|Macpherson, T (Romford)||Skeffington, A M|
|Mainwaring, W. H||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Mallalieu, J. P W||Skinnard, F W||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Mr. Hannan.|
|Agnew, Cmdr P. G.||Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J G||Digby, S W|
|Allen, Lt.-Col Sir W. (Armagh)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Donner, Sqn -Ldr. P W|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R||Buchan-Hepburn, P G T||Drayson, G. B|
|Astor, Hon. M||Bullock, Capt. M||Duncan, Rt Hn Sir A (City of London)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Butcher, H W||Eden, Rt. Hon. A|
|Barlow, Sir J||Byers, Frank||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E L|
|Baxter, A B||Carson, E.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V H||Channon, H||Foster, J G (Northwich)|
|Beechman, N. A||Clifton-Brown, Lt -Col G||Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)|
|Bennett, Sir P||Cole, T L.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D P M|
|Birch, Nigel||Conant, Maj R. J E||Gage, C.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col D C. (Wells)||Cooper-Key, E. M||Galbraith, Cmdr T. D|
|Boothby, R||Corbett, Lieut-Col. U (Ludlo ||Gammans, L. D|
|Bossom, A C||Cove, W G.||Gates, Maj E E|
|Bowen, R.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H F. C||George, Lady M Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Bower, N.||Crowder, Capt. John E.||Glyn, Sir R|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Darling, Sir W Y||Grant, Lady|
|Bracken, Rt Hon. Brendan||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Granville. E (Eye)|
|Grimston, R. V||Maitland, Comdr. J. W||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Gruffydd, Prof. W. J||Manningham-Buller, R E||Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)|
|Harris, H. Wilson||Marlowe, A. A H||Sanderson, Sir F|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V||Marples, A. E.||Savory, Prof. D L|
|Haughton, S G.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Scott, Lord W|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Medlicott, F.||Smiles, Lt-Col. Sir W.|
|Herbert, Sir A. P||Mellor, Sir J||Smith, E P (Ashford)|
|Hogg, Hon Q.||Molson, A. H. E.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hollis, M. C||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Snadden, W. M|
|Hurd, A.||Morrison, Maj J. G. (Salisbury)||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'ster)||Spence, H R|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E||Stanley, Rt Hon. O|
|Jarvis, Sir J.||Neill, W. F (Belfast, N.)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Jennings, R.||Noble, Comdr A. H. P||Stokes, R R|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon L. W||Nutting, Anthony||Strauss, H G (English Universities)|
|Keeling, E. H||O' Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Kendall, W D.||Orr-Ewing, I L.||Sutcliffe, H|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Osborne, C.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E A. (P'dd l n, S.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C G||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Thomas, J. P. L (Hereford)|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Law, Rt. Hon R. K||Pickthorn, K||Thornton-Kemsley, C N|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj E A. H||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Thorp. Lt.-Col. R A F|
|Linstead, H N||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Touche, G. C.|
|Lipson, D L||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Turton, R. H.|
|Lloyd, Selywn (Wirral)||Price-White, Lt.-Col D||Vane, W M F|
|Low, Brig. A R. W.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Walker-Smith, D|
|Lucas, Major Sir J||Raikes, H. V||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Wheatley, Colonel M J|
|MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J S. C (Hillhead)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|MacDonald Sir M. (Inverness)||Renton, D.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Macdonald, Sir P (I of Wight)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||York, C|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|MacLeod, J.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Macpherson, N (Dumfries)||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Studholme|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
(1) Government business shall have precedence at every sitting;
(2) The following provisions shall have effect as respects public Bills;
(a) no Bills other than Government Bills shall be introduced; (b) whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of Amendments, new clauses or new schedules (whether they are to be moved in Committee or on Report) received by the Clerks at the Table at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on the last of the days on which the House is not sitting (excluding any Saturday or Sunday) may be accepted by them as if the House were sitting; (c) notices of Amendments, new clauses or new schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before a Bill has been read a second time;
(3) The following paragraph shall have effect in substitution for paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 7:—
'(4) Any Member who desires an oral answer to his question may distinguish it by an asterisk, but notice of any such question must appear at latest on the Notice Paper circulated two days (excluding Sunday) before that on which an answer is desired:
Provided that questions received at the Table Office on Monday and Tuesday be fore 2.30 p.m. and on Friday before 11 a m., may, if so desired by the Member, be put down for oral answer on the following Wednesday, Thursday and Monday, respectively.'
(4) Whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of questions received at the Table Office at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on either of the two last days on which the House is not sitting (excluding any Saturday or Sunday) shall be treated as if either day were a day on which the House were sitting at 4.30 p.m. and the notice had been received after 2.30 p.m., and notices of questions received at the Table Office at any time not later than 4.30 p.m. on a day before the penultimate day shall be treated as if they had been so received on the penultimate day;
(5) The following paragraph shall have effect in substitution for paragraph 12) of Standing Order No. 1:—
(2) The House shall not be adjourned except in pursuance of a resolution:
Provided that, when a substantive motion for the adjournment of the I louse has been proposed after to p.m Mr. Speaker shall, after the expiration of half an hour after that motion has been proposed, adjourn the House without question put.'
(6) The following paragraphs shall have effect in substitution for paragraphs (8) and (9) of Standing Order No. 1:—
'(8) A motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown, either with or without notice at the commencement of public business to be decided without amendment or debate, to the effect either—
(a) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order "Sittings of the House"; or (b) That the proceedings on any specified business be exempted at this day's sitting from the provisions of the Standing Order "Sittings of the House" for a specified period after the hour appointed for the interruption of business.
(9) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the business so specified shall not be interrupted if it is under discussion at the hour appointed for the interruption of business, may be entered upon at any hour although opposed, and, if under discussion when the business is postponed under the provisions of any Standing Order, may be resumed and proceeded with though opposed, after the interruption of business:
Provided that business exempted for a specified period shall not be entered upon, or be resumed after the expiration of that period, and, if not concluded earlier, shall be interrupted at the end of that period, and the relevant provisions of paragraphs (3) and (4) of this Standing Order shall then apply.
(10) Provided always that not more than one motion under paragraph (8) may be made at any one sitting, and that, after any business exempted from the operation of the order is disposed of after 10 p.m., the remaining business of the sitting shall be dealt with according to the provisions applicable to business taken after the hour appointed for the interruption of business.'