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Iron And Steel Bill (Allocation Of Time)

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 13 April 1949

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Report [7th April] of the Business Committee considered.— [ Mr. H. Morrison.]

4.18 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, before you put the next Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Report," which under Standing Order No. 41 (3) is not debatable, I wish to raise a point of Order to the effect that the Business Committee have acted ultra vires in reporting to this House that the Guillotine Motion for the Report stage of the Iron and Steel Bill should sub-divide the four allotted days and that the Guillotine should fall twice daily and not merely at the end of each day's proceedings. This point is, of course, novel since this is the first occasion on which the machinery in which the Business Committee established by the new Standing Order 41 in July last year, has been used. It is also, I think, important because your Ruling upon this matter, Mr. Speaker, will set a precedent which will, no doubt, be followed in the future.

The point I wish to raise turns upon the construction of Standing Order 41 (1). But before I read the terms of the Standing Order may I just remind you, Sir, that this Standing Order was adopted nine months ago on the Motion of the Government and in the face of opposition from these benches. The Government are responsible for its form and, in my submission to you, Sir, if there is any doubt as to its meaning it should therefore be construed strictly against the Government rather than strictly against the Opposition. The Report from the Business Committee provides, as I have just stated, that the Guillotine shall fall at varying hours upon the four allocated days. The Standing Order under which the Business Committee have to proceed reads as follows:
"There shall be a committee, to be designated the business committee, consisting of the members of the chairmen's panel together with not more than five other members to be nominated by Mr. Speaker. The quorum of the Committee shall be seven."
That provides, of course, that supporters of the Government are bound to be in a permanent majority upon the Business Committee and, of course, we make no complaint about that, for it is the fact with all Select Committees appointed by this House. The Standing Order goes on to provide:
"The committee (1) shall, in the case of any bill in respect of which an order has been made by the House, allotting a specified number of days or portions of days to the consideration of the bill in committee of the whole House or on report, divide the bill into such parts as they may see fit and allot to each part so many days or portions of a day so allotted as they may consider appropriate;"
The first point I would make is that paragraph (1) of Standing Order 41 can only be operated where the House has made an Order allotting a specified number of days or portions of days to consideration of a Bill, and on 25th November last this House did pass such an Order, which, as regards the Report stage, states merely:
"Four allotted days shall be given to the Report stage (including any proceedings on the re-committal of the Bill)."
The Order does not provide that any portions of a day or portions of days shall be allotted to the Report stage. No 'doubt, of course, those words are included in the Standing Order because it is common practice in this House for, let us say, 2½ days to be allotted to the Report stage of a Bill and for half a day to be allotted to the Third Reading, but in the case which we are here discussing the allocation of time by the House was four days to the Report stage of the Bill.

I think it should also be noted that the Standing Order does not lay down that the Business Committee shall allot time to each part of the Bill; what the Standing Order lays down is that they shall allot a part of the Bill to a specified time. If I may read the words once more, they say that the duty of the Business Committee is to,
"divide the bill into such parts as they may see fit—"
—that is, not into such number of parts as they may see fit—
"and allot to each part so many days or portions of a day so allotted as they may consider appropriate."
The words "so allotted" in that sentence refer back to the Order of the House allotting a specified number of days to the consideration of the Bill on Report, but I would point out to you, Sir, that the duty of the Business Committee is to allot parts of the Bill to the available time and not to allot the available time to parts of the Bill. This is a distinction with a great deal of difference.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that in considering what is their duty the first thing the Business Committee have to do is to see what is the time allotted for the consideration of the Bill upon Report by the Order of the House. That is their first duty. In order to ascertain that they look at the Order of the House of 25th November last year and they see there that four days shall be allotted to the Report stage of the Bill. Passing from that point, in my submission the Business Committee should then proceed to divide the Bill into parts and allot those parts to the days or portions of a day so allotted as they may consider appropriate.

The House allotted four days and in the Order of the House of 25th November last there is no mention whatever of a portion of a day. It is, therefore, my submission that it is the duty of the Business Committee to look at the Order of the House, to see how many days are allotted for the Report stage, to divide the Bill into either that number of parts or a smaller number of parts, and then to proceed to allocate those parts to the time which has been fixed by the House.

This is a matter of very great importance because the Report of the Business Committee, or rather the Motion to approve the Report of the Business Committee, is not debatable in this House. What is debatable in this House is the Order allocating time for the stages of the Bill and, in my submission, it would be quite wrong if the House, having allotted let us say four days to the Report stage of the Bill, the Business Committee were then to proceed to divide the Bill into 16, 32 or maybe 64 parts and allocate those parts, hour by hour, on the proceedings upon the Report stage. In my submission the effect of that would be completely to destroy the powers remitted to you, Sir, under Standing Order 31. Under that Standing Order,
"Mr. Speaker…shall have power to select the new clauses or amendments to be proposed,"
That gives you, Mr. Speaker, the power to select Amendments upon the Report stage and, in my submission, that is a very valuable power and a very great protection for minorities in this House when we are working under a Timetable upon the Report stage of a Bill. It is a very great protection for the minority because, without power of selection, it would be perfectly possible for Government supporters to move Amendments so as to take up the whole of the available time.

I suggest that if it is open to the Business Committee, established for the first time under Standing Order 41, to divide the Bill into innumerable parts and to provide for a Guillotine which might fall every hour or even more frequently, then your power of selection under Standing Order 31 and your responsibility to protect minorities in this House would, in effect, be completely destroyed. I, therefore, suggest that it is the duty of the Business Committee to divide the Bill only into the days allocated for Report stage by the Order of the House. If the Leader of the House wished the Business Committee to act in a different way and to divide the Bill into more parts than the number of days allotted for Report stage, then in my submission the Order of the House fixing the time for the Report stage ought to state clearly in terms that the Business Committee may provide that the Guillotine may fall more frequently than once daily.

I think that this is a matter of very great importance. This is the first occasion upon which it has arisen. I do respectfully suggest that if there is any doubt about the construction of these words—and I submit that the construction I have put upon them is the correct one—you, Mr. Speaker, should take time to consider this matter and give a considered Ruling upon it. This is a very important precedent which is being set today. It may govern the Proceedings of this House and it may operate either to limit or to extend the powers of hon. Members to speak and debate upon Report stage for many years to come. I suggest that if, in your view, there is any reasonable doubt whatever as to the proper construction of these words in Standing Order 41 you should consider a Ruling upon it, after having taken whatever advice you think desirable.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for putting his case so clearly. He has suggested that I should give a considered Ruling and that I should take time, if necessary, to consider it. I can assure him that I did spend on this matter almost the whole of one day when the House was in Committee on the Budget, for I knew that it was coming up. I read the Debate on this Order, and I have given the matter my earnest and careful consideration, because I realise it is an important point. However, I am afraid I have come to this conclusion, that I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of our Standing Orders.

We must apply our minds to the obvious intention of this Order. In my opinion, Standing Order No. 41 lays it down that if the House has passed an Allocation of Time Order in respect of the proceedings on consideration of a Bill, it is the duty of the Business Committee (1) to divide the Bill into parts of such number and size as they may think fit, and (2) to decide, as they may consider appropriate, at what hour and on which of the days allotted to the proceedings each of the parts is to be concluded. This appears to me to be the quite clear intention of the Standing Order, and the Time Table of the Business Committee's Report is, therefore, in accord with that intention.

Division No. 104.]

AYES

[4.33 p.m.

Acland, Sir RichardEde., Rt. Hon. J. C.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W
Adams, Richard (Batham)Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)King, E. M.
Alba, A. H.Edwards, John (Blackburn)Kinley, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. VEdwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D
Allen, A. C (Bosworth)Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Lang, G.
Alpass, J. H.Evans, Albert (Islington, W)Lavers, S.
Anderson., A. (Motherwell)Evans, John (Ogmore)Lee, F. (Hulme)
Attewell, H. C.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Ewart, R.Lever, N. H.
Austin, H. LewisFarthing, W. J.Levy, B. W.
Awbery, S. S.Fernybough, ELewis, J (Bolton)
Ayles, W. H.Field, Capt. W. J.Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Bacon, Miss A.Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington., E.)Lindgren, G. S.
Baird, J.Follick, M.Lipton, LL-Col. M
Balfour, AFoot, M. M.Logan, D. G.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Forman, J. C.Longden, F.
Barstow, P. G.Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Lyne, A. W.
Barton, C.Freeman, J (Watford)McAllister, G.
Battley, J. R.Freeman, Peter (Newport)McGhee, H. G
Bechervaise, A. E.Gaitskell, Rt Hon. H. T NMcGovern, J.
Benson, G.Gallacher, W.Mack, J. D.
Binns, J.Ganley, Mrs. C. SMcKay, J. (Wallsend)
Blenkinsop, A.Gibbins, JMaclean, N. (Govan)
Blyton, W. R.Gilzean, A.McLeavy, F.
Boardman, H.Glanville, J. E. (Consent)MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Bottomley, A. GGooch, E. G.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Braddock, Mrs, E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)Gordon-Walker, P. C.Macpherson, T (Romford)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Maitland, Comdr J W.
Bramall, E. A.Grey, C. F.Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Brook, D. (Halifax)Grierson, E.Mann, Mrs. J.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Manning, Mrs. L (Epping)
Broughton, Dr, A. D. D.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Marquand, Rt. Hon H A
Brown, George (Belper)Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Guest, Dr. L. HadenMayhew, C. P.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Gunter, R. J.Melfish, R. J
Burden, T. W.Hale, LeslieMesser, F.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Hall, Rt Hon. GlenvilMiddleton, Mrs. L
Callaghan, JamesHamilton, Lieut.-Col, R.Mikardo, Ian
Carmichael, JamesHannan, W. (Maryhill)Mitchison, G. R
Castle, Mrs, B. A.Hardman, D. R.Monslow, W.
Chamberlain, R. A.Hardy, E. A.Moody, A. S.
Chater, D.Harrison, J.Morley, R.
Chetwynd, G. R.Haworth, J.Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Cocks, F. S.Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Coldrick, W.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Mort, D. L.
Collick, P.Herbison, Miss M.Moyle, A.
Collindridge, F.Hewitson, Capt. MMurray, J. D
Collins, V. J.Hobson, C. R.Nally, W.
Colman, Miss G. M.Holman, P.Naylor, T. E.
Comyns, Dr, L.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Cooper, GHorabin, T. L.Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Cove, W. G.Houghton, A. L N. DNoel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brantford)
Crawley, A.Hoy, JNoel-Baker, Rt Hon. P J (Derby)
Grossman, R. H. S.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Oldfield, W H
Cullen, MissHughes, Emrys (S Ayr)Oliver, G. H.
Dagger, G.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Orbach, M.
Daines, P.Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Paget, R. T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Paling, Rt Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Davies, Edward (Burstem)Hynd., H. (Hackney, C.)Paling, W T. (Dewsbury)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Palmer, A. M. F
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)Pargiter, G. A.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Deer, G.Isaacs, Rt Hon. G. A.Paton, J. (Norwich)
de Freitas, GeoffreyJay, D. P. T.Pearl, T. F.
Delargy, H. JJeger, G. (Winchester)Perrins, W
Diamond, J.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)Piratin, P
Debbie, W.Jenkins, R H.Popplewell, E.
Dodds, N. NJohnston, DouglasPorter, E (Warrington)
Donovan, T.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Porter, G (Leeds)
Driberg, T. E. N.Jones,,Elwyn (Plaistow)Price, M. Philips
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)Proctor, W T.
Dumpleton, C. W.Keenan, WPursey, Comdr. H.
Dye S.Kenyon, C.Randall. H. E

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Report."—[ Mr. H. Morrison.]

The House divided: Ayes 304; Noes, 133.

Ranger, J.Snow, J. WWeitzman, D.
Rankin, J.Solley, L. J.Wells, P. L (Faversham)
Rees-Williams, D. R.Sorensen, R. WWells, W. T (Walsall)
Reeves, J.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankWest, D. G.
Reid, T. (Swindon)Sparks, J. A.Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E)
Rhodes, H.Steele, T.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Ridealgh, Mrs. MStrachey, Rt. Hon. J.Whiteley, Rt. Hon W
Robens, A.Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)Wigg, George
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonskire)Stress, Dr. B.Wilkes, L.
Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Stubbs, A. E.Wilkins, W. A.
Robinson, K (St. Pancras)Summerskill, Rt Hon. EdithWilley, F. T. (Sunderland)
Rogers, G. H RSwingler, SWilley, O. G. (Cleveland)
Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Sylvester, G. OWilliams, D. J. (Neath)
Scollan, T.Symonds, A. L.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Scott-Elliot, W.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Segal, Dr. S.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)Williams, Rt. Hon. T (Don Valley)
Shackleton, E. A. A.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Sharp, GranvilleThomas, D. E. (Aberdare)Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Thomas, George (Cardiff)Willis, E.
Shurmer, PTimmons, J.Wills, Mrs. E. A
Silverman, J. (Erdington)Tolley, L.Wise, Major F. J
Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.Woodburn, Rt. Hon A
Simmons, C. JTurner-Samuels, M.Woods, G. S.
Skeffington, A. M.Vernon, Maj. W. F.Yates, V. F.
Skeffington-Lodge, T. CWalker, G. H.Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Skinnard, F. W.Wallace, G D. (Chislehurst)Zilliacus, K.
Smith, C. (Colchester)Wallace, H W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke)Warbey, W. N.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Smith, H N. (Nottingham, S.)Watkins, T E.Mr. Pearson and Mr. Bowden.
Smith, S H. (Hull, S.W.)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)

NOES

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Gates, Maj. E. E.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Amory, D. HeathcoatGeorge, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Assheton, Rt Hon. RGomme-Duncan, Col. A.Nicholson, G.
Astor, Hon. M.Grimston, R. V.Nield, B. (Chester)
Baldwin, A. E.Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.Noble, Comdr A. H. P
Barlow, Sir J.Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Odey, G. W.
Baxter, A. B.Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.O'Neill, Rt. Hon Sir H
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Houghton, S. G.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Birch, NigelHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir CPonsonby, Col. C. E.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPoole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bossom, A. C.Hogg, Hen. Q.Ramsay, Maj. S.
Bowen, R.Hollis, M. C.Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Bower, N.Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Renton, D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Brown, W. J. (Rugby)Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Bullock, Capt. M.Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Butcher, H. W.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Scott, Lord W.
Byers, FrankJennings, R.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Carson, E.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Smithers, Sir W.
Chanson, H.Keeling, E. H.Snadden, W. M.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Kendall, W. D.Spearman, A. C. M.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Spence, H R.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Langford-Holt, J.Stoddart-Scots, Col. M
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F.C.Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.Studholme, H G
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. ELegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A HTaylor, Vice-Adm E. A (P'dd't'n, S.)
Crowder, Capt. John E.Lindsay, M. (Solihull)Teeling, William
Cuthbert, W. N.Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)Thomas, Ivor (Keignley)
Darling, Sir W. Y.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Thomas, J. P L. (Hereford)
Davidson, ViscountessLucas-Tooth, Sir H.Touche, G. C.
Davies, Rt Hn Clement (Montgomery)MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.Turton, R H.
De la Bète, R.McCallum, Maj. D.Vane, W. M F
Digby, Simon WingfieldMcCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. SWadsworth, G.
Dodds-Parker, A. D.MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)Walker-Smith, D
Donner, P. W.McFarlane, C. S.Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)McKie, J. H. (Galloway)White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Brews, C.Maclay, Hon. J. S.White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir (Richmond)MacLeod, J.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Duthie, W. S.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Eccles, D. M.Marlowe, A. A H.York, C.
Eden, Rt Hon. A.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Young, Sir A. S L (Partick)
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Medlicott, Brigadier F.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lansdale.)Mellor, Sir J.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.Molson, A H. E.Brigadier Mackeson and
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Morris-Jones, Sir H.