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Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board Order Confirmation (Special Procedure) Bill

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1949

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Order read for consideration, as amended.

3.41 p.m.

On a point of Order. Is it in Order when a Bill is presented by a Minister, for that Minister not to be present when it is discussed?

I was about to say that I wish to express the regret of my right hon. Friend at his inability to be in the House this afternoon. I hope hon. Members will accept that expression of regret.

While I do not wish to be in any way unreasonable, I do think this is a somewhat difficult point. This is the first example of a new procedure, and, while we are perfectly willing to concede the necessities of Government to the Minister, I think something a little more explicit than the rather perfunctory words of the Parliamentary Secretary would be desirable.

I did not intend to be in any way perfunctory. As I think everyone will realise, my right hon. Friend the Minister and other of my right hon. Friends have urgent public business which they are bound to transact, and it is only natural that on occasions it is inevitable that my right hon. Friend should not be able to be present. I do not think any hon. Member would for a moment question my right hon. Friend's attendance in this House on the many Measures for which he has been responsible recently, both in the House and in Committee upstairs, and I think it would be a little churlish to raise the question of his non-attendance today. I assure the House that it is quite inevitable.

I quite agree it is inevitable that from time to time the Minister must be absent. But two Cabinet Ministers, two Privy Councillors, are named in this Bill, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. I think that on a Bill of importance like this a Privy Councillor should be here to explain what is, after all, a new departure in principle, and, if I may say so, a rather heavy-handed use of that procedure. We intend to draw attention to a declaration of no less a Member of the Government than the then Lord Privy Seal on this, and it is a little difficult with no Member of the Privy Council opposite to take note of our objections and convey them where they must be conveyed, namely to the Cabinet.

Is it not a fact that this Bill comes before the House on the Report stage; and that it comes before the House under the provisions of a Measure passed by this House in this Parliament, which specifically provides that the Bill shall be treated as having passed its Second Reading and Committee stages? Therefore, there is no question of the Minister's attendance on this occasion.

I would suggest that this is a very new idea, that Ministers of the Crown do not need to attend the Report stage of their Bills. I should have thought that that was exactly what you, Mr. Speaker, in the Chair, with the Table as your base, would have expected —that the Minister could reasonably be expected to attend. That he should not be able to attend in Committee is inevitable at times, but this is the Report stage, at which Ministers do attend.

The point originally put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was that the Minister who had signed this Bill should be present for its Second Reading.

Surely it has for a very long time been the custom at the Ministry of Health that water is one of the things looked after by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I should be loath to circumscribe the privileges of the Parliamentary Secretary so rigorously and in such a limiting fashion as is now being suggested.

I think that to say he gave special attention to water was placing a rather invidious limitation upon him. We are not saying that there are not occasions when a Minister cannot he present; but we do say that here two Ministers are involved, that a new procedure is involved, and that without any doubt a Privy Councillor ought to be present, because these are matters which affect a Cabinet committee; some of the Minister's proposed Amendments affect the setting up of a Cabinet committee. In those circumstances, I suggest that it would be very difficult to discuss this matter in the absence of both the Cabinet Ministers concerned. I do not think that we on this side are being unreasonable. Merely to say that the Minister of Health is not able to be here—and the Minister of Agriculture is apparently not to be here either—without saying whether or not he or his right hon. Friend is to be here at a later stage of the Sitting, or the nature of the duties upon which they are concerned, is taking a little too much upon the shoulders of a Parliamentary Secretary.

Division No. 128.]


[3.52 p.m.

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.De la Bere, R.Hollis, M. C.
Amory, D. HeathcoatDigby, Simon WingfieldHolmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. RDodds-Parker, A. DHope, Lord J.
Baldwin, A. E.Donner, P. WHurd, A.
Barlow, Sir J.Drayson, G. BHutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Beamish, Maj, T. V. HDrewe, C.Jeffreys, General Sir G
Birch, NigelDugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Jennings, R.
Bossom, A. C.Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Keeling, E. H.
Bowen, R.Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon WalterKerr, Sir J. Graham
Bower, N.Erroll, F. J.Lancaster, Col. C. G
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Fletcher, W. (Bury)Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. GFraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col, WGalbraith, Cmdr T D. (Pollok)Lucas-Tooth, S. H.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Gammans, L. D.McCallum, Maj. D.
Butcher, H. W.Glyn, Sir R.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Carson, EGrimston R. V.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Challen, CHarvey, Air-Comdre. A. VMcKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Haughton, S. G.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F C.Head, Brig. A. H.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. FHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir CManningham-Buller, R. E
Crowder, Capt. John EHinchingbrooke, ViscountMarlowe, A. A. H.

give hon. Gentlemen opposite a diary of the activities of every right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House.

On a point of Order. This is now being erected into a principle, and upon that I think I must ask your leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment. I do not think it is unreasonable to move the Adjournment in order to obtain the attendance of a Privy Councillor responsible for this Bill. I, of course, leave that entirely to your discretion. I am arguing that on this occasion, in view of the defence of the principle which is being adduced by the Parliamentary Secretary, I am entitled to move the Adjournment.

The only Motion which would, I think, be in Order at this moment would be. "That further consideration of the Bill as amended be now adjourned."

Then I beg to move, "That further consideration of the Bill as amended be now adjourned."

I do not wish to weary the House with a repetition of argument. I shall stand on the arguments that I have already adduced.

This Motion, like the Motion for the Adjournment, may be put without discussion if I so choose.

Question put, "That further consideration of the Bill as amended be now adjourned."

The House divided: Ayes. 104; Noes, 198.

Marsden, Capt. A.Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Raikes, H. V.Studholme, H. G.
Mellor, Sir J.Ramsay, Maj. S.Sutcliffe, H.
Molson, A. H. E.Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)Touche, G. C.
Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir TRobinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Morris-Jones, Sir H.Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)Ward, Hon. G. R
Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)Savory, Prof. D. L.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Ccester)Scott, Lord W.Williams, C. (Torquay)
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Noble, Comdr. A. H. PSmiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.York, C.
Nutting, AnthonySmithers, Sir W.Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Odey, G. W.Snadden, W. M
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.Spence, H. R.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Orr-Ewing, I. L.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.Major Conant and Colonel Wheatley.
Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.


Acland, Sir RichardGuest, Dr. L. HadenPorter, G. (Leeds)
Adams, Richard (Balham)Guy. W. H.Price, M. Philips
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Hale, LeslieProctor, W. T.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Randall, H. E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Hardy, E. A.Ranger, J.
Attewell, H. C.Hastings, Dr. SomervilleRees-Williams, O R.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Reeves, J.
Austin, H. LewisHicks, G.Reid, T. (Swindon)
Awbery, S. S.Holman, P.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Ayles, W. H.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BHorabin, T. L.Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)
Bacon, Miss A.Houghton, A, L. N. D.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Balfour, A.Hoy, J.Royle, C.
Barton, C.Hubbard, T.Scott-Elliot, W.
Battley, J. R.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Segal, Dir. S
Beswick, FHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Shackleton, E. A. A
Binns, JHynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Sharp, Granville
Blackburn, A. R.Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Blenkinsop, A.Janner, B.Simmons, C. J.
Blyton, W. R.Jeger, C. (Winchester)Skeffington, A. M.
Boardman, H.John, W.Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Skinnard, F. W.
Bramall, E. A.Kenyon, C.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Brook, D. (Halifax)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Snow, J. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Kinghorn, Sqn.Ldr. E.Solley, L. J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Kinley, J.Sorensen, R. W.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. TKirby, B V.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Burden, T. W.Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. DSparks, J. A.
Burke, W. A.Lang, G.Stross, Dr. B.
Carmichael, JamesLavers, S.Stubbs, A. E.
Chamberlain, R. A.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.Swingler, S.
Chetwynd, G. R.Leonard, W.Symonds, A. L.
Cluse, W. S.Leslie, J. R.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Cocks, F. S.Levy, B. W.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Collins, V. JLewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Comyns, Dr. LLewis, J. (Bolton)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Corlett, Dr. J.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Cove, W. G.Lyne, A. W.Thurtle, Ernest
Crossman, R. H. S.McAdam, W.Tolley, L.
Daggar, G.McEntee, V. La T.Vernon, Maj. W F.
Davies, Edward (Burslem)McGhee, H. G.Viant, S. P.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)McGovern, J.Walker, G. H.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)McKay, J. (Wallsend)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Deer, G.McKinlay, A. S.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Diamond, J.Maclean, N. (Govan)Warbey, W. N.
Dobbie, WMcLeavy, F.Watkins, T. E.
Dodds, N. N.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Webb, M. (Bradford, C)
Driberg, T. E. N.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Weitzman, D.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mann, Mrs. J.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.West, D. G.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Mathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh. E.)
Ewart, RMiddleton, Mrs. L.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Fairhurst, F.Mitchison, G. R.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Farthing, W. J.Monslow, W.Wigg, George
Foot, M. M.Moody, A. S.Wilkes, L.
Fraser, T (Hamilton)Mort, D. L.Wilkins, W. A.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Naylor, T. E.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Gallacher, W.Neal, H. (Claycross)Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Ganley, Mrs. C. SNicholls, H. R (Stratford)Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Gilzean, A.Oldfield, W. H.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Glanville, J E. (Consett)Orbach, M.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Paget, R. T.Willis, E
Grenfell, D. R.Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)Wyatt, W.
Grey, C. F.Parker, J.Yates, V. F.
Grierson, E.Pearson., A.Zilliacus, K.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Popplewell, E.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Porter, E. (Warrington)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Bowden

Bill, as amended, considered.