Statute of Westminster Bill.

– in the House of Commons at on 23 November 1931.

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Photo of Mr Edward Marjoribanks Mr Edward Marjoribanks , Eastbourne

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and the Solicitor-General have promised free and unfettered discussion of the Statute of Westminster and in view of the fact that hon. Members propose to put down about 20 Amendments involving important questions of principle and draftsmanship, the Government will allow more than one day to the Committee stage and what others days for the remaining stages of the Bill?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

I have carefully considered the Bill and the obligations both to this House and to the Dominions under which all parties lie with regard to it. So far as I can see at present, I think one day will suffice, but perhaps negotiations could, if necessary, be conducted through the Whips' Office.

I warn the House that my intention is to act very miserly about time regarding this Bill, because we are under the most emphatic obligations to the Dominions to get it through without delay.

Photo of Mr Edward Marjoribanks Mr Edward Marjoribanks , Eastbourne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Motion for rejection of the Bill was withdrawn after getting the promise of the Solicitor-General and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who, in a most conciliatory mood, stated that there would be no attempt to curtail discussion at all. On that basis, the Motion for rejection was withdrawn. Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that many hon. Members in this House think the Bill should have been discussed in this House before it was sent to the Dominions and before the Government were committed in any way?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

As regards the last point, I think that if the hon. Member will just look at the documents, beginning with the declaration of the Imperial Conference in 1926, continuing through the report which the legal experts drawn from all Dominions made upon what that declaration implied, and then taking the third stage, the negotiations which took place at the recent Imperial Conference, he will find that this House is very much committed, and that from time to time the matter has been referred to in this House, and that now it is for the National Government to fulfil the pledges which all three parties have been responsible for giving to the Dominion that this would be done.

Photo of Mr Edward Marjoribanks Mr Edward Marjoribanks , Eastbourne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Bill in its present form is full of flaws for some reason or other and does not include the full doctrines set forth in 1926, and that there are many improvements which ought to be made by this House after careful consideration of it, as promised by the right hon. Gentleman's two colleagues.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs said that full consideration would be given to any Amendment brought forward, if without proposing in any way to affect the Statute as a whole improvements could be made in the Statute by Amendments, and surely facilities should be given?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

I only want to warn the House that I am very miserly about time, and I fall back upon the statement made in the original answer, that perhaps negotiations, if necessary, can be conducted through the Whips' Office.

Captain CROOKSHANK:

Will not the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the word "committed"? This House cannot be "committed" by anyone. This House is a sovereign Legislature and cannot be committed by anyone.

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

That is always a great drawback in answering supplementary questions upon a, very delicate subject.

Photo of Sir Annesley Somerville Sir Annesley Somerville , Windsor

In view of the fact that the Dominions have taken two years to consider this Measure, is it wise to give only two days' consideration to its far-reaching implications?