Taking the Amendments in the order in which they stand on to-day's Paper, those that I have so far decided to select are the Amendment in the name of hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), that in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and that in the name of the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays). An Amendment has also been handed in to-day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and this I have also decided to select. This does not preclude the selection of other Amendments if time permits and if hon. Members curtail their remarks to the shortest.
I know that this is a matter entirely in your hands, Sir, but is it not somewhat of a departure from established practice for Amendments put on the Paper by those who have declared themselves here and in the country as loyal supporters of the Government, accepting its policy, to be given precedence? All the Amendments which you have intimated have been chosen so far come from Government supporters, and you are calling no Amendment which is in direct criticism of or opposition to the Government.
Opposition seems to arise at different times in different quarters of the House. The hon. Member is not accurate when he says it is quite unusual to call Amendments from supporters of the Government. I have always called Amendments to the Address from supporters of the Government as well as from those of the Opposition.
I remember very well the customs of the House, and I know it was always your practice, Sir, and that of your predecessor to call one, or perhaps two Amendments from back bench supporters of the Government, but these in my recollection were always taken after Amendments which were in opposition to the Government. I know that the exigencies of the existing situation make the problem somewhat difficult for you, Sir, but it is undoubtedly the case that my hon. Friends and I have maintained an opposition to the Government. We have put an Amendment down to the Gracious Speech which is a direct challenge to the Government, and I think that in keeping with the methods of this House any Debate on that Amendment ought to have priority over those that are put forward by supporters of the Government. It may be that from time to time they offer criticism of the Government, but so far as I know none of the persons who have put down the Amendments which you have intimated you are going to call has severed his connection with the Government. They are supporters of the Government and accept in the main the Gracious Speech that the Government have produced.
The hon. Member is quite right; the position of affairs as regards selection on these lines has made my position more difficult. I think it is best to leave it in my hands.
May I ask a question for guidance? I am interested in the first Amendment on the Paper, with regard to the health of the nation. You said, Sir, that if the Amend- ments you have selected were got through, you would choose other Amendments. Will you take them in order, so that this one can be called? Like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), I feel bitterly disappointed at your selection, which means that the Amendment with regard to the health of the nation will not be called. It is an important Amendment, and if I had been the Speaker—and I never shall be—I should have chosen it.
I understand that the Debates on the Amendments will last for two further series of Sittings, so that if hon. Members hurry up there will be time for other Amendments.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) would perhaps be more satisfied if I pointed out that the end of the Debates on the Amendments is so far ahead that there may be chances for other Amendments.
There are many Members who are still anxious to speak in the general Debate. For our guidance would you. Sir, give any indication how much longer the general Debate will last?
The next Sitting Day is, I understand, the last day on which we are to have a general discussion on the Address, and that means that the rest of the time, unless we return to a general Debate, will be taken up with discussing Amendments, all of which have the effect of limiting the scope of debate. I myself am interested in certain matters affecting Scotland. The terrible position in regard to Scottish housing is one of them, and I thought it might have received some more consideration, and I was wondering, Mr. Speaker, whether if an Amendment were put down on that subject, you would consider calling it, having regard to the fact that so far Scotland has not been discussed on this Address.
If there is time, there is no reason why Scotland should not be discussed on the next Sitting Day. The question of housing in Scotland has already been mentioned in the Debate by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Midlothian (Colonel Colville).
I ventured to ask the Leader of the House when he first discussed the arrangements for Business—I did not give him notice that I would raise this point now, and I am taking no objection to his absence—whether he would consider a proposal which I have put forward for an Amendment of the Standing Order relating to the Adjournment Motion. He gave me a friendly reply and said that he would consider it. I only venture to point out that if it were possible to adopt my proposal, it would to some extent meet some of the objections raised about Scotland. The question of housing in Scotland is a difficult one to deal with on the Adjournment, as the Adjournment Rule exists at the present, I would call the attention of the Patronage Secretary to the matter, and perhaps it may be possible for him to give an answer in a short time.
May I also make an appeal to the Patronage Secretary? If there is an indication that there are quite a number of Members who wish to speak in the general discussion who have not yet been able to do so, will he give favourable consideration to the possibility of allotting one day in the next series of Sittings to the general Debate? I think that would be in accordance with the wishes of the House.
As hon. Members know, the Leader of the House will be making a statement about Business on the next Sitting Day, and I think it is desirable that hon. Members who wish to take part in the Debate should be warned in advance that the view of the Leader of the House is that it is time now to get on to a consideration of some of the numerous Amendments which have been put down. The general Debate would occupy a considerable time if it were to go on until everybody who wished to speak had taken part, and we had hoped that hon. Members would find time to deal with their particular subjects on the Amendments concerning them.
May I ask the Patronage Secretary to convey the reasonable request made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) to the Leader of the House? Some of us have sat three or four days waiting to speak in this Debate, and we propose to go on sitting until we do have an opportunity.