Orders of the Day — Catering Wages Bill

– in the House of Commons on 1st April 1943.

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Considered in Committee. [Progress 31st March.]

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair.]

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

Before we resume our proceedings on the Committee stage of this Bill, may I ask your permission to move to report Progress and ask leave to sit again, in order that I may be permitted to make a statement on the future of the Bill?

The Deputy-Chairman:

I will accept that Motion.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again I desire to make a statement on the future attitude of myself and certain hon. Members who agree with me in the opposition which we have offered to this Measure. We have now spent two days on this Bill in Committee. For two days we have tried to reason with the Government. It has taken 12 hours to discuss four Clauses of the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—which means on an average three hours per Clause. I am asked why it has taken that length of time. It is because, as I have already said, we tried to reason with the Government. There are still 14 Clauses of the Bill and two Schedules to be discussed, and at this rate of progress, that means 48 hours more in Committee on the Bill, or nine normal Parliamentary days.

That, I think, shows the strength of the position of those who are in opposition to the Bill. But we do not desire, certainly those Members with whom I am associated do not desire, to take advantage of that strong position, because we realise that during those 12 hours, already spent on the Committee stage of the Bill, we have not received the slightest concession of any kind from the Government. In consequence, we are entitled to assume that we are not going to get any further consideration if we press the Amendments which still stand on the Order Paper in our names [Interruption]. That is our view. In those circumstances, we are not prepared to take up this immense amount of the time of the Committee. We realise that there is much important legislation to go through the House of Commons. Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy with the Chief Whip. He promised to give another day for what he believed would be the conclusion of the Committee stage of the Bill, and for that I am grateful to him. I have much sympathy with him, because I know his difficulties, having myself served in the Whips' Office for two years. I recognise the assistance which he has given to us in our endeavour to get the Bill properly discussed, but we cannot discuss it properly and put all our arguments fully and fairly to the Government, without taking up a great deal of Parliamentary time. As I said, we have no desire to do that, particularly as we realise that we are not going to get the slightest concession from the Government. Therefore, I and certain hon. Members who are supporting me in this matter, have decided that we will not move any more of our Amendments in Committee, but they will remain on the Order Paper for the remainder of the day, and we would ask the Minister whether he will be good enough to examine them, in his spare time—and he will have more spare time now than he would have had if we had proceeded with our Amendments. We ask him to consider those Amendments, because they still form the basis of our opinion on this Measure.

There is just one thing I would like to add. Yesterday I think it was my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) who suggested that I and some of my colleagues might go behind the Speaker's Chair and have a little discussion with the Minister of Labour or other Ministers taking part in the proceedings on this Measure. I do not think it is any breach of confidence to say that we have already tried that. Our meeting was not immediately behind the Speaker's Chair. It was some distance behind it—as far away as St. James's Square—but we got no satisfaction out of the Minister. We do ask him, however, to give sincere consideration to the Amendments which we have on the Order Paper; and if he cares to see us again in order to try to reach some compromise on the remaining Clauses of the Bill, we shall always be quite happy to see him. I conclude by saying that I hope this decision will meet with the approval of many hon. Members. Of course, I cannot bind every Member of my committee and those with whom I have been working, but the decision which has been reached is, I think, generally acceptable to the great majority of my committee. We do not, therefore, intend to move on the Committee stage any of the Amendments which are on the Order Paper in our names. I thank you, Mr. Williams, for having given me this opportunity of announcing that decision.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I would not like the Committee to be under any misapprehension. It would be assumed from my right hon. Friend's statement that I had done nothing as a result of the meeting to which he referred, but, in fact, the bulk of the Amendments standing on the Order Paper in my name, or at least a good many of them, were the outcome of that discussion. I do not think my right hon. Friend will complain of the three hours which I spent with him and his friends at St. James's Square. I listened to them with great patience, of which happily I possess a large amount in dealing with business of this kind, and I thought, when I ended that meeting, that I had really met the legitimate objections to the Bill. No one was more surprised than those on the Government side who were present at that meeting to find on the Order Paper a complete reiteration of the whole of the Amendments as if those discussions had never taken place.

It is not fair, therefore, to suggest to the public and to this Committee that I did nothing at all. I tried to the best of my ability to meet what I thought were the legitimate points put up by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, but, obviously, I could not agree to wreck the Bill or to make it unworkable. That would have been impossible. I have no objection to considering any case which is submitted to me. I have always been most conciliatory, though it may not be generally recognised, and I do not think, speaking personally, that I could have carried on the work which I have done all my life, unless I had understood negotiation and conciliation. I have really tried, in this case, to meet the objections advanced, and if the opponents of the Bill have any particular point which they would like to discuss with me outside, I have no objection at all to meeting them. I would not object to meeting anybody to discuss anything of that character if it facilitated the work of the House of Commons. I welcome the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that the opponents of the Bill do not intend to move further Amendments, and I think that probably after examining the position, they have in their heart of hearts a recognition that I have tried to meet them in every way possible and a recognition, also, that the Bill is not so bad after all.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

I rise to support the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking). I cannot help feeling that the Government and this Committee have got themselves into a difficulty over this Bill, largely because of the peculiar war-time conditions under which we are labouring, but I would like to point out that many of us who dislike this Bill—and I should be out of Order now in discussing the merits of the Bill—foresaw something of this kind. The Government maintained that the Measure was non-controversial. We did not take that view, and I think the strongest supporter of the Bill will agree that our opinion was right and that the Measure has turned out to be very controversial. Then again there is the fact that under war-time conditions——

The Deputy-Chairman:

We have had both sides of the case put on the Question that we should report Progress, and on the future proceedings on the Bill. Of course, the Motion to report Progress can be very widely discussed, but perhaps I may venture, with respect, to suggest that it would be as well if we did not, at this stage, initiate the sort of discussion that might lead to a prolonged Debate on the merits of what has happened in the past. I make that suggestion in the hope that it will be found convenient and acceptable to the Committee.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

I will pass on to what I consider to be the most important aspect of this difficulty, the constitutional aspect, which is of the greatest importance to this House. I have searched with some assiduity in the last day or two through the records of similar Bills in the past, and I have been unable to find any Committee stage which has been treated quite in this way. I think that, in that, there is a danger, because—I do not want to labour the point but only to mention it in passing—yesterday certain suggestions were made by hon. Members who have never seen a Committee stage—and they are a large number in this House—that there was something in the nature of un-parliamentary obstruction. That has not been the case, because it has been a very mild, very orderly and very well-reasoned Committee stage, in which Members of all parties have taken part. There are difficulties, of course, to which I need not refer, in dealing with a Measure of this sort on the Floor of the House of Commons, and all experienced Members will realise it, even if less experienced ones do not.

There is a likelihood that, with the progress of the war, we have got ourselves into a sort of war-time attitude of mind. There may be other Measures of a controversial nature coming forward, and I go so far as to hope that there will be. I suggest to the Government that some steps must be taken to prevent this kind of thing happening again. We cannot have Measures passed through in this way. I support my right hon. Friend opposite in his view that we are not to get any concessions from the Minister. I am bound to say, with reference to what the Minister has just said, that it only shows what different impressions people can get of a meeting. We all came away from the meeting with him in St. James's Square with the confirmed impression that we were to get nothing but concessions of a minor nature. I would like to put this to Members of the Committee on all sides, that the Committee stage of any Bill is much the most important stage. It has always been the practice on Committee stages in the past, once a Bill has received its Second Reading, that Members of all parties try to knock the knobs off and smooth out the roughnesses of a Bill and get it into order. That is what we ought to try to do in this case, and I am a little disappointed that Members of some other parties have not tried to do so. I cannot help feeling that there is developing in this House a slightly totalitarian outlook. The Committee stage of a Bill is that on which we ought all to get together. With those words, I resume my seat.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I was prevented from taking any part in the proceedings yesterday owing to a constituency engagement. I am frankly amazed at the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking). The way to get Amendments out of a Minister is to make his life a bit of a misery, when, wearying of life on that basis, he comes to you and says: "What do you lads really want?" and then you do a deal. That is the way this place is run. We all know it, and it is no use blinding our eyes to it. When a Bill has been violently opposed there are Members sitting on the Government side of the Committee now who, when they were on this side, carried on for hours into the small hours of the morning moving Motions to report Progress, when they could get the Chair to accept them, forcing the Closure and forcing Divisions. That is the normal Parliamentary procedure, but there are about 150 Members in this place now who do not know how to run it. This Catering Bill was the beginning of their education. They were just beginning to approach the matriculation stage, and the right hon. Member for Chorley is depriving them of the only chance of Parliamentary education they have had in the past 3½ years.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

I am very much in favour of this Bill, and I voted for the Second Reading. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) that we must keep up the right procedure of this House. It is our duty to examine a Bill and the reasons for it. It is recognised that these are war-time conditions, but we ought not to abandon our duty to move Amendments and try to improve a Bill. I am convinced that in another year or two we shall be faced with very important legislation, and I hope that some of it will be controversial. If it is to be constructive, there is bound to be a difference of opinion. I hope that the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) will not suggest that because it is war-time we are to abandon our responsibility for examining Bills on the Committee stage, when Amendments are put forward in a right spirit and not in a spirit of mischief-making or obstruction. That is one of our principal responsibilities as Members of Parliament.

Photo of Colonel Louis Gluckstein Colonel Louis Gluckstein , Nottingham East

I am one of those who placed their names to a number of Amendments in an attempt to improve what is in my opinion a bad Bill introducing a number of undesirable precedents. I do not desire to take the course which has been indicated by my right hon. Friend without explaining to the Committee that in doing so I am intending no discourtesy. I take this step from the profound conviction that the Minister, in spite of what he has just said, has not the slightest intention of making any concession to us who have tabled what I think are very reasonable Amendments.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to interrupt? Is it not right that I should make it clear that not one of the Amendments brought forward by him and his friends and discussed was negatived by force? In many cases the promoters of them withdrew the Amendments, beaten by argument.

The Deputy-Chairman:

We cannot discuss whether Amendments were or were not withdrawn because they were beaten by argument or for any other reason of that kind.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

I am asking the hon. and gallant Member to recognise that fact.

The Deputy-Chairman:

That is not a point of Order.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

I was not raising a point of Order.

Photo of Colonel Louis Gluckstein Colonel Louis Gluckstein , Nottingham East

Perhaps the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) will make his speech later on. In my opinion, the Minister has adopted that course because he believes profoundly in the principle of the Bill under discussion. After all, those principles tally with his political philosophy. In my submission it would not be right in me to take the course I am proposing to take without making this explanation, but that does not excuse those hon. Members who belong to the same party as I do who might have been expected to insist upon some measure of protection being accorded to what is known, in a phrase, as the freedom of private enterprise. I think the Minister altered——

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

On a point of Order. Are we entitled, on a Motion to report Progress, to debate the merits of this Measure? Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman now debating the merits and the rights and wrongs of Government action on the Bill?

The Deputy-Chairman:

It can only be in Order to discuss the actual matter of reporting Progress, and that is why, if hon. Members get into a kind of battledore and shuttlecock about the reasons for supporting the Bill, hon. Members who did so would be out of Order.

Photo of Colonel Louis Gluckstein Colonel Louis Gluckstein , Nottingham East

I will do my best to keep within your Ruling, Mr. Williams. I was saying that the Minister of Labour may well exclaim, "The War Cabinet is my washpot; over the Leader of the House will I cast out my shoe," because in the circumstances it seems to me a waste of valuable Parliamentary time to continue to press for the Amendments which stand in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends. It is also, in my opinion, a course which is likely to be injurious to the reputation of this House in this most serious moment of an extremely serious war. I was rather conscious yesterday, and could not help contrasting, the somewhat apathetic Committee stage which we had with the rather fiercer struggle being waged in North Africa, in which a number of my friends and constituents are taking part, and regarding which, from my personal experience, I have some idea of what they must be enduring. I therefore say that I am far more interested in eliminating the Tunis tip than the waiters' tip, and I think it will be helpful to the Minister if those of us who are opposing this Measure in its Committee stage give him and his staff an opportunity of getting back to their much more important war duties, and we leave him to take such steps as he thinks right to deal with this Bill.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

I could not help feeling very much concerned at the statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman on the Motion to report Progress, and also at the reply made by the Minister. So far as I can understand it, the Committee stage of this Bill appears to have taken place in St. James's Square. The Bill has been discussed there, according to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and he has come away convinced that any Committee stage in this House would be a pure waste of time, because the Minister has made up his mind that in no circumstances will he make any concessions of any great value or of any great importance.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

If the hon. Member will allow me, that is not quite what I said. I did not say that the Committee stage had been wiped out in advance. I was basing my argument and reasons on what had happened in this House during the last two days' Debate, that I had felt entitled to ask for concessions and that the concessions were all refused.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

However that may be, the facts remain the same. The meeting took place at St. James's Square, and the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were given on that occasion to understand how much this Bill could or could not be amended.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

On a point of Order. What I made perfectly clear was that, as has been the practice with every Bill so far as I know, I would listen to representations from my hon. Friends and then consider whether or not I should put Amendments on the Order Paper. I gave no answer to my hon. Friends at the conference at all.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Of course, I accept what the Minister has just said, but it still does not alter the argument that I am trying to put forward. The Minister, of course, had every right to discuss the Bill with people interested in it. The point I am trying to make is that either there is substance or not in the statement that has been made that the Minister is unwilling to consider any further Amendment. At any rate other people got the impression that he is determined not to make any other concessions, not to accept any other Amendments. That is an entirely wrong and improper attitude for any Minister to take up at the beginning of a Committee stage.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

On a point of Order. I have made no such statement.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I do not think that is quite a point of Order.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

I did not say that the Minister made any statement. I said that resulting from the interview the impression gained by the right hon. Gentleman and others was that it was quite hopeless to expect to get any further concessions or any Amendment accepted on the Committee stage of this Bill. When the Minister got up to reply he did not get up and say, "That is not so. I came to this House and Committee stage willing to hear all Amendments, willing to hear all arguments, and if the arguments are good, I am prepared to alter any decision which I may have formerly come to." All I wish to say in conclusion is this: If the Business of this House is to be conducted on these lines, then what some Members of this House have frequently suggested may as well be put into operation, and we might sit, not for longer hours as has been suggested but meet, say, once a week to hear the Prime Minister, and that will be sufficient.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I would like to say a word of what I think of this Measure. On this occasion I want to defend the Minister. I am very loath to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking), because he is helping the Bill to get through, but I must confess that I do not quite appreciate a Parliamentary situation in which one says, "I want to alter a Bill, I want to change it, so the way I change it is to withdraw my Amendments." Such a Parliamentary situation, to use a Glasgow phrase, is just daft. No Parliamentarian would ever dream of accepting it as an excuse. The only excuse I can take, and I hope I am not being offensive, is that I think those who are opposing the Bill are just running away, and they are trying to do it with a brave face and to find excuses. That is the position as I see it. I am surprised at the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) being so terribly annoyed about the Minister not accepting Amendments. He and I have sat in this House a long while and sat through days and nights with Ministers refusing Amendment after Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Henderson Mr John Henderson , Leeds North East

Does the hon. Member not realise that this is a non-controversial Bill?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I remember an old Member of this House, a well-known Conservative, the late Member for the Pollak Division of Glasgow, Sir John Gilmour, on the Lotteries Bill. That was non-controversial, and the present Prime Minister endeavoured to get him to see his point of view. Common sense facts were put, but that was all the more reason why they were turned down. The Home Secretary just said, "No." He knew if he argued with him intelligently he was finished. I fought the old Anomalies Act, starting at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and going on till the middle of next day. I was responsible for practically all the Amendments. We fought and fought and never got a single concession—not one. That is not uncommon.

May I say about the Minister that I was one of the critics, when he came here, of his Parliamentary style? I thought he was introducing too much of the trade union boss into Parliamentary affairs. I say this to him, and to his credit, that I think that as a Parliamentary figure he has improved considerably. I think that as a model of decency in debate and in attempting to be courteous he has done the job well and certainly, I think, done it in a reasonable way. May I say to those who are opposing him that Parliament has treated them with toleration? If this had been a normal peacetime and this a Bill which the Government of the day had been running, they would have had you sitting all through the night and would have used all the powerful forces of the Government. Many of your Amendments would never have been discussed. In peace-time I have seen pages of Amendments disposed of by closure and by the guillotine and what we called the old kangaroo. On this Bill there have been more courtesy and Amendments than on any Bill for some years. Far from complaining there should be recognition that the Minister has met representations and has met those opposing the Bill on some Amendments.

Hon. Members:

Which?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I happen to be involved in important negotiations with my union, and I know my own weaknesses. If I had come here, I might have been involved in discussion. But I was present yesterday a good deal of the day and I heard the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) being accepted by the Minister. I heard the Minister saying to one of the Members for Nottingham that he would try to see what he could do in a certain reasonable fashion, and he gave him certain reasonable guarantees, for which he was thanked, publicly thanked, for his splendid way of meeting them. Let me say frankly on the Catering Bill that, far from having any cause for complaint, those who have been opposing it have been treated with more toleration than they would have been treated in peacetime by a Government. From the standards of opposition yesterday, I think that if the Government had taken their courage in their hands and sat until 10 p.m., there would have been no opposition left at all.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

I was amazed at my right hon. Friend showing the white flag, an unconditional surrender, a complete capitulation, and grovelling and pleading for some concession which he hoped that the Minister would make on consideration. I should think that there is no precedent through the long history of the House of Commons for anything of that kind. So far as I am concerned, I take no part in support of the unconditional surrender. My view was that the Committee stage should have been fought properly. All the Clauses should have been examined, there should have been arguments with regard to the Amendments, and they should have been taken to a Division. Under the proper Parliamentary procedure those Members who take part in endeavouring to improve a Bill have done their duty. Referring to what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said, I had the honour to sit on the Committee upstairs when the right hon. Gentleman introduced——

The Deputy-Chairman:

We are considering a Motion to report Progress on this Bill. That has nothing to do with anything upstairs.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

On a point of Order. Are we entitled to make some reference to other Bills in order to develop an argument?

The Deputy-Chairman:

A very limited reference, but it has been rather too wide so far.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

With regard to the Bill to which the hon. Member referred, I had the honour to sit on the Committee upstairs, and then, because they could make no progress, it was brought downstairs. At that time the guillotine was used. The Measure before us is claimed to be non-controversial. Everyone except the Minister knows that it is highly controversial, and they dare not use the guillotine by virtue of the fact that that would prove absolutely how controversial it is, and they would be unable to maintain the Government pledge that no controversial Measure would be introduced into this House. So far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to argue whatever Amendments are moved, to try to show the Committee that they are for the benefit and improvement of the Bill, and to take them to a Division. I feel confident that if Members in all parts of the House are impressed by the logic of the arguments we put forward in favour of any Amendment which is likely to create an improvement in the Bill, they will be prepared, in spite of what any Minister says to the contrary, to vote for it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

The hon. Member says, "we." Is this a new party, or of whom does he speak?

The Deputy-Chairman:

The hon Member would not be entitled to reply to that question.

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak

No one who has the interests of Parliamentary procedure at heart can have heard the announcement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) without deep regret. I shall try not to be controversial in anything I say; but to those of us who remember the Committee stages of Bills before the war, it seems extraordinary what an element of intolerance has crept into this discussion, and, if I may say so, not only on one side. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley has been quite fair to the Minister of Labour. The Minister has made it quite plain from the beginning that this was a Bill which had been decided upon by the Government as a whole, and that they had no intention of allowing it to be amended to such an extent that it would not serve the purposes for which it was introduced. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends voted against the Second Reading of the Bill indicated quite plainly, in a Parliamentary manner, that they were opposed to the Bill. It has always been the custom that when an opposition has failed on the Second Reading it has then proceeded to put down a number of Amendments on the Committee stage. If, greatly venturing I may say so, I regret that those hon. Members who were associated with me in supporting this Bill seemed to resent some of the time that has been spent in the discussion of perfectly reasonable Amendments. I feel that it is due to the fact that this House has for so long not been engaged on its proper legislative work that this element of intolerance has crept in, on both sides. I can think of nothing more undesirable than that at this time when we are fighting to preserve government by discussion, and when there should be a broad and a tolerant spirit on both sides, this thing should have happened. I hope that this will not be a precedent. If there has been among some of my friends and associates in this matter a little intolerance towards the right hon. Member for Chorley and his friends, I cannot help regretting what I can only describe as a sulky withdrawal from a Parliamentary contest—[Interruption.] I withdraw that word. I do not wish to be controversial. I regret that he should have withdrawn instead of conducting the Debate to the end in a traditional Parliamentary manner.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I want to counter the extraordinary revival by the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy), and one other hon. Member, of the old discredited argument that this Bill was in some way a breach of the Government's pledge.

The Deputy-Chairman:

We cannot go into the matter of the Government's pledge at this stage. This is merely a question of reporting Progress.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

With all respect, you did allow the hon. Member for Elland to make this mis-statement. Can I not contradict him?

The Deputy-Chairman:

Then I made a mistake: that is all; and I am sorry.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I want to congratulate the Minister on his steadfastness. The hon. and gallant Member who referred to Tunisia seems to forget that this Bill was introduced because of the Minister's desire to see that these men fighting out there get a fair chance of a job afterwards.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

May I appeal to my right hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion now, and to allow us to get on? I make an earnest appeal to him to do so.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

Before the Motion is withdrawn, I should like to say a few words. I have been very closely associated with the opposition to this Bill from the outset, and I intend to oppose it until the end, not because I am opposed to wages boards in this or any other industry, but because I think this is an ill-timed and a bad Bill. But I would like to defend the Minister against any charge that has been made of hole-and-corner methods of negotiation at St. James's Square. I was one of the parties involved. The procedure was perfectly normal and straightforward, and such as has been followed by every Minister during the time I have been in this House. On the other hand, the Minister was not correct in his impression that at the end we were satisfied, or that he had met us on any material point.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

We submitted certain objections. He did meet us on small points—one, in particular, was a legal point—but we came away quite convinced that he was not going to make any definite concessions. That conviction has been confirmed in the last two days, because he has not given way at all; although I thank him for one promise he made yesterday, about urging his Commission to look into matters which I referred to in the Debate. I find myself in a very awkward position. In spite of what the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) said about Parliamentary procedure, it is quite impossible to take the Committee stage in the old rough and tumble way we did before the war, because our time is very definitely limited. Yesterday the opponents of this Bill were quite prepared to sit into the night, but the Government decided that the Debate should close three hours after the ordinary time of Adjournment; and it did so. To-day, after only five Clauses have been considered, we find ourselves with a few hours left to consider the remainder.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

We can have as many hours as we like.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

We were told that, as an alternative, we could have another day in the next series of Sittings, but that we should be jettisoning important legislation. I am one of those who pressed for a continuation of the Debate on the Colonies. That has been conceded for the third Sitting Day. It is very important that we should have that Debate. If we continue to-day's Debate on the first Sitting Day, all that day's Business is to be pushed back, and probably we shall miss the continued Debate on the Colonies. The Prime Minister has told us that he is suspending the Rule for only one hour. What is the use of that, with all these Amendments? I intend to continue to oppose the Bill; but I do not think that we have had a square deal from the start, and I do not think that we are going to get one. We asked to have the Committee stage taken upstairs, where every argument could have been heard, without interfering with Business on the Floor of the House. That request was turned down, and everything else we have asked for from the start has been refused. The Minister will have his Bill, and it will be the most unpopular Act that has ever been passed.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , St Marylebone

As the leader of a party of one, I shall be a model of brevity. I merely rise to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and also the Chief Whip for that matter, on having so easily won this fight.

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , Bournemouth

I entriely support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, that it is absolutely essential that this House should retain its rights and Privileges free and unfettered for dealing with Bills in Committee. It has been unfairly said of some of us, because we put down Amendments, that we were trying to obstruct this Bill. We put the Amendments down because we genuinely felt that we could improve the Bill by so doing. I think that this is a thoroughly bad Bill, and I hoped to improve it; but I think certain Members have been rather ungrateful. I propose to remain here, and I am going to argue points which I believe ought to be argued. But that is not to say that I cannot quite see the point of my hon. Friends who have taken another view, and who say they see no purpose in carrying on the Debate. Let us be fair. Some of us have been accused of trying to be obstructive, but when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) follows the advice of the Prime Minister himself, who told us how important the Business is, and of the Minister of Labour, who appealed to us to cut the thing as short as possible, all that he gets is the accusation that he is running away. [An HON. MEMBER: "By people who were not here yesterday."] By people who were not here yesterday. I propose to speak on certain points. But my hon. Friends want genuinely to help the Minister, to help the Prime Minister, to help the Government, and to get other Business through.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I hope that anything that I say will not be regarded as controversial at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) has been a Member of Parliament for many years, and I have had the honour to be here for 20 years. I would make a personal appeal to him as an old Member of the House not to create a precedent and to withdraw his Motion.

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

I want to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). He gave some gratuitous advice to some 150 Members who have come into this House since the war and reminded us that we ought to go back to the bad old days of continual obstruction, of which he himself is a master.

The Deputy-Chairman:

The question of the bad old days of obstruction does not come in here.

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

I will conclude by referring to another old Parliamentary hand—my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking), who has adopted an attitude, which, I hope, will be taken as a precedent when the good old days come, and we shall not spend wasted days in discussing things unduly in Committee when we could get on with the job.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

I have taken an opposite view of the Bill to that of my hon. Friends who have been proposing Amendments, but, in my judgment, they have taken a very wise and sensible course in the method which has been announced to-day. We are not in peace-time. They have shown, by their attendance and the way in which they have moved their Amendments, a deep sense of objection to the proposals of the Bill. That is the right way and good Parliamentary tactics. I am grateful to them for the consideration they have shown in attempting at this time to meet the general accommodation of the Committee. It does not mean in any sense that there is any departure from old established Parliamentary principles. There is a recognition on the part of my hon. Friends, who have taken, and still take, a decided objection to this Measure, of greater Measures and greater interests which can be discussed during the time of Parliament. In thanking them for the course they have adopted I wish to say—and it is in the interest of Parliament that this should be done, as we have no official Opposition now—that, on any Bill, it is a good thing that Members should take the trouble to put down Amendments, so that the real purpose of the Bill can be explained. I hope that in the time which is available for the discussion of the Committee stage of this Bill, if we have not reached those Amendments which are, in their view, of great principle, they will leave them on the Order Paper for discussion on the Report stage.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

In spite of the disagreement on my proposals, I still think that I have done the right thing, and in these circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," by leave, withdrawn.