I move this Motion with regret. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite, through that intervention, seem to be receiving it with pleasure, but I am genuinely sorry that it should be necessary to move this Motion. Perhaps I ought to make some explanatory observations in the first place, and come to reasons and precedents thereafter, and, of course, there are ample precedents for this course, dating from the Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury onwards.
So far as the proceedings in Standing Committee are concerned, the Motion prescribes as the time limit for these proceedings 17th March, 1949. This means that these proceedings can be spread over 11 Parliamentary weeks; and that, of course, takes no account of the Christmas Recess. It also means, as I interpret it, that, according as the Business Sub-Committee may decide, it would be possible, within that period, to provide for 35 sittings of the Standing Committee. [Interruption.] That will mean some afternoons, but it will give four more sittings in the Standing Committee than took place in the case of the Transport Bill. Of course, if hon. Members will cast their minds back to the Transport Bill, they will remember that it dealt with a series of industries, which was one of the arguments in favour of long proceedings, whereas this Bill deals with the single iron and steel industry. We are, then, providing more time in Standing Committee for the consideration of this Bill than was provided in the case of the Transport Bill, which dealt with a series of industries.
With regard to the proceedings on Report and Third Reading of the Bill, we provide for four allotted days for the Report stage, which is one more than was provided for the Report stage of the Transport Bill. So, here again, we are being on the generous side. One day is allotted for Third Reading, as to which I do not think there will be controversy, so far as the provision of time is concerned. These, then, are the time limits proposed for the different stages of the Bill.
Within the limits which I have just mentioned, Standing Orders 41 and 64 provide that the detailed allocation of time for the different parts of the Bill shall be settled by Business Committees. In the case of proceedings upstairs in Standing Committee, the Standing Order provides that the Standing Committee may appoint a Business Sub-Committee.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Speaker may appoint a Business Sub-Committee, with the Chairman of the Standing Committee in the chair. This is a fairly new procedure, which has already been applied in the case of certain Bills previously introduced in this Parliament. I think it is an improvement, because it gives an opportunity to hon. Members on various sides of the Committee, under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Committee, to examine the total available time which the House has allotted for proceedings in Standing Committee, and then to try to agree as to the best use of that time. So far as the Report stage is concerned, we have not, up to now, used a Business Committee for the purpose of an Allocation of Time Order on the Floor of the House, and this will be the first time, I think, that a Business Committee will have been set up and utilised for this purpose.
I would urge upon all Members of the House who will be concerned in these matters, and particularly those who will be appointed to the Business Committees, that it will be a very good thing if this Business arrangement is well used. I quite understand a vote against the Allocation of Time Order and opposition to it; but, once it is passed, I think it would be a good thing if we all of us were to try to get the Business Committee procedure used with a view to securing the maximum examination of the Bill in the time available. I honestly think that, in the time that we propose to give, adequate examination of the Bill can take place in Standing Committee upstairs and on the Floor of the House—[Interruption.] I could not expect, even if I were right—and I think I am right—that the Opposition would concur in that statement, and I make no complaint about it. Whether I am right or not, I would urge that there should be co-operation on the Business Committees, so as to make the most sensible use of the time available.
So far as I am concerned, as Leader of the House, and so far as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply is concerned, as leading the Government forces in the Standing Committee, our bias in the working of the Business Com- mittee and in its arrangements for the detailed allocation of time within the limits laid down by the Order, will be to take a favourable view of the demands of the Opposition, subject to the business of the Committee being conducted in a way which is practicable, and with a view to getting some finality on the issues to be determined. That is to say, on any discussion in either of the Business Committees as to the particular use of the time available, our bias will be to agree with the Opposition, and to give them their head as to the utilisation of that time, subject to getting the business done.
Hon. Members may or may not agree, but, believe me, I am very genuine about this. I believe we are on the threshold of a considerable experiment in this field of procedure, and, entirely without prejudice to our respective views about the Bill, I think it is far better that these matters, so far as possible, shall be settled by agreement, with a bias in favour of the view of the minority as to the use of time, rather than that the majority should just clamp down on the minority. [Interruption.] I have no doubt that the noble Lord with his aristocratic instincts will find it difficult to enter into the spirit of what I am saying, but I assure him that that was a perfectly genuine request.
I am not dealing with those two Bills at the moment, though I may do before I am done. At this moment I am dealing with the new chapter in our island story—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] Who is ordering me about? I repeat, I am dealing with the new chapter in our island story whereby an Allocation of Time Order is being imposed from the beginning of the Committee stage, and not after the Committee stage has been operating for some time. There has often been a difficulty on the Report stage in the allocation of the time in relation to the different parts of a Bill. It has been difficult to allocate time in advance, with the result that, sometimes, chaotic situations have arisen. This has led to muddle and confusion, with the result that the time on Report has not been used to the best advantage. But, under the new Standing Order No. 41, we can amicably settle how to divide up the time within the overall limit. Let us seek to make the best use of it for the general convenience of the House, and thus effect a great improvement in our procedure.
It may be argued as, indeed, it has been on some other occasions in consultations that I have had, "Why do it now? Why not wait for a few weeks and see what progress the Standing Committee makes upstairs?" We had better be realistic about the situation. First of all, this is, I understand, a contentious Measure. It certainly sounded so, when I wound up the Debate on Second Reading. While the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) had a delightfully smooth time, I had an exciting one, and I gathered that there was controversy about the nature of this Bill. The Opposition have declared, as is their right, that they will fight and oppose this Bill from the beginning to the end. Therefore, we have to face that position. We seek o get this Bill through. That is what it was introduced for. The Government are, however, prepared, and, indeed, determined, to allow reasonably full time for the discussion of every aspect of the Bill.
My noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is the Leader of the House of Lords, has impressed upon me the importance of getting the Bill to their Lordships in reasonable time for them to discharge their functions of examination and revision. I think that is a reasonable request. I have more than once said that I have a considerable admiration for the way in which their Lordships discharge their task of revision, so long as they do not get into the deep waters of high controversy and take desperate courses. I think, therefore, that it is the duty of this House—and certainly the duty of the Leader of the House, whoever he may be—to take into account not only the convenience of the House of Commons and the way it does its work, but also the convenience of their Lordships and the way in which they discharge their functions of revision.
Therefore I have freely undertaken to my noble Friend the Leader of the House of Lords that, so far as possible, I shall do everything I can to enable their Lordships to have sufficient time in which to discharge their undoubted rights and duties. There is another reason. If we did nothing and simply waited to see what progress was made in Standing Committee, we should repeat the circumstances in which the Transport Bill and the Town and Country Planning Bill met, not their Waterloo but their Guillotine. If we do it that way, what happens? On a Bill of this character either the Opposition obstructs in Committee upstairs, or, let us say, they are going to be a little bit leisurely.
If I may interrupt the right hon. Gentleman for a moment, I should like to say that I can only gather that he is suggesting that there was obstruction on the Transport Bill. I gather from his last point that he suggests that there had been obstruction and that that is why he seeks to apply the Guillotine. As Chairman of that Committee, I can assure him that there was no obstruction at all.
The last thing that I should wish would be that there should be controversy across the Floor of the House between the Chairman of a Standing Committee and the Leader of the House, and, therefore, I do not pursue the subject. But indeed, I have made no accusations against the Transport Committee. I am dealing with the Steel Bill. I will deal with the Gas Bill in a minute.
In the case of the Steel Bill, the Opposition have declared, as they have every right to do, that they are going to fight this Bill with every means in their power from beginning to end, and indeed, that if they were to win the next election, the first business of the new Parliament would be to repeal the Act—all of which is perfectly understandable and constitutionally proper. But, having given notice of these doughty deeds which are to take place upstairs and on the Floor of the House, we must accept that they mean what they say.
If we delayed action on this Motion for some weeks, the processes of obstruction or of leisurely consideration would proceed. What should we have to do then? It is our view that we ought to get this Bill back from the Committee by 17th March. Time having been lost in the early weeks, we should still have to clamp down so that the Bill was returned by 17th March, and as a consequence the Opposition would be still further damaged by the time that they had lost either by obstruction, or by leisurely consideration, in the early stages.
Now we are a very reasonable Government, and we feel that the best course is to let the Opposition know where we stand from the beginning of the proceedings, in order that they can make their plans so as to make the most effective use of the time available, which in our judgment will be ample for adequate consideration of the Bill. One must also, of course, allow time for further consideration of possible Amendments which their Lordships' House might make. It is possible that they may wish to make Amendments to the Bill. It is just possible that we may not agree with those Amendments, and, therefore, further time may be needed for the exchange of views on Amendments which may be proposed.
The last thing in the world that we want, and the last thing in the world that the House of Commons ought to want, is a repetition of the somewhat disgraceful exhibition, as I think it was, which took place in Committee on the Gas Bill. I do not say that with any bitterness. Our people stood up to it very well and the Minister came through triumphant, but I do say that that kind of thing is really out of date. There is nothing clever about it. It merely becomes a competition in physical exhaustion, and, as a matter of fact, both sides stood it well. But of all ways, the way in which legislation is not best considered, is by these sittings of hour after hour, day after day and night after night. That it is not the way in which legislation ought to be considered.
Having had that experience on the Gas Bill, I indicated at the time, and so did my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, that we should have to take that lesson into account. That Bill was not a new departure. It followed on the Electricity Bill, which was concerned with a similar field, and it was not an exceptionally controversial Bill—nowhere near as controversial as this Bill is, for understandable reasons. Therefore, I think that the trouble on the Gas Bill was dreadful—and it was showing House of Commons procedure at its worst, and I had hoped that those bad old days had gone. They are not coming up again on this Bill——
I am afraid it is not much good asking me. I was not on that Committee. I know nothing beyond the fact that it sat up night after night. The right hon. Gentleman may be right or wrong, but he is entitled to express his opinion about it.
Further to that point of Order. In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as these charges have been made both in the case of the Transport Committee and the Gas Committee, I take it that it will be in Order for hon. Members in reply to direct their speeches, to some extent, at any rate, to meeting the charges which the Lord President has made, as to whether or not obstruction did, in fact, take place in either of those Committees?
Further to that point of Order. What I think my hon. Friend had in mind, and certainly what I wish to submit to you, Mr. Speaker is this: If there is obstruction either in this House or in a Committee of this House, I understand it to be the duty of the Chair to apply the Standing Orders. The submission I make to you is that when the right hon. Gentleman says that there was obstruction night after night in a Standing Committee, that is a deliberate attack upon the Chairman of that Standing Committee. As such, I submit to you further, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman ought to be directed by the Chair to withdraw his disgraceful imputation on the Chair in the Standing Committee.
A good many interpretations could be put on the word "obstruction." Sometimes it may be an unworthy thing, and at other times it may be the legitimate effort of an Opposition to prevent the Bill becoming law. I think that is what the right hon. Gentleman meant, and therefore that is quite in Order.
I am not complaining about the Lord President at all. What I am asking is that if he makes these charges, which I take it from your Ruling he is entitled to make, hon. Members in reply should have a full opportunity of rebutting the charges which are made, and the Debate should be of that scope so that matters of that nature can be dealt with. That is all I was asking, and I should be glad of a Ruling on it now.
Since the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) is not complaining of what was said by the Lord President of the Council, and since the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is complaining, would it not save the time of this House if they fought out their argument in private?
Further to my point of Order, which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) clearly stated. The question which I am raising is one of a reflection on the Chair. The point at issue is an allegation of disgraceful obstruction. In the absence of the Chairman of that Committee, I am seek- ing a Ruling as to whether that is or is not a reflection on the conduct of that Committee, the Chairman of which had the right and the duty to see that there was no disgraceful obstruction.
Before you answer that, Sir, may I add that I understood you were seeking to put upon the right hon. Gentleman's words the interpretation that the charge of obstruction referred only to the legitimate methods of the Opposition to prevent a Bill passing into law. My recollection of what the right hon. Gentleman said—and perhaps he will confirm this or interrupt me if I am wrong—was that this was a disgraceful scene unworthy of our Parliamentary procedure. I only wish your Ruling on this point: how is that consistent with the view that all he was referring to was the legitimate attempts of the Opposition to prevent a Bill with which they disagreed being passed into law?
After that somewhat lengthy interruption I will try to pick up the thread of the argument which I was pursuing. What I would recommend to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg)—I do this in all humility—is that they should proceed with further study of Erskine May, if they have ever begun. They seem to get into their heads the idea that if anybody charges them with obstruction, he is using un-Parliamentary terms. It is laid down in Erskine May with the greatest firmness that the charge of obstruction is a perfectly fair Parliamentary charge.
I make the charge, and I stick to it, that there was obstruction. In my judgment, sitting up all day and all night on the consideration of a Bill with the view to turning it out word-perfect is a procedure which, I have no doubt, would be regarded by the hon. Member for Oxford as being a perfect psychological and mental process, but, with great respect, the boy from Stockwell Road Elementary school does not agree with him. I hope that procedure will not be repeated, because I thought the House had been getting out of these bad old habits and this Motion is designed to see that they do not slip back into them.
I mentioned at the time, as did my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, that the experiences of the Gas Bill Committee would be remembered. We are not moving this Motion in any spirit of revenge. We are merely taking this course in the light of experience and in the light of threats as to the shape of things to come. We are anxious that they shall not assume that particular shape. In the case of the Gas Bill, the proceedings in Standing Committee were exceptional in length and tedium. They lasted 127 hours and occupied no fewer than 42 issues of HANSARD—all in the Standing Committee of that modest Bill. As I have said, this was not because the Gas Bill was without precedent; it followed on at least one other Bill, if not more. Nor was it full of defects which required all that degree of attention. It was for the reasons I have indicated—that the Opposition seized every opportunity of delay; and this meant that the time was not used to the best advantage.
I affirm, therefore, that this is not the best way of using Parliamentary time; but that we can use Parliamentary time well with the help of this Allocation of Time Order. We can use it well and sensibly and get a better examination of the Bill. Otherwise, it is quite clear that hon. Members will be tempted to take the wrong path, which would be a pity. It is better, therefore, to keep the thing within adequate and, as I think, generous limits, and to obtain co-operation in the use of the time, if we can.
I have said before that I do not like the Guillotine procedure. It is a last resort which is obviously necessary in this case. Nevertheless, I do not like it. I do not like moving it and I should not like to be a victim of it. I do not like the austere words of this Motion, which sound severe, when you come to read them in cold print. I shall not like the clang of the blade, as it descends at 9.30 on certain nights. I should have preferred an agreed timetable, such as was worked with some success, I have been told—I do not know; I do not believe I was in the House at the time—on the Government of India Bill, and which again was successfully used on the Education Bill, 1944. Of course, that was in war-time conditions and under a Coalition Government.
An approach was made to the Opposition to that end, but the Opposition were not willing to meet us on the point. I am not complaining about that at all. I understand their feelings perfectly and I do not blame them. Nevertheless, having sought to do it by agreement and having found that impossible, we are left with no alternative but to devise a timetable. I have said that there are plenty of precedents for the Allocation of Time Order or the Guillotine. In its present form, the so-called Guillotine was, indeed, the invention of a Conservative Government. That is a perfectly respectable origin for the Guillotine in this form. I pay my tribute to them and express my indebtedness to them for teaching us what we are now applying. It was first used by Lord Salisbury's Government as long ago as 1887.
Oh, no, they did not go upstairs. That was for a very good reason. I remember reading some memoirs—it was the biography by Mr. A. G. Gardner of the late Sir William Harcourt—in which it was said that in the days of the Liberal Government, at the end of the last century, they had a deputation of back benchers who asked the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House, "Could not we have one party Bill a Session?" That is the way they went on. It was their way of living. They lived a most leisurely life on the Floor of the House, when even First Readings could be debated for four days. Of course they did not go upstairs. They preferred to be down here, living their leisurely life.
There really is no crime in taking the Committee stage of a Bill in Committee. The Standing Committee Procedure was invented later on and has been utilised from time to time by all Governments. The only difference between this and other Governments on the point is that we have organised it somewhat more rationally and sensibly than other Governments have; but there is nothing new in it. It does not matter, of course, whether it was down here on the Floor of the House or whether it was upstairs. Lord Salisbury's Government in 1887 applied this type of Guillotine—it is curious that Ireland should come up again so soon—on the Criminal Law Procedure (Ireland) Bill of that year. Another Conservative Government, Mr. Balfour's Government, used the Guillotine on three occasions, not for the great Measures of economic change like this, but for the Education Bill of 1902, the Licensing Bill of 1904, and the Aliens Bill of 1905. I am bound to say I am surprised that those Measures needed the Guillotine, but it was Mr. Balfour who brought the Guillotine down.
It was the Liberal Government—where are the Liberals? Not here. Something really ought to be done about the Liberal Party. There ought to be at least one Liberal here to hear one's comments.
One solitary Liberal National has emerged, trying to mask himself as a genuine Liberal. Only one Liberal National out of—I do not know exactly how many—not very many, but a certain number. So there is one, and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman that he is here, and I shall report it to the Liberal Party when I meet them next.
The Liberal Governments of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Asquith made frequent use of the Guillotine. Indeed, they depended upon it for getting through most of their new social legislation at that time, the sort of legislation that we have got through quite well without the Guillotine. The Opposition are entitled to their share of the credit that we have got it through without the use of the Guillotine. But consider this, which shows how time marches on. They had to use the Guillotine for such Measures as the Old Age Pensions Bill, 1908. Evidently, the Tories had been up to some nasty work at the crossroads on the Old Age Pensions Bill, 1908.
The Liberal Government had to use it for such Measures as the Housing, Town Planning, etc. Bill, 1909, brought in by my old friend, John Burns, and the National Insurance Bill, 1911, as to which some controversy was raised by ladies of the West End who objected to the licking of stamps at the time. A number of the Guillotine Motions even at that time dealt with the whole of the Committee and Report stages in advance. Therefore, I think I ought to be able to count on the support of the Liberal Party, and even on that of the Liberal National element of the Conservative Party, for this Motion today. After the first World War Mr. Baldwin's second Government used the Guillotine for the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill, 1927, the Unemployment Insurance Bill. 1927, the Rating and Valuation Bill, 1928, the Local Government Bill, 1929—a great Measure of which I am a very considerable admirer.
We have all been infected by this at some time or another, ever since the respectable Lord Salisbury introduced it in 1887. This Government has been remarkably moderate in using the Allocation of Time Order. This is the first time we have used this procedure from the beginning, and we are now using it at the beginning for the benefit of the Opposition. We used it in respect of the other Bills only when we got into trouble. This is a moderate Government in this respect. Let me add this. It is also to the credit of the Opposition that, taken as a whole, they have dropped those old-fashioned and, I personally think, bad and discredited methods of mere obstruction and of wasting Parliamentary time, and the Opposition are entitled to their share of credit for that. It has not prevented the Opposition from vigorously expressing their point of view and voting against things in which they did not believe.
There is plenty of precedent and eminently respectable precedent, too, from all quarters for a Motion of this kind. In these circumstances I should have thought that after a few observations from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and, no doubt, perfectly proper criticism and protests, the House would unanimously agree to the Motion.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Motion, to leave out from "That," to the end, and to add:
this House declines to assent to the arbitrary curtailment of debate upon a measure vitally important to the economic life of the nation.
The right hon. Gentleman produced one novel argument in the course of his speech in support of this Guillotine Motion, and that was his consideration for another place. That is an advance which we all register. Of course, it is a completely invalid argument, for it would be perfectly possible to give the House adequate time to discuss this Bill as it ought to be discussed and to send it to another place to be discussed there also. The right hon. Gentleman spent a lot of time in examining past precendents for the Guillotine, completely ignoring the fact that all those examples he gave were in respect of the application of the Guillotine on the Floor of the House. He seems to be completely unwilling to open his mind to the fact that there is in our judgment all the difference in the world between the discussion of a major Bill by the whole of this House and its being sent upstairs to be discussed by one-twelfth of the Members of the House.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give me a categorical assurance that if this Bill, or another Bill, were taken on the Floor of the Chamber, he would then welcome the Allocation of Time Order?
No. I look at my obstacles one at a time. If the right hon. Gentleman were to come to me and say, "We prefer to take this Bill on the Floor of the House," that would be an advance, and I should register it with pleasure. As to what would happen after that, I should be quite ready to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman through the usual channels. I think that is perfectly fair. The right hon. Gentleman would not expect me, surely, to buy a pig in a poke? Would the right hon. Gentleman like me to move the Adjournment so that that matter could be examined? No? That is rather disappointing. I thought we were getting on.
Then the right hon. Gentleman gave us examples of Sittings. He was squeamish about the Gas Bill, and he talked about our attitude to the Old Age Pensions Bill, 1908—before my day, I am afraid. However, I remember another pensions Bill, Mr. Chamberlain's Widows' and Old Age Pensions Bill, on which we sat up all night, night after night, I do not know for how long, because hon. Gentlemen opposite did not like it. I do not say that that was wrong. Nor do I think it is always wrong that this House should sit late or devote itself arduously to the examination of a Bill. Which is he better, that the House should only half examine a Bill, or examine it by a third, by this Procedure, or examine it fully even if it involves late Sittings?
The right hon. Gentleman was very squeamish about Debates on the Gas Bill, but I am not sure he was fair as to the results. If he will look at the record of the Report stage, he will find that there were no fewer than 111 Amendments moved by the Government themselves. Why did the Government have to do that? Presumably because in the course of the Committee stage—which the right hon. Gentleman thought was a dreadful obstruction and to which he takes such exception—the Opposition had been able to persuade the Government that those Amendments were necessary; and so when we came to the Report stage 111 Amendments were moved by the Government, 108 of which were accepted. That seems to me to show that the time spent on the Gas Bill was not wholly wasted.
When I come to make an observation or two on the Transport Bill in a moment, we shall see what a travesty of an examination that Bill had, because of what the Government did. The right hon. Gentleman said—and I am not making any complaint about it—that we had a number of late Sittings. I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman's view about late Sittings. I did not know he was so unalterably opposed to late Sittings. Perhaps, in another Parliament than this, I shall be able to remind him of what he has said. I would remind him now that it was at our suggestion that the Local Government Bill was split into two portions, a part being sent to the Scottish Grand Committee and a part to the Standing Committee. Had that course not been followed, then indeed we might have taken a great deal longer than we did. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms on that are justified; nor do I really believe he has much faith in them himself.
The right hon. Gentleman asks why did we not have discussions about a timetable? I am making no complaint about that. It was perfectly proper for him to make an approach. But I think it is only fair that I should tell the House why we did not feel that we could have discussions in this case. In the first instance, we did not feel we could because we consider, as I have said already, that the Committee stage of a Bill of this magnitude ought to be taken on the Floor of the Chamber. That is absolutely fundamental to our attitude.
The Second Reading having gone against us—and I do not question it; I should not be in Order if I did—at least we consider that the Committee stage should be ample and that the Report stage should be spacious. When the right hon. Gentleman was ready to discuss this matter of the allocation of time within the limits of which he has told us—to 17th March—I must confess that it seemed to me that it was absolutely futile to suppose that we could adequately examine the Bill in Committee by 17th March, and so I could not see any value in the discussions whatever.
Frankly, I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that, despite all that he has told us about this Business Committee, I cannot see how it is possible to make a useful plan to guillotine this Bill on this occasion. Never until this Parliament have major Bills of the Session—and this is surely the major Bill of the Session—been sent upstairs and never until this Parliament has a Bill been guillotined in Committee upstairs. Those are two innovations which the right hon. Gentleman completely ignores. I cannot see how we can hope to arrange a fair method of guillotining for a Bill of this character. How can the Minister tell which parts of the Bill, when we come to the Committee stage, will require more discussion than other parts? We may take a general view now on examining the Bill, but everyone who has served on a Committee knows that the general view taken may be proved absolutely wrong when one gets down to detailed discussion. All sorts of topics emerge that are not apparent when the Bill is first discussed. I say that our fundamental objection is to the guillotining of any major legislative Measure in a Standing Committee upstairs. I repeat that there seems to us to be absolutely no basis for negotiation.
No one, certainly not the right hon. Gentleman, is going to deny the wide significance of this Bill. All of us on both sides of the House are agreed that the future of this industry is fundamental to our national life. That is why we moved that the Bill should be committed to a Committee of the Whole House. Over and over again, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been eloquent about the essential nature of this Bill; it is the keystone in respect of our future industrial life.
I want to touch in this argument on the constitutional aspect of this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's argument at the conclusion of his speech the other night, was that this was a constitutional Measure, since there was a Parliamentary majority for it, and therefore the Constitution itself was concerned in getting the Bill passed. I do not think that that is a misrepresentation of the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have the actual words if any one wants them to be quoted.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was answering two questions concerning opposition to the Bill. He went on:
This challenge having been put forward by private interests, it is essential that democracy should assert its right, as otherwise it must acknowledge for all time that it cannot touch these citadels of power, and that it is not the electorate but the owners of industrial property who shall determine the economic policies of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 326.]
If that is not a constitutional issue, I do not know what is.
Nothing could more completely show that the Constitution is concerned than the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day. I do not see how his words can possibly square with the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman gave to my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) some little time ago when my hon. Friend said that he understood that the Government's policy was that every Bill that could be said to contain serious constitutional implications should be taken on the Floor of the House; to which the right hon. Gentleman replied. "Yes." Personally, I have never accepted that doctrine. I think that the right doctrine is that every Bill which deeply affects the life of the nation as a whole should be taken on the Floor of this House. I cannot see how anyone can pretend that a Bill admittedly aimed at removing the citadels of power from one section of the people to another does not affect the constitutional position. That is the argument which I submit.
I cannot argue about the decision of the House to send the Bill upstairs, but surely that decision makes it all the more important that the scrutiny which the Bill receives in Committee should be thorough and complete. That is the real crux of the matter. Do the Government want the House to join in shaping their Bills, or do they simply want to present their Bills to the House and force them through by means of their great majority? The right hon. Gentleman might like to make a little calculation. If he adds up the votes cast in the General Election for those who voted against this Bill and for those who voted for the Bill on Second Reading, he will find that there was a small but adequate majority against the Bill. I have included the Liberals and the Independents. I can give him the actual figures if he wants them. It was a majority of approximately 220,000 against the Bill.
Are we to be told about these mathematical calculations concerning the electors at the General Election, when it is the case that the leader of the Liberal Party, before the General Election, had signed on the dotted line in favour of the Steel Bill? The Liberal Party, as a whole, had accepted principles not inconsistent with the Steel Bill; now it is argued that there was a majority of 220,000 electors voted against the Steel Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman include the Liberals among the electors who voted against the Bill?
It is no part of my task to explain the policy of the Liberal Party to the right hon. Gentleman. All I have done is to add up the figures in respect of those who voted against the Bill and put them against the figures for those who voted for the Bill, and result is to put the Government in a minority of approximately 220,000. [Interruption.] It will be much better next time I agree, but that is for the moment. I use that argument as another reason why the Government should have used every possible precaution to ensure that this Bill was adequately discussed.
We regard this timetable as wholly indefensible. It provides that the Committee stage shall be finished in an automatic way in insufficient time. The four days allotted to the Report stage, if experience is any guide at all, will be quite derisory. It is approximately the same amount of time as the Government of the day gave to the Government of India Act. Although the whole of the Committee stage of that Bill was taken on the Floor of the House, four days were thought proper for the Report stage. No extra time has been allotted, although the Committee stage of this Bill is being taken upstairs. We have experience of two major Measures which have already been guillotined in Committee upstairs during the life of this Parliament—the Transport Bill and the Town and Country Planning Bill. Each of those was a little more fortunate than this Measure, because each was given more free discussion before the Guillotine fell—discussion which has been described by everyone concerned as being useful discussion. This time there are no free days.
I ask the House to look at what happened to those two Measures. I regard it as a national scandal. Take the Transport Bill first. The Standing Committee on the Transport Bill had 31 Sittings. The Standing Committee on this Bill may have a few more if it sits in the afternoons—a bad habit if Members are to attend to their duties in the House. At the end, the position was that 37 out of 127 Clauses and seven out of 13 Schedules had not been considered at all. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that that was adequate discussion for a Bill of that magnitude? On the Report stage, may I remind the Home Secretary, the Guillotine fell at Clause 38 out of 127 Clauses. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that that was proper discussion of that Bill on the Report stage? [Interruption.] It is the Government's own Guillotine; it is not our fault; we had no control over the matter. I must point out that the Government themselves introduced no fewer than 200 Amendments in Committee, of which 94 had not been reached when the Guillotine fell. What is that but reducing the whole proceedings of Parliament to a farce? Is that what is to happen to this Bill, which, on the Government's own admission, is probably the most important this Parliament has yet seen?
But I have not yet finished with the examples. Let us take the Town and Country Planning Bill. On that, there were 25 Sittings in Committee; 52 of the 108 Clauses and six of the nine Schedules were not discussed—just about half the Bill. Is that regarded as satisfactory? The Report stage ended when 14 of the 108 Clauses had been discussed. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that to be serious Parliamentary procedure? Of course it is not; it merely results in incompletely examined Bills going to another place, as I shall show in a minute. Of course, the Government may say: "By now we are getting so used to introducing nationalisation Measures that we can draft them a bit better than we have done so far." That may be the argument; I do not know. Whole pieces may be lifted from one Bill and put into another. On the Report stage of the Town and Country Planning Bill there were 200 Government Amendments, 50 of which were not discussed at all—once again, absolutely derisory as serious Parliamentary discussion. And the result? These Bills go to another place in a condition which can be judged from the figures I have given.
What happens in another place? On the Transport Bill the Government moved 139 Amendments of their own, and accepted 91 of our Amendments, which there had not been time to examine in this House, the elected assembly. Knowing the right hon. Gentleman's regard for another place, I was surprised that he should wish to ignore the elected assembly in this way. In another place, on the Town and Country Planning Bill the Government moved 289 Amendments and accepted 47 of our Amendments. Can that Bill have left this House in splendid shape? I ask the House to examine the position with regard to those two Measures, which must constitute an all-time record in Parliamentary history. Those two Bills were altered in another place by 230 and 336 Amendments respectively. Is this Bill to be treated like that, too? The right hon. Gentleman cannot seriously believe that that is what should happen.
While acknowledging the point of view of the Opposition, I would point out that at the rate the Standing Committee dealt with the Transport Bill, of about a Clause a day, it would have been nearly a year before the Committee stage was completed. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that if the Opposition had been the Government of the day and had introduced a Bill on those lines, they would have allowed it to go on in that way?
We cannot be reproached on that score, because we have always opposed sending major Bills upstairs. If there was the possibility of a Bill going as slowly as that, it could be taken on the Floor of the House, with more Sittings, including late Sittings. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the mere fact that these Bills now normally go upstairs increases the importance of the Report stage. In the old days it will be remembered that when Bills were discussed on the Floor of the House the Report stage was, to a large extent, a formality. But now, if these Measures go upstairs, they are not, except on Report, discussed by five-sixths of the House, so that the figures I have given are really much worse than they appear to be.
I must for a moment pray in aid another quotation. I am sorry to weary the House with these quotations, but this is very germane to what we are discussing; and I beg the Lord President to believe that we do view this as a very serious matter indeed. This was something said in 1937, on a quite different occasion, in relation to a Standing Order—nothing, of course, so drastic as this. This is the language then used:
This House has never been a mere assembly for registration. It has never been a mere debating society. It has never merely been a House which the Government use as an instrument of registration …Where certain Members oppose the Bill in principle they take an active part in trying to make it workable.
How can we do that under this ridiculous Guillotine procedure!
Therefore, every Bill that goes through the House becomes in that way the work of the whole House.
The importance of that procedure is that the experience and ideas of the Members of the House are brought into the common pool. That is the traditional British method and the democratic method."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 8th March, 1948; Vol. 321, c. 815–6.]
But that is not the method the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing when he takes a Bill out of the reach of five-sixths of the House and brings it back in front of us for only four days. That quotation, as the Lord President probably knows, is from the present Prime Minister himself.
The right hon. Gentleman is probably greatly relieved to hear it is not, but I wish he would live up to it.
Let me deal for a moment with the Report stage, and here I must call the Chair as a witness. It also has reference to what the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish) said just now. It is important that the House should understand the fundamental change in our procedure which is brought about by sending these major Bills upstairs while getting no corresponding increase of time on Report. We are offered four days; those four days to include, if you please, any recommittal for righting any of the Government's mistakes—although perhaps the Government do not make mistakes, but learn as they go on. Those four days are to include any Amendments the Government wish to make, and any recommittal of their own—which past experience shows might easily last a day and a half or two days; we cannot tell; and there is no criticism that it should. I urge that at least the Report stage ought to be exclusive of recommittal on the Government's own Clauses. In the Select Committee on Procedure the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) asked Mr. Speaker:
Did I understand aright that your view was that, if nearly all Bills are referred to Standing Committees, that would reasonably demand that a longer time should be given to the Report stage for debate?
This is Mr. Speaker's answer:
I think that is inevitable. After all, if a Bill goes before a Standing Committee it is going before one-sixth of the House.
As a matter of fact, it is very much less than one-sixth now.
If it has been before a Committee of the Whole House, I see no reason for calling the
Amendments on Report unless they are of tremendous importance; but when it has been before one-sixth of the House I cannot apply the selection so drastically.
In other words, in Mr. Speaker's view, to send a Bill of major importance upstairs does involve an obligation on the Government to give more time on Report for an examination by the Whole House, because otherwise the Whole House cannot give it proper consideration. We have here a Bill which is to be guillotined upstairs and then brought down to the Floor of the House for four days on Report, out of which we cannot tell how much time the Government will themselves take in respect of recommittal on their own Clauses.
I understand the point of the hon. Member's question, but that is not really the issue, because when a Bill is taken on the Floor of the House any hon. Member can take part in the discussion; it means that the nation as a whole is, geographically and industrially, represented. When a Bill is taken upstairs to a small Committee of 50 Members, then that Committee is neither geographically nor industrially representative of the nation. It is my view—and I hope I shall be able to live up to it in due course—that these major Bills should be discussed on the Floor of the House.
Is it not a fact that the small Committee upstairs is constituted of Members who have accepted an individual responsibility in regard to the Bill; and is it not therefore obvious that if the Bill were taken on the Floor of the House, the added attendance would not make any difference to the width of discussion?
No doubt every effort is made to make the Committee upstairs representative, but my argument is that this House is representative of the nation, and when the nation has before it a major Bill this House is the place in which it should be discussed, and not some Committee composed of a selected minority, however admirable they may be, in some other part of the building.
I am sorry to detain the House so long, but there are one or two further considerations I must put to the right hon. Gentleman on why we consider this Bill requires special treatment. He spoke as though the Transport Bill deserved a longer time for consideration than this Bill. We think that the problems raised by this Bill are even wider and deeper than those raised by the Transport Measure, and I want to mention one or two reasons for that. First of all, the form taken by nationalisation, that of a holding company, is something entirely new in our national experience and legislation, and that will need very close examination by the Committee. There are 107 companies which are to be taken over, which is a far larger number than in the case of the railways. It ought to be the duty of the Committee to examine in detail the list of companies which are to be nationalised, and no doubt many points will arise during that discussion as to whether the Government's criterion ought to be applied to each one of these undertakings, which means 107 discussions.
Then there is the question of compensation, which still is not in any way settled. We have still had no kind of reply to the question I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Second Reading Debate, when I reminded him of what the Master of the Rolls had said, which seems to conflict entirely with the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to how compensation should be paid and the justice of it. That also has to be examined. But there are other topics which must be examined. There is the question of the relationship between the State Corporation and the private competing firms. That, again, is something novel.
The form of the Bill raises all sorts of problems of a grave and far-reaching character that were not raised by the previous nationalisation Measures. The Government maintain that competition between the State monopoly and private firms will be on a fair basis, but where is the guarantee for that in the Bill? As it stands at present, the Minister has complete power to sweep out of business any inconvenient competitor. We want to discuss at length the question of fair safeguards so that firms that are called upon to face competition with the State Corporation can do so under fair conditions. The same applies to the consumer, who is more cavalierly treated here than he was under the preceding Measures. The only provision is for consumer councils, but our experience of the other nationalisation Measures does not make us think that much will come out of that. We had more than that in the case of the Transport Bill. We had a tribunal set up which exercised some supervision over charges, but there is nothing of that kind in this Bill. The only reference to charges is in the general dully imposed on the Corporation by Clause 3. There must be a thorough consideration of this problem of charges and consumer protection, and we on this side shall have many arguments and suggestions we shall wish to raise on this point.
Then there is the question of the powers of the Minister. He may say that his powers under this Bill differ very little from the powers of other Ministers under the earlier nationalisation Measures, and I think there is some truth in that, but it does not mean that they are of any less importance to our national life when put into the scope of this Bill. One of the Government's arguments, used in their Jekyll mood, in favour of this Bill is that it will make no immediate difference to the structure of the industry.
It is to the cooing we are referring. We are told that the Government's contention is that the present firms will be allowed to go on very much as they are at present. If that is so and this new Corporation is going to be ridden on the slackest possible reins——
That is what we had in mind when drafting it. I merely want to say to the right hon. Gentleman that if this Corporation is to be ridden on the slackest possible reins, why is it that the powers given to the Minister—and I hope we shall have an answer to this—are fully as sweeping and as comprehensive as the powers given to his colleagues who have already been put in charge of other nationalised industries? If they are not to be used, why are these powers so wide? We want to put forward Amendments to clarify this position and to limit the sweeping powers given to the Minister.
There is another point in this connection which we want to discuss. The argument was advanced by the right hon. Gentleman that the present system of public supervision of privately owned and managed industry was that the Government could impose a veto but could not insist on detailed projects being carried out. This was the excuse that the Government offered for interfering with the industry, and yet on the face of the Bill the Minister will have no power to order the undertaking of any specific project. That is another matter we shall want to discuss. Does the Minister maintain that he still has powers to issue directions on specific matters under this Bill? That is just the kind of problem we shall have to discuss.
Finally, but by no means exhaustively, there is the whole question of the Government's plan and policy for the future of the steel industry. The right hon. Gentleman tried to twist what I said the other night into suggesting that I had asked for the inclusion in the Bill of the detailed plans for the future of the industry. I did not ask anything of the kind. As we all know, the detailed plans for the future of the industry have already been agreed upon by the industry and the Government, and are in process of being carried out. But there ought to be a discussion in Committee on the Government's policy in regard to major matters connected with the steel industry. We ought to have an opportunity upstairs to elicit from the Government their views on these matters.
We shall want to know whether the Government have any plans in mind for integrating the various companies in various areas, and if so, what those plans are. We shall want to know what views, if any, the Government have on the subject of plant location and price policy. On many of these matters we shall have suggestions to offer, and all this is to be done under the Guillotine. These are matters which cannot be passed over lightly but must be discussed if this House is to do its duty. The proposals laid before the House this afternoon by the Government will make it impossible to carry out a proper examination of this Bill in Committee or on Report.
Of all the Government's actions in defiance of Parliamentary democracy, this is the worst they have done yet. Before any detailed discussion of the Bill has commenced, the Government have laid down their inadequate timetable. They have no reason or excuse. They do not tell us what all this hurry is about, and I completely fail to understand why we should be forced to work to such a timetable. We have a long Session and ample time to examine the Bill in a manner that the subject deserves. We think that Parliament should discharge its duties by this Measure, but this timetable denies us the right to do so, and therefore I ask the House to reject this Motion wholesale.
I cannot understand, after listening to the Lord President of the Council why he has put down this Motion. I imagine that he is interested in his popularity in the country. If this were the first nationalisation Measure, it would make little difference to the electorate if he pushed it through in a great hurry, but the fact is that we have now reached the point where nationalisation is on trial. It is fair to say that the floating vote of this country is doubtful now whether the National Coal Board, for example, is a success or a failure. The Government are making a political present to this side of the House in allowing us to go on any platform and, within two or three minutes, remind the audience that the Coal Board is a failure, that this is now a melancholy fact and not Tory speculation, that the first five Clauses of the Iron and Steel Bill are lifted from the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, and that although numerous weaknesses in the Coal Board have been incorporated in this Bill we are not to be allowed in Committee the time that is necessary to improve this vital part of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) compared the time taken to deal with the Transport Bill and the Gas Bill with the time that will be available for this Bill. I want to refer to another example—the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, on the Standing Committee of which I served. When the House has accepted the principle of nationalisation of an industry on Second Reading, however much we are against it on this side of the House we go upstairs to Standing Committee determined to do our job, to make the Bill as workable as we can and as little harmful as possible to the country. No hon. Member opposite who served on the Standing Committee on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill could accuse any of us on that Committee of any form of obstruction or leisurely proceeding.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, we understand, has persuaded important members of the American Government that the Iron and Steel Bill is different altogether from the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act. It is nothing of the kind. The first five Clauses are almost exactly the same. In Committee on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill we took seven days to deal with the first two or three Clauses setting up the Coal Board, defining the functions of the Board and the powers of the Minister, and setting up consumers' committees which, incidentally, have done nothing. The same order in the Clauses is followed in the Iron and Steel Bill.
May I remind those Members who were on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill Standing Committee that the Labour Members of that Committee gave us no help in the opening stages, which dealt with the organisation of the Coal Board, now under such criticism? It is true that when we came to the Clauses dealing with mineworkers we had valuable contributions from the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) who crossed swords once or twice with the Minister. By and large, however, supporters of the Government on that Committee behaved like sheep who had forgotten even how to say "Baa" to the Parliamentary Secretary. The Liberal Party made practically no contribution at all throughout that Committee. But Members opposite will, I presume, talk on the Committee stage of the Iron and Steel Bill because they have had two years' experience of how the National Coal Board has been found wanting. It would be a dereliction of duty if they did not bring that experience to bear to improve this Bill.
It is not only that we hope that many more Members will speak, and that there is now a greater fund of experience about the organisation of nationalised industry, but that the organisation of the Iron and Steel Corporation will be much more difficult to deal with than was the set-up in the coal industry. It is easy to recognise a coal mine. We had some discussion upstairs about a few ancillary undertakings that came under the Coal Board, but here we are mutilating an industry; we are drawing an arbitrary line right across 2,000 firms. This demarcation will need to be discussed at great length if we are to do our duty properly.
I pass now to the question of the relationship between the Minister and the Iron and Steel Corporation, as set out in Clauses 2 and 4 of the Bill. How long does the House think that these Clauses need be discussed? They are almost identical with the opening Sections of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act. I ask any Member to read the first six lines of Clause 4, by which the Minister takes power to give general directions. We must deal with this Clause with great care, and try to see how we can put into the Bill a clear definition of the limits of authority between the Minister and the Corporation. What was wrong with the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill was that we could not tell who was to be the boss in the industry. It is equally impossible, as the Iron and Steel Bill is drafted, to know at what point the Corporation has full authority and at what point the Minister has the authority. We made this mistake with the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, but we must not make that mistake a second time.
It does not matter whether we are Conservatives or Socialists; if we are to set up a great corporation to deal with a vital industry like iron and steel we must make it workable, or we shall all suffer. No one can say, from reading the Bill, with whom trade unions are to negotiate, or whether the Minister will settle wage policy or whether it will be the Corporation.
No doubt I was not doing it so well as I should, Sir, but I was trying to show that there are many points of controversial nature in the Bill. So far, I have only discussed its first four Clauses. From our experience of a similar Measure we know that many days must be spent on these matters in Standing Committee if we are to argue them properly. I will not say how the powers should be divided; no doubt, we shall talk about that in Committee, but I say that some of the major weaknesses of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act are repeated in this Bill.
I must say a few words about the wretched Clause 6 which sets up consumers' committees. On Second Reading, the Lord President, if I recollect aright, said that the Bill would provide better protection for consumers than they had ever had before. There is nothing of the kind in the Bill. The Minister must set up a committee. What the committee is to do, is left entirely blank. I am quite certain that my hon. Friends will not be content with that. They will want to take away that part of the Clause which leaves the Minister a completely free hand to say how much protection consumers are to get, and they will want to substitute for that new Clauses and Amendments in order to safeguard those who will buy the products of the Iron and Steel Corporation. There is also a great omission in this part of the Bill which will need to be attended to, and which has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend below me.
In this Bill, we have not only to discuss the safeguards for those who buy the products of the Iron and Steel Corporation; we have to discuss the safeguards for those who produce things in competition with the Corporation. They have no protection under the Bill at all. All of us in this House represent these taxpayers, who will be part owners of the Iron and Steel Corporation. Their money and their assets are going to be used in competition with their private Businesses Are we not to give them good and adequate safeguards? I can imagine that to be a very difficult thing to do, because it is novel to have to set up forms of safeguards to protect the whole range of engineering firms from unfair competition by the Corporation. That has not been done before, and that is all the more reason for giving us a great deal of time in which to study it and to get it right.
I now come to a serious omission in the Bill. Under Clause 3, which is a very short Clause, the general duty laid upon the Corporation is to produce iron and steel products. Nothing is said about selling anything or about the duties of the Corporation in the export markets. We cannot let that go through as it is. This is a most serious thing. The 107 firms now in the Schedule, all of whom we shall have to examine, possess large overseas assets. Something will have to be done about those assets. If the Bill goes through in its present form, I am absolutely certain that the Governments of the foreign countries in which those overseas assets are situated will retaliate by nationalising them. When they do that, they will do great harm to our overseas trade. Surely, that is something with which we have not had to deal before, and for the consideration of which we shall want a great deal of time. It is not just a question of amending this Bill; there will be some new Clauses of very considerable importance put down by my hon. Friends.
I do not wish to delay the House any more, but there is another aspect which is omitted from the Bill. When His Majesty's Government got Marshall Aid, they signed a number of obligations to the effect that they would discourage the use of certain business practices which are contained in an Appendix to the main Economic Recovery Act. Time and and again this Bill is contrary to the undertakings they gave there. Why should we pass a Bill which, in our opinion, breaks the undertakings given by the Government to a friendly country?
I ask the Government to withdraw their Motion for the following reason, which is in their own interests. The British people are very practical people; they are not at all afraid of experiments. Indeed, they have always made their history by trial and error, and they are quite willing, as we saw at the last Election, to experiment with nationalisation. This experiment is not working well, and the people of this country will consider very carefully any further powers to nationalise an industry for which Ministers may ask without, at the same time, giving their representatives in Parliament proper time to take into account the experience of the last two years, particularly that in regard to the National Coal Board.
Hon. Members opposite seem to me to be in far too great a hurry, and to be doing themselves damage. They are very much like restaurant waiters on a temporary basis—like the waiter who, having dropped three plates, skids back to the kitchen and immediately asks for five for his next trip. That is the impression which will get about the country if we are not allowed to discuss these things adequately. The real meaning of this Motion is contained in that line of Macbeth which says:
Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.
That has always been so. When men start on a wrong course, they get pushed along by some mysterious force, and go farther and farther in the wrong direction, and then they are touched—in this case by bringing in the Guillotine on this Bill—by a madness which marks them out for nearby destruction.
The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who has spoken with his customary care and clarity, said that the Labour Party was in an awful hurry and that we were trying to get things done much too quickly. He fortified most of his arguments by reference to the Coal Board, and to what he regarded as the failure of the Coal Board. Had the party opposite shown any desire to hurry at all, they could have followed the lead of the Leader of the Opposition in 1923, when he was completely in favour of the nationalisation of the coalmining industry. They could have worked out their own scheme for the nationalisation of that industry, with all the beautiful safeguards which hon. Members opposite would no doubt regard as necessary. But the hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Conservative Party ignored every Commission that was ever set up in the coalmining industry, ignored all their recommendations, and did not introduce any legislation to put things right in that industry.
Also remarkable about the hon. Gentleman's speech, and even more remarkable about that of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), was the fact that they denounced this Motion as something that was a breach of the Constitution. That is simply masquerading their defence of the companies involved in the Bill. They attempted to make out a constitutional case, but they did not make out a very good case because no great constitutional issue is involved. When the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the 107 companies affected, each one of whom, he said, would require a separate Debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but I think that the hon. Member for Chippenham did suggest that each one of the 107 companies would require discussion and examination. Indeed, he extended that a little further, and said that the 2,000 firms involved would require some examination. If that is the way in which we are going to discuss the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry then, indeed, we shall need oceans of time, and far more than is provided by the machinery set up. Surely, that is not the right way to approach the problem of nationalising any industry, and certainly not the iron and steel industry.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite are as well aware as I am that although 107 companies may be involved in this nationalisation, the iron and steel industry of this country is not run by 107 companies, but by six companies. It is perfectly true that these companies have their directors on a hundred other companies, and what we are really proposing to do is to bring what is virtually a monopoly into the ownership of the State. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in answer to a point of Order, ruled that the Amendment put down by the Opposition does widen the scope of the Debate, and I propose to take advantage of that Ruling, because it does seem to me to widen the scope of the Debate
very considerably. The Amendment says:
this House declines to assent to the arbitrary curtailment of debate upon a measure vitally important to the economic life of the nation.
It is very interesting when hon. Members opposite are so concerned about the arbitrary curtailment of the Debate, and when they link this suggestion of arbitrary curtailment with the economic life of the nation. I am always concerned as to what hon. Members opposite mean by "the economic life of the nation." They are terribly concerned about the 107 companies that are to be nationalised. Did they ever show the same concern for the employees of the 107 companies now to be nationalised? I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) has just left the Chamber, because I cannot recall from his long career in this House, when he was representing, not the safe backwoodsman's seat of the Scottish Universities, but the county town of Lanark, that he initiated a Debate to discuss the arbitrary closing down of the Glasgow Iron and Steel Works in my home town, when 3,000 people were thrown into unemployment and poverty. Was not that a matter vital to the economic life of the nation, or was it something which the Conservative Party dismisses as not worth a second's consideration in this House or elsewhere? I have yet to learn that, when a much smaller works, the Pather Iron Works, closed down in Lanarkshire, any Debate was initiated by the Conservative Party in this House on behalf of the people who were thrown into unemployment and also into poverty.
I could have imagined that the Conservative Party, and especially hon. Members like the hon. Member for Chippenham, who has the advantage of most of his colleagues in that he is both informed and intelligent, might have initiated a Debate on the economic consequences of the move of Stewart and Lloyds from Mossend and Bellshill in Lanarkshire to Corby in Northamptonshire. That was a move made in the interests of steel efficiency, and in many ways I am prepared to believe that it really was in the interests of steel efficiency. Nevertheless, it left behind in Lanarkshire two large villages derelict and abandoned, their populations idle and on the dole year after year. Even today, many years after that move, the largest pockets of unemployment in the West of Scotland are still to be found in these two villages, because of that aribtrary move by an arbitrary board of directors. It seems to me that the terms of the Amendment consist of words that are ill chosen.
We on this side of the House are vitally concerned about the economic life of the nation. We are desperately concerned about it, because we have not only a few directors to consider, but the workers of the industry as well.
I have no monopoly of it, nor have my hon. Friends, but the Amendment suggests that the party opposite claim that monopoly for themselves. Did we hear any move from the Conservative Benches to consider something that has nothing to do with either private enterprise or Socialism, when Richard Thomas's was merged—very nice word—with Baldwin's? Was that vital to the economic life of the nation or was it merely affecting a little corner of Wales that does not matter very much to the Conservative Party?
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? He asks what the critics of the Motion mean by "the economic life of the nation." May I suggest that the Debate on this Bill and this Motion has followed insistently the line of showing that, by the economic life of the nation, we mean the economic ability of the nation to earn so much by production and export as will enable us to import the raw materials, without which, as several Ministers have told us, there would be unemployment, not in patches, but to the extent of one or two millions?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his interruption and for his elementary lesson in economics. We think it means all that but the workers in the industry and the consumers in the country as well.
On a point of Order. I am becoming more and more puzzled as to what kind of relevance this speech has either to the Amendment or the Motion. As I understand it, the question is whether there should be a time limit, and whether the argument contained in the Amendment is a good objection to that time limit. The only point upon which the hon. Gentleman has so far sought to hang his argument has been the phrase "the economic life of the nation." As I understand his argument—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—he is not disputing that the steel industry is vital to the economic life of the nation, but he has used that phrase of the Amendment to introduce a long series of diatribes on the past history of some of my hon. Friends. May we have a Ruling as to how for these diatribes may be answered in the course of the Debate?
I was not here when my predecessor gave his Ruling, but it is clear that the Amendment does widen the scope of the Debate considerably. I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman, and I think he is in Order, because he is trying to show that, in the past, when these mergers did take place, there had not been the same kind of concern. That is what I think he is aiming at, and it is the terms of the Amendment about which he is complaining. I believe the hon. Gentleman is in Order in doing so. I apologise for my voice; it is unfortunate.
May I say, and I am sure I carry my hon. Friends with me, that we are sorry to hear that your sweet voice, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is affected in this way, but may we have a Ruling on this point? If a series of attacks are to be made on one hon. Member after another, on a matter the relevance of which is not immediately apparent, how far shall we be allowed to answer them, and where is the Debate to take us if we do?
I would not have ventured into this Debate had not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington and the hon. Member for Chippenham felt that it was very important to argue, on this timetable Motion, the fact that the affairs of 107 companies would have to be examined, and, in the case of the hon. Member for Chippenham, the affairs of 2,000 firms would have to be examined.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that in this context the words of the Amendment, "the economic life of the nation" simply mean the ability of iron and steel to make a contribution to the export trade and national recovery. It seems to me that that was more or less what the right hon. Gentleman did say, and that is precisely the point. Hon. Gentlemen opposite regard the economic life of the nation as merely something for the economists and statisticians, something that can be measured in terms of balance sheets and dividends. They regard the economic life of the nation as something that can be measured in terms of imports and exports and in terms of the national balance sheet, when obviously the economic life of the nation is much more than that. The economic life of the nation is the real life of the people of the nation. Was the economic life of the nation in a thoroughly healthy condition, in the view of the senior Burgess for Oxford University, when the steel workers in Lanarkshire or Jarrow were unemployed? Was it a healthy nation then? The senior Burgess is not very anxious to answer that question.
It was not debated either by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington or by the hon. Member for Chippenham. The time which is being lost under the terms of the—[Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I wish to stop my speech for a moment to raise a point of Order. I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) accuse me of being tight.
I refuse to accept that statement which has been made by the hon. Member for Oxford. May I say, in as Parliamentary language as I can, (a) that I am not tight, (b) that I never have been tight in my life, and (c) that the hon. Member for Oxford has not only committed a gross breach of the conduct of this House but has not the decency and the manhood to give a decent apology and a complete withdrawal?
No one is saying that the hon. Gentleman was what he said. I was saying something to an hon. Friend be-bind me which the hon. Member for Rutherglen overheard, and he has taken it as an insult to himself, which I assure him was never intended. I certainly would not suggest that he was intoxicated in any way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I cannot withdraw a statement which was never made.
I will not comment further on the incident. I merely wish to say that the hon. Member for Oxford has just said that he was not paying the attention to the Debate which he should have been paying. That is very often the case with the hon. Member for Oxford, and it has been the case with a group of hon. Members on the benches opposite during the course of the Debate, a Debate which they claim to be so vital to the interests of the nation. It is a piece of humbug and hypocrisy. The Conservative Party is not fighting for the vital economic welfare of the nation; it is fighting for the interests of the handful of people which it so well represents.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) has made great play with the words,
vitally important to the economic life of the nation.
He is unwilling to sit at the feet of the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). I suggest that he sits at the feet of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would learn something from the Chancellor, if he is still willing to learn and not willing only to write and tell other people. He might sit and hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a few other responsible Ministers—I distinguish between them by using the word "responsible"—pointing out that the economic life of the nation which enters into the daily life of every person in the country is very largely dependent on things which the hon. Member appears to think are theoretical, such as the balance of trade, the export drive and the vital fact whether the steel industry really will work efficiently under nationalisation or not.
The vital economic life of the nation cannot be divided up into sentimental blocks. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are talking as if they were the sole representatives of the working men. I represent a working man's constituency as much as does the hon. Member for Rutherglen, and I resent very much that he should take up that attitude. If he thinks about it he will realise that the vital economic life of the nation depends very much on its being handled objectively and not merely as it is, as was plain from the opening speech today, in order to get party power and advantage in the method by which this is going to be bullocked through the two Houses.
To come back to the opening speech by the Leader of the House, we had some pitiable patter like that of a second-class conjurer, while he was trying to get the nationalised rabbit out of the private enterprise hat without anybody seeing how it is done. It failed completely. It was perfectly obvious that the only planning—a favourite word of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that has been carried out as far as this Measure is concerned is not deep-thinking planning as to how the steel industry will work and how the taking over of its processes will work; the only planning has been how to get hold of it in the easiest and cheapest way, not at all because it is a basic industry. The words "basic industry" as used by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have lost their true meaning. What they mean by "basic" is not that it is vital to the economic life of the nation, as I have tried to explain, but that it is the key industry through which, in the easiest way and with one Parliamentary stroke, they can get into their hands the control of a vast number of other industries.
It was extraordinary to hear the Leader of the House explaining at the next moment, "This industry is really simple. Why should we make all this fuss about so much time for arguing it on the Floor of the House." He said that it was much simpler than the Transport Bill and, in a way, simpler than the Gas Bill. That is absolute nonsense, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. The Minister of Supply in his opening speech on the Second Reading Debate said that the industry was one of the most complex that there was. He described how far it went and said that the Government via the industry would be interested in producing flower wire, tennis racquets and goodness knows what. This is no simple industry, and it is no simple task to take it over. It was therefore complete, utter and visible hypocrisy for the Leader of the House to come forward today and talk as he did. If anything could reveal to the House and the country what is being done here, it was that speech.
The whole perspective of this is wrong. I deal in perspective a good deal. My hobby is painting and studying perspective. To be discussing whether we are to have four days on the Report stage, 32 days or so upstairs and take one or two months on the Bill shows the Government's complete lack of grasp of the importance of the matter. If the Bill lasted for six months of steady work, with hon. Members making half a dozen speeches at practically every Sitting, it would not be a waste of the time of the House. The taking over of the most complex industry, the most delicately balanced industry and the industry most easily capable of being knocked off that balance is a matter to which this House and all hon. Members, if they were seriously interested in the economic life of the nation as it affects the man in the street, would be quite willing to devote much more time; they should not be willing to leave to 50 hon. Members, however well selected they might be, to devote to it 32 or 40 Sittings.
This use of the Guillotine is the clearest possible proof of the intentions of the Government. Here are the advocates of "new machinery." The only machinery they have brought in is on the 1787 pattern of the Guillotine, without even any atomic energy to make it work. They should take another model. The last effort that was made by any Government to go into the steel business, as His Majesty's Government are doing at the present moment, was made by the German Government. I suggest that Ministers should take as their model Marshal Goering. I am not saying that they are like the little Marshal. They have neither the chest for the medals nor the medals for the chest. I do say, however, that the last attempt to deprive private enterprise of steel was made in Germany, and the Government are approaching close to that totalitarian method. All the best of Parliamentary procedure is being negatived by their abuse of an illusory and elusive majority.
We heard a lot of talk to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman's bias during the Committee stage would be entirely in favour of the Opposition, that he would lean over backwards and give the Opposition every opportunity to put forward their point of view. Yet in the next sentence he was scolding and chiding us for obstruction, and trying to split hairs as to what was good and what was bad obstruction. We know that pseudo fairness which he produces on all these occasions—"the Opposition are perfectly entitled"—"they are quite right"—"it is in the tradition of this House"—but behind that we all recognise his completely inflexible will to use his majority as long as he has it, to get every possible Measure, irrespective of whether it is discussed or not, through in time for the next Election.
What he was making today was an election speech and nothing else, but the great harm he has done is, I believe, unobserved by him and much deeper than he thinks. During the period between now and 1950 it is quite obvious that one of the most important things for the economic life of this country is that some sort of viable method should be found between the 107 companies to be taken over in the steel industry and the Government as to how things are to be carried on. The economic life of the nation depends considerably on the working efforts of those under sentence of death or dispossession, and economic disaster which will follow from this if it goes wrong, because the national effort in steel continues from day to day and must do so.
Was there ever anything more unwise than for the right hon. Gentleman today to show so clearly behind what he said what the intention was? There was the intention on every possible occasion to use this power, to use this majority, in as unfair a way as possible towards the industry. What is more appalling still, there was no single appearance of planning as to how things were to be done. In all this Bill there is practically nothing said as to how the steel industry is to work or be improved. It all depends on the good will of people in the steel industry who have produced plans—which is more than the Government have done. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Supply, who is sitting there now, really think that a good service was done to the economic life of the nation over the next 18 months by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman? I do not think so at all. I think it did the utmost harm.
The Minister of Supply knows from his business experience that the interrelationship of directors of operating companies and holding companies, both here and overseas, is one of the most delicately balanced things. He knows that one cannot put down on paper how a correct atmosphere is to be created. He knows equally well without putting it down on paper, that one can destroy that atmosphere if one party—the Government in this case—show all too clearly, exactly what their line will really be, and exactly how unobjective they are as to the real working of the steel industry.
Now we come to the question which will take a lot of time, and to which I fear not sufficient time will be devoted—that is, compensation. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Supply knows perfectly well from his great experience in markets—as an ex-metal tycoon he has a close experience of this—that the talk of a free market between willing buyer and willing seller as it is explained there is perfect nonsense. If somebody has an order to buy 50,000 tons of tin, it is not the same thing as if he had an order to buy 5 tons of tin. If you were buying for control in the metal market in the old days, it was a totally different business from the daily transactions between the producer and the seller. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the argument put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others on the question of a fair price being represented by Stock Exchange prices was completely false. Better than anybody else on the Government Front Bench he is aware that is so, and he, as the Minister in charge of the Bill, should have informed his colleagues as to where the fallacy lies on which they base their policy.
I want to close on this note. There is no doubt that those hon. Members who will not be on the Committee—and they are many—will, to their constituents' regret, be deprived of the opportunity of discussing a Bill which it is difficult at present to bring home to the public but which will affect them so closely even in their daily life—quite contrary to what the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) indicated. Unless the Government now reconsider their timetable and their method they are going against that spirit of Parliamentary democracy which they preach so freely and practice in such limited fashion. There is no doubt that for the consideration of a Bill of this kind to be truncated, both in time and in the method in which it is to be discussed, is a considerable sin against the spirit of democracy.
I want to say as emphatically as I can that although the Government have the power to get away with this rather mean and shabby method of avoiding full discussion of this Measure, it will not be to their advantage. Fortunately, in the people of this country there is a curious kind of alchemy, not based on reason or anything else, which transmutes into knowledge, a feeling that a thing is not being done in the proper way. This Bill is not being done in the proper way; that will be known, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will live to regret it.
The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) has been making a claim for more time to discuss the compensation Clauses. I might have some sympathy with him on that point because one could find time to discuss the compensation Clauses in a very different way from that desired by the hon. Member. I am thoroughly dissatisfied that the owners of steel should get so much compensation as is proposed. If time were allowed, I could submit a good many proposals that would deal with this matter more effectively—[Interruption.] Something seems to be troubling hon. Members opposite just now.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Bury is feeling the draught, perhaps from what I have to say to him—I do not wish him to feel it in any other way. There is a case, I submit, for putting forward Amendments dealing with compensation when this Bill comes to be discussed in Committee from my point of view rather than from his point of view; but I know that in any unregulated arrangement regarding the Debates in Committee upstairs there will be very little opportunity for me to give any expression to my point of view, and that it is better, for a fair examination of the varying views—and not merely the views of the Opposition—that the sort of division of time contemplated in the Motion before us should be put into effect.
I am trying to follow the hon. Member's argument. Is he say- ing that if more time is given to the Bill in Committee upstairs, he will have less opportunity to bring forward the Amendments which he is certainly justified in bringing forward?
I said there is a need for the regulation of time upstairs in the discussion of each of the important Clauses of the Measure and that, if it is regulated, our points of view can find expression. Amendments will get a better chance of selection in a regulated period which is given to the discussion of a particular Clause. They would have a better chance of selection than is the case now, when hon. Members may go to infinite lengths discussing Amendments which are deliberately put down to give the greatest possible weight to their discussions. I should be helped in the expression of my point of view, upon compensation and other matters, if an arrangement could be made to allot the total length of time for each important part of the Bill. To emphasise that, I say that it is our ordinary Parliamentary procedure.
It is all very well talking about the "arbitrary curtailment" which is referred to in the Amendment moved by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course, everybody is arbitrarily curtailed who has prepared for this House a speech which he never gets a chance to deliver. Arrangements are made behind Mr. Speaker's Chair about the timing of Debates and on important Debates hon. Members come here—as I did on the Second Reading of the Steel Bill—with a remarkable oration in readiness, which finds its way into the wastepaper basket.
If, when the Licensing Bill is dealt with, I suffer in the same sort of way as I did on the Steel Bill, I shall be arbitrarily curtailed. That is my argument. I hope, however, that when we do come to the Licensing Bill such a dreadful fate may not befall me. Hon Members must realise that in a reasonable democratic body like this House of Commons we must arrange and time our Debates; we must accept loss of opportunity, the best of us and the worst of us, in order to obtain for Parliament an opportunity for democratic discussion which the people expect of us.
The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who dwelt so much upon the nationalisation of coal, would have better employed his time had he dealt with what happened on the Gas Act, which today is the classic issue to be faced not only by Members of this House but by the general public. We are not allowed in this House to refer to anything which happened during the passage of the Gas Act as an unwarranted use of time—any suggestion to that effect would be ruled out of Order—but everybody in the country knows that hon. Members were kept up all night over long periods; that Chairmen were rendered almost helpless by the long hours they had to sit in endeavouring to control the discussions; that, after the long periods necessary to get the Bill through, Ministers were hardly capable of following the detailed discussions which were then indulged in. We cannot sit for hours and hours under an unregulated system and expect by that process to effect a reasonable examination of either difficult or easy Clauses of any Bill which comes before Parliament.
Is it not notorious that during the passage of the Gas Act, supporters of the Government were absolutely mute during the whole of the discussions and never spoke at all?
Exactly. If we could have a regulation of time, we should not be mute because—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members seem to think that I am giving away the secret. It is not my business to assist an Opposition bent upon destroying democratic opportunity merely by talking at length. It is not my business to help them in that process. I never would, either in this House or in a Committee engage in such a method—at any rate as long as there are reasonable Bills like those now before us to be dealt with.
What will happen under the Motion before us is that we shall time-out the important Clauses in the Bill. Hon. Members on both sides will make up their minds on the best use that can be made of the time available. We shall make our discussions more interesting and more understandable to the general public, who cannot be expected to read the non- sense that is talked all through the long hours of the night. We shall bring the Debates down to their proper level and give the people an opportunity of following what their representatives are doing and saying. Ultimately we shall give the country as a whole the opportunity to judge for itself the Measures before us.
The Amendment does not propose to do any of these things. It simply rules out any arrangement of time. It proposes a return to the Gas Act methods and does so at a time when the whole country is looking to this House to make the best use of the democratic organisation which we here represent. The Government, I am quite certain, is wise in its Motion. I support it from the point of view of hon. Members opposite and myself, especially as far as the compensation Clauses are concerned. Out of this division of time we shall get the very best opportunities of discussing all the main issues which the Bill presents.
The main point which the Government are overlooking is that anybody can have tight boots. We can look at tight boots in two different ways. Either you can say your feet are too big for your shoes, or you can say your shoes are too small for your feet. As for the Gas Bill, and so far as the time limit for the Steel Bill is concerned, it is a case of the shoes being too small for the feet. The only reason why we sat all night at all on the Gas Bill was that the time allotted by the Government was insufficient for the purpose of discussing the Bill. It was not that the time taken was too much. It was exactly the same in the Transport and the Town and Country Planning Bills. In both cases the shoes provided were quite inadequate for the feet so that it was not possible to get the job done properly. I urge hon. Members opposite not to make the assumption that because they have provided too small shoes for the purpose, there is obstruction. I speak genuinely in this respect. One only has to read the HANSARD reports of the Gas Committee to see that the Debates were of a very high standard throughout.
The hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) surely let the cat out of the bag when he said that he hopes to get the time-table for this Bill so that Members on the Government side will take up the whole of the time by dis- cussing the Bill to the maximum extent possible.
The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I did not say anything at all about hon. Members on this side taking up the whole of the time. I said that we shall be able to share the time in discussing the important subjects with which the Bill is concerned.
I had no desire to misquote the hon. Gentleman, but it seems to me that he has made a most important and damaging contribution. What he has said amounts to this: that when the time is unlimited the Government supporters are going to keep their mouths shut, whereas when the time is restricted, they are going to insist on having at least 50 per cent. of the time to discuss the Bill. It seems to me that on that issue alone, the hon. Gentleman has disclosed the fundamental unfairness of the Government's proposition.
I am saying that the main case of the Opposition is that they have not ample time to state the case against the Bill. I submit that the time table which is proposed by the Government will provide ample time for a full discussion of every relevant point. Until 17th March we shall be discussing the matter in Committee. Anyone who wishes to state the case either for or against the Bill will have ample opportunity to do so. Then there are four days devoted to the Report stage and the Third Reading. The country will be able to understand from the speeches which will be delivered from both sides the problem which confronts the nation, and we shall all be able to make a proper decision.
In addition, this Bill will be sent to another place, and only the Opposition with their prior knowledge of what may happen in another place, know how many times this Bill will come back to us for further discussion. Democratic institutions are being assailed throughout the world; occasionally it is from the Right and occasionally from the Left. What has happened in this country up to the present time since this Government has been in power is an attempt to prevent this democratic institution from functioning properly. The only answer which the Government can give is to timetable this Bill and provide a fair opportunity for discussion.
There is nothing undemocratic in this proposal. To give a person time to state his case is not undemocratic. To allow him to waste his time and the country's time by repeating himself over and over again, is not good for democratic institutions.
Every hon. Member on this side of the House, and on the back benches especially, will agree with me when I say that our one failure as a Government is that we have not had adequate opportunity to state the case from this side. I make no revelation when I say that the Government side have deliberately refrained from speaking on many occasions because we knew the tactics of the Opposition were to waste time by speaking without any limits and thus delay legislation. To allow a one-sided case to be presented to the country is not a fair way of doing business. We on the Government side say that the time shall be properly shared for stating the case both for and against the Bill.
I served on the Transport Committee, and although the Chairman of that Committee said this afternoon that there was no obstruction, I myself say there certainly was a very grave delay in dealing with matters until the Guillotine was applied.
I was on that Committee. I have never heard it suggested before today that there was deliberate obstruction on that Committee. I have every right to ask the hon. Gentleman to state the instance to which he refers.
The hon. and gallant Member has evidently not followed the proceedings of the House as assiduously as he ought to have done. I made this charge when we were discussing this matter on the Floor of the House before, and I instanced cases of speeches which were repeated. I referred to the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) who regaled us with the story of what happened at a Primrose League meeting in a public house owned by a railway company. If that had anything to do with the serious business of legislation, then I do not know what obstruction is.
I am casting no reflection. This is a matter of opinion. It may be that the hon. Member would think that to delay this Bill for a couple of years would not be obstruction, but it would be quite a different opinion from that which he held a few weeks ago. I noticed that after the Guillotine procedure was agreed to in the Transport Committee, we had on certain occasions long and tedious discussions.
There were a number of Clauses of the Transport Bill which were never discussed at all by the Committee. It was very good propaganda in the country for the Tory Party to be able to say that. I noticed that there was one subject they were very careful to discuss, however, and that was everything with reference to compensation. I predict that, whatever is left out of the long discussions on the Steel Bill, all the matters relevant to compensation will be fully discussed in the Committee stage and at every other stage.
Not at all. I welcome the fullest means of proper discussion on every point, but I suggest that it is within the bounds of an Opposition so to regulate matters that, even under the Guillotine, certain things are discussed and certain things are not discussed. I make the prediction, and we shall see whether I am a good prophet or not, that the Clauses about compensation will be fully discussed.
The right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition referred to this Bill as of more importance than any other Bill which has come before this House. He said it was more important than the Transport Bill, referring to the fact that 107 steel firms are being taken over under this Bill. I suggest that under this Bill there is less interference with the structure of the industry and with its management and control than there was under the Transport Bill with the transport industry. Let us remember that while there are 107 steel firms affected by this Bill, there were four great railway companies affected by the Transport Bill, representing almost the biggest concentration of capital in this country. Certainly there was one of the biggest firms in the whole of the world—the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. What about the hundreds of local road transport firms? Did they count for nothing in the estimation of the right hon. Gentleman, since he so lightly referred to that industry as of less importance than the steel industry?
I submit that this Bill is of no greater importance than, but is of equal importance with those Bills which have gone before and that this is a proper and clear method of doing our business. I welcome it because it means that anyone who wishes to engage in discussions on this problem can understand what is the procedure and can take advantage of the proper opportunities which the Government are giving us in the procedure they have placed before us.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in the speech with which he opened this Debate, referred to my constituency in terms, I thought, of scorn. I should like to remind the House that the motto of Oxford City is:
Strong is the truth and it shall prevail.
If I might venture to define the attitude of Oxford City to this Motion it is that, despite its strength, truth cannot prevail without adequate discussion. I must say I wished the right hon. Gentleman could have had a little more of the spirit of that motto imbued in his mind when he moved this Motion. I beg hon. Members opposite to believe that we on this side of the House who are opposed to the Guillotine Measures that have been proposed from time to time, and in particular to this one, are sincerely convinced that in proposing them the Government
are murdering Parliamentary democracy and that those who support the Government are either their accomplices or their dupes. I must venture to point out some reasons why we hold that view.
So far as I am concerned, this is not a new view. Hon. Members will perhaps recollect that the very first speech I have delivered in this Parliament, in August, 1945, was a speech on the subject of Parliamentary procedure. On that occasion I ventured to say to the House that if ever there came a time—and I hoped there would not—when the Government of the day were able to say to the Opposition, "We are going to get our Measure, whatever you say, by a particular day, in accordance with a particular timetable," we should then have passed over the line which divides Parliamentary democracy from a dictatorship.
All the time since then we have been approaching closer and closer to this point until today, before there has been any discussion, apart from the Second Reading Debate, we are asked to send a Bill upstairs with a timetable attached so that the Government are able to say in advance, "Whatever you do and whatever you say, we are going to get our Bill through" by a particular date. On that previous occasion I ventured to point out, and I wish, with permission of the House, to point out again now, the reasons which led me to make that observation. First, we have to face the realities of modern Parliamentary democracy. They are these: the right to vote in the way which our consciences dictate is no longer a guarantee of freedom, because under Parliamentary conditions the party system normally operates in such a way that the result of every vote is a foregone conclusion—400 minus 200 equals 200. Therefore, the Government need never give in because they are afraid of the right of Members to vote in accordance with their consciences.
I added on that occasion, and again I remind hon. Members today, that neither is the right of free speech in this Chamber an adequate guarantee of a free democracy. I told them then, and I tell them again now, what will be the position if the Government once know they are going to get their business through by a particular time. The position will be this. You can say what you like and call them any names you like, you can indulge in whatever criticism you like, you may defeat their arguments to whatever extent you like and at the end they will be perfectly happy and say, after the Division, "Very nice speech old boy," but they will have got their Business just as much as if you had not spoken at all.
Under modern Parliamentary conditions, under our actual working constitution, there is one sanction of freedom in this House and one sanction alone. That is the fact that the Government know that a want of reason on their part, a want of desire to give in to argument, a want of willingness to pay attention to other peoples' convictions and feelings, will, in fact, lead to greater difficulties in the passage of their own Business. That is the only thing which keeps this House from being a dictatorship and that is the thing which the Government are attacking in this Motion this evening.
It is because they are attacking the very citadel of freedom in our remaining institutions that we oppose the Motion bitterly; and we oppose it bitterly in the name of democracy. We do not believe that this House will be a free democratic assembly when and if this Motion is passed. It matters absolutely nothing that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council should quote a number of even partial precedents for what he proposes to do, because the fact of the matter is that this is not merely a party question. Government after Government, of different party complexions, come to that Box, one party, then another, exulting in their Parliamentary majority.
Each party, when it attains that position, believes, I have no doubt sincerely, that it will stay there for ever, and that the people who are in the minority will never get a chance again. So each time the Government goes forward with fresh and ever fresh encroachments upon the right of the minority to govern the time of our Parliamentary proceedings. I am not accusing this Government of being the first, of taking the first step, in these proceedings. On the contrary, any student of our Parliamentary procedure will realise that what I am describing is something which has been going on for over a hundred years. But we are approaching, as I ventured to remind the House before, very close to the line which divides a free Parlia- ment from a Reichstag. This Parliament, although it did not take the first, is beginning to take the last of the decisive steps which are bringing us over the line. It is for that reason that we oppose this thing with such force and bitterness today.
There are some people, and some Members in this House, who, at any rate in the view of those of us who sit on these benches, have not a clue as to what democracy means. One of them is an hon. Gentleman, for whom I have the greatest personal admiration, the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor), of whom I made the same allegation when he spoke before on the Motion on the Transport Bill. On these occasions there are always hon. Members to be found opposite who advance the same sort of argument, which is, "We have a mandate for what we propose in this Bill"—or whatever it may be that is under discussion—"because it was contained in our Election programme. You, the Opposition, although we will of our good nature allow you to state your case, are to have no effect whatever upon our decision to do it. No amount of reason that you may bring to bear will make any difference to us."
In our view that is not democracy, for reasons which we believe to be good, sound Parliamentary reasons. In the first place, we would venture to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that whatever else their mandate might allow them to do, it was not a mandate to destroy the fundamental freedom of our Parliamentary institutions. Their mandate to nationalise the steel industry, or whatever industry might be under discussion, was a mandate to propose to this House of Commons, in accordance with existing usage, Measures for discussion in this House. Our view of Parliamentary institutions is that discussions of this House should be real discussions and not sham discussions. If we should, by the exercise of reason and argument, prevail upon some mind not utterly closed on the benches opposite to see that we and not they happen to be right, they should not, at any rate in advance, declare their inability to accept reasons of that kind.
We think, therefore, that the doctrine of mandate does not support the view which hon. Members opposite seek to put upon it. Moreover, in the nature of a Measure of this kind, it was utterly impossible for the people of this country, in the heated weeks of a General Election, to have known either the details or even the broad principles of the schemes of nationalisation which were put before them. They could not have known the details or the principles of the Government's Measure for the nationalisation of coal, but of the principles of this nationalisation Measure they could have known still less, since we well know that they were arrived at as a result of some sort of internal compromise in comparatively recent months. And to be told, as we are now told, that the Government, although they will graciously allow us to exercise the comparatively useless function of speaking, are not going to allow us to use the only weapon worth using, of seeking to impose even to a small extent a delay, is, in my submission, a gross violation of the real principles of Parliamentary government.
If we do believe in government by discussion, then I submit that Motions of this kind must be utterly repulsive, unless they are actually necessitated by the positive misconduct of some section of the House. They must always be repulsive for the very simple reason that whenever they have been introduced, whether by Liberal, Conservative or Socialist Governments, they have always resulted in a large proportion of the Measure to which they were applied going through this House undiscussed altogether. I am utterly unimpressed by the naive argument from the benches opposite that we on these benches are always to blame for any prolongation of discussion. Even if it were true, I should regard the argument as irrelevant.
If we really believe in government by discussion, and not government by the overriding dominance of force and power, we should be prepared to spend a little time in our evenings, and even a long time, to see that each one of the Measures which we propose and pass through this House should be fully discussed in each one of its sections and parts. I would say to hon. Members opposite that even if there is that degree of urgency which they claim for the Measures they put forward, it would be better for the country, better for Socialism, better for the Government, that they should pass two or three nationalisation Measures properly discussed than six of which only half had ever been discussed by this House as a representative Chamber.
I do not believe that a want of discussion is, in the long run, really in the interests either of the people or the party opposite. They have complained from time to time that people will ask them, "Why did you not pass all the Measures in your Election programme?" The people of this country would be more generous to hon. Members opposite if, at the end of their full Parliamentary time, they came to their constituents and said, "Yes, it is true that we passed only three instead of the six Measures which we promised; but we failed to pass the balance out of our tenderness and regard for your free Parliamentary institutions. We failed to do it because we were anxious that full discussion should be given to every Bill that came before the House. We ask your pardon for putting off until the next programme the balance of what we set out to do." I cannot but think that the people would be generous to such a Government, unless for some other reason that Government had lost their confidence.
There is something which is to me almost repulsively naïve about the argument suggested from the benches opposite that these Motions are either necessitated or justified by Opposition obstruction. I have tried to take an intelligent interest in public life since 1922, when I was hardly mature. During that time, I have known a series of Governments and a series of Oppositions. So far as my researches go into the Governments and Oppositions which preceded these, both of those which I have known and those of which I have read, this one proposition can be said to be universal. There never has been a Government or a Parliamentary majority in this country which has not accused its contemporary Opposition of obstruction.
There never has been a Parliamentary majority which has not thought that the arguments of the contemporary Opposition had far better not have been presented at all. It may have been that each successive Government was always right. It may have been that they were sometimes right. But more probably the House may think, on more philosophical reflection, that the case is that it is in the nature of any Opposition to anger the Government, and if it does not anger the Government and impress it with its mischievousness, irresponsibility and obstruction, it is not fulfilling its proper part as an Opposition. I venture to say that the fact is that government by discussion really consists in and involves a certain measure of delay which, of its very nature, must be antipathetic to those in the majority who, if the matter were brought to an immediate vote without discussion, could have their way more completely.
It is impossible to discuss Measures of first-class importance except at very considerable length which must necessarily annoy and antagonise those who could get them through very much more easily by the exercise of a majority without discussion. But I must add that if in fact this House is to embark upon a policy which I have always opposed—namely, the sending of Bills up to a Standing Committee instead of dealing with them on the Floor of the House—it becomes all the more important not to attach to them a timetable of this kind and all the more important that if a timetable of this kind is to be attached to the Committee stage, the discussion on the Report stage should be of very much greater length than has hitherto been contemplated or considered usual.
With respect, I say that it is no argument to suggest, as was suggested in an intervention during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), that Members of a Standing Committee have a particular obligation whereas Members of the House have only a general obligation to attend Debates. The fact is that when discussion takes place on the Floor of the House those who are most capable of playing a full part in them, from every quarter of the House, play their part. It may well be that in matters of technical detail very large numbers of Members do not feel obliged to attend or to take part. It still remains the case that when a discussion takes place on the Floor of the House, those who take part in it represent the very best brains and qualifications which this House as a whole can produce. When the discussion takes place in a Standing Committee upstairs all we have to go upon are the lucubrations of 50 Members, selected no doubt as well as possible, but certainly not representative of the best brains of the House, on the matter to be discussed.
That leads me to one other reflection. If we are to have government by discussion, which I take it is the basis and object of Parliamentary democracy, discussion cannot be planned. How often have we known Debates take place in which it was utterly impossible to foretell whether this or that particular point would be the point which would interest hon. Members at the time? Sometimes things which one considers of the very greatest importance are passed by with a few sentences and no one seems to object. Sometimes the Debate centres around some relatively small point. I submit to the House that very often it is none the less valuable for that. Discussion and reason—as I think it was Plato said—take us along like the wind, and, to quote from another source, the wind bloweth where it listeth.
It is the wind of discussion which makes our institutions free. It is the free wind of discussion which is being interrupted and destroyed by Motions of this kind. It is the deliberate attempt to seek to prevent the free play of Debate to which we object. We believe that hon. Members opposite, when the time comes—as it surely will—when their exultant majority which now sits on the Benches opposite, depleted in numbers, is relegated to the Opposition Benches, will bitterly regret the day when the boy from Stockwell Road School led them up the garden path.
I have two excuses for intervening in this Debate. One is because I am the representative Liberal here this afternoon. While I am on that topic, perhaps I ought to try to help the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in a calculation they were worrying about. There was a certain argument as to how the votes cast for the Independent Liberals at the last Election should be counted in assessing the proper strength of the country behind the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bills. It is clear what has happened. One of the great misfortunes of Liberalism throughout the world is that for years it has been subject to surprising heresies. At the time of the last General Election there was a heresy in the mind of a certain number of Liberals. Fortunately, on the important issue of the Iron and Steel Bill some of them have come back to orthodoxy.
I have always been convinced that there are a surprising number of people in this House who should be sitting on this Bench with us and who have not yet realised that. I suggest that they ought to face the facts. Those remarks may not be relevant to the immediate issue, but they were necessary to clear up what appeared to be an earlier misunderstanding.
The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) early in his speech made what I thought was a most interesting statement which I believe explains the line which he took in the latter part of his speech. He said that in his opinion ample time was provided by the timetable for people to state their views for and against the Bill. That might be true in the case of the Second or Third Reading of the Bill but surely the hon. Gentleman and I have come here not just to state our views for and against different proposals. We have come here to try to construct sound legislation, whether we are supporters of the Government or Members of the Opposition. For this purpose the Guillotine procedure is disastrous. If this was purely a question of expressing our views for or against there might be a lot in what the hon. Gentleman said, but we are trying to produce decent legislation. I ask the hon. Member for Eccles, who dwelt at length on what happened in the Transport Bill Committee, to cast his mind back. He made a definite charge of obstruction. I will not argue whether or not that is in Order. I suggest to him that part of the reason why he made that charge and why he said that he had to listen to long, boring speeches was that because of the Guillotine, he himself was prevented from contributing very much to those Debates.
I was coming to that point. I am very glad of the intervention. This is the reason why the hon. Member for Eccles, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) and others thought there was obstruction. They sat there day after day. Occasionally they made a slight gesture as if they wished to speak, and a firm, kindly but stern eye was cast upon them from the Front Bench.
This is the first time, I have been accused of undue silence in this House. I hope the hon. Gentleman will pass on the information to the Government Whips, though in point of fact it is not correct. I spoke rather a lot on that occasion.
It is not the first time that the hon. Member has been accused of silence in this House. When we discussed a similar procedure to this in the case of the Transport Bill I accused him of being an "as yet unravished bride of quietness." I assure the hon. Member for Eccles that if he had happened to use his brain as hard as we had to on the Opposition side of that Committee in constructive criticism, he would not have felt bored. I sat right through every one of the 31 Sittings. I was involved personally in moving and supporting a number of Amendments. It was consistently hard work from beginning to end. As the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said, at the end of the day there was a question of whether there had been obstruction. No responsible Member of the Committee ever said that there had been obstruction. It is important to have that made clear.
I agree that that challenge was made and that no one on the Government Front Bench took it up. The Government were obviously in favour of appeasement with the Opposition. I was giving instances of what I considered to be obstruction. The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said on the Second Reading that there would be obstruction in Committee stage and he promised it again for a further stage.
Perhaps I might resume my speech, although I welcome the interruptions. It is my belief that the Transport Bill Committee is perhaps a classic case which we ought to consider in relation to this Motion. Whatever our views may be about one or two remarks that might have been cut out—I am afraid that I myself may have been guilty, because I cannot condense my sentences as well as I should—it was, on the whole, an extremely good and co-operative committee. There was good, hard work done, I think hon. Members opposite will agree with that. It did however become clear that when the Business Committee tried to squeeze things into a timetable and to use the Guillotine procedure, it was utterly impossible, no matter how intelligent the Members and how much good will they exercised, to achieve a satisfactory result. It simply is not possible to estimate in advance what time will be necessary for the discussion of various Clauses, and, as a matter of fact, in the Transport Bill one will find serious gaps in the discussion of absolutely essential issues.
I am sorry to concentrate upon the hon. Member for Eccles, but he was talking with the authority of a Member of that Transport Committee. I also sat upon it. He made the charge that the Opposition would certainly see to it that certain things like the question of compensation would be fully discussed. He must understand that the timetable was, substantially, worked out by his own side. It was they who allocated the time. What the hon. Member for Eccles spoke of was almost bound to happen. It was his own people who recognised that compensation must be discussed properly. If there is a timetable, and there is an important Clause at the beginning of the timetable, it will obviously get full discussion. His argument does not stand up to analysis. I agree that anybody who has to remain relatively silent for that time is bound to get bored, and for that reason the hon. Member for Eccles has my entire sympathy, especially as I had to do a certain amount of boring. I am glad that there is one point on which hon. Members opposite agree with me.
This is another point which we must set clear. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish) said earlier today—I do not think he was on the Committee—that in the earlier stages of the Transport Committee we were working at the rate of one Clause per day. That is a thing which someone not on the Com- mittee or not studying the proceedings carefully might reasonably say, but there is a very definite explanation for it. It is that the earlier Clauses of the Bill were key Clauses and we could not avoid having a very long discussion of them.
I would go further in a personal explanation. I had on the Amendment paper my record number of Amendments for this Parliament I think, something like 25, in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. By taking the discussion upon a group of about 15 Amendments on Clause 2 further discussion upon the later ones was avoided. When I rose to ask the Chairman whether I might do that, I made it clear that I could not do it in five minutes, and must take time to explain how the structure of the Amendments built up a certain case. Having done that, I did not take an excessive time in the Committee at that stage, but the time was much longer than I would have taken upon one single Amendment. It all arose upon an early Clause. The Government did not accept our Amendments in detail, but by the time the Bill went to another place the relevant Clauses of the Bill were completely altered and the Bill vastly improved. The fact that we have these comments to make about a Committee which did function well definitely proves, I submit, that the Guillotine procedure cannot work satisfactorily.
Two further things I want to say before I sit down. I recognise that Parliament simply must function, and that there is an enormous amount of business to be put through. Any Government would be faced with exactly this problem, no matter who they were. Some device must be found for getting the business through. I agree profoundly with the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that the first thing to learn from these matters is that no Government should try to push through too many Bills in one Parliament. That can be said to be a controversial statement, but I do not think it is. Any sensible person must agree that if we try to push through too many Bills we cannot get adequate discussion on them. We are faced with this problem: we want to have proper discussion, and we must nevertheless keep things going through the House of Commons? What can we do?
Having sat on that Committee and having thought a great deal about the matter, as one was bound to do after having gone through an experience of that kind, I have come to the conclusion—and I hope that someone will explain why this conclusion is not a practical one—that in Standing Committee it should be accepted that the Closure can be used with much greater freedom. We should need to have a great deal of confidence in the Chairman, but the Chairmen of Committees, no matter from which party they come, always seem to have a surprising sense of what is fair and when a Member is getting out of Order. I should have thought that the only way of getting a reasonable discussion and allowing proper time for each Clause was to have a sensible use of the Closure. No doubt the Opposition of the day would give loud cries of "Gag, gag," and sometimes also I have thought that the Closure was moved a little too quickly when I wanted to make a speech. But, normally, the House knows pretty well that the Closure has been fairly applied, without reflecting in any way upon the occupant of the Chair.
I should think that a possible solution of this very difficult problem is to be found in trying to get the principle accepted that the Closure could be moved with a little more freedom in Standing Committee than on the Floor of the House. I am not an expert in procedure and I only put forward my suggestion as I hope a sensible person who recognises that a difficult problem is involved. I hope that somebody will answer my suggestion and say if it is not a practical solution.
The Lord President of the Council, in a speech which I thought was otherwise specious and shallow in character and unworthy of a very considerable occasion, devoted one passage to the subject of history. I was very pleased to note that, because in general it is a healthy sign. It is only by going back into history that the Labour Party will slow themselves up and refrain from going over the Gadarene precipice. It is, after all, the gangster, the assassin and the murderer who slips back the safety catch of his revolver and says at the same time, "all history begins with me."
I was delighted that the Lord President should dwell for some time upon 1887, when there was first recourse to the Parliamentary Guillotine. It was just about that time that the British Empire attained its supremacy and that the Eastern Crown was put upon the head of Queen Victoria. It was not much later that the terms of trade began to move against us. They have never recovered. It was not much later that we reached maximum productivity in coal and cotton. It was not much later that the Labour Party came to birth. We can quite easily associate our decline as a world Power and our present economic misfortunes both with the Leftist tendencies in Governments and the increasing use made by them all of the Guillotine.
Some attempt has been made on the other side of the House to say that this is not a major Bill. Of course, it is by far the most important Bill that the Government have presented to the country since they were returned to power, and it is quite clear that hundreds of Amendments are going to be moved against it. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) was quite right in pointing out the accumulated experience in industry which has taken place today as a result of nationalisation. We have no knowledge yet—no doubt they will be considerable—of the number of Amendments that individual companies will push forward through their Parliamentary agents and associations, all of whom have been stimulated by a study of HANSARD over the last few years and have seen where certain Amendments came to grief or were successful. We have to reckon with the whole build-up of nationalisation; both with the inherent and intrinsic importance of steel itself, and with the tremendous aggregation of knowledge on the part of technicians, administrators, agents, and counsel on nationalisation as a species of legislation.
The Steel Bill has 58 Clauses and eight Schedules and the Lord President promised us a miserable 35 days for our discussions. Immense principles are involved in this Bill, as have been pointed out by a number of my hon. Friends. Take Clause 1 alone. First there is the question whether there should be a corporation at all, then, if there is to be a corporation, the size it should be, the method of the appointment of the members of the corporation, the character and experience of the individuals who are to compose the corporation and what considerations ought to qualify them for membership. We could have Debates ranging over several days on that Clause alone. Clauses 2 and 7 are equally important. Some hon. Members have referred to them today already and I will not go into them in detail.
Clause 7, I, personally, exampled on the Second Reading of the Bill. It is a dangerous Clause, which allows an independent corporation to take power of compulsory acquisition in the same way as local authorities in order to acquire land from private persons at comparatively fixed prices. Then there is the most extraordinary and, if the subject were not so serious, the amusing Clause 29, which gives the corporation power to arrange its finances. The ramifications of that Clause upon prices of the subsidiary products of steel will take hours and ought to take hours of Committee Debate. Then there are the compensation Clauses which are clearly of great importance. All this has to be done in 35 days.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has given the House in detail the experience of the Town and Country Planning Act and the Transport Act. I will not go into the various precedents which are there and which I could do if time allowed. With regard to the Town and Country Planning Act, it is a fact that 400 Amendments were put down for Report of which 200 were, Government Amendments, all because there was insufficient time on the Committee stage. On the Transport Act there were 176 Government Amendments alone put down on Report due to inadequacy of time in Committee. The Transport Act, so far as I have been able to study what was done and the amount of time involved, was not 75 per cent. properly covered by the time allowed. Instead of 31 sittings on the Transport Bill there ought to have been at least 40. The Gas Act has been referred to. That took 36 days, including many all night sittings, but it was not so controversial a Bill as the Transport Act or as the Steel Bill is likely to be.
I was amazed at the Lord President's objection to the methods pursued on the Gas Bill. He said we had been obstructionists. How could there be an obstruction unless there was something to be obstructionist against. On the Gas Bill unlimited time was allowed—and rightly so—for the full and free discussion of all those questions which were debated. The right hon. Gentleman could only accuse us of obstruction if we wanted to debate a Clause when the discussion automatically comes to an end. That is the moment when obstruction arises. There cannot be obstruction when there is absolutely free time to debate a question, as there was on the Gas Act.
On these analogies the Steel Bill does not need 35 days but 50 to 60 days for discussion. We might need to sit during the spring and summer in the consideration of this Measure. On 3rd March, 1947, my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington said that we on this side of the House were definitely prepared to go on through the summer and into the autumn by special Session if necessary, and the Lord President himself in a memorandum to the Select Committee on Procedure agreed that in the case of major Bills it might be necessary to have a special Session in order to carry them through. Now we are approaching Christmas and we shall not get down to the hard kernel of this Bill until the turn of the year. By that reckoning we ought to go into the summer to discuss it, and I am quite certain that another place would be prepared to adopt the line taken by the Lord President and my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Learnington, and agree to an extension of the Session.
I should like to know from the Government what is their attitude on adjourning the House for the afternoon. The Select Committee recommended it and said that sitting three mornings a week ought to be considered abnormal because of party and Select Committees on Wednesday mornings. They recommended a revival of Standing Order No. 49A. The Government memorandum originally proposed it. The Lord President himself when he gave evidence before the Select Committee on 18th
September, 1945, said in Question No. 117:
There is something to be said for a standing arrangement being reached whereby the House would meet for Questions only on Mondays and then the Committees would sit. It could be done by Sessional Orders.
Monday is not a popular day with hon. Gentlemen. Distant Members often do not come here and Lobbies are very difficult to man. The Lord President often acknowledges that situation by arranging very dreary business for discussion. I should like to know from the Government what facilities and extensions they propose to prevent public obloquy and resentment arising from this attempt to stifle free, Parliamentary discussion. They ought to be prepared to accept Standing Order No. 49A so that Committees could sit not only in the mornings but in the afternoons. If they will not do it, that strengthens our case for demanding far more time than up to 17th March before this Bill is brought to a conclusion in Committee.
The Government must make some attempt of that kind because Labour votes are not so easy to come by in these days. It is not bullying any longer that is going to do the trick. It is accommodation, and unless the Government accommodate the Opposition from now on, and lend their whole weight to free Parliamentary discussion, they are going to lose confidence in the country, and nobody knows that better than the Lord President.
I turn from the Committee stage to the Report stage, about which I do not think enough has been said, particularly on the question of recommittal. The Lord President has told us that he considers four days generous. I call it an insulting proposal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington has referred to your evidence, Mr. Speaker, before the Select Committee and indeed you referred on a number of occasions, particularly in your original memorandum to that Select Committee, to what arises on the Report stage if a Bill is taken upstairs. How wise your prognosis of events was on the Transport and Town and Country Planning Bills. Three days were allotted to each of these, including recommittal, and the inclusion of recommittal was most important. The Town and Country Planning Bill was recommitted in respect of 48 Amendments and nine new Clauses and Schedules. Consideration on Report stage proper, that is to say after recommittal, began only at 5 p.m. on the second day, 13th May, which is equivalent to one day and a half for discussion and Report, 14 hours in all. At 9.30 on the third day Clause 15 only was reached and no fewer than 158 Amendments went through without any discussion at all.
The Transport Bill was even worse. It was recommitted in respect of 38 Amendments and three new Clauses. The Report stage proper began at 8 p.m. on the second day and again there was a day and a half for Report stage, 12 hours in all, from 8 to 2 in the morning and 3.30 to 9.30 on the subsequent day. At 9.30 p.m. Clause 40 only had been reached. I have not had the patience to count up the Amendments not discussed, but they occupy 60 columns of HANSARD and they practically went through "on the nod." It was at that moment that, to commemorate this ugly thrust of dictatorship into our British Parliamentary system, the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) danced her jig on the Floor of the House. She might very well do it again now.
To provide four days for this vital Steel Bill and include recommittal in it, is a second and a worse affront to Parliamentary procedure and practice and, in my view, constitutes a very grave infringement of the rights of minority parties and opinion in this House. These evils and stupidities arise from a fundamental fault in the composition of the Labour Party. Here I wish to emphasise, if emphasis is called for, the wise words of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg). I have watched hon. Gentlemen at work now for seven or eight years. I have tried to study their characters, their political characters. They behave to me like atoms in a chemical compound. There is no alternative in their characters between a kind of inert separatism and violent association. They have no halfway house between individualism on the one hand which is too often curtailed and controlled by their own executive, and penalised by banishment from the Labour Party and, on the other hand, autocracy riding roughshod over events.
It cannot be said of the Labour Party, as it was said 40 years ago of the Conservative Party, by a very eminent biographer:
The Conservative Party embraces men of many different factions united, not through unfaithfulness to their individual principles, but through reliance in the swift movement of events upon those precious few which they hold in common.
The Labour Party is incapable of a loose, but constant, association. Consequently, their hand on public events is capricious in timing and brutal in application. They are gorillas plunging about in the garden of English democracy.
I have watched hon. Members and I say in great humility that I do not believe they yet understand the essence of Parliamentary government, that Government by discussion is the secret of liberty and that minority rights must extend very far into Parliamentary time, if Britain is to remain free.
The Labour Party wishes to curtail in time the legislative function of Parliament, and to pitch the initiative of legislation outside Parliament altogether, somewhere in the recesses of the Civil Service or, perhaps worse, in the recesses of Transport House. They must forgive me if I say they really do not know what Parliament is all about, or why they are here. They do not accept that legislation ought to arise almost spontaneously in the course of the impact between the Executive and the people's elected representatives, and they do not realise that Bills should be shaped and moulded, as the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) said, by the Government, by the Opposition, by small parties and Independents, taking such time as is naturally provided by the capacity and patience of all as Members of the House of Commons—and I emphasise as Members of the House of Commons.
It is for that prime reason that every member of the Executive in our British Parliamentary system is required to be first of all a member of the legislature. Representation comes before authority. We are essentially not here as governors of society, or delegates from special interests armed with previously prepared legislation, to work our wills upon each other and win by size and bulk. If we have any virtue at all, it is the virtue, not of strength and will power, but of representation, and representation of those ordinary men and women in the country who have sent us here to frame the quantity and kind of legislation that they themselves would frame if it were physically possible for them to be in this Chamber, and also at the speed at which they themselves would do it. It is because the Government and the party opposite have deserted this vital function of representation and have thrown back the historical development of the House of Commons, that I chiefly condemn what was done in this House on 3rd March last year and what is being done here today.
As a humble member of this party, perhaps I should be excused for stumbling somewhat to find whether my background is that of a gorilla or that of an atom moving in a chemical compound, as described by the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). After his peroration, one could say that we on this side of the House feel that the noble Lord is perhaps the last—maybe with the exception of his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)—of that class-conscious type of Tory to whom we are still greatly indebted for utterances which, from time to time, disclose to the people of this country that background of snobbery and utter inefficiency to control the destinies of the people, which we have in the country today.
At times we have been greatly indebted to him for his contributions. He spoke of the rise of the Labour Party from 1887 and I questioned his history. When he pointed out that the rise of the Labour Party was instrumental in bringing about the Guillotine, I felt that again he made a most significant point. We are accused today of using that Guillotine in a despotic way. It comes somewhat ill from the benches opposite to say that when the Labour Party first began to show itself in public life, when, in other words, there was a danger of the old mock battle between Tweedledum and Tweedledee coming to an end, it was felt necessary at that stage to stifle opposition—that is, opposition of a type which challenged the continuation of the system itself; that it was necessary to use extra-Parliamentary methods in order to ensure that that system which had been upheld for so long should continue in existence. In saying that sort of thing, the noble Lord is making quite sure that those Labour votes which he is concerned about and which he thinks we may lose, will remain with us for quite a long time to come.
I do not disagree in principle with the theoretical basis of the arguments used by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) or the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay). I would greatly deplore the spectacle of minorities in this House, of the Opposition in this Parliament, not having full facility to express their view, to question and to use reasoned arguments, to get the Government to change their minds—in fact, to use this place as a platform for stating views which, although they have not commanded the majority of the electorate at the preceding Election, should nevertheless give food for thought, in the guidance of our democratic institutions. If this House ever fails to be a debating Chamber of that type, we shall be in danger of losing that democratic background which we in this party, and I believe the majority of Members opposite, admire and desire to retain.
Therefore, in theory I do not think there is a lot between us in that respect. But when we have heard efforts such as that of the noble Lord, accusations that we are trying to get rid of all types of democratic conceptions—and that on the very day when, because of embarrassment of the Leader of the Opposition, we witnessed in this House the spectacle of the Government Chief Whip moving the Adjournment in order that the right hon. Gentleman might have the full authority of yourself, Mr. Speaker, to proceed within the principles which govern the conduct of Members in this House—we can only say that it is cheap hypocrisy for the noble Lord to represent us as trying to veto democratic discussion in this assembly.
The hon. Member for Oxford told us that those of us on these back benches who support the Government on this issue are dupes or accomplices. I wonder whether he considered that when his noble father and his associates gave full support to the Tory Government in 1927 to guillotine the rights of Members in this House to discuss the Trades Disputes Act, that they were dupes and accomplices or that they were indeed very clever men in refusing to allow the trade unions to discuss what was an attempt to emasculate trade union authority in this country?
Until 1945 this Assembly had never known a Government with power which seriously challenged in principle the right of Tory and Liberal Administrations to maintain a state of society which we on these benches feel was fundamentally against the interests of the people of this country. The whole constitution of this House had been built in such a way that it was fair to call it the most exclusive club in London. In 1945, the people determined that that type of thing must end. When they sent this Government and its supporters here, they determined that there was a need for a fundamental change in the whole conception of the use of this Parliament. It is utterly impossible for any Government, functioning within the period of a five-year life, to put into operation those fundamental changes which are so necessary, unless there is a change in conception as to the uses to which this House must be put.
On the question of principle, I suggest that the present Government have done more to maintain democratic thought in the country than any preceding Government. The efforts of this Government, violently opposed at times by hon. Members opposite, to show to the people the economic changes which have taken place have, indeed, resulted in a far more highly educated democracy than we had any right to expect that we could achieve following the type of educational system with which Toryism had left us for so long. These efforts, so far as the production of White Papers, etc., are concerned, are now more closely followed than ever before by hundreds of thousands of people who in the past never had the opportunity to know what was going on in Government.
I believe that the people are demanding that this institution of Parliament, which we in this party will continue to respect, shall be used not merely as a talking shop, not merely as the most exclusive club in London, but as a Parliament to which they can look to alter that social background which brought us to such calamity between the two wars, and to alter it as speedily as may be. I believe, that this Measure which the Government have now placed before us, considered within that concept, is vitally essential.
For my part—and I believe that I speak for most of my hon. Friends on these benches—I would vigorously oppose this or any Government which I believed was trying to stifle democratic thought and discussion in this House. They and I believe, from the examples we have seen, and from the background of the three and a half years of work by this Government, that they have done a great job of work in educating and bringing men and women in the factories in the great towns to understand what government means, and to understand their own responsibility for government to such a degree that they and we can go forward confidently in supporting the Government on this Measure. We believe that by so doing we can expedite great social changes which are now essential in the life of our country, and that we can do so without having recourse, in the working of our Parliamentary institutions, to means which we feel are dictatorial in outlook. For those reasons, I hope that the House will give the Government an overwhelming majority in support of this Guillotine Motion, believing as I do that it will give sections of back bench opinion of this side of the House, as well as on the other side, the opportunity to discuss intelligently and constructively, and if necessary to criticise, the proposals contained in the Steel Bill.
On different occasions I, for one, have said that if a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and so passes into law, it is the plain and simple duty of a law-abiding citizen to do what he or she can to make that Act work. But that line of argument depends on the assumption that the Measure, when passing through this House, at its various stages is given adequate discussion and thought and is studied fully. Surely, there ought to be that thought and discussion, particularly during the Committee stage, when every line, every word, every comma, should be studied.
Many references have been made to the work of the Committee that considered the Transport Bill. I do not want to weary the House by repeating many of the things that have been said of the work of that Committee, on which I served. However, I shall always remember and deplore the fact that there were 37 Clauses passed that were never discussed at all. I cannot help thinking that time will prove that the failure to discuss those Clauses will lead to many difficulties that otherwise would have been avoided, and which will lead to litigation which, too, would have been unnecessary. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) drew a comparison between the Transport Bill and the Iron and Steel Bill; but while the Transport Bill was indeed a vast Measure, this is a more complicated Measure, and I feel it requires the most incisive examination.
As a business man I look at these things from a business point of view. I am not in the least interested in obstruction for obstruction's sake, and I find no interest at all in political tactics which have for their object delay in the passing of this or any other Measure. However, I believe that before this vast Measure is passed through the Committee stage, adequate time should be devoted to it. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that all this can be dealt with in the Parliamentary time available between now and the middle of March next year. In any case, from the business point of view, I ask myself, why this haste? Why is this Measure to be rushed through? Why should the Guillotine be necessary, in any case? What we should have in the very forefront of our minds all the time are the interests of this great industry, and they should be given all the necessary time for attention without regard to political tactics.
Mention has been made by more than one hon. Member of the 107 firms listed in the Third Schedule, firms of nationwide repute, many of them of worldwide repute. I think it is only fair, before they are absorbed into the State monopoly, that there should be ample opportunity for representations to be made on behalf of every one, so that their individual cases can be put before hon. Members during the Committee stage. Surely that consideration ought to be accepted? I find it hard to believe that any hon. Member in any part of the House would agree that a very big and important British firm should be absorbed into the State monopoly without being given an adequate opportunity to put its own case. There are 107 firms in that Third Schedule. Consideration of their cases alone would take up a tremendous amount of time. [Laughter.] I do not see that there is anything to laugh at in giving time to consider the status of a firm that is to be absorbed into the monopoly.
References have been made earlier tonight to another Bill in respect of which the Guillotine was used. Would the hon. and gallant Member suggest that in regard to the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill every trade union in the country should have been considered before the Bill was passed?
Every Clause of the Bill was discussed, and I say that every Clause of this Bill should be discussed. I question very much whether, in the programme that has been laid down, there is the least likelihood that every one of the Clauses in the Bill will be debated. In 1945 the Caretaker Government asked the iron and steel industry to bring in a report on its proposals for development. To the best of my recollection that report was forthcoming fairly quickly, because the industry is well organised. I think the report was submitted to the Government in December, 1945. It was May of the following year before the Ministry concerned agreed with the general terms of that Report. I think that if the Government took close on five months—rather more than that—to consider that single report, they could give a great deal more of Parliamentary time for the Committee stage of this Bill than they are allowing. I do hope that time will be given far beyond 17th March.
I have looked at the Bill, and I do not think there is anything in it which deals specifically with Ireland, North or South. However, there are tens of thousands of Irishmen working in industry as producers and users of steel, and I think that they will all be of one mind, that it would be deplorable if St. Patrick's Day should be chosen for the closure of the Committee stage of this Bill. On that day we as Irishmen take in hand to "drown the shamrock"—not to send the iron and steel industry to its doom.
I happen to have been a Member of the Committee that dealt with the Gas Bill. I want to say that I enjoyed it. I had been under the impression that I had some slight idea, from the trade union point of view, of what are called "restrictive practices," but I had not been on the Committee many days before I was forced to the conclusion that the workers of this country had not the slightest idea what restrictive practices really are. So we arranged during the sittings of the Committee that gas workers from a local gas works here in London should attend one of those sittings to see hon. members of the Conservative Party, employers of labour, actually put into operation restrictive practices.
I came to the conclusion that if any employer in the House in future suggested that the trade union movement of this country encouraged restrictive practices, I should have to tell him that he did not know what he was talking about if he had had no experience of this Committee on the Gas Bill. We started by being told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. B. Bracken), who led the Opposition, that they would oppose every full stop, every comma; and would keep us there as long as they possibly could.
The right hon. Gentleman told us definitely what he was going to do, along with hon. Members of his party. When one hon. Member of the Opposition had made a speech, the right hon. Gentleman would persuade another Member of his party, when it became the turn of the Tory Party to speak, to make the same argument all over again.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) is here, because he gave us plenty of enjoyment in the Committee by referring to the Bath Gas Company, of which he told us quite openly that he happened to be a director. Many times he tried to defend the shareholders and directors not only of the Bath Gas Company but of all the other gas companies of which he could possibly think. He repeated the same type of argument, and then would draw our attention to nationalisation. He appealed to the Chairman to say that the word "nationalisation" was spelt wrongly. He said that it ought to have a "z" in it instead of an "s." For a long while we had to put up with that kind of thing. The hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) used to come into the Committee just after tea. He would be told what had transpired, and on one occasion he was told by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth that the Chairman had just ruled out five Amendments. The hon. Member for Northwich was not standing for that. He was politely told that if he spoke on them he would be out of Order. That night both parties had agreed to finish a little early, but the hon. Member for Northwich was not having any of that either, so, for one-and-a-half hours he skated round those five Amendments, without being out of Order, and finished up by not moving any of them.
On that occasion the right hon. Member for Bournemouth—I am sorry he is not here—said, "We are going to keep you a long time tomorrow night." After that night's Sitting we retired, and we Labour Members came to the conclusion that we would give them what they were asking for—a few all-night Sittings. Then they strongly objected. They arranged for their Members to come in in relays—staggered hours—and inquired where their Members were staying at the various hotels so that they could be rung up in the middle of the night if there was a Division. I ask hon. Members opposite, quite seriously—can they make any working-class audience believe that they were seriously examining that particular Bill with the idea of trying to put on the Statute Book a good Bill by the tactics I have described?
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's recollection as a Member of that Committee is not quite correct. I was never asked while on that Committee for my telephone number, or for my hotel telephone number so that I could come along to vote in a Division. I would remind the hon. Member that he has said nothing at all—and I hope that he will—about where his own Members spent their time during the discussions. They were out of the Committee room for three parts of the time, and only came in when a Division was called.
Of course we were outside during that night's Sitting—that 36 hours' stretch. We quite candidly agreed about that, and said, "You go into the next room and have five minutes' sleep, and we will deal with these people, and then you can come back." I say seriously that I have never been a Member of any Committee where such disgraceful tactics were adopted by the Opposition, not with the idea of improving the Bill, but solely from the point of view of making the meetings last as long as possible. Their sole idea was to try, as far as it was humanly possible, to keep the Bill off the Statute Book as long as they could. I am exceedingly pleased that at last the Government have decided that there is to be an end to that nonsense. It was a pity that this action was not taken at the beginning of the life of this Parliament because if it had been, we would have had far more Bills through by now than we have had.
I conclude by saying to the Opposition that before this Government came into power, the majority of the workers of this country did not know of HANSARD, but now, through the various shop stewards, the workers in many of the works throughout the country have a copy of HANSARD put before them in the lunch hour. They know what is taking place, and they know the game that the Opposition are playing. If the Opposition think they are going to make any converts by the tactics which they have been adopting since this Parliament began, they are living in a fool's paradise.
I have been on a great many Standing Committees, and I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is being very honest over this matter, because if the Minister shows a little appreciation of the other person's point of view and is prepared to give way a little, the amount of co-operation that can be obtained is surprising.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's question is too childish to answer. The Opposition said that they would oppose the Bill to the bitter end. They were not prepared to accept any compromise in any shape or form. I hope, therefore, that this Motion will go through tonight, and I am only sorry that it was not introduced at the beginning of this Parliament.
If there was any point in the remarks of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. E. Porter) it was that it is a great fault of the Government to send important nationalisation Measures to a Standing Committee and not to deal with them—where they ought to be dealt with—on the Floor of the House. I regard the Iron and Steel Bill as affecting the whole structure of industry and the economic life of the nation. I believe that it is a Parliamentary crime to send such a Bill to a Standing Committee and thereby to exclude some 550 Members of Parliament from discussing it. Holding that view, it is quite foolish of me to argue those parts of the Motion which deal with the Committee stage. I say quite frankly that whatever amount of time we put in, it would not serve any useful purpose in getting a proper understanding and discussion of this Measure. I represent some 50,000 constituents, and many of them are small shareholders in steel companies.
A great many workers are small shareholders in these companies. If this House is going to take away the rights of the shareholders, however small, and compensate them with a mere 10 per cent. of the value of their shares, there is a duty for every Member of Parliament to put a case to the House and to the Government. These 550 Members are to be robbed of that opportunity, and they will have no time, either on Committee stage or, as I hope to show, on the Report stage of this Bill to put forward their views. Therefore, I confine myself to the question of Report stage and Third Reading.
This is the first time we have had a Guillotine Motion for the Report stage and Third Reading before any discussion of the Bill in Committee. This covers entirely new ground on the totalitarian model. The Town and Country Planning Act has been referred to, but the Guillotine Motion in that instance was not quite the same because there had been some discussion. I wish to submit an argument which I am surprised has not been used before. What has been the result of that procedure with that Act? No one in the country understands it. [t is now clear to everybody who has studied the Act that either this Government or its successor will have to introduce amending legislation, because that Act is quite inoperable. Surely, that is a very unwise precedent for the Government to follow in subjecting the complicated Iron and Steel Bill to the Guillotine procedure, whereby hon. Members on both sides, with their common sense and knowledge, are precluded from submitting considerations affecting their constituents.
I regard this Guillotine procedure for the Report stage as derogatory of the Chair. On Report it is the duty of Mr. Speaker so to arrange the Debate that all the Clauses receive adequate attention. Mr. Speaker is armed with full powers to grant the Closure, and to see that its use is effected. But this is something entirely new. With the Iron and Steel Bill, the most important Bill of the Session, Mr. Speaker, is not to be left to decide what should and what should not be discussed on Report. As I understood the Lord President, he admitted this was an entirely new step in Parliamentary procedure. For the first time the Business Committee will allocate the time of the House.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) quoted the evidence Mr. Speaker gave before the Select Committee on Procedure. I shall not repeat what he quoted, but I do want to draw attention to another passage, when Mr. Speaker was dealing with the use of the Guillotine on Report. He was asked by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank):
The other thing I wanted to ask Mr. Speaker was this: How far, in his experience, the Chairman is still able to safeguard the rights of minorities if, as the Government paper says, the Chairman is not absolved from
using the closure? If the Chairman is frequently using the closure, it is difficult to see how he can also safeguard the minority on the strict timetable.
Mr. Speaker replied:
Well, that is one of the delicate matters a Chairman has to settle. He has the power to accept the closure. You cannot rule out the use of the closure because there is a timetable. I do not think that has ever been the practice in the past. I think the Chairman is there to try and safeguard the views of minorities and he has got the power to prevent abuses, and I think you have got to trust the Chairman. I am afraid that is the only answer I can give there.
He went on to add this, to which I wish particularly to draw the attention of the House:
I do not like the idea of the timetable being arranged for Report by a Special Committee. I think it is a matter for the House itself.
My right hon. and gallant Friend went on with his question, and said:
I gather really from what you said that, if you have the guillotine procedure for Committees, it is almost impossible to have one for the Report stage—certainly ahead of time.
Mr. Speaker replied:
I should have thought it would be very difficult. [Question] You would have to wait and see how you got on in the Committee if it was necessary to have one at all? [Answer] Yes.
This is the first time that evidence has been completely contradicted by this Government. Mr. Speaker said in effect: "Until you have had the Bill in Committee it is quite impossible to see how you can allocate the time on Report." The Government, no doubt in view of that advice, did not impose this Guillotine procedure before the Committee stage in the case of the Transport Act and the Town and Country Planning Act. But on the Iron and Steel Bill they have defied the advice Mr. Speaker gave before that Select Committee. I believe that to be a very dangerous step, and one marking the rapid progress the Government are making towards the totalitarian method of Parliamentary procedure.
I warn the Government against taking this step. It may well be that in course of time the Minister of Health will take over the reins of office. If that happens we shall have this new totalitarian method used for all Bills; and it may well be that some hon. Members who support the present Prime Minister will not support the Minister of Health when he becomes Prime Minister. A short while ago we had a speech from the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee), who said he was a democrat. I thought his speech proved he was merely a dupe in this matter and not an accomplice. Quite clearly he has no guilty knowledge of what the Government are doing. Knowing that if this Motion is passed my constituents will be precluded from having their views expressed on this important Measure, I shall support the Amendment before the House.
Any hon. Member who sat on the Gas Bill Standing Committee, especially in the later stages, must have come away with a vivid impression of the shape of things to come. Had the Government not taken note of what happened in the concluding stages of that Bill, I can truly say they would have been in a "jam" with this Iron and Steel Bill. I pay this compliment to the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) who led the Opposition on that Standing Committee: he led them gallantly; he did his job well; he was astute; he was clever; he was insulting; he was everything that a general should be to keep his team together—but they did not manage to keep together. In the concluding stages of that Committee—and this is an illustration of what takes place in Committee—the Opposition were operating in relays; hon. Members would be away for five or six hours, and then come back in the morning refreshed to relieve their colleagues, who would then go off duty. I can compliment myself on the fact that after 56 hours I did not bat an eyelid. I did not go to sleep at all, and I can give Members opposite the recipe if they care to have it—a cold shower and plenty of tea.
If the hon. Member did not bat an eyelid, I compliment him, but as far as I could see most of his hon. Friends were asleep in easy chairs practically all the time.
If a film and a record of the speeches could have been made of those 56 hours, it would have broken all records, and people would have had some idea of Parliament and how the work is done.
I try to look at this matter objectively. I can see the value of Standing Committees. It is there a Bill can be built up into something presentable. If we were to have a non-controversial Measure, I can imagine that we should have all the ability and experience of Members on both sides helping to improve it, but the moment we have a controversial Measure, the Opposition are determined to spoil it and make it unworkable, and that is when all the fun begins. Instead of having every Member doing his best to make the Measure more presentable, the Opposition Members try to retard its progress and make it impossible for the Bill to be re-ported to the House. That was my impression in the case of the Gas Bill.
I will give two examples of the sort of thing I mean. After the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) had been speaking for about 35 minutes, the Chairman gently chided him and asked him to bear in mind what was being considered by the Committee. The hon. Member then went on for almost another half an hour, when he was again chided by the Chairman. The hon. Member apologised to the Chairman on the second occasion and told him that he was just coming to the conclusion of his speech because, as he said, he was almost exhausted. He then added that he would now come to what he wanted to say. That is an example of the sort of thing that takes place. It does not make sense, and in Lancashire we should say that it is "daft."
When the Government are trying to introduce a Bill which has to last for years—and I do not care what sort of Government it is—and they find that sort of thing happening, then I think it is time something was done about it. On another occasion I remember that when a Division was called the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth immediately began to argue a point of Order. The argument went on and on about freedom and democracy, and we then heard the right hon. Member say: "This is a free country," and the Chairman said: "This is a free country. Lock the doors." I also remember an hon. Member repeating himself over a dozen times who, when it was pointed out to him, admitted that he had over-stretched the point.
How can sensible men do business if this is to happen? How can any Government get their Business done? If the Opposition are returned at the next General Election the same sort of thing will no doubt go on. Are the Conservatives suggesting that they, too, would be willing to allow this state of affairs which makes it impossible for them to get a Bill through Committee stage? It may be good Parliamentary tactics to do this sort of thing, but there is no sense in it and it gets us nowhere. It is bringing Parliamentary business into disrepute, and I think it is time that we did something about it. For my part, I shall go into the Division Lobby in favour of this Motion, quite satisfied that I am doing the right thing.
I am glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fairhurst) as I had the same privilege during the Second Reading Debate. I sat on the Gas Bill Committee, and I think there has been a good deal of romancing about what took place there. I cannot remember my hon. Friend the Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) saying that he was exhausted, but if there is one thing that stands out in my mind, it is that the Government supporters sat there dumb throughout the whole of the proceedings.
We had to keep the Committee going to get the Bill through, but Government supporters sat there saying nothing at all. I could quite understand their boredom. It was because their Ministers had muzzled them. If Government supporters are willing to allow their Ministers to muzzle them on Standing Committees, that is no reason why the Lord President of the Council should try to muzzle us. Why I feel so much resentment about this Motion is because the Government are trying to muzzle freedom of speech. We have been told that some gas workers were invited to the Standing Committee. All I can say is that I hope those workers took full stock of what the Government supporters were doing to help that Bill forward. I am sure that when they went home they must have thought they had sent a lot of mutes to the House.
This morning I was officially notified that I am to be a Member of the Standing Committee on the Iron and Steel Bill. After listening to the Lord President, it is clear that when this Bill, which strikes at the economic life of the country, goes to Standing Committee we shall be deprived of the fullest opportunity for discussion. This Motion is a threat to Members on this side of the House. As one of the privileged Members for the City of Sheffield, the great steel city, I believe there are great economic truths to be put forward in Standing Committee. I speak as a chartered accountant professionally associated with iron and steel and steel castings. The ramifications and complexities of this Bill are so far-reaching that the least the Government could have done was to say that they would enable it to be discussed at greater length than any other nationalisation Bill which, so far, has come before the House.
No, it will not. Is the Lord President afraid of a full and proper discussion? Are the Government afraid of the economic truths which may be brought out in Standing Committee? Those associated with the steel industry are entitled to expect me to do everything I can to see that the Bill is thoroughly examined and made as good as possible. The Motion on the Order Paper is an attempt to muzzle the Opposition in the same way as the Lord President has muzzled his own back benchers. I am satisfied of that, because in Standing Committees in the past, whenever a supporter of the Government has looked like making a speech, the Minister or Whip has pulled faces at him and he has not risen.
I believe the Lord President asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, while the Gas Bill was going through Committee, when the Committee stage was likely to be completed. The Minister of Fuel and Power had not much idea, but gave a certain date. The Bill did not come down from upstairs according to that date, and I believe the Minister got his knuckles rapped for giving a wrong date. If that is not true, the Lord President can deny it. The Lord President was annoyed and said that by hook or by crook the Bill must be finished in Committee by a certain time. Until then the procedure of the Closure Motion was not used very much, but when the Lord President could not get his Bill quickly enough he decided that it should be operated much more frequently.
I say in all seriousness that every Member of the House has a duty to his electors to examine the Iron and Steel Bill properly. There must be reasoned and fair judgment of every one of its Clauses. Not one Clause must be missed, because every one is important. The Government must not repeat the farce of the Transport Bill. What a disgrace that was to them. Many Clauses and Schedules were not even discussed. Is it any wonder that many Amendments came from another place, because of the inadequate discussion in Standing Committee? Tonight's Motion is a travesty of the rights of the Members of this House, and those who support it will be doing a bad service to the electors who sent them here.
I am always prepared to be convinced by arguments put forward by Members opposite, but after hearing a speech by the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) I doubt whether any of the arguments which have been put forward from the Opposition benches tonight carry any real conviction. The hon. Member said that we on this side are muzzled, led at the end of a chain, as it were, by the Lord President, that we are not allowed to speak or move Amendments in Committee, that we must be dumb. All these things -he attributed to us on this side of the House. Do Members opposite honestly believe that this is correct? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Well, let us see how true it is. Let us see whether the Opposition are being led up the garden, or whether it is Members on this side.
During the last ordinary Session I was a Member of Standing Committee "B," and enjoyed all the work of that Committee. The last Bill we dealt with was the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) Bill, of which Members opposite have no doubt heard. On behalf of one or two of my colleagues who were Members of that Committee, I put down over 30 Amendments to that Bill.
I am always ready to safeguard the rights of my constituents, whether they are co-operators or not. But that is not the argument; it has been said that we were muzzled, and could not move Amendments in Committee. I am refuting that by saying that I personally put down over 30 Amendments to the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) Bill. We debated them with the President of the Board of Trade, and not once did the Chief Whip or the Lord President suggest to me that I should not have done such a wicked thing. So much for the argument that we are muzzled.
I am speaking about the Committee on which I sat and I am drawing on my own experiences which entirely disapprove the case by the Opposition that we are muzzled. Any Member who is interested can read the Debates on the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) Bill and can see that what I am stating is perfectly true. On no occasion did any Whip or the Lord President of the Council suggest that we should stop putting down these Amendments.
I am sorry I do not remember the number of Amendments that were accepted. A large number were, and if the actual wording was not accepted the principle was. I consider we did a good job on that Committee, and I enjoyed myself. Not only on the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) Bill, but also on other Bills with which we have dealt, I have enjoyed listening to the arguments put forward by Members of the Opposition. I have listened to them attempting in many cases to make certain Clauses better and various Bills, like the Local Government Bill, more workable. I approve of that kind of thing and I consider that that is a worth while part of the democratic life of this Parliament. I want to see it continued. I detest the Guillotine as much as any Member on this side or that side of the House, because I know it may be used in wrong directions. Therefore, I hate to see it applied.
But what is the cause of the Guillotine being operated here? We have examples given to us this afternoon of what happened on the Gas Bill. Is it democracy that is operating when there is a 36 hours' continuous session in Committee? At the end of a 35 hours' session are Members of a Committee doing their duty and able to deal with the various Clauses as they should? Are they fresh? I was not on the Committee in question, but I have heard other Members cite their experiences during those long sessions. Who is making a mockery of democracy and of the Parliamentary machine in such matters?
We on this side of the House and the Radicals who preceded us fought in the past in order that we should have a Parliamentary democracy in this country. We on this side of the House know that under this same democracy we can bring into being in this country the economic and political Socialism in which we believe. We would be the last persons in the world to destroy the machine that will bring in the Socialism in which we have great faith. What we are doing—and I suggest this in all seriousness after the farce that was perpetrated in the Gas Bill—is to safeguard that democracy. Hon. Members opposite did not really oppose the Gas Bill in principle. If they did, they would have announced that they would de-nationalise the gas industry when they were returned to power. If they really thought they were fighting against an injustice they would have announced long ago that they would right that injustice when they return to power if that ever arises. But they have accepted the nationalisation of gas. It is the Opposition which is making a mockery of our Parliamentary democracy. We are safeguarding it from the antics and tricks they displayed on the Gas Bill through Committee
Hon. Members on the opposite side have said that at the end of the Debate they will go into the Lobby confidently to vote for the Motion. They can be assured that we on this side of the House will go with equal confidence into the other Lobby to vote in favour of the Amendment.
I desire to support certain points made in the admirable and persuasive speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). Of course, it is possible to find precedents for certain things, but what is quite certain is that it is impossible to find a precedent for what the Government are doing in this Motion. The combination of three things is unique. I suggest that the precedent is dangerous, and indeed disastrous. The importance of the Bill and its far-reaching nature, the fact that it is being sent upstairs for its Committee stage instead of being dealt with on the Floor of the House so that every Member of Parliament could take part in it, and the timetable which is the immediate subject of our Debate, are a combination of three things for which it is impossible to find any precedent.
I recognise that sincere speeches have been made from the opposite side taking the opposite view. I believe that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are divided into two categories in this matter. There are those who know what lies behind this procedure but want it, desire it, and are determined to carry it through, and those who are quite innocent and have no idea how serious a threat to our democratic way of life is involved in this procedure. I am not expecting all hon. Members to agree with everything that I say, but I am expecting that some hon. Members at any rate will be prepared to listen to my argument, as I have listened to the arguments throughout this Debate without intervening or interrupting upon any issue. Let me deal with some of the precedents put forward by the Leader of the House.
A great many people on both sides of the House have given reminiscences of the Gas Committee. It would obviously not be proper for one who took no part in that Committee to say anything about it, but I did take a part in the Committee on a Bill which interested me a great deal, for obvious reasons. It was the Town and Country Planning Bill, now an Act. That Bill was subjected to the procedure of the Guillotine, although not from the beginning, but from a comparatively early stage. The Steel Bill will be subjected to it from the beginning. I wonder whether any Member thinks that the procedure upon the Town and Country Planning Bill was a success. I speak with some experience of the Ministry concerned and I will express the view that the Minister of Town and Country Planning would be the first to admit, if he were at liberty to give his opinion to this House, that that Act would be free from many defects which are giving him a great deal of trouble today if the Bill had had adequate discussion.
Let me deal with another Act which has been referred to in many speeches, the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927. I know that that Act excites the greatest controversy between the two sides of the House. It would obviously be quite out of Order, nor do I have the desire, to go into the merits of that Act, but, on the particular point on which it has been cited today, the precedent does not help right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite at all, first, for the reason given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington that all the discussion took place on the Floor of the House, and secondly for the reason that the time allocated was calculated to ensure—and did ensure—that every Section of that Act was fully discussed in this House.
The timetable actually set for the Iron and Steel Bill cannot conceivably produce that result. Every Member of this House can make his own guess as to which Clauses will be discussed, but what is quite demonstrably certain is that all the Clauses cannot be discussed. That is a very vital difference. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why cannot they be discussed?"] Because the time allotted does not permit it. If the hon. Member who intervened would make a calculation after reading the Bill, I am quite confident that, devoting an honest mind to it, he will come to the same conclusion as I have, that it is absolutely impossible. He may make his own guess as to which of the Clauses ought to be discussed, and other people may take a different view, but it is absolutely certain that it will be impossible to discuss them all.
I want to make one point which nobody has yet made in this Debate or in the Debate on Second Reading but which is very germane to the matter before us. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) pointed out that some of the Clauses of the Bill closely follow precedents in previous nationalisation Acts, but there is one very great difference between this Bill and all previous nationalisation Bills—that it proposes to effect nationalisation by transferring the securities of 107 particular named companies. Those companies are set out in the Schedule. What is the reason why those particular companies are selected? I do not know whether even Ministers have yet observed the important fact that all those companies selected for nationalisation are not described in any operative words of the Bill itself. In lay language, the Bill simply says, "We will take over the securities of the companies named in the Schedule." I see the Minister searching the Bill and I expect that his eye will alight in a moment on Clause 11 (3). That Subsection is the only passage in the Bill which purports to describe what the Government are taking over.
The unique thing—I believe he would search Acts of Parliament in vain to find anything like it—is that if someone, no matter from which side of the House, set down an Amendment in Committee to leave out Subsection (3), the Government could accept the Amendment without making any difference at all to the operation of the Bill. The only legal effect of the Clause is to take over the companies set out in the Schedule. The description is an afterthought designed to make a little more decent the non-application of the Standing Order No. 36 which was considered and dealt with by Mr. Speaker before the former Debate took place. I am sure that any fair-minded man, whatever his politics, would say, "Supposing any one of these companies set out in that Schedule does not answer the description in Subsection (3), or if the opinion of the Minister about its satisfying the conditions is wrong the company ought to have the ordinary protection of something like Private Bill legislation in order to state its case." I say that if hon. Members will look at Clause 11 (3), together with the Schedule of the companies that are to be taken over, they will come to the conclusion that that Clause alone will require long Debate in Standing Committee if the risk of grave injustice is to be avoided.
An important fact about this Bill is its constitutional aspect. Almost the only matter agreed between the two sides of the House is the great importance of this Bill. About that there is no dispute. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers have reminded this House and the country repeatedly that what is at stake at present is the economic survival of this country. Very much bound up with that survival, by the admission of everybody, is this industry. If this Bill is a wrong way of treating the industry, then the effect on the future of this country will be absolutely disastrous. That alone makes it a Bill of the most fundamental importance. Nor can it be denied that that importance is a constitutional importance, if "constitutional" has any reasonable meaning at all. For that I would cite two authorities. The first authority I would cite, because I think it is true and honest, is a statement from a back bencher of this House, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). This is what the hon. Member said about this Bill:
Once we have nationalised steel, we shall have broken the back of capitalist control of industry for ever, and after that happens, whatever party is in power, we shall be a Socialist State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 925.]
"Whatever party is in power, we shall be a Socialist State"! I want to pay a tribute to the hon. Member for Broxtowe for the honesty of that statement, but how is it possible, taking that view, to deny that this is a constitutional Measure? If this Bill is to mean that we are entering a Socialist society, a decision irreversible whatever happens and whatever the electors say, how is it possible to deny that this is a constitutional Measure?
Let me take another speech. I wonder how many hon. Members opposite have studied what the Lord President of the Council said in a speech last weekend. He said—I am not quoting his exact words—that the purpose of this Bill was to secure economic democracy as contrasted with political democracy. If that is so, I should have thought, whatever else it meant, it meant that this was a constitutional Measure. I would warn the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite that this talk of economic democracy, as contrasted with political democracy, has a somewhat unfortunate history.
As has been ruled by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Amendment under discussion affords considerable latitude for debate. I think, however, that I have in mind all the limitations of which you may be thinking and I hope I shall not transgress. Nor do I think it is particularly generous of hon. Members opposite, in view of the line we on this side have taken about speeches opposite, to attempt thus to curb the expression of my views.
Hon. Members opposite certainly will not stop my saying this: What is the precedent for this talk of economic democracy as contrasted with political democracy? It was made in defence of the Communist line in every country of Eastern Europe preparatory to its being swallowed up by Communist tyranny. That brings me to the supreme constitutional impropriety of both sending this Bill upstairs, which I cannot discuss, and of subjecting it to this strict timetable when it gets there. For that there is ample precedent, but not in this country. The precedents are entirely totalitarian. It is perfectly easy to justify everything that is being done, both in the Bill and in the timetable, on Marxist principles. It is not possible to justify those things on any other.
That is why I repeat that it is not in the least a fluke that the Bill is so heartily backed by precisely those Members of the Cabinet who were once expelled from the Socialist Party for forming a common front with the Communists. [Interruption.] It has everything to do with it. What we are asked to do is to take a very important totalitarian step, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are absolutely wrong if they think that that will not be pointed out both in this House and in the country.
I have mentioned the technical point which arises on Clause 11. Hon. Members opposite are familiar with the fact that the Bill, which this Motion will make it impossible to discuss fully, will divide up certain industries, like the engineering industry, into the section that is nationalised and the section that is not. There is not a single provision in the Bill which gives any protection at all to the non-nationalised section to secure that it will not be killed entirely by a denial of raw materials or by being charged an unfair price.
I at once bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and therefore will not develop that line further. I think, however, that I am entitled to draw attention to the effect of the Bill as it stands in order to show the absolute necessity, in our view, for Amendments, which will not be possible unless we can have full discussions. That is my submission. It is no part of my purpose to go into any minor points. Those points I have endeavoured to put to the House are, I submit, points of vital importance to the future of this country and even to the survival of a free society.
I agree absolutely with the line taken by my right hon. Friend in moving the Amendment and with a great deal of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). I agree, of course, that there are hon. Members opposite who do not realise everything involved in this procedure; but if they have studied the Bill and this procedure they will inevitably come to the conclusion that what is proposed is quite without parallel in our country, that it makes Parliamentary discussion on matters of the most vital importance to the people impossible and, I am bound to add, that it is a worthy continuation of a policy which has been followed so often by this Government in the last three years. I remember in particular that in 1947, a year we know now to
have been absolutely disastrous, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer frequently tells us how bad it was, when there was a demand for a Debate—in which the other side joined—on the economic situation in view of the disaster to which we were drifting in the spring, this is what the then Leader of the House said to my right hon. Friend when he asked for an extension of time:
I thought that I erred on the side of generosity when I agreed to a three days' debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 1144.]
I asked then, as I ask today, whether the Government think that it is by their generosity that the Commons of England discuss national survival. I say that by this Bill, the importance of which has been recognised both by Ministers and by back benchers, if they are making a mistake they are making a mistake disastrous to the future of this country. Many of us are absolutely convinced that they are making such a mistake, and it is monstrous that the whole House should be deprived of an opportunity of saying so and proving it.
It is with a heavy heart and with great reluctance that I rise to make my speech tonight, for I must say at the outset that I have not yet been completely convinced that I ought to support the Government tonight. I have listened and thought as carefully as I possibly can on this subject, but I have not yet been sufficiently convinced. I wish to say, however, at this point that although I think I differ from the Government on this matter, it is not that I lack any confidence in the Government as a whole. I believe that time and again in very difficult circumstances they have been doing a truly magnificent job, but on this issue they are wrong.
I believe that the Lord President of the Council was correct when he indicated that we have reached a moment in history when Parliamentary democracy, as operated in the past, is facing a new task and a new difficulty and may have to be slightly altered to cope with the circumstances. It seems to me true that in recent years the civilisation of Western countries in particular has become, and is steadily becoming, more and more complex, and that automatically means that the burden on the legislature becomes continually greater and the systems which sufficed in the past to provide the legislation which the community wanted are not necessarily, without alteration, adequate to meet the strain, of modern times.
I realise that, because in the very nature of the circumstances I think civilisation here has reached a turning point, a climacteric, that it is quite evident that even more than before we face an urgent moment when new legislation must rapidly be passed through. At the same time, in order to meet the twin difficulties, we must remember that the thing we want to preserve is the Parliamentary democracy which has served us so adequately in the past. I am convinced that hon. Members on this side of the House take just as much pride in that as anyone on the other side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "More."] And perhaps more. But it is true that Parliamentary democracy is a delicate instrument which we all know can be distorted. Nevertheless, we all know that it now has to be slightly changed. The question is how best to change it to meet the circumstances of today without distorting it. That is the problem which presents itself to our minds. Obviously some of us answer the question in a different way from others.
The Lord President of the Council has, with reluctance, suggested that the Guillotine is the best method of which he can think at the moment to meet the circumstances. I am not sure whether it was he or the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who indicated that the alternative which had to a certain extent been used in the past was to increase the burden on another place. There are certainly two alternatives, one to shorten, by the method of the Guillotine, the time taken in this House; the other is to increase the burden on another place.
Yet there seems to me to be perhaps even a third alternative, which I hope the House will forgive me for suggesting and will forgive me for believing in, because in the past I have been called a fanatical idealist, and in that sense it is probably true that I am. Owing to the changing development of civilisation, circumstances increase the burden on national legisla- tures, and at the same time are pushing mankind into the situation when he is realising that another legislature, I think a world or supra-national legislature, must come into being, which must take some of the burden from national legislatures. I know that that cannot be created overnight. Nevertheless, I believe that it will be created fairly soon, and that when it is created, it will take some of the burden off the national legislatures.
I am not convinced that the particular proposal we are discussing, which means that all the burden shall still be carried by Parliament as it is today—which as I see it involves the curtailment of adequate discussion—is the best or indeed the only method by which the problem can be solved. I, therefore, find myself in an appallingly difficult predicament. If I were the Government today, I honestly do not know exactly what I would suggest, but I do not believe that as an ordinary back bencher, I am necessarily obliged to know the answer to everything.
There are times, which must occur to many people, when one feels in a kind of instinctive way that something which is proposed is not quite right. I do not know what I would do to make it better. It may not be wrong; it may be, indeed it must be, that the Government know far more about it than I do. Even so, I simply wish to indicate that I cannot—and I am extremely sorry to say this—with my conscience as it is, bring myself to go into the Lobby and support this Motion tonight. Nor do I believe, feeling as I do about it, that I have any right merely to abstain. I must say, therefore, that unless I can hear, before the Division takes place, some more adequate reasons, I shall be compelled, for the reasons I have tried to explain, to vote against the Government.
There is one point I should like to have explained. Firstly, why is it so vitally necessary that 17th March shall be the date upon which the Committee stage is to be completed? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is St. Patrick's Day"].1 If that is the answer, I am still not adequately convinced that this Motion is necessary. Of course, that is not the reason. Why is 17th March the zero hour and deadline for the completion of the Committee stage of this Bill? Is it not possible, in the interests of endeavouring to preserve freedom of speech, to curtail some of the other activities? I do not know. I should like to hear more about the absolute necessity of keeping to that particular date line. If the Government can give me all the answers for which I am searching, as I sincerely hope they can, then between now and the moment when the House divides I hope I shall be able to change my mind.
I am sure that we all sympathise with the hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne) in the dilemma in which he finds himself. I must leave his decision to his own judgment and his own conscience. He will not expect me to follow him in the investigations, into which he endeavoured to lead us, towards the ideal for which he is seeking, and to which he has devoted so much of his time. I am sure that the House will not mind if I come back to the timetable, because I am very greatly concerned about it.
It is always interesting to listen to the Lord President and to speculate what he is really thinking in that subtle brain of his. When we remember what he said when he was on this side of the House and compare it with the line he takes on the other side—and perhaps wonder what would happen if a change brings him back on to this side—it is, as I say, a very interesting speculation. While he was speaking today my mind kept going back to an experience which I had with an old colleague. When I was endeavouring to put over some proposition to him, he would put his head on one side and say, "Are you trying to persuade me or are you trying to kid yourself? Because if you are not certain in your own mind, go away and think about it again." While the Lord President was speaking I was puzzling as to whether he really meant all that he said, or whether he was trying to convince himself.
He went through all that story of very interesting ancient history. But neither he nor I was there in the days of Mr. Gladstone or Lord Salisbury, and if we read about it, we find it was a very different House of Commons. Obstruction, calculated and deliberate, was part of the performance in those days. In the years I have been here I have seen nothing of that sort. It seems to me that the Lord President was rather stretching a point in trying to take us back to those days. But when he came to modern days and quoted the Transport Bill it seemed to me that he was proving that the time allotted to the Transport Bill was totally inadequate. Thinking of all that has been said on both sides, I feel very strongly that at the present moment we are at a turning-point in our national economy.
The Lord President said this Bill was a great measure of economic change. The whole of the Labour Press has been telling us this is a good industry. I feel that it is the first creative industry which has been tackled and threatened with nationalisation. The industries dealt with previously have been those which we might call services. There is a vast difference between creative industries and industries of the nature of services. I have heard hon. Members opposite say in the past, "We can run the mines without the owners." I have heard them suggest that they could run the railways without the management and the factories without the bosses. It may be quite true. But they presume the existence of the mine and the factory and the railway. I am always concerned with the people who created them and with the creation of the industries on which we exist. Today we are facing, with this Iron and Steel Bill, the fact that the first of our creative industries is being interfered with. I am gravely concerned about what might happen if we interfere with such industries, apart from running that which somebody else has made for us.
The Government are trying to bully us into accepting something which we ought to have more time to discuss. I remind hon. Members of the number of Clauses and Schedules that were not discussed in the Town and Country Planning Act and the Transport Act. Many Amendments were dropped without being discussed because they were never reached. When we come to consider the Iron and Steel Bill we shall have Clauses which are not discussed and Amendments which are never considered though they may be most vital.
I should have thought that the Government would have wanted the nationalisation of iron and steel to succeed and that they would have wanted the best Act possible instead of one which is the best they could get in the shortest possible time. They are taking a grave risk. I ask the authorities not to blame us later on if things go wrong and I am sure that, in any case, they will go wrong. They will go wrong particularly in very vital places unless the greatest possible care is taken in threshing out the details of this Measure.
The Government are treating the nationalisation of the greatest of our basic industries in a casual way which we ordinary businessmen would never think of adopting. We should not use a short timetable. We should ensure that adequate time is given to such a major operation. Yet the Government propose to cut down the time to this very short period when dealing with an industry which is the lifeblood of the nation. It is a very bad thing to mix up politics and business. In this case, we are sacrificing the business to the politics, and it is because I believe that the Government are making a political decision instead of considering the real facts, that I shall oppose their Motion.
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I say that I was most interested in his argument that it is a bad thing to mix politics and business? Would he care to give the House the advantage of his opinion on the appeal for funds made by Lord Woolton to manufacturers?
One can readily understand the desire of the Opposition to oppose the use of the Guillotine in the case of this Measure or any other that they do not like. If they do not like a proposal, they want to talk about it for as long as they possibly can with a view to disrupting, if they can, the Parliamentary timetable in order that not only this Measure but some other Measures which equally they do not like, may cause difficulties for the Government. Hon. Members on both sides recognise that fact. It is right and logical that the Government, with a programme to get through, will be equally certain to take the measures that are open to them within the Constitution to see that they complete their business in time. I think that is the simple issue before us, in spite of all the verbosity on the question of the use of the Guillotine.
I confess that at times when I have been listening to certain hon. Members opposite—and perhaps even sometimes when I have listened to hon. Members on this side of the House—I have wished that the Guillotine operated rather more frequently. I consider that the kind of operation which takes place in many bodies where a person is restricted in the amount of time he is allowed to speak on a given subject, is a much more effective way of doing business than this method of filibustering, of repeating the same arguments over and over again, in order to obstruct business.
I believe the reason the Opposition do not like the Guillotine procedure on this and other Measures is because they want to talk, and talk, and to keep on talking in order to make it difficult for the Government to get these Measures through within their timetable. The Opposition know that before coming to power, the Government made promises to the electorate to put through certain legislation; the Government were elected on those promises, and as a democratic Government they owe it to the people to ensure that they are not obstructed in completing their programme. If that be true, then the method the Government are now adopting to get this Measure through is right and proper.
If hon. Members opposite really want to get down to brass tacks in Committee they will talk rather less on things which do not matter very much, confining their attention to improving the Bill, and not spending too long in discussing compensation Clauses. My experience of previous Bills has been that most of the discussion has been on the compensation Clauses, not on other and vitally important parts of the Bill. In the case of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, the Opposition were, apparently, fairly well satisfied with the terms of compensation, and that Measure was allowed to go through reasonably easily. Again, with the Bank of England, the compensation was evidently regarded as adequate, and there was, therefore, no need for lengthy discussion. But with transport and gas, and now iron and steel, when the shoe begins to pinch the Opposition and their friends, we find that they want to talk for a very long time; they want to post- pone coming to a conclusion, not necessarily because of opposition to the Bill as such, but very often because of opposition to a particular part of the Bill which they do not like.
What is the case put forward on the Iron and Steel Bill? It has been said that a constitutional issue is involved. That may be the opinion of one or two hon. Members, but it is certainly not mine. I cannot see that the constitutional issue here is any different from that involved in taking over those industries which have already been nationalised. I see no reason why this Measure should require any different procedure from that adopted with previous Measures. It is argued that 550 Members of this House will be deprived of the opportunity of taking part in the discussions. I have sat through many Debates and been deprived of an opportunity of taking part, simply because of the verbosity of hon. Members opposite. The Government are now taking steps to curb that verbosity, and from that discipline—[HON. MEMBERS: "Discipline?"] Perhaps the Opposition will permit me to finish my sentence—from that discipline they may learn to talk to the subject, and not continually to repeat arguments over and over again, of which we have had so much evidence in the life of this Parliament.
I believe that this procedure will serve a useful purpose, because within the timetable Members will have to talk objectively on the Bill—which will certainly be a change for many Members of the Opposition. That, I believe, will be of benefit to democracy. One of the things I have noticed here under the cloak of free speech has been a terrific waste of time. It seems to me it is time the country cannot afford. I welcome this Motion because it ensures that this Measure gets proper discussion, that Members opposite will be obliged to confine their arguments to the Bill, and that the Bill takes its appointed course and finds its way on the Statute Book in the lifetime of this Parliament.
It is a sobering thought for the House to realise that had there been a Guillotine Motion and this Question had had to be put at an earlier hour, we might have missed the extremely revealing speech we have just heard. That is something we on this side would have very much regretted, although whether the Lord President of the Council feels the same I am not at all sure. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Pargiter) was quite frank as to what he feels about Parliament The object of Parliament is to get Government business through. If that is so, it is a reasonable view which has been taken by many other people inside this country and outside. But why be content with such a modest Motion as this? Surely we should get more Government business through if, for instance, we did not have a Report stage, and we should get still more through if we did away with the Committee stage altogether.
I cannot give way because the hon. Member took so long complaining about the length Members on this side spoke that he went several minutes over the time at which he had agreed to sit down. The most revealing sentence of all was—and perhaps he may know the inner mind of the Lord President of the Council; I do not mean what the Lord President of the Council says, because that has nothing to do with it, but what he is really thinking; and it may be that the Lord President does regard this Motion in the same light as the hon. Member—that this is a Measure to discipline the Opposition and to teach them that they are not to obstruct Government business. Of course, what the hon. Member means by obstructing Government business is disagreeing with anything the Government propose.
There is one thing on which I must express my gratitude to the Lord President of the Council, and that is for having followed his custom of previous occasions and got the Home Secretary to wind up. That is very wise on his part. The Lord President, if I may say so without any offence, is slightly suspect—perhaps he even slightly suspects himself—of having autocratic tendencies. He fights against them, and let me be fair, he sometimes succeeds in his fight. I think it is perfectly true to say now, that the Lord President of the Council genuinely believes in an occasional General Election, providing the right side wins, and in regular meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party, provided they are both secret and submissive. But beyond that I think he is apt to regard the machinery of Parliament and the trappings of democracy, as being rather a handicap, rather an impediment to the real business of Ministers, which is to pour out a flood of orders, regulations and rules, unhampered by criticism or unimpeded by questions.
Of course, that is where the Home Secretary cones in. That is why it is wise of the Lord President always to put up the Home Secretary to reply when he himself moves a Motion of the kind we have before us today. The Lord President rightly regards the Home Secretary as being the exact opposite of himself. He sees him, as I do, as a mild, modest and moderate man. So tonight, once again, we are to have the Home Secretary, not as an argument, but as an exhibit. He is not there for us to listen to, but just to look at; indeed, I think he desires only a quarter of an hour in which to put all the full argument of his case. We intend to go into the Lobby tonight, after looking at the Home Secretary, and saying to ourselves, "Can we really believe that some one who looks like that would lend himself to the sort of action which the Government are taking?" That cloakroom respectability has worn a little bit thin now; it has been used a little too often in the past.
The Lord President, in moving the Motion, produced no argument but many precedents in its support. I was extremely interested in the list of precedents with which he had been supplied. They seemed to start very early but also, for some odd reason, stopped very early. We were taken back to 1888, when Lord Salisbury first used this game of the Guillotine. One would have thought that if there was any object at all in quoting those precedents it was not to quote the most archaic, but the most recent. I was surprised—and I make the Lord President a present of it in so far as it is an argument against ourselves—that he did not quote the most recent example of the Guillotine Motion introduced by the Conservative Government. That was the Motion they introduced in May, 1939, owing to the opposition by the Socialist Party to the National Ser- vice Bill. Against the precedents the right hon. Gentleman quoted there was this essential difference: in the first place this Measure was taken on the Floor of the House; second, the Guillotine was not introduced until definite and complete evidence of obstruction to that Bill had been given by the Opposition on the Floor of the House. The Motion was not introduced until 13 hours had been spent on discussion of the Financial Resolution.
When the Lord President talks about the indecent obstruction, and how he thinks that the time for all that has passed, I recommend him, before he goes to bed tonight, to read that Debate. I need not recommend the Home Secretary to read it, because I see he took part in that Debate. The interesting thing is to notice how in various successive years the Government's action in a matter of this kind has deteriorated. There has been a Rake's Progress. We had the Coal Industry (Nationalisation) Bill, the first of the really important and controversial nationalisation Measures, when the Bill went through this House without any Guillotine Motion at all.
The hon. Member thinks it frightfully odd that the Opposition should desire to speak when they think that compensation is unjust and do not desire to do so so long as they think it is fair. The curious thing is that that is what Members of Parliament are sent here for—to talk whenever they think something is unjust and not to talk quite so much when they think something is fair. After the Coal Industry (Nationalisation) Bill, where there was no Guillotine, we came to the Transport Bill, where there was a Guillotine; but it was not introduced at any rate until after some experience of the Committee stage and until it was possible to make some estimate of what the course of Business was likely to be.
Now we come to this, the third major Measure, the Iron and Steel Bill, where for the first time, despite the very interesting evidence given by Mr. Speaker and quoted in a remarkable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton)—indeed in direct contradiction to Mr. Speaker's advice and evidence—this Guillotine Motion, for the first time, is proposed without any experience whatsoever of the Committee stage of the Bill. These, then, are the progressive stages of deterioration—from no Guillotine to a Guillotine only after the Committee stage had begun, and now a Guillotine before the Committee stage starts. I tremble to think of the next step. The only consolation is that this is the last major Bill which right hon. Gentlemen opposite will have the opportunity of introducing.
In order to justify this continual turning of the screw, it seems to me that the Government have got to prove one of two things. They have either got to show that the result of applying the Guillotine procedure to the Transport Bill and Town and Country Planning Bill was so satisfactory that that is a precedent which they should naturally have followed at once, or they have got to prove that this Iron and Steel Bill is very much less complicated or much less important, involving such issues that we can afford to give them less generous treatment than was afforded to either of the other two Bills.
I do not think there is anybody on the other side who could sustain for a moment the argument that, in fact, the Guillotine procedure in the case of the Transport Bill or the Town and Country Planning Bill worked out well. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) gave actual facts of what happened during the passage of those Bills. In the Transport Bill 230 Amendments were found necessary in another place and in the Town and Country Planning Bill 336 Amendments were found necessary in another place. Nobody is really going to argue that the procedure in this House can have been satisfactory in a case which left something like 600 Amendments to be made to those two Bills in another place. I defy the right hon. Gentleman, if he searches legislative records of prewar days, ever to find a case in which a Bill going from the House of Commons had to receive Amendment on that scale in the Lords. It is because of the inadequate time given here that this extra work is needed in the Lords.
The right hon. Gentleman puts on that sanctimonious—[An HON. MEMBER: "Face."]—no, that is always there, a sanctimonious air and says that he is doing this for the poor people in another place, just to suit their convenience. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman how best to suite their convenience. It is to take enough time in this House to send Bills up to them which do not require 300 Amendments in order to make them acceptable. Nor would the right hon. Gentleman argue for one moment the other side of the case that the Iron and Steel Bill is, in some way less important or less difficult than the other Measures to which reference has been made. It has indeed been the contention of nearly everyone who has spoken from the Benches opposite during the Second Reading that the Iron and Steel Bill was the most important legislative act of the whole Parliament, that it was not merely one bit of economic reorganisation and not just an alteration of the industrial machinery in one branch of industry, but that it was an economic and political revolution which went far beyond the confines of the industry itself.
We heard the quotation from the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) which showed that it is the general view of Members opposite, that the Bill is, in fact the deciding Bill which will make England a Socialist England. In view of that evidence, how can the right hon. Gentleman argue that the Bill is unimportant or that it is uncomplicated? Reference has been made to the 107 firms. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the reason this Bill differs from any other Bill is that these firms are brought into the operation of the Bill and that their names are in the Schedule, whereas in other Bills only broad categories were included. By that device it has been possible to avoid the Hybrid Bill procedure. One would think that that made it all the more important that ample time should be given to seeing that the position of those firms was properly considered.
No other argument has been advanced during the whole evening for this Motion except perhaps "Look at the Gas Bill." My right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) must be feeling very flattered at the alarm that he has created in hon. Members opposite that they have no shelter whatsoever against the fluency and fertility of his tongue. On a Motion such as this, even when hon. Members talk about the Gas Bill, they must remember certain facts. The first is that whatever may have been the accounts of obstruction, the Government got their Bill, and without the Guillotine, and even though the Second Reading was not taken until the middle of February. Here we are discussing a Bill the Second Reading of which was taken at the beginning of November.
The second thing to remember is that it would have been open to them at any time during the conduct of that Bill to come down here with a Motion for a Guillotine if they had been really convinced of its necessity and of obstruction going on. They never did that. We should then have been able to argue what was the cause for the slow progress. Hon. Members opposite, some of whom have not yet been in Opposition, will learn that, although it is quite easy to generalise about it and make it look absurd and antiquated, obstruction is sometimes the only defence which an Opposition possesses. If it is found that a Minister, as Ministers with large majorities behind them do, fails either in courtesy or efficiency, brushes aside queries and neglects criticism, the only weapon which an Opposition can bring to bear is to make that Minister's life more difficult and his work more prolonged and, finally, through this method, to bring to the House, the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip and the country the realisation that some changes are required.
On the Gas Bill. I think it is an absolute insult to the Minister of Supply to assume in advance that he would be no more capable of managing the Committee upstairs on this Bill than the Minister of Fuel and Power was the Committee on the Gas Bill. The Lord President is probably right, but it would have been more courteous to try it out first. The most interesting sentence used in the whole of this Debate was used by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor). He said that ample time is given under this Motion for the Opposition to make their case against the Bill. That seems to display a total misconception of the rôle of this House in Committee and on Report stage. It is quite true that if all that had to be done now was to make the case against the Bill, that could be done easily within the limits set by this Motion. In fact, it was done.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman denies using that sentence. It is important because it is not a question of a Second Reading Debate. If that were all, we should have no complaint against this Motion, but the Committee and Report stages should mean more than that. They should mean not merely making a general case against a Bill, but criticising, altering, and making suggestions on various details; and that really cannot be done in the time allotted.
Frankly, I intensely dislike the Guillotine procedure in any circumstances. In various offices before the war I happen to have had a great deal of experience in Committees upstairs. Some of the Bills we took were controversial and some were non-controversial, but I learned that it was quite impossible for anyone, however well he knew the Bill, to lay down beforehand how the discussion upon that Bill in Committee was likely to go and how long it would take or what time should be allocated to each part. Invariably it was found that some point which one thought comparatively unimportant aroused great interest in the Committee. Invariably one found that there were some things brought in which one had not expected. I do not believe it is possible for any committee of people, however willing, however able and however honest, to allocate time in a way which prevents things that ought to be discussed from being left out and -sometimes things which need not be discussed from being given ample time.
I can only conclude by re-echoing the protest of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington against this Motion. I believe its result will be to make abortive the proper discussion of the most important Bill of the Session; probably to make that Bill leave this House less adequate than otherwise it would be. Beyond that, I believe that this continually increasing turn of the screw will, in the end, lead to the complete destruction of the functions of the House as anything more than a body of people, called upon to register broad decisions, aye or nay, on Government Measures which are put before them.
I have listened to the majority of the speeches that have been delivered in the course of this Debate, and I think we can say that in view of the strong feelings that this Motion has aroused the Debate has been conducted in the best of tempers and that the points of view of both sides of the House have been put forward with clarity and with the force which shows how strong feelings are.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) both made what is really a false point with regard to the Report stage of the Measure. They seemed to think that there was something wrong in including in the Report stage allocation, the period that may be spent on recommittal of the Bill when we commence the Report stage. After all, recommittal is caused by the financial procedure of the House, which forbids any amendment that involves a charge, either on the Exchequer or the rates, being moved on the technical Report stage. Therefore, in order to avoid that difficulty, the Bill is recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House, the Whole House considers these financial Amendments, and the procedure, except that the Chairman of Ways and Means is in the Chair, is exactly the same as when the House comes back, the mace is lifted on to the table, and Mr. Speaker resumes his seat. If the argument is that there ought to have been five days instead of four, that is only part of the case which the Opposition makes that the allocation of time is not sufficient, but I do not think it is fair to suggest that there is some sinister purpose in including the recommittal stage in that period.
Therefore I do not think that argument can have any weight other than that the Opposition feel that the time allocated is insufficient.
I thought, if I may say so, that, as is not unusual on these occasions, the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) really posed the point of principle that divides the House on the Motion before us. I am bound to say, however, that I thought he pitched the claims of an Opposition a little too high. He said it was the right of the minority to govern the time of the House.
The claim he was putting forward was, after all, disposed of on the morning in 1882 when for the first time Debate was interrupted after the Irish Members had kept the House sitting and had made it quite clear that no Government business was going to be done. From that time to this, the growing needs of Parliament have compelled at successive stages fresh curtailments to be placed on the complete liberty of Debate that existed prior to that time.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to represent what I said correctly, but I think he will find that what I said were two things and not what he imputed to me. First, I said that a timetable ought not to be imposed except as the result of some definite piece of misconduct on the part of one section of the House. Secondly, I said that once the day came when the Government could say in advance that a particular piece of business would go through, whatever anyone did, then this was no longer a free House. I do not deny, of course, that the general control of time, by general agreement, rests with the Government of the day.
It is true that the hon. Gentleman did say the two things he has just mentioned. As he said, it was a quotation from himself in an earlier speech.
The Government dislike the Guillotine procedure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—just as much as the Opposition and I do not think that the last sentence just uttered by the hon. Gentleman finds us very far apart. We think that in these matters it is desirable that there shall be a voluntary arrangement of time, that the Opposition and the Government together should consider the appropriate amount of time to be devoted to a Measure, and that then, from the first part of the discussion, there should be a voluntary arrangement by which the time is shared. Within that more flexible instrument, a great many disadvantages of the Guillotine procedure can be avoided.
I was one of the Members who was responsible for the voluntary timetable on the Education Bill. On no day did we actually carry through the programme we had allotted to the day. Some days we went rather slower, other days we went faster, but in the end we just managed to comply with the arrangement that had been voluntarily entered into. I believe that that is the way in which, with the ever-increasing business of the House, this matter of the allocation of time should be arranged, and it was a matter of regret to the Government that when, as the right hon. Gentleman said at the commencement of his speech, we approached the Opposition with a suggestion of a voluntary timetable, we met with a blank refusal.
The remarkable thing was that the Electricity Act, on which there was a voluntary timetable, took only 25 days, which, I think, is a striking example of the way in which a voluntary arrangement enables both sides, with reasonable give and take, to get through the business associated with such Measures.
I do not want to keep interrupting the right hon. Gentleman and time is running short, but I must say this: We were never offered a voluntary arrangement. We were told that 17th March was the date and were asked to discuss what we would do up to that date. That is not an arrangement: it is dictation.
I should have thought that if the right hon. Gentleman thought 17th March did not give him sufficient time, he could have said so—[HON. MEMBERS: "We are saying so."]—and it might have been possible to discover whether it would be feasible to arrange for something which would be more acceptable. The fact of the matter is that for months the Opposition have been saying that what happened on the Gas Bill was child's play to what was going to happen on this Bill——
It has been common talk. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Therefore, the Government were faced with the position of whether we were to repeat what happened on the Transport Bill. When we came to the end of Clause 4 of the Transport Bill it was discovered that at the same rate of progress it would have taken two and a half years to get the Bill through Committee. Undoubtedly some of the difficulties in regard to the Transport Bill and the Town and Country Planning Bill arose from the fact that the Guillotine was proposed after too long a time had been spent on the earlier Clauses of the Bill, with the result that the difficulties that were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman arose when we tried to apply the Guillotine to the later stages of the Bill.
It is no use the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset suggesting that the decline and fall of the British Empire began through Lord Salisbury's Government applying the Guillotine in the year of Queen Victoria's first Jubilee. The danger to democracy is not that there will be too short a time spent on the preparation and discussion of Measures that are essential. If there is anything to learn from the history of the past few years, it is that where, owing to one cause or another, excessive discussion has brought Parliament into disrepute, Parliamentary democracy has suffered its most severe defeats. Therefore we still hope that within the limits which will be imposed by this Motion—to which the Opposition have not put down any Amendments ex- tending the number of days at any stage of the Bill—it is possible for the Business sub-committee in the Committee upstairs and the Report stage in this House to make arrangements whereby all the essential parts of the Bill can be discussed. We believe that is possible, and
|Division No. 17.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Donovan, T.||Johnston, Douglas|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Driberg, T. E N||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adams, W. T (Hammersmith, South)||Dugdale, J (W. Bromwich)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Albu, A. H.||Dumpleton, C. W||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Dye, S||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Allen, A. C (Bosworth)||Ede, Rt. Hon J. C.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Edelman, M||Keenan, W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Kenyon, C|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Edwards, Rt Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Key, Rt. Hon C W|
|Attewell, H C.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||King, E. M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C R||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E.|
|Awbery, S. S||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D|
|Bacon, Miss A||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lang, G.|
|Baird, J||Ewart, R.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Fairhurst, F||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Barton, C.||Field, Capt W. J||Leslie, J. R|
|Batlley, J. R.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Lever, N. H.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Follick, M.||Levy, B. W|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F J||Foot, M. M||Lewis, A. W J (Upton)|
|Benson, G.||Forman, J C.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Berry, H.||Fraser, T (Hamilton)||Lipton, Lt.-Col M.|
|Beswick, F.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Logan, D. G.|
|Binns, J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Longden, F.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Ganley, Mrs C. S.||Lyne, A. W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gibbins, J.||McAdam, W.|
|Boardman, H.||Gibson, C. W||McAllister, G.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Gilzean, A.||McEnt[...]e, V. La T.|
|Bowden, Flg Offr. H. W.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||McGhee, H G.|
|Braddock, Mrs E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)||Greenwood, Rt Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Mack, J D.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Greenwood A. W. J (Heywood)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Grenfell, D. R||Mackay, R W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Grey, C F||McLeavy, F.|
|Brooks, T J. (Rothwell)||Grierson, E.||MacMillan, M K. (Western Isles)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Griffiths, D (Rother Valley)||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)|
|Brown, T J. (Ince)||Griffiths, Rt Hon J. (Llanelly)||Macpherson, T (Romford)|
|Bruce, Maj D. W. T||Griffiths, W. D (Moss Side)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Burden, T. W.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gunter, R. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Guy, W. H.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Callaghan, James||Haire, John E (Wycombe)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Castle, Mrs B. A||Hale, Leslie||Marquand, H. A.|
|Chamberlain, R A||Hamilton, Lieut -Col. R||Marshall, F (Brightside)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hardy, E. A.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Harrison, J||Mellish, R. J.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Messer, F.|
|Cocks, F. S||Henderson, Rt Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Coldrick, W.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Collick, P.||Herbison, Miss M.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R|
|Collindridge, F.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mitchison, G. R|
|Collins, V. J.||Hicks, G||Moo[...]y A S.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Hobson, C. R.||Morgan, Dr. H B.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Holman, P.||Morley, R.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Horabin, T. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, E.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hoy, J.||Mort, D. L.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon Sir S.||Hudson, J. H. (Eating, W.)||Moyle, A.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Murray J D|
|Daggar, G.||Hughes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.)||Nally, W.|
|Daines, P.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Neal, H. (Clay Cross)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Irvine, A. J (Liverpool)||Nichol, Mrs. M E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Nicholls, H. R (Stratford)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Isaacs, Rt Hon. G. A.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Deer, G.||Janner, B.||Noel'Baker, Rt Hon. P. J. (Derby)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jay, D. P T.||O'Brien, T.|
|Diamond, J.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Dobbie, W.||Jeger, Dr S. W. (St Pancras, S.E.)||Orbach, M.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jenkins, R H.||Paget, R T|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Shackleton, E. A. A||Tolley, L.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Sharp, Granville||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Palmer, A. M. F||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn Sir H. (St Helens)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Parker, J.||Shurmer, P||Vernon, Maj W. F.|
|Parkin, B. T.||Silkin, Rt. Hon L.||Walker, G. H.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Silverman, J (Erdington)||Wallace, H W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Simmons, C J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Pearson, A.||Skeffington, A. M.||Watkins, T. E|
|Peart, T, F||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Watson, W. M|
|Perrins, W.||Skinnard, F. W||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Piratin, P.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Weitzman, D.|
|Popplewell, E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wells, W. T (Walsall)|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||West, D. G.|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Smith, S H. (Hull, S. W.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Pritt, D. N.||Solley, L. J||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Proctor, W T.||Sparks, J A||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Pursey, Comdr. H||Steele, T.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C A. [...]|
|Randall, H E||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wilkins, W A|
|Ranger, J.||Stokes, R. R.||Willey, F T. (Sunderland)|
|Rankin, J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J||Willey, O. G (Cleveland)|
|Rees-Williams, D. R||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Reeves, J.||Stubbs, A. E||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Swingler, S.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Rhodes, H.||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, W R. (Heston)|
|Richards, R.||Symonds, A. L.||Willis, E.|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Robens, A.||Taylor, R J. (Morpeth)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Thomas, D E. (Aberdare)||Woods, G. S.|
|Rogers, G. H. R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wyatt, W.|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)||Yates, V. F.|
|Royle, C.||Thomas, John R (Dover)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Sargood, R.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Scollan, T.||Thurtle, Ernest||Zilliacus, K|
|Scott-Elliott, W||Tiffany, S.|
|Segal, Dr. S.||Titterington, M F||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Snow and Mr. G. Wallace.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P G||Duthie, W. S.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Eccles, D. M.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H|
|Astor, Hon M.||Eden, Rt. Hon A||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt Hon Walter||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Erroll, F J.||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Fleming, Sqn -Ldr. E. L||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Fletcher, W (Bury)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T|
|Beechman, N. A.||Foster, J. G (Northwich)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Fox, Sir G.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Birch, Nigel||Fraser H. C. P. (Stone)||Lloyd, Maj Guy (Renfrew, E)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Boothby, R.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M||Low, A. R. W|
|Bossom, A. C||Gage, C.||Lucas, Major Sir J.|
|Bower, N.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T D||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gammans, L, D.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O|
|Bracken, Rt, Hon. Brendan||Gates, Maj. E. E||McCallum, Maj. D.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr, J. G||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Glyn, Sir R.||Macdonald, Sir P (I. of Wight)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||McFarlane, C. S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Granville, E (Eye)||Mackeson, Brig H. R|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Grimston, R V||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Byers, Frank||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Carson, E.||Harden, J. R. E||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)|
|Challen, C.||Hare, Hon. J. H, (Woodbridge)||Macpherson, N (Dumfries)|
|Channon, H.||Harris, F W. (Croydon, N.)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V||Manningham-Buller, R. E|
|Clarke, Col R. S.||Haughton, S. G.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Marples, A. E.|
|Cole, T. L.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Herbert, Sir A. P.||Marshall, D (Bodmin)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col, U. (Ludlow)||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Maude, J. C|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hollis, M. C.||Medlicott, Brigadier F|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Holmes, Sir J Stanley (Harwich)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Davies, Rt Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Howard, Hon. A.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|De la Bere, R||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Moore, Lt.-Col Sir T.|
|Digby, S. W.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hurd, A.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Donner, P. W.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (Cir'cester)|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Jarvis, Sir J.||Mott-Radclyffe, C E.|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Jeffreys, General Sir G||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Jennings, R.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Nicholson, G.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hn, Sir A. (City of Lond.)||Keeling, E. H.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P|
|Odey, G. W.||Savory, Prof. D L||Touche, G. C.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Scott, Lord W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Peake, Rt Hon. O.||Shephard, S. (Newark)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Shepherd, W S (Bucklow)||Usborne, Henry|
|Pitman, I. J||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Ponsonby, Col C. E.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Smithers, Sir W||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.||Spence, H R.||Ward, Hon G R|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Raikes, H. V||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife E.)||Webbe, Sir H (Abbey)|
|Ramsay, Maj. S.||Stoddart-Scott, Col M||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Read, Sir S (Aylesbury)||Stuart, Rt Hon. J (Moray)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Renton, D.||Studholme, H. G.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Sutcliffe, H.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Roberts, H (Handsworth)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Roberts, P G (Ecclesall)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, s.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Robertson, Sir D (Streatham)||Teeling, William||York, C.|
|Ropner, Col. L.||Thomas, Ivor (Keigley)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)||Thomas, J. p L. (Hereford)|
|Salter, Rt Hon Sir J A||Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sanderson, Sir F.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and Mr. Drewe.|
Question put, and agreed to.