|5||(a) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is committed shall report the Bill to the House on or before the thirty-first day of this month, and the general provisions set out in paragraph 3 of this Order shall apply so far as applicable.|
|10||(b) At a sitting at which any Proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under a 10 Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.|
|15||(c) No dilatory Motion with respect to Proceedings on the Bill or the adjournment of the Committee, nor Motion to postpone a Clause, shall be made in the Committee 15 except by the Government, and the Question on any such Motion, if made by the Government, shall be put forthwith without any debate.|
|(d) On the conclusion of the Committee Stage of the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.|
|2. Consideration and Third Reading|
|20||(a) In the following provisions the expression "allotted day" shall mean any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government order of the day.|
|25||(b) The Proceedings on Consideration shall be completed on the first allotted day, and shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at half-past 25 Nine o'clock.|
|(c) The Proceedings on Third Reading shall be completed on the second allotted day, and shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock.|
|30||(d) The general provisions set out in paragraph 3 of this Order shall apply to the 30 Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading so far as applicable.|
|35||(e) If on an allotted day Proceedings on the Bill are not entered upon by half-past Three o'clock, or are interrupted by any Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance), there shall be added to the time specified in sub-paragraph (b) or (c) of this paragraph a 35 time equivalent to the time which elapsed between half-past Three o'clock and the time at which Proceedings on the Bill were entered upon or, as the case may be, to the time for which the Proceedings on the Bill were interrupted by the Motion for the Adjournment.|
|40||(f) On an allotted day Proceedings on the Bill or under this Order shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the 40 House.|
|(g) Any Private Business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill, and may be proceeded with though opposed, notwithstanding any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House|
|45||(h) On an allotted day no dilatory Motion with respect to Proceedings on the Bill or under this Order, nor Motion to re-commit the Bill, shall be made except by the Government, and the Question on any such Motion, if made by the Government, shall be put forthwith without any debate.|
|50||(i) In this Order any reference to the Proceedings on Consideration or Third Reading 50 of the Bill shall include any Proceedings at that stage for, on or in consequence of re-committal; and when any Committee to which the Bill has been re-committed (whether as a whole or otherwise) has gone through the Bill or the provisions in respect of which the Bill was re-committed, the Chairman shall leave the Chair and report the Bill to the House without putting any question.|
|55||(a) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee or by this Order and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall, at the time so appointed, put 60 forthwith the Question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and, in the case of a new Clause which has been read a second time, also the Question that the Clause be added to the Bill, and subject thereto shall proceed to put forthwith the Question on any Amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules moved by the Government of which notice has been given (but no other Amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules), 65 and any Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded, and, in the case of Amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules moved by the Government, he shall put only the Question that the Amendment be made or that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill, as the case may be.|
|70||(b) Nothing in this Order or in any Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee shall—|
|(i) prevent any Proceedings on the Bill from being taken or completed earlier than is required by this Order; or|
|75||(ii) prevent any further Proceedings on the Bill in the Standing Committee from being proceeded with at any sitting, in accordance with the Standing Orders, if the Proceedings which under the said Resolution are to be completed at that sitting 75 have already been completed, or prevent any business from being proceeded with on an allotted day, in accordance with the Standing Orders, if the Proceedings which under this Order are to be completed on that day have already been completed.|
|(c) Standing Order No. 41 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to this Order.|
It was once pointed out in this House that there is an astonishing natural law that applies to Motions of this kind. When seen from one side of the House they appear both reasonable and necessary; but the view from the other side shows the reverse of these virtues. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in the speech to which I am referring, went on to say:
It was interesting to find how a speech that had been made by one hon. Gentleman who sat on the Opposition side, was answered by himself when he sat on the Government side, in the same terms as were used by the member of the Government who replied to him when he was in opposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 124.]
When the right hon. Member for South Shields made these remarks, he might have added that nowhere does the reader of HANSARD find more eloquent passages of regret than those in which Governments, including his own, have introduced this limitation on the time for debate. I believe that these expressions of regret are sincere. I certainly hope that, whatever else the House will disagree about in what I have to say, they will accept my expression of regret as sincere on this occasion. I share to the full the, dislike of such Motions, but I hope to show that anyone who considers the matter fairly and without prejudice cannot fail to see that a time-table for this Bill is wholly justified.
As for a precedent for such a Motion, there is not much need for me to re-plough well-ploughed earth. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) quoted 11 under Conservative and Liberal Governments when he spoke on 25th November, 1948. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House added two more from the Labour Government of 1929–31 in his speech of 23rd April last, and there are, in addition, the well-remembered examples of the Town and Country Planning Bill, the Transport Bill, and the Iron and Steel Bill in the 1945 Parliament.
I ask the House to agree to this Motion on three grounds. First, it is necessary that the Bill shall become law during this Session. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is what I am going to explain. Second, that after a fair period of trial in Standing Committee there has been no sign that the Opposition intend to make reasonable use of the time devoted to the Bill; and third, that the additional time which will be allocated to the Bill, if the Motion is carried, will be quite adequate for the remaining stages of the Bill.
May I deal shortly with the first point I made, that it is necessary that the Bill shall become law in this Session? In the view of the Government, it is necessary that the Bill should be passed and come into operation by the end of this Session in the interests of the new towns, and in order to secure that no obstacle remains in the way of the orderly progress of the plans of the development corporations. As I understand the position of order, it is not right for me, or for anyone who speaks of this Motion, to go into the merits of the Bill. We must confine our arguments to the question of the need for the time-table which the Motion suggests: and therefore—
On a point of order, and in order to get that matter quite clear, it is, surely, incumbent upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman to establish the importance, and therefore the urgency of the Bill, in order to justify the Guillotine? I should like to have that information from you, Mr. Speaker, clearly at the outset, so that we know where we are going.
I want to get the point right, and I know the right hon. Gentleman is interested in getting it right from the point of view of the House. As I understand it, the principle of the Bill has been approved by the House, and therefore one cannot—[Interruption.]—I know the right hon. Gentleman meant this seriously and I was going to answer him quite seriously. The principle of the Bill has been approved by the House, and therefore, as I understand it, and subject to your guidance, Mr. Speaker, it is not possible to argue again the principle of the Bill. But it is right to argue the urgency and the necessity for putting the matters contained in the Bill into early operation, and that is what I propose to do.
I think that raises a difficult point on which I—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I am not running away from the point at all: this is quite a possible view of the facts. A Bill, while not a major Bill in the sense that it raises important constitutional issues, may well be a Bill the putting into effect of which is a matter of importance for the communities affected, and in that way the urgent proceeding with the Bill is a matter of importance.
On this point of procedure, Mr. Speaker, it is not only a matter of the right hon. and learned Gentleman having to justify the Guillotine in relation to this Bill. He was using phraseology which rather indicated that it is his view that it would be assumed that the nature, character and merits of the Bill were not relevant to this Guillotine Motion. If that were accepted without challenge—and I am therefore glad that my right hon. Friend has challenged the right hon. and learned Gentleman—we ourselves should be inhibiting ourselves in the course of the debate, and I submit that it is perfectly reasonable that the nature of the relative importance and the relative urgency of the Bill should themselves be related to the necessity for the Guillotine Motion.
Perhaps it would be better if I were to say a word or two about this. I do not like giving Rulings in advance of the debate, but it does seem to me that the Question that will be before the House when this Motion has been moved is that this time-table be made. The arguments for it can, I think, without any breach of relevancy, suggest that the matter is important and that the Bill has to be got through by a certain time; and, against it, that the Bill is of no importance, and that is all right.
What would definitely be out of order in this debate, as I think the whole House will agree, would be adding a detailed re-examination of a Bill which has already had a Second Reading by this House. It is not easy to rule in advance, but I think that, with those few words from me, the House will manage to keep itself in order.
I take it from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that, while the right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly entitled to give reasons for limiting his speech to certain restrictions, that does not necessarily bind you in conducting the rest of the debate?
Is not a very important point involved here? I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not want to run away from this; it is not like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to run away from anything. It is one thing to say, with respect, that we ought not to discuss the contents of the Bill, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has used a very pertinent phrase. He says that it is in the interests of the residents of the new towns to get this Bill passed this Session. I submit that what we want to know—and what we are entitled to know, because the Home Secretary's case is based upon this—is what are these interests of the residents, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred.
I do not want to put this as a point of order, but I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he has used a very important phrase in trying to justify this time-table. That phrase was to the effect that it was absolutely necessary, in the interests of the residents of the new towns, that this Bill should be passed this Session. We want to know what are those interests of the residents.
I do not want to be at all unkind to the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), but one very good way of learning what are the reasons for which I say their interests are affected would be to let me tell him, and that I shall proceed to do.
In following your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, it would not be right for me to go at length into the three points which I emphasised on the Second Reading of this Bill as to the difficult and laborious steps that will have to be retraced if the policy of the nationalisation of public houses in the new towns were not quickly reversed, and, therefore, I simply refer to them from the angle of the difficulty that we should be causing if we proceeded with the steps which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite desire.
Merely to recount them, the first was the opposition which showed itself to the preliminary steps that were taken by my predecessor in considering whether any of the existing licensed premises should be excluded from State management. It aroused an opposition which was neither synthetic nor confined to the new towns most immediately affected.
The second point, which underlined the laboriousness of those steps that would have to be retraced, is that we should have to spend a large sum of public money on the acquisition of these premises. As I reminded the House, the late Government had included a sum of £1 million for a number of houses—barely half those involved—and a further large sum would have been required for the rest.
The third point, of which I merely remind the House, is that that course would have required the setting up, for 12 widely separated new towns, of a supervisory organisation which would have had to be destroyed again when the new procedure came into operation.
Those are what one might term the negative points, and, in my submission to you, Mr. Speaker, they are serious enough. On the other hand, there are the positive points, which arise from the moment of time at which we now are in regard to development. If there is to be a change, it is essential that it should be implemented without delay, because the longer it is put off the greater will be the period of uncertainty and impediment to the ordinary development of the new towns. These positive points also fall under three heads, and I hope to put them quite shortly to the House.
The first is that three houses which have already been built by the development corporations in Harlow, Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage are now proceeding towards their completion. It was not possible to apply for licences for them at this year's brewster sessions. If licences are not applied for until the next brewster sessions, they would not become effective until April at the earliest, and that is taking a very optimistic view of the time in which the confirmation proceedings would be completed. In that case, these houses would stand completed and unused, and would bring in no revenue.
This Bill, as hon. Gentlemen who have studied it will appreciate, enables me to give certificates under Clause 4 (8) in respect of such houses, and it would then be possible to get licences for them at transfer sessions without waiting until the next brewster sessions, and so the delay would be avoided. It is clearly to the financial interests of the development corporations that these houses should be made ready and brought into use, and it is clearly in the interests of the inhabitants of the new towns, who will be their customers. That is the first point.
We must also consider the houses for which sites have been selected and plans passed. In these cases also, progress must be delayed until the Bill becomes law. As I understand the position, there is no dispute between the two sides of the House as to the importance of developing the new towns as complete and balanced communities, with all necessary amenities and suitable licensed accommodation, without allowing excessive delay to intervene between the arrival of the new population and the provision of this accommodation. The great question between us, on which we hold such strong and diverse views, is who should provide the accommodation and who should control these houses. Until the Bill is passed and the uncertainty is removed the plans for providing that accommodation cannot go forward.
The third point is the question of future years and further developments. Of course, the development corporations want to push on with their plans to the next stage and to begin to settle their building programme for ensuing years. It is of the utmost importance to them that they should take into account the provision necessary for new licensed premises. The fact remains that they cannot proceed much further with this vitally important work without the assistance of the committees that will be set up under this Bill. For this reason, again, the early enactment of this Measure is essential in the interests of the new towns and of the proper progress of the plans of the development corporations.
I want to deal not only with that facet of the matter, but with the arguments which are implicit in the Motion on the Order Paper. When last February the Bill was given a Second Reading and the Government proposed that it should be committed to a Committee of the whole House, it seemed reasonable to suppose that time could be found for its Committee stage on the Floor of the House. Subsequent events and the exceptional demands of financial business have frankly upset that calculation, and by reason of the critical economic situation bequeathed to us by right hon. Gentlemen opposite we have had an exceptionally complex Budget and Finance Bill which occupied no fewer than 11 days in Committee on the Floor of the House. Once the House had decided to commit the present Bill to a Committee of the whole House, the Government were naturally—and I am sure everyone would sympathise with this—
On a point of order. In the course of his argument, the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the difficult financial and economic situation bequeathed to us." Shall we, therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, be entitled to argue in the course of the debate whether we did bequeath it at all, and what was the nature of it?
But the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just made a statement which will be printed in the newspapers tomorrow. Therefore, in my respectful submission, we are entitled to counter that statement. He said, in giving the reasons why this Bill was delayed, that it was because of the difficult financial and economic conditions "bequeathed to us." If that stands, shall we be entitled to rebut it?
With great respect, this is to put us under a very grave handicap; it is really to tie our hands behind our back while we are punched by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has specifically stated that one of the reasons why the Government did not find as much Parliamentary time as they expected was because they had to deal with these difficult financial and economic circumstances "bequeathed to us." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We are not contesting the right hon. and learned Gentleman's right to say it; in fact, it is part of his case. But can we therefore argue what was bequeathed, and whether it was difficult?
The statement was made while you were in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and we on this side are anxious to know—we have already addressed a question to Mr. Speaker who was good enough to give us his Ruling; he has said that we can discuss the urgency of the Measure and therefore its status and importance—whether we are entitled to rebut the statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
I was going on to the next point, and I had said, as the right hon. Gentleman rose to make his point of order, that the Government were naturally reluctant to invite the House to alter its decision that the Bill should be sent to a Committee of the whole House so long as there appeared to be some prospect of finding time for the Committee stage on the Floor of the House. But it became clear towards the end of June that the two or three days required for this would not be available. We believed that there was still time to send the Bill upstairs, allowing reasonable time for it to be considered in Standing Committee and completed by the end of the month. Accordingly, in the business for 26th June—if my memory is right, it came on between two and four in the morning of 27th June—the Government moved to re-commit the Bill to a Standing Committee.
Other things being equal, the Government, like the Opposition—because the right hon. Gentleman has said that that was his view—would have preferred to take the Committee stage on the Floor of the House—hence their original proposal. As I indicated—although I do not think I said it specifically—it is not the sort of Bill which it is essential as a matter of constitutional propriety to take on the Floor of the House; and, when the convenience of the House required that it should be sent upstairs, the Government saw no impropriety in introducing a Motion for that purpose, especially as they had delayed doing so until the necessity became clear.
May I ask hon. Members opposite to use a certain discrimination in interrupting me? I have given way of necessity—though I always like to give way—but I suggest that they should try to limit their requests for me to give way to once in five minutes. I think that is all I should be asked to do.
I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. He has twice said that the Government were most reluctant to introduce the Motion amending the original Motion to refer the Bill to a Committee of the whole House, and he has described the mental processes through which they went in arriving at the determination that it was necessary to introduce that Motion. Is it not a fact that they did it precipitately, that it was put on the Order Paper without notice and without discussion through the usual channels, and that therefore we were unable to put down Amendments to it?
I would not know if the hon. Member is right in any or all of those assumptions. [Interruption.] One must have a certain latitude, and I have given way. I am not in a position to answer these detailed points, but I assure the House that what I have said in the speech I am making is entirely accurate.
I want to go on to another point which is obviously of importance, according to the Amendment and according to what has been indicated. I want the House, before considering what has taken place and the adequacy of the time allowed in the future, to have clearly before its mind the size and set-up of the Bill. This is an entirely different matter from its importance for those who are affected by it. This is a matter of its physical extent and construction.
This is a short Bill of eight Clauses with a short Schedule of repeals. Of these Clauses three, Numbers 5, 6 and 8, are formal or, at any rate, do not raise any important issues. That is supported by the fact that so far they are remarkable for the paucity of Amendments in regard to them which appear on the Order Paper. Of the other Clauses, Clause 1 simply repeals the provisions of the 1949 Act applying State management to the new towns, so the questions that arise on it are those, and only those, that were fully discussed on the Second Reading.
The matter which in my view is suitable for discussion on the Committee stage is therefore virtually confined to Clauses 2, 3 and 4 and the Scottish application Clause, Clause 7. For these a period of four weeks in committee was surely enough. The history of the Committee stage and the evidence that the Opposition did not intend to make a reasonable use of the time given to the Bill is very clear.
Let me look at the progress which has been made so far. The Committee have had four Sittings, each of two and a half hours. The report of these proceedings occupies about 200 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT. Yet the Committee have disposed of only the first two Amendments of the 13 put down to Clause 1; and the full Order Paper runs to 18 pages of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules. When we were in Opposition—
When we were in Opposition and the House discussed the time-table proposed for the Town and Country Planning Bill we were told that progress at the rate of one Clause to a Sitting was too slow. When I was leading the Opposition on the Committee stage of the Transport Bill I was asked to agree to 24 minutes a Clause or Schedule. Progress at the rate of a fraction of a Clause to four Sittings makes it abundantly clear that the Opposition did not, and do not, intend to make a reasonable use of the time allowed.
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman in fairness to the House say how much of the time of the Committee was taken up by his resisting an Amendment that we should sit at 3.30 p.m.? Would he not also say that the whole of the second Sitting was spent in discussing what my hon. Friends, at any rate, regarded as the right hon. and learned Gentleman's gross discourtesy to hon. Members in not letting them know that afternoon that he intended to move a Guillotine Motion with regard to this Bill?
If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes me to deal with the details I will do so, but he must give me a moment. It is always hard, when one is submitted to constant interruptions and requests, to be blamed later—as it has been my fate on the last two occasions—for the length of one's speech. I simply ask hon. Members to bear that in mind; I am not asking for sympathy. Whatever other faults I have, I am too good a House of Commons man to do that. But I think it is a fair point to make, because other people who may come into the Chamber later may think one has taken up too much time.
May I give an analysis of the foul Sittings? The first 1 hour and 20 minutes were occupied with a discussion as to when we should sit. The next I hour and 10 minutes of the first Sitting were occupied with an Amendment relating to the postponing of the operation of the Bill. Discussion of that Amendment went on for 1 hour and 30 minutes of the next Sitting, and eventually I had to ask for the Closure to get a Vote on the Amendment postponing the coming into operation of the Bill.
The second Amendment took 55 minutes to one hour of the second half of the second Sitting. That was an Amendment which was described by one of its supporters as being one which I was unlikely to accept because it would destroy the whole purpose of the Bill. Discussion on an Amendment so described went on for nearly one hour of the second Sitting and for one hour on the third Sitting.
On a point of order. I ought to inform the House that I am Chairman of the Standing Committee and that I pointed out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman upstairs that merely because one hon. Member referred to this Amendment as being one which would wreck the Bill he should not regard that as a reflection upon my selecting the Amendment. I did not select it in any belief that it was a wrecking Amendment. I have to be careful to hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says because a great deal of it might refer to the fact that I did not accept the Closure earlier.
I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say something about me if he can, because clearly this is a very difficult matter. I might also take advantage of the fact that I am on my feet to say to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you were in the same position in 1947 during the debates on the Transport Bill. You did not vote in the Division on the time-table and, following your precedent, I do not propose to vote either. But you did intervene, and I am doing as you did in 1947 and looking after the Chairman upstairs.
I think it was the view for many years, and I have had many precedents, that when one is referring to a time-table any reference to what has been going on in the Committee upstairs is out of order until the Committee have reported to this House.
May I call the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that certain corrections were made to that one sentence subsequently? On several occasions when certain statements were made by him I was lucky enough to get him to give way to me and I was also lucky enough to catch the Chairman's eye to put my point of view. I consider it most unfair to have used that statement out of its context as it was used this afternoon.
On a point of order. Is it not a very old ruling of the House that it is completely and entirely out of order to refer at all to proceedings in Committee before that Committee has reported its proceedings to the House, for the very good reason that those who are on the Committee know what they are talking about and the rest of us have no idea at all until we get the Report?
On a point of order. In such a case then, if reference is made to a statement made in Committee upstairs, it would be perfectly competent for an hon. Member to read all the proceedings of the Committee relevant to the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in order that everybody in the House should be appraised of the weight to be attached to the argument that he is making? Should we be in order to do that too?
At the invitation of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), I was explaining what had taken place in the Committee, and I had said that the Amendment described in the language I quoted—that it would destroy the whole purpose of the Bill—occupied nearly an hour of our second Sitting. The first hour of the third Sitting was occupied by a discussion as to whether we should sit that night. The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the fact that he had suggested that we should sit at 3.30 in the afternoon. He did not mention that before that several colleagues on his side of the Committee had protested vigorously against any moment of the time in the debate on Colonial affairs being intruded upon by this Committee.
After that matter was finished—as I say, after an hour—we then had an hour and 20 minutes upon the Amendment which, in the expression, if not the opinion, of an hon. Member, would destroy the whole purpose of the Bill, and we were able to divide on that Amendment after 2 hours and 20 minutes, just before the end of that Sitting. The whole of the fourth Sitting, was occupied entirely by a Motion for the Adjournment.
I have not the slightest reluctance in stating these facts, and when they are remembered against the background that I have already quoted—namely that it had taken four Sittings and had occupied 200 columns Of the OFFICIAL REPORT—it becomes manifestly clear that the Opposition had no intention of a reasonable or proper use of the time. One has only to compare their conduct on this Bill—as I say, a fraction of a Clause in four Sittings—with the rate of one Clause to a Sitting in the case of the Town and Country Planning Bill, when we on these benches were in Opposition, to show how demonstrable that part of my case is.
The right hon. Member for South Shields asked us to consider the matter against the time that had been taken on the Bill which he introduced in 1949 for nationalising the public houses in the new towns, and I have gone through very carefully, as I am sure he has, the OFFICIAL REPORT Of that Committee. I hope that he agrees with me as to the facts, and I am sure that he will put me right if I am wrong in any of them.
The whole of Part I of that Bill took 10 Sittings in Standing Committee, while the most comparable part of the Bill, namely Clauses 1, 2 and 3 as they then were—the right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that Clause 2 disappeared at a later stage—took eight Sittings, the other two Sittings being occupied with a special problem which arose then on the acquisition of land. The whole Bill of 43 Clauses and four Schedules took 14 Sittings.
These are the facts as I have found them. Assume that it is fair to compare the whole of Part I of that Bill with this Bill, which repeals its essential part, and we have 10 Sittings occupied by it.
I should like to put this point to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because if I deal with it later I may be told that I should have interrupted him now. He has omitted two Sittings that were spent on the First Schedule, which was an integral part of Part I of the Bill.
I am quite prepared to take that into account. Let me put it this way. There were 10 Sittings dealing with the actual Clauses of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says that there was time occupied with the Schedules. Some allowance must be made for the fact that that was the first propounding of a scheme of nationalisation, and this is merely a repeal. [Laughter.] Oh, yes. Hon. Members can argue it; it is a perfectly fair and reasonable point.
Ten Sittings for a Bill of eight Clauses and a short Schedule would be something about which nobody could complain. Under this procedure the time-table allows for business that attracts by its very passing the Standing Order which provides for a business sub-committee. At that business sub-committee proposals can be put forward and discussed as to the time that will be allowed. I cannot anticipate the business sub-committee, but I can express my view that about six Sittings, which would bring the number up to 10, could be well and properly used to deal with the Clauses of this Bill.
That is a matter which I should be prepared to consider, and it would be possible to get about six Sittings in without seriously interfering with the time of hon. Members in the next fortnight, starting the day after tomorrow. Of course I say "about six Sittings" in a general way because I do not want to anticipate the business sub-committee. That is the position as I see it. I invite comparison with any other Bills from the point of view of the way in which this procedure has been used.
The other part of the complaint is that this Motion suggests a day for Report and another half-day for Third Reading. If for the moment hon. Members opposite will put out of their minds the strong feelings which I know they have, and which I quite understand, and will for a moment look back dispassionately at their Parliamentary experience, they will find that a day for Report and another half-day for Third Reading compares very favourably and generously with Bills of this size and, indeed, with longer Bills.
I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who, during the Committee stage, have heard and seen certain expressions of opinion made with vehemence and force, will consider this matter afresh today, because we come back to the point that is implicit in the philosophy expressed by the right hon. Member for South Shields with which I opened my speech, namely, that any Government must, unless it abdicates its functions, make sure that the Measures which it believes to be necessary are passed, and that the discussion of them is not so unreasonably prolonged that it interferes with the proper progress of the business of the Session. This Government have no intention of shirking their duty, even if it involves the regrettable step of having to ask the House to impose a time-table. That is why I commend this Motion to the House.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman paid me the unusual compliment of making a sentence or two of mine his opening gambit and bringing in another one when, I suppose, he thought he had completed checkmate. I do not dissent in any way from the views I advanced on those two occasions. There is no need to use strong language about this Motion. The plainest words are probably the best. It is a constitutional outrage.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went into some detail about the proceedings on the Bill which I introduced in 1948 and which was passed in 1949. He was very careful to select the passages with which he dealt. That Bill started in Committee upstairs on 27th January. There are some curious parallels in the history of these two Bills. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) moved that we should not meet on the next Sitting day, and so we did not, but we sat on the 27th January; 3rd February; 8th February; 10th February and 15th February before we got to "Clause 1 stand part." I make that nearly five Sittings.
I was then upbraided by the Opposition for daring to move the Closure. After I had allowed the debate on the first Amendment to proceed for a Sitting and a half the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said:
— he inflicted his views upon the Committee and then, as if God had spoken and there was nothing further to be said on the subject, moved the Closure and gagged the Committee. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, as a Parliamentary colleague for a good many years, that that was not only bad tactics, but bad manners. I hope this Amendment will receive more courteous treatment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 3rd February, 1949; c. 2442.]
In this case the right hon. and learned Gentleman moved the Closure before we had been sitting for half an hour. If I did not know his military record I should believe that he was a member of the Society of Friends, because he proceeds by means of an "Inner Light." He has no consultations with anybody. Twice in the first two sittings he was refused the Closure by the Chairman. That shows the spirit in which he started on the Committee proceedings.
In fairness, I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to say that my unsuccessful application for the Closure at the end of the first 28 minutes was on an Amendment which he had put down suggesting that we should not sit on the next Sitting day or the whole of the next week—until 12 o'clock on the Tuesday after. It was not in relation to the actual Bill. With regard to the second occasion when I was refused, I think it is correct that the Chairman said that he would give the Closure a quarter of an hour after I asked him.
I wonder how long it is since a Minister of the Crown has been subjected, upstairs, to the humiliation of having his applications for the Closure refused on two successive occasions. It shows the spirit in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman approached the Bill.
This afternoon he told us of
the matters which, in my view, are suitable for discussion in Committee.
That is the difficulty with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If he thinks that matters ought to be discussed, very well and good; but if the Opposition—
who, after all, have the responsibility of initiating and maintaining discussion on a Committee—do not happen to agree with him, apparently something mischievous is being done.
I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this Bill merely repeals the existing law. It substitutes for our proposals a set of proposals with regard to the licensing in new towns which is not the ordinary law of the land. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had no consultations with anybody.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman would not be seen with them—or perhaps they would not be seen with him; but the curious thing is that what he has put in his Bill is what the brewers asked me for in 1946. He has had no consultations with them but, curiously enough, the Bill, which had a Second Reading on 22nd February, had put down to it on 14th March those very Amendments—all done by the inner light. This House should not allow this kind of thing to be done without the closest investigation. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Committee tender no apologies to the right hon. and learned Gentleman or to the Government for the way in which the Committee stage of this Bill has so far been conducted Now, on the way the Committee was constituted. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) used to be a Member of Committee C. The hon. Member for Wimbledon is the President of the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union—the first time, I should imagine, that any distinguished officer of that body sat on the Conservative side of the House of Commons. When the Bill was committed to a Committee upstairs, his name was removed from the Committee and we had brought on to the Committee the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant).
I have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman in this connection and, of course, I wish to say something about it. I do not know whether you feel it would be most convenient to do so by means of an intervention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or whether you think it would be better to do so in the subsequent debate.
I am not concerned with the actions of the Committee of Selection, if I may say so. What I am concerned with is the fact that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), as I am sure he will agree, has impugned my consistency of conduct about this Bill. I submit that he has so impugned my consistency of action. All I am doing, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is asking for your guidance and your ruling: am I entitled to deal with the allegation which has been made and, if I am, in your opinion would it be more appropriate that I should do so now or that I should do so in the subsequent debate?
I cannot anticipate who is to be called, but I stick to the point which I made earlier: hon. Members are put on to Standing Committees by the Committee of Selection. It is the responsibility of the Committee of Selection and we cannot discuss it on this occasion.
It is being inferred by the right hon. Member for South Shields that for some reason, because of my supposed disagreement with this Bill, and by some means or other, my name was removed from Committee C for the purpose of the consideration of this Bill and the name of another hon. Member substituted.
The fact is that the hon. Member for Wimbledon is not a Member of the Committee and somebody else is. The best way in which we can consider the need for the Motion which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has submitted to the House, is to examine the history—
Some of us are under the disadvantage that we were not upstairs in the Committee. We should like to know whether it is a fact that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant), who took the place of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) is Chairman of the Brewers' Association.
He is a director of Ind, Coope and Allsopp, some of whose houses will be released from the liability to be purchased as a result of the Measure which we are now considering.
How can the right hon. Gentleman substantiate his statement that one hon. Member was substituted for another? Might not the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) have replaced some other hon. Member, other than my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant)?
Of course, when Surrey lost Bedser, Laker, Lock and May, they substituted four others; and it is difficult to say who was substituted for whom. But I am certainly entitled to draw my own conclusions, and I think most reasonable people will draw the same.
Some of my hon. Friends have told me that we are in this present position because of the political ineptitude of the Leader of the House. Having known the right hon. Gentleman for a great many years, I do not believe him to be capable of political ineptitude. We are in this position not by accident but by design. Let us accept for the purposes of the argument, and for nothing else, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that we could not have this Bill on the Floor of the House because the Government were clearing up the bequests. One of the troubles of this Session of this Parliament has been lack of business for the Committees upstairs. They could have sent this Bill upstairs, to occupy one of the Committees that have been unemployed, early enough to have given us full opportunities for discussion up there.
I do not accept the view that we could not have had the Bill on the Floor of the Chamber. After all, we were to have four great Measures this Session: the Transport Bill, which we have seen, but is withdrawn from our sight, and which we may take next Session and not this; the Steel Bill, the later gestatory stages of which we are to be given some indication of one day this week; the Monopolies Bill—well, we have not even got as far as that with that—it has not apparently even been conceived yet; and there was another Measure to deal with emergency legislation which was to he taken in two parts; we have had the first, but nothing more has been heard of the second. When one thinks of the time that was taken to spend Christmas this year in a Parliamentary sense it is quite clear that, if the Government had wanted this Measure to be here in circumstances that would have enabled it to have been discussed properly, there was ample time either on the Floor of the Chamber or upstairs.
Instead of that, this Bill—while there was all this trouble about next year's brewster sessions in the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—was allowed to lie fallow for four months; and then it was decided to send it upstairs; and the Government took good care to put the Motion to defer it upstairs at the end of a day's business, when it was evident it would have to be taken early in the morning, although the only precedent for such a course had quite rightly placed the Order first on the Order Paper for the day, so that the alteration could be properly discussed. This is not ineptitude. This is political trickery.
The whole history of the Measure indicates that this is a Bill on which the Government do not desire to have adequate discussion. I suggest that there is no reason why this Bill should be forced through in the later stages of this Session. I see that one of the newspapers that generally gets good information of the Government's intentions says that the Report and Third Reading stages will be taken on the two days immediately after our return. We understand that there will be about three weeks after we return. That is not treating another place with much respect. After all, there are the experts. I am old enough to remember the father of the present Minister of Food, who said that there were two qualifications for being up there. One was to be the first of the litter, and the second was to have brewed vast quantities of beer. The House where the real experts are is to have, at the most, three weeks to consider this Measure.
We should be quite willing on this Committee to sit all through the night. We offered the right hon. and learned Gentleman that last Wednesday. When people began to object to the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) that we should meet at 3.30 we said. "Very well, we will start at 10." After all, we have got the people on that Committee who seem to take a delight in spending late hours of the night. But, of course, one of the difficulties about this Measure is the mesmeric effect that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has on the supporters of the Govehnment when he comes into the discussion. We might be discussing the Hypnotism Bill.
I once saw at the Oval, when Gloucestershire were playing Surrey, Surrey disposed of "The Doctor" fairly early, and a young man came down the pavilion steps and we had about an hour of Gilbert Jessop. My hon. and learned Friend has just the same effect on the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) and another hon. Member thought, when my hon. and learned Friend started, that it was their turn to bowl, and we wasted a good deal of time while we were recovering lost balls hit over the pavilion roof.
This Measure is one which gives to the brewing houses of the country the opportunity to secure a monopoly in each of these new towns. That was what they asked for. When they came to see me they had already decided who was to have which. That is what this Bill is to do, and because we question it we are to have as little time as possible in which to discuss it. This Bill was read a Second Time on 27th February; it was not referred upstairs until 27th June. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) used to meet me every Thursday and ask, "Are we going to hear about the Licensed Premises in New Towns Bill today on the business statement?" We heard nothing about it until the end of June. If they were serious in wanting this Bill it is quite clear that the Government had ample time to have this discussion during the months that intervened either on the Floor of the Chamber or upstairs.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman consults nobody, but I understand that he has received an emergency telegram from the Methodist Conference who met last Friday. I trust that he is to consult them. They tell me that the emergency telegram says that that Conference, who, after all, represent the biggest Nonconformist body in this country, are greatly perturbed by the Bill and beg the Government to withdraw it. At the same time, while they desire the withdrawal of the Bill, they wish this matter to be thoroughly considered in the full light of day.
We have placed our Amendment on the Order Paper because this is unlike any other time-table Motion that has ever been moved in the history of this House. Three Sittings upstairs, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman made up his mind—[HON. MEMBERS: "Four."] He made up his mind during the third Sitting—he told us at the fourth Sitting—that he would have to come to the House and ask for a time-table Motion.
He did not approach us to know whether it was possible to get a voluntary time-table for which there is a great deal to be said on the Committee stage of this Bill. He should have consulted the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the way in which he got the Education Bill through Parliament in 1944. I know that last year on the Finance Bill efforts were made to get a voluntary time-table, and they were made this year as well.
I have no doubt that it would have been possible to have arrived at an arrangement by which the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have ensured that the Government would have got their Measure with full discussion; but it is obvious that it is the second part of that stipulation that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not want. This proposal today marks the absolute low water mark of Parliamentary prestige. This country, with the other free nations of the world, has sacrificed the flower of its youth of two successive generations and reduced itself to beggary in order that Government by free discussion shall be preserved.
The claim of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he made upstairs, and that he has repeated here this afternoon, namely, that he knows what are the matters which are suitable for discussion in Committee and that it is really an effrontery—he used the word upstairs—on the part of the Opposition to think that they know what ought to be discussed. That represents a failure to preserve free government and open discussion which deserves the condemnation of the House.
I therefore beg to move, in line 2, to leave out from "Bill" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House declines to make an Allocation of Time Order in respect of a Measure which received its Second Reading on 27th February and was thereupon committed to a Committee of the whole House under which committal no action was taken by Her Majesty's Government, and which was only referred to a Standing Committee after a lapse of four months during which time Standing Committees were available for its consideration and has now only been before the Standing Committee at four Sittings.
In this short Parliament we have had many examples of sham opposition but we have never had an opposition which has been so obviously sham as that which has been put up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) this afternoon. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman led the sham attack with his great reputation as a sportsman, and we enjoyed his sporting metaphors; but that in no way hid the fact that the Opposition are here to carry out a manoeuvre to hinder the Government business.
With one possible exception, that exception being the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), they are not really concerned with the principles behind the Bill. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself made clear reference to two hon. Members, the hon. and. learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who sit on this Committee. They have had a lot of practice in wasting the time of the House, and they have taken all of that practice upstairs so as to waste the time of the Committee.
On a point of order. I think that I am entitled to the normal courtesy of the House. I understand that the hon. Member now on his feet, who was not a member of the Standing Committee and took no part in it, is making references to observations which he alleges I made or to conduct committed by me in the course of the proceedings of the Committee of which I was a member. Therefore, I should be grateful if I could have your guidance on two points, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The first is that when we debated the Motion to impose the Guillotine on the Transport Bill and the Town and Country Planning Bill a Ruling was given by your predecessor. I say at once that I am not raising the substance of that Ruling, because I feel that it might be open to dissent and I do not want for a moment to limit the discussion. I merely want to know what the Ruling is now. Can we now say that that Ruling was wrong and that the whole of the proceedings of the Committee are open for discussion?
I should also like your guidance on a second point. Is there any precedent in the history of the House for an hon. Member rising to his feet, opening his remarks with a personal attack and refusing to give way when the person attacked rises to his feet?
I do not think that the last point is a point of order. It is more a point of courtesy. With regard to the question of quoting from the Committee proceedings upstairs, as the hon. Member knows those proceedings are published daily, under the Standing Order. In a debate of this kind I do not think that we could get very far if we were not able to give reasons for and against the Guillotine Motion.
I am labouring under a physical difficulty in that I have not got any reading glasses and, instead, am relying on a very clear memory. The Deputy- Speaker at that time was the late Mr. Hubert Beaumont, for whom we all had a profound respect. He ruled that we could not refer to what happened in the Standing Committee. I venture respectfully to agree with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I hope that we can refer to what happened. I thought that my speeches there were extremely good and I hope that they will be quoted.
That intervention by the hon. Member for Oldham, West is typical of the sort of time-wasting employed upstairs. The hon. Member for Oldham, West ought to have listened not only to my speech but to that of his right hon. Friend, because it was his right hon. Friend who referred to the fact that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were on this Committee. It was his right hon. Friend who said that they were practised in keeping up the House all night. I was merely adding to what his right hon. Friend said. That was one part of the speech with which I entirely agreed.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale asked for guidance on whether or not it was in order for hon. Members to quote the proceedings of the Committee upstairs. On that I would say that if we wanted complete justification for the powers for which my right hon. and learned Friend is asking all we should need to do would be to read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee upstairs. If one does that one sees that from the very start it was the clear intention of the Opposition to hinder and to waste time. That was their only intention.
There are 200 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT during which the Committee have attempted to deal with only the first few words of Clause 1 of the Bill. That speaks for itself.
We saw the right hon. Gentleman so hard put to it to justify the opposition they are putting forward today that he really had to descend to what I thought was dirty in the extreme, in his veiled reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) changing places on the Committee with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black). The inference was perfectly clear. He gave the name of the firm of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, but every hon. Member in this House knew before the Committee sat, and after the Committee sat, what interest my hon. Friend had. There has never been any question of wanting to hide that, and to suggest that with some ulterior motive a Member was being put on that Committee to give vent to a personal interest without disclosing it—
On a point of order. It is, in fact, not only a question of an inference against an hon. Member, but it is in accordance with the rules of the House and for the protection of the hon. Gentleman himself that his business interests should be disclosed when any matter of this sort is before the House of Commons. Therefore, in my submission, the hon. Gentleman's argument is completely beside the point, otherwise if a Member's position was not known he could be brought before the Committee of Privileges.
The point I was making was that my hon. Friend's interests were well known before he was put on the Committee, exactly the same as the interests of the hon. Member for Ealing, North were known when he was put on the Committee. It is not without significance—
Order. This is just the point I said could not be discussed. The action of the Committee of Selection of the House in putting certain hon. and right hon. Members on Standing Committees is not before us now, and I hope the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) will obey my Ruling. I do not wish it discussed.
Far from making any disgraceful charge against the hon. Gentleman, I have already given it as my opinion that he was the only Member on that side who was genuinely interested in the principle behind the Bill.
Without making any reference to the Committee of Selection, I would merely like to observe that we had sitting on Standing Committee C an hon. Member who is not usually a Member of that Committee, and that was the hon. Member for Ealing, North. I can see nothing wrong with his selection for that Committee any more than of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham.
On a point of order. You have twice given a Ruling on this matter, but the hon. Gentleman is continuing to discuss the appointments to the Committee in defiance of that Ruling. With respect, he is completely misleading you about what was said in Standing Committee C, because the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) very fairly disclosed, not merely that he was a director of Ind Coope and Allsopp—who appear to own about every public house in one of the new towns—but also a member of the Brewers' Society of this House and a member of the finance committee of the Brewers' Society. I did not know there was a Brewers' Society of the House. I have certainly never sat as a member of such a society which has a finance committee, and we would all like to know where the finance comes from.
And that that society has a finance committee of which the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) is the chairman? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Is that not coming very very near indeed to wholesale corruption? In my submission, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) misled the House just now. I hope it will not be taken for granted, or assumed, that hon. Members' business interests are well known, and that therefore they need not disclose them, because if they do not disclose them they are liable to very grave penalties indeed. If there is a House of Commons association of brewers taking part in the formulation of legislation affecting the brewery industry, or influencing the nature of legislation, either by vote or discussion, then their names should be immediately known, because—
I am already on a point of order. The hon. Gentleman ought to learn the rules of order. I should like to get your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, upon this matter, because there is a very great difficulty here. Hon. Members on all sides of the House may now labour under the suspicion that if they get up and support the Motion now before the House they may be suspected of being in the pay of the brewers, or being members of this association, whose obvious purpose it is to promote the interests of the brewers. Therefore, in order that that suspicion may be removed from those who are not members of the association the names of the members of the association ought now to be told to the House of Commons.
The position of a pecuniary interest is really quite simple. A Member may not vote on any question in which he has a pecuniary interest —[Interruption.] If I might be allowed to finish what I was going to say it might help the House, and we would not need to be so noisy about it. A Member may not vote on any question in which he has a direct pecuniary interest. If he votes on such a question his vote may, on Motion, be disallowed, and then Erskine May goes on to explain that the interest
must be a direct pecuniary interest, and separately belonging to the persons whose votes were questioned and not in common with the rest of His Majesty's subjects, or on a matter of state policy.
It can also be seen at page 421 of Erskine May that the matter of pecuniary interest
cannot be raised as a point of order; it must be done by a substantive Motion. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear nothing more about it. If hon. Members want to put down a Motion they are quite entitled to.
I am not raising a point of order with regard to a particular person, although I am informed that the hon. Gentleman who was on the Standing Committee has a direct pecuniary interest and did, in fact, vote. It makes it all the more significant in this case, because one or two votes in this Committee determine the nature of the decision—two votes only I understand. If you say that it is not a matter for a ruling now, all I can ask is that you consider it and rule a little later on. We are informed—for the first time to my knowledge and to that of other hon. Members on this side of the House—that there exists in this House an association with a finance committee—
May I finish? I therefore say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that if you say this is not a matter on which I can have a Ruling now but that there must be a substantive Motion, then all we can do is to put the Members of that association under notice that they may all be brought before the Committee of Privileges unless they disclose the interest they have tonight.
On a point of order. It is obvious that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is quite innocently labouring under a complete misapprehension. What my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) referred to was what is, I understand, called the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society. My impression is that the Brewers Society have a Parliamentary Committee, and I think that was what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to.
It is quite illuminating how right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite are thoroughly enjoying grovelling in the dirt. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They use every subterfuge to prevent a speedy decision on what is a proper move on the part of my right hon. and learned Friend. I remember the Prime Minister in the last Parliament saying what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) would do in his position if he had an equally small majority in the House. He said that if the right hon. Member for Woodford had a majority at the back of him as small as he had, he would carry on with the government of the country. That is precisely what the Government are doing now. The Opposition have made it perfectly clear in the Committee upstairs that they intend to delay Government business. With the exception of one Member of that Committee, they are not interested in the principle behind the Bill.
It is the duty of the Government to ensure that its business is proceeded with—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—and we have seen from the filibustering that has gone on that the Opposition are trying to break that down. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale talked about a constitutional outrage. There is no doubt about it that what the Opposition have been doing so far is a constitutional disgrace.
On a point of order. I have said before that I am labouring under the physical difficulty that I cannot read at the moment. I have had to consult my
hon. Friends. As it has been said that I was wrong in my recollection, may I quote the exact words used by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) in connection with the Brewers' Society? He said:
… I am a member of the Parliamentary Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 16th July, 1952; c. 69.]
The main principle behind it is perfectly clear. The Opposition Party are in favour of nationalisation, and when they had the power they nationalised this particular section of the licensing trade. We now have the power. We are against nationalisation. We believe that to allow a nationalised licensed trade in that part of the country would be against the best interests. We are using the power to put right the mistake made by the previous Government. We are using the procedure of the House of Commons and its Committee Rooms upstairs to do that. The Opposition are deliberately and wilfully trying to hamper the real intentions of the Government.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has spoken of the issue which we are debating as being not a Bill but a piece of trickery. In using that term, he was following the views of the Prime Minister himself when at one time he spoke about the party which he now leads and said that the Conservatives were not a party but a conspiracy. A long time ago it was said that the leopard never changes his spots. I wish tonight to criticise the steps which the Government are now taking in carrying out the arrangements they have made from the beginning with the greatest of their friends, the brewing fraternity.
The brewers are on top in this situation. This Bill, as it is described, is a brewers' Bill. The design was carefully worked out, as we have explained during the Second Reading debate, at the time of the General Election, when everything was done to make clear to the friends of the brewers what the Tory Party intended to do. At the same time, there was a most careful reticence on the part of the leaders of the Conservative Party about the responsibility they were taking for the proposals which the brewers had made At one stage of our discussion in Committee, I pointed out to the Joint Under-Secretary of the Home Office his statement during the Second Reading debate that the Tory Party had made its policy clear about this Bill before the General Election, and in order to prove that his speech was not, what I thought then and which I am sure now, a bit of sharp practice, he referred not to what the party leaders had said but to what a Mr. Percey, who was a representative of the liquor trade, had said that the Tory Party would do if it were returned to power. It was not a question of our being told or of the country being told that the Prime Minister had said what he would do with this problem of State management in certain areas. It was not a question that the Home Secretary had said anything. He said not a word. Lord Woolton, busy making promises about red meat and everything else, also made no reference to this matter.
This was an announcement of the friends and officials of the trade so designed that the voting strength of the trade would be at its maximum in all constituencies on the side of the Tory Party, while the mass of the people were never informed on Tory responsibility what was going to be done. I repeat my charge; it was a conspiracy with the brewing trade against the electorate of the country, and what started as a conspiracy has continued as such on the facts which have come to light during the debate.
I paid my compliments quite honestly to the Home Secretary in earlier debates, and, though I have been bitterly indignant with him for what I consider to be his quite unjustifiable behaviour with reference to what has gone on in the Committee, I am still hoping that he is not quite as bad as the rest of his colleagues are. He has talked today about the interests and rights of the residents in the new towns. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear." What evidence is there that hon. Gentlemen opposite have shown the least interest in proposals for ascertaining the views of the residents in the new towns?
I put down an Amendment, which has been ruled out of order, because I wanted to find out by a direct vote, taken under a Measure which gives people in local government areas an opportunity to say what they want to have done with this, that or the other, what the residents in the new towns think about this matter and what their interests are. There is no evidence that hon. Members opposite have tried to find out the views of the residents by means of a poll.
Who were the people who voted in the poll? What were the arrangements for the plebiscite? What evidence have we had that any real attempt has been made to find out the views of the people? I repeat that the only interest of the Tory Party was not that of the residents but what the brewers, who had profits to make out of the residents, wanted done.
The hon. Member will remember that in Committee I made a statement about the new town of Crawley. I informed the Committee that the Crawley residents themselves—nobody with an axe to grind—held a meeting of their own which was filled to capacity and they eventually sent a resolution, which was passed nem. com. to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, who was then Home Secretary, to say that they wanted to have nothing to do with State public houses in the new towns.
I know all about what the hon. Gentleman said about Crawley. I know that that has been said about Stevenage. The people who voted were the people who did not want any new towns at all and used every effort—
I was indicating that I have got a challenge and am dealing with it. The people who voted and purported to give the views of the residents did not want any new towns and had little thought about the rights of those who would come to reside in the new town.
It has been said that the Tory Party, which never submitted the issue at the time of the General Election, was no more at fault in that matter than the Labour Government had been, because the Labour Government never submitted the issue of its Measure to the electorate. But the two matters are not on all fours. The Labour Government were responsible for bringing the new towns legislation into effect. It had hardly been considered by anyone that there would be a private conspiracy among the brewers and that they would meet together and do what my right hon. Friend has described, divide up the new towns among them.
I heard of that conspiracy long before the Labour Government's Bill was brought forward. The brewers had hardly learnt that there were to be new towns before this firm was deciding that it would have the "pubs" in that town and another firm was deciding that it would have the "pubs" in another town. The issue had certainly not been put to the electorate, but as soon as they learnt of the proposals the vultures swooped on to the prey of the new towns. The Labour Government were being confronted with an accomplished fact, with a conspiracy and an illegality, and the Labour Government were right to look for some proposal to deal with the issue.
What was the proposal to which they turned? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the issue which they are now opposing has never been considered by the electorate. But what the Labour Government did was to apply to the new towns what has been called "the Carlisle experiment." The Carlisle experiment was brought into existence mainly by the party opposite, in wartime, it is true, and by Mr. Lloyd George and his supporters, too, but the Tory Party had full responsibility for it. I have a stronger charge to make against the Tory Party about the Carlisle experiment. They did not abolish it when they had an opportunity to do so.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us now how much they are opposed to the State public house as a principle. Tory Government after Tory Government after the First World War received annual reports from Carlisle, private reports from people who were examining the experiment's consequences and heard from the citizens of Carlisle what was happening there, but no Tory, either at election time or in this House, ever came forward with a precise proposal for the abolition of the Carlisle experiment. They were completely dumb about the matter.
I myself might have been accused of neglecting that question, because I do not know that I altogether agree with the Carlisle experiment. As was said in Committee the other day, I say, "A plague on both your houses." Yes, a plague on all those who can persuade themselves that they can do good by selling intoxicants to anyone. There is one lot of people on whom I would call down a plague of a sort which I would never call down on hon. Gentlemen opposite or on my hon. Friends, and that is the brewers, who have a long record of misdoings, with mighty profits obtained while undermining the health and the strength of our people through many generations. For the brewers no one can find any excuse.
There might have been a case for arguing that we should end the Carlisle experiment. I was so concerned about it that a number of my hon. Friends who make up what is called the Workers' Temperance League sent me on a deputation to Carlisle to see for myself what was going on. I was accompanied by a former chairman of the Trades Union Congress and by an hon. Member of this House, who occupied the position of Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, Sir Robert Young. We stayed a week and examined all the evidence and visited public houses. [Laughter.] Yes, I have never visited so many. Hon. Members may be surprised and would like to believe that I know nothing about this issue. I know a great deal about it. I almost made myself sick drinking "pop." I had to drink something in these places, and I took "pop."
I got the facts and I found that temperance reformers, who were just as keen about the matter as I was, agreed that there should be no reversion to the brewers. They pointed out weaknesses to me and insisted on safeguards and improvements, but not for one moment would they consider allowing the brewers to get control again in Carlisle. That also is the attitude of the country. One would have thought that the Tory Party knew it, and I believe they did know it, because they had the advice of the Royal Commission to guide them. The Royal Commission examined what had taken place in Carlisle, and said that it was a valuable undertaking and ought to be tried in a larger area because it could still be looked on as being in the experimental stage.
Any Government keen to deal with the problems of the liquor trade and the licensing system which are constantly confronting this country would be perfectly right to try the experiment in a further area in view of that recommendation, and that is what the Labour Government did. They had also before them the problem of the vultures sweeping on the prey in the new towns, and the then Government were perfectly justified in their attitude.
We considered the original Bill in this House and in Committee. During those proceedings we had long tussles with the Opposition, and if my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields had lost his temper as often as the Home Secretary lost his during this present Bill, and a Motion for the closure had been submitted in 28 minutes, there would have been greater resentment than was expressed when the right hon. and learned Gentleman said during the fourth Sitting:
The question of a time-table depended on the view that I formed of the method by which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen were dealing with this Bill, as exhibited this morning.
That was the third Sitting—
I made two appeals to them to shorten the discussion.
Just two appeals. We have been present in discussions in this House and in Committee when Ministers have made scores of appeals to shorten discussions, but if there is any belief in free speech and in the right of an Opposition to put forward vastly different views from those of the Government, a longer period is necessary
than that given by the Government so far. A Government do not begin to snarl at the end of two Sittings or in a Third Sitting and only after two appeals by the Minister responsible to shorten a discussion.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say:
I made two appeals to them to shorten the discussion, as could easily have been done, and they rejected my appeals with contumely and said I had no right to make them. That was the finishing point that decided a Guillotine ought to be used."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 17th July, 1952; c. 191.]
There sits Hitler on the Government Front Bench. He cries, "I made two appeals."
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many lines of the Bill had been dealt with before those two appeals were made? Was it not only seven lines after three two-hour Sittings?
I will leave that as an exercise to the hon. Gentleman, as befitting his ability.
I assert—and I am not going to take long discussing this matter any further—that the people in the country are well aware of what confronts them in this matter. It is not only the Methodist Conference, to which my right hon. Friend has referred. There is a letter, too, from leading Methodists and it was sent out before discussion on this Bill started. My right hon. Friend has it and I have a copy in my hand. The letter says:
The Conference, while recognising the conscientious objection felt by some temperance workers to any scheme of public management of licensed houses …
To this extent I have the support of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), and I know his conscientious scruples about these matters. I am not engaged in making any difficulty for him, because I remember with deep gratitude the speech that he made the other day when a kindred question to this was being discussed. There are also many hon. Members on the other side who have similar conscientious scruples.
The letter to which I have referred goes on:
… endorses the judgment that, in so far as it will help to prevent the exploitation of the drinking habit by the licensed trade, the proposal in the Licensing Bill to extend the principle of public ownership on the basis of the Carlisle scheme to the new towns is worthy of the support of the Methodist people.
That was the issue which the Methodists understood in the General Election, and there was no right on the part of the Tories to say that. They have no excuse whatever. There was no strong appeal in our election manifesto about the decision that was taken. They now complain about our not accepting this complete voile face in the proposals which are now before us.
There is only one way to explain the situation that we now confront. It is the way that I started with, when I commenced my speech. The Tory Party has always been inclined to conspire with the brewing trade. The House does not need my evidence on this point. Who was it who said that the Tory Party was a party of great vested interests, supporting corruption at home and aggression abroad to cover it up. They stood, the Prime Minister once said, for
sentiment by the bucketful, and patriotism by the imperial pint. The open hand at the public Exchequer"—
Yes, even when we stand on a trap-door leading into financial perdition. The Tories might have changed the tradition, but the brewers would never do it, because perdition has been so profitable a thing for them through all their lives. To continue the quotation, theirs is
the open hand at the public Exchequer and the open door at the publichouse.
The Labour Government brought in a sensible proposal backed by a Royal Commission in order to defeat the conspiracy of the brewers, who, like the vultures, have swept down on to the new towns. The Tories have come along with their old policy, always hand in hand with the liquor trade, leaving the liquor trade to collect the 1,500 votes they control in every constituency. That is from evidence which was given to the Royal Commission. They left the liquor trade to collect those votes while they were silent about the proposals which they have now put before the House.
The Tories have no right to bring in this Guillotine Motion. They are interfering not only with the right of public discussion but with the fundamentals of democracy. It was an appropriate day—this, of all days—to bring in the Guillotine Motion, the day when the victor of Dundee marched up the Floor of this House. It was Dundee that once was represented by Mr. Scrymgeour, the Prohibitionist, when he flung out the present Prime Minister with a majority of 12,000 votes. It is appropriate that the voice of Dundee should be heard again on this day. I warn the Tories that their day of reckoning is not far removed.
On a point of order. I desire to seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I had a personal note from a Member of this House giving me notice that he intended in the course of the debate to refer to observations which I made on the Committee. I have sat here for hours, but the hon. Gentleman has not risen to catch your eye. Could I be allowed to go away for a few minutes.
As far as I am concerned, although I should regret the departure of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), I have no objection at all. Of course, I know nothing of this correspondence. I do not know who was the hon. Gentleman to whom he referred.
It was I who wrote to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I have been biding my time before I attempted to catch your eye, in order that I might profit from the discussion which went on.
I hope I shall not be so successful in emptying the House as one of my hon. Friends has been for different reasons. Undoubtedly, we have listened to one of those sincere speeches which move us all. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). He has addressed a splendid peroration to us, referring to a long-ago defeat of the present Prime Minister at Dundee. But his argument is illogical. We have sitting here the right hon. Lady who successfully beat the Prohibitionist to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred.
The hon. Member showed sensitivity about the action of his own party when they introduced State licensing of the "pubs" in the new towns. He reminded us that it had no mandate for this, and showed some apprehension about the unpopularity of the move among people living in the new towns today. He found it necessary to answer at some length the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), who reminded us of what had happened at Crawley. Unlike so many hon. Members who spoke in the Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Ealing, North did so with a sincerity which moves even those who disagree with him.
Let us go back and consider the reason for this Guillotine Motion. Those who are sincere, like the hon. Member for Ealing, North, had a very clear reason for trying to delay the proceedings but most hon. Gentlemen on the other side seem to have been activated by quite other reasons. They seemed to hope that the Government would forget what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said in an earlier debate on a Guillotine Motion.
Speaking in April this year, the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly said that the Opposition have no right to use their constitutional position to prevent the right of the Government to carry through their business. That is practically what every hon. Member on the Opposition side in Standing Committee C has been trying to do for the last four sitting days. There is no doubt about it. We have only to turn to the record. For example, the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) quoted poetry to the extent of nearly half a column. He was just trying to occupy the time of the Committee.
I am very sympathetic with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), because I also represent a part of the country which has strong local feelings. His comment would be a great deal more powerful and persuasive, however, if his Scotch colleagues on Standing Committee C had allowed us to get on with business the other evening so that we could have reached Clause 7 of the Bill, which so deeply concerns Scotch arrangements I understand. [HON. MEMBERS: "Scottish!"] I am sorry—Scottish—I stand corrected and apologise to all Scots in this House.
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not regard that as an answer? Surely he realises that Scottish business was fixed for this Monday well in advance? Scotland was given no notice that there was a change, and people came from Scotland for the purpose of taking part in a debate on Scottish affairs today and were put to great expense in order to do that.
The hon. and learned Member should really complain to his own party, for it was they who caused the delay in Standing Committee C. In any case, he has three more Supply Days this week in which to convince his colleagues on the Front Bench that they ought to give time for the important affairs of Scotland.
The truth is that the Opposition deliberately set out to make it impossible for the Government to carry out their duty, a duty which is recognised on both sides of this House. Except in the case of one or two hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Ealing, North, the reason the Opposition took the line they did was clearly stated by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) on Thursday last at our morning Sitting, when he said:
This is the first of the destructive proposals which the Tory Party are bringing forward. If it were a constructive Measure I could understand the desire of the Home Secretary and his hon. Friends to push it forward. Yet it is simply a means of destroying the legislation of previous Governments."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 17th July, 1952; c. 112.]
The Opposition were afraid that the Government would be successful in carrying through the first of the de-nationalisation Measures upstairs. It is the "sacred cow" of de-nationalisation which has so disturbed and shaken the
Opposition. The prolonged discussions have had little to do with the sincere reasons of temperance reform or prohibition. The Opposition have been determined to stop, if they possibly could, the policy being carried through which we put before this country at the General Election, and on which we won the Election—the policy of de-nationalisation. That is why the Opposition have made the fuss they have done in Standing Committee C. Confirmation of that came from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who, in an interjection this afternoon, asked, "Why not?" when one of my hon. Friends was complaining about the tactics adopted upstairs by the Opposition.
That is the reason we have had to bring in this Guillotine Motion which I hope will be carried through as successfully as the previous one. I also hope that the Opposition will find, as they did previously, that this opposition to a necessary Bill will do their party no good in the country.
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, will he explain why the Government took so long between February and July if it were so urgent for the Bill to come before a Committee?
I hesitate to take further time on this point which has been answered so often—[An HON. MEMBER: "We could have sat all night."] That is what the hon. Gentleman thinks, but I do not know how long the ardour of that side will last before drying up. The answer is first, that the financial Measures had to be carried through, and secondly, the time which could have been given to this Bill was taken up by the Opposition using similar tactics in delaying the National Health Service Bill dealing with charges.
I apologise for interrupting the debate but by no means ending it, and I promise to be relatively short. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us as one of his reasons for introducing this Motion that the Government inherited a crisis. It was described as an economic crisis which would shake the country and which was affecting not only ourselves but the whole world.
Parliament was adjourned for quite a time in order that the Government might deal with that crisis. Hon. Members reassembled after the new year to find out what were the tremendous steps which were to be taken to solve the crisis. The first Bill with which they were presented was this Bill to hand the public houses in the new towns back to the brewers. Nothing could have been more ridiculous from the point of view of the urgency of the crisis. As far as we know, there has been no demand for this Bill. Indeed, that was stated on Second Reading.
I regret that this Motion has been introduced today, for the time had been set aside for a debate on Scottish transport. There was no secret about it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent the Conservative Party in Scotland met last week and actually proclaimed to the public through the Press that they were considering a debate on Scottish transport. Indeed, a right hon. Friend of the Home Secretary discussed the method of conducting that debate with me some time ago.
The importance of holding that debate today lay in the fact that there is a second debate taking place on transport tomorrow and dealing with the Report of the British Transport Commission. Obviously if we are to deal tomorrow with the entire question of British transport, it would be rather more difficult immediately after to have a more detailed examination of a part of it, such as the Scottish transport system. The priority which Scottish transport had received in the order of debate has been dislocated by the Government rushing in today to move this Guillotine Motion.
The complaint that we have against the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that he gave us no intimation at any of the Committee meetings that there was any probability of this Motion being moved this week. Worst of all, there was no consultation, usual with a courteous Minister such as himself, with the ex-Ministers on the same Committee. Not one word passed his lips in discussing the matter either with my right hon. Friend or myself. Otherwise he would have discovered quite easily that there were better ways of doing what he wanted to do than by this dictatorial method of plunging the House into these decisions without any warning or discussion.
To put it mildly, that must be described as discourteous, and it is completely foreign to the normal behaviour of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We have put it down to the fact that he is governed by the pressure behind him to get the Bill through at all costs, whatever else must be swept aside in the process. As I said in the Committee, I was shocked to find that Scotland was to be kicked aside in order to make room for the brewers' Bill, which is the only description which can be applied to it. It was an insult to have our day taken away from us, but to have it taken away for this purpose was adding insult to injury.
The right hon. Gentleman was not here when I explained that, by taking today for the Bill, he has had to alter the priority that was arranged for the Supply Days. As far as we are concerned, he has dislocated the procedure laid down for the allocation and utilisation of our Supply Days. From the point of view of Scotland, it has taken away a priority that we valued very much.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Secretary of State for Scotland was consulted before this alteration in business was arranged. If not, why was not the Secretary of State consulted when business in which he is vitally interested is being shuffled about to suit the convenience of the brewers? The Secretary of State must have some views on this. Did the right hon. Gentleman ask him? Were the Cabinet consulted? If not, I should like to know the reasons. Did he consult his hon. Friends behind him?
I ask also why so few of the Scottish Conservatives are interested in the question of this day being lost and are showing, by their absence, their complete disinterestedness in the transport debate that they publicised so much last week and about which, evidently, they do not care whether it disappears in the interests of the brewers.
There have been very few Scottish Conservative Members here today. My hon. Friends, who have gone out for tea, have been here all day. The hon. Member knows that, and the point is not a valid one. The fact of the matter is that the Conservative Party have not been taking an interest in this.
As the hon. Member made that intervention, let me call his attention to another significant fact. There is not one Scottish Conservative Member on the Committee that is dealing with the Bill. There are two new towns in Scotland, but not even the Member who represents one of them happens to be on the Committee.
I am obliged to the right hon. Member for drawing my attention to this important point, but surely he does not suggest that I am responsible for the selection of the Committee?
On a point of order. Has not the House already had a number of Rulings from the Chair about the propriety or otherwise of considering the constitution of the Committee, and is the right hon. Member in order in reflecting on the process by which the Committee has been formed?
I have made no reflections on the Committee. I am commenting on the fact that on the Committee upstairs there is not one Member of the Conservative Party from Scotland. That is very important from the point of view of a proposition which I shall make shortly to the Government regarding the Motion. It is significant that on the Committee there is not one Conservative Member from Scotland, although there is a Conservative Member who represents an area in which there is a new town in Scotland. I am quite certain that if the Scottish Conservative Members had called the attention of the Selection Committee to the importance of their being present on the Committee, the Selection Committee would have taken that into consideration.
Further to the point of order, to which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman is still addressing himself, would you be good enough, Mr. Speaker, to give a Ruling for his enlightenment as to how far he can go in criticising the Selection Committee for not selecting Members from this side of the House?
I am not founding an argument. I am pointing out that there are no Scottish Members from the Government side on the Committee. Indeed, there are only three from our side. The importance of that is reflected in the fact that the time-table which the Motion proposes to establish would cut out what would normally be the time to discuss business on the Report stage. Therefore, hon. Members on both sides who represent Scottish constituencies will find themselves up against a time-table that does not enable them to deal adequately with the important parts of the Bill relating to Scotland.
On a point of order. Is not the time-table to be set by a Business Sub-Committee, and is the right hon. Gentleman in order in trying to dictate the terms of the time-table which the Business Sub-Committee are to decide upon?
The right hon. Gentleman was addressing himself to the Report stage, to which it is proposed that one day should be given in the time-table. The right hon. Gentleman's argument, as I followed it, was that that was insufficient to allow Scottish business to be transacted.
You are interpreting quite correctly, Mr. Speaker, what I am meaning to say. Practically all the Scottish Members, with the exception of three on this side of the House and one Liberal Member on the Government side, are not Members of the Committee. They are deprived, therefore, of the possibility of discussing the Scottish business. Quite clearly, they would not have the opportunities to do so on a one-day Report stage for a Bill of this kind. The Scottish Members, therefore, to a large extent will be disfranchised when it comes to dealing with the Bill in the normal way or contributing to its improvement.
Since it will be quite impossible for the Scottish Clauses to be dealt with in the Committee upstairs—so many Clauses come before Clause 7—if the whole of the business is to be crushed into a few days, Scottish business upstairs will suffer.
This is not a party point—it is a question of fact. It would be the job of the Business Sub-Committee to arrange the compartments so that a compartment would be left to allow a day for Scottish business. That is what it ought to do and is what, I think, it should do.
I was trying to be helpful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because I can see from the number of Amendments that are likely to be discussed, and from the fact that there are so many Amendments, even from his hon. Friends, on the Scottish Clause, that what he is doing may interfere very seriously with his desire to give more time to his hon. Friends who are dealing with the English side of the Bill.
I suggest that instead of dealing with the Scottish Clauses in the Committee upstairs, the Government should accept a Motion, which I have put on the Order Paper, to refer the Scottish Clauses to the Scottish Grand Committee. That would relieve the Committee upstairs of a great deal of time and would allow all the Scottish Members an opportunity of taking part in this important business.
Great disquiet will be caused by the fact that hon. Members on the other side, and some on this side also, who played such an important part in the original Bill, will not have any proper opportunity of dealing with matters relating to Scotland. Among these are the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland), the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) and others who are deeply concerned with the question of State management. It is important that they should have an opportunity of giving their voice and playing their part in the discussions on the Bill.
I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is prepared to take these steps with a view to facilitating the possibility of Scottish hon. Members taking part in the discussions on this Bill. In the Committee upstairs my two hon. Friends and I will be in a rather difficult position because it will be left to us to state the views of private Members on the licensing Bill for the whole of Scotland. While we flatter ourselves that we are very capable in many ways, we are not sure that we can state the Conservative point of view on licensing in the new towns of Scotland. Surely there must be some private Member on the Conservative side who is able to say what the Conservatives think about the Bill in regard to Scotland.
If I were to express a view I should say that Scotland does not want the Bill at all. I should say, as the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said, that Scotland had been tacked on to this Bill without wishing to be so treated. This matter does not concern Scotland so far as this Bill is concerned, but the House has decided on the principle and we now have to discuss principles as to the new law to be introduced in regard to these licences.
I have put down a Motion referring Clause 7, the Scottish Clause, to the Scottish Grand Committee. I realise, of course, that that probably will not be taken in the House unless the Government provide time for it. I can promise them that there will be no discussion on it so far as I am concerned. If the Government are prepared to accept that Motion, it will give hon. Members opposite an opportunity of making a contribution and will relieve the right hon. and learned Gentleman of some of the charge of cutting down the time to such an extent that much of the discussion of interest to those in the Southern half of the Kingdom would be of no use at all.
I am deeply sorry that this business was not better arranged. I cannot understand why the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is on the most friendly terms with his colleagues in all parts of the House, did not take the opportunity of seeing whether a more friendly arrangement could be come to than the juggernaut method of insisting that the Bill must be on the Statute Book before the end of the Session. I put my plea to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he should give us a chance of discussing this business at greater leisure in the Scottish Grand Committee, which Committee is now free from the discussion of Estimates.
Two hon. Members who have taken part so far in this debate have paid me the compliment of making reference to me, but, in view of the Ruling given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker earlier in the day, I should be out of order in referring to the circumstances in which, for the consideration of this Bill, I ceased to be a Member of Standing Committee C.
I shall not be out of order, I think, in covering some of the ground that has been covered by hon. Members speaking from the opposite side of the House. My general approach to the kind of problem we are considering today is fairly well known inside and outside this House. If anyone were in doubt as to my general approach to this kind of problem, perhaps the speech I made in our discussion on a Friday about a fortnight ago would clear up any possible doubt as to where I would stand generally on this kind of question.
The hon. Member will know that every hon. Member knows that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), he has certain views and we respect him for them. What we would like to know is whether he resigned from the Committee, or was sacked.
I regret to interfere, but this is a new technique to suggest incorrectly that Mr. Deputy-Speaker has given a Ruling which could be read incorrectly as ruling out a matter in which the House is interested. May I suggest that, as the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) was a permanent Member of the Committee, he could not cease to be a Member of the Committee except by an act of his own and not the action of the Selection Committee? Could he tell us whether he resigned, and whether it was at the request of the Whips. or his constituents, or of whom?
I should be glad to explain that Mr. Speaker. While you were out of the Chair, a discussion arose regarding the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) not being a Member of the Committee when they considered this Bill, although he had been a permanent Member of the Committee up to that time. It was pointed out, while you were away, that in the place of the hon. Member for Wimbledon another hon. Member became a Member of the Committee and it was afterwards proved that the other hon. Member had some private interest in brewing. The suggestion was imputed that evidently there was some reason why the hon. Member for Wimbledon, who had been a permanent Member of the Committee, withdrew. We are trying to find out whether he withdrew because he wanted the other hon. Member to go on to the Committee with a vested interest, or whether the hon. Member for Wimbledon was sacked. We wanted to know why he was not a Member of the Committee at the time the Bill was considered.
I can only say that from my general knowledge the Selection Committee has frequently to make changes in selection of the Committees for various reasons affecting hon. Members, and I do not think it is in order to discuss that at the moment. We cannot go into the motives of the Selection Committee in making an alteration of that sort. There may be 101 reasons.
That is entirely for the hon. Member for Wimbledon, but I do not think that it is strictly relevant to the Motion before the House. We are discussing this time-table Motion and, for whatever reason the hon. Member for Wimbledon ceased to be a Member of the Committee, it seems very remote from the question the House is considering of whether there should be a time-table or not.
As you were out of the Chamber at the time, Mr. Speaker, may I quote what I think were the facts? The point was made that when the Bill came to the Standing Committee the President of the United Kingdom Temperance Association either resigned, or was forced to resign from the Committee and a Member of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society was put in his place. It was suggested that there was a question for consideration of some possibility of corruption in this matter. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) wished to make a personal explanation and surely he is entitled to make a personal explanation and a personal reply. We are most anxious that he should do so.
I did not regard what the right hon. Gentleman said as an imputation against me, but I am very glad now to have the opportunity of clearing up a matter which seems to be exciting the interest and curiosity of a great many hon. Members and about which, so far as I am concerned, there is no kind of mystery whatsoever, but a perfectly simple explanation. I was informed that the Sittings of this Committee on this Bill were likely to occupy a long period of time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] As I had important business engagements on the mornings on which it was proposed that this Committee should sit, I considered it only right that I should ask to be discharged from the Committee for this Bill. Obviously I had not the slightest idea as to which Member might be selected by the Committee of Selection to occupy my place on the Committee. That was obviously a matter outside my knowledge and about which I could not possibly have had any knowledge.
I am afraid I cannot recollect now. I should have thought it was fairly obvious from the nature of the case that the Committee proceedings were likely to be fairly extended. In any case, as I was heavily engaged on private business, I asked to be discharged and I had no idea of who would be put on the Committee in my place. There is no mystery whatever about the matter.
I have not the slightest knowledge of that matter; I do not know. I have tried to be entirely frank with the House, to tell the House everything I know about the matter, and I do not know any more than I have told the House already. So far as I am concerned, there is no kind of mystery whatever about this matter.
On a point of order. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that a rather grave matter arises here. We understand that the hon. Member withdrew from the Standing Committee because it was represented to him that the Bill was to take a long time. I think it is reasonable to assume that, although the hon. Member could not recollect the name, that representation was made to him by someone in the counsels of the Government. But we now know that, so far from the Committee taking a long time, we are being asked to pass a Motion which will prevent it from taking a long time. It therefore looks as if the hon. Member—we all sympathise with him—has been the victim of a piece of sharp practice.
I submit that a serious point of order does arise. Here we have a Member who was a Member of a Standing Committee and whose membership of that Standing Committee had the sanction of the Selection Committee. He was induced to withdraw from membership of that Committee by representations which we now find have no basis in fact. I submit that a serious point of order affecting the dignity of the House arises.
I do not think that any point of order arises at all. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) gave us clearly to understand that he was afraid that he would not be able to give due attention to the proceedings of the Committee because of other calls upon his time: he understood that the proceedings would take some time, and he asked the Committee of Selection to be discharged. I do not see what is wrong in that.
Further to that point of order, and with great respect, I am not sure that I made my point quite clear. The hon. Member withdrew because representations were made to him which subsequently proved to be false. Is it not a very serious matter in relation to the procedure of this House that Members' membership of a Standing Committee should be influenced by false representations being made to them as to the length of time a piece of business will take? Would you, Mr. Speaker, advise hon. Members, in the event of similar representations again being made in like circumstances, not to believe a word of what is said to them?
There is no point of order in what the hon. Member has submitted. The hon. Member for Wimbledon might well have thought, for one reason or another, and other Members may have thought and have told him, that the proceedings might take a long time. There may now be a different situation, but there is no question of false representation.
Having cleared up that matter. I should like now to say a little in regard to the real matter which we are debating. While I have listened, as I am sure the House always listens, with the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson)—I am quite certain that everyone in the House would pay tribute to the sincerity of the feelings which he has expressed on this matter—I must say that on this particular issue, while I agree with him on so many other matters, I am unable to accept at all the arguments which he has addressed to the House today.
I wish to make three quite brief submissions to the House about the subject matter of our debate. The first is that a tremendous amount of heat and moral fervour have been engendered in the course of our discussions today, but I submit to the House that there is no kind of moral issue involved in this matter which we are debating. We are not considering whether there shall be licensed houses or no licensed houses in the new towns; we are not considering whether there shall be more or fewer licensed houses in them; and we are not considering whether the licensed houses in them shall be open for longer or shorter hours.
We are considering, I suggest, the simple issue that, granted that there are to be licensed houses in the new towns, are they to be under what is analogous to the Carlisle system of State ownership and State management, or are they to be carried on according to the conditions which generally exist in other parts of the country, and be carried on by private enterprise? That is really the only issue which is involved in this case.
The hon. Member has not the advantage of being on the Committee, otherwise he would have learned there that there is another issue involved. Evidently the brewers have agreed among themselves that, in the event of this Bill being passed, only one brewer will have the licences in a new town, will sell only one type of drink and will decide the price not only of that drink but of cider and other stock. Does not the hon. Member think that there is involved the moral principle of the liberty of the subject to buy what he wants?
I do not agree that that is a fair description of the issue involved, as I understand the matter. I do not hold the view that there is any moral issue involved in this matter. I take the view that it is simply the old question, which has been debated over a long period of years, as to whether the Carlisle system of State ownership and management is best or whether the conditions that exist over the generality of the country are to be preserved. As I say, there is not, in my view, a moral issue involved in this matter at all.
It is a fact that reference was made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North to the Carlisle system, and he found in it a great deal which he considered it right to praise and he held it up before the House as a system which we should do very well to have in the new towns. But he did not mention the fact that in every important particular, from a temperance standpoint, the Carlisle system has nothing to recommend it, on the facts of the case, compared with the licensing system which operates in the remainder of the country.
He did not mention that it is a fact that over a long period of years the convictions for drunkenness in Carlisle have been heavier than the average convictions for drunkenness in the remainder of the 85 county boroughs of this country. So that if any hon. Members think there is any kind of moral issue, any kind of temperance issue, involved in this matter at all, I would say that those statistics would tip the scale in favour of the system that operates generally throughout the country, rather than in favour of a system which produces a higher than average incidence of drunkenness.
The second point I wish to put before the House is that it has not, in the past at any rate, been the view of Members of the party opposite that State ownership and State management of the drink trade is something which should meet with their approval. Over a long period of years outstanding Members of the party opposite have been against State ownership and State management, and have declared themselves against it on very many occasions.
While I do not wish to detain the House long, I would refer to one notable case, that of the late Lord Snowdon, who made the statement that he was one of the half-dozen men who were more responsible than anyone else for bringing into being the experiment of State ownership and State management in Carlisle; and that, as a result of his experience there, he came to be bitterly disappointed with the results of the experiment. He became convinced that the extension of the Carlisle system to other parts of the country offered no attractions from the point of view of making a contribution to the greater sobriety of the nation. That was the judgment of a man who had a great deal of experience of this matter, and whose views on the matter were converted from one side to the other as a result of the experience he had of the Carlisle system.
My third point is that reference has been made to a letter or a telegram sent by the Methodist Conference. I have not had the benefit of seeing the contents of that letter or telegram, and quite obviously every hon. Member would wish to give consideration to any communication from such an entirely responsible body of public opinion as is represented by the Methodist Conference. But as this point has been raised, I am bound to make this further point. It would be a great mistake for hon. Members of this House to believe that if the Methodist Church has expressed itself in favour of State ownership and State management in the new towns, that view would be generally endorsed by most of the churches and chapels, and the temperance organisations of this country.
I can tell the House that the Baptist Churches of this country, of which I am a member, have consistently, year after year over a long period, expressed their opposition to State ownership and State management, and that view holds the field today. I happen to be a member of the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches, the body which embraces every Church in this country, from the Roman Catholics to the Salvation Army. It is a fact that this Council, which is the mouth-piece of the churches and chapels and the religious organisations of this country on temperance questions, has on every occasion refused to give its endorsement or support to the principle of State management and State ownership.
I say, therefore, that it is quite wrong for hon. Members of this House to advance the view that, speaking generally the view of the churches and chapels and the temperance societies is in favour of State ownership and State management. I am quite certain, from such information as I have, that the majority view is on the other side, and that it has always been on the other side.
I do not believe they have ever expressed themselves one way or the other on that issue. But what I do say, and to this I adhere, is that they have consistently, as a matter of principle, declined to give their support to the principle of State ownership and State management. On that point I am quite emphatic, and I am quite certain that I am correct.
I think I have said enough to make plain my own view in this matter. For 30 years at least I have been consistently opposed to State ownership and State management. I have opposed it because I think that it has failed to produce the benefits claimed for it when the experiment was first begun at Carlisle, and I have—
I did not say I knew it 30 years ago. I have been opposing State ownership and State management for 30 years, and I am fortified in my opposition by everything I have seen in connection with the Carlisle experiment, and by every statistic which it has been possible to gather from Carlisle and to put into comparison with statistics from other areas of the country.
As I was saying, for 30 years I have personally opposed State ownership and State management. For that reason I found myself in no difficulty in voting in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill we are considering, and I find myself now in no difficulty in supporting the Government in the step which they propose to take.
We know the reason for that, and from the opening sentences of the hon. Member's speech, we know the reason why he did not go on the Committee. Having this spendid opportunity of coming to grips with the licensed victuallers he found his business engagements would not permit him to go along. That is the reason why I say he is one of the most tepid champions of temperance I have ever seen.
I would only claim this, that any contribution I have made towards the solution of the temperance problem is one that I would willingly offer to compare with any contribution made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I must confess that I have never been a member of a temperance organisation. All I was endeavouring to point out was that a more Uriah Heep-like contribution than we have had from the hon. Member for Wimbledon I have never heard in my life.
We all know why the Band of Hope Union and the temperance organisations have been against the State selling alcoholic drinks. In exactly the same way, a good many religious people are opposed to the State taking any revenues from gambling, and for exactly the same reason—because they believe that it is an evil and sinful thing and that the State ought not to touch it.
These are very good reasons, which were carefully concealed by the ambiguities of the hon. Member for Wimbledon. I hope that the hon. Member's associates will realise that, having got the opportunity of sitting upon the Committee, he pleaded business interests, because he had been informed that the Committee might last a long time, and that then his place was taken by a brewer, whose business interest it was to be there.
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I am now a permanent Member of this Committee? I am not a brewer, nor am I a member of a temperance society, and it may well be that I took the place of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black).
We shall come to the hon. Member in question, because there was a very serious statement made earlier in the proceedings, and we shall have to return to it.
We understand that we cannot now consider the Selection Committee. A Selection Committee is a very important body of this House, but it does not move hon. Members about like pieces on a chess board. Hon. Members are consulted, and even the hon. Member for Wimbledon said at the very beginning that one of the reasons why he sought to leave the Committee was because it might sit a long time. At any rate, he was informed that it was to sit a long time. He did not tell us who told him. His memory was too short. His memory, as far as I can see, is as tepid to him as he is to the temperance cause.
The fact is that he was told, not presumably, by an hon. Member of the Opposition, that this Committee would last a long time, and that was the end of June. So it was then the intention of the Government that this Session was to continue for a long time after the Recess. That was obviously the intention. [Interruption.] Yes, but there was another alternative intention which I must put before the House.
Therefore, they did not bother. They said, "All right, we know it will last a long time; nevertheless, we are going to carry business over and finish it in the autumn." So that one interpretation of the fact that there was no hurry about this Bill earlier was that the Government intended to have a long Session, and that fact was borne out by what the hon. Member for Wimbledon said. But there is another construction to be placed upon the facts, and that is that the Government deliberately did not send the Bill upstairs before—where it could have been sent at any time in the last four months—because they intended the present manoeuvre. It is a question of one of two constructions, and we should like to know which.
No one yet has told the House, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not do so when moving the Motion, why it was that this Bill, now regarded as so important, has been neglected for four months. I know that the great difficulty about these debates on the Guillotine is that each side says the same thing when in different positions. Members supporting the Government opposed the Guillotine when we were in office, and we oppose it now they are in office. So they say, "Oh, well, these debates about the Guillotine are sham debates; they do not matter, because the Opposition is doing exactly what we would do if we were in power." So there is great amusement, and nobody bothers very much.
But, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in what, if I may respectfully say so, was a remarkably good speech, there is here also the unusual nature of the circumstances with which we are faced, because, in the past, even when Governments had majorities and even when they had the power of the Guillotine, they left certain Bills to die if they had failed to get them through the House, They always had to consider the value of the Bill against the constitutional propriety of using a Guillotine at the end of the Session.
If it is to be taken for granted that any Bill, no matter how unimportant, if it fails to get through the House in the course of the ordinary business in the Session, is to be pushed through at the end of the Session by the use of the Guillotine, that is rigging the constitution, manipulating the rules of the House of Commons and is a dangerous inroad upon Parliamentary rights, because all the Government need to do, in circumstances like that, is to hold back a Bill with which, because it is unpopular, or unattractive or otherwise difficult to get through, they do not want to trouble too much, and then drive it through under the Guillotine at the end of the Session.
In such circumstances, the use of the Guillotine does not become a proper instrument to enable the Government of the day to fight down fractious opposition. It becomes a method by which legislation can be effectively concealed from the population outside and the House of Commons be prevented from properly examining it inside. That seems to me to be a very dangerous thing.
Reference has been made to a statement which I made in the House last May, when I tried to point out to the House that the Government were faced with a situation in which they had to realise that they had too small a Parliamentary majority to be able to put through controversial legislation, except legislation of the utmost importance, and that it was Parliamentarily wrong to try to drive through the House of Commons, with such a small majority, legislation bitterly resented by the Opposition, unless that legislation could be shown to be in the interests of the good government of the country and for the national wellbeing.
With that proposition I do not believe any hon. Member of the House would privately dissent. It was revealed during the last Parliament and again during this Parliament. So long as the Government have so small a majority, legislation ought to be confined to that kind of legislation which is manifestly in the national interest or which the Government consider to be of paramount importance. No one can say that about this Bill. The Guillotine is a very dangerous and powerful instrument in the hands of the Executive, and it ought never to have been invoked at all for such trivialities; otherwise, Parliamentary democracy will be seriously undermined.
It is no good for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to stand at the Treasury Box, as he did this afternoon, and say to us with such obvious sincerity that he moved this Motion with the utmost reluctance. Why did he not move to drop the Bill with even less reluctance? It is what other Governments have done before. Hon. Members both on this side of the House and on the other side have sat here at the end of a Session and seen Bill after Bill destroyed. Why has that not happened—unless there is something very much more sinister? That is what we want to know. I ask hon. Members to realise that the country is watching this debate very closely. I think this is to be one of the most damaging debates for the party opposite which we have had in this House, because there is something squalid about their present behaviour.
We heard earlier that there is a body called the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society and that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant), who was a member of the Standing Committee and who went on in place of the hon. Member for Wimbledon who resigned—off goes the temperance man and on goes the brewer—was a member of the Finance Committee of that Parliamentary Committee.
There is nothing wrong with having Parliamentary committees; there are a very large number of them. There are miners' committees, and have been for many years, trade union committees, textile committees, and all sorts of committees of Members of this House associated with industries outside, and very valuable they are because they keep Members of this House in touch with expert opinion. Also, from time to time, ad hoc committees are established to deal with certain Bills and to pass on information from outside to hon. Members engaged on such Bills. That is highly desirable and in the interest of the working of the House of Commons and of Parliament as a whole.
I only want to save the right hon. Gentleman from falling into the error into which he fell before. He is really under a misapprehension in referring to a committee of this House. The committee referred to is not a committee of Members of this House at all.
We were informed that there was a Parliamentary Committee of whose Finance Committee the hon. Member for Wokingham was the chairman. That is perfectly correct because the committees to which I have referred very often have their meetings convened through the Whips. Everybody knows who is a member of them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Do not say "No" because I know "Yes." The fact of the matter is that that has been the normal Parliamentary practice as long as I have been here. Recognised committees of Members of the House of Commons have normally been convened in that way. [HON. MEMBERS: "No.") If hon. Members opposite say "No", they are not telling the truth.
What is dangerous here—because everybody knows that the brewing interests have a peculiar relationship to politics—is that the Members of this committee should be unknown and that some Members of Parliament should be intimately associated with outside organisations which spend large sums of money influencing legislation by propaganda—and it may be in other ways; I do not know—and that Members of this House should be unaware of the members of those committees.
But they are known. I am not a brewer, although I am interested in the liquor trade. The Brewers' Parliamentary Committee is, I understand, a branch of the Brewers' Society and a list of its members is published in the Brewers' Year Book. There is no mystery about it.
We did not know even this afternoon that the hon. Member for Wokingham was himself a brewer, but we do know that he went on to this Committee and voted on this matter without declaring that he was a brewer. Afterwards we were informed—and this will have to be investigated—that he said at the time that he had no direct interest in the matter.
The right hon. Gentleman says that my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) did not say that he was a brewer. The first thing he got up and said in Committee was that he was a brewer.
No, we must get the facts right. The hon. Member for Wokingham voted before that and only afterwards declared having a direct interest. Later, in fact, he declared that he had no direct interest in the public houses in this area, but it subsequently transpired that this was the business in which he had a direct interest.
It is within the recollection of the Home Secretary that when the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) made his declaration it was a very qualified declaration, and was made after he voted.
The point I am trying to make is that we are here discussing a Bill vitally affecting licensed victuallers' interests and that we also have a very queer Parliamentary set-up which we would like to have investigated. Indeed, unless hon. Members opposite get the whole business cleaned up they will be under suspicion as being Parliamentary tools of the brewers' interests. Furthermore, we are fortified in that suspicion because we believe that the brewers are heavy subscribers to the Conservative Party funds, and until evidence is produced to the contrary we shall go on believing that. Therefore, until the Conservative Party have the courage to publish their accounts they will be under that suspicion.
The assumption that we reach is that the Government intended, first of all, either to have plenty of Parliamentary time in which to get this Bill through and therefore did not bother about sending it upstairs to Standing Committee, or they said, "Let us send it up at the end and use the Guillotine to push it through." The explanation given this afternoon by the right hon. and learned Gentleman why they had not proceeded with this Bill before in Committee was the preoccupation of the Government with the economic and financial difficulties bequeathed by us.
Let us have a look at that; let us examine it for a moment. The only single explanation given why the Committee were not asked to consider this Bill four months ago and why we are now having the Guillotine is that the services of the Members of Standing Committee C were absolutely invaluable to the Government in dealing with the economic and financial difficulties which had been bequeathed by us. This is the picture which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now attempting to convey to the country as a whole, that all Members of Parliament, not only Members of Standing Committee C—because it could not have been known at that time how valuable their services would be in dealing with the matter—have been giving such assiduous attention to dealing with the financial and economic crisis bequeathed by us that they could not send this Bill upstairs to Committee before this.
That is the explanation; and it is the only one we have had. Four months elapse and then it is decided to have a Guillotine and rush the Bill through the Committee. Now, a week after the Prime Minister's announcement that the economic and financial situation was so grave we are going to have a Guillotine. That is the only explanation we have, and so we now have once more displayed to us the full sense of priorities of the Government.
As the Prime Minister has said, we are standing on a trap-door. [An HON. MEMBER: The cellar door."] We have been standing on it now for several weeks. Next week, at the end of the Session, before the Recess, when there will not be much time for consideration of what is to be done when Parliament will be away, we are to have a further announce-from the Government about the other measures that they propose. Such is their assessment of the priorities in their decision on how Parliamentary time is to be used that they postponed consideration of measures to deal with the economic situation of the country and asked Parliament solemly to discuss for all hours of the day and night in the House, in Committee upstairs and on Report and Third Reading who shall have the chance of making profits from selling beer in the new towns.
That is what the Tories are telling the country. That is their sense of urgency. It is possible for the Ministry of Labour to stop workers having increases in wages; but do not stop the brewers having their profits. What the Conservative Party are doing, of course, is giving the price that their paymaster demands; and they are doing it cynically, frivolously, without any regard at all to the moral values involved. We have gone on now for month after month and we have been waiting for proposals from the Government to deal with the financial and economic situation. We have not had them and are not to have them until next week.
I say to hon. Members opposite that this is really not the way in which Parliament ought to be treated or this country ought to be treated. They ought not to ask the people to make sacrifices in these days and to appreciate the gravity of the national crisis, both financial and economic, and, at the same time, waste the time of Parliament frivolously with repaying the brewers for the funds that they give to the Conservative Party.
The rule in this matter is that it is frequently possible to make allegations against a party as a whole which it would be grossly improper to make against an individual. Although one deprecates language of an inflammatory and taxing character it has been frequently ruled that it is in order to make allegations against a whole party that one cannot make against an individual.
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, and further to that point, this is a matter of some substance. Apparently someone in the Conservative Party organisation is thought to have made a deal and to have accepted money from the brewers. My point is that if someone has done that—and that is the allegation—will the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) tell us who it is that he has in mind?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) would be promptly ruled out of order if he did any such thing. What I have stated is the rule. One can make allegations against a party which one cannot make against individuals, and the right hon. Gentleman did refer to the Conservative Party which is a very much wider target than hon. Members in this House; and the same thing can be said by one party against the other.
Further to that point of order. Is it not frequently the case that parties and other organisations of people habitually commit things which every single member of that party or organisation would be ashamed to do in his private life?
What is out of order is to make an allegation against an individual, and particularly an hon. Member of this House. That is quite out of order. These allegations are frequently made by one side against another as to parties as a whole and I do not think I could stop them.
I have not made any statement about the Tory Party in anything like the language that was used by the Leader of the Conservative Party. I could not bring myself to be so unkind, but I will read that statement to the House. It has been used earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). As hon. Members opposite consider I have been unfair to the Conservative Party I only want to try to put myself in the same relationship as the Prime Minister himself, and I wish I could do it as well as he did.
He said that the Tory Party was one of great vested interests. [An HON. MEMBER: "When?"] In 1908, but the party are now much worse; they have been corrupted much longer. The Prime Minister said then that the Tory Party supported corruption at home and covered it up by aggression abroad. He said that they stood for
Sentiment by the bucketful and patriotism by the Imperial pint. The open hand at the public Exchequer and the open door at the public house.
That was the present Prime Minister a long time ago. But I am not saying that. All that I am saying is that I have seen many Guillotine Motions in this House and I have never seen one used so frivolously or at a time of graver public concern about our condition as a nation. If the Government wanted to do themselves credit and wanted to rise to the occasion the best thing they could do now would be to withdraw this Motion and to drop the Bill.
I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) himself who, on a previous occasion, referred to the necessity to puncture the bladder of verbiage with the poignard of truth, and it may be necessary to make some reference to what is the truth with regard to this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has put forward two possible reasons why the Bill was being dealt with in this way at this stage of the Session. Both of the possibilities propounded by him were sinister. There is a third reason which he did not suggest at all. The motive is neither of the sinister motives which he suggested. The reason is that this Bill is a very short and simple Bill which it should have been possible to get through the Standing Committee in the remaining days of this Session without any difficulty at all.
It is a one-Clause Bill in that there is one effective Clause—Clause 1—which de-nationalises the public houses. The remaining Clauses are procedural in that they set up the machinery to deal with the licensing of the houses when they have been de-nationalised.
I should like to refer the hon. and learned Member, who, I know, has a wide knowledge and experience of these matters, to the fact to which my right hon. Friend alluded. This is not a one-Clause Bill. This repeals the Licensing Act, 1910. It reduces licensing justices to a position which I think no justice would consent to occupy. It introduces a new system. When the hon. and learned Member addressed the House on the Transport Bill Guillotine Motion he said that he was doing so because of his special qualification of not being a Member of the Standing Committee and, therefore, able to bring an unbiased point of view to bear on the discussion. I want to remind him of that statement because he is, in fact, a Member of this Standing Committee.
I do not remember my intervention on the Transport Bill Guillotine Motion, but I did not know that being a Member of the Standing Committee was a declarable interest. I am a Member of Standing Committee C, and that is why I referred to my interpretation of the Bill. I agree that it is possible to have different interpretations of what is meant by a one-Clause Bill. It is perfectly right to say that there is one Clause which has far reaching effects. The effective part of this Bill is contained in Clause 1 and the rest of the Bill consists of the machinery by which the change which it makes is to be operated.
Before I deal with the merits of the Guillotine Motion I want to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said about this Parliamentary Committee. I do not know whether it is a declarable interest to act in a professional capacity, as I often do, for some sections of the brewing trade, but in case it should be thought to be so, I make that declaration. I have a fairly intimate acquaintance with these matters and I have twice tried to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from falling into the error into which he has fallen. I could not help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman felt that this matter of the Parliamentary Committee provided him with such splendid ammunition that he did not want to know what the true position was.
The truth is this. Many organisation in this country have what they call a Parliamentary committee. The T.U.C., the Co-operative Society and all the chambers of commerce up and down the country have Parliamentary committees. It has nothing to do with a Committee of this House, and the right hon. Gentleman is too ready to smell corruption when it is not there. The truth is that the Brewers' Society, in common with many other organisations of this kind, have a Parliamentary Committee which is nothing to do with this House at all.
Apparently my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) declared himself to be a member of that committee. I do not know the names of any other members of the committee, but I do not believe that any of them are Members of this House.
As I have just said, my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham told us that he was a member of that committee, but I do not know the names of any of the other members, so I cannot answer the right hon. Gentleman's question, but I was saying that as far as I know there are not any. There may be. I do not accept responsibility for that statement, but the only declaration I have heard is the declaration made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham.
The members of the Committee are known. I only said that I did not happen to know them myself. Somebody has told us this afternoon that there is a journal called the "Brewers' Almanac," which contains the names of the members. I think that all that is necessary is that any Member of this House who happens also to be a member of that committee, if he was taking part in a debate in this House, should be expected to declare his interest in that matter.
The Parliamentary Committee is listed in the "Brewers' Almanac," a copy of which is in the reference Library. It is surprising that anyone who intended to refer to the members of that committee should not have gone to the trouble of looking up the names in that book.
I was certainly under the impression that the information was readily obtainable. Certainly, in the Standing Committee upstairs the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has made reference to the contents of this book to which I have referred, which I believe is called the "Brewers' Almanac." I always think of it, whenever the hon. and learned Member refers to it, along with Erskine May, as obviously the sort of book which should be advertised on the bookstalls as "Bing's Bedside Book." The book is readily available and, no doubt, if the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale wants to know the names of the members of this Committee he can easily find them.
The right hon. Gentleman was wrong in making sinister reference to the summoning of a committee of this kind by the Whips, implying that it was a Committee of this House. It is nothing to do with this House at all. It is a perfectly ordinary committee of the kind which are possessed by many perfectly respectable organisations with which the right hon. Gentleman has been associated during his lifetime. There is nothing unusual or sinister about it.
I now want to refer to the question of the actual justification for introducing a time-table for this Bill. The Bill could easily have got through its Committee stage in time before the end of the Session if there had been a willingness by hon. Members opposite to make the best use of the time available. But nobody who has been on that Committee, or anybody who has not been on it but has read the Report about it, and is prepared to take an unprejudiced view, could hold otherwise than that there has been no desire to make the best use of the time.
I have found the reference in the OFFICIAL REPORT to which the hon. and learned Member has alluded and I am sure he would like to have it. The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) said in the Standing Committee:
I should, first of all, declare my interest in the brewing trade.
This was probably due to the fact that I had declared that I had not any direct financial interest, whatever my general interest was. The hon. Member went on:
So that there may be no doubt about it, I should like to make it quite clear that I am a director of brewery companies. I am not an executive director, and so far as I am aware none of the companies with which I am concerned is connected with licensed houses in the new towns.
At a later stage I intervened and pointed out that I had asked a question about the houses and named them, and that the information I had obtained from a London newspaper was that the company of which he was a member owned every one of the houses about which I had asked the question. I could not confirm that. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch raised the matter again, and the hon. Member for Wokingham said:
I do not think that the duties of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society are pertinent to this Amendment"—
not to the others, but to this one—
but the hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly right in suggesting that I am a member of the Parliamentary Committee. I am also a member of the council and of the Finance Committee.
Later my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch said that the hon. Member for Wokingham had stated that his membership of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society did not influence what he told the Committee. My hon. and learned Friend went on to point out:
The Brewers' Almanac says that the Parliamentary Committee is 'responsible for consideration of Bills and all matters affecting the trade in Parliament, and for taking such action as may be necessary in the interests of the trade.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 16th July, 1952; c. 68–95.]
That is where we had got then, that a Member of the Standing Committee was a member of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society responsible for consideration of Bills and all matters affecting the trade in Parliament, and for taking such action as may be necessary in the interests of the trade, to have Bills amended and for making representations to the House. That is as far as we have got. Does not the hon. and learned Member think that as the hon. Member for Wokingham is on the finance committee we ought to have some information about the functions of that committee?
What the hon. Member has read out are the proper functions of Parliamentary committees of the kind to which I was referring. Many of these organisations have Parliamentary committees in order to make proper representations in the right way. There is not a Member of this House who has not been lobbied by the Association of Municipal Corporations. That involves every local authority in the country; they have a Parliamentary committee for the purpose of lobbying Members, and there is not one of us who has not been heavily burdened with the literature which they and similar Parliamentary committees put out.
With regard to the other point made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, that relates to my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and I cannot answer for him.
I have not the slightest idea. I am not a member of that committee. I do not know anything about it. I heard of it for the first time today, as did hon. Members opposite. Apparently it is referred to in the "Brewers' Almanac"—and has been for a long time—and I have no doubt that if the hon. Gentleman exercises the same ingenuity in research as does the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch he could get a great deal more information about it.
The only point I wanted to make, in conclusion, was that in the 10 hours that this Committee has sat—for four meetings of 2½ hours' each—roughly 5½ hours have been spent on procedural points and 4½ hours in dealing with the actual merits of the Amendments before the Committee. That means that about 55 per cent. of the time has been taken up with procedural points, mostly on the question of when the Committee were to sit again. I began to despair of the Committee doing anything but spend every sitting deciding when to sit next and never making any progress at all.
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to tell the House why four months went by before this Bill was sent to Committee? I should like to know, just as a matter of curiosity.
I began by saying that the right hon. Member had put forward two alternatives, both of them sinister. But it is not necessary to look for any such sinister motives. I am not in the inner councils of the Government, so I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman more than my view. I hope that he will not take anything I say as authoritative. I can only say that I imagine that one of the considerations was that this was so obviously a Bill which, if it had been treated in the proper way by the Opposition, did not require more than four weeks to get through the Committee stage and therefore to send it upstairs in June was ample time to get it through before the end of the Session.
There was no need to send it up sooner because if it were sent up in June plenty of time would have been left. But it has become evident over the last few months that the Opposition are not so eager to depose the Government from power as they once appeared to be. In February, when a decision had to be made whether this Bill should go upstairs I can imagine the Government saying, "We appear to have a fairly eager Opposition and we have only a majority of two in Committee upstairs. It may be that if this Bill goes upstairs we shall risk defeat."
But as time has gone on it has become clear that the Opposition has not the slightest intention of defeating this Government and has no wish to take over the responsibilities of Government itself. The Government might then have said "It has become abundantly clear that a Bill can safely be sent upstairs and whatever happens we can be sure that there is not the slightest doubt that if necessary a Member of the Opposition will abstain to ensure that the Government is not defeated."
It is a question of the time-table. It is not a question of getting the Bill through; it is a question when it is to be got through. The Government are concerned to see that this Bill is got through before the end of the Session. It is a question of the time to be allotted, and nobody taking a dispassionate view of the matter could be left in any doubt that the time which is now vaguely suggested—my right hon. and learned Friend said that it would need something like six more Sittings, which would give 10 Sittings altogether—would be ample.
Clearly the Government have set their hand to the passing of this Bill. Having once done so they would be failing in their duty if they did not use their powers to see the Bill completed in a reasonable time. I make no complaints about hon. Members opposite using such weapons as are at their hand by way of opposition. That is perfectly legitimate tactics, but if they adopt those tactics they cannot complain if the Government also use the weapons they have at their hand.
In the course of his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the composition of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society and he said that this was available in the "Brewers' Almanac." The fact is that the latest issue of the "Brewers' Almanac," which I have here, does contain the list—
Would it help to refresh the memory of the hon. and learned Gentleman if I asked him whether he was aware that the Parliamentary Com- mittee of the Brewers' Society consisted—
I am glad to follow the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), because I think he has quite misunderstood what is agitating hon. Members on this side of the House. I think that he and the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) have quite misunderstood the mood of the country. I would ask the Government and hon. Members opposite if they have looked at the leaders in the various newspapers since the discussion of this Guillotine Motion was announced. I have not seen any leader in favour of it.
I should like to go on from there to say that I hope that I shall be able to present a dispassionate viewpoint. I do not belong to the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society or any other body—or to the Committee upstairs—and I must confess great disinterest, in that I am not likely to frequent the pubs in these new towns whether they are State-owned or private enterprise. I am trying to present the viewpoint of the ordinary people.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon said that a good deal of heat has been engendered in this debate. That is entirely the fault of the Government. Anybody could have told the Government and the Tory Party what would have been the effect in the country of producing this Motion today, at a time when we have been told that a Guillotine is introduced only when there is a matter of great urgency brought before the House. This afternoon the Home Secretary said that one of the things he would have to prove would be the urgency of this particular Measure. I want to ask the Government where the urgency is in relation to this Bill.
We have heard stories of the Opposition delaying this Bill upstairs. Of course they did. This Bill was not contained in the programme which the Government put before the electorate, and yet it suddenly assumes such an enormous importance that business has to be held up to get it through. I have sat here since half-past three this afternoon, except for half an hour when I went to a committee. I say that because the question I want to ask may have been answered during that half hour. But, if it has not been answered, I should be glad if it could be referred to in the winding-up speech of the Government. I have been trying to sort out what was the urgency about this Bill and why it was necessary for this Guillotine Motion to be pushed through today.
As I understand it, there are things called brewsters sessions. I have tried to find out the date of the next brewsters sessions, and I understand that normally they are held during the first 14 days in February. This afternoon the Home Secretary made a remark which I may not have heard correctly. I should be glad to have it explained. I thought he used the term "transferred sessions." I want to know why there is this hurry. Are the Tories going to rush this Guillotine Motion through—as they can do by force of numbers if they are all here—and then suddenly produce from somewhere some alternative to the normal brewsters sessions which are held on the first 14 days in February? I think the country and the House would be very glad to have an answer to that question.
Still dealing with the question of urgency, which has been ruled a sufficient reason for bringing this Motion forward today—and therefore we can discuss this aspect—I want to ask the Government why it is that, when they are so far behind with their time-table, and when we hear so much of these economic perils; when, because of a shortage of a certain type of steel, there has been a good deal of unemployment in my constituency, and when there has been unemployment, too, in the cotton industry; the Government are able to bring nothing forward urgently to deal with those matters and yet are able to rush this Bill through in the brewers' interests. I would not be a Tory at the next election for anything, and still less would I be a Tory prepared to say that the brewers' interests were so great that a whole day in the House of Commons, and I hope a whole night if hon. Members have anything to say on the matter, should be devoted to discussing the Bill.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon spoke about nationalisation. I do not know whether he meant nationalisation of the brewing industry or of the public houses; but, in any event, it is absolute rubbish. I do not know a great deal about the brewing trade, but I do know that the party opposite say that people should have freedom of choice. I recall in a debate some time ago that the present Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), spoke on the subject, and I was forced to the conclusion that he had not the faintest notion of what a tied house was; and, in fact, by the time he had finished I wondered whether I knew what it was myself.
I certainly thought that the party opposite believed in setting the people free, according to their ideas of what that might be; but apparently they want to set them free in every direction except that of choosing the sort of drink they can get at a public house. One or two hon. Members opposite have stated that in some of these new towns people have voted against the nationalisation of this industry. When the question was put to them, I wonder whether it was explained that the Labour Party had sought to set the people free so that they could choose the type of drink they wanted?
The hon. Lady may have been misled by an intervention by the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who gave the House the impression that the Bill had something to do with tied houses. It has nothing to do with tied houses except in so far as it implements Conservative policy of setting licensees free instead of their being tied to the State.
I do not know what is the hon. and learned Member's taste in this matter; as I have said, I have no taste at all in these matters of drink. I understand that at present nine out of 10 public houses in the country are owned by the brewing industry. Some of my hon. Friends suggest that there are more, but I will be generous and say nine out of 10. I should not have thought that was by any means setting the people free. The hon. and learned Member for Hove must know that if we have tied houses, those houses have to sell the type of drink which the brewery prescribes, if that is the right word.
I thought I might have one or two interventions like that. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that in Carlisle the public has had freedom to choose their own bottled beer and that there has been some freedom of choice in draught beer. Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me if that is the case in a tied house?
The answer to the hon. Lady is that in Carlisle there are only the State public houses to choose from, but in an ordinary town there are very many public houses of different breweries.
Could I first finish with the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South? The question which I addressed to the hon. and gallant Gentleman was this. He said that in Carlisle there are only State public houses. That may be so, but the point I am making is this, in the State public houses in Carlisle there is a greater freedom of choice of what the public drink than there is in the tied houses elsewhere. I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree with that statement or disagree with it; and if the latter, will he give the names of public houses where there is a greater freedom of choice than in the State public houses of Carlisle?
Evidently hon. Members opposite have no knowledge whatever of these matters. Is my hon. Friend aware that in the State-managed inns of Carlisle the public have a choice of three types of stout? They sell Youngers—
I am very glad to have the very strong support of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves). I was sure that I was correct in what I said, but I had not the details which my hon. Friend has kindly given me. I think we can take it that it was the Labour Party who desired to set the people free so that they could choose the type of beer they wanted to drink, and it is the Conservative Party, with the interests of the brewers to consider, who are trying to tie the people down.
Why have the Government brought forward this Motion? It has been suggested that it has been done on the grounds of urgency, but I do not think there is a single hon. Member opposite who would care to go to the country and say that he considers the interests of the brewers to be of such importance that the Conservatives had to bring this Motion forward today and to promote this Bill. It was not in their programme and it is not one of their beliefs, because they say they want to set the people free. Here they want to set only the brewers free.
We are forced to the conclusion that this Bill is being given in return for something. It is certainly not in return for votes to come, because it will lose the party opposite votes. I wonder whether any hon. Member opposite who is a member of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society—if we have any left—would answer this question. It was estimated in 1930 that the brewing trade spent £2 million per annum in political organisation. Could any hon. Member opposite tell me whether the brewers now spend more than £2 million or less than £2 million per annum on political organisation? I will give way if anybody will answer that question. Apparently not.
Presumably there is some reason behind the decision of hon. Gentlemen opposite to take this type of action, but if they moved among the ordinary people of the country they would find that there is a very strong suspicion—and I am referring to the party in general and not to hon. Members in particular—that until the Tory Party, like the Labour Party and the Liberal Party, are prepared to publish their political funds, it must be concluded that the brewers contribute towards them.
We on this side of the House believe—and if anybody cares to correct me I am willing to give way—that the brewing industry has made very substantial contributions to the Tory Party's funds over a great many years. As we do not get an answer on that point, which it would be very easy to disprove if incorrect, I think we can take it that the point is made. I am very willing to give way to any hon. Member who would like to contradict me.
I am not aware that it is an elementary right of British justice to refuse to the electorate of this country to publish the accounts of a party showing who are the people who donate to its funds. At the last General Election the party opposite in my constituency were so wealthy they paid political organisers to go out canvassing. We know about that because some members of my own party went to do the job. In fact, they had so much money—the party opposite —that they were not able to spend it under the amount which was allowed to each candidate.
We hear a great deal about the funds of the Labour Party. Well, the Labour Party accounts are published. [An HON. MEMBER: "What has that got to do with it?"] A very great deal, because I believe it is the reason for this Guillotine Motion, I believe that it is payment by the Tory Party to the brewers, who have given them very large donations. If I were an hon. Member of the party opposite I should be very uncomfortable, and should be more so if the accounts of the party were published.
There are many more who want to speak in the debate, and so I shall conclude now by observing that it seems to me strange that the Royal Commission which reported in 1932 did express the opinion that the Carlisle experiment should be carried to other new towns and that a newspaper like the "Observer," which is not an organ of this side, should strongly disapprove of the Government's Motion of today although, as I say, the Government will carry this Motion, I do not think there has ever been such a flagrant abuse of constitutional procedure as this declaration that the brewers' interests merit a Guillotine Motion.
The hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) is always so very charming in her speeches, and always so gracious in the way she gives way to interruptions, that it is a little difficult to criticise her with the severity with which one would want to do so in other circumstances.
However, I am not sure that she was very pleased with the intervention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Well, I will tell hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman sought to help the hon. Lady, and he stated straight away that the customers in Carlisle had three choices, and the first that he mentioned, as the first choice, was Younger's—that is to say, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), who belongs to their party. Yet we are the party who are accused of being the party with the brewers' interests. I think the hon. Lady must be fair and bear in mind that there are members of the brewing industry, having substantial interests in the brewing industry. who sit on the Opposition Front Bench.
I do not wish to take up more time, because I have had my turn, but I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems incapable of recollecting what people say. I do not care where the brewing interests are. What I am suggesting is that people should have the choice of what they drink, and that that is what the Government are trying to prevent.
The burden of the hon. Lady's speech was that the Tory Party are in the pocket of the brewing industry. I should like to be sure that the Conservative Party received a tenth of the money which the Labour Party receives from the Co-operative societies, and there are many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who have their election expenses paid by the Co-operative societies, which is a direct charge on the poor people of this country.
I am at fault, perhaps, in being led astray, but I think it is a little ungracious in hon. and right hon. Members opposite, when they are prepared to give as hard as they can in the debate today, to be so touchy and squeamish when anybody answers them back. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) allowed his Celtic imagination to run not.
Not too good at all. I can understand the delight of hon. Members opposite in having this debate today, because it covers up the confusion they must feel in consequence of the report of the O.E.E.C. published yesterday, which shows up the Socialist misdeeds of the last few years.
We have had two speeches, in particular, from the opposite side, one by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) and the other by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, both different in their manner of presentation; one very moderate in its tone, the other immoderate. I suppose that in the context of this debate one would say it was a blend of mild and bitter, but if we were to accept the premise of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale we should be face to face with a very extraordinary doctrine, which is that when we get to the end of a Parliamentary Session, the Opposition may destroy any Measure which the Government may wish to put forward, and that, because time is short, the Government should have no powers in their hands to get their legislation through. That really is a most impossible proposition for the Opposition to put forward.
Many hon. Gentlemen have been disappointed at the interventions we had in the earlier stages of my right hon. and learned Friend's speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale. We know that he is in this fight for leadership of the Labour Party, and we know that he is most anxious to get as much publicity as possible.
On a point of order. Will it be permissible for me, if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to discuss the O.E.E.C. Report and the question of the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) to his colleagues? Shall I be able to follow those particular points?
Would I be right in suggesting that when the hon. and gallant Gentleman refuses the normal courtesy of giving way when he is interrupted, and at the same time abuses his position by making personal attacks upon my right hon. Friend who is not here, and by making other observations which are clearly out of order, it is time we asked that favours should be worn in the buttonholes of hon. Gentlemen opposite so that we may know those who are prepared to obey the rules of order in this House?
There can be no point in withdrawing only to give satisfaction to hon. Gentlemen opposite, because what I have said is on the record. I want to say a few words with regard to—
If I am instructed by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to withdraw, of course I will do so. I will withdraw any observations I have made, on instructions of the Chair, but I shall certainly not be bullied into withdrawing by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I want to say something in regard to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). We all appreciate his sincerity. He is one among many in this House, but he does not find many sincere supporters on his own side of the Chamber. He makes a case for prohibition. I wonder whether he has considered the extraordinary results of the period of prohibition in the United States of America.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North was permitted to make observations of this character. I do not see why I should not be allowed to make some observations in reply. What is wanted in this country, as in all countries, is a sense of moderation. There are many people who like a drink and others who like to be teetotallers. Let people have what they want.
I see the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his place. I tell him that the reason the Government are forced into this position of bringing forward a Guillotine Motion is the conduct of Her Majesty's Opposition over the past few months in this Parliament. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. If one reads carefully through the debates of our all-night Sittings with the "Bing boys' brigade," and studies the composition of the attendance of Members present on those all-night Sittings, they would find that on nearly every occasion the right hon. Member for South Shields was present on the Front Bench.
That remark makes my point. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is the standard bearer for the "Bing boys," or is the beater of the big drum, or whether he is there to hear the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) blow his own trumpet. For one reason or another, the right hon. Member for South Shields must accept some responsibility for the conduct of the Opposition during these nights, which have forced this action upon the Government.
I was very sorry indeed to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon. Unquestionably it will go down as one of the worst he has delivered. It was both rude and vulgar. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I repeat "rude and vulgar." It proves beyond doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit behind him have no case to put against the Government's Motion. The right hon. Gentleman used abuse and loud talk, with some idea that they were a substitute for argument. If there was one hon. Member opposite who made the case for the Government today, it was the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who, when taxed with obstruction during a speech of one of my hon. Friends, answered, "Why not?" The right hon. Gentleman used some cricketing metaphors during his speech and I am sure he must have felt that the hon. Member for Dudley had bowled a long hop with that one.
I want hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember that the British "pub" is an institution which is known and appreciated throughout the world—