[Mr. TURTON (in the unavoidable absence of Major Barnett) in the Chair.]
Subject to the provisions of the Act of 1923 as amended by this Act, the Act of 1920 shall continue in fore until the twenty-fourth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight, and the Act of 1923 shall have effect as though for the words "nineteen hundred and twenty-five," wherever they occur, there were substituted the words "nineteen hundred and twenty-eight."
Amendment moved [11th March, 1924], at the beginning, to insert the words "If it should appear to the council of a county with regard to any part, or parts, of its area, or to the council of a county borough, with regard to its whole area, that greater hardship would occur from a determination than from a continuance of the Act of 1920, as amended by the Act of 1923, and subject to resolution duly passed by such council and sanctioned by the Minister of Health not less than six months before the date fixed for determination of the Acts, then in such part or parts of such county or in such a borough."—[Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle.]
Amendments to the proposed Amendment made [19th March, 1924]: After the word "borough" ["Council of a county borough"] insert the words "municipal borough, or urban or rural district council."—[Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. Allen.]
Leave out the words "and sanctioned by the Minister of Health"; and at the end insert the words "urban or rural district."—[Mr. Hopkinson.]
Question again proposed, "That those words, as amended, be there inserted."
Sir KINGSLEY WOOD: I beg to move, "That the Committee do now adjourn, until Wednesday next, at Eleven o'Clock." 124 I want to call the attention of the Committee to what occurred in the House after the Committee sat yesterday morning. Following the statement made in the Committee, I put a question to Mr. Speaker as to the position of this Committee, in view of the pledge of the Government that they would afford the Committee legal assistance, and the fact that no Member of the Committee had been appointed to carry out that duty on behalf of the Government. Therefore, that pledge remains unfulfilled and there is no one to give legal advice to us. In the course of the ruling which Mr. Speaker gave yesterday, he said, after congratulating himself upon not being a Member of this Committee: "The Members of the Standing Committees are appointed by the Committee of Selection, and the Committee of Selection has been appointed by the House." These are the words to which I desire to call special attention: "The hon. Member has referred to a rule made by the Committee of Selection within its province. It can, if it thinks fit, suspend or rescind that rule, but the House entrusts to that Committee the Selection of Standing Committees, and it is not for the House, by resolution or otherwise, to interfere with the full discretion of the Committee of Selection."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1924; col. 451, Vol. 171.] I want the Committee, if they will, to adjourn the proceedings to-day, in order that hon. Members on all sides of the Committee may make representations to the Committee of Selection that in this special case they should think fit to suspend for the time being the rule referred to by Mr. Speaker. If the Committee of Selection can see their way to do that in this special case they could then appoint the sole Legal Officer in the House, the Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Hastings) to come and sit on this Committee. If that were done and the Government were represented by the only Law Officer that can represent them—and certainly a right hon. Gentleman in that position and authority—I think it would greatly help the progress of this Bill, apart from any legal questions which may arise. The great difficulty of the Committee—I am not endeavouring to make a long speech, or to speak in a provocative way—is the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves without any proper advice or guidance from the Government. Therefore, if the Attorney-General were appointed he could fulfil a dual duty. He 125 could not only help the Committee with his legal advice, the necessity for which, I know, will constantly arise, but the Committee would also want to hear from him his opinion, and put questions to him, and hon. Members who are not present will want to read what has been said. The Attorney-General will also want to speak in conjunction with the Parliamentary Under - Secretary for Health for Scotland on questions of policy. If that were done, then we should be able to do something with this Bill. I have no desire to occupy the rest of my days on this Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—I want some reasonable progress to be made. There are points in connection with rent restrictions with which legislation is imperatively concerned. I only need refer to one particular Clause which is familiar to every Member of the Committee. For these reasons, I ask the Committee to adjourn until Wednesday next, in order that these steps may be taken. I understand that the Committee of Selection meet on Tuesday next, when they could consider this special position. No doubt many hon. Members of the Committee would like to make their own personal representations to the Committee of Selection.
The CHAIRMAN: With regard to this Motion, I think it is only right that I should point out to the Committee that yesterday I stated that I was not aware of any Standing Order or rule by which the composition of the Standing Committee could be altered once it had been set up, and had got to work. I had before me the Sessional Regulation passed by the Committee of Selection, and also the Resolution of the Chairmen's Panel endorsing the recommendation of the Committee of Selection. There is no precedent for the Motion which is now suggested. It seems to me, however, that the whole of the proceedings of this Committee are entirely unprecedented, and a Motion for the Adjournment does afford an opportunity for this Committee to express its opinion especially in regard to the statement made by the Lord Privy Seal in the House of Commons on Tuesday last. Therefore, under these circumstances, I accept this Motion, and I shall allow it to be debated.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Mr. A. Greenwood): I think perhaps it will be 126 advisable for me to intervene early in this Debate. There may be many people who take the view that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Sir. K. Wood) is practising obstructive tactics, but I am not taking that view. If we rule out that motive clearly the only other reason is another compliment to the Members of the present Government which I accept in the spirit in which it has been offered by the mover of this Motion. I am not aware that the Government made any pledge that a Law Officer of the Crown would be a Member of this Committee. All that was suggested was that legal advice would be available if required by the Committee.
Mr. HARCOURT JOHNSTONE: Will the hon. Member quote the actual words, which are "in Committee", and not "to the Committee."
Mr. GREENWOOD: That is not to be interpreted to mean that a Law Officer would sit on the Committee. I feel sure, if the Lord Privy Seal were interrogated, that he would take my view, which is that the Government agreed to place legal advice at the disposal of Members who cared to have it. It seems to me, however, that it would fit the case if I were the humble mouthpiece of any legal opinions that might be offered by the learned Members of the Government. I do not know whether hon. Members are challenging my capacity to remember a message which might be given to me by any Member of this Committee, and, if so, I should take very strong objection to it. There cannot, however, be any argument against that course being pursued. If this Bill were going through the Committee at an enormous rate, which appears to be desired by the hon. Member for West Woolwich, it might be impossible for me to take steps to secure the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, but I submit that there would be no delay by adopting the methods which I have suggested, and I will undertake to do my best to see that the progress of the Bill is not held up. On the point of getting greater guidance, I assure hon. Members that if the Attorney-General and other Members of the Government were added to this Committee, they would get no greater guidance than they have already got. We have defined our attitude 127 on every Amendment before the Committee, and there is no cause to grumble. My hon. Friend says that he wishes to see progress made with this Bill. Does he seriously suggest that he will get progress made by persisting in a Motion for the Adjournment, which can only waste, at least, one morning. If this Motion be carried, the Committee are going to confront the Committee of Selection with an impossible situation. I speak without any long knowledge of procedure on this question, but it seems to me to be quite a new rule of procedure, and quite improper, to suggest that certain Members of the Government should be impounded and conscripted to serve on a Committee, whether they desire to do so or not, and I rather think that the Committee would hesitate before taking that course. I hope the hon. Member will not persist in the Motion, because I warn him that whilst I may accept his views about the Bill, and whilst I may accept his motives, people outside, I feel quite sure, will misinterpret them, and the outside public may be led to believe that the hon. Member for Woolwich is engaged upon a campaign of obstruction. If he does not desire that, I suggest to him that the best thing to do, in the interests of the Committee and those reforms which the hon. Member wants to be carried out, is to withdraw his Motion for the Adjournment.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON: I think the Committee must have heard with mixed feelings what the Parliamentary Secretary has just said, so far as the legal position is concerned. Speaking for myself, I must confess that, if the Government choose to be represented in a certain way, that is their responsibility; but, with regard to the question of the guidance and leadership which they have given to the Committee on this Bill, I think that, if they desire progress, it is most unfortunate that they have not been able to adopt another attitude. I do not think that anyone will charge my friends and myself with obstruction. We have neither talked about vultures on the one hand nor about sparrows on the other. We have so far not put down a single Amendment, and, if the columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT are added up, it will be found that, up to yesterday at any rate, 128 we had only occupied three columns, while our Labour friends had occupied three times as many, and our friends opposite about 15 times as many. Therefore, we are, at any rate, clear of any charge of obstruction. We are sincerely desirous of seeing passed into law as soon as possible certain parts of this Bill, and I would ask the Government, with the knowledge that they have of the proceedings, is there any reasonable chance whatever of getting any part of this Bill passed within the next two or three months at the present rate of progress? If they would only tell the Committee frankly how much of the Bill they are prepared to support and see through—
Mr. WESTWOOD: We want it all. Let us know what part you are going to support.
Mr. THOMSON: The hon. Member says the Government want it all.
Mr. WESTWOOD: I said, "We want it all."
Mr. THOMSON: I think this is a material point if we are to make progress. Evictions are taking place every day, and the longer we talk on either side of this Committee, the longer goes on the suffering which all of us want to stop. Therefore, I submit that it would be wise of the Government, if they are anxious to make progress to concentrate on those things which are immediately pressing. As to the mere question of the continuation of the Rent Restrictions Act, it does not matter whether that is passed this month or in six months' time; but it does matter, as far as evictions are taking place, that we should get on and pass that portion of the Bill. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to give us a lead on the matter. They give us a lead on cruisers; why cannot they give us a lead on this question, which is so important? Have the Government a mind of their own on this matter or have they not? Are they concerned with the interests of those who are being evicted or are they not? They have the power in their hands to facilitate business; they have the power in their hands, with adequate support in this Committee, to stop these evictions; and I ask them to take the only course possible, namely, to declare their policy, and we shall be prepared to back them 129 through if that policy be sound and reasonable.
Major COLFOX: I feel that the whole course of the Debate upon this Bill in this room up to date has proved conclusively that it is absolutely necessary that this Committee should include a distinguished legal mind on the Government side. Several appeals, during the course of our discussions, have been made to the Government to declare their attitude towards this Bill. So far they have absolutely declined to declare their attitude in any way whatever, either towards the Bill as a whole or, except very vaguely and generally—
Mr. GREENWOOD: No, it has been done quite specifically.
Major COLFOX:—towards any Amendment. The opportunity was afforded, I think on the second day—or it may have been the first—on which this Committee sat, when the discussion took a very wide range owing to a Second Reading speech which the hon. Member in charge of the Bill (Mr. Mardy Jones) considered it suitable to make on the first Amendment. We on this side very much regretted the inordinate length of that speech, in that it entailed very considerable delay and loss of valuable time for the consideration of the Bill. We welcomed it, however, for this reason, that it did afford the Government the chance of declaring their attitude towards the general principles of the Bill; but, unfortunately, the only representative of the Government who was then present declined to accept the opportunity which was then given to him.
Mr. GREENWOOD: May I ask whether it is in order, on a Motion affecting the Committee of Selection, to raise again the whole question of the attitude of the Government, which has been defined repeatedly in the House and in this Committee?
The CHAIRMAN: Clearly it is within the competence of the hon. and gallant Member to discuss the question which he is now raising on this Motion for Adjournment, and which goes to the whole point raised by the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood).
Mr. GREENWOOD: Was not the Motion for Adjournment for a particular purpose?130
The CHAIRMAN: Clearly, it was for the purpose of making representations to the Committee of Selection.
Mr. GREENWOOD: I am sorry to interrupt again, but was not that as regards the personnel of the Committee, and not the policy of the Government?
Major COLFOX: I would submit that the declaration of the policy of the Government depends entirely upon the constitution and personnel of this Committee. It is because many of us on this side feel that it is absolutely necessary that the Government should have a legal mind as its mouthpiece on this occasion, that we are pressing for this adjournment to-day. As I was saying, the representative of the Government on that occasion declined to accept the opportunity given him of declaring the Government's attitude. All that he said was that the particular Amendment under discussion was impracticable, though he gave absolutely no reasons for that opinion. The hon. Member in charge of the Bill, in the Second Reading speech to which I have referred, bitterly bewailed the fact that some owners of house property look upon their ownership as a business proposition. It is because I, and many who think with me, feel that the Government do not, and apparently will not, look upon housing as a business proposition, that we so strongly oppose the passage of this Bill into law.
The CHAIRMAN: I think the hon. and gallant Member is now getting very wide. The substantive Motion is, "That the Committee do now adjourn."
Major COLFOX: I, of course, immediately bow to your ruling. The necessity for a legal representative of the Government on this Committee is made the more apparent when one considers the very intricate nature of the Bill, containing, as it does, many points which are not readily appreciable by the lay mind. It is, as we all know, a Bill which has been drafted by an eminent legal gentleman—
Mr. GREENWOOD: I beg pardon. I must correct that statement. It is quite a mistake. The gentleman to whom reference has been made in the House was not the author of the Bill, and I think it is due to him in fairness to say so.
Major COLFOX: Of course, I accept the explanation offered by the representa- 131 tive of the Government, and I think it is only fair to the eminent legal gentleman to whom reference has been made to clear him of the responsibility for having produced such an exceptionally bad Bill. The fact remains, however, that, at any rate in the general popular view, this Bill has been prepared by a legal mind of some sort, and, therefore, it obviously requires the interpretation of a legal mind. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health said a few moments ago that he was quite capable of carrying a message from the Law Officers of the Crown to this Committee. That may well be. I do not doubt that he is capable of carrying a definite message on a definite point. But points are bound to crop up in Debate which require an immediate answer from a legal mind. The Parliamentary Secretary is, no doubt, a very worthy man in many respects, but he has not the advantage of a trained legal mind, and that is made the more apparent when we consider his speech a day or two ago in reply to a request that the Government should declare its policy. In my view, it is absolutely essential that the Committee should adjourn in order that a legal representative of the Government may be appointed to it.
Mr. JOHNSTONE: I only desire to add a word or two to the admirably expressed sentiments of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). The Parliamentary Secretary said, in the course of his speech, that opinion outside would, he feared, take notice of what had been said by the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), and that, although he himself did not accuse the hon. Member of obstruction, he feared the public would. The threat of public disapproval of action taken sincerely for the public good is, in my opinion, most improper, and, if the Parliamentary Secretary chooses to apply that threat to me as well, I would remind him that I spoke on the Second Reading very strongly in support of this Bill, and that I have not spoken in this Committee, in order not to obstruct the proceedings. I give, however, my very heartiest support to the hon. Member for West Woolwich in his Motion to-day. The state of business in this Committee is perfectly scandalous, and it is due to two things, and two things only. It is, 132 first of all, due to the attitude of the Government, which has not been defined. The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that when I asked the Lord Privy Seal if the fact that Government Amendments were not put down to the various Clauses of the Bill indicated that the Government approved of those Clauses, he he said, "No." If I draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to that, I think he will see that the Government's view of this Bill is very undefined indeed. One is never to know, apparently, until the minute when the Parliamentary Secretary gets up, what the attitude of the Government on any of these Clauses is. We are to be left in perfect ignorance as to how far it would support the Bill and how far it would oppose Amendments of hon. Members opposite. The second reason for the deplorable state of business in regard to this Bill is—I am, of course, making no personal reflection—the incapacity of the Parliamentary Secretary and of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Mardy Jones) to conduct the business of this Committee.
Mr. WESTWOOD: On a point of Order. Is it not the Chairman who conducts the business of the Committee?
The CHAIRMAN: No; the Chairman has nothing to do with it.
Mr. WESTWOOD: We want to know what is the position.
Mr. JOHNSTONE: If the hon. Member is only insulting those who, he thinks, need his support, may I say that they are quite capable of looking after themselves?
The CHAIRMAN: Order! The hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood) will have an opportunity when he is called upon, and he must restrain himself until then.
Mr. JOHNSTONE: The hon. Members will admit that they are inexperienced in this respect, and that has gravely hampered the business of the Committee. For two reasons, it is specially necessary that a Minister ranking with the Attorney General should be here. It is necessary from the legal point of view. It is necessary that we should have a spokesman for the Government with more authority than the present Under Secretary, and it is also necessary in order that there should be in the hands of a 133 more experienced Member of the House the business of guiding the Bill through the Committee. For these three reasons and in order to expedite business, I support the Motion.
Mr. WESTWOOD: It is obvious to me at least that if the Minister had been here at the first three meetings of the Committee hon. Members opposite would have had nothing to say.
Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE: I should have had lots to say.
Mr. WESTWOOD: I am telling you how it appeals to me and not to you. The first three days we met the whole of the objection by hon. Members opposite was that the Minister of Health was not here. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am only telling you how it appeals to me. It is not all wrong any more than your opposition is all right. To-day we are listening to arguments why the Attorney-General is not here, and it has also been suggested below the Gangway that we ought to know exactly what the position of the Government is in connection with the Bill. I am going to suggest what is the attitude of several of us. I cannot speak for the Government. This is a private Member's Bill, and it is obviously unfair that a line like this should be taken when we are discussing a Bill which has had a two-to-one vote in the House. I would never suggest for a moment that hon. Members are obstructing. They are using all the Parliamentary procedure that comes their way because they object to the Bill, and I am not going to blame them.
Mr. JOHNSTONE: Do you suggest that I object to the Bill?
Mr. WESTWOOD: I am addressing hon. Members opposite.
Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON: Why not address the Chair?
Mr. WESTWOOD: I am prepared to address the Chair, and I believe the Chair will be as fair to me as to the hon. Member. The main proposal of the Bill is to keep on control till 1928. Its second main proposal is to de-control houses which have been de-controlled. There is another proposal which seeks to reduce rents. Will the Liberals on the Committee say that is the objection they have to the Bill? We have been told there are certain pro- 134 posals that the Liberals will accept. Let us understand what the position is. The Government have told us that if the Committee accept the provisions of the Bill they will accept the responsibility for putting it through the Report and Third Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Will the Liberals explain what their position is?
The CHAIRMAN: We are not now discussing the action of the Liberals, whatever that may be. We are discussing whether the Motion for Adjournment should be carried in view of representations to be made to the Selection Committee.
Mr. WESTWOOD: I accept your ruling. I have got off what I intended to say, because I am anxious to know the attitude of our friends below the gangway. I hope we are not going to adjourn. We had a promise from you, Sir, yesterday that the Amendment would be put to the Committee to-day with a view to acceptance or rejection on its merits.
Mr. FOOT: I hope the hon. Member will not be angry with us. I do not think he has any reason to be. I want to quote what happened in the last House in relation to this matter. I then prophesied on the Bill which was being taken through the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Neville Chamberlain) that there would be the greatest possible difficulty and trouble and tumult arising throughout the country consequent on the passing of that measure. I think the prophecies we then confidently made have been amply justified by the experience of the last few months. I would very much rather that this Bill went through in its present form than that we should have no Bill at all, but the hon. Member will recognise that it is a fair desire on our part to know what the Government consider to be essential in it. Surely it is not intended by the Government that every jot and tittle of it must be passed through. If they can give us some conception of what they really think is vitally necessary, they may call upon us, at any rate, to give all the assistance that is necessary to carry the measure into law. I do not think it is a fair suggestion that there has been obstruction on the part of the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), although I should like to suggest to him and to some other Members that George 135 Washington and Benjamin Franklin always advised that any reasonable speech might be kept within the ambit of ten minutes. I do not know what the ambit would be in these days. Polonius, when he was asked what he was reading, said, "Words, words, words," and if Hamlet were living in these days, I think he would apply that description to the first three reports of this Committee. The suggestion was made just now by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health that it would be sufficient for him to avail himself of advice given, I suppose, by the Solicitor-General. I would ask him to reconsider that decision. My experience of committees is that it is very often difficult for us to understand an explanation of the law when it has been given by the Law Officer himself. I do not think it is reasonable to ask the Committee to take his opinion upon intricate matters of law at second hand. I do not intend to vote for the Motion, because I do not want to lay myself open to the suggestion that I am any party whatever to obstruction. But I hope they will consider the appeals which have been made and that they will consider the restraint which has been exercised upon these benches. For the most part, we have said nothing until to-day, though we are just as interested as any others in the Committee. I followed the Bill in the last Parliament in every detail, and there were six or seven Amendments in my name. I have watched with interest the progress of this measure, but I have deliberately refrained from speaking, and other Members on these benches have done the same. Our attendance will compare with that of the other parties, and our disappointment that after three sittings we have made virtually no progress is very deep. I hope some reasonable arrangement may be arrived at that we may decide what is vital in the Bill and insist on carrying it through, if we have to sit two or three days a week, morning and afternoon.
Mr. JACKSON: I want, as a Member of the Labour Party, to make a suggestion which, I think, will be agreeable both to hon. Members opposite and to our Liberal friends. There appear to be two grounds on which the motion is supported. The first is that the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) and his 136 friends desire that the Attorney-General should be present. There may a good deal to be said for that. Our Liberal friends, on the other hand, want to know exactly what the Government is prepared to accept. I want to suggest that if the Committee would allow us to proceed with the Amendments which have not any legal entanglements accompanying them, our leader should give an undertaking that the Government will be consulted as to the considered views which have been expressed. I think that is a way out. I cannot say it of hon. Members opposite but I believe the majority of the Committee are extremely anxious to get on with the vital parts of the Bill, including our claim that at least a reduction of rents should be considered.
Mr. MARDY JONES: I am sure we appreciate what has been said about our lack of legal knowledge and experience in promoting a Bill of this importance, but the little experience I have had with the Rent Acts of the last six or seven years has been confirmed by some of the greatest legal minds in the country, the judges, who say that the Rent Acts are about the worst examples of the legal mind that this country has ever known. If we had less of the legal mind and more common sense there would be much better results out of rent legislation. It has been suggested that the Attorney should be here, and it was suggested the other day that the Minister of Health should be here. If that were met, I suppose the next request would be to have the Prime Minister here. This is a private Member's bill and the attitude of the Government towards it will depend upon its fate in this Committee, and, if you are going to obstruct it here, we shall have to await for the results on that score. The important point it appears to me, is that raised by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) as to what are the vital points in the Bill. The Government has already given general approval of the proposals of the Bill. The first main proposal is to maintain complete control of all the houses which were controlled under the 1920 Act and to insist upon alternative accommodation where the owner wants a house for his own possession. The second point is a reduction of the net rents, and the third is to reduce the rents whenever the rates are reduced—to put right that legal 137 decision. I think the Committee will agree to the last point—at least that is the impression we gathered the other day—so that one of the three main points is a matter of more or less common agreement, and the chief difficulty will arise from the other two points. I hope the Committee will not press the Adjournment. It is true the Government have not seen their way to put a Law Officer of the Crown on the Committee, but the Solicitor-General is in attendance and is available on any legal point which may arise. [HON. MEMBERS: "He cannot speak!"] It is true he cannot speak, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will act for him in that capacity. At any rate, that is the line of assistance which the Government are prepared to give, and I am sure it is as complete assistance as previous Governments have given to private Members' Bills. Therefore, I beg the Committee to proceed, and, with all respect to the hon. Member who referred to the impression in the country, you cannot evade responsibility, and, if you insist on an Adjournment and carry it you will create the impression in the country that it is obstructive policy and nothing else. We are quite prepared to leave that responsibility with you, and we shall oppose the Adjournment.
Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN: I have listened with profound dissatisfaction to the speech which has just been delivered. So reasonable has been the request that has been made to hon. Members opposite this morning from both sections of the opposition, that one of their own members, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jackson), was sufficiently impressed by it to make a request himself, that a suggestion should be made to the Government which I think would have satisfied us all. I waited deliberately to see what answer we should get and whether we should find a measure of acceptance from members of the Government. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health remained seated, and the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Mardy Jones) who, with all his talents, is not a member of the Government and cannot speak on their behalf, insults us by talking about the impression which is going to be produced in the country by the attitude we take up. I am compelled to come to the conclusion that what the Government have in 138 mind is that to let their supporters go round the country to exploit the attitude of members of both the Liberal party and the party to which I belong, in order to put the odium upon us of resisting anything which they think may be of a vote-catching nature in this Bill, whilst at the same time endeavouring not to disturb that confidence which they are trying to create amongst moderate men by assimilating themselves as much as possible to a Tory Government in their Measures, though disclaiming any responsibility for anything that appears in them. I consider that is a policy which it is difficult to characterise in Parliamentary language. It appears to me to be the meanest and lowest way in which any Government can possibly behave. I do not want to have any obstruction, and I hope we may come to a decision at once on this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, no doubt, has his instructions, and he dare not go beyond them. He has not a mind of his own. He can only say what has been put into his mouth, and the moment a new suggestion is made, even though it comes from a Member of his own party, he is afraid to say whether he will accept it or not. It is for that reason that we say we ought to have here someone who is a Member of the Cabinet, or, at any rate, in a position to speak effectively and at once, and not wait to ask the leave of his superiors. I hope we shall divide at once, and I shall support the Motion.
Mr. GREENWOOD: Nothing that I have heard this morning removes from my mind the feeling as to the gross impropriety of this Committee attempting to conscript a person to serve upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) refers to a Member of the Cabinet sitting here. When did any other Government put a Member of its Cabinet upon a Committee dealing with a private Bill? I think the Government have gone beyond what usually happens in dealing with private Bills in Committee upstairs. The suggestion has been made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jackson) that representations should be made to the Government. I have not the slightest objection to representations being made to the Government. The statement made 139 by the right hon. Member for Ladywood that, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, I cannot accept a suggestion of that kind, is absurd. If hon. Members behind me wish to make representations to their leaders I shall be very glad to put them forward; but that is beside the point. Two questions have been raised, both quite different. One suggestion is that we should require the Attorney-General to be here to give legal advice, and then a quite different argument is put forward that we should require him here, but that he can exercise no more authority as to the general policy of the Government with regard to the Bill. The policy of the Government has been defined. We have given a general support to the Bill, but whether the Bill can be taken over depends really upon the form it takes.
Mr. THOMSON: What is your policy?
Mr. GREENWOOD: Obviously, if the Bill is emasculated, as it may be by hon. Members opposite, no Government could take it over, whatever might be its political complexion. I shall be glad to see that the Government is informed of the wishes of my hon. Friends on this side. [HON. MEMBERS "No!" "There is only one concerned."]
Mr. MARLEY: There is only one, and he was only speaking his own mind, just as you are doing.
Mr. GREENWOOD: As regards the proceedings in this Committee, the Official Reports themselves are representations to the Government. The Government becomes aware of these representations from day to day and can, if it chooses, take action on them. I understood that what was suggested by the hon. Member for Ipswich was that hon. Members who sit with me here wish themselves to make representations to the Government, to 140 secure that the Government should more clearly define its attitude.
Mr. JACKSON: I made the suggestion that our leader should approach the Prime Minister and place before him what appears to me to be the views of the majority of the Committee, but I made the suggestion on the understanding that hon. Members opposite would honourably abide by the principle involved. I understood that a good deal of this very unnecessary opposition would not then be forthcoming, but if I am to understand that this opposition will continue, purely from the party of view, then I would not press my suggestion for one moment. I would be prepared to fight the opposition both here and in the country. I have not made long speeches myself, and my suggestion is that other hon. Members should limit their remarks to say ten minutes each.
Mr. GREENWOOD: If I understand the hon. Member's suggestion to be that the views of hon. Members opposite and below the gangway on this side in regard to the attendance of the Attorney-General should be represented to the Government, then, frankly, I cannot hold out any hopes in regard to any such proposal. I come back to the original point, that I think it is quite improper for this Committee to attempt to compel the attendance of any Member of the Cabinet on a private Member's Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: As Chairman of the Committee I am entitled to state that in my judgment there is nothing more that can be usefully said on this subject. Therefore, I now propose to put the Question.
Question put, "That the Committee do now adjourn, until Wednesday next, at Eleven o'clock."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 22.
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Birchall, Major||Hobhouse, Mr.||Sunlight, Mr.|
|Burnie, Major James||Hopkinson, Mr.||Thomson, Mr. Frederick|
|Chamberlain, Mr. Neville||Johnstone, Mr. Harcourt||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel||Lamb, Mr.||Wheler, Major|
|Colfox, Major||Lowe, Sir Francis||Williams, Major Ronald|
|Davies, Sir Thomas||Meller, Mr.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel|
|Dixey, Mr.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Wood, Sir Kingsley|
|Eden, Captain||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Yerburgh, Major|
|Allen, Mr. Wilberforce||Groves, Mr.||McEntee, Mr.|
|Ayles, Mr.||Grundy, Mr.||Marley, Mr.|
|Brown, Mr. Ernest||Harvey, Mr. Edmund||Simon, Mr. Ernest|
|Buckle, Mr.||Jackson, Mr. Robert||Spence, Mr.|
|Dickson, Mr. Thomas||Jones, Mr. Mardy||Stewart, Mr. James|
|Foot, Mr.||Kay, Sir Robert||Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan|
|Gardner, Mr. Benjamin||Law, Mr.||Westwood, Mr.|
|Greenwood, Mr. Arthur|
Committee adjourned accordingly at Seven Minutes before Twelve o'Clock, until Wednesday, 26th March, at Eleven o'Clock.142
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Mr. Turton (in the unavoidable absence of Major Barnett), Chairman.
Allen, Mr. Wilberforce
Atholl, Duchess of
Brown, Mr. Ernest
Burnie, Major James
Chamberlain, Mr. Neville
Chapman, Sir Samuel
Davies, Sir Thomas
Dickson, Mr. Thomas
Gardner, Mr. Benjamin
Greenwood, Mr. Arthur
Harvey, Mr. Edmund
Jackson, Mr. Robert
Johnstone, Mr. Harcourt
Jones, Mr. Mardy
Kay, Sir Robert
Lowe, Sir Francis
Percy, Lord Eustace
Pilditch, Sir Philip
Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Simon, Mr. Ernest
Stewart, Mr. James
Thomson, Mr. Frederick
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan
Warrender, Sir Victor
Williams, Major Ronald
Wood, Sir Kingsley