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Paragraphs 1-3 agreed to.

Paragraph 4; an amendment made; paragraph as amended agreed to. Paragraph 5 agreed to.

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Paragraph 8; an amendment made; paragraph, as amended, agreed to.

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Question-That this Report, as amended, be the Report of the Committee to the House-put and agreed to.

Ordered,-To Report.


Wednesday, 18th May, 1927.

Commander The Right Hon. B. M. Eyres-Monsell

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Maj. Gen. Sir R. Hutchinson, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O.
Sir Lonsdale Webster, K.C.B....




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Commander The Right Hon. B. M. EYRES-MONSELL (a Member of the House) examined.


1. Chairman: Would you rather I put points to you or make your own statement to the Committee?-I think perhaps it would be better if you put points

to me.

2. The first suggestion mentioned in Committee is that a calendar date15th April, or any date you like to name -should be set instead of Easter and Whitsuntide in respect of the rule giving priority to Private Members' Business. That would in effect fix Easter?-Personally I do not think it necessary, because you get your fixed period anyhow-Whitsuntide depends upon Easter. In the subsequent suggestion about

giving Wednesdays, it works out that Private Members get almost exactly the same number of hours between Easter and Whitsuntide.

3. As well as before Easter, do you mean?-No.

4. Your suggestion would be that they should always have it between Easter and Whitsuntide. At present they have it up to Whitsuntide?-Yes.

5. Now they have two half-days before Easter and one half-day after Whitsuntide? I am afraid I am mixing up the two suggestions. If it were only up to Easter it would have the same effect. 6. I am speaking of Tuesdays and Wednesdays as it is now. I should have thought it better, both for the Government and for Private Members to know every year the number of days, Easter being fixed and Whitsuntide being fixed. It would not be an exact number of days


because it would vary with the date in February when the House met?-Yes.

7. The House might meet in either January or February?-I have the figure of the total number of hours this year. If Private Members had been given one full sitting each week until Easter they would have had nine days of 7 hours each, making 65 hours, or a loss to Private Members of three-quarters of an hour as against what they have had. Working out the hours for last year in the same way, Private Members would have lost 2 hours on the assumption that they have the whole of Wednesday up to Easter. In 1925 they would have gained 4 hours, and in 1924 they would have gained one hour.

8. So it makes very little difference in fact? It comes out almost even over a series of years.

9. That is really an answer dealing with the second point, namely, whether one whole day, Wednesday, might be given up to Easter instead of two halfdays? The only objection I have to that is that it might be rather a nuisance in fixing holidays, because you might be tied down as to your holidays if you fixed certain days.

10. You mean it would be the last Wednesday available?—Yes. 11. But that happens even Yes, it does.


12. It does not seem to me that it would make any great difference, except for the desirability of everybody knowing beforehand. People know now pretty well that we always try to get away by

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18 May, 1927.] Commander The Right Hon. B. M. EYRES-MONSELL. [Continued.


Good Friday, and they know the following Tuesday and Wednesday are effective as a rule. I think it comes to much the same thing; I do not think it alters it very much.

13. The argument in favour of it is the general argument in favour of fixing Easter that you should know where you are each year and that it should not vary? Yes.

14. Would your suggestion be that if one day was given instead of two halfdays it should only be one day up to Easter? Yes, up to Easter.

15. You then take the whole of the Private Members' time between Easter and Whitsuntide?—Yes, my figures were worked out on that basis.

16. Your figures do not include the present days between Easter and Whitsuntide? Yes. Private Members would get up to Easter the Wednesdays, as against the Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8.15 up to Easter, and Wednesdays from 8.15 between Easter and Whitsuntide.

Mr. Lees-Smith.

17. In order to get this whole day before Easter the Private Member would sacrifice the Wednesdays after Easter?Yes.

18. So the total number of hours comes out about the same?-The total number of hours would work out almost exactly the same.

Mr. Thomas Kennedy.

19. Including the time between Easter and Whitsuntide which the Private Member gets now?-Yes.

Sir Robert Sanders.

20. But there would be a less number of opportunities for introducing different subjects? That is true.


21. To be second order would be more valuable than it is now, if the first order were not important? That is a question whether one should divide the day or not.

Mr. Lees Smith.] Probably you might allow up to 7.30 p.m. to one motion and start another motion at 7.30.


22. That would be a fresh suggestion. I should prefer to allow the first motion to run as long as it liked, and then the second one come on when it is finished. A limited debate is always a tie, and personally I am sorry the 11 o'clock Rule is in its present form.-There may be some objectionable motion, a very short one, which either the Opposition does not want or the Government might not like to have passed. There are occasions when people do not like a Bill but do not like voting against it—which both sides come across occasionally—and if one had to keep one of these motions going from 4 to 11 p.m. it might be rather difficult.

23. Do not you think we have to make up our minds whether we want the House of Commons to deliberate on

these things or not?-Personally my point of view as Chief Whip is that Private Members' time is a nuisance, but in Opposition I always looked upon it as a good thing because it occupied the Government and kept them from doing something which might be worse

24. I do not know what my colleagues think, but personally I think our Committee must strive to look at it neither from the point of view of the Government nor from the point of view of the Opposition, but from the point of view of what is almost passing out of sight, namely, the real interest of the House of Commons as a representative and deliberative Assembly. From that point of view you want a good debate in which the House would be interested and perhaps the public interested. These little snippety debates seem to me to fail in that respect and do not excite either the House or the country to much interest.

Sir Park Goff.

25. Do you think there would be more opportunities for a number of motions on one whole day than if you had two half-days? Certainly not, unless the day was divided.


26. There would not be so much opportunity as regards motions, but, on the other hand, the debate would or might be a longer debate?—Yes.

18 May, 1927.] Commander The Right Hon. B. M. EYRES-MONSELL. [Continued.

Mr. Lees-Smith.

27. If we had a whole day to a motion would not it be difficult to keep a House for it? I think it might be, and I think it is rather the criterion of a motion that, unless it will excite the attendance of 40 Members, the House of Commons should not be put to the trouble of attending.

28. And then the day is gone?—Yes, the day is gone if a count is taken.


29. What has often happened in past days is that there has been a debate up to dinner time and then a count at about dinner time?-Yes.

30. Would you think that an objectionable thing to happen?-No, I should not think it at all objectionable.

31. Would you agree that it is rather a good thing that either the House should be interested in a good debate or should be adjourned?-Yes.

32. An empty bench debate is not a very valuable thing?-I agree with you fully over that. I think it is a terrible thing to have to stoke these debates.

Sir Park Goff.

33. Then you run up against the luck of the motion, whatever it may be some motions may be entirely uninteresting to most of the Members of the House?Yes. I believe people would probably have much better prepared motions on matters of more general interest if they thought they were going to get the whole of the day in which to discuss them.

Mr. Thomas Kennedy.

34. What is your general view of the value of these motions?-Of the ordinary ones, very little. You know what it is: We send round suggestions and people say, yes, they will ballot, and they ballot generally in the hope that they will not win the ballot. I do not know what your people are like, but we have to suggest motions for our people to put down, and it is really a farce.

Mr. Lees-Smith.

35. I have a feeling that this may not be a permanent feature of the House, but Private Members seem to be very much less alive in that way to-day than


they used to be before the War.-Do not you think that was more the case with the Opposition? We used to say, "Here are 24 hours in which we have not to oppose something." In the old days I think Private Members' time was taken by the Government a great deal more than it is now. We have taken very little of the Private Members' time since the War-at least since the fall

of the Coalition. My feeling is that Private Members are heartily sick of the amount of time they get. Whether that will last, as you say, I do not know, but that is the feeling in the House as I read it at present.


36. Would not you agree that the real test of the importance of a Private Member's motion is whether as a matter of fact anything springs out of it, that is to say, anything of permanent consequence?-Certainly.

37. In your experience as a Member of Parliament, not only since you have been Government Whip, can you draw to our attention anything important which has come out of Private Members' Motions? I am afraid I cannot offhand.

Sir Robert Sanders.

38. Would not you say Widows' Pensions have come out of it?-I have forgotten what happened about that.

39. Widows' Pensions were brought forward again and again on Private Members' motions. I do know whether you would agree that grants from the Road Fund towards Rural District Councils came out of a Private Member's motion. Do not you remember that motion of Mr. Pretyman's?—Yes, I do.

40. That motion was really the origin of it? I think there is no doubt that if one looked back at these things one would find occasionally something useful has emerged from a Private Member's motion.

41. We have a return here which shows that since the year 1919 out of 98 such motions 43 have been talked out.

Chairman.] Does "talked out" mean after a division on the amendmentbecause that is what almost always happens.

Mr. Lees-Smith.] For the purpose of the suggestion which has been put forward are we to assume that a Private A 5

18 May, 1927.] Commander The Right Hon. B. M. EYRES-MONSELL. [Continued.

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44. I should like to put a question on a different subject, namely, Private Members' Bills. What would you think of a proposal that, instead of having so many Second Readings and so few days for subsequent stages in the House of Commons, the Second Readings should terminate earlier and more days should be given, perhaps at a late stage in the Session, for subsequent proceedings. There are now only two days, and that means very few Bills get a chance at all? I think that is well worth consideration. My feeling is that it is a great waste of time going on on Fridays with these Private Members' Bills, which everybody knows cannot get any further. They go upstairs to Committee, on which Members have to sit, and it is often very hard to get a quorum. I would much rather devote a little more time-not too much time, because I think most Governments get into more trouble on Private Members' Bills than on any other Bills brought forward, which is saying a good deal to making Bills effective and rather less time to beating the air with Second Readings.

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46. And do you agree it blocks the whole machine at once?—Yes.

47. Is it true to say that the existing two Fridays after Whitsuntide would be amply sufficient for a number of quite uncontroversial Bills, if you could keep them for quite uncontroversial Bills? Yes, if you could.

48. Have you considered Suggestion No. 3, that Bills should be arranged in priority inversely to the number of Members voting against them on Second Reading? I think it would be a very good thing if you could get some form of priority which would really denote general acceptance of the Bill, but I am not at all sure the voting in the House of Commons on Second Reading is always quite clear on that point; for instance, there are a good many Bills that might be brought forward which Members would not like to vote against Franchise Bill, for instance-but would do their level best to kill in Committee. If you are going to give priority to a Bill because nobody voted against it, it would introduce a complication.



49. If all the Bills that were not divided on at all on Second Reading came first would not that practically use up almost the whole of the twq Fridays? That would exactly bring in my instance. Supposing the Opposition now brought in a Franchise Bill which we did not like to vote against, the Bill would probably be passed, nobody voting against it at all, on Second Reading. What commonly happens-and it is the same with both Parties-is that the Government then does its best to kill the Bill and delay it in Committee in order to prevent it coming down on one of these two Fridays.

50. Is there any way out of that difficulty so stated, because after all one must assume that the machinery of the House of Commons is worked in accordance with the votes given by Members?

That is a difficult assumption for practical purposes, especially in connection with Private Members' Bills

51. Moreover if it really became important to kill a Bill there are always five or six just people who will force a Bill to division? I think that is rather a dangerous suggestion. I should like to see it worked out in a little more detail before I gave my opinion.

52. Your objection really applies just as much to the existing system when

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