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Parliamentary Notes.1

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Parliamentary Notes. 1 PREMIER OR PRESIDENT ? The defeat of the Government in the House of Commons last week is interpreted in parliamentary circles mainly as a con- demnation of the Prime Minister's contemp- tuous indifference to the claims that Parlia- ment has a right to make upon him. Mem- bers are asking whether Mr. Lloyd George is first Minister of the Crown or President- Premier, who is entitled to leave the de fence of his policy to subordinates in the House of Commons, and who need only attend the debates for the purpose of making some pontificial utterance. His plea that so many demands are made upon him that he cannot find time to deal with Parliament imposes upon nobody he can find time to rush about the country re- ceiving thefreedom of cities, the degrees of universities, and the applause of hand- picked admirers in crowded meetings; he prefers to state his policy to such meetings rather than to Parliament—and Parliament, justly jealous of its rights, does not like it. The House knows tbdt it has the remedy in I its own hands and begins to show a disposi- tion to apply it. OPENING OF THE SESSION. I On the re-assembling of Parliament last week it was at once apparent that contact with their constituencies had inspired the members with some sense of responsibility and had awakened in them a knowledge that they were elected representatives of the people and not merely the servile fol- lowers of a particular set of politicians. The Government had enjoyed a free hand for many months, but members discovered that Ministers have failed to satisfy the public by their legislative and administra- tive performances. An effort was made on the first day to obtain from the Prime Minister an under- taking that he would give more attention to Parliament during questions: but Mr. Lloyd George sees no new reason why he should attend more regularly than he did last session. The House is restless and dis- satisfied, and it is almost certain that if the parliamentary fortunes of the Government are left to the leadership of Mr. Bonar Law during the critical months ahead, the Gov- ernment will have many anxious and criti- cal moments. Already, evidence of latent hostility has been afforded by the Government's defeat on the Aliens' Restriction Bill. Many of the Coalition members do not regard the Bill as sufficiently stringent, while on the other hand the Labour Party regard Clause 3, which deals with the question of attempts to cause unrest, as unnecessarily harsh. Their efforts during Committee to have this Clause amended failed, but they re- newed the attempt on the Report stage. The main fight turned on sub-section of Clause 3, which provides that any alien promoting unrest in any industry other than that in which lie is engaged should be liable on conviction to imprisonment for three months. » Despite the assurance of the Government as to the limited intention of this Clause the Labour Party suspect it of being capable of a wide and dangerous application. In particular, they have in mind fraternal de- legates of national and international con- ferences held in this country, and it is claimed that if such. delegates deliver speeches favouring action to which the Gov- ernment was opposed, they might be ac- cused of incitement to unrest, and proceed- ings under this clause could be taken against them. It was, of course, not sur- prising that the Government were able suc- cessfully to resist the Labour proposal to omit this sub-section. The defeat of the Government occurred on the comparatively unimportant issue as to whether or not French pilots holding British pilotage certificates should be ex- cepted from Clause 4, prohibiting aliens from holding pilotage certificates for any port in the United Kingdom. It is doubt- ful whether the merits of the case were the cause of the Government's defeat so much as general irritation and dissatisfaction, and the Government were undoubtedly sur- prised that the result of the division showed them with a minority of 71. It is unlikely that this defeat will develop into a crisis. The probability is that the Government will manage to weather the local storm, and will emerge somewhat chastened by their humiliation. If this incident means that the House of Commons in general is going to re-assert its proper authority and -is going to insist on the Government fulfilling its functions with proper regard to constitutional practice, its demonstration of independence will have served a good purpose. NEW CONVERT. I th Edward Hallas, M.P. for the Dud- destou Division of Birmingham, has seceded from the National Democratic Party and has been admitted to membership of the Par- liamentary Labour Party. Mr. Hallas, who is General President of the Amalgamated Union of Gas, Municipal, and General Workers Union, was elected at the General Election by a majority of 6,516 votes over his Liberal opponent. It is an interesting commentary on the claims of the N.D.P. to be the" Patriotic. Labour" wing of the Coalition that one of the two genuine trade (Oootmued at foot of next colnmn).

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Parliamentary Notes.1