25 JULY 1931, Page 5

The Week i n Parliament

THIS last week has brought home vividly the fact that we have now in the House of Commons an alter- nating Opposition. The spectacle of the Government fighting for a Bill line by line with its Whips busy, and facing a score of divisions, when not a single member of the Conservative Party walks into the Opposition lobby, when, indeed, there is not a soul upon its benches, makes us realize that we face now an entirely new Parliamentary situation. There are occasions now when a Government supporter wanting to pair does not find a Conservative, but, if lie can, a member of another group, which still officially belongs to the Labour Party. There has been plenty of sniping of the Government from that group before, but their action over the " Anomalies " Bill (designed to stop the worst abuses of the dole) shows that the gulf between them and the Government is now unbridgeable. Everyone is naturally asking what is going to happen at the Party Conference in October.

One of the surprises of the new Opposition, by the way, is the presence therein of Sir Charles Trevelyan, President of the Board of Education in both Mr. MacDonald's governments. One wonders whether the Clydeside " wild men " quite welcome the presence of a wealthy ex- Liberal land-owning baronet. Mr. J. H. Thomas went rather out of his way on Tuesday evening to rub in the fact that the Right Hon. Baronet had been longer in the House than in the Labour Party. The alternative opposition still sits on the Government side of the House. The five members of the New Party, however, have definitely taken their seats on the Opposition benches.

Agriculture has had a big innings in both Houses this week. The whole of Monday's sitting in the Commons was absorbed by the Vote of Censure based on the Government's handling of agriculture. On the same day. the Lords passed the second reading of the Agricul- tural. Marketing Bill.

The attack on the Government in the Commons on the Vote of Censure was felt to be but a somewhat half- hearted affair. It was based on the demand for a stabilized price for cereals by means of a quota and tariff. Under the leadership of Lord Hartington (who has held only a minor position in the Conservative hierarchy, as Mr. Lloyd George, promptly pointed out) the front bench remained inactive. The Protectionists seemed to resent this, and Mr. Lloyd George declared .bluntly that a minor member of the Conservative Party had been chosen to move the censure so that he should not commit the party as a whole to food taxes and could be repudiated if necessary. Mr. Lloyd George wanted to know whether the Conservatives meant to give the Dominions a quota, and, if so, would Dominion wheat be bought at the world price or at the guaranteed English price. What would that price be ?

Mr. Tom Johnston, the Lord Privy Seal, in, reply to the attack, talked of all that had been done for marketing British produce and was interrupted by Mr. James de Rothschild with this query : Had not the . Empire Marketing Board. in the case of. Lancashire. :first . largely driven out English butter in favour of New Zealand, and then, by mass canvassing, replaced New Zealand by Irish Free State butter ; and then by mass canvassing replaced Irish by. English ? Presumably it was now the turn for the Dominion butter to replace the British and so on again round the circle.

The Lords amendment of the Electoral Reform Bill is likely to present us with a pretty crop of questions : how far the Labour Party will resent the exercise of revisionary powers by the Lords : how far the Govern- ment should bargain and dicker with the House of Lords ; ,whether it would not be better for the Labour Party to drop the whole. Bill, and how far its operation is likely to affect the future relations of the Labour and Liberal Parties. The Labour Party was never enamoured of this Bill, and always felt-that it would give more to the Liberals than Labour gets, and on the .whole the Lords' amendments tilt the balance still more against the Labour Party. This, coming on top of the fact that the Left Wing has now virtually left the Labour Party, does not make things easier for the Government.