§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
I beg to move that the Lords Amendments to the Small Holdings Bill be now considered.
I accept these Amendments with considerable regret, but in view of the position of the Session and the fear that if we do not accept the Amendments it might seriously jeopardise the Bill, we accept them in the interests of the agricultural community, though we do not agree with them.
§ Mr. BYLES
I think a voice ought to be raised in disagreeing with the Amendments of the House of Lords, which I have not been able to see. It is a critical moment at which to accept an Amendment of this kind, which has already been considered by the House, I understand, and sent back to another place. I remember the concessions which were made by Mr. Forster on the Education Act of 1870, which led to the smothering of the country with new voluntary schools which the Act was intended gradually to absorb. I am afraid this extension of time will lead to an enormous number of claims being put in and the object of the Act will be defeated. I feel that the self-respect of the House of Commons is challenged if we send back an acquiescent message to the House of Lords. The relations between the Houses are now sub judice. It has been suggested that the restoration of this Amendment by the Lords constitutes a breach of what is called the truce. I cannot help feeling that it prejudices the whole working of the 2711 Conference, for which we are all standing aside, if we allow this to go forward. The question which is being settled behind the curtain is whether the will of the Commons is to prevail. If we give way on this Amendment, we are giving away on that principle. Exactly three months ago the whole of this question was before the country. It was left to the people to decide, a strong conflict was threatening, and a General Election was expected.
§ Mr. E. H. CARLILE
Is the hon. Member in order in discussing the whole question of the relations between the two Houses on the Motion now before the House?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The only point that we have to discuss is whether the word "November" should be substituted for "September." It is not a big peg for the hon. Member to hang a great oration upon.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That really has nothing to do with the question of alteration of the date which is now proposed.
§ Mr. BYLES
I am strongly of opinion that this House should do nothing to prejudice the work which is going on, and which we know nothing about. I will say nothing to interfere with the blessed work of conciliation, but to acquiesce in this Amendment would be to imperil the work which we believe to be going on, and, therefore, I think the House having once refused the Amendment, should not now accept it.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
I think the House ought to understand the actual position in which it is at present. The Board of Agriculture, when this Bill first came up, distinctly stated that further time ought to be given for these claims, and this Amendment only extends the time from 30th September till 1st November. There is no great constitutional question, and I hope the Government will agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not know whether the hon. Member (Mr. Byles) intends to take the matter to a vote or not. If he has pacific intentions, which he generally has, 2712 he has not been much helped by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I rise to join in the protest against the treatment of this House by the House of Lords, and I should like to say a word about a question of privilege. The Amendment involves public expenditure, and it is a strange thing that it should have got so far. I should like to protest as a Member of the House of Commons against the Lords putting an Amendment through which means an additional expenditure of public money. I should like to say a word on the Bill in its character of an agreed Bill, and I want to make a protest as one of a section of the House which knows nothing at all about any agreement.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member would not be entitled to discuss any question of agreement. The motion now is that the Lords Amendment be considered.
§ Mr. BARNES
I will leave that point, and treat the matter in another way. I wish to raise a protest against the Lords introducing Amendments of this sort at the eleventh hour, or what may be said to be the twelfth hour. This is not the time to make any alteration, and I should like to remind the House that this is quite in accord with their action upon another Bill. I cannot help thinking that there may be an ulterior motive behind it. Hon. Members will remember in regard to the Old Age Pensions Bill that an Amendment involving additional expenditure was proposed on the other side, and the result of it would have been to wreck the Bill. I take it that the Lords have now got us in the position that if we do not accept the Amendment they will know that the Bill will be lost. That would be very regrettable. I understand that the Lords are not sitting after this day, and therefore, unless we accept the Amendment the Bill will be lost. I feel inclined to go into the Lobby with my hon. Friend (Mr. Byles) if he goes to a division, but the result might be that the Bill would be lost, and the Lords and their friends would go up and down the country saying that they were in favour of giving the tenant farmers a great deal more than the Government were willing to give them. I am between two difficulties, and if I yield to my fighting instinct I will oppose the Amendment. I know there are many who attach considerable importance to this Bill. I believe it has been a long fight to get the Opposition side to assent to the principle of compensation for disturbance, and therefore I am in a quandary 2713 what to do, but on the whole, as a matter of principle, and following the line of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, I am inclined to take all the chances and vote against the Lords Amendment.
§ Captain JESSEL
On a point of Order. May I ask whether if this Amendment is not agreed to before half-past twelve, it cannot be considered?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We expect that the House will be summoned to the Lords at half-past twelve to hear the Royal Assent given to certain Bills, and if at that hour the House has not assented to the Lords Amendment, this Bill will not be included, and, of course, the Royal Assent cannot be given to this Bill. Therefore the Bill will be killed.
§ Question, "That the Lords Amendment be considered," put, and agreed to.