§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The MARQUESS of SALISBURY)
This Bill comes before your Lordships for Second Reading under somewhat unusual circumstances. It has been the result of careful deliberation, and I may say of a compromise among all the various schools of opinion in the House of Commons, and I have no ground for believing that if it was considered at greater length in this House anybody would be disposed to disturb a settlement which provides a satisfactory arrangement of a difficult controversy, and provides the means for forwarding a movement in which the people of this country take great interest. I should feel bound to apologize to your Lordships for the speed with which we propose to go in dealing with this Bill if the House was more largely composed, and if there were a larger number of noble Lords on the Benches opposite than I now see there. But Her Majesty's Government to so great an extent constitute the House at this moment that I feel that there would be an absurdity in saying that we have not had sufficient time to consider this Bill. Of course, if any noble Lords felt any great interest in it I have no doubt they would be in their places to state their objections; but as they are not, and as we are all agreed in the desirability of technical education, and as by mutual consultation and much Debate we have taken the greatest possible care to avoid all possible objections and to reconcile all divergent opinions upon the subject, I think I may, without any danger of taking a rash step, propose that your Lordships should assent to the Bill to-day.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)821
The Earl of MORLEY
I do not for a moment wish—I should be sorry to be thought to wish—to obstruct useful legislation by insisting on a rigid adherence to the Rules of the House. Towards the end of a Session those Rules are always largely relaxed, especially with regard to Money Bills. I do think, however, that I should be lacking in duty if I did not make some remarks as to the course proposed to be taken in reference to this Bill. The noble Marquess rightly observed that the composition of the House at this time does not lend itself to any protracted Debate; but, at the same time, here is a Bill dealing with a subject of great interest to many noble Lords and others out-of-doors. Yet we are asked to assent to a Bill, passed by the House of Commons late last night, practically without notice, even without the Bill being in our hands, being passed through all its stages at one sitting. As I said before, I do not for a moment wish to stand in the way of legislation which the noble Marquess says has been agreed upon; but I do venture, humbly but firmly, to protest against a course of procedure which, I believe, is wholly unprecedented in a case of this kind, and which seems to be of very doubtful augury for the future. If the Bill is urgent, then surely it ought to have been introduced at an earlier period of the Session; if it is not urgent, then it ought not to be pressed through the House at the unseemly rate at which it is now being urged forward by the Government. I think it would be using mild language to say that it is treating the House with very scant courtesy; I would almost rather say that it is reducing legislation at the end of a Session to little more than a farce. I know nothing of the merits of the Bill—I hope that it is a useful one; but it is one which has been rapidly passed through the House of Commons, and I do not think the noble Lords opposite themselves can have any idea whether it does or does not contain errors of detail which it would be desirable to amend. As the House of Commons has adjourned until the hour for Prorogation, it is practically impossible to introduce any Amendments into the Bill, and therefore all that I can do is to protest in the strongest 822 manner against the course of procedure which has been adopted.
said, there had been no opportunity whatever of considering this Bill. He did not believe anyone had read it—indeed, he thought it was not yet printed. He urged that the House should adjourn to a later period of the year, when this Bill and the two Bills which he referred to yesterday might receive the attention which they merited. There was precedent for such a course. In 1668, the 20th of Charles II., the House was adjourned "in consideration of there being very few Lords in town." That was a reason which certainly existed at the present time. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. As there were not 30 Peers present the result of going to a Division would be that the Bill would have to be taken the next day. This Bill was on the Minutes with the name of the Lord President of the Council, and it contained a clause disrespectful to the Church of England. He recollected that when a question as to the Privy Council was before the House of Commons, the noble Viscount (then Mr Gathorne-Hardy) agreed to Bishops being only assessors on questions as to the Church. He had protested against that Bill, and his Protest was entered on the Journals of the House. If this Bill were delayed, the clause objected to might be omitted. He believed that on this occasion he should find a Teller, and he would rejoice if that was the result.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out the word "now," and add at the end of the Motion "this day six months."—(The Lord Denman.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I may say in answer to my noble Friend at the Table that it is in his power, by becoming Teller to the noble Lord who has just sat down, to defer this Bill altogether, which will be something more than the mere protest which he told us he wished to make. I will, however, try to console his conscience in giving way to us, if he intends to do so, by reminding him that this Bill differs by only an imperceptible line from an ordinary Money Bill. The first clause runs thus— 823A local authority may from time to time out of the local rate supply or aid the supply of technical or manual instruction, to such extent and on such terms as the authority think expedient,subject to certain restrictions. I do not for a moment say that it is a Money Bill in the sense that the custom of Parliament would not sanction your Lordships' altering it. Undoubtedly, that is not true. But that is the enacting portion of the Bill; all the rest is merely the limitation of that one proposition. It is therefore as close to a Money Bill as it can be without being a Money Bill. It differs only that it undoubtedly does sanction a certain policy, and your Lordships have always claimed and insisted that where a Money Bill sanctioned a policy, your rights to deal with it were the same as in regard to any other Bill. But the policy is one upon which, I apprehend, everybody is agreed. I have never heard any difference of opinion upon the subject. The Bill therefore divides itself into two parts; it sanctions a policy, and it provides the money machinery for carrying out that policy. The policy is one in which we are all agreed; the money machinery is a matter with which habitually this House does not interfere. I do not think, therefore, that the strain upon our ordinary practice is so great as the noble Lord represents. However, as I have before indicated, the remedy is in his own hands.
I do not think the noble Marquess is quite accurate in thinking that all shades of opinion are agreed about this Bill, for I have been asked to move one or two Amendments in regard to representation on the Boards and in regard to the audit. That, however, is impossible; and I have only to say that, as it is impossible to move those Amendments, I cordially endorse what was said by my noble Friend at the Table, and I regret the rapidity with which it has been found necessary to pass this Bill through the House.
§ On Question, resolved in the negative.
§ Then original Motion agreed to, and Bill read 2a accordingly.
§ LORD DENMAN moved that the House do now adjourn till Monday next. He 824 considered that the haste with which important measures were passed really reduced that House to a very low position. If his present Motion were carried their Lordships would be able to give attention to the details of the Bill now before the House, and also to the Women's Suffrage Bill. As to the latter, he had done his best for very many years to advance it, and it had received favourable notice from the present Lord Chancellor, from the late Lord Iddesleigh, and other noble Lords. He felt so strongly upon this matter that if he could secure a Teller he would divide the House, and as there were not 30 Peers present, the adjournment would then in any event have to be made.
§ Moved, "That this House do now adjourn till Monday next."—(The Lord Denman.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am afraid it would not be convenient to the Members of the two Houses of Parliament if the House of Lords adjourned till Monday. The House of Commons has already practically adjourned; the Prorogation is fixed for to-morrow; and I do not think that sufficient advantage would be obtained to compensate for the inconvenience to which a great many persons at the end of a long and laborious Session would be subjected.
§ On question, resolved in the negative: Then (Standing Orders Nos. XXXIX. and XLV. having been dispensed with) Committee negatived; Bill read 3a, and passed.