§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
My Lords, before the Order of the Day for the Third Reading is read, I rise to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that this Bill, which has originated in this House, is undoubtedly a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, in as much as it contemplates a charge on the rates and is therefore financial in its character. If your Lordships read it a third time to-day and send it down to the other House, the fact that it is a breach of their privileges would be notified to the Commons by Mr. Speaker, and then, the question of privilege arising, the Bill would be laid aside. If, on the other hand, your Lordships rejected it because it was a breach of the privileges of the other House, it would prevent a Bill on the same subject—and I understand there are two such Bills now before the House of Commons—from being passed through your Lordships' House this session. What I would suggest to Lord Monkswell, who is in charge of the Bill, is that, in order to avoid this risk, he should either postpone its further progress until a Bill of the same character introduced in the House of Commons comes up to your Lordships, or that he should now move the adjournment of the debate on the Third Reading. By the adoption of either of these courses the risk of imperilling this Bill, for which I personally intend to vote, will be avoided.
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack for the kindly way 497 in which he has treated me in the matter of this Bill, and I should be very glad to take his advice if there was not, in my opinion, another method of procedure. My attention had been called to the fact that this Bill would probably—I do not say undoubtedly—be considered a breach of the privileges of the other House, and the way in which I propose to deal with it, subject, of course, to anything the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack may say, is by the insertion of a privileged Amendment at the end of the Bill to this effect—Provided that no charge is thereby imposed on the rates.In this I am following precisely the same course that was adopted by His Majesty's Government in the matter of the Education Bill. The noble and learned Earl will no doubt remember that on that occasion a right rev. Prelate moved an Amendment to increase the grants to the voluntary schools—an Amendment which deliberately set aside the judgment of the House of Commons, which had expressed the opinion that this particular money should not go to the voluntary schools. On the question of privilege, it was a very strong thing indeed for your Lordships' House to carry an Amendment of that kind, which was known to be absolutely contrary to the vote of a large majority in the other House. What did the Government do on that occasion? The Duke of Norfolk moved an Amendment to insert at the end of the clause—But this obligation on the local education authority shall throw no additional charge on any public fund.Of course, that was not intended to be a serious Amendment. Nobody took it to be such, and Sir William Harcourt, in the House of Commons, described it as a nonsensical Amendment. But, nonsensical or not, it prevailed for its purpose, and the House of Commons not only did not regard the right rev. Prelate's Amendment as a breach of privilege, but they absolutely adopted your Lordships' view by a large majority, and passed the provision—a purely financial provision—as altered in your Lordships' House. The Amendment which was then moved by the Duke of Norfolk was not on the Paper of your Lordships' House, 498 but was submitted at the last moment without notice. When objection was taken on that occasion by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition on the ground that a Third Reading Amendment ought to have been on the Paper, the noble and learned Earl the Lord Chancellor said—This Amendment does not really and cannot in itself affect the clause, but it allows the question to be discussed in the House of Commons.then the noble Earl went on to say—But for this Amendment, the Amendment already inserted might be rejected without discussion at all. In that way I think the Amendment of the Duke of Norfolk does not come within the ordinary rule about Third Reading Amendments, because it is one of those which we almost always put in at the end of every Bill when the question of finance arises.If His Majesty's Government should come to the conclusion that they were wrong in supporting the Duke of Norfolk's Amendment, and that in point of fact we did commit a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, I should not demur to the view of the Government, and if they consider that the difficulty which the Lord Chancellor has suggested stands in the way of this Bill cannot be cured by a privileged Amendment, then I shall no doubt think it best, in the interests of the Bill, to withdraw it or adjourn the debate.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I would point out to the noble Lord that the two cases are entirely different. This Bill deals with rates which have been voted for one definite purpose, and if you were to strike out that which deals with rates you would strike out the whole Bill.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I do not wish to enter at any length into this argument, which is an extremely difficult one, but I would venture to point out that we really have nothing at this moment before the House. I should suggest that when the Third Reading is called on, my noble friend should move the adjournment of the debate. We could then consider more fully the whole position.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.499
§ Moved, That the debate stand adjourned.—(Lord Monkswell.)
§ On Question. Motion agreed to.