HL Deb 21 July 1905 vol 149 cc1513-7

, who had the following Motion on the Paper—"To call attention to two Papers recently presented on the subject of Indian Army administration, and to move for further Papers," said: My Lords, after what took place last night in the House of Commons it seems to me that it is not advisable that I should bring forward a discussion of such importance to the interests of India as that which I had intended to submit to your Lordships, and I shall therefore not proceed with the Motion on this occasion, but will bring it forward on a future day as soon as I see an opportunity.


The noble Marquess, of course, is entitled to put down his Motion for any day that is convenient to him. At the same time I must say that I do not entirely follow the train of thought which leads him to believe that no useful discussion can take place in your Lordships' House on a matter of very great public interest because of events in the other House.


I shall not make any comment now on what the noble Marquess has said, but I propose to ask him a Question on the adjournment of the House.

Moved, "That this House do now adjourn."—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)


My Lords, I venture to ask the noble Marquess a Question of which I have given him private notice. I had intended to put the Question at half-past four, but the noble Marquess was detained elsewhere at that hour. I should have been content merely to ask the Question of which I had given notice—namely, whether the noble Marquess had anything to tell the House in regard to the position of the Government in consequence of the vote which took place in another place last night—but when Lord Ripon said that he should postpone the consideration of the important matter which he had intended to bring forward the noble Marquess rather implied that that vote last night had very little effect on your Lordships' House, and that this House could with advantage, discuss any important matter that might be brought before it. I venture to challenge the noble Marquess's contention; and I think that here I might claim the support of the noble Duke who gave notice earlier that he proposed to postpone the Motion of which he had given notice for Monday. That vote last night has made a very important difference in the position of His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether the noble Marquess can inform us what the Government is going to do: I am not going to press that question; but I would point out that the vote last night in another place was taken on a matter of great importance—in fact, upon the policy of His Majesty's Government in Ireland—and that the Government were defeated, not in a snap division, but somewhere about twelve o'clock, when a whip had been out, and all preparations for a division had been previously made. I do think that that is a very serious matter, and that it puts His Majesty's Government in a very serious position. Of course, we know that there are various alternatives. The noble Duke mentioned two, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that there was a third. I can hardly imagine what that can be.


The noble Earl is mistaken. I did not say there was another. I said that I did not agree that the alternative mentioned by the; noble Duke was the only alternative.


I think that the Government may be said to be in a semi-animate position at the present moment, until they have been reanimated and revivified by a vote, and have become again a Government with, I suppose, a majority in Parliament. I think that what I have said is sufficient to justify me in declaring that His Majesty's Government is not in that position of influence now which would enable them to give a decisive and important Answer to any Question which may be brought before them. That is the first Question I should like to ask the noble Marquess, and I should also like to know what business he proposes to the House for nest week.


My Lords, the noble Earl was good enough to say just now that he was going to ask me a Question of which he had given me private notice. He may have done so, but I have not received it.


. I am very sorry, but I sent a note to the noble Marquess's house, and I rather gathered from his gesticulation when he came in that he had received it. I sent it this morning.


I am glad to have cleared up the misunderstanding, but I have not received the note, although I was at my own house until nearly two o'clock this afternoon. The noble Earl's Question, as he called it, consisted in great measure of a disquisition upon the position in which your Lordships' House finds itself in consequence of an adverse vote in the other House of Parliament. My Lords, that is a question into which I am certainly not going to enter. I will only say in reference to what fell from me just now in answer to Lord Ripon that the only argument which I intended to use was that, so far as my apprehension went, there was no reason whatever why, on account of an adverse division in the House of Commons, the House of Lords should not discuss the extremely important question which the noble Marquess had put on the Notice Paper. I still for the life of me cannot sec any reason why the noble Marquess should not deliver his comments and we should not deliver our explanations, because the noble Marquess has not, after all, put down any notice of Motion on the Paper, but proposed merely to call attention to the correspondence.

Now, I should say that the whole of the noble Earl's proceeding was of the most irregular description. I have always understood that in this House, either under the Standing Orders or in accordance with well-established rules of business, we were not in the habit of commenting upon the proceedings in progress elsewhere, and the whole of the noble Earl's speech therefore seems to me to be of a somewhat unusual description. Then he asked me whether I can make any statement in regard to the course of business next week. If the noble Earl has been paying attention to these proceedings he must have seen that the Prime Minister has announced his intention of making a statement in the House of Commons next Monday.




The noble Earl has not seen that?


Oh, yes, yes, I beg pardon.


I was going to say that the noble Earl must have taken singularly little pains to make himself acquainted with the facts of the case. But that being so, the Prime Minister having announced to the House of Commons and the public that he will, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, on Monday next make a statement, a statement which obviously must be of a most important character, upon this subject, surely the noble Earl cannot expect me on the previous Friday to anticipate that statement by a premature account given by myself of the intentions of His Majesty's Government. I must respectfully—I shall never deal with the noble Earl otherwise than respectfully—I must respectfully decline to answer the Question which he has asked me.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at half-past Five o'clock to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.