HL Deb 03 August 1906 vol 162 cc1472-5

Order of the Day read for the consideration of the third Report from the Select Committee.

Moved, "That this Report be now received."—(The Earl of Onslow.)


My Lords, I would appeal to my noble friend to postpone the consideration of this Report until the autumn. The Report has not been circulated, and was agreed to, I understand, only yesterday afternoon. The meeting of the Committee for yesterday was called for half-past three, but notices were sent out in the forenoon changing the hour to three o'clock. I arrived at the Committee at a quarter past three and found the whole of the business concluded. There is involved in this the abandonment of certain rooms belonging to your Lordships' House which are handed over to the other House of Parliament. There are, also other questions involved, concerning the powers to be exercised by the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod respectively. I cannot see what harm would be done to the public interest by postponing the consideration of this Report until the autumn. I think it is hardly fair to the House to hurry the matter through before your Lordships have had an opportunity of seeing the Report. I may be told that if my suggestion is adopted several weeks may be lost in necessary works, but that is a trivial matter compared to the other issues involved. I trust my noble friend will accede to my request.


My Lords. I confess that there is a good deal of difficulty in the last days of a session owing to the fact that the printer is overworked, and it is not possible to get Bills and Reports expeditiously printed and circulated. There would be no reason whatever why the consideration of this matter should not be adjourned until the autumn were it not for the fact that it is desired that in the interval between August and October the structural alterations necessary should be carried out so that the accommodation might be available during the Autumn sittings.

There are certain rooms of your Lordships' House on the terrace level which are used by the messengers, and it is proposed that they should be given up and should be turned into a dining-room for the House of Commons, the messengers being lodged in a part of this building over the old librarian's house. The First Commissioner of Works has undertaken that if that is done he will make such structural alterations as will give a good access to some very fine rooms which are in existence above part of the old librarian's house, but which at the present time cannot be used by your Lordships for any purpose whatever. If that is done we may find that we shall be able to add another Committee room for the use of your Lordships. If my noble friend Lord Balfour is not satisfied with the explanation I have given I hope he will allow the matter to be adjourned until the conclusion of business to-day, by which time we shall have the Report in our hands.


I hope the noble Lord will consent to the course proposed by the Chairman of Committees. I have had some conversation with the First Commissioner of Works on the subject of these proposed changes, and it is really very desirable; in the interests of the comfort of the Members of both Houses, that the changes should be made in time for the autumn sittings. The extra accommodation which we shall have in the future will more than make up for the accommodation we are handing over to the House of Commons. The Committee were quite unanimous in recommending your Lordships to sanction this arrangement.


If the structural part of the Report could be separated from the rest I would be prepared to concur in the suggestion that has been made. I must, however, point out that in this Report your Lordships are asked to reverse a former decision about Black Rod. Formerly it was thought that certain powers could be transferred by the House to the Lord Great Chamberlain, but after full consideration the Committee have come to the conclusion that that was a mistake, and that there was no legal power in your Lordships to make such transfer Your Lordships are therefore asked by this Report to reverse your decision. I think it is rather strong to object to the adjournment of a Report which contains so important a point.


What my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has said has not removed my objection. I understand that we are not getting a single thing which does not belong to us. We merely get access to a room which is already in our possession, but into which we cannot get at present. I think we have given up a great deal too much, and that we ought not to give up any more of our extremely limited accommodation. I am afraid that the postponement of the consideration of the Report until the end of the business will not meet my wishes, but, after the appeal which has been made, I will not object to that course.


I think the discussion might well stand over until the other business before us has been transacted. I think it is very unfair to your Lordships that we should be called upon to discuss questions of this kind without any information whatever as to what is proposed. I am afraid there has been a tendency to deal with the question of accommodation within the precincts of the House of Lords with very little desire to consult our wishes or our convenience. As we are to reconsider the matter at the close of the business to-day I would venture to express the hope that, if there are any plans which show in a general way what the rearrangement involved is, those plans might be put up in the next room so that we may have an opportunity of looking at them meanwhile.


I will see that the suggestion of the noble Marquess is carried out. I would also be prepared, if noble Lords desire it, to separate the Report as suggested by the noble Viscount Lord Knutsford.


I would point out the extreme inconvenience of the course proposed. Noble Lords opposite ask us to agree to this Report without further consideration on the ground that it concerns a matter for the convenience of both Houses. But in the course of this discussion it has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Knutsford that we are asked to reverse a decision which has recently been come to by your Lordships' House. We were not informed of that fact, and if the business had been allowed to proceed without objection we should have actually reversed one of our decisions without knowing what we were doing. Does not this demonstrate the extreme inconvenience of asking the House to agree to a Report which we have never seen? I hope your Lordships will not allow this kind of procedure to grow up, but will insist upon the printer doing his work in time for these matters to be fully considered.

Debate (by Order) adjourned.