HL Deb 18 December 1908 vol 198 cc2178-80

My Lords, I understand that it will be convenient to your Lordships if those Bills are taken which we have at this moment before us in print. Owing to the period of the session a certain amount of delay has, I understand, taken place in the printing, with the result that the Coal Mines Bill, as amended, is not yet in your Lordships' possession. I therefore think it would be convenient if we proceed with the other Orders and take the Coal Mines Bill as soon as it is possible to do so.


May I ask your Lordships' attention for a moment to the extraordinary position in which we are placed. The proceedings of this House terminated before nine o'clock last night, and the printing might have been done for this morning's sitting long before noon. My experience of another place is that it is constantly done there. We might have had the Coal Mines Bill two or three hours ago if the printers had done their duty. The question I should like to ask is, whose business it is to attend to these matters in your Lordships' House, and why the printers cannot be compelled either to give up the task of printing for this House or to deliver Bills at the proper time.


I need hardly tell your Lordships that the control of the Government over the printing from day to day depends more on the general practice and rule of the House than on the initiative of the Government with regard to particular Bills. Having had the same experience as the noble Viscount in the House of Commons, and knowing the great and admirable rapidity with which the printers in the other House, especially at the end of the session, deliver printed matter at very short notice, I quite appreciate and understand what has just fallen from the noble Viscount. I am sure I can say that my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is unavoidably absent at this moment, will make it his object to do what he can to obtain a remedy for such delays as have occurred, which are equally as inconvenient to His Majesty's Government as they are to noble Lords opposite.


My Lords, at times I have had a suspicion that the difficulty in the printing in connection with this House arises from differences in the printing contracts of the two Houses between the printers and the Treasury. I am not certain that I am right, so I put it tentatively. My belief is that the Treasury do not care to spend quite as much on the printing in this House as they spend on the printing in the other House, which has more control over the Treasury than we have. If the noble Lord conducts his inquiries in that direction, he will, I think, find some useful information.


Although undoubtedly the Government are responsible for everything which entails public expenditure, immediate responsibility in this matter rests not so much with the Government as with what is generally known as the authorities of the House. But I am sure I can, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, promise that the matter shall receive attention.