HL Deb 12 April 1910 vol 5 cc637-40

My Lords, will your Lordships allow me, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, who is confined to his house with a slight cold, to put a question of some importance to His Majesty's Government. It has reference to the course of procedure as to what are called the Veto Resolutions which have been under discussion for some time in another place. That discussion is, naturally enough, of some interest to your Lordships; and we should like, as the time seems to be getting close, to be taken, to this extent at any rate, into the confidence of His Majesty's Government that they should inform us when these important matters are to be submitted to us for discussion. I should like to add a further question. In what shape are these Resolutions—which we understand are to be finally disposed of by the House of Commons on Thursday—to be submitted to your Lordships' House? Are they to be similar Resolutions to those of which we have heard through the usual channels, similar, that is, to those now under discussion in the House of Commons; and, further, when is it the intention of His Majesty's Government that these matters shall be considered by this House? For example, does the noble Earl propose that we shall deal with them before the Spring Recess, which has been for so long a time promised to us? I should like to ask also whether there is to be a Bill accompanying the Resolutions. There was some indication—I am not sure whether an indication on the part of His Majesty's Government or merely the subject of a rumour outside—that the Resolutions in the House of Commons would lead up to a Bill. Will the Bill be printed at once? Will it be introduced into Parliament, and, if so, might I ask in which House it is likely to be introduced? If it is not introduced in your Lordships House, will it at any rate be available for your Lordships to see what are the detailed intentions of His Majesty's Government with reference to these important matters? And if the Bill is not to be introduced into this House and not to be put in hand, when is it to be in our hands, and when are we to have the full mind of His Majesty's Government as to the constitutional position of your Lordships' House? I think your Lordships will feel that it is not too early very respectfully to put these questions as to procedure to the Government, considering how vitally interested your Lordships' House is in the answers which His Majesty's Government might give.


My Lords, I must first say for myself, and on behalf of my noble friends behind me, that we greatly regret the reason which prevents the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition from being in his place to put these questions. But as the questions have been put by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, I will endeavour to answer them as best I can, although unfortunately I am not in possession of all the data which would enable me to give a full answer as to the future course of business. The Resolutions of which the noble Marquess spoke should reach their conclusion in the House of Commons in the course of the present week, and it is proposed in another place, as I understand, to proceed next week with the Finance Bill. Clearly it would be possible for us, therefore, to proceed at once with the discussion here of those Resolutions; but I am obliged in turn to put a question to the noble Marquess and his friends opposite, because I do not know what in their view would be a proper interval before the discussion should proceed. We are naturally anxious that no undue delay should take place in the discussion of this supremely important question; but at the same time, of course, we recognise that noble Lords opposite are not only entitled to an opinion as to what delay, in their judgment, should intervene before the Resolutions are taken here, but they are also in a position at any rate to a great extent, to enforce their opinion. Perhaps I might say that I think it would be generally agreed by noble Lords opposite that it would be desirable that the Finance Bill should not be delayed longer than can be helped, and that it certainly would be desirable—I gather that from the speeches which noble Lords have made on the subject of finance during the current session—that the Finance Bill should be passed into law before there is any question of adjournment for the Spring Recess. But there are various other questions involved. I do not know what is the opinion of noble Lords opposite and of the majority of the House as to the time when it would be desirable to proceed with the discussion of the further Resolutions of my noble friend Lord Rosebery, who is not in his place to-day; and in those circumstances it is difficult for me to suggest any date for the discussion of the House of Commons Resolutions. I may say this, that we propose to introduce to your Lordships' House the same Resolutions as are now passing through discussion in another place. My right hon. friend the Prime Minister has stated that they will in due course, be followed by a Bill, and that there will be no undue delay in the production of that Bill; but I am not in a position to tell noble Lords opposite the precise date on which that Bill will be laid on the Table. I am afraid that is all the information which I am able to give, and I am conscious that I have been rather asking for information than giving it, because, to some extent, without the data which I have mentioned, particularly with reference to the discussion of my noble friend's Resolutions, it is exceedingly difficult to indicate the date upon which the Government Resolutions should be put down in this House. I do not know whether it is possible without some consultation, particularly in the absence of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, for noble Lords opposite to give any information on the points which I have mentioned; but if they are not able to do so now, perhaps in the course of the present week they may be able to arrive at some matured opinion as to what they think the course of business should be.


My Lords, it is really difficult for anybody on this side of the House particularly in the absence of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, to make a definite reply to the questions of the noble Earl. In the first place he is anxious to know what will be done in regard to the further Resolutions of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Lord Rosebery. I am afraid he must ask the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. I am not able to give any information on that point. I understand that the noble Earl himself is going to introduce Resolutions in your Lordships' House similar to those which by that time will have been passed through the other place, and that they are to be followed by a Bill; but the noble Earl did not tell us whether the Bill is to be introduced in the first instance in this House or in another place. I think that is an important consideration which your Lordships ought to have in your minds before you come to any decision as to the course which you ought to take. With respect to the interval of time which should take place before the discussion after the Resolutions have been placed on the Table of your Lordships' House, I think that is a matter which we should like to consider when we have the Resolutions definitely before us.