HL Deb 21 July 1910 vol 6 cc377-9

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.— (Earl Carrington.)


My Lords, before your Lordships lose control of this Bill altogether, 1 should like, with your Lordships' permission, to make a short reference to what occurred during the passage of the Bill through Committee while was occupying the Chair. An Amendment was moved, and upon that Amendment privilege was pleaded as a bar to this House entertaining the Amendment. In the first instance, I should like, quite briefly, to recall the facts. The Amendment proposed was in the second clause, and was the substitution of the one word "November" for the word "September," thereby increasing by two months the length of time given to applicants or claimants for compensation in which to prefer their claims. There are, of course, questions on the merits as to whether that extension of time should be given. Into that aspect of the matter I do not propose to enter, or upon it to say a single word.

But the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture, who is in charge of the Bill, met this proposal to increase the time by two months, not by any argument on the merits, but by a simple statement that it would be a breach of privilege. I venture to say that that placed the Committee in rather a difficult position, because if this House accepts, even upon the word of a. Cabinet Minister, that a certain Amendment is a breach of privilege, the House or the Committee may thereby be afterwards committed to the abandonment of its privilege without knowing what it is doing. That does not seem to me a safe position for this House to take. I am perfectly certain that if any member of the Government or any member of this House thinks that a course proposed by a noble Lord is a breach of privilege, he is not only within his duty but is almost bound to point out to the House his opinion. But it is not only reasonable and courteous, but absolutely necessary, that the grounds on which the statement that a particular proposal is a breach of privilege is made should be put before the House; for this reason, that each House is the guardian of its own privileges. Supposing we make an Amendment in a Bill here and it goes down to another place and the authority there says that that particular Amendment is a breach of privilege, that is conclusive so far as the other House of Parliament is concerned. We may accept it or not, or record our opinion. But it is impossible for us to express any intelligent opinion as to whether an Amendment is or is not a breach of privilege until we know the reasons upon which that statement is founded.

It is difficult for me, I am bound to say, to see how this Amendment can possibly be regarded as a breach of privilege. I listened to the arguments while I was in the Chair; and the point which seems to me to be conclusive against its being a breach of privilege is this, that the Amendment does not give one single individual who had not a right to make a claim under the Bill as it formerly stood any right to make a claim. It cannot, therefore, be said with any justice that it places any extra charge on the Exchequer. If a man fails to make a claim by September 1, as the Bill stood he loses his right; but the extension of the time does not give to a single individual who had no right up to September 1 any right to make a claim up to November 1. I think the argument of the Lord Chief Justice on that was conclusive. The request which I want to make to those in authority here or else- where is this. If, as seems to be foreshadowed, a claim is made elsewhere that this is a breach of privilege, I hope that when that comes up it will be accompanied by a distinct and concrete statement as to wherein consists the breach of privilege of which this House is supposed to be guilty.


My Lords: I hope your Lordships will excuse me from entering into a Homeric contest with my noble friend as to what is or what is not a breach of privilege, or what. is safe or what is unsafe for your Lordships to do. Your Lordships are the guardians of your own honour, and in your Lordships' hands that honour may well be left. I therefore hope my noble friend will excuse me from following him with regard to that. I submit very respectfully that it is not my duty in any way to raise a question of privilege; still less is it my duty to state grounds upon which such a question may be raised in another place. I believe that the question is absolutely certain to be raised in the House of Commons in this instance. I may be wrong, but I did think that I would be wanting in courtesy to your Lordships had I not stated my belief when the Amendment was moved by Lord Dunmore.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.