§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I do not propose to ask the House to proceed with the consideration of this Bill to-day. As many of your Lordships will be aware from the statement made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last week, negotiations are proceeding in connection with this question. But in asking leave to postpone the Second Reading of the Bill to-day I would take the opportunity of pressing most strongly on His Majesty's Government that this delay, which has already been of considerable magnitude, should not be much further extended. Not only in this House but outside considerable anxiety is felt as to what is to happen. We have placed our proposals in the Bill which I have had the honour to lay on the Table of your Lordships' House, and we are anxious to know what view the Government take. I can quite understand that the Government may want a little further time in which to consider the question, but in view of the urgency of the case and the fact that it is possible that Parliament may rise at no distant date for a considerable recess it is important that we should have a decision on this subject as soon as possible. I hope that the noble Earl opposite will be able to give the House some information on the point.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Duke for consenting to postpone the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. As he I am sure realises, this is a question upon which a great many people hold very strong feelings, and it concerns a subject which has been during the past a matter of acute controversy. In these circumstances it will be quite evident to the noble Duke, as it will be to every member of your Lordships' House, that it is difficult to come to any conclusion on the subject without considerable thought, without very great care, and without consulting all the various interests which are involved in the settlement of the question. In spite of that, His Majesty's Government are anxious that there should be no unnecessary delay in connection with a matter of such importance as this, and I can assure the noble Duke that we shall lose no more time than we can help before coming to a final conclusion on the matter. But I am quite sure the House will realise that at a time like this it is impossible to give undivided attention to a matter of this kind, however important, and we are obliged to ask for some latitude from those who are interested in this question before we are able to make any announcement on the subject. There are, as I have said, so many considerations involved and so many people who ought to be consulted that I hope the noble Duke will not think that our request for delay is, in the circumstances, unreasonable.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
My Lords, I should like to point out that delay in this matter adds very greatly to the embarrassment of Churchmen in Wales, who have a very difficult work to face. The Bill is being postponed at the request of the Government, and I trust that no undue delay will occur, and that His Majesty's Ministers will be able to give their answer within a few days.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, considering the immense importance of the subject we all feel that the noble Earl who spoke for the Government is within his rights when he suggests that he and his colleagues should not be unduly pressed to give us a full statement of their opinions; but I desire, if I may, to support what has been said by the noble Duke behind me, and to express a hope that we may at an early date be made aware of the 598 decision arrived at. The noble Earl knows that we were able, I think a week ago or more, to put him in possession of certain suggestions which we thought well to make, and those, no doubt, have been considered. May I ask the noble Earl whether he can give us an approximate idea of the date by which my noble friend would be justified in putting his Bill down again?
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I would rather not be tied down to any date; but if the noble Marquess will allow me, I will communicate with him on the subject.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
With the noble Earl's permission, I will put the Bill down again for Tuesday next.
§ Second Reading put off to Tuesday next.