HL Deb 09 March 1915 vol 18 cc636-40

I understand that it is necessary to keep the House this evening for the reception of a Bill or Bills coming up from another place, and therefore a certain number of noble Lords will remain for that purpose. Consequently I do not now move the adjournment of the House, but the House will adjourn during pleasure.


May I make an inquiry as to the business of the House? From what I have heard in private, it is proposed to adjourn for the Easter holiday on Friday next. I understand that, amongst other important measures, two Bills amending the Defence of the Realm Act are coming up to your Lordships' House immediately. Is it proposed to rush these very important measures through in the course of one sitting? As far as I am concerned I should be glad were it in my power to remedy some of the mischief due to the action of my noble friend Lord Parmoor, but it is perfectly obvious that if these Bills are going to be rushed through in the course of a sitting it will be impossible for me or any one else to move any Amendments with regard to them. I should like to ask whether there is any necessity for adjourning this week? Can any one give a reason why, so far as this House is concerned, we should not sit next week or the week after?

No one rising to reply to LORD NEWTON,

THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said: My Lords, is not the noble Marquess going to give an answer to the question just addressed to him? He mentioned that several Bills are coming up from the House of Commons to-night. What are those Bills? It is quite possible that we may be asked to-morrow to read several Bills. There is at the present time before the House Lord Parmoor's Bill to amend the Defence of the Realm Act. The question of that Bill was left over, the Government proposing in the meantime to introduce a Bill on their own account. I do not know actually whether the discussion on the Government's Bill is finished in the House of Commons. Well, there is that Bill and I do not know how many others. On the Government's Bill there will very likely be a good deal of discussion. I say that because Lord Parmoor's Bill gave rise to a long debate in this House which was adjourned in order that the Government might introduce a Bill to take its place. I hope that we shall be told what is the course of business that we are expected to perform during these next two or three days.


My Lords, I understand that the Bill of principal importance which will come up to your Lordships' House this evening is the Defence of the Realm (Amendment) Bill, which deals generally with the subject with which we are already familiar through the kindred Bill of the noble and learned Lord opposite, Lord Parmoor. It was certainly hoped that the discussion which that Bill may receive to-morrow would have been sufficient to enable the House to rise at the conclusion of the discussion. It must be remembered that the main point of difference which arose with regard to the treatment of particular persons accused of offences against the State received no little discussion in the House when the matter was first raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Loreburn, and at a later period on the introduction of Lord Parmoor's Bill. It has therefore been believed that one afternoon would in the circumstances be sufficient for the discussion of a measure of that kind, and I think that the period up to the dinner hour to-morrow will be found to exhaust all that noble Lords on either side of the House have to say on the particular subject, which, although one of considerable importance, does not in itself cover a great deal of ground. The other Bills which I understand are expected from the House of Commons—I do not know whether they will all arrive this evening or not—are minor measures not of a character likely to cause much discussion, Bills rather of the same character as some of those which we passed rapidly through this House last autumn. I have here the names of the Naval Marriages Bill, an Admiralty Bill, the Naval Discipline Bill, the Irish Police (Naval and Military Service) Bill, the Consolidated Fund Bill, a Bill relating to the Insurance Commission, and the Customs (War Powers) Bill. I do not think it is likely that any of those measures will occupy a great deal of our time. We are not, as noble Lords have quite truly pointed out, in any sense dependent on the proceedings in another place for our period of session, as we have already shown at the early part of the year when we occupied ourselves for several days in debates when no sitting was taking place in the other House. But I think it will be found when these measures are seen that the House as a whole will not desire to prolong the sittings before the adjournment. We shall, however, be able to judge of that better about this hour tomorrow.


My Lords, we shall of course be quite ready to listen to any argument which the noble Marquess may bring forward in favour of expediting the progress of these Bills, but he must not take us as agreeing this evening to an arrangement under which the whole of the seventeen Bills included in the list placed in our hands are to be rushed through in the course of a single sitting. These Bills in some cases are comparatively unimportant; some of them may not perhaps be unimportant but may be very urgent, and in such cases we shall be disposed to give war to the plea for expedition. But I may remind the noble Marquess that some days ago, when there was a question of putting down on the Paper a Motion for suspending the Standing Orders for the rest of this week, I ventured to intimate to him that the House of Lords had no desire to terminate its business before the end of the present week, and that we were quite ready to sit next week for the consideration of any Bills of winch we had not been able to dispose. I cannot help thinking that some of the Bills which are now on their way to us are Bills which we might perfectly well discuss not this week but next week. I take, for example, the Bill for the amendment of the Defence of the Realm Act. The noble Marquess told us that we were already familiar with the subject because it had been dealt with by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, and by my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor. But the discussions which then took place, if I remember rightly, revealed a considerable difference of opinion on some extremely important points; and since then the House of Commons has taken, I think, four evenings to discuss the Bill, and the debates have been extremely interesting and have raised some points which I can only describe as points of first-rate importance. I think that it would be very hard on this House if we were to be denied an opportunity of suggesting Amendments in any respects which seem to us necessary. I will not say more at present, but I did not like to allow the noble Marquess to leave the House under the impression that the whole of these Bills were to be but through in the course of one sitting to-morrow.


My Lords, I quite understand that the noble Marquess cannot bind himself to pass sub silentio, or anything approaching to it, measures he has not seen. Therefore I understand that he cannot until to-morrow give an opinion on the subject as to whether or not it would be wise to pass these measures through the House. To us who sit on this Bench it is a matter of complete indifference, as to our personal convenience, whether this House sits the whole of next week. The only people so far as I know who are likely to be inconvenienced by prolonged sittings on our part are certain members of the House of Commons, particularly Mr. Speaker, who is called upon to attend when the Royal Assent is given. But so far as we are concerned, we are willing to sit day and night as long as the noble Marquess pleases.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed by the Lord COLEBROOKE.