§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I now ask your Lordships to pass the Welsh Church (Postponement) Bill. Having already explained its provisions, I will not detain the House further at the present time. I have two copies of the Bill which I will lay on the Table, in addition to which I think various noble Lords have been supplied with copies.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a.(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ On Question, Bill read 1a, and to be printed.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended),
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I wish to ask the noble Earl a question, because I am sure he will agree that the Last thing we want is any misunderstanding about this Bill. I think that the noble Marquess who leads the House made it 634 quite clear that we who take a different view about Welsh Church Disestablishment from what he does would be free at any time after the end of the war to express our opinion outside this or the other House of Parliament, and that if a General Election were to take place we should be at liberty to advocate our views as regards the repeal or amendment of the Welsh Church Act. But we do pledge ourselves—we on the Front Benches—so far as we can influence those who agree with us, that until six months after the end of the war, until in fact the new date of Disestablishment, we will not be parties to any effort in Parliament to amend or repeal the Act; but after that period we regain our full liberty, and, if we saw right to do so, we should be able to do all in our power to obtain either the repeal or the amendment of the Act.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I want to raise rather a different question. I suppose it will be the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But is it really proposed to pass this Bill, which very few of us have even seen, through all its stages at one sitting to-night? It may be necessary. I am rather disposed to believe that, after the prolonged negotiations which have apparently been going on, it would be a mistake to oppose the procedure. We live, no doubt, in unprecedented times. But look at the position in which this House is placed. I do not imagine that many of us knew when we came down to the House this evening that such a Bill as this was to be proposed. I do not suppose many of us have seen it. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill put down two copies of it on the other side of this somewhat broad Table out of reach of us on this side of the House. Therefore we are not in possession of what is contained in the Bill, and if I were able to reach a copy I should not be able to understand it in the short time at our disposal. I hope that something will be said on the part of the Lord Chancellor or some one who is a guardian of the privileges of this House to the effect that this is not to be regarded as a precedent in the way of conducting legislation. I should be the last person to wish to interfere with an arrangement on a matter of this kind. I am not thinking for the moment of the merits of the arrangement. But I am a little surprised that this course should be taken having regard to the privileges of your Lordships' House.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, with regard to the question which was addressed to me by the noble Earl who spoke first on the Motion for Second Reading, I have very little to add to what was said by my noble friend who leads this House. I think that the interpretation which the noble Earl gave to what was said by my noble friend was entirely accurate. As to the remonstrance addressed to your Lordships by the noble Lord above the Gangway (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) I say frankly that I dare say on a future occasion if a similar course were proposed I should be found objecting very strongly to it. I confess that it is not an ideal arrangement. But we are not living in times in which we can consider ideal arrangements, and I can only plead, in answer to the noble Lord, that we on this side of the House are not entirely masters of the procedure in your Lordships' House. It is impossible for us to take any step of this kind without having the approval of noble Lords opposite. If we can gain that approval in these circumstances, I hope the noble Lord will not disapprove of the procedure, unprecedented as it may be.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think it is due to the noble Earl who has just addressed the House that I should say that the course he has taken was due to a remark of mine that in my opinion no time should be lost in putting this Bill on the Statute Book. It is of the utmost importance that it should become law as soon as possible; and as we understand it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to adjourn the House of Commons to-morrow, it is quite clear that we must either pass the Bill through all its stages now or wait possibly five weeks. Of the two courses I must say that I prefer the former.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Is the Bill to be passed through all its stages to-morrow night in another place?
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ Committee negatived: Bill read 3a and passed, and sent to the Commons. (No. 42.)