HL Deb 16 August 1917 vol 26 cc522-3

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House whether he can make a statement similar to that made in another place with regard to setting up a Second Chamber Conference?


My Lords, I was about to take the opportunity of making a statement to your Lordships' House for which the noble Lord has asked. Steps are bung taken to constitute the Conference with as much rapidity as possible. The statement has also appeared in the public Press, and has been seen by your Lordships no doubt, that Lord Bryce has consented to act as chairman. The authority of Lord Bryce as a constitutional authority and jurist is, as your Lordships know well, second to none in the British Empire, or, I may say, in the world, and I feel certain that your Lordships will ratify with satisfaction his selection as chairman. It is contemplated that the Conference, following the lines of the Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform, shall consist of thirty members, fifteen to be chosen from either House of Parliament. I should have been glad to announce in this House, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been in the House of Commons, the full composition of the Conference had it been completed, but the invitations are in course of being issued and replies have not yet been received from many quarters. The terms of reference are as follows:—To inquire and report, firstly, as to the nature and limitations of the legislative powers to be exercised by the reformed Second Chamber; secondly, as to the best mode of adjusting differences between the two Houses of Parliament; thirdly, as to the changes which are desirable in order that the Second Chamber may in future be so constituted as to exercise fairly the functions appropriate to a Second Chamber. I hope that the Conference when fully constituted, as it will be before long, will be able to take up its labours immediately after the Parliamentary recess.


Will this House have any opportunity of indicating its feelings with regard to the names to be suggested to serve on the Conference?


I hardly think that that is a usual practice or that the opportunity is likely to occur when Parliament has separated. It seems to me unlikely that the replies from the whole of these thirty gentlemen will be received before Parliament rises next week, and I am rather at a loss, therefore, to understand, even if the matter were not, as I believe, contrary to precedent, what opportunity would present itself. But I hope I can reassure the noble Viscount by saying to him that, so far as this House is concerned, I believe that the list of noble Lords who are being asked to serve, and who, I hope, will serve—a matter in which I have taken the greatest personal interest—will be one which will be thoroughly satisfactory to himself and to all sections of your Lordships' House.