§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I beg to make the Motion standing in my name—viz.: That the Committee stage of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Bill, if not previously disposed of, have precedence over other Bills and Notices to-morrow. Before the Motion is put, may I be permitted to say a word upon the course of business. Our present scheme, as your Lordships know, is that the Committee stage of the Education Bill should be proceeded with to-day. I hope that we shall conclude that stage in the course of the evening. Then to-morrow, under the terms of the Motion which I am just making, the Status of Aliens Bill has priority. I hope that we shall get that to-morrow. I hope, indeed, that we shall get it before dinner to-morrow, but that must depend to some extent upon the number of Amendments on the Paper. It may be necessary, indeed I think it will be necessary, to have a sitting on Saturday morning, either to complete the stage of the Education Bill which we are taking to-day in Committee, if we do not complete it this evening, or to complete the Committee stage of the Status of Aliens Bill, if we do not get that to-morrow; or, in any case, to take the Bills which were down upon the Paper with priority for to-morrow but which were displaced in order to give precedence to the Status of Aliens Bill. I am sorry to impose upon your Lordships anything so inconvenient as a Saturday sitting, but I think the inconvenience is likely to be less on this occasion than would follow in ordinary circumstances because I understand that a number of your Lordships, who take great interest in the proceedings of the House, are likely to be in London over the week-end for the purpose of attending the ceremony in St. Margaret's Church on Sunday. I should hope that on Saturday we may meet at 11 o'clock—I am in the hands of the House as to the hour of meeting—but I suggest that if we must sit on Saturday we should meet at 11 o'clock with a view to getting through the business by 2 o'clock. In this way I should hope to get through the business down on the Paper by the end of the week, and not be it arrears when we commence again on Monday next. I beg to move.
May I ask whether, assuming we finish the Aliens Bill by dinner-time to-morrow, and do not finish the Committee stage of the Education Bill to-day, we could go on with the Committee stage of the Education Bill to-morrow after dinner?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope my noble friend has taken the usual steps to ascertain the wishes of unofficial Peers with respect to a Saturday sitting. It was only a few minutes ago that I became aware that such an intention was in the mind of His Majesty's Government. It may be, as my noble friend has suggested, that the fact that on Sunday there is a special reason why a large number of Peers should be in London may make it convenient for them to attend here on Saturday, but if not then I think that there will be a considerable feeling of reluctance to sit on Saturday—reluctance which may be overcome, but which must be faced. I cannot, of course, accept the view which my noble friend puts forward, and which the Leader of any Government in this House always puts forward, that the reason for the congestion of business at the end of the session is in the nature of things and is not the fault of anybody. That is not the view which we take, and although your Lordships are always most anxious to co-operate with the Government in the furtherance of public business, we are very reluctant to lend ourselves to a system under which we are quite aware that we practically do not perform any function at all. I do not wish to bandy the ordinary remarks which are made about this time of the year, for I am sure your Lordships are tired of hearing them, and speaking for myself I am very tired of saying them, but I do think it must be understood that if the Government's business gets into a mess about the end of July and the beginning of August it is the fault of the Government and not of this House; and even if the session had to be prolonged a day or two, that might be necessary if the Government cannot get out of the hole into which they have got in any other way. I do not want to speak for any of your Lordships, for I have had no opportunity of conferring with anybody as to the Saturday sitting, but I should not like my noble friend's statement to go by without making some observation to show the point of view from which we unofficial members regard a proposal of this kind.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I do not know that my noble friend's remarks really call for anything in the nature of a reply. He has expressed what one may call the traditional Opposition Bench point of view, with which we are perfectly familiar at this time of the session. It is always the Government who have got things into a mess—it is never anybody else's fault—and they have to get out of the position into winch they have fallen owing to their incapable discharge or management of business. I, however, hope that the difficulties of which my noble friend has spoken will not arise. Noble Lords will recognise, I think, that in the management of business I have endeavoured to meet in every way their convenience, and nobody regrets more than myself the collapse of our proceedings on Tuesday, when very valuable time was lost owing to the failure of the House to proceed with the discussion on India, raised by Lord Sydenham. I cannot, if I may be allowed to say so, accept the remark of the noble Marquess that the House of Lords at this stage of the session is not performing any function at all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If I said that, I was wrong. I did not mean to say that. I meant that a hasty sitting on Saturday would not be likely to give the House the best opportunity of performing its functions.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I was so reluctant that the sitting should be hasty that I gave notice of it this afternoon. Of course, the best way will be, if possible, to get through our business to-day and on Friday; and if that is not possible, then I am sure your Lordships will be ready to submit to the inconvenience of sitting for a few hours on Saturday. In the interval no doubt I shall have an opportunity of hearing the views of noble Lords.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.