HL Deb 05 February 1918 vol 28 cc389-92

My Lords, inasmuch as none of us has any idea when the Representation of the People Bill will leave the House of Commons and come back to your Lordships' House, although no doubt it will be some time in the course of the evening, I think it would be unfair to ask your Lordships now to remain in session with a view to taking the later stages any time to-day. At the same time, I am convinced that all your Lordships will be anxious to proceed with the further stages of the measure with as little delay as possible; and there being no judicial business of this House to-morrow, I venture to recommend to your Lordships that you should meet at twelve o'clock midday for that purpose.


My Lords, we are always very grateful to the noble Earl for the consideration which he gives us, and I can assure him that there is no desire on our part to delay business. But I am afraid it would not be very convenient to many noble Lords to sit as early as twelve o'clock. I would earnestly represent to him that a rather later hour than that should be fixed. It is quite right to say that it would be very strange indeed to have asked your Lordships to consider the Bill again this evening, without having the opportunity of seeing what course the House of Commons have, in their discretion, thought it right to take with regard to our Amendments. But the noble Earl will realise that we shall not know that for certain until to-morrow morning, and there must be certain. consultations among ourselves in order to determine what course we ought to pursue. In these circumstances I think the noble Earl will see that twelve o'clock is unduly early for the meeting of the House, and I earnestly hope he will reconsider the hour of meeting.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl who leads the House whether he has made himself acquainted with the expectation of the other House as to our proceedings; because I understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in opening the proceedings there to-day, suggested to the House of Commons that it should remain sitting late in order to receive back from this House any observations or alterations that we wish to make regarding their Amendments.


My Lords, the noble Viscount is quite correct in what he has said, and I do not think that what had passed in another place was known to the noble Marquess when he spoke just now. It is true that the Leader of that House stated at the commencement of the proceedings this afternoon that it was likely that this House would remain in session in order to take the Amendments that might come back from another place later in the day. That remark of his, which was the result of a general discussion that took place this morning, was based upon the hypothesis that the measure would leave the House of Commons in sufficient time to enable your Lordships, after a short suspension of business, to proceed with the measure. But inasmuch as no news has come to me during the last few minutes of the progress of events in another place, I thought it well, in the interests of the convenience of your Lordships' House, to ignore the undertaking given by the Leader of the House in another place. But in these circumstances surely I am not asking too much of your Lordships, not placing any undue pressure either upon your time or convenience, in suggesting that, with a view to carrying this matter to the final stages, you should meet as early as twelve o'clock to-morrow. The noble Marquess quite truly said that he and his, friends will want to consult together as to the course they wish to pursue; but really there are others, myself and other members of the Government, who are also rather busy people. We shall be cognisant of what has passed in the other place only at the same time, and we shall have to consult as to what we shall do. I think we ought to be in a position to meet your Lordships at twelve o'clock tomorrow. Unless any noble Lords can give me stronger reasons than have yet been urged, I must ask your Lordships to saddle yourselves with the slight inconvenience of meeting at that hour.


The noble Earl has asked for instances in which it may be inconvenient to noble Lords to meet as early as twelve o'clock. There are a good many of us who are on military duty in London or in the neighbourhood who might find it impossible to leave their military duties until the afternoon. Therefore we would welcome the idea of an afternoon sitting to-morrow if it could possibly be arranged.


My Lords, I must respectfully protest against the idea of meeting to-morrow morning. We are as desirous as my noble friend opposite that this matter should be considered with perfect calmness and impartiality by both sides, but I submit that to ask us to meet here at twelve o'clock is not reasonable. There will be plenty of time in the afternoon, after lunch, to dispose of this matter. It is really impossible for those of us who have many engagements, or who have to come up from the country, or who, as my noble and gallant friend said, have military duties, to give our attention to this matter so as to be ready to meet your Lordships at twelve o'clock.


One of the difficulties of your Lordships' House is the well-known one of ascertaining the views of noble Lords in general, a principle to which I desire as far as possible to conform. The noble Earl said that it was inconvenient to many noble Lords to meet in the morning. It was the afternoon I was suggesting; but that is a small point. It is represented to me that it may be more convenient to your Lordships if the meeting takes place after lunch. May I suggest two o'clock? That will give all of us ample time in which to consider the matter; and if your Lordships agree, I will move that the House do adjourn until that hour.


We are very much obliged to the noble Earl.


Hear, hear. Agreed.


I move that the House do adjourn until two o'clock to-morrow.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past five o'clock.