§ Order of the Day read for the consideration of the Commons Amendments.
§ Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.— (The Lord Chancellor.)
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I suppose it is no use making an appeal to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to give us more time, because I know that arrangements have been made to agree to these Amendments and to get the Royal Assent to the Bill to-day: but I think such a course is extremely unjust and unfair to the House. We parted with this Bill about six weeks ago. The Second Reading was taken in the House of Commons so long ago as April 17; the Committee stage was on April 24; and the Report and Third Reading were taken two or three days ago. I think we should have been given more time. The Amendments which the noble and learned Lord will have to explain are very important. I shall not go into them on the merits, but I must say that it is very hard upon this House that those of us who have interests in Scotland in connection with this matter have had absolutely no time to communicate with those interested in this Bill, and it has been quite impossible for those who are interested there to communicate with us. Consequently I think it is unfair to this House to proceed with the matter to-day.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD FINLAY)
My Lords, I would point out to my noble friend that this Bill was sent down to the House of Commons on March 2. Then came the Easter recess. The Second Reading was taken in the House of Commons on April 17, the Committee stage on April 24, and the Report and Third Read- 928 ing on April 30. There has been an abundance of time for correspondence with Scotland with regard to any particulars in connection with this Bill. It was perfectly well known what the Commons were doing and to what Amendments the Government had assented in the other House. In these circumstances I hope that my noble friend will see, as the matter is extremely urgent, the desirability of leaving the Bill to be dealt with as proposed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord tells us that the matter is very urgent, far be it from me, of course, to contradict him; but the proceedings in the Commons do not look like it. The matter was not urgently pressed forward in that House. Weeks were allowed to elapse. The House of Commons was allowed to rise for the Easter recess without the Bill being passed into law. Nobody thought that this was improper; but when it comes back to this House, then the matter must be settled in twenty-four hours. I cannot understand that kind of urgency—an urgency which exists only at this end of the corridor and not at the other. An urgency which is one of place and not of time appears to me to be a very strange form of urgency. If my noble friend Lord Balfour, who has paid special attention to this subject and who knows that it interests his friends in Scotland, desires more time to consider the Amendments to this Bill which have come from the Commons, I must say that I think he is entitled to have it. If the Bill had been rushed through the Commons in, say, a week, and sent back to your Lordships' House, one could have understood it; but in the circumstances of the case I think we might respectfully ask for a little more explanation from the Government before we allow the Bill to proceed.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
With your Lordships' permission I might say that it was proposed to take the Bill yesterday, but it was postponed until to-day at the request of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh in order to give him more time. With regard to the delay in the House of Commons, the noble Marquess will recollect that it was only on March 20 that the Bill was sent down to that House.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes; but it was desirable that the question of making the Bill retrospective should be considered. That question has been considered, and the result will be seen. In the circumstances I hope that Lord Balfour of Burleigh will recognise that we have endeavoured to meet him as far as possible, and that nothing will be gained by taking further time for inquiries which might have been made while the Bill was in the Commons.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I can speak again only by the indulgence of the House. The noble and learned Lord is not absolutely accurate in saying that the postponement until to-day was made at my request. I requested that the Bill should not be taken yesterday, which thought was a scandal in the circumstances; but my appeal was really for a longer time and not until to-day. However understand that the Government are determined to go on to-day; therefore it must be so. If will not take the responsibility of making it impossible now to consider the Commons Amendments, but I shall say something upon their merits when they are moved.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.