HL Deb 12 November 1918 vol 31 cc1179-84

My Lords, I rise to move that Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for the remainder of the session. It is hoped that the Prorogation of Parliament may take place during next week, and it is probably for the convenience of both Houses that it should be possible to expedite business during the closing days of the session.

The actual business before this House is not very extended. The four principal Bills are the Scottish Education Bill, the Tithe Bill, the Petroleum (Production) Bill, and the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. As regards the Petroleum Bill, I think it unlikely that your Lordships will spend very much more time upon that subject. The Scottish Education Bill, which has already passed through its Committee stage, will no doubt demand further discussion and possibly amendment; but not very much time, I think, is likely to be occupied upon it. As regards the Tithe Bill, I am told that there may be a certain amount of discussion and possibly amendment, but that nothing very serious in the nature of change is expected. The measure which I presented to your Lordships yesterday, dealing with the superannuation of teachers, a complex and highly technical subject, very likely may require some amendment at your Lordships' hands. Under these conditions it would probably be a convenience if the Government are entitled, by the suspension of this Standing Order, to take more than one stage of a Bill during a single sitting. If these Bills are amended and have to return to the other House, it may be very difficult to conclude the business satisfactorily and without waste of time if only one stage can be taken at one evening.

Apart from the four Bills that I have mentioned, there are two Motions of importance of which notice has been given—one relating to the Food Ministry, and the other (standing in Lord Selborne's name) relating to the conferring of honours. Two other Bills will be considered also by your Lordships. One is the Divorce Bill, which is down for discussion this afternoon. I do not forecast the future of that Bill, but I imagine it to be unlikely that it will be passed during the present session. I do not know what the noble and learned Lord (Lord Buckmaster) expects, but I feel that the Bill is not likely to go much beyond its Second Reading during this session. The last Bill which I need mention to your Lordships is the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Bill, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Islington, who will present the Bill for a Second Reading to your Lordships this afternoon. I submit that it will be probably a convenience to both Houses of Parliament, and certainly to your Lordships House, if leave be given to take more than one stage of a Bill on a particular day. I therefore beg leave to make the Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for the remainder of the session.—(The Earl of Crawford.)


My Lords, the noble Earl has given us certain information as to what the Government desire to do with regard to the Bills and the Motions on the Paper, and I assume that he has done this with the view of bringing the session to a more rapid conclusion than might otherwise have been possible. I did not understand him to foreshadow any date by which he thought this House might terminate its sittings. Perhaps he will be able to give us some information upon that. The noble Earl referred to a number of Bills, and also to two Motions of importance, one of these latter standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Strachie, and the other in the name of Lord Selborne.

But there is a third Motion before the House, which is apparently of very little interest to the noble Earl. It is a Motion standing in my name, put down for November 27, relating to the supply of horses in this country. I do not know whether the noble Earl attaches importance to that subject or not, but it is certain that a vast number of people regard the satisfactory condition of the breeding of horses in this country as an asset of great national value. I do not think I need say anything more in proof of that statement than to point to the extraordinary victories which were gained by our Cavalry in the East under General Allenby, which have filled the whole world with admiration at their prowess. I hope I am not out of order in saying that when I have the opportunity of submitting this Motion I shall be able to show to the House, and I hope to the country, that the present condition of the breeding of light horses is something which it would be no exaggeration to call disastrous. This is a subject to which I have devoted a great deal of attention, and I assure the House that what I am saying is true, and that I can prove it to be true whenever I have the opportunity of doing so. I had no intention of speaking to-night, but when I heard the statement of the noble Earl I thought it right to ask for some further explanation, and also whether the noble Earl can give us any idea of the time for which he is preparing by the Motion he has just submitted to the House.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl one question? I am not anticipating that the Separation and Divorce Bill will get a Second Reading. But supposing it does; surely a Bill of that kind, which is not a Government Bill, ought not to have the opportunity of being pushed forward in its subsequent stages without the ordinary facilities for discussion. Therefore I would ask the noble Earl whether he intends to include a Bill of that kind when he moves the suspension of Standing Order No: XXXIX. If necessary, I shall move an Amendment that this Bill be not included. But I do not know whether the noble Earl would include a private Bill.


The only intention of this Motion is that it should be employed for means of indispensable Government business and for such other Bills as are introduced by unofficial Peers and may meet with the approval of the House. If, as I gather from my noble and learned friend, the Divorce Bill is somewhat contentious, I think Lord Buckmaster will forgive me for saying that in that case, should the Motion be carried, his Bill will not receive facilities under it.


I think the noble Earl has most accurately and rightly diagnosed the situation. If there is any general feeling that the matter should be proceeded with, to that general feeling the House would give way; but if, on the other hand, the House were against proceeding with the Bill, I should bow to its decision.


I am obliged to my noble and learned friend. I hope that Lord Chaplin does not think that I do not recognise the importance of light horse breeding. Far from it. I fully appreciate, not only the importance, but the urgency of the subject. I did not, to tell the truth, refer to all the Motions on the Paper. There are other very important Motons—namely, one in the name of Lord Burnham relating to the Censorship, and another in the name of Lord Crewe, relating to the selection of justices. I am afraid I cannot give specific information as to the date of the Prorogation, beyond what I have stated—namely, that it is hoped during the course of next week that it may be possible to prorogue both Houses.


May I suggest that it would be wiser for the House to put some limit of time. We do not know what the limit of the end of the session really means. It may mean next month, for all we know. Surely it would be wiser to say "for this day's sitting," and see whether to-morrow it is necessary to renew the Motion.


If your Lordships desire that, I will do it. But I think it would be rather inconvenient for the House not to know until the Papers are received in the morning whether the Government are going to suspend the Standing Order or not. It makes it impossible for us to forecast the order of business for more than one day in advance. It is indefinite, and I think must be indefinite, and I do not believe there is any serious objection on the part of your Lordships, not knowing the exact date upon which Parliament will be prorogued. To the best of my knowledge it will be during the course of next week, and I submit that with Parliament probably going to be prorogued within the next five, six, or seven Parliamentary days, it is not asking too much to ask that the Standing Order be suspended for that period.


I can only speak again with the indulgence of the House. My point is that I do not like making a new precedent in a matter of this kind. I do not think there is a precedent for suspending the Standing Order for the remainder of the session when the date of the Prorogation is practically unknown.


I feel that it is important that we should not extend these precedents. I am not going to make the same speech again, but I think it is dangerous to extend precedents. These things are growing every day, and it seems that my noble friend Lord Balfour thinks that it is not the practice to move this particular Resolution as a general Resolution, except when the Prorogation is absolutely fixed. I do not think—my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong—that this Resolution has ever before been moved, except in respect of Government business; that other Bills should be pushed through without their proper consideration would certainly be a new departure. Both those matters are before my noble friend, and I should have thought that the easiest way would have been this. Let him move the Resolution for to-night only, and then we can be quite sure to-morrow what the exact precedents are. If he then likes to move a general Resolution, after consideration of the precedents, I think he will find that the House will co-operate with him in every way to get business through.


If that is your Lordships' desire, I will limit my Motion to this day's sitting, on the understanding, which I assume from Lord Salisbury's statement, that if I am correct in thinking that this Motion has precedents in its favour, I shall be allowed to move it to-morrow and be assured of your Lordships' assent to it.


So far as I am concerned, yes.


Then I beg to make the Motion in the amended form.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for this day's sitting.—(The Earl of Crawford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.