HL Deb 29 October 1918 vol 31 cc881-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Your Lordships may be interested to know that this is the same Bill as the one which passed your Lordships' House a few months ago, after a good deal of discussion, and was then sent to another place. In another place it unfortunately could not proceed because it infringed Borne technical regulation about proposals for the expenditure of money originating in this House, and it got no further; but the President of the Local Government Board gave a pledge that he would in this session re-introduce a Bill on the same subject, and would press it through the House. That has been done. The Bill was introduced in another place in the same form as that in which it left this House, and the united intelligence of another place was unable to make any improvement in the handiwork of your Lordships. The only change they did effect was to insert "January 1st" in the blank space which your Lordships left open for the date. In these circumstances I can hardly flatter myself that your Lordships would wish to hear from me another detailed speech upon the same subject. I therefore content myself with moving the Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Peel.)


My Lords, I need not tell your Lordships that I do not desire to delay the House in the consideration of this Bill, but I think it is right that I should call attention for a moment to what has happened in respect to it. This Bill was passed by your Lordships in the summer. It was then sent down to the House of Commons, and, as my noble friend has pointed out, the authorities there refused to allow it to be considered on the ground of breach of privilege.

The breach of privilege consisted, as I understand—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—in the fact that in the Bill as introduced in your Lordships' House certain clauses were inserted which dealt with money charges in an indirect and not, I believe, a direct way. I do not criticise, of course, the constitutional law of the authorities in another place, but as a matter of fact if the Bill had been printed with these clauses appearing in italics, I think I am correct in saying that there would have been no objection made. Your Lordships are aware that there is a procedure under which certain provisions in a Bill are printed in italics. Those provisions touch the privileges of another place, and they are treated in another place as though they did not exist, and are put in upon specific amendment there. But apart from the technicalities, the only difference between the Bill which is in order and the Bill which was out of order in the House of Commons is that these provisions did not originally appear in italics. Because of that slight forgetfulness on the part of the authorities of our House the House of Commons delayed this important Bill for three or four months. The Bill was thrown out, and it was not until the reassembly of Parliament that it could be reintroduced in the House of Commons in exactly the form in which we had sent it there in the first place. The only result is a certain delay.

I ask your Lordships to compare the treatment of this Bill with the treatment that we are called upon to give to Bills which come from the House of Commons. Then, in defiance of your Lordships, no time-honoured rules of your Lordships' House are allowed to stand in the way of rapid legislation. We are told—and with a certain amount of truth—that it i absurd to delay important reforms which are urgently required because of small technicalities. Being very reasonable men, if I may say so, your Lordships have waived your strict rules in order to pass urgent legislation. When the case s otherwise and we send a Bill to the House of Commons, then the last atom of privilege is insisted upon, and this absurd distinction as to whether clauses are printed in Roman type or in italics is seized upon to delay a Bill for three or four months. I should like to leave the matter there, merely pointing out how very insincere the professions of some people—not the Government—must be when such different treatment is meted out to Bills which come from the Commons to the Lords and Bills which go front the Lords to the Commons. I am grateful to His Majesty's Government for having reintroduced the Bill in the form in which it left your Lordships' House, and there is nothing we wish to do except to pass it into law as quickly as possible.


My Lords, on a former occasion I took it upon myself to protest here against what had happened in the other House, which caused for the time being the loss of this valuable Bill. I still retain the opinion that it was a preposterous thing which took place, and that the matter might perfectly well have been remedied then and there. But that not having been done, I congratulate the noble Viscount upon having got through as quickly as possible a Bill which no doubt your Lordships will now pass in exactly the words in which it has been presented.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.