§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I desire, with your Lordships' permission, to put a question to my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal. It has reference to the Petroleum Production Bill, which was down for Committee stage yesterday and was postponed on Monday. I need not tell your Lordships that that is a proceeding which, though it may have been right, necessarily involves a considerable amount of inconvenience. I know of cases of noble Lords who came up specially to London for the purpose of taking part in the consideration of the Petroleum Bill in Committee, and it was not until they opened their Paper on Tuesday morning that they were aware that the Bill had been postponed. I am sure that my noble friend and the Government will sympathise with the feeling of surprise, and to some extent of annoyance, which this occasioned, and I should like to ask my noble friend if he can tell us what was the reason for this postponement and what are the future prospects of the Bill. I am quite aware that Amendments were put down in the name of one, certainly, of my noble friends—there may have been more—just before. I think they were put down so that they appeared on the Paper on Monday; and this may be the reason for the postponement. But I do not think any blame attaches to my noble friends. The time between the Second Reading and the Committee stage was short, and it was not possible for them to consider their Amendments with the necessary care which is due to the respect they owe to your Lordships' House under the two or three days which were expended in that process. Therefore I do not think that would be a sufficient answer. But I am quite sure my noble friend will be able to enlighten the House upon this, and also as to the future prospects of the Bill.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The EARL of CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I greatly regret the inconvenience which was caused by the rather sudden postponement of this Bill. A certain number of Peers who were directly concerned in the discussions fortunately were informed, but I am sorry that others whom it was impossible to 886 notify at such short notice should have come here and found that the measure had been put off. I think my noble friend has explained in his remarks the cause of this action. The Duke of Northumberland had very little time to put his Amendments on the Paper, and he was only able to get them circulated to your Lordships on Monday last, and they were very important Amendments. The Ministry of Munitions—the Government, indeed—desire to give very careful consideration to those Amendments, and themselves found it impossible to do so yesterday. Accordingly the Bill was put off. It now stands on the Paper for Wednesday of next week, and that, I think, can be taken as the accepted date for the Committee stage. My noble friend assures me that he has every hope of being able to take the Bill in Committee stage effectively on Wednesday next. Beyond that, I am afraid I can give no further explanation.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Has the noble Earl considered, besides the points which were put by the Duke of Northumberland, the point as to research? That is tinder consideration, I take it?
§ House in Committee (according to Order): Bills reported without amendment.