HL Deb 10 April 1919 vol 34 cc251-4

My Lords, I venture to ask my noble friend the Leader of the House a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether he can now tell your Lordships what business he proposes to submit to us for the remainder of these sittings; when he proposes that your Lordships' House should adjourn for the Easter recess and for how long? I should like to ask, if I may—and this is really a matter of great importance—whether he could tell us what business is likely to be taken during the first few days on the reassembling of the House after the holidays.


I will endeavour to give my noble friend the information for which he asks. First, as regards the measures which we shall ask your Lordships to deal with before we separate for the Easter recess, it is essential that the Naval, Military, and Air Force Service Bill, already before the House; the Army (Annual) Bill, in the same position; and the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Bill should receive the Royal Assent before we adjourn. I hope that it may be possible to move the adjournment of your Lordships' House for the recess on Tuesday, April 15. That, of course, is dependent on what happens in another place. The House of Commons, I believe, hope to adjourn on that date. I share the hope; but if they are unable to do so and have to sit on Wednesday, there would be a sitting of your Lordships' House on the same day.

The third of the Bills to which I alluded—namely, the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Bill—will be read a first time in this House to-night; and the Bill being, for reasons which I could easily explain, one of urgent importance, I propose to ask your Lordships to suspend Standing Order No. XXXIX on Tuesday for the purpose of passing it into law. In that case it would not be necessary to meet on Monday next, April 14. As regards the other Bills that will come up to this House before we adjourn, I hope to get from your Lordships the First Reading of the Ministry of Health Bill before the recess, and to take the Second Reading on Tuesday, April 29—the day of the re-assembling of both Houses of Parliament. There is also another small category of measures of which I hope to get the First Reading before we adjourn—namely, the War Charities (Scotland) Bill, the Education (Scotland) (Superannuation) Bill, the Scottish Board of Health Bill, and the City of London Police Bill.

The noble Marquess then asked as to the business to be taken after the Easter recess, and in the interval between Easter and Whitsuntide. I have already mentioned that the first business upon our return will, I hope, be the Second Reading of the Ministry of Health Bill, and this I trust will be followed in the period of which I am speaking by the Ministry of Ways and Communications Bill, which should reach us about three weeks after the House re-assembles, and the Aliens Restriction Bill. The Housing Bill, a measure of course of the first importance, which will take some time in another place, will probably not reach us before Whitsuntide. That will be the main item in the bill of fare after that date. I think I have given the noble Marquess the information for which he asked.


I am much obliged to my noble friend for his very full statement. I do not know, but I think it would be worth his consideration, whether the Ministry of Health Bill would not be better taken on the Thursday rather than the Tuesday after we reassemble. I think he will find, considering the importance of the Bill, that we are more likely to have a full attendance on the Thursday than on the Tuesday.

The only other matter which I would ask the noble Earl to reconsider is a very small one relatively, but important in principle, and that is his suggestion that the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Bill should be taken through in one day. I do not think there can be any such pressure of necessity for that Bill, to justify carrying it through in one day. It really, if I may say so, is a mistake to suspend the Standing Orders except for really urgent matters—at any rate, to suspend them to the extent of driving a Bill through in one day. For my own part I do not know that the Bill is really urgent. It would not be proper to discuss the character of the Bill. I can quite conceive that the case for justice under the Bill could be made out in a most overwhelming manner, but that it should be necessary to pass it very rapidly into law I do not understand. However that may be, I venture to think that it would be better to have a sitting on Monday rather than that your Lordships should be asked to pass the Bill through all its stages on Tuesday. If we sat on Monday we could take the Second Reading then and the other stages on Tuesday. Certainly so far as I am concerned, I could not be taken to consent to all the stages of the Bill being gone through on Tuesday, unless it is of a very urgent character.


My Lords, generally speaking I agree with the principle laid down by the noble Marquess, and I think he will bear me out in saying that I show no small reluctance in moving the suspension of the Standing Order unless I am compelled to do so. With reference to the Bill in question, he admits, from such knowledge as he has of the matter, the justice of the Bill, but the only question which he is concerned to dispute is the urgency.

The case presented to me by those responsible for the measure is this. The Bill arises out of these circumstances: There have been within quite a recent period several murderous attacks upon police in Ireland. Four have been assassinated; several others have been wounded; Mr. Milling, a resident magistrate at Westport, was shot dead; an active campaign of assassination propaganda is being secretly circulated throughout the country, and the police authorities have pressed upon His Majesty's Government the immediate and urgent necessity of the Bill. We sometimes hear rumours of very considerable unrest among the Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police Force, and it is not unnatural in the circumstances of the case, exposed to this sort of attack, that they look to Parliament to give that protection which Parliament alone can afford. These are the circumstances in which the Bill is brought before Parliament. The matter was before the Lord Lieutenant and the Executive Council in Dublin Castle a few days ago, and they strongly represented to His Majesty's Government the desirability, if possible, of passing the Bill into law before Parliament rises. That is the case for urgency, and I think your Lordships will agree that it is a sufficient one.

The rearrangement suggested by the noble Marquess is really a matter of-detail. Given the First Reading of the measure to-day, I should have thought—viewing the case that I have made out for urgency and the extreme unlikelihood that your Lordships would wish to devote any considerable time to discussion—that it was more for your Lordships' convenience to deal with the measure in a single day on Tuesday, with the chance, if another place does not rise on Tuesday, of having another day, rather than meeting on Monday. If, however, strong representation is made to me that that course does not meet with your Lordships' approval, and you desire to meet on Monday, I will reconsider the matter.


Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Earl that the scope of the Bill may not be quite as extended as members of the House may desire to see it. A great deal of pressure had to be exerted upon the Government from these benches in order to induce them to take up this question at all. The course proposed is really asking your Lordships to pass whatever measure is brought forward blindfold, because it is obvious that there can be no adequate consideration of the measure on Tuesday. It is for this reason that we wish to meet on Monday.


That will be a point which I will bear in mind in considering the suggestion with regard to meeting on Monday. I will, perhaps, make an announcement before the close of our proceedings.