HL Deb 23 July 1919 vol 35 cc927-8

My Lords, before public business commences I wish to make a brief statement to your Lordships arising out of something that passed in the debate of yesterday. I had not the good fortune myself to be present, or I should have corrected the misapprehension to which I am about to refer. The noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, in speaking upon the Bill [Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill] the Second Reading of which was moved by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, twice made a statement to the effect that His Majesty's Government had promised that "in the next session of Parliament" they would bring in a Bill to reconstruct this House, "or"—I am quoting his words—"as they express it, to create a new Second Chamber." "That promise," the noble Viscount went on to say, "will have to be fulfilled—the Government are so very scrupulous regarding their Election pledges—within the next twelve months." Again, later on in the afternoon, in an interruption, he used these words— I entirely intended to convey the opinion that I expected that the Government would carry out their promise and bring in a Bill dealing with the constitution of this House next session. In reply to that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that he was not himself conscious of any pledge of so specific a character, and that he was himself doubtful whether the noble Viscount was correct. I communicated with the noble Viscount this morning, and told him that it was my intention briefly to raise the matter this afternoon. I am sorry he could not be here. All I have to say is that so far as my knowledge—and I believe that of other members of the Government—extends no specific pledge of that sort has been given. I can recollect no occasion when, either in this or in the other House of Parliament., such a pledge has been made.


Which pledge?


The pledge that the Government will introduce a Bill dealing with the constitution of the House of Lords in the next session of Parliament, or, as the noble Viscount expresses it, within twelve months from now. This is a matter, of course, which the Government have the intention to deal with. It is part of the policy with which they went to the country. All I wish to say this afternoon is that the promise, by which, of course, we stand, is not of the specific character to which the noble Viscount alluded, and does not commit us to action—although conceivably we may take action—in the next session of Parliament.

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