HL Deb 19 March 1919 vol 33 cc818-20

Your Lordships are aware that the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Bill is down for its Committee stage tomorrow. I want to suggest—I make no final proposal to the House at the present stage—that the Report and Third Reading, be taken on Friday next. It depends, of course, somewhat upon the nature of the Amendments made, if any; and if they are substantial Amendments it may be necessary to revise that proposal. But should we finish the Committee stage tomorrow and the remaining stages on the following day, the House of Lords will have occupied exactly the same time as the House of Commons found it necessary to devote to this Bill. I hope, however, that all stages-will, if possible, be concluded during the present week In that case, if any Amendments were made here the House of Commons would take them on Monday afternoon, and either return the Bill to us or accept the Lords Amendments, in which; case the Royal Assent could be given on Tuesday. Tuesday is Lady Day, and on, the general ground I understand it is de sirable that the Bill should receive the Royal Assent by then. I would also remind your Lordships that on Tuesday there is the debate, which I expect will be of very marked interest and importance, about finance, on which a number of noble Lords have given notice that they desire to speak. That makes a further reason for our finishing this Bill before that date, if possible.


My Lords, I only have to say, in reference to what has fallen from the noble Earl, that it is, of course, quite impossible to foresee what the course of events will be tomorrow. That must depend upon the wishes of your Lordships, and the result of the discussion. But I would most earnestly deprecate the idea that legislation of this kind ought to be hurried through. The noble Earl has said that the House of Commons took only four days about it. It is not our practice to criticise the conduct of members of another place, and I know of none of the circumstances in which that course of action was adopted. All I know is the intricacy of the Bill upon your Lordships' Table, and I know that it cannot be dealt with hurriedly. It raises very intricate points which involve the livelihood of hundreds of people. Is it really to be said, because the Government have as usual run things much too fine, that certain people are not to enjoy the occupation of their houses which they would have enjoyed but for this unfortunate occurrence. It really is an incredible way of managing business. Your Lordships' House is here in order to see that good Bills are passed, and we must give proper time to them.

The noble Earl has said that it is very important that the Bill should be got through by Lady Day. I do not myself believe there is any very great importance in that. No doubt it is the end of the quarter, when certain notices of termination of tenancy mature. But in the event of legislation actually impending no magistrate would enforce ejectment notices. Therefore the difficulty is largely technical; and on the other side stands the convenience of numbers of poor persons. I am certain that if it turns out that we cannot pass legislation properly except by a reasonable delay between Committee and the Report stage, the noble Earl would be the first to advise your Lordships to postpone the Report stage for a brief period. It may be, of course, that when we come to discuss it to-morrow, it will be possible to finish the Bill on Friday. If it is, so much the better. If it is not, I venture to hope that the noble Earl and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will use their great influence with their colleagues, in order to see that legislation passed in this House in time of peace is proper legislation properly considered.


My Lords, I will not enter into a discussion as to whether we can with propriety describe ourselves as enjoying a time of peace, but I am in complete agreement with the noble Marquees when he says that the proper time for decision is not to-night but tomorrow. I believe he underrates the difficulties of postponing the decision of this House in regard to this Bill; and I think he gives inadequate weight to the fact that a new House of Commons, fresh from contact with the constituencies and knowing intimately their wishes—and if not knowing them, reminded of them by every post—is not likely to have shown any undue acceleration in handling this measure or any excessive inattentiveness to their wishes. It is, of course, true that we must give the utmost time that is reasonably available, laving regard to the difficulties of the case. Let us to-morrow by all means approach these subjects and see what. demands they make on your Lordships' time, and, when we have appreciated their seriousness and difficulty, how far a longer postponement is really necessary.