HL Deb 13 December 1920 vol 39 cc23-8

My Lords, I beg to make the Motion which stands in my name upon the Paper—namely, that Standing Orders Nos. XXI and XXXIX be considered in order to their being suspended until the House adjourn for the recess, and that until that date Government business have precedence over other Notices and Orders of the Day. As your Lordships are aware, the suspension of the first of these Standing Orders—No. XXI—is necessary to give priority to Government business. The suspension of the second is required to enable the House, if it feels so disposed, to take Bills through their various stages at one sitting, but I need hardly say that this proposal is put before your Lordships solely with a view to considering your own convenience. It is not intended to make any arbitrary use of the power, if it be given to us, and, in the event of our having to take advantage of it, it will only be in consultation with and with the consent of the House as a whole.

Your Lordships may expect me to add a word or two as to the probable course of business during the remainder of this part of the session. We are this afternoon taking the Report stage of the Government of Ireland Bill. How soon that will be finished it is not for me to say, but I am hopeful that it will take no very great length of time. Anyhow, it is more than desirable—it is almost necessary—that we should get the Report stage and the Third Reading in the course of to-day and to-morrow; and your Lordships will easily see that it is for the convenience not only of another place but of both Houses of Parliament that that Bill should proceed across the corridor as soon as possible in order that both Houses may discharge their duty in reference to its remaining stages. We also hope to take to-morrow the Second Reading of the Ministry of Health (Miscellaneous Pro- visions) Bill. On Wednesday we will commence the Committee stage of the Agriculture Bill and continue it on Thursday, and, should it be found necessary to give another day to the Committee stage of that Bill, we would propose to continue it on Friday the 17th.

We are still hopeful, my Lords, although it does not rest with us, that it may be possible to get through all the business of the session before Christmas, and in that case we should, of course, prorogue just before that festival is reached. In the event of this being found impossible we would propose to adjourn on Thursday, December 23, until the following Tuesday, the 28th, our hope being that two or three days will then suffice to complete the business left before the Prorogation, which would then take place on Wednesday or Thursday, the 29th or 30th of December. However, as we all of us, whether we are on this Bench or in other parts of the House, wish to escape that contingency and to advance business as quickly as possible with a view to the Prorogation before Christmas, it may be found necessary, although I rather shrink from it, to ask your Lordships to sit on Saturday of this week, the 18th.

Now a word as to the Bills, most of them of a not very important or contentious character, which are still in another place and which must be passed before the end of the session. The Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Registrar-General (Scotland) Bill, the Gold and Silver (Export Control, etc.) Bill, and the British Empire Exhibition (Guarantee) Bill should reach your Lordships' House this afternoon. The Roads Bill should come up here to-morrow, Tuesday. There remain the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and the Dyestuffs Bill, both of which I hope will reach us before the end of the week, although it is perhaps more likely that the Dyestuffs Bill will not be completed in the House of Commons until Monday or Tuesday of next week. There may also be some Amendments to some of the Bills now in the Commons which have already passed your Lordships' House. For instance, the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Bill, the Official Secrets Bill, and the Juvenile Courts (Metropolis) Bill, but these should in any case be completed and sent back to this House before the end of the week. Then there will be the Appropriation Bill, which if not passed in the House of Commons on Monday or Tuesday of next week will have to be taken after Christmas. I understand that it is contemplated in another place to take the Amendments made by your Lordships to the Government of Ireland Bill on Thursday, and to the Agriculture Bill as soon as the Amendments are received from this House. I think, my Lords, in these few words I have covered the whole of the ground insofar as it is possible for me to do so this afternoon, and I will only conclude by inviting the co-operation of your Lordships in bringing the business of the session to an end, if possible, before Christmas Day.

Moved, That Standing Orders Nos. XXI. and XXXIX. be considered in order to their being suspended until the House adjourn for the recess, and that, until that date, Government business have precedence over other Notices and Orders of the Day.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)


My Lords, I have no opposition to offer to the Motion on the Paper, and I am much obliged to the noble Earl for having taken the House so fully into his confidence in this matter, and for his evident desire to work in concert with the House as a whole in circumstances which cannot be described as altogether convenient. I do not want to renew the yearly complaint which we make and which we all admit to be a well-founded complaint that at the end of the session, whatever Government is in power, your Lordships are asked to consider at very short notice and in inadequate time a number of measures of great importance. We have either ourselves repeated that complaint or have had it repeated to us during all the years I have been a member of your Lordships' House, and very often, twice a year, as the noble Marquess reminds me. Therefore I do not desire to dwell upon that except so far as it has a distinct bearing upon the proposition which the noble Earl has made.

I say at once that in my judgment there is no prospect of completing before Christmas the programme which the noble Earl has laid down. It think it is quite evident that the alternative which he suggests—that of an adjournment and of a resumption of business on some date after Christmas—will have to be taken. Whether the date suggested by the noble Earl for the purpose—that is to say, a meeting on the 26th of December—would he more convenient to the House than a somewhat longer adjournment and a meeting early in January, I cannot say; that is really a matter for the noble Earl to settle with the House according to the greater convenience of those most concerned. Personally I have no choice in the matter, and it must be for the noble Earl to decide.

But in view of all the business to be done this week and three days of next week, I think the noble Earl must agree that there is no chance, in particular, of concluding the Agriculture Bill within that period. That Bill was introduced very late in the year in another place, if I remember right some time in May. How or why it was deferred until that late date I have no means of knowing, but it was subjected to a long examination and to considerable change in another place, and it may be assumed I think, and it can be indeed concluded from the list of Amendments which your Lordships have already received, that it is going to be the subject of close examination here, and will probably be subjected to no small degree of amendment. If the Committee stage cannot be concluded until the end of this week the noble Earl may take it as certain that some matters are sure to be allowed to stand over for the Report stage and some decent interval will be required between those two stages. It seems to me impossible, therefore, that the necessary communications with another place can possibly be carried through so as to allow the Prorogation of Parliament to take place in the course of next week.

So far as the business for this week is concerned as foreshadowed by the noble Earl, I have no comment to make. It is likely, however, that one measure which he mentioned—the Dyestuffs Bill—will lead to a considerable amount of debate in your Lordships' House, as important matters of principle are believed by many to be involved in it; and whether it is seriously opposed or not, it may be taken as certain that a considerable amount of debate will occur. No specific time, I think, was set aside by the noble Earl for the discussion of that Bill, and that appears to me to strengthen the conclusion which I reached that it will be necessary for your Lordships to consider it as practically a certainty that an adjournment to some time after Christmas will have to take place.


My Lords, may I respectfully put a question to the Leader of the House as regards the Agriculture Bill. There is a perfect avalanche of Amendments already handed in, and it would be a great convenience to noble Lords, who not unnaturally take a great interest in that Bill, to know whether the noble Earl proposes to sit after dinner on Wednesday and Thursday.


What arrangements do the Government propose with regard to taking the consideration of the Commons Amendments, if they make any, on the Home Rule Bill? Your Lordships have been invited to take the Home Rule Bill on Report to-day at short notice, and the Third Reading to-morrow on still shorter notice, with the object of returning the Bill to another place at the earliest opportunity. It would be very convenient to Peers on this side to know what course the Government will take, or hope to take, with regard to those Amendments. It was indicated to us unofficially that there was some hope that they would be returned here by Friday of this week, and, if so, it would certainly be very convenient that they should be taken then. I confess I think that the pressure which is being put upon us, with two Bills of first-class magnitude already before us, and with the Bill dealing with dye stuffs—which was only introduced in another place a few days ago—as well as the Health Bill still to conic, is certainly a very heavy tax at this period of the session.


In reply to the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, I certainly hope that your Lordships will be willing to sit after dinner to take the Committee stage of the Agriculture Bill on both of the days to which he has referred. In reply to my noble friend Lord Midleton, it is quite true that the pressure is very great, and that we are making considerable demands upon the patience and the good temper of your Lordships' House. I take it that the Amendments introduced by your Lordships in the Home Rule Bill will be considered in the House of Commons on Thursday. I do not know whether they will be disposed of on that day, but it is, of course, as the noble Earl remarked, very desirable that there should be as much speed as possible in dealing with that particular measure, and if it is found possible to take the Commons Amendments to your Lordships' Amendments on Friday I shall be quite disposed to do so. I should not like to prophesy more definitely at this stage, beyond saying that with due consideration to speed I shall desire to consult at every stage the convenience of your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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