§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I desire to put a question to my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with reference to the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Bill. That Bill now appears upon the Paper—under some misapprehension, I think, into which I cannot further go at the moment—for Second Reading to-morrow. It is a measure of considerable complication, and requires very careful scrutiny by experts before any of your Lordships interested in this subject would be in a position usefully to discuss it. I would ask my noble friend, therefore, whether he would be good, enough, on behalf of the Government, to give us a little more tine before we are asked to take the Second Reading of this Bill.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I take note of what Lord Salisbury has said, and I accordingly suggest that the Bill should be taken on Wednesday, the 17th, or perhaps on Tuesday the 16th. That would at any rate give the noble Marquess and his colleagues some further time to consider the matter. I will let the noble Marquess know definitely tomorrow on which day we propose to take it.
I am in rather a difficulty because of two other Bills of importance which are expected to reach your Lordships soon, and in regard to which I should like to make this statement. It is hoped that the Government of Ireland Bill will reach this House this week, and it, is clear that the Second Reading debate could not take 216 place before Thursday, November 18. If it were possible to commence it upon that day—Thursday week—we could continue it over to the next day, and, if your Lordships desired, to the Monday as well. It is, of course, desirable that the Bill should be considered without undue loss of time, because probably it would be to the convenience of both Houses if Parliament did not have to meet again immediately after Christmas.
The other important measure—the Agriculture Bill —will probably reach us from another place at the end of next week or early in the following week. For the moment it is impossible to make any prediction as to the date upon which the Second Reading will be submitted to your Lordships, but I do not think the Bill can be taken until the early days of the week after next.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am very much obliged to my noble friend for taking your Lordships into the confidence of the Government in respect to these Bills. I need not, tell your Lordships that the Government, of Ireland Bill is one of the most vital measures that could be presented to either branch of the Legislature. That Bill, I think, has not yet reached its final form in another place; or if it has, it was only last night that it did so. Profound modifications have taken place in it at the last moment, and your Lordships will probably agree with me when I say that in these circumstances the House must have time to consider the Bill before it is asked to read it a second time. I am sure that I represent a very strong feeling in your Lordships' House, not present at this moment, when I say that I hope there will be no attempt to take the Second Reading of that Bill next week. I think it is quite out of the question that we could tackle it then with usefulness. Your Lordships' House have to consider the Bill, the various bodies of opinion represented here have each separately to consider what course they will take upon it, and noble Lords have to be got together, a thing quite impossible to be done in a hurry. I desire to represent very strongly to the Government that the Bill cannot be taken next week.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of what has fallen from the noble Marquess. The proposal made by the noble Earl is 217 that the Government of Ireland Bill should be laid before this House next Thursday week, and that, if required, the House should sit on the following Friday and Monday for its further consideration. It is not the fault of members of this House that they are almost of necessity drawn away from London towards the end of the week. A very large number of noble Lords have very important public duties which they are bound to perform elsewhere, and their absence from London at the end of the week is not merely associated with leisure; it is essential that many of them should be away. In those circumstances, to require their attendance on a Friday and the following Monday for the purpose of pursuing a debate upon this Bill appears to me a little hard. No one can doubt that the Second Leading debate on this measure will be one of the most important upon which this Louse has been engaged for a very long time. I do not see how it can end under three days, and I should have thought the proper course would be for the debate to be commenced on the succeeding Tuesday and taken during the three days of that week.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My suggestion was tentative; I said nothing emphatic as to the actual dates. But your Lordships as a whole, in considering this matter, will I hope balance the convenience of taking a Friday and perhaps a Monday now as against the necessity of having to take a Friday and a Monday perhaps immediately after Christmas. It is a balance of convenience. So far as the observations of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, are concerned, my impression is that the convenience of Parliament as a whole is best met by taking, the Second Reading, on which all your Lordships have made up their minds——
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
—rather than postponing it for a considerable time and reducing the interval between the 218 Second Reading and the Committee stages, My suggestion is that the longer interval should be between the Second Reading and Committee stage than between the First Reading and the Second Reading. However, I take note of what has been said. Our desire is to make it as convenient for your Lordships as possible.