§ THE MARQUESS OF CREWE had given Notice to move, "That Standing Order No. XXI. be considered in order to its being suspended for this day's sitting as respects the Motion standing in the name of the Marquess of Crewe, and that that Motion have precedence over the other Notices and Orders of the Day.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I understand that His Majesty's Government agree to take my Motion, which is lower on the Paper, as the first Order. I am greatly obliged and, I hope, therefore, that the House will take that course. I beg to move.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.90
§ THE MARQUESS OF CREWE then rose to move to resolve, "That His Majesty's Government, having declared their intention of passing into law certain measures of great public importance which can only be adequately examined through prolonged discussion, this House declines to proceed until the end of October with any Bills not yet read a first time, and directs that the further proceedings on any Bill read a first time after the passing of this Resolution shall be postponed until Tuesday the 1st of November next. Provided that this Resolution shall not apply to the Railways Bill, or to the further proceedings on any Bill entered on by general consent."
§ The noble Marquess said: Lords, I hope that I need not detain you at any great length in asking you to consider the Motion which I have placed on the Paper regarding Bills which have not yet been read a first time in your Lordships' House. This question has been the subject of informal discussion on two occasions—on the 21st and on the 27th of last month—and on those two days the arguments on both sides were fully set out, and I am anxious not to repeat, beyond what is absolutely necessary, anything that I said on those occasions. I hope, therefore, that I need not occupy a great deal of your Lordships' time. The Resolution is that this House should not proceed, before the end of October, with any of the Bills that have not yet been read a first time, and consequently directs that further proceedings on them should be postponed until the beginning of November. I will endeavour, as briefly as I can, to explain why I make this Motion.
§ In the first place, I conceive it to be for the general convenience of all parties concerned. On a former occasion, the noble Marquess the Leader of the House good-naturedly twitted me with what he called my feelings of altruism in mentioning the various persons whose convenience, as I believe, would be thus served. And I confess that I am not in the least ashamed of regarding the convenience of all persons, whether their positions be exalted or humble, who are compelled against their will to remain in or near London so long as Parliament sits. There are some who are fortunate enough to look forward to the prospect of going to Scotland. There are others who would gladly seek some rest at the seaside. But what I think is more important is that there are many, both in 91 and out of Parliament, to whom it is a matter of real distress not to be able to share in the vacations or holidays which their sons or daughters get from schools or universities.
§ One has also to consider, of course, what the effect is upon His Majesty's Ministers, whose hard case was fully set out by the noble Marquess. He spoke on the last occasion when we were discussing this of the almost delirious delight with which he looked forward to a period of rest from Parliament during the months of September, October and November. But I note, on the other hand, that on July 21 he drew a somewhat different picture. He spoke of the forthcoming meetings of the Supreme Council, and of the terrible burden (those were his words) which they involved upon those who, like himself, have to take part. Those meetings of the Supreme Council are to be followed by what he described as prolonged conferences, some of them taking place in Europe, and others, possibly, in America; and in addition to this, the noble Marquess and some of his colleagues have to set time apart for what (again using his words) is the "full examination" of the small matter of reconstituting your Lordships' House as a reformed Second Chamber.
§ After studying that picture, I feel, indeed, that our well-meant efforts to relieve the burden on the noble Marquess and his colleagues to some extent by the Motion I am moving are not likely in any case to be very fruitful. But I would like to say this regarding the noble Marquess himself. We have all noticed, and noticed with a sense of personal deprivation, that it has not been possible for him, owing to his multifarious and weighty duties, to attend the debates in this House with anything like the regularity which it has been the privilege of the Leader of the House ever since I have belonged to it to exhibit during the whole session of Parliament. That has been most completely understood, and the consideration which has been shown to the noble Marquess has been most fully acknowledged by himself on more than one occasion. I am sure that I may assure him on behalf of the House that should be find it difficult during the remainder of this session, or the course of the next session, to remain glued to the front bench opposite we shall extend to him the same appreciation of his difficulties as we always have extended in the past.92
§ These matters of relief of individuals, whoever they may be, of course cannot be compared in importance with the call of public necessities in the course of business. I think His Majesty's Government will admit that in this matter we have not displayed a factious spirit. We have understood that the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Bill, which is of deep interest to many of your Lordships, is to undergo a full process of reviewing before the House rises, and we have also understood, after a close examination of all the circumstances, which was undertaken by some noble Lords, to whom I am very grateful, that the Railways Bill is also of such urgency that it is desirable to deal with it before the House rises. I would ask your Lordships for one moment to look to another place and to the course of business there, because we shall all agree that we ought not to take any step which would add materially to the labours of the members of the House of Commons, either now or later in the year.
§ The Leader of that House stated that there were a number of Bills with which the Government would only be able to proceed if they received something like general consent, because they would have to be taken at a late hour of the evening. Those included no less than six Bills which have already passed your Lordships' House. They included Bills which are regarded with much concern by some of your Lordships. They included the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, and the Government of Burma Bill, and I would say, in passing, that I should regard it as a distinct misfortune if that measure had to be passed by Proclamation and not by the sanction of Parliament. They included also the Education (Consolidation) Bill; and that enormous volume which offers such a tribute to the labours of the noble Viscount on the Woolsack and to other noble Lords—namely, the Law of Property Bill. In that list was also embraced the Territorial Army and Militia Bill which has just reached your Lordships and which, I cannot help thinking, is likely to be, or at any rate ought to be, the subject of some close examination here. There was also the Licensing (No. 2) Bill which, I conceive, is likely to occupy a considerable portion of your Lordships' time.
§ In addition to those there is the War Pensions Bill, a measure which received not a little notice in another place. If I remember aright it took a whole day of the 93 time of that House for the Second Reading; it underwent a long examination in Standing Committee, and took another day, during which several Division, were taken, when reported and for the Third Reading. There is also the Water Undertakings (Modification of Charges) Bill, a measure which involves some changes and the conferment upon a public body of certain powers which in the past would have been regarded as exceedingly startling, and which now at any rate ought to be closely examined by your Lordships' House. Then there is what, of course, is a larger measure which we should expect to receive later—the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. The noble Marquess spoke of that as being a harmless and innocent measure and one which he thought in time would be regarded with general acquiescence. On the other hand, it is impossible not to note that those who are even more qualified than the noble Marquess himself to speak on behalf of the Tariff Reform movement regard that measure as marking an epoch, in that, after seventy years, it involves a new departure in our fiscal system. I say nothing of it beyond that it is obviously certain to receive here a detailed examination, and I have no doubt that there will be some noble Lords who will desire to offer strong opposition to it.
§ That is the programme which the noble Marquess and the Leader in another place have sketched out to us for our employment before the House can rise. The noble Marquess also indicated the manner in which we should presumably consider these various measures. If I may quote the noble Marquess's words they showed that he looked forward to an easy passage for all these Bills. He observed that we were living in climatic conditions which render a conciliatory spirit obligatory on all of us. That is exceedingly pleasant, but, in plain English, it is an invitation to the House, I will not say to neglect its duties of examination and revision but to take them as lightly as possible. Nobody need engage, certainly nobody in this House need engage, in public affairs. There are many other occupations quite as attractive, and many of them no doubt not less useful, but those who do engage in them are obliged to take their work rather more seriously than the noble Marquess invited us to do. Without adopting the attitude of a prig on such a question, any noble Lord who follows public affairs closely may feel that he is not merely entitled, but that it is his duty, 94 to give close and careful attention to the measures sent to us from another place. And if that attention is now to be given to the various measures which I have mentioned, it means that after a session of six months, which have been certainly extremely laborious in another place and not altogether to the contrary here, we shall have to drag on for as many weeks as may be required for the discussion of these measures, and the members in another place will have to wait until we have done our business.
§ I really do not know whether. His Majesty's Government regard as extravagant our claim to examine these measures closely. I remember that the Government of Afghanistan, in its communications with the Government of India, used to describe itself, and for all I know still does, as the God-granted Government of the Amir. I do not know whether His Majesty's Government lay any claim to such a lofty origin or sanction, but I cannot help thinking that they are under sonic misapprehension as to the manner in which their measures ought to be received. His Majesty's Government no doubt believe that as a Coalition they combine all the best elements of the two old Parties without possessing any of the defects of either, and that therefore they are in a position to run measures through Parliament with a haste, and with an absence of discussion, to which mere Party Governments in the past have not ventured to lay claim. I can only say that if they do entertain that opinion it is not justified either by the form in which their measures reach your Lordships' House, or by their durability after they have been trimmed into shape by discussion here. I need not remind your Lordships of what has happened about Housing, and what is going to happen, I suppose, about Corn Production, in order to lay emphasis on what I have just said.
§ I venture to think that if there were a prospect of the House sitting on till the end of this month, or till some time in September, and then rising until the end of January, or until February next, even then it would be the wrong course to take, and that the right course would be to adjourn as soon as possible, and to meet for a period in the autumn. I should say so, even if there were a prospect of a long vacation. But we have to consider what the admissions of the Leaders both in another place and here have been on this matter. It has been agreed that it is more than likely that the question 95 of Ireland will cause Parliament to be summoned some time in November—"late in November" was the phrase used in another place—and I think that anybody who considers the possibilities closely will see that it is approaching folly to talk of a meeting in December, if both Houses will have to consider, as we hope they may have to consider, a new Trish Bill.
§ In both Houses the Leaders spoke with a sort of Olympian certitude of this late meeting at the end of the year. How can they possibly tell? One thing we can always say about Irish affairs is that the unexpected is what happens, and it is altogether impossible, I am certain, for anybody now, even those who are deepest in the negotiations, to fix a date on which Parliament can be called together to reconsider the question of the Government of Ireland. I venture to lay stress on the fact that it is of the first importance that the session should be kept alive during the whole of the autumn, so that it may be easy and simple to summon Parliament at short notice. I say nothing now about the possibility of financial reconsideration, although that is an argument which I know was pressed in another place. On the Irish matter alone I am convinced that there should be nothing more than an adjournment.
§ I put it to your Lordships, that at the very worst, several weeks are gained, if my Motion is adopted, at a favourable time of the year, and they are exchanged for an equivalent number of weeks at a less attractive season; at a time, too, when, as was stated on the last occasion, it is very likely both Houses may be simultaneously occupied with different business. That is to say, your Lordships by concluding the business which we have so far carried on this session, and in another place by the consideration of Irish measures. I invite you to take the "bird in the hand"instead of a bird in a very obscure hush, and I also think it is in every way a plumper and superior bird to that which the noble Marquess is prepared to offer.
§ In conclusion—it is only a minor matter but it is worth mentioning—if the programme of the Government is carried out it means a new departure, in the sense of starting a session of Parliament in November, instead of after Christmas. That is to say, that the various ceremonies, the State opening of Parliament by the Sovereign, the banquets which are given 96 by the noble Marquess and others, and, speaking generally, the commencement of the winter season in London, will be put forward to the autumn, instead of being deferred until the spring. That has often been suggested as a good way of beginning the session, but it is a large modification to make without any consultation with many who are as much concerned in it as His Majesty's Ministers themselves. But that, as I have said, is a minor point. On the major question, I submit that I have proved that the great balance of advantage to everybody, from His Majesty's Ministers downward, rests with the proposal I have indicated on the Paper, and which I therefore beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That His Majesty's Government, having declared their intention of passing into law certain measures of great public importance which can only be adequately examined through prolonged discussion, this House declines to proceed until the end of October with any Bills not yet read a first time, and directs that the further proceedings on any Bill read a first time after the passing of this Resolution shall be postponed until Tuesday, the 1st of November next. Provided that this Resolution shall not apply to the Railways Bill, or to the further proceedings on any Bill entered on by general consent.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, the noble Marquess has observed that this is the third occasion in the last fortnight on which this subject has been discussed in your Lordships' House. Like him, I will refrain from repeating the arguments or observations which I made on the two previous occasions, although I note, in passing, that the noble Marquess did not refrain from a certain amount of good-humoured comment on the perhaps rather lighthearted observations in which I ventured to indulge on one of those occasions.
To another remark of the noble Marquess I will allude in a sentence only, inasmuch as it has to some extent a personal aspect. The noble Marquess alluded to the fact that, for reasons which are well known to your Lordships, I have not been able in recent months to devote that amount of attention to my duties here which I should like to do, and which my predecessors, I believe 97 almost without exception, have done. The noble Marquess made that allusion in no tones of reproach, but rather of sympathy, and I only refer to it in order once again to offer my apologies to your Lordships' House as well as my sincere gratitude for the consideration you never fail to extend to me in that context. But when the noble Marquess went on to suggest that in an autumn session I might, to use his metaphor, find myself glued to this bench, I can assure him that I should regard that as an alleviation in my daily toil, because it is the unfortunate fact that I am detained elsewhere by a much more adhesive substance than is ever applied to me in your Lordships' House.
The Motion of the noble Marquess is a very unusual one; indeed, I believe it is without precedent that such a Motion should be made by a noble Lord occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition in this House. We have been accustomed, from time to time, to Motions being made from these benches in favour of autumn sessions, as a general principle. Lord Newton has, during the last twenty years, been active more than once in that direction, and we are not unused to Motions being made to reject particular Bills on the ground, in the opinion of the mover, that your Lordships' House has not had sufficient time to consider them. But, so far as I know, there is no previous case in which the Leader of the Opposition has been kind enough to assume charge of the business of the House and invite your Lordships to declare that you will not assist the Government in carrying out the business of Parliament and the country, except at such time and in such manner as you may think fit.
The noble Marquess indulged in a certain amount of chaff at our expense. With the recollection of the India Office upon him, he alluded to the well-known phrase in which the Afghan Government is in the habit of describing itself as a "God-granted Government." If we felt disposed to make such a claim on behalf of ourselves we should be rudely disillusioned by reading the morning papers, but I am not sure that the noble Marquess is not venturing to make the claim of a "God-granted Opposition" in your Lordships' House. No doubt the noble Marquess made his proposal, unprecedented as I am arguing it to be, in the gentlest possible manner. Not for the first time, I feel inclined to 98 say that he is the mildest-mannered man that ever scuttled a ship, but at the same time nothing can alter the fact. that the proposal he makes is a startling innovation, and I respectfully suggest to him that the day may even arise when, seated once more on this bench, he may discover that he has initiated a very inconvenient precedent in the proceedings of your Lordships' House.
There is one noble Lord, I am sorry to say no longer amongst us to guide us with his eloquence and his counsel, who would greatly rejoice at the course advocated by the noble Marquess to-day. I allude to Lord Rosebery. So far back as the year 1903, in a debate initiated by Lord Newton on a proposal to rise at the end of July and to have an autumn session—the counterpart of the Motion which the noble Marquess has just made—Lord Rosebery used these words:—I should like to see a strike of the House of Lords. I should like to see the House of Lords take its courage boldly in its right hand, and adjourn at the time it thought fit; and that it should come back in two or three months' time and discuss more at leisure the Bills sent up to it.In the course of the debate on that Motion, Lord Morley, while expressing sympathy with Lord Rosebery's views, added:—I am not quite sure that that heroic measure will be taken; in fact, I think I shall live a good many years without seeing your Lordships take that step.Both of these noble Lords are happily still living, though we are not fortunate enough to see them often in this House; but the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, has lived long enough to see the belated conversion of his eminent son-in-law, while Lord Morley has lived long enough to see his prophecy put to the test by a Division to-night. But the remarkable thing about the occasion to which I have referred was not so much the speech of Lord Rosebery, or the speech of Lord Morley, as the fact that Lord Crewe voted against the Motion.
The noble Marquess based his case this afternoon in the main on a regard for the decent conduct of public business, and, as he put it, the convenience of all sections of your Lordships' House. I would ask you to believe that when he suggested to me that the members of the Government might regard the claim to discuss this or that Bill, and more particularly the Bills that he mentioned, with close and meticulous care, as an extreme claim, he 99 said something from which I wholly dissent. I have never, in any remarks that I have made in your Lordships' House, expressed any other feeling than that those who are responsible for business here should give you every conceivable opportunity for the close, minute, searching investigation of all the measures that come before you, and nobody can reproach me, in such control as I have over the business of the House, with ever having endeavoured to deprive you of that opportunity, or to scamp discussion.
But there are certain features inseparable from the conduct of business by any Second Chamber in the world. A Second Chamber is, by reason of its constitution and its functions, a revising and an amending Chamber. That means that, except in cases where legislation is initiated in your Lordships' House—and, pray believe me, I have always endeavoured myself to multiply those occasions—the business of the Second Chamber must necessarily be conducted after the First Chamber has done its work; in other words, in the concluding part of the session. The occasion does, therefore, arise—this is not the first time, or the tenth time, or the twentieth—the occasion inevitably arises when towards the end of the session, a mass of legislation, which your Lordships are entitled, if you like, to call congested, is placed before you, with the desire, sometimes with the petition, that you will be able, before you separate for the holidays, to take it in hand.
Nobody knows better than the noble Marquess that this is no new thing. As we sit on different sides of the House, we are in the habit of making the speeches which have been made by the other in the same position. I recall, when I had a seat there, many occasions on which the noble Marquess argued with great force that discussion by your Lordships' House in the month of August could be satisfactorily pursued, and that your duty could be fully discharged, without a too prolonged examination of the Bills that were placed before you. I have myself heard him argue that such discussion, in the peace of August, was a very desirable and easy undertaking. I have heard him plead that, in the interests of the Government and of the carrying on of the work of the country, it was desirable that the completion of the work of the session should be achieved, and that the pledges given by 100 the Government of the day should be carried out.
If we come to the manner in which these undertakings have been accomplished by other Governments, I recall the year 1909—I think it was the first year in which I had the honour of a seat in your Lordships' House—and I find that in that year your Lordships' House, without any serious protest on the part of the then Leaders of the Opposition, who were anxious to facilitate the work of the Government, sat all through August, September, and October, passing measures of such importance as the Housing and Town Planning Bill and the Irish Land Bill, and that, having discharged this great load of business, they then met again in November in order to take the famous Finance Bill of that year. I find, again, that in the year 1911 the House remained in session in August, and that, in spite of the length of the session, which had been very much prolonged, the Old Age Pensions Bill, surely a measure of capital importance, was read a first time on August 8, and a third time on August 17; the Telephone Transfer Bill, not an unimportant measure, was read a first time on August 17, and passed in the course of the next two days; and after these labours, protracted as I have said through the latter part of August, the House met again on October 25. In the programme, therefore, that we are putting before you, and in the claim, I admit a serious claim, that we are making upon your consideration, we are doing no new thing; we are doing nothing that has not been done on a larger scale by the noble Marquess himself.
But, after all, these questions ought not to be argued, and I should certainly not claim that they should be decided, by precedent alone. Let me put to you this practical question—Are the interests of your Lordships' House and are the interests of the legislation which is going to be put before you likely to be gravely prejudiced, or indeed prejudiced at all, by the carrying out of the bill of fare which His Majesty's Government submit? The noble Marquess says in his Motion that there are certain measures of great public importance which can only be adequately examined through prolonged discussion. Are there any of these measures to which this discussion is going to be denied? Let me take the principal measures that still remain to be examined. There is the Railways Bill. The noble Marquess con- 101 ceded that that Bill is one—I think he used the words—of urgent importance, and he did not attempt to establish the plea that there will not be full time to deal with that measure in the period before us. Then there is the Licensing Bill. I have been told that there are good hopes of that Bill being treated in both Houses of Parliament as relatively an agreed Bill. I believe that everybody wants it to pass into law, and I do not anticipate, from such means of information as I have, that when it conies to your Lordships' House there need be any very prolonged debate upon it. There is also the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Bill, a Bill which is on the verge of reaching your Lordships' House, to which I believe you are going to be asked to devote the whole of this week, and for which, as far as I have been informed, there is ample time for full discussion, and, if you so desire it, for amendment.
Then we come lastly to a Bill which was very little mentioned by the noble Marquess, but which I could not help thinking all the while occupied a rather prominent place in the background of his imagination. When the noble Marquess was arguing so forcibly about the convenience of your Lordships' House and the conduct of business here, I could not help saying to myself the familiar words—I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not honour more "—only I should have inverted the proposition, because all the while the noble Lord was protesting his love for the dignity of your Lordships' proceedings, I could not help thinking that he had really the Safeguarding of Industries Bill in his mind, and was masking his dislike of that particular measure. His Majesty's Government are pledged by more than one declaration made by important Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, to pass that measure into law in the present session of Parliament, but I can quite understand some noble Lords may say:"We are indeed anxious to facilitate your proposals, but what is the particular urgency of this Bill being passed in the month of August? Why should we not adopt the plan of the noble Marquess—namely, have an adjournment now, meet again in the month of November, and take this Bill when it has passed the House of Commons as the first Order of the Day, and then proceed to pass it into law."
102 As this Bill is really very prominently in the background of this discussion, I should like to answer that question and to show your Lordships why it is a matter of extreme urgency and importance that this Bill should be taken and passed, if your Lordships approve, without further delay. Your Lordships are familiar with the fact that the Bill consists of three parts. The first part is devoted to what is known as the protection of key industries, the particular industries being in the main the manufacture of optical glasses, scientific instruments, and fine chemicals for use in laboratories. It is admitted, I think, without dissent, that these industries are important for scientific work in general and are absolutely necessary in time of war, but the fact is these industries cannot be developed, or even maintained, without sonic measure of protection. Some of them are in a very precarious position now; some of them are actually threatened with extinction. It is only with difficulty that those who are responsible for some of these industries are able to keep them going. Some have actually threatened to shut their doors. Therefore, in these cases, the difference between August and November may very likely be the difference between continuance of the industry and extinction.
Part II of the Bill is devoted to the protection of industries from competition resulting from the depreciated condition of foreign exchanges. That, as your Lordships know, is a fruitful source of unemployment. I have made inquiries of the Board of Trade, and they tell me that they are constantly receiving deputations and representations from industries who are in this imperilled condition. I have here a list of industries, nearly fifty in number, from which these complaints are constantly being received. I will not trouble your Lordships with the whole list, but will give only those from which the complaints are most insistent. They are: glassware of all kinds, gas mantles, hosiery, electrical fittings, cutlery, agricultural machines, machine tools, and so on.
Now the situation in respect of these industries is much worse than it was a year ago. Up to the end of 1920 there was a certain upward movement and recovery in trade. At that time, however, there occurred a violent drop, and the country found itself face to face with a very serious position. Trade is just now beginning to show signs of recovery, and the one thing 103 in the way of the successful prosecution of that recovery is the feeling that traders are liable to be swamped by goods coming in from Europe at abnormally low prices owing to the low rates of exchange. For these trades the sooner the Bill is passed the better, and I will tell your Lordships why. Under the machinery of the Bill Committees are to be set up to examine into the conditions of the various threatened industries. They will have to report whether employment is being seriously affected in consequence of imports coming in under the conditions that I have described. All this will take some time. It is obviously desirable that the protection should be given as soon as possible, that the Committees should be set up as soon as possible, that their reports should be made as soon as possible, and that the orders consequent upon them should be issued.
Then I come to the last object of this Bill—namely, the prevention of dumping in the ordinary sense of the term; that is, the sale of goods in this country at prices below the cost of production in the country of manufacture. These cases, I agree, at not so urgent as the others, but there may at any time, so I am informed, be a sudden dumping, on a very large scale, of articles of this description in this country from the large accumulated stocks that are known to exist abroad. Here again, if the Bill is passed, Committees will be set up to investigate these things and issue the requisite orders. The Bill is to be confined only to cases of real necessity, but it is important to have time to investigate these cases, and if your Lordships defer considering this Bill till the late autumn, I have no doubt that many valuable months will be lost and that serious injury to trade might be caused.
There was one observation on the part of the noble Marquess which I confess did rather astonish me. He said that this Bill constituted a new departure in our fiscal system. I wonder if that remark ought in fairness to proceed from the lips of the noble Marquess.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Perhaps I ought to explain that I was quoting some remarks made by Professor Hewins on a public occasion within the last ten days or so.
THE MARQUESS C U R Z O N OF KEDLESTON
I accept the noble Marquess's correction, but I was disposed to 104 think from the argument he developed upon the Bill that he himself shared the view that the Bill was based upon economic principles with which he personally disagreed. I brought down with me to-day the Resolutions of the Economic Conference of the Allies which was held at Paris in June, 1916. On that occasion, at any rate in the earlier part of the proceedings, this country had the good fortune to be represented—Mr. Asquith's Government was then in power—by the noble Marquess himself, and among the Resolutions which were passed were these:The Allies decide to take the necessary steps without delay to render themselves independent of the enemy countries in so far as regards the raw materials and manufactured articles essential to the normal development of their economic activities";and again:They may, for example, have recourse either to enterprises subsidised, directed or controlled by the Governments themselves or to the grant of financial assistance for the encouragement of scientific and technical research and the development of national industries and resources; to Customs Duties or prohibitions of a temporary or permanent character; or to a combination of these different methods.That is the basis of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, and I think I am entitled to say that in so far as these Resolutions go, and in so far as the Bill attempts to translate them into practice, we are entitled to receive not the criticism or the hostility but the support of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition.
I hope that in these few remarks I have shown your Lordships that there is a good case, in respect of the legislation which you are going to be asked to discuss, for asking your Lordships to sacrifice your persona convenience, as you have so often done before in the public interest; that the strain which is going to be placed upon you is, if my analysis be at all correct—and I could give it to you in detail, days ark hours—nothing like what has been sup posed; and that it is really important that these Bills, notably the Safeguarding o Industries Bill, should be passed into law at an early date. In these circumstances I hope that your Lordships will be willing to give to the Government the requisite[...] support to enable us to carry out this programme. I will not speak about it from the point of view of a holiday. No Scot land for me. No seaside for me. I only hope that the noble Marquess will be more fortunate. His Majesty's Government as 105 for no holiday, but only that modified respite from their Parliamentary labours which will qualify them to carry on their work. They only- ask you to enable them, in the course of the present month, for the reasons that I have named, to carry these measures into law, and I hope that not for the first time, nor for the twentieth time, your Lordships will give, for the reasons I have named, that measure of considera- to the appeal which I have just ventured to address to you.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I confess that I do not rise without a certain sense of embarrassment upon the present occasion, because of the two speeches which have preceded mine. Let me say, in the first place, that there is not one member of your Lordships' House, in whatever quarter he sits and to whatever Party he belongs, who does not entirely sympathise with the noble Marquess and his colleagues in their desire to have a holiday, not merely out of general humanity, but out of gratitude to them, for we all agree that they have worked most tremendously hard and are entitled to a holiday. Indeed, in my judgment, the sooner they get a holiday the better it will be for them and, I think, the better for the country.
The noble Marquess will forgive me if I do not propose to say, in the very few words that I have to utter this afternoon, very much about the Bills in question. I do not think that this is an occasion on which to discuss the merits of a particular Bill. I thought, judging from the noble Marquess's speech, that he seemed to think that the whole question was a question of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. We had almost a Second Reading speech on the subject. But I do not propose to deal with the merits of that Bill. If I may venture to say so, in the presence of the noble Marquess, I think he was going almost to the limits of what was orderly in dealing with them in such detail as he did. Of course, he was quite certain not to overpass the limits, and I do not suggest for a moment that he did, but he certainly went rather near it.
When speaking about this matter, I want to address myself to it not as a Conservative or as a Unionist, and not in any capacity at all except as a member of your Lordships' House. I have sat for a good many years in the House, and I have joined with others, and perhaps I may, 106 if your Lordships will allow me that degree of egotism, say that I have taken a prominent part myself always, in fighting for the rights and privileges of the House of Lords. I have done my very utmost for the House. I have believed in the House of Lords. I have believed in its powers, and resisted to the best of my capacity—and so have my noble friends near me—all invasions of its powers. If your Lordships will allow me to say so, I was a little surprised at hearing the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition so urgent on behalf of the powers of the House of Lords this afternoon. I do not know that be has always felt that so strongly as he feels it now, but so far as we are concerned, and those Independent Unionist Peers who sit in different parts of the House, our withers are unwrung. We have always done our very utmost for the House of Lords and its capacity to do its work, and it is from that point of view that I want to approach matters this afternoon.
A few years back we were struggling over the Parliament Act. We were bitterly opposed upon that subject to the noble Lords who sit here. We were assisted by many members of the present Government in resisting it. We were unsuccessful, and the Parliament Act was, by very highhanded action, practically passed over our heads, and we were forced to accept it. There was, however, one thing which was left to us, one obligation which was thrown upon us, one thing with which the country still entrusted us, and that was the duty of the revision of Bills which were submitted to us. That was the function that was left to us. There were two courses open to us after the passage of the Parliament Act. We might have sulked. We might have refused to play. We might have said to the House of Commons and the country: "You treated us in this way. All right, do your own business; we will not be bothered any more." I think that would have been a very unpatriotic and undignified attitude to take up, and we did not adopt it. We accepted the new position cast upon us, and some of us did our best to be an efficient revising Chamber; to try, if we could, to make such Amendments in the Bills sent up to us from another place as would make the Bills workable, and to make such modifications as would, we believed, make those Bills better and more in accordance with the wishes of the country.
107 That is what we did, and, if your Lordships will allow me to dwell upon that for a moment, our obligation is to the country. It does not very much matter what we do as regards ourselves, and, if I may say so, it does not very much matter what we do as regards the Government. What is important is that we should do our duty by the country, which relics upon us to see that these Bills are properly considered. In those conditions your Lordships are presented with the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not generally act with the Leader of the Opposition; on many subjects I am very much opposed to him. But looking at it as a member of your Lordships' House, with all the history which I ventured to detail to you, what course ought we to pursue? Perhaps one of your Lordships will say: "You ought to protest; you ought to come down to the House, and rise in your place, and you ought to stand at this box and protest against the treatment of the House of Lords." We have done that. We have done it session after session, generally three times a session, at each adjournment. We have done it to the extent that the words which have to be used on this occasion absolutely stink in one's nostrils.
And we are not even received with respect by the Government now; they think it a matter of gentlemanlike ridicule. We had a discussion on this subject only a few nights ago. The noble Marquess behind me and the noble Marquess opposite have referred to it. The Leader of the House received out protests in the most lighthearted way—he made almost an apology for it this evening. But the worst of it is that that light-hearted way was the real man—that was what he really thought; that was what was behind his face all the time. He knew that these protests were futile, and all that he cared about, and all that Governments do care about—Governments in the plural, my Lords—is to get their business through. And they do not care a bit about the privileges of the House of Commons, or the privileges of the House of Lords, nor do they care whether they do their work properly, because their conception of the proper work of Parliament is to register the wishes of the Government; and therefore the matter for them is quite simple. And if a protest is made to them they always receive it courteously—,I cannot conceive of the noble Marquess doing anything except what is courteous—but always with a smile half concealed, 108 or perhaps not concealed at all, and a knowledge that these protests will be made again and again, and always in vain.
And even to-night the noble Marquess—the real man coming out: Mr. Hyde peeping through the mask of Dr. Jekyll—could not help using the old taunt that it just depends which side you are sitting upon, and that if the Leader of the Opposition went across and sat in the seat of the Leader of the House he would make the speeches of the Leader of the House, and the Leader of the House would make the speeches of the noble. Marquess. That is all very good chaff, very good fooling, but is that the way the House of Lords is going to be treated? Is that the way our protests are going to be received? If so, it is perfectly certain that the protests are useless, and that we might spare our breath and make no protests at all.
I am therefore driven to decide what we ought to do in these circumstances. There are a certain number of noble Lords who will come to you and say:"Well, we agree with you in the main; the House of Lords is very badly treated. We agree with you, in the second place, that protests are futile, and that something more than a protest ought to be attempted; but this is the wrong opportunity." I am sure that a great many noble Lords think that this is the wrong opportunity. But they are the kind of noble Lords who always think that if you propose anything like action it is the wrong opportunity. They naturally shrink from taking a strong step. I do not think the step is a very strong one, and I do think that they ought, on the present occasion, to face the real difficulty and make up their minds whether they are going beyond the stage of protest and going to reach the stage of action.
Now, let us consider for a moment what is the nature of this Motion. I have looked at it with the greatest care. Let me say, in the first place, before I come to the terms of the Motion, that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has not dealt with an argument which was put to him twice on the last occasion, and he did not deal with it then—I mean the argument that when Parliament meets in the winter, as it probably will meet, to consider the new Irish legislation which will be necessary, although the House of Lords will be called together, yet for about three weeks it will have absolutely nothing to do. I have the great honour and privilege of speaking to 109 a very large number of your Lordships this evening, and I want your Lordships to consider what that means.
All of us who have a strong sense of responsibility will have to come back in the winter when Parliament is summoned again. I am supposing that the negotiations with Mr. de Valera succeed. Supposing they succeed, and there is a new Home Rule Bill, we shall all have to come together in the winter, and a new Home Rule Bill will be submitted to the House of Commons. I have no doubt that that will be vigorously fought—I am not saying whether it ought to be fought or not; I am merely suggesting what is sure to happen—and it will take three or four weeks to go through the House of Commons. During that time the House of Lords will have nothing at all to do, if the programme of the Government is carried out. The officers of the House will be here, all the messengers will be brought back from their holidays, clerks will have to be in attendance, the whole paraphernalia of the House of Lords will have to be available. I suppose we shall be called to meet for ten minutes or so every now and then, and the House itself will have nothing to do. It seems almost marvellous that the Government do not see that the proper thing is to let some of the business which we do not want to do now stand over to that period in the winter, when otherwise we shall have nothing to do. I hope your Lordships will appreciate that point, and also the fact that, although it has been put twice to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House he has not been able to find any answer to it.
Now, what are the terms of the Motion? I hope your Lordships will see that there is at the end of the Motion a proviso—Provided that this Resolution shall not apply to the Railways Bill, or to the further proceedings on any Bill entered on by general consent.Let me say, parenthetically, as regards the Railways Bill, that we have done our best to assist the Government, as noble Lords know, by asking several of our number to meet the Government and discuss whether the Railways Bill ought to be pressed forward as an urgent matter. Upon their report, and being satisfied that such was the case, no one suggests that the Railways Bill should not be proceeded with, and the noble Marquess has put it into the terms of his Motion. But when the noble Marquess the Leader of the House just now said that no one suggested that the Railways 110 Bill would not be adequately discussed I must venture to differ. I am afraid it is very unlikely that the Railways Bill will be adequately discussed. I think it in the highest degree improbable that it will be adequately discussed. When you have noble Lords representing all sorts of different interests, who ought to be here and to take part in the discussion, it is not possible to get them to discuss the Bill in the second and third week in August. The Bill will have to be passed because it is an urgent matter, but, like so many Bills, it will go through improperly discussed and, it may be, improperly drafted. We know quite well that Bill after Bill, which this House has been urged to pass in a great hurry, has been found afterwards to have in it any number of blemishes which it was the duty of your Lordships' House to have corrected.
Then I take the second part of the proviso, which lays it down that the Resolution shall not apply to "the further proceedings on any Bill entered on by general consent." That is a very wide phrase and I think the noble Marquess is well advised to put it in. It is intended to give your Lordships' House complete liberty, by general consent, to allow the stages of any Bill to be taken. I said at the beginning of my remarks that I was not going to discuss the terms of any Bill, nor am I. The noble Marquess cited many Bills, among others, the Licensing Bill, and he told us that it would come to us, he believed, practically as an agreed Bill; at least, I understood him to say so. If that is the case there will be no difficulty about that Bill. If it comes to us as an agreed Bill it will come under the terms of the last phrase in the Resolution, and the further proceedings on the Bill will be taken by general consent.
Your Lordships' House is a practical Assembly, and when there is general consent about anything there never is the least difficulty. What is true of the Licensing Bill will be true of any other Bill as to which there is general consent that the stages ought to be passed. Therefore, there is no reason at all to think that any of the great difficulties which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House anticipated are likely to arise. No, the Resolution is drawn in very wide terms which give your Lordships every sort of elasticity you may require. We ought to approach this subject not only as members of the House 111 of Lords but in a conciliatory spirit, and I hope I have not used any other terms in the course of what I have ventured to say to-night.
Let me repeat, in conclusion, that unless your Lordships take this opportunity of asserting your determination to perform your functions as. a revising Chamber thoroughly and adequately, I think you may abandon hope of doing it hereafter. You are at the parting of the ways. I admit that anybody may show blemishes here or there in this particular Resolution. They may say that they do not want to follow the Leader of the Opposition. They may say that they do not think this is a good opportunity. They may say a hundred things, but, looking at the matter broadly as members of the House of Lords, and only as members of the House of Lords, they have this opportunity of vindicating the protests they have made over and over again against the way in which the House has been treated, and I earnestly hope that when it comes to a Division they will remember their responsibility in giving their votes.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, it probably will not have escaped observation that the attitude of His Majesty's Government to-day is somewhat different from that which was adopted on the last occasion when this Question was debated. The chief argument advanced against the Motion of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition to-day is the urgent necessity of passing the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. I do not propose to offer any remarks upon that Bill, but it seems to me to be a somewhat surprising thing that, after we have dragged out an existence for something like sixty or seventy years under a Free Trade system, we are now suddenly told that the most important industries of the country may collapse within the next two or three months unless immediate action is taken.
I do not propose to touch upon this part of the question; I prefer to deal with the other—namely, the necessity of giving overworked Ministers a rest. I do not think anybody will dispute the fact that certain Ministers, at all events, are overworked, and chief amongst those I would cite my noble friend the Leader of this House. I do not suppose there is any member of the Government who has such hard work as he has, or who has, as a matter of fact, worked so hard in the 112 course of his existence, and I suppose I might almost bracket with him the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, whose duties are also of a most exacting and multifarious character. But when I look at the other occupants of the front bench I must admit that I feel considerable doubt as to whether they are overworked. After all, they are only called upon to come down here for three days, and sometimes for a very short period in those three days, in the course of a certain number of weeks in the year, and I cannot help thinking that they are able to support the labours allotted to them without much difficulty.
However regrettable the fact may be that certain Ministers are overworked, it seems to me that there are two obvious answers to that complaint. In the first place, everybody must realise that nobody need be a Minister unless he wants to be. There is no obligation upon anybody to take office if it is offered to him; it is open to him to refuse. The second point is—and I hope it will not be thought that there is anything personal in it—that we have not to consider the convenience of what is, after all, only a small part of the Parliamentary machine; we have to consider the convenience and efficiency of the whole Parliamentary machine, Ministers included. I do not think it is sufficiently realised, perhaps, that all contentious legislation—and all legislation that is any good is contentious—is only carried through by a process of physical exhaustion or by the threat of the curtailment of holidays.
In former years—I can remember the time myself—legislation was carried through only by means of all-night sittings. That practice was eventually supplemented by the closure, and we now have a combination of those two methods of pressure. When the mass of legislation reaches this House—which, in the usual course of things, it does towards the middle of August—the Government of the day, whatever it may be, always calculates that it will be impossible to collect sufficient individuals here to offer any effective obstruction to that legislation, and up to now that calculation has invariably proved to be absolutely correct. Year by year, we witness the same spectacle. Year by year, we hear the same grumbles or explosions of indignation on the part of noble Lords on both sides. And year by year, we witness the 113 same humiliating spectacle of a grudging and unwilling acquiescence in what is proposed by the Government of the day.
The question we have to ask ourselves to-day, quite simply, is: Are we going once again to repeat this sorry and useless performance, or is the worm really going to turn? As a matter of fact, we have for the first time, a really good opportunity. I am not, and I have never been, in favour of falling out with the House of Commons or flouting public opinion in any respect. I believe such a course of conduct to be extremely foolish on our part. But in the present instance, who are we flouting and with whom do we disagree? We are not acting in opposition to the House of Commons, because I am firmly convinced that if a vote were taken in the House of Commons, without the pressure of the Government Whips, it would be found that that. House was strongly in favour of an autumn session. Furthermore, I am perfectly sure that on this occasion—it does not very often happen—we have the sympathy of the public if the public takes any interest in politics at all.
This House, thanks to the action of independent persons, and in no sense owing to the action of official persons on either side, now enjoys a much better position in the estimation of the country than it has held for a long time past, and, as a matter of fact, we now have friends in the most unexpected quarters. My attention was called to a passage which appears inThe Nationthis week, written by Mr. Massingham, who, of all persons, could hardly be described as a friend of thus House. I find these words written by him:—I confess to having acquired an automatic habit of looking to that institution [the House of Lords] as a means of keeping an endangered liberty or two. Just now it happens to be in its almost normal attitude of revolt against the Government. It is asked to do this year what it was required to do at the tail of the session of 1920—that is to say, let a mass of bad and almost undebated Bills swish through its portals.I need not quote anything more than that, which represents the view of a typical democrat. I am convinced that is a sentiment; which is held largely in most unsuspected quarters.
So far as I am concerned, I fail to detect in the Motion of the noble Marquess opposite any subtle conspiracy or intrigue. 114 It seems to me to be a perfectly plain and intelligible Motion, and one which imperatively demands our support. Almost every one here, in his mind, probably feels that the noble Marquess is absolutely justified and right in his action. I would conclude by repeating in other words what has been said by previous speakers in the debate. If we wish to show that all the protestations that have been made in former years were, so to speak, meaningless and rubbish, then we shall vote against the Motion, but I would warn noble Lords who propose to adopt that course that if they do so it is merely a stultification of the language which has been employed here for many years consecutively, and that it is quite impossible to conceive that any attention would be paid in future to protestations of a like character on our part.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, the terms of this Motion are simple; the issue that it raises is plain; and I certainly do not intend to occupy your time at any length in expatiating upon the expediency of it. It is a Motion directed to the remedy of an abuse which has, by common consent, been the subject of protest in this House for many sessions. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House has re-awakened the echoes of dead debates, and we can learn from them that, in language even more emphatic than any that has been used this afternoon, people on one side of the House and on the other have again and again used their influence to prevent the end of a session being so crowded with legislation that this House had not the adequate leisure to discuss the measures that were brought before its notice. Within the short time that I have had the honour of sitting in your Lordships' House these protests have been frequent, and I think that the ill-result is obvious. You have only to look at the second subject of business on to-day's Order Paper to discover that a Bill that was passed through this House at the very end of last session—passed through this House, as I believe, against the better judgment of many who voted for it—is now brought before you for repeal, after the country has suffered a loss of £20,000,000 through its having been passed into law.
To me protestations that are not followed up by action are weak and unmanly things. If we really do protest against the treatment to which this House has 115 been subjected, then we ought to act. If we are not prepared to act, then I say, in the name of the honour and dignity of this House, let us for the future cease from protest. To protest against the evil that it lies within your own power to remove, and to take no steps to remedy it, does not appear to me to be a proceeding that would recommend itself to any independent body of men. That we are being asked to discuss these measures under the pressure of great urgency, I think few people can deny. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House pointed out that one of the important Bills, the Railways Bill, is exempted from the Motion. But why? Because we had been told that if that Bill were postponed a heavy financial loss would be brought upon the country. That is the only reason. This House must, of course, avoid by every means in its power adding to the hideous burden which seems to grow day by day upon our backs, and that is the reason why the Railways Bill is exempted.
But when we come to these other Bills, I am bound to say that the speech of the noble Marquess reminded me of a passage in literature with which no doubt he is very familiar. It is a description in a very interesting book, written at the beginning of the fifteenth century, which extols the merits of fishing over every other form of sport, and it points out that as for hunting the disadvantage is that when your hounds have started hot upon the scent you find in the end, to your disgust, that instead of having brought down a deer all that they have obtained is what the lady referred to as "a hedgyhoggy." That is exactly what the noble Marquess has done. He has brought a hedgehog across the path of this debate in the shape of this Safeguarding of Industries Bill, and it is suggested—on what ground I am wholly unable to understand—that this Motion has behind it some sinister purpose upon the life or health of that measure. How in the world can that be so? We ask that that measure, with the other measures, may be discussed in this House from November until the middle of December if necessary. Why is that to injure the measure, unless, indeed, the noble Marquess thinks that prolonged and leisurely discussion upon its merits will be fatal to its passage?
I cannot see why it should be thought that the people who have been responsible for this Motion should have in their minds 116 for a moment any particular one of the Bills which still remain for consideration. No; as I understand this Motion it is not framed in any spirit of obstruction, and has no desire whatever to interfere with the progress of Government business. It is aimed at this—to secure, in the interests of the public, in the interests of the nation, that measures shall receive at the hands of this House that careful consideration which we are bound to give, and which it is almost impossible to give at this stage of the year.
It is no use pretending that people have not got other interests or occupations which act upon them like a magnet at the present time. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, pointed out that, after all, there are such things as holidays, and there are such things as children, and people are not unwilling to spend their holidays in the society of their families. Why should not they? What is there in the interests of the nation that requires that they should be unable to do so? There has been mainly one argument brought against it, namely, that the industries of this country are at this moment in such peril that unless the Safeguarding of Industries Bill is passed now, instead of two months hence, grave disaster may overtake them. I do not doubt that that information has been placed before the noble Marquess by the traders, through the Board of Trade. But can anybody really believe that suddenly, at this last moment, these traders have become in imminent peril. I am utterly unable to credit it. If, indeed, their industries are in such jeopardy, I want to know why it is that the Government have not thought of them before? Why is it that at the last moment of this session this Bill is brought forward and passed under the threat that certain industries are in grave apprehension as to what will happen. It seems to me incredible for ally person who has a knowledge of the transactions of business to believe that there is any real foundation for the complaint of these manufacturers; and you will find that they are the men who would have made exactly the same complaint at any time during the last few years.
That is really the whole answer to the case. That the interest and convenience of this House would be consulted is certain. That the interest and convenience of the House of Commons would be consulted is equally certain, and I believe also that the 117 convenience of numbers of members of the Government would also be served, if the Motion was carried. All that is left, therefore, is the idea, which appears to have taken possession of those who control the Cabinet, that you must on no account have an autumn session, although you must be recalled in the autumn for the purpose of considering some new legislation then.
That Parliament will re-assemble in November is regarded as a hopeful certainty by everybody who follows public events. The Marquess of Salisbury has pointed out that in those circumstances there must be a period when this House will be, to some extent, in a state of suspended animation. It will not be occupied with discussing first-class Bills. Why is it that that moment cannot be used for the purpose of discussing the first-class measures that remain over? I certainly hope your Lordships will accept the Motion, and that you will not think—if you do, you will think wrongly—that because it has been associated with the name of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, therefore it has behind it some sinister Free Trade influence intended to injure the prospects of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. I speak with confidence when I say that it has behind it nothing whatever of the kind. The only thing that has actuated the noble Marquess in placing the Motion on the Paper is that your Lordships may be asked to translate into action that which your words have proclaimed from time to time, farther back than my memory permits me to go.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, I rose twice with the object of putting the Question, but further speeches were made in support of the Motion and it has been suggested that perhaps silence at this stage of the debate on the part of the Government may show some disrespect to those who have spoken, and might be misunderstood on other grounds. I recognise in the fullest manner the right of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to make the protest he has to-night on behalf of the House of Lords as a body and the private members of your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess has never had responsibility for conducting business in the House of Lords.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is, after all, the responsibility of the Leader. Therefore, the noble Marquess has completely survived the charges which he has made against others. How far the noble Marquess would have survived them if he had happened to find himself leading this House in the three years which have elapsed since the. Armistice, your Lordships must judge, and it is quite useless for any person to dogmatise on it. I, as a member of the Government, am not conscious of the slightest feeling of surprise or resentment when the noble Marquess adopts the attitude he has in this debate. But I do confess, when I regard the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, as the exponent of this Motion, and see him reinforced with every appearance of deep conviction by the impeccable rectitude of Lord Buckmaster, that I am astonished and conscious of some slight feeling of resentment.
Both Lord Crewe and Lord Buckmaster were members of a Government which—I say this deliberately—im posed more burdens upon your Lordships' House, at a later period of the session, involving a greater mass of debateable matter—matter which was deeply resented in this House—than any Government of which I am conscious. What was the view then taken by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe? Did he come to this House and make a protest on behalf of the position of the House of Lords? Was that desire, which Lord Buckmaster assured us is the single motive of those who now introduce this Motion to-day, operative then in the very powerful bosom of the noble Marquess and the less powerful bosom o [the noble and learned Lord, who then occupied the position of Solicitor-General, and was not a member of the Cabinet? The noble Marquess was one of the most influential members of the Cabinet, and decisions were taken overloading the programme in this House to a degree, I submit, far greater than that of which complaint is made to-day.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The last two sessions of the Government of which the noble and learned Lord was a member. 119 If he will consult with the noble Marquess, who bore the heat and burden of the day in this House, and would throw his mind back to the date in August and to the Bills enumerated by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, he will see that the language I employ is not exaggerated.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
He was a member of the Government in the last session preceding the war. He is aware, no doubt, of the relative state of business as between the two Houses in the month of July, 1914; and the noble Marquess, of course, has a very vivid recollection of all these matters. I am not adopting this argument with the object of saying that one side is as bad as the other. I agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that that is a very futile contention. I use this argument for this reason. It seems to me that in the circumstances in which the Government have carried on for the last ten years, probably for more than ten years, whatever Government is in power will find itself driven to come to the House of Lords at the end of a session with a larger number of measures for their consideration than is, in all the circumstances of the case, reasonable. I believe such is the pressure of public affairs that whatever Government takes the place of the present Government will find itself confronted with some of the inconveniences of this course. Therefore, I do not reject the argument which has been used, that the House may be well advised to take the course of making that protest which the House is asked to make, if, on the balance of convenience, you think that is the wiser course.
Is it the wiser course? I listened to the speech that was made by Lord Crewe with a constantly growing admiration for the diplomatic skill which we have long known him to possess, and I am of opinion, on the whole, that the achievement which he has exhibited to us to-night must be accounted the most remarkable in a remarkable political career. What has Lord Crewe succeeded in doing? He has succeeded, apparently, in uniting Lord Salisbury with himself in attempting to persuade the House of Lords to refuse to pass Government legislation after a certain date, except in the circumstances which are indicated in the terms of the Motion.
120 I could not help wondering, while Lord Buckmaster spoke, why he was so very careful to insist that the attitude adopted by himself and his friends had nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of what is popularly known as the Key Industries Bill. I absolutely accept, of course, the assurance of Lord Buckmaster that in supporting this Motion he is quite uninfluenced by the fortunes of the Key Industries Bill. It only then remains for us to note what has taken place in the House of Commons, and what has taken place to-night in this House, as one of the most remarkable political coincidences of recent times. I do not know whether your Lordships have personally followed the recent proceedings in the House of Commons. Let me summarise them in a sentence. The whole opposition in the House of Commons, which has proceeded from the Independent Liberal Party, has been an opposition seriously directed at the Key Industries Bill, and at no other Bill; and it is well known, to anybody who has followed the political developments of the last three weeks in the House of Commons, that I do not exaggerate when I say that every other Bill which has come before your Lordships' House between now and the adjournment would have been conceded, almost without debate, in another place, had the Government in their turn been prepared to make some concession upon the Key Industries Bill. Nobody who is aware of the progress of events in another place for the last three weeks could dispute that proposition.
We did not think proper, in another place, to give way, and I will tell your Lordships why. The Key Industries Bill may be a good Bill, or it may be a bad Bill, but it is, at least, a long overdue Bill. Lord Buck-master said we had waited three years. That taunt would have had some contact with reasonableness if those three years had been spent in idleness in this House. The noble and learned Lord is well aware of the burden under which we have laboured in this House and in another place. I said that it was overdue because, as the Leader of the House pointed out, Lord Crewe himself is the father, in all its main features, of the Key Industries Bill. Lord Crewe was not only a member of the deputation which went from this country to confer with our Allies upon this subject during the war; Lord Crewe was actually the leader of the deputation that went for that purpose to Paris, and that reached the conclusions 121 which, as I shall endeavour to show when it reaches this House, are contained within the four corners of that Bill in its present shape. But the fact remains that that small Party which the noble Marquess represents with so much ability—small in this House, and very small in another place—has concentrated upon this as the one Bill which led them to oppose the proposal of the Government to adjourn and as the one Bill which, if we would sacrifice it, would restore complete harmony of view between the two Parties in another place.
It is at least astonishing that, such being the notorious position elsewhere, we find that the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, puts down a Motion which, on the terms of it, allows any agreed Bill to go through before Parliament separates in the ordinary course. In other words, almost every Bill—and Lord Salisbury has conceded that this might apply to the Licensing Bill—that may be agreed between Parties may be dealt with before we separate but the one Bill which Lord Crewe and Lord Buck-master, by their Motion, will not allow us to deal with is the one Bill in opposing which the political supporters of Lord Crewe and Lord Buckrnaster in another place have consolidated their forces and mustered all their strength. It may be a coincidence, but it is a very singular coincidence; and I, for one, warmly congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, who is perhaps slightly deficient in man strength in this House, on having succeeded in effecting the capture of Lord Salisbury for the purpose of postponing the Key Industries Bill, a Bill in which, I will undertake to say, the overwhelming majority of the Unionist Party in the House of Commons and elsewhere take a profound interest.
It is easy for those who have long been opposed to us upon tariff questions to speak contemptuously of the delay which has taken place in the production of this measure, and to belittle its importance. But those of us who, for many years now, have not been, like Lord Crewe, convinced Free Traders, those of us who for many years have believed in such an adjustment as is contemplated by the terms of this Bill, may be forgiven if we are inclined to adopt the view that, having succeeded in gaining now a position in which that Bill will shortly be through all its stages in the House of Commons and if nothing happens as the result of the debates here, of seeing it placed upon the Statute Book, 122 we should reply to noble Lords who say: "We are not here because of our hostility to the Key Industries Bill, but we are here only to make a protest on behalf of the liberties of the House of Lords," by saying to them: "Select some other object for your protest than the one object to the opposition to which you are, in feeling and in controversy, so deeply committed."
I listened with astonishment to some of the reasons we were invited to consider for the decision which the House is about to reach. Lord Newton produces a paragraph from The Nation. That is his line of admonition to the House of Lords. He says we are gaining support to-day from quarters which never extended it to us in the past. "Let me read you, "he says," a eulogy which Mr. Massingham of The Nation has recently passed upon us." Has it really come to this—that when we wish to discover the touchstone of conduct in the present discussion, when we are reaching a decision with respect to which different views are taken by our own friends, we are to look to the eulogy of those who, during the whole of their political lives, have never ceased from covering this House with ridicule, and who would have destroyed it at any moment if it had been in their power to do so?
I am one who, in my political career, has been accustomed to look to my friends, and not to my enemies, for advice in contingencies of this kind. I remember well, in the fifteen years during which I have been in Parliament that this House has found itself involved in many grave and bitter struggles, and from sonic of them we have emerged with our ancient historical powers truncated and even destroyed. More than any other man in this House, Lord Crewe is responsible for the circumstance that here to-day we meet, as Lord Salisbury has reminded us, a maimed Legislative Assembly. More than to any other man, the destruction of the age-long liberty of this House is due to him. I, for one, when I want counsel as to what we shall do at a grave moment of crisis in the history of this institution, will go to those who afforded us their succour and their help so long as the struggle raged, and their sympathy when we lost and the struggle was concluded. I would not select as safe advisers those whose object it was to compass that destruction, and who, in the sequel, effectively carried out that object.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I had not intended to say anything more, although the terms of my Motion permit me to reply, but the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack compels me to add a few observations. That speech was evidently intended to wind up the debate with the fervid eloquence from the noble and learned Viscount with which we are so familiar. To the best of my ability I must say one or two words in reply to the noble and learned Viscount. The noble Viscount's speech, though so eloquent as I have stated, was in a way transparent. It was purely and simply an attempt to create prejudice. The noble Marquess who leads the House started on a similar line by devoting a considerable portion of his speech to what the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with great propriety, described as a Second Beading discourse on the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. The noble and learned Viscount has devoted at least an equal portion of his oration to that measure. But the introduction of that measure as a main topic of debate to-day only becomes relevant if the noble and learned Viscount is prepared to say that he does not believe what I have deliberately said, and what Lord Buckmaster has said.
I have stated, to the best of my ability, the purpose of this Motion, which, in effect, is simply that as your Lordships' House is quite certain anyhow to have to meet in the autumn, we may just as well adjourn now and do sonic of your Lordships' business then. The noble and learned Viscount did not touch upon what I assumed to be a certainty—and it has not been contradicted—that your Lordships will be called together sonic time in November. But for the purpose of exciting the sympathy of those of your Lordships—and I have no doubt there are many—who are keenly interested in the future of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, you are told, without an atom of evidence, that it is a dislike of that measure which has prompted the Motion now placed on the Paper. I have already said, and my noble and learned friend has said, that that is not the explanation, and I repeat once more that it is only by throwing doubt on our word that the main part of the speech of the noble and learned Viscount (and the speech of the noble Marquess, though far less in his case) becomes 124 in the slightest degree relevant to the discussion.
I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by entering into the question as to how far my presence at the Economic Conference in Paris disentitles me to express an opinion upon the necessity or otherwise of the particular measure for the safeguarding of industries which His Majesty's Government have introduced. I have no idea as to what the present condition of that measure is. I believe it has undergone some modifications in another place. As I have said, it undoubtedly will receive from noble Lords who dislike the idea of the artificial protection of industries, a good deal of notice and comment when it comes here. But what I ask your Lordships to consider is this. I conceive that the measure when it comes will, at any rate, on its main lines, receive the support of the majority of your Lordships' House. It probably would, if it was an infinitely more protectionist measure than I understand that it is. But why the noble Viscount should exhibit such intense indignation towards myself in assuming that the fact of the Bill being considered here in November, instead of in September, would mean that it is less likely to pass into law, I confess I am altogether unable to comprehend.
I do not at all dispute that the measure will require considerable notice here, and I think it is likely to receive that notice to better purpose in November than if it is dragged on through the early part of September. That, I hope, is a sufficiently harmless observation to make. I do protest very strongly against this particular question being dragged in, as I repeat once more, for the pure purpose of raising prejudice against this Motion and against myself as responsible for it; and I confess that it is a very long time since I can remember any occasion in your Lordships' House when one who has sat here, like myself, for sonic time, had so much reason to complain of what I can only call deliberately unfair treatment in the manner in which the noble and learned Viscount has brought the matter before your Lordships' House.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 104.125
|Bedford, D.||Haldane, V.||kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Lawrence, L.|
|Camden, M,||Templetown, V.||MacDounell, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Norwich, L. Bp.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain).||Amphtill, L.||Morris, L.|
|Anslow, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Avebury, L.||Newton, L.|
|Barrymore, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Bledisloe, L.||O'Hagan, E.|
|Buxton, E,||Boston, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Buckmaster, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Cawley, L.||Ritchie of Duandee, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Chalmers, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Morton, E.||Charming of Wellingborough, L.||Saye and Sele, E.|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Charnwood, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Portsmouth, E||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Roden, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Clinton, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Sumner, L.|
|Ebury, E.||Swaythling, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Templemore, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Terrington, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Emmott, L.||Vernon, L. [Teller.]|
|Churchill, V.||Erskine, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Farrer, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Gladstone, V.||Gainford, L.||Wester, Wemyss, E.|
|Gosehen, V.||Hindlip, L.||Wynford, L|
|Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Verulam, E.||Ernle, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Argyll D||Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Gisborough, E.|
|Marlborough D||Sandhurst, V. [L. Chamberlain.)||Glenarthur, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Astor, V.||Gorell, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Chilston, V.||Harris, L|
|Finlay, V.||Hylton, B.|
|Hardinge, V.||Illingworth, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Hill, V.||Inverforth, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Hood, V.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Bath, M.||Milner, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Peel, V.||Lee of Fareham, L.|
|Pirrie, V.||Leverhulme, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ludlow, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Aberdare, L.||Marshall of Chipstead, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Abinger, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Aldenham, L.||Meston, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Methuen, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Armaghdale, L.||Monekton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Ashfield, B.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Cromer, E.||Atkinson, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Basing, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Eldon, E.||Brownlow, E.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Cheylesmore, L.||Ribblesdale, E.|
|Howe, E.||Clwyd, L.||Riddell, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Colwyn, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lytton, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Malmesbury, E.||Cozens-Hardy, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dawson of Penn, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Dewar, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Powis, E.||Dynevor, L.||Weir, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Wyfold, B.|
|Resolved in the negative, and Motion | disagreed to accordingly.|