HL Deb 21 February 1922 vol 49 cc166-8

My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government when it is proposed to introduce the Resolutions for the reform of the House as indicated in another place. I was present in another place when the Parliament Bill was passed and when it was suggested that whilst the Second Chamber was destroyed and nothing else put in its place it would be possible for the Government to introduce measures of first-class importance and force them through. The answer was that that was absurd and ridiculous and that no attempt would be made to do anything of the kind until the Preamble of the Bill had been carried out. That Government did nothing of the kind, but the present Government have continued that pledge and it is now stated that they intend to deal with it by Resolutions in this House. This is a matter that cannot be left in the air. It is of far too great importance to the people of this country, and I should like to ask His Majesty's Government when they intend to introduce the Resolutions indicated.


My Lords, I find myself in a very large measure of agreement—as was to be expected—with the observations that have fallen from my noble friend. His historical résumé of what has taken place is unexceptionable, but with regard to the particular question which he puts to me as to the precise date when these Resolutions may be expected, it may surprise the noble Lord to learn that although some degree of harmony is gradually being evolved in these discussions, upon which I would not be understood to dwell too optimistically, it is none the less a subject which continues to excite a considerable difference of opinion between those who have been examining it together with a large measure of good will.

I am, however, hopeful that it will be possible without any considerable delay to present a measure of agreement which will not be unacceptable to this House. I hope I am not too sanguine, but the noble Lord may, I think, be confident that he will be presented with the opportunity of considering the result of our deliberations. It would not be fair if the noble Lord, at a very anxious and occupied season, were to press me too closely as to the precise moment when these Resolutions will have attained the degree of verbal perfection which we shall hope they will acquire before the noble Lord is called upon to address his mind to them, but I am sincerely of opinion that it will not be very unduly delayed.


Arising out of the reply of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, may I ask him if he can tell me whether the Resolutions will be introduced this session?


That is the confident belief of the Government.


My Lords, without appearing to press unduly His Majesty's Government on this matter, might I ask Whether it will be possible for the noble and learned Viscount, or for the noble Marquess who leads the House, who I know is specially concerned with the latest consideration of this question, to tell us whether there is any probability, so far as they know—I will not put it higher than that—that these Resolutions will be introduced before Easter. That hardly seems to be an unfair question to put to the noble Marquess. I will not press him further than that, but if he could inform us whether that is likely it might be a convenience to some of your Lordships.


My Lords, I am very glad to answer the question which the noble Marquess has addressed to me, and I must apologise for not being in my place when the original Question was asked. I was telephoned for from the Foreign Office where I was engaged on business, and I came to your Lordships' House as soon as I was able. I did not hear the remarks of the noble Lord who asked the Question and I have only been informed of the general tenor of the reply of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. The position, as I understand it, is this. As regards the business of this House the next matter of importance that will come before your Lordships will, of course, be the Irish Bill. That must take precedence of everything else in time just as it does in importance. The Bill will, I hope, reach us in the course of next week and I imagine that your Lordships will desire to proceed with it continuously until you have disposed of it.

The noble Marquess said just now with truth that the question of the House of Lords Resolution* is one which very closely concerns me, partly because of the position which I happen to occupy and partly because it will fall to me to introduce the Resolutions to your Lordships' House. To that extent the date of their introduction here is somewhat necessarily dependent on my own movements. As your Lordships know, I have been waiting for some time past to undertake a mission, long settled and arranged, to Paris to deal with the Near Eastern question at a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of France, Italy and ourselves, which has only been postponed from week to week, I might almost say from day to day, owing to the unfortunate political convulsion in Italy which has deprived that country of anything like a Government for the last two or three weeks. As soon as a Government is formed, and as soon as a Foreign Minister has taken office there, I imagine, and I certainly hope, that he will be prepared to go to Paris and to undertake the negotiations to which I have referred. It therefore may well be that at any moment I may be called away at a few days' notice to go across the Channel to these discussions.

Subject to that, I am anxious to introduce the Resolutions to your Lordships' House as soon as may be. Whether the introduction will take place within three or four or five or six weeks, I cannot say. But if time noble Marquess asks me—and this was his definite question—whether I hope to introduce them before Easter I would answer certainly in the affirmative, and your Lordships' House may rely upon me to expedite the date, subject to the consideration I have named, to the best of my ability.