HL Deb 04 July 1922 vol 51 cc248-50

Order of the Day read for the consideration of the Report from the Committee for Privileges.

The Committee reported: "That the Petitioner is not entitled to receive a Writ of Summons to Parliament."


My Lords, I beg to move that the Report of the Committee be now taken into consideration, and adopted.

Moved, That the Report be considered and adopted.—{The Earl of Donoughmore.)


My Lords, I think it not improper that I should make a very brief observation—and it shall be very brief—upon this subject, inasmuch as I assumed the responsibility of advising your Lordships to refer this matter back to the Committee of Privileges. Your Lordships will not have failed to observe that which has happened. By an overwhelming majority of the lay members of the Committee, and a majority, I think even more overwhelming, on the part of those with special legal qualifications, the Petition of Lady Rhondda was dismissed. The reasons for the view which has been taken by the legal Lords, and by one or two of the lay Lords, have been printed, and are available for the service of your Lordships. I would specially ask that any member of this House who takes a particular interest in this subject should study most closely the terms of that Report, which show, as I imagine conclusively, that the view taken by the later Committee was well founded, and that the view taken by the earlier Committee was ill founded.

I observe that the Petitioner in the case has been making observations, and, perhaps, inconsiderate animadversions, upon the course that has been adopted in this House. I have only this observation to make, in so far as the conduct of the House is reflected upon. We are told, I know not with what certainty it is stated, that there is to be a great reconstitution of this House, that there is to be a reform which will introduce great changes into its character. Why, at such a moment, of all others, we should, in our legislative capacity, admit Peeresses in their own right, I have never been able to imagine.

It is even suggested that the Government have been guilty of a breach of faith. There never was, believe me, a more idle charge. There has been no breach of faith. Let me recall to your Lordships, almost in a sentence, the Parliamentary history of this matter. When the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill was before the House of Commons, and when it was before the House of Lords, it was universally realised that if Peeresses in their own right were to be admitted to be members of this House a specific Amendment of the Bill was required, and your Lordships, then and there, on the merits of the question, declined to insert any such Amendment in the Bill. If, then, there was a breach of faith on the part of the Govern-I ment, it was a breach of faith in which, somehow or other, they had to compel your Lordships to be accomplices, and if one thing is more certain than another, it is that your Lordships, sitting here legislatively, had rot the slightest intention of admitting Peeresses in their own right to sit in this House, on the eve, as we are told, of a complete reconstitution of the character of this House.

So far as Parliament is concerned, there-I fore, there is not the slightest ground for such a suggestion, and it was only when the frontal attack completely failed, it was only when they Jailed to persuade your Lordships to make an alteration in the Bill which, ex hypothesi, was necessary to achieve their purpose—it was only then that it occurred to some over-subtle minds that no Amendment by the House was necessary, because that which was desired was already done. An attempt so Jesuitical met with the discomfiture! it deserved. No member of this House who reads the Report will, I venture to say, read it with-out agreeing, morally and legally, with i the view that has been taken by the Committee of Privileges.


May I be allowed to add that I have made inquiry and have been unable to obtain ! the printed Paper containing the judgment of the noble and learned Lords, to which we are invited to give our attention. I hope that omission will now be remedied.


I understood that the Paper was available, and, if that is not so, I certainly hope it will be made available at once.

On Question, Motion agreed to.