HL Deb 21 March 1922 vol 49 cc634-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, on a day like this I would not ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill except on one condition. Your Lordships have now, for two sessions, given enormous attention to the proposals of this Bill, and it left your Lordships, at an advanced stage of last session, almost as an agreed measure, with the exception of some nine or ten points upon which concessions had been demanded which, at that part of the session, I thought could with more convenience be made in the House of Commons. The Bill to-day is exactly as it was when your Lordships, after exhaustive discussion, passed it through all its stages last session, and, so far as I know, I have met every point which I have been asked to meet in demands for modification from one noble Lord or another.

I would therefore venture to suggest that we should give a Second Reading to the Bill, which we examined so exhaustively last year, and send it down to the House of Commons. If the developments of the session—as to which I make no prophecy—permit of its discussion there, well and good; it will then be made the subject of a decision in another place. I am bold enough to anticipate that your Lordships may take the view that it has been so exhaustively discussed in your Lordships' House as to make further dission on the Second Reading almost unnecessary. If your Lordships did not take that view, I should not think it right, on a day when there is so much business on the Paper, to invite your Lordships to go into the question now.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, as to the importance of this Bill I think your Lordships will have no doubt. As the noble and learned Viscount has said, it has been the subject of very careful and exhaustive consideration on two occasions in your Lordships' House, and it is not for the purpose of placing any obstacle in the way of its progress this afternoon that I have risen with a view to calling your Lordships' attention to what I consider a serious matter in connection with the Bill. As the noble and learned Viscount has said, this Bill has been carefully and exhaustively discussed by your Lordships' House. Why is it that it is not the law of the land? Simply because the Government have not thought fit to introduce it in another place. There is no longer any reasonable prospect of obstinate opposition in this House. The only unknown quantity is the temper of the House of Commons. Why is it not now introduced into the House of Commons first? If it passes that House, its passage through your Lordships' House may fairly be assumed to be secure.

What has happened, instead of that course being adopted, is that the whole cost of printing this Bill, which is one of the largest and heaviest Bills we have had before us for many years, has now been three times repeated, and on two occasions nothing but waste has resulted. If this Bill is not introduced into the House of Commons this session, it will mean further waste. Until it has been tested you cannot tell what view the House of Commons will take upon the matter. I cannot understand why the Government have not adopted what I should have thought would be a reasonable course—to try this Bill in the place where it has not been tried before. If the Commons passed it, I cannot anticipate much objection on the part of your Lordships to a Bill of which you have already approved, and if they did not pass it, this House would not be put to further trouble. It is for the purpose of asking why this particular procedure has been adopted at the risk of so much unnecessary cost that I have ventured to address your Lordships upon it.


My Lords, the answer is very simple. The noble and learned Lord, though perhaps some of your Lordships might not have inferred it from his speech, is one of the warmest and most valuable supporters whom this Bill possesses. In fact, if it had not been for his labours, it would not have reached its present position. The reason the Bill is introduced here and not in another place is because of the almost generally recognised superiority of this House. In the House of Commons there is a tendency in these matters to tedious and unnecessary discussion upon points of detail, so that it would be difficult to give the necessary time for its discussion there unless it came before them in a form in which it was really likely to pass into law.

I have laboured at great length for three years in this matter, and I have at last succeeded in procuring for it a place in the King's Speech. I may perhaps take your. Lordships' House into my confidence, and say that when I tried on a previous occasion to obtain mention of it in the King's Speech I was refused, on the ground that it might be mistaken for some special resumption of activity on the part of the Prime Minister in relation to the long forgotten Land Campaign. When the King's Speech was discussed this year, I succeeded in obtaining for this Bill its place therein, so that it is really evident that the Government intend to do their best, and I would ask your Lordships, who really are agreed on this matter, not to prejudice my chances, whether great or small, of passing it through its stages here very rapidly, and perhaps almost without discussion.


My Lords, I do not intend to keep your Lordships for more than a few moments, but as last year I took considerable interest in this Bill on behalf of the Land Union. I should like to make one or two remarks. I am very glad that ray noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has withdrawn Clause 101 which dealt with mines which could not be worked, because that was too big and intricate a question to deal with in a few lines. I regret that he has not been able to see his way to insert in Clause 138 (d), which dealt with the cost of enfranchisement between the lord and the tenant, an Amendment which was desired by the Land Union. I remember that on the Report stage last year my noble and learned friend moved the words which now appear in this Bill, and he intimated that there was liberty to make a further proposal in another place. I could wish that he had seen his way to put those words into this new Bill without waiting for a further Amendment in another place. There is a certain amount of new matter in this Bill, but I sincerely hope that I shall not find it necessary to move any Amendment at all. If it really is necessary, of course, I reserve the right to do so. I should like again, on behalf of the Land Union, to express to the noble and learned Viscount our very warm thanks for the great courtesy that he has shown to us in putting into the Bill so many of our suggestions.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.