HL Deb 24 May 1922 vol 50 cc639-44

My Lords, I desire, with your Lordships' leave, to ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith have accepted the invitation of His Majesty's Government to come over this week in order to discuss the situation in Ireland; and, generally, whether the Government have any statement to make on the Irish crisis?


My Lords, I am indebted to the noble Marquess for the courtesy with which he informed me of the question which he proposed to ask the Government. I deal specifically with a specific question. Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins have been invited, as have all the Irish signatories of the Treaty, to attend in London at the earliest possible moment for a conference with the English signatories of the Treaty. An intimation has been received that Mr. Griffith and Mr. Duggan will cross from Ireland to-night, with a further intimation that, while Mr. Collins cannot, having regard to his public engagements, cross tonight, he will hold himself in readiness, should his presence be urgently required; to cross for the week end. I think it highly probable, so far as one can in such matters forecast the future at all, that his presence will be discovered to be urgently necessary, and therefore, in my anticipation, it is reasonable to suppose that the Irish signatories of the Treaty will meet the English signatories of the Treaty in London during the present week end.

The noble Marquess has asked me a further question, whether I desire on behalf of the Government to make any statement in relation to the Irish question. The contingent gravity of that which has been said and that which has been done in the last few days, both in the North and in the South of Ireland, is apparent, and needs no elaboration at my hands. What is its full significance will be elicited more plainly as the result of the discussions which will take place at the week end. To me, at least, it would appear to be certain that at a very early date next week there must be full and grave discussion of the Irish question in this House, and I would suggest to the noble Marquess that, observing, as he will have the opportunity of observing, the progress of events, informing himself, if he thinks it useful to do so, by consultation with myself or with any other Minister, of that which makes an occasion suitable or unsuitable, he should take an early opportunity next week of raising this question, or this series of questions, on a more elaborate scale, and in circumstances which will render a full discussion convenient.

In the meantime, for reasons which I am bold enough to think will recommend themselves to most of your Lordships, I would rather deprecate discussion upon any isolated branch of the subject. I observe that my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson, has a Question on the Paper for to-morrow. I am perfectly prepared to give him all the information at the disposal of the Government in relation to that Question to-morrow, if he thinks it proper, in the circumstances with which I have dealt, to put it, but on the whole I merely suggest, or commend to his consideration—I do not put it so high as a suggestion—whether there might not be some public purpose attained by postponing the whole of our discussions on these very grave and disputable matters until such an early day next week as the development of events suggests to him.


I appreciate, of course, what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said concerning a more extended discussion next week. I understand, from the usual channels of information, that it is intended that a statement shall be made by the Colonial Secretary in another place on Monday. I do not know whether the Lord Chancellor would wish us to wait for that statement, or whether he proposes to make a contemporaneous statement in your Lordships' House. If he took that course, it would provide an opportunity for discussion, but be spoke as if it were not quite certain on which day he would be prepared for such a discussion.


I did speak, in point of time, with a slight degree of ambiguity, because I was not in my own mind quite satisfied as to when a conclusion would be reached in the Irish discussion, having regard to the date of the arrival of Mr. Collins. The noble Marquess is perfectly right when he says that the existing arrangement is that the Colonial Secretary will make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday. That is his present intention, subject, of course, to revocation or postponement. But if it were the desire of the House that there should be a contemporary discussion here—I speak, of course, in the presence of my noble friend who is at the moment leading the House, and I do not claim to know what his view would be—if there is a general desire that the statements should be contemporary, I do not think that we should stand in the way of such a wish. On the other hand, noble Lords might think that there was possibly an advantage to be gained in having had not only the discussion, such as it may be, elsewhere, but also forty-eight hours' further experience of the situation, which, believe me, changes from day to day, almost from hour to hour.


I think the result of this conversation is that the Government rather indicate that the discussion in your Lordships' House upon Ireland, if there is to be one, should take place on Tuesday or Wednesday. In those circumstances, I would ask my noble friend who is leading the 'House what he proposes to do in respect of the Allotments Bill? So far as I am concerned, I may mention that I have conferred with my friends, and If see no great objection to taking the further stages of the Bill on Monday, which was, I think, the original intention of my noble friend.


My Lords, if I may regularise the matter to that extent, I will make the Motion which stands in my name and make a statement. The Motion, of which Notice has been given, is that Standing Order No. XXI be dispensed with for this day's sitting; and that the Motion for the House to be again in Committee on the Allotments Bill [H.L.] have precedence over the Motion for the House to be put into Committee on the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Bill [H.L.] and over the Motions of the Lord Muir Mackenzie and the Lord Islington.

This Motion substitutes the Allotments Bill for the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Bill in the order of precedence on the Paper. I remember that my noble friend, Lord Dynevor, suggested last night that Monday would be too soon to proceed with the Allotments Bill, but I am glad to gather from what my noble friend, Lord Salisbury, has just said that there has evidently been some adjustment of the conference which is to he held, making that course possible. In that case, I invite your Lordships to meet on Monday to take the Report stage of this Bill, and, in deference to what Lord Crewe said yesterday, I would suggest that the Third Reading should be taken, preferably on Tuesday, or, if necessary, on Wednesday, the last day of the month. In that case your Lordships will be sitting for the first three days of next week, and it will be for your Lordships to determine, after watching the progress of these Irish discussions, upon which day you would desire to invite the Lord Chancellor to make a statement on Irish matters.

There is one further point about the Allotments Bill. Yesterday, in response to appeals made from various quarters of the House sonic time before, Lord Ancaster announced that he had a number of consolidation Amendments that he was prepared to put into the Bill. There are three or four folio typewritten pages of those Amendments. He will be prepared to hand them in to-night at the conclusion of the Committee stage, or else, if on reconsideration your Lordships should prefer it, the notice being rather short, my right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, would insert the Amendments in the House of Commons, and they would then reach your Lordships as Commons Amendments to a Lords Bill. My own strong preference is that they should be inserted in this House, but if any body of your Lordships desire that the other course should he followed, my noble friend, Lord Ancaster, would be prepared to concur.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXI be dispensed with for this day's sitting; and that the Motion for the House to be again in Committee on the Allotments Bill [H.L.] have precedence over the Motion for the House to be put into Committee on the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Bill [H.L.] and over the Motions of the Lord Muir Mackenzie and the Lord Islington.—(The Earl of Crawford.)


My Lords, I do not know what Lord Muir Mackenzie has to say to that method of dealing with consolidation Amendments. The usual plan is to send consolidation Amendments before the Joint Committee.


But, my Lords, this is only doing a certain amount of consolidation of existing statutes. Further consolidation of enactments relating to allotments and small holdings probably will be necessary. I think I have indicated that we want to get the Third Reading of the Bill before the Whitsuntide recess.


Is it proposed to take the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Bill before Whitsuntide?


No, not before the Whitsuntide recess.


I understand that a certain amount of consolidating of existing Acts of Parliament will be moved by Lord Ancaster, but is there no possibility that existing Acts of Parliament will be altered by Amendments to this Bill?


The answer is that the Amendments would have to be varied. Either rightly or wrongly, we think that the most convenient thing would be that we should get this Bill through, and so know how the law stands, and how your Lordships wish it to stand, and then deal further with the very complex question of the tenure of small holdings and allotments. Nobody knows what is a small holding and what is an allotment, and what is an allotment in a cottage garden, and what is a cottage garden, and the tenure relating to those different subjects. When we have this Bill through Committee we hope we shall be able to place Amendments on the Paper for Report stage—I do not think they would be of very great importance, but they would be of certain length—to put the whole question of the tenure of these different classes of allotments upon a comprehensible footing. Of course, as the noble Earl who leads the House has said, there is the alternative of merely passing the Bill through this House, dealing with the other matter in the House of Commons, and then bringing it hack here as amended in the House of Commons. But from what has already happened I think noble Lords regard the first arrangement as the preferable one.


Of the two alternatives, I favour the first, because I think the Allotments Bill should be thoroughly dealt with by your Lordships before passing to another place; but if the consideration of Amendments on Report is going to be restricted and fettered in any way owing to this production of consolidation Amendments between the two stages, I prefer the other alternative.


I can give your Lordships an assurance that the consolidation Amendments will in no way fetter you in dealing with the whole case on its merits on the Report stage.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.