§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess the Deputy Leader of the House what is the business for this week?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I understand that debates on the Irish Free State Constitution Bill and the Irish Free State (consequential Provisions) Bill will be concluded in the House of Commons to-morrow night. I would ask your Lordships to allow them to be read a first time that night with the usual procedure of keeping a skeleton House for the purpose, and that the Second Reading of both Bills may be taken on the next day; that is, on Thursday. Your Lordships are aware from what was said upon the Address how very hard pressed we are for time. Everything has to be concluded, the Royal Assent has to be given and the Proclamation has to be made, by December 6; and it is with the greatest regret therefore that I, of all men, have to say that the opportunities of debate in your Lordships' House must be a good deal restricted. That, as the noble and learned Viscount opposite (Viscount Birkenhead) will recognise, is not my fault. He will know where the fault lies. That being so, we propose to take the Second Reading of both Bills on Thursday, if your Lordships are willing to do so, and in order to give a little more time I venture to suggest that 50 we should meet at three o'clock that afternoon. I have made inquiry and find that there is no judicial business on that day; consequently, there will be no difficulty on that head. We could, therefore, meet at three o'clock on Thursday, if your Lordships wished to do so.
Whether your Lordships will be content to read both Bills a second time on that day I, of course, cannot say, but I hope that you may be willing to do so. If not, they must go over to the Friday, but if you are willing to conclude the Second Reading on Thursday you will only be imitating the House of Commons, which read both Bills a second time in one day. If that were the wish of the House we would take the Committee stage on Friday, and the remaining stages on Monday or Tuesday of next week—probably on Monday. If, on the other hand, it is thought right to carry on the Second Reading debate—I should rather deprecate it, but it would be for the House to decide—the Committee stage could not be taken until Monday. Even then, I think we should just have time to get the business through.
I think the noble Lord questioned me only with regard to the business for this week. I have gone a little beyond his Question, but I dare say he will forgive me. There will, of course, be a little other business, of which I cannot, I am afraid, give any information, in the course of next week, but I will take an early opportunity of informing the House how matters stand.
§ VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, I do not think it is profitable to ask where any fault lies in the matter, or whether there is any fault at all. I do not myself believe that in the difficult circumstances in which the Government is placed the noble Marquess will find that he is making an excessive demand upon the indulgence of the House in asking that both Second Readings should be dealt with on Thursday. The emergency is of the most pressing character, and my humble advice to the Government would be to make an attempt to procure the Second Reading of both Bills on Thursday. I believe it can be done.