HL Deb 03 July 1923 vol 54 cc734-7

My Lords, as I see the noble Marquess the Deputy Leader of the House in his place, I desire to ask a Question of which I have given private notice. Anybody who is interested in the business of this House must have observed that the Order Paper is getting greatly congested, and there is only a month left of the present Session. I have a Notice on the Paper to-day—[to ask if any further progress has been made with reference to the settlement of Hungarian Reparations]—which is of more importance than it appears, and upon which I know that various Peers are anxious to speak, but there is obviously no chance of its being reached to-day. I propose therefore to put it down for this day week, though I have not the smallest guarantee that it will be reached on that day, because it is open to any noble Lord to put down a Bill which will take precedence of it. The present system is an extremely inconvenient one. It would be much more practical and convenient if Motions were taken in the order in which they are put down on the Paper. If the Government desire precedence for any measure of their own it would then be perfectly easy for them to move that they should have precedence, provided they do so a day beforehand. In view of the fact that we only sit practically for nine hours in the week it is obviously desirable that we should now make a practice of meeting on Mondays.


My Lords, I am quite sure that it is only a matter for your Lordships to decide how soon you resume the ancient practice of sitting on Mondays. I think we have very nearly reached the period in the Session when, in any case, the Government would have to ask your Lordships to sit on Mondays. I had not proposed to ask that indulgence next Monday, but, of course, if my noble friend, or other noble Lords, pressed it, I would do so. But after next Monday I expect it will be necessary to sit on Mondays. I will confer with my noble friend the Leader of the House, and with the Leader of the Opposition on that point.

I think it would be inconvenient to adopt the course which my noble friend suggests—namely, that upon Tuesdays and Thursdays Notices of Motion should have precedence of Bills, according to the date of their being put on the Paper. After all, the main business of your Lordships' House is to pass legislation, and though everybody knows—and certainly I am the last man to deny—that the debates which arise upon a mere Question, or Motion, in this House are very important, yet they ought not to interfere with the actual passing of legislation which is necessary for the country. So I should rather deprecate the suggestion that upon Tuesdays and Thursdays there should be an alteration in our arrangements. The proper answer to my noble friend's difficulty, undoubtedly, is Monday sittings. That is the proper remedy and I need not tell your Lordships that if I receive any suggestion from any quarter of the House that they would wish to sit on Mondays henceforth, I would convey that to my noble friend the Leader of the House and I am sure he would agree with it. As a matter of fact I do not think that next Monday would be a very suitable day for the particular Motion which my noble friend mentioned, because I believe the Leader of the Opposition cannot be here.


Tuesday will suit me.


On Tuesday I cannot, without an alteration of the Rules of the House, give the precedence to my noble friend that he wishes. He said in his speech that no difficulty would arise so far as the Government were concerned because we could always move a special Motion to put our Orders in front of others. It is true that we could do so, but whether your Lordships would consent to it is quite another matter and I should think that if that practice was often indulged in your Lordships' House would very much resent it. We do not want to upset the order of business except where the interests of the country absolutely demand it, and that has always been the practice of your Lordships' House. If my noble friend places his Motion on the Paper for Tuesday I am afraid that I cannot promise him the precedence for it that he desires. If he wants it to appear in the Notice Paper on Monday I will make inquiries during the next twenty-four hours and, if necessary, I will ask your Lordships to sit on Monday.


My Lords, in reference to what has fallen from the noble Marquess, may I say that noble Lords on this side of the House will be only too glad to fall in with any suggestion made by him? This question is a very hardy annual. It is always raised at this time of the year and the noble Marquess, if he will allow me to say so. has so good a record in the past in his anxiety about the way in which this House should sit and deal adequately with all the Bills presented to it, especially those presented by a Liberal Government, that I have no doubt on this occasion the traditions of your Lordships' Rouse will be perfectly safe in his hands. I agree with him in thinking that it is more convenient to meet on Monday than on any other day of the week, although as time goes on it may be necessary to meet on Fridays as well. Should that happen, I hope that the noble Marquess will be good enough to remember the possibility of meeting at an earlier hour, as they do in another place, because that makes it much more convenient in respect of Royal Commissions, and so on. I am sure the noble Marquess is ready to meet on Mondays if it is necessary and that the rest of your Lordships are ready to do the same. The reasons for meeting next Monday are, I agree with him, not so evident, but I think that after that it will probably become necessary to meet on Mondays.