HL Deb 15 May 1923 vol 54 cc176-8

THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD had given Notice to call attention to the growing strength of Socialism, and to ask His Majesty's Government whether they propose to take any steps to modify by legislation the power of trades unions to make compulsory levies for political purposes. The noble Earl said: My Lords, the subject which is on the paper to-night is one which, I regret, has been twice postponed already; once because I was asked to do so by an important section of opinion in your Lordships' House, and on the second occasion because there was a wedding of some interest taking place. I now find myself in the unfortunate position of being called upon at ten minutes past six o'clock to initiate a debate in which some fourteen or fifteen Peers desire to take part, and those among the most important in your Lordships' House.

If the Government acquiesce and if your Lordships generally acquiesce, I do not think it desirable that the first formal debate, so far as I know, which has taken place in the House of Lords on the two important topics raised in my Motion—first, the position of Socialism in this country, and, secondly, the political contributions of trades unions.—should be discussed after dinner, and it is certain that the debate which I was proposing to initiate could not he completed before the dinner hour That is evident from the number of Peers who desire to take part. I am entirely in your Lordships' hands, and I am prepared to proceed with the discussion, but I would suggest in these circumstances that on the whole it would be more convenient, and more consonant with the importance of such a debate, that I should again, though most reluctantly, postpone it, and this time until after Whitsuntide. If that meets with the approval of your Lordships, I am prepared to take that course.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble and learned Earl has on the two occasions to which he has referred been compelled to postpone his most important Motion. I am bound to point out however that the delay this afternoon in reaching a moment at which he might have moved it has been largely due to the abnormal activities of the noble and learned Earl himself. If he has not added thereby to the chances of his Motion he certainly has added much to the gaiety of our proceedings. I am disposed to think that the noble and learned Earl has made out quite a good case. In the first place, his Motion is one of great importance; in the second place, it is only reasonable that he should have an opportunity of expressing his views at an hour when the House is fully attended; and, thirdly, it is equally reasonable that an opportunity should be afforded at a suitable hour not merely for the Lord Chancellor to reply, as he is going to do, but for the fifteen other Peers referred to by the noble and learned Earl to acquaint the House with their views. Therefore, while expressing regret that the noble and learned Earl is called upon once again to postpone his Motion I am prepared, on behalf of the Government, to advise your Lordships to accept the suggestion and take the debate after Whitsuntide at a date which is most convenient to all parties.


I am much obliged to the noble Marquess. I will only add this, that I have not yet realised during my public life that if a Motion stood in one's own name some obligation was imposed upon one relative to important criticisms on business which held the field in the Parliamentary programme.