HL Deb 21 July 1924 vol 58 cc717-23

My Lords, I understand that it will be convenient to His Majesty s Government to make a statement as to the course of business. I should like therefore to ask them what their proposals are about the matter.


I am very much obliged to the noble Marquess. I think it would be also for the convenience of the House that we should see how business stands and what will be the demands on your Lordships' time in the future. We are hoping, as no doubt your Lordships are aware from what has been said in another place, to adjourn some time in the week after next. I do not want to fix the date more closely than that. The first Bill I have to mention is the London Traffic Bill. The Committee stage of that Bill has been put down for to-morrow. There are a very large number of Amendments upon the Paper, although I think a good many of them are duplicates and are really consequential upon prior Amendments. At the same time, I should like your Lordships to consider this and to ask the noble Marquess's view when ho makes a statement after what I have said, if he wishes to do so. I should desire certainly to suggest, on behalf of the Government, that if the Committee stage is not concluded by our ordinary adjournment at a quarter to eight we should meet again in the evening at nine o'clock in order to finish that stage. It is very important that we should get it through. I have not been able to find any other time when I think the Committee stage could be completed. Of course, after the Committee stage is completed, I shall have to make a further statement about the Report Stage.

Then there is the very important Bill which has just been read a first time—the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill. It is necessary that this Bill should be passed into law, if possible, before July 31, and for this reason, that unless it becomes operative by August I a large number of parsons will be left without any donations at all. I have ascertained that there will be no Judicial Sitting on Friday, and I want to ask your Lordships whether you would meet to consider that Bill and, I hope, to give it a Second Reading on Friday. I do not think it is likely to take a very long time. As there is no Judicial Sitting on Friday—I believe the Judicial Sittings are finished for the present—I should suggest that we meet at three o'clock. That, I think, would give your Lordships time to get away early, as you would like to do on a Friday afternoon.

There are also the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill which will have to be dealt with. Generally they do not take very long, and. I think it will be easy to find time when they can be discussed. In addition, there are two Bills which will come up to your Lordships' House, both of which may take some time. One is the Agricultural Wage? Bill. I do not know yet that it is certain whether it will come up or not, or in what form it will come up, and a great deal depends upon that. The other is the Housing (Financial Provisions) Bill. I think it will be necessary to ask your Lordships to deal with both those Bills before the adjournment if the Agricultural Wages Bill comes up from another place. Whether or not that will be so, I do not know at the present time, but I understand there is no doubt whatever that the Housing Bill will have to be considered.

I have already said that we hope to take the adjournment some time in the first week of August, and I think it maybe necessary to ask your Lordships to allow Government business to have precedence after a certain date. For instance, I hope that the Second Reading of the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill will be taken on Friday next. I know that time is short, but it is extremely important that the Committee stage of that Bill should be taken on Monday. At present, of course, the Committee stage cannot be put down for Monday because a Second Reading has not yet been granted to the Bill, and I shall ask your Lordships, therefore, if necessary, at the end of this week to give Government business precedence. I hope in that way that we may be able to get through our work with satisfactory discussion and in a satisfactory manner. Your Lordships are aware that towards the end of the Session there is generally a large amount of work sent up for us to carry through, and I hope we can do that in a satisfactory manner in the way that I have suggested.


My Lords, I hope that His Majesty's Government will very carefully consider their determination to take the Agricultural Wages Bill because you are not going to get it here for some considerable time. Further than that, those of us who have endeavoured to follow the Bill in its passage through the House of Commons are quite unable to appreciate or to form any idea of the shape in which it will reach your Lordships. My information, of course, is not so reliable as that which the Government receive, but I have been told that there is not the remotest chance of the Agricultural Wages Bill being finished in another place in time to come up here before the Recess if we are to adjourn as suggested. It is a Bill of far-reaching importance, not only to the agricultural industry but to industry generally. A good many members of your Lordships' House bold the opinion that the Bill will do an immense amount of mischief in its present form and will lead to the entire unemployment of a large number of men. In those circumstances it is rather a strong order, it seems to me, to ask your Lordships to consider it in the very short time that must be available if we are to rise in the first week in August and not to receive the Bill until the end of this month.

I say nothing about the Housing Bill because my poor wits have been quite unable to cope with that Bill in its passage through the House of Commons. It has been so completely changed and has gone through so many different phases that I do not think even the Minister in charge of it knows at this moment what is the real tendency of the Bill, or what it is going to do. These two Bills, both of very great importance, are coming before your Lordships at the end of the month and we have to consider them, to pass them through all their stages and to adjourn within the first few days of August. It is an astounding proposition, and it seems to me to be one that the Government ought very carefully to reconsider before they ask your Lordships to give them the support they require.


My Lords, I desire to support what the noble Viscount has said, on behalf of those who take an interest in the Agricultural Wages Bill. It is one which will have to be considered very carefully indeed by your Lordships' House, and when the noble Lord, the Lord President, suggests that Parliament is to be adjourned in the first week of August, I do not think that gives sufficient, time for consideration of the measures he has indicated by members of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, the remarks which have been made by my two noble friends behind me will have indicated to your Lordships that the proposals of the noble and learned Lord have caused some anxiety in the House. With one of his proposals, no doubt, we shall be in general agreement—that is the desire to separate, if it is possible to do so, in the first week in August. But the noble and learned Lord has proposed to pour a very full quart into a very small pint bottle, and really, if he expects this House to discharge the whole of the business he has indicated to us in the interval, I think he is over-sanguine. Let me take his proposals in the order in which he put them before us.

The first was the Traffic Bill, which is set down for Committee to-morrow, and upon which my noble friends upon this side of the House, and I dare say others elsewhere, have put down a number of Amendments, at least half a dozen of which raise questions of importance. I am doubtful whether we shall succeed in finishing the Committee Stage by dinner time, and I am not at all indisposed to consider the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord who asked the House, if we failed to finish by dinner, to continue our proceedings afterwards. I hope that your Lordships may be willing, in the circumstances of the case, to do so, but my answer on that point is to some extent dependent upon what we do with regard to the other Bills. The next Bill mentioned by the noble and learned Lord was the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill, and with regard to that he suggested that your Lordships should take the Second Reading at a special sitting for the purpose on Friday, meeting at three o'clock.


May I interrupt the noble Marquess for one moment? I have ascertained that, owing to their being a party in the precincts of your Lordships' House, it would be convenient if we met on Friday at twelve o'clock. We should not then interfere with other arrangements that may have been made for the party of the American Bar which is being held in the precincts of this House.


I was just going to make the suggestion myself, but on another ground—on the ground of the general convenience of the House—that if we met on Friday it would be a preferable hour for the convenience of noble Lords in general that we should meet at twelve rather than at three o'clock in the afternoon. As regards the course of business on that day, it is a little difficult to prognosticate, because I do not know yet—none of us knows—whether the Speaker is going to declare the bill to be a Money Bill or not. And obviously the degree of our discussion and proposed amendment may well turn largely upon that decision. The next proposal of the noble and learned Lord was that if we gave him the Second Reading of the Unemployment Insurance Bill on Friday the Committee Stage should be taken on Monday. The interval is rather short for putting down Amendments, as the noble and learned Lord is aware, but I would like to consult my colleagues, with a desire to accommodate the noble and learned Lord if we can do so.

Then he came to two measures of first class importance, as to which he left me in complete doubt as to what is his meaning. Those are the Agricultural Wages Bill—I think it is the Wages Bill, not the Rates Bill—and the Housing Bill, both of which are still in the House of Commons, and have not yet reached even their penultimate stage. The noble and learned Lord justly remarked that those are Bills of first-class importance, and as such they will be regarded and treated by your Lordships' House. But he went on to say that in the view of the Government it was very desirable to get the opinion, of this House upon those Bills before we adjourn. What did he mean by that? Did he mean in the case of those two Bills that he is going to submit them, when they have passed the House of Commons, for Second Reading to your Lordships with a view of asking you to give a Second Reading to the Bills and then to postpone the further consideration of them until the Autumn Session? I think he must have meant that, because it is scarcely credible with the programme he sketched, which takes us into the middle of next week, bearing in mind his own desire to separate in the first week in August, that he should imagine it to be possible to carry both the Agricultural Wages Bill and the Housing Bill into law in the space of about a week or eight days.

Take the Housing Bill. I imagine that following our ordinary procedure, with due regard to the importance of the Bill, we should require at least ten or twelve days to take that Bill through all its stages. I need not enumerate what they are, for they are familiar to your Lordships' House, and, anxious as we are to help, the noble Lord mutt really not expect us to go beyond the ordinary practice and the ordinary duty of your Lordships' House. Before, therefore, I give a definite reply on those two points I would like to ask the noble and learned Lord to relieve my doubts, and to tell me what actually he is proposing. Is he asking us to give a Second Beading to these two Bills with a view to postponing further stages till the autumn, or does he seriously contemplate that we are to pass them through the whole of their stages before the end of the first week, in August?


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Marquess for what he has said, and I will give all the assistance I can. I mentioned that I thought it was impossible to make any special statement about the Agricultural Wages Bill until it had gone through further stages, if it does, in another place, and until we saw the form in which it was brought to your Lordships House. It might be brought here in what is an agreed form, or it might not come to your Lordships' House at all, and, therefore, I was anxious not to go further than to let your Lordships know it was a matter that we should have to consider. I entirely agree with what the noble Marquess has said. If it is a controversial matter that leads to a great deal of discussion, not only upon matters of principle but upon matters of detail, it seems to me that it would be difficult indeed to find time before the adjournment at the end of the first week in August.

On the Housing Bill also I should be unwilling to make any more specific statement at the present time. Again, the Bill has not taken its final form, and a good deal depends upon how far the controversial matters have been settled in another place, and how far they have been left open. Without committing myself in any way. I think it probable that if only one of these Bills can be proceeded with in the sense of being put on the Statute Book, it would be the Housing Bill. I believe there is a reason why it is essential the Housing Bill should be placed on the Statute Book before the House adjourns. When I mentioned the time at which that I hoped this House might adjourn, I ought to have said that if it were thought that, as a matter of public duty, we ought to sit a longer time in order to carry out the duties thrown upon us your Lordships would probably not raise any objection to that. In reference to what the noble Viscount, Lord Long, said, I may point out that I was extremely careful, when I mentioned the Agricultural Wages Bill, to say I did not desire to make any specific statement until we knew the form of the Bill, and whether it was coming here. I do not think at the present time I can give your Lordships any further information on those two Bills for the reason that they have not yet reached their final form in another place. I am much obliged to the noble Marquess, as I said. I hope that we may get the Committee Stage of the London Traffic Bill to-morrow, and meet at twelve o'clock on Friday—I understand that will be for the convenience of your Lordships—in order to get the Second Beading of the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill.


My Lords, I would only say, if I may be allowed to do so, that I had better repeat the question about the Government's proposals in regard to business in the course of a. day or two from now when the atmosphere has been a little cleared in the House of Commons. I am afraid the noble and learned Lord must allow me to warn him that, with the programme which he has put before us, it is extremely doubtful whether his expectations with regard to the Housing Bill can be satisfied in the limited period of time which he has himself laid down.

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