§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I wish to ask when the Smoke Abatement Bill will be introduced. Those noble Lords who are interested in this Question, and who are unfortunately very few in number, will probably recollect that in consequence of the continual worrying of myself and other people three successive Governments introduced Smoke Abatement Bills into this House, but that each was introduced in circumstances which made it perfectly clear that none of them bad any chance of being passed. I do not know that that was any great misfortune, because each succeeding Bill was worse than its predecessor. I and my friends have abstained for some time from worrying the Minister of Health on this subject, but, in order to make fairly sure, I got an undertaking from the present Minister of Health, in writing, to say that he would introduce a Bill in this Session, and that it should be placed well in the forefront of the Government programme. It seemed rather an ominous fact that this Bill was not mentioned in the King's Speech, and so far we have not heard anything about its appearance. I am now asking the noble Lord who may represent the Minister of Health to give a definite assurance as to the date on which the Bill will be brought forward. Unless he does so, and gives us a definite date, I know perfectly well what will happen; The Bill not having been mentioned in the King's Speech, the excuse will be made, when it reaches the other House, that there is no time to proceed with it. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will give us a definite assurance that the Bill will be brought in on a definite date in the near future.
My Lords, it is perfectly true that the career of this Bill has been rather unfortunate, for on three previous occasions it has been ended by the downfall of the Government.
I am subject to the correction of the noble Lord, but I understood it was as I have stated. I hope, anyhow, that the noble Lord will be satisfied about the stability of the present Government, and so far as their intentions are concerned I can assure him that they are whole-heartedly in sympathy with the objects which he desires to achieve. I have authority for giving him a definite assurance that the Bill will be introduced before the Easter Recess. As the Bill is still in draft form I cannot give him precise details, except that efforts are being made to meet the criticisms which were made when the previous Bills were introduced in this House—chiefly the criticisms of the noble Lord himself. I cannot, I am afraid, give him more definite information regarding the exact date when the Bill will be introduced, but I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied, from the assurances that I have given him, of what I may describe as the honourable intentions of the Government.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I regret to say that I am not at all satisfied with the assurances given by my noble friend. He tells me that the Government are whole-heartedly in favour of this Bill, but he definitely refrains from naming any date when it is going to be introduced.
§ LORD NEWTON
Yes, before Easter, but the Session is already a month old. What I desire to observe about this Bill is that I have not the smallest doubt whatever as to the good intentions of Mr. Neville Chamberlain. Mr. Neville Chamberlain is one of the few Ministers who have had practical experience of the official work which they are called upon to do. He has been Lord Mayor of Birmingham, and he has a full knowledge of all municipal matters. I am perfectly certain that he is wholly in favour of this Bill. But I do not feel at all confident about the attitude of his colleagues, and I am not at all sure that 389 they share his enthusiasm. If I depended solely upon Mr. Neville Chamberlain I should not be in any doubt at- all, but my impression is that his colleagues have been telling him all along that he need not be in any hurry about this Bill, that there are no votes in it, and that there are only a. few cranks interested in it, and much more important matters are before Parliament. I shall repeat my Question and shall hope to get a definite reply from my noble friend before long.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I must say I think my noble friend is a very difficult man to please. What did he expect? Did he expect the noble Viscount who replied to him to fix the actual date for the introduction of the Bill? It is perfectly clear to me that my noble friend has never had the conduct of business on a large scale in either House of Parliament, or he would not expect anything so unreasonable. My noble friend Lord Gage went as far as he could do. He promised that the Bill should be introduced within the next month—really, in less than a month, unless your Lordships are going to sit on the Saturday before Easter, which T hope will not be the case. Yet my noble friend is displeased. He suspects all sorts of iniquitous treachery on the part of the colleagues of my noble friend Lord Gage, by which we are going to murder his miserable Smoke Bill even before it is introduced. I think my noble friend may be satisfied.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I hope the Government will go quietly in this matter. We have heard that three Bills have already been introduced on this subject, and each Bill was worse than the one that went before. Now we are going to have a fourth. Let us guard against my noble friend saying that the fourth Bill is the worst- of the lot, and in order to- do that, I hope the Government will be slow and consider carefully what the Bill is going to be.
§ [From Minutes of February 25.]
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR acquainted the House that the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid upon the Table the Certificates from the Examiners that the further Standing Orders applicable to the following Bills have been complied with:
§ Serle Street and Cook's Court Improvement Company [H.L.]
§ Reading University [H.L.]
§ West Hampshire Water [H.L.]
§ The same were ordered to lie on the Table.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past six o'clock.