§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I wish to ask the noble Earl whether he can inform us as to the course of business and the arrangements for this afternoon's meeting.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF BALFOUR)
My Lords, as your Lordships are probably aware, the business for the rest of the Session is likely to occupy a good deal of your Lordships' time. Several important Bills are either already in this House or are about to come up to it. I take it that it will be convenient if I tell your Lordships that in addition to the Electricity (Supply) Bill, the Committee stage of which we take to-night, and on which I shall have a word to say in a moment, there are four other important Bills which the Government are most desirous of passing and hope to pass before the end of the Session. They are the Merchandise Marks (Imported Goods) Bill, the Rating (Scotland) Bill, the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill and the Housing (Rural Workers) Bill. In addition to these there are several Bills of smaller importance which it is also desirable in the public interest to pass, if possible, in the course of the present year. It is hoped that the House may be able to rise in the week before Christmas, but obviously this will not be possible unless the House is prepared to sit on Mondays and Fridays, and to sit after dinner when the occasion necessitates it. I am sure your Lordships will feel that that forecast is not inaccurate, and that the demands on your Lordships' time, though they may be somewhat inconvenient, are not unnecessary.
That brings me to the second Question of the noble and learned Viscount opposite—the question of the Electricity (Supply) Bill, which stands as the first Order to-day. Looking at the many 857 pages of Amendments I cannot suppose for a moment that we shall be so fortunate as to get through this stage of the Bill before dinner. If I am right in that, and I fear that I am, I think the most convenient course for your Lordships will be to adjourn at eight o'clock till nine-thirty, and resume the sitting at half-past nine and go on with those parts of the Committee stage which are still un-finished. I do not think it is necessary to say anything further about the business of this week at present, but it is clear that we shall have to sit both on Mondays and on Fridays for the rest of the Session until our business is completed. I do not know whether there is any other question that noble Lords would like to ask me, but, broadly speaking, I hope I have given a clear indication of the immediate hopes and future prospects of the legislative work which lies before us.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I do not think that the programme which has been adumbrated by the noble Earl is at all unreasonable. We ought all of us to be ready now to sit every evening, if desirable, and also to sit on Mondays and Fridays. It is the usual custom for noble Lords towards the end of the Session to sacrifice their convenience to the exigences of public business and I am quite sure that your Lordships will wish to do it this year as usual. I hope that the customary course of procedure will be followed and that the House will meet as usual on Monday and also as usual on Friday, that is to say, in the morning of Friday. That, for a very great many years has been a custom in this House and I hope that it may be adhered to. Those of us who are concerned in county work, although we may be expecting at this time of year to be busy here in the mornings, are apt to make arrangements for the afternoons and evenings of Fridays in the counties. Therefore, any alteration from the usual course of procedure in that direction would be very inconvenient to a great many of your Lordships. But, subject to that and to any minor alterations that may be necessary, I can assure the noble Earl, so far as my noble friends and myself are concerned, that we are only too ready to sit on the occasions to which he has referred.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I should like to know from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack how that fits in with the judicial business. That is very pressing. There is a great deal of it just now, and if the House sits in the mornings of Fridays I do not see how the judicial business is to be properly attended to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for mentioning that point. I have not seen my noble friend on this matter, but my hope and expectation was that if the House sat on Friday it would sit at some early hour in the afternoon so that the great volume of important judicial work might continue during the morning. That is for my noble friend to say.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
That is a total alteration of the usual procedure of your Lordships' House, because when we have met on Fridays it has been on Friday morning. And if I may say so, however important may be the business of the Judicial Committee, they are a minority as compared with the number of members of your Lordships' House whose convenience is affected. What I might venture to suggest is that your Lordships' House should meet at the earlier hour and that the members of the Judicial Committee, who are fewer in numbers, rather than the members of your Lordships' House, should sacrifice their week-ends.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, may I point out that it is not a Committee that sits in this House for judicial work, but it is the House itself. I am quite sure that members who are accustomed to take part in that work would be extremely willing to continue to sit in the afternoon.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
My Lords, I am not very learned in the precedents to which the noble Earl opposite referred and I should hesitate to offer an opinion upon the best course to pursue without consultation with noble Lords from various parts of the House. But, as between Friday morning and Friday afternoon, I will make a statement later, when I have had an opportunity of consulting with my noble friends and with other noble Lords.