§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I venture to ask the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House if he can tell us what are the proposals of the Government with reference to the remainder of these sittings?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Marquess for asking me this question, and I hope that the proposals which I have to make will suit him and those with whom he acts here. To-day we propose to take three more or less formal matters to start with, and then we continue the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill. We propose to sit after dinner to-night, in order to make as much progress as we can. It will probably be convenient to adjourn about eight o'clock for an hour. Then there is a Question on the Paper by Lord Askwith. I will ask him to postpone that till to-morrow, as we have not been able to make the necessary inquiries. Tomorrow there will be the Report of Amendments to the Mental Treatment Bill, which Lord Russell tells me is likely to last up to about six o'clock. We will then proceed further with the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill. I find that it is not very convenient, at any rate in some quarters, that we should sit to finish that Bill after dinner to-morrow, and therefore we do not propose to sit after dinner on that day, but we want to finish the Road Traffic Bill Committee on Wednesday. There are also one or two Questions, which I do not think will take very long.
1266 With regard to Wednesday I have consulted Lord Russell's convenience, and we propose to continue the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill then. We shall know how far we can get, and if necessary we shall ask your Lordships to sit after dinner on Wednesday. On Thursday we propose to take the Second Reading of the Unemployment Insurance Bill. That will enable us to adjourn on Friday, which, I think, will be convenient to all of your Lordships. I believe there will be a Consolidated Fund Bill on that day, and it can be taken formally through all its stages. Also on that day there will be a Royal Commission, which, however, need not detain any of your Lordships. It is our responsibility to keep a House. It is proposed to come back on January 21, and the first business on that day will be the Committee stage of the Unemployment Insurance Bill. We shall proceed with that Bill, so that it may receive the Royal Assent as early as possible. That Bill ought to be finished and the Royal Assent given to it by the end of January. I think that will give plenty of time really. In particular, it will allow of a very long interval between the Second Reading and the Committee stage.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, with reference to the closing words of the noble and learned Lord, I have already agreed so far as my voice is of any value, to taking the Second Reading of the Unemployment Insurance Bill next Thursday, although that allows a very short time between the First Reading and the Second Reading of a very important Bill. As regards January, well January is a long way off. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not think that I have entered into any engagement whatever so far as I am concerned as regards the proceedings in January.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It was only in case there might be a misunderstanding hereafter that I wanted to make that quite clear. I come back to the Road Traffic Bill. The noble and learned Lord has suggested that we should sit after dinner to-night. When I had the great advantage of private communication with him on this subject on Thursday, I think it was understood, 1267 though I may have been mistaken, that if the Government wished us to sit after dinner to-night they should intimate as much at the rising of the House on Thursday. Nothing of the kind was said in my hearing, though I think I was present at the adjournment. I do not want to tie noble Lords opposite down to a verbal bargain of that kind, but I do suggest to the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues that there is no great advantage in treating the Road Traffic Bill in the way suggested. It is a very intricate Bill and not a Party Bill, and the discussions upon it have not been of a Party character. There has been cross voting and noble Lords in different parts of the House have taken different views wholly without reference to any Party consideration, and I think I may say—although it is not unusual in your Lordships' House—that the discussion has been of a most businesslike character. I I do not think I have heard a bit of padding (if I may use the expression) from the very beginning of the debates to the end.
In these circumstances, if we sit after dinner I think the noble and learned Lord will be very much disappointed, because he will find a very limited number of people here and instead of having an adequate discussion of the Bill, he will have a very inadequate discussion. That is a great pity. Here is a Bill which has been received with a great deal of public favour, very well received by your Lordships' House and discussed in a most businesslike way. Unless, of course, there is some obscure reason which makes it important that this Bill should be passed by a certain date—of which I know nothing—I should have thought it was far easier to take the Bill in the ordinary way, sitting as your Lordships are accustomed to sit until about eight o'clock and not to press the matter forward in the way described. I feel very reluctant to seem obstructive and therefore do not use language of that kind, but I understand from those with whom I have spoken that it is not at all wished by noble Lords to sit after dinner; on the contrary, it is rather wished that we should not, and the only result of doing so would be a very inadequate discussion.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, may I point out that this Bill cannot possibly get to the Commons before the end of January? There is, therefore, no need whatever to hurry it. When we come back, in January and February we shall probably have nothing to do and we can, with great advantage to the Bill and to the country, discuss it in a proper manner; whereas, if we sit after dinner, the result is that there will be a perfunctory discussion, many people who desire to speak on the Bill will not be here and we shall lose the prestige which we have in the country of treating these things in a business manner. It is not as if Parliament were going to be prorogued within two or three weeks. We are going to sit here probably until the end of August. A simple calculation shows, therefore, that we have eight months before us. Having eight months before us, and having a Bill which is not a Party Bill and which deals with the every-day life of the people, is it not our duty to give that Bill every proper consideration? I think we have done that and in no Party spirit, but with a sincere desire to put a proper and good and workable measure on the Statute Book. In these circumstances, to ask us now on what will probably be a foggy night, to come back here and discuss with a few people over forty pages of Amendments, seems to me to be unreasonable. Personally I shall certainly move at eight o'clock that the House do now resume.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (EARL RUSSELL)
My Lords, perhaps I am to blame for not having made the announcement at the adjournment on Thursday of which the noble Marquess speaks. If so, it was due to some misunderstanding of what had been arranged. I certainly understood that we had definitely arranged to sit after dinner in any event to-night, because I knew it would be necessary for the sake of the progress of the Bill, and I had rot understood that it was desired that any announcement should be made at our rising on Thursday. But I do ask your Lordships to sit after dinner to-night, and in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, I would point out the considerations which are of importance. There are forty-three pages of Amendments. It is very important that those should be 1269 discussed. A great many are not of importance, but there are some of great importance. I am particularly anxious that the Committee stage of this Bill shall be concluded before we adjourn for the Recess in order that the Bill may be reprinted as amended in Committee, and that the Ministry of Transport and everybody else concerned may have a clear month in which to consider the Bill as amended before we take the Report stage. I think if we left the Bill half finished in Committee that would be a very unfortunate thing; and, so far as time in general is concerned, Lord Banbury is quite wrong. Unless the Second Reading of this Bill is got by, say, the middle of February in another place, its chance of getting through this Session will really be hopeless. I should be very much obliged to your Lordships if you would sit after dinner at any rate, and then we can see what progress we have made.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I do not wish to disagree with my noble friend Lord Banbury, but, if we are going to consider the question of the prestige of this House, the prestige of this House will suffer very considerably if it is published to the world that we are not prepared to come down here after dinner to consider an important Bill.