§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I beg to move that Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for the remainder of the Session.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for the remainder of the Session.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I should like to draw your attention to the fact that to-day there are seven Bills which will be affected by the suspension of this Standing Order. How many Bills will be affected to-morrow and the next day I do not know, but we are making, to my mind, an extremely bad start when we begin with seven Bills, four of which have not yet received a Second Reading. These Bills are to be taken through every stage to-day 919 Second Reading, Committee, Report and Third Reading. One of them is the Public Works Facilities Bill, which, so far as my limited intelligence has enabled me to grasp the meaning of it, contains some very doubtful clauses. Before we are asked to agree to this Motion, I think we ought to have a distinct statement from the noble and learned Lord as to the Bills which he proposes to take under it, rather than give him a blank cheque. To-morrow we may have four or five bad Bills coming up from the House of Commons which will be covered by this suspension of the Standing Order. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will tell us what Bills he intends to take through all their stages?
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, may I point out another difficulty? Under the rules of the House, we are not allowed to put down any Amendment on Third Reading unless Notice is given and the Amendment is circulated. If this Standing Order is suspended at this time of the Session, Bills will come up, we shall have no time to look at them before the Committee stage and no time between Committee and Report, and we shall not be allowed to move any Amendments after Third Reading, after we have heard the arguments. This is really disallowing the privilege which your Lordships have always had. It is very convenient that Amendments on Third Reading should be put down and circulated but, if this Standing Order is to be suspended, we shall be suspending the whole value of the Third Reading and doing away with a very valuable stage of these Bills.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, if we are to adjourn on Friday we have to make the best provision we can, and I really do not think any harm will be done. If your Lordships will look at the Bills on the Order Paper you will see that the first is the Housing (No. 2) Bill, of which we are to take the Third Reading, followed by Amendments. The Motion will, therefore, make no difference in regard to that Bill. The Report stage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill has been postponed until to-morrow at the request of the Scottish Peers. The Public Works Facilities Bill will not go beyond the Second Reading, because there are Amendments to be dealt with 920 and we do not, of course, want to prevent proper discussion of a Bill of that kind. The Public Works Loans Bill ought, I think, to go through all its stages to-day, and I believe there is no objection to it. The Sea Fisheries Regulation (Expenses) Bill is down for Third Reading. I am told there is no objection to it, and accordingly the Bill can pass after the Third Reading. The Navy and Marines (Wills) Bill is, I am told, merely a formal matter but, if there is any point of any importance which raises the question of amendment, I certainly shall not take the further stages to-day. The Isle of Man (Customs) (No. 2) Bill is purely formal, and is certified as a Money Bill.
As for the other two Bills that are on the Paper, I do not specially desire to bring them within the suspension of the Standing Order. The Education (Scotland) Bill is in the care of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. There are no Amendments down for Committee, and therefore I think it might go through. Nor are there any Amendments to be proposed to the Adoption of Children (Scotland) Bill. I hope that, after the explanation that I have given, there will be no further difficulty. Our only object is to arrange business in the most satisfactory manner, having regard to the conditions that we are always placed in at the end of the Session, when we have to do a good deal of work during the last few days.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I was aware, of course, of the general line that the noble and learned Lord was going to take, hut I confess that I am a little disappointed by the manner in which he has received the criticism of my noble friend. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House treats the matters before us as the most normal, ordinary and pardonable programme that you could possibly conceive. It may be that the exigencies in which the Government have placed their business make it necessary to hurry matters forward in your Lordships' House, but that this is satisfactory in any way I am quite sure the noble and learned Lord must in his heart be convinced is not the fact. It is most unsatisfactory. I cannot emphasise too strongly how deeply I deprecate this manner of rushing business through your 921 Lordships' House. Last Friday—I do not think the noble and learned Lord was here—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But there are three noble Lords sitting on the Front Bench opposite who were here, and I am quite sure, though I suppose they will not say so, that in their hearts they will agree with me in thinking that anything more trivial than the method by which very important matters were rushed through cannot very well be imagined.
§ EARL RUSSELL indicated dissent.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl does not quite agree. I thought he did. I think we dealt with four hundred Amendments to the Road Traffic Bill. No doubt many of them were drafting, but there were many of very important substance that we rushed through in a very thin House without due consideration. I think the same may probably be said of the Housing (No. 2) Bill. There is no question that the manner in which public business is managed at the end of the Parliamentary Session in your Lordships' House amounts to little less than a scandal. That is the broad fact, which no one really denies, and I earnestly hope that the noble and learned Lord will use his great influence and the influence of his colleagues to persuade the Government of which he forms part that there is only one remedy—namely, that there should be power to carry over Bills which are in this position from one Session to another without their being arrested by the Prorogation. That is the only remedy, and until we have that remedy the same scandalous conditions will always occur. Let me add, with specific reference to the programme before us, that the only Bill to which my attention has been prominently called as requiring particular care is the Public Works Facilities Bill, which is down for Second Reading. I think it was received only—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I was going to say that your Lordships will hardly be ready to consider that Bill in Committee until Wednesday next. I do not think it is possible, considering the abnormal character of the legislation, to expect your Lordships to be ready to discuss it in Committee without a little interval. Apart from that, I have no comment to make beyond the general remarks that I have ventured to address to your Lordships.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to say one word in reply to what the noble Marquess has said. I regret as much as he does the conditions under which we often have to do our business, but it is the duty of the Leader of the House to try to arrange the business so that it may be discussed as satisfactorily as possible. That is my only object in making the suggestion that I have made. I gather that, except for the Bill to which I referred and which I said would require further discussion, —I understood there were some Amendments suggested in connection with it and it will not be taken to-day under the suspension of the Standing Order—no objection is offered. I understand that the noble Marquess would like the Committee stage of the Public Works Facilities Bill to be taken on Wednesday. We will put it down for that day. I do not want to discuss the general question. We have to do the best we can with the conditions that exist. No doubt there is a good deal to be said for carrying over proposed legislation, in order to prevent any congestion at the last part of the Session, but it is not a matter which we can now discuss in any way. I aim glad to think that the one Bill to which the noble Marquess referred can be dealt with in the way which he desires.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, I view with considerable alarm—I have been a faithful follower of the noble Marquess —the suggestion, in which the Leader of the House appears to concur, that we should carry over Bills. That was full discussed at one time, and the proposition has been turned down. There is another thing which I would like to say, and that is that during the five or six years that I have been in this House I 923 have always heard this complaint at the end of the Session of the congestion of business. I think noble Lords on this side of the house have treated the Government very fairly, because there are two or three important Bills which we have had time to discuss. That, I think, is a thing which has not occurred in history, at any rate since I have been in this House. Therefore it must not be taken that all that has been said and felt by us on this side has been in an acrimonious spirit, because all Bills, except one or two very small Bills, have been discussed by us. I think the Opposition have treated the Government very well, and I trust that when my noble friends on this side come to be in office they will be treated with the same consideration.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (EARL RUSSELL)
My Lords, I should like to make the position perfectly clear. I recognise, and I think we all ought to recognise, the forbearance of the noble Marquess opposite in allowing us to take such a large number of Amendments at short notice on Friday last.
But we know whose advice the House is likely to follow on these matters, and I have tried to give expression to our recognition of the noble Marquess's attitude on Friday. On the merits of the case I think I ought also to say that there was not very much of substance in those Amendments to the Road Traffic Bill on Friday. There were only twenty Amendments altogether on which it was necessary to say a single word by way of explanation or comment, and ten or fifteen of those were exceedingly trivial variations. Only four or five were of real substance among that large number of Amendments which came up from another place, and although I recognise that the House was very indulgent in allowing us to take them at such short notice, still I do not think that any substantial injustice was done, or discussion prevented. I would only echo in conclusion what has been said with regard to congestion of business. Every Leader of the House has at this period of the 924 Session to move this Motion, and everyone in opposition always says it is a scandal.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, there is only one other matter that I want to give notice of. I want to move the London Naval Treaty Bill forward from Wednesday to Tuesday, and Notice has been put down to that effect. It also meets a matter very properly referred to me by Lord Hailsham.