§ LORD PARMOOR had given Notice to move, That Standing Orders No. XXI and XXXIX be considered in order to their being suspended until the House adjourn for the Recess. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper, and I should like, if I may, to say one word or two as to its effect on our business to-day. The improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Bill stands second on the Paper, but I propose for the convenience of one or two members of your Lordships' House on the other side of the House that it shall be put last on the Paper. I think that intention has been communicated to the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Hailsham, and subject to that I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
§ Moved, That Standing Orders No. XXI and XXXIX be considered in order to their being suspended until the House adjourn for the Recess.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity of deriving a little satisfaction for myself and my colleagues who were on the Committee that considered the question of the duration of the Pariamentary Session. The effect of the Motion of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President, is that 1169 the Session will not conclude at the end of July, but will continue until somewhere about Christmas. I do not know whether your Lordships remember that in the years 1923 and 1924 a Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons was set up to consider the question of the commencement and the termination of the Parliamentary Session. I had the honour of presiding over that Committee in the year 1923, and the noble Earl whom I see present, Lord Buxton, presided over it in the year 1924. The suggestion was then made that the Parliamentary Session should be commenced in the autumn and should be concluded, whatever happened, not later than July 31. We considered that proposal and unanimously that Committee advised that it was impracticable, and that the old system was far better of beginning the Session at the beginning of the year, either in January or February, and concluding it at the end of the year shortly before Christmas.
How is it that the Government will never be advised by those who know? Over and over again they have set up Committees—Joint Committees, Commissions—and all sorts of learned people and experienced people and experts are brought together to advise His Majesty's Government about these matters, upon which they require advice presumably, because otherwise they would not set up these Committees and Commissions. But when these Committees and Commissions report the Government sweep their findings aside as if they were of no use whatever. I should like to remind the Lord President and the House that, after two Sessions spent in considering this matter, the Joint Committee came unanimously to the conclusion that the proposal to meet in the autumn and to adjourn at the end of July was impracticable and that it would lead to grave abuses. First and foremost they pointed out that one of the abuses would be an excessive use of the closure. Has that come right, or has it not? We know perfectly well that the closure this year in another place has been used even on the Finance Bill—utterly unheard of before this year.
Has our forecast come right that it would be impracticable to close the Session on July 31? We have just had a Motion from the Lord President which shows that we must go on to the end of December. I have had the 1170 satisfaction of saying "I told you so," and that is really all I have to say. It is obvious that we are now going to revert to the older and better system, which was unanimously recommended by Lord Buxton's Committee, and which I feel confident will prove to be the only sensible system—that is to say, to meet at the beginning of the year, either in January or February, and to close at the end of the year just before Christmas.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like just: to say one word in the reply to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater. I do not appreciate how the matters to which he has referred arise in any way directly on the proposals I have made—
§ LORD PARMOOR
Therefore we are making a proposal in accordance with what Lord Ullswater thinks to be right—that is, we are not proroguing at the end of July but we are proposing to go on and carry out our programme in the autumn. That is what I thought the noble Viscount considered the right step to take, in accordance with the resolution to which he has referred. I am not going into the general question, but I think am entitled to point out that all Governments are found fault with, particularly in the administration of business: but when I am proposing a Motion entirely in accord with what the noble Viscount has suggested, I hardly see any reason for his interference in the present Motion.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
I am not opposed to the Motion. I am only pointing out that, after all that was said and done, the Government have been obliged to come back to the scheme which we unanimously approved.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I confess I heard with some surprise the closing observations of the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. It does seem to me that when we have among our members somebody with experience of administration of business 1171 in both Houses, one who has had the responsibility of presiding over Commissions dealing with this matter, we ought to be rather grateful for his advice than resentful of what the noble and learned Lord is pleased to call his interference.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
With a great deal of that which Lord Ullswater said I find myself in very hearty agreement. I entirely agree that the method that has become usual during the last two years of appointing a Committee in order to escape having to make a decision, and then, when at last the Committee reports, completely ignoring its finding, is a habit of this Government which certainly does not commend itself to my judgment. On one or two points my noble friend Lord Ullswater will perhaps forgive me if I do not entirely agree with him. He has said that the starting of the Session in the autumn has led to the excessive use of the closure, and he has instanced that the Finance Bill was passed under the closure. I entirely agree with him in the view he seems to take that this is wrong, but I do not think that vice is occasioned by the commencement in the autumn, but is inherent in the Government of which the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House is a member. Not only have they made use of the closure on the Finance Bill, but I would remind your Lordships that they have done much worse than that, and used the "guillotine." That is to say, that they have not only stopped discussion when, in the opinion of the Speaker, it has gone far enough, but they have prevented discussion altogether of a great number of very important clauses which, by virtue of the Parliament Act here and by virtue of the "guillotine" there, were not allowed to be discussed. I think the complaint is entirely justified, and I can only regret that it seems to have fallen not only on deaf, but even on resentful ears.
For myself, I do not quite agree with my noble friend, though I recognise at once how much more experience he has than I, that these ills are due to the autumn meeting, because your Lordships will remember that the Government of which I had the honour to be a member inaugurated the Session beginning in the autumn, and one reason why they did it, 1172 and the reason which I think will most commend itself to your Lordships, was to secure the possibility of getting Bills forward in the House of Commons before Christmas and to get them brought up to this House at a much earlier date than was otherwise possible. It was, in fact, a device which was intended among other things to give this House a little more opportunity to have proper time in which to discuss important measures than has been, unfortunately, practical in the past. At any rate, while we were in office I think we were able to achieve that end. I do not think it completely solved the difficulty—I am afraid that would be claiming too much—but it did allow your Lordships to receive at a reasonable period of the Session some at least of the more important measures which you had to consider.
For myself, in regard to the Motion that we are now discussing, I do not think the remarks of the noble Viscount regarding the question of Prorogation were strictly relevant. This is only a Motion to give the Government the right during the next four or five days to take the business which is on the Order Paper in such order of precedence as they think fit. It would be equally moved whether we were going to adjourn or to be prorogued, so that I do not think that the actual point arises upon the Motion which we have before us. But I do think that my noble friend Lord Ullswater has mentioned a matter that is well worthy of the attention of all those responsible for the conduct of the business of Parliament, whether in this House or in another place.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I have no wish to interfere, or perhaps I should say to intervene, in this debate, except for the purpose of making one observation. Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for those with whom I am associated, we should be very sorry if anything were said by the Leader of the House which could be regarded as in any way deprecating the observations which were made by the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, on a subject with which he is so thoroughly conversant.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
The noble Viscount speaks with great authority, 1173 and we are only too glad when he gives us the benefit of his vast experience. I hope that nothing that has been said here will prevent his doing so in the future.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to make what is really a personal explanation. It is entirely a misapprehension to suppose that I desired to be in any way discourteous to Lord Ullswater in regard to what he suggested. I pointed out, and I think I was right in doing so, that what he said was not really relevant to the Motion I was making or to the matter before the House, and in that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition agrees with me. As regards the more difficult question, I do not say a word. We know what Mr. Baldwin's view was when he was Prime Minister, and I am not going to discuss these matters at the present time.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.