§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM had given Notice that on the Motion for the Third Reading, he would move, That the Bill be read 3a this day six months. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I expected that the noble Earl, in charge of the Bill would have said a word or two in moving the Third Reading of this most important measure, but as he has not said anything I propose now to move that your Lordships reject the Bill on Third Reading. What is the position at the present moment? The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, told us about a fortnight ago (I have his speech here) that if we rejected the Bill on Third Reading very considerable consequences would ensue. He also reminded your Lordships of what occurred when you rejected the Budget of 1909. What is the position at the present moment? At the present moment there is an attack against your Lordships' House brought by the present Government, and especially by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the. Liberal Party in another place. They have said, as Lord Beauchamp practically said, that 1338 your Lordships have no right to interfere with any legislation which is introduced by a Socialist Government; that is to say, that when a Socialist Government is in power there is to be single-chamber government and your Lordships are to sit still and do nothing, although you may honestly believe that it is in the interests of the country that you should take action.
§ May I for one moment recall to your Lordships' memory what took place in 1909? Who was right in 1909? Was it the Liberal Government of that day, who told us that if the Budget was passed large sums of money would be found for building Dreadnoughts and for other purposes? That Government so confused the public mind that the public actually believed that something of that sort would take place. What did happen? Instead of there being large sums of money for building Dreadnoughts and other things, in the ten years that elapsed before Mr. Lloyd George himself repealed the Act, there was a loss to the country of £3,700,000. So as a matter of fact, if your Lordships' advice had been taken, the country would have saved £3,700,000, which, after all, is something. What did happen in 1909? There were a large number of Conservatives returned to the House of Commons—a greater number than before—and a large number of Liberal members were rejected, and the result was that the majority was in the hands of the Irish. The Irish had always objected to the Budget, and what they said was: "We will not pass the Budget"; and the Liberal Party could not pass that Budget without the consent of the Irish. The Irish then said: "You must give us Home Rule," which had been religiously avoided for years by the Liberal Party, and a Home Rule Bill was introduced. "But," said the Irish, "you have got to stop the House of Lords. They have, with the consent of the country, on two occasions rejected Home Rule Bills, and they will do so again, with the consent of the country. To prevent the country doing what it thinks is right, you have got to muzzle the House of Lords." That is what took place in 1909.
§ Do your Lordships suppose for one moment that if you reject this Bill you will in any way conciliate the Government opposite, or the Socialists in the country? You will do nothing of the 1339 sort. They will still go on. This cry against the House of Lords is the only cry they have got. They have made such an unholy mess of everything that the only thing they can do is to raise this cry against the House of Lords. If you do not reject the Third Reading of this Bill, what is going to happen? Why has the date for the Third Reading of this Bill been moved forward from June 9 to this day? I am a simple-minded and innocent person, but I am not so simpleminded and innocent as to believe that noble Lords who sit on the Bench opposite are so concerned to give us another week's holiday that they have moved the Third Reading of this Bill forward for that simple reason. The reason they have done it is this, to give more time in another place, if we pass the Third Reading, for sending our Amendments back to us, and, when we send them back again, returning them to us slightly amended, as they can do, and so intensify the campaign against your Lordships' House. I am not doing anything wrong in asking your Lordships to reject the Bill on the Third Reading, because my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham, when he asked us not to reject the Bill on Second Reading, pointed out that there was always a Third Reading. Therefore, as I always do, and as I hope I always shall do, at any rate in the majority of cases, I am following my noble and learned friend's advice.
§ Let us consider for a moment what will happen if we pass the Third Reading. All our Amendments have been refused by the Government, and they will all come back to us; and, as I have already said, when we, as I hope, send them back again to the House of Commons they will all come back to us with slight Amendments. This will go on, just as with the Coal Bill, like a game of battledore and shuttlecock between the two Houses, intensifying the friction between the two Houses. What is going to happen over Clause 6? We have put in an Amendment to limit the expenditure to £10,000,000, and that, I venture to say, is a most important Amendment. The financial position of this country—and I may claim to have some knowledge of that, having sat for seventeen and a half years as a member for the City of London—is most serious. The financial position is most serious, and I myself regret that we have even gone so far as to allow the 1340 Government to spend £10,000,000. However good an object may be, at the present moment we cannot afford to spend money. We have got to cut our coat according to our cloth, and, if we are going to save ourselves from getting into the position of Australia, we must economise.
However good an object is, we cannot spend money on it if we have not got it. We have put the limit at £10,000,000. Suppose that Amendment comes back to us. Suppose they say: "You have no business to interfere with us and put a limit on our expenditure"; what are we going to do? Are we going to sanction unlimited expenditure? It has already been stated, not by me but by another noble Lord, I believe correctly, that to put 100,000 men on the land, out of the over 2,000,000 men who are unemployed, will cost £100,000,000 and possibly more. Are we going to allow £100,000,000 to be spent, however good the object may be? I have the support of some powerful people in this matter, because, if you will allow me, I will read what Lord Hailsham said on April 23:
…. reforms, however desirable must be postponed if the present standard of living of our people is not to be permanently lowered—when we are in that position we have no right to allow unlimited experiments, without any sort of check upon the extravagance of a Ministry or of a particular Minister. I for one do not see how it is possible, consistently with the present financial position of the country as it is disclosed by His Majesty's Government themselves in recent speeches, to say to the Minister: We will give you a blank cheque; you may spend as many millions as you like and go on as fast and as wildly as you please, with no limitations of time or of acreage or anything else; you may spend hundreds of millions,' because, forsooth, the noble Earl can make an eloquent platform speech about taking people off the 'dole' and settling them on the land, and turning them into prosperous citizens.
I do not think I have ever heard nobler sentiments better expressed and I am very glad to be able to agree with them.
But that is not all, because my noble and learned friend said this:—
The reason I am voting for the clause"—
that is the clause dealing with small holdings—
is that the Government, with the assent of another place, say that by this means they can mitigate unemployment, and I am willing to give them the chance to try.
Now, mark this:
Whether or not I should give them the chance to try on an unlimited scale is quite a different question, and, since the noble Earl, was unable to give us any satisfactory assurance, I propose to ask those who agree with me to insert limitations both of time and amount at this stage, and then the noble Earl will have an opportunity, no doubt, of considering and of letting us know on Report stage which of those he prefers, or if he prefers neither, and would rather have, as may happen, no clause at all.
The noble Earl has not given any assurance. On the contrary, if he has said anything at all it is that he is going to refuse to accept any limitations.
§ I had hoped he would say something on the Third Reading, and I was rather doubtful whether it was absolutely necessary for me to be here punctually at three o'clock. But thirty years in the House of Commons have taught me that sometimes it is not a bad policy to get up and say nothing; possibly your opponents will not be there, and possibly the Third Reading will slip through without anybody being aware that anything has happened! And therefore I said to myself, "Bearing that in mind, I had better be there at three o'clock"; and it is very lucky I was, because the noble Earl did exactly what I thought he possibly might. He got up and said "I beg to move," and then sat down. And he has given us no undertaking that he will accept any Amendments.
§ Therefore, I sincerely hope that your Lordships will reject this Bill on the Third Reading. You will not in any way antagonise the Socialists any more than you have done already—they will be equally angry whatever you do—but you will avoid many days of Amendments passing between the two Houses; you will avoid comments upon this by the Daily Herald and all the Socialist papers; and you will assert your right to reject a Bill if you think it is wrong and in the interests of the country that it should be rejected. What is the use of this House if we are never to do anything except come down and make speeches in a debating club? We had much better go away and have single-chamber government. But as long as we are here I hope we shall remember Lord Nelson's signal: "England expects every man to do his duty." I beg to move.1342
Leave out all words after ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this clay six months").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ LORD TREOWEN
My Lords, I should like to take this, the earliest moment possible, to lay before your Lordships my views on the Motion of the noble Lord, since I was the mover of a similar Motion on the Second Reading. The circumstances on the two occasions are entirely different. I am wholly unrepentent over the action I took on the Second Reading. I considered I was justified, as I told your Lordships at the time, by the support of every organisation in this country which had to do with land or the utilisation of land. I was, moreover, fortified by a very strong statement that had recently been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we could not afford expenditure of this kind, that even things which might be necessary would have to be put off. And lastly, I was impressed—whether rightly or wrongly there may be different opinions—that this was the beginning of other steps, which we have since seen developed, for the nationalisation of the whole of the land of this country. I think that would be sufficient justification for my action. But I will also remind your Lordships, as I informed you then, that I acted as one wholly independent of any Party ties. I was simply acting in the interests of those for whom I spoke. I am equally independent of Party ties to-day, and I will beg your Lordships to reject the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, and for a reason which I will put before you.
Your Lordships devoted a great deal of time, first of all, to the discussion of my Motion for rejection, and I think it was admitted even on the Benches opposite that that debate was deserving of the greatest consideration on account of the amount of knowledge of the subject debated which was shown by noble Lords on both sides. Moreover, your Lordships gave very considerable time to the Amendments. You may remember that on the Second Reading I withdrew my Motion, though I believe had it been pressed it would have been carried. But I did so from the very strong feeling that was expressed in your Lordships' House that certain parts of the Bill should be pre- 1343 served, because it was possible to make them useful—namely, those parts connected with small holdings and allotments. No member of your Lordships' House, I am sure, wishes to withhold land that could be usefully employed for such purposes. And it seemed to me that, had I pressed my Motion for rejection, I should have laid your Lordships open to attacks which have since been made without the foundation that might have existed had this Bill been thrown out on Second Reading. I have said that your Lordships devoted a great deal of time and care to the Amendments. I do not say that I regard the Bill as a good Bill now, but your Lordships have done your best to make it a workable Bill.
From the very outset it was clear to every one on this side of the House that the drafting of the Bill alone made it very difficult to amend. Points raising the question of Privilege were so intermingled with other matters that it became very difficult to introduce Amendments without trenching upon the sacred Privilege of another place. Nevertheless, the noble Earl in charge of the Bill showed such a sympathetic reception of the proposals of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition that there seemed every chance if we devoted ourselves thoroughly to amending the Bill, that when those Amendments came to be considered in another place they would receive at least an equally careful consideration. I had a long experience of the House of Commons, and I am still what may be called a Commons' man in that I believe in Parliamentary government on the traditions and principles on which Parliamentary government has existed for so many centuries in this country. I still hope that when this Bill goes back to another place there will not be that summary dismissal which the noble Lord who has moved its rejection anticipates. If we are disappointed the fault will lie upon other heads than those of your Lordships.
Your Lordships have shown your willingness to assist the Government by improving their Bill. That Amendments have been accepted by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill shows that even on that side of the House it was recognised that we were not out for wrecking. Your Lordships may remember that a consider- 1344 able number of Amendments had to be brought forward by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill to make it a readable and possible measure. We have been carrying out what the late Lord Oxford described, when introducing the Parliament Bill, as the duty of your Lordships' House. I was present and heard his speech on that occasion, and I well remember the points he insisted upon as the duty of your Lordships' House and the necessity for having such a House—namely, revision and, if necessary, delay. Your Lordships have not exceeded your privilege. Therefore, I trust your Lordships will favourably consider the Motion of the noble Earl for the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
My Lords, I must own that I felt more convinced by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Treowen, on the Second Reading of the Bill than by that which he has just delivered. After all, supposing this Bill be as bad as he thought it was and as I believe he still thinks it was, it does not in the least matter upon which Party the burden of passing it rests. The burden will rest upon the country and the country will have to suffer for it. I should say from personal experience that fifty years ago this Bill would have been debated to the greater public advantage in another place by members of Parliament conversant with the pros and cons of the English land system. So many knew then what they were talking about on either side of the House. Then, moreover, the subject could have been dealt with without that spectre of unemployment in the background which, with other extraneous matter, has entirely changed the character of Parliament and its legislation.
Dr. Addison has become the chief agricultural authority in England, and the chief preoccupation of all Members of Parliament is to guess at what is in the minds of the male and of the still more numerous female voters. On the other hand, knowledge of, and experience in, agriculture remains a distinguishing characteristic of your Lordships' House, while any taint of prejudice has vanished with the great estate. The pride of ownership is no more. All Parties participate in the destruction of anything that yet remains of the old English land system regardless of consequences in loss 1345 or cost. The hereditary estate is passing away as easily as its friends could wish and as rapidly as its enemies could desire. The land grows nothing for the owner but taxes and other burdens, so that he is chiefly anxious to rid of it. In the circumstances of to-day it is here in this House alone that a Bill such as this can be practically, intelligently and impartially dealt with.
I admit that in the application of this Bill to Scotland there was a provision calculated to rouse any dormant sense of injustice and of injury in a landowner. It provided that laud in private possession should be made subject to the experiments contained in this Bill. On another Bill I explained to your Lordships this remarkable feature in the Crofter Acts, as limited to crofting areas, and one recently reported on by the Nairne Inquiry and condemned as unsuited for the agriculture of the rest of Scotland. This is now to be applied to that agriculture in an unlimited degree, and there are indications of a hope on the part of the Government that the owner is to be held up to further plunder under "privilege."
I will state very briefly the reasons for my belief that the Bill should be condemned. In the earlier stages of the discussion there were three lines of action open. First, to vote for its rejection on Second Reading or for its postponement. Then I supported the view of the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, whose opinion carries great weight in the North; for it is a mad Bill in the state of our finances. The second course was to let it through and give a free hand to an autocratic Minister whose wasteful expenditure is monumentally recorded from Land's End to John o'Groats. The third was to render lip service to economy, while cutting out the big farming on the Soviet model, and passing the clauses on which there is no limit to expenditure, with no concession being made by the Government. The late Lord Haldane laid stress upon clear thinking. It is certainly to be desired in the councils of all Parties at the present time. What is most necessary at this stage of the Bill, I agree with my noble friend beside me (Lord Banbury of Southam), is to decide on one's Lobby, and I feel impelled to that which is indicated by the Amendment on the Paper.
1346 The outstanding result of the endeavour of successive Governments to cope with unemployment has been to bring our finances into chaos. £500,000,000 have been spent on the roads, and this goes merrily on; incidentally to the ruin of the railways. More hundreds of millions have been spent on houses, to the ruin of private enterprise. And again on social services; from "doles" to trade credits, every kind of subsidy has been given, all resulting in increased unemployment which goes up by the million, and taxation by many millions, every successive year, which is at the root of unemployment. Now we have a prospect of hundreds of millions being spent under this Bill on small holdings alone. In this island the private owner has spent a sum approaching £1,000,000,000 on land equipment for economic agriculture, most of which is on the ground at this moment, and much of it must be scrapped that more costly forms be substituted for the endowed small holder. Land is also to be conditioned.
Nothing more easy than to spend a thousand millions or more upon all of this. Small holdings have been and are being provided by every kind of device, by every kind of agency, often in excess of the number of competent applicants, unless in certain localities. The one part of the Bill for which there is anything to be said is that dealing with allotments, which might do something conducive to social stability and content besides adding to production. Such clauses deserve every consideration, and by themselves would, we none of us doubt for a moment, be favourably considered. The whole Bill has been exhaustively dealt with, so that there is really nothing more to add, but, faced with the real facts of the situation as we now are, I feel obliged to vote against the Third Reading of a Bill which has certainly been treated with no lack of consideration in your Lordship's House and which is certainly not one that ought to be passed.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, let me begin by saying that my noble friend Lord Banbury is clearly quite right when he points out that there can be no possible ground of complaint against hire for moving to reject this Bill on the Third Reading, notwithstanding that its Second Reading was accepted without a 1347 Division. It was made perfectly clear, as he himself reminded your Lordships, that in passing the Bill on the Second Reading we could not be said to be approving a principle, because nobody could say that there was one principle underlying the Bill; and what I ventured then to suggest to your Lordships was that we should pass the Second Reading, we should deal with the Bill in Committee as might seem right to your Lordships' House, and we should then see, when the Third Reading stage was reached, whether or not the Bill in its present form was one which ought to receive your Lordships' assent.
I propose for a few moments—because, after all, the matter is of some little importance I think—to see what are the alterations between the Bill as it reached your Lordships' House and the Bill as it is before this House to-day. When we were discussing the Second Reading, the Bill began with provisions for experiments in large-scale farming which might cost anything up to £1,000,000. That provision has disappeared from the Bill altogether. It went on next to make provision for demonstration farms to be run at the public expense, and to cost anything up to £5,000,000. That provision has disappeared from the Bill altogether. It went on in Clause 3 to make provision for the Minister having power to acquire land, to reclaim it by agreement, and, by the same clause, although dealing with a different topic, it went on to make provision for the Minister to have the right to insist on the landowner performing works of maintenance if his land was in a seriously neglected condition, and, in default, gave power to the Minister compulsorily to acquire the land and to do the work himself.
In the Committee stage your Lordships will remember that we inserted provisos in regard to that clause that the work must be economic, that there must be some ground for believing that the expenditure on the reclamation work would prove economically sound, and that the demands which were made on the landowner were such that there might be a reasonable prospect of a return on the money which he was asked to expend. Those alterations were made in the Committee stage, but unfortunately—as I think unfortunately—the Government in- 1348 timated on the Report stage that those were proposals which the House of Commons would not be allowed even to consider, and that they were going to be thrown out on the ground that they dealt with a matter of Privilege. Therefore your Lordships were confronted with the alternative of accepting the Bill in its original form with an unlimited power and without any regard to economic considerations, or else of rejecting the clause.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
I am afraid I must intervene. I had to speak on this. We really did not say what the noble Viscount has said. What we said was that we could not pledge ourselves in regard to certain Amendments to interfere with what we considered to be the undoubted Privilege of the House of Commons. That is a very different matter.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I do not want to be involved in a controversy on what is a plain matter of fact, but your Lordships will remember that never were the Government asked to interfere with the Privilege of the House of Commons. What happened was that, inasmuch as the question of whether or not these Amendments were in the clause might be vital to the decision of your Lordships as to whether the clause should pass or not, we asked the Government to ask the House of Commons, which we pointed out was the sole arbiter of its own Privileges—we asked the Government to give us an assurance that they would ask the House of Commons to deal with the Amendments on their merits and not to dismiss them on the ground of Privilege. The Government were perfectly within their rights, if they chose, in refusing to give any such promise. They did so refuse, and thereupon your Lordships' House was faced with the alternative of either having to pass the clause in its original form or to pass it with Amendments which would not be considered in another place because they might infringe the rules of Privilege, or else of having to reject the clause altogether.
It was a difficult position. It was forced upon us by what I think was an unfortunate decision of the Government, although it is one they were quite entitled to take. Accordingly, being 1349 confronted with the alternative of taking that clause through as it stood, or of rejecting it altogether, your Lordships thought it right on my Motion that that clause should disappear from the Bill. We were not prepared to entrust to the Minister of Agriculture those unlimited powers which the clause gave him. The effect of these alterations is that Part I of the Bill has disappeared altogether and what was Part II now becomes Part I. Part II dealt with three matters in its original form—small holdings, allotments and the right to supersede county councils when the central authority thought that county councils were not satisfactorily carrying out their duties with regard to small holdings. Your Lordships took the view that to supersede county councils merely because the central authority did not approve of the way in which they were discharging their functions was to substitute bureaucratic control for democratic government. That clause has disappeared from the Bill and we are left with the provisions as to small holdings and allotments.
So far as allotments are concerned, I do not think there has been any substantial controversy throughout the discussions in your Lordships' House or any dissent from the view that the provisions as to allotments are in general sound. My noble friend Viscount Novar just now said there was no objection so far as they were concerned. There remains the question of small holdings, and in Committee alterations were made with regard to small holdings. Substantially—I am dealing with the subject, of course, only on broad lines—the alterations are these. First, that in order that small holdings shall be set up in any particular county there must be a reasonable prospect that a man put on to a small holding can, if he is efficient, earn a livelihood—not an unmerciful or unreasonable provision in the interest of the unemployed man. Secondly, there is a provision limiting time and the expenditure to take place under these small holdings provisions. Again, I think there can be no doubt that in these days of financial stress, of which my noble friend Lord Banbury spoke so forcibly, these limitations are wise.
It is no doubt true, and I think we have to face the fact that it is true, that there is a real risk that in another place 1350 the Government may insist that these Amendments shall not even be considered on the ground of Privilege, and accordingly if we pass the Bill as it stands today there is a risk that the small holdings part of it will go through without these limitations which have been inserted. It is only fair that your Lordships should face that possibility. I confess myself that that has imposed upon me a much more difficult decision than that which I had originally hoped I should have to face. I think that with regard to limitations great force attaches to the argument which I remember my noble friend Earl Fortescue adduced in Committee, that in dealing with this part of the Bill it would be quite impossible for any Ministry, however extravagant, to get to work on any large scale within the, reasonable limits of the present Parliament, and therefore that if a new Parliament is elected with the same political complexion as the present one why, then, no doubt extravagance might be expected whatever limitations are now put in. But if, on the other hand, sanity is restored and disillusionment is complete, and the electorate is allowed to decide on merits and not on red herrings, then a Government will be in power which can be trusted to see that this extravagant expenditure is curbed and that reasonable precautions are taken not to waste public money.
That is a, factor which, as my noble friend indicated, is a very relevant one in considering the question of limitations; but there is another point which has had a good deal of weight with me. These proposals with regard to small holdings are avowedly proposals for dealing with the unemployment problem. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that amid all the confusion and turmoil of the last Election what was the determining factor with the bulk of the electorate was the assertion of the Socialist Party that they were in a position to deal immediately and drastically with the unemployment problem, to restore our depressed industries, and to bring—in their own language—relief and hope to every worker in the land within the first Session of the new Parliament. They were discreetly vague as to what those proposals were, and we heard not long ago from the noble Lord opposite, 1351 Lord Passfield, that in fact they were never existent. None the less, after two years there has emerged this one constructive proposal—a proposal to put the unemployed on the land.
I think that it is true to say that the electorate were induced largely to vote as they did by the promise of the other side that they had effective proposals to put forward, and that it was the desire of the electorate to see a trial given to those proposals. Now here is the first and, as far as I know, the only one. I should hesitate myself a long time before I refused to give it a trial when I diagnose the Election as having been fought on those lines. But I do not quite stop there. It is not true, as the noble Earl thought at an earlier period, that the fact that I am supporting—in so far as I am supporting—these proposals means that I am satisfied that they will succeed. I do not think that that is a question that your Lordships have to ask yourselves. I do not think you have to be satisfied that these proposals will succeed. My own feeling is that there are methods of dealing with unemployment, of improving the prospects and the recovery of industry and of agriculture, but they are methods which the Socialists and the Liberals refuse to consider or entertain. They have brought forward this alternative and, in another place, all Parties have agreed that a trial ought to be given to these proposals. If indeed they succeed then there is not a member of this House who will not rejoice in their success.
After all, nobody is better pleased at the prospect of establishing a contented and prosperous race of small holders on the land than those who sit on these Benches in this House. There can be no more effective means of preventing an unreasoning campaign against all those who own land than the creation of a very large number of people belonging to that category. There can be no better means of preventing people being willing to undertake wild cat experiments than to create a class of people who have something to lose if those experiments fail. No one would rejoice more than we should if the experiment were to succeed. If, on the other hand, it does not succeed the very fact that the one attempt which the Socialists have been able to make to cure unemployment, apart from the con- 1352 structive proposals of our Party, unfortunately ends in failure, will be perhaps a very powerful argument in favour of adopting those methods in which we all believe.
I have said that it is not an easy decision. I am speaking not for myself. I am speaking now with the unanimous assent of the leaders of the Party to which I have the honour to belong both in this House and in another place. I know, of course, that that is not conclusive. Your Lordships have your own responsibilities and have to make up your own minds, but still I venture to think that the fact that there is a consensus of opinion among those who are regarded as the leaders of the Conservative Party in favour of a certain course is at least a factor which is relevant for your Lordships to consider. My advice is, equally with that of the noble Lord, Lord Treowen, to give this Bill a Third Reading. I know that in giving this advice I am disappointing my noble friend Lord Banbury. He will regard me once more as a timorous person, afraid to take any challenging or fighting attitude with regard to the Socialist Party opposite. But I was not altogether convinced, if he will forgive my saying so, by the argument he adduced when he said we ought to throw out the Bill on Third Reading in order to assert our right to reject Bills. I think nothing would be more certain to destroy our right to reject Bills than if we rejected them merely in order to assert the existence of the right. I am not afraid, when a proper occasion arises, to reject a Bill. Your Lordships' memory need not go back very far.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
It is quite true that I said that I hoped that your Lordships would not hesitate to reject the Bill if you thought it a wrong Bill, but I must remind my noble friend that I pointed out that it was chiefly on the financial reasons that I urged your Lordships to reject the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My noble friend knows that the last thing I wish to do would be in any way to misrepresent him. Indeed, your Lordships heard what he had to say. The point that I was trying to make was that it is not true to say that the advice that I am giving was given because I am afraid to assert the right of this House to reject a Bill when I think it ought to be 1353 rejected, and I was venturing to remind your Lordships that it is not very long ago that I invited your Lordships to assert that right and you were good enough to follow my advice. The noble Lord said that the Daily Herald would be carrying on a string of commentaries on this House. They have begun already. I have no doubt they will. Whatever we do we shall have that. But I do not think we ought to be deflected from what we think is the wisest course in the national interest by consideration of a Press campaign which is likely to be worked up.
Not only is the advice that I am giving disappointing to my noble friend, I am afraid, but it will also, I think, be disappointing to the Prime Minister, because only two days ago I read in the public Press a letter of the Prime Minister in which he was appealing for popular support of a Socialist candidate and in which he said this:The House of Lords has chosen this moment of national anxiety to pick a quarrel with the House of Commons"—I am quoting only the relevant passage—The Government wishes to bring unemployed men capable of cultivating the soil on to the soil. The House of Lords says that they must remain on the unemployed register. Servile to every whim and proposal at the Tory Party, the Lords return to life and hostility as soon as a Labour Government begins to unfold its policy.No doubt the Prime Minister is a very busy man, and possibly he has not been following very closely what happens in this House. At any rate, he must have been very badly informed as to what has been happening.
Of course, if your Lordships were to accept the view which my noble friend Lord Banbury has been urging, that we should reject this Bill, then the Prime Minister and everyone of his followers would be able to say, and with some show of truth, that "the Government wishes to bring unemployed men capable of cultivating the soil on to the soil," and "the House of Lords says that they must remain on the unemployed register." I do not want the Prime Minister to be able to say that. I think it would be a most unfortunate thing from every point of view if it were possible to make that accusation with any sort of foundation of fact. It may be that, when the Prime 1354 Minister said it, the wish was father to the thought. Let us ensure that in future he shall not be able to repeat it without knowing that he is quite wrong.
I cannot tell whether the Bill in its present form will ever become law. There were Amendments which the Government resisted. Whether the original Part II of the Bill, dealing with allotments and small holdings, becomes law will rest, if your Lordships pass the Third Reading, not with this House but with the Government. If the Government believe in the scheme which they have put into this Bill and if they really want to help unemployment, as they say they do, then they can show it if they accept our Amendments. If they have so little faith in the efficacy of their own scheme, or if they have so little regard for the interests of the unemployed that they prefer to sacrifice these clauses of their own making in order to force a quarrel with this House, the responsibility will be theirs, and at least it will be clear to the people of this country that it is their action, and not ours, which prevents these small holding provisions becoming law. I am quite sure that if we were to accept the Motion of my noble friend we should be doing the very worst thing in the interests, not merely of our Party, which is a secondary consideration, but of the nation and of the Constitution. We should be playing straight into the hands of those who wish to wreck both, and it is for that reason that I urge your Lordships to vote in favour of the Third Reading of the Bill in its present form.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, I did not make a speech in moving the Third Reading of this Bill because it seemed to me that it would be unnecessary and undesirable from the point of view of your Lordships' House that I should make two speeches this afternoon. Moreover, I rather suspected, looking at the debates which have taken place in the past on this Bill, that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, would take up the attitude that he has taken this afternoon, and that possibly his speech might convince rather more of your Lordships than would mine. It is quite true that the support of the noble and learned Viscount is somewhat half-hearted, and incident- 1355 ally—we are getting rather accustomed to this in the noble and learned Viscount's speeches—he managed to get in a good deal of electioneering. However, so long as the noble and learned Viscount gives the Bill his support we are really quite prepared to concede him that amount of Party capital, if he thinks it really is of any value to his Party.
It is not necessary, as I think has been generally realised during the debate this afternoon, to go back to the old arguments on the merits of the Bill and its general principles. It is, I think, unusual to have a long debate on a Third Reading unless one of two things has happened: either additions have been made to the Bill which make it necessary to have a further discussion, or else Amendments which were considered of great importance by the House on the Second Beading have not been inserted before the Third Reading. Neither of those things has happened. All the Amendments that have been put forward from that side of the House and which your Lordships wish to insert have been inserted. No additions whatever have been made to this Bill except by this House. The Bill is therefore in the form that has been decided on by this House.
There is really only one point at issue, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, and that is the fact that, if you go back to another stage of the Bill, the Government felt themselves unable to make a pledge which they felt would be in violation of the Privileges of the House of Commons. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, thought to get over that difficulty by his action on Report, by the total exclusion of Part I of the original Bill, and what will happen with regard to that matter in another place it is not for me to say here.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I really do not know the purport of that question. If the noble Lord wants to put a question, perhaps he will put it rather more clearly. What Amendments?
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Certain Amendments have been moved and passed in this House. It is usually the custom in both Houses for the Gov- 1356 ernment, after Amendments are moved by the Opposition, to say whether or not they accept them. Irrespective of any question of Privilege, do the Government accept the Amendments passed in this House?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
Really the matter was made perfectly clear in Committee and on Report. On every Amendment I made a definite statement as to whether I accepted it or not. All I refused to do was to pledge the action of the House of Commons. The noble Lord tried to make out that we on this side said that the House of Commons were going to reject every Amendment they could on the ground of Privilege. We never said anything of the kind. We merely made it clear that we were not prepared to pledge the House of Commons as to what they would do. Lord Banbury is to a certain extent logical. Part I has been thrown out because this undertaking could not be given, and it is perfectly true that there are limitations in Part II which might quite possibly be adjudged to be privileged, and the noble Lord wants your Lordships to continue the same course as you adopted on Part I to its logical conclusion.
We all know perfectly well that when it comes to the point of attempting to satisfy the destructive fervour of the noble Lord, it is quite impossible to do so, and we all know that really there would be very little object in the existence of this House if members of the House of Commons did as the noble Lord would like them to do, and rejected all Bills, because then we should have nothing whatsoever here to consider. One is, however, relieved to find that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, does not take up that attitude, and he feels apparently that his opposition to Part I was very much stronger than his opposition to Part II, and I gather that he is prepared to take a certain risk with Part II. Let me say this here, that the Government do hope that this Bill will go forward to Third Reading and be sent down to the House of Commons. I reiterate what I said on the Second Reading. While it is quite impossible to pledge the House of Commons as to their action, we are anxious to be reasonable. We have been anxious to be reasonable in the discussions on the Amendments all through.
1357 It is perfectly true we consider that certain things which the noble and learned Viscount said during Committee and Report made it exceedingly hard to discuss the matter of accepting Amendments or not. On the other hand, we have always said that if Amendments were found on further examination of the Bill to be of assistance to the Bill, then, quite apart from any question of Privilege, it is obvious that it is the commonsense thing to do to take all steps to see that those Amendments remain in the Bill.
The noble and learned Viscount has implied that the Amendments as they stand are really Amendments which will help the Bill. I must make it quite clear that we do regard the Bill as it stands as being in a state of shipwreck. Clause 3, which I mention particularly because the noble and learned Viscount referred to the question of unemployment, is gone with the rest of Part I, and what is more, Part II is in such a state that to say the very least it will be almost impossible to carry on any serious work under it. The noble and learned Viscount has complained of what he calls certain exaggerated words of the Prime Minister, but any one who for a moment thought of the problems connected with the settlement of any considerable number of men on the land and who looked at this Bill and saw that it could only go on for four years, must realise that no considerable settlement could take place under the Bill as it stands.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Does the noble Earl mean that it can do nothing for the unemployed before four years?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
No, I made the point perfectly clear in Committee. I said that it must take some time before a scheme such as this, if carried out economically and soundly and carefully, can bear fruit. By the time when it is beginning to get into a real swing, the Bill as it stands has to come to an end. As I have said, we are anxious to see all reasonable Amendments retained in the Bill. All Amendments which we consider reasonable, and which have been already officially accepted and agreed to, were accepted on behalf of the Government and we 1358 will endeavour to see that they remain in the Bill. All other Amendments must, of course, be dealt with in the normal manner as between the two Houses. As I have already said, no undertaking can be given. This the usual manner, I believe, of dealing with Bills agreed in principle but not in detail between the two Houses, and A is the procedure which the Government now ask your Lordships to adopt.
The alternative? It is difficult to see an alternative, excepting perhaps that of the reintroduction of the Bill at a later time, in circumstances which must ultimately preclude any real discussion between the two Houses. This is not the alternative that the Government wish to adopt, or would willingly choose, because we believe that this Bill has a real contribution to make to the problem, if it is, carried out on sound and careful lines. It is quite true—it has been brought out in the debate and has never been contradicted—that the effect upon unemployment of this Bill may possibly not be enormous, but so far as it goes I think we are all agreed that it will be a good one, and it is worth while attempting to snake the effort. We believe it has a real contribution to make towards the problem of re-adjusting the balance of population in this country. On that point I noticed this morning that a leading article in the Morning Post stated:As Dr. Addison truly remarked, the problem of the clay is to obtain a better balance of the population.I believe that is a point on which we can all conclude with general agreement, and for that reason we do hope that the Bill will pass into law in such a form as to be of real assistance in the attempt to snake that contribution.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl. He said just exactly what thought he would. The Government are not going to accept any of our important Amendments.
§ On Question, Whether the word "now shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 62: Not-Contents, 6.1359
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Esher, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Hailsham. V.||Hawke, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Hood, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
|Sutherland, D.||Mersey, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Sumner, V.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Abingdon, E.||Marley, L. [Teller.]|
|Ancaster, E.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Addington, L.||Passfield, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Amulree, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Grey, E.||Annaly, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Remnant, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Sanderson, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Clinton, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Craigmyle, L.||Snell, L.|
|Peel, E.||Cushendun, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Daryngton, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Denman, L.||Trenchard, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Desborough, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Wargrave, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Wharton, L.|
|Astor, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Bathurst, E.||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Redesdale, L.|
|Novar, V.[Teller.]||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Bill read 3a accordingly, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 20 [Application to Scotland]:
§ THE EARL of LAUDERDALE moved, in paragraph (c), to leave out "or of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts, 1886 to 1919." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is consequential on an Amendment passed by your Lordships during the Committee stage. I beg to move.
Page 16, line 12, leave out from ("1918") to end of line 13.—(The Earl of Lauderdale.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.