THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, on the Sunday Entertainments Bill I raised a point in regard to procedure. There was a paragraph in the Schedule which made a suggestion with regard to the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House and of another place, and it was held to be undesirable that the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House should be interfered with or governed by a clause in an Act of Parliament. I ventured therefore to suggest to the Government an alternative method which carries out what they wish. The object of the amendment of the Standing Order is to enable Orders under this Act to be considered in the same manner as Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act and the Government of India Act; that is to say, they are excepted from the Special Orders procedure. When I made my suggestion to the House your Lordships were good enough to give it approval and therefore I hope that you will assent to this amendment of the Standing Order as proposed.
§ Moved, That the Standing Orders relative to Private Bills and Special Orders be amended as follows:—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I would like to ask a question of the Chairman of Committees with 793 reference to this proposal. I am afraid I must apologise to the House because I was not present in my place when the incident took place on the Sunday Entertainments Bill to which my noble friend has just referred. I gather that there was a provision in the Bill as it stood to the effect that no Order laid before Parliament should be deemed, for the purposes of the Standing Orders of either House, to be a Special Order unless the House so directed. Therefore such an Order would not go before the Special Orders Committee of the House in the absence of such direction, and my noble friend very properly said that that was not a matter which ought to be dealt with in an Act of Parliament but was a matter entirely for your Lordships to decide. Therefore it comes before you for decision.
If my noble friend will allow me I would press him to make one little further explanation. Why is it necessary that Orders under the Sunday Entertainments Act should be exempted from the procedure of the Special Orders Committee? I presume it is in the nature of an affirmative Resolution, in the jargon which has come to be used in connection with these questions, without which the Sunday Entertainments Act cannot operate. That would seem to be a very proper thing for the Special Orders Committee to consider and I do not know on what principle it is exempted. I look with some jealousy upon any action exempting from the operation of the Special Orders Committee any affirmative Resolution which is put into Acts of Parliament, because that Special Orders procedure appears to me to be very useful procedure. I hope your Lordships' House will not think it is because I have a sort of paternal interest in it that I venture to say so. I think it works well, and I think that that has been shown in the present Session. We have had at least two debates on matters referred by the House to the Special Orders Committee. After the sifting process has been gone through it has been referred to the House, and interesting debates have resulted, and no kind of delay or difficulty has arisen under the procedure.
For that reason I look with some jealousy upon any exemption, because I foresee, knowing what I do about the way in which Bills are drafted, pressure 794 being put upon Ministers by their own Departments, who do not very much like the Special Orders procedure. I can foresee those Departments saying: "See that you put this in, and if you agree in Parliament to an affirmative Resolution, mind you put in some provision exempting it from the Special Orders procedure, because we might be held up by the Special Orders Committee." So pressure is put upon the Minister by his Department, which might lead to a general procedure of exempting from the Special Orders Committee particular affirmative Resolutions. We are all very temporary persons, and shall all pass away, but this procedure I hope will continue, and there may no longer be anyone in the House to watch the gradual eating away of this procedure, if it is not resisted—if I may use such an expression—at its very outset. I venture to ask my noble friend if he will add to his explanation the reasons which led him and others to agree to the view that these particular Orders should be exempted.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I think the explanation of the reason for exempting this provision should come from the Leader of the House, because it was a Government Bill, and the explanation of their policy should come from a member of the Government, but if I may give my explanation a little more clearly, there was in the Schedule of the Bill, in paragraph 9, I think, a provision that these Special Orders under the Sunday Entertainments Act should not be regarded as Special Orders for the purposes of the Standing Orders of either House. It was in the Bill. My pre-occupation was that I thought it undesirable that these Standing Orders of the House should be governed in any way by an Act of Parliament. As to whether it was per se desirable to exempt from the Standing Orders was a matter for the House itself to decide. I was less concerned with policy than procedure. The House gave the Bill a Second Reading after the Government had accepted the proposal which I had ventured to make, that it should be dealt with by Standing Order, and I therefore leave the explanation of the reasons which the Government had for wishing to exempt these Orders from the 795 Special Orders procedure to the Leader of the House. As a matter of fact I am reminded that my attention was directed by the officers of the House to this matter, and that I took it up with the Government immediately I noticed the paragraph in the Schedule of the Bill. As regards the policy, I repeat that I would venture to leave that to the Leader of the House.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, I cannot claim to take the position of Lord Hailsham, who, as your Lordships are aware, has already started to attend a Conference of great importance in Canada, but my recollection is that the House felt that these Orders were likely to entail only small matters, relating to the extension of powers to areas to hold Sunday entertainments where the population so desired. No principle was involved and I think the House felt that it was to some extent a local government matter with which the House ought not to be troubled in having to go into details before a Special Orders Committee. All those of us who have had the privilege of being members of this House for some time will agree with the noble Marquess that we have a very valuable procedure in the Special Orders Committee, and, although I am not able to give a pledge on behalf of the Government, I think I may say that the suggestion of the noble Marquess will be borne in mind, at any rate by this Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will give me permission to say one word, having regard to the special circumstances of the case. I feel that it would not be proper for me to challenge this Motion at the moment, because the House is not so fully attended as it sometimes is, and also the Leader of the House is absent upon matters of State of very great importance, and we should not like to have the appearance of putting any difficulty in the way of the Government at the present moment. I think it is only right, however, to say that so far as I am concerned I shall never consent to such a Motion again on another Bill, if I can get your Lordships to agree with me in resisting it.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: Standing Orders amended accordingly.