HL Deb 19 July 1934 vol 93 cc859-64

Order of the Day for the consideration of the Report of the Select Committee read.

The Committee reported as follows: That the Committee have met and considered the Standing Orders of the House, with a view to any amendment or revision of the same which may result in a saving of expense, having particular reference to the daily reprinting and re-circulation of Motions or Notices which are left for considerable periods on the Order Paper. The Committee have heard evidence of the Clerk of the Parliaments on this sub- ject, and recommend that Standing Order No. XXI be amended as follows—

Standing Order No. XXI, line 17, after ("renewed") insert: ("When any Notice shall have remained on the Minutes of Proceedings for one month, exclusive of any period during which the House may stand adjourned for more than five days, without any Lord giving notice of appointing the same for a date, such Notice shall not any longer appear among the Notices and Orders of the Day, and shall not again be included among the Notices and Orders of the day until any Lord shall give notice of appointing the same for a date.")


My Lords, I do not think I need detain your Lordships in moving that this Report be considered and agreed to. It will be within the recollection of this House that a few days ago Lord Ponsonby raised a question as to whether it might be possible to effect a saving of expense, by adopting some other procedure with regard to the method by which Notices appear on the Order Paper, and on the Motion of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, Lord Hail sham, a Committee was appointed to go into the matter. That Committee has considered it, and this is its Report. The effect of the Report is that an Amendment of the Standing Order is recommended, and I may perhaps briefly explain how that Amendment would operate.

Your Lordships are aware that when any member of this House desires to put down a Motion or Question, and he has not determined the day on which he will bring it forward, he puts it down for "No day named." Under the present Standing Orders such a Motion or Question may remain on the Order Paper indefinitely, and for a very long time indeed, until the noble Lord can find a day on which to discuss it. It is thought that it is desirable that your Lordships should have opportunities of studying the Order Paper and seeing the nature of the business which is coming forward, even although a date has not actually been named for the discussion. But there is perhaps a limit to all things, and it occurred to the Committee that it would be sufficient if such Notices and Motions remained on the Order Paper for a month, in order to enable every member of this House fully to acquaint himself with what appears on the Order Paper, but for no longer than that, in view of the expense which would be entailed by leaving Notices on the Paper.

Therefore it is proposed that no Notice shall remain on the Paper for "No day named" for more than a month. When the month has expired it will automatically come off the Paper. I think there will be a notice on the last day on which it appears to say that it will be automatically removed, because there are occasions when you wish to take a Notice off the Paper altogether, and it would lead co some confusion if there were no distinction made between the two forms. Then, when the noble Lord has fixed a date, his Motion will reappear on the Paper, not for "No day named" but with a date fixed. That is the suggestion of the Committee, and if your Lordships accept the Report doubtless in due course an Amendment of the Standing Orders will be made. I beg to move that the Report be now considered and agreed to.

Moved, That the Report of the Select Committee be now considered and agreed to.—(The Earl of Onslow.)


My Lords, as I was responsible for calling attention to this small matter I should like to express my agreement with the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman, in his explanation of the Report come to by the Select Committee, and at the same time to express my gratitude to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for having so readily facilitated a method by which we can correct what I think was really a very undesirable practice—namely, using the Order Paper for publicity purposes.


My Lords, I doubt whether the Report of the Committee goes far enough. I cannot see what is the object, day after day, of issuing these Parliamentary Papers with at the end a number of Resolutions put down for "No day named." Surely once a week would be quite sufficient for the issue of a Paper of that kind. What we want when we look at the daily Parliamentary Papers is to see what is coming on to-day and to-morrow. We do not care what is coming on next week, or the week after. If we get that once a week it is quite sufficient. I am certain that great saving might be made of printing and paper if attention were given to this. There is also another matter which I am sorry the Committee did not deal with. It is a great waste of printing and paper when a single Amendment is circulated on a big sheet of paper. During the last two or three days we have had full sheets of paper circulated with a small Amendment in the middle of each. Can there be a greater waste than that?


My Lords, may I ask one question of the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman, because I am not sure that I quite understood the effect of the Report. I understand the object is that a noble Lord who desires publicity shall not obtain that publicity so easily by placing a Motion on the Paper for "No day named," and that after a month it will disappear automatically from the Paper. Is there anything to prevent a noble Lord who is animated by such a passion for publicity as is described putting a Motion down for a particular day, and then when that day approaches moving it on to another day? If ho did that he would obtain publicity, and also, it seems to me, defeat the rule. Perhaps the noble Earl can answer me on that.


When the noble Earl speaks of a month in his Report does he mean a calendar month, or does he mean four weeks on which the House has sat, because obviously in the case of Christmas and the Easter holiday it will make a very great difference?


I can answer the noble Lord by reading the proposed Standing Order: When any Notice shall have remained on the Minutes of Proceedings for one month, exclusive of any period during which the House may stand adjourned for more than five days …. So that if Whitsuntide or Easter comes in, that will not count. Then the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has certainly put a poser to me. Perhaps the ingenuity of noble Lords in evading Standing Orders is very considerable, but I think that, with the expression of opinion which was given by my noble friend opposite and by the Leader of the House, the un-desirability of the practice of putting down such Questions and Motions on the Paper will be apparent, and the fact that your Lordships do not approve of it will curtail the desire of noble Lords to evade the Stand- ing Order. I think it is the practice of your Lordships' House when your Lordship's are aware of the general wishes of the House to endeavour to carry out its decision, and I think this Standing Order amply notifies the wish of your Lordships. But of course I quite agree with Lord Peel that it might be got round in that way. In fact, other ways have occurred to me which I was careful not to mention—


I thought of several others.


—but I think that perhaps until some noble Lord takes advantage of those other methods we might endeavour to get on with the Standing Order as it stands. We did, as a matter of fact, discuss this in Committee, and we thought that probably this Standing Order would meet the wishes of the House. Then I think the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, made two suggestions. One was that the amount of printing and paper used for the Amendments in Committee might be curtailed. I have been into that, and I think that probably we shall be able to curtail it to some extent. There are certain difficulties, with which I do not think I need trouble your Lordships at present, but we will do our best to curtail the amount of paper and printing. As a matter of fact, I think the question of Amendments in Committee would not come under the Standing Orders, it would come more under the administrative authority of the learned Clerk of the Parliaments.

The other suggestion made by the noble Viscount was that we might have the Notices printed once a week only. I must say I do see some difficulty in that, because noble Lords, when they receive their Papers, like to look at the business, and if it varied, we will say on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from that which appeared on Wednesdays, possibly some confusion might be caused. But I do not think this matter was considered by the Committee. Still, it might be gone into privately, and, if there is any possibility of curtailing expense by adopting the suggestion of the noble Viscount, I feel quite sure that your Lordships will be willing to accept it.


My Lords, with regard to the remarks of the noble. Viscount, Lord Ullswater, I may say that-one of the reasons for non-attendance of Peers in this House is that a great many of us who live a long way off and have a great many other occupations very frequently do not get our Notices of what is coming on until after it has taken place. If some of the Notices could reach us earlier rather than later it would make a great deal of difference.


I think it would be rather difficult to do that, because, supposing that my noble friend wishes to put down a Motion on a Tuesday, to come on on a Wednesday, it could not possibly reach noble Lords in Scotland in time. Very often a Motion is not put down until the day before. Of course, as much as is possible appears on the Paper, but you could not be sure that the Orders of the Day would be fixed three or four days beforehand.


My Lords, may I ask one further question? When this Standing Order becomes operative, are we to assume that it will be retrospective and that certain Questions which your Lordships have for some considerable time seen on the Order Paper would then automatically disappear?


I think that if your Lordships adopted the Standing Order it would be immediately operative.

On Question, Motion agreed to.