§ LORD ARNOLD had given Notice that he would move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, and particularly having regard to Standing Order No. VIII, it is undesirable and irregular that any person, not a member of the House of Lords, should have right of access during the sittings of the House to the Chamber itself, other than the officials of the House and Government Office officials, Privy Councillors, the eldest sons of Peers, and others privileged to sit upon the steps of the Throne, and the personal private secretaries of the Leaders of the three Parties; and that the right of access to the Library during the sittings of the House should be confined to Peers and members of the House of Commons and such other persons as shall have received special leave from the House of Lords Offices Committee.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think it will be necessary for me to detain your Lordships at any undue length in moving the Motion upon the Paper, and also I am happy to think that I need not make a controversial speech. The Motion does not deal with a Party matter; it deals with something about which I should hope general agreement can be reached, and I shall in the course of my observations put forward proposals in the hope of achieving that end. The Motion which I have put down, if I may say so, is not a personal Motion of my own. It has been put down by me after prolonged consideration on behalf of myself and a number of noble Lords who feel strongly about the matter in question. In order to make clear the precise object of the Motion I do not think I can do better than begin by reading to your Lord- 58 ships certain words of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, to which he gave utterance in the course of a speech on the 19th December last. The noble Lord was speaking upon the Bill introduced by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, for dealing with the House of Lords, and in the course of his remarks my noble friend Lord Ponsonby referred to a certain group of Peers.
I discovered that they"—
that is, this group of Peers—
were served by a very skilled high official. I tried to find out exactly who this skilled high official was, because he was allowed not only into the libraries, not only into the tea rooms, not only into the Prince's Chamber, but into the House itself, and not only was he allowed into the House but he was allowed a chair in the House, the only other chair here besides that on which His Majesty sits. I found in my researches that there were eight authorities here responsible for the various arrangements and appointments in your Lordships' House. Some of them I found it was not necessary to approach, but I approached those who, I thought, would give this very high privilege to an individual, and I asked exactly who had given him permission. There was blank astonishment on all sides. It was as if I had asked who had given authority for the Woolsack to be placed there.
To any one who knows the House of Lords the meaning of Lord Ponsonby's words is obvious, and the object of this Motion is to debar from the use of the Library and from access to the floor of your Lordships' House and also from access to the Prince's Chamber of the individual to whom Lord Ponsonby referred.
§ Throughout my observations I will refer to this individual as an expert. I believe that this expert has been accustomed to go where he does and to do what he does for a long term of years, but, whatever may have been the considerations which led in the past to the granting of these tremendous privileges, circumstances are quite different to-day. There are now three Parties in the State as compared with two Parties years ago. With your Lordships' permission I will deal with the Library first. The Library is being more and more used and it will be increasingly used. Let me deal with the access which this expert has to the Library. Not only does he go into the Library and remain there for hours together, even when the House is sitting, taking up room in the Library, especially 59 as he, naturally enough, in the discharge of his duties often has a large number of papers spread about, and when the House is busy there is inadequate table space in the Library. Not only does this happen, but the conversations which this expert frequently has with Peers in the course of his duties are destructive of the close concentration which is needful for political work. Surely it must be agreed that the Library is not the place where this kind of thing should be going on, is not the place for such conferences, consultations and talks. In point of fact I have been compelled on occasions to leave the seat in the Library where I like to work because of the activities of this expert, and have had to seek refuge in some remote and less convenient spot but where, at any rate, I could be quiet.
§ Let me take a further point. As your Lordships are aware, private talks are an essential part of political work and life, and again and again I have been compelled to ask some colleague either to come out of the Library or to go to another part of the Library in order to get out of ear-shot of this expert. It is, of course, true that on certain occasions I have had, just as other noble Lords have had, to take the same steps with regard to Peers, but surely this kind of thing ought to be reduced to a minimum, and that cannot be done if this expert is allowed to do what he does and to go where he does. I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no personal feeling whatever against this expert. So far as I know he is a gentleman of ability and character, but that does not alter the fact that in the Library he is an inconvenience, nor does it alter the fact that he has somehow or other, and from somebody or other, obtained amazing privileges which, if they were extended to other experts, would soon bring about an impossible state of things in your Lordships' House.
§ Consider the difference between the practice in this matter in your Lordships' House and what happens in the House of Commons. I can speak on this point as it happens from personal experience. Two or three years after I had, owing to ill health, resigned my seat in the House of Commons, I was for a time in a voluntary capacity doing my best to help the Parliamentary Labour Party in exactly the same way as this expert 60 helps this group of Peers. I was doing what I could to assist them with notes for speeches. For this purpose I used to work in one of the small rooms allotted to the Labour Party near the Terrace. This room had a fair number of books of reference—the OFFICIAL REPORT and so forth—but from time to time other books were required from the Library in order that certain work might be done. In general when those books were required from the Library they were borrowed from the Library by the Labour member himself in whose interest the inquiries were being made. That was not a very convenient arrangement because the member himself was not always about. Therefore it was suggested that perhaps I might secure permission to go, not into the Library itself, but into what I may call the entrance Library—it is well known to most of your Lordships—not to remain there, not to work there, not even to sit there, but to ask the Librarian for such and such a volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT or for some other book of reference.
§ That seemed a very modest request and that request was put forward not on behalf of a group, it was put forward on behalf of the Opposition, of the whole Labour Party, put forward officially by the Chief Whip, Mr. Arthur Henderson. It was definitely refused. It was pointed out that I had, until quite recently as it happened, for many years been a member of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, no encouragement whatever was given to the suggestion because the desired permission would have been contrary to the rules of the House of Commons Library. I say that what this expert does in your Lordships' House is contrary to the rules of the Library here. Just contrast the practice of the House of Commons in regard to this matter with the privileges which this expert enjoys in your Lordships' Library. Not only does he go into the Library hut he remains there for hours together, day after day, even when your Lordships' House is sitting. That is a definite contravention of the Resolution which was passed regarding the Library many years ago by the House of Lords Offices Committee.
So much for the Library. I now pass to consider the right of access which this expert has to your Lordships' House itself. He has the right to come—or at
any rate he does come—into the Chamber itself. Not only so, he actually occupies a chair immediately in line with the chairs upon which their Majesties sit and the chair upon which His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales sits. These almost incredible privileges are entirely contrary to the spirit of Standing Order of the House No. VIII. Standing Order No. VIII is as follows:
No person shall be in any part of the House during the sitting of the House, except Lords of Parliament and Peers of the United Kingdom, not being members of the House of Commons and heirs apparent of such Peers, or of Peeresses of the United Kingdom in their own right, and such other persons as attend this House as assistants.
I need scarcely tell your Lordships that the word "assistant" there has no kind of relation to the kind of assistance given by this expert to a group of Peers. The "assistants" of the House referred to in the Standing Order are the Judges, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, and such members of the Privy Council as are called by Writ from the Crown to attend.
§ I believe as a matter of strict interpretation this Standing Order relates to what is technically known as the House itself, and that a certain portion of the floor of the Chamber is not deemed to be within the House itself. That part of the floor known as below the Bar is not within the House and there is no suggestion that there should be any interference at all with the admission of strangers below the Bar. Again, I understand that even the Woolsack itself is not technically within the House. Similarly, the chairs on which their Majesties sit and on which His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales sits are not within the House. Therefore, I suppose that applies to the chair on which this expert sits. I have, however, no manner of doubt that it was never the intention of those who framed this Standing Order that any individual from the outside should be allowed to come day by day on to the floor of the Chamber in the way this expert does and to sit where he does. The Motion does not actually mention in words the Prince's Chamber, but this expert also uses the Prince's Chamber.
§ I should like to observe on this point that I attach much importance to the words in my Motion, "right of access." There is, I submit, a vast difference between right of access and simple access.62
§ For instance, certain persons have a right to pass through the Prince's Chamber, and as regards the Library permission is given in rare instances I believe by the Librarian for a stranger to enter the Library for some purpose or other even although the House is sitting. Obviously, there is no objection to that. But, all such happenings are very different from a definite right of access at all times and for any length of time. These words in my Motion "right of access" have an important connotation. If I took up your Lordships' time to the extent of analysing every syllable of the words in my Motion I could not claim, and I do not claim, that they cover every conceivable point and contingency in this somewhat complicated matter. I doubt whether finality of that kind could be secured by any Motion. Whoever framed such a Motion I believe it would still be possible for someone with a high degree of ingenuity to cavil at some of the verbiage employed. I do not contend that my Motion can be submitted to critical analysis syllable by syllable, but the general meaning is perfectly clear and the Motion should serve to raise the whole question and to lead to a settlement satisfactory to all concerned.
§ It may be asked whether it was necessary to proceed in this matter by way of Motion at all. After long deliberation and numerous consultations among my noble friends with whom I am acting in this matter, we were driven to the conclusion that the method of a Motion was the only effective way of dealing with the problem. Despite diligent and persistent endeavour it was not found possible to locate the authority or authorities responsible for granting these privileges, assuming they all have been granted. So I have resorted to the method of a Motion in the House. May I observe that I have declined to discuss this Motion with the representatives of the Press or with anybody outside your Lordships' House, but it has come to my knowledge that in some quarters there is a doubt as to whether the Motion has not reference to members of the House of Commons. I should like to state emphatically that nothing is further from my mind than that, and I should have thought that that was clear from the terms of my Motion if they are carefully read.
As your Lordships are aware, an Amendment to my Motion appears on the Order Paper in the name of the noble
Lord, Lord Hastings, to the effect that there is no sufficient reason to alter
the present practice of the House as regards right of access to the Chamber and the Library.
Surely the contention in this Amendment is one very difficult to maintain. First of all, may I say that I observe the precise words of the Amendment with considerable surprise, because they amount to a direct negative, and speaking with a now fairly long Parliamentary experience, I say that it is most unusual to meet a Motion of this character, for which at any rate there is a great deal to be said, with a direct negative. The Amendment refers to the "practice of the House." I submit that in this matter there is no practice of the House. So far as the House is concerned there is a clear declaration in Standing Order No. VIII which is entirely at variance with what is going on. There is also the Resolution to which I have referred of the House of Lords Offices Committee which debars this expert from using the Library in the way in which he does use it. Therefore it is surely a bold claim to cite the practice of the House as authorising this expert to do what he does.
§ My submission is that there is no practice of the House in this matter. It has never been considered by the House until to-day. I further submit that it would be a wholly unsatisfactory result of this discussion if the noble Lord's Amendment were put to a Division and carried. There could be no finality in a proceeding of that kind. If those of us who feel strongly upon this matter and have, as we hold, an impregnable case are to be met only with this direct negative of the Amendment, and voted down by Peers many of whom do not use the Library or do not work in the Library, and therefore have not been subjected to the inconvenience which I have already indicated to your Lordships—if that is to happen, quite clearly that will not by any means be the end of this. Surely it would be much better all round to try to get some agreed settlement of the problem; and that is what I am about to propose. I believe that it can be done.
§ Let me observe first that it really is not necessary for this expert to have these privileges. No case whatever of necessity can be made out for what has been happening. Other arrangements in your 64 Lordships' House can be made for him to serve the group of Peers whom he does serve. I respectfully urge upon your Lordships that the best way of dealing with this problem is to submit the whole matter to the House of Lords Offices Committee, upon which all Parties and interests are represented, with a request that the Committee endeavour to make arrangements to meet the difficulty. I am satisfied that other accommodation can be found within the precincts of your Lordships' House where this expert can work, and also where other experts can work and give assistance to Peers. Up to the present time, apart from the members of this group, other Peers who want expert help (as we all do at times) have to arrange for it to be given outside your Lordships' House. That is often a very inconvenient way of doing things. In my view the time has come when one or two rooms within the precincts of your Lordships' House should be set aside for experts to work in; and also one or two rooms are needed, and badly needed, where Peers can interview callers. Unquestionably there is accommodation in your Lordships' House which could be allotted or found for experts and other purposes, and I am convinced that the House of Lords Offices Committee could provide a solution of all these difficulties.
§ I have done my best not to offend any susceptibilities and to put forward a constructive proposal to deal with the situation. It seems to me that in a matter of this kind, where it has not proved possible to locate the authority and responsibility, I am well in order in making an appeal to the Leader of the House, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. He is in a special degree the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House and is in a peculiar degree concerned, I say, to see that the rules of the House are carried out in the letter and in the spirit; and that is far from being done if this expert is to be allowed to continue his activities in the way in which he has been acting. I would therefore appeal to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I appeal to him not as a member of the Government, because this is not a Government matter; I appeal to him not as Leader of the Conservative Party in your Lordships' house, because this is not a Party matter; I appeal to him as the Leader of the House, with the special duties and responsibilities which that 65 position entails, to help us to get a settlement of the matter. I ask him to support the proposal that the whole question be referred to the House of Lords Offices Committee or else to make some alternative suggestion which seems likely to lead to a settlement of the difficulty. That, I submit, is a reasonable appeal for the acceptance of a most reasonable proposal, and if the noble Viscount will respond I will willingly withdraw my Motion.
§ What valid objection can there be to the proposal which I put forward? Surely this matter does want investigating and probing, and we want some better way of dealing with the position. It appears to me that no objection of substance can be made to the proposal that the whole matter should be referred to the House of Lords Offices Committee. I do not propose to say very much more because I do not think it is necessary to do so. In my submission the case for some action is overwhelming, and what is happening ought to be stopped, otherwise a position of extreme difficulty and delicacy will arise. If this expert is to be allowed to continue to do what he does, other groups of Peers will claim similar privileges. For instance, some of my noble friends have one or two gentlemen who have for some time been anxious to help them in the work here, and the zeal of those who are desirous of having such a position will certainly not be lessened if an individual from outside is to be allowed to come into your Lordships' House, into the Library, day by day and hour by hour, into the tea room, into the passages, into the Prince's Chamber, on to the floor of the House itself, and occupy a chair in line with the chairs occupied by Their Majesties and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
§ It may perhaps be suggested in the course of this debate that an equitable solution of the problem would be to allow other experts for other groups of Peers to do what the present expert does. I think a little consideration will show that any such plan would be impracticable. Let me emphasise that the present expert works for a group of Peers, not even for a Party, and groups of Peers can be, and are, multiplied indefinitely. I have already spoken of the great inconvenience of having only one expert in the Library, but what is going to happen if 66 that inconvenience is to be multiplied two-fold, five-fold, ten-fold or even more? That is a problem from which my mind turns away absolutely baffled. The simple truth is, my Lords, that the table space in the Library will not permit of such encroachments. There is not enough of it. That is so quite apart from other objections. On what I may call physical grounds no such plan would work; the limited space in the Library, the Chamber and elsewhere rules it out. So that a grant of these privileges to other experts would not be a solution of the difficulty; it would really rather be au aggravation of the difficulty. I am sure that some other way out must be found and can be found, and that the House of Lords Offices Committee can find it.
I again very respectfully urge upon your Lordships that the whole problem should be remitted to the House of Lords Offices Committee or to some equivalent body. If that is not done, if this very reasonable proposal is rejected, if the present state of things is to go on, if those of us who are in favour of this Motion are to be voted down, that can only lead to a feeling that inequitable, unfair, and indefensible privileges obtain for a certain section of your Lordships' House, and I am quite certain that that is the last thing that your Lordships would wish to come about. The last thing that you would wish to do would be to give any ground for any ideas of that kind. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, and particularly having regard to Standing Order No. VIII, it is undesirable and irregular that any person, not a member of the House of Lords, should have right of access during the sittings of the House to the Chamber itself, other than the officials of the House and Government Office officials, Privy Councillors, the eldest sons of Peers, and others privileged to sit upon the steps of the Throne, and the personal private secretaries of the Leaders of the three Parties; and that the right of access to the Library during the sittings of the House should be confined to Peers and members of the House of Commons and such other persons as shall have received special leave from the House of Lords Offices Committee.—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, perhaps it might be convenient if I said a 67 word at this juncture, because when I saw the Motion put down on the Paper I was careful to ask my Department to go into the question and examine the history of the whole matter. As Lord Arnold has said the Motion which he has put before your Lordships has been raised by the presence of a gentleman who has acted for a great many years as adviser to a group of your Lordships. Perhaps I may just explain exactly how that came about. Although I was not a member of the House at the time I happened to know a good deal about it as my father was then Chairman of Committees and was also an active member of that particular group of Peers. It was during his administration that it was suggested that the gentleman in question should have the advantages which have been accorded to him. I looked into the Minutes of the House of Lords Offices Committee to see whether there is any record of that being done. I cannot find any. I do not know whether the matter was referred to them. What really happened was this. The gentleman in question received regularly a permit from the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod and Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain, Sir Thomas Butler, to attend. I understand that no objection was ever taken to his presence and this permit was never refused. I believe that in recent years it has not been considered necessary to issue him a special permit, the acquiescence of the House to his attendance having been informally recognised.
I am informed with regard to the question of the control of the admission of strangers and other persons to the precincts of the House that it rests primarily with the House itself. I do not think that I need refer to authorities. It will suffice to say that in 1901 the Joint Committee on the Presence of the Sovereign in Parliament reported.The relation of the House of Lords to the Lord Great Chamberlain has not, as far as the Committee knows, been found inconvenient in practice: his undoubted authority when the House is not sitting, and their obvious and inherent right to make regulations as to the use of that part of the building which they occupy, have been exercised apparently without Friction.I think that recognises the fact that your Lordships have control over this matter. In 1849 the House agreed by Resolution to arrangements for the accommodation 68 of strangers who were admitted, and again in 1850 for the accommodation for the diplomatic body.
With regard to the question of the admission of other than those mentioned in the noble Lord's Motion I have made inquiry into this matter and I find that on previous occasions other groups of Peers who have been interested in special subjects have been able to enjoy the advantage of the presence of an adviser when required. For example, I am told, that when the Home Rule Bill was before this House a draftsman was engaged by Peers interested in Ireland and attended regularly during the debates on that question. Again, I am told that some thirty years ago a gentleman who is now a member of your Lordships' House acted as adviser to the right reverend Prelates who were interested in an Education Bill. He drafted the Bill and attended here behind the Woolsack, and he advised those Prelates and others who were interested. I do not know of any other instances at the moment though I dare say your Lordships' recollections may be able to supply them, and if the matter is gone into more carefully I have no doubt we should find that it is not a very uncommon thing for your Lordships to obtain the assistance of advisers.
I would proceed to another question. I speak from my own recollection but I think I am right when I say that the late Lord Curzon when he led the Opposition had his private secretary in attendance in the House in the same way as he did when he was Leader of the House. If I am not right in that I am at all events sure that the late most reverend Primate, Dr. Davidson, did have his private secretary attending and assisting him in the House. I remember that quite definitely. As regards the attendance of assistants to individual Lords, I am informed on good authority that when they had to make a speech they have been able to have the attendance of a secretary or adviser to assist them as required. I presume that when they had to attend they obtained a permit. I cannot find any exact recommendation of the House of Lords Offices Committee, but I imagine that if there was any doubt it would be referred to them. The Offices Committee do not meet very often and I do not think it would be possible for that Committee to grant individual ad 69 hoc permits for a day or a longer time without a considerable amount of alteration of the present procedure. It seems to me from researches that the practice of the House has been to allow any of your Lordships who wish to have assistance in the way that has been described by Lord Arnold to have that assistance, but whether it has been actually granted formally I do not know.
§ LORD ARNOLD
May I ask the noble Earl one question? Is it not the case that these permits were for special cases and special Bills, and also do not apply to the Library?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have been trying to answer that question. As I said I do not think any formal request had been made, and therefore if no formal request has been made I do not think that formal permission has been granted. What has been done is that application has been made to the Yeoman Usher for admission and that has been afforded in the cases I have mentioned. It must have been, for those individuals who came into the House would not have been able otherwise to come in. With regard to the Library it is rather difficult to ascertain what happened in the past because the late Librarian, Sir Edmund Gosse, is dead, and he was the person who dealt with the matters of which I am speaking. Without referring to him—and that is impossible—we cannot arrive at a definite position. I think I am right in saying that the Library Committee as a Committee is of recent formation since the War, and therefore if formal permission had been granted it would have been granted not by the Library Committee but by the House of Lords Offices Committee itself. I think that is the answer to my noble friend, but the actual method has been that where any group of your Lordships' House or individual members of your Lordships' House desired the attendance of anybody they applied to the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod and got a permit from him. I do not think any formal permission has been asked for from the House of Lords Offices Committee. At least I cannot find a record.
But my researches lead me to this conclusion, that in coming to a decision as to the admission of persons other than Peers the House has been guided by the recommendations either of a Select Com- 70 mittee or by the general recommendations of the House of Lords Offices Committee themselves. Naturally the general recommendations of the House of Lords Offices Committee are more negative than positive and there has really been no objection to the course which has been followed in the past. I think that as far as I can see the House of Lords Offices Committee made no particular recommendation. I hope I have been able to shorten your Lordships' deliberations. I have done my best to find out what the history of the case has been and to put it before your Lordships.
§ LORD HASTINGS had given Notice of an Amendment to leave out all the words after "That" in order to insert "this House sees no sufficient reason to alter the present practice of the House as regards right of access to the Chamber and the Library." The noble Lord said: My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, first rose he undertook not to make a controversial speech and, judged by certain standards, he kept his promise except in two small particulars, to which I will draw attention. He repeatedly referred to the august seat beneath that canopy as a chair. May I remind him that in this House it is known as the Throne? But there was another matter. He attempted to establish an analogy between the practice of the House of Commons and this House. Another place has never governed its practice by the practice of the House of Lords, and it is unusual to require the House of Lords to govern its practice by that of another place. In those two matters alone the noble Lord stepped into controversial areas.
§ The noble Lord has assured us that he has put down his Motion in no spirit of personal objection to the gentleman of whom he spoke always as an expert. May I assure him that I have put down my Motion in no spirit of personal objection to his Motion? I have put it there because the body which has enjoyed for twenty-eight years the services of the expert whose presence is objectionable to the noble Lord has done me the honour of electing me as its Chairman, and it is therefore my duty as well as my wish to establish the continuity of the right of the expert to enjoy the privileges which have hitherto been afforded to him. The noble Lord did not 71 touch at all in the course of his speech on the desirability or otherwise of organisations existing within the House. If he had done so he would have given me an opportunity of controverting what fell from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as to that body being one which was composed of Conservative diehards who existed for the purpose of driving the Government in a more Conservative direction than the Government itself wished to proceed. That is an entirely false conception either of the reasons for the existence of that body or of its practice. In point of fact, the body which is known as the Independent Peers' Association comprises the greater number of those noble Lords who accept the Conservative whip who attend with reasonable regularity to the business of this House; and, far from being a hatchery for diehards it is a place where many diehards have received sad reminders that their view is not going to predominate in the debates which are about to take place. That body exists for the purpose of expediting and assisting the work of this House, and I beg leave to state that, under Chairmen far more distinguished than I, for the past twenty-eight years it has most effectively assisted all the Governments to get through their work in this House efficiently and expeditiously.
§ The noble Lord referred us to the speech which was made by the Leader of the Opposition on the occasion of the First Reading of the Parliament (Reform) Bill in December of last year. Unfortunately, I could not be in the House on that occasion. But, having had the privilege and good fortune of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on other occasions, notably when he addressed the House on the Second Reading of the Bill, I can well believe that the perfection of phrase and dialectical skill which he then displayed was used with the greatest effect on the occasion of the First Reading. But when I read the speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT I came to the conclusion that what he had to say and the caustic comments he had to make upon the Independent Peers' Association and its draftsman were merely the ornamental trimmings to the solid material of his speech. Not so the noble Lord, Lord Arnold. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, had no doubt whatever that what 72 Lord Ponsonby said he meant; and hence the Motion which we have before us.
§ I wonder whether it was really worth while to bring this matter to your Lordships' notice. The noble Lord has queried my procedure in moving what he is pleased to call a direct negative, and in upholding that argument he said it was no use referring to the present practice of the House, as the House has no present practice. There is no great value in that. You might say there is no use in paying any attention to the Constitution of Great Britain because there is no Constitution. In the same way this House has been in the habit of adapting its procedure to the convenience of the time, and it seems to me that if a Motion of the kind tabled by Lord Arnold were to be passed he would instantly debar himself and all other Peers perhaps in a week, perhaps in a month, perhaps in years to come, from enjoying certain advantages which they ardently desire at that moment to enjoy, but which they would be debarred from enjoying by reason of the noble Lord's Motion. It is a dangerous thing putting into concise terms what may or may not be done. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, speaking from beside the Woolsack, told us that the House of Lords Offices Committee have from time to time negatived various things which have been proposed, but that there were no records of any of the things that were permitted.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
What I said was that there has never been any affirmative Resolution. I said it was more of a negative authority than a positive one.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I should be very sorry if I in any way misinterpreted the noble Earl. I certainly did not misunderstand him, but my means of expressing what he said were not perfectly at my command. What it means is that if a thing is done of which you disapprove you say you disapprove of it. If you wish it to continue you do not necessarily put it on paper, but you allow it to go on until you desire to stop it; and that is rather a favourite way of carrying on business all through England. The noble Lord quoted No. VIII of the Standing Orders, and I really do not understand for what purpose because his own Motion has really no relation to 73 Standing Order No. VIII. As he himself correctly said, if Standing Order No. VIII were to be applied nobody would have any right whatever in any portion of the floor of the House except Peers themselves, the Judges and certain other functionaries whom he correctly mentioned in the course of his speech. No Government official, no private secretaries, nobody of any kind would adorn those boxes where we are accustomed to look for assistance in the course of our debates. They would not be there; the noble Lord's Motion would debar all such from attending in this House. Unless he was very careful he would be quite certain to omit the very persons who in a week or two he would like to admit, and the Motion as it stands would be an unwise one to pass.
I was sorry to hear the noble Lord say that the expert whose services as draftsman the Independent Peers' Association have enjoyed for many years had in any way interfered with the convenience of members of the House in the Library or elsewhere, not intentionally of course; but I cannot think he could have, in the extreme discretion he has always displayed, at any time interfered with the liberty of members of the House. The noble Lord qualified his remarks at a later stage by saying it was just as dangerous to hold private conversations in the presence of other Peers as it is in the presence of this expert. No doubt the Library is full of Peers of persuasions different from that of the noble Lord, and I can understand, when he has private conversations on political subjects, he will desire to retire to the uttermost corner of the Library for the purpose of not being overheard, but I can hardly believe that the expert who has been serving the Independent Peers has contributed very largely to that particular necessity which the noble Lord has found pressing upon him so heavily. I am very glad to think that.
For twenty-eight years this particular body which has endeavoured, and I think endeavoured successfully, to expedite and make efficient the work of this House, has enjoyed the services of this particular individual, and I beg leave to state that unless the privileges which during twenty-eight years have been accorded to him are continued it will be impossible for that body to continue to 74 function in the way it has done in the past. Lord Arnold may think that is a very good thing, but I do not think the House itself will think it a good thing. It is of immense value that an opportunity should be offered to Peers to get together other than on the floor of this House, for Peers, after all, do not attend debates with the regularity that members of the House of Commons do, and must do. They come to the House with preconceived opinions, and it is not possible for them, unless an organisation of this kind exists, to acquaint themselves with the views of others and accommodate those views to a condition that makes it possible for them to conduct debates in this House with reason and judgment. That is what this Association exists for, and the Peers require the assistance of a draftsman in order that they may put intelligible and intelligent Amendments, initiate debates, and acquaint themselves with what has passed in previous debates dealing with the same matter.
It is necessary that they should have a draftsman to assist them in this way. It is necessary that that draftsman should have access to Statutes, to the OFFICIAL REPORT, and other books of reference in the Library. It would be impossible for the Association to which I have referred to function at all without their draftsman, and it would be impossible for the draftsman to function without the privileges accorded to him in the past. That is why I have put down a Motion suggesting that the present practice of the House should be maintained. Unless the Leader of the House, in response to the noble Lord's appeal, has some suggestion to make which will make it possible for the Independent Peers to continue to function and for the draftsman to continue to do his work effectively—until such an alternative suggestion is made, of which at present I am not aware, I shall certainly stick to my Motion and invite the House to vote upon it, and I trust it will take the place of the Motion which stands in the name of the noble Lord. If I am in order I desire to move the Amendment standing in my name.
Leave out all the words after ("That") in order to insert ("this House sees no sufficient reason to alter the present practice of the House as regards right of access to
the Chamber and the Library.")—(Lord Hastings.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I hope as the result of this debate it will not be found necessary for the noble Lord to insist on his Amendment or for the noble Lord who has moved to persist in his Motion. I would make an appeal which has been already made, I think, by Lord Arnold to the Leader of the House to assist us in this matter. It has been stated quite correctly that we are not in any way concerned with a Party question. I am not even going to refer to the gentleman who has formed the subject of so much discussion and who has apparently had certain privileges for some twenty-six or twenty-eight years. But I should have thought that this must stand out as the result of this debate: that there is not one of your Lordships in this House, not even including my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House, who can tell us really what the practice is. There is the difficulty, and I should have thought it does become desirable that we should have some better intimation of what the practice of the House is to be.
May I just indicate for a moment the difficulties that occur to me? I am in some embarrassment in speaking of it because I say at once I have not been conscious of this difficulty or awkwardness created, inasmuch as I have not found any inconvenience in the Library; neither was I aware, I must admit, that there was a gentleman who had a right to sit, and who did sit, on a seat which was in such close proximity and almost in the same rank as the seating accommodation of noble Lords. The reason for that is, unfortunately, I much regret to say, that I am not able to attend much in the Library; my time does not enable me to do it, and therefore I do not speak from any personal experience. I do attend in this House as your Lordships are aware, and I have no doubt I have seen the distinguished gentleman who has been referred to sitting in the House. All I desire to say with regard to that is I did not realise at the time that he was assisting any particular section of the House or Party in the House. I assumed he was one of the officials of the House or was assisting the Government. I was quite unaware that it was possible to have such assistance in this House.
76 I heard the noble Lord who spoke last expatiate very eloquently on the value of the assistance of an expert draftsman, a learned gentleman, who can assist in regard to Bills and Amendments and in the preparation of speeches. I assure him I have been very conscious of it. At times I have had to employ persons outside to assist me. I never had the idea that it was possible for one of them to enter this House and to sit here and listen to the debate and give his assisttance after he had heard the discussions which had taken place. I am sure those who are Party Leaders in this House will agree that it is inconvenient to attempt to explain exactly what it is that will be required of the person who is assisting them if that person is outside the House. All I would say with regard to it is this, that as I understand my noble friend Lord Arnold's Motion it is that private secretaries to the three Leaders of Parties in the House should have the right which is at present enjoyed by one person. I gather that the noble Lord's Amendment—I am sorry the noble Lord is not present at the moment—would negative that. I cannot understand why.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I dare say it is not intended to do so, but I myself certainly so understood it. That is why I made the observation I have just made. I do not think for a moment your Lordships would take that view, but I rather understood that the object of the Amendment was that the present practice should continue. The Party I have the honour to lead does not wish it to continue if it is to be confined to one group of Peers alone, neither does the Labour Party. I assume that whatever privileges are open to one side of the House or one section of the House must be open to the other side and to other sections. I certainly thought that the Amendment was open to the objection that the privilege was to be continued for one section only. The moment you arrive at that it must be obvious to your Lordships that we are in some difficulty in knowing exactly where we should be. I would beg your Lordships not to think that I am trying to make difficulties. I have no feeling in this matter one way or the other except that I think whatever opportunity and facilities are given to 77 one Party or to one group of your Lordships' House should be equally given to other Parties and to other groups.
I hesitate to say how many groups are in the Party which I have the honour to lead in this House because I do not know, and I have purposely avoided enquiring. I am not even sure that I should succeed in learning how many sections or groups there are in the small Party which I have the honour to lead. There is a smaller number of members of the Labour Party in this House than of the Party which I lead, but so far as I know, from what I hear from them in debates, and from what I read of the proceedings in the other House and of what takes place at various conferences and councils, there does not seem to be entire agreement among them and there are sections in that Party too. Obviously in every Party there must be groups of Peers. Noble Lords will understand that I do not wish to create any difficulty for the group which has had this advantage for a number of years. All I want to impress upon my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House is that we should like his guidance and assistance in the matter. I wish, as far as possible, to be guided by him.
The suggestion has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, I understand, that this matter should be entrusted to a Committee of this House for the purpose of that Committee dealing with it. I think the suggestion made by Lord Arnold was that it should be referred to the House of Lords Offices Committee. That seems to me a sensible and reasonable suggestion. When that Committee made its Report of course it would be open to your Lordships to raise the question again. If that course were adopted it would get rid of such questions as have arisen with regard to the gentleman who has had the opportunity of being in this House for twenty-six or twenty-eight years. I am only concerned with trying to get some kind of regularity in practice. After listening to the noble Earl on the Woolsack, I do not know by what authority the gentleman in question is sitting in this House, neither do I know whether the person who is supposed to have given him authority had the right to give it to him. I do not know whether any of your Lordships could answer that question.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
May I intervene in order to get this clear? I am relying on my own personal recollection, for I was not at the time a member of your Lordships' House. My father occupied the position I have now the honour of filling, and he told me that he and certain other noble Lords were instrumental in founding this Association, and he took steps to obtain the privileges which were enjoyed by the expert in question. The outward and visible sign of what was done was the granting of the usual permit. I have not been able to find in the records of the Offices Committee any formal statement on the subject. I do not think, from my own knowledge, such a matter would be likely to be included in the records of the Committee because it would not be considered of sufficient importance. It happened a long time ago and I do not know if any members of the Offices Committee of that day are still with us. It may have been done originally with the permission of Black Rod, and it has not been discontinued, and I suppose it has not been thought necessary to ask for a renewal of the permission.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
The only point I make is not one of criticism. My desire is to get guidance from the Leader of the House. I gather the effect of what the noble Earl has said is that the privilege was granted years ago by the Yeoman Usher. I am not sufficiently versed in the procedure of your Lordships' House to say whether it is open to the Yeoman Usher to give such a privilege or not. I do not discuss it from that point of view. But since that time this gentleman has been in the habit of attending in this House without apparently going through the formality of getting the permission renewed. I make no point of that. What I desire to do is to ask the Leader of the House, who is the person to whom we must look in this matter for guidance, to consider whether it can be left where it is. I am not objecting to it if others are allowed the same privilege. The only thing I am saying is that there must be somebody who is to exercise an authority of this kind, otherwise we shall be in some danger of falling into chaos. I do not suppose there will be any difficulty in regard to the number of chairs, but there will be difficulties in regard to the Library. I do not want to multiply the 79 difficulties, but obviously they must arise if we are to have more representatives of this kind given similar privileges. The Party to which I belong naturally wants to have someone to assist it and I assume the same thing applies to the Labour Party, consequently the matter becomes more important from the point of view of the difficulties than it would be if there were to be only one person with this privilege, as at present.
For myself I am going to submit entirely to the guidance of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House. He will be speaking in virtue of the position he holds and he will tell us what he thinks is best to be done in the circumstances. I am quite sure that with the courtesy and consideration which always distinguishes your Lordships there will be every wish to give effect to the possibility of other Parties having the same advantages as hitherto have been enjoyed by one section. I suggest to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that he should take into consideration the question of allowing this matter to be dealt with by the House of Lords Offices Committee.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, perhaps I might be allowed to add a word to what I said just now. I think that it was the practice in those days invariably to consult the Lord Great Chamberlain, the late Lord Lincolnshire. I imagine that was done in the cases which I mentioned to your Lordships.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words before the noble Viscount the Leader of the House replies to the appeal made by the noble and learned Marquess. I need not tell the noble Lord opposite, Lord Arnold, how much we all regret any personal inconvenience to which he may have been subjected. He is a very attentive member of your Lordships' House and he is entitled to every consideration in his efforts to do his work. I am quite sure we should all desire to assure him of that fact. But the matter really turns upon a momentary mistake into which the noble and learned Marquess fell just now when he said that my noble friend's Amendment would prevent the officials of the Government from attending on the floor of the House on the right of the 80 Throne. Of course we at once corrected him. That was not intended.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
If the noble Marquess will forgive me, I never said that and I never suggested it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have no desire to misrepresent the noble and learned Marquess. As my noble friend Lord Hastings has already pointed out, these assistants of the Government who attend on the floor on the right of the Throne are essential to the conduct of the business of the House. If the rigid doctrine of the noble Lord were to be employed they would all be excluded.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but this is really an important matter. As I understand the rules and practice that would not be so. I pointed out in my speech that technically the House itself is a limited part of the floor of this Chamber and that technically the Standing Order did not apply to this expert and would not apply to the officials of the Government. That is why I said my Motion is not syllable proof.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am obliged to the noble Lord, but I am not proposing to deal with a mere technicality. He is right in saying that that area is outside the House technically. The point I want to make is that the Government could not do their work properly unless they had experts there. What is true of the Government is true of noble Lords, and it is the case, as the noble Earl now sitting on the Woolsack has pointed out, that certain persons have been accorded from time to time the privilege of attending there. I have some experience in this matter because I was for many years connected in an official capacity with this organisation of Unionist Peers. During the time when Mr. Lloyd George was Prime Minister I think the principal part of the Opposition to the Government was conducted from that Bench or rather from this end of that Bench by those who represented this very Association of Independent Unionist Peers. All the debates were originated from that source. Most of the Motions put down were contrived by those Peers. Amendments to Bills were also moved by those who belonged to the Association.
81 We contributed in the highest degree to the business of the House, and what could be more insane for a practical Assembly than to say that those Motions should be made and those Amendments should be written without being properly drafted and properly written in a proper form to become part of the Statutes of this country? I cannot imagine anything more unwise than that noble Lords, who with all their great skill are amateurs, I say it with great respect, in drafting, should have no draftsman on whom they could depend. Even the noble and learned Marquess with his immense legal experience admits, I understand, that a draftsman would be very useful to him. If that is true of the noble and learned Marquess it is perfectly true of the great majority of your Lordships. If we must have a draftsman a draftsman must be where he can be got at. I am speaking to a practical Assembly. The noble Lord said that was not allowed in the House of Commons. Poor House of Commons! I am sorry for it. It appears to me that the House of Commons might in this respect learn a little from your Lordships' House. Why should we be deprived of assistance which is obviously in the interests of the country because the House of Commons does not do the same thing? I am quite sure that your Lordships will think that if it is proper that there should be a draftsman, it is proper that that draftsman should have access to a place where he can hear the debate and where noble Lords can find him.
I go a step further. He must have access to books of reference. He must not be in the position of the noble Lord when he was a member of the House of Commons running from corridor to corridor, and room to room, to try to find the necessary works of reference. That is not the way to do business. That is not the businesslike way of legislating. What you want is to have everything to your hand. In a strictly practical Assembly like your Lordships' House, when you have a body such as this Association—I think it numbers 130 Peers now, a very large element in the working body of your Lordships' House—it cannot be imagined that they should be deprived of the services of a draftsman, or that the draftsman should not be allowed to have access to what is required for the use of the House and for the proper 82 drafting of legislation. It seems to me that that is a proposition which cannot be defended. I hope therefore that the practice which has continued now for nearly thirty years will be allowed to continue.
Of course there is no desire to treat any section of your Lordships' House with unfairness. Even if we were able to do so, which we are not, we would not want to do so. If the noble and learned Marquess wishes to follow our example we should be very much flattered—imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—and if he wishes to have a draftsman and that that draftsman should be in attendance, none of us on this side of the House would wish to prevent him. And what is true in the case of the noble and learned Marquess is true also in the case of any other organised body in the House. Let us be quite practical. The noble and learned Marquess says he wishes he could find out the actual state of the case. I admit there is a certain amount of mystery about it. It is very difficult ever to find out the precise reasons for the provisions under which we are governed. I have no doubt the House of Lords Offices Committee is the proper authority to solve these problems if there is any difficulty. For my part and so far as my humble voice has any influence I should be delighted to learn that the House of Lords Offices Committee were going to consider this subject. Whatever they recommend to your Lordships your Lordships will no doubt consider and will probably consider favourably. But that does not prevent me from saying that in my humble judgment, and I believe in the judgment of many of my noble friends, the arrangement which has continued for the best part of thirty years is a very good and practical arrangement, an arrangement thoroughly becoming to a practical Assembly, and I earnestly hope that it will not be disturbed.
The noble Lord opposite seems to be rather burdened by a feeling that he has not been properly treated. Let me once more assure him that there is no intention whatever in any quarter of the House to treat him or any other noble Lord except on exactly the same footing as we would treat one of ourselves, and hope that he will co-operate with us in carrying out what I believe to be the true spirit of the House of Lords, which is 83 that whether we belong to one side or the other we should help each other so far as we possibly can to carry out the work of the House and of the country.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
My Lords, I should like in a sentence or two to make an appeal to the Leader of the House in support of that which has been made by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I do not think that the line which has been taken by the noble Marquess who has just spoken can really be defended. It is not applicable to an Assembly of this sort. Supposing every Party in this House were to make the claim which he has made on behalf of the 130 independent Peers, and supposing that every Party in the House numbered 130 (which it does not), there would then be at least six Parties all of whom were asking for the privilege of a secretary who was to use the Library, the tea room and the Prince's Chamber and to have a seat on the floor of this House. That really is an impossible situation, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, is asking for something which is impossible. I therefore suggest quite humbly that the only solution that can be arrived at is one which has been considered, the pros and cons of which have been weighed, and where investigation has been made into the possibilities of the accommodation of the Houses of Parliament. That could be done by a specially appointed Select Committee or by the House of Lords Offices Committee. As to the Independent Peers, I am afraid I know very little about them. I always thought when I came into this Chamber that the only independent Peers were those who sat on the Cross Benches.
§ LORD ELTISLEY
My Lords, I have listened with great respect and interest to the discussion which has taken place, but even the eloquence of the noble Marquess and of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment has left me in a condition of some doubt as to the present position. I venture therefore to ask the guidance of the Leader of the House. The Standing Order to which reference has already been made says:No person shall be in any part of the House during the sitting of the House …That seems to be very clear. It is, I understand, true that the Standing Order was made some 140 or 150 years ago and that since then Parliament has been burnt 84 down and rebuilt. That may have some bearing on the Standing Order; but in the course of this debate it has been brought out that apparently the House and the Chamber are not the same thing, and that while strangers are excluded from the House, strangers need not necessarily be excluded from the Chamber; and that while your Lordships have control of the floor of the House at certain times, the Lord Great Chamberlain at other times has control of the House and of the Chamber.
In fact the whole position appears to be very obscure, and I would ask for guidance as to the interpretation of the Standing Order which is printed and circulated for the information of members of the House. There seems to be very little evidence to uphold the suggestion that the House and the Chamber are not the same thing. Is it not conceivable that those who preceded us and who framed that Standing Order had wider considerations in mind and desired that "the House" should mean the Chamber, the Library, the Lobby, etcetera? Perhaps they had had experience of lobbying; perhaps they thought that it was in the best interests of Parliamentary Government that as far as possible only members and officers attending the House should be permitted access to the Chambers of this House. Whether that is or is not the right interpretation of the Standing Order, at any rate the position is so confusing now that I would venture to suggest that it should be reconsidered.
Whatever is done in the matter, it is desirable that all Parties and all sections should receive the same treatment. I desire to lay stress upon the point that if one group is to be allowed to have special privileges, then all groups must be allowed those special privileges. Again I would venture to ask what is to be the definition of a group? Is it to be the National Party, Conservatives, Liberals and Socialists? If so, why not Communists with their chair and their representative? And why not Fascists, who presumably would not want to sit down if they were in their uniform? Those are, I venture to suggest, practical points to which we inevitably get driven when we consider this matter. Surely the position is most anomalous. Some are to be admitted because there is now room for them; others in the future are to be forbidden because there will not be room, 85 although their claims to admission will be quite as good as the claims of those who are already admitted. I venture to urge that the Chamber and the floor of the House should be kept for members of the House and those who are given special passes on special occasions for special business. May I very respectfully support the suggestion which has been made, that this matter should be referred to some special Committee with authority to see what is really the test course to pursue for the government of this House?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I should like to say a word upon a point which has arisen during the debate as to the desirability of referring this question to a Select Committee. The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, said that investigation of this problem was the only solution. The only solution of what? The only solution of what the practice of this House has been as it has grown up during the last two or three hundred years. The noble Lord who has just sat down has perhaps interpreted this problem, rather like Lord Ullswater, in the light of his experience in the House of Commons. Whatever the House of Commons may think about its own procedure, I think the general view of the country as a whole is that it is so tied up by its procedure, so much bound by its Standing Orders and by its formidable code of precedents, that it frequently finds itself quite unable to move in the direction in which it desires to go.
As soon as you refer this question to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House, or to any other Committee that you like to refer it to, you will find yourselves involved in any number of queer technical problems. What is the House? Does it begin at the feet of the noble Earl sitting upon the Woolsack, or at the Mace behind him? Does it extend six feet behind the seat occupied by the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, or does it extend three feet, five feet or six feet behind the place where the noble Lord, Lord Daryngton, is standing now? Those problems immediately arise. Every kind of problem of authority will immediately arise. What is the authority of the Lord Chairman when half a dozen members say to him: "We have got a Bill upon which we desire help; may we have assistance?" The status of the Serjeant- 86 at-Arms and of Black Rod immediately arises.
It is useless saying that this is a thing which can be sent to the House of Lords Offices Committee. I do not know whether the noble Lord has ever served upon that Committee. I assure him that that Committee, of which I am a member, could never solve these archaeological problems. The very questions of the geography of this House and of the definition of the House are almost insoluble. When the problem arises, I undertake to say that your Lordships are perfectly capable of settling it. If the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, and his friends desire help, or if the noble Marquess opposite (who has been so little incommoded by this that it was I think quite unnecessary on his part to ask for a Select Committee) wants help, let them ask for it, and I undertake they will be able to obtain it without any difficulty.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
The solution which was in my mind was of the difficulty of finding room, and what was in my mind was that the Select Committee, which had a plan of the Houses of Parliament and could investigate the rooms which were available, would be a body which would be able to assign to the secretary of Independent Peers and the secretary of other Parties in the House rooms which could be used by them for the purposes required.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, the noble Lord who moved this Motion said quite rightly that this is a matter which in no way concerns the Government, and it is not in any sense as a member of the Government that I am addressing you this afternoon. Both he and my noble and learned friend Lord Reading appealed to me as Leader of the House, and therefore I am in a peculiar position of responsibility in giving advice to the House on a matter of this kind—to act as custodian, I think Lord Arnold said, of the letter and spirit of the Standing Orders, and to find a solution of the difficulties which were alleged to have arisen. Let me first of all say that I do not think any one would seriously suggest that it is either my responsibility or for the convenience of the House that the letter of the Standing Orders should be carefully observed or maintained.
87 I do not need to go through them all, but one of the first of them provides that the Lords are to sit in the same order as is prescribed by the Act of Parliament. The Act of Parliament is a Statute of Henry VIII, and it enacts that the Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and so forth are to sit in their order of precedence, the Dukes sitting where the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, is sitting; the Marquesses coming where the Front Opposition Bench is, and I think I am myself sitting in a comparatively junior part of the House. Obviously in the course of centuries these things have largely fallen into abeyance, and we only remember which is the Barons' seat when a formal introduction to the House takes place. Similarly, questions have arisen as to what exactly does or does not constitute the actual House within the meaning of Standing Order No. VIII. We all know that it is laid down that the Woolsack on which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor usually sits is outside the House, and it is on that account that he has to take the traditional number of steps to the left before he can address your Lordships, and a Commoner can sit on the Woolsack, as I sat, before admission as a Peer. Then it is said that the Standing Order provides that nobody except Lords of Parliament and Peers, and Judges and others, technically described as assistants, shall be present in the House.
Lord Ponsonby made great play with the fact that there was only one chair, except that which he described as a chair but with which we are more familiar as the Throne, which was within the House. There are two Thrones, and there is the chair which His Royal Highness occupies. There is, apart from that, the chair which is much in debate, to the right of the House, and anybody who takes the trouble to look will see a corresponding chair to the left of the House. The noble Lord has passed it often on coming into the House, and it is generally occupied, I think, by the secretary to the Lord Chancellor. Then there is the chair upon which the Lord Chairman sits. There it is, plain to see, and if we look beyond the Table we see chairs occupied by those who are doing very important work and who take down what we have to say. It is a complete breach of the Standing Order. These are chairs 88 which Lord Ponsonby can hardly fail to observe, and on one of these there is sitting a gentleman who is not a member of the House, in flagrant breach of the Standing Order.
I could pursue the Standing Orders at greater length, but it is not profitable to the subject that we are discussing, because in the course of centuries changes have taken place in the habits of the House. The Standing Orders lay down the general principle on which we act, and we do conform to the spirit which animates the Standing Orders. The difficulty I feel in responding to the appeal of Lord Reading is that his suggestion implies that difficulties have arisen and that the Committee shall examine into the existing privileges in order to consider whether they shall be withdrawn. My hesitation about this is that I doubt whether there are any real difficulties which have arisen. There are difficulties which may arise—
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I raised no question with regard to the gentlemen who have been sitting here. I was calling attention to what must arise now.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
There are difficulties which may arise, and if there was any serious problem to be dealt with, a real difficulty which showed itself, I agree with my noble friend that the House of Lords Offices Committee would be a convenient body to deal with it. In fact this question of access to the House of Lords and the question of who shall control the right of access, have already been the subject of consideration by a Select Committee appointed on the recommendation of the Offices Committee less than thirty years ago. Its Report was made in 1906, which I gather was coincident with the admission of the gentleman who has been referred to as the expert during this discussion. A Very influential Select Committee was appointed, with the Lord Chancellor presiding over it, and I see that Lord Onslow's father was a member of it. That Committee enquired into the power and authority which the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod exercised in order to determine, no doubt, some question which had arisen as to the right of decision on such a point as is raised this afternoon.
That Committee in 1906 made a very detailed and careful Report to the House, and I cannot help thinking that before 89 pressing me too far to ask the House of Lords Offices Committee to investigate these possible difficulties, it would be worth while to look at the Report, which I think contains rather useful material. There was a careful examination into the question as to where the custody of the Palace of Westminster legally resided, and the Committee resolved after careful inquiry that:The Palace of Westminster is in the custody of the Lord Great Chamberlain, who is an hereditary Great Officer of State, receiving no salary and in no way under control of the House. When Parliament is not sitting the Palace of Westminster is under his management.The Committee went on to report that:Each House, while in occupation of the part assigned to it, has the custody and service of that part; this control was exercised through officers placed by the Crown at the service of either House, viz., in the Lords, through the Gentleman Usher, in the Commons, through their Serjeant-at-Arms, officers attending personally at all sittings of their respective Houses, appointing all their own subordinates and liable to removal, for misconduct. …The Report goes on:All questions relating to the disposition of the Lords portion have been dealt with from time to time by the House of Lords Offices Committee and its predecessor, the ' Committee on the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod '—so called after the two Chief Officers responsible to the House in their respective Departments which comprise the whole machinery of the government and management, of the House.That Report, accepted twenty-eight years ago, I think does define the authorities through which such points as have been indicated in this afternoon's debate can be resolved.
That is to say, if there were a question of the allocation of rooms, that is a matter which obviously does not only arise when Parliament is sitting, and is a matter which in practice, to my knowledge, is dealt with by the Lord Great Chamberlain. When I was Lord Chancellor, as not infrequently happens in Government Departments, I thought I was not getting enough rooms for the adequate discharge of the duties of my Department, and I had to go to the Lord Great Chamberlain—with much less success than I had hoped—in order to try to get an increase of the rooms allotted to me. Similarly, when there is a question of admitting any particular person to the precincts of the House what 90 happens is that a permit is issued by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, permitting a particular person to have access to the House, either on a particular occasion or during a particular Session. No doubt, if any question was sought to be raised as to the propriety of the action of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, that is a matter which would be referred to and would be considered by the House of Lords Offices Committee, who would, if necessary, make a report to your Lordships' House.
The fact is that the control of this House whilst it is in session rests in the House itself, and I think one of the differences between the practice of this House and the practice of another place is that in our House, both in the conduct of our debates and in the ordinary regulation of our affairs, we act with a greater elasticity and with less regard to the strict letter of regulations and Standing Orders than has been the practice elsewhere. I am not going to discuss which is the better course. I have no doubt that the House of Commons has the rules which it thinks best for the conduct of its own business, but I am profoundly convinced that in this House the rules and the methods under which we work have conduced to a very dignified and orderly conduct of affairs, and I should be very sorry to see us attempt to follow the more rigid procedure in another place.
Now I come to the particular case which has given rise to the present discussion—I do not say it is the subject of the present discussion, because the discussion has taken a wider range. The facts, as I understand them—I do not think they are in dispute—are that there is a group in your Lordships' House which I think is called the Association of Independent Unionist Peers. I may say in passing that sometimes the Government notices their independence more plainly than their Unionism. But it is a body which comprises a very large proportion of those of your Lordships who take a regular part in the conduct of the legislative business of this House. I wish that were not so. I wish very much that there were more Peers who regularly attended and regularly assisted in our discussions; but in fact the Independent Unionist Peers are a body which comprises in its hundred odd members—130, I think, is the number—the bulk of 91 those who, at any rate on this side of the House, take a regular part in our debates.
That body was formed some twenty-eight years ago. It was formed in order that those on the Unionist side who were taking a regular part in the political discussions here should have an opportunity of consulting together, of making up their minds about various measures which came under discussion, and of framing Amendments and bringing forward their particular points of view. I gather that for the more efficient discharge of those duties they have at their own expense employed a very eminent expert to advise them on legal matters, and I suppose on matters of procedure, and to assist them in drafting Amendments and in finding the necessary technical phraseology for the views which they desire to see embodied in Acts of Parliament. He has apparently habitually for twenty-eight years enjoyed the privilege of attending in the Prince's Chamber, of having access to that part of your Lordships' House which is used by officials and by secretaries and assistants of Ministers, and has also had the advantage of attending in the Library.
My noble friend the Lord Chairman of Committees has given us such information as he has been able to collect as to the precise way in which those privileges originated. But it is worth noticing, I think, that they originated twenty-eight years ago under a Liberal Government, that they have continued under Coalition Governments, Conservative Governments, Labour Governments, and now under a National Government. I was very sorry to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, that in some way the presence of this gentleman in the Library had caused him inconvenience. I am quite sure that that must have been unintentional, and I am quite sure that every effort would be taken to avoid any such inconvenience.
But, apart from that complaint, which I learnt this afternoon, I have never heard that the presence of this gentleman has given rise to any inconvenience or trouble, to any member of your Lordships' House, or has in any way interfered with the efficient conduct of our business. On the other hand, we have been told—and one can well understand—that his presence has been of material assistance to that very large body of Peers who 92 belong to the Association, and who habitually, I am glad to say, come and assist in our deliberations. Now, I do venture to think that in those circumstances it would be a mistake for your Lordships to pass any Resolution which would seem to suggest that there was any question of the withdrawal of those privileges or the alteration of that practice. I do not think any case has been made out for any alteration in that regard. But I recognise that, apart from the particular instance brought forward, questions may arise, and the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, brought forward one or two of them with regard to which it may be said that difficulties may be created.
Lord Arnold told us that he would like to see one or two rooms allotted for the use of experts whom various members of your Lordships' House might wish to consult, or as rooms in which members of your Lordships' House might interview callers. I can quite sympathise with the desire for more accommodation, but I know that it is a very difficult question. I know the difficulties which arose in my own case when I tried to invite the assistance of the Lord Great Chamberlain, and I know also that when I was performing judicial duties in your Lordships' House and was to some extent responsible for the efficient conduct of that business, there was very great difficulty in finding rooms for the Law Lords and those who habitually attended for judicial work. We had actually to put two Law Lords in one room, which was obviously—I do not say a dangerous, but at any rate an inconvenient practice. There is a real difficulty with regard to that: we have not got anything like the accommodation which they have in the other House, and it would be a very great advantage if some arrangement could be made to meet that point.
My doubt regarding the suggestion made by my noble and learned friend the Marquess of Reading is that I do not think concrete difficulties have arisen which require to be sent to a Select Committee. I cannot help thinking that such a point as that which Lord Arnold has raised might well be considered by the proper authority if it were merely a matter of the allocation of rooms. The proper authority in that case is the Lord Great Chamberlain. If it is merely a matter of somebody attending to give advice or assistance to a group of your 93 Lordships or to an individual Peer, there is no difficulty in asking the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod for the necessary permits, and I have no doubt at all if it did happen that that privilege were too largely availed of, and there was any danger of congestion or inconvenience, the matter could be considered by the House of Lords Offices Committee, but I doubt very much if that is ever going to arise. I am told that it is the practice for the private secretary of the Leader of the Opposition or of any Cabinet Minister to get; a permit as a matter of course. We were told than the private secretary of the most reverend Primate, Dr. Davidson, habitually attended with such a permit. It obviously might happen that there were too many people, and there might be unseemly crowding or jostling or interference with the liberty of access to your Lordships' House. If anything of that kind arose it would obviously be right that such a problem should be dealt with by the House of Lords Offices Committee and brought if necessary to the notice of your Lordships' House; but it has not arisen and, with great respect to my noble friend, I doubt very much whether it will arise.
I do not think we shall find in practice that so many people want to have their experts or private secretaries here that there is likely to be any such interference as the noble Marquess fears. My own personal feeling—and I hope the Opposition will believe I am not consciously swayed by any Party bias in the matter—is that it would not be unreasonable to affirm that we are satisfied with the existing practice, and at the same time we should make it clear, as I am endeavouring to make it clear, that if any difficulty arises at any time then the accustomed officers of the House, whose functions and decisions have been already plainly delimited and set out in. the Report of 1906, should understand that it would be their duty to deal with any such question and bring it to the notice of your Lordships' House. The reason why I am suggesting that the existing practice should be affirmed is that the particular case that has arisen does seem to be one that has been thoroughly thrashed out and with regard to which no substantial case of difficulty or inconvenience has arisen, and, if it is a precedent, it is a precedent which has 94 been repeated over and over again and with regard to which in practice no difficulty has hitherto arisen. If we were not to affirm the existing practice it would look as if we thought this particular gentleman ought to be excluded, and I do not myself consider any case has been made out for an alteration.
I suggest, therefore, the convenient course would be to accept something in the form of the Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Hastings. In accepting it we should make it quite clear that we continue the present practice, that we are satisfied with the administration of the present high officers, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in the one instance and the Lord Great Chamberlain in the other, and are confident that if any difficulties arise in the future regarding any application either for accommodation in the way of rooms or for accommodation in the way of facilities for access to the House, these difficulties will be dealt with by the officers concerned and, in any case of doubt, will be brought to the notice of the House of Lords Offices Committee, which I quite agree would be the appropriate body to deal with the matter. The only difference between myself and the noble Marquess is that he feels there will be a difficulty and that the House of Lords Offices Committee should consider it now, whereas I for my part very much doubt whether a difficulty will actually arise, and unless one arises I do not see why we should refer a hypothetical problem which may never arise to the Committee to deal with.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Arnold replies to the debate I should just like to say a few words. To begin with, I wish to express my regret that the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House has not responded to the appeal which my noble friend made, and which was supported by the noble Marquess on my right and by the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, both of whom have had a very considerable experience of Parliament. We are now confronted with what we hoped would not be the result of this debate, which is a direct negative by which the small body to which I belong are going of course to be defeated. In the course of the debate I have learned a great deal. I am afraid 95 it was some phrases of mine in a speech I made last December which has caused all the trouble. But I noticed the individual in question when I first came into the House. I did not notice him particularly, because I am afraid there were a good many noble Lords whom I did not know by sight. I thought he was a Peer. He seemed to be where all other Peers were. Then after a time I was on the Government Bench, and I realised he was the adviser to the Opposition, as I thought. I thought it was perfectly right and natural he should be the adviser to the Opposition and that the Opposition should have an adviser who has access to the various parts of the House and can be ready at hand to advise them. Then, when in 1931 I crossed over to this side of the House, I saw he was still there and I asked some noble Lord on the Government Bench if he were an adviser to the Government. He replied: "Oh, not at all," and then I discovered he was advising a certain group. That does really make a very great difference.
This question of advising a group does open out the whole of the ground which has been covered during the debate. I personally have no intimate knowledge of this Association of Independent Unionist Peers, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is Chairman, and I think the noble Lord is perfectly justified in coming to your Lordships' House to stand an for the activities of his Association and to insist on the privileges which have been got for it. I did not know that this body existed for expediting and assisting business and the Government. In fact some of the opinions with regard to that body I have heard expressed do not seem to convey that impression to me at all; but, however that may be, the result is that this body which I described not rhetorically but very accurately in my speech in December last is here for the purpose of giving a very strong Conservative bias to everything that is done, and they have got this very able adviser who on occasions floods the Order Paper with Amendments, and very good Amendments too, with the result that the Government themselves are embarrassed. But the present Government would rather be embarrassed by the extreme diehards than that these diehards should renounce their present privileges.
96 When the Leader of the House gets up and says: "There is not going to be any other case, so we are going to keep our man," he knows that my noble friends and I cannot afford to have secretaries who can spend their days here. We have not the money, and it is impossible. Other noble Lords will probably be able to produce experts who can attend here. I do not know, but perhaps they will as a result of this debate. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House looks upon that prospect with complete indifference so long as we keep the present practice that there shall be one expert for these 130 Peers, and that that one expert shall be in the Library and in all the corridors and rooms of this House as if he were a member of the House itself. If the noble and learned Viscount consented to put this matter before the House of Lords Offices Committee I am perfectly certain that some arrangement could be made by which accommodation would be found for advisers. I know the official answer about accommodation—there is never any accommodation. But it is marvellous what they can do when they are forced to. There are a thousand rooms in this building, and if they are properly adapted they can accommodate the right number of people. Moreover, the judicial business of the House is never concurrent with the Parliamentary business of this House, and there is no reason why certain rooms should not be used for a double purpose. That could be gone into by the House of Lords Offices Committee. This is a matter that can be easily adjusted.
Nobody wants to deprive the 130 noble Lords of their adviser. We only ask that he should give his advice in a way that is less disturbing to other Peers. My noble friend Lord Arnold has said that he has been disturbed in the Library. I am perfectly certain he is not the only noble Lord who has been disturbed. I have seen, when we were discussing Bills in which the 130 Peers have been specially interested, Peers sitting round in a ring with the expert holding forth. Nobody can do any work when that sort of thing is going on in the Library. And his zeal is such that no doubt he accomplishes his purpose and does his business with the utmost efficiency. But really these are matters which should be adjusted in an impartial way. It is extremely disappointing to come down to your Lord- 97 ships' House and after a speech delivered in such a calm and moderate tone as my noble friend's was, to be simply met by the Leader of the House with a direct negative, with the statement that Lord Hastings's direct negative is the only way out of this question. That attitude leaves us not only disappointed but with a certain feeling of unfairness in the treatment of this question which we had not expected. However much we have tried hitherto to prevent publicity being given to this question, I am afraid publicity will be given now, in view of the way the Leader of the House has treated the question this afternoon. I do not know what my noble friend feels, but I should certainly advise him to go to a Division.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, I should like, if I may say so, to endorse what my noble friend has just said. It is most unfortunate that a matter like this should be forced—that is what it comes to—to a Division by the attitude taken by the Leader of the House and by other noble Lords. I put forward a most reasonable proposal which was supported, and I thank him for it, by my noble friend Lord Reading, who has great influence in your Lordships' House, and also by the great authority of the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, who very rarely intervenes in the debates of this House but when he does I think his words should always receive the very greatest possible consideration. Despite this we have in fact been met, as my noble friend said, by a direct negative. That is what it comes to. In those circumstances I do not know that there is very much point in continuing the debate further. The chief criticism I think by Lord Hastings of myself was that I referred to the Throne as a chair. In that regard I was following my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, who was born in Windsor Castle while I was born in a suburban house in Cheshire. I thought he was more likely to be right about these things than myself, but in future I shall have to be more careful and be sure of my phraseology in regard to these august matters. But I was quoting the words of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to precedents and so forth. The permissions which have been given for experts to go on to the floor 98 of the House have been given for special purposes, when special Bills were being discussed. On no other occasion, as far as I know, has such a permission ever been given to any expert to go into the Library. The noble Viscount, if I may say so, is not quite right in his facts. It is not many years ago since the secretary, I think to the Leader of the House, was not able to go into the Library. I think the noble Viscount will find that it is correct to say that the secretary to the Leader of the House had no official permission to go into the Library. Is it really seriously proposed, as apparently it is if we are to meet with this direct negative, that if any group of members—and there may be any kind of definition as to how many there are in a group—is to put forward an application for an expert to come and help in the work here, then that expert is to have the same privileges as the present expert has? It is true, as Lord Ponsonby has said, that certain members of your Lordships' House are not as well off as others, though many of us are not on the bread line, but there are plenty of experts who are willing to come and work for nothing, and they will be only too pleased to come and work for nothing if they are to have the right to go into the Library and into the tea room and on to the floor of your Lordships' House.
This is an impossible position. No adequate reply whatever has been given by the noble Viscount to the suggestion that alternative accommodation should be found to suit this expert. I do not want to take his position away from him. I am sorry for him. What we say is that there is a way to deal with the matter. There is accommodation in your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess says: "You must have someone to help you to draft Amendments." Very well; have your expert; but take him out of the Library and put him into some other room or rooms. There are rooms which are never used in your Lordships' House. That is a fair proposal and it ought to be accepted. It is no reply for the noble Viscount simply to get up and say nothing need be done as there is no real difficulty, and that we should continue the present practice. It has been suggested that I am the only Peer who has been inconvenienced in the Library. That really is not so. The noble Viscount 99 says that if I have been inconvenienced, it has been done unintentionally. It may have been unintentional, but it is unavoidable. It is absolutely impossible for the present state of things to continue. If we are to be voted down, as apparently we are, that is not an end of the matter. In a sense it is really only the beginning of the matter. I am very sorry indeed that the debate has had to end on this comparatively controversial note, but we have no responsibility for it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend the Leader of the House a question. Assuming that the Motion is withdrawn, and consequently the Amendment also is withdrawn, nothing would happen. We have had a statement from the Leader of the House for our guidance in the future. It was really the suggestion I was making, although I did add that the matter should be referred to a Committee. I understand what the noble and learned Viscount said about that, and have not a word to say about it. I accept what he said in regard to it. What I do ask him is whether, in the circumstances, if my noble friend Lord Arnold is willing to withdraw the Motion and the Amendment also is withdrawn, that is not the right way out for all of us?
§ LORD HASTINGS
If the noble Lord withdraws his Motion I shall regard it as necessary that I should also withdraw.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
May I point out to the noble Lord that his Amendment comes first? His Amendment is before the House and it is on that that voting will take place, and the noble Viscount the Leader of the House advises your Lordships to vote for this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
There is a Motion before the House and an Amendment. I was stating what I thought was the right thing to do upon this Motion. It seems to me that if the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, does not wish to press his Motion and is satisfied to leave things where they are, my noble friend Lord Hastings, if he will take my advice, should withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If I may be permitted to intervene I should like to say that I think it is most undesirable that there should be a Division on this matter.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment I will withdraw my Motion and then the matter will be left open for the future.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, Lord Arnold has made a long second speech, but I am not going to follow his example, although I have the right to finish the debate. I was awaiting my opportunity to do so. However, the noble Lord is good enough to say that he proposes to withdraw his Motion, which as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, pointed out comes second, as the Amendment comes first. I am certainly willing to follow the advice of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and to follow what I think would be common-sense procedure—that is, to withdraw the Amendment on the understanding that no vote is taken. The result would be that we continue the status quo and that no alteration in the present practice would occur. Does the noble Lord give an undertaking not to proceed to a Division?
§ LORD ARNOLD
I have given an undertaking that I shall not proceed to a Division but the interpretation placed on the position, which will then emerge, will vary in different quarters.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.