HL Deb 01 August 1935 vol 98 cc1022-4

Order of the Day for the consideration of Commons Amendments read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)


My Lords, I do not know what my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth thinks about this, but I feel exceedingly sorry about it. My noble friend, in passing this measure through your Lordships' House, rendered yeoman service to a Ministry with which he has no direct concern, only to find that what he did for the best has proved nearly all wrong and to be asked to introduce into your Lordships' House what is virtually a new Bill. And this on the last after-noon of the Session, with other vitally important business on the Order Paper awaiting its turn. I desire to submit to your Lordships that the Ministry of Transport is deserving of the severest, censure for its complete failure to realise that in this matter it was serving a National and not a Socialist Government. Further, I submit that the Ministry is deserving of censure for its complete lack of consideration for Parliamentary convenience. This highly contentious measure, which should have been introduced at an early stage of the Session was, in fact, reserved until the latest possible date, and when it was introduced it was done under a smoke screen of illusion which appears completely to have deceived the Press and did not begin to clear away until the Committee stage in your Lordships' House was reached.

This measure when it began to be understood caused a degree of alarm in the country and the tocsin which was sounded here in the Committee stage has had its reaction in another place. The treatment meted out to the original Bill in another place will, I trust, be accepted by the Minister and his Ministry as a much needed lesson that Parliament cannot be bounced. This Bill left your Lordships' House printed upon twenty-nine pages. It has come back to your Lordships' House after occupying eight full days in the Standing Committee of another place with a large number of new clauses added and twenty-nine pages of closely printed Amendments. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a new Bill. But I have two crumbs of comfort which I can offer to my noble friend. The first of them is that this new Bill, in so far as this side of the House is concerned, is with one or two notable exceptions virtually an agreed measure. The other crumb of comfort I can offer is that as I have a train to catch I must leave the House early.


My Lords, I should like to add a few words to what my noble friend Lord Hastings has said. May I put it in this way? Suppose the noble Viscount, Lord Eubank, should choose to divide the House on his Amendment, where is your quorum? Can this Bill go through before next November? I do not suppose that my noble friend will take advantage of that accidental fact, but he may. If your Lordships' House is treated in this way, how can it be expected that there should be a proper attendance in your Lordships' House and a due interest in the debates therein held? How can you ask people who are treated in the way in which the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, who was in charge of the Bill, has been treated, and in the way in which the whole of your Lordships' House has been treated, to take seriously their legislative duties? I regard this as only one instance of the way in which your Lordships' House is being nibbled at more and more until in the end it will be reduced to a complete farce.


My Lords, I am bound to say that I was surprised at the attitude taken by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, with regard to the work of the present Government. He seems to forget that the present Government include amongst their numbers a certain number of so-called Socialists. Whether he calls them Socialists or not, he blames the National Government for giving in to what he calls Socialism. If he looks around at the National Government he will see a number of members who are supposed to be Socialists. I agree with him that they are not, but they have the name of Socialist. I am in entire agreement with the noble Lord on that point, and the only difference between us is that I say so and he says he is disappointed. I never am disappointed in anything the present Government do, because I never expect them to do anything more than to look after themselves and their friends.


Order, Order!


I am only saying what I expect and what I invariably find to be the case. They are perfectly right, and when we form a Socialist Government we shall do the same; we shall look after our friends—the great mass of the nation at large, and not merely the purely possessing classes. But in regard to this Bill I am bound to say that the alterations made in the House of Commons have improved the Bill. As to reducing the value of this House to a farce: as the value of this House for many years has been purely farcical, I cannot see that it has been reduced any more by the action of the House of Commons in connection with this Bill.

On Question, Motion agreed to.