§ 2.54 p.m.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, on behalf of the Lord President, the Leader of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. 34 be considered in order to its being dispensed with for the purpose of giving precedence to the Landlord and Tenant Bill over the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill.—(Earl Fortescue.)
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I assent to this Motion with rather mixed feelings and, I confess, with some slight reluctance. I was not consulted about it, but the noble Earl has been good enough to tell me that that was a mere error. It is of the utmost importance for the satisfactory working of this House, as he will be the first to agree, that we should be consulted about these matters and, indeed, about such matters as the tribute that we have just paid to Lord Denman, about which I was told absolutely nothing. That is quite wrong. I feel hesitation about this matter, for these reasons. In the first place, it is natural enough to give priority 101 to what is a very important Bill, as I readily admit that the Landlord and Tenant Bill is. On the other hand, the Scottish Bill is also an important Bill, and one which will almost certainly involve some Divisions in this House. Therefore, it is difficult to know what to do.
I do not oppose this Motion, except to take this opportunity of saying this. I well remember that, when I was Lord Chancellor, it used to be exceedingly difficult at the end of a Session to fit in all the business. It is a fact that so much business comes up at the end of a Session that we in this House find ourselves in great difficulty, whereas in earlier parts of the Session we have little to do. I think the noble Earl will agree that, following his example, we never obstruct in this House: obstruction in this House is quite foreign to our whole conception. But, though we never obstruct, equally, if we are to do our job properly as a Council of State, we must have adequate time to consider all these matters. It we do not have time, we really cannot do our job. Looking at the list of Bills which await discussion—I am saying this only in order that it may be passed on to the noble Marquess who leads the House, who I am sorry is not here—I doubt whether we can effectively, within the time space which is allotted to us, do our work properly. I would ask the noble Earl to consider with his noble Leader whether there may not be some possibility of postponing to a later date some of this vast mass of Bills.
My noble friend Lord Silkin will speak on the Landlord and Tenant Bill in quite a short Second Reading debate, but he will indicate a large number of points which will need careful attention on the Committee stage. On the programme, so far as I have seen it, the Committee stage of this Bill is one bit of an afternoon. I know, too, that if we are to do our job properly as a Council of State we shall also need a great deal of time to consider the Television Bill in Committee. We may fall down in public estimation and public opinion if we find ourselves in the position of not being able to do our job properly because there is no time to do it. I make these observations to the noble Earl merely in order that he may discuss them with the Leader of the House to see what we can do to remove the difficulty which at the present moment confronts us.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, in view of the serious situation so effectively presented by the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition, may I respectfully make one suggestion, very simple, easily practicable, which would completely relieve that situation? Why should not the Government drop the Television Bill?
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, in reply to the noble and learned Earl, I must apologise for not having consulted his Party about the Motion which I have just moved. I take full responsibility for it, and I again apologise. But I feel sure that it would be for the convenience of the House that we should take this important Second Reading first. As regards the tributes to the late Lord Denman, I am sorry that that matter was not brought to the notice of the noble and learned Earl or of the noble Viscount. Finally, I will certainly convey to my noble Leader what the noble and learned Earl and the noble Viscount have said about the Television Bill and the Landlord and Tenant Bill.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.