§ 2.38 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY) rose to move, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the powers of this House in relation to the attendance of its Members. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I rise to move, quite briefly, the Motion standing in my name. As your Lordships know, the question of the powers of this House with regard to the attendance of Peers has cropped up more than once in recent debates. It is not for me to express any views on that subject to-day: indeed, in view of the proposal which I make in my Motion I am sure the House will agree that it would be most undesirable that I should attempt in any way to prejudge the issue. But it is evident from what was said in the last debate, and, I think, in earlier debates as well, that varying views are held on this subject by those well qualified to express opinions. It seems desirable, therefore, that your Lordships' House should try to obtain authoritative guidance on the points raised, especially in view of the possible relevance of this matter to other questions which might conceivably come under discussion.
§ Accordingly, I suggested in a recent debate, as some of your Lordships may remember, that your Lordships should appoint a body to examine this particular aspect of our affairs and report to the House. From such inquiries as I have been able to make, that suggestion seems to have been well received. A Select Committee composed of noble Lords who, by their wisdom and experience, seem well qualified to judge about matters such as this, seems to be the most suitable body for our purpose. Therefore, I propose in my Motion which I am now 279 moving that such a Committee should be set up, with broad general terms of reference. If the House approves of that proposal, the next step would be to select the members of the Committee, through the usual channels. When that had been done, I should propose the membership of the Committee for your Lordships' approval and they could then get on with their work. That, briefly, is the purport of my Motion, and I hope that it will prove acceptable to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the powers of this House in relation to the attendance of its Members.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, this is a very narrow Motion, as I understand it. There is no question of legislation, directly or indirectly, here concerned; and that being so, I suggest that your Lordships would be well advised to agree to the appointment of this Committee to clear up any doubts that there may be.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I fully agree with what has been said by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and trust that, in due course, your Lordships will appoint a Select Committee accordingly. As to what is likely to be the outcome of this particular inquiry, I will follow the advice of the Leader of the House and "wait and see."
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether it is intended that this Select Committee shall report before the Dissolution of Parliament?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
That is another case of "wait and see."
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I am sure that the numerous noble Lords who view 280 with some scepticism the vague possibilities of future action which lie behind this proposal, would have no objection to the appointment of a Select Committee. However, whereas the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said that this is a narrow issue, the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, used the words "broad and general terms." Does that mean anything more than finding out what, in fact, the powers of the House are in regard to the attendance of dilatory Members?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, that is exactly what it means. The only reason why I used the words "broad and general" was that I did not want the Committee—and I am sure the House does not want it either—to be limited to any particular scheme. This is just an inquiry as to what the powers of the House are in this matter.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.