House Of Lords
Wednesday, 23rd June, 1920.
The House met at a quarter before four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
His Royal Highness The Duke Of York
His Royal Highness Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, K.G., having been created BARON KILLARNEY, EARL OF INVERNESS, and DUKE OF YORK, was introduced between His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and his Grace the Duke of Northumberland (the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, the Garter King of Arms, the Deputy Earl Marshal, and the Lord Great Chamberlain attending), and was placed in a Chair on the left hand of the Throne.
Message From The King
Delivered by the Lord Steward ( Viscount Farquhar) as follows—
"I have received your Address praying that in pursuance of the first Section of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1910, two Judges may be appointed to the High Court of Justice to fill vacancies in time King's Bench Division thereof, and I will issue directions in accordance with your desire."
Metropolitan Police Provisional Order Bill
Read 3a and passed.
Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Lincoln Extension) Bill Hl
Read 3a and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Hertford Extension) Bill Hl
Read 3a and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Business Of The House
rose to ask the Government whether they are in a position to give any indication or forecast of the course of business in this House and of the Bills which they think it likely they will ask this House to deal with during the session.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, since my Question appeared on the Paper some days ago circumstances have somewhat changed; the announcement has been made in another place that there is to be an autumn session. But when I put the Question on the Paper it seemed to me as if the Government expected to keep Parliament sitting throughout a large part of the month of August, and that their programme of legislation, so far as they bring it up to this House (including the Irish Bill) would be brought up before we adjourned. That, of course, is not now possible, and it has been publicly intimated that at a somewhat early date in August Parliament is to rise and meet again later in the autumn. I notice on the Paper a Motion on the same subject standing in the name of Lord Newton, and probably it would be convenient if we could discuss his Motion and mine at the same time.
I know that I shall be met at the outset with the statement that this is a very old complaint, a very old grievance. To some extent that is true. I have been a member of this House for over forty years, and in a good many of those years I recollect that the same complaint has been made. But it is within the knowledge of all your Lordships that the situation has been very much aggravated in recent years. There has been much more crowding at the end of the session of legislation brought up to this House. During the years of the stress of war we were all prepared to make sacrifices in order to help the Government; and the object of my Question at this comparatively early period in the session is this—that I myself am most anxious (and I know many of my friends are) that the precedents made in this matter during war time should not be continued now that peace has been concluded. I hope that the precedents which have been created during the past two or three years will not be claimed in excuse for a similar stress of business at the end of a session.
Let the make it perfectly clear what is the object of my Question. It is not conceived in any form of hostility to the Government or with the object of aggravating their difficulties. What I feel about it is this, that the matter has gone on for a certain number of years and I think it reasonable and fair to intimate to the Government that so far as I am personally concerned I shall do all I can to prevent a continuance of the system at the conclusion of the present session. In other words, it is meant to be, so far as I am concerned, a real notice of a real intention to take care that we have proper time to consider the legislation that is brought before us.
I hope that some information can be given in answer to my Question. In the Gracious Speech from the Throne something like seventeen or eighteen Bills were mentioned. One or two have been passed, and a few others have been introduced. What we are anxious to know is, how many more of the Bills mentioned in the King's Speech are going to be introduced. The case of Ireland is, of course, before the country. The next paragraph in the Gracious Speech refers to at least four Bills relating to the coal industry; the paragraph following is a general one and refers to the question of intoxicating liquors. The next two paragraphs deal with general matters, and then there is a long list of Bills almost none of which have so far seen the light. Not the least among them is the reference in the last paragraph in the Gracious Speech to the possible reform of the Second Chamber. That is a Bill which I humbly think, if introduced at all, should have been introduced at an earlier period of the session than that at which we have now arrived, and I hope when it is introduced that it will be introduced in this House. That is an individual opinion which may, or may not, have weight.
Those are the points on which I want information. I should like to allude to the fact that a very intricate and complicated Bill was brought up yesterday from another place and read a first time—I mean the Rent Restrictions Bill. It is an extraordinarily difficult Bill to understand, and as far as I can gather from the OFFICIAL REPORT a good many Amendments were made in it at a late stage in its passage in the other place. I know that there are difficulties and that it is desired to get this Bill on the Statute Book by a certain day; but it is really an extremely good instance of the difficulties in which your Lordships are placed. This intricate Bill is one which legislates largely by reference, and it is, as I have said, extraordinarily difficult to understand. It has not yet been printed; yet it is down for Second Reading to-morrow. If reports that have reached me are true it is intended to take it quite early next week and pass it into law at the earliest possible date. That is a good instance of the sort of thing we are subjected to. While I am not prompted by any hostility to the Government, I want them to understand that there is a widespread feeling in this House that in recent years we have not been quite fairly treated in this matter.
THE SITTINGS OF PARLIAMENT.
had given notice to move to resolve—
That in the opinion of this House, Parliament ought to rise in July, and that the time required for the due transaction of public business should be provided by Parliament sitting during a longer period of the winter than is customary at present.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think it will be for the general convenience of the House if I say what I have to say on the question which has been asked by the noble Lord, and then, if necessary, I could take a Division when my Motion is arrived at without further discussion. If the House will allow me to pursue this course it would save the noble Earl the Leader of the House from making two speeches. The speech which the noble Lord has just delivered is one that we are well accustomed to hear in this House, and there has never been any adequate reply given, because, of course, there is really no answer.
All Parliamentary years, so far as this House is concerned, present the same monotonous features. Parliament generally assembles towards the end of January, and the proceedings begin with an ambitious programme included in the Speech from the Throne. This programme is discussed more or less carefully in the House of Commons for something like seven months. Meanwhile we in this House have, strictly speaking, nothing to do. If it were not for the pertinacious activity of a small number of Peers it would hardly be necessary for this House to meet at all.
It is a curious fact that in spite of the enormous size of this House—I think we now number 721 members, and were a short time ago growing at the rate of a Peer a fortnight, and we must now be one of the largest Assemblies in the world—the number of Peers who take an active part in the proceedings still remains very small; and taking the members concerned upon Private Bill Committees as an indication of their activity, I find that in the year 1913, the last complete Parliamentary year before the war, only 76 Peers served on Private Bill Committees, and in 1919 there were only 35. It is a fact that in spite of the huge membership of the House it is never congested, either physically or intellectually, and I always think that the restraint exercised by noble Lords in this connection is one to be admired and not deprecated, because I do not believe that in any other country in the world could you find 700 human beings entitled to attend an Assembly and bore their fellow creatures with their speeches three days a week during the great part of the year.
We stagnate in this Assembly for some months. Then towards the end of August the scene suddenly changes, and we are confronted with a positive flood of legislation. That is the occasion upon which the various leaders of the Opposition rise in their majesty and declaim against the undignified position in which this House is placed, and sometimes they are so indignant that they indulge in threats. I remember, I think it was last year, that my noble friend the Earl of Midleton threatened the Government that if his wishes were not acceded to he would keep the House sitting for a month. That threat fell upon deaf ears, because everybody knew that it was a feat which it was impossible to accomplish. When the various Leaders of the Opposition have had their fling, then the Leader of the House rises in his turn. I do not like to use too vulgar an expression, but he rises, metaphorically speaking, with his tongue in his cheek, because he has frequently made the same speech and realises that he may be called upon to do the same thing again in the future; but he expresses extreme sympathy with noble Lords opposite, says he is as sensible of the dignity of the House as they are, and endeavours to mollify them to the best of his ability, and he succeeds in getting his way, and he usually succeeds because at that time of the year there is hardly anybody left capable of withstanding him. Meanwhile,
during this hectic interval in this House, the other House in its turn is completely idle, and when this incident has come to an end the Houses adjourn. Parliament as a rule meets again in the autumn, and the same scene is repeated more or less about Christmas-time but under less distressing circumstances, because as a rule the attendance is larger and there is a better opportunity for discussion generally.
What we have to ask ourselves is whether there is any effective remedy for this state of things. For my part I will say at once that in my opinion the remedy does not consist for one moment in defying or falling out with the House of Commons, because after all the demands upon members of the House of Commons are so very much greater than any possible demands made upon us, that it is only right that their convenience should stand in front of ours. Our object, therefore, should be to effect if possible a working compromise between the two Houses. There is, I venture to say, no real remedy, but there are two palliatives, if I may call them so, which I should like to suggest. In the first place it has frequently been urged in this House that more measures should be introduced here rather than in the Commons. There are, to my mind, two obvious objections to that course. In the first place, there is the perhaps rather irrational jealously which exists between the two Houses, and it exists to such an extent that it is a melancholy fact that a Bill introduced into this House has very little prospect of passing through the other House unless it happens to be a Government measure. The other objection is of a very different kind, and it consists in the danger which is involved in the presence in this House of large numbers of what are known as "Backwoodsmen"; and in using that term—I use it without any offensive meaning—I am not at all sure that I ought not to include ecclesiastical Backwoodsmen, who occasionally appear on unexpected occasions. In these circumstances we never know what may happen in this place. A large unknown force of this character, in the hands of an unprincipled Die-hard, might effect startling changes in our procedure. It is quite conceivable that if a contentious Government measure were introduced in this House by a Liberal Government, or even by a Coalition Government, it would incur very considerable risks. This disposes of what I may call my first palliative.
The second suggestion which I have to make is that an autumn session should be an invariable incident in the Parliamentary year, because if you once established the principle that an autumn session was a permanent fact, then both Houses would naturally insist upon rising much earlier in the season. Unless I am much mistaken, I am under the impression that if it were known that an autumn session was a certainty towards the middle or end of October, both Houses would insist upon rising before the end of June, or not later than the early portion of July. If there were any really urgent measures which required to be passed in the summer, of course they would be passed; but as a rule measures are not urgent, and a measure would pass just as well, and have just as much effect, if it were only passed in October as if it passed through this House in July.
The following plan might be adopted. Supposing both Houses rose towards the end of June, and there were certain measures which it was desirable to pass well before the end of the year, it would be a very easy thing for this House to reassemble in the autumn a week or a fortnight before the House of Commons met. There would then be a good attendance of Peers, and these measures would be adequately discussed, instead of being rushed through the House in August or September without any discussion at all. In making this proposal I am only asking the House to recognise existing facts. We practically have, to all intents and purposes, autumn sessions already. In former days autumn sessions were not necessary for this reason. Legislation was forced through the House of Commons by a process of physical exhaustion. There was no Eleven O'clock Rule. The Government used to sit up all night if necessary to get their Bills through. The result was that all Government Bills were driven through by main force, and the House was able to rise as a rule not later than the middle of August. Autumn sessions were, therefore, as I say, unnecessary.
At the present day, however, such a course is normally quite out of the question. Taking the last fourteen years—that is to say, from the date when a Liberal Government was first established in office in 1906—there have only been two years in which there was no autumn session. The fact is, in the first place, that an autumn session is absolutely essential for the purpose of carrying out the work of Parliament, and the second reason why an autumn session really becomes a necessity is that, unless I am much mistaken, people are not inclined at present to allow the Government a long spell of uncontrolled authority. But the real trouble arises from the fact that the Government—I do not mean this Government, but Governments in general— always hold out hope in the House of Commons that autumn sessions can be avoided if members will only sit long enough, and it is not until the summer is far advanced that they reluctantly admit that an autumn session has to be held. If autumn sessions were certain—if we knew that they were going to occur—we should all know where we stood, and be able to form our plans accordingly. As I have pointed out, an early adjournment in the summer would be insisted upon.
The arguments in favour of passing the summer months in the country in preference to spending them in London have been so frequently urged by much more competent and important personages than myself that I should look upon it almost as an insult to the intelligence of the House to discuss that matter now. Almost everybody, I think, is now inclined to admit that this long-established practice is a violation of common sense, if it is not something worse. It is almost as sensible as passing your days in the cellar instead of on the surface of the ground. I notice, as a sign of increasing sense upon the subject, that there is a very reasonable and well-founded agitation in favour of taking the summer holidays at an earlier period, when the days are longer than they are at that period of the year which is usually devoted to the so-called Long Vacation. Many of the old stereotyped objections have vanished, and I do not propose to deal with more than one of them.
The only objection that I, at all events, consider worthy of noticing at all is the old objection that the autumn months are necessary from the point of view of the permanent official who has to prepare Government measures. I like to think of the permanent official with his Parliamentary chief earnestly incubating Bills during the autumn months. It is a touching picture of patriotism. But for my part I do not believe a word of it, and I do not believe it ever was done. I have never encountered any permanent official who raised any objection to the course that I propose. On the other hand, I have always found them strongly in favour of it. But supposing the alteration took place, how would anybody suffer? Under the old course of things the House used to adjourn, say, from the middle of September until January. That left, for the incubating of Bills, October, November, and December. If we adjourn now at the end of June you still get the three months, and I am certain that if the permanent official is consulted upon the matter he would offer no objection. Personally, I rather entertain doubts as to whether the permanent official has so much to say in regard to the preparation of Bills as some other people. I am disposed to suspect myself that Bills are largely drawn in accordance with the truculence of the demand brought forward by various deputations in their interviews with Ministers.
When discussing this question of altering the period of the session, I often doubt whether the fact is properly recognised that the Parliamentary session, the habits of Society, the school holidays, and the legal vacation are all based upon the hoary conviction that the House of Commons consists of hunting men. A superstition of this kind dies very hard indeed, and there is still a section of the populace whose ideas are probably largely founded upon what they see represented in American films, that members of Parliament and Peers in particular are persons of bucolic habits who retire to their country places at a comparatively early period of the autumn and pass their time there indulging in field sports. As a matter of fact, no conviction could be more inaccurate and more incorrect as applied to the conditions to-day. If you take this House I should be inclined to think that a large number of its members were unable to live in their places at all, because in all probability, in many cases at least, they are in the possession of the new rich. Certainly if they are in the same position as I am, if they are able to live in their own places, they are not able to indulge in field sports to any serious extent. If again, dispensing with field sports, they are anxious to remain in their own places during the winter months the probability is that they would find extreme difficulty in getting sufficient coal to warm their residences. Even if they were fortunate enough to get coal, it does not follow that they would be equally fortunate in discovering domestics who would consent to remain with them during that period.
However that may be, the fact remains that Parliament does directly or indirectly govern the movements of the community generally, and it is a melancholy fact that adherence to this old crusty superstition of the hunting men in the House of Commons causes us to cling to a practice which is the direct opposite of the practice of the whole of the civilised world. I will undertake to say that from Peking to the newest capital of the newest founded State in Europe the inhabitants all go on the plan that when the weather begins to get warm they leave the town, and when it becomes cold they return. Here we reverse the process, and reserve our highest political and social energies for the finest months in the year. If the methods which I have indicated in my Motion were adopted, all these ridiculous habits would come to an end, and the London season, for instance, would conclude at its national finale and stop at Ascot, instead of terminating, as it does at the present moment in consequence of our ridiculous practice, at Goodwood.
The fact is that the change proposed is almost analogous to the change which was proposed under the Daylight Saving Bill. I remember that there was a certain amount of opposition to that measure, but does anybody in his senses refuse to recognise that that Bill has been of the greatest benefit to millions of people, and upon the whole is the most beneficial act of legislation that has been passed during the present generation? If we can persuade Parliament to adopt the methods which I have indicated in my Motion we shall all eventually wonder that we had not carried out the change long ago. It is now seventeen years since I carried in this House an almost identical Motion to that on the Paper by a very large majority, and among the very few dissentients, I notice to my regret, was my noble friend Lord Crewe, the Leader of the Opposition. But I trust that even he, by this time, has modified his views on the subject. All I can say is that I have consulted everybody whom I believe to be interested. I have consulted noble Lords, members of the House of Commons, permanent officials, officials of this House, officials of the House of Commons, and the gentlemen whose melancholy duty it is to record our utterances in the Press, and with hardly an exception they have all expressed themselves in the strongest terms in favour of the proposed change.
I quite realise that this House is incompetent to give a final decision. It is one in which the House of Commons is very much more interested than we are. Because, as I have already explained, the demands made upon them are infinitely greater than those which are made upon us. I have brought forward this Resolution again, not for the purpose of endeavouring to secure a debating success, but mainly for the purpose of again ventilating the subject. I believe that the more it is talked about the more people will feel inclined to adopt it. I will conclude by expressing the confident opinion that it would not only be beneficial as regards the conduct of business in both Houses of Parliament, but would also be of great direct and indirect benefit to masses of people who have no direct connection with Parliament at all.
Moved, That in the opinion of this House, Parliament ought to rise in July, and that the time required for the due transaction of public business should be provided by Parliament sitting during a longer period of the winter than is customary at present.—( Lord Newton.)
My Lords, it is quite true, as both noble Lords who have addressed us have remarked, that in the leafy month of June (if I may quote the words of the poet) we are accustomed in this House to hear the tune to which we have just listened, and if it has been played by different performers on the present occasion the notes have been very much the same, and the instruments have not differed substantially from those to which we have been accustomed on previous occasions. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Newton was kind enough to sketch in advance the speech which he felt it incumbent upon me to make. I am not certain that I shall not rather disappoint him in that respect.We have had connected together by the somewhat convenient elasticity of your Lordships' House two Questions, it is true bearing an analogy to each other but really raising quite different issues. Lord Balfour of Burleigh has put a number of questions to me with his usual moderation—questions which he was perfectly entitled to put—about the course of business during the remainder of the present session. Lord Newton has sketched to us, not for the first time, a plan for regulating the business of this House in a better way, not for this session only but for the future. I will first deal with Lord Balfour's Question. I need hardly say that no one who listened to him, and no one on any occasion, would suspect him, in asking questions of this description, of any feeling of hostility to the Government. His questions are perfectly legitimate, and it is part not only of my duty but of my pleasure to endeavour to reply to them. The questions upon which he sought information were with regard to the Bills which it is proposed to place before your Lordships, or which you will be asked to pass into law during the remainder of the session. And when I speak about the remainder of the session I conclude that the noble Lord's observations had special reference to that part of the session which is to terminate, as we hope, in July. It is true, as he remarked, that we are faced with the melancholy necessity of having an autumn session. We all of us deprecate it, no one more than members of the Government. I do not know that we have any greater appetite for legislation than the members of both Houses of Parliament. But legislation on a large scale is forced upon us by two considerations at the present time, the weight of neither of which will you feel disposed to disparage. The first is that the country itself, Parliament itself, demands it; and the second is that we are passing through a period of reconstruction after the war when the readjustment, to which we all look, can only be effected by legislation dealing with a vast number of subjects, raising, I admit, very controversial issues, and placing a severe strain upon the patience of Parliament and the attention of the nation. It will be incumbent upon us, therefore, to ask Parliament to meet again in the autumn, and we are anxious, naturally enough, to enable both Houses of Parliament to separate at as early a date as possible at the end of July or at the beginning of August. Now as regards the Bills which we shall ask your Lordships to consider. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, referred to the Rent Restrictions Bill as a measure about which I had a few words to say the other day, and which is on the verge of coining before your Lordships' House. He complained, I think, that the Bill had not yet been circulated. There has been some slight delay in the printers' office, but copies of the Bill have now emerged there-from, and I believe that at this moment fifty copies are available in your Lordships' House to any of you who may wish to see it. I have on a previous occasion spoken about the various stages of that Bill. There are one or two other measures which it will be incumbent upon us to ask you to pass before the House rises. The first of these is the Ministry of Mines Bill. The copies of that Bill are not available this evening, but they will be printed and will be available for use to-morrow. This Bill has just been introduced in the House of Commons. Briefly, it may be said that the control of the coal industry expires on August 31 next, and that it is essential that the further powers of regulation and control which are created by the Bill should be made statutory before that date. The Bill gives powers of control during any emergency period that may continue after August 31. It provides for the future ordering of the industry on a permanent basis, and it deals to some extent with the improvement of the social condition of the miners. There is also the Gas Regulation Bill, which is now in Committee in another place. There is the Overseas Trade (Credits and Insurance) Bill; there is the Unemployment Insurance Bill, a measure of some importance, which has just passed out of Committee in the House of Commons. Then there are one or two measures of greater importance. There is the Agriculture Bill, which will obviously demand the closest attention on the part of your Lordships. Whether that Bill will reach us in time to take any stage of it before the House rises I cannot at present say. It is obvious, in any case, that we could not proceed far with it, and that the greater part of the work upon the Bill will have to be done in the autumn session. The same considerations apply, but apply in a greater degree, to the Home Rule I regard it as extremely unlikely, owing to the position of affairs in another place, that this Bill will come before your Lordships doling this part of the session; and I think we may take it as fairly certain that not until we meet in the autumn will your Lordships be asked to consider that measure. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, asked for some information about a further measure promised in the King's Speech—I mean the Bill for the reform of your Lordships' House. That measure has not reached a stage at which it is even possible for me to refer to it. It is one of the outstanding pledges of this Government. It is one which, during the duration of office of this Government, we intend to honour; and I have no doubt that during such holiday as we have this autumn—in spite of what my noble friend said in derision of the permanent officials who prepare Bills and those in whose favour these Bills are prepared—a great deal of labour will be devoted to the preparation of that measure. So much for the measures which are likely to come before you in the latter part of the present session. I wondered as I listened to my noble friend behind me (Lord Newton) whether he was quite fair to your Lordships. He drew a picture of your Lordships stagnating (to us his phrase) during the greater part of the session, and spurred, by no action of your own but by the indifference or laziness of another place, to unwelcome activity in the concluding weeks of the session. I do not identify that description with the facts of the case. Take the course of the present session only. During this time we have passed nine public Bills, we have sent down to the House of Commons three or four Bills which are now there, and we have at the present moment eight Bills under consideration in your Lordships' House. If you say that the present session is an unfair test, let me refer for a moment to your legislative labours of the session of 1919—namely, last year. The inference from such speeches as we have heard is this, that your Lordships, owing to the conditions which I have described, are forced to scamp your legislative work and. in the "dog-days" when people are tired and exhausted, to do hastily and perhaps inefficiently the work for which you ought to have a very much longer space of time. What are the facts of last session? I will take four important Bills which we assisted to pass into law during that session. The Ministry of Transport Bill occupied 10 days in all its various stages in passing through your Lordships' House; the Housing and Town Planning Bill occupied 7 days; the Ministry of Health Bill 4 days; the Government of India Bill 3 days—and remember that this Bill in addition went to a Joint Committee of members of both Houses of Parliament where it remained, while very valuable work was done upon it, for a period of weeks if not of months. Then again let me acquaint you with the fact that last session, in 1919, we had as many as 163 sittings of your Lordships' House apart from Judicial sittings; and if I go back to a period twenty years ago—we are being constantly told to contrast the present with the old position of affairs—if I go back to 1898 I find that during that session this House of Parliament sat for only one hundred days. Further, as regards the attendance of your Lordships' House. It is true that if you take the total number of Peers—the number was given by my noble friend as something between 700 and 800—the daily attendance is sparse; but the efficiency of a Legislative Chamber does not depend upon the number of Peers who actually sit upon the Benches, nor does it depend altogether on the number of those who take part in the debates. If I contrast the present House of Lords—I am old enough to remember it twenty or thirty years ago —with the House as it then was, I think the level of attendance and participation in debate and of quality in debate is as high as it ever was. My noble friend Lord Newton deprecated a large attendance; he even fell foul of the members of the Episcopal Bench because they turn up and sometimes take part in our general debates. I, at any rate, am one of those who regard the presence of the right rev. Prelates on that Bench as an invaluable asset to this House, and no one admires more than I—not merely on questions that concern the Church but on questions of general social, economic, and industrial interest—their contributions to our debates. Therefore the picture I see of this House is, I confess, rather a different one from that which has been depicted by my noble friend behind me. Our weak point, if I may say so, is the difficulty of getting noble Lords to come after dinner. That is a difficulty which I fully understand; because, in the first place, the reports in the newspapers the next day are bad, and, in the next place, noble Lords exhibit such an extraordinary indifference to the eloquence of their fellow members that they decline after ten o'clock to come here to hear them. That is a matter which is in your Lordships' own hands. But though this applies, as I think, to seine extent to Second Reading discussions, it does not apply to Committee. When we get into Committee and noble Lords are interested in Amendments I have seen here night after night an attendance, when important Bills have been before the House, which is at least as good as and in many respects very much better than that we see in the other House. So much in general observation upon the present position of affairs in your Lordships' House. I come now to the speech of my noble friend Lord Newton. He was quite right in reminding us that his speech to-night on this subject was not an exhibition of virgin eloquence; because I think he said that some seventeen years ago he made a Motion, very similar to this, which he succeeded in persuading your Lordships to carry by, I believe, a large majority. He commences by attacking wholesale the anomalies and drawbacks (as he conceives them) of the present system. He says that your Lordships have not much to do in the earlier days of the session—a contention which I have said something to rebut—and that then at the end, with a terrible congestion, you are flooded with work sent up to you from another place. I think that this is an exaggerated charge; because, after all, is it not a feature, an inevitable feature, of any Second Chamber in the world that to some extent it has to wait, except in so far as it initiates legislation itself, for the Bills that come up to it from the other Chamber? So far as that complaint is made it would probably be made by every Senate and every Second Chamber in the world. My noble friend then takes the second argument and says what a miserable system it is under which, during the summer months when we all want to be and ought to be away in the country, we are compelled to remain performing our legislative duties in London. I dare say we should all like, along with the noble Lord, or at any rate those of us who are young enough would like—
"To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
But I am not certain that, after all, London is so insupportable a place in June and July as my noble friend postulates. I agree with him in attaching no importance whatever to the argument about sport. I think he described as a "hoary fiction" the idea that both Houses of Parliament consist for the most part of hunting men, or sporting men, for whose convenience the Parliamentary time has to be arranged. I doubt if that argument ever had very much weight. I myself earnestly hope that both Houses of Parliament will still contain sportsmen, and that even the strain of Parliamentary life will give us time to pursue our recreations; but I quite agree with him that the disposition of Parliamentary time ought not to be regulated—and it certainly is not regulated now—by the sporting convenience of those who are its members. What is the scheme that the noble Lord suggests to us? It is this—Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair."
I understand the general idea of the noble Lord, although, perhaps wisely, he does not specify dates. I have often thought that it would be an attractive plan—I shall state in a moment what are the objections to it—if we could meet, say, in the latter part of November, and, after a short session to Christmas—a session in winch we could dispose of the King's Speech, the Address in reply to the King's Speech, and such Supplementary Estimates as may be required—then, after a Christmas adjournment, Parliament might meet again in January or February, as the case might be, and proceed with the legislative programme of the session and the financial business which has to be completed before the end of the financial year. In those circumstances it would seem a not unreasonable thing to suggest that the House should then rise some time in July and should take the vacation which would intervene between that period and November, when it would meet again. That, I say, is a scheme which has a certain attractiveness, and I expect it is more or less what my noble friend has in view. But now let me state what appear to me to be some of the difficulties in the way of carrying it out. There is the preliminary difficulty—if that is not too strong a phrase—which was fully anticipated by my noble friend, namely, that this is a matter which really it is not for your Lordships' House to decide. We are fully entitled to have and to express our views upon it, and due weight will be given to them by those whose business it is to decide. But in the last resort, as he frankly admitted, the convenience of the House of Commons has to be considered rather than the interests or desires of your Lordships' House, and before we could succeed in carrying any such change of time-table into operation we should have, of course, to convince the members of another place that it was desirable in their interests as well as in our own. A second, and it seems to me a rather more formidable, objection was also noticed, but slurred over by my noble friend. It is this, that his plan would stereotype for all time the practice of autumn sessions; it means an autumn session ever year, as a part of the Parliamentary system. It is quite true that during the last five years of war we have had, I will not say regular autumn sessions, but we have had almost continuous sessions of Parliament; but that condition was demanded by the position of affairs, and nobody rebelled against it. It was part, of the contribution we all made to the service of the war, and no deduction ought to be drawn from it one way or the other. Although I have not had time to verify my recollection, in the majority of years immediately preceding the war there were, I believe, autumn sessions. In fact, I do not quite recollect the last year when there was no autumn session. Therefore it is true that the current has set steadily in the direction of autumn sessions, under the pressure of public demand, and, as I said before, the position in which we have placed ourselves may be held to produce a situation in which it may be difficult to extricate ourselves from that rather unhappy necessity. But, for my part, I am reluctant to abandon altogether the idea that we can get back to the old Parliamentary fashion of earlier days and, if I may speak for myself—I have no right to speak for anybody else—I should rather regret the acceptance of any system which rendered such a reversion absolutely impossible and placed us under the yoke of autumn sessions for all time. A third objection occurred to me while listening to my noble friend. What is his object? Apart from his jokes and his banter, which all of us enjoy, he is really concerned at the manner in which, in the closing days of July for instance, we are suddenly called upon to discharge the volume of business which is placed on our shoulders. Suppose you had this new system which he advocates, suppose Parliament rose at some time in July to meet again in November, do you escape that position? What guarantee have you that the same process will not obtain that goes on now; that Bills will not still come from another place in the concluding weeks of June, or the early weeks of July, and that you will still be asked to pass them in the month of July before you adjourn for your autumn holiday? And there is this, further point that whereas now, or at any rate in normal times when there is no certainty of an autumn session, the Ministry finds—whether it be desirable or not I do not say—a very useful instrument of pressure in the growing physical exhaustion of noble Lords at the commencement of August, and also a pressure in the threat that unless they conclude their labours at a comparatively early date an autumn session will follow, both those forms of pressure will be entirely removed."That in the opinion of this House, Parliament ought to rise in July, and that the time required for the due transaction of public business should be provided by Parliament sitting during a longer period of the winter than is customary at present."
The noble Marquess is delighted at their disappearance from the scene. But look at it from the point of view of the time given to your Lordships for the discharge of Parliamentary business. Will you gain by separating, as the noble Lord proposes, in July and meeting in November? Will you escape the situation of which he now complains as suddenly arising in the latter part of the summer?One further observation only need I make, and that is with regard to the derision which my noble friend poured upon the so-called Parliamentary holiday and the strain which is alleged to be put during that holiday upon the members of the permanent Civil Service in preparing Bills, and so on, I absolutely disagree with what he said there. He treated the work of these officials with, as I thought, really ill-timed levity and scorn. I can certainly speak from such experience as I have had of the enormous strain that is placed upon the time and attention of this very capable staff of men in preparing the Bills that come up for Parliamentary treatment later on, and I have known many cases in which, in the conditions in which we have been living in recent years, the strain upon these officials of an almost continuous session of Parliament, without the old break to which they used to look forward, has been so overwhelming that in many cases it has resulted in serious breakdown in health and injury to the public service. But putting that aside, are the permanent officials the only persons to be considered? Is it possible to suggest that some measure of consideration may be extended to members of the Government? There are many of your Lordships in this House who have been Ministers. I have been a Minister on and off when in this country for between twenty and thirty years, and I can only say that the strain on Ministers now is not five or ten but twenty-fold greater than it was when first I entered public life, and that strain is enhanced by the fact that you never get any holiday at all. Perhaps that applies more particularly to the office with which I am connected at the moment, but in a less degree it applies to offices all the way round; and there is no one in the inside of political life now who does not feel that the strain upon the health, the ability, the endurance of Ministers deprived of their holidays—and if this scheme were adopted certain never to get them beyond three or four months—is so heavy as scarcely to be borne. I have spoken of the Civil Servants and of Ministers, but there is one other class of persons who deserve consideration—members of both Houses of Parliament, your Lordships here and members of the House of Commons. I do not allude for the moment to the preoccupations of country life, to the duties on the Bench, to the duties in connection with estates, and so on; but in the old days the interval in the autumn between the two sessions was a time when men, if they desired to do so, could travel; they could go abroad; they could visit America and the distant parts of the Empire; they could come back with first-hand knowledge of India—and all of these in my judgment are almost essential conditions to efficiency in public life. If you are always to shut down in July —I am perfectly convinced in my own mind it would be August—and always to meet again in November, it seems to me that except at the cost of neglecting their Parliamentary duties you altogether deny these opportunities to members of both Houses of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Newton quite fairly remarked that he had made his speech only with a view to ventilating this subject. It is not one upon which we can pronounce ex cathedra. It is one on which quite obviously your Lordships will vote exactly as you like. The noble Lord told us that on a previous occasion his Motion was carried, and that very likely it would be carried now. I have no knowledge on that. But listening to his speech I felt it only right that these considerations on the other side which occurred to me should be placed before your Lordships, and that in snatching at what seems to be an attractive proposal, if you are disposed to favour it, you ought to be quite certain that you do not lose more than you will win.
My Lords, it has certainly been for the convenience of the House to take the two Motions together, as it is quite possible to say a word upon each separately and without trenching on the ground of the other. With regard to the present session and to the further period of the session after the adjournment, I understood the noble Earl the Leader of the House to say that there are several Bills of importance, though not of the first importance, which would have to be taken during the next five or six weeks—the Unemployment Insurance Bill, the Overseas Trade Bill, the Gas Regulation Bill, and the Ministry of Mines Bill. I am not quite clear on one point with regard to the Ministry of Mines Bill. Does that Bill include the regulation for the acquirement by the State of mineral rights?
No; that is a separate matter altogether, and will be dealt with in a separate Bill.
The noble Earl did not mention that. It is a measure of extreme importance, quite as important as any domestic measure which can be mentioned, and perhaps he will tell us, if he says anything in reply, what his ideas are with regard to it. When we are told that the Agriculture Bill, which is sure to occupy a very long time in your Lordships' House, and the Irish Home Rule Bill are both to be taken between the period of our meeting in the autumn and Christmas—and I suppose it is desired to throw into that restricted period a measure of such great importance as the Mineral Rights Bill—I confess I do not see how it is possible that these measures can receive the consideration to which they are entitled. I do not think we can look forward very cheerfully to the prospect of our autumn work.Lord Newton was very candid, and I think quite correct, in explaining how impossible it is in most circumstances for a larger proportion of Government measures to be introduced here. In the time when the late Lord Salisbury was Leader of the House I often used to wonder why more Government measures did not appear here in the first instance. The noble Marquess had a large majority behind him, and it was quite certain that Government measures would be sent down to another place mainly in the shape in which they were introduced. When the Party to which I belong were in office the precise contrary was the case. It was quite certain that if we had introduced Government measures here they would have been sent down to the House of Commons often in a quite unrecognisable state. Perhaps the noble. Earl is more nearly in our position than in that of the late Lord Salisbury. It is very possible that if he were to introduce in this House some of the measures I have mentioned they would not go down to another place in anything like the form in which they were introduced. Therefore I can understand that he is not able to introduce some of those important measures here. I have mentioned the important Bills which have to be considered in the autumn, and I cannot pretend to be surprised that His Majesty's Government are not hurrying on with the Bill for the reform of your Lordships' House; and for this reason, it is quite certain that no reformed Second Chamber, however you constitute it, will stand the sort of treatment which your Lordships are obliged to submit to in the matter of having measures thrown at your heads towards the close of the session. We are made the "wash-pot" of another place, and we have to put up with any treatment which they choose to inflict upon us. And when the noble Earl who leads us complains of the unwillingness of your Lordships' House to sit after dinner, I think that can partly be accounted for by the fact that readiness to meet in the evening might be regarded by the Government as a sort of encouragement to crowd into the last few remaining days of the session even more measures than they attempt to put through at present; and I believe it is felt that, situated as we are and being given such a limited time for consideration, we are entitled to take that time at hours of the day when there can be a full attendance and when those who meet here are less exhausted than they would be if they had sat from 4 o'clock till towards midnight. Now, as regards the times of meeting. My noble friend Lord Newton was good enough to refer to a speech which I made in 1903 on this subject. I have not the faintest recollection of what I said, but he implied, I think, that on that occasion I opposed this Motion.
You voted against it.
I have not the least conception why, but I think it may have been for this reason, that I have always felt that it was necessary, if you were to secure an adjournment at anything like a fixed time, to have a fixed point to work to. The fixed point in the past was presumed to be the beginning of the general holidays, which were assumed to start in August. People spoke of August 12 as a date to be aimed at, and I have no doubt that to some extent it was. So far, perhaps, the noble Lord may have been correct in thinking that in the past sport—though I think shooting rather than hunting—was supposed to have an effect upon our holidays. But supposing you make the beginning of July your aim rather than the beginning of August, unless the national playtime can be made to begin somewhere about the same time you will find—and I think Lord Curzon rather takes the same view—that however much you may talk of the beginning of July you will drag on all through July and right into August, until sheer exhaustion compels you to disperse. For that reason I have always been afraid of this plan, captivating as it is to some extent, of which the noble Lord has spoken; and I would remind him of the curious fact that at any rate in one other country the tendency has been to continue town life and town amusements later into the summer than before. In my young days the summer season at Paris closed early in May. Now it goes on until this coming week may be taken to be the climax of the Paris season, and the tendency has been for people to stay longer and longer in Paris during the summer. I very much doubt if the noble Lord will find that it is possible to cause a general break-up of the London season after the Ascot festival, as he so much hopes.There was one proposal of the noble Lord's which I can conceive might be useful, although it is by no means an attractive one to any of us—namely, that there would be something to be said for our meeting for an autumn session a fortnight earlier than the House of Commons. It might be, although I do not quite see how it can be done, that we should secure an equivalent by longer adjournments during the course of the summer. It is, I think, certainly going to happen this autumn that we shall find ourselves with an impossible task during the six or seven weeks which I suppose is what the autumn session will comprise; that is to say, we shall be given the choice either of not giving enough days to these enormously important Bills, or we shall have to take their stages at such short intervals that no time can be given for intermediate consideration. For that reason I confess I should be prepared to favour that part of the noble Lord's suggestion. I am bound to say that I cannot share the hope which was expressed by the noble Earl who leads us, that we shall be able to drop the practice of having an autumn session. I wish it were so, but public business being what it is, and the people who have charge of it being what they are, I confess I see no prospect of a year when we shall adjourn in August and meet late in January. Perhaps Lord Newton was not entirely wrong when he thought that there might be some public alarm at the idea of leaving His Majesty's Government in sole control of affairs, with no possibility of our making representations anywhere, for a period of six months or so. However that may be, I cannot believe that we shall be able to do without autumn sessions. There is, of course, the proposal, the old proposal to which Lord Curzon alluded—not, I think, quite the same, as he supposed, as that of Lord Newton—that there should be quite a short meeting three or four weeks before Christmas, when the actual meeting of Parliament would take place, with all its ceremonies. The Address could be disposed of, and after the Christmas adjournment business might be tackled in January. I have never quite known why that proposal did not find more favour than it did, but I think, in addition to the reasons which the noble Earl gave against it, or perhaps it was one of the reasons, that people disliked the idea of perpetually committing themselves to meet in the winter and that the hope was entertained by many that it would be possible to revert to the ancient practice. As it is I very much doubt if anything more can be done than to do our best to adjourn in July with a view to an autumn session. I hope the noble Earl will be able to persuade his colleagues in the House of Commons to assist us in that adjournment, because I am quite certain that in the present temper of this House there will be no disposition to allow measures through without full discussion, and nothing would surprise me less, if an attempt were made to force a measure through on the alleged ground of public necessity, than to see this House taking its courage in both hands and rejecting that measure altogether.
My Lords, one thing strikes me alter hearing this debate, and it is that apparently the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition are in complete accord on one thing—namely, that the transaction of our affairs necessitates, whether we like it or not, autumn sessions. I am bound to say that I feel very much more in accord with the proposals of my noble friend Lord Newton than I do with the objections which the noble Earl who leads the House had to make against them. I certainly have no quarrel with the picture that the noble Earl drew of the sedulous zeal which noble Lords give to the business here, but the noble Earl took a line which I have always heard taken by Leaders in tins House who are responsible for affairs. They say, "On the whole we are perfectly well satisfied with the conduct of affairs as they are."I think the noble Earl made rather light of a point brought out by Lord Newton. It is generally admitted that towards the end of a session a great deal of legislation does come here, and is forced through the House, which—I do not want to put it too strongly—runs the risk of being "scamped." I think that was the word somebody employed. I can give your Lordships a concrete instance which may amuse the House for a moment. I remember when we were in office, and I was Whip. I had no official position, but I had acted as Whip for some years to the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government, and under the noble Marquess in this House, and under Lord Spencer and Lord Kimberley. The same complaints used to be made then from the Benches opposite, and if we had been sitting on those Benches we also should have made them against the Front Bench on tins side. On the particular occasion to which I refer an Irish Bill came up, and there was no one here to represent the Government. It turned out that there was great hostility to the Bill, or that it was very much favoured—I do not remember which. But I was suddenly told that I must take charge of the Bill. It concerned the establishment of a bridge over an Irish river to which an Irish community attached an enormous amount of importance. Mr. Cherry, who was then in an official position as the Law Officer of the Crown in Ireland, came up here and occasionally encouraged me by nod and waves of his hand, and I spoke as well as I could to the brief that I had been given. The noble Marquess opposite at once got up and said he protested altogether at the light and airy way in which these matters were treated. He said, "We have no information on this Bill. It has evidently been very badly prepared, and all sorts of interests hang upon it." I forget exactly what happened, but that is a good example of the way Bills are hustled through the House at the last moment with no one here to represent the views of the Government. I, as a Whip, with no sort of official position, was given a flimsy bit of paper which was the case for the Bill or the case against the Bill—I forget which—and I was told to make the best of it, with two or three Irish Members and Mr. Cherry saying. "No" and so on. That is an example of how—de minimis non curat lex. You can argue from small to great, and I do not think anybody who has been in the House of Lords so long as I have—over forty years —will deny that Bills are hurried through with undue haste at the end of the session. I understand Lord Newton's point to be that some of this haste at all events could be obviated, because Bills which have not been passed in the House of Commons in June would, if we adjourned in July, come to us in October, and there would not be the necessity for the driving process to which I have referred. I am not finding fault with anybody. Both Parties have to resort to it in the existing state of affairs. Some reference has been made to the Motion that Lord Newton brought forward a good many years ago on this subject. Unlike Lord Crewe, who spoke just now, I have refreshed my memory by reference to the OFFICIAL REPORT, but what I said then your Lordships will be relieved to hear I am not going to repeat now. What I think we can fairly admit is that Lord Newton's proposal is in accord with the change that has taken place in the habits and amusements of society. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon—I know he is fond of hunting and shooting—said it is a great mistake o think that anybody pays great attention to those things now. They may be found in a sporting novel, or on the film, but they do not represent the mind of England at all. In this connection I remember well a remark of Sir William Harcourt when Mr. Gladstone came into office—I think n 1886–with his Home Rule policy, when he lost nearly the whole of the very respectable Liberal minority that he had in this House and when the whole Party who had hitherto supported Mr. Gladstone more or less left him and followed Lord Hartington. Sir William Harcourt, when the new Government was formed; remarked, "The first thing about this Government is that we have not a man in top boots in it." That is all I shall say with reference to the hunting aspect of this matter. I have always thought that it is a very unimportant thing. The habits of society have changed in many ways. People like sports without apparatus. They prefer bridge, golf, and gardening. I think, however, that we all like being in London, I am quite in agreement with what Lord Curzon said about that. It is not irrevocable that we should be in London all the year, but on his matter I am rather in disagreement with Lord Newton, who is fond of the country. I believe we are indisposed now, as Pope wrote to Wycherley, "quickly and easily to resign ourselves to the gentle reign of dullness," which Pope declares to be the destiny or the choice of country folk and the characteristic of country life. London now always seems full; the country now always seems empty. Lord Newton gave some very good reasons why it is empty. We cannot go down to the country. Things have changed. In these circumstances I cannot see why, if we have nothing to do in the country, we should not be allowed to do something in London; and it is for that reason, and having regard to the change of habits which the last forty years have brought about, that I am inclined to favour Lord Newton's proposal. The noble Earl used the word "reconstruction." He seemed almost to delight in the number of Bills which both Houses would have to consider for the purposes of reconstruction and readjustment, and for establishing our feet more firmly on to the shifting sands in all directions which the war has created. My own idea is that the House will do well, should the Motion be carried to a Division, if, at all events as an expression of opinion, they again affirm the decision they came to in 1903 that this is at least a proposal worthy of consideration and acceptation.
My Lords, as we have mixed up this evening, and very properly for convenience sake, the two Questions of my noble friend Lord Balfour and my noble friend Lord Newton, I should like to say, as far as I am personally concerned in reference to the latter, that I could not vote for Lord Newton's Motion. Personally I am, and have long been, of opinion that if autumn sessions could be avoided it would be much better that they should be avoided, and in the main for the reasons which were given by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. The real thing is that Ministers should have some time to think, and your Lordships must be aware, as the country is aware, that at present they have very little time to think. Perhaps policy might work out a little bit more favourably if they had a little more time. You see the signs of haste and incomplete consideration in every department at the present time, and if it were possible to avoid autumn sessions it would be a good thing.I do not say for a moment that in the present year an autumn session can be avoided, or that, indeed, the country would be quite satisfied—as the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said just now —to leave the Government without Parliamentary check for so long as that would imply. I agree, as regards the present year. We are still more or less in the emergency period, and during the emergency period special circumstances must be accepted. But I should hesitate to place upon record the view of your Lordships' House that, as a permanent arrangement, there ought to be an autumn session. I do not think that is right. I think it is far wiser that in normal times—if there ever are to be normal times again, and I hope there may be—the Government of the day and the public officials should have a reasonable time in which to consider their policy. But the main reason for which I rose was to emphasise, as far as my limited powers permit, the request which was put forward by my noble friend Lord Balfour, and supported by the Leader of the Opposition. We have over and over again protested against the way in which business is done in the House. But we have always done it at the last moment. That was an inconvenient plan, because probably, when the moment arrived, the Government were so far committed that it was impossible for them to make any change. Nothing was left for us but to denounce the Government, and it did not do anybody any particular harm, and they apparently did not mind, and no good was done. Now we have taken a different plan. My noble, friend Lord Balfour has taken an early opportunity to state what he considers ought to be the action of your Lordships' House if you are once more put in the position of being asked to pass, without due consideration, Bills which are not urgent. Of course, there is a degree of urgency which none of us can resist. I mean that if it could, be shown that really serious results would happen by delay no doubt, being men of the world and men of common sense, your Lordships would not propose to stand upon any punctilio in applying your minds, even with the difficulties which all your Lordships have so often described, to passing measures through very rapidly. But, except in that very special case, we want it to be known that so far as we are concerned we cannot be parties to the kind of scamped legislation with which your Lordships have been so painfully familiar in past sessions. Your Lordships may think otherwise. We should, of course, accept your decision, but so far as we are concerned we could not be parties to it. I should like to urge upon your Lordships the importance of the matter. It is not merely what the noble Earl the Leader of the House has said, that we live in a period of great legislative change. He seemed to think that a defence for the present state of things. Of course, it is a two-edged argument. It is not a defence really for the present state of things but the reverse, because the fact that there is so much important legislation is not a reason for less consideration, but for more. This is not only a period of reconstruction, but a period in which a very special responsibility is thrown upon your Lordships' House. It does not become us to speak in this House critically of the proceedings in another place, but I think one may say quite respectfully that the pressure put upon members of the House of Commons is such that it is quite impossible that the legislation should be properly considered there. It is not merely that there is an enormous pressure of legislation which results in one set of Bills being considered upstairs, while at the same time Bills of great importance are being considered downstairs, so that it is really out of the question for Members of Parliament fully to fulfil their responsibility, seeing that they cannot be in two places at once. It is not merely that. It is that the reaction after the war, the mental and nervous fatigue, has so affected members of the House of Commons that, instead of being in the House itself when the debates are going on, the greater number, as I am informed, are always elsewhere. The result is that, although arguments are put before the House of Commons with all the customary skill of those who speak in that Chamber, yet nobody hears the arguments, and the Division bell rings, Members come in and vote, and there really is no proper and full consideration by the Members as a whole of the legislation which is submitted to them. Indeed, it is sometimes worse. I had occasion to remind your Lordships of the fact a few weeks ago that it sometimes happens that members of the House of Commons have no chance whatever of hearing the debate on the Bill. It is brought on very late indeed, it is all forced through in a single sitting, and then it comes up to your Lordships' House. The responsibility of a revising Chamber in those circumstances is very great, and the country expects much of us. The truth is that the country is being very badly treated at this moment. They do not get proper consideration for their laws in either House of Parliament. That is the absolute fact. That is what the country ought to know. That, I am afraid, is what the country does know, and the result is that there is a gradual loss of credit in our institutions in public opinion. That is what we are witnessing—a loss of confidence. The people no longer believe in Parliament as the proper remedy for grievances. You see it everywhere—those appeals to "Direct Action" and to extra-Parliamentary methods are all because they do not any longer believe in Parliament. That is why we think it of the greatest importance that something should be done to restore the confidence of the people in their institutions. That can be done only by the co-operation of His Majesty's Government. If they would set themselves to see that, if it is not possible in one House, at any rate in your Lordships' House there should be full opportunity of consideration, then the country might at least rely upon our humble efforts, so far as they can extend, to see that the legislation which is passed should be properly considered. I earnestly urge this upon the Government. I cannot say how much I deprecated, with great respect, one observation, and one observation only, in the whole speech of the noble Earl where he said he valued the pressure at the end of the summer months because it might enable the Government to pass Bills through your Lordships, House which otherwise we might take considerable time in considering. If I may say so respectfully, that is precisely the wrong spirit in which to approach the question. What we want is to have these things properly considered. No one can pretend that your Lordships' House obstructs. There is not the faintest tinge of that here. Take the Bill, for example, which we have just passed into law, a Bill which I entirely regret and disagree with.
Not passed into law.
I am obliged to my noble and learned friend; I mean passed by your Lordships' House. That was a pattern of proper consideration to an important measure. I differed, of course very respectfully, and no doubt I was wrong, with the decision at which your Lordships' arrived, but the Bill was admirably considered in all its stages. That is what would happen to all these great Government Bills if we had the chance, instead of discreditable things happening like those in connection with the Profiteering Bill, as your Lordships will remember, and over what was called the Insurance Bill, which we polished off in two days, and which entirely changed the whole treatment of tuberculosis in this country, without any consideration in either House of Parliament and without any member of either House knowing what was being done. I hope that the step which my noble friend Lord Balfour has taken in adopting this early opportunity of representing to the Government the feelings of your Lordships' House will enable us to rest assured that at the end of this part of the session we shall not have a repetition of that of which we have so often had reason to complain, and that, both now and in the autumn your Lordships' House will have time to consider and determine the measures laid before them.
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House a question with reference to one Bill that he did not mention. I do not know whether the list he gave was supposed to be the entire list of Bills to come up to this House in the autumn session, but there is one Bill which is held by the agricultural interest to be most unnecessary and objectionable as well as being exceedingly badly drafted. I refer to the Milk or Dairy Bill—I forget which is its proper name.
The Milk and Dairies Bill.
I am obliged to the noble Marquess. That measure was not mentioned, and we shall be only too glad to hear that it is going to be dropped.
My Lords, with regard to Lord Balfour's Question I desire to ask the noble Earl a question most particularly. He told us the course of business during this session and said that there were four, or, perhaps, five Bills to be got through by the end of July, and then we were to meet again in October. He can imagine the Bill about which I am thinking —the Home Rule Bill. Is that likely to be taken as the first important Bill in October? Because it would be a great help to those who have to come over here from Ireland in connection with that measure if they could have some intimation whether it is to take precedence and be dealt with early in the autumn session in October.
By the favour of your Lordships' House only can I reply to the two questions
|Birkenhead, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Balfour, L||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Bledisloe, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Northumberland, D.||Chalmers, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Craven, E.||Dynevor, L.||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Mayo, E.||Emmott, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Gainford, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Roden, E.||Hencage, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hylton, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Astor, V.||Killanin, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Birmingham, L. Bp.||Meston, L.||Weardale, L.|
which have been put to me. As regards the Home Rule Bill, all I stated in my previous observations was that it would not be brought here before August.
I am aware of that.
The noble Earl presses me to go a little beyond and to say whether or not it will be the first Bill when we meet (as he said) in October. I really could not give an assurance on that point. The matter has not vet been considered. Indeed, it is hardly necessary for us to make up our minds on the point four months in advance. But I agree that, from the point of view of convenience to noble Lords, as early notice as possible should be given to them in order that their own arrangements can be made in accordance. As regards the Milk and Dairies Bill, which my noble friend Lord Heneage appears to regard with so much disfavour, there is no chance of its being taken at this stage of the session, and, equally, there is no chance of its being dropped altogether.
All I wanted to know was whether the Home Rule Bill would be crammed out by other Bills and we should have to deal with it at the end of the autumn session.
I do not propose to make another speech, and I will ask your Lordships to divide at once upon my motion.
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents 26.
|Bath, M.||Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Glenconner, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Cave, V.||Lee of Fareham, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Pentland, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Armstrong, L.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Sandwich, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Strafford, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.
Elementary School Monitors
rose to ask the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Health whether, in face of Section 28 (1) (b) of the National Insurance Act, 1918, which specifically provides that the employment of a monitor in a public elementary school is included among the excepted employments specified in Part II. of the First Schedule to the National Insurance Act, 1911, the Ministry of Health is pressing local education authorities to insure such monitors in schools under their control, and if so, what is its statutory or other authority for so doing; and whether, if the Government deem such course desirable, they will consider the propriety of introducing into Parliament an amending Bill to this effect.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting this Question to the noble Lord who represents in this House the Ministry of Health, I may perhaps be allowed quite shortly to mention the circumstances in which it arises. Subsection (1) of Section (28) of the National Health Insurance Act, 1918, provides as follows—
"The following employments shall be taken to be included amongst the excepted employments specified in Part II of the First Schedule of the principal Act—"
That, I need hardly remind your Lordships, means that these are employments which require no national health insurance what ever—and in the list which follows there appears "employment as a pupil or student teacher, junior student, or monitor in a public elementary school." On June 29, 1918, the National Health Insurance Commissioners issued a circular letter in which they invited the attention of all local education authorities to this section, which came into force on July 1, 1918; pointed out that pupil teachers and student teachers—I may mention in passing that they make no reference to monitors—
would be excepted from the compulsory provisions of the Insurance Acts; and stated that local education authorities would not, therefore, be required thereafter to pay contributions in respect of any such persons employed by them.
On July 1 of the same year the Secretary of the Gloucestershire Education Committee wrote to the Commissioners pointing out that, in addition to pupil teachers and student teachers, it was provided by this section that employment as a junior student or monitor in a public elementary school was included among the specified excepted employments, and that, in the circumstances, the local education authority did not propose to pay contributions in respect of those persons on or after July 1 of that year. No reply whatever was sent to that letter. Of course, that may have been an oversight. The local education authority have not, in fact, stamped cards in respect of pupil teachers, student teachers or monitors.
Following on that, in the early part of this year, the District Inspector of the Ministry of Health Insurance Department called at the education office—as, indeed, I understand he has called at the education offices in several different counties—and stated that he had been informed that the local education authority were not stamping contribution cards in respect of the monitors employed in their school, and that, in the opinion of the Ministry, they were failing to carry out the requirements of the National Health Insurance Acts— rather a startling proposition in view of the fact that monitors were specifically excepted from insurance in the Act to which I have referred. He went on to explain that the Ministry regarded the word "monitor" in that section as applying only to young persons so employed in Ireland. Why, it is hard to say, because there is no specific reference to Ireland, in that connection at any rate, in that section. He was, of course, reminded that the section did not make any such limitation. He was also informed that if the Insurance Commissioners or the Ministry of Health really held that view they would naturally have stated it in writing upon receipt of the letter from the education authority in July, 1918.
Since then correspondence has passed between the Gloucestershire Education Authority and the Ministry of Health in which the only contention put forward by the Ministry of Health that would appear to have any sort of force is to the effect that a monitor is not a person who is recognised in any way under the Code of the Board of Education. If I may say so, that is a rather strange contention in view of the fact that the Act actually refers to monitors (assuming that they are recognised persons) and says that they are not to be insured for the purposes of national health insurance. I do not want to go into further detail in connection with this matter, except to say that the Gloucestershire Education Authority have taken the trouble to find out how many education authorities throughout the country are, in fact, acting according to the strict provisions of the Act of 1918, and how many are acting in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health which appear to run counter to the Act. They find that there are sixteen authorities which are complying with the section and are not insuring their monitors, and there are sixteen which, under compulsion or pressure from the inspector of the Ministry of Health, are insuring those persons. What the Gloucestershire Education Authority submit is, that if it is desirable that monitors should be insured—and in our opinion they should be—it is equally desirable that exception should not be made in the case of other young people such as pupil teachers and student teachers who are not in any way protected in respect of illness or disablement. There is no logical ground of distinction between these three classes of juvenile apprentices in our elementary schools.
The School Teachers Superannuation Act of 1918 does not provide any benefits in the case of illness, and therefore the contention of the inspector of the Ministry of Health that the Legislature had made other suitable provision for pupil teachers appears to be wholly unfounded. The local education authority feel that when an Act of Parliament has expressly excepted certain classes of persons from its compulsory provisions it is not proper for a Government Department to endeavour to bring such classes under the provisions of the Act and give instructions with that object in view to their officials.
I have no doubt that the noble Lord will be able to give a more or less satisfactory answer, but I would suggest that whatever the answer may be the law is not clear on the point, and it is most desirable, in the interests of the monitors as well as other young persons employed in our schools, that the Act of 1918 should be amended so as to bring the whole of them specifically within the range of mational health insurance.
My Lords, I have nothing to complain of as to the way in which the noble Lord has dealt with this question. He has explained so lucidly the provisions of the 1918 Act that I need not go over that ground again. There is undoubtedly a slight difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the Act as now drafted, and I am sure that when the time comes for the amendment of the Insurance Act this particular point will be cleared up. As the noble Lord explained, teachers and pupil teachers are excluded from insurance. There are a certain number of young persons in England, Scotland, and Ireland who are qualifying to become certificated teachers. In England they are called pupil or student teachers—they are prospective teachers. In Scotland they are called junior students, and in Ireland monitors. The circular which the noble Lord read neither mentions "monitors" nor "junior students"; in fact, it merely dealt with prospective teachers under the designation which we use for them in England. It did not refer to the words in the Act, namely, monitors, which is used in Ireland, and junior students, which is the designation used in Scotland.I am aware that in England there are a certain number of young girls in schools who are called monitors. I am told that in a large number of cases these girls are not prospective teachers, they do not propose to become teachers, and are not counted as part of the teaching staff. It is unfortunate that they should be called monitors, which means something definite. A large number of local authorities have insured these young persons, monitors so-called, realising that they are not prospective teachers, that they are not pupil or student teachers as defined by the Act, but realising also that, unless they are insured, when they leave school and become insured persons they will be at a disadvantage because they will have to go through a waiting period and get reduced benefits. There is no question of the Ministry attempting to compel local authorities to insure these young persons, but we hope that in the interests of these young persons all local authorities will be willing to do so. That is the position. There is no intention, owing to the ambiguity of the Act, to try and apply any compulsion. It is quite possible that in a letter an individual may have put forward his views rather too emphatically. We earnestly hope for the sake of these young persons that local authorities will consent to insure them, although we do not propose to compel them to do so.
As the noble Viscount, on behalf of his Department, has admitted that there is a serious ambiguity in the Act of Parliament, I hope that an early opportunity—perhaps by a one-clause Bill—will be taken to remove that ambiguity.
Seeds Bill Hl
Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a .—( Lord Lee of Fareham.)
On Question, Bill read 3a .
Delivery of particulars on sale of seeds and seed potatoes.
1.—(1) Every person who sells any seeds to which this Act applies or any seed potatoes, shall on or before the sale, or if the goods are not delivered at the time of sale on or before delivery thereof, deliver to the purchaser a statement in writing containing the prescribed particulars with respect, in the case of seeds, to their variety, purity and germination, and, in the case of seed potatoes, to their class, variety, size and dressing, and, in either case, to any other prescribed matters.
(2) Every person who exposes for sale any seeds to which this Act applies, or any seed potatoes, shall cause to be displayed conspicuously on or in close proximity to the seeds or potatoes, as the case may be, a statement in writing containing such particulars as are required to be contained in the statement to be delivered under this section to a purchaser.
(3) The statement required to be delivered under this section to a purchaser shall be con- tained in a sale note or invoice or be attached to. inserted in, or written on, the package containing the seeds, or seed potatoes, as the case may be.
(4) For the purposes of this section a statement in writing referring specifically to a printed price list or printed catalogue containing the prescribed particulars shall be deemed to contain those particulars.
(5) The particulars to be contained in a statement to be delivered under this section to a purchaser of seeds shall, so far as they are particulars relating to the purity and germination of the seeds, be particulars ascertained on a test of those seeds made in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
(6) Every statement relating to seeds which is delivered or displayed under this section must specify that the seeds have been tested in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
moved, at the end of Clause 1, to insert the following new subsection—
The noble Lord said: There are three Amendments on the Paper in my name but really they are all on one point, and it would perhaps be for the convenience of your Lordships if I make my remarks, which are of a general character, cover the three Amendments. During the previous stage of the measure it was pointed out that subsection (2) of Clause 5, as originally drafted and indeed as it was amended in the Committee stage, was extremely wide in its terms and that it was not of a character which fully met the criticisms made in your Lordships' House. In the interval I have had time with my advisers to consider the very cogent representations that were put forward by Lord Bledisloe and Lord Strachie, and as a result I have put forward Amendments which I hope will meet to the full the case they advanced. I do not know that it is necessary for me to say more with regard to them—their effect is obvious—unless my noble friends desire to ask any question on them.".The Minister may by licence granted subject to and in accordance with regulations made under this Act exempt any person as respects any sale or any exposure for sale of seeds or seed potatoes from compliance with the requirements of this section, and any such exemption may be granted either absolutely or subject to compliance with any conditions specified in the licence."
Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)
I appreciate to the full the generous recognition which the noble Lord has given to our protests with regard to Clause 5 (2). In my judgment the Amendments which he has placed on the Paper meet all the objections put forward on the previous stage of the Bill.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
5.—(1) This Act shall not apply—
(2 Where, in the opinion of the Minister, it is necessary in the interests of food production temporarily to relax any of the provisions of this Act, provision may be made by regulations for exempting any person from the operation of this Act or of any particular provision thereof, either generally or in respect of any particular transaction, and either absolutely or subject to compliance with such conditions as may be specified in the regulations.
moved to delete subsection (2).
Clause 5, page 4, lines 32 to 39, leave out subsection (2).—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
7.—(1) The Minister may, after consultation with representatives of the interests concerned (and as respects forest tree seeds after consultation also with the Forestry Commissioners), make regulations generally for the purpose of carrying this Act into effect and in particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions for prescribing—
(2) Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament forthwith, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent thirty days on which that House has sat next after any such regulation is laid before it praying that the regulation may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.
moved, at the beginning of subsection (2), to leave out "section" and insert "Act."
Clause 7, page 5, line 29, leave out ("section") and insert ("Act").—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
An Amendment (privilege) agreed to.
Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.
Public Museum Guide Books, Etc
My Lords, I rise to move for a Return on Public Museums, etc., for the period from January 1, 1919, to December 31, 1919, similar in nearly all respects to the Return issued by Order of the House before the war—on May 20, 1914—but to show also for each Museum, etc., the number and value sold each year of guide books, catalogues, pictorial postcards, and photo-reproductions.
Moved, That the said Return be laid before the House.—( Lord Sudeley.)
I am happy to tell the noble Lord that a Return in the form requested will be granted with pleasure by the Government.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Imperial War Museum Bill
Read 3a , and passed.
House adjourned at twenty minutes past six o'clock.