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Business Of The House

Volume 40: debated on Thursday 1 July 1920

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Increase Of Rent And Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Bill

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn until tomorrow at 12 o'clock noon.

Moved, That the House do adjourn till to-morrow at 12 o'clock.—( Lord Hylton.)

I desire to call your Lordships' attention to the state of the ease. I understood last night that when the Government induced your Lordships to agree to suspend the Standing Order so as to pass the Third Reading of the Rent Restriction Bill what they were anxious to avoid was what they called a hiatus. The second Act of 1919 expires to-day; therefore there is going to be a hiatus. If I am right, apparently your Lordships were induced to agree to the suspension of the Standing Order upon a ground which has turned out to be fictitious. If there is going to be a hiatus until July 2, why should not the hiatus have been one, or two, or three days longer? After a very friendly discussion in which we had supported the Government right through, we made only one request which was really antagonistic to the view of the Government, and they treated with indifference our protest, and the Government induced your Lordships to do it on what turns out to be an incorrect ground.

It does not rest there. There is going to be a hiatus. Last night an opportunity was offered of putting in words which would have prevented the hiatus from having any possible evil consequences. I do not dwell upon this point too much, because I never believed that there were any evil consequences, but, at any rate, the Government have put it out of their power to introduce any such clause because, the matter not having been dealt with in either House of Parliament, it is now beyond remedy. Of course, this treatment was done by inadvertence. I do not imagine that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, for whom I have a great regard, did these things on purpose, but, having induced your Lordships to adopt this extremely silly position, the Government now suggest that we should meet at 12 o'clock to-morrow. Very few of your. Lordships will be here. I do not think that is treating your Lordships fairly.

I do not know what the House of Commons will do with the Amendments; they may agree to them, or they may differ from them. There ought to be some opportunity for us to consider them. Supposing they do not agree, then there will be no real opportunity. If you meet at 12 o'clock to-morrow there will be nobody here who is capable of expressing in any true sense the real verdict of your Lordships' House. I suggest that the Government, having made a mistake, should place themselves frankly in the hands of the House, and allow us to meet on Monday in order to consider whatever action the House of Commons should see fit in their wisdom to take in reference to the Lords Amendments. I make that suggestion to His Majesty's Government.

My Lords, I did not know that the noble Marquess was going to raise this point, or I should have fortified myself more fully than I have been able to do in order to deal with it. I understand that his main objection to the course which has been recommended—namely, that your Lordships should meet to-morrow at 12—is that there is already in fact a hiatus, and therefore there is no substantial difference between a hiatus of one day and a hiatus of two or three days. I understand that there is not, in fact, a hiatus, and there will not be one if you meet to-morrow and the Bill is passed through its final stage. That is to say, the Act of 1919, which lapses on July 1, in fact lapses at midnight to-night. I understand that there are various Acts which end on December 31. Now it is obvious that those Acts terminate at the end of the thirty-first day of December and not at the opening hours; and it is because of this I say on the advice of the legal authorities I have consulted, that July I does not in fact mean this morning.

Yes. Then the question arises as to whether there will be a hiatus if the Royal Assent is received to-morrow. I understand that there will not he one, as the Royal Assent dates from the beginning of the day on which it is granted. That is to say, the Act of 1919, which lapses at midnight to-night, will be met by the Royal Assent which comes into operation as soon as to-morrow begins if we get the Royal Assent tomorrow. Therefore, in fact, there will not be a hiatus. I am sorry I have not been able to quote the precedents about December 31, but I understand they exist. That being the case, I submit to your Lordships that the main reason which induced the noble Marquess to ask us not to meet to-morrow no longer exists.

As regards the attendance to-morrow, and as regards the possibility of Amendments coming from another place, I understand that your Lordships have been notified and that ample warning has been given that this House would probably have to sit to-morrow, or that, anyway, the Government hoped to take all the stages of this Bill this week. Notice of that was given ten days or two weeks ago. It was suggested at one moment that the final stage should be taken to-day. It was always understood that, if possible, we should get the Royal Assent this week. I wish very respectfully to suggest that we should take the final stage to-morrow. I do not want to exaggerate the difficulties which will arise if there is a hiatus, but undoubtedly there may be real hardships in a certain number of cases. I made that point, yesterday, and therefore will not repeat it now; but I sincerely trust that you will consent to meet to-morrow in order to deal with the final stage of this Bill.

His Majesty's Government treat this House in a way which they would not dare for a moment to treat the House of Commons. They make proposals here which they would not dare to make to the majority, or even to the minority, in the House of Commons. I congratulate the Lower House on the extraordinary ingenuity with which they have enabled my noble friend to explain that a hiatus is not a hiatus.

But that is not the main ground on which my noble friend objected to the Motion to take this matter to-morrow. He pointed out that the case has not turned out as the Government said it would turn out; and yesterday the House was led to suppose that undoubtedly, if they acceded to the wish of the Government to suspend the Standing Order, this business would be taken to-day. Our main objection is that if this Bill is taken to-morrow there is no opportunity, notice or no notice, for dealing with any Amendments which the House of Commons may make to any Amendments made in this place. As the Government had planned this matter—although I think their haste was indecent and unjustified—the Bill could have been considered to-day. If the House of Commons had taken the Amendments last night or the first Order to-day this House. could have dealt with them to-day. It is entirely the fault of the. way the matter has been managed that you are put in this position. I hope my noble friend will persist in his resistance.

I should like to say that it was certainly not any act of discourtesy on our part to make this proposal, and I do not think that the harsh terms used by Lord Selborne are justified.

The House of Commons at least has to work very hard at the instance of the Government. They sat up one morning until four o'clock in order to meet our convenience to get the Bill at the earliest possible moment; and when we are blamed that these Amendments did not reach us at an earlier stage, I think it is only necessary for me to remind Lord Selborne that this is Thursday, which is allotted to Committee of Supply, and that that Order, according to the Rules of the House of Commons, if it is to he a counting day, has to be the first Order of the Day. The House of Commons will sit to-night in order to deal with the Lords Amendments. Therefore, as far as the House of Commons is concerned and the attitude of the Government there, they are not to be blamed for causing this delay.

That the delay exists I greatly regret—I have often expressed my regret at it—and I think all noble Lords believe it would be better in a hundred ways if these Bills could reach us at an earlier date. But I think the main ground of Lord Salisbury's observations has been met by what Lord Astor said. It is desirable, even at inconvenience to ourselves, to avoid a hiatus; and by the House of Commons taking the Amendments to-night at 11 o'clock—they will sit two or three hours if necessary—and by our taking the measure as it reaches us from the House of Commons to-morrow at 12 o'clock, we shall avoid a hiatus which will, at any rate, he of enormous comfort and convenience to many people concerned with this Bill. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will consent to meet at mid-day to-morrow.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at ten minutes before eight o'clock, until tomorrow, twelve o'clock.