HL Deb 01 March 1916 vol 21 cc248-50

Your Lordships will observe a Motion on the Paper for the suspension of Standing Order No. XXXIX for to-day. It is moved in respect of the Consolidated Fund (No. 1) Bill and the Naval Prize (Procedure) Bill, both of which have to receive the Royal Assent to-morrow. It seemed to us that it might be more convenient, should it be desired to raise any discussion upon the Naval Prize Bill, to take the Second Reading to-day and the remaining stages to-morrow which would give an opportunity to noble Lords, either to-day or to-morrow, to express their views.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be suspended for this day's sitting.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)


Before your Lordships agree to this Motion I should like to put a question to the noble Marquess. I quite understand why the Consolidated Fund Bill must receive the Royal Assent to-morrow. But what is the urgency in the case of the Naval Prize (Procedure) Bill?


My Lords, legally and technically it is not absolutely necessary that the Naval Prize (Procedure) Bill should receive the Royal Assent tomorrow, but it would be of great convenience if that were possible. The Bill has passed through all its stages in the other House, and I hope your Lordships will facilitate its passage so that it may be placed on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.


My Lords, we do not desire in any way to impede the passage of these Bills, but we do feel, as we felt all through last session, that every Bill is now given the character of being extremely urgent. If we could get an assurance from His Majesty's Government that we shall not be constantly exposed to a repetition of this practice, it would give us great satisfaction. I have come across instances of measures of great importance passed during last session in which most serious mistakes were made solely because your Lordships had not proper time in which to consider those Bills. Changes were hastily accepted in the course of a few hours, and now, not only on the part of members of this House but on the part also of His Majesty's Government I under- stand, there is considerable misgiving as to the changes which were made or were not made at the last moment owing to the great haste in which the Bills were passed through this House. I hope that what occurred last session is not going to be a precedent for this session.


My Lords, I cannot help thinking that this is a novel proceeding at this period of the session. At the end of a session, when time is very important, the Standing Order has been frequently suspended, but not at the beginning of a session. This is an important matter of principle: and although I would not go to the length of attempting to resist what His Majesty's Government have stated is an important matter to be done at once, I must enter my protest.


My Lords, I can quite understand the feelings which have prompted noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite to say what they have. As the noble Duke behind me clearly stated, the Naval Prize (Procedure) Bill is not one winch the Government would think it right to press your Lordships to take through all its stages to-day and tomorrow on the ground of the national necessity of its receiving the Royal Assent to-morrow. Therefore if the House were to continue to press us in the sense in which noble Lords opposite have, we should be obliged to ask your Lordships to take the responsibility of putting the Admiralty to the inconvenience which my noble friend has mentioned. The Consolidated Fund Bill, as your Lordships are aware, is another matter. It contains technical points which have to be dealt with at a particular time. I may, however, remind your Lordships that the matter of Naval prize is one with which the Admiralty are anxious to proceed with as much speed as possible, because it has been a subject for some time of unfavourable comment from various quarters that the regularising of Prize Court proceedings in every respect has not been achieved by this time. Therefore I am inclined to think that my noble friend will feel that when the Admiralty are in a position to act immediately in one matter it is somewhat hard upon them that their efforts should meet with so cold a reception.


Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say—and I believe on this occasion I speak for noble Lords who sit behind me—that we do not desire to be inconvenient in any way, and we shall not ask the Government to postpone the Bill on the present occasion. But we do honestly think that when a Bill is not urgent your Lordships' procedure ought to be carried out in its entirety, and the various stages of a Bill taken on the several days appointed for them.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.