THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I ask the Lord President whether he is able to tell us anything regarding the course of business during the next week, and in particular with regard to the Education Bill, which we have just read a first time.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, in reply to the noble Marquess, I think that I had better extend my vision over a rather wider range than the next week, to which the noble Marquess suggested that I should confine my attention. Your Lordships really want to know what is the course of business that is proposed up to the time of the adjournment. It is contemplated that Parliament should rise for the Recess if possible on August 8, and your Lordships will desire to know what is the bill of fare that His Majesty's Government propose to place before you in the interim.
The most important measure that will come under your notice is the Education Bill, to which you have just given a First Reading. That Bill will be circulated and be in your Lordships' hands, I hope, tomorrow. I trust, therefore, that we may be able to pass it through all its stages in this House before we rise on or about August 8. I think that there should be ample time to do so, and the arrangements that I would suggest to your Lordships are the following. The Bill being in your Lordships' hands to-morrow, I hope that you will be willing to take the Second Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, July 23 and 24. I hope that two days will suffice for the Second Reading, and if necessary, of course, we could sit after dinner on both days. Then I propose to put the Committee stage down for a week later—Wednesday, July 31, and Thursday, August 1; extending that period if it be necessary for your Lordships' convenience. If we succeed in passing those stages of the Bill by that date, I think there ought to be no difficulty in securing the remaining stages before we adjourn.
I do not think that I need say much, or indeed anything at all, about the Education Bill now, except this—that I hope your Lordships will be willing to treat it as I think it has been treated in another place, and as we may fairly claim to have it treated here—namely, as a non-con- 924 troversial measure. It is quite true that there may be differences of opinion about particular provisions of the Bill, but it is a Bill about the general principles and scheme of which there is almost universal agreement; and I believe that the friends of the Bill, of whom there are many in your Lordships' House on both sides, will themselves be most anxious not merely that it should receive full consideration at your hands, but that it should be passed into law with as little delay as possible. Of course, it is true that a measure of that sort could be postponed to a later date. But the risks of the future are not inconsiderable, and I think there will be a general feeling that if, with due regard to your Lordships' wish to discuss this Bill very thoroughly, we can succeed in passing it through all its stages and enable it to be placed on the Statute Book before we rise in August, it will be very much to the public advantage.
As for the other Bills coming from another place to which we shall ask your Lordships' attention, there are two or three of some importance. The first of these is the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Bill. This is a Bill giving wider powers for the revocation of certificates of naturalisation. The Bill was approved in principle at the Imperial Conference of 1917. A draft Bill was then drawn up and circulated to the self-governing Dominions and to India, and it has now been introduced into Parliament, having been approved by them. The Bill has passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons, and it remains to go through its final stages there. The next Bill is the Statutory Undertakings (Temporary Increase of Charges) Bill. This Bill has been framed to give effect to the recommendations made by the Select Committees of the House of Commons which have recently reported on the case of gas and tramway undertakings whose financial position has been adversely affected by circumstances arising out of the war. This Bill has also obtained its Second Reading in another place. Thirdly, there is the Trade Boards Bill, a Bill to enable the Minister of Labour to bring a new trade under the Trade Boards Act, 1909, by means of a special Order instead of by means of a Provisional Order. There are, further, three Money Bills, entitled respectively the War Loan Bill, the War Obligations Bill, the Public Works Loans Bill—the last an annual measure—none of which, I think, can occupy your Lordships very long.
925 It is possible that in order to deal adequately with this programme we may have to ask your Lordships to sit sometimes after dinner—for instance, in the Committee stage of the Education Bill, following the example which we set in the Committee stage of the Representation of the People Bill and of the Corn Production Bill last year; and it is also not unlikely that in order to discharge this duty I may ask your Lordships to meet sometimes on Monday and Friday. That is all that is at present contemplated; but it is possible that other legislation may reach us from another place; it depends upon the progress of business there, as to which I can say nothing. Your Lordships may rely upon me, if any such event occurs, to give you due warning as to the intentions or hopes of His Majesty's Government in the matter. I trust that this brief explanation will enable your Lordships to understand the programme that we respectfully place before you, and that the arrangements which I have suggested will be suitable to your Lordships' convenience.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I rise to ask my noble friend one question on a subject which he has not touched upon. I think your Lordships will see that the programme sketched by the noble Earl is a pretty considerable one to be filled out in three weeks, and I am sure that many members on this side of the House will wish to guard themselves against accepting complete responsibility for carrying the Education Bill through all its stages before we adjourn. I think it must be left open until the debate on the Second Reading to see whether it is possible that the very important questions which may have to be discussed can be dealt with in the following week in Committee, or whether it is really feasible to get rid of the Bill in the short space of time which will then be left to us. I only wish to put in a caveat on that point. I am sure your Lordships will desire to discuss so urgent a Bill as the Aliens Bill before rising, and the necessary money measures, of course. It is a very considerable demand to make to ask that all these Bills, some of which have been for many months before the House of Commons, should be dealt with here as usual in a very short space of time.
I should also like to ask the noble Earl whether he proposes in any form to invite the House to discuss the Indian proposals 926 of Mr. Montagu before we adjourn. I think it is important that we should know what the intention of the Government is in that respect.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I have not had the opportunity of consulting either the Secretary of State for India or my noble friend Lord Islington, and therefore I hesitate to give a definite reply. So far as I know, it is not in contemplation on the part of the Government to seek a discussion now. The proposals have, as your Lordships know, been printed and circulated, and an expression of public opinion, both from responsible quarters in India and also from this country, is sought. No doubt a time will arrive when your Lordships will think it part of your duty to have a discussion upon the matter. Whether or not you will wish to do so before the adjournment does not rest with me to say. Other noble Lords will decide as they think best. I should not have thought that there was any great urgency in having a discussion at this moment. I should have been inclined to say that on the whole it would be better to wait to see the reception which these proposals meet with, both in this country and in India, before noble Lords commit themselves to any final expression of opinion.