§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the First Commissioner of Works a question as to business. There was sonic doubt at the adjournment yesterday as to what day would be fixed for the Committee stage of the Railways Bill which we shall probably read a second time this afternoon. I have not been able to get in touch with many of those upon whom I greatly rely, but I think that Monday will be unduly soon for the Committee stage. I do not desire for a moment to stand in the way of the convenience of noble Lords, if it is the general opinion that Monday is a convenient date, but I would remind the noble Earl that the Leader of the House, when we were discussing business on the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition, entered into what I think was an engagement—certainly an assurance—that there would be the fullest time granted for the discussion of the Railways Bill. That was one of his points, and I do not think anything in the nature of an undue hurrying of the Bill—a great deal, of course, depends upon the adjective—would be reasonable or right, having regard to the previous history of this question. I speak merely in the interests of your Lordships. I do not pretend to know the Bill, though, of course, I have read it, but I see Lord Emmott in his place and his advice as to whether the Committee stage should be taken on Monday or at a later date will be very valuable.
THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I should also have to call upon noble Lords opposite to justify the possibility of taking the Committee stage on Monday if the noble Marquess is going to call upon Lord Emmott to support him. However, I think I can meet him. As regards to-morrow, we propose to take the Committee stage of the Licensing Bill and the final stage of the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Bill. I suggest that the House should meet at 2 o'clock tomorrow. It was proposed that your Lordships should meet at twelve, but in that case there must be an adjournment for luncheon and perhaps it would be as expeditious to meet at 2 o'clock. I propose, subject to the approval of your Lordships, to move the adjournment to-day until 2 o'clock to-morrow.
451 It will be necessary, although I regret it, for the Leader of the House, or myself acting on his behalf, on Monday next to move the suspension of Standing Orders with regard to taking more than one stage of a Bill at a given sitting, and giving Government Bills precedence. I hope that that proposal will not be treated as though it were tyrannical on the part of the Government. As to the general outline of business next week, it is extremely difficult to lay down hard and fast lines which will meet the views of all your Lordships. I certainly am strongly pressed by influential Peers to take the Committee stage of the Railways Bill on Monday. One desires to defer to those who wish for a postponement of this Bill rather than to those who desire a prompt and expeditious dealing with the measure. If your Lordships will agree we will put down the Committee stage for Tuesday next, August 16, and take the remaining stages of the Bill, if possible., on Wednesday, the 17th. That would give no interval between the Committee and Report stages. Our proposal, originally, was to take the Committee stage on Monday and the final stages on Wednesday, so as to give ample time for another place to deal with any Amendments that are made here. However, that is our proposal, and if it meets with the general wish of your Lordships' House we will postpone the Committee stage from Monday until Tuesday and take the final stages on the day originally proposed—namely, Wednesday, the 17th.
The Safeguarding of Industries Bill should receive its Third Reading in the House of Commons to-morrow, and I should like, if the Committee stage of the Railways Bill is postponed from Monday to Tuesday, to take the Second Reading of that Bill on Monday next. Another measure with which many of your Lordships are concerned, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, has actually reached us, and is down, I am informed, on the Order Paper for Monday. I believe the House, as a whole, will desire that this Bill should be dealt with as soon as possible. That would mean rather a heavy day for Monday—the Safeguarding of Industries Bill and the Commons Amendments to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which are important. Beyond that I cannot go. The only other important subject on the Paper is the Motion standing in the name of Lord Salisbury for Friday, August 19. Perhaps further informal conversations will be 452 required, but I press on your Lordships the desirability of taking the Safeguarding of Industries Bill on Monday, on the assumption that we conform to the wishes expressed—namely, that the Committee stage of the Railways Bill should be postponed until Tuesday.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not want to take up the time of your Lordships, especially as the Leader of the Opposition is now in his place, but perhaps you will allow me to recite the situation as regards the Railways Bill. This Bill was urged upon us by the Government, and we were told that it was essential that it should be passed before the adjournment, although many of us were reluctant to take that course. We asked certain noble colleagues of ours, sitting in all parts of your Lordships' House, to meet the experts of the Government, and they were convinced that it was necessary that this Bill should be passed before the holidays. But it was agreed on all hands that the House had shown, if I may say so, great self-restraint in not vindicating its power of postponing the Bill. Having regard to the public interests, we all thought it was our duty to give way. Then came the debate upon the Motion of my noble friend, the Leader of the Opposition, who is now in his place. Your Lordships decided that there was no reason why all the business which has to be transacted in the present session should not be transacted before the adjournment. We took a different view, and urged it very strongly upon your Lordships, but we accept, of course, the decision of the House. We were overborne by the majority of your Lordships.
In the course of the debate, however, the Leader of the House explained to us in detail that we had no grievance, that there was plenty of time in which to discuss everything properly, and that, so far as the Railways Bill itself was concerned, your Lordships should have full opportunity for discussion. I have not his words, and, if I have misquoted him, I apologise; but though I have not had the opportunity of furnishing myself with the exact words he used, that, I think, was their effect. I should like the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, and all your Lordships to realise how that assurance is going to be implemented. The Second Reading is going to be taken the day after the Bill reaches your Lordships' House. To this we made no objection. The Com- 453 mittee stage is to be taken on almost the very next possible Parliamentary day—namely, on Monday. If, as a great concession, the Government give way on Monday and defer the Committee stage until Tuesday, then this enormously important Bill, involving all sorts of interests of His Majesty's subjects, with every conceivable difficulty—of detail, not of principle—is to be hurried through on the very next day, August 17. This Bill was months in the Commons; it was discussed at great length by a Standing Committee—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
By two Standing Committees. I must say that if the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, required a justification for his Motion, which was unfortunately unsuccessful, he is abundantly avenged by the account which the noble Earl gives of how business is to be transacted in the ensuing days of the session. As I have said, we were in a minority, and it is no business of ours to do more than enter a respectful protest. But as to the revising power of your Lordships' House, it is gone.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am sorry that I was not in my place in the to hear the noble Earl opposite make he whole of his statement, but I have been able to gather the purport of that statement from what has fallen from the noble Marquess behind me. I cannot help thinking that His Majesty's Government are trying to have it both ways. When I made the suggestion that it would )e wiser, while dealing fully with the Railways Bill at present, to defer until later in the autumn consideration of the other important measures before your Lordships' House, I understood that the choice was this—that either we should teal with the Railways Bill, and then be able to rise at a date convenient both to ourselves and to another place; or, if my Motion were defeated, that we should give full consideration both to the Rail-rays Bill and to the other measures, with he probability of sitting well into the month of September. Now, apparently, he theory of His Majesty's Government 3 that it is possible to do what we on this side considered as possible only if there were a postponement of important measures until the autumn session, and at the same time to do without an autumn session.
454 That, surely, is not a reasonable course for the Government to ask the House to take. It seems that we are invited to run these measures through without anything that can be called adequate discussions. We are pressed to abdicate our functions of revision. Our functions of rejection, as we know, are limited, and that is a terrific grievance with the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and, I suppose, with the noble Earl opposite. But why that impediment to our full freedom of action should be accompanied by a rigid curtailment of our powers of discussion, revision and debate, will be found, I think, to pass the comprehension of everybody. I am bound to say that we on this side shall do what we can to get these measures fully discussed, and, if it involves the inconvenience of sitting for a day or two more than His Majesty's Government hope, or than the House of Commons would think convenient, I am afraid that that inconvenience must be submitted to as a consequence of the strong action which His Majesty's Government took the other day.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
With your Lordships' permission, I should like to say one word, and one word only. The noble Marquess missed only two moments of what I had to say, but during those two moments I pointed out a feature which he must not ignore, and that is, that I am strongly pressed by noble Lords sitting on both sides of your Lordships' House, by noble Lords of influence, to take this Bill very early. In consenting, therefore, as I now do, to postponing the Committee stage until Tuesday, I know that I am doing what well qualified Peers desire me not to do. But I must ask your Lordships at least to begin, if you do not consent to conclude, the Second Reading of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill on Monday. I cannot force your Lordships to come to a decision, but I must beg your Lordships to be so good as at least to begin the Second Reading of that Bill on that day. If, as Lord Crewe says, it is found that the measures are of such importance as to preclude their being properly discussed by your Lordships, of course the remedy lies in your Lordships' hands, and the timetable will have to be protracted.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I be permitted to say one other word upon a different point? The noble Earl was 455 good enough to mention the Motion which stands in my name for Friday of next week. The announcement which has been made from the Woolsack may, of course, make a very great difference, but in any case I suppose I may rely upon the Government not to interfere with that debate, having regard to what has passed? On Monday a Motion will be moved by the Government, a very reasonable Motion, to take the whole time of the House, which will have the effect of killing my debate on Friday, unless the Government make an exception, as I think they ought to do, having regard to the importance of the subject—unless, of course, new developments render it unnecessary.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I will give an undertaking that nothing shall be put in front of Lord Salisbury's Motion except such business as may be mutually agreed upon.