§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
My Lords, I regret that my noble friend Lord Strabolgi disapproved of the course which I followed last Thursday, when. I formally moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I think I owe it not only to him but to your Lordships' House to explain, as I can do in a few sentences, the reasons why I adopted that course. In the first place, I thought it unfitting that one should, so to speak, spatchcock a discussion of a highly technical character on a Scottish legal measure between formal business and the Secret Session which was just about to open. Moreover, I was aware that the chief pressure, the driving force behind this Bill comes from the Party of which my noble friend is an ornament in this House. Most important of all, I bore in mind that, on the Second Reading of a Bill, what is the subject of legitimate and relevant discussion is the principle underlying the measure. Now there is no principle underlying this measure. It contains a number of quite useful but entirely unrelated clauses. Accordingly it seemed to me more fitting that a measure of that kind, an omnibus measure, so to speak, should be discussed in Committee rather than on Second Reading when no question of principle at all arose. Therefore, I proposed to defer, and I hope my noble friend on reflection agreed that it was right to defer, the discussion on these unrelated provisions until we came to the Committee stage.
All that I think I need say—and I am more free to say it because I have no responsibility for the construction of the Bill—is that it is a wholly admirable Bill, well conceived and well considered, and I venture to think well expressed, and that many of its provisions will prove specially useful in war-time. Those provisions, broadly speaking, cither give effect to the recommendations of a legal Committee in Scotland whose authority is quite impeccable or seek to bring the law of Scotland into line with the law of England as it exists to-day. I think the provisions of the Bill which, though important, are highly technical are not suitable 698 for detailed discussion in your Lordships' House, and I therefore propose simply to add that I shall endeavour to explain any one of them if any of your Lordships desire an explanation. To do more, I think, would be merely otiose and make an inroad on the time of your Lordships' House which I should not be justified in making. Accordingly, at this stage I content myself with moving that the House do resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Alness.)
My Lords, of course my noble friends on this side of the House accept the explanation of my noble and learned friend Lord Alness, but the episode of last Thursday was a very serious one. This is a Bill originating in your Lordships' House, and I congratulate His Majesty's Government on initiating more Bills in this House in recent months. It is a very sensible arrangement. The Second Reading of a Bill is a very important stage. I quite agree that in view of the Secret Session, and the extremely valuable debate which followed, every moment was precious last Thursday, but if it was not intended to take the Bill at that time there are the usual channels in this House which are always open and can be used, and my noble friends are always ready to facilitate business. Parliament is to-day in a very important position. Any whittling away of the procedure and powers of Parliament to-day, any attempt to treat it as a mere registering machine for the Executive, will be resisted—must be resisted—and my noble friends will be the first to support that resistance. However, we have had the explanation and I know there is a great strain on all Ministers in these days. No doubt there was an inadvertence on Thursday, but I know that I speak for all your Lordships when I say that we recognise that my noble and learned friend would be the last to tread down our privileges here. I am sure your Lordships will support us on this side of the House in defending those privileges, as we always will.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ Bill reported without amendment.