Motion made, and Question proposed.
That, on or before the 17th day of December a printed copy of every Private Bill for which application is intended to be made during the present Session shall be deposited at the Office of the Lord Privy Seal.
If it appears to the Lord Privy Seal that any such Bill contains provisions relating to works the execution of which would substantially contribute to the relief of unemployment he may on or before the 15th day of January send to Mr. Speaker a certificate to that effect and notify the Promoters of such Bill accordingly, and a Bill with respect to which such a certificate and notice are so given is hereinafter referred to as a certified Bill; and where in the opinion of the Lord Privy Seal any such Bill, in addition to containing such provisions as aforesaid, contains other provisions distinct therefrom not relating to such works as aforesaid, the certificate shall state which of the provisions (hereinafter referred to as certified provisions) are the provisions of the Bill which relate to such works as aforesaid.
As soon as may be after it has been received by him, every such certificate shall be laid by Mr. Speaker upon the Table of the House.
In the case of a certified Bill the Standing Orders relating to Private Business shall have effect subject to the following provisions, and so far as inconsistent with those provisions shall not apply:—
The Motion on the Order Paper is a long one and I can quite understand Members in all parts of the House wondering what all these words mean. I therefore wish to state to the House that the object of this Motion is not in any way to interfere with the rights of this House or of Private Members. There is nothing in this new Standing Order which takes away from Members of the House their legitimate rights either to oppose, object to or obstruct any Measure which they feel ought not to receive the sanction of the House. In the proposals which I announced to the House in the early part of this Session I indicated certain changes of Government policy with regard to the contributions that we were prepared to make to local authorities and public utility companies. I also indicated that in my view the changed terms would enable many municipalities to take advantage of the offer which I made. This has been proved by the response, but I then found myself confronted with this difficulty. Although a large number of municipalities and public utility companies were prepared to take advantage of the offer and throw themselves into the effort to provide work, they, unfortunately, had not the necessary Parliamentary powers. The result was that although schemes were agreed to, and terms were accepted, yet before any work could be undertaken it was necessary for them to go through the usual procedure of obtaining Parliamentary sanction. Members in all parts of the House will realise the delay involved and will agree with me that instead of waiting in the ordinary way until about May or June of next year if we can expedite matters without trespassing on or taking advantage of the rights of the House, then it is our duty to do so.
A second point rises. Certain municipalities and public utility companies are still negotiating terms and although they may agree to the terms, yet because they have not deposited Bills in December, according to the ordinary statutory provision, they will find themselves in this difficulty. They may have agreed as to terms with me, and everything may be satisfactorily arranged, but they will have to deposit Bills next December, with the result that nothing can be done for, approximately, 18 months. I repeat that that is not a satisfactory position. The municipalities are genuinely anxious to help and, therefore, in the new Standing Order which I now move I am taking all the steps possible to facilitate Bills of that kind. A municipality may, however—quite wisely from the standpoint of the ratepayer—feel that if it is going forward to get Parliamentary powers then instead of making two bites of a cherry it might as well include in one Bill all powers of all kinds which it may desire. It may reasonably be expected that there will he opposition to certain parts of such a Bill. Other local authorities and interests of various kinds may object. The unemployment proposals in a Bill may be agreed to by everybody, but the other parts of the Bill may be objected to for various reasons and, in the ordinary course, the result would be that the unemployment portion of the Bill would be held up because of these objections to the other parts of it. Therefore I have taken power in this Standing Order to get over the difficulty by separating the different parts of the Bill. That is to say, the unemployment section of the Bill, which I am taking powers to certify, can be removed from the other parts of the Bill. It will be possible then to get on with the unemployment part of the Bill, while the ordinary procedure will still apply to the other parts of it.
It is only fair to say that the facilities for securing expedition on these technical points are very largely in the hands of the Parliamentary Bar and the Parliamentary agents. I am pleased to say that in the difficult task of drawing up this Motion I have had the help both of the Parliamentary Bar and of the Parliamentary agents, and I am empowered to say on their behalf that they accept the new Standing Order and are ready to give every assistance they can. I take this opportunity of thanking them. I ought also to say that this Standing Order would be of no avail unless there was agreement with it, in another place. It is well known to hon. Members that there is the necessity for this Private Bill legislation to be facilitated in another place as well as here, and I am pleased to say that the Chairman of Committees in another place is making a similar Motion to this and that every effort will be made on his part to facilitate the procedure. I am not attempting to read the terms of the Motion. If I did so perhaps no one would be any the wiser. I have, I think, given a simple explanation of it and I repeat that we are not taking away the rights of Private Members. We are safeguarding the interests of the House in every way and the only object of the Motion is to enable me, as the Minister dealing with unemployment, to certify Bills which provide employment. Whatever our views on the unemployment question may be, I feel sure that Members in all parts of the House will agree that if we can do anything to hasten the provision of work which is so necessary, we ought to do so.
Does this Motion take any account of the state of affairs which has arisen in many distressed areas owing to the De-rating Act and the reduction in rateable valuations? This is such in some cases that no matter what money the Government may offer, the local authorities cannot face the additional burden on top of existing taxation. Will this help any of these local bodies to carry on any works? Are you going to give the full money in cases like that?
It would be impossible for me to suggest any Standing Order, or any amendment of a Standing Order which would do what my hon. Friend suggests. That is an entirely different matter. The alteration which I propose deals exclusively with the means whereby local authorities and public utility companies, who find themselves in agreement with the Government on schemes to provide work, will have the advantage of knowing that those schemes will be facilitated in the House of Commons.
But if one of these authorities has agreed but cannot raise the money owing to the reduction in rateable valuation following on the De-rating Act, what will you do then?
I have just one other point. A number of Amendments appear on the Order Paper, none of them very controversial and many of them dealing with drafting points. Most of these, I think, I will be able to accept and, in asking the House to pass this Motion, I would repeat that I believe Members in all parts of the House are desirous of helping in this matter and the object of the Motion is to preserve the rights of Parliament, as well as expediting this means of dealing with the important problem of unemployment.
On the contrary, I made it perfectly clear that the rights of Members are preserved. What I want to emphasise is that there are at least 20 or 30 Bills at this moment to which there is no objection whatever, and to which I can conceive of no objection being made, and surely, if we can facilitate the passage of these Bills into law, it is not unfair to ask the House to do so. If, on the other hand, on any of those Bills Members in any part of the House felt that they had a right to object, all the procedure for doing that is preserved to the House intact.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has stated his case with all his usual urbanity, but I am afraid that in so doing he has not made quite clear to the House the seriousness of the change in procedure that is proposed. I may say at once that I am not going to vote against this Motion, because it is based on a national emergency, but my mind goes back a good many years, and, if I might humbly venture to do so, I would remind the House of what happened when we passed emergency legislation at the commencement of the War. I remember very well, when a Measure affecting the lives and the status of citizens was passed in five minutes—First Reading, Second Reading, Committee stage and Third Reading—and we have been suffering from that particular Measure ever since. I therefore suggest to the House that it is most important that, notwithstanding the approval of Parliamentary agents or Parliamentary counsel, it should under no circumstances 'abrogate its right to scrutinise with the utmost care so far-reaching a proposal as this.
I was very glad indeed to hear my right hon. Friend say that he proposes to accept most of the Amendments on the Paper—I hope the most important of them—standing in the names of hon. Members above the Gangway, but at the risk of detaining the House for one minute, may I remind it of the real importance of distinguishing between this kind of legislation and general legislation? Private Bill legislation discharges two functions—first of all, the ordinary legislative function, and, in the second place, a most important one, namely, the judicial function, where Parliament comes into play in its protection of the rights of the individual citizen. These private Bills as a rule are promoted, as we all realise, by bodies or corporations which have very large funds at their disposal. Not the whole of it, but in the main private legislation has grown up in this House with the principal object of protecting the interests of the private citizen against great and powerful corporations which can move the House legislatively, to the great detriment, very often, not only of merely individual rights, but of public rights vested in individuals. Therefore, in regard to this double function, which is being drastically interfered with, notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend has said, I urge the House to exercise exceptional care.
We all want to assist the Lord Privy Seal in his very arduous task. Indeed, there is no man in public life to-day, I think, who has a heavier burden on his shoulders than has the Lord Privy Seal, and as far as I can assist him I want to do so. At the same time, the House must be very careful when it grants him, with all his good will, these powers, that it safeguards the general public in so doing. Let me point out one matter where I differ from my right hon. Friend. He said that in the proposal he is putting forward none of the rights of Members will be interfered with, but that is not so, for it is because it does interfere with those rights that this Motion is proposed. The words of the Motion are that "every private Bill" shall be subjected to this procedure, and the right hon. Gentleman proposes to divide most private Bills into two parts and make them two separate Bills, subject to all the machinery of Parliament:
Every such Bill introduced into the House of Commons"—
That is, a certified Bill or the certified portion of the Bill—
shall be ordered to be read a Second time on the fourth day after the day on which it is presented.
There is no Debate at all. It may be quite right to read it a Second time, but I do want the House to realise what it is doing. The whole question of Debate on the Second Reading goes by the board.
By the order of the right hon. Gentleman that Bill, no matter what its importance, no matter what private interests it affects, will be read a Second time. That is war legislation in full swing. It may be right; I am only saying that the House ought to know what it is doing. That Bill, so divided, comes before the House, and then it is referred in the usual way to one Committee or another by the Selection Committee, where I suppose it is subject to the ordinary rules under which these Bills are dealt with; but let us see what happens with regard to a Bill so presented to the notice of the Lord Privy Seal. What does he do with it? He will consult his permanent officials as to what part of the Bill shall be certified and what part shall not be certified. Who are the officials whom he will consult? Naturally he will consult the legal branch of his Department. The legal branch of the Lord Privy Seal's office is not familiar with Parliamentary procedure or Parliamentary processes. It is a purely legal branch, and—
—but the statement which he has made does mislead the House. I said that the rights of Members of the House would not be interfered with. I was assured of that, and I have now made further inquiries, and I find that the right hon. Gentleman has not read the Motion correctly. The procedure "ordered to be read a Second time" or "ordered to be read the Third time" is merely a form of the House which Mr. Speaker announces every day, but it does not take away the right of discussion. "Ordering to be read" is not ordering to be read without discussion or objection.
I think the wording might be a little more clear to the ordinary Member. It is a very important matter, and I am not saying it is not right to do this, but let me get back to the point which I was making. The legal department of my right hon. Friend is the only one, as the Motion now stands, which will be consulted as to what part of a Bill shall be certified and what part shall not be certified. I hope my right hon. Friend will say at once that he proposes to accept an Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), to the effect that no Bill shall be certified unless it has been referred to, and the opinion obtained of, the Counsel to the Lord Chairman and the Counsel to Mr. Speaker. These two officials are competent and have been trained in the Parliamentary way, the Parliamentary legal way, of looking at these questions. If that is accepted, that will to a large extent remove my objection to the Motion.
The right hon. Gentleman is taking here very great power over the Private Bill Legislation of this House, and the main thing that I urge upon him is that he will see to it that the legal officers of this House have the duty placed upon them to consider these Bills as and when they arise, so that their vast personal experience and the accumulated knowledge of their office will be available to the House on the question of whether or not those Bills are properly certified. I say that the ordinary legal department is not capable of doing that in the way in which I suggest it ought to be done. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will listen to the discussion and meet the wishes of the House, not in the interest of mere private privilege, but in the interest of maintaining the rights of the citizens, no matter who they are, so that they shall be fully, fairly and competently heard in any action which the House takes in connection with Private Bill legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal and the House may rest assured that, so far as I am concerned—and I believe that I speak for my party here—we shall do nothing but help him in any way we can to grease the wheels and generally oil the machinery to enable him to carry out any schemes which he may have for the relief of unemployment. I believe we shall he able to arrange and agree upon certain Amendments which will render this Motion, as far as my Friends and I are concerned, unobjectionable. May I venture to correct a slip on his part in describing this as a Standing Order? If it were, I can assure him that it would receive the most strenuous opposition. This is only a Sessional Order, and only a temporary matter, to meet an emergency.
As to the general effect of this Motion, I believe—and I have had now some experience, more perhaps than some Members of this House—that our system of Private Bill legislation, curious and intricate as it may be to those who are not accustomed to it, is one of the most satisfactory and one of the most expeditious that is possible under any Parliamentary system at the present time; and I should view with the greatest apprehension any attempt to alter that in a hurry. It is only because this is merely a temporary Measure and a Sessional Order that one feels able to agree to it with less difficulty than one would if it was an attempt to make a permanent alteration in the Standing Orders. The experience gained from working under this Motion may perhaps teach us a good deal about our present Standing Orders in regard to Private Bill legislation. It may enable the House to realise that it is not very easy to alter it, and that it is at least doubtful whether it could be very much improved generally. My right hon. Friend who spoke just now raised a very serious point on which I would say a word. It was the question of whether this Motion, if it be carried, would prevent objections to, or discussions of, a Private Bill on Second Reading. An Amendment is down in my name and that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) to meet that point, but I understand, after consultation with the right hon. Gentleman and the officers of this House, that there is at least a difference of opinion on the actual wording which ought to be used, but that there is undoubted authority, which I am bound to accept, that the wording of this Motion is correct, and would still preserve the right of Members to object to the Bill on Second Reading, and that consequently it would be set down for discussion in the ordinary way. If that be so, I shall not wish when the time comes to press my Amendment, but as my right hon. Friend has raised the question, and it is one undoubtedly of importance, it may be that we shall think it well, when we come to that Amendment, to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to be good enough to give a ruling as to what would be the meaning and effect of the Motion in regard to that particular point.
We are anxious only to help the right hon. Gentleman to expedite schemes of this kind, which we all wish to see carried through. I have some little doubt whether this is really going to be of great use to him, but I hope that it will. If a private Bill is unopposed, it can be got through very speedily indeed, and it can be got through more speedily than usual by an ad hoc Motion for the purposes of that Bill, when occasion arises to suspend a particular Standing Order. But what I imagine the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with mainly is opposed Bills, and he wants to prevent a waste of time. There, again, I hope that it may be so, but I would warn him that it is an extremely dangerous thing to tamper with these very complicated—you may call them if you like, archaic—Standing Orders, which work extraordinarily well, without a very great deal of consideration. If the right hon. Gentleman wants this Motion, he must not blame us if he finds that the result of attempting to make some alteration in this machinery gives a possible loophole to opponents of Bills to bring about even greater delay than they could have done if he had left the old Standing Orders to operate without any alteration. That is all I wish to say on the general principle. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether I ought at once formally to move the first Amendment standing in my name, or whether the Amendment should be taken later on?
It would be an advantage if I explained that the procedure on an Order of this kind is different from that which is usually the custom when we are amending Motions or Clauses to Bills. The House will observe that I have not saved any Amendments in the Motion which I have put. The difference between this discussion and ordinary discussions is that Members can have a general discussion on the whole Motion, and the same Members taking part can consequently move Amendments if they like.
May I put a question to my right hon. Friend? After the Second Reading of Private Bills there is at present an interval during which petitions against the Bill may be presented. That is a very essential part of the procedure, because in Private Bills, being the promotion of private interests, other private interests may be affected, and it is essential to give time to those interests to petition against the Bills. Under the procedure which has grown up, there is an interval after the Second Reading and before the Committee stage, during which petitions against a Bill can be presented, and they are referred to referees to see whether they are legitimate objections to the Bill and whether the petitioners have a locus standi in the matter. It is laid down that persons whose private interest are affected appear as suiters—
Obviously, on these technical matters I must take the advice of the legal authorities, but the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is, No, there is no interference whatever with the rights or the time for objections.
If that be so, that removes my objection on that score. There is only one other question. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the Chairman of Committees in another place thoroughly approved of his Motion. May we take it that in this House the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is the guardian of our rights and of the rights of the petitioners outside, takes the same attitude as the Chairman in another place?
I should like to have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether, if the Amendments are taken now, I shall be in order in putting a point briefly at the end of the Amendments?
There are two points on which there is agreement. We first want to grant every facility to the Lord Privy Seal to get on with his work, and I hope that nothing will be done to impede his progress, or to create any situation that will delay the definite work in which he is engaged. The second point on which there is agreement is a desire to be quite clear as to the extent of the power that we are granting in this Motion. It has been pointed out that this is a temporary proposal, but am I to take it that it applies to this Session only?
That satisfies me on that point. The other point on which I would like the right hon. Gentleman's view is this. Is this House to have any say whatever in what are to be treated as the certified provisions of the Bill? Each of these Bills is to be divided into two sections, and the ordinary procedure will be to certify the section that is to be treated as work for the relief of unemployment. Is the Lord Privy Seal's power to be absolute, or is this House to have any say, when the Bill comes here, as to what should be certified?
That is very satisfactory. I take it that the reply means that if the right hon. Gentleman certifies a part of the Bill as dealing substantially with the relief of unemployment, and this House does not agree that it deals substantially with the relief of unemployment, then this House can undo what the right hon. Gentleman has done in his certificate?
Let us take a concrete proposal, and suppose that the Glasgow Corporation have decided to promote a scheme, say, for the provision of baths. I use that illustration because certain municipalities do not have that statutory power. In the Bill which they submit to the House, they are asking all manner of other powers, for instance, for the extension of their tramway system, and that is objected to by certain municipalities in the vicinity. I am not concerned for my purpose with the questions of the tramways. I am concerned only with the question affecting the provision of baths. I, therefore, certify—it will obviously be after consultation with the authorities—that part of the Bill dealing with the baths. My right hon. Friend wants to know what happens to him when he objects to that provision. It would come before this House; both sections of the Bill would come before this House, and if objections were raised to either or both parts, nothing would prevent my right hon. Friend objecting. The Chairman of Ways and Means would then have to name a day for the ordinary Second Reading Debate, as if I had not certified the Clause.
A very important statement has been made by the Lord Privy Seal; but I am still not quite clear whether after he has certified a portion of the Bill it will be open to the House to review his certificate. Is that so or is it not? As I read the Motion, it is not.
I was going to take a railway case as an illustration, but I will take the case suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I will suppose that the building of the baths is going to give substantial relief to unemployment and that he certifies it as such, and that the extension of the tramways is going to give substantial relief to unemployment, and that he certifies it as such, but that there are people in this House who object to the inclusion of the tramways extension in that certificate. In that case, would those Members, when the Bill with certified parts came to the House, have the power—or would the House have the power—to exclude the tramways from the certification? If so, what is the use of the certificate?
I will try to answer both points. Do not let us presume on all these technicalities. I am trying to give the House a commonsense answer and show how we propose to meet the difficulty. That is all I want to do. In these matters I can only be advised by the highest legal authorities I have. I gave an answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), and my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) said "No, no." I have had it confirmed from the highest legal authorities that the answer I first gave was correct. Let me repeat it; and I will also answer the question which has been put as to what is the use of the certificate. I will answer the first question by saying that if any Member of the House objects either to a Bill that is not certified by me or one that is certified by me, that in both cases the same rights are preserved to that Member and the House. That is clear and specific. Then my right hon. Friend asked "If that be so, what is the value of this Standing Order, or this certificate?" The answer is that if there was opposition such as has been indicated by my right hon. Friend, progress in the case of that Bill would probably not be facilitated by an hour. But it is also true that a number of Bills which are not opposed will be facilitated by this procedure. If the House says it will not facilitate a Bill it will have the right to take that attitude. But where there is no objection and we can facilitate its progress by the procedure I have indicated, why should we not do it?
The right hon. Gentleman has even now not answered one question. He will, by certificate, divide a Bill into two. Supposing the promoters of the Bill object to its being divided into two, what is their position? Is his certificate not a final division of the Bill against which no one can appeal?
Do let us see what is the commonsense of the position as distinguished from the technicalities of it. I am asked, What is the position of the promotors of a Bill who object to my certificate of division? Is that a commonsense situation? A municipality comes to a Government Department and says, "Will you give me certain assistance?" The Department says, "Yes," details are discussed, and we agree upon them. The municipality then say, "We are so satisfied that we will promote a Bill in order to give effect to this arrangement." In doing so they include other matters in the Bill. What on earth right have you to assume that a municipality or any other body which wants this power and promotes a Bill will object to my giving them better facilities for getting it? It is too absurd to assume it.
In so far as I can speak on behalf of hon. Members in this part of the House I would like to say that we do not propose to object to this Sessional Order to meet a period of stress. Our only anxiety is to preserve three things. The first point, I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, is already settled, and that is that hon. Members will not lose their right to object to and to debate any private Bill under this procedure, at any stage, if they so desire. The second point, which we want to preserve very carefully, is the right of opponents to private Bills to present petitions against them. As the right hon. Gentleman for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) has said, this procedure by private Bills is designed to give protection to the individual, and we are very anxious that nothing in the Standing Order should do anything to interfere with those rights. The third point on which we want to be assured is that the promoters of the Bill shall not be rendered liable to higher fees in this House because the Bill has been divided into two parts. After all, the division of the Bill is probably not altogether a convenience for the promoters. The right hon. Gentleman has given the instance of a municipality which wants to build baths and to extend its tramways, and it may include in the Bill sanitary and police clauses. For the convenience of the municipality it is easier to have one Bill than two, because two Bills may very likely mean the attendance of their officials here on two separate occasions during the Session. Because the right hon. Gentleman desires to assist employment no further costs ought to be put on the promoters by the division of the Bill than would have been payable had the Bill proceeded as one Measure.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. There are one or two questions I would like to ask him on the actual working of this Standing Order. Paragraph (3) of this Standing Order deals with the Wharncliffe Standing Orders, and I need not weary the House by reading them. The Lord Privy Seal said that the Committee had to satisfy themselves that the Standing Order had been complied with, but cases might arise where the Standing Orders have not been complied with, and then the Bill under the ordinary procedure would have to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, who would have to decide whether they should recommend the suspension of the Standing Orders. The whole question of the locus standi of certain shareholders depends on these Standing Orders being complied with. I do not suggest that such a case will arise very often, but the locus standi of these persons is a matter of great importance to them and may be taken away by these proposals, and I think that is a point which requires consideration.
I do not object to the proposal which is being made by the right hon. Gentleman, but I suggest to him that the locus standi should be dealt with by the Committee rather than by the Court of Referees. This return to a procedure of more than 60 years ago is only useful, in the case of a Joint Committee of both Houses. The objection to the old procedure was that both the petitioner and the promoters had to bring up all their witnesses to the Committee, and very often they did not know whether certain evidence which they had prepared would be admitted. Paragraph (4) provides that the Committee shall hear and determine any question of locus standi, but I do not think that is a proceeding likely to save expense. For a very long time there has been a certain amount of jealousy between the House and Government Departments upon the question of giving effect to this private Bill pro- cedure. We quite realise that the Lord Privy Seal is dealing with a very different problem, but we sincerely hope that what is now proposed will not be taken as a precedent.
I object to that course. The point I wish to raise is quite a short one. There are many points which might appropriately be raised by a private Member. I do not think it is right that in regard to a matter which affects private Members we should not be allowed to express our opinion without going into technical details which have not been very fully explained.
I think I have given a common-sense interpretation of what the words mean. I am within the recollection of the House, and I think I stated that I do not object to any questions being raised in this Debate. I believe the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) is quarrelling not with the words but with the Standing Order, and he objects to the Standing Order tooth and nail.
That is not so. I certainly do not object to the wording of the Order. I should be the very last to desire even for a second to delay anything which might help the unemployed, but I would like to point out that up to the present moment we have had only the point of view of what I may call the Parliamentary experts. I have been in this House only some eight or nine years, but I have invariably found throughout the whole of that period that, whenever there was agreement amongst the experts of this House in regard to any form of procedure, sooner or later the rights of the ordinary private Member were bound to suffer. I think the Lord Privy Seal showed his usual wisdom when he said that he would not read out the Order, because nobody would be the wiser for it. We are now being asked to pass an Order which cannot be read out because it is so involved that nobody would understand it. I have read this Order fairly carefully. I notice that the Lord Privy Seal, in his opening remarks, did not tell us how long the Order was to operate, but I believe the period is one year. As far as I can find out at the present time this is an entirely new precedent set up for the convenience of the present time. I do not object to this proposal if it is going to do any good, but in the past there has been an unfortunate habit of taking away a little bit of the rights of the private Member year after year, and those rights have been very much curtailed. For these reasons I object to the precedent which is set by this Order.
Another reason why I object is that, under this Order, we are apparently giving to the Lord Privy Seal the right to issue a certificate. I say quite frankly from my own point of view as a private Member, that I do not think it is right that a single individual should have the power to give a certificate affecting legislation which we passed in this House dealing with many of our great municipalities. If we set up a special Committee or a special authority to consult the various bodies in this House, then the proposal might be all right, but to give this power to one single individual, although it may be given temporarily, is a proposal which I thoroughly dislike, and I think the House ought not to grant that power.
I apologise for having taken up the time of the House for some four or five minutes, but it is my experience that on these occasions over and over again things are done which the ordinary private Member regrets in the future. Although I have no wish in any way to object to the proceedings on this Order, I say that it is one which, in my very humble opinion, private Members would be well advised to look at carefully, as being likely to be used again a great deal in the future, and as being, if extended, not in the interests of either the House of Commons, the municipalities, or the country as a whole. For that reason I am sorry that it has been brought forward to-night.
I beg to move, in line 6, after the second word "the," to insert the word "early."
This is a very simple Amendment, the object of which is merely to confine the operation of this Motion to Bills con- taining provisions relating to works the execution of which would substantially contribute to the early relief of unemployment. It is obvious that it ought not to apply to Bills which would be calculated merely to relieve unemployment, say in five years' time. As to that I think there will probably be no dispute.
I beg to move, in line 10, to leave out the words "in the opinion of," and to insert instead thereof the words "it appears to."
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the permission of the House, I desire to move the two next Amendments standing in my name in a slightly different form from that in which they appear on the Paper. Following the Amendment which I am now moving, I desire to move, after the word "Seal," in line 10 to insert the words "after consultation with the Counsel to Mr. Speaker." I understand that objection would be taken in another place to our inserting in our Standing Orders any reference to the Counsel to the Lord Chairman.
The point of these Amendments is really a very simple one. Obviously in many cases, when the Lord Privy Seal comes to certify a Bill, there will be great difficulty in deciding which Clauses are consequential on his certificate and should go into the certified Bill, and which should not. I will give an illustration. Suppose that a Bill is promoted by a municipality to construct a waterworks, to buy out a tramway company, and perhaps to do two or three other things. The part of the Bill which relates to the construction of the waterworks will obviously give employment, while the part which is merely to buy out the existing tramway undertaking will not give any additional employment; and there may be other questions connected with lighting, paving and so on which will not give additional employment over and above that normally given by the municipality. Coupled with all that, there may be Clauses dealing with finance, that is to say, with rating, borrowing powers, and a hundred and one other questions of that sort with which any hon. Member who has sat on a Private Bill Committee will be quite familiar. It is very difficult for anyone who has not had a great experience of Private Bill administration to know which Clauses, and especially which financial Clauses, are directly consequential on the part which the Lord Privy Seal has certified, and which are not. I suggest that the person who could give the best advice on this matter is the Counsel to Mr. Speaker, whose duty it is to peruse every one of these Bills, who is thoroughly familiar with our procedure, and who would be able to advise the Lord Privy Seal far better than his permanent officials on what, after all, is a highly technical question.
If this responsibility were solely entrusted to me, it would obviously be my duty to get all the assistance and advice necessary. If behind the mind of my hon. and gallant Friend there is any idea that I am going to appoint some highly placed legal authority, I want to disabuse him of it right away. I gather that he had some such idea, and I want to make it perfectly clear at the outset that there is no such intention, and that no such appointment will be made. The difficulty of accepting the Amendment is that it would mean specifying one individual. Surely, the House will see at once, not only that that is undesirable, but that it circumscribes the Minister. In the case of a Bill which I desire to divide, on the advice of those in the Department, what would they have to do first? They will not only have the benefit of all their technical knowledge, but, obviously, the first thing they will do will be to consult the other Departments concerned, and get their views. Then, naturally, because the House of Commons would be affected, the next step would be to consult Mr. Speaker's Counsel. That is the natural and ordinary procedure, with which I agree. To put these words into the Order would merely be to say that one individual would be the authority, and, therefore, I know that behind the mind of my hon. and gallant Friend there was the idea that we were going to appoint some legal authority. I give him the assurance that nothing of the kind will be done. I resist the Amendment, not because I do not agree with its intention and spirit, but because I want to give an even broader effect to it than is indicated.
I beg to move, in line 20, to leave out the words "ordered to be read a second time," and to insert instead thereof the words "set down for Second Reading."
This Amendment raises the very important point which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones), and discussed by several other speakers, as to the right of Members of this House, under this Motion, if it be carried, to object to the Second Reading of a Private Bill and to ensure its being discussed. I have referred very carefully to the Standing Orders, and it is perfectly true that these words "ordered to be read a second time," appear in Standing Order No. 197, in circumstances in which, it is perfectly certain, according to the practice of this House in the past, they merely mean that when the Bill comes before the House for Second Reading it can be objected to, and is thereupon set down for Second Reading. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, and if you, Sir, can tell me that you agree with the view that the wording of the Motion would be interpreted as Standing Order 197 has in practice been interpreted, and that it would not deprive Members of the power to object and get a discussion of the Bill, I will not press the Amendment.
I think the hon. Gentleman has truly interpreted the meaning of Standing Order 197, and the words would be better as left in the Standing Order than if they were altered as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
I beg to move, in line 42, to leave out the word "previously," and to insert instead thereof the words "previous to the meeting of the Committee."
This is a drafting Amendment. I am not certain that it is necessary and I am informed that there are great difficulties about it, and, if so, I do not press it.
I beg to move, in line 50, at the end, to insert the words:
(7) Where in pursuance of this Order the certified provisions and the remaining provisions proceed as separate Bills, the fees for proceedings before Committees to be paid by the promoters and by any petitioners who appeal against both Bills, shall not exceed the fees payable for proceedings on the Bill in respect of which they have incurred the greater fees and the total fees payable on Report and Third Reading of the two Bills shall not exceed the fees which would have been payable if the original Bill had been proceeded with in the usual manner.
There are one or two points that I wish to raise, and, as several hon. Members have been eloquent in defence of their rights as private Members, oblivious of the fact that their eloquence has deprived private Members of their time to-night, I shall be brief. The Lord Privy Seal, in moving his Order, made reference to the response he has received to the appeals he made to local authorities to expedite undertakings which would provide work, but he has given us no indication whatever as to the extent of the response which he has received. In other words, the House has received no indication of the expenditure which he is asking us to assist him to expedite.
I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman make that statement. As he referred to the response he has received, I thought possibly he might have been in order in going further and giving the House some indication as to what the actual response had been. If it is out of order, I will not attempt to press him. At the same time, one must remember that the Order involves a very drastic alteration in the procedure which the House has hitherto been accustomed to pursue with regard to Bills that involve expenditure. Hitherto any Bill which has involved the expenditure of any public money has had additional difficulties placed in the way of it. This is more than a drastic alteration. It implies a complete reversal of the procedure which has hitherto been adopted, because it means that we are now asked to facilitate expenditure rather than put difficulties in the way of it. If the question of unemployment could be solved entirely by that expenditure, I would not raise the question, but there is such a thing as robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it is certain that the mere expenditure of money will not solve it.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman could not have heard my speech. There is nothing in this proposal that affects expenditure. This House has the same control over expenditure on unemployment with this amended Standing Order as it had before, and it is unfair, and not correct, to say the House is giving up its power of control.
I still hold my opinion that the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to facilitate expendi- ture, although we may not increase it and may not be prejudicing our rights in any way. As I am in favour of this Order going through, I will not attempt to argue the matter with the right hon. Gentleman.
There is another point which I should like to raise. Perhaps he will say that this also has been explained. Probably it has. I admit, even after 11 years' experience in this House, that I am still a child in understanding Parliamentary wording and Parliamentary procedure. We have it stated here that the 17th day of December is the date on or before which Bills must be deposited at the right hon. Gentleman's office. There has been, as I know, considerable difficulty in coming to agreement with regard to certain Bills which are frequently put forward. I am perfectly aware that in Paragraph (8) something is said to the effect that this Motion will not prejudice those Bills which are delayed. I should like an assurance that in the event of a Bill coming in rather late—I think I know of one, at any rate, in regard to which there is difficulty in coming to an agreement between the parties concerned—such Bill will not be debarred from being considered.
I made it perfectly clear that the first object of the Motion was to facilitate the passage of Bills deposited in the ordinary way. The second part of the Motion is intended to enable municipalities who are late coming in, as has been indicated, to facilitate their procedure in regard to private Bills.
Sir J. CANZONI:
I do not rise to criticise the right hon. Gentleman, but I think I ought to say a few words to recommend this Motion to the House and thereby dissolve some of the doubts in the mind of the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay (Commander Williams), or similar doubts in the minds of other hon. Members. There is a reason for my doing so, as I happen to be the only surviving Chairman of Private Bill Committees in this House at the present time. Two former Chairmen are no longer here for reasons over which they have no control, and another retired at the end of the last Parliament. When I first heard of this Notice of Motion, I certainly had some suspicions, and I looked into the matter very carefully. I am quite satisfied now that there is nothing what-even in the Motion, as amended, that circumscribes the rights of private Members of the Floor of the House. I can assure them, having been Chairman since 1922 sitting every year on these Committees, that it in no way whatever affects in the slightest degree or curtails the rights of private Members.
I certainly do not wish, considering the great interests involved, not to help the Lord Privy Seal, but there is one warning I would give to him and to the House, having taken part in this kind of work in the House. Although the Lord Privy Seal's Amendment covers the question of increased fees, there will necessarily be increased costs on the part of learned counsel and increased costs of travelling which are inevitable in the careful hearing of long private Bills. I do not think that that is sufficiently important to set against the great work which we all want, in all quarters of the House, the Lord Privy Seal to get on with. Would he now kindly give some assurance as to what will happen in the case of those Bills which do not satisfy the Private Bill Committee? Formerly, they went to the examiners.
As we know, there may be a technical point raised, and I am assured—and I will give reasons—in the unlikely event of the non-compliance with this Order being such that the Committee would not proceed with the Bill, the Committee would make a special report to the House. This special report would be referred by the House of Commons as a matter of course to the Standing Orders Committee, which would decide whether non-compliance was so serious as to warrant them refusing to allow the promoters to proceed.
Private Bills contributing to Relief of Unemployment,—On or before the 17th day of December a printed copy of every Private Bill for which application is intended to be made during the present Session shall be deposited at the Office of the Lord Privy Seal.
If it appears to the Lord Privy Seal that any such Bill contains provisions relating to works the execution of which would substantially contribute to the early relief of unemployment he may on or before the 15th
day of January send to Mr. Speaker a certificate to that effect and notify the Promoters of such Bill accordingly, and a Bill with respect to which such a certificate and notice are so given is hereinafter referred to as a certified Bill; and where in the opinion of the Lord Privy Seal any such Bill, in addition to containing such provisions as aforesaid, contains other provisions distinct therefrom not relating to such works as aforesaid, the certificate shall state which of the provisions (hereinafter referred to as certified provisions) are the provisions of the Bill which relate to such works as aforesaid.
As soon as may be after it has been received by him, every such certificate shall be laid by Mr. Speaker upon the Table of the House.
In the case of a certified Bill the Standing Orders relating to Private Business shall have effect subject to the following provisions, and so far as inconsistent with those provisions shall not apply:—