Clause 2. — (Power to purchase land for redevelopment of areas of extensive war damage, or needed for re-location of population and industries of such areas.)

Orders of the Day — Town and Country Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16 November 1944.

Alert me about debates like this

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 24, leave out "two," and insert "three."

12.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The purpose of this Amendment is to increase from two years to three years the period within which, under Subsection (2) of Clause 2, an order may be submitted for the purchase of land in an area of extensive war damage even though no order has been made under Clause 1 declaring it to be such an area. The provision has had a somewhat eventful and at times rather confused history, and perhaps it would not be wasting time if I briefly explained the position. The main scheme of the Bill is the declaration by local planning authorities of areas of extensive war damage together with concrete proposals for their reconstruction. When their proposals have been approved the authority may proceed to acquire the land by the expeditious process contained in the Bill. It will be seen that the emphasis is not only upon the power of acquisition; the main idea is that the local planning authority should have an approved plan of reconstruction before these new powers can be exercised by them. A term of five years was given in the Bill, as I introduced it, as the period within which local authorities might apply for these powers. An Amendment was moved to reduce this term to two years, and I resisted it in Committee on the ground that five years was short enough for local planning authorities to exercise what I may call the creative part of their task, to form worthy plans and discharge the planning as apart from the mere landowning function. The Committee agreed with me and the five years remained.

At the same time the Bill did contain, and I think it was prudent that it should, provisions whereby under Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 powers were given of an emergency nature not conditional upon the formulation of any project for replanning the bombed sites. These emergency powers provided that I could authorise the compulsory purchase of land in certain urgent cases even when there was no project for reconstruction. If the public interest appeared to be prejudiced I could make the order. This power to authorise compulsory purchase in advance of proposals for reconstruction is obviously one to be exercised with considerable discretion, because the whole abject of the Bill is reconstruction.

It was in these circumstances that I stated during the Committee stage that if I emerged with the main structure of the Bill intact—namely, the abolition of references, the new procedure in the Schedules for expediting inquiries and hearings and for the vesting of the fee simple—I would be prepared to consider reducing the period for these emergency provisions in Sub-section (2) to two years while retaining the term of five years in the case of applications for power to acquire which are coupled with proposals for reconstruction. My hon. Friends who moved those Amendments accepted my undertaking and did not oppose or obstruct my reforms of procedure, which are so important a feature of this Bill, and I honoured my undertaking to them on the Report stage by accepting the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), The effect of that Amendment was to reduce the time within which a local authority could apply for these emergency powers from five years to two, though we maintained the five years in the main structure of the Bill. I am not sure whether what I tried to make clear was fully appreciated, but we had a Division, and though I do not want to go into all those matters again, some hon. Members apparently thought I was reducing the period from five years to two years as it affected the whole Bill.

When the Bill was in another place the matter was re-examined and an Amendment was moved to reduce the term to five years in the case of what I may call these unplanned acquisitions. Debate followed and the consensus of opinion was in favour of three years, and perhaps I may be forgiven if I remind the House that three years is one year more than two and two years less than five. I take all the responsibility for this situation. I attended many of the sittings in another place, but I have duties here and elsewhere, and perhaps I was remiss in not bringing more prominently to the notice of the Government spokesman there the peculiar circumstances of this complicated transaction, the fact that we had divided upon the point, and that two years was inserted in consequence of an undertaking which I had given. I ask for the forbearance of my hon. Friends. I feel sensitive on the point, because I do not wish that there should be anything even remotely like a breach of promise made to hon. Members but that is the position, and I ask the House to bear with me in it.

Now let me say a word about the merits of the situation. The Amendment has come to us at this stage and I do not advise the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment. After all, the other place is another House of Parliament, and the authorisation of compulsory purchase for these emergency purposes is not solely limited by whatever term of years is put in the Bill, because hon. Members will see that what limits the grant of these emergency powers are the conditions which must be fulfilled and not the term of years. In other words, the Minister must be satisfied that the acquisition is necessary for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with the damage, whatever may be decided as to the manner in which the land is to be laid out and used, and that the postponement of acquisition would be prejudicial to the public interest. Those are severe tests and they must apply throughout, whatever the period of time in the Bill. It will be the existence or the absence of these circumstances which will really decide whether an order is to be made or not, and I have always had the view that these circumstances of peculiar urgency are not likely to arise more than two years after the Appointed Day. But if we give another year, and after the 24 months have elapsed an odd case does arise in which the rigorous conditions I have referred to can be fulfilled, then we may come to feel grateful for the existence of a revising Chamber under our Constitution. These are the merits of the case, and I have given my own account of the circumstances in which the existing situation arose, and in all the circumstances I ask the House to agree with the Lords Amendment.

12.28 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Tamworth

I should like first to thank my right hon. Friend for the very candid way in which he has informed the House of what took place in Committee and upon Report and since the Bill left this House to go to another place. He has told us what happened with the candour which we associate with him and which he has shown throughout the proceedings on this Bill, but I am afraid that I cannot agree that we should agree with the Lords Amendment. We disagree mast strongly—I myself and my hon. Friends who were associated with me in moving the Amendment in Committee and again upon Report. We had a very clear undertaking from the Minister on Report. I have always understood that Government responsibility was collective, that what one Minister undertook committed his colleagues. We have been told that upon more than one occasion in the proceedings on this Bill as well as on other Bills. Objection was taken to a Minister being required in the terms of an Act to consult a colleague because it was said that that would be an infringement of the theory of collective responsibility. I really do not think it is sufficient far my right hon. Friend to say: "Oh, well, in another place the matter was reconsidered and they came to a different conclusion" to relieve himself of his undertaking. In my submission that undertaking still stands, and that being so, instead of inviting this House to agree with the Lords Amendment he should invite us to disagree in order that his undertaking should be fulfilled.

I am not entitled to discuss what took place in another place, but it may well be that the Minister of Reconstruction took a different view from that of my right hon. Friend. If that was the case, we should have been told so while the matter was before this House. Presumably the two Ministers responsible for the progress of this Bill have been in close touch throughout the proceedings. I want to ask whether the Whips are going to be put on in support of my right hon. Friend's proposition that we should agree with the Lords Amendment. If so, surely a curious situation arises. The Government Whips advised hon. Members to vote in support of two years. Are they to-day going to advise hon. Members to vote against two years? Surely, it is not fair on the Government Whips and, if that sort of thing happens, it is making this House rather ridiculous and giving a certain amount of credence to what I have always regarded as a most unfair suggestion that hon. Members are herded into this Lobby or that at the will of the Whips. That is a thing which I think we ought to dissuade the country from believing, but if, having during the Report stage been marched from five to two, hon. Members are now told by the Government Whips to "about turn," and march from two to three, I say that is making our proceedings rather ridiculous. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the merits of the matter; they have been fully discussed in both Houses. What I stand on is the undertaking which my right hon. Friend gave us and which was honoured on both sides, and I look to the Government to honour that undertaking to-day and to ask the House not to agree, but to disagree, with the Lords Amendment.

12.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

I do not think that the alteration from two years to three will make much practical difference to the operation of the Bill, but it seems to me that what we are being asked to do to-day in this House is a matter of some serious import affecting Members, not only on this side of the House, but on the other side as well. We were given, as my right hon. Friend has said, an undertaking on the terms that we did not move Amendments and that he got his Schedule unaltered. That part of the bargain was fulfilled, and the Minister in this House fulfilled his part of the bargain. As I understood it, the Government were committed to this matter unalterably. Now we are asked to retrace our steps because of an Amendment accepted in another place. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor). I would ask the Minister to adhere to his undertaking, an undertaking which was binding on the Government and from which he has not been released. If it be the case that, owing to the pressure of trying to get this Bill through in a hurry before the Session ended, some slip occurred, or there was a breakdown in the usual channels of communications, or something of that sort, if this was an error and steps will be taken to see that it will never occur again, and it must never be treated as a precedent, then I feel we might, on this occasion alone, accede to the Lords Amendment. But unless that is made quite clear, I think we should insist on the undertaking given in this House being honoured.

12.35 p.m.

Photo of Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill , Edinburgh North

It must be a question of the utmost moment to this House whether obligations entered into by the Government can be honourably counted upon by the House. What we are now being asked to do by the Minister is to agree with the Lords Amendments which have the effect of going back upon a pledge. I think my right hon. Friend took this matter altogether too lightly. I think it is absolutely essential to that sort of relationship which makes it possible to work things in this House, that it should not he thought that if the Government or a responsible Minister has made a pledge that that pledge will not be honoured. Personally, I do not mind whether it is two or three years, but I do mind very much that it should be made abundantly clear, if a mistake has been made. The Government should say it is a mistake and should ask the House, in view of the difficulties arising in the passing of the Bill this Session, to forgive them. On that being done, I myself, would support the Lords Amendment.

12.36 p.m.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

I am delighted to see this attitude by hon. Members opposite in relation to another place. No one is more sensitive than I am on the rights of this House of Commons. I welcome these reports and I hope they will be quoted on another occasion.

Photo of Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill , Edinburgh North

Will the right hon. Baronet give way for one moment? No one has suggested on this side of the House that the other House has gone wrong. It is the Government that gave a pledge to this House which ought to have bound them in another place as well as here.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

The other place exists and has its rights as a Government. I happened to be present, maybe by accident, and heard the discussion in the other place. It asserted its rights just as we assert our rights here on a particular point of view.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Gilbert Acland-Troyte Lieut-Colonel Sir Gilbert Acland-Troyte , Tiverton

Did the other place divide on the subject? Did not the Government give way?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

They were pressed for five years, and just like my right hon. Friend, showed tact and good humour and tried to get the Bill through. From what I heard, the Lord Chancellor at the time, in order to get the Bill through, came to this compromise. As it happens, of course, the compromise goes a certain way to meet my point of view, but I am not taking that line. I say that as this is practically the last day of the Session, I do not think it is unreasonable that the right hon. Gentleman, in order to avoid a bitter controversy between the two Houses, should accept this compromise.

12.38 p.m.

Photo of Colonel Alan Gandar-Dower Colonel Alan Gandar-Dower , Penrith and Cockermouth

I sincerely hope that the House will not support the Lords Amendment. A specific undertaking was given in regard to this matter, and I think it is a matter of considerable importance. I will read to the House what my right hon. Friend said when this matter was under discussion. He said: …I undertake, if I emerge from the Committee stage with the powers that I am asking for accelerated procedure and public inquiry, I will introduce on Report an Amendment giving effect to the shorter time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th October, 1944; Vol. 403, C, 1026.] Following that undertaking—and I say this in no spirit of unpleasantness or criticism—some of my hon. Friends and myself got together and went through the list of Amendments and decided, then and there, not to press them. We stopped any kind of obstruction taking place, although there is a lot in this Bill which, frankly, we do not like. It was only on the undertaking of my right hon. Friend, as I have said, that we decided not to press these Amendments. I have here eight Amendments which we decided to cut out in the light of the promise given by my right hon. Friend when he accepted, in spirit, the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor).

I, also, was present in another place when this matter was discussed, and, as my right hon. Friend has mentioned what took place there, I also would like to mention it. It was an inadequate discussion; only three or four speeches were made, and then, suddenly, this proposal was accepted and put forward in this form. I think the whole of the Debate on this Bill has been conducted as a Debate of high politics and also without any kind of acrimonious feeling or unkind remarks. I can think of nothing likely to cause more friction than if this quite specific undertaking given by my right hon. Friend is not honoured. We have got 30 pages of Lords Amendments, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has pointed out, we have to get them through to-day. I am sure we shall all co-operate, but it is creating friction, and if my right hon. Friend after having given this undertaking, which we accepted in letter and in spirit, is not prepared to honour it, now that we have come to the final stages of this Bill, I sincerely hope that this House will not agree to this Amendment which has been sent to us from another place.

12.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak

I find myself more in sympathy with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) than with that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) who has just spoken. None of the hon. Members who have spoken against the proposal in the Lords Amendment have addressed themselves to the merits of the Amendment. Apparently it is not, in their view, of great importance whether there is a period of two years or three years. The point to which they have addressed themselves has been that of asking the Government to confess that there may have been some slight lack of co-ordination between the Ministers in charge of this Bill in this place and the other place.

Photo of Colonel Alan Gandar-Dower Colonel Alan Gandar-Dower , Penrith and Cockermouth

May I say very briefly that we base our argument on the fact that we were given a specific undertaking.

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak

I appreciate what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry. He said he hoped the Government would indicate that there had been some slight misunderstanding between the Ministers responsible for the Bill in the two places, but I listened carefully to what the Minister said, and I think he went out of his way to say that he regretted what had happened, and that if it had not been for the exigencies of his office, and if he had been able to spend more time in another place, possibly this would not have happened. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members who are opposed to this Amendment are not going to ask for anything more than what I thought was the very frank admission on the part of the Minister that these things do happen. I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind the constitutional issue here. When I hear an hon. Member of this House say that a complaint is brought, not against the other Chamber of the Legislature but against the Government, I ask myself what exactly the opinion of hon. Members is of their responsibility. It is perfectly in Order, either in this House or the other, to insist upon an Amendment to a Bill, and I think it would be most unfortunate if it went out from this House that we disputed the right of any Chamber of the Legislature to insist on changes being made in a Bill when placed before them by the Government.

12.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Colegate Mr Arthur Colegate , The Wrekin

I cannot accept the argument of the last speaker, which seems to me entirely beside the point. There is no question here of anyone contesting the right of the other place to fulfil, in the very fullest measure, the functions for which it exists, but this is something quite different. The case here is that we have a very definite pledge given under circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) must know, as well as I do, constitute a well-understood part of our procedure, namely, that Bills are got through Committee in this House by a process of what is in effect bargaining, not merely with people who are in opposition to particular points, but with others who wish to modify different Clauses and Sub-sections. This process was very well illustrated on the Committee stage of this Bill. It was fully understood that a good deal of opposition would be withdrawn if certain undertakings were given. I myself congratulated my right hon. Friend the Minister for the very skilful way in which, as I thought, he conducted the Bill through Committee. But if we are now to say that we must no longer rely on a pledge given in this House because it is interfering with the privileges of another place, the whole of that procedure falls to the ground. I appreciated the candour of my right hon. Friend, but I hoped that he was going to propose that we should resist the Lords Amendment. That would have been a fitting conclusion. I do not feel very deeply about the merits of the case, and I should regret anything which would prevent this Bill getting on to the Statute Book as quickly as possible; but we ought not to allow a thing of this kind to occur, when a definite pledge has been given and, in response to it, a considerable amount of opposition has been withdrawn.

12.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I do not think my right hon. Friend need unduly humiliate himself, or secure a white sheet for this occasion. But he is himself to blame for having given conflicting pledges on this issue. I remember that he gave another pledge, much earlier in the proceedings, that the period should be five years.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

No. In the discussions which took place with the local authorities he definitely agreed that the period should be five years, and he put that in the Bill. I can assure my right hon. Friend that there was no misunderstanding about the effect of this provision. We on this side relied on the pledge which he gave, that he would stand by this period of five years. Then my right hon. Friend got himself into the difficulty which faces everybody who gives conflicting pledges. While I do not want him to humiliate himself about this matter, I feel that he has brought the difficulty upon himself. I am not going to enter into the constitutional arguments, although I am bound to say that, as long as there is a Second Chamber, its Members are entitled to have their own ideas.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

The other Chamber has not given any pledge.

Photo of Mr Arthur Colegate Mr Arthur Colegate , The Wrekin

No one has suggested that it has. What we object to is that the Minister

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak, and cannot speak again.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

Has not the Minister a right to consider the arguments put forward in the other Chamber? If the other Chamber is to be tied hand and foot by pledges given in this Chamber, there is no case for having a Second Chamber. The Lords are as much entitled to consider the merits as we are. They have come to the conclusion that three years is a proper period. It is true that they arrived at that conclusion by a process of bargaining, just as we arrived at two years by a process of bargaining in this House. The hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) is, of course, quite alive to the implications of this agreement. He, very wisely, takes the view that, so long as my right hon. Friend is properly humble, this matter should not be pressed, because he realises that the effect of disagreeing with the Lords on this Amendment is that the Bill will be destroyed. There are hon. Members of this House—I do not think I am doing them an injustice—who would be very happy to see the Bill destroyed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, there are Members who wish to see the Bill destroyed. This would be a very nice method of destroying it.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

Yes, it would. It would save a lot of trouble to get it destroyed by disagreeing with a Lords Amendment. The majority of Members want the Bill, and we can get it only by agreeing with the Lords in their Amendment. I hope that we shall agree with the Lords, and make quite sure that this Bill receives the Royal Assent—I hope, to-morrow.

12.52 p.m.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I would express agreement with what my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) has said. A point of some constitutional importance arises here. I find myself in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate)—I hope he will not mind my saying so; one has to be careful now about expressing disagreement, because one is accused of making charges. The position that the Tory Party has always taken up is that the other place is a live Assembly, which has a right to do as it wishes to do. As I understood the hon. Member for The Wrekin, he contended that, because a bargain had been reached in this House —I thought the word "bargain" was unfortunate, but perhaps that was the case—between the Government and Tory Members who are not in agreement with the Town and County Planning Bill, the Lords were bound to accept that bargain. That is not so. I would go further, and say that if a Minister has come to an agreement with Members of this House who are normally supporters of the Government but are not supporting them on this occasion, it is not necessarily the duty of a Minister in another place to accept that agreement; he must have regard to the opinions expressed in another place. That is what I think happened in this case. The general effect of this discussion would be to give the impression—I hope it is a wrong impression—that some Members of the Tory Party wish to detract from what are the undoubted powers and privileges of another place.

12.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Campbell Mr John Campbell , Antrim

I had not intended to speak on this subject, but as some of my hon. Friends have ex- hausted their right to speak I feel that somebody should make our position clear. I think that the Noble Lord has missed the point of our attack on the Government. We do not in the least complain that another place has passed an Amendment, changing the legislation which we have passed. What we object to is that the Government gave a guarantee, and then accepted an Amendment in another place without making any effort to carry out that guarantee.

12.55 p.m.

Photo of Captain James Duncan Captain James Duncan , Kensington North

I, too, would like to make my position dear. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) said that certain hon. Members wished to destroy the Bill. That is the last thing I want to see. The opposition to this Amendment has been inspired by no desire for the destruction of the Bill whatever. I hope that that will be borne in mind by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton).

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I never accused anybody of wishing to destroy the Bill.

Photo of Captain James Duncan Captain James Duncan , Kensington North

The other point made by the hon. Member for Peckham was based on a complete misinterpretation of what actually occurred. What occurred in another place was that the Government accepted the Amendment without a fight, without a Division. If the other place, in the execution of its duty, had defeated the Government and inserted "three" instead of "two," that would have been a different matter. Our argument is that the Minister, having given an undertaking in this House, has committed the whole of the Government, in whichever House the Ministers concerned happened to sit. That is, I think, a point of some constitutional importance. I do not think it was appreciated by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) that when a Minister gives an undertaking in this House, that undertaking commits the whole of the Government, and not merely those Ministers who are in this House. That is the gravamen of our charge against the Government. We do not wish to destroy the Bill, or in any way to conflict with the complete rights of the other place to discuss the Bill on its merits. In view of what has happened, I should have thought that the Minister would have come down to this House and have asked us to "disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment." I personally wish he had done so.

12.57 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

I know that the House does not wish to delay a decision on this question. On the other hand, I fully realise that hon. Members, in all quarters of this House, consider that an important point is involved. I certainly do not accuse any Member of this House of wishing to destroy the Bill. There are, perhaps, three different aspects of the question. The first is merits. About that I do not propose to speak, because, even among those who think that we should disagree with the Lords Amendment on other grounds, the majority think that there is nothing in it on the merits; and I am satisfied that, if necessary, I could prove that to the satisfaction of every Member. I will only say—I will come to the pledge later—that it would be quite impossible to ask the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment without going into the merits. The second point is the constitutional position. On that I do not wish to say more than that it is quite clear that we cannot, by anything we say in this House, bind those in another place in the actions they take. I fully agree with my hon. Friends who have said that that is not necessarily a defence of the conduct of the Government, if it is found that they did not put the matter rightly in the other place. I am not going to make light of the pledge that was given by my right hon. Friend—I am quite certain that when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) examines HANSARD tomorrow he will not come to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend made light of it this morning.

I must, I am afraid, turn for a moment to the speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), which I do not think has facilitated proceedings to-day at all. On the Report stage, when the Minister fulfilled this pledge, the hon. Member for Peckham said that this took him completely by surprise—it should not have done anything of the sort—and that he must divide the House and vote against the Third Reading and so on. I was quite convinced then that the hon. Member must have forgotten what had taken place and so made this violent attack upon the Minister which has been repeated ever since in organs of the Press. I thought that the hon. Member was doing it because he had forgotten what had happened. The fact is that, on 4th October, in this House, the Minister did give a pledge in the clearest possible language that, if he got the Bill through in that form with all the new procedure, he would introduce on Report stage precisely the reduction to two years which he subsequently effected, and the argument about five years in Clause 1 is, as the hon. Member perfectly well knows, quite a different subject.

The pledge was given, and the gravamen of the charge against the Government, considering the constitutional position, is that, that pledge having been given, the Government did not fight as they should have fought in another place to see that no alteration was made. Let us see what the position was. I crave the sympathy of the House, at least, for this—that it has not been an entirely simple or short Bill in this House. I think my hon. Friends in all quarters may realise that it was not an absolutely simple Bill in another place. One hon. Member says that there is a great deal in this Bill which many hon. Members in this House do not like. It is quite conceivable that there are things in this Bill which Members of another place did not like. The Bill was piloted through another place, and, when the Amendment was moved, it was to restore the five years. When people talk about accepting the Amendment, many of them speak as if the Amendment put forward had been accepted. That is not what happened.

In another place, the Amendment to restore five years was resisted by the Government, and, after debate, a suggestion of three years was put forward by a legal member of that Assembly and commanded general assent. I am not clear myself—perhaps those with constitutional knowledge greater than mine will answer this—that the Government must necessarily insist upon a Division in another place on account of what had happened in this place, but I am sure that what had happened in this place should have been well in the mind of the Minister then in charge and of others. I say it is not entirely easy, because hon. Members know how quickly things move in Committee, but, if there is blame in this matter, I think it has been taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister, and I think it is only right to say that he may have taken it too generously, because I am not at all sure that, if any Minister is to blame, it is not much more myself, since, at that time, I was in another place and he was not.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

Why did not the hon. Gentleman challenge a Division?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

My hon. Friend asked me why I did not challenge a Division, but that could only have been done by a grave breach of Order, and it is almost inconceivable that any hon. Member of this House would commit such an outrage in another place.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

I ask my hon. and gallant Friend how does he know?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

Whether or not there is any hon. Member of this House who would have challenged a Division in another place, it would never have occurred to me that was the appropriate way by which I should leave the Government service. I did not bring sufficiently to the notice of the Minister in charge exactly what was the nature of the pledge. I will not assure the House that I had the exact phrase in my mind as I have it now, but I had the general purpose absolutely in mind and remembered that we had insisted upon a shorter period under this Clause, if we got the Schedules for the improved procedure through. Having given this explanation, and having said that, undoubtedly, although each Chamber has its rights, the Government is one, I think the pledge the Minister gave was fully honoured in this place. We could not guarantee what would hapen in another place, and the failure is solely a failure, I think, of the Minister and myself sufficiently to bring to the notice of those in another place what had happened here, and, with that explanation, I hope my hon. Friends will not take too grave a view of our conduct.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, to page 15, line 40, agreed to. [Special Entry made in one case.]