HC Deb 06 August 1900 vol 87 cc805-11

Lords Amendments considered.

Lords Amendment— In page 1, line 24, leave out sub-section (3), and insert 'The principal Act is hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of the Schedule to this Act' —read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)

This Amendment, I think, raises a question of privilege upon which it is our duty at any rate to obtain your ruling, Sir. Under Section 65 of the Act of 1890, the expenses incurred by a local authority in the execution of the Act have to be defrayed in the case of an urban sanitary authority as general expenses, and in the case of a rural sanitary authority as special expenses, with a proviso in the latter case that the County Council may determine them to be general expenses. Therefore, as the law stood at the time this Bill was introduced in this House, the expenses were prima facie special expenses, and fell on special classes of ratepayers. This House, when in Committee, by Subsection 3, Clause 2, altered that part of the 65th Section of the Act of 1890, by providing that in future these expenses should be general and not special, the result being that the incidence of this particular form of local expenditure was cast, or might be cast, upon a different class of ratepayer. The House of Lords has, by the conjoint effect of this Amendment and of the schedule, taken these expenses from the category of general expenses, in which the House of Commons had put them, and replaced them in the category of special expenses. That, I submit, is a violation, which should be resented by the House, of the well established principle that where a provision is made by the House of Commons and embodied in a Bill, and sent to the House of Lords, which in any way affects or alters the incidence of local taxation, it is not within the competence of the House of Lords, as a matter of constitutional privilege, to amend or alter that provision. I have to ask you, Sir, whether the Amendment just read does not in fact violate that well-established principle. May I, if not out of order, endeavour to anticipate an answer that might conceivably be given—namely, that what the House of Lords has done in this case, though in form to amend the financial proposals of the House of Commons, is in substance merely to reinstate the preexisting law. That I also submit cannot be within the competence of the House of Lords, for the Amendment takes the form of replacing in the Bill that which would have been the general law of the land if the Bill had not passed the House of Commons; and I would point out, further, that the House of Lords have not contented themselves with replacing in the Bill the pre-existing law, but have proceeded to amend that law. They have, in fact, omitted some five or six lines of the section of the principal Act, and have made a further Amendment in the proviso at the end of the clause. They have not, in fact, reinstated the clause as it previously existed, and have amended a proposition made in this House in a matter which is beyond their competence. I therefore respectfully submit that this Amendment is a breach of the privileges of the House.

The ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Robert FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs

On the point of order I should like to say a few words in reference to what my right hon. friend has said. He is perfectly accurate in saying that under the Act of 1890 expenses of this kind were special expenses unless they were declared to be general expenses. He was not quite accurate with reference to the effect of the Bill as it left the House of Commons. As the Bill left this House, these expenses were general, but there was a power given to the Local Government Board, if they pleased, to make them special under Section 29 of the Act of 1894. What the House of Lords has done is to change the Bill in a way which leaves the law exactly as it was under the Act of 1890. They are special expenses unless the council declares them to be general. Therefore, I contend that there has not been any interference with the privileges of this House. My right hon. friend has said that the House of Lords altered the law because they had struck out certain words from Sub-section 3 of Section 65 of the Act of 1890. That is perfectly true. As the Bill left this House certain words in Sub-section 3 were struck out, and all the House of Lords did was to eliminate certain words in the proviso, which had consequently become unnecessary and meaningless. I therefore submit, Mr. Speaker, that there has been no breach of privilege, and that the House of Lords have restored the law as it was before this Bill was introduced.

MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)

On the point of order I would wish, with reference to what has fallen from the Attorney General, to draw attention to what the effect of the Lords Amendments, really will be, because it seems to me they will work very differently from the manner stated by the hon. Gentleman. Under the section as it stood, in the case of rural sanitary authorities the special expenses would fall on the special district: concerned, save where the burden of such expense was ordered by the county council to be borne by the contributory places, and was deemed to be expense incurred for the common benefit of all the contributory places liable. That is to say, all the contributory places must pay except where the county council shows any special cause why the expense should fall in one contributory place only. That was a power of substance, because it enabled the authority to say that the improvement had been for the benefit of a whole group of districts. The House; of Lords by its action has taken away that power from the county councils, and consequently in all cases these rates will, be special rates, and must be borne by the place for the benefit of which the improvement was made, although that place might be ill able to bear them. I submit, therefore, that the House of Lords has not only restored the existing law, but has made a very substantial alteration in: the incidence of taxation for this purpose.


When this Bill was, considered on the Report stage the hon. Member for Thirsk had an Amendment on the Paper relating to this matter, and an objection was taken that it was out of order because it proposed to alter the) incidence of taxation. It was not the: same as the Amendment that was carried, in the House of Lords. The Attorney General stated that the Amendment in that shape did or possibly might alter the incidence of taxation, and both sides, being apparently in agreement, I did not go into it further, and ruled it out of order on the Report stage. With regard to the Lords Amendment, it appears to me that it is an alteration that brings us back to the state of the existing law; it does not alter the existing law. As to the statement that the alteration is different from the law as proposed by the Commons, I confess I do not, upon examination, think that it is an alteration which affects the privileges of this House. It does not, appear to me to alter the incidence of taxation but rather to affect to a very limited extent the power of a public body to alter the rate from general to special in one case and from special to general in the other. I confess I do not think it is a matter which touches the question of rating in such a way as to effect an infringement of the privileges of this House.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

The House of Commons having decided that certain expenses should be general and certain other expenses should be special, I ask you, Sir, whether the Amendments of the House of Lords do not transfer a portion of the burden of

the expenditure from one class of ratepayers to another class in the same area, and whether the House of Lords have a right to alter the wording of a bill so as to levy in effect taxation on a new class of ratepayers or to impose a larger degree of taxation on another class.


That is putting over again the arguments which have been already dealt with.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 88; Noes, 56. (Division List No. 283.)

Arnold, Alfred Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Fisher, William Hayes Morrison, Jas. A. (Wilts, S.)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Flannery, Sir Fortescue Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)
Balcarres, Lord Flower, Ernest Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)
Balfour. Rt. Hon A. J. (Manch'r) Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Murray, Col. W. (Bath)
Balfour. Rt. Hn Gerald W (Leeds Gordon, Hon. John Edward Newdigate, Francis Alex.
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Percy, Earl
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir. M. H(Bristol Goschen, Rt. Hn G J (St George's Phillpotts, Captain Arthur
Blundell, Colonel Henry Halsey, Thomas Frederick Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edw.
Bowles, T. Gibson(King's Lynn Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Purvis, Robert
Brassey, Albert Heath, James Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Houston, R. P. Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. T.
Burdett-Coutts, W. Howard, Joseph Royds, Clement Molyneux
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hudson, George Bickersteth Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Cavendish. V. C. W(Derbyshire Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.) Sharpe, William Ed ward T.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Kimber, Henry Smith, James P. (Lanarks.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J (Birm.) Lafone, Alfred Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)
Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r Laurie, Lieut.-General Stanley, Edw. J. (Somerset)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Thornton, Percy M.
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn (Sw'ns'a Tomlinson, Win. Edw. M.
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Tritton, Charles Ernest
Colomb, Sir John Charles R. Lonsdale, John Brownlee Vincent, Col. Sir C. E H (Sheff'ld
Cox, Irwin Edward Bain bridge Lowles, John Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Tauntn
Curzon, Viscount Lowther, Rt. Hon James (Kent) Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)
Davies, Sir Horatio D(Chatham Lowther, Rt. Hn J W (Cumb'l'nd Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)
Denny, Colonel Lucas-Shadwell, William Wyndham, George
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Macartney, W. G. Ellison
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Maclure, Sir John William TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Faber, George Denison M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Malcolm, Ian
Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) Maple, Sir John Blundell
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E. Hogan, James Francis Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herb. Henry Jacoby, James Alfred Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Jones, David Brynmor (Swans'a Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur Tones, William (Carnarvonsh. Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Broadhurst, Henry Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh
Burns, John Lloyd-George, David Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Burt Thomas MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn.'sCo Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.
Caldwell, James MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Steadman, William Charles
Cameron, Robert (Durham) M'Ewan, William Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Cawley, Frederick M'Leod, John Tanner, Charles Kearns
Charming, Francis Allston Maddison, Fred. Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Crilly, Daniel Mather, William Ure, Alexander
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Molloy, Bernard Charles Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.
Doogan, P. C. Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Whiteley, George (Stockport)
Edwards, Owen Morgan Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlesbrough
Griffith, Ellis J. O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Haldane, Richard Burdon O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Sir Walter Foster and Mr. William M'Arthur.
Hazell, Walter Rainier, Sir C. M. (Durham)

Subsequent Amendments agreed to.