§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]
§ Motion made, "That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of the remuneration of any persons appointed by the Board of Trade for the purposes of any Act of the present session to facilitate the introduction and use of Electric Power on Railways, and any other expenses incurred by the Board of Trade in carrying such Act into effect."—(Mr. Bonar Law.)
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said he did not know what this meant, and he objected to give a blank cheque of this nature to any Government Department. So far as he was aware there had been no explanation given to the House regarding this matter.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BONAR LAW (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
May I interrupt the hon. Member; I think he is under a misapprehension. This is simply a necessary part of a Bill which has already passed the Second Reading. The Bill itself will come before the House in the ordinary way.
§ MR. WHITLEY
thought the Minister in charge should get up and explain a Resolution when it was put forward. This 52 was to authorise expenditure under a Bill which was in the future. Surely the Committee ought to have some estimate of the probable cost.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
repeated that this was a necessary part of a Bill which had already passed the Second Reading.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he recollected that the Bill passed the Second Reading some weeks ago, almost without any attention being given to it. Could the hon. Gentleman state to the Committee what was the estimated cost of the working of the Bill to which the Resolution referred? It was only by getting figures to show what the cost of the Bill was expected to be that they would be able to check expenditure on the Estimates. If on the Estimates the Department was charged with extravagance, the hon. Gentleman would say that the Committee passed this Resolution authorising the expenditure of anything they liked.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said the hon. Gentleman who represented the Board of Trade had told the Committee that this was a formal matter. It was nothing of the kind. It was a Resolution authorising the Board of Trade to appoint any number of persons they liked. The clause in the Bill was as follows—The Board of Trade may (with the concurrence of the Treasury as to number and remuneration) appoint or employ such persons as appear to them to be required for carrying this Act into effect, and the remuneration of such persona, and any other expenses of the Board of Trade under this Act shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.Consequently, what the Committee was called upon to do was to authorise the Board of Trade to appoint any number 53 of persons they thought might be required, and to declare that the expenses should be paid out of money provided by Parliament. The Committee ought to have some information as to the amount of money involved. When the Bill was before the House for Second Reading they were told that the matter of expense could be discussed on the Committee stage, and now on the Committee stage they were told there was to be no consideration at all. His objection to the clause was that it enabled the Board of Trade to do what was tantamount to this—to appoint another whole army of inspectors to see that the alterations which the railway companies made, were done according to the notions of some person at the Board of Trade. It was an addition to the accursed army of inspectors which was treading under its heel the people of this country. He expected that we should have inspectors to see that we all went to bed at ten o'clock, and that we did not play bridge or cast lots. He thought the Government were not treating the Committee with proper respect when they did not even give an estimate of the amount they were going to spend under this Resolution. He hoped the Committee would insist upon a statement from the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss the Bill. This is purely a formal matter in order to enable the Committee to discuss this particular clause of the Bill. Supposing this Resolution were not accepted by the Committee, the Committee would not be able to discuss Clause 5 of the Bill. When that clause is reached, that will be the proper time to discuss the number of appointments proposed to be made, and the remuneration of the persons proposed to be appointed, and until this Resolution is passed the Committee is not entitled to consider that at all.
§ MR. CHANNING
said he was a supporter of the Bill, but he thought the position the Committee was placed in by the Resolution was exceedingly unreasonable. He did not share the apprehensions of the hon. Member for King's Lynn with regard to the possibility of there being a large army of inspectors. He did not think they ought to authorise an unlimited expenditure. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade ought to inform the Committee what he thought was the probable amount of money which would be required under the Bill for the first year.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that this was a purely formal stage of the Bill, and it was very unreasonable to ask for an estimate of the expense that would be involved. It was not absolutely necessary for the Board of Trade to take any steps. Their action would altogether depend on what was done by the Railway Companies; on the number of Railway Companies which availed themselves of the Act. If no Railway Company applied for the benefit of the Act there would be no expense, and even if one or two applied, he believed that the present staff of the Board of Trade would be quite sufficient to deal with the necessary work which would be thrown upon them by the Act.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said that the restrictions and delays which occurred in the introduction of electric lighting into this country had led to most unfortunate consequences, and he certainly hoped they would not repeat the error in regard to the introduction of electric traction. We were very greatly behind the United States and our own colonies in the matter of electric traction, and the sooner we adopted it the better. That form of energy would be universally applied in a very few years and would be more economical than the present system of traction.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that he objected to any Resolution being passed in Committee of Ways and Means without having any explanation from the Minister in Charge. This procedure in Committee of Ways and Means was one of the few 55 remaining protections which private Members had against the extravagance of the Government. However, from what the hon. Gentleman had said there was evidently no intention on the part of the Board of Trade to engage a large number of new inspectors without putting the expenditure on the Estimates, and with that assurance he was quite satisfied.
§ Resolved, That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of the remuneration of any persons appointed by the Board of Trade for the purposes of any Act of the present session to facilitate the introduction and use of electric power on railways, and any other expenses incurred by the Board of Trade in carrying such Act in effect.—(Mr. Bonar Law.)
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday, 8th June.