HC Deb 25 November 1909 vol 13 cc392-9

Sub-section (4): The Commissioners may also frame schemes with respect to any of the matters for which advances may be made under this Part of this Act with a view to their adoption by a Government Department or other body or persons to whom an advance may be made.

Lords Amendment: Leave out Subsection (4).


moved, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This matter was considered in Committee upstairs, and also very fully upon Report here. The Amendment would make it impossible for the Commissioners themselves to initiate a scheme for any public work in accordance with the provisions of this measure. We desire that that latitude should be given to them. As was pointed out before, it may very well be the case that certain schemes put forward by various bodies or persons might not recommend themselves to the Commissioners, and might not secure the recommendation of the Commissioners to the Treasury, but that a sort of amalgamation of one or more of those schemes might be desirable, and that therefore it should be within the power of the Commissioners to initiate a scheme. I recommend to the House that view of the matter. Such a power cannot do any harm, and may do good in bringing schemes forward which may be very useful for public purposes.


I am sorry the Government disagree with this Amendment. I understood in the proceedings in Grand Committee that the Commissioners were to be a sort of judicial body. This provision enables them not only to consider certain schemes brought before them, but also gives them the power to initiate schemes. The only argument adduced by the learned Solicitor-General for disagreeing with the Lords is that a case might arise in which two or three schemes might be brought before the Commissioners, and that the Commissioners not approving of any of them might by a sort of arrangement or amalgamation make out another scheme. If this Amendment were accepted there would be nothing whatever to prevent the Commissioners saying to the parties, "We do not accept that scheme, but we have another scheme which has been put before us by, say, B. Go and con- suit with B, bring up an amended scheme, and we will consider whether we will approve of it." If this Amendment is not accepted they may be bringing forward schemes of their own, and their judgment as to other schemes will not be unbiassed but determined by their own schemes, to the detriment, perhaps, of other schemes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear hon. Members below the Gangway cheering the decision of the Government, but let hon. Members think over the matter. They might bring a scheme before the Commissioners, who might have an altogether new scheme, and the only consequence of that would be that the Commissioners might advocate their own schemes; and hon. Members below the Gangway should recollect that the Commissioners have the power of rejecting any scheme, and once they reject it as dead and cannot be brought forward again. I want the Commissioners to reject a scheme on its merits, and not because they have a scheme of their own, and therefore I hope the Government will reconsider their decision.


As the hon. Baronet who has just spoken referred to us sitting on these benches, I should like to put the view which occurs to us on this matter. May I remind him in the first place that the Commissioners have power to reject schemes, whether this is in the Bill or not. Therefore that argument does not apply.


If they did reject it it would be because they did not think it a good scheme, but now they may reject it not because the scheme is not a good one, but because they have a scheme of their own.


They have the power to reject in any case. But may I also remind the hon. Baronet that the Commissioners have the power to appoint advisory committees. They have certain officers under their control, and therefore they are in a position to get information superior to any local authority or any other authority which may put forward a scheme. It is for that reason that we are disposed to accept the Bill as it stands, and to reject the Lords Amendment.

Viscount MORPETH

This Amendment would very much affect Clause 1, Subsection 1, dealing with universities, schools, and institutions. It is possible that a university, for instance, might be walling to submit a scheme to the Commissioners asking for their assistance in carrying it out; but it would be quite another affair if the Commissioners had the power themselves to put forward a scheme and impose it upon the university, saying, "Either you adopt our scheme or we give no grant." It seems to me that this Sub-section gives an undue power of interference to the Commissioners in regard to the very important bodies set out in Clause 1, and to that extent, so far from facilitating the work, it will be very detrimental to it. Instead of having schemes sent up by the different authorities and, if they are satisfactory, passed by the Commissioners, you will have the Commissioners drawing up schemes and plans of their own, which almost certainly will not be adopted by or give pleasure to the people for whom they are meant, who probably know their own affairs better than the Commissioners do. Thus instead of the work being advanced it will be hindered.


I do not think the Solicitor-General made out a very strong case against this Amendment, and I regret the decision of the Government. While agreeing with what has been said by my hon. Friends, I have the further objection that this Sub-section gives to the Commissioners the power of making schemes with a view to their adoption by Government Departments. I do not think Government Departments require, or ought to require, a body outside Commissioners to make schemes for their adoption. If there is to be a scheme of agricultural education, for instance, I would far rather that it came from the Board of Agriculture. If there is to be a scheme of light railways, the Light Railways Commissioners are the proper people to submit it to the Government. Why does the Solicitor-General want to give these gentlemen the power—and the power, I suppose, connotes the duty—of recommending to Government Departments schemes which those Departments ought themselves to be quite competent to carry out? Could we be met to this extent— that the right of the Commissioners to suggest schemes, by request or otherwise, to Government Departments should be excluded? At least, Government Departments should be saved from unsolicited schemes being put forward by the Commissioners. The Light Railways Commissioners or the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade do not want schemes put before them by these gentlemen. There will be submitted to the Commissioners a thousand and one schemes, on all of which they cannot be experts, and they will be in the hands of their advisory experts. I think Government Departments might very well be left with undivided responsibility for schemes within the purview of their official duties.


I do not quite appreciate the position of the Noble Lord. All that the Commissioners have to do is this. They might have before them a dozen or even a hundred schemes dealing with, say, afforestation. They would go into the matter very carefully, and after instituting inquiries they might come to the conclusion that none of the schemes submitted to them, either by Government Departments or by any other body, quite met their view of what ought to be done under the circumstances. They would then either frame a scheme of their own, absolutely independent of all the other schemes, or take the whole of those schemes together, boil them down, and pick out the best of them. They would say, "We do not quite like any of these schemes, but, having looked into the matter very carefully, we have framed one of our own," and they would then send it on to the Treasury. If it dealt with afforestation the Treasury would be bound to send it to the Agricultural Department, and the Government would be the final arbiters. I think, after this explanation, hon. Members opposite will find that, on the whole, the Bill without the Amendment would better answer the purpose which they have in mind. They do not want schemes to be either taken or rejected as they stand. What they really want is that the matters should be carefully considered, that the best advice should be taken, and that the Commissioners should not be compelled by the form of the Bill merely to accept or reject, but that, if they think there is a better alternative, they should have the power of referring it to the Government Department concerned in the form of a separate scheme as that which commends itself to their judgment after complete inquiry as being the best.


I do not find myself at all differing with regard to the object the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid down, but I am unconvinced that this is the proper or the best way of carrying it out. Without this Sub-section everything the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants could be done. Schemes come before the Commissioners and they have to make a report upon them. There is nothing to prevent their reporting that in their view the schemes are ineffective in some particulars, and that what is wanted is a scheme of such and such a character. That might then be taken up by any of the parties concerned, and presented for their consideration. I think that is a better plan, and that it is in effect what the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests the Commissioners should do under this Subsection. If you retain the Sub-section, there is just the danger that some future Development Commissioners may go about framing schemes for themselves. I do not think that that would be at all a good plan. It is quite evident that such schemes would not have the same guarantee of inquiry, and consequently of excellence, that other schemes would have, because they would not have to be examined by an independent body. The whole idea of the Bill is that a public authority, or a Government Department, or some other responsible body, frames a scheme and submits it to the Development Commissioners, who examine it, and ascertain whether it is a good or a bad scheme. The Commissioners are the sieve through which all the schemes go. But if they start a scheme themselves it is evident that their examination of it, if they examined it at all, would be of a much less thorough character. Therefore, it appears to me that this Sub-section is a bad way of carrying out what the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires. The Clause without the Sub-section gives all the power the right hon. Gentleman wishes the Commissioners to have; there-fore it would be better to accept the Lords Amendment, and I shall so vote if the matter goes to a Division.


I am really surprised at hon. Members opposite showing such a lack of faith in the Commissioners. If the Commissioners are to have power to reject a number of schemes, the rejection of which will cause a good many heart-burnings, surely they ought to be a body capable of putting their own scheme alongside those submitted to them. A body of men not equal to that would be entirely useless. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Balcarres) is very anxious that nothing should be done to educate and enlighten Government Departments, who; he said, were quite competent to draft schemes and to do all that was necessary. Personally, I think that there is no body of men in the world who need more outside information than a Government Department. I should be interested to know whether the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Bowles) agrees with the Noble Lord on that point. Nothing could be more salutary than that there should be, in exceptional cases, a body of men who would not look at the matter from the narrow departmental point of view, but who, invested with the great authority given by this Bill, would look at the scheme as a whole, have regard to all the interests, and under those conditions put forward a scheme. That scheme would have to go before the Government Department, so that I think hon. Members opposite might very well let the Bill stand as it is.


We look upon this Amendment as of great importance, and are glad that the Government have decided to disagree with it. Reference has been made to the number of schemes which will be put forward; but taking into consideration our experience of

Government Departments in the past, I am rather inclined to doubt whether the number will be so large as has been suggested. These Commissioners are to be appointed for a special work—afforestation, reclamation, and work of that character. It will be their duty to go carefully into all the schemes put forward; but if this Sub-section were omitted I am afraid there would be an entire lack of initiative on their part. Just as in the past, there will be no Government Department inclined to initiate schemes of this character, and therefore, the Bill will entirely fail in its object in that respect. If the measure is to be effective we must give the Commissioners some power of initiative.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 188; Noes, 41.

Division No. 916.] AYES. [5.30 p.m.
Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.) Falconer, James Maclean, Donald
Adkins W. Ryland D. Ferens, T. R. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Alden, Percy Fuller, John Michael F. Macpherson, J. T.
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Gibb, James (Harrow) MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)
Ashton, Thomas Gair Gibson, J. P. M'Callum, John M.
Atherley-Jones, L. Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John M'Micking, Major G.
Baker, Joseph A. Glover, Thomas Maddison, Frederick
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Mallet, Charles E.
Barker, Sir John Gulland, John W. Marnham, F. J.
Barnes, G. N. Hancock, J. G. Massie, J.
Beck, A. Cecil Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Masterman, C. F. G.
Berridge, T. H. D. Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Meagher, Michael
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Hart-Davies, T. Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Menzies, Sir Walter
Bowerman, C. W. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Molteno, Percy Alport
Bligg, Sir John Hedges, A. Paget Montagu, Hon. E. S.
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Mooney, J. J.
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.) Morrell, Philip
Byles. William Pollard Henry, Charles S. Morse, L. L.
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Cawley, Sir Frederick Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Higham, John Sharp Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)
Cheetham, John Frederick Hodge, John Myer, Horatio
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Hooper, A. G. Nolan, Joseph
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Horniman, Emslie John Nussey, Sir Willans
Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.) Hudson, Walter O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Illingworth, Percy H. O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Jardine, Sir J. O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Johnson, John (Gateshead) O'Grady, J.
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Parker, James (Halifax)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jones, Leif (Appleby) Paul, Herbert
Cory, Sir Clifford John Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Jowett, F. W. Pirie, Duncan V.
Cowan, W. H. Joyce, Michael Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Crosfield, A. H. Kekewich, Sir George Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Cross, Alexander King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Cullinan, J. Laidlaw, Sir Robert Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)
Curran, Peter Francis Lambert, George Radford, G. H.
Davies, Timothy (Fulham) Lamont, Norman Rainy, A. Holland
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Rea, Rt Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Laylana-Barratt, Sir Francis Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Lehmann, R. C. Rendall, Athelstan
Donelan, Captain A. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)
Duncan, G. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lewis, John Herbert Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Esmonde, Sir Thomas Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Ridsdale, E. A.
Essex, R. W. Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Esslemont, George Birnie Lupton, Arnold Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Evans, Sir S. T. Lynch, H. B. Robertson, J. M. (Tyneslde)
Everett, R. Lacey Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Summerbell, T. Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford) Sutherland, J. E. Waterlow, D. S.
Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Taylor, John W. (Durham) Watt, Henry A.
Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester) Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury) White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne) Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire) Whitehead. Rowland
Sears, J. E. Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Seaverns, J. H. Thorne, William (West Ham) Wilkle, Alexander
Shipman. Dr. John G. Tomkinson, Rt. Hon. James Williamson, Sir A.
Soares, Ernest J. Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.w.) Verney, F. W. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire) Vivian, Henry Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Steadman, W. C. Walker, H. De R. (Leicester) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Stewart, Halley (Greenock) Walsh, Stephen
Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal) Walters, John Tudor TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr.
Straus, B. S. (Mile End) Ward. W. Dudley (Southampton) Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Goulding, Edward Alfred Percy, Eart
Balcarres, Lord Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Bignold, Sir Arthur Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edm'ds.) Remnant, James Farquharson
Bowles, G. Stewart Harrlson-Broadley, H. B. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Carlile, E Hildred Heaton, John Henniker Ronaldshay, Earl of
Cave, George Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H. Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Kerry, Earl of Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clark, George Smith Kimber, Sir Henry Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)
Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E. King, Sir Henry Seymour Thornton, Percy M.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham) Valentia, Viscount
Craik, Sir Henry Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan) Morpeth, Viscount TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir F. Banbury and Mr. Harmood-Banner.
Fletcher, J. S. Nield, Herbert
Gardner, Ernest Peel, Hon. W. R. W.

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