HC Deb 07 October 1909 vol 11 cc2204-11

Order read, for consideration as amended (in the Standing Committee).

Sir FREDERICK BANBURY moved "That the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 1."

I make this Motion for two reasons. First of all, because the Clause is one of extreme importance, introducing novel principles into the legislation of this country, and because it has not been fully discussed in Grand Committee, owing to the action of the Government in closuring 13½ lines out of 37½ lines. I will endeavour to make good my two points. Clause 1 is so important, and introduces such novel principles, that the House itself should have had an opportunity of discussing it. The House will remember that the Grand Committee was under a great disadvantage in sitting at a time when the Finance Bill was being discussed, making it very difficult for Members, who were in the House for many hours together, to attend the Committee in the morning to discuss this particular Clause. The fact that the Clause consists of 37½ lines is enough of itself to show that it contains a very large number of important provisions. It authorises the appropriation of money for forestry, the adoption of any means that may be calculated to promote agriculture and rural industries, the reclamation and drainage of land, the general improvement of road transport, the construction and improvement of roads, the construction and improvement of canals, the development and improvement of fisheries, and for any other purpose calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom. I think that is a sufficiently large Clause, which in the ordinary course of events, seeing that these provisions are entirely novel, should have been discussed in Committee of the whole House, and not in Committee upstairs. I suppose that owing to certain exigencies and difficulties in which the Government unfortunately find themselves, and owing to the late period of the Session in which they brought forward this Bill, it was found quite impossible to have it discussed in Committee of the whole House. I think almost every Member, I will not go so far as to say every Member, will agree with me that, in these circumstances, the least the Government could have done would have been to give full opportunity for discussion of the Clause in Grand Committee. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not present here to-day. He was very seldom present during the sittings of the Grand Committee, and the only time on which he made his presence felt was when he came in, without having heard the previous discussions, to move the Closure. One would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would at least have had the courtesy to come here to-day and take charge of the Bill. I sympathise very much with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, against whom, if I may respectfully say so, I have no complaint whatever. I sympathise with him because, apparently, he has got to do all the work. When he does it, and when he is conversant with what is going on, dealing with the business in the most courteous manner, then his superior officer comes in and moves the Closure. It is not the fault of the hon. and learned Gentleman; I sympathise with him. But I do say that the proceedings in the Committee were not such proceedings as we are generally accustomed to in discussing Bills of this magnitude, and I am afraid that much the same sort of proceedings is going to be followed on the Report stage, while the chief Member of the Government, who has charge of the Bill, is not in his place. Anyone who reads this Clause must agree with me that it is a Clause—whether it is right or wrong is not a question into which I can go now—of a very important character. My second proposition is that the Clause was closured and closured unduly.


The hon. Baronet is not to take the opportunity of reviewing the Closure in Committee.


Would it not be in order to point out that a very large part of the Clause was closured in Committee, and that we could not discuss it? I did not intend to call in question the conduct of the Chair, or whether or not the Closure was properly moved. That was very far from my thought. My only intention was to point out that 13½ lines were closured, as an argument for recommitting the Bill, in order that the House might have a full opportunity of discussing, with all the advantages of the Committee stage, those lines which we were precluded from considering owing to the Closure.


The hon. Gentleman is entitled to point out that a certain part of the Clause was closured, but he is not entitled to reflect either on the conduct of the Chair in accepting the Closure or on the conduct of the majority in passing it.


On a point of Order. May I say what occurred in this House? I was taking exception to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proceeding with the Bill at this time of the year on the ground that we should not have time to discuss so important a measure adequately, whereupon across the Table he said to me:— The right hon. Gentleman will have every opportunity of examining the Bill and of criticising any details to which he may object. I asked across the Table, "When?" and the right hon. Gentleman replied:— We will make the opportunity. Now, as to a half-dozen of those details upon which I was distinctly promised an opportunity of discussing, we have never had any opportunity of discussing those details at all. I wish strictly to obey your ruling, but I hope we will be allowed to point out for our own justification, when those things appear in the Bill of which we disapprove, that we have not had any opportunity whatever of discussing them at all.


The best way of obtaining an opportunity of discussing them is to get on to Clause 1.


I obey your ruling, and I have no intention of causing any delay. I will very shortly inform the House of that part of the Bill which was closured. Two and a-half lines of paragraph (b) were closured early on Friday morning, the Committee only having sat on Wednesday and Thursday. Those lines which were closured deal with "the adoption of any other means which appear calculated to develop agriculture and rural industries." The House will see that those are very important lines, and we were not allowed the opportunity of discussing them. The other portion consisted of 11½ lines. Paragraph (d): "The general improvement of rural transport (including the making of light railways, but not including the construction or improvement of roads). Paragraph (e): "The construction and improvement of harbours." Paragraph (f): "The construction and improvement of canals." Paragraph (g): "The development and improvement of fisheries." And these two lines: "And for any other purpose calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom." I venture to say as to those four paragraphs and those two lines neither the Grand Committee nor this House will have the opportunity of discussing those important proposals in the Committee stage, unless my Motion to recommit the Clause is carried. Therefore without any further delay, as the time will be short, and as the House will not sit after to-morrow afternoon, I will content myself by moving the Motion. I have endeavoured to put without prejudice, and as moderately as I can, the facts as they occur to me. I base my Motion on the ground that these are really important matters which ought to be considered in Committee stage, either by the Committee of the House or the Grand Committee.

Mr. G. D. FABER seconded the Motion.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Samuel Evans)

I will follow the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) in being brief on this Motion, which I gather is more by way of protest than with any hope of being carried. We discussed Clause 1 pretty fully on second reading, and Clause 1 is really the main part of the first Part of the Bill. Those who are interested will know what I mean by that. All the objects towards which public moneys can be devoted under the first Part of the Bill are set forth in Clause 1, and so far as Part I. is concerned Clause 1 is that Part—that was fully discussed on second reading. In Committee upstairs we had a discussion spread over three days, Wednesday, Thursday, and practically the whole of Friday. It is perfectly true of that discussion a considerable part of it was taken up with the new proposals with reference to the new machinery in the Bill. I do not want to overstate the matter at all, but there was, I think, full discussion of the part of the Clause which was not closured. It is quite true, as the hon. Baronet says, that some effective lines were closured, and that therefore there was no discussion in detail on them; but everybody who was on that Committee will, I think, agree with me—


Not only those lines, but the question that Clause 1 stand part was also closured.


That is quite so. Everybody who was a Member of the Committee, and who attended will, I think, agree with me when I say that there was not one of the sub-heads which was not referred to often and in detail upon the general discussion of the first part of the Clause. The discussion on the first part was not confirmed to the exact terms of that first part. Of course, I am not going to discuss the question whether the Closure ought, or ought not, to have been applied, and I would be out of order in doing so, but I do suggest to the House, even if we had not a full Committee stage, there was as full and ample discussion of all the important parts of Clause 1 as anybody could reasonably desire.

The opinion has been given from the Chair that if there was any curtailment we might profitably engage ourselves by proceeding to Clause 1, and I promise to-day, so far as my conduct of the Bill is concerned, that on Clause 1 I will not seek the aid of the Chair as to those parts that were not discussed in Committee. I am sorry the Chancellor is not here. I will do my best in his absence. He very often was not able to go upstairs, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we were working there, I will not say under difficulties, but under stress. Nobody felt that more than I felt it, because I had to be in attendance on the Finance Bill, as well as on the conduct of the Bill upstairs. We did adhere to the promise we made strictly, and we did not ask the Committee upstairs to discuss the Bill while the Finance Bill was actually being discussed. It is quite true the discussions were on the same day, and therefore a strain on Members. My heart goes out to the hon. Baronet for his kindly sympathy with me. I will only say that I like sympathy, both in speech and practical effect, and that the best form of sympathy to-day is now to give me all the assistance he can to pass this measure into law.

4.0 P.M.


I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we on this side of the House will do nothing unnecessarily to delay the Bill. He must forgive me for saying I do not altogether share his description of the discussions upstairs. I want the House to remember this, that the great stress laid on the necessity of passing this Bill during the Debate on the second reading by the Chancellor of the Exchequer consisted almost entirely or was almost entirely on the ground of its supreme importance above everything else to the agricultural interests of this country. When we came to examine the Bill upstairs and as the Debate proceeded we became extremely anxious in consequence of some of the replies which were given to us on other parts of the Bill as to what would become of the fund at the disposal of the new body to be created and what there would be left for agriculture. Consequently, when we arrived at these half-dozen different items, and when the Closure was suddenly moved without one single word of discussion being permitted on any one of those parts, although there were Amendments for excluding most of them from the Bill altogether, I am bound to say we thought, in view of the distinct promise made to me across the Table by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we were being very hardly used indeed. You, Sir, were good enough to say to me that we shall have an opportunity of discussing Clause 1 when we get to it, but I may be permitted to observe that nobody knows better than yourself that it is a very different thing to examine the details of a Bill in Committee from what it is to examine them on Report, when the Member has the opportunity only of speaking once, and is not able effectually by any means to enforce the objections which he may entertain.


The right hon. Gentleman forgets the new Standing Order, which permits a Member to speak not only twice, but any number of times, on Report. The Mover and Seconder of an Amendment on Report are not now debarred from speaking more than once.


I was under the impression, probably wrongly, that the Standing Order applied only to the Mover, and not to the Seconder, of an Amendment.


Yes. That is so.


The Rules of this House have been so frequently altered of late that I confess that I do not remember them so well as I did before they were altered. However, there remains the fact that discussion in Committee is very different from discussion on Report. I am glad to hear the promise of the Solicitor-General, and I thank him for it, that he will not move the Closure upon any parts of Clause 1 which we had not an opportunity of discussing upstairs. But I would point out, when he says that part of the Clause was thoroughly discussed on the second reading, that objections were pointed out by us to which no sort of reply whatever was given. We were simply told that they were matters for discussion in Committee; but when we got into Committee we were closured, and now there remains only the Report stage. For these reasons I heartily support the Motion of my hon. Friend.

Question put, "That the Bill be recommitted in respect of Clause 1."

The House divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 177.

Division No. 786.] AYES. [4.5 p.m.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Randies, Sir John Scurrah
Ashley, W. W. Fell, Arthur Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Balcarres, Lord Forster, Henry William Ronaldshay, Earl of
Bowles, G. Stewart Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Bridgeman, W. Clive Harris, Frederick Leverton Sloan, Thomas Henry
Brotherton, Edward Allen Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert Stanier, Beville
Carlile, E. Hildred Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)
Castlereagh, Viscount Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) M'Arthur, Charles Thornton, Percy M.
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Magnus, Sir Philip Valentia, Viscount
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Morpeth, Viscount
Clark, George Smith Morrison-Bell, Captain
Clyde, J. Avon Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir
Corbett, T. L. (Down, N.) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) F. Banbury and Mr. Gretton.
Courthope, G. Loyd Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Bowerman, C. W. Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)
Acland, Francis Dyke Branch, James Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Brigg, John Cotton, Sir H. J. S.
Alden, Percy Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Crean, Eugene
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Bryce, J. Annan Cullinan, J.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Burns, Rt. Hon. John Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)
Barnard, E. B. Byles, William Pollard Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)
Barnes, G. N. Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Channing, Sir Francis Allston Devlin, Joseph
Beale, W. P. Cheetham, John Frederick Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Dillon, John
Berridge, T. H. D. Clough, William Dobson, Thomas W.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Clynes, J. R. Duckworth, Sir James
Boland, John Condon, Thomas Joseph Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Boulton, A. C. F. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Erskine, David C.
Esslemont, George Birnie Lundon, T. Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Evans, Sir S. T. Lupton, Arnold Robinson, S.
Ffrench, Peter Lynch, A. (Clare, W.) Robson, Sir Wm. Snowdon
Findlay, Alexander Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Flynn, James Christopher MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.) Roche, Augustine (Cork)
Fullerton, Hugh MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.) Roe, Sir Thomas
Gill, A. H. M'Callum, John M. Rogers, F. E. Newman
Ginnell, L. M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester) Rose, Sir Charles Day
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.) Rowlands, J.
Glendinning, R. G. Markham, Arthur Basil Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Marnham, F. J. Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Massle, J. Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)
Gulland, John W. Masterman, C. F. G. Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Middlebrook, William Seddon, J.
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Molteno, Percy Alport Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Mond, A. Sheehy, David
Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Money, L. G. Chiozza Shipman, Dr. John G.
Hazleton, Richard Mooney, J. J. Silcock, Thomas Ball
Hedges, A. Paget Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Helme, Norval Watson Muldoon, John Snowden, P.
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Murphy, John (Kerry, East) Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire)'
Higham, John Sharp Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.) Strachey, Sir Edward
Hobart, Sir Robert Nannetti, Joseph P. Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Hodge, John Napier, T. B. Summerbell, T.
Hogan, Michael Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster) Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)
Hope, John Deans (File, West) Norman, Sir Henry Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Horniman, Emslie John O'Brien, Patrick (Kikenny) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Idris, T. H. W. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Toulmin, George
Illingworth, Percy H. O'Malley, William Verney, F. W.
Jardine, Sir J. O'Shee, James John Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Jenkins, J. Parker, James (Halifax) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Partington, Oswald Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Jones, Leif (Appleby) Paulton, James Mellor Watt, Henry A.
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Kekewich, Sir George Pearce, William (Limehouse) Wiles, Thomas
Kelley, George D. Pointer, J. Wilkie, Alexander
Kilbride, Denis Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Laidlaw, Robert Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Lamont, Norman Reddy, M. Wood, T. McKinnon
Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington) Redmond, William (Clare)
Lehmann, R. C. Rees, J. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain
Levy, Sir Maurice Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Norton and Mr. Whitley.
Lewis, John Herbert Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.