HC Deb 08 October 1909 vol 11 cc2400-8

(1) Every application for an advance under this Part of this Act, whether by way of free grant or by way of loan, by any body qualified to receive an advance under this Part of this Act, shall, if the applicant is a Government Department, be referred by the Treasury to the Development Commissioners, and if the applicant is any other body shall be sent by the Treasury to the Government Department concerned, to be by them referred together with their report thereon to the Development Commissioners.

(2) The Commissioners shall consider and report to the Treasury on every application so referred to them, and may for that purpose, if necessary, hold inquiries either by themselves, or by any of their officers, or any other person appointed for the purpose.

(3) The Commissioners may also appoint advisory committees, and may submit to any such advisory committee for their advice any application referred to them.

(4) The Commissioners shall make to the Treasury an annual report of their proceedings, and such report shall be laid annually before Parliament by the Treasury.

Amendment proposed: In Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "free" ["free grant."]—[Sir Samuel Evans.]

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

Further Amendment proposed: In Subsection (1), after the word "body" ["any other body"], to insert the words "or persons."

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.


I have been asked not to move my other Amendments, as it is desired to discuss some important matters arising on Part II. of the Bill. I wish it to be thoroughly understood that if I refrain from moving them it is not because I think they do not deserve discussion, but because I wish to facilitate Debate on other parts of the Bill. I hope the country will notice that an important Bill of this sort is being forced through the House in such a manner that it is quite impossible to discuss it. I make no complaint against the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I do not want to stand in the way of the convenience of this House. I only desired to enter my protest against the way the Bill is being forced through and to say I shall not move any more of the Amendments I have on the Paper.

Sir W. ANSON moved to leave out Subsection (3).

It seems to me that you are multiplying Committees and inquiries beyond all necessity. The Departments to which the Commissioners will necessarily appeal have their own means of obtaining information. Under the circumstances it is unnecessary to multiply these Advisory Committees.


I appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to press his Amendment. When the Commissioners were introduced in the Bill the Government were not particularly anxious to preserve the Advisory Committees, but a very strong feeling was expressed by many members of the Committee—Members representing both sides of the House—that this option should be given to the Com-missioners. In cases of special work, where the Commissioners have no particular information, the Advisory Committees might be exceedingly useful.


The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that the Development Commissioners were appointed in lieu of the Advisory Commissioners, and the Developing Commissioners have power to appoint others. All they want is someone to assist them in their work, and that is why this Advisory Committee is now reinserted in the Bill. Surely it is unnecessary to put this in here.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. KEIR HARDIE moved, at the end of Sub-section (3), to insert the following new 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."

This was substantially accepted by the Government upstairs with the assent, I understood, of all parties in the Committee. It gives the Commissioners themselves power to frame schemes to be submitted to the Treasury or to a Government Department. There are many instances under which it would be very desirable and most advisable for the Commissioners to have that power.

Mr. JOHN WARD seconded the Amendment.


I accept.


I very much hope the Government do not really mean to accept this Amendment. Surely it is a complete mistake that the Commissioners should be both a framing and a deciding body. I cannot think it is a good plan, and it must have the greatest objection when it comes to compulsorily taking the land. What would happen under this Amendment would be that the Commissioners would first frame a scheme working the compulsory taking of land. Then they would solemnly decide whether it was or was not right that the land should be compulsorily taken. That is putting them in the absolutely impossible position of being both litigants and judges. I do not think either that it would work well in practice, because the kind of man who would be very useful as a Commissioner to decide what ought to be done would not necessarily be at all the kind of man who would be useful in framing schemes. You want a man of imagination to frame schemes, but that quality is out of place in a man who has to decide whether or not a scheme should go forward.


May I join in the appeal of my Noble Friend. It is really putting the Commissioners in the position of being applicants to themselves.


It seems to me that the Amendment is a very useful one, because what we have to remember is that the Commissioners are not really judges in the ordinary sense of the term. A number of schemes will be put before them, and it may be that out of a great number of schemes, ranging over districts from one end of the country to another, they may be able to formulate some two or three which they may think very useful, but which have not been put before them and which will be the result of all the knowledge they have gained. All it means is that they may have the power, should the occasion arise, to take the initiative instead of waiting for a scheme to be put before them. I do submit that it would be most useful, having regard to the work they have to do.

Viscount MORPETH

There has been no reason offered by the Government why this Amendment should be accepted. The Amendment was submitted in the Committee upstairs, but it was not argued there, and it has not been argued here. There are a good many weighty reasons why it should not be accepted. It would appear that the Commissioners are to be empowered to draw up a scheme of their own which will override the scheme of the Government Department. I think that is putting the Commissioners in a false position in regard to the big Government Departments. Although that is not so objectionable in regard to bodies like universities, it is a wrong principle to say that when a Government Department put forward a scheme it may be set aside in favour of another drawn up by the Commissioners.


This Amendment was accepted in the Committee after the Noble Lord had said something like what he has said this afternoon. It is not really a very large modification of the Bill as it stands. You cannot prevent the Commissioners, even under the Bill, dealing with the various schemes which are sent to them by any body in the United Kingdom. It is absurd to say that the Commissioners cannot out of their information and expert knowledge manufacture better schemes than those which are brought before them. I do not think it would be possible to interpret the Act under other conditions. I think the Commissioners would have power under the Act as it stands to do what the Amendment proposes, but in order to make it clear we accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.


I think the business of the Committee is to receive applications for advances of money to carry out schemes which are submitted to them. I agree with the Under-Secretary to the Home Department that the Commissioners may make suggestions for the modification of schemes. It is very desirable that they should do so, for presumably the Commissioners will be persons of large experience. The Amendment would give them initiative in these matters, and it would not only enable them to suggest modifications in regard to the schemes submitted to them, but it would enable them to cast their eyes over the whole Kingdom with reference to an enormous variety of subjects, and to make schemes for afforestation, waterways, light railways, or anything that might occur to their imagination. Surely it is not desirable that the Commissioners should have this large power of initiative conferred upon them. They should be limited to dealing with the applications made to them, with such powers as are inherent in them to suggest improvements in the schemes submitted to them. I was not a member of the Committee that dealt with this Bill, but I must confess that I am surprised to hear that a proposal so widely drawn was even considered. I am surprised also that the Amendment should be so lightly accepted by the Government at this hour of the Debate.


The Amendment was not only put upstairs in substance, but it was considered. The hon. Baronet is quite right in saying that it gives the Commissioners power of initiative if these words are added. They have the right no doubt to say that a scheme ought to be modified, but supposing a body put forward a scheme and would not accept the modification. It might be an excellent scheme when modified. Surely in that case it ought not to be impossible for the Commissioners to say that if the body proposing a scheme will not accept the modifications, they will propose one.


It is quite true that this Amendment would enable the Commissioners to frame schemes. I wish to ask a question on that point. Would there be any power under the first Clause of the Bill to enable the Commissioners to make advances to themselves in respect of a scheme which they frame, because unless they are able to do so a scheme framed by them would be a dead letter?


The Treasury have to make the advances, and a scheme made by the Development Commissioners would still have to obtain the sanction of the Treasury.


Yes, Sir, but under what wording in the first Clause would the Treasury be enabled to make advances to the Commissioners? It is upon the recommendation of the Commissioners that the Treasury may make advances to other people. Is there anything in the Clause which would enable the Development Commissioners to get an advance themselves in respect of a scheme which they had framed?


That is a question of law, or what may become law, and not a point of order.


On a point of Order. The advance would not be to the Development Commissioners. They would merely frame the scheme with the view to its adoption by a Government Department. The advance would be to the Government Department concerned.


I understand that the Commissioners would frame a scheme for adoption by a Government Department, and that the Commissioners would recommend the scheme to the Treasury.


The Commissioners can recommend a scheme of their own for the sanction of the Treasury


I understand that the Commissioners are to frame a scheme, and suggest its adoption by a Government Department. If they recommend a scheme, say, to the Board of Trade, I suppose that Board will consider it, and say whether they wish to adopt it. In the event of the Board of Trade agreeing to it, are the Commissioners to hear objections, make inquiries, and employ their inspectors with regard to it? The Commissioners frame a scheme and go to these persons and say, "Will you adopt it?" Either they do or do not. If they do, the same thing is to be gone through—these persons go to the Commissioners and ask leave to go on. The thing appears to me to be fantastic, and I cannot think that the Government have seriously considered what it may mean. Certainly it would entirely alter the position of the Commissioners, who will inevitably have numerous schemes brought before them. I can imagine that five men may think that a blend of two or three schemes may make a better scheme than any one of them. That will constantly be done under this arrangement. The Commissioners will proceed by way of blending schemes, and make a new scheme of their own. The moment that is done and the moment it is adopted by a Government Department, or any persons, the scheme, of course, will go through, because it will have the Commissioners behind it. It is putting the Commissioners into the position of an executive authority with regard to spending money. Of course, if the Commissioners make their own schemes, then, in fact, the whole of the administration of this money is put in their executive control. That may be right or it may be wrong; it is quite clear that it is a tremendous advance on the original proposal of the Bill.


It seems to me that the heads of Government Departments have already more than they can do. They have to sit here during the Session, and in other ways they are overworked. Here we are appointing Commissioners, men who are supposed to have some brains—and they will have brains for this particular work—and if we are going to forbid them to do anything except receive their salaries, I think it would be a stultification of the whole scheme.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 32.

Division No. 794.] AYES. [4.28 p.m.
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Acland, Francis Dyke Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) O'Grady, J.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) O'Malley, William
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Gulland, John W. Parker, James (Halifax)
Astbury, John Meir Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Partington, Oswald
Atherley-Jones, L. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)
Oaring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)
Barnard, E. B. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Pointer, J.
Barnes, G. N. Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Hazel, Dr. A. E. W. Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Beale, W. P. Hazieton, Richard Reddy, M.
Beaumont, Hon. Hubert Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport) Henry, Charles S. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Berridge, T. H. D. Hobart, Sir Robert Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Hogan, Michael Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Holland, Sir William Henry Robinson, S.
Boland, John Hooper, A. G. Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Boulton, A. C. F. Horniman, Emsile John Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Bowerman, C. W. Idris, T. H. W. Roe, Sir Thomas
Branch, James Illingworth, Percy H. Rogers, F. E. Newman
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Rose, Sir Charles Day
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Jenkins, J. Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Bryce, J. Annan Jones, Leif (Appleby) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Burke, E. Haviland- Keating, Matthew Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Kekewich, Sir George Seaverns, J. H.
Byles, William Pollard Laidlaw, Robert Seddon, J.
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Lamont, Norman Shipman, Dr. John G.
Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington) Stanger, H. Y.
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Lewis, John Herbert Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Clough, William Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Lupton, Arnold Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lynch, A. (Clare, W.) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Thorne, William (West Ham)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester) Toulmin, George
Cory, Sir Clifford John M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Mallet, Charles E. Verney, F. W.
Crossley, William J. Marnham, F. J. Vivian, Henry
Cullinan, J. Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Walker, H. de R. (Leicester)
Curran, Peter Francis Massie, J. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Masterman, C. F. G. Waterlow, D. S.
Dillon, John Micklem, Nathaniel Weir, James Galloway
Dobson, Thomas W. Molteno, Percy Alport White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Mond, A. White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Erskine, David C. Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Evans, Sir S. T. Napier, T. B. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Falconer, James Nolan, Joseph Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Gibb, James (Harrow) Nuttall, Harry
Gill, A. H. O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain
Ginnell, L. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Norton and Mr. Whitley.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Arkwright, John Stanhope Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Renton, Leslie
Banner, John S. Harmood- Fletcher, J. S. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Bowles, G. Stewart Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston) Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)
Bull, Sir William James Hamilton, Marquess of Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Carlile, E. Hildred Harris, Frederick Leverton Thornton, Percy M.
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Hunt, Rowland Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Kimber, Sir Henry
Clark, George Smith Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount
Clyde, J. Avon M'Arthur, Charles Valentia and Lord Edmund Talbot.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Morpeth, Viscount

Sir SAMUEL EVANS moved to insert, as a new Sub-section:— (5) Before making any recommendation for an advance for the purpose of the improvement of rural transport the Commissioners shall consult with the Road Board.

This Amendment is in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Chorley (Lord Balcarres). I made a promise to the Noble Lord yesterday, and no doubt it is because of that promise he put down this Amendment. I think, therefore, as the Noble Lord is absent, I ought to move it.

Amendment agreed to.