HC Deb 22 October 1912 vol 42 cc2091-111

(1) The Acts mentioned in Part I. of the Schedule of this Act shall, to the extent specified in column three of that Schedule, be continued until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirteen, and shall then expire, unless further continued.

(2) The Acts mentioned in Part II. of the Schedule to this Act shall, to the extent specified in column three of that Schedule, be continued until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and fourteen, and shall then expire, unless further continued.

(3) Any unrepealed enactments amending or affecting the enactments continued by this Act shall, in so far as they are temporary in their duration, be continued in like manner, whether they are mentioned in the Schedule to this Act or not.


There was a little Bill which has been continued from year to year which was passed by the present Government in 1908 for one year. It was a most useful measure called the Local Registration of Titles (Ireland) Act. Labourers cottages have to be registered and in a few cases there is sometimes a failure to register the title at the proper time, and the Government passed this Bill to allow this omission to be put right, although the time had expired. I ask that the Government should renew this Act for a year, and I shall be glad if we can have an assurance that this will be done on the Report Stage.

Mr. T. W. RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)

As I have stated before, in the opinion of the Government it was not thought necessary to renew this Act and it has been left out intentionally, but if the hon. and learned Member thinks it is desirable to continue this Act for another year the Government have no objection.


I beg to move in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "thirty-first day of December" and to insert instead thereof the words "thirtieth day of June." This would continue, the Act not for a year but only for six months. It is perfectly clear it is high time that this extraordinary hotchpotch Bill should be thoroughly discussed and overhauled. We go on year after year renewing a large number of most important measures originally passed for one year and intended for full discussion afterwards. There is the Act whereby personal property escapes paying rates, and that ought to be fully discussed under present circumstances. There is the Ordinance Survey Act, 1841, the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear those cheers because they confirm me that I am right in the course I am taking. Then there is the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, passed for one year, under which many endowments have been taken from the poor and given to the middle classes. There is the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, and the Sand Grouse Protection Act, 1888. Year after year the Government come to this House and ask us at the end of the Session—or at all events at the end of the year, because we are not sure that there will be an end to this Session—to renew these Bills en bloc. I suggest instead of giving the Government carte blanche, we should on this occasion renew them only for six months on the understanding that next Session is devoted to discussing these Bills seriatim, and considering them on their merits. There is a great deal to be said for this proposition, having regard to the present state of business. It is perfectly clear that with these great constitutional measures, Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, the Franchise, and Heaven knows what, before Parliament, the Government cannot possibly give the time to discuss this Bill, but next Session they will have nothing to do. They will simply gag Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and the Franchise in about two days each; the Land Inquiry will not be ready and they will not have that Bill to bring forward.


On a point of Order, I would like to ask whether the discussion which is now going on is in order on this Amendment?


I do not see any reason why I should stop it. I understand the hon. Member is adducing reasons why these Acts should only be renewed for six months.


That is precisely the object I had in view. I am very sorry if I did not make my meaning clear to the hon. Member, but I really think it was more his fault than my own. Year after year the Government comes here and asks us to pass this extraordinary hotch potch en masse. If we now renew this only for six months, the Government will at the end of that time, on their own showing, have nothing to do, and it will be possible to deal with this matter fully and fairly. I think, having regard to the very important matters in this Schedule, we ought to ask the Government to accept this Amendment and to devote, at all events, some weeks next Session to thoroughly overhauling this measure.


The argument of the right hon. Gentleman rests on one assumption, and I submit if that assumption is inaccurate his argument falls to the ground. His assumption is that the Government will have nothing to do before next June. It would be very much out of Order, and I am not in a position to enter into detail in refutation of that assumption, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman the prospects of this Bill being discussed in detail, as far as we can reasonably forecast future events, would be a good deal greater if it was after June instead of before June. Therefore, I submit no reason has been advanced for altering the unbroken practice of this House, followed by all Governments, of producing the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill somewhere in the autumn, and carrying on the Acts contained in it till the December in the following year. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House when the Bill was discussed on its Second Reading, but we all felt the force of the arguments then presented, especially by the hon. Member for North-east Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy), and, if it is possible, I should like to take up the work which one of my predecessors did take up, find which of these Bills are purely non-controversial and could be accepted as permanent, and get such a Bill through if possible.

Sir J. D. REES

Might I ask how the right hon. Gentleman can say it has been the custom for a very long time to produce this Bill in the autumn when generally there has not been Autumn Sessions. They are new and fearful inventions which did not obtain in the good old times. In the interest of accuracy I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain this.


I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has answered any one of the arguments of my hon. Friend who pointed out that with the exception of meeting certain financial necessities this House would have nothing to do next Session and that it might be very much better engaged in considering some of these important Bills which are proposed to be carried on from year to year by a form of Bill intended to be a formality. We had much better decide which of the Bills should be made permanent and which should be repealed altogether. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Government in his reply merely said it was usual in the autumn to bring in a measure of this kind. Under the unfortunate lead of the Government we have had too many autumn Sessions, but I hope the practice will not become permanent. The moving of this Amendment has two objects underlying it: the first is to compel the Government to spend the time of the House next year in useful discussions instead of going on with pernicious and useless legislation, and the second is to secure that something useful may be accomplished so that the House may rise with the consciousness of having done something well.


I find myself in entire accord with the speech of the hon. Baronet who moved this Amendment, but I am scarcely convinced that the exact form of words he has used will do very much good. I understand it to provide that these expiring laws shall be continued until the 30th June next year. Some of us have for a good many years been of opinion that these laws could easily be divided into two categories: those which should be made permanent and those which should be repealed or dropped altogether. I have an Amendment down which will raise this point. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Government said he was now engaged in investigating this very question and that he hoped if the Government remained sufficiently long in power to do something of a sensible character. We can help him in carrying that out. There are thirteen at least out of these thirty-six Acts which—and on this there will be not the slightest difference of opinion in any quarter of the House—ought to be made permanent. Those Acts are these: the Ordnance Survey Act, 1841, the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854


The remarks of the hon. Member would be more appropriate on the Schedule than on the Amendment.


I accept your ruling, Sir. We shall have to discuss these Acts in great detail on the Schedule, and I agree it would be a waste of time to give a list of them now. Suffice it to say that thirteen of the thirty-six, which need not be particularised, are Acts about which there would not be the slightest difference of opinion in any quarter of the House that they ought not to be limited to any date next year, but ought to be made part of the permanent Statutes of the realm. I support the Amendments because it calls the attention of the Committee to the anomaly of this Bill, and to the stupid procedure which this Government is perpetuating. We have gained something in the sympathetic speech of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government, who is going to do something some day, if he has the time to do it, and if this Government lasts sufficiently long. If the Amendment has done nothing else but to enable us to arrive at the reception of our demand, we have gained something substantial.


I want to ask the Financial Secretary a question in view of the very kind offer he has made, which I think we ought to accept. He has suggested that, in due course, if he has the time, it will be possible for him, on behalf of the Government, to so collate these various Acts as to continue those which are good in a permanent Act. The mover of the Amendment has been rather severe on the Government. He has suggested that this might be done by 30th June. My question is whether, if the time is extended, and the right hon. Gentleman is given another month, he will be able to do the work? It is not a very arduous duty and might easily be completed in another month. Supposing my hon. Friend substituted "July" for "June," could the right hon. Gentleman see his way to give a more definite promise that within that time something substantial shall be done? We thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement. He realises the strength of our case. It is the first time a statement of that kind has been made on behalf of the Government, and we ought to welcome it.


I think a point of some importance has been raised by the hon. Baronet, but I can assure the Committee that I propose to discuss the matter entirely from a non-party point of view and without any of that bias of party which I am sorry to say has recently appeared in our debates. We have to consider whether we can restore the credit of Parliament which has been a good deal shattered by these guillotine proceedings, by dealing with these measures. I have been some years in the House, and I appeal to those who have been longer in the House than I have, and even to hon. Members who have come into the House during the last year, because, coming in with fresh minds, they are far more capable possibly of seeing the absurdity on any of these points of procedure than are the older Members who have grown hardened in the absurdity of our Parliamentary proceedings. Here are a number of Acts which are renewed from year to year. The whole reason for renewing these Acts is that from year to year, and each year, Parliament should carefully consider whether they are still applicable to the state of affairs then obtaining. But the whole object and force of this peculiar Parliamentary method is entirely discounted if we pass these Acts year after year without any Parliamentary discussion whatever and in that sort of oasis of Parliamentary time which, under the Parliament Bill, we shall enjoy—


The Amendment before the Committee is one which shortens the time to six months instead of twelve. Perhaps the hon. Member will confine his remarks to that point.


That is precisely the point which I was directing myself to. I was pointing out that oasis of Parliamentary time, which will be afforded to Members in the third Session under the Parliament Bill, because it is well known that the first two years are reserved for controversial matters, and the third Session for non-controversial matters. Then we shall have some time in the next Session when we shall be able, exhausted as we are by protracted discussion, to give fresh minds to matters which are less likely to give rise to any violent Parliamentary discussion. There is one point which may have escaped the attention of the hon. Gentleman. We have got into the habit during the last few years of taking the Budget in the Autumn Session. I am sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here because he is the principal offender in this matter and I should not like my observations to go through even the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, though I know he holds very strong views on this abuse of Parliamentary procedure. But you will be placed in a great difficulty on this occasion if you limit yourself to June alone. You will probably have to pass your Budget next year before the end of June because it is common knowledge that a discussion of the courts will be given under which a Resolution of this House can no longer bind the authorities. The result of this has been pointed out by Mr. Gibson Bowles in his recent action. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I think it is most strictly relevant to the point.


The hon. Member is confining himself within the limits of order. Hon. Members who are calling "Order" may allow me to deal with questions of order.


The hon. Member was entering into a matter which is sub judice.

Division No. 262.] AYES. [11.40 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Barton, William Burke, E. Haviland
Acland, Francis Dyke Bentham, G. J. Burns, Rt. Hon. John
Adamson, William Black, Arthur W. Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)
Addison, Dr. Christopher Boland, John Plus Carr-Gomm, H. W.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Booth, Frederick Handel Chapple, Dr. William Allen
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Bowerman, Charles W. Clancy, John J.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Clough, William
Armitage, Robert Brady, Patrick Joseph Clynes, John R.
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Brocklehurst, W. B. Collins, G. P. (Greenock)
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Brunner, John F. L. Condon, Thomas Joseph
Banes, G. N. Bryce, J. Annan Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.

I have perfect confidence in your decisions on these matters. If the Government are forced to pass the Resolutions and the Budget before 30th June, I am afraid that the hon. Member who is so anxious to have these forty or fifty measures discussed will find it is impossible between 3rd April and 30th June to have adequate time given to them, unless you cut off the Easter and the Whitsuntide holiday, a proceeding so irregular that I am sure he would not sanction it. I agree with his general proposition that time should be given for the discussion of such measures as the Agricultural Rates Act, and the Corrupt Practices Act, and so wipe out what is a Parliamentary scandal and an absurdity in our proceedings.


An appeal has been made to me to give the Government another month. I will be glad to accept the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend on one condition, namely, that the Government will devote the whole of the extra month to discussing this Bill.

Question put, "That the words 'thirty-first' stand part of the Clause."


(seated and covered): Do I correctly understand that you have put the Question in such a way that other Amendments down to the end of the Clause will not be discussed?


The next Amendment is consequential.


May I respectfully point out that I have an Amendment to leave out all the words after the word "until."


I will deal with the hon. Member's Amendment when this Division is concluded.

The Committee divided

Ayes, 214; Noes, 113.

Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Crumley, Patrick Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Power, Patrick Joseph
Cullinan, John Jowett, Frederick William Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Joyce, Michael Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Keating, Matthew Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Kellaway, Frederick George Pringle, Wm. M. R.
Dawes, J. A. Kelly, Edward Raffan, Peter Wilson
Delany, William Kennedy, Vincent Paul Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Kilbride, Denis Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Dickinson, W. H. King, J. Reddy, Michael
Doris, William Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Duffy, William J. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lansbury, George Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)
Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Richardson, Albion (Peckham)
Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th) Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Elverston, Sir Harold Lewis, John Herbert Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Lundon, Thomas Robinson, Sidney
Falconer, James Lyell, Charles Henry Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Lynch, A. A. Rowlands, James
Ffrench, Peter McGhee, Richard Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Fitzgibbon, John Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Flavin, Michael Joseph MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
France, G. A. Macpherson, James Ian Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)
Gelder, Sir William Alfred MacVeagh, Jeremiah Scanlan, Thomas
Gill, Alfred Henry McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Gladstone, W. G. C. M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding) Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B.
Goldstone, Frank Manfield, Harry Sheehy, David
Greig, Colonel J. W. Marshall, Arthur Harold Shortt, Edward
Griffith, Ellis J. Martin, Joseph Simon, sir John Allsebrook
Gulland, John W. Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Meagher, Michael Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)
Hackett, J. Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)
Hancock, John George Millar, James Duncan Sutherland, J. E.
Harcourt Robert V. (Montrose) Morgan, George Hay Sutton, John E.
Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Muldoon, John Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Tennant, Harold John
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Munro, Robert Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C. Toulmin, Sir George
Hayden, John Patrick Nannetti, Joseph P. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Hayward, Evan Needham, Christopher T. Verney, Sir Harry
Hazleton, Richard Neilson, Francis Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N. E.) Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Ward, W. (Dudley (Southampton)
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Nolan, Joseph Waring, Walter
Henry, Sir Charles O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Webb, H.
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., South) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)
Higham, John Sharp O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)
Hinds, John O'Doherty, Philip White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. O'Donnell, Thomas Whitehouse, John Howard
Hodge, John O'Dowd, John Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Hogge, James Myles O'Grady, James Wilkie, Alexander
Holmes, Daniel Turner O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Holt, Richard Durning O'Malley, William Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Hughes, Spencer Leigh O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Illingworth, Percy H. O'Shee, James John Young, William (Perth, East)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus O'Sullivan, Timothy Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) Outhwaite, R. L.
John, Edward Thomas Parker, James (Halifax) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. William Jones and Mr. Wedgwood Benn.
Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph (Rotherham)
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Phillips, John (Longford S.)
Amery, L. C. M. S. Butcher. John George Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian
Bagot, Lieut.-Col. J. Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Dalrymple, Viscount
Baird, John Lawrence Campion, W. R. Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S.
Baker, Sir Randolt L. (Dorset, N.) Carille, Sir Edward Hildred Dixon, Charles Harvey
Balcarres, Lord Castlereagh, Viscount Doughty, Sir George
Baldwin, Stanley Cator, John Duke, Henry Edward
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Cave, George Eyres-Monsell, B. M.
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey
Barnston, Harry Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Gibbs, G. A.
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Chambers, J. Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Clive, Captain Percy Archer Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)
Bird, A. Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)
Boyton, James Cooper, Richard Ashmole Haddock, George Bahr
Bridgeman, William Clive Courthope, George Loyd Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)
Bull, Sir William James Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Hall, Fred (Dulwich)
Burn, Colonel C. R. Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Hambro, Angus Valdemar
Helmsley, Viscount Malcolm, Ian Stanier, Beville
Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Hewins, William Albert Samuel Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Stewart, Gershom
Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. Mount, William Arthur Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)
Hill-Wood, Samuel Newton, Harry Kottingham Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)
Hoare, S. J. G. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Thynne, Lord Alexander
Hope, Harry (Bute) Paget, Almeric Hugh Touche, George Alexander
Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Horner, Andrew Long Pollock, Ernest Murray White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Pryce-Jones, Colonel E. Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)
Ingleby, Holcombe Randles, Sir John S. Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Rawson, Col. R. H. Winterton, Earl
Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Rees, Sir J. D. Wolmer, Viscount
Kerry, Earl of Ronaldshay, Earl of Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Keswick, Henry Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Knight, Captain E. A. Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby) Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Lane-Fox, G. R. Sanders, Robert Arthur
Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen and Mr. William Peel.
Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)
M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Spear, Sir John Ward

The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), dealing with the question "until Parliament shall otherwise determine," is outside the scope of the Bill, which is one for continuing expiring Acts.


It is perfectly true that the Bill is one for continuing expiring Acts, but the Bill is expiring now, and it surely does not relate to the question of at what future date an Act should expire, and my proposition is that it should not expire "until Parliament otherwise determine." I submit that is within the scope of the Bill, which is actually expiring at the present moment.


Do I understand you to rule, Sir, that it is impossible to make any of these Acts into permanent Statutes, because undoubtedly the effect of an Amendment which I propose to move would be to pick out, as I intended to do, a number of these Acts and to leave them in the first part of the Schedule, making them permanent statutes of the country.


It is a very well established rule, and the last time it was distinctly raised was ten years ago this very day, the 22nd October, and the then Chairman quoted as far back as the year 1854. There is not the slightest doubt about the practice.


I desire to move an Amendment which is not on the Paper— in Sub-section (2), after the word "fourteen" ["nineteen hundred and fourteen"], to leave out the words "and shall then expire, unless further continued."


On a point of Order, Sir. I have given notice of an Amendment which comes in the line before that in which the Noble Lord proposes to move his Amendment. I respectfully submit that it would not be out of order to pick out a number of Acts and say they should be repealed. According to the Bill the Acts are to continue until the 31st December, and under my Amendment they would only continue until the 30th June. Of course, the effect of my Amendment would be to put an end to them altogether. I have no doubt whatever, Sir, that your ruling, fortified by precedent, is undoubtedly correct. If it is not possible to make any of these Acts permanent, I do submit that it is possible for us to decide that a number of these Acts are not worth continuing at all. The object of this Bill is to continue certain Acts for a definite period and surely we can decide that we will not continue some of the Acts at all. Therefore I respectfully submit my Amendment would be in order.


This Amendment cannot be accepted, because the real time to have dealt with the point was on Second Reading. With regard to the particular Amendment moved by the hon. Member, the right way to carry out his object would be to take the Acts seriatim in the Schedule.


Would it be in order for me in line 18 to move, instead of 1913, to insert 2013 or such earlier date as Parliament may determine?


I would not accept that, as it would be what I should describe as quite a trifling Amendment.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "and shall then expire unless further continued." This is purely a drafting Amendment, but from what occurred this evening it is well to look after the drafting of these Bills. I do not think anybody can deny that these words are purely redundant. After all, if the Act says that a certain Act shall be continued until 31st December, 1913, it is obvious that after that date it expires automatically. What is the use of putting in the words which I propose to leave out. I do not think redundancy is desirable in an Act of Parliament. In the first place superfluous words are occasions for Amendment and therefore I am doing a good service to Governments, and to this Government in particular, in pointing out certain words which have no meaning and which are entirely unnecessary, and the omission of which would improve the Act.


I think we had better keep to the same words that have been used for the last thirty years. The Noble Lord has not given notice of this Amendment and I have not been able to follow the exact legal meaning. I think there is no disadvantage in definitely setting out the fact that the Acts will expire unless they are continued. The Noble Lord says he has no objection to the words themselves.


I desire to support my Noble Friend. Those words are, to my mind, most dangerous words, and the fact that they are old and have been used for thirty years does not make them less dangerous or less unfortunate. This whole Bill is a bundle of curiosities and it is unfortunate the Financial Secretary has based his argument on what is an absurdity. Surely if you continue certain Acts down to a certain day they do not continue after that day. If you put in this limitation to their expiration, do you mean that if at some later time you continue them you thereby revive the Acts although they have previously expired? The words are most unfortunate and create confusion in an otherwise plain Clause. For thirty years these useless words have been used. Is it not time we gave them a decent burial together with some of these statutes which are no longer needed. For seventy long years, and more, some of these Acts have found their place in the schedule, and I suppose for another 30 years Secretaries to the Treasury- will ask the House to continue these laws which ought long ago to have been put on a more satisfactory footing. In the interests of clear drafting and Acts of Parliament which can be understood by simple people who are not skilled in interpreting legal enactments, I support the Amendment.

12.0 M.

Sir J. D. REES

It is true that every superfluous word in drafting is objectionable and dangerous. I take exception to these particular words because of the dangerous use which may be made of them by lawyers. Every word which is not absolutely necessary to carry out the purpose which the draftsman has set before him becomes a snare, a delusion, and a danger when the statute comes into Court and has to be interpreted by lawyers. That is notorious, and everybody who has been concerned in legislation and in administering the law is aware of the fact. I was amazed at the argument of the Secretary to the Treasury that these words should be retained because they have thirty years' tradition behind them. How strangely that comes from an hon. Gentleman who is a Member of a Government which has called Parliament together in the autumn for the purpose of destroying a constitution which has lasted for more than ten times thirty years! Certainly it must be hard to find an argument for dealing with the Amendment of my Noble Friend if the hon. Gentleman can do no more than to appeal for confirmation to tradition, to depart from which seems to be at the present time the chief end and aim of the Government of which he is a member.


The hon. Gentleman who answered rather excused himself for dealing with the matter on the ground that he had not been able to consider the matter with the proper legal authorities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman next but one to him (the Solicitor-General) and the right hon. Gentleman next to him (the Home Secretary) could have advised him on the point. But now the matter has been placed on a totally different footing, because very important points have been raised by the last speaker but one, who is acknowledged to be an authority on constitutional law. It is really admitted that it is an exceedingly dangerous thing to put into operation ancient laws which for a long time have not been administered. There is the case of the Blasphemy Laws, dating from the time of Edward VI., which have not been put into operation for a very long time. Here you have a case even more dangerous still, because you may have Acts which have been put into operation, and then get into a state of suspension or limbo. "Ignorance of the law excuseth no man." Well, it is difficult enough to know what laws are at present in force, but if you have two sets of laws, one set in force, and the other set in suspension, and liable by the fiat of Parliament to be called into life again, it becomes almost impossible for the ordinary man to carry on his business. He is left in a state of doubt and hesitation. For these reasons, quite apart from the others given, I strongly urge this change being made if there is any doubt in the interpretation of the law.

Captain CRAIG

Failing the courtesy of a reply from any of the Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, may I explain to the Noble Lord, though I shall certainly go into the Lobby with him, the reason why these words are included in this Act. If any one takes the trouble to turn up the Acts that are scheduled in this Bill he will see that in nearly every instance Parliament was desirous of keeping complete control over the special Acts referred to, and in nearly every instance he will find at the end of the last Clause these words:—

This Act shall continue in force until the 31st December, 1906, and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine.

I quote here from the Motor Car Act of 1903, and I think the same remark applies to all the other Acts embodied in the Schedule. The reason of that was that Parliament was desirous of keeping control over these Acts, and the Acts were to be in force for a year and no longer, to allow Parliament at any time to renew them if they thought fit, and, of course, a large number of them have been renewed from year to year by being re-embodied in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. I rather differ from those who speak in favour of leaving out these words. If you leave these words out it is possible there may be some misunderstanding on the part of those not learned in the law. It may be that some one not seeing these words at the end might think the Acts were permanent, and it might not be possible to have them renewed each year as Parliament intended, and, therefore, although as a sound party man, I shall certainly vote with the Noble Lord, I think it would be wrong in these circumstances that the words should be omitted. His obvious duty would be, I think, not to press his Amendment to a division, and then when he comes to the Schedule to move that the Acts to which he objects should be left out. At the same time I think we should maintain the general principle of which Parliament is as jealous to-day as ever it was, that it should rest with Parliament to renew or discontinue these Acts as it thinks fit.


I am grieved to hear that the hon. and gallant Member will feel that his party allegiance will be strained by going into the Lobby in favour of this Amendment. The debate shows that there are doubts as to whether these words are important. Some hon. Members think the words are redundant and others think that they really have some meaning and are required in order to carry out the various Acts mentioned in the Schedule. This is a matter upon which we ought to have some legal guidance. My apologies are due to the Solicitor-General for not having placed this Amendment on the paper, but I think his know-of the law is such that he will be able to make an adequate answer and I think the Committee will be inclined to listen with great respect to the legal view he pronounces upon this question. My object was only to raise a question of drafting. It is obvious that whether these words are put in or not these Acts will expire after the date mentioned, but I think it is a mistake for the Committee to go on passing words which have no adequate meaning. If they have any adequate meaning, and express the intention of the legislature then the Solicitor-General ought to inform us what that meaning is, and if it is of importance and satisfactory, I shall be prepared to abandon my Amendment.


I have nothing to say except that I accept the extremely lucid explanation offered to the Committee by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Craig). As I understand the matter the object of these words is to make it quite certain that although these laws are given a further lease of life, when they have come to the end of that lease they are really dead; I hope also that this Debate may now expire.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 206; Noes, 100.

Sir J. D. REES

I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (3).

I move this Amendment in order to call attention to the extremely unsatisfactory character of this Sub-section. If there was no Schedule in this Act containing amending Acts there would be no need to take any notice of the Sub-clause, but inasmuch as there is reference to the amending Acts to the Statutes proposed to be continued, I must say it seems to me a very clumsy way of legislating to insert a provision in the Bill to the effect that should the list of amending Acts not be exhausted and should there be any other amending Acts affecting the enactment proposed to be continued they shall be continued whether mentioned in the Schedule or not. I do not think that this portion of the Bill should be passed without attention being called to the extremely slipshod and slovenly character of this Sub-section, and I hope that the Solicitor-General, who so courteously dealt with another Amendment just now, will now be so kind as to explain why it is necessary to deal in this manner with this question. Surely it is not beyond the resources of those who provide the material for Parliamentary draughtsmen to provide a complete list of the Acts that should be scheduled. It only makes it difficult for Law Courts when called upon to interpret an Act or for a Member of Parliament who may be looking up the law on a particular subject to really know what the law actually is. This sort of omnibus Clause is very inconvenient: it amounts to saying if the list is incomplete, notwithstanding its incompleteness this omnibus Clause is sufficient to bring in any other Act in any way affecting the Statute proposed to be continued. May I ask the learned Solicitor-General to deal with that point.


May I point out to my hon. Friend that there is a considerable number of cases of the Acts set forth in the second column where there have been Amendments made. Those Amendments have been made in temporary Acts, and those temporary Acts have not been continued because they related to other matters altogether. It would be an exceedingly difficult matter to insert all the small alterations made in Acts of a temporary character, therefore this Sub-section is certainly required. It fulfils important functions, inasmuch as it makes clear that where a portion of one of these Acts has been varied the Amendment is still existing and the Act must be read as amended. My hon. Friend will see there is good reason for the Sub-section, and if we are to pass this Bill in this shape with the Schedule of the Acts to be continued, there is no sensible way of dealing with the point except as is done in Subsection (3).


The explanation which the hon. Gentleman has given is exactly the explanation which commends itself to us I am sure the hon. Member (Sir J. D. Rees) will agree that, assuming we are going to have this Bill at all, some such provision is really desirable. I know hon. Members desire to raise questions on the Schedule, and I hope we may pass to that now. The present form of the Sub-section fulfils a useful purpose.

Sir J. D. REES

Being between two fires, one from the Front Bench and the other from my hon. Friend, I do not wish to trouble the Committee with a Division, and therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.