§ This Act shall continue in force for a period of eighteen months from the date of the passing thereof.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."
With regard to this Clause the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a suggestion earlier in the Debate that it might be desirable to make this a temporary Bill. I do not agree with the terms he then proposed, but the fact that he made the offer 1902 I think shows that he himself must have felt some doubt as to whether it was wise to place this permanently upon the Statute Book. We have been proceeding in a very hurried manner under a temporary emergency. I think we ought to have commenced long before we did. I constantly pressed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he ought to have dealt with this matter before the 5th April. Whatever were the reasons, we have had to deal with it with very great speed and without an opportunity of properly considering the matter. We have actually had manuscript Amendments dealing with the procedure for the Budget for all future times put into this Bill. I think it is extremely unsatisfactory to do things in that way. I think this whole question might be well considered by a Select Committee, and when that Committee reports there will be time 1903 enough to deal with the matter in the Finance Act of next year. I intentionally made the period long enough to give an opportunity of doing that. We have had other expedients suggested, such as the alteration of the time for the Income Tax year, and for making the Customs Tax Act retrospective, and for taking a deposit or security. But I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that this would be the best course to take in the circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman may say he made an offer, and that I did not agree to it. But I submit to him that he cannot hold me bound in that way. I felt it my duty to make suggestions with regard to this Bill, and I think that something like half the Amendments I proposed were accepted. I am grateful to the Government for the way in which they accepted my Amendments. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be deterred from referring this matter to a Select Committee now, if he was willing to do so, had I not moved my Amendment, and that he ought not to be deterred simply because I did my duty as a Member of the House and made suggestions which I thought would improve the Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I certainly do not complain that the hon. Gentleman in the exercise of his discretion came to the conclusion that it would not be worth while accepting the suggestion which I made repeatedly in the course of the discussion. We tried to arrive at some reasonable working compromise with the Opposition. I say quite frankly it was done in order to save time in the discussion of the Bill. Since then the Bill has undoubtedly been improved by some of the Amendments, but we have had a very full discussion for two days, and I think the Bill is probably better now than when we introduced it. It is a very different thing at the end of two days discussion to come forward and say, "We must have both our bargain and consideration." I do not think that is a very considerate thing to do. The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have both. This new Clause simply means that at the end of eighteen months we, or any other Government who happened to be in power, should go through the same thing again. Whether it is desirable or not to get a Committee to consider it may be worth thinking over, but it is a different matter to say you are going to impose a statutory limit which 1904 will compel some Government eighteen months hence to legislate upon the same subject. I think that would be a great mistake unless, as a consideration, we had saved time.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has quite recollected that at least one of the alternatives which we suggested and which he himself was quite ready to consider, that was the alternative of taking deposits, or securities, from those engaged in trade, was ruled out of order in the Debates on the Bill. I submit that that alternative is well worthy of consideration. I am very glad to know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer threw out some suggestion that he might be prepared to consider the appointment of a Committee, and if the right hon. Gentleman will say here and now that he is prepared to consider the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the whole question, then I think a good deal of the objection we entertain to this Bill would be removed. Whether or not my hon. and learned Friend would then be prepared to withdraw his Motion I do not know, but personally a great deal of the objection I entertain would be removed. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of asking whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Attorney-General is now in a position to answer a question as to the application of this Bill in relation to the Government of Ireland Bill, whether or not they are prepared to give an answer I confess it appears to me to be doubtful…
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I raised the question earlier in the afternoon when the Chairman was in the Chair—
If the hon. and learned Gentleman raised a point about the Home Rule Bill I should be compelled to rule him out of order. It is a hypothetical question, and he cannot argue the question of the Home Rule Bill on this Amendment.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Then we can argue whatever is relevant, and it certainly is relevant to consider what would be the effect of the Bill eighteen months hence, and, if that had occurred to you, you would not have given the ruling you have just given.
I do not know what the Noble Lord means by that last remark, but I consider it distinctly disrespectful to the Chair.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Of course I withdraw my remark if it appears discourteous to the Chair. I submit, however, that this is an Amendment which the Government might very reasonably accept. The whole subject is a very difficult one. The Debates have shown that there are many difficulties and many points fairly open to discussion. Amendments have been moved relating to the time and machinery in respect of retrospection, and all these are things which experience will teach us upon, and which we ought to be able to consider afresh when experience has given us the necessary instruction. We still have the Report stage to go through, and if all the Amendments which have been referred to are put down on the Report stage and discussed that stage may be a very long one. Therefore it is not inappropriate for the Government now to oil the wheels of the Bill at this stage. The sacrifice asked for from the Government is not a very large one. Bills are constantly made temporary which after all become permanent by the operation of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to continue this Bill for one year more. I do not think this Amendment is an unreasonable proposal, and I suggest that it has an importance which the Government themselves recognised when they were passing the Minimum Wage Act. If you pass a Bill ostensibly temporary you are more respectful of the principle you are affirming than when you pass an Act which on the face of it is permanent, and therefore you show on the face of the Statute that you recognise what you are doing is unusual. I think, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be well advised to accept this Amendment. He has already declared to us that there was a stage of the proceedings when he thought a proposal of this kind was a reasonable Amendment to insert in the Bill.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
We all assumed that the Government have been engaged in the patriotic work of legislating with a single mind to improve the laws, and to talk about bargains is a shock to the moral 1906 feelings of the whole Committee. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will wind up the evening by one more display of his conciliatory spirit, and thus conclude the Committee stage in a good humour.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The right hon. Gentleman has just told us that he cannot accept this Amendment, and we must leave it there. I rise, however, to ask him not to dismiss from his mind the possibility of appointing a Select Committee to deal with the whole question. Whether the Bill is temporary or not it cannot be continued. It is a most difficult subject, and the discussion has revealed how far-reaching are many of the points we are dealing with. I think, when we come to the whole question of the financial procedure dealing with this subject we might be allowed to have a Select Committee.
§ Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS
I have taken no part in any bargaining, but I suggest that this is an extremely important Amendment and far more important than some of the Amendments which have been discussed at length. What are the facts? Admittedly in order to meet a crisis, and in order to meet temporary circumstances which have arisen, you are passing a Bill which on the face of it is going to be operative for all time. For the first time in the history of England you are giving legal effect to taxation imposed by a Resolution of the House. This procedure is entirely new. This Bill is being passed to meet an emergency, and I think you are running a danger in passing a Bill under these circumstances that it may be put into operation for a totally different set of circumstances. Everyone must admit that this is a subject which requires the best consideration of a Select Committee of the House. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to accede to the suggestion that a Select Committee should be appointed to investigate the whole question, then, in the name of common sense, why should he refuse to limit the operation of this Bill until that Committee has reported? Surely that is common sense. If the Committee reports against this Bill it can be discontinued or altered, and if they report in favour of it, then it can be continued.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The point has behind me (Mr. Leif Jones) has asked me desirable to have a Select Committee to consider this question. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Leif Jones) has asked me to go a little further. Before I give an 1907 answer on the wider issue, I should like to consult the Prime Minister and my colleagues. In regard to this Bill, however, I am in a position to say that the Government are prepared to appoint a Select Committee to consider the best way of dealing with this question, and in view of this promise I hope the hon. and learned Member opposite will see his way to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill reported, with an amended title; as amended, to be considered to-morrow (Wednesday), and to be printed. [Bill 104.]