HC Deb 30 November 1916 vol 88 cc532-609

Order for Committee read.


I desire to raise a point of Order in connection with this Bill. The Government, as you, Sir, no doubt are aware, have introduced very extensive Amendments to that Bill, and the question I want to submit to you is whether, having regard to the extensive nature of those Amendments, the Bill has not become in substance a new Bill and must be reintroduced and passed through a Second Reading? Similar questions have been raised with regard to other Bills. I should like to call your attention to two precedents on the matter. In the year 1889 the Tithe Rent-charge Recovery Bill was before this House. The Bill as originally introduced provided that a person to whom a tithe rent was payable could sue in a local Court, recover the rent, and proceed to certain methods of execution. Amendments were proposed to alter that right, into one enabling him merely to sue, with a discretionary power in the Court to say whether or not he could recover and for what amount, and whether or not execution should be allowed to issue. When those Amendments were proposed, Sir William Harcourt brought the matter before Mr. Speaker and asked for his ruling as to whether the proposed change in the Bill was not in substance presenting a new Bill and that they could not proceed with the Committee stage, but must present a new Bill and have it read a second time. Upon that Mr. Speaker gave a ruling, and it is to some parts of that ruling—I do not propose to read it all —that I would call your attention. First of all, the Speaker referred to an earlier case—the Partnership Amendment Bill of 1856, to which I will refer later. With regard to that Bill Mr. Speaker said: The objection was taken, as the right hon. Gentleman truly says, by Mr. Henley that the Bill was entirely different, and that it would be inconvenient to discuss in Committee Clauses the principles of which had not been affirmed at the stage of Second Heading. That, I think, is a most powerful and cogent argument. A little later Mr. Speaker said: I express the practice of the House rather than the rule of the House, if I may distinguish between them. The practice of the House has unquestionably been, when a Bill has been so transformed, as in my opinion this Bill has been, that a new Bill should be introduced; that leave should be given to introduce it; and that the Second Reading stage should be gone through, when the general principles of the measure, as distinguished from its component Clauses, can be affirmed. I express my opinion on this point without the least hesitation, and I desire to affirm that opinion very strongly. The earlier precedent to which reference was made was the Partnership Bill. That was a Bill which was intended to get over a decision of the Courts which had determined that if persons having separate businesses agreed to pool their profits and to divide the profits in certain proportions, that made each person a partner in each business and liable for the liabilities. It was desired to get over that by the Bill that was introduced. It only got over one objection and did not get over the whole of the objections. Thereupon an Amendment was suggested which would carry out the original intention of the Bill. An objection was taken by Mr. Lowe, who moved that the Order for the committal of the Bill should be discharged on the ground that the Bill was in substance a. new Bill. Thereupon Mr. Speaker agreed, and the Bill having been substantially added to, and therefore in that sense being a new Bill—that is to say, a principle having been introduced by Amendment which should have been the subject of discussion on a Second Reading—the Order was discharged. Applying that ruling to this Bill, I ventured to submit that this Bill, as now proposed, is really a new Bill —a totally different Bill to the one origin-introduced and which had a Second Reading.

The Bill originally introduced was a Bill entitled "Board pf Pensions Bill." This Bill it is proposed to call "The Ministry of Pensions Bill." By the original Bill it was intended to set up, according to Clause 1, a Board of Pensions consisting of four persons—the Paymaster-General and four Under-Secretaries, who were together to constitute the Board of Pensions. By the amended Bill it is not intended to have a Board of Pensions at all, but it is proposed now to set up a Ministry of Pensions, consisting of the Paymaster-General alone. That is, I submit, a fundamental difference and I may test it in this way: On the Bill as originally framed it would be perfectly competent for any hon. Member to move in Committee that, instead of a Board of the four persons named in the Bill, the Board should be constituted of four persons, no one of whom should be a Member of this House. That would have been a perfectly competent Amendment. As a matter of fact, an Amendment was put down that, instead of the Board proposed, it should be a Board consisting of the Paymaster-General and five other persons not Members of this House. On the Bill as amended no such Amendment can be moved in Committee. The Bill is merely a Bill for the establishment of a Ministry of Pensions instead of a Board, and I take it it would not be permissible on such a Bill to move in Committee to establish a Board of Pensions, no member of whom should be a Member of this House, in the place of a Ministry of Pensions.

There is a further element of importance to be borne in mind. The Financial Resolutions with regard to this Bill have been submitted to the House and have been passed. It was proposed by those Financial Resolutions that a salary not exceeding £2,000 a year should be allocated to the Minister of Pensions? That may be an adequate salary where the Minister is only one member of the Board and need not apply the whole of his time to the business of the Board. But this is not a matter which affects merely the Paymaster-General of to-day. This Board or Ministry, when established, will last a considerable number of years. I think the proposed Minister said it would last fifty years, so that, for years to come, the salary of the Chairman of the Board of Pensions would be governed by this Statute, and his salary would be determined. It would have been quite competent on this Resolution for any Member to have said that £2,000 a year was not sufficient for the Minister of Pensions. But now that cannot be now argued because the Statutory Resolutions have been passed. All this indicates that the Amendments to the Bill are so drastic that it would be unfair to the House, immediately before the Bill comes into Committee that the changes should be induced, without any Second Reading and without any Financial Resolution having been passed.

There is a further matter, and that is that the object of the authority is to be changed. By the original Bill it was intended to transfer to the Board of Pensions the powers of the Chelsea Commissioners, the powers of the Army Council, and certain of the powers of the Statutory Committee. That is now changed, and it is proposed to transfer to the Ministry of Pensions the powers of the Admiralty which were not included at all in the original Bill—powers with regard to pensions—and to transfer the powers of the Chelsea Commissioners and the Army-Council, but to leave out the transfer of powers of the Statutory Committee. These are matters which would properly be subjects for a Second Reading Debate, particularly the question as to whether the Admiralty should be introduced into this Bill, and they properly ought to be discussed on the Second Reading of a Bill intending to bring the Admiralty within its scope. These are some of the elements of this Bill which I submit indicate that the Bill as now proposed is really and fundamentally a new Bill. In many respects it is more than a new Bill than was the Partnership Bill, and more so still than in the case of the Tithes Bill. I, therefore, ask a ruling whether this Bill is not a new Bill within the meaning of the Rules of this House, and whether it should not be reintroduced and read a second time?


The hon and gallant and learned Member has stated his point very clearly—that is to say, that if by Amendment the character of the Bill is so altered as to be completely changed, and if it is essentially a new Bill, then the Bill ought to be dropped and a new Bill brought in. In each case it is the business of the Chair to consider what the effect of far-reaching Amendments will be. I do not remember the ease of the Partnership Bill; I am afraid that was before my time. But I remember the case of the Tithe Rent-charge Bill quite well. That was a Bill introduced to enable owners of tithe rent-charge to recover the same in a County Court instead of by distress, and in the course of the discussion the House came to the conclusion that it would be better to transfer the liability to pay the tithe from the occupier to the owner. It was a complete change of policy entirely, and the Government, having agreed to accept the proposal, Mr. Speaker was asked whether it was not a complete change. He held that it was, and that it was necessary that a new Bill should be introduced. I may say, in passing, I think one Member, in the course of that discussion, pointed out that hardly one line of the old Bill would be left so complete was the change. There was also the case I had to decide several years ago with regard to the Franchise and Registration Bill and the introduction of women into it, and I then came to the conclusion that the introduction of women would completely alter the whole character of the Bill. Now, with regard to this Bill, it appears to me the object of the Bill is to introduce an authority which is to deal with pensions, and to take away the administration of certain pensions from the Army and Navy, and to combine the administration of them under one authority. The original proposition was that the authority should be a Board, now it is suggested that it should be a Ministry. That is a change, a considerable change, I quite agree, but I do not think it is so great a change as to necessitate the introduction of a new Bill. Let me put the case the other way. Suppose the Bill had been a Bill to set up a Ministry, and the House, in its wisdom, had thought it desirable that this matter should be placed entirely in the hands of a Board. That clearly would be within the competence of the House. It would not be a very great change, but it would be a change, yet not so great a change in the character of the Bill as to necessitate the introduction of a new Bill. It seems to me that the same arguments apply in this case. I may also say that in recent years, certainly since the Partnership Bill was introduced, Committees have exercised a great deal more latitude in the introduction of Amendments than they did in earlier days when the rules were very strict. Those rules are now much modified, and the Committees have exercised, and do exercise, and probably will in the future continue to exercise far greater latitude. I think under the circumstances that this Bill can proceed, although, of course, its title will have to be changed.

Bill considered in Committee (Progress, 27th November).

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]


May I ask whether it would not be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to adopt the Government Amendments en bloc, then recommit the Bill, and work upon it from the White Paper? Suppose the Government Amendments are carried, they will strike out a number of Amendments already on the Amendment Paper, and it seems to me it would probably be greatly for our convenience generally if that course could be adopted.


That could be done if the Committee assent to that course. It would make it more clear what we are doing, and if that is the general sense of the House to accept the Government Amendments, then I should report the Bill and the House would presumably recommit it forthwith. I should then proceed to deal with the Bill as recommitted, as shown on the White Paper with one single exception of an Amendment which probably has been overlooked by the Government, namely, on Clause 8, which proposes to insert the words "Army Council" in place of the words "War Office." It is purely a drafting Amendment. If the course suggested is approved I should propose to take the Clauses slowly on the recommitted Bill, so that any hon. Member might have an opportunity of drawing my attention to any Amendment he desired to move to the recommitted Bill which does not appear in quite exactly the right place on the Blue Paper.


The course suggested has, I admit, many advantages, but the difficulty I foresee is this: It is very difficult to know exactly now where Amendments should come in, and this would entail so many Amendments being moved in manuscript. We are against the policy of moving Amendments in manuscript form, but here it will have been impossible-to get the Amendments down on the Paper. Again, the Amendments on the-White Paper have been put down to the original Bill, and if we take the Government Amendments straight away it will mean that a large number of Amendments will have to be taken in manuscript form.


Would it not be possible, when introducing the Government Amendments, to say what Amendments already down on the Paper to the other-Bill are in order? That would, I think, lessen the inconvenience my hon. Friend has pointed out, although it happens it may not avoid other inconveniences which would happen if we work from the original Bill.


What will be our position with regard to altering or rejecting any of the proposed Amendments of the Government? As I understand the procedure suggested, it is that the Amendments proposed by the Government in the-original Bill should be put in by the Vote of this House. Will the Committee then be free to go back on those Amendments which are not accepted?


Certainly, that will be so. Where I saw an Amendment on the Blue Paper that could not be covered by the change introduced in the Bill I should call on the hon. Member. In any case I should ask, "Does any hon. Member desire to move any Amendment to this Clause?" It means, of course, a little more trouble to the Chairman.


May I ask the hon. Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin) whether it has been ascertained if there is a sufficient number of the copies of the White Paper to enable Members to pursue the necessary studies?


I have inquired at the Vote Office and am informed there are-sufficient copies.


May I point out that the bulk of the Amendments put down with reference to the former Bill are really inapplicable to the new form of the Bill? I think the suggestion is an excellent one.


I have an Amendment down to the Government proposal with regard to the Paymaster-General. I suppose I shall be entitled to move it?


Yes, certainly. I want hon. Members to draw my attention to any Amendments they may wish to move in order that nothing may be overlooked. With the assent of the Committee I will report the Bill with the Amendments incorporated of which the Government have given notice.

Bill reported, with a New Title [and with Amendments shown in Return No, 137, giving the effect of the Amendments proposed to be moved in Committee on behalf of the Government.]

Resolved, "That this House will forthwith resolve itself into Committee on the recommitted Bill."—[Mr. Rea.]

Recommitted Bill accordingly considered in Committee.

  1. CLAUSE 1.—(Establishment of Minister of Pensions.) 17,233 words
  2. cc581-96
  3. CLAUSE 2.—(Duties and Powers of Minister of Pensions.) 6,286 words
  4. cc596-601
  5. CLAUSE 3.—(Relations with Statutory Committee.) 1,828 words
  6. cc601-3
  7. CLAUSE 4.—(Functions of Local Committees.) 638 words
  8. cc603-4
  9. CLAUSE 5.—(Staff, Remuneration, and Expenses.) 615 words
  10. c605
  11. CLAUSE 6.—(Style, Seal and Proceedings of Minister of Pensions.) 245 words
  12. cc605-7
  13. CLAUSE 7.—(Power for Minister and a Secretary to Sit in Parliament.) 608 words
  14. c607
  15. CLAUSE 8.—(Transfer of Officers.) 195 words
  16. cc607-9
  17. CLAUSE 9.—(Short Title, Interpretation and Repeal.) 520 words