HC Deb 21 November 1918 vol 110 cc3464-77

(1) His Majesty in Council may declare what date is to be treated as the date of the termination of the present War, and the present War shall be treated as having continued to, and as having ended on that date for the purposes of any provision in any Act of Parliament, Order in Council, or Proclamation, and, except where the context otherwise requires, of any provision in any contract, deed, or other instrument referring, expressely or impliedly, and in whatever form of words, to the present War or the present hostilities:

Provided that in the case of any such Act, conferring powers on any Government Department, or any officer of any Government Department, exercisable during the continuance of the present War, if it appears to His Majesty that it is expedient that the powers shall cease before the date so fixed as aforesaid, His Majesty in Council may fix some earlier date for the termination of those powers.

(2) The date so declared shall be fixed with regard to, and shall not be later than, the date of the exchange or deposit of ratifications of the treaty or treaties of peace:

Provided that, notwithstanding anything in this provision, the date declared as aforesaid shall be conclusive for all purposes of this Act.

(3) His Majesty in Council may also similarly declare what date is to be treated as the date of the termination of war between His Majesty and any particular State.

Lords Amendment:

In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "fixed with regard to, and shall not be later than," and insert instead thereof the words "as nearly as may be."


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


How is it that these Amendments are not available in the Vote Office? I would express the hope that the Government will explain what they are. This House has waited for the Lords Amendments, and I think we ought to have the opportunity of seeing them. Their consideration ought not to be made a mere empty form. We have had no opportunity of learning what they are.


Yes, I will explain. The Amendment proposed in this Bill is to make it read better. At present it reads— (2) The date so declared shall be fixed with regard to, and shall not be later than, the date of the exchange, and so on, and it is proposed by the Lords to make it read, The date so declared shall be as near as may be the date of the exchange or deposit of ratifications, etc. It means substantially the same thing.


It does not seem to me to mean quite the same thing, because it enables the Proclamation of a fixed date later than the ratification. It gives additional power, therefore, to Government Departments to extend their activities over and above the time that was fixed by this House, and fixed by the Government in the draft of the Bill. It gives, further, wide powers which were not contemplated when the Bill was introduced into this House. We ought to have some explanation as to why it is necessary to take this further extension of power.


Is there not one of the Law Officers of the Crown here who can explain this? Surely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds says, this is not a mere matter of form but a matter of vital substance! I do think we ought to have some legal advice in a matter of this importance.


The statement I made is quite correct. The words of the Clause were very indefinite in their meaning, and therefore the words "as nearly as may be" were preferred in view of the geographical, telegraphic, and other difficulties that might be encountered. On the whole, I think the Amendment to omit the words proposed and to insert those I have mentioned is an improvement. Hon. Members may be assured that in accepting this Amendment we have no desire whatever to depart from the spirit and intention of the Bill itself.


What we want to know is why the words "not later than" should be left out? They seem to me to be the most important phrase of the whole question. It seems to me to be most desirable that we should fix a definite date beyond which these things should not run. I hope that at all events this House will not lightly give up the words "not later than," but will insist that these words are retained.


I think a distinct point of substance has been raised by my hon. Friend opposite. The words in the Clause are as they left this House. It is true that the earlier words were indefinite, but the later phrase "not later than" is perfectly clear and definite. I think, in all the circumstances, that it is not advisable that this House should leave it to a Government Department to continue the operation of this enactment a day longer than the recommendation of this House. If it is to be "as nearly as may be" I have some doubt as to how that can be interpreted. We have no legal assistance here to guide the House as to the exact meaning of these words. I think in all the circumstances as an alteration of this importance is being made that the House should receive some skilled legal opinion as to the exact change which the other House has imported into this Bill.


This a matter of extreme importance, because the House of Commons was very clear in expressing its opinion that this measure should not be extended in point of time beyond the period originally set up, and they did not

desire that that power should be handed over to the Ministry of Munitions. Although the powers of the Ministry of Munitions were being altered to enable them to turn from war work to a peace footing, yet there was to be no extension of time given to the Ministry of Munitions on this account. The alteration made by the other House gives an extension to which the House of Commons was very averse. Therefore, I think the House should not be overriden by the other House by giving this measure an extended time beyond the ratification of peace. The country desires that the powers of the Ministry should come to an end as soon as possible, and the commercial world and the mercantile world—


I think my hon. Friend has got hold of the wrong Bill.


My hon. Friend is mistaken, and I was only using that as an illustration. The point is the same, that the powers should not be extended by this Amendment beyond the ratification of peace. The Amendment of the House of Lords has the effect of extending the time by omitting the words "not later than," and the view of the House, which has already been accepted by hon. Members, should be put into the measure.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 85; Noes, 9.

Division No. 95.] AYES. [3.23 p.m.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Fester, Philip Staveley Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Anderson, William C. Ganzoni, Francis J. C. Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Anstruther-Gray, Lt.-Col. Wm. Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Parker, James (Halifax)
Archer-Shee, Lt.-Col. Martin Gilbert, James Daniel Peto, Basil Edward
Baldwin, Stanley Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E.
Barrie, C. C Greig, Colonel James William Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arfon)
Beach, William F. H. Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) Rees, Sir J. D.
Beale, Sir William Phipson Hambro, Angus Valdemar Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence (Ashford) Roberts, Rt. Hon. Gee. H. (Norwich)
Bigland, Alfred Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Durham) Samuels, Arthur W.
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Hibbert, Sir Henry Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur
Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith- Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Boyton, Sir James Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Shortt, Edward
Bridgeman, William Clive Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, W.)
Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay) Kellaway, Frederick George Turton, Edmund Russborough
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Kenyon, Barnet Wardle, George J.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Coates, Major Sir Edward F. Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Beetle) White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Coats, Sir Stuart (Wimbledon) Lindsay, William Arthur Whiteley, Sir H. J. (Droltwich)
Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Lowe, Sir F. W. Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Cowan, Sir William Henry Macmaster, Donald Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir Rhys (Banbury)
Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James Ian Wills, Major Sir Gilbert
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Maden, Sir John Henry Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, Timothy (Louth) Magnus, Sir Philip Yate, Col. Charles Edward
Denniss, Edmund R. Bartley Mason, Robert (Wansbeck) Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H. Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir J. N. (Hanover Sq.)
Edge, Capt. William Morison, Hector (Hackney, South) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Pratt.
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Merton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas
Fleming, Sir John (Aberdeen, S.)
Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling Lambert, Richard (Cricklade) Watt, Henry A.
Chancellor, Henry George Lynch, Arthur Alfred
Cotton, H. E. A. Nuttall, Harry TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. E. Harvey and Mr. King.
Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry Pringle, William M. R.

A Royal Commission has been ordered for 4 o'clock, and I propose therefore to leave the Chair until then.

Sitting suspended at twenty-nine minutes before Four o'clock.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair at Four o'clock.

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