HC Deb 13 August 1919 vol 119 cc1539-47

(1).The expenses of any local committees required to be established by local authorities under this Act shall be defrayed by the local authorities out of such fund or rate, and in such manner, as may be directed by the Board of Trade; and any expenses of the Board of Trade under this Act shall, subject to the approval of the Treasury, be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.

(2) Such expenses may in either case include such payment to the chairmen and members of committees and tribunals, in respect of their travelling expenses and loss of time, as appears to the Board reasonable and is approved by the Treasury.

(3) Any fines imposed at the instance of a local committee under this Act shall be applied in aid of the fund or rate out of which the expenses of the committee are required to be paid under this Act, and any other fines imposed under this Act shall be paid into the Exchequer.


I beg to move, to leave out the words

"The expenses of any local committees required to be established by local authorities under this Act shall be defrayed by the local authorities out of such fund or rate, and in such manner, as may be directed by the Board of Trade; and."

5.0 A.M.

I ask the Government whether we can have any explanation of the words, which I propose to leave out, dealing with the expenses of any local Commit tees required to be established by local authorities under this Act? Surely it is not intended to cast the expenses of these committees upon the local ratepapeyrs! We want to be sure that the cost comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers.


The intention of the Government is quite clearly expressed. It is that the local authorities are to finance the local committees that they set up. These words are right and proper, and their object is in the interests of economy.


Is it not a very unusual provision to make the Board of Trade give directions to the local authorities?


I hope this Amendment will be pressed. This Clause seems to have no value. First it puts the expenses on the local authorities, and, secondly, the rates are to be reimbursed out of the fines inflicted under the Act. That will give the local tribunals an interest in the results of the prosecutions.


I hope the Government will give this matter more consideration. I do not think the local authorities will welcome these committees. Their objections will be stronger if they have to provide the expenses out of the rates. The words are wrong, in view of an Amendment which has been already accepted. The word "required" should be "authorised." I think it is not right to put this burden on the local authorities. If this work is to be done in the national interests the nation should pay for it.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 45.

Division No. 104.] AYES. [5.5 a.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Balfour, George (Hampstead) Bridgeman, William Clive
Ainsworth, Captain C. Barnett, Major Richard W. Briggs, Harold
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Barnston, Major Harry Britton, G. B.
Atkey, A. R. Beck, Arthur Cecil Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)
Baird, John Lawrence Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Brown, T. W. (Down, N.)
Baldwin, Stanley Blades, Sir George R. Buchanan, Lieut.-Col A. L. H.
Buckley, Lt.-Col. A. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr.
Campion, Colonel w. R. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Remer, J. B.
Carr, W. T. Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Robinson S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Inskip, T. W. H. Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Clough, R. Jameson, Major J. G. Roundell, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.
Cockerill, Brig.-General G. K. Jodrell, N. P. Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)
Colvin, Brig.-General R. B. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen) Seddon, J. A.
Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H. Kellaway, Frederick George Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Kerr-Smiley, Major P. Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)
Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe) Kidd, James Simm, Col. M. T.
Dewhurst, Lieut.-Com. H. King, Commander Douglas Sprot, colonel Sir Alexander
Doyle, N. Grattan Knights, Captain H. Stanier, Captain Sir Beville
Du Pre, Colonel W. B. Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow) Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark) Lindsay, William Arthur Stephenson, Colonel H. K.
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don) Strauss, Edward Anthony
Farquharson, Major A. C. Lort-Williams, J. Sugden, W. H.
Fitzroy, Capt. Hon. Edward A. Loseby, Captain C. E. Sutherland, Sir William
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue M'Curdy, Charles Albert Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chichester)
Ferestier-Walker, L. Macquisten, F. A. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Foxcroft, Captain C. Mitchell, William Lane Townley, Maximilan G.
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke) Morden, Col. H. Grant Tryon, Major George Clement
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Ste E. (Cambridge) Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.) Vickers, D.
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Nall, Major Joseph Weston, Colonel John W.
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Newman, Sir R. H. S. O. (Exeter) Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.
Green, J. F. (Leicester) Parker, James Williams, Lt-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Guest, Capt. Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.) Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike woolcock, W. J. U.
Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.) Peel, Lt.-Col. ft. F. (Woodbridge) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Hailwood, A. Pratt, John William Younger, Sir George
Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham) Pulley, Charles Thornton
Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Purchase, H. G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Col.
Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordan Raeburn, Sir William Sanders and Mr. Dudley Ward. Sanders and
Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Glyn, Major R. Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Adair, Rear-Admiral Griffiths, T. (Pontypool) Royce, William Stapleton
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Grundy, T. W. Sexton, James
Bell, James (Ormskirk) Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)
Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Hirst, G. H. Short, A. (Wednesbury)
Blair, Major Reginald Holmes, J. S. Smith, W. (Wellingborough)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W. Johnstone, J. Stevens, Marshall
Briant, F. Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Bromfield, W. Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Cape, Tom Kiley, James Daniel Wallace, J.
Casey, T. W. Lunn, William Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Child, Brig.-General Sir Hill Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H. Newbould, A. E. Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)
Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Entwistle, Major C. F. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Fraser, Major Sir Keith Perring, William George Mr. G. Thorne and Mr. Neal,

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "Act" ["under this Act"], insert the words "to an amount not exceeding £75,000."—[Sir A. Geddes.]


I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (2).

I do not see why it is not possible to lay down exactly what shall be paid to the chairman of a committee or a tribunal. The Sub-clause as it stands is "Such expenses," etc., … "in respect of their travelling expenses and loss of time, as appears to the Board reasonable and is approved by the Treasury." I confess I do not quite understand what that means. How can you make a payment in respect of a chairman or a member of a tribunal in respect of his loss of time? In my opinion what the Bill should authorise is that the chairman and the members of the committee should receive their bare travel- ling expenses. I think it is a dangerous provision to put in "loss of time, as appears to the Board reasonable and is approved by the Treasury." It is. another instance of leaving the widest powers to the Board.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

The next Amendment deals exactly with that point.


I think it would before the convenience of the Committee to ask the Government, on the Question to leave out Sub-section (2), exactly what they mean. I beg to move—


I understand the question is, What do these words mean? They mean precisely what they say, and I should have thought they said it quite plainly. No expenses are to be allowed except travelling expenses and expenses of loss of time, and these expenses are to be approved by the Board of Trade and the Treasury. I should have thought that was sufficiently plain.


On what basis is loss of time to be assessed?


I apologise to the Committee for having put my point so badly, but I do not think it is a frivolous point. On what principle is the loss of time to be assessed? I maintain that it should be laid down that these committees should receive payment for their travelling expenses, and if you wish to put in for their loss of time also it must be arranged on a proper basis. How are you going to assess the amount of compensation payable to a brewer, to a solicitor's clerk, and a baker for their loss of time? The Clause is absurd as it stands. Are you going to do it on the principle of "time and line," of which the Government is so fond, or what? Cannot we have an answer?


It comes in the next Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "and loss of time."

The Amendment needs very little explanation. I see no reason why these tribunals should be subsidised and encouraged to sit day after day drawing what they like to put in for loss of time. It will encourage them to make work, and you will get little idle people on these tribunals for their own ends. You may get that in some cases. I think travelling expenses are quite sufficient. There are plenty of people in this country with a sufficient sense of public duty to do this work, and I think we shall be justified in leaving this out.


This seems to me to be really a very extraordinary Amendment to be made by the hon. Member for Hull. The reason for paying for loss of time is a, good reason, and I imagined that it was known to every single Member of the Committee. If you are going to get a committee or a tribunal that is really representative of all sections and classes of the community you have got to remember that some of these people will be wage earners with no margin, and the more experience. I have had, during this War especially, the more I have seen how extraordinarily valuable the service of such men is on these tribunals. But they cannot sit there, even at the best of times, without some compensation for loss of wages. It is no good putting down in an Act of Parliament that a man is to be paid for loss of wages automatically for every hour that he sits on the tribunals. I could imagine, then, some very long sittings. But if you get a. body responsible for seeing that the payment is a fair and reasonable one, and that that Department is itself under the close supervision of the Treasury as watch-dog, it seems to me you have got the best possible arrangement for dealing with expenses of this sort. But if you have a Government Department actually responsible for seeing that payment is fair and reasonable, and that Department is itself—as the House is never tired of insisting—under the close supervision of the Treasury, it seems to me you have the best possible arrangement for dealing with a question of this sort.


I can quite understand an Amendment being moved, but an Amendment of this kind is pure obstruction, and is not going to assist in the best tribunals being appointed. If Members who move it had any knowledge of local public life I do not suppose they would move it. I was twenty-five years in local public life and I know what it is. It is important to the community that you should have the-best men and women in this country, irrespective of the class to which they belong. You pay for loss of time on one or two committees appointed during the War. You pay Is. an hour, which is not very much, and the Is. an horn is not for the time from leaving home, but the time they are there. It had been valuable to hundreds of co-operative members who have gone into this local public work with the simple idea of doing the best for the community, and I hope this Amendment will be defeated. I would like to see the amount increased. I do not say it may pay everybody. I do not say everybody claims it, but it ought to be given to those who needed it.


I gather that the intention of the Government is that everyone who is a member of the committee is to receive payment for the loss of time. I think that ought to be "any loss of remunerative time." No one would grudge a woman who lost wages for loss of time, but there will be persons who will attend without any pecuniary loss at all, and if provision is to be made to pay them, I think it is a mistake. I think the object of the Sub-section is right, to make provision for those who are going to be penalised by the loss of wages, and that these wages should be made up, but any other member of the committee who received payment I wish the Committee would guard against that and that the Government would put in the word "remunerative" before "time."

Major E. WOOD

I think the case made by the President of the Board of Trade and the Member for Rothwell is unanswerable, and I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. It is not a new principle, and is thoroughly well understood.

Amendment negatived


I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words "shall be applied in aid of the fund or rate out of which the expenses of the committee are required to be paid under this Act."

I do so because I think it is an inequitable business if this House passes a Clause which in its present form would permit the local committee to draw expenditure from the life of their victims. Checking the profiteer is to me a national question and the expenses of local committees should, as in the case of the local food committees and the military tribunals, be paid out of the fund. It is a monstrous proposition that you should set up 1,600 local committees and give them power to impose fines which could be applied to the payment of travelling expenses and loss of time of people on the tribunal. A tribunal is going to haul a trader before the Police Court. He is going to be fined and they are going to recover the fine and apply it to defraying expenses and loss of time. How are you going to recover from the Police Court?


My hon. Friend's question is evidently founded on the idea of something new and revolutionary—that the fine should go in relief of expenses. That is a fact at present. If fines are recovered they go in relief of local rates, and is it really suggested, first, that unnecessary prosecutions will be instituted, and secondly, that by some mysterious process improper convictions will be secured because the fine obtained will come into these funds? An astonishing suggestion! Does not the hon. Gentleman see what it involves? It supposes that the committee is going to institute prosecutions in order that they may, out of the proceeds of the fine, recoup themselves. And he supposes that these committees by some mysterious means are to suborn the magistrates to give improper convictions to receive the proceeds of the fine.


The learned Attorney-General is not quite clear. Any fine imposed by the local committee under this Act, I understand the President of the Board of Trade to say that a fine imposed in a Summary Court of Jurisdiction in a prosecution at the instance of the committee, but that is different from what is stated. The correct interpretation of the Clause is, I think, that fines are imposed by the local committee.


If my hon. Friend will be so good as to look at the Act the fine imposed at instance of the local committee can only mean a fine imposed by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction in a prosecution instituted by the local committee.


I do not doubt what the Bill provides earlier. I am simply giving the obvious construction of the Section as it stands. If the Attorney-General is right, I submit that the words should be "any fines imposed in a prosecution at the instance of a local committee."


I think the argument used by the Attorney-General is quite correct, but I am not quite certain that he is right. If these fines only go to pay the expenses of the committee I do not think there is any risk that the committee will act unreasonably; but some of these fines may be quite big. What will happen if the fines recovered exceed the expenses of the committee under the Act? Will they be devoted to the local rates?




Then at any rate you will have the risk there. Sometimes local authorities are very active, for instance, in the prosecution of motorists. There are an enormous number of such cases instituted, not merely for the safety of the public, but in order to get the fines to put towards the rates. Surely it ought to be provided that there shall be no question of making profits for the rates out of these fines. I think it is perfectly reasonable that they should go to meet expenses, but I do not think any sort of temptation should be put in the way of a local authority to pile up the number of cases before the Petty Sessional Bench, in order that the fines may go to save the money of the ratepayers.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part: of the Bill.