HC Deb 08 December 1919 vol 122 cc1086-8

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Baldwin.]


I am told at the Vote Office that this Bill is not printed. It seems to me to be no use taking a Bill which is not printed, and it is a travesty of business if we are going to pass the Second Reading of a measure not yet in our hands.


What the hon. and gallant Member has just said is news to me. I was under the impression that this Bill was circulated many days ago.

Captain W. BENN

I am informed that it is not so.


If that be the case, I apologise. It should have been in the Vote Office some days ago. I will make inquiries about it. In these circumstances I would ask the House to be good enough to give us the Second Reading, and I will not ask for any further stages to-night. This Bill is entirely a non-contentious and confirmatory measure. It is common knowledge to old Members of Parliament that by an Act of Parliament the Isle of Man has its own right of imposing Customs Duties. It can impose duties on any articles that it likes. They are imposed in the Tynwald, and formal Treasury sanction is given. But no statutory authority attaches to the resolutions of the Court of Tynwald unless this Bill has become an Act of Parliament. This measure gives statutory force to the resolutions of the Court of Tynwald, which resolutions last for only a limited period in the absence of this confirmatory Bill. There is no more to be said about it. It is introduced at the end of every Session of Parliament. It is an annual, and for the reasons I have stated it is entirely uncontroversial. There is nothing in it we can do; we simply endorse and give statutory force to what the Manx Legislature has itself enacted. I hope that, with this brief explanation, the House will be willing to give me the Second Reading. I apologise again for the oversight with regard to the Bill, of which I was not aware.

Captain BENN

What the hon. Gentleman says with such urbanity is quite true. This is a Bill of a formal kind, but what is not normal is for the Second Reading to be taken before the Bill is printed. I am informed at the Vote Office that this Bill is not printed, and this is particularly important at a moment when changes in our fiscal system are a matter of the very greatest controversy between some hon. Members of the House. I would suggest that it would be very much better to postpone the Second Reading, so that the Bill may be printed and hon. Members may know what it contains.


I have not the slightest objection to that. If I had been aware that it was not printed, I should not have pressed it to-night.


I do not want to enter into a conflict on this matter, but I wish to ask the Government who is responsible for placing these Papers in the Vote Office. Time and again when we say to the Government that a Financial White Paper has only been put in the Vote Office two hours before the Debate, we are told by the Government that they are not responsible, and the heads of the Departments say they are not responsible for the Papers being put there. Then, who is responsible? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury is present. Can he inform the House who is really responsible for placing these Parliamentary Papers in the Vote Office? Over and over again the Government have said they are not responsible, and it is an intolerable position.


Would the hon. Member tell me what Government Department has said it was not responsible?


Certainly. The other day, when the Housing Bill was under discussion, I asked the Minister for Health why the White Paper containing the financial details of the Housing Bill was only placed in the Vote Office two hours before the Debate began. He got up, and said that neither he nor his Department was responsible for the Vote Office getting these papers.


My right hon. Friend made a mistake.


He did make a mistake. It is really intolerable that we should be continually placed in this position.

Question put, and agreed to.

Captain BENN

The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill said it would be postponed.


You did not want the Second Reading?

Captain W. BENN

No; we would rather not.


The hon. Gentleman said he would postpone it.


Order! There is no Question now before the House.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow (Tuesday).— [Mr. Baldwin.]