HC Deb 07 July 1919 vol 117 cc1566-7

Nothing in this Act shall be construed as giving power to the Minister to impose any conditions upon a local authority which shall entail expenditure without consent of such local authority or the Local Government Hoard.


I beg to move to leave out the words or the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board will, presumably, be the Ministry of Health. Some local authorities are the owners of dock undertakings, and it is a very curious provision which says that nothing in the Act shall be construed as giving power to the Minister to compel the local authority to do something which will entail expenditure without their consent or the consent of the Ministry of Health. It is an anomaly that the Minister of Health should be the Court of Appeal regarding the possible construction of a dock or the provision of a railway siding or the provision of a dock warehouse. The Minister-designate proposes to substitute the Minister of Health by his Amendment. That makes the thing still more anomalous. It would be better for the Minister-designate to have the powers which Clause 3 has given him to give certain directions to the undertaking. The Minister of Health has not been accustomed to dealing with such things as railways and docks and he ought not to decide. If a local authority is not prepared to incur expenditure it is rather hard that it should be thrust upon them by the decision of the Minister of Health who has a very large number of duties to perform and is not in a position to deal with such things as the construction of a dock.


This Clause was inserted in Committee and we discussed it very fully there. The point was this: in the case of local authorities it is only reasonable that they should be on a different footing from undertakings run for profit, and that if the Minister requires them under the powers given by this Bill to incur expenditure the Local Government Board, which is the only direct guardian of their finance, will be in the position of coming in to confirm or otherwise their objections as the guardians of their finances. The Government accept the view of the Committee that that appeal was not an unreasonable thing in the case of a local authority. Now with the change from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health the Amendment which stands in my name is necessary. It also brings in the correct authority for Scotland and Ireland. The Amendment is a protection for the local authority which is considered desirable.


Would it not be possible on reconsideration to select something more suitable than the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health is not a proper authority for a Court of Appeal. It is a purely illusory provision, and I would suggest that the matter should be adjourned so that the Minister might find some Government Department more competent to carry out this work.


As I am advised the duties of the Local Government Board In connection with the financing of local authorities has been transferred to the Ministry of Health. If that is so then in spite of the fact that the name Ministry of Health does not carry the sequence of thought it is still the right Department to which reference should be made. If the local authority are required to do anything under the powers given by this Bill which would imperil their finances, the Ministry of Health is the Department to deal with the matter, and, therefore, I think that it should be allowed to stand in the Bill.


In view of the explanation given, I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: Leave out the words "the Local Government Board," and insert instead thereof the words

"of the Minister of Health,, or in Scotland the Secretary for Scotland, or in Ireland the Local Government Board for Ireland." — [Sir E. Geddes]

Ordered, That the further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."—[Lord Edmund Talbot.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered to-morrow (Tuesday).