HC Deb 01 May 1919 vol 115 cc509-12

Resolution reported,

"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the enactments relating to the Housing of the Working Classes, Town Planning, and the acquisition of Small Dwellings, it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of expenses incurred by any Government Department—

  1. (a) when acting in the place of local authorities or county councils in preparing and carrying out schemes under such Act;
  2. (b) in recouping losses, incurred by local authorities and county councils; and
  3. (c) in contributing to costs incurred by public utility societies and housing trusts and other persons."

Resolution read a second time.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

I notice that there are some Amendments on the Paper. If hon. Members desire to move them, they must do so before I put the Question.


I have three Amendments on the Paper, but at this late hour I do not think it is fair to keep the House up. Therefore I propose to move them in Committee upstairs.


I have one Amendment on the Paper, but now that the Regulations have been published the object of my Amendment is already met; therefore I do not move.




Does the Noble Lord propose to move an Amendment?


No; I wish to speak on the main Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I desire to speak on what is the rather inconvenient and ancient way of taking very important Financial Resolutions at this hour of night. I am glad to have the support of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Rawlinson) who, like myself, has sat up many nights in former Parliaments protesting against the action of the then Government in taking these Resolutions at a late hour of the night. I should be inconsistent if I allowed this opportunity to pass without entering a mild protest against the return to this ancient and inconvenient habit. Resolutions of this kind can only be debated within very narrow limits, therefore I shall be brief. I understand, although I am not a member of the Committee upstairs, that the main point of the Bill is contained in the Financial Resolution, and that at the present time there is a good deal of difference of opinion in the country as to the amount the Government and the local authorities respectively should find. That is an additional argument against taking a Resolution of this kind at this hour of the night. Although one appreciates the attitude adopted by the two hon. Members opposite in withdrawing their Amendment, I must protest against their return to the old custom. I would remind my Noble Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury that the experience we have bad hitherto in this House is not that the Parliamentary mill has been grinding out legislation too slowly, but rather that under the new system of Committees we are getting through our legislation very much quicker than anyone expected at the beginning of the Session. I am sorry we are getting back to this bad, and I would almost add rotten, system of taking these Financial Resolutions late at night, and of smuggling them through, especially after the important Debate we have had to-day. I shall not divide against the Resolution and merely wish to enter my protest.


I am very glad to hear what my Noble Friend has said. If those who work with him in that part of the House will accept a tribute of gratitude from me, I desire to tender it to them. They have alone almost on that side of the House supported myself and others in maintaining some of the best traditions of the House in regard to these matters. I do join with him in the protest which he has made against taking very important financial business at this hour of the night. I wish to thank my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill for the ready compliance which he has shown in the request which we made for the issue of a White Paper on this subject. I had an opportunity to-day of looking it through, and, so far as I can judge, I hope it will be a model of what these White Papers should be. Obviously, a great deal of care has been taken with it, and I desire to thank him for the action he has taken. This is the first time this House has been placed in possession of anything like real information on what has now become a vital subject in the progress of these Bills. I think the Report stage, at any rate, is not the really appropriate time for the discussion of a Money Resolution. It was by arrangement that the White Paper was for the first time issued. I hope my Noble Friend and others who associate them-selves with him will join with me, certainly not in any obstruction, but in very careful examination of the financial proposals of these Resolutions at the proper stage, and that is the Committee stage. So far as I am concerned, I do not wish to say any more to-night with regard to this matter. The Committee, I understand, have made remarkable progress upstairs and are being held up for lack of this Resolution. I trust that hon. Members who have got Amendments down will see that they are adequately dealt with upstairs. I make no opposition whatever to the progress of this stage of the Bill.


With regard to the course taken by my hon. Friends opposite, I am advised that the important matters which they wish to raise on their Amendments can be taken more appropriately upstairs in Committee. In regard to the point made by the Noble Lord, I am sure there has been no desire to rush or smuggle through—as he calls it—this Resolution at a late hour to-night. We had hoped to get it through at a much earlier period. We took, as my right hon. Friend has said, very special care in connection with this by placing the House in possession of the fullest information we could, and I may say one of my chief officers and several assistants sacrificed the whole of the Easter holiday in order to prepare this White Paper. It was right it should be done, and I am sure if my Noble Friend had the opportunity of studying this somewhat elaborate Paper, the last thing he would suggest would be—


I protested not against this particular proposal, but against the system of taking business at this hour of the night.


I will say no more on that point. The Committee has made excellent progress, and until we get this Resolution we cannot move further, and I hope the House will agree to it.

Question put, and agreed to.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-nine minutes before Twelve o'clock.