HC Deb 27 November 1919 vol 121 cc1968-81

Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.


I had intended to move the recommittal of the Bill, but now there is a new Clause standing in the name of the Minister of Transport which will meet the case so far as those with whom I am working are concerned.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Gordon Hewart)

I am much obliged for the observations made by my hon. Friend, and I beg to move, if I am in order at this stage, "That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House," in order that this proposed new Clause, which incidentally may impose some charge on the rates, may be dealt with.


I wish to oppose the Motion of the learned Attorney-General, and for this reason: I submit that the procedure which my right hon. Friend is adopting is altogether wrong in this case. It affords a very cogent example of the way in which the Government are more and more in the habit of treating those Members who sit upstairs on Committees. This is a Bill which has twice or three times, certainly twice, been passed by the House of Lords and come down here, and it has never succeeded in getting a Second Reading until this year. It went to a Committee upstairs to be considered. There was a great deal of the usual difficulty in obtaining a quorum. The first meeting happened to be appointed for a day when members had to attend a certain function. The meeting had to be adjourned. When the adjourned meeting took place there was a long pause before we could get a sufficient number to form a quorum. Ultimately, by the individual efforts of members of the Committee, we secured a quorum. The Attorney-General for Ireland attended on behalf of the Government and confined his observations to the extension of the Bill to Ireland. Beyond that fact no member of the Government took the least interest in the Bill. The only thing that occurred was that I was asked, as I was in charge of the Bill, to accept an Amendment providing that soldiers should pass free over any ferries—a suggestion which I, of course, accepted. After a great deal of opposition the Bill went through. There was a series of Amendments proposed with the object of extending the operation of the Bill beyond the county councils to district councils. They were opposed, they were voted on, and they were lost. Now we come down to this House on Report, Hon. Members who moved Amendments in Committee extending the operation of the Bill to district councils have put the Amendments down again, as, of course, they are entitled to do. Then at the eleventh hour along comes the Minister of Transport and proposes to move a new Clause which absolutely alters the whole Bill. I should rather say it is not a new Clause but a new Bill. The proposal is to leave out Clause 1 and to insert a new Clause 1. It is Clause 1 which provides that any existing ferries may be taken over by county councils, that two of them can combine, that they can impose a rate for the purpose of obtaining expenses, and if they come to the conclusion that the advantage of an existing ferry will fall upon some particular locality they can call upon that locality to bear half the expense. Now the Government, who have taken no interest whatever in the Bill up to this time, and have treated it with contempt, come down here on Report and desire to redraft the whole Bill, and because they find they are out of order they ask the House to allow the Bill to be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House. That is not treating the Committee upstairs with proper and decent respect. If you are going to let it be known that that is the sort of thing which will happen to Committees upstairs, it will be still harder to obtain a quorum than it is now, and that is saying a great deal. Under these circumstances, I submit that the Government should not be allowed to re-commit the Bill. The Bill would then go through in the form in which it left the Standing Committee, who considered it with great care, and that would be a just and proper course.


I do not understand on what ground Mr. Speaker ruled the Clause of the Government out of order, but I presume it was on the ground that you cannot impose a charge on the Report stage. There is another point of Order which not only prevents the Government from moving the Clause now, but prevents them, I submit, from moving it if the Bill is recommitted. It is that the new Clause is beyond the scope of the Bill, and that if moved and carried in Committee it would make this a new Bill. The title of the Bill is "An Act to enable County Councils to acquire existing ferries by agreement," and Clause I says that a county council may do certain things. The whole Bill deals with county councils. The new Clause of the Government alters that altogether and brings in, all sorts of other local bodies. I contend that if the Bill is re-committed the new Clause will be out of order, first of all, because it is outside the scope of the title of the Bill, and secondly, I because if carried it would create a new and totally different Bill from that to which the House gave its consent on Second Reading.


I have already considered that point, but I do not think it is one which ought to be fatal to the Bill. The Bill proposes, as the right hon. Baronet says, to give powers to county councils. It is quite open to the House to extend that to district councils, and I think it is equally open to the House to extend it to borough councils. They are authorities of the same nature as county councils. They are not, perhaps, so large, and possibly some of them do not represent so great a population; but they are of the same class of local authority, and it is open to the House to extend what was originally proposed for county councils to all other local authorities.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Bill considered in Committee.

[MR. WHITLEY in the Chair.]

  1. CLAUSE 1.—(Power of Local Authorities to Acquire, etc., Existing ferries.) 4,177 words
  2. c1980
  3. CLAUSE 2.—(Protection of General public.) 123 words
  4. c1981
  5. CLAUSE 3.—(Crown Rights.) 162 words