HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc133-9

His Majesty may by Orders in Council (in this Act referred to as Irish Transfer Orders) make such regulations as seem necessary or proper for setting in motion the Parliaments and Governments of Southern and Northern Ireland, and when established, the Parliament and Government of Ireland, and also for any other matter for which it seems to His Majesty necessary or proper to make provision for the purpose of bringing this Act into full operation or for giving full effect to any provisions of this Act or to any future transfer under or by virtue of this Act of a reserved service: and in particular His Majesty may by any such Order in Council—

(a) make such adaptations of any enactments so far as they relate to Ireland as may appear to him necessary or proper in order to give effect to the provisions of this Act, and also make any adaptations of any enactments, so far as they relate to England or Scotland, as may appear to him necessary or proper as a consequence of any change effected by the provisions of this Act; and

(b) make such adaptation of any enactments as appear to him necessary or proper with respect to the execution of reserved services and services with respect to which the Parliaments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland have not power to make laws, and, in particular, provide for the exercise or performance of any powers or duties in connection with those services by any Department of the Government of the United Kingdom or officer of that Government where any such powers or duties are, under any existing Act or by the common law, to be exercised or performed by any Department or officer in Ireland who will cease to exist as a department or officer of the Government of the United Kingdom; and

(c) on the transfer of the postal service make regulations with respect to the relations of the Irish and British Post Offices, and in particular provide for an apportionment of the capital liabilities of the Post Office between the Exchequers concerned for the execution of postal services by the one Post Office at the request of and on behalf of the other, and for the terms and conditions under which the services are to be so executed, for facilities being given in connection with any such postal services at the request of one Post Office by the other, and for the reservation of power to His Majesty by Order in Council to transfer in time of war or national emergency the powers or duties of the Irish Post Office to the British Post Office, or to the naval, military, or air force authorities of the United Kingdom; and

(d) on the transfer under this Act of public services in connection with the Post Office Savings Bank, or Trustee Savings Banks, make provisions for giving an Irish depositor in the Post Office Savings Bank the right to repayment of any sums due to him in respect of his deposits at the time of the transfer, and for giving the trustees of any Trustee Savings Bank in Ireland the right to close their bank and to require repayment of all sums due to them from the National Debt Commissioners, and for securing to the holder of any annuity or policy of insurance granted before the date of the transfer the payment of the annuity or of any sums due under the policy; and

(e) make provision for securing the payment of an old age pension to any person who is entitled to the payment of such a pension at the appointed day, while he continues so entitled; and

(f) make provision with respect to the transfer and apportionment of any property, assets, rights, and liabilities in connection with Irish services and the transfer of the right to recover any taxes charged but not paid before the appointed day; and for apportioning as between the Exchequer of the United Kingdom and the Exchequers of Southern and Northern Ireland the proceeds of transferred taxes properly attributable to Ireland and levied in respect of the financial year in which the appointed day falls; and

(g) where the day appointed for the transfer of any Irish service is subsequent to the day appointed as the day from which the Irish residuary share of reserved taxes becomes payable, provide for the proper deductions being made from that share in respect of the cost of that service during the interval between the said days; and

(h) provide, in cases where the same Act deals with reserved matters or matters with respect to which the Parliaments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland have not power to make laws and with other matters, for specifying the matters dealt with by the Act which are to be treated in accordance with this Act as such other matters; and

(i) provide for the reservation of power to His Majesty to confer on the naval, military, or air force authorities of the United Kingdom control over any harbours, lighthouses, light-vessels, buoys, beacons, or other navigational marks to such extent, at such times and in such circumstances as may appear to His Majesty to be required in the national interests; and

(j) provide for the inclusion in the National Health Insurance Joint Committee of representatives of the Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland (or, if the services connected with the administration of Part I. of the National Health Insurance Act, 1911, as amended by subsequent enactments are transferred to the Council of Ireland, a representative of the Council of Ireland), and for conferring on that Committee such powers in relation to England, Scotland, Wales, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland as are before the appointed day exercisable by the Committee in relation to England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; and

(k) in the event of the Parliament of Ireland being established apply, so far as applicable, and subject to this Act and the constituent Acts, and subject to any necessary adaptations, to the Parliament and Government of Ireland, and Ministers, Departments, and officers of that Government, the provisions of this Act relating to the Parliaments and Governments of Southern and Northern Ireland, and Ministers, Departments, and officers of those Governments, and provide for the transfer of officers property and liabilities from the Governments of Southern and Northern Ireland to the Government of Ireland.


I beg to move, in paragraph (d), to leave out the words "an Irish", and to insert instead thereof the word "a".

This is another drafting Amendment, and, taken in conjunction with the next Amendment to insert the words "resident in Ireland", means simply that, instead of calling a depositor "an Irish depositor", he will be described as a depositor who is resident in Ireland, that being a better and less ambiguous description than "Irish depositor".

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In paragraph (d), after the word "Bank" ["Savings Bank the right"], insert the words "resident in Ireland".

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Captain W. BENN

I have no doubt that the Government will pursue its usual course, and treat with contempt any remarks I venture to make. I suggest to the Committee that, whatever their opinion may be as to the refusal of the Government to answer questions which I put, it is treating the Committee itself with complete contempt to pass pages of a Bill altering the constitution of the United Kingdom without offering a single word of explanation.


Any hon. Member is entitled to rise and ask for explanation of a Clause, but it is not the business of Ministers in charge of a Bill to give explanations on every Clause.

Captain BENN

I do not know whether you are calling me to order because I complain of the absence of explanations.


I am reminding the hon. and gallant Member of the habitual procedure of the House.

Captain BENN

I was proceeding to ask for an explanation, and I do not think my remarks could be described as otiose. I think I am entitled to ask an explanation. Here is an elected House of Commons, pretending to pass a Bill involving large transfers of authority and power, and yet there is no criticism and no word of explanation offered by the Government. It does not matter to me, as I have already said, but I take the view that the reason there is no explanation offered is that the Government and the Prime Minister know that the whole proceeding is a farce, that the Bill is never coming into operation, and therefore it is not worth while taking up the time of the Committee with explanations.


The hon. and gallant Member must make his remarks pertinent to the Motion before the Committee, which is that the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Captain BENN

I think my remarks are pertinent. I want to know whether the Government intend to pursue the same course on this as on other Clauses, and to give no explanation. I repeat, I do not consider it is consistent with the self-respect of the Committee that large sections of the Bill should be passed in this way without a single word of explanation.


I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that there is no intention to treat him with any disrespect or want of courtesy. He complains that we do not get up and offer an explanation on each Clause, but he has been reminded that we are pursuing entirely the usual practice. General statements are made by the Government on the Motion for the Second Reading. When we come to Clauses we answer questions. The hon. and gallant Member is inaccurate if he suggests that the Government do not desire questions to be addressed to them. I may remind him that some of the questions which have been put have carried their answers on the face of them. In this particular case this Clause is one which is usual in all similar Bills enabling certain transfers to be made. There is nothing in it which is unusual. It has repeatedly appeared in previous Acts of Parliament, and it merely enables the powers given by the Bill to be put in force by the ordinary machinery.


The right hon. Gentleman has placed himself in complete accord with Parliamentary practice. A demand has been made for an explanation and he has given the best explanations he can. That is all my hon. and gallant Friend was asking, and he was entitled to ask it. The Government, if they choose, are entitled not to answer. If they take that course, so much the worse for them. That is all. My hon. and gallant Friend asked for an explanation of Clause 63 and that has now been given.


So far as I am concerned, I should like to protest against it being constantly said that this Bill is not meant to become law, or that the proceedings are a farce. The farce lies with the Opposition.


I am afraid we are getting into a debate on the Bill as a whole.


I will pass from that. I will, however, ask, Is the hon and gallant Member opposite, when a number of Sub-sections in a Clause have been passed to which he has taken no objection or put down any Amendment, whatsoever, entitled, in regard to Sub-sections which he admits he cares nothing about, to call upon the Government to go through each one of them line by line and tell him what they mean, although he has not pointed out a single difficulty in understanding any of them? The truth of the matter is that observations of that kind, and the course that has been taken, are bringing Parliament into contempt.


I hope, Mr. Whitley, that you are going to give the Committee the necessary guidance by answering the point of order which has been addressed to you by my right. hon. and learned Friend the Member for Duncairn.


I have already twice or three times tried to make it clear to the hon. and gallant Member who began this little discussion, that it is not incumbent on the promoters of a Bill to rise to offer explanation on the various Clauses of the Bill. That is the well-known procedure on any Bill.


The point of order which was put by my right hon. and learned Friend was one which is of very great importance to the position of hon. Members of this House. If I understood my right hon. and learned Friend correctly, his point was whether a Member of this House, although he passed Clause after Clause without any comment, either by Amendment or on the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill, was entitled, on a Clause in which he happened to be interested, to address the Committee on that. I do not think there can be any more fundamental point in connection with the rights of this House.


Any Member of the Committee is entitled, on the question of the Clause standing part of the Bill, to rise and ask a question with regard to it. Some of the most interesting Debates in our Committe have arisen in that way.


I should like to say one word in regard to what has fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain W. Benn). It is not the first time he has made this complaint that the Government have given no explanation. He said just now that it showed a want of self-respect on the part of the Committee to allow that. I desire to remind the hon. and gallant Member, and the Committee, that in the case of the Bill of 1914, which has made this Bill a necessity, and which was defended and supported all through by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, Clause after Clause was passed in that way.


That does not arise on this Clause.


An hon. Member of this House having taken a point, whether good or bad, is it not in order for me to point out that, on a previous occasion, that some hon. Member supported procedure which precluded discussion altogether?


I have dealt, I hope quite clearly, with the point put to me as Chairman.

Question put, and agreed to.

CLAUSE 66 (Irish Transfer Orders to be laid before Parliament) ordered to stand part of the Bill.