HC Deb 01 August 1924 vol 176 cc2485-8

Order for Second Reading read.

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

3.0 P.M.


This is a Bill which was introduced in the House of Lords. It is a Bill of 135 Clauses, a very heavy Bill indeed. I understand it was referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. They introduced some hundred or more Amendments, and the Bill was ordered to be reprinted. So far as I am aware, it has never been before this House at all. The Bill has not been reprinted, there is no copy obtainable in the Vote Office; not a single soul has seen this Bill at the present time. It was strongly impressed on me a short time ago by two members, one on the opposite benches and one on this side, that the Bill ought to be allowed to go through all its stages to-day. That is absolutely impossible. It is grotesque enough to allow a Second Reading of a Bill which not a single Member of the Government has ever seen in print, especially when it is a Bill of 135 Clauses. True, it is a Consolidating Bill, and I have not a word to say about it—as far as I am aware it is a perfectly good and highly desirable Bill—but I do protest against Bills being brought before us without a print being obtainable. It would get this House a very bad name if it went out that this House passed a particular Bill without a single person having seen it. That is not a thing which would add to the dignity of the House, nor to its respect, at all events, among the legal profession. I understand there are very special reasons for saying the Bill should go, through—I am not saying a word against the Bill, I know nothing about it—but I understand the Government are not now going to ask for more than this stage to-day, and I hope that before it goes through the other stages the Bill will be printed, and that we shall have an opportunity of seeing it. I appeal to the Government in future not to come down to the House to ask us to pass Bills which have not been printed, because it is merely luck whether anybody comes here to raise any objection, and it is an invidious thing to do.


When I asked that the Bill should be taken through all its stages to-day and pressed for it, I was not aware that it had not been printed. The Bill is very much wanted by the insurance societies of the country, who are very anxious to have the law consolidated so that they can get to work upon it. I quite agree that, seeing the Bill is not printed that we ought to have it printed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) is as interested as I am, but under the circumstances he has suggested that we should not take it any further than the Second Reading. I trust that this will be arranged and that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will see that the Bill is properly printed before we take it through its other stages. The matter is not likely to be much delayed, because there will be a certificate given that there is no alteration in the law, and, seeing that this is simply a matter of consolidation, I do not think we shall be any worse for not going beyond the Second Reading. But there is a good deal in what my right hon. Friend has said, and so far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared that the Bill should have its Second Reading, but we ought not, I think, to go beyond that to-day.


When I asked the Leader of the House to pass this Bill through all its stages, to-day, I was under the same delusion as the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) that the Bill was printed. I know it is purely a consolidating Measure, and that we want it, especially in connection with the Royal Commission. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University that it would be quite unfair on our part to try to press for anything more than the Second Reading until the Bill has been printed. Therefore I trust the Government will be content with the Second Reading and have the Bill printed by Monday.


The House, I feel sure, will feel grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) for his vigilant care in this matter. We have protested again and again against Measures coming to this House with Amendments unprinted. I trust, now that the matter has been raised, that we shall have no recurrence of this very serious difficulty which, though this may be the worst instance, is only one of a number.


We shall not press for more than the Second Reading to-day. We are the victims of circumstances. We only received the Bill last night, and we were very anxious that its stages should be completed before the Houses rises, because, following upon this, it will be necessary to revise and consolidate the Regulations. It is most desirable, indeed essential, that these should begin to operate on 1st January of next year, and that would not be possible if we held over the consideration of the Bill until the Autumn. I am sorry that the Bill has not been printed, but it is purely a Consolidation Bill, and in no way amends the law.


The order for printing was made on 9th July, and it is now August. Such a Bill ought to be printed as early as possible.


It is not quite fair that the ordinary Member should be asked to go into a Measure of this kind without having seen it. I think we ought not to go further to-clay than the Second Reading.


Certainly, I thought I had made that clear.