HC Deb 21 July 1924 vol 176 cc987-90

I beg to move in page 7, lines 8 and 9, to leave out the words "the Commons House," and to insert instead thereof the words "both Houses."

This Amendment is moved to provide that any Order made under this Measure shall be reviewable by both Houses, or rather that it shall require resolutions of both Houses before it come into force.

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

On a point of Order. I understand these Orders deal entirely with finance, and I should like to know whether, on constitutional grounds, we are entitled to insert in the Bill a provision that such an Order requires the consent of any body other than the House of Commons.


I do not pose as an authority on the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member, and I will allow the Minister an opportunity of saying something on the matter before I give a decision.


If the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) will wait for a moment, I intend to deal with that point. Let me say in the first place, in case the Minister objects to the form in which this Clause would be left by the inclusion of these words, that if the form proves inconvenient his legal advisers will provide him with a form of Clause to avoid any difficulty which might otherwise arise. On the main point it is perfectly true that this is called a Financial Provisions Bill. It is quite true that in form it does nothing more than increase a subsidy, but we have been told by the Government it is on that increase of subsidy that their whole housing policy is based. We have been told that their housing policy stands or falls by that increase in the amount of subsidy and that the housing needs of the nation can only be satisfied if this Bill is passed, and that any serious alteration would prevent the housing needs of the nation being met. We are asked to regard this Bill as the be-all and end-all of housing policy, and. therefore I think it is futile to say that it is merely a Financial Provisions Bill and that any Order made under it only requires the sanction of the House of Commons. We all know the procedure when we are dealing with a purely financial Bill and when Mr. Speaker has certified a Bill as a Money Bill. That certificate, I think, cannot be given until a. Bill is passed, and so it would be rather peculiar, if I may say so with great respect., to rule any such Amendment as this out of order, before a certificate has been given.

We agree that as in the case of the Safeguarding of Industries Act it might be possible to make Orders reviewable only by the House of Commons, but in the case of a Bill of this kind, on which the whole of a great department of social policy is based—if, indeed, the claim made for the Bill is a sincere one that the housing policy of the nation is based upon it—then to exclude the Second Chamber from any part in future proceedings on the Bill at any time for the next 15 years would be a violation of the general constitutional procedure under which we are supposed to conduct our relations with the other House. As throwing a light upon that point, I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that we have just had a very brief discussion as to whether by any conceivable legal device the Minister could alter the size of the houses under this Bill without an Act of Parliament. Clearly, of course, if he were able by an Order reviewable by the House of Commons alone to reduce the size of the houses from 950 feet to 700 feet, it would be a hopeless position. The House of Lords should be given an opportunity for reviewing a decision of that kind. I understand now the Minister admits that was not the advice he was given. There is one very peculiar provision in Clause 5. It states that: An Order under this Section may make such consequential alterations of any sums or periods mentioned in the financial provisions of the said Act or in this Act "— that is, this Act as a whole.




Well, on the broadest grounds I say that this is not a mere Money Bill. If the claims made for this Bill are sincere, it cannot be a mere Money Bill, and if it is mere Money Bill, the claims made for this Bill are not sincere. Therefore, I consider that the House of Lords should have a power to review Orders made under the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

I take particular interest in this Bill, not because I think it is a good Bill, but because I am sure that something definite ought to be done, and, therefore, anyone who attempts to do anything in this matter of housing will get my support. On this point as to whether or not an Order should be confirmed, I have read the Bill right through time after time, till I am nearly sick of it, and I have never found half a dozen words in the Bill, unless it be in the Clause defining whether an area is a rural or an urban area, that do not deal with money, how it shall be spent, how it shall be allocated, or who shall have the right to vary it, and the only thing on which the Minister is allowed to make an Order is as to how money shall be levied or to whom it shall be paid. Even in a Finance Bill itself, there are Clauses that apparently are more social than financial, and you often get in a Finance Bill Clauses that are not strictly dealing with finance, but in this Bill there is not a Clause that does not deal with money in almost every line, and therefore I suggest that when Orders can be made relating only to money, the levying of money upon the subject, or to whom the money shall be paid, when a Bill is so exclusively a Money Bill as is this Bill, certainly the House of Commons is the authority to say whether or not an Order should go forth.


The question before the Committee is not the wide and general question as to whether this is or is not a Money Bill, but as to whether Orders made by the Minister shall be approved by both Houses of Parliament instead of by this House alone. Those Orders are of two kinds—Orders to bring the Government's liability to an end, set out under Clause 4, and Orders, under Clause 5, relating to the revision of contributions. Orders of these kinds are both of them Orders affecting finance provided out of moneys found by this House, and I should have thought., therefore, that this Committee would take a very firm line on the Amendment of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). One can realise the very important considerations arising. Suppose the Minister and the House decided at the end of three years that the scheme should not terminate, or that there should be a revision of contributions, and the House of Lords were to disagree and not pass a Resolution. That would mean that Government money, money which Parliament would be prepared to devote to this service, could not be spent, and that the housing scheme would virtually be vetoed by Members in another place, and although it is not for me to pronounce as to whether or not this is a Money Bill, I urge the Committee to reject this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.