HC Deb 24 June 1924 vol 175 cc383-91

Amendment made: In page 15, line 16, leave out the word "Second" and insert instead thereof the word "Third."—[Mr. Gosling.]


I beg to move, in page 15, line 20, at end to insert the words nor (so far as respects matters which may be dealt with by Regulations under Section One of the Metropolitan Streets Amendment Act, 1867) with street traders. This amendment is introduced to clarify the position as regards street traders. It is applicable to the street traders with whose representatives I have had a conference on the subject.

Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Balham (Sir A. Butt), providing for the holding of an inquiry which persons likely to be affected shall be entitled to be heard, has already been dealt with in the previous discussion. I do not select further Amendments on this page.


The Amendment which stands in my name is one to which several hon. Members attach great importance, because the provision which it contains is the only security which the House of Commons would have over the Regulations which might be made. In the normal way these Regulations would be drawn up by the local authorities and criticised, and the only security which we have is that there may be a full discussion in the House of Commons. I do not want to say much about the matter, but I would like to move this Amendment.


On the understanding that he will be brief, I will call the hon. Member.


I beg to move, in page 16, line 8, to leave out Sub-section (7), and to insert instead thereof a new Subsection— (7) If at the time when it is proposed to make any such Regulations the Commons House of Parliament is sitting or is separated by such adjournment or prorogation as will expire within one month, the drafts of the proposed Regulations shall be laid before that House, and the Regulations shall not be made unless and until a Resolution is passed by that House approving of the drafts either without modification or subject to such modifications as may be specified in the Resolution, and upon such approval being given the Regulations may be made in the form in which the drafts have been approved. In any other case Regulations may be made forthwith, but all Regulations so made shall be laid before the Commons House of Parliament as soon as may be after its next meeting, and shall not continue in force for one month after such meeting unless a Resolution is passed by that House declaring that the Regulations shall continue in force, either without modification or subject to such modifications as may be specified in the Resolution; and, if any modifications are so made as respects any Regulation, the Regulations shall thenceforth have effect subject to such modification, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder. This House has always been very jealous, when powers like these are given to a Minister, about retaining control and provision, such as that which is now proposed, for dealing with such powers is made in the new Housing Bill, and it is also made in the case of the electricity Regulations and in the case of the Regulations made under other Acts, and it is desirable in every case that before these autocratic powers are given the force of by-laws, binding on the citizens of London, they should go through formally as Resolutions which have to be carried in the same way as the electricity Orders under the Electricity Act.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Though the Amendment is a very simple one it is one of first rate importance in regard to the financial procedure of the House. The Bill as drafted provides that Regulations shall be laid on the Table for a certain period before they become operative. Old Members of the House know that that is apt to become a mere form. I do not know whether there are many Members of the House who could tell me whether there are at this moment any Regulations lying on the Table waiting to be disposed of. I submit that the Regulations to be made under this Bill are of such importance that the House ought to sanction them before they become operative. The expenditure under the Bill does not come before the House at all. The money is taken out of the Road Fund, and that is not considered by the House. It goes before the Committee on Public Accounts upstairs, after the money has been spent. The only opportunity which the House has of reviewing this expenditure is when the Regulations are put forward. They should be put forward in the positive way of requiring the assent of the House, and not merely being laid upon the Table for a given time. The Government have recognised that that is the proper way to deal with Regulations, because in their very important Housing Bill they have made a provision that An order shall not be made unless and until a Resolution is passed by the House approving of the draft That is the precedent which the Government ought to follow in this Bill.


This is much too complicated a proposal, in view of the fact that many of the Regulations are quite small. This Amendment was thoroughly discussed in Committee, and On a Division was rejected by 28 votes to 7. The provision in the Bill is that the Regulations, when made, are to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and may be annulled if within 21 days on which the House is sitting an Address is presented to His Majesty. This Amendment proposes that, instead of this procedure, draft Regulations are to be laid before the House of Commons only if the House is sitting or will be sitting within a month's time, and the Regulations are not to be made until a Resolution approving the draft has been passed by the House of Commons.

The restrictions imposed by the Amendment would be positively mischievous. The making of Regulations will sometimes be a matter of extreme urgency, and this procedure, particularly if the House does not happen to be sitting, though it is going to meet within a month, would necessarily mean a good deal of delay. The present sudden closing of Waterloo Bridge is a good example. If the Bill had been law, it would probably have been necessary at once to make Regulations under, for instance, paragraph (1) of the Second Schedule, prescribing the routes to be followed by different classes of traffic. This could not have been done without considerable delay under the provisions of this Amendment, and such Regulations would be of little use unless they could be made at once. The draft Regulations are referred solely to the House of Commons, not to both Houses, which was suitable enough in the Safeguarding of Industries Act where a tax was in question, but is quite improper here. Consider also the amount of Parliamentary time which would be taken up if it were necessary for a Resolution to be passed every time the Minister proposed to make a Regulation.

10.0 P.M

Viscount WOLMER

I am sorry to see that the Minister, although he has been in office only a short time, is already the complete bureaucrat. He has not dealt with the arguments advanced by the Mover of the Amendment. He says that the procedure proposed is much too complicated for the trumpery orders which his Department would have to make. But there is no complication about the procedure at all. It is a procedure with which the House is exceedingly familiar, and it is employed in the most trumpery matters. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade it was my duty to move a great number of Gas Orders about the minutest trifles of gas undertakings in various small towns or even villages. The importance of the Amendment lies in the fact that it casts the initiative on the Government and directs the attention of the House to what is being done. That is the exact reason why every permanent official always tries to adopt the opposite course. I do not wish to make any attack on the permanent officials and I do not even blame them. Naturally, they regard the House of Commons as nothing but a nuisance. But the House of Commons ought not to sit down in that position. We should insist that something of this sort be put into the Bill. If the Minister says that the form of words proposed is not suitable, and if he would undertake to introduce an improved form of words in another place, I think the Mover of the Amendment might well accept the offer. But it is important that these Regulations should be passed by the House of Commons in the same way as Orders under the Electricity Acts and under the Gas Regulation Acts are passed. It is a thoroughly simple and familiar procedure, and it secures the inestimable advantage that the Minister who wants to make a change has to draw the attention of the House of Commons to it, instead of letting things slip through. The House ought to be very jealous about protecting itself against the always increasing power of the bureaucracy.


I hope that the Government will reconsider their position. I put my name down to this Amendment, although I am not particularly interested in this Bill, because I think that the Amendment affects the House of Commons very deeply. It is a perfectly simple Amendment. If a Regulation is highly objectionable, the only power which the House has over it is the power of a private Member, who gets up to move a Resolution after eleven o'clock at night and tries to set the Regulation aside. Anybody who has been in this House a week knows that that is an absolute farce. The Government Whips persuade Members to leave the House with the result that the Member who is speaking is counted out. The Amendment throws upon the Government a duty which is obvious and one which ought to be put upon them in every case, namely, that before the Government passes a Regulation which may affect the property, if not the lives, of a very large number of people, and does it merely upon the authority of a Minister of a Government Department, the matter must be brought before the House of Commons. It will go through in 99 cases out of 100 as a matter of course, but in the hundredth case notice will be given and opposition will be dealt with in the proper way.

I think that the Minister in his reply hardly did himself justice. I cannot imagine who gave him the extraordinary illustration that he used. He simply told us that if this Bill had been enforced and Waterloo Bridge had been closed, he would have been powerless to act without incurring great delay. I wonder what Government official's inventive genius put that illustration into his mouth. Whoever he is, I hope that he will be promoted and made an O.B.E. It shows very clearly the class of mind with which we have to deal. If Waterloo Bridge was unsafe for traffic, all that would be necessary would be for it to be closed by the police. An omnibus driver would be told "You cannot cross the river unless you choose to go by Black-friars Bridge," and if, after such a warning, any driver tried to go over Waterloo Bridge his blood would be upon his head. Really, speaking seriously, is it fair to treat the House of Commons like this? Is it fair to put forward an argument like that to men who are supposed to be business men? It is a matter not affecting this Bill alone. If you have an argument of that kind put before the House, it is really an insult to the intelligence of the House. I ask the House to insert a provision of this sort, and once and for all assert the rights of the House of Commons. This is not a question as between Liberals and Conservatives or Liberals and Labour members, or Socialists, but it is a question of back bench against front bench. Every man is just as bad when he gets on the Front Bench, and the only chance we on the back benches have is in occasionally asserting our rights. This is an occasion when, I do submit most strongly, anyone who has the position of the House of Commons at heart should vote for this Amendment, and not allow a valuable power to be taken away from the House of Commons.


This is not the first time, although I am a comparatively new Member, that I have heard similar speeches from my hon. and learned Friend. There is little difference, as a matter of fact, between passing a Resolution which is on the Order Paper and introducing a Prayer to revoke an Order in Council. I say this more especially, because, after all, the Members for London are not particularly sleepy Members, and if there are Orders in Council which relate to London, I am sure that the Members for London will be fully aware of them. From these benches we really do not care which way it is done. It seems to me that to suggest that the Minister is trying to get away from the authority of the House is altogether unfair.

Captain BENN

it is somewhat surprising how strangely the hon. Gentleman selects his friends. When there are many on these benches and on the benches behind him, who support democratic institutions, yet he must seek the assistance of the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) and a fledgling bureaucrat like the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazen).


I remember the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) being on the Front Bench.

Captain BENN

I mean no offence to my hon. and gallant Friend, but it is a case of the House of Commons and the rights of the House of Commons against bureaucracy. The Government have refused to give London the right it ought to have to control its own traffic, and now it proposes to take away the small chance that the elected Members of London have, namely, to assent to or dissent from the regulations made, because everybody knows that a humble Address is always presented in a diminishing House, which very often reaches numbers under 40, when some obliging Member draws

attention to the fact that 40 Members are not present, and the thing comes to an end. The Minister is going to be defeated if he insists on his attitude. Why not give way to an Amendment which has everything in the way of democratic principle to support it?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 168; Noes, l95.

Division No. 110.] AYES. [10.12 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Hastings, Sir Patrick Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hastings, Somerville (Reading) Ponsonby, Arthur
Alden, Percy Haycock, A. W. Potts, John S.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hemmerde, E. G. Purcell, A. A.
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Richards, R.
Attlee, Major Clement R. Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Ayles, W. H. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Ritson, J.
Baker, Walter Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Banton, G. Hirst, G. H. Romeril, H. G.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hodges, Frank Rose, Frank H.
Barnes, A. Hoffman, P. C. Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Batey, Joseph Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy Scurr, John
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Hudson, J. H. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Bondfield, Margaret Isaacs, G. A. Sherwood, George Henry
Broad, F. A. Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich) Shinwell, Emanuel
Bromfield, William Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Short, Alfred (Wednesday)
Buchanan, G. Jewson, Dorothea Smillie, Robert
Buckle, J. John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Cape, Thomas Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snell, Harry
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Spence, R.
Charleton, H. C. Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.(Bradford, E.) Spoor, B. G.
Church, Major A. G. Kennedy, T. Stamford, T. W.
Clarke, A. Kirkwood, D. Stephen, Campbell
Climie, R. Lansbury, George Sullivan, J.
Cluse, W. S. Law, A. Sutton, J. E.
Clynes, Right Hon. John R. Lawrence, Susan (East Ham North) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Compton, Joseph Lawson, John James. Thurtle, E.
Cove, W. G. Leach, W. Tinker, John Joseph
Crittall, V. G. Lee, F. Toole, J.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Lindley, F. W. Tout, W. J.
Dickson, T. Lowth, T. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Dukes, C. Lunn, William Varley, Frank B.
Duncan, C. M'Entee, V. L. Viant S. P.
Edwards C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Mackinder, W. Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Warne, G. H.
Egan, W. H. March, S. Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Marley, James Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton) Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North) Maxton, James Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Gates, Percy Middleton, G. Welsh, J. C.
Gavan-Duffy, Thomas Mills, J. E. Westwood, J.
Gibbins, Joseph Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Gillett, George M. Montague, Frederick Whiteley, W.
Gosling, Harry Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Wignall, James
Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Murray, Robert Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B. (Kennington)
Greenall, T. Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Naylor, T. E. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Nixon, H. Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) O'Grady, Captain James Windsor, Walter
Groves, T. Oliver, George Harold Wright, W.
Grundy, T. W. Paling, W. Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Palmer, E. T.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Perring, William George TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Perry, S. F. Mr. Frederick Hall and Mr. Allen Parkinson.
Ackroyd, T. R. Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.) Banks, Reginald Mitchell
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Aske, Sir Robert William Barclay, R. Noton
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Balfour, George (Hampstead) Barnston, Major Sir Harry
Becker, Harry Hartington, Marquess of Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Harvey, C.M.B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne) Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Black, J. W. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Blades, Sir George Rowland Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Robertson, T. A.
Bonwick, A. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)
Bourne, Robert Croft Hobhouse, A. L. Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Perston) Ropner, Major L.
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Hogbin, Henry Cairns Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Briant, Frank Hood, Sir Joseph Royle, C.
Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby) Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.
Buckingham, Sir H. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bullock, Captain M. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Burman, J. B. Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor) Savery, S. S.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Jephcott, A. R. Scrymgeour, E.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.) Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W Derby) Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)
Chapple, Dr. William A. Jones, Henry Haydn(Merloneth) Shepperson, E. W.
Clarry, Reginald George Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne) Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Clayton, G. C. Kay, Sir R. Newbald Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Kedward, R. M. Simpson, J. Hope
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Keens, T. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Kenyon, Barnet Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Collins, Patrick (Walsall) Kindersley, Major G. M. Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)
Comyns-Carr, A. S. King, Captain Henry Douglas Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Spero, Dr. G. E.
Costello, L. W. J. Lessing, E. Starmer, Sir Charles
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Linfield, F. C. Steel, Samuel Strang
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Stranger, Innes Harold
Curzon, Captain Viscount M'Connell, Thomas E. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Dalkeith, Earl of McCrae, Sir George Sturrock, J. Leng[...]
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sunlight, J.
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) MacDonald, R. Sutcliffe, T.
Dawson, Sir Philip McLean, Major A. Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Deans, Richard Storry Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Terrington, Lady
Dickle, Captain J. P. Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Dixon, Herbert Maden, H. Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)
Dodds, S. R. Mansel, Sir Courtenay Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Duckworth, John Marks, Sir George Croydon Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kincardine, E.) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K. Thornton, Maxwell R.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Vivian, H.
Ednam, Viscount Mond, H. Waddington, R.
England, Colonel A. Morse, W. E. Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Moulton, Major Fletcher Warrender, Sir Victor
Falconer, J. Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale) Wells, S. R.
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Murrell, Frank Weston, John Wakefield
Ferguson, H. Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William White, H. G (Birkenhead, E.)
Finney, V. H. Pennefather, Sir John Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Perkins, Colonel E. K. Williams, Maj. A.S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)
Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H. Philipson, Mabel Willison, H.
Foot, Isaac Phillips, Vivian Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leads, Central)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Pringle, W. M. R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Galbraith, J. F. W. Raffety, F. W. Wintringham, Margaret
George, Major G. L. (Pembroke) Ralne, W. Wise, Sir Fredric
Greene, W. P. Crawford Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford Wolmer, Viscount
Greenwood, William (Stockport) Rathbone, Hugh R. Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Rawson, Alfred Cooper Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Rea, W. Russell Wragg, Herbert
Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich) Rees, Sir Beddoe Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Harbord, Arthur Remer, J. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Harland, A. Rentoul, G. S. Mr. Percy Harris and Mr.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committed to a standing committee.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.