Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 17, after the word "interests," insert:
or is unfair or inequitable in its operation.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
These words are quite unnecessary in the Bill and would involve all matters going to a committee of investigation. There is already full provision made for arbitration.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am not at all clear that these words are unnecessary. The Lords Amendment is to insert the words:or is unfair or inequitable in its operation.Why is it unnecessary to insert those words? The whole contention has been that the scheme has to be fair in its operation, and that, if it is not fair, then there should be a right of appeal. Is 2246 it really alleged that these words should not be inserted because they are unnecessary, or is it because the Government think that there ought not to be a right of appeal to an arbitrator where the scheme is alleged to be unfair or inequitable in its operation? When I am told that those words are unnecessary, I should like to remind the House that in another place the Amendment we are discussing was inserted with some judicial authority behind it, and it was supported by no less an authority than the late Lord Chancellor. The authority of an ex-Lord Chancellor as to what is or what is not necessary, on a point of drafting, to give effect to a proposal is, I submit to the House, a rather important authority. If the President of the Board of Trade thinks those words are unnecessary, then I am bound to say that I think the House will agree with me when I say that I think the judgment of a great lawyer is more likely to be right on a question of drafting than the judgment of mere laymen like the President of the Board of Trade and myself. Therefore, if this Motion to disagree with the 2247 Lords Amendment is moved on the ground that the words proposed are unnecessary—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that the support given to a particular Amendment by a Noble Lord in another place ought to be used as an argument to influence this debate.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I am advised that people with considerable legal knowledge would disagree with the President of the Board of Trade in the view that these words are unnecessary. I think that on this matter I am entitled to have the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, one of whom, I presume, is available for this purpose. If they are not in the House I say, with great respect, that they ought to be here. What are the Law Officers here for? [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not here."] I will put the matter in another way and ask what are the Law Officers paid for? I understand that they are paid to advise this House on points of law, and I think we should have the assistance of the Law Officers as to whether it is necessary or unnecessary to insert these words. In the absence of the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, I shall certainly vote for the retention of these words. If, in addition to the question whether these words are superfluous or not, the President of the Board of Trade is challenging the reasonableness of having a right of appeal against a scheme which is said to be unfair or inequitable in its operation, I am much more emboldened to oppose this Amendment, because, if there is not the right to complain of a scheme under this Bill that it is unfair or inequitable in its operation, I cannot see any point in having the right to go to arbitration or to a committee of investigation at all, and, therefore, I sincerely hope that, unless we have a much clearer explanation, the House will insist on retaining these words.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I certainly do not feel that I am in a position to vote on a highly technical matter of this kind after the very thin explanation that we have had from the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has passed over the matter with the sort of gesture that one 2248 would expect from a Socialist Government. When we try to make the Bill fair and equitable by the insertion of a provision of this sort, the right hon. Gentleman says that it must not be put into the Bill. My right hon. Friend and Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) has told us that from a legal point of view there are grave difficulties in this matter, and how can a mere layman, such as I am, and such as many hon. Members opposite are, come to a decision without the advice of a real legal authority? My right hon. Friend asked for the Law Officers of the Crown, and I must say that on a technical Amendment of this kind I feel that one can vote with more comfort after one has had their advice.
I do not think, however, that I should be satisfied with the decision merely of the Law Officers, because I have found that Law Officers supporting the Government are apt to be a little biased on the one side or the other. I see in the House other Gentlemen with great legal knowledge, one belonging to the semi-Opposition below the Gangway, and perhaps he might give us some advice upon this very technical question, because they are quite unbalanced in their minds—[Interruption]—and go from one side to the other with more than ordinary facility, so that one of them might quite easily give many opinions as to whether this is unfair or inequitable. In fact, I know some of them who could quite well prove that it was unfair and fair as well.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think that what the hon. Member has done to deserve this has been to allow himself to get into the unfortunate position of being so misguided as to put the worst Government of modern times into power. Otherwise, I should be able to sit and watch him, and he would not be hearing a bad Bill torn to pieces. That is his trouble at the present time. This Clause, apart from the technical side, deals with committees of investigation, and it provides for certain procedure in the event of such a committee being of opinion that any provision of a scheme is contrary to the public interest.
One can quite understand that; we do not want these committees to do anything 2249 contrary to the interests of the great public in this country. Having arrived at that point, which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite accept quite freely, why should they object to the insertion of a further statement making that procedure apply also if the committee think that there is anything unfair? Do they want, in this Bill, to do things which are unfair? I believe that, no matter whether it applies to a large or a small amalgamation, or to a large or small number of people, the average individual in this House and outside in the country does not want anything to be done which is in any way unfair. The whole position of the House of Commons is bound up with the idea that you should endeavour, when you legislate, to be absolutely fair to every section of the community. Almost any one of us can understand that quite easily.
Coming to the further part of the Amendment, with which the right hon. Gentleman was so very chary in dealing, namely, the question whether any provision of the scheme is inequitable in its operation, I should like to ask what precisely is meant by that. We are trying to set up a system for dealing with this industry, and we want to do it in such a way that to no section of that great community—and the mining community is a great community—are things done which are inequitable. We do not want any section of the mining community, even though it may be only one pit or only a few individuals, to be in what is known as an inequitable position; and we want to go a step further—we want to be quite certain that the whole operation of this Clause and of these committees works out equitably.
The Government have behaved in an extraordinarily casual way in regard to this Amendment. We have not been allowed during the whole of these very complicated technical discussions this afternoon to have any real expert opinion from them. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman has worked most industriously, and has tried his best the whole time, but we have been dealing with really big, technical and complicated matters, and also with matters of fairness and equity which go far beyond the technical side; and on such an occasion I think the House is entitled to the very 2250 best advice that it can obtain. For that reason I join with my right hon. Friend in saying that it is essential that we should have the best legal advice from every quarter of the House. We should know how these schemes operate in a technical and legal way, and how they may possibly affect, directly or indirectly, all the matters which are dealt with in this Clause. I want to hear a real, proper technical explanation of this matter, and, until I do, I do not see how it is possible for me to vote as to whether I should follow the Lords in this Amendment or not.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I am a little puzzled by the attitude of the Government in regard to this Amendment. I have been looking at the Sub-section very carefully, to see what it is that makes them come to the conclusion that the Amendment is unnecessary, and, with the very greatest respect to the President of the Board of Trade, who, I am sure, is acting upon some advice, although the advice does not appear to be here at the moment, I cannot understand what is the real difficulty or why this Amendment is considered to be unnecessary. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not desire that a scheme brought forward under this Clause should be one that is unfair or inequitable. It may very well be, of course—we know that there are examples of such things—that the State may decide for the common weal that certain unfairnesses should be brought into existence, but I cannot feel that that is what is desired under this Clause, and, perhaps, therefore, I may presume to examine it for a moment in the absence of the Law Officers, who, I regret, are not here to check my observation.
We find that the committee of investigation make their investigation in order to see whether there is any provision of the scheme that is contrary to the public interest. But a thing may not be contrary to the public interest and yet may be unfair and inequitable to particular individuals who may find themselves injuriously affected. As the Clause stands now, if the Committee come to the conclusion that it is contrary to the public interest, they are to report to the Board of Trade. Then, if this Amendment were agreed to, the Board, after considering the report of the Committee and consulting such persons as 2251 appear to them to be affected by the unfair and inequitable provision, would make recommendations to the council or executive board charged with the duty of administering the scheme. So far from these words being unnecessary, it seems to me, applying my mind to this conundrum as best I can, with the desire to give that assistance which I should have preferred to come from those who are really responsible in this matter, namely, the Law Officers—it seems to me that, so far from these words being unnecessary, they are exactly the reverse, and I submit to the House that in these circumstances the Amendment should receive our approval.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I am certain that the President of the Board of Trade will agree that Sub-section (6) of Clause 5 is a corollary to Sub-section (1) of Clause 5, and that, even as a matter of drafting, the language of both Sub-sections ought to be the same. Sub-section (1) says that:There shall be constituted a national committee of investigation consisting of nine members, which shall be charged with the duty of investigating any complaint made with respect to the operation of the central scheme.The House will observe that the Committee are to investigateany complaint made with respect to the operation of the central scheme.You could not have anything expressed more broadly. We have been told all along that this Clause was for the protection, not merely of the public, but of the consumers, of the distributors, of each and every person whose interests might be adversely affected in this matter. This Committee having investigated any complaint with respect to the operation of the central scheme, you then come to the machinery which is to be put into operation. After investigating any complaint made with respect to the operation of the scheme, the Committee of investigation is to report, but it is now cut down to one thing only—the Committee are only to report if in their opinion any provision of the scheme is contrary to the public interest, however well justified a complaint may be as to the unfairness of the operation of the scheme to certain classes of consumers or distributors.
2252 Under Sub-section (1) the complaint is not limited. If Sub-section (1) said that the Committee were to investigate any complaint of the scheme being contrary to the public interest, one would make no complaint about the wording of Subsection (6), but Sub-section (1) is perfectly general—there is the right of complaint and the duty of investigating the complaint; and yet, however well founded the complaint may be, the only occasion on which the Committee have any duty to report is if the provision in question is contrary to the public interest. That never could have been intended by those who framed this Clause, because it cuts down the utility of the whole of this procedure. This is not a party matter; it is only a matter of wording, and of what we have been told again and again, namely, that the intention of the Government was that these committees of investigation were to be the one protection of people who were adversely affected by anything that was done under the Bill. They are bound to investigate any complaint, but they cannot do anything unless they can show that it is contrary to the interest of the public. Why we should have words of limitation cutting down their powers of reporting I cannot conceive. The words limit the whole operation of the scheme to something affecting the public interest. However grossly unfair it may be to this or that class, or individual, or trade, unless they can show that it is contrary to the public interest, nothing whatever is to be done. If the committee come to the conclusion that it is unfair in its operation, is it not right that they should have power to report it to the Board of Trade?
I do not attach quite as much importance to this Amendment as some hon. Members who have spoken, but I cannot understand why the Government does not accept it. We are dealing with a committee which is to consider complaints about the operation of a scheme when some people feel that it is not operating fairly. Surely it is the desire of everyone—I should have thought it would be the primary desire of those who want to see the Act working smoothly—that any person who feels aggrieved, not by schemes which have been prepared, but by schemes that are in operation, should have a right to submit his grievance to the Board of Trade. That 2253 is all it comes to. The committee of investigation inquiries into the grievance, and its only power is to report to the Board of Trade. The report of the committee of investigation is not the final, determining voice in the matter. The Board of Trade has still the right to say whether the voice of the committee is justifiable or not.
As the Bill stands, the only people who can complain of its operation are those who can say that the scheme is contrary to the public interest. I do not suppose there is a single Member of the House who does not appreciate the vagueness of a phrase of that sort. It does not really cover points that might easily arise when the scheme is in operation on the part of consumers, distributors and many other sections of the community. They may feel that it is working unfairly to them and, surely, they are to be given the right of going to a committee of investigation and asking it to report the matter to the Board of Trade. It is then for the Board of Trade to decide whether the complaint is justifiable or not. The Government will be doing a great deal, if they accept the Amendment, to promote the smooth working of the Act when it comes into operation and, by refusing it, they are merely adding to the difficulties that it will create.
§ Sir J. SANDEMAN ALLEN
I should like to point out that the business world is very anxious in any case about the operation of the Bill. The point that has come up now is quite a serious one in its own way. The case for the insertion of the words has been ably argued, but I would strongly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his opinion for this reason quite apart from the arguments which have been advanced. If the question had not been raised, it might not have been considered necessary, but, it having been raised, and the Government refusing to insert the words, a very different impression will be created. I would strongly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the moral effect on the business community when it understands that the Government refuse to admit any appeal on the ground of unfairness.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
These benches are not without assistance in this matter. I think it is only right to resist the complaint against the absence of the 2254 Attorney-General. He has given considerable attention to matters which have been under discussion. He is very heavily overworked, and he is never wanting when his other duties enable him to be here. This Clause contemplates the investigation of the interests of the subject as affected by schemes to be set up by the Act. As it now stands, if it came under consideration elsewhere, it would be held that all that had to be looked to was whether the effect of the scheme was contrary to the public interest. It might well be argued that a scheme which sub-served the public interest was inequitable with regard to individuals. Subject to what the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill may say, I find some difficulty in understanding the ground on which the Government are resisting the inclusion of these words. Not only will the public interest have to be safeguarded, but, if it can be alleged by a private person that a scheme will work unfairly or inequitably, that is a fact that should be brought within the operation of the Clause. I am not in the confidence of the Government and I do not know what reasons have induced them to resist the insertion of these words, but I would strongly appeal to the Government to adopt them.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I hope the right hon. Gentleman, being deprived of the services of his official legal adviser, has yet been able to follow the argument addressed to him by the volunteer below the Gangway on his own side of the House. The fact that we are unable to obtain the guidance of either of the Law Officers is, perhaps, of less importance, because of the ground on which the right hon. Gentleman bases his objection. He did not challenge the purpose of the Amendment. He only said that the words were unnecessary. If he admits that the purpose of the Amendment is good, that the dangers against which it is going to provide should be provided against and if his only possible objection is that the words are unnecessary, but not harmful, cannot he consent to admit them?
I have taken no part in the debates on the Bill hitherto. I have been content to listen to a certain amount of discussion, but I have not contributed to lengthen it. This has been a wholly one-sided discussion. Every speaker, of whatever 2255 party, has felt that there was a gap in the Bill. It is that an individual, who, by reason of a scheme, finds himself inequitably and unfairly treated, has no remedy unless the inequity can be shown to be against the general public interest. Obviously, there are cases under this or any similar Bill where no large public interest is affected, though a particular individual or, it may be, a class or a geographical section of people are unfairly treated. Unless the inequity of which they complain is one that is contrary to the general interest of the public, they have no right of redress. That is the agreed statement from every bench except the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has listened to the arguments that have been addressed to him. I hope he will feel that the words import something which is necessary to the Bill and something which he himself would desire to see inserted in order that the Bill may work fairly and equitably, not merely as regards the general interest of the public, but as between different individuals or different sections.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
No doubt a provision of this kind raises important questions as to the protection of the public under this Part of the Bill. Of course, the whole object of Clause 5, relating to these national committees and to district committees, is to protect consumers. I hardly think the attendance of the Law Officers is necessary for this point, because it is a comparatively simple issue. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) referred to Clause 5 (1), which relates to the duty of investigating any complaint with respect to the operation of the scheme. Of course, under Sub-section (6) we are here dealing with a different matter. The Amendment proposes to insert the words:or is unfair or inequitable in its operation.8.0 p.m.
The speeches which have been made indicate clearly that they have in mind cases of individual hardship which they think will not be covered if we leave the Clause in the form in which it stands without this addition. In a matter of this kind the Committee must direct its attention to the broad question of public interest. I should say that in the great 2256 majority of cases that would settle the question probably of any individual hardship, but there might be cases of individual hardship in which, while it was clear that the scheme was in the public interests viewed as a whole, nevertheless contained some elements which the individual or the undertaking regarded as unfair or inequitable. If these words are inserted in this Clause it will mean that they will have, as I understand the matter, a meaning similar to the wider words of "the public interests," and, although the second condition, "or is unfair or inequitable," may apply regarding some individuals, it is in the public interests that the whole machinery of this Committee's operations must start to work. I think that this would lead to very great difficulty indeed. I do not think, with every desire to meet hon. Friends opposite, that other interests than the public interests can or should prevail, and, that being so, and being satisfied that any individual case would be equitably and fairly considered, I can only resist the Amendment.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The right hon. Gentleman has completely altered the ground on which I understood him to present the case to the House. I understood that when he presented the case to the House he was refusing this Amendment because it was unnecessary, but now he is rejecting it, not because it is unnecessary, but because he says that the individual members of the public ought not to have a claim on the ground that they are being unfairly or inequitably treated. That is a most extraordinary position, and we should have gone into the matter with a great deal of detail when this Clause was in Committee had we realised the position. In regard to this Clause, which is set up for the protection of the individual, we moved, as the right hon. Gentleman remembers, an Amendment to give a further right of appeal, and it was rejected. There was a sort of compromise arranged in the House. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) made a proposal that there should be an additional right of arbitration to come in as well as the committee. That was in the interest of individual consumers. It was not to decide whether the scheme at large was in the public interests. That is all decided at a much 2257 earlier stage in the working out of this plan. It is decided when the central scheme and the district schemes are framed and submitted to the Board of Trade. Then the Board of Trade considers any objections which may be made before approving a scheme.
The President of the Board of Trade is not to approve of a scheme, whether it be a central scheme or a district scheme, unless he is satisfied that it is in the public interest. At any rate, there is prejudice in its favour, because the Board of Trade has heard general arguments about the scheme and said, "Yes, we regard this scheme in the public interest." But observe what are the words here. It is the operation of a scheme; the way in which a scheme affects the individual. It cannot be anything else. That fact was in all our minds. If it is the way in which it affects the operation of the scheme, affects the individual, the only thing the individual can be interested in is whether it is prejudicial to him as an individual; whether he is being charged too much for his coal. You may charge me twice the amount that anybody else is charged for coal. That is prejudicial to me though it may not affect the public interest in the least unless thereby I am not able to pay my taxes. Surely, I ought to have the right of appeal.
I would say this further point. When you come to the amalgamation Clause there is put in, not only "the public interest," but something else which is fair and equitable to the parties concerned. This is what we want here, Unless the individual has the right of appeal to an arbitrator in respect of his complaint, and can have his complaint judged on the merits as it affects him as an individual, you might as well strike out the whole of Clause 5 and leave us to the existing provisions of the Bill. I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade has somehow fallen into error in this matter.
§ Sir D. HERBERT
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
The President of the Board of Trade, as far as I can understand, first of all based his objection to accepting the Amendment on the ground that the words were unnecessary. Now, what legal opinion there is in the House having apparently been against him, he falls 2258 back on another explanation which, to put it shortly, is that public interests must prevail where private interests are concerned. That may be right in many cases, but what are we doing here? If he does not allow these words to be put in, he is not deciding whether the public interests must necessarily override private interests; he is refusing to put in an Act of Parliament a provision which will allow those private interests and questions of unfairness to private interests to be considered. This committee has to go into the matter, and it is for them to consider in every case what is the extent of the private grievance and whether the extent of the private grievance is so trifling that the public interests may be taken to override it or whether that private interest is so important that it must be considered in connection with the public interests.
I will give an example. It would no doubt be in the public interest in certain conditions to take a very large and valuable property from a private owner or group of private owners without paying anything, but surely, if any proposal of that sort was made, it would be regarded as unfair and inequitable, and this House would never approve it. I know that the President of the Board of Trade is one of the fairest-minded men in this House, and nobody in any part of the House would accuse him of being otherwise. The fact, therefore, that he has ventured to argue in the way that he did in his last speech, leads me to think that he requires legal assistance and advice as to the effect of this Amendment generally, entirely apart from the question first raised as to whether it is necessary or not. I would be the last person to complain unnecessarily of the absence of such a hard-working person as the Attorney-General, but, after all, there are other Law Officers of the Crown, and, when it comes to the construction of the words in a Bill, even Scottish Law Officers are quite competent to give advice to the House, though they may not be so expert in matters of English law as the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. Therefore, I think that I must ask whether you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will allow me to move that the debate on this Amendment be adjourned until such time as the House has the benefit of a Law 2259 Officer of the Crown to advise it on the matter.
§ Captain PEAKE
I beg to second the Motion.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has put himself in a dilemma from which there is absolutely no escape. Either the expression "unfair and inequitable" is covered by the phrase "the public interests" and adds nothing, in which case, why should we not have the words in the Bill, or the right hon. Gentleman has to contend that the provisions of this scheme would be unfair and inequitable and the consumer whom it is intended to protect is to have absolutely no remedy. The right hon. Gentleman has to adopt one position or the other. So far he has adopted both in turn. This is an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I rather hope that my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Motion will not press it, because since the discussion on the Amendment opened its character has been wholly changed. If there were admitted to be serious differences of opinion between the Government and other sections of the House as to what was the interpretation of the Bill as it stands and whether these words were necessary to make its meaning clear or not, I think we should have a right to the attendance of a Law Officer and to the benefit of his advice on the matter of the construction of the Statute. That is no longer the question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman has entirely abandoned his first reason for opposing the Lords Amendment. He no longer says that the words are unnecessary. He says the exact contrary. He says that the words will have a great effect, and he does not desire that effect to be imported into the Bill. It is no longer a question of law; it is a question of morality. I confess that I prefer the right hon. Gentleman's opinion to the Attorney-General's opinion on a question of morality, and I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friends will not press for the adjournment of the debate.
I also hope that the Motion may not be pressed, and that the President of the Board of Trade will 2260 reconsider what he has said. He has adopted a position which is unworthy of him and is impossible. His attitude in the first speech in asking for the rejection of the Amendment was that the words were not necessary. I can understand that point of view, and, as a lawyer, I should object to putting into the Bill words which are unnecessary. But now he has taken up an entirely different attitude. He has not said that the words are unnecessary, but he has said that the words import something into the Bill which he does not want. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter. This Sub-section deals with complaints against the operation of the scheme, and all that we are asking is that if there is a person or a company or a set of persons who feel that they have grounds of complaint against the way in which the scheme is operating, they shall have the right to put that complaint before a committee.
The right hon. Gentleman was trying to draw a distinction between public interest and a private complaint. That does not arise. We ask that, the private individual should have an opportunity of putting his case before a committee. The committee will then express their view upon the case, that view will be conveyed by the committee to the Board of Trade, and it will then rest with the Board of Trade, after considering the report and after consultation, to say whether or not they agree with the opinion of the committee. Therefore, there is no question of conflict between private and public interests. It is merely a question of giving the people who feel that they have a complaint in regard to the operation of the scheme, the right of making their complaint to a committee and, through the committee, to the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman would be perfectly safe in accepting the Amendment.
§ Sir D. HERBERT
Perhaps it would be more in order if I withdrew my Motion, because the general discussion cannot properly go on so long as my proposal is before the House. With the permission of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion, and, in doing so, I would point out that my reason for moving it was that, the President of the Board of Trade being such a fair-minded man, I thought the attitude he was 2261 taking on the second point was due to a mistake as to the effect of the Clause rather than a mistaken view on the question of morality.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I have listened with very great care to the debate and, with the best will in the world, I cannot agree that there was any contradiction between the two statements that I made to the House. When I said originally that the addition of these words was unnecessary, I was thinking entirely of the public interest and of Sub-section (6). To that view I adhere. Let us see clearly what is intended. My hon. Friend opposite is entirely wrong in suggesting that there is any bar to a complaint of any kind being made by an individual or a body of individuals to the committee. That is fully provided for in the Bill. There is no obstacle of any kind. Therefore, we need have no doubt about access to the tribunal, either nationally or locally, for the protection of consumers. Let us see what the Sub-section says on this point:If after investigating any complaint made with respect to the operation of a scheme, a committee of investigation is of opinion that any provision of the scheme is contrary to the public interests, it shall be the duty of the committee to report the matter to the Board of Trade, and if, after considering the report and consulting such persons as appear to them to be affected, the Board agree with the opinion of the committee, the Board shall make recommendations to the council or executive board charged with the duty of administering the scheme, with a view to the rectification of the matter complained of.The Board can take such action as will bring about rectification of any abuse even to the putting in of a new scheme, if that should be necessary, in the last resort. I do submit very strongly that the words "is contrary to the public interest" cover the great bulk of the field of any possible complaints that would be brought before the Committee. If the words "or is unfair or inequitable in its operation" are added, then if the Committee find that the scheme is entirely in the public interests and some individual or company, for example, a gas undertaking, considers that it is inequitable or unfair so far as they are concerned, although they themselves do not put forward the view that it is contrary to the public interest, then that single individual 2262 or company, who cannot make the plea that the public interests are at stake, gets equality, with the public interest and the Committee would be obliged to agree that there was this inequitable element as regards this individual or concern, and all the subsequent steps that are mentioned come into operation.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman says that all the subsequent steps have to be put into operation. Does it not simply mean that the President of the Board of Trade has to take cognisance of the report of the Committee and to consider whether the injustice to the individual requires a revision of a scheme which is not contrary to the public interest?
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Under the terms of the Clause as it stands we take steps for the rectification of any abuse which exists under the scheme, and if abuse continues we may make a new scheme.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
How does the right hon. Gentleman ever get into action if the committee cannot investigate a complaint?
§ Mr. GRAHAM
The Committee does investigate. There have been very long discussions on that point. The Committee does operate and make investigations.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman says that an individual or a concern which considers it has a grievance has no locus standi unless its grievance is also a grievance against the public interest.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
The great majority of cases would present no difficulty at all. In the great bulk of cases I have no doubt the Committee would say that the provision complained of is not in the public interest, and they would say "We will make our report to the President of the Board of Trade and the Board of Trade will proceed, if it desires, under the terms of the Statute." If we insert the words "is unfair or inequitable in its operation," it means that the individual or the undertaking gets equality and may have their view prevailing and taken into account as against that of the public interest. I do not think that there is anything new in the public interest prevailing in matters of this kind. While I am anxious to meet 2263 the Committee I am unable to agree that this proposal or the objections of hon. Members opposite are well founded.
§ Mr. REID
The first Sub-section of Clause 5 is quite wide with regard to the duty of investigating complaints. There are many cases where there may be hardship to the individual but no conflict between the public interest and the interests of that individual. There may be cases where a scheme or agreement affecting the individual has an unexpected result and treats a particular person unfairly but where there is no conflict with the public interest. Suppose a person or concern goes before the committee and establishes the fact that there is some inequity as regards them and that the public interest is not involved one way or other, the committee, in that case, cannot report to the Board of Trade. In that case the Board of Trade would not be able to revise the scheme—
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM indicated dissent.
§ Mr. REID
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I have listened to every word of the debate and from my examination of the Bill that is the result, as it appears to me, and I think I am correct. If an individual goes before the committee and establishes a case of hardship as affecting himself but that the public interest is not involved one way or the other then the committee cannot deal with the matter.
Sir H. SAMUEL
The President of the Board of Trade has mentioned that in the great bulk of cases no question will arise, that is to say, that what is in the public interest will also not be detrimental to the individual, but what the House is concerned about is that class of case which will be the minority, the exceptional case. The right hon. Gentleman says that we must consider the public interest. Undoubtedly we must. He says further that the public interest may work out to the detriment of some individual. It may, and the public interest should prevail. But this Amendment does not deal with cases of detriment or hardship but with cases of unfairness and inequity. That is the only point. It is the case of a clash between private and public interests, a case where an independent committee and the Board of Trade both think that some individual 2264 has been treated unfairly and inequitably. There may be two individuals in exactly the same circumstances, one of whom is prejudiced and the other is not. The individual who is prejudiced ought to have the right to go to this committee and to bring the matter, through the committee, to the attention of the Board of Trade. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman's contention that the public interest can ever require unfairness and inequity in any circumstances. That is really the essence of his argument, that if the public interest requires unfairness and inequity the individual must suffer. There is a danger in these provisions that the monopoly you may set up may be oppressive, and in order to avoid that danger the Bill includes provision for committees of inquiry and an ultimate reference to the Board of Trade, and I cannot understand how the President of the Board of Trade can contend that when a case has been considered by the committee and it holds that there has been inequity and injustice, and the Board of Trade is of the same opinion, that nevertheless no action should be taken.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope, with the indulgence of the House, I may be allowed to put my point to the President of the Board of Trade. Obviously he did not understand what I was trying to express, and I want to put my point to him quite clearly. I am ready to concede that there may be cases of overriding public interest under which you are forced to overlook the hardship to the individual, but there may be, and probably will be, cases where no public interest is involved either way, and where the infliction of the hardship is not to the advantage of the State. Unless some such words as these are inserted such a case will go without a remedy. It cannot come to the notice of the Board of Trade because it will not be possible to report that it is contrary to the public interest. If it were possible to report that it is not contrary to the public interest the case could be considered. The individual could get to the Board of Trade, the Board of Trade could consider whether the case was one in which the public interest should override the individual hardship. Surely, if there is such individual hardship capable of being proved it should be possible to give proof to the committee, and if the 2265 committee declares the hardship to exist, although they cannot prove that it is contrary to the public interest, it should be open to the Board of Trade to consider whether it is necessary to maintain the hardship in the public interest.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
Surely the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) is entirely wrong. He is on the point of access to the investigating committee.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No, on the power of the committee to report a grievance in a case where it is not true to say that the grievance complained of is contrary to the public interest, and where it is equally true to say that no public interest requires its infliction.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 248; Noes, 110.2267
|Division No. 339.]||AYES.||[8.31 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gossling, A. G.||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gould, F.||McShane, John James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mansfield, W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||March, S.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Groves, Thomas E.||Markham, S. F.|
|Arnott, John||Grundy, Thomas W.||Marley, J.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mathers, George|
|Ayles, Walter||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Matters, L. W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Maxton, James|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Harbison, T. J.||Melville, Sir James|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hardie, George D.||Messer, Fred|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Percy A.||Middleton, G.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Mills, J. E.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Milner, Major J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Haycock, A. W.||Montague, Frederick|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||Hayday, Arthur||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Benson, G.||Hayes, John Henry||Morley, Ralph|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Mort, D. L.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Bromfield, William||Herriotts, J.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Brooke, W.||Hoffman, P. C.||Muff, G.|
|Brothers, M.||Hollins, A.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hopkin, Daniel||Naylor, T. E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Horrabin, J. F.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Isaacs, George||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Palin, John Henry|
|Cameron, A. G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnston, Thomas||Palmer, E. T.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Charieton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Perry, S. F.|
|Chater, Daniel||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Potts, John S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, Thomas||Price, M. P.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kinley, J.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lang, Gordon||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lathan, G.||Richards, R.|
|Cove, William G.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Daggar, George||Law, A. (Rosendale)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Dallas, George||Lawson, John James||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Ritson, J.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leach, W.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lees, J.||Rowson, Guy|
|Dickson, T.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Dukes, C.||Lindley, Fred W.||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Duncan, Charles||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Sanders, W. S.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Longbottom, A. W.||Sandham, E.|
|Edge, Sir William||Longden, F.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lowth, Thomas||Scurr, John|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Sexton, James|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Gibbins, Joseph||McElwee, A.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||McEntee, V. L.||Shield, George William|
|Gill, T. H.||McKinlay, A.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Gillett, George M.||MacLaren, Andrew||Shinwell, E.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Sutton, J. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Sinkinson, George||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||West, F. R.|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Thurtle, Ernest||Westwood, Joseph|
|Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Tillett, Ben||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Toole, Joseph||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Snell, Harry||Townend, A. E.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Turner, B.||Wise, E. F.|
|Sorensen, R.||Vaughan, D. J.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Stamford, Thomas W.||Viant, S. P.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Stephen, Campbell||Walkden, A. G.|
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Walker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wallace, H. W.||Mr. William Whiteley and Mr. B.|
|Strauss, G. R.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Smith.|
|Sullivan, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Penny, Sir George|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Atkinson, C.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Granville, E.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Gray, Milner||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Balniel, Lord||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Remer, John R.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bracken, B.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Rothschild, J. de|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Buchan, John||Harbord, A.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hurd, Percy A.||Scott, James|
|Christie, J. A.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cowan, D. M.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Long, Major Eric||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Margesson, Captain H. D.||White, H. G.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Millar, J. D.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Elmley, Viscount||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Womersley, W. J.|
|England, Colonel A.||O'Connor, T. J.||Worthington-Evans Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Foot, Isaac||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Captain Wallace and Sir Victor|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Warrender.|
Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment: In page 13, line 24, leave out "interests," and insert "interest."
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This is purely a question of drafting.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I am sorry to find myself in disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman, but I am not sure that the alteration of "interests" to "interest" is purely drafting. I have tried to ascertain whether the right hon. Gentleman is right or wrong. We take 2268 these two or three words in the Clause and we have to decide whether it is contrary to the public interest in the singular or to the public interests in the plural. It is quite clear that, so far as this particular Amendment is concerned, there ought to be a comparatively wide judgment on the matter. We ought not to have this important Committee sitting in such a way that it looks at a question from only one point of view. It is, therefore, material whether we insert the word "interest" or "interests." We might have a narrow-minded Committee which would take the point of view that 2269 nothing mattered except one isolated fact. I say frankly that I do not want to see these Committees instructed in this Bill to take such a point of view. It almost looks to me as if someone has made a drafting mistake in the Bill originally. The President of the Board of Trade gets up and says "I recommend" or "I do not recommend." If it is left at that everything goes on in a fair way, but we get no information at all. I want to know clearly why the right hon. Gentleman takes the point of view that he has expressed. What were the things that weighed in his mind when he took that point of view?
May I ask your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether this Amendment is not consequential upon an Amendment to which the House has already agreed, and which is in exactly the same terms?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
The Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment" has been put, and any hon. Member who wishes to take part in the discussion of that Question has a right to do so.
§ Major COLFOX
I think we ought to have some explanation from the President of the Board of Trade as to the meaning of the Amendment because apparently an error has been committed by somebody and the wrong word has been inserted in this Clause in the first instance. We ought to be told haw this word got into the Bill. I cannot see that it makes much difference which word is used, but the right hon. Gentleman seems to think that it does make a difference and he ought to explain it to us.
§ Lords Amendment: In page 13, line 24, after the word "interests," insert "or is unfair or inequitable."
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This, of course, is the point which we discussed on a preceding Amendment. This Amendment is consequential upon the Amendment with which the House has already dealt.
§ Commander KING
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in describing this as a consequential Amendment. The previous Amendment related toany complaint made with respect to the operation of the scheme,but the present Amendment goes beyond that point and relates toany act or omission of any persons in respect of their functions under the scheme.This is a question of a personal nature and does not relate simply to the operation of the scheme, and therefore I think there is a very strong case in this instance for inserting the words "or is unfair or inequitable." We wish to make sure that, in the case of any act or omission of anybody under the scheme, if it is unfair or inequitable to the individual making the complaint, the committee shall go into it and report to the Board of Trade. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether this is not a case in which it is even more important than in the previous case to ensure that nothing inequitable is done. We know that cases may occur in which an individual suffers without the public interest being affected and we wish to protect the individual in any claim that he may make. I was astounded to hear the right hon. Gentleman suggesting, as he did in effect, that the public interest should over-ride any question of fairness or equity to the individual. To my mind it is a preposterous suggestion that the Government, by Act of Parliament, should knowingly allow an injustice to be done to an individual without giving the individual the power to have his case represented to the Board of Trade. I know that the right hon. Gentleman said that if an individual made a complaint, whether it was against the public interest or not, the committee would have to report to the Board of Trade, but if he reads the wording of the Clause he will find that it says:If a committee is of opinion that any provision of the scheme is contrary to the public interests it shall be the duty of the committee to report, etc.He himself has told the House that, as long as the public interest is not affected, it makes no difference whether the individual is suffering unfair or inequitable treatment or not, and in such circumstances the matter shall not be 2271 considered by the committee or reported to the Board of Trade. The wording of the Clause indicates that unless they find that the matter is against the public interest the committee is to make no report at all to the Board of Trade. Therefore, in order to safeguard the individual, I ask that the words inserted in another place should stand.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
If the President of the Board of Trade can say or think that this Amendment is consequential upon the previous Amendment it shows, if I may say so with the greatest respect, that he has not given any consideration to it, because the two things are as different as day and night. Sub-section (6) of the Clause deals with a case in which a committee is of opinion that any provision of the scheme is contrary to the public interest. We are not now dealing with the provisions of the scheme but with something quite different, namely,any act or omission of any persons in respect of their functions under the scheme.Again, under Sub-section (6) what the Committee have to do if they think that the public interest is being affected, is to report to the Board of Trade. But the right hon. Gentleman says that where an individual is affected we cannot set in motion all this machinery of a report to the Board of Trade and so on, and under this Sub-section there is no report to the Board of Trade at all. It is a totally different machinery. It provides that:It shall be the duty of the committee to make representations with respect thereto to the persons having power under the scheme to rectify the matter.There is no clumsy or complicated machinery in this part of the Clause but merely the provision that the committee should make representations to those who have power to rectify the matter. As the Clause stands, without the Amendment, the worst case of victimisation, the strongest case of individual hardship, cannot be put right at all. A case of that kind might arise, due, perhaps, to some personal enmity, or some breach of duty on the part of those who are exercising these functions, and such a case is seldom likely to affect the public interest. There might be a case where the people discharging these functions had not acted fairly between man and man. 2272 Perhaps there has been a shortage of coal, and they have chosen to ensure that one industrial concern shall have large supplies while another is being started. One can conceive of an industrial undertaking getting large supplies of coal, and there may be an individual who cannot get the coal he wants, but under this Clause as it stands, without the Amendment put in by another place, he has no redress, because the committee of investigation can only act if anything done or omitted to be done is contrary to the public interest, however harsh or extreme a case of individual hardship may be, and they have no power even to make representations to the people who have power to put it right.
The Clause says that if, upon such representations being made, the matter is not dealt with to the satisfaction of the committee, the committee may refer it to a single independent arbitrator, but how can you arbitrate between the public interest and an individual case of hardship? Someone says, "I have been wrongly treated, and I can prove my case; I can prove that it is because certain people are not properly exercising their functions," but under the Bill there is no machinery provided to put that matter right, and unless you accept this Amendment you will destroy the whole purpose of the Sub-section and you will take away the last control you have on those who are carrying out their functions under this scheme. I can find no machinery whatever, from the first to the last line in the Bill, to cover this point.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
May I be allowed, very briefly, to intervene for the purpose of shortening the debate, if possible, by making a suggestion to hon. Members opposite? I hope I did not use the word "consequential" in error. I used it merely in the sense that we had had a discussion on what was substantially a similar point. My anxiety is to make perfectly sure that in this Clause, and in other Clauses, the public interest shall prevail. I am not sure that the words which have been recommended by the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) are appropriate, but I am quite wiling to give this undertaking, that, subject to its being made perfectly clear that the public interest shall prevail, I will undertake in 2273 another place, on this Sub-section (8), to try to find appropriate words, in consultation with hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to make this concession. I had risen, when the right hon. Gentleman intervened, to offer a few observations on this question, but I need not in the circumstances do more now than congratulate him most sincerely on having gone back from his error of saying that this was a consequential Amendment. We have been able to convince him during the last hour or two that there are some vitally unfair things in the Bill, and I am very glad that he has taken the action which he has just taken.
Sir H. SAMUEL
May we assume that what the right hon. Gentleman has said applies to the previous discussion also?
§ Mr. GRAHAM
That point is rather more difficult. There is a difference, which I should not be in order in going into, because that would be going back on the decision which the House has taken, but without making any promise with regard to the previous decision, I will see whether anything can be done, always subject to the public interest being safeguarded. The House must understand that I cannot at the moment make a definite promise on that point, but I do make the definite promise that I have already given regarding Sub-section (8), on the understanding that we now disagree with the Lords Amendment, that I will try to find appropriate words in its place.
§ Major COLFOX
I suppose we must infer that the endeavour of the President of the Board of Trade on this occasion will be to see that this committee protects private interests, although, as he says, he will take steps to ensure that the public interest comes first. As I read the Clause as at present drafted, private interest is not in any sense protected whatever, whether it be the interest of the consumer, of the distributor, or of anybody else. The only consideration in the Clause as drafted is the public interest, and I hope that we may assume that the undertaking which has just been given by the President of the Board of Trade will have the effect of protecting private interests as well as public interests.
Lords Amendment: In page 14, line 5, at the end, insert the following new Sub-section:
(10) Any person aggrieved—
may, with the leave of the Railway and Canal Commission, appeal to that Commission who shall have power to make such order as they think fit.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This proposed new Sub-section would open the door to an altogether impossible state of affairs. There are provided in the Bill various stages of arbitration which were described by the Attorney-General when dealing with this problem during the Committee stage. As regards the central scheme, there are the rights of arbitration for different districts; in the district schemes, there are the rights of arbitration open to the individual colliery owners; and, when we come down to the general public, there are in the committees of investigation the rights which we have just discussed, and the remedy of having this matter considered by the Board of Trade; and, in the last resort, there is the withdrawal of the statutory approval of the scheme and the putting in of another scheme by the Board of Trade if a remedy is not found. Under all these heads, the system of arbitration is quite complete for the purposes of the Bill. This proposed new Sub-section means that, notwithstanding all that machinery, any person who feels aggrieved may, if he get the leave of the Railway and Canal Commission, appeal to the Commission, which shall have power to make such order as they think fit. It may be argued that you cannot get through without the leave of the Railway and Canal Commission, and that 2275 in 99 cases out of 100 nothing may come of it, but it is idle to add this machinery to the Bill when we have all the machinery that I have described, and to leave it open to anybody who can get support for some kind of grievance, and can get the sanction of the Railway and Canal Commission, to have the whole matter investigated after it has been fully considered by a committee of investigation, which exists for the express purpose of protecting the consumers' interest. This Amendment is quite unnecessary, and of a kind with which I could not invite the House to agree.
§ Commodore KING
I was amazed at the long list of remedies which the President of the Board told us that individuals would have if they felt aggrieved. It really sounded very impressive, but, if he reads this proposed new Sub-section, he will find that most of the remedies which he mentioned are dealt with. It is only on a committee of investigation refusing to give any of the remedies about which he has told us that the individual is to have the right of appeal to the Railway and Canal Commission. Surely there is nothing very unreasonable in that. The President of the Board of Trade tells us that there is the procedure of going before a committee of investigation, and of that committee reporting to the Board of Trade; and this proposed new Sub-section provides thatAny person aggrieved by the neglect or refusal of a committee of investigation to report to the Board of Trade,can appeal to the Railway and Canal Commission. We know that in practice every case in a court of first instance has a right of appeal; that is all that is being asked here, and it is only reasonable that a man who has the remedy taken away from him should, where the Railway and Canal Commission are willing, be able to put his grievance before them. The power of going to arbitration is another of the impressive remedies which the President details, and this proposed new Sub-section provides that a person can appeal against that privilege of going to arbitration being granted. The case which is visualised here is that of a man who has been refused by a committee of investigation to refer his complaint to arbitration. It is no good telling him that under the Act there is all the machinery to go to arbitration, and that 2276 therefore he does not require this right of appeal to the Railway and Canal Commission, when the very reason of his appeal is that he has been refused this arbitration which the President has mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to see that fair and just treatment is dispensed to everybody under this Bill; he does not wish people to be placed under a disadvantage, and we on this side of the House are anxious to see that as many precautions as possible are taken to see that they receive fair and equitable treatment throughout the whole of the machinery of this Bill.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
What we are considering is the case of a scheme contrary to the public interest, where a committee of investigation have had a complaint made to them and have declined to report. We have an impressive procedure for securing the protection of the public interest, and because it is so impressive, and because we want the public interest to be protected, we want this proposed new Sub-section. If the committee refuse to report, everything falls to the ground, and the public interest has no further protection, and if they refuse to appoint an arbitrator everything goes by the board, unless we have some such provision as is contained in this new Sub-section. All this impressive procedure does not become effective.
The whole point of this Amendment is that it is not alone concerned with some person aggrieved over a matter which particularly affects him, it must affect also the public interest and be a matter of great importance. It simply gives him the power to go to the Railway and Canal Commission to ask for leave to appeal, and if they think there is something in his contention they have power to give leave. All this has to be done by the applicant at his own expense. The Commission can only grant leave to appeal if it is a matter which they think is of public importance and demands further inquiry. The penalty of having to pay the costs will be a sufficient deterrent to prevent applicants coming forward on frivolous pretexts. Unless this right of appeal is given, all this impressive procedure goes by the board. In the Law Courts it is always regarded as an essential protection that there should be a right of appeal. When a case is before the court of first instance it may break down on some point, some matter 2277 which has not been adequately expressed; and in this case also, where we are dealing with matters of public interest, there ought to be a chance of reopening the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] This is an Amendment put forward with the idea of protecting the public's interest and of strengthening the procedure under the Bill.
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I cannot help feeling that the President of the Board of Trade is possibly a little shy of Amendments moved from this side of the House, but in this case I feel that we can appeal to his sense of justice. I do not want to repeat arguments which have been put forward already, but I would like to add one small point, which is the result of my own experience, now not a short one. The knowledge that an aggrieved person can go to some superior court to point out that the tribunal before whom his case is being heard at title moment has gone wrong or has not done complete justice does a great deal to keep that tribunal on the right road and to keep it straight. I am certain that the President of the Board of Trade wishes the means provided for the protection of the public to be effective and desires that any member of the public who has gone to the committee of investigation should come away fully satisfied that his case has been properly heard. I beg him not to think that this Amendment will destroy any essential part of the Bill. Those of us who have remained silent through the long debates on the Bill have watched his conduct of it through the House with great admiration, and I beg of him to think that this Amendment will not destroy his work but will improve it and assist him in doing what he desires to do, namely, to see that the public are adequately protected.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I understood the President of the Board of Trade to say that it was not likely that any need of appeal would arise in, perhaps, more than one case out of 100. If that be so, surely we can claim that we are asking for is only a very small concession? I have no doubt that in 99 cases out of 100 the general public will be quite satisfied with the decision given by the committee. In any case the right hon. Gentleman is bound to assume that, otherwise there is all the more reason for having another 2278 tribunal; but that is no reason why in the one case where it is desirable to appeal to a higher court such leave should not be granted. The average citizen likes to know that, if necessary, he can take his case to what is equivalent to the High Court, because the Railway and Canal Commission is a high court. He may never desire to make use of it, but he likes to know that the power exists. Although I think this right of appeal will seldom be exercised, it will be there as some kind of protection to the citizen, some kind of consolation.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I think some of my hon. Friends on this side are too innocent for words. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) made an interesting and very able appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to accept this Amendment in the interests of justice. What hope had he in appealing to the President of the Board of Trade at the present time? Another hon. Member asked for a right of appeal because it would give a sense of security to the people. Appeals of that kind have been made to the President throughout the whole course of the proceedings on the Bill, and there is little or no hope of the request being granted. But there is another point of view which I am sure really will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. As far as I can see, there is no provision in the Bill for a foreign consumer to make any sort of appeal. This Bill is, quite clearly and quite definitely, the Magna Charta of the foreign consumer.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot discuss the whole principle of the Bill on this Amendment.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I was simply explaining why, on the arguments advanced up to the present, there can be no hope of getting the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, and I only wished to put forward one reason which might induce him to yield. However, it is almost impossible to expect the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, because it would insert in the Bill something which would give a sense of security to trade and industry in the country, particularly to those who are interested in the coal trade. However 2279 eloquent may be the pleas of my hon. Friends, I am afraid anything that will give a sense of security to British trade will fall on deaf ears so far as the President of the Board of Trade is concerned.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 275: Noes, 87.2281
|Division No. 340.]||AYES.||[9.25 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gossling, A. G.||Mansfield, W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gould, F.||March, S.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Markham, S. F.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Marley, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Granville, E.||Mathers, George|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gray, Milner||Matters, L. W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Arnott, John||Griffiths, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Melville, Sir James|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Messer, Fred|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grundy, Thomas W.||Middleton, G.|
|Ayles, Walter||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Millar, J. D.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mills, J. E.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Milner, Major J.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Harbison, T. J.||Montague, Frederick|
|Batey, Joseph||Harbord, A.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Hardie, George D.||Morley, Ralph|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Harris, Percy A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Benson, G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mort, D. L.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Haycock, A. W.||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hayday, Arthur||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Muff, G.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bromley, J.||Herriotts, J.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Brooke, W.||Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Brothers, M.||Hoffman, P. C.||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hollins, A.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hopkin, Daniel||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Horrabin, J. F.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Palin, John Henry|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Isaacs, George||Palmer, E. T.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Perry, S. F.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Johnston, Thomas||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Charieton, H. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Chater, Daniel||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Price, M. P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kennedy, Thomas||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Compton, Joseph||Kinley, J.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cove, William G.||Knight, Holford||Richards, R.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lang, Gordon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Dallas, George||Lathan, G.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Ritson, J.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Romoril, H. G.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lawson, John James||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Rowson, Guy|
|Dickson, T.||Leach, W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Dukes, C.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Duncan, Charles||Lees, J.||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Edge, Sir William||Lindley, Fred W.||Sandham, E.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Longbottom, A. W.||Scott, James|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Longden, F.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Scurr, John|
|England, Colonel A.||Lowth, Thomas||Sexton, James|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Foot, Isaac||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||McElwee, A.||Shield, George William|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, V. L.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||McKinlay, A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||McShane, John James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gill, T. H.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Sinkinson, George||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Thorne, W. (West Ham. Plaistow)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Thurtle, Ernest||West, F. R.|
|Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Tillett, Ben||Westwood, Joseph|
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Tinker, John Joseph||White, H. G.|
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Toole, Joseph||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Tout, W. J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Snell, Harry||Townend, A. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Turner, B.||Wilson C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Sorensen, R.||Vaughan, D. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Stamford, Thomas W.||Viant, S. P.||Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Stephen, Campbell||Walkden, A. G.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Walker, J.||Wise, E. F.|
|Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wallace, H. W.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Strauss, G. R.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Sullivan, J.||Watkins, F. C.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Taylor R. A. (Lincoln)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Hayes and Mr. B. Smith.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Peake, Capt. Osbert|
|Atkinson, C.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Remer, John R.|
|Bracken, B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch't'sy)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Buchan, John||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Christie, J. A.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Long, Major Eric||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Macquisten, F. A.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Clrencester)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||O'Connor, T. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fielden, E. B.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Captain Wallace and Mr. C.|
Question put, and agreed to.