HC Deb 06 June 1932 vol 266 cc1735-9

I beg to move to leave out the Schedule.

Later, I am moving a new Schedule, to carry out an undertaking which was given by me in Committee after a long discussion. This Schedule deals with the machinery which I am now providing for securing control by the House of Commons over the final stage of the approval of schemes, and, in relation to any alterations in the existing law, in order to accommodate the existing law to the provisions of a scheme. The Schedule is divided into three parts. The first part makes provision for laying schemes before Parliament. The second part deals with the procedure for challenging the validity of schemes in the courts, and the third part deals with the procedure for challenging the validity of Compulsory Purchase Orders. The last two parts are practically the same as they were before. It is only in the first part that there is any difference. That general procedure that we arrived at in Committee, for securing revision by the House of Commons of a scheme, provides that an affirmative resolution of the House is necessary when there is an alteration in the existing law, except in relation to certain specified Statutes which have been scheduled in the Bill. It also provides for the negative procedure in relation to all the other schemes. The House will remember that we have already on Report had a Debate on the question of the affirmative or negative resolution, and the House has accepted that procedure.

The only other matter that I need mention is this. The House will see that it is necessary to provide for the case of there being a change in the scheme introduced, owing to a difference of opinion between the House and the Minister when the Resolution is placed before the House. When an affirmative Resolution is placed before the House, it may be rejected. When the annulment procedure is followed, it may be that the House differs from the scheme which has been approved by the Minister, and desires that some other terms should be introduced. In that case, unless we made some provision, there would be no machinery for preserving the procedure on the scheme up to that time, and it would all be wasted. That would be a pity. Therefore, the mechanism which we have introduced, and which somewhat extends the length of the Schedule, is to say that, if there is a difference of opinion, that is to say, if the House disapproves of the scheme or of the action of the Minister on the affirmative or the negative procedure, then the scheme shall go back to the point at which it was before it received Ministerial assent, so that the Minister may be able to bring the scheme along again with whatever change the House has directed shall be made.

It further provides for the case when, although the House has not formally differed from the Minister, it has expressed a desire, to which the Minister has expressed his willingness to conform, on the affirmative or negative procedure. In that case we say also that, where there has been no direct negative of the scheme or of the Minister's action, but an undertaking on the part of the Minister to accede to the desire of the House, there again the scheme shall go back to the stage at which it stood before the Ministerial assent was given, and whatever changes the House has requested will be incorporated in the scheme, the scheme will once more get Ministerial assent, and will come again before the House for final approval under the positive or negative procedure. That is the scheme of procedure which is laid down in the Schedule. I am now moving to leave out the First Schedule, in order that I may introduce at a later stage the one which I have described.


I think the House ought to realise that the new Schedule which is being brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman is a constitutional precedent. We are getting accustomed to constitutional precedents from the National Government, but in this case the curious position arises that, where a scheme has been expressly approved by both Houses, the courts are to be given power to say that it is not within the Act. As far as I know, that has never been done before. The procedure as regards the courts which is laid down in the second and third parts of the Schedule is, of course, a familiar procedure; it is the same procedure which is in force under the Housing Acts. But there it is not combined with an approval of the Order by this House and by the other Chamber; and when you wed that scheme, as regards the validity of an Order, to an approval by this House, you then reach an entirely new constitutional position, namely, that, after this House has expressly considered a scheme made under an Act of Parliament, and has decided that the scheme is to come into force in the terms in which it is laid before the House, then the courts are able, upon complaint under the second part of the Schedule, to say that the scheme is not to come into force because in their view it is not in accordance with the terms of the Act, or does not comply with some condition precedent, or for some reason of that sort. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman or the House realises how serious a departure that is. It is really for the first time putting this House completely under the thumb of the courts. This House will be entirely losing its independence so far as approval of these schemes is concerned.

Mr. E. BROWNindicated dissent.


I assure the hon. Gentleman that he was wrong. I quite agree that it is not BO in every case, but I am taking the case where there is an express approval, as there may be under Part I of the Schedule, of a scheme by the two Houses of Parliament. The scheme can be laid before them and they can approve. Take a case where there is a suspensory provision. It will be laid before them and it will have to be a positive approval. It will be open to the courts to negative the scheme, possibly on some point which has been discussed in Parliament. It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman has got up at the Box, explained the scheme to the House and the House has voted on it and approved it and decided that it is to come into force. Then some disgruntled landowner goes to the courts and challenges the validity of the scheme, possibly on some point that has been laid before the House. The courts can say, "We do not care what the House of Commons has done. We decide that it is not a valid scheme and it is not to come into force." That is a very undesirable state of affairs. For this House to give up its sovereignty and hand it over to the courts seems undesirable and I hope before this goes to another place, the right hon. Gentleman will very carefully consider whether it really is his desire that such circumstances should be possible, or whether it should not be the case that, once a scheme has been definitely approved by the House, it should not be open to objection in the courts. We agree with the provisions in the original Bill. Do not ask Parliament to approve schemes. Leave it to the courts to say whether a scheme approved by the Minister cornea within the ambit of the Act or not. Now by introducing the condition of laying the scheme on the Table of the House, and making it possible for Parliament to give an affirmatory approval to the scheme in certain cases, the House is put in the position of having something upon which it has definitely decided being set aside by the courts of law. That is entirely con- trary to constitutional practice and is not a position in which this House should put itself.


I do not think the position is quite as stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is true where the House has given a negative approval, that is, not given a positive decision, but it is not true that, when the House has given a definite, affirmative decision, that process can take place. Paragraph 6 of the new Schedule is an adequate reply to the point. It makes it perfectly clear that there is no such constitutional change as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, and that the right of Parliament to be the final authority in law making are safeguarded.

Amendment agreed to.