HC Deb 19 December 1934 vol 296 cc1295-8

11.56 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 18, at the end, to add: (2) This Act shall he deemed to have had effect as from the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-five. It was hoped that the Bill would have passed through all its stages by the 31st December of this year. The position is that, on the 31st December this year, the powers of the commissioners will expire unless this Bill becomes law, and accordingly it is necessary that it should include a provision such as the one which I am now moving. Otherwise, not only would the commissioners cease to function, but, under the terms of the Act, the Department would take their place and would be the authority for the preparation of schemes. My recollection is that notice was given during the Committee stage that an Amendment of this nature would be necessary.

I may perhaps explain that, if the Bill had been one for the purpose of continuing the entire Act, and not merely a certain provision of the Act, namely, that as to the powers of the commissioners, the Amendment would have been unnecessary, because there is in an Act of 1808 a general statutory provision that, where a Bill is introduced for the purpose of continuing an Act, if the Act expires before the Bill is passed, the Bill will have the effect of continuing it as from the date on which it expired, unless the terms of the Bill clearly show a contrary intention. But, while that Act of 1808 completely fits the case of a Bill introduced for the purpose of continuing an entire Act, it does not fit the case where only a section or a power contained in the Act is to be continued.

11.59 p.m.


Assuming that this Bill does not become law by 1st January next, are we to take it that the commissioners will cease to function, and that, if the Bill becomes an Act later on, it will not reconstitute the commission?


The effect of the Amendment will be that, after the new Act comes into force, the Commissioners, who otherwise would find themselves moribund, will be able to function as if they had never been threatened with that condition.


After 2nd January they will be in a state of suspended animation.


The Lord Advocate said that if the Bill had not been passed the commissioners would have died. During their decease what will happen to their functions?


Nothing will happen to their functions during their decease if it is a decease. All that we want to secure is that, in January or some subsequent date not much after, they will be again in operation. That will be secured by this Clause.


What will be the position of the commissioners between 1st January and the date upon which the Bill becomes law? Are they to go on functioning as they are doing at present or will they be re-appointed?


No. Neither the one nor the other. They will enjoy a temporary rest.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

12.2 a.m.


I am sure we are grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) for attending this Debate, and he ought to be grateful to us for the lesson we have given him in expedition.

12.3 a.m.


I should like to express my congratulations to the Government on their success in piloting the Bill through the House. Undoubtedly some of the acts of the commissioners have aroused a certain amount of alarm, for the most part unjustifiable alarm, but this Measure meets any alarm that may be regarded as legitimate. I congratulate the Government and the Under-Secretary of State, who has taken great personal interest in the subject, on the firmness with which they have withstood the pressure and clamour which have been raging in many parts of Scotland and from many directions and have carried a Bill which reinstates the commissioners in full possession of the effective powers which they have on the whole used very wisely and, I am sure, with fruitful results to Scottish education.

12.4 a.m.


I think this is a very clear example of the fruitful results of careful consideration of a problem which gave great anxiety to the Government. We are particularly obliged both to the hon. Gentleman who led the Opposition in Committee, to my right hon. Friend who has just spoken and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid). The question is now more fully understood and I think Scotland is satisfied with the new conditions. I would remind those who fear that the commissioners may still have some power of treading on their toes that safety can only be secured by eternal vigilance.