HC Deb 11 April 1935 vol 300 cc1450-68

(1) There shall be a Tribunal (in this Act referred to as "the Railway Tribunal") consisting of a President and two other persons to be selected to act in each case by the Governor-General in his discretion from a panel of eight persons appointed by him in his discretion, being persons with railway, administrative, or business experience.

(2) The President shall be such one of the judges of the Federal Court as may be appointed for the purpose by the Governor-General in his discretion after consultation with the Chief Justice of India and shall hold office for such period of not less than five years as may be specified in the appointment, and shall be eligible for reappointment for a further period of five years or any less period.

Provided that if the President ceases to be a judge of the Federal Court, he shall thereupon cease to be President of the Tribunal and, if he is for any reason temporarily unable to act, the Governor-General in his discretion may after the like consultation appoint another judge of the Federal Court to act for the time being in his place.

(3) It shall be the duty of the Railway Tribunal to exercise such jurisdiction as is conferred on it by this Act, and for that purpose the Tribunal may make such orders, including interim orders and orders for the payment of compensation or damages and of costs and orders for the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses, as the circumstances of the case may require, and it shall be the duty of the Authority and of every Federated State and of every other person or authority affected thereby to give effect to any such order.

(4) An appeal shall lie to the Federal Court from any decision of the Railway Tribunal on a question of law, but no appeal shall lie from the decision of the Federal Court on any such appeal.

(5) The Railway Tribunal or the Federal Court, as the case may be, may, on application made for the purpose, if satisfied that in view of an alteration in the circumstances it is proper so to do, vary or revoke any previous order made by it.

(6) The President of the Railway Tribunal may, with the approval of the Governor-General in his discretion, make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the Tribunal and the fees to be taken in proceedings before it.

(7) Subject to the provisions of this section relating to appeals to the Federal Court, no court shall have any jujrisdiction with respect to any matter with respect to which the Railway Tribunal has jujrisdiction.

(8) There shall be paid out of the revenues of the Federation to the members of the Railway Tribunal other than the President such remuneration as may be determined by the Governor-General in his discretion, and the administrative expenses of the Railway Tribunal, including any such remuneration as aforesaid, shall be charged on the revenues of the Federation.

The Governor-General shall exercise his individual judgment as to the amount to be included in respect of the administrative expenses of the Railway Tribunal in any estimates of expenditure laid by him before the Chambers of the Federal Legislature.—[The Solicitor-General.]

Brought up and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."—[The Solicitor-General.]

9.30 p.m.


The first Sub-section of this new Clause is very vital. After all, this Tribunal, consisting of a President and two other persons, will be a very important authority in what is, I think, either the third or fourth greatest railway system in the world. India is one of the great railway territories of the world, and it has, I believe, something like 40,000 miles of railways. I am not surprised at the acquiescing silence of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the front opposition bench here. They really must be pleased to see a single authority swallowing something which covers a territory occupied by one-fifth of the human race. It is very noticeable - how the Opposition have ceased to oppose and how they keep quiet on this question.

I want to ask the Solicitor-General or the Under-Secretary if he can give us some fuller information with regard to the character of the persons to be appointed to this tribunal. It is provided that they shall be persons with railway, administrative, or business experience, but may we have some sort of indication as to the character of these gentlemen? Is there definitely going to be a representative on that panel who can be regarded as a satisfactory representative from the point of view of the vast amount of capital invested in these railways? Are we quite certain that these people will be free from any political influence? I think that will be the desire of hon. Members of the Opposition as much as of those in any other section of the House. Can we have some indication as to whether there are to be any limits with regard to these appointments? For instance, will it be possible for both these representatives to be Indians, in view of the enormous holding in the Indian State Railways and in the Indian Company railways by British shareholders. May we have some assurance of a definite character with regard to that before we pass from this Clause.

9.33 p.m.


I am a little sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend should have raised the point he did. I very much doubt whether he or anyone else could suggest better words which could be inserted in an Act of Parliament to ensure that the right sort of men were selected. They are to be appointed by the Governor-General in his discretion. That is to say we give to the man on whom we are imposing the greatest responsibility in connection with all matters under this Bill the responsibility of making the selections for this Tribunal. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any suggestions for bettering the wording we have open minds on the subject and would be willing to consider there. We direct the Governor-General to direct his mind to what we think are the relevant types of experience. These two men are to have railway, administrative or business experience. To say that one of these is to be an Englishman or that one is to be an Indian, or that one is to have interests in capital, or to be the holder of £10,000 worth of ordinary railway stock, that is not suggested, but that is the kind of difficulty that arises if one tries to go into detail in questions of this kind. I instanced that only to show how difficult it would be to put specific qualifications in a Clause of this kind. We have done out best to ensure that the best possible panel of men shall be selected, and I cannot myself think of any words which we could have used which would better express the intentions we have. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend has any suggestions to make.

9.36 p.m.


My hon. and learned Friend has misunderstood me. I was not suggesting there should be somebody who was himself a shareholder. All I wanted to secure was that the Committee might feel some assurance on this subject, because the Government have not been too particular in dealing with British interests in many parts of this Bill, and I wished to be well assured that the enormous interests to which I have referred would be borne in mind. I am not ready to part with these vast British interests in India and to allow them to fall into the hands of some people who, no doubt, will be excellent for five or 10 or 15 years without thinking of what may happen in the future. It is conceivable that we may ultimately have a Governor-General who is not at all acceptable to the general body of opinion in this country. We may have a succession of admirable Governors General, but, on the other hand, we may in the days to come have somebody who may be carried away by political influences, and that is why I put the point I submitted. The Solicitor-General has asked me what words I would suggest. I was not thinking that we ought to say there should be one Indian and one British, but the Clause might contain some words to the effect that regard should always be had to the vital interests of those who have financed and built up the whole railway system of 'India, without which the India we know to-day would not exist.

I am sorry if my hon. and learned Friend is pained that I should have raised this question, but what he feels is nothing to the pain that some of us feel that His Majesty's Government should appear to take the view that now we can really disregard all these things. I do not feel like that. I said earlier in the Debate that I had not a penny of money in Indian railways, but I happen to be trustee for a large number of people, and throughout this country there are hundreds of thousands of persons who draw, very likely, the whole of their livelihood from those railways, and I cannot see why, even at this late hour, we should not start to put British interests first. After all, the Indian railways were built originally with British capital and are to-day largely financed with British capital, and I feel most strongly that we ought to put every safeguard we can in the Bill to ensure that those great interests do not fall into the area of politics, that we do not have these vast concerns made a shuttlecock of party politics.

9.39 p. m


I must say a word or two more. We are dealing here with the constitution of a tribunal which is to perform quasi-judicial functions. Under the machinery provided by the Clause I should like to say that it is impossible, at any rate it is very difficult, to conceive that anyone will be on the panel who will not pay proper regard to all interests in dealing with the issues which come before him as a member of the tribunal, and the suggestion that in setting up what is a quasi-judicial tribunal we should say that one member is to be a representative of the interests of in-vestors—


I did not use the word "representative," or if I did so I wish to withdraw it. I meant someone who might be regarded as being au fait with all these questions, and not hostile to British interests.


I do not think there is anything between my hon. and gallant Friend and myself, but I think the Committee will bear me out that the hon. and gallant Member did leave the impression that he was suggesting a representative—


I withdraw the word "representative," if I used it.


The hon. and gallant Member may not have used the word, but he gave the impression which I have mentioned. As I have said before, my hon. and gallant Friend has not suggested any other form of words than that which appears in the Clause. We want to see on this tribunal men of the highest possible character and experience who will have a proper regard to all the interests which are brought before them in what is, I admit, a matter the importance of which it is perhaps hard to over-estimate.

9.42 p.m.


I share the regret which the Solicitor-General expressed that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) should have asked whether there were people of suitable character in India to undertake work of this sort.


We are entitled to ask these questions. I refuse to be bullied by these flank attacks. We are discussing something of major importance, something which will affect both the people of India and this country for possibly centuries, and every hon. Member is entitled to ask for the fullest information. The Solicitor-General comes along—


May I—


I am sorry I have kept on. My protest will be made later.


I was just coming to my point, which was to suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend's apprehensions were quite groundless, because persons of the type who have to be selected are still to be obtained in India as has been the case for the last 20 years. My hon. and gallant Friend would have been better able to appreciate the situation had he spent only two or three weeks in India. Twenty years ago I knew one of the leading railway engineers in India who was an Indian. There are people of character in India of all classes, Europeans particularly, who would come within the terms of this Clause, but the point I wish to get at is what is really meant here by "administrative." The bulk of the people with experience of railway administration in India at present are Europeans. Does "administrative" here refer to officials of the Services I Then there is the question of the meaning of "business experience." Do these qualifications include professional men Would they include a chartered accountant in private practice, a solicitor in private practice, whether an Englishman or an Indian, or a mining engineer—mining engineers are an important body of people there, particularly mining engineers from Durham and Scotland—and would it include an electrical engineer l There are people holding such positions in India who are equivalent in experience and knowledge to men of business experience. If the Solicitor-General could explain that that would widen the scope for appointing these men, perhaps it would remove some of the apprehensions of my hon. and gallant Friend.

9.44 p.m.


I am not sure that I look at this matter entirely from the point of view of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), although I think he has put a very relevant case to the Committee. I wish to ask whether the Government have finally made up their minds that a president and two other persons constitute a suitable body to deal with the important questions which will come before such a tribunal. There is to be a panel of 10, but having regard to the fact that vast interests are involved and that there are many conflicting interests I doubt very much whether a president and two other persons, however experienced they may be, will be sufficient to adjudicate upon the various points which will be raised. In this country we sometimes have three judges to decide in a court of appeal upon the fate of one man. As the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said, this is a vast railway system Unless the Government have definitely made up their minds that a president and two others are adequate to deal with the various questions which will be brought before them, I suggest that the two persons might be increased to four in order that the interests which are bound to be involved may be adequately represented and considered.

9.46 p.m.


This tribunal follows in principle the constitution of the Railway and Canal Commission in this country, a judge presiding and two persons of great experience sitting with him. It is a tribunal which has given enormous satisfaction in dealing with all the matters which come before it. The point I want to raise is this: An appeal is to lie from this tribunal on points of law to the Federal Court. That, of course, is quite proper. What I cannot understand are the last words of Sub-section (4) of the Clause, and why an appeal on a point of law from the Federal Government to the Judicial Committee should be prohibited. Under Clause 198 an appeal may be brought to His Majesty in Council from the decision of the Federal Court by leave of the Federal Court or of His Majesty in Council. When we consider the subjects with which this tribunal will have to deal it is obvious that very important points of law, possibly between a Federated State and the Federation, may very easily arise in the disputes before the tribunal, and may go to the Federal Court. It is very difficult to understand why we should provide in this Bill that no appeal should lie from the Federal Court to the Privy Council with regard to very important points of law which may arise. I ask the learned Solicitor-General and the Government to consider very carefully before the Report stage whether the last words in the Sub-section referred to ought not to be struck out in the interests of all parties.

9.48 p.m.


I wish to ask one question with regard to the protection of the Princes before the tribunal. I understand that there is to be a panel of eight, from which the Governor-General at his discretion is to select three to adjudicate on any case. I would suggest that the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) should be considered. It is very evident from what the learned Solicitor-General said that in a dispute between a Federated State and this enormous Indian railway system the State would be at a distinct disadvantage. How is the Governor-General going to get a fair proportion in that tribunal to look after the interests of a Federated State which is complaining perhaps of an unfair encroachment by the railway system?

Then there is the question of the payment of members of the tribunal. Will the panel be paid or not? The railway tribunal is to be paid, I see, from Federal funds. We were told originally that the extra cost of Federation in India will be £560,000, but we are continually hearing of new charges which are to be put on these funds. Was this charge originally considered or not? Then suppose that a Federated State does not agree to abide by the finding of the railway tribunal, what power has the tribunal to enforce its will and decision?

9.50 p. m.


The few observations I shall make are prompted mainly by the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). I am prompted to make them because those of us who are not making many speeches in opposition to this Bill but are in opposition to it, are in considerable difficulty when we see morning after morning a large number of Amendments to the Bill in the form of new Clauses. Are we, when this Bill comes to the Report stage, to be allowed opportunity to study these new Clauses?


The hon. Member knows that what he can do on the Report stage has nothing to do with the Chairman of Committees.


I was not putting my point by way of asking you for a decision. I was asking the Government whether we on the back benches can have facilities to study the Clauses which will be in the Bill when it comes to the Report stage, so that we can judge the proposals on their merits?

9.52 p.m.


Before the learned Solicitor-General replies I want to refer to the point that has been raised with regard to the payment of members of this tribunal. In doing so I would sug gest that the mere fact that we can compare the Railway and Canal Commission in this country, excellent as it is, with this mighty authority, which has to control a colossal railway system, shows that sometimes we lack a sense of proportion. Has there been any indication of the scale of remuneration or of the type of man who will be employed in this capacity? It appears to me that you must have, to use a colloquial expression, big men, and they must be adequately paid, and must be like the best of our judges in this country, lifted out of all the commonplace turmoil of public life, and men who will not desire to go back to it. It is a vast concern that we are contemplating. Can we have an indication that the remuneration that the members of the tribunal will receive will be on such a scale that you will get the type of man who will throw up a big business job in order to take on this very vital task?


It would not be a permanent job surely? There would be a committee held for two or three days perhaps in different parts of the country.


My hon. Friend regretted just now that I have not been with him in India. I am sorry he has been so long in India that he has quite forgotten to look after British interests. But I do not think there is much difference of opinion between us on this matter. All I am asking for is an assurance that there will be the very highest type of man engaged in this work. It is vital to aim at that principle, in order that there may be supreme confidence amongst the people of India as well as those in this country that this authority can be looked up to and is as deserving of admiration as is the Railway and Canal Commission here.

9.55 p.m.


We are extremely sorry that the Government have decided that the panel from which this tribunal is to be appointed is to be a panel in the discretion of the Governor-General. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was very anxious that British interests in India should be protected on this tribunal because of the vast amount of money involved, but if that is an argument for special representation of British interests, surely it is equally an argument in favour of special representation for the interests of the Indian Federal Government. These railways are owned, some of them, by the State; and in any case they are to provide the money for the payment of the members of the tribunal, and apart from that the interests of the people at large in India are very specially involved in the proper or the ill use of the railway administration. However, I will not enter into an argument with my hon. and gallant Friend now. Perhaps later in the smoke room we can continue the controversy.


May I just point out that the State railways of India to which my hon. Friend referred are in fact largely owned by the shareholders in this country? I think I am right in saying that the majority of the shares undoubtedly are held in this country.

9.58 p.m.


In the early part of this Debate my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that I should answer each question, one by one, and I started on that principle, but I found that my hon. and gallant Friend got ahead of me in the number of speeches that he delivered. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Kirkpatrick) put certain points to me. We are satisfied that the people to whom he referred, such as chartered accountants and professional men of all kinds, are covered by the words in the Clause, "railway, administrative, or business experience," and the word "administrative" would cover not only officials but people with administrative experience in any field. We will, however, consider the matter to see that the type of man who obviously might be useful to this tribunal is covered. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) suggested that the tribunal should be enlarged. I have had some experience of Tribunals, and I am not sure that size is really an advantage. I think there is a great deal to be said for a tribunal of three. Anyhow, we looked into this matter very carefully. The argument for a larger tribunal was put very well, if I may say so, by my hon. Friend, but on the other hand there is an argument for a small one. We came to this conclusion on balance, and I think most of those who have had experience will agree that we came to a wise decision in coming down on the side of the number three.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) raised a point about there being no appeal to the Privy Council. I think there is only one appeal from the Railway and Canal Commission. I am not sure whether it is to the House of Lords, but I think it is, and we thought that that was a useful precedent to follow. These can well be matters where it is important that there should not be too long a delay in arriving at a decision. They impinge on the area of administration, questions of new construction, and so on, and although I appreciate the force of what my hon. and learned Friend said and the importance of this point, and although I have no doubt my right hon. Friend will consider what he said, we did consider the matter, and came to the conclusion, after balancing one advantage against another, that on the whole the advantage lay in having one appeal on a point of law.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) really misconceived the nature of this tribunal. He said that a State railway would be at a disadvantage, as if the tribunal was a body deciding questions by counting heads or recording votes, but I would remind him that it is a judicial or semi-judicial body. No one would suggest that a State railway system would not be able to afford adequate legal representation, and really I think it would be wrong to remain under the impression that this tribunal in deciding these difficult questions would be influenced by the fact that one railway was a larger body financially, according to the principle of mileage, than the railway system standing on the other side of the court. The hon. and gallant Member also raised the question of finance. So far as this court is concerned, we hope that a very large part of its cost will be paid by the court fees, which will quite properly be charged, and for the estimate which has been made—I have not got the details before me—we do not think it will be a large item. That estimate was made with due allowance for contingencies. I am not sure that the hon. and gallant Member is right in saying that these are new charges that are constantly being brought up.

May I say one word in regard to the hon. and gallant Baronet's last speech? I cannot help thinking that he may be under a misapprehension. He spoke of this body controlling this vast railway system, but the body which will control this vast system is the railway authority. It is not the tribunal, any more than it is a judge here who may have to decide a dispute between two railway companies or anybody else, that is controlling the various bodies who come before him. With regard to remuneration, the judge of the federal court will continue to receive his salary as It judge. We do not contemplate that this tribunal will be continuously occupied. The work will be ad hoc work, which will be paid according to the demand on the services of those concerned. We shall have to see as we go along; if there is more work than we think there will be, the Governor-General has full discretion to pay remuneration which will attract the best men. We contemplate that the fees quite properly paid will practically cover the expenses of the court. Perhaps we may now get the Clause.

10.8 p.m.

Viscount WOLMER

I am very sorry that the Solicitor-General has not been able to use more encouraging words to the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) in regard to his plea. I venture to suggest that this is a matter-which the Government ought to reconsider most carefully. Issues amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds may come before this tribunal, and the economic future of important States may be seriously jeopardised. The right of appeal to the Privy Council is one of the most important of the few remaining links that bind the Empire together, and I cannot believe that you are going to satisfy the States, give them what they are asking for here, or make it more likely that they will come into the Federation, if you are going to put them under a tribunal from which no ultimate appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council lies on a point of law. I hope very much that the Government will give this matter further consideration, because it appears to me to be altogether wrong in principle that matters of such great importance to the economic welfare of a State should be capable of decision without appeal to the supreme judicial tribunal of the Empire.

10.10 p.m.


It has distressed me that I find myself differing from the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), but I venture to address the Committee for this reason, that in my early days I was very much interested in railway matters, because my father was responsible for the construction of a very large part of the railway system in this country, and of a great many foreign railways as well. I am convinced that in railway matters, whether you are considering the interests of traders, who are interested in carrying on their trade by means of the transport of railways, or whether it is a question of the acquisition of land and such things for the construction of railways, there are two things that are essential. One is that you should have a court whose decision is clear-cut, and as nearly as possible final, and the second is that you should get a quick decision. A third thing is the question of cost.

I yield to no one, not even the Noble Lord, in my anxiety to maintain on general questions the right of appeal to the Privy Council and the immense importance of that appeal; but in these railway matters connected with India the first thing you have got to consider is that they are obviously going to be purely Indian questions, concerning Indian railways. If you set up a tribunal —I think that the Government are right in limiting it to three members, and right again in making the president a judge of the High Court, so that you will have a high judicial authority in your first court, and again in your appeal to the federal court—I do not think that it would be in the interest of railway development or of the traders if you insisted on a third appeal to the Privy Council over here. It is true that the appeal asked for is on legal questions, but I think that in the procedure provided you have ample judicial authority behind the decision and behind the final decision in the federal court. With regard to the question of expense, you hear a great deal about the finances of India being in a parlous condition, and we do not want to throw away money that can be ill spared in what I regard as an unnecessary appeal which would involve enormous additional expense.

10.13 p.m.


I think that the speech to which we have just listened is based upon a misapprehension. Under Clause 198 there is no right of appeal in the sense that my hon. Friend has just mentioned. The right of appeal under Clause 198 is a right of appeal from the Federal Court with the leave of the Federal Court or with the leave of the Privy Council, and therefore a right of appeal which is exceptionally safeguarded in order to see that it is not a frivolous right, and that is not frivolously exercised, and that it should only be brought in cases where matters of great importance are involved. That is the whole point that is desired to be exercised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). As to the question which has been raised by the learned Solicitor-General as to the possibility of delay, no doubt the question of delay would be taken into account either by the Federal Court or the Privy Council in deciding whether leave should be granted. I do hope the Government will give further consideration to this important matter.

10.15 p.m.


I want to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman only on one point. I am quite aware that the sole difference between us is as to whether an appeal would lie to the Privy Council on a special case granted by the Federal Court. There is no necessity, I hold, for any appeal to the Privy Council in this particular case, concerning railway matters which are brought before the Railway Tribunal in India.


That is where we differ.


There was no misconception in what I said. I am quite aware of the position under Clause 198 but I do not think that ought to apply in this case.

10.16 p.m.


I associate myself with the views of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), and the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson). We all agree that the Tribunal will be called upon to adjudicate on matters of very great importance. The question has been raised whether there shall be only three upon the Tribunal. I fail to see why a higher court, dealing with matters of this kind, should have only three members when, as is well known, there are five in the House of Lords.


This is a Railway Tribunal, not a federal court.


I know, but the Tribunal are to be called upon to adjudicate upon matters which are of very great importance, and they will be dealing with the third largest railway system in the world. To compare the size of those railways with that of the railways in England is not in proportion. If the number were increased by two, as the hon. and gallant Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) very properly said, making five in all, that would be very much more satisfactory to the people concerned.

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). As is usual with speeches made from the Opposition Benches, British interests were regarded as a secondary consideration. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) had been endeavouring to see that British interests were properly protected, and there was no reason why he should have been chided on that account. Having regard to the discussion which has taken place, the Clause ought to be reconsidered and in some respects redrafted, because it could be improved after reflection on the part of Ministers.

10.19 p.m.


I hope the Government will not take the slightest notice of the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy), who is an authority on water but possibly not on India. I hope the Government will not increase the number of the board. It is all very well to say that they should make it larger, but the Government are wise in keeping the number small, and not making the board a debating society. It is much better to keep it small, particularly because you do not want a board of this kind to be representative of varying interests. There has been some confusion about this board. I gather that it is purely a tribunal, but in the Clause there are two references to the administrative expenses of the Railway Tribunal. I conclude that those administrative expenses might be one of two things. They might be expenses for administering, say, a particular part or a particular system of the railways which was badly run. I do not, however, think that that is what they are. On the other hand, they might be—and I think the words mean this, though they might mean two things—administrative expenses for clerks or anything that the board itself needs for the purpose of carrying on its work. If that is so, the matter is perfectly clear, but there has been some confusion during the Debate as to whether this body was one for giving judgment, or whether it had some connection with administration; and, as this is a0020new Clause, I think it would be just as well that it should be made clear once and for all whether these expenses incurred by the board are simply expenses involved in giving judgment on this, that or the other subject on which there may be occasion for the Board to act, and have absolutely nothing to do whatever in any respect with the running of the railways.


The administrative expenses of this tribunal are simply the ordinary expenses of a tribunal —for example, for the hiring of rooms for use as a court, for the purchase of ink, paper, blotting paper and so on, and for the payment of the necessary staff. They have nothing to do with the administration of the railways.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."

10.23 p.m.


I was about to rise, Sir Dennis, when the Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time" was put, but you did not see me. My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) made what seemed to me to be a wholly unjustifiable attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Levy). He suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Elland, while he might be an expert on water, was no authority on India, but at least my hon. Friend has not hesitated for over two years to put forward his views on this subject, and I do not think the attack was justified.

This Clause and the three previous Clauses are proposed in place of Clause 187, which was originally in the Bill. Clause 187 was presumably based upon the Report of the Joint Select Committee. Everything in the Bill is supposed to be based on the Report of the Joint Select Committee—that Committee which has enabled a great many people to put their consciences in pawn and forget that they have any responsibility as legislators. Here we have the Government dropping their original Clause, based upon the Report of the Joint Select Committee, and replacing it by four new Clauses. Therefore, they cannot call the Joint Select Committee, or even the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), to their aid in support of this particular proposal, which is very different from the proposals originally contained in Clause 187. Here we have the abandonment of the principle that the ultimate defender of the liberties of His Majesty's subjects in all parts of the world should be the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


I do not know whether the hon. Member was present when these Clauses were moved, but I may explain to him that we have already had a more or less general discussion upon them. I indicated at the beginning that there must be some limit to the discussion on the other Clauses, and the hon. Member must now confine his remarks very strictly to the Clause which is before the Committee.


The first Clause dealt with the question of appeal by a State to the Federal Railway Tribunal from certain directions of the Federal Railway Authority, and it was on the question that that Clause he read a Second time that the general discussion took place. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen must not think that because I retired for a short period for refreshment after spending a long time in the Chamber, that I am not familiar with what has happened in the meantime. On that a discussion took place as to whether the grounds of appeal were as wide as the provisions of the executive authority set forth in the Eighth Schedule. So I am not unfamiliar with what was done about that matter. I am now speaking about Sub-section (4) and Sub-section (7) of this Clause on the Motion, "That the Clause be added to the Bill." Under Sub-section (4) together with Sub-section (7) the question definitely arises whether there should be an appeal to the Privy Council, and at the point when you, Sir Dennis, suggested that I was wandering wide, I was raising that particular question, and not the question which arises under the first Clause as to whether it is possible, for example, to challenge whether there should be responsibility for traffic through a State or not. That is a question of the competence of the tribunal as a tribunal of the first instance.

I am not discussing the issue which has already been raised and discussed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons). I am discussing the very much wider constitutional issue, as to whether or not there should be excluded from the purview of the judicial committee of the Privy Council issues which might arise under this group of Clauses. That seems to me to be one of the things rather fundamental at this time when in one of the Dominions the status of the Judicial Committee has been challenged in an acute way, and in a second Dominion it has been challenged in not quite such an acute way. I take the view that as one who believes that ultimately the continued existence and the security and safety of the British Empire depend on emphasising the status of this country in both the Empire and the British Commonwealth of Nations, it is important that we should not lightly say that people have not the right to come to that ultimate tribunal, not strictly speaking a judicial tribunal but one existing to advise His Majesty's Government in respect of what might be called his administrative functions. That is a thing not lightly to be entertained, and it is because of that that I have seen fit briefly to take part in the debate on this Clause.