HC Deb 03 May 1937 vol 323 cc857-63

(1) A service scheme may make provision for one or more of the following purposes, that is to say:

  1. (a) for co-operation with the Commission in the preparation and promotion of livestock markets orders and livestock markets by-laws;
  2. (b) for securing that (subject to such provisions with respect to appeals to the Commission on the part of persons aggrieved as may be contained in the scheme) a person shall not, except: under the authority of a licence in that behalf granted by the body administering the scheme, carry on the business of effecting sales by auction of livestock, or any particular description of livestock, on premises to which livestock markets by-laws apply;
  3. (c) for the compensation of persons for loss or damage which they may suffer by reason of the operation—
    1. (1) of any provisions of the scheme having effect by virtue of paragraph (b) of this Sub-section, or
    2. (ii) of any livestock markets order or livestock markets by-laws,
    for the indemnification of persons in respect of their liability to contribute under such an order, or for the making of contributions to the Commission to be used in defraying expenses incurred by the Commission on account of compensation payable under such an order;

and the last preceding Section shall have effect as if the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Sub-section were included among the purposes mentioned in Subsection (1) of that Section.

(2) A service scheme containing any provisions for the purpose mentioned in paragraph (b) of the preceding Sub-section may provide for the imposition of such penalties as may be prescribed by the scheme on persons contravening any of those provisions.—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.

Brought up, and read the First time.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time.

This proposed new Clause deals with the same subject matter as Clause 31, namely, the power to frame service schemes. In Clause 31 there is a list of purposes for which schemes can be brought into existence, and one of them is to enable auctioneers in particular to provide a national compensation fund out of which they can compensate their members who are adversely affected by the Bill. It has always been felt that this compensation provision was rather a foreigner among the list of other objects to be served by service schemes. It is proposed later, therefore, to withdraw subparagraph (vi) of Clause 31, for the provisions of that sub-paragraph are embodied in the new Clause. The new Clause also provides further powers to increase the opportunities of collaboration between the auctioneers and the Commission. It is essential and valuable that the Commission should have from the start the expert knowledge and collaboration of those who have spent a lifetime in the management of auction marts. The Commission is an independent body, and the more it can avail itself of the experience and expert knowledge of those gentlemen the better. The new Clause, in paragraph (a), provides that the scheme may make provision for enabling the authorised body to work in co-operation with the Commission in the preparation of live-stock markets' orders and live-stock markets by-laws, and it will enable the authorised body to collaborate in securing that this promotion and preparation are attended with good advice. Paragraph (c) restores the power of compensating which was previously expressed in sub-paragraph (vi) of Clause 31.

Paragraph (b) is an important new provision and its relevance is as follows: Clause 17 (1) of the Bill gives power to the Commission to make by-laws regulating the holding of auctions. If the Commission made a by-law which had the effect of reducing the number of auctioneers from four to three in a particular market, it might do so with the full consent of all concerned, everyone recognising that it was a much-needed reform in a particular market. While, however, the by-law power given to the Commission will enable it to make that numerical change, no machinery was provided in the Bill to say which auctioneers should go out and which should remain. That is a difficult matter to decide. In my view, it is not one on which the Minister is competent to judge or one which the Commission in the first instance should be empowered to decide. It is purely a domestic matter concerning the auctioneers themselves, and if they get this power I understand that they are ready to effect among themselves the rearrangement which will be necessitated. Paragraph (b) provides that the authorised body can decide by the issue of licences after agreement which auctioneers shall in these circumstances be retained. In order to prevent any possible abuse of this power, it is provided that an appeal will lie to the Commission.

As regards the allocation of compensation in such circumstances, a further Amendment will provide that this can also be the subject of arbitration. This is a domestic matter for the auctioneers, but when the safeguards are considered, I feel justified in recommending the new Clause to the House. Like all Service schemes, the one contemplated in the new Clause will be governed by the conditions as to previous discussion and scrutiny to make sure that no interest is adversely affected. The Commission must consult the Livestock Advisory Committee and any other persons concerned, and the Minister, before confirming it must be satisfied and must also operate the machinery of the Fifth Schedule if the scheme is objected to. In the last resort he must lay the scheme before Parliament. I feel quite justified in saying that this Amendment, which will enable collaboration to take place between the auctioneers in particular and the Commission, is hedged about with sufficient safeguards in the public interest, and I recommend it to the House.

7.1 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

May I ask who either originally or ultimately will be responsible for determining whether it is Johnson, Jones or Thompson of three auctioneers who has got to go out of business? We know that the Commission will have to consult the Livestock Advisory Committee. We now hear that the auctioneers are willing to enter into co-operation with the Commission. But let us assume for a moment that of three or four auctioneers one or more has to go out of business but neither one of the three nor two of the four will agree to go out of business. When preparing the scheme will it be the duty of the Livestock Advisory Committee to recommend to the Commission which one shall go out of business, and will the Minister finally have to accept the recommendation of the Commission as to which one shall go out of business and take a decision before the scheme is brought to the House? As long as there is co-operation betweeen the Livestock Advisory Committee and the auctioneers themselves, the auctioneers may reach agreement as to who shall be compensated out, but it will be interesting to know which one of the authorities will have to determine, outside arbitration, which one of the redundant auctioneers will have to go out of business.

7.4 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I should like to ask one question. On a recent Amendment I expressed a strong view, but I abstained from voting because I understand that there is every probability that this Clause will be so operated as to meet the bulk of the cases which we were considering on that Amendment. Paragraph (c) reads: for the compensation of persons for loss or damage which they may suffer by reason of the operation— And then it proceeds to set forth the various things that may affect the question of compensation. Here there is no limitation on the compensation. Can the Minister say that it is the case that at least one important branch of employers likely to be affected by this Bill have said that it is their intention if this Clause becomes law to take the necessary steps to institute a service scheme of such a character as will protect their employes who will lose their employment as a result of the operation of the Bill?

7.5 p.m.

Sir R. Tasker

In Clause 17 the Commissioners are empowered to make bylaws. Will there be an opportunity for those who are injuriously affected to make representations to the Minister before he confirms the by-laws?

Captain Heilgers

As far as I can see, the service scheme will be national and the Livestock Markets Order will be confined to an area. I do not see how the two will be reconciled. I should like to ask the Minister to explain how the two will work in together.

Mr. Morgan

Is it possible for an auctioneer, for example, to be compensated in respect of one market and then to go and set up in business in a neighbouring market?

7.6 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

May I first reply to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams)? He asked me to say who would have the duty of saying which of three auctioneers is to go. The provision we are now discussing is an enabling provision, but assuming it is taken advantage of—as I have good reason to suppose that it will be by the auctioneers —the first person to say which auctioneers will go will be the auctioneers themselves through an authorised body set up under this scheme. In order to prevent exploitation or hardship there will be an appeal to the Commission, and assuming that ultimately Jones, as a result of an appeal, goes, he will be entitled to demand his compensation, and there will be arbitration if necessary as to the amount of compensation.

Mr. T. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman also say whether when Jones, on appeal, has to go out of business and compensation has to be awarded to him, the compensation awarded will be compensation for the auctioneer for loss of business and also in respect of those employes of the auctioneer who is compensated out of the business, or will the scheme only involve compensation for loss of business to the auctioneer and have no regard to his employes?

Mr. Morrison

The answer is that the legislation we are now considering will enable compensation to be awarded in both cases. It will depend on the scheme itself, but the scheme will be scrutinised by the Minister to make sure that it is in the public interest. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) asked me if I had received certain assurances from the auctioneers. I cannot say that I have knowledge of that myself, but I will make inquiries. The hon. Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker) asked whether there would be opportunities for persons to protest if they were about to be injuriously affected by a market by- law. There is an elaborate set of provisions, including an inquiry—in most cases a public inquiry—and all the provisions of the Fifth Schedule apply to enable any person likely to be affected to protest. The hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Capt. Heilgers) asked about the actual working of the compensation fund. That will depend, to some extent, on the machinery which it is thought advisable to set up under this scheme.

The broad outline would be that this scheme, if taken up, would enable the auctioneers throughout the country to set up an authorised body, and, if this were approved, to collect levies from members up and down England and Wales for a compensation fund, and the principle on which compensation would be paid out of the fund to anyone affected would be stated in the scheme. There would be all the opportunities for scrutiny and discussion, and we can be certain that as this is a domestic matter of the auctioneers themselves, their scheme would be such as would commend it to the majority of the House. Beyond that I cannot go into details, because the scheme is not before me. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan) asked whether an auctioneer who was compensated in one market would be entitled to increase the number of auctioneers in a neighbouring market. The answer to that is that the basis of compensation is loss or damage, and unless loss or damage is proved, there is no title to compensation. If it were the case that an auctioneer could survive a livestock market appeal or indeed order, without loss or damage by transferring his business at no loss to some other place in the area, he would suffer no loss, and would have no title to compensation. Loss or damage must be proved in each case. But under this particular Clause the arrangements for compensation and the precise answer to the hon. Member's question will be set out in the scheme.

Mr. Morgan

If you have an auctioneer who has been compensated and in the lapse of time may have conveniently forgotten that he has had that compensation, what is to stop him setting up elsewhere in the neighbourhood?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The answer is that his right to set up in a new place might be strictly limited by the livestock markets order. I think that the auctioneers can be trusted to look after the auctioneers.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.