§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
There are several Motions in my own name and those of several hon. Members dealing with this Bill. It will not in fact be necessary to move them, as an agreement has been reached with the Promoters in regard to each of them, to which, subject to the concurrence of the Committee upstairs, effect will be given in due course. With your permission I should like to explain on behalf of the hon. Members who have been opposing this Bill both the circumstances in which we have put down these Motions and the nature of the settlement which has been agreed by the promoters, subject in every case to the Committee upstairs. There are a few Members of Parliament, of whom I am, I fear, one of the least active, who have for the past year or two made it their business to scrutinise very carefully every Private Bill which comes before this House and to draw the attention of the House to such Clauses as appear to them to seek to confer, whether on local authorities or on public or private companies, powers which are greater than, or vary substantially from, the common form Clauses which have been established by a Committee set up at the instance of the Chairman of Ways and Means. There are on the Statute Book about 125,000 Private Acts of Parliament, none of which are indexed, although they are roughly catalogued. Comparatively few are in print, many of them are quite unobtainable except in two or three libraries.
We believe that we are doing a public service in endeavouring to keep a close eye on Private Bill legislation and to let it be known to parliamentary agents and to public and private companies as well as to local authorities that there is a close watch being kept in this House upon their legislative ambitions. Viligance is the more necessary because almost every Private Bill introduced in recent years by local authorities has created 20 or 30 fresh offences punishable by fine or prison, and it is very seldom that the public at 1971 large are aware of the nature of these offences until those concerned are summoned. This vast Bill is indeed obtainable by the public in Guildford—but at a cost of 5s., for which it is possible to buy the whole of the Government of India Act or the Unemployment Act. So it is not easy for the public to get to know what is being done in their name. May I refer to a few of the Clauses to which objections have been taken on the Order Paper, in order to explain how they have been settled?
§ Clause 52, which covers no less than five pages, empowers the Corporation to appoint a committee of six individuals, none of them elected persons, to deal with facia boards, signposts and other matters, and to pay that body fees and expenses. There is no precedent for it and there was no provision for an appeal to the Courts from the decision of this tribunal, consisting exclusively of non-elected persons. The promoters have agreed that these matters shall, subject to the concurrence of the Committee upstairs, be dealt with by a committee of the Corporation who have, as we understand, power under the Town Planning Act, Section 47 (3), to co-opt non-elected persons to assist them; and they have further agreed, subject to the approval of the Committee upstairs, that there shall be a right of appeal to quarter sessions as in the case of the Advertisements Regulation Act, 1925. Under Clause 55 (Betterment charges) in respect of the construction of sewers on undeveloped land, the promoters have agreed to bring that Clause more closely in harmony with that approved by this House in the case of the Poole Corporation Act, 1937, and to accommodate it if practicable more closely to the wording recommended by the Macmillan Committee, and to consult further with the Minister of Health before finally putting their proposals before the Committee upstairs in agreed form, and they have further agreed to reduce the sum apportionable under Section 55 (3) of the Bill to 75 per cent. and to propose certain other minor changes. Clause 58, dealing with the right of an occupier to look into his own dustbin after he has filled it, will be omitted from the Bill.
§ There only remains Clause 93. Clause 93 deals with a subject on which all of us feel strongly, the existence of bad time-keepers scattered all over the country 1972 with no obligation at present on their owners to see that they keep decent time. We should have been very glad to see the Guildford Corporation—we hope one day to see the London County Council—take powers to regulate clocks by by-laws; but this particular Clause seemed to us to be quite unworkable in that it gave the corporation power to require the occupier (who would not in most cases be the owner of the clock) to take it down, failing which the corporation would do so at the expense of the occupier, who, I repeat, would seldom be the owner. The promoters have agreed to remove that Clause. Agreement having been reached I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name and to intimate that the other Motions will not be moved.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir John Jarvis
I have much pleasure in confirming what my hon. Friend has said, and to state the bases of agreement which will enable this Bill to be discussed upstairs. I crave the indulgence of the House for reading this brief communication because, after all, the exact wording is of considerable importance. As regards Clause 52, which deals with the regulation of advertisements, the promoters undertake to submit to the Committee on the Bill Amendments (a) for substituting a committee of the Guildford Council as tribunal for the purposes of the Clause. This committee, with the consent of the council, is to have power to co-opt experts under provisions similar to those contained in the Town and Country Planning Act. The right of appeal to quarter sessions by any persons aggrieved by a decision of the tribunal is accepted. (b) The power to pay the members of the tribunal, who were originally to be an outside body and not members of the council, is to be deleted. This arrangement will not affect the opposition of any present petitioners upstairs, but it will clear the air.
As regards Clause 55, which deals with objections to the betterment charge in respect of the construction of certain sewers, this Clause is to be amended so as to bring it into line with the provisions of a somewhat similar Section in the Poole Corporation Act of 1937. The Section is, I think, Section 16, and it provides among other things that the amounts which may be recovered from the landowners concerned shall not exceed 75 per cent. 1973 of the increase in value resulting from the construction of sewers, and that the total sums which may be recovered by way of betterment shall not exceed the cost of providing nine-inch sewers in a private street. The Section also provides that the money may not be recovered until the sewer is actually constructed, and contains certain other minor alterations which give better protection to property owners and landowners generally. In case these alterations do not satisfy all parties, I would remind the House that the Clause can be further dealt with, if necessary, by the Committee upstairs, while the movers of the Instruction are reserving any further objections to the Clause until the Third Reading. Clauses 58 and 93, which dealt with the prohibition of sorting contents of dustbins and refuse pits and the control of public clocks, have been withdrawn.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
Our attention has been called to the fact that as regards Clause 52 and Clause 55, certain persons have petitioned against those Clauses, and of course their rights under the procedure of the House will be left absolutely untouched and untrammelled owing to the very courteous way in which the Guildford Corporation has met the immediate objections of the mover and others of my hon. Friends and myself in regard to the form of the relief which was proposed in this particular instance.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
My name appears with that of the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis) on the back of the Bill as one of the persons presenting it to the House, and as is usual in such circumstances, when the promoters get into trouble they communicate with the Members whose names appear on the back of the Bill. I have not heard from the promoters, but only from the opposers, that this agreement has been reached. Inasmuch as the promoters through my colleague in the House who is associated with me in the presentation of the Bill, have intimated that they are satisfied, I do not propose to quarrel with the particular arrangements that have been made, but I think it is time something was said about the self-appointed and reactionary Members of the House who call before them in a committee room upstairs the promoters of these Bills. Last year I was engaged in the promotion of a Bill 1974 for the Surrey County Council, and although these gentlemen did not call the promoters that time they at any rate called us before them.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
I am sorry to have even the appearance of controversy with my hon. Friend, because on that particular occasion I happened to be the Member who was in the Chair. The whole thing was done with the most courteous intention in order that we might see whether the difficulties which had been raised with regard to some Clauses in the Surrey County Council Bill could be removed, and the result was that the Bill was unopposed.
§ Mr. Ede
I gather that the only exception the hon. and learned Gentleman takes is to the words "call before them," because an invitation was sent. Well, there was a perfectly clear understanding that if the invitation had not been accepted there would have been a long and controversial discussion on that Bill on Second Reading—as I imagine there certainly would have been this evening if these arrangements had not been entered into. I desire to make this protest, because I hold very strongly this point of view. It seems to me that this is really getting round a position that this House has established for its Committees upstairs, where evidence is called in support of these Clauses and against these Clauses on oath, and the Committee, which consists of three or four Members of the House, who give a very considerable amount of time to the question, are able to weigh up the whole of the considerations and to reach a decision on the point.
I suggest that there ought not to be these meetings at which certain people, taking advantage of the opportunity that a public Second Reading discussion gives them, can invite (I will use the word that the hon. and learned Member prefers), can invite people to come in front of them. He says the arrangements were perfectly courteous. It is true they were, but there is always an agent there who says, "Now, we do not want to have this Bill held up on Second Reading," and pressure is used to get items that might very well be required, and are certainly desired, by the local authority, withdrawn from the Bill merely to gain time.
1975 These are activities which ought not to be encouraged, and I sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when some authority will have the courage to say that they are not going to accept this invitation and prefer to have their case heard on the Floor of the House. I take Clause 52 as a good example of what ought to happen. On Clause 55 I am prepared to agree that the Poole precedent, having recently been created, should be worked for some years before anyone tries to extend it, and I have no doubt that upstairs in Committee very particular proof will have to be given before any extension of the Poole precedent will be allowed. I should have thought that the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) would not have ruined the living of the Parliamentary Bar by trying to do their work for them before the Clause gets to them.
§ Clause 52 deals with a High Street which is unique. You cannot put Guildford High Street in the same category for town-planning purposes as an ordinary High Street in a south country town, and the corporation are entitled to have special powers to protect one of the glories of an English country town. You have mixed roofs and buildings which can be seen for a considerable distance. I know a particular spot on the Hog's Back from which you get a clear view of Guildford High Street, Ayl-ward's clock, the front of the Guildhall, Abbott's Hospital and the red brick of Trinity cathedral church. I suggest that a corporation with such a tradition of beauty to guard is entitled to get a special Clause to protect it. I very much regret that they should have been invited upstairs—perhaps they were not invited—that this committee should think it part of their duty to examine things like this and intimate that unless certain concessions were made there would be a Second Reading discussion on the Floor of the House. That is an abuse of the powers which Members of the House enjoy owing to our peculiar cumbrous procedure. The kind of thing which is now occurring, these meetings upstairs to which people are invited and then informed that unless they make certain concessions they will be put to a loss of time, is entirely wrong. I look forward to some authority with a good case saying that they are not going 1976 upstairs, they are not going to any self-appointed committee of people like the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater or the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), who is generally very alive on these occasions, and two or three other hon. Members who are to dictate to them—this is virtually dictation—the limits within which Private Bill legislation is to be conducted.
§ I regret having spoken at this length, but I am sure the House will have to face the position which is being created by half a dozen Members appointing themselves as a body to supervise work which should be submitted to a Committee of this House and which hears evidence on oath. This self-appointed committee does not hear evidence on oath, and the statements they make are not made on oath. When one thinks of the limitations under which their discussions must be carried on one is reminded of the lady who was being sworn in court to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"; to which she replied, "With all these limitations I feel that I have no useful observations to offer." We have instituted a procedure of committees before which evidence is heard on oath, so that on these important matters hon. Members who are not delegated themselves to serve on these committees shall be assured that local needs and requirements are being adequately met and that no local injustices are being inflicted.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The speech of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) seems to me to reveal a position of a very grave character about which the House should be informed, and on which the House should give its opinion. The House lays it down that if a Private Bill is introduced, any hon. Member can exercise an immense influence over the Bill merely by the power of delaying its appearance before the Committee upstairs, but, of course, this power given to a single hon. Member is, it is understood, to be exercised with the greatest discretion not only towards the promoters of a Private Bill but also towards other hon. Members of the House. This means that three or four hon. Members can get together and can practically hold up Private Bill legislation to ransom. They are arrogating to themselves powers to 1977 which they have no right in fairness to other hon. Members. Who are the committee? I have never been asked to join them. The hon. Member for Hitchin said that he was a Member of a committee which met upstairs to consider Private Bills and that if they were not satisfied, etc., they threatened to oppose the Bill on Second Reading. It is holding up the promoters of a Private Bill to ransom. If there is this committee upstairs, why have not been invited?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I said it was a group of Members, not a committee, and I have been long enough in this House to remember instances, not infrequent, when a group of Members, Friends of the right hon. Gentleman, have opposed railway Bills.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
There is no case of a group of Members permanently associated to look at every Private Bill and threaten to hold the Bill up if certain concessions are not made.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
I think there is a misunderstanding. The only Bills which my Friends and I look at as a general rule are unopposed Private Bills, with the object of co-ordination, so that we get the same type of Clause dealing with the same subject in different Bills. The Chairman of Ways and Means last Session appointed a committee to report to the House, not a group, on, I think, about 300 common form Clauses. There is, I think, a misunderstanding about what is being done. All that is being done is to see that a Clause in one district dealing with one subject is in the same language and for the same purposes as a Clause in another district, unless the committee on Unopposed Private Bills finds there is a reason for allowing special circumstances to have special treatment. There is no idea of interfering with the promoters of a Bill or with the ordinary Rules of the House, and on more than one occasion we have been thanked for the assistance we have given in this matter.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
If the machinery of this House is shown to be inadequate to deal with Private Bills, the House has the power to reform its machinery and set up a new Committee. The hon. and learned Member says that it is a group, not a Committee. Who are they?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
They are Members of the House who are taking advantage of the fact that hitherto it has been possible to allow a single Member of the House to hold up a Private Bill to ransom, but always on the understanding that this power is used discreetly. But as soon as two or more hon. Members get together and call themselves a group and say that they are going to constitute themselves a permanent group to look at every Private Bill of a certain character, and that if they do not like it they will insist on evidence being given before them, they are taking upon themselves functions which properly belong to a properly constituted Committee of the House. I say that it is taking advantage of the Rules of the House for a group of Members to arrogate to themselves a right which belongs to the House, and the speeches to-night of the hon. Member for Hitchin supported by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) appear to me to be speeches full of nothing but the most arrogant impudence. Why am I not invited to this group of well-meaning hon. Members?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Exactly! This is a group of Members who take a certain partisan view of these Bills, and they are proposing to hold up Private Bills to ransom.
§ Mr. Fleming
I have listened with great interest to the Debate, but will the right hon. Member tell me what Rule of the House this Committee has broken? I have nothing to do with the group; but what Rule have they broken?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
It has been the Rule of this House for generations, and it has remained unchallenged, that while a single Member can oppose a Private Bill, it is always on the understanding that this power is used with discretion. Now we have a group of Members, and we are told that the only persons admitted to this group are those of their own view. I am not to be admitted; I am excluded.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
They have set themselves up as a committee to use this power, and I say that it is an abuse of the Rules of the House. If hon. Members 1979 of this particular point of view can do so, why should not I, and five or six other hon. Members who take another view, also constitute ourselves a group and say to every promoter of a Private Bill that unless they appear before us we shall hold the Bill up? If that were done by a series of groups of Members, the Private Bill procedure would become impracticable. These Members have arrogated to themselves rights which we shall not, without protest, allow them to continue to have. I hope that the protest which we have made will bring this piece of impertinence to an end.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
It seems to me that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) are unnecessarily indignant. They seek to curtail the liberty of Members of the House. It is open to any number of hon. Members to form a group for any legitimate purpose of the House. As an example of what happens, I would point out to hon. Members that last week a Private Bill came up which had my name on the back of it. There was objection to it, and one of the chief objectors came to me afterwards and said, "Why can we not come to some arrangement?" The result was that the promoters and the objectors got together, and a compromise was reached. The hon. Member for South Shields and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley overlooked that in the case of Private Bills, especially those promoted by municipalities, the custom has grown up of attempting to introduce into the Bills special powers of a very extensive character which are not in the possession of other municipalities. It is very necessary that those special powers should be debated on Second Reading. If such powers are to be granted, they should be of a national character, and should be granted generally by the House. Consequently, a Second Reading Debate is necessary unless such provisions are withdrawn.
The group of hon. Members to which reference has been made was perfectly within its rights in examining this Bill. I do not belong to that group, but on two occasions I have benefited from its examinations. In two Private Bills, powers were sought which conflicted with 1980 the customs and rights of two bodies with which I was connected, and because of the examination of the group of hon. Members, I was able to obtain from the promoters of the Bill the withdrawal of those powers. I repeat that the hon. Members concerned have not done anything which was outside their rights. Any group of Members has a right to examine Bills and to take a certain line of action. What hon. Members opposite are asking is that the right of obtaining a Second Reading Debate should be curtailed. That would not be consonant with the custom of the House or the liberty of hon. Members. I maintain that there is no case for this protest and this indignation.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) has overlooked one thing. It is true that when a Private Bill is brought forward those who object to it on merits may put down a notice of objection or an Amendment; they are then approached by the Private Bill Committee, and the grievance is adjusted. That is the legitimate function of any hon. Member. What the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) does is to form a group or committee, of which he is chairman——
§ Mr. Benn
Well, the hon. Member should be chairman—and advertise to the House that the group is going to examine all Bills, not because of grievances against the Bill, which is the legitimate function of an hon. Member, but in pursuit of some policy or in defence of some interest which it considers has been overlooked.
§ Sir A. Wilson
May I explain to the right hon. Gentleman that we are in pursuit of one thing only, the reasonable liberty of the subject. We are defending no interests and we are briefed by no interests; but are concerned solely with protecting the private citizen who cannot appear before the Committee upstairs, who is not in a position to know the contents of the Bill, and who may even be unaware of its existence.
§ Mr. Benn
I am making no imputation on the hon. Member. What I am saying is that it is the function and right of a private Member, in pursuit of the duty of protecting some interest in his constituency, to object to the Second Reading 1981 of a Private Bill and to come to terms with the promoters of the Bill on behalf of the interest which he legitimately represents. But if there is a group of Members associated together in order to see that they put united force on this great privilege which we all have, so that no Bill shall be passed which does not conform to some general principle which meets with their approval, I say it is an abuse of the ordinary rights of this House.
§ Mr. Fleming
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain one simple point? Where does the abuse arise in this matter?
§ Mr. Benn
I am trying to explain that. Opposition on a political Bill is a thing which we all exercise in groups or in parties, as we please, but to object to a Private Bill which is protected by special Rules in the House and by a special procedure—every hon. Member who has served on a Private Bill Committee knows how religiously we contrive to protect the interests of those who come before it with a private proposition—is a special privilege which must be exercised with discrimination. This group or committee does not object to a Private Bill because this or that thing is wrong in the Bill and then comes to terms with the promoters, but arrogates to itself the function which belongs to the House alone. The group says that the Bill must conform to some principles of its own, and if not, the Members in it pool this special privilege of private Members and see that the Bill does not get a Second Reading. That is the reason they tell local authorities to come before a Committee upstairs. As my right hon. Friend said, it is an impertinence. [Interruption.] Well, they invite, and what happens if the invitee does not accept the invitation? The Bill is opposed. That is tantamount to an order to appear. I am glad that my right hon. Friend made a protest, and I hope that notice will be taken of it, and that the hon. Members concerned will abandon what was always a very ill-conceived device.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am at variance with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) on this matter. I think the Debate has been a storm in a teacup. I am surprised that hon. Members above the Gangway seek to take away from Members of the House the 1982 right which they have enjoyed for so long. To my mind, the fact that certain hon. Members have formed themselves into a committee to watch over Private Bills brought forward under the Private Bill Procedure does not constitute any invasion of the rights of the House, but is simply an attempt by hon. Members to protect what has always been the right of Members, and the right of the public, to have these Measures scrutinized. I have had a good deal of experience with regard to objecting to Private Bills which have come before us. For example, in the case of a Railway Bill which is at present before the House, there are some hon. Members who are very closely interested in the conditions of railway workers, and those hon. Members have formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of examining how best they can utilise the proposed legislation so as to try to secure justice for the workers whom they represent.
It is a good thing that hon. Members still have this right and privilege. I plead with hon. Members not to allow any invasion of Private Members' rights in this matter. One case which comes to my mind is that in which a local authority brought forward a Private Bill in which it sought to limit chalking in the streets, the advertisement right which is enjoyed by working-class organisations. Some of us blocked the Bill, but we realised that we were still unlikely to secure what we wanted. Therefore, we tried to enlist the support of hon. Members of all parties in blocking the Bill in order that those rights might still be enjoyed. Were we wrong in doing that? Certainly, we were carrying out the ordinary practice which has existed for a very long time.
No committee can prevent the Bill concerned from getting a Second Reading. The committee of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) examined this Bill and expressed their dissatisfaction with it, but it is within the right of the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill, in spite of the hon. Member for Hitchin. I do not believe that the Parliamentary agents advising the Guildford Corporation are so simple as to think that they must compromise with that committee. I think hon. Members above the Gangway and the party to which I belong have to be very careful to see that the old rights are preserved. There is always 1983 pressure on the part of the great organisations in the community to utilise this machinery in order to get through the House something which they would find it difficult to get through in ordinary public Bills. The capitalist interests of the country did not call this Private Bill procedure into being for no reason whatever. The great private capitalist interests were very largely responsible for this machinery being set up. We, as the representatives of the working-class movement, ought jealously to preserve the right of using any attempt on the part of those private capitalist interests to get legislation through the House to wring concessions from those interests.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) seemed rather "peeved" at not having been invited to join the committee. I would not have anything to do with the committee of the hon. Member for Hitchin, but it is open to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley to form his own committee. In fact, he has already got a committee. He has his party, and each party examines all this legislation to some extent and operates as a party in connection with it. I hope that hon. Members will not allow any of their privileges in this connection to be taken from them. We have little enough chance as private Members of influencing legislation. We see private legislation which is, in our opinion, opposed to the public interest going on to the Statute Book, and we cannot prevent it, and I hope that all Labour Members will see to it that we retain such liberty as we have in this matter.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Fleming
With reference to the statement made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I notice that he agreed with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) that he was "invited" to come before this group or committee.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to explain I think I can show that the boot is on the other leg. In accordance with ordinary Parliamentary procedure we put down certain Instructions which the House was entitled to adopt or reject. My recollection is that instead of an invitation going from us, we were asked to meet the chairman of the county council—who at that time was my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—the deputy-chairman, the clerk and one other gentleman, in order to hear their views. They came, and they expressed their views.
§ Mr. Ede
If such an invitation had been issued by the county council I should have issued it, and I certainly did not issue any invitation. I still believe the proper phrase to be that we were "called before" the committee and a clear intimation was given that unless we were prepared to meet their wishes, seven or eight Instructions would be moved, which would take up the whole of an evening and destroy the chances of the Bill.
§ Mr. Fleming
I do not think it matters much whether we say that they were "invited" or "called before" the committee. The point I wish to put is this. Later in his speech the hon. Member for South Shields said he hoped that at some future time some local authority would have the courage to refuse to accept the invitation. I cannot understand why, in the case of the Surrey County Council Bill, he did not show that courage and refuse the invitation.
§ Mr. Fleming
I wish to put a specific question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). He spoke about an abuse of the Procedure of this House. If there has been an abuse of Procedure, some rule or order must have been infringed. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what rule or order or practice of this House has been infringed by Members who have formed this group—to which, I may add, I have not been invited?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The point is that a Rule of the House allows an hon. Member to delay a Private Bill for a considerable period, but the practice has been for hon. Members only to utilise that power, so to speak, ad hoc when there was a special point to which they wished to call attention. For a group of Members to come together to utilise that power in order to press forward a general view, which is largely political in its nature, is to make use of that Rule of the House for purposes for which it was not intended, and therefore amounts to abuse of the Rule, and the introduction of a new practice in reference to Private Bills.
§ Mr. Fleming
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. If what he says is true, then I think there is no right of existence in this House for the Independent Labour party, because they contravene the Rule as put forward by the right hon. Gentleman
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Wise
Some protest ought to be made against the view that it is an abuse of the Privileges and Procedure of the House if a group of hon. Members examine, in detail and intelligently, Private Bills which are brought before the House. Apparently, the Opposition view is that if a Private Bill is examined by an hon. Member unilaterally, to use a modem expression, it is perfectly all right, but it is an abuse of Procedure if a group of Members take the trouble to look into the details of the Bill, remembering the historic function of this House which is to protect the liberty of the subject in this country. I was surprised that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) took such exception to the procedure in the case to which he referred. The Bill which he thinks was so unjustly opposed created 47 entirely new crimes, including that of picking daisies on the council's property.
§ Mr. Wise
Then the hon. Member has no complaint. He says that as a result of his resolute swearing about the daisies, this was put into the Bill. I think that all Members of this House have a perfect right to resent this attack on their privilege of examining legislation on their own 1986 account. I trust the practice will long continue that independent investigation will be given to any effort to enforce tyranny, whether municipal or national, and that we shall not be dependent on the permission of the right hon. Gentleman opposite for exercising the privileges which this House has exercised for very nearly a thousand years.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Sir J. Jarvis
I just want to say that in the present instance certainly no one has been called upstairs or invited——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I thought the hon. Member was rising to make a personal explanation or correction, but I must remind him that he has spoken once already.
§ Sir J. Jarvis
I was endeavouring to explain a personal matter, in that it has been stated that in the present instance we were called upstairs before a Committee and held up to ransom, and I wanted to make the personal explanation that most certainly that was not the case.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed.