HC Deb 23 March 1938 vol 333 cc1199-201
53. Mr. Boothby

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an undertaking to publish his report upon the Caledonian Power Bill before the Second Reading is taken in the House?

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Burgin)

It is not my practice to issue a report on a Private Bill, which is in effect a report for the use of the Committee, before the Bill has received a Second Reading in the first House, and I see no reason for departing from that practice in this case.

Mr. Boothby

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it is very desirable in this case that the House should be in possession of all the available information before it is asked to come to a decision?

Mr. Burgin

I understand that when this Bill comes before the House my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence will be the chief Government spokesman. Whenever a Private Bill comes before the House in which the Ministry of Transport is concerned either I or my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary are available to give information to the House on transport matters, but it is really impossible that a report dealing with Committee points, made in accordance with Standing Orders should be issued before the Bill has had its Second Reading.

Mr. T. Johnston

In view of the special circumstances of this case, and in view of the fact that there are grave divergencies of opinions among responsible engineers on this matter, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it desirable that the House of Commons should be in a position to give a reasoned opinion on Second Reading?

Mr. Burgin

I do not think that any report that I make to the Committee would deal with matters of that kind. The necessary information will be placed at the disposal of the House by the appropriate Minister.

Mr. Maxton

Although this is a Private Bill in name, it is a Public Bill in scope and importance. Is it not possible for the Minister of Transport to let hon. Members of the House have in advance the kind of information desired, in a White Paper or in some other way, if he cannot give us the report of the Committee, so that we may weigh the matter up in advance and not merely have to wait for the statement of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence whose status is rather obscure to me.

Sir Percy Harris

As this is a matter of great urgency and may have great repercussions on national interests, is it not very important for us to be able to make up our minds with full knowledge at our disposal?

Mr. Burgin

I do not think that the matters dealt with in my report, which is made under the Standing Orders for the benefit of the Committee, will deal with the same points which hon. Members have been raising. I think those are matters which must come out in the Debate when the pros and cons of the Bill are discussed. I have no desire to keep any matters back, but the report pre-supposes that the Committee is dealing with the Bill, that is, after the Second Reading.

Mr. Davidson

As I have a question down for to-morrow to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, may I ask the Minister of Transport whether he will consult with the Minister for the Coordination of Defence in order to try to bring forward some report for the benefit of hon. Members? May I have an answer?

Mr. Burgin

I would prefer to wait until to-morrow, when I have heard what my right hon. Friend has to say.

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