That the Draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Fuel and Power under the Gas Undertakings Acts, 1920 to 1934, on the application of the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Bolton, which was presented on 15th February and published, be approved."—[Mr. Robens.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Fuel and Power under the Gas Undertakings Acts 1920 to 1934, on the application of the Tottenham and District Gas Company, which was presented on 15th February and published, be approved."—[Mr. Robens.]
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
When this order was first presented, I read it through, as I do a number of these orders, and it appeared to be perfectly reasonable. Since then, I understand that corrections have been made, and I am surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary has not referred to them. I understand that in paragraph 2, line 20, there is an alteration of the date 1948 to 1949, and that in lines 35 and 36 there are more alterations. I am not suggesting that in themselves these alterations are of great importance. They appear to have been drafting mistakes. What is important is to know why these mistakes occurred, because there is a considerable difference between an order of this kind and a Bill. An order can be accepted only as a whole. It cannot be amended and drafting Amendments cannot be moved. An order is a document that ought to be drafted with greater care than a Bill. The mistakes appear to have been due to carelessness, and I want to know why they happened. Who reads.the orders through before they are presented to the House to see that errors of this kind do not occur? On the last occasion on which the Parliamentary Secretary presented an order, he prefaced his remarks by apologising for errors in the printing of that order—it was the order for compensation to electricity employees.
I think it is most regrettable that these orders cannot be looked through and brought to this House in a correct form. It gives one the impression that there may be other mistakes. I know these orders deal with specialist and technical matters and that mistakes tend to creep 517 in. Who reads them over? Are they left to subordinate officers or are they submitted to some comparatively senior official? Why do these mistakes occur? Are they due to inefficiency or to overwork on the part of the staff of the Ministry? Personally, I believe it to be due to the latter. I believe that with this mass of undigested legislation being passed through the House, the Government have overworked their staff. I know the Parliamentary Secretary cannot speak without the leave of the House, but I hope he will ask that permission in order to make some explanation of why a succession of orders of this kind is presented to the House in an incomplete and incorrect form, with need of alteration before being submitted.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is usually very amiable and I am sorry that he should have taken me to task so much tonight because I did not draw attention to some alleged errors. I did not draw attention to these matters because I do not see any errors in the drafting. It is true that, in moving another order, I drew attention, not to errors in drafting, but to small technical errors easily corrected in the final print. I admit that in line 20, 1949 might be tidier than 1948, but it is really of no consequence. There is no difficulty at all. The order clearly says:The following enactments so far as the same are applicable to the purposes and are not inconsistent with the provisions of the Tottenham and District Gas Acts and Orders 1859 to 1948 are hereby incorporated with this Order.If we had said 1949, it would merely have included anything that had happened in 1949. But nothing has happened in 1949 by way of orders.
§ Colonel Clarke
How are we to know that anything has happened in 1949 or not? The Minister may know, the Tottenham Gas Company may know, but how are we in this House to know? It is absurd to say that 1948 is as good as 1949.
§ Mr. Robens
The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not make out any case for 1949. I merely said it would have been a little tidier. It does not matter, because nothing has happened. There 518 have been no orders and no legislation on this matter. We have all been in the House and know that no legislation of this character has been enacted. Therefore, it does not really matter. When the order was before another place, nothing was said about this. If it had been brought up, I would have drawn attention to it here.
In regard to line 35 of paragraph 2, it may well be that the reference to 10 & 11 Vict. c. 15 and 34 & 35 Vict. c. 41 may have been left out because they were superfluous, as they are printed in the footnote beneath; but to print them twice in the order does not make it any more effective. I would say that there is nothing in the point. I am sorry if the hon. and gallant Member has been misled, but there really is not anything in the point which he has made. There is nothing wrong in the drafting. It might have been tidier if these two points had been dealt with, but as the matter has been dealt with in another place, there is no point in going through the machinery again, which would mean going back through the procedure of orders for this purpose.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That the Draft of a Special Order proposed to he made by the Minister of Fuel and Power under the Gas Undertakings Acts, 1920 to 1934, on the application of the Tottenham and District Gas Company, which was presented on 15th February and published, be approved.