§ Order read for consideration of Lords Amendments.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Lords Amendments be now considered.—[Mr. Molson.]
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
Before the Motion is agreed, Mr. Speaker, I consider it necessary to enter a protest, both at the very large number of Amendments which we are being asked to consider at this late stage of the Session, and also at the very short time which has been put at our disposal to consider them. In fact, the Lords Amendments, as printed on the Paper constitute, in effect, a new Bill.
When this Bill left the House of Commons, it contained a certain number of Clauses and Schedules, and those Clauses and Schedules have been substantially increased whilst the Bill has been passing through the Lords. The number of Amendments which we are being asked to consider today is in the neighbourhood of 146. It is no use the Joint Parliamentary Secretary saying, as I am sure he will, that a certain number of these Amendments are concessions to the Opposition and that a very large number are consequential, because, on Third Reading in the other place, it was stated that 33 of them are matters of substance.
What is more important is that, of these 33 matters of substance, a considerable number were neither considered, discussed nor debated in any form in this House. They are new matters, introduced in the other place, of which this House has previously not had the opportunity to consider at all, despite the fact that this Measure has been in course of passing through Parliament for some 20 months. When the Bill went to the other place it contained 24 Clauses and three Schedules. It now has 55 Clauses and nine Schedules. As I have stated, several of these have not been discussed here at all and are, in effect, new Clauses which, in themselves, would constitute a full measure for consideration.
As to the lack of time for consideration, I would point out that these Amendments 996 reached hon. Members only on Wednesday of last week. To go through these 30 pages of Amendments, together with the OFFICIAL REPORT of the discussions in the other place—which is necessary, if one is to apprehend the extremely complex drafting now confronting us—and to refer back to the large number of other Acts affected by these Amendments takes a very considerable time. Hon. Members who are interested in this Bill have had to do a great deal of homework over the weekend—helped, I may say, by the weather.
If it were not for the fact that throughout all our deliberations we have considered this Bill to be a non-party issue and have spoken as individuals, cutting across party lines completely on many matters, we would enter a far stronger protest and, instead of facilitating the passage of the Bill at this stage, would make it more difficult for the Government to proceed with it before we adjourn for the Summer Recess. But, because we, like the Government, wish to see a large number of the Clauses of this Bill on the Statute Book—to the extent that they contribute to greater road safety, which is an all-important matter—we certainly do not wish to impede the progress of this Measure and to prevent it getting the Royal Assent this week, if that is granted.
In the circumstances, however, I did wish to put it on the record that it is not fair to this House to come back like this at the end of the Session and to give a very few days' notice for consideration of new matters coming from another place. The Government, in my view, had no right to introduce new matters at the late stage of this Bill in another place, knowing full well that this House would not have a full opportunity of discussing them. We cannot have the same opportunity of discussing a new Clause when it comes to us as an Amendment from the other place, as we do when it is introduced in Committee, when we can then discuss it, as we can again on Report, and amend it if necessary. We have not had an opportunity of putting down our own Amendments to this Bill. In view of other business and other engagements, it was quite impossible for hon. Members, from the time they received the Bill on Wednesday, on Friday to give adequate consideration to the Bill so that Amendments could be put on the Order Paper. 997 It is significant that only one Amendment has been put down since these Amendments reached us from another place.
Having made my protest, we certainly do not oppose the Motion.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Hugh Molson)
I would like to express my appreciation of the way in which the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has made his protest. It is natural and right that a protest of that kind should be made. It has been made in both Houses towards the end of the Session regularly every year for very many years past, and it is of course very embarrassing to everybody when matters have to be dealt with at short notice as is the case now. I am, therefore, all the more appreciative of what the hon. Gentleman has said, that having made his protest he is not going to obstruct in any way.
I must reply by giving an explanation to him on one or two of the points that he has made. He has said that I would advance as an explanation the fact that many of these Amendments have been made in another place in response to constructive criticisms that have come from the opposite side of the House. He then went on, rather to my surprise, to give a reason why my argument would be unsound. He said that many of these Amendments were matters of substance. I fully recognise that the constructive suggestions that have been made by hon. Members opposite have in every case been matters of substance, and it was therefore inevitable that when they were incorporating Amendments in another place they should be Amendments of substance.
The hon. Gentleman also protested that a number of the Amendments had their origin in another place. It arises naturally out of two-Chamber government that the other House is in a position to make its own proposals. The Road Traffic Bill, as the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, has not been regarded as a party matter at all, and everybody has tried to make logical contributions in order to improve the Bill. Where in another place they have made constructive suggestions the Government have felt that it was only right 998 to increase the size of the Bill in order to include their proposals.
There is one particular case, however, to which I ought to refer, and that is the rather extensive Amendment of Section 46 of the Act of 1930. It was in order to have a fuller opportunity of consulting local authorities and those concerned with this matter that we did not put forward our proposals at an earlier stage but incorporated them as an Amendment in another place.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Is it not a fact that the Government themselves initiated a large number of these Amendments of substance? They were Government Amendments, such as the suggestion of regulations for banning cycle racing and certain of the other ones which are of a controversial nature.
§ Mr. Molson
There are special reasons for that Amendment which I shall hope to give to the House when we consider it.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has referred to the dilemma in which the House is placed in having to deal with a very large number of Amendments at the end of the Session as a feature of two-Chamber government. But the time seems to have arrived when we should consider a one-Chamber form of government in which we can revise—
§ Lords Amendments considered accordingly.