HC Deb 17 May 1956 vol 552 cc2318-37

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).——[Queen's Recommendation signified.]

[Sir RHYS HOPKIN MORRIS in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make additional provision for payments in respect of certain unfit houses subject to compulsory purchase, clearance. demolition or closing orders, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums payable under any other enactment out of moneys so provided which is attributable to any provision of the said Act of the present Session providing—

  1. A That where a house was vacated before, but was still in existence on, the thirteenth day of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-five, the provisions of the said Act of the present Session shall have effect as if the house had been vacated immediately after that day.
  2. B. That a house which might have been the subject of a demolition order but which has, without the making of such an order, been demolished in pursuance of an undertaking to that effect given to the local authority shall be deemed for the purposes of the said Act of the present Session to have been vacated at the date of its demolition in pursuance of a demolition order made and served at the date when the undertaking was given;
  3. C. That the calculation for the purposes of any provision of the said Act of the present Session of compensation in accordance with subsections (1) and (4) of section forty of the Housing Act, 1936, shall be made as if paragraph 2 of the Fourth Schedule to the said Act of 1936 had not been passed.—[Mr. Powell.]

8.58 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)

It might be convenient if I indicate briefly to the Committee the reasons for the three paragraphs into which this Money Resolution falls. With regard to paragraph A, the existing Money Resolution makes no reference to the requirement in the Bill that an owner-occupier should have been in occupation of his house on 13th December, 1955, to qualify for the higher compensation. It has, therefore, been possible to discuss whether in certain circumstances the higher compensation should not be payable also where the owner-occupier had left the house either under some compelling necessity or by way of co-operation with the local authority in a slum clearance programme.

There is, however, a difficulty when it is sought to apply that concession in the case, not of compulsory purchase order but of clearance, demolition or closing order where, of course, no purchase takes place and where the only effective act is the vacation of the house by reason of a clearance, demolition or closing order. As the existing Money Resolution stands, the higher compensation is only payable where the house is so vacated on or after 13th December, 1955. Therefore, to make it possible for a concession to be made in the case of clearance, demolition and closing orders, as it is already possible to make in the case of compulsory purchase orders, paragraph A of this Money Resolution is necessary.

Paragraph B of the existing Money Resolution applies the Bill to the compulsory clearance of houses by any of the four types of order about which I have just been speaking. It does not allow for the case in which the clearance takes place by agreement between the owner and the local authority, and, of course, this is particularly relevant if one is making a concession before 13th December, 1955, since it is then no longer open to the local authority and the owner to resort to the compulsory procedure in order to qualify under the Bill and under the Money Resolution as it stands. Paragraph B, therefore, makes it possible for the House by an Amendment, if it be so desired, to place demolition by agreement upon the same footing as demolition by compulsion.

As regards paragraph C, it has been argued both on Second Reading and in Committee that the purpose of the House in the Slum Clearance (Compensation) Bill might be frustrated by the terms of the Fourth Schedule of the principal Act. It would be improper for me to enter upon that question now or to discuss the advisability or otherwise of an Amendment designed to remove any such danger. But the effect of paragraph C is that the House, if it so desires, when we come to that stage, can eliminate the provisions of the Fourth Schedule for the purposes of the Bill, and can thus meet the danger to which hon. Members at earlier stages have drawn attention.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary will be altogether surprised to find that we are somewhat critical of the Money Resolution, not so much because it may not be necessary for what he now has in mind but because he did not have these things in mind earlier, and the original Money Resolution was so tightly drawn that the Government now find themselves hoist with their own petard, not for the first time. This is the third occasion within the last two or three months on which the present Government have had to introduce a second Money Resolution because they have drawn their first one so tightly that that which they had forgotten to do or that about which they changed their minds in the course of the Bill could not be covered by the first Resolution.

That leads one to consider something about Money Resolutions in general, and I may remind the Parliamentary Secretary that on this side of the Committee we have protested again and again about the increasing tightness of Money Resolutions under this Government. It may be said in reply that every Opposition does that. I think that is true, but I think that an Opposition by doing it is merely maintaining the proper functions of Parliament and preventing the Government of the day from hopelessly restricting the proper discussion of a Measure during the Committee stage and indeed possibly later.

I have been looking at the history of this matter and I make no apology for taking a minute or two to remind the Committee that this is a question which came up in an acute form in the House before the war. It arose as a result of a number of Money Resolutions on Bills in the difficult and hard times of the early 1930s.

It so happens that the one on which it came to a head was the Depressed Areas (Development and Improvement) Bill, 1934, when the attention of Mr. Speaker Fitzroy was called to the exceeding narrowness of the Money Resolution. He observed that under the new procedure which has been adopted by this House for some years now, Members are very much restricted in their powers to move Amendments either on a Resolution itself or indeed on the Committee Stage of a Bill. He went on to say If I were asked for my opinion on the subject, I should say that not only has the limit been reached, but that it has been rather exceeded in the amount of detail which is put in a Money Resolution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1934; Vol. 295, c. 1236.] I wish to deal with the point about the amount of detail that is put into a Money Resolution. This is a comparatively short and minor Bill, as the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend themselves told us on Second Reading. The Money Resolution that was brought in in connection with it set out practically the whole terms of the Bill—I do not say quite all of them, there were some loopholes. The hon. Gentleman, when pressed, found himself able to discover, I think, a couple of them which, in fact, had no practical importance, or comparatively little, in subsequent proceedings. But certainly there was plenty of the Money Resolution. Here it is, a whole printed page of Money Resolution.

What happened after that? A Select Committee was set up, and finally, as a result of its Report, a circular was sent round at the instance of Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who was the Prime Minister at the time, and, omitting the introductory parts of it, what he intended in the name of the Government to secure was that financial resolutions in respect of Bills shall be so framed as not to restrict the scope within which the Committee on the Bills may consider amendments further than is necessary to enable the Government to discharge their responsibilities in regard to public expenditure … Can it be seriously said that any one of the three points that we have raised today infringe in the least on that responsibility of the Government?

Then we were to leave to the Committee the utmost freedom for discussion and amendment of details which is compatible with the discharge of those responsibilities"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1937; Vol. 328. c 1595.] Surely if that instruction had been followed and were being followed now, as it ought to be, we should not be considering this second Money Resolution today because the original Money Resolution would have been framed in the proper spirit to cover this sort of thing. That, of course, was not the end of the story. I have been looking at the history of second Money Resolutions, and I say at once—and the hon. Gentleman can make such use of this as he thinks fit—that there were a good many of them in the earlier years of the Labour Government. We were dealing with very complicated Measures—Measures that involved far bigger considerations and far more complicated considerations than anything involved in this Bill.

I turn to HANSARD of the 30th January, 1946, when, in respect of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, a discussion about a Money Resolution began at a quarter to Ten at night and proceeded until three minutes to Three in the morning. I hope that we shall not be quite as long as that. But out of the choice fruits of that discussion, I cull one or two remarks.

First, I quote Mr. Reid, the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead, as he then was, and, one would agree, a highly-responsible and learned Member. He observed as follows Similar previous Bills have contained provisions about it"— the matter that was under discussion— and the matter ought to be open to argument, not only as to whether, but how, there should he compensation. As a result of the very tight drawing of the Resolution, we can only discuss half the problem. This is not the first time that the method of drawing Financial Resolutions has caused a great deal of trouble in this House. It comes up periodically"— he was a prophet— under Governments of all complexions Then he referred to 1934.

If I turn over a page or two I come to some observations by someone whom, I think in the circumstances, we must regard as an even more potent authority. That right hon. Gentleman said: For many years in this House I have listened to debates on Financial Resolutions on important Bills. He then referred to his youth, as is the way of some right hon. Gentlemen, and then went on to observe: This practice of drawing the Financial Resolution in such a way as practically to preclude debate on the Committee stage has been growing for many years. Mr. Speaker Fitzroy, in his judgment from the Chair upon the Depressed Areas Bill, which 1 very well remember, told us how much he, as the guardian of the rights of the House of Commons, deplored it, and as a result there was a great protest, …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 1022–34.] and so on.

Then the right hon. Gentleman says, and quite rightly, that this is an important matter and that it involves the proper functioning of the House, if I may summarise what he said. That right hon. Gentleman is at the moment the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in whose name this unfortunate Money Resolution was put down today, as was the tight Money Resolution, the one which has caused all the trouble, which was put down earlier when we were considering the Second Reading of the Bill. There is not the least doubt that there is this incessant tendency of the Government of the day to encroach upon the rights of the House and on the opportunities for proper discussion, particularly during the Committee stage, by putting down a Money Resolution in so tight a form that at the end of the day the Government find that they have got to bring in another one.

I turn for a moment to the three particular points that were raised today. Surely, no one can say that, though, of course, they have their importance, they are anything but matters of detail. Quite clearly, even the Government did not think beforehand—and that applies particularly to the first point—or else they have really allowed themselves to be rushed into something that they did not intend. I do not think that the second conclusion is the right one. I believe that every one of these points is quite clearly a case where the Government did not think beforehand.

As regards the first point, the Government considered one form of order or administrative action which they were proposing to deal with in the Bill, and they entirely omitted to remember that there were others as well. That is the reason for the first of these points. I feel particularly sore about the second one. That is the point about houses which are demolished, not under an order, but because the person responsible, the owner of the house, knows that the council has demolition powers, and very sensibly he and the council come to agreement about it.

It is precisely the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) in the debate on the Housing Subsidies Bill quite recently, which was accepted by the Government. I understand that there was a great deal of that in Coventry, and all credit to the council for it. It is much the best and most sensible way to do it. I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept from me that we on this side of the Committee noticed that omission, wanted to remedy it and were only precluded from doing so by the terms of the original Money Resolution.

9.15 p.m.

What are we to do in future? Are we to put down many Amendments on the Order Paper which we know perfectly well to be out of order? Are we to tax the already somewhat overstrained printing capacity of the House, tax the patience of the people who have to consider the Order Paper, on the chance that that which we think ought to be done and is at the moment outside the purview of a Money Resolution will be accepted by this irresolute Government, and a second Money Resolution introduced?

Is that what we are to do? Up to date we, on this side of the Committee, at any rate, have taken the view that we were supposed to read a Money Resolution like reasonable intelligent people, to consider what it allowed us to do and what it did not allow, and confine ourselves to putting on the Order Paper Amendments which we knew were in order, or at any rate on the borderline, and not to put forward Amendments which were completely out of order.

This second point, so far as I know, was never mentioned on Second Reading, and I do not think that it was mentioned in Committee. If it was, it was out of order, because it was not in the terms of the Money Resolution at the time. It seems that the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend, with the help of their advisers, have been looking at the past or thinking about what they might have done before and are now introducing the point on their own accord. The Parliamentary Secretary will not expect me to feel otherwise than a little sore when this is exactly what we wanted to do and we could not do it, because of the terms of the Money Resolution.

The third of these points is really the worst of the lot. What it comes to is that under the Bill as originally drawn, there was a good intention, which we all shared, to give some extra benefits to a particular type of person—broadly speaking the owner-occupier who had been driven to what is commonly called an insanitary house and had to buy it because he could not find anywhere else to live. On Second Reading, it was pointed out to the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend and to the rest of the House of Commons by two hon. Members that there was a paragraph in one of the Schedules in the Housing Act, 1936, which would completely prevent that good intention being carried out.

Again I am not arguing on the merits of the matter. I am not concerned with them. Let us take them when we come to them, but the real point was put quite definitely, not only by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) but also by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Rippon), and they both have very considerable experience of local government. I pay the compliment to the hon. Member for Norwich, South that I often pay, with even greater cordiality, to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes —that any Minister who does not listen to what they say is a little foolish. But did the Ministers listen? They did not.

They went ahead, carried the Second Reading of the Bill, negatived an Amendment that raised an entirely different point, and proceeded at once to the Money Resolution on the Order Paper, without considering what those two hon. Members had said. And they had drawn the Money Resolution so tightly that, as it turns out, that Resolution was unfit to give them the main remedy which they were trying to seek in the Bill.

I agree that it was a semi-technical point, a point of law and a matter of reading a statute. I concede all that to the Parliamentary Secretary, but who knows more about housing than the Ministry? After all, it is the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and if people in the Ministry cannot go and read through the principal Act and consider the effect of the terms of that Act on what they propose to do in a Bill of this sort, they must indeed be a much more incompetent collection than for one moment I believe them to be.

I do not believe that the responsibility is there at all. I believe that the Minister, who for good reason is not here tonight, and the Parliamentary Secretary and hon. Members opposite, were in too much of a hurry. They said, "There are some municipal elections coming along. Let us demonstrate with this Bill, and let us see whether we can catch a few votes in a highly marginal situation before polling day." Then they did not prepare the Bill properly, and omitted things which they ought to have put into it. One of the things which they omitted might have hamstrung the Bill, and they did not see the point.

That is not the way to govern, and that is not the way to prepare Bills and Money Resolutions, although we accept that in the fix into which these hon. Members have got themselves by their own haste and incompetence, there is nothing for it but this Money Resolution. The Government will not get the sense that they now want put into the Bill inserted in any other way, but we say to them," Do not do it again. If you cannot stop doing it, get out and give way to a government that has more sense"

Secondly we say to them, "Whatever government you are, whether you are Conservative or Labour or anything else, have regard to the rights of the House and its Committees in these matters, and do not do what it took so long to repress before the war, and prevent the Opposition in any circumstances raising real points in Committee by tying them up by means of a Money Resolution in this way. You will not get freedom or democracy in this country by trussing the Opposing inside Money Resolutions. Just give them a little rope and hope that they will hang themselves—and they will probably hang you."

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

My only comment on what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is that I have been astonished that he has been able to control himself and speak with such moderation and charity on this matter. As he said, this is a very technical question. Not many people are able to steer their way, as is my hon. and learned Friend, through many intricacies and Queen's Recommendations and Money Resolutions. These matters always come up at a late hour in the evening, as this Money Resolution has tonight, when hon. Members are impatient to get on to other business and to get away. It is a subject which most hon. Members regard as not within their ordinary interest, but it raises an important question of the freedom of this House to carry out its legislative functions in a way which the public expect us to do.

It is true that this is not the first time that a second Money Resolution has been introduced; and it is not the first time that complaints have been made about it by Oppositions. Of course, any Government can always get away with any wrong they commit by saying that something of the same sort has happened before. But not only is this one of a series of second Money Resolutions which have come up recently, but this is the second time within a very short period, in dealing with a Housing Bill, that a Committee, regardless of which side, has found its hands tied and its ability to discuss the Bill constructively seriously limited.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) has just left the Committee. I recollect that on the Housing Subsidies Bill he, the representative of a great local authority association, speaking with the collective wisdom of the powerful local authorities behind him, found that a series of Amendments were ruled out of order simply because of the Money Resolution. It is true that we were able to discuss them, but only because my hon. and learned Friend is an exceptional person. I suggest to you, Sir Rhys, that it is not right that the ability of Parliament to function properly should depend upon having about the place somebody like my hon. and learned Friend, who is ingenious enough to be able to wriggle round very tight Money Resolutions.

Everyone would accept that one cannot give unlimited freedom to the House to start increasing the charge on public moneys, but we say that there is no case for drawing Money Resolutions so tightly that the ordinary, fair examination of the obvious points of a Bill is hamstrung. In this Committee and in the Standing Committees we examine Bills dispassionately faithfully and constructively as legislators. It is not an elaborate game with the draftsmen, trying to twist the rules of order. It is childish to suggest that grown men are spending their time trying to get things discussed which ought not to be discussed. It is time some people addressed themselves to the question of what we are sent here to do. Is it to play a childish game, or is it to get on with the job of examining highly technical and complicated Bills with a view to seeing whether we can make them more effective?

In the Bill there were only three broad problems—by whom was the compensation to be paid, to whom was it to be paid and how much would it be. We discussed the first question in a reasoned Amendment on Second Reading. We were not able to discuss it any further. It might be argued that the House had expressed an opinion on Second Reading and that we should not go over the matter again in Committee. However. the questions raised in paragraphs B and C of the Resolution were questions which were well known to be in the minds of hon. Members and other people concerned with these matters. The one relating to the Coventry agreements was discussed on a previous Bill, and it was known to be just the kind of point which would arise on the present Bill and which any conscientious Member of the Committee would wish to look at. There was no reason at all for having the Money Resolution drawn so narrowly as to cut it out. Paragraph C deals, in rich human terms which send a warm thrill through the minds of all people interested in local government, with what is known as "paragraph 2 of the Fourth Schedule", a highly interesting point dealing with the question of what deductions may be made from compensation because of the insanitary nature of the property being acquired.

When the Money Resolution came to be discussed, I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to explain it, and inquired whether the phrase specifying the sum would be wide enough to cover the point relating to the Fourth Schedule. Instead of the Parliamentary Secretary saying, "I am sorry. It will not be in. I recognise that all who are concerned about this will want to examine the point, and I will produce another Money Resolution ", he merely said, "No, it will not." He read out the definition and made it clear that the point was excluded.

The Government, well knowing that they were cutting out the discussion that we are now going to have, deliberately pushed the Money Resolution through, in order, presumably, to prevent further discussion of the matter in Committee. We now find that a pressure of opinion from local authorities and others concerned has been built up, about which we warned the Government. We must assume that some opinion has been developed—I do not know what the case is—which has led to a change. The Government are now having to move the House back into Committee, and this represents a waste of time which could have been avoided if the Government had been intelligent about the original Money Resolution.

9.30 p.m.

I suggest that this is something which should be studied. It is obviously a dangerous temptation to try to avoid awkward questions by drawing a tight Money Resolution and cutting out discussion. It is a temptation into which all Governments are likely to fall, but from the point of view of the people m local government who have to operate the provisions of the Bill when it becomes an Act, and of tenants and owner-occupiers and the people upon whom the burden will fall, it is a temptation which the Government ought to resist.

The Government should consider this matter, not to see how smart they can be in getting one across the Opposition and stopping my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering from getting in some good points, but rather from the point of view of seeing whether they can safeguard public money and, at the same time ensure that there can be a broad discussion on the main implications of the Bill. I hope that in getting this Money Resolution through, the Government will not again fall into this grievous error.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I am very glad that the Leader of the House is present, because this is not a matter with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government can effectively deal, competent as we know he is. If I address myself more to the Lord Privy Seal than to the Parliamentary Secretary, I am sure that he will understand the reason. This is the third occasion since Christmas on which we have been faced with a second Money Resolution on a Government Bill. The first was on the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill, where, in Committee, at least half a dozen Amendments, which the Government themselves wanted to make could not be made, because the Money Resolution had been drawn too tightly.

The first edition was found not to cover all the points with which the Government wanted to deal, so a second Money Resolution was produced. As a result of conversations which I had with the Lord Privy Seal, when he very kindly met my point, a third edition was produced, which enabled a further discussion to take place, but on that occasion the amended Resolution was to tightly drawn, that the exact point which we wanted to raise was ruled out of order.

There was a Money Resolution for the Road Traffic Bill in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) was interested and an Amendment which the Government wanted to introduce was ruled out.

Tonight, we have a third example. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering has shown that this is a matter which periodically arises. Those of us who have been hon. Members for a few years know that these things may happen irrespective of which Government may happen to be in power, because occasionally the House comes into conflict with the Government on this issue.

I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that it is desirable that the country should understand that democracy means government by discussion and by reasonable discussion; that when these Money Resolutions are drawn so tightly that effective points are shut out from the discussion we are in some danger of finding truth in the jibe, which is sometimes levelled at us, that in this country we have a dictatorship which comes up every five years or so, and that during the lifetime of a Parliament the Government are so effectively masters of the House of Commons that government by discussion virtually disappears.

In the three instances which I have brought forward, all of which have occurred since Christmas, that jibe could find some very strong support. The Government should draft their Money Resolutions not only so that the things which they want to do can be done, but also so that those things which the Opposition wish to be done can at least be discussed. This was the point of the discussion which occurred during the lifetime of Mr. Neville Chamberlain. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman recollects that discussion very well, as I do. It was then the desire that the Opposition should be able to table Amendments, which the Government were not obliged to accept but which would give the Opposition the opportunity of having them discussed, so that when the matter came before the House a reasonable width of discussion upon questions within the general scope of the Bill could take place.

We appear to have reached another one of those stages when the draftsmen have achieved something which I regard as not a very desirable object—the habit of so drafting their Resolutions that all effective discussion is prevented except upon the exact terms of the Bill, as tabled. That cannot be for the healthy working of Parliament. It was as long ago as 1937 that the last Committee reported upon this matter, but I do not think that we want another Select Committee because I doubt whether the circumstances now are very different from what they were then.

1 believe, however, that the pendulum in the draftsmen's office—and, after all, the draftsmen act upon instructions—has swung towards a tightness in the drafting of these Resolutions which is making Committee work in the House less effective than it ought to be, and is certainly depriving the Opposition of their powers of initiative in the discussion of matters within the scope of the Bill which is before the House. I am not asking that discussion should go beyond matters which come within the scope of the Bill, but in present circumstances we are able to consider virtually only those points which the Government think should be discussed, and are prevented from raising the cognate matters which, generally speaking, should be considered when Measures of the scope of the present one are before the House.

The argument is proved up to the hilt when, upon three Bills coming before the House between the Christmas and Whit-sun Recesses, we have had to have sub- stantial new Money Resolutions to deal not with points which the Opposition wanted to raise but which the Government themselves wanted to be covered by their own Bills. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, as Leader of the House—and in that way responsible for the general discussion which takes place in the House, and not merely the convenience and comfort of the Government and Ministers promoting Bills—to see to it that such instructions shall be given to the draftsmen as will ensure compliance not merely with the letter but with the spirit of the circular sent round after the discussions in 1937.

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Norwich, South)

It is with some diffidence that I rise to take part in this discussion because, as a new Member of the House I am, of course, not as competent as right hon. Gentlemen opposite to speak about these matters. But I am struck very forcibly by the way in which a Money Resolution can inhibit a Committee in improving legislation. It was most striking in relation to the Housing Subsidies Bill, when it was clear that all sorts of distorting procedures had to be adopted in order to discuss matters at all.

It seemed to me that there were a number of matters which arose on that Bill which merited discussion and would have been better discussed in the proper manner. There were a series of Amendments to Clause I which were put down by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and which enabled a general debate to take place; and another series of Amendments, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, where, because one might not delete the word "satisfactory" one had to provide Amendments to say that for the purpose of the Act the word "satisfactory" shall not mean "satisfactory temporary houses"—or satisfactory something or other.

The same thought struck me when I read the draft Money Resolution before we debated the Slum Clearance (Compensation) Bill. Apart from the point which arises on the Fourth Schedule of the 1936 Act, there were a number of other Amendments and matters which seemed, on the Second Reading of the Bill, it would be appropriate to discuss in Committee. Because I do not wish to detain the Committee perhaps I might read what I said on Second Reading. These are minor points which ought to be adjusted in Committee, but as I understand the position as it is at present the Money Resolution may be drawn too tightly for these matters to be in order when we come to the Committee stage. It seems to me that there has been more, shoddy, ill-considered uncomprehensible piecemeal and tinkering legislation since the war than anyone would have believed possible 10 years ago. As a matter of principle it seems to me that it would be a great misfortune if reasonable and moderate Amendments could not be introduced, or discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill in order to ensure that the measure which emerges is as fair and just and equitable as Parliament can devise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1956; Vol. 550, c. 2246.] By that principle I would wish, as a Member of this House, to be able to stand. I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel able to give due weight to the representations made on this matter tonight and on other occasions.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I ask the Lord Privy Seal to look at this situation again. A number of hon. Members were invited to submit Amendments to the Bill which had been thought by local government organisations to be within the broad scope of the Measure. People experienced in these matters were also of that opinion, but we discovered that they were outside the terms of the Money Resolution. It is not treating Parliament properly, nor can we function in our proper democratic manner, if in matters of this kind Money Resolutions—which after eleven years experience in this House I appreciate that we must have—are so drawn so as to prevent the raising of pertinent matters. It sometimes happens that such matters involve little expense, but if that situation exists, there must be something wrong with the drafting of the Money Resolution.

It would appear that we have a sort of "Big Brother" somewhere in the draftsman's office to make sure that as little as possible is discussed. I said the same thing between 1945 and 1951 and so I have a clear conscience about this matter. I think that all Governments tend to take advantage of the procedure, but there is no reason why the House should accept that. When, as recent experience has shown, it results in matters which ought to be discussed not being discussed; when—and what is worse—it results in things the Government desire to introduce not being introduced, and a second Money Resolution is needed, the situation is one which should be considered seriously. I hope therefore that the Lord Privy Seal will feel able to say something about it.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Powell

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was quite right in saying that all Oppositions throughout the ages draw attention to the increasing tightness of Money Resolutions, and that all Governments, during their period of office, are open to the criticism of having drawn Money Resolutions too tightly. The score of the present Government is only even with that of their predecessors—[Interruption.]—we have been in power for some years now—who not only in the years of infancy and inexperience committed this error, if error it be, of finding themselves necessitated to produce a second Money Resolution. It was not only on the New Towns Act, 1946, and the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, but on the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, at quite an advanced period in their tenure of office, that in order to facilitate Government Amendments they found themselves under the necessity of tabling additional Money Resolutions.

Mr. Mitchison

Perhaps I might remind the hon. Gentleman that they at any rate reformed. There was no second Money Resolution in the two years 1950 and 1951. There has been a spate recently.

Mr. Powell

But those were years in which the previous Government were inhibited altogether from legislation of any substance.

It would indeed be a serious matter if discussion were really inhibited in Committee by the terms of a Money Resolution. I do not feel, however, that in this case it can be argued that under any of the three heads covered by the Money Resolution which I moved tonight that has occurred. The question of extending the increased rate of compensation to cases where the owner-occupier was not in occupation on 13th December was discussed during the Second Reading debate, and was ventilated by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee during the Committee stage. It could—at any rate, so far as compulsory purchase orders are concerned—have been covered, if so desired, by an Amendment in Committee within the terms of order, though it would have been necessary, as I have earlier explained, to have this additional Money Resolution in order to make the marginal adjustment in the case of the alternative procedures.

The hon. and learned Gentleman was quite right in saying that the question of demolition by agreement has not been raised during the earlier stages, and of course I accept entirely his assurance that the reason was that the Opposition felt themselves inhibited by the Money Resolution. But, curiously enough, they were not so inhibited by the Money Resolution in regard to the subject matter of paragraph C of the Resolution which is before us tonight, and which, as the hon. and learned Member said, was not only ventilated on Second Reading by one of my hon. Friends but was also raised more than once during the Committee stage by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). Therefore, it cannot seriously be contended that on any of the matters covered by the Money Resolution the discussion—discussion which in two cases has led to the Money Resolution before the Committee tonight—has been seriously restricted.

However, the hon. and learned Gentleman has recognised the necessity for the terms of this Money Resolution in order to achieve purposes which I think I am not guilty of anticipation in suggesting will be agreeable to both sides of the Committee. On that ground I would certainly not complain that he and other hon. and right hon. Members have tonight performed the ceremonial duty of an Opposition in regard to a Money Resolution.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

An appeal was made to me by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I have listened to the very striking and at times vehement speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), whom I learned to admire during our Finance Bill debates. I have also listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Rippon).

The merits of the case have been put by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It is important that I should be here, as, indeed, I try to be on most important occasions, because this is an occasion to which the House of Commons attaches great importance. I was aware of the discussions in 1934, I am aware of the Report of the Committee in 1937, and I am aware of the references to 1946, which the hon. and learned Gentleman made. It is always difficult for a Government to draw up Money Resolutions to suit themselves, the House of Commons and the cause of liberty, and there is no sinister move, as far as I am aware, in the offices of Parliamentary counsel, or anywhere else, which is designed to restrict Money Resolutions at the present time.

The case to which the right hon. Member for South Shields referred—that of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill—was one in which I did attempt to intervene to try to improve the situation. I did not improve it as much as the right hon. Gentleman wanted, but I improved it a little bit. All I can say tonight, without trespassing on the ground of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Parliamentary Secretary, who have discussed the merits of the case, is that the Government are aware of the difficulty. I have carefully listened to those hon. Members who are particularly associated with local government, and I will do my best to have the whole of this question looked at in the light of the instances to which reference has been made. I can give no further undertaking than that, but I regard this as among the many pressing matters which fall on my plate in assuming the very honourable and dignified duties which are now my lot.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.