§ House in Committee (according to order).
§ Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I ask leave to move an Amendment which I regret I have not had time to place on the Paper. It will take the form of a new clause, and it deals solely with cases of subsidence. In many parts of the country libraries are apt in this way to be seriously damaged, and in certain cases, especially in my own county, buildings have a habit of disappearing altogether. In such cases, of course, it is impossible to reinstate the building out of the proceeds of the penny rate. I understand that Lord Windsor is in favour of the, new clause, which has been framed in accordance with the suggestions of the Local Government Board.
Moved, to insert, as a new clause, "Where in any borough or urban, district the building provided under the principal Act shall be damaged through the subsidence of the ground, any expense incurred by the Town Council or Urban District Council in the repair of the damage thereto shall not be reckoned for the purpose of any limita- 1064 tion of rate under Section 2 of that Act." (Lord Newton.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
expressed doubt as to whether the clause would read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
I have only just seen this Amendment. It has nothing to do with the Section 2 referred to, nor do I understand it.
*THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Lord BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH)
Would it not be better if the noble Lord placed the new clause on the Paper for the Standing Committee, which will not meet before Easter? There would then be time to consider it.
§ EARL SPENCER
I think we ought to have notice of an Amendment of this character before considering it. It is rather irregular to ask us to approve of this clause to-day, when we have not had an opportunity of seeing it.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland suggests that the Amendment should be dealt with by the Standing Committee. I would like to ask if it is clear that the Amendment, which seeks to do away with the limit as to rating, is one that can be dealt with in the Standing Committee?
The new clause would only take effect in a very limited number of cases. In cases where a subsidence has occurred it is impossible, if the limit of a penny rate is insisted upon, to make the building again, available for public use.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am quite indifferent when it is moved. I will move it on the Report Stage if it is desired.
§ Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.1065
§ Clause 10:—
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am afraid I must ask your Lordships to delete this clause. This is a Bill drafted to amend the English Acts, and to apply it wholesale to Scotland would cause a very great deal of confusion. The Bill, I believe, has been previously before Parliament. It was a private Member's Bill in another place, and was allowed to pass as applying to England and Ireland only. I do not think there has been any suggestion before that it should be applied to Scotland, and, according to the best advice I can get, to do so would be to introduce a great deal of confusion. The first sub-section of this clause interprets the expressions "urban district" and "urban authority," but those words are only used in one clause of the Bill—Clause 5—and that clause is wholly inapplicable to Scotland. In addition, if this Bill was to be applied to Scotland, the proper authority in Scotland would be, not the Local Government Board, but the Secretary for Scotland. I am prepared to prove that the great majority of the clauses are not applicable to Scotland at all. Some of them would be of no use, and some would be positively harmful. I hope, therefore, that as the Bill now stands it will not be applied to Scotland. There is no necessity whatever to do so, although I am quite prepared to admit that there are one or two provisions which, if picked out from the rest of the Bill and specified in an application clause, might possibly be of use in Scotland. I hope that at this stage, at any rate, the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper will be accepted. If representations reach me before the Bill goes to the Standing Committee, I shall be quite prepared to consider the application of one or two of the clauses to Scotland. In the meantime, I beg to move the omission of Clause 10.
§ Moved, "To leave out Clause 10."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
After what my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland has stated, I shall not press the clause. At the same time I may mention that I have had communications from many 1066 parts of Scotland from persons interested in public libraries advocating the application of this Bill to Scotland; but as the objections to that course appear to be serious, I will accept my noble friend's suggestion and communicate with him before the Bill is taken in the Standing Committee, in the hope that I may arrange with him that certain parts of the Bill shall apply to Scotland.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Moved, To insert as a new clause, 10, "This Act shall not apply to Scotland."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ New Clause agreed to.
§ EARL SPENCER
It may be irregular to go back, but I did not understand that the noble Lord opposite desired Ireland to be struck out of the Bill.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12:—
I have communicated with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack with reference to this clause, which provides for the exemption of library managers from liability in certain cases. The noble and learned Lord objects to the clause as it stands, and I propose to amend it in a way which will, I hope, remove that objection. The clause, as I propose to amend it, will read—A person shall not be entitled to institute any legal proceedings against a library authority or any member, officer, or servant thereof, or against the managers of any library established otherwise than under the principal Act, in respect of libellous matter in any book kept for use in, or circulation from, their 1067 library, unless he has first instituted legal proceedings against the author, publisher, or printer, and that one of such persons has been convicted or adjudged to pay damages on account of libellous matter contained in the said book.
In line 6, to omit all words after 'library' to the end of the clause, and to insert 'unless be has first instituted legal proceedings against the author, publisher, or printer, and that one of such persons has been convicted or adjudged to pay damages on account of the libellous matter contained in the said book.'"—(Lord Windsor.)
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I thought it desirable that Clause 12 should be amended, on the ground that it was both entangled, and, in come respects, unjust. I am told—and I think there is some foundation for the statement—that people occasionally use the law of libel for the purpose of blackmailing library committees and managers, who have no knowledge of the circumstances, and who invariably yield to the pressure of a threat of action and pay rather I than defend the action. Therefore, I do not think it is unreasonable to say that before a person shall be entitled to proceed against a library committee, he must proceed, in the first instance, at all events, against either the author, printer, or publisher, and that one of such persons shall have been convicted or adjudged to pay damages on account of the libellous matter in question. The sole object of library authorities is to supply literary food to the neighbourhoods in which they may be established, and they ought, therefore, to be protected. I do not think, however, that it would be right to give the immunity to the library authority proposed by sub-Section 2 of this clause, and I am glad that my noble friend proposes to delete that sub-section.
§ LORD AVEBURY
The noble and learned Lord will remember that the trustees of the British Museum have had legal proceedings taken against them in connection with books in the Museum library when they had no notice whatever that there was anything libellous in them, in the case of the British Museum there is an obligation which does not apply to other libraries, and I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord whether he is satisfied that the trustees of the British Museum will be sufficiently protected by this clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 13:—
After line 35, to insert 'any expenses incurred by the Common Council of the City of London or by a metropolitan borough council under the Museums and Gymnasiums Act, 1891, so far as they are not defrayed by fees and other money received under the Act, shall be defrayed in the manner in which expenses incurred by that council under the principal Act are payable.'"—(Lord Windsor.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to; Bill recommitted to the Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended. (So. 27.)