§ Order of the Day read for the House being put into Committee.
§ Moved, "That the House resolve itself into Committee on this Bill."—(The Earl of Granard.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, on the Motion to go into Committee I wish, very briefly, to call your Lordships' attention to the procedure in connection with this Bill, and in referring to this Bill I am speaking in regard to Provisional Order Bills generally. Your Lordships know that a very large part of legislation is now done by Provisional Order. These Provisional Orders are prepared in the Departments concerned, and come up to your Lordships in the 1239 shape of Bills. The Bills are not circulated, and it sometimes happens that Amendments are proposed. These Amendments are not seen by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. The Bills are not sent to him, because they are in the nature of public Bills, and the result is that legislation may be passed of whose effect the House is wholly ignorant.
I called your Lordships' attention to a case the other day in which a noble Lord proposed, on the Third Reading of a Provisional Order Bill, to introduce what on examination proved to be a most important Amendment, and your Lordships eventually adopted a model clause which we should never have known existed if it had not been that your Lordships postponed the consideration of the Bill in order to give time to see the effect of the suggested Amendment. Yesterday, again, a Provisional Order Bill was put forward by the representative of the Scottish Office to which noble Lords moved Amendments. The Government declined to stand to their own Bill. We knew nothing of the Amendments before we came down to the House, and although your Lordships ultimately decided to adhere to the Provisional Order in its original form we nevertheless ran a very great risk of putting an important Amendment into a Bill without having had any previous notice of it.
Your Lordships will observe that there are three or four of these Bills on the Order Paper every day. Hero is one now before the House. I know nothing whatever about it. It is called the Electric Lighting Provisional Orders (No. 3) Bill. This Bill, like other Bills of the same kind, has not been circulated. Amendments are to be proposed. In the first place, I do not know whose Amendments they are. They stand in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Granard, but I understood, with regard to a previous Provisional Order dealing with education, that the Department does not consider itself responsible for these Amendments. Well, my Lords, who is responsible? Whose Amendments are they? On the last occasion I was informed that, though the Bills were not circulated, at all events the Amendments were. Here is a case in which neither the Bill nor the Amendment has been circulated. I asked my noble friend the Chairman of Committees 1240 if he had received the Amendments, and he appears to have been singularly fortunate. I do not know whether it was in virtue of his position as Lord Chairman, or whether it is that he is a little more carefully looked after than other peers, but he seems to have been fortunate enough to have obtained a copy of these Amendments this morning.
I submit to your Lordships that the whole procedure at the present time with regard to Provisional Orders is most unsatisfactory. It is impossible to say what changes may be introduced into a Provisional Order after it has left the Department, unless, indeed, the Department assumes a part which it has not hitherto shown any desire to do, and makes itself responsible for the Amendments, rejecting them if they ought not to be put into the Bill. I merely make this protest at this stage, but if the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees agrees with me, I shall at some future date not very far distant ascertain really what is the exact procedure in regard to these Provisional Orders, and call your Lordships' attention to the subject. In the meantime I do not wish to object to the proposal to go into Committee on this Bill.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of ONSLOW)
My Lords, I entirely sympathise with the remarks which have fallen from the noble Earl. I do not think that the manner in which Provisional Orders come before your Lordships at the present time is at all satisfactory, and I am consulting with the officials of the House with a view of devising some means, possibly by a change in the Standing Orders, which will give your Lordships a better opportunity of becoming acquainted with the contents of Provisional Order Bills and of considering Amendments to be made to them. The simplest plan, of course, would be that all Provisional Order Bills should be circulated, but I am not sure that every noble Lord would be pleased to receive such a quantity of Papers. In any case it would be a considerable public charge, and I am doubtful whether the expenditure would be justifiable in view of the amount of interest generally taken in these Provisional Orders. But there can be no doubt, I think, that an opportunity ought to be 1241 given to your Lordships when Amendments are placed on the Paper for considering the Amendments in conjunction with the printed Bill in order to see the effect of them. I am sorry that the noble Earl has not received a copy of the Amendments to be moved to this Bill. I am told that they were circulated.
THE EARL of CAMPERDOWN
I have asked several noble Lords near me, and not one of them has received a copy of the Amendments.
The EARL of ONSLOW
The officials of the House believed that they had been circulated. At any rate, it is not the case that they have been taking special care of the Chairman of Committees. I am told by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave that he received a copy of the Amendments with his Papers this morning. I can assure your Lordships that the matter is engaging the attention, not only of myself but of the officials, and I hope that when the noble Earl raises the question again we shall be in a position to assure him that the arrangements in the future will be such that ample opportunity will be given to Peers of fully considering these proposals.
*THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say one word of explanation in view of an observation which was made by my noble friend opposite with regard to the responsibility of Departments for these Provisional Order Bills and for dealing with Amendments which may be proposed to them. I am afraid I did not make myself quite clear in speaking a week or two ago on the subject of a Provisional Order Bill which emanated from the Education Department. My noble friend Lord Monkswell moved an Amendment to that Bill dealing with an aspect of the question which never comes before the Education Department at all, and therefore I stated to the House what in my opinion the limitations were to which I we were subject in dealing with that particular matter. But it was very far from my intention to suggest that Provisional Order Bills as a rule were not under the charge of those who represent the particular Department concerned, or that the Departments did not consider themselves responsible for dealing with 1242 any Amendments that might be proposed from any part of the House.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, I think there is a great deal in what fell from the noble Earl opposite in regard to this question. But the noble Earl knows very well that the present practice is not a new one. Your Lordships must not suppose that this is something which the present Government have done. It has existed almost from time immemorial; at least, it has existed ever since I have been a Member of this House. I think the subject is one deserving of consideration, and I am quite sure the House will be very willing to listen to my noble friend when he brings it forward.
§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
My Lords, I beg to move the insertion of the new clause standing in my name on the Paper.
Moved, "After Clause 2, page 2, to insert Clause 3." 3.—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899, as incorporated with the Bellshill Electric Lighting Order, 1906, the Blantyre Electric Lighting Order, 1906, the Bothwell Electric Lighting Order, 1906, the Shettleston and Tollcross Electric Lighting Order, 1906, and the Uddingston Electric Lighting Order, 1906, confirmed by this Act, the County Council of Lanark as undertakers under each of those Orders may supply electricity in bulk or otherwise from any generating station or works of the undertakers within the area of supply under any of those Orders for use in the area of supply under any of those Orders or in any other area within which the undertakers are or may hereafter be authorised to supply electricity. (2) For the purpose of affording such supply as in the last preceding sub-section mentioned the undertakers shall have and may exercise beyond the area of supply under any such Order all and the same powers, and shall be subject to the same duties and obligations with respect to the breaking up of streets repairable by the local authority for the purpose of laying down or constructing electric lines 1243 or other works as the undertakers have or may exercise and are subject to under that Order within the area of supply under that Order in relation to the breaking up of streets for the purposes aforesaid and any expenses incurred by the undertakers in making a connection for the purpose of affording any such supply shall be defrayed by the undertakers as part of the expenses incurred by the undertakers under and for the purposes of the Order in force within the area to which the supply of electricity authorised by this section is given.—(The Earl of Granard.)
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
All these Amendments are unopposed. This Amendment is an agreed one to enable the Lanark County Council to connect up some of their various areas of supply. The other Amendments are purely formal.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am afraid that explanation does not leave me very much wiser. The noble Earl says this Amendment is unopposed. As far as I can understand from casually looking at the Amendment, the County Council of Lanark, as undertakers, are given power to supply electricity, in bulk or otherwise, anywhere within the area of supply under any of the Orders mentioned. I want to know whether an opportunity has been given to the persons interested of raising objection. What notice was given to them? Or is this simply an Amendment put forward by the County Council of Lanark which the Board of Trade have accepted?
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
I understand that these Amendments were put forward by the Lanark County Council—
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Then how can the noble Earl say that the 1244 Amendments are unopposed? What opportunity has been given to the parties interested of appearing to oppose the Amendments if they wished to do so?
§ LORD NEWTON
I think it is only fair that the noble Earl who represents the Board of Trade should be given an opportunity of studying this Bill. I think it would be more consonant with the dignity of the House if we adjourned the Committee stage in order to give him time to master the details of a measure for which he is responsible.
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
I have no objection to postponing the Committee stage till a future date if noble Lords desire it.
§ House resumed; and to be again in Committee on Friday next.
§ Education Board Provisional Order Confirmation (London, No. 1.) Bill [H.L.]. Read 3a (according to Order), and passed, and sent to the Commons.
§ Local Government (Ireland) Provisional Orders (No. 1.) Bill. Read 3a (according to Order), and passed.