HL Deb 29 May 1906 vol 158 cc245-7

Order of the day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, on behalf of the Home Office, to amend Clause 3 "Reckoning of approved service in different forces," by making the period of approved service which a constable, who had retired without a pension and subsequently joined some other police force, was entitled to reckon at the end of his service in the first mentioned force, not less than "three" completed years.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it is with considerable regret that I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I will remind your Lordships of the circumstances. When the Bill was in Committee of the whole House an Amendment was moved by Lord Newton to the effect that there should be no limitation at all put upon the police constable changing from one service to another. On behalf of the Home Office I objected to the Amendment of my noble friend, and we came to a compromise by which the word "two" was introduced into the clause in the Standing Committee.

Since then, however, I regret to say it has been discovered by those concerned that the alteration trenches upon that somewhat debateable ground, the privileges of the other House. The pension of the constable is made up partly of deductions from his pay and partly from contributions out of the rates. Your Lordships will see that if it is made possible for a constable to get that pension when he has been two years in the first service instead of throe it follows that a larger sum will have to be found out of the rates. A charge on the rates is thus involved, and that brings the clause as amended within that region of privilege into which this House does not generally go. It is rather a piece of constitutional purism; it is not a matter of very great importance, and I venture to say it is not worth discord. The police-constables of the country are, I believe, entirely satisfied with the original proposal of the Bill, and I beg, therefore, to move the Amendment, which will reinstate that proposal.

Amendment moved— In page 2, line 17, to leave out sub-section (1); and in line 28, to leave out the word 'two' and to insert the word 'three'" —(Earl Beauchamp.)


My Lords, the statement of my noble friend is perfectly accurate as regards myself, but I am inclined to take some exception to one expression which he made use of. The noble Earl said in the course of his statement that it had been discovered by those concerned, that this Amendment constituted a breach of privilege. Who are those concerned who have made this discovery? Surely the persons concerned are the House of Commons; but what I gather from the noble Lord's statement is that some well-meaning but officious personage, presumably a clerk, has pointed out that, in his opinion, this Amendment is a breach of privilege. Thereupon my noble friend, terrified by his action, has run away as fast as he could from his own Amendment. I suppose that I ought to sympathise with the noble Lord, because in his desire to placate me he has, apparently, almost involved this House in one of those grave constitutional struggles with another place which are foreshadowed in the prophetic imagination of persons who take a despondent view of the political future. I suppose I must congratulate him upon a fortunate escape.

I do not want to make a fuss about what is essentially a small matter, but I am bound to say that it appears to me to be a somewhat curious proceeding to invoke this tremendous weapon of privilege in order to defeat a trumpery Amendment of this description. If we are to be bound in the future by rulings of this kind it seems to me that our sphere of activity will be considerably circumscribed. With a little ingenuity it may be possible to show that almost any Amendment which is made in this House involves the further expenditure of money, and then your Lordships will have little power to alter or amend anything. My noble friend distinctly gave me an undertaking on behalf of the Government that this Amendment should be introduced into the Bill, and I hope the noble Lord will fulfil his promise and undertake to use his influence in another place to get the substance of the Amendment reinserted in the Bill.


My Lords, I do not think my noble friend who represents the Home Office is in any way to blame in regard to this matter. No doubt there has been a mistake. I do not complain of the noble Lord opposite in the least degree. If anybody is to blame in the matter I think it is myself. I did not attend to the discussion when the Bill was going through as I ought to have done, or it would have suggested itself to me, with my long experience, that the alteration was inconsistent with what is understood to be the privilege of the other House. I have no doubt myself that it was inconsistent. The opinions which the Government have obtained are such as are entitled to weight, and I hope the House will consent to my noble friend's Amendment.


My Lords, the noble Marquess and the noble Lord who represents the Home Office have explained the situation with great frankness. I think we are bound to accept the explanation. I have no doubt that the noble Lord who represents the Home Office has satisfied himself on the highest available authority that the matter is regarded as one of privilege. My noble friend behind me taunted the noble Lord with having allowed himself to be influenced by persons whom he described as well-meaning but officious personages, but it occurs to me that those personages may be the same to whom the other House of Parliament would appeal for guidance in a difficult case of the kind, and therefore the probability is that the view expressed by the noble Lord is that which would prevail.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons.