HL Deb 23 July 1908 vol 193 cc258-61

Order of the day for the House to be put into Committee, read.


My Lords, I rise for the purpose of asking your Lordships to allow this Bill to pass through Committee pro forma so that it may be reprinted as amended and recommitted, thus following the precedent so recently put before your Lordships in dealing with the Nurses Registration Bill. As your Lordships will remember, this Bill came up from the House of Commons in a form which excited some very severe criticism, especially on the part of the noble Viscount opposite, Lord St. Aldwyn, who objected altogether to its being entertained in the form in which it was presented. It is, in fact, a conspicuous example of legislation by reference.

The subject of the Bill, however, recommended itself to your Lordships approval, and it was read a second time. Since then Amendments have been placed on the Paper which, if incorporated in the Bill, will meet the defect in form to which attention was properly directed. The Amendments standing in the name of the noble Viscount will entirely meet this objection. There is also an Amendment, standing in the name of Lord Ridley, to insert a new clause which was approved in another place. What I now propose is that your Lordships should go into Committee pro forma so that these agreed Amendments should be accepted and incorporated in the Bill, after which it will be recommitted. We shall then begin again at the same stage, but with a Bill which presents an entirely new shape.

There I might, perhaps, stop; but I am aware that there is some feeling in high quarters as to the possible reception of the Bill so amended in another place. It is suggested that if the Bill goes back so completely transformed, although it accomplishes exactly the same object and makes no greater or less change in the law, there may be some feeling in another place unfriendly to its reception. I have consulted the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the Bill elsewhere and conducted it through all its stages, and he does not entertain any anxiety on this ground. He is, at all events, ready to run the risk. Moreover, there is little or no chance of the Bill getting through this House unless it is so transformed, as your Lordships would not willingly approve of such a conspicuous example of legislation by reference as the Bill presents in its present shape. I beg to move.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(Lord Courtney of Penwith.)


My Lords, ordinarily on this Motion there is no debate, but it may be convenient to say a word or two on the subject that has been broached by Lord Courtney. My desire is to further the Bill. That is my sole object. At present it is in a form in which it is not likely, I apprehend, to commend itself to the House. Indeed, it is in a very inconvenient form, because it is a rather extreme instance of legislation by reference. What, therefore, is to be done? The noble Lord proposes to go into Committee pro forma in order that the Bill may then be re-committed and come on again in October after the recess. So far as the postponement is concerned, I think that is the right course to take. But then what course is to be adopted?

There are two courses open. One is that which commends itself to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill and also, I understand, to Lord St. Aldwyn, namely, to strike out Clauses 1, 2, and 3—that is, all the clauses in the Bill—and substitute others incorporating the Act of which this purposes to be an Amendment, so that when the Bill went back to the House of Commons it would not be recognised even by those who claim its paternity, for there would not be a single word of the old Bill remaining. I am not putting it that that is an impossible view; on the contrary, if the noble Lord and the noble Viscount are convinced that it is the best course I would not put my view against theirs.

But I consider that it is a preferable alternative to amend the Bill as it stands with all its defects and introduce a Bill alongside of it which shall be a real Consolidation Bill, consisting of the old Act and of this Bill as amended. I think that course would facilitate the progress of the Bill in another place. It is rather a piece of Parliamentary tactics. I do not wish to dogmatise, and still less to be obstinate; but I think that is the better course, for pure consolidation has never been objected to in this or in the other House.


My Lords, I understand from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that he does not object to the proposal made by the noble Lord opposite, but that he prefers the alternative he has himself suggested. I confess that I very much prefer the proposal of the noble Lord opposite. I think it is important that we should take in hand so gross an example of bad drafting as this, and show the House of Commons that at any rate this House does not intend to pass legislation of that kind. Therefore, I should be very sorry if, concurrently with the Bill drafted as your Lordships would desire to see it drafted, a Consolidation Bill were sent down to the other House, because it would then be possible that the Commons might prefer the original Bill and negative our Bill. I understand that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill does not intend to take any further stage beyond this formal stage until after the adjournment. The practical work of Committee would therefore be taken in October, which would give plenty of time for noble Lords who desire to amend the Bill and put it in a proper shape to place their Amendments on the Paper.


I have not said anything about deferring the further consideration of the Bill until October, but I think that course so desirable that I offer no objection to it.

House in Committee (according to Order): Bill reported without Amendment: Standing Committee negatived. Amendments made. Bill recommitted, and to be printed as amended. [No. 179.]