HL Deb 26 March 1912 vol 11 cc627-40

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Ashby St. Ledgers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Alteration of Limit on Sum to be Raised for Police Expenses.

1. The maximum rate in the pound for the purposes of the proviso to section twenty-three of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1829, as amended by section two of the Police Rate Act, 1868, (by which enactments a limit is imposed on the annual sum to be provided for the purposes of the metropolitan police), shall be elevenpence instead of ninepence; and those sections shall, subject to the provisions of any subsequent enactment, have effect accordingly:—

Provided that—

  1. (a) in calculating for the purposes of paragraph (k) of subsection (2) of section twenty-four of the Local Government Act, 1888 (which regulates the amount to be paid by county councils to the receiver for the metropolitan police district and charged to the Exchequer Contribution Accounts), the amount actually raised by rates from the parishes in any county, only such part thereof shall be reckoned as does not exceed the maximum amount which could have been so raised if this Act had not been passed; and
  2. (b) before approving the issue of any warrants under section twenty-three of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1829, by the effect of which the annual sum to be provided for the purposes of the Metropolitan Police in any year will be for the first time increased above the rate of tenpence in the pound, the Secretary of State shall lay before the House of Commons a Minute stating the reasons for such increase; and if within the next twenty days on which the House has sat after any such Minute has been laid before it, an Address is presented to His Majesty by the House praying that the said increase be not made, the said increase shall not then be made.


I have an Amendment which is not on the Paper, but which is merely of a drafting character. It is to omit from paragraph (b) of Clause I the words "in any year will be" in order to insert "to which the said limit applies will be in any year." The object of the Amendment is to make it clear that this proviso applies to the 10d. rate and to nothing else. I hope your Lordships will accept it.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 2, line 5, leave out ("in any year will be") and insert ("to which the said limit applies will be in any year").—(Lord Ashby St. Ledgers.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I have four Amendments on the Paper. The first three of them constitute really one Amendment, and I ask your Lordships to allow me to take them together. My object is to secure that the Minute to be laid before the House of Commons by the Home Secretary stating the reasons for levying a rate beyond 10d. should also be laid before your Lordships' House, and that the Paper should be governed by the same procedure as is laid down in the Bill with regard to another place. I think the members of His Majesty's Government will agree that that would not be a very great concession to make from the point of view of the Bill, because I do not think they would say that if they could show that the money was actually required for the current needs of the police it is likely that your Lordships would move an Address to the Crown praying that the necessary money should not be raised.

It cannot be contended that this Amendment is in any way contrary to the privileges of the House of Commons. Your Lordships had this Bill before you in December last and you threw it out. It was not then proclaimed a Money Bill under the Parliament Act, neither has it been proclaimed so this year. I do not know whether it may be contended that the privilege question comes in because it is an affair of local taxation. I imagine that there may be authorities—such great authorities, perhaps, as Sir T. Erskine May—who may be quoted on this subject. But even in the slight Parliamentary experience I have had a Bill immediately occurs to me—it is a case in point affecting the rates—which was amended by your Lordships' House and which is the law of the land today. I mean the measure which I had the honour to be in charge of in your Lordships' House—the Asylum Officers Superannuation Act of 1909. Amongst other Amendments which your Lordships inserted, and which were agreed to by His Majesty's Government here, was one to cut down the number of years which a man had to serve in an asylum in order to get a pension. That Amendment directly affected the rates. There was another Amendment which had reference to the age of asylum officers, and that, again, directly affected the rates.

As I do not think, therefore, that the question of privilege can be raised, I will call your Lordships' attention to the extremely important precedent which is set, not by the Amendment which I have on the Paper, but by the clause as it stands. On the Second Reading I quoted five Acts of Parliament which had been passed in the last three years in all of which it was provided that certain documents should be laid on the Table of the House and that your Lordships could take exception to them. One of those Acts was the Finance Act of 1910. In all those cases—and I believe in every case in recent legislation—when Papers have been ordered to be so laid they have always been required to be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament, and I do not think that the noble Lord will be able to quote any recent cases, or any case at all, in which a direction has been given in an Act of Parliament that the Papers shall be laid on the Table of one House of Parliament only. I venture to say that this is a very important matter indeed. It is a matter which concerns the prerogative of your Lordships' House. I will go further and say that it is a matter which concerns the prerogative of the Senate which His Majesty's Government are going to set up in the place of your Lordships' House, and it is a matter which concerns any reformed House which noble Lords in other parts of the House may wish to set up. It is a matter which affects the whole relations between the two Houses. That being so, it seems to me that it is an unpardonable thing to create a precedent of such magnitude as this. I hope that His Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment, and I trust that the kindly attitude which I understood Lord Ashby St. Ledgers to take up with regard to this point at the conclusion of the debate on the Second Reading will be continued, and that he will allow this Amendment to proceed.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 2, lines 7 and 8, leave out ("the House of Commons") and insert ("Parliament").—(Lord Monk Bretton).


My Lords, the effect of this Amendment would be that this House or the House of Commons might take objection to the second penny rate being used by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The noble Lord alluded to the fact that at the conclusion of the Second Reading debate in this House I held out some hope that the Government might see their way to meet your Lordships on this point. But I never contemplated that this House should have a separate right to object to the levy, but that perhaps both Houses together might share the responsibility of taking that objection. The noble Lord goes far beyond anything that I suggested as being at all within the bounds of possibility with regard to this matter. I should like the House to understand that before I proceed any further.


Would the noble Lord explain what he means by the two Houses acting jointly? Is there any precedent for that?


meant that if objection was taken in both Houses to the imposition of the rate then the rate should not be imposed. As it stands in this Amendment the provision is that if either House takes objection to the imposition then the imposition shall not be made. There is a substantial difference. I think the Government would have been disposed to do all in their power to meet the wishes of noble Lords opposite on this point. I may say, in parentheses, that they have no desire whatever to limit, to weaken, or to diminish the safeguard which is contained in this subsection, and which was inserted to a great extent at the instance of the noble Viscount opposite. But there is considerable doubt, to put it no higher, whether this House can insert the Amendment now proposed without going some way at any rate to challenge the other House on a question of privilege.

I will, with your Lordships' permission, read a few sentences from that eminent authority, Sir Erskine May. In his "Parliamentary Practice" Sir Erskine May says [Page 574]— … the Lords are excluded, not only from the power of initiating or amending Bills dealing with public expenditure or revenue, but also from initiating public Bills which would create a charge upon the people by the imposition of local and other rates. … It follows, accordingly, that the Lords may not amend the provisions in Bills which they receive from the Commons dealing with the above-mentioned subjects, so as to alter, whether by increase or reduction, the amount of a rate so charged—its duration, mode of assessment, levy, collection, apportionment, or management. That seems fairly clear. At any rate, in Sir Erskine May's opinion what your Lordships are proposing to do would constitute a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, because it is quite clear that the only object of the Amendment would be to enable this House, if it saw fit, to reduce the rate imposed by the Secretary of State for police purposes.

I would also like to point out that the noble Viscount himself seems to have been conscious of this possible objection when he spoke on the subject last year, because he strictly limited his demand to a House of Commons Motion. He said— In several measures which have passed the House it was required that the Act should not be put operation until a substantive Motion had been moved and carried in both Houses. I do not here say both Houses of Parliament, but I do ask that if the Secretary of State, who cannot possibly for some years to come require more than an extra penny rate, desires to raise the other, he should give a pledge that a substantive Motion should be moved in the House of Commons and carried before any portion of that further penny rate is applied to the service of the police. I am quite prepared to admit that this is not a substantive Motion, but it is a matter of machinery, and I cannot see, if the noble Viscount himself admits that in so far as his claim then was that it was a matter for the House of Commons and for the House of Commons alone, how he can now say that the alteration in the form in which it at present stands entitles this House to interfere. At any rate that is the view we take on the subject.

It is for your Lordships to consider whether it would be wise on a matter of this kind to raise a possible question of privilege with the other House. We think that it would be injudicious at any rate, and we think that the safeguard already provided is amply sufficient to meet the objection which the noble Viscount raised last session. I do not really think that he would strengthen the safeguard by the proposal which he and his friends now desire to include, and I think it would have the undesirable effect of raising a question of privilege at this stage.


My Lords, I had hoped, after the conciliatory attitude adopted by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill on the Second Reading, that there would be no necessity to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton, but Lord Ashby St. Ledgers has raised the question of privilege, and on those grounds, and on those grounds only as I understand, he refuses to accept the Amendment. The noble Lord quoted Sir Erskine May as to the powers of this House in regard to initiating or amending Bills relating to rates, but I do not think that the question of privilege can be raised in this case. The question of privilege would only apply to initiating or to amending Bills relating to rates. We are not amending a Bill relating to rates. What is in question here is whether Parliament shall concur in enforcing a certain rate or not, and the question as regards this House is as to whether this House would accept or reject that proposal. There is a great difference between the action proposed by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton and what has been referred to by Lord Ashby St. Ledgers. I think there is really no need to go into the merits of this Amendment. After what has been stated both in another place and in this House it is quite certain that this second penny rate is not required. It may be required in the future to meet emergencies, but there most certainly ought to be sonic security that Parliament should have the opportunity of discussing the matter in a proper manner before this second penny is raised. In the figures which he gave us the other evening, the noble Lord in charge of the Bill only made out a case for a ¾d. rate. A ¾d. rate would amply cover all the requirements for the metropolitan police during the next year, and a penny rate would cover all police requirements for the next three years. I appeal to the noble Lord to accept this Amendment, the principle of which is not only accept able to, but is greatly desired by, the London Members in the House of Commons who usually support His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, in replying to my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton, hardly realised the strength of the case which had been made for this Amendment. Lord Monk Bretton quoted a case where a change of rating had been made by this House very recently—made without protest from the House of Commons, and made, as I understand, at the instigation of the Home Secretary who is now the protagonist in this miniature battle. I cannot feel that this is even so near a breach of the privilege of the House of Commons as was the action taken two years ago to which Lord Monk Bretton referred. Although the noble Lord in charge of the Bill quoted Sir Erskine May I do not think he carried his research quite far enough, because Sir Erskine May particularly limits the paragraph to which the noble Lord alluded by saying— Even when Amendments by the Lords are an infringement of privilege— and I do not admit that this Amendment is an infringement of privilege— it is not the invariable practice of the Commons to assert their claim regarding Amendments made to Bills that they have sent to the Lords which deal with relief of the poor, or with municipal, county, and local rates and assessments. This is precisely a case in point. This is a Bill which deals with municipal rating and assessment. It is not a case of reducing a rate. That is not proposed. What is proposed is that we should obviate an absolutely new procedure being for the first time in the history of Parliament introduced into a Statute. It is important, I think, when the noble Lord says that the Government have done all in their power, that we should not allow this new standard to be set up, because that expression may be used again.

With great respect to the noble Lord I say that the Government have not done everything in their power. There were two things in their power. The first was to put in an Amendment in the same terms as the provision which has figured in every public Bill—namely, that either House, not both louses jointly, should have the opportunity of refusing the addition which either House had the opportunity of doing when the original Bill came forward. The second course open to the Government was to adopt the procedure which I suggested in the middle of a rather late and heated discussion in the very last moments of last session to obviate the extreme unpleasantness of haying to throw out the Bill, and that was that the Government should submit a substantive Motion. There is a precedent for that in the Manœuvres Act, and it was pressed upon us by the noble Lord's friends, who forced us, in the case of setting up machinery for military manœuvres, on every occasion to come to both Houses of Parliament with a substantive Motion which could be fully discussed.

We ask that there shall be a discussion in the House of Commons, not at the last moment at night after eleven o'clock when it is practically certain that the Government can rush the thing through without adequate debate, as was done with this Bill last year before your Lordships dealt with it, but at a time when fair discussion can be given to this important point—namely, whether the ratepayers of the metropolis are to bear the whole charge of raising the police not merely for Sunday rest but in order to deal with tumult in and out of London, or whether that is to be borne, as hitherto, partially by the Government. It is pretty clear that this is not and cannot be construed into a breach of privilege, and there is a specific declaration in Sir Erskine May's work that usually in cases of municipal rating, if there is a suspicion of infringement of privilege, the House of Commons waives its privilege. I therefore trust that when this Bill comes back it will have in it my noble friend's Amendment, and that the Government will see their way to close this controversy by not making it the occasion for entirely changing the custom of Parliament in this matter.


My Lords, as the question of privilege has been raised in connection with this debate, it is, perhaps, desirable that I should say a word upon it. I am really not competent to enter into the particular merits of the special case in regard to the sum of money involved, so I will confine myself purely to the point of privilege as raised by this Amendment. It is perfectly true that this House has always taken the view, and in some respects and to a certain degree the other House has not altogether challenged that view, that matters of rating as regards breach of privilege cannot be held to be precisely in pari muteria with matters of taxing. That has always been contended here, and, as I say, it has not been altogether challenged in another place. But, on the other hand. I think it is important to bear in mind the subject-matter of this Bill and the occasion on which a breach of privilege may be alleged. As a rule when this House has claimed its right to insert Amendments in Bills in connection with rating, it has bean what one might term rating of the pariah pump character. But this is rather a different matter. The metropolitan police are in effect to a great extent a national service, and it can hardly be expected, I think, in considering matters affecting that force, that the House of Commons will be willing to take the view that the matter is one which only concerns the inhabitants of London in their capacity as ratepayers. Any question concerning the metropolitan police must also wear something of a national aspect, and it is for that reason that the particular question of privilege is much more likely to be raised in another place on a matter of this kind than it would be upon rating matters of purely local character, of a kind of which it would be possible to suggest a number of instances. I fear, therefore, that in another place the insertion of an Amendment of this kind would run a risk of being regarded not merely as an assertion of the right to differentiate, as we have done in the past on more than one occasion, between rating powers and taxing powers, but as involving something of an encroachment on the part of this House in dealing with a charge which, though in a literal sense rating, is yet concerned with matters of a national character. It is that consideration which makes me gravely doubt whether the House of Commons would be likely to take the course, which, of course, it is always entitled to take and sometimes does take, of waiving its privilege in a matter of this kind. I do not know that I can usefully add any more to this debate, beyond making to the House the serious reminder which I have ventured to make as to the course which it seems to me is likely to be pursued when the Bill goes elsewhere.


My Lords, I do not think this particular Amendment in itself is one of great importance, but it raises a question which may become of great importance. I do not think the noble Marquess who leads the House acted quite fairly in trying to ride off on the Imperial nature of the metropolitan police, because the only point at issue in this Amendment is a rate paid only by the ratepayers of the metropolis. Therefore what we are considering is most distinctly and exclusively a rating and not a taxing matter. It is one of the admitted privileges and powers of this House to share with the other House of Parliament the right of making an Address to the Crown in respect of certain classes of administrative proposals. It is a very common provision in our Acts of Parliament, as your Lordships know, that certain rules or certain Orders lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for a certain number of days and then acquire the force of law if no Address has been moved or carried against them in either House of Parliament. I venture to say that that is a power and privilege of real importance and substance, and I ask noble Lords opposite whether they can quote one single instance in all our Statutes of this privilege being confined to one House of Parliament only.

I take it that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite cannot name one single case in which this particular power has been given to the House of Commons only. Therefore when the noble Marquess who leads the House suggests that we may be guilty of an encroachment on the financial privileges of the House of Commons, I reply to him that the encroachment is quite in another direction. We have no desire to encroach on the financial privilege of the House of Commons, nor do we desire to raise unnecessarily the question of privilege; but on this the first occasion on which it is attempted to set a precedent in an Act of Parliament that this practice which has always hitherto been enjoyed by the two Houses should be now enjoyed only by one, we should be doing ill if we did not enter our protest, especially since it is not so many months ago that our powers and privileges were under the review of Parliament. If the House of Commons, if the Government, at the time of the Parliament Act had considered that this was a power of which we ought to be deprived, the House of Commons could have inserted a provision to that effect in the Parliament Bill, but the Parliament Bill was silent on the subject. Yet it is now suggested that we are quietly to submit at the instance, not of the House of Commons or of the Government, but of the Home Secretary alone, to the setting up of a precedent by which this power may be hereafter taken from us.

I would go further, my Lords, and remind you that the Parliament Act affects this question in a two-fold manner. I have already pointed out that it is quite clear that those who framed the Parliament Act agreed that this was a privilege which it was for the benefit of the State we should continue to exercise, and which we have exercised hitherto for the benefit of the State. Sir Erskine May has been quoted as regards the privileges of the House of Commons. But since Sir Erskine May wrote his book the House of Commons itself has undertaken to put into Statute form some of its privileges, and I draw your Lordships' attention to this very important fact, that in the Parliament Act for the first time in a Statute is laid down a great distinction between the powers and position of this House in them atter of rates and the power and position of this House in the matter of taxes. Taking the fact that the House of Commons has itself quite willingly admitted of its own free will that the power of this House in regard to rates is different from our power in regard to taxes, and taking into consideration also the very serious nature of the encroachment on our powers and privileges which this particular provision may create in the nature of a precedent, I think your Lordships are indebted to my noble friend for having moved this Amendment, and I certainly hope, not only that your Lordships will place this Amendment in the Bill, but that the Government themselves will see that there really is a reasonable case in this matter, and that we are not raising unnecessarily a point of no importance.


My Lords, I wish to repeat the question which has been addressed to the Front Bench opposite. Is there any precedent that can be found for laying Papers of this sort on the Table of the House of Commons only? Because, if no precedent can be found, we are taking a very serious step if we agree to this in this case. On the question of privilege, the noble Marquess who leads the House drew a distinction and appeared to rely on the fact that the metropolitan police force is more or less a national body. If it is a national body, then why does the nation not pay for it? This money is to be paid by the metropolitan ratepayers. In confirmation of what Lord Selborne said with regard to the Parliament Act, let me read to the House what that Act says. The Parliament Act distinctly says that Bills of this sort are not Money Bills. These are the words— A Money Bill means a Public Bill which, in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons, contains only provisions dealing with taxation; and at the end the Act says— In this subsection the expression 'taxation,' 'public money,' and 'loan,' respectively do not include any taxation, public money, or loan raised by local authorities or bodies for local purposes. This is a rate which is levied and raised by a local authority, and it appears to me that under those words there can be no question of this House invading the privileges of the other House.


My Lords, with regard to the question which has been raised in several quarters of the House as to whether there is any precedent for what is contemplated under this Bill, I would remind your Lordships that there is no precedent for any financial measure being made the subject of such a provision. As far as I know, up to the present time this practice has been confined to regulations under the Factory Acts and such like measures. There is no precedent at all for applying this process to a financial proposal. The responsibility for this innovation, if innovation it be, rests with noble Lords opposite. It was at the suggestion of the noble Viscount himself that this provision was inserted. When the Bill came up to your Lordships' House last session there was no subsection such as we are discussing to-day in it. It was the distinct wish of the noble Viscount that such a provision should be inserted. I have already quoted to your Lordships from the speech he made on that occasion, in which he distinctly asked that such a safeguard should be inserted in the Bill. If we have got on to fresh ground, and if a point has been raised for which there is no precedent, the responsibility for it, I say, rests with noble Lords opposite. But coming to another point, the noble Earl who has just sat down quoted from the Parliament Act, and pointed out to your Lordships that that Act definitely dissociated itself from having any concern with rating matters. Everything of that kind is distinctly left in the position in which it was before the Parliament Bill was introduced, and it is in that connection that I suggest that Sir Erskine May is an authority who should claim respect at your Lordships' hands.


Over an Act of Parliament?


But the Act of Parliament definitely stated that these things were left, untouched, that no alteration in the relations of the two Houses with regard to rating should result from the Parliament Act. Therefore if we want to consider how matters stood before the passing of the Parliament Act, I think we may fairly look for guidance to the source which I have named. The noble Viscount taunted me that I did not pursue my studies of Sir Erskine May sufficiently far, and he told your Lordships, which I suppose your Lordships knew perfectly well, that it is quite within the competence of the other House to waive its privilege. But if the noble Viscount had read a little further beyond the sentence which he quoted he would have found the statement that the House of Commons are generally disposed to waive the question of privilege on an Amendment of a Money or Rating Bill— when those Amendments affect charges upon the people incidentally only, and were made for the purpose of giving effect to the legislative intentions of the Commons. I do not think that in this case it can be claimed that the Amendment which the noble Viscount is supporting has for its object giving effect to a legislative intention of the Commons; and I venture to agree with my noble friend who leads the House that it is not at all improbable that the House of Commons may take the view, especially if this is a new case, that this does constitute a breach of privilege.

The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, told us that he did not attach very much importance to this Amendment. He said it was not a very important matter, but he claimed that out of it arose important considerations. In itself he attached very little importance to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord. If it is unimportant—and I agree with him it is not very important—I put it to your Lordships whether on an unimportant issue it is desirable to raise with the other House a question of privilege. Anyhow, we cannot accept the Amendment, and although we do not wish to put your Lordships to the trouble of dividing on the subject, it must be clearly understood that we dissociate ourselves from any participation in the matter.


I venture to say that the raising of a question of privilege in the other House will depend on the attitude of the Government. If the Government are determined to make one procedure for the Act of 1909 and another procedure for this Bill, they can do so. It is entirely for them to decide whether they will force the House of Commons to insist on its privilege, which on many occasions it has decided to waive.


The noble Viscount is not accurate in saying that the raising of a question of privilege depends on the action of His Majesty's Government in another place. The raising of a question of privilege depends upon the attitude of the officers of the House of Commons. They call attention to a breach of privilege if they conceive that one exists. Whether the breach of privilege should be waived may depend upon the advice given by His Majesty's Ministers, which may, and presumably would, be followed by the majority of the members of the House, but the calling of attention to a breach of privilege is not the business of His Majesty's Government. It is the business of the officials of the House of Commons.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 10, leave out ("the") and insert ("either") Clause 1, page 2, line 12, leave out the first ("the") and insert ("either").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.


I move the other Amendment standing in my name on the Paper.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 2, lines 13 and 14, leave out ("the said increase shall not then be made") and insert ("no further proceedings shall be taken in virtue of the said minute without prejudice to the presentation to Parliament of any new Minute").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


I accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

The Report of Amendments to be received To-morrow, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 25.)