HL Deb 30 July 1914 vol 17 cc288-94

My Lords, in moving, in respect of this Bill and the next Bill standing in my name on the Paper—Local Government Provisional Order (No. 23) Bill—that the Order made on May 25 last "That no Provisional Order Confirmation Bill brought from the House of Commons shall be read a second time after June 25 next" be dispensed with and that the Bills be read a second time, I should like to say, as regards Bill No. 20, that this being an unopposed Bill the noble Earl the Lord Chairman does not object to the Standing Order being suspended. But with regard to Bill No. 23, which is an opposed Bill, the Lord Chairman does take objection on the ground of its coming up so late. The reason for the Bill coming up so late is that it deals with the vexed question of the extension of borough boundaries and the creation of a county borough, and it was impossible for the Local Government Board to hold their inquiry until the decision as to what was to be done with regard to such Bills was given by the Prime Minister. As the House will remember, there was a great fight over Cambridge. Therefore this is the earliest time that the Darlington Bill could be brought up. As the noble Earl the Lord Chairman objects to Bill No. 23 going beyond a Second Beading, I undertake not to proceed thither with that Bill this session.

Moved, That the Order made on the 25th day of May last, "That no Provisional Order Confirmation Bill brought from the House of Commons shall be read a second time after the 25th day of June next," be dispensed with, and that the Bill (No. 20) be now read 2ª.——(Lord Strachie.)


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has made the announcement which he has just made —namely, that if No. 23 Provisional Order Bill, which concerns the extension of Darlington, is read a second time, the Government will not ask the House to go into Committee upon it this session, but will suspend it until next session. The noble Lord has referred to the reasons for the delay in the Bill reaching your Lordships' House, and he has been good enough —I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of his Department—to provide me with a memorandum stating the facts in full. The facts show that the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on June 24. Your Lordships' Sessional Order says that all Provisional Order Confirmation Bills should reach here by June 25. Therefore it was impossible for this Provisional Order Bill to reach us in accordance with our Sessional Order.

I desire in a few sentences to draw your Lordships' attention to the general position in which we stand over this Sessional Order. Your Lordships are aware of the procedure which is followed in the course of Private Bills. They are all deposited in December, and the course of January the Chairman of Ways and Means in another place and whoever fills the post in your Lordships' House which I now have the honour to hold have a joint meeting and the Bills are divided. Half of them start in your Lordships' House and half in the House of Commons, and care is taken not only that the numbers are equal but also that the approximate amount of work, so far as can be judged, shall also be equal But that procedure is not followed by the Government in tie introduction of Provisional. Order Bills. There have been fifty-nine Provisional Order Bills introduced this session, three in your Lordships' House and fifty-six in the House of Commons. The result is that hem we are at the end of the session with Bills still coming up to us. A number of them—as a matter of fact, thirty-six—reached your Lordships' House before June 25 and therefore complied with the Sessional Order, and your Lordships had full opportunity for their consideration in Opposed Committee when they were opposed. But two of them were dropped in the House of Commons and in respect of the other eighteen it has been necessary to suspend our Standing Order. It is really not treating your Lordships fairly that none of these Bills should originate in this House.

In recent years all these Bills are examined in my Department even if they are unopposed, and the result of their coining up in this way is that it is impossible to guarantee that they receive proper attention. We had one glorious twenty-four hours this year in which eighteen Provisional Order Bills should have been read before they reached Committee. It is impossible to carry on work properly under such conditions. But when the Bills are opposed the case is, of course, even worse, because whereas there have been plenty of Committees sitting between March and now, it is now obviously too late to expect your Lordships to give adequate attention in Committee to opposed Bills. A Bill has gone to an opposed Committee to-day, and I am indeed grateful to have found members of your Lordships' House willing to undertake the consideration of it. It is an important Bill dealing with the question of whether or not two boroughs and an urban district outside should be amalgamated. This illustrates the difficulty that there is to get your Lordships to sit on Committees at this time of the year. I was greatly indebted to the Duke of Wellington for consenting to serve as chairman of this Committee, and I am sure he will not mind my saying that he was the eleventh Peer whom we asked to preside over this Committee before we were successful in getting a chairman. I do not think it is reasonable that Committees should be asked to sit in August when they sit during the previous five months and there would have been no difficulty in dealing with Bills sent to Committees during that time.

I suggest that there are two alternatives, and I hope that the Government, between now and next year, will take the matter into their consideration with a view of bringing about a better state of things. Either cannot we have our fair share of Provisional Order Bills introduced into this House, or cannot some arrangement be made by which the Bills are deposited in the offices of this House at the same time as they are introduced in the other House, in order that they may be considered in advance. I think the better course would be that both of these alternatives should be followed, for only in that way can we guarantee that these important Bills can be adequately considered. The use of the Provisional Order system is growing, and more and more important subjects are coming under the purview of this procedure every year. It is therefore important that these Bills should receive proper consideration. I am glad that the noble Lord has decided to carry over Bill No. 23 until next year under procedure that can be adopted to secure that the important matter with which it deals should receive adequate consideration in your Lordships' House.


The proposal not to proceed further with Bill No. 23 practically means that the Darlington Extension Order is lost for this session. If so, I think it is, speaking on behalf of the ratepayers of Darlington, a very hard case from their point of view. I believe there is only one petition against the Bill and that is from the county council, which petition was only decided upon at a meeting of that body yesterday morning. I do not see how any action could have been taken at an earlier stage. I should be glad to know if I am right.


Action could have been taken at an earlier stage if the Bill had been here before June 25, when it ought to have been here. My difficulty is that it is not reasonable to ask your Lordships' Committees to sit to consider these matters at this time of the year.


With regard to the Bill for the extension of Darlington, it is said that it is not to proceed further than Second Reading. In that case, what is the object of giving it a Second Reading? Will the noble Earl kindly tell us what good object is served by reading the Bill a second time if it is not to proceed further? It seems to me that it would be far preferable that it should be dropped altogether.


The suggestion is not that the Bill should be dropped, but that it should be read a second time and then suspended until next session. In accordance with Private Bill precedents, we should send a Message to the other House suggesting that the Bill should be suspended. The procedure would then be that it would pass its stages quite formally in the originating House next year, and we would take it in one of the first Committee groups that sit next session. I do not think there is any great difference in our reading the Bill a second time to-day and our not doing so, but as the Government desire that it should be read a second time I see no objection.


Perhaps the Government will tell us why they desire that Bill No. 23 should be read a second time, because it seems to me there is nothing gained. The Bill is not in any way delayed if it is suspended.


If the noble Earl presses his objection I will not proceed further with Bill No. 23, as I understand it could equally well be suspended having been read a first time in this House. I was under the impression at first that unless it was read a second time it would be necessary to commence again next session de novo. If that is not so, of course I do not mind whether or not the Bill is read a second time now.


I have nothing to say about the circumstances of this particular Bill, with which I am not familiar, and the promoters of which appear to be likely to suffer for a procedure for which they have no responsibility. The point which I wish to put to the Government is this. The noble Earl the Lord Chairman spoke to us just now about the operation of the present system as it affects the partition of work between the two Houses of Parliament. From the position from which the noble Earl spoke, his observations appeared to be addressed to us on this Bench, but I submit that in reality they were intended to be addressed, and were addressed, to noble Lords sitting behind him. What I would like to ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is whether, in the forthcoming vacation, he will undertake to consider very seriously the matter brought before us by the noble Earl. The injustice of the present system is surely shown by the fact that of fifty-nine Provisional Order Bills only three were introduced in the first instance in your Lordships' House. That seems to me to be an obviously unfair and unwise partition of work between the two Houses. I believe the noble Earl was perfectly right in what he said, that the members of your Lordships' House are extremely good in their attention to public business of this character; and their willingness to sit. in Committee at this late period of the session is, I think, a proof of the justice of the tribute which he paid. But the noble Earl concluded by making, from his own considerable experience, two definite suggestions for the consideration of the Government, and I should like to ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House whether he, on behalf of the Government, will undertake to consider the matter very carefully in the interval that lies before us with a view of introducing some better system in the next session of Parliament.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Earl who has just spoken, I need not assure him or the House that anything on this subject which falls from my noble friend the Lord Chairman is certain to receive most careful attention and respectful consideration from us. It is now, I am sorry to say, some years since I have taken any part whatever in the private business of the House, with which at one time I was greatly engaged, and the particular circumstances mentioned by my noble friend the Lord Chairman were unknown to me. But I will certainly, in deference to his opinion, which, as we all know, is bound to carry the greatest weight here, make the inquiries which he suggests and find out whether it is possible to re-arrange this particular branch of business in the two Houses in a manner which will secure a greater equality of effort between the two; because, so far as my experience of private business here goes, although, as I have stated, it, is not recent, I should fully endorse the statements that have been made of the willingness at any rate of a considerable number of noble Lords in this House to undertake arduous duties in that connection, and also of the skill and experience which they bring to bear upon it. I shall be glad, therefore, to make the inquiries for which the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees has asked.

On Question, Motion agreed to: Bill No. 20 read 2ª accordingly.