HL Deb 18 April 1916 vol 21 cc758-69

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

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


My Lords, I have several remarks to make with regard to the drafting of this Bill, and it will probably be convenient to your Lordships that I should make them now. It has been my fate at different times in my life to read Bills that were very badly drafted and very confusing, but I have never read a Bill so badly drafted and so confusing as this Bill. In the first place, it is compounded of two different sets of clauses, one set intended to be temporary and the other intended to be permanent. So far as I am aware, there never before has been a Bill composed of one part temporary and one part permanent. As there is a part which is to be permanent, why should it not have been placed in a Bill by itself? On this occasion, however, the Government have mixed temporary and permanent provisions together. Moreover, the Government did not know in the first instance which part of the Bill they intended to be temporary and which part they intended to be permanent, for I see that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill is to move an Amendment in Committee that three clauses which now are temporary should be made permanent. Apparently the Government when they drew up the Bill did not know what they were doing, because those clauses, as the Bill was presented to us on Second Reading, appeared in a different category.

There are other things absurd and ridiculous in the Bill which are still more difficult to understand. If your Lordships will look at Clause 11, you will see that it refers to the number of men who are to be with locomotives on highways. The Locomotives Act, 1898, is a measure relating to the whole of the kingdom, but in Clause 11 of this Bill the Government propose to amend it in this way. Section 5 of the Locomotives Act, 1898, is to have effect as if for subsection (1) thereof there were substituted subsection (1) of Section 25 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1908. Therefore any one who wants to know what that means must in the first place refer to the Locomotives Act, 1898, which, as I have said, refers to the whole of the kingdom, and then the draftsman makes him look to another Act passed ten years later referring only to Scotland; and the Scottish Act is made to amend the Act for the whole kingdom. Anything more confusing and mystifying to the ordinary public it is impossible to imagine. I have never known such a thing done before.

I do not know whether there is any one who has authority over the Government draftsman or over the Local Government Board, but if there is, I hope that he will insist that Bills shall be drawn in future in such a way as to mean what they say in the first instance, and, in the second place, that they shall not amend an Act relating to the United Kingdom by reference to an Act relating to a part only of the United Kingdom. There is no objection to the part of this Bill which it is proposed to make permanent. But surely the part which is intended to be temporary ought to be in a form in which it is possible to understand it without being obliged to look at half-a-dozen different Acts of Parliament. I enter a protest against this way of drawing up Bills. The only thing one can suppose is that the Government had not thought out half of what they were proposing to put into the Bill, the result of which is that they themselves intend to propose in Committee to alter the condition and duration of a number of the clauses.


My Lords, the noble Earl complains that this Bill has been drawn up in a rather unusual form, certain of its provisions being of a temporary and emergency character, to be valid only during the war and a short period thereafter, whilst other clauses are intended to be permanent. With the practice of your Lordships' House no one is more familiar than the noble Earl, and it is not for me to dispute the fact that it is unusual for certain of the clauses of a Bill to be of a temporary and others of a permanent character. But if your Lordships will have the goodness to refer to this Bill and to the Amendments which have been placed on the Paper in my name you will see that the clauses which are intended to be permanent are few in number. The bulk of the clauses are of an emergency character, to be valid only during the war and a short time afterwards.

The clauses which it is intended shall have the effect of permanent legislation are mentioned in Clause 23 of the Bill and in the Amendments that have been tabled in my name. The provisions stated in Clause 23 to be of a permanent character are those of Clauses 2, 3, and 16; and there is standing on the Paper in my name an Amendment to add to the permanent provisions those in Clauses 17 and 18 and in paragraph (4) of Clause 22. Nearly all these clauses are in relation to the war, and had it not been for the war I have no doubt that the noble Earl would not have had to complain of this amalgamation of temporary and permanent clauses. Clause 2 deals with payments under superannuation schemes of certain soldiers and sailors in His Majesty's Forces, and it is obvious that this legislation and the rules and regulations with regard to it will not only have to continue during the period for which the bulk of this Bill will hold good, but will also have to be valid after the war. The same thing applies to Clause 3. I cannot contend that Clause 16, which is the next permanent clause, comes in exactly the same category, but it is intended to provide machinery for securing economy in administration, and I hope that on that account your Lordships will think it has not been improperly placed as part of the permanent provisions in this Bill. The effect of Clause 16 is directed towards making it practicable that, whereas in some cases no less than six copies of legal conveyances have to be at present made, only one shall in future be necessary. I do not think I need describe Clause 17. Clause 18, as I explained yesterday in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, was inserted in fulfilment of a distinct pledge given on behalf of the Government when the Naval and Military War Pensions, Etc. (Expenses) Act of this year was before your Lordships. The House will remember that several noble Lords expressed great dissatisfaction on that occasion with the power that was given to councils to rate localities towards the administrative expenses in connection with war pensions, and they pressed on the Government that the contributions made by a local authority towards these expenses should be subject to the sanction of the Local Government Board. It was to fulfil the promise then given that this sanction should be provided that Clause 18 was inserted in the Bill. With regard to the last of the permanent provisions—paragraph (4) of Clause 22—the matter is one relating to Irish administration, and my noble friend who is in charge of the business of the Irish Office in this House will explain, in moving his Amendment later, the reason for making this one of the permanent provisions of the Bill. I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, will not hold me responsible for the drafting deficiencies to which he called attention, but I will make it my business to report to the Department which I represent the observations he has made on that subject.


The noble Lord has not explained why the part of this Bill which is intended to be permanent is not put into a Bill by itself.


It is done in this way to save time.


Then this Bill is De omnibus rebus, et quibusdam aliis.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

(2) This section shall apply to the case of an officer or servant of a local authority who before the passing of this Act took service in or with His Majesty's forces with the sanction or permission of the local authority, and any resolution, promise, sanction or permission, passed or given by a local authority to any such officer or servant with a view to Ins serving in or with His Majesty's forces, shall be binding on the local authority to the extent to which it could have been passed or given if the provisions of this Act had been in force:

Provided that where before the passing of this Act a local authority has resolved, promised, sanctioned or agreed to make payments in excess of the amounts authorised by this section, any such excess payments up to the date of the passing of this Act, or such later date as may be determined by the Local Government Board, shall be deemed to have been lawfully made, and the Local Government Board shall sanction the continuance of such excess payments after such date as aforesaid in any case where it appears to them that the man joined His Majesty's forces in reliance on such resolution, promise, sanction, or agreement, and that the amount of the excess is not unreasonable.

(3) On the application of a local authority the Local Government Board may determine any question as to what amount may be paid under this section.

(4) Where the scale of payments for its officers and servants serving in or with His Majesty's forces adopted by a local authority in accordance with Or not exceeding the scale of payments for the time being laid down for officers and servants of His Majesty's civil service so serving it shall not be necessary for any such local authority to obtain the sanction of the Local Government Board as required by this section, and any payments made in accordance with such scale shall be deemed to be and to have been lawfully made.


I move, after the word "extent" in subsection (2),to insert, "and only to the extent." This Amendment is intended to make it quite clear that the resolution, promise, sanction, or permission given by the local authority is only to be binding to the extent to which it could have been passed or given if this Bill had been in force when the promise was made.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 20, after ("extent") insert ("and only to the extent.").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The other Amendments standing in my name to this clause, which are all in subsection (4), are purely drafting.

Amendments moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 39, after ("authority"), insert ("is"), after ("or") insert ("does"), and leave out ("exceeding") and insert ("exceed").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:


I move to omit from the first line of paragraph (b) the word "infectious" and to insert "any such." This is purely drafting.

Amendment moved— Clause 5, page 4, line 13, leave out ("infectious") and insert ("any such").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Calculation of amounts payable in respect of pauper lunatics.

9. The amounts payable or transferable by the London County Council under subsection (2) of section twenty-four of the Local Government Act, 1888, on account of pauper lunatics in respect of the year ending the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and sixteen, or any subsequent year, shall instead of being calculated in manner provided in paragraphs (e), (f), and (g) of that subsection be the amount payable or transferable in accordance with the said paragraphs in respect of the year ending on the thirty-first clay of March nineteen hundred and fifteen.


The amounts payable are actually made, not under Section 24 of the Local Government Act, 1888, but under Section 41. I therefore move, after the words "section twenty-four," to insert "and subsection (2) of section forty-one."

Amendment moved— Clause 9, page 5, line 35, after ("twenty-four") insert ("and subsection (2) of section forty-one").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 19 agreed to.


I move to insert a new clause after Clause 19. This Bill has been carefully considered by the County Councils Association and they give it their hearty support, because they believe that it will enable local authorities to effect economy in time, in labour, and in money, but they desire to see the scope of the Bill widened in the directions indicated in the clause which I am now moving and in the other new clause standing in my name on the Paper.

My first clause, which I now move, has for its object to enable local authorities to discontinue during the war the publication of certain statutory notices, subject to the previous consent of the Government Departments concerned. No doubt in many cases these notices refer to important matters connected with education, with public health, with the outbreak of disease of animals and consequent regulations, and it is necessary that the notices should be published; but, on the other hand, there are a number of statutory notices which refer to matters that are really of little importance, and in the opinion of the County Councils Association it will be quite possible, without prejudice to administration or to any persons concerned, to suspend the publication of those notices during the continuance of the war. My noble friend in charge of the Bill, in moving the Second Reading yesterday, said that one of its objects was to regularise action of uncertain legality taken by local authorities. I submit that the subject of this clause is a case in point. I understand that some local authorities have taken upon themselves the responsibility of suspending for the time being the publication of statutory notices which they thought were of an unimportant character, and on that ground alone I think that I may appeal to the Government to accept this clause.

The objection which I have heard raised to the proposed new clause is that it may put an additional amount of work upon certain Public Departments. I venture to say that this is not a substantial objection to the clause. In the first place, we must give local authorities credit for exercising discretion in these matters, and we must assume that they would not ask that any statutory notices which are absolutely necessary or essential should be discontinued even for a short period. Therefore I do not think we can expect that there will be a very large number of these applications. Secondly, there are five Departments—the Home Office, the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Board of Education, the Local Government Board, and the Board of Trade—concerned with the subjects on which statutory notices are required, and if these various applications are spread over the five Departments I think it is improbable that much extra work will fall upon any one individual Department. I ask your Lordships to accept this clause because it will enable local authorities to effect economy—perhaps not very large economy, but even small savings are important at the present time; and because it will put local authorities who, with the best motives, have taken action of uncertain legality, on a firm ground; and I submit that it is improbable that it will put a large additional amount of work on any of the Government Departments concerned.

Amendment moved— After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:

"Abolition of statutory notices.

"Any statutory public notices required to be given by any local authority may, if the sanction of the government department concerned be previously obtained, be dispensed with by order of such local anthority."—(The Earl of Northbrook.)


I am sure your Lordships view with sympathy the object of the noble Earl in moving this Amendment—namely, to assist in the more economical working of local administration. But there is something to be said on the other side. The Local Government Board—and think it is extremely probable that the other Government Departments concerned share the same feeling—entertain consider- able apprehension as to the great amount of extra correspondence that would be entailed upon them if this clause were accepted. The Local Government Board have already taken steps to reduce as far as possible the notices and advertisements which they control. There are, as your Lordships know, a considerable number of notices given by local authorities which are not required to be given by Statute. But as regards statutory notices, to which the noble Earl's clause refers, the object of these notices is that the persons to be notified shall not be prejudiced, damaged, or put under duties and obligations without proper warning, and I hope to be able to show your Lordships that in regard to a considerable number of these statutory notices such damage and detriment might fall upon individuals if the dispensing power which the noble Earl's new clause seeks for was granted by Parliament.

The County Councils Association have given five instances of the sort of statutory notices which they suggest might be dispensed with—namely, the notices under the Wild Birds Protection Acts and the Diseases of Animals Act, and in respect of county rate basis, local inquiries, and bylaws of various descriptions. With regard to the Wild Birds Protection Acts, I may explain that by the Act of 1880 the Secretary of State may, by Order, extend or vary the time during which the killing or taking of wild birds is prohibited, and this Order has to be published in the London Gazette. By the Act of 1884 the Secretary of State may prohibit the taking or destroying of the eggs of certain wild birds, and the county councils are required to give public notice of any such Order by advertisements in the local newspapers and otherwise. By a later Statute the powers under the Act of 1880 were extended to cover the taking or killing of wild birds during any part of the year to which the Act of 1880 does not apply. As to the Diseases of Animals Act, the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries already have power to make such Orders as they think fit for prescribing or regulating notices to be given in the case of any particular disease. With regard to the county rate basis, there, again, the county councils have to call for returns and send out certain notices. Then with regard to local inquiries, the county councils have power, which they exercise in a great number of instances on a variety of subjects, of holding local inquiries on different matters, and notices of such inquiries have to be given by advertisement in the local newspapers, on church doors, and so forth. The Local Government Board prescribe the manner in which notices of these local inquiries are to be given. There are, further, the notices as to by-laws. In all these cases the persons concerned would or might be prejudiced if the notices were dispensed with. I dare say your Lordships have observed that when persons are prosecuted in the country for a breach of by-laws or for infringing some regulation with regard to the Diseases of Animals Act, and so on, one, of the most usual excuses made is that the matter had not been brought to their attention and that they had never seen the notices published. In all these circumstances I am afraid it is impossible to accept the noble Earl's Amendment.


The intimation which the noble Lord has given, and which I have heard to-day for the first time, that local authorities have been informed that certain notices may be temporarily dispensed with meets the purposes for which this clause was framed. But I think the refusal of the Government to accept the clause will come as a disappointment to local authorities who have been doing their best to carry out economies. I am, however, entirely in the hands of the Government in this matter, and as the noble Lord says that the Government, after consideration, are unable to accept the clause, I have no alternative but to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The object of the next clause standing in my name on the Paper is to enable local authorities to effect economy during the war in the maintenance and repair of roads, or, at any rate, to prevent for the time being an unnecessary additional amount of traffic being put on their roads, with a consequent increase of expenditure. Your Lordships are aware that the annual cost in respect of main roads has, since the introduction of mechanically-propelled vehicles, greatly increased, and is now the largest charge on the general purposes account of county councils. It is at present open to any individual or private company, without the consent of the local authorities, to run omnibuses or other similar carriages plying for hire over the roads for the repair and maintenance of which the local autho- rities are liable. This practice has widely extended, is increasing, and has increased since the commencement of the war. I have here a list of thirty counties in England and Wales in which motor and other omnibuses are now running over a large mileage of roads repairable by the local authorities. It is obvious that this large amount of heavy traffic greatly adds to the wear and tear of the roads and puts a heavy charge upon the county ratepayers, while the owners of the omnibuses, who take the profit from the enterprise, contribute little, and in many cases nothing at all, to the maintenance of the country roads over which their omnibuses run. That is a question for future consideration.

The clause which I am moving to insert in this Bill is an emergency measure, and its operation would continue only during the war or for such period not exceeding one year after as the Local Government Board might fix. The clause does not propose to interfere with any existing omnibus routes. What it proposes is to make it unlawful for any omnibus or other similar carriage plying for hire to use any route which has not been regularly used within twelve months prior to March 1, 1916, except with the consent of the highway authority liable for the maintenance of the highway along which the route runs, or, if that consent is unreasonably refused, with the consent of the Local Government Board; and the clause contains definite provisions to meet the case of a temporary diversion of traffic, and as to routes that may be considered necessary for conveying persons engaged in Government work.

Amendment moved— After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:

"Prohibition of construction of new routes for omnibuses.

"(1) Notwithstanding anything in any statute it stall not be lawful after the passing of this Act for any omnibus to ply for hire on or use any route which has not been regularly used by omnibuses plying for hire within twelve months prior to the first day of March nineteen hundred and sixteen, except with the consent of the highway authority or, if more than one, every highway authority liable for the maintenance and repair of the highways along which the route runs, which consent may be given on such conditions as the highway authority may consider fit, or, if such consent is unreasonably refused, without the consent of the Local Government Board; and if any person drives an omnibus or allows an omnibus to be driven along any route in contravention of this provision, he shall, on summary conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds and to a further penalty not exceeding forty shillings for every mile travelled by every omnibus in contravention of the provisions of this section, all penalties recoverable under this section to be paid into the funds of the highway authority concerned.

"Provided that nothing in this section shall apply where a route is altered in consequence of the temporary diversion of traffic on account of the breaking up of any road or in pursuance of the directions of any police authority or other directions lawfully given.

"Provided also that nothing in this section shall apply to any omnibus plying for hire on any route in any case where the Admiralty, Army Council, or Minister of Munitions are of opinion that an omnibus service is necessary for and is to be used solely by munition workers or other persons engaged on Government war service.

"(2) This section shall not be deemed to detract from any existing powers of highway authorities in regard to omnibuses.

"(3) For the purposes of this section the expression "omnibus" includes every omnibus, char-a-bane, wagonette, brake, stage coach, or other carriage plying for hire or used to carry passengers at separate fares."—(The Earl of Northbrook.)


I am happy to tell the noble Earl that the Government are willing to accept this clause. They think the suggestion a very reasonable one. The safeguard that the clause contains, requiring the sanction of the Local Government Board, will probably guarantee that no unreasonable restrictions will be permitted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21:


On this clause I wish to move an Amendment which does not appear on the Paper, but it is not of a very important character. It is a drafting Amendment relating to the application of the Bill to Scotland.

Amendment moved— Clause 21, page 10, line 22, at end, insert ("references to a sanitary authority shall be construed as references to a town or county council").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22:


I move to add, at the end of this clause, a definition subsection. It was intended to insert this subsection in the Bill when it was passing through the House of Commons, but for some reason the Minister in charge of the Bill was absent at the particular stage when this was proposed to be done.

Amendment moved—

Clause 22, page 11, line 30, at end insert: (5) The expression 'highway authority' means the county council, county borough council, or urban district council, as the case requires."—(Viscount Allendale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23:

Short title and duration.

23.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Local Government(Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916.

(2) This Act, except the provisions of sections two, three and sixteen thereof, shall have effect only during the continuance of the present war and afterwards for such period or periods (if any) not exceeding one year as the Local Government Board may fix; and the Board may fix different periods for different provisions of the Act.


I move to leave out the first "and" in subsection (2), and, after the word "sixteen," to insert "seventeen, eighteen, and paragraph (4) of section twenty-two." These are the provisions which it is proposed to add to those which are to be permanent.

Amendments moved—

Clause 23, page 11, line 33, leave out ("and")

Clause 23, Page 11, line 34, after ("sixteen") insert ("seventeen, eighteen, and paragraph (4) of section twenty-two").—(Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Amendments reported: Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the commons, and to be printed as amended. (No. 25.)