HL Deb 14 August 1917 vol 26 cc356-82

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Sandhurst.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Powers and Duties of Minister of Reconstruction.

2.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Minister of Reconstruction to consider and advise upon the problems which may arise after the termination of the present war, and for the purposes aforesaid to institute and conduct such inquiries, prepare such schemes, and make such recommendations as he thinks fit; and the Minister of Reconstruction shall, for the purposes aforesaid, have such powers and duties of any Government Department or authority, which have been conferred by or under any statute, as His Majesty may by Order in Council authorise the Minister to exercise or perform concurrently with, or in consultation with, the Government Department or authority concerned.

(2)The Minister of Reconstruction shall in each year present to Parliament a report of such of the schemes prepared and recommendations made by him as he shall deem suitable for publication.

(3)Any Order in Council made for the purpose of this Act may be added to, varied, or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved to delete from subsection (1) the words "may arise after the termination of the present war," and to insert "arise out of the present war and will require to be dealt with immediately upon the termination of it." The noble Marquess said: I have two Amendments to this Bill, and I am in hopes that the Government will see their way to accept both of them. The Amendment which stands first in my name, and which I am now moving, is to bring the Bill more into conformity with the declarations of the Government, and therefore more into conformity with the intention of Parliament in this matter. My noble friend the Leader of the House, in addressing your Lordships on the Second Reading of this Bill, used these words— I really do not think that there is the slightest intention—it certainly never entered my head— that this Minister should explore the whole field of political and social activity, and devise a new policy for the Government or for the nation.

But as the Bill stands, as your Lordships will see, there is no limit whatever to the activities of the new Minister of Reconstruction.

The words in the clause are that the new Minister is to be entitled "to consider and advise upon the problems which may arise after the termination of the present war "—not, your Lordships will observe, that they should be in any way connected with the present war, or that they should require to be dealt with at any approximate period after the war. At any time from the termination of the present war, upon any subject right up to the end of time, all matters would be open to the Minister of Reconstruction. I feel quite certain that this was not the intention of the other House of Parliament, or the intention of your Lordships' House when you agreed to the Second Reading of the Bill. Your idea of a Reconstruction Minister is some one who will put right things that have gone wrong in consequence of the great strain of the war. That is what reconstruction means. Therefore, the opening words of Clause 2, which is the operative clause, should be strictly tied to that limitation. Your Lordships will remember that on the Second Reading of the Bill the Lord Chancellor mentioned a whole string of subjects, some of which we quite agree ought to be dealt with by the Reconstruction Minister, but some of which, however, appear to us to be a long way outside the limit which I have ventured to put forward, and which the Leader of the House himself suggested when he spoke on the Second Reading.

I can assure your Lordships that I am not dealing with a mere bogey. There is great danger that the activities of this Reconstruction Minister may be unduly extended. There is a sort of feverish desire in some quarters to deal, in the name of reconstruction, with every subject under heaven. Coal conservation, for example, was mentioned by the Lord Chancellor in his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill. Coal conservation does not arise out of the war. No doubt, the difficulties connected with it may arise after the war, but the subject has no connection with the crisis of the present war and does not call for immediate settlement after the war. Again, I do not think that the drink question requires to be dealt with immediately after the war; and I doubt very much whether it arises out of the war, though to some extent, of course, it does.

Let me state to your Lordships the subjects that might be dealt with under this clause in its present form. There is the question of afforestation. There is everything connected with the railways, and everything connected with the coal industry. Some people want to deal with the whole of local government. Others want to deal with the whole basis on which our financial policy—I am not speaking of our fiscal policy—is arranged. Some people want to deal with the whole question of inland communication. Those are the sort of subjects with which, unless there are limiting words inserted in this clause, there is no reason in the world why the Minister of Reconstruction should not busy himself. As I have said, that is not the view of Parliament, or of the noble Earl the Leader of this House, who stated, in the extract which I have read from his speech, that he had no desire that the whole field of political and social activity should be explored. Therefore it seems common sense to limit the activities of the Minister of Reconstruction to matters which arise out of the war, and which require to be dealt with immediately on the termination of the war. Everything else can be dealt with in the ordinary way as it arises. When we get back to a period of peace, every question as it arises can be considered by the Cabinet of the day and be dealt with by the Parliament of the day, and there is no reason why any special legislation by way of a new Ministry should be required. On these grounds I submit my Amendment with some confidence to your Lordships' consideration.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 1, lines 10 and 11, leave out (" may arise after the termination of the present war ") and insert (" arise out of the present war and will require to be dealt with immediately upon the termination of it,")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


As I pointed out to your Lordships on the Second Reading of the Bill, the new Minister is not to exercise a roving commission, or to endeavour to usurp the executive duties of other Departments. His duties are governed by the words in the Bill, which state— It shall be the duty of the Minister of Reconstruction to consider and advise upon the problems which may arise after the termination of the present war, and for the purposes aforesaid— that is, promoting the work of organisation and development after the war— to institute and conduct such inquiries, prepare such schemes, and make such recommendations as he thinks fit. I think that a great many of the matters to which the noble Marquess referred would come up for consideration in any scheme or schemes of reconstruction that might be devised. But when the noble Marquess refers to the very large field of operations that might in the future be undertaken by an enterprising Minister of this kind, I would remind him that Clause 6 of this Bill provides that the office of Minister of Reconstruction shall cease to exist on the termination of a period of two years after the conclusion of the war, or such earlier date as may be determined. I do not want to accept the noble Marquess's Amendment as it stands, but I would suggest words which will, I think, go some way to meet his view. The words which I suggest are— It shall be the duty of the Minister of Reconstruction to consider and advise upon the problems which may arise out of the present war and may have to be dealt with after its termination. I put those words forward for the consideration of the noble Marquess.


I heard with great satisfaction the statement of the noble Viscount that the Government were prepared to meet the Amendment of the noble Marquess to some extent, but I cannot think that the extent to which they have gone is really far enough. If the noble Viscount says—and I accept his statement implicitly—that the object is not to give a roving commission to this Minister, then why confer upon him roving powers. All that Lord Salisbury's Amendment does is to limit the activities of the Minister to problems that arise out of the war. As the clause stands, the Minister may look as far ahead as he pleases. He may say that any problem of the future arises out of the war; and it will, indeed, be very difficult to dissociate any future political question from the existence of this war. If the noble Viscount could see his way further to extend his concession by dealing with the question raised in the noble Marquess's Amendment limiting the power to the problems which require to be "immediately" dealt with, I think everything will be satisfactory. And, after all, that really must be what he means, because he pointed out that the powers of the Minister are limited to two years duration after the conclusion of the war. If his powers are to be so restricted, surely the questions that he is to deal with ought to be limited to those that follow the war as its natural and immediate consequences. That is what I understand the Government desire. If that is so, I would earnestly and respectfully suggest to the noble Viscount that the further words in the noble Marquess's Amendment might be usefully and profitably added.


I do not think that I can respond to the appeal of the noble and learned Lord. The fact is that it was upon my responsibility that the noble Viscount behind me made the concession that he did. I heard only a portion of the speech of the noble Marquess who moved this Amendment—


You heard the important part of it.


I do not admit that any part of it could have been unimportant, but I am glad to learn that I heard the part that the noble Marquess most desired that I should be acquainted with. It was to meet the noble Marquess on this point that I agreed that the noble Viscount sitting at my side should accept the responsibility of suggesting these new words. I did not want him to move them on behalf of the Government, because I am not certain what attitude will be taken on the matter by the Minister responsible for the Bill in the House of Commons. But I thought the suggestion was a reasonable one and would go a long way to meet the noble Marquess, and I had hoped that he would accept the words and move them himself, in which case we should not have resisted them. Lord Buckmaster wishes us to adhere to the terms of Lord Salisbury's Amendment and insert the words "immediately upon the termination "of the war. What does "immediately" mean in point of time? Does it mean a week, a fortnight, two months, six months, a year? I would suggest that we should not embark upon that perilous field, and that noble Lords opposite should be content with the concession which I have been willing to make to them.


I am grateful to my noble friend for coming forward to meet me as much as he has done. I do not think we ought to quarrel about any words in my Amendment or the one which the noble Viscount opposite has suggested, except in regard to the word "immediately." If my noble friend will allow me to put in the word "immediately," so that the Amendment suggested by Lord Sandhurst would read "arise oat of the present war and may have to be dealt with immediately after its termination," that would sufficiently meet my view.

I doubt whether my noble friend who has just spoken has realised the enormous pressure there would be upon the Minister of Reconstruction even if he confined himself strictly to the limits which we are all agreed he ought not to be allowed to exceed. Think what it means to arrange the whole of the enormous process of demobilisation, to create a new labour policy—a trifle like, that!—and to deal with those very delicate and extremely intricate matters which are the subject of the special Reports that have been presented, let alone such a difficult subject as housing—I mention those as perhaps the principal matters. When you think that the Minister of Reconstruction must perforce deal with the labour policy, with housing, and with demobilisation, he will have his work quite cut out. He will not be an underworked Minister. He will be almost as overworked as my noble friends opposite, and that is saying a great deal. To suggest to him that he should go into other matters which may arise at any time after the war seems to me extravagant.

Lord Sandhurst said that the activities of the new Minister were limited to a period of two years after the termination of the war. That is quite true, but it does not prevent his considering and dealing with all those other subjects. I do not speak without some knowledge of this matter. I do not mean that I am as well qualified to speak as the greater part of your Lordships' House on the general subjects with which we are dealing. But the subject of reconstruction and what is suggested by way of reconstruction I do know. And your Lordships must realise that there are a great many people who think nothing of the vast list of subjects which I have related to you. They are quite willing to embark upon them all. They think they can have a new heaven and a new earth, and can reorganise everything thing in the next few months. It is absolute insanity, and we have no right to encourage them.

My noble friend said just now that there would be difficulties in the interpretation of the word "immediately." I would point out that these words are not mandatory in the sense that they could be enforced in a Court of Law. All that words of this kind can do is to express to the Minister and to the Government the intention of Parliament; and, of course, we rely with absolute confidence that, having expressed the wish of Parliament and it having been accepted by the Government, it will be carried out in the spirit intended. I think that the word "immediately" conveys what my noble friend opposite and we ourselves on this side really intend. I suggest, therefore, that my noble friend should allow me to move the form of words as proposed by Lord Sandhurst, with the word "immediately" added.


I desire to say a word in support of what has just fallen from the noble Marquess and of his proposition. I confess I cannot agree with the noble Earl the Leader of the House in regard to the difficulty which he seemed to think attached to the construction of the word "immediately" in such a connection as this. I should have thought that its interpretation was quite simple; that it was not a question of a day after the conclusion of the war—although the term "conclusion of the war" itself is one which is not precisely easy of interpretation in all connections—but that the sense of what was intended by the phrase "immediately" would be obvious to everybody who examined the clause. And surely there is this difficulty, that this measure is to have a life of two years after the termination of the war. During those two years it is quite possible that an energetic Minister of Reconstruction might start working upon some of the wider problems mentioned by my noble friend behind me. The consequence of that would be an immediate demand for the further continuance of that Minister and his Department. It would be said, and said with considerable plausibility," Why break up this admirable organisation which is doing such good work, with a capable man at the head of it, and with subordinates around him who have acquired a knowledge of all these subjects which ought not to be wasted?" For that reason I think it is important explicitly to confine the operations of this Minister and of his Department to things which can be considered only in connection with the war and immediately after its termination.


May I point out a further reason which adds to the necessity for some such Amendment as this? I refer to the obscurity of the wording at the end of the clause, which seems to give the new Minister power to override the local authorities of the country. As I understand even such a body as the London County Council could be overridden by the new Minister of Reconstruction in respect of all its housing schemes. That seems to me a very serious power to be given at all. But if it is to be continued after the conclusion of the war, then by the wording of one clause you really destroy the whole of that system of local government which has been built up by a series of Statutes, and largely extended, at the end of last century, with regard to the larger areas of the country. I do not know whether my reading of the words is correct. I wish to have a clear understanding. As I read the clause, it is not only the central Government Departments which are to be superseded, but also the local authorities. If that is so, the time limit ought to be very strict and well defined.


I am rather inclined to support the Amendment of my noble friend opposite in the interest of the Minister of Reconstruction himself, who, it seems to me, during his brief term of office will have thrown upon his shoulders a burden greater than that which has ever been borne by any Minister. I also support it in the interests of the heads of the other Government Departments. This clause enables the Reconstruction Minister to assume the "powers and duties of any Government Department or authority." That is a very serious power to put into the hands of any one, and I submit that it should be exercised sparingly and only in cases where it is quite clear that the problem is a special war problem which requires to be dealt with urgently and immediately after the conclusion of the war.


We are anxious to meet noble Lords opposite, but I think that the introduction of the word "immediately" might cause very serious difficulty. It is perfectly true, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury said, that this question would not arise in the Courts of Law. No; but it might arise in both Houses of Parliament, and I can imagine very prolonged and possibly acrimonious debates, if some subject was started which somebody did not like, as to whether that was a subject which arose immediately after the termination of the war. If the word "immediately" were construed as Lord Crewe suggested, that difficulty would not arise. As I understand, it is contended that the word "after "—in Lord Sandhurst's suggested form of words—points to a possibly dim and distant future; and Lord Salisbury wants the activities of the Minister to be confined to matters that arise at the termination of the war. I suggest that it would carry out the noble Marquess's views if the wording ran, "problems which may arise out of the present war, and may have to be dealt with upon its termination." That I think gives the sense of what Lord Crewe suggested, and is not open to the objections with regard to the other adverb which has found favour with noble Lords opposite.


I must say I think we have been extremely well treated by the Government, and I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the suggestion he has just made. I think that in the circumstances we should do well to accept the words he suggests. Therefore I withdraw my present Amendment, and move to amend the clause in the form suggested.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 1, lines 10 and 11, leave out (" after the termination of the present war ") and insert (" out of the present war, and may have to be dealt with upon its termination.")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The Amendment standing in my name raises a very important question, although it is only to omit from subsection (1) the words "or under." Moreover, it is a question which was very seriously debated in the other House, and on which the words inserted appear to me not to carry out the understanding which was said to have been arrived at in the other House. The words in the clause provide that the Minister of Reconstruction shall, for the purposes stated, have such powers and duties of any Government Department or authority, "which have been conferred by or under any Statute," as His Majesty may by Order in Council authorise. If you are dealing with powers and duties which have been conferred by any Statute, that is more or less definite, and it is a limitation of considerable value. But if the words "or under" are introduced, then you confer upon the new Department all the exceptional powers which, for instance, under the Defence of the Realm Act, have been conferred under Statute, although not by Statute, to the existing Departments. If it is intended that this provision should comprise merely the powers and duties which have been conferred by any Statute, then the words "or under" are not required, but if all the powers and duties which have been conferred by Orders under the Defence of the Realm Act are intended to be included, then the words are hardly words of limitation at all, but give a very wide construction to the powers of the new Minister. I admit that I am one of those who dislike the Bill altogether. I dislike the formation of these new Ministries for bureaucratic purposes. But if this new Ministry has to be constituted, and if the words are intended to be words of limitation, then "or under" ought to be omitted.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 1, line 16, leave out (" or under ").—(Lord Parmoor.)


I hope your Lordships will not accept this Amendment, and for this reason. A great many duties are conferred, not by the words of a Statute itself, but by giving power to a Department to make Regulations, and then those Regulations, being made under the Statute, confer the power upon the Department. This clause could not be carried out if you deleted the words "or under." It would only carry powers which were conferred expressly by Statute. It would not carry powers which the Statute had left to be conferred by Regulation which had statutory effect.

No one is more familiar than my noble and learned friend with the history of the legislation on this matter. He will recall that in Statute after Statute this mode of legislating has been adopted. Take the Board of Agriculture Act of 1889. Section 4 of that Act provided that it should be lawful for the Queen, by Order in Council, from time to time to transfer to the Board of Agriculture such powers and duties of any Government Department as were conferred "by Order in pursuance of" any Statute, and as may appear to Her Majesty to relate to agriculture or forestry, and to be of an administrative character. The same language has been used in a series of Acts. Take the Ministry of Munitions Act, 1915. Section 2 provides in the same terms for transferring powers, whether conferred by Statute or otherwise. Then in the Statute of 1916 dealing with the Labour Minister, the Food Controller, the Minister of Shipping, and the Air Minister you have section after section relating to these several Ministries authorising the transference of powers "whether conferred by Statute or otherwise" as His Majesty may, by Older in Council, transfer. And lastly, in the Act of 1917 relating to the Ministry of National Service you have the same words—" such powers or duties of any Government Department or authority, whether conferred by Statute or otherwise, as His Majesty may by Order in Council transfer." I submit to your Lordships that it would be making this Bill absolutely futile if you stripped it of all reality by saying that the new Minister should have only such powers—and they are frequently very meagre indeed—as are conferred in express terms by the Statute itself.


Can the noble and learned Lord tell us whether these powers of extraordinary width cover the local authorities of the country?


I think not. They are confined to Government Departments.


The words in the clause are "of any Government Department or authority."


I understand that to mean Government authority.


The argument of my noble and learned friend—and with a great deal of it I have much sympathy—is that if you are going to transfer any powers at all to this new Minister they must not be arbitrarily limited. But surely there is this difference in the analogies which he cited. The Ministry of Munitions, the Ministry of Labour, and the other now Ministries were intended to be Ministries with great executive and departmental functions. They were to have regular Departments, and, of course, to them had to be transferred departmental powers; and where their new powers were overlapped by the old powers of existing Departments, some system of transfer had to take place; otherwise there would be hopeless confusion. Therefore, very properly, the Statutes which created those Ministries provided a machinery by Order in Council by which those powers could be transferred. But the Ministry which we are now discussing is a totally different one. The Minister of Reconstruction is not to be a departmental Minister at all. This new Minister is intended to perform one of the functions of the Prime Minister, who is too much occupied to perform it himself. That is, in truth, what is going to be done. But the Prime Minister has no Department. His business is to co-ordinate the other Departments. He therefore does not want a Department himself.

Conceive how this provision will in effect work. These powers are to be transferred by Order in Council. Am I to be told that the War Cabinet will pay much attention to what powers are transferred? Have they got time to attend to this? Of course, they have not. These Orders in Council will be submitted to them one after the other, just as the Minister of Reconstruction or his advisers think expedient, and they will be issued. Most hopeless confusion will result, unless the matter is done with very great care. Great bodies of clerks will be created; these clerks will be what the country very much objects to—many of them will be of military age—and the confusion which we know so well will result. Even the Ministries which have been recited by my noble and learned friend, necessary as they were, have led to great confusion. We have been presented with the spectacle of perpetual bickerings between these Departments, bickerings which have got to such a point that they are not in some cases on speaking terms with one another. Can you imagine anything more shocking than that, at a time like this, the work of the country should be interfered with because the Departments which have been created are barely on speaking terms?

The people are beginning to be very uneasy under this head. They believe that their money is being wasted, and that the work is not being properly done. We do not want that to be repeated; and in this case, where it is not necessary to have great departmental powers, let us check it in any reasonable way. My noble and learned friend by this Amendment proposes to check it. The Lord Chancellor says that the omission of the words "or under" would be unreasonable, and would restrict the operations of the new Minister. Personally I am quite prepared to agree with the Lord Chancellor if he says so. But if he will not accept this Amendment, I hope he will accept mine. I have an Amendment, which will come on directly, to limit the number of the departmental powers which are transferred. It is quite clear that Parliament never intended in this case a sort of general transfer of departmental powers such as the noble and learned Lord has mentioned in the case of the Ministry of Munitions and the Ministry of Labour. The noble Earl the Leader of the House stated the matter admirably on the Second Reading when he spoke of the necessity for co-ordinating the work of the other Departments, not of superseding them. He said it was when different plans were proposed by this or that Department that the new Minister should be able to decide between them and advise the Government. But the new Minister does not require a Department for that. The powers ought to be strictly limited, and granted only where Parliament is consulted first to see whether Parliament agrees that they should be transferred. I hope that, if the Government will not accept my noble and learned friend's Amendment, they will agree to accept mine.


I had, on reading this clause in the first instance, thought that there were two or three respects in which it required amendment, and the leaving out of the words "or under" was one of them; but when I came to consult the previous legislation I discovered, what the Lord Chancellor has said, that this form, which I venture to think objectionable, had prevailed in the other Statutes—a lesson which I learned to my horror, and I regretted that I had not observed it before. I will not say anything more upon the point of the words "or under," but will pass to another word in the Bill to which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Burnham) has referred—the word "authority." The Lord Chancellor has said that this Bill is not intended to go beyond Public Departments. I beg him to consider, before the next stage, whether it is clear from the words of the clause that it does not go beyond those Departments. I think that if the reference had been intended to mean a Government authority, the word "authority" would have been given a capital A, in the same way as Department is given a capital D. When you read the clause as it stands, it is rather difficult to say that only Government Departments and authorities are referred to. If the Lord Chancellor, on consideration, thinks it is clear that these are only Government authorities, and that the word "authority" is another word equivalent to Department, so be it; but I suggest that at the next stage the matter should be made clear, because it is a tremendous thing to say that the Ministry of Reconstruction should be able to do what Lord Burnham has suggested.


I will carefully consider what my noble and learned friend has said.


In any circumstances I should hesitate to dispute the authority of the Lord Chancellor, but I ask your Lordships to consider for a few further moments the meaning of the words "or under" as they now appear in the Bill. In the first place, I think your Lordships will agree that there is little use in quoting Other Statutes for assistance in the construction of this, because admittedly this Bill is without all precedent. Nobody ever heard before, as I read history, of the construction of a Ministry whose business was to advise, to consider, to institute inquiries, and to prepare schemes. That is the whole of its authority. It has no administrative duties at all. It has none of the reasons for enjoying the wide powers that are given under such words as "conferred by or under any Statute." These powers of thought, of advice, and of the conduct of inquiries and preparation of schemes are all subject to this, which has not been sufficiently noticed—that they have all to be done by virtue of an Order in Council; and then, as I read the Bill, they can be exercised only concurrently with, or in consultation with, another Government Department. So that in truth you have linked this new body up with the other bodies, so that it cannot act independently at all. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent any of the other Departments exercising the powers that they already possess; therefore there is no reason, as far as I can see, to confer upon this Ministry powers that are not, the subject of exact definition. If they are powers conferred by Statute, everybody will be able to know more or less where he stands; but if they are to be powers conferred "by or under "any Statute, then, as has already been pointed out, the powers which were collected together in a gross-looking volume which was produced here the other day by the Duke of Marlborough in answer to a question about the Defence of the Realm Act would be powers capable of being exercised in connection with this Ministry, powers so voluminous that the noble Duke said, in answer to a question which I put to him as to what were the authorities under which the powers were being exercised, "There is the book. It is far too bulky for me to deal with it. Look for yourself." I should not object if we were dealing with a well-known existing Government Department. But we are dealing with a body whose constitution is essentially vague, and I think it is of the utmost importance that its powers should be so limited that the people may know what it is that it is in course of doing. I certainly, both because I am anxious to limit its powers in every way and because I think that this particular limitation is essential, shall support the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.


In answer to what the Lord Chancellor has said, I should like to say that I think he forgets that when the Bill was originally introduced the words "or otherwise" were in it. Those words were thought in the other House to be too wide, and they were deleted on the very ground that this was an exceptional case where you were not creating an executive Department but merely creating a Department for inquiry and consideration in certain directions, which I think ought to be somewhat carefully defined. I do not want to repeat what the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down has said, but I do not think that any of the precedents to which the Lord Chancellor referred apply to an exceptional case of that kind. If they did I think the words " or otherwise "might have been properly introduced, as in several of the precedents to which he referred they had been introduced. If you come away from general words of that kind and want definite powers conferred, where necessary, for the purpose for which the Ministry of Reconstruction has been instituted, then we ought to know what they are, and you cannot know definitely what they are if you put in the words "or under" as well as the words "by any Statute."

We have seven Departments already, as we were told the other day, which may on their own initiative issue any number of new Regulations or Orders affecting, say, agriculture. I will take that as an illustration. Exactly the same power would apply to every other industry in this country, because these powers are not for the purpose of superseding any existing powers but for adding to them. Why should a Department which is not an executive Department in any sense have powers of that kind? Suppose they issued Orders to agriculture; they could not enforce them. Or suppose they issued Orders, similar to what the Lord Chancellor said, to other Ministries; they could not execute them. As far as I can see, it would be a perfectly futile case of interference and overlapping without any practical result except trouble and confusion. If I can find support I shall certainly go to a Division, because I think it is all-important that this Bill should be within definite limits.

One word on the definition of "authority." At first sight, I should agree with the noble and learned Lord opposite that "authority" was very probably limited to a Government authority. At the same time, under the words "Government authority" you get an extremely wide basis for interference. Practically all the powers to which Lord Burnham referred, as regards housing and so on, are powers which have their commencement and essence and authorisation in the Local Government Board. They are carried out by the local authorities, but there is hardly any power of a local authority that is not arrived at in some stage from a Government authority. I am familiar with matters concerning local authorities from practical life, having served on a county council for over twenty years and having dealt with various local government matters, and I should have said that the vast majority of the powers exercised originated from a Government authority.


I desire to say only a few sentences with regard to what has been said by the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster. Lord Parmoor has said that the words "or under" were introduced in the House of Commons as limiting words, and that the words were originally "or otherwise." They are a limitation. The word "otherwise" would have included all powers under the Statute and all other powers however acquired. For the purpose of limitation, the words "or under" were inserted; and they do limit the effect of the provision. The words "or under" are, it is said, indefinite. To my mind they are definite. What can be more definite than the terms of an Order in Council under Statute conferring certain powers upon a Government Department?

It has been said that it would be very dangerous to entrust these powers to the Minister of Reconstruction. I think it was Lord Parmoor who said that the Minister might make an Order with regard to the way in which land was to be occupied. Nothing of the kind could be done. If my noble and learned friends will look at the clause they will see that it contains its own limitation—" and the Minister of Reconstruction shall, for the purposes aforesaid, have such powers and duties of any Government Department "and so on, as may be assigned to him by Order in Council.


I think that the words "for the purposes aforesaid" would include anything.


"For the purposes aforesaid "include exactly what is specified in the clause. If my noble and learned friend will look at the earlier words of the clause he will find there, "It shall be the duty of the Minister of Reconstruction to consider and advise upon the problems which may arise after the termination of the present war, and for the purposes aforesaid to institute and conduct such inquiries, prepare such schemes, and make such recommendations as he thinks fit." It is only for the purpose of considering and advising and conducting inquiries, and so on. The dangers which have been suggested are purely imaginary, and I hope that my noble and learned friend will not put the House to the trouble of a Division upon this matter.


I do not rise to take any part in the discussion on this Amendment, but merely to offer an apology for not having been in my place when the Amendment standing in my name— Clause 2, page 1, line 10, after (" problems ") insert (" other than the questions of commercial industrial and agricultural policy "). ought to have been moved. As a matter of fact, I did not know that the Bill was coming on. I understand that there was no Notice Paper sent round this morning, and I was not aware that this Bill was to be the business of the day. I shall certainly move my Amendment on the Report stage or on Third Reading, whichever may be the more convenient.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD BURNHAM moved to leave out the words "concurrently with or "after" perform "towards the end of subsection (1). The noble Lord said: The Amendment which I desire to move, although in a sense a limiting Amendment, will not detract from the purpose of the Bill. It seems to me that the words which I propose should be left out are rather mischievous Things are not always what they appear to be, and I rather suspect that" concurrently with or "might mean" in opposition to," because unless they can be interpreted in that way these powers could be exercised only in consultation with Government Departments. Take the question of demobilisation. As the House is aware, in every district there are committees, either formed or in course of formation, to facilitate demobilisation, to return men on their discharge to the industries in which they were formerly employed, or to which they want to go, and for other purposes. I understand that the War Office does not wish to concern itself with demobilisation further than the actual discharge of the men, but I cannot see how it is possible to carry out the scheme of demobilisation except in consultation with the War Office and in some respects in consultation with the Local Government Board, and I think that great confusion might arise if the Ministry of Reconstruction started a scheme which was opposed to the wishes and did not conform to the schemes of the Departments immediately and particularly concerned. In effect the words which I move to delete would be and must be mischievous. What we want to do is to prevent friction, and friction may arise as it is in the working of our political administrative machinery after the war. Why set Departments at one another's throats by inviting conflict, as these words do? They seem harmless enough, but I very much suspect that the Lord Chancellor will be able to say that "concurrently" means with or without the consent of the Department primarily concerned. If that is not so, the words are redundant, because "in consultation with "is the natural course of procedure. I confess that I do not think it wise to give a new authority, the composition of which the House knows nothing about, powers in excess of and different from those of any other Government Department. As has been often said, the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet to a certain extent can exercise control over the various Departments of Government, but the Ministry of Reconstruction has power only so far as it will interfere with the conduct of their business in the regular way. Therefore I hope that if these words are redundant they will be omitted, and that if they are not their purport will be explained to the House.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, line 18, after the word (" perform ") leave out (" concurrently with or ").—(Lord Burnham.)


I think I can show to the noble Lord that these words are not redundant. The object is this. Suppose that a Minister, say the Minister of Munitions, is very much engaged with various inquiries and has more on his hands than he can effectually deal with, he is at liberty, owing to these words, to call in the Minister of Reconstruction to consult with him, to aid him, and, I understand, to carry something out, the Minister of Munitions retaining his interest and his authority.


Surely if that is so, that would raise exactly the difficulty which Lord Burnharn has suggested, because you would suddenly introduce, in the illustration named, a new hand and a new personage into the Ministry of Munitions. You could hardly have a more certain way of raising friction than by introducing this new Minister into one of the old Departments.


There will be no friction or resentment if one man is called in by the other.


The clause would still say "in consultation with"; thus it is covered.


If the words "concurrently with "are retained, they would mean that he could exercise the powers of the Department. I think that would cause friction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved to add to Clause 2 the following new subsection— (4) Provided that no Order under this Act shall be issued except in pursuance of a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The, noble Marquess said: I hope that your Lordships will agree to this Amendment. The intention is not at all to strike at the root of the Bill. It does not in any way interfere with the establishment of a Ministry of Reconstruction for all legitimate purposes. Even if the whole of these powers in regard to the transfer of duties of other Departments to the Minister of Reconstruction were left out, he would still be able to perform what is his main, and what I venture to suggest should be his only, function—namely, that of considering and advising the Prime Minister as to what reconstruction measures should be adopted, and of co-ordinating the actions of the Departments.

Your Lordships may say, "Why do you not propose to leave out the provision altogether?" I am anxious not to go too far. It is conceivable that there may be certain minor powers of a limited and very subordinate character which might properly be transferred to the new Minister, and it would be a pity to limit the Bill in such a way that nothing could be transferred. But I am sure it ought not to be the general rule. It should be used in the most sparing way, and in order to secure that this should be so I think it right that no such powers should be transferred except in pursuance of a Resolution by both Houses of Parliament. I am certain that this is what Parliament really intended. It did not intend to give a roving commission to play "ducks and drakes" with the existing Departments. What was intended was that certain minor and subsidiary powers should be transferred.

I hope the Government will see that, even if my Amendment were carried, they would not be debarred from having certain minor Departmental powers transferred to the Minister of Reconstruction if they so desired, but they would be debarred from that which I do not think was intended—namely, the setting up of a regular Departmental Minister. I consider that the authority of Parliament is requisite in a matter of this kind. Unless you are quite certain that Parliament intends to give unlimited powers to the Government by Order in Council to transfer these Departmental functions to the new Ministry, then the provision ought to be limited in the way I have described.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 1, line 26, at end add as a new sub-section: (4) Provided that no Order under this Act shall be issued except in pursuance of a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


If I am right in understanding the noble Marquess to mean "no Order in Council," it ought to be so expressed, especially in a separate subsection such as this is. It is a mere matter of words, but I think the point is not without importance. The words "no Order" might mean any sort of Order.


"No Order under this Act."


"No Order in Council under this Act."


I hope that your Lordships will not adopt this proposal, which seems to me to be of rather an extraordinary character having regard to the matters to be dealt with. The King in Council acts under the advice of his Ministers, and the Ministers are amenable to Parliament if the powers are in any way abused, and Parliament will call them to account. That is, of course, evident. If there were any abuse such as has been suggested to be possible under this Bill, Parliament would visit its displeasure on the Ministers who were guilty of such abuse of the powers conferred upon them. But it is another thing altogether to say that for a purpose of this kind you are to make the two Houses of Parliament part of the Executive, and that part of the Executive machinery is to be a Resolution passed by each House of Parliament authorising the issue of the Order in Council. There may be matters of great gravity—there have been such matters—where it was proper to say that an Order in Council should not be made unless in pursuance of a Resolution of one or both Houses of Parliament. That is one thing. It is another thing to say this with regard to a series of administrative acts Nobody can say that, any one of them in itself is of any great gravity; and it is an extraordinary thing to say that for the purpose of doing any one of these acts, which belong to the Executive and the responsibility for which lies upon Ministers, you are to be fortified by a Resolution, not of one, but of both Houses of Parliament. Imagine the debates you might have in another place on a Motion of this kind. I respectfully suggest to your Lordships that it would be a new and a most undesirable departure to incorporate the Legislature with the Executive in the manner proposed.


With great regret, I must say that I do not share the views of the Lord Chancellor. It appears to me that in a certain sense the Amendment of my noble friend is only going back to what used to be the invariable practice in both Houses of Parliament when large powers were given to be exercised by Regulations under a Bill. I cannot see any wide difference between the Amendment proposed by the noble Marquess and the requirements which were always made in former days in the circumstances I have mentioned. My recollection from many years experience in the House of Commons is that this procedure was never departed from until the year 1909, in connection with the Budget of that year, except on the occasion of one Bill which was to take land by compulsion for military purposes.

When Regulations giving great powers on matters which had not been under the review of Parliament were concerned, it was always thought necessary that there should be some effective control. In those circumstances it was required that the Regulations should be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament for a certain number of days. I am sure the Lord Chancellor will remember this. Then if either House; of Parliament carried an Address to the Crown against the Regulations, they were ipso facto annulled. But that practice, as I have said, was entirely upset in connection with the Budget of 1909, which was introduced by the present Prime Minister. There were a vast number of things carried out by Regulations under the Finance Bill of that year, and the absurdities—if I may be forgiven for using that expression—which attended the valuation of land that was done under one of those Regulations would never have been possible if the old system had not been abolished. It was abolished in this way. The Prime Minister at that time put a provision regarding Regulations into the Bill without even requiring that they should be laid upon the Table. Whereupon a debate arose. He was required to explain why he had done this, and he agreed that the, Regulations should be laid on the Table and laid in the circumstances which had always prevailed hitherto. An Amendment was moved which was quite unsatisfactory. I took objection to it on the ground that it was not the procedure which had always been observed. To make a long story short, it ended in an undertaking being given that the old requirement should be inserted in the Bill. Time went on. It was a very late session. When the period came for inserting the Amendment I was abroad for my health, and those whom I had entreated to look after this question were, I am afraid, also away. It is quite; true that the Amendment which was inserted required the Regulations to be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament, but, instead of being "ipso facto annulled," the words were "and the King in Council may, if he thinks fit, annul them." In other words, the whole power was given to the Cabinet itself. Personally I do not see that there is anything extravagant in the Amendment which has been moved by my noble friend, and as far as I am concerned I shall be delighted to support him, because it will be going part of the way back to the practice which in my opinion ought never to have been departed from.


It is quite clear that the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor) has rightly defined the danger which this Amendment threatens to the Executive, because if it passes the Government of the day will not be able to get what they want without giving a day of Government time to the House of Commons. The noble and learned Lord says, Think of the debates that will take place in the other House. That is the very purpose of the noble Marquess who has moved this Amendment. We must remember that when this time comes we shall, we hope, find ourselves delivered from the terrors of war, and discussion will no longer be a danger to the Realm and may very well be the only outlet for grave public anxiety and the only check upon an Executive which, to put it mildly, is getting rather intoxicated with the unaccustomed powers which have been conferred upon it by an abnormal state of things, but which will then have come to an end. I think that the Government will be wise to accede to this Amendment.


In answer to what the Lord Chancellor said, I should like to point out that the principle of this Amendment is in the common form, that Orders in Council shall not become operative until they have lain on the Table of the two Houses for a certain time. Here it is put in another, but I think more effective, way—that the Order in Council itself shall not be issued except in pursuance of a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. I do not profess to like this Amendment as much as my own, to omit the words "or under," but it aims at the same thing. It aims at giving a definite-ness to a thing which is absolutely indefinite as the Bill now stands. On a matter of principle, I should go a little further. I think that the whole doctrine of legislating by Orders in Council is radically wrong, because you have superseded the legislative power of Parliament by a bureaucratic body. No doubt that has been largely done for war purposes. When you talk about emergency legislation for war purposes, very wide considerations come into play. But no such considerations come into play here. We are dealing with matters of after-war reconstruction. Why in those circumstances should you destroy the legislative power of Parliament and place it in the hands of a bureaucratic body? Under the Defence of the Realm Act, as far as I am aware, there is no legislative enactment which may not be made by the bureaucratic body which issues the Order. I hope that the noble Marquess will press this Amendment to a Division, accepting the suggestion of Lord Muir Mackenzie, that after the words "no Order" the words "in Council" should be introduced.


I will alter the Amendment to carry out that suggestion.


I cannot hold out any prospect to my noble and learned friend who has just spoken that the Government can accept this Amendment. It seems to us impossible that any Government should accept an Amendment of this kind. I listened with the greatest interest to what my noble friend Lord Chaplin said, but the distinction between the case to which he referred and the present case is this. There you had a requirement that the Order should lie on the Table of the House, to be annulled if the House passed a Resolution against it. That was the sort of procedure to which my noble friend alluded. Here it is proposed that before any Order is issued you must get Resolutions passed in the two Houses of Parliament affirming the proposal which is to be embodied in the Order in Council. I submit that the two things are as far as the poles asunder. In the present case you are calling in Parliament out of its proper sphere to form part of the Executive. The function of Parliament is to check Ministers if the Executive goes wrong, and to censure them if it pleases. The function of Parliament is not, unless it be in very exceptional cases, to take part in the initial stages of an Executive measure. The words proposed will affect the proceedings of the House in war time. It is perfectly true that this measure is intended to secure that we should be ready to face the problems that peace will present. But in order that you may be ready, you must prepare while the war is going on. While the war is raging, with all the multitudinous problems that it brings before the Government and Parliament, you would be face to face, if this Amendment were carried, with the necessity of bringing every proposal before both Houses of Parliament and of getting a Resolution. Therefore I respectfully submit to your Lordships that it would be a dangerous new departure, and I trust that the Committee will not approve of it.


Surely the general effect would not be as far-reaching as that which the Lord Chancellor has indicated. The proposal of the noble Marquess does not in any way interfere with the ordinary work of the Departments, or with any proposition which they may make for action either during the war or after. For instance, the Minister of Education has introduced proposals of his own, exceedingly important, which we hope will have effect as early as possible, but will also have effect after the war. He does not require the assistance of the Minister of Reconstruction to enable him to bring in his Bill, any more than he did to introduce his Estimates earlier in the year. Therefore so far as ordinary Departmental activities are concerned, my noble friend's suggestion would in no degree tend to hamper them. What it would do would be to prevent the introduction of large and important schemes such as are indicated by the actual wording of the Bill, and to make it impossible for those to be pressed by Order in Council, without the deliberate intention of Parliament. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that the noble and learned Lord in that sense rather over-stated his case, because there is such a very large area of activity, and activity of the most beneficial kind, in no way affected by this Bill, and certainly not by my noble friend's Amendment.


I must apologise for intruding again, but this is a class of subject with which I have been so familiar all my life that I find it difficult not to say a word. I cannot help thinking

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

The Report of Amendments to be received to-morrow, and Standing Order that the noble Marquess goes rather too far in what he proposes. If you are going to have the Bill at all, the Amendment would hamper its working. On the other hand, the noble Viscount referred to the other course of procedure which has been so clearly described by the noble and learned Lord. I would suggest to the noble Marquess opposite that he should not press his present Amendment, but that he should, at the next stage, propose that any Order in Council should be laid on the Table for forty days, giving the opportunity to either House which desired to do so to raise objection to it.


The Amendment, as amended, reads as follows:—" Provided that no Order in Council under this Act shall be made except in pursuance of a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament."

On Question, whether the proposed new subsection shall stand part of the clause?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 24; Not-contents, 22.

Somerset, D. Northbrook, E. Burnham, L.
Camden, M. Digby, L.
Crewe, M. Chaplin, V. Glenconner, L.
Salisbury, M. [Teller.] Falmouth, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Hardinge, V. Knaresborough, L.
Abingdon, E. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Parmoor, L. [Teller.]
Beauchamp, E. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Camperdown, E.
Donecaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Beresford of Metemmeh, L. Stuart of Wortley, L.
Buckmaster, L. Weardale, L.
Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.) Lytton, E. Hylton, L. [Teller.]
Curzon of Kedleston, E. (L. President.) Islington, L.
Sandhurst, L. (L. Chamberlain.) Muir Mackenzie, L.
Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.) Milner, V. Pontypridd, L.
Carmichael, L. Roe, L.
Marlborough, D. Colebrooke, L. Somerleyton, L.
Elphinstone, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Chesterfield, E. Faringdon, L. Sudeley, L.
Eldon, E. Harris, L.

No. XXXIX to be considered in order to its being dispensed with, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 96.)