HL Deb 14 August 1919 vol 36 cc937-42

After Clause 26, insert the following new clause:

"Provision as to orders and Orders in Council relating to the acquisition of land and the construction of works.

".—(1) The Minister may make rules in relation to matters preliminary to the making of Orders and Orders in Council under this Act which authorise the acquisition of land or easements, or the breaking up of roads and the construction of works, including the publication of notices and advertisements, and the deposit of plans and sections and books of reference to those plans, and the manner in which and the time within which representations or objections are to be made, and to the holding of local inquiries.

"Any rules so made shall be laid before Parliament as soon as they are made and shall have the same effect as if enacted in this Act: Provided that if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after any such rules are so laid praying that any such rule may be annulled, His Majesty may annual the rule, and it shall thenceforth be void, but without Prejudice to the validity of anything done there under.

"(2) The rules of procedure set out in the Second Schedule to this Act shall apply to the making of any Order under paragraph (d) of subsection (1)of section there of this Act and of any draft of an Order in Council to be submitted to Parliament under section nine of this Act.

"(3) The Minister, on publication of notice of a proposal to make an order under paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of section three of this Act shall, except as hereinafter provided, send to the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords and the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons a copy of the draft Order, and if within fourteen days of the receipt of the copy if Parliament is then sitting or within one month thereof if Parliament is not then sitting either such Chairman reports to the Minister that he is of opinion that the proposals of the draft Order are of such a character or magnitude that they ought to be dealt with by Private Bill and not by such Order as aforesaid the Minister shall not make the I Order, but in that case notices published and served, and deposits made for the purpose of the proposed order shall, subject to Standing Order, be held to have been published, served and made for it Private Bill applying for similar powers.

"Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any Order with respect to which the Minister certifies that the acquisition of the land or easements authorised to be acquired there under and the works authorised to be constructed there under do not involve an estimated expenditure exceeding half a million pounds, nor to any Order of any class which may be exempted from the provisions of this subsection by rules made by the said chairmen.

The Commons agree to this Amendment, but propose the following Amendments:

In line 31, leave out from ("ought") to the end of line 37, and insert ("not to be proceeded with without the authority of Parliament, the Minister shall not make the order unless or until the draft order has been approved by a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament").

In line 42, leave out ("half a ") and insert ("one").


These are Amendments by the Commons to a clause which was inserted at the instance of Lord Emmott. There are two points in connection with these Amendments. One is the point on which your Lordships divided —the question whether the limit should be £1,000,000 or £500,000. The other is an Amendment to change the procedure from that of Private Bill Legislation to the procedure already in the Bill with regard to schemes under Clause 9—Affirmative Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. The principle remains the same. The principle, accepted by the Commons, is that in the case of a scheme the estimate a which will exceed £1,000,000, it shall not be carried out without the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The procedure suggested by Lord Emmott was that of Private Bill Legislation. If this Bill had been for four or five years duration probably the House of Commons would have taken no exception to this procedure, but it is a Bill for two years, and two years only. Whatever the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, may say, the powers in the Bill can last only for two years, and, as your Lordships know, if you happen to be unlucky in the matter of dates, it may take two years to get through a Private Bill.

As it is within the power of either House, before passing an Affirmative Resolution, to ask that the question should be submitted to a Select Committee of the House, you still have the machinery of Private Bill Committee, but without the inevitable delay incumbent upon depositing Bills by certain dates, objections and so forth having to be heard by other dates, which, if not complete, means that the Bill is put off into another year. It is for those reasons, which were not appreciated at the time I discussed the matter in this House, that the House of Commons suggests that, in place of Private Bill legislation, schemes which in the opinion of the Lord Chairman and the Chairman of Ways and Means ought not to be passed without the approval of Parliament shall first be submitted to a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

I want to say one word about the difference between the £1,000,000 and the £500,000. When we discussed this matter at a late stage of the proceedings, Lord Emmett said that there was no reason for making a distinction between the silences started by the Government under Clause 9 and the schemes which would be started at the order or direction of the Minister under Clause 3. I venture to point out that there is really no comparison at all between the two cases. The one is a spending by the Minister of public money; it is a wholly different matter to say that the Minister shall not spend public money in great questions of policy without first getting the authority of Parliament to do so, and to say that a local authority shall not spend its own funds without, also, approval from Parliament. The £1,000,000, or the £500,000, whichever it may be, is not really a financial limit at all. It is simply the measure of the magnitude of the undertaking, and it is merely a coincidence that it should be a similar sum of money in both case. I agreed with Lord Emmott, when we discussed this matter, that there should be a limit, and I told him at the time that the Government could not accept for that limit a smaller sum than £1,000,000. There is really no comparison whatever between the £500,000, which is applied to Clause 9, and the £1,000,000 which is the limit in this case. For these reasons I hope that your Lordships will accept the Amendments of the Commons.

Moved, That this House cloth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—(The Earl of Lytton.)


The noble Earl has dealt at some length with the question of the £1,000,000 and the £500,000, and, if he will pardon my saying so, I do not quite agree with him. I think he has hardly given sufficient attention to the fact that this was merely a reference to the Chairmen of the two Houses, and in order to prevent their having to consider any and every Bill a limit was to be introduced. I do not think that any harm would have been done by retaining the smaller sum for which I pleaded at an earlier stage in our debates, but at the same time I am not going to contest the matter. We cannot have all our own way, and, so far as I am concerned, if the Government attach importance to that I shall not contest it.

With regard to the other parts of the Amendment this, as my noble friend has said, is a new point. He has stated that if the Bill were to last for four or five years it would be another matter, but the Bill is only to remain in force for two years. Technically this is correct, but what we feel is that this Bill, or a modification of it, may have to go on for more than two years, and that is why 'think we have been justified in giving it the careful attention which it has received in this House. The noble Earl has said that this is of importance, and that if Bills of sufficient character or magnitude are to be sent as Private Bills by the two Chairmen, then a great deal of the two years will be occupied in getting any scheme of that kind through. That, I think, is correct. The Government is on very strong ground in regard to that particular matter. But, my Lords, I am going to venture to move an Amendment to the Commons Amendment, because it is quite obvious that if the Government does not adopt the form of a Select Committee, if either House says that any scheme which is submitted to it trust go as a Private Bill they have full power to do so, and I think provision ought to be made in that respect. That is why I am moving an addition to the first of the two Amendments of the Commons. I propose, at the end of the first Amendment, to add these words: "and if the Resolution of either House directs that the proposal shall be dealt with by Private Bill and not by such Order as aforesaid, notices published and served and deposits made for the purpose of the proposed Order shall, subject to Standing Order, be held to have been published, served, and made for a Private Bill applying for similar powers." I think that in case of either House sending a Draft Order as a Private Bill it would be necessary to have some machinery such as is provided in one of the subsections that are struck out by the Commons.


I hope that the Government will consider the Amendment which has been proposed by the noble Lord below the gangway in a very conciliatory spirit, because he has forthwith accepted the Amendment of the Commons in respect of the £500,000, which was carried by a majority of this House on the Report stage. He has also recognised in the most frank manner that the sending of Bills to a Private Bill Committee by the direction of one of the Chairmen might be a very considerable process which ought not to be embarked upon. I should say that, if it were only embarked upon when one of those high officials of Parliament thought it necessary it should be so done, there was no danger of misuse, but my noble friend has conceded that even the impossible might happen, and either the Lord Chairman or the Chairman of Ways and Means might make a mistake; and so he says, "Accept the Commons Amendment, and do not let this part of the provision operate except upon a definite Resolution of either House, and only in that case shall there be resort to an Inquiry before a Private Bill Committee." That does seem to me an immense concession, for it is incredible, I am sure, that either House would make a mistake. It is not open to us to say that either House ever makes a mistake. We always assume, as the foundation of our constitution, that we never make mistakes; and if either House thought a proposal of this kind ought to be considered carefully under the Private Bill procedure, that course ought to be adopted. I am sure the noble Earl will see that my noble friend has done his very best to meet the views of the Government, and I hope that the Government will accept his Amendment.


I am not in a position to accept this Amendment, but if your Lordships attach great importance to it and insert it in the Bill I shall make no opposition at this stage, although I can give no undertaking that it will be accepted by the House of Commons.

On Question, the first Commons Amendment, in line 31, agreed to.

Amendment to Commons Amendment moved— At end insert: "and if the Resolution of either House directs that the proposals shall be dealt with by Private Bill and not by such Order as aforesaid, notices published and served and deposits made for the purpose of the proposed Order shall, subject to Standing Order, be held to have been published, served, and made for a Private Bill applying for similar powers."—(Lord Emmott.)

On Question, Amendment to Commons Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Commons Amendment in line 42 agreed to.