HL Deb 19 December 1919 vol 38 cc475-7

When I was moving the Third Reading of the Electricity Bill the noble Marquess pointed out—what indeed was obvious—that I had accepted a number of manuscript Amendments, and I saw, of course, at once what was in his mind—that it was always dangerous to part company with a Bill in which amendment had taken place on a somewhat extemporary basis, and, as I am always most anxious to fall in with the wishes of the House, I said at once that the Third Reading would be taken on Monday. I regret to say that I pictured the Bill returning to the Commons in a comparatively simple form, but of course it has undergone an enormous amount of amputation, and a very large number of Amendments have to be printed. As I may inadvertently not have accepted Amendments with complete accuracy, it is desirable that anything that is wrong should be put right in the House of Commons, but as the Third Reading was not given to-night it would be physically impossible to have the Amendments printed. In these circumstances, I hope your Lordships will allow me to reconsider the decision which I asked your Lordships to come to a few moments ago.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


It certainly seems to me that the request of the noble and learned Lord is most reasonable. But what did not occur to him might equally not have occurred to any of us. We did not entirely realise at the moment how far-reaching the changes in the Bill had been since it came here, and it clearly is right that the House of Commons should have adequate time to consider it. In these circumstances I am sure that everybody will agree that the Bill should now be read a third time.

On Question, Bill read 3a.


There is one small point that I might be allowed to mention. It is a request that I may be allowed to move what is really one small Amendment on the Third Reading. So far as I have the smallest authority in such matters I follow most closely the rule laid down by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, with the assent of all your Lordships, that in no circumstances which are not entirely exceptional should any manuscript Amendments be permitted on Third Reading. I will submit to you whether this is not such a case. I accepted Lord Montagu's Amendment, which I was told somewhat hurriedly was on its merits unobjectionable, and since then the draftsman has pointed out that I had consented to insert it where the noble Lord moved it, and that this was not the most artistic place.


I do not see any objection whatever to putting in an Amendment—even a manuscript Amendment—on Third Reading when it is merely a drafting Amendment, and we have such confidence in our colleagues in the House that if any noble Lord says that an Amendment is a drafting Amendment we, of course, absolutely accept it always. And therefore no difficulty arises upon that score. But I do think that to put a manuscript Amendment in on Third Reading, if it is an Amendment of substance, is a very objectionable practice, because there is no means after that of putting right anything that may have been done wrong. But I entirely accept the wish of the noble and learned Lord to correct what is, after all, a mere drafting point.


Then I move the Amendments.

On Question, manuscript Amendments agreed to.


I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.


The impression has been rather spread abroad that what has been done in this House has made the Bill useless. That is not so. The Electricity Commissioners will have six months work in surveying the districts and mapping them out, and I do not believe there has been any real delay. The Bill remains, as it stands, a very valuable Bill, and I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on having got it through.

On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons.