HL Deb 18 August 1921 vol 43 cc950-64

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 7:

Supplementary provisions as to schemes.

7.—(1) Every amalgamation scheme and every absorption scheme shall be so framed as to come into operation on the first day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, or such earlier or later date, as the amalgamation tribunal, with the consent of the Minister, may fix:

THE EARL OF LYTTON moved, in subsection (1), to leave out"with the consent of"and to insert"after consultation with." The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will remember that when we were in Committee the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, moved an Amendment to leave out"with the consent of the Minister," and after I had resisted the Amendment he explained that my speech had justified consultation with the Minister, but not giving him an equal authority with the Tribunal. I therefore put down this Amendment to meet the point of the noble and learned Lord. I hope he will feel that I have met his point.

Amendment moved— Clause 7, page 7. line 37, leave out (" with the consent of ") and insert (" after consultation with ").—(The Earl of Lytton.)


My point is met, and I am much obliged to the noble Earl.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 16:

Power to make orders as to working of railway companies.

16.— (1) With a view to securing and promoting the public safety, or the interests of the public, or of trade, or of any particular locality, the Railway and Canal Commission may, on the application of any body of persons representing any such interests, by order require any railway company or companies, or the Minister may on the application of any such company or companies by order authorise the company or companies, to afford such reasonable railway services, facilities, and conveniences upon and in connection with its undertaking or their undertakings (including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding one hundred thousand pounds) as may he specified in the order:

THE EARL OF MAYO moved, in subsection (1), after"representing any such interests", to insert"including the interests of passengers ". The noble Earl said: This Amendment is intended to protect the passengers, seeing that the noble Earl said that the Bill was the charter of the traders. I do not know whether he will accept it, and perhaps it is not necessary, as the word"persons"is in the clause.

Amendment moved— Clause 16, page 20, line 25, after ("interests ") insert ("including the interests of passengers ").—(The Earl of Mayo.)


The noble Earl has returned to a point which we have discussed once or twice before. I hope he will accept my assurance that the interests of passengers are already included.


I do not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF MAYO moved, at the end of the clause, to insert the following new subsection: (5) Where a railway company runs a steamboat service in connection with their railway this section shall apply as if railway services included steamboat services and facilities and conveniences in connection therewith. The noble Earl said: The noble Earl in charge of the Bill said in regard to the first new subsection that I proposed to put in. that he did not object to the drafting, and then, afterwards, he said it was nonsense. But I appealed to him and asked whether, if I brought forward a new clause which was not nonsense, he would consider it on Report. I have, therefore, drafted this Amendment. The noble Earl will remember that he said that steamboats were not included.

Amendment moved— Clause 16, page 22, line 11, at end insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Mayo.)


I should have apologised to the noble Earl for having used so uncomplimentary an expression about his Amendment in fact. I had called it nonsense, but that is not what I said. What I said was that if his Amendment were inserted in the Bill it would make nonsense of the Bill. The Bill itself would then not make sense. No such criticism, however, would apply to this Amendment. I am not, however, prepared to accept the Amendment, and I hope I may be able to make it clear to the noble Earl why. This Bill is a Railways Bill: it deals only with railways. An Amendment was moved in Committee to make it apply also to a company which, although technically a railway company, was really a dock undertaking, and another Amendment was moved to make it apply to an actual dock undertaking. I said, on that occasion, that we could not include docks in the Bill, and, equally, we cannot: include in a Railways Bill an obligation upon companies who provide passenger or cargo steamers. The Bill does not apply to steamboat services at all; and an Amendment dealing with them could not, I think, be brought within the Title of the Bill.

But even if it could technically be made to apply, it is undesirable that it should. I told the noble Earl in Committee that there was no monopoly in the provision of steamboat services, and he said that the London and North Western Railway Company had, in fact, though not in law, a monopoly of the service between Kingstown and Holyhead. The Amendment, however, would apply not only to the London and North Western Railway, but to any company running a service of steam boats across the Channel, and these companies are under no obligation to provide steamboat services. The clause with regard to reasonable facilities, which is applicable to railways, is not applicable to steam boat services, and the Amendment, therefore, would have a far wider application, and would mean that we should apply provisions which are meant to be applicable to railways also to the provision of steamboat services. I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17:

Power to make orders as to acquisition of land, &c.

17. For enabling railway companies to effect alterations, extensions, and improvements of existing works in pursuance of an order of the Railway and Canal Commission or the Minister under this Part of this Act the Minister may make any such order authorising the acquisition of land or easements and the construction of works as could have been made under paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of section three of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, for the purposes specified in that paragraph, and that paragraph and section twenty-nine of the same Act, and the rules made under that section, and the regulations contained in the Second Schedule to the same Act shall, so far as they relate to railways, apply accordingly.

THE EARL OF LYTTON moved, after"Act ", where that word thirdly occurs, to insert"other than the proviso to subsection (3) of that section ". The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will remember that when we were in Committee we had a discussion upon an Amendment moved by my noble friend, Lord Emmott, and I told him that, if the House supported the Government in resisting his Amendment, then I should be willing to insert this Amendment when we came to the Report stage. It is in fulfilment of that pledge that I have put this Amendment on the Paper, and I hope your Lordships will accept it.

Amendment moved— Clause 17, page 22, line 22, after (" Act insert (" other than the proviso to subsection (5) of that section ").—(The Earl of Lytton.)


I am Very grateful to the noble Earl for the concession he has made. I think the procedure may need watching. There has been no time, owing to the hurry with which we have had to put this Bill through, to consult the Chairmen of Committees of the two Houses. It is just possible that this alteration which we are making may throw a considerable burden on them, and, if so, it may be necessary at some future date to devise some other safeguard.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20:

Rates tribunal.

(5) Any person appointed a permanent member of the rates tribunal under this Act shall, within three calendar months after his appointment. absolutely sell and dispose of any stock, share, debenture stock, debenture bond, or other security of any railway company in Great Britain or in any industrial or other company concerned with or interested in the carriage of traffic by railway, which be shall, at the time of his appointment, own or be interested in for his own benefit, and it shall not be lawful for any person appointed a permanent member of the rates tribunal under this Act, so long as he shall hold office as such permanent member fir his own benefit., to purchase, take, or become interested in any such security as aforesaid, or if any such security or any interest therein shall come to or vest in such permanent member by will or succession for his own benefit lie shall, within three calendar months after the same shall so come to or vest in him, absolutely boll and dispose of the same or his interest therein.

THE EARL OF MALMESBURY moved to leave out subsection (5). The noble Earl said: This Amendment has been put down also in the names of Viscount Churchill and Lord Stuart of Wortley, and I would rather Lord Churchill had moved it than myself. There was some discussion on this point in another place, and there a certain Amendment was agreed to, subject to the disqualification being extended to industrial interests and undertakings.

It is sought to leave out this subsection altogether, because, first of all, it is somewhat difficult to define the word"interest", and, secondly, you will not get the best men for this particular work if very stringent regulations are applied to it. There is hardly any business man of experience or of any position at all who does not hold a considerable number of these railway and industrial shares, and if a man has acquired or inherited shares of this sort, it seems to be somewhat hard that he should he obliged to unload them at a moment when the market is very low. I venture to suggest that if we exclude the possibility of members of this Tribunal holding such shares we shall leave out a very large number of those men who know both trade and traffic in their most intimate details, and we shall end, probably, in getting the small man whose experience is very limited and who will not be of so much use in the public interests as those whom I have described. Moreover, I think the period of three months in which the holder of shares must get rid of his interest is a very short one. I hope that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will give this Amendment his careful consideration.

Amendment moved— Page 24, lines 33 to 41, leave out subsection (5). —(The Earl of Malmesbury.)

LORD EMMOTT had on the Paper an Amendment, in subsection (5), after"Great Britain ", to omit the words"or in any industrial or other company concerned with or interested in the carriage of traffic by railways ". The noble Lord said: My Lords, my Amendment is an alternative to that just moved by the noble Earl. It is very important that this new Tribunal should he impartial, and that the railway companies and the traders should feel that it is impartial. In reference to the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, I fully admit that even if subsection (5) were taken out altogether, having regard to past experience, we could trust the holders of the offices of Lord Chancellor, President of the Board of Trade and this new Minister to satisfy themselves that any persons who were appointed members of this Tribunal would be likely to act in an mpartial way.

But taking out the whole of this subsection, which has come to us from the other House, is a little different to putting such a subsection in if it had not already appeared in the Bill. I mean that our action in regard to the matter might possibly be misrepresented. The essence of it seems to me to be that the members of this Tribunal cannot be in an absolutely disinterested position in regard to this matter, whatever you do. When they travel they must pay their own railway fares. The food which they eat, the clothes which they wear, every necessity and convenience of their household is affected by railway rates and charges. Therefore, disinterestedness is impossible to obtain in this case. I think it might be considered objectionable that a man with a moderate private fortune, of say, £ 50,000 or £100,000, which happened to be entirely invested in railway stock, should be a member of this Tribunal, and I do not think it would be a very great hardship to say in that case that he ought to sell his railway stock, even his railway debentures. In the same way, if the bulk of his private fortune was invested in a company whose main purpose it was to provide certain articles for a railway company I think there might be some objection.

These words which I propose to eliminate go very very much further than that. Anybody who has invested in any industrial or other company which is interested in the carriage of traffic by railways means that no member of this Tribunal could hold a single share in any industrial company, and I think that is going altogether too far, seeing that, whether he holds an odd share in any industrial company or not, he cannot, qua consumer, be entirely disinterested in any event. What I am suggesting is a half-way house in regard to the question, and if the words that I am inviting your Lordships to omit arc left in they may seriously prejudice the chances of getting the best men to serve on the Rates Tribunal.


My Lords, when we were in Committee we reached, very late one evening, an Amendment in the name of Lord Stuart of Wortley to omit this subsection. I then told the noble Lord that I could not accept his Amendment, and asked him to withdraw it. The noble Marquess Lord Crewe, however, supported the Amendment with a few words, and said he thought there was a good deal more to be said for it than I had admitted. An arrangement was come to, therefore, that the consideration of the matter should be left over to Report. I admit that the case for the retention or excision of this subsection is a very debate-able one. I feel certain that your Lordships would agree without any hesitation that the members of the Tribunal which is to carry out such important duties in which such large financial transactions are concerned ought to be, and must be, absolutely free from any personal financial interest. Therefore, the clause as it stands in the Bill is certainly an ideal arrangement.

But I feel very much the force of the arguments that have been put forward. The clause says that the members of this Tribunal must not be financially interested in any railway security or in any industrial or other company concerned with the carriage of traffic upon railways. It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Emmott, has pointed out, that there is hardly any industrial company which is not interested in the carriage of goods upon the railway. Therefore, the effect of the whole clause would be to require t hat no member of the Tribunal should hold any railway stock or any shares in any industrial concern. I agree vita the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, that this would certainly add to the difficulties to which the Government might be put in finding men of the highest experience to serve upon the Tribunal.

Now, my Lords, there are two propositions before your Lordships, one in the name of Lord Emmott to omit certain words, and, the other in the name of the Earl of Malmesbury and two other noble Lords for the excision of the whole subsection. I am not disposed to accept Lord Emmott's Amendment., because it seems to me that it would have a one-sided effect. It would have the effect of causing us to say that a member of the Tribunal is to have no financial interest on the railway side of the Tribunal's work, but he may have a financial interest upon the traders' or railway users' side. In other words, he must have no financial interest in keeping up the rates. He may have a financial interest in bringing the rates down. I think if the clause remains in at all it must do so in such a way as to secure that there shall be no financial interest on any side, and the question for the House to decide ought to be whether the clause should stand or not.

I told the noble Lord in Committee that I could not accept the Amendment. The clause was. as Lord Emmott stated, inserted in another place. The Minister feels very strongly that it was inserted with good reason, and he thinks, personally, that there are strong grounds for retaining it. I am prepared, however, to leave this question to the judgment of your Lordships, and, if you feel it desirable that it should come out, I shall not offer any opposition. After all, we must remember, first of all, that the gentlemen who are to form this Tribunal will be men of great eminence and distinction and experience, and I think we may rely upon their conscience not to take the office if they were seriously financially interested. Moreover, they are to be selected by the Lord Chancellor and two other Ministers of the Crown; therefore, we have this additional safeguard, that men would not be selected by these three Ministers if they were strongly interested financially.

I think, therefore, that we may rely both upon the members chosen, and upon the Ministers who will select them, to see that what is so obviously desirable shall be carried out, and that there shall be no financial interest on either side on the part of members who form the Tribunal. On the other hand, if we keep the clause in there is no doubt that it will greatly add to the difficulties of choosing the best men. I cannot accept the Amendment on behalf of the Government, but I a in prepared to leave it to the judgment of your Lordships.


After what has fallen from the noble Earl, I am very much inclined to press this Amendment upon the consideration of the House. I feel that members of your Lordships' House, and the public in general, would have no sort of suspicion as to the very high integrity of those who would be selected by such a method of selection as has been indicated. I trust, that being so, your Lordships will see fit to accept the Amendment which I have put down.


My Lords, I have no doubt at all that some clause of this kind is very desirable, but as the matter has been left to the House at large. I think it is only right that I should ask leave to be allowed to express an opinion, because, having a strong opinion about it, I should hardly feel justified in not giving the House any assistance that I can. It seems to me clear that we should have a clause of some kind. As Lord Emmott pointed out, it is not merely necessary that the members of this Tribunal should be disinterested —doubtless they all will be so far as any human being can be disinterested in such a matter—but it is more necessary still that he general public should believe that the members of the Tribunal are absolutely disinterested.

My experience is that among the lower class of business man particularly it is almost inconceivable to what extent he will suspect anyone in authority of having some ulterior pecuniary motive. If he cannot find any other ground for complaint, that is always the ground which a certain type of dissatisfied person takes up. He says:"Oh, yes, we quite understand why that decision was arrived at. You know So-and-so holds a block of such and such stock." It is most important that there should be no suspicion of that kind, and therefore I should strongly urge that in any case the members of the Tribunal should be disentitled to hold any shares in any railway company. I think to make it effective that it ought to go considerably further than that, but, as has been pointed out by the noble Earl, you can find no men who, if they do not actually carry on business, are not in Some way financially interested in business, or who are not in some sense interested in the carriage of traffic by railway. It is impossible to get people to serve on the Tribunal if you strip them naked on their entrance into office of all shares in all companies of a practical character in Great Britain.

What I think must be really desired is that it should not be possible to say of them that they are interested in some company which, in its turn, is so closely connected with the traffic which they are called upon to regulate as to make it possible for that connection to influence their judgment. I think it would be impracticable to say that a man must not hold colliery shares, or must not hold steamship shares because, according as the freight on the wagons on rail is borne by the seller or the buyer, the holder of such shares will have a large interest, in the course of the year, in the freights between the pit and the bunkering port. If you said that—although it is quite true there is money in it for him somewhere—you would put out, as has been said, far too many persons. But there are persons connected with companies manufacturing wagons, or companies owning wagons, or companies letting wagons for hire and that kind of thing, who may be said to be interested in the carriage of traffic by itself.

I do not think the words"interested in the carriage of traffic"really extend to cover a person who will have to pay rather more for his fare, or rather more for the rates on his produce, according to the decision of the Tribunal. I would suggest that words something like this might be adopted—" or in any industrial or other company interested in the business of any railway company." I think if words could be found which would confine the companies in which you are not to hold shares to such companies as carry on business that is itself directly mixed up with and involved ill the interests of the railway company, that would meet the case. The only other thing to point out is that there is absolutely nothing provided as to what is to happen if the clause is broken, if the permanent member does not trouble himself about it and sticks to his shares, and does not say he cannot vote and does not say his office is vacated. If he does that, it does not say that he is to be subject to fine or imprisonment. It is left to his sense of honour. That is no doubt right with regard to the particular persons appointed, but it does not strike me as perfection.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will consider, having regard to the safeguards which this Bill provides, that this clause is unnecessary. These permanent members are to be appointed on the joint recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, the President of the Board of Trade, and the Minister, who will take good care to select suitable men for the position. But if you are going to pass this subsection as it stands their choice will be very limited, and it seems to me in every way advisable that we should have the best men for this Tribunal, and the best men are always certain to be interested, as investors, in some of the securities that are named here. You might say it is to be a railway company in which stocks are not to be held, but as regards some of the other undertakings mentioned, it is extremely difficult to say where the interest in transit ceases. I do not know that any words could do what is required. Almost every undertaking is interested more or less in transit. Therefore, practically the holding of any industrial shares would debar a man from being elected a member of this Tribunal.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Does the noble Lord, Lord Emmott, regard his Amendment as having been dealt with by that decision?


I think after the discussion that has taken place, I must do so.

Clause 22:


22.— (1) The rates tribunal may from time to time with the approval of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Court of Session; and the Minister, make general rules governing their procedure and practice and generally for carrying into effect their duties and powers under this Part of this Act, and such rules may, amongst other things, provide for— (e) the right of audience before the tribunal, provided that any party shall he entitled to he hoard in person, or by a representative duly authorised in writing, or by counsel or solicitor and; may,: subject to the consent of the Treasury, proscribe scale of fees for and in connection with the proceedings before the tribunal.

LORD MUIR MACKENZIE moved, in subsection (1) (e), after "representative," to insert"in the employment of the party." The noble Lord said: I think everybody would probably be agreed that the words which stand at present in the Bill are too wide. They enable, for the purpose of appearing before the Rates Committee, any representative duly appointed. The noble and learned Lord, Lord. Phillimore, on the Committee stage had an Amendment down to leave those words out, but he told me that lie would be satisfied to leave the words i n if they had the limitation which I now submit to the House —namely, after the wend"representative"to insert"in the employment of the party." I trust that your Lordships will accept that, but I have to point out what has been represented to me, that, by putting in those words, a Parliamentary agent who does not happen to be either a barrister or solicitor would be precluded front being duly appointed as a representative. Under the Railway and Canal Act, 1888, the Parliamentary agents have had the right of access before the tribunal to which this new Rates Committee, to a certain extent, corresponds, and it seems hard that any one in that position should be now excluded, I had the opportunity of mentioning that matter to the Lord Chairman of Committees who, of course, is very well acquainted with the Parliamentary agents, and I believe that he takes the view that myself do, that we ought to put them in. If they are put in, I think the form of words to be inserted in the clause should be as follows: after the wont "solicitor" should come the words"or any Parliamentary agent on the register of either House of Parliament." I think that is the proper way of describing them. If your Lordships agree with the Amendment that I have put down on the Paper. I would venture to hop, that you would allow me to add the words which I have just read out.

Amendment moved— Clause 22, page 26, line 8, after ("representative") insert (" in the employment of the party ")—(Lord Muir Mackenzie.)


I think the noble Lord has made out a case for the Amendment which is moved. I have no objection to it, on behalf of the Government. If your Lordships are willing to accept the Amendment I should agree to it.


Including the words that I mentioned?


You would move those afterwards.


I hope the words suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, will be agreed to. I cannot claim to he anything like as expert in drafting as my noble friend opposite, but I think if those words were put in without the subsequent words he suggests, we should be cutting out the Parliamentary agents. I am not certain now that they are cut out. I should have thought it would be possible for parties to authorise a Parliamentary agent in writing as the clause now stands, but I agree that I like the clause better with my noble friend's two Amendments. I should not like it with only one.


With the leave of the House, perhaps I might say this, if it is going to influence the decision of your Lordships. I ant afraid I cannot accept the second Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, proposes to move. If, without that Amendment, your Lordships are not disposed to accept the first, I think you ought to know that I am not prepared to accept the second, when we come to it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I now beg to move the words that I have mentioned to the House already, that in line 9, after the word"solicitor," should be added"any Parliamentary agent on the register of either House of Parliament."

Amendment moved— Clause 22, page 26, line 9, after (" solicitor ") insert (" any Parliamentary agent on the register of either House of Parliament "—(Lord Muir Mackenzie.)


My Lords, as I indicated to the noble and learned Lord, I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. I would ask your Lordships to consider that this Tribunal is a practical Tribunal, which has to deal essentially with practical matters, and the Parliamentary agents are not in any way specially qualified to argue the matters with which this Tribunal will have to deal. There would, of course, be nothing to prevent the Tribunal giving audience to a Parliamentary agent, if they desire to do so, but the Amendment which the noble Lord asks your Lordships to accept would compel the Tribunal to listen to him if the parties selected a Parliamentary agent to plead their case. That I think is going further than we ought to go, and when I undertook to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, I did not know he was going to bring up this second matter. I am afraid, on behalf of the Government, I could not accept it.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 24 (Additional members of Tribunal):


I have a manuscript Amendment on this clause. It is purely drafting.

Amendment moved— Clause 24, page 27, line 15, leave out (" chairman ") and insert (" president ").—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 71 (Powers of Councils to give guarantees):


I have a drafting Amendment in Clause 71. This will give a more correct description of the"Borough Fund. Acts, 1872 and 1903."

Amendment moved— Clause 71, page 60, lines 4. and 5, leave out (" Borough Fund Act, 1872 "), and insert (" Borough Fund Acts, 1872 and 1903 ").—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 72 (Powers of charging by light railway companies):


I have another drafting Amendment in Clause 72, page 61, line 5. I beg to move to leave out the words"twenty-six"and insert"twenty-eight."

Amendment moved— Clause 72, page 61, line 5, leave out (" twenty-six'') and insert (twenty-eight) —(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), Bill read 3a with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.