§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, this Rill deals with a number of Orders made under the Defence of the Realm Act. In another place it was stated that Ministers, quite irrespective of politics or Party, had made the Orders which we seek to validate in this Bill. It was found by a decision of your Lordships' House on the judicial side that on constitutional grounds these charges were not valid—not on moral or equitable grounds, but that they had not the proper sanction of Parliament as required by the Petition of Right Act. As soon as they were invalidated, indeed before, a notice was given by the then President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, that if the decision of 40 your Lordships' House on the judicial side was against the validity of these Orders and charges, legislation would have to be introduced, and consequently, after the decision had been given, legislation was introduced.
There were certain reasons why it was not carried forward: not, I am told in relation to the principle of the Bill, but owing to lack of time. The second time a Bill of this kind was introduced it was not carried further, because of the Dissolution. Now it is introduced for a third time, and has passed the other House strongly supported, both as regards its principle and its terms, by the late President of the Board of Trade, Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame. He gave it the full measure of his support, not only on the Second Reading but in the form in which it appears at the present time. All these Orders were made under the Defence of the Realm Act, and the charges made under these Orders were all in respect of a valuable consideration, and those who became subject to the charges were quite willing to pay them. If I might use the words of the late President of the Board of Trade, Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame, "they were issued at the application of the persons interested because they thought it good business to make the application." In other words, you have limitations imposed under the Defence of the Realm Act as regards prices or dealings in certain commodities, and persons who wanted to deal in those commodities in accordance with the restrictions of the Orders were willing, as a matter of business, to come under these charges.
If your Lordships will look at the form of the Bill, you will see what it is that it is proposed to make valid. In the Preamble, these charges are stated under the heads (a), (b) and (c). Some of them were charges made—on, or as a condition of, the grant of licences or permits issued, or purporting to be issued, in pursuance of the said powers.''I shall have to deal at rather greater length with what are known as the milk charges at a later stage, and I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with them now. There you have an instance of a licence granted to sell milk outside the controlled area at an addition to the controlled rate, and, in order to obtain that advantage the milk distributors 41 were only too willing to pay an additional two pence per gallon, which was fixed as the charge upon them. I propose to go into that question in a little more detail later on, because it is raised specifically as an Amendment by my noble friend Lord Strachie.
In the second place, the payment" were required to be made—in connection with the control of the supplies or of the prices of certain commodities.I will, if I may, give an illustration on that point which, I am told, is a very simple one. It was thought right that breweries, or houses situated conveniently for munition workers whose work was of a character which was thought to require all the assistance of that kind that was possible, should be granted powers to supply more than the quantity which, under the general control, they had been entitled to supply, and for that purpose they were willing to pay a charge, and a charge was made upon them. No one is suggesting, from the point of view of that trade, that they have been injured, but I wish your Lordships to know the nature of the charges that were made, and the conditions under which they were made. Finally, the charges were made "for services rendered" by the Government in certain specified directions. I believe, that in the first instance, no one for a moment considered that these charges or Orders were in any sense unconstitutional. I agree, and, indeed, everyone admits since the judicial opinion expressed in this House, that this was a mistake. As I say, the charges were imposed for specific purposes, and the persons who paid them were only too willing to do so in consideration of business advantages.
If your Lordships will then pass to the enacting part of the Bill, you will see that these charges are made valid, and payment is due, in so far as it is due, from the Government in respect of them, and in every respect they are to be regarded as though they had been made in a constitutional manner. One realises at once, of course, that certain objections can be raised to legislation of this character.
§ LORD PARMOOR
As in the case of other Indemnity Bills, it is, I think, really impossible to deal with a subject 42 matter of this kind in any other way, and if I may give an illustration of what I mean, in answer to what was, I presume, the somewhat ironical cheer of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, several of these charges and, indeed, the largest of all in connection with any particular matter—namely, the £7,000,000 in respect of flour allowed to be sold under certain conditions—was, I believe, considered more than once by the Committee of which the noble Lord was Chairman, the Public Expenses Committee——
§ LORD PARMOOR
I quote that only to point out that if there ever was a vigilant protector of constitutional rights in the House of Commons it was the noble Lord. I entirely agree with him that we ought to be grateful for the work that was done. At first, as I have said, no one regarded these charges or Orders as unconstitutional, nor was it ever thought that they were otherwise invalid until a ease came to your Lordships' House in which the Wiltshire Dairy Company were concerned. It was then held—I will ask your Lordships to allow me to read a word or two of quotation on this point later—that they were unconstitutional, because they did not receive the sanction of the House of Commons, and that therefore they ceased to be valid.
When this matter of the milk charges was discussed before this House on the political side, not on the judicial side, certain remarks were made by two noble Lords whom I should like to quote. One is the noble Lord, Lord Buckmaster, who sat on the judicial inquiry, and the other the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, who was then Lord Chancellor. I think that what they then said expressed very shortly and exactly what the true conditions are. Lord Buckmaster said this:This money—that is, the charges in question—was money that the Food Controller could not lawfully compel these people to pay, but I say without the least hesitation that it was money which in honour they were bound to pay. Why should a man who has entered into a commercial contract and obtained a great privilege over and above his fellow subjects on the terms of paying 2d. per gallon for the right, come here and through the noble Lord [Lord Strachie] pose as an injured 43 person because he is asked to pay money which he has signed an obligation to discharge? I am utterly unable to understand the complaint of the noble Lord.''The complaint of the noble Lord on that occasion was that there was a hardship in seeking payment, or in retaining payment, from the Wiltshire Dairy Company in respect of these charges, which had been found unconstitutional.
§ LORD STRACHIE
Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? My complaint has never been anything to do with the middleman. My complaint has been that this money has been withheld from the farmer.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I will deal with that point, because that is, no doubt, the form of the noble Lord's Amendment to-day.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to get into controversy with the noble Lord, because that is a point with which I am going to deal, but if I may read the Motion which he introduced on that occasion, it may remind him of its terms. The Motion says:—That in the opinion of this House the Government should at once take steps to reimburse all persons who hare been compelled to pay the illegal tax of 2d. per gallon …and so on. But the only people who have been compelled to pay that which the noble Lord calls the illegal tax are the middlemen. Nobody else has been compelled to pay at all. It was on that basis that the whole discussion really turned when the matter was debated in your Lordships' House on a former occasion. I do not want to get into anything like personal controversy with the noble Lord, but I wish to make that point clear, in order that your Lordships may understand what the question was when this matter was discussed in your Lordships' House last time.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, who was then Lord Chancellor, made the following observations:—The effect of the decision given the other day—that is, the decision to which I have referred,—is that distributors and cheese manufacturers in the south-west of England will 44 obtain a profit considerably in excess of that earned by their less fortunate competitors in other parts of the country—I pause there for a moment to say that the point which I thought was being dealt with both by Lord Buckmaster and Lord Birkenhead was the position of the actual middlemen who would be compelled to pay the 2d. Lord Birkenhead went on to say:—and I am quite unable to see, making all allowance for the admitted merits of the farmers in that part of the country, why they should make larger profits than their competitors in other parts of the country. This is no doubt, inevitable in the present case, but there is no reason why the equilibrium should be upset in other cases. The noble Lord [Lord Strachie] asked in his Question what the Government propose to do. I cannot state in detail, because the matter is still under discussion by the Cabinet, although I expect an early decision will be reached, but if it in any way interests the noble Lord I am able to tell him plainly that as far as I personally am concerned any small influence I possess will be most unsparingly used against it.In other words, so far as my researches go, every Minister, at every period, who has in any way taken part in this controversy, has recognised that this is a case in which these charges which have been made should be validated, and that no hardship can fee alleged by persons who have been called upon to pay them.
Lord Strachie refers to the case of the farmer. If I may postpone that question for a moment, I will come to it when I reach the Amendment which he proposes to move to this Bill. If your Lordships will look at the Schedule your Lordships will find numbers of charges. They include all the charges with which the Bill deals, and which are validated, and at the same time two White Papers have been issued showing the amount of money-involved. It is sufficient to say that the total claims which might be made against the Government are in the aggregate £18,500,000. It is impossible to state how many of these claims might be made, because a very large number, no doubt, of the claimants have recognised the position that, in equity, they have no right to bring their claim forward at all. They are in the position of a man who has a valuable privilege, for which he has paid a certain figure, and who feels in honour bound to remain by the contract he has made, although upon constitutional grounds it was found that these charges were invalid, of which neither party had 45 any suspicion when the contract was made.
There is another point in the Bill to which I should like to call attention before I pass to one or two words on the proposed Amendments. Your Lordships will see that there are two provisos, and the second proviso, which is an important one, was specially inserted in the House of Commons. When this Bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons after the Financial Resolution, it was proposed to deal with these milk charges to which I have made reference, but that part of the Resolution was not passed, so that the Bill as it at present stands leaves the milk charges exactly where they were under your Lordships' judicial decision, because there were people who thought, and perhaps rightly, that, where a decision of the highest tribunal had been given the matter should be left where that decision left it. So in the present Bill the milk charges are not affected, one way or another, although I admit that that is not an answer to Lord Strachie, because what he suggests is that simultaneously with this Bill another Bill shall be introduced dealing with these milk charges in another manner.
While these proceedings have been going on and these various Bills introduced, and so on, certain persons have brought their actions to recover money from the Government, on the ground that the charges made against them were invalid and they are entitled to recover. At law they would be entitled to recover, subject only to one question—namely, whether tinder the Indemnity Act, the largo and wide Indemnity Act, they are precluded from recovering owing to the fact that claims under that Act have to be brought within a year after the termination of the war or the date when the cause of action arose. It was thought in the other House that people who had brought their action in order to establish a right to which at that date many of them were entitled, ought to be preserved against any expenses to which they had been put, and therefore the proviso is this: that in those cases where the expenses of litigation have been incurred the persons who have incurred them are to be entitled to recover their costs on the higher scale, as between solicitor and client. That was assented to by the present President of 46 the Board of Trade, and I think was accepted by all the members of the other House as a fair solution of the question. That is to say, although a person could not recover the amount which he claimed, yet he was to be indemnified in the fullest say as regards the costs which he had incurred.
That being the general purpose of the Bill, there have been placed on the Paper two Amendments, one in the name of Lord Strachie and another in the name of Lord Kylsant. They relate, though one is an Amendment in a wider form than the other, first, to the milk licences and suppliers, and, secondly, to the ship-owners, and I want to say one or two words on each topic, in order that your Lordships may appreciate how the matter stands. The Amendment of Lord Strachie is what is called a reasoned Amendment, and what he suggests is:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to this Bill unless an assurance is forthcoming from the Government that legislation will he simultaneously enacted to provide that the sums which accrued from the non-validated milk licence charge shall he passed by the licensees to their suppliers.Now I want to state, if I may, the history of this question, in order to show, first of all, that the producer or supplier really has no claim whatever and, secondly, as far as I can see, that it is impossible to formulate any Bill on the principle suggested.
Let me give one or two facts as regards the matters with which Lord Strachie deals. At the outset of the milk control, Lord Rhondda, then Food Controller, fixed throughout Great Britain one maximum price; that is to say, whether milk was produced in Yorkshire or the Midlands, or in the South-western counties, with which Lord Strachie is more particularly concerned, one maximum price was fixed. This maximum price became, as was inevitable, almost invariably the ruling price. In the South-western counties, where the cost of production, and correspondingly the price, had been relatively low, this rise in price to the over-all maximum aroused very bitter feeling. People who had been accustomed to the price of milk where the cost of production was relatively cheap, naturally protested, because the result of fixing one maximum price was to make the charges in these Southwestern counties as high as in the industrial 47 districts of Yorkshire. In the summer of 1918 a mass meeting of protest was held at Exeter, and it was demanded that producers in districts where the cost was low should not be allowed to profiteer. In other words, the demand was made that the farmer should not have a price out of proportion to the cost of production where the cost of production was low, which would undoubtedly have enabled the farmer to profiteer.
In consequence of this agitation a Commission was appointed, containing representatives of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture, and consumers. This Commission unanimously recommended the fixing of differential maximum prices in different parts of the country. That is the beginning of the complaint to which the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, referred. Twopence less than the normal maximum was charged in certain Southwestern counties, and twopence more than the normal was charged in Yorkshire and the other industrial counties. Therefore, you had three prices—the normal price, the normal price less 2d. and the normal price plus 2d. Where the production was cheaper, in order to prevent milk being attracted away into the dearer districts it became more essential that a differentiation should be made, and that was the origin of the two penny charge. Every farmer in the noble Lord's district, upon which he is an authority in this House, got the highest controlled price which he could get. There is no suggestion that a single farmer got a penny less than the full controlled price, and, if he got that, it was all that he was entitled to.
If he or the milk producer desired to get the better price, that is, the twopence more in outside districts, they were charged twopence for the right to export. The Wiltshire Dairy Company were willing to pay that in order to get the larger market. No farmer got a penny less than the maximum controlled price. What the noble Lord suggests—though I do not quite understand how he seeks to work it out—is that this twopence to which I have referred should in some way be adjusted between the middleman and the farmer. But the farmer has had the maximum controlled price. I am sure that the noble Lord will have to assent to the proposition which I am laying down.
48 What right has any farmer to ask for an addition to the maximum controlled price? I say, on the contrary, that the unanimous report of the Commission which was set up indicated the only fair way of dealing with a matter of this kind.
I do not wonder that, in the counties where production was cheaper, the inhabitants protested against what appeared to them to be a profiteer's price. That is quite natural, but how can it be suggested that this twopence has in any way affected the price which these farmers were able to obtain for their milk? No doubt, they would have liked to be entitled to charge the same price as in Yorkshire, which would have given them fourpence more per gallon, but it was the very suggestion of an over-all general price which raised the bitter discussion that culminated in a mass meeting at Exeter. It was in consequence of that that an unanimous decision was taken to fix differential prices instead of one controlled price. Though I am in general sympathy with farmers, I cannot see what is the hardship now suggested, and if there is no hardship you cannot have legislation to put it right. It was suggested in another place that, so far as we could deal with a charge of this kind—and the amount outstanding is really a small matter—the Government would desire, if they could, to use the money for some general agricultural purpose. That is a very proper suggestion. My recollection is that the President of the Board of Trade, in another place, said he viewed a suggestion of that kind with sympathy. That is an entirely different matter from what the noble Lord proposes, and it occurs to me that his proposal is founded on a misapprehension, if the facts which I have mentioned, and which I have had prepared with great care, are correctly stated.
I want now to deal with Lord Kylsant's Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. Although it applies to the Bill as a whole I understand that what he is really interested in is the question of ship-owners and ship transfers. Let me explain how that matter stands. During the war English ships could be requisitioned for public purposes. The effect of that was to diminish very much the value of English ships. Therefore, certain old ships, not less than twenty to twenty-five years old, were allowed to be transferred under 49 certain conditions to a foreign flag. Very often the transfer made them worth two or three times their value under the English flag, owing to the risk of requisition which attached to them as English ships. Certain charges were made for permission to go under the foreign flag and acquire that enhanced value. I see that Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame, in the other House, said that in no case was the charge more than about fifteen per cent-, on the profit made.
To give an illustration, there were cases of ships bought in this country for £50,000 which, as soon as they could be sold as foreign ships, were sold for £150,000. On that £100,000 profit the ship-owner was asked to pay a certain charge, which constituted the licence enabling him to put his ship under a foreign flag. The cost of that licence, I believe, never approached anything like the profit actually made. I have a list of the ships, and one or two particular cases will tell your Lordships exactly what has happened. Surely, there can be no case whatever that anything like a profiteering price should be made owing to the transfer of ships from our flag to a foreign flag. The easiest way of dealing with the matter will be for me to take one or two actual instances—I have them all, or practically all, here—in order to show how this system operated.
A ship called the "General Allenby" was built in 1895. She was twenty-five years old and was due for survey, which would be a very costly matter. The ship was supposed to be worth practically nothing in view of the cost of survey and repairs. The vessel was actually sold for £91,000, and on permission being granted for sale abroad, because if the sale was abroad the obligation to requisition no longer attached, a sum of £13,500 was paid to the Government. I am told that was a case in which a very large profit indeed was made and only a comparatively small sum was paid to the Government. I have another instance of an old sailing vessel, built in 1893, which was stated by the owners to have been for years a most unprofitable ship. Yet, on permission being granted for sale abroad, she realised £40,750, and the charge for the licence was £7,000. Then there is another ship, about 37 years old, which realised a large sum, only a proportionate part of which was paid to the Shipping Controller.
50 Another vessel called "The Fair-haven," which was built in 1913, was valued at about £88,000, for which amount she was insured. She stranded at Barrow in January, 1919, and to have repaired her would have cost no less than £65,000. The vessel was practically what is known in nautical circles as a constructive total loss, but on permission being given for her sale to foreigners she realised, in her damaged condition, no less than £70,000, and the licence charge was £7,000. I should have thought that the criticism would have been the other way. When one looks into these conditions, it would seem that the criticism should not have been that too much was charged for the granting of these licences, but that the profiteering element was left too large. I do not think that I need go into the other cases of which I have three or four pages; they all tell the same story. But there was the "Hornby Grange," which was built in 1890. This vessel was under survey and required a very large sum to be spent upon it. On permission being granted for sale abroad, she fetched £67,000, of which £9,000 was paid to the Exchequer.
What is the hardship in those cases? I agree that certain charges have been held to be invalid. In regard to a very large number of these charges the persons who paid them have not sought to bring any action at all. I think they have recognised what the real position is and have been content to abide by the bargain which, to them, has generally been a very profitable one. I admit, as every one must, that the validating of invalid charges of this kind is a matter for regret, at any rate on constitutional grounds. These indemnity matters have been dealt with after war times. These mistakes have been and are made, under conditions of great complexity and difficulty, by all Governments and officials I noticed that it was said in another place that if any persons were the culprits in regard to this they were Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Baldwin and every other Minister with whom they were acting during the period of the war.
If the Government thought for one moment that there was any hardship in this, it would be their duty to seek to redress it. On the statistics which I have brought forward I hope that your 51 Lordships will be convinced that there is no hardship, and that your Lordships will think that sufficient machinery is provided for the payment of costs where action has been brought. The Bill was thoroughly discussed in another place, which had the advantage of the presence of the late President and the present President of the Board of Trade, who are personally cognisant with all the details, of which I hope I have given sufficient for your Lordships to see what is the basis upon which I ask for a Second Reading to be given to this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved. That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord parmoor.)
§ LORD STRACHIE had given Notice to move, as an Amendment, That this House declines to give a Second Beading to this Bill unless an assurance is forthcoming from the Government that legislation will be simultaneously enacted to provide that the sums which accrued from the non-validated milk licence charge shall be passed by the licensees to their suppliers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is desirable, first of all, I think, that I should explain the reason for the Amendment which is on the Paper in my name. It was placed on the Paper at the request of the National Farmers' Union and the grounds upon which they asked me to do that are as follows:—
The charge in question affects milk producers in the Four South-western counties of Devon, Dorset. Somerset and Cornwall. The Food Controller, in fixing the price of milk produced in that area for a certain period at 2d. per gallon less than elsewhere, made it impossible for these producers to obtain for their milk the full market price ruling in any market to which it might he consigned outside the South-western area. Having created that position, the Food Controller then attempted to prevent buyers from making an undue profit by requiring them to pay a licence fee of 2d per gallon on all milk which they took out of the four counties. This fee was later held to be illegal by the House of Lords in the test case "—
§ to which reference has already been made.
§ The Lord President of the Council has referred to the fact that when I moved a Resolution upon this matter some two years ago the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, took exception to it on the ground that they thought no harm had been done and that, 52 as regards the legal position, the money ought to go to the middleman and not to the farmer. That, to my mind, was a purely legal argument which was, no doubt, justified, but it is rather interesting to note that no other noble Lord took that line.
§ Then, again, the noble Lord in charge of the Bill says that the Bill was left as it was introduced— that is to say, with milk excluded from it. What was the reason for that? The reason was that on the Money Resolution in the House of Commons an Amendment was moved which made it necessary to introduce that particular clause into the Bill. I will deal with this question later on, because it affects the reason why I placed this Amendment on the Paper. The noble Lord says that the Government of the day wished that no Amendment should be made in the Resolution. He also says that the farmers in four Western counties have been indemnified and have no claim to this money, that they were never put in any unfair position, and that these farmers of the South-west of England were mere profiteers. That applies only to these four counties. In the county in which the noble Lord is interested, which adjoins the County of Somerset and in which the farmers also supply milk as they do in Somerset, they are not profiteers and all the rest of it. Why a farmer in Gloucestershire should get twopence a gallon more for his milk and a farmer in Somerset twopence less, I cannot understand.
§ LORD STRACHIE
Yes: but the noble Lord seems to think it is perfectly right, and I cannot understand it. Perhaps I should understand it if I lived in Gloucestershire. The noble Lord also says that there was a great agitation. What is this great agitation which the noble Lord talks about? It is an agitation which, I believe, was engineered for political reasons in the sense that it was to the advantage of the member for that city to say: "I am standing forth as your champion. "There was no agitation in the great city of Bristol, which equally might have been affected. It was simply a bogus agitation in the small city of Exeter: in no other part of the four Western counties was a word said 53 on this matter. I am sure that, had there been, the noble Lord would have been only too glad to have quoted it. I think those responsible for the imposition of the two-pence really had got it into their heads that they could, by that means, provide some money for the Food Controller to meet the expenses of that most expensive office. I think that was the origin of this two-pence. Afterwards, they said that they had no intention of doing that, but that they were collecting this money and would pass it on to the consumers generally in the country, and so make butter and cheese cheaper. That certainly was no advantage to the unfortunate farmer in the Western counties.
The noble Lord has laid great emphasis upon this travelling Commission. I wish the noble Lord had taken the trouble to have researches made into the Report of the Select Committee appointed by your Lordships' House in 1919. That Report dealt with this very question of whether the Commission were justified or not in adopting a flat rate for the Western counties two-pence below the maximum. My noble friend who was Chairman of that Select Committee, if he were not detained elsewhere, would have been here to-night to support what I am saying. What did this Select Committee report? They reported unanimously:—The Committee are of opinion that the evidence submitted to them does not sufficiently justify the maintenance of an arbitrary differential rate based on the average cost of milk production in the four South-western counties as compared with the rest of England and Wales.Could anything be stronger than that? They went on to say:—They are of opinion that the considerations which led to the adoption of a general flat rate for the greater part of England and Wales are on the whole equally applicable to the four South-western counties.A flat rate for the whole of England and Wales may cause some inequality in the price and profit obtained from the sale of milk in different localities, but the establishment of a differential rate for an arbitrarily defined area such as that represented by the four South-western counties would cause even greater inequality.Then they stated, in the eighth paragraph:—They consider that the arguments adduced by the travelling Commisision as to the more favourable conditions prevailing in the four South-western counties, such as climate, duration of grass season, and consequent 54 lower expenditure on feeding stuffs, are more than counterbalanced by the practical difficulties of administration, and the local hardship and general disturbance of the milk trade, which differentiation entails.I think the House will say that is a complete answer to the argument of the noble Lord based on the travelling Commission. I am only surprised that the noble Lord has never read that Report. I will not go further into past history. I had not intended to do so if the Lord President had not made it necessary for me to do so.
In the House of Commons Sir Courtenay Mansel asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a Question, and the Government's reply was as follows:—The Government will abide by the judgment of the House of Lords, which decided that milk licences were illegal where licencees have paid. The obligation on the Government is to repay them and no one else.That shows the attitude of the Labour Government in this matter. They clearly wish to pay the middleman, and do not wish to satisfy the farmer or the producer. They also made a suggestion, later on, that this money to which the noble Lord has referred would be used for dairy research, or matters of that sort, in all parts of the country. They did not say that it would be used only in the four counties, which would certainly seem to be the fair thing to do, seeing that the money had been extracted from those counties.
The Government also said that they undertook to pay the taxed costs as between solicitor and client. I am glad that is so because the companies in question had been put to great cost in this matter. They had paid income tax on this two-pence and the Wiltshire United Dairies Company had incurred heavy costs. It would not have been fair in these cases to ask them to pay the whole of the amount. As the Government have undertaken to pay the whole of the taxed costs as between solicitor and client, that difficulty does not arise, and there is no reason why the farmers who had this two-pence extracted from them should not have the money repaid to them.
The Money Resolution, as I have already pointed out, created the whole difficulty in this matter. There was an interesting statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 55 the House of Commons. He said, on April 7:—If a provisional promise were given by a former Minister of Agriculture in this House, to the effect that something would be done in the interests of the people affected, there is not the least doubt that he had in mind the farmers in that part of the country. But it is perfectly plain now that the people who are really meant are the middlemen and the distributors, and, if any concession is going to be given at all by way of excluding them from the operation of this Resolution and the Bill, the benefit given under that concessian will not inure to the farmer but simply to the middleman who, I am advised, made a very considerable profit during the time this regulation was in force. There can be nothing on the merits of the case, as regards that dairy company.Later, he said:The truth is, no doubt, that a former Minister of Agriculture did indicate a concession.I think there is no doubt that it was indicated generally that the Minister of Agriculture for the time being was ready to see that justice should be done in this matter. No doubt he had satisfied himself from the Report of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House that an injustice had been done to the farmers in the four Western counties. That seems to be clear from the contention of the Ministry at that time.
What is the present position? The position under the Bill is very complicated because, owing to the way the Money Resolution was worded, an Amendment moved by the representative of the National Farmers' Union, Mr. Lamb, was ruled out of order. He attempted to move this Amendment on May 21:Clause 1, page 2, line 37, after ' milk,' insert which shall, so far as such charges relate to charges in respect of licences to purchase milk in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, be applied proportionately in payment to the various persons in those counties who sold milk to such licensees by way of increase in the price of the milk sold over and above the maximum price fixed by the Food Controller by the Milk (Summer Prices) Order, 1919. for milk in the said counties.'That Amendment, I am told, would have been carried in the House of Commons if it had not been ruled out of order. In consequence of that ruling, it had been my intention to ask your Lordships to allow me, in Committee, to move a similar Amendment, but I find I am precluded 56 owing to what occurred on the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill.
I moved Amendments there with which your Lordships entirely agreed. The Government did not venture to divide against them. All they said was that they were out of order; they were privilege Amendments. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, said this:How far that can be considered at the present time under a privilege Amendment I do not know, but I hope the noble Lord, after this discussion, will withdraw his Amendment.He indicated that as it was a privilege Amendment there was nothing gained by putting it forward. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, at once said:—I really think that the obiter dictum of the Lord President of the Council was a most unfortunate one. … I confess that, if there was any ground for believing that your Lordships would be precluded from carrying such an Amendment, I should be inclined to vote with the noble Lord. Lord Strachie, against the Second Reading of the Bill, but I think we must not allow ourselves to be placed in such an absurd position as that. But I agree with the noble Earl. Lord Beauchamp, that there is really no ground of privilege involved at all.To that the noble and learned Lord said, "Hear, hear," and the Marquess of Salisbury then went on to say:—I gather that the noble and learned Lord agrees with that.To that Lord Parmoor said:—To put matters straight, may I say that I thought it may duty to call the attention of the House to what might be a possible difficulty, but personally I do not believe there would be a breach of privilege.That seemed satisfactory; but what happened after that? On the Committee stage I moved an Amendment, and the Lord Chancellor at once intervened and said:—When we discussed this Bill upon the Second Reading I think the House took the question of privilege more lightly than it should. I have since looked into the question, and I think it is clear that this Amendment is a breach of privilege.Then, at the end of his speech he said:—. … it seems to me a breach of privilege as plain as language can be, and I suggest to the House that it will not be wise to proceed with this Amendment.Notwithstanding this, the Amendment was proceeded with and put into the Bill.
57 Then, it having been intimated that the question of privilege would be taken in another place, Lord Beauchamp, on my behalf, re-stated the case. He pointed out that it would be a serious thing indeed if your Lordships' House were not allowed to move Amendments which were only technically matters of privilege, and that the question of privilege was frequently waived in the other place. Noble Lords are well aware that Ministers have constantly moved in the House of Commons that the House do not insist when it is a case of a privilege Amendment: and the Amendment goes through, But in the case of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill not one word was said by the Government.
If it had not been for the attitude taken on this Bill—and it must be remembered that the whole House was unanimously in favour of the Amendment—I should have contented myself by moving an Amendment in Committee. But I am now placed in this position: that if I do not lake exception to the Second Reading of this Bill I shall be unable to move Amendments in Committee, as the Government will at once shelter themselves behind the question of privilege. It seems to me to be a very dangerous state of things if your Lordships are to be told, when it is a question of an Amendment which the Government do not like, that they are not going to waive the question of privilege. Now that the Government is only one of sufferance it would be easy for Ministers to waive the right of privilege in order that the House of Commons may decide the question for itself.
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I never suggested for a moment that I should take the question of privilege on this Bill.
§ LORD STRACHIE
The noble and learned Lord does not seem to understand. It is quite easy for the Government to take the same attitude as they took on the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill and kill an Amendment on the ground of privilege which otherwise would pass in the House of Commons. As regards myself, I have no option at all but to press my Amendment to a Division, unless the Government are prepared to undertake to ask the House of Commons, if your 58 Lordships should see fit to pass the Amendments, to waive the question of privilege in order that the other House may have a chance to decide the question entirely unhampered by any question of privilege.
Why are the Government not prepared to give any pledge to your Lordships that they will ask the House of Commons not to insist on its privilege so that Members may be able to give an open vote as to whether the producer is to have this two-pence paid to him or not? I think I have convinced your Lordships that on this particular question great injustice has been done. That is proved by the Report of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House, and in fairness we ought to take this opportunity of seeing that the twopence should be paid to the men who ought to have it. Under the Bill as it now stands the middleman will get this sum of money to which he has no right at all: and the Courts have decided that the Government have no right to it. That is a decision of the House of Lords as a judicial body. We are not sitting here as a Court of Law we are sitting here as a legislative Assembly to do justice to men to whom justice should be done. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Leave out all words after ("That") and insert ("this House declines to give a Second Reading to this Bill unless an assurance is forthcoming from the Government that legislation will be simultaneously enacted to provide that the sums which accrued from the non-validated milk licence charge shall be passed by the licensees to their suppliers."—(Lord Strachie.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In order to safeguard the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Kylsant I will put the Question in a modified form. I will put it in this way— that the words "That this Bill be," stand part of the Motion.
§ LORD KYLSANT had given notice of an Amendment—That the Bill be read a second time this day six months. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have been requested, as President of the London Chamber of Commerce, to draw your attention to what is proposed by this Bill. During, and for some time after, the war certain Government Departments levied upon firms and individuals charges—59
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The course taken by the noble Lord in proceeding with his Amendment before we have disposed of the previous question is very inconvenient. I do not think we can get on unless we dispose of Lord Strachie's Amendment before we come to the noble Lord's.
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I say one word in answer to the noble Lord? I am not going into the general question. He referred to the matter of privilege. I carefully avoided any reference to that topic, because it is entirely a matter for the Speaker and the other House. No Government can give any undertaking on such a point. I am sure that the question cannot in any way be prejudiced by any statement that I made, but I want to make the point clear, because it was said on a former occasion that my statement might possibly have some influence. I abstained altogether, however, from mentioning the question, because, as the noble Lord, with his experience of the other House, knows very well, the matter does not rest with us, but is entirely a question for the Speaker and the other House.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, may I rise to a point of order? I am not quite clear as to the exact Motion which the House is now supposed to be discussing. I understood the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to desire to put the Question in such a shape that the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, might put his point of view; and, indeed, as the noble and learned Viscount knows, it is not unusual in this House, when there are two Amendments on the Paper, that, for the general convenience of the House, they should both be discussed at the same time. I hope I understand rightly that it is still within the power of the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, to put his point of view upon the Question now under discussion.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, may certainly put his point of view upon the Question which we are now discussing. I put the words in the form in which I did put them in order that we might first discuss Lord Strachie's Amendment, and that Lord Kylsant should then be free to put his wider Motion. Lord Kylsant can, of course, discuss Lord Strachie's Question 60 if he pleases. The Question now before the House is that the words "That this Rill be" stand part of the Motion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, it is clear that my noble friend, Lord Kylsant, is entitled to speak on the Question which the noble and learned Viscount has put from the Woolsack, though I do not know what Lord Kylsant is going to say until he makes his speech.
§ LORD KYLSANT
My Lords. I propose to deal with the general question before the House, and I am not dealing with any special matter, as I think the Lord President of the Council assumed. He did not hear my speech, though I listened with great interest to his. I have been requested, as President of the London Chamber of Commerce and not as a shipowner, to put the general question before your Lordships. For some time after the war certain Government Departments levied upon firms and individuals charges not authorised by Parliament and amounting to illegal extortion. Judgments of the Courts have been obtained that such charges were illegal, and claims lodged for the return of sums thus exacted have in many cases resulted in reparation. The intention of the Bill, as I understand it is, in the first place, to deprive British subjects of the right to recover money illegally taken from them by Government Departments: and, in the second place, to compel them to refund the sums which they have succeeded in recovering from Government Departments. It would, therefore, not only prevent just claims being made against unauthorised taxation, but would override the judgments of the British Law Courts establishing the illegality of the charges and ordering the return of the sums so exacted.
The whole object of the Bill is, in my view, to vindicate past illegal acts, and it would create a dangerous precedent. Members of the Chamber of Commerce consider that the principle embodied in the Bill is both inherently unsound and unconstitutional. If this? Bill is to be passed at all. I submit that at least it should be amended in order that it should not operate retrospectively in cases which have been the subject of legal decision or in eases where a claim has been lodged against the Crown within the time limit specified by the Indemnity Act—namely, August 31, 1922. This Bill is more drastic 61 in its proposals than the Bill of last Session, to which, on the grounds of equity and justice, there was considerable opposition, and for that reason I am opposed to it.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, has raised a very vital point. There have been many cases of property being taken possession of by various Departments without any compensation being given, so that the owners were obliged to appeal to the Courts for justice. I am glad to say that, though you cannot get justice in these matters from Government Departments or from the Government, you can get it from our High Courts. The object of this Bill seems to be to prevent that justice being obtained. I know a case where the Government took possession of part of a farm for an aerodrome. The land, taken for a year or two, was so important to the tenant farmer that he was unable to pay his rent. Application has been made again and again to the Government Department to give some compensation, but no compensation has been given.
I believe there are many such cases as that, and I want to ask the noble Lord opposite whether these cases are dealt with by this Bill. If they are, then I say that the Bill ought to be amended on the lines which have been recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant. This is, I think, a far more vital Bill than many of your Lordships realise. We do not know how far it goes, but it seems to me that it is just an attempt to obtain powers to wipe out many just claims i which are made by British subjects. I hope that your Lordships will not pass this Bill unless some important alteration is made in it to protect British subjects in such cases as I have mentioned.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, the object of this Bill, as I understand it, is to overrule the decisions of the highest Court in the Realm. That is to say, the Government having done an illegal act and having gone to the highest Court in the Realm and that Court having decided against them, the Government then come down and say: "We do not care two-pence for your decision; we are going to pass a Bill which will become an Act of Parliament 62 and so override your decision.'' I am sorry to say that I have noticed in the last five or six years a growing tendency on the part of officials to do illegal acts on the understanding that if a Court overrides them they can then come down and bring in a Bill to override the decision of the Court. I do not know whether they got that example from the trade unions who, as your Lordships know, did the very same thing in the famous Taff Vale case, but, wherever they got it from, it is, I think, a bad principle, and whatever Government brought it in, whether a Government composed of my leaders or a Government composed of my opponents, I should equally oppose it.
The noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, gave as one of his arguments that both Front Benches were agreed. When I first went into the House of Commons I was always warned: "Now watch ! If both Front Benches are agreed, you may then be quite sure that something wrong is going on," and I have always followed that precept. I think I may say that I have invariably found that the advice then given to me was right. I do not, for a moment say that the question of the amount involved has anything to do with it. It is the question of right or wrong. It is the question of whether we are going to abrogate the right of Parliament to impose taxation—a right for which our forefathers fought. I do not think the amount has anything to do with it, but I understand the noble Lord to state that the amount is £18,500,000.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
The same statement was made in the debate in the House of Commons on May 5, and it was then pointed out by Mr. Leif Jones, a very vigilant member of the House of Commons, although I do not agree with him on many points, that this was a mistake and that the amount involved was not £18,000,000 but only something like £500,000. Mr. Sidney Webb, who was in charge of the Bill, admitted that the amount was not £18,000,000, but £1,000,000, and he gave as his reason for that figure the fact that the Indemnity Act, 1920, would exclude the balance of the claims. Therefore, as a matter of fact, we are dealing with a very small 63 amount, although I admit that that is not an argument in favour of, or against, the Bill.
The noble and learned Lord was kind enough to allude to me. I am not certain whether I caught everything he said, but he did say, I think, that I had been rather vigilant in days gone by. In another place Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame apparently founded his support of the Bill on the fact that the National Expenditure Committee, of which I had the honour to be Chairman, had sanctioned one of these particular charges, and I think he went so far as to say—if not in actual words, to imply—that anything I had sanctioned must of necessity be right. I am very much obliged to him for the very excellent opinion which, apparently, he entertains of my judgment, but he was mistaken in thinking that the Committee ever went into the question of the imposition of taxation. I have taken the trouble to look up our terms of reference and they were:—To examine the current expenditure defrayed out of monies provided by Parliament, and to report what, if any, economies, consistent with the execution of policy decided by the Government, might be effected therein, and to make recommendations in relation to proceedings in regard to Supply Appropriations, so as to secure more effective control by Parliament over public expenditure.The Committee had nothing whatever to do with the raising of money, but only to examine how money was spent.
I have looked up our Reports. All I can find is that, in our Report on the Wheat Commission, we stated that we understood an application had been made to the Treasury by the wholesale biscuit makers, who had been charged a higher price for flour than the ordinary baker, to reduce that price, and we said that as that would have been a loss to the Treasury of £2,500,000, and the bread subsidy was costing £40,000,000 a year, we thought it was not advisable that that should be done. I do not see how that can be turned into supporting illegal levies made by the Government. Even supposing we had done that, we had no authority to bind Parliament. We could only recommend certain things to the House, and, so far as I can remember, our Report was not considered by the House itself that year. In any case, we had no power to impose taxation nor did we attempt to do so.
64 The noble Lord also said that the costs were to be paid—I presume as a consolation. But what an admission ! Here is a Government anxious, I presume, to do the right thing. It goes to the highest Court in the Realm, loses its case, and then says to the people who have won their case: "You take your costs and drop the whole matter."
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I correct the noble Lord there? So far as the case which came to this House is concerned, this Bill does not affect it at all. Whatever may be the rights so far as that judgment goes, they are not touched in any way by this Bill.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am only alluding to the argument of the noble and learned Lord. I understood him to say, and to advance it as a reason why this Bill should pass, that the Government were prepared to give to the successful litigants not the rights which they had won in the Law Courts, but merely their costs.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am anxious that the matter should be made quite clear. That is true of other litigation, but it is not true of the case which came to your Lordships' House, which is exempted altogether from the provisions of this Bill.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am only showing that, apparently, the noble and learned Lord is under the impression that he had made a good point for the Bill by saying that he was prepared, although defeated in the Law Courts, to pay the costs of the litigants who had defeated him, and who in the ordinary course would not only, I suppose, have got their costs but the amount which they claimed, and to which they were held entitled.
The noble and learned Lord went on to give instances with regard to ships. I think that is a very dangerous thing to do. I am not a shipowner—I wish I were, or rather I wish I had been—but surely it is a very dangerous thing to say that because my noble friend happened to have a ship which had not cost him very much, and out of which he had got a good profit, and was able to sell it to the foreigner at a good price, a portion of that price should go to the Government. If you are going to do that in the 65 case of ships, where are you going to stop? It reminds me of a certain Eastern potentate who went about taking from the wealth of his subjects. The result was that the money which was left was hidden in the ground, and the prosperity of the nation naturally declined. I cannot support Lord Strachie's Amendment, because he is apparently willing to consent to the Courts of Law being overridden if his friends get something. My object is to see that the Courts of Law are not over-ridden; that when a decision in a Court of Law is given against the Government they should accept that decision and not come down to Parliament and endeavour to over-ride it, merely because they have a majority which enables them to do so.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I feel a little daunted by my noble friend, because he has anticipated what might be said from this Bench by saying that if we do happen to agree with the Front Bench opposite there must be some mischief brewing. I agree that it is a misfortune in which I find myself that, to some extent, I do agree with the Front Bench opposite on this occasion. My noble friend has spoken of the constitutional outrage involved by this Bill. I feel inclined to remind him of an observation which used very often to be made a few years back. Will he remember that there was a war on? Of course, unconstitutional things were done during the war. The whole Parliament was occupied in doing unconstitutional things, but they luckily do not sot a precedent, because we are not, I hope, within many generations going to have any war of that kind again. Therefore, I do not think my noble friend need be afraid that we are setting dangerous precedents which might be followed. The whole situation was absolutely abnormal, and the fact that certain remedies had to be applied after the war was over must not be considered to deprive us of any of our claim to constitutional purity.
But I think there were certain misapprehensions as to the actual scope of the Bill. Lord Joicey seemed to think that it covered the case of an indemnity for the Government where they took or hired land without paying for it. I am informed that this Bill has nothing to do with matters of that kind. I am much obliged to the noble Lord for calling 66 attention to it, but I think we may eliminate the argument he drew from it. Then there is the argument of my noble friend Lord Kylsant. I am sure he will forgive me for saying that, whatever sympathy I may rave with any noble Lord who argues in favour of a rigid interpretation of constitutional rights, I have not a very great deal of sympathy with the financial exigencies of ship-owners during the war.
§ LORD KYLSANT
I was not raising the matter for shipowners. Personally, I am not in the least interested, and I am speaking to-day especially at the request of the London Chamber of Commerce, of which I happen to be President.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have known my noble friend for many years, and I did not for a moment think that he was speaking in his own interests. That would be absolutely foreign to his character. At the same time, there were a very large number of shipowners who made large fortunes out of the war. The fact that they had to pay certain licence duties was a very small deprivation, and I do not think they can ask for any expression of great pity from other people on account of their financial fate during the war. Prima facie, therefore, one would be inclined to pass this Bill. Here is a ease where certain charges were made during the war which did not throw any real grievance upon the parties who paid them. It was not known that they were illegal at the time, and it does not seem unreasonable that, now that the war is over, a mistake which was made should be set right, so long as we do not do any injustice to individuals. That appears to be the broad case for the Bill. That was the case which impressed not only this Government, but the late Government, and both the Governments which preceded it. I think at least three or four Governments have been responsible for a Bill on some such lines as these.
I said just now that the condition is that it does not do any injustice to individuals. Now, here comes my noble friend, Lord Strachie, who says: "Yes, it does a great injustice to the farmers in the West of England." I have some sympathy with his argument. The person who, according to him, was really in fault was the Food Controller of the day. He 67 forbade the farmers in the West of England to charge the same high controlled price as the milk suppliers in the rest of England. We cannot put that right. He does not suggest that we should. We cannot go back to the period of the war and say that the farmers who were not allowed to earn the maximum price for milk during the war are to be reimbursed. He does not suggest that we can. What he suggests is that with regard to particular portions of the milk they sold—namely, that which they sold outside the confines of the West of England—the loss should be set right. He does not propose that the Government should pay it. What he proposes is that the middleman who has made this money, in consequence of the decision of your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity, should hand on that money to the farmer.
§ LORD STRACHIE
Also, where the Government have in their hands a large sum of money at the present moment which they have got from the middlemen, I propose that they should hand it back to the farmers, instead of handing it over to the middlemen.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I certainly gathered from my noble friend's speech that the middleman was not really entitled to the profits which he made out of the House of Lords' decision, and that they ought to be given to the farmer.
§ LORD STRACHIE
Under the decision of the House of Lords the Government have to re-pay the middleman what they have taken from him.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It really is a matter as between the middleman and the farmer. The question is whether what my noble friend proposes is a feasible plan, and I confess it is rather difficult to discuss that until we have seen the Amendment which he would move in Committee. It seems to me an extremely difficult Amendment to frame, but to be asked to reject altogether the Bill—which I think on the whole is a good Bill—because the noble Lord would like to propose an Amendment in Committee, seems to me a most Gilbertian thing to do. Why not go into Committee if the noble Lord wants to propose an Amendment? We shall then see how far it is a practicable proposal.
68 My noble friend says he will not do that because the Government behaved so badly about privilege. There I agree with him. I do think that the Government, in respect to a certain Bill to which he referred, treated us rather badly. I do not mean the Government—I suppose I ought to say another place, only I always desire to speak of another place with great respect. But I do think that the very strong view which your Lordships' House took ought to have been received with much greater attention in another place than, apparently, it did receive. I attribute that to the unfortunate circumstance that this particular Order was reached very late at night. However that may be, I agree with my noble friend that it is a very regrettable circumstance. Still, I cannot see that that would justify us in throwing out this Bill altogether.
If this Bill is a good Bill in itself, in its main outlines—and I think it is—then, upon the possibility that my noble friend might have been able to produce an Amendment in Committee which would have been practicable and in order, to reject the whole Bill seems to me to be going to a length to which I should hardly like to advise your Lordships to go. I think, if I may say so, that we ought to proceed upon the ordinary course. If your Lordships agree to the main principle of this Bill, as I hope you will, we ought, I think, to agree to the Second Reading. If my noble friend can frame an Amendment on the lines which he suggests, your Lordships will, no doubt, consider it when the Committee stage is reached. I do not think it would be consistent for your Lordships to take any other course, and I venture to hope that you will not take any other.
§ LORD JOICEY
May I ask the noble Lord, the Lord President, whether I am to understand that this Bill is entirely confined to the things mentioned in the Schedule, or does it go beyond them?
§ LORD PARMOOR
It is entirely confined to what is mentioned in the Schedule, and does not go beyond that in any way. There is no reference whatever to the cases to which the noble Lord referred.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, if there was any validity in the argument addressed to your Lordships by the noble 69 Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, that, when two Front Benches get together they are always to be distrusted, there is certainly more validity for the argument that when throe Front Benches get together they are to be voted against. On this occasion it is the fact that the Front Bench of this Government, the Front Bench of the late Government, and the Front Bench of the Government before that have got together, and I hope that your Lordships will act upon the advice which was given by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam.
This measure ought surely to have been introduced at the time when the illegality was committed. There is no reason in the world why, instead of proceeding by bureaucratic decree from the Food Controller's Department, a Bill should not have been introduced at that time into this House. The course which was adopted was illegal, and the Government were warned that it was illegal. The Dairy Companies concerned appealed, I understand, to Lord Carson and Sir John Simon, obtained their opinion and forwarded it to the. Government Department. In spite of that the Food Controller's Department went on with this course of action and insisted upon proceeding by decree, although they had been warned. The Government now ask this House, by this measure of retrospective action, to justify the Department in what they did.
I do not propose to go into the various cases which have been mentioned. There was the case of beer, there was the case of hides, and there was the ease of meat. Not all of the cases were in war time, as was suggested by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. One or two of them certainly occurred in the year 1919, and it is not unfair to say that this was a case in which the Department—
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It was true in a great many cases. They levied taxes without the authority of Parliament. That is really the offence of which we complain, and I shall venture to read to your Lordships a few sentences from the judgment of Lord Justice Atkin. The learned Lord Justice said—In view of the historic struggle of the Legislature to secure for itself the sole 70 power to levy money upon the subject, its complete success in that struggle, and the elaborate means adopted by the representative House to control the amount, the conditions and the purpose of the levy, the circumstances would be remarkable, indeed, which would induce the Court to believe that the Legislature had sacrificed all the well-known checks and precautions, and, not in expressed words bat merely by implication, had entrusted a Minister of the Crown with undefined and unlimited powers of imposing charges upon the subject for purposes connected with his Department. I am clearly of opinion that no such powers, and, indeed, no powers at all, for imposing any such charge are given to the Minister of Food by the statutory provision on which he relies. I have no doubt as to the good faith of the Food Controller, and his intentions in making this charge may have been excellent, but he adopted methods which, in my opinion, are unconstitutional and contrary to law, and his agreements cannot be enforced.We realise that we are not dealing with all the various cases that have been mentioned this afternoon. We are only dealing with the oases mentioned in the Schedule. But it is a matter of very real importance. It is the greatest hardship on subjects of the Crown that they should be obliged to prosecute a case from the lowest Court to the highest and then to find that legislation is introduced into both Houses of Parliament to deprive them of the result of the case when they have managed to win it.
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I interrupt the noble Earl? I have said so often that that case is not touched by this Bill at all.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I am afraid the noble Lord did not hear what I said in the sentence which preceded his interruption. What I said was that we were only dealing with the cases mentioned in the Schedule, and that it was the greatest hardship on the subject that after he had won his case in the Courts he should be treated in this way. I venture to suggest that the noble Lord's interruption was hardly justified.
In this case it is perfectly clear that the House is in a very real difficulty. We have reason to suppose, in view of what has happened before that if any Amendment is presented to your Lordships' House dealing with the actual burden of who is or is not to pay, the Government will treat it in the same summary manner as they dealt with the Amendments to 71 the Bill to which reference has already been made. The question, therefore, is what shall be done by your Lordships' House. In view of the impossibility of amending this Bill, I confess that I think the best thing that can be done is to agree with the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Strachie or with that of the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant. If my noble friend behind me will forgive me for saying so, I prefer the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, and if the House proceeds to a Division my vote will certainly be given in its favour.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I gather from what has been said that it is the general desire of the House to deal with the issue entirely upon the question as to whether this measure shall be read a second time or not, and not upon my reasoned Amendment. I am ready, therefore, to withdraw my Amendment in favour of that moved by the noble Lord behind me.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Cave, V.||Emmott, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Ernle, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Chelmsford, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]|
|Novar, V.||Pentland, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Riddell, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Thomson, L.|
|Bathurst E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Montagu of Beaulieu. L.|
|Buxton, E.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Doneaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Midleton, E.||Clwyd, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Morton, E.||Denman, L.||St. Audries, L.|
|Powis, E.||Hindlip, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Islington, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Joicey, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Strachie, L. [Teller.]|
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The original Question was: "That this Bill be now read a second time," to which an Amendment has been moved to leave out the word "now" in order to add at the end "this day six months."
§ LORD KYLSANT
My Lords, I did not move my Amendment. I put it on the Paper in order to have an opportunity of explaining the matter to this House. I promised to air this matter in this House and having done so, and having made my speech as I wanted to do, I am satisfied.
§ LORD STRACHIE
In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, has said, I beg now to move that the Bill be read this day six months.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(Lord Strachie.)
§ On Question, Whether the word "now" stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, -28.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to: Bill to be read 2a this day six months accordingly.