HL Deb 16 July 1924 vol 58 cc596-9

My Lords, I desire to make a short personal explanation to your Lordships as regards something that happened yesterday, and at the some time to offer an apology to my noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley, who suffered considerable wrong at my hands. Your Lordships will remember that we gave a Third Reading yesterday to a Morecambe Corporation Bill. It was, so far as I am concerned, read a third time quite inadvertently. The circumstances are as follows. Early last week, or towards the end of the week before, my noble friend gave me notice that he desired to move an Amendment to the Bill on Third Reading. It was an Amendment to Clause 117, a clause which gives power to regulate omnibus routes. It is a clause against which a Petition was deposited in your Lordships' House in the usual form (this is a Second House Bill now), and the Committee did not hear the opposition to the Bill, throwing the Petitioners out on the basis of locus standi. I only say, in passing, that I think their decision was a correct one. Be that as it may, it does not affect the matter I now desire to bring to your Lordships' notice.

My noble friend having given me notice that he desired to move an Amendment on Third Reading, I made a suggestion. The matter is, of course, an important one. I can only trace one precedent for the form of clause which is in this Bill now, and that was in a Bill of last year. I have looked up the proceedings on that Bill and I find that no precedent was quoted when Parliament authorised the clause last year. Therefore, your Lordships will understand that it is a matter which has not been at all discussed in Parliament in view of its importance. But I have noticed, as of course your Lordships have done, that the matter is raised in Clause 6 of the London Traffic Bill. We are bound to have a discussion upon that Bill. No Amendments have so far been put down, but I assume that a clause of such an important character, as well as the whole Bill, will be discussed. I, therefore, suggested to my noble friend that we should hold back the Third Beading, and that the discussion should take place on the greater Bill—a discussion which, I believe, would probably be of value to us in discussing the minor point of the Morecambe Corporation Bill, which is not to be mentioned in the same breath as a Bill concerning the whole of London.

Therefore, I took all the usual steps, as I thought, to prevent the Bill being read a third time. I need not go into what the formalities are. But, in spite of that fact, the Bill appeared on the Paper yesterday, and was read a third time, and passed. Many people, including myself, read the Order Paper, and I take myself very much to task for not noticing that the Bill was on the Order Paper. Your Lordships will realise that I do not carry in my head the contents of every Bill, for some of them embrace as many as a hundred clauses, or even more, but I ought to have noticed this Bill when we read it a third time. I did not do so, however, and a great many other people did not notice it. Nobody is to blame in this matter but myself. I take all the blame for the fact that the noble Lord and your Lordships' House have been wrongly treated, for discussion would have been of advantage from the point of view of legislation not only on this Bill but on a great many other Bills.

I at once went into the question. It is not an unknown thing for your Lordships to discharge Orders that you have made, but there is, of course, no precedent whatever for discharging this one, and there ought not to be a precedent. Once your Lordships have passed a Motion that a Bill should pass, I think that you should not turn round and say it has not passed, and resume consideration of the Bill. Therefore I am not here to-day to suggest that course to your Lordships, although, technically, when I made the discovery which was a very few minutes after moving the Third Beading of the Bill, the Bill was still in your Lordships' possession and had not been returned to the House of Commons; but I do not think that that in any way affects the position. I feel that I owe the deepest apology to your Lordships and, in particular, to my noble friend opposite for the very wrong way in which he has been treated. I can think of no such occurrence during the twelve or thirteen years that I have had the privilege of being your Lordships' Chairman of Committees.

There is only one bright spot in the situation and that is the extremely fine manner in which the noble Lord himself has dealt with it. I thank him very much for what he said to me last night. I hope I am expressing his views correctly, but if not I am sure he will qualify anything that I say. I understand that the noble Lord's anxiety is not so much that Amendments should have been made in the Morecambe Corporation Bill, though, of course, they would have been from his point of view desirable. He is anxious that it should be distinctly understood that this clause has gone through Parliament undiscussed in your Lordships'. House, that there was a desire to discuss it, and, therefore, that it is of no value at all if other authorities come before your Lordships to as for the same power, unless, of course, they can show a case for it on the merits not based on the previous question.

I should like to go a little further. After all, corporations come with more or less frequency to your Lordships' House with Private Bills. The Morecambe Corporation—I should make this clear in justice to the Morecambe Corporation themselves—are in no way to blame for what has happened. I am entirely to blame, and no one else. I think it ought to be understood that if the policy of Parliament on this subject of the regulation of traffic develops in a different direction to this clause, and if the Morecambe Corporation come back to Parliament some years hence, they should, at any rate, be called upon to show good reason why on that opportunity their code should not be brought into conformity with that of the rest of the country, if that code happens to disagree with any decision come to by both Houses of Parliament. That is all I desire to say, beyond Again expressing my sincere regret to my noble friend opposite for what has happened.


My Lords, it is the sad truth that I emerge as a supposed sufferer in this case, but it-is difficult to suppose that anybody really suffers at the hands of my noble friend the Lord Chairman, and what he has said has shown the House how entirely he has seen to it that anything that he did should be followed by consequences of a kind which are in conformity with those qualities and attributes which have made him so worthy an occupant of the great position he holds in this House. It is true that certain parties wanted, and that I wished on their behalf, to raise a point of substance on this Bill on the Third Heading. The Bill, as a matter of fact, has passed containing a clause which is a local alteration of the general law, and has done so at a time when it is proposed to make a similar alteration in the general law in a Bill which, without going further into its attributes, is a Public Bill and not a Private Bill. It is not only difficult, as the noble Lord Chairman said, to find a precedent for it, but it is the actual fact that a similar alteration of the general law was refused by another Committee of your Lordships' House in the present Session. I thank the noble Lord Chairman for having said what he has said, for I consider he has said enough to ensure that no precedent will be created by the reading of the Morecambe Corporation Bill a third time yesterday, and that that Bill will not be followed in the future as one which is a fully-considered Bill.