HL Deb 13 December 1926 vol 65 cc1558-63

Amendment reported (according to Order).

Clause 2:

Power of Minister to contribute towards losses.

(4) The Minister may, subject to the approval of the Treasury, make regulations for carrying this section into effect:

Provided that every regulation so made shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if an address is presented by either House within twenty-one days during which that House has sat next after any regulation is laid before it praying that the regulation may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the regulation without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.


moved, in subsection (4), to leave out all words in the proviso after "Provided that every Regulation so made," and insert shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either House of Parliament, within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after the Regulation is laid before them, presents an address to His Majesty praying that the Regulation or any part of it may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder or to the making of new Regulations. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be within the recollection of the House that in Committee I raised the question whether the Regulations which had to be laid upon the Tables of both Houses of Parliament should be subject to either House not presenting an Address to His Majesty for annulment. The noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture opposed my Amendment, although he said that he had no desire to reduce the privileges of your Lordships' House. I asked him whether he would tell me the Standing Order which would make this an interference with the privileges of another place. He was unable to do so. No doubt he is now armed with that information. I cannot see in the Standing Orders anything to show that your Lordships' House has no right to move an Address to His Majesty, the effect of which would be to annul the Regulations.

But the noble Lord later, in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, who suggested that the matter should be put off to the Report stage to give an opportunity for further consideration, said: I cannot, however, resist the appeal of the noble Earl, particularly as there is a possibility of reducing the already scanty privileges of this House, and I certainly accept his suggestion that the matter should be reconsidered on Report. In the circumstances I asked leave to withdraw my Amendment. I am not now putting the question upon the merits of the case. I merely ask whether the noble Lord, having considered this question, is able to tell us that the Government have made up their minds that they do not want further to restrict the powers of your Lordships' House. If they do desire to do that then I would point out that it is a very dangerous course to adopt, for other Governments may come after them who may wish still further to reduce the rights of your Lordships. I would wish to point out this, too. The question of Standing Orders does not deal with an Address to His Majesty. If it is a question of privilege it is equally a question of privilege as the clause now stands. Once you begin to argue in that way you will conclude that this House has no right to move an Address to His Majesty asking that Regulations be annulled. If the Government have made up their minds that they do not want the House of Lords to have any power to annul these Regulations, I should like to know whether they equally desire to prevent the House of Commons having any power of control over Government Departments in the making of Regulations?

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 39, leave out from ("made") to end of line 4 on page 3, and insert the said words.—(Lord Strachie.)


My Lords, I am not quite sure if I fully understand the purport of the noble Lord's last remarks. I gathered from him that rather than move an Amendment more or less to the effect he desires he would be prepared to introduce the words "House of Commons" instead of "either House of Parliament." I do not know if I heard him correctly.


All I said was that if the Government would wish to restrict the House of Lords in the matter still further and the House of Lords has no right to interfere I would give the House of Commons control of the Government Department in reference to the matter.


My Lords, I need hardly tell the noble Lord and, indeed, this House, that we who sit on this side of the House at any rate do not desire to restrict the present attenuated privileges or the authority of this House in any respect whatever. If these unfortunate questions do arise now in this House it is obviously due to the passing of the Parliament Act by the noble Lord or his friends, whom of course he supported in the line which they then took. But I quite frankly tell my noble friend Lord Strachie that on merits I, for my part, prefer his form of words rather than the common form which is inserted in this Bill but when we come to consider for the moment not privilege but precedent I find myself in considerable difficulty.

I have, as I promised the noble Lord, thoroughly explored this matter since it was discussed on his Amendment in Committee and I have examined the precedents during recent years. I find by the precedents that in every case where Regulations of this character deal with financial matters it has always been customary to pass the clause in the form appearing in this Bill and not in the form proposed by the noble Lord. If the noble Lord will refer to Section 7 subsection (3) of the Housing and Town Planning Act, which was passed in 1919, he will see a precedent for the words exactly as they appear in this Bill. In that Act, as in this Bill, the section which requires provision to be made for Regulations has a marginal note to this effect: "Power to recoup losses." Your Lordships will realise there is a similar marginal note in this case: "Power to contribute towards losses." Obviously the whole of this clause deals with nothing but financial matters.

The same thing occurs in the Housing Act of 1921, in which exactly the same words appear in connection with Regulations under that Act, and as recently as last year there was passed the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, in which exactly the same point arises. In that Act the annulment of the Regulations is at the instance of His Majesty in Council on an Address by either House. The difficulty that arises, which, I think, I dealt with when this was under consideration in Committee, is that if, by presenting an Address to His Majesty, that ipso facto annuls the Regulations, the net result in this case will be that whereas the Exchequer might be prepared, and would be prepared in most cases, to make a grant in order to meet the losses incurred by a county council in respect of small holdings, the House of Lords would be in a position, by passing such a Resolution, to stop such a grant being made by the Exchequer.

All I say is I do not want to deal with the question of privilege, because we have known cases in which the House of commons has waived its privilege, upon a certain Resolution being passed by this House or a certain clause being modified, which might appear to encroach upon that privilege, but, so far as precedent is concerned, I am bound to tell your Lordships that there is no precedent for adopting such an Amendment in relation to a Regulation dealing with finance as that which the noble Lord has submitted to your Lordships. I therefore feel that I have no alternative but to ask the House not to accept this Amendment, but your Lordships will realise that the very last thing I desire to do would be to trench in any way upon your already attenuated privileges.


My Lords, I think your Lordships should be much obliged to the noble Lord for the explanation he has just given upon this matter. He seems to me, in what he has said, to have laid more emphasis on other topics than the one he laid so much stress upon in Committee of this House. There are, I think, two points: one is constitutional, the other is practical. Whether, indeed, it is constitutionally correct or not we are not called upon to decide this afternoon. The point upon which the noble Lord laid most emphasis and about which we did not hear so much in the Committee stage was that this form was more in accordance with precedent and that there are many precedents which show us that this is the line we ought to take. Upon that I am quite prepared to yield to the noble Lord and to offer no objection to that line of argument. Whether there has been in the past any ruling upon the question that this House should not even pass an Address to the Throne which might in any way limit expenditure is another point, and the noble Lord, as the matter has not been mentioned, not unnaturally said nothing on that point.

What I do feel very strongly is that it is very desirable that all these Bills should be as much alike as possible. It is very inconvenient in administering these matters that one Bill should take a certain line and a certain procedure and that another Bill should take another course of procedure. The Amendment adumbrated by my noble friend Lord Strachie would be to introduce yet another method of procedure which is for that reason, and that reason only, really to be deprecated. It would make yet another form. I hope that in future we may be able to agree on one common standard, some model clause which would always be inserted in Bills of this description. So much on the point of procedure on which I yield to the noble Lord in what he has said.

There is, however, a practical point which I confess makes me less anxious to press the Amendment. As the Bill stands at the present time it leaves complete discretion to the Minister and the Government of the day to act, or not act, as they think well. I can imagine a House of Lords which was antagonistic to the Government of the day—I have known such a House in my experience—and the Amendment which was suggested by my noble friend would, of course, when next there is such a Government in office allow your Lordships' House to render nugatory the Order promulgated by the Minister. I cannot imagine that your Lordships' House would in any circumstances pass an Address which would interfere with the intention of a Conservative Government. I can understand that they would with some pleasure pass an Address which would interfere with the intention of a Liberal or a Labour Government. I should certainly advise my noble friend not to press an Amendment which in those circumstances might place more power in the hands of your Lordships.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I now move Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being dispensed with.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in older to its being dispensed with.—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.

Then Bill read 3ª, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.