§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, That the Special Order reported from the Select Committee on the 29th of June last, be approved with the modifications proposed by the Select Committee. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I do not desire to keep you very long to-night, because I quite understand that jam for tea is being provided by the Board of Trade to those Ministers of His Majesty's Government who are prepared to sell their birthright to a bureaucratic Department, and I should be sorry if they arrived so long after the time that they found their mess of pottage was cold. Let us see what has happened with regard to this particular matter. As your Lordships know, under certain Acts, of which the Gas Undertakings Act is one, if there is any desire to alter a particular undertaking that undertaking and the alteration thereof come before the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade, after having heard the undertakers' proposition, make a suggestion and make a Provisional Order. In certain cases, and this is one of them, that Order has to come before both Houses of Parliament for an affirmative Resolution, and that affirmative Resolution can be modified by either House.
§ In the procedure in your Lordships' House what happens is that, if in these circumstances the undertakers are not satisfied, they say they are not satisfied, and it comes before a Standing Committee of your Lordships' House. That happened in this case. That Standing Committee reported that it was a matter that 1306 ought to be referred to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. That Select Committee was appointed by your Lordships. It sat, took evidence, and heard Counsel on both sides; that is to say, on the side of the undertakers and on the side of the Department, the Board of Trade. They then reported to your Lordships' House. What normally would have happened? Normally, the Government would have moved that your Lordships should adopt the Report of your Lordships' own Committee. But they did nothing of the kind. Why? Because the Board of Trade were not satisfied. I should like to know what would have happened if it had been the unfortunate undertakers who had not been satisfied. Would not the Government have moved it then? But they did nothing of the kind.
§ They went even further, and in July, just before we adjourned, if I may say so of a Government in power, they had the effrontery to move before your Lordships' House, instead of the Report of your Lordships' Committee, the very reverse—namely, the original proposition of the Board of Trade. I spoke on that matter, so did others, and your Lordships very properly showed that you were not willing to take that from a Government, no matter what Government was in power, and the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House, I think very wisely from his point of view, suggested that the matter should be postponed, and it was postponed. That was in July. In that debate both my noble friend Lord Mount Temple and myself pointed out that the difficulty about postponement was that you would get a strong bureaucratic Department pressing the unfortunate undertakers to make some sort of compromise between that time and the time when the matter would come up again in your Lordships' House for consideration.
§ We adjourned and then came what in my profession is called the Long Vacation, and in this House I think the Recess, and before we assembled again I wrote to the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House pointing out that this matter was in abeyance, but could not be allowed to stop in abeyance. I received a letter from him pointing out, quite properly (I am not making any complaint whatsoever) that the matter was not in his hands. How could it have 1307 been? He was engaged at Ottawa, which after all was the important thing, and one could not expect him to be in charge of this matter. He referred me to Lord Templemore. Lord Templemore, unfortunately, happened to be not well at the time and abroad, and he could not deal with it. I am not complaining of that. I waited. Then Lord Templemore came back, we are glad to say fit, and well able to deal with this matter as with others. I approached him, and asked him whether the Government were going to move that our Committee should be upheld by the House. It could not be done for the moment: the matter had to be gone into. Later I again approached my noble friend and said: "Is this going to be done?" Well, again it could not be done. The next move in the matter was that my noble friend the Chairman of Committees, as I suddenly found, had put down a Motion that all these gas questions were to go before a Joint Committee of the two Houses. I objected to that until this particular matter was dealt with, and the Chairman of Committees withdrew his Motion. Then we had a discussion. Again I invited Lord Templemore to put something down on behalf of the Government. Again there were difficulties, and nothing was to be done.
§ After having waited for a considerable time, and after having found that the Government were being forbidden by their own Department to put down anything, I had the temerity to put down in my own name the Motion which stands before your Lordships and which the Government ought to have put down last July. Of course, such tactless temerity could not expect to go through without some sort of trouble. One can only imagine what the Government thought then. They were in a difficulty. Here was the Motion that they obviously ought to have put down, the Motion asking your Lordships to ratify the findings of your own Committee. What happened? I do not know, but I can guess. I think they must have looked through the bookshelves in the nursery, and there they must have found those excellent precedents in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, and, having thought that here was an excellent precedent to take, they have adopted the attitude of one of the best Gilbert and Sullivan characters, the Duke of Plaza Toro. That, as we all 1308 know, is the attitude of leading a regiment from behind: they "find it less exciting."
§ The difficulty about the Plaza Toro attitude was that if you are going to lead a regiment from behind the first thing is to find the regiment. They had the Gilbertian idea that the best regiment to defeat the Committee's own finding was the Committee itself, and they seem, with some misplaced sense of ardour, to have persuaded the Chairman of the Committee, in the absence of his own Committee, without having heard anything that we have heard, to alter his written judgment, and he has put down the Board of Trade Amendments in order that your Lordships might have them before you, and in order that they might be passed against the finding of the Bath Committee who reported to the contrary to your Lordships. It is perfectly true that your Lordships are not bound to accept any Report of any Committee that you have appointed. But if you are not going to do that you are entitled to be told why, with evidence and arguments on both sides. If that step is to be taken, then at the Bar of this House let us have the witnesses and the Counsel on either side before we destroy the findings of your Lordships' own Committee.
§ What is going to happen? Are the Government going to make a fool of the Committee, or are the Committee going, by their Chairman, to make a fool of your Lordships? If this is allowed to happen are any of your Lordships going to consent to sit on a Committee again? Are you going to give time and a great deal of trouble and thought to something which is probably wholly uninteresting to you, because you think it is your duty, if, when you have done so and have reported, the whole thing is to be thrown to the winds owing to the action of a bureaucratic Department? What is going to happen after this? Is the head nurse, if we carry this Motion without amendment, going to come down to the Government and to say: "Oh, Master Templemore has made an awful hash of this; he must go now to his little friends in another place and get out their Whips and wreck the whole business in the other place; otherwise I will give notice"? Surely we are not going to have a threat of this kind, that if you are going to take an Amendment of this sort against 1309 the findings of your Committee there is a bureaucratic Department strong enough to insist that the Government shall put on Government Whips in order to wreck the Bill in another place?
§ I should very much like to know, and perhaps I shall hear when the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, moves his Amendment, whether there has been the sort of pressure that my noble friend Lord Mount Temple and I suggested last time would be brought to bear upon him before he has gone straight back on a careful finding, a signed finding, a unanimous finding of this Committee. I should like to know also from him whether or not he has got the consent of all the Committee. I dare say, in fact I know, that he cannot have had the consent of one, because one member of the Committee is not in England. I should like to know, too, on what authority, having had the unanimous opinion of the whole of his Committee, he thinks it proper to go back upon it and ask your Lordships to pass Amendments? I should also like to know, and I would press for an answer, from what quarter the pressure has been brought to bear upon him, and what pressure has been brought on to him to go back on what he has reported to your Lordships. I beg to move that the original Report before any pressure was brought to bear upon the members of the Committee should be adopted by your Lordships.
§ Moved, That the Special Order reported from the Select Committee on the 29th of June last, be approved with the modifications proposed by the Select Committee.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF BATH had given Notice that he would move to leave out all words after "approved" and insert "subject to the following modifications:—
§ "Leave out clause 34 and insert new clause 34:
§ Basic prices.
§ ("34.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Order as from the prescribed date the basic prices of gas supplied by the Company shall be—
- (a) five decimal five pence per therm for gas supplied in the Bath inner area;
- (b) six decimal two pence per therm for gas supplied in the Bath outer area;
- (c) seven decimal two pence per therm for gas supplied in the Keynsham area;
- (d) eight decimal one pence per therm for gas suppied in the Colerne and Farleigh area;
- (e) ten decimal five pence per therm for gas supplied in the Chippenham inner area;
- (f) eleven decimal six eight pence per therm for gas supplied in the Chippenham outer area; and
- (g) twelve decimal two five pence per therm for gas supplied in the Corsham area.
(2) The said prices respectively are in relation to the said areas respectively referred to in this Order as 'the basic price.'
Clause 35, page 16, lines 17, 19, 20, 27 and 36, leave out ('basic price') and insert ('basic prices').
Clause 39, page 18, lines 1 and 2, leave out ('the product of the excess prices)') and insert ('discount if any)').
Clause 39, page 19, leave out lines 6 to 34 inclusive.
Clause 40, page 20, line 7, leave out ('equal to or more than the basic price') and insert ('decimal seven of a penny per therm or more in excess of the basic price').")
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I think I must first assure your Lordships that on the most important point of all in the Amendments which stand on the Paper in my name I have the full and complete support of every member of the Committee who sat on this Order with, as my noble friend says, the one exception of Lord Moyne, who, unfortunately, is out of reach. I am personally unable to say what his views are, but I believe you may be told that he would be prepared to support the Amendments which I have put down. I am glad to say also —I do not know whether it will assure my noble friend—that there has been no question of a compromise, and certainly, so far as I am concerned, weak-kneed though I may be, no pressure has been put upon me since last July. I have been fortunate in not having had to be in London at all, and what connection I may have had with the Order has been purely fortuitous owing to the fact that I live more or less in the neighbourhood; but so far as the Department is concerned, and so far as any of the parties are concerned, there has been no pressure put upon me personally at all.
§ My noble friend, more than once in the course of his speech, talked about my having gone back upon the Report of the Committee. I think my noble friends and colleagues will agree, that when we were asked to serve upon this Committee 1311 we were told, as is very often the case when you are asked to serve upon a particular Committee, what the main point was that we might have to decide, and that was the question of the multiple as against the single basic price of gas. I grant that we made our Report, and that the Board of Trade persisted in bringing forward their Order without our suggested Amendments in it. I do not know myself exactly what has taken place, but all I do know is that the whole of the main issue upon which we sat and which we decided has now been granted with the assent of the Government Department and of all parties concerned. If your Lordships look at the Notice on the Paper and the Report of the Committee, you will see that the Amendment to Clause 34—that is a new clause—the whole of the Amendments to Clause 35 and Clause 39, with one small exception, are in accordance with our Report. But —I think it was as soon as my noble friend's Motion was put down—I was approached, and, acting with the assent of the Committee, we do not ask for the omission of the last paragraph but one to Clause 39 which deals with the question of bulk supply, on which point I may have to say a word in a moment, nor do I ask for the omission of subsection (2) of Clause 40, but instead I ask for the Amendment which is on the Paper and which I may say I think is even better than our proposal.
§ All the Amendments that are on the Paper are agreed to by all the parties concerned, and, as I have already said, I have also the assent of my noble friends on the Committee. Perhaps your Lordships will not ask me to explain those which carry out our original Report. I may say that learned Counsel in charge of the Order made some attempt to do so, but did not get very far. But I want again to say this, that the main and the real issue which we were called upon to decide is that of the multiple as against the single basic price, and that that is now settled in accordance with our Report. As to the bulk supply to which I alluded just now, the question was whether a receiver of gas in bulk should be deemed to be a consumer for the purpose of the operation of the basic price arrangement. We in the Committee came to a decision that it should be so, but I have to point 1312 out to the House that Lord Chalmers and his Committee have decided in a contrary sense, that our decision did not follow that of Lord Chalmers' Committee, that there is a good deal to be said on both sides, and that while that Committee's decisions have been taken as the basis for subsequent Orders and provisions, we did not so take them on that occasion, and I venture to ask your Lordships not to insist on our Amendments there. I think I should add that both in this case and in the other—through no fault of the Committee—we did not have the advantage of any argument from learned Counsel for the Board of Trade.
§ The second point—the only other about which I want to speak—is the complicated one of the average selling price. Again I would refer to the decision of Lord Chalmers' Committee that it is not open to a company to avail itself of the increase in dividend by selling cheap gas if any consumer has been charged more than the basic price. I feel it is rather rash of me to attempt to explain that, but the point is that if you have a high price here and a low price there the average is between the two as between the large consumer and the small consumer. On the other hand, the company may reverse the process and may still get the same average price but the other consumer is damaged. It may occur, and I think it has occurred, that some large consumers have been charged a price lower than the basic price while the very small ones have been charged more. You get the same position also, I believe, in regard to electricity. You get first of all an attempt to charge a very high price per unit. You protest, and then you are told that if you take so much current and pay so much down you shall have the rest of what you want at an exceedingly low figure.
§ That is all very well for the large consumer, but it does not help the small one very much. I think here it may be urged that the conclusion at which we arrived and the recommendation which we made as a Committee might tend, and probably does tend, to prejudice the small consumer as against the large one —a thing which I am perfectly certain your Lordships' House would not be ready to do. The last Amendment on the Paper—to Clause 40—leaves a latitude of 7 of a penny below the basic 1313 rate when the average rate does not exceed the basic price. I recognise, and I am sure my noble friends also recognise to the full, that it is important that any decision of a Committee of your Lordships' House should be fully supported, and that it is very important that the decisions even of a Committee of your Lordships' House should not be flouted in any way.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BATH
I regret very much myself—I will not say more than that—the attitude the Board of Trade adopted in July, but I am glad they have given way on the one vital point in this Order. The two other points are important, but I say frankly that I do not think that the Order is damaged in any way by the modifications which I venture to suggest to your Lordships. We have carried our main point and the two modifications that I propose bring our decision into line with those of Lord Chalmers' Committee. The Chairman of Committees, I see, has again placed a Notice on the Paper in regard to the appointment of a Joint Committee which shall go into the whole question of multiple as against basic prices. I hope that that Joint Committee may be able to supply a principle on which this difficult question—and it is a very difficult question—can be decided without controversy in future legislation. I beg to move.
Leave out all the words after ('approved') and insert ('subject to the following modifications …') as set out in the Amendment."—(The Marquess of Bath.)
My Lords, as I had the honour of serving on this Committee under the Chairmanship of the noble Marquess, I should like to make one or two observations in support of what he has said and in support of the Amendments which appear upon the Paper in his name. The noble Earl appears to be displeased with somebody. I do not know whether his displeasure is entirely with the Government or whether the Committee are entitled to participate in it in some way, but he certainly showed—if I may say so with great respect—some ignorance about these matters, because he asked the Government what they would have done if the undertakers had not been satisfied, would 1314 they then have moved? Of course, if he really understood it, he would know that any dissatisfaction on the part of the undertakers would have been shown by the Order never coming to the House at all, because the undertakers have no opportunity of opposing an Order by the Board of Trade once it has been allowed.
The noble Earl said that the Amendments now standing in the name of the noble Marquess were, in fact, the Amendments of the Board of Trade. They are nothing of the sort. What the Board of Trade wanted, and what the Board of Trade pressed for, and what the Board of Trade have, in fact, not got, was the single basic price as opposed to the multiple basic price which was put into the Order by the Committee presided over by the noble Marquess. I disclaim at once the question of any pressure having been brought to bear on me. It certainly has not, any more than it has upon the noble Marquess. Reference was made by the noble Marquess to the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, who is at present abroad. I can say nothing on behalf of my noble friend Lord Moyne, and anything I say must be taken exactly as I say it, but I do think that I definitely know his views on the point because we discussed them at the time, and I am perfectly satisfied that if Lord Moyne were here he would be in complete agreement with the noble Marquess, as are the other members of the Committee.
The whole dispute with the Board of Trade really centred round the question of the advantages of the single basic price as opposed to the multiple basic price as a method of paying for gas in the Bath area. That was really their whole point, and they have lost it. The only opposition was from the Corporation of Bath and they opposed it entirely because they did not want the single basic price, a system of payment which the Board of Trade was then seeking to impose on the company supplying Bath. The gas company itself could not oppose the Board of Trade because, as I have told those of your Lordships who are not aware of the way in which these things are conducted upstairs, the gas company have no locus whatever upstairs. They cannot oppose an Order. They have to take what the Board of Trade give them or leave it. They need not take it, but they cannot petition against the Board of 1315 Trade. If the Amendments now proposed had been the only matters in dispute this Order would never have come hero at all; it would have gone as an unopposed Order. The only people affected by the Amendments are the gas company themselves.
The noble Earl has suggested that some pressure was brought to bear, but the gas company were prepared to accept the Order from the Board of Trade and said so repeatedly. They said that if the Corporation did not succeed with its petition they were prepared to go on with the Order as it stood. That does not look in the least like the application of pressure. A further reason for accepting the Amendments of the noble Marquess is that they do bring this Order into line with the findings of the Joint Select Committee presided over by Lord Chalmers, and that is a very great advantage. At the time when the Amendments now proposed were being discussed the Committee upstairs did not have the advantage of Counsel. I think it is a great pity that they did not and I should like very much to take this opportunity of urging the importance of Departments being represented upstairs by Counsel. It makes all the difference to the Committee and the way in which they can deal with things brought before them Some of your Lordships who are never able to go upstairs probably do not know that when a Department wishes to oppose a clause or Order they send a representative who makes a statement, but that is not at all like having a witness.
The representative of the Department does not go into the witness chair, he is not on oath, and he cannot be examined or cross-examined excepting through the Chairman, which is, of course, an extremely cumbersome and inconvenient way of arriving at facts. It is next door to the impossible, and in any case it is bound to be a comparatively colourless affair and not nearly so easy to follow and understand. I am certain that most noble Lords who serve on Committees would be in entire agreement with that. The sole concern of Committees upstairs is to see that all parties obtain justice, and representation of Departments by Counsel would be of the utmost assistance in arriving at this result. I very much hope that some notice will be taken of 1316 this suggestion by the various Departments.
Now, my Lords, surely the important point to consider in arriving at a decision such as this is the ultimate effect. That is really what you want to find out. I submit that the inevitable effect here, if the Committee had refused these relatively unimportant Amendments, would quite certainly have been that the Order would have been lost and with it all the money spent upon the Order. What would have happened then? Next year the Order would have been re-introduced in precisely the same form in which the noble Marquess asks you to accept it today, and it would then come as an unopposed Order because there would be nobody to oppose it; but, of course, the promoters would have had all the incidental expense of bringing it up again. I do not think your Lordships could possibly imagine that any useful purpose could be served by treating the matter in this way. It would be the purest waste of time and money, and in the meantime the unhappy consumers would be getting no gas and the promoters would be put to further expense. I very much hope that your Lordships will support the noble Marquess.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, having heard the two speeches on the Amendment I rather feel that the purpose I had has been accomplished without my objecting to the Amendment that has been put down. Undoubtedly I may thank my noble friend Lord Redesdale for one thing he has said, but unfortunately he has not gone far enough. He has suggested that Counsel should be heard upstairs on behalf of Departments. If he would go a little further and, when he is moving in regard to that admirable suggestion, also suggest that the Committee for Privileges of your Lordships' House should remove from myself the disability under which I am at present, and allow me to be one of the Counsel who can appear, I should be very much obliged.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, shared the feeling that there was no pressure brought, but he let fall one remark and that was that it would be very unfortunate if the Committee had refused to accept these Amendments. But who gave them to them if no pressure was brought to bear? Did they fall like the 1317 gentle dew from heaven? After some months in the country air did it suddenly occur to them that they had been wrong and that they must alter just a little to make the Report even better? I do say this: it is a thoroughly bad precedent to allow the Report of a Committee to Come before the House and to allow pressure such as was undoubtedly brought to bear by a Department upon the Government to induce them to say: "We will postpone this in order to have further argument about it." We know now that the Department has, as it is said, given way. It is not for the Department to give away anything, but for your Lordships to say one way or the other what a Department has got to do and what it has not got to do. It is undoubted that something has been done to remove a very serious part—the noble Marquess says, and Lord Redesdale agrees, that a most serious part of the whole thing has been removed—from the Motion which was moved by the Government against the view of the Committee in July and in favour at that time of the Department.
I have only one other word to say. The noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack, when we were discussing the Town Planning Bill and when the question of affirmative Resolutions was brought up by myself on the suggestion of the Donoughmore Committee, said that the Government were undoubtedly intending to give that matter their full attention in the future. I am not suggesting for a moment that they have not been far too busy up to the present time to have done it, but at some time in the reasonably near future that will come before the Government. I think that this debate should be before their minds, as to what may happen even on an affirmative Resolution unless your Lordships are minded, when you get an affirmative Resolution of this kind, if necessary, to follow, or if not to follow at least to follow up with proper evidence and proper argument, the Report which is given by any Committee to your Lordships on the matter.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, two points have arisen in this debate upon which I might perhaps be allowed to make an observation to your Lordships. The first is upon the point of representation of Government Departments by Counsel before Committees. 1318 I perhaps may tell your Lordships that a little time ago I had some discussion with representatives of the Departments which are mostly concerned in Private Bills, and I made the suggestion to them that where a Government Department is a protagonist, so to speak, as in this case, or has important questions to urge and put forward, it should be represented by Counsel. There was some natural disinclination, perhaps, to follow this course, because undoubtedly it adds to the expense, but I am very glad to say that in two cases, and I think the only cases, where important matters have arisen —namely, in the Joint Select Committee of both Houses which sat under the Chairmanship of Lord Marks, and in this Committee—Counsel were briefed by the Government Department concerned, in both cases the Board of Trade, and therefore the Committee had their assistance. I am very glad indeed to learn from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and also I think from the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, that the Committee were much assisted by Counsel's advice. I trust therefore that in the future the same course may be followed, because we have heard from two very experienced Chairmen that it is of great assistance to Committees.
The other point which I wanted to mention is that referred to both by the noble Marquess and by the noble Earl, and that is the question of a Joint Select Committee to go into the whole of this question in the same way as other matters connected with gas were examined by the Committee presided over by Lord Marks, and another one presided over by Lord Chalmers. I ventured to put a Motion down the other day, but as the view was taken that it might possibly complicate the issue in regard to this matter, I immediately withdrew it. I am rather sorry, because one has not been able to bring it forward so soon, and because it is important to get this question discussed before the Committee before the new group of Bills is laid, and that will be on November 27. I dare say—I hope your Lordships will agree—that if we can set up this Committee in the earlier days of next Session, the time will not be too late. I do not know, of course, what Bills will be laid; there may be some, however, which will be assisted by the decision of the Committee in this matter. It will not be of any use this Session, but I hope 1319 that early next Session your Lordships will agree to the appointment of such a Committee. Your Lordships will remember that it was suggested by the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, last summer, in the debate upon this particular matter. I wished only to draw your Lordships' attention to those two points; and I trust that in future Counsel will be able to attend the Committees and that we shall be able to get the Committee of which I have spoken set up.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I desire to say only a very few words on behalf of the Government in this matter. My noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury seems to be very busy in carrying on a vendetta against what he, some fifteen times I think in the course of his speech, described as a "bureaucratic Department." I am not so much interested in following up his heresy-hunting. The noble Earl, as my noble friend Lord Redesdale said, seems very displeased with somebody; I should almost have thought that it would have been accurate to say that he seemed displeased with everybody. Even now, although I gather he is not opposing the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Bath is proposing, he seems to be darkly hinting at some dangerous unseen pressure by some hidden hand.
I am not interested in that matter; what I am interested in are two matters. First of all, I think it is of the first importance that a Committee of your Lordships' House should not lightly be overthrown by your Lordships, and that when we have a matter fully examined by a Committee of this House, it must require very strong argument to persuade your Lordships not to accept their recommendation. Secondly—and this is a less general observation—I was interested in seeing, if possible, that the unfortunate consumers of gas in the City of Bath should be allowed to get some sort of Order; because quite obviously while the battle royal was raging between the "bureaucratic Department" and the noble Earl, the result might be that meanwhile there was no Order of any kind obtained for the supply of gas to the City of Bath and to its neighbourhood, and that, I think, would have been a very unfortunate result.
1320 I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the Order which your Lordships are now asked to approve. I am content to rest on the opinion of my noble friends who have sat on the Committee and who are able to explain it to your Lordships, as the noble Marquess was able to do. I do profess to understand it a little better than the noble Earl, because I had gone so far as to appreciate that the Amendments which my noble friend Lord Bath was moving, were not Amendments which overrode the decision of the Select Committee, but Amendments which gave effect to that decision on the main point of principle. But, after all, what one is anxious for here is to get the right form of Order, in some form, passed through Parliament. I do not think that the noble Earl is right when he says that it is not for the Department to say what it will do but that it is for your Lordships to say what the Department is to do or not to do. I do not so read the position. It no doubt is for your Lordships to say what Order shall pass or shall not pass, but naturally the Government must decide what Motions it will or will not bring forward before this House or in another place, and then it is for your Lordships' House to decide whether you will accept or reject those proposals, or what modifications you will put into them.
In the present case the members of the Committee have brought before your Lordships proposals which establish the main point which they decided, and which make certain modifications which they regard as improvements and as bringing their Report into harmony with the Report of a previous Committee presided over, I think, by Lord Chalmers. So far as I am concerned, on behalf of the Government I desire only to say that we accept the Amendments proposed by the noble Marquess, that we propose to move the Order in that form in another place, and that I think the House and the Government are indebted to the noble Marquess, to my noble friend Lord Redesdale, and to the other members of the Committee, for the care and attention which they have given to the decision of this matter and for the steps which they have taken to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. I think that gratitude might also be felt towards them by the promoters of this Order, by the Corporation of Bath, and by the citizens of Bath, who are most 1321 immediately affected by the passage of the Order through Parliament. That is all that I desire to say upon this Order. I understand that early in the next Session a suggestion will be brought forward, which I have no doubt will be accepted, that a Joint Select Committee should be set up to establish the general point of principle, but so far as Bath is concerned the question has been decided by the Committee presided over by the noble Marquess. That decision is accepted and, if your Lordships pass this Order, will become binding.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, you will perhaps allow me to say one word. I think, if I may say so, that the House is to be congratulated, and the Select Committee is to be congratulated, upon the speech which my noble friend the Leader of the House has just delivered, for it is a speech in which he has signified to your Lordships that the whole strength of the Government will be placed behind the decision of the Select Committee, and that, so far as their influence is concerned, they will secure that that decision shall pass through both Houses of Parliament. I am especially interested in this matter, not because I understand the needs of Bath at this moment, and certainly not because I understand the technical intricacies of a Gas Order, but because of the working which it displays of the Special Orders Committee of your Lordships' House. These affirmative Resolutions are really of the greatest importance for the future of our Parliamentary government, because they render it possible to pass measures which otherwise it would not be possible to pass, because always there is this provision behind, that Parliament has still authority to see what is done.
In this case the Special Orders Committee said that this particular Order raised matters of novelty and importance, and sent it before a Select Committee. The Select Committee, presided over by the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, duly sat and came to a unanimous decision, and that decision your Lordships' House is now going to support. I think it was perhaps a little unfortunate that considerable departmental pressure was put upon the Select Committee to give way upon the main issue that they found. As to the subordinate issues it is another matter, but on the main issue there was consider- 1322 able pressure on the Select Committee to give way. The Committee resisted that pressure. I am delighted that they have done so, and it is most important that this House should support the decision of their Select Committee, and the decisions whch follow upon it. Your Lordships' House, and the Government, are going to support that view, and I think the result is very favourable. I hope, if I may say so, very respectfully, that Departments of the Government will take note that when your Lordships' House puts in force this important procedure it is not going to be lightly swept aside because a Department does not happen to agree with it. Your Lordships' House has used its full powers, a very good Select Committee was appointed, Counsel were briefed on both sides, the matter has been judicially brought to trial, and your Lordships are going to support the result. It is a matter of great satisfaction and will, I hope, be looked upon as a precedent to which reference will be made in the future.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to, and Motion, as amended, agreed to.