§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.142
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD ROCHESTER)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Rochester.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
My Lords, I beg to move that this House do now resolve itself into Committee upon this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Rochester.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, upon this Motion I wish to say a word or two. The Minister in charge of this Bill has moved that the House resolve itself into Committee upon this Bill, and we shall no doubt proceed to negative that Motion. That is quite correct in respect of the Consolidated Fund Bill which is now before us, and I have no reason to call attention to it except to say that it appears to be very proper to negative the Committee stage. Not only is it a Finance Bill but there is no possible Amendment which your Lordships could move which would even be considered in another place. Therefore, the Committee stage is useless. But I have observed, my Lords, that in respect of another class of Finance Bill—namely, Bills which are not Consolidated Fund Bills nor strictly Finance Bills but are certified Bills—there is growing up a practice that the Committee stage be negatived. I hope your Lordships will allow me, as a rather senior member of the House, to take up a moment of your time to say that I hope there will be hesitation in using that particular procedure—namely, to negative the Committee stage in respect of certified Bills which are not purely Finance Bills of the type we are now discussing. The reason is that, although it is perfectly true in respect of a certified Bill that if the House of Commons adhere in every particular to the Bill there is no means of making your Lordships' views prevail, yet it is reserved under the procedure of Parliament that this House may make Amendments for the consideration of another place.
That would be useless of course in such a Bill as the Consolidated Fund Bill, but in regard to many certified Bills it is a very useful and important function which your Lordships might well perform. Even in respect of certified Bills 143 you might put right matters which had escaped the attention of the House of Commons and which might be brought to the notice of the House of Commons in the form of an Amendment put in by your Lordships and sent to the House of Commons. Therefore, if I may say so respectfully, I rather deprecate the omission of the Committee stage altogether in the case of certified Bills. Very often it may be quite appropriate when there is no particular reason for making Amendments, but if it became the absolute rule and practice never to have a Committee stage on a certified Bill we should be gradually deprived of an opportunity which still remains open to us in regard to that class of Bill. I have not said this with any desire to stop the business of the House at this moment, but in the hope that the matter will be duly weighed and that in future action in respect of certified Bills we shall not lose sight of that power.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, I think it is a good thing that the noble Marquess has refered to the constitutional position in regard to Amendments in Finance Bills being within the power of your Lordships' House, because I think I am stating the position correctly when I say that not only a very large number of people outside your Lordships' House but a very considerable number of Peers inside this House have not realised that it is possible for this House to insert Amendments in a Finance Bill. I am not saying whether it is a good thing or not that we should have that power. I am only saying that that is the state of the law. That is the law as laid down by the Parliament Act, 1911. I imagine that the main reason why that particular provision was put in the Parliament Act—I think the noble Marquess rather hinted this himself—was to give opportunity for any oversight to be put right, and not with the idea of giving your Lordships' House the opportunity of making any substantial amendment. The position, I think, is that if an Amendment were made in a Finance Bill it would go back to another place and, if not agreed to there, then within thirty days the Bill would become law without amendment over the heads of your Lordships. I think that is substantially the position.
Even as regards a Consolidated Fund Bill, I believe I am correct in saying that 144 it is within the power of your Lordships, should you so desire, to insert an Amendment and send it back to another place. It is right that the position should be properly understood and I think the noble Marquess has rendered a service in bringing the matter forward. I had not myself noticed the growing practice to which he referred with regard to certified Bills, but it must be recognised that it is an extremely difficult matter to know what is or is not a Finance Bill. I believe I am correct in saying that six Budgets, as we cal] them, since the War have not been certified as Money Bills—certainly six, I believe rather more—presumably because they contained some clauses which were not strictly finance clauses. I am not complaining of this, because I am sure that the Speaker of the House of Commons and those who advise him do their work with the greatest care and thoroughness and, on the whole, with great advantage to the working of Parliament, but it is extremely difficult to know in advance whether a Bill will or will not be a Finance Bill. That does create a complication. I have no doubt that what has been said this afternoon will receive the attention of the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I should have to ask the indulgence of your Lordships if I wanted to make a long speech on this subject, but I can only say now that I feel we are indebted to the noble Marquess for having raised this question. He has occupied a prominent official position in the past and he still occupies a prominent position in your Lordships' House, and we are always both ready and anxious to hear any advice which he wishes to give. I can assure the noble Marquess that the matter that he has raised will be carefully considered. I will certainly represent what he has said to the Government. It is important that your Lordships should not on any account allow any of your privileges to go by the board, and I am sure I am only voicing the opinion of your Lordships when I say how grateful we are to the noble Marquess for having raised this point.
§ On Question, Motion negatived.
§ Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended, Bill read 3a, and passed.