§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, when I addressed the House last week on behalf of a Department which I do not serve I thought it expedient to read my brief. To-day I represent seven or eight Departments, in none of which I serve, and I have a brief which is certainly correspondingly large. I see some anxiety lest I should again read my brief, but I do not propose to do so. In fact, there are only two points to which I need draw attention. This Bill is in. its usual form, and the two points to which I shall refer are in the Schedule. The first is the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, 1920. That Act was due to come to an end on January 14, 1931, but your Lordships saw fit to put it into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill in order that the dyestuffs industry should be protected. That has been carried on till the present time. Last year the matter was referred to the Import Duties Advisory Committee, and they have now issued a Report, published as Command Paper 4411, in which the action taken by your Lordships has been supported by that Committee. The Government have announced in another place that they intend to give effect to the Report of that Committee, but it is possible, of course, that that legislation will not have passed both Houses of Parliament before the end of this year. It is, therefore, proposed that this Act should be again included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but I have every reason to believe that this is the last time it will appear in this Bill. That is true of several other matters which appear in the Schedule, but perhaps I should be unwise if I specified them more particularly.
The other point to which I wish to refer is the last item in the Schedule, the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930. We had some debate last year on this matter. The Lord Chairman raised it, and also Lord Rankeillour, and objection was taken to Section 1. It is now proposed that Section 1 should come to an end when schemes which are before the various Departments on December 31 254 next, that is to say in about seven weeks' time, have been dealt with, and that no further schemes shall then be considered, and Section 1 will drop. I hope your Lordships will feel that, in spite of a debate opposed to this proposal in another place, your Lordships' action has been justified, and that the Government have acceded to a request made last year. The remainder of the Act is being continued, and I understand that the Lord Chairman is even now not content, and wants to raise a question about Section 2. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Earl Stanhope.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I am very glad to see that the Government have thought fit to withdraw from their present Bill Section 1 of the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930, which has been regarded with some misgiving both by my noble predecessor and myself, and that misgiving was, I think, shared by many of your Lordships. I gather that the Ministry of Transport, the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Health altogether have only had seventeen schemes under Section 1 since this Act has been in operation, and there are four now under consideration. I think the very small number of schemes for which the Act has been utilised justifies the Government in reverting to the ordinary practice of Parliament.
As regards Section 2, which my noble friend mentioned, I understand the object of continuing this section is that the special procedure which it authorises is regarded as convenient for the purpose of acquiring land for public works, but I am doubtful whether it is vital to the purpose or whether the more usual procedure whereby it is necessary to come to Parliament would not really suffice. However, it is a fact that 298 cases have occurred where this procedure has been taken, and I understand it is intended to review this and possibly abolish it in another year. I think your Lordships will agree that the special procedure which is already in force for certain purposes, and permits not coming to Parliament, is one that should be subjected to careful scrutiny. But there is another point. Section 2 extends the purpose for which local authorities and 255 statutory undertakings may acquire land compulsorily, to enable them to provide aerodromes, open spaces, town halls, and so forth. This is a measure which is designed to increase employment or to facilitate works to diminish unemployment, and I hardly think that this particular use which is made of it, to acquire land for this purpose, is satisfactory. The acquisition of land for aerodromes, town halls, and so on is a matter for permanency, it is not a question of unemployment relief. It is a matter in which there is plenty of time to proceed in the ordinary way. It is not really germane to the Act, and I think it ought to come under different legislation. Certainly it should not come under a temporary measure. I venture to ask my noble friend what action he proposes to take to put this matter on a firm basis.
§ EARL STANHOPE: My Lords, it is quite true Section 2 is not intimately connected with unemployment, but I disagree entirely with my noble friend when he says it has no effect.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I did not say it had no effect. What I did say was it was not necessary. In buying land for aerodromes or town halls it is not necessary to have this emergency procedure. I did not say it would have no effect on unemployment; I quite agree it has.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Obviously, if an aerodrome is to be made or a town hall built, the sooner it can be begun the better for those who are going to get some part in the making of these particular things. From that point of view the shorter procedure is well worth while. The only alternative is to proceed by Provisional Order, which takes about twelve or eighteen months, and I am informed that the time taken under the procedure of this Act is one-quarter of that and the cost is about one-quarter. As the law stands at present, local authorities have no power to acquire land 256 for aerodromes except by agreement, and I understand that the Secretary of State for Air is considering what steps should be taken to put this on a regular basis. He will, of course, do so before this Bill comes before your Lordships in a year's time. As regards the other Ministries affected, particularly Transport, they all have promised to consider the whole matter. So have the Ministry of Health; and in this way the whole question will be fully reconsidered before the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill comes before your Lordships again. I cannot of course give a definite promise. My noble friend knows as well as I do how difficult it is to get legislation through both Houses of Parliament, and therefore it may happen that this Act will reappear, but it is the intention of all the Ministries concerned to give further consideration to the matter before the Expiring Laws Bill appears next year.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, may I in a word express my gratitude to Lord Hailsham and the Government for leaving out Section 1? It involved a very dangerous precedent, and I am glad to see it gone.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.