HL Deb 07 March 1935 vol 96 cc25-8

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1 [Establishment of Herring Industry Board]:

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME had given Notice of a number of Amendments to the Bill, to alter the references to the Herring industry Board from the plural to the singular. The first was to substitute "its." for "their." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, most of these Amendments are put down with the object of getting carried out a ruling by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, that all nouns of multitude if they begin in a Bill in the singular shall continue throughout the Bill in the singular, and if they begin in the plural shall continue in the plural. Clause 1 (1) says: For the purposes of this Act there shall be established a body, to be called the Herring Industry Board,' which shall be a body corporate … After that throughout the Bill the Board is referred to in the plural. It is with the object of remedying that that I venture to put down the Amendments which stand in my name. They are all consequential except the last one, which I will explain later.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 2, leave out ("their") and insert ("its").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, this Amendment and the other Amendments on the Paper in the name of the noble Viscount seek to alter the grammar of the Bill so as to put references to the Herring Industry Board in the singular instead of in the plural. It is quite immaterial, either to the effect or to the artistic correctness of the Bill, whether the references are in the singular or in the plural; but there is a definite and sufficient reason why the Amendments should be resisted. This grammatical paint has been raised on a number of previous occasions, and a standing instruction as to the practice to be followed has been laid down for the guidance of the Parliamentary Counsel. That instruction has been observed by them in the preparation of this Bill. The instruction is to the effect that whichever alternative is adopted as between singular or plural references to nouns of multitude, consistency will be observed. If, in a case where the Parliamentary Counsel have been careful to observe this instruction, grammatical Amendments on this point are accepted, their work will be hampered by unnecessary uncertainty in a matter of no practical importance.

It is perhaps justifiable to remind the noble Viscount that in putting down these Amendments his action appears to be inconsistent with something like an undertaking which was arrived at on an occasion on which it was stated in this House that the instruction in question had been given to the Parliamentary Counsel. During the Committee stage of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions (Amendment) Bill in June, 1933, the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, expressed the hope that the noble Viscount would be content with the assurance that every endeavour would be made to be consistent with whichever alternative was adopted, and that he would not seek to impose an arbitrary rule of his own which could only be an embarrassment in the preparation of Bills—a task in which the real difficulties are of a much more substantial character. The noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, whilst indicating that he regretted that the decision had not been that the singular would always he used, nevertheless stated that he was prepared to abide by that decision. I hope the noble Viscount will not think me discourteous if I remind him of the fact that the printing of these Amendments, and the reprinting of the Bill, if that becomes necessary, does represent something in terms of the expenditure of time and money, and I venture to express the hope that his anxiety for grammatical or artistic correctness or perfection will not outweigh the desire, which I am sure he shares with us, for national economy and efficiency.


My Lords, the question is: Is this consistent? It begins in the singular and then goes into the plural. I do not quite follow what my noble friend means. Then he says it is immaterial, but is it immaterial to follow out the ruling of the Lord Chancellor? I really think it is not very courteous towards the holder of that high office that we should be told that it is quite immaterial if the draftsmen choose to do it in a certain way. The noble Lord said that every endeavour has been taken to make this consistent but it is not consistent, and with very little endeavour it could have been made so. However, I would not like to put my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in the invidious position of voting in a way from which he disagrees, and therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I will withdraw this Amendment, and I will not move any of the others.


Will the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, and Mount Royal, inform us how much the printing of these Amendments will cost the Stationery Office?


I am afraid I cannot tell the noble Viscount now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.