§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.414
§ whole, and for industry, if the proposed reduction took place. It is a matter of opinion. When you have surpluses to handle it is always the case that various people want the money distributed in different ways. I would remind noble Lords opposite that if, as we hope, employment becomes very much better and we get a further surplus, their position will be very much stronger next year than it is now; but at present the Government take the view that this is the right appropriation to make in the case of this surplus. Therefore I recommend noble Lords to accept this Order.
My Lords, if I may speak again by leave of the House, the-only point I want to make is that no mention is made of a rise in the cost of living. If the cost of living rises, the benefit naturally becomes of less value. Secondly, there is no mention in the Report, as far as I can see, of any approach to the level of wages. Further, it would be quite possible to spend the surplus without raising the benefit, by giving an extra week of benefit. I regret very much what the Minister has said. I am afraid we shall have to put the House to the trouble of a Division.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 7.413
|Canterbury, L. Archbishop.
|Hailsham, V. (L. Chancellor.)
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.
|Bertie of Thame, V.
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.
|Hutchison of Montrose, L.
|De La Warr, E.
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.
|Marley, L. [Teller.]
|Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
My Lords, this Bill represents a further stage in the task of consolidating and bringing up-to-date the Statutes for whose administration the Ministry of Health are responsible. The Bill is based on the work of a Departmental Committee appointed in 415 1929 by Mr. Greenwood when he was Minister of Health, under the Chairmanship of the late Lord Chelmsford, to consider and report upon the consolidation of the law of local government and public health in England and Wales. Your Lordships will recollect that the first result of the labours of this Committee was the Local Government Bill which was introduced in 1933, on behalf of the Government, by the noble Viscount, Lord Sankey, and reached the Statute Book in the same Session as the Local Government Act, 1933. After the death of Lord Chelmsford the Committee continued its work under the Chairmanship of Lord Addington, to whom we are much indebted, and proceeded to consider the second part of their task—namely, the law of public health. The possibility of producing a single Bill dealing with the whole of the law on this subject was considered by the Committee, but they came to the conclusion that such a Bill would run to the quite unmanageable length of about 1,000 clauses and that the balance of advantage lay in the preparation of a series of Bills of moderate length, not exceeding 350 clauses each.
The present Bill represents the first of this series and deals with provisions of a strictly public health character, relating principally to sanitary matters and to the prevention and treatment of disease. Other and later Bills will deal with such topics as streets, open spaces, markets, food and so forth. If your Lordships will look at the Bill you will see that its range of topics cover local administration (including the combination and division of districts and the constitution of port health authorities); sanitation and buildings (including sewage disposal and building by-laws); nuisances and offensive trades; water supply; prevention, notification and treatment of disease; hospitals, nursing homes, and so forth; notification of births, maternity and child welfare and child life protection; baths, washhouses and bathing places; common lodging houses; canal boats; and other miscellaneous topics, together with a General Part dealing with matters common to the various subjects, such as the giving of notices, powers of entry, appeals, regulations, and so forth.
In the main, the clauses of the Bill are a re-enactment of the great Public Health Act of 1875, and of amending Acts passed 416 in 1878, 1885, 1890, 1907, 1921 and 1925; but in addition a number of Acts, such as the Notification of Births Acts of 1907 and 1915, and the Maternity and Child Welfare Act, 1918, which deal with public health matters but do not technically form part of the public health code, have been re-enacted. The Bill does not deal with London, whose public health administration is founded on separate Statutes except as regards a few matters in which the London County Council have asked for the Bill to be applied to their area. The fact that the Bill repeals in whole or in part some 30 to 40 Acts of Parliament, and substitutes 334 clauses for something like 600 sections in the existing legislation, is a measure of the simplification which it achieves.
The terms of reference of the Departmental Committee required them to consider what Amendments of the existing law are desirable for facilitating consolidation and securing simplicity, uniformity and conciseness. The Bill, therefore, like the Local Government Bill of 1933, combines consolidation with the limited amount of amendment which the Committee found necessary to secure the objects to which their terms of reference refer. I have no intention of wearying your Lordships with the details of these Amendments, or the reasons which led the Committee to recommend them. A full statement of these is to be found in the Committee's Report. I will only say at the present stage that the opportunity has been taken to clear up a number of points on which the law has been notoriously obscure and unsatisfactory, the chief of these being, perhaps, the question of the vesting of sewers and the relation between sewers and combined drains. Many of your Lordships will be aware that the law on this matter is notoriously inexact and has for long been the subject of adverse comment from the judicial bench. It was recently described by an eminent member of the Court of Appeal as a "disgrace to English legislation." Another and important clarification which the Bill seeks to effect relates to the right of appeal against orders, requirements and other decisions of local authorities. Under the existing law appeals lie in some cases to Quarter Sessions and in others to the Minister of Health; but the language of the Acts is 417 ambiguous and the extent of the jurisdiction of each tribunal has for long been a matter of debate.
As I have already indicated, the present Bill, like the Local Government Bill of 1933, combines consolidation with a limited amount of amendment. The Departmental Committee explain in their Report the reasons which led them to adopt this course in preference to drafting an Amending Bill, to be followed by a Bill consolidating the law as amended. Put quite briefly, they found the existing law to be in a state of great confusion, mainly for the reason that the Public Health Acts, including the Act of 1875 itself, are largely founded on the clauses selected from local legislation. As a consequence, the individual Statutes—and still less the series of Acts as a whole—do not show the impress of a single draftsman. In these circumstances an Amending Bill assimilating the language of each of the hundreds of sections comprised in these Acts would have been a long, complicated and unintelligible measure, and accordingly the Committee, working on the lines which proved successful in the Local Government Bill, have produced a single measure of consolidation and amendment and have called attention in their Report, which runs into 134 pages, to all the more important proposals for amendment that they have made.
It is plainly necessary that a Bill of this size and importance should be subjected to a close scrutiny by Parliament, and as it is not a purely consolidating measure a reference to the Joint Consolidation Committee would be inappropriate. The Government accordingly propose to adopt the course taken with the Local Government Bill of 1933 and to invite the two Houses to appoint a Joint Select Committee to undertake a detailed examination of the clauses. It is hoped that the Committee may be in a position to begin its work shortly after the Easter Recess and that it may thus be possible for the Bill to reach the Statute Book in the present Session. The Bill is a non-Party measure and has been welcomed by the associations of local authorities (who are represented on the Departmental Committee) and by the principal bodies concerned with its subject matter, as a most desirable and necessary step towards rendering the law of public 418 health intelligible and accessible. Valuable as it will be, if it reaches the Statute Book, to those concerned in public health administration, I am convinced that it will be of not less value to private persons who, whether as property owners or otherwise, come into contact with the public health administration. The obscurity and prolixity of the existing public health law has for long been a legitimate grievance to those persons and their advisers.
In commending the Bill to your Lordships' House I think it is necessary to state exactly what is the aim of the Bill. It does not seek to lay down a perfect public health code. To do so would necessarily involve some matters of acute controversy. It seeks rather to gather together for the first time in orderly and intelligible shape, the whole of the law relating to the matters with which it deals and thereby to provide a firm foundation and starting point for any necessary future legislation. Hitherto the complexity of the existing Statute law has been an effective obstacle to constructive criticism through the sheer difficulty of obtaining a clear picture of the subject matter. This Bill, combined with the later measures dealing with other aspects of public health to which the Departmental Committee will next turn their attention, should provide for the first time adequate material for a review of the whole law of public health. But to attempt to engraft on the present Bill extensive amendments of the law, however desirable in themselves, would be foreign to the purpose of the Bill and might well destroy its chance of reaching the Statute Book. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Gage.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not want to detain your Lordships for more than a moment or two, but I think it ought to be remarked in your Lordships' House how far this method of legislation departs from the usual precedents. No doubt there is a precedent for it, which my noble friend has recited, but it is an extremely doubtful practice, as the older members of your Lordships' House will recognise, to combine consolidation and amendment in the same Bill. Here is a Bill of a very large number of clauses which, as my noble friend has most frankly explained, involves in the 419 main consolidation but in a large degree also amendment.
Where you are dealing with consolidation purely by itself the matter is referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, and your Lordships are not called upon to investigate closely the resulting provisions. You are quite satisfied that your Committee will see that there is no change in the law and that all that is involved is consolidation of the law. As soon as the Committee have considered it and reported to the House the Bill passes through as a completely uncontroversial matter. Where a Bill is purely an Amending Bill, those of your Lordships who are interested in the subject look into the matter closely and see how far you approve of the proposed Amendments. But when the two are thrown together it is a most bewildering process. You do not know upon any particular clause in the Bill whether you are dealing with consolidation or amendment. The result is to throw a far heavier burden upon those noble Lords who desire to do their duty by watching any changes in legislation than otherwise would be the case. From the point of view of the Departments also it is inconvenient, because once the House starts upon scrutinising the provisions of the Bill, noble Lords will probably scrutinise not merely Amendments of the law but old matter which has been on the Statute Book for years and is only the subject of consolidation. Immense confusion results.
I am not going to oppose this Bill—I have no doubt it is an important matter that ought to go through—but I do suggest to the Government, and particularly, if I may, to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that this procedure ought to be very carefully watched and that this combination of consolidation and amendment ought not to be allowed to grow up in your Lordships' House. If my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will assure me that the matter will be very carefully scrutinised I shall not say more, but I must say that I regret very much the creeping in of this new practice. The old practice was well established—first amendment and then consolidation; two quite separate Bills. That is the old practice, and the right practice, and I venture to hope that it will continue.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will permit me to say a word or two as I have had some experience of Bills of this kind, especially the Bill of 1933. As your Lordships know, local government in this country has grown up in quite a different manner from that in which it has been established in countries abroad. I do not know whether any of your Lordships present to-day have read Local Government in Many Lands prepared unofficially by the Ministry of Health on reports which were received from foreign countries and from the Dominions. If any of your Lordships did so, I am sure you were struck by that circumstance: how our local government is a matter of growth. If your Lordships wish to go further into the matter, the works by the noble Lord, Lord Passfield—who I am sorry to see is not in his place this afternoon—are the most illuminating which have been published in any language.
With regard to the growth of public health legislation in this country, the first general legislation was the Public Health Act, 1848; but, as your Lordships are well aware, for many years before 1848 local authorities—towns only they were in those days—introduced Private Bills dealing with matters connected with health, such as the removal of nuisances, the provision of sewers, and kindred activities. This is an important point: the Public Health Act, 1848, was an adoptive Act. It gave powers to urban areas to set up authorities to deal with questions of the health of their areas and their inhabitants, and bestowed upon all those authorities powers similar to those granted to special authorities by Private Act of Parliament. It was in this year that the General Board of Health, which was the precursor of the Local Government Board, now the Ministry of Health, was established. Gradually, new powers adopted under the Act of 1848 came into general operation, and ultimately the whole country became organised for health purposes. The General Public Health Act, not adoptive-in all its provisions, was introduced in 1875, and that has been the backbone of our public health law. But it has, of course, been amended by many subsequent Acts.
That has been the evolution of our public health institutions: first of all by 421 experiment, by Local and Private Acts, then by an adoptive Act, and lastly by means of general legislation. And we are, I think, going by this Bill to take the evolution a step farther. Of course the practice still goes on of local authorities bringing in Private Bills and trying new experiments whereby considerable changes in the general law affecting public health are instituted, because other authorities follow them. The clauses in a Bill become standard clauses and are followed by other municipalities, county councils and so forth. The effect of this is that the progressive, the larger local authorities go ahead regularly and amend the law as is required, but the general public health laws must to a certain extent lag behind the Private Acts of the more progressive, larger, more powerful and richer local authorities. That must be the case unless steps are taken from time to time to bring the general law up to the highest modern local standard.
Perhaps I might illustrate to your Lordships how the general law, by this means of experiment and by the adoption of clauses in Private Acts, operates. Only two or three days ago it came to my notice that there were a considerable number of clauses, which varied in their drafting, regarding charges for the supply of refrigerators and small instruments of that kind. I therefore asked the Ministry of Health to go through all the clauses and see what seemed to be the best private clauses which had been put forward. I hope that that draft will be accepted and that it will become the standard clause. Doubtless if it works properly it will be in due course brought into some subsequent Public Health Act. Even to-day I have on the Table a Motion on a kindred matter dealing with the unsavoury subject of sewers, and that is exactly the same thing. We suggest having a Joint Committee of both Houses to settle the vexed question of charges for general sewers and, if we can by general agreement settle that matter, the settlement will no doubt in due course be adopted into the general legislation. I have on more than one occasion, since I had the honour of being Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government about fourteen years ago, ventured to impress upon your Lordships very respectfully the desirability of bringing these matters of general 422 legislation on public health up to the highest modern standard by the introduction of regular Bills, periodic Bills if possible, for that purpose. Your Lordships will remember that the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Private Bill procedure, which sat in 1930, recommended that a Public Bill dealing with local government and public health questions should be introduced every five years.
I should like to see something of the nature of a Standing Committee in continuous Session—I do not mean to say sitting every day, but regularly constituted—to scrutinise and examine all these public health clauses, new clauses which may appear in Private Bills, and to go into them carefully and thoroughly. Such a Committee might consist of representatives of the various Departments concerned who report on Private Bills, together with representatives of the Department which I represent in your Lordships' House and the similar Department in another place. It is only an idea. The constitution of such a Committee would, of course, have to be more carefully gone into, but I feel that some sort of authority of that kind for examining this type of clause and seeing that it comes forward regularly when public health legislation is brought forward, would be of advantage and save a considerable amount of trouble to Parliament and local authorities and to all those who are concerned with the administration of public health and local government. I should like, if I may, to commend the suggestion to my noble friend opposite and to ask him if he and his colleagues would be so kind as to give it their consideration.
As my noble friend has said, this Bill is one of a series, the first of which was the Local Government Act, 1933, which dealt with the constitution and function of local authorities. This Bill, as the noble Viscount has pointed out to your Lordships, is not a periodic Bill such as I have suggested might in future be brought forward to deal with public health; it is a Bill which is designed to clarify and to lay down the principles of the general legislation on public health as now generally accepted throughout the country. The noble Viscount has told us that this Bill will be followed by other Bills dealing with kindred subjects. It was thought possible that they might all 423 have been included in one Bill, but, as he told us, that would be a Bill of over 1,000 clauses, which would be rather more than the Government could properly ask your Lordships to accept in one effort.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has said a word to your Lordships on the undesirability of combining consolidation with amendment. I happened to be Chairman of the Joint Committee of both Houses which sat upon the 1933 Bill, and, although I have not perused this Bill very carefully, I gathered from what the noble Viscount has said and what I have seen myself, that this Bill is very much on the lines of the Act of 1933; that is to say, that it is mainly consolidation. It is not intended to revolutionise the public health law. Obviously, however, there are certain desirable points—perhaps minor points, but still points which obviously require amendment; and at least it was proved last time, in 1933, that a procedure of mainly consolidation plus a certain amount of necessary amendment is one which might commend itself to your Lordships. I quite agree with the noble Marquess that it is very desirable indeed to watch this procedure and not to allow consolidation and amendment to be mixed up indiscriminately; but when it is mainly consolidation, with necessary Amendments for bringing the law up to date, this procedure is one which might not unfavourably recommend itself to your Lordships.
I understand from the noble Viscount that it is proposed that the same procedure should be adopted this year of a Joint Committee. Indeed he has a Motion on the Paper for such a course, proposing that a Joint Committee of both Houses should be set up, not for the purpose of doing again what Lord Addington's Committee has done so adequately and so well, but in order to scrutinise the Bill from a Parliamentary point of view and to recommend such Amendments and offer such criticisms as may seem desirable to them. I may point out that the method pursued by the witnesses before the Joint Committee of 1933 was to point out clearly to the Committee what was an amendment of the existing law and what was consolidation, and I think the Committee scrutinised rather carefully from the point of view which my noble friend Lord Salisbury 424 has raised—the desirability of not going further than was absolutely necessary in amendment to obtain consolidation as far as they possibly could.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I be allowed to ask one question? Is there any precedent except the precedent which the noble Earl has quoted of 1933 for the union of consolidation and amendment?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Speaking offhand, I do not think there is, and I think that at the time the matter was rather carefully considered. I am speaking now without notice but my recollection is that the 1933 Bill was a Bill of something over 300 clauses, and if you had gone through the procedure, which in ordinary cases I think is the right procedure, of consolidating and then amending—
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think it would be difficult, because a lot of these clauses are in Private Acts and have not appeared in Public Acts. I think you have to take the law as it is and then amend it. It is difficult to discuss a rather intricate procedure without having carefully studied it beforehand. There is one point which perhaps I might be allowed to touch upon, and that is the fear which I understand has been expressed in some quarters, that legislation of this kind might interfere with the rights of property owners. I do not think that that is likely to prove correct. When you have a large number of Private Acts of Parliament, which govern public health in different districts, it must follow that the general body of public health law is to a degree obscure. If you have a different law in Birmingham from that existing in Liverpool, it is bound to be puzzling to those who happen to live, say, in Manchester, and who visit first one town and then the other. I cannot but think that the promotion of consolidating and amending legislation is just as much in the interests of property owners and their advisers as it is in the interests of those who have to administer public health law, and of the public themselves. When this Bill becomes law all persons will know exactly where they are, and I cannot think that that will have an undesirable effect upon the interests of property owners.
425 I do not think I have anything much to add about the scope of the Bill. I have already mentioned that the first of these Public Health Acts, the Act of 1848, was an adoptive Act, and there were a great many adoptive clauses in the Amending Act of 1875. I think that public health administration has been so much developed in this country that there is a tendency to make these adoptive clauses part of the general law of the country, and that is the principle followed in regard to the majority of the provisions recommended by Lord Addington's Committee and put into the Bill. Another question is the vesting of sewers in local authorities. This has been a vexed question for a long time and I think we should be grateful to the noble Lord and his Committee for putting forward a constructive proposal. I do not think that it alters very much the existing law but consolidates and amends it in such a way as seems necessary. I am glad to see that the Bill deals with the unsatisfactory state of affairs as regards building by-laws. Fortunately this matter had already been examined by a Departmental Committee, and Lord Addington's Committee had the advantage of having their recommendations before them.
I do not want to detain your Lordships any longer, but I do think I may very respectfully venture to say to my noble friend Lord Salisbury, that I think this procedure is a workable procedure, although I entirely agree that it should be utilised with very great caution and without any attempt to over-ride the rights and duties of this House itself or of individual members of this House. I hope that some consideration may be given to the idea of a Standing Committee to keep a careful eye upon local legislation as suggested in Private Acts, and perhaps the matters might be considered periodically for the purpose of Amending Acts. I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill and, if your Lordships do, I think that local government and public health interests will benefit thereby.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
My Lords, having spent about two and a half years assisting to draw up this Bill, may I make one or two observations upon it. In the first place I wish to express very great appreciation of the services 426 rendered to us by the draftsman and official members of the Ministry of Health, and of the great energy and ability with which they supplied us with drafts and the materials which we had to consider. I listened with great interest to the observations of Lord Salisbury. Our principal aim was the consolidation of existing Acts, but with a view to that consolidation, we were asked to consider what Amendments of the existing law were desirable for securing simplicity, uniformity and conciseness. We tried very hard not to go beyond that in suggesting Amendments, but we found that the law stretched over so many Acts of Parliament, in such a variety of terms, that pure consolidation was impracticable. We have, however, done our best to limit Amendments to those which were necessary for consolidation, clarity and conciseness, and where we have amended the law we have put down very clearly in our Report covering the Bill what new Amendments we have thought necessary to introduce.
An instance of consolidation to which I might refer is Part VIII, which concerns baths and washhouses. We have replaced in thirteen clauses what formerly was the subject matter of sixty-eight different sections, spread over many different Acts. As has been said already, perhaps the most important alteration we have made is with regard to drains and sewers. This part of the law was most unsatisfactory and, as the noble Viscount has told you, it has called forth severe strictures and comments from His Majesty's Judges. Many of these Acts were adoptive, particularly some of the earlier Acts, and we have felt it desirable now to make many of these provisions the general law, particularly after the re-adjustment of boundaries and areas under the Act of 1929, which made the distinction between urban and rural areas very much less. We have further introduced certain provisions from Local Acts where these had become acceptable owing to changes in circumstances, so as to save any local authority desiring these facilities the expense of obtaining a Local Act. We have further fried to keep the balance as far as possible between public and private interests, and particularly has it been our endeavour to see that the private person is in no less favourable a 427 position under the Bill than he was formerly. We hope that he will find that we have made the position more precise and intelligible, and we have endeavoured to give him more effective remedies against any arbitrary action taken by any local authority.
The Committee are very well aware that the Bill as drafted is not perhaps in perfect form and that there are very many matters connected with local government and with public health that are very far from satisfactory. But we have felt—I hope the noble Marquess will agree—that it was not our business to make a perfect law or to produce Amendments many of which are extremely controversial, and if we had tried to introduce them into the Bill there would have been little chance of getting it through Parliament at an early date. We hope that the House will accept the Bill, as we have drafted it, mainly as a foundation on which further Amendments can be made.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
My Lords, the National Federation of Property Owners wishes this Bill to be amended in certain respects, and would like to know what the procedure is. Can the Federation be represented before the Joint Select Committee, or will Amendments only be possible when the Bill is re-committed to a Committee of this House? I should be much obliged to the noble Viscount if he would tell me when the re-commitment stage will be likely to take place.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I had not proposed to address your Lordships on this Bill and I hope I may be forgiven if I say that it is a Bill that I do not know a very great deal about, but I have had a direct appeal made to me by my noble friend Lord Salisbury and, like any other of your Lordships, I am naturally anxious to answer any appeal which he addresses to the House. My noble friend has pointed out that this Bill proceeds by what he regards as normally an inconvenient method, that is to say, by attempting to consolidate and amend the law in one measure, and he would prefer first an Amending Bill, and then after that a Consolidation Bill. I have not had the opportunity to look into the precedents. I accept at once, of course, what my noble friend says, that the most usual 428 way of dealing with Amendments and consolidation is to do it by two separate methods, of which the amending measure comes first.
My recollection is that some seven or eight years ago, when we were considering the question of amending the law of public companies, I had occasion to look into the matter and, speaking only from recollection and therefore not binding myself, I think the conclusion which I then reached was that there were precedents for all three ways of dealing with the matter. That is to say, there were precedents for what the noble Marquess quite correctly says is the most usual way, first an Amending Bill and then a Consolidation Bill. I think there was also some precedent for first a Consolidation Bill so that Parliament might know exactly what the law was, and then an Amending Bill to make any alteration which they thought necessary; while there were also precedents for combining the two processes in one measure. But I cannot pledge myself to that being so, because I have not had any opportunity of refreshing my memory of what occurred rather a long time ago. But I entirely agree with the noble Marquess when he says that it is right that the House should watch carefully any procedure of combining the two because, as he says, there might be a risk that members of your Lordships' House would be left in some doubt as to what was consolidation and what was amendment, and might even overlook Amendments under the impression that they were merely consolidation.
In the case of this particular Bill, as I think my noble friend will appreciate, the question as to the most convenient method of procedure was specifically considered by the Committee, which was so very successfully presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. In the Report of that Committee your Lordships will find that they actually discuss this very point and set out the reasons which led them to the conclusion that in this particular case it was more convenient to proceed by one Bill. Among other reasons they said that an Amending Bill would contain so large a mass of detailed Amendments that it would be little shorter and far less intelligible than the draft Amendment and Consolidation Bill which they had produced. And, to give your Lordships only one instance 429 which they themselves cite in their Report the earlier Acts were themselves very largely consolidated, and embodied a number of somewhat inconsistent provisions on matters of detail in a number of earlier Acts of Parliament. In such a matter, for example, as the power of entry which is given in certain cases there are, as they point out, something like eight different methods of exercising that power provided in various sections of the Acts which they were seeking to consolidate. There was no difference in principle with regard to them, but differences in detail, and if you tried in the Consolidation Bill to bring the whole eight in you made a very confused medley. If, on the other hand, you merely tried to amend, with all these different powers scattered over different sections of the Act, it became a very complicated matter to express clearly or simply.
Therefore they came to the conclusion that in this case only it was convenient to adopt the method which they have recommended, and your Lordships will appreciate that the particular danger to which my noble friend, quite rightly, if he will allow me to say so, called attention—the danger of some matter being overlooked—is very much minimised, if not entirely removed, because the Committee in their Report set out the explanation with regard to each clause, as to whether it is consolidation or amendment, and, if it be amendment, the reasons why the Amendment is sought for. So that anyone who took any interest in the matter and desired to acquaint himself with the provisions of the law and the reasons why the Bill took the particular form which it has taken, had only to look to the Notes on Clauses and the Appendix to the Report, which is printed and of course available to everybody, to find there every clause of the Bill examined and criticised and explained. That, I think, goes a long way at any rate to meet that particular criticism.
Then my noble friend Lord Bertie asked what procedure is to be adopted. I think I am right in saying that when this Bill goes, as it is proposed it shall go, to a Joint Select Committee, that Committee will normally and naturally desire to hear evidence from persons who are interested in the matter, and if any 430 people who wish to give such evidence will communicate with the Secretary of the Committee they will then get the particulars as to when they are to appear and when the meetings are to take place.
As to the suggestions of my noble friend the Chairman of Committees, I have only to say that in a matter of this kind the Government and the Ministry would naturally pay the greatest attention to any suggestion which he put forward. While I cannot give him an answer as to how far his suggestions can be adopted, I can assure him that they will be most carefully considered, and that they will receive the attention which the weight of his authority demands. I hope that that explanation may have gone some way to relieve any anxieties which exist in this particular case, and that in the circumstances your Lordships will think it right to give this Bill a Second Reading, and then to send it to a Joint Select Committee. I hope that anyone who is in any way perturbed as to any proposals in the Bill will foe good enough to acquaint himself with the reasons which justify, or would seem to the Committee to justify, the inclusion of these provisions, looking at the interim Report in which the matter is carefully and fully considered. I would only add once more how very much we are indebted, in this most complicated and intricate question of public health legislation, to the efforts of the Committee over which Lord Addington presided with so much distinction.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Motion standing in my name—namely, that it is desirable that this Bill be referred to a Joint Committee.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is desirable that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.—(Viscount Gage.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith and to desire their concurrence.