§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Templemore, who is kept away by other duties, it has fallen to me to move the Second Reading of this Bill. As this is the first time on which I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships, I would crave your indulgence. As your Lordships know, this is a Bill to continue for a further period certain statutory provisions which are found to be still required, and which would otherwise expire on December 31 next. A Bill of this nature is found necessary every year about this time. The Acts which are to be continued are enumerated in the Schedule to the Bill. Most of them were in the corresponding Bill last year but there is one to which perhaps I ought to draw your Lordships' special attention. I refer to Part I of the Coal Mines Act, 1930, which appears in Part II of the Schedule. The remaining Acts are to be continued for twelve months, but it is proposed to continue Part I of the 1930 Act for eight months only.
It is from this Act that the selling schemes in operation in the coal industry derive their statutory force, and provision for its renewal, subject to certain amendments designed to strengthen the constitution and powers of the committees of investigation—the safeguards for consumers against exploitation under the schemes—is made in the Government's Coal Bill, which has already been introduced in another place. It is clear that that Bill cannot become law before 104 the end of the year, and in these circumstances it is necessary, in order that the arrangements for organised selling in the coal industry shall not lapse, for Part 1 to be continued until the new Bill is on the Statute Book. For this reason precision is made in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill for an extension of the life of Part 1 of the 1930 Act for a period of eight months only. This broken period had been adopted instead of the normal period of twelve months in order to make it clear to consumers that the Coal Bill itself is relied upon to extend and amend Part I, and the Expiring Laws Bill is only being used to keep it alive until the Coal Bill is on the Statute Book. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Fortescue.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would wish me to follow the usual practice of this House and offer our congratulations to the noble Earl who has just addressed your Lordships for the first time. We hope that he may, on many future occasions, give us the benefit of his views on matters which are entrusted to his care. But I was rather surprised, when the noble Earl introduced this Bill, that he made no reference to a matter which has been before your Lordships' House on every occasion in the last few years—I may say indeed a good many years—on which the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill has been moved. Your Lordships will see in the Schedule that this Bill proposes to continue certain provisions of the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930. That Act, as you know, gives certain facilities to local authorities and statutory undertakers to enable them to execute works which would contribute to the relief of unemployment. The justification for these proceedings was the emergency which then existed, and it was declared that it was only a temporary measure. Indeed, the Bill became law, as the noble Lord behind me will remember, with the proviso that it should remain in force only until December 31, 1932. Ever since 1932 those provisions have been continued under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act.
On every occasion I have urged upon your Lordships that it is most undesirable 105 that this, which is in the nature of permanent legislation, should be continued in this manner. I forget who it was who replied for the Government last year. It may have been my noble friend Lord Templemore, but I rather think it was my noble friend Lord Hutchison of Montrose. I then had a very solemn promise that the Government would take the matter in hand and introduce permanent legislation. I feel that it is most undesirable that we should go on in this way. It is not really business to go on year after year continuing what was meant to be a temporary measure without dealing with it by permanent legislation. In view of the fact that the Government have promised in your Lordships' House on more than one occasion that they would take the matter in hand, I would ask my noble friend if he would tell us anything he can about the matter, and whether he will renew the pledge given last year that the Government will take up this matter with the least possible delay and will in the very near future introduce permanent legislation. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the present method is not a satisfactory way of carrying on business and that advantage should not be taken of a purely temporary Act to carry this on indefinitely.
My Lords, I do not rise to follow the Chairman of Committees because the important matter he has raised is, I am sure, very safely left in his able hands. I rise to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I am sorry that he had so uninspiring a topic to enlarge upon, but I would like to echo what the Chairman of Committees has said, that we hope we shall hear him on many future occasions when he will have more scope for his undoubted ability. Certainly the Government are introducing in another place a spate of legislation which in due course will seep its way through to your Lordships' House and will, I am sure, give the noble Earl many opportunities of explaining the intricate and curious measures which the Government wish to place on the Statute Book. In this we wish him all successs.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, the reply to my noble friend the Chairman of Committees is that the Minister of Health hopes to be able to meet requirements by including them in a Public Health Bill, 106 and the Minister of Transport by including them in a proposed Electricity Distribution Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.