§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD JOWITT)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. Before asking the House to agree to the Third Reading of the Bill, I should like to say that I feel myself under a great sense of personal obligation to your Lordships for the way in which you have assisted me to handle this matter. Once we had agreed that this policy must be carried out—a policy which some of us like and some of us dislike—the difficulty was to try to devize as good a machine and as useful a Statute as we could. I realize to the full that throughout the discussions I have had your Lordships' collaboration, whether you agree with the policy of the Bill or not, in trying to make this a workable measure. I should like to express my thanks to your Lordships.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I should like to add one word to what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. If he has had the collaboration of all those of great experience—and I do not include myself amongst them—who have taken part in the debate here, we certainly have had the fullest collaboration from the noble 134 and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He has devoted an enormous amount of time and trouble to this measure. Once the measure had passed its Second Reading, we all of us had the intention of making it as effective an instrument as possible for its purpose. We have made a great many amendments in the Bill; the Government themselves have made quite a number. I hope that when we dispose of those matters which will be before us on the Order Paper after Third Reading, we may have come to complete agreement on all the important issues. If that be so, I think it is a real tribute to this House and to the way in which it does its work; and not least to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for the way in which he has guided us.
§ 2.49 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, on behalf of the noble Lords who sit on these Benches, may I add one word to supplement what the noble Viscount has just said. If I may say so, as a junior member of this House, I think that the debates on this particular Bill have shown the House at its best. Sometimes it seems to me that the effect of environment is seen on these occasions. Sitting as we now do in a smaller House, we are in closer touch with each other across the floor of the House, and that has led to a feeling of greater intimacy and consequently a greater degree of co-operation between all those concerned. This Bill was welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm in varying parts of the House, but I think that all parts of the House may at this stage congratulate themselves in feeling that it is a better and fairer Bill than it was when it first came to the House. That view is reinforced by the reflection that not all the amendments now incorporated have come from Opposition quarters; many of them have come from the Government.
I should also like to say how much we feel indebted to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for the way in which he has shepherded this Bill through the House. He has been throughout a model of reasonableness and conciliation, but at the same time has taken the House into his confidence by telling it whenever he felt he could not advance beyond a particular degree, and on certain occasions he has with extreme skill poured oil from coal on what looked 135 like being troubled waters, thereby preserving the general atmosphere of harmony.
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 1:
§ Establishment of National Coal Board and functions thereof.
§ (4) The policy of the Board shall be directed to securing, consistently with the proper discharge of their duties under subsection (1) of this section,—
§ (a) the safety, health and welfare of persons in their employment;
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (4), in the paragraph inserted on Report after paragraph (a), namely, "(b) the benefit of the practical knowledge and experience of such persons in the organisation and conduct of the activities in which they are employed", to leave out "activities" and insert "operations". The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, has told me that he is unable to be present to-day, but he has expressed his gratitude for this Amendment, and I am very glad to be able to meet the wishes of one for whose judgment all quarters of the House have a profound regard.
Page 2, in the paragraph inserted on Report at the end of line 46 (namely "(b) the benefit of the practical knowledge and experience of such persons in the organisation and conduct of the activities in which they are employed"), leave out ("activities") and insert the word ("operations").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Consumers' Councils.
§ 4.—(1) There shall be established for the purposes mentioned in this section two consumers' councils, to be known respectively as the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council and the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council.
§ (2) Each of the said councils shall consist of such number of persons as the Minister may think fit, appointed by him to represent the Board, and—
- (a) in the case of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council, after consultation with such bodies representative of the interests concerned as the Minister thinks fit, to represent consumers of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for industrial purposes or other purposes involving supply in bulk, and persons engaged in
136 organising or effecting the sale or supply of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for those purposes;
- (b) in the case of the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council, after consultation with such bodies representative of the interests concerned as the Minister thinks fit, to represent consumers of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for domestic purposes and other purposes not falling within the preceding paragraph, and persons engaged in organising or effecting the sale or supply of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for those purposes.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (2) (a), after the second "supply," to insert "whether for home use or for export." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is to meet the point which the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, indicated and makes it quite plain that the exporters are among those whose claims may be considered.
Page 4, line 32, after ("supply") insert ("whether for home use or for export").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for putting down this Amendment which I think largely meets the point I raised during the Report stage. It means that the Industrial Consumers' Council will look after the exporters' interests and I feel also that foreign importers of coal have a certain protection too. I am very grateful for the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD WINSTER moved, in subsection (2) (b), at the end, to insert
In formulating his proposals for appointments to each of the said councils, the Minister shall have particular regard to nominations made to him by the said bodies representative of the interests concerned of persons recommended by them as having both adequate knowledge of the requirements of those interests and also qualifications for exercising a wide and impartial judgment on the matters to be dealt with by the council generally.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to meet a point made in an Amendment on the Report stage and which is dealt with in the next Amendment on the Order Paper standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. The point was that the persons appointed by the Minister to Consumers' Councils should, in part at least, be drawn from
among nominations by representative bodies of consumers, the selection of the representative bodies being left with the Minister. The members of these Councils need not, under the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, be drawn exclusively from among nominations and the Minister is left free to appoint other persons who possess particular qualifications. The difference between the Government Amendment and the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, lies in the fact that under the Government Amendment the Minister will not be compelled to appoint any of the nominees but must have particular regard to nominations, whereas in the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, the Minister would be obliged to appoint an unspecified number of Council members from among the nominees and an unspecified number of other persons described in the Amendment as "particularly well qualified to serve." In practice I do not feel there will be any real difference in the result achieved by either of the two Amendments. I think that your Lordships will agree that a suitable compromise has been found in the Government Amendment between the objection which the Minister feels to being compelled to accept nominees, and the feeling of Lord Balfour of Inchrye that consumer bodies should be represented by people whom the consumers trust. The Government Amendment has been designed after careful consideration to meet substantially and effectively the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I hope we have succeeded in doing so and that the noble Lord may feel that also and be willing to withdraw the Amendment which stands in his name.
Page 4, line 42, insert the said new words.—(Lord Winster.)
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and to the Government for this compromise Amendment. I think substantially it does meet the point we endeavoured to make on the Report stage and on the Committee stage. It seems to me that whether the Minister, as has been suggested, invites nominations, or whether these representative bodies are allowed to offer nominations, does not really very much matter as long as the nominations arrive on 138 the Minister's table one morning and he can take his choice, as obviously any man of business would do. Therefore I am grateful that the point has been met and I will not move my Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the next Amendment is a mere consequential Amendment on the one we have already made. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 45, after ("supply") insert ("whether for home use or for export").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 17:
§ Compensation for overhead expenses increase caused by severance.
§ 17.—(1) Compensation shall be made in respect of any increase in the proportion of the overhead expenses of the business of a company or other person having assets which included (but did not consist solely of) transferred interests to the volume of the business over which those expenses are spread, in so far as such increase is one due to the severance of those interests from the residue of those assets and not reasonably capable of being avoided or mitigated.
§ (2) The amount of the compensation to be made under this section it the case of any business shall be determined by a District Valuation Board designated by the Minister, by reference to the extent of the loss sustained or likely to be sustained at any time during the five years beginning with the primary vesting date in consequence of such increase as aforesaid by the company or other person whose assets are severed, subject to provision to be made by regulations for review of such determinations by referees in such cases and in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed.
§ 2.57 p.m.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY moved to leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert
(1) In addition to any compensation payable under the provisions of this Act in respect of the transfer of any transferred interest, the owner of such an interest shall be entitled to receive compensation from the Board for any loss or damage, other than loss or damage sustained by the cessation of continuity of supplies of coal otherwise than under contract, which he may suffer in consequence of such transfer including any loss or damage suffered by reason of the severance of such transferred interest from any other of the interests of that owner which are not transferred or by reason of such other interest being injuriously affected by anything done under the provisions of this Act.
(2) The amount of the compensation to be made under this section shall be determined by a District Valuation Board designated by the Minister.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, there is such an exuberance of harmony in your Lordships' House this afternoon that one might almost think that noble Lords on this side of the House were in charge of the Bill. I do not want to interfere in any way with that harmonious spirit, but, on the other hand, it would be very sad if I were the only person to leave your Lordships' House this afternoon suffering from a sense of frustration. It may be remembered that when I asked leave to withdraw this Amendment the day before yesterday it was on the understanding that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was going to be kind enough to consult once more with his colleagues to see whether anything could be done on this point, particularly as regards the justice of the case. I am going to repeat what I have said on previous occasions, and what was said by my noble friend Lord Teynham, that we on this side of the House do feel very strongly that if there is a just claim for hardship by virtue of severance it is only in accord with British justice that that claim should be looked into and that if it is a just claim it should be settled. I should like to refer very briefly to what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said on the Committee stage of the Bill, because he was not in the House the day before yesterday when I quoted it. He said:
If we widen the clause there would be an enormous variety of claims which could be brought on account of severance. Undoubtedly the cost of meeting these claims would be very heavy, and the difficulty of assessment—and this I particularly stress—would be insuperable.
I said the day before yesterday that if he admits there would be claims by virtue of the widening of the clause, it is only fair that the clause should be widened in order that people who are suffering from a hardship should have an opportunity of putting their claims forward. If their claim is a good one, it should be settled, whether by the Board or by the Consolidated Fund is not for me to say. We propose that it should be settled by the Board.
The noble Lord, Lord Winster, on the Report stage of the Bill, implied this to some extent. I would like to remind your
Lordships of what he said on that occasion. He said:
Assuming that the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted, let us look at some of the kind of claims which could then be brought. Any increase in the price of coal supplied by the Board, as compared with the price at which it was transferred to the severed part of the undertaking, could become the subject of a claim. So could any deterioration in the quality of the coal supplied by the Board, as compared with the quality formerly available for the undertaking's own pits. Any increase in transport costs resulting from having to draw supplies from a more distant colliery—for example, if the Board decided it was not in the public interest to continue to operate a particular colliery from which supplies had been drawn in the past—might give rise to a claim. Any inability to take advantage of the bulk purchase of supplies required for transferred assets and severed assets or a stiffening of the terms for severed assets as compared with the original undertaking—all those matters (and there are others as well) might give rise to claims.
I could not myself put an argument in favour of my Amendment better, because those are all matters upon which there is a justifiable case of hardship, and they should be looked into. I do not want to say more than that.
I want to raise only one more matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, referred. He said:
Moreover, it would create really serious uncertainty as to the amount of the eventual liability.
If the Board are going to be seriously concerned in regard to the eventual amount of their liability for all sorts of cases which may arise in the future, then it is a very black outlook for the Board, because you cannot mine coal without doing serious damage and creating hardships in all sorts of directions for which compensation has to be paid. From the very outset, I do feel it is important that the Government should look at this matter of compensation from the very much wider point of view, realizing that the Board have got to face these liabilities in exactly the same way as the coal owners have had to face them over centuries past. I beg leave to move my Amendment, and I trust the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will give me some hope that the justice of the case will be met.
Page 22, line 15, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert the said new subsections.—(The Earl of Dudley.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I gave an undertaking that I would 141 see the Minister of Fuel and Power about this matter again. I have not found myself able to honour my undertaking in the way I should have liked to do, because there was only a very short time, and the Minister was not in London. What I have done is to discuss it with the officers of his Department; they discussed the whole matter with him on the telephone, and they have reported to me the result of their discussions. The result of their discussions—as I told your Lordships I thought it would be—is that I am unable to do anything to meet this matter. I am exceedingly sorry that this should be so, but I do feel that if we were to attempt to do this (I will discuss the justice of it presently) it would involve a complete recasting of the entire compensation provisions of the Bill, and would result in the Coal Board not being able to get down to their job. I must tell your Lordships that I view the position of coal in this coming winter with some degree of apprehension. I feel that the sooner the Coal Board can get down to their work, the better it will be.
That being so, let me discuss the merits of the thing. I entirely agree that the mere fact that it would be a large amount is not to the point. If it is a large amount, and a public claim, then it must be, although I think it would be very unfortunate that it should be made by the Board rather than charged on the Consolidated Fund. The Parliamentary reason for putting it that way I fully appreciate, and so does the noble Earl, who does not look, if I may say so, at all frustrated in the proceedings. He, as an old Parliamentarian, appreciates the position too. This clause is obviously drafted on the basis of the Lands Clauses Act, 1845; indeed, with the necessary emendations and alterations it almost follows it. The Lands Clauses Act, 1845, deals with this sort of case. It deals with the taking of land where, for instance, you are cutting a railway through land. It gives a right to a claim for compensation for severance, or a claim for injurious effect. Just observe how entirely different is the case we are considering here. We are not taking over land—incidentally we are, of course—but we are taking over the business and the assets.
You cannot here apply the principle which you can quite properly apply to land, because, after all, you can get a 142 valuation of the global figure of the land and then get a valuation of what is left and arrive at a figure. If you try to apply this same principle to the taking over of a business, you are at once in a wholly different position. To what extent will the business be affected by this policy of nationalization? Your Lordships will observe what is said here in the Amendment, "by reason of such other interest being injuriously affected by anything done under the provisions of this Act." That means that anybody who has a piece of land or business taken who thinks that he is injuriously affected by anything done under the provisions of this Act would have a claim. If he has a claim, the fact that part of his land is taken is a mere incident. Why should not everybody have a claim if nationalization is going to work hardships on individuals? I do not doubt that hi some cases it may, although considering the thing as a whole, it may have the other effect in the majority of cases. Is that man going to be allowed to claim owing to the mere fact that a piece of land is taken?
We must realize that, and realize how necessarily problematical the whole thing is. Take this case; the owner of a steel works has hitherto been getting his coal under a contract, and one of the alterations we have made in this House is that all such contracts should be honoured so long as they are made before the 1st August, 1945. What is his position? He might go before the arbitrator and say: "Obviously my claim depends upon the difference between the price at which I should have been getting coal if the mines had not been nationalized, and the price which I shall have to pay for my coal now you are going to nationalize." A jury has to do this sort of thing. There was a case where a lady who was not allowed to compete in a beauty competition brought an action. A jury had to assess what injuries she had sustained by being excluded from the competition, and had to assess a figure without being able to see the other competitors.
It really is rather hard to ask a district board to speculate in each case what damages will be sustained by any particular person by reason of nationalization. It seems to me quite illogical to base this on the fact that a mere piece of land is acquired. I have had estimates made to me by people who are in a very good position to express an opinion. I am 143 told by some people that if we acceded to this Amendment it would only involve us in a payment of £10,000; other people say it would involve us in a payment of £10,000,000. You can take your choice between the two. Faced with this, you cannot apply the principle of the Lands Clauses Act, 1845—which applies to the simple case of a railway passing through land, where you can arrive at a figure—to the highly different case of taking over a business, and a claim for injuries alleged to be caused by nationalization. We looked round to see if we could devise some other method. You really have to take the totality of our compensation scheme to see whether we have been fair or not. We have tried to do—and I believe we have done—rough and ready justice. It cannot be more than rough, and it cannot be more than ready, but I believe we have done rough and ready justice. We have got a scheme (it does not apply to steelworks, it is true), whereby people who are left with something they do not like can demand that it be taken over.
We have accepted liability for all contracts. The noble Earl's Amendment, it is true, says "other than loss or damage sustained by the cessation of continuity of supplies or coal otherwise than under contract," but he ought logically not to have left that out; he ought to have put that in. However, he does accept that. So far as contract is concerned, we have taken over and are going to be responsible for all contracts. We have provided for interim payments on a scale which we think is not ungenerous, and we have provided for various small matters in this Bill. Although we have not felt it possible in this very special case to apply the principle of the Lands Clauses Act, we have tried in all these other ways to do justice to those who suffer by their land being taken over. As I say, if we were to adopt this scheme and try to follow the principle of the Lands Clauses Act, we should have to re-cast our compensation scheme altogether. Under those circumstances I very much hope that your Lordships will see that we have tried, by and large, to do the fair thing, and that your Lordships will not press this Amendment upon us.
§ 3.12 p.m.
My Lords, I think most of us are rather disappointed at the reply of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. There is no doubt that there was a very strong view in your Lordships' House two days ago that the noble Earl had made out a powerful, and indeed almost unanswerable, case for the justice of this Amendment. Although the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, treated the House with all his usual courtesy, and with all his usual ingenuity, yet with all due deference to him I do not think he entirely demolished the case of the noble Earl. At the same time, if I may say so, I think the noble Earl would be wise not to press this Amendment to a Division. It seems to me that the Government, as has been said earlier this afternoon, have done their best to meet your Lordships' House over this Bill. I know how much trouble both the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack have taken in this matter. One can see from his speech how carefully the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has gone into this particular issue. There must be give and take if our affairs are to run at all satisfactorily, but at the same time I feel myself that the noble Earl has done a very real service by raising this point. It certainly was not a frivolous Amendment; on the contrary it was a very serious one.
I hope that whatever may be done upon this Bill, the Government will not regard it as a precedent for other Bills which may be coming along. I think that would be absolutely deplorable, and your Lordships should not be expected to accept that position. After all, I am sure it will be agreed on every side of the House that there is only one defensible basis for compensation, and that is that it should be full and fair, taking into account all aspects of injury. That is the principle which has always actuated us in this, country, and the one which I hope always will actuate us, whatever Government may be in power. It certainly should not be modified by such extraneous considerations as that it would cost too much money or would take rather too much time. I think the whole House—certainly this side of the House—was profoundly shocked by the argument 145 which was rather neatly and baldly put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, two days ago on this particular subject, which was a denial of this great principle which I have tried briefly to enunciate. I hope we shall never hear that argument in this House again. In this particular case, in view of what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has said, and in view of the great spirit of cooperation over this Bill which has been visible on both sides, I will most respectfully advise the noble Earl not to press this matter to a Division. I hope, however, that it will never be regarded as a precedent.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, I am still disappointed and still frustrated. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for the personal trouble he has taken in this matter, and for the exposition of the case he has just given us, but he did not persuade me. Like the noble Viscount who has just spoken, I feel that this is a weakness in the Bill and that it displays an injustice which I had hoped might have been put right. In view of the fact that it comes under the compensation clause (speaking as a coal owner, it affects our pockets as well as our amour propre, and makes us as proud as peacocks) and in view of the fact that I admit it comes a little near the knuckle in regard to the Money Resolution, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 31:
§ Board's accounts and audit thereof.
§ 31.—(1) The Board shall keep proper accounts and other records in relation thereto, and shall prepare in respect of each financial year of the Board a statement of accounts in such form as the Minister may direct.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in the words inserted on Report at the end of subsection (1), namely "being a form which shall distinguish the colliery activities and each of the main ancillary activities of the Board and shall show separately the results of each such activity for each Mining District and shall include a balance sheet and profit and loss account in conformity with the best commercial standards" to leave out from the word "Board" to the end of the words so inserted. The noble and learned Lord 146 said: My Lords, here I must reveal another of my faults. I confess I was responsible for this Amendment and was successful in convincing the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we should put it in. I did not at all like the concluding words of the Amendment which we had placed upon us, and for this reason. I understand that in China in the old days they used to have the habit of putting the feet of a small and growing child into a particular pair of shoes and keeping them there when the child grew up. That did not do the child much good. So with the Coal Board, which is, I hope, going to prove a lusty infant and is going to grow and develop along all sorts of lines. None of us can forecast what is going to happen in the future. Therefore I am very anxious that we should not put the growing child, if I may change my metaphor, into a kind of straight waistcoat, or a tight pair of shoes. We must allow room for expansion. On the other hand, I think it absolutely right that the accounts should show separately the colliery activities and the main ancillary activities. In drafting this Amendment—now I come to my fault—I failed to notice that amongst the words I was leaving out were the words "in conformity with the best commercial standards." There is nothing sinister about this, because in the Amendment which I myself had moved, and which had therefore been authorized by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I had, if my memory is right, actually put those words in. I cannot conceive that there is any objection to those words being in, and indeed had it occurred to me I should have asked that they be in.
§ We are in a difficulty here because our Standing Orders lay down quite plainly the principle which I think we should follow. Standing Order 37 makes it quite plain that on Third Reading of a Bill you cannot move a manuscript Amendment to amend an Amendment, and no doubt it is wise that we should adhere to that practice. But I think we can get out of the trouble in this way. When this Bill goes back to another place and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer reads my remark (if he does me the honour of reading my remarks) that this is a mere mistake for which I am responsible, I cannot think there will be the slightest difficulty in his inserting these words again which, as I say, he did authorize me to insert at an earlier stage. We cannot do 147 it now, and that being so I am bound to move the words in the form of my Amendment. Accordingly, I beg to move that we leave out from the word "Board" to the end of the words which we inserted on the Report stage.
Page 34, in the words inserted on Report at the end of line 7, leave out from the word ("Board") to the end of the words so inserted.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am glad we can end on so cheerful and harmonious a note. This was a matter which was debated at great length on the Committee and the Report stages, and I think in the end we all came to the same broad conclusions. We all agree that it would be unwise to set out a strict form of accounts to which the Board would have to adhere and which would have to be constantly changed. Therefore, there must be a wide discretion given to the Board and the Minister as to the precise form the accounts should take. We were equally agreed that it would be right for Parliament to lay down in the Bill general principles on which the Minister should act—what, on a previous occasion, I called a "general directive." The point to which I think we all attach the utmost importance is that the statement of accounts should distinguish between the colliery workings and the main ancillary operations. Both those matters are fully met by Amendment which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has moved, following my Amendment to which the House agreed a day or two ago.
Two things are left out, one by accident and one intentionally. The Amendment no longer contains a direction that these accounts shall be shown district by district. I do not think it would be reasonable for your Lordships to press for that. These districts are not permanent, and it may well be that the Coal Board will not adhere to the old districts. Indeed, even in those districts, for many years past now there have been levies, and so on, to equalize wages as between one district and another. It is also true that you must obviously go on getting coal in districts which can show a large profit like Derbyshire, and in districts which show a very slender profit. If you were to compare one district with another you really would not get a very good standard 148 of comparison. It is much more important to be able to compare year by year what is the success of the colliery operations of the nationalized Board, and what is the success of the other operations which the Board conducts. Those, it seems to me, are the comparisons one wishes to make year by year. However, for my part I certainly do not insist—and I feel your Lordships will agree with me—that we should maintain the direction about district by district. On the other hand, I was anxious when I saw that the words, "in conformity with the best commercial practice," had dropped out, because that was the one thing in which I felt we were at one from the very beginning and which, as the noble and learned Lord said, figured in his Amendment and in my own.
I thought we could do anything in this House, but I have now discovered there is one thing we cannot do: we cannot, on Third Reading, do what we would all like to do, which no doubt is a very wise restraint upon our natural and even rational desires. Therefore, I think we must accept the Amendment in the form in which it is laid down. Although it would be quite improper for me to give a direction or even an indication of what another place should do, it could not be made more clear than in the advice which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has given and which I have no doubt will be read elsewhere; and I am sure that when the Bill finally returns it will be in the form which we wish to see it. I am very glad to accept the Lord Chancellor's Amendment.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say one word upon the point of order which has arisen with regard to this Amendment. I share with my noble friend who has just sat down the feeling of reluctance which we all have when we think we could put a thing right but find we are not allowed to do it. If only there could be a little concession made to enable us to use our judgment, then why should we not do it? But it is the settled practice of your Lordships' House not to insert an Amendment on the Third Reading, except with full notice and circulation of the Amendment. That is called for by very many years of experience. After all, it is a wonderful thing that our 149 Bills get through Parliament in any shape which a reasonable man can understand. They are the subject of frightful struggles in both Houses of Parliament—perhaps not a violent struggle in your Lordships' House, but sometimes a violent struggle in another place. Every sort of Amendment is inserted, some of them with notice, some of them without notice, some for a good reason and some for a very bad reason. They come to your Lordships' House to be discussed. We take a lot of trouble about them, and we have built up a number of safeguards in order that, if possible, the Bill should ultimately emerge as an Act of Parliament in a reasonable and proper form. The Amendments on the Committee stage take their chance. They are then reconsidered on the Report stage. Your Lordships are not generally very favourable to reversing on Report what you have done in Committee, but you can do so. Even if you do not reverse it you can amend it and modify it. All those various methods of getting the Bill in some sort of shape are gone through.
In your Lordships' House there is a final stage which is the Third Reading, and if any mistake has been made, on the Third Reading we have at any rate an opportunity of putting it right. That is not so in another place. But it is our last chance. After the Third Reading, the Bill is finished with so far as your Lordships' House is concerned—it is either thrown out or it is an Act of Parliament. You cannot be too careful of that, and the experience of the House is that you should not therefore make Amendments in this very last stage except with due notice to every member of your Lordships' House. I am a very senior member of the House and I have, in my recollection, known struggles over this subject before, but this practice is what has emerged after the struggle, and we have affirmed it.
Is it not wonderful how we manage things in the House of Lords? We have nobody to control us; we are masters of our own procedure, and of our own order. And in this connexion we carry out our duties, I think, very appropriately, and I believe to the great admiration of all who observe us. It is accordingly an immense responsibility that lies upon us not to make mistakes by ignoring the teachings of experience in our procedure. Therefore, I felt very glad when I heard 150 the Lord Chancellor explain that he could not alter his Amendment without notice. No doubt this will be put right in the House of Commons, but I thought your Lordships would forgive me if I said one word to show why it was an important matter.
§ LORD REA
My Lords, I agree that we have every reason to be grateful to the Lord Chancellor for the way in which he has endeavoured to meet us. I am reassured to some extent by the Amendment he promised should be introduced in another place. But I confess that I am a little bit anxious about losing from this Amendment the words "profit and loss account." I am much afraid that a statement published by a Government Department will be in the form of statistics and not in the nature of a profit and loss account, without which one cannot tell what is the position of a commercial undertaking. I hope that one may assume—and this is my excuse for troubling your Lordships—that the Lord Chancellor means that "best commercial standards" will ensure the presentation of figures in such a way that a commercial man can understand them and compare them with the results of equivalent commercial undertakings.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 46:
§ Duty of the Board as to establishment of machinery for settlement of terms and conditions of employment, etc.
§ 46.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Board to enter into consultation with organisations appearing to them to represent substantial proportions of the persons in the employment of the Board, or of any class of such persons, as to the Board's concluding with those organisations agreements providing for the establishment and maintenance of joint machinery for—
§ (b) consultation on—
- (i) questions relating to the safety, health or welfare of such persons;
- (ii) other matters of mutual interest to the Board and such persons arising out of the exercise and performance by the Board of their functions.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in the words inserted on Report in subsection (1) (b) at the beginning of (ii), namely, "the organisation and conduct of the activities in which such persons are employed and", to leave out "activities" and to insert "operations." The 151 noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with the same point which was raised in the first Amendment to-day.
Page 44, in the words inserted on Report at the beginning of line 25 (namely, "the organisation and conduct of the activities in which such persons are employed and"), leave out ("activities") and insert ("operations").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Bill passed, with the Amendments, and returned to the Commons.