§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on recommitment of the Bill read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Morrison.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ LORD MORRISON
Your Lordships will recall that this Bill, which is based upon a draft prepared by a strong and representative Committee presided over by Sir John Jeffrey—of whose recent death you will have heard with considerable regret—was referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses. It was 512 fortunately possible to arrange for the Committee to be presided over by the right honourable gentleman who represents the Scottish Universities, who is, as your Lordships know, a former Secretary of State for Scotland, who had in fact been responsible for the setting up of the Jeffrey Committee, and who was well acquainted with the way in which that Committee had set about their task. The Joint Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, included members of both Houses, with experience of local government in Scotland and England, and they took pains to examine the Bill in considerable detail.
The Report of the Committee is now before your Lordships, and it will be seen that a number of Amendments have been made in the Bill. Some of these Amendments were made at the instance of the Secretary of State to meet criticisms of the Bill put forward by the associations of local authorities and others concerned with local government, or in order to bring the Bill into line with legislation passed since the Bill was introduced, or as drafting Amendments which will clarify the provisions of the Bill. Others were made by the Committee because they felt that in the case of some of the provisions of the Bill slight modification of form or content was desirable. In amending the Bill the Committee have, however, followed the guiding principle that they should make no Amendment unless they were satisfied either that it brought the provisions of the Bill into closer conformity with the existing law or that, although involving some modification of the existing law, it was uncontroversial.
There are between sixty and seventy of these Amendments. I should be reluctant to ask your Lordships to go through them in detail, since that would be a rather laborious task, and many of them are of a drafting or trivial character. I propose, therefore, to ask your Lordships to pass en bloc the Amendments made by the Select Committee. These are set out in the Report and have been incorporated in the print of the Bill which is now in your Lordships' hands. If we adopt this procedure any modification which may be desired in the Bill as amended by the Joint Committee can be considered on the Report stage.
I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend opposite 513 on this point. As a matter of fact, I sat on the Committee. But there is no list of these Amendments at the service of any member of the House, and the House is therefore being asked to pass a whole series of Amendments of which the ordinary members have no knowledge unless they read the new print of the Bill and compare it with the old. I cannot help feeling that that is not quite right. I suggest that these Amendments should be made available to noble Lords if they want to see them, so that any change they may wish to make can occur at a later stage. I think that would probably be the most convenient thing at the moment.
§ LORD MORRISON
The noble Earl is slightly mistaken. The list of Amendments is printed in the Report which is available at the entrance to the Chamber, or was when I entered—
§ On Question, Amendments proposed by the Joint Committee agreed to.