§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for receiving the Report of Amendments read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MILLS)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Mills.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, before we agree to receive this Report I want to enter the strongest possible protest against the speed at which this Bill is being taken. We had a very heavy Committee stage which we finished only last Tuesday. The Government have agreed to consider a number of the representations that were made, particularly those from their own side of the House. They have not agreed to consider many from this side; but they agreed to consider some from the other side, many of which we on this side agreed with. The Government themselves have not had time to consider them, because some of them will be represented, if accepted, by Amendments to the Bill and there has been no time to prepare such Amendments.
So far as those of us on this side of the House are concerned, we have sat 351 here for four whole days working on this Bill, with quite scanty results. Nevertheless, we want to do our best to improve the Bill before it goes to another place. But the time available to us, with the Committee stage and the Report stage so close together, means that we have not had the opportunity of doing very much on the Bill in the way of putting down Amendments on the Report stage or of considering the Amendments that we have put down, still less of considering the Amendments the Government have put down.
To-morrow this House is going to be asked to approve a Motion which may have far-reaching effects on this House. I think it is very important, if this House is to be continued, preserved, that it should have the opportunity of doing, its job properly. If this House is not in a position to do its job, then let it he abolished. If we are to do a job then we ought to have the means by which to do it, the time in which to do it and the facilities for giving thought to the measures that come before us. I know very well that the noble Lord is not going to give us anything on the Report stage; nevertheless we ought to have the satisfaction of putting our case so that our friends in another place may have on record what we think and, if they so desire, may press our case in that place. But as things stand, this Report stage is going to be more or less of a farce. We are not being given the opportunity of presenting our Amendments properly and fully or of considering those which the Government have put down.
I know very well that the answer, or one of the answers, is that you want to give the other place ample time in which to consider the Bill. I think that is only right. But they will have had far more time than we shall have had, and I have no doubt at all that if we are able to consider this Bill in this House satisfactorily the amount of time taken in another place should be correspondingly reduced. It is because we are not being given sufficient time here that the other place will require more time. But, in any case, even if the Government's contention were true, and to the extent that it is true, is that not a reason why this difficult, contentious Bill should have been introduced in this place somewhat 352 earlier than it was introduced? That is the only conclusion to which we could come. To submit a Bill of this complexity, and then to give us inadequate time to consider it on the ground that it must be considered in another place, is really not doing justice to this House. I hope that I shall be forgiven for having made this protest. I make it because I am a great admirer of this House and am very keen that we should do our job in the most effective way; and, if we are not being given that opportunity, it saddens me very much.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I fully appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has had to say on this matter. The Government do recognise that this Bill has been somewhat rushed, for the very reason which the noble Lord advanced—namely, that the other place should be given adequate time to consider it. I am none the less convinced that, because of our discussions, we have been able to put forward a number of Amendments of great value, which I hope will commend themselves to your Lordships if this Motion be accepted. It may assist your Lordships in considering this Motion if I refer to some of the further paints which the Government are still considering and on which, because time has been short and complicated issues have been involved, they have not reached final conclusions. Among these I would mention particularly, first, the assurance which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor gave in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, that the Government would bring forward at a later stage an Amendment which would have the effect of amending the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, in its application to Clauses 9 and 10. This needs careful consideration, and time will be required. The Government propose, therefore, to introduce the Amendment in another place.
Secondly, a number of improvements were suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lords, Lord Amherst of Hackney and Lord Lindgren, to the clauses aimed at avoiding damage or obstruction of access to a pipe-line in the interests of safety—that involved Clauses 22 and 27. 353 The Government wish to give further consideration to the points which have been made and it has not yet been possible to place Amendments before your Lordships' House. Thirdly, there are the special problems foreseen in applying the provisions of the Bill to the china clay industry, to which the noble Lords, Lord Merrivale, and Lord Colville of Culross drew attention. The Government agree that these difficulties will have to be met, but it will take some time to find the best solution.
Lastly, I mention the interesting points which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in discussion on the First Schedule, and which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor undertook to consider. I am afraid that consideration of these points, too, is not complete. I would just repeat that I quite understand and appreciate the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I am glad that he has raised the matter and that I have been able to say what I have said in reply. I would add that it is not our intention this afternoon to proceed any further than Amendment No. 31. Amendments beyond that will not be taken until Thursday.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, could the Minister explain one matter to me? I understand that this Bill admittedly has to have an inadequate Report stage because we must give another place adequate time for consideration. But, my Lords, all noble Lords who have been in this House for some time, and those who have been in another place, know that towards the end of July there is always a heavy rush of legislation before the Adjournment for the Summer Recess; therefore it seems unlikely that we shall be relieving, the other place of a task which they have to fulfil if we allow this Bill to go without proper consideration. It seems to me
§ the most extraordinary procedure that one of the Houses of Parliament should be asked by Her Majesty's Government to pass, not to put a fine point on it, a half-baked Bill, without Amendments which the Government admit they consider necessary but which they have not had time to prepare, in order to allow it to go to another place which will already be congested when it gets there. Would it not be better for the Government to reconsider the matter now and move the adjournment at this stage, so that they can come forward, in two, three or four weeks' time, whatever the period may be, with the proper Amendments they admit they are now considering, and so let this Chamber, the Upper House, do its job properly and thoroughly before the Bill goes to another place?
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I can only assume that those responsible for proceedings in another place have taken this into consideration. I believe it is the intention to pass this Bill before the Recess. However, I will tell my right honourable friend what noble Lords have had to say.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, would the Minister consider moving the adjournment of the debate now, in order that this House can fulfil its functions properly? Otherwise, I really feel that we shall have to ask the House whether it is right that this procedure should be taken, which is virtually—if I may say so, without offence to the Government—an insult to the intelligence and freedom of noble Lords in this House.
§ On Question, Whether the Report shall be now received?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 19; Not-Contents, 63.355
|Ailwyn, L.||Dynevor, L.||Mills, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Ebbisham, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Newton. L. [Teller.]|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hastings, L.||Perth, E.|
|Colyton, L.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Oswald, L. [Teller.]|
|Denham, L.||Margesson, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Addington, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Airedale, L.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Newall, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Goschen, V.||Ogmore, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Gosford, E.||Rea, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Grantchester, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Greenhill, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Grenfell, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Arran, E.||Hall, V.||Soulbury, V.|
|Baden-Powell, L.||Hampton, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Henderson, L.||Strang, L.|
|Boston, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Som̃ers, L.|
|Burden, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Carnock, L.||Howe, E.||Swaythling, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Kenswood, L.||Twining, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V. [Teller.]||Killearn, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Walston, L.|
|Crathorne, L||Lucan, E.||Williams, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||MacAndrew, L.||Wimborne, V.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Merrivale, L.||Wise, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Meston, L.||Wolverton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
§ Moved, That this House do now adjourn.—(Lord Mills.)
§ House adjourned at one minute past four o'clock.