§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 1 to 29 agreed to.
§ Clause 30:
THE TREASURER OF THE HOUSEHOLD (Sir EDWARD STEACHEY, Somersetshire, S.)
moved a verbal Amendment providing that the reference in Clause 30 should be, not to the Acts of "1883 to 1906," but to the "Act of 1908." This Amendment was made necessary in consequence of the Consolidating Bill which had just been read a third time.
In page 20, line 7, to leave out the words 'Acts of 1883 and 1906,' and to insert the words 'Act of 1908.'"—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
said he could not quite understand the explanation which had been given. [An HON. MEMBER: Tell us what it was.] He under-stood that the hon. Member told them this Amendment was necessary in consequence of the passing of the Consolidating Bill which had only just passed through the Report stage. The House ought clearly to know whether they were entitled to include a Bill which had not actually passed this House or at any rate which had not yet received the assent of the Crown. He had for a long time been a careful student of Parliamentary procedure and he did not remember anything of this kind having been done before. It might be necessary to do this when they were approaching the end of the session, and when they were anxious to get the business through. The reason given by the hon. Member for taking this course had no solid foundation, and he believed that this was the first time such a proposition had ever been 1356 made to the House of Commons. Until they had the authority of the Law Officer of the Crown upon the point he had raised he did not think they ought to pass this Amendment.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON, South Shields)
said they were dealing here with a simple question of drafting. In the first part of the Bill now under discussion there was a reference to the Agricultural Holdings (England) Acts for 1883 and 1906. They had now passed a stage of the Consolidating Bill which made it unnecessary to refer to all the previous Agricultural Holdings Acts, and, therefore, it was much more convenient that the one Act of 1908 should take the place of the preceding Acts, They were now proposing to strike out the old reference which had now become inaccurate and to put in the new reference. That was all the Committee were being asked to do. Both these Acts would become law together, and no difficulty was likely to arise from making the reference more convenient.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
said the hon. and learned Member had given them a very lucid explanation of the object of this Amendment, but he had made one mistake. It had always been held that they could not move an Amendment which would make nonsense of a Bill. The words which it was proposed to insert were "Act of 1908." Now as a matter of fact there was no Act of 1908, and, therefore, they could not insert it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that the Bills were going up together, and that probably they would, receive the Royal Assent. The hon. and learned Gentleman could not tell whether the Crown would give the Royal Assent or not. Supposing that the Royal Assent was given in one case and not in the other, this Bill would be nonsense. In that case the words in regard to the Act of 1908 would be meaningless, because there would be no Act of 1908. It was really only a question of form. He was sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree with him that they ought to do things in proper and orderly form. Nobody objected to these Bills passing. If they were objected to, 1357 they would be discussed. It should not be assumed that the Crown would give its assent, and, therefore, the Amendment was out of order and could not be put.
On the point of order I think the hon. Baronet is not quite correct. There are precedents for this kind of thing. I do not see how what the hon. Baronet wants can be achieved except by the method proposed or by the putting off of the Bill. That however is not a question for me. The Amendment is not out of order.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER And FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. Asquith,) Fifeshire, E.
congratulated the hon. Baronet on having made a good point. Technically, the Consolidating Bill, which had received a Third Reading, was not an Act of Parliament until it had received the Royal Assent, but it was put down first in order that it might receive the Royal Assent a moment before this Bill. When this Bill received the Royal Assent the previous Bill would be "the Act of 1908." In these circumstances he put it to the hon. Baronet whether it was worth while pressing his point. If it were pressed he would be obliged to move to report progress on the Bill, and the passing of a useful measure would have to be postponed for two or three months, when it was desirable to have the two Consolidating Bills on the Statute-book at the same time.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
thanked the Prime Minister for the fullness of his reply and the clearness with which he had dealt with the technical point raised. He ventured to say that it was rather more than a technical point which they were now discussing. The Prime Minister had appealed to them not to press the point on the ground that it was very desirable that these two Consolidating Acts should be passed into law. He entirely accepted the statement on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that 1358 they should be passed in order to consolidate a number of measures affecting one of the greatest industries in the country. But the Prime Minister knew better than anybody—certainly as well as anybody in the House—the danger of creating a bad precedent in regard to the business of the House. They were all in favour of the passing of this Consolidating Bill, and they had no objection whatever to the insertion of Amendments in order that the Statute should be intelligible after passing into law, but the Prime Minister had admitted—and he thought note should be taken of that admission—that this procedure was exceptional. When the learned Attorney-General dealt with the case a few moments ago he began by asking whether the objection which he had raised was a serious one. Having stated that it could easily be disposed of, the hon. and learned Gentleman showed the force of his own conviction by evading altogether the point raised. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not deal with the difficulty at all. He appealed to the Attorney-General, as the highest authority on constitutional law in the House, to state whether there was any precedent for the House, when dealing with that which was only a Bill, calling that Bill an Act of Parliament. While the hon. and learned Gentleman said he had no doubt there were many precedents, he did not cite one. He doubted whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was able to do so.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said the right hon. Gentleman had invited him to give a specific precedent. There was one exactly to the point. [The Attorney-General gave the name of a Bill, but it was inaudible in the Press Gallery.]
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the only precedent was one created by the present Government. The fact remained that the Prime Minister had admitted that if the point was pressed, the only course he could adopt would be to move to report progress and leave the fulfilment of this scheme of legislation to another period. That was a course which he had no desire to press on the Prime Minister, and he was sure that his hon. friends did not desire to press it. They had justified the raising of the question. As an old Member of the House, and one who was more jealous of its traditions than some who had not been so long in the House, he still believed that this was a matter of first rate importance. The Prime Minister had not only dealt fully with the case, but had frankly offered to postpone the Bill, and in the circumstances, he had no desire to press the point. The right hon. Gentleman had met him and his friends in a perfectly fair and courteous spirit, and they were willing to meet him halfway by withdrawing their opposition.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that this was a situation which could only occur when two Consolidating Bills were being passed side by side. Obviously it was not in the interest of the public generally, and still less in the interest of agriculture, that one should be passed into law and the other not. It was on that ground alone that he asked the House to accept the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and not to press the point which had been raised.
§ MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University)
said he would point out that this Bill as it stood now did not come into operation until 1st January next year. This certainly ought not to become a precedent, and it was obviously a matter on which, if the other House did it, many Members would make it a subject of complaint. [An HON. MEMBER on the Ministerial Benches: 1360 Why do not you divide? Further, he asserted that the necessity the Prime Minister referred to would bring out many other inconveniences. For instance, here were two Bills which they were passing that night. In the first there was a definition of a provision about Small holdings referred to in the Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1907. This Bill repealed that Act altogether, so that they were introducing quite the worst form of legislation—legislation not by reference, but by anticipation. This must lead to complexity and difficulty on the part of many people. He did not wish to go back on anything said from the front bench, but it was a bad precedent, was constitutionally wrong, and would cause inconvenience.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said he would, point out most respectfully to the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Government would not have taken this course except in the case of two parallel Bills. His hon. and learned friend and he both belonged to a profession in which they knew many people who brought out text-books to inform the public what was the state of the law, and it was very desirable that they should have the whole subject before them so that they might occupy their time in the Vacation.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that during the speech of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Cambridge University an hon. Member opposite said: "Why don't you divide against the Bill?" He only rose on account of that interruption. They on that side of the House had accepted the very courteous assurance of the Prime Minister that he did not regard this us a precedent and that he would like the House to allow it to pass now. He always thought that if they on that side of the House were met in a considerate way, they waived a point. The Prime Minister had acknowledged 1361 that this was not a good form of procedure, and that he did not wish to make a precedent of it; and on that understanding the Party on that side of the House did not divide. He would point out that there would be no necessity to divide because the Prime Minister had assured the House that without a division, if they chose to press the point, he would accept it.
§ Clause as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 31 to 46 inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 47:
In page 30, line 6, to leave out the words 'three of the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, 1895,' and to insert the words 'forty-two of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908.'
In page 30, lines 19 and 20, to leave out the words '(England) Acts, 1883 to 1906,' and to insert the words 'Act, 1908.'
In page 30, lines 24 and 25, to leave out the words 'three of the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, 1895,' and to insert the words 'forty-two of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908.'
In page 30, line 28, to leave out the word '1900,'and to insert the word '1908.'
In page 30, line 38, to leave out the words '(England) Acts, 1883 to 1906,' and to insert the words' Act, 1908.'"—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ Amendments agreed to.
§ Clauses 48 to 54 inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 55:
To leave out Cause 55."—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 56, 57, and 58, agreed to.
§ Clause 59:
In page 37, line 25, to leave out the words '(England) Acts, 1883 to 1906.' and to insert the words' Act, 1908.'"—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 59 to 64 agreed to.
In page 42, line 22, to leave out the words '(England) Acts, 1883 to 1906,' and to insert the words 'Act, 1908.'
In page 42, line 23, to leave out the words 'those Acts,' and to insert the words 'that Act.'
In page 42, lines 24 and 25, to leave out the words 'those Acts, and to insert the words 'that Act.'"—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ Amendments agreed to, and the Bill, as amended, reported, and to be considered To-morrow.