§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I trust the House will assist the Government to pass this Bill without any delay, because until it is got through it will be quite impossible to begin operations. We have been pressed, more especially by the agricultural community of the country, to commence operations at once. We already have a sum of £400,000, and we have another £500,000 voted in the Bill; but nothing can be done for agricultural research, or for otherwise carrying out the various operations which the agricultural community have pressed on successive Governments, until the Bill has been carried into law. It is a very simple, measure, and first of all provides for increasing the number of Commissioners from five to ten. We do not, of course, propose to increase the number of paid Commissioners. There will be only one paid Commissioner extra; the rest will be all voluntary Commissioners. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is an extra Commissioner."] There is an aggregate of £3,000, whatever the case may be. But no change is contemplated in that respect. The reason why we are doubling the number of Commissioners is this. We find it quite impossible to get all the various interests in the matter fully represented on the Board without doubling the number. There were various kinds of big agricultural interests which were pressing for some kind of representation on the Board, and it was quite impossible to meet their case without doubling the number of Commissioners.
Within the last few weeks I have had deputations from the Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Central Land Committee—I think that is the name of it—the Farmers' Committee, and various other bodies, pressing me to put on a certain kind of man to represent their views. That would be quite out of the question unless the number were doubled. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that on the whole it was better to appoint ten rather than five, one retiring every year instead of every alternate year. In any case we were very anxious to get a first-class Civil Servant on the Board for the purpose of 156 organising the different works. No Civil Servant would undertake the duty under the conditions as they were left in the Development Act of last Session. His pension would not run during his ten years of service under the Board. It is very important that we should get a first-class man for the purpose of discharging the different functions. There, is a sum of £900,000 to be spent by a semi-judicial body, and I think it is in the interests of everybody that you should get the very best class of man available. You could not get a man of that class if his pension were suddenly to come to a stop the moment he is transferred from the public service on to the Commission. Therefore it is absolutely necessary in order to secure a man of that kind that you should have such a provision as is contemplated in the second Clause. With regard to Section 2, we found it necessary to make some provision for pensioning even the servants of the Development Commission, and putting them on the same footing as any other Civil Servants. There again we secure a better class of men as long as there is superannuation in prospect. Otherwise a man might find himself in the position at the end of ten years of quitting the service with no kind of prospect of getting security for his old age. With regard to the third Clause that is clearly an Amendment of a clerical error.
I hope that the House will enable me to get the Bill through before we adjourn on Thursday. Otherwise it means that we cannot begin operations for at least five or six weeks. I have been pressed, notably by hon. Members on the other side of the House, by means of questions and otherwise, to appoint the Commissioners at once, to start the work, and therefore to spend the money. I cannot do so until this Bill gets through, because I cannot complete the Commission. I am sure it is the desire of every hon. member, notably those interested in agriculture, to begin as soon as possible. Undoubtedly this is a project which has been too long delayed, as far as agriculture is concerned. There is no country in the world where as little is done by the State for agriculture as in this country. This sort of thing is done by every great agricultural community in the world. Even the United States of America, with its millions of acres of virgin soil, spends, I believe, ten times as much money upon this class of work as we do in this country. Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, all spend three or four times as 157 much money as we do in this way. This is the first time an operation of this kind has been put on some sort of substantial and permanent basis. There is a real desire that we should begin the work, and I do trust that the House will assist the Government to put this Bill through before Thursday next, in order to enable us to begin operations.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I do not rise in any way to obstruct or criticise the progress of this Bill, but I think I may offer one suggestion and one small criticism upon this Bill. The first suggestion which I venture to make is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a step in advance, in my humble opinion, in increasing the number of Commissioners from five to ten; but is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that he will be able to put all the interests on the Board, and to represent every part of the country with ten Commissioners? Does he think ten will be sufficient, and would not twelve or fifteen be better? Seeing that these Commissioners have to deal with aiding and developing agriculture, afforestry, drainage of land, rural transport, construction and improvement of harbours, inland navigation, and the whole of the fishing question, it may be of question whether ten Commissioners will be sufficient for the varied and important interests to be considered. Why should one Commissioner retire every year? Surely our aim ought to be to get as much permanence as possible with these Commissioners.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Our aim ought to be to put men in a position to accumulate experience, so that they might give the best possible advice in the expenditure of this money. I hope, therefore, that in Committee the right hon. Gentleman will consider the advisability of allowing the provision to remain as in the Act of 1909, under which one Commissioner would retire every two years.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
moved to leave out the word "now" in order to add at the end of the Question the words "this day six months."
In moving the rejection of this Bill, I shall have to trouble the House with the history of the Act and the reasons which have led the right hon. Gentleman to bring in this amending Bill. The Act was passed last year against considerable 158 debate. In Grand Committee there was a good deal of closure, which probably accounts for the error which has now to be rectified by Clause 3. But there was considerable discussion in the Grand Committee and in this House, and the point as to the number of Commissioners was fully dealt with. There is nothing whatever to prevent the Bill being brought into operation as it is; and the right hon. Gentleman could do it to-morrow if he were really desirous of doing so. He tells us that the number of Commissioners must be doubled, otherwise the different interests could not be represented. It is because of that I submit the Bill ought not now to be read a second time. As the original Bill was brought in, no Commissioners were to be appointed. It was left to the Treasury to appoint an Advisory Committee. Lord Robert Cecil—who was then a member of this House, and I would like to emphasise the loss we have sustained by his absence — was strongly opposed to the Bill, on the ground that it might lead to political corruption, and he was supported to that effect by Mr. Harold Cox, than whom there was no better member on the other side of the House. When the Bill went into Committee Lord R. Cecil proposed Amendments providing that instead of an Advisory Committee appointed by the Treasury, there should be Commissioners appointed somewhat in the same manner as the Light Railway Commissioners. Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted the Amendment of Lord Robert Cecil; but he suggested that the Government should bring in the Amendment in the shape of a new Clause. That new Clause, brought in on 30th August, 1909, was as follows:—
"For the purposes of this part of the Act there shall be established a Commission consisting of five Commissioners, to be styled the Development Commissioners, and to be appointed by the Treasury, of whom one.. shall be Chairman."
Then he went on to refer to details, but there was no word about any increase in the numbers. In the Committee the hon. and learned Member for the Chorley Division of Lancashire (Lord Balcarres) moved to insert the words,
"Or such larger number as the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Commissioners, may think fit to appoint."
159 That Amendment was withdrawn. Then the Solicitor-General moved:—
"That the Treasury may, on the recommendation of the Commissioners, increase the number of Commissioners to such number as they think fit."
May I point out this, "That the Treasury may, on the recommendation of the Commissioners,…" The arguments of the Solicitor-General and others were to the effect that should the Commissioners, when they were appointed, find the work was too great for them to carry out, they should be empowered to ask for an additional number. That Amendment was defeated, but in the Committee it was carried by 16 to 14. In the minority there were the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), Mr. Lief Jones, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Vivian), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the division of Staffordshire, who is also a Labour Member. There were also two other Members of the Opposition. In the Committee the arguments used by the Solicitor-General are very excellent reading. Mr. Lief Jones said:—If they had a large Commission they might subdivide the work and portions of it might be done by certain sections of the Commissioners instead of by the Commission as a whole. The Commission should not have more work than they could properly carry out.Lord R. Cecil said that he agreed with the last Member. He alsothought that if they had a large tribunal they lessened the sense of responsibility. If they got a small tribunal, then such a tribunal realised much more the importance of the work.The Solicitor-General said he agreed that "the smaller the body the better the work."
I do not know what has happened since last October that the Chancellor of Exchequer should throw over his Solicitor-General, and think now "that the larger the body the better the work."
Then there was my right hon. Friend, the Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus), who made a very excellent speech. The object of the Amendment of Lord R. Cecil was very clear upon this. These Commissioners—and I am glad to say the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated the words—would be in a judicial or quasi-judical position. The object of there being only five Commissioners, in Lord Robert Cecil's view, was that they were to be in a judicial, or semi-judicial, 160 position, and that therefore they would be free from political bias and pressure which might be put upon them by different interests and different industries, and that this scheme or that scheme should be proposed not because it was supposed to benefit any particular industry, but because it was in the interest of the whole country. That was the argument, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer said there was to be no log-rolling under this Bill, and that no scheme was to be advocated simply because it benefited England or Ireland or Scotland. They were to be schemes for the benefit of the country as a whole, and we were to have an impartial body of men free from any influence whatever from outside. We had a special shorthand report taken of the proceedings, because under the rules that regulate Grand Committees no official shorthand report is taken. It was said that one of the things to be guarded against was the influence of people interested in particular industries. What we wanted to guard against were representations for agricultural or any other interests you may conceive, and that people should not be putting forward claims on behalf of particular industries which they were supposed to represent. That being so the Amendment was carried by a majority of two.
When the Bill came to this House my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir W. Anson) moved an Amendment to alter the methods of the appointment of the Commissioners, and to provide that their appointment should be under sign-manual instead of by Parliament. In making that motion my hon. Friend made a very excellent speech, and he emphasised the fact that the number of Commissioners should be small. The Solicitor-General said: "I am not myself enamoured of it at all "—that was the motion to increase the number—and he went on to say:—My own opinion is that a body of Commissioners, consisting of rive, which would have the right to appoint Advisory Committees, is a much better body than an indeterminate number.Although the Government refused to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend to appoint the Commissioners under the sign-manual, they asked him to move an Amendment deleting the words put in in Committee, "that the Commission should have power to add to their number," and to insert instead words which would leave the number of the Commissioners at five. My hon. Friend moved that Amendment, 161 which was agreed to without a Division. If that is so—and I challenge anyone to controvert my statement—on what ground does the right hon. Gentleman come down here before the Commissioners have been appointed and stultify everything which was done before by asking the House to give him power to appoint ten Commissioners? If we pass this proposal, we shall be falling into the trap which, by Lord Robert Cecil's prescience, we were prevented from falling into last year.
These Commissioners will be in the position of partisans, each trying to get something for his own particular industry, with the result that no industry will get anything, because the amount will be so small. Not only this, but we shall be going back upon everything we did after weeks of labour in the last Parliament. The least the right hon. Gentleman could have done was to have given the Act a fair trial, and then in case he found the number too small he could have brought in another Bill. I do not propose to go into the question relating to the pensions. I understand that these pensions are to be taken out of the Development Fund. There is no new money, otherwise there would have to be a Bill founded upon a Resolution in Committee of the whole House. This proposal will, of course, reduce the Development Fund money, and what is going to happen is that the only people who will benefit will be the officials appointed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. This is a very serious question. I have endeavoured to recall to the House what took place when the Act was passed last year. I hope I have shown that the intention of the Act, which was to create a judicial body, will be frustrated if these people are to be increased in number, the avowed object of the right hon. Gentleman being to increase them because he desires that certain people who are interested shall be able to get something out of it.
§ Viscount MORPETH
I beg to second the Amendment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a very rapid survey of the agriculture of the world, and took a very large outlook for such a very small Bill. This measure is not concerned with the development of agriculture, but with the appointment of five extra officials. The development of agriculture on the lines of the United States and Belgium, and elsewhere, could be perfectly well done under the Bill as it passed the last Parliament. My hon. Friend has gone 162 through the history of what took place upstairs, and down here last Session, and I should like to remind the House that all through the proceedings on that Bill we were continually told that at any moment we might expect to receive the names of the Commissioners. Now we are told that that Act cannot be put into force until this House has consented to an increase in the number of Commissioners. This is an idea which has occurred since the passing of the Act, and it is entirely due to the pressure which has been put upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer by various hon. Members, not only on his own side of the House, but also on this side. That to my mind is a convincing argument against the proposal of the Bill, because it is seen that under the proposal of this Bill sectional pressure and pressure of different interests is already so heavy on the Government that they are forced to make concessions to interests both sectional and geographical, in order to get what they call a fair representation on the Commission. Without going into the history of what took place, I would point out that in the last Parliament it was said that sub-committees, local committees, and officials might be appointed by the Commissioners for the express purpose of limiting and keeping down the number of Commissioners that are to be appointed. I would also like to point out that extra work will be thrown upon the Commissioners by an Amendment which was no part of the Government proposal, and which was accepted from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), and by which the Commissioners themselves are allowed to initiate schemes, and not merely to adjudicate upon schemes sent up to them from Government Departments. This enormous pressure of work is created by the fact that we are setting up a body which is to pass in review the work of some of the great public departments, and which is to judge whether the Local Government Board, the Board of Agriculture, or any other great department is carrying out schemes for the development of the country. If the Government had only been content to leave this work in the hands of the departments which already exists, it would not have been necessary to create this great body of Commissioners.
Many persons, including the President of the Divorce Court, the late Solicitor-General (Sir Samuel Evans), are of the opinion that by having a small Commission, not of experts and men representing 163 different interests—the agricultural associations, the Farmers' Union, or any other sectional organization—but by having five men of standing and of knowledge and of good administration, we could get a far better tribunal than we shall have in this body proposed by the Government at the present time. I quite agree with the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) that the whole spirit of the Commission, as it was proposed by Lord Robert Cecil, and as it was accepted by the Government, who frankly, and I think very wisely saw the merits of the scheme has been departed from. You should have a small body of private competent men, not experts themselves, with regard to all the many objects that may be brought to their attention, but men exercising common-sense, and having a knowledge of administration and of affairs. That would have been a far better tribunal than this unwieldly body of amateurs who are not going to be paid, and who, so far as I can see, are only going to be appointed in order that a certain number of gentlemen should receive a quasi honour from the Government which will please them and be of no advantage to the bulk of the country, whether agricultural, commercial, or industrial.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I do not rise in order to prolong the Debate, but I do wish to put in a word begging the Government not to take these Bills which raise discussions of some importance at such a late hour of the night. After all, we have a certain amount of the Session before us still, and I think it would be possible to deal with some of these controversial measures during ordinary and decent hours. I wish also to say a few words on one particular point, and I will limit my remarks strictly, as the Noble Lord opposite has done, to the Question of the number of the Commissioners. As for the Bill itself, I have not too much love for it. It seems to me to partake too much of a Poor Law Relief Bill. I think it is necessary that someone representing industrial districts should have a word to say on it. This Development Fund Bill is not merely for agriculture. Every speaker seems to consider that these funds are going to be used simply and solely for the benefit of agriculture, which means increasing landlords' rents. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Is not that why you are endeavouring to do it? The Bill, as it was passed through the last House of Commons, provides for far more 164 than the subvention of agriculture. It also provides for the development of roads and inland waterways. I represent a district which depends very largely upon its inland waterways. The Potteries simply subsist on that canal system which connects them with the sea. I do think, if the number of Commissioners is going to be increased from five to ten, that we who are interested industrially in the Midlands have a right to ask that one of those Commissioners at least shall be interested not in the Potteries, but in inland water navigation. After all, money spent on inland navigation is every bit as much to the advantage of the whole community as money spent on finding new seeds or making motor roads. We who are interested in industries have just as much a claim to those funds as any landlord or agricultural society or any farmers' association. I trust, if the Commissioners are increased from five to ten, we shall have a fair representation of industries, and that we shall be able to claim our own share in the subjects dealt with.
§ Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
I venture to hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not press this Bill to a Division this evening. It certainly does involve some very important considerations. It was most carefully discussed in Committee when this particular Clause as regards the number of Commissioners received a very large amount of attention. For my own part, if a Division takes place this evening, I certainly shall not vote against this Bill, because I do not want to do anything which will prevent it from coming into operation, but at the same time I do think it highly important that so crucial a question as the number of the Commissioners should be carefully considered, and I would venture to suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, if the Second Reading of this Bill be carried, he should be willing not to press the adoption of Clause I. in Committee. I certainly retain the opinion which I expressed in Committee that the whole work of this Development Bill would be very much better carried into effect with five Commissioners than it would with ten. Already an hon. Member from this side of the House has suggested that the number should be increased to fifteen. I do not see how, with the various interests which come under the purview of this Bill, it will be possible to limit the number to fifteen if you once attempt to alter the principle under which these Commissioners were to be appointed.
165 12.0 M.
I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and those Members who served on the Committee will remember the great point which was made of the fact that these gentlemen were to occupy a judicial capacity, and that they were not to represent special interests. I cannot help thinking that they would discharge their duties in a far more satisfactory manner if they did not represent special interests. If they do, you will have one Commissioner only considering any question which arises with regard to that particular subject in which he happens to be interested, and therefore you will really have less persons considering important matters than you would if you had five Commissioners, and if those five persons were not appointed because of their interest in special matters, but on account of their general judicial powers and administrative ability. The whole of the five Commissioners should give their entire attention to any one question which may come up for consideration. I am deeply interested in the objects which are included in this Bill, and it is because I believe profoundly that the important work to which this measure undertakes to give effect will be far better carried out by five Commissioners than a larger number, that I earnestly appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to press on this particular Amendment. The whole question seems to me to require very careful consideration, and I do not see that the operation of the Act will be necessarily postponed if the consideration of this Bill be adjourned. I was not able to follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that the Act could not come into operation unless this Bill is passed. It seems to me that there is only one clerical error which it is desirable to correct, and although I should not desire to offer any opposition to the other Clauses of the Bill, I cannot but think it would be better to adjourn the Debate at this present time, and therefore I beg to move "That the Debate be now adjourned."
I desire to second the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. Those of us who were on the Committee last year discussed this matter very fully, and the right hon. Gentleman was holding before us the same threat that he could not bring the Act of last year into force until this Bill was passed through all its stages. I do not think that this House 166 should be threatened into passing legislation of any sort without taking into consideration the complete turn round of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers. The whole tenor of the Debate in the Committee last year was that these five men—these judicial Commissioners— should be without bias, and should judge the whole of the schemes brought before them on their merits, and not as advocates of any special scheme, and this is not the time to enter upon a discussion which really changes the whole aspect of the Act of 1909. This Bill before us, although it is only one Clause to which exception is taken, changes the whole tenor of the Act, and although it may be said by the Government that it is possible to discuss that Clause to-night, yet I do think that where it is a case in which the change has taken place in such a short time, and obviously as the result of pressure brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman that we should postpone the discussion of it. If we do postpone it I think the right hon. Gentleman should give us the names of the five Commissioners who have been appointed under the Act of 1909, and then we shall be able to consider if it is necessary for us to add other members. It will enable us to make up our minds, and if the five names commend themselves to the House then I hold that there will be no necessity to enlarge the number to ten or any other number. Once we branch away from five we may go on covering every industry in the country, the very thing the Act was intended to prevent, and considering that there is only £900,000 to be dispensed this year the right hon. Gentleman should admit the justice of our plea that the change in the whole aspect of the Act of 1909 deserves more consideration than being smuggled through at this hour.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I should quite concur in this Motion if the matter appeared to me quite so important as it does to my hon. Friend, or if it were the principal Act which this is intended to amend; and I think the Government owe an explanation of the reasons why what is evidently a very carefully adopted and deliberate decision of the House should now be set aside. I dislike the original Act as heartily as it is possible to do. It has always seemed to me to fulfil the idea of a Socialist measure more completely than any Act which has been before Parliament; but I really cannot take quite so gravely to heart the circumstance that 167 there should be ten Commissioners rather than five. The worst that can be said of it is that it has to some extent the appearance of a job. It is unusual, certainly, after Parliament has solemnly and deliberately fixed five for settled reasons that the Government within a few months should propose to have ten. The Government certainly owes the House an explanation of the change of intention, but I am not disposed to oppose the Bill any further unless the explanation is very unsatisfactory. Since the House has decided to try an experiment in Socialist legislation they must try it and we shall see what comes of it. I deprecate the interference of the State carried out on this scale, and I do not believe it very much matters whether you have a larger or a smaller number of Commissioners, and I do not believe any advantage is gained in standing between public opinion and the experiment they have resolved to try beyond uttering a word of caution against the folly of attempts of this kind.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I trust the hon. Gentleman will not persist in the motion. It is quite impossible to bring the Act into operation effectively without carrying through this amending Bill. I could not secure the services of such a class of Civil Servant as I should like to see at the head of a body of this kind without making provision in regard to pensions. I have gone thoroughly into the matter, and I have reasons which the House would realise when I come to give the names of the Commissioners, which I hope to be able to do in the next three or four days. As regards Clause 1, I agree with the Noble Lord that it is not a matter of principle. If five people are judicial why assume that ten cannot possibly be? They are not representatives in the sense that hon. Members represent constituencies. They only represent interests in the sense that they are acquainted with, say, agriculture, or particular phases of agriculture, or any other industry. If the hon. Gentleman had the responsibility of getting together a number of Commissioners like these I think he would come to exactly the same conclusion that it is almost impossible to do it with the limited number in the Development Act. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) talks as if it were a very considered judgment, but the Committee, which was not very full, were very much divided about it. When I tried to get together men for this 168 purpose I found it utterly impossible to do so as long as I was limited to five. You want different characters of men, and I found it quite impossible within the limit of five to get all the types required for this particular purpose. You may want a man who has got a certain knowledge of business. [Laughter.] What is there to be so amused about in that?
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. gentleman knows perfectly well what is meant by that. The ordinary type of business man is not specially acquainted with, say, agriculture or canals. The kind of man who is called a purely business man might be one with a special knowledge of finance, for instance. If the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) had to get up a commission for this purpose, I think he would find it exceedingly difficult. It is quite essential that you should have representatives from Scotland and Ireland, as well as from other parts of the United Kingdom. All that was promised when the Act was passing through Committee. That is really the issue. You cannot possibly do what is required within the limits of the Development Act unless you increase the number of Commissioners as now proposed. Only one object would be served by the adjournment of the Debate, and that is delay. I am sure that would not be the object of the hon. Member (Sir P. Magnus). When the Act of last year was passing through Committee he professed to be friendly to it. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and the hon. Member for East Down (Capt. Craig) were very hostile to the Act. They opposed it upstairs, and did their best to kill it.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
At any rate, I think I am giving a perfectly fair account when I say that the hon. Baronet was frankly opposed to it root and branch. The Amendment now before the House would have the effect of putting off the operation of the Act for five weeks. I still appeal to the House to enable me to get this Bill, in order that operations may be started as soon as possible.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I am in very much the same position as my Noble Friend. I never liked the Development Act from the beginning. I have had some experience of the Board of Agriculture, and I believe every penny could be as well spent 169 through that Board as by the Commissioners. I have never been able to see the wonderful advantage we shall derive in agriculture or in any other industry through these Commissioners, but I can assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the objections we take to part of this Bill do not arise from any desire to delay the operation of the Act of last year. Therefore, I should certainly be no party to a Motion which was calculated to delay giving effect to an Act of Parliament already passed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us now he must have the powers to provide these officials. It is a pity he did not think of that when he was passing the Act. My Noble Friend made one remark with which I did not agree. He said that no matter of principle is contained in our objection. For the first time, I think, since I sat in this House, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood). He pointed out with very great force, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has confirmed it by the experience he retailed, what is the real objection. In my humble opinion it is a change in principle and not in detail. Parliament deliberately decided last Session that the Commissioners should be Judicial Commissioners, in other words should be competent men who would not be experts in any particular branch of farming or industry, but should be common sense, practical, capable men who would sit, not to give effect to their own ideas or fads, but to hear the recommendations made by others and decide between them, and then use the money to the best of their ability. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that he wants ten Commissioners. I can well picture to myself the experience he has been going through endeavouring to select five. Why, if he goes on the principle of five representative men I would undertake to say that there is no big agricultural county in England which could not bring witnesses to show that you could not get five men who would represent all the agricultural interests of that one county. What in common, for instance, has the agriculture of Lincolnshire with that of Somerset? The whole system in each is as different from that in the other as any two systems can possibly be. If the Chancellor is going to get representatives of different interests he will be no more satisfied with ten than with five.
Of course, this is the first real attempt that the Government has 170 made to deal, not with the difficulties of agriculture, but with the question of unemployment, because here is an effort by the Chancellor to find places for five unemployed people. So far as it goes it is desirable, but he will fail with the object he has professed. If he really wants this money well spent he ought to keep to five and not enlarge it to ten. If he goes on to ten he will very soon find it necessary to enlarge it to fifteen or twenty. Therefore my objection is one of principle. I agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme when he said it was a scandal after we have been discussing a great measure, as in the Debate a short time ago, that this measure, which was so important and which was going to do so much for our nation should be brought on for discussion at 12 o'clock at night. We are face to face with a situation and, as practical men, we must deal with it. The Chancellor tells us that this is the only time the Government can find for the discussion of this measure, and he tells us that he must have it or he cannot put the particular Act into force. He is not prepared to accept a Motion for Adjournment in order that there might be some further consideration of what is a change in principle and not in detail.
This is a proposal to depart altogether from the principle of the measure of last year, which provided for the appointment of a judicial body and not a representative, or an intended representative, body. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us today that it is necessary to make this body representative, but he cannot have it both ways. If you try to make it representative of different industries, or branches of industries, you will at once put on this Board gentlemen who will have conflicting interests as to the way the money shall be spent, and they will act on their experience and knowledge and not on the evidence before them. When we discussed this question before I think I suggested that the Members from Ireland had a knowledge of the way in which to press their claims on this House greater probably than that of any other section of this assembly, and that in all probability when the different claims came to be considered those of Ireland would be pressed with greater vigour than those of any other part of the Kingdom. That shows how important it is that this body should not be representative, but purely judicial, and that it should not be a body whose members would attend to sup- 171 port their own particular schemes. Our objection is on principle and not on detail at all. I have no desire whatever to delay the progress of this measure in face of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that it is absolutely imperative that it should be passed. If my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London goes to a Division I shall certainly vote with him as a protest against the way in which the Government have treated this question, and against what I believe to be a dangerous change of principle in the measure. But that Motion disposed of, I should certainly not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, because I am bound to take the statement made on behalf of the Government, as I think we always are, that it is imperative this should be passed. I am not prepared to give any vote which, if it were successful, would have the effect of paralysing the measure passed last year.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
There is one matter which has not been alluded to to-night and on which I should like to have heard the explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the original Act the House laid down very clearly, in the Clause with which we are dealing, the powers of the Commissioners. One of the powers was that they might frame schemes themselves, but that they could only go through by a majority of that body. Under Section 4 of Clause 3 it says that the Commission may act by three of their body, that is, of course, a majority of their number, so that a majority of the whole body had to be in agreement as to any scheme which they framed themselves. But the Government have left the quorum at three while they have increased the number of Commissioners to ten so that three of the Commissioners may put a scheme through, and themselves deal with the money, though they are really less than one-third of the whole Commission. That goes to the root of the whole principle established by this Clause, especially in connection with Subsection (4), providing that they can frame schemes for themselves, and more especially when we hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the principle of representation on the Commission is now to be geographical. We ought all to regard this as rather a serious change pf procedure in connection with this 172 measure, and I do hope that the Government will give some explanation of it, because it does seem rather a dangerous power to confer, and a considerable departure from the principle laid down last year.
Some words which the Chancellor of; the Exchequer used embolden me to ask whether, if this measure passes this stage to-night, he will promise to give us the names of the Commissioners before the Bill eventually leaves this House? We have been promised information a good many times as to the Commissioners, and we are now asked to increase the I number, but we are not told in the least what the Commissioners are going to represent, and we have very little in formation on the question. I think, therefore, that the House would be wise to keep control over the Bill until we actually know how far the Commissioners meet with the approval of the House generally. The names have often been given during the passage of a Bill through the House, and I think, in this case, that should be done, especially considering the very great departure in the number. I am most anxious for the Bill to come into operation, and shall do nothing to delay it in any way, but I most certainly ask that the names should be given, and some explanation of this alteration in the Bill.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
It is unfortunate that this Bill, which commands general consent in its general principles, is delayed owing to the reticence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is obvious, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit, that the Government have changed their policy. They originally decided that the body should be a judicial body, and now they tell us it is to be a representative body. I believe the whole matter could be cleared up if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take us a little more into his confidence. He has told us that the body is to represent the various portions of the United Kingdom. I can only say there is a very suspicious aspect of a job in this matter. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether it is not his desire to include a representative of Wales, and if it is not for that reason that he has altered the policy of Government into having this a representative body instead of a judicial body. I must support the Motion for Adjournment which has been moved by my hon. Friend for the reason that the Chancellor of the 173 Exchequer is unwilling to give the names of the Commissioners, or to tell us for what reasons the policy of the Government has been altered.
§ Mr. LOUGH
An incident occurred the other day in another place with reference to this Bill which has made me think that the matter is of even greater importance than I previously realised. A proposal was made to the Government in the House of Lords that the money should be found out of some fund, if an attempt were made to grow beet sugar in this country, to allow an equivalent grant to the Customs Duty levied on sugar. The reply given on behalf of the Government was that while they could not agree not to levy an Excise Duty corresponding with the Customs Duty, being a Free Trade Government, yet there was the Development Fund, and a sum might be given, and these were the words of the Minister, out of the Development Grant equivalent to the Customs Duty. I must say that was a statement of policy which shocked me very much.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are really discussing the question of the increase in the number of Commissioners.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am coming to that. I only mentioned that incident to show that the personnel of the Commissioners is a matter of vast importance. They may have to deal with very large questions. In my opinion no graver question could come before any body than that which was lightly touched upon in the incident to which I have referred. If such large questions are to be decided by these Commissioners, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might consider the appeal for a little more time for considering this important change of policy. I do not agree with the Noble Lord opposite that it is a trifle whether you have ten Commissioners or five. Surely the Noble Lord will agree that it is much harder to find ten righteous men than five, and the whole point in favour of the five was that they were to be gentlemen of high character and judicial position, on whose judgment we could rely. All that has been changed by the slight explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is to be a large body, partly representative, and yet it does not rest on the principle of election. I do not wish to obstruct the Bill in any way. I am in 174 favour of its principle if it is carried out in accordance with the principles of Free Trade and other great principles, but I think there are points which require further consideration. There is something mysterious about Clause 2. I am not enamoured of these Civil Service officials. There was some allusion to a returned Governor of a Colony.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I desire on the ground of the largeness of the question to suggest that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give a little more time, so far from imperilling the Bill, it would hasten its progress. Another large question is the setting up of a department; that has been more distinctly adumbrated to-night than ever before. That is another reason why I think more time should be given for the consideration of the Bill.
I spent many days an August and September last discussing the Act in Committee, and I have a very clear recollection of what went on there, which differs in many respects from the representations put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the Second Beading is obtained to-night, shall we have a genuine opportunity of discussing the Bill in detail in Committee? We are so accustomed to the Closure this Session that it is almost impossible to get any opportunity, except at twenty-five minutes to one in the morning, to deal with these matters. I cannot myself see that there will be any opportunity to discuss this matter, at the proper hour at least, either on Tuesday or Wednesday, so that really I think our decision to-night to divide or not must depend very much upon the question as to whether or not there are facilities, that he is so very chary of in other matters, given to us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not wish to say anything in regard to the appointment in the Second Clause, except that as it is a matter of official appointment that we shall not have another case of the appointment of the private secretary of a Cabinet Minister.
But may I say a word or two on the very point which the Chancellor of the Exchequer raised in respect to the question as to whether these Commissioners were or were not to be representative. The Report of the Committee says: "That an Amendment was moved by the hon. Gen- 175 tleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil to the effect that the Commissioners were to consist of persons representing the House of Commons, the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, the Board of Trade, the Board of Education, the Local Government Board, and the Office of Works."
The Question was actually moved before the Committee upstairs, and was discussed as to whether or not these Commissioners should or should not be representative, and the Amendment was by leave withdrawn. I remember very clearly myself putting a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and asking: "Are you going to have representatives of England, Scotland, and Ireland—I do not think I mentioned Wales—who know these countries, so that the money may be fairly allocated between these countries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that an Amendment of the kind specified was unnecessary: it was not necessary to divide the money between these countries, because "I am going to appoint Commissioners whose functions will be to be purely judicial," and that that would keep the Commissioners outside the question as to whether or not the money should be spent in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. I think one of the reasons the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to increase the number of Commissioners is that he finds the question is much more difficult than he supposed; and the question of the allocation of money between these different countries must be done in some sort of representative way as he seems to suggest.
Another reason I think why the right hon. Gentleman has been led into these difficulties is the enormously wide nature of the purposes for which this number is to be distributed. I have here the principal Act. Looking at the chief purposes for which the money—not a very
large sum—is to be spent, we see it includes: Aid to develop agricultural rural industries, co-operation, the extension of the provision of small holdings, forestry, general improvement and rural transport, consideration of the improvement of harbours and island navigation, etc., and it ends:—
And for any other purposes calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom.
§ I really think when the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired to select five persons, judicial or otherwise, who were capable of dealing with this enormous variety and range of subjects, that then he began to find that probably he wanted more than five persons, and was forced into the necessity of selecting ten. Then he began to see if he had ten, that they had, as it were, to put aside the judicial character that they were originally invested with, and adopt this representative character, which was so very much condemned in the Committee upstairs. An hon. Friend near me says if they were to be representative you would want a very large number, and the speech of an hon. Member opposite afforded a very good example of that sort of thing. He said there should be a special representative for Ashton-under-Lyme, but in the same way I should be inclined to say we should have a special representative for Somerset. That is really the reason why the Chancellor is led into bringing in a Bill to amend an Act before it has actually come into operation. He included too many things under his Act in Grand Committee, and now, after searching through the length and breadth of England, he cannot find five men of such wide and varied experience as to be able to deal with the great many matters which would be thrown at their heads.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 94; Noes, 172.177
|Division No. 62.]||AYES.||[12.45 a.m.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Brotherton, E. A.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow, E.)|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Carille, Edward Hildred||Dixon, Charles Harvey (Boston)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Castiereagh, viscount||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Cator, John||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cave, George||Fell, Arthur|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Chaloner, Col. R G. W||Fleming, Valentine|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Clive, Percy Archer||Forster, Henry William|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Compton, Lord Alwyne (Brentford)||Gibbs, George Abraham|
|Boyton, James||Cooper, Richard Ashmole (Walsall)||Gilmour, Captain John|
|Brackenbury, Henry Langton||Courthope, George Loyd||Goldsmith, Frank|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Dalrymple, Viscount||Gordon, John|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Morpeth, Viscount||Stanier, Beville|
|Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Mount, William Arthur||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Newdegate, F. A. N.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Harris, F. L. (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)||Newman, John R. P.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Henderson, H. G. H. (Berkshire)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Hills, John Walter (Durham)||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Thompson, Robert|
|Horne, Wm. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven)||Peel, Hon. William R. W. (Taunton)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Keswick, William||Perkins, Walter Frank||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Peto, Basil Edward||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Pollock, Ernest Murray||White, Maj. G. D. (Lane. Southport)|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Lewisham, Viscount||Rawson, Col. Richard H.||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Llewelyn, Major Venables||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Mason, James F.||Royds, Edmund||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir Philip Magnus and Captain Crals|
|Lloyd, George Ambrose||Rutherford, William Watson|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Abraham, William||Henry, Charles Solomon||O'Shee, James John|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Higham, John Sharp||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Holt, Richard Burning||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Allen, Charles Peter||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Home, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pointer, Joseph|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hudson, Walter||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Johnson, William||Reddy, Michael|
|Black, Arthur W.||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydfil)||Rees, John David|
|Boland, John plus||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Richards, Thomas|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brace, William||Joyce, Michael||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Keating, Matthew||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Kelly, Edward||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Kilbride, Denis||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Lambert, George||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lanes. Heywood)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Leach, Charles||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Levy, Sir Maurice||Seddon, James A.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Lewis, John Herbert||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lincoln, Ignatius Timothy T.||Shackleton, David James|
|Clough, William||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Shortt, Edward|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leltrim, S.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Soares, Ernest Joseph|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Lundon, Thomas||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Cullinan, John||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elfion)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Summers, James Woolley|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Sutherland, John E.|
|Delany, William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sutton, John E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||M'Callum, John M.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Doris. William||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lines. Spalding)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Duffy, William J.||Mallet, Charles Edward||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Manfield, Harry||Toulmin, George|
|Ferguson, Ronald C. Munro||Masterman, C. F. G.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meagher, Michael||Twist, Henry|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Meehan, Francis E. (Leltrim, N.)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Verney, Frederick William|
|Gibbins, F. W.||Middlebrook, William||Wadsworth, John|
|Gibson, James Puckering||Millar, James Duncan||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Mond, Alfred Moritz||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Mooney, John J.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Grenfell, Cecil Alfred||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Gulland, John William||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Hackett, John||Muldoon, John||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Muspratt, Max||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Hancock, John George||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Williams, Aneurin (Plymouth)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wing, Thomas|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Doherty, Philip||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Dowd, John|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master|
|Helme, Norval Watson||O'Malley, William||of Elibank and Mr. Fuller.|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
Bill read a second time, and Committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Tuesday).—[Mr. Lloyd-George.]
§ Lord BALCARRES
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question before the Second Reading is taken. I presume he must have it to-day, but I would suggest that the Committee stage should be postponed, in order to enable certain amendments, which, as has been pointed out are necessary, to be put down. There is the question of the quorum. Again, the Second Clause requires some attention, for it is by no means clear. I have asked whether or not the paid Commissioners will remain Civil Servants. Two or three of my legal friends tell me that as the Bill now stands only two of the Commissioners can be paid. It is the idea to select one, and perhaps both, from the Civil Service, and they will, as the Bill stands, remain members of that Service. If so, that is in direct and absolute breach of the understanding, or rather the statement made, that these Commissioners would be absolutely independent of the Government. That is one of the conditions which was impressed upon us day after day in the Grand Committee upstairs. Yet now you are appointing a Government servant to be the head of the Commission! We want time in which to put down Amendments. Again, we really ought to be given the names of the Commissioners before the Bill passes out of the Committee stage. It frequently happens that the names have in such cases to be given in the Bill, and the, invariable practice is—it was carried out in the case of the Licensing Bill—to communicate the names to the Committee and to the House before the Committee stage finishes. We were promised them four or five months ago. We have made no progress since then, and I think the House is entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to take it into his confidence before the final stage is reached. Let him tell us the names of the gentlemen to be appointed, in view of the fact that the whole basis of the Bill has been changed, and instead of being judicial Members we are to have representatives not only of great interest, but also of different parts of the country.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I shall be very glad to assent to the appeal of the Noble Lord if, on the other hand, he will assist me. I want the Bill passed into law before we adjourn for the Spring Recess, and in order that that may be accomplished, the House of Lords must receive it on Thursday. The Noble Lord is a real opponent of the Bill. If he can, however, on behalf of the Opposition, assure me 180 that the Committee stage and the Third Reading shall both be concluded on Wednesday, I shall be happy to postpone the Committee stage until Wednesday. I should then expect the Opposition to assist me in completing all the remaining stages of the Bill that night. There is only really one point at issue, and that has been debated for two hours. If I get the assurance I am asking for, I may be able to give the names of the Commissioners on Wednesday. The great thing is to ensure that the Bill shall go through before the Recess. If hon. Members intend to throw difficulties in the way, they can not expect me to announce the names of the Commissioners. I am quite willing even now to give them privately to the Leaders of the Opposition, but obviously they cannot be publicly announced until it is certain that the Bill is going through on Wednesday next.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The Bill is an important one, and involves a material change in principle to which we attach great importance. But it is no good dwelling on that. We have to face the facts of the ease. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put one point to the Opposition. He has stated that there is some technical difficulty in regard to the publication of the names, but he is quite willing to give them to certain gentlemen on this side of the House. I say, frankly, that I have always had an objection to the disclosure of names to a limited number of people, because it does not carry the information which is really most earnestly sought. I have no curiosity myself as to the appointment of the ten Commissioners. I have not the smallest doubt that the selection will be of the usual character. Gentlemen will be selected because they are supposed to have a knowledge which it ultimatly turns out they have not. They generally have some particular hobby, which they ride to death to the exclusion of other people's hobbies. I suggest that we have made our protest, and we have made our case perfectly clear.
I do not think the offer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a very generous one, that is, that we should take both the Committee State and the Third Reading on Wednesday. It is, I think, rather an indecent proceeding, having regard to the great importance which the Government attaches to the merits of the Bill. But it appears to be a case of Hobson's choice, and I should advise my hon. Friend to 181 close with the offer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that on Wednesday he will communicate to the House the names of the Commissioners, if we on our side are prepared to take the Bill through its remaining stages, so that it may be passed into law before the Spring Recess. I have no power to speak for my hon. Friends on this side of the House, because some of them hold very strong individual views on this matter, but I think the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that before the House separates for the Whitsuntide holidays we shall know who the Commissioners are to be is a fair one.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I do not want to interfere with the understanding suggested, but I think there is one difficulty. If the Bill is amended on Wednesday night, it would not be within the ordinary procedure of the House to take three stages of the Bill on the same night, namely, the Committee, the Report and Third Beading, stages. It is not desirable that we should come to an understanding to-night, for that may preclude the Government from accepting Amendments. I do not in the least understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot tell us the names of the Commissioners now. If he can tell us the names on Wednesday night, why cannot he tell us no we Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will explain that point. He said it was obvious. I do not know that it is. Is it because it is now one o'clock in the morning? If he told us the names now it would put an end to the whole difficulty. The only conceivable reason why he cannot tell us the names now is that they will move the House to such horror that Members will not be ready to go on with the Bill. There is one other thing the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not observed. The Bill cannot in any case be taken to-morrow, so that the right hon. Gentleman is really offering us nothing. I understand the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill is to be taken to-morrow.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Possibly. There is also a private Bill down for to-morrow, and in that case it will be impossible to take this Bill. Finally, I do not quite understand why it is so important that the Bill should be passed into law before the Spring recess.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
In answer to the Noble Lord's last question, I certainly could not appoint the Commissioners unless the Bill became an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
The Commission could not be set up unless the Bill were converted into an Act of Parliament. That is the reason why we want it before Whitsuntide, otherwise there will be a delay of about five weeks. The agriculturists both inside and outside the House have been pressing for the appointment of the Commissioners, and a delay of five weeks they would regard as being very serious. There is a sum of £400,000, which is already down in the Estimates, and there is no provision for dealing with it. It is very desirable that the Commission should sit, and consider the various suggestions put before the Board of Agriculture. The sooner it is done the better from the point of view of all those interested in the matter. With regard to the question of taking the Bill to-morrow, I understand that this Bill comes first tomorrow.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
At any rate, as far as Government business is concerned, this Bill would have precedence over any other business. As to Amendments, I understand that the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) is quite right. If there is an Amendment made in Committee, undoubtedly the Bill could not be taken on Wednesday. We can set up the Committee to-morrow, and by to-morrow the Noble Lord and others might be in a better position to come to a definite understanding as to getting the Bill through without Amendment. If that is done, the Bill might not come on till Wednesday, and in that case it could be carried through in a single night. That could not be done if there are any Amendments made.
§ Lord BALCARRES
Does this Bill come before the Judicature Bill? I see there are ten pages and a half of amendments to that Bill.
§ Mr. COURTHOPE
Surely the reason the right hon. Gentleman has given for withholding the names to-night would apply equally on Wednesday night. How 183 can the Bill become an Act of Parliament on Wednesday? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us the names now.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I have told the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walter Long) that I shall be prepared to give the names on Wednesday. I am not in a position to give them now. There are two or three names I could not give now.
§ Mr. BELLOC
There is one small point I wish to emphasise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the last speech but two which he delivered, mentioned that he would give to the Opposition certain names in private and as a matter of good faith. I would ask him what is the Opposition, and what does Parliament know of such an organisation? I protest, like any other private Member, against methods of that kind. I only rise to underline that little episode in the Debate. I think it was very significant.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
With reference to the Judicature Bill my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury tells me that he does not propose to proceed with that Bill to-morrow, except with the consent of the Opposition. I shall, therefore, put down this Bill for to-morrow night.
§ And it being after half-past Eleven of the clock on Monday evening, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Fourteen minutes after One a.m., Tuesday, 26th April.