§ Where a council of a borough or urban district as owner or lessee works any tramway or omnibus service the council may charge reduced fares to occupiers of allotment gardens provided by the council when using such service for the purpose of proceeding to or returning from their allotment gardens, subject to such conditions as the council may impose.
§ Provided that any person who travels at any such reduced fare on any occasion for which it is not available, or who fails to comply with any other condition attached thereto, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding forty shillings.—[Mr. Acland.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause enables a council of a borough or urban district to give reduced tramway fares to allotment holders in cases where they own the tramways. The history of it is simple. It was in the Report of the Allotments Committee, it was in the original Government Bill, it ran the gauntlet of all the stages in another place, it came down here and passed the Second Reading stage quite successfully, and then it came up for consideration in Committee upstairs. There, the Minister did not express himself strongly either way, and, if I remember rightly, he did not vote. He, so to speak, abandoned his child on the doorstep of the Committee Room.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am sorry. The right hon. Gentleman did vote for the Clause, but it was defeated by a comparatively small majority. Just before a Clause, which is of great importance to allotment holders, and which makes it mandatory that an Allotments Committee shall be set up in urban districts having over a certain population, was passed. There were some Members of the Committee who thought they had gone rather far in that matter, and, when we came to this Clause, they said: "We have made it obligatory that these authorities shall have their Allotment Committees, and we do not see why we should give them the power of granting these reduced fares." It was rather a piece of reaction 862 that this Clause, after remaining in the Bill so long, was taken out of it. The point is a simple one. Many of these councils of county boroughs are, of course, doing their best to secure allotment land under reasonable conditions for the inhabitants of their areas, but it often happens that a piece of land has to be given up for building or something of that sort, and then it is a matter of difficulty to obtain other land near the centre of the town. The council may do their very best, but may fail, and they may say to the Allotment Association: "We have managed to find land not very highly rented, but it is a good long way out. If we take it, will you do your best to make your members migrate." They do that so that the 800 or 1,000 who are dispossessed in the middle of the town may take up their plots on the outskirts. If they do so and settle on this new land, then, instead of charging 6d, the ordinary return fare, they are content to charge 3d. return fare to persons who can show by producing a ticket that they are members of the Association. It is simply introducing the system of workmen's tickets. It will very much facilitate getting people to continue alloment cultivation and to take up land which otherwise might be too far off for them. It is, of course purely permissive. There is some doubt whether even now municipalities with tramways may not do this without fresh legal powers. At any rate, it was originally in the Bill and was kept in it till a late stage. I hope that it may now be restored. I apologise for what I said as to the indifference of the right hon. Gentleman. He reminds me that he was a keen supporter of the Clause.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not press this matter, at any rate to a Division. There is a good deal of difference of opinion among allotment holders as to whether it is right to ask local authorities to make special provision by way of a reduction of fares. It is a very difficult matter of principle, and I personally do not believe in it. I may say that yesterday, when a similar Clause came up in reference to the Scottish Bill, the representatives of the allotment holders did not press the Clause, and it was rejected by 23 votes to 1. I have had an opportunity this morning of discussing it with several representative allotment holders, and they feel that there 863 is some difficulty in urging the matter forward. They do not want their case to be unduly prejudiced by a demand which they think they cannot sustain on a question of principle, and it is only right that I should inform the House that there is considerable division of opinion among allotment holders generally about pressing this matter.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his statement. I know that there is a good deal of difference of opinion among allotment holders with regard to this Clause. It was recommended by the Departmental Committee and was put into the Bill. Afterwards, we were informed that it was perfectly unnecessary, because without any Clause any local authority owning tramways could give reduced fares. I repeat that statement here, so that it may be generally known. That being so, there is obviously no necessity for putting in the Clause at all. When it came before the Standing Committee, I voted for it, but I left it to the decision of the Committee, and the Committee threw it out, probably rightly. That being so, I certainly do not think that we should reverse the decision. The Clause is unnecessary, and, as to its desirability, there is a division of opinion among allotment holders and authorities, and in the case of the Scottish Bill, it was thrown out by a large majority.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Do I understand that, as in the last case, this Clause simply repeats the existing law?
§ Mr. ACLAND
If that be so, would the right hon. Gentleman undertake, as he undertook with regard to rating, that in the leaflet he will point the fact out to the local authorities. I think that is a fair question.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I think there are very strong objections to this Clause, whether it be the existing law or not. First, it is an encouragement to local authorities to spend money in a surreptitious way, practically putting something on the rates without people knowing it; and, secondly, the very thing which the Mover suggested as an advantage—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that we need argue this matter any further. I have consulted the Ministry of Transport. There is now no doubt in my mind that this is the existing law, and I cannot countenance repeating ill a new Statute that which is already the law by an old Statute.
§ Lord R. CECIL
May I respectfully submit that it is entirely a new doctrine that this House cannot declare something to be the law, even if it be already the law. There are many Statutes which are purely declaratory in form, the most celebrated being Fox's Libel Act, and I venture to submit that it would be a most dangerous ruling to say that this House must never enact something by way of declaration which is already the law. It may, of course, be a very useless thing to do, and the House may decline to enact a thing which is already the law, but I submit that it cannot be said that it is out of order to put in a Bill a Clause which is declaratory of the law, if there be any doubt—and it is for the House to judge—on the subject.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is no doubt that the question has arisen. I agree there may have been cases of the kind. But, acting on the Noble Lord's theory, we might have a hundred clauses in a Bill which are merely declaratory. I do not know of any case during the last 100 years where a Clause, has simply reenacted what does not need to be re-enacted.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am not sure whether the case of Fox's Libel Act comes within the 100 years, but I think I may assert with great confidence there are many instances of clauses declaring the law where the House has been convinced there is reasonable doubt about the matter. Of course it is always open to the Chair, if it be of opinion that an Amendment is put forward for the purpose of delay or frivolously, particularly under the powers now vested in the Chair, to refuse to call such an Amendment. But I would ask you not to lay down your ruling too widely, as it might be quoted later on with serious result.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
With very great submission, I would suggest that no ruling be given on the point. A ruling from the Chair that the Amendment is out of order simply because it repeats what is already the, law would be rather 865 dangerous. I therefore suggest that, having ascertained from the various authorities of the House that this is an Amendment which has no real substance and which in view of the information which has reached the Chair, ought not to be put, you might exercise your powers in not selecting it for further discussion by the Chamber.
§ Mr. HAYWARD
May I point out there is this difference between this new Clause and the preceding new Clause upon which a ruling was given from the Chair. In the previous new Clause the Clause itself in terms repeated the words of an existing Act of Parliament. That is not so in this case. This is not a Clause which in terms, as I understand it, does repeat an existing enactment, nor is there in previous Acts a similar Clause to this new Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am not giving a ruling which goes any further than the immediate needs of the case. There may be cases where it is advantageous—especially the case of some old Statute—to repeat the law. But I cannot lay down a hard-and-fast rule. Having already called the Clause, I cannot now exercise my power of selection.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I hope no circular will be sent out. If it be the law as suggested, let the authorities put it in force if they choose, but do not encourage and urge them to spend money in this way—a way which many allotment holders think would be very undesirable.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.