§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
I beg to move, to leave out the Clause.
Clause 4 proposes an absolutely new method of procedure in the Law Courts and one which is extremely objectionable from every point of view, as far as I can see. It is inserted in this Bill without any definite connection with any other part of the Bill, and I cannot think that the Minister has taken legal advice as to this procedure. The Clause provides:If on the representation of the Central Valuation Committee it is made to appear to 114 the Minister of Health that a substantial question of law has arisen in relation to the valuation of hereditaments or of any class of hereditaments for the purposes of rating and that, unless that question is authoritatively determined, want of uniformity or inequality in valuation may result, the Minister may submit the question to the High Court for its opinion thereon, and the High Court after hearing such parties as it thinks proper shall give its opinion on the question.The Central Valuation Committee is an Advisory Committee set up under the Act of 1925 for the purpose of giving general advice, either direct to the Minister or to the rating authority. Whether the advice is to be given first to the Minister and passed on by him to the rating authority, I am not quite clear. The practice regarding access to our Law Courts is that access is only given to litigants where there is an issue between the parties. The proposal of this Clause involves a new juridical procedure, and, I think, a very vicious one. The Law Courts, from the earliest times, have always declined to give opinions on abstract questions of law. Our Judges have set their faces against giving decisions on law on ex-parte statements of facts because they know how easily those statements can mislead. Under this Clause, the Central Valuation Committee are to have the right, in a matter where there is no litigant before them, where there is no party and no issue of any sort or kind, to go to the Court on a statement of facts prepared by themselves—which is certain to be not absolutely accurate or not quite comprehensive. They are to have the right to seek a decision on facts put forward by themselves where there is no particular matter in dispute.
I challenge the Minister to point to any case where that is done in our procedure, with one possible exception. I believe something similar is done in a small degree under the National Health Insurance Act. I am not prepared to tell the House exactly how it is done in that instance, but I understand that the opinion of the Court can be taken on the question of whether a man is an insured person or not, or some question of that kind. In that case, however, the issue is small and it may be for the convenience of the community, but, even then, the procedure is checked and hedged about with securities to ensure that the Court will have the actual facts of the cases before it. In 115 this Clause, there is no such check. There is no procedure for securing that the facts of any particular case shall be put before the Court. The Court is asked to advise on an abstract general question, and if a real case arises between a rating authority and the subject, one or other of the parties may be met by the Government with the statement, "Here is a decision on that point which we have obtained." This Clause raises a question which goes to the foundations of the system of the administration of justice in this country. It is unnecessary for any object which the Minister has in view in the Bill. It is likely to do harm instead of good, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the views of Members of the House who know something about the practice of the Law Courts, and who are anxious to see that practice remain as efficient as it is now.
§ Sir MALCOLM MACNAGHTEN
I beg to second the Amendment. I share the hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter if he finds, as I think he will, that those who are experienced in the proceedings of our Courts are opposed, practically unanimously, to this proposal. Our Courts have always been opposed to deciding hypothetical cases, and, quite rightly so, because such decisions, in experience, are always found unsatisfactory. The Mover of the Amendment is right in saying that this is a new procedure, but I gather that it is borrowed from the Arbitration Act, Under the Arbitration Act there is power for the arbitrator to consult the Court on a question of law arising in an arbitration.
§ Sir M. MACNAGHTEN
That is so and even then it works unsatisfactorily. There is an instance concerning a late Member of this House, Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, who took the opinion of the Court and made an award in accordance with that opinion. Then the House of Lords upset the award because they held that it was obviously, and on the fact of it, bad in law, because Mr. Lyttelton had based it on a, decision which the Court had given to him in consultative jurisdiction. The Minister will find that the objection to decisions on hypothetical cases is widespread and I trust he will withdraw this Clause.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
I support the Amendment and I hope the Minister will see his way to accept it, but I am bound to say that my recollection of the law is somewhat different from that of the Mover and Seconder. My recollection is that under the Local Government Act of 1888, this consultative right was given to county councils.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
Yes, between the county councils and everybody concerned. I have a clear recollection of a case which was heard by Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams, as he then was. One of the objects of that Act was to get small quarter-session boroughs to surrender their rights. The Act imposed on them an additional charge which other larger boroughs did not bear and which came out of the county rates and the matter came before Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams under a Section similar to this, for his consultative opinion. It was argued by one counsel only, for one side, and Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams gave a decision which was an absolutely agreed decision. It was a hopeless decision however, merely because he got no assistance from counsel on the other side and that is what is required in cases of this kind. It is necessary to have proper arguments from both sides based on all the facts, as claimed or agreed between the parties, with each side straining to get. the points decided in its favour.
That being the case, I remember further quite clearly—I know, in fact—that that consultative opinion was brought under review in a later case and it was decided that it was wholly wrong. It is also my recollection, but I am not certain about it, that in order to get that decision upset, subsequent parties who fought the case had to take it to the Court of Appeal, and so expense was incurred. It seems to me that these novel forms are very undesirable. I would challenge my right hon. Friend to cite any case in which this consultative jurisdiction under the Act of 1888 has been of any use. I have not looked into it lately, but I know of none, and I, therefore, press my right hon. Friend to accept this Amendment. I am sure that it is not a procedure which is viewed by 117 the Courts with any pleasure. Under this Clause somebody may appear, though bow he will get there I do not know, and then he may be paid certain funds by the central authority. I think it would be far better if it was left to be dealt with under the ordinary law applicable to rating cases.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I also desire to support the Amendment, because, ex hypothesi, the Clause is to apply to questions which will affect a number of owners, every one of whom will have their independent right of appeal when the valuation is made or the rate is levied, and because not one of them will be bound by an opinion obtained in this way. The next point that I want to make is this, that the burden is put on the High Court of saying who shall appear. How is the High Court to do that? Are they to pick out somebody and say "You come and fight this point; you shall fight it at your own cost?" The House will observe that the Court is to be deprived, apparently, of its usual control and discretion as to who pays the costs—the second Sub-section clearly indicates that—so that the selected person is to fight the issue at his own cost, even if he wins, unless the Central Valuation Committee elect to come forward and help him, but there is no obligation on them to do so. Then, when this opinion has been obtained, whom does it bind? Nobody at all. If people could be bound by decisions when they had not a chance to be heard, it would be an absolute innovation in our law. At any rate, there is nothing here which would make that decision binding upon persons who are not parties to it. As a rule, I do not think there is ever an appeal from a decision given under this consultative jurisdiction of the Courts, and, therefore, a decision is to be given which, I suggest, would bind nobody, and, if it is to bind them, the Clause becomes still more objectionable.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
I should like to add my appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment, not merely on my own behalf, but at the special request, by a unanimous decision, on the part of the Council of the Law Society on Friday last. I am not quite sure from the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) was speaking 118 just now, but I rather gather that he considers that this opinion given by the High Court will bind somebody. Whom is it going to bind?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
The hon. Member need not worry.
§ Mr. HERBERT
Unfortunately, it is our business to worry as to what is the meaning of Acts of Parliament which we pass, and if the right hon. Gentleman says that this opinion is going to bind somebody, I am entitled, as a Member of this House, to know whom he thinks it will bind. If this opinion is to be binding on somebody, is there to be any appeal from the decision of the High Court? There, I do not notice that the Parliamentary Secretary either nods his head or shakes it. As this Clause is drawn, this is to be an opinion of the High Court, which is the Court of first instance and a part of the Supreme Court of Judicature, and if this is to be a decision of the High Court, there should be at least some provision as to what appeal there can be from that decision. May I try and explain the sort of effect of this Clause to a lay mind, without any legal prejudice or any question of what one feels from having been concerned in proceedings before the Courts in the past? Here you get Parliament passing a law, and one of the first necessities of good legislation is that, so far as possible, it should be clear, definite and beyond doubt.
Parliament now proposes to pass a law which enables the Executive Government to do certain things. The Executive Government come to the conclusion that they are not quite sure whether they may do a certain thing. It has been a healthy part of the proceedings of this country in the past that when the Executive Government have been in doubt, they have had to make up their own mind and to so at their own risk, and if they do something which the subject considers is not within their power, the subject has his recourse to the Courts. On many occasions within my lifetime subjects have had such recourse to the Courts, and in many cases they have succeeded; notably, one may mention a certain yellow paper known as Form IV. Now it is proposed that the Executive Government are to do something which, if one may use 119 schoolboy language, is like sneaking. They are to go privately to the Court and ask the Court to give an opinion such as they wish to have, without any person who is affected by it being necessarily before that Court, putting the case in their own words, and by that means forging what I should describe as a most dishonourable weapon, in order to bully a subject of this country and deprive, him of his ordinary access to the Courts.
If my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is going to say that this is not going to be a decision which is obtained in a sneaking and underhand manner, without hearing the parties in question, of course, the Court has power to hear parties, but I would call his attention to what was said by my hon. and learned Friend just now. The Court may hear such parties as it may choose. How is it to choose, how is it to know the party who ought to be heard, and what guarantee is there that the High Court will choose to hear the party who is really the person most affected? Even if the person most affected does come before the Court in this way, why is he to be dragged there at the instance of an Executive otherwise than under the ordinary procedure in litigation in this country? Why is he to be dragged there in such a way that, however successful he may be, he may not get the ordinary verdict with regard to costs, hut may be left merely with the Central Valuation Committee, in their omniscience and omnipotence, to contribute whatever they may think fit towards his costs? I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider this. I do not want to hold out any threats to him on an occasion of this kind, but if we go to a Division, and he puts the Government Whips on, when the matter has been discussed in a small House of this kind, and we divide against him, we may be very few in numbers, but we shall at least draw attention to this particular Clause in another place, for which some of us may thank God.
The House seems to have resolved itself into a committee of lawyers, but, although not a lawyer myself, I have no fears in rising to defend the Clause which has been attacked, because my hon. and learned Friends have, I think, misunderstood the 120 real purpose of the Clause and the real effect of carrying it into operation. I had best begin by explaining once again to the House what is the object of the Clause which excites so much suspicion and anxiety on the part of my hon. and learned Friends. This is not a question of dragging unwilling litigants into a Court of law; this is a Clause which has been introduced into this Bill at the urgent request of the Central Valuation Committee.
I do not understand the point of that observation, because the Central Valuation Committee, after all, have no axes of their own to grind. Their sole purpose is to carry out the function with which they have been entrusted by Parliament, and their function is to endeavour to secure uniformity of valuation throughout the country. They have been at work for some little time—over a year—and they have come across one serious difficulty in their task, and that is that different interpretations have been put upon certain existing points of law, and there has been no method by which they could get a binding and final decision upon the true interpretation. It arises in this way: The appeal from the assessment committee lies to Quarter Sessions. There is, of course, an appeal from Quarter Sessions to the High Court, but in the sort of case which the Central Valuation Committee has in mind in asking to have this Clause inserted, the irterests at stake are not sufficiently high to induce those who have appealed from the assessment committee to Quarter Sessions to carry the appeal further. Consequently, the only decisions that have been made are decisions of the Quarter Sessions, and the decisions of one Quarter Sessions are not binding upon any other.
It is because it is important to get a definite authority and a binding decision, which shall be a guide to valuation and assessment committees throughout the country, that this Clause is inserted. I have listened to the speeches that have been made, advocating that this Clause should be withdrawn, but I confess that I have derived very little information from them as to what harm hon. and learned Members think the Clause is 121 going to do. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) began by saying that this was an absolutely new procedure, and he was rash enough to say that he did not think I could have taken legal advice upon it. I am glad to be able to inform him that I have taken legal advice, and that I have had the advantage of the assistance of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General in drafting the Clause. Furthermore, as was pointed out by the hon. and learned Member far Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler) there is a precedent. This is not an absolutely new procedure. There was a precedent in the Act of 1888, another in the Act of 1894, and another in a third Act, which, if I remember aright, is the Act of 1899.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain this more fully? He has said there were Advisory Committees set up under the Act of 1888——
The precedent is for asking a High Court to give an opinion on points submitted to it.
I will read the Section. It is Section 29 of the Local Government Act, 1888:If any question arises, or is about to arise"—so that it does not deal only with cases that had actually arisen—as to whether any business, power, duty, or liability is or not transferred to any county council or joint committee under this Act, that question …. may, on the application of a chairman of quarter sessions, or of the county council, committee, or other local authority concerned, be submitted for decision to the High Court of Justice. …As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill, we do not depend entirely upon precedent, but we give precedents to show that the thing is not new, as hon. Members apparently thought it was. But I submit to the House that what we have to decide is not whether there is a 122 precedent, but whether the thing we propose is justifiable in itself. I was astonished to hear one hon. and learned Member say that no one can be bound by the opinion of the High Court. Does my hon. and learned Friend say that people who have not actually appeared before the Court are not bound by the decision of the Court?
§ Sir G. HOHLER
Only to this extent, that one Judge follows the decision of another Judge, but then, of course, you have the right of appeal. Supposing that I am a litigant, and that a decision has been given and I complain that it is wrong, I have got to go to the Court of Appeal before I can get it put right, and then I am bound, if it is my personal lawsuit.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
You cannot argue it; this opinion could not be used to support a plea of res judicata against any person not party to the proceedings. That is what is meant by being bound by a decision. Anybody whose rights are affected by this opinion will have the, right to re-argue the matter before the Court, and that Court would not necessarily be bound to accept the opinion of the High Court obtained under this Section. A Judge is bound by a decision of the Court of Appeal, but not by a decision of another Judge of first instance. Indeed, Judges frequently differ one from another.
It is clear that the opinion of the High Court does not in the least prevent somebody else taking a case, first to the Quarter Sessions, then to the High Court, then to the Appeal Court, and finally to the House of Lords if he chooses, and, of course, the Courts would not be bound by the opinion given by the High Court when a case is stated by the Minister. That, surely, destroys altogether any grievance which has been suggested by hon. and learned Members that the right of appeal is destroyed by this Clause. It is not at all. But if nobody's interests are so vitally affected that he chooses to carry a fresh case up to the High Court, and even above it, then the decision of the High Court stands, and it is just because there are so many cases never carried up to the High Court, that it is found desirable to settle this dubious point in a way that 123 means the least expenditure of money, friction, trouble and waste of time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) spoke of the Central Valuation Committee going to the Court and trying to get their particular views established. There, again, I think that that description is founded upon a wrong impression. You must not think of the Central Valuation Committee as trying to get one particular point of view established. What the Committee are concerned with is to get a point of view established. They may have their own views as to what is the correct one. They can put those views to the Court, but unless they can get contrary views equally well argued before the Court, they will not have established that finality in the matter which it is their object to achieve; it is, therefore, in their own interests to see that a case is properly argued, and that the decision may be considered by all parties as final. It is stated that in this Clause there is no assurance that parties who may be interested in a particular point which is being put up will have an opportunity of being heard. I have been in communication with the Central Valuation Committee on that point, and they have given me three definite assurances—first of all, that when they are thinking of asking the Minister to bring before the High Court any particular points for decision, they will consult the Associations which are interested in the matter, and bring to their notice the fact that they are intending to make this request; secondly, they assure me that they will consult these Associations as to the terms in which the matter shall be submitted; thirdly, that in making any representations under this Sub-section to the Minister, the Committee will endeavour to satisfy the Minister that they have not left out of consideration any association or body who may properly be regarded as being interested in the matter.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
Will the right hon. Gentleman say if he proposes to make those assurances compulsory and binding upon them by amending this Clause in any way?
If my hon. and learned Friend thinks that the insertion 124 of specific words in the Clause would make it more acceptable to him, and if he thinks it would make the Clause more certain to operate in the direction in which we intend it to operate, I am quite prepared to move an Amendment in order to put in some such words.
§ Mr. HERBERT
Personally, I do not think anything of the kind, but I asked the question with a view to drawing the attention of the House to what is, at any rate my opinion, that the assurances are not of very great value to us.
§ Mr. RYE rose——
My hon. and learned Friend is not encouraging me to try to meet him in this matter. I was quite prepared to put in some words which I thought might make the assurances which I have conveyed to the House more binding than, perhaps, they might be considered to be if they were merely embodied in the, speech of the Minister. If my hon. and learned Friend does not think it is going to help him, I do not think the House need be asked to consider an Amendment of that kind. I think I have shown, first of all, that there is a good reason for asking that this Clause should be inserted; secondly, that there are precedents for the granting of the powers now asked for; and, thirdly, that no substantial grievance can be felt by any parties about a procedure which is intended, and I believe will work, to save them trouble and expense. Therefore I hope the House will now be prepared to accept the Clause.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I confess that I am a little disappointed that when we who practise, however indifferently, in the law, take the trouble to come down here to try to improve a Clause which we believe will prove to be impracticable, we should be twitted by the right hon. Gentleman about, being lawyers. We are interested in the matter, which is essentially a question of legal practice. I should have thought it was the duty of any person who is at all acquainted with the way in which the Courts work, and the difficulties with which they have to contend, to come down and point out to the Minister what in his view is the fatal objection to this 125 Clause. The right hon. Gentleman has now heard the unanimous opinion of the Law Society, he has heard the opinion of several of His Majesty's counsel learned in the law, and he will now hear the the least of that latter grade of practitioners, who entirely agrees with the views which have been expressed from the other side, that this Clause really is a very great blemish upon this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must really take our objections seriously. There really is a matter of principle at stake in this Clause. It appears now, after some talk about precedents, that the only precedent, alleged precedent, namely the power of reference under the Local Government Act, 1888, with regard to the transference and certain functions of Quarter Sessions was a case entirely different from the case now under consideration.
I am not for one moment saying that the Legislature was wise in inserting even there a power to go to the High Court for an opinion, but, as I understand it, the Court was to be consulted about a specific question, about a specific transference of a specific duty under a specific Act. This Clause, in which an Advisory Committee are asking for an opinion in the air, can scarcely be likened to a case where the parties are actually concerned with the specific transference of a specific duty. It now appears that there really is no precedent at all, and, indeed, when we conic to look into the matter, it is not very surprising. Very little reference so far has been made to this Central Valuation Committee, which is to seek the opinion of the High Court. Its functions and its constitution are described in Section 57 of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. We find that it is a body advisory in character, which is toTake into consideration the operation of this Act, and shall give to the Minister such information and make to him such representations in respect thereto as they may consider desirable for promoting uniformity and removing inequalities in the system of valuation.Let the House be clear about that. The body with which we are concerned is not going to perform any executive functions at all. It is itself merely an advisory body. This body, which is merely advisory, if it comes to the conclusion that a substantial question of law has arisen on valuation, may, instead of 126 letting that question of law be determined in the normal and ordinary way, through the normal channels of the Courts, apply to the Courts for a statement of the law. In the ordinary way facts are found in a specific case, they go to Quarter Sessions, a case is stated, and the normal procedure of the law as it has existed for the last 100, 200 or 300 years, is followed, that is to say, a Court of Law, with Judges fitted to deal with the matter, having before them certain facts, apply the law to the facts and come to a particular conclusion.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I am going to deal with that. It is an amazing proposition, and I will deal now with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. What if they do not go to the High Court? How far is this idea to be carried? Is it to be suggested that whenever there is any doubt which perplexes any Government Department or even some amorphous body advising a Government Department, and certain individuals do not go to the Courts, that we are going to set up a new system of jurisprudence. Is this the forerunner of general applications by the War Office, the Admiralty, the right hon. Gentleman's own Department, and the Treasury whenever they cannot get two litigants to litigate, to ask the Courts for an opinion? It is because of the novelty of the whole theory of this matter that we are pressing this point to-night. This is something entirely new and, we believe, entirely objectionable. Because the litigants in a particular case do not contest the matter, this Advisory Committee, which is not even a body hearing appeals itself. but is merely to advise the Minister, is to be given power to go to the High Court to ask for its advice. Advice on what?
Let us take the case of specific persons who complain of the assessment made upon them, or of some incident in the valuation. Is that point to be brought to the Court as a specific matter, or is this Central Advisory Committee itself to invent a difficulty and then ask the High Court what it means? About what is its opinion to be sought? It is not to be an opinion about a specific problem arising between two litigants, because 127 there are no litigants. We want to know, and I think the Judges of the High Court will want to know, on what is their opinion to be expressed. The Courts have always declined to give opinions unless they are based on specific facts. I exclude myself, but there are some hon. Members present who know more about this particular matter even than the right hon. Gentleman himself, and suggest that he should ask any lawyer in this House or in another place—because he will certainly be told there what they think about this Clause, even if we cannot prevail here—what is the fundamental basis on which all adjudication proceeds. He will be told that the Courts have always declined to express an opinion on a matter of theory and generality, and have always based their decisions on a concrete question of fact. Although the machinery of the Courts to-day under Order 25 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, provide that a declaration as to rights may, in fact, be made in certain cases, the Courts will never grant such a declaration "in the air," but will only grant it in concrete cases, where concrete rights are in issue. The right hon. Gentleman has come here to-night and asked the House to agree to something which is entirely novel, and, as we believe, entirely vicious. The High Court is to be asked for an opinion by this advisory body.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
No, the Minister asks on the petition of the advisory body. I will read the words:If on the representation of the Central Valuation Committee it is made to appear to the Minister of Health that a substantial question of law has arisen, the Minister may submit a question.Clearly, the Minister cannot act upon his own motion until the Central Valuation Committee have satisfied themselves on the point. With every respect for the right hon. Gentleman, in such a case he will be merely a go-between. Let us assume that the Minister goes to the High Court, and that he goes there because the Central Valuation Committee have asked that an opinion on a certain point shall be obtained. What he is really doing is going to the Court to ask for something in the form of a thesis 128 like those which used to be drawn up in the Middle Ages. I can imagine some of our Judges with a case of this kind before them. They will at once say to the Minister, "What are we to say in regard to this application? Where are the facts?—Where is the case stated upon which we have always been taught to base our opinions. There is no material here upon which we can proceed."
Whatever reasons may have induced hon. Members to compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon this Clause, I can imagine what some of the Judges of the High Courts will say when they come to interpret it. Suppose they are asked to give an opinion on an abstract proposition such as will be raised under this Clause. Supposing a litigant does move and proceeds in a recognised way and takes a specific case to the High Court to get an opinion on the facts. Supposing that decision does not agree with the legal opinion first given to the Minister through the Central Advisory Committee. Just observe the confusion in which the Minister will find himself. The High Court has given a certain view of the law. In another case, the High Court, acting on facts, may possibly give a different opinion upon different facts. Which of those decisions is going to be considered as valid by the Minister? It may be that, instead of the litigant following the general practice, the question will work the other way about. The litigant may start first, get his decision in the High Court, and possibly the Minister may not like that decision. I would like to know whether under those circumstances the Central Valuation Committee could then ask the Minister to get another decision which would over-ride the opinion obtained by a particular litigant. If the Minister acted strictly in regard to these matters, he would probably deprive the litigant of his right if the appeal is to be made through the Courts under the ordinary procedure of the law. The two decisions I have mentioned are completely unrelated to each other. It is said that the litigant may proceed to the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords, but apparently there would be no appeal under this Clause beyond the High Court, because the Judicature Act which gives the right to go to the Court 129 of Appeal in ordinary cases would not apply. Therefore, the final opinion would be in the High Court, although another opinion might be obtained by an individual litigant which might go to the House of Lords.
Does the Minister of Health or the Central Valuation Committee think they are going to be assisted by such a Clause as this? As so often happens, this is a case where we lawyers are the watchdogs of the liberty of the subject against the Government. Is it not obvious that this Clause has not been properly thought out? There are other minor reasons for coming to the same conclusion. For example, the Minister has forgotten the ordinary rules regulating these cases. Supposing you want to go to the High Court, this Clause does not say how you are to get there. The Minister of Health must know that to give a right of access to legal tribunals there must exist the necessary machinery. It is obvious that the ordinary rules of the Courts dealing with litigation between party and party cannot apply in cases under this Clause. I look in vain for any power in this Bill to make Rules of Court. I doubt whether there is any method provided by which they can get to the High Court at all. Has the Minister to proceed by writ or summons, or by motion? How does he get to the Court at all? We do not know, and I do not think the Minister of Health knows. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say he may submit the question to the High Court, but he does not say by what machinery or by what method this can be done. Where are the rights of opponents to the Minister's contention safeguarded? For these reasons, I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), which will give him an opportunity of looking into the matter again. Otherwise, probably we may be able to persuade those in another place to reject this Clause. I hope the Government will not use the machinery of the Party Whips to pass an unintelligible and vicious; Clause of this kind, which most hon. Members do not understand. I hope the Clause will not be forced through the House because somebody in a Government Department thinks it would 130 be convenient for the Minister or Advisory Committee to have powers which it lacks at present, without regard to the rights of the subject.
§ Mr. WITHERS
I support this Amendment, because I believe this particular Clause is entirely unnecessary. There is no reason whatever why these cases of law and practice should not be decided in the ordinary way. If the Minister of Health would provide that the Central Valuation Committee should bear the expense of getting these test cases decided I might support such a proposal. The Clause as it stands is an innovation; it is unnecessary and is a very great mistake. Suppose it is applied to other questions? Take, for example, taxation. Are we going to have the Treasury applying to the High Court for directions as to how they are to apply their taxes under the Statute? I think hon. Members will agree that such a course would be a gross interference with the liberty of the subject. Everybody ought to be entitled to go freely before the Courts and get justice. The same argument would apply to the Penal Statutes. Are we going to have people going to the Court and saying, "How are we to interpret. this penal Statute?" Is the House of Commons going to depute this right of making laws to a purely arbitrary decision without any question of fact being argued on one side or the other? The thing has only to be stated to be shown to be ridiculous, and I shall certainly oppose the Clause.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
I must confess to a good deal of diffidence in rising to address the House on this subject after six or seven legal Members have expressed their opinions. I sympathise with the object of this proposal. We all know that in the past it has been difficult to know how a particular point of rating would be treated by the Courts, because cases arise in connection with very small matters, and go, perhaps, as far as the Court of Quarter Sessions, but it is very rarely that litigants care to take the matter further. The consequence is that you get no real body of law, and no help on any of these matters. For instance, the difficulties owing to the great variety of practice in different parts of the country with regard to the rating of machinery have been largely due to the 131 fact that there has been no method by which a decision by a Court of Law could be obtained.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
Surely, my hon. Friend is aware that several cases have been taken to the House of Lords?
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
I am not speaking of individual cases, but there have been tremendous variations in the way in which machinery has been dealt with, and, although cases have gone to the House of Lords, that does not mean that all the points that may arise have gone to the House of Lords. I am not sure that I entirely agree with the Government that the method they have adopted would, as it stands, produce the desired effect of getting a really valuable judgment in some of these cases. It is almost a pity that this matter has been argued on the root-and-branch Amendment which we are now discussing. I wish it could have been taken on one or other of the Amendments which follow. It, seems to me to be very unfortunate that the only body that can start an inquiry of this kind should be the Central Valuation Committee. I do not see why the power of initiation, at any rate so far as going to the Ministry is concerned, should not have been given to other parties or organisations, so that the matter might be set going, not by this bureaucratic body alone, but by any party who may be interested.
In the second place, I do not think you are likely to get absolute justice or really sound, valuable judgments with the provisions as they stand in this proposal with regard to costs. If it is left entirely to the ipse dixit of the Central Valuation Committee, without any appeal either to the Minister or to a Court of Law, I think it will very rarely be found that a person with some real knowledge of the point at issue will undertake the starting of litigation and incur the costs, unless he knows that he is going to get proper assistance with regard to costs. Unless the Clause is amended to some extent, it will not have the result that is desired by the Ministry. It would have been more satisfactory if the Minister could have started the discussion on this root-and-branch Amendment with a statement that he was going to meet these points, in addition to those to which he has 132 referred already. I was rather sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) did not close with the Minister when he had the chance of getting something of that kind settled, but I hope it will be taken into account. If, when the Parliamentary Secretary comes to reply, he says that he is going to meet these different points at a later stage, I shall vote with the Government, but, if he cannot give me that assurance, I must reserve my right to take other action.
§ Mr. RYE
I rise to support the Amendment, because I have consistently objected to this Clause, both on the Second Reading and in Committee. I do not think that the Clause is required or is reasonable. It certainly cannot be reasonable when there is no assurance beyond the pious statement of the Central Valuation Committee that they will bring interested parties into the proceedings. I should like to ask the Minister how the Central Valuation Committee can possibly bind their successors. It is true that the Committee for the time being may act up to all their assurances and promises, and bring into the proceedings a third party who may be interested and concerned; but what about the Central Valuation Committee 10 years hence? They may not think the same, and may not consider it necessary to bring other interested parties into the proceedings. I would ask the Minister to consider that point, and also to tell me where the costs are coming from. There is a reference here to the Central Valuation Committee having the right at their option, if they think fit, to contribute towards the costs of the parties who have been before the Court to argue to the contrary. I confess that I have forgotten certain of the Clauses in that very long Measure, the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, but I have no recollection of any Clause which provides the necessary funds out of which the Committee could pay any costs. Assuming, however, that they have that power, and assuming that there are funds out of which to pay costs, surely, in common justice, anyone who appears in these proceedings to argue to the contrary should have his or her costs as a matter of right, and not as a matter of discretion or option or sweet will on the part of the Central Valuation Committee.
133 One of my fundamental objections to this Clause is that there is nothing making it obligatory on the Minister to bring any interested party into these proceedings, and, in the absence of some person who would be affected, a decision may be given on facts which may not have been properly or adequately brought before the Court. That is manifestly unfair, and on that ground alone I respectfully suggest to the House that this Amendment ought to be supported. I do not think that there is any precedent, and I respectfully differ from the Parliamentary Secretary on that point. I would like to ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary if they have considered the decision in the case of the Cardigan County Council where, on a question of by-laws—I think I am stating this correctly—they were in doubt as to the effect of certain by-laws and went to the Court for a decision. Mr. Danckwerts, who was a very well known and talented gentleman of great persuasive powers, addressed the Court, but the Court would have nothing, to do with his submission. The Judge said that he was there not to deal with abstract questions, but with questions of fact which had arisen and upon which they had come to ask his decision; and the Cardigan County Council were kicked out of Court and no order was made as regards costs.
What is going to happen to the right hon. Gentleman if he gets this Clause and it becomes part of an Act of Parliament? Suppose that the same thing happens as in the case of the Cardigan County Council, and the Judge says: "Abstract questions! I am not concerned with these; you all go away again, you and your Central Valuation Committee"; and possibly he may say also—it would be a dreadful possibility—"Some of you who have come here will have to pay out of your own pockets the costs of the person whom you have brought here." That would be a dreadful possibility, particularly if the order were made against the right hon. Gentleman himself. I do not know how near we shall get to that pleasing possibility, but, if we do reach it, I suggest that we shall not have so many of these novel proposals put before the House of Commons. I suggest, further, that when a large body of persons who make their living by the law, and, presumably, know something about 134 it, tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong, on another occasion he may consider there is something in what they say, and he may not be quite so unbending as he is now.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Withers) described the Clause as unnecessary. I will not go quite so far as that, because I think I understand what the Minister has in mind in asking for these powers, but, while I do not think it is unnecessary, I think it is very impracticable. The Minister is involving himself in difficulties which really he need not bring upon himself if he would only take time to reconsider the Clause. At present, it is really unsatisfactory. In the first place, the Minister cannot move at all unless representations are made to him by the Central Valuation Committee. The Central Valuation Committee must not only make representations to him, but those representations must be such that. they will have the effect thatit is made to appear to the Minister.That is rather a novel phrase to use, that something is going to be done by a committee, the result of which is thatit is made to appear to the Minister … that a substantial question of law has arisen.That is a very unsatisfactory state in which to leave it. I do not think it is right to leave the matter in such a state that first of all the Minister has to be satisfied, and satisfied merely on representations made to him by one interested party to the proceedings, namely, the Central Valuation Committee. Then it is equally vague in the last passage, where it says:The High Court, after hearing such parties as it thinks proper.There is no provision at all, as far as I can see, as to how you are to get to the High Court, to begin with. Are there any Regulations, or is there any power in the Ministry to make Regulations, whereby they or anyone else can go to the Court and ask for a vague declaration on a statement of alleged facts? The right hon. Gentleman is introducing something into an Act of Parliament which would make it the subject of ridicule.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The speech we have just heard was not directed to the 135 deletion of the Clause but was a criticism as to whether it will be operative or not. The question before the House is whether the Clause shall be deleted. Later on, we shall have to discuss certain Amendments which raise certain points which have been referred to. I can assure the hon. Member that if the procedure in this Clause is not sufficient, and it is necessary to insert an Amendment incorporating powers to make rules, that shall be done. I do not think anyone need feel any misgiving that if the Minister states a case the court will not consider it, and I do not propose to devote any time to the suggestion of my hon. Friend behind me, that if the Minister goes to the Court the Court will turn the parties away and will have nothing to do with it. I do not think that is worthy of consideration at this time. The real issue that the House has to face is this. Anyone who has had any experience of present conditions in connection with rating and valuation, must be aware that they are unsatisfactory. I can speak from my own knowledge of certain instances where there are differing interpretations, in some cases by assessment committees and in others by quarter sessions, and where, owing to the cost involved, the parties concerned are not prepared to take the case further and incur the considerable expense of solicitors, counsel and King's Counsel which would be involved. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) has spoken about people not having any knowledge of the matter. Anyone who has any knowledge of the present conditions as regards rating and valuation knows that that is the state of affairs at present, and that is the state of affairs which we are seeking to remedy in this Clause, namely, that in a very large number of cases which from time to time arise, it is not worth the cost of taking an expensive case against the Assessment Committee, who may take it to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords and expect the parties to bear the expense that may be involved. That is the issue the House has to face. This Clause, though it may not be satisfactory to all those engaged in the legal profession, is a satisfactory, cheap, and convenient means, which will not put the people in- 136 volved to considerable cost but will get principles of law quickly and easily decided. It is a scandal, in my opinion, that under the existing law it should have to depend on whether a man is prepared to go to all the cost of litigation and follow it up to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
An HON. MEMBER
May I point out that it is not the litigant under the Clause at all. He can never go to the Court except as a party to an action. It is the Committee, if the Minister approves.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am sorry to differ from my hon. Friend, but I do not agree with him at all. If a decision has been given by the High Court on a case stated by the Minister, it will be of great value to everyone concerned with the matter. I cannot conceive for a moment that the only people who are going to receive any assistance from the decision of the High Courts are the Assessment Committees. I do not know whether this is a matter that is causing any anxiety or trouble to any of my hon. and learned Friends, but in future when a decision is given by the Court on a case which has been stated by the Minister of Health, the people who are concerned in the matter will be able to read it. They will know the decision that has been given, and, in the light of that decision, they will decide whether they are going to embark upon expensive litigation or not. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite talked about the freedom of the subject. It reminded me of the days when he talked about the freedom of the subject in connection with the Trade Disputes Act and when he just as dogmatically laid down the law as he has done to-night, and with about as much success. There is no question of interfering with the freedom of the subject. If any person is not satisfied with the decision given by the High Court on a case stated by my right hon. Friend, he can say the decision is incorrect and can take it right up to the highest Court of the land.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. and learned Gentleman knows I was not making that suggestion. I was saying that if a person wants to go into litigation on an opinion 137 expressed by the Court on a case which has been stated by the Minister of Health, he is not bound by the decision, but he can pursue the matter and can go to the Court of Appeal and can say, "This decision of the Divisional Court does not apply to me; there is a different set of facts altogether," or, secondly, he can say the decision of the Divisional Court is wrong. It is perfectly ludicrous to suggest that the liberty of the subject is being interfered with in this way. The Courts are open to anybody, and anyone who is dissatisfied with any case which has been stated in this particular way, and with any decision which has been given, can go to the very highest Courts of the land and have the matter decided there. Therefore, it is not necessary to assume that there is some suggestion in this Clause that the liberty of the subject—these were the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman—is being interfered with——
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong on this occasion. The Courts are open to anyone. If it be said that a decision which has been given is wrong, every lawyer in this House knows that it can be tested still further.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I used to be a member of what is called the lower branch of the law, and it interests me to hear propositions put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley).
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
If my right hon. Friend speaks of a case being stated, he ought to know that a case stated is not stated by a litigant, but that it is stated by the Court.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite suggest that it was the Central Valuation Committee that was going to the Court.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
What I said was that the Minister was merely an instrument and could only act on representation from the Central Valuation Committee.
§ Sir K. WOOD
That was the second inaccuracy of the hon. and learned Gentleman, because if he looks at the Clause he will see that the Minister has to be satisfied that there is a substantial question of law.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
What I said was that the Minister cannot move unless the Central Valuation Committee make representation.
§ Sir K. WOOD
That is the third inaccuracy of the hon. and learned Member. He said that the Minister of Health was a mere instrument, and I am endeavouring to dispose of that suggestion. The Clause reads:If on the representation of the Central Valuation Committee it is made to appear to the Minister of Health that a substantial question of law has arisen.Therefore, the Central Valuation Committee cannot merely place a case before the Minister and say that it has to go to the Court. The Minister of Health has to be satisfied that a substantial question of law has arisen. Under the law at the present time questions of difficulty have arisen in which varying decisions have been given by Quarter Sessions. I suggest to the House that, without considering what is going to happen in another place, and matters of that kind which are not relevant, this is a very useful Clause by which a cheap and expeditious way is found of obtaining decisions upon matters of difficulty, and upon which contrary decisions have been arrived at at various Quarter Sessions. It will be extremely useful in that way. When we come to the question of amendments, and as to who are the parties, and matters of that sort, we will, of course, consider them on their merits. I will repeat the suggestion which my right hon. Friend made as regards the exact action which the Central Valuation Committee undertake in consulting with the principal associated bodies up and down the country.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Under the three heads. I know my hon. Friend is associated with 139 one of the principal bodies in that connection. An hon. Friend behind said. that it is no good the Central Valuation Committee giving that undertaking to-day; their personnel may be changed to-morrow. He has forgotten that the Central Valuation Committee have to come to my right hon. Friend and ask for a case to be stated. Whatever the personnel of the Committee may be for the time being, if the undertaking is given in the House of Commons——
§ Sir K. WOOD
My answer is that, although the personnel of the Committee may change, if an undertaking be given in this House, naturally, and quite properly, my right hon. Friend will see that it is properly observed in every case whatever the personnel of the Committee may be. We can deal with the question of costs when we come to the Amendments. We are dealing with the question as to whether the Clause shall be deleted or not.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I think it is my duty to point out that an Amendment which would impose additional cost on the ratepayers in some form or other is out of order on the Report stage.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Then I do not. propose to address myself to a matter which is out of order. Suggestions have been made for the first time that the Central Valuation Committee is a bureaucratic committee. What foundation is there for that statement? The Central Valuation Committee has been made up of representatives up and down the country who have taken a very large amount of interest and have worked very hard in connection with rating and valuation questions for many years. Why should they for a moment, because they are formed into a Committee, be termed bureaucratic? I have heard it said that people who have had experience of rating and valuation questions are the people whose opinions ought to be valued by this 140 House. It is purely at the request of the Central Valuation Committee that my right hon. Friend has adopted this proposal. They came to him and expressed very strongly the difficulty in which everybody found themselves in connection with a matter of this kind, as to how there were varying decisions and as to how it was difficult to promote uniformity, and pointed out that it was only right and just that there should be some decision on these particular matters, so that everybody could be treated fairly and justly. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend has inserted this Clause in the Bill, and I feel very strongly indeed that it will be a very useful addition to the Statute law and, at the same time, an easy, cheap and expeditious method of getting some of these matters settled.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
On a point of Order. I would like a ruling on the last part of this Clause, where provision is made thatThe Central Valuation Committee may, … if they think fit so to do, contribute such amount as they think proper towards the costs of any persons appearing, etc.The Bill does not say, as far as I can see, where those moneys are to come from. In the absence of some definite evidence that these costs are to be provided otherwise than out of moneys provided by Parliament, is not this a provision which requires a financial resolution?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That may be so, but that point ought to have been taken before. From my reading of the Clause, if they think fit to contribute towards such costs they would charge the amount on the ratepayers of the county. That would be the presumption. Of course, it might be possible for some ratepayer, later on, to take the point before the Courts, and, if the contribution was not explicitly provided for in the Bill, the Clause would lapse.
On the point of Order. May I explain that the funds at the disposal of the Central Valuation Committee are funds voluntarily supplied by various local authorities in the country, and all that this Clause provides is that if they think fit to contribute to certain costs out of these voluntarily provided funds, they may do so.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I have here the Section under which these funds are provided. I take it that this is the Section to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.Any rating authority, county valuation Committee or Assessment Committee may subject to the provisions of the scheme, make contributions towards the expenses of the Central Valuation Committee.Far from that being a case of moneys provided by the people who——
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member's point on the Clause is out of order now. I think the words in the Clause must stand.
§ Mr. HERBERT
Then I take your ruling to be that whatever there may be in my point, it is too late to raise it now?
§ Mr. HERBERT
In those circumstances, it merely means that the power to pay these costs will not exist.
§ Lieut.-Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
When you called the Parliamentary Secretary to order for trespassing rather too near a subsequent Amendment, I understood you to say that that Amendment, so far as it relates to costs, would be out of order. May I submit that if this power
§ is to remain in Sub-section (2), enabling the Central Valuation Committee to contribute towards the costs, it be in order to discuss the Amendments on the Paper which deal with that specific point, later on?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the whole point is the difference between "may" and "shall." I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that there is at the present time a fund which is voluntarily contributed, and the words of the Clause provide that contributions towards costs may be made out of that fund. The Amendment on the Paper says that contributions shall be made out of that fund. Possibly such contributions might use up the fund, and in order to pay the contributions the county ratepayers would have to be resorted to. What the right hon. Gentleman put before me is a new point; but I think, on the face of it, that I have drawn a proper inference from the substitution of the word "shall" for the word "may."
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, down to the word 'it' in line 41, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 258 Noes, 34.143
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[9.20 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Flelden, E. B.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Finburgh, S.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cape, Thomas||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Carver, Major W. H.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Forrest, W.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent"l)||Charleton, H. C.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W. Derby)||Christle, J. A.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Clayton, G. C.||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cluse, W. S.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Baker, Walter||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gault, Lieut-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Glbbins, Joseph|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Colman, N. C. D.||Gillett, George M.|
|Barnes, A.||Connolly, M.||Grace, John|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greenall, T.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cope, Major William||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bennett, A. J.||Couper, J. B.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Berry, Sir George||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Grotrlan, H. Brent|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Crawfurd, H. E.||Groves, T.|
|Bird, E. R (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hacking, Douglas H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Davies, MaJ. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Hamilton, Sir George|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hanbury, C.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Dixey, A. C.||Hardle, George D.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Drewe, C.||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Broad, F. A.||Duncan, C.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R||Dunnico, H.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd. Hexham)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf"d,Henley)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||England, Colonel A.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-g.-M.)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Burman, J. B.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Hilton, Cecil|
|Hirst, G. H.||Montague, Frederick||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smithers, Waidron|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Snell, Harry|
|Hopkins, J. W. W||Murnin, H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Stanley, Lieut-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'l'nd, Whiteh"n)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Oakley, T.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Palin, John Henry||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Paling, W.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Penny, Frederick George||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Perring, William George||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchall|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Kelly, W. T.||Philipson, Mabel||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Pilcher, G.||Townend, A. E.|
|Kennedy, T.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Ponsonby, Arthur||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Kirkwood, D.||Potts,John S.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Preston, William||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Lansbury, George||Raine, Sir Walter||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Lee, F.||Ramsden, E.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Warrender, Sir victor|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Remer, J. R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Rentoul, G. S.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Long, Major Eric||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Watson, W. M. (Duntermilne)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Rice, Sir Frederick||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Lougher, Lewis||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Riley, Ben||Welsh, J. C.|
|Luce, MaJ.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Ritson, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Lunn, William||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)||Whiteley, W.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Ropner, Major L.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mackinder, W.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wilson. R. J. (Jarrow)|
|McLean, Major A.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Scrymgeour, E.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Malone, C. L"Estrange (N'thampton)||Scurr, John||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Sexton, James||Wragg, Herbert|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Maxton, James||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Merriman, F. B.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Sitch, Charles H.||Captain Viscount Curzon and|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Atkinson, C.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Stamford, T. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Bromfield, William||Lawson, John James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Bromley, J.||Lowth, T.||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||March, S.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Compton, Joseph||Oliver, George Harold||Withers, John James|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wright, W.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Rye, F. G.||Sir Henry Cautley and Sir Malcolm|
|Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Macnaghten.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
§ Captain BOURNE
I beg to move, in page 3, line 41, after the word "Committee," to insert the words "or of any other body or person."
An offer was made by the Minister that he would insert in this Clause certain provisions making it obligatory on the Central Valuation Committee to consult such bodies as may be interested in this question. There are a good many
§ bodies of different sorts up and down the country which are very interested in the rating question. The question is a difficult one, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree it is in the interests of all parties to see that the decisions in the different parts of the country are uniform. I would, therefore, ask the Minister, in accordance with the offer which he made, to insert this provision.145
I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for his suggestion. I think the particular Amendment which he has put down would really not be effective in practice, because, after all, it is not only "any other body or person," but the Valuation Committee which is interested in uniformity of valuation. The purpose of the Clause, as I have already stated, is not to get established a particular uniformity but merely to get a decision on doubtful points. if we had power for any other bodies and persons to apply to the Minister as he suggests, what would happen would he that the Minister would simply refer the application to the Central Valuation Committee to get their views as to any substantial point of law which had in fact arisen. That being so, it would really come back to exactly the same procedure as in the Clause. In response to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's invitation, I am quite prepared to put in an Amendment which would meet the case that he has in mind. I think it would come in at the place we have now reached. Therefore, if my hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw his Amendment, I will move afterwards an Amendment in the sense indicated.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 41, after the word "Committee," to insert the wordsmade after consultation with such associations or bodies as appear to them to be concerned.These words follow the precedent in another Act, and I think will meet the case.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Would there be any safeguard so that all the associations concerned would be consulted? Obviously, they might consult the ratepayers' association and not a body representing the other side of the case, and would there be a guarantee that every type of body would be consulted?
A little earlier in the evening, before the hon. Member was in the House, I said I had every assurance from the Central Valuation 146 Committee that they would consult all the associations which were concerned and that they would satisfy the Minister that they had not missed out anybody. I may add that, as far as I am concerned as Minister, I certainly should not be satisfied unless the Central Valuation Committee were able to assure me that in fact no association or body, on any point of law, had been omitted from the consultation.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. RYE:
In page 4, line 7, at the end, to insert the words:
(2) For the purposes of such proceedings the Minister shall appoint some person or persons, corporation, or association to appear on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention, and the person, persons, or corporation or association so appointed shall have the same rights of appeal from any judgment or order made thereat as would have existed had the hearing been the trial of an action between the parties. All the costs, both party and party and solicitor and client, of the person or persons, corporation or association so appearing as aforesaid at the hearing or on appeal shall be paid by the County Valuation Committee.
(3)Any person or persons, corporation, or association claiming to be interested in any such hearing or in any appeal therefrom shall be entitled. but at their own expense, to appear and be heard on the hearing or on any appeal.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Rye) is, as I have indicated, not in order.
§ Mr. RYE
May I ask for a ruling as to whether the Amendment would be in order if I eliminated the words after the word "parties" in line 6 to the end of Sub-section (2)? I understand there is a technical objection to this Amendment on the ground that it would impose financial burdens on the ratepayers. If that be so, I suggest that by eliminating all reference to the cost, the first part would be in order, and so also would be Sub-section (3).
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think it would be in order. The objection to the Amendment as it stands is that it puts a charge on the rates, which is not in order on Report stage.If the last 147 sentence of Sub-section (2) was cut out, that objection would no longer hold good.
§ Mr. RYE
I beg to move, in page 4, line 7, at the end, to insert the words:(2) For the purposes of such proceedings the Minister shall appoint some person or persons, corporation, or association to appear on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention, and the person, persons, or corporation or association so appointed shall have the same rights of appeal from any judgment or order made thereat as would have existed had the hearing been the trial of an action between the parties.(3) Any person or persons, corporation, or association claiming to be interested in any such hearing or in any appeal therefrom shall be entitled, but at their own expense, to appear and he heard on the hearing or on any appeal.I wish to ensure that some persons representing ratepayers who will be affected by any intended decision of the Court should have the right to be parties to the proceedings. As the Clause is drawn there is no certainty that such persons will have any such right, and although the Minister of Health has stated that the Central Valuation Committee have to give him assurances, and that as long as he is Minister of Health, which I hope may be for the next 20 years, he will see that any interested parties are joined as respondents, I suggest that it would be far more satisfactory to the ratepayers if it was made obligatory on the Minister to appoint some person or persons, corporation or association, to appear on the hearing "for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment in view of what he said in the Committee stage. In column 12 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, when he was dealing with objections I had taken to Clause 4, he made the following statement:What the Central Valuation Committee are concerned to do is to get a final ruling. Unless the case has been properly argued there will be, obviously, no satisfaction that it has been finally settled, and the object of the Central Valuation Committee will not be achieved. Therefore, I think he may take it that they will take whatever steps may be necessary and are in their power to take to see that the High Court before pronouncing upon a case stated by the Minister, has all the relevant facts and arguments before it. For that purpose they will take 148 care that the contention opposed to that which they themselves favour is specially represented, and if necessary they will pay the costs or contribute to the costs of the person appearing to support that view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing, Committee O), 8th March, 1928; col. 12.]If that was the right hon. Gentleman's view on the Committee, I feel sure that it is his view now. If it was his desire that some persons should be joined in the proceedings for the expressed purposes of arguing the contrary contention, I hope he will see his way to accept the Amendment. It would then be obligatory on the Minister to appoint come person or persons, corporation or association to appear in the proceedings, and unless that is put into the Bill, the position, from the point of view of the ratepayers. would not be satisfactory.
§ Mr. G. HARVEY
I beg to second the Amendment
I have listened with considerable interest to the various remarks of lawyers on all sides of the House, and I take it that the answer made by the Minister to the hon. and learned Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) means that he is prepared to make some concession The Amendment seems to me to meet the suggestions that have been made already.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The Amendment of the hon. Member deals with the Sub-section of this Clause which sets out the procedure to be adopted when the Minister of Health is agreed that a case should be stated on a substantial question of law for the consideration of the Court.
In Sub-section (2) it is set forth that the Central Valuation Committee may appear for the purpose of supporting any contention with respect to the question at issue and it goes on to say—theymay, if they think lit so to do, contribute such amount as they think proper towards the costs of any persons appearing on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention.This is not so much an issue to be fought out between parties as to obtain the opinion of the Court upon a substantial question of law, and it is provided that the Central Valuation Committee, whose funds are purely voluntary, may, if they think fit, contribute to the costs of any person they may desire to appear before 149 the Court to argue the contrary contention. The hon. Member suggests in his Amendment that:For the purposes of such proceedings the Minister shall appoint some person or persons, corporation, or association to appear on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention, and the person, persons, or corporation or association so appointed shall have the same rights of appeal from any judgment or order made thereat as would have existed had the hearing been the trial of an action between the parties.In other words, my right hon. Friend is to appoint some body to appear and argue the contrary contention. Who is going to pay the costs? My right hon. Friend may say to the association of which the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Rye) is so distinguished an ornament, "I will appoint you," and the case may go right to appeal and to the House of Lords. It is quite impossible for the Minister to appoint some body or persons to appear in an action like this and make no provision for their costs. It is quite impossible to proceed on those lines. Any association or person may say, "It is all very well for you to appoint me, but what about my costs?" They may say, "You are a fine Minister of Health to suggest that I should appear, but I must absolutely decline if you do not make any provision for my costs." I am afraid the suggestion is impracticable.
§ Mr. RYE
That is perfectly true, but on the other hand, Sub-section (2) of the Clause stands; and under that Sub-section, the Central Valuation Committee may, if they think fit,contribute such amount as they may think proper towards the costs of any persons appearing on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention.It seems to me inconceivable that if the Minister has appointed some person or corporation, and that person or corporation has undertaken the burden, the Central Valuation Committee——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
An hon. Member who moves an Amendment is entitled to make a second speech on the Report stage.
§ Mr. RYE
I shall not delay the House much longer. I merely emphasise the fact that it does lie within the province of the Central Valuation Committee to pay costs. It is true that, for the purpose of bringing my Amendment into order, I struck out the reference to payment of costs, but that does not do away with the fact that the Central Valuation Committee has a perfect right to award costs out of the funds at its disposal. It is impossible for me to suppose that if the Minister appointed some one to argue to the contrary, and that person has appeared in Court, and put forward an argument, the Central Valuation Committee would turn round and say, "We are not going to contribute any costs." At all events it would be for the person concerned to decide whether he would undertake the duty. It might very well be that he would say, "I do not like the look of this. I might have to pay the costs, and I shall not take the risk." On the other hand, there are sportsmen in the world who would make a sporting venture. They might go to the Central Valuation Committee and say, "We take it from you as an honourable Committee that you will see us properly protected in the way of costs if we undertake this task." Therefore, I think that the bogy set up by the Parliamentary Secretary is not very formidable after all. At all events, I think the chance will be taken, and it does not make very much difference to my Amendment.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I think my hon. Friend might be satisfied with the Clause as it is now drawn, which says that the Central Valuation Committee have power to contribute to the costs. It does not say that the Committee shall pay all the costs. It may be that they would make a bargain with the people who appear on the other side, because they are limited as regards funds. Their resources are obtained by voluntary means. The whole case of the hon. Member is met in the way I have indicated, namely, that the Central Valuation Committee, whose only anxiety is not to contest the case but to get uniformity, have power to contribute such amount as they think proper towards the costs. I think that on examining the Clause, my hon. Friend will find all that he requires in Subsection (2).
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I shall support the Minister and oppose this Amendment, and my reason for doing so is the same reason as moved me on a previous occasion to oppose a new Clause. I object to these new and untried and, as I think, unsuitable innovations in our legal procedure. I have never heard of a case where a Minister or any other person, a party to any suit, can appoint some other person to act for him, as is suggested here. Suppose that the other person does not wish to act. I agree with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment that the Clause is very difficult to work and that he is trying to find some way out of the difficulty. He must agree, however, that to give to a Minister power to appoint someone else to argue a point of law which he may never want to argue at all cannot be a practicable way of dealing with the matter. Who are these persons, or corporations, or associations? Suppose that the Minister were to appoint the hon. Member—he is a person—to appear at a hearing for the purpose of supporting a contrary contention. Would he have to act or not? If he refused, would the Minister go to the Court for a mandamus to compel him to argue the contrary contention? The whole Amendment is quite impracticable, and, much as I dislike the whole Clause, I have a still stronger objection to these innovations in our legal procedure.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I believe that the next Amendment on the Paper, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne)—in page 4, line 11, to leave out the words "may, if they think fit so to do," and to insert instead thereof the wordsshall in any case in which a question is submitted to the High Court by the Minister under Sub-section (1) of this Section"—has been dealt with by my predecessor in the Chair.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Member. I understood it was ruled out of order because it would involve a charge.
§ Captain BOURNE
On a point of Order. I understand that the fund 152 referred to is raised entirely by voluntary subscriptions, and that if the fund were exhausted the Central Valuation Committee would have no power to make a charge on the ratepayers.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As there appears to be some doubt about it, the hon. and gallant Member must have the benefit of it.
§ Captain BOURNE
I beg to move, in page 4, line 11, to leave out the words, "may, if they think fit so to do," and to insert instead thereof the words:Shall in any case in which a question is submitted to the High Court by the Minister under Sub-section (1) of this Section.The object of this Amendment is to carry out or to make a little more clear the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary on the Second Reading of this Bill. My hon. Friend then said:By this means neither the ratepayer nor the authority is put to any expense.I understand that this Clause, on which we have had a great deal of discussion to-night, is intended to enable the Central Valuation Committee, if necessary, to put a test case up to the High Court. where that case involves a substantial point of law. Although we have heard a great many learned gentlemen, what we have heard has revealed extraordinary little experience of rating cases. A large proportion of rating cases refer to only small amounts. The total sums involved are not large, although the principles involved are very important. It is of great importance that in any such test case that is taken the unfortunate man who is concerned should be sure of receiving a contribution towards his costs. That is the point of the Amendment. It is to Quarter Sessions that most of these cases go. It is only the big cases, those of railways or factories, that go to the House of Lords or to the Court of Appeal, and in such cases the vast majority of ratepayers have no interest whatever. It is because I am anxious that the small man shall not be victimised in any form in going to a Court of Appeal that I move the Amendment.
If this Amendment were carried the Sub-section would read as follows: 153The Central Valuation Committee may appear as parties on the hearing of any such case for the purpose of supporting any contention with respect to the question at issue and shall in any case in which a question is submitted to the High Court by the Minister under Sub-section (1) of this Section contribute such amount towards the costs of any persons appearing on the hearing for the purpose of supporting the contrary contention as may be agreed between the Central Valuation Committee and the said persons or, as failing such agreement, may be determined by the High Court.I emphasise the word "shall," because it brings out the fact that the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend would impose upon the Central Valuation Committee a liability the limits of which they would be unable to foresee. My hon. and gallant Friend agrees, I think, that the result of his Amendment might be to bankrupt the Central Valuation Committee, who have no power to precept on any other body and are solely dependent for funds on voluntary sources. There is another alternative. The Central Valuation Committee might see what agreement they could make with any persons who might be desirous of supporting a view contrary to that which they were supporting. If they found that the expenses would be more than they could meet they would not be able to move at all and therefore the real result of the Amendment would be to limit the usefulness of the Clause. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover would allow me to remind him that any person appearing to support the contrary contention, where the Minister has stated a case for the decision of the Court, does not, if the decision of the Court goes against them, run any risk of having to carry the costs of the Central Valuation Committee. I suggest it would be a little unreasonable to say that at the same time you will protect him in the way suggested by the Amendment. I would point out that the Clause, as it stands, gives the Central Valuation Committee the power to make a contribution towards the costs of such parties as, in their opinion, should appear in order that the contrary contention may be properly put before the Court; and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that that is all we need trouble about in this Clause.
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
I fancy that the object of the Mover of the Amendment is to ensure that in this matter of costs 154 the question should not be left entirely to the Central Valuation Committee. Certainly it seems a little undesirable that no one else should have a say, first as to whether or not costs should be allowed at all, and, secondly, as to what the amount should be. I think the question which is raised in these Amendments is, whether or not the matter of costs should be subject to appeal to the High Courts. I can see that there are objections to that course because it might involve a liability vastly beyond the means of the Committee. I suggest that if he could provide for it there might be an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister himself. I have tried to see whether in this Bill the Minister takes any kind of control of this particular point, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should give consideration to the discovery of some means by which the Central Valuation Committee will not be the sole judge on this question of costs.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
While I cannot help admitting that mere is a good deal in what my right hon. Friend the Minister has just said in opposition to this Amendment, I think the discussion shows that this Sub-section as now drawn can hardly be regarded as satisfactory. One of the objects of the Mover of the Amendment is to secure that the awarding of these costs, or the making of a contribution towards these costs, should be, to some extent, at the discretion of the Court and not altogether in the hands of the Valuation Committee. I think the Minister ought to consider some alteration in the position at present contemplated which appears to be this—that the Central Valuation Committee may appear for the purpose of supporting a particular contention and, if they see fit, may contribute such amount as they think proper to the costs of the person who is supporting a contrary contention. If the Central Valuation Committee has to appear before a Court of Justice for the purpose of arguing one particular contention and somebody else has to appear to argue the opposite contention, it is a little unfortunate—to use no stronger word—that in regard to costs the fate of the person arguing against the Committee should depend solely upon his opponents.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I think we ought to press this matter further and ask the 155 Minister for a further explanation. As the last speaker has pointed out, the position now is that the Central Valuation Committee—who may be assumed to be the promoters of the issue—may, if they like, pay the costs of the party who, in substance, will be their opponent. Surely it would be more satisfactory if there is to be an issue knit between the Central Valuation Committee on the one side and somebody who is supporting the contrary contention on the other side, that the High Court should decide what the costs should be and how they are to be divided. As between the Minister and the Mover of the Amendment, the fact seems to emerge that the Clause in its present form is unworkable and without any principle whatever. If the right hon. Gentleman does not accept the Amendment surely he will redraft the Clause. At present there is no power to give costs to anybody. The question of course is not mentioned; all that the Clause says is that the Central Valuation Committee may, if they think proper, contribute towards the costs of the party supporting the opposite contention. But we do not know if there are going to be any costs. The costs of obtaining the opinion are not provided for at all; there are no rules of court dealing with the matter. It is not dealt with in the General rules, and the costs are not to abide the event. There is no discretion as to costs, and while the Clause will lead to confusion, I think the Amendment would make the confusion even worse.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman has disagreed with this proposal makes me feel more satisfied with the terms in which it is put before the House—having regard to the views which the hon. and learned Gentleman has expressed on other legal matters, including the Trade Unions Act. The facts of the present position under the Clause appear to be these. This is not a question of a test case between different parties; this is a case where the Central Valuation Committee, which has voluntary funds, is going to obtain the opinion of the Court under the terms of this Clause. They are permitted to raise a certain association or body to put the contrary view in the Court, but inasmuch as they only have voluntary funds, it would be 156 perfectly impossible to carry out the suggestion that the Court should award the costs and that the costs should be at the discretion of the Court. It might be that the Central Valuation Committee would not have sufficient funds at its disposal to meet any order which the Court made regarding costs.
Therefore, I suggest that the suggestion made in the Clause is a practical one, and I think it will be found in practice that it will be workable, because no doubt the Central Valuation Committee. when a case has been submitted to the High Court, will approach some of the principal associations, which will no doubt themselves be concerned in a matter of this kind and be prepared to make some contribution so as to enable parties to appear. Anyone who wants to appear can do so, at his own expense, of course, if the Court gives him leave so to do. I think the Clause is perfectly workable, and that in practice the object which is sought to be attained, namely, to get some decision on difficult questions of law, will be attained in this way, but if you begin to say that the Court shall order a certain amount for costs, and matters of that kind, you will get into great difficulties and may thus frustrate the intention of the Clause. Therefore, as most hon. Members who have spoken, at any rate, agree that the Amendment is not practicable, in the circumstances I suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend should withdraw it.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The Parliamentary Secretary said, so far as I followed him, that when a point of this sort was put to the High Court on the representation of the Central Valuation Committee, it was not a question as between two parties,,but surely all these questions are questions as between two parties. Points of law with regard to the valuation of hereditaments must surely affect the fortunes of persons affected by the decision, and, so far as I can understand, the decision is as to whether or not there has been adequate representation of the other point of view.
§ Amendment negatived.