§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, this Bill, which has conic up from another place, is an emergency Bill like many others which Parliament has passed since the beginning of the war, and, as your Lordships will see from the last clause, it is intended that the Bill shall have effect only during the continuance of the war and not exceeding twelve months thereafter. The Bill is designed to regularise action of doubtful legality that may have been taken by certain local authorities, and at the same time to effect, if possible, a considerable economy in money and labour in connection with local administration. If your Lordships will turn to Part I of the Bill, you will see that it deals with the financial arrangements necessary in cases where officers or servants of local authorities have joined the Colours or in other ways left their normal employment to undertake war work. In many cases local authorities agreed, at the time that their employees joined the Forces of the Crown, to supplement the amounts which they were hitherto in receipt of in respect of their work as municipal employees. This Bill legalises any payments made under such undertakings before a date to be fixed by the Local Government Board, and also any payments made after that date if they are within either the scale laid down in Clause 1 of the Bill or the scale applied by the Treasury to the case of Civil Servants on active service. It is further provided that in cases presenting special features of hardship the Local Government Board shall have power to sanction special rates of payment, unless they are altogether excessive, where they 754 are satisfied that it was upon reliance on an undertaking that he would receive payment at the special rate that the official volunteered for service. Clauses 2 and 3 are directed to the preservation of rights under superannuation schemes of municipal officers and others who have joined the Colours or otherwise engaged in war work.
Part II contains various administrative provisions directed to securing economy both in money and in labour. It abolishes certain complicated statutory returns, and, as regards certain matters of metropolitan finance, substitutes for the existing system a simpler method; and these alterations have been agreed to by all the metropolitan authorities concerned. Clause 5 has been inserted in the Bill to meet one of the recommendations of the Retrenchment Committee, presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton. The sum of 1s. has been substituted for 2s. 6d., which has hitherto been paid to medical practitioners for the notification of infectious disease. Objection has been raised that the sum of ls. is a very small one to be paid to a medical practitioner for making a diagnosis of a patient's state of health; but this sum is not intended as a fee for diagnosis, but merely as a fee for filling up the notification form which it is necessary to send to the local authority. Clause 6 legalises the generous action of many local authorities who have placed at the disposal of sick and wounded soldiers and other persons connected with the war the use of many of their premises and other buildings. Clause 11 reduces the number of men who up to now have been required by Statute to attend road locomotives and threshing machines. Clause 12 substitutes a simpler machinery for the issue of sanctions by the Local Government Board, the expense of the preparing and printing of which is considerable and has been found by experience to be really unnecessary in a number of cases.
I should like to draw special attention to Clause 18, which was inserted in this Bill in accordance with the pledge given by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House when the Naval and Military War Pensions, Etc. (Expenses) Act, 1916, was before the House. Several noble Lords, of whom Lord Camperdown was one, objected to the local rates being possibly called upon to bear part of the administrative expenses of that Act, and a pledge 755 was given by His Majesty's Government that a clause would be inserted in this Bill to provide that the contributions made by a local authority towards the administrative expenses of a local or district committee under Section 2 of that Act should be subject to the sanction of the Local Government Board. Clause 23 limits the duration of the Bill to the period of the war and afterwards for such period or periods, if any, not exceeding one year, as the Local Government Board may fix; and by this clause the Board are empowered to fix different periods for different provisions of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hylton.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Clause 11 of this Bill, as the noble Lord has explained, alters the arrangements which are at present in force with regard to locomotives on highways. I should like to ask whether this alteration in the law is to be permanent or merely to last for the duration of the war and a year afterwards.
§ LORD HYLTON
I ought to have explained that there are several provisions in this Bill which it is not intended shall be purely temporary. The provision, for instance, in Clause 18—which enacts that the contributions made by a local authority 756 towards the administrative expenses of a local or district committee under Section 2 of the Naval and Military War Pensions, Etc. (Expenses) Act, 1916, shall be subject to the sanction of the Local Government Board—is intended to be a permanent provision. As to the question which the noble Earl has just asked, I should like to postpone any decisive answer until to-morrow, when the Committee stage of this Bill will be taken.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Clause 23 says that this Bill "except the provisions of Clauses 2, 3, and 16," shall have effect only during the continuance of the war and for one year thereafter. But nothing is there said as to Clause 11, and I should like to know whether the provision in that clause is a temporary provision only.
§ LORD HYLTON
I will answer that question to-morrow, when I shall have some Amendments to move on behalf of the Local Government Board.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Five o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.