HL Deb 24 July 1923 vol 54 cc1267-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, on behalf of the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is unable to be here this afternoon, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill. The Bill is taken to-day because seven days have to be allowed before Committee stage for possible petitions to be laid against the Bill. It will be remembered that, towards the end of last year, certain matters concerning the administration of the British Empire Exhibition, which had been the subject of considerable comment for some time, came to a head. In consequence of representations made by the executive council of the exhibition, the President of the Board of Trade directed an Inquiry to be held by Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade. The Inquiry was not completed until January 31, 1923. In accordance with the recommendations contained in paragraph 35 of the Report by Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Sir James Stevenson took office as Chairman of the executive council of the exhibition and Sir Travers Clarke was appointed Deputy Chairman of the executive council. It is this post of Deputy Chairman which Sir William Joynson-Hicks recommended should be a full time post with adequate remuneration. Sir Travers Clarke assumed duty on or about February 28 last, and the Bill now submitted is intended to authorise the payment of his salary.

The first task that the board brought into being by the recommendations of the Joynson-Hicks Report and confirmed by resolution of the executive council set itself, was to examine in detail the activities in connection with the development of the British Empire Exhibition. It became early apparent that the undertaking, from a relatively small beginning, had expanded and was still expanding to a size out of all proportion to the original conception. The management and direction of such a vast undertaking was clearly beyond the powers of one individual, however great his abilities, to perform single-handed. In the opinion of the board it was essential in the interests of the exhibition, as well as of the general manager, that some lightening of the managerial burden should be devised.

The constitution of the board itself, by which finance, management and executive duties were allocated to various members of the board, served to point the way by which this relief could best be effected, and after weighing all the considerations involved the board decided on an organisation, the main principle of which was the centralisation of certain functions of control in the members of the board. Time being such an essential factor in the development of the exhibition, an unimpeded channel of communication to the responsible members of the board was clearly of primary importance if avoidable delay was to be prevented. In fact, in their unanimous opinion, success cannot be obtained by any other method. As the terms of the general manager's original agreement conferred certain exclusive powers of management upon him, inconsistent with the new arrangements considered by the board essential, it was mutually agreed to cancel the agreement with compensation for loss of office. Mr. Wintour's wide knowledge and valuable experience will, however, be retained for the benefit of the exhibition, as he has accepted the invitation of the board to act in an advisory capacity as consultant to the board.

Article IV of the Memorandum of Association of the British Empire Exhibition provides that no salary shall be paid to any member of the executive council. It has been advised that legislation is required for this purpose as the alteration which it is desired to make is not in regard to any of the objects of the Corporation, but is an alteration in the conditions on which the Board of Trade licence was granted. The proposal to legislate has been approved by the Cabinet.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Clarendon.)


Your Lordships will have listened with much interest to the lecture which has been addressed to us by the noble Earl, but you would have been better pleased if the Second Reading had been moved by the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is responsible for the Bill in this House. I am sure the noble Earl will forgive me for saying so. We ought to watch with some care the giving of such large salaries to various officials of exhibitions of this kind; and the noble Earl did not explain to us why it is that this Bill is introduced so late in the Session. We have been sitting since February, and there has been ample time for a Bill of this nature to be introduced and for your Lordships to have considered it. I understand that seven days are necessary before we can proceed with the next stage, and I must therefore enter a protest against your Lordships' House being expected to finish this Bill before we adjourn for the autumn.

This is a measure which originated in this House, and it is evident that we can hardly expect it to pass through all its stages in another place before we adjourn next week. In the absence of any further explanation as to how the delay in presenting this Bill has occurred, I think your Lordships should be allowed plenty of time before we proceed with the Third Reading. We must have an interval of seven days before the Committee stage, as the noble Earl has informed the House, and I think we should be allowed ample time for all stages. I hope it will not be pressed through both Houses of Parliament before we meet again in the autumn.


I am most anxious to meet the noble Earl. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is not able to be in his place at the moment, and if the noble Earl will mention the matter to-morrow, I will give him a definite answer.

On Question, Bill read 2a.