HL Deb 22 April 1959 vol 215 cc906-22

6.19 p.m.

LORD JESSEL rose to move, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959, laid before the House on the 24th of March last, be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for detaining the House after a longish debate on farm prices, but I hope that you will bear with me for a few minutes. After you have listened to what I am going to say, I hope that you will consider my action justified. I have been advised that the moving of this Motion is the only method by which I can draw your Lordships' attention to this Order and get it debated.

The Order is laid before Parliament under Section 1 of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945. If no petitions are presented against it, it comes into operation at the expiration of fourteen days, beginning on the day on which the Chairman's report about the absence of Petitions is laid before both Houses. Therefore my Motion had to be put down this week. This Order does not come before the Special Orders Committee, of which I have the privilege of being a member, because it does not require an Affirmative Resolution. In case your Lordships would like further information about this Order, I may say that there is no power to refer it to a Joint Committee.

I would ask your Lordships to consider for a moment how this Order comes to be made. It is made under Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, as amended by Section 317 of the Public Health Act, 1936, which provides that the Minister of Housing and Local Government may, on application of the local authority of any district, by special procedure order, wholly or partially repeal, alter or amend any local act which is in force in any area comprising the whole or part of any such district which relates to the same subject matters as this Act or to the same subject matters as the Public Health Act, 1936". I understand that the Minister takes the view that, once it is established that any part of a local Act relates to the same subject matters as the Act of 1875 or the Act of 1936, he is empowered to repeal or amend the local Act, and even parts which do not relate to the same subject matters as those Acts. Moreover, he takes the view, I understand, that "amendment" also includes "addition". Here it is only fair to say that, as a matter of policy and not of vires, he does not, in fact, add to a local Act unless the Act already contains provisions dealing with the same subject matters as the addition.

So, in effect, the present position is that the Minister feels at liberty to use these powers to repeal, amend, or add to any local Act, so long as the local Act contains some provision that relates to the same subject matters as the Public Health Act, 1875, or the Public Health Act, 1936. Therefore, it follows that almost every local Act will qualify for repeal or amendment under this procedure. If the Minister is right—and I am told that he probably is—we arrive at a situation where a Special Order like this is in many respects similar to a Private Bill. Yet it is incapable of amendment when it takes effect, and it is not published with the Statutory Instruments, because it is local. In fact, after the publication of this Order, if anybody wants to find out about it, he has to go to the town hall at Leicester.

I have drawn the attention of your Lordships to this Order because I wish the House to consider the following questions which arise from what I have said. Is this Leicester Order intra vires of Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875? Is it desirable that local legislation should be effected in this way, or does Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, need amendment? Does the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, require amendment? Should such Orders be published in the same way as Statutory Instruments? Should not the Minister justify this particular proposal?—because no one reading this Leicester Order without access to a series of local Acts, starting in 1846, can possibly form any clear idea of what changes in the law are proposed. I am not suggesting that the Minister is making any improper use of his powers. All I am asking is that this Statutory Orders procedure should be inquired into. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959, laid before the House on the 24th of March last, be annulled.—(Lord Jesse!.)

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I thought it might be to the advantage of the House if, for a short time, I intervened in this debate in order to amplify, where necessary, to a small extent what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Jessel. Although in this case there may be absolutely nothing wrong, I feel that your Lordships owe thanks to the noble Lord for bringing this matter to the attention of the House; and I hope to show why I think that is so. In amplification, first of all, of the periods to which the noble Lord referred, I would inform the House that the Order was actually laid on March 24; and that can be verified by a glance at the Minutes of the House. It was laid, as the noble Lord said, under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1954, and ordered to lie on the Table.

The next date that matters is April 14, upon which date the two Chairmen certified (and their Certificate was laid on the Table) that there had been since March 24 no Petition against the Order. From that date a further period began to run; that is, the period of fourteen days during which it is open to any Member of your Lordships' House to pray that this Order should be annulled.


Is that fourteen Parliamentary days?


I was just going to say that this period of fourteen days includes the week-ends, but does not include the Recess. So, in effect, if your Lordships' House sits three days a week it means that there are six days available. To-morrow is the last of those days. because the next and final date is April 27—that is, Monday next—when the period expires, and unless this Order is annulled it becomes law. I thought that those dates might be useful to your Lordships in considering this matter.


It is not entirely clear. Could such an Order be produced just before the Recess?


Yes; but the period of Recess does not count. So that really it would not matter if the Order were produced just before the Recess; the House would still have fourteen days after the Recess. But that is not so over week-ends, because the period that does not count is any period of more than four days. That is why there is that difference.

Prior to the year 1945 this sort of thing was clone in quite a different way. It was done by what was called then, as no doubt most of your Lordships will remember, a Provisional Order Confirmation Bill. Such a Bill was subject to the normal procedure of the House in dealing with Bills: three stages in each House, Committee stage and all the rest of it; the ordinary Bill procedure applied. Now, with regard to this Order and all similar Orders, your Lordships will find nothing about them on the Order Paper, as distinct from the. Minutes, unless there is a Prayer for annulment as there is to-day.

I would ask this question: Does the House fully appreciate just what can be done by an Order of this nature? It may be that it does fully appreciate it, and if so, no harm will have been done except that a little time will have been taken up this evening. I would ask further: How is a Member of your Lordships' House, or for that matter a citizen of Leicester (and there are, I think, 260,000 of them), to understand what is happening by this procedure? By an Order under Section 4 of the 1945 Act the Minister, as the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has correctly said, can virtually do anything that could be done by a Private Bill. Flowing from that, various questions arise. In my view the first question which arises (the noble Lord mentioned it) is: Has the Minister acted intra vires the Act of 1875? I agree with the noble Lord that probably he has, but I am advised that the matter is not free from doubt as to whether he has or has not.

May I now briefly state the legal position? As the noble Lord said, under Section 303 of the 1875 Act, the Minister may—and because this is rather difficult I hope I may be forgiven for repeating it—the Minister may, on the application by the Corporation, repeal, alter or amend any local Act which relates to the same matters as the 1875 Act, as amended by the Public Health Act, 1936. Consequently, the Minister says (and I am not blaming him at all for saying so; and I hope I may be forgiven for reading these words because I do not find them very easy myself) that if any part of a local Act relates to the same matters as any part of the 1875 Act or any part of the 1936 Act, he can amend the local Act; he can amend even those parts of the local Act which do not relate to the same matters as the 1875 or the 1936 Acts. I apologise for repeating that, but I do not think it is too easy to take in, although others may be much better at it than I am.

Reflecting upon that, I cannot help thinking of a Bill—and I take this as merely a typical example—which has been before an Unopposed Bill Committee of your Lordships' House all this morning and will be all to-morrow morning, the Bootle Corporation Bill. I should emphasise that I am giving this merely as an example; there is nothing special about it. That is a Bill of 172 clauses, and it confers upon the Corporation of Bootle all kinds of powers, as your Lordships will appreciate, of a very miscellaneous character. I ask this question: Is it really the case that all these powers that are being given to Bootle by this House at the moment can be amended in this way by an Order next week, next year, or in ten years' time? It is so. It is a startling fact, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, is completely justified in acquainting the House of it, if it did not know it already.


It can be repealed as well as annulled?


Certainly, as I shall show in a moment. The Minister, as the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has said, is advised that "amendment" includes "addition"—that is, addition to a former Act, and I am not quarrelling with that decision. But I say that that makes it all the more necessary that the House should look closely at this Order before deciding not to have it annulled, because under this procedure surely there are very few local Acts that have ever been passed which could not be amended in this way.

As to the doubt, if there is a doubt—I say this with the greatest respect—your Lordships might like to have the opinion of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, if he would be good enough at some time, and if he has time, to give this matter his attention. I, for one, should greatly appreciate it if the noble and learned Viscount could look into this matter, even if there is nothing whatever wrong about it—as may well be the case—and if he could, shall I say, enlighten the House to a further extent about it.

Next, I venture to say that the result of all this is somewhat startling, and because it is startling I feel that the House should know about it, and, as I have said, we are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jessel. In the meantime, as the noble Lord has informed your Lordships already, the only thing that can be done is either to do nothing at all or to annul this Order—and that can be done only before the end of this week. The Order cannot be referred to a Select Committee; it cannot be referred to any Committee at all; it cannot be referred to the Chairman of Committees. The House cannot do anything about it except annul it. It might appear to a person who has not been accustomed to these things as if I were saying something new. I own at once that I am not saying anything new, because this has been the case since 1875. But owing to the nature and length of this Order, I nevertheless feel, in spite of the fact that there is nothing new about what I am saying, that I am perhaps justified in bringing it up again.

If your Lordships would be good enough to look at the Order, I should like shortly to point out one or two things about it. Under Article 4 of this Order, with which one should look at the Schedule, your Lordships will see (and I should like to inform the noble Lord, Lord Terrington, about this) that twenty-nine local Acts and one local Order are wholly or partly repealed, beginning with the Leicester Corporation Act, 1846. All the subsequent Articles are amendments to these local Acts, and these amendments take the place of the sections of the Acts which they amend or displace. Either that, or they are additions to local Acts; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, rightly said, it has been held that amendments include additions. I would point out how difficult it is under this Order to discover which are additions and which are not. How is a citizen of Leicester really to tell that?

Articles 7 to 9 of this Order, which deal with fire prevention, replace Section 53 of the Leicester Corporation Act, 1956, although I think there is nothing in the Order which indicates that. They follow Section 64 of the East Ham Corporation Act, 1957, but they do not follow it exactly. They differ from that section; and of course the temptation is to ask why they differ. I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply will explain it to the House, because, there being no Committee before whom this Order can come, there is no opportunity to ask why there is this difference between the Leicester Corporation Act, 1956, and the East Ham Corporation Act, 1957. Why the difference? There are many other similar questions which a Committee would have liked to ask, and would have asked if they had had the opportunity. But, as I have said before, there is no Committee before which this Order comes, and no Committee who can ask the questions.

I invite your Lordships' attention to Article 12. This is the very familiar point enacting that briquettes may be sold by number instead of by weight. That comes in Bill after Bill in your Lordships' House at the present moment—and there is nothing surprising about it at all: and it will come up to-morrow morning in the Bootle Corporation Bill. But the question arises from that: Why, or how, is it possible for the procedure to be so different to do exactly the same thing? Again to take the Bootle Bill merely as an example, whereas people have to come before the Committee of the House with this clause and run the gauntlet of that Committee, and, indeed, of the whole House and of another place in order to provide that briquettes may be sold by number instead of by weight, Leicester, doing precisely the same thing, can do it by persuading the Minister to make an Order which cannot be questioned in any respect.

Article 14 deals with the exciting subject of sending interest warrants by post. The point I want to make about that article is that there is in existence a model clause dealing with exactly the same point; yet this Order does not follow the model clause. Again I should very much like to know why. That again, of course, is a question which any Committee which dealt with this Bill would almost naturally ask; and it is a question that is asked almost every day in your Lordships' House.


May I just ask the the noble Lord whether he has any reason to believe that the Minister who approved this Order has not asked all those questions and got satisfactory answers?


No, my Lords, I have no reason to believe that; I simply do not know. I am just trying to make the point that possibly your Lordships in this House may like to know, remembering that no Committee of the House has had an opportunity of asking those questions. There is also the point, which of course Committees are always after, that if possible they like to achieve a measure of uniformity. It is not always possible to have uniformity between one place and the next, but other things being equal it is desirable—I am sure that will be agreed—to have uniformity in a question like this. But, of course, if an Order like this departs from the model clause we lose that uniformity.

Perhaps your Lordships will now be good enough to look for a moment at Article 17. I would merely ask the question: Is the import of Article 17 absolutely plain to every Member of your Lordships' House? If it is, well and good, and I will pass from it. But neither this Order nor the 1953 Order which this Order amends are published in the volume of Statutory Instruments, as the noble Lord, Lord Jessel said. Therefore they really are, to put it mildly, extremely inaccessible. All I will say about Article 18 is that it effects a very slight alteration in a criminal offence. I wonder whether it is a satisfactory way of altering, however slightly, the criminal law. We are always told that ignorance of the law is no excuse in a criminal charge, but I wonder what a man in Leicester would say if he was told in court not only that, which he might have been told before, but also that be ought to have read the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959.

I will pass to Article 20. This gives a power, which I am told is quite new, to enter premises. That may not sound very alarming, but I think I may say that in this country power to enter private premises is not readily given without scrutiny. Here there can be no scrutiny at all; yet this is a new power that is being given.

My Lords, those are only some of the questions that one could ask about this Order. I do not want to over-emphasise this case and spoil it by doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has asked some pertinent questions which I shall not repeat, but I venture to say that if your Lordships would be good enough to consider the answers to his questions the time spent in doing so will not have been wasted. I would add one final question—he did mention it, but I should like to emphasise it a little more. In addition to all the questions which the noble Lord asked and suggested that the House might put to itself, I think that this House ought to consider whether the particular proposals of this Order are justified, because that is the sort of thing that a Committee of your Lordships' House would have asked itself, and other people, if the Order had been before it in the shape of a Private Bill. I naturally anticipate that the noble Earl who is to reply will satisfy your Lordships in all respects that the whole of this Order is justified in order to persuade the House not to annul it.

Finally I would add that I know that there are many precedents for the action taken by the Minister. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is anything dreadful about it, and I hope what I have said does not make it appear so. My sole purpose this afternoon in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, in raising this matter is to ask the House whether they consider that if they passed this Order into law the machinery by which these things are done is completely justified and proper, or whether it does, as the noble Lord suggested, need some looking at and possibly some amendment. If the noble Lord has done nothing else I think he has done a public service in raising, the matter this afternoon.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? I understand that this Order is issued by the Minister. Recently I sat on a Select Committee There was a dispute between two local authorities. In that particular case the Select Committee went against the Minister's request or opinion. Is it therefore possible for the Minister to revoke the decision of the Select Committee and this House by issuing an Order similar to this?


May I answer the question, my Lords? If the proceedings of the Select Committee to which the noble Lord referred resulted in legislation, which I apprehend they might well do, then, as I understand the position, certainly the Corporation might apply to the Minister, and the Minister, if he agreed with the Corporation, could issue an Order repealing that legislation.


In other words, the Minister can override the opinions and decisions of both Houses of Parliament?


Unless of course the Minister's Order is annulled by the House.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we should all agree that the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has performed a very useful service in bringing this matter before your Lordships' House, late though it may be. I would suggest, however, that the noble Lord has raised a general point and that it is only incidental that the Leicester Corporation are involved. The question which Lord Jessel has raised is one of procedure, and one, I submit, entirely independent of the merits or de-merits of the Leicester Order, which, after all, has, quite properly within the powers conferred upon him, been examined and approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government under the Act of 1875. The real question before us, I think, is whether this procedure circumvents the ordinary Private Bill procedure, and, if it does, as clearly it does, whether there are grounds for amending this procedure, which has, let us remember, been in operation, as the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees said, since 1875. It was extended in its application by the Special Procedure Act, 1945, which in turn was extended by the Special Procedure Act, 1949. I was interested to note that the noble Lord the Lord Chairman referred to the Public Health Act, 1936; so it seems that both Parties, and at one time or another both Party Governments, have been concerned in this procedure.

I would, however, suggest to your Lordships that we should not out of hand condemn this procedure. The noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees will, I am sure, recall that the 1955 Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, of which he and I were members, considered this procedure and made a recommendation that it should be applied in certain cases to what would otherwise be Private Bill procedure. If I may, I will read the recommendation to your Lordships. It appears at page xix and is numbered 75. It says: One witness suggested that enabling legislation should be introduced to extend the procedure under the Act of 1945, somewhat on the lines of the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949, so as to enable uncontroversial model clauses (after reference to a Joint Committee and redrafting if necessary in consultation with the interests concerned) to be made applicable by 'Special Procedure Order' to any local authority. It would thus be possible for powers, which have been explored and developed by pioneer local authorities to the point of becoming almost invariably unopposed, to be easily and cheaply extended to local authorities generally. The adoption of this method would also probably help to lessen the pressure on parliamentary time, and the Committee accordingly recommend that the Government should accept the proposal". Then, at pages 432 to 434 will be found a full explanation of the procedure referred to in Recommendation 75. From this one can discern that there were a number of Orders which were reported without amendment, a number of Orders reported with amendment, and there were five cases up to February, 1955, of annulment.

I think I can fairly say that whilst my noble friends on this side of the House would not wish to do anything to curtail or circumscribe the proper facilities available to local authorities to obtain the powers necessary for the discharge by them of their statutory duties, we should welcome any proposal to inquire into the situation which has been perhaps a little too graphically revealed by the comprehensiveness of the Leicester Order, in order that the rights of both Houses of Parliament may be properly safeguarded in regard to the conferment of powers upon local authorities.

I personally would regret very much if the House should decide to annul the Leicester Order. I think it would be unfair to annul it by reason of the doubts we have about a procedure which, after all, has been in operation for a very long time. Many local authorities have enjoyed the benefits of the simplified procedure, and I think it would be unfair to Leicester to annul the Order. It seems to me that we can readily assent to such a proposition as was put forward by the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that he might be willing to inquire into the whole matter, although I am sure that we should all feel a little striken in our consciences in passing any further duties and responsibilities on to the shoulders, broad as they may be, of the Lord Chancellor.

While we would associate ourselves with an inquiry into, or a review of, the procedure and its applicability—and it may well be that having regard to one Joint Committee which is otherwise sitting this is not an unfavourable time so to do—we hope that in so doing we shall not annul the Order to the disadvantage of Leicester. Although there are a number of powers which are pretty comprehensive, it does not seem to me that any great mischief can result from allowing Leicester to have the Order which the Minister has approved. At the same time, we should inquire into the correctness or otherwise of, or the need or otherwise for, the amendment of the present procedure.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should not have intervened in this small debate but for the answer that the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, gave to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Shepherd. If I understood him aright, it amounted to this: that if a Select Committee considering a Petition and possible objections comes to a certain finding, then the Minister can, in spite of that finding, make an Order in effect repealing the decision of the Select Committee. If that be so, it appears to me that it is putting a somewhat dangerous power into the hands even of a Minister, if a Select Committee representing one or other or possibly both Houses comes to a finding after hearing the appropriate evidence. I should very much like the noble Earl who is to answer this small debate to confirm or otherwise that a decision arrived at by a Parliamentary Committee, Select Committee or otherwise, is not final, but that it is liable to be repealed by the Minister himself.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, for so effectively bringing to your Lordships' attention the possibility that amendments or alterations to local Acts may under our existing practice in certain circumstances take place without the Parliamentary scrutiny which your Lordships might think desirable. This Leicester Order is made under Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, as subsequently amended, which gives power to the Minister in certain circumstances to amend or repeal the local Acts of a local authority on the application of the authority.

While without notice I would hesitate to give a specific answer to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, the answer seems to be that these amendments could be made to an Act which had been passed after the scrutiny of a Select Committee and approval by both Houses of Parliament—of course, on the request of the local authority. The House is also grateful to the Lord Chairman of Committees for the advice which he has given. He very largely covered that point in the first part of his remarks when he dealt with the precise circumstances in which the Minister considered that action was intra vires or ultra vires on his part.

Originally these Orders were Provisional Orders which had to be confirmed by an Act of Parliament. The noble Lord the Lord Chairman referred to the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, which laid down a different procedure for certain kinds of Order, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, pointed out, that was not applied to Orders published under the Public Health Act until 1949. I believe your Lordships are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Latham, for reminding the House of part of the evidence given at that time that this would effect a great saving of Parliamentary time and would add to the smoothness of local administration.

Since 1949 there have been, on an average, some five or six of these Amending Orders every year which the Minister has approved without their being referred to a Select Committee of either House. That has been going on for ten years and no one has taken any exception to it until now. I believe the reason why this Leicester Order has attracted so much attention is because of its great length and comprehensiveness; Leicester Corporation have taken the opportunity of making a very large number of amendments in their local laws, going back for more than one hundred years.

In so far as these Orders under the Public Health Act amend without further scrutiny local Acts which have been (as has been pointed out) subjected to careful scrutiny by the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees and by a Select Committee—as in the present Bootle Provisional Order Bill which is now being considered and which has been referred to—my right honourable friend appreciates the reasons why your Lordships have expressed concern about she present procedure. Her Majesty's Government feel that a case has been made out for a fresh examination of this procedure and I am able to give your Lordships the assurance that this will now be put in hand.

I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Latham, in what he said about the difference between the principle which we are considering and this particular Order put forward by the Corporation of Leicester. It seems to me that it would be extremely unfair to the Corporation of Leicester if, because of our concern about the general principle which Her Majesty's Government have undertaken to re-examine, we were to refuse to approve this Order, for that Corporation has very carefully and scrupulously observed the existence of the law which Parliament laid down ten years ago and which has been continually practised since, and in doing so they have taken the opportunity to make a very large number of much-needed and in some cases long-overdue amendments to their existing laws.

The Lord Chairman suggested that your Lordships might not wish to approve this Order unless every provision in it—and he referred to some of the Articles—could be thoroughly understood by every one of your Lordships. This is perhaps a rather exacting demand; after all, an opposed Provisional Order or Private Bill is referred to a Select Committee and not every one of your Lordships is expected to be able to devote to it enough time to make himself thoroughly familiar with every clause in a local Act of that kind. That is the whole reason why subcommittees are appointed: to deal with the kind of legislation with which it is not reasonable to expect everyone to be able to acquaint himself.

This Order, which the right honourable gentleman the Minister has, of course, considered very carefully, is nothing more than a step in the direction of simplifying the Corporation's large and comprehensive mass of local legislation. Its effect is to repeal a large number of obsolete provisions, to re-enact some in more modern form, and to make minor modifications in others which have not been found to work properly. This Order does not contain anything which is new independent legislation. In fact some fourteen other suggestions made to the right honourable gentleman the Minister were rejected by him because he was doubtful about them on that score.

I hope very much, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, will accept the assurance I am able to give him on the part of my right honourable friend that this matter of procedure will be immediately re-examined and that Her Majesty's Government fully appreciate your Lordships' anxiety about the rights of Parliament in this matter. Her Majesty's Government are grateful to your Lordships for pressing the matter upon our attention. It is hoped that in the meanwhile your Lordships will not allow the immediate interests of Leicester, who have behaved with perfect constitutional propriety in this matter, to suffer by opposing the much-needed amendments to their local laws for which they are asking.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, while I do not wish to do anything to jeopardise the position of this particular Order, a point occurs to me, in regard to Article 12, for example, which says in paragraph (1): Notwithstanding anything in Section 124 of the Act of 1956…". Had a different procedure been adopted, someone might have petitioned against a provision of that kind in this particular Order; and under this procedure apparently no one has had an opportunity of doing so. One has the feeling that there is a looseness, a slackness, somewhere in the power of Members of Parliament to scrutinise the demands that local authorities are making, in all good faith if you like, by way of local enactments. We have the assurance of the noble Earl that this will be inquired into and I, for one, would want to do nothing to oppose this Order.


Under the existing procedure everybody has an opportunity of lodging an objection. The period of fourteen days, to which the Lord Chairman referred, may be considered rather too short, but the opportunity is there. It is only in the case of unopposed Private Bills or unopposed local Orders that this difficulty arises. If anybody should oppose such a Bill or Order, or make any objection at all to it, it would then go to a Select Committee. I have no doubt, however, that the points raised by the noble Lord will be looked into when the question of procedure is examined.

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate: it is obvious that there is a good deal of anxiety on both sides of the House about this procedure. I would particularly thank the Lord Chairman of Committees for his intervention. He is an expert and I am an amateur. I was very grateful for that powerful support. I should also like to thank the noble Earl for his reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, which I know he has made at very short notice, and I can assure him that it is not my intention to embarrass the Corporation of Leicester. He has given the assurance I wanted: that this procedure will have fresh examination by Her Majesty's Government; and that is really all I wanted. So, my Lords, with the permission of the House, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.