[Mr. W. BRACE in the Chair.]
(1) With a view to affording time for the consideration and formulation of the policy to be pursued as to the future position of undertakings to which this Section applies, the following provisions shall have effect for a period of two years after the passing of this Act:— (e) Any rates, fares, tolls, dues and other charges directed by the Minister shall be deemed to be reasonable and may be charged, notwithstanding any statutory provisions limiting the amount of such charges or increases therein.
Amendment proposed [10th April], in Sub-section (1, e), to leave out the words, "deemed to be reasonable, and may be charged, notwithstanding any statutory provisions limiting the amount of such charges or increases therein,"
and to insert instead thereof the words, "subject to the existing rights of any person or body to apply to the Railway and Canal Commissioners under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, or any other Act, in respect of the justification of any increases or of any undue preference of any traders or class of traders in relation thereto.'
Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."678
Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS: I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has any statement to make as to the new Clause before we proceed with the Amendment?
The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt): On page 497 of the Amendment Paper the hon. Member will see the new Clause. It proposes that a committee shall be set up for giving advice and assistance to the Minister with respect to any directions as to rates, fares, tolls, dues, and other charges or special services, which shall—we could not without the consent of the Lord Chancellor provide that it is to be a judge, and there may be some difficulty about that, so we have put it in these terms—a representative of the trading interests appointed by the Board of Trade—we hope the Board of Trade will really become a party, in the sense of litigation, to all transactions under this Bill—and three members nominated by the Minister, of whom one shall be a representative of transportation interests and one a representative of labour interests. The other is left indefinite, because experience may show that one class of man is wanted at one time and one at another.
That is the proposal, and that we submit would entirely safeguard trading interests, and see that where any rise or change of rates, charges, and so on, is necessary, it shall be done without injury to the trading community, and generally will safeguard the interests of the traders of the country.
The following is the Clause referred to by the Home Secretary:
Special Advisory Committee as to Rates, etc.
Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS: I beg to move "That the Committee do now adjourn." I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will feel that I am not accusing him unduly of putting this Clause down without reference to ourselves, but he has put us in a very grave position. On the last occasion on which we sat he suggested that if I would withdraw my Amendment he would produce an Amendment to the Clause which he thought would meet our views. Instead of doing that he has produced a new Clause which, of course, cannot be discussed at present, but. until we are agreed upon this new Clause, it is quite 680 impossible for us to go on discussing the Amendments to Clause 3. When we adjourned I said, "It will be a fortnight or more before we meet again, and perhaps, in the meantime, my right hon. Friend will draft an Amendment. If he will be good enough to do so before the Committee meets again, perhaps half-a-dozen of us could discuss it together and it might then be possible to withdraw my Amendment." I took it he agreed to that course. Instead of that, no communication whatever has taken place with myself or any of my Friends so far as I have been able to find out. The Clause appears on the Paper this morning. We could not get it yesterday. A meeting was held yesterday of Members interested in the question and they were unable to discuss the new Clause. Since we met, resolutions have been passed, without any reference at all to myself or knowledge on my own part, by various public bodies very strongly supporting the Amendment before the Committee. The London Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution, and I understand the Central Chamber of Agriculture has also passed a very strong resolution pointing out that this is, from the trading point of view, the crux of the whole matter. It is really impossible for us to debate this matter at present. There is a large number of Amendments on the Paper dealing with points which are included in and attempted to be provided for by this new Clause. I understand we shall not in any case sit this afternoon.
Mr. SHORTT: I have not heard of that.
Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS: No one will ask a Grand Committee to sit while the Budget Statement is being made. That must be the feeling of the Committee. We have only a couple of hours, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow us to adjourn, and we will then meet in conference at once and we will discuss the Clause amongst ourselves, with a view to seeing whether we can accept it, and, if we cannot, what Amendments may be necessary, in it. That will very largely onduce to the pushing forward of the other Clauses of the Bill. At all events, either we must agree in substance this new Clause or the right hon. Gentleman must agree with us such Amendments as may be necessary in it so that it shall come in practically as an agreed Clause, or we must go on with 681 the Amendments on the Paper one by one, which, of course, would all be rendered nugatory if the new Clause were agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN: Upon the question of adjourning for this afternoon to hear the Budget Statement, I had thought of taking the Committee's pleasure.
Mr. SHORTT: We should very strongly urge the Committee to sit this afternoon. [HON. MEMBEBS: "No."] We shall all be put out of our misery soon enough by reading the Budget Statement. But it is entirely a matter for the Committee, and I am not going to attempt to press anything that the Committee does not desire. We should like to go on if possible as we have a lot of progress to make.
The CHAIRMAN: If I may judge by the interjections I must rule that it is your pleasure that you adjourn for this afternoon.
HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
Mr. SHORTT: I hope the Committee will not press the Motion to adjourn. We can perfectly well get on with the remainder of this Clause even if it comes to discussing the Amendments on the Paper one by one. There are Amendments which are going to be accepted—there is one in the name of the right loon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury)—and we can certainly dispose of some work this morning. I apologise if the hon Member (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) thought I had made any pledge. If I did I had forgotten all about it. I am sure he will know I intended no discourtesy to him personally.
Sir W. RAEBURN: I should like to back up the application for delay till we have time to consider the Clause. It was arranged last night among some of us that, if the Clause were tabled this morning, we should at once consider it if we had time given us this morning. I am sure it will make for the acceleration of the Bill if this course is adopted, because there are piles of Amendments, all more or less on the subject of an appeal from the Minister in the case of interference with dues, tolls, etc., and there is also an Amendment in my name which deals with another advisory committee. This committee which is being set up now has to deal solely with the question of dues, tolls and special services. Note the difference between my Amendment and the committee we were speaking 682 of just now. My Amendment is to insert, at the end of paragraph (e), the words, "If the authority, body, or person owning any such undertaking as is referred to in this Section claims that any direction of the Minister with reference thereto is unreasonable or calculated to damage the value of the undertaking such authority, body, or person may appeal from such direction to the Railway and Canal Commission who shall determine the matter so referred in accordance with the provisions of this Act." We are confronted with this position. In regard to the appeal about dues and tolls there is a new Clause proposed. With regard to the point my Amendment raises there is another advisory committee proposed under a Clause we have not yet reached. In the interval between now and the reaching of these two Clauses there lies this large body of Amendments. It is sheer waste of time for us to be discussing Amendments which may all be brushed aside if we agreed upon these two advisory committees. I am sure we shall get to the end of the Bill very much sooner in this practical business way than by wandering over these Amendments when we know many of them may be quite futile. I appeal to the Home Secretary to grant this very reasonable request because, just as he said to us at the last meeting, "I report Progress, in order that I may have time to get this Clause brought forward," so we now say, when we have only had it for the last ten minutes, we should like a little time to consider it, and we shall be all ready, having read it, to start afresh, tomorrow.
Mr. SHORTT: As I said before, we might come to a point later in the discussion when it would be well to adjourn. Most of these Amendments are to insert something at the end of the Sub-clause, therefore we might at any rate get up to that point. However, in this matter, as in all matters, I am in the hands of the Committee, and if the Committee would prefer to adjourn now in order to consider this Clause, of course, I will agree to what is the desire of the majority. I do think that we might get down to the point where practically the whole of the Amendments are "at the end insert," but I do not want to press that we should go on this morning if the Committee thinks it is better to adjourn.
Mr. RENWICK: I have not seen the Clause until this morning, and I should like to have some time to read it over.683
Captain HAMILTON BENN: There really is a desire to get on with the Bill. This is not a dilatory action on our part at all. We have had two meetings in the This that we should have this Clause for consideration, and if we had had it yesterday we should have been in a position to go on this morning. We cannot really consider the Amendments one by one, and see how they bear on this new Clause this morning. It would be better that we should adjourn now.
Sir F. BANBURY: I am not in favour of any undue haste over any legislation, but I think there is something in what the Home Secretary says. At the end of the first page of Amendments we come to the end of the Clause, and the remaining Amendments are to insert words at the end of the Clause. Surely we might deal with the first few Amendments and then adjourn. I understand that the first two or three of the Amendments will be accepted, and we could adjourn after that.
Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS: If the right hon. Gentleman will accept the first Amendment, then I agree.
Mr. SHORTT: Oh, no!
Sir F. BANBURY: After my hon. Friend's Amendment there are two or three Amendments which may be accepted.684
The CHAIRMAN: I must endeavour to get the opinion of the Committee, and the only way is to put the proposal to the vote.
Question, "That the Committee do now adjourn "put, and agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN: The Committee will adjourn until tomorrow morning. I believe we are adjourning upon the understanding that the Committee may look for the co-operation of the group who have asked for this adjournment in order that we may make progress tomorrow.
Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS: Certainly. We will meet and discuss the matter at once, and if my right hon. Friend or one of his secretaries can see us in half-an-hour's time, when we have had time to consider the Clause, it would be well.
The CHAIRMAN: I cannot arrange anything of that sort in my capacity as Chairman, but I can ask the Minister to meet what appears to be a reasonable suggestion.
Mr. SHORTT: We shall be glad to make such arrangements.
The CHAIRMAN: The Ministers will make arrangements for someone to meet the group.
Committee adjourned accordingly at Twenty minutes past Eleven o'clock. until Eleven o'clock tomorrow morning.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE—
Mr. Brace (Chairman).
Sir Frederick Banbury
Sir William Barton
Mr. James Bell
Captain Hamilton Benn
Mr. Neville Chamberlain
Sir William Howell Davies
Sir Eric Geddes
Sir William Pearce
Sir William Raeburn
Mr. Secretary Shortt
Colonel Sir Rhys Williams