[Sir ROBERT SANDERS in the Chair.]
The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg): I beg to move, "That the Committee do now adjourn." I should like to explain why I move this Motion. Yesterday, when the situation in which we now find ourselves seemed to have become inevitable, a number of people representing various interests on the Committee—I do not mean representing them professionally, but taking various sides on the Committee—spoke to me and expressed their desire for an adjournment. The Committee, I am sure, realise that I am personally most anxious to get on with the Bill as quickly as possible, and I realise that any delay injures to some extent its chances. I was assured by those representing the power companies, for instance, that they were very anxious to attend this Committee's deliberations, but at the same time, many of them had duties in the country, and they gave me an assurance as far as they were concerned, that they would do their best to enable us to see that a week's adjournment did not delay the passage of the Bill, and they expressed the hope that it might be possible to get the Bill at the end of next month. In these circumstances, I have done my best to communicate with such Members of the Committee as I was able to communicate with last night, and I think it is with the general assent of all Members that I now propose to adjourn for a week. In doing so, with great reluctance, I hope the Committee will see their way to co-operate in expediting matters later on, so that we shall not, by this adjournment, jeopardise the passage of the Bill, which, 100 I am sure, most Members of the Committee desire to see in some shape or form on the Statute Book.
Mr. HANNON: Does that mean that we adjourn until Tuesday next?
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That is what I was asked to do. I think, probably, it is convenient, because nobody knows at present how the situation may develop during a week. It may be better to have a fixed date.
Mr. HANNON: Is it proposed to sit on two days next week?
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I hope that we may be able to meet on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, but I cannot say more.
Mr. GRANT: On a point of Order. Will it be necessary for the Committee to meet on Tuesday of next week, or is it within the capacity of the Chairman to adjourn the Committee further, if necessary, without a meeting of the Committee?
The CHAIRMAN: If the Committee leave it in my hands, I am ready to undertake that responsibility. If the Committee now decide, however, to meet again on Tuesday next, of course, it will be my business to see that it is called together on Tuesday.
Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON: Would it not be possible to leave the matter in your hands, Mr. Chairman? Many of us who live in industrial areas in the North of England are very doubtful as to where we ought to be at the present time. We cannot tell what may happen. There is the possibility of a little trouble in our districts, and we do not like the idea of being tied up there endeavouring to keep the peace as far as we can, while this Committee is meeting here. I shall be perfectly willing to leave it in your hands and to your judgment, Sir, whether it is fair to call the Committee together again next Tuesday, or whether that course would be unfair to Members who represent industrial constituencies.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I am quite content to leave the matter in your hands, Sir, and I think probably that may be a convenient course. I suggest that we should adjourn as far as this week is 101 concerned, in any event, and leave the matter as to whether we meet on Tuesday next in the hands of the Chairman.
Lieut. - Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL: I am sure the Attorney-General will appreciate that those who are interested in electricity concerns have no desire to delay the Bill, but one must be very careful, and I have been long enough a Member of the House of Commons to know what happens when questions are raised as to matters being dealt with within a certain time. I agree that it is necessary to adjourn, but, at the same time, it must be made clear that reasonable and proper time will be given for full discussion of the whole of the Bill. I hope that because, unfortunately, we have had to lose this amount of time, we shall not be told afterwards that we agreed to the adjournment taking place, and that that is a reason for objecting to the discussion of certain points. I only want that point to be made perfectly plain; at the same time, I am sure the Government will recognise that we do not suggest we are going to delay the Bill in any way. We will do all we can to facilitate it, but we want it clearly laid down that proper time will be allowed for discussion.
Mr. BALFOUR: I am sure all Members of the Committee concur in what has fallen from the Attorney-General. He has not said anything which implies any compulsion as to time, and I am sure he can take the assurance, as far as I and any friends of mine who are acting with me are concerned, that we only make one condition, and that is that there should be time to make this a proper Bill. On every Amendment there will be an inclination to dispose of it as quickly as possible, and if it be possible to dispose of the Bill by the end of June, we shall be delighted, and will work to that end; but I should like it clear that our keen desire is to see this a good and workmanlike Bill, which will serve the objects which the Government have in view, and there is no question or suggestion of delay or the slightest desire to crowd out the Bill, or in any way to embarrass the Government at the end of the Session. The Government can take our assurance that we will co-operate with them in every way possible, and during the week's delay I would suggest that certain issues raised might well be discussed with those in 102 authority, to see if we can do something towards facilitating progress. I shall be pleased to do anything in my power lo that end, and if we can have the co-operation of the Minister of Transport and the Attorney-General, I think it will save time and give ample time for the Government to get the Bill through.
Mr. HARTSHORN: As far as those with whom I am associated are concerned, we entirely concur in the suggestion that there should be an adjournment, and also that, having adjourned for a week, it should then be left to the Chairman's discretion to determine whether or not it is advisable to call a Committee next week. None of us can have any idea where we shall be or what our arrangements will be by next Tuesday, but there will be those of us available for consultation purposes who can convey to the Chairman what the position of our Members is, and we will be very pleased to do that.
Major GLYN: If there are any Amendments to be put down, I understand that it is not possible to get them printed. Could we be told whether, if we handed in Amendments to the Committee Office, they would undertake to have them typed or something of that sort? I understand it is no use drafting Amendments, because they cannot be printed.
The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid I cannot answer that question, but possibly the best course is to put the Amendments in at the Table at the House of Commons.
Mr. BALFOUR: Would it be possible to continue if Amendments are not available for the benefit of Members I It would be very unsatisfactory to try to conduct business by having the Amendments just read out from the Chair, but we would all co-operate in trying to write them out and to make a list of Amendments for the benefit of all concerned.
Sir F. HALL: Would it not be advisable for Members to consider whether the general interests would not be better served if Amendments were left in abeyance until we knew when we were likely to meet again? [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] It is all very well to say "No," but I think that might facilitate matters. If we are not going to have the Amendments circulated, 103 or if they are only to be circulated among a certain few it will place some Members in an invidious position, and I cannot see what good we shall do by handing in Amendments and not knowing when we are likely to meet again. I agree, with regard to any discussion with Ministers, that that might facilitate matters, but it is inadvisable that Amendments should be circulated among a certain few, unless a system can be devised by which they will be put on the Paper.
Mr. T. WILLIAMS: Is not that the responsibility of the House? Why should we debate the question here? I think we may as well leave the ordinary mechanism to do the right thing, whether or not Amendments are handed in. The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) is pure hypothesis, and I think we might leave the Amendments to follow their normal course, whether people are printing or not. When the time comes for debate, I am sure they will be available in such a form that Members of the Committee can deal with them.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I hope very much, as the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has just said, that any Amendments which are 104 proposed will be handed in in the ordinary way. I cannot give an undertaking at this moment, as the Committee will understand, but I am sure we shall take such steps as are practicable, and I have little doubt that we shall succeed in producing some reproduction in such a form that any Member of the Committee will be able to have a copy. In answer to the other statement, I accept, of course, the assurance of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour), that he desires to facilitate the Bill, and that this week's delay is not going to put us in an embarrassing position at the end of the time. As far as discussions are concerned, I have, I think, said before, and I would like to say it again, that if any hon. Member has any helpful suggestion to make and will be good enough to come and see me, I shall be very glad to see him and to talk it over with him. Of course, I cannot promise to accept anything, but I shall be very glad indeed to have any suggestions, and if anyone thinks that useful time can be spent in having a talk with me, I shall be very glad if "he will let me know and come to see me at any time.
Question, "That the Committee do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
Committee adjourned at Thirteen Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Sanders, Sir Robert (Chairman)
Attorney-General, The (Sir Douglas Hogg)
Grenfell, Mr. David
Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Frederick
Henn, Sir Sydney
Hopkinson, Mr. Austin
Hudson, Mr. Robert
Macdonald, Sir Murdocn
Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Marriott, Sir John
Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan
Williams, Mr. Thomas
Young, Mr. Hilton