[Sir ROBERT SANDERS in the Chair.]
Mr. ROBERT HUDSON: I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), at the end, to insert the words, "Provided that if any authorised undertakers on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme consider that the carrying out of those obligations would be prejudicial to them they may, within one month after the publication of the scheme as adopted, by notice in writing, specifying the nature of the complaint and of the relief sought by them, require the Board to refer the matter complained of to the arbitration of a barrister (or in Scotland an advocate) of not less than 10 years' standing appointed by the Minister of Transport, and the Board shall refer the matter accordingly, unless they amend the scheme by relieving the complainants of such obligations as aforesaid, and shall not, pending the determination of the complaint, carry the scheme into effect so far as it affects the complainants. (4) The arbitrator to whom any such matter is so referred may, if satisfied as to the justice of the complaint, either order such pecuniary compensation to be made to the complainants as seems equitable in all the circumstances or order the scheme to be amended in such manner as he may direct. Provided that the arbitrator shall not grant any relief other than pecuniary compensation in any case where the Board certify that the grant of such relief would conflict with the basic principles of the scheme or would prejudicially affect the efficiency of the scheme." I do not think the Committee will wish me to elaborate in any way this proposal, as it has been so very largely discussed in advance already. It is merely an attempt to set up an appeal tribunal on the lines of the compromise which I suggested in the earlier meetings of this Committee, and, subject to the Amendment on the Order Paper providing for assessors, I venture to hope the Committee will agree that it forms an adequate tribunal which will deal with the interests of persons who are injured by any decision of the Board, always 473 with the limitations upon which I insisted at the beginning, that the scheme was not in any way to be wrecked by an appeal.
Sir JOSEPH NALL: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme," and to insert instead thereof the words, "or any local authority or other body or person." The Committee will recollect that when my hon. Friend was referring to this matter at our last meeting, he visualised the Board as a court of first instance, and some discussion arose then as to whether that Board as a court of first instance, as it was described, could hold inquiries within the meaning of that word, and give all parties concerned an opportunity of being heard. That was not accepted, and, therefore, the Board, as far as its semi-judicial functions are concerned, in the hearing of complaints, does not fulfil the description of a court as indicated by my hon. Friend. That makes it all the more essential, that in considering this appeal tribunal, we should ensure the constitution of a body adequately fitted to hear these cases, and we should ensure that all those who may legitimately be concerned, should have an opportunity of stating their case and being heard by this tribunal. The Amendment of my hon. Friend provides that authorised undertakers on whom obligations are imposed may appeal to a barrister to be appointed by the Minister, and the barrister, on such appeal, cannot alter a scheme if the Board—I think this should be marked—who are one of the parties to the Bill, certify that such alteration would conflict with the principles of their scheme, or affect its efficiency, and the barrister could only order compensation to be paid to that authorised undertaker. If that is to be laid down as the law in this matter, it does seem to me rather a one-sided arrangement, and will largely nullify the value of an appeal being laid at all. I think it is fairly obvious that in schemes of the kind contemplated, there must inevitably be parties on whom obligations are not specifically imposed who will, unfortunately, be very essentially affected by the scheme, and we have already referred to the fact that if this kind of scheme were being carried out, either by 474 the ordinary form of public trust or by a public company, that authority would have to proceed by private Bill through this House, and all those who, whether obligations were imposed on them or not, were in any way prejudiced by the scheme, in such a private Bill, would have a right of being heard in the Committee Rooms of Parliament. It is true they would nave to establish their locus; they would have to make their case, and frivolous and delaying petitions and appeals would not, or should not, arise under the ordinary procedure of Parliament. In this Bill, no such Private Bill procedure is contemplated. The schemes will be prepared by this national Board, all the parties concerned may make representations to the Board as the responsible authors of the scheme, and, as far as we have proceeded, it is entirely within the discretion of the Board as to what kind of hearing those various appeals of prejudiced parties are to have. They may well feel that they have not had such a hearing or such consideration as their case demands. I move this Amendment, which, I think, is regarded as of some importance, to ensure that the very narrow limits of authorities on whom obligations are imposed should not be the full scope for this appeal tribunal. I quite agree with the learned Attorney-General, that we do not want to open the gates to a wide field of more or less frivolous petitions delaying the scheme, and complicating the settlement of essential points on which appeals may be lodged. We want to guard against that, but it does seem to me that, in guarding against that, it should be preserved to all those who really have a locus in this matter, that they should have a reasonable opportunity of laying their appeal before the tribunal. On those grounds, I hope the Government will, if they cannot fully agree now, indicate that they are prepared to consider the general principle I have ventured to put before the Committee, that there can be, in my view, no more unfortunate aspect of this Measure when it becomes law than that under its procedure, parties vitally affected and prejudiced are, for the first time in our Constitutional procedure, to be denied any kind of redress, or even a legitimate opportunity of expressing their grievances. I am sure it would be 475 ultimately to the advantage of the smooth working of the scheme that eventualities of that kind should be avoided, and adequate—and only adequate—provision should be made for the hearing of appeals by this tribunal.
Mr. R. HUDSON: I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment, because I think that his fears are not well-founded. At the last meeting we deliberately cut out words, leaving the door open to nearly everyone to make representations; and, really, as the Board will be imbued with the widest powers, we cannot think that they will refuse to give adequate care in considering the representations of persons who are entitled to be heard. I would like to remind my hon. Friend that the Board is not going to prepare the scheme, but the Electricity Commissioners.
Sir J. NALL: They will become responsible for the scheme by the time the tribunal functions.
Mr. HUDSON: They will become responsible for the scheme, and they will afford an opportunity for representations to be made, and they may hold an inquiry. I really think that the position my hon. Friend has indicated to us would not arise. I, personally, think that anybody having obligations imposed upon them would have an opportunity of making representations under this Clause, and I do hope that he will not press his Amendment.
Mr. ATTLEE: I am generally in agreement with the main Amendment. I am not in agreement with the Amendment to the Amendment. I consider that this right of appeal should not be made too wide, and that we should not invite general inquiry. If we accept the words proposed by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nail) we are making it, in effect, a general inquiry. Anyone may appear, local authorities and persons who think they have a locus, and people interested in hearing these things could persuade all sorts of people that they have a locus; it seems to me every local authority in the country might be induced to appear, with the result that the whole scheme would be hung up because this arbitrator would be snowed up with the hearing of appeals of every kind. I think it wants to be restricted to persons affected by obliga- 476 tions under this scheme—where they may be indemnified pecuniarily. I do not think we want a roving inquiry into the general lines of the scheme—that is not desirable to submit to an arbitrator—but only in regard to authorised undertakers. Therefore, I hope that we shall reject this Amendment.
Mr. GRANT: My hon. Friend asked for some specific instance where the Amendment might apply, and it was put forward that possibly the laying of a new main might be proposed through an area in which a local authority already had a main, and the local authority might desire its own main to be used. That is an instance for which my hon. Friend asked, and it seems to me to be really the case that people may be ruled out who might be considered to have some claim to be heard.
Mr. G. BALFOUR: This Amendment falls into two parts, one leaving out the words "on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme," and the other to insert the words "or to any local authority or other body or person." I wonder if my right hon. Friend would leave out those words without inserting the words proposed, and leave out the next words "carrying out of those obligations," and insert the words "provisions of the scheme." It would then read: "Provided that if any authorised undertakers consider that the provisions of the scheme would be prejudicial." I do not know if my right hon. Friend would accept that, and whether he could indicate his consent, because I think it meet the main objection of my hon. Friend. His chief objection, and my chief objection, is that it implies obligations under the scheme, because I think we should not contemplate obligations imposed by the scheme, but take this scheme as it stands, consider the provisions of the scheme, and give the proper parties—so far, only the authorised undertakers—a right to be heard. I have endeavoured to meet the views of my right hon. Friend.
The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley): I think my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment must understand that it would really be unwise to accept this Amendment. After all, the term "authorised undertakers" affords very considerable scope, and includes 477 joint electricity authorities, power companies, municipalities, and distributing companies, who, as my right hon. Friend reminds me, number over 500. Surely, if you allow these people to make representations and be heard, you are really going as far as any reasonable person could go. If you go any further than that, you will so delay the inception of the scheme that it will be years and years before you get it in working order.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Sir J. MALL: If it would shorten the proceedings, I do not want to press the insertion of the words I moved. As was suggested by my hon. Friend, it would meet the case if the words proposed to foe left out were left out, and no addition were made in their place. That would have the effect of going some way to meet the Government's point of view, that they do not want a roving inquiry upon which many people could come in. It would then read that only authorised undertakers could appeal to the tribunal. That could be still further restricted if need be—it might be to authorised undertakers who are affected by the scheme. The vital difference is between those on whom obligations are imposed and those who are affected. It is simply this; Some of the authorised undertakers in the area covered by the scheme may be prejudiced, although no obligations are imposed on them; but unless they can show that some obligation is imposed under the scheme, they have no locus, and may not appear before the tribunal. It is only a minimum of fairness that those who are affected by the scheme should be allowed to appear, and if the learned Attorney-General could see his way to accept what, I think, is the irreducible minimum in the way of amendment, I would ask him to accept it in that form.
The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg): I have no wish to be unreasonable, but I am sorry that I cannot accept this olive branch, because it would take us too far. There are already, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, over 500 authorised undertakers in this country, and probably Very one of them would be affected by the scheme, because it is one under which 478 they would all have rights of linking-up and taking their electricity supply. We are providing, under the alterations which we have already accepted, that the scheme is to be prepared, not by the Board but by the Electricity Commissioners, and, when prepared by them, it is to be considered by the Board. The Board, after publishing it, are to give an opportunity to everybody—which includes every authorised undertaker and everyone else who is interested—of making representations, and, if the Board finds it necessary to hold an inquiry on any particular point, after all those steps have been taken, and everybody who feels that he wants to make representations has been heard, he has an opportunity of having them made and considered. Then, finally, the Board adopts the scheme with or without modifications. This proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. It. Hudson) provides that every authorised undertaker on whom any obligation at all is imposed under the scheme, can have an appeal, and have a regular hearing before the tribunal which we are going to set up. My hon. Friend the Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nail) wants lo go further and say that every authorised undertaker is to have the same right. I think that is more than is reasonable or necessary. It would mean enormous delay, as I pointed out, because over 500 people would have an opportunity of making representations. After all, what the scheme is going to do is to choose certain stations and link them up, and those selected will be the persons on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme, and you say that everyone shall have a right to appeal. The only other undertakers will be those who are not selected and who want to say that their stations ought to be selected. If it be decided that, in the interests of the scheme as a whole, a particular station should not be selected while another one should, the only effect on the non-selected station would be, not that an obligation was imposed under the scheme—that would not happen—but merely that it did not gain an advantage which the selection of the station would otherwise give it. That is a matter which, in my submission, ought not to be a matter of appeal after the Board have fully considered, in the light of all the representations made, which are the most suitable 479 stations in the general interest. If, after that, a certain station is selected, and the person whose station is selected is content, he is the only person upon whom any damnification, any harm, can he inflicted. It ought not to be right that the whole thing can be re-opened because someone says, "I should like an extra advantage out of this scheme; I should like my station chosen instead of the one that has been chosen." That is not a matter upon which it is reasonable to grant an appeal, because it is not a matter on which the scheme is harming anybody, but because some particular person thinks he ought to gain a particular advantage which the selection of a station may give. For these reasons, I submit that the Amendment to the Amendment ought not to be accepted.
Mr. BALFOUR: If, indeed, the facts evolve exactly as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I am sure we would be content, but there are many considerations which might arise. For instance, the scheme might provide that from the grid lines, as and when the scheme is determined, certain rules of supply should be given in the vicinity to some, say, local authority's station which might be prejudiced against some extended area where they are not at that time supplying. I do not think there would be any great crop of representations, but I think it is the duty and function of Parliament to preserve to these people their right of being heard. I quite agree that the scheme is first gone into by the Board and representations are heard, and, undoubtedly, that will dispose of most of the objections. But the Board having the scheme of the Commissioners before them, having heard all representations, may quite well insert into the scheme provisions which affect the rights and interests of many undertakers of which these undertakers have never heard before until the Board has come to its decision. What protection have these people got? They have none. I am quite sure my right hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that in urging these points it is not a question of delay, but of vital interest to people who, when once this Bill becomes law, must rest on the law as we make it here, and have no other remedy. I wonder if my right hon. Friend would be satisfied 480 if, instead of the words suggested, the words "who are directly affected" were inserted. Make it as strong or as exclusive as possible, but I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to have regard to those very people who have had no opportunity of any representations whatever until the scheme has been determined by the Board—not by the Commissioners—and new people possibly affected who never for a moment dreamed they would be affected, and who had no opportunity of appeal to the Board. What opportunity have they got of embracing interests which were not embraced in the preliminary scheme of the Commissioners, which is well within the rights of the Board to accomplish I am sure the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me in principle in what I have said. I can, perhaps, visualise technically in the evolution of this scheme many considerations which, perhaps, cannot be present to the Attorney-General's mind when he is speaking. If they were, I am certain he would be a little more flexible in approaching these Amendments. I trust he will be able, even at this late hour, to do something to meet us on this point.
Mr. ELLIS: Once the scheme is published, and everybody concerned at the time having been heard, does this appeal court then become defunctus officio? If so, what of appeals which may quite reasonably be asked for as a result of amendments of the original scheme?
Mr. CLAYTON: I would like to ask a few questions with regard to the position of gas companies. The gas companies, I am satisfied, are only too anxious to work in with the scheme. They will probably have extra waste heat and coke, and they will want generally to work in with the scheme. They might very easily be included in the scheme with obligations, although they are not authorised undertakers. Would they have an opportunity of appealing to this appeal court, although they were not authorised undertakers, obligations having been put upon them?
Mr. GROTRIAN: I hope the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will accept the very reasonable suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour). It seems to me that the test of obligations imposed is not the true test; at any rate, it is not the exhaustive 481 test as to whether people should be heard or not, and there may be people upon whom no obligations whatever are imposed by the scheme who are yet very seriously affected by it. I do not think it really affects the matter to say there are 500 authorised undertakers, because surely a very small proportion of them would have any locus at all. But I do think that persons prejudicially affected by this scheme ought to have the right of being heard.
Mr. HARDIE: This Amendment as proposed to be amended, if it means anything, means that the question of arbitration can only come into being after
|Division No. 21.]||AYES|
|Ashley, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gosling, Harry||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hanbury, C.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hardie, George D.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Dennison, R.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebont)||Townend, A. E.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Holt, Captain H. P.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Burman, J. B.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Ellis, R. G.||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grant, J. A.|
Sir J. NALL: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "carrying out of those obligations," and to insert instead thereof the words "provisions of the scheme." I do not want to prolong the matter. This is very largely a similar point. The Amendment of my hon. Friend suggests that the only appeal will be upon the carrying out of those obligations, and that the appeal must lie upon the situation which arises from the carrying out of obligations imposed by the scheme. I think it is fairly obvious that schemes of the kind indicated will contain provisions which do not involve the carrying out of obligations, and, in effect, the Amendment which my hon. Friend has drawn is in such a form that not only will the parties who can come to the tribunal be severely restricted in the first instance, but the points on which they can appeal will be equally restricted if those words are left in. Further, I think this is again a minimum of reasonableness if my right482
a scheme has been drawn up. In this case we are only going to deal with that arbitration which is necessary for those whom you may call upon to come into this scheme. Anything else outside this scheme does not require to have any road made by this Amendment to come into the Arbitration Court or Appeal Court, for they have nothing to do with it. It is only those coming into the scheme who are entitled to claim by this Amendment.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 16.
hon. and learned Friend will accept this Amendment, so that such appeals would relate to the provisions of the scheme, and I ask any hon. Member of the Committee if the tribunal is not to exist for the purpose of considering appeals relating to the provisions of the scheme, then what on earth is the use of setting up a tribunal at all?
Really, it is making a farce of the supposed concession that a tribunal of any sort is being set up. I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend does not intend this to be the case, but wishes this tribunal to be effective for those who may have the misfortune to have to appear before it. I say "misfortune," because it is to be hoped schemes will not involve many of those cases on which appeals may arise. But, subject to the imposition we have already prescribed by the decision on the last Amendment, as to the very few parties who will in any case have a locus to appear before the tribunal, it is a minimum of reasonableness and of com- 483 mon sense that this appeal should relate to the provisions of the scheme, and not be restricted merely to what may be regarded as some obligation imposed under the scheme. I will not argue who is to determine what is an obligation and what is a provision, but it may well be, that in the course of time, and under the application of the Clause, an obligation may have to be determined by the Court, and may perhaps be of extremely restricted scope. I hope the Committee will see fit to accept this Amendment to a quite simple Amendment as far as the proviso is concerned.
Sir JOHN MARRIOTT: I hope my right hon. Friend will lend a sympathetic ear to this Amendment, moved in such very reasonable terms by my hon. Friend. We have reached in the proviso a most vital part of this Bill, and I would venture to appeal to my right hon. Friend that the Committee, having given a restriction to which, apparently, they attach a great deal of importance, and having decided that the words "on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme" should stand part of the proviso, will lend a more sympathetic ear to this, not unimportant, but, as I think, very reasonable Amendment. This Amendment to the Amendment suggests that, in place of the words carrying out of these obligations,' there shall be inserted the words "provisions of the scheme." It is obvious that these words will give the parties interested a larger discretion as to the appeal which they may make; as, if the words as originally drafted in the proviso stand part of it, it will be a very limited right of appeal which is given by the whole of this proviso—a strictly restricted and limited right of appeal. Now those of us who have taken some interest in the progress of the Bill can clearly understand that by assenting in principle—I do not say verbally—to the proviso which has been moved by my hon. Friend opposite, the Government were intending to introduce into the Bill a genuine safeguard for parties who are interested in the working of the proviso. I do submit that these words are a reasonable provision, giving to persons who are interested in the scheme, a right of appeal on any of the provisions of the scheme, and not merely in regard to the carrying out of certain specific obligations.484
Colonel ASHLEY: I can quite understand there might legitimately be a difference of opinion with reference to the last Amendment, because some hon. Members of this Committee, apparently, consider—and have every right to consider—that there should be a bigger choice of appeal than the majority of the Committee consider to be right, as evinced in the Division we have just had-That was a perfectly legitimate difference of opinion, which, though perhaps not vital, was of considerable importance. But what I cannot understand is the Amendment which now follows, which was described by its author as an important drafting Amendment. It seems to me that if it be a drafting Amendment, it is a very bad drafting Amendment. It seems to me perfectly logical that if certain people on whom obligations are imposed consider the carrying out of those obligations would hurt them, then a certain course should be open to them, but he says: "Provided that if any authorised under taker on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme consider that the provisions of the scheme." Surely, what we decided in the last Division was that people on whom obligations were imposed should have a right of appeal, and that seems logical and right. Here you say, not only when they have obligations put on them, but also with reference to other parts of the scheme which may not necessarily affect them at all. I submit to the Committee, that having decided by 28 votes to 16 that "obligations" shall stand, it would be illogical now to put in anything further than "obligations."
Lieut. - Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL: I am sorry I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend, because it seems to me perfectly logical, provided that any authorised undertaker, on whom obligations are imposed by the scheme, considers that he will be affected by the carrying out of the provisions of the scheme. I say at once that my hon. Friend has put a little more elasticity into the Amendment which I think is exceedingly good. It is all very well to say "the obligations," but undertakers may be confronted with all sorts of extraordinary proposals as to what they are to do or not to do. Surely it is high time that there should be some protection 485 given to these undertakers, and not make it too hard and fast. I quite agree that it has been decided that the words proposed to be left out by my hon. and gallant Friend should stand, but I still think that, having done that, it is all the more necessary that some elasticity should be given in the form of this Amendment. I do hope between going downstairs and coming back from the Division, my right hon. Friend will have a discussion with my right hon. and learned Friend, and perhaps they will be able to come into line. In any case, we hope so.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I hope my hon. Friend will not see fit to press this Amendment to the Amendment, because, really, if I may say so, it is asking the Committee to decide a point which it has just been discussing. The last Amendment was one on which my hon. Friend desired that, instead of the appeal being limited to persons upon whom obligations were imposed by the scheme, it should be extended to all persons affected by the scheme, and if that had been carried it would have been right and logical for us to accept this Amendment, but, in fact, the Committee decided to limit the right of appeal to persons upon whom obligations were imposed by the scheme. Once you decide that, what is it against which they should be entitled to appeal? They should have a right to appeal against the obligations imposed under the scheme. You have already decided to deny the right of appeal to other people affected by the scheme, who do not have obligations imposed on them, and, therefore, it cannot be logically defended that those having the right of appeal should have an unlimited right; and, having regard to the decision the Committee has already reached, I would ask my hon. Friend whether he could not see his way to withdraw his Amendment, which I rather think is consequential upon the one which has already been discussed.
Sir DOUGLAS NEWTON: There seems to be a fear in the mind of those responsible for this Bill that there will be a number of frivolous appeals entered against the scheme. I think we should bear in mind the very great 486 importance of this scheme, and the far-reaching effect which this scheme will have on responsible bodies who will be given a locus at the inquiry which will take place in connection with this scheme. Now we have just taken upon ourselves to limit the locus of the persons who may be heard to 572 bodies. That sounds rather a large number, but when we examine the table printed in the Weir Report we find that of those 572, no less than 335—considerably more than half—are local authorities, direct representatives of the ratepayers of this country. Therefore, I feel that those are bodies which should be given every possible opportunity of putting the case of the ratepayers whom they represent, and of being heard to the fullest possible extent. Not only do they represent a very large number of people, but they have spent a great deal of the ratepayers' money, because, of the total capital invested in electrical undertakings, no less than £103,000,000 is money invested by the local ratepayers. Therefore, I hope, for that reason amongst others, the Amendment which has been proposed by my hon. Friend will receive the approval of the Committee.
Mr. BALFOUR: I do not say I agree with the logic, nor may I be such a logician as my right hon. Friend. I understand, however, that my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment to a division in view of the division that has already taken place.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Sir J. NALL: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words
"arbitration of a barrister (or in Scotland an advocate) of not less than 10 years' standing appointed by the Minister of Transport,"
and to insert instead thereof the words
"tribunal of appeal by this Act constituted."
I understand that, with some modification, my right hon. Friend may be able to assist me in this Amendment by accepting something to the same end. I would like to say that, in putting down Amendments relating to the appeal tribunal, I
have particularly endeavoured to comply with certain conditions which my right hon. Friend indicated in this Committee as being in his view essential, namely, that the form of tribunal should be inexpensive, that it should be short in its procedure and command the confidence of those concerned. Now, the tribunal indicated in the words I propose to leave out would not, in my view, command the confidence of those concerned. It is very essential that appeals of this kind should be referred to a definite body, who will hear all appeals which arise, and who, in the process of the earlier appeals, will establish a settled policy which will guide future appeals, and, indeed, will guide the Board itself on points of policy relating to future schemes, and in that way a tribunal commanding the confidence of those concerned will be more effective by its influence than by actually hearing and deciding case after case, and point after point. My hon. Friend, in his proposal, indicates that quite a number of different arbitrators may be appointed to hear the several schemes upon which appeals may arise, that is to say, that the matter complained of is to be referred to the arbitration of a barrister of not less than 10 years' standing. You may get a different barrister for every appeal. You may get one barrister functioning in one part of the country and another functioning in another part of the country, and, under my hon. Friend's proposal, the same point of principle may, quite possibly, be referred on two different schemes to two different barristers sitting at the same time, and hearing the same point of principle with different parties involved, and may well come to different decisions. In the early stages of the operation of this Bill, such a situation will be quite hopeless. It is for that reason that I have put down on the Order Paper, in the form of a new Clause, which I should be out of order in discussing now, a definite and permanent constitution for an appeal tribunal:
"(1) For the purposes of the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1922, and this Act a tribunal of appeal (hereinafter called "the tribunal") shall be constituted consisting of five members, who shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor.
Colonel ASHLEY: I take it that I would be out of Order to discuss at any length the new Clause of the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nail), in which he outlines an alternative tribunal to the one contained in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson).
The CHAIRMAN: I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would be out of order.
Sir J. NALL: On that point of Order. May I submit this, purely with a view to expediting our proceedings I There are several cases of appeal arising under the Clauses of the Bill, and it would, obviously, save time if we discussed the constitution of the tribunal when we have 489 discussed all cases and Clauses under which appeals might arise. If we discuss it anew, we shall have to discuss over and over again.
Mr. BALFOUR: I think it would facilitate matters if we could settle the question whether it is to Be an appeal tribunal set up under this Bill for all purposes of the Bill by a separate Clause subsequently without prejudicing the views of my right hon. Friends as to the constitution of that tribunal or committing this Committee to the exact words of the Amendment which appears later, and which would suitably come forward, presumably, as a new Clause. My personal desire would be to confine ourselves in the meantime to the Amendment, and discuss entirely as to whether it is to be a tribunal of which we do not know the nature, but which would be discussed when we know the nature of the appeals which will come before the tribunal.
Mr. R. HUDSON: May I remind the Committee that the understanding on which this Amendment was originally based and framed was that we should set up an appeal tribunal for this Clause and nothing else? The question whether or not we make this or any other tribunal does not really carry out our original understanding.
Sir F. HALL: If the hon. Gentleman says it was understood that it was to be an appeal tribunal set up for this Clause, and this Clause only, all I have to say is that it is the first time I understood that.
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Gentleman will address himself to the point of Order.
Sir F. HALL: It is on that, because it is necessary to know exactly where we stand. My hon. Friend has said it was understood and agreed that it was to be an appeal tribunal for this Clause, and nothing else. I never understood that. I join with my hon. Friend in that I should be glad if we could get some idea from the Government, so that we do not get the same thing over and over again, but, on the other hand, that we may know what is the intention of the Government—whether it is to be an appeal tribunal set up for the purposes of the) Act or for this Clause only. It is going to be very difficult if we are to have different tribunals for practically every question that arises.490
The CHAIRMAN: I think it is quite clear that all that can be discussed on this is the appeal tribunal which shall relate to this Clause. The words of the Amendment make it clear, I think, that the constitution of the court can be discussed on this Amendment.
Mr. BALFOUR: Can we settle the appeal tribunal in the discussion of this Amendment?
The CHAIRMAN: We can settle the appeal tribunal for this Clause.
Mr. ATTLEE: May I ask whether, for instance, it would be in Order on this Amendment to say "tribunal consisting of," or whether it is out of Order to introduce the matter of tribunal into this particular Clause at all?
The CHAIRMAN: I am speaking of this particular Amendment. On this Amendment, the constitution of the tribunal can evidently be discussed. But, except in the most general terms, it would not be possible to discuss the application of the tribunal to any other Clauses, because the Amendment specifically sets it up for this Clause alone.
Colonel ASHLEY: I think I understand the situation. It is that we are now going to discuss what should be the composition of a tribunal which should be applicable to Clause 4. But, obviously, though you cannot discuss it, there is nothing to prevent the Committee, in dealing with subsequent appeals, applying the tribunal which is going to be set up now for Clause 4 to the subsequent appeals, if they so wish. Therefore, it is a matter of very considerable importance which we now have to decide. It seems to me that one wants to insure, first of all, that there shall be an impartial and a fair tribunal open to those people who, the Committee have decided, have access to that tribunal; and not quite as important, but almost as important, that the tribunal should be as expeditious and as cheap as possible, because we do not want to lay upon the scheme undue delay, and we do not want to lay upon the people who are to use this tribunal heavy costs which would be helping the rich corporations and hurting the poorer claimant who has to come before that tribunal. 491 Therefore, I submit that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson) does, broadly speaking, fulfil those two considerations, because it says that the matter complained of shall go to the arbitration of a barrister, or in Scotland an advocate, of not less than 10 years' standing. That, I understand, is the qualification for a judge, though it does not specifically lay down that there must be a judge. I am informed that judges who are available are very seldom met with, for they continue to work in their ordinary judicial functions until it is time for them to go on well-merited pension and enjoy otium cum dignitate. It has been suggested that ex-Colonial judges may be available. Again, I am informed that the field is very restricted, but that possibly some are available. What I want to make clear, first of all, is the point that this Amendment of my hon. Friend does meet the wishes of those who say, "We want to have a judge." A judge will undoubtedly be appointed, or the endeavour will be made for one to he appointed if he is available. At any rate, you will have the qualifications of a judge by saying you must have a barrister or an advocate of 10 years' standing, and this, I submit to the Committee, will insure getting a man on whom we can rely. Then, as to the question of who shall appoint him. He is to be appointed by my unworthy self. I do not think there is any very particular virtue in the Minister of Transport appointing him, though I think he is the obvious person to do so. At any rate, if I had been in the position of hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, I should have been perfectly content to leave the decision to him if the Committee had met the year before last. Then as to the composition of the tribunal, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, to meet the views of hon. Members who say it is a very important matter to leave to the decision of one man who is not necessarily an expert in the matter which is brought before him—though I think their fears are groundless—is perfectly willing to accept the Amendment put down by my hon. Friend the Member for South 492 East Essex (Mr. Looker) to insert after the word "may," the words: "in any case in which he thinks it expedient to do so, call in the aid of one or more qualified assessors and hear the case wholly or partially with the assistance of such assessors and may." Now, if you have a qualified assessor as arbitrator or judge in whom you may have confidence, who has had considerable length of service, who has the qualifications of a judge, and who will, whenever he has any doubt, be able to call in the help of two assessors or expert advisers to assist him, I do put it to the Committee that you have gone as far as you can reasonably expect to go to ensure that justice is done. In the proposed new Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme, it is suggested that the tribunal shall be constituted of five members who shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. If you have five Members, it does seem to me that you are making a far wider field of delay. If you can have one independent arbitrator in the matter, with assessors if necessary to give him expert advice, surely procedure will be far simpler, the cost will be far less, and the expedition will be very much greater than if you have a tribunal consisting of five members who will each have to give an opinion of some sort, and each, probably, ask for an adjournment because he has to read up the case, or for some other different reason he cannot sit next Tuesday or Wednesday because he has another appointment, which will hold up procedure very considerably. Therefore, I do hope the Committee will see their way to support my hon. Friend's Amendment, namely, to leave it to one arbitrator, with assessors if he thinks fit.
Mr. ATTLEE: This is rather an important matter, and I want to be quite clear about it. I think most of us do not want a matter of arbitration set up by which a barrister is appointed ad hoc for a particular case. He is then set up to sit with a couple of assessors, having no previous experience or practice of this Court, and without due procedure, and then, when that is done, he becomes a member ex officio, and someone else is taken on. I think we want a more regular tribunal than that. 493 If we have a barrister of 10 years standing, who shall be an arbitrator in this case, he will have private practice in the Court but not of electricity business. Therefore, we do come back to this, that we really want something in the nature of a permanent tribunal. I am entirely in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman that, if you have a tribunal of five members, they will go sick or go to the Derby, or otherwise not be available. I think, therefore, we want just one, and assessors. The advantage of assessors is that you can have this one person who will be advised by assessors on technical points. You may have a purely financial matter requiring a financial expert, a chartered accountant or whatever may be required. We have all through been talking of appeals, not merely under this Clause but under other Clauses. Hon. Members will notice that the Attorney-General has an Amendment down to Clause 5, in which he has substituted for the previous tribunal, which is the Railway and Canal Commission, words identical with those in this Clause. Now the same thing is going to arise on other Clauses, and we do not want to set out each time what I might call an ad hoc Clause with a sort of proviso. What we want in this case is to see that appeals under this particular section should come to a tribunal consisting of a barrister with assessors, and so on, and that in subsequent Clauses we should be able merely to refer to the tribunal under the Act. The hon. Member for Hulme said it in rather a different way, first in eliminating the nature of the tribunal at that stage, and leaving it to a long way on before deciding what that tribunal should be. I think that it is perfectly simple if we know exactly where we are before going through the Act, but we must decide what the tribunal is, and thereafter we can refer to it, knowing exactly to what we refer. The whole matter can be got over from other points of view if the Government will accept some such wording as "Appeal Tribunal consisting of" after the word "arbitration," and thereafter we can refer to them, the assessors being also accepted, which will be satisfactory. I do not think we want the idea running through the Bill of separate tribunals.
Sir J. NALL: On that point, may I explain that I am quite willing to put in 494 words—I understood that it might be necessary—not to indicate that only one form of tribunal was to be established, but to put in the words "decision of a." It would then read "decision of a tribunal of appeal by this Act constituted," and, as the hon. Gentleman indicates, that would imply reference to some other Clause in the Bill, but it would not tie all the other appeals to have to go to the same tribunal.
Sir CHARLES WILSON: In view of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport, would it not be an improvement, even from his point of view, to insert the words "Judge or" in front of the word "barrister"?
Colonel ASHLEY: I think that my only course is to ask the Committee to adjourn now. The learned Attorney-General asked me to apologise; he is an extremely busy man, and he was called out to a Committee at which he ought to have been at five o'clock. Both my hon. Friends have raised points of considerable importance, and as the learned Attorney-General is in charge of the Bill, and this is a very legal point, I think it would be only right that I should report to him what the views of the Committee are, and we can deal with this matter when we meet at 11 o'clock to-morrow morning.
Mr. BALFOUR: I think everything that has been said by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) coincides with what has been said by my hon. Friend. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Committee do now adjourn."
The CHAIRMAN: I am told that it would be more convenient for the Committee to meet to-morrow at two instead of four o'clock. I shall not, personally, be in the Chair to-morrow. Sir Edmund Turton will be in the Chair in the afternoon, and I have not yet seen him, but if it can be arranged the Committee will meet at two o'clock to-morrow.
Sir F. HALL: Many of us have our arrangements which we have made according to what you have said here before, and I myself have a most important meeting in the City to-morrow afternoon at two o'clock. I have no doubt many other 495 Members would find it extremely awkward to meet to-morrow afternoon at two instead of four.
The CHAIRMAN: I only wish to settle what corresponds to the wishes of the Members of the Committee. I asked the leaders on both sides to obtain the opinion of those on their own side, and they have conveyed to me that it would be more convenient to meet at two o'clock than at four.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I may say, as one who was consulted, that I consulted nearly all my friends who were present. It was suggested to me that, having regard to the fact that an important Debate is taking place to-morrow afternoon in the House at four o'clock, it would be desirable to meet at two instead of four. I consulted my friends, and I understood that the same thing was being done by the opposite side. As far as we are concerned, we approve of what the Chairman has said.
Sir J. NALL: Personally, I can express my willingness to be here at two o'clock 496 to-morrow afternoon, but I can quite see that it may conflict with the arrangements of other hon. Members. However, I am bound to say that it would appear to be more convenient to meet at two o'clock in view of the Debate in the House, and in order to avoid the difficulty of attending Divisions.
Sir D. NEWTON: May we have a direct vote on whether the Committee shall meet at two o'clock or four o'clock to-morrow afternoon?
Mr. BALFOUR: Surely we can settle this without having a vote on it. As far as I am concerned, it is inconvenient to be here at two o'clock, but if it be the wish of the Committee, I shall endeavour to comply with it.
The CHAIRMAN: The wish was conveyed to me by both sides, and I think we had better say two o'clock.
Question put, and agreed to.
The Committee adjourned at Ten Minutes before Six o'Clock, until To-morrow (Tuesday) at Eleven o'Clock.497
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Sanders, Sir Robert (Chairman)
Alexander, Mr. A. V.
Alexander, Mr. Ernest
Cowan, Sir Henry
Croft, Brig. Gen. Sir Henry Page
Davies, Mr. Evan
Dawson, Sir Philip
Greenwood, Mr. Arthur
Grenfell, Mr. David
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Frederick
Hall, Mr. George
Hartington, Marquess of
Henn, Sir Sydney
Hudson, Mr. James
Hudsoin, Mr. Robert
Jones, Mr. Mardy
Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Marriott, Sir John
Morrison, Mr. Robert
Nail, Sir Joseph
Newton, Sir Douglas
Ward, Lieut.-Colonel Lambert
Wilson, Sir Charles