TUESDAY, 16th MARCH, 1926.2671
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Brown, Mr. James (Chairman)
Adamson, Mr. William (Fife, Western)
*Advocate, The Lord (Carlisle)
Alexander, Sir William (Glasgow, Central)
Atholl, Duchess of (Perth and Kinross)
*Balniel, Lord (Lancaster, Lonsdale)
Barr, Mr. (Lanark, Motherwell)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)
Berry, Sir George (Scottish Universities)
Boothby, Mr. (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
*Bourne, Captain (Oxford)
Broun-Lindsay, Major (Glasgow, Partick)
Buchanan, Mr. (Glasgow, Gorbals)
Chapman Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)
Charteris, Brig.-General (Dumfries)
Cochrane, Commander (Fife, Eastern)
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)
Couper, Mr. J. B. (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Cowan, Mr. (Scottish Universities)
Craik, Sir Henry (Scottish Universities)
*Crawfurd, Mr. (Walthamstow, W.)
Crookshank, Colonel (Berwick and Haddington)
Dalkeith, Earl of (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
*Davies, Major George (Yeovil)
Elliot, Captain (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Eanishawe, Commander (Stirling and Clackmannan, Western)
*Fermoy, Lord (King's Lynn)
Ford, Sir Patrick (Edinburgh, N.)
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John (Pollok)
Graham, Mr. Duncan (Lanark, Hamilton)
Graham, Mr. William (Edinburgh, Central)
*Hall, Captain W. D'Arcy (Brecon and Radnor)
Hamilton, Sir Robert (Orkney and Shetland)
Hardie, Mr. (Glasgow, Springburn)
*Harmsworth, Mr. (Isle of Thanet)
Harvey, Mr. C. Barclay- (Aberdeen and Kincardine)
Henderson, Mr. Thomas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Home, Sir Robert (Glasgow, Hillhead)
Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-General Sir A. (Ayr and Bute)
Hutchison, Mr. Clark (Midlothian and Peebles)
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)
* James, Lieut.-Colonel (Bromley)
Johnston, Mr. (Dundee)
Kennedy, Mr. Thomas (Kirkcaldy)
Kidd, Mr. (Linlithgow)
Kirkwood, Mr. (Dumbarton Burghs)
Livingstone, Mr. MacKenzie (Western Isles)
MacAndrew, Major (Ayr and Bute)
Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Macdonald, Mr. Robert (Glasgow, Cathcart)
MacIntyre, Mr. (Edinburgh, W.)
Maclean, Mr. Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Macpherson, Mr. (Ross and Cromarty)
Macquisten, Mr. (Argyll)
*March, Mr. (Poplar, S.)
Maxton, Mr. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Mitchell, Mr. Rosslyn (Paisley)
Mitchell, Mr. Stephen (Lanark, Lanark)
Moore, Lieut.-Colonel (Ayr Burghs)
Murnin, Mr. (Stirling and Falkirk, .District of Burghs)
*Ritson, Mr. (Durham, E.)
*Robinson, Mr. (Elland)
Rose, Mr. (Aberdeen, N.)
Scrymgeour, Mr. (Dundee)
Shaw, Lieut.-Colonel Mclnnes (Renfrew, Western)
Shiels, Dr. (Edinburgh, E.)
Sinclair, Major Sir Archibald (Caithness and Sutherland)
Skelton, Mr. (Perth and Kinross, Perth)2672 2673
Smith, Mr. Robert (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
Solicitor-General for Scotland
Sprot, Sir Alexander (Lanark, Northern)
*Steel, Major (Kent, Ashford)
Stephen, Mr. (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Stewart Mr. James (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
Streatfeild, Captain (Galloway)
Stuart, Mr. (Moray and Nairn)
Templeton, Mr. (Banff)
Thorn, Colonel (Dumbarton)
Thomson, Mr. Frederick (Aberdeen, South)
Watson, Mr. Maclean (Dunfermline, District of Burghs)
Weir, Mr. McNeill (Stirling and Clackmannan, Clackmannan and Eastern)
Welsh, Mr. (Lanark, Coatbridge)
Westwood, Mr. (Midlothian and Peebles, Peebles and Southern)
Wheatley, Mr. (Glasgow, Shettleston)
*Whiteley, Mr. (Blaydon)
*Williams, Commander (Torquay)
Wright, Mr. (Lanark, Rutherglen)
* Added in respect of the Allotments (Scotland) Bill.
Mr. THROCKMORTON, Committee Clerks.
Mr. DENT, Committee Clerks.2674 2675 STANDING COMMITTEE ON SCOTTISH BILLS. Tuesday, 16th March, 1926.
[Mr. JAMES BKOWN in the Chair.]
Notwithstanding the provisions of Section sixteen of the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922, any local authority may take proceedings under the provisions of the Allotments Acts relating to allotments if, in the opinion of the local authority, the expenses referred to in the said Section may reasonably be expected, after the proceedings are taken, to exceed the receipts of the local authority under these provisions by no greater amount than would be produced by a rate of one penny in the pound.
The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour): I beg to move, after the word "may" ("any local authority may take proceedings"), to insert the words "if they deem it expedient". This Amendment is intended to carry out an undertaking which I gave during the Second Beading Debate. As I understand the intentions of the promoters of the Bill, and as I gather from conversations with those interested in the allotments movement, it is desired that this Measure should be permissive, and that the imposition of a rate for the assistance of the allotments movement, should be at the discretion of the local authority. I think we all desire to have it made clear that while a local authority may, if it sees fit, impose a rate, that does not necessarily mean that it must impose the full penny rate but that it may impose a rate of something legs than one penny if it so desires. This, as I said in the House, is a legal question, and the matter is bound up with the provisions of previous Acts. In order that there may be no dubiety upon the point the Lord Advocate advises that it is desirable to insert these words. Representations have 2676 been made by local authorities who, while friendly towards this movement, were little disturbed lest the provisions of the Measure should be made obligatory in every case. In order to meet them, and in conformity with the wishes of the promoters of the Bill, I have put down the Amendment.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON: I have no strong objection to the Amendment but I do not think it is necessary. The use of the word "may" leaves it optional on the local authority to adopt these provisions, without the insertion of the proposed words. My own feeling about the Amendment is that if it has any effect, it weakens the Bill. I know that certain local authorities were a little alarmed at the introduction of the Bill. I saw no necessity for their alarm as long as the word "may" was used instead of the word "shall," and I think they are perfectly safe without this Amendment. My fear is, that the Amendment may give a handle to those authorities who wish to do nothing in this matter. That would not be a good thing, because everyone is convinced of the usefulness of these provisions, and I would not like to see anything done to weaken the Measure.
Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS: I support the view of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and since we are told that this Amendment has been suggested by the Lord Advocate, I submit that it is a delicate compliment on his part to the members of the legal profession, on their remarkable power of manipulating the English language so as to make "may" into "shall". To ordinary simple people there seems to be no difficulty in the interpretation of the Clause as it stands, "may" meaning "may" and "shall" meaning "shall". I do not know that there is any sinister object behind the proposal to insert these words. I think that is certainly not the case with the Secretary of State for Scotland who simply desires to make clear what is the object of the Bill. We know, however, that sometimes in the endeavour to make things clear, a certain amount of confusion is introduced, and while I do not know that such is likely to arise from the use of these apparently innocuous words, I think on the whole, it would be safer to leave the Bill as it stands.
Mr. T. KENNEDY: I agree with the two previous speakers who have objected 2677 to this Amendment on the general ground that the words which it is proposed to insert are redundant. The Clause as it stands is purely permissive. The limitation of the rate to one penny, provided for in the Clause permits the local authority to levy any smaller rate than one penny. Although the Secretary of State for Scotland hinted at some legal reason for the insertion of these words, he did not make plain—to me at any rate—wihat that legal reason was. My impression is, that the insertion of these words, instead of encouraging local authorities to operate this Bill, will act as a discouragement and tend to provide an excuse enabling unprogreseive local authorities to treat the Bill as a matter of little moment. Those who desire to see the Bill made a success would like to see every possible obstacle to its operation cleared away, and I hope unless some very sound reason is given on legal grounds, for the insertion of these words the Committee will allow the Bill to stand as originally drafted.
The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Watson): I shall try to make as clear as I can, what I consider to be the difficulty in the wording of this Clause as it stands. It arises from the relation of this Measure to existing legislation. Under Section 2, of the Act of 1892, it was made an obligatory duty on local authorities, when they had had a requisition and when they had found certain facts and circumstances to be present, to take certain proceedings. That was not an enabling provision at all, but, as I say, an obligatory duty. Under Section 16, of the Act of 1922—which is here referred to—a restriction was placed on the exercise of that duty. Putting it very shortly, the restriction meant that unless both ends were going to meet, the duty of the 1892 Act was not to lie on the local authorities. In Clause 1 of this Bill we find no reference to the Act of 1892, but only a reference to Section 16, of the Act of 1922, the restrictions in which this Bill relaxes. In so far as you relax the restriction of the Act of 1922, you are, thereby, automatically extending the obligation of the Act of 1892. At any rate, that is a possible reading of the Clause in conjunction with the previous legislation, and I do not need to put the matter higher than that. If this Clause read "notwithstanding the provisions of the Act of 1892," as well as "notwithstanding the provisions of the Act of 2678 1922," it might be said to make clear the fact that there is no obligation. It omits, however, all reference to the general obligatory duty placed on the authorities in the Act of 1892. This is purely a question of the construction of the legislation as framed and I agree that if we were looking at this Bill alone, and found the word "may" in it, we might take it as clearly permissive. Unfortunately, we have to take it along with other legislation. There is nothing here which gives an enabling power: all this Bill does is to relax existing restrictions. We may then ask: Restrictions on what? The answer is: Restrictions on a statutory duty. It might, at least, be argued—and, in my opinion, probably with success—that, in so far as we relax the restrictions of 'he Act of 1922, we are thereby extending the original statutory duty. All one requires for the present purpose to justify the inclusion of these words is to? show that at least there is a doubt. Perhaps hon. Members will believe me when I say that what we want to do in this case is to avoid all doubt and litigation now that we have a chance of making the point clear. I do not appreciate 1he argument that when we intend a discretion only, and make that discretion clear, we are going to make local authorities more lax and less anxious to carry out the provisions of the Bill. Is it the idea, that if you have a half-veiled threat which truly means permission, it is going to be more effective? If the permission be made clear, I hardly see how it can have the affect anticipated by some hon. Members. I hope I have made clear my view with regard to the construction of this legislation, and that hon. Members will realise that it is in order to avoid any possible doubt or difficulty and in order to express clearly what I understand to be the intention of the Committee, that I have advised my right hon. Friend to move the insertion of these words.
Mr. BARR: I have listened attentively to the explanation given by the Lord Advocate, and, surely, if what he says be correct, the proper Amendment would be to include a reference to the Act of 1892 and thereby put the matter in order by a direct method. It seems to me that if there is a lack of full reference in this Clause it is a very remote argument to suggest that instead of putting the 2679 omission right directly, we should try to put it right by the insertion of a form of words such as that now proposed. That form of words I think is wrong from the point of view of mere composition, and we ought not to disregard altogether the rules against redundancy, even in Acts of Parliament which are not models of literary skill. I was astonished when this Bill came up for Second Beading, to find in the Lobby men who had travelled all the way from Scotland on account of this very point, and in the fear that some obligation was to be imposed on the local authorities. I think it was an abuse of public money that men should have come all the way from Scotland in order to argue that "may" might possibly mean "shall". I wonder if this Amendment is simply a method of relieving their fears by emphasising that the provision of the Measure are only to apply "if they deem it expedient," and, in short, that they need not pay much heed to the Measure at all. I think we ought to abide by the word "may" in its simplicity. To refer once more to the rules of grammar, we are told that a simple unadorned word is often more clear and impressive than if one seeks to express the same sense in a redundant form. If there be any difficulty in the Clause or any possibility of misreading it through the omission of any reference to the 1892 Act, that omission should be made right in the proper and direct way by inserting such a reference, and not by seeking to get round the omission in this remote way.
Mr. STEPHEN: I wonder, in view of what has been said, if the Lord Advocate could not offer something other than the Amendment in order to meet this point. As far as I can see, there is agreement in the Committee that this should be only an enabling power, but this phrase itself is causing suspicions, possibly needlessly, and I wonder if, on the Report stage, the Lord Advocate could not suggest some other way than the Secretary of State for Scotland has done by means of this Amendment. There is just the possiblity that there is some force in the objection that this is a sort of wet blanket on local authorities doing something to encourage allotment holders, and if something could be done on that point on the Report stage I am sure that everyone would be satisfied. We are all interested in this Measure, and anxious that the people 2680 interested should feel that some consideration is being given to them.
Sir J. GILMOUR: I think we are all agreed on the main purpose which the Committee desire to attain, and the only point is whether or not this is the simplest way of making it quite clear. To my mind, these words, though perhaps a long discussion and the advertising of them may not be of advantage, are clear and easily understood. If you adopted the suggestion of reference to the other Act, that would be much, more complicated, because, of course, it would be legislation by reference, which is one of the most objectionable forms of legislation which this House ever perpetrates, because it causes an infinity of trouble to those who try to understand the meaning of an Act. I am perfectly willing to look into the matter most carefully, as indeed we have done, and it has seemed to us that this is by far the simplest and most direct way, and that it really does not raise any doubts or run counter to the general wishes of the Committee. Between now and the Report stage we can, no> doubt, look into it, but I cannot think that we will be able to find any simpler method, and, to my mind, the other method, of reference to other legislation, is really rather undesirable.
Commander WILLIAMS: I think that possibly, the position has got into such a state that it might be wise to have it cleared up. We have two very distinct points of view. On the one side, we have those Members who think it redundant, and if you are going through a Bill of this sort, from the beginning to the end, and inserting expressions to explain exactly what the promoters of the Bill mean, or think they mean, you are going to have a very great deal of over-wording in any Bill. On the other hand, I fully realise the point of view put by the Government, that legislation by reference is the worst form of legislation, but I would like to point out that in this very Clause, if you once begin by defining what you mean by the word "may", what will you do when you come to a much bigger word later on, such as "reasonably"? There undoubtedly you will have very great difficulty in defining what you mean, and for that reason, although I see the Government's side of it, and I think on the whole it is better, yet I do think that in legislation of this kind, which is meant 2681 to be extremely simple and easy for the local authorities to understand, they have not made an absolutely full case for putting in these words. May I suggest that they might withdraw their Amendment at the present time and reconsider it between now and the Report Stage in the House, in order to see if they could not
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Berry, Sir George||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew. W>|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Fermoy, Lord||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Charteris Brioadier-General J.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hutchison, G. A.Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||March, S.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Barr, J.||Maxton, James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buchanan, G.||Rltson, J.||Whiteley, w.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay}|
|Kennedy, T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wright, w.|
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 (Short title, construction and extent) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported to the House.
Mr. MAXTON: On a point of Order. I have a point to raise.
The CHAIRMAN: Is it in connection with the Bill?
Mr. MAXTON: No. It is a point affecting the status of the Scottish Standing Committee.
The CHAIRMAN: I am in the hands of the Committee, but the Bill has been finished.
Mr. MAXTON: I am in your hands, but I wish to raise a question affecting my rights as a member of this Committee, the standing of the Scottish Grand Committee in the work of the House of Commons, and, indeed, the position of Scotland inside the Union. If this be not the appropriate place to raise it, I do not know where there is a place to raise it.
The CHAIRMAN: I think it would be much better to raise it at the next Scottish Standing Committee meeting, but in the meantime there can be no question of raising it now.
Sir J. GILMOUR: Move a vote of thanks to the Chairman.2682
get some even simpler wording to deal with the matter, so as to make it easier for the local authorities to know exactly where they are in the matter1?
Question put, "That those words be there inserted".
The Committee divided: Ayes, 21 Noes, 15.
Mr. MAXTON: Do not let us be so abrupt. I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that I have a perfect right to raise here a question affecting the status of this Committee, and my position as a member of the Committee. It may be, when I put the particular point, the Chairman may rule that it is not one that can be raised appropriately at this time, but on my intimation—
The CHAIRMAN: I would point out to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that this is a Committee dealing with an Allotments Bill.
Mr. MAXTON: It is a meeting of the Scottish Standing Committee for one specific purpose.
The CHAIRMAN: The point of the hon. Member does not seem to arise.
Mr. MAXTON: You do not know yet what the point is.
The CHAIRMAN: Has it any connection with the Allotments Bill?
Mr. MAXTON:I have assured you that it has not.
The CHAIRMAN: Then I have nothing to do with it.
Mr. MAXTON: I put it to you, as-Chairman of the Scottish Standing Committee, that this is the appropriate place to raise a matter affecting the status of the Committee, and that there is no way 2683 in which I can get it put down on the agenda of the Committee. On the next occasion, when the Committee meets, it will be to consider some other Bill, and I shall be told I cannot raise it on that Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member will do far better to raise this question in the House, for really I have no jurisdiction in the matter here.
Mr. MAXTON: You cannot possibly say that, because I have not yet put the point to you. You are only indulging in intelligent or unintelligent anticipation, which may or may not be borne out by what I have to say. I want to say that the conduct of the Solicitor-General in putting into a Bill an Amendment which was before a general Committee ,of this House, which included Scotland—
The CHAIRMAN: I am very sorry, but that is foreign to the business of this Committee altogether.
Mr. SCRYMGEOUR: When do you say, Mr. Chairman, that this matter can be dealt with, and where?
The CHAIRMAN: The matter can be dealt with in the House, by question, or 2684 by private notice Motion, or in any other way that hon. Members care to take, but it cannot be dealt with here on the Allotments Bill.
Mr. MAXTON: Can you tell me any other place than this Committee where Scottish Members can discuss Scottish business? I am aware that the matter can be raised in the House, and, indeed, I took a part in raising it yesterday, but there is no opportunity there for Scottish opinion to be gathered as distinct from the general opinion of the House, and you know what a very poor chance Scottish opinion has in a House of 615 Members. I want to know if I can, at some other meeting of this Committee, get this matter down on the agenda for discussion. I want your guidance and advice on that matter, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid I am not competent to give the hon. Member any advice at all, in the sense that I am not here to do that to-day, but only to deal with the Allotments Bill. It is for a future Chairman to say whether the question will, or will not, be in order, and it is not for me to pledge a future Chairman's idea on the subject at all.
The Committee rose at Twenty-nine Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Brown, Mr. James (Chairman)
Adamson, Kt. Hon. W.
Advocate, The Lord
Berry, Sir George
Davies, Major George
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John
Harvey, Mr. C. Barclay-
Henderson, Mr. Thomas
Hutchison, Mr. Clark
Hutchison, Sir Robert
Kennedy, Mr. Thomas
Mitchell, Mr. Stephen
Shaw, Lieut.-Colonel McInnes
Stewart, Mr. James
Thomson, Mr. Frederick