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Military Lands Bill

Volume 84: debated on Thursday 21 June 1900

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House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1:—

The clause as it now stands would render it impossible to set in motion the machinery of the clause on behalf of a rifle club. It is felt that this restriction would be undesirable, and my Amendment removes it.


"In Clause 1, page 1, line 8, to leave out 'by or on behalf of a Volunteer corps.' "—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

This clause, as at present worded, obliges a Volunteer corps, as well as a county council or any other local authority, to apply to the Local Government Board for leave to borrow. That is a very proper condition in the case of a local authority, but I do not think that it should apply in the case of a Volunteer corps. Under the Military Lands Act of 1892 Volunteer corps must apply to the War Office for permission to borrow, and in our opinion the War Office would be a better judge in cases of that kind than the Local Government Board.

Amendment moved—

"In Clause 1, page 1, line 9, to leave out from 'and' to 'may' in line 11, and to insert 'for this purpose.'"—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendments agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 amended, and agreed to.

Clause 3:—

To this clause I have to move a drafting Amendment of very considerable importance. It is not my own, but Lord Thring's. Lord Thring would have moved it himself had he been able to be present to-day. On looking through Clause 3, Lord Thring was quite unable to satisfy himself of the effect of the clause as it at present stands. Your Lordships will see that it is a case of legislation by reference run mad. In the first place, certain provisions of Section 9 of the Local Government Act, 1894, are to apply; but they are to apply with certain modifications. Those modifications refer to other Acts, and if those Acts are looked at it will be found that they in their turn refer to previous Acts. The consequence is that anyone who reads this section will have considerable difficulty in understanding what the procedure is. Lord Thring suggests that it is exceedingly desirable that Her Majesty's Government should lay down in the schedule the rules of procedure which they consider are applicable to this case. They will have no difficulty in doing so if they understand Clause 3, which Lord Thring is unable to do. I would suggest that before the next stage of the Bill, or in the Standing Committee, the noble Marquess should produce a schedule describing in detail the procedure he proposes.


"In Clause 3, page 2, line 4, after 'purposes' to leave out to the end of the clause and insert 'the regulations contained in the Schedule hereto as to the continuation and otherwise of the resolution mentioned in this section shall apply in the same manner as if they were re- enacted in the Act.' "—(Lord Monkswell.)

No one has more respect for the high authority cited by the noble Lord than I have, and it is quite true that we all occasionally complain of the abuse of what is generally described as legislation by reference. I am afraid the offence, if it be one, is committed rather indiscriminately by all of us, and for very obvious reasons. The noble Lord has moved to insert the words—

"The regulations contained- in the Schedule hereto as to the confirmation and otherwise of the resolution mentioned in this section shall apply in the same manner as if they were re-enacted in the Act."
But he has left it to us to provide the necessary schedule. I have made some inquiries as to the probable character of that schedule, and I am told that it would be one of considerable length, covering four or five pages of printed matter. That would greatly add to the bulk of the Statute-book, and I submit that in this case it is scarcely necessary. I am told that the procedure to be followed under these two Acts—the Local Government | Act, 1894, and the Allotments Acts, 1887 —is very 'well understood, and that an exhaustive recapitulation of all the clauses would be superfluous. I have an Amendment to the same clause which will perhaps deprive it of some of the ambiguity to which the noble Lord has referred, and I certainly prefer my Amendment.

The noble Lord is setting a very bad precedent. In order to render the Amendment intelligible, anyone voting on it must have the schedule before him; but we are asked to vote on the Amendment without in the least knowing what the schedule is to be. I hope the Amendment will not be adopted.

My proposition is that at the next stage of the Bill the schedule should be set out, and the House given an opportunity of considering its provisions. Surely the four or five pages of printed matter to which the noble Marquess has referred might be lessened by some modified and perfectly intelligible reference to statutes that are easily accessible. But if it is the case that the Government cannot make the meaning of the clause clear to the ordinary mind under four or five pages, then that is an additional reason why those pages should be set out. I may mention that Lord Thring placed this Bill before the Parliamentary Committee of the County Councils Association yesterday, and that the committee passed a resolution recommending that the procedure clauses should be set out in full in the schedule.

I agree strongly with the Amendment of my noble friend. This is the most outrageous case I have heard of. It is most extraordinary that a Bill of this kind, involving very considerable dealings with land, should be passed through Parliament without the procedure being clearly set out. And why, forsooth, is this to be done? Because it is so complicated that it will take the War Office a long time to make it clear. How, I ask, is the ordinary reader to understand it without the assistance of those gentlemen in the War Office who, whatever may be their qualifications on military matters, are perfectly able to prepare a schedule of this kind? I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who has frequently spoken against the practice of legislating by reference, will persuade his colleagues to give the public some assistance in understanding this Bill.

May I ask whether it is likely to add to the value of the precedent you are endeavouring to set up, to enact that there shall be a schedule of some sort or other without describing it?

I suggest that the noble Marquess should withdraw these words from the clause with a view of producing a schedule at some future time.

On Question, their Lordships proceeded to a division.

I am very anxious not to keep back from persons interested in this Bill any information with regard to the manner in which it will operate, and I suggest, as a possible solution of the difficulty, that we might print and lay upon the Table of the House.—

I am afraid the noble Marquess is out of order in speaking now.

The noble Earl is quite right. There can be no speaking after a division has been called.

(The Marquess of SALISBURY)

All we have to do is to withdraw the division and proceed.

On the Question being again put, the Amendment was negatived.

There is now no reason why the noble Earl should not allow my noble friend to make his statement.

We refrained from dividing in order to enable him to have an opportunity of making it.

The suggestion I was going to throw out was that we might make the position perfectly clear, without encumbering the Statute-book with a schedule of inordinate length, if the clauses of the two Acts which affect the clause in this Bill were printed and laid upon the Table of the House for your Lordships' consideration. It would then be for your Lordships to judge whether it was necessary to do anything more or not.

Drafting Amendments agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4, 5, and 6 agreed to.

The new clause standing in my name after Clause 6 has been introduced at the instance of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and is designed to render the Act applicable to Scotland. I must take it from him that the Amendment is sufficient for the purpose. I cannot pretend to be sufficiently conversant with the mysteries of Scottish law to affirm that it is so from my own knowledge.


"To insert as a new clause, after Clause 6:—' (1.) In the application of this Act to Scotland the following provision shall have effect—(a) The expressions "council of any urban district" and "council of any urban district other than a borough" shall mean the commissioners of a police burgh; (b) the expression "Public Health Acts" shall mean the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, provided that the limit of rate imposed by that Act shall not apply to any rate authorised by this Act; (c) the expression "hire" shall mean "take on lease"; (d) references to the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1894, and to Section 25 and Sub-sections (2) to (4) and (7) to (9) of Section 26 thereof shall be substituted for references to the Local Government Act, 1894, and to Section 9 and Sub-sections (2) to (5) and (8) to (10) thereof respectively; (e) a reference to Subsection (8) of Section 25 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1894, shall be substituted for a reference to Sub-sections (1) and (5) of the Local Government Act, 1888; (f) in Section 6 of this Act the expression "Local Government Board" shall mean the Local Government Board for Scotland. (2.) In Subsection (9) of Section 25 of the Military Lands Act, 1892, "twenty-one" shall be substituted for "twenty-two."' "—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)

On Question, new Clause agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to; Bill recommitted to the Standing Committee; and to be reprinted as amended. (No. 117.)