§ (1) There shall be transferred to the Minister—
- (a) all the powers and duties of the Local Government Board;
- (b) all the powers and duties of the Insurance Commissioners and the Welsh Insurance Commissioners;
- (c) all the powers of the Board of Education with respect to attending to the health of expectant mothers and nursing mothers and of children who have not attained the age of five years and are not in attendance at schools recognised by the Board of Education; all the powers and duties of the Board of Education with respect to the medical inspection and treatment of children and young persons;
- (d) all the powers of the Privy Council and of the Lord President of the Council under the Midwives Acts, 1902 and 1918;
- (e) such powers of supervising the administration of Part I. of the Children Act, 1908 (which relates to infant life protection), as have heretofore been exercised by the Secretary of State:
- (a) all or any of the powers and duties of the Minister of Pensions with respect to the health of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service;
- (b) all or any of the powers and duties of the Secretary of State under the enactments relating to lunacy and mental deficiency;
- (c) any other powers and duties in England and Wales of any Government Department which appear to His Majesty to relate to matters affecting or incidental to the health of the people.
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), paragraph (c), after the word "Education" ["recognised by the Board of Education"], insert "(d)."—[Dr. Addison.]
§ Sir CYRIL COBB
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), at the end of paragraph (c), to insertProvided for under paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section thirteen of the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1907, as amended and extended by Section eighteen of the Education Act, 1918.This Amendment is designed to define more clearly what is meant by the medical inspection and treatment of school children. The school medical service, as exercised, includes a very great deal more than can be, may be, strictly called medical inspection and treatment. When we were discussing this Clause upstairs, it appeared that there was some difference of opinion as to what was or was not meant, and it seems that the words "medical treatment" included a great number of things which I do not think it is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to take over from the Board of Education to the Ministry of Health. My Amendment quotes Section 13 of the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1907, which did define what was meant by medical inspection and medical treatment. That Section says:(b) The duty to provide for the medical inspection of children immediately before or at the time of, or as soon as possible after their admission to a public elementary school, and on such, other occasions as the Board of Education direct, and the power to make such arrangements as may be sanctioned by the Board of Education for attending to the health and physical condition of the children educated in a public elementary schoolI see no definition of medical inspection and medical treatment which, as I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman wishes to take into the charge of the Ministry of Health. The Board of Education has to a certain extent defined what that medical treatment and medical inspection is in its stricter sense, because when the Board of Education first of all goes to the Treasury 2091 for a Grant for medical treatment and medical inspection they make the local education committee fill up a form for that particular Grant and for no other. All matters connected with the physical welfare of the children are included in that Grant, but the actual Grant for medical treatment and medical inspection of the children is confined strictly to the actual treatment of the diseases from which the children are suffering and which are discovered by virtue of the medical inspection which is compulsory on the school children.
My object is to provide some words which will so define medical inspection and medical treatment that it will include all these other things which are necessary for physical welfare. We have been told that physical training is not included, and is not taken over by the Minister of Health. There is a distinction between control and administration. I want the control of medical inspection and medical treatment to be in the hands of the Minister of Health, but I want the administration of the medical inspection and treatment of all those other things cognate to that and generally for the physical welfare of the children in the schools to remain in the hands of the Board of Education. That, I think, was the general sense of the Committee upstairs. I am only trying to obtain some more definite definition of what is meant by medical treatment and medical inspection as it occurs in this Clause of the Bill, so that I may get it confined to the strict sense which the Board of Education wishes it to be confined to, because when the Grant was given for this purpose it was quite clear it was only for medical inspection and medical treatment in the strict sense of the term.
§ Amendment not seconded.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1, e), to insert the wordsProvided that, for the purpose of facilitating the effective exercise and performance of these powers and duties, the Minister may make arrangements with the Board of Education respecting the submission and approval of schemes of local education authorities and the payment of grants to local education authorities, so far as such schemes and payment relate to or are in respect of medical inspection and treatment; and the powers and duties of the Minister may under any such arrangements be exercised 2092 and performed by the Board on his behalf and with his authority under such conditions as he may think fit.We had on the Committee a long discussion as to the duties of the President of the Board of Education in relation to medical treatment of school children, which has just been referred to by the last speaker, and although I endeavoured, without success, to persuade the Committee that the course they were suggesting was a little rash, they decided otherwise. At the conclusion of our proceedings, with the concurrence of the Committee, I said:It must be open for the Government to review the situation, and if we really find it vitally necessary for administrative purposes and the working of the services of the Education Department to bring up words on Report which will meet the administrative difficulties, which I am sure the carrying out of the Amendment proposed would certainly make for us, I must be at liberty to do so.Those on the Committee will recollect that statement, and the words I have put down on the Paper are in consequence of that consideration. The President of the Board of Education and myself have carefully considered this question, not from the point of view in any way of going back upon the decision of the Committee, for we have faithfully accepted that, but in order to make that decision administratively workable. May I state here that if my hon. Friend (Sir C. Cobb) had found a seconder for his Amendment I should have had no objection to his words, because they are really what we intended the Clause to mean. The present procedure is that the local education authority submits a scheme to my right hon. Friend, and that scheme includes all sorts of educational services, such as the provision of meals, gymnastics, medical inspection and treatment, and inter alia special schools. All these are included in the scheme which is submitted to the Board of Education, and that Board decides thereupon what Grant the authority is to receive. In coming to a decision as to the Grant, of course the Board of Education naturally attaches importance to this or that item in the general scheme. There are technical schools, provision of meals, medical inspection, and the rest of it, but, as I told the Committee, it would interfere with the whole system, which has been gradually and laboriously built up, whereby there is a block Grant amount in respect of education generally, if we had to take bits out and administer that on the advice of some other Department.
2093 We have endeavoured in the Amendment on the Paper to secure to the Minister of Health the responsibility which the Committee wished to attach to him directly in respect of medical inspection and treatment, and at the same time to set out arrangements which would make the formulation of schemes and the determination of Grants thereupon as between the local education authorities, and the Board of Education possible of continuance on more or less the same lines upon which they have been found workable, and which we still find workable. If the House will look at the Amendment, they will see that we have taken the words of the Amendment inserted in Committee, and I propose to add at the end the words on the Order Paper. I would like to say that they are solely and wholly designed to carry out what I said in the Committee, that I believe they are vitally necessary for administrative purposes in the services and the working of the Education Department as well as our own. As will be seen from the words of my Amendment, the whole power is in the hands of the Minister of Health, but he is allowed to make arrangements with the Board of Education in respect to the submission and approval of schemes and their formulation with regard to the payment of Grants for administrative purposes as I intimated might be found necessary. I want to assure the House that neither my right hon. Friend nor myself, in putting down this Amendment, are in any way trying to depart from the decision of the Committee, and we are only trying to put into a form of words such an arrangement as will be necessary to carry out the decision of the Committee, and I hope the House will accept this Amendment.
§ Sir C. COBB
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to insert my defining words after the word "treatment" in his Amendment?
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I do not know what these words actually mean that are being suggested in this Amendment, and I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman assures us that they do not go contrary to what the Committee decided. I am not quite clear about that. I look 2094 upon this Amendment as upsetting what the Committee were very decided upon, namely, that the medical care of the children should be directly under the Minister of Health. This Amendment suggests that though they shall be nominally under the Minister of Health he shall take powers to enable him to hand over his responsibility to the Board of Education. That is exactly what the Committee refused to accept. We had two Ministers present to try and persuade us to accept that point of view. It was suggested over and over again in the Debate by both Ministers that it would not interfere in any way, and that it was usual for the Board of Education to do these things and that every thing was prepared. What was wanted, and what I do not see in these words, is that the doctors who do this inspection and everybody connected with the inspection shall be directly under the Minister of Health, and moreover that they should be paid by the Minister of Health.
§ Sir C. WARNER
They are not directly under him if they are paid by a Grant got from the Board of Education, and under those circumstances they will very soon cease to be responsible to the Minister of Health. This Amendment does not carry out what was absolutely accepted by the right hon. Gentleman in Committee. May I point out that there was practically no difference of opinion on the Committee, the Members of which were quite ten to one in favour of handing these duties over to the Minister of Health in spite of every argument raised against it. I hope, therefore, that these words will be left out altogether, or else that the words of the Minister in charge of this Bill will be modified in such a way as to make it clear that the inspecting officers and the doctors who do this work shall be paid by and shall be directly responsible to the Minister of Health and to nobody else. That was what was decided in Committee, and it was clearly stated. Whatever my right hon. Friend says that this Amendment does, it does not seem to me to carry out the intention of the Committee, and I shall go to a Division upon it.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and I am very disappointed to find this Amendment on the Paper. Hon. Members know that upstairs, if the Government had gone to a Division on 2095 the Amendment that was proposed they would have been beaten by forty to one. In fact, I believe there was only one private Member present who would have voted in favour of the Government on that occasion. My right hon. Friend has quoted one extract, but I would like to quote another. During the Committee stage he said quite definitely:This morning the Committee gave us our marching orders with regard to the medical treatment of school children, and we will do our best to act in accordance with that instruction.I do not think that this Amendment is acting in accordance with the Instruction which the Committee gave upstairs, and I think I know what has happened. After that Amendment was carried, my right hon. Friend was rung up on the telephone by the Minister for Education, and they had a talk together on the subject. The Minister for Education arranged with my right hon. Friend that the Board of Education should get the power of acting. I am quite sure that something of that kind must have occurred. The whole idea of this Bill is that the Ministry should have the health of the country to look after, and there is no more important period of human life than the years between five and sixteen. I do hope that the House is not going to allow the duties that were given to my right hon. Friend upstairs to be taken away from him and placed once more under the Board of Education. I do not really know what we are to do with regard to this Amendment. It is very difficult to say how one can amend it to bring it into conformity with the principle which we carried upstairs. I should like to move, as a first Amendment—I will try to get it in as early as I can—after the word "may" ["the Minister may make arrangements with the Board of Education"], to insert the wordsin respect of any areas where such a step may prove for the time being to be necessary.It does not go nearly so far as I would like it. It does, however, mean that the Minister will not hand over straightway the whole of the powers, but that he will only hand them over in so far as he believes it would be difficult for him to exercise them in any particular area. I certainly will not press this Amendment if the House thinks that we can bind the right hon. Gentleman to what we agreed upon upstairs. If it is the general opinion of the House, I will certainly not move it. I am only anxious to bring it a little more in accordance with what we agreed upon 2096 upstairs. I feel very strongly on the subject, and, if my right hon. Friend presses the matter, I am certainly prepared to go into the Lobby on it.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
This proviso of the President of the Local Government Board has taken us a little by surprise, and it is very difficult indeed to understand exactly what powers and duties the Minister will discharge, and what powers and duties will be discharged by the President of the Board of Education. It is quite true, as stated by my hon. Friend opposite, that the Committee upstairs decided practically unanimously that the powers and duties of the Board of Education in respect of the medical inspection and treatment of children and young persons should be transferred from the Board of Education to the Ministry of Health. This refers not only to the medical inspection and treatment of young children in elementary schools, but also to the medical inspection and treatment of children in secondary schools, in continuation schools, and practically up to the age of eighteen—that is to say, during that important period of a young person's life between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Surely, if there is to be a Ministry of Health, it is the duty of the Ministry to look after the medical inspection and treatment of these young persons. On the other hand, I realise to some extent that it may be desirable to make certain arrangements between the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education, particularly with regard to schemes that have to be approved. I therefore venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend whether it would not meet his purpose if this proviso stopped at the words "local education authorities," in which case it would be much shorter—Provided that for the purpose of facilitating the effective exercise and performance of these powers and duties, the Minister may make arrangements with the Board of Education respecting the submission and approval of schemes of local education authorities.If the proviso stopped there I think the difficulties that have been suggested might be to a large extent removed. It would not affect in any way the payment of Grants. I see no reason why, after this Bill has passed, the payment of Grants for medical inspection should be made by the Board of Education. I take it, if the Ministry of Health take over the medical staff of the Board of Education, as it is desired that they should do, with a view of co-ordinating these services, which we 2097 were told was one of the main objects of this Bill, that the medical staff inspecting schools will be paid by the Ministry of Health. Therefore, these special Grants from the Board of Education will no longer be necessary. I throw that out as a suggestion, and if my right hon. Friend will agree to it, I think the Amendment may be accepted by all the Members of the House.
§ Sir EDGAR JONES
I stated my reasons in Committee why I disagreed with other Members in the original Amendment which was carried, and I do not want to go over the ground again, but really, having regard to what happened in Committee on everything else, I am surprised to find hon. Members using the same arguments again to-day. It seems to me that hon. Members are really determined to make the medical inspection of children in schools absolutely and totally unworkable in practice. I pointed out the practical considerations in Committee, and I may say that since then I have read letters from local education authorities and officials from all over the country thanking me for calling attention to the practical difficulties that would be created. I accepted the Amendment, however, and so has the Minister accepted it. The whole question of medical inspection is so wrapped up with the general work of the schools and so mixed up with the complicated Regulations of the Board of Education—I am sure that hon. Members who have had experience of local education authorities will support me—that to give no power to the Ministry of Health to make any kind of arrangements with the Board of Education really passes my comprehension. How on earth are the schools going to be worked if hon. Members stand up and say that to the Ministry of Health? [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] Certainly that is the meaning of the objection to this Amendment. What do hon. Members substitute for it? What arrangements are hon. Members prepared to allow the Minister to make? The Minister has suggested here that he desires to make certain arrangements. Hon. Members want to delete it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] My hon. Friend behind me objected to it root and branch.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I never said anything of the kind. I never said that I insisted on deleting this. I said that unless the Minister found some other words which 2098 would not contradict the promise we received upstairs, I should have to vote against the Amendment.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I thought that I had stated that. I thought that I had distinctly pointed to the fact that the doctors and inspectors would be paid by the Board of Education. I said that if we had an assurance that that was not so and that they would be directly under the Ministry of Health I would have no objection, but as I read the Amendment, and it is rather difficult to follow, I thought it did put the doctors under the Board of Education, that the Grants were to be given to the Board of Education, and that the Board of Education were to pay the doctors out of them.
§ Sir E. JONES
It is quite clear that this proviso of the Minister has been completely misunderstood, and that the objection to it is based upon a total misapprehension. This proviso does not provide that the Minister shall surrender again his power to arrange with the doctors and inspectors. He retains the initiative. He need not go to the Board of Education at all unless he wants to do so. Surely anybody who knows anything of the internal working of a school and anything at all about the difficulties of the local education authorities is not going to be a party to saying, if the Minister finds that he has got to make detailed arrangements about complicated schemes of local education authorities, and has got to disentangle complications with regard to the Grants, that they will not allow him to do it. I hope the House will support the Minister and will let him have a chance of working the thing out in practice.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I agree with what has been said by the majority of speakers that this Amendment appears fundamentally to be contradictory to the spirit of the decision of the Committee upstairs. With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, the crux of the question is not so much the arrangement and control between the Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education as the relationship that will exist in the local authorities. In this Amendment it distinctly states that the arrangements of the schemes are to be made by the local education authorities, and that the Grants are to be paid to them. That 2099 seems to me to be absolutely contradictory to the finding of the Committee. The whole purpose of the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman accepted upstairs was that the local health authority should be the administrative power in the schools with regard to the medical inspection of school children. Yet he has told us to-day that the schemes shall be drawn up, and that the administration shall be carried out by the local education authority. The whole spirit of the Amendment as carried upstairs was to put into the hands of the one local health committee the care of the mother before birth and the care of the child from birth through the infant stage, through the school stage, and afterwards; in fact, that there should be one medical officer, and one central co-ordinated health authority. This Amendment makes that impossible. The Amendment suggests that the schemes shall be prepared lay the local education authorities, and the Minister has said that the schemes are to be administered by them. That is absolutely contradictory to the decision of the Committee upstairs.
I understand that the scheme is to be prepared by the local education authority and is to be carried out by the local health authority. If that is so, you are going to have confusion worse confounded. The whole spirit of Dr. Newman's last Report dealing with this question points to the inefficiency of local education authorities in dealing with the question of the health of children. As this matter has to be settled on the floor of the House, I hope I may be permitted to refer to one or two points in Dr. Newman's Report in regard to the administration of the health of the children, which to my mind this Amendment leaves to the local education authorities, and what is the position of these local authorities ten years after they were authorised to make provision for the medical inspection of children? Thirty-nine out of 319 education authorities have made no provision for medical treatment, and only thirty have provided complete schemes. In eighty-eight cases no school clinics have been established, ninety authorities have taken no steps to provide a supply of spectacles and 167 authorities have given no dental treatment at all. There are still a large number of authorities who seem to have been 2100 unappreciative of their responsibility for the children of the State in this regard. What we want to do is to put in the hands of one co-ordinating authority the medical care of these children. I say that the Amendment now submitted by the Government goes absolutely contrary to the finding of the Committee, because it says that the administration of these schemes shall be carried out by the local education authorities. I hope the Government will see their way to withdraw this Amendment which hits at a vital principle of the whole scheme.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Perhaps by leave of the House I may be permitted to again intervene in the Debate. Some hon. Members who have spoken on this subject have really not been fair to me. They do not seem to have read the Amendment. The hon. Member who spoke last was good enough to refer to some of the words of the Amendment, but the hon. Baronet behind me (Sir C. Warner) said something as to which the Amendment has no relation whatever. If he will look at the Amendment he will see that it does not in the first place imply or suggest that the medical officers who inspect the children will be appointed by the Board of Education or by the Ministry of Health. These officers never have been appointed by them. Up to the present they have always been appointed and paid by the local education authority, and I do not think anybody will suggest that in the next stage of our health proposals which we shall have to submit the unfortunate Minister of Health is going to be made responsible for the working of every scheme that the local health authorities may undertake. The local health authority will of course appoint their own officers, and therefore I think I can put that aside altogether. What the Committee decided upstairs we will faithfully preserve, and I still wait to learn from hon. Members in what respect we have departed from that understanding. We have honestly tried to carry it out, and I undertake to say that hon. Members cannot point to a single word in this Amendment which enables me to depart from the arrangement made upstairs.
What more can we do? The whole medical service, so far as doctors and inspection is concerned—the standard of their work, their work itself, the nurses, and all the paraphernalia—were to come under the Ministry of Health. They are 2101 still under the Ministry of Health, and there is nothing in this Amendment which in any degree whatever removes them from it. It will be for the Minister to prescribe what services are to be rendered to school children or to anybody else, and he has complete power in that respect. What the Amendment does is this: it says that with respect to the submission and approval of schemes of local education authorities the Minister may make arrangements with the Board of Education. It is true, as the hon. Member who spoke last said, that it is the duty of the local education authority to prepare the schemes, but it will be for the local health authorities to make provision for, say, the children suffering from measles. They will have to provide the necessary accommodation, and schemes relating to these matters will be dealt with by the health authority. The whole thing is, in fact, left as the Committee upstairs desired. The next point is as to the payment of Grants to local authorities. It certainly is a matter of convenience, as must be well known to everybody who has worked under the Board of Education or has had anything to do With the working out of the complicated system of Grants, that all the Grants in respect of the services in connection with schools should go through one channel, or one authority; otherwise you get again into the morass from which we have been trying to escape so long. If you are going to give Grants to your local education authorities, let them all come from one source. It is for the Minister of Health under this to say in respect of expenditure incurred for these services whether they shall continue to perform these duties, and the whole thing is entirely at his discretion. I maintain that we have faithfully preserved, both in letter and spirit, the instructions of the Committee upstairs, and I have put nothing in this Amendment which seeks to avoid it in any way whatever. We are only trying to apply it in a practical administrative way, and I suggest, with great respect for my critics, that they have failed to point out to the House any single particular in which we have departed from the arrangement.
§ Mr. FORESTIER-WALKER
On the supposition that the medical officer of health is also acting for the local education authority, what will be the position? In the one case part of the salary would be paid by the Board of Education and 2102 part by his own Department. In one case there is a refund of the 50 per cent. to the local authority; in the other case there will be no refund. I understand it is clearly to the advantage of the local authority for the payment to be under the Public Health Act, for more then will be refunded. We are all trying to get as much as we can, and I would suggest, therefore, that the payments that are to be made should be made through the public health authority and not through the education authorities. I happen to be chairman of a public health body, and a member of the local education authority, and I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that the work we do on the local education authority could be very much better done by the public health authority. I think it would be much more cheaply done, and I hope, therefore, that the payment will be made through the public health authority, for the reasons I have stated.
§ Sir CYRIL COBB
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "treatment" ["medical inspection and treatment"], to insert the wordsprovided for under paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section thirteen of the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1907, as amended and extended by Section eighteen of the Education Act, 1918.I should like to have these defining words put in. I am quite satisfied with the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman has given. I quite see myself, from my own knowledge of the London education authorities, that so far as we are concerned as one of the largest authorities and one which stands in the forefront of local education authorities, we should find no difficulty in the arrangement the right hon. Gentleman has laid down, provided we are quite clear what "medical inspection" and "medical treatment" really means. I am quite satisfied that instead of working through the Board of Education in this matter we should work through the Ministry of Health, and that the school medical officer should take his instructions from that body instead of from the Board of Education.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Proposed words there inserted.2103
§ Colonel GRETTON
On a point of Order. The next two Amendments on the Paper standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members raise points of substance and we desire to move them.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I understand that those Amendments are consequential and are part of a proposal which the hon. Member had on the Paper at an earlier stage, but when he was called he was absent from our deliberations.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The first Amendment—[To leave out Sub-section (2) and to insert the words, "It shall be lawful for His Majesty from time to time by Order in Council to transfer to the Minister all or any of the powers and duties set out in the Schedule to this Act."]—might be so regarded, but my second Amendment, to leave out paragraph (c) of Sub-section (2), I submit is strictly in order. My first Amendment referred to a Schedule which was an alternative proposal to the present Sub-section.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out paragraph (c).
This paragraph saysAny other powers and duties in England and Wales of any Government Department which appear to His Majesty to relate to matters affecting or incidental to the health of the peoplemay be transferred by Order in Council to the Minister. What it means is that if a Minister wants to get any other duties or powers into his own hands or if the Ministry of the day desire the Ministry of Health to have those powers put into its hands, they can carry out that desire by Order in Council. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Sub-section give some definition of what is to be transferred, but nothing could be more vague than paragraph (c). The whole of the procedure by Order in Council has been repeatedly objected to as a part of our public legislation. The House of Commons and Parliament as a whole is coming to the opinion that what Parliament means should be stated definitely in the Acts which are passed with the consent of both Houses, and that powers which are vague, undefined, unlimited, and are of very wide scope in phraseology should not be put into the hands of any Minister without his coming to Parliament. That is 2104 my general and broad objection to the paragraph. I would ask the Government to define what they mean by the paragraph. Is it of any real consequence or is it only a device of the Parliamentary draftsman who has put it in as a safeguarding Clause in case he may have forgotten something in preparing the multitude of measures with which he has been concerned. If it has no meaning, why retain it? If it means anything on which a clear statement can be made, the Government should declare what they mean to the House and put it on the face of the Bill, so that we may all know what it is they intend to do. There is one particular matter in which I have taken some interest: that is the Central Control Board for the Liquor Traffic. That may be regarded by the Law Officers as a Government Department, and it may be transferred to the Minister of Health. The work of that body may be considered as a matter affecting or incidental to the health of the people. I want to know if there is any design of that kind. Would the Government be prepared to accept transfers of this kind under the terms of this particular paragraph? I object entirely to these vague, indefinite powers being exercised at any time by Order in Council, which is a very slight protection. We all know the value of that protection. The House has the greatest difficulty in making use of its powers of objection or even to know what Orders are lying on the Table. It takes an old Parliamentary hand with much diligence and wariness to ascertain what Orders have been lying on the Table. Sometimes the thirty days have elapsed before the House is aware of what is going forward. This provision means something or nothing. If it means nothing, it is not wanted in the Bill. If it means anything, the Government should declare what they mean and substitute for this paragraph a clear declaration of the powers they propose to transfer to the Minister.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I beg to second the Amendment. There is nobody in the House who does not give the principle of this Bill the most warm and cordial support, and there is nobody who does not wish that its administration should be smooth and easy. This particular paragraph will invite controversy, promote trouble, and have the very opposite effect to that which is desired. I go further than my hon. Friend who has moved the 2105 Amendment and say that the paragraph as it is drawn is not merely vague, but that it is absolutely impossible to interpret it. My hon. Friend referred to the Liquor Control Board. That will serve as well as any other Department to illustrate what I have in mind. This Sub-section says:It shall be lawful for His Majesty from time to time by Order in Council to transfer to the Minister—(c) Any other powers and duties in England and Wales of any Government Department which appear to His Majesty to relate to matters affecting or incidental to the health of the people.If you look at the Interpretation Clause of the Bill, Sub-section (4) of Clause 11 says:The expression 'Government Department' includes the Insurance Commissioners, the Welsh Insurance Commissioners, and any other public Department and any Minister of the Crown acting as the head of a Government Department.Some hon. Members who were in the last Parliament may remember that this is precisely the question which was at issue on the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Bill, 1916. I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 21st August, 1916, that there was a Sub-section in that Bill which began as follows:The Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) shall also be deemed to be a Government Department.Therefore, presumably before that Bill was introduced it was not taken to be a Government Department. That particular Sub-section of that Bill was cut out before it became law. The present Solicitor-General, in discussing this matter in the course of the Debate, said:The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to amend this Clause, and I fully appreciate the way he has endeavoured to meet us. I really do not know what is the meaning of the phrase 'Government Department.' … I hope that on Report in all the passages where we have got the words 'Government Department' we may have Amendments so that we may get some sort of defined and proper phrase which will not give rise to any sort of difficulties which always arise when you use a phrase which is not accurate to express what you mean."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st August, 1916, col. 2404, Vol. 85.]If the learned Solicitor-General did not know what a Government Department was, it is hardly fair to ask a layman now to explain what "any other public Department" means. It is impossible for anybody to know what is included in that expression. It may or may not include the Liquor Control Board. With a view to suggesting to the Government that it 2106 will materially improve the Bill and help to avoid the doubts and difficulties which undoubtedly will arise, and, indeed, have already arisen, I support the Amendment and ask the Government to cut out these words. On the general question of legislation by Orders in Council, I confess that many of us have come here not merely bound by pledges, but determined by conviction to assist the Government by all the means in our power in these great questions of reconstruction. But at the same time I confess that we view with grave concern this tendency to delegate the powers and responsibilities of the House to Departments and to proceed by Orders in Council. We had the same thing in the Ways and Communications Bill, but Clause 4 of that Bill was cut out. In the Aliens Restrictions Bill we have the evil in an aggravated form. With all respect to the Government, it appears to us that it is their duty to ask this House for such powers as they want specifically, and to put in the Bill what they want. Then we shall know where we are. To attempt to legislate by these Orders in Council is to shirk the responsibilities and duties of this House.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Major ASTOR
The Mover of the Amendment was not quite certain whether this Clause meant something or nothing. I can assure him it very much means something, but it does not mean what apparently he fears or anticipates that it might mean. It does not intend to settle the future of the Liquor Control Board. The House will have to decide at some time whether the Liquor Control Board is to continue and, if so, under what particular Minister it is to continue. The Act specifies that it is to end on a particular day, six or twelve months after the end of the War, and therefore Parliament has to decide the future of the Liquor Control Board, and there is nothing in this Clause which is intended in any way to prejudice or affect the decision. As regards this Sub-section, I am certain that if the Mover and Seconder had been on Committee A upstairs they would have realised that the Sub-section was a very important and necessary part of the Bill. It does not, any more than any other Clause, confer any new powers upon the Government. Under the Bill functions are taken from Departments and put under my right hon. Friend who is going to be the Minister of Health. Those powers and functions are 2107 transferred in three stages. The first stage is set out in Clause 2, where certain functions and powers are transferred at once. Other functions and powers may be transferred in the near future, and there is a third category, those contained in this Sub-section, which may be transferred at some future time. In our opinion the future development and scope of the Ministry of Health would be materially limited if the Sub-section were excluded. For instance, at some time it may be decided that maritime matters connected with the Board of Trade ought to be transferred to the Ministry. We had a very interesting discussion upstairs as to whether industrial health ought to be transferred from the Home Office to the Ministry of Health. If this Amendment were carried we should be precluded from making that transfer if we thought it desirable at some future time. Then there are functions of the Board of Agriculture dealing with milk. If the Amendment were carried the Ministry of Health would be precluded from dealing with important matters such as milk. I could give other instances, but I think I have given enough to show that the Sub-section is really vital and essentian to the successful development and scope of the Ministry of Health. The Mover and Seconder evidently had some doubt as to the use which might be made of Orders in Council. Orders in Council are not popular, because they have been utilised during the War under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, but these particular Orders in Council that we have in mind are of a different character. They are merely administrative machinery. They are not carrying out what we call "D.O.R.A. Regulations" of extensive scope, affecting large sections of the community, nor are they Orders in Council of the nature dealt with, I understand, in the Transport Bill or the Ways and Communications Bill. This is merely an administrative measure. In the Committee my right hon. Friend was anxious not to do anything which would go behind the back of Parliament. He was most anxious to give the House an opportunity of criticising and examining anything which he proposed to do, and, because of that, Clause 8 was amended. I would refer hon. Members to the safeguards contained in Sub-sections (2) and (3) of that Clause. Orders in Council have to be published and to be laid before each 2108 House of Parliament. In the third Subsection are these words, which were put in upstairs to safeguard the rights of Parliament:The Order shall not take effect until both Houses by Resolution have adopted the same.That was put in in order, so far as we could carry out the intention of my right hon. Friend, not to go behind the back of Parliament, and to give the House every opportunity of going into and knowing what was to be proposed. I sincerely trust my hon. Friends will not press the Amendment.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
While not disagreeing with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, I think it is necessary to make clear that an Order in Council is an Order in Council whether it is in connection with the Transport Bill or an administrative Order under this Bill, and to this extent I sympathise with the two hon. Members who have moved the Amendment. This House should be very careful in these wide and sweeping measures. We should carry in our minds what we are doing, and all that this House or the other place can do in regard to Orders in Council is to accept or reject them. There is no power at all to amend them.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
In that case my argument is met. I am very glad of that improvement. That shows the value of the work upstairs, and, so far as my observation has gone, I very gladly recognise the excellent work which has been done upstairs, particularly with regard to this Bill. I am quite sure many of the results which have been obtained could not have been obtained downstairs. My hon. Friends, however, are quite right in being very jealous of the powers which we are handing over to a great Government Department.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.