§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 (Continuance of Acts in Schedule) and 2 (Short title and application to Ireland), ordered to stand part of the Bill.2119
|Session and Chapter.||Short Title.||How fat continued.||Amending Acts.|
|6 & 7 Geo. 5. c. 12||…||The Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916.||Section five, except paragraph (a); Sections six, seven, nine, and twelve; Section thirteen, except subsection (6); Sections fourteen, twenty-one and twenty-two, and subsection (1) of section twenty-four.||11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 12.|
|6 & 7 Geo. 5. c. 55||…||The Local Government (Emergency Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1916.||The whole Act||…||…||11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 12.|
|7 & 8 Geo. 5. c. 19||…||The Coroners (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1917.||The whole Act||…||…||12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 2.|
|8 & 9 Geo. 5. c. 23||…||The Juries Act, 1918||…||Section seven||…||…||12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 2.|
|9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 35||…||The Housing, Town Planning, &c. Act, 1919.||Section twenty-five||…||12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 16.|
|9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 60||…||The Housing, Town Planning, &c. (Scotland) Act, 1919.||Section twenty-two.||—|
|9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 92||…||The Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919.||Section one.||—|
|9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 97||…||The Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919.||Sections one and two||…||12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 52.|
|10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 47||…||The Ministry of Food (Continuance) Act, 1920.||So far as it authorises the making, or revoking in whole or in part, of Parts I and III of the Sale of Food Order, 1921, and provides for the enforcement and imposes penalties for the breach thereof.||—|
|10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 57||…||The Unemployment (Relief Works) Act, 1920.||The whole Act.||—|
|10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 58||…||The Shops (Early Closing) Act, 1920.||The whole Act||…||…||11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 60.|
|11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 66||…||The National Health Insurance (Prolongation of Insurance) Act, 1921.||The whole Act.||—|
|12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 22||…||The Summer Time Act, 1922.||The whole Act.||—|
|8 & 9 Geo. 5. c. 34||…||The Statutory Undertakings (Temporary Increase of Charges) Act, 1918.||So far as it relates to tramway undertakings.||10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 14.|
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, in Part I, to leave out paragraph (1).
Hon. Members will observe that this Amendment also covers an Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman) whom I do not see in his place, but I dare say we are both actuated by exactly the same motives. The object of the Amendment is to leave out the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, and the various amending Acts subsequently passed. The Bill says that the whole Act shall be continued with its 15 amending Acts. The second Clause of the Bill, referring to Ireland, says:This Act shall apply to Northern Ireland in so far as it deals with any enactment relating to a subject with respect to which the Parliament of Northern Ireland has not power to make laws, but subject to this provision this Act shall not apply to Ireland.In any case, if I read the Act aright, no part of the Schedule or any part of the Acts to be continued shall apply to Southern Ireland. Therefore this particular Act which is being continued can only apply to Northern Ireland in so far as the Parliament of Northern Ireland has no right to legislate on that subject. Surely to goodness the Parliament of Northern Ireland will have a right to deal with labour. I well remember the Act constituting that Parliament going through this House. I would ask why is it necessary to continue the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, and why 40 years later is it to be continued? Let me remind the Committee what this Labourers Act is. It is a very long Bill and a very 2122 complicated one. It contains, I think, some 21 Clauses. It deals with the sanitary laws, the sanitary authorities, with all sorts of local government bodies in Ireland and with the labourers. I have seen myself in Ireland much of the fruit of this particular Act. I have seen the many new cottages which constitute a very handsome monument to the wisdom of this House in 1883. But what have they to do with us in 1923? I cannot imagine and I am anxious to know what explanation the Government can give us on that point.
The Act goes on to describe the sanitary schemes that may be carried through and what powers the sanitary authorities shall have. It deals with the tenements of agricultural labourers, with additions to the holdings of agricultural labourers, and with the letting of hereditaments, etc. It gives power to purchase land. It gives power for the raising of money for that purpose by mortgage or otherwise; it provides for advances to local bodies administering the Act, and it provides also for the audit of accounts, and so on. I think I have said enough to prove that it is a very complicated Act. The Act was amended in the reign of the late lamented Queen Victoria no fewer than seven times. In the reign of King Edward VII it was amended four times, and during the present reign it has also been amended four times. I think hon. Members will agree that as the Measure is of so very complicated and far-reaching a character we ought to have some adequate explanation why it is 2123 considered necessary to continue this Act under the totally different conditions that obtain to-day in Ireland. I see in his place a former Chief secretary, the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), who, no doubt, knows very much more about Ireland than I do—of course, from the Government side. I should like to know how much of the Act was operative during his tenure of office; how much of it was being worked by those rebel local authorities in Ireland who were defying the powers of the Executive and of Dublin Castle. The right hon. Gentleman passed his burden on to Sir Hamar Greenwood, and things went from bad to worse. Bad as the conditions were in Ireland under the regime of my right hon. Friend—and I do not blame him for that, because he inherited them from his predecessor—they were infinitely worse under Sir Hamar Greenwood, and I think I would not be far out in saying that no part of this Act really was operative over large areas in Southern Ireland, and, in certain areas in Northern Ireland, I do not think much could have been done in that way. I see several hon. Members from Northern Ireland opposite, and the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry (Sir M. Macnaghten), in particular, who, I dare say, will be able to correct any misstatement I may make. I approach this matter in an inquiring spirit, and I repeat that I cannot understand why it is necessary to continue this Act and to spend our time this afternoon in examining the reasons for its continuance, when very important matters remain to be discussed.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Neither the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) nor myself will, however, allow any legislation to go through this House unless we are satisfied that it is necessary, and unless the explanations from the Home Secretary, from hon. Members from Northern Ireland, and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty, are full and satisfactory, I hope the Committee will suport me in my proposal to exclude this Act from those continued by this Bill.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Bridgeman)
I trust I shall be able to satisfy 2124 the spirit of inquiry in which this Amendment has been moved. The Acts in question form a Code under which the local authorities in Ireland are empowered to provide cottages for labourers and they are necessary for that reason. They have been continued from year to year under this Expiring Laws Continuance Bill since 1917, and, since operations are still going on under those Acts, it is necessary to continue them as long as those operations continue. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked why Northern Ireland could not be left to deal with this question by legislation in its own Parliament. The reason is that the finances of local authorities for the purposes of these Acts are met out of the Land Purchase Fund, and are repayable by the local authorities to the Land Commission. The general subject matter of the Land Purchase Acts is excluded from the legislative powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and that is the reason why it is necessary to continue these Acts as expiring laws. The provision of cottages for labourers is still going on, and the Acts are necessary for that purpose. It is not possible for the Government of Northern Ireland itself to legislate in the matter, owing to the fact that the financing of it has to be done through the Land Purchase Act.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The Labourers (Ireland) Act was passed long before the Land Purchase Act, and the matter seems rather obscure. There may be a perfectly good explanation, but the Home Secretary has not made it clear to me, though he may have made it clear to others. I should like to know how it is that we are still responsible for this finance, and why it is linked to the Land Purchase Act.
I am a little surprised at the animosity which the hon. and gallant Gentleman shows to Ulster—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I must protest against that. There is no animosity at all. I am here as an English Member looking after the English tax- 2125 payers' money. The last thing I want to do is to show any hostility towards the part of Ireland to which the hon. and gallant Member belongs.
I am very glad to hear that. I was going to say that I was surprised that what I looked upon as the animosity of the hon. and gallant Member had gone to such an extent as to attempt to stop the building of labourers' cottages in Ulster. It does not cost the British taxpayer one farthing. Ulster, so far from taking money from England, gives money to England. In fact, I think we are handing over something like £4,000,000 to England this year, and if any money, over and above what we have a right to expend, should be expended on these cottages, we shall pay for it. By the passing of this Act we were given power to take from the annuities which are paid under the Land Purchase Act, money for the purpose of building cottages for labourers. That is what it means, but it does not cost you anything. If you support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, it simply means that, after December of this year, we cannot build a single labourer's cottage, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Member desires that; at least, I hope he does not. If the Bill is allowed to go through as it stands, we shall carry on our building of labourers' cottages, we shall borrow money for that purpose from the annuities which come in under the Land Purchase Act, and we shall settle up in our ordinary settlement with the Treasury at the end of the year. At the present moment a Commission is sitting, making out what we owe to the Treasury and what the Treasury owe to us. In any case, however, we not only pay our way in Ulster, but we pay you a very large sum of money, amounting to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000.
§ Mr. FRANK GRAY
I am very much surprised at what the hon. and gallant Member for East Belfast (Captain Dixon) has said, because I always understood that Ulster was a sort of Heaven upon earth, a sort of a little Paradise in which there was no need to carry out the expensive improvements detailed in the Act of 1883, and in the subsequent Acts, for the improvement of the condition of the working classes. I am sure the hon. and gallant Member will not charge me with 2126 being hostile to Ulster, and I think he will gather, when I have concluded my remarks, that I am making them in a very friendly spirit. I desire to ask a question of the Home Secretary, who, I know, has a healthy fear of litigation and legal proceedings, and I am glad to see that the Attorney-General is now present. Perhaps he will be able to enlighten and satisfy me upon one matter. Under Clause 2 of this Bill we expressly exclude our right to legislate under this Bill in respect of any matter in respect of which Northern Ireland, has the power to legislate, and in doing that it seems to me that we are excluding, with one exception which I will mention directly, almost the whole of the Act of 1883. I am not sure from a legal standpoint that we do not, by the words of Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 of the Bill, exclude the whole of the powers under the Act of 1883, and also some very substantial powers under the subsequent Acts which are dealt with in the Schedule to this present Bill.
I submit that it is not necessary, for the purpose of continuing the building of these cottages, or, indeed, for the exercise of any of these powers under the Act of 1883, to include it in this Bill, with the one exception that we desire to bring in the financial measures that at present prevail for financing the building of these cottages. I am afraid that in this Bill we are not going upon the lines upon which the Government intend to proceed, and I shall be glad on that point to hear the ruling of the Attorney-General. In my opinion this is a very unfortunate piece of legislation. We are dealing with a large number of complicated Acts which were passed into law at a time when the conditions prevailing between Northern Ireland and this country were totally different from those which prevail at the present time. Moreover, the conditions of the people generally, both in this country and in Ireland, are totally different now from what they were in 1883, and I very much doubt whether, if either this House or the Parliament of Northern Ireland had to consider at this date the many provisions comprised in those Acts, either House would be prepared again to pass those Acts. This is what I call slipshod legislation, and it is attended by all the dangers of slipshod legislation. It is easier for His Majesty's Government to pass a Bill of this kind without thinking out the situation—and I say this in the 2127 interest both of this country and of Northern Ireland—it is easier to pass this Bill; which does not bring before the minds of Members of this House the circumstances and what we are legislating for, than to think out the situation as it exists at the present time and pass any further short Act which may be necessary for dealing with the particular circumstances referred to by the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last.
As a citizen of the Irish Free State, I should like to ask how the retention of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts applies to the Irish Free State. In regard to Northern Ireland the position, as was explained by the Home Secretary, is perfectly plain. The British Government have given the Irish Government a present of these Irish land annuities, and they are able, out of those annuities, to build these cottages. The Free State Government, as I understand, have at the present moment to collect the Land Commission annuities twice a year and pass them over to the British Government. What is the position with regard to the Irish Free State? The British taxpayer has most generously advanced, in past years, large sums of money in order that these cottages might be built all over Ireland. Has the Free State Government still to go on collecting these moneys which are due, and to pass them across to the British Exchequer, or is there to come a time for a general settlement between the Free State and the British Government, when some arrangement will be come to in regard both to the Labourers (Ireland) Acts and to the Land Purchase annuities?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think the inclusion of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, requires some further explanation than has yet been given from the Government Bench. It is quite true, as the Home Secretary said, that land purchase generally was a reserved service under the Government of Ireland Act, but that, I think, is not quite an adequate reason for the inclusion of the Act of 1883 in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It is true that Sub-section (3) of Section 9 of the Government of Ireland Act provides that:The general subject matter of the Acts relating to land purchase in Ireland shall be a reserved matter unless and until other- 2128 wise provided by any Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom relating to land purchase in Ireland, passed in the present or any future Session of that Parliament." Then there is a proviso to this effect:Provided that this reservation shall not include the powers and duties of the Irish Land Commission with respect to the collection and recovery of purchase annuities.Now, apparently, the collection and recovery of purchase annuities by the Irish Land Commission is handed over to Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act. Then I come to the question of annuities at a later stage of the Government of Ireland Act, and I find in Clause 26, which contains provisions as to land purchase annuities, that in Sub-section (5) we have certain definitions:For the purposes of this Act the expression 'purchase annuities,' in addition to purchase annuities as defined in the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, includes annuities for the repayment …. and annuities for the repayment of advances made under the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906.This has nothing to do with the Act of 1883. At the time of the Act of 1883 there was no land purchase in existence. The system of paying land purchase annuities for the purpose of the Labourers Act was not, I think, decided on till one of the later Measures in the reign of Queen Victoria. In the same way there is a further reference to the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906, in the latter part of this Sub-section. Under these circumstances it is important that we should know clearly what exactly is reserved and what is not reserved, because the powers and duties of the Irish Land Commission with respect to the collection and recovery of purchase annuities are not handed over to the North of Ireland Government. Consequently I fail to see why the Labourers Act should be a reserved service to the Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member for East Belfast (Captain Dixon) seemed to think this Amendment was conceived in some spirit of antagonism to Northern Ireland. Nothing was further from my mind. I simply put the Amendment down with a view to knowing exactly where we are, and I think the hon. Member will agree with me that it is important that we should know exactly where we are. It is a very complicated situation, as I have shown by the quotations from the Statute. It is therefore essential that we should know where the responsibility of this Parliament begins 2129 and ends and where that of Northern Ireland begins and ends likewise.
There is a further question which was put forward by the hon. Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman) with regard to the change which has been made by the creation of the Irish Free State. What is the position in regard to cottages which have been built in the Free State and the advances made for the purpose of building them, and what is the relation of these advances to the Irish Land Purchase Annuities? These things should also be cleared up. There was one other matter which the Home Secretary raised, and that was as to the further building of cottages. I understand the Land Commission is operating in Ulster, and it collects the annuities. Would it not be possible for the Northern Parliament to deal with the matter directly without any intervention here at all? I do not see any reason why not. It seems to me to be purely a North of Ireland matter. I think they are building their own cottages. The position is that the Northern Government is supervising the building of cottages, and an advance for the purpose of building cottages is made out of annuities collected in Ireland by the Land Commission, which is a service handed over to the Northern Government. If in all these respects the Northern Government has power over the matter, why is it necessary that we should re-enact every year in this Bill the provisions of the Irish Labourers Act, 1853? I think it is important that the Government should make a statement on the matter, and if it is as complicated as I have suggested, surely it will be better to hand the whole matter over to Northern Ireland and allow them to deal with it as the Land Commission deals with advances. Obviously the Irish Free State Government has cut adrift from this country altogether in this matter and we should know on what financial conditions it has cut adrift. Is this one of the elements in the financial situation between the Imperial Government and the Irish Free State Government that is left to be cleared up, and which is to be referred to some Committee of Arbitration to be appointed at some indefinite date in the future, if ever? I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give an answer.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson)
My right hon. Friend 2130 has had to leave the House for an important engagement, and I am rather sorry because I cannot do anything else but repeat what he has said. I think he explained this provision very fully. The difficulty is that we have to work under an Act of Parliament. Under Section 9 (3) of the Government of Ireland Act, this question of land and the payment to local authorities of certain funds is not capable of legislation at all by the Northern Parliament. It is entirely within the purview of this Imperial Parliament, and therefore if you do not put this provision into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the whole of this machinery will fall to the ground. I am sure the hon. Member does not want that. These Acts which are set out in the Schedule form the whole code under which these issues of money take place, and without those Acts those issues of money to local authorities cannot take place at all. A new point was raised by the hon. Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman). I think he forgets that all those questions have been handed over to the Free State. We have no longer got any power whatever and therefore really this Bill does not touch the Irish Free State at all.
This country has advanced money to build these cottages. Interest has to be paid on that money. The money is collected with interest. Does the Free State Government collect that money now and pay it across to this country? If it does not collect it, what happens?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
That is a question which can be raised at the proper time, but it has nothing to do with this Bill. The Bill only affects these particular Acts in so far as they relate to Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The only thing that put me in a difficulty was that, under the Section the hon. Gentleman has referred it, it is true the general subject matter of the Acts relating to land purchase in Ireland was to be a reserved matter. Then there is a proviso containing two paragraphs, the second of which provides that the reservation shall not include the powers and duties of the Irish Land Commission with respect to the collection and recovery of purchase annuities.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I ought to have dealt with that point. The hon. 2131 Member is quite right if he refers to the collection of annuities, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of the money out of the Land Purchase Fund. That lies with the Imperial Parliament. The Parliament of Northern Ireland cannot legislate on the subject.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (3).
This is a very complicated Schedule and there are a number of Acts included in it the whole effect of which one could not appreciate. The Postmaster-General is not here, but the Financial Secretary, who has only recently quitted that office, in which he proved himself so efficient, will be able to answer my question. This is a very important Act which has been continued from year to year since it was passed, and important provisions are laid down in Section 1:A person shall not establish any wireless telegraph station or instal or work any apparatus for wireless telegraphy in any place or on board any British ship except under and in accordance with a licence granted in that behalf by the Postmaster-Genera I.This provision is very important in relation to what is happening in the present year. First of all, we have the whole question of broadcasting arising. I believe if this Act were not renewed in this Schedule the Postmaster-General, in the first place, could not deal with licences in connection with broadcasting at all, and in the second place, he would not be able to make the contract which is contemplated with the Marconi Company. That is only a surmise which I have reached myself, but I want to know whether that exactly is the position, because if it is so, this is obviously the only opportunity we shall have of getting any information from the Post Office in these important matters.
We are told that this House is to have no control over any arrangements which are to be made under either of these heads. First of all, the Committee dealing with broadcasting may not report before Parliament rises, a new arrangement with regard to licences may be made by the Post Office without any consultation with the House, and, furthermore, a most important contract may be made for wire- 2132 less communication with the Marconi Company over which Parliament will have no control at all. As I understand the position, the contemplated contract with the Marconi Company is not one which involves a charge upon the public purse and, unlike the former Marconi contract of unhappy memory, will not, therefore, require the sanction of the House, and there will be no opportunity, as there was then to have it referred to a Select Committee of this House. In other words, if this Act is included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill the Postmaster-General will be uncontrolled. The probability is that this years Supply will have been passed, the Post Office Vote will thereby have gone from the control of the House of Commons, and therefore there will be no opportunity for this House to enter into these contracts or arrangements or to criticise or supervise them. I am raising this question, therefore, in order that before, by including the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1904 in this Schedule, we give these powers to the Postmaster-General we should have a statement from him as to what he contemplates in both connections; first of all, in regard to future broadcasting arrangements, and, secondly, in regard to this new Marconi contract. I think hon. Members on the other side will agree with me that if my construction of this matter is right, and if the powers of the Post Office are determined in that way, this is the only opportunity the House has to ascertain Post Office policy, and that, therefore, we are entitled to avail ourselves of it.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I do not think the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) was right in saying that this is the only opportunity he has to raise the two points to which he has referred. They can be raised, I think, and much more properly, on the Estimates which will be before the House on Tuesday next.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
Yes; in the ordinary way the Post Office Estimates are to be put down for discussion on Tuesday. I think it would be unwise, and indeed unfair to hon. Members who expect a discussion then, if I 2133 entered now into either of the points the hoe. Gentleman has raised; but I would like to ask the Committee not to support this Amendment, and I dare say the hon. Gentleman will be willing to withdraw it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
We have no assurance, of course, that when the Post Office Vote is taken this will not be crowded out by other matters. On many former occasions the time has been occupied, almost exclusively by the conditions of Post Office servants, and I have no doubt that important questions will be raised in that connection. I should like to have an assurance that there will be an opportunity to discuss this when the Vote is taken. I was not aware that the Vote was put down for Tuesday at all. I assumed that some other Vote was to be taken next week, and it was on the assumption that the Post Office Vote was not to be taken this year at all that I had raised this issue.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am willing, if the hon. Gentleman cannot withdraw his Amendment, to make the observations I ought to make. I cannot give any assurance with regard to the Debate on Tuesday next. It is not a matter in my hands but is in the hands of the House. If the hon. Gentleman chooses to rise he sometimes succeeds in catching eye of the Chair—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
—and he may be successful again. He will then be able to raise these questions, and if I get an opportunity to reply, obviously I shall do my best to answer all the questions raised. I am going to ask the Committee to reject this Amendment because, as it may remember, this Act which I am asking shall be continued for another year is the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, under which the control of wireless telegraphy is maintained. If this were not in operation there would be nothing to prevent anybody setting up wireless telegraphy in this country, nothing to regulate wave-lengths, and the confusion would be so great that no one would have the benefit of wireless telegraphy at all. There would be grave risk of naval signals being interrupted, the Admiralty would not be able to communicate with ships at sea, and it is 2134 absolutely esential for the orderly progress of wireless development that this Act should be continued for another year.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I hope the Postmaster-General does not wish to be taken seriously when he says that he does not want to answer now, because a Supply day is to be taken for the Post Office Vote next Tuesday. I do not think that is quite the way in which to treat questions raised on this Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I am sure he is aware that a Committee was set up to look into this question of expiring laws last year, and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), whose office escapes me for the moment, was a Member of the Committee, which, as I pointed out the other night, drew attention to the fact that these Acts were used as a means to permit Ministers to adopt the slovenly habit of relying on these continuing Bills instead of bringing in fresh legislation. Here we have a case in point. When this Bill was brought before the House of Commons in 1904 the whole matter was experimental. This is 19 years afterwards, and everyone knows that it is necessary for every country to have some control. We must have some system of licensing or some other method of regulating it or the evils to which the Postmaster-General referred will come about, the ordinary signals of the Admiralty will be interfered with, you will have chaos, and so on. Really, what ought to be done is to bring in fresh legislation on wireless telegraphy altogether, and not simply to continue this Act year by year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. We have one advantage, and that is that we are enabled to raise certain questions, and I do not think it is quite good enough for the Postmaster-General to say that we must not discuss them now, but should do so on the Estimates. Very often Estimates are not discussed on the days on which they are supposed to be taken. We may have some crisis in international affairs, and the Foreign Office Vote be put down instead; or there may be some unfortunate occurrence at home and a Minister's Vote be put down for discussion instead. Here we have an opportunity for raising questions, and I shall be very glad if the Postmaster-General will answer them; otherwise, I think the House will be losing an opportunity to raise a matter 2135 of some importance. Furthermore, if we can get answers now we shall have time to think over them, examine them, and bring them up again on the Estimates if they are unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman, as much as anyone else, wishes to see the House of Commons used as a means of probing into dark places, finding out cases in any way under suspicion, clearing up doubtful matters—though I do not suggest there is anything in his Department in that category.
Therefore I wish to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) said in two directions. Firstly, cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell us here and now before we continue the discussion what further progress he has made with the broadcasting question? I am not going into the details, because I would only be repeating previous arguments. But the matter is in a state of flux, and I invite him to tell us what progress has been made. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury dealt with the matter some time ago, and told us in effect that he was examining the whole of the very difficult situation. I do not think we have had a statement from the new Postmaster-General on broadcasting. It is a very important matter affecting a great many people, it is much in the public eye, and I think we should appreciate very much a statement from the Postmaster-General as to his views on the great broadcasting problem. What is he going to do? Does he see a way out? Has he come to any arrangement, and what does he propose to do with the people who, I understand, number 40,000 or 50,000 up and down the country—some, I am sorry to say, among my own acquaintances—who have not taken out a licence, and do not intend to do so, because they object to the present arrangement, or are dissatisfied with the programme of music, and so on. What is the Postmaster-General going to do with these cases, and can he tell us briefly what is his intention?
Secondly, I would like to ask him to say what is the position as regards the Imperial wireless chain? We had the matter brought up at question time, and what was principally ascertained then was that in order to make a wireless station at Rugby 800 acres of land, which, I suppose, is good agricultural land, are 2136 to be taken in order that there should be plenty of room for the expansion of this wireless station. They are not being at all modest in the acquisiton of land, and I do know that whoever is up there in the early stages of this work will have some very good partridge shooting next September. This is as far as we have got—800 acres have been acquired at Rugby. I should like to know what was the price paid; was the Land Acquisition Act used to see that the taxpayer was not robbed; why was so much land required; and have we finally decided upon a programme?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) is in order in discussing the admnistration of a certain Act, whether all that is before the Committee at the present moment is whether the Act shall or shall not be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill; and whether it is not the case that the question of whether or not the Minister has badly or well administered that Act is not an argument that could be advanced for its exclusion from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On that point of Order. I think this matter has been raised before, and that the Chair has ruled that where we are asked to continue an Act we are entitled to discuss whether it is necessary or whether the special conditions that existed when it was passed still prevail. I think, therefore, that I am perfectly in order in putting two very simple questions.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not discussing whether the Act is good or bad, but whether it has been properly or improperly administered by the Government?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
With great respect to such a master of procedure as the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), I am not going into administrative details at all. What I am examining is what good the Act has done. Though the Act was passed in 1904, this great question of the Imperial wireless chain is still outstanding. There has been no authoritative statement as to how the matter stands and whether a programme has been decided on. Therefore, I am 2137 entitled to show that unless the right hon. Gentleman satisfies the Committee, we need not discuss this Act.
I think that the hon. Member is entitled to discuss what has taken place under the Act when the subject before the House is whether the Act should be renewed or not.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
May I point out, in reference to the question of the purchase of land which occurred while I was Postmaster-General, that that was done under the general powers of the Post Office and had nothing to do with the Act which we are now discussing.
Perhaps the hon. Member will confine himself to the actual Act which we are asked to continue by the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
At the same time this Act was designed for such an emergency as the commercialisation of wireless telegraphy, and it has failed so far. The present Government has not been in office long, and I would not attack it on this matter, but give it every opportunity. But so far the position is one of chaos. In America they have been much more successful. We desire enlightenment in this matter, and we are entitled to have it now.
§ Mr. FRANK GRAY
I do not think that the Postmaster-General has exaggerated the importance and, indeed, the necessity of passing this present Bill, so far as this particular Act is concerned. I would go further and say that probably no subject of such great importance as wireless could be brought before this House. Nevertheless, by this method of legislation we are continuing to operate, in a most important matter, under an Act which was passed as long ago as 1904. Wireless in other countries has made extraordinarily rapid progress, and it is certain that the Act passed in 1904 cannot be a proper Act to deal with the situation existing at the present day. Undoubtedly it is desirable that there should be legislation introduced in this House in 2138 respect of wireless. Notwithstanding the importance of this matter, the Postmaster-General asks that we should continue an important Act—it is important, though it is old—though other legislation ought to be passed, and when he is asked for an explanation of what he proposes to do under the very Act which he is asking us to extend—and I would point out that he has power under that Act to embark upon transactions far more important than have been carried out before—he expresses amazement that he should be asked to do so.
I do not suppose that that surprises old Members of the House, but it is surprising to young Members like myself, and it will be surprising to people outside the House when they hear to-morrow that the Postmaster-General, having recovered his surprise and dismay, gets up and proposes that we should first of all pass the Measure under which he may use extraordinary powers, and says that, having passed that Measure, a week later we can discuss its merits, if we are fortunate enough to get an opportunity of doing so, on some Estimate which may or may not be relevant. I do not think that anybody who proposes to stand at the next Election would defend that as a reasonable explanation by the Postmaster-General, and, having seen his alarm, I would suggest that we should postpone the further consideration of this matter until he is able to take counsel with us. But whether that be so or not, I shall certainly not vote for the continuation of an Act on the proposition that we shall debate its merits a week after we pass it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment I would point out that the Postmaster-General has assured us that the Post Office Estimates will be taken on Tuesday and, following the general practice, I assume that he will make a statement at the beginning of the Debate. Is the Committee to understand that, when he makes his statement in regard to the Post Office, he is going to make a statement on both the matters which I have raised in relation to wireless? It is only fair that we should get some assurance of the kind, and the Committee are entitled to ask that some such statement should be made.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I do not like to refuse to respond to an appeal 2139 of that sort, even though I run the risk of the hon. Gentleman's friend finding other causes for being eloquent again.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
In answer to the hon. Member's first question I shall make a statement when I lay the Post Office Estimates before the Committee, but that statement I propose to make as short as possible so that I shall be able to reply in debate later on, and in that short statement there will be a statement with regard to broadcasting and the imperial wireless chain. But, so that hon. Gentlemen may not be misled, I warn them in advance that broadcasting, as they know, is now the subject of investigation by a Committee on which many Members of this House are sitting. If they have not made their report by Tuesday there will be very little which I can say usefully on that subject then. Neither can I say anything useful on the subject to-day. With regard to Empire wireless I can make a statement, but I can make no statement on Tuesday with regard to the contract which is not yet negotiated.
§ Captain BERKELEY
The Committee will surely not be satisfied with the statement made by the Postmaster-General. He has told us that only half a day will be available for discussing the Post Office Estimate. An enormous area of ground will be covered in discussing those Estimates, whereas now we have the proper occasion for discussing this specific problem of wireless. The House of Commons has the right, if it wishes to do so, to refuse to continue the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1904. This is the proper occasion on which the Postmaster-General should make a full statement of the policy of his Department with regard to this great and essential public service. The right hon. Gentleman has approached this matter as though the making of a statement on this subject was a favour to the Committee. That is not so. It is the right on the part of the Committee to be fully informed on this matter, and it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to give us the information for which we ask. It is a novelty to new Members to find that a Cabinet Minister considers a matter of this kind merely as a subject of laughter. 2140 I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are those among us who take the question more seriously.
This is not an intervention on my part made with the intention of prolonging Debate. It is an intervention—and I hope that my hon. Friends opposite will do me the justice to believe this—made solely in the hope of inducing the right hon. Gentleman to make some kind of statement now on the general problem of wireless for the information of the House and of the country. Every Member is aware of the great interest which this subject, particularly wireless telephony, is exciting throughout the country. Not long ago the whole Press of the country was full of the question of wireless telephony. The country will be looking to the Postmaster-General on this occasion now that the matter has been properly raised by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), to make some kind of broad and general statement as to the policy which he intends to pursue, or perhaps to inaugurate, in the Department of which he is the head. I hope he will change his mind. I do not wish to press him to make a statement in detail. He is in the position of being able to judge when such a statement can best be made. But in view of the enormous developments of the industry, of its great possibility and of the absorbing interest of the statement on the whole wireless question which was made to those who at a Committee meeting in this House had the privilege of being addressed by a great expert on this matter; and in view of the fact that the Government is asking us to reaffirm an Act which is a little out of date, I do beg the right hon. Gentleman to make some kind of general statement as to the policy which he intends to pursue with regard to wireless telephony, and to make it now.
§ Mr. HARRIS
There was a very singular remark made by the Postmaster-General in his short statement in reference to the contract that is being negotiated. He said that the terms were being negotiated and it would be impossible to state the terms to the Committee when the Post Office Vote came before it. That contract which is being negotiated by the Government is of more concern to the people of this country than any contract proposed on behalf of the Government. The question has been raised, and very properly. It was very undesirable 2141 for ex-Ministers of the Crown to join the Board of a company that has direct Government relations—
I do not think the hon. Member can say anything about that. It has nothing whatever to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. HARRIS
These subjects are of such vital importance that the House of Commons, before it goes into recess, should have an opportunity of discussing them. Wireless now has become almost a subject of domestic use. There is hardly a village in the country that has not wireless installations. The present arrangements between the various wireless organisations enables these organisations to insist that no instrument shall be used except those branded with a particular brand. This company realises its very great commercial opportunities, and undoubtedly it is trying to use every pressure on Members of this House to support the monopoly. One of their directors, for instance, was invited to the precincts of this House to address a Committee of the House of Commons to explain the operations of this particular company. He went so far as to invite, I think, 100 Members of Parliament—I was not included in the invitation, but I do not complain—
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is in order to discuss a contract that is being negotiated in virtue of powers under Section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904. The Postmaster-General has admitted that negotiations are still going on in relation to that contract. My hon. Friend, I submit, is entitled to refer to these negotiations.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I have made out, I submit, the need for a full dress Debate on the wireless situation. I quite appreciate the difficulty of my right hon. Friend. He only lately succeeded to his new office. He had a great number of predecessors. It is very difficult, therefore, for him to pick up the wires, if I might suggest this to him. But if it is difficult for him to come to a conclusion, it is far more diffi- 2142 cult for the House of Commons, who have great responsibilities to their electors, to do so. There is not a Member of Parliament who is not receiving correspondence from his constituency with reference to the unsatisfactory position of wireless as regards broadcasting and regarding facilities throughout the Empire. It is very necessary that, before the House rises, there should be a full and free discussion, and facts and figures should be placed on the Table of the House. The Minister should have an opportunity to explain his scheme. He has admitted that there is to be only half-a-day for explaining the Post Office Vote. On the Post Office Vote all sorts of grievances will be ventilated—wages, Sunday post, etc. There are 101 questions that involve the administration of the Post Office, and that being so, the right hon. Gentleman ought to agree that we have a day to discuss the problem, or that a new arrangement should be placed on the Table.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I can understand that the right hon. Gentleman is being taken unawares and his not being able to make a statement in this Debate; but his assurances regarding Tuesday are not satisfactory. We were to have only half-a-day, and then it turns out that he is not able to deal with it at all. Therefore, the great opportunity which he held out to us—this opportunity of eliciting epoch-making information, it not to be given; there is not going to be any statement at all. It is the duty of the House of Commons, before the Recess, to have some public discussion. First of all, it should discuss the whole system of broadcasting and the position of licences affecting thousands of people all over the country. Then we have the question of Empire wireless, a matter equally important, and in view of what has passed before on this question, I think the Committee should have some information. But on the Estimates, we are told, the House is to know nothing. The matter is to be put, "still under negotiation." This is not satisfactory, and I hope that at least the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the Committee of Supply, on Tuesday, some clear indication of the policy he is pursuing, of the main features of the contract he hopes to conclude, so that if this matter is decided in Recess, when the House has no opportunity of dealing with 2143 it, hon. Members will have an assurance that it is being dealt with on sound lines, that the public interest is being duly safeguarded, and that nothing is being sacrificed to a powerful private company which, of course, is in a position to exert very considerable influence in certain Government directions. It was because I knew there would be no opportunity in Committee that I desired to get some statement, and I regret that no statement has been made. We have no assurance that any statement will be made, and I submit that the House is leaving the matter in a profoundly unsatisfactory situation. There should be a real discussion before important decisions on policy are reached in relation to questions of so much importance to the country.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I wish to ask by what Standing Order an Amendment which is not on the Paper is excluded and by what practice this decision is reached.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I wish to make a submission to you, Sir, on a point of Order. Until, Sir, you know what the Amendment is, is it possible to decide as to the merits of the Amendment?
On this occasion I have decided not to accept any Amendments except those which are on the Paper.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I merely wish to make a submission. May I point out that No. 5 in the Schedule is the National Insurance Act, 1911? That extends and continues Section 42, but Section 42 of the National Insurance Act deals with the whole subject of deposit insurance. That is a subject which there has been no opportunity of discussing since the War. This form of insurance was introduced only as a temporary makeshift move, for the purpose of dealing with people who could not immediately come 2144 into assurance but could come in ultimately, and in these circumstances, this Bill offers an opportunity of obtaining a statement from the Government on that matter. I submit that, in these circumstances, a statement should be elicited from the Government.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
I would like to support this. It is of some importance, and it has been produced on many occasions.
All these things were known before the Paper was printed, just as much as they are known now.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is impossible for private Members to read all the Acts in time. When, in the course of further researches, an hon. Member finds a matter of public interest, is he to be excluded simply because it is not on the Paper? What is he to do?
§ Mr. F. GRAY
I take it that there is to be no Amendment this evening, whatever it may be, unless it appears on the Paper?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, to leave out paragraph (8).
I have some oil in my lamp, and I propose to set it alight. I wish only to get a little information from the Home Secretary as to why he wishes, particularly, to continue the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914, so far as it relates to orders made by any Courts before the 31st day of August, 1922, as amended by 6 and 7 Geo. 5, c. 13, and no less than five other Acts. What orders made under the Court are still operative? I am glad to see two of the Law Officers of the Crown in their places, and they may be able to explain this matter if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not all the necessary information on the case. I wish to know particularly which orders of the Court are referred to in this Schedule? The Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, is the name, and its title is as follows:An Act to give, in connection with the present War, further powers to Courts in relation to the remedies for the recovery of money, and in relation to other similar matters.2145 The date was 31st August, 1914, when, of course, the House of Commons naturally gave all power to the Executive, and I dare say this Act passed through practically without any Amendment at all, or with very little discussion, like most of those Acts. Therefore, it is not like one of the Acts passed, for example, in 1904, such as we have been discussing, or in 1883, such as we opened the discussion with, when Parliament was Parliament, and when the Executive was vigilantly watched by the Opposition, of whichever party it was composed. This Act was passed in the excitement and emotion of the early days of the War, and now that we have come to the rather disappointing days of peace it is necessary to see what is being carried on under the guise of this Expiring Laws Continuance Bill to perpetuate War-time legislation. Let us examine some of the provisions of this Act which it is proposed to continue. Take Sub-section (7) of Section (1), which is a very curious Sub-section. It says:(7) Nothing in this Act shall affect any right or power of pawnbrokers to deal with pledges"—On the one hand, the gentleman of the three balls, the pawnbrokers. But that is not all, that is only the first part of the Section—or give any power to stay execution or defer the operation of any remedies of a creditor in the case of a sum of money payable by, or recoverable from, the subject of a Sovereign or State at war with His Majesty.Why honest, respectable pawnbrokers should be included in the same Sub-section as the enemies of 31st August, 1914, or enemy Sovereigns, I cannot understand at all. Nevertheless, this Act, with its various four or five amending Acts, is being continued now, in so far as unknown orders are made by various Courts, up to a certain date in August, 1922.
I could point out many more anomalies in the Act, and many more sentences from Sections showing how the Act was hastily passed, which was, of course, inevitable under the circumstances of the time. It is, however, necessary that we should know what the orders are, whom they affect, and why it is necessary to continue them in 1923, when we are just on the point of concluding peace, some seven years later, with the last of our late enemies, the Government of the Sublime 2146 Porte. Why is it necessary to keep on the powers passed by this House in a great hurry on 31st August, 1914? What is the reason? I invite the Home Secretary or one of his assistants, or even the hon. and gallant Member for Skipton (Lieut.-Colonel Roundell), if he has been put in charge of this matter, to satisfy us on this point. It should be our aim and object to wipe out all the War-time legislation, and we ought to look with great suspicion and great care on any proposals to continue it.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has expressed his suspicion of War-time legislation, and he certainly has shown that he has a very suspicious, if not a very intelligent, appreciation of the meaning of this particular provision. I can explain it to the Committee in a very few words. Under the Act of 1914,—and under later amending Acts—power was given to the Courts of this country to stay execution on a judgment, first of all in respect of pre-War contracts, and by later Acts in respect of contracts made by various men who were called out for service and who, by reason of that fact, were unable sometimes to fulfill their obligations. Accordingly, a number of orders have been made, some of them in the High Court, and far more in the County Court, under which execution has been stayed on judgments, so long as instalments are paid which were fixed by the Courts, so as to meet the capacity of the various debtors. The Courts (Emergency Powers) Act originally was to last for six months after the termination of the War. That was afterwards extended to 12 months after the termination of the War, and therefore it would have come to an end on 31st August, 1922. This provision appeared in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act last year, and this year it is put in again. The reason why it is put in now is because, unless it were in, as soon as the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act came to an end, the result would be that there would no longer be any legal operative effect in any orders made staying execution so long as payments were made by instalments.
The result would be that although these judgment debtors were complying with the orders made in the County Court or the High Court, as the case might be, and were paying up their in- 2147 stalments month by month, yet the moment the Act ceased to have any operative effect there would be a right in the creditor to exercise his Common Law rights and to levy execution for the full balance of the debt. I think it is obvious, and everybody in the Committee will agree, that that would be very hard lines and very unfair to the judgment debtors in question. The provision which is inserted here is merely in order to prevent that happening, and to ensure that so long as judgment debtors go on paying the instalments which they have been ordered to pay, the execution shall not issue against them. The order is in the form that execution shall not issue so long as certain instalments are kept up. I submit that that is an order which nobody would wish not to continue to operate, and I suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he might fairly withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Before my hon. and gallant Friend withdraws, I should like to thank the right hon. and learned Attorney-General for the fairness with which he has explained this position. There are two questions I should like to put to him. First of all, we see by column 3 of the Schedule that this only relates to orders made by any Court before 31st August, 1922. Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us how long he expects it to be necessary to retain these provisions covering such orders? There is another consideration which ought to be taken into account. These orders preventing execution were made, in the main, during the War, or immediately after the War, in relation to persons who had been adversely affected by the War. The conditions of those persons may have very much changed in the interval. It is quite true, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, that if the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act were not included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill that execution might issue, but still it would be a matter for the discretion of the County Court Judge.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I wish to ask whether, in the event of this Act falling out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the discretion of the County Court Judge 2148 would not come into play? If it comes into play, the question is, whether any good object is being served by its continuance? That is the question I should like him to answer.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
As to how long the orders will go on, I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman exactly how long they will run. We have caused inquiries to be made at the County Courts, however, and have ascertained that there are still a number which are extant, and so we have included this Act in the Bill this year. It will be an expensive matter to find out exactly for how long the orders will run, but we shall find out next year if it is necessary to go on any longer. As to the other point, I think the limit is, that where there is any judgment of over £20, there is no discretion in the County Court Judge, and the creditor has a right to execution. The only right to stay execution on such judgments is that given by this Act, and, therefore, if the order made under this Act were done away with, there would be an absolute right in the creditor to execute.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his fair reply. It has completely allayed my suspicions, and even my intelligence has been able to grasp the reason for the inclusion of this Act. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WILLIAM WATSON
I beg to move, in paragraph (9), in column 3, after the word "and" ["twenty-one and twenty-two"], to insert the words, "Subsections (1) and (2) of Section".
In moving that only Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 22 of the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916, shall be included, I desire to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health (Scotland) to a grievance under which the local authorities in Scotland are labouring, and have laboured under, for a number of years past. As the Committee are aware, the duties of medical officers and sanitary inspectors have increased very considerably during the period of the War and since. Quite a number of Acts of Parliament have been passed by this House, which have increased the duties of medical officers and sanitary inspectors, 2149 with the result that their salaries have been increased during the past few years. By the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916, the grants which are given by the Government were stereotyped, and they stand at the same figure to-day as they did in 1915. That is most unfair, so far as the Scottish local authorities are concerned, and it is time that this particular provision—Sub-section (3) of Section 22 of the Act—should be dropped from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I appeal very strongly to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to have this particular provision struck out, so that the local authorities in Scotland may get the relief to which they are rightly entitled. I do not know whether this provision affects local authorities in England. If it affected England, London and Wales, I think we should have a greater outcry. I have a suspicion that this is a provision that has been reserved particularly for the ratepayers of Scotland.
This is one of the little things that have gone to increase local rates, and from time to time we have heard in this House that the local ratepayers have during, recent years had to shoulder very considerable burdens. This is one of the ways in which local ratepayers have been called upon to pay more than they are entitled to pay. I hope therefore the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health will be able to assure the Committee this evening that he intends to drop this provision, so that the local authorities in Scotland will have the relief they are entitled to have from the central authority. I am not sure what is the percentage, but I think it was about 30 per cent. of the expenditure on medical officers' salaries and sanitary inspectors' salaries and travelling and other expenses that used to be paid by the Central Government. But, since this Act was passed, the grants have been stereotyped, with the result that local authorities are suffering considerably to-day. I might give various illustrations, but I will mention merely one. There is one local authority with which I am very familiar, which used to have an expenditure of between £500 and £600 a year on those services I have mentioned. We at that time got a grant of about £117 from the Secretary for Scotland. We have increased the salary, and the expenditure in connection with these 2150 funds last year was nearly £900, and we are still receiving the same grant that we received in 1915. This is most unfair to the local ratepayers in Scotland, and I hope we are to have an assurance that this provision is to be taken out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act.
§ Captain ELLIOT (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, Scotland)
I have to thank the Mover for the succinct way in which he brought forward this point, which has raised a certain amount of comment in Scotland. I should like to put one or two points to him, which I think escaped his notice. In the first place, by dropping this provision in the present Bill, as his Amendment would have the effect of doing, we should not thereby increase the sum allocated to Scotland for payment of grant in aid of rates. We should not obtain any larger sum of money. The allocation of the sum we received would be slightly changed, but the sum would not be in any way increased. That brings me to the second point. The hon. Member said we were suffering in Scotland an injustice as against England, but that again is not so. We are in Scotland working on a different allocation of the money we receive as against England, but there is no cut in the grant we are receiving from Imperial funds on account of this different method of allocation. I would point out that this was made clear in an answer I gave to a question asked by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) on the 28th February. I pointed out then that while a larger allocation was made in aid of this branch of local expenditure from the English taxation account, the effect is correspondigly to diminish the balance available for distribution in aid of the cost of other local services. We should not gain more money by this re-allocation, which would simply mean a greater amount allocated to this account, and which would come out of some other portion of the funds available for Scotland. This is one reason why the stereotype is still being continued. To change it from a block grant, as it is now, to an allocated grant would mean a considerable amount of clerical work which would not give any correspondingly greater amount of money. I admit, however, it is an anomaly and an anachronism and that it is a thing which should be done away with.
2151 The last point I would make is, that this question of grants in relief of local rates is at this moment under consideration by Lord Meston's Committee. If this system were swept away and the grants allocated on a percentage basis there would be a great deal of clerical work to be done by the local authorities in making out Estimates and by the central authority in checking them. It is estimated by the Board of Health that it would require the whole-time services of some three clerks for fully four months a year to do the necessary auditing which would be required, and if, as a result of the Committee's report, this basis is again changed, we would have all that work for nothing. Therefore, for this year we desire to continue the basis under which we have worked for the last few years. I will guarantee to the hon. Member that I will give the matter my closest attention, and I have every hope that this is the last year we shall bring forward a provision of this kind. But considering the fact that the Meston Committee is considering it, it would be unwise to change this and have all the calculations to do again. I hope with that explanation the hon. Member will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I would like to put a question or two to the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health. I want to know if he will make inquiry as to the method of apportioning this grant in England. I have a strong feeling that this bit of economy is being practised at the expense of the Scottish authorities.
|7 and 8 Geo. V., c. 42||..||The Workmen's Compensation (War Addition) Act, 1917.||The whole Act||…||…||9 and 10 Geo. V., c. 83.|
§ I move this Amendment simply for the purpose of getting a pledge. The Committee is aware that two Workmen's Compensation Bills received a Second Reading in the House at an earlier part of the Session. One was moved by us from these benches and the other was a Govern merit Bill. The Government Bill has been upstairs for some time, and it has been found necessary to have a prolonged discussion on its provisions. That prolonged discussion has had to be undertaken on account of the very complicated provisions that must always be included in a Workmen's Compensation Bill. It has2152
§ We have been getting less and less from Imperial sources, and it is being piled on to the local rates. We have been asked to raise this matter, and, knowing the interest the Under-Secretary takes in Scottish affairs, we are depending on his help in this matter. We want even this year to make certain that this is not another matter of economy at the expense of Scotland. We are informed that there is a different method of allocation on this side of the Border than on the other side, and I would like the Under-Secretary to make inquiry into that and let us know.
§ Captain ELLIOT
Just in a sentence let me say that I will be glad to make the inquiry for which the hon. Member asks, but I am sure that there is not a smaller proportion of money given to Scotland than is given to England. I shall be glad, however, to make inquiry into it.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. WATSON
In view of the reply given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment. The Under-Secretary has given us an assurance that this is the last year in which this will be done, and I hope we shall have a better arrangement in future.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ been found impossible to conclude the Committee stage of the Bill upstairs in time to enable the House to consider the Report stage and the Third Reading before the Recess. But the Workmen's Compensation (War Addition) Act, passed in 1917 and continued from year to year, lapses on the 31st December of this year. If no provision be made, and should the Government not determine to get the new Bill through this House in time for it to come into operation on the 1st January, 1924, then there will be a very serious gap in the operation of the workmen's compensation law. I move 2153 this Amendment to get a pledge from the Government that they mean to get this Bill through during the Autumn Session in time for all the Rules and Regulations to be issued, so that there will be no gap in the operation of the law. I have no intention otherwise of pressing this Amendment.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to the hon. Gentleman. We are getting on very well in Committee upstairs with the Bill, and in another two sittings we hope to have completed the Committee stage, and the Home Secretary has every intention of passing the Bill into law when we resume after the holidays, so that it will become an Act of Parliament before the War Addition Act lapses.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (12).
This Amendment proposes to omit Section 7 of the Juries Act, 1918, as amended by 12 and 13 Geo. 5, c. 2. This Section gives power to coroners to dispense with a jury altogether. The coroner need not summon a jury in the manner required by the Coroners Act, 1887, provided that:
Hon. Members will observe that it lies with the Coroner to suspect that there has been murder or manslaughter. I suggest that the Coroner may not be seized of all the circumstances. A dead body may be found in mysterious circumstances, and there may not be any means of knowing whether the case is one of murder or not. We have recently had two or three painful cases of bodies having been exhumed and, after careful research, proofs of murder have been discovered which 2154 have led to the execution of criminals. The justification for this Section 7 is no longer operative, and I see no reason why the ordinary juries should not be summoned to sit at inquests in accordance with the Act of 1887. The Act of 1918 was a War-time Measure introduced because there was a shortage of persons eligible to serve on juries, owing to their being engaged in the national service and on war work of one kind or another. There is no valid reason for continuing the provisions of such an Act, and unless the Government make out a very clear case as to why it is still necessary to have power to dispense with these juries, I hope the Committee will support me in my Amendment.
- "(a) The foregoing provision shall not apply in any case in which the death has occurred in prison or in such place or under such circumstances as to require an inquest under any Act other than the Coroners Act, 1887; and
- (b) If before proceeding to hold an inquest or in the course of holding an inquest without a jury there appears to the Coroner to be any reason for summoning a jury, he may, and if there appears to him to be any reason to suspect that the deceased came by his death by murder or manslaughter, he shall proceed to summon a jury in the manner required by the Coroners Act, 1887."
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
This is a subject of some importance, and there are many Members who are anxious to see the old jury system as it was before the War put into full operation again. It may be that, so far as inquests are concerned, there is something to be said for dispensing with juries in special cases. There are a good many instances where men are called together to serve on a coroner's jury and where a great deal of time is wasted. I think, at any rate, there is a case for putting the whole matter upon a permanent basis. It is very unsatisfactory that it should be dealt with in this way from year to year, and it had better be settled definitely one way or the other, as to how we are going to deal with the question of coroners' juries and, in fact, with juries generally. A Bill has been introduced which will deal with other matters concerning juries and, possibly, with this one, but I think it is important that there should be some statement from a representative of the Government as regards this as well as other matters in connection with juries. I know of no particular reason which would lead one to believe that the old system was in any way abused or did not work well. I should like to see the old system reverted to and to see juries in full operation in this country, because I think it is one of the best features of English law.
§ Mr. F. GRAY
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that I have had considerable experience in connection with this subject, having taken down the depositions at more than 2155 600 inquests. Let me point out that under the Coroners Act of 1887 the coroner had considerable power in determining whether there should or should not be an inquest in a particular case. I was always impressed by the fact that a large percentage of the cases in which inquests are held, are cases in respect of poor people and workers. The reason is two-fold—and I am speaking now of the human side of the matter. First, it is only when an inquest was held that the doctor who has been called in is able to get the substantial fee of two guineas for conducting the post-mortem examination, with an additional guinea for attending to give evidence at the inquest. The second reason is that in a large number of cases where a sudden death occurs in the house of a well-to-do person, it is notorious that very considerable pressure is brought to bear upon the coroner to induce him to abstain from having the unpleasant publicity of an inquest. The power conferred by the Act of 1887 in this respect, is probably too wide. When an inquest is held and a jury is called together, if it serves no other purpose, it serves the purpose of bringing publicity to bear upon the matter in hand. I am able to illustrate the danger of dispensing with a jury by a very recent case in respect of which I put a question to the Home Secretary in this House. I am speaking from memory, but I think I am right in saying that the case concerned one Tallis. Two months after the death this case was the subject of great publicity in two English newspapers and was given considerable space on the principal pages of those newspapers. The reply I received from the Home Secretary was that he would inquire into the matter. As I did not receive a further reply for some time, I repeated my question, but in the meantime I received a personal letter from the Home Secretary saying that he had inquired into the matter and did not propose to take any steps, whereupon I withdrew my question, because I am perfectly content to rely upon the word, given by letter, of the Home Secretary.
Nevertheless, I would point out that, although I had been satisfied, apart from this opportunity of addressing this House, the public who read the startling statements which were made in those English 2156 newspapers have never had the matter publicly cleared up, and therefore I thought it desirable that I should mention it on this occasion. What were the facts of that case so far as I know them? The Home Secretary did not give me the facts. He expressed himself as satisfied, and I accepted that statement, but the facts, so far as I know them, were these, that a death occurred in a well-to-do family in a house situate in an isolated position. The death was notified to the Coroner, and, acting upon this very Section 7 of the Act of 1918, if I am properly informed, with a little black bag he trots up into this isolated position, sits there, holds some sort of inquiry with himself and those people who happened to be there, and thereupon fills up a death certificate and issues a burial certificate. I have no suggestion whatever to make about that particular case. I have said that I am satisfied, but I use that as an illustration to show the very serious danger which you are running in continuing a provision which enables a coroner in practically all cases—I know there are exceptions, but in these very serious cases where there may have been foul play, where there may have been the element of poison, and so forth—to take upon himself the grave responsibility, not only of dispensing with a jury, but, what to my mind is far more important, of avoiding absolutely and entirely, as was done in the case to which I have referred, anything in the nature of publicity. As a matter of fact, that case came to light only through the energy and enterprise of two particular newspapers.
I say this in conclusion, that I would far rather, particularly when I bear in mind the mysterious cases which have been tried in the last 18 months—I have in mind a particular case of a solicitor, where there was no suspicion of foul play, even when there was publicity, and when there was the presence of a jury—but I would far rather that you dispensed with a jury and made it illegal to have a jury in every civil case, and even deprived criminals of the opportunity of trial by jury at Assizes, because at least then you would get publicity, and if you fail to have the advantage and security of a jury, at least you get the advantage and security which public view and public expression give.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I hope the Home Secretary will consider the possibility of accepting this Amendment. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. F. Gray) has alluded to the enormous importance of publicity in discovering crime. I would draw attention also to the enormous importance of publicity both in preventing further fatal accidents and also in allaying suspicion. Complaints about the abolition of the coroner's jury come very largely from mines and industrial areas. In cases of fatal accidents, whether in a factory or in a mine, it is vitally important that there should be a jury and all available publicity. The accidents very often warrant inquiry, and that inquiry may be entirely burked by the absence of a jury. Not only that but, although there may be nobody to blame in connection with an accident, it is eminently desirable that everybody should realise that, and that there should not be endless stories going about as to how the accident was caused and whose fault it was. Nor is that all. I think the publicity which is obtainable when there is a jury summoned very often shows something in the management, either of the factory or the mine, which could be amended, and thus prevent further accidents. It also shows some carelessness on the part of the workmen, which may also be avoided in the future.
Of this I am certain, that there could be no more popular step, so far as accidents are concerned, than reverting to the old system of having a jury in any case of fatal accident. I have had representations from the miners in my area, and over and over again I have had individual representations made, not so much as to the evils that result from the abolition of coroners' inquests as from the doubts that have arisen owing to the absence of those inquests, doubts which are often as serious as anything can be in connection with those accidents, particularly when people are naturally suspicious of the way in which an accident was caused. I am not arguing it from the point of view of murder or manslaughter, but solely from the point of view of the prevention of accidents in mines and factories, the desirability of clearing up any suspicion as to how those accidents may have been brought about, and the possibility of remedying the conditions under which they may have become possible. For 2158 all these reasons, I ask the Under-Secretary to give the most careful consideration to this Amendment, and to see whether he cannot revert to the ante-1918 practice of insisting on a jury in the case of every coroner's inquest.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) that this is a very important question, and I have given it very careful consideration. In regard to the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. F. Gray), I have that case in my mind, because I read all the documents about it, and, as a matter of fact, the Home Office are watching that case. If any new facts come to light, an application to the High Court could quite easily be made for a second inquest, and if new facts come to light which justify such an application, that application will be made.
§ Mr. F. GRAY
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that I think I am right in saying that his Department only heard of that case through me, two months after the event?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
As a matter of fact, I do not think that any new facts have come to light—and we are watching it very carefully—which would really justify us in interfering at all. According to the evidence given in that case, it was pretty clear, I think, so far as the present facts that have come to light are concerned, that it was an accident. The Mover of the Amendment is aware that this Section 7 was put down originally as a War measure in order to avoid having to summon more people than was necessary, and it has been found very useful, has saved a good deal of expense, has worked perfectly smoothly, and has given general satisfaction to the public. I would like to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who moved the Amendment, that the coroner has not power to dispense with a jury unless the circumstances of the case justify it. Section 7 of the Act provides that the coroner, if he is satisfied that, having regard to all the circumstances of the 2159 case, it is proper to do so, he may, in lieu of summoning a jury in the manner required by the Coroners Act of 1887, hold an inquest on the dead body without a jury. But it is provided that
I think that is really sufficient safeguard so far as this temporary measure is concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) considered that this was a serious question, and said he hoped that legislation would very shortly be introduced dealing with the whole subject. I believe that a promise has already been made that legislation is going to be introduced to consolidate and amend the law relating to coroners, and when the time comes, an amendment of this particular Section 7 of the Act of 1918 will be very carefully considered.
- "(a) The foregoing provision shall not apply in any case in which the death has occurred in prison …. and
- (b) If before proceeding to hold an inquest or in the course of holding an inquest without a jury there appears to be any reason for summoning a jury, he may, and if there appears to him to be any reason to suspect that the deceased came by his death by murder or manslaughter, he shall proceed to summon a jury in the manner required by the Coroners Act, 1887."
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
There has been a marked change in some of the verdicts returned since it became the practice to sit without a jury. Of recent years, as everyone knows, there has been a great deal of depression due to unemployment and privation, and there have been verdicts recorded which, I believe, would not have been so recorded had 12 men or women sat upon the jury, for it would have been shown clearly that death was due to causes following the aftermath of the War. We are not making any charge against those in power, but this is a matter of immense importance, and certainly one of considerable importance to the workers of the country, particularly when we are told, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) told us, that there was no real distress arising out of unemployment. We ought to be able to remove that suspicion which arises in the minds of those concerning the death which might follow on distress after long want, and so on. If the real cause of death is suppressed, because those concerned are deprived of the right of inquiry by a 2160 jury, it is not well. For trial by jury has been an Englishman's privilege for centuries; the trial of a person by 12 of his fellow men.
Lieut. - Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
After what has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) respecting accidents in our mines and factories, I will not take up more time than necessary. I want to call particular attention to mining accidents about which I know more than any other accidents. The Parliamentary Secretary has pointed out that this Act was passed during the War time. That is so. We do not complain so much about that. It was either a question of saving expense to some extent, but which was more importance perhaps, of saving time, or not putting upon the inhabitants generally any more work than could be avoided during that precarious time. But I want to appeal to the hon. Gentleman who represents the Home Office that that time has long gone by. The expense that is saved is so infinitesimal that it scarcely counts. The 12 men on a jury are only paid a shilling each, and there are men in the mining districts of England and Wales who are available even at this very small remuneration, and who are prepared to give time and trouble, and what knowledge they have to what is an important issue to us. These men have knowledge of the customs and work of mining, and for that reason this matter should not have been left entirely in the hands of a coroner. A coroner's jury can always elicit information. They cannot do very much for the man who is dead, it is true, but very often they find out things which may prevent other accidents, and also they are afforded scope for information with regard to the framing of legislation when it becomes necessary and when it is opportune for it to be brought about. The hon. Gentleman has pointed out that if a man dies in prison, or if the coroner has any suspicion that he has died from murder or poison, then he empanels a jury; he is bound to do so under Section 7.
I say it is far more important—for accidents are more numerous in mines and factories—that we should take a steady view of this matter in respect to legislation. Why is it treated as more 2161 important to look after those who die in prison or who are murdered or poisoned, than it is to know exactly what happens to the very large number of people who meet with fatal accidents in mines? The hon. Gentleman promised that Section 7 shall be amended. What we are afraid of is this, if it is in its present form allowed to continue in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, then another 12 months may go by and we may have no redress at all. Nothing definite has been said. If a jury is empaneled it is not then left entirely to the coroner. If there is no solicitor there, you have at least eight, and perhaps ten, out of the 12 men in mining districts who have had experience and practical knowledge, and who are able to give assistance to the coroner himself in order to find out really and truly the cause of the fatal accident.
§ Mr. MARCH
I represent a very large section of important workers in an industry which is becoming more and more congested, I mean the vehicle workers of London. When accidents arise through collisions or on account of the traffic it is important in the interests of those men that there should be a jury to hear the whole case. At these inquiries arguments and statements as to the speed at which the men are driving, the character of the driving, and other things, must be thoroughly investigated, and we want to see that justice is done, not only to the relatives of the person who happens to be killed, but we also want to see justice done to those who are left afterwards to earn their living in the same business. Frequently after such investigations a slur is left on people, and many of them in the case of drivers have great difficulty in getting other employment. There ought to be the right to have a jury called together in the case of every accident. This is important with regard to accidents in mines, on ships, and on the wharves, but it is equally important that we should have the fullest inquiry in regard to accidents which occur in the streets. It would give the public more confidence if they knew that these cases were fully investigated, and the driver found guilty or exonerated after a full inquiry into the circumstances. If the drivers are exonerated then it gives relief to the mind of the employers and those associated with them.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I want to join with those who have been urging the representative of the Home Office to agree to the Amendment now before the Committee. I think from the arguments that have been used in this Debate the representative of the Home Office will observe that there is a considerable amount of feeling regarding Section 7 of the Juries Act. I do not wonder at that. We only need to remember the conditions under which this Amendment of the law was secured. It formed part of a big consolidating Measure that was brought in and discussed at one o'clock in the morning, when there were very few hon. Members present, and when those who were present were very exhausted. Although we were told at the time that it was a big Amending Bill, there were very few important matters dealt with. We were also assured by the Member of the Government in charge of the Measure, that the Bill did not contain any very serious changes in the law, and in consequence of that it was allowed to pass. It was only after that Measure was placed upon the Statute Book that is was discovered that it had taken away the right to a trial by jury in England under certain conditions.
We have been told again and again that many of the changes that were made were war measures, but I do not believe this change was a war measure. There are a considerable number of judges, both in England and Scotland, who have been very anxious to secure this change, and it was asked for again and again during the War in Scotland, but we resolutely set our faces against the change being made, and it will be observed that it does not apply to Scotland or Ireland. As has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan), the change is a very important one, particularly in relation to accidents. It is probably more important to the mining industry than it is to any other part of British industries, because in mining we have a very large accident roll, and consequently a Measure of this kind becomes of first-rate importance to the mining industry. The fact is that this law, while it applies to England, does not apply to Scotland at all because there we have our right to a jury in the case of a fatal accident inquiry. This is a position which cannot continue, and I take this 2163 opportunity of urging upon the Government to agree to this Amendment otherwise we shall be bound to bring in an Amending Bill at the first opportunity to restore the law to the original position in which it stood before the consolidating Measure was brought in. This change is one that the Labour party considers to be of vital importance, and unless the Under-Secretary is prepared to agree to the Amendment the onus will rest upon the Labour party to bring in an Amending Bill to remedy the grievance complained of with regard to the operation of Section 7 of the Juries Act. For these reasons I hope the representative of the Home Office will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I have listened carefully to everything the right hon. Gentleman has said, and also to the other speeches which have been delivered on the same subject. I think hon. Gentlemen have made out a very strong case for inquiry and possibly for change, but I would like to point out that we have already put in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill an Act to which no Amendment was put down, namely, the Coroners (Emergency Provisions) Act.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
We have already put into this Bill an Act which deals with the question now before the Committee, and having done that, although I agree an inquiry is necessary, I suggest that the Committee might allow this purely temporary provision, which also deals with coroners, to go in the present Bill. I have been very much impressed by the speeches made. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does intend to bring in a Bill altering the law relating to coroners. That Bill will be brought in very soon, and hon. Members will have an opportunity of stating their views upon it and of raising the point to which they have been drawing special attention. I suggest, having already put into the Bill an Act dealing with coroners, hon. Members might allow this temporary provision to go through as well.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I have been very much interested in the defence put up by the hon. Gentleman. It was my intention to have moved an Amendment in regard to 2164 the earlier Measure, but as it was ruled from the Chair that any Amendment not on the Paper must be rejected, it was obviously impossible for us to deal with that earlier Measure. That earlier Measure provides for a reduction in the number of coroners' jurors. Surely if you have a provision which enables the coroner to reduce the numbers of the jury that is not such a strong reason for insisting that there should be a jury. If the jury had been on the old scale then the hon. Gentleman might have taken a different attitude. In the course of the Debate cases have been brought forward in which it was in the public interest that juries should not be extinguished. But that is no particular reason why, during the period through which this Bill will run, this alleged temporary provision should continue. I hope the hon. Member will divide the Committee on this proposal, and induce it to say that the provision is contrary to the public interest.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir STANLEY JOHNSON
The feeling on this matter is not confined to one side of the Committee. Some change is felt to be necessary in the direction of taking away from the present authority the power of deciding whether or not a jury shall be empanelled. It would not be difficult to find quite a body of evidence in favour of a change taking place, as the present system does not satisfy the public and has, in fact, given rise to a considerable amount of discontent. The change of law to which we are objecting took away a right which had for centuries satisfied the public, and many people were very sorry to see that done. Still more the public are dissatisfied that it should rest with a particular individual to decide whether or not he shall have the assistance of a jury and then, having decided that point on perhaps quite insufficient facts, he should proceed to deal with the case himself, although the public would have liked to have seen a jury acting. I think the Minister in charge of the Bill should give some more satisfactory assurance than he has done.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
Those of us who have had some experience of coroners and juries hope sincerely that the Government will bring in a Bill to alter the law as it stands at present. We do not think it should be in the power of the coroner to decide whether or not there should be 2165 a jury. My experience is this: if you have a jury and that jury is composed of men with some knowledge of the particular trade they are better able to ascertain whether or not there has been carelessness which has resulted in the accident. We would far rather have an inquiry conducted by a coroner with the assistance of a jury than by the coroner himself. I admit I have, personally, no complaint to make with regard to coroners whom I have known and who have to my knowledge always attempted to carry out the inquiry impartially and correctly. Still, we hope the Government will bring in a Bill amending the law as soon as possible.
§ Mr. BONWICK
The Under-Secretary for the Home Office has admitted the reasonableness of this Amendment, but has stated that he cannot accept it because the Home Secretary intends to introduce at a later stage some consolidation measure. I venture to suggest that that does not satisfy us, and I hope my hon. Friends the Members for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and Oxford City (Mr. F. Gray) will press this Amendment to a division, because there is a good deal of uneasiness amongst workers in the country on this matter owing to the fact that when an accident has occurred the coroner may please himself whether or not he empanels a jury. May I give one illustration which came to my notice only a few months ago? An accident had occurred in one of my own factories, and it made me realise how strong was the feeling of the workers in their desire to have a coroner's jury empanelled. We were employing some people to carry out some alterations under a sub-contract. We informed them that under no circumstances were they to use our lift unless our own liftman was in charge of the lift, and we also put a notice to that effect on the lift doors. Unfortunately, however, our notice was ignored, with the result that one man who used the lift left it on the second floor, and another man opened the door on the first floor, fell down the lift well, and was instantly killed. The Coroner decided that he would not have a jury in dealing with that case, and a great deal of resentment was felt by the unfortunate man's fellow-workmen. If the workers of this country could vote on this subject, I think they would be unanimous in demanding that in case of an accident, whether in a factory, in a mine, or in 2166 the street, there should be a coroner's jury, and I hope that even at this late hour the Home Secretary will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not think anyone would deny that in practice a large number of cases occur in which a coroner can properly dispense with a jury.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
They cannot dispense with a jury in a case where death has occurred in prison, or where there is any reason to suspect that the death was due to manslaughter or murder.
§ Mr. WATSON
Perhaps I ought to qualify what I have said by adding, in cases of fatal accidents at collieries. I know that there are such cases.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I agree, but I do not think anyone would contest the statement that there are cases in which the summoning of a jury by a coroner is quite useless, and leads to expense and gives a great deal of trouble to those who summoned. I agree, also, that there may be cases in which coroners do not now summon juries which, perhaps, ought to be reconsidered, and, as has already been mentioned, it is intended to bring in a Bill next Session. Therefore, I hope the Committee will allow this Section to be carried on in the expiring laws, if an assurance is given, as I am prepared to do, that a Bill will be introduced next Session, and that we will carefully consider further limitations upon the powers of coroners to dispense with a jury, amongst the other matters which we shall have to consider in drafting that Bill. I cannot go further than that now, but I hope that that will satisfy hon. Members.
Our greatest difficulty—and the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with this point—is that there are cases in which, once a coroner has the right to dispense with the assistance of a jury, he will not depart from that practice, in spite of representations made by the people affected, employers and employés alike. As has already been said, that causes great resentment, because, when people die in prison, when people have been murdered, or when there is a suspicion that they have been poisoned, juries are 2167 summoned, but in the long roll of fatal accidents—1,100 or 1,200 in some years, and over 1,000 every year—in several districts in South Wales the coroner has the right, and has exercised it, of not empanelling a jury to assist him in inquiring into those accidents. The request that this Section shall be deleted, and that it shall be made obligatory upon the coroner in all cases of fatal accidents to empanel a jury for the purpose of the inquiry, is a very moderate one.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I desire to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one particular phase of this Bill. Where a coroner determines that no jury shall be empanelled, in cases of fatal accidents in mines or elsewhere, he himself accepts full responsibility, in many cases, for determining whether compensation shall be paid to the widow and children or not. That, I think, is a power that ought not to rest in the hands of one individual, for, once the verdict of the coroner is given, it is calculated to bias the mind of any County Court judge. If only from that point of view, it ought to be made obligatory upon the coroner in such cases to empanel a jury, so that the whole case can be gone into. The right hon. Gentleman said that this matter was going to be inquired into, but it seems to me that there is no need for inquiry at all. Where fatal accidents have occurred—and we know that they are, sadly, too numerous sometimes—it has been found that suggestions have been made by members of the jury who have hitherto worked in the particular industry in which the accident has occurred. They would never have dared to make such suggestions while they were working in the industry, but, as members of the jury, having left that particular employment, they were able to make during the hearing suggestions which, otherwise, would never have been made. As a result of such suggestions, improvements are made and preventive measures are taken that would not be taken if only the coroner held the inquiry. Moreover, the coroner may have little or no knowledge of, say, mining operations, and when witnesses talk about cross-gates, jennies, main levels, and other kind of levels, and use other technical mining phrases, it is totally impossible for the coroner, without 2168 having been down the mine and studied these matters, to understand more than a very small part of the evidence given. Therefore, I suggest that if, even at this late hour, it is possible for the Home Secretary to change his mind, he should do so, so that in all cases, particularly of fatal accidents in the mining industry and similar industries, it shall be obligatory for juries to be empanelled, firstly, in order that the inquiry may be a real one, and, secondly, to transfer the responsibility from the shoulders of an individual coroner to those of a full jury when dealing with the question as it affects compensation in any particular case.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
If I were to do what has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for East Rhondda (Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan) and by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), it would require an Amendment. They ask that in fatal accidents it should be necessary for the coroner to have a jury. I have a great deal of sympathy with that suggestion, and am quite prepared to consider it when the forthcoming Bill is being drafted; but, if I accepted the Amendment on the Paper, I should have to prevent coroners from ever hearing cases without a jury, and I am not prepared at this moment to admit that there are not a great number of cases in which a jury can very well be dispensed with, to the advantage of all parties. Apart from the question of death in prison or suspicion of murder or manslaughter, I should also point out that the coroner is bound as it is to be satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, that it is proper to dispense with a jury. If I say, as I do, that I will fully consider the possibility of limiting the power of the coroner to dispense with a jury to the extent hon. Members opposite have asked me I hope they will not press the Amendment.
§ Mr. F. GRAY
Is it not a fact that the coroner alone decides whether it is a case of suspicion of murder?
We must divide the House because the Home Secretary has shown by his latest remarks that there is a wide gap between him and us. In his first remarks I thought he was suggesting that this should rather continue for a 2169 short time until he could bring in an amending Bill.
But the right hon. Gentleman has gone much further the last time he spoke and has shown that there is a wide divergence of opinion between us. If he would accept the Amendment it would not leave him without machinery between now and the time he may wish to reconsider the matter. To accept the present Amendment would simply mean that the change that was made in the law under the circumstances I have described in the early hours of the morning in 1918 would be departed from and he would be back on the 1887 Act, and that is exactly what the workers employed in the dangerous industries want. They want the machinery of 1887 restored, and the right hon. Gentleman may take it that they will not be satisfied until they get it restored. They believe that wherever there are fatal accidents it is necessary to inquire into them, not only with a view to finding out exactly the circumstances under which the man died but with a view to the jury making suggestions as to preventive measures
§ which might be taken. If the Home Secretary still refuses to accept the Amendment we shall have no alternative but to divide the Committee.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is speaking for England or for Scotland.
I have already stated that this does not apply to Scotland, and that in fatal accidents we have our juries. The same thing was tried with Scotland, but we refused to accept it.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
My impression is that in Scotland if the Procurator Fiscal thinks an inquiry ought to be held, he has a jury, and the right hon. Gentleman is arguing about a thing which does not affect the country he represents. I cannot go further than I have. I have promised to consider the Amendment before the Bill is introduced. I cannot accept it now, because that would prevent any coroner dispensing with a jury in a case where it was totally unnecessary.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 214; Noes, 157.2173
|Division No. 293.]||AYES.||[9.22 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Chapman, Sir S.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Apsley, Lord||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Greaves-Lord, Walter|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Clarry, Reginald George||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Clayton, G. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Livip'l, W. D'by)|
|Banks, Mitchell||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Halstead, Major D.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cope, Major William||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)|
|Becker, Harry||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Harrison, F. C.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Briggs, Harold||Ellis, R. G.||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Hume G. H.|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. M.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Bruford, R.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Flanagan, W. H.||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Foreman, Sir Henry||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Forestier-Walker, L.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Furness, G. J.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.|
|Kelley, Major Sir Frederick A.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Pease, William Edwin||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|King, Capt. Henry Douglas||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Perring, William George||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Peto, Basil E.||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Lorden, John William||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Lorimer, H. D.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Privett, F. J.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Lougher, L.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Lumley, L. R.||Raine, W.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Rentoul, G. S.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Manville, Edward||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Wells, S. R.|
|Margesson, H. D. R.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Mercer, Colonel H.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Wise, Frederick|
|Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Murchison, C. K.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Russell, William (Bolton)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Morel, E. D.|
|Adams, D.||Hancock, John George||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Harbord, Arthur||Mosley, Oswald|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Muir, John W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harris, Percy A.||Murnin, H.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Hastings, Patrick||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)|
|Barnes, A.||Hayday, Arthur||Newbold, J. T. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bonwick, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Paling, W.|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Parker, H. (Hanley)|
|Briant, Frank||Herriotts, J.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hill, A.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bromfield, William||Hinds, John||Potts, John S.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Burgess, S.||Irving, Dan||Richards, R.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)||Riley, Ben|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Ritson, J.|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Collison, Levi||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sexton, James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Kenyon, Barnet||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Duncan, C.||Lansbury, George||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawson, John James||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Leach, W.||Snell, Harry|
|Edmonds, G.||Lee, F.||Snowden, Philip|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Linfield, F. C.||Spoor, B. G.|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||Lowth, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Foot, Isaac||Lunn, William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Gosling, Harry||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Sullivan, J.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||M'Entee, V. L.||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Greenall, T.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||March, S.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Groves, T.||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Thornton, M.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Middleton, G.||Tout, W. J.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Millar, J. D.||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Warne, G. H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Mr. Frank Gray and Mr. A. V.|
|Westwood, J.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)||Alexander.|
|Whiteley, W.||Wright, W.|
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (15).
I am always reluctant to address the House more than once in the same week, but the importance of the occasion, I am afraid, compels me to make a short statement of my reasons for this Amendment. This is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, Section 1. This does not deal with aliens in merchant vessels, fishing vessels, alien pilots, or anything of that sort. All that is permanent legislation, and is not in question. This deals with the restrictions on former enemy aliens entering the United Kingdom, and on aliens generally. This is the first time that this Government has had an opportunity, I believe, to disclose their policy on this very important question. I may say at once that I am strongly opposed to the policy of the late Coalition Government in 1919 when, under the pressure of Mr. Bottomley, of Sir Edward Carson—now Lord Carson—of the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher), and one or two of their followers, they continued the war-time legislation indefinitely against aliens. They deliberately carried on in a time of peace after the ending of the War the same legislation, the same restrictions, against foreigners that they were only able to pass through this House of Commons under the emotions, the sentiments, the fears, and the general atmosphere of 1914 after War had been declared. At that time it was decided, when the whole country, I am afraid, or a very large portion of it, was suffering from acute attacks of spionitis, to bring in this very ridiculous enactment, and then, in 1919, when we were still suffering from shell-shock, the gentlemen I have mentioned, headed by Mr. Bottomley—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—yes, he was the leader of the whole agitation-and with the general excitment and xenophobia that always exists after a great war, and did especially after the last one, they were able to compel this Chamber to depart from the whole principle of British practice with regard to foreigners. I propose, therefore, to leave out these words which will not continue this iniquitous Section 1 of this Act. Parts of the Measure are good, I 2174 freely admit, and parts are just, but this particular Section is purely a war relic. We have been for some generations looked upon as a country that opened its gates wide to the oppressed and persecuted from all countries. An hon. Member says it is time to stop, but there are some hon. Members who would like to throw away the most treasured possession of the English race, our reputation for fair dealing, for hospitality, courtesy, and decent treatment of the oppressed, persecuted, the weak, and the humble. They would throw away that heritage. I hope there are sufficient hon. Members, at any rate, to show that we are not all suffering from this disease, because it is a disease. Xenophobia—hatred of foreigners—is a disease, and the sooner it is eradicated from this Chamber the better. Leave it to your Klu Klux Klan and your Fascisti, and the remainder of them.
There is a very practical side to this question. We are a great commercial and trading people. We are more hard put to it than ever to find markets, and it is not a good thing to make it difficult for foreign business men to come to this country for trading. It means a loss of business and a consequent loss of employment in this country. I am sorry the President of the Board of Trade and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are not in their places.
In my experience, those two Departments, when they are appealed to—I have had many appeals made to them on behalf of business men and others in my constituency—have been very good in giving facilities to visitors to come here, but the fact that it has been necessary to make these special applications shows that there is a hampering of commercial intercourse between ourselves and other nations that is bound to react adversely on our commerce. The very fact that it takes some time before visas can be granted to foreign merchants to come here, simply because they happen to be in former enemy countries, naturally puts a check on British commerce. They do not come for pleasure or amusement to a country with a high exchange, where 2175 living for them is very expensive. They come here to do business. We should open the gates wide to people who come here either to buy or sell goods, and thus give employment to our people. That is the practical side of the question.
Another important side is the political side. There are no people more widely scattered over the globe than the descendants of the inhabitants of those islands. Our people are the most travelled people in the world. We have founded great colonies of English in South America, Central America, Asia, Africa and other parts of the globe. We are a seafaring, adventuring, exploring, pioneering people. We may make it a matter of considerable difficulty for a few Americans, Austrians or Danes to come to this country, but there is always the danger of reprisals being exercised on the far greater number of British people who are pursuing their lawful avocations in foreign parts. Furthermore, we, as a great buying and selling nation, dependent on foreign trade for our very existence, ought to want to have good relations with all peoples. The persons who come to this country are the missionaries of their countrymen at home. Their friends and relations in their own country will take their opinion of these islands and their inhabitants from the reports carried back by the travellers who come here. Under this Act we are putting all sorts of restrictions in the way of these law abiding, peaceful persons who wish to come here.
Then we object in many cases to people whom we are pleased to label as political agitators. They belong to Socialist or other parties on the left in these countries, who are forced to fly from countries like Bavaria, Turkey, Hungary and so forth, because of their opposition to the powers that be. In the past we always had a welcome for people of that sort, for the Garibaldis, the Liberators, the carriers of the standard of liberty. We were glad to allow them to come here and we had a reputation in all parts of the world because of the liberality and hospitality that were shown to these men. We have a reputation as a freedom loving people and as a free country. In too many cases I am sorry to say that Government Departments have made difficulties in admitting these people. I will repeat that, in the case of the Home Secretary, 2176 where established firms put forward a claim for business men, after the necessary delay, these people are admitted. The Home Office, the Foreign Office, and the Board of Trade have been helpful in that respect, but all this means delay and obstacles. Many firms do not know that they can get these concessions for people who are coming as customers. Therefore possible customers are kept out.
I will give an actual case which occurred recently which shows how ridiculous this Act has been in its operation. There is to be held in Edinburgh an International Congress on physiology. A very well-known Russian professor of physiology, Professor Pabloff, applied in New York for a French visa and a British visa. This gentleman wished for a British visa to attend the International Congress of physiologists, on the invitation of the learned society of Edinburgh which is holding this conference. The British Consul in New York refused the British visa to this scientist. The French Consul granted him a visa to go to Paris to visit his fellow scientists there. The apparent reason given was that this gentleman, though opposed, I understand, politically to the present Government in Russia, was travelling with a Soviet passport.
For the information of the Home Secretary, or any other hon. Member who may not be seized of all the facts, I should say that the Russian Government issued a decree 12 months ago ordering their nationals to take out Soviet passports in exchange for old Tsarist passports or to lose their nationality. Therefore, these people are placed in the awkward position that if they do not take out Soviet passports they cannot go back to Russia, or can only go with great difficulty, but if they do, the Foreign Office or the Home Secretary's Department will prevent these people getting visas to come here, as they did in the case of Professor Pabloff, who is a very well-known scientist. It is making this country ridiculous to refuse a person like that a visa under this ridiculous Act which we are now asked to extend another 12 months.
I gave some instances the other night of young children who were left orphans in Poland or Russia, and who have got in England relatives who wish to bring them to this country, and the right hon. Gentleman hardens his heart and says: 2177 "Under this Act I am not allowed to admit these poor aliens. They are not to come." He dries up the founts of charity and human feeling and love in this matter. I see on the Front bench the Lord Privy Seal (Lord R. Cecil), who is playing his usual distinguished part in the League of Nations, the new ideal of internationalism and human brotherhood. What does he say to these artificial restrictions, to this attempt to partition off the human race into different sections of sheep and goats, to these restrictions on students and scientists coming here to study, and on business men? I do not see present any hon. Member who attended the great International Congress at Genoa, but I do remember some of the resolutions which were passed there, not by representatives of this Government alone, but by representatives of some 23 nations, demanding that these artificial restrictions and barriers between peoples should be broken down.
Lastly, I make this appeal to the Government. The other day we had a very momentous statement by the Prime Minister on the European situation. I wish to draw attention to the very laudable sentiments expressed in that statement, for the desire to restore a normal atmosphere in Europe, an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation, instead of an atmosphere—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. and gallant Member is not in order in repeating those sentiments here.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not attempt to repeat the lofty views of the right hon. Gentleman. In the pre-War conditions an honest law-abiding person could travel from end to end of Europe without trouble until he came, perhaps, to the confines of Tsarist Russia. Now we find all the trouble about visas and passports, and the preventing of the exchange of ideas and understanding, which alone can restore the old atmosphere, an atmosphere under which our manufacturers could look to assured markets for their trade. We must get back to those days, and Section 1 of this Aliens Act prevents the return. It keeps up the artificial hatreds between peoples engendered by the War. As long as I am in the House, whatever Government is in power, whatever its political colour or complexion, if it attempts to carry on 2178 these artificial war restrictions and hindrances to the community of mankind, I shall resist them, even if I do it alone.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON
I have listened with great interest to the hon. and gallant Member and the arguments he put forward on behalf of the oppressed—I think it was of Russia. The hon. and gallant Gentleman represents a great industrial constituency. One of the burning questions in that constituency has been the question of the action of the Russian Government in respect of the Hull trawlers, and I do not think, somehow, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's championship of the poor, oppressed Russian will appeal very much to his constituents. After all, what is the attitude of the Russian Government towards this question? Do they welcome all corners to Russia? I think it is difficult to get a Russian passport. I have not tried myself, but I am not sure whether, if I succeeded in getting one, I should be admitted to Russia. The hon. and gallant Gentleman himself has pointed out the danger of reprisals in this matter. Recently we had an extraordinary business going on in America—the action of the American Government towards British emigrants. I raised the question at the time, and I should have expected the hon. and gallant Gentleman, holding the views he has expressed to-night, to have been seconding my efforts to obtain the admission of these poor, downtrodden Englishwomen into America. I merely try to point out the question as to whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is consistent in his views. I would like to put to him another question. He has been a distinguished officer in the Navy. He was the captain of a ship. Would he allow anyone to come over the side of that ship if he did not approve of that person? If he were in the harbour at Malta, and a Maltese he did not like wanted to come on board, would he allow him on? But this is a serious question. It is about the only safeguard that this country has against being flooded with a lot of possibly very undesirable aliens. If the right hon. Gentleman had not these powers—if he does not have this Act passed, what powers has he to prevent the ingress of very undesirable people? Would the hon. and gallant Member like to have a flood of White Guards and Fascisti coming into the country? He is 2179 hardly consistent. We must have some restriction against admittance to this country. He admits that he has little to complain of, because when he has made representation about people for whom he can vouch, they were admitted to this country. You can get into this country easily enough if you have someone to vouch for you. I hope that the Committee will support the Government in this Measure, and will continue to exclude the political missionaries to which the hon. and gallant Member has referred.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I hope the Committee will do exactly the contrary to what the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) wants. There is scarcely a noble family in this country which has not mixed blood, which came to them from people overseas. I do not understand the hilarity of the right hon. Gentleman opposite whenever a foreigner is mentioned. It seems to me we have gone back very many centuries when the House of Commons talks of foreigners in the atmosphere in which we are talking of them to-night. They are human beings like all of us, and this country owes a great deal to the foreigners who brought industries here years ago. The charge against the alien is that he produces a lot on low wages, but a man who does that, who produces more than he consumes, ought to be of great service to this country. You are telling us to cheapen production, and he does that. Who get the benefit of it? The English employers of these men. I have lived among these people—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question is not the aliens' policy, but whether the Home Secretary should have certain powers under the Act.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I know of my own knowledge that the people who make the money out of these men are unscrupulous gentiles, who employ them at low wages. The reason I am opposing this is because the Act is used for political purposes. The Home Secretary has power to have a man arrested on board a ship, put into Brixton Prison, and kept there for months on end. It was all very well for the noble Lord to laugh, but the Home Secretary knows I am speaking the truth. He can have a man—and he has had not one man but many men—taken 2180 from off a ship, and landed in Brixton Prison, with no charge made against him; kept there for months, and then shipped away where the Home Secretary likes to order him to go. I say that no one man in any country ought to have that power. The right hon. Gentleman must not shake his head, because he knows perfectly well that he and I have had correspondence on this subject, and he knows that he has kept men in prison in this way and then sent them abroad. What has been the charge against them? They are his political opponents; they happen to hold Communist views, and because they are Communists they are treated in this way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Oh, what nonsense! What nonsense! The British Empire is afraid of allowing a Communist to land on its shores!
Hon. Members think they will keep back the tide of Communism by this sort of tomfoolery. It is persecution of the worst description, and is certainly the sort of treatment of people which is a disgrace to this country at the moment, and a disgrace to all the traditions of this country. Had the Home Secretary had this power in the days of Kropokin, Kossuth, and Mazzini those men would have been kept out in their day. They were looked upon by the autocracies of Europe as as great a danger to the community as the Communists are to-day They were driven out of their own country and allowed to come here, and this House supported the Ministers in allowing them to come here. In dealing with aliens, the Home Secretary discriminates, and keeps out the Communists. I want to know why he does not keep out the White Russians; why they should be allowed to come here and still occupy their Embassy in London; and why they should be feted, and made a great fuss of? It only shows that you have your law to enable them to come here, but not to allow your political opponents to come here. I do not think we ought to have a law of that sort on the Statute Book at all, and the sooner we get rid of it the better.
I think I have said in this House before that you cannot have a war without having repressive legislation, and without doing things that in peace time are unnecessary. Here we are, years after the peace, and it is time this sort of war emergency legislation was wiped off the Statute Book. We ought not to go 2181 on, year after year, re-establishing the disbodied power of the Home Secretary, to allow in one sort of alien and to keep out another. If we are going to keep out aliens, then let us keep them all out. The Government does not do that; the Whites and the Fascisti are allowed in. You say you keep the Communists out because they are not democrats, and because they want to overturn in a violent way order over here. Yet you welcome Mussolini here, and people like him, who have done far worse than ever the Bolshevists did in Russia. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, far worse. Everybody who knows what has happened in Italy—
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) does not give way, the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Blundell) cannot speak.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I repeat that the Italian Fascisti movement has been guilty of more outrages against individual liberty than have ever taken place in Bolshevist Russia, and yet those people are welcomed and fêted and honoured here. That, again, shows how the Home Secretary wilfully administers this Act in a political sense. Although I am not a member of the Communist party, I want to say that you have no right, even although you disagree with them, to keep them out merely because they are Communists. It is not a question of their coming here to take the bread out of people's mouths. The right hon. Gentle-knows that the people about whom I have written to him simply came here in the course of going to Moscow, and that they were not allowed to travel through this country from port to port. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is a pretty nice thing! You are the people who go through the country telling the electorate what tyrants we shall be to you when we get into power, and that shows what humbug it is when you talk in that way. It shows, also, that you do not care a scrap for liberty, in the broad sense. The liberty and freedom in which you believe is only the freedom to think as you want people to think. I, personally, believe in freedom for every man and woman to 2182 think and say whatever they think fit. That is all I am asking for, for Communists, or anybody else.
I want to say this, further, with regard to aliens. This House, and the British nation, as a nation, has no right at any time to talk about being pure-blooded, and keeping the nation pure. We are the most mixed race in the world. From the Royal Family right down we are a mixed race. At the bidding of Mr. Bottomley you passed these laws. At the bidding of Mr. Bottomley you changed the name of the Royal House from Guelph to Windsor. At the bidding of Mr. Bottomley you tore the Knights' Garters and Banners down from the Chapel at Windsor—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Fitzroy)
I do not think we need refer to Mr. Bottomley in discussing this Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Is the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), in relation to this Act which is being continued, not entitled to refer to the part which Mr. Bottomley took in passing it?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may refer to the part Mr. Bottomley took when it is relevant to discussion.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not want to drag Mr. Bottomley into this, because, after all, it shows what a weak-minded set you were to allow one man to lead you astray. The whole of this anti-alien humbug has gone on. The whole of this sort of hatred of the alien and the foreigner has sprung from the kind of agitation which went on during the War. From the Royal Family downwards, there is no one in this country who has any right to pour scorn and contempt on the foreigner. The foreigner is as good as anyone of us here, and he has as much right to land in this country as we have to land in his country. We claim the right to go throughout the length and breadth of the world when we 2183 will, and other people ought to have the right to come here. I am mainly against this proposal to continue to give the Home Secretary these powers because he uses them in a political sense; because he takes poor men off ships, and arrests poor men in the streets, merely because they are Communists. I have already given the Committee a case where no evidence was given against two men, and where one of the magistrates lectured them on no evidence whatever, and where you landed them in—
§ Lord APSLEY
May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is in order in referring to the Home Secretary in a personal manner?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep to the question which is before the Committee and to address the Chair.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would like to say that I would not hurt the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for anything. I have a great respect for him, but I hate his politics and I hate the manner in which he administers the Home Office in this connection. The Home Secretary knows just as well as I know that there are two men in prison at this moment, that these two men were put there by the word of one police officer without the slightest corroboration, and are there simply because they are foreigners and are supposed to be Communists. There was not a shred of evidence except that they had attended a meeting at Highbury Corner which was said to be a Communist meeting. The Home Secretary has told us that he is able to do that kind of thing under the powers conferred upon him by this pernicious Act, and it is because of that that two English people who gave these foreigners shelter were arrested. When the police officer was asked what he had against these English persons, he said they were members of the Communist party. For once we had a magistrate with some commonsense and he said, "It is not yet a crime for a person to belong to a communist organisation." These two people got out, but the foreigners were given six months by another magistrate for a similar kind of offence. I think it is time that was stopped, and I think that no man in peace time should have conferred 2184 upon him the power the Home Secretary has under this Act.
§ Captain ARTHUR EVANS
I regret I am unable to agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Commander Kenworthy) in this question. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley is desirous of opening the gates of England to every fanatical class of professional agitator and undesirable people who wish to come here.
§ Captain EVANS
I do not expect the hon. Members above the Gangway will agree with what I have to say. I suggest that they seem to have lost sight altogether of the fact that England to-day is the only nation that stands for civilisation in Europe. If we are to have people coming to our country and poisoning the minds of our people—[Interruption.]
§ Captain EVANS
As a Member of the Commercial Committee of this House, I had the honour of travelling in Central Europe, and in Leipsig and Breslau, and as far as Vienna, I came across undesirable people who were anxious to get into England on any pretence. They would only come here for the sole purpose of poisoning the minds of our people and creating unrest. There is another point of view. In Germany there are thousands of waiters very much more efficient than ours. The German temperament is such as to make them better waiters than Englishmen. They are only too anxious to come here, under any disguise, and get employment as waiters in our big hotels. The Labour party seems to lose sight of the fact that we have nearly 2,000,000 unemployed in our country.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
Does the hon. Gentleman object to British capitalists working Lascar labour on our ships?
§ Captain EVANS
That is not the question we are discussing now. I am quite 2185 sure if I commenced to discuss that subject the Deputy-Chairman would call me to order. I want to submit to the Committee that I am certain, if there was any genuine case of a foreigner wanting to come here, if he was a desirable person on a business mission, the Home Secretary would be the last man to hold him up. I do hope my right hon. Friend will not accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I have listened for the last few days to the speeches delivered in this House. Before I go further I want to draw your attention to the fact that Members have just started on the other side immediately below the Gangway, and I am warning you, Sir, that I will not take anything from any of them. Like my colleagues, whatever I say I will never withdraw. You may call us aliens or by any other name. It makes no difference to us what we are designated in this House. We have come to put forward a point of view, not to sue for peace with the capitalist class, but to fight the capitalist class. Certainly we are aliens to your point of view. I have no desire, neither have my colleagues whom I have just left, and whom this House has the audacity to expel—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he is travelling away from the proposal which is under discussion just now.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I know it is very difficult for me to keep within the rules of this House, but the House can take it from me that it will never concern me very much whether I obey the rules of the House or not. I have delivered the message which I have been sent to deliver.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member will submit to my guidance he will have no difficulty in abiding by the rules of the House.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I have no desire to quarrel with you, Sir, or with any individual, but in order to put my point of view I will quarrel with the entire House. Now, as to this alien question, it is ridiculous for me, having read the history of the British Empire, and knowing it as I do, to think that here we have men assembled in this day and generation, to pose before the world as the last 2186 speaker did, and express the sentiment which surges through the average mind in this House, that the British race is the greatest race in the world. They believe they are a heaven-born race sent here to rule, and that all is better and well in our native land through their ruling—the murderers that they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I know that little Rule. I do not require to withdraw, and I pay no attention to your cries of, "Order, order!" and I will go on and whip you. How far back are we going to go with this Aliens Act, or with this idea of keeping aliens out of the country? What about the Cecils when they came over from Normandy along with William the Conqueror? Are we to go back to their time, when they murdered and ravaged throughout the length and breadth of Britain? Is this to be retrospective back to William the Conqueror's time? Let us have some retrospective legislation here. What did they do at that time—some of the characters who fill the Treasury Bench and whom some people designate as "my Noble Lord"? As I have told you already, I never address them as "my Noble Lord" because I do not believe they are noble. I believe they are ignoble.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member will obey my ruling and keep to the Act which is under discussion he will have no trouble in keeping in order.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The question before the Committee at the moment is that of aliens and I am telling the Committee about some of the aliens who are living on the flesh and blood of the British working class, and who have always done so.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No doubt the Act under discussion has to do with aliens, but not with the aliens to whom the hon. Member is referring. This Act is a continuance of an Act of 1914 and the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Yes, Sir; I agree with you. Nevertheless, it is very neces- 2187 sary. [Laughter.] Why some people should be laughing at the moment is beyond me, because this is a very serious point to the people whom the Labour men represent here. Who was it that was responsible for bringing the aliens into Lanarkshire? It was the Bairds of Gartsherrie. Why did they bring the aliens there? Before that the same gang in Scotland brought the Irish into Scotland.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member to refer to the Act now under discussion, which is, to keep in existence certain emergency powers passed during the War, should similar emergencies occur in the future.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I am using this point for illustration, and if I understand the rules of the House aright—and I have as my guides those who are supposed to be experts on those rules—I am quite justified in using those illustrations at the moment. Now, Captain Fitzroy, I hope you will allow me to proceed. I do not want to breathe out any threat. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] What do we find are the aliens who are barred from coming into this country? Who are they? From what class do they come? I believe there are two distinct classes in society, the class that have and the class that have not. The class that have is the class who, if they had to work could not do it. I wish I had a British audience to look at them. They would agree with my condemnation of them.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
The speech the hon. Member is making would have been more suitable to yesterday's Debate. Really, the hon. Member must confine himself to the particular Bill now under discussion, or I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Who are the section of the community that is barred from getting into Britain? They are aliens of the working class. There would be no objection raised, as my colleague has said, if Mussolini were coming here. You would have welcomed the Tsar here had it not been for the Labour movement in 1915. He would have been welcomed here, but the Labour movement was too powerful. What do we find when the Portuguese rise in revolt? They chase King Manuel out of Lisbon, 2188 the capital of Portugal. Where does he come to? That haven of rest—Britain! Was there any objection to him? No. Why? Because he belonged to the King class, to that organisation. There are quite a number of them unemployed, and there will be more unemployed in the same class, with all their paraphenalia, and what not. This is a very serious question for the Labour movement. Had it not been so, and because of the trend of development in the Labour movement, I would not have intervened now. This blow is aimed at the working classes by the Government of the country who wish to prohibit people coming into the country, and the people they wish to keep out are the working classes. The British Empire is made up of countries all over the world and the Union Jack—that rag—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]—which floats in every clime—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has made an offensive observation about the flag. I think he ought to withdraw that.
§ Mr. NEWBOLD
On a point of Order. How much profit have hon. Members opposite made out of the flag? Is not that the ground of their objection, that this is spoiling the goodwill?
§ Mr. HANNON
Is the hon. Member entitled to continue his speech without withdrawing the observation he made about the Union Jack?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I called upon him to withdraw, and the hon. Member said he did not mean anything offensive. I called the attention of the hon. Member for Dumbarton to the fact that he had made a remark which was obviously offensive to a large section of the Committee, and I expressed the hope that he would say that he did not mean anything offensive.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. I wish to ask whether, when an hon. Member rises, ostensibly to raise a point of Order, he is in order in taking advantage of that opportunity merely to express an opinion of his own?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Dumbarton made an offensive remark and I said that he was not in order, and I called his attention to it. He has now stated that he did not mean it to be offensive.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Can you. Mr. Deputy-Chairman, inform the Committee how a remark can be offensive to an hon. Member who breaks his pledged word to the people to whom he gave it?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I hope the Committee will understand, and that the Government will take into account, that when they bring anything forward such as this regarding aliens, and put on strictures that are going to affect the welfare of the people of our country, we shall oppose it. We Socialists recognise that it is because of the part the British Government play all over the world that we are always on the brink of war. It is because of that fact and the way in which this alien question affects the working classes that I am raising my voice here to-night in protest. I know from experience that the British Government and the British ruling class are not to be trusted. They would sell anything in order to make profit, and, therefore, immediately anything is raised in this House or brought in by the Government that is going to affect the welfare of the working classes of this country you can depend upon it that I shall use all the power I have, physical and mental, and every ounce of energy that I have to fight on their behalf. It is in order to let the British ruling classes understand that the Socialist movement is prepared to fight, and will fight, until we carry the Socialist Republic—if necessary at the point of the bayonet—that I have made these observations. Now hon. Members can object as much as they like.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
My hon. Friend has put a good deal of unnecessary heat into his remarks, and as that does not as a rule commend itself to me I want to recall the Committee as quickly as I may to the subject we are debating. This Bill does not deal with the whole question 2190 or aliens. It only applies to a single section of the Alien Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1919, to Sub-section (1) of Section 1 of that Act. At the time it was passed it was to last for a single year, and it was put forward and defended by the Government as intended to operate only for that period. Before dealing with its temporary character I would like to remind the Committee of its origin, because in its origin we can clearly see why it was intended to be of a temporary character. If the Committee will look at Section 1, Sub-section (1), it will be found that the power under Section (1) of the Aliens Act, 1914, were exercisable in respect of aliens. At any time when war exists between His Majesty and any part of the world, or when it appears there might be imminent national danger or a great emergency, these powers for a period of one year after the passing of this Act were to be exercisable not only in these circumstances but at any time.
Obviously it is easy to see why the powers conferred on the Home Secretary in 1914 were powers which could only be justified in times of war. They were powers for prohibiting the landing of aliens in the United Kingdom, for imposing restrictions and conditions on their landing, for prohibiting aliens embarking, for deporting aliens, for requiring aliens to reside and remain in certain places, and for prohibiting them remaining in certain places. I think I have read enough of these provisions to show how large are the temporary powers which are conferred by this Act upon the Home Secretary. Some reference has been made to the conditions under which this provision was passed in 1919. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley somewhat inaccurately attributed the whole responsibility to Mr. Bottomley, but I think Mr. Bottomley should not enjoy the whole of the glory. He had to share it—
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The proposal was supported by the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett), who is still a Member of the House, and sits now on the same benches as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell), so that that recrimination does not apply.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I observed that the gentleman to whom the hon Member referred, namely, Mr. Bottomley, who now resides in one of His Majesty's institutions, sat on the same benches as the hon. Member below the Gangway.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
That is quite irrelevant. He was an independent Member in this House, and never had been a recognised Liberal candidate at any time when he was elected to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes!"] I am quite willing to take any opprobrium that is attached thereto, but it is quite irrelevant as an argument. The hon. Member for North Salford, who was then, and is now, a Labour Member, was equally responsible, for he supported the same proposal then. I wanted to point out also that the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) and the right hon. Baronet the Financial Secretary to the Treasury were equally responsible. It will be found in the Debate on the 15th April, 1919. I am not blaming the hon. Gentleman. It was only the exceptional fervour of his Friend above the Gangway that led me to introduce his name.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen would be really anxious to get at the facts. I said nothing opprobrious about Mr. Bottomley or about his political opinions; I as merely pointing out that he was not solely responsible for the provision in question, but that the hon. and learned Member for York and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury were also enlisted in the same interest, and not only that, but authority they quoted at that time, in the main, was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes, but not of our brand. There is also a certain variety in the strength of the Socialism above the Gangway. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not last night!"] But you were brought to heel last night. During the Debate to 2192 which I have referred, a very admirable passage from the Bristol speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was quoted, namely:I am glad the programme is accepted. We mean to go through with it. [A Voice: 'What about the Germans in the country?'] Oh, they will not be long in this country: they are going to be fired out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th April, 1919; col. 2774, Vol. 114.]I am quoting this to show the conditions and the atmosphere in which this provision was carried through, and even under those conditions, and in that atmosphere, it could only be carried for one year. We are entitled to point out now that the conditions have altered, the atmosphere has changed. There were some reverberations of that feeling on the benches opposite during the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, but I should not think that they were altogether characteristic now of the benches opposite, particularly now that the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin sits on the Front Bench, and is such an admirable leader of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee. It was in relation to Germans, and for the purpose of dealing with Germans, that this provision was passed. We know what happened in the Debate, and during the Committee stage the same thing occurred. Amendments were proposed during the Committee stage by Sir Ernest Wild, who now holds a judicial post to which he has been fittingly promoted in the City of London, to make this provision permanent and the Government of that day resisted it. The present First Commissioner of Works was at that time Under-Secretary at the Home Office and he opposed making this provision permanent. He said it would only be temporary and it was on the ground that it was temporary that even under those conditions the House accepted it. All these conditions have changed. We are not worried about the Germans to-day. [Interruption.] I am surprised that a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is worried about Germans. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is the most popular man in Germany to-day. His articles have a large circulation in the German Press. That is an evidence of how much the situation has changed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not know the strength of his leader. Friends 2193 who have returned from Berlin tell me the people of Germany, rightly or wrongly, now pin their faith to the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Captain A. Evans), who is still worried about the Germans, cannot be keeping pace with the progress of his right hon. leader. He must be more up to date. But it is not only the right hon. Gentleman. The Government has changed also. Let us look at the international situation in relation to this matter. Why should we worry about keeping out the Germans when we are not building armaments against the Germans now? We are building armaments against other people—against the French and the Japanese. The whole question of the restriction of aliens depends on international conditions, and I am entitled to show that the international conditions under which this Aliens Restriction Section was introduced into the Bill have entirely altered. There is not an hon. Member who will deny it. Take the statement that was made by the Prime Minister the other day. It is a clear indication that the whole international situation has altered. We have passed a Section of an Act of Parliament for the purpose particularly of excluding people of a single nation—to put them out and keep them out. I could multiply the quotations I have given. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury was one of the sponsors of this policy. He is now seeking to get a settlement to save Germany. Then he was waiting to do something which would do as much harm to the Germans as possible. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is quite consistent. It is only that the international conditions have changed and he is in office and he was not before. All the conditions have changed and I think the House is bound to review the policy. The Home Secretary, I think, cannot challenge my point of the change of the international situation. We are not wanting to make Germany pay now. They talk about it still, but they do not mean it. What they are after now is to let Germany off.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member's observations have really nothing to do with the subject of aliens.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I submit that I am entitled to review the conditions under which this Section was passed.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member would be more in order if he reviewed the conditions under which it is to be continued. This is the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It is not necessary to review the whole past. I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the future.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am very sorry. It was precisely when I turned to the existing conditions that you called me to order. If I am in order in dealing with the existing conditions I will pursue the matter. I may be wrong about existing conditions, but I understand I shall still be in order although I am erroneous. I have been endeavouring to deal with the great change in the conditions as they formerly existed. I do not intend to cite any more quotations from those unhappy Debates of 1919. Undoubtedly, the alien danger as it was then represented to this House no longer exists. The extent of the danger, even of that time, was regarded as comparatively so small that the Government of that day believed that it was necessary only to have these powers for a single year. They have been continued year by year since. During all that time there has been the gradual process of change till we have reached the present situation, and the present Government is seeking, in the words of the Prime Minister, to have a condition of general peace and reconciliation. If we are to have general peace and reconciliation, we should not have Measures on the Statute Book which are intended to differentiate against any particular people on the Continent. If we are to have real peace, which is the aim and desire of us all, then these exclusive provisions which differentiate against the people of any particular country should be excluded immediately from the Statute Book. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) attacked the administration of the Home Secretary. He gave certain cases to show not only that it is unwise to entrust such arbitrary powers to a single Minister, but that those powers have, in fact, been unfairly used. I do not intend to add further to that case. I have no personal experience as to the way in which the powers are exercised at the present moment. The real burden which falls on the Home Secretary in asking for the continuance of this Section is not whether 2195 he has used them wisely or unwisely. The real question is, are they necessary? I do not believe arbitrary powers can ever be used altogether wisely. The right hon. Gentleman had some trouble with some other arbitrary powers not long ago, and while I believe he acted with the best of motives there is no doubt that he will not say, even now, that he acted wisely.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I was merely citing that as an illustration of the danger, almost certainty, that arbitrary powers will be unwisely used. As it is certain that arbitrary powers will be unwisely used we are entitled to ask from the right hon Gentleman that a really substantial case should be made out for their necessity. I pointed out that they were directed against Germans in the first place. In view of our present relations with Germany, obviously they cannot be directed against Germans now. The question now is, Against whom are they necessary? Is it the Communists? Is it necessary to exclude the allies of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Newbold)? Have we reached such a depth in this country that the Government are afraid of a few Communists stump orators coming in and talking at street corners?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not believe that these provisions are ever really effective against people who want to come to this country. But, granting them to be effective, the very fact that we have them on the Statute Book is a matter of which we ought to be ashamed. That a country so great as this should resort to such a contemptible Measure for dealing with such a small negligible problem is a thing which this Parliament ought to bring to an end. We have now had four years of this legislation, three years longer than was intended by Parliament. The whole international situation has been revolutionised in that time. In the circumstances, unless the right hon. Gentleman can put up a case that greater danger may arise from some other quarter of the international horizon, the Committee will be bound to insist on eliminating this mean contemptible provision from the Statute Book.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The last speaker has asked me to show why it is necessary to retain this provision. I hope that I shall be able to show in fewer words than have been used by some of the speakers why it is necessary. The power of making Orders to exclude aliens depends on this Section. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of the state of affairs in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, knows that if we had not power to exclude aliens this country would be flooded with aliens, whether desirable or undesirable, from those parts of Europe, and it is perfect madness to suppose that we should allow at this moment, when we have over 1,000,000 unemployed, free emigration into this country. It is true that this legislation was originally passed when there was a different kind of emergency, but the present emergency is sufficient. I should like to see the hon. Gentlemen who spoke last go down to their constituents and make there the speeches which they have made here to-night.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I have made them, and made them in your constituency and brought down your majority.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I never had such a large majority as after the speeches of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) said properly that this was not a question of how these powers were exercised. It is impossible to use them to everybody's satisfaction, and it is certainly not easy to exercise them consistently. But the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley accused me of exercising them for political reasons. I entirely repudiate that charge. He cited a particular case. I am not sure whether it is the case which I have in my own mind, because he took care not to mention the name.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Tyorni is the name. He happens to be a Swede and not a Russian, as was discovered after seven weeks.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The case to which I thought the hon. Member was referring was that of a man who came in on a false passport.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
If people choose to disobey the laws of this country they cannot be excused because they happen to be Communists.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The whole point is that the Home Secretary has the power of putting a man in prison, and when he is asked to bring the man to trial he quotes some section of this Act which gives him power to put the man there. That is a power which he ought not to possess.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member had better put the case into writing. He has brought an enormous number to my notice.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I absolutely deny that anybody could have been proceeded against for any reason, except that he had violated the laws of this country, and the fact that a man happens to be a Communist does not exonerate him from obeying the law.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member had better send me full particulars of the case. It does not make the slightest difference to my argument. He knows perfectly well that to admit immigration freely from all over Europe, would flood this country with men and women who would compete in the labour market.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
That is the reason that I ask to have this Section kept in force. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood), after his poisonous speech just now has retired, said it was a question of the working classes, and so it is; it is to protect British workingmen that I want this Section kept in. I have had to exclude cases which, to my mind, are cases of great hardship; I have done it with great regret, but I have got to think of the people of this country.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
No, I cannot be interrupted. I listened patiently to several very long speeches he has made to-day. I was trying to point out that I had to deal hardly with a certain number of cases, Germans and other people, who wanted to come back to this country. I quite admit they were hard cases, but if they had come here they would have taken the work out of the hands of British workmen, whose homes would have been suffering, and their cases would have been every bit as hard as the cases of these aliens; and I say it was my duty, and I am not the least afraid of saying so anywhere, to consider the position of British working men, especially at a time of unemployment like the present. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. - Commander Kenworthy) said this was used, or might be used, to interfere with foreigners who wished to trade with this country. It is not used in that way. If they wish to come and trade here, they can come and trade here, but they cannot reside here if they are going to take work which the British pople can do. They can come and trade here. He said also that the British trader might be retaliated upon by foreign countries by not being allowed to go and reside there. If the effect of retaining this Section is to prevent the hon. and gallant Gentleman from settling down in some foreign country across the seas, I will do my best to remedy that. It is not in the least likely to have that effect, and he would be welcome in any country. I merely recapitulate that not only am I representing the views of my own party, but the views of the enormous majority of the working men of this 2199 country, when I say that to divest myself of a power like this, at this moment, would be disastrous to employment in this country.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I do not think I shall annoy the Home Secretary by making a very long speech. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thank God!"] Whether that particular observation is likely to make it much shorter I leave to the Committee to decide, but I want to deal with one point which has not been dealt with at all here—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I rise to a point of Order, Captain Fitzroy. I wish to ask your ruling whether it is proper for an hon. Member to interject with the observation, "Thank God"? Is not that an improper observation to make as an interjection when an hon. Member is speaking.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I am so used to that sort of observation from people who do not speak themselves, except by way of interruption, that I hardly noticed it. The whole trouble of these very arbitrary powers, against many of which I protested when they were first brought in, is that you cannot possibly prevent officials from abusing those powers. I want to give to the Home Secretary one or two cases which show why those powers are so offensive to people in this country, and why powers that might be necessary in some ways are grossly abused in others. For instance, I find that on many occasions people come before me for trial or on appeal, and I have to deal with the question of recommending them for deportation, and I always do it now with the full knowledge that whatever we recommend makes no difference at all.
In the old days, when a man was to be deported from this country, there had to be a recommendation for deportation of some judicial person. Now that is not so. Not only is it not so, but I will give the Home Secretary one case in my own experience, which shows how grossly official powers may be abused if you are going to extend them to this extent. A short time ago, a man—an American citizen—was tried in this country at the Old Bailey, before Mr. Justice Darling. He had been over here for some 20 years; and was married to 2200 an English girl, and had children here. When the trial was over and he was convicted, the police were asked what they had to say. They said that so far as they knew they did not at all support the recommendation for deportation. It was a first offence, and the Judge refused to make any recommendation for deportation. Counsel concerned in the case was ready, with evidence, if necessary, for dealing with that question, if there had been any attempt to bring forward evidence against this man's character.
The case went to the Court of Criminal Appeal. Nothing was ever brought forward there, and no recommendation for deportation was ever made by any judicial person. In fact, the Senior Judge of the King's Bench Division definitely refused to make it. A short time afterwards, without any judicial officer at all intervening, the Home Office, under pressure from the police, deported that person, leaving his English wife in this country unsupported. I ask anyone who has any idea of fairplay in this country whether we are going to give the police that power? The police in all counties rejoice in that sort of arbitrary exercise of power. I could give several other instances from my experience of cases coming before me in Liverpool where these powers, which were meant to enforce war needs and war regulations, were abused by officious persons simply to carry out their own arbitrary ideas of their functions I ask the Home Secretary whether that sort of thing is to be permitted under his regime? The case I am alluding to did not take place while he was Home Secretary, but that sort of case can take place under these Regulations, and that is why I shall always vote against Regulations of that sort until they are clearly shown to me to be necessary. I cannot understand what conceivable justification there can be for extending powers to keep out aliens, for deporting aliens who are not enemy aliens in any way, who may have caused annoyance to one or two influential persons. The case I have cited was particularly odious, because the prosecutor in that case was one of the richest men in this country, and, whatever may be the fact, the public cannot help having the feeling that a man has been deported without trial and against the Judge's recommendation merely 2201 because strong influences can be brought to work.
I want to make this point, and this point only. I know we have not a chance really of preventing this Act remaining on the Statute Book at the present time, but I ask the Home Secretary, if it is necessary for him to be armed with these powers, to see that these powers are not abused, to see that the police are kept in check and are not encouraged by extra-judicial decisions to go far beyond the needs of the situation. If we can feel that these powers, necessary as they may be at this moment, are not abused, we shall be very much more prepared to support the Home Secretary's arguments for keeping them all for certain purposes only.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The Home Secretary wants to make out that it is our desire to allow alien labour to enter this country. Nothing of the sort. Without this Act, powers exist for preventing the landing of undesirable aliens in this country. What we want to do is to remove the stigma on certain nationalities in the Act of 1919. We think that was contrary to the whole spirit of the peace which we ought to work for. Orders should be given that all bona fide business men coming for business reasons to this country, say for the period of a month, should be given a visa without reference to headquarters in London. Otherwise business will be lost to these people. If permission is not given to land until there is reference to London there is bound to be delay. For these reasons I insist on pressing the Amendment to a Division, and I hope that all hon. Members who have recovered their senses after the fever of the War, will support it.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I wish to put a case to the Home Secretary and to ask him if such a case will be dealt with
§ in the future as in the past, in the event of these powers being Continued. A German and his wife came to this country 30 odd years ago. The man played an important part in developing at British collieries German coke ovens. They had no family when they came here. Afterwards they had three sons and three daughters, all born in England. The three sons married English girls and the three daughters married Englishmen. Because of the War the parents were sent to Germany, after all these years' residence in England, both being over 70. They now desire to come back to live with their sons and daughters and are prepared to be excluded from any sort of pension. They do not want any work. Their sons and daughters are prepared to maintain them and have given a written undertaking to do so. I ask the Home Secretary, is it fair, under these or any powers, to separate parents from children in a case like this?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Every case is conducted on its merits, and if, in this particular case, the man and the woman who desire to come back would not be competitors in the British labour market, that would be in their favour. One of the main influences in deciding these cases is the question of whether or not the immigrant will become a competitor with British labour.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 198; Noes, 131.2205
|Division No. 294.]||AYES.||[11.20 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Bruford, R.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Berry, Sir George||Bruton, Sir James|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Betterton, Henry B.||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Butcher, Sir John George|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blundell, F. N.||Cadogan, Major Edward|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Brass, Captain W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Becker, Harry||Briggs, Harold||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Raine, W.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hood, Sir Joseph||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hopkins, John W. W.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Houfton, John Plowright||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Cope, Major William||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hudson, Capt. A.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hume, G. H.||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian. N.)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jephcott, A. R.||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Kelley, Major Sir Frederick A.||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shepperson, E. W.|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Lamb, J. Q.||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. M.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Lord|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lort-Williams, J.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Fawkes, Major F. H.||Lougher, L.||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Flanagan, W. H.||Lumley, L. R.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Manville, Edward||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Margesson, H. D. R.||Sueter, Roar-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Furness, G. J.||Mercer, Colonel H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Garland, C. S.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Murchison, C. K.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Greaves-Lord, Walter||Nall, Major Joseph||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Halstead, Major D.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pease, William Edwin||Wise, Frederick|
|Harrison, F. C.||Pennefather, De Fonblangue||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Harvey, Major S. E.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Perring, William George||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Peto, Basil E.|
|Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Price, E. G.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Hiley, Sir Ernest||Privett, F. J.||the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Ede, James Chuter||Hinds, John|
|Adams, D.||Edge, Captain Sir William||Hirst, G. H.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Fairbairn, R. R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Attlee, C. R.||Foot, Isaac||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Barnes, A.||Gosling, Harry||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Batey, Joseph||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Greenall, T.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Bonwick, A.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Jewett, F. W. (Bradford, East)|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jewitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)|
|Broad, F. A.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Groves, T.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Grundy, T. W.||Lansbury, George|
|Buckie, J.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Lawson, John James|
|Burgess, S.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Leach, W.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Lee, F.|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Harbord, Arthur||Linfield, F. C.|
|Chapple, W. A.||Hardie, George D.||Lunn, William|
|Collison, Levi||Harris, Percy A.||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hayday, Arthur||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||March, S.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.|
|Duffy, T. Cavan||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Duncan, C.||Herriotts, J.||Millar, J. D.|
|Dunnico, H.||Hill, A.||Morel, E. D.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Salter, Dr. A.||Warne, G. H.|
|Murnin, H.||Sexton, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Newbold, J. T. W.||Shinwell, Emanuel||Westwood, J.|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Sitch, Charles H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Paling, W.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Parker, H. (Hanley)||Snell, Harry||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Sturrock, J. Leng||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Potts, John S.||Sullivan, J.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Pringle, W. M. R.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Wright, W.|
|Richards, R.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thornton, M.|
|Riley, Ben||Tillett, Benjamin||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ritson, J.||Tout, W. J.||Mr. Ammon and Mr. Morgan|
|Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Jones.|
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule," put, and agreed to.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (17).
This is a very curious omission from the Bill. I find, after some difficulty in searching for it, that the Sale of Food Order 1921, No. 1305, Part I deals with the sale of bread, and says that it has to be sold by weight and not otherwise; that bread shall weigh so much, a lb. or two oz, as the case may be, and that a person authorised by the local authority or an inspector of weights and measures may require a person offering bread for sale to weigh it. Either these provisions are good or bad. If these powers are good, we ought to have a permanent Statute. If they are bad, we ought not to be asked to continue them in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. What I do object to is that the Government have so badly organised or arranged the time of the House; or it may be owing to a lack of oversight, or the goodwill of the House, or because they do not think it is policy to introduce permanent legislation to pursue this method. That is my argument and that is why I have this Amendment on the Paper in respect to the Sale of Food Order, 1921.
The second part of the Order deals with the labelling of imported produce. It seems to me to be a strange commentary on the labours of the Merchandise Marks Bill Committee, that it is now considered necessary to continue this provision. It deals with imported meat, and says that where imported or frozen meat is exposed for sale it must be so marked. It also deals with the importation of eggs although it is not so ridiculous as to provide that each egg should be marked. It says that where foreign eggs are offered 2206 for sale they must have the word "imported" displayed in some prominent place on the basket or box containing the eggs when they are exposed for sale. If the Government have now thrown their mantle over the Merchandise Marks Bill, why is it necessary to continue this provision? Before we decide to continue this particular part of the Act we ought to be told what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the Merchandise Marks Bill. Will they give facilities for the Bill this Session, or are they going to say nothing more about it? From a purely party point of view, it would be a great advantage to the Opposition to allow that measure to pass, but looking at this question from a national point of view it is a bad measure, and I hope the Government will not pursue any such foolishness. I have moved this Amendment in order to obtain some enlightenment on these points.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I think the time has arrived when some of us should make a protest against the practice of putting down Amendments for the purpose of hearing certain Members talk. If they had the courage to go to a Division, I would go with them, but I object to them continually putting down Amendments and then, when the critical moment comes, refusing to take a Division. I do not want to hear the Hon. and Gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) showing off his oratorical abilities. We are tired of hearing speeches. We want to get on with the business. So far as I am concerned, Merchandise Marks or any other kind of marks will not affect our position. We are out to fight all the time against the Government. But this kind of warfare is not fighting at all. It is simply playing at fighting. If the Hon. Members are not prepared to stand by their Amendments, 2207 they should not propose them. I am making this protest as an ordinary rank and file Member. I never hope to be in a seat on the Front Bench. I want to protest most emphatically against this practice of play-acting. I have been to-night to see the Marionettes at the Coliseum. I have come back here to see their replicas. I protest against the attitude of some Hon. Members who merely talk for the sake of hearing themselves talk. They might just as well talk into a gramophone and then any one who liked could listen to them in their own homes.
§ Mr. HANNON
The part of the Amendment on the Paper in which I take particular interest relates to the part of the Food Order that deals with the selling of the heads, and I should like to recall to the attention of the Committee what took place in this House on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill last year. When this Order came up for discussion an hon. Member opposite claimed that it was to the interests of the consumers of the country that this particular part of the Order should remain in force while the remainder could go. To my astonishment and to the astonishment of many other hon. Members the representative of the Board of Trade accepted an Amendment to that effect which was moved from the Opposition benches. The whole tendency is these days is to get rid as far as possible of unwarranted interference by the State and of the restrictions imposed wholly and solely for the purposes of the War. The rationing of the food of the people was of primary importance and it was perfectly right that Orders of this kind should be made, but last year every one agreed that the time had come when these Orders might be eliminated from the Statute book. At the time this was under consideration last year a Committee was appointed to consider which Orders should be retained and which should be rejected and the Chairman of that Committee (Major-General Seely) in the Report he presented to the House embodied the following paragraph:Your Committee are therefore of opinion that the system of extending the continuation of the temporary law by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act is far from being a safeguard of the rights of members, and is, in fact, to some extent liable to become a menace to those rights, inasmuch 2208 as experimental legislation is by this means continued from year to year.I submit that the Order, so far as it deals with the sale of bread to the people of this country on the basis of an even number of pounds, is now obsolete—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and ought to be struck out of our system. The whole of this grandmotherly legislation which followed upon the War, ought to be abolished, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade, in dealing with this matter, will leave the free come-and-go trade in bread to develop in its own way, and will not continue legislation of this kind in the future.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I want to make quite clear to the Committee exactly where we stand in this matter. The hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) referred, quite rightly, to the fact that the inclusion of the Sale of Food Order in the Act of last year was due to the instrumentality of a former Member of the House, who belonged to the co-operative movement. I repeat what I have said before in this Chamber, that the co-operative movement can claim to speak for consumers. There is no body in this country that can claim to speak for consumers to the same extent. Its last two annual congresses have unanimously passed resolutions asking the President of the Board of Trade to retain the sale of bread by weight. The hon. Member says that this provision is entirely a War measure. Has he forgotten that there were recommendations on this matter from the Select Committee on Short Weight in 1914? That Committee had its origin, not in the War, but in the abuses which had crept in before the War commenced. The Select Committee on Short Weight made a general recommendation, which had to be put into effect, and which became more urgent, perhaps, because of the abuses which crept in during the early stages of the War period. I would remind the hon. Member also, with regard to the position last year, that the Government last year were so concerned about the claims of consumers in this country to permanent protection in this matter that they introduced a Bill dealing with the sale of bread, and I think the President of the Board of Trade will admit that it was not for any of the reasons advanced by the hon. Member to-night that that Bill 2209 was withdrawn, but because difficulties were found in Government circles in getting the Bill accepted by our Scottish friends owing to the fact that there was some ambiguity in the interpretation Clause as to exactly how it would affect Scotland, and exactly what classes of bread in Scotland would be brought within the terms of the Bill. In order to clear up the matter, and because some of my hon. Friends on these Benches thought they were speaking for co-operative societies in regard to it, I went to the trouble of calling a conference in Glasgow last October, to ascertain the true Scottish position in co-operative circles with regard to the sale of bread. I got together representatives of nearly 200 societies, with some hundreds of thousands of members, to discuss nothing else but the sale of bread, and there was an overwhelming majority of the rank and file of Scottish co-operators, expressed in open congress, for permanent legislation in Scotland for the sale of bread by weight, so that it might not be confined, as in the past under the Scottish Police Acts, to the 2-lb. and 4-lb. loaf, known as a batch loaf, but might be extended to include the widely used pan loaf, which is very similar to the ordinary batch loaf. In view of these facts, it is perfectly fatuous for the hon. Member for Moseley—briefed at short notice, probably by particular capitalistic interests in the baking trade, or by some baking federation—to lay a case before this Committee for the abolition of a piece of legislation which is vital in the interests of working-class consumers to-day; and, in face of the Government's specific pledges, again and again given to the House, to make permanent by legislation the Sale of Food Order relating to bread, to say that it is time to drop this Order, and to leave consumers once more to the mercy of those who want to give short weight and make extra profits out of that which is essential to the life of the people.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame)
The Amendment deals not merely with the Order dealing with bread but also with the marking of meat and eggs. I could not possibly accept that composite Amendment, and if it is divided upon I should certainly ask the Committee to vote against it. Let me deal first of all with Part III, which relates to marking. The 2210 hon. and gallant Gentleman himself said he regarded it as non-obnoxious. I believe it is non-obnoxious, and it is certainly regarded as of great value by a great many hon. Members. The fact that the Merchandise Marks Bill, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman resisted, has taken some time in Committee is a reason for keeping the Order on. When the Order is reaffirmed by substantive legislation it will be possible to withdraw this part of the Order.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
No, the hon. Member is to understand nothing more than what I am saying. If and when such a Bill goes through, it would be quite possible, having affirmed by substantive legislation the provisions of this Order, for me to withdraw the Order, which I can do at any time. But until such time as that Bill goes through it will be for the general convenience that this Part, at any rate, of the Order should be retained, and I propose certainly to retain Part III of the Order regarding the marking of meat and eggs. As regards Part I, do not think my hon. Friend has quite put the whole of the case. It is true that the Bill was introduced on the last occasion without that part of the Order being in, but it was put in in response to a very general demand in all quarters of the House. I was amazed at the small opposition to the Order. When it came to a Division, only about nine just persons were found in addition to the two tellers, of whom my hon. Friend was one, and certainly local authorities have been very strongly in favour of this Committee. After all it is not one of these terrible pieces of coercion. All it says is that people are to sell bread by weight, and a fair weight. It is true it was the intention of the Government to pass a short Bill re-enacting it because I quite agree if you are to have this kind of legislation it is better to have it in an Act than by Orders. But there were certain difficulties about it. The Scottish people, who apparently have a great predilection in favour of control, wanted to go a good deal further than the English people and we could not have proceeded very rapidly with this Bill, though I hope we can get an agreed Bill which may go through. If this simple Order is opposed I must ask the Committee un- 2211 hesitatingly to affirm it. But there has been a recent decision of a stipendiary magistrate—and I believe a right decision according to the law—that the Order which was intended merely to say that people had to sell bread in one pound or multiples of a pound has been held to be contravened where a person sells a three pound loaf although the loaf actually weighs three pounds. That does not seem to be at all a reasonable position. What was intended was that you should sell a one, two, three, or four pound loaf and that it ought to weigh its proper proportion, and I must say that I think it was unfortunate that a prosecution should have been instituted against a firm who were selling a loaf that was very popular in the district and about which there was no dispute in the weight. It was a 3-lb. loaf and weighed 3 lbs., but on the strict law of these regulations the magistrate felt bound to convict. I feel bound to put that to the Committee although my hon. Friend did not put it. Therefore, I feel that in those circumstances, the Order going beyond what was the common impression when we put it in last year, I ought to leave this, if it is challenged, to a free vote of the House as regards Part I, though I am bound to say that I should think very few local authorities if, as I believe they do, they generally wish to maintain this provision in the spirit rather than in the extreme letter of the law, will institute prosecutions against people who contravene it in this way. In view of the fact that there is this difficulty which we have never encountered before, and of the fact that I have no power to amend the Order—if I had power it would be a simple matter, because I could say that it would not be even multiples of a pound, but one, two, three, or four pounds. I feel I should be doing the fairest thing if I left the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) to a free vote of the Committee, if he really wishes to press it. As regards the composite Amendment regarding Part III, I should oppose that.
§ Mr. ACLAND
On a point of Order. I wish to ask whether your predecessor, Mr. Chairman, having put the Question, "That paragraph 17 stand part of the 2212 Schedule," it is possible to go back and make Amendments of certain parts of the paragraph?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Do I understand that the Question, "That the whole of the words of the Schedule proposed to be left out stand part," has been put?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Then I am afraid that does not save any part of it. It would be possible, if desired and if the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) were to ask leave to withdraw, and his Amendment were withdrawn by consent, to put the minor Amendment.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
The statement to which we have just listened from the President of the Board of Trade leaves the Committee in a very extraordinary position to-night. As I understand it, so far as the general Order is concerned, my right hon. Friend is in agreement with keeping it upon the Statute Book and continuing the matter for another year. But he comes forward to-night and says that because a stipendiary magistrate has given a decision in connection with a particular weight of bread and that a certain result in his opinion may follow this matter must be left to a free vote of the Committee.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It can be discussed as part of the whole Question, but it cannot now be put separately.
§ Sir K. WOOD
This position is very extraordinary. Because a magistrate in a minor court has given a decision which has never been tested in the High Court or elsewhere, this matter, which is a very important one, is to be left to the free vote of the Committee. If there has been a mistake made in the law the obvious remedy for my right hon. Friend is to put it right.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am prepared to accept that statement of the law, but that does not affect the question of principle. If there is a defect in the law, it should be put right. What the Committee has to decide to-night is whether it is to continue this provision which, as I understand, is a very necessary provision. When I was on the London County Council there were many cases arising in which it was proved that this particular order was most necessary. Why should not people who sell bread by weight be required to show whether the weight is right or not? Where is the injustice in a provision of that kind? I cannot understand the argument of my right hon. Friend as to the consequences which are to follow because a police magistrate says that a particular kind of loaf cannot be sold. If there is some defect in the present law which in the opinion of this very learned magistrate may exist, the obvious remedy is to put it right. I hope that if the matter is left to the free vote of the Committee, the Committee will decide that if people are to sell bread by weight at any rate the weight shall be properly tested.
§ 12 M.
§ Major BURNIE
As this case arose in my constituency, Bootle, and was tried in an adjoining constituency in Liverpool, I cannot understand the description "minor magistrate" as applied to a magistrate who has to decide as to the bread consumed by 700,000 people. If this is left to the free vote of the House we are in rather a quandary. The people of Liverpool want their bread weighed by the lb. What they wish to buy is a 3-lb. loaf for 6d. This order says that the loaf must weigh an even number of lbs. It has been laid down by the magistrate that an even number is 1 lb., 2, 4, 6 or 8 lbs., but shopkeepers cannot sell a 3-lb. loaf. They can cut the 3-lb. loaf into 2 lb. and 1 lb., and sell it in two pieces, but they cannot sell it in one piece. This is most ridiculous. The people want the bread to continue to be sold by weight but they want this ridiculous order amended. Into which lobby am I going? We want the bread by weight. At the same time I would ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he cannot amend this Order. I believe he has powers to amend the Order, so that the people of Bootle and Liverpool can get a 3-lb. loaf for 6d.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am surprised the President of the Board of Trade has said it is impossible for him to make a new Order or vary an existing Order. My recollection is that Part III of the Ministry of Food Continuance Act, 1920, has in fact been varied.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
No, not varied. The power is to revoke the whole or any part, and part of it was revoked, but I am advised there is no power to revise or vary.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman must insert in the third column, where it speaks of power to make or revoke, the word "vary." If he did that, it would give him the power of varying the Order. I do not suppose there would be any objection to varying the Order to meet the particular case of Bootle. What it is desired to do is to secure that the consumer knows the weight of the bread he is buying. It is not a question of a pound loaf or a 2-lb. loaf or a 4-lb. loaf, as against a 3-lb. loaf, but if people want to buy a 3-lb. loaf they ought to be able to get it. If the schedule were amended in the way I suggest the right hon. Gentleman would have the power of getting over the decision of the Stipendiary Magistrate. There is included in this Amendment the Orders which cover the marking of meat and eggs. I am very much interested in the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman has made. It cannot give a great deal of comfort to the energetic but mute Gentlemen who sat through the Committee stage of the Merchandise Marks Bill, that after all their energy and self-repression they have only this declaration of the President of the Board of Trade. Of course, if the Merchandise Marks Bill were going to pass this Session it would be unnecessary to have this at all, because the existing Order continues until 31st December of this year. Accordingly, when the right hon. Gentleman says it is necessary to have this he obviously contemplates that the Merchandise Marks Bill will not go through before 31st December, 1923. [An HON. MEMBER: "In case of accidents."] We are legislating for the probable and not for the improbable. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, that he regards the passing of the Merchandise Marks Bill as improbable, the Amendment 2215 which we put forward has served the purpose which it was intended to serve. Can the right hon. Gentleman make a statement as to the first point I put, namely, whether he can accept the words "or varying"?
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I cannot accept "or varying." It would not be in order. I do not think the Committee really need be under any anxiety in leaving the Order as it stands. I suggest that the balance of convenience lies there. During all the years that this Regulation has been in force it has never before occurred to any local authority to prosecute a baker for baking to a true weight. If the Committee leaves this in Its present form, I hope no local authority would do that again. I think the general convenience of the Committee and the country would best be served by leaving this as it stands, and trusting the local authority to carry out the spirit of the Order.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move to leave out Paragraph (19).
I rise to move the omission from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill of the Shops (Early Closing) Act, 1920. This Act, I should like to make it quite clear to the Committee, has really nothing to do with the Act that was passed through this House in 1912. That Act had the full consideration of the House, and was the deliberate decision, after long debate, of the House. The Act which I propose should be omitted from this long category of Acts of Parliament which is proposed to be continued is really not an Act of Parliament at all. It merely crystallises in the form of an Act of Parliament, an Order made under the Defence of the Realm Act, more generally known as "D.O.R.A.". It is an Order made in 1917, under Regulation 10B. of the Defence of the Realm Act, and when it was first put into an Act of Parliament in 1920 it was expressly provided at the end of the Act that it was to expire on 31st December, 1921, and was to last no longer than that date. It contains in it nothing of value to the retail trader of this country or the employee, excepting an order, which is a 2216 military order of universal application, that every shop in the country is to close on every week night, no matter what the trade or the local requirements may be, at 8 o'clock, and on Saturdays at 9. This is an Act which, in its operation, is supported by and benefits the large universal store, and is aimed at the small retailer, whom it is the desire of these great stores to crush.
I want to show the Committee what this Act does. The first, and not the least important of its actions, is that it supersedes the authority of the Home Office. The Secretary of State for Home Affairs is, I conceive it, the proper and supreme authority under this House for regulating all these local matters. I find, and it was pointed out to me by the Under Secretary of State only a day or two ago—that the sole remnant of the powers conferred on the Home Office in 1912, which remains in the Act of 1920, which I am moving to omit, is that it states:Provided that the Secretary of State may, for such days as he thinks fit, suspend the operation of the said Order during the Christmas season or in connection with any other special occasion.All the rest of the powers of the Home Office have vanished under this Military Order passed in 1917, under a state of war. These regulations, enforced on the retail trade at that time, are an anachronism in 1923.
I ask the Committee to consider what were the powers—reasonable, sensible, democratic powers, elastic in their operations—which were given under the Shops Act, 1912. In Section 8, under the subheading in the margin, "The Revocation of Closing Orders," I find that the Secretary of State may at any time, on the application of the local authority, revoke a closing order, either absolutely or so far as it affects a particular class of shops, and if at any time it is made to appear to the satisfaction of the local authority—and I ask the special attention of the Committee to this—that the occupier of a majority of any class of shop to which the closing order applies are opposed to the continuance of the Order, the local authority shall apply to the Secretary of State to revoke the Order in so far as it affects the class of shop, but that any such revocation shall be without prejudice to the 2217 making of any closing order. There we find a reasonable provision worked out and put into an Act of Parliament deliberately, after the Bill was before this House for days, and that is superseded absolutely by this military Order, which is simply put into an Act of Parliament in a single clause, recapitulating in two schedules—one in respect to England and one in respect to Scotland—the Order that was passed in a time of war. But there is much worse in this Act. It not only supersedes all local initiative and all power to decide as to the local requirements of the district. Section 6, which deals with the procedure for making Orders under the 1912 Act, says that whenever a local authority are satisfied that a primâ facie case is made out for making a closing Order, the authority shall give public notice, in the prescribed form of their intention to make an Order. If, after taking into consideration any objections they may have received, the local authority are satisfied that it is expedient to make the Order, and that the occupiers of at least two-thirds of the number of shops to be affected by the Order approve of the Order, they may make the Order. Sub-sections (2) and (3) state:(2) Notice of the provisions of the Order shall be given and copies thereof supplied in the prescribed manner and the Order shall be submitted to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State shall consider any objections to the Order and may either disallow the Order or affirm the Order with or without Amendment.(3) As soon as the Secretary of State has affirmed the Order, the Order shall become final and shall have the effect of an Act of Parliament.Then it goes on to describe how the Order is to be laid on the Table of the House and so forth. There you have a model of peace-time legislation and the very opposite to that which we are asked to continue and which, as I say, was a military authority's order, made under conditions of war in 1917. When it was incorporated in an Act of Parliament it was expressly stated it was not to continue beyond the end of the year 1921. I call attention also to a matter, perhaps one of detail, but of special interest to my constituency. Section 11 of the Act of 1912, the Act which would be operative if the Act of 1920 were not continued, makes 2218 provision for the case of holiday resorts It provides that in places frequented as holiday resorts, during certain seasons of the year the local authority may, by Order, suspend for such period or periods as may be specified, not exceeding in the aggregate four months in the year, the obligations imposed by the Act as to the closing of shops for a weekly half holiday. It is true there is no provision enabling a local authority to suspend the early closing order but this Section indicates that when the House passed the 1912 Act it had in mind the fact that all these small, petty, details referring to closing orders varied in different seasons and different localities, and were proper subject matter for local authorities, subject to the Home Office, and were certainly not matters which should be regulated by any cast-iron order applied to the whole country. Even in the Act of 1912 I notice the sale of milk and cream is exempted from the weekly half-holiday regulation but not from the Early Closing Order and it is worth noting that in the Act of 1912, the sale of intoxicating liquor is free from the provisions both as to early closing and the weekly half-holiday. May I turn to an Act which depends on the Act of 1920, namely the Act of 1921. It goes if the 1920 Act goes, because it is an Act to amend the 1920 Act. I desire to show the Committee, the effect of perpetuating legislation of this class. We are absolutely bound by it. The Home Office is powerless—as was stated in answer to a question which I put the other day—and this House is absolutely powerless, to do anything in this small matter of detail concerning the closing of shops, unless it passes a special Act of Parliament for that purpose. I take the Act of 1921, and read what is called the short title—This Act may be cited as the Shops (Early Closing) Act (1920) Amendment Act, 1921.The full title is more illuminating—An Act to extend the hours during which sweets, chocolates, or other sugar confectionery, or ice cream may be sold to the public.One of the reasons I move to omit from the Schedule the Act of 1920 is because I protest against the time of the House being wasted by this lollypop and ice-cream legislation. When we have an Act like that of 1912 upon the Statute book, an elastic, sensible, democratic Act, 2219 leaving these small local details to the local authorities and to the majority of the tradesmen affected, it is a perfectly preposterous proposal that we should fetter this House of Commons with the Act of 1920, by which you cannot move your right or left-hand without passing a special Act of Parliament to authorise it, or the selling of sweet-stuffs, ice-cream. For another hour after the closing hour! This is the result of the House attempting to deal with such absurd and petty details! Take the simple consumption of strawberries and cream. It is illegal to sell strawberries and cream after a certain hour, but you can, with perfect legality, sell strawberries and ice cream because the first are soft, fruit, and the second has a special Act of Parliament to itself. Really I do not think I need go very much further—[HON MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear!"]—I want to show the Committee I have got a case, and a very strong case, for omitting this Act altogether! May I point out what is the state of the law at present in regard to some of these Questions? The law is so absurd that some of the stipendiary magistrates have dismissed cases brought under it. Let me quote what the magistrate at West Ham said recently as an argument in favour of our going back to the sensible peace-time legislation of 1912. A publican was prosecuted for serving two shop spies with cigarettes with their drink. The magistrate said that if a sardine on toast had been served with cigarettes it would have been a legal sale, but the publican must not sell a biscuit with a glass of wine as he infringed the Bakers and Confectioners' Order. He could sell a cooked sausage but not a raw sausage or he offended against the Butcher's Order!
What is the unfortunate position of the retailer of refreshments to the public? It is one of complete chaos! Take the case of the shopkeeper without a refreshment-house licence. Before the Shops Act, 1920, came into operation, simply Order under D.O.R.A.—not really an Act of Parliament at all—he could sell all sorts of refreshments for consumption on or off the premises up till ten p.m., and all sorts of refreshments for consumption on or off the premises after 2220 10 p.m. Under the present Law as embodied in the Act of 1920 he is not allowed to sell refreshments off the premises after 8 p.m. except only newly-cooked provisions—tripe, or soft fruit. That is rather a limited and arbitrary limitation to put upon a trade by a special Act of Parliament. But it goes much further than that. Shopkeepers have now got three time-tables to work by. Up to 8 p.m. they can sell all sorts of refreshments. After 8 p.m. they can only sell newly-cooked provisions, etc. After 9.30 p.m.—the Lolly-pop and Ice Cream Act here comes in—it is an offence to sell for consumption off the premises to people, gingerbeer or lemonade with their ice cream. There you have what you may sell before eight o'clock, after eight o'clock, and after nine-thirty o'clock—all articles of ordinary consumption by the public. I trust we shall have something said by the Home Secretary in reply to the important representations I have made to him on behalf of the Dairy Trade in certain seaside resorts to show that the simple way out is to drop this Act altogether.
The Home Secretary told me that he could do nothing in the case I put before him because he had no powers under the Act of 1920 except with regard to Christmas day and a special emergency. If he did make any Order it would apply everywhere. That is my whole case. Under the Act of 1912 we had a system which allowed of local considerations, and had a time-table for holiday seasons and places and the like. The matter was considered by the local authorities, sent up to the Home Office and considered there, and if approved could, by an Order for the locality and for the season, if necessary, be made effective. With regard to these small and essentially local matters I say that that is the proper way not only to control legislation but the administration of the law of the country. The Home Office deliberately protect themselves under war-time legislation and they answer the Members of the House of Commons by saying they are powerless. They have so involved themselves that this is put into the Schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Though sitting upon these Benches, if the Home Secretary will not agree to my very reasonable Amendment to take this particular Act from the Schedule I shall be compelled to divide the Committee.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
At this very late hour of the night I do not think the House will expect me to make a very long reply. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is a very important matter."] I agree. My hon. Friend has made a very clear case from his point of view and a very able case, but I do not think that he realises that the Shops Act, 1920, which, as he points out, was practically the provisions under D.O.R.A., was continued in response to a very large demand on behalf of the shopkeepers. Under that Act, although hours were fixed, as the hon. Member pointed out, very large exceptions were made with which I will not weary the Committee.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I will come to that. Then we have the Shops Act, 1921. The hours were considerably extended under the 1921 Act and further large concessions were made. May I point out that if this Act were allowed to lapse, as my hon. Friend wants, the only provisions for the closing of shops would be under the Act of 1912. Under this Act the only general provision is a provision for one half-holiday in the week. On all other weekdays they would be able to remain open to any hour they liked, unless a local closing order was made for particular trades or classes of shops. In order to get such local closing orders made, it was first of all necessary for the shopkeepers to secure two-thirds majority of the shops affected, and secondly to get the order made by the local authority. Experience showed, as a matter of fact, that the 1912 Act was only partially effective. It was always a great difficulty to get the necessary two-thirds majority, because of the desire of the small shopkeepers to keep open when the larger shops were closed. So much for that.
A Select Committee met in 1922 and went into the question of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act and they recommended definitely and unanimously, I believe, that this particular Act should be left in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act pending legislation. I agree that very likely legislation is required; that it is necessary to look into the whole question and possibly bring in certain amending provisions, but in view of the recommendations of the Select Com- 2222 mittee, which sat only last year, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press for the omission of this.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
There is one further point I want to put to the Committee and that is one of economy. Local experience proves that the putting into force of the 1912 Act was, even if the orders were carried out under careful management, that they were expensive and a considerable cost on the local ratepayers. Each particular trade in each particular town had to have a separate order made. Surely at this time, when rates are high, hon. Members opposite should respond to anything that will make for economy. There is no doubt that if you have to fall back upon what the Under Secretary has said—on the ineffective provisions of the 1912 Act—you are not only going to have ineffective closing, but you are going to have much more expensive closing so far as local authorities are concerned. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment spoke largely of the inconvenience to the public; but surely the inconvenience to the shop assistant is the main point which should weigh with the Committee. It has been referred to as being a War Measure. That is true, but one of the very few gains that we get from the experience of the war is that we can do our shopping during more reasonable hours. The shorter hours of service which were compelled by the war, many of us hope have come to stay, so that the shop assistant may not go back to the bad, wearisome, long hours which served no purpose to anybody and did harm to themselves.
§ Mr. BECKER
I understand the Under-Secretary to say that these D.O.R.A. Regulations were continued at the almost unanimous request of the shopkeepers and the assistants. Perhaps some of that large opinion may be represented by the Early Closing Association. The Early Closing Association did me the honour the other day when I introduced a Bill to amend the 1921 Amendment Act of circulating all the members to say that out of a vast number of tobacconists who had been consulted in regard to the desirability of keeping open after eight o'clock something like 3,000 were against it, and very few were for remaining open after eight o'clock.
I can quite understand how that comes about. I am just speaking of tobacconists 2223 at the moment. The large tobacconists in the big towns would naturally like to feel that all the other tobacconists are going to shut at eight o'clock. Take London for instance. Millions of people come into London every day to do their work, and go home to the outskirts, the suburbs and outlying districts, and if they have not bought their tobacco in the city they were usually too late to buy it in the suburbs and a man gets accustomed to buy his tobacco in Town. He goes home to his tea, has a wash, goes out for a walk with his wife and it is a quarter past eight and he cannot get a smoke. The man gets his tobacco in the City and the consequence is that the small retail shop in the suburbs does not get a fair proportion of trade. I have a letter here from a man who has a tobacco shop next to a theatre. There are two houses at this theatre and the second house begins at twenty minutes to nine. He is not allowed to sell tobacco to any of the people who happen to come to his shop after eight o'clock and he loses the whole of that trade. But he can sell them a packet of aniseed balls or sticks of chewing gum and all kinds of sweetmeats but he cannot sell them a little bit of twist, snuff, tobacco, or cigarettes; yet he has them there on his counter. I am describing a one man business where no extra labour is required. The Association say that by trying to get the Government to extend the hours for tobacco we are trying to make everybody open to sell tobacco and to keep the shop assistants up to the abnormal hours. That is not so. Before the war tobacco was sold to almost any time, but the big stores shut at eight o'clock. They did not go on to ten o'clock.
§ Mr. BECKER
That is so. But the small tobacconists did not take away from the big firms, and they need not be frightened at the ex-service man, who has put his capital into the business.
§ Mr. BECKER
The same thing applies to the publican. In public houses or licensed premises you cannot get tobacco after eight o'clock, but if you buy a little bit of food, it may be sardines on toast, you can get a cigarette as part of a meal. I do not wish to stress the fact that you can buy alcohol up to ten o'clock and cigarettes only up to eight. There is the reply that you should not buy alcohol so late. It does seem a gross interference, nevertheless, with the personal convenience of hundreds of thousands in this country every day that they are not able to buy tobacco after eight o'clock. If for instance you go to a theatre and have forgotten cigarettes you try to buy them in the interval. There is a bar with people serving drinks, and chocolate, and there are cigarettes on the glass shelf—but you cannot buy them. After all, it is ridiculous. There they are looking you in the face. It leads to breaking of the law. You get them somehow, or try to do so. It brings the law into a certain amount of contempt.
§ Mr. BECKER
I want to impress upon the Committee that we only want to sell tobacco up to 9.30. We do not desire to attack the whole principle of early closing. Why are the newspaper shops kept open, and shops that sell lollipops, when you cannot cater for the vast number of people—even ladies smoke in large numbers.
§ Mr. BECKER
You are for sticking to this on behalf of a very minute fraction of the population. You are legislating to preserve them against discomfort to the irritation of the vast majority of the people of this country. I ask the Home Secretary seriously to consider the question and allow, as soon as possible, a measure to go through whereby people will get tobacco at a reasonable and respectable hour, and not hamper us much longer with grandmotherly miss D.O.R.A. who would see us to bed and look after us all.
§ Mr. BECKER
Yes, but we are considered the land of the free. Let us buy tobacco as free men, and men who have the greatest Empire as a heritage.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The hon. Member who has just spoken has not advanced his case by his speech. I have never heard such feeble arguments. It is preposterous that men should argue in favour of the abolition of the law because they cannot buy a packet of Woodbines after eight o'clock at night. Such arguments pass my comprehension. I never understood that a suggestion of that kind could carry any proposal. I resist this Amendment because I have had some experience of shop life. I worked in a shop myself for five years. Let hon. Members recall what happened in shop life 10, 15 and 20 years ago. One shopkeeper would keep open till eleven o'clock on Saturday night and another would keep open till one o'clock on Sunday morning, by way of competing for trade. It was only when the law came down on that foolish practice that we got equity between one shopkeeper and another.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Once you open the shops late for the sale of one article you must open them for others, too. This question of early closing affects at least 1,000,000 people. I remember analysing the statistics of the health of these people employed in shops. About one-half of them are women and out of that half approximately 60 per cent. will be young girls under twenty years of age. The figures for consumption among shopkeepers and clerks, when the shops were open till eleven and twelve o'clock at night, were the highest on record of any section of workpeople in this country. It can be proved that there has been a diminution of tuberculosis among shop assistants in proportion to the reduction in the hours that shops are open. After all there is only so much trade to handle in London, Manchester, Liverpool, and each town and village; the question of foreign competition cannot be raised in this connection. I do not think that the hon. Members who have supported this Amendment represent even the shopkeepers. My hon. Friend has twitted the Early 2226 Closing Association as being unrepresentative. There were at any rate hon. names associated with that Association, such as Sir Charles Dilke, I believe, and many statesmen of all parties in this country have pleaded very strongly for the earlier closing of shops. The Home Office knows that about 150,000 organised shopworkers will have a say on this subject, and I plead with the Committee that, instead of taking a reactionary step, it will recognise that the time has arrived when the State ought to declare that, if people can do their purchasing between nine and six o'clock in the daytime, there is no earthly reason for keeping shops open till seven, eight or eleven o'clock at night, and that legal sanction to this new conception of shopping must continue.
My hon. Friends opposite are against Regulations. Modern civilisation demands Regulations to prevent evildoing. You regulate industrial questions in connection with mines, factories and railways, and we are regulated in many ways in this House, too. I wish we were regulated a little more, so that we could go home at eleven o'clock instead of two or three o'clock in the morning. I feel sure that the case put forward for the abolition of early closing is ill-informed. Hon. Members opposite know very little about shop life; they have never worked in a shop, and this House will correctly reflect the views both of shopkeepers and shop workers if it rejects this Amendment unanimously.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (20).
I really move to leave out the provision in this Bill in connection with the National Health Insurance (Prolongation of Insurance) Act, 1921, in order to ask for an explanation from the Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Health as to what financial provisions are going to be made in order to be able to continue this Act for another year. The Committee will remember that this Act was introduced with the object of keeping people within insurance who would otherwise fall out owing to 2227 unemployment. I do not think any section of the Committee will dissent from that particular provision. It was part of the financial provision then made that there should be no charge upon the State in that particular connection, but that the cost of the increased benefit and retention in insurance of people who would otherwise fall out through unemployment was to be derived from certain insurance funds. That particular provision was strictly limited to twelve months, and I have been requested by several of the approved societies to ask what is the intention of the Minister so far as the financial provisions are concerned for the next twelve months. Does he propose to meet the increased cost from State Funds; how does he propose to deal with it; will it necessitate legislation and will the societies themselves have an opportunity of considering the matter? As my hon. Friend is aware, a very large number of the societies are anxious as to their position, especially the smaller societies.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Lord Eutace Percy)
The assurance which my hon. Friend asks is one which I can give at once. He asks, in the first place, whether the approved societies will be consulted. The approved societies have already been consulted. The proposal has been laid before the Consultative Council, and they have agreed to the prolongation of this Measure in consideration of a pledge that a similar Measure shall be taken, as we took last year, to give the approved societies financial assistance. We propose to introduce legislation on the same lines as Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1922, giving assistance to the approved societies.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I beg to move in paragraph 22, column 3, to leave out the wordsso far as it relates to tramway undertakings.My purpose in moving the Amendment is not to argue the merits of the Act 2228 referred to in the Schedule, but in order to point out to the Committee one or two considerations with regard to its prolongation in respect of tramways, with a view to the possible modification by the Government of their policy in the matter. The Act in question is one which makes provision for the Government, where the financial situation of any undertaking to which the Act applies has been adversely affected by circumstances arising out of the present War, to make an Order providing for the modification of statutory provisions relating to charges to be made by the persons concerned in the undertaking. There are two Sub-sections to the Section, the first of which provides that where the undertaking is owned by a local authority it is entitled to increase its statutory minimum charge by not more than 50 per cent. of the existing charges, and the second of which authorises modifications sufficient to enable, with due care, an increase of the dividend on the ordinary stocks and shares of the undertaking by three-quarters of the standard or maximum rate of dividend prescribed, or three-quarters of the pre-War rate of dividend, whichever is least. The purpose of the Schedule is to continue this Act with regard to the tramways, but to abrogate it with regard to the other statutory undertakings referred to. I would like to ask what circumstances arising out of the late War apply to tramways which do not apply to other statutory undertakings?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)
The answer is the simple one: that the other statutory undertakings have already got the increase under other Acts, and we are dealing with the tramways in this Bill.
§ 1.0 A.M.
§ Captain BERKELEY
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to explain why I think that is a strange answer. The Act is abrogated in so far as other undertakings are concerned, so it seems to be rather strange that it should be continued in regard to this one only. The circumstance which justified 2229 this Act being placed on the Statute Book—the adverse circumstances arising out of the War—have been very considerably mitigated. Costs, for instance, when the Act was passed were considerably higher than now, and wages have now been reduced. Therefore it stands to reason that the tramways can be operated at a less cost now than they could at the time when this Act was passed. Surely that must be plain. The wages of the tramway operatives have been reduced and the cost of living also has come down considerably. Another consideration is this, that the wages of the people who travel in the trams have been reduced; therefore they cannot afford to pay fares at the rate which it was perhaps legitimate to ask them to pay in 1918. I do not suggest that the Ministry of Transport should compel corporations to run their tramways at a loss, but I do suggest that the figure of 50 per cent., which was an adequate figure in 1918, must surely be too high a figure to be maintained now. I suggest that they ought to revise the maximum percentage of increase in the case of municipal authorities.
I do not know how far paragraph (b) applies to tramways, but if it does apply to tramways—that is, if there are tramways run by private companies to which this paragraph (b) would apply—surely it is most unfair that you should guarantee dividends in these particular undertakings when other trading concerns all over the country are making no profits at all or are even going bankrupt. Under paragraph (b) you authorise the trading corporation in question to increase its charges to such an extent as to assure it a dividend either of three-quarters of the maximum dividend prescribed for the undertaking or three-quarters of the pre-War dividend, whichever is lower. There are a good many undertakings in the country which would only be too glad to be assured of three-quarters of their pre-War dividend. I suggest to the Committee that if it be necessary that some kind of permissive legislation should be enacted in order that the tramways may make both ends meet and not be faced with a deficit, the Government should, in the first case, reduce or modify the percentage and, in the second case, modify the scale.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment made two points. The first was why should we make this concession to the tramways and not to other undertakings of a similar character, and the second was that as the cost of wages, etc., had gone down why should these extra charges be continued? As to the first point, the other allied undertakings, such as gas, water, and electricity, have already been provided for. Gas is already provided for by power given to the President of the Board of Trade to increase charges if he thinks fit, after certain procedure and inquiries. Water is provided for by the Ministry of Health. Electricity is now regulated by the Electricity Commissioners set up in 1920. So that there only remain the tramway undertakings to be dealt with at the present moment by the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
As to the other point, the hon. Member considers that the time has now come when these extra charges or, at any rate, a large portion of them, should be disallowed. I admit that the cost has been somewhat reduced to these undertakings, but still I think it is a matter of general knowledge that the working of a tramway as compared with what it was before the War is considerably enhanced, and there must be some means by which a tramway undertaking, whether municipal or private, should be allowed to make both ends meet. What we propose to do in this Bill is as follows: At the present time increases can be given by the Ministry of Transport up to 31st March, 1924, and what we propose to do by this is not to continue it for another year but to the end of the year to 31st December, 1924, that is to say, for another nine months. It is quite obvious a decision will have to be arrived at as to whether these undertakings will have to promote private Bills and get or not get legislative authority to increase their charges, or whether a Bill will have to be introduced to give the Ministry of Transport some power to grant increased charges if it should be necessary.
As far as this year is concerned, I would like to point out that 59 Orders have been made, dealing with charges over and above the figure of 1914, and of these 59, 34 were for municipal corporations, so that they are in the majority. Of these 59, 2231 43 continued the charges as they were last year, one showed a slight increase, and the balance are reduced charges compared with those in operation last year. I think, therefore, the hon. and gallant Member's fears may be allayed. There is no secrecy about it. If an undertaking wishes to increase its charges it has first of all to publish locally that they are making application to the Minister so that everybody has an opportunity of making application to the Minister. The Minister has to refer the application to a Statutory Committee set up by another Act of 1920, to advise him as to whether any increase is advisable, and the Statutory Committee has the duty of inquiring as to what objection there is against it. The Committee may be quite satisfied that only the necessary and minimum charges are allowed in this Bill.
§ Captain BERKELEY
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman deal with my other question, namely, with regard to those tramway undertakings which are not municipally owned, in which the dividend is authorised on the basis of three-quarters of the pre-War dividend?
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Each case is discussed on its merits and a decision come to, after having investigated the expenses of the company. The decision is arrived at on the basis of what their expenses are.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Fitzroy)
The next Amendment on the Paper, to leave out Part III of the Schedule, is not in order, and I do not select the last Amendment on the Paper to leave out paragraph (24).
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Is not this Bill in a special category? It is a Bill which continues each item of the Schedule and makes it a complete piece of legislation by this Bill. Would not that affect your ruling?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this be the Schedule of the Bill."2232
Are we not to take Part III of the Schedule with regard to the Overseas Trade Act, 1920? Do you not propose to put that to the Committee at all?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is out of order. The Committee has already decided, in passing Clause 1, that Part III should stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I think it would be helpful to have some reasons for not accepting the Amendment from the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson).
§ Captain BENN
This is a whole Act of Parliament which Parliament decided should be continued for a whole year, and this Amendment only maintains the previous decision of Parliament. I submit that the Amendments to the Schedule are in a separate category and should be separately considered under the Standing Order under which you are acting.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
When I select an Amendment it would be unreasonable to argue why I selected the Amendment. It is an established rule of the House that a Chairman should be able to select an Amendment without a long argument.
§ Captain BENN
It is a point of some substance, and in the interest of minorities in this House, Parliament passed an Act which it says should continue for one year, but it looks as if another Chairman may continue it for another year.
Mr. T. THOMSON
Has not the Committee an opportunity of expressing an opinion, even if it has not the right to discuss the matter? We were told on the Second Reading, by Mr. Speaker, that we were not allowed to discuss any particular item of the Schedule, and I am asking your guidance as to what opportunity the Committee has of discussing the Bill.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
When I put the point to Mr. Speaker, he said there would be an opportunity of dealing with the matter at a later stage.
My point with regard to Part III of the Schedule is that we were promised that we should divide on the various parts of the Schedule without any discussion at all. I submit that you must put the various parts, in order that Members of the Committee may have a chance of dividing on them.
§ Question put "That this be the Schedule of the Bill."
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
(seated and covered): On a point of Order. Is there any precedent for putting the whole Schedule of the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill? Is it not in accordance with the practice of the House that every Amendment should be called?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think the hon. Member was present during the particular point under discussion.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
(seated and covered): My absence does not affect the matter. I have never heard before that an hon. Member was not entitled to raise a point of Order, because he was not present. I am putting a question on a
§ point of Order—whether on any previous occasion such an Amendment has been rejected by the Chair?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
(seated and covered): A Committee of this House has reported that full opportunity should be given for discussing every part of the Bill. Although I am raising this in connection with the Amendment actually on the Paper, it also involves a question of principle. I submit that in these circumstances the taking of this Division is contrary to all precedent.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
The Amendment to which the hon. Member refers was in exact contradiction to what the House decided the other day.
§ Captain BENN
(seated and covered): Do I understand that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson) is ruled out of order?
§ Captain BENN
(seated and covered): Do you not give your reasons why the Amendment was out of order?
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 124; Noes, 44.2235
|Division No. 295.]||AYES.||[1.17 a.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Banks, Mitchell||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)|
|Becker, Harry||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Ellis, R. G.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. M.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Flanagan, W. H.||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lougher, L.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lumley, L. R.|
|Bridgman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Furness, G. J.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Manville, Edward|
|Bruford, R.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Garland, C. S.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Halstead, Major D.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hawke, John Anthony||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Pease, William Edwin|
|Cope, Major William||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Peto, Basil E.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Privett, F. J.||Shepperson, E. W.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Raine, W.||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Skelton, A. N.||Wise, Frederick|
|Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Russell, William (Bolton)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hayday, Arthur||Potts, John S.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Ritson, J.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Herriotts, J.||Sullivan, J.|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Tout, W. J.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Warne, G. H.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Kirkwood, D.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawson, John James||Westwood J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Leach, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Gosling, Harry||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Newbold, J. T. W.||Mr. Pringle and Mr. Ammon.|
|Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||O'Grady, Captain James|
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report the Bill, without Amendment, to the House."2236
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 46.2237
|Division No. 296.]||AYES.||[1.27 a.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Flanagan, W. H.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Banks, Mitchell||Furness, G. J.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Pease, William Edwin|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Ganzoni, Sir John||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Becker, Harry||Garland, C. S.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Peto, Basil E.|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Privett, F. J.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Raine, W.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Halstead, Major D.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hawke, John Anthony||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bruford, R.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hood, Sir Joseph||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Houfton, John Plowright||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hudson, Capt. A.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Lort-Williams, J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lougher, L.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lumley, L. R.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Manville, Edward||Wise, Frederick|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Margesson, H. D. R.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Nall, Major Joseph||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. M.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hardie, George D.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Potts, John S.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayday, Arthur||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Ritson, J.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sullivan, J.|
|Bonwick, A.||Herriotts, J.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Tout, W. J.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Warne, G. H.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Westwood, J.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Kirkwood, D.||Whiteley, W.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawson, John James|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Leach, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||M'Entee, V. L.||Mr. Pringle and Mr. Watts-|
|Gosling, Harry||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Morgan.|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Newbold, J. T. W.|
Fourth Resolution agreed to.
§ Bill reported, with Amendment; to be read the Third Time To-morrow.