§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. HOPE SIMPSON
I do not want to delay the House, but I think there is one question which ought to be raised before the Bill passes. When the Ways and Means Resolution was passed on the 8th April, the intention was to give legal validity to charges of three kinds:—either on, or in connection with, the grant of licences or permits … or in connection with the control of supplies or of the prices of certain commodities, or for cervices rendered.At the time of the Resolution this House inserted the words "other than milk" after the words "certain commodities." The intention of the House was that the Bill should exclude milk from validity under the Act, but, as a matter of fact, this object has not been attained. In the Preamble of the Bill the Orders referred to are of three kinds, specified as (a), (b) and (c)—(a) are those Orders imposed "on, or as a condition of the grant of licences or permits"; (b) are those "in connection with the control of the supplies 1421 or of the prices," etc.; and (c) are "for services rendered." Then, further on in the Preamble, the exclusion of milk is only in connection withcharges imposed by way of payments required to be made in connection with the control of the supply or of the price of milk.These milk charges were made by the Food Controller in connection with licences and permits for the purchase and sale of milk in the four South-Western counties of England. The charges were not made in connection with the control of supplies. Nor were they made in connection with the control of prices; but the charges were definitely made at 2d. a gallon for the licences issued to do business in milk in those four South-Western counties.
For that reason, I hold that the Bill now before the House does not carry out the intention of the Ways and Means Resolution. The intention of the House was that milk should be entirely excluded from the Bill, but in the Bill as it now stands milk is not excluded. Milk is not in the schedule to the Bill, and is therefore excluded from the operation of the Bill, but in the Preamble of the Bill the charges are described as "certain charges, including the several charges specified in the Schedule to this Act," that is to say, the charges in addition to those specified in the Schedule may come under the operation of the Bill. The intention of this Bill is to validate certain charges which were reasonable at the time they were made. These charges in respect of the licences for milk were intended to form a fund which was to be used for the benefit of the public. The Food Controller's words at the time were that this fund should be used for the benefit of the consumer. It was not the intention of the Government to take the money and put it in its own coffers—it was the intention of the Government to take the money for the benefit of the consumer. The only reason for charging these twopences for milk in the four South-Western counties was because it was found that the cost of production for milk in those counties was twopence below the rest of England. I suggest to the Government that it would be quite reasonable to allow the Bill as it is, but in its operation to collect these twopences and use the slim, amounting to £250,000, for the benefit of the dairy industry by applying it to some system of 1422 research. That is the representation I make in connection with the Bill.
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD OF TRADE (Mr, Webb)
I should have been glad to agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken to secure the validation of the levy of these milk twopences and apply them for the benefit of the dairying industry. It was, in fact, in order to secure the validation of this charge that the Resolution was originally drafted in that form in the first place and submitted to the Committee of the House, but the Committee, by a majority, insisted on inserting words excepting the charges. I pleaded with the Committee, and pointed out that the effect was not any validation of the milk charges at all, and consequently they would remain illegal and would have to be repaid in accordance with the House of Lords judgment. I begged the Committee to let the Money Resolution be passed and reported to the House and the. Bill introduced; then they could discuss in Committee an Amendment if it was desired to do something else. But the Committee, in its wisdom, insisted on putting in the words to exclude milk charges; consequently the Bill had to be drafted omitting any validation of the milk charges. Now the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. H. Simpson) asks at this, the last stage, the Third Reading, that something should be done. All the Government can do, the Government will do—that is to say, to make representations as has already been suggested, that this windfall should be devoted to some purpose for the benefit of the dairy industry. With regard to the technical argument, I think the Bill is right as drafted, and that it does not validate this milk twopence. If the Bill did do that, it would have been ruled out of order in the previous stages. We cannot change it at this stage, but we will use our best endeavours to induce the persons who have a legal right to receive these twopences to devote them to public purposes.
§ Mr. FOOT
I welcome the statement that has been made by the President of the Board of Trade, but I am confident that there is something in the point that has been raised by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. H. Simpson). The Money Resolution clearly referred to the control of supply, and the argument of the hon. Member for Taunton is that this is covered by the Preamble to the Bill.
1423 The only suggestion we have to make is, that if a mistake has been made, advantage might be taken of that mistake in order that the whole sum might be vested to the development of the agricultural industry. Between this time and the consideration of the Bill in another place there will be an opportunity for the Government and the Government draftsmen to consider the point raised by the hon. Member for Taunton.
§ Mr. SIMPSON
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask whether at this stage it is competent for me to suggest that the Bill is not in order, that the Bill is not drafted in accordance with the Money Resolution. The Resolution is perfectly clear. It was the intention of the Committee that milk should not be affected by the Bill at all. These charges the President of the Board of Trade has applied were made in connection with the control of the supply. I venture to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The charge was made by the Government for licences to deal only in milk, either as a manufacturer in that area or as an exporter from that area. It was a charge made for the licence; it had nothing to do with the prier. I ask, therefore, whether, as the Bill stands, it represents the intention of the Committee as expressed in the Resolution?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is a point which should have been taken, if at all, on the Second Reading. It is now too late to 1424 take the point. Further, I think the hon. Member is placing too much reliance on the Preamble. The Preamble is a preface or an introduction: it is no part of the legislation.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
May I ask for guidance whether it is a fact that if a Bill founded on a Ways and Means Resolution, is at a later stage found to be out of Order, can he taken, if, by inadvertence, one of its stages has already been taken.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Second Reading is certainly the right time and the only time at which that point can be taken, unless, of course, something irregular has been done in Committee. Then that would hp brought to my attention on the Third Reading, and I should deal with it. Nothing irregular has been done in this case.
§ Question, "That the Bill be read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after half past Eleven of the clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twenty Minutes before One o'Clock.