HC Deb 22 November 1926 vol 200 cc53-9

(1) If where an Order in Council has been made under this Act with respect to any goods it is shown to the satisfaction of the appropriate Department by persons appearing to the Department to have a substantial interest in the matter that the application of the provisions of the Order, or of some of those provisions, to any particular class or description of those goods has caused, or is likely to cause, injury or hardship to the said persons, or any of them, the Department may direct that the Order, or any particular provisions of the Order, shall cease to apply to goods of that class or description or shall apply to such goods subject only to such modifications and conditions as the Department think fit, and the Order shall, while the direction is in force, have effect subject thereto.

(2) Immediately after a direction has been. given under this Section the appropriate Department shall cause notice thereof to be published in the London, Edinburgh, and Belfast "Gazettes," and in such other manner as the Department may deem suitable, and shall refer to a committee for consideration the question whether the Order with respect to which the direction has been given should be amended either in accordance with the terms of the direction or otherwise with respect to the goods in question.

(3) A direction under this Section may at any time be withdrawn by the appropriate Department, and shall not in any case continue in force after the date on which any amending Order in Council made on the Report of the committee to which the matter in question has been referred under the last preceding Sub-section comes into operation or after the expiration of 12 months from the date on which the direction was given, whichever date is the earlier.—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]


I cannot say that I rise to oppose this Clause exactly, because of the absence of any explanation on behalf of the Government, but what is probably remarkable ire the annals of this House is the extraordinary way in which this Bill has expanded, and is still expanding. As it was passed by the House on Second Heading, it comprised only about 300 lines. Now, after having gone through the Committee stage, it extends to over 500 lines, and in this new Clause it is proposed to make a further permanent addition of 25 lines.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)

I apologise most sincerely for not being in my place when this Clause was called. I was in my room, but was not aware of the rapid progress that had been made with Questions. This proposed new Clause has been put down in order to give effect to an undertaking which I gave in Committee. Hon. Members who were members of the Standing Committee will recollect that it was contended, first, that no discretion should be allowed to the Department to revoke an Order without reference to a Committee and without the procedure which is laid down in the Bill for dealing with a proposed Order. On the other hand, it was also contended that there should not be the power to add new articles to an Order without the same procedure of referring the matter to a Committee. Both of those contentions were very reasonable, but, at the same time, if it should happen, after an Order had been made and had come into force, that some small matter of administration arose in respect of which, by common consent, the Order ought to be altered or modified, then, obviously, it would be for the general convenience that that modification or alteration should take effect at once, without waiting for the full procedure before the Committee. This proposed new Clause, read with the further Amendment which stands in my name to a later Clause, gives effect exactly to the provisions I have indicated. If this Clause be carried, and if the further Amendment be made in the later Clause, the procedure will be that no revocation can be made in an Order without reference to a Committee—


Is the Amendment to which my right hon. Friend refers the Amendment to Clause 6?


Yes. The procedure will be that no modification of an Order can be made without reference to a committee, and, therefore, it will be impossible for me or any of my successors to override the general purpose of the Bill. Equally, no addition can he made to an Order by adding new items which were not considered by the Committee when the Committee heard the case for the Order being made; but, at the same time, there will be power for the Department, in a matter of variation which is commonly agreed to be required, to give a direction, and that direction will come into force. Even so, however, the direction of the Department will have to be referred to the Standing Committee, and the Committee will have either to approve of that variation or amend it. If the Committee approve the variation, it will find its place in the Order. In order to ensure that these variations shall go regularly to the Committee and find their place in an Order, the Clause provides that, unless an Order be made within 12 months of the direction being given, the variation itself will lapse. I think that this carries out the undertaking I gave to both sides in Committee, and that it will meet the general convenience.


We are thankful for small mercies, and this new Clause, moved at the eleventh hour, is some concession to the traders who feel that their interests are likely to be seriously affected by this Bill. The fact, however, that these various Amendments, right. through the Committee stage and now again on Report, have had to be moved by the President of the Board of Trade, shows how ill thought-out, how ill-conceived this Bill has been. More and more public opinion in industry is being organised to realise that the Bill is going seriously to affect the entrepot trade and the whole business organisation of this country. Of course, to have this further chance of revision of the tyranny of these wonderful Committees that are to be set up under the Bill is some satisfaction. On the other hand, hon. Members opposite will appreciate that it is very unsatisfactory that the powers required under a Bill of this kind should be concentrated in the President of the Board of Trade. Government Departments are getting far too powerful, and are becoming powerful largely because of these ill-considered Bills that are pushed through in order to pander to the pre- judices of a section of the community, and to buy off the disappointed hopes of the Protectionists who have been cheated of their general tariff. This is another example of the President of the Board of Trade, in the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, getting through this House some form of Protection.

When you go in for Bills of this kind, when you try to get Protection through elaborate machinery of this character, it is inevitable that you have to invent safeguards of this kind. The very fact that a safeguard of this kind is necessary is proof that the Bill is a bad Bill. The very fact that traders have to go through the elaborate process of first going before a Committee, and then, after obtaining a decision from that Committee, having to appeal to the appropriate Department, on the chance of the appropriate Department being more sympathetic than the Committee, proves that it is had machinery and likely, not to help, but to hinder industry and trade. I should like, Mr. Speaker, to ask for your ruling in reference to the appearance in this proposed new Clause of the words "appropriate Department." I propose to move, when we come to the Amendments to the Bill itself, the substitution of the words "Board of Trade" for "appropriate Department," and I should like to ask your ruling as to whether, if we allow these words to pass here, it will in any way prejudice my moving an Amendment later on to substitute the words "Board of Trade"?


No, it will not prejudice the opportunity of the hon. Member, and I think it would he better to take it where be has it on the Paper, namely, in Clause 2, because clearly, if this Clause be inserted, it will come into the final print of the Bill later on. Then the necessary amendment might be made in another place if the hon. Member carries his point.


I rise as a Member of the Standing Committee who took particular exception to the wording of Clause 5 of the Bill as it was before the Committee, which seemed to me then to give an improper amount of power to the Department to override the decision of the Committee which was to be set up. I only rise to say I consider that this proposed New Clause, coupled with the proposed Amendment to Sub-section (2) of Clause 6, not only carries out the undertaking which the President of the Board of Trade gave in Committee, but is a great improvement in the Bill, and one which I think will make for its smooth working.


I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will explain why a very long Clause like this, which is very difficult to understand, has been deberred until the very last minute I speak as one who was not privileged to take part in the deliberations of the Committee, but as one who realises that this Bill, owing to circumstances outside the control of the House, had only a very brief and half-hearted Second Reading Debate. If my memory serves me aright, I think the Committee stage was completed somewhere about the end of July, and yet it has only been during the week-end immediately before the commencement of the Report stage that this very long and involved Clause has appeared in type. It does not seem to me that the President of the Board of Trade is treating the House fairly in regard to this Bill, and that as the impression that some of us have had for a long time. The Bill is going to affect vitally business interests all over the country. As far as one can see, under its provisions no importer, trader or shopkeeper will feel settled until he has added to his staff a lawyer or Parliamentary expert, in order to understand what it is all about. Therefore, seeing the large number of individual traders and shopkeepers and of business organisations that are vitally affected, why was not this Clause produced by the President of the Board of Trade in time to enable those concerned to consider its implications and their attitude towards it It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade has not treated the House or, what are, perhaps, more important than the Members of the House, the trading interests which will be affected by a Bill of this kind, fairly in putting this Clause down at the last minute.


This Clause was put down at the common request of every quarter of the Committee. It is necessarily long, but it contains nothing that is at all new; it merely gives effect to what was discussed and agreed to in the Committee, and, therefore, I do not think that anyone can possibly take exception to it.


While the right hon. Gentleman's statement is quite correct, I think he will remember that in Committee repeated representation were made to him that the discussion should be adjourned, for the purpose of ensuring that any new Clause dealing with this particular point should receive consideration in Committee. We are now, of course, in the difficulty that a new Clause is being submitted, and, if I understand your ruling correctly, Mr. Speaker, we are not entitled at this stage to move Amendments to this proposed new Clause dealing with the definition of "appropriate department."


I think that that particular Amendment would come a little later, where it stands on the Paper, in Clause 2. This Clause would then have to be amended accordingly.


Will the Minister give us an explanation as to how this Clause and Clause 6 (2) will read? I cannot quite reconcile in my mind the provisions of this Clause with those of Clause 6 (2). Are we to expect a further Amendment, or, if not, will the Minister explain how the two Clauses will be read together?


An Amendment has been on the Paper for some days to leave out, in Sub-section (2) of Clause 6, from the word "department" to the end of the Subsection, with the exception of the words "be revoked or varied by a subsequent order made in." The Clause will then read: An Order in Council made under the foregoing provisions of this Act may, on a representation to His Majesty by the appropriate Department, he revoked or varied by a subsequent Order made in like manner, and the foregoing provisions of this Act with respect to the making of Orders in Council shall, subject to the necessary modifications, have effect accordingly.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question? Seeing that this Bill came from the Com- mittee at the end of July, why is it not until the middle of November that this Clause, which is of such great importance, appears on the Paper?


I do not think really I have any need to apologise. It would be strictly within Parliamentary order to put a new Clause on the Paper at one day's notice; indeed, I was called upon to deal with hundreds of Amendments put down at one day's notice. This Clause, which is an agreed Clause, has been already some days on the Paper. It was on the paper even before we had a Consolidated Paper for the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.