HC Deb 08 July 1937 vol 326 cc713-7

11.14 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

I beg to move, in page 9, line 40, at the end, to add: If either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such regulation or rule is laid before it resolves that the regulation or rule be annulled, it shall forthwith be void but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder or to the making of a new regulation or rule. This is one of those Amendments which it is becoming increasingly necessary for back bench Members to move in order to curb the growing tendency of Ministers and Departments to usurp the powers of the House of Commons, and make rules and regulations without the House having any power to amend them. As this Bill progresses the Minister seems to become gradually less willing to leave the power of discussion in the hands of this House. In Clause 1 it is necessary for an affirmative Resolution to be tabled, in Clause 3 only a negative Resolution is possible, and in this Clause and in Clause 21 the House has no opportunity whatever of saying anything with regard to the rules and regulations that the Minister makes, as under this Clause, although the rules must be laid before the House, there is no provision made for a Prayer. In resisting a previous Amendment the Minister said that one way in which the House might lose control was by cluttering up its work with unnecessary detail. This Amendment, if carried, would not have that effect, because it would not have any force unless some hon. Member wished to talk about the subject and therefore put up a Prayer. I hope the Minister will be able to accept this Amendment.

11.16 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I propose to accept the Amendment. When I talked about Parliament cluttering itself up with business, I was protesting against a proposal to impose the affirmative Resolution procedure upon the House. I think the negative Resolution procedure is an admirable device to ensure that Parliament can intervene if it is necessary. In this case I think that, though the rules and regulations are not likely ever to give rise to Parliamentary scrutiny, it is valuable to have the power in reserve, and I accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Pickthorn

I should like to know what are the reasons why the Rules Publication Act is to be cut out of this Part of the Bill. I do not suggest that there is no good reason, but no reason has been given to us hitherto.

11.19 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The omission of this Clause might obliterate the objectionable omission of the Rules Publication Act, but would still have unpleasant consequences from the point of view of hon. Members who wished to see the rules made. The hon. Member was asking why it is proposed not to render these rules statutory rules to which Section 1 of the Rules Publication Act applies. The position is that that Act was referred to by the Donoughmore Committee, and there is a large body of opinion in all sections of the House that that committee was right in criticising this particular Act as in some respects out of date. The particular Section which it is proposed to prevent from applying to these rules is Section 1. Its real application is to rules and regulations which affect public policy. Sub-section (1) provides for publication in the "London Gazette" 40 days before the Orders are made. The purpose of the Section is in Sub-section (2), which says that during the 40 days any public body may obtain copies of such draft rules on a payment not exceeding 3d. per folio, and any representations or suggestions made in writing by a public body are to be taken into consideration. The rules and regulations to which Clause 12 apply are not those which affect public bodies in any respect. They are rules which prescribe the conditions under which the standard acreage is to be calculated, and other matters which affect the subsidy payments. They are matters which are of interest to the individual farmer, a man who never reads the "London Gazette" in any circumstances. Consequently the application of the Act, which is designed to ensure the publication in this official journal for the purpose of enlightening public bodies and to enable local authorities to take steps for their protection, do not apply to the rules and regulations affecting individual persons as in this case. Ample notice will be given in the usual way of what is proposed to be done, and it will be given in a manner more apt to convey the information to individuals than is contained in this Section of the Rules Publication Act.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Benn

What the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked is the fact that by accepting the Amendment he has made it unnecessary for the Clause to remain. This Section in the Rules Publication Act does not apply to rules which have to be laid before Parliament. Therefore it is unnecessary to have the Amendment. I merely mention this in order that we may not put in a double redundancy.

11.23 p.m.

Mr. Foot

The Minister referred to the Donoughmore Committee, and anyone would suppose from his remarks that that committee had condemned the Rules Publication Act, at any rate in its present form. What the Committee did was to criticise the working of the Act on the ground that it was not strong enough and there were too many exceptions in it. The committee proposed to cut out a good many of the exceptions in the Act and they recommended that except in a very special case no future statute should provide for the exclusion of regulations made thereunder from the Amendment of the new Rules Publication Act which they proposed. They condemned this practice of Government departments cutting out rules from the operation of the Rules Publication Act.

11.24 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am not sure that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) in his point of view about Section 1, which says: The statutory rules to which this Section applies are those made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament which directs the statutory rules to be laid before Parliament, but do not include any statutory rules if the same or the draft thereof are required to be laid before Parliament before the rules come into operation. I am not certain whether those words exclude these rules. I think the rules we are proposing to put into operation do come into operation without lapse of time. I am obliged for the intervention of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). I did not wish to give a wrong impression in my references to the Donoughmore Committee. It was the view of the Committee that in many respects the Act was not apt to meet modern conditions, and that an overhaul might be of service, but the real point of substance of the right hon. Gentleman was that as these rules are, in fact, to be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament there is no necessity for this cumbersome procedure, particularly as it was rightly designed for the enlightenment of bodies far different from this.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

11.26 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I move this Motion in order to give the Patronage Secretary the opportunity to inform the Committee how far he intends to proceed. I think we have done fairly well.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)

I must frankly confess that the Government had hoped to make rather more substantial progress than has been possible to-day. As the Prime Minister said this afternoon, we had hoped to complete the Committee stage this evening. However, it is quite evident now that that will not be possible without sitting a considerable time longer, and if an agreement can be come to between the Government and all quarters of the House that we shall finish the Committee stage on Monday, and that the other Orders will be completed, then the Government will be prepared to accept the Motion to report Progress and continue and finish the Committee stage on Monday evening. If that can be agreed to all round, then the Motion will be accepted.

Mr. T. Williams

I am sure that I can speak for my colleagues when I say that as far as we can assist the right hon. Gentleman to achieve the results aimed at we shall most certainly do so, consistently with our normal duty to examine the various items of business before the House. I think the day has been devoted to constructive suggestions, and I see no reason why on Monday the same sort of thing should not happen.

11.29 p.m.

Sir F. Acland

I think the suggestion of the Patronage Secretary is the best that can be made in the circumstances. I think it is going to make a very hot day for us on Monday, but I know how crowded the programme is and he has met the situation as well as could be done in the circumstances, and I hope that we shall do our best when Monday comes.

Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.