§ As amended, considered.
§ CLAUSE 1.—(Exchequer contributions towards purchases of lime and basic slag.)
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The first Amendment I have to call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) in page 2, line 22.
§ Mr. T. Williams
May I ask whether the new Clause—(Rents not to be raised in consequence of Act)—on the Order Paper is not to be called?
§ Mr. Williams
May I submit to you that Clause 5 in Part 1 of this Measure lays down a stipulation that no tenant about to remove can take advantage of increased contributions due to the subsidy made by the Government towards lime and basic slag. This new Clause is designed to do exactly the same thing with regard to subsidies or guarantees for oats, barley and wheat, and, in these circumstances, since, although the wording is not identical, the principle is exactly the same, may I not submit to you, that this Clause, being parallel with Clause 5, should be strictly in order?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not say it is not in order. I said it is not selected, and I am afraid that I must ask the House to accept that as a decision.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, to leave out "each," and to insert "the Commons."
The House will be aware that last week, when this Bill was in Committee, I moved the same Amendment and as a result of the discussion the Minister of Agriculture agreed to consider it and make a statement when the Bill was in the Report stage. There are one or two things upon which this House is agreed. First of all, that another place has no control whatever over matters of finance—that is a matter entirely within the jurisdiction of this House—and that the functions and privileges of this House should be safeguarded and not surrendered to another place in any shape or faun. The history of procedure in this House shows that over a long period of time certain agitations took place and certain principles were established which, I think, this House ought not to give away at all. This proviso deals with the prescribed date, and while it may be true, as the Minister of Pensions said, that the proviso includes policy and finance, there is no doubt that it does include finance, which is a matter entirely for this House. Therefore, I hope the Minister of Agriculture will be able to accept the Amendment and to assure the House that he is not in any shape 1376 or form surrendering to another place anything which does not belong to them. In order that he may verify the matter, I move the Amendment.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
It was suggested in the discussion the other day that the House would like me to deal with the point raised by this Amendment. I therefore rise to accede to the generally expressed wish of the House to deal with the Amendment, which undoubtedly raises a point of importance. I need not say that my right hon. Friend is as jealous as any Member of the House of the privileges of this House in connection with finance. The first point that requires to be borne in mind is that the prescribed date, which under this proviso can be extended, is the date at which, unless action is taken under the proviso, the scheme embodied in this Bill would come to an end. It may be that in the discussion that took place the other day that was not quite clearly in the minds of one or two hon. Members. Possibly it was not clearly in the mind of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). If I am wrong in that assumption, perhaps he will correct me. I think he was not quite clear that it is a question of a resolution extending the scheme beyond the date prescribed in the Bill, and that unless that Resolution is passed this part of the Act comes to an end.
What would be the position if the proviso was not in this Bill and the Ministers who, under the proviso, are entrusted with the duty of bringing an order before the House, came to the conclusion that, having regard to agricultural conditions, the scheme should be extended for a further year or two years? Undoubtedly, in those circumstances they would have to bring in a Bill, if the proviso was not in. If this present Bill was limited absolutely to the three years and the Minister in the future, whoever he may be, who was in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture when those three years elapsed, came to the conclusion that in the interests of agriculture what has been taking place during the three years ought to be extended for a further period, his only course would be to bring in a Bill. The right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. 1377 Benn) shakes his head. Evidently I cannot have made myself clear, To me it is as clear as a pikestaff. If Parliament passes an Act which brings a scheme into operation for three years only and the Government of the day at the end of those three years think that the scheme ought to be continued for a further period, the only means by which they can obtain that result is by bringing in a Bill.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
I think the difficulty in understanding has arisen because my hon. and learned Friend has used the expression "Bill," whereas the situation which he is envisaging is that the Bill which has become an Act of Parliament is for a fixed period of three years, without the proviso, and that it was intended by the Minister of the future to extend the duration of the Act of Parliament for a further period of time. I think my hon. and learned Friend used the word "Bill" by a slip of the tongue.
§ The Attorney-General
There must have been some misunderstanding. The proviso enables an alternative machinery to be adopted for extending for a further period the scheme embodied in this Bill. If the proviso was not there a Bill would have to be introduced, and I do not think any one would suggest that the other place would not have a perfect right to throw out such a Bill. The legislative right of the other place to reject a Measure has never been questioned and is absolute, subject to the fact that in the case of those Bills which are Money Bills in the strict terms of the Parliament Act, they become law in spite of such rejection. When another place makes an Amendment with regard to a Bill which is not a Money Bill, if that Amendment affects finance this House can assert its privilege, but it has never been suggested, and it is not our Constitution, that in the case of a Bill which involves finance but is not a Money Bill within the Parliament Act, the other place has not a perfect constitutional right to reject it. That being so, the position that is brought about by the proviso is simply that if it is thought desirable to extend the scheme embodied in this Bill for a further period that extension should be brought about by a Resolution instead of by an extending Bill.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Surely, sub-paragraph (b) does not refer to the extension of the scheme, although the scheme may be 1378 dependent on the payment of money. It simply deals with the period within which money may be paid.
§ The Attorney-General
Yes, money to be paid for a specific purpose. The hon. Member's whole point in his speech was that the extension dealt with money and that the scheme dealt with the payment of money, but unless you have authority to expend the money the scheme necessarily comes to an end. I agree with the hon. Member that the form of the Resolution does not involve the position that the whole scheme should be extended, but the result is the same, because the scheme does depend upon the expenditure of money. I think, therefore, that what I have said is a perfectly fair analysis of the effect of what will be brought about by the Resolution. If the same result were sought to be obtained by the introduction of a Bill no one could dispute that the other place would have the right to reject the Bill, and, therefore I suggest to the House that the procedure in this Bill does not involve any infringement of the established privileges of this House, because it is in effect only conferring on the other place the right of rejection as to the extension by Resolution of this policy a right which they would undoubtedly have if the extension was to be provided for by a Bill.
But I do not think the matter ends there. Although the privileges of this House in all matters of finance are undoubted and have been laid down on many occasions, it has also been the practice that these privileges should not in all cases be asserted where the subject-matter is not strictly and solely financial, but where questions of legislative policy are involved, and in some cases may be the primary consideration. In these cases it is in accordance with our Constitution that the other place should have their rights as the other House of the Legislature to express their opinions by amendments and insertions of provisions.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
The hon. and learned Gentleman is no doubt aware that in all such cases Mr. Speaker draws the attention of the House to the fact and a special entry is made in the Journals of the House.
§ The Attorney-General
I am well aware of that. The first point I made is the answer to the Amendment, but I think it is also right that we should consider 1379 this other slightly different point of view. I was saying, and nothing that the right hon. Member has said is inconsistent with it, that it has frequently been the practice of this House not to assert its Privilege in cases—
§ The Attorney-General
Well, it has been the practice to waive its Privilege in cases where the subject-matter is not strictly and solely financial but involves questions of policy which, in accordance with our Constitution, it is thought right by this House that the other place should express its views and record its opinions by way of Amendments and insertions. In the case of this proviso I suggest to the House that the considerations which will move this House and another place in considering whether the scheme should be extended will be rather the state of the fields than the condition of the national finances, and if that is so then I suggest to the House that it will be perfectly proper and in accordance with our Constitution that in a matter involving the state of agriculture and the condition of that industry it would be in no way inconsistent with the attitude which this House has adopted towards its privileges in the past to insert a proviso which will enable the other place to express and record its view on this question. The question will be whether, having regard to what the scheme may have done in the three years it has been in operation, and having regard to the state of agriculture at that time, it should or should not be extended by a Resolution being passed enabling moneys to be expended for a further period.
On both these grounds I suggest to the House that the proviso in the Bill so far from being in conflict with our constitutional principles and particularly in regard to the privileges which this House jealously guards, is in accordance with those principles and is, in effect, merely giving a right to reject a policy which right has never been questioned. Further, on the second ground, that if it be an Amendment which is in the area of Privilege it is in an area in which this House has thought proper to waive its Privilege. The hon. Member for Dundee referred in his speech to the Parliament Act. It is not for me to make any pronouncement as to whether Mr. Speaker 1380 may or may not certify this Bill as a Money Bill, but I think I shall probably carry hon. Members of the House with me and shall not be guilty of any impropriety if I suggest that this Bill without question is not a Money Bill under the Parliament Act. I hope the matter will be considered in the light of the considerations I have put before the House. For the reasons I have given we do not regard this as in any way conflicting with the privileges of this House, and we think the proviso is in accordance with our Constitution and is reasonable, having regard to the subject-matter.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
I do not think we have ever heard a weaker case put forward by the Treasury Bench in defence of the privileges of this House. What is the proviso in the Bill? A money grant is to be made to farmers for certain purposes. The Bill says that the grant may be extended for a further two years. The Bill further gives to the House of Lords the power to prevent the grant being made. A clearer case of interference in financial matters could not possibly be established. If the Minister of Agriculture wishes the grant to be continued for another two years and the House of Lords says "No," he cannot do it. I should have thought that there could not be a clearer case of interference by the House of Lords in money matters. He also says that this is the only way in which it can be done. Surely, he cannot have consulted the Parliamentary draftsman. Surely some Estimate could have been put down. You need not redraft the Bill. You can lay an Estimate, as was done in the case of a building grant to schools. The Estimate being itself an Act of Parliament authorises the expenditure for which you are asking. Therefore, on the one hand, the case of interference by the other House is clear and, on the other hand. the contention of the Attorney-General that there is no other way of doing it does not hold water. I want to put it this way to the Attorney-General. If such an Amendment as this had been made in the Bill when it was before the House of Lords there is no question that Mr. Speaker would have ruled it as being a privileged Amendment. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) quoted the famous resolution of 1678, which is comprehensive to the last degree: 1381The ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the Douse of Lords.That is a perfectly clear statement and all the Rulings which have been given since then have been based upon it. If the Attorney-General will look up the records he will find Ruling after Ruling by the Chair that any attempt by the House of Lords to alter the purpose or distribution of a grant is a breach of the privileges of this House. Therefore, if this Amendment had been made in another place there is no question that Mr. Speaker would have informed the House that it was a breach of Privilege. It is not, of course, a breach of Privilege because it does not come from another place. It is concocted here; and that makes it worse. The Minister for Pensions was the first speaker on this matter for the Government. He said that this is legislation, and that inasmuch as we are asking the other House to pass the various stages of the Bill, surely if we have a consequential resolution or an ancillary resolution to the Bill, we should ask them to do the same thing with it. That overlooks the whole point, which is that although the other place is asked to pass the major stages of the Bill, the moment they put their fingers into financial matters, it is a breach of Privilege. The whole of that argument falls to the ground.
The second argument of the Attorney-General was that it is customary for the House to waive its Privilege. It is a very majestic affair to waive a Privilege of the House of Commons. Mr. Speaker rises and tells us that it is a matter of Privilege, and if the House decides to waive its Privilege, a special entry is made by the Clerk in the Journals in order that nothing should be lost of what we have won after years and years and centuries and centuries of battle against the House of Lords. Now the Attorney-General says that since this has been done, we should make it permanent. He says, "Let us have a permanent waiving of the privileges of the House of Commons in this Bill." Although this question arises on what is a small point, it is really a very important thing, for the moment this House relinquishes its control over expenditure to another place, it relinquishes its sole control over the Executive.
1382 It is true that the other place is concurrent in some ways with this House in the matter of legislation, but if we give to the House of Lords power to withhold grants, it affects the Estimates. Suppose the House of Lords starts to reject the Estimates, what would be the position of a Government that had not the support of the House of Lords? If we concede the principle that the House of Lords is to have power to say "No" when the Government wishes certain expenditure to take place and the House of Lords does not agree, it is a first step towards giving the House of Lords power to control Supply, which means control over the executive power of the Government.
Some people think that this is an old-fashioned issue which has not any relevance to conditions to-day, but I would like to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to a question of Privilege which arose on a very vital matter when the Labour Government was in office. In 1930 the Labour Government introduced an Unemployment Insurance Bill, which contained two important things. One was the abolition of the Clause about not genuinely seeking work, and the other was a substantial increase in the benefits paid. What did the House of Lords do, and what would they do assuming that they had the power which the Attorney-General now wishes to give them as a permanence? They said that that Bill was to come to an end on 31st March, 1931, and when this House objected, the Government was faced with the alternative of sacrificing that useful piece of social legislation or consenting to what the other place wanted to do. In the end, they got over the matter by a little quibble, extending it to 1933, but that was an example of the House of Lords attempting to exercise the power which the Attorney-General wants to give them. The Labour Government at that time had no majority in this House; it was weak, and had to give way, or it would have lost the Bill. But when it had given way, some remarks were made in another place to which I would like to draw attention. Lord Salisbury said:The truth was that if this doctrine of Privilege was pressed to the limits to which some authorities wished to press it, their lordships would be unable to amend any Bill because every Bill to some extent touched upon the burdens of the taxpayer or rate- 1383 payer. Therefore, he was unable to accept this plea of Privilege.That was after Mr. Speaker had ruled that a question of Privilege was involved. When the controversy had ended and an Amendment was put forward which finally attuned the views of the two Houses, Lord Salisbury made one or two final remarks on the controversy:He would respectfully say to the Labour Party that in the case of a political party, as in that of an individual, it was not always a good thing to have your own way.Whoever the electors might send to this House, Lord Salisbury told us in another place that it is not always good for the Labour Party to have its own way. He went on:He hoped they had now established that Privilege could not be asserted successfully against the reasonable action of the House of Lords.This contest is not a settled contest; it is a living issue which has to be fought every day and at every stage. We know perfectly well that while this Government is in power, its friends are in another place, but the moment the electors decide to put in power another government which has not the support of the other place, right hon. Gentlemen opposite hope to use the other place as a means of countering the wishes of the electorate. Therefore, although it is true that this is only a small Amendment which deals with a comparatively minor matter, I contend that it touches a great matter of Privilege and a great many rights of the Commons, and that we should make a determined resistance to the opinion of the Government.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was good enough to refer to some remarks I made at an earlier stage, and he said that I had not made it clear that the purpose of the proviso with which we are now concerned was to extend the time. I was rather surprised to hear that remark, because I endeavoured, at any rate, to make that clear in my earlier speech. I said:Let us suppose that by the appointed day, 31st July, 1940, no payments have been made. Then, in order for there to be any charge at all upon public funds provided by this House, there would have to be a Resolution of each House of Parliament"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1937; col. 596, Vol. 326.]1384 I endeavoured to make clear what was the purpose of the proviso. The Attorney-General went on to make what I thought was a rather remarkable statement. He said that if the proviso were not there, a Bill would have to be introduced and the other place would have the power to throw out such a Bill. It is a very serious thing to challenge the Law Officer on a matter of this kind, but in my submission that would not be so.
As I pointed out in an interjection, this Sub-section does not deal with extending the scheme. It is true that the scheme is dependent upon the finance, but there is no time limit imposed upon the scheme in this Clause. The only time limit that is imposed is on the payment of money, which may be up to the prescribed date, and the time may be extended for two years according to the terms of the proviso. Therefore, if there were not the proviso and if a Bill had to be introduced, it would be simply a Money Bill. Consequently, my submission is that under the terms of the Act, the other place would be quite powerless to reject it or to amend it in any way. Perhaps the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong. If it were a Bill simply extending the time during which money could be paid, it would certainly be accepted by Mr. Speaker as being a Money Bill. That seems to me to be the main point here.
The other point that was made by the Attorney-General was that we frequently waived our Privilege in this House. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) said, we are very careful in waiving our Privilege to assert its existence, and there is a very considerable distinction between waiving our Privilege and in doing so asserting that the Privilege is there, and putting a provision in a Statute which goes some way to destroy that Privilege altogether. That is what we are doing as far as this Bill is concerned. My hon. and learned Friend did me the honour to refer to the arguments which I used earlier, but he did not mention my principal argument, which was the Resolution of 1678. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton has already referred to the closing words of that Resolution. I draw attention to the opening words:That all aids and supplies and aids to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons.1385 I do not think it has been disputed that what is proposed in this proviso is contrary to the terms of that Resolution. If His Majesty's Government are determined to destroy some part of the traditions of this House and to give up a Privilege which we have maintained for almost three centuries, they ought to come here and say so outright, instead of trying to slip it through in this way. I find it difficult to understand why this Amendment has not been accepted. It is not as if the hon. Members who have moved it were in any way jeopardising the purposes of the Bill. As long as this Parliament lasts, the Government will have no difficulty in securing a majority in either House. In any case, there is no particular opposition to this part of the Bill in any part of the House and, that being so, it is not likely that they would have any difficulty. The purposes of the Bill would not be impaired in any way. But the fact that the Government are prepared to put a provision of this kind into their legislation, shows that although they have been compelled for all these years to accept the Parliament Act, a great many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to destroy it altogether.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
One naturally asks oneself why the Government are so anxious to maintain this proviso in this form. In the earlier Debate on this subject the Minister of Agriculture said he had not been apprised of the point, that he was anxious to have an opportunity of considering it and that he would consider it. There are two possible explanations. One is that the Government desire to I ave such a proviso in order that its effect—whatever that may be and I shall deal later with that point—shall be a permanent part of our law. The other, and the more charitable, and, I think, probably the true explanation is, that this provision was put into the Bill without a realisation of its effect and that now the forces on the Front Bench are being called upon to support it simply because it is there. I say with all seriousness that I hope the Ministers in charge of the Bill will not approach this grave problem—and whatever view they may take of it, it is a grave problem—with that inflexibility of mind which is represented by the view that because this is in the Bill they must support it. We sometimes fail to 1386 realise that in this country we have a flexible Constitution, built up by legislation of all kinds and the customs and practice of our Parliament. This proviso in an Agriculture Bill is just as much a constitutional provision as if it had all the full-blown aroma of the Statute of Westminster itself. Therefore, in approaching a problem such as this, it is essential to realise that we are legislating upon our Constitution. Whether this proposal is desirable or undesirable that is what we are doing, and it is distressing to note that so few people are interested in legislation upon our Constitution—not even at the moment the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General.
It is necessary to see exactly what this proposal means. The hon. and learned Gentleman said its effect was much the same as that of a Bill. But owing to the technicalities of our Parliamentary procedure, many of which have been placed there to protect the rights of the Commons, you cannot consider one form of procedure as if it were the equivalent of another. We are dealing here with a Resolution by this House and by the House of Lords. Let me deal with the point as it concerns a Resolution in the other place. Under this proviso, a substantive Resolution will have to be brought forward in the other place. What is to be the form of that Resolution? It will have to be a Resolution approving of the continuance of payments by the Government under this scheme. Is it customary to originate in another place, a Resolution of a financial character, affecting payments by the Government? When one examines what this proposal means, one observes at once that it creates a precedent of a most dangerous kind. It puts on the Statute Book a provision to the effect that a Resolution can originate in another place dealing with the power of the Government to grant money—in other words, a Resolution of Supply.
It is not even a question of a Resolution being passed here and then going to another place to be approved or rejected. It is to be an original Resolution passed in another place and that is where, if I may say so with respect, the analogy of the hon. and learned Gentleman completely breaks down. There can be no possible doubt that such a Resolution must be a Resolution dealing with the supplies granted to the Crown. It cannot 1387 deal with anything else. Its express purpose as stated in the Bill is to extend the period of grant. That is to say, its operative and only effect is to say that there shall be granted for the service of the Crown a certain amount during the next 12 months. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman seriously suggest that we should make it a legislative enactment and part of the Constitution of this country, that such a Resolution can be passed in another place? That is the problem which he has to face. Surely this is not the occasion for raising a problem of that enormous constitutional magnitude. We, the Commons for nearly 300 years since 1678 have, time after time, asserted our sole right as regards this matter of Supply and now, quite casually, as it were, in a proviso to a Clause in a Bill of this kind, we are asked to make a legislative enactment to the effect that the other House has the right and, indeed, the duty to pass an original Resolution dealing with the granting of Supplies to the Crown.
I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman, or those who drafted this Clause, really had the intention of putting this enormous constitutional issue into this Bill. I rather think that they took the view which the hon. and learned Gentleman has put forward, that this is nothing but the equivalent of a new Bill. It is just because it is not the equivalent of a new Bill that this is so dangerous to the privileges of this House. If a new Bill is exactly the same, let us have the new Bill, and do not let us have a sacrifice of our privileges by substituting a Money Resolution for a Bill. Whatever the fate of that Bill might be under the Parliament Act, we need not discuss that now. It would be a matter for Mr. Speaker to decide—I have little doubt how he would decide—but it would be for him to decide as protector of the privileges of the Commons. But as regards this Resolution, he has no decision as protector of the privileges of the Commons because the Government take away that protection by the form of the proviso, and I do most earnestly beg that this form of proviso should not be permitted to become part of our law, because if it is we are making an inroad into those very precious privileges which the common people of this country have fought for centuries to gain and to preserve.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I speak as one of those who hate the Parliament Act and would like to see it repealed and replaced by something quite different. But having said that and bearing in mind that the Parliament Act is the law of the land, I want to reinforce the appeal made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. I have been through every change of thought on this subject. When we had the Debate the other night I came to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was on a false trail for the reason that the other place would have had full powers in respect of a Bill and that if they had it was stupid of us to object to them having these powers in respect of a Resolution. But I think that there is no doubt that the other place would not have full powers in respect of a Bill. Sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Parliament Act, 1911, reads as follows:A Money Bill means a public Bill which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following subjects, namely"—And then I miss a lot of words which do not matter—the appropriation"—Here I miss other words—of public money.That is all we need concern ourselves with for the purpose of this Debate.
This Resolution deals only with the appropriation of public money during a specified period. In other words, the effect of the Resolution would be to say that the Government may, notwithstanding the other provisions of the Agriculture Act, 1937, expend public money during the year ended 31st March, 1941, or 1942, which otherwise they would not be authorised to expend. In other words, they would pass a Resolution which authorised expenditure during a period which otherwise would be not authorised. Clearly if that were put in a Bill, such a Bill would be a money Bill. If it is a money Bill this House is entitled to say to another place at the end of a month, "As you have not passed it, it is to be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent." Another place would have no power to reject such a Bill. If that is so the Government should not raise a constitutional issue in the wrong place. The time will come when I hope to go into the Lobby in opposition to all those I am agreeing with 1389 to-night in an effort to alter the Parliament Act and to make the Constitution more intelligent. But so long as it is the Constitution is entirely improper to attempt to alter it in this way.
I would make a most earnest appeal to those in charge of the Bill to give way on this, which does not matter in the least as far as agriculture is concerned. It is merely by a chance of drafting that it has been put in this way. I am sure that the Parliamentary draftsmen, the Ministry, and the Parliamentary Secretary were not thinking in the least of the Parliament Act but only of increasing the fertility of the land of Britain and of nothing else. Therefore, I am certain that the Minister, who is a very good Minister, an intelligent Minister, who is adding glory to himself every day, will have more glory if on this issue he takes the constitutional point of view.
§ 9.33 P.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
I propose to, and if now is a convenient moment to do so, I shall reply at once. I was deferring my reply because I thought hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to continue the Debate. I was out of the House when this question was raised the other day and I promised to consider it. I have considered it with the utmost care. I approach the problem not from the point of view of any party feeling or with any desire to support the Government or controvert the Opposition, delightful as these activities are normally to me, but as a Member of the House of Commons anxious that none of its privileges shall be whittled away and also anxious that we shall approach a constitutional matter in the proper spirit. The right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) apparently quarrels with the powers of the House of Lords as they are at the moment. He instanced, as depicting the background of his mind, the Unemployment Bill of the Government of which he was a distinguished Member, and he said that in its powers there, the House of Lords was able to act in a manner of which he disapproved.
§ Mr. Morrison
I want to make it clear that we are dealing in this question with the Constitution as it is at the moment, and I am sure that the House would wish us to approach it from that point of view and not from the point of view of trying to alter the Constitution in our discussion of what is a detail of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said he could imagine only two reasons for our attitude, the first of which was that we should desire a provision like this to become a permanent part of our legislation and constitutional practice; but I would point out that the proviso itself has no great permanence, because it says:the prescribed date may be postponed for not more than two successive periods,and I would ask the House to reflect on the position that will arise when the two years are up. It will be necessary then for the Minister of Agriculture, if he wishes to continue to subsidise the practice of applying lime and slag to the soil, to bring in a Bill for that purpose, and it would be subject to full discussion. In all these matters I think the question is one that is capable of a great deal of argument one way and the other. It is very hard to find a case of a Bill of a political character designed to effect certain political purposes which does not carry with it some financial burden; there are only certain Bills which are purely financial, and these are those which are enumerated in the Parliament Act. I would like to deal for a moment with the Parliament Act point, to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) referred, and to Sub-section (2) of Section 1, which defines a Money Bill. My hon. Friend quite properly missed out a lot of the description of such Bills, but I want the House to follow me if I carry it a little further. It reads:A Money Bill means a Public Bill which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following subjects.…I lay stress on the word "only," because the framers of the Parliament Act did not wish to lay it down that a Bill was a Money Bill if it contained financial provisions. It was only when it contained financial provisions to the exclusion of everything else that it was a Money Bill, in the view of the framers of that Act. The hon. Member for South Croydon 1391 picked out of the various financial epithets "the appropriation .… of public money." My view of the Act is that that refers to the Appropriation Bill. the Appropriation Act, which comes at the end of every Session and puts the finishing touch to the long procedure of the financial control of this House. If I take the narrower meaning that the hon. Member attaches to the words, every Bill that applies public money for any purpose whatsoever will be a Money Bill.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Surely the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten his own limitation—"only." The other Bills with which he is now dealing contain a mass of other things.
§ Mr. Morrison
It was founding myself on the word "only" that I made the proposition that that refers to the Appropriation Act. What is this Bill? It appropriates public money in a narrow sense, but for a certain definite purpose, namely, the application of lime and slag to the soil. There is no power in any Minister at present to use public money for this purpose, and it is not until this Bill reaches the Statute Book that such a power will exist, and so really what is of importance in this Clause is the lime and the slag and not the money. It has been said many times in debate that after the two years' postponement a Bill would be necessary for the purpose of continuing to apply lime and slag to the soil, but surely it is a matter which is by no means automatic, that we should continue to apply lime and slag to the soil as a matter of agricultural policy.
As a matter of fact, I myself, in the course of the preparation of this Measure, met a great many people who disagreed with it, not from the point of view of the money involved, but who pointed out, with some truth, the danger of applying lime in the wrong places, who said that slag is not such a useful form of fertiliser as superphosphate, and who urged various arguments of a purely agricultural character against the proposal. This clearly makes it one of those Bills in which policy and finance go hand in hand. If this House desires that farmers shall be assisted in putting lime and slag on the soil, it has, first of all, to choose the two fertilisers. If it agrees with me about that, then it has to provide the necessary funds. Surely, the first point being so 1392 important, being really the object of this part of the Measure, being a matter of agricultural policy which is to be enshrined in a Bill, in the first place, it is only natural and proper that the other place should be asked its opinion whether or not within the three years this is a desirable agricultural policy.
If I thought that we were creating an entirely new precedent in what we are doing, I should view it with a great deal more suspicion than in fact I do, but in my recollection there is similar legislation to which the House has recently agreed. Under the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1935, the Order extending the period in respect of which the cattle subsidy was to be paid was made subject to a Resolution by each House of Parliament, and surely that is an admirable illustration of what I am saying. The question of whether or not the livestock industry should continue to be assisted and encouraged is a matter of agricultural policy. There are many people—I am not one of them—who believe that we should neglect a livestock policy in favour of an exclusively arable policy, which is a matter on which the other House is entitled to express an opinion. Similarly, I may say, the Order fixing the date of expiry of the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) (Extension) Act, 1935, was made the subject of a Resolution by each House.
§ Mr. Morrison
That may he so, but both these things involve public money, and certainly the first one does. Perhaps the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) may draw a distinction between ceasing to pay public money and continuing to pay it, but from the point of view of what is to be—
§ Mr. Morrison
No, but I would ask the hon. Member to follow me. If I were to accept the constitutional position that he has put before the House, I would say that it would be a breach of Privilege; I would say, if he were right, 1393 that to fix the date of expiry of the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act and to say that we shall stop this temporary provision, would be a breach of Privilege on the part of the other place, but there is nothing of the kind involved, and to say that the other House, if it disagrees with this House over a matter which involves some financial practice, is committing a breach of Privilege is quite unjustifiable.
§ Mr. Benn
Mr. Speaker ruled that, when they set a limit to an operation such as that in the Unemployment Insurance Act. It is a Ruling in the Journals of the House. But can the right hon. Gentleman give an example from some other Government than his own?
§ Mr. Morrison
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I would rather talk about matters which are entirely within my own recollection. This is a matter in regard to which this House has already expressed its concurrence, and surely I am entitled to ask this House to agree with us in this view of the doctrine and to support the view which it has itself established in the two instances which I have quoted.
Now I would ask the House again to look at this Clause. As I say, I have formed my own view upon it, and I think I am right in forming that view. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and the right hon. Member for Gorton have drawn attention to Subsection (3) and have said that there is no mention in it or in the proviso of the purpose for which the money is to be spent. The real emphasis, in their view, is upon the continuation of the expenditure. A closer examination of the provision does not bear that out. The Subsection says:Contributions shall not be made under this section towards any cost incurred.To find out what "contributions" under this Sub-section means, we have to turn to Sub-section (1), where it will be found that:the Ministers may in accordance with a scheme made by them with the approval of the Treasury, make contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament towards the cost incurred by any occupier of agricultural land in the United Kingdom in acquiring and transporting any quantity, not being less than two tons, of lime or basic slag.1394 and so on. The purposes for which the money is to be expended are the gist of the matter. Sub-section (3), by making it quite clear that it refers to contributions under this Clause, means that the contributions are only those in respect of lime and slag. I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton when he refers to the possibility that the other place might reject a motion to postpone the prescribed date, this House at the same time agreeing that it ought to be postponed. That would, no doubt, be a conflict between the two Houses, but it would be resolved in the usual manner.
§ Mr. Benn
The Minister must be aware that if a resolution is passed in the other House saying one thing and a resolution is passed in this House saying something else, there is no usual manner for resolving it. It is different in the case of a Bill, but when there are contrary resolutions the whole thing falls.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is a matter upon which accommodation must be come to. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument aright, it is that because the other place can come to a conclusion different from that of this House, then there is something fundamentally wrong in the Constitution.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The point really is this: This business of resolutions in both Houses is cropping up, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, only under his own Government, and he is creating a clumsy, shoddy and impossible procedure between the two Houses. A Bill can be canvassed between the two Houses by the ancient procedure, but if there is a clash of resolutions there is no sort of procedure for accommodating the the two Houses.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am certain it will be no more difficult to resolve such a clash than it is in the case of a Bill.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Will the right hon. Gentleman take the case where no resolution is brought forward in the other place?
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me to use my imagination, but I cannot imagine, if a Minister desires to postpone the appointed day, that he would not see that the resolution 1395 was brought forward in the other place. The Government are able to have their policy expressed in both places. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Estimates and expressed the opinion that they were Acts of Parliament. I cannot see that, because an Act of Parliament is an Act of both Houses, and the other House has nothing to do with Estimates.
§ Mr. Benn
Is it necessary that someone should tell a Minister of the Crown at this stage that the Estimates become the Appropriation Bill, which passes through both Houses?
§ Mr. Morrison
I said that earlier. The true constitutional position is that unless the approval of Parliament is given to this purpose of applying lime and slag to the soil, no Department can prepare an Estimate for that purpose. It has to be sanctioned by Parliament before it can figure in the Estimates. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it is that if the Minister of Agriculture wished to apply any new policy of this character, all he had to do was to bring an Estimate before the House of Commons for a sum of money for the application of lime, superphosphate, kainit, potassium and all those things, and if he did that he would be in order. He would however, have to have the authority of Parliament before he could do it. Unless Parliament says that a Minister can expend money on such a purpose, it cannot be done. The process cannot be initiated. The Diseases of Animals Act of 1894 authorises the Minister to expend money for a specific purpose, and until that step has been taken by Parliament there is no power vested in him. This is a matter on which hon. Members opposite evidently take a different view from that which I have tried to put forward, and I do not see that I can convince them that their view is wrong and that mine is right. I can assure the House that if I thought this was in any way a matter infringing on the real privileges of this House, I should not advocate it. It is because I believe it is perfectly in accord with the privileges of the House that I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a simple question? A 1396 highly technical constitutional problem may sometimes be easily resolved by a simple question. The money involved in this policy Measure will obviously find its way into the Estimates. Will the right hon. Gentleman agree or disagree that in another place they can interfere with the money involved in this policy Measure once the money appears in the Estimates?
§ Mr. Morrison
I would like to answer the hon. Gentleman, but I should like him to develop his argument, for that is a more convenient method of elucidating a point than cross-examination. The Estimates, of course, are passed by this House.
§ Mr. Williams
I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the money involved here will come in the Estimates and that there will be no power to change or modify them in any particular in another place. That being the case, the procedure embodied in Sub-section (3) is really a new procedure, whatever the Attorney-General or the Minister of Agriculture may say. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) each put a very simple case. The Attorney-General suggested that there were two phases of this problem—policy and finance. Policy having been decided, finance becomes involved, and as they have no power in another place to interfere with finance once policy has been settled, there is an end of that. This Sub-section, however, gives all the power to another place to decide the "yea" or "nay" of any decision taken by His Majesty's Government here. We are deciding a policy for three years. If at the end of three years this House decides to continue the policy for a further two years, another place will be able, under this Sub-section, to prevent it. Is not that a precedent? Is that in accordance with general procedure in this House—that another place should be able to prevent this House from carrying out a policy which has previously been adopted, whether it refers to the liming of land or anything else? As I see it, this Sub-section gives another place the power not only to stultify a Government but to sabotage its policy. Imagine 1397 a Socialist Government deciding to subsidise housing for a period and taking power to extend the subsidy beyond the first period if circumstances required it. Another place would be given the power to prevent the continuance of that subsidy, another place would have power to prevent any scheme originating here being prolonged, whether it involves finance or not.
None of the submissions of the Attorney-General or the Minister has shaken my belief in the case submitted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton, and I am convinced that this Subsection has been put into the Bill to avoid the necessity for another Bill three years hence, should agriculture then require a further supply of cheap lime and basic slag. During the past three years we have had one or two examples of how this policy involves the Government in unpleasant scenes. What happened in the case of the beef cattle subsidy? In 1934 a Measure was passed granting a subsidy for beef cattle. The Government had to present another Bill in nine months; in three months more they had to come forward with a third Bill; and in another 12 months we had yet a further Bill. They have more recently passed what they call their long-term Measure for agriculture and that gives a fourth extension. This Sub-section is intended, apparently, to short-circuit the necessity for presenting a succession of Bills. It is to be done by the simple process of a substantive Resolution, but there is this difference, that their Lordships in another place may declare that there shall be no extension and in that case there will be no extension. The right hon. Gentleman is not only not preserving the right of this House to waive its Privilege on financial questions but is giving away a Privilege which the House now has.
Let me suggest a remote case, because remote cases are necessary to illustrate fine points on a Constitutional issue. Assume there is a Labour Government in office and they desire to deal with conditions as regards housing or agriculture or anything else, over a certain period, with power to prolong that period. The Labour Government, knowing the constitution of another place, and realising that its assent might not be given in a couple of years' time, would legislate for the maximum period, lest their Lordships should deprive them of their right by refusing to pass a substantive Resolution. 1398 It seems to me pretty clear that either the intention of this Sub-section is sinister or, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol said, that the Government were unconscious of what was being done, and I hope that now that the Minister appreciates the full significance of it he will not hesitate to withdraw it. If at the end of three years it is felt that this policy of liming ought to be continued for a further two years all that will be required will be a one-clause Bill to extend Part 1 of this Measure. That would give the Government everything they require, and their Lordships would have no power to-throw that Bill out, because it would be a Money Bill, even though based upon policy. I do not see how that could affect the speed of legislation. In any case we have had only two precedents quoted for the course now suggested, the cattle subsidy and a similar Measure which crept through the House during the past three or four years, and it is time that we now stopped and decided not to forfeit any further Privileges of this House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see fit, after due consideration, to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton and think again before he gives away any Privileges of this House.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
I have been listening to this Debate with rather mixed feelings, because, resisting the natural impulse to sleep on a hot evening like this, my mind has almost automatically gone back to the days, now 21 years ago, when I had a great deal of sympathy with the Ministers representing agriculture in this House. I was one of them at the time, and they found themselves in a very awkward corner and could not see a way out. But though I feel the best will in the world towards the Minister in his difficulty there is only one argument which he used which at all influenced me, namely, that there is a precedent for what it is now proposed to do in a Bill already on the Statute Book, I think the Livestock Bill. If there are wrong precedents that is no reason for increasing them by putting another on the Statute Book. I could not agree with him in any other arguments he put before the House. He said that if we did not proceed by resolution, as the Bill proposes, it would be necessary to proceed by another Bill, and 1399 that then one would have to look principally at the purpose of the Bill, and one would find that the purpose, namely, to continue payments on account of lime and basic slag, so much exceeded the mere fact of continuing the grant, that it would not be regarded as a Money Bill. That is all very well, but let us think over this question a little, and compare this Clause, with its statement that the Minister may make contributions towards the cost incurred by farmers in acquiring lime or basic slag, with similar Clauses in the Special Areas (Amendment) Act which the Government insisted, against the views of Members of Parliament below the Gangway, must be treated as a Money Bill, preceded by the Financial Resolution, and all the rest of it. I would like to quote a couple of the commanding and substantive words of the Clause—
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I interrupt merely for the purpose of clarification. When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Government insisted upon regarding that as a Money Bill, I would point out that there is a difference between a Money Bill for the purpose of the Parliament Act and a Money Bill for the purposes of this House.
§ Mr. Morrison
To make it clear, would the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he referred to a Money Bill for the purpose of the Parliament Act or a Bill founded upon a Financial Resolution?
§ Sir F. Acland
I do not think it is for this House to dogmatise. It is for Mr. Speaker to say for what purpose it should be regarded as a Money Bill. I think the provisions contained in the Special Areas (Amendment) Act, 1937—The Commissioners may agree to provide .…financial assistance by means of contributions towards rent, Income Tax, or rates.…andThe Commissioners may .…make a grant towards any expenses incurred in the repair or improvement of streets,are quite as definitely primarily connected with the conditions of the grant as the provision which we are considering here.
I come back to the argument, which I felt was not adequately answered, put 1400 by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), namely, that, as the Bill stands, what would have to be brought forward in another place would be a Resolution approving a continuance of payments. That Resolution is never brought forward in vacuo, but it is always a question of the purpose for which the grants are made. That is the essence of the problem. When we come to consider what the House has said on these matters, we come right up against something which ought still to have great validity with us, that Resolution of ours in 1678, namely, that it was thesole right of the Commons to appoint the conditions of such grants.What is more essentially a condition than the period within which a grant shall continue? If that is confined exclusively and is reserved specially for the Commons, it does not seem to be in any way right, whatever may have been inadvertently put into the Livestock Bill, that that should now be given away, when proper attention has been drawn to it. It is true that the Resolution of 1678 deals specifically with Bills, but we have altered our procedure since then. We have enlarged it and made it more elastic. We proceed in these money matters sometimes by Bill and sometimes by Resolution, but one cannot argue that, because of that, the Resolution of 1678 has no applicability.
I still suggest, although I listened to the Minister very carefully, that this House having said that it is for us to appoint the conditions of grants, it is for this House to appoint the period within which grants shall be made. In the Bill we definitely suggest that it shall be for another place, as well as this place, but another place essentially, to appoint the period within which these grants shall be made, and thus to make a considerable breach in the traditional privileges of this House.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb
We have already passed a Financial Resolution. I am under the impression that a Financial Resolution runs for five years and not for three. It is true that the other place may possibly have the opportunity of preventing us from spending the money but Privilege exists with the present Bill. Unless they pass the Bill we cannot spend any money under the Resolution which 1401 we have already passed. As the Financial Resolution covers a period of five years and not three, I do not think that we are increasing the power of the other House with it.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Clause and the proviso appear by themselves not in any way to raise a question of Privilege, because the powers which are given to the other place would, if they exercised them, indicate only the acceptance of the continuance of the policy set out in the Clause. On the other hand, if the other place went beyond the powers which the Clause gives, a question of Privilege would arise, and when the matter came back to this House it would be within the power of this House either to waive that privilege or to insist upon it. Under the Clause and the proviso that follows it, there does not seem to be anything in the nature of Privilege.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Further to that point, may I ask this question: Suppose a Resolution were to be brought forward in the other place, that a further sum of money be granted to His Majesty to defray the expenses of this scheme under this Clause, for a period of 12 months, would that be a matter which would be a breach of the privileges of this House?
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is not a point of Order. I am asking Mr. Speaker a question and I resent the right hon. Gentleman getting up before Mr. Speaker has had an opportunity of answering my question.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
The reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman is included in the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). It is a question of going beyond the powers of this Clause, in which case a question of Privilege might arise
§ Mr. Speaker
The original Clause, as it stands, gives the other place certain powers merely to endorse the continuance of a certain policy. If they go beyond that, a question of Privilege might arise.
§ Mr. Benn
With great respect, I suggest that I have not made myself clear. Suppose that no authorisation were given under this Sub-section. If the other place, without such authorisation, proposed to reduce the grant suggested by this House, would not that be a breach of the Privilege of this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
Of course, that would be so. If the other place did that without particular authorisation from this House, that naturally becomes a matter of breach of Privilege.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention to a phrase in the proviso which may give us a clue to the true nature of the proposal, and which I think has not yet been considered either by yourself or by the Minister? The proviso says:Provided that the prescribed date may be postponed for not more than two successive periods of one year each by orders made by the Minister with the consent of the Treasury …Those appear to be significant words. For what purpose can they be imported into this Clause unless it be to imply that the matter in question is a purely financial one over which the Treasury has special jurisdiction? May I ask whether that does not indicate that this case is within the zone of finance and the privileges of this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
Possibly it might be interpreted in that way, but the proviso only deals with the other House agreeing to the continuance of a particular policy.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Then may I ask the Minister to explain to the House why it is that the consent of the Treasury has to be obtained on a matter which comes within the zone of policy rather than within the zone of finance?
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
Perhaps, with the leave of the House, I may answer the hon. Member's question. I must apologise to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) if I acted in any way as I should not have done in trying to intervene while he was asking his question. My purpose now is to answer the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr. Garro Jones). The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol asked whether the other House could alter a sum of money. The proviso, however, gives no power to alter a sum of money, but only to allow money that is available to be expended. It is a question of policy, and not a question of Estimates, over which this House has direct control. It is a question of the ordinary Parliamentary attitude with regard to a policy being pursued and money being expended. It is usual in Acts of Parliament, and has been so for a long time when there is a policy which affects the expenditure of money, in general, to ensure control of public funds, that the assent of the Treasury is obtained to a continuance of the policy. The Treasury is in the position, and has been for a long time in this country, of knowing the resources of the country with greater exactitude than any other Department, and clearly one must provide that the policy can only be continued when there are funds available for its continuance. I think that that is the answer to the question of the hon. Member.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Sir J. Lamb
May I, Mr. Speaker, ask your Ruling on this point? If the House, as in this case, has passed a Financial Resolution covering a period of five years, while the Bill we are now discussing only operates for three years, would not the Financial Resolution cover the second period of two years?
§ Sir J. Lamb
My point is as to whether the Financial Resolution does not cover the two periods, and that consequently there would be no question of Privilege.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
The proviso calls for two Resolutions, one by this House and one by the other House. The point was raised just now as to what would happen if this House passed a Resolution and the other House did not.
§ Mr. Speaker
Then the Orders would not come into operation, since the proviso requires a Resolution of each House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Then, if the House of Commons at the appropriate date passes a Resolution to continue the payment of money, and the House of Lords refuses to do so, that will mean that the House of Lords is refusing to continue payments which this House desires to continue?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is a question of continuing the policy, and, unless the House of Lords exercises its function, the policy cannot be continued.
§ Mr. Griffiths
As I understand it, the proviso makes provision, not for changing the policy, but merely for continuing the policy, for continuing the money payments. As I understand it, it is not suggested that at the end of this period the question whether it is wise or unwise to continue cannot be raised, but that all that can be discussed is whether the money can be voted for a further period.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I point out that under this Clause the Land Fertility Scheme, which embodies the policy, can continue. It is only a question as to whether the contributions in respect of the scheme may continue beyond the first three years. The scheme continues, anyway. The question is whether the contributions are to be continued. I suggest that that question is entirely one of finance and money.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The suggestion is that it could be continued by getting a contribution from the farmers towards financing one another by co-operative measures instead of getting the finance from the Government. The scheme could continue amongst farmers financed by farmers. 1405 This is a question of contributions coming from the Government to finance the scheme and what is in question in the proviso is whether the Government shall continue financing the scheme, and not the farmers.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I point out that this scheme can contain terms which are to be decided upon by the Minister, and we do not know that the Minister might not decide upon such terms. They are not laid down and restricted in the Act itself.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not know about that. The scheme seems to me to depend on the provision of a certain amount of money.
§ Mr. Speaker
We should be allowed to vote the money. We could override anything that the other House did in matters of Finance.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Before the Clause is disposed of, I should like to utter a protest against the ridiculous position in which we are being placed. The proposition is that if a question of finance is dominated by some theoretical policy, that
§ takes the question out of the exclusive jurisdiction of the House. I regard that as inflammable ground, and I hope it will not be allowed to rest where it is.
§ Mr. Foot
I understood you, Sir, to say that if under this proviso we voted the money and the other House declines to vote it, we could override the other House. Could we under the machinery of this proviso possibly override the other place when a Resolution by them is made necessary to continue the subsidy?
§ Mr. Speaker
If we voted the money and the other House refused it, a question of Privilege would at once arise in the ordinary course.
§ Sir S. Cripps
If we have by the proviso given the other House the power by Resolution to stop this expenditure of money, should we not then be bound by the Act of Parliament which we have passed, and should we not be unable to observe our Privilege because of the terms of the proviso?
§ Mr. Speaker
As far as I understand it, the question that the other place is deciding is not the money question in itself, but the continuance of a particular policy which makes the whole difference.
§ Question put, "That the word 'each' stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 221; Noes, 121.1409
|Division No. 290.]||AYES.||[10.25 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Doland, G. F.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cartland, J. R. H.||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Carver, Major W. H.||Dower, Major A. V. G.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cary, R. A.||Drewe, C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Assheton, R.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Edge, Sir W.|
|Bailie, Sir A. W. M.||Channon, H.||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Carry, Sir Reginald||Elmley, Viscount|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Emery, J. F.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Errington, E.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Everard, W. L.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Fildes, Sir E.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Cox, H. B. T.||Fleming, E. L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portam'h)||Craven-Ellis, W.||Furness, S. N.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Crooke, J. S.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Boothby, R. J. G. Crookshank,||Capt. H. F. C.||Ganzoni, Sir J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cross, R. H.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir J.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Crossley, A. C.||Gledhill, G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Gluckstein, L. H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Cruddas, Col. B.||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Dawson, Sir P.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Dodd, J. S||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Maitland, A.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Salt, E. W.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Markham, S. F.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Marsden, Commander A.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Scott, Lord William|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Salley, H. R.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Harbord, A.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Spans, W. P.|
|Hepworth, J.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Munro, P.||Storey, S.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Holmes, J. S.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Patrick, G. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Peake, O.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Peat, C. U.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Petherick, M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hunter, T.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Porritt, R. W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Procter, Major H. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Kimball, L.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Latham, Sir P.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rankin, Sir R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wells, S. R.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Levy, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wise, A. R.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Remer, J. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Lyons, A. M.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|McKie, J. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Major Sir George Davies and|
|Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Rowlands, G.||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|
|Magnay, T.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Garro Jones, G. M.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||MacLaren, A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Maclean, N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Grenfell, D. R.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Mander, G. le M.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Marshall, F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Maxton, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Groves, T. E.||Milner, Major J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Montague, F.|
|Barr, J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Batey, J.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bann, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hayday, A.||Muff, G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Bromfield, W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Paling, W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Parker, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Holdsworth, H.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ritson, J.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kelly, W. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirby, B. V.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, D.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Dalton, H.||Lathan, G.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, J. J.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leach, W.||Silkin, L.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lee, F.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leonard, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Ede, J. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Foot, D. M.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Frankel, D.||Lunn, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Stephen, C.|
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Watson, W. McL.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Welsh, J. C.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Thurtle, E.||Westwood, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Tinker, J. J.||White, H. Graham||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Walker, J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Watkins, F. C.||Wilkinson, Ellen||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Charleton.|
§ CLAUSE 3.—(Supplementary provisions as to contents of the Land Fertility Scheme.)
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 6, to leave out "an approved supplier," and to insert:a supplier of lime or basic slag approved by such authority and in accordance with such procedure as may be provided by the scheme.The Amendment deals with a question which was raised originally by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) in connection with the position of approved suppliers and that part of the Bill which deals with the supply of lime and basic slag. The hon. Member proposed to leave out the provision in the Bill that only approved suppliers should be allowed to deal with these commodities. The suggestion I made was that instead of doing that we should provide for a right of appeal by these individuals if they do not obtain approval under the scheme. It was then pointed out that there was nothing in the Bill which provided machinery by which anyone was to obtain approval, and that until that had been done it would not be right to deal with the question of a right of appeal. Nor indeed is the right of appeal, perhaps, the best method of dealing with a body which is not a tribunal and which does not give judicial determinations. The words of the Act are an attempt to meet the situation. The intention is to provide a procedure under which approval may be obtained, and also to provide a procedure in cases when approval is not obtained. The Minister gave an undertaking, subject to this point being dealt with, that in the scheme there would be a provision that any person aggrieved should have what I will not call a right of appeal, but a second chance of going to somebody else to make his complaint. I understand that the Minister is prepared to repeat that assurance once the power is given which I am seeking to do by the Amendment.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
In Committee I admitted that there was a chance, although I did not admit that the chance was very high, that somebody might be removed from the approved list of suppliers either through inadvertence or for some other reason, and that it would be desirable to make provision for that. The Amendment proposed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Groom-Johnson) helps towards that end. I can give the House an assurance on this matter. I will see that the scheme provides that the two Ministers concerned shall approve all applicants on the recommendation of the Land Fertility Committee and that aggrieved applicants shall have an opportunity of making representations direct to the Minister before he makes any final decision. The scheme would probably say, as a matter of form, that any such representations should be addressed to the Minister of Agriculture, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland, or the Minister of Agiculture for Northern Ireland, as the case might be. I accept the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
§ CLAUSE 4.—(Exchequer grants for defraying land drainage expenses in England and Wales.)
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Georǵe Griffiths
I beg to move, in page 10, line 38, at the end, to insert:Provided that such conditions shall include a condition that the wages paid to persons employed on any drainage scheme for which a grant is made shall be not less than the wages customarily paid by the drainage authority for similar work.After the long-drawn-out legal battle which we have had, I want to bring the House back to the bread-and-butter side of this Bill. Any hon. Member who was in the House on Monday night, or who has read the OFFICIAL REPORT for Monday, was no doubt greatly surprised when he found that the Department of Agriculture, behind the back of the Minister, had issued a circular to the authorities who are to carry out this work next 1411 winter fixing a maximum wage, that maximum wage being the minimum wage of the agricultural worker. That is to be the maximum wage for the people who carry out this drainage work. The Amendment I have moved is to provide not for a maximum wage, but a minimum wage. Certain conditions apply to the authorities who are to carry out this drainage work. We ask that there shall be another condition, that the men who are to do the work shall have at least" sufficient wages to give them sufficient food to give them sufficient strength to perform that work. We are asking that the minimum wage shall be not less than the wages that are customarily paid by the drainage authority for similar work.
The Minister has accepted an Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson), and I do not see why he should not accept this Amendment. If the circular that has been issued is carried out, it will mean that there will be thousands of men doing this work who will receive a wage as low as 33s. 3d. a week. Rent, clothes, food and perhaps some travelling expenses to the place where they work would have to be paid out of that sum. I would like to read that portion of the circular which fixes the maximum wage. It says:The wages paid will be restricted to the local agricultural rates, except in the case of schemes that are in the vicinity of big towns or industrial areas where hgher wages are general. In such cases the rate of wages will be that commonly recognised in the district for the type of work involved.But where the schemes are not close to towns or industrial areas, there is a direct instruction here that the wages shall not be more than the agricultural rate. Let me give the House a few of the agricultural wages rates which were fixed on 21st June last and will remain in operation until next year. The Agricultural Wages Board has sanctioned a minimum wage in Derbyshire of 37s. 6d. which represents a rise of 1s.1½ a week. In Lancashire—and there are agricultural and rural districts in Lancashire as well as industrial districts—agricultural wages have been fixed at 34s. 6d. for a week of 54 hours. In Holland in Lincolnshire the agricultural wages for able-bodied people over 21 years of age have been fixed at 33s. a week. Up to 21st June 1412 last it was 32s. Imagine paying that wage to an able-bodied man who is giving of his best to produce the necessities of life. Yet the Minister has acquiesced in a circular which tells the drainage authorities that the people who do this drainage work in Lincolnshire are not to have more than 33s. a week—and I emphasise the fact that that is a maximum in their case and not a minimum.
In Staffordshire agricultural wages have been fixed at 34s. There are industrial areas in that county and in those areas the drainage workers may be paid the rate which is customarily paid there for drainage work but in the rural areas they cannot receive the customary rate for drainage work. They are to be paid no more than the wage of the agricultural worker. In Sussex which is not as industrialised as parts of the North like the West Riding, the minimum wage of the agricultural labourer is 33s. 3d. When this Bill is put into operation next October, the drainage workers in the rural areas of Sussex, which is only just across the fields here from the House of Commons, will get 33s. 3d. a week and not a penny more. The West Riding of Yorkshire is a very big county. It is industrialised, it is urbanised and it is also to some extent ruralised. [An HON. MEMBER: "And paralysed."] Not yet. But in the West Riding on these drainage schemes it will be possible to have two or three different standards of wages for the same work. Round Rotherham, Don Valley, Normanton and the Hemsworth Division, they will be paid the customary wage for drainage work because they are in an urban area, but down Selby way and to the east of Pontefract they will be paid the maximum allowed to agricultural workers. One man in the West Riding may he doing drainage work for £2 10s. in one field while another man in the next field, because he is in a rural area, will be getting only 35s. 6d. The Minister can at least accept this Amendment and agree that these men shall get not less than the customary wage. I hope he will say, "All right, Hemsworth, I accept it."
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkins
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not think that I need traverse the discussion which took place on Monday 1413 night. The Minister of Agriculture has never before found himself in such an undignified and sorry position as he found himself in on Monday. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Simpson) intimated that he was aware of the existence of this circular, and instead of the Minister accepting in good faith what was told him he poured scorn on the representations of my hon. Friend and referred to the speech of my hon. Friend as being a mere figment of the imagination and something which had no existence in fact. I then quoted the exact words from the circular, which quite accidentally came into my hands. It is rather an unsavoury feature of this matter, that if this circular had not accidentally come into the hands of a Member of the Opposition, the House would have passed this Clause, and would never have known that this work was to be carried out under sweated conditions of labour. But by a fortunate accident we were able to bring the matter before the House. After a threat by an hon. Member on the Liberal benches that they would keep the Debate going until the circular was produced, and after the Minister had again said that the circular had no existence in fact, the circular was produced and it was found that it contained this unfair, ungenerous and miserly restriction on the payment of this important work.
These men will be restricted, unless that circular is withdrawn, to the minimum rates obtaining in the rural areas, which provide nothing for travelling expenses and are altogether too low. I have made some inquiries in the last day or so about the rate of pay for this work in some of the Home counties with which I am familiar. In one county the rate is 1s. 1½d. per hour. In another county it is 1s. 2d. That on a 48-hour week gives a weekly wage of 54s. or 56s. If the hours per week are 54 and not 48, that will bring the weekly wage to somewhere in the region of £3. After the Minister had denied the existence of the circular and had then been compelled to admit its existence and to read its terms and conditions to the House—
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I never denied the existence of the circular. Surely the hon. Member would be the last person to misrepresent me. I only said, what was the truth, that I knew nothing of it.
§ Mr. Watkins
If I put the case too strongly, I withdraw, because no case is ever improved by over-statement. The written words contain much, but the tone of voice in which the Minister used those words led us to suppose that he was denying the existence of the circular. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] However, that has all gone by now. The circular does exist, and its ungenerous terms are the facts that we are attacking. Before the Minister interrupted me, I was going to say something that would probably be less displeasing to him than the words to which he objected. He concluded the Debate by saying:I will examine the position again with a desire to see that fair rates of wages are paid to men employed on these works."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1937; col. 962, Vol. 326.]Now we accept that. If the Minister will pay fair rates of wages, it will meet our case, but we claim that the fair rates of wages can only be, in the words of the Amendment:not less than the wages customarily paid by the drainage authority for similar work.There is an element of the Fair Wages Clause in this matter, and, as I said on Monday night, I hope the Minister will try not to get a differential between one district and another, so that men who are doing the same work in different parts of the same county, one set of men close to or inside an industrial area and another group of men in a rural area, shall not be paid a different rate of pay. That would be contrary, in my judgment, to all fair treatment. If there is a very small differential, no one will grumble, but the rate of pay for the work ought roughly to be the same, whether it is done in an industrial or in a rural area.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
It does not seem to me that this Amendment will cover the whole of a county, even if it is accepted. It only asks that the wages shall be the wages customarily paid by the drainage authority, but it may be that there are two such authorities in one county, paying different wages, and I am surprised at the mildness of the request in the Amendment. I do not think the Minister denied the existence of the circular, but he said he knew nothing about it, and that seems to be a very bad thing indeed. However, I do not want to deal with that point. I support the Amendment as 1415 perfectly reasonable and, in fact, far more reasonable than I should have expected, because, as I say, I think that under it there can be differentiation in a county. If a drainage authority is paying a certain wage at present for certain specific work, I do not think it ought to be allowed, under a Bill which gives a subsidy, to get off at a cheaper rate than it is already paying for this work. I do not think that a drainage authority receiving a subsidy for specific work ought to be able under the terms of the circular to get the same work done at a cheaper rate than that at which they are getting it done now. The Amendment should be accepted because there should not be a lowering of the customary wages for this work as a result of the passing of the Bill.
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
I should like to emphasise the difficulties which the Minister will create unless he accepts the Amendment. I am a member of the Yorkshire Ouse Catchment Board which operates over the three Ridings, although the West Riding has to foot the bill. If the Minister does not meet us he will place the Yorkshire Ouse Catchment Board in an awkward position seeing that they operate in the East Riding and also in the North Riding. They have 31 internal catchment boards adjacent to the River Dement and the River Ouse, and we are preparing schemes in anticipation of this Bill being passed. We are preparing a scheme for the River Foss which is adjacent to and at times floods the city of York. We shall be able to pay the rate we are at present paying. We have prevented serious floods in other parts of the North and East Ridings. We are getting on with our schemes for internal catchment boards, and we are paying 1s. 3½d. an hour. We cannot pay one man that rate in one district and a few miles away expect another man to work contentedly on the same work at 50 per cent. less wages but with the same outgoings. The Minister's predecessor made our position as difficult as he could, and we expect the present Minister to try and bring a little peace and harmony into our work. We are trying to do a great work and we are doing it under great difficulties. If the Minister cannot see his way to accept the principle of the Amendment, he will make the work of the 1416 Yorkshire Ouse Catchment Board most difficult.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Sir F. Acland
It is difficult to discuss this Amendment without remembering the discussion we had on Monday on what was then an alleged circular and which has proved to be a real circular. That discussion, acrimonious as it was at times, has left no mark on our Statute Book. What we are considering now is an Amendment to the Bill, and it seems to me to be one which cannot be regarded as anything except an ordinary and commonplace direction that reasonable wages should be paid for this sort of work. It is an extraordinarily mild affair. I cannot imagine anything much milder. If, for instance, the drainage authority is the county council, and if the county council has been accustomed to pay for this sort of work the same wages as that received by roadmen, and if, as is sometimes the case, roadmen's wages are only 2s. above the agricultural minimum, they will be entitled under this Amendment to pay the same sort of wage when they resume and intensify drainage work. To accept this Amendment is merely to say that the authorities which get these grants shall not pay less than they normally would do if they were not getting the grants. Nothing could be more reasonable than that, and as the acceptance of the Amendment would bury the hatchet of the controversy we had on Monday to the satisfaction of everybody concerned I hope that it may be accepted.
§ 11.6 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I have listened with great interest to the moderate and temperate speeches in support of this Amendment, and I share the pleasure of the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) that we have escaped from the constitutional intricacies which perplexed us just now into the open fields of Sussex, the West Riding and elsewhere. In regard to the actual Amendment, the question before us is one of administration, and, so far as I know, matters of this kind, involving the administration of drainage expenditure, have not appeared in previous drainage Acts. I have been at some pains to look into the history of previous Circulars. Those Circulars have a long lineage. They go back to 1921 and have been issued by successive Governments since that date 1417 and under various measures for drainage, including the Land Drainage Act, 1930.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I do not think that is very material to the point, because they are Circulars which govern the rate of wages in the various districts, and that is the point of the hon. Member's Amendment. What I meant to point out is that in no case have directions of this kind been put into an Act of Parliament, and the procedure has invariably been by means of Circulars. I will not weary the House by reading extracts from a pile of Circulars, but, broadly speaking, the principle laid down in this Circular which has caused a certain amount of criticism, not to say abuse, is the same principle which has been contained in all the Circulars from 1921 onwards, including the Circular issued by the party opposite when they were in office in 1924 and again in 1929.
§ Mr. Silverman
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Circular of which the Minister of Agriculture said the other night that he had never heard is a type of circular which has been repeatedly issued over the last 16 years?
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I did not want to weary the House with these Circulars, but since the hon. Member for Rochdale mentions the point, I will quote from the Circular of 25th June, 1924, one for which the Government of his party was responsible. It says:The weekly earnings of an unskilled worker for a week's work shall not be less than the weekly earnings of unskilled agricultural labourers as fixed by the Conciliation Committee.It goes on to say:The pay for an unskilled worker shall be a guaranteed minimum wage of not less than £1.At that time conciliation committees were in existence for agricultural wages, because the Agricultural Wages Act was not then in operation. It would have been impossible for the Government of that day to lay down a minimum wage, so 1418 what they did was to lay down that the work must not be at less than that for unskilled labour as fixed by the conciliation committee for the district in which the work was to be done.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Those which were in existence before the Agricultural Wages Act came into existence. If the hon. Gentlemen wish me to go further into this Circular I can do so, but perhaps they will take it from me that, broadly speaking, the principle laid down there, and the similar principle in the 1921 Circular has ever since governed the issue of these instructions to local authorities by all parties.
§ Miss Wilkinson
If this Circular of 1924 refers to unskilled workers, it is to the unskilled workers of the district. That is a very different thing from saying that an unskilled worker might be governed by any conciliation boards, or trade boards or trade union agreements. Surely it must be agricultural, which is the lowest of the unskilled worker.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I do not think that the hon. Lady has quite appreciated what this much-criticised circular says. It says that wages paid shall be restricted to local agricultural rates, except in the vicinity of the big towns or industrial areas, where higher rates are general. She will appreciate that it is in rural districts that the policy of this circular is applied. This is based on previous circulars and merely follows the policy of the Government ever since. As regards the industrial areas, and indeed, in the case of which the hon. Member for Hemsworth spoke, where you get workers in the towns, or in Sussex or in the West Riding, the rate of wages would be that commonly recognised in the district for the type of work involved. To come now to the position of the agricultural district itself—
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will repeat it in a minute when I have finished my argument. The object of the Clause is to benefit the land and the labourer. We are faced with a very serious shortage of agricultural labour; whatever the reason may be, we know it is a fact. We also know that agricultural labour is to a very considerable extent seasonal work. There is very little unemployment in the summer; there may be even a shortage of labour; while there is a certain amount of inevitable unemployment in the winter. I think the House will agree that it is a benefit to the agricultural labourer who cannot find employment in the winter because of seasonal conditions, to have an occupation of this kind by him in the rural districts which keeps him in work the whole time. For that reason it seems to me that the circulars and the policy which we have adopted are quite justified, so that we can keep the agricultural worker on the farm and pay him the rates agreed to by the agricultural committee or it may be the wages of the district. The agricultural rate paid is not the minimum; it may be higher than that laid down by the Agricultural Wages Act. I would like the House to appreciate the position in which agriculture finds itself. The object of the Clause is to help the land and the labourer, and I think that in the circumstances it will be found to be reasonable that the proposals of the circular should be carried out.
One difficulty that would arise from the acceptance of this Amendment would be that there might be a large authority covering a very considerable area, including some urban and some rural land, and in such a case, under the terms of the Amendment, there would be a uniform rate right through the whole district. [Interruption.] That is what I read the Amendment to mean. If that be not the intention, then there is really not a great deal beween us. We agree in principle that a standard rate should be paid in urban and industrial areas, and that there should be, in the rural and remoter areas, another rate, according to the agricultural rate prevailing there. If that be the case, I would say to the hon. Member and his Friends that this is a matter purely of administration. I cannot accept the 1420 Amendment because I cannot tell exactly what its effect would be, but I suggest that the hon. Member should not press it, realising that in principle there is not a great deal between us.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply. Two hon. Members below the Gangway have already charged us with modesty, and I must confess that we have tried to provide an Amendment which would be acceptable to the Minister and would not do any injustice. The Minister's last argument was that there might be a large authority covering a wide area of both urban and rural land, and that, if this Amendment were accepted, the same wage would have to be paid both in urban and in rural areas. But Clause 14 does not apply to these drainage authorities at all. The grants under Clause 14 can only be given to small drainage committees other than catchment boards. They are all internal drainage committees operating in a very small, circumscribed area, and the Minister's argument would not apply to them at all. The interpretation given in Section 81 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, excludes absolutely the large drainage boards, and refers exclusively to the smaller drainage committees who alone are referred to in Clause 14. The Amendment does not ask for any maximum, or any guarantees, or anything static apart from the wages customarily paid in the area for this kind of work.
I can conceive of a case in my own Division. There must be a great many local drainage committees operating between Doncaster and the remote parts of my Division, in an area which is largely rural, although in the adjoining mining districts catchment boards are operating. The catchment boards are empowered to pay such wages as they think the peculiarly heavy work calls for, but in an adjoining field where a local drainage committee is operating, under one interpretation of that circular which has been issued they could pay the minimum rate. You may have two persons doing the same work in adjoining fields, one receiving 45s. and the other 33s. a week. It will not bear looking into. I suggested last week that we ought not to talk exclusively in terms of Gloucester or Sussex. We ought to bear in mind the possible reactions in urban and semi-urban areas where these drainage schemes will be 1421 undertaken. I do not think the Amendment calls for a long Debate. It ought to have been accepted almost without a word. I hope the House will not hesitate to register its opinion fairly quickly and I am hopeful that some hon. Members opposite may see not only the modesty but the fairness of the Amendment. The circular, involving agricultural wages in semi-rural areas, will have the effect of turning an urban worker into a rural worker and, for unemployment benefit, it will have the effect of turning him out of one scheme into another, a wholly undesirable thing when the work is of a purely temporary nature. If the Amendment were accepted, I do not think that transfer could or would take place. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to amend the circular and not to be content to go back to 1924 or even 1930. We are living in 1937, and we ought to adopt 1937 policy with regard to employés, whatever the work may be. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not just depend upon a circular issued 17 or even 13 years ago but will do the fair thing, because it is a fair thing.
§ 11.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Acland
I have been equally disappointed with the hon. Member. We have heard something about seasonal work in agriculture. I think the figures of agricultural unemployment insurance show that 5.1 per cent. were unemployed in the depth of winter and 3.5 per cent. to-day, which is not particularly seasonal. I do not think much of a point can be made about that. The main point is that, if the Amendment be defeated, in a county which is now paying 35s. for drainage work and in which the agricultural wage is 33s., the effect of the circular will be to bump the wages down to 35s. if they want the grant, because the drainage is to be restricted to the local agricultural wage in order to qualify for the grant. I think there are several reasons why men on drainage work should be paid rather more than the agricultural wage. There is very similar work being undertaken by Government authority now in which they are paid slightly more. The Forestry Commission pays 36s., or 25. higher than the county rate, whichever is the greater, because when the county rate of 33s. is fixed there will customarily be added to that, certain harvesting bonuses which the Forestry worker 1422 does not get and the drainage worker will not get.
There are two more points. The first is, that the forestry worker and the drainage worker will customarily have to travel a good deal further to their place of employment than the agricultural worker, and even in these days there are still certain advantages, whether small concessions of land or gifts in kind from an employer, which a good many of our agricultural workers receive, but which the forestry workers do not receive and the drainage workers will not receive. Therefore, there is no reason why the county rate of wages for drainage workers should be bumped down to the agricultural wage. And there is a bigger question than this. Does the Minister want this work to be done or not? Because, really, in a matter of this kind, the Government may propose, but, thank Heaven, there are workmen who in the last resort are able to dispose of this matter. There is an acute shortage of agricultural labour just now. Is the Minister going to get the men at the rates which his circular lays down? It will not be a matter of taking on men for a week or two in the wet weather when they are turned off the farm. There is not much of that turning off on the farm in wet weather, but if there were much of it, the Government would not be able to take up men here for two or three weeks' work to do a job of that kind in wet weather; they would have to keep men on for three, six or twelve months at a time. If they limit themselves by the circular and, by defeating the Amendment, restrict it to the agricultural wage, they will not get the men. Therefore, I hope that the Amendment will be accepted.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I did not expect to find a new method adopted by the Government to break through the Fair Wages Clause. This is the endeavour revealed both by the circular and by the statement made from the Front Bench opposite; they are determined to try to help to break through the conditions which have been established for this work. During this week a contractor in the country who heard of the discussion of last Monday night said that, if the circular applied to one of his contracts for drainage in the rural districts, he would be placed in a 1423 happy position as far as the conditions laid down for wages were concerned, though he did not think that he would be in a happy position with regard to the men who were in his service, because he had not one man who would take from him, or to whom he would offer, such low wages as those which would operate. One would imagine from the way it has been put by the Minister in charge that this is agricultural work. This is a piece of civil engineering, and speaking as one who has for many years been a member of the Civil Engineering Conciliation Board, which has set down, in an agreement with the employers, the rates to be paid not only in the large industrial centres referred to, but also in the rural districts throughout the country, this is evidently the time chosen by the Government to smash these rates if they possibly can by the method envisaged in the circular.
At this late hour I am not going to elaborate upon that matter, but I suggest to the Minister that it needs to be said on behalf of the trade unions, who have for years been working to establish these rates, they have set them down and received them in all parts of Great Britain, and now we have a Government who say to employers and employed: "We are issuing a circular and intend to use the power of the Government to force the rates down, by saying that no more shall be paid than the low rates that operate for agricultural workers!" The rates that we shall demand if Contractors do the work are much higher than the rates paid by the drainage boards. This work is done by navvies; it is navvies' work. If you expect these people to work for such rates as those in the mind of the Government, there will be trouble, if the work is engaged upon at all. If the Amendment is accepted it will be something on the way, but where men are organised you will not get the work done even at that rate.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Leach
Some of us believed that when the Minister of Agriculture assumed his present office, a well deserved promotion, at least he would never be guilty of a mean act. On the present occasion he is in serious danger of doing a thoroughly mean thing. When he said the other day that he would consider the 1424 circumstances involved in the circular, we felt that he would really deal with the matter we are now considering, but re-consideration has left him adamant, and he has put up the Minister of Pensions to buttress an exceedingly bad case. I gathered from the Minister of Pensions that he had been examining the circulars of previous Governments, and he gave us some extracts from those circulars. I put a question to him which remained unanswered, and I should like to repeat it. I asked whether in any of those circulars he had discovered any words which would restrict to any given level the wage to be paid. He quoted extracts to show that the wage must not go below a certain standard, but it could go, apparently, as much above as the Board thought fit to pay. That is a very different state of things from that disclosed in the circular. Most boards pay more than the agricultural rates of wages. It would not be right to bring down the rates paid for this important and skilled drainage work—which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) described rightly as civil engineering work—to the level of agriculture, which pays the lowest wages of any industry. Moreover, agricultural labourers are not always able to do this class of work. The engineers concerned with drainage work gather round them a body of men who for the most part are not agricultural workers and who travel with the engineers from district to district. They are, technically, skilled workers engaged in engineering practice. If the circular is to be persisted in you are heading straight for strikes. There will be chaos in this important work. A great many stoppages of work which ought to be performed will follow the operation of the circular.
The circular lays down a rate of wages beyond which the Board must not go. What are the facts?
The agricultural labourer's miserable wage is eked out frequently by a cheap house, a little plot of land and the fact that he has no travelling expenses to meet. None of these advantages will be possessed by this small colony of workers who will follow the engineers on these jobs, and whose work is essential to the performance of these drainage works. They will not be free from travelling expenses, they will not have a cottage at a cheap rent, 1425 or a small plot of land. They will therefore be in receipt of wages considerably below the agricultural minimum standard. The circular makes the stipulation that where the work is not in a rural area the rate of wages paid must be in consonance with the wages paid for similar work in the urban area. Most of this work is in rural areas, hardly any of it is in urban areas, and therefore the circular means that nine-tenths of the men employed will be reduced to this miserable pittance. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture does not wish to do this mean thing. He is better than his circular. I was glad to hear him say that he had no part whatever in the issue of the circular and was in ignorance of its existence. When he promised on Monday last that he would consider the whole matter afresh I felt that in the hands of a gentleman of good will, as I know him to be, the issue would be safe and the right thing would be done. Even at this late hour I make an appeal to him to do something which is at least decent in this matter.
§ 11.39 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
The case for the Amendment has been made by those hon. Members who have spoken but there is one serious aspect of the matter which has not been dealt with, upon which I want to ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude. The Amendment says that an Exchequer grant shall be made only on condition that the customary wages paid by the local authority for similar work are paid. That will determine their right to unemployment benefit. Those who represent an urban and rural area have already had one or two examples of the way in which this is operating. The Minister has quoted for the 1924 circular. There was one fundamental difference between the position then and the position now. Since 1924 the Agricultural Insurance Act has been passed which fixes benefits at a certain standard. People engaged in mining and engineering and the building industry may be called upon when unemployed to do work which they would not do otherwise, and they may be called upon to do drainage work. I want to support the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) when he lays down the principle that this is, and up to now has been looked upon as, civil engineering. Those 1426 of us who are associated with work-people who are organised in unions catering for civil engineers know that up to the present the wages that have been paid have been the wages paid by drainage authorities throughout the country.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to give further consideration to this Amendment, and also to give an undertaking that there will be no reclassification of the applicants for benefit in future if they are called upon to undertake work of this description. In certain areas miners are doing this work, and until recently they have been paid the scale of wages referred to by the hon. Member for Rochdale, and the result is that they have not been reclassified, but owing to this circular being brought to the attention of certain authorities, these unemployed men are now being reclassified when they undertake this sort of work. This raises a very serious issue as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, and I ask the Minister to give an undertaking to the House that, before any Exchequer grants are made, no reclassification of applicants for unemployment benefit shall take place.
§ 11.42 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I will deal first of all with the point raised by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) and the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I quite understand that in mixed areas, where industrial workers may be employed on these schemes, it is a matter of interest to them that their position should be secured and that they should suffer no loss of status as far as unemployment insurance is concerned. I have made inquiries into this, and with regard to the question of unemployment insurance, employment on drainage schemes near industrial centres in which urban unemployed are likely to find work would not be regarded, for the purposes of unemployment insurance, as work in agriculture—
§ Mr. Morrison
—and unemployed persons insurable under the general unemployment insurance scheme would not lose their status by being employed in drainage schemes. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) asked whether urban workers would have the agricultural wage.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If you do not place them in the category of agricultural workers for insurance purposes, why do you place them in the agricultural category for wages?
§ Mr. Morrison
The answer is that we do not. The circular says that in the vicinity of big towns or industrial areas where higher wage rates are general, they are exempted from the agricultural wages. In such cases the rate of wages will be that commonly recognised in the district for the type of work involved. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Sea-ham.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There are two categories. There are drainage workers working in the vicinity of urban areas, and there are drainage workers working in the vicinity of rural areas. Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the two classes?
§ Mr. Morrison
This circular is founded upon the very excellent practice which has been followed by every successive Government, namely, to pay the rate which is regarded as fair in the district.
§ Mr. Morrison
Agricultural wages in agricultural districts, and urban wages in industrial areas, where these workers are employed.
§ Mr. Mathers
One might as well say that a railway clerk in a country district should be paid agricultural wages.
§ Mr. Morrison
Not at all. The other point is this, that in different sorts of work in drainage, the rate appropriate to the character of the work will be paid. Some hon. Members have spoken of aspects of drainage work which approach civil engineering. If skilled work of that character is required, then the rates for skilled work will have to be paid. Otherwise I do not suppose that any drainage authority would find it possible to get the necessary skilled work to enable its duties to be performed.
§ Mr. Morrison
Let me explain why, and I think it will be found that there is very 1428 little between us in this matter as regards intention. I am going to deal with the reason why I cannot accept the Amendment. The reason is that this is a matter of administration and a certain amount of elasticity is required in dealing with these matters.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member wants to delve into the past. I prefer to look to the future and to a fair adjustment for all concerned. But the hon. Member challenges us on the matter and asks whether a restriction of this kind has appeared in past circulars. I dare say it is an ungrateful task to go into these matters, but in answer to the hon. Member, and also to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) who referred to navvy work and piece work, I must recall the circular issued on 25th June, 1924. First, it says:weekly earnings of unskilled workmen must not be less than the weekly earnings of unskilled agricultural labourers, as fixed by the conciliation committees"—The House will recollect that those committees were the predecessors of the present committees, and had not statutory authority—or if no rate has been so fixed, the rate generally paid for unskilled work in the locality. This rate should be inserted in the application form and thereafter the rate as shown in that form and as approved by the Ministry must not be increased without the express sanction of the Ministry. In no case can payments of navvy fates or piece-work rates be entertained, but where it is found necessary to employ skilled craftsmen such as carpenters, foremen and gangers, such men, if properly qualified, may be paid at the ordinary rates applicable to their particular class.Is that any different?
§ Mr. Morrison
Let us deal with one point at a time. When this circular of 1924 was issued there was no statutory wage. There were, in some districts, conciliation committees at work, and the circular very properly said that these men should be paid the wage agreed to 1429 by the conciliation committees the modern equivalent of which is the wage fixed by the county agricultural committees. So it is exactly the same thing.
§ Mr. Morrison
I assure the hon. Member that he is misinformed. There were conciliation committees for agricultural wages in a number of districts.
§ Mr. Morrison
The point I wish the House to understand is that it is a misapprehension to think that what we have referred to in the circular is necessarily the minimum agricultural wage. Many denunciations of the circular have proceeded upon that basis, but what we have referred to in the circular is the local agricultural rate and not the minimum wage. What the circular says is that the authority is to pay the local rate for the district whether the district be agricultural or industrial.
§ Mr. MacLaren
But does not the Minister appreciate the unfortunate use of the words "restricted to"?
§ Mr. Morrison
No one is going to quarrel over a word. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Successive Governments have found it necessary, in handling public money, to make proper stipulations with regard to the wages paid. For that reason I venture to suggest that we are doing nothing different from what has always been done. If hon. Members care to shelter behind a word they can, but I do not think that there is anything in it. The hon. Member for Don Valley seemed to think that we were proceeding on a basis which was not a true one when we talked about rural areas and industrial areas both being concerned. There are some of these internal drainage board areas which do include an industrial as well as an agricultural population and where the wage paid is 44s. a week. If we accepted this Amendment there would be placed on us an undue degree of restriction in varying easily and quickly the wage rates in the area to the fair rate for 1430 the district. This matter has been adequately discussed, and, for my part, I think that we are doing the right thing for the future in asking that the House will let the Clause remain as it stands.
§ 11.51 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLaren
The Minister said that he did not wish to be restricted, but wanted a certain measure of elasticity. One can appreciate that, but a contrast immediately jumps to one's mind. The Minister wants elasticity and no restriction, but I submit to him that in his circular he wants restriction on the wages to be paid for this drainage work. I have been wondering, Mr. Speaker, if a point should not be addressed to you here, because it must be difficult for you to decide when we are out of order and when we are in order. We are discussing a circular. One wonders where we are going with these so-called circulars which grant a Minister full elasticity and do not hedge him about with the written law. This is evidence to-night that there is a dangerous practice arising here, because at one moment we are discussing the contents of a Clause and at the next a circular which cannot be enforced at law.
I am an engineer and the best time to do drainage work and engineering work in the open is the summer-time; and one cannot help noticing the way in which this circular has been drawn. The very worst time to undertake engineering work in the open is the winter-time, and this circular stipulates that this work shall be carried on in the winter-time. If there were no complaint about wages, there is a definite complaint here. The other day when we were discussing the circular it was hinted that, owing to the fact that the agricultural worker will not be working in the winter, his labour will be exploited in the bitter cold fields on this drainage work. I hear someone laughing. Has he ever tried it? Perhaps that is why his mental apparatus has not yet thawed out. I complain about the restrictions contained in this circular and about the general practice of issuing these circulars. I am sure that when it was first hinted at, the Minister was innocent of this circular, and when he asked the House to advance to him a certain amount of time until he could find out what were the contents of this circular, the House freely accepted that, and hoped that when he had acquainted 1431 himself with this mysterious circular he would have same humane views about it.
I am astonished to find that even the Minister of Agriculture seems to be afraid of the iron hand of the bureaucrat in the office. It seems as if an inviolable fiat had gone forth in this circular and that nothing which this House can say is going to alter it. Politics apart, the right of this House should be considered. Are we to sit here solemnly discussing Bills and formulating Amendments and making Acts of Parliament only to find that what we have passed can be overridden by some private circular from a Department? Another thing I want to say as an engineer. You may get the rough navvy work on these schemes done in this way, but it will be impossible to get proper concrete and machine constructions done merely by some handymen and labourers. I do not know how the genius who drew up this circular came to think that an ordinary labourer's wage should be determined by geographical situation. That is a heritage of the old idea that the men who work in the countryside should receive less than anybody else.
Last but not least there is this fact. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) not one or twice in this House has hinted that the encouragement of these new development schemes in the countryside is dangerous, because they tend to divert men from the lower paid agricultural work to higher-paid work. I wonder whether this is not a new "Statute of Labourers." Everybody feels that there is going to be a dearth of labour and therefore a circular is issued to restrict labourers' pay to the agricultural wages prevalent at the time. I regret having to speak on this matter as I am speaking, but there is more involved in this than this Bill. There is the right of the House to know what it is enacting and how far its enactments are governed by circulars issued from departments. Our enactments and those circulars seem to have the same force and the same importance judging from what we have heard in this Debate. This is not the full-blooded Amendment I would like to see. I think it ought to be more drastic in its terms, but, as it is, I thought it would have commended itself to the Minister and I shall vote for it.
§ 11.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of Order. I would like your guidance. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on a point arising out of the first part of Clause 14 which lays down that certain moneys are to be provided by Parliament towards the expenditure incurred by drainage authorities. It appears to me that this provision is conditioned by words in the circular, the contents of which are not before the House. Should not the conditions which relate to the payment of wages by drainage authorities be placed in the Schedule inasmuch as the wages are closely associated with the provision of money by Parliament?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member said he was putting something to me as a point of Order, but I do not think that any point of Order arises. I am not really quite clear what his question to me is. I thought at first that he was raising the question whether, as another hon. Member put it, this Bill after it becomes an Act could be governed by some circular issued by a Government Department. The answer is clear—no Government Department can over-ride an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the course of the discussion the question has arisen about the contents of a particular circular, and it now appears that a definite instruction has been issued to drainage authorities, who are to receive money provided by Parliament, that wages are not to exceed a certain amount. The point I am putting is whether the conditions applicable to the wages to be paid ought not to be embodied in the Schedule.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There is certainly no way that I can think of by which the Chair can rule that anything of the kind should be contained in the Bill.
§ Mr. Silverman
Further to that point of Order. If, in fact. the circular is not before the House, and if, nevertheless, the Minister has defended the policy of the circular, and has, indeed, stated that it has been the policy of various Governments for the past 16 years, and has inferred that when the Bill becomes an Act it will be interpreted in accordance with the circular, then surely the proper way of dealing with the matter is by stating in the Schedule the conditions on which the subsidy is to be paid?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member has raised a subject which is not a point of Order. He may have his own opinion how a Bill should be drawn, and I may have mine and the Government theirs, but that does not mean that we can always expect Bills to be drawn in the way in which we should like.
§ 12.5 a.m.
The Minister of Agriculture, in opposing this Amendment, made use of the fact that there was a circular in 1924 in which the conditions for the payment of agricultural labourers were laid down if they did drainage work. He is suggesting that what was good enough in 1924 is good enough to-day. That is an inappropriate argument for the Minister to use. The salary of the Minister in 1924 was much less than what it will be in a short time. The Minister is arguing that what was good enough in 1924 for agricultural workers is good enough now. I wonder whether, when he is offered his £5,000, he will put up to the Prime Minister the same argument—that a salary which was good enough for the Minister of Agriculture in 1924 should be good enough now? If it is good enough for the agricultural worker it ought to be good enough for the Minister of Agriculture. This House has agreed that in the case of Ministers there ought not to be disparities in salaries, that for the same work there ought to be the same salary, and all we ask in this Amendment is that an agricultural worker who is asked to do drainage work shall be paid the rate of wages of the district for drainage work. Is that asking too much? Apparently the Minister thinks so. Though he will accept the prescribed rate for Cabinet Ministers, not a penny less, he is not prepared to apply that principle to others. That is particularly mean, seeing that the whole purpose of this Bill is to help the farming community.
Members who represent the farming community say that they are poverty stricken, and they are asking for help from the public purse and getting it. I have heard some of them say, to their credit, when asking for help for themselves that the agricultural labourer is equally badly off, and that they would like him to get more. Now that they are getting this subsidy from the public purse, they ought to have the decency to see 1434 that the agricultural labourer, who does the work, has his share of it, but instead they argue that if he is asked to do drainage work, which ordinarily is paid for at a higher rate than agricultural work, he must still be content to take the lower rate of pay of agricultural workers. In other words, the agricultural worker is not to get a penny of benefit. I am surprised that farmers and landlords, after taking millions out of the public purse, should be so despicably mean as to go into the Lobby against this Amendment.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Apart from what has been said so far I should like to put this point to the Minister. Briefly his case is that skilled workers—carpenters, engineers and the rest—shall all be paid the skilled workers' rate of wages, and we are agreed about that, and therefore the only question at issue is the pay of the unskilled workers, in the agricultural areas, because in urban areas the point may not arise. The skilled worker, the highly paid man, is to be paid the urban rate but the lower paid man is to be paid the agricultural workers' rate. Therefore, on the same job there will be men working under these conditions: the higher paid men will have their high wages maintained, while the pay of the unskilled workers is to be governed by agricultural rates of wages. Can anybody defend that? As well suggest that on some building work in an agricultural district in connection with the Government's defence programme the skilled bricklayer should get the rate of pay of bricklayers in the towns and the labourer who assists him should get the agricultural workers' rate of pay. A man who happens to be classified as unskilled—not that he is necessarily unskilled—is to be dubbed an agricultural worker and paid as such but the man who is in what is classified as a skilled trade is not to be governed by agricultural wages. There is neither sense nor reason in that.
The Minister's defence defence is that this is what was done in 1924. I thought that method of argument was played out—searching for something done in 1924 to justify what is to be done in 1937. To justify it he had to go 13 years back. Why should not the agricultural labourer be paid the proper drainage workers' rate? Would any hon. Member not do 1435 this in his business or his ordinary industrial relations? In an engineering works situated in an agricultural area as many of them are, the labourers are treated as engineering labourers and not as agricultural labourers. In this case, the unskilled labourers ought to be paid as labourers to the skilled men engaged on the work. The Minister said that public funds had to be safeguarded, but that is already done in the Fair Wages Clause. As has already been said, this is a device, because the Government are afraid that, if they paid higher wages on the drainage work, farmers might have to pay some kind of additional wage. That is not the reason given by the Minister, but if he would get up at that Box and say: "We have to pay a sweated wage on drainage work because a sweated wage is paid on agricultural work, that would be a proper defence, and we should see that it was known to the people of the country. It would have some kind of reason in it, but the defence given by the Minister to-night does credit neither to his intelligence nor to his reason. The present position is in-defensible. If this were an assembly where we did things by reason and on the facts as we find them, as we do in business, instead of voting under Government Whips and being told how to vote, the overwhelming number of the House would vote for the Amendment, which has been purposely made moderate in order to appeal to the other side. This Amendment should be carried, because it has fairness and logic behind it.
§ 12.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I invite the attention of the House to the way in which the importance of the discussion has shifted from the particular thing sought to be enacted to the way in which the legislation now being prepared is offered to the House. The Lord Chief justice wrote a book called "The New Despotism." It looks as if the Minister of Agriculture is writing an appendix to that book. One would like to know on whose authority this circular was published which apparently is to govern the interpretation of whatever the House enacts in the present Measure. It was impossible to press this point with any force the other night, because the Minister told the House that he had no knowledge that this circular, which apparently had gone out in his name and 1436 with his authority, existed at all; and yet it is the very basis on which he invites the House to reject this Amendment. He says that this is the same policy that has been pursued by previous Governments, but I suggest that that is not so in the least. The circulars of 1924 which he quoted were, if I understand them correctly, circulars designed to guarantee to the man employed that his wages should not fall below a certain rate, whereas the circular we are now discussing is designed for the very opposite purpose, namely, that the wages shall not rise above that limit. When the two things are so divergent as that, it is idle for the Minister to say that the policy of the present circular is justified by the policy of the circular of 1924.
The main point, however, is that the House is being invited to legislate in general terms knowing that whatever it enacts will be subject to whittling down and interpretation and restriction by some departmental authority which issues circulars in the name of the Minister of Agriculture when the Minister does not know that any such circular exists. It seems to me that that is a matter on which the House would be entitled to ask that the whole Debate should be adjourned so that the matter might be reconsidered. Orders-in-Council are well enough, and in many people's opinion are valuable. At any rate they are published and are laid on the Table of the House; we know about them, they can be discussed, and we know who takes responsibility for them. But when it comes to a circular or some kind of leaflet, issued by the Department without the knowledge of the Minister but nevertheless having a greater force of law than the enactments of the House itself, we are reaching a state of affairs of which the House ought to take note, and which Members of the House, whatever they may think about the merits of the particular enactment, ought to regard as a very serious infringement of the democratic rights of the House in times when democracy is in sufficient danger already.
§ 12.19 a.m.
§ Mr. Broad
The position here is that a circular is issued from a Government Department, without being disclosed to Members of this House, to one side of those concerned, namely, the employers. In case there should be some opposition from their point of view, they are told that it is quite all right, that the circular 1437 will be used to bring wages down; and the representatives of the trade unions are in total ignorance of it. The point on which I challenged the Minister, and which he evaded, not doing justice either to himself or to the understanding and intelligence of the House, was this: He pretended that the circulars issued by the Department after the Acts of 1924 and 1929 were similar in their purpose and intent to the circular which has been issued on his behalf. It is quite the contrary. Those circulars stated that wages must not be below a certain level. The circular issued by the bureaucrats says the wages must not be more than a certain amount. They can be anything less, but they must not be more. The wage is not one recognised by employers and workmen's organisations for that class of work either in urban or rural districts. We have passed many Bills to improve the standard of life of the workers, and even this Government has done something in that direction, but the right hon. Gentleman is the first Minister who has put into a Bill that, instead of improving the standard of any grade of workers certain classes are to be degraded to the lowest standard of wages paid in the country.
I know that in the countryside the farmers are very concerned if a man employed on the roads gets a shilling or two more than those who work on the farms. They are jealous about it. The man who works in a water-logged area, cleaning out ditches, rotting his clothes and boots, with nothing extra for injury to health, racked with rheumatism in a short time, working up to his knees in water, unless the Clause is amended, is to be paid not a penny more than the ordinary agricultural worker for that arduous, dangerous and unpleasant work. I hope the Minister will realise that the Department has issued something of which he would be ashamed, if it were on his own initiative. He may think he is being loyal to his Department. I say he has been betrayed by his Department by issuing this circular in his name without drawing his attention to it, if it is true that they have done it unknown to him. If it had not been for the casual circumstance that one of our Members got hold of that circular we should never have known, and in all probability the Minister would never have known. He may not be the Minister for long. There are such kaleidoscopic changes in the members of 1438 the Government that you never know where to find them. They are here to-day and gone to-morrow. They are Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Agriculture, Secretaries at the Home Office and everything else in turn. The Department have taken advantage of this position. I do not like—and it is the last thing in this House that we ought to have to do—to find fault with the Civil Service. We ought to tackle the Minister, but the Minister has betrayed them into our hands by his confession that he knew nothing about the circular. When his attention was drawn to it, he would not believe that such a circular had been issued. He did not believe it. He doubted the truth of my hon. Friend and thought that it was a cock-and-bull story until the identical words were quoted, and then, after about half-an-hour, he was able to extract it from his Department. If they had been loyal to him they would have produced it right away. The Minister's good nature showed that he would not believe that such a circular was issued, and that he thought it was a garbled version when it was said that something had gone forth. He could not comprehend it.
I ask him now to return to his first better nature and accept this Amendment, which carries out the principle which has been applied to all Governments for 40 years, that where Government money, Government contracts and that sort of thing are concerned—and even now Acts of Parliament do provide for the Fair Wages Clause—where the community is finding money for contracts or grants-in-aid for any particular kind of work, the Government should insist, as the first consideration, that it should be an obligation upon those who are to get the benefit of the money—in this case the farmers—to see that the wages to be paid are the just and fair wages fixed by representative bodies of workers and employers, or, if no such wages have been fixed, that they shall be the wages usually paid for the particular class of work in the district. If he would accept that we would know that the wage to be paid for drainage work in the countryside and in rural areas would not be the agricultural wage. The workers should be paid more for work of this nature than the agricultural wage. And yet the Minister has held himself to be bound down to the Regulation that the wage in 1439 no case shall be more in the rural areas than the lowest Statute wage of the agricultural worker. The people who seek to place everything upon the workers will defeat their own object. What will become of our agriculture if those who cannot help themselves are left in the countryside to do the work themselves? Pay a decent wage on which a man can maintain his physical strength and do a full day's work with a stout heart, and eventually you will make agriculture pay, because he and the rest of the workers will be prepared to do all that is necessary to see that well-conducted agriculture is not run at a loss in this country. It will have this effect. In the villages and small towns I find this position. Around me I see a number of men who lack spirit and who are thin and drawn because the wages paid by the farmers in the countryside do not allow them to obtain sufficient sustenance to keep them fit for work.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I want to say a word or two about the extraordinary idea of legislation by circular. Departmental legislation by Orders in Council, properly considered and having legal validity may be either a necessary evil or a necessary good; at any rate, they are obviously necessary and cannot be avoided. But when the
§ Minister issues circulars directing this or that, it cannot be too widely known that they have not the faintest legal validity unless the Statute gives the Minister the right to do it by circular. If the Statute does not give him any such right, the circular is clearly nothing better than waste paper, and any agricultural worker who has £400 or £500 to spare can get that fact easily demonstrated in the courts. With a circular of this kind regarding drainage work, he cannot even do that because there intervenes between him and his moral rights the fortune or misfortune that his actual right to wages rests on a contract of service, and if the Minister has wrongly, or rightly, said to whoever the employing body is "Do not pay this man more than a sweated wage or I shall get my skull broken by a meeting of indignant farmers," he has no redress even if he has £400 or £500 with which to go to the courts. When we find at an earlier stage of the Debate on this matter the Minister defending this on the ground that it has been the practice in the past to issue such circulars, we are really getting to a monstrous system of introducing a fair wages prevention Clause.
§ Question put, "That these words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 89; Noes, 191.1441
|Division No. 291.]||AYES.||[12.32 a.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Harvey, T.E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Ritson, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hayday, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rowson, G.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Batey, J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Holdsworth, H.||Silkin, L.|
|Bromfield, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dalton, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dobbie, W.||Logan, D. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lunn, W.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Westwood, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||MacLaren, A.||White, H. Graham|
|Frankel, D.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Marshall, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Maxton, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Mr. Paling and Mr. Mathers.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fleming, E. L.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Munro, P.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Furness, S. N.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Assheton, R.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gluckstein, L. H.||Peake, O.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Goldie, N. B.||Peat, C. U.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Petherick, M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Grimston, R. V.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Guy, J. C. M.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Bull, B. B.||Hannah, I. C.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Burghley, Lord||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Harbord, A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Cary, R. A.||Hepworth, J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Cayzer, Sir G. W. (City of Chester)||Higgs, W. F.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Holmes, J. S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Scott, Lord William|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hulbert, N. J.||Selley, H. R.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hunter, T.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith. S.)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cox, H. B. T.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Soutby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Kimball, L.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Latham, Sir P.||Spens, W. P.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Cross, R. H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Levy, T.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Liddall, W. S.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Loftus, P. C.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lyons, A. M.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Doland, G. F.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Turton, R. H.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Drewe, C.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Magnay, T.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Maitland, A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Markham, S. F.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Edge, Sir W.||Marsden, Commander A.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Errington E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Everard, W. L.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-.-Col. J. T. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Morgan, R. H.||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Captain|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Waterhouse.|
Resolution agreed to.
§ CLAUSE 18.—(Veterinary inspectors.)
§ 12.41 a.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I beg to move, in page 12, line 29, after "may," to insert "by order."
This Amendment should be read in conjunction with the next Amendment on the Order Paper: In page 12, line 34, at the end, insert:(5) Every order made by the Minister under this section prescribing fees to be 1442 charged by the Minister shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either House of Parliament within the next twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such order is laid before it resolves that the order be annulled, it shall forthwith be void, but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder.I can put this matter very shortly. By Sub-section (4) the Minister is empowered to charge fees to local authorities. I propose that that should be done by order, 1443 and that the order should be laid before Parliament and subject to annulment by either House in the usual space of 28 days. In this Clause the effect, I think, will be that veterinary inspectors who are now in the service of local authorities are going to be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. The local authorities, of course, will still be required to discharge their various functions in relation to public health, and they will still need the services of veterinary inspectors for these purposes. I do not say that they will be compelled to borrow the services of the inspectors supplied by the Ministry or compelled to fall in with the arrangements that may be made under Subsection (3) by the Minister, but in fact it will be very difficult for them not to use the services of those inspectors when they are offered. In that position, finding that they must use these inspectors, the Minister is then empowered by Subsection (4) to charge such fees as he may choose subject to the approval of the Treasury. The only point I want to make is that really this matter should not be left to the sole discretion of the Minister subject to the Treasury approval, but that when in effect we give to a Department power to impose a form of charge, at any rate that ought to be laid before this House, and this House should have the opportunity of disapproving the scale of fees that are offered as being too high or too low.
§ 12.44 a.m.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) is not quite correct in talking of imposing a charge. These fees would become payable only if the local authority wished to engage the services from time to time, on comparatively few occasions, of the veterinary inspectors. He is quite right in saying that the formal functions of the local authorities are confined to public health, but it may occasionally happen that a local authority wishes to call in the services of a veterinary inspector, for instance in connection with the inspection of meat. That is purely in the option of the local authority, and I think it is reasonable that fees should be charged for veterinary services placed at their disposal should occasion arise to utilise 1444 those services. When they do so it is quite reasonable to charge a small fee. I would suggest that it would be very undesirable, if you are charging a local authority, say, 2s. 6d. or 10s. for the services of an inspector, that an order should have to be laid before Parliament. It is purely a matter for the local authorities and their convenience, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment.
§ CLAUSE 21.—(Extension of Powers of Minister as to slaughter.)
§ 12.46 a.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I beg to move, in page 14, line 25, to leave out "laid down," and to insert "done."
This is purely a drafting Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
§ CLAUSE 22.—(Eradication areas and attested areas.)
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I beg to move, in page 14, line 33, to leave out "the."
This Amendment and the three succeeding Amendments are purely verbal and drafting.
Amendment agreed to.
§ CLAUSE 25.—(Superannuation rights of veterinary inspectors.)
§ Amendments made:
§ In page 16, line 36, after "the" insert "inspector's." Leave out "of such inspector."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
§ CLAUSE 31.—(Interpretation.)
§ Amendment made: In page 21, line 20, leave out "and," and insert "or."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
§ 12.47 a.m.
I beg to move, in page 21, line 30, after the second "supplier" to insert "or wholesaler."
I understand from the Minister that he is cognisant of what I want to raise on this point, and there is no need to state the point at length. The position we are anxious about is in connection with farmers' organisations, which have for very long years been used to arranging the supplies of their members in practically wholesale fashion, and what is required is that they should not, by the 1445 wording of this interpretation, be excepted from continuing this type of business, or from federating for that purpose. I should be glad if the Minister might give us that necessary assurance.
§ 12.48 a.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
The word "supplier" as used in the Bill is the widest term we can find, and it includes producers and distributors of all kinds, so that any organisation which distributes lime or slag either wholesale or retail will be a supplier for the purposes of the Bill, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is the intention to provide for the inclusion of merchants of the kind he has in view. These perform very useful services, particularly in supplying the small traders in some cases who operate on a retail basis. They will, of course, like other suppliers, be required to observe the conditions, but, subject to that, they will be on exactly the same footing as all other suppliers. The Amendment is not desirable, because to mention wholesaler would detract from the generality of "supplier," and you would have to mention distributor, manufacturer, and so on.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 12.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Croom-Johnson
I beg to move, in page 21, line 32, to leave out from "Scheme" to the end of line 33.
This Amendment is really consequential on the one I moved earlier. It is purely a definition Clause. The words I proposed to leave out have been caught up and put in Clause 3 (1, a).
§ Mr. Morrison
This Amendment is consequential on one which I accepted at an earlier stage of our proceedings to-night and I beg to accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill to be read the Third time Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 200.]