HC Deb 07 April 1938 vol 334 cc557-81

Any person registered under a marketing scheme who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provisions of the scheme shall for each such contravention or failure be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.—[Mr. Foot.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.59 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In order to understand the purpose of this new Clause it is necessary that hon. Members should turn to Clause 12. They will see that Clause 12 reads: Any marketing scheme may provide for the following matters.… (c) for requiring the board to impose on, and to recover from, any person registered under the scheme who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of the scheme, such monetary penalties as may be specified in the scheme. There is a similar provision in Clause 19 with regard to the co-operative schemes that may be set up in various parts of the country. In other words, this is a provision similar to that which is already contained in the Agricultural Marketing Acts. The Marketing Board under this Bill is to be empowered to impose penalties for contravention of the scheme. I am not sure that hon. Members who have not come in contact with these things quite realise what is happening now under the Agricultural Marketing Acts. Take the example of the Milk Board. I am not saying anything against the fairness of the members of that board when they discharge these functions. I have no doubt that they exercise their right to impose penalties with every desire to be fair and to do substantial justice, but I would remind the House of what happens on these occasions. The board sits in London and it imposes very heavy fines indeed on producers and on producer-retailers. What happens is that a producer in some distant part of the country receives a letter telling him he is charged with some breach of the scheme and summoning him to appear after very short notice before the board. If he does not appear he is dealt with in his absence and a fine is imposed. I am not suggesting that the board wishes in any way to be unfair, for I am sure that that is not the case. But there are two points that I would bring to the notice of hon. Members.

Under this procedure, first, the ordinary rules of evidence do not apply. The board sits in London and only in London, and it is from that fact that the hardship arises. After all, when we are dealing in this country with the administration of justice we are at the very greatest pains to bring justice as near as we can to the doors of the people themselves. We have a whole complicated system of sending judges on assize to the various counties, of quarter sessions and county courts, and of police courts in every district in England. In Scotland we have a system of sheriffs and sheriff-substitutes sitting in every centre of any size, because we have always recognised that it is a very great hardship if a man cannot obtain justice in his own county, or if possible in his own district. If a charge is brought against him he is entitled to have it heard and to make his defence in that part of the country in which he happens to live. For instance, the other day when we were dealing with the new divorce legislation it was pointed out by hon. Members what a considerable hardship it was if, under the rules as they stood, defended cases could not be taken on circuit. But under the Agricultural Marketing Acts you have a board which sits in London and which does not attempt to meet the convenience of the people who are charged with breaches of the scheme by sitting anywhere else. Therefore it may be the case, and it is the case, that you will have milk producers from as far afield as Devon or Northumberland who will have to come and appear, if they want to appear at all, before a board which sits a few yards from this House.

Under this Bill a similar scheme is being proposed for the fishing industry. As I follow it, the scheme might include the whole of the United Kingdom. That is to say, if the procedure follows the lines of the Agricultural Marketing Act scheme, as presumably it will do, the Board is to sit in London to impose penalties on fishermen in every part of the country. The offence may be comparatively trivial; it may be simply some breach of those provisions of the scheme which deal with the way in which fish is to be sold or exposed for sale by fishermen hundreds of miles away, it may be in Newlyn or Polperro or in the far north of Scotland. A fisherman in one of these places may find that at few days' notice he is called upon to appear before a Board which is sitting in London. Of course from the nature of his calling it will be impossible in some cases for him to appear, but even if he is not at sea of course the expense in a great many cases will absolutely prohibit the fisherman from being there to make his own defence. Even under the Agricultural Marketing scheme people from distant parts of the country are sometimes not represented and are not present to make their own defence simply because the expense of coming to London is too great. Even supposing you have the situation that a man has to come to London in order to appear before the Board, and supposing there is no foundation for the charge and that the Board decides that there has in fact been no contravention of the scheme, if the scheme is to follow the lines of the Agricultural Marketing scheme there will be no power to give that man any expenses or costs. He will have to bear the burden of coming to London, and it may be of bringing witnesses to London, in order to meet a charge which proves to be wholly unfounded.

There is one other objection to the procedure proposed in the Bill. It will be observed that in Clause 12, paragraph (c), there is a reference to Such monetary penalties as may be specified in the scheme. I must say that this appears to me to be rather a glaring example of the kind of legislation which is continually being thrown at us nowadays. This House used to be very jealous of conferring upon anyone the power to impose penalties, but now it is going to be left to the people who draw up this scheme and the Minister who confirms the scheme to decide what penalty shall be imposed. I shall no doubt be told that before the scheme can become law it has to be placed before both Houses of Parliament and receive affirmative assent. That is quite true. But, of course, as we all know, these schemes come before us as a whole; we can only accept or reject them outright, and it is impossible for any detail of them to be amended. When the scheme comes before us, even if the House is of opinion, as it may be, that the penalties proposed are out of all proportion to the offences with which they are to deal, nevertheless the House will in effect be quite powerless to alter the penalties.

In my new Clause I propose to substitute for the procedure which we have had under the Agricultural Marketing Acts a reference to the courts of summary jurisdiction. I am not always an admirer of the way in which these tribunals do their work, but for this purpose they have two advantages. In the first place their proceedings are governed by the ordinary rules of evidence. Hearsay evidence is not permitted as it is before a marketing board. Secondly, these courts are close at hand to the people concerned. You may have the difficulty that a man appears before a board in London and he does not know the particulars of the charge that he has to meet. All that he gets is a letter telling him he is charged with a certain contravention of the scheme at a certain time. There is no definition; he is not given any information to show the precise nature of the charge. Suppose that as the inquiry proceeds certain allegations are made by the inspector or official, and in order to answer them it is necessary that he should call, in the case of a fisherman, some member of his crew, or in the case of a fishmonger an assistant or some one of that kind, it would be a perfectly simple matter in a court of summary jurisdiction sitting in the man's own district, but such a thing will be clearly impossible if a man has come to London from somewhere in Cornwall or other distant part of the country. Under the procedure adopted here it is quite impossible for a man who is brought before the board to know the precise details of the charge he has to meet or what witnesses he is likely to need.

Therefore, although what I suggest may not be the ideal procedure, at any rate it is greatly preferable to that which is now carried out under the Agricultural Marketing Acts and that which it is presumably intended to adopt under this Bill. I make no sort of apology for taking a certain amount of time in bringing this question forward. It seems to me to be a very important matter and a matter of elementary justice. We spent a good deal of time recently in passing law reform Acts, and even in the last day or two there has come from another place another Bill dealing with law reform. These various Measures are all designed to make the administration of justice more efficient, cheaper and more easily accessible. Yet at the same time we are abandoning all our ideas as to the ordinary canons of justice when we deal with marketing boards. A marketing board has power to impose these very considerable penalties—penalties greatly in excess of those which are ordinarily imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction, penalties which very often in the case of the Agricultural Marketing Board run well into three figures, penalties which in some cases are absolutely ruinous for the small producer-retailer. It is now proposed that we shall have a similar system for the fishing industry. I hope that either the Minister will be able to accept my new Clause or give us some assurance that the system which has been maintained in regard to agricultural marketing is not going to be applied to the fishing industry.

Mr. Graham White

I beg to second the Motion.

4.13 p.m.

Mr. Beechman

I would like, in a very few words, to support what has been so forcibly said. It seems to me to raise a question of fundamental importance, both in relation to justice and in relation to the liberty of the subject. I would like to add to what has been said that in the case of this Board you have a tribunal that is not only judge but prosecutor at the same time. That is a system which is absolutely alien to our notions of justice and it should not be allowed to continue any further. We have a chance now of calling a halt to this very sad process. I would like to reinforce what has been said in regard to the terrible hardship inflicted on poor people who are supposed to come from these small ports and fishing villages in Cornwall all the way to London, if they are to be heard at all. If they do not come they are fined, and very many of them perhaps, intelligent as they are, are not what is called good scholars and are unable even to write a letter explaining their case.

This is a matter which, I feel, this House must take into consideration very seriously indeed if hardship is to be avoided and if this scheme is to be a success, because this injustice is so serious that, if it continues, it will be a danger to the scheme as a whole. It will bring the whole scheme into disrepute and will prevent us from organising our industries in the way that we now feel we ought to do. It seems to me that our part, in these times of transition, is to insist upon such organisation as is necessary and, at the same time, to make sure that we preserve our liberties.

4.16 p.m.

Sir Stafford Cripps

I am not very familiar with the terms of this Bill, but I am fairly familiar with the sort of subject matter with which this new Clause deals, and I should like to add my word in order to press upon the Minister acceptance of this new Clause. It is always a very dangerous thing to give administrative bodies of this sort the right to fine people under their jurisdiction, and if that is to be done at all, it should only be done with the very greatest safeguards and only in particular cases. Where you have an administrative body dealing, for instance, with such people as large coal companies, or something of that kind, it may be that such a procedure is tolerable, because powerful companies of that kind can always be represented and they can have their cases heard properly. This administration in such cases may be less open to objection, but in a case of this kind. where you are dealing with a very scattered and very worthy population, but with people who are not accustomed, fortunately, to spend their time in courts of law or police courts, it is highly desirable that, if they are to be subjected to penalties, they should be given every proper opportunity of having their case and their defence put and heard in circumstances which make it practical.

Clearly, it cannot be practical under these circumstances, unless these marketing boards are to have some itinerant courts in which these people can be heard on the spot, and it would not be desirable to set up another set of courts to administer justice side by side with the existing courts in the various districts, courts which are, or at least should be, familiar with the sort of problems which, owing to their location, are likely to have to be dealt with under these marketing schemes. It therefore seems to us to be essential, if justice is to be done, that these matters should be dealt with in the local courts, in the localities where those who are accused are living and working at the time. The cost of a fisherman or fish salesman in a small way coming up to London, perhaps having to stay in London, having to get advice from someone, it may be, in London as to how he should put his case or as to what he should do, having, if he wants to be successful in rebutting an unjust charge, to get witnesses up in order to prove that he has not done this or that—the cost of all this would obviously make it impossible for any such person to put forward his defence in a proper way.

Moreover, if he is justified in that defence, having been able to get up to London, he will then find himself burdened with an enormously heavy expenditure, having justified himself, which is a most undesirable state of affairs in any form of the administration of justice. Unfortunately, it is nearly always the case that defendants who are successful yet have to pay and do not ever in fact recover what it has cost them, either in waste of time or in waste of money. But at least one wants to aim, in any method of administering justice, at the smallest possible burden falling upon people who are rightly acquitted of something of which they have been accused, and the only way which we on this side can see in which that can be done is to allow the administration, as regards alleged infringements of these marketing schemes, to be tried in the local courts, to give them the jurisdiction and not to give it to the administrative body. In that way you will get over the trouble, which has been mentioned already, of the administrative body being prosecutor and judge in the same cause, and you will also get over the trouble of making justice so far removed in distance from those who are under these circumstances suffering under it that it really becomes not justice at all, but injustice. We hope, for these reasons, that the Minister will accept the Clause.

4.21 p.m.

Mr. Petherick

I find myself in the happy though strange position of being able to agree wholly with the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), and also, even more strangely, with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who has just sat down. The hon. Member who moved this Clause is frequently, in this House, standing out for what he considers, and what I too very often consider, to be the liberty of the subject. If I may say so without disrespect to hon. Members on that bench, if only they always directed their energies as vigilance committees to preventing Governments from overriding these liberties on occasions, they would be doing nothing but the most admirable service to the State.

Mr. Foot

Nobody would have put down this Clause if we had not.

Mr. Petherick

There is a further Amendment to Clause 12 on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member which seems to me to be generally sound, but I think the penalty that the hon. Member proposes is not sufficient. It is more than sufficient for the small person who infringes one of the provisions of some marketing scheme, but it is very likely, and indeed certain, that schemes which are to be introduced will apply, for instance, to Hull trawlers. There are many rich companies engaged in trawling from Hull to whom a £25 penalty would in fact be nothing, and it would be worth their while to infringe the scheme if they had to pay such a small penalty. Therefore, I feel that the penalty is not quite sound in its present form, but I heartily support the intention behind it, and I hope that, as there has been this happy harmony so far in the House, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will not, by putting a spanner into the machinery, engage in Governmental sabotage of the proposed new Clause.

4.24 p.m.

Viscountess Astor

I do not mind agreeing with the Opposition when I think they Lire right. In fact, I would rather go with people on the opposite benches when I think they are right than with people on my own side when I think they are wrong. This matter is of vital interest to us who represent these fisher folk. We understand that it will be almost impossible for them to put their grievances before the board adequately under the present procedure, and we feel very strongly about it. The people whom we represent also feel very strongly about it, and I hope very much that the Minister will consider the new Clause favourably, and accept it.

4.25 p.m.

Sir Arnold Wilson

Almost the only industry not represented in my constituency is the fishing industry, but I am greatly influenced by the arguments which have been brought forward on this subject, for I have had experience of the results of this system to which objection has been taken as applied to marketing schemes brought forward in connection with milk and potatoes. I know that a feeling of injustice is being caused by the very nature of the tribunal in the first instance, by its location in London in the second place, and, in the third place, by the methods, wholly unjudicial only too often, which are applied by the tribunal, consisting as it does for the most part of men who are unversed in judicial procedure. It has done much harm to these schemes themselves.

We all of us wish these marketing schemes to be successful, but if they are to become part of the machinery of this country, it is absolutely essential that they should not be removed from the ordinary sphere of the law courts; and the general system of justice which has been applied by the Ministry of Agriculture, with great success, to a bewildering number of enactments, any breach of which may result in a summons before justices in the ordinary way, should be applied in some measure to these schemes. I cannot believe that it is necessary for the success of the schemes that there should be a special tribunal. I greatly dislike—and I have had a vast amount of evidence from many people in connection with milk, potatoes, and other matters that they dislike—the idea of these people having to appear before a tribunal whom they regard as interested parties. I hope, therefore, the Minister will be able to give us a favourable reply.

Mr. R. Acland

In view of the criticism of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick), I would like to say that we on these benches are not wedded to any particular amount of fine, but are concerned only with the principle, and if the Minister will accept our Clause, we shall be happy to make any necessary change on the later Amendment when we reach it.

4.27 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has raised, by his new Clause, a matter of very great importance, and I am sure the House will sympathise with us in having to discuss it at this late stage of the Bill, because it will be obvious that this new Clause, if accepted and embodied in the Bill on the Report stage, would entail variations and amendments in the whole system of the Agricultural Marketing Acts, which are built on similar lines. This is a question of principle, and we should approach it as such. I was glad to hear the hon. Member who introduced the Clause dissociate himself from charges of unfair- ness on the part of the boards which have to administer these schemes, but the first point that I should like to make to the House is that in this matter there are two questions, which ought not to be confused. The hon. Member and other hon. Members drew attention to the inconvenience which may be caused to a member who has to answer a charge of having broken the provisions of a scheme, by having to come to London from some distant port. I am ready to listen to representations as to the working of the Agricultural Marketing Acts on this question, and I would be glad to consider any improvements in the system which would render it more easy for one of the members affected to state his case, but behind that is the larger question of principle, and it is on this that the House must decide.

As hon. Members are aware, the whole scheme of the Agricultural Marketing Acts is an attempt to introduce what one might call industrial self-discipline in a selected body of the community. They agree by vote—the majority of them—to observe the provisions of certain schemes, and it then becomes the duty of the board to inflict penalties on those who break those schemes, both in common justice to the vast majority of the members represented on the board who keep the provisions faithfully, and for the common good. I think that the great question of principle which rests behind that is a very serious one. If we accept the new Clause and make breaches of these schemes answerable for in courts of summary jurisdiction, we are treating breaches of the schemes as if they were offences against the criminal law and against the public good, whereas they are by no means anything of the kind. They are breaches of the rules by members who ought to obey the rules. They are not in any respect to be confused with breaches of the criminal code which affects the whole of the body politic. I suggest that it would be wrong at this stage to take the step of saying that because a man contravenes some provision of a marketing scheme created for the benefit of himself and his fellows, who form a certain category of the public and are not the public at large——

Mr. Foot

Surely the position of any individual producer under a marketing scheme is that he either has to come under the scheme, be a registered producer and submit himself to the rules, or go out of business?

Mr. Morrison

If a scheme is of such an unjust character that the producers will not have it, it cannot come into existence. When we come to that part of the Bill, the hon. Member will see that a substantial majority is required before the wish of the majority can prevail in these matters. If you take the stand that it is wrong that producers in a certain line of business should be able to regulate their own affairs for the greatest good of the greatest number of persons in that category, and if you believe in complete laissez faireand the absolute abandonment of all attempts to make the members comply with certain rules for their own benefit, you will support a Clause of this character. I advise the House to hesitate long before it takes what I consider to be the important step of placing breaches of these domestic matters, which apply not to the whole public but to the members of the industry alone, on all fours with criminal prosecutions for offences against the public weal which bring a stigma of acting against the public interest. Industrial self-discipline is no new thing. Members of a trade union or of one of the learned professions have to abide by the rules of the union or profession, and although I believe that in the medical and the solicitors' branch of the legal profession, there is no power for the profession itself to inflict fines, they can in certain circumstances take steps which have a serious effect on the whole livelihood of the members. Trade unions have the power to impose penalties upon their members for breaches of the rules.

Mr. Macquisten

They do not need to pay them.

Mr. Morrison

That is a question of law which the hon. and learned Member might argue at some other time, but it is a good thing that there should be a certain amount of domestic co-operation in these matters and that those who transgress the rules of a particular organisation should not be confounded with those who break the criminal law at large. I do not say that this procedure is not capable of improvement, but the House must remember that there are great safeguards in it. If there is any dispute about a finding of the board, a member has a right to go to arbitration, and the whole machinery of the Arbitration Acts applies. The arbitrator can take evidence according to the rules of evidence, the whole question of law is raised, and the ultimate sanction of the courts is available if the board has transgressed the powers which its members have agreed to abide by. It will be seen, I think, that the matter is on a very different scale from that on which some hon. Members have put it.

Mr. Foot

Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the fishermen and small fish salesmen who may be affected by this Measure have the means to go to arbitration?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Member will see that this does not really affect the small fishermen. They will be exempt from a scheme altogether and it will have nothing to do with them. The sort of people who may break the rules of the industry are some rich powerful trawling company who may think it is much better for the sake of some advantage to pay the fine. I would ask the House to remember that the small fishermen, for whom the Noble Lady spoke, are not affected by this at all.

Viscountess Astor

A very small company may be affected by it.

Mr. Morrison

The intention is to exclude not only inshore fishermen but small trawlers which are not a serious item in the total output of fish.

Mr. Beechman

Clause 19 deals with inshore fishermen in connection with cooperative schemes, and there are penalties which apply to them.

Mr. Morrison

The penalties will not be imposed by a marketing board. These people have nothing to do with the marketing board organisation which we are discussing now. There are absolute safeguards as regards the public interest in these matters. If a person is alleged to have transgressed the rules of the industry, the board has to ascertain the facts. This is not a judicial tribunal. "The rules are carefully laid down in the scheme, and it is not a question which requires the employment of learned counsel in order to ascertain whether or not some rule has been broken. Very often these things are done by corre spondence, and the penalty is imposed according to the gravity of the offence. It is an important thing that bodies of people who get together for industrial self-discipline should have a degree of responsibility for their own members; and to treat breaches of their rules as an infringement of the criminal law would be unjust.

Mr. Magnay

Would there be any objection to the new Clause if it applied to county courts instead of to courts of summary jurisdiction? County courts have to administer hundreds of Acts, and would there be any objection to their dealing with this matter?

Mr. Morrison

I admit that that would remove a certain amount of the stigma of bringing a man before a criminal court for a breach of domestic regulations, but at the moment I do not think that that is the proper way to go about it. The county court administers the law of the land, which is applicable to the whole body of citizens, whereas the things we are now considering are not breaches of the law of the land but of the rules of an association which is limited to certain people. I will consider all that has been said in its wider aspect in relation to the entire system of agricultural marketing, and if greater justice can be brought about I shall be happy to consider what can be done; but in the meantime, I ask the House not to make a piecemeal alteration in a matter involving the important principle of industrial self-discipline.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

The machinery here set up has a wide application because in Clause 5 the words setting up the marketing schemes are perfectly general. Clause 12, paragraph (c) follows on that, and all that is in Clause 19 is a provision whereby certain branches of the trade may be taken out. Theprima facieapplication of the system which is objected to is general. I was disappointed by the reception given by the Minister to this Debate because there has certainly been no party feeling in it. The new Clause has been supported in all parts of the House and by Members with experience of the working of the previous schemes. I was surprised that the Minister should take the line that this was a far-reaching proposal which would strike at the general system under which all the agricultural marketing Acts are working. I think that is true, but the mere fact that the House and the country have now had a considerable experience of the working of marketing schemes in general puts us in a better position now to say what machinery is applicable. Surely it is not to be said that in this experimental time in the treatment of agriculture anything which has been embodied in the earlier Acts has to go on untouched for ever. The time must come when, judging by experience, this House has to say, "We do not like this system, and we think it ought to be altered in this Bill"; and if that carries with it the logical conclusion that the alteration should be made in the other Acts as well, so much the better.

The Minister has given us only vague encouragement that some amendment may be made on the question of convenience of travel, but on the question of principle he has given us no encouragement at all. The argument by which he defended the system in this Bill seemed to be a purely Fascist argument. He is setting up a kind of totalitarian principle in each of these industries. That does not appear to me reassuring. The point about the stigma of going before the criminal courts has very little in it. The cases that come before the magistrates vary in a great degree from things which are obviously criminal to matters of convenience and acts of forgetfulness such as not having a lamp on a bicycle. Nobody imagines that anyone charged with that offence will have a criminal stigma. To say that the offences under this Bill are breaches of rules which people ought to observe may be said of any offence that is tried in the criminal courts, and the Minister has ignored the essential thing that lies behind this new Clause. That is the desire that people who are to be adversely affected and mulcted by a decision of the Board should be properly tried and have the circumstances properly examined. It is essential that justice should be done and, what always goes with it, that justice should seem to be done and that people should have confidence in the tribunal which tries them. I hope the Minister will give this matter a great deal more serious consideration than he seems to have given it judging by his speech. I hope that the decision will be taken by the House to-day in favour of this principle. If not, I hope the Minister will be guided by what has been said on all sides and try to make some better arrangement in another place.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Macquisten

I would like to support the speeches which have been made in favour of this new Clause. There is nothing more monstrous than the power of the marketing boards to fine citizens. The Star Chamber was nothing compared to them. They are like the Russian Ogpu. They get a vote of a number of people who think it is going to affect their personal interest. They get on top of a small minority who never asked to be taken into the scheme. What right has a majority in this case to fix up what the minority is to do? They have no more right to compel a minority in a commercial matter of this sort than they have to compel a minority in regard to religious principles. One man may well say: "I want to trade in a special way." Why should he be bullied by the majority, who are probably the big concerns? It is the little man who suffers. The little man is being exterminated under the Milk Marketing Board. The little man is being exterminated in agriculture. He has not a chance. The Milk Marketing Board simply by a resolution can fine him, even up to£100. They can do that without a trial, and merely by a resolution of the board. If they want to fine him up to £200, they have to proceed on indictment. What a monstrous thing it is in this old England of ours, where we have fought for liberty for hundreds of years, back to Cromwellian times and back to the days of King John, that there should now be these little Ogpu bodies, or these Pooh Bahs, who search out the little men in far distant places and shoot at them, as if with a Big Bertha, and fine them from £25 up to £100. The whole thing ought to be indignantly repudiated.

I have told some of these Milk Board men that if any of these people who have been persecuted and crushed by them take the law into their own hands and come before a British jury, I would undertake to represent them and get them off before any British jury when once they understood the situation. The position is intolerable. Now the little fishermen are to be harassed and caught up in the mesh of this thing—this new thing called a marketing board. These boards are the creation of unemployed lawyers. As I have said before, and I repeat it now, unemployed lawyers are just as dangerous as sharks in a bathing pool. They are looking about for whom they may devour. There is a perpetual attraction in the formation of these marketing boards, because numbers of people who form these boards get good salaries. They crush the producer. It is a monstrous thing that these fines should be imposed and that there should not be a trial in open court. Where is the stigma in trial in an open court, so long as you get justice? It is much better to be tried in court than in a secret chamber. But it is not so secret after all, because if one looks at the Milk Board's Journal one sees pages and pages recording the enormous fines. They glory in them.

Where do all these fines go? They go into the Milk Board's till. Why should they be able to prosecute people and put the fines into their own till? I do not suggest that they are used for personal purposes, but they are used for Milk Board purposes. The scales of justice are weighed unfairly in this way. It reminds one of what it used to be in regard to motor prosecutions, when the police sought to get motor fines in order to help the county rates. There ought to be an entirely independent judge sitting, who will be able to say whether there has been any breach of these precious rules that have been rammed down the throats of the minorities, large or small. It is grossly unfair that these boards should sit in judgment on these cases. We might as well say that the policeman who runs a man in should sit in judgment on him and be allowed to impose a fine. The board, so to speak, run these men in, and then they try them and fine them. These people ought to have access to the courts.

A case appeared in the "Daily Telegraph" the other day where the Milk Board was afraid that a particular farmer might give a larger measure than he ought to give. It is a terrible crime in their eyes to sell milk cheaply to the poor or to give a little extra. That is a shocking thing in the eyes of the Milk Board. Therefore, they got hold of a little boy, one of a number of little brothers and sisters, and sent him to the farm as an agent provocateur. The "tecs" of the Milk Board waited for him, and then the Milk Board immediately rounded on the wretched farmer and run him in, and he was fined£10. They knew perfectly well that if that case had gone before an ordinary magistrate he would have said: "This is monstrous," fined him a penny and the Milk Board would have been the people convicted in the public eye. The same thing applies to these people who are going to run in the wretched little fishermen.

This is what takes place in this so-called free country of England, and we find a most intelligent Minister bringing forward sophistical arguments in support of it. This Government and other Governments who have been responsible for such things as these contemptible marketing boards ought to hang their heads in shame. It is against our history. It is opposed to the history for which their forefathers fought. It is opposed to the British liberty which their forefathers defended. Instead of restricting liberty they ought to endeavour to amplify and extend it.

4.52 p.m.

Sir John Withers

I know nothing of this Bill except what I have heard sitting here. I have great sympathy with what the Minister said with regard to the formation of these boards and the idea that they should have their own discipline, but there is a great deal of the argument of the Mover of the new Clause which stands good. The argument that it is very unfair that these poor people should have to come to London and have their cases tried here, stands good. The Minister talked of generalities, but he has proposed nothing else. Because we have made a lot of mistakes in the past are we to go on making mistakes? If things are found to be unjust, let us deal with them now, and let there be a general Act later on to put the other things right. If the new Clause is carried to a Division. I shall certainly vote in favour of it.

4.53 P.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

It is remarkable that the people who are supporting the new Clause all appear to be members of the legal profession, except perhaps one.

Sir A. Wilson

That is not so.

Mr. Macquisten

Is the hon. and gallant Member not aware that the people who have stood for liberty in the past were lawyers? Lawyers have always been the people throughout the generations who have stood for liberty. It is the layman who has sold liberty for commercial interests.

Viscountess Astor

The hon. and learned Member has just been blaming the lawyers.

Mr. Macquisten

I am speaking now of employed lawyers, and not of unemployed lawyers. They are the failures in the profession. They are the people who do the wrong.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I hope the hon. and learned Member has seen the awkward position into which he has got himself. It has been suggested that the county courts should be invoked. The county court is an expensive court, although it brings in good fees for barristers and solicitors.

Mr. Foot

Why should it be more expensive to appear before a police court in your own district than to appear before the board, which may be meeting a very long distance from your own district?

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I am in agreement with the ideas behind the hon. Member in moving the new Clause, but where I differ from him is in suggesting that it should be a local court. He has been pointing out a very obvious flaw in the operations of the board. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) has spoken of the board as a totalitarian system. I am glad that he used that phrase, because he will understand that these boards were set up by the Labour party.

Mr. Macquisten

Why should we follow their example?

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

We have always said that institutions which the party opposite set up, if misdirected, lead to the totalitarian State. Therefore, the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough agrees with me. I agree that there ought to be some court where these people could go, and that is not impossible under the marketing schemes, but I do not agree with the sort of local court that has been suggested. It is acknowledged that the existing arrangements are not perfect. They are not perfect because the courts are too centralised and people cannot get to them and obtain advice. There is one kind of court which is now sitting which might possibly be extended to deal with these marketing schemes. I refer to the sort of court that has been set up under the Road Traffic Acts. They are not courts which are centralised in London. They are not county courts, nor are they petty sessional courts, but they do dispense a certain amount of justice to the people who go to them, and I suggest that the courts set up under the Marketing Acts ought to be something of that sort. I do not, however, think that they can be started under this Bill. I cannot support the new Clause, because the mover goes the wrong way about it. I should like it to be put on record that I wish people to be dealt with locally, but I should not desire to see them brought into a local court. I hope the Minister will be able to create the machinery which will carry out the ideas I have suggested.

4.57 P.m.

Lord Willoughby de Eresby

I rise to support the underlying principle of the new Clause. I do not speak with any great knowledge nor in dutiful support of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), but I support the new Clause on the ground of consistency, having recently put my name to a private Member's Bill designed to alter the procedure under the Miilk Marketing Act. The Minister has said that this is only a domestic question. I am not particularly clever on legal questions, but I should have thought that when this Bill becomes the law of the land it should be judged by a judicial court rather than a purely domestic court. I can understand my right hon. Friend's argument that it may be undesirable to alter the principles underlying the whole legislation which authorises Marketing Acts, by legislating in a piecemeal fashion, but I should like some assurance from him that the whole question will be reconsidered at a very early date, in order that we may be able to alter the very vicious principle which is embodied in the Marketing Acts.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I should like to consider the whole question as one question dealing with all this Agricultural Marketing Act legislation. It is far better to do it in that way than by any piecemeal legislation. I hope that with that assurance the hon. Member will see his way to withdraw his Motion and the new Clause.

Mr. Macquisten

The people will be perishing all the time while the right hon. Gentleman is considering the matter. Will he stop all these prosecutions and fines until he has considered it?

Mr. Morrison

No, I could not do that.

4.59 p.m.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

I do not know whether it is intended to go to a Division, but there has certainly been a good deal said about the origin of these particular powers which we have been discussing. Under Sections 5 and 6 of the Act of 1931 there are general powers given for the formulation of schemes and provision for any necessary penalties involved in the breaking of contracts or in the breaking of statutory regulations. Whether the provisions in the original Act work harmfully or not depends upon the manner in which a scheme is drafted and upon the extent of the penalties, and when I recollect the weeks and months which I spent before committees of inquiry into the draft marketing schemes, and the extent to which the producers were free to present objections to the provisions of schemes, I am a little surprised at some of the things which have been said to-day. The essential

thing has just been said by the Minister. I think there is a good deal of genuine indignation over the measure of some of the penalties which have been inflicted under certain marketing schemes, and there may be genuine apprehension as to what may happen under this Bill, but in spite of all that has been said, I think it would be a pity to amend the whole basis of the marketing legislation by a precedent in this particular Bill. It is a subject which should be examined as a whole, and I think that my hon. Friends below the Gangway and hon. Members opposite have made out a very strong case for examination. If the Minister were to promise that between now and the appearance of this Bill in another place he would look into the question, and were then able to say that at a later date he would introduce legislation amending the marketing statutes generally, I should look at the matter somewhat differently.

Mr. Macquisten

It is very interesting to hear that the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) sat for so many weeks helping or advising—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)

The hon. and learned Member has already exhausted his right to speak.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 126; Noes, 209.

Division No. 168.] AYES. [5.3 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Dangar, G. Harvey, T. E. (Eng, Univ's.)
Adams, D. (Conselt) Dalton, H. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, s.) Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Adamson, W. M. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Day, H. Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Ammon, C. G. Dobbie, W. Holdsworth, H.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) John, W.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Ede, J. C. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Banfield, J. W. Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Barnes, A. J. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Kelly, W. T.
Barr, J. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Baley, J. Gallacher, W. Kirkwood, D.
Beechman, N. A. Gardner. B. W. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.
Bellenger, F. J. Garro Jones, G. M. Lathan, G.
Benson, G. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Leonard, W.
Bevan, A. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Leslie, J. R.
Broad, F. A. Gibson, R. (Greenock) Lunn, W.
Bromfield, W. Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Macdonald, G. (Ince)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Green, W. H. (Deptford) McEntee, V. La T.
Buchanan, G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Macquisten, F. A.
Burke, W. A. Grenfell, D. R. Mander, G. le M.
Cape, T. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Marshall, F.
Cassells, T. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Mathers, G.
Charleton, H. C. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Maxton, J.
Chater, D. Groves, T. E. Milner, Major J.
Cluse, W. S. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Montague, F.
Cocks, F. S. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Cove, W. G. Hardie, Agnes Noel-Baker, P. J.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Harris, Sir P. A. Owen, Major G.
Paling, W. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly) Watson, W. McL.
Parker, J. Smith, T. (Normanton) Westwood, J.
Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Stephen, C. White, H. Graham
Pritt, D. N. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Richards, R. (Wrexham) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth. N.) Wilkinson, Ellen
Ridley, G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Riley, B. Thorne, W. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Ritson, J. Thurtle, E. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Tinker, J, J. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Sexton, T. M. Tomlinson, G. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Shinwell, E. Viant, S. P. Withers, Sir J. J.
Simpson, F. B. Walkden, A. G. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Smith, Ben (Rotherhitha) Walker, J.
Smith, E. (Stoke) Watkins, F. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Sir Hugh Seely and Mr. Foot.
Acland-Troyte, Ll.-Col. G. J. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ[...]
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Grant-Ferris, R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Granville, E. L. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Albery, Sir Irving Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Gridley, Sir A. B. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.
Aske, Sir R. W. Grimston, R. V. Palmer, G. E. H.
Assheton, R. Gritten, W. G. Howard Peal, C. U.
Atholl, Duchess of Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Peters, Dr. S. J.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Guest, Maj.Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Pilkington, R.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Guinness, T. L. E. B. Plugge, Capt. L. F.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanel) Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Hannah, I. C. Procter, Major H. A.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Ramsbotham, H.
Bernays, R. H. Harvey, Sir G. Ramsden, Sir E.
Bird, Sir R. B. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Rankin, Sir R.
Blair, Sir R. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Rayner, Major R. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Renter, J. R.
Browns, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Higgs, W. F. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Burton, Col. H. W. Holmes, J. S. Ropner, Colonel L.
Butcher, H. W. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hopkin, D. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Carver, Major W. H. Horsbrugh, Florence Ruggles-Brisc, Colonel Sir E. A.
Cary, R. A. Howilt, Or. A. B. Russell, Sir Alexander
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hulbert, N. J. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Channon, H. Hume, Sir G. H. Salmon, Sir I.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hunter, T. Salt, E. W.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Hurd, Sir P. A. Samuel M. R. A.
Clarke, Frank (Dartford) Hutchinson, G. C. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Inskip, Rt. Hon Sir T. W. H. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Sandys, E. D.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S) Joel, D. J. B. Savery, Sir Servington
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Keeling, E. H. Scott, Lord William
Cox, H. B. Trevor Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Crooke, Sir J. S. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Crowder, J. F. E. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Cruddas, Col. B. Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Simmonds, O. E.
Culverwell, C. T. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yecvil) Law. R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Davison, Sir W. H. Leech, Sir J. W. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Dawson, Sir P. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Smithers, Sir W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Somerville, A. A, (Windsor)
Denville, Alfred Levy, T. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Doland, G. F. Lewis, O. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Dower, Major A. V. G. Lipson, D. L. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)
Duckworth W R. (Moss Side) Little, Sir E. Graham Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Storey, S.
Duggan, H. J. Loftus, P. C. Stourton, Major Hon J. J.
Duncan. J. A. L. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Strauss, E. A. (Southward N.)
Ellis, Sir G. M'Connell, Sir J. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Elliston. Capt. G. S. McCorquodale, M. S. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw h)
Emmott, C. E. G. C. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. McKie, J. H. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Thomas, J. P. L.
Everard, W. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Findlay. Sir E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Touche, G. C.
Fleming, E. L. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wakefield, W. W.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Furness. S. N. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Gluckstein, L. H. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Gower, Sir R. V. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Waterhouse, Captain C.
Watt, Major G. S. Harvie Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Wayland, Sir W. A Womersley, Sir W. J. Mr. Cross and Major Sir James
Wedderburn, H. J. S. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C. Edmondson.
Wells, S. R. Young, A. S. L. (Parlick)