HC Deb 24 August 1939 vol 351 cc63-90

"To confer on His Majesty certain powers which it is expedient that His Majesty should be enabled to exercise in the present emergency; and to make further provision for purposes connected with the defence of the realm," presented, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, by Sir Samuel Hoare; supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Colville, and ordered to be printed. [Bill 227.]

6.45 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

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

I am one of the comparatively small number of Members who remember the introduction of the first Defence of the Realm Bill in August, 1914. I remember very well Mr. McKenna, my predecessor in office, coming to the House without a draft of the Bill, with only half a sheet of notes in his hand, and asking the House of Commons to give the Government the full powers required to meet the dangers with which the country was then faced. The House accepted the Home Secretary's undertaking, but little did they know in 1914 how many, various and different kinds of protection would be needed in the course of that long struggle. My mind naturally goes back over those 25 years and I feel many regrets that once again the Home Secretary has to come to the House and ask for powers that trench on many of the most cherished liberties and practices of his fellow-citizens.

To-day, we are faced with such a situation that I have no alternative open to me but to come to the House and say that the powers included in this Bill are not only as essential as they were in 1914 but that they are 10 times more essential than they were in those days. In 1914, war was still a slow-motion play. In August of that year there was no war in the air, but since then the speed with which warlike acts are carried out in the world, the complexity and intensity of the problems that that speed creates, and the dangers that now confront these islands as a result of the great developments in aviation, make it quite essential that the Government should be armed with the fullest possible powers to deal at once with the problems, many of them still comparatively unknown, with which we may be confronted in the event of war. On that account there is this difference between the position to-day and the position in August, 1914. In August, 1914, the Home Secretary asked for these powers only after hostilities had actually begun. There is now a twilight between peace and war, perhaps the most dangerous of any periods in international affairs, in which it is essential that the Government, not this Government in particular but any British Government, must be armed with emergency powers. Therefore, whilst we still hope that the final catastrophe may be averted, it is essential that from to-day onwards we should have at our disposal the powers set out in the Clauses of the Bill.

These powers are very wide, very drastic and very comprehensive. In the nature of things they must be wide, drastic and comprehensive. If you leave a gap anywhere in a situation of this kind your efforts may be frustrated and the country may be faced with a danger the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. On that account the powers asked for in the Bill are wide, comprehensive and flexible. Neither I nor any Member of the Government can tell the House to-day what, supposing we were involved in war, would be the full powers that we should require to meet circumstances many of which we cannot at present define. The Bill therefore proceeds on the lines that the Government are given powers to make regulations to fit in with different kinds of dangers.

Let me give to hon. Members in all quarters of the House this assurance, that whilst on the one hand the powers asked for are wide, flexible and indefinite we will apply them with moderation, tolerance and common sense. Suppose the Bill becomes law to-night, and it is in my view of the utmost importance that it should become law to-night, we should not propose in the course of the few hours, or it may be the few days that intervene, unless the situation became worse than it is at present, issuing a crowd of new regulations. What we should do would be to face the situation as it is today and only bring into force regulations that are actually necessary at the present time. The regulations would be mainly of a precautionary character. In some respects they would affect economic matters, but in other respects, perhaps in the greater part of the field they would deal with such questions as air-raid precautions. I give the House this undertaking, and I would ask their attention to it, which I hope will remove from the minds of many hon. Members anxieties which might otherwise exist. We do not intend to introduce regulations that would affect the liberty of the subject, by which I mean regulations for internment and so on, that were put into force between 1914 and 1918, and we do not intend to bring into force regulations that would set up anything in the nature of a censorship of opinion in this country, particularly Press opinion, until the country is actually involved in hostilities. If hon. Members will consider this undertaking I thing they will see that it is one of very great importance. I can well appreciate the view, it may be, of some hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, who may be nervous lest in an indefinite situation such as this before hostilities begin the Government of the day would take such steps by muzzling the Press, or by suppressing public opinion in this country, as would prevent legitimate criticism of the Government. I give the assurance that as far as the home Press is concerned there will be no censorship until and unless this country is actually involved in hostilities.

I come to another very important assurance which I wish to give to the House. I had yesterday the opportunity of meeting representatives from the Trades Union Congress, and it was clear to me that they were nervous lest we should use this period of emergency for making regulations that would interfere with labour questions and particularly with labour disputes. I am prepared to give an undertaking, which is set out in the Clauses of the Bill, that we do not intend to deal with labour questions under Defence of the Realm regulations at all. No doubt if we were involved in war there would have to be changes made, I dare say with general agreement, in the field of labour legislation and labour administration. But our intention definitely is to deal with labour questions, that is to say, questions like industrial disputes, questions involving wages and so on, by ad hoc legislation, and not by regulations under the Emergency Powers Act at all. I am bold enough to think that I was able, in giving this assurance, to remove the suspicions of the representatives of the Trades Union Congress, and I hope that I have been equally successful this evening in making it clear to all parts of the House that we are not going to use the powers under this Act, if the House will give the Government the powers this evening, for dealing with labour questions such as those I have described.

Next, we have adopted in the Bill the method that was taught us by experience since 1914. We have brought into the scope of the Bill all the powers that we require, whereas between 1914 and 1918 there was a whole series of different De fence of the Realm Bills— I think there were half a dozen— and the effect was to leave the position very ragged, uncertain and confused. I hope the House will agree that the better plan is to set out quite clearly in a single Bill the powers that we require, and trust that this Bill will be adequate, as I believe it will be adequate, for the purpose, and that we are not contemplating the introduction of other Defence of the Realm Bills in future, supposing we are involved in war.

There is another point to which I would draw attention. Hon. Members may say to me, "Here you Members of the Government are asking for a free hand to deal with matters that trench upon the lives of every individual in the country. You are asking for emergency powers. What safeguard is there that, having obtained those emergency powers, you will not continue to enforce them when the emergency is past?" This was a point put to me with great force and very legitimately by the leaders of the Opposition with whom I discussed the provisions of the Bill. I am anxious to meet these suspicions. If hon. Members will look at Clause11 they will find that we have introduced a provision that definitely limits the duration of the Act to 12 months, but makes provision for an Order in Council to be made to bring the Act to an end before the 12 months if the situation makes it possible; and in any case it would need a resolution of both Houses to continue the Act beyond the period of 12 months. I hope that this provision will make it quite clear to every hon. Member that we have no intention whatever of using these emergency powers for peace-time purposes.

There may be some hon. Members who will say that we ought to go further, that we ought to give other safeguards as well. There is one safeguard in particular to which I gave particular and not unsympathetic consideration. It was a proposal that the regulations made under the Bill should need an affirmative resolution of the House within a limited time and that without that affirmative resolution the regulations should lapse. I assure hon. Members that I considered that proposal with no prejudice and with every anxiety to give hon. Members as many safeguards as one legitimately could, but the more I went into the proposal the more I found it to be impracticable. I do not think hon. Members who were attracted by it realised the fact that if there were a war there might be hundreds of these regulations in the course of a year. The regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act between 1914 and 1918 literally went into volumes of regulations. I do suggest to the House that in a time of great emergency, still more in a time of war, it would be quite impracticable that for every one of these hundreds of regulations there should need to be an affirmative resolution of this House. From the point of view o f the Executive and setting aside one's own personal interest in the matter— it does not matter who is the Minister of the day— a plan of that kind could not be worked. I am equally sure that the House of Commons, faced with the innumerable urgent problems of war, would resent the necessity of having to spend day after day and hour after hour in giving affirmative resolutions to these almost innumerable regulations. That question is likely to be raised in greater detail at a later stage in our discussions. I thought I would allude to it now lest it should be thought, in considering the safe- guards for which the House can legitimately ask, that the Government comes with its demand for these exceptional powers—I wish the House to know that I have considered it with great care and without any prejudice—

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

I assume that an Order in Council will be made and will embody a substantial number of regulations. Each regulation will not be made as a separate Order in Council, but one Order in Council will cover a series of regulations on related subjects. Is that not so?

Sir S. Hoare

It may be, but even so, the number of grouped regulations will be very great. One of the difficulties with which any Government is faced is the uncertainty of the kind of problems that may arise. It is quite possible that any Home Secretary trying to set down the particular type of regulation that may be needed in positions that we cannot fore see, could not say whether they would be issued together or separately or what would be the details of them. I have given the House a general description of the scope of the Bill, and I think it may well be that it would meet the convenience of hon. Members if I left the details of the Clauses until our discussion in the Committee stage. The general line of the Bill is to give the Government these wide powers of issuing regulations. The regulations will be issued by Order in Council, They will be laid here; there will be no secrecy about them at all. A great safeguard is the safeguard that the Bill is an emergency Measure and will remain in operation only for a limited period of time.

I hope I have said enough to convince hon. Members that, faced with the dangers that may confront us, it is essential that any Government should be armed with these powers. I hope I have said enough to show that these powers must be flexible and that the Government must be free to adapt the regulations to the problems as they arise. I hope I have said enough to reassure hon. Members on all sides of the House that we do not intend to use these emergency powers for any other state of affairs than the actual emergency, and that I have made it clear that we do not intend, even when the emergency arises, even when we have been plunged into hostilities, to use the regulations for the purpose of interfering with labour conditions or industrial disputes.

I appeal to the House, in the crisis through which we are passing, to give the Government these powers and to give them expeditiously. From the point of view of the security of this country I say as Home Secretary that it is essential that we should have these powers at once. From the point of view of the impression that we shall make upon foreign countries I ask that this Bill should go through with no undue delay, and that we should make it clear to the world that we are prepared to arm ourselves with powers to meet any emergency, and that if for the time being we are setting in abeyance the liberties and privileges that we have prized so much in the past, we set them aside, not as a result of any dictation, but as an act of our own volition, and as an insurance that in setting them aside for a short time we shall retain them permanently in the future.

7.8 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

Let me first thank the right hon. Gentleman for acceding to a request to put a time limit on the operation of the Bill. The right hon. Gentle man has been very anxious to give as many safeguards as he can that the Bill will not be used for purposes other than those for which it was intended; but we have, even in times of emergency and crisis, to watch and see that the powers and rights of Parliament are not whittled away. There are a good many incipient dictators on the other side of the House, and if, therefore, we are a little cautious and a little suspicious about the conferment of these powers on the Government now, it is because we do want as far as possible to protect Parliament and to protect the rights of Parliament even during the time of emergency. I realise that swift action is necessary in times of emergency. I appreciate the fact that in the circumstances of the day the Government must arm itself with powers which can be swiftly brought into action if occasion arises, and as I understand it the Government feel that certain regulations are necessary at the moment for immediate operation, and that as for the rest, particularly those affecting the liberty of the subject, they are not to be operative until after the actual outbreak of hostilities. That, of course, goes a good way to meet us.

But I would like at this point to ask to what extent the powers are going to be used? This afternoon we were told in the House about a plea by the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the ex port of capital. There ought to be no question of appeals about the export of capital. The Government is arming itself with powers, and those powers it seems to me ought to be used. I hope there will be more pleas on labour questions and less harsh enforcement of regulations but it seems to me to be dealing a little too tenderly with people who may act in the most unpatriotic way in this particular time. I hope, therefore, that the Government do mean to get regulations ready and apply them to deal with matters of that kind. I hope that we may soon find ourselves armed with regulations for the effective control of banks and the essential services, so that no time will be wasted and so that a concentration of effort may be made. I therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have given us some indication, in a little more detail, of the extent to which it is intended to use these regulations. It is not the intention of my hon. Friends on this side to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill but as he knows, there might be an Amendment to be moved later.

7.16 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

I am convinced that the kind of provisions which are to be found in this necessary Bill are repugnant probably to everyone in the House and probably to no section of the House so much as to those who sit on the Liberal benches, who have a tradition in this matter of watching jealously over the liberties of the subject. I hope I do not take too much upon myself in saying that, but it has been a matter of real interest to members of this party. If there was time to consider these matters in detail, if we had time for a long Committee stage, I have no doubt that Amendments would be moved from these benches and from other parts of the House, but we are bound to realise the urgency of the problem as it has been put before us by the Home Secretary and, therefore, the necessity is put upon us, in place of moving Amendments, of accepting the assurances which the right hon. Gentleman has given. I am very grateful to him for those assurances. In the first place, for the limitation of time which I think is important, and, in the second place, for his undertaking to use the regulations with moderation and not to issue regulations of a certain kind until the outbreak of hostilities. I am glad to have his assurance that the Bill will not be used in any way to interfere with trade union liberties.

I want to make a few observations with the object of being helpful. I want to make this point now on the Second Reading, because there is little time to consider any Amendments. In Clause I, Sub-section (1), the Government are taking power to issue regulations which appear to the Home Secretary to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged. As I read the Clause these qualifications are cumulative, they have all to be satisfied. I should have expected to see the word "or" instead of the word "and." That probably is not the intention of the Bill, but I think it is best to call attention to the point at this stage because if any alteration is necessary there will be more time to make it. Obviously, under Clause 8 the House is given some power of dealing with regulations after they have been issued; within 28 days an Order may be annulled. We on these benches have always preferred the method of an affirmative resolution, but we are bound to recognise the weight of the arguments which the Home Secretary has advanced for the procedure adopted in the Bill. At the same time, I should like to have an assurance that we shall have real time given to us to discuss any Order-in-Council should it become necessary. I do not anticipate that it would often be necessary to do so because the whole House would desire to co-operate with the Government in affirming a Resolution made for the safety of the Realm, but we have to recognise that a regulation might inadvertently be made which did more harm than good and hon. Members would desire to be able to call attention to the effect of any such regulation, and to have ample time for the discussion.

We have to realise that the powers given in the Bill are of an extraordinary character. Under Clause 1, Sub-section (2 a), the Home Secretary is given power to detain persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm. Those words rather made me tremble for my own security, in case the Home Secretary took an adverse view of me. That is obviously a very extensive power indeed, and since it is discretionary I am wondering whether it is not possible to adopt in regard to that—it would not necessitate any Amendment—a procedure similar to that which was adopted in the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Bill, whereby there would be some kind of judicial consideration of the cases of people who were detained without trial. The liberty of the subject is so important that even in these times of national emergency I think it is right we should deal with it extremely tenderly. I should like to be told why in taking these wide powers to deal with property land is excepted. I am not looking for any sinister motive, but when land is left out of the Clause which enables every other kind of property to be acquired, one naturally asks the question why land is excepted. I am making these points with the desire to be helpful. Although the Bill is repugnant to us we are bound to recognise that these are exceptional times and just as we should never for one moment have considered voting for a Bill of this kind except under these terrible circumstances, so I have no doubt the Secretary of State himself would never have dreamt of introducing such a Bill except under such conditions.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

The only thing I want to say in connection with this Bill is that my friends and I recognise that the House has given an overwhelming majority to the Government on the mandate regarding war and peace, and in consequence we do not feel that it would serve any useful purpose for us to try to make our selves objectionable as to the passing of this Measure. We are in general opposition to the policy of the Government on this issue, but we recognise that the Government, having been given the approval of the House, should have wide powers in order to enable them to carry out their responsibilities as a Government. I must confess that I have sympathy with the plea that has been made to the Home Secretary that there should be opportunity for discussion in regard to the Orders in Council which may be made. I hope there will be an opportunity on occasions for hon. Members to raise points which may occur in connection with the operation of the Orders. We do not propose to challenge a Division on the Second Reading of the Bill or on the remaining stages, but we ask the House to recognise that if we do not challenge a Division it is because we are taking the previous Division as having shown our general opposition to the policy of the Government.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. John Morgan

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) draw attention to the Clause which deals with the acquisition of property other than land. One feels that agriculture, which is a vital part of the national defence, is being to some extent overlooked in the general concern which the present circumstances have created. I feel that some assurance should be given that the present harvest in this country will be tackled expeditiously and with a degree of innovation which the Bill suggests will be available to the Government. Other Governments are taking much concern over their harvest, but in this country from one end to the other you will still see farmers struggling with their hay while in the markets hay-making machinery is lying idle. Fodder is absolutely vital to the maintenance of our livestock. We have been given a good harvest in the shape of grass, but in a butcher's shop I was shown the other day a lamb of 20 lb. in weight which might well have been grown on well into the autumn. Why should we not take powers to require that lambs should be retained to utilise the grazing which is available instead of being carved up in this immature way? We are going to have a good root crop, but the problem which will immediately arise is whether we can feed our livestock. Hundreds and thousands of farmers are still struggling with their hay, while manufacturers' places are stocked with hay-making machines which are un-utilised.

There is one other point I want to make. I understand that the Minister of Agriculture has little power under the Bill and that it is the concern of the Minister in charge of the Food Defence Department. There is the question of wheat. The effect of good farming under the Wheat Act is that it makes farmers disposed to market their cereals, and particularly wheat, at this time of the year as soon as the harvest is finished, because they get cash for the crop and are qualified to draw a subsidy from the Wheat Commission. In ordinary circumstances there might be an inducement to farmers to hold up their wheat crops because in war time they would get a more remunerative price, but under the Wheat Act they are guaranteed a price which is more than twice the world price of wheat and, therefore, there is no inducement to them to hold up their wheat under a threat of war, and consequently farmers are disposed to market their wheat instead of utilising it for feeding their livestock.

The Clause which deals with property other than land raises a particular aspect of our Defence problem which to my mind is the most neglected part of our preparations for meeting such a situation as is feared. I hope that someone will clear up the point as to what lies behind the exemption of land from the operation of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, and also give an assurance that these powers can be used immediately, in the absence of an act of war, in order that we may utilise food resources that are available, but are being wasted, through our commercial practice, or because we have not put at the disposal of the farmers the apparatus we have available in the country for harvesting the crops at this particular time. In the case of fodder, it is vital. Every week that passes now means that the hay crop is deteriorating, and if it could be utilised within the next fortnight or three weeks, we might at some time be glad that we had taken action under such powers, without waiting even for an act of war which might occur within the next two or three weeks. I hope we shall be given an assurance that, from the agricultural point of view, the Bill can be made immediately effective with regard to the resources at our command.

7.31 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

As one of the Members who were present at the time, to which the Home Secretary has alluded, when the first Defence of the Realm Act was introduced, I should like to say how very much better I think it is that the Government should have taken the oppor- tunity of introducing this Bill now rather than waiting for a grave emergency, which we hope may not come, because the moment of a declaration of war is a moment of such excitement that it would be very difficult for the House to do justice to the immense importance of a Measure such as this. The Home Secretary spoke with measured words and great care in promising that the utmost restraint will be used in using the grave powers which it is proposed to confer upon him by this Bill. I am sure that if any Home Secretary has to have these powers, the House will agree that the present Home Secretary is one who would exercise them with the utmost desire for justice and the utmost respect for the liberty of the subject; but we have to remember that, in the case of the last Defence of the Realm Act, at least three Home Secretaries succeeded the Home Secretary who introduced that Act before the powers of the Act ceased. We have to think not as to the person of the Home Secretary of the moment, but the powers that are being conferred.

I think that anyone who reads the Clauses of the Bill will realise that those powers are overwhelmingly large. The Bill proposes to confer upon the Home Secretary power to suspend any Act of Parliament and to modify any Act of Parliament by Order in Council. That is an enormous power; and if, by any accident, there is something that is illegal in the Order in Council, it is declared to be made legal, in spite of its being contrary to any previous legislation. I think the powers given in these two Sub-sections in Clause I are needlessly wide in their scope, and I appeal even now to the Home Secretary to consider whether they cannot be modified. A further point I want to raise is in connection with the enormous power that is given to the present Home Secretary, or to any Home Secretary who succeeds him, for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm. Any one making a speech that seemed mischievous or injudicious to the Home Secretary of the day—not necessarily the present Home Secretary—might come under the powers conferred in those words and be indefinitely confined, without any trial or opportunity of appeal. I think it is essential that there should be some modification of that point and that there should be some judicial authority who would come in at some point before the man was indefinitely detained without any chance of trial or any opportunity of pleading his own cause. I know that exceptional powers are needed. The whole House realises that the Government are entitled, at a moment of grave national emergency to ask for special powers, but we must not, for the sake of winning a victory, lose the very cause for which we are struggling. We must safeguard these essential, vital liberties that are our country's proudest heritage. Therefore, I hope that in the Committee stage the Home Secretary will be able to make some modification on these points in the interests of that freedom which is the common heritage of all of us.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith

My views on the present situation are well known, and I believe that the present time is no time for quibbling; but I think that we ought to have on record some more assurances from the Home Secretary, particularly having regard to our experiences between 1914 and 1918. I am concerned that the legitimate grievances of the people, especially the industrial section of our people, should have an opportunity of being expressed, of being ventilated, and of being dealt with. It is with that in mind that I wish to make a few observations. Hon. Members on this side, having regard to our experiences arising out of various Acts, are bound to be suspicious when it is proposed to introduce regulations. Although I realise the need for legislation on these lines and the need for the Government to have the right to introduce regulations, I should be lacking in my duty if I did not put a number of questions to the Home Secretary in order that he may give further assurances to those which he has already given to friends of ours outside the House, and in order that those assurances may be on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

My first point deals with Clause 1, which refers to securing the public safety and the maintenance of public order. It is on those two points, and the various interpretations that can be put upon those words, that I want to ask the Home Secretary for an assurance that in no circumstances will those powers be applied to legitimate trade union activities and legitimate industrial activities, conducted on a reasonable basis, arising out of the grievances of workpeople. During the last War, assurances were given officially to the trade union movement, but we found that in certain circumstances it was necessary for shop stewards, trade councils and other representatives of our people to take certain action because of the fact that the legitimate and reasonable grievances of the people were not finding expression and were not being dealt with— such matters as organisation, non-unionism, piece work, and so on. For example, the trade union movement of this country has accepted a certain amount of responsibility with regard to the State, and having accepted that responsibility and being able to speak to the Government and others in an official way, with one spokesman speaking for the whole trade union movement, surely it is reasonable that our people in the workshops should have the right to expect every one employed in industry to pay his or her share in the maintenance of the finances of that particular organisation. If our people were involved in certain circumstances in which it was necessary to take action in order to enforce 100 per cent. trade unionism in every factory, I ask the Home Secretary to give an assurance that when any reasonable steps of that character were taken, Clause I would not be applied to them. The next point I want to make arises out of Sub-section (2, a) of Clause 1, which provides: For the apprehension, trial and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations, and for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of-State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Realm. What will be the interpretation of that provision? For example, if I were engaged in industry in a representative capacity, as I have been for nearly 20 years, and if, as a result of grievances of a legitimate character arising, I was forced to take certain action, would the Home Secretary in any circumstances apply this provision to reasonable activity of that character? I remember that during the last War, Mr. Arthur Henderson and many others, including the committee representing the Engineering and Building Trades Federation and the committee representing the whole of the engineering industry, were given assurances that in no circumstnaces would the things to which they were agreeing at that particular time affect conditions after the War was over. Those of us who are familiar with what took place remember the effects on our people. Therefore, I want to obtain assurances from the Home Secretary in order that there should not be a repetition of what occurred at that time. During the last War, the Government of the day, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), Lord Addison and others, repeatedly gave assurances which were not carried out, and the result was that it was necessary for shop stewards and other people to take action, even against their own judgment in some cases, because of the pressure that was brought to bear upon them as a result of the legitimate grievances of the people whom they represented. Therefore, before this Bill is given a Second Reading, we have a right to ask the Home Secretary to give assurances on such questions. The Bill also empowers the Home Secretary to: authorise the entering and search of any premises. That is a serious proposition. I realise, particularly having regard to certain forces operating on behalf of foreign Powers in other parts of the world, that it will be necessary to apply those proposals. What I am concerned about is that these proposals should not be applied to shop stewards, trade union delegates, and trade council representatives when they are carrying on legitimate work on behalf of the people whom they represent. My last point has reference to Clause 6 of the Bill, in which it is provided that the hearing of proceedings shall take place in camera. I am the first to admit the necessity for that, generally speaking; but I want to ask that in certain circumstances when this is applied where possible a responsible public representative should be allowed to attend such proceedings. I know that when there are military secrets and delicate political questions affecting the relationships between this country and other countries it is necessary for these proceedings to be carried out in camera. I am asking that in cases of that kind when people who have been acting in a representative capacity are being dealt with under these regulations, some public responsible representative should be allowed to be present in order that people outside can have confidence in what is taking place in camera.

7.46 p.m.

Sir Richard Acland

The Government are asking for immense powers, far greater than those taken under the I.R.A. Bill. The Government asked for that Bill by a certain day and the Opposition gave them the Bill by that day. Now they are asking for far more extensive powers, and are virtually asking for it by a certain hour. Within a minute or two it may be taken that the Opposition will give the Government this Bill by the hour which they demand. In the case of the I.R.A. Bill the Government succeeded in getting it through on the day they asked for it by a considerable measure of generosity towards Amendments that were moved. I hope that the Home Secretary will pursue the same course on this occasion and will realise that he does owe something to the Opposition for the fact that we are giving to the Government at the hour they ask for it a Bill which contains Clauses every one of which we would be bound to oppose, and rightly oppose, in normal circumstances, and that he will accept suggestions that are made, or will give the best possible reasons for not accepting them. There are two in particular which I would like to put to the Home Secretary now, so that whoever replies may have an opportunity of dealing with them, because that will give us an opportunity of considering what position we should take with regard to submitting possible manuscript Amendments. The time limit has been spoken of by the Home Secretary as a concession. Of course it may be a concession to the leaders of parties, but it is rather strange that a Bill was submitted to the leaders of parties without this provision of a time limit, which is a thing which, obviously, ought to have been in the Bill, and then, when at the request of the leaders a time limit is put in, it is called a wonderful concession for which the Opposition must express their grateful thanks. Whether it appears as a concession to leaders of parties or not, to ordinary back bench Members it appears simply as part of the substance of the Bill which we must look at in the same way as we look at any other part of the Bill. Will the Home Secretary explain why he needs these powers for one year? If war breaks out he will need them for the duration of the war but if war does not break out how can the Home Secretary need the powers, even safeguarded by the assurances which he has given, to detain anybody whom he sees fit in the circumstances to detain, because the circumstances in which this country may find itself in 12 months' time may be very different from those in which we find ourselves to-day, just as the circumstances of to-day are very different from those in which we found ourselves 12 months ago? Therefore, will the Home Secretary consider accepting an Amendment to substitute for the words "one year" the words "one month" or "two months," with the addition in either case of the words "or the duration of any war which may break out within that period"? Surely that is a reasonable concession which the Government ought to make to the Opposition when they are asking us to take the abnormal course of giving them this Bill at the hour at which they ask for it. The most important assurance which the Home Secretary gave was that nothing under this Bill will be used to interfere with the Press. Could he tell us whether there is any substantial reason why that assurance cannot be embodied into the terms of the Bill?

I would like to make some general observations. I have already said that the Opposition to-day are treating the Government with remarkable generosity. They have shown that already when, at the request of the Prime Minister, several Members, who desired to take part in the general discussion earlier, refrained from doing so in order that a very impressive vote might be recorded in time for publication at an early hour. I would like to make a general observation on what ought to be the relations between different sides of this House now that we are giving the Government in one day these immense powers. A little earlier to-day some determined and hard things were said by, among others, the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). Why is it that speeches of that kind must be made, and, I think rightly made, in the present atmosphere? We have been told "Cut out this controversy; let us have national unity." We agree, but what is the condition on which we are to settle down to national unity and to the ending of our controversies? Is it to be on the basis that we are never to raise the points that we want to raise, or is it to be on the basis that the Government should pay a little more respect to us and admit more freely that sometimes we have been right?

In the speech in which he justified the necessity for asking the House to take the peculiar procedure in relation to this Bill the Prime Minister used words somewhat as follows: "If we are forced into a struggle the end of which no one can foresee, it will not be for some far away city, but for those great principles without which the peaceful conduct of international relations cannot be carried on." Those are magnificent words with which we agree. Would not there be a far better prospect of real national unity and real co-operation behind such an extraordinary measure as this if hon. Members on the other side would read that declaration and would realise that, if they accept that as a true statement of our present approach to the problem of Danzig, they in their turn from now on should cease to throw across the Floor of the House or to make in private conversations or private reports the accusation against us that we were the people who wanted to go to war for Manchuria, for Abyssinia, for Spain and for Czecho-Slovakia? Surely they would recognise that in each of these cases it was not a question of taking up arms for a far away city, but that in each case we were prepared to urge a course of action in which great principles were involved without which the peaceful conduct of international relations could not be carried on. If we could see in our ordinary relations with each other that a little of that were realised there would be a far greater measure of real national unity behind the extraordinary powers that are sought in this Bill.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. Bellenger

I desire to say only a few words, because I understand the Government want to expedite this matter. The most comforting thing which the Home Secretary uttered in his speech, and, to my mind, the greatest safeguard, was his assurance that this Bill when it becomes an Act will be operated with common sense. Every hon. Member knows that we are placing in the hands of the Executive, indeed, probably of one member of the Executive, almost dictatorial powers, a thing which in ordinary circumstances it would be impossible for us to contemplate. I have said before that from practical experience I have found the Home Secretary to be one who does use his common sense in matters of this kind and in matters affecting the liberty of the subject. I believe that we have to take a lot on trust when we are discussing legislation of this kind. It will be impossible, probably, for Members of Parliament to carry out their Parliamentary duties of criticism of the legislature if we go to war, and therefore we have to rely on those who are set in authority over us to operate measures of this kind with common sense and justice.

There is one other safeguard which we have always got— probably, I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith), the biggest safeguard. We cannot possibly carry on the business of the country as we contemplate doing in an emergency unless we get the co-operation of all classes and all sections of the country. There is a saying that you can take a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink. I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke in the protest he has uttered as to the operation of the Defence of the Realm Act during the last War. I sincerely hope that whoever is in authority will remember that experience and will attempt to get the co- operation of all sections in order to carry the contest, if it comes to one, to a successful conclusion.

There is one matter about which I should like to ask for some information because it affects us personally. What is to be the position of Members of Parliament under this Bill?

Mr. Denville

The same as anybody else.

Mr. Bellenger

Shall we really be in the same category as ordinary members of the public? Because I would suggest that we are in a slightly different position. We are the elected representatives of the people and are here to safeguard their interests as far as we can. In wartime it will be very difficult for us to carry out those duties. Are we to be allowed reasonable scope to carry them out in a responsible manner? If we are in the same category as ordinary members of the public I hope that the Secretary of State will realise that, if he is to get that co-operation for which he asks, he will have to allow us some latitude in what, in the interests of our constituents, whether they be members of a trade union or ordinary members of the public, we feel it our duty to do. There is a feeling in the minds of most people that when it comes to big business it has a right of access to 10, Downing Street, and to the Home Secretary and to others in whom these great powers will be vested.

There is also the feeling in the mind of the ordinary workman who will have to play his important part in carrying on the affairs of the country that when it comes to his interests they are not properly listened to, and cannot be properly represented. Under the present Constitution the trade unionist, the ordinary workman, at any rate has this assurance, that he can write to his Member of Parliament and his Member of Parliament will exercise some restraint, even if it be only a small amount, on the Executive. We know that, if war comes, probably we may not even have the opportunity of meeting in session as we are doing now. I would, therefore, ask the Home Secretary, if the position of a Member of Parliament is just the same as that of any other member of the public, if he will grant us facilities to get to the right spot to put these grievances, for I have no doubt they will arise, because if they are not listened to there will be trouble for whoever is in power.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. Simmonds

The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Members opposite have appealed to the Home Secretary for an understanding attitude towards the problems of labour, and I am sure that all on this side of the House would join with them in that plea. But I want to suggest that there is a reciprocal obligation on those who are in the trade union movement that they should have an understanding attitude to those in industry who are not so enthusiastic about trade unionism as they themselves may be. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) somewhat disturbed me by a remark that he made. In Birmingham we have thousands of factories, large and small, which are open shops, where 100 percent. unionism is not insisted upon or claimed. One question that the hon. Member put was whether, if trade union officials attempted 100 percent. unionism, there would be objection to it under the Bill. I feel that the trade union movement has to show that understanding to those in industry who are anxious to co-operate with the unions as far as may be, but who cannot see their way clear to have the closed shop. I feel that, with the very large number of shops in Birmingham which are working harmoniously with the open shop, it would be regrettable if advantage were taken of any critical time through which we are passing to press the closed shop on industry, though I gather that the hon. Member had no such intention.

Mr. E. Smith

I consider that that is putting an unfair interpretation on the issue that was raised. I was giving a concrete example only— not necessarily a 100, 90 or 80 per cent. —and I qualified it by saying "within reason."

8.3 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I am very much obliged to Members on all sides of the House for so effectively expediting the Second Reading. I know I was asking a great deal but, none the less, I felt sure, when I made the request, that hon. Members would expedite it, for every Member must feel that a heavy responsibility is upon his shoulders just as much as on the shoulders of any Minister, and I think 99 out of 100 would wish to see the Bill passed and passed as quickly as possible. I have been asked a number of questions. The Leader of the Opposition asked when we were going to issue regulations and, in particular, whether we were going to have financial regulations and regulations dealing with the control of industry. I cannot give him an explicit answer as to the exact day or hour when we shall issue regulations, but I can say that in my view certain regulations are needed, if not at once, almost at once. I mean particularly that financial regulations will be necessary at no distant date. We have in mind exactly the type of matter that the right hon. Gentleman raised, the question of the export of capital. But I think the House will agree that in anything so sensitive as financial regulations it must be left to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury to decide what are the regulations that ought to be issued and at what particular day or hour. In any case, on no account will they be announced before they are issued. If they are announced before they are issued, we shall have every kind of forestalling and speculation. I hope I have said enough to show that we have that side of the problem very much at heart. We shall certainly contemplate that there will have to be regulations dealing with financial questions and also with the broader question of the control of industry.

I pass from that to a question put to me by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) about the effect of the Bill on labour conditions. He raised a number of wide questions, some of which do not come within the scope of the Bill at all. Any Government must do its utmost to work in the closest harmony and co-operation with the great Labour organisations. I said that on my own behalf to the representatives of the Trades Union Congress yesterday. They asked me a number of questions as to the way in which their work might be facilitated in war time. It would be the wish of this Government, and I should hope of any Government, to work in close co-operation with great organisations of that kind and to do nothing which would unnecessarily impede their work. With reference to labour questions generally, let me repeat that one of the objects of inserting the words which prohibit regulations imposing any form of industrial conscription in the latter part of Clause 1 is to mark the view of the Government that the proposed powers will not be used for the purpose of interference with what may broadly be called labour questions. There will be no power under the Bill to prevent persons with holding their labour in cases of industrial disputes, nor will there be any use of the provisions of the Bill for the purpose of interfering with labour conditions or regulating matters relating to wages, hours, dilution and so on.

Mr. George Griffiths

Will the right hon. Gentleman say that troops will not be used in case of a lock-out? I have an experience of that. You sent Navy men, when we were locked out, to do work that the miners were doing. Are you going to do that again?

Sir S. Hoare

The hon. Member will see, if he reads the Bill, that a question of that kind is not raised in the Bill at all. I have given the undertaking that there will be nothing in the nature of industrial conscription under the Bill. Questions that deal with labour conditions will have to be dealt with, if dealt with during the war, by special ad hoc legislation. This kind of question is not raised in the Bill.

Mr. Griffiths

The Secretary for War told us not many weeks ago, when we were discussing the Militia, that he possessed the power to send out soldiers if there was a strike or a lock-out.

Sir S. Hoare

Again the hon. Member will see, if he reads the Bill, that it does not alter that position for better or for worse. It leaves it exactly where it is now. It could not be dealt with in the scope of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) pointed to the Sub-section about land and asked me exactly the question that I myself asked the Government draftsman. I said, "Why is land included in this curious way under this provision?" The answer he gave was a good one that, first of all this is an emergency Bill. The user of land will be requisitioned and anything in the nature of the purchase of land will be a more permanent arrangement which ought not to be brought within the scope of an emergency Bill. When land is to be purchased there are a whole number of Land Purchase Acts which will cover the case. Land can be purchased and, if further powers are necessary, the transfer of land being such a complicated affair, it can only be dealt with by legislation and not under regulation.

Mr. J. Morgan

Could not land be temporarily acquired for any special purpose?

Sir S. Hoare

If the hon. Member will study more closely the provisions of the Bill he will find that that is exactly what would happen.

Mr. Morgan

And the products of the land?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes. There were a number of other questions about the possibility of further safeguards. I was asked whether I could not give some further undertaking in the cases of men and women who are, or may be, interned. I give this undertaking, that we contemplate following generally the pro- cedure adopted between 1914 and 1918. We shall take into account the lessons of that experience and we shall certainly have some kind of local bodies as well as a central advisory committee. As to legislation there was no provision in the previous Acts, nor will there be provisions in this Act, but we contemplate procedure of that kind.

Mr. E. Harvey

Would the right hon. Gentleman make provision in the order under this Sub-section?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) asked about the drafting of Clause 1 and whether the series of objectives set out were not cumulative and would not make the operation of the Act on that account more restricted. I have consulted the Government draftsman on that point and my answer to the hon. Member is, "No" According to the experts, the word "and" sometimes has a disjunctive meaning and in this case, those who are wiser than I am on these matters tell me that these words could not have a cumulative effect. Then, as to the powers in the Bill, someone suggested that they were greater than the powers that were used in the last War. That is not so. Speaking generally, they cover very much the same ground as the Defence of the Realm Regulations which existed between 1914 and 1918.

Lastly, there was a series of interesting questions by the hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) and I wish to say to him how much I appreciated the kind reference which he made to me. He asked, among other things, what was to be the position of Members of Parliament in the event of war. This Bill in any case would not affect Members of Parliament any more or any less than anybody else. I think the hon. Member will agree with me that the Defence of the Realm Regulations ought to be carried out by Members of Parliament just as much as by any private citizen. For instance, there are the regulations against profiteering and food hoarding and so on which would certainly be required in the event of war. What I can say to the hon. Member, however, is that this Bill would not touch the question of the privilege of Parliament and it would not restrict the liberty of debate.

Mr. Benn

Does the Home Secretary say that on legal advice?

Sir S. Hoare

The Solicitor-General will, I think, confirm what I have said.

Mr. Benn

Has the Solicitor-General read Clause 1 (4), which appears to rule out the rights on which the privilege of speech in this House is based?

Sir S. Hoare

I know what an expert the right hon. Gentleman is on these con stitutional questions—

Mr. Benn

I am not an expert.

Sir S. Hoare

I was stating the position broadly and I maintain that the position is as I have stated it, but I will look into it again in order to see whether there is anything which I can add on the de tailed points raised. I am sure that, speaking generally, there is nothing in the Bill which will affect the privilege of Members of Parliament or the liberty of Debate in this House. As far as the public position of Members of Parliament is concerned, it will be realised that a private Member of Parliament, just as much as a Member of the Government, has a responsible part to play in the life of the country and any Government would, in my view, be mad if it put obstacles in the way of Members of Parliament and made it more difficult for them to carry out their duties, either to their constituents, or to industrial organisations which they may represent.

Mr. E. Smith

Has the right hon. Gentleman given consideration to the suggestion that, within certain limits, responsible representatives should have the opportunity of attending at proceedings in camera under Clause 6? I do not expect a definite answer now because I know the difficulties, but I would ask him to give consideration to that point before the regulations are issued.

Sir S. Hoare

I ask the hon. Member's pardon for having inadvertently passed over his question on that point. The object of Clause 6 is to deal with cases in which it would be essential that information should not be disclosed which would be advantageous to the enemy. Under the present law, the disclosure of certain information is covered by the Official Secrets Act, but it is very narrow. Speaking generally, it covers military secrets and very little else. The hon. Member will see at once that there may be certain other information such as economic information, for instance, which it would be just as dangerous to divulge to the enemy as information about military dispositions. All the Clause intends is that the court should be enabled to decide when a case of that kind arises, whether the proceedings should be in camera or not. It does not follow, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminds me, that the court may be entirely cleared on these occasions. It will rest with the judge whether he asks certain people to withdraw and this, again, is relevant to the point raised by the hon. Member for Stoke, because it would be possible in cases such as he apparently has in mind, for someone to remain in court.

Mr. Benn

The operation of Sub section (4) of Section 8 of the Official Secrets Act, 1920, is being suspended. The particular point of that Sub-section which appears to confer some safeguard on the prisoner is that, although the trial may be in camera, the sentence must be promulgated publicly. Why is it necessary to suspend that safeguard?

Sir S. Hoare

When we come to consider Clause 6 later, I will give an answer. I think I have dealt with all the points which have been raised, and I hope the House will now give the Bill a Second Reading.

Sir R. Acland

Will the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the duration of the Measure?

Sir S. Hoare

The duration of the Measure must be for the emergency period, and in order to mark what we hope and believe will be its temporary character, we put in this time limit of 12 months. The hon. Member asked, why not put in one month or two months?

Sir R. Acland

Or the duration of any war or emergency.

Sir S. Hoare

I think that probably the most sensible way of meeting the case is to put in a period such as 12 months and at the same time make it possible, by Order in Council, to bring the Measure to an end as soon as the emergency is over and in any case to make Resolutions of both Houses necessary if the emergency, as we hope will not be the case, should go on beyond the 12 months and Parliament desired these powers to continue. I should have thought that the hon. Member had all the safeguards which are necessary.

Bill considered in Committee.

[Colonel Clifton Brown in the Chair.]