HC Deb 11 November 1941 vol 374 cc2040-2
57 and 58. Commander Bower

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, having regard to the constitutional position revealed by the judgment of the House of Lords in the case Liversidge v. Anderson and Another, he will himself introduce legislation to provide safeguards against abuse of the absolute powers of arrest and detention at present possessed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department?

(2) whether, having regard to the grave constitutional issues raised by the judgment of the House of Lords in the case Liversidge v. Anderson and Another, he will introduce legislation to give effect to the interpretation of the wording of Regulation 18B, supported by Lord Atkin in his dissenting speech?

The Prime Minister

It is not proposed to introduce such legislation. These powers were conferred upon His Majesty's Government by the House, and we are not yet in a sufficiently secure position to abandon them.

Commander Bower

Is it not a fact that when these Regulations were originally introduced, the House took the strongest possible exception to the liberty of the subject being placed at the sole discretion of the Home Secretary, with the result, that the Regulations were changed, but that now this decision of the ultimate court of appeal has established the fact that the new words mean exactly the same as the old ones; and, therefore, should not there be some change?

The Prime Minister

Although I speak as a layman on these legal matters, I am advised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is incorrectly informed.

Sir Irving Albery

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by some 60 Members of the House, who represent all shades of political opinion, calling for a modification of Regulation I8B?

The Prime Minister

I regret that owing to the House just having come together again, I have not been apprised of this Motion, but there will be many facilities in the coming Session for discussing this matter and other matters which 60 or even fewer Members wish to raise.

Sir I. Albery

May I put a point of Order to you, Mr. Speaker? Does not the Prime Minister's answer show that the present procedure of the House in making known to Ministers the existence of Private Members' Motions on the Order Paper and the names appended thereto is at present quite inadequate?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a question to which I can give an answer at this moment.

Mr. Silverman

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the interpretation given to Regulation I8B by Lord Atkin in his dissenting judgment is precisely the interpretation placed upon it by the then Home Secretary when the new Regulations were presented to the House, and did not the House accept those Regulations on the basis of an interpretation which the House of Lords, by a majority, has now held to be wrong?

The Prime Minister

I could not attempt to answer that matter at Question Time, as it raises a number of legal points, and I should have to refresh my memory by reading what was said when the Regulations were passed. The position of the Government is that the House conferred certain powers on them of its own free will. Those powers are being exercised. They have not been abused in any way; otherwise, the House would certainly have brought the matter up. We do not propose at the present time, while the danger continues to be so severe, to volunteer the return of such powers.

Commander Bower

I beg to give notice that, owing to the great change which has been made by this legal decision, I and my hon. Friends will be bound to raise this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Prime Minister

What does the hon. and gallant Member think Parliament comes together for?