§ The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of subsection (1) of section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act, as amended by any subsequent enactment, be continued in force for a further period 426 of one year, beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-three.As the House is aware, under Section II of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, if an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament praying that the Act be continued for another year, His Majesty may so direct. It therefore becomes my duty to move this Motion. That Act has provided the machinery under which this democracy of ours has organised itself for war. It is, therefore, of vital importance that the Motion for continuing the Act should be passed. It is none the less right that I 427 should point out to the House why in my opinion this Motion, despite its importance, does not require that I should detain the House much in moving it. In the first place, it is only seven weeks since the House debated the question of delegated legislation, which is the inevitable consequence of the Act's operation. In the second plate, the Motion then agreed to unanimously by the House in terms admitted the necessity of giving abnormal powers to the Executive, and my hon. Friends who spoke emphasised again and again that they did not dispute the need for these powers.
When, therefore, the question which strictly the Government have to answer to-day is, "Are your powers really necessary?" it would not be helpful for the Mover to press unduly what has been universally conceded, because whatever our views or the views of any individual Member may be as to the exercise of one particular power, no one doubts that it would be impossible to carry on the war were these powers not granted and were the Act not brought into operation again. I want, however, to take the opportunity of saying again that the Government recognise the force of many of the criticisms such as have been voiced in discussions which have recently taken place on the Defence Regulations and the things done and Orders made thereunder and in the various Debates we have had on individual Regulations. The Government have spared no trouble in trying to devise ways and means of meeting the objections which have been raised. In the general Debate to which I have referred, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary indicated a number of steps which the Government had taken or proposed to take in order to assist to maintain proper supervision and control, and I thought it might be for the benefit of the House if I briefly tabulated what these are and indicated what are in my view the conditions imposed either by the Statute or by the undertakings of my right hon. Friend on the working of the Act.
The first condition is good faith, of course. With regard to good faith, the courts have an unfettered control over the working of the Regulations. The second is the conscientious examination of the purposes for which the Regulations, Orders or Directions are made. These pre-requisites of the Regulations or Orders 428 are laid down in the Act and are as apparent to the critic as to the Minister who makes the Order. The third condition is the restriction, as far as it is possible, of the matters likely to come up for discussion or to be the subject of thought and consideration in this House to Defence Regulations in lieu of Orders or other instruments. The fourth is clarity, and there have been two special provisions. One is the explanation at the time of issue where it is necessary, and the second is, as my right hon. Friend stressed, the endeavour to draft the Regulations or other instruments in language which will allow compliance with the two functions of making them understood by those to whom they are directed and of making them able to be interpreted by the Courts before which their construction comes. The fifth condition, as I see it, is the statutory check which is in the hands of Parliament and that, as has been indicated, is three-fold. There is the check, as we have it to-day, when the whole question of the prolonging of the Act and the Regulations come before the House; the procedure of which we have seen examples, by Prayer against a particular Regulation; and the understanding and undertaking on the part of the Government to facilitate the discussion of any other instrument which would not technically be the subject matter of a Prayer. The sixth condition which we ought to stress and which we all wish is commonsense administration in the carrying out of these functions. We all believe, whether speaking from the Ministerial Box or from any part of the House, that that is necessary in order to produce the good-will which, despite criticism as a whole, makes this machinery work with smoothness and success.
The House will not bear it against me, and I am sure that my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in these matters will understand the reasons, if the picture which I have given has been brief and general in its form, but it did appear to me that it was only by regarding a general picture that the House could grasp the problem as a whole and see its needs in true perspective. I should like to stress that the Government appreciate that the maintenance of these conditions as the basis upon which the Government and the country are working does require the vigilant attention of the House and does give the House the opportunity 429 to demonstrate that its powers and duties in that regard stand unimpaired. It is because we recognise that that we have directed so much attention, and are prepared to direct any amount more that should be required, to the improvement of these conditions which I have endeavoured to outline. We do suggest, however, that it is not an unfair request to make of hon. Members in all quarters of the House that, having set forth these improvements, having regarded and seriously studied every suggestion for improvement that has been put before us, the House should give these improvements a chance to see how they work. We believe that the results will be that the undoubted and great success which this procedure has brought about in organising the country for the purposes of war will be even greater and accepted with even greater good-will.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South-East)
I am sure the whole House has appreciated the moderate way in which my hon. and learned Friend introduced this Motion. I do not suppose there is one hon. Member who would be disposed to disagree that we must have Emergency Powers Acts during war time, but, facing as we are a condition in which the liberties of our people are very closely involved, it is only proper that on this one occasion in the year when this Motion is brought forward and the Emergency Powers Acts as a whole can be discussed, we should scrutinise the way in which they have worked, always bearing in mind that the Government have powers under these Acts which far outrun the powers of the Stuart Kings even in their heyday. And that is not all. This is the only Measure which I know of that has, for certain obvious reasons, no Committee stage. It may well be that during wartime, when these powers have to be used with speed, it is right that we should have simply this Debate and the Acts should continue for another year, but when the Armistice comes—and no one seriously imagines that the moment the guns cease to fire in Europe the Emergency Powers Acts are going to lapse—and during the period when there is a less grave emergency, although still a state of emergency, it might be advisable to pare down these powers gradually, and a time may come when a Committee stage each year may be of considerable importance to the liberty of the subject as a whole.
430 Looking back to the Debates, or lack of Debates, in the past two years I find that when this Motion came up last year it was purely formal, not one word being said in regard to Emergency Powers. The year before there was a Debate, but it ranged almost entirely round Regulation 18B. Whatever the views of hon. Members may be in regard to that Regulation it represents only a very small part of the field, and I venture to suggest that we might turn our minds, at any rate for a time, to the rather wider aspect of these Acts and consider the way in which we can improve the machinery by which the House still has, as it ought to have, certain checks upon delegated legislation.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
The hon. and gallant Member having said what he has said about Regulation 18B, I take it that he would agree with me that that particular part of the Regulations does at least deprive the subject of his liberty, which is the main point?
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes
It is obvious that every Regulation under these Emergency Powers does curtail the liberty of the individual, and I was merely emphasising that one, but I propose to look rather at the general field. When my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was not then right honourable, moved this Motion in 1941, he made a certain observation which, although I would not accuse him of complacency, was, I thought, a little bit dangerous. He said:It is, I think, a remarkable thing that this vast mass of legislation which has not been subject to any detailed scrutiny by this House, should have attracted the opposition of hon. Members only, as far as I can remember, on two or three occasions. That is to say, the powers which the Government have taken under this Act to pursue the war have the support of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members to whatever parties they belong."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July. 1941; col. 942, Vol. 373.]It is true that the overwhelming majority of Members do support the Emergency Powers Act, but it is a little dangerous to assume that because, especially during the early days of the war, there was not a constant flow of Prayers and a constant flow of opposition, there was not a feeling, not only in the minds of hon. Members but in the minds of the people as a whole, that this was legislation which, although they accepted it in war time, they detested 431 in their hearts. A rather more dangerous observation was made by a very prominent Member of this House in the Debate which we had in May of this year. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), who on that occasion was casting perhaps a little ridicule on some of those who had produced Prayers at different times, said:Great powers in an executive are not necessarily an evil. It depends on how they are used."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1639, Vol. 389.]There you have that curious unconscious Fascist mentality of which all of us, to whatever party we belong, have to be extremely careful, because although this country has accepted legislation of this character in order to defeat the common enemy in the name of liberty, if we lose our own liberty, if we lose our own soul while doing it, our victory will be a vain one. I should prefer to say that while these Emergency Powers are not of necessity an evil in point of fact they may be a necessary evil under certain conditions, but they are an evil which this House should always be on the watch to prevent becoming an incubus which never could be thrown off in the days when the war is over.
I would remind the House of an observation which I think both the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State might bear in mind. It is a quotation from the late Lord Sumner, which has been used, I think, previously, but which to my mind has a very pertinent bearing upon the care and the restraint which hon. Members have shown towards these powers in war time. Lord Sumner said:Experience must have taught us, too, that many acts are done by the Executive (in times of crisis) purporting to be for the common good which Englishmen are too patriotic to contest.I want the Government to face the situation rather in the light that this particular legislation is unpopular legislation, and that although people are anxious not to injure the Government by opposing it, occasions must arise when it is necessary, even in war time, to uplift our voices and to speak when we think the Executive may have gone too far. When the Armistice comes the real danger is not that this incubus of control will be fastened upon us for ever, but that out of sheer exasperation the pendulum may swing the other way. Unless the Government are care- 432 ful, by public demand things may be swept away which ought not to go all at one time, and that may depend upon the wisdom with which the Executive meets the will of Parliament during the war and the way in which Parliament uses those powers which Parliament still possesses in regard to this form of legislation.
It is rather interesting to note that since 1941 the large spate of Orders and Regulations which appear upon the Table of the House has grown rather less, and, curiously enough, grown rather less in the period when more Prayers have been presented against certain Regulations. I would remind the House of the contrast between the rather easy complacency of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1941 with the master's voice when heard on the Floor of this House in May of this year. The master's voice was as follows:There have been mistakes in the handling of these exceptional powers. There have been some mistakes in procedure, some perhaps in policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1654, Vol. 389.]Hon. Members welcomed that statement, and knowing, as we all do, that whatever may be the virtues of the right hon. Gentleman, under-statement has never been one of them, I think we can feel confident that my right hon. Friend has realised that some of these powers have gone a good deal too far, to some extent through lack of scrutiny, and our task is to try to see not how these powers can be swept away but how we can improve the machinery by which delegated legislation may be checked from going over-far. An example was brought forward the other day by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I wish he were here now, because although I differ from him on many occasions, I thought his reference to the use of Regulation 47A was one which it would be well worth hon. Members referring to. Ha said with some truth:Experience has shown that delegated legislation makes evasion easy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1625, Vol. 389.]He took the case of Regulation 47A, a Regulation which at the proper time had been laid upon the Table, but against which, I think I am correct in saying, no Prayer had been made, and a Regulation, therefore, which after 28 days could not be actually abrogated by Parliament with- 433 out extremely complicated procedure. That was a Regulation which made merchant seamen who had already been punished by the officers on their ships for minor offences liable to being punished a second time when they came to land. There have been a number of instances where the scrutiny of the House has not under present conditions prevented Regulations coming into force which, although by no means through the will of the Government, have nevertheless created conditions which we have let slip through. The position, as the House knows, is that during the last few months greater efforts have been made by the House to consider delegated legislation and to introduce Prayers. Although an ad hoc Committee of hon. Members is not the best method of dealing with the situation, nevertheless the very fact that there have been those who, time after time, have been prepared to raise questions of obscurity and of principle in this House, has been to the advantage not only of the House of Commons but also of the Ministers who have had the privilege of having to answer.
The Solicitor-General has referred to the concessions that have been gained; I would like to remind the House of the real advantage of some of the concessions which the Government have granted to Parliament in the last few months. What appeared on the face of it to be quite a small point was that which the Home Secretary conceded to the criticism that Orders were lumped together and that it was impossible for hon. Members who disliked one Order to avoid praying against the whole group. We were met very fairly, and the promise given has been implemented. Orders are printed separately, and one needs to pray only against the Order which is considered objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government deserve our thanks for that concession. In regard to the question of obscurity, we have been promised, and we have received, memoranda in regard to certain Orders. The memoranda have helped us, but at the same time I would not say that we have gone the whole way. We still find a spate of Questions put to Ministers in relation to Orders which have not got memoranda and are still somewhat obscure. Something more can be done in that direction, and I welcome the 434 promise, which is to be amplified more or less at once, that the Government will codify groups of Orders where possible, in order to avoid too much legislation by reference.
I come to the last of the main points on which I want to speak, and that is about the Select Committee. I shall not commit myself to saying that every paragraph in the Donoughmore Report can be quoted as applicable to war-time. It gave a basis and suggested a sort of method by which Parliament could and should scrutinise delegated legislation, through a body representing all parties. I have ventured to take a note of the criticisms that have been made against the Select Committee by the Home Secretary, who almost always deals with this matter. I would like to call attention to the main criticisms and to endeavour so far as I can to answer them very briefly. What the Home Secretary said in May was that Parliament had delegated legislative power over certain fields, and he added words to this effect: "You cannot go back on delegation." Nobody suggested that you could, but there never has been complete delegation. When there is, Parliament will cease to exist. We still have the power of Parliamentary control. All we are asking for is to improve that method of control. It can be urged that the Committee, sitting on special occasions and representative of all parties and appointed by the House, would be rather better than an ad hoc Committee. The question of delegation does not touch that issue.
We come to the next point. The Home Secretary said in the same speech:The Government … cannot share the responsibility [of making Defence Regulations] with a Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1913; col. 1658, Vol. 389.]My right hon. Friend knows quite as well as everybody else in this House that such a suggestion has never been made either on the Floor here or by the Donoughmore Committee. It is not sharing responsibility to have an Advisory Committee. The right hon. Gentleman himself has been very fond of saying that his Advisory Committee dealing with Regulation 18B has been of great help to him but that nevertheless he bears full responsibility. No one supposes that anything but an Advisory Committee would be set up to deal with that form of legislation.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Do I understand the hon. and gallant Member to be suggesting that the Select Committee should have only advisory power?
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes
Certainly, Sir. I am certainly not suggesting that the Select Committee should have executive power. In a moment or two, if the hon. Member will allow me, I propose to express the view as to how the Committee should actually exercise the powers which it does possess. I will come to that in a moment. It has been pointed out by the Attorney-General that if the Select Committee were not to examine new principles, it would have nothing to do. Supporting that view, the Home Secretary said that unless the Select Committee were to examine everything on merit, it would be farcical. The answer seems to be that an Advisory Committee could be set up by this House for a certain purpose, and not to decide on the merits of any Regulation or Order as to whether it was good or bad. It would be set up to advise the Department involved whether a particular Order was one which should be specially called to the attention of the House of Commons so that the House could be in a position to debate the question of merit or controversy, if that appeared likely to be the sort of issue where that would arise. I do not say that the question of merit must not on occasion indirectly arise, but it would not be the job of the committee to say whether the Order was good or bad. The committee would advise that a particular Order was one on which, according to their experience, they knew there would be Members in the House of Commons belonging to certain groups who would feel strongly, and would wish to have an opportunity of expressing their views upon it. As a matter of fact, that is what we endeavour to do under the present system, but with an ad hoc system of one party only you cannot get that wide appreciation and decision, because it has neither the prestige nor the degree of knowledge that a committee representing all parties would have.
The old argument has been trotted out by the right hon. Gentleman and others that a Select Committee would mean an additional strain on Ministers and civil servants, and very considerable delay. The Committee which has been sitting has 436 received certain unexpected compliments from the right hon. Gentleman. We have been told that it has seldom been pernickety or mischievous and has seldom brought up any matter except where questions of principle were involved. The Minister said it had been most valuable to have these matters brought up. There we have a Committee which does not possess a professional staff and which never has to bring a Minister—it could not do so—before it. It takes up no time of any Minister or civil servant, but apparently it has been able to do a fairly useful job. Why not reconsider going a step further and giving the same sort of work to a body which is not appointed by itself but appointed by the House of Commons and representative of every section? It need not be an enormous body to do this job.
I would merely remind my right hon. Friend in conclusion that the dangers of emergency legislation are considerable and that the blessed words "national emergency" have been the source of many tyrannies in the past. They have been the stock-in-trade of every would-be dictator in the course of history, and it is our task to see that while those words are accepted when necessity arises they do not get misused and abused after the war.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I have not previously been associated in this House with those who have been concerned with this particular matter, but I have for a number of years taken a special interest in this problem of delegated legislation. As long ago as 1934 I took part with various other Members of the last Parliament in the writing of a book, "Conservatism and the Future," which dealt with this matter among other things. The Minister of Town and Country Planning and the Under-Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs will, I think, agree with me that that book did not obtain either the success or the circulation that it deserved, but I did put forward in it the view, which I still hold, that the Donoughmore Committee made very valuable proposals by which delegated legislation could be more effectively scrutinised by this House. I did think, and I still think, that the proposals of the Donoughmore Committee were not entirely adequate.
There is no objection to delegated legislation as such. In these days, when Government Departments are concerned with 437 almost every aspect of our lives, it is essential that there should be Regulations which are of great precision and great flexibility, and can be readily amended to deal with new circumstances. Departments like those of health and of labour have to deal with matters requiring detailed classification of persons and things, according to nature, purpose, location and age, and it is evitable, and not undesirable, that the Statutes passed by this House should deal with matters in broad principle and give the power of Regulation and delegated legislation to the Departments concerned.
That is the more so because many of these Orders are in some measure legislative, in some measure executive, and in some measure judicial. For example, when the Minister of Health issued an Order confirming an improvement scheme under the Housing Act of 1925, he was in some measure taking legislative and in some measure executive action, but the whole thing was based upon an inquiry which had been conducted in a judicial spirit. The question under discussion is how far the House of Commons can and should subject these Regulations to scrutiny. It is true that it is not the custom of this House to interfere from day to day in the administration of the Government, and I think that is the reason why our democracy has been more successful than that of France and other countries. When we have given our confidence to a Government we allow them to have the finance and the legislation which they consider necessary to discharge their responsibilities until such time as we can find a better government with which to replace them.
That is the point which the Home Secretary made, at considerable length, in the Debate of 26th May, but that, of course, is not the whole story. If it were the case that the House of Commons handed over complete and unrestricted confidence to any Government until it finally decided to overturn that Government as a whole, it would mean that there would be no protection for the liberties of the individual. Throughout history it has been the privilege and the duty of this House to protect the subject against the pretensions of the executive, and it is quite obvious that the danger from those pretensions of the Executive is not now any less than it has been in the past. 438 What is of vital importance is that the procedure of this House shall be brought sufficiently up to date in order to enable it in the new circumstances to exercise the same functions that it was able to exercise with a different and more primitive procedure in the centuries of the past.
What we are asking for to-day is that the House shall be provided with machinery for making the scrutiny of delegated legislation more effective. In other respects the House has been at pains to see that what comes before the House, even if it is unopposed, shall be subjected to careful scrutiny. First, in the case of unopposed Private Bills, these have to be submitted to a special Committee of this House which wants to know whether there is any objection to those Bills. In the second place, when this House decided to give the Church of England certain powers of autonomy, and the Church Assembly was enabled to legislate, there was at the same time set up an Ecclesiastical Committee of this House charged with the expressed responsibility to report to this House in the case of any Measure that was passed by the Church Assemblyas to the expediency thereof especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects.In the third place, when the Ministry of Transport Act was passed in 1919 power was given for certain Orders in Council to be made at the instance of the Minister of Transport, and it was provided by Section 29 of that Act that the Orders should be scrutinised in draft by the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Lords or by the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons. Fourthly, in the case of the House of Lords, by Standing Order 212 a Committee has been set up, called the Special Orders Committee. All special Orders where affirmative resolutions are required have to be referred to this special committee, which sits under the chairmanship of the Lord Chairman, and has to consider whether there is any prima facie objection to these delegated Rules and Regulations. Therefore in almost every other case there is ample precedent for deciding that there shall be special machinery to make certain that where legislative power is delegated to any other body, the exercise of those powers shall be scrutined by a special Committee of this House.
439 The Home Secretary argued on 26th May that the power of delegated legislation cannot be shared between the Government and this House, but that is precisely what does happen in the case of these Rules and Regulations or in the case of the vast majority of them. They either do not come into effect until an affirmative Resolution has been passed by this House, or it is possible for this House to pray against them and thereby to obtain their annulment. All that we are asking is that instead of this matter being left to the House as a whole, so that what is everybody's business may very well prove to be nobody's business, a special Committee shall be set up who will not allow any of this delegated legislation to slip through unscrutinised. There is no change in the constitutional position at all under what we are proposing. The only thing is an alteration in the machinery of this House in order to ensure that a scrutiny which is at the present time ineffective shall become effective.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I have listened to the first and second speakers, and I am waiting to hear what is their purpose. Are they moving an Amendment to these Regulations or to Standing Orders? What is their purpose? I really cannot follow. I would like the hon. Member to be more definite. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read the Order Paper."] I have read the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Molson
On the last occasion the Home Secretary asked a question about what was the intention of hon. Members with regard to the powers of these committees, and he then said a rather peculiar thing. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) had interrupted and pointed out that this House had the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Select Committee on National Expenditure sitting in order to scrutinise on behalf of the House what was being done by the Government. The Home Secretary then made rather a strange remark. He said:My hon. Friend is misleading himself. None of those three Committees is in any sense executive.And in reply to another interruption he said: 440I am speaking of executive only in the legislative sense, not in the ordinary sense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1657, Vol. 389.]I do not want to make too much of this point if it was merely a slip of the tongue. It was not a thing that was said by the Attorney-General, who certainly would not have said it, but the Home Secretary continued to argue that you cannot have an executive committee. He is naturally a little more familiar with the L.C.C., where I believe there are committees which do have executive powers, but I think it is important to emphasise that none of the Committees of this House have any executive powers at all. At least there is one, that is the Kitchen Committee, which is not a valuable precedent from this point of view. In the case of all these Committees, including the upstairs Committees which scrutinise Bills, all that they have the power to do is to report back to this House and give this House advice upon the subject.
What we are asking is that in the case of this delegated legislation there shall be a special Committee similar to the Unopposed Private Bills Committee which will scrutinise this delegated legislation and then if it thinks it necessary or desirable to do so, will draw the attention of the House to the delegated legislation. The Home Secretary went on to say:I do not believe that any Select Committee … can or ought to keep away from the merits of the case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1669, Vol. 389.]I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes) has already made the point abundantly clear. I would say to the Home Secretary that in any case at the present time where hon. Members consider that delegated legislation is of a kind that would be regarded as objectionable by the House as a whole, it is possible for them to raise it here. In exactly the same way, the Committee, in cases where they thought it desirable, would call the attention of the House as a whole to the merits or demerits of the legislation.
We in this House are in the position of representing the toad under the administrative harrow. We are able to look at these things to see when they are vexatious and harassing, when there are cases where Departments through excessive zeal have introduced Regulations which are really burdensome to the people. There 441 have been such cases. It was on 3rd February that a Prayer was moved in this House with regard to an Order in Council which had been issued at the request of the Minister of Transport. After a very long and full Debate the Prayer was passed by this House, and we have heard nothing more of the Order since. It must have been a case where some official or other thought it was desirable to take vast powers of which he really did not stand in need, and when the thing was objected to in this House we have heard nothing more about it to this day.
My hon. Friend will be referring later to-day to another Order of a particularly vexatious and harassing kind where there seems to be no sufficient and adequate reason for requiring all the small boats in Cornwall and Devonshire to be immobilised.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary prides himself on being a good administrator. I agree that he is a very able administrator, but I think there is at the present time a certain danger that his Department in particular, and some other Departments of the State, are arrogating to themselves powers of extremely wide and extensive character which are not really acceptable to the people of this country. I hope that after having had some weeks to think over the last Debate on this subject, my right hon. Friend in his reply to-day will show himself not only to he an able and vigorous administrator but also a good House of Commons man who understands that if the Government are to be kept in friendly touch with the people of this country, it is necessary that the House of Commons shall have adequate machinery to scrutinise the delegated legislation which is in the hands of the Government.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for South East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes) in appreciating what the Government have done within the last month or so to bring the procedure in relation to these Regulations and Orders on to a better House of Commons basis. There is only one thing I would like to say under that head, that it is desirable in my opinion and in the opinion of those behind me that there should be not merely codification but also consolidation, that the various types of Orders should be brought together, that an index is not 442 sufficient and that it should be possible for any Member of the House or any member of the general public for that matter really to understand and be able to analyse the effect of Orders applying to the various kinds of purposes for which they are made.
So long as the procedure under the Act that we are now confirming for another year is necessary in the interests of public safety and the prosecution of the war, we think it is desirable to make these Orders and Regulations perfectly plain and to arrange them in a manner sufficiently simplified to enable the House and everyone interested and responsible in these matters thoroughly to appreciate what they mean in respect to human freedom, personal freedom in particular, and to their general application. It is argued that the conditions of war have rendered it rather difficult to provide sufficient Parliamentary draftsmen to do this kind of work. It is said that there are not sufficient available, and that the draftsmen are already overworked. I do not think that that kind of objection holds water. That section of the public administration should be, and I believe could be, strengthened. It was argued at one time that there were not sufficient doctors to start pensions appeal tribunals, but, after Parliamentary pressure, we are going to have pensions appeal tribunals properly staffed. I am quite sure that for this purpose it would be possible so to strengthen the administration in respect of Parliamentary draftsmen that this work could be done.
I listened very attentively to the three speeches that have preceded mine, particularly the two speeches of criticism, and I would like to make the position of myself and those behind me clear upon one or two points. First, with regard to the proposal to appoint a Select Committee. I do not think that there is any appropriate comparison between such a Select Committee as is visualised and such a Committee as the Public Accounts Committee, for a number of reasons. For instance, there is the point with regard to discussing the merits of Orders. Upon that point I think that the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) answered the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex. He seemed to me rather to contradict the point he had made. But it seems to me that the most important 443 point in support of my contention is that the Select Committee on National Expenditure, let us say, is not, and should not be, a party Committee. It represents the House, because every Member of the House, apart from any question of merit or principle in public expenditure, is, or should be, vitally interested in the economical use of the revenues of the nation. There is no difference of opinion about that. But I cannot think that upon such issues as are involved in these Orders and Regulations, which are enforced in such large numbers, there could be any Select Committee of an all-party character without bringing in those differences of principle which would in the long run have a hampering effect upon the administration of the Regulations and the purposes for which they were introduced and administered. That is our attitude to the suggestion that there should be a Special Committee. It is the business of every Member of this House to keep his mind upon the liberties of the people of this country. It is our business to know what these Orders are and what machinery exists to challenge them, by Prayer or otherwise. That is a very different thing from the kind of Committee which is suggested.
§ Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
How is it physically possible for all Members of Parliament, with all their interests and the multifarious duties which they have to perform, to understand the 2,000 Orders which have been introduced?
§ Mr. Montague
The hon. and gallant Member uses a word which is sufficient for me. He uses the word "interests." One of my objections to the proposal is that there would be a continual attempt to use the prestige of a Parliamentary Committee for the advancing of interests against the large interests of the nation and the prosecution of the war. That is my point of view. I do not want to argue that any further; I just put that point of view forward to indicate where we of the Labour Party at any rate stand on this question. The Deputy Prime Minister said some time ago that in the necessities of modern warfare there is at once a great danger and a great opportunity. There is a danger lest, under the excuse of organising the nation for defence and security, liberty may be destroyed. 444 With what has been said, so far as it is applicable to personal liberty, we agree. We of the Labour Party stand for individual freedom. The Socialism that we profess is not the Socialism of State slavery or of a bureaucracy-ridden community. It would not be in Order for me to enlarge upon that subject; I make the assertion. To use a phrase of Douglas Reed, We worship no State almighty. But neither do we stand for the freedom of any person or group of persons to use money or monopoly power to control the lives of our citizens or the economics of our society.
There are two different kinds of Orders, one affecting personal freedom and one affecting the economic life of the community. I do not intend to spend any time myself—other speakers will—upon the subject of Regulation 18B, but it is an essential clause of Magna Charta that no freeman shall be imprisoned, outlawed or exiled except by the legal decision of his peers. As soon as we can get back to those fundamental principles of the British Constitution in respect of personal freedom, the better. I hope that in priority of abandonment the restoration of personal liberty will take the first place. But there are other types of Orders, those controlling various aspects of our industrial and commercial life. For instance, we read only the other day that Mr. J. Arthur Rank, £25,000,000 cinema owner, had promised not to extend his interests without Government consent. I believe that the President of the Board of Trade could have used Orders of this character if necessary to deal with Mr. J. Arthur Rank if he attempted to do any such thing. That would be an interference with personal liberty, but the kind of interference that is desirable and that we should hope to have extended. The individual liberty that we stand for is neither the old laisser faire doctrine of the Manchester School nor the more sinister doctrines of modern monopoly finance.
What has struck me is that in all this agitation about freedom, about the effect of these Orders upon the rights of individuals to do as they please with themselves and their property, no Prayer, as far as I recollect, has been Tabled, no move has been made, in respect of interferences with personal liberty that affect sections of the working class. I did not notice any excitement among certain 445 Members of this House when it came to compelling miners to go down the mines when they did not want to.
§ Mr. Montague
No; we admit the necessity for these Orders, and we support the Government in this delegated type of legislation. It is necessary for the war. What I am pointing out is that when it comes up to sending young women from Scotland to the other end of the country, away from their homes, with all that that means to girls in their teens, going out into industrial life, only from this side have we had any points put up in respect of such disadvantages and dangers from a working-class point of view.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to get away with that. Several of us on this side of the House have raised that matter on several occasions.
§ Mr. Montague
I will certainly bend my attention to the question of which side of the House the hon. Member who has just interrupted belongs to. When speak of those who have been so much concerned about the question of individual liberty, I am speaking of a number of Members who have got together, as they have a perfect right to do, to do their level best to raise questions of difficulty in respect of themselves. We know that in these discussions there are a number of Independent Members and a number of Conservative Members who often go a long way on certain issues in the direction that we go; but that is not my point. You have the trade union forces of this country willingly deprived of their liberties, of the things that they fought for during the last 100 years. They willingly sacrificed themselves. But nothing has been said, except by a few Members in this House, about the importance of that type of interference with individual liberty. We are rather suspicious when we hear over and over again the defenders of private enterprise, the same people who opposed the Catering Bill, which was a charter of human liberty for a very important section of workers in this country, taking that line. Another thing was mentioned by the hon. Member for The High Peak, who used a phrase about "paring down." He wanted Orders and 446 Regulations of this character pared down as rapidly as possible after the end of the war, or the armistice.
§ Mr. Montague
Then it was the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex. I am sorry if I have attributed the statement to the wrong Member, but the statement was made, and the attitude of mind is that of a good number of Members of this House. I want to make one thing very clear. We want the restoration of individual liberty as soon as possible, but the Prime Minister, only a little while ago, made a statement in this House about what is to happen after the war is over. He spoke about a four-year plan. There must necessarily be a long period of transition from war conditions to peacetime conditions. During that period of transition, which may be considerably longer than four years, it will be exceedingly dangerous and wrong if we hasten to do away with Orders and Regulations that interfere not with personal liberty, but with the power of making money and the ownership of property.
Take the question of inflation alone. Do hon. Members mean to tell me that in the period immediately after the war, with the great danger of inflation facing us, we are to surrender the power of dealing with the control of prices? You cannot embody the control of prices in an ordinary Bill to be carried through this House in accordance with the ordinary Parliamentary practice until it becomes law. We would propose to retain a large number of these Orders and even to extend them in certain directions. Either we are going to build a new country or we are going to sink back into the old chaos of commercial competition. If it is true, as the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex said, that these Orders are necessary in time of war so that action shall be quick and time shall not be wasted and we can get right away to every emergency as it arises—
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Prices of Goods Act is not under discussion but only the Emergency Powers Act, and as Orders regulating prices have already been made under the Prices of Goods Act, is a discussion of that Act in Order?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
It would seem to me, if that is the case, that the hon. Member, who I presume is illustrating the point, is getting a little wide.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Is it not true that the Prices of Goods Act only controls the prices of a certain number of specified goods, whereas the prices of other goods are covered by Regulation?
§ Mr. Montague
My question was with reference to the possibility of inflation, and I used the illustration of prices in order to emphasise the point of principle. I wanted to apply that thought to the whole question of reconstruction immediately after the war. It will not be possible, if we are going to rebuild this country, never mind a ravaged Europe, without emergency legislation of the character we are discussing to-day being continued during the peace-time shortage.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I would point out to the hon. Member that this is a question only of extending the period for one year, and a prolonged discussion about reconstruction after the war would make this a very wide discussion.
§ Mr. Montague
I have no desire to offend against the Rules of the House, but I must point out that I have only followed one hon. Member who has spoken about what is to happen after the end of the war and an armistice has been signed, if we intend to sign an armistice at the end of this war. A question of principle is involved. I want to make clear to hon. Members that the attitude of the party I represent to the whole question is that, so far as the control of the economic resources of this country is concerned, we are not prepared to follow their notion of individual freedom in that respect. We are concerned about individual freedom in a personal sense, but we feel the necessity after the war is over to continue for a long period the control of certain factors in industry in a direct way, and we are not prepared to surrender the power that exists in Regulations and Orders of this character for that particular purpose.
Since it is impossible for me to go any further in developing an argument of this kind, I do not think that I need say very much more. I have referred to the two types of Orders—one which interferes with 448 personal liberty and the other which affects the economic life of the country. There is a section in this House that professes to be concerned with personal liberty and regards personal liberty to be equally concerned with the supposed right of private interests and wishes to run the individual life of this country according to its own views and in the light of its own interests. We do not accept any such view. I assert and emphasise that I want hon. Members to realise that we stand for the organisation of an efficient world after the war, and we are prepared to admit that, as long as it is necessary, there should be certain control. By all means let us get back to ordinary Parliamentary practice, but not if it is to be used merely as a means of obstructing and keeping back the development of that new society that has been promised and the implementation of the clauses of the Atlantic Charter. All that will be necessary if we are to rebuild this democratic community of ours upon the lines of the only freedom that is worth while, that is, equal freedom, economic as well as personal, for us all.
§ Mr. Gledhill (Halifax)
I desire to speak against the Motion moved by my right hop. Friend on general grounds, because, in my view, the original demand has very largely passed away. I also do it because I have always disliked this system of legislating by means of Orders and Regulations. In past times I have often spoken against it at various meetings of business and commercial people, and I have warned those who cared to listen to me of the growing danger of this process of what I term government by regulation. My chief reasons for dislike of it are that it removes the control of this House, removes it from the elected representatives of the people, and prevents adequate discussion of the Orders which are brought in. I do not think that it is necessary for me to remind hon. Members of the usual stages of a Bill. They will know, as I do, that during the course of the Second Reading the Minister has to explain the purpose of the Bill and that on the Committee stage he has to answer criticism and deal with Amendments on various points. If that is not done and when Regulations and Orders are brought in, the power of criticism is entirely taken away and placed in the hands of the Department. When the Second Reading of the original Bill was 449 taken in this House in August, 1939, the then Home Secretary said: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, to issue a crowd of new Regulations.But, unfortunately, for a period the situation did become worse, and it is now very much better and the issue is quite different. Later he said:We do not intend to introduce Regulations that would affect the liberty of the subject.No-one can deny that the very large number of Regulations and Orders that have been brought in have seriously interfered with the liberty of the individual. Following my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) spoke. He said, referring to the speech of the Home Secretary:The right hon. Gentleman 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th August, 1939; cols. 65–69, Vol. 351.]I entirely agree with that sentence, and that is the reason for my intervention in this Debate. We should also remember the atmosphere in that crisis of 1939. We remember how holidays were interrupted on at least two occasions, and we came here to an atmosphere of tension and nervous strain. When war was declared the tension certainly was relieved, but most of us know how unprepared this country was, and therefore we were particularly anxious to give the Government a free hand at that time. We all expected a period of bombing or even of invasion. We wandered through the darkened corridors of the House and spoke in whispers lest what we might say might be heard in Berlin. We therefore passed this and other Acts at that time, trusting to the Government to see us through the crisis and expecting them to give us a square deal. What has happened? As a result of that Act the bureaucracy of this country has seen a chance to gain a control over legislation that was well foreshadowed in the late Lord Hewart's book "The New Despotism," which I assume most hon. Members have read. They realised that under this Act it only required a little persuasion of the 450 Minister that an Order was necessary for the prosecution of the war for that Order to be made, and once made, all hon. Members will agree, such an Order is difficult to upset except by a Prayer, and not always then. The result has been that Parliamentary control has been swept away in a spate of Orders, Sub-orders and Regulations.
One hon. Member referred to the feeling in the country. I can only speak about my own impressions of that in passing through different towns and districts. I find, particularly among industrial and business people, disgust at the large number of Regulations continually issued and they cannot understand why we as Members of Parliament submit to them. My reply has been that it was due to the necessities of war, because I felt that that was true in 1939–40. But it is not true now, and I strongly suggest that the normal procedure of legislation should be resumed. It is not sufficient to reply by saying that there is not sufficient Parliamentary time. It is well known that we sit here for only three days a week. We can sit five days a week if necessary. It would save a lot of time if the Committee stages of numerous Bills were not taken in this House but were taken in Standing Committee, as was the old practice. It is not my job to tell the Government how they should arrange their Business, but I suggest that this can be done and that if all these Orders and Regulations had to come through this House by means of Bills, however short, this would be a very sure way of reducing their quantity and restoring the authority and prestige of this House.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
I rise at this stage of the Debate to say how much I agree with what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lt. Raikes) and my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). It is, of course, very important from the point of view of this House that all of us should look with the greatest possible scrutiny at what the Government produce in the form of legislation which we, have given them the power to make. I, personally, have been in favour all along of a Select Committee which would enable this House to do its work in a more organised and better way. Here I would like to say how much the House as a whole owes to those 451 Members who have taken a great interest in scrutinising these Regulations and Orders on behalf of the House. We are all agreed that if some of the Regulations which are being made now are not necessary, there are others which are necessary. The interest of the State demands, in time of war, that the Government should have power to make these Orders. Although I say, "Scrutinise by all means very carefully to see that nothing gets through which is wrong in the general interest of the subject," the Government must have these powers. The House was most generous in the powers it gave to the Government during the time of the outbreak of war, of Dunkirk and those most anxious days when we decided to let nothing stand in the way.
The Government have a duty to the House to say clearly exactly how they mean to terminate, and when they are going to end, these powers and give them back to the House of Commons. This is not a question of party interest. The House of Commons all along has had the supreme duty to the country of legislation, and any powers which are carried on after this war, and which deprive this House of that duty, are powers which the House as a whole in peace-time ought to resent. I would make this suggestion most respectfully to the Government: Before the appropriate time arrives next year they should give a date for reconsideration. They cannot, of course, give a calendar date, but they could say that six months after the end of hostilities in Europe they would look into this whole matter and produce the minimum of powers which they think to be necessary for the rest of the emergency period. This would give this House a chance to look into the Regulations and Orders one by one. I am sure the Government will respond to that, because the House has dealt very fairly with them, and I am sure they would wish to deal fairly with the House. I can see no reason whatever why, given time to prepare it, they should not be in a position to allow the House to look at the whole matter in the light of altered events and decide what to do. Of course, certain powers will have to remain with the Government. At the end of the war there will doubtless be a shortage of food and raw materials, and in those cases it would be quite absurd suddenly to throw on 452 the open market the question of supply and demand. There must be control by the Government, and I do not think any sensible person would not give the Government that power on the understanding that it was for as short a time as possible.
I am afraid, however, that unless the House is careful civil servants and Ministers might be tempted to get legislation through easily, instead of having the discussion and delay of normal procedure, which may deprive the House of its first and supreme duty to legislate for the people of this country. That is an interest which goes the whole way. It is not only a question of the physical liberty of the subject, but a question of the liberty of the subject in the broader sense. Every Order that is passed ought to be scrutinised, in the first place, in this House, and the power to pass emergency legislation itself ought to be done away with at the first possible moment after the war. I did not mean to intervene in this Debate, but I was moved to do so, because it seemed to me that it would be too late to wait until next year and find ourselves in a position where we could not afford to take a definite step. I hope the Government can make a statement showing their good faith—which I know exists in this case—and give the House an opportunity of letting the House decide what powers, in fact, it has given to and means to have with the Executive.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
To a very considerable extent I share the sentiments expressed by the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill), although possibly not for the same reasons. What I want is less government of the right sort. [An HON. MEMBER: "Less government of the right sort?"] What I want is less government of the right kind. [Laughter.] Well, what I want is less interference. What my hon. and learned Friend has visualised is less government of the wrong kind. I am perfectly prepared to put up with these Regulations and even more in order to make quite sure that we do not go back to the state of things which existed prior to the war and which I suspect that some Members on the other side of the House hope for in their hearts. I do not propose to talk about the Regulations as a whole. I was delighted with what my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. 453 Montague) said about the importance of the freedom of the subject, and I was interested in what the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) said about it not being his business to tell the Government what to do. I differ; I think it is my business to tell the Government what to do, and I propose to tell the Home Secretary, as I have done on two or three previous occasions, when he has taken it with good humour, although he has taken no notice of it. I propose to tell him what I feel about certain of the Regulations, having regard to the existing situation, and the one I wish to refer to is Regulation 18B.
Now, I submit that the House itself is greatly to blame for allowing Regulations to go on being administered in a way which I do not believe was intended when they were passed. I am a comparatively young Member of this House, and it might be impudence to reflect on the integrity and intentions of other Members. I am not doing it, but I am saying that I do not believe it was ever the intention of this House that a Regulation should be passed to keep persons without trial under detention for an indefinite period of time.
Whatever may happen this House will be held responsible after the war for any injustice that may be proved to have been done to people who have been so detained. It is up to us on the only occasion when opportunity offers to pay great attention to what after all is the main principle for which we stand, namely, the liberty of the subject, and to impress upon the Government the necessity for taking measures to cut short injustices. I also submit that when these Regulations were passed it was never contemplated—it was not in my mind, and I took a pretty gloomy view of the war—that the war would go beyond 1943. Well, the Prime Minister himself has told us that it will probably go on until 1947. That being so, I do not believe that any hon. Member, of any political colour, if he was asked in 1940 whether he was prepared unconditionally to offer the Home Secretary, whoever he might be—and I make no imputation against the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am sure, does his best to administer the Regulations in the right spirit—these unrestricted powers, would have agreed. Suppose the House did not at that time mean to hand over those 454 powers? What do they intend to do about it now?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
What did they mean?
§ Mr. Stokes
If the right hon. Gentleman will wait, I will tell him a little later in my speech. Perhaps he recollects the famous judgment of Lord Justice Atkin when he made reference to "Alice Through the Looking Glass." Nothing is more terrible or more devastating to the soul and mind of a man of integrity than being wrongfully detained, without any possibility or chance of stating his case. I think we are sliding over our obligations, and because we do not happen to be bombed hard at the present time we think everything in the garden is lovely and that it does not matter how many, people are detained. It is no answer to say that when the right hon. Gentleman took office 1,600 people were detained and that that number has now been reduced to about 450. That is no argument. I am reminded of a story which I had better not tell here and which is perhaps more appropriate for the Smoking Room. Of the 465 cases which are still detained 68 of them were detained after the Minister had gone against the recommendation of his Advisory Committee. With great respect to him—and I am sure lie exercises his judgment in the best possible manner—I question whether it was ever the intention of this House that the Home Secretary would ever go against the recommendations of the Advisory Committee which was set up under the Regulations.
I propose to refer to two—I will not say notorious—prominent cases. It has always been very much on my conscience that an hon. and gallant Member of this House should be detained in prison. I believe that had the circumstances been different when his arrest was first announced in this House the grave event might have been totally different. It was a strange concatenation of circumstances with which the Patronage Secretary is well familiar. I do not believe that the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay) would do anything consciously against the interests of the country. I knew he has odd views, but, if people are going to be locked up for 455 having odd views, quite a number of Members of this House are in danger. His views about race or religion have nothing to do with whether or not he should be locked up. He was in the last war, and he has three sons in this. However cracked his views may be on one particular point, I do not believe he would do anything contrary to the national interest. I suspect other motives. I should be most interested to hear whether his knowledge of certain telegrams referred to in the Tyler Kent Case which passed between high officials in this country and America had anything to do with his detention. Other people are detained for the same reason. One was tried under the Official Secrets Act and acquitted on all points but is still detained under the Regulations and, as far as my knowledge of the case goes, for the same reason. My right hon. Friend knows well enough to what I am referring. I think the House is failing in its duty and always has failed in its duty on this point by not demanding that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should come to the House and state his case. Whether he is in a fit state to do it after three years of detention, I do not know. Personally, I should not be. I should have measured six feet of earth by now if I had been locked up so long. I do not believe any harm would be done if his whole case was reviewed and his liberty restored.
The second notorious case—this may be quoted against me by unscrupulous persons outside, but I do not care twopence—is that of Sir Oswald Mosley. I would deal with him in one of two ways. I would either shoot him or let him out. My right hon. Friend may smile if he likes.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
My hon. Friend must not misrepresent me. I was not smiling. We were only asking ourselves whether he was proposing to shoot him with or without trial.
§ Mr. Stokes
Certainly after a trial. I should have thought by now my right hon. Friend would have known enough about me to know that I would not suggest shooting anyone without trial. I am no lover of Fascism. I am probably the only Member of this House who has been nearly killed by it. Perhaps I am still suffering from it. Had I not shown the greatest self-restraint in 1926, when I was nearly slaughtered in Genoa, I should 456 have been dropped down a sewer and should never have become a Member, honoured or otherwise, of the House. Some evidence with regard to Sir Oswald Mosley was laid before me at the time of the Debate on 10th December, 1940. The view had got about that large amounts of money were coming in from outside and that Sir Oswald Mosley and his gang were likely to do things which were not patriotic. This is what happened when the Advisory Committee invited his solicitor to appear before them to discover whether foreign money was coming in. After an exhaustive search, in which all the banks took part, it had to be admitted that no foreign money was coming in to that organisation.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know whether this is a point of Order or not, but the hon. Member is purporting to quote from the proceedings of an Advisory Committee, which have always been recognised by the House as being private. I am not in a position to rebut what he says, because I am not going to quote from the Report of a private Advisory Committee. Whether this is a point for consideration by you, Sir, or a point of fairness I am not quite sure.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think I am right in saying it has been ruled that in Debates on these Orders we must not go into cases of this type with particularity. Though we may use a case as an illustration, we must not go into details.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I think that in previous Debates on Regulation 18B specific cases have been referred to, and there was no question of their being out of Order. If I remember rightly, there was the case of the Member of the House who is detained, and I raised the case of Mrs. Nicholson, and it was not out of Order.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
If this document, which we understand is private, is to be used in Debate, what are the rights of Members to call for its production so that we shall be able to follow it and take part in the proceedings? Unless it is made available, can it be referred to in Debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The last point of Order in connection with quoting a document illustrates the point of my first Ruling that, although we can quote a case, we should not go into details when 457 we are discussing a very general Resolution on Rules and Orders.
§ Mr. Boothby
Is it not a fact that the Home Secretary himself, in a Debate on this particular Regulation some time ago, specifically stated that it was one of the rights of the House, one of the only rights in connection with people detained under 18B, to raise specific cases on the Floor of the House, and that they should so be raised? I feel that this involves a very important principle, and we ought to get it clear. The Home Secretary's point, not the question of raising a specific case but the question of quoting from a secret document, comes into a different category.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The question of quoting from a secret document obviously conies under a different category. I am not at all sure that the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) comes very close to that point, but I am certain that, though on specific occasions we can go into personal cases, yet when we are discussing these main Rules or Orders we should not use an illustration of that sort in too great detail and go into facts such as we were getting to when I first made my Ruling.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May I ask whether I, as a Member of Parliament, am entitled to ask the Government that the document shall be made available?
§ Sir A. Southby
I understood the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) to be quoting, not from a document, but from the Hansard report of a Debate in the House, in which reference was made to it. I do not think there was any complaint at that time about the statement the hon. Member was quoting.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
A point of Order was raised by the Home Secretary. It was whether the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) was entitled to quote from this document. You, Sir, did not answer that point of Order but proceeded to answer another point of Order which was never raised. May I ask you to rule on the point of Order raised by the Home Secretary?
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
The House has been told several times that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is quoting from a secret document. The House 458 does not know what that document is. May we know what its character is before we proceed any further?
§ Sir H. Williams
May I ask you, Sir, whether it is proper to discuss an individual case? If this Resolution is defeated, Sir Oswald Mosley and the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay) will automatically be released on 24th August. For that reason it seems entirely in Order to discuss it. With regard to the other point, surely, if a Member quotes a document which he is not entitled to quote from, the disentitlement does not arise from the action of the House but from the action of the Home Secretary. If he is aggrieved, he has his own remedy—to prosecute the hon. Member for breach of the Official Secrets Act.
§ Mr. Stokes
After that, perhaps I may be allowed to say what I am quoting from. It is from Hansard of 10th Decernber, 1941.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
On 23rd July, 1941, when a Member for one of the Glasgow divisions said:It seems to me that the suggestion that he has been engaged in something treacherous is just—Mr. SPEAKER: I must remind the hon. Member that he must not deal with the merits of this case.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1941; Col. 966, Vol. 373.]That is the basis of the intention, at any rate, of my original Ruling that we cannot deal with the merits of a particular case.
§ Mr. Stokes
If the hon. Member for Llanelly, (Mr. J. Griffiths) studies Hansard of 10th December, 1940, he will get all the information he wants. I was not raising the case of Sir Oswald Mosley qua Sir Oswald Mosley, but because he is typical and represents a large number of people who are detained. I was trying to remind the House of what was said in that Debate. I brought the matter before the House. I want to refer particularly to what was, as far as I know, public knowledge then, and certainly is now, what was said about the British Union of Fascists by the Advisory Committee. Is that in Order?
§ Mr. Stokes
May I finish my illustration? In the course of this discussion Sir Oswald Mosley said, speaking on behalf of himself and the British Union of Fascists:'There appear to be two grounds for detaining us—(1) a suggestion that we are traitors who would take up arms and fight with the Germans if they landed and, (2) that our propaganda undermines the civilan morale.' Mr. Norman Birkett replied: 'Speaking for myself you can entirely dismiss the first suggestion.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1940; col. 839, Vol. 367.]That being so, I quite understand the position in which the Home Secretary finds himself.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If a document is quoted, surely I am entitled to ask the Speaker whether it can be produced?
§ Mr. Stokes
It is not a document. If my hon. Friend will go and get Volume 367 of the OFFICIAL REPORT and look up 10th December, he will find practically every word I have said contained therein. My complaint is that the Government have forgotten, and my submission to the Home Secretary, who has borne with this interruption which he instigated with his usual patience, is that he should pay serious attention to the fact that conditions to-day are different from what they were when his predecessor put all these people in. I am not concerned with what different political faiths or political beliefs people have. My responsibility in this House, whether everybody agrees with me or not, is to attempt to see that justice is done to everybody and that people's freedom is not curtailed except in the national interest. I leave that particular aspect, and I want to speak—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend seems to be afraid to get up and say what he is trying to say because if he does he knows he will get a smack in the eye for doing it.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is not entitled to carry on a conversation with another hon. Member or make offensive suggestions of that kind.
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not want to be offensive, but if the Chair heard what the hon. Member said, it might show more sympathy towards me. The next point I wish to make is with regard to the whole question of the Regulations and the effect of them on persons who have been de- 460 tained and are released. I cannot personally say that there has been no improvement because I do not know, but I do know that in certain instances people are having a terrible time when they are released with apparently no stain on their character. They have great difficulty in getting employment. It is no use saying that they are out and ought to be able to get jobs. I have had cases come to me, and I have tried to help people, but it is not always possible to do so. It is an obligation on the Government to do what they can to put these people on their feet again. They have wives and families dependent on them who have been deprived of their means of livelihood during detention without trial. When these people come out their identity cards are marked, and it makes it very difficult for them to get any work. I am not concerned with what their political beliefs are. The Home Secretary has seen fit to release them, and they are entitled to live and have a fair opportunity to work. I ask that something should be done to help some of these poor people.
I do not want to indulge in anything frivolous, but I would say to my right hon. Friend that, having regard to the fact that on two separate occasions a Judge of the High Court has criticised the Home Secretary for exceeding his powers, it is doubtful whether the Home Secretary ought not himself to be in under these Regulations. I am not speaking of the present Home Secretary, but of his predecessor, the Lord President of the Council. The conditions of detention of these people has very much improved. I was one of those people who objected to the Isle of Man Bill, but that was for different reasons. Having visited the camp there I am satisfied, not that the conditions are joyous and happy, but that they are as good as can be reasonably expected, and having regard to all the circumstances there is not much to complain about. I still believe, however, that persons detained are not being given the precise grounds for their detention. It is no use the Home Secretary saying they are. In certain instances he may have seen fit to give further information to some particular person, but I would remind the House and the Home Secretary of what Mr. Justice Humphreys said on 27th May, 1941, in his judgment:A person detained under Regulation 18B is entitled to know at the outset the precise grounds for his detention.461 I have examined a great number of documents, because British nationals and a great many others have written to me about their cases, and I have not found those precise particulars given. I can think of only one case which will be well known to my right hon. Friend. That is the famous Greene case. When the precise grounds were given they were all found to be false. Here is a man who had been detained for two years by a Home Secretary who had no right to act in this way on the evidence of a German agent provocateur. I want to repeat an extract from the judgment of Mr. Justice Atkin. The Home Secretary asked earlier in the Debate, "What did the House of Commons mean when it passed the Regulations?" I believe that the House believed there was a great difference between a person having a reasonable cause and being able to show he has a reasonable cause. Mr. Justice Atkin said:Reasonable cause for an action or a belief is just as much a positive fact capable of determination by a third party as is a broken ankle or a legal right.I believe that to be true. He went on to say, and this will appeal to the humour of my right hon. Friend:I know of only one authority which might justify the suggested method of construction, namely, 'Alice through the Lookinglass.' '"When I use a word," Humpty-Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things." "The question is," said Humpty-Dumpty, "which is to be master? That's all.I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not want to continue to take the attitude of Humpty-Dumpty. After a long discussion and referring to a majority decision in a particular case, Lord Atkin said that the question was whether the words "if a man has" could mean "if a man thinks he has." He said that they could not mean the same thing. I want to appeal to the Government and the Home Secretary particularly to review this matter. I do not ask the Home Secretary to do anything which is contrary to his conscience or to what he considers to be the best interests of the country, but I do ask him to pay no attention to political prejudices. I think that political prejudices do exist. This is not a debating matter but a matter of very high and great principle. It is the thing for which 462 we really stand, and I ask him that this most arbitrary Regulation, for that is what it is, should be, having regard to all the circumstances to-day, administered in the most generous way possible.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
In this topic there is an almost infinite series of sub-divisions which it would be possible to discuss, and it is difficult to know the proper piece of it to choose on the rather rare occasions when we discuss this Statute, which has, in the main, for many purposes replaced our traditional Constitution. I had not meant to-day to say anything about 18B, but since some reference has been made to it I would like to say two things. I apologise if it is repetition to some extent, but it is important that right hon. Gentlemen in positions of authority should know a little bit how many people there are who think and feel things, and sometimes it is not otiose to repeat what may have already been said. I do not think that most of us, and with every respect for Ministers, I do not think Ministers, have really made the necessary effort to present to their imaginations the extreme heaviness of the penalty inflicted upon the victims, deserving or undeserving, of 18B. It does require some effort of imagination to bring home to oneself what that situation must be. It seems to me, personally, an infinitely worse fate than death. I would sooner be shot or hanged, with or without trial, than detained for two or three or nobody knows how many years, without any charge being made against me, in such circumstances that I think my existence would be certainly a curse to my children and grandchildren for ever afterwards. There is a certain dignity in having had the old man beheaded for high treason or even possibly hanged for murder. There is a certain traditional melodrama about that, but there is no dignity left in the fate of the man who is detained in these unprecedented circumstances.
That is not a reason why it should not be done. It is no use our weakening and melting over these people, and if it were necessary to our country's safety that ten times as many people should be so cruelly treated, my right hon. Friend would have to take the responsibility. What I find it difficult to swallow is this. The war has been going on for nearly four years. I 463 have forgotten how many people have been detained under 18B, but it must be getting out of the hundreds into the thousands. There has not been one of these, apparently, whom it was possible to convict, without divulging evidence which the public interest made it necessary to keep secret.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
How can you convict a person when no charge is made against him? These people are not being punished, but are merely being detained.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not remember exactly what I have said—very few speakers do—and I apologise if I misled the House, but I do not think there is anything in my argument which is affected by the question put to me. The fact that a person cannot be convicted is the peculiar horror of the situation and that fact arises as the hon. Gentleman with great acumen perceived, from the previous fact that he is not tried.
§ Sir A. Southby
Is my hon. Friend aware that in at least one instance a person was brought to trial and after a trial in camera was acquitted of all the charges, and yet he was taken back under 18B?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not want to spend time on this point and I apologise if I have dealt with in such a way as to provoke interruptions. There are two points to be considered. The first is that although it is not punitive in intention, it is punitive in effect, to an extent which it requires a great effort of the imagination to realise. The second point is that one can understand that in a moment of emergency or say, six months of emergency, you may have to seize a dozen or thousand or a couple of thousand people and if you started trying them, even one or two here and there getting out might be dangerous; but where we have been seizing hundreds, now running into thousands, and detaining them over a period of two, three or four years—it is almost beginning to run into the fifth year—there should be at times cases in which these people could without excessive danger to administration be tried and convicted.
A third point which seems to be above controversy is that there is a very heavy duty now upon the Government, and particularly upon my right hon. Friend, to 464 deal with these people when they are released. He has more than once given me assurances. Like my hon. Friend opposite I will not assert that nothing has come of those assurances, because I take blame to myself for not having followed them up properly—one always has something else to do—but I think there has not been so much coming out of those assurances as there might well have been. I think much more might be done by the Home Secretary in dealing with other Departments—the War Office, the Ministry of Labour, and so on. We get cases like that of a young officer who was detained for a time and afterwards released. He cannot enlist, because he holds His Majesty's Commission. The War Office will not employ him, because he has been detained under 18B; and no one else will employ him because, they say, "What is your position under the National Service Act? "What is the poor devil to do? There is a very heavy duty upon His Majesty's Government, and particularly upon His Majesty's principal Secretary of State, to deal with these individual cases.
But I wish to address the House mainly upon the general question of the Emergency Powers Act and the text for what I wish to say—I am afraid it is not altogether a clear text—comes from the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). He was addressing the House yesterday and was replying to an interruption from the Chairman, the point being whether the socialisation of ships, or it might be other forms of industry, did or did not require legislation, and so was or was not appropriate for discussion upon a Supply day. The hon. Member said:In nay view, for what it may be worth, as shipping is now nationalised it does not require legislation to continue Government control of ships after the war except under the Emergency Powers Act which is merely a continuation of existing legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1943; col. 230, Vol. 391.]We were reminded just now of some words used very early in the war by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) when he said it was a duty upon every Member of the House to make sure that legislation of this sort was not used for—I think I have got his exact words—"purposes other than those for which it is intended." That was the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman when he sat 465 upon the other side of the House and before he had come upon this side. Is it the view still taken by all those who sit on that side of the House, whether after a transition, and a repassage, or not?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I think it is the view taken by some, though not by others, but I suggest it is relevant to the business before us to-day, because every time this annual renewal comes up, private Members are faced with this difficulty. They cannot put down Amendments; even if it were in Order to do so the practical difficulty of knowing what is possible and what is not would be immense. If, therefore, they opposed the renewal of the whole of the machinery it would mean that the Government would have, somehow, to replace the entire machinery for managing the war—because this is the whole machinery for managing the war—and we dare not take upon us the responsibility of stopping the whole of that machinery at a month's notice.
We have had from one hon. Member opposite a speech which made it appear that in his view this Act might be used and must be used for purposes which were not part of its original purposes. Let us not forget what was its original purpose or who passed it. It was passed before there was a Coalition Government. I have not the exact date, but it was passed at a time when there was a large section of this House wholeheartedly opposed to conscription. The purpose of this Act was to facilitate the conduct of this war and no other purpose, and if we are now to be told that the purpose is to be this and that and all sorts of doctrinairisms, it will make it very difficult for some of us not to oppose one of these renewals one of these years.
§ Mr. Montague
The hon. Member must not misinterpret what I said. What I said was that immediately the war was over we should have a period of transition, we should not be able to go immediately to peace-time conditions, and that one of the problems we should have to consider during that period of transition would be the re-establishment of our economic life. I went on to point out that in that reestablishment we must consider new principles of industrial organisation. So far it would be perfectly justifiable for dele- 466 gated legislation to be carried on until such emergency as post-war emergency represents had finished.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I think that, with respect, my recollection of what the hon. Member said is quite as good as his. I think he and I might find it very amusing if we could have a copy of Hansard and discuss each phrase he then used and argue about the interpretation of it, but I do not think that would be of any great general interest to the House. I think the point I made, so far as I made it, was fair enough, and it brings me to this. This year we must obviously renew this Statute, and there is no doubt that there will be no Division, but I think we ought to make it clear now, that next year some of us will divide against it, unless by then, we can know what are the intentions of His Majesty's Government for the future. If this thing is allowed to run on a taken-for-granted annual tenancy, it may become a freehold. I know from my college experience that if you employ a man from year to year, you may go on employing him until he is 83, or any age; but if you appoint him for only a period of five or seven years, you are more likely to terminate his employment before then. If this nominally annual tenancy is to be regarded as a freehold, and if we are to be told every year that the whole of this Act must go on without criticism, then a moment will come when there will be a terrific reaction against it one way or the other. Therefore, I beg the Government to consider whether, within the next II months, they cannot think out some plan by which a term can be put to this legislation—I do not mean an arithmetical term but a notional term—to avoid the mere annual necessity for renewal, a plan which will give some indication of the way in which things can be "stepped down" until we get back to normal, or as near to normality as we want, instead of our being confronted every year with the same plain impossible choice—the whole of this or none of it.
Mr. Boothhy (Aberdeen, East)
What has been so encouraging about this Debate has been the obvious desire shown in every part of the House that the House should now begin to re-assume a measure of authority over the Executive. It was only the other day that the Prime Minister referred to this House as a great instrument for conducting war, and paid 467 the House of Commons a great tribute. I think it is time the House was enabled to take a greater share in the day-to-day business of administration, and generally in the conduct of public affairs, than it was perhaps right that we should take during the supreme emergency, when we were confronted with the danger of imminent invasion. I agree with those Members who have pressed for a Select Committee to consider all these Regulations which the House as a whole cannot be expected to examine in detail. Further, I think the House might reasonably be asked now to sit regularly four days in the week, because there is no reason why we should not; and that the system of Standing Committees for the consideration of certain Bills might well be resumed. I do not see what objection there could be.
§ Mr. Boothby
I had a feeling that I might not manage to get in with that one, but it was a subject which was referred to by a previous speaker. I come now to the actual Regulations, and would like to refer to an observation made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) who does not appear to have observed the efforts made by Conservative Members from Scotland in connection with the question of Scottish girls being transferred from Scotland to work in the Midlands.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Would the hon. Member say whether the deputation was an all-party deputation?
§ Mr. Boothby
I am not concerned with private deputations. I am merely saying that Conservative Members of Parliament also took a great interest in the matter, and asked many questions; and that one at least went to the Midlands to see the girls.
An hon. Member beside me referred to the arrangement recently made between Mr. Rank and the Board of Trade as an example of how government should or should not be conducted—I am not sure which he concluded was right. The House was, of course, suitably impressed when Mr. Rank was good enough to give an assurance to the President of the Board of Trade that he did not at the moment 468 intend to purchase the whole of the film industry of this country; but I am not sure that this method of government by means of private bargaining between the bureaucracy and the vested interests is very satisfactory in the long run. It is the kind of case in which this House might reasonably be expected to take a rather greater interest; and at any rate to express a view. It shows the present trend, and it is not a very desirable trend. It is a trend towards pure bureaucracy, and that is really the issue we are discussing to-day. I intend to-day to deal more specifically with cases where the person rather than the property of the subject is affected, because I think the liberty of the person is the more important issue. I intend to deal with Regulation 18B and also with Regulation 20 (a), which in my opinion is even more pernicious; because 20 (a) entitled the Executive to imprison an alien against whom a deportation order may have been made. It may have been made on reasonable grounds, and in time of peace no one questions the right of the Executive to make such an Order; but simply because it is physically impossible to execute the deportation order owing to the fact that there is a world war, the Executive has arrogated to itself the right to imprison the person against whom the deportation order is made. That is a very serious thing. It may have very serious repercussions in the years that lie ahead. It is even more arbitrary than 18B.
In opening this Debate the Solicitor-General said that the good faith of the Executive was implied and assumed, and was subject to the review of the High Court if necessary, and if it could be impugned. But nobody denies that the Executive act in good faith. Nobody has suggested that the Home Secretary puts people in prison because he does not like their faces or has some personal spite against them. The fact remains that the High Court of Justice has no power whatsoever in regard to the administration of Regulations 18B or 20 (a). It is known that the High Court judges hate Regulations 18B and 20 (a). There are many cases which I could read out to my right hon. and learned Friend, but he knows them well enough, in which the judges have expressed profound dissatisfaction with them. They do not like them. Take for example the judgment which has been quoted of Lord Atkins. There have been 469 other judgments which I am willing to furnish to the right hon. Gentleman if necessary. The one point hitherto conceded by the Government has been the right of hon. Members to raise specific cases in this House, and it was conceded by the Home Secretary himself, who said that hon. Members have a right to raise specific cases on the Floor of this House.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
May I remind my hon. Friend that the Home Secretary definitely stated in this House that he would not give to an hon. Member of this House the name of a constituent of his whom the Home Secretary was detaining against the advice of his Committee.
§ Mr. Boothby
I know, and I do not approve of the Home Secretary's action. I was trying to say that hitherto most of us had assumed that any hon. Member had the right to raise the specific case of an individual on the Floor of the House and have it debated, although the facts of the case are, in my opinion, quite wrongly, denied to the House by the Home Office. Now, by a Ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we are told that it is not desirable that we should even raise specific cases.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
On a point of Order. Here is a question of great importance. I did not hear the Ruling given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but my hon. Friend is contending that it is the Ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker that under this Act or any other Act, where it is in Order to do so one may not mention the name of a subject of the Crown who has a grievance. If that is so, some of us would have to take action outside. It is a very serious thing.
§ Mr. Boothby
My Noble Friend was not present, but I am within the recollection of the House. So far as I understand it, the Ruling that was given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker was that in this Debate it was the general Regulations which were being debated, and that it would not be in Order for specific cases of individuals to be raised.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, if any hon. Member desires to raise the case of a person who is a subject of the Crown and is subject to these Regulations, he can do so or not?
§ Mr. Speaker
It was ruled by my predecessor that on this Debate it was not in Order to raise particular cases. That is the Ruling on which the Debate has been proceeding.
§ Sir H. Williams
May I, with great respect, ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will reconsider that previous Ruling? If this House decides to divide against the Government's Motion and the Motion is defeated, every one of the individuals concerned will be automatically released from prison on 24th August. Therefore the continued detention of each one of them seems to be a proper subject for discussion—not that I desire to raise any one case. It seems to me that the Ruling given previously was a Ruling without appreciation of this Motion.
§ Mr. Silverman
Before you rule upon that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether there is not another point to be considered? The House is being asked to renew to the Executive certain powers, which are widely agreed to, but more powers than the Executive would have in normal times, to cope with the extraordinary emergency in which we find ourselves. The House has to decide whether to continue those powers or not. Can it really be out of Order to examine, in particular cases, how the existing powers have been exercised, in order to arrive at a conclusion whether they ought to be continued?
§ Mr. Speaker
The whole thing is really a matter of perspective. We are discussing the renewal of the Regulations as a whole. If we were to get down to the discussion of certain individual cases, and spend the whole of our time upon them, we should be losing the whole purpose of the Debate. I have no doubt that illustrations can be given of individual cases.
§ Earl Winterton
Further to that point of Order. It appears from the Ruling that it may not be in Order for the reasons you have given, and with which I entirely agree, to discuss individual cases but I take it that it is not correct to say, as my hon. Friend inadvertently stated, that there is no occasion on which Parliament can raise the cases of these people. Parliament can, of course, discuss them on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Boothby
It was very desirable that we should get that point cleared up. It is an important point. I do not myself intend to raise any individual cases; and I have very little more to say, except to repeat what was said by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and other hon. Members, namely that most of the people detained under Regulations 18B and 20 (a) were put there in the supreme emergency of 1940. I still maintain that it was generally thought and assumed by this House that those people were being taken into custody for a comparatively short period of weeks while the supreme emergency lasted; but their detention has now turned into penal servitude for an indefinite period of years, without any right of appeal to any tribunal, public or private. I believe that that is wrong and I will never change my opinion on this point.
It is, as the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said, a very cruel form of punishment. It is about the cruellest form that could possibly be devised—to keep a man in detention, without telling him the charge against him, or giving him the right to defend himself, or allowing him to know how long he is to be kept in detention. It is not right; and I do not care what Ministers say, they cannot justify it. The mere fact that the Home Secretary can now claim that the numbers have been reduced from a couple of thousand to 400 or 500, does not affect the principle, and does not matter in the least. Furthermore, a stigma attaches to these people for the rest of their lives. It is not a stigma which attaches to enemy aliens who are interned. It is quite right that they should be interned. If any of us had been in Germany at the beginning of the war and had not been interned we should not have felt happy, and should have wondered why we had not been put in. I am arguing not about enemy aliens, but about British subjects and friendly aliens who have been kept in prison for three years, and have a prospect of being kept there indefinitely without ever having been charged or given any chance to defend themselves. If anybody calls that justice or freedom, or says that it is the sort of thing we are fighting for in this war, I can only say that I profoundly disagree with him. It is the principle that matters, not the numbers.
472 What are the concessions for which some of us are asking at the present time, and have asked for every time these Regulations have been debated? They are very moderate concessions. For two years now we have asked the Government to establish a properly constituted legal tribunal, sitting in camera; to give these internees a chance of putting their case, and to judge by the results. Let them also be represented by counsel, should they so desire. Above all, allow them to know what the case is against them. It is never a good thing to try a man without charging him; and nobody can say that it is. It is a bad business. But that is what we have done to these people. In nine cases out of 10 they have no idea of what they are charged with. They are there, eating their hearts out in doubt and misery; and that is cruel and wrong.
An hon. Member mentioned Sir Oswald Mosley, and I quite agree with much that he said. I would try Sir Oswald Mosley, and if he were found guilty of high treason I would shoot him. Failing that, I think he might do much better work for the country outside prison than in, under whatever surveillance the Home Office may consider necessary. The same goes for a man like Sir Barry Doraville. No one can persuade me that a man who was second-in-command to Admiral Tyrwhitt in the last war, was going to do anything but fight the Germans if they landed in this country. He is a man of over 70, with a record of distinguished service to the State. What is the point of keeping that man in prison at the present time? There is also the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay). I would certainly have had him before some properly constituted tribunal as a Member of this House before committing him to prison. As I have said before, and now repeat, I often wonder what would have been the position of Charles James Fox in this country to-day, if he had been a Member of this House and had made any one of a whole series of speeches that he made during the first Napoleonic War. He would have been in Brixton Prison before he was half way through the first one if the Home Secretary had had anything to do with it. It is not in accordance with the tradition of this country.
The Home Secretary has recently been making speeches in the country about the future organisation of government, and 473 talking of the control of monopolies. So far as monopolies are concerned, I am with him a large part of the way. But I would just say to him that control of the bureaucracy is equally important. And when you get the monopolies and the bureaucracy getting together, that is the greatest danger of all, because we are on the pathway that leads directly to the totalitarian Fascist State. That is what we have to fight against. I would very much like to hear any Member of the Government get up and make a real answer to the arguments which have been advanced against these Regulations. These arguments have never yet been answered. At the same time the Government have not taken one single step forward to meet the desires of this House which have been expressed over and over again, from all sides.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I am sorry that the subject of Regulation 18B so much overshadowed the last part of this Debate. I hate the thing as much as anybody does but I recognise that in a time like this, even though the trend of the war may be better than it has been in the past, the necessity still exists of keeping that Regulation and of giving to the Home Secretary power to deal with certain persons. It is a power which I am afraid he must have. I hate it and there is need to set up machinery whereby the cases can be reviewed from time to time. I hope that the Home Secretary will continue to review those cases. That is the thing which we ought to ask, but many of the speeches made by hon. Members on the subject have been rather too much like appeals to the emotions, without realising the necessity of giving the Executive greater power in war-time. I am sure that as the war situation grows better, it will be possible to release more of these people.
I want to speak on the subject of whether a Select Committee of this House should be set up to inquire into the Regulations which are, issued from time to time by the Government and into the Orders which they are entitled to make, under the Emergency Powers Act. We would all agree that emergency Orders are necessary but they are often issued in a way which makes it difficult for hon. Members to understand them. We are all very busy people, sitting on committees here and there, and so on, and 474 a case can be made out for a Select Committee to be appointed to go into these matters, sift them and see whether there is anything which affects the liberty of the subject or which, in the opinion of the Committee, should be considered by the House of Commons.
I know it is not easy. My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) said something with which I cannot really agree if I understood him aright. I think he said if a Select Committee were set up members who raise matters concerning special interests of the Floor of this House would transfer their interests and point of view into the Select Committee. I hope I misunderstood him. That is not my experience. I have now, for over a year, been a Member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I must say that my experience has been that all Members, of all shades of political opinion, when they get on that Committee, put their individual opinions of a party character behind them.
§ Mr. Montague
I also referred, as a comparison, to the Committee on National Expenditure and pointed out in respect to that Committee, that the whole House, irrespective of party, irrespective of divisions of opinion on legislative matters, was agreed that there should be control of expenditure in the public interest. That is a vastly different thing from having a committee of the kind suggested dealing with issues about which there would be bound to be vast differences of opinion. All I said was that you could not avoid discussing the merits of individual cases in a committee of that character. What can be done is that various parties and individual Members can use their powers as Members and carry out their duties as Members and keep a watch upon legislation of this character. I fail to see that a committee of the kind suggested corresponds to the Committee on National Expenditure.
§ Mr. Price
I see my hon. Friend's point of view, but I still maintain that if a Select Committee were set up, just the same objectivity would be observed by Members of this House. He and I may have an honest difference of opinion on this, but I think there would be no difference between Members of this House in taking an objective view of these questions when they came up. Therefore, I do not see any reason on that ground 475 why a Select Committee should not be appointed to keep a watch on these matters. But I must say this. I can see that it may very well happen that the Home Secretary or some other Member of the Government issues Orders on which it would be very difficult for the Select Committee to report back to this House, because the matters might be confidential and secret, or such as in war-time could not be reported on in this House or published in any way. A good deal of the work of this committee, if it were appointed, would be made very difficult if not impossible for that reason. I know that on the Select Committee on National Expenditure there are occasions when we have to know facts which we could not report back to this House, in a time like this without divulging information which we could not rightly divulge. The same thing might happen here.
It may be that a Select Committee appointed in this way might not be able to cover the whole ground. But I think there is another method. The Home Secretary should consider whether, when these Orders are published, they should not be published in a more understandable way than at present. Many of them are now unintelligible, with references to previous Orders and it is almost impossible to follow without taking a long time. I do not see why there should not be some explanatory memorandum—as when a Bill is brought before the House—which in a few short sentences would give a general idea of the Order. In any case, I must say I think that from time to time this House must make a very careful scrutiny of these Orders and any machinery which can be adopted to make that easier, should, I think, be considered by the Home Secretary. I hope therefore that When the Home Secretary replies he will give reasons, if there are reasons, why a Select Committee could not very well perform this function of informing the House and reporting back to it about the various Orders in Council issued from time to time by the Government.
§ Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
I am very grateful to have the support of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). I think he was certainly on the right grounds in advocating the setting up of a Select Committee. The hon. Member for West Islington 476 (Mr. Montague) earlier in the day produced, I thought, very inadequate reasons for turning down the proposal of having a Select Committee. He said, and it is quite correct, that it was the duty of the House to examine 2,000 Orders a year. I ventured to interrupt—and the hon. Member was good enough to give way—to say that that really is impossible; that it may be the duty of the House to examine all these matters, but that in fact that Members have multifarious interests which make it impossible for them to do so. The hon. Member then took up the word "interests" and suggested that Members in such a committee would allow their private interests to sway their judgment. I meant by interests a number of things; it might be interests in different forms of legislation. Some of us are interested in Colonial affairs, others in health, others in housing. Some may have interests outside, some may be directors of companies or may be trade union leaders, and I think it is a very good thing that this House should have within it representatives of different kinds of interests, including trade unions, in order that we may get expert opinion as well as general opinions on any given point.
The Government have hitherto turned down this suggestion for a Select Committee, mainly on the ground that it would be absolutely necessary to consider merits. I agree that, in one sense, it might be necessary to discuss merits; in another, not. What I mean is that I maintain it is not necessary for such a Select Committee to discuss among themselves whether it is a good Order or a bad Order politically. Whether it is in fact meritorious in that sense is quite an unnecessary point to discuss. I say, on the other hand, that they could usefully discuss the merits of Orders put before them in this way. They could ask, "Is it well drafted, so that anybody can understand it? Does it contain too much legislation by reference? Is it such that the public in general can understand it?" On those lines, it seems to me, they can discuss merits without taking any evidence from Ministers or civil servants or asking them to come before the Committee at all. Then their duty would be quite simple, having discussed and examined each Order put before them, to say, "Is this something to which one or some sections of opinion in the House of Commons will object, even if it is only a comparatively small section 477 of opinion such as that of the Independent Labour Party—the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his friends?" I think an all-party committee would, quite reasonably, examine all the Orders put before them with that end in view, and thus it would be possible to get the attention of the House drawn to really important matters which the House ought to consider. That is all we are asking for. That is all we asked for in the previous Debate on the Motion which I had the honour to move only a few weeks ago. I must say that I think my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in reply, though he was sympathetic towards many of the points and gave us a number of concessions, did not meet the main point, in his refusal to appoint a Select Committee.
§ Mr. Montague
Does the hon. and gallant Member propose to confine the functions of such a committee in the way he describes? Further, does he suggest this committee would examine meticulously 2,000 Orders a year?
§ Major Petherick
Yes, on the first point I would say that the committee should be confined, even in its terms of reference, to those particular issues I have mentioned. Secondly, it would be perfectly easy for the committee to examine 2,000 Orders a year. On the party committee—I with it were wider—which has been examining all these Rules and Orders for a number of months we examine a considerable number every week. All we do is to hand round the Table, say, half a dozen to each Member. The large majority of these Orders are quite unobjectionable, and are disposed of simply by putting a tick on them.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Why should not the committee have much more valuable terms of reference, which would ask them to decide whether any particular Order was one which should obtain the positive approval of the House and that therefore the attention of the House should be drawn to it at once, rather than that the House itself should have to take the initiative and move a Prayer against the Order? Surely it would serve the purpose of the critics better if the Orders were divided into two kinds, those requiring positive approval, and others negative rejection, by the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are discussing the renewal of the Orders for 12 months and I do not think we should go too deeply into a discussion on a Select Committee, which I understand has been mentioned.
§ Major Petherick
The only reason I mentioned a Select Committee was that we are discussing all these emergency powers and the Government is asking us to renew those powers for another year. We are saying that, before we do so, we think it would be wise to consider setting up a committee in order that these Orders may be "vetted," as it were, before being presented to the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member will remember we debated a Motion on this subject, and the House rejected the Motion, and the House cannot go back on the decision it has made.
§ Mr. Speaker
My recollection is not so correct as that of the hon. Member, but perhaps the sense of the House was that there should not be any Select Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
I gather now that a committee was not mentioned in the Resolution, and therefore I was in error, but I do feel that we should not go too deeply into the question of the appointment of a Select Committee.
I will not pursue that matter any further, except to say that I agree with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) and would certainly support the idea. I would not have intervened in this Debate as I think I had a good innings a few weeks ago on a similar matter, had it not been that I wished to raise the question of an Order which the Government is, to-day, asking us to renew. Hon. Members may consider, 479 when I mention that it is an Order which applies only to Devon and Cornwall, that it is parochial and of a very narrow implication, but it carries with it a very much broader principle: the question of, I think, quite wanton interference with the liberty of the subject. I shall endeavour to persuade the House of the truth of what I have said. The people of this country have most generously surrendered to the Government rights of delegated legislation, rights to control their day-to-day life. They have given most wide powers for the purpose of carrying on the war. But the fact that these generous powers have been given by a generous people to the Government is all the more reason why the Government should be as certain as possible that in applying those powers they are not being oppressive, and they should try to limit the interference as far as possible to matters directly connected with the prosecution of the war to victory. My object is to show that the Government's action in this case was wanton and ill-advised, and that the handling of it was both unimaginative and obstinate.
In July, 1940, Order No. 1206, called the Vessels (Immobilisation) Order, was issued. I do not think that the powers it asked for were in the least necessary, even at that time, because there was a previous Order of the same year which gave very wide powers to the Government for the immobilisation of small vessels. But, I suppose, in the excitement and perturbation of running hither and thither, following the collapse of France, some official said:We do want to fight and, by jingo, see it through,We've got no men, we've got no guns;We'll make some Orders do.This Order provided for the immobilisation of small vessels: dinghys, rowing-boats and the like, with the exception of certain classes, notably fishing vessels, ferrymen's boats and so on. It applied to the whole coast of England, from the Tweed to the Devon-Dorsetshire border, with the exception of a few estuaries in those areas. The authorities to carry out that Order were, in the main, the naval flag officers in charge of the various districts. Although the Order was very much objected to by those who had to suffer under it, it was very loyally carried out and resignedly accepted in view of the seriousness of the 480 times. None the less, there has since been a good deal of chafing under the Order, particularly as the persons concerned have noticed that the Home Secretary, far from tightening up restrictions of this nature, has latterly begun to loosen them.
Suddenly a new Order was issued, on 22nd February this year, extending to Devon and Cornwall the Order of 1940. This Order was brought to my notice by a number of my constituents who, I think absolutely rightly, felt very aggrieved with it. I took up the matter with the Admiralty. I would like, at the risk of boring the House, to explain what happened afterwards. I would like to say first, to the representative of the Admiralty who is present, that in the somewhat angry assault I propose to make on those responsible, I shall not be attacking the Admiralty as an institution. I believe that it is, perhaps, the most experienced of all our Departments, and, generally speaking, it carries on the administrative affairs of the Navy admirably. But this case throws into more relief than ever the foolish action they have taken in this matter. I would add that if I had, in the course of my negotiations and discussions with the Admiralty over the last four months, convinced or partially convinced myself that there was any real case for the Order, on security or any other grounds, I would have accepted the position. I would have told my constituents so and have run the racket If a Member of Parliament is not willing to accept a little unpopularity in his division when he thinks that he or the Government he supports is right, he is not worthy of his position. But there has not been one scrap of evidence of any value to make me think that the Order was in the least necessary.
Our constituents might easily complain that those of us who object to this Order have been far too patient in allowing it to go on for four months without raising the matter here, but I felt that, as there was a question of security involved, and as it is always dangerous to raise a matter of that sort in public, lest somebody should say something which ought not to be said, I had to be patient. But now my patience, like that of another eminent gentleman—much more exalted than myself but not nearly so nice—is exhausted. In case it is thought that I am taking the opportunity to have a crack at a Labour Minister, I might men- 481 tion that this has been going on for four months and that I have used every endeavour to avoid raising it in public. The effect of these instructions, in immobilising these vessels, was to prevent the use of boats on the estuaries and rivers and all along the coasts in the counties affected, except in the case of fishermen, ferrymen and so on. No one living by a river could go across the river to do any shopping if there were no shops on his side. No one could go in a boat to church, no one could get into a boat to—
§ Mr. Bevan
On a point of Order. Many of us are anxious not to make long speeches but just to say a word or two on this matter. I submit that, while it is in Order to mention that particular Order by way of illustration, it is quite out of Order to go into a long description of a particular Order and to discuss its merits. I submit that the hon. and gallant Member has gone far beyond an illustration, and that he is now discussing the actual merits of the Order.
§ Sir H. Williams
Is not this a subsidiary Order, made under a Defence Regulation, and, therefore, is not this the only occasion in the year upon which it is possible to discuss it?
§ Mr. Speaker
I seem to be unfortunate to-day in the number of points of Order that are raised. The hon. and gallant Member is within his rights in raising this matter. Whether it is necessary for him to go into it so fully is a matter for his judgment, and not for mine.
This is a question of principle. Really, it is quite impossible, without giving the details of this Order, to make a case against it. I am sorry, but I must continue. I will be as quick as I can. I was saying that no resident can go in a boat for recreation; no labourer, either a dock labourer or an agricultural labourer, or any other sort of working man, if he lives on the shore, can go out in a boat and fish after his day's work is over; no soldier, sailor or airman, or worker from a munitions factory can go in a boat when on leave. I have particulars of a case of a fisherman at Mevagissey who, when on leave from the Air Force, was not allowed to go out in the boat from which he normally fished. Is not that fantastic? I think it is right to raise this point. The worst part of it 482 is that it was all completely unnecessary because there were adequate and stringent Regulations already in force which were being wisely and sensibly administered by the naval flag officers in charge.
The existing Regulations are very stringent indeed. Nobody, unless in possession of a permit, can use or go out in a boat between sunset and sunrise or in thick weather, and nobody can go more than two miles from land. These Regulations are stringent but they are necessary and why is it necessary to bring in new ones at all? I would ask the Minister whether he has had any request from naval flag officers or from local authorities, the police or otherwise, to give them increased powers, and whether they are dissatisfied with the powers they have already got. During the course of all these negotiations and discussions with the Admiralty, I have been referred to more than one official and I have nowhere found the slightest enthusiasm for this new Order. This new Order rather savours of another "new order" in another part of the world. I have been told at different times during the discussions that the first argument in its favour was that it was absolutely necessary because the people up the creeks and estuaries were very dangerous persons and that it was very difficult to control them.
After some of us had seen the Admiralty on the point for a month or two, we were given the concession about the people up the estuaries. They were looked upon as far less dangerous than the longshoremen. On 8th July the Admiralty gave the concession which broadly let out the estuary folk, and that is the only concession that we are asking to-day should be extended to the longshoremen. The only reason given in the whole course of these discussions was that on one occasion two Italian prisoners escaped and tried to get to France, but were picked up in the ocean by a destroyer of His Majesty's Navy. There was another case of two dental mechanics who deserted—they were not armed to the teeth—and said they were going to France in order to start a second front. In that case too, they were picked up by the Navy.
My right hon. Friend, if he replies, probably will say that this is a matter in which questions of security are involved and that he cannot tell the House 483 or even Members of Parliament privately what the reason is. The old cry of "Bogy, bogy" will come up but I am not in the least impressed. This only shows the lengths to which a loyal Minister will go in order to defend a foolish action of his Department. There are a number of other points on this matter which I should like to raise but I am afraid the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is getting a little impatient so I will come to an end. On Monday week I really began to think that the Admiralty were going to see sense at last. My right hon. Friend was good enough to ring me up and I understood from him the points I had raised were going to be met. He asked me to see him last Friday, and he was good enough to show me a letter which was to be sent out from the Admiralty to naval flag officers in charge, in which ostensibly my points were going to be met, in regard to longshoremen. I read it through with some suspicion and I found that it was dealing with an entirely different point, namely, that of the estuary folk and that these longshoremen are not touched and are in exactly the same position as before.
It is easy to say that this matter has gone to the highest quarters and that committees have been sitting on it and so on. I have sat on some of these interdepartmental committees and I know how they work. What happens is that the representative of the Department which wants an Order or something, says so, and if it happens to receive disapproval or in any way interferes with any other Department, there is the father and mother of a row. But if it does not interfere with anybody except the general public, then, of course, the Order goes through in the ordinary way. That is what happened in this particular case. I can guess how this matter started. I believe that some person with a biased mind and not too much work to do, and little or no knowledge of the local conditions, perhaps thought the natives of Cornwall and Devonshire were not covered by Regulation No. 1236. I suppose this was a case of a legal mariner in the Kasbah, over against the Admiralty Arch, who cried "Yo ho for the rolling-regulation" and then out came this Regulation.
This is the Regulation to which some of my hon. Friends and I most firmly 484 object. The position is now exactly as it was before. Nobody may hire out a boat along the coast from the Tweed to Cornwall. Nobody may go for a row; no one may fish and no one on leave may go out and have a little relaxation. A permit system has been in existence for two years and has been working admirably. This is a case of wanton interference. When a strong man has made a mistake he ought to be—and generally is—man enough to own it, but in this particular case there was much shilly-shallying and all that sort of thing, and finally, when it came to the point, no concession was granted at all. I raised with the Under-Secretary of State for Air a very bad case of some woman who had been ill-treated. He looked into the case and said every point was substantiated and made immediate reparation. I wrote back and said that that letter ought to be printed in gold and hung up on the walls of the rooms in every Department all the way through Whitehall. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to make the concession which we really want, and which we feel he is entitled to make, I, for one, certainly would not crow. We would be grateful, and I think he would be very wise to do so. The people concerned in my Division and in Devonshire, some of whom have written to me, have been very patient and good about this matter, thus differing from those responsible for the Order. I would commend therefore the words of the late Lord Nelson that "speedy rewards and quick punishments are the foundation of good government."
§ Mrs. Beatrice Wright (Bodmin)
It is with fear and trembling that I rise to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick), because I realise that it is a very parochial matter. A great percentage of our constituents in Cornwall make a living in the hiring out of boats, and also the constituents of many hon. Members sitting on this side of the House have made Cornwall their place for a summer holiday for years, and many no doubt will be coming down this summer and will be greatly upset if my hon. and gallant Friend and I should fail in our appeal. In fact, some hon. Members themselves might be a little upset if they should come to the West country. I wonder whether, in making this particular Order, the Admiralty or Home Office are 485 under the impression that Cornwall is so slow that we are still living in times when we were pirates.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that Cornwall is well ahead of the times and is well conscious of the fact that the days of the pirates are over. The people can be trusted to go out in small rowing boats in the Channel if he could see his way to relax this Order. There is a pool at Looe where small children played for many years in rowing boats; under this Order they are no longer allowed to do so. A small business which was built up over a number of years is being wiped out, and the children, many of them evacuees from industrial areas, are being deprived of their pleasures and perhaps a training in seamanship, which might be very helpful to the Admiralty in future. The Admiralty gives as the reason for carrying through this Order a statement that at some high water marks the wall has gaps in it, and small children in rowing boats could set out for the Continent of Europe. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise that by the ridicule of one of his Orders in this way, in local eyes, he is losing a great deal of support for his other Orders, and I suggest that the time has come when this particular Order could be relaxed.
I am full of hope, because a letter I received from the Admiralty to-day states:Although there is no precise local knowledge of the circumstances in the Admiralty we are not at the moment satisfied that the gentleman who hires the boats out could not maintain law and order without the particular restriction being in force.I suggest that this one example—one of many I could give—shows the effect this Order is having on my constituents, and I ask the Minister to lend his ear to the plea made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth. Where these Orders are necessary for the winning of the war we are all ready to support the Minister, but a case like this lends ridicule to the more serious sides of, other Orders.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
The Order which has just been mentioned is, of course, a subsidiary Order, and this is the only occasion upon which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) could raise it, but, nevertheless, it is rather unfortunate that the merits of a particular 486 Order have been interpolated into a general discussion of powers given to the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Regulation 18B has been discussed."] Yes, but that is a much more general matter. I listened the other day to a speech made by a high official of the American Government, in the course of which he said that a Committee of Congress had found it necessary to review certain powers given to the Executive in order to find out whether they were excessive or whether they were being used in the public interest. This official gave an interesting illustration in order to show what a considerable debt America owes to the English tradition. It was found that certain proposals dealing with aliens in America had the effect of violating Magna Charta and, as a consequence, the Committee decided, and the Executive accepted, that the proposals ought not to be carried. I felt rather ashamed when I was listening to the speech, because we have driven a coach and four through Magna Charta in this country during the last few years, although we did it for fear that Hitler might entirely obliterate it.
In these circumstances ought the House of Commons to insist upon any way of reviewing these Orders which would relieve the Government of their legislative responsibility? We cannot have a committee to review Orders on their merits, nor indeed ought we—and I am sure the Home Secretary would support me in this—to take any steps that would give the Government the impression that any proposed legislation was agreed to before it was brought before the House. There has grown up in recent years on the part of the Government a really vicious practice of negotiating Bills with outside interests before they are brought to the House and then expecting the House to regard them as having been agreed. I can point out a number of instances where substantial concessions have been withheld from the people of this country because certain negotiations have been completed. This is a very bad thing indeed. I have known, in my short time in the House, occasions when the Government have had to withdraw proposals because they had already agreed them with outside interests. Therefore, in anything we do we can take no steps whatever which would set up machinery that would identify the House of Commons with legislative proposals 487 before they are brought before the House. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary would not expect us to do otherwise. Nevertheless, we are getting into serious constitutional difficulties, as Mr. Speaker indicated earlier to-day. We have conferred upon the Government powers so wide that it is the Government which now decide whether the House is to be consulted by means of a Bill or whether they are to exercise their powers by means of an Order. There is no branch of legislation upon which the Government cannot now make an Order, no matter what it may be.
The fact that we have been asked on many occasions to discuss Bills and have Committee stages is a direct consequence of the wisdom of the Government. The Prime Minister, as an old Parliamentarian, was careful in 1940 to tell the House of Commons that the Government would not always use their powers by way of Orders, because it was necessary always to seek the counsel of the House of Commons in certain matters before legislation was adopted. Many of our Debates at the present time are being held at the caprice of the Executive, and if it were not for the fact that the Government now and again must consult us, we would not be meeting except to put Questions and put down Motions in an endeavour to annul certain Regulations and Orders. It is very important that the House of Commons should seek some machinery for a review of the present situation. It is only the common sense of the Chair and the wisdom of Mr. Speaker which are now keeping any sort of order at all in our Debates. Supply Days, instead of being an opportunity for reviewing the administrative conduct of the Government, are continually used to wander off into all sorts of other avenues. The result is that the whole nation suffers because the administration of the Government is not brought under minute and scrupulous review. The House will have to consider—and I believe I shall have the support of its older Members and certainly its officials—either whether the Government are to have less power to make Orders or, if these powers are to be continued, what will be their constitutional repercussions on the procedure of the House.
A Select Committee has been suggested, but the danger of a proposal of that sort 488 consists in the fact that if the Executive acceded to it they would be identifying the House of Commons with certain proposals. The danger is implicit. In other words, the Executive could "nobble" the House beforehand; they could come to the House of Commons armed not only with their authority but with the recommendation of a Select Committee as well. Therefore, if we are to have a review of the situation, it must be by very narrowly defined terms of reference. Our main problem lies here, that the House of Commons, as a business body scrutinising the conduct of the Executive, is hopelessly handicapped because of the enormous amount of business now done by the Executive and because we ourselves have not time to study all their actions. The problem, therefore, is how we can bring the behaviour of the Government into some more digestible form before the House of Commons itself. In other words, how can we expose, for the purpose of scrutiny and debate, certain actions of the Executive which ought to be so exposed? There is a large number of actions of the Government, especially in war-time, which must be taken at once and with which we should not want to interfere. On the other hand, there are a number of things done under pressure from the Civil Service and bureaucracy. I am not using the term in a derogatory sense, but everyone knows that the enjoyment of power leads to the appetite for more power, and therefore the Civil Service is always inclined to bring pressure to bear on the Government to exercise those powers for which they are asking renewal in a manner which would have constitutional repercussions.
What is required is for the Government to consult with the House to see whether some form of machinery cannot be devised under which we should have the right to decide what sort of Orders should obtain our positive approval. In other words, our attention should be drawn to the Orders. It is not we who should have to seek out laboriously in the labyrinths of Government decisions and form ad hoc committees, which bring some people into suspicion. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), being an active and vigilant person, having a special interest in certain matters, called attention to them, whereas the rest of us, perhaps not so industrious or perhaps more preoccupied in other directions, are 489 not able to do the job properly. We ought to be helped in the matter. Here is a way in which the Government could avail themselves of the knowledge of the House, and the Government must remember that in these matters the House has very much more wisdom and knowledge than the Government quite often, and we should protect the Government from making many mistakes if the House of Commons were taken into consultation before the Government took certain steps. I could think of quite a number of instances where the Government would have been prevented from making many mistakes if before they acted there was some way of seeking the positive approval and scrutiny of the House before they took their decision. The Government will run into more and more difficulties unless they help us to devise some machinery for protecting them.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. Morrison)
The issue before the House to-day is the simple issue of the renewal of the Emergency Powers Acts. These Acts being of an exceptional character and conferring upon the Executive in time of war very exceptional powers, they are subjected to certain Parliamentary checks. One of those checks is that the Acts of Parliament do not last for more than a single year and would lapse if Parliament did not renew them. The issue before the House to-day is whether in time of war the Executive should continue to be clothed with these exceptional powers. While I entirely agree that Parliament as a whole has been considerate to the Government in the exercise of these powers, as I would equally claim that the Government have been considerate to everybody and reasonable in the exercise of them, I think it would be wrong to speak of Parliament being generous to the Government, because the need for the emergency powers was fundamentally to enable the nation to survive against a terrible enemy in a war in which the technique of the fifth column has had considerable success on the Continent. Therefore, let us not talk so much as though the Government should be grateful and humble for receiving these powers from a generous people and Parliament. Parliament and people conferred them upon the Government not so much to be generous to the Government as to prevent us all having our throats 490 cut or being blown up, and that is a good reason.
§ Sir H. Williams
Is it not the case that the people or Parliament conferred these powers a week before they started? They were shoved under our noses and passed within three hours.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have heard that humiliating argument before, and it is one which no one who was in the House at the time should make. If a Bill is produced and Parliament passes it, whether in three weeks or five minutes, Parliament is responsible for what is done. I wish the hon. Member would not repeatedly come along with the story that some terrible Government pushed this Bill down his throat. He swallowed it. He took it. He was perfectly free if he had wished to vote against it, but he did not, and I do not blame him. But as he did not, he must share with everyone who was a Member at that time the responsibility for what he did.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
Will not the right hon. Gentleman admit that the Measure was passed in a few hours? I speak as one of the few Members who then took part in the Debate on the Bill. There was no opportunity of deliberate consideration, and there should be at some stage deliberate consideration before it is renewed.
§ Mr. Morrison
Why should I be misrepresented? I am not complaining about the House spending half a day or a day if it wishes on this. I do not make any complaint whatever, and I was not criticising my hon. Friend. If he spoke when the Bill was going through, he is safe from anyone's criticism to that extent. He should not jump up when I was having an up and downer with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). I am complaining that he did not do what he now conceives was his Parliamentary duty. The real fact is that the British democracy and the British Parliament, faced with a terrible war and with a foe which for fifth column technique and for unscrupulous methods and for exploiting treachery was a different kind of foe from the general run of foes in wars—[Interruption.] This is quite true. Why are memories so short? Do they not remember the story of the Quislings in Norway? We knew the activities of these people all over Europe 491 and that men were acting as positive traitors to their own countries before the war. Parliament with its eyes open and the Government with their eyes open came to the conclusion that in this war the Government would need exceptional powers. In the last war the Government and the Executive had exceptional powers as well, and there is, therefore, really nothing shocking in a Government being clothed with exceptional powers in wartime.
§ Mr. Stokes
I agree that the Government with their eyes open and Parliament with its eyes open passed these Regulations, but does my right hon. Friend say for a moment that the Government with their eyes open or the House with its eyes open expected the war to last eight years?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know. The war has not yet lasted eight years. The Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to express any view he likes as to how long the war is likely to last, and so is my hon. Friend, but it has not yet lasted eight years. Parliament passed this legislation for the duration of the war, subject to this proper annual Parliamentary check. Parliament did it, and it is no good my hon. Friend now coming along and saying that Parliament never meant to do the thing which undoubtedly and indisputably Parliament did. It did it, it knew what it was doing, and it was absolutely right in what it did. I hope that, however long the war goes on, the House will not seek to deny the Executive suitable exceptional powers for the conduct of the war. Therefore, do not let us get into the atmosphere of a kind population and a naughty Government that ought to be grateful to the people for being generous to them. The country and Parliament did this to save our throats. It was a very good reason indeed for doing it.
Much of the argument in the Debate has been about the proposal that there should be a Select Committee. I am afraid that I have nothing to add to the statement that I have made on two previous occasions when this proposal has been brought before the House. The Government gave it very careful consideration, and we came to the conclusion that it was not a wise proposal and that we did not approve of it. We have told the House so, not for the sake of disagreeing with the House, 492 but because we are genuinely of that opinion. The Government still remain of that opinion, and while I have noted and will keep in mind, as other Ministers will, the views which have been expressed by various Members, I would suggest this. We have made various important changes of procedure and arrangements in connection with Defence Regulations and the Orders thereunder. These changes are fairly recent. They have, I think, been generally acceptable to the House. In fact, I think I can say that the issue of the Select Committee is almost the only thing that divides the Government from certain Members.
§ Sir H. Williams
There remains the point that such a lot of important Orders, so long as the Act remains unamended, are not discussable except by devious arrangements or short Debates on the Adjournment. It is impossible to get discussion of nine-tenths of the Orders.
§ Mr. Morrison
That must be so, and nine-tenths of the Orders are not worth discussion. Even if we discussed them and there were facilities it would be physically impossible to debate all the subsidiary Orders that come out. We have, broadly speaking, met the critics on everything of substance except this proposal for a Select Committee. Frankly, the Government do not agree with it, and we are not yet convinced. I cannot say whether we will or will not in course of time take another view. We have noted what has been said, but the view of the Government at this time is that it would not be a wise proposal. I suggest that hon. Members themselves are often on this proposal clearer about what they do not mean than about what they mean. I have tried to explain on a number of occasions what I think they may perhaps mean and have been met with considerable repudiatory indignation in the process. My impression is that they are to-day clearer what they do not mean about it than they are about the positive way in which it would work. In these circumstances I suggest that the wisest course would be to try the new procedure and the various new arrangements for improvements in the handling of Defence Regulations and Orders thereunder. My own belief, and certainly my hope, is that as time goes on, as experience of the new arrangements is acquired, the House will find that they work with reasonable 493 fairness, reasonable efficiency and reasonable regard to the undoubted rights and Privileges of Parliament.
§ Mr. Morrison
I doubt whether that is the real issue between us. Pretty well all these Defence Regulations, if my memory serves me rightly, go through the ordinary procedure. They are laid on the Table of the House, and the House can move a Prayer, which is exempted Business. Orders are another story, I agree. I do not think the question of an affirmative Resolution or a Prayer against is a material point in this particular connection. If we were to get to the point when a large number of Defence Regulations could not operate before there was an affirmative Resolution, I imagine it would be a matter of some difficulty to get that speedy and efficient prosecution of the war which everybody wishes of the Government.
§ Sir H. Williams
Surely an affirmative Resolution does not mean that a Regulation is not operative until the Resolution is passed? In Statute after Statute are provisions that anything done under an Order before the affirmative Resolution is validated, even though the Order is cancelled.
§ Mr. Bevan
That was the normal procedure before the war. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite seizes the point. The difficulty of the House is a practical one. We have not the facilities to examine all these Regulations, and therefore it is a valid point that an intelligent committee would enable the Government to divide the Orders into the necessary two categories. An intelligent committee would not withhold from the Government all the facilities they wanted.
§ Mr. Morrison
I will take note of the point, but I still do not believe that it is a material point in connection with today's Debate. I only say that in my judgment it is essential for any Government responsible to this House and the country for the conduct of the war that it should have exceptional law-making powers for the purpose of prosecuting the 494 war and that it should be able to make them with confidence and speed, subject to Parliamentary check. Anybody who took a course which was calculated to upset the certainty and the speed would be in danger of embarrassing the efficient conduct of the war effort. I suggest that it would be wiser at this stage to get experience of the new points of procedure and to see whether any material points of grievance arise.
The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes) affirmed the right of the House and, indeed, the duty of the House, to scrutinise these exceptional powers. He and another hon. Member also said that the Government ought to be considering what will be the situation at the armistice as regards dispensing with these powers or at any rate some of them. That aspect is not being overlooked. It will have to be considered from two points of view, one that of hon. Members who do not wish a single exceptional power to continue unless there is a strong case for it, and the other the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) who put the case, and it is a case that will certainly have to be considered, that it is a matter for consideration how far in that tricky period of passage from war to peace the Government will have to be clothed I do not say with the identical powers it has under the Defence Regulations now, but with material powers to shape the rapid economic adaptations and methods of protecting the interests of the community which will be necessary in a time of great economic and social difficulty. I make no affirmation in that matter, but the case made by my hon. Friend cannot be ignored. At some time there must be a review both from the point of view of hon. Members who wish to abolish the whole of the controls, or as many of them as they can, and from the point of view of other hon. Members who, while they do not wish to preserve them for the sake of preserving them, are of the view that it will be necessary for the Government to take hold of our economic life in that period of transition to protect the interests of the people and the nation as a whole. In principle, therefore, I do not dissent from what the hon. Member for South-East Essex said, though I make no positive promise as to making any detailed statement 12 months hence. He 495 welcomed the concessions we have made and I appreciate what he said.
The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) produced certain precedents for the proposed Select Committee, but I should not say they were really precedents. The Committee on Unopposed Private Bills seems to me to have a totally different job. A private Bill is one promoted by a private company or a local authority or even a private individual, and whether it is opposed or not depends not so much on the public Departments or the House but upon whether any interests oppose it by petitioning against it If they do not it tends to become an unopposed Bill, but nevertheless it is right that it should be examined, because it is legislation, and it is often legislation in connection with some private interest. For a very long time, I do not know how long, there has been a Committee on Unopposed Bills, but I would not say that either that Committee or the Ecclesiastical Committee, which deals with Measures promoted by the Church of England which formerly had to be approved by Act of Parliament, is particularly relevant to this proposal. My hon. Friend mentioned a discussion by this House of Regulation 70 in which the House carried a Motion to present a Prayer and that Defence Regulation was annulled. He wanted to know what had become of Defence Regulation 70. I am happy to tell him that if he goes to the Vote Office he will find that on 30th June, 1943, the King in Council dealt with this matter and that there are now a new Defence Regulation amending Regulation 70 and a new Defence Regulation No. 70A, which seeks to meet the points of criticism that were made, and I am glad to hear from the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) that it is so innocuous that he does not even propose to put down a Prayer.
§ Mr. Molson
The right hon. Gentleman says he does not agree with the precedents I have quoted. Would he be good enough to deal with the case of another place, where they have a Standing Order which says:At the commencement of every session a Standing Committee shall be appointed to which all Special Orders shall stand referred"?And will he be good enough to say whether the Government have been seri- 496 ously handicapped by the fact that in the case of all their delegated legislation going to another place it has had to be referred to that Committee?
§ Mr. Morrison
Those Special Orders are in the main I think gas and electricity supply Orders. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then I am wrong.
§ Mr. Molson
Since the right hon. Member has corrected me about that perhaps he will allow me to correct him. It says in the Standing Order:The expression Special Order means any order in council, departmental order, rules, regulations scheme or other similar instrument … presented to or laid or laid in draft, before the House where an affirmative resolution is required before the Order or any part thereof becomes effective.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. It will be seen that the Order covers a limited category, and because an affirmative Resolution is required, it would not apply to Defence Regulations. I do not know in detail how it works. I used to handle some of these matters some years ago when I was at the Ministry of Transport, and I do not remember their Lordships being troublesome in this connection. My recollection is that the procedure worked all right but it would be a mistake to assume that an Order that is suitable to the very different procedure and the very different atmosphere of another place would necessarily be suitable for the rather more lively House of Commons and its somewhat different procedure. However, I agree that that is nearer to being a precedent than the other instances mentioned by my hon. Friend.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington made the point that we should keep in mind the necessity for co-ordination and consolidation in connection with these various legislative instruments. I do not dissent from that doctrine, we are trying to take what notice we can of it, and I can assure him we are doing and will continue to do our best in that matter and even to improve upon our past attempts. He said, and I think he is right, that it would be a pity to get involved in an arrangement under which hon. Members, each of whom has a duty to look after the interests of the State, each of whom has a duty to watch these delegated legislative instruments, would feel that he no longer need do so because a Committee was doing the job for him. 497 It is a great safeguard that there are potentially 615 Members who have an eye upon the Government in this respect, and it is for consideration whether the cause which hon. Members have in view would be so much furthered if there were a Committee, because they might say, "Now I need not bother so much because there is an organised method for keeping observation upon things." I take no sides in the argument, but I think all would agree that if it did get into the heads of working people and trades unions that the House or even a substantial portion of the House was more lively when the interests of capital or property were involved than when it was a case of the individual interests of workpeople who are ordered about it would be most unfortunate.
The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) went rather far in his argument. He said he was opposed to this Motion, but I would point out that if the Motion were not adopted, the country would be pretty powerless about continuing the war. In fact there would be a grave danger of slowing the conduct of the war down very much. I am not even sure the war could go on. He went rather far, I thought, in the doctrine which animated more than one hon. Member, that this was all very well in the time of Dunkirk, when the country seemed on the verge of being invaded by very strong enemy forces, but that this crisis having passed the powers are not needed at all, or at any rate to the same extent. I will remind them that the original Act was passed about a week before Lie outbreak of war, that is, not for the emergency of Dunkirk but as part of the preparation for war. I hope very much that hon. Members will not begin to feel that because we are in an improved position we need not worry. There are far too many people in the country who are taking that point of view, and it would be a very great pity if they were encouraged in it by Members of the House of Commons.
My hon. Friend referred to the crisis at that time as if it had been the only crisis. There is still a crisis. There is still much to be done for the successful prosecution of the war, including much economic organisation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) referred to the fair way in which the House had dealt with the Government. I have made some comment on 498 that point. He suggested that we should be ready to report next year on the future of these powers and Regulations. I will note that. Certainly these matters are bound to be considered, but I would not like the House to think that the Government or that I contemplate that in a year's time we shall be able to abandon the exceptional powers. I do not think that is the case, nor do I think the House of Commons would expect it.
The hon. Members for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), and East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) made reference to the operation of Regulation 18B. Perhaps it might be convenient if I made a short statement indicating the situation as regards that famous Regulation at the present time. The Regulation has been discussed by the House of Commons on a number of previous occasions, and I am afraid there is little new to be said about it. It is, of course, as I have often said, the practice regularly, or periodically rather, to review every case of detention to see whether detention is still necessary, and actually, since 30th June, 1942, approximately a year ago, a further 124 persons have been released.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on that? Does he mean that these cases are reviewed, whether the detained person asks for the review or not, and irrespective of that?
§ Mr. Morrison
They are reviewed irrespective of that, because I think it is right to do so. I sometimes think it curious that some detained persons do not seem to be in a hurry to come out—they may not know the ropes—so I have given instructions that all the cases must be periodically reviewed. They are not only periodically reviewed in the Department; they come up to me, and I consider them personally. There have been cases in which one, two or three years ago—if that is possible; I suppose it is—I would not have authorised release but where I have thought that even apart from any change in a man's mind, which sometimes takes place, it was right in the different circumstances to release. There are even persons' of very doubtful respectability whom I would not have let out before but whom I let out now with some risk, recognising that in present circumstances it is safe to let out people whom I could not let out earlier. I think 499 that is the common-sense way of dealing with the matter. I have made one or two mistakes in letting people out and some of these people we have had to put back. Some others are engaging in activities in which I think it would be better that they should not engage and which might ultimately get them into trouble. But, broadly speaking, I do not think I have made many mistakes in letting people out, and I also hope that, broadly speaking, I have not made many mistakes in keeping people in. I have done my best on this job, which must be saddled upon and carried out by a particular Minister, and have discharged it conscientiously and with care.
I believe I have succeeded in freeing my mind of prejudices against individuals and of lack of toleration for particular opinions. With opinions as opinions I am not concerned—although I will come back to that point. The only issue for me is, Is this man likely in certain circumstances to be dangerous to the security of the State? If he is, I have a right and even a duty to keep him inside. If he is not, I have a duty to let him out. That is broadly the issue upon which the decision is made.
§ Earl Winterton
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of discharging these people, may I remind him that the question has been raised in debate of the provision made for them when they come out of prison, or rather of detention? I submit that they are in a worse position than the starred prisoners who are released and who have the advantage of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether anything is done to help these people to be reasonably employed in the national interest?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not think I can go to the point of agreeing that the State should assume the responsibility for taking care of them and recommending them for employment. As my Noble Friend with his Home Office /experience will quite appreciate, in the case of a prisoner we know what he has done, and he has been tried and convicted. These people have not been tried or convicted, and that is one of the difficulties.
§ Mr. Morrison
That may be, but by and large these people have been put inside because, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, they were a potential danger to the State, and it is a little difficult to do what is suggested. I have let many people out who, in my opinion, are very doubtful customers, but who, either for medical reasons or because of the present situation, are not likely to be dangerous. I would not like to put my hand on my heart about all of them and recommend them for employment. I also think that the difficulty is exaggerated. There are not many people who cannot get a job nowadays. The Ministry of Labour employment-finding machine is at their disposal, and I doubt whether they have much real difficulty. I think what we are in danger of doing and what some people are trying to do, is building them up into victims of a tyrannical Government, into heroes, into virtuous citizens. Believe me, that would be a mistake, in the general run of cases. I will come to that point in a minute or two. People talk about them as victims as if the State had no rights. It is using somewhat inappropriate language.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that a number of the people who have been detained have wives and children who never shared their views and who suffer the very greatest difficulty when the detainee comes out?
§ Mr. Morrison
We did approach—or they approached us, I forget which—the Society of Friends, who have been helpful in a number of cases. I assure the House that in a considerable number of these cases—I do not say in all of them—it would be very embarrassing for me to issue a certificate saying "This man is reliable." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What do you want me to do?
§ Earl Winterton
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what we want him to do, although I support him in much of what he is saying. If I were making a speech on the matter, I should say that a man who has not been convicted of an offence should have the same facilities for getting employment as has a convicted person.
§ Mr. Morrison
He has them, through the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour want to place people who are available and suitable for employment, though they will naturally exercise some 501 discretion as to where they recommend them for work. What I thought was that I was expected to take a paternal interest in placing particular people in employment. I think that is going a little too far in these cases.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am being very patient—[Interruption.] Hon. Members are very vigorous. I will give way, but I have been very patient. I have been interrupted almost every minute, and I am entitled to make my speech. I do not propose to be intimidated in that way.
§ Sir I. Albery
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting him. As he knows, I am not in the habit of interrupting in Debate. This is the first time I have interrupted him. It is because he is speaking on a point of some interest. Before he leaves it can he say anything about the fact that these men have their cards specially marked? That is their difficulty.
§ Mr. Morrison
With great respect, it is a little trying. This was mentioned in Debate. The hon. Member cannot have been here. But I will deal with that point in due course. Releases, generally speaking, have been subject to conditions, maybe requiring the reporting of changes of address to the police, sometimes an undertaking to follow employment laid down by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. During this same period of approximately 12 months 25 new Orders of detention were made under the Regulation. Three of those Orders were against persons who had been released and were subsequently found to be engaging in activities necessitating their detention again. There are now—this is apart from cases in which I have decided in principle on release, but the formalities have not yet been completed—429 persons in detention as compared with 529 on 30th June, 1942. Of the 429—not the 1,000 someone referred to but 429–286 are persons of hostile origin or associations, 55 were concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the Defence of the Realm, 88 were members of the British Union or active in the furtherance of the 502 objects of the British Union. In addition there are a number of persons whose release, as I say, has been decided on in principle and who will be released as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made.
Since 18B came into force the Advisory Committee has had before it 1,602 persons. In 95 per cent. of the cases effect has been given to the Committee's recommendations. In 61 cases the Committee's recommendation for release has not been adopted; in 17 release has been authorised when the Committee recommended continued detention. As I have previously explained, in cases where I have differed from the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, it has not, generally speaking, been upon points of fact but the question of judgment as to whether in the light of a great body of facts release was safe. A large proportion were cases of hostile origin or association. Of the 61 persons detained in spite of the recommendation of the Advisory Committee for release, 39 are in fact persons of hostile origin or association. Many, though technically British, are indistinguishable in history, upbringing and outlook from persons of enemy nationality.
That gives a broad picture of the present situation as regards Defence Regulation 18B. I would now like to make some observations on the case for the Regulation and to bring, I hope, some comfort to the House on certain points that have been raised. Hon. Members have said with varying degrees of vigour that this is a shocking Regulation. I agree that it is a highly exceptional Regulation. I do not feel any great sense of pride in administering it. I realise that it has conferred on me extraordinary powers over the liberty of the subject, and I treat the Regulation with very great respect, and I know that I must be careful in administering it. But, having said that, I beg Members not to overlook the reason for the Regulation, or to forget what happened abroad.
In Austria many people were corrupted, became traitors to their own country, and acted as agents of the German Reich. In Norway Quisling and his followers were in that same category. In Belgium there were the Rexists and in Holland followers of another gentleman. These men were not ordinary political opponents of the Government. They were the agents of a 503 foreign State, the agents of a political creed, ready to act as traitors to their country. This represented the established technique of the Nazi Party in Germany, and to some extent of the Fascist Party in Italy. And these people must not be made into heroes, whether they are Austrians, Dutchmen, Norwegians, Belgians, French or British. There is something especially unpleasant, something especially nasty about a man who will take the orders of a foreign Government to act against the interest of his country, especially in time of war, and that is the type of people they were, if I may say so to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am not talking about underground movements. I do not want to discuss revolutionary abstractions with my hon. Friend. We are both very expert about that. If he is speaking about the underground movement in Italy and whether that is moral or immoral, I would say it is acting for the freedom of Italy and not as the slavish tool of a foreign Government, and that in any case a movement against a tyrannical Government based on dictatorship is entitled to use any method. But I say this. The foreign people we are dealing with were nasty bits of work, and among the British variety there were some who were potentially just as bad as Mr. Quisling of Norway and just as had as the Rexists of Belgium; and I could prove it from the records of the Home Office. Members start quoting reports of the Advisory Committee, but, believe me, it would suit me from the point of view of Parliamentary debate if I were free to produce the reports and the information at my disposal, but I do not think it would be fair to men who have not gone through judicial trial, accusation and judicial conviction. Let it not be thought, however, that I am hiding behind these reports, and that it suits me to keep them secret. If I could produce some of them, some hon. Members would be a little more careful about championing cases which they do champion, and I suggest that it is out of proportion to try to convert people of this kind, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich appears to do, into heroes who deserve our great sympathy.
§ Mr. Stokes
My right hon. Friend should not put words into my mouth. I hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich emphasised that I did not want him to take any action which was contrary to the interests of the country, but I said he should take every possible care to see that no one was detained unjustly.
§ Mr. Morrison
My hon. Friend also said that if I could not prove in a court of law that Sir Oswald Mosley was guilty of this, that and the other, and was therefore eligible perhaps to be shot, I should let him out. That means that, under this Defence Regulation, I should let Sir Oswald Mosley out. That is what my hon. Friend's argument comes to, and he had better stand to it.
§ Mr. Stokes
I will stand to it, but let me put it in my own words. I said that I would try him, and if he was found guilty shoot him, and, if not, let him out.
§ Mr. Morrison
As my hon. Friend so well knows—no doubt, his legal advisers have explained it to him—the only reason for Defence Regulation 18B is that this is a problem in the nature of which you cannot bring a judicial charge or get a conviction in a court of law. If we could do that, we should not be justified in having Regulation 18B at all. It is precisely because these cases are outside that category that we need the Regulation. It comes to this. My hon. Friend would let these persons out unless we could get a conviction in a court of law. I do not agree with him; and, with great respect, I do not believe that the mass of the British people agree with him, and I do not believe that the people of Ipswich agree with him.
§ Mr. Stokes
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I am capable of dealing with the people of Ipswich. I said that Sir Oswald Mosley is a notorious figure, well known to a great number of people. I would not use the same methods with other people, particularly some of the people my right hon. Friend employs.
§ Mr. Morrison
I will bear that in mind. I am very glad that I have made my hon. Friend put his argument in another way. I do not propose to go into these cases: I do not think it would be right to do so. These cases are considered from time to time. One case which was mentioned in the Debate is under consideration 505 now and it would embarrass me if, in the middle of my consideration of it, I were to get into a controversy about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich raised the question of the identity cards. He assumed that they were all marked. That is not the case. The only ones now marked are those where the conditions of release are such that it is necessary to have a record so that the police can make a check. The most outstanding case is that of a man who is not permitted to go to protected areas. The police could not enforce that condition if there were not some record of it on the man's card. In most cases the cards are not marked, and we are making arrangements for removing the marks where they are not required under our policy. My hon. Friend referred to the case of Mr. Ben Greene. I will not deal with that case, except on two points. One is that my hon. Friend is wrong in saving that all the allegations in the particulars of the Order were withdrawn. All were not. Secondly, it was Mr. Greene who withdrew the case against the Lord President of the Council, and the case collapsed: I do not think that my hon. Friend should be allowed to think that he is hacking such a winner.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am sorry to interrupt again, and I leave the issue of that case as a matter to be examined by any hon. Member of the House, but I did not say that the case was withdrawn for Mr. Ben Greene, but that on the evidence of the sole person who was called against him he was, in my opinion, a disreputable German emigré. The three charges of criminal offences against Mr. Ben Greene were all admitted by the person giving evidence to be untrue.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is not true. Mr. Greene's counsel called the witness, and it was during the cross-examination of the witness that counsel for Mr. Greene withdrew the case. It is not right to quote the Greene case or any of these cases. I do not think there is an indictment of the Home Office to be drawn from them.
§ Mr. Morrison
Let not my hon. Friend try to provoke me into indiscretions. I 506 do not want to be drawn. That is all I have to say about Regulation 18B. I think that in the circumstances the Regulation is right and that, broadly speaking, the action taken under it was right and that I am right in becoming increasingly catholic in letting people out who formerly could not be let out. I do not want to keep a single person in under 18B unless there is good reason, in my judgment, for so doing.
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said that next year there would be a division on this Motion unless the Government made their intention clear as to the future of the Emergency Powers Act. I am obliged to the hon. Member for having givers us that notice, and I will certainly take it into account when we come to deal with the matter next year. He raised the further point as to whether we could put a time to the continuance of the Act. It might substantially last for the period of the war, and there is an obligation on the Government at the end of the war to bring in legislation to define when the war has finished for legal purposes. I do not think that there need be any undue apprehension on that point, which obviously must be faced. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) agreed with the proposal for a Select Committee with which I have already dealt on this and previous occasions. He thought the present Government had a tendency towards "pure bureaucracy." I do not agree with him. I honestly do not think that the Government have those tendencies. They seek to be efficient and prompt, and sometimes that is confused with bureaucracy. Indeed, I think that the Government keep the rights of people and of Parliament always in mind. From what I have heard in this House, and certainly from what I have heard in discussions in the privacy of Ministerial rooms, I think the Government are conscious all the time that they live by the virtue of Parliament and that it is their duty and pleasure to treat the House with great respect, as it is by their consent alone that the Government can continue to live.
May I say a word with regard to the civil servants in this connection? They are partly paid to do their work and partly paid to be attacked, a reward which they share with Ministers of the Crown, and they take it very well. But 507 it is not true, in my experience, that these Regulations are the product of an unpuenchable thirst on the part of civil servants to make new laws, regulations and rules. I have had a good deal of experience of public administration, both nationally and locally, and if there is one person the public official is afraid of it is "John Bull." If there is one institution he is afraid of, it is either Parliament or the local authority. I have often had to push civil servants into making the necessary Regulations or Orders because they were so nervous of Parliament and the newspapers and were too backward in grasping the necessary instruments of power in order to get on with the war. Believe it or not, that is the truth. Indeed, I would be surprised if the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby)—although I could not expect him to admit it—did not himself have the same experience during the time he was in office at the Ministry of Food.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)
There are 1,100,000 civil servants, so they will need an enormous amount of pushing.
§ Mr. Morrison
I forget what the exact number is, but I can only say that that is my experience. These men have held back from getting these exceptional powers because they have been apprehensive of the trouble they might get into. Sometimes they have warned me of the trouble I might get into.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, and I shall have to be careful lest I be charged as a bureacrat with converting respectable, democratic civil servants into bureaucrats. If I did not push them, the House would say, "Why do you not push and drive them on?" I do so, and, by the end of the day we have all had a good time. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend also intervened to complain why I would not give him the name of a constituent detained under Regulation 18B. I do not remember the case, but if the hon. Gentleman will communicate with me I will look into it.
§ Sir I. Albery
In a Question I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would give me the name of a constituent of mine 508 who was detained against the advice of the Advisory Committee, and his answer was, "No."
§ Mr. Morrison
The point there is that I do not reveal on which cases I agree or disagree with the advice of the Advisory Committee. For that reason my answer had to be in the negative.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen said that detainees were suffering penal servitude for an indefinite period and that he wanted legal tribunals to sit in camera. I understand his argument, but I do not believe it would work, because this is a matter of the security of the State, for which a Minister must be held responsible by Parliament and whose head Parliament can have if security goes wrong. I think it is better to deal with the matter this way than by means of a purely legal procedure. The hon. Member also complained that these people did not know what they were charged with, although "charged with" is the wrong description. All these people get particulars of the Order, which is made intelligible and clear so that they can understand what they have to answer for when their case comes before the Committee. Of course, they are not given full particulars of the examination they will get from the Committee any more than in an indictment before a court they would get full particulars beforehand from counsel on the other side. But they do get substantial information as to the kind of things they must deal with.
§ Mr. Boothby
In case after case which has been produced to me and others the specific statement has been made by internees that they have not the faintest idea of why they are being detained. That is the gravamen of our case.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member may be confused between Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order and 18B. I am entitled to put an enemy alien in in any case. He has to show me reasons why he can be safely let out. The natural place for an enemy alien is inside, unless I am satisfied that it is reasonably safe to let him out. You have to find out what an enemy alien is. These people have to be sorted out, and I have to exercise great care. I do not see why in the case of aliens I should have to go through the more particular and elaborate procedure necessary and proper in respect of a British citizen.
509 My hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) did not like 18B, but thought it still necessary—a not unreasonable judgment. He urged that with the Defence Regulations there should be an explanatory memorandum. He is not up to date, because I announced that decision weeks ago, and it is already in operation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) and the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright) referred to an Admiralty Order. I cannot argue the case in detail, but I am assured by my right hon. Friend who represents the Admiralty, and by my own Department, that the reason for this Regulation, which has existed since 1940 and covered the coast from Berwick down to Dorset and has now been extended, is to prevent people getting away to enemy-occupied territory. The hon. and gallant Gentleman made very light of two or three people having been caught in a rowing boat on the way to France. I think he was much relieved when he found that two of them were dentists, but dentists can do wrong. It is important that the State should see that people do not get away from this country to enemy-occupied countries. While we regret interfering with people in this way, nevertheless the point is that people must not be allowed to get away to enemy-occupied territory. It may be that in the early days of the operation of the Order some naval officers were not fully experienced and made mistakes. My right hon. Friend the First Lord is prepared to believe that that is possible, and he has instructed his officers to be reasonable and fair and sensible about its administration. The Admiralty is looking into the particular case to which attention has been drawn.
§ Major Petherick
What we are objecting to are these new powers, which are quite unnecessary, because the former system is perfectly adequate.
§ Mr. Morrison
I cannot argue the point in detail, but I am assured that the security authorities, including the Admiralty and the Home Office, were satisfied that this was the proper thing to do. There have been cases as recently as May where people were well on the way to enemy-occupied territory, and this Regulation was considered necessary. The Admiralty will watch the administration 510 of the Order, and I invite hon. Members representing the constituencies concerned to send to my right hon. Friend all the complaints they get. He will have them looked into, and if he finds officers of the Admiralty are being injudicious and foolish they will be pulled up.
We have had a very interesting time in this Debate. I shall be grateful if the House will agree to the renewal of these Acts, which everybody agrees are essential for the security of the country and the prosecution of the war. I can assure the House that I shall go away conscious of the fact that in 12 months' time it will be my duty, or that of some other appropriate Minister, to render an account of the conduct of himself and other Ministers in the past 12 months.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I want to ask for the attention of the House to one point, because it is a really important one. I speak from the point of view of a supporter of my right hon. Friend and of one who was for a short and happy time an assistant Minister at the Home Office. I am less concerned in this matter with opinions expressed in the House—though I am a little anxious about that—than I am with opinions expressed outside. The opinion has been expressed in some quarters outside the House, and to some extent in the House, that these Regulations are valuable because they enable people with whose opinions others do not agree to be shut up. This is a most dangerous thing that can come into our consideration of this matter. I would, therefore, invite the attention of my right hon. Friend to this point, and I think he will agree with me. I do not ask him to accept my words, but I gather that these Regulations, including 18B, are intended to deal with those who overtly or covertly act as agents of the enemy and not those who express themselves in favour of any totalitarian system or any form of government foreign to our system. If it were true that they were to be shut up because they were in favour of any totalitarian system or any Constitution foreign to our system, Communists would have to be in prison, including the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). The right hon. Gentleman himself at the Trades Union Congress accused the Communist Party of being practically in favour of violent revolution in this country.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not object to that point, but it has nothing to do with the point I am raising, because they are not speaking in this country. It is no use the hon. Member getting off on to a side issue. He must agree—he cannot fail to do so—and I challenge anyone in the House to get up and say that even in time of war to express an opinion in favour of a particular system of government, provided you do not by so doing collaborate with the enemy, is an offence under the law. I will resume my seat if any Member says it is. We should, therefore, have less talk outside the House as we frequently do have that the Tory Party are opposed to these Regulations because they are in favour of Fascism. As a matter of fact I and many other Tories are supporters of these Regulations. the only justification for the Regulation is that the people arrested are those who are in some way acting overtly or covertly as agents of the enemy. It is necessary that that should be made clear Otherwise we should get into a dialectical dilemma; the Home Secretary himself would, because of the speech which he quite properly made the other day at the Labour Party Congress. Even more dangerous statements are being made outside. Many people are suggesting that because a man expresses an opinion in favour of a totalitarian form of government he should be shut up if it is in favour of Facism but not if it is in favour of Communism. That way lies complete dictatorship. Nothing could be more dangerous. It is a view which is being expressed by the Communist Party, though we could reply, any Socialist or any Tory could reply, "You ought to be shut up too."
Another impression is growing up outside. One hon. Member whose constituency I do not recall has suggested in Debate on more than one occasion that the mere expression of opinion hostile to the Jewish race should in itself be evidence of the fact that a man is not fit to be at large. Nothing is more horrible than racial prejudice, but I have yet to learn that under our Constitution to express dislike of any particular race, if you do not do it in a way to foment disorder, is a reason for putting a man in prison. I apologise for intervening, but I think it is just as well that someone should make these points 512 clear. While I could see nothing in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that we could take exception to, what does alarm me is to see the possibility of a view arising outside—and the tendency among some inside—in favour of using 18B as an instrument for the political persecution of totalitarians. Let everyone study the well-chosen words of the Home Secretary in this Debate, and let not any of my hon. Friends on this side of the House or outside suggest that we should put every Fascist in prison, or, if they do, let them have the courage to say that every Communist as well should be put in prison. Let not people say that because Mr. Jones gets up and says, "I do not like the Jewish race," he should be imprisoned, because if that is to be the state of mind, we shall have people put in prison because they dislike the Scottish race or the Welsh race. It is reducing things to a farce when people use arguments of that kind outside, and it is making an inroad into our constitutional system which might lead to the destruction of Parliament.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
I can think of nothing so difficult as to come into a Debate after such a long time, when the Secretary of State has already spoken, but having sat here so long I should like to get a few words off my chest. I think the Debate clearly shows the great interest taken by hon. Members in the powers which have been handed to His Majesty's Government by this Act. Only a year ago a similar Motion to that now before the House was passed without any comment, but to-day we have had a Debate, not an acrimonious one but nevertheless a very determined one, in which hon. Members have put forward their convictions with considerable point and energy. There is no doubt that this Act does hand over enormous power to the Government. I am not again going over the ground which has already been so thoroughly covered, but I would point out that there are certain checks on the Executive even as things stand to-day. The first check is, I think, a natural check, the natural moderation of the British people in the application of the severest laws. The officials of the Government are all Britishers and are all undoubtedly imbued and inspired with this idea of moderation. Of course, there are exceptions.
513 Parliament also still is in a position to impose considerable checks upon the power of the Government. It can still criticise and is exercising this function of late pretty fully. The Government are constantly brought to book by Questions or by Motions on the Order Paper. Our constitutional machinery is working in that way. I have had some recent experience myself. There was a Motion on the Order Paper on the subject of milk, and there has recently been the issue of a White Paper on the same subject. Had it not been for the constant determination shown by hon. Members, that White Paper would not probably have been so satisfactory. If we had allowed the Government to proceed without criticism, I do not think they would have responded in the way we wished. The pensions White Paper is another illustration in which we can see a Government responding to the efforts of Members of Parliament. Parliament has another check, where it is clear that our real power has never been taken from us. So long as Parliament can put down and carry a Vote of Censure it can bring the Government of the day tumbling down, with all the consequences that that involves and can thereby recapture our liberties.
Although I instinctively dislike these Measures, I do not think the Government can be regarded as anything but trustees of our liberties. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will regard himself in that way. I think he does. In spite of many of his expressions and his different attitude in the past, I believe that, deep down in his heart, he is proud of the British Constitution—[Interruption]—and no doubt also of British Imperialism. I believe that he administers the law fairly, as far as it is humanly possible. I do not know what he does. No one knows, of course. He comes to this House and tells us how terrible these reports are. He may be deceiving this House the whole time, but I do not think so. I believe these must be very severe cases.
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope I have not given the impression that all the reports are terrible. Some of them are not so bad.
§ Dr. Thomas
I assume that if a person is kept in detention there must be something very serious, and I must come to the conclusion that these persons are kept 514 there because there is some considerable doubt about them
The right hon. Gentleman put the blame on Parliament for passing the Emergency Powers Act in the first instance. He is quite right, but it must be remembered that the circumstances now are not what they were two or three years ago when there was a great crisis and everybody lived in fear of invasion. Times have changed, and those who love liberty in this country are beginning to tell the Government and those who administer this Act that we want those liberties back as quickly as is reasonable. Although we do not see our way to enforce the matter to-day, this Debate is, as it were, a warning in this direction. We have spent much time on Regulation 18B. Over and over again it has been brought up in Debates. My chief concern is not merely the Regulation itself but the fact that Habaes Corpus is practically suspended under that Regulation. When you consider the matter it is a most extraordinary thing that we in this country in time of crisis have rarely allowed Habeas Corpus to be suspended. I think that is a very striking thing.
If I am not boring the House, I would recall that 250 years ago, when our fathers almost completed the enthronement of liberty, passed the Bill of Rights and so on, I do not think they could have dreamed for one moment that Habeas Corpus would be suspended as it has been. There have been times in the history of our country when we have been threatened with an invasion, when the country has been full of fifth columnists. That was one of the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman in arguing the case for 18B. In 1690, for example, this country was in great danger of invasion, almost as great as in 1940. The Fleet was separated into three parts, William was with his Army in Ireland, and the English Fleet, as I say, was divided into three parts. Only a small part was left in the Channel. The French came along with a great fleet under de Tourville in order to pave the way for invasion.
§ Dr. Thomas
Looking back, we find that Habeas Corpus was practically never suspended unless there was a danger of civil commotion within the country.
§ Earl Winterton
As was pointed out earlier in the Debate, if Regulation 18B had been in existence during the Napoleonic Wars Charles James Fox would have been arrested for the speeches he made.
§ Dr. Thomas
Probably. I said that Habeas Corpus was only suspended when there was danger of civil commotion, danger of internal uprising. For short times in the 18th century, at the time of the Jacobite risings, it was suspended. It was suspended during the Napoleonic Wars, not because of the danger of invasion, but because of the danger of the spread of revolutionary doctrines in England. That was from 1794 to 1802. It was not suspended for one moment because of the danger of invasion.
§ Dr. Thomas
In effect it is suspended. Our fathers were so fond of liberty that they could not imagine this realm without it. They could not distinguish, as it were, between government by a foreign foe and the destruction of liberty itself by their own Government. I think my right hon. Friend should consider the possibility of some new arrangement in regard to these unfortunate and misguided people, perhaps not this year but a little later on.
Another Regulation which affects the liberty of the subject is Regulation 33B. That Regulation refers to venereal disease. I do not know how far my right hon. Friend is concerned in this Regulation. There was a Prayer, asking that the Regulation should be suspended, in December last, and there was a long Debate. The Prayer, of course, was negatived, and the Regulation still stands. I think it is a most unfortunate and very un-English Regulation. This is what it means. If a person who contracted V.D. informed against a person from whom he contracted the disease, the person who had given him the disease was liable, on 516 refusing to undergo treatment, to be brought before a court and ordered to undergo a course of treatment, but the people who informed against that person could, if they wished, give up their treatment half-way through. The wretched victim could be dragged to the court and suffer a great deal of publicity—there are cases where it has occurred—while the informer got away with it every time. I remember interrupting the Minister at least five times during his speech because I was not satisfied with regard to the action which could be taken under common law. The woman had previously two grounds of action under common law. If her chastity was wrongly impugned she had ground for actions for damages, and if it were wrongly alleged that she had an infectious disease she had a ground for action for damages for slander per se. Both of these grounds went to the winds under this Regulation. I found that the only remedy—and it was no remedy at all—was a malicious prosecution against the informer by the authorities. I trust that that Regulation will be reconsidered, because it is an unduly harsh Regulation, and it is not obtaining the results we were told it probably would. V.D. is still increasing.
I agree with the remark made by the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), relating to the promises made by the Home Secretary, in the Debate on Statutory Rules and Orders. I will not burden the House by reciting the promises he made, but I think they amounted to seven or eight in all. Although it is no use my pressing further for a Select Committee, I think the matter should be looked into again by the right hon. Gentleman; and I think he would also be well advised to take note of the remark made by my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University. My hon. Friend said:We have had again to-day from my right lion. Friend the principal Secretary of State, promises, assurances and interpretations for the immediate future—that is, relating to the promises he made in regard to Orders and Regulations under the Emergency Powers Act. My hon. Friend went on—Has not the point come near when we ought to have, at least in draft, a Statute which shall contain all these things, so that they do not repose on the vigilance of private 517 Members, but stay there for good?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1943; col. 1675, Vol. 389.]He suggested that some Clause should be embodied in some Bill or other to put the promises of the right hon. Gentleman on a proper footing so that they did not depend for their implementation on the vigilance of this House.
Another suggestion that I would make to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to these Orders and Regulations is the advisability of the appointment of a coordinating officer in each Department, some senior official, who would examine into these Orders, look at them carefully, not only in conjunction with the Minister, but with his opposite number in every other Department. By so doing, we could have co-ordination, and we could get rid of—what we have had in the past—Orders made by different departments conflicting with one another. If one Department makes an Order in one direction and another department makes an Order which, practically speaking, conflicts with the Order first made, they tread on each other's toes, and everybody is confused. I suggest that, through the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman in that recent Debate, matters might be improved, but these promises should be put into legislative form. This is only a suggestion, but it would help us considerably. I am convinced myself that this Debate has served a very useful purpose indeed. It has shown the trend of opinion in this House and that this House is alive to the liberties it entrusted to the Government, arid as time goes on our alacrity in that direction must increase.
Liberty is the finest jewel in the British Constitution. It has been entrusted to the safe-keeping of His Majesty's Government. Let His Majesty's Government see that they do not hand that jewel back tarnished and besmirched and that the love of liberty which is so deeply rooted both in this House and this people, except for an authoritarian minority, will never rest satisfied until liberty is in due time restored.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
We have been debating now for a little over four hours something which is of the utmost importance to the people of this country. It has been said in this Debate, with complete truth, that if these Regulations were not passed, the war 518 could not be carried on. Those are almost the exact words of the Home Secretary, and yet at this Debate, on a matter of such immense moment, there is no Cabinet Minister or Law Officer of the Crown prepared to sit for even four and a half hours on the Front Bench. To-day, we have had another example of the habit which is growing, of the Minister rising to speak at a time which is convenient for himself, not at a time convenient for the House, and then, like the Arab, folding his tent and silently stealing away. I think a little more attention might be given to this growing practice. On the occasion of an important Debate of this kind there should be at least one Cabinet Minister, even the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself, on the Front Bench. After all, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman only makes his country speeches at the week-ends, so he cannot have gone off to make one now. Therefore, I enter my protest.
In this Debate, as in every Debate which has taken place on these Regulations, reference has been made to the fact that it was the House of Commons which passed these Regulations in 1939. Of course, that is true and I, in common with all other Members, must bear my share of the responsibility for passing those Regulations in such haste. They were passed at a time of great crisis but because you pass Regulations in haste, at a time of great crisis, that is no reason why, after a due period of time, you should not sit down and discuss whether they might not be amended or their application altered. Nobody has ever suggested that the Government should not have any and every necessary power which they require for the due prosecution of the war. Almost every time the Home Secretary stands at that Box he asks the question of the House: "Is it suggested that the Government shall not have all the powers they need?" I have never heard anybody say that the Government should not have any powers they require for the prosecution of the war; and to pretend otherwise is only to confuse the issue.
The main point which has run all through this Debate has been that both inside and outside this House there is growing apprehension at the increase in government by Regulation and by Order. The community outside—whose views are reflected in what is said here—are beginning to say that it is time to call a halt 519 to the growth of this practice. If hon. Members will look up past Debates they will observe the difference in the number of Members who spoke in those Debates as compared with the number who have spoken to-day. What is even more important to observe is the greatly increased number of Members who have attended to-day's Debate—I do not mean at this moment—as compared with the attendance at past Debates. To-day, a larger number of Members have voiced their perturbation at the present trend of events. The Debate certainly reflects the growing apprehension in the country at this government by Regulation.
This kind of government by Emergency Powers is the essence of totalitarian Government. The essence of the régime in Italy and Germany which we are fighting and which we shall, please God, bring down at no very distant date, is government by decree. I fully realise that there must be emergency powers of the most drastic kind. I have never been one of those who wished to do away with Regulation 18B. If you can produce for me a man convicted as a traitor to this country, not only will I acquiesce in his execution, but I will be prepared to take a hand in executing him. But I do say that the time has now come to review the way these Regulations work. The most obvious example, in my view, of the danger inherent in this type of legislation lies in this fact, that we, as Members of Parliament, have allowed a Member of this House to be locked up without insisting upon being told why he has been locked up. I conceive that it may be necessary to lock up any or every Member of Parliament, but I have always said—and I adhere to it—that you should not lock up a Member of Parliament and silence his voice without first coming to this House and saying, as could be done in Secret Session, why he was being locked up and giving him the opportunity of standing in his place or at that Bar and defending himself against the charge.
As a matter of fact I believe that, if a sufficient number of Members put down a Motion demanding the presence of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay) either in his place or at the Bar of this House the Government would have to produce him here so that he could 520 answer the charges against him. It cannot be right that you should silence the voice of a Member of Parliament in this way. I have had a Motion on the Paper for something over two years designed to alter Regulation 18B, so that, when it is operated against a Member of the House, the House shall be told why he has been locked up and what is the charge against him, and that he shall be given an opportunity of defending himself before his fellow Members. Let us never forget that it was the House of Commons which drafted the famous protestation of 18th December, 1621, in which they denied by implication the right of the King to imprison Members, and they asserted their rights and privileges in these words:The ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England.If the Home Secretary, exercising his undoubted rights under 18B, locks up a Member, he is doing something contrary to that famous protestation. I have made my views on Regulation 18B known on several occasions and the House has listened to me with kindly patience and tolerance. History, when it comes to be written, will decide who was right in this matter, whether those of us who have protested against the liberties of Parliament being unduly curtailed were right or whether it was right that the Executive should have taken the stand they have taken. The Home Secretary said it was impossible to try in an open court people who are suspect and who have been arrested under 18B, but that has been done. The Home Secretary seemed to complain that Members raise individual cases. He cannot complain about that as far as I am concerned. I have only raised one individual case. A woman was arrested under 18B, and the Executive decided that they would try her under the Defence of the Realm Regulations or the Official Secrets Act. She was tried at the Old Bailey and acquitted after a trial which lasted some days and which was heard in camera. Under ordinary circumstances she would have walked out of court a free woman, but not so now. She was taken back to Holloway and interned on the same charges on which she was tried and acquitted by a judge and jury. It may be that the Home Secretary made a mistake in thinking that he would get a conviction, but if the liberties of the subject mean anything that woman should go free. It is therefore idle for 521 the Home Secretary to say what he did when in one instance at least he has had a trial and the person charged has been acquitted.
The number of people who have now been released from detention seems to me to prove how many mistakes were made in the past. Of course, mistakes were bound to be made, but the contention of my friends and myself has been that the time has come to alter the Regulation. For instance, a man came to see me who had just been released. He has done three years of what is in effect penal servitude. Mention has been made of the endorsement of identity cards. I have had two cards brought to me endorsed in red ink, and the endorsement made it impossible for the holder to get any employment. That is neither fair nor just, nor is it our English method of dispensing justice. What we have to beware of in operating a Regulation like 1843 is that we seek to justify it because it is aimed, as the noble Lord said, at one form of political faith with which we may disagree. It is the danger of this kind of Regulation that we should say, "Lock up all the Communists," or "Lock up all the Fascists."
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
It is not because it is just a form of political faith which we disagree with. The Fascists are our enemies.
§ Sir A. Southby
From what I read in the papers it seems to me that Communists are the enemies of some hon. Gentlemen, too. All I am concerned with is whether a man is a potential enemy to the State in war-time. That is the only ground on which he should be deprived of his liberty. Because he has a political faith with which I disagree, unless in his expression of it he is seeking to injure the national cause, he should not have his liberty taken away.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not think that I ascribed that to the Home Secretary. I support the Home Secretary. I attack those people, and I shall continue to do so, who would like to see the Home Secretary shut people up with whose political views they do not agree.
§ Sir A. Southby
I am grateful to the Noble Lord for what, he has just said, because I am not attacking the Home Secretary personally. It might be any 522 Home Secretary. I have for the right hon. Gentleman a great personal regard. I find him courteous and helpful and kindly in every way. I believe that he discharges a difficult task to the best of his ability. I am, however, concerned lest the operation of a Regulation of this kind should be directed against any individual purely because he holds certain political views.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
If a person holds the political view that Hitler and his methods are the most desirable form of government, is it not a dangerous political view in the middle of a total war of this kind, and should not some restraint be put upon him to prevent him putting that opinion into action?
§ Sir A. Southby
The hon. Member must not try to twist and turn anything I have said. Anybody who expressed any desire to comfort and help and sustain our enemies ought to be put away. If anybody expresses appreciation of Hitler, there are only two places for him to go to; one is the madhouse and the other is the grave. Nobody suggests that anybody who expresses admiration of Hitler and his methods is not an enemy to the State. He is. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) quoted from the Deputy-Prime Minister something to this effect: "that there was danger that liberty might be destroyed," and he talked about the freedom of the individual. We have to remember that the freedom of the individual does not only mean the freedom of the person with whom you agree, but that it means the freedom of the person who differs from you. I agree with what the Noble Lord said. The trend of events in connection with this business of 18B has been to get now into the minds of people outside the House the idea that this Regulation is and could be used as a method of silencing political opinion. Almost a year ago the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) said:The present public uneasiness in the main is not that there are too many people interned but that, if anything, there are not enough and that some of those who are interned are being treated too well.If any words would give ground for justification of what the Noble Lord said just now, those words would. I do not know whether the Noble Lord or Members of the House happened to see some verses 523 which appeared in a well-known paper almost immediately after the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) had made his speech. I will not weary the House by reading the whole of them, but here is the last verse. It is germane to what we are discussing:How can the plans of democracy germinate,How can the gospel progressive prevail,Dangerous thoughts if we fail to exterminateWith the invincible argument—gaol?After the war to these powers emergency,Britain no longer will meekly submit.That's why the matter is one of such urgency.Go to it, Morrison! Listen to Pritt!That sums it up, and when this war is over, believe me there is no doubt of what the country is going to say. Men will not want to come back after having fought all over the world only to find their personal or other liberties filched from them and Regulations of this kind perpetuated without there being any hope of their being brought to some conclusion.
I had wished to make observations on other points, but there is one Regulation which I particularly want to touch upon and which has been referred to by the hon. and learned Member who preceded me, and that is Regulation 33B. It is a difficult subject to talk about. I do not suppose there is anybody in this House or in the country who is not greatly perturbed at the alarming spread of venereal disease. My view is that the best means of checking it would be to make its notification compulsory. I am sure that is the way. But we have passed 33B, and I would ask the Government to reconsider the operation of that Regulation. Two individuals can bring a secret accusation against a woman. Through her they say that they have been infected with venereal disease but she can never know who they were. They remain secret. That is bad enough, that is the system of the secret informer, that is the principle on which the Gestapo grows and flourishes. But there is something worse than that. If that woman, having been informed against, refuses to submit to a medical examination or, having submitted to a medical examination, refuses to undergo treatment, she can be, and is, put into prison. As regards the two individuals who have informed against her, there is no obligation upon them to have any. 524 medical examination nor any obligation upon them to have or to continue any treatment, and if they do submit to treatment and break off in the middle of it, nothing at all is done to them.
That is not my idea of fair play or justice. I think that is absolutely despicable. Let us by all means use any powers we can get to combat this appalling disease, but if treatment must be compulsory, it should be compulsory for both parties. I would prefer to see the disease made compulsorily notifiable. There would then be an obligation to take appropriate treatment.
I know the House wishes to rise, and I am sorry to detain it. My only excuse is that I have sat through the whole of this Debate. One point which has been discussed at considerable length is the suggestion that a Select Committee should be appointed to deal with these Regulations. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). I do not see why there should not be a Select Committee charged with the duty of considering these Regulations and then advising the House whether there should be a special Debate or whether there should be a different form of legislation. The Committee would of course have no executive powers, but nor has the Committee of Privileges. It considers what is before it and then reports to the House. It is then for the House in its wisdom to take what action it thinks fit and necessary.
I think that a lot of the difficulties as regards these Regulations would be obviated if this procedure were carried out. It is impossible for busy Members of Parliament, charged with many duties and responsibilities, to examine all these Regulations. More power, then, to that small group of Members—of whom I, alas, am not one—who have been doing such public spirited work in looking at these Regulations, and, without question of party, telling the House, by putting down a Prayer on the Order Paper, when they think a Regulation should be discussed. Surely it would be simple to have a Select Committee which would look at all the Regulations and then, if it saw fit, say to the. House of Commons that this or that should be discussed or dealt with in a particular way, or alternatively, that there was nothing wrong in this one or that one, and that the House need not be troubled with it.
525 In conclusion, may I say that hon. Members might realise the extent of the discussion and perturbation which exists outside this House at the increasing growth of bureaucratic regulation? I know there are those who differ from me in what should be the way to deal with the postwar situation and the multifarious difficulties which will then arise, but I think it will do immense harm to any postwar planning if the electorate once get it into their minds that post-war planning will be conducted in the same sort of way as the running of the war, that is, by restrictive regulation. If it is suggested that post-war difficulties are to be met by this form of totalitarian bureaucratic government, I am sure it will be very hard to persuade the electorate to agree with things which might very well be in their interests when the post-war period comes. Wherever I go I hear the same thing: "When the war is over we must at once lift from the shoulders of the people the burden of bureaucratic control." Nobody suggests that it will not be necessary to keep on all sorts of controlling regulations for a very long period after the war. If my memory serves me rightly, rationing went on for two and a half years after the last war, and the state of the world when this war is over may very well make it necessary to keep rationing on for five or even seven years. We shall have to feed the world. If that be so, let us accept the fact that some regulation will be necessary, but let us give to the people outside some assurance that at the earliest possible opportunity the Regulations will be reduced to a minimum in number and be as little restrictive in their character as possible.
The Debate to-day has done an immense service. It has reflected as no Debate on this subject during the last three or four years has done, the feeling outside this House. There is no doubt that the Government must have their regulations, but I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that between now and this time next year very careful consideration will have to be given to this whole subject. It is dangerous to allow this mass of regulations to grow, and to press as they undoubtedly do press, upon individual liberties. If we are not to have some hope held out to us before next year of the consideration of the operation of many of these regulations 526 then the hon. Member for Cambridge University is right in what he said. The Government will find that when this matter comes up for further discussion the House will be asked to divide. I apologise for keeping hon. Members here, there are many other things I should like to have said. My own view is that regulations are necessary in war time, but they should be terminated as soon as possible and certainly that their inordinate growth at the present time might well be checked.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
I have always believed in the liberties of the subject and I hate all this power of legislation by Regulation. It is frightfully dangerous and in many cases is totally unnecessary. It gives too much power to Ministers. I am not at all sure that Ministers are exercising a wise judgment in the way Regulations are being administered. I am going to do a very risky thing as a back bencher. I want first to make some observations about the volcanic ebullition to-day made for some unknown reason by the right hon. Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton). He is a very experienced Member of this House and it is risky for a back bencher, with very limited knowledge, to attempt to cross swords with him. But what really did he mean by his ebullition? He talked of the danger of some people being desirous of seeing in gaol individuals who were politically opposed to them. It is a commonplace in Great Britain that we do not want to see anyone in gaol who is opposed to us in political opinion, provided that that political opinion is run according to the democratic system of the country.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Member did not understand what I said. As he is going to devote himself to it, may I quote from what I said? I said it was quite right that any person who, openly or covertly, acted as an agent of the enemy should be arrested under 18B, and that I supported the Home Secretary in that, but that an individual should not be arrested because he was in favour of any totalitarian system, or any form of Government foreign to our country, because if so any Communist would be put in gaol, which I thought would be an undesirable thing.
§ Dr. Morgan
I am sorry the Noble Lord is interrupting me. He might listen to my poor defence before he brings the heavy artillery to bear—[Interruption.] I am 527 entitled to criticise even an experienced Member of this House. I am entitled to express my views if I differ from him.
§ Dr. Morgan
I have not misrepresented you yet. You are doing something which this Regulation is said to do—trying to convict me of something before you have heard the evidence.
§ Dr. Morgan
I apologise, Sir. I would never under any circumstances think of indulging in such a charge against you. But the right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him—and I agree with him about overtly aiding the enemy and things of that kind and I do not want to help anyone who is in favour of aiding the enemies of Great Britain—said that some people were in favour of putting in prison other people who differed politically from them. He said, for example, that many Communists would like to see in gaol Fascists or anybody who believed in that particular totalitarian system, and that, similarly, many Fascists want to see the Communists in gaol.
The point I am coming to is that democracy needs some protection some time. It is not only the question of a man believing in a despotism, or in a totalitarian system. It is when a man not only believes it but says deliberately and openly, in public, that he intends to use the art of demagogy or any other of the methods of democracy, to secure that a totalitarian majority of a certain kind is established and that he is then going to see that totalitarianism is established in this country. I see a junior Minister laughing, but anyone can laugh—a cat can laugh at a Queen. I say democracy is entitled to protect itself against a threat or challenge of that kind, even before the action is taken, even before the deed is committed. We are entitled to have laws, even under these hateful Regulations, to enable us to take action against that individual. I know there are secret dossiers in the Home Office about everybody, even about M.P.'s, but I prefer that these cases should be tried openly by the law of the land. I hate the idea that a man should, 528 even if he makes a challenge of the kind I have described, be secretly put into prison, without any public charge being made against him, and without any knowledge that he has violated any law.
The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) said that we should not quote individual cases, but an individual case can be used to illustrate a point. Take the case of a poor constituent of mine, a working man, not distinguished for his education or his literary abilities. By some accident, he joined the British Union of Fascists before the war, but, so far as people in my constituency know, he committed no overt act. He made a few rambling speeches, nothing more. That man has been locked up for three years. I have letters from him, protesting his innocence, saying that he is an old soldier and a Britisher, that he would do nothing against his country, that he hates Germany and the whole of that gangster despotism in Europe. Yet that man is sent to prison, and even when the Member for his constituency pleads to be told, unofficially, what the case against him is, the Home Secretary only says that the man must be detained. Nothing will convince me, considering the man's education, judging from his letters, and, in view of the obvious sincerity of his letters, that the whole safety of the Realm depends on this poor old working man being detained in Liverpool Prison or in the Isle of Man. The Home Secretary will not even say to me, "In the strictest confidence, I will show you the facts of this case."
I know it is a very difficult subject. I know that Colonial civil servants have to work a totalitarian system, and sometimes a very harsh totalitarian system, although it is represented as a benevolent despotism. But I would prefer that we should try this man in the open, rather than have him imprisoned for years, without telling him what he has done wrong. This man does not know what he has done wrong. The police in my constituency have no knowledge of any way in which this man is a danger, and I have made inquiries to find out whether they are keeping anything from me or not.
The only other Regulation to which I want to refer to is 338. It is a disgraceful Regulation. I do not believe that you can deal with venereal disease either by compulsory notification or by compulsory 529 treatment, apart from the fact that, for the first time in the history of this country you have brought in compulsory treatment, even at the risk of maiming or death for unwilling persons. It is horrible to think that at the instigation of some crusader who is going to save the world from Nazidom, some young girl who has got infected and through whom some other person is infected can be informed against. Instead of such a young girl or boy being taken aside, and told the danger to themselves and to others and to the community, and of the facilities available and the things they should avoid—drink and things of that kind—a Regulation is made so that two secret Gestapo people, against whom the hon. Member says no action can be taken, can act in secret and make a report. That report can be acted upon, but not for any offence that a boy or girl has committed against the community—except that perhaps a girl has a disease and has had a secret liaison. There is no evidence that she has infected anybody else or that she is immoral. These two individuals who inform, are at the best sneakingly breaking the code of honour, in telling against their partners in an unorthodox intimacy. The woman is subjected some-times to painful treatment. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is an experienced doctor and knows about it. There is injection which sometimes leaves a permanent jaundice. A man or woman at a young age may be permanently damaged throughout life. I would much rather that this Regulation were abolished and that we treated these people by education and by giving them less facilities for drink, because drink is one of the curses in this matter. There should be better facilities for crusaders who are getting individuals for treatment. There should also be proper methods of persuasion by women police.
I have never felt stronger on any other subject than the subject of the compulsory treatment of any disease. No law in Great Britain compels anyone to have compulsory treatment for any disease, scarlet fever, measles or any other disease. A doctor when he is qualified under the Medical Acts is free to treat anybody by any reasonable means whatever. He need not believe in orthodox medicine, but here under a Regulation passed by this House in wartime for the specific purpose, at the bidding of newspapers on the other 530 side of the Atlantic, of saving their soldiers—[Interruption]. Oh, yes, I have seen some New York, Chicago and Ohio newspaper articles asking us to pass Regulations so that their soldiers could be free from infection, just as if their soldiers cannot either be celibate or avoid the dangers of this system and lead decent Christian lives. That is my reply to the people who are crusaders. I get quite excited over this subject. We hear the Home Secretary talking about the difficulties of exercising his judgment, but I say that this Regulation is the most dirty piece of work that has ever been seen in British history.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
I want to associate myself with the protest made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) against the absence of the Home Secretary and also a representative of the Admiralty to deal with the very important matter raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick). I really do think that the Home Secretary, and other Ministers, too, are treating the House with a certain amount of disrespect. After all, this is the one occasion on which we can each year review the necessity for renewing the great powers we have given to the Government; this is the one opportunity for a good Debate. Yet the Home Secretary comes along, speaks early, and goes away. I hope that, in due course, the Under-Secretary will explain why his right hon. Friend has had to go away without so much as "By your leave." In peacetime, the Home Secretary would not have thought of replying to a Debate of this kind until a late hour as it is exempted Business. I think the House is being treated by some Ministers with a certain amount of discourtesy; it appears to me that the powers they have are inclining them to take liberties, and I want to register my protest very strongly.
I think the Home Secretary has been a little disingenuous in some of his remarks. He said, what we have all heard time and time again, namely, that these Emergency Powers Acts were passed by Parliament. Of course they were. Ministers would not have the powers they have if they had not been passed by Parliament. It was right that they should be passed, and Parliament is responsible, but that should not prevent us from reviewing the situation from time to time. These Acts 531 were passed in a period of acute transitional crisis—a transition from peacetime economy, both political and economic, to war-time economy. Now, after nearly four years of war, we are in a period of war-time economy, and it is right that the House should review its own functions and the functions of Ministers to see how the temporarily totalitarian system under which we are labouring at the moment, is working. This is an opportunity to find out what use a Minister is making of those powers, and we should all consult together to see how it is possible to make things run more smoothly. In times of emergency does any hon. Member stop to think whether the war will last for six month or to years? Surely that must make some difference to the way in which we order our affairs. At the present time it appears that the House is being kept in a reasonable frame of mind by the Government by means of Supply Days and a mild amount of legislation so that the Government can get on with the war. Nobody quarrels with that, but at the same time I think we ought to study the implications of these vast powers and see where they may lead us.
I know in politics the habit always is to attribute the worst possible motives to your opponent. It is a pity, but it seems to be human nature to do so. But sometimes there is grave danger of powers being used in a way in which they were never intended to be used by Parliament. I want to give a short quotation from a speech made many years ago by an hon. Member of this House. Presuming that a Government had been elected with a mandate for Socialism, he said:The Government's first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill, to be passed through all its stages on the first day.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are not discussing the future; we are discussing whether these Orders are to be extended for 12 months and only for 12 months.
§ Commander Bower
The danger which I am out of Order in pointing out was that these powers could be used to transform the whole social, political and economic structure of the country, a purpose for which they were never intended by the House. I had not intended to disclose the author of what I was reading out. 532 As I am unable to state the words, hon. Members will find them in a speech by the Minister of Aircraft Production some years ago, reproduced in a book called "Problems of a Socialist Government." Speaking, I think, for the whole of the party to which I belong, I say that any attempt to bring about great changes in that way would cause a first-class constitutional crisis. These powers were never intended to be used in that way, and it would be strongly resented and fought to the death by the whole of our party. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) spoke of the way in which monopoly, capitalism and bureaucracy were getting together. There, again, is a danger under these Regulations. There is no doubt that in some industries the managements are emulating the Vicar of Bray and determining that whatever the form of the economic structure of the country they are going to be in on the deal. I think that is rather unfortunate. I think they would do better to stick to their guns and say that, on the whole, they believe in private enterprise.
I now turn to the wide powers exercised by the Home Secretary under 18B. I have spoken on this on many occasions and I led an attack on the Regulation in the House, so I will say very little about it, because, on the whole, I think the right hon. Gentleman has exercised his powers as fairly as any one could in the circumstances. My objection is to the fact that any one man, whoever he may be, should hold these very wide powers. All we can do is to keep a very sharp eye on him. He must always have a couple of Spitfires sitting on his tail ready to shoot him down if he oversteps the mark. We cannot go further than that to-day. The thing has been thrashed out time and again.
My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) spoke of the tendency in some quarters to suggest that 18B might be used in certain circumstances for shutting away political opponents. I have heard that remark made in this House by one or two Members of the Socialist Party I am sorry to say. I do not suppose they meant it. I hope they did not. But if you think of the attitude taken up by Communists you will see at once that, although they advocate violent revolution and a totalitarian system, they would incarcerate anyone else who advo- 533 cated the setting up of a rival totalitarian system. For the life of me I have never been able to understand why Fascists have been shat up and Communists have not. If I were Home Secretary, the position would be different. They would all be locked up. That is another reason why these powers under 18B should not be exercised under any one man—because every different man would exercise them in a different way.
I want to turn to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth. It is an important point and I hope that the Under-Secretary will make a note of the fact that probably the end of it has not been heard yet. We have immobilised up and down the coast almost every shore boat that exists. Flag officers are authorised to give permits for the boats to be used. They have, on the whole, used their powers wisely. We are, however, in the extraordinary position in which a business man in Middlesbrough nine miles up the river Tees can get a permit, whereas a longshoreman whose living depends on it a little way down the coast, cannot get a permit. Along hundreds of miles of our coast there is no reason why these powers should be exercised. Even if it is maintained that the coast of Cornwall is too close to the coast of France, I cannot see that there is any grave danger of enemy agents or deserters getting away from, say, Whitley Bay on the cost of Northumberland. This matter might be reviewed. I wish the representative of the Admiralty were here; he certainly should be. If he consulted with the flag officers concerned he would find that this tiresome Order might be rescinded in many cases. This is merely an example. It is one of those things which cannot be debated on any other occasion, and there are far too many of them. That is another point which the House might consider a little more deeply—the various sub-Orders and so on which are unchallengeable.
This Debate has been very valuable. The House is waking up to its responsibilities in this matter. When I came back over two years ago from the sea, I was horrified at what appeared to me to be the deterioration of Parliament in keeping an eye on the Executive. Some of us have for many months been fulfilling the weary task of examining all these Orders. I think that we can pat ourselves on the 534 back. We have done a good job, and I am more than glad to see that Members of all parties are now joining in this good work. If we cannot get a Select Committee we must do the job ourselves, and we should all do it together. An hon. Member has said the vast majority of Rules and Orders are unexceptionable. I agree. It is only now and again that we find one that needs attention. The House would do well in the next few months to consider whether we cannot work out some system whereby this peculiar, unorthodox kind of war-time political economy we have got can be modified and these Orders and Regulations codified. I have high authority for saying that they can be codified with very little trouble. With the assistance of the officers of the House, who are so knowledgeable in these matters, we might devise a system which would work better than the system we are operating to-day.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
It would be unfortunate if the impression went out that all hack bench Members are opposed to the Government in the use of their emergency powers. That is far from being the case, and I would like to speak for the great majority of back benchers who support the Government in their action. I have as great a respect for liberty as any hon. Members who have spoken, but, in my opinion, these Orders are necessary, and the Government have used them judiciously and wisely. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) have not treated the Home Secretary very well in attacking him for his absence. We are in the middle of a great war, and the right hon. Gentleman has many and pressing duties. This Debate has lasted very much longer than anybody could have expected. The right hon. Gentleman has always treated the House very courteously, and I do not think we could expect him to be here at this late hour, especially as he has left a representative from the Home Office. We could not surely have expected him to say, "On the off-chance of the Debate lasting a long time, I will put aside all War Cabinet business and all Home Office business to-day." It would have been unreasonable for us to expect him to do so, and unpatriotic of him to have done so.
535 I particularly wish to refer to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Epsom who, like the Home Secretary, is not now in his place. He asked what would be the impression of the soldiers when they came back if they found that their liberties had been taken from them. I am convinced that the serving men and serving women do not share the apprehensions of the hon. and gallant Baronet in any respect. I am certain that men who have been enduring the hardships of desert warfare, or even the normal rigours of barrack life, have no tenderness for the persons detained under Regulation 18B. I cannot imagine even a soldier who has done all his service in this country in the normal discipline of barracks feeling any great tenderness for Sir Oswald Mosley's confinement. After all, what Sir Oswald Mosley and those like him have to put up with is not nearly so severe as any soldier, sailor or airman has to put up with daily. He endures very great restrictions on his liberty and is doing it for the sake of the ultimate liberty which he might lose altogether, and he is not exceptionally tender about the confinement of the persons detained under this Regulation. I am certain from the little experience I have had in the Service in the present war that the hon. Baronet is quite mistaken in his impression.
I want to point out, also, that those who are now championing the liberty of the subject so vigorously have not always been noted for it. This word "liberty" can be used to cover a great deal of cant. The liberty to sell one's labour in the cheapest market, the liberty to starve, the liberty to live on the Poor Law are not liberties that are greatly prized by the working people of this country. They have largely come to the conclusion that the liberties which hon. Members opposite champion are really the privileges of classes who have oppressed them for centuries, and they are a little suspicious of the arguments that are being used against these powers of the Government.
Another subject referred to to-day is Regulation 33B. Frankly I cannot think the liberty of an infected person to spread venereal disease is very much worth bothering about. I would be prepared to go some distance in scrapping an academic conception of liberty if we could stamp 536 out this danger, not only to the Allied troops, but to our own nationals in this country.
§ Dr. Morgan
The point is that you cannot stamp out venereal disease by Regulation 33B, which only applies to particular individuals. You cannot affect the incidence of venereal disease by that method alone.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
When doctors disagree, who shall decide? I will only say—and I should be out of Order if I said more—that the question was fully debated by this House recently, when, by an overwhelming majority, the House supported the Government in taking these powers. Moreover, the Regulation was framed on expert medical advice, with which no doubt my hon. Friend may disagree, but I feel bound in that case to side with the advisers of the—
§ Mr. Thomas
—Minister. One thing that disturbs me is the impression that will certainly get around from the Debate today that we are in a stage of the war when we can dispense with such Regulations. I do not believe that to be the case at all. A great deal of hard and serious fighting has to be done yet, despite the great successes that have attended our arms. Victory can still be thrown away. These powers will obviously be necessary until the German forces are utterly and finally annihilated. Until that consummation is reached, we ought not to be discussing the abrogation of these powers. The question before us now is quite simple: In 1939, the Government asked Parliament for these Emergency Regulations. The same arguments which led the House to grant those powers still hold good, and therefore my voice will certainly be used strongly in favour of the Government in the use of those powers.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of subsection (1) of section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act, as amended by any subsequent enactment, be continued in force for a further period of one year, beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-three.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.