§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
I beg to move, in page 15, line 7, to leave out from "and," to "period," in line 8, and to insert:any such regulation or order shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a.I have another Amendment, in page 15, line 8, to leave out from "days," to "without," in line 11, and to insert:from the date on which it is made unless at some time before the expiration of that period it has been approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if these two Amendments were considered together.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
Yes, if the Committee agrees, we can consider them together.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
The general effect of the Amendments is to substitute an affirmative Resolution for the approval of Orders, rather than the more normal procedure of letting them lie on the Table, subject to a Prayer. My hon. Friends, in putting forward these Amendments, regard this Bill as of very peculiar importance because of the interest which the House of Commons has always shown, first, in members of the Armed Forces, and particularly those who have been disabled, and secondly in that very large section of the population who are injured at their work, wherever it may be. That seems to us to imply a duty of the House of Commons to be careful to see that they overlook the powers delegated to the Minister, and I think the Minister will agree that these powers are very wide. In Clauses 7 and 8, the Minister has powers to make rules about the conditions of being entered upon the register. In Clause 8, he has similar powers about men's names being retained on the register, and, under those powers it is possible for him to take the widest possible action, including that of sending a man from the North of Scotland, shall we say, to the South of England. These powers raise all sorts of 992 questions of principle which ought to receive the consideration of the House of Commons. Clause 10 gives the Minister power to settle upon the quotas, and he may, by Order, even reduce them beyond the limit set forth in that Clause. He can do that by Orders. These are very important powers, as I think the Committee will consider. The Minister may, further, alter the percentages, and, in that way, the Minister's powers affect industry throughout the country.
In the ordinary administrative use of these powers, the Minister will remember that he is responsible to the House of Commons, but where it gives power this Committee must be very careful where that power goes. Particularly, we want to stress Clause 20, where the Minister has power to enter the names of aliens on the register and settle the type of alien, or the country to which the alien belongs, and all these regulations would have a very strong effect in altering the principle of the Bill. It does seem to me that we ought, while supporting this Bill throughout, to take this step of seeing that the House is protected against the Minister doing anything which would not receive the approval of the House. This House may delegate its legislative powers, but it can never delegate its responsibilities. The House is responsible all the time to the people. Nor, I think, ought we to be willing to give a blank cheque to the Administration to do what they like unless we retain some power over the matters involved. I think the Committee will agree that, in a Bill which, at the same time, affects that class of person to whom I have referred and gives the widest possible powers, as I have attempted to show, and which is one of the first real Measures of post-war reconstruction, this Committee has a duty to itself, to make clear that the House will retain the responsibility and will retain its sense of responsibility.
Of course, as the stream of legislation grows after the war, much delegation will require to be done by this House. I should be the first to admit it, but this House must be master of its own delegation and that is why it seems to us that this matter should be discussed on this Bill. I am anxious to have, as soon as possible, a discussion on the general principle, so that we can go into it and arrive at some more satisfactory arrangement 993 than exists now. I am entirely in favour of that, but also the Committee has a duty, on this Bill, to raise the question and decide it for itself. If some of the recommendations of the Report on the Powers of Ministers, which has been, I think, for 12 years before the House, had been in use, and if there had been, for example, a Committee of the House to examine these things, it might have removed a great deal of the responsibility from this Committee for allowing this Clause to go through as originally phrased. If this Committee will face this position now, and rule in favour of an affirmative Resolution, I cannot see how it will interfere with the Government at all.
Why should we not have an affirmative Resolution? What does it mean? It simply means that they appear on the Order Paper and the regulations are available to Members. It makes certain that hon. Members discharge their responsibility to the people and examine what the regulations are. Often in the past regulations have slipped through, and many of us have been disturbed and occupied in our minds about what we have allowed to go through, because we have not had a proper opportunity of examining it. What will acceptance of the Amendment do? It will just ensure that Ministers are careful in putting their regulations, and the Minister of Labour, when he is able to explain to the House that they are purely administrative and do not interest the House, will see them go through with a nod. If they are regulations of principle, he will be able to explain them to the House and have the satisfaction of knowing, when they receive the approval of the House, that he has the House of Commons behind him.
I do not think it should be a party matter. It should be a purely House of Commons matter, and I think responsibility rests just as much on hon. Members opposite as upon us. The House of Commons itself should decide this matter, and our own view is that we should not discharge this responsibility by allowing the Bill to go through as it is. I hope the Government will be able to accept this Amendment. I think they will lose nothing by it. I think they will give the House of Commons evidence that they realise the responsibility which the House wants to exercise wisely and well.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson
I do not understand at all why this particular principle has been raised upon this particular Bill. Those of us who have sat here for years have had experience of regulations forced through by great majorities on the opposite side which have had the effect of causing great trouble, after we had warned the House. I remember that on the Assistance Board Regulations there were practically riots. I do not understand why this point is raised on this Bill. I agree that if you could discuss this question as a principle apart from this Bill it would be a desirable thing, but the hon. Gentleman has not told us just why it has been raised on this particular Bill. Let me put the thing bluntly. Is it because many hon. Gentlemen opposite are making a party matter of this Bill? [Interruption.] I must say that the impression has grown on me, as I have said at various stages of this Bill, that there has been a tendency not to show a spirit which would encourage a continuance of unity but a tendency to persuade the world and particularly the soldier that "Codlin's the friend." I must say that that impression is very strong in my mind. I hope that the Government will stand firm on this matter and resist this Amendment.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I want to take the opportunity of saying a few words as early as possible in this discussion, because I think a great deal of the sting has been taken out of it by our previous discussion on the Motion to report Progress. Let us look at the actual effect of the Amendment if it is carried. If my hon. Friend thinks that this is a prototype of all similar Clauses then the Amendment must be regarded as a prototype of all future Amendments. What is going to happen then? Every Bill must necessarily contain power to the Government to make regulations and orders. If this Amendment is carried every regulation or order will have to have an affirmative resolution. At any rate that is how I understand it. I sympathise with my hon. Friends, because in most previous Bills the Bill itself has indicated what part of the Bill shall be made the subject of orders or regulations and I have had the experience on many occasions of trying to change a provision far a negative resolution into a provision for a positive resolution. I admit that the Clause does 995 go beyond some others in the matter of negative resolutions, but hon. Members opposite surely do not want to go to the opposite extreme. Surely they do not want to take up the position that every regulation should be the subject of a positive resolution. That would be an extravagance.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
There was an Order taken earlier in this Session under the Sunday Entertainments Act. An Order just goes through with a nod if it is purely administrative. It goes through without the slightest difficulty.
§ Mr. Bevan
There are an infinite variety of Orders and regulations made day by day. If the Order Paper is to be loaded with all sorts of Orders we should never be able to sift out the wheat from the chaff. What the House wants is to have brought before it for scrutiny, and for rejection or approval, orders of such importance that the House ought to be consulted upon them before they come into effect. Surely that is what hon. Members opposite want. But they are going much further than that in this Amendment.
If I may say so, it seems that they have not thought about this matter with what I should have considered their customary closeness and attention. Otherwise, they would not have put down this Amendment in quite this form. May I say another thing to my hon. Friends opposite? I have made a suggestion in this House which I think would meet this point. Hon. Members will recall that on many occasions I have protested against the Executive's action in regard to such matters and I have not only complained but I have made positive suggestions to get over the difficulty. I am not complaining that this Amendment has been moved. Obviously hon. Members have to make their protest when the first Bill comes along. [Interruption.] At any rate this is in substance the first Bill. The first Bill did not receive the attention given to this Bill because it was a local Bill. What is troubling me is that hon. Members opposite, who have such a powerful position in the House of Commons, have not sought before the opportunity of bringing this principle before the House.
§ Mr. Bevan
They have taken part in previous discussions, but not as a matter of general principle. It has always been in connection with a particular piece of legislation. They have argued against particular legislation, I agree, but they have not provided the House of Commons with a persistent and continuing instrument for preventing and making unnecessary such discussion as we are having now. If they will permit me to speak perfectly frankly, may I say that many of us on this side regard their failure to do that, and their attacks on many pieces of legislation, as a general part of their campaign for relaxation of Government control over industry in this country.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think we must confine this argument to this Clause and not get on to other Bills or other regulations.
§ Mr. Bevan
You, Mr. Williams, will recollect that many general observations fell from the lips of the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, and I was waiting for him to call attention to that fact. He asked us, in effect, to vote for this Amendment on two grounds—on the ground of the particular powers conferred upon the Government under the Clause, and on the general ground that such legislation was in itself bad. On particular grounds I agree that the hon. Member may have some justification. I think Members on this side ought to take a lesson from what the Conservative party is now doing. This is an agreed Bill. It is agreed with the employers, it is agreed with the Trades Union Congress, it is agreed with the Conservative party and it is agreed with the Labour party, so that it was assumed that it would have a fairly easy passage. When we moved an Amendment to a similar agreed Bill we were reproached from that side of the House because we were trying to increase workmen's compensation rates in an agreed Bill. Hon. Members opposite indignantly asked how we dared hold up a Bill because we wanted particular improvements. But it does not stop them from moving an Amendment which, if accepted, would obstruct the whole execution of the Bill. If it is carried, everything that would have been the subject of a Regulation or Order which is normal in other Bills would be made the subject of a negative Resolution and would have to 997 have the positive approval of the House of Commons.
That is unique in Amendments to Bills. It is not unique in Amendments to Bills to secure that this or that portion of a Bill should be the subject of a positive Resolution, but it is unique that the whole Executive action should be made the subject of such a Resolution. Hon. Members opposite have fallen into a trap. In their eagerness to make difficulties they have committed an absurdity. There is, on the other hand, a real principle at stake, that the House of Commons should keep its control over important acts of the Executive, and should not in any circumstances allow them to strain the meaning of the Bill and exercise, through the Civil Service, powers that Parliament never intended them to exercise. That can be accomplished quite easily within the constitution and we ought to start accomplishing it now. It would be out of Order to make a positive suggestion as to how that might be done, but I have made it to the House of Commons. I think it would be in Order to indicate it. If there were a sessional Committee whose duty it was to divide Orders and Regulations into two categories——
§ Mr. Bevan
Now the Committee will see what a further infliction the Amendment makes on the House of Commons. It insists upon us discussing the principle in a strait waistcoat. They have insisted that we should discuss the principle in a way to give the greatest Parliamentary obstruction to a particular Bill. They have exposed, not their concern for constitutional procedure, not their desire to assert democratic influence over the Executive, but the cloven hoof of party desires, party intentions and party obstruction.
§ Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. J. J. Lawson) thought there was party feeling in this discussion. After listening to the concluding part of the last speech I agree with him. But I do not feel that it is necessary to show quite so much heat, nor do I fully understand the hon. Member's complaint that we have to discuss the subject before us, which 998 is the question of the way in which Regulations under this Bill shall be approved, and not the general principle, which was debated last July, as to the most appropriate machinery to deal with delegated legislation. I have always taken the view that, if a Bill of this kind is to be worked at all, it is necessary that the Minister should have very wide powers indeed of delegated legislation. I and some of my friends who have looked at the Bill feel that he should not be hampered in any way by being compelled to submit the thing to the courts, or anything of that kind.
Earlier in the proceedings my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg) put that point of view. So I can be acquitted of any attempt whatever to try to cut down the right hon. Gentleman's powers in any shape or form. I think he ought to have those powers. In those circumstances I come to Clause 19, when one has to discuss in what form those powers should be watched by the House. The Government have really brought this problem upon their own heads. It is obvious that, even if the Amendment is passed, it will not be a wholly satisfactory solution of the problem. But, after all, it is up to the Government to make opportunities, or suggest a procedure which would obviate the difficulty in which we find ourselves. We have to discuss the way in which these regulations can be approved.
I find it rather difficult to understand the attitude of some hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) a little time ago said that if the general principle were discussed he would support us, and yet he finds it difficult to support us when that principle is applied to a practical case, as in this Bill. It seems to me that that is rather an academic approach to the duties of a committee of this sort. I should like to discuss the general principle but you, Mr. Williams, would not allow me to do so, and that would be right. But I would ask the hon. Member for Keighley and those who share his view if they are in agreement with us in principle, even though they may not feel that this is the best way of applying it, to support us on this occasion. If we compel the Government to accept this Amendment, we shall certainly be in a much stronger position to get something better later on.
§ Mr. I. Thomas
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman not agree that, if this were discussed on a future occasion, the principle then adopted could be applied to the Regulations under this Bill as under any other?
§ Major Thorneycroft
The answer is quite simple. If the Government find that the view of the Committee as a whole is that all Regulations should be submitted to an affirmative Resolution of the House they may be much more inclined to devise machinery, which Members on all sides of the House have asked them to do in the past, to obviate difficulties of this kind. In these circumstances I would urge hon. Members opposite to support my hon. Friends in this Amendment, and I would ask the Government to give very serious consideration to it. This is not obstruction in any shape or form. Hon. Members have done everything they can to assist the Government, to give them as wide powers as they wish. There is no question of an attack on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, for whom I have the highest regard, nor do I believe the Minister himself thinks that an attack of that kind is being made. Constantly I and my hon. Friends associated with me have supported him in difficult circumstances. In these circumstances I hope the Government will see their way to accepting the Amendment.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
I would like to associate myself with the observations made by my hon. and gallant Friend. I thought it was a pity when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) almost at the very beginning of this Amendment, took the opportunity of casting that sneer which is so easy to make—particularly when there is not much behind it—that a Labour Minister is being criticised on an Amendment of the Tory Party engaged in their dirty game of trying to hurt Labour interests. He knows quite well that a considerable number of hon. Members supporting this Amendment have supported the Minister of Labour on other occasions. My hon. Friend says something about organisation, but this is a free-for-all Debate. The hon. Member himself a little time ago referred to the Scottish Hydro-Electric Scheme. It seems to me that if hon. Members hold strong views in regard to these questions, they are perfectly entitled, dealing as they 1000 are with the first reconstruction Measure that has come before the House of Commons, to take up their stand on this Amendment. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) pointed out that it was a curious thing that this principle was never debated by hon. Members on this side of the House on any occasion when it could be taken as a principle. I am reminded, as an illustration, that I had myself the opportunity of initiating a discussion in this House in the middle of last year. Then the hon. Member, again by way of illustration, referred to another Measure to show that, while he could not agree, it was submitted as an interim Measure. I do not think anybody is suggesting that the present Bill is an interim Measure to cover a short period of time before we bring in another.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes
It simply emphasises the fact that whatever may have been the attacks made upon the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale he must have had so many in this House that he sometimes gets a little confused between them all. The fact remains that it was a different type of Bill from this Bill, was, in fact, an interim Measure and not one which could be classed as a great Measure of reconstruction. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made one powerful observation in regard to this particular Amendment, and I should like to hasten to embrace my adversary in this particular instance, because he said here that we have a Measure that is unlike almost every Measure produced in Parliament. That was a very fair point, but I repeat to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that if he produces a Measure which again is almost unique in so far that it is entirely negligible, he must not be surprised if it produces a reaction which is affirmative almost beyond belief. In view of the negative principles—can there be a negative principle? Yes, I think so—raised in this Measure, this is an opportunity for hon. Members who believe there should be real control by Parliament of the Executive in any type of reconstruction 1001 Measure to have the opportunity of pressing these principles of the affirmative order, even if the Amendment itself is not as perfect as—if I may say so—the Minister of Labour is imperfect in regard, not to himself, but to the negative performance that he has put up on this Measure.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
We have had perhaps an untimely—in the view of some—but an amusing Debate. I cannot help it, but the untimeliness is bound to increase and I cannot promise that the amusingness will. I hope there will be less vehemence and recrimination than there was in one or two of the earlier speeches. I would like to answer the question of the hon. Gentleman who preceded me by saying that there is a negative principle in Chinese theology which I believe is called Ying, and in Christian theology the Devil may be regarded as a negative principle. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the positive principle called?"] Yang is the positive principle. I think that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. J. J. Lawson) said he was speaking with the greatest good will in the world and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) told us that he was speaking frankly. My experience, whenever anybody makes either of those two boasts, is that you may be pretty sure that the good will will not extend to the party opposite and that the frankness will be limited to the sins of others than the speaker. I will speak with all good will that I can command and, I hope, with not less than my customary frankness.
There has been an attempt to make out that there is something new in this and a personal attack on the Minister. To take the point about the personal attack, I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that, so far as I have any knowledge of the matter, nothing is further from our minds. If they cannot believe that, I submit to them an argument to which they have not previously paid attention. When there is a Coalition Government there is more temptation for Back Benchers to deride and decry their own Ministers than there is for them to decry and deride Ministers of the other party. If I could sufficiently deride and decry all the Conservative Ministers, and possible Conservative Ministers, it might be possible that I might even become the last deputy acting undersecretary. However much I may be suc- 1002 cessful in puncturing and de-hydrating the right hon. Gentleman——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will de-hydrate his speech about his own future and come back to this rather narrow point.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I have been a little misled by the earlier course of the Debate, not, I think, without excuse. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) secured a Ruling from the Chair that nothing would be in Order except a discussion of the application of the negative and positive rules alternatively to this Bill. Having secured that Ruling, the hon. Gentleman made a long speech upon the principle, and that perhaps slightly misled me. Principles are very difficult things to define, and what a principle itself means is very difficult to define. I take the business of politics to be the discussion of principles——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is now discussing politics. We are discussing an Amendment to the Bill, and we really must not go into these historical facts. I must ask the hon. Gentleman, as I have asked others, to bring himself much closer to the realities of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I was about to say that to begin to discuss this principle in the terms of the concrete facts of this Bill, which I take to be our immediate business——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt again. We are not discussing the Bill, but an Amendment.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I should have said in terms of the Amendment. Whatever arguments there may be in general for the positive or the negative rule, in connection with this Bill, the argument for the positive rule must be the strong one, and much stronger than in connection with normal peace-time Bills because all Bills now, and particularly this Bill, must be hypothetical. How the Bill will be applied, and in what circumstances, must be much more guess work than it would be with the normal peace-time Bill. Therefore, the whole of the argument for a continuous and positive control by this House over complicated legislation must be stronger in a time when all the governing factors are unforeseeable than at a time when most are foreseeable. I do not 1003 think that the facts upon which that argument is based will be denied.
My right hon. Friend has more than once used the argument in resisting Amendments, and sometimes in making half-concessions to Amendments, that he wanted to do what was desired, and that within his powers under the Bill he meant to do what was desired, but that he preferred that it should be left legislatively at large upon his assurance of administrative judiciousness. That argument was reinforced by the Attorney-General in connection with the Clause about the length of time within which a man might be prosecuted. If that argument is to be used in one part of the Bill, I conceive it to be very difficult to resist it when we come to the final Clauses of the Bill. If it be fair to say that a man need not worry about the length of time in which he could be prosecuted if only he had done the right things, if only he was in good standing with the Church, his wife, his employees and the trade unions—if that argument can be used at that point in the Bill, it can be used at this point. If the Minister will produce Regulations that will carry out the wishes of the House he need not worry about the House's consent, and he is clear in his conscience that he is going to do that, he can have no objection to there being a continuous demand for the positive procedure instead of the negative procedure. I am a little sorry that part of my speech, which I thought was of some slight importance was probably not heard by the Minister and the Attorney-General, but if I have persuaded them to listen to this part of my argument I hope they will consider it and that we may have some answer to it.
§ Mr. Bellenger
At the outset I ought to say that I understand that hon. Members opposite are actuated by the purest of motives and that it is only a coincidence that the Amendment was moved by the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill), who happens to be chairman of an important Conservative committee. It is a pure coincidence. We understand that. What will be the effect of this Amendment if it is carried? As I understand the negative sense of the Clause, the Minister's Department will proceed to draft regulations and Orders, and they will act on the assumption that they can get ahead with carrying out those 1004 Orders unless there are immediate signs in the House of Commons that there will be opposition to them. In that case, I take it, the Department will hold up the regulations and wait and see what happens in the House.
I suggest that what will happen on the majority of the regulations and Orders is that the Ministry will be able to proceed with expedition to do the very thing we have said we wanted and that hon. Members on the other side have said they wanted. That is to provide employment for disabled men and women, particularly disabled ex-Servicemen and women. At some time these men will be surging back to this country and they will want employment quickly. Therefore, the House should strengthen the hands of the Ministry, so that they can make Orders and regulations in order to implement what the House desires, namely, speedy training and work for disabled ex-Servicemen. The Amendment will have the effect of tying the Minister's hands. He will not know, until he has received an affirmative Resolution whether the House will pass the regulations or not, and he will not be able to do much in forwarding preparations to get the regulations operating throughout the country and among the organisations which he will use. He will use not only official organisations, but charitable and welfare organisations. We ought not to impede the Minister in the action we all want him to take.
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton (Stretford)
I hope that hon. Members opposite will decide to support this Amendment. I believe that, when they re-examine themselves on this matter they will find that their sentiments and their hearts are really with the Amendment. It has been suggested by one or two hon. Members opposite that one of the criticisms of the Amendment is that the general principle has not previously been discussed, but has first been raised on the Bill. That is not the position, because the general principle was raised when the Debate took place last Session on delegated legislation. We urged upon the Government the setting up of a Standing Committee for just this very purpose. That has not yet found favour, but during the course of that Debate hon. Members opposite expressed sympathy with the principles for which the Amendment stands. I hope, therefore, that before they 1005 go into the Division Lobby against the Amendment they will examine that aspect of the matter.
Another criticism of the Amendment which has been made is that, if it is accepted, all the Orders and Regulations will have to be the subject of a positive Resolution. That is perfectly true, and to that extent I believe that the Amendment is not as good as I would like to see it; but of the two evils, whether all the Rules and Regulations have to be subject to negative assent or approval, or subject to a positive Resolution, I prefer, and I hope the Committee will so decide, that they should all be the subject of a positive Resolution. If the Minister feels that he can give an assurance to the Committee that between now and a later stage he will divide up the various powers for which he requires rules and regulations so as to make some of them subject to an affirmative and some of them subject to a negative Resolution, I feel sure that we shall be able to reconsider our position on the matter. If the whole of the rules and regulations are proposed to be subject to a negative Resolution, I hope that the Amendment will be pressed and that hon. Members opposite will decide to support it.
§ Mr. Bevin
I feel in quite an interesting state, because I find that everybody loves me but nobody likes what I am doing. Therefore, I had better try to explain what I am doing. The Debate, as it has gone on up to now, has had very little to do with the Bill and there has been no attempt, except by the hon. and learned Member who opened the Debate, to touch what I am doing under the Bill. I had better take his points and see whether, on practical grounds, the powers I propose to exercise are such as to warrant this terrible hostility to the Clause. He said that I have power in Clauses 7 and 8 to send a man from Scotland to England. I notice that he did not say that I had power to send a man from England to Scotland. I do not need any power to send men from Scotland to England. We shall not need a Regulation; they will come, anyway. Is there anything terrible in that? He was really dealing with Clause 7 on that point before the Clause was amended. I met all the points of the hon. and learned Member in Clause 7.
What was I asked to do? In the Debate the other night it was stated that 1006 I was taking such power that I could limit a person's right under the Bill if I left it vague. I am not in this House in any party spirit or wanting to resist anybody. I want to get the Bill working, to benefit those who deserve it. I looked at the matter, and, as the Attorney-General knows, I sat down with him and went into the matter very carefully. I said: "I think a point has been made," and on that footing I put an Amendment down to Clause 7. All the issues raised in the speech of the hon. and learned Member were met in that Amendment, and every argument that was raised that night, before the Noble Lord moved to report Progress, including the point about the Dominions, and all the rest of it. I met it and put it in the Bill. Hon. Members' minds were exercised as to whether I was taking too wide a power, so I met it, and put it in the Bill, because I think that is a better way than a positive Resolution, but I have been given no credit for that. Hon. Members are going on with their Amendment as though I had done nothing, and as though I had not tried to meet their points as a result of the Debate last week. I do not think that is quite fair.
Now I look at the regulations under Clause 19, and the regulations which are left. What does it say? I shall have power to reduce the 20. I thought that the House of Commons, with its eyes open, understood that I was going to exercise the right to reduce the 20. Does anybody want me to take up more Parliamentary time, and not merely that, but, what is more difficult, to find Parliamentary time, in order to get the matter brought forward at the time we want it? With the enormous amount of reconstruction legislation that will have to be faced, this question of finding time for positive Resolutions becomes a very serious one indeed. That does not mean that I should abuse it and I claim that I have not abused it in the Bill. I have met the requirements of the House. Are hon. Members going to ask me to take up Parliamentary time in order to make a Regulation that 20 should become 15? I do think that is carrying the matter to an absolute absurdity. Hon. Members cannot have the procedure for which they are now asking, and complain in six months' time that Parliament is not doing its job and is not facing the facts.
1007 Then it is said that I should have power to deal with aliens on the register, but in the regulations we have now we have power to deal with aliens in every other respect. Surely that is not an outrageous thing to entrust to a Minister under a negative Resolution. Those are the three points that this fight is about, and that were raised by the hon. and learned Member, with all his experience, and there is not another one. No Member, in the Debate since, has raised a point beyond those three points that are disturbing their minds.
I looked at this very carefully because I knew this controversy was on. I said to my Department, "What are the precedents? What is the kind of thing that Parliament has done hitherto in this type of legislation?" I think that is a fair question to put to one's Department. What answer did I get? I found that this House had negative Resolutions for the Anomalies Regulations, far more harsh in their operation than anything I shall do here, Benefit Regulations, Contributions Regulations, Courts of Referees Regulations, Crediting of Contributions Regulations, Determination of Questions Regulations, Employment Outside the United Kingdom Regulations, Inconsiderable Employment Regulations and a lot of others. I give those as samples. Let me turn to others. From 1909 the Trades Board Acts, with all the obligations imposed upon employers for records and everything else that has to be done, have been done on the very basis of the Clause I have put in this Bill. The Road Haulage Wages Act, the Catering Wages Act, which I thought was the first Reconstruction Bill, and that this was the second—I do not mind which has pride of place, both are good—all that legislation as affecting my Department had been done on the basis proposed in this Bill.
§ Mr. Bevin
The Assistance Board is another thing. That is dealt with by positive Resolution and I think that is right. I will tell the Committee why. The Assistance Board Regulations deal specifically with expenditure of public money. It is a very important point, and if I came along trying to get power to get outside the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury and the right of this House regarding public money, I 1008 do not think I would have a leg to stand on in Debate. Neither do I think I should have much chance if I sought to limit by Regulations what I call the right of the beneficiary under the Act. That is why I immediately amended Clause 7 and put in the Bill what kind of Regulation would be required, because I did see that giving to a Department or a Minister power by Regulation to take away something which Parliament had given the citizen involved a point of principle. But it is not for me to settle that in this Debate or on this Bill.
I claim that in this Bill on merit, I would emphasise on merit, I held strictly to precedent. I have confined myself to what this House has done over and over again. I have not introduced a new principle in this Bill, I have not done anything that Parliament has not done over and over again in this Session. I go further. I have kept within the very framework of the legislation which my Department has had to administer and take over from the old Board of Trade right from 1909. Having kept so strictly within the framework of all the industrial legislation. I have to administer in the same Department, and based this Bill on strictly parallel lines, I think it is most unfortunate that in the case of the halt, the lame and the blind a political fight should have been started.
§ Sir A. Southby
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the closing words of the Minister. I should like to associate myself with what has been said earlier by those hon. Members on these back benches who have expressed their personal admiration and friendship for the right hon. Gentleman. I would ask hon. Members opposite to believe that it simply is not true to say that there is any question of personal antipathy or desire to injure the right hon. Gentleman in any way at all. There is no question of personal prejudice or party prejudice. We are all of us in this Committee trying to do something for the disabled man and because we differ in our views as to how it is to be done there is no reason why anyone should suggest that others are not as sincere as themselves.
Speaking for myself I certainly believe that in moving this Amendment we have the interests of the disabled men at heart. To argue that because in other Measures this principle of the negative resolution 1009 has been adopted is really no argument. I believe that in order to protect the interests of the disabled men it would be better if Parliament were able to discuss the matter on a positive resolution instead of a negative one. It is really monstrous that anyone should suggest that if I express that conviction I am moved by a desire to gain party advantage or to obstruct the right hon. Gentleman in any way.
As I said just now the Debate on this Bill has been marked by good nature and a desire to help on both sides of the Committee. Earlier in the Bill it was suggested that the House of Commons should not delegate its powers to the courts. Here we have an Amendment which is designed to see to it that the House of Commons does retain its powers. Yet it is now argued strongly that on no account must the House of Commons be allowed to retain its control. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) whom I listened to with great pleasure, and who says he is frequently attacked, is one of those people who seem to thrive on attack more than anyone I have met. It stimulates him to come here and make interesting and engaging speeches in which he bites everyone in sight and has a happy day. I agree with him that there is a big principle behind this question and I wish we could have a Debate on it. But because we cannot have that Debate now is no reason why we should continue to apply to these disabled persons in this Bill a principle which we think is bad, and which we also think has gone on for long enough. The list of Bills which the Minister read out really makes my case for me. It has gone on long enough. I believe it has gone on too long. If I believe this to be true then I am doing a service to the disabled men if I say, "So far as they apply to you the House of Commons is going to keep control and is not going to delegate these powers to anyone else." I know that so far as this Amendment is concerned we may express our opinions in the Division Lobbies, but I beg hon. Members to believe that because we differ from them on this particular question we are none the less eager to see this Bill get on to the Statute Book and help disabled persons. I took a little exception 1010 to a remark which fell from the lips of the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), when it was suggested that it would be better to have this Debate adjourned. He seemed to imply—I hope he did not mean to—that those of us who would like to have had Progress reported were less sincere in our desire to help the ex-Serviceman than he was. I can assure him that he is not the only person anxious to help the ex-Serviceman.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is going back to a previous Amendment. I think we might keep to this one.
§ Sir A. Southby
If we divide on this matter, it is not because of any personal animus against the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great respect, although I do not like some of the things he does.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I am sure no one would question for a moment the salty sincerity of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), but I think the right hon. Gentleman's answer exposed amply the hollowness and chicanery of the case put forward by the movers of the Amendment, and I hope that, for the sake of their own credit and of the national unity which they are so fond of preaching when it suits them, they will not have the effrontery to press it to a Division.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I have sat here during the whole Debate, and it has reached a very high level from the debating point of view. I appeal to hon. Members, after the statement which the Minister has made, to realise that he is only carrying out the policy that he has adopted all along on other Acts. This is called an agreed Measure, and they ought to accept the Minister's word. I do not know about the merits of the case, but, after hearing all sides, I think Members would be well advised to give the Minister their full confidence and not divide on this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 72; Noes, 18.
|Division No. 3.||AYES.|
|Adamson, Mrs. Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan-||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Hughes, R. Moelwyn||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||John, W.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Beechman, N. A.||Kendall, W. D.||Stephen, C.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Key, C. W.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Lawson, H. M. (Skipton)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray & Nairn)|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, J. J. (Chester-le-Street)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Leslie, J. R.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Loverseed, J. E.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||McCallum, Major D.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Buchanan, G.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Tafnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Cary, R. A.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Waterhouse, Captain Rt. Hon. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Wander, G. le M.||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Drewe, C.||Mathers, G.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Messer, F.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Ede, J. C.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Foster, W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Woodburn, A.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Pearson, A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Guy, W. H.||Prescott, W. R. S.||Mr. Boulton and Mr. Pym.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Gretton, J. F.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Etherton, Ralph||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.||Major Manningham-Buller and|
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
I beg to move, in page 15, line 19, to leave out Sub-section (3).
The effect of the Sub-section is to take the Rules out of the provisions of the Rules Publication Act. I cannot see why there should be an effort made to do away with the ordinary publication, which the law, as it at present stands, would necessitate, of these Regulations. It may be that the Attorney-General has some explanation to make and I would ask him to give the Committee that explanation.
§ The Attorney-General
This is a common form Clause that occurs in a very large number of Bills. The machinery of the Sub-section is the Rules Publication Act which provides for notification in the "London Gozette" of local authorities and others making objections. It has really been found very inappropriate and ineffective for the normal type of Regulations. We are not taking any exceptional course in saying that it should not apply to these Regulations. If one looks at previous Acts, it will be seen that Parliament has agreed on many occasions to that particular section, the framers of which, no doubt, had some 1012 particular type of rule in mind. It is really inapplicable and always causes delay, apart from expense in putting it in the "London Gazette."
§ Sir J. Lamb
In what publication will regulations be advertised so that people will know the position?
§ The Attorney-General
When they are presented to Parliament, no doubt my hon. Friend will be entitled to obtain the views of bodies entitled to express their views on the matter.
§ Sir J. Lamb
A vast number of orders and regulations are made and it is conceivable that many people will miss the Orders unless there are processes whereby they can safeguard themselves by knowing when an Order has been made.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
In view of the explanation that has been given by my right hon. and learned Friend, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.