HC Deb 13 December 1945 vol 417 cc739-48

Order for Second Reading read.

9.27 p.m.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I would, with all due deference, submit this proposition to you. Repeated pledges have been given, as is generally admitted, by successive Governments, that we should have an opportunity of a full and free discussion of the Bretton Woods Agreement as such, but according to the Ruling you gave this afternoon, Sir, it will in fact be impossible for us to have such a full discussion. You said that out of your indulgence to the House, you would allow reference to be made to the Bretton Woods Agreement in the Debate today, and yesterday, but you said, Sir, that in fact as the Motion is now passed, it would be cut of Order to refer to Bretton Woods in the Second Reading Debate on the Bill. I submit that the logic of that is that if you had kept to the Rule, we should not have been allowed to discuss the Agreement on the Debate on the Motion, nor on the Second Reading of the Bill, because it follows a Resolution in favour of it.

I submit, with all due deference, that it is a very grave and serious Ruling to give that we shall not be allowed a full and free discussion on the merits of a Second Reading of the Bill. It means, in my submission, that vital decisions affecting the whole future of this country will, in future, have to be taken by Resolutions passed by this House based on White Papers and I am quite sure that, whatever may be the merits or demerits on this particular occasion, that is not a conclusion this House should agree to, or that you should rule without very serious consideration. This is a dangerous precedent, I submit. I venture to suggest for your serious consideration that the Second Reading of a Bill is a great opportunity accorded to this House for discussing the merits of a situation, and no Resolution passed in this House should ever be allowed to supplant the Second Reading of a Bill. If that is so, I think there is a strong case to put forward for the revival of the First Reading of a Bill. Otherwise, it seems to me there is no logical reason to prevent our going straight from a Resolution passed upon a White Paper to the Committee stage. I venture to submit that argument to you, Sir, with great respect.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has put before me a long argument, but I am bound to say that I can find no grounds at all for the argument he has put forward. I must say that I have given the matter great consideration, and if I had not made that concession yesterday we couldnot have discussed Bretton Woods at all. It would not be in Order under this Bill, because, after all, this Bill is conditional on Bretton Woods being accepted, and Bretton Woods, being a treaty, is not debatable by this House. Therefore, I can find no grounds at all for the observations which the hon. Member has made. I can only inform him that I have taken a great deal of advice on this matter, and this House cannot debate a matter on which it has already come to a conclusion. We have just now come to a conclusion on the Bretton Woods Agreement, and, therefore, discussion on it in connection with this Bill is ruled out entirely. In any case this Bill only deals with the financial arrangements. The diplomatic status of some persons and the enforceability of exchange contracts in the event of a treaty being decided are entirely hypothetical, and we cannot debate hypothetical matters. We can only debate those in the Bill itself.

Mr. Boothby

1 can only say in view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that I do charge the Government with a flagrant breach of the undertaking which has been given.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

On this point, may I submit this to you, Mr. Speaker? When this matter was raised by you yesterday, you said: According to the rule against anticipation, the fact that the Bill is before the House would prevent reference to it in the course of the Debate on the Motion. You went on later to say: I am prepared, therefore, to relax the rule and to allow reference to the provisions of the Bill so far as is necessary for explaining the Agreement."—[Official Report, 12th December, 1945; Vol. 417, c. 422.] I submit to you, Sir, that most hon. Members, or a great number, at any rate, thought that you would allow passing references but not full discussion. May I ask whether that was your intention, or whether your intention was to allow full discussion?

Mr. Speaker

My intention was what 1 said. I did not quite follow the hon. Member's point. I said that I had allowed the whole matter to be debated on the Motion. That was the point which I wanted to make.

Mr. Speaker

An hon. Member can make a second speech, so long as it is in Order.

Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)

On that point of Order. You mentioned just now, Mr. Speaker, that the Bretton Woods Agreement was a treaty, and was not debatable by this House, but surely there are cases when treaties come before this House for ratification, and when they come forward for ratification they can be discussed in all their terms? Surely this Bill does relate to a treaty?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think so. This is not a treaty coming before this House in the manner suggested by the hon. Member.

9.35 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)

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

This Bill is a machinery Measure and it gives effect to the decision already reached by an emphatic Vote of the House. I do not intend, of course, to go into the merits of the matter; I am merely going to indicate that this Bill provides in a few simple Clauses the measures necessary to enable this country to become a foundation member of the Bretton Woods Organisation for the purpose of becoming a member of the Fund and a member of the Bank. This is a short and simple Bill. It authorises the payment of our subscription to the Fund and to the Bank to the extent that is described in the two Agreements. It enables us to make certain compensatory payments if these should ever be required consequent upon any future variations within the terms of these instruments in the value of sterling, and it empowers us to take the necessary action if we withdraw from the Fund and if the Fund, in consequence of our withdrawal, is wound up. These are the minimum powers taken in this Bill if we are to be, as the House has decided that we ought to be, effective members of these two new international organisations. On the other hand, this Bill deliberately does not provide for any future increase in the United Kingdom subscription to these two organisations. If that should seem desirable later on as events develop, a further Bill will need to be introduced to give effect to that.

I will briefly indicate the contents of the few Clauses. Clause I is merely a statement that if the Bretton Woods Agreements are signed by His Majesty's Government, as they will now be signed, the provisions of the next two Clauses shall have effect. Clause 2 deals with the financial provisions necessitated by signature, that is to say, the payment of the subscriptions, and the various payments there indicated will be met in the usual way by payments from the Consolidated Fund, unless they are connected with the buying or selling of gold and exchange or with incidental expenses, in which two cases they will be met, not from the Consolidated Fund, but from the Exchange Equalisation Account. Clause 3 enables His Majesty to pass Orders in Council to give effect to certain provisions in the Agreements, as you, Mr. Speaker, indicated just now in your reply to a point raised by an hon. Member, conferring what we commonly call diplomatic status upon persons operating on behalf of the Fund and the Bank and upon the Fund and the Bank themselves and their staffs. This is common form and is usual in such arrangements. These Orders in Council under Clause 3 would also enable us to carry out our undertaking if the Fund agreed to render certain exchange contracts unenforceable in accordance with the provisions there laid down.

Finally, in view of the time limit which I have mentioned, Clause 3 has to provide that Orders such as I have referred to shall operate throughout the territories over which His Majesty has jurisdiction, excluding, of course, the self-governing Dominions, who operate on their own. Canada has already taken the necessary action. I would emphasise that, as far as this Bill is concerned, all the financial liabilities arising there from are borne by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom exclusively. This, as I hope the House will agree, is a simple Measure consequential upon the decision already taken.

9.4. P.m.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

There seems very little to be said on this Bill. It is a curious thing. It is an enabling Bill, but it is also a contingent Bill, because if it were passed tonight nothing would happen as a result of it. It cannot be called into life until, in the words of Clause I, "the said Agreements are signed." Therefore it is a purely enabling Bill against the event of His Majesty's Government signing these Agreements. If we are to discuss a principle on Second Reading, which is the normal practice of the House, the only principle I can see that emerges is the somewhat self-evident proposition that if you do with full solemnity sign a document, it is reasonable you should take the necessary steps to make it effective. That is the sole principle. It does not seem to be a very contentious principle. It may be that on Clauses 2 and 3 there may be some points to be dealt with in the Committee stage, but such Committee points, I take it, would be out of Order on the Second Reading. Therefore, there is really nothing that can usefully be said now.

9.42 p.m.

Mr. Boothby

I am very sorry I am not allowed to discuss the principle of the Bretton Woods Agreement, which I have been waiting to do for the last 18 months. There are, however, one or two questions of purely technical detail which I am entitled to ask the Chancellor arising out of the finance we are asked to provide in the Bill. It is widely assumed that this Agreement and the Bill to implement it will provide stability of exchange rates. I want to ask my right hon. Friend if this is something which is justified. Article IV, Section 4 (a) states: Each member undertakes to collaborate with the Fund to promote exchange stability, to maintain orderly exchange arrangements with other members, and to avoid competitive exchange alterations. Does this mean that each member under takes to maintain its currency at the agreed par value with dollars and, therefore, with gold? If it does, it would have been very simple to say so in the Agreement. Of course, if it does there is no further argument. If it does not the whole scheme makes nonsense, because under Article IV, Section 4 (6), of the Bretton Woods Agreement: A member whose monetary authorities, for the settlement of international transactions in fact freely buy and sell gold within the limits prescribed by the Fund under Section 2 of this Article shall be deemed to be fulfilling this undertaking. What does this mean?

Mr. Speaker

I really do not think it is in Order for the hon. Member to raise that matter.

Mr. Boothby

I do not know whether I can try another question, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me I am absolutely hamstrung. I do not know where I am, or where I can start. I do not think I can do anything more than make a vehement, violent and vigorous protest, and say that if I were not of such a genial disposition, I should be almost tempted to challenge your Ruling and be removed by force by the Serjeant-at-Arms from the House.

9.44 P.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

I rise to ask for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether it would be in Order for a Member to bring to the notice of the House that if this Bill is passed there is nothing contained in it that will enforce the Congress of the United States to adopt and ratify the Financial Agreement.

Mr. Speaker:

I do not think that can be raised on the Second Reading of the Bill. The first Clause starts with an if," and if the hon. and gallant Member

proceeds to put another "if," I do not know where it will lead us. We cannot deal with these hypothetical matters.

Captain Blackburn

May I ask whether it would be in Order for me to argue, in relation to the possible participation of Australia and New Zealand, as mentioned in the Preamble, that the co-operation of Australia and New Zealand might, perhaps, turn upon our supporting them at some stage in objecting to the prohibition of reciprocal trade agreements under the proposed American document?

Mr. Speaker

What Preamble is the hon. and gallant Gentleman referring to?

Captain Blackburn

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, I mean the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum.

Mr. Speaker

That is not in the Bill.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 314; Noes, 50.

Division No. 51.] AYES. 9.45 p.m.
Adams, Capt. Richard (Balham) Byers, Lt.-Col. F. Farthing, W. J.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Callaghan, James Foster, W. (Wigan)
Adamson, Mrs. J. L. Chamberlain, R. A. Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Champion, A. J. Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Chater, D. Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Chefwynd, Capt. G. R. Gaitskell, H. T. N.
Alpass, J. H. Cluse, W. S Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Cobb, F. A. George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Coldrick, W. Gibson, C. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Collick, P. Gilzean, A.
Attewell, H. C. Collindridge, F. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Colman, Miss G. M. Glyn, Sir R.
Austin, H. L. Comyns, Dr. L. Gooch, E. G.
Ayles, W. H. Cook, T. F. Goodrich, H. E.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Corlett, Dr. J. Gordon-Walker, P.C.
Bacon, Miss A. Crawley, Fit.-Lieut. A. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Baird, Capt. J. Crossman, R. H. S. Grey, C. F.
Balfour, A. Daggar, G. Grierson, E.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Daines, P. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Barstow, P. G. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Barton, C. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Gunter, Capt. R. J.
Battley, J. R Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Guy, W. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)
Belcher, J. W. Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)
Benson, G. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Berry, H. Deer, G. Hannan, W. (Maryhill)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) de Freitas, Geoffrey Hardy, E. A.
Bing, Capt. G. H. C. Diamond, J. Harris, H. Wilson
Binns, J. Dobbie, W. Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Blenkinsop, Capt. A. Dodds, N. N. Haworth, J.
Blyton, W. R. Driberg, T. E. N. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Boardman, H. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Dumpleton, C, W. Herbison, Miss M.
Bowen, R. Durbin, E. F. M. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Dye, S. Hobson, C. R.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Holman, P.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.) Hope, Lord J.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Edwards, John (Blackburn) House, G.
Brown, George (Belper) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Hoy, J
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Hubbard, T.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Burden, T. W. Ewart, R. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Burke, W. A. Fairhurst. F. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Hynd, J B.(Attercliffe) moyle, A. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Murray, J. D. Snow, Capt. J. W.
Janner, B. Nally, W. Solley, L. J.
Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester) Neal, H. (Claycross) Sorensen, R. W.
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Nichollas, H. R. (Stratford) Sparks, J. A.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Spearman, A. C. M.
Jones, P. Asterley Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Stamford, W.
Keenan, W. Noel-Buxton, Lady Steele, T.
Kenyon, C. Oldfield, W. H. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Key, C. W. Oliver, G. H. Strachey, J.
King, E. M. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Strauss, G. R.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Paget, R. T. Stross, Dr. B.
Kinley, J. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Kirby, B. V. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Symonds, Maj. A. L.
Lang, G. Palmer, A. M. F. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Lavers, S. Pargiter, G. A. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Lee, F. (Hulme) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Leonard, W. Paton, J. (Norwich) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Leslie, J. R. Peart, Capt. T. F. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Perrins, W. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Lewis, J. (Bolton) Piratin, P. Thorneycroft, H. (Manchester, C.)
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Tiffany, S.
Lindgren, G. S. Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield). Tolley, L.
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Popplewell, E. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Logan, D. G. Porter, E. (Warrington). Turner-Samuels, M.
Longden, F. Porter, G. (Leeds). Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Proctor, W. T. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Lyne, A. W. Pryde, D. J. Viant, S. P.
McAdam, W. Pursey, Cmdr. H. Wadsworth, G.
Mack, J. D Randall, H. E. Walkden, E.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Ranger, J. Walker, G. H.
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Rankin, J. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Maclean, N. (Govan) Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
McLeavy, F. Reid, T. (Swindon) Watkins, T. E.
MacMillan, M. K. Richards, R. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Macpherson, T. (Romford). Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Weitzman, D.
Mainwaring. W. H. Robens, A. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. Roberts, Sq.-Ldr. Emrys O. (M'rion'th) Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)
Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.). Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping). Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Marples, Capt. A. E. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Wigg, Col. G. E. C.
Marquand, H. A. Rogers, G. H. R. Wilkes, Maj. L.
Marshall, F. (Brightside). Royle, C. Wilkins, W. A.
Mayhew, C. P. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Medland, H. M. Sargood, R. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Medlicott, Brig. F. Scott-Elliott, W. Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)
Middleton, Mrs. L. Segal Sq.-Ldr. S. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Mikardo, Ian Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens) Williamson, T.
Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Shepherd, Lieut. W. S. (Bucklow) Willis, E.
Monslow, W. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Montague, F. Shurmer, P. Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Moody, A. S. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Wilson, J. H.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Wise, Major F. J.
Morley, R. Simmons, C. J. Woodburn, A.
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Skeffington, A. M. Woods, G. S.
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Skinnard, F. W. Wyatt, Maj. W.
Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester) Yates, V. F.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Zilliacus, K.
Mort, D. L. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Mathers and Mr. Pearson
Aitken, Hon. M. Gammans, L. D. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Baldwin, A. E. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Bossom, A. C. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Bower, N. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Kendall, W. D. Stokes, R. R.
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Collins, V. J. Lloyd, Brig. J. S. B. (Wirral) Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.
De la Bère, R. Lucas, Major Sir J. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Touche, G. C.
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. Marlowe, A. A. H. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Mellor Sir J. Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.
Duthie, W. S. Molson, A. H. E. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Erroll, Col. F. J. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. White, D. (Fareham)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Nutting, Anthony Williams, Lt.-Comdr. Gerald (Tinbr'ge)
Foot, M. M. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone) Renton, D. Mr. Boothby and
Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir I. (Lonsdale) Roberts, H. (Handsworth) Squadron-Leader Hollis

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.—[Mr. Ede.]