§ 9.16 p.m.
§ John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
Sir: I beg to move,That the Order in Council, dated 20th December, 1945, with respect to Defence Regulations relating to the Control of Employment and Conditions of Employment (S.R. amp; O., 1945. No. 1620), a copy of which Order was presented on 22nd January, be annulled.The Order which this Motion seeks to annul is that which, by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional 2217 Powers) Act, 1945, extends for a period of the next five years the power given to the Minister of Labour to control employment under certain regulations which have been operative during a large part of the war. I shall have to make particular reference to Regulations 58A and 58A. I must ask the House to refresh its memory as to the power which these regulations give to the Minister of Labour. Regulation 58A begins as follows, leaving out the unnecessary words:The Minister of Labour…or any National Service Officer may direct any person in Great Britain to perform such services in the United Kingdom or in any British ship…as may be specified…being services which that person is, in the opinion of the Minister or Officer, capable of performing.That is a terrific power. Although the same power has been held by the Minister of Labour war, it is far beyond what has hitherto been exercised. It is a power which authorises the requisition of labour on a totalitarian scale. Indeed, it is literally true to say that it empowers the Minister of Labour to fasten this requisition heavily upon the necks of the British people for the next five years. There is a further point. It proceeds:Any services required by a direction given under this Regulation to be performed shall be performed under such terms as to remuneration and conditions of service as to the Minister or a National Service Officer may…direct.There is the one redeeming proviso that "regard shall be had to "…it puts it no higher than that—and then there is a long paragraph, which I may briefly summarise as "the rate for the job." It seems to be a most extraordinary demand for the Government to make upon Parliament, that these powers should be continued for the next five years. They are enforceable under severe penalties…two years' imprisonment or a fine of£500. I pass over a variety of other powers, themselves of quite a drastic character but, which, compared with that which I have cited, seem almost trivial. They include among others, the power to require people to register particulars about themselves, the usual power of snooping, including, in particular, entry and inspection of premises, the powers of the Essential Work Order to freeze men in their jobs. Then I come to the provisions of Regulation 58AA. That provides that the Minister— 2218may by order make provision…for prohibiting, subject to the provisions of the order, a strike or lock-out in connection with any trade dispute.It seems to be a most astonishing thing, at a time when hon. Members on the Government side are getting so excited about repealing the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act, that they should now acquiesce in permitting the Government to continue to have available powers which are infinitely greater than anything the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act ever gave. Surely, if ever there was a case of straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel, it is this.
In his speech yesterday the Prime Minister made this observation:We are faced with a shortage of manpower. We must see to it that it is used to the best advantage, and that means a changed attitude of mind.When I heard the right hon. Gentleman make that observation I felt a momentary apprehension. I wondered, "Does the right hon. Gentleman mean a changed attitude of mind to democratic freedom?" I listened carefully to what he said, and I found some reassurance in the conclusion of his speech, when he used these words:We can show that.this old country of ours, with our methods…the methods of a free democracy, can produce results."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1946; Vol. 419. c. 1969 and 1972.]If the Prime Minister, who, presumably, reflects the views of the Government as a whole, contemplates that we are going to win through by the methods of a free democracy, for what are these totalitarian powers wanted? What situation do the Government contemplate in which these powers can possibly be necessary? I understood from the speech of the Lord President of the Council this afternoon that he took an optimistic view of the future, and the President of the Board o' Trade confirmed that, and said that he too took an optimistic view. If the Government are optimistic, why are they proposing to provide powers which, in any democratic country, could only conceivably be required or exercised in a most dire and terrible situation?
Do the Government contemplate such a situation in the next five years? If so, let them tell us so, instead of beguiling us with an optimistic forecast. Surely, assuming that the Government's 2219 declarations of optimism are genuine, the Minister of Labour can be satisfied with far less power, and with power for a shorter period. If this Order is not annulled before next Sunday, it will be valid for the next five years from 10th December last, because there will be no opportunity, as far as I can see—at any rate, no automatic opportunity—of review by this House. This House will have no way of direct challenge except, presumably, by putting down a Vote of no confidence in the Government. Why cannot the Minister of Labour say what he really wants and what powers he really thinks will be necessary in the next few years?
§ Mr. Speaker
This matter of the period of five years cannot be argued, because it has been passed in an Act of Parliament. Parliament has decided upon this five years' limit, and, therefore, I cannot allow argument about it now.
§ Sir J. Mellor.
I am obliged, Mr. Speaker, for your observation. I ask the Minister of Labour then if he is not pre pared to carry on for the next five years with far less power than is provided in this Order. That is a simple question. I cannot believe that he or his Parliamentary Secretary will say that he really needs these powers. It will be wrong for this House to authorise the Minister of Labour to exercise powers far beyond what he can claim to need within measurable time. I shall await with the greatest possible interest what he has to say upon this Order. I shall await it with the greatest curiosity. 1 propose now to conclude, because 1 hope that, not withstanding what occurred last night, I shall have the opportunity after the Minister has spoken of exercising a mover's right to reply—
§ Mr. Speaker
I may as well say at once that there is no such thing as a right of reply. I must point out straight away that an hon. Member who moves a Resolution may make a second speech, but there is no such thing as a right of reply.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Of course, Mr. Speaker, I accept that explanation. I conclude with a quotation from Trevelyan's "History of England," which refers to the period about 1350. It is as follows:An endeavour was made to keep clown wages and prices by law, to limit the mobility of the free labourer in search of highly paid employment.'2220 That refers, as 1 say, to 1350. It refers to the period immediately following the Black Death, when there was a terrible situation throughout this country, and the whole economic situation was upset by a shortage of labour. Are we, I ask, to give the Minister power which will enable him to be so reactionary as to take this country back to the days following the Black Death?
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I beg to second the Motion.
Previous Motions which have been moved from this side of the House on the subject of these regulations, have, with one significant exception, been met by the Government, not by a reasoned defence of the power which it has been sought to take, but rather by the measured tramp of their legions into the Lobby. The one significant exception was on 18th December, when the Home Secretary, whom 1 am glad to see on the Front Bench opposite accepted a Motion from this side of the House. I would commend his action to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who I understand is to reply tonight. I would remind him that only a strong Minister is able to admit that he has been wrong and to accept a limitation of powers for which he has asked. [Laughter.] As that observation appears to evoke a certain degree of merriment on the part of the Home Secretary, 1would venture to remind him that, in acknowledging the error, he made an admission that the powers which he had taken a month previously were excessive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) has referred to the prolongation, under the Statutory Rules and Orders procedure, of Defence Regulation 58A. That being the regulation under which all labour in the country was directed during the war, it is, without exception, the most onerous of the restrictions which were imposed during the emergency of wartime. For that very reason it is surely the regulation of all which requires the strongest case to justify its continuation into the days of peace. I am certain that hon. Members opposite will agree that the requisitioning of labour is infinitely more serious even than the requisitioning of property.
It is perhaps a trifle ironical that the Act under which these powers are exer- 2221 cised, the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, was commended to this House by the Lord President of the Council with the observation that it was an Act in favour of liberty. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) the Lord President of the Council said:Let not the hon. Gentleman be depressed—becouse liberty marches on. We have this Bill because liberty marches on. This Bill is in the true cause of liberty."․[Official Report, 9th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 170.]I am certain that so sincere a person, as the Lord President of the Council would not have recommended the Bill to the House had he contemplated it would be, used to continue conscription of labour in peacetime. I understood hon. Members opposite agreed that the most onerous limitation of the war was the conscription of all labour in the United Kingdom. In the difficult circumstances of today, I would concede that some interim control of labour may be desirable, but what the House is faced with is not an acceptance of that proposition, but, as the hon. Baronet said, the perpetuation for five years of the full wartime restrictions and the full wartime control of every person in the United Kingdom. I would remind the House and the Parliamentary Secretary that this full control is not legally a necessity. Under Section 3 (1), of the Act which the House passed last autumn, and under which this regulation is made, it is possible to vary the regulation, and had the Minister of Labour been prepared to accept a limitation, for example, upon the age of the labour concerned, it would have been possible for him to have made that modification in the regulation.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman has forgotten Regulation 1557, which was discussed the other evening.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter
Whether I recollect it with the vividness with which it is imprinted on the Parliamentary Secretary's memory 0r not, I should be ruled out of order if I were to attempt to discuss Regulation 1557 upon a Motion to annul Regulation 1620, and with due respect for the diversionary tactical skill of the Parliamentary Secretary, I would submit that he is not justified in arguing that he is entitled to take these powers 2222 under Regulation 1620 because of the existence of some other Regulation. Heis tied, as I am tied, to the Statutory Rule and Order before the House. It is the fact that, although under Section 3 (1) of the Act of last year, he could have modified the Regulation in carrying it on, he has not seen fit to do so, save to apply its purposes, as he must do under the Act, to the new peacetime purposes, and, therefore, the regulation with which the House is concerned is the full regulation carried out in time of peace, with a possible expectation of life of five years. With the greatest respect to the Parliamentary Secretary, I say that that is entirely contrary to what the Prime Minister told us yesterday. The Prime Minister said:We have relaxed a great number of controls and, in particular, we are not directing labour except in certain instances. Over the whole field of labour there has been a great relaxation of controls. I do not believe anybody suggests that the Government should endeavour to control labour in exactly the same way as it was controlled in the war, but we can make our forecasts and guide, as far as we can, industry into the channels which are most necessary in the national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1946; Vol. 419. c. 1964.]In face of that, as I understand it, the Parliamentary Secretary comes to the House to seek its support for precisely the same powers of direction of labour as the Government had during the war. I have no doubt the House will find it somewhat stimulating to observe the Parliamentary Secretary's attempt, if it be made, as I hope it will be, to resolve that apparent divergence. As the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, these wartime controls simply will not work. I invite his attention to one small aspect of the matter with which, if not he, then at any rate his Department, is familiar. In the case of one of the subordinate Orders made under Regulation 58A, and which, of course, stands or falls with Regulation 58A—the Emergency Powers (Defence) (Essential Work) (Trawler Fishing) Order, 1943—submissions have been made to the Department by all the major organisations in the industry to tell the Minister that it will not work.
I have in my hand a copy of the memorandum which has been submitted not only by (the British Trawlers Federation, but by the Hull Fishing Vessels Owners Association and the Aberdeen Steam Fishing Vessels Owners Associa- 2223 tion. The memorandum submitted has in its two opening paragraphs the assertion that the express purpose for which these schemes were originally enacted no longer holds good; and that they are extremely unpopular with both owners and fishermen alike. The Parliamentary Secretary must recognise that in circumstances like these, for these reasons among many, these wartime controls will not work. That is a very short commentary on Regulation 58A.
As the House is aware, Statutory Rule, and Order No. 1620, which perpetuates that Regulation, perpetuates a great many others. Indeed, one of-the quarrels that I, and many of my Friends, have with this method of dealing with the; law is that a vast number of these. Defence Regulations are simply lumped together, and the House has no option but to debate them all en bloc. There is, of course, the regulation to which the hon. Baronet who moved the Motion referred—Regulation 58AA. This is the. regulation which gives to the Minister, the power to prohibit all strikes and lockouts. I express the hope that this regulation is compatible with the sensitive conscience of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and that no notional stigma arises from it. It is absolute nonsense for the Government to come forward arid discuss at great length the removal of a prohibition of a. very limited kind, of strike—the political strike—and, at the same time, for power to prohibit all strikes to be retained by the Government.
I take, almost at random from the very considerable number of regulations which it is sought to perpetuate, Regulation 58AAA. This gives to the Minister of Labour the power to retain in the Civil Service any person under 60 years of age; The Minister of> Labour, when it is pointed out to him in this House that various industries or activities are' short of labour, is very free with the advice that the industries concerned should make their condition s of service so attractive as to attract labour by voluntary means. Be that' so, but may not the right hon. Gentleman accept this own advice? If it is the proper way, as I am inclined to think, to attract or retain labour in industry by making conditions suitable, why should not that; principle be applied to the Civil Service—a service which for all its great value is one which most hon. Members in this 2224 House anticipate and hope to see reduced in its total numbers? Why is it necessary to keep this power to retain in the Civil Service all persons, at the absolute discretion of the Minister of Labour?
There is, finally, Regulation 808 which enables the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour to order any man or woman in the Kingdom to attend a medical examination, at anyplace where the Minister of Labour may direct. Surely, under conditions of peace, that is something of an intrusion upon the liberty of the individual—that liberty of the individual for which that much quoted document, "Let us: Face the Future," puts forward the plea that peacetime freedom should be restored to the individual.
I ask hon. Members opposite to face this fact. By reason of the procedure which the Government have seen fit to adopt; the only method which hon. Members on this side of the House can take, to disagree with some of the provisions of the Order, is to put down this Motion, because we are not permitted by the Rules of Order to propose any Amendment. None the less I would be open, were this Motion carried for the Government to re-introduce the unobjectionable arid leave out the objectionable parts. If hon. Members opposite by reason of the attitude adopted by the Government or for any other reason think it necessary in the Division Lobby to vote against this Motion,, they will find, whether they like it or not, that they have gone on record for all time as voting to perpetuate in peacetime the full Scale direction of labour. If hon. Members on this side of the House were to see fit to adopt the controversial.methods of Mr. Victor Gollancz and to record in detail the votes registered; I hazard to suggest that the reminiscence of that particular fact might not fee convenient to hon Members on a" subsequent occasion.
I hope that we shall not be met with the perennial observation from the Front Bench opposite that though the powers proposed to be taken are vast, the exercise of them will be limited. There are two insuperable objections to that argument. The first is that the Government overlook the fact that although powerful, they are not eternal, and that the powers they are taking now for five years may fall to be wielded by other hands than their own. They might be wielded by the hon. Member for West Fife 2225 (Mr. Gallacher), and at is no answer whatsoever: in pleading for legislative power to say, "We are; reasonable and charming and conciliatory people and, of course, we have not the remotest, intention of doing what: we are taking powers to do," because the answer to it might be that the. Government will, not have the authority and decision at the relevant time. There is a second and; even more powerful objection, and that is that the people of this country, regard less of party, are not prepared to exercise and enjoy their liberty, as an act of grace from right hon. Gentlemen opposite;: I would say to them with great respect that if it be necessary for the Government to introduce whole-hogging direction of labour in order to introduce whole- hogging Socialism, surely it would be more intellectually honest to say so and to admit that they 'had torn up the Red Flag, in order, to use the shreds as red tape to tie up the limbs of the British people.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Hollis (Devizes)
I think my hon. Friends have rendered a great public service in calling attention to this Order, for it does seem to me that we are here face to face with a situation that must surely be quite unique in human history. Both my hon. Friends very properly called attention to the extraordinary paradox that, at this very moment, when hon. Members opposite are so loudly congratulating themselves on repealing the Act of 1927, they should be controlling that right to strike in a way that the Act of 1927 never envisaged, and interfering with the traditional privileges of labour in a fashion undreamt of even in the palmiest days of Oddenino's. Only last week the learned Attorney-General spoke of the right of the labourer to withhold his labour as inalienable. Distinguished lawyers always use words with exactitude, and "inalienable" therefore presumably means inalienable. Now what we have here is an Order to alienate the right to withdraw your labour. Therefore whatever other hon. and right hon. Members opposite may be going to do we look forward to welcoming the learned Attorney-General with us in the Division Lobby before the evening is out.
When we were on a Prayer last week I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to 2226 the Board 0f trade if he could give me an example of any powers which would be ultra vires by the order that we were then discussing if the President of the Board of Trade were to exercise them. I was not so fortunate as to receive a reply when the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade answered. I do very much hope that the Parliamentary Secretary today will be able to give me a reply to this question of what powers are ultra vires for we are, I say, in a situation unique in history. I shall be very gratified if any hon. Member can give me a parallel in history in this respect. Only an hour or so ago this House was delighted with a most moving and able speech from the President of the Board of Trade who told us that he hoped that this Government would succeed in doing something which had never previously been done in human history—build a planned economy without compulsion of labour. I am very sensible that the Parliamentary Secretary will probably tell us that these are powers to which the Government think it necessary to lay their claim but which he hopes they will never be called upon to exercise. I accept the sincerity of hon. Members opposite when they argue that way, as I accept my hon. Friend's argument that this is an unsatisfactory answer. What seems to me entirely unique in history is that the Government on one and the same night should be framing a policy in one direction and at the same time setting forth a whole set of regulations on the assumption that that policy is very likely to break down. I cannot imagine anything more likely to produce among the people of this country that sense of discouragement and dismay at the Government's policy against which right hon. Members during the last two days have been very rightly warning us. My hon. Friends have stressed the dangers to the liberty of the individual citizen. That is indeed a very proper and very important warning. Taking the Orders altogether, there seems to be another point that we have to bear in mind.
It is that we have to debate these Orders one by one. One day we have one Minister here, and another day we. have another. One day the powers are being taken by the President of the Board of Trade, and another day the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade wants to hand them over to the Minister of 2227 Supply, although that Minister is somewhat more skilful in evading these catches, and does not so easily fall into the trap. Today, we have here the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. If we take all these Orders together—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member cannot deal with all the Orders; he must deal with the one Order which is before the House.
§ Squadron-Leader Hollis
We are faced not with a plan, but with a variety of plans. We are faced with a most danger ous form of competition, in which the throats to be cut are those of the Minister's own colleagues.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
We are asked tonight to ratify an Order which deals with many different matters. This Order cannot be amended; it must be passed or rejected, and if some of us are forced to vote against certain matters with which it deals then the blame lies with those who, in the old phraseology, have been guilty of "tacking." I am not prepared to vote in favour of the maintenance of a wholesale power of direction on the part of the Minister of Labour for a period of five years. I was interested to notice the merriment which greeted a reference to the Statute of Labourers. It was illustrative of the levity of thought which is apt to characterise advanced circles. Let me point out to those who were so easily amused, that the Statute of Labourers was merely negative in character, whereas the power given here is positive, and is directed not to capilitists but to individualists.
Many of us who were in the Services during the first of the two great wars were often asked to define the powers which the Service had over the individual. I understood that they were entirely unlimited, with one rather impolite exception, and I should say that the powers given to the Minister under this Regulation are as extensive. Obviously, they are not in the least likely to be used. It has been said by my party that we want to get rid of control, and the reply has ben, "Well you cannot do that; you are talking nonsense; we must have some control." Our rejoinder has been, "We do not 2228 trust you, because we feel that in the guise of necessary and temporary control you are trying to maintain a tyrannical power over the individual, without which your Socialist ideas will not work."
On that point, we have had the assurance the other day from the President of the Board of Trade that he is hoping to have a planned economy which may be said to mean a Socialist State, without any compulsion of labour—a most important Ministerial announcement—and there is only one ground, therefore, for passing a regulation such as this.
During the time of war, power must be given to the Executive, and no one could complain of plenary powers of this kind. No one would complain now if the evidence was that the emergency would last five years, but the evidence which we gather from the Ministerial side is in exactly the opposite direction. One of the great problems overhanging us from the war years is the total shortage of houses, and I suppose it may be said that these powers are necessary to direct people, if need be, to the necessary work of building houses, but we have the advantage of Cabinet guidance on that point. The Cabinet last autumn, applied their minds to the problem of letting furnished dwellings, and they brought before us a Measure. The Minister of Health, introducing it, pointed out that that Measure was for two years only, and gave us, as his considered judgment, the view that within two years from then the worst of the housing shortage would be over. There, we got a definite indication by a Minister that, in his judgment, this emergency may be said to be of two years' duration only.
I say to the Minister and to the followers of the Government that, if they vote for a power like this for a period greatly in excess of the period decided by the Cabinet, they are laying themselves open to a very serious suspicion that they love tyranny and dictation for the sake of it. I would remind hon. Members opposite of one of their own cherished beliefs, though they may not like to hear it. It was that the one thing that Labour would not tolerate was conscription of labour. It is very convenient to forget it now, when we are asked to decide that, for five years, labour shall be under the complete and despotic control of the Minister.
§ 10.4 p.m
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)
It may surprise you, Mr. Speaker, to learn that, if he so wishes; the Minister of Labour may send you off; for medical examination. Those of us who have experienced the indignities, associated with such an examination do not wish that such; an unhappy event, should come to you Sir, but this is what, is. being attempted by this Regulation. You may have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that a moment ago, the Lord President of. the Council looked in for a little while; he sat down next to the Parliamentary Secretary and left again. I would suppose that the hon; Gentleman sent him off to the doctor, and I only hope, and feel compelled to believe, that he will remember effect of this regulation when, he is asked to cough. What else is attempted by this Regulation' now before us? The regulation takes power, which is quite incomprehensible to us, to provide a; privileged class of; wet can teens. I should' be the last to object to the provisions of wet canteens, but it is a remarkable thing that that power is only taken on behalf of workers who are directed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I would not complain at all if these wet canteens were to be provided for all of us, but they are to be given to this privileged class.
The third point, to which I would refer is the extraordinary argument we have to face in relation to the Regulation dealing with trade disputes. What was the "argument the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General put before the House in regard to the: Trade Disputes Act? I will only refer to it shortly -for the purpose of contrasting it with this Regulation. He: said, "You cannot legislate against a.great, upsurge of the people," yet by this very, regulation that is what the Minister's right hon. Friend is trying to do They are sitting in apparent amity beside. each other, but will have to argue it out between themselves when they get outride. We know that hon. Gentlemen who support the Minister will, in. due course, come trooping in and will riot have known what has; gone on in this Debate.— [Laughter.]—Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but we have had, experience of hon. Members coming into the Chamber at the- moment they are expected. We: know, that they will come in, and I have no doubt that on this 2230 matter we shall be defeated. Let.me remind hon. Members opposite that we are never 1 ashamed to be defeated in: the defence of the people.
§ 10.6 p.m
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose)
When I began to study the Motion under discussion I thought I was hot doing too badly because although I am conscious of being far from a learned Member of this House, by hard work I had discovered how to get access to Defence Regulations. I had a Working acquaintance with the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act and the Emergency Powers Defence Act and I thought I ought to be able to devote a good deal of time to the Order itself. On studying it I found there were eight different Defence: Regulations involved, but I never got past the first one because I found that the subject matter of Defence Regulation 58A was the Control of Employment.
At this point, moreover, I found my self deplorably ignorant because Control of Employment suggested to me the Essential Work Order and I asked half a dozen hon. Members, not only, on this side of the House but on that, side, if they, could tell me precisely what, the Essential Work Order was. I found that not one person I asked could tell me whether 58A was the Essential Work Order or not Of course, all of us know what the Essential Work Order does but no one could tell me what it is So I went to the fountain head, telephoned to the office of the Parliamentary Secretary, and discovered the facts. I wonder if any lion., Member opposite could answer the question whether the Defence Regulation we are discussing is, in effect, the Essential Work Order, or the father or grandfather of it. In point of fact, I found in the long run that the Essential Work Order springs from paragraph (4A) of Regulation 58A, which we are discussing tonight. One had then to get hold.of the Essential Work Order, and that was a job. I commend it to hon. Members opposite before they go back; to their constituencies, because I hope they are going to explain to their constituents just what they have done for the country this week.
The detailed point to which I wish to come is that it is common talk that the Essential Work Order is likely to 2231 come off in certain industries, perhaps all industries, before very long, and that is an event awaited with great enthusiasm by practically everybody in the country. No doubt in due course, if rumour is correct, and the Essential Work Order is removed, everyone will say, "What a wonderful Government we have. They have got rid of this deplorable control which hon. Members of the Opposition side argued would continue if a Socialist Government was elected. The Essential Work Order has gone; they were talking baloney." But what is the position? Most of us agree that certain controls are still necessary. No one can be sure whether the right moment to take them off is one, two, three or four years hence, and in any case it would be out of order to discuss that this evening. But if the Essential Work Order is removed, everybody in the country will think they have finished with it for keeps, or, at least, that before it can be introduced again this House, in full Session, will have ample opportunity to discuss it, to get the Government to give their reasons for imposing it, and a chance will be given to Members of every Party, including those on the opposite side of the House, of seeing why this is being done.
I may have got this wrong. As 1 say, I am a deplorably unlearned gentleman, so it was necessary to go back to the fountain head of knowledge, at least the father, if not the grandfather, of the Essential Work Order, paragraph (4A) of Regulation 58A to see what would happen, to see what powers the Government would get if the Order we are discussing tonight is not annulled. It says:The Minister may, by order, make provision…I will not quote any further. That is the beginning of the whole Section. As I understand it the words "by order," which I have quoted, do not mean any type of order which can be argued in this House; they mean an executive order by the Minister. As I understand the position the Essential Work Order can be removed; the Government can, without discussion on the floor of this House or anywhere else, Without Members of this House having a chance to argue against it, clap the whole thing on again. I wonder if I am right; I see there is anxious consultation proceeding on the Treasury Bench. I will not detain the House any longer, because I think I have 2232 made a point which is causing the non. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary considerable worry. He has suddenly realised what a monstrous thing he is being made to do by his colleagues. I cannot imagine him doing a monstrous thing on his own account.
I wish to finish with a most serious exhortation to hon. Members opposite, unless they intend to support those of us who are backing this Motion tonight When you go back to your constituencies, if you have allowed this Order in Council to go through—
§ Mr. Maclay
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. If hon. Members go into the wrong Lobby this evening, will they explain to their constituents that they have allowed the Government the right for five years without question to clap on the Essential Work Order again without the slightest warning to the country or opportunity for discussion in this House?
One final point. Hon. Members opposite may feel that they are perfectly happy to leave all this to their admirable Front Bench. They do not watch such detailed questions. They do not want to go to the trouble of looking up these wretched things. It is a lot of work, I can assure them. I do beseech them to remember that they are returned as representatives of a whole constituency. They represent not only the majority in that constituency who put them into this House, but also the minority who voted for the other fellow. They must be prepared to do the work which hon. Members on this side are doing on the question of these Orders; that is, to do what they can to make certain that the interests of all their con stituents are fully protected.
§ Sir J. Mellor
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance on one point? You have ruled that we cannot discuss the question of imposing a time limit upon the Order, on the ground that the Supplies and Services Act, which provides that the Regulation shall have effect by virtue of the Act, has a currency of five years That was determined by Parliament. As I understand your Ruling, you say that, as that has been determined by Parliament, we can- 2233 not discuss whether or not the Order can operate for a less period. In my respectful submission. Mr. Speaker, it would,, without in any way contravening the Act, be possible for the Government to insert in the Order itself a time limit, a proviso that this Order shall expire on a certain date. Therefore, with great respect, I shall be pleased if you would give me your guidance whether it would not be in Order to urge upon the Government a different period than five years for the operation of the Order.
§ Mr. Speaker
The House has decided that this should last for five years. I must say I am still of that opinion. The House has decided that and we cannot go back on what the House has placed in any Act of Parliament. I am sorry, but I cannot see how—I am not a lawyer—we can go back on a decision of Parliament.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Further to that point of Order, I appreciate your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but we are not discussing the Act. Of course, the Act stands, but it is a question of an Order made under the Act. Because the Act will operate for five years, surely, it does not necessarily follow that every Order made under the Act need operate for the full permissible period. It would be possible, surely, for the Government to insert a time limit, say, of one year, in any Order. That is my point.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. In my submission what the House is dealing with this evening is the exercise by the Government of their powers under an Act. In my submission it would have been open to the Government, in their judgment, to have exercised their powers under the Act to make an Order to run for a lesser period than the full five years
§ Mr. Speaker
I remember there was an Amendment put for two years and that was defeated. Therefore, it seems to me we cannot rediscuss that Amendment or that period. I must confess that, as far as I am concerned, I see no reason to change my original Ruling.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
Further to that point, the Amendment at that stage was whether the whole Act should last for two, three, four or five years. The House decided that the Act 2234 should be on the Statute Book for five years, but I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker—I do not know if I can, through you, ask for any advice from the Attorney-General who is here, surely, to guide the House on matters of this kind—whether it is not really in Order for subsidiary Orders under that Act to be for lesser periods.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, what the hon. Gentlemen are now proposing, even if you accepted the proposal, could be done only by amending the adaptation; that is to say, by amending this Order, the discussion of which is certainly out of Order. Is that not so?
§ Mr. Speaker
That I think is the point. After all, an amendment is not in the Order, and therefore cannot be discussed. It is what is in the Order and not what is outside that can be discussed.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
Subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I will make no reference to the periods for which these particular regulations are enforced. I find no difficulty in bowing to your Ruling on the subject because I do not think that any of these regulations are required at all. That is extremely difficult within the comparatively short period of a Debate such as this—though I am bound to say that I hope the period this evening will not be as short as it was last night—to cover what is a very wide range of most important matters. It would be possible to spend a whole day's Debate on almost every one of these particular regulations but I shall not take up a great deal of time tonight.
Some of my hon. Friends have been particularly concerned with the first regulation—Regulation 58A—the-Direotion of Labour, and as I do not want to be repetitive I shall not enlarge upon that regulation at all, except to say that anyone who heard the speeches of the Lord President of the Council and the President of the Board of Trade yesterday and today would really be surprised, if they were still in the House, to find that we were opposing that very restriction which I understood they spoke so eloquently and strongly against.
The one I want to refer to is the question of the avoidance of strikes and 2235 lockouts. We ought to have the advice of the Attorney-General upon this matter, and 1 hope he will intervene in this discussion and assist us with his advice. I shall not go back to the Debate about the Trades Disputes Act, but I listened to his very eloquent but rather long speech on that occasion. I did not agree with everything he said, but he made one point which I thought had some force in it and which does apply today, and that is, that when we are passing laws we should have in mind whether it is possible to enforce those laws. He said that to try and hold down the up surging of the people, or whatever it was, and then fail to enforce it, was to bring the whole law into contempt. We ought to consider very seriously whether it really is possible for His Majesty's Government or whether it is proper even if it were possible, to try to prohibit strikes at the present time. If we try to prohibit them, what will happen? What penalties will be imposed? Who will be put into prison? What will be done about it? Before we leave these regulations the Attorney-General should intervene in the Debate and give us his views upon those most important questions.
I pass on to the question—which I do not think has been dealt with yet, but which is really vital to the efficient administration of the country—of Regulation 58AAA, the "continuation in employment of persons employed in civil service," which is colloquially known as the "freezing" of civil servants. That is to say, you get some one from industry or elsewhere during the course of a war who, for patriotic reasons, serves in a Ministry. I think they are called "dollar a year men." As I understand it, they are not allowed to leave. I may be wrong, but that is what I understand happens under this regulation
We are asked to continue that regulation into times of peace. I feel, having spoken on the Prayer last night, that the question as to whether it is appropriate to carry it on in peacetime is very relevant to the Debate. I do not think it is possible to carry on a regulation of that kind in peacetime; nor do I believe that we shall get an efficient Civil Service by having men compulsorily held in it. If we want an efficient Civil Service, we must pay proper salaries and encourage men to go into it by making it attractive, 2236 as is done in industry. That is the right way. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I hope that hon. Members opposite who agree with me will intervene later in the Debate in support of what 1 say. I do not know who is to deal with the point, or whether the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is here. This is something which vitally affects the Civil Service. Possibly the Financial Secretary may be coming in later. Here he is I am very glad to see him in the House and I would like to say to the hon. Gentleman—I am sure he is aware of the regulation we are discussing which vitally affects the status of the Civil Service—that before this regulation is allowed to 'continue, he ought, in courtesy to the House, to get up and make his observations on the general principles which he thinks should be applied in a matter of this nature.
The only other thing I want to say—and I must apologise to the House for referring to it—is in connection with a matter of local interest. It is the question of canteens for civilian workers to which reference has already been made. It is the Regulation dealing with workmen, seamen and fishermen. It says that where:For securing the due performance of essential work, it is necessary or expedient that special arrangements should be made as respects the supply of intoxicating liquor to those workers, seamen or fishermen, the competent authority may authorise the sale…I do not think one ought to deal too lightly with that. I represent Wales and Monmouth—or- at least Monmouth—but I get letters every day about the supplying of intoxicating liquor, Sunday closing and the rest of it. The Home Secretary ought to say exactly what this Regulation means. For some reason, in my Division we are subjected to the licensing laws of Wales, and the supply of liquor in my area is prohibited on Sundays. Is intoxicating liquor to be supplied under this regulation?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
No, I am asking the questions. Normally, I would give way in Debate, but the night is yet young, and hon. Members opposite will have ample opportunity at a later stage, perhaps after the Ministers have intervened, to give their views about this. I do not say this too lightly because a great many people 2237 feel strongly about it. The Home Secretary should inform me whether under his regulation intoxicating liquor can be supplied on. Sundays or not. I think I have covered the various points I wanted to make and I only want to say that I am glad to see the responsible Ministers, including the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, are here. On matters of this importance the House ought to be given the assistance of their advice and consultation before we part with this regulation, and I hope we shall have the advice of the Attorney General on the vital matter of strikes, of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the Civil Service, and of the Home Secretary on the matter of the supply of liquor to which I have called his attention.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
We have had a very interesting Debate on this regulation. Come of it was in temperate, some of it was genuinely seeking after information, and some of it was quite derisory—[Interruption]
§ Captain Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
On a point of Order. If a Minister makes some remark or uses a word which the House did not hear or understand, surely we can ask him to tell us what he said?
§ Mr. Edwards
Reference was made to the fact that when the vote came to be taken, my hon. Friends on this side of the House would troop into the Lobbies and reject this Motion. I should be very sorry indeed if my hon. Friends on this side behaved in the way that hon. Members on that side behaved in the days be fore this Government when they were addressed by the present Leader in the most scorching terms of condemnation. I would first deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Montrose Boroughs (Mr. Maclay). I want to assure him that every new Order to be made under these powers will have to be laid before this House.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I should be most grateful if he would tell me why. Is it statutory? Has it got to be? Are they going, to be laid on the Table?
§ Mr. Edwards
They will have to be laid on the Table in accordance with the legislation under which the House made it compulsory that such instruments should be laid on the Table, and when hon: Members could seek to annul them by Prayer as they are attempting to do tonight.
§ Mr. Edwards
No. I am advised that every. Order issued under these powers must be laid on the. Table.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter.
If the hon. Gentleman will read Subsection (1) of Section 4 of the Act to which he refers, he will find that it refers to Orders in Council. Perhaps he will direct the attention of the House to the provisions which deal with these Orders.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have not that precise information at my disposal at the moment—[Hon. Members:" Why not? "] I have said that I was so advised, and that advice came from—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Edwards
A genuine question was put to me and I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to give an answer. [Interruption.] It is that such an Order must be laid on the Table.
§ Mr. Maclay
There appears to be some slight confusion about this. I, of course, accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, but if by any chance he is proved to be wrong when all the experts have been busy at it, I hope he will take some opportunity to explain the situation.
§ Mr. Edwards
I will read the Section which covers the point. It is the justification for my former reply. The Section reads:Every Order in Council made under the principal Acts (or under those Acts as extended by section two of this- Act) which contains Defence Regulations every order or other instrument made under powers conferred by Defence Regulations which is determined in accordance with regulations made under section three of the Rules Publication Act, 1893, to be a statutory rule within the meaning of the said section and to be of the nature of a public Act or which is 01 is deemed to be a statutory rule to which the Rules Publication. Act (Northern Ireland), 19.25 applies (being an "Order in Council order 0f instrument made after the passing of this Act), and every Order 2239 in Council made under this Act, shall be laid before. Parliament—and so on.
That is from the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act of 1945.
I think. I have dealt with that point [HON' MEMBERS: "No!"]—and I would, like to lay before the House the reasons the Ministry of: Labour have: in asking or in taking these powers which are now, the. subject of the prayer I notice that the Mover of the prayer said this—Admittedly the Government have got to find a way of carrying some measures Which were operative during the war on. into the next year or two so that they may be effective during the process of transition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November; Vol. 416, c. 310.]The Mover of this prayer, who wants completely to annul all these Orders, made that statement in this House on 20th November of last year.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Surely the hon. Member will appreciate that we cannot move to amend this Order, and therefore we can only move to annul it.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am much obliged; to the hon. Gentleman for saying that. That certainly is a concession from the attitude he adopted in his opening speech. However, I take it that the hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House agree that some controls are necessary for some time to come. I take it now that that is agreed. That is a concession indeed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said in a debate in August of last year:1 agree with the words used by the Foreign Secretary when he was -Minister of Labour in my Administration, namely, that the tremendous winding up process of the war must be followed by a methodical and regulated unwinding."He added:It is necessary for the Government to wield exceptional powers for- the time being"—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Yes, a war was on."] I am speaking of the 16th August,1945—and so long as they use these powers to achieve the great administrative and executive tasks imposed upon them, we shall not attack them."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th August, 1945: Vol. 413, c. 92.]That is what the Leader of the Opposition said: when discussing this very problem 2240 itself. Now, the effect of: annulling this Order would be to bring to an end—
§ Mr Edwards
I do not wish to be discourteous to any hon. Member on that side of the House, But I have given way on a number of occasions, more than any Member on that side of the House. I think, in the circumstances should be allowed to present our case. The effect of.carrying this prayer would be this. In the first place, it would produce chaos throughout industry in this country. That would be the effect of it The Government could not agree to substitute for this planned control a sudden end of all control which would push industry into confusion when it is struggling to adapt itself, to ' peacetime needs. The hon. Gentleman who spoke, for the Opposition advocated the same points of view. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Prayer agreed with: that point of view: These, controls must be taken off in a planned way so that we can unwind properly for the needs of peace.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter
Is it in Order for the Parliamentary Secretary to purport to quote me and then not allow me to correct him?
§ Mr. Edwards
I was going to say that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks I have misrepresented him, I will sit down.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter
What 1 said, and what I say is that so far as I know and am concerned, I consider that some controls are necessary in the interim period. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that it is necessary to move to annul the whole.of the Regulation, but it: will be easy to reintroduce those controls which are not obnoxious tomorrow morning if this Prayer is carried.
§ Mr. Edwards
There is no attempt, as I was going to say, to introduce anything new. All that is being done is to continue what was brought into existence by hon. Members opposite for the war— [HON. MEMBERS: "During the War."] Before the war. We have these controls. When we came to the end of the war it was decided to meet the representatives of industry and of the 2241 workers, and discuss with them, as we discussed throughout the war, the operation of control, and the method of relaxation or annulment we were to adopt. We discussed this matter with the British Employer's Federation and the. Trades Union Council, and it was at the request of this joint consultative committee that this method of taking off the controls was proceeded with, at their request. This was the method we discussed, and we also discussed the effect of taking controls off immediately. We met on 20th November at the Ministry of Labour and they asked for a month's consideration. A further meeting was held in December, and the controls, at the request of both sides were agreed to be continued so that industry could get together. That was agreed so that, when the controls came off, there would be no great upheaval in industry. That, I think, is the sensible way to deal with this subject.
Let us take, first, the four essential industries. The hon. Member who has talked about wanting five years has pressed, time after time, that the men in agriculture shall be kept there; that the men in the mines shall be kept there; that nurses shall be drafted to hospitals in certain areas. How many times in this House have Members raised questions of hospitals being shut down, about health services being prejudiced and jeopardised, and how many times has the Minister been asked to direct midwives and doctors to various areas of the. country to maintain health services? [Hon. Members: "How many? "] Very frequently. Let us look at another point. Hon. Members on the opposite side were very keen on getting men out of the Forces under Class B. Men who come out under this class are now tied to their industry. Shall men who have never served in the Armed Forces, who are now above the age for call up, be more free than the men who come back under Class B? Let us have equity amongst all our citizens, and let us see that the form of control we impose on the men who come back from the Forces for industrial purposes, shall be imposed on like men who have not been in the Services. That, surely, is the equitable way in which we have to look at this problem. That is the position.
Let us come to Regulation 58AA. In this case, if this regulation was removed, 2242 what would it do? We would destroy the machinery, that has been agreed by both sides of industry, of reference to a national tribunal of any official dispute between them, which they cannot settle. It is under this regulation that we have that power. It is that regulation which enables us to. get compulsory arbitration, and which has been agreed to by both sides of industry during this period. 1 am sure the hon. Members on both sides of the House, would not have us throw away a piece of machinery which we rely upon to see us through the difficulties, through the period of tight control to the period when we have abolished control. That is the machinery which we hope will enable us to solve the difficulties under which industry will transfer from controlled industry to uncontrolled industry. I know that perhaps there will be a feeling of jubilation on the other side of the House when I say this—that there is no intention to retain the Orders made under this regulation any longer than is necessary. I was expecting an interjection. I was hoping I would have it. I was hoping the anouncement of my right hon. Friend that we were decontrolling all women had been welcomed by the House; and that the fact that he had already brought before this House an Order for this purpose would also be welcomed.
Let me turn to Regulation 58AAA, the one referred to by my hon. Friend, the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), when he talked about the Civil Service. This Regulation does freeze the Civil Service. Let us take the Ministry of Food. The Ministry of Food has 98 per cent. of its staff unestablished and temporary. Should we accept the purpose of this Prayer, the Ministry of Food instrument would crumble in our hands. Do I understand that that is what hon. Gentlemen on the other side want? Shall the people of this country go without the machinery of rationing and distribution of food? That would be the effect of the acceptance of this Prayer. Let me take another instance. In the Ministry of Fuel and Power a very large number—I think almost an equal number—of the civil servants there are temporaries. Are we to free all those?
§ Mr. Edwards
That is what is asked. Let me take another. Since hon. Mem- 2243 bers on the other side may be sensitive on that point, let me put this one. The Post Office Savings Department, which is handling the demobilisation payments to the men who are being demobilised, is largely staffed with temporary civil servants. Are we to free those and give them the right to leave those jobs?
§ Mr. Edwards
And let the returning soldiers go without their demobilisation payments? If we are to have an efficient machine to discharge the obligations which this House has undertaken—
§ Mr. Edwards
—we must retain these people. That is the position. I have taken three categories of civil servants. If I may say so, there was a very reason able criticism—
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I am not quite sure what point the hon. Gentleman is making. Is his case that unless he retains compulsory powers to keep these people in these Ministries, about 98 per cent. of the staff of the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Fuel and Power would walk out tomorrow? If that is his case, it seems to me that the conditions of service in those Ministries must be very far below those outside.
§ Mr. Edwards
Many of these men were directed by the Government which was composed very largely of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Whatever their conditions, they were directed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Hon. Members: "Answer."] These men were taken from their ordinary civilian life. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is no answer."] They want to get back, naturally, but if we established complete freedom for them, what is likely to happen is that we shall get an entirely inefficient instrument to discharge their very important functions, which are in the interests of this nation. That is the answer. There are cases of substantial hardship which can be dealt with in exactly the same way as any other civilian employee. In any other civilian employment cases of undue hardship can get their release by going through the appropriate machinery which this House has provided, and I hope that when this House agreed to direct these men into 2244 those positions, they had in mind some of the consequences of their own actions.
I come to Regulation 59. This provides for relaxations of safety and health conditions in factories, etc., in this country. There is the position. During D-day we took a lot of skilled men, skilled boiler-makers and inspectors, for the purpose of helping in preparations for D-day. The result was that there was not available to managements in this country the skilled staff necessary to carry out the inspections provided for under the factories regulations, and we had to afford them legal cover. It was under this regulation that legal indemnity, as it were, was provided for them in respect of their inability to carry out the provisions of the regulations, for which they were not entirely responsible. As another case let me take coal-mines. The life of a haulage rope, upon which depends the lives of the men, is three and a half years. In certain circumstances, under this Order, where that rope has been inadequately used it is allowed to have a much longer life. The danger was impressed upon us but, after all, risks have to be taken in civilian life as well as in the forces.
Let me come now to the food industry, where there have been substantial relaxations so that we could get the maximum work from our people. Our demands from employers in the food industry resulted in their being unable to carry out the provisions of the Factory Acts, and it is under these regulations that we have been able to give them dispensation.
The last regulation—I do not think there is need for me to go further—is No. 60. This is an Order under which power was taken to impose, in all the new industries that arose during the war, regulations for enforcing welfare and safety conditions which were not covered by the old Factories Act, and it will be appreciated on all sides of the House that in the interests of the health of our people this should be preserved. I come to the canteen question, which is really a small matter. Under Regulation 60AA there have been set up throughout this country a number of seamen's welfare clubs. They were established very largely with funds raised in America by the C.I.O. and the A.F.O.L. The Seamen's Welfare Organisation is not yet in a position to accept financial responsibility for running these 2245 clubs on a permanent basis and it is under the powers we have under this regulation that we are able to maintain their existence. Our Ministry and the Ministry of War Transport are represented, and are, as is known, trustees for the fund organised by the American war charities.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Parliamentary Secretary has not given way; therefore the hon. Member is not in Order.
§ Mr. Edwards
I thought it was a point of Order; that is why I sat down. 1 did not propose to give way. At certain docks canteens were established for the dockers under the Dockers' Corporation. The hon Member for Monmouth knows something about these. The continuation of these activities depends upon the existence of our powers under this Order, but negotiations are proceeding actively for all these canteens and clubs to pass out of our jurisdiction and to be placed on an entirely independent basis under the new welfare scheme which is to be provided by the Ministry of Transport. I think that meets the point.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
It is a perfectly fair answer that the hon. Gentleman has given me. I would just ask him to consider that this regulation is not restricted to a few seaport towns or canteens of that kind. It applies to canteens for any workers engaged in work and directed by the Ministry. I am not complaining. I think the Ministry has done a fine job of work. The only small point I ask is, does this permit Sunday opening in Wales?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is rising the whole time. I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Edwards
It does not permit Sunday opening in Wales in the general sense of the term. All it does is to permit us to continue what we are doing in these clubs. We hope very soon that they will pass under the Ministry of War Transport and we will come to the House to annul this Order.
There is only one Regulation left, 8oB, which deals generally with the examination of workmen under 50AA. I think 2246 I have attempted to answer completely the points which have been put. All I am sorry about is that whilst I have shown every respect to hon. Members opposite when they were putting their case, they did not respond. We feel we must have these instruments to guide this country to normal peacetime conditions This is the hangover from the war. We must do these things on a regulated basis. We are doing it with the complete confidence of the British Employers' Federation and the T.U.C., who have felt it desirable that we should have these powers. The National Advisory Council on Nursing and Midwifery asked us not to lift the control for six months so that they may have an opportunity of putting their house in order. I am advised that we can take powers under the Act, and our powers run concurrently with the Act. As soon as we have finished with the need for these powers, we shall come to the House and ask the House to revoke the powers as quickly as that can be done.
Already two such revocations are in preparation. I want to assure the House and the country that we shall use control in the best interests of the nation ' and shall avoid industrial upheaval. We shall use the powers in the best interests of the nation
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
We are all very much indebted to the Parliamentary Secretary for having answered so many of the questions put to him, but I am sorry he took exception to the reception of some of his remarks. Evidently he had forgotten that the opening words of his speech were a complaint—a most ill-founded complaint—of the intemperate language of former speeches. If he starts a speech by making that sort of observation, he should not be so surprised if hon. Members are not quite so silent when listening to his own oration. I am afraid I have detected—and I am sure other hon. Members have detected— a certain restiveness on the part of hon. Members opposite that this Debate has taken place at all. When the Debate began, there was certainly an undercurrent of that kind. But it is not our fault that these Motions have to be put down. It is, unfortunately, a result of the technique of the Government. Every Bill that is introduced takes more and more regulatory 2247 powers. The corollary of that is that more and more occasions will be required to—
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is now discussing the Bills under which these Orders are made. We can discuss only this particular Order, and not the Bills.
§ Captain Crookshank
I have not the slightest intention of discussing the Bills. I was only saying there was a certain amount of restiveness, and remarking that it was, unfortunately, a result of the general theme of the Government with regard to legislation; and that it is necessary, therefore, for my hon Friends to look very carefully at all the rules, orders, regulations and whatnot that are brought before Parliament. It is for that reason this Debate has been initiated today. Regulation 58A is one of the most important that we can discuss. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour prayed in aid a quotation from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who spoke of the methodical unwinding of the war situation. That speech was made six months ago, and we are entirely with him in thinking— [Interruption].
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
I am sorry to interrupt, but my amusement was caused by the sight of a sort of red flag handkerchief of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) behind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Gentleman prayed in aid that quotation from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, speaking on 16th August, of the unwinding of the war arrangements. Of course, we all agree that the unwinding should be methodical We also recollect that it is over six months since that statement was made. Some of the unwinding might by now have proceeded. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has."] Yes, but this Order is for five years. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour just now said we are in the period of hangover from the war. It is a very long hangover which is expected to last that long. During all this period it will be possible for employment to be controlled and directed.. That is the whole gravamen of the charge my hon. Friends have made—that the Government are taking those powers, as they 2248 have to under the Act,.for the full period of five years. That is the whole trouble. The Parliamentary Secretary says this has been done at the request of the Joint Consultative Committee, and that may be so; it may be so that the method is approved, but what we are objecting to is the length of the time.
§ Mr. Mikardo
On a point of Order. Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman arguing the question of time which was decided in the discussion of the Act?
§ Mr. Speaker
I was listening to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I did not think that he had gone quite as far as that.
§ Captain Crookshank
And I, knowing the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, do not think he did go that far, and he certainly does not intend to.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Further to that point of Order. May we reconsider this matter, because the Act itself refers to the power of the Government?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have given a definite Ruling, and we cannot reconsider it. If the hon. Gentleman objects to my Ruling, he can put a Motion down on the Order Paper..
§ Captain Crookshank
We object to the Order on the grounds which have already been stated in the House. As it seems to be so difficult to be quite certain how far one may express them at this stage, I will leave it at that. But I want to say a word about 58A, about the Civil Service. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour was going a little too far, I think, when he said that men in the Ministries of Food and Fuel and Power and the Post Office Savings Bank had all been directed to those jobs by hon. Gentlemen on this side. What was carried out during the war was done by a Coalition Government, and the right hon. Gentleman who is sitting next to him is just as much responsible for what was done then. It was, a Coalition Government which carried the country through the war to a successful conclusion, and it is monstrous that the hon. Gentleman should try to make out that any particular act was done by one political section which was comprised in the Coalition. So far as I know, the number of staff in the Post Office Savings Bank, which is enormous, running into something like 17,000 to 2249 18,000, are not men at all but almost entirely women. That may surprise the hon. Gentleman, but he would do better to look up his statistics before he answers something for which the Financial Secretary should be answering.
It is quite true that there are provisions for cases of undue hardship. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is not here tonight, because I am sure he would have liked to deal with this subject, and he would have done it in a most salutary manner. The whole point is that I am quite certain that all these temporary civil servants are anxious to know whether they are going to be kept for five years. It is a very serious position among these temporary civil servants, because many of them have other jobs to go to, and the House may as well face the fact that in some grades of the Civil Service the salary is not comparable with what they could get in similar positions in the ordinary industrial world. The hon. Gentleman knows it perfectly well. These people would like to know whether they are going to be held, and it is a very serious question to which I hope the Government will give some attention.
What is clear, of course, is that in these temporary Departments, which have to be staffed with temporary people and there is a large temporary staff of some 5,000 or 6,000 clerks and so on, it is hardly the best thing to attempt to get a permanent Civil Service to run it. But the Minister quoted the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Fuel and Power, both of which are being continued as permanent departments. Therefore, we on this side would like to know what success is attending the permanent recruitment for these departments. It is a very serious matter, because under this Order there is power for a period of five years, and it is quite natural that some of these people wish to know if there is any possibility of their being kept as long as five years.
§ Captain Crookshank
I am surprised that the hon. Member, who has been such a short time in the Civil Service should now speak with such authority on this subject when the Financial Secretary who is responsible for this particular subject is sitting in front of him.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is extremely mischievous indeed. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has had the responsibility of the job of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, is now indulging in mischievous statements which he knows perfectly well are perfectly wrong.
§ Captain Crookshank
.I am quite responsible for anything I say in this House, and I cannot see that there was anything mischievous in my making the statement I did with regard to the Ministries keeping these temporary civil servants. I cannot see how anybody can take exception to that. It is a matter of great importance to thousands of men' and women who are employed by the State today.
The third comment that 1 wanted to make was that I am a little anxious with regard to 59. I know the hon. Member did mention it, but for all that, I am still more anxious from the fact that he had to give an instance, because as I understand it, that regulation means that during the war we were so hard pressed that a great many regulations, which in normal times were considered most important and very stringently policed, had to be relaxed. He instanced haulage rope being used for more than three and a half years. That is not the only instance. There were plenty of others in the mining industry, and factories and quarries, and I am rather anxious in view of that exemption which, if it is passed, will be for five years. I hope that there will be a great speed up In fact, I am surprised that it has not been possible already to annul that particular regulation, and I would like some further reassurances, if not tonight, on an early occasion, from the Government as to how long they think it is necessary to keep that on. It is a serious matter, and I am sure that it is one which must give great anxiety, at any rate to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power and his right hon. Friend, upon whom such a responsibility is laid for seeing to the safety and welfare of miners throughout the country.
We are bound to resist this Order for the reasons which we have given, and to do so we come near to being disorderly. We are bound to resist this Order because we cannot see any reason why the Government should require these very important controls or should think that they 2251 require these important controls for so long a period of time.
§ Mr Janner (Leicester, West)
Would my right hon. and gallant Friend permit me? As I understand his case, he is complaining about the fact that the Order will last for too long a period. May I ask him why he is choosing this particular time, before he knows how the Order is going to work? Why has he not waited until a few months have passed before moving the Prayer?
§ Captain Crookshank
For the simple reason that it would be too late. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not know that. This Order has to be prayed against within the next few days, as I understand it, and it would be too late to wait until then. But we recognise that there is a case for a temporary period for some of these controls. That has been admitted all along. We do not admit the case for this Order because of the period which is involved, and I think that the House should be very grateful to my hon. Friends for the vigilance they have shown in bringing these matters before the House. On this occasion I must thank the Parliamentary Secretary for having given us as good_ an answer as he could, and certainly touching on every one of the regulations with which we are concerned, which is more than has happened on some other occasions.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I must say that I was surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary gave no explanation as to the absence of the Minister of Labour, because I should have thought that, having regard to the immense powers which this Order gives the Minister of Labour, he would have been here himself to say why he must be invested with these powers. One thing which has disappointed me about this Debate is the singular lack of assistance from the back benchers opposite.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member's remarks must be addreessed to the Prayer and not to the conduct of back benchers opposite.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I was hoping I should have had some support from the back benchers opposite, particularly with regard to Regulation 58A. It was said by the Parliamentary Secretary that he needed these drastic powers to guide the 2252 country into the more peaceful years. I was interested in that connection in the contrasting his demand for the powers of direction of labour with the statement by the President of the Board of Trade in the Debate today, when he said that direction of labour was no longer practicable or desirable. If that is so, why on earth does the Minister of Labour want this power on paper? With regard to Regulation 58AA, the Parliamentary Secretary justified the retention of it on the ground "that it retains a very desirable provision for establishing a tribunal to settle trade disputes and regulating the proceedings of the tribunal. Nobody has any exception to take to that, but because he can find one good provision in a Regulation it does not justify the retention of all the bad ones. This surely is a complete denial of democratic freedom in this country. But if the Parliamentary Secretary does desire to retain such despotic powers which could only be exercised in a very grave crisis, surely he can give some idea of the type of crisis he anticipates. Assuming such a crisis did develop surely we could have a further Emergency Powers Act.
The Parliamentary Secretary also said that if this Order were annulled immediately there would be chaos throughout industry. But as has been pointed out it would be possible to introduce a new Order the very next day which could remain in existence until it was annulled and then what was already done under the Order would not be undone. It is no answer to what we have said on this side of the House that he had received support from the Trades Union Congress and the British Federation of Employers. What they said may have been good enough for the Minister of Labour, but it is not necessarily good enough for us who represent our constituencies and owe allegiance to neither of these bodies. I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary has not given us some satisfaction. In fact, he has given none at all and I propose that, when the time is ripe, we shall divide the House.
§ Mr. Maclay
On a point of Order. Is there any way in which I can change the peroration of my speech, in the light of the knowledge the Parliamentary Secretary has now give us, because I had two ready, and the wrong one came out in the light of the knowledge we now have.
That the Order in Council, dated 20th December, 1945, with respect to Defence Regulations relating to the Control of Employment and Conditions of Employment (S.R. amp; O.,
§ 1945, No.162o), a copy of which Order was presented on 22nd January, be annulled."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 176.2255
|Division No. 94.]||AYES.||[11.25 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Hollis, Sqn. Ldr. M. C||Prior-Palmer, Brig O|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hope, Lord J.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Howard, Hon. A||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Keeling, E. H.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Lambert, Hon. G.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Carson, E.||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight]||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Touche, G. C|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. (Penrith)||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Vane, Lieut.-Col. W. M. T|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Drewe, C.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Molson, A. H. E.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Wheatley, Col. M. J.|
|Gage, Lt.-Col. C||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hare, Lieut.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'ge)||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Nicholson, G.|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Nield, B. (Chester)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Nutting, Anthony||Sir John Mellor and Major Boyd-|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Pitman, I. J.||Carpenter.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Foot, M. M.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Mathers, G.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Austin, H. L.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Medland, H. M.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Goodrich, H. E||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Granville. E. (Eye)||Morley, R.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Morris, P (Swansea, W.)|
|Bing, Capt G. H. C.||Grierson, E.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Binns, J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Nicholls H. R (Stratford)|
|Blackburn, Capt. A. R||Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Noel-Buxton Lady|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||O'Brien, T.|
|Boardman, H.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Hardy, E. A.||Orbach, M.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Paget, R. T.|
|Braddock, T (Mitcham)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Holman, P.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Burden, T. W.||House, G.||Peart, Capt. T. F|
|Burke, W. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Perrins, W.|
|Callaghan, James||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.||Price, M. P.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. R||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Pursey, Cmdr H.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R||Irving, W. J.||Ranger, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Janner, B.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Collins, V. J.||Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)||Rhodes, H.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Robens, A|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Jones, D T. (Hartlepools)||Scollan, T.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A||Keenan, W.||Segal, Sq.-Ldr. S.|
|Daines, P.||Kenyon, C.||Sharp, Lt.-Col G. M.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||King, E. M||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Deer, G.||Kinley, J.||Shawcross, Sir H. (St Helens)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Shurmer, P.|
|Delargy, Captain H. J||Levy, B. W.||Silverman, J (Erdington)|
|Diamond, J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Simmons C. J.|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lipton, Lt.-Col, M.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Longden, F.||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lyne, A. W.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McAllister, G.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mack, J. D.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Stamford, W.|
|Farthing, W. J.||McLeavy, F.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulhant, E.)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||MacMillan, M. K.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Follick, M.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Swingler, Capt. S.|
|Symonds, Maj. A. L.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Warbey, W. N.||Woodburn, A.|
|Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Weitzman, D.||Yates, V. F.|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Titterington, M. F.||Wigg, Colonel G. E.|
|Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Wilkes, Maj. L.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge.|
|Walker, G. H.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
§ Resolved: "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor,]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-six Minutes to Twelve o'Clock.