HC Deb 24 July 1946 vol 426 cc175-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I notice that the Bill is entitled "Isle of Man (Customs) (No. 2) Bill." That was the Title given to it by this House of Commons. I see that in this Clause the "No. 2" has mysteriously dropped out, and is merely described as the "Isle of Man (Customs) Act, 1946." Surely the words "No. 2" ought to be included in the Title? Is the omission a slip, or is there some reason why the Title of the Bill differs from the Title to the Act?

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I am sorry that, on this particular occasion, I cannot support the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), even though they are very weighty. It seems to me that as there is to be only one Isle of Man Act in 1946, it should not be complicated by the insertion of the "No. 2."

Mr. C. Williams

It would seem that there is a slight error in this Clause. To be in keeping with the other Clauses, it should really read, "This Act may be cited as the Act of 1946." If it read that way, it would then be quite as badly drafted as the rest of the Bill. In the circumstances, I think it is a pity that this Bill, which is so full of blots from the point of view of a Law Officer, should have this defect at the end. If the Government wish to amend it so as to bring it into line with the rest of the Bill, I should not object.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks

I noticed the hon. and learned Solicitor-General moving in his seat. If his movement was towards the Despatch Box with a view to giving a reply to the questions that have been raised, I shall be pleased to give way.

The Solicitor-General

This is the second Isle of Man (Customs) Bill in one financial year. The last one received the Royal Assent on 20th December, 1945, shortly after the autumn Budget. This is the second one; but when it becomes an Act, it will have the Title which appears in Clause 3. It will not be the No. 2 Act, but the 1946 Act. That is the short explanation of what otherwise appears to be a discrepancy.

Mr. Keeling

Would the Solicitor-General answer the question why this Act is denned as the "Isle of Man (Customs) Act, 1946," whereas other Acts are defined as "the Act"?

The Solicitor-General

The reference is always put in in that way in the Isle of Man (Customs) Acts.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

11.0 p.m.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

I hope no one will think that because of the probing that has taken place into the drafting of this Bill, any disrespect is intended to the Isle of Man. We recognise its special constitutional position, but some of my hon. Friends thought that in the drafting of the Bill there were some points to be cleared up. I would like to make that point quite clear and also to thank the Solicitor-General for the care and attention that he has given to the Bill. The only protest that we want to make is that, so far as I know, this is the first time since I have been in the House that a Bill of this description has not been dealt with by one of the responsible finance Ministers, and for that reason we make protest. I myself was in charge of six Isle of Man (Customs) Bills when I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I always was in attendance. Had it not been possible, the Chancellor would have taken my place. It is within my knowledge that the Chancellor was in the Division Lobby just before the Bill was reached, and for that reason we consider that the Government—I do not say the Solicitor-General because he has been in charge of the Bill and has answered everything that was put to him—stand indicted of treating this House once again with contempt. When financial Measures come before the House, it is the business of finance Ministers to be here.—[Interruption.]—Has the Home Secretary anything to say? If the Home Secretary will keep on muttering, I think I am entitled to know what he was saying. As he is the senior Minister on the Government Front Bench, I hope that he will take the protest made by us to his colleagues and that in future, when discussing Bills dealing with Isle of Man customs, this performance will not be repeated.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Performance?"]—"Performance" is the right word. The absence of responsible Ministers is something which the Opposition is bound to take notice. Had it not been so late, we should, as a protest, have divided the House. We do not intend to do so because this is not a matter which is purely the concern of this House. This is a Bill which is confirming action taken in the Isle of Man. We, therefore, would not wish to have any misunderstanding as a result of any action we might take. I limit myself to a verbal protest and ask the Home Secretary, as temporarily in charge of the Committee, to report to the Prime Minister what we feel about this matter.

Mr. C. Williams (Torquay)

As I happened to raise the first point on this Bill, I would like to emphasise what my right hon. and gallant Friend—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

No one knows better than the hon. Member that the only matters about which one can speak on the Third Reading are the contents of the Bill. A protest has been made, which I permitted, but I see no reason why further protests should be made on a matter quite outside the Bill.

Mr. Williams

I certainly accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am glad that we can accept this Bill and pass it through its remaining stages. I feel sure that every Member would wish most sincerely that the Isle of Man should have the advantages of this Bill at the earliest possible moment.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.