HC Deb 29 May 1946 vol 423 cc1226-31

6.45 p.m.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I beg to move, in page 69, line I, after " fifty-nine,"To insert " section sixty-two."

Mr. Peake

On a point of Order. it was indicated to me unofficially, Mr. Speaker, that the Amendment to Clause 76 of a similar character which stands on the Order Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) was likely to be called, and I am wondering whether you have overlooked it.

Mr. Speaker

I thought that if I called this Amendment the other could be discussed at the same time. There are, I believe, four Amendments on the Order Paper on the same point.

Mr. Griffiths

This is the Clause which makes provision by which certain regulations under, this Bill shall be subject to the Affirmative Resolution of the House before coming into operation. Others will be laid and can be prayed against in the normal way. In Committee we had a long discussion on this matter and on an Amendment, partly on the lines, of that which now stands on the Order Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—the one, Mr. Speaker, which you said we might discuss on this Clause. I listened to that discussion but indicated that I could not accept the Amendment; nor do I propose to accept any of the Amendments which have just been mentioned if they are called.

I promised to consider whether it was not desirable and essential that the provisions of Clause 62, as it is now—it was Clause 61 in the Committee stage—should not he subject to affirmative resolution. I am now moving to insert Clause 62 as being one containing regulations which will require the affirmative resolution of the House. I do so with one proviso, and as I wish to be frank with the House I make this clear now. Clause 62, if it were brought into operation after the appointed day, would be a Clause made under the new scheme and, therefore, if my Amendment were accepted, the regulations under Clause 62 would be subject to the affirmative resolution of the House.

It may be, however, that we shall be faced with the necessity of bringing Clause 62 into operation before we are able to bring the main scheme into effect. We should do that in the same way as is envisaged for other provisions. For example, I propose to bring the new rate of retirement pensions into operation in the autumn of this year. I shall do this under the transitional powers provided in Clause 69, and whatever I do of a transitional nature under this Clause is done by regulations which are not subject to affirmative resolution but will be laid in the normal way. While, therefore, I move this Amendment to insert Clause 62 as being one which will require affirmative resolution under the new scheme, I think it is only fair to the House that I should make it known now that, if the Government should feel it desirable to bring the Clause with regard to extended unemployment benefit into operation before the appointed day for the main scheme, they would have to do so under Clause 69, the regulations thus not being subject to affirmative resolution.

Mr. Peake

The right hon. Gentleman moves to bring the new Clause 62 within the ambit of the Clause which provides for an affirmative resolution before regulations can be approved. We take no exception to that addition to Clause 76. Never has there been a Bill under which so many sets of regulations were to be made. This Bill, as originally designed, would have run to several hundred Clauses, but the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, with their passion for streamlining everything, have cut it down to a much smaller compass. There is an innumerable mass of matters which are to be dealt with by regulation under this Bill, but which, in any precedent hitherto observed, would have been dealt with by substantive enactment.

Clause 76 provides for affirmative resolution in the following four cases: affirmative resolutions are necessary to approve regulations disqualifying persons from benefit for misconduct; affirmative resolutions are necessary for the regulations applying the Clauses of the Bill to mariners and married women respectively; and an affirmative resolution is necessary for the Clause providing for compensation to displaced officers. There are other matters of very great substance where we say the affirmative resolution procedure should be adopted. The question, for instance, of overlapping benefits, which in fact means disqualifying persons from certain parts of the benefit to which they otherwise would be entitled because they are already drawing benefit under another Clause. When I was a member of the last Government we spent many months trying to work out the circumstances in which benefits could be regarded as overlapping. There are innumerable cases which will occur to hon. Members on all sides of the House. The regulations will be of supreme importance and great complexity.

I, therefore, wish that the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to provide that these Regulations should be brought before the House automatically, because they will be of such importance that the House will want, I am sure, to consider them in very great detail. There is the overlapping between industrial injury benefit and unemployment benefit, and between the Serviceman enjoying Service pension and industrial injuries benefit, and sickness benefit under the Bill. There are innumerable cases which will arise in practice. I am sure the House as a whole will want to examine the matter. I have mentioned the main cases. These seem to us to present just as strong a case for the affirmative resolution procedure as the regulations which provide for dis- qualification from benefit for misconduct. I therefore express the wish, while accepting the inclusion of Clause 62, that the right hon. Gentleman has not said the last word on the affirmative Resolution procedure, covering the other cases which I have mentioned.

Mr. O. Poole

I am very disappointed at the remarks made by the Minister. I would like to remind him of what happened during the Committee stage and to draw his attention to the special report of the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders published in 1944. Many of the proposed regulations under the Bill will go much further than the suggestions in the report. That was the point of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) when he. moved his Amendment in Committee. Replying to him, the Minister said that this was a very important matter and that there was a fair case for including some of the regulations which have not been done before, for the affirmative resolution procedure. It is particularly disappointing, in view of that fact, and in view of the Report of the Select Committee which the Minister undertook to study, that he has been able to include only Clause 62. I ask him therefore to consider carefully what my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said. I hope this will not be the Minister's last word upon this very important matter. We do not wish to clutter up the procedure of the House with unnecessary affirmative resolutions, but we hope the Minister will keep an open mind on the subject.

Mr. J. Griffiths

We have now considered this matter very carefully. The conclusion to which we have come, after full consideration, is the one which I have mentioned. We are taking by regulation very great powers indeed. I am sure hon. Members will appreciate that we have also taken extra special precautions about that matter, because we are setting up an Advisory Committee. All the regulations will go before the Advisory Committee, who will examine the regulations in draft and can invite persons to give evidence before them either orally or in writing. Everybody in the country can get a chance to express his view upon the regulations before they are presented to the House. Although we are taking great powers which would normally be asked for in a Bill, we are setting up the Advisory Committee which will listen to criticisms and comments upon the regulations before they reach Parliament. We need not clutter up the procedure of the House with affirmative resolutions, I agree. I have looked at this matter very carefully indeed and I think it is desirable that we should proceed to include this Clause.

Lieut. - Commander Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

From what the Minister has said he recognises the extent of the proposed legislation by regulation and is putting it off to an Advisory Committee. Surely by so doing he is deliberately causing Parliament to delegate to an outside body the powers which are vested in it. The Minister said he proposed to do by regulation, what normally would have been done by Bill, and what he proposes to do by regulation he will do with the approval of the Advisory Committee. Instead of bringing the regulations to Parliament, he will be taking them to the Advisory Committee. In that way, the last word on the matter will be removed from Parliament.

Mr. Griffiths

Perhaps I did not make my meaning clear. I am sorry if that is so. The Minister who proposes to make regulations with regard to, say, overlapping benefits, will submit them to the Advisory Committee, who will publish them. The proposals will become known. When the regulations are published, persons affected by them can make representations to the Committee either in writing or orally. The Advisory Committee will send the regulations back to me, with a report, which I shall publish. The regulations will be laid on the Table, and can be prayed against in the usual way. The final word in each case is with Parliament.

Lieut. - Commander Joynson - Hicks

That statement is rather more reassuring than the statement which the Minister made in the first instance. It seems to suggest, however, that a filter has been introduced between the Minister and Parliament. It is an undesirable precedent which I hope the Government will not pursue.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Lindgren

I beg to move, in page 74, line 12, after " person,"To insert: for any reference to the council of a county borough there shall be substituted a reference to the town council of a burgh. This Amendment is consequential upon one already accepted to Clause 22, in regard to the payment of death grant. It is to cover local authorities in Scotland which correspond to county boroughs in England.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill to be read the Third time Tomorrow.