HC Deb 29 November 1946 vol 430 cc1931-53

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

11.15 a.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)

May I invite the attention of the House for a few minutes to one of the Acts in the Bill which it is proposed to continue, namely. Section I of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

On a point of Order, Major Milner. I have always understood that the proper place to raise points on this Bill was on the Schedule, and not upon the Clauses. May I have your Ruling?

The Chairman

That is so. Perhaps the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr Callaghan) will raise his point on the Schedule?

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.


Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill."

Mr. Peake

I was awaiting my opportunity to ask a number of questions regarding some of the enactments set out in the Schedule. I promise the Committee not to take very long but this is the only opportunity we have of inquiring why these enactments, which were originally brought in as temporary Measures, are about to be renewed. To take the order in which they are placed, I first ask about the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904. That Act provides that people who wish to transmit by radio must obtain a licence from the Postmaster—General. It was brought in as a temporary Measure in 1904, and I should have thought that perhaps by now the Post Office might have realised that broadcast transmitting was a thing which had come to stay. Therefore, they might have taken an opportunity of introducing some permanent enactment upon the matter.

I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power here, because I would like to ask also why it is thought necessary to renew the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912. That was an Act introduced under Mr. Asquith's Prime Ministership, which established district boards throughout the various coal mining areas in the country, with independent chairmen to settle minimum rates of wages in the district. No doubt it was a very wise Act to pass, and a protection for the working miners against the wicked owners of collieries.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Peake

But, it does seem a very curious thing to me that the Government should be renewing this Act at the present time, for on 1st January, 1947, if I am not mistaken, the National Coal Board takes over the collieries, and will from that date onwards be in complete control of them. Moreover, as I understand it, miners' wages are guaranteed under the Porter Award until the middle of the year 1948. Even if miners still needed the protection of the Minimum Wage Act of 1912 against the Coal Board, it seems a curious thing that it should be necessary at present to renew it, when the Government have guaranteed full employment and fixed rates of minimum wages for the mining population. As far as I am aware, these district boards are in suspense at present. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain why it is thought necessary to renew this Act.

I also want to say a word upon the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act of 1919, a matter in which the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) is interested. The House of Commons takes a great interest in all matters affecting our import and export trade. Where the transport of goods is concerned, great interest is taken, but where the passage of persons is concerned, the immigration of aliens and their settlement and employment in this country, there is a difference. In the course of 20 years, I can remember practically no Debate on the subject. Occasionally there has been a little stir, but the House of Commons has taken curiously little interest in the activities of the Home Office in regard to immigration. It is a very remarkable fact that the Home Secretary's powers in this matter, which are absolute, complete, and wholly autocratic, should still be exercised under a Measure introduced for the first time during 1914, and renewed from time to time in this way ever since 1919. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman who will no doubt answer on behalf of the Home Office whether at present the powers contained in this Act are being operated, or whether the restrictions on entry of aliens are being operated under Defence Regulations. I should also like to direct attention to the unsatisfactory state of affairs under which the immigration of aliens rests upon a Measure introduced as a temporary expedient some 33 years ago, and renewed annually ever since in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. On the whole, I think there has been very little criticism of the way in which these powers have been exercised, but I am sure the House will have to take the opportunity before very long of reviewing the policy which successive Home Secretaries have carried out as regards the entry, settlement, and employment of aliens in this country. I hope some further opportunity will arise when that matter can be further debated.

The only other matter in the Schedule to which I should like an answer is in regard to the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1939. That also was a temporary Measure introduced to enable the Home Secretary to deport Irish terrorists from this country. It was enacted for a period of two years owing to various outrages of a terrorist character which occurred during the summer of 1939. I should like to know whether there is still considered to be any fear of outrages of this character, and whether anybody in recent months, or recent years, has been deported to Eire under the provisions of that Act. That is to say, I should like to know why it is thought necessary that it should be renewed.

Mr. Callaghan

I am glad that my lack of knowledge of procedure did not enable me to forestall the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). I raise this matter of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act because we on this side of the House have maintained a steady and continuous pressure on the Home Office in regard to this question during the 14, or 15, months we have been in the House. The Home Secretary, as the right hon. Member for North Leeds rightly said, exercises autocratic powers in this matter. He has power under the Act to prohibit the entry of anyone into this country. That power was never put into the hands of a Home Secretary before the outbreak of the war of 1914. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is a power we must watch most carefully, not only in relation to the present Home Secretary, but in regard to the exercise of such powers by anyone at any time. If I may, I would respectfully congratulate the Home Secretary, on the change in Home Office policy which has taken place in recent months in regard to immigration of many classes of people who desire to come here. Since we raised this matter, and maintained our interest in it. I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman has been exceedingly good in the way he has received our representations on behalf of individuals, and in the way in which he has dealt with such cases It is now the case that the husband of any English girl living in this country can come and live with her, provided he can satisfy the Home Secretary that he is a reasonable and proper person to come here.

But there are certain matters which I would like to raise, and on which I would ask for greater elasticity in administration. There are cases in which entry into this country has been prohibited, but in which I think the persons should have been allowed to come. There are cases of agricultural workers who have been employed in this country when prisoners of war, who have returned to their own country, mostly to Italy, and have asked permission to come back here. They have been refused permission to return, although the farmers are prepared to offer them a job, although there is accommodation available here for them, and although the local branch of the Agricultural Workers' Union raises no objection. I cannot see any reason at all why, in such cases, permission should be refused.

The Chairman

I must remind the hon. Member that obviously we cannot have a detailed Debate on various classes of persons who may, or may not, be dealt with under this Act. The real question is whether it is advisable to continue this particular Section of the Act for another year or not. It would not be in order to go into the details, which might be considered when an Order was made under the Act.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

On a point of Order. Is it not in Order to discuss whether the Section in its entirety should be renewed, whether it is too wide in its present form and whether it should be restricted by the exclusion of certain classes of cases? I would respectfully suggest that the question of agricultural labourers and nurses for hospitals would be in Order on this Debate.

The Chairman

The hon. Member will appreciate that if he desired to make some alteration, his proper course would be to put down an Amendment. That has not been done. The whole question is whether or not Section I of the Act shall be continued. I do not think that one can go into details of how the Section might or might not be altered.

Mr. Paget

With the greatest respect, I submit that we are deciding whether Section I of an Act prohibiting aliens from landing in the United Kingdom shall be continued. The Government are asking that the Section should be renewed. Surely it is in Order to say that it should not be renewed because it is too wide, and to support that proposition is it not in Order to point to certain classes, and to argue that those classes ought not to be included?

The Chairman

I think I must hear what hon. Members have to say. I cannot give a Ruling on hypothetical questions which may or may not be raised in debate.

Mr. Callaghan

The only point I wish to raise is that there are certain types of people who should be admitted to this country, and on the answer of the Home Secretary will depend the question of whether it will be necessary to divide against this Schedule or not. All I am doing is putting forward certain reasons in that connection. I was saying that there are certain classes of people who should, we feel, in the national interest be able to enter this country. There are certain other people who, on humanitarian grounds, should be permitted to come into the country. I am anxious not to transgress your Ruling, Major Milner, if I can help it. But I ask that there should be greater elasticity in the administration of these rules. As I see it, within the limits which the Home Secretary has laid down for himself, the administration is at the moment wise and humane, but the administration has been limited to certain classes and there are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has said, other classes not included in the hon. Gentleman's purview at the moment. It is these other classes with whom I am concerned—people who are being kept out of the country.

The Chairman

This is not the opportunity for raising that discussion, The administration of the Home Secretary in regard to these matters could properly be raised on the Home Office Estimates.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

I cannot understand, Major Milner, how you rule that the proposed extension of the life of an Act does not allow a Member to discuss how such an Act has operated in the past, and show reason why it should not be extended.

The Chairman

I am sorry if the hon. Member cannot understand the position. It happens that the Rules of this House, in the case of Measures of this particular class, do not admit—for quite obvious reasons, because the range would be so wide—detailed consideration of the powers which may or may not be exercised by the Home Secretary. There are other occasions when they can be discussed in detail.

Mr. Scollan

I am sorry, Major Milner, but it is obvious that you misunderstood what I said. I was dealing, not with the powers which the Home Secretary had, but with your previous Ruling regarding the extension of the life of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act. My hon. Friend was proceeding to point out that certain powers under that Act had been used which, in his opinion, should not be allowed to continue. You ruled that he could mot do so. I do not see why. If a new Bill had been introduced we would have proceeded to discuss all the merits and the demerits of the powers conferred on the Home Secretary in the Bill If an extension of the life of the same Measure is asked for, are we not allowed to discuss this matter?

The Chairman

This not the occasion of considering a new Bill. It is an extension of an old Act. There have been opportunities, and there will be opportunities in the future, for discussing the details of the powers of the Home Secretary.

Mr. Scollan

I am not discussing the powers of the Home Secretary at all. I am discussing the administration of a particular Act.

The Chairman

That is precisely what the hon. Member cannot do in detail On this occasion.

Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South East)

May I ask whether my hon. Friend would be in Order in moving a manuscript Amendment to omit this particular Measure from the list of the expiring laws which it is sought to continue? If he is in Order in moving such an Amendment, would he not then be in Order in discussing the details of the Section?

The Chairman

I am afraid that cannot be done. I have already put to the Committee the Question, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill," and the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) is now in possession of the House.

Mr. Callaghan

May I submit to you, Major Milner, that on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill last year, we had a discussion on the Pensions (Increases) Act which went on, to the best of my recollection, for a couple of hours. What I am putting to you—I do not want to be difficult, but I think this is important—is this: The Committee is being asked to agree to the continuation of Section I of tile Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act. Am I not in Order in giving reasons why I do not think that that Section should be continued? How else may I explain to the Committee why, in certain circumstances, I should not be able to support my right hon. Friend in that particular?

The Chairman

So far, I am with the hon. Member, but in giving his reasons he cannot go into the operation of the Section in connection with particular classes of cases. In general terms, he may refer to the Bill.

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged for what you have said, Major Milner. It gives me an opportunity of continuing to say that I am concerned with the refusal to admit certain people. The Home Secretary is refusing to admit, or is not admitting, certain people. Section 1 (1) of the Act of 1919 gives him power to refuse admission to everybody. I do not think I can really make my argument unless I am entitled to refer to some of the cases he has refused to admit, in order to explain why he should now admit them.

The Chairman

Perhaps the hon. Member will continue.

Mr. Callaghan

Thank you. Major Milner. I put down a Question to the Home Secretary on 17th October asking what his general policy was on the subject of Section I of the Act of 1919. I received the reply that he was prepared to admit immigrants to this country who satisfied him that they were desirable, in so far as it could be fairly done without detriment to the interests of the existing population. That seemed to me to be a pretty good start, and therefore I ask him for further particulars as to those classes which it should cover; and it is to some of the classes that it does not cover that I wish to refer this morning. There are two types. There are people who desire to come here and who have good compassionate reasons for asking to come here—and this country always has been a home for such—and there are other types who should be brought here in the national interest. May I refer to the first type? One case I had was of a small boy aged 12, who stowed away—

The Chairman

The hon. Member cannot go into details of cases. That, obviously, is purely a matter of administration on the part of the Home Office. There are other opportunities for discussing such things.

Mr. Callaghan

I will not discuss any particular case. May I refer, if I may use the Home Secretary's term, to the general interests of the existing population—so that we may promote the national economy? I suggest that is something which we are entitled to raise in this regard. What I am concerned with is the shortage of workers, to which reference has been made, and which, in my judgment, makes it necessary for us to adopt a forward looking policy. I speak with more difficulty, perhaps, than most hon. Members, because in my constituency there is considerable unemployment. Therefore, I am open to great criticism, and I get it. The fact remains that over the country as a whole, as we understand it, there is going to be a shortage of workers. For that reason I suggest that we should adopt a forward-looking policy in agriculture, in the foundries, and in various other industries. I was very pleased to see in "The Times" this morning details of the arrangement that has been made in regard to permission for 2,800 Italian emigrants to come here to work in the iron foundries. That is a great tribute to the trade unions concerned, to the Home Secretary and to all others who helped to make the arrangement. I will not detain the Committee any longer because on this subject I am not quite sure when I am in Order and when I am not. In conclusion I want to say—I think perhaps I would be in Order in saying this—that the Administration—

The Chairman

I am sorry. Administration is not a matter which the hon. Member is entitled to criticise on this occasion.

Mr. Callaghan

I will not detain the Committee any longer except to say that I think on the whole, if my hon. Friend gives me the sort of reply which I think he will be able to give, I shall be able to support him.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

like my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), J am a little puzzled at the appearance in the Schedule to this Bill of the Coal Mines (Minimum.Wage) Act, 1912. When the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill was under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power was profuse in his assurances of the extreme and almost sentimental benevolence with which the new coal industry would be administered. Therefore, it is striking that he, or his Parliamentary Secretary, should, nevertheless, find it necessary to continue in force this Act of 1912 which was originally enacted in very different circumstances. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us why, under the beneficent new dispensation about which we have been told, it is necessary to continue this safeguard. I am the more surprised at the continuance of this Measure from the fact that not more than a fortnight ago the Parliamentary Secretary's chief, the right hon. Gentleman himself, indicated to the House that the discussion of the emoluments and the remuneration of the employees of the Coal Board, in future, would be a matter with which the House should not concern itself. May I refresh the Parliamentary Secretary's memory? On 15th November, the right hon. Gentleman said: There is another point to which the hon. Member referred. He seemed to indicate—and I hope I do not misinterpret what he said—that we are entitled to know all about the wages of miners. Does the hon. Member really suggest that this should be a platform for discussing wages and salaries? Has the House of Commons come to this?"[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 483.] I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain how, within a fortnight of these very words from his chief, the House, in Committee, should have come to this position.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I want to return to the question of aliens and I hope the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will forgive me for not following his argument.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would forgive the hon. Member anything.

Mr. Paget

The argument that I wish to put forward why the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act ought not to be continued is, first, that the Act was for a limited period When an Act is passed for a limited period, it is of the very essence of the decision to make it a limited period Act, that it is recognised as a Measure applicable to certain circumstances, which may pass. I want to argue that the circumstances which justified the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act in the form which it took, both in 1914 and as it was continued, in 1919, no longer exist. That is my first point: the difference between the circumstances which called for the Act and the circumstances which exist today. Then I shall proceed, if I am in Order, to argue that in the existing circumstances the Act in the form in which it is proposed to continue it and in which it was passed in 1914 is inappropriate today. The reasons for it being inappropriate are that its administration entails the exclusion of people who, in existing circumstances, ought not to be excluded, and it does not provide for the exclusion of people who ought to be excluded. I shall argue that although the Home Office ought to have certain power over aliens, it ought not to have these powers. In my humble submission that argument will be in Order. What I wish to say with regard to the circumstances is that we in this country, and in particular, I think, the Home Office, have not recognised the full implications of a policy of full employment. That is the policy today, but it was not the policy, in 1919 or 1914. That change of policy has altered the circumstances—

The Chairman

I am sorry. That is a little far from the point under discussion. I do not think I can allow the hon. Member to initiate a discussion on full employment.

Mr. Paget

With great respect, may I say that the Act of 1914, which was the Act continued in 1919, and which we are asked to continue again, specifically sets out the circumstances of danger which justify the exercise of these powers. When we are asked to continue that Act; surely it must be in Order for us to say that the circumstances which justified the Act in 1914 are not the circumstances which exist today. One matter in which there is a difference between then and now is the general policy of the country—a difference between a policy of restricted competitive outlook, and a policy of full employment. I respectfully submit that it must be in Order, when one is asked to continue an Act, to show that existing circumstances do not justify its continuance. It is precisely the change of policy between 1919 and 1946 which is the change of circumstances. That alteration means that, whereas it was necessary in 1919 to protect the labour in this country from competition which could be brought in and which, in those circumstances, would have created unemployment, that need for protection no longer exists. A policy of full employment means, first, a rising standard of living and, secondly, that—

The Chairman

I have given the hon. Gentleman a good deal of licence, but I cannot allow him to follow his present line of argument, which is too remote from the Bill.

Mr. Peake

On a point of Order. May I submit that the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) are in Order or, at any rate, are a great deal more in Order than those of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) who preceded him?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

They may be less out of Order.

Mr. Peake

The hon. Member for Northampton now seems to be arguing that these powers should not be continued. Surely that is in Order, seeing that the two main reasons which are bound to be advanced by His Majesty's Ministers for the continuance of these powers are, first, national security and, secondly, the protection of the people of this country from cheap labour competition. Surely, it must be in Order for the hon. Member to argue that there is no danger upon the latter ground and, therefore, no reason why, in his view, these powers should be renewed for a further period?

The Chairman

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it has been the invariable rule that it is not permissible on this occasion to criticise administration on the Committee stage of the Bill or to permit discussion on individual cases on this annual Bill. The line is not always easy to draw, and I am always prepared to give what licence I can in a Debate.

Mr. Peake

As I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, he was not dealing with the way in which the matter had been dealt with by the Home Secretary; he was arguing that the powers were unnecessary.

Mr. Paget

I was attempting to argue that, in the existing circumstances, the powers of this Act were unnecessary. It may be that other powers are necessary, but not these. The reason for that point of view—and I am sorry that I must come to the point—is the different policy which circumstances have enabled the Government to put into operation today. Those circumstances are wholly different from those of 1919. With very great respect, and with gratitude to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who put the point very much more clearly than I did, I submit that, on that basis, it must be in Order to try to argue that, with a policy of full employment, these powers are unnecessary, and that is the argument upon which I propose to base my remarks. A policy of full employment means, first, that we are going to have a rising standard of living and, secondly, are going to have a choice of jobs. A choice of jobs inevitably means that there are jobs which are not chosen, and those jobs are, equally inevitably, the least attractive though often the most necessary jobs. One finds that the present shortages of labour existing in the foundries, in the mines and in agriculture are not going to be replaced. As we get a rising standard of living, it will not be a case of more people choosing such jobs, but of less people choosing them. Therefore, unlike 1919, it is no longer necessary to protect the people in those jobs from competition by people who may come to this country. There is also another very strong argument. I am afraid that experience teaches us that when we get a rising standard of living, we inevitably get, in almost precise proportion to that rising standard, a falling birth rate. There is a falling birth rate, and the prospect of a continuing falling birth rate. That was not the position in 1914. Instead of excluding people we ought to be thinking of filling up that section of our age groups which is doing the work of the country.

I hope that the Government will realise that, if we are to work a policy of full employment, that policy must be related to a permanent immigration policy into this country. The thing must be worked out on rational lines, and we must not plunge into it in a haphazard way. An Act which entitles the Home Secretary to restrict the entry of aliens into this country is wholly inappropriate at the present time. What are required are powers to encourage the right immigration and to work out a plan which will dovetail into a full employment policy, and which, alone, can make that policy a success.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee, but I would like to pass one comment on the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I would not venture to keep the discussion on the question of immigration; that would be beyond my power. But I think it is of interest to mention that there was a falling birth rate in the years between the wars, and that there is a rising birth rate at the present time.

12.0 noon.

Mr. Grossman (Coventry, East)

I feel that before we decide to continue this Act, it is important that the Committee should realise that, in continuing it, we are bound to continue a philosophy which is beyond the Act. That has been divided into two parts—the necessity for national security and the necessity for economic security at the time the Act was passed. If we merely continue this particular Act, however, humanely it is administered, the main principle that lies behind it will lie behind the general policy of this country in regard to immigration. I take it that we are entitled to discuss that subject this morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has done a great service in stressing this contrast between national security and economic security as they concerned this country in 1914–19 and as they concern the country today. I would like to refer to one other aspect of the question which has not been touched upon. I regard it as directly related to our national security, that, at this moment, there are about a million persons, without homes or countries, in enemy territory. One million people are living as displaced persons, and room must be found for them in other countries. That is an item of national security in relation to which any immigration policy has to be considered. That problem was not present in 1914 or in 1919. There was no concept at that time, that that problem would face this country. I suggest that before we decide definitely to continue this Act, we should carefully bear in mind these contrasting conditions between 1919 and today. That is only one instance, and we should be perfectly honest and admit to ourselves that, if we cannot relate our immigration policy to that problem of displaced per- sons, we shall endanger our national security by leaving that problem totally unsolved in Europe.

May I turn back to the home side of the case, and show the contrast between 1919 and today? Between 1919 and 1921 there was, for instance, acute unemployment in the building industry. At least, in the city which I represent there were demonstrations by unemployed building workers in the years after the war, and the result was that there was no alternative but to take steps to prevent anything which might threaten the employment of the people. What is the situation in 1946, on the day on which we are deciding to renew an Act drafted in 1919? We are in a situation of acute shortage of building labour—a situation exactly the opposite of that under which this Act which we are being asked to continue was originally approved by the House of Commons. I will quote only one instance to illustrate this change in the situation. I refer to civil engineering. This illustration will give a graphic example of the principle I am discussing. Whereas in 1919 tens of thousands of men were anxious for jobs connected with roads and sewers, the men employed on roads and sewers today in Coventry are solely German prisoners of war. Therefore, I think in discussing the continuance of this Measure it is fitting to point out that, whereas the Act when it was originally passed in 1919 could be justified in terms of economic security for the people of this country, today the same Measure actually prevents the potential introduction to this country of men who are vital for providing the roads and sewers without which we cannot build the houses. That is one graphic example. May I take another—domestic service? In 1914, and even in 1919, when this Act—

The Chairman

I really must draw the line somewhere. I understood that the hon. Member was illustrating a principle, but I cannot allow him to go into a catalogue of detailed categories.

Mr. Crossman

With great respect, I was giving no catalogue. I gave one example to illustrate a principle. Surely, in a Debate on a principle, one may illustrate a principle with an example. It would be difficult for me to explain a principle in purely abstract terms without giving one or two illustrations of it.

The Chairman

The question is how far the hon. Member goes. He can go a certain way, but he certainly cannot go through a catalogue of detailed categories of people who may or may not be admitted to this country under the powers conferred by this Act, one Section of which it is now proposed to continue.

Mr. Crossman

With great respect, Major Milner, you have foresight and, no doubt, can foresee my intentions, but on this occasion my intention was not to give a catalogue, but to illustrate with a graphic example a principle which it is vital to consider before we can decide whether or not to continue an Act drafted in 1914, amended slightly in 1919, but including in it only the philosophy of 1919 and not of 1946. With great respect, I can hardly prove my point without quoting one or two illustrations which, I think, make the principle somewhat clearer, as illustrations usually do. If I may, I would like to deal with the problem of domestic employment in order further to illustrate this principle. In 1914 and 1919 there was a considerable amount of domestic unemployment in this country. Conditions have entirely changed today, and the same applies to the nursing profession. We find profession after profession—I shall not go through the catalogue, Major Milner—in which there were too many people for the jobs in 1919, but where there are now, in 1946, too few people for the jobs.

The question I am raising with the Home Secretary is whether this Measure, in its present form, really fulfils the needs of 1946. In its present form, it is purely a restrictive Measure. What I am stressing in this discussion on principle is that, instead of a Measure of this negative description, there should be an Act with a positive immigration policy and a positive attitude to immigration, which does not say, "We will stop anybody except", but which contains certain positive principles on which to develop our immigration policy in these changed conditions. There are certain industries in which we need these men and women, and we want a positive attitude to this problem in any future Socialist legislation.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

There has been a certain Agag-like quality in the speeches to which we have been listening. The point I wish to raise is a simple one, although it is with a certain sense of delicacy that I do so, because the last thing I wish to do on a Friday is to embarrass such an imposing array on the Government Front Bench. I would like to ask for some explanation of why it is necessary to continue the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919, Section 2. I think it is necessary to understand the full implications of this point, and I hope some explanation may be given. My hesitancy in raising the matter is that I see no one on the Front Bench who is familiar with Scotland to whom I may address my remarks. One looks anxiously for a figure which might look well in a kilt. I think the Home Secretary probably qualifies, but apart from him, I can see no such person. I sincerely hope that before we let this Bill go through, we may have a clear exposition of why the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919, Section 2, should be continued.

Mr. Berry (Woolwich, West)

We are asked to consider whether or not we shall approve the expiring laws in this Schedule. Much attention has been directed to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. I think it is clear that while some of my hon. Friends have pleaded for almost unrestricted immigration, there is a large number of people, including even some in displaced persons camps on the Continent, whom we do not want in this country. We have seen too much trouble caused by first generation, and sometimes second generation, immigrants in this country, to open the door too wide. I am not speaking without paying my tribute to the great assistance this country has had from many of these immigrants. I am not unaware, for instance, that we owe our knowledge of weaving to Flemish immigrants. In various other directions we are indebted to immigrants. The Huguenots are another example. But at the present time I think it is necessary that the Home Office—and I am not too enamoured of certain phases of the administration of the Home Office in this regard; far from it—should have these powers, even though I am of opinion that that while we are considering this Bill consideration should also be given to a more up-to-date Measure. While I say I dislike certain phases of the administration, I could not bring myself to vote against the continuance of Section I of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. However, I would couple with that the hope that the administration will be more in accord with 1946 than, shall we say, 1919. At the same time, if there is a plea for the total removal of the authority of the Home Secretary and his Department over immigration I, for one, in the present state of the world, think it would be entirely unwise.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr.Burke)

I would like to reply to a small point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), which I think I can deal with in a short time. He asked why, seeing that wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony were permanent, there should not have been a permanent Act instead of renewing the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, from time to time. That is quite a fair point. Without going too far back, may I say that I understand that there have been attempts at permanent legislation from time to time. The main difficulty has been on the vexed question of electrical interference. Prior to the war there was a representative committee of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, which published a report on the matter in 1936. The Post Office were considering legislation but found, owing to the outbreak of war, that they could not enter into negotiations with the trading interests and Government Departments. Therefore, the matter was put to one side during the war period. It is hoped, however, to get a simpler form of Act. The Post Office are now considering the matter, and it may be that, in the future we shall be able to do something to deal with that very vexed problem.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr.Gaitskell)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-on-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) both asked why the Government thought it necessary to include the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912, in this Bill. I would like to explain the reasons, in a few words. The right hon. Gentleman is substantially correct in saying that that Act has not the same degree of relevance as it had some years ago, on account of recent awards and agreements. I would not dispute that, but I do not think it is quite correct to say that it has no relevance at all, particularly when we take into account the various district rules which have been made under the Act. However, I would also agree that when the National Coal Board takes over the mines, as it will on January 1st, a new situation is created. But one cannot expect the National Coal Board, in advance, to negotiate afresh a completely new set of wage agreements, or even a consolidation of the existing ones. There is bound to be, as it were, an interim period during which the existing arrangements will continue.

Accordingly, we consulted the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers as to whether they thought it desirable that this Act should be continued. They both came to the conclusion that, on balance, it should. They did so because there was a possibility that if it were not continued an impression might be spread abroad that there was going to be some drastic change in wages. I am not for one moment suggesting that hon. Members opposite would have encouraged any idea that miners' wages were to be reduced, but there are some less well-intentioned persons in the country who might have drawn attention to the fact that this minimum wage was not in operation, and might have misled people into supposing that there were to be some changes. In order to be quite sure of that, the Government have decided to prolong the Act for at least another year. It may well be that in the course of the next year the negotiations between the Coal Board and the unions concerned will lead to fresh agreements, and make it less necessary next year. For the moment, however, it is safer to have it in operation.

Finally, may I say a few words on the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames about wages and salaries paid by the Coal Board? I cannot accept for one moment the analogy which he draws. The Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912, simply provides for the establishment of machinery for settling minimum wages, and various rules under which the minimum wages are to be paid. It does not, of course, deal in detail with individual salaries and wage payments. This is, therefore, quite a different point.

12.15 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Oliver)

The discussion on the Schedule relating to aliens has touched a very large number of points. In replying to many of them I am afraid I shall have to tread a very narrow line; therefore, it will be necessary, to generalise for the purpose of expressing, in a phrase or two, the attitude which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary takes on many of these questions. My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said that the philosophy behind the Acts of 1914 and 1919 was a philosophy which was quite out of date in 1946. I am afraid that the evidence which he adduced to the Committee was of a very partial character. I do not agree that the circumstances are so changed in 1946 as to justify the withdrawal of this Act from the Schedule of this Bill. What would it mean 'if we did so? It would mean that the Home Secretary would have no power to control the inflow to this country of people, desirable or undesirable—and there are many undesirable people in Europe today who would gladly avail themseves of the opportunity to come here. Yet it is suggested that this is not an appropriate occasion to maintain this Section of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, in being.

I am glad that tribute has been paid to my right hon. Friend in the administration of those cases which deal exclusively, on grounds of compassion, with the admission of people to this country. He has administered his powers with humanity and with a progressive outlook. The only other contention is, that now is the time of full employment, whereas in 1914 and 1919 no such principle was adumbrated by the Governments of those days. That may be quite true, but my hon. Friends have given no evidence at all.

Mr. Crossman

We were not allowed to.

Mr. Oliver

Let me put it this way. My hon. Friends complain that building workers are not allowed to come in, civil engineers are not allowed to come in, domestic workers are not allowed to come in, agricultural workers are not allowed to come in, nurses are not allowed to come in. To that complaint the answer is this: the Home Secretary is guided on problems of employment by the Minister specially appointed for the purpose, to wit, the Minister of Labour. If the Minister of Labour says that he is prepared to let in so many agricultural workers, or nurses, or people in the other categories referred to this morning, my right hon. Friend is only too glad and willing, subject to the good character of the person, to permit them to come in. My hon. Friend the Member fop South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) referred to 2,000 Italian workers coming to work in foundries here. That is quite inconsistent with what has been stated, and if the Minister of Labour said that he wanted 10,000 people to come into the country my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would, in the exercise of his power, be quite prepared to admit them.

Mr. Paget

The Northampton General Hospital very urgently required a number of probationer nurses from Austria, but the Ministry of Labour—

The Chairman

Here one sees the difficulty. If we allow a certain amount of licence to discuss detailed cases, the Committee will immediately become involved in a consideration of many other cases. I hope that Members will keep to general principles so far as is possible.

Mr. Oliver

I am sorry if I transgressed, Major Milner, in making a passing reference to the many complaints which have' been lodged. These are matters for the Ministry of Labour, and not so much for the Home Secretary, although final responsibility rests with my right hon. Friend and, therefore, to some extent it is thought that he is the responsible party.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) asked under what power the Home Secretary was exercising his powers in respect of aliens. It is not under any of the Defence Regulations; it is under the Aliens Order, 1920, which was made under the Act of 1914, and extended by the Act of 1919. We are back, as it were, to prewar administration, working precisely the same Order, and there is no question of a Defence Regulation being involved. Another point raised related to, the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act. This Measure was passed just before the outbreak of war, and was designed to last for two years. It has been continued year by year by the operation of this Bill, and we feel that it would not be wise, at this juncture, not to continue this Measure. I am glad to say that, substantially, nothing has happened under this Measure since 1939, but in the disturbed state of Europe today, we feel that it would be as well to continue it until we are a little out of the wood, and know exactly what will happen during the next one or two years.

Mr. Digby (Dorset, Western)

Can the hon. Gentleman say when an Order was last made under the Act?

Mr. Oliver

The bulk of the Orders were made in 1939. I have no information as to the date of the last Order, but I think I can say that for all substantial purposes the Act has operated for the purpose for which it was introduced, and that the intervention of the war years has made such a difference in the position that it is rather difficult to judge whether its powers will be invoked again. I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary. After hearing what I have had to say on the various matters which have been raised, I hope the Committee will permit the Schedule to pass.

Mr. Peake

I would like to express my gratitude to the various Ministers who have endeavoured to explain why the various Measures for which they are responsible form part of this Schedule. I confess, however, that the explanation of the Assistant Postmaster General of why there was not a permanent enactment relating to wireless telegraphy left me in a fog, as did the explanation for the continuation of the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act.

The main discussion has been concerned with the renewal of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, and under your guidance, Major Milner, it was only possible for Members who wished to raise this matter to do so by arguing that all control over immigration should be abolished. I do not think that any Member of the Committee would take up that attitude at the present time unless he were forced to do so for the purposes of debate. The case for the continuation of some powers is absolutely unchallengeable on a wide variety of grounds, including the shortage of houses, foodstuffs, and other things today. I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who advocated that the powers should be swept away, would be the first to realise that you certainly cannot have a planned economy of any sort if you have a wholly unregulated flow of aliens into this country.

With regard to the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act, the words which fell from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department were very pleasing to my ears. It is always nice to hear Ministers on the Treasury Bench arguing in favour of the continuation of, and the necessity for, an Act which, at the time of its introduction, they fought most bitterly Clause by Clause and line by line. No action, apparently, has been taken under that Act since 1939, and the necessity for the continuation of the powers seems a little remote at present. Nevertheless, I approve the action of His Majesty's Government in this matter.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

I understand that the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) asked why we wanted to continue Section 2 of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919, and I apologise for not being here when he asked that question. My absence was due to circumstances quite out of my control. I confess that Section 2 of this Act has not so far been operated. As I think the hon. Member knows, the Section provides for the acquisition by agreement, or compulsorily, of land for reclamation or drainage. We have had drainage legislation since 1939, under which certain drainage work has been facilitated, encouraged, and assisted by the State, but up till now the provisions of this Section have not been operated. I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance, however, that we need this Section of the 1919 Act, and indeed, at the moment we are engaged in discussions for the voluntary acquisition of land for reclamation, so that we may add to the agricultural land of this country. I hope the hon Gentleman will not now ask me for any details of the land I have in mind, but I assure him it is absolutely necessary, if we are to do any reclamation work in this country, that we should continue to have Section 2 of the 1919 Act.

Mr. Maclay

May I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for giving that explanation, which is very much appreciated?

Question, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.