§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I beg to move, in page r, line 6, after "trends," to insert:and the provision of a statistical service for industry.The object of this Amendment is to fulfil a promise made by my hon. Friend during the Committee stage of the Bill when he promised to put in some words in order to show that the Bill was not merely for the purpose of providing the Government and Government Departments with statistics but also with a view to providing statistics for the use of industry itself.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
We regard this Amendment as making an improvement in the Bill. It was a defect to which I drew attention in the course of the Second Reading Debate. There was no provision whereby information obtained under Clause I could be made available for industry to whom such information might be of the greatest value. I would like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give a little more information about the manner in which this statistical service will be furnished in regard to periodical or other estimates or returns which might be called for by no less than 21 Government Departments. There must be some method of centralising information obtained. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman contemplate the provision of any further statistics in addition to those already contained in the most valuable Green Book?
There may be a considerable gap between the information obtained under this Clause and information disclosed to industry subsequently. Can the President of the Board of Trade give an assurance that a11 the information obtained by means of these returns and estimates will be used for the purposes of this statistical service for industry? Or will some of that be excluded from being taken into account for the purposes of furnishing statistics? The Amendment we have on the Order Paper 1440 —in page I, line 6, leave out from "and," to "it," in line 7, and insert:of providing general surveys of and information as to the state of trade and business,covers two points, the second of which is for the very thing for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman provides here. The first point remains. While I welcome this Amendment, I should be glad if the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or the learned Solicitor-General, could give a further indication as to the manner in which the information obtained will be made available to industry.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
Will this information be produced in a way which will help the individual firm, or will it merely be available to trade associations? What provision is to be made, in view of the time lag which must take place, if the full provisions of the Bill are carried out, for ascertaining that the information obtained is of real value to industry? A full census might take a considerable time, and in view of that time lag, I would like to know how the President of the Board of Trade thinks the information can be made of value to industry. Will the information be split up? Will there be a service so that any firm can write in to the Board of Trade asking for the latest information on a particular point, or will they be told that they can only ask within the terms of reference of any particular census? In other words, is there to be a pool from which any industrialist can get information to meet his immediate requirements?
We welcome this Amendment because it means that industry is going to get out of the Bill something for which it has a very real need. But, unless the President of the Board of Trade can tell us something more about it, rather more perhaps than a promise given in Committee, we may feel a little dubious of its effect. If he could give more information, it would be of great help.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
I always understood that one of the objections of hon. Members opposite was that 1441 we were to get information some of which might not be in the general interest of the trade if it were made public. I hope that totals of any additional information which can be given without in any way injuring individual firms, will be so given, because there are existing gaps in the main statistical service. But I hope at the same time adequate caution will be used in disclosing information which might be prejudicial to individual firms. We have to be very careful how this is done.
§ Mr. C. Williams
The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) is quite right. Under no circumstances should we accept an Amendment from this Government without grave suspicion. I congratulate the hon. Member on his forethought on this occasion. It is most necessary when we have these methods of collecting trade statistics, that we should safeguard trade secrets, which are of value to firms, and which should be protected. I have an idea that that is covered in the Bill, but I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the worthy way in which he has looked after the interests of the nation as a whole.
I join with my hon. Friends in thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for meeting us on this point. Originally, the idea was that the statistics were wanted for the good of the Government. Of course, the Government have lots of time to waste, and lots of officials, and they can absorb as much statistics as they like. But, if we are forcing individuals to collect statistics, at least it is fair to the individuals themselves that that information should be available to them, if it is of any advantage to them, apart from trade secrets. In many cases, it may be of very real service to them. It may be that anyone developing, say, for example, the sale of engines might wish to know whether they have a good market in South America or South Africa or wherever it may be. I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on having brought in the Amendment. Has he any idea as to the approximate cost of these arrangements, because unless the Government are to give these statistics free to people, there will be a charge of some kind? We might be told whether the cost will be comparatively negligible or whether it is intended to flood every sort of trader with every sort 1442 of figure that is collected from all over the world, which would cost a great deal of money and use a lot of paper?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is frightfully busy providing pains and penalties throughout this Bill. He is a tremendous believer in compulsion which he can inflict. Will it be compulsory for people to read these statistics? If this is just a preliminary to some other Bill to make people read these statistics and pass an examination, I do not think that this Clause is as good as we think it to be. This provision was not in the Bill originally. It was not intended to let the traders have the knowledge. The Govenment are correcting what was either a gross mistake on the part of the Government in drafting the Bill or a deliberate intention that these people should not have this knowledge. It would be of great advantage if the House were told why this point was not in the original Bill. Have the Opposition always got to put these provisions in to secure that fairness is preserved under this Bill? It is rather remarkable that this provision was not in the original Bill. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to explain how the mistake arose, and that also he will be able to give us a word or two as to whether this information is to be free, or whether it is to be paid for, and whether there are any penalties for not reading the information. The President of the Board of Trade looks awfully severe at that suggestion. I hope that I have not nipped in the bud a scheme for making traders everywhere read these statistics of trade. We have to look at these matters with great caution.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Could the President of the Board of Trade clarify the position, because these words, by themselves, are quite valueless? All they say is that certain powers shall be given for the purpose of providing a statistical service for industry. I do not know whether there are other Amendments later in the Bill which make that information available, but merely to collect information for thepur- pose of providing a service, and making that information available, are quite different matters. I would like the right hon. and learned Gentleman's assurance that there is some means by which this power, having been taken, can be implemented by the service being made available.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the permission of the House, I will reply to points which have been raised. The information was always intended to be available but hon. Members opposite said that it was not in the Bill and they thought it advisable to have some phrases included to cover the point. The purpose is that the Statistical Digest should be greatly extended to cover a wider and wider area. Inevitably there will be a lot of specialised information for specialised industries which will not be of interest to readers of the Statistical Digest, which might be dealt with through the trade associations, development councils and bodies of that kind. There may be information which is only required administratively and which would not help traders if published. The purpose is to give as wide a statistical service as possible from which traders can benefit as much as, if not more than, the Government. It is not intended to set up a consultant statistical service—that would be far too complicated and expensive—but to provide the country and industry as a whole with as wide a range of useful statistics as we can.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
The only information available to industry would be that published by the Board of Trade?
§ Sir S. Cripps
Published by the Board of Trade, or published to industry, if not of general interest.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am sure it is the intention that where this information is obtained periodically, it will be made available to industry at the earliest possible moment?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page, I, line 6, to leave out from the end of the words last inserted, to "it," in line 7.
This is a slight variation from the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper, the reason for the variation being 1444 that we have accepted the previous Amendment. I regard the point raised by this Amendment as being one of considerable importance. I appreciate that the Amendment has come up for discussion at a time when the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot be present, and I am not complaining that he is not here, but I am sorry. I should have liked him to hear the arguments that we shall put forward from this side of the House. In his previous reply, he indicated the various categories of statistics which it is intended to collect under Clause I. In the course of doing so he referred to administrative statistics. I am somewhat in the dark to know what he means by that. It will be appreciated that under this Clause the statistics can be obtained for two purposes, for the appreciation of economic trends, and for the discharge, by Government Departments, of their functions. The statistics are for those two purposes only.
In the course of the Committee stage the Parliamentary Secretary made the statement, which I have read, and which has left me completely confused, that the statistics which would be collected under Clause, r would be of two kinds; there would be those which would be collected for administrative purposes and those which would be collected for their own value. Does he mean by "those collected for their own value" those collected for the purpose of obtaining information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends? What are the other statistics he wants? I ask this question, because if Clause r is considered together with subsequent Clauses of this Bill, it is making a vast change in the criminal law of this country. One of the competent authorities under Clause I is the Home Office, a Department which is concerned with the maintenance of law and order. That is one of its functions. Under this Clause it can require any personto furnish, in such form and manner as may be specified in the notice, such periodical or other estimates or returns, about such of the matters set out in the Schedule to this Act as may be so specified.The Schedule is virtually all embracing, and so one arrives at the position that, without the leave of anyone, the Home Office can serve a notice, if this Bill is passed in its present form, upon a person saying in effect, "You must give me this information. If you don't, you will be guilty of a criminal offence and, if you 1445 do, we can use it in evidence against you." I have said before in the course of our discussions upon this Bill that the presence of those words, which are so vague and general in their character, arouses grave doubts in my mind as to the manner in which the powers conferred by this Bill can be applied.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider, if it is not intended to use these powers in that way, whether the position can be cleared up. For instance, the Ministry of Food could serve a requirement upon a person to give all sorts of information about where he last was able to get a chicken from under the counter, or a pound of cheese, or from where he gets his eggs. The Board of Trade could require information regarding prices paid for particular articles. If it is not intended to use it in that way, arc there really any other administrative statistics which come within the heading:Information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends?If I am right in putting forward the suggestion that the statistics necessary for administrative purposes are also statistics which will be necessary for the Government to have for the appreciation of economic trends, then the presence of these words:for the discharge by Government Departments of their functions.is entirely unnecessary, because the Government Departments will be entitled to get all that they require to have for that purpose under the words which are already in the Clause.
Therefore, I say that the Government must make it quite clear what is the object of having in the Bill this very vague phrase. Is there any intention to use that power, by any Government Department, for the purpose of obtaining evidence compulsorily which may be used against an individual in the event of a criminal prosecution? We ought to have the clearest possible assurance upon that point. If there is any intention to use it in that manner, as I pointed out on the Second Reading, it is making a tremendous change in the existing law of evidence in this country. It is rendering a complete farce the policeman's warning that, "You need not say anything unless you care to do so, and if you do, it may be used in evidence against you." I hope that the Govern- 1446 ment will agree to the deletion of these words. If they are not prepared to do that, I hope that at any rate they will undertake to consider the inclusion of words to make it absolutely clear beyond doubt that not one of these 21 competent authorities can use the powers conferred upon them by this Clause for the purpose of obtaining evidence for use in criminal prosecutions in a manner in which it could not now be obtained under the law of our land.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I beg to second the Amendment.
This is a matter upon which the Government must make their position clear. Earlier today we discussed the introduction of a new Clause which was so wide in its application that it could have meant anything or nothing. After protests from this side of the House, the Government have decided to introduce in another place limiting words. We are now faced with an exactly similar position. Are we to view this Bill as a means of helping industry, of promoting the welfare of industry, for which both sides of the House stand, or alternatively is this a preparation for the introduction, at any stage where it may be required, of penal legislation? In other words, are the Government out to do what they have stated, to fulfil the pledges of the Coalition White Paper of 1944, or is this a Measure to prepare the way even more directly, as many other Measures have done in this present Session, for siege economy?
I would like to remind hon. Members of what was said in Committee upstairs on this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary said:May I first reply to the hon. Gentleman …who has correctly quoted the White Paper and points out that we are proposing to go a good deal further than it was suggested should be done by the Coalition Government. It is not at all surprising that we are proposing to go a good deal further than the Coalition Government in many respects."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 18th March, 1947, C. 29.]This was followed by one of those extraordinary statements, which alas the Solicitor-General makes on too many occasions. He said:First, I think that everybody in the Committee will agree that one starts from this general position, that it is in the public interest that criminal proceedings, where they ought to be brought, should not be hampered through the want of any information that is available. That is in the general public interest and I would suggest to the Committee—1447 And then he was interrupted.
The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskiee)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really suggest that that is an astonishing statement?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
If I may be allowed to continue what I am saying, I shall be able to prove it. The Solicitor-General was interrupted there by his hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Then he went on:'' I am much obliged; the hon. Member allowed me to deliver myself of about three sentences before getting up to interrupt.The Solicitor-General has offered me the same courtesy this afternoon:I started from what I conceive to be the general principle that public interest…And these are the vital words:…requires that, where an offence has been committed, those who are charged with the duty of instituting proceedings should have at their disposal such information as there is to have."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C. 25th March, 1947, C. 105.]
§ The Solicitor-General indicated assent.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I am glad that the Solicitor-General stands by that. Surely, the House will realise that that is a complete contradiction of all the known - rules which we have had up till now. The Solicitor-General knows far better than I do in how many cases the police have not been able to bring prosecutions because the evidence has not been available. I think he will agree that it is a tradition of which we should be proud that, in this country at least, we are not forced to give away through the imposition of Measures such as this, through the secret police, or whatever it may be, information which subsequently is used to convict us. It would seem to me that the Solicitor-General, particularly after what he has said this afternoon, stands by the view that if any law is now broken it is the duty of the Government to impose legislation to make it as easy as possible for the offender to be caught, and that where it is possible, as apparently it is under this Clause, to use information forced out of a man, it is only right and proper that it should be done. If he stands by the two passages I have read, it is a complete negation of everything for which we in this country stand.
If it is the intention by means of this vague phrase to institute a means which 1448 will undermine our whole criminal law system, I can only reinforce what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) that the Government should make their position clear. What do they mean by the phrase concerning the execution of a Government Department's functions and by administrative statistics? We know how over the last 15 years slight and ambiguous phrases have later been used when it happened to suit somebody's purpose, and we know how phrases can be twisted, developed and turned. If this is a Bill designed solely to help industry and purely to implement a high and stable level of economy, there can be no need for these things. On the other hand, is this Bill—this particular Clause and others—designed to promote first of all the power of the Government to prepare for siege economy and, in the words of the Solicitor-General, the reverse of the age-old saying that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty? It is up to the Government to say on which side they stand.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
The Opposition are making tremendously heavy weather about this thing They are working up a case, but there is nothing in it all—or practically nothing. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) comes forward with some idea that the Home Office would use these statistics. These statistics will be primarily used by the Departments that are dealing with industry. I cannot imagine for one moment that the Home Office—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It the hon. Member looks at Clause 16 (2) he will see that the Home Office is one of the competent authorities.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
May I point out secondly that there is absolutely no limit to the questions the Home Office can ask under Clause 2 (1)?
I do not dissent at all from what the hon. and learned Member says. What I say is that one must obviously apply the thing reasonably and sensibly, and the Home Office are not going to do what he suggests. If the Opposition will look at the Government's Amendment to Clause 9, page 5, line 17, 1449 to leave out "criminal proceedings," and to insert:proceedings for an offence under this Act.—they will find that to some extent at any rate some of their arguments are being met. The Opposition are trying to say that the Government should use these statistics for purely academic purposes. That is not the case. Obviously we want to collect the statistics and to use them. I was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) refer to the 1944 White Paper on Employment Policy. That is exactly the kind of thing this Bill is intended for. It is designed to enable statistics of the national income to be collected in order to enable the Government to carry out a definite full employment policy. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take a very strong line about this because what the Opposition are suggesting is virtually a wrecking Amendment which would gravely impede Government Departments in carrying out their functions under this Bill.
§ Mr. Marlowe
If this is a wrecking Amendment as the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) suggests, it is only wrecking in a sense that it is preventing Government Departments from using powers which they ought never to have. There is a pathetic simplicity in his belief of the way Government Departments act. He says that the Clause will only be used for certain purposes. Why does he object to us ensuring that those purposes are in the Bill? The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the purposes for which these powers will be used are limited to the purposes for which he believes they will be used. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) did not overstate the case when he said that this was a very important Amendment, because it goes to the very root of this Bill. What is the object of the Bill? I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make this clear. On the Second Reading the President of the Board of Trade, in referring to the object of the Bill, used these words:It is intended to bring up to date the central collection of statistics by the Government so that reliable information may be provided for industry, for merchants, for financiers and others who are interested for their livelihood in these matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January 1947: Vol. 432, c. 36.]1450 As it stands, inquiry may be made not merely for those purposes but for any purpose any Government Department may require. There is no question that cannot be asked. It does not matter whether it is in relation to the economic trends of the countries, which I understood to be the main intention of the Bill, or not. If some Government official who comes within the authority of the Bill wakes up one morning and says, "I will ask so and so where he went last weekend or where he is going next weekend, or where he dined last night," there is nothing to prevent him doing so. Does the Minister want that?
At the time of the General Election hon. Gentlemen belonging to the party opposite spoke in terms of scorn when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) used words identifying the present Government with the Gestapo, but is he not now fully justified? These are exactly the powers which the Gestapo had of inquiring into any matter which they chose to inquire into and having sanctions to enforce an answer. I never expected any Government Department to seek powers of this kind The Home Secretary, who has just joined us. is probably not yet aware that under this Bill he will have powers considerably in excess of any which any Home Secretary has ever before possessed. In the inquiry into criminal proceedings, for instance, he will be able, if he likes, to enforce answers which may be used against people in a way which has never before been known in our legal history
The hon. Member for Accrington drew attention to a subsequent Amendment of the Government's and seemed to feel that there was something worthy about it. He is not perhaps aware that that is our Amendment which was rejected by the Solicitor-General on the Committee stage. Such limitations as are contained in that subsequent Amendment were put in by the Opposition. The hon. Member for Accrington should not think that the President of the Board of Trade has of his own volition done anything to limit the powers under this Clause as it now stands. This is a montrous Clause, empowering Government Departments to go snooping and prying into the private life of anyone they like. It is a matter of fundamental importance, and ought not to be allowed.
§ Mr. Belcher
I find it difficult to believe that the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) and his hon. Friends regard this Clause as being quite so monstrous as they say. It is difficult to believe that a right hon. Gentleman who has had the charge of a great Department of State should not understand how necessary it is for Government Departments to be in possession of factual information to enable them to construct their policies. I would ask him, how would he ration food or clothing or fuel unless he was in possession of factual and detailed information about the stocks of, say, fuel in the possession of certain people and about the requirements of certain individuals? How could any sensible scheme be devised for distributing what stocks there are in the country unless there is that information? That information is required for administrative purposes, not for general statistical purposes; not for statistics for their own sake, but to enable a Government Department to do its job. I would suggest that, if this Amendment were to be accepted or carried, it would have the effect of preventing a Government Department from acquiring the information without which it could not possibly do its job.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Does the Parliamentary-Secretary really say that information as to stocks of fuel, and so on, would not be obtainable under the beading of statistics "necessary for the appreciation of economic trends"?
§ Mr. Belcher
I certainly do. It may be necessary at any moment, as a matter of emergency, to make an inquiry into any commodity in this country, not for the purpose of ascertaining the economic trend, not for the purpose of working out what will happen next year or the year after, but for the purpose of deciding what can be done administratively at this moment to give to the people what they require. It may be necessary to allocate raw materials. That is not a matter of an economic trend, but of deciding what is to be done with the materials at hand.
§ Mr. Marlowe
If such figures as that do not come within the definition of economic trends, do they at least not come within our own words:providing general surveys of and information as to the state of trade and business"?He could have those figures on our Amendment.
§ Mr. Belcher
Yes, that particular part of the Amendment is quite unexceptional and acceptable; in fact, we have already, in bur own Amendment which preceded this one, done what the Opposition want to do, and, I think, have done it more effectively. What I am concerned with is the part of the Amendment which would make it impossible for a Government Department to acquire statistics for its own administrative purposes. A great deal of play has been made with the suggestion that a Department such as the Home Office might use information so received for purposes of a criminal prosecution, and this would be, in the words of the hon. and learned Member, a drastic departure from our practice hitherto. Attention has already been drawn to the Government Amendment to Clause 9 (1, b). An Amendment has been put down by the Government which indicates the Government's intention, and if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite feel so strongly as they do about this matter, then I have no doubt at all that, when we come to Clause 9, they will be wholeheartedly in support of the Government Amendment which seeks to put right what they have suggested is wrong, namely that a Government Department—and they quoted the Home Office—might obtain information from individuals which would be used subsequently against those individuals in a criminal prosecution and that, as the Bill stands at present, might be the case. However, if they will look at the Amendment down in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend to page 5, line 17, to leave out "criminal proceedings," and to insert "proceedings for an offence under this Act", they will see that this would be out of Order.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to discuss a future Amendment? Shall I be able to talk on that when it comes up later?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
It is not in Order to discuss on this Amendment matters arising on a later Amendment.
§ Mr. Belcher
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was merely trying to explain why the apprehensions of hon. Members opposite on this point were unfounded, but we can discuss that later. In the meantime, I hope the House will not accept this Amendment which is, in the 1453 words of one of my hon. Friends, a wrecking Amendment because, if carried, it would deprive Government Departments of information without which it is utterly impossible for them to do their work.
§ 1.45 P.m.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I thank the hon. Gentleman for having completely wrecked the speech of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot); at any rate, he has done that if nothing else. The hon. Member for Accrington rose in a great state of flurry and flourish and began accusing the Opposition of all sorts of wrecking Amendments. I suppose he was put up to that by one of his Front Bench Whips to try to stir up the Opposition. Well, if that was the object of the Whip, he will not move me one way or the other. Having made out that there was nothing in our case, in spite of the evidence of his present position, the hon. Gentleman then said there was really practically nothing in it. That is in accordance with his behaviour and, by saying there was practically nothing in it, he has admitted that there is something in it. That is a great thing to have got out of him. Then he went on to show his supreme ignorance of this Government, and of many other Governments, by saying that we could pass a law like this because we could be certain that the Government Departments would apply it sensibly. There have been few Government Departments that, if given power, have not applied that power sooner or later not sensibly, but in an arrogant manner. That is the danger this Amendment seeks to remove; the arrogance of Government Departments in acquiring information for what they say are the purposes for which they can use it, and then proceeding to apply that information in all sorts of ways to the detriment of trade.
Up to that point the Parliamentary Secretary has been helpful to me, and for the remainder of the few remarks I may make, I can assure him that he has strengthened considerably, as he almost invariably does, the case which, by his own remarks, he was trying to weaken. He is very effective in that, and I only wish the Home Secretary knew with what zeal he pursues the policy of destroying the Government's purposes, or rather, showing them up a little too clearly. He said the real reason was that the Government really must have factual informa- 1454 tion for the conduct of their Departments. Have not the Government enough information at the present time, with all the Orders, with which to carry on, without seeking this new line of collecting information, as they do under the few words "for the discharge by Government Departments of their functions"? They are very wide enabling every and any Government Department suddenly to declare that they can interfere with trade or anything else they like. They only have to say, using those words which we seek to remove, that they wish to do something, that they want some factual information—to use the words of the Parliamentary Secretary. I am always interested in people who use the word "factual". They think it is new; it is really very old and not even good English
To go on from that, he then became extremely helpful to us as an Opposition. He said the need for this power was because of rationing. Here again, I think he enlarged very considerably on what we thought the Bill did. Apparently, the real objective of the Bill is permanently to impose rationing on this country. He went on to say that he wanted it for the control of industry.
§ Mr. Belcher
I am quite certain I did not say that I wanted it for the control of industry. If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of consulting HANSARD, he will find that I said nothing at all about controlling industry.
§ Mr. Williams
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me what he said, then? If he wishes to interrupt me, I will give way with my usual courtesy. It may well be that he did not use the word "control", but I definitely wrote down the word "control". He may have said something else, and if he will tell me what he said I will accept it. At any rate, the impression on my mind was that he said the Government wanted it for the purposes of controlling industry. I am assuming from the words I took down, having listened to him with great respect and as hard as I could, that the real purpose of the Government in rejecting this Amendment is that they realise there is a great deal more in it than the hon. and innocent Member for Accrington ever imagined— although I do not think he is really as innocent as one might think. I imagine he thought that, after the muddle the 1455 Government have made today, it was about time they had the benefit of his wisdom.
The real reason that this Amendment is not accepted is because the object of the Bill is to enable the Government to collect more and more statistics and to enable any Government Department to collect all the information they want, so that they can have greater powers of imposing perpetual rationing and of controlling industry. In other words, this is an indication of the perpetual chains in which the Government wish to keep British industry.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
I believe the President of the Board of Trade is correct in asking for information to be collected by means of this Bill and to be made available to Government Departments for their own purposes. It seems that hon. Members opposite do not want Government Departments to be in possession of vital information which is necessary for the future planning and development of our economic resources. Apparently, they want to go back to the old days of so-called free and unfettered private enterprise, which existed between the two wars, and which led the economy of the nation into a state of the utmost chaos, creating serious unemployment and many other problems, due largely to a lack of planned central control. Therefore, when hon. Members opposite ask us to go back to the old order of things, without any central direction or planning of our economy, they are asking us to go back to the old world which many of us knew as one of great poverty, unemployment and maladministration.
§ Mr. Sparks
I can understand why hon. Members opposite do not want a planned economy. They do not want any means whereby the future of our industrial enterprise can be effectively planned and developed. Their arguments are very fantastic. I do not think they are by any means sound, and I welcome the fact that our new Government, with a new conception of economic planning, are laying down in this Bill a means by which they can more effectively plan the economy of this country in order that we can avoid the errors of the past which were created by the policies of Governments of the party opposite.
§ Mr. Sparks
I have. The Amendment is designed to delete from the Clause the words:for the discharge by government departments of their functions.
§ Mr. Sparks
Hon. Members opposite do not want Government Departments to be in possesion of this information for the discharge of their functions.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) said he welcomed the advent of the Government who believed in the new idea of economic planning. All I can say is, he represents an increasingly small proportion of the population who welcome such planning, as it results in decreased rations and everything else. When we were discussing the Government's proposed new Clause, the Parliamentary Secretary was absent at one point—I am not complaining—when I quoted from a speech which he made in winding up the Second Reading Debate. If I may be permitted, as the hon. Gentleman is now with us again, I will remind him of what he said on that occasion. He said;…the only reason for seeking the powers is in order that we may be the better able to survey and plan the industry of this country in the interests of full employment.… At this stage, we are concerned with establishing a principle—the principle that the Government require power to obtain information about the state of trade in this country in order that both the Government and industry shall be able, more effectively, to deal with the various issues which arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1947; Vol. 432, C.141.]Our submission is that if the Parliamentary Secretary really believes what he said on the Second Reading—as I am sure he does—and if, which is, perhaps, a little more doubtful, he is accurately representing the views of his colleagues, the words which the President of the Board of Trade agreed to insert this morning, together with the words already in the Bill, but without the words which we wish to omit, amply cover that purpose.
I think we are entitled still to be suspicious about the real objects which the Government have in view in this Bill.
1457 The Parliamentary Secretary referred to a subsequent Amendment, and I should be out of Order in referring to it in any detail. However, the mere fact that the Solicitor-General was unable, in the course of the discussion on this Amendment, to refrain from repeating what he had said in Committee—which we shall have occasion to quote later on—shows that in his mind, at all events,' he is not solely concerned with obtaining information which will be of value for planning industry and enabling industry to have a proper statistical service, but that his mind is concerned mainly with obtaining information which can be used for other purposes.
I am sure the hon. Member for Acton would agree with us in this. We want to get a proper statistical service, both for the Government and also for industry. We really do. But we do not want to go any further. If the Government are sincere in their view that that, and that alone, is what they require, then I suggest to them that they ought to consider the acceptance of, not necessarily the particular wording of our Amendment, but similar wording to make it quite clear that the only object they have in view is what was so rightly described by the Parliamentary Secretary in the speech to which I have just referred.
Perhaps hon. Members will take the trouble to look at the Schedule. I find it very difficult to believe that the whole of this information set out in the Schedule is reasonably required on every possible occasion. Also, do not let the House forget that as far as this particular Clause is concerned, the Government are entitled to ask for any or all of this information, at any time, however often they like, and from however many or however few people they choose. I invite the House to look at the information for which the Government can ask at any time, as often as they like, and from as many or as few people as they like, as set out in the Schedule:The nature of the undertaking and the date of its acquisition.It is difficult to understand why that should be put in for the purposes of fulfilling the functions of the Government. Why is the date of acquisition required for the functions of the Government?The persons employed or normally employed (including working proprietors), the nature of their employment, their remuneration and the hours worked.1458 Those, I suggest, are all reasonable things for which to ask in certain directions; we can well believe that that information would be of advantage for the general statistical service.The output, sales, deliveries, and services provided;again not unreasonable—the articles acquired or used, orders, stocks and work in progress;I pause here to remind the House that the Parliamentary Secretary said that, unless the Government have all these very extensive powers, rationing would be impossible. But rationing was instituted before this Bill, and has existed for some time. It is quite clear that, in fact, rationing can be conducted, and has been conducted, without the extremely wide powers in this Bill to which we object. He said that these powers were necessary in order to allocate raw materials. But raw materials have been allocated without this Bill, and without the possession of these particular powers to which we are taking exception. Raw materials can be allocated and rationing can be conducted by the terms of the Clause as it would stand after acceptance of the Amendment of the President of the Board of Trade, and if our Amendment were accepted, too. The Schedule goes on:the outgoings and costs (including work given out to contractors, depreciation, rent, rates and taxes,…) and capital expenditure; the receipts of and debts owed to the undertaking; the power used or generated; the fixed capital assets, the plant, including the acquisition and disposal of those assets and that plant, and the premises occupied.It seems to me that the only thing which the Parliamentary Secretary might add is: "age, sex and occupation of the proprietor."
I hope I have shown, to the satisfaction of any reasonable Member of the House, that the Clause as amended, without the particular words to which we take exception, will do everything the Government need. If the Government would only accept our Amendment, or something substantially like it in an other place, I am quite sure they would be doing advantage to themselves, because it would remove a suspicion which is very widely held at present, and would certainly facilitate the voluntary co-operation of both large and small businesses up and down the country, 1459 without which I seriously suggest that this Bill, even if it passes into law and becomes an Act, will not be as effective as it otherwise would be.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 188; Noes, 60.1461
|Division No. 143.]||AYES.||[2.06 p.m.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Parker, J.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Paton. Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Ganley, Mrs. C. [...].||Piratin, P.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Awbery, S. S||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Popplewell, E.|
|Ayles, W H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Baird, J.||Gunter, R. J.||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Barstow, P. G.||Guy, W. H.||Randall, H. E.|
|Barton, C.||Hale, Leslie||Ranger, J.|
|Battley, J. R.||Hall, W. G.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Royle, C.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Sargood, R.|
|Benson, G.||Hardman, D. R.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Berry, H.||Hardy, E. A.||Sharp, Granville|
|Beawick, F.||Harrison, J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Simmons, C. J.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Haworth, J.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Binns, J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Hicks, G.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Boardman, H.||'Hobson, C. R.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Holman, P.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||House, G.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Bramall, E. A.||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverh'pton, W.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Stamford, W.|
|Brown, T J (Ince)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Steele, T.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Stephen, C.|
|Buchanan, G.||Janner, B.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Burden, T. W.||Jay, D. P. T.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Callaghan, James||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Stubbs, A. E|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Symonds, A. L.|
|Chater, D.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Kinley, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cocks, F S.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Collins, V. J||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Leslie, J. R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Tiffany, S.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Longden, F.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Dainee, P.||Lyne, A. W||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Mack, J. D.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Walkden, E.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Walker, G. H.|
|Deer, G.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Marquand, H. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Dobbie, W.||Medland, H. M.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mellish, R. J.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Middleton, Mrs. L||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mitchison, G. R||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Montague, F||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Morley, R.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Edelman, M.||Mulvey, A||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Naylor, T. E.||Woodburn, A.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Wyatt, W.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Follick, M.||Palmer, A. M. F||Mr. Pearson and|
|Foot, M. M||Pargiter, G. A.||Mr. Michael Stewart.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Fletcher, W. (Bury)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Gel. O. E.||Fox, Sir G.|
|Birch, Nigel||Crowder, Capt. John E.||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)|
|Bower, N.||De la Bère, R.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Gage, C.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)|
|Challen, C.||Erroll, F. J.||Harris, H. Wilson|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Nicholson, G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Teeling, William|
|Keeling, E. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A. F|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K||Pitman, I. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Marsden, Capl. A.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Maude, J. C.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Stuart. Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||Mr. Drewe and Major Conant|
§ Sir S. Cripps
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, after "manner," to insert "and within such time."
This is merely a drafting Amendment, in order to clarify the fact that the time within which these returns shall be made shall also he specified.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
This is, of course, to some extent, a drafting Amendment, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said; and it is quite clear that it was due to a defect in the drafting of the Bill that this point was omitted. At the same time, I would point out that, under this Amendment, it will be possible for any Government Department to prescribe as much time as it likes. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider—I do not want to take up any time on this, because I should like us to make progress—whether, in another place, he could cause an Amendment to be put into the Bill to say something like this, "within such time not being less than 14 days." There really ought to be some provision to ensure that the industry and person upon whom notice is served shall have proper opportunity for complying with the requirements. One does not want the whole of an undertaking upset by the necessity to divert attention from production to the filling in of a form, that it must fill in within a few days or, maybe a few hours, because of the time specified in the notice, and because the Government Department concerned, had it been more efficient, could have served the notice earlier, so that the questions could have been answered without any interruption of business. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would consider doing something of that sort. If he would, we could, perhaps, pass this Amendment with comparative speed.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not think we could put such words in here. I do not think it would be quite appropriate. There may 1462 be an urgent matter—for instance, the ascertaining of stocks in an emergency—and it may be necessary to get returns within less than T4 days. This proposal would unduly tie down the administration. Quite obviously, people must be given reasonable time, except in an emergency, so that we may get good results. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman can rely on us to see that this is wisely used.
Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I beg to move, in page I, line 12, at the end, to insert:(2) The notice shall state that it is served under this section of this Act and generally the purpose for which the estimate or return is required.I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will feel that progress would be accelerated if he felt able to accept this Amendment, because I hope that he will allow, after explanation, that this is a thoroughly reasonable one. I think the Parliamentary Secretary, during the course of the proceedings upstairs, indicated that he appreciated, and that his officials appreciated, that to get the best out of industry it would be helpful if industry itself were clear as to the purposes for which the returns are required. A firm asked to fill in a very complicated questionnaire ought to know, we feel, whether the competent authority is using its powers on its own behalf—as, for instance, the Ministry of Agriculture asking for agricultural returns for its own purposes or whether the inquiry is part of a general census of production.
We suggest that it will be for the long-term advantage of the Government to try, not only to retain the confidence of industry, but also to gain it. One of the obvious ways of doing that is to ensure that the particular industry concerned should have the chance of discussing with the Board of Trade or other competent authority the general lay-out of the questions on the paper that members of the industry are 1463 to be asked to answer. It is true that, in the Bill as it stands, there is provision for an advisory committee to advise the Board of Trade. But that advisory committee is mainly for the purpose, as we understand it, of carrying out a census, and we feel that there would be great advantage in industry itself if the people could be told whether the questionnaire which calls for statistics is concerned with that particular industry and is not for the general purpose of a census of distribution. It would be better if that industry could be consulted, and if an advisory committee or something corresponding to it could be set up in each industry to advise the Government on how this should be done. We gathered from the discussions held upstairs that the Parliamentary Secretary does not approve of that idea, and, therefore, we hope that the Amendment which we have drafted, although by no means the best—we would have preferred an advisory committee, and this is the next best thing—is at least a means of revising the questionnaire and providing some sort of guidance, while providing some assurance concerning the purpose for which the person concerned is being asked to go to all this trouble and expense in order to provide these statistics.
§ Sir S. Cripps
If the offer of the right hon. Gentleman for making co-operative progress is a real one, I am quite prepared to consider playing my part in that co-operation by trying to arrive at some compromise on some of these Amendments, and I must take him at his word—I would never do less—and say that I should be quite glad to accept this Amendment. I only make this reservation—that I think the new form of words should refer to estimates or returns in the plural, but that is a matter which can easily be put right in another place. We therefore, in the full faith that we are assisting the rapid passage of the Bill, accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We ought to have seen the printer's error and put it right, because we had intended to put the words in the plural. I do not think it would be quite fair to say that I spoke of the rapid passage of this Bill; I think I used the word "acceleration."
Amendment agreed to.