HC Deb 25 April 1947 vol 436 cc1401-23

  1. (1) The Board of Trade may by order make provision whereby persons entering or leaving the United Kingdom by air may be required to give such information, in such form and manner, and to such persons, as may be prescribed.
  2. (2) If any person required to give information in pursuance of any such order as aforesaid fails to comply with that requirement, he shall unless he proves that he had reasonable excuse for the failure be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.
  3. (3) If any person in purported compliance with that requirement knowingly or recklessly makes any statement which is false in a material particular he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a' term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or, in either case, to both such imprisonment and such fine."—[Mr. Belcher.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Belcher)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

On a point of Order, may I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether this proposed new Clause falls within the scope of this Bill? The Bill, according to its Title, is to Enable certain Government Departments to obtain more readily the information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends and for the discharge of their functions. There is nothing in this Clause to indicate in any way that it is to enable the Board of Trade more readily to obtain information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends, and nothing in it to indicate that it is required to enable the Board of Trade to discharge any of their functions. This is called a "Statistics of Trade Bill." The obtaining of information from passengers arriving in this country by air, or wishing to depart from this country by air, would appear to have little relevance to the furnishing of statistics necessary for the information of industry, or necessary for forming a proper appreciation of economic trends. I am told there have been reports in the Press to the effect that this Clause is required to stop smuggling by air. If those reports are accurate, that is a very desirable purpose, but it would still not justify the inclusion of a penal provision designed for that object in a Bill intended to deal with the obtaining of statistics, and the discharge by the Board of Trade of their functions. I submit that the stopping of smuggling should come within the purview of another Government Department.

The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)

I think it would be a little unfortunate if we were to judge our proceedings by what appeared in the Press. The object of this Clause is in order to get certain migration statistics which are an integral part of the statistics required in regard to planning trade.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

The President of the Board of Trade may try to defend this Clause on that basis, but it was quite clear to anyone who read the Press last night that it was an inspired statement, no doubt by a P.R.O., giving the greatest detail of what is happening in smuggling by air, and of the steps being taken to try to prevent it. This Clause was specifically referred to in great detail, showing how, when passed into law, it would stop smuggling by air. I suggest that there is a prima facie case to be considered.

Mr. Speaker

I am quite impartial in this matter, because I have not seen what appeared in the Press. As far as I am concerned, it seems that the Clause is relevant to the main subject of the Bill and, therefore, the arguments might be used as arguments perhaps against the Clause. But, I think the Clause is quite in Order.

Mr. Belcher

Whatever may have appeared in the Press—and I am in the same position as you are, Mr. Speaker, not having seen it—such statements, by whomsoever they were inspired, were certainly not inspired by the Board of Trade. As my right hon. and learned Friend stated, this information is required for a purpose which we regard as relevant to the rest of the Bill. At the present time, there is no information about the movement of passengers by air, except about the total numbers moved. Information is desired about the age, sex, and occupations, of migrants by air, so that the Board of Trade, the Registrar-General, and other Departments, may know the extent and nature of movements in and out of the country. It is particularly important to know what kind of people are leaving the country, and a simple record of total numbers of people leaving the country, without details of what type of people they are, is not satisfactory.

It may be that the absence of this information at the present time is not really a serious matter, but there will be, in the future, a development in air transport. With that development we may have a serious gap in our knowledge of the people coming into and going out of the country. Therefore, we are taking this opportunity, in this Bill, of closing that gap. When we deal with movement by sea on vessels going beyond Europe and the Mediterranean, under Section 76 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, the Board of Trade has the power to require a return of passengers carried by ship into or out of the United Kingdom. I think it will be generally agreed that a provision under an Act of 1906 which was desirable in relation to people travelling, by ship, in and out of this country, cannot be regarded as objectionable if we now desire to bring air transport, a later development, into line with sea transport.

The conditions in civil aviation are very different from those in shipping. It is impossible to put the same obligation upon the pilot of a plane as on the captain of a ship. The plane journey may be much shorter and the pilot does not normally have the assistance of the staff which is possessed by the captain of a ship. Travel by air is already surrounded by quite a large number of formalities, and the various Departments responsible for them, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Home Office and the Ministry of Health, are naturally reluctant to add to them. The Home Office is able, under the Aliens Order, to collect any information that may be required about the movement of aliens into and out of the country.

Information is required, however, about British subjects, but just as the Order made under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, does not require information to be furnished about individual movements of migrants by sea to and from Europe, we shall not be seeking information by Order, under this Bill, about migration to the Continent by air. Migration to and from Europe by sea or air is believed to be quite small, so far as 'British subjects are concerned, but there is considerable in and out movement in relation to more distant destinations. It is important that we should be able to match the statistics of movement by sea with similar statistics for air transport, when air transport becomes sufficiently large to justify the setting up of machinery to collect the information.

We have not yet decided the precise manner in which the information will be collected. It is not envisaged that it will be necessary, in the immediate future, to collect this information, but as air transport grows, we can see that this might become reasonable and desirable. All that we are seeking to do by this new Clause is to make it possible, when a reasonable, efficient and not too onerous procedure has been evolved, to collect the information which we need. Hon. Members opposite may say that there is already too much form filling, too much formality about travel by air. That is possibly so, and we recognise the necessity for reducing the formalities to the very minimum.

11.15 a.m.

The Clause is straightforward. Subsection (1) gives the Board of Trade power to make an Order, although the essential idea is to provide migration statistics, the Clause should not be limited to migrants, but should cover other passengers travelling by air, as the Merchant Shipping Act does for passengers by sea. The penalty in Subsection (2) corresponds to that in the Merchant Shipping Act for a similar offence, and that Subsection (3) is in line with that provided under Clause 4 of the Bill if undertakings make false statements in their returns. There is nothing behind this Clause except to make it possible, when it becomes necessary, to collect information about passages to and from this country by people using air transport. The principle was recognised as long ago as 1906 under the Merchant Shipping Act, and I hope that the House will recognise that this is a reasonable request.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I think that anyone reading this Clause would regard it as confirmation of the view expressed on this side of the House during the Second Reading Debate that this Bill was intended to be used, not merely for the collection of statistics for the use of industry, but for penal purposes, and as affecting the liberties and rights of individuals in this country. It is really an astonishing Clause, quite apart from the limitations which the Parliamentary Secretary has sought to put upon it, because there was a wide discrepancy between the terms of the Clause and what he said. From Subsection (1) of the Clause, one sees that there is absolutely no limitation to the extent of the information which the Board of Trade may, by Order, require a person leaving or entering this country by air to give, or, if he does not, be guilty of a criminal offence.

As far as one can see, anything could be prescribed, and in seeking to justify this new Clause the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the Board of Trade wanted to know the age, sex and occupation of persons leaving the country by air. If that is all that this new Clause is intended to achieve, why is that not specified in the Clause? It is perfectly easy to draft a Clause to provide that information on those particular points shall be given. The Clause as it now stands contains no such limitation. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider the advisability of limiting the objects of this Clause in accordance with what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, so as to avoid, in future, the misrepresentations which have apparently appeared in the Press, from what source one knows not, as to the purpose which this new Clause is intended to achieve.

Nothing has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary as to the use of this new Clause, with regard to people arriving in this country by air. He has not sought to justify that in any way. Does it mean that every person arriving in this country by air, whether he be a diplomat, whether he be travelling on a Government mission, whether he is only arriving in this country with a view to flying on to some other country at the earliest possible opportunity, will be required to give such information as the Board of Trade prescribe? I should like to know for what particular reason the Board of Trade is seeking to exercise this function. Why not the Home Office? I should have thought that the Home Office was the proper body to deal with population statistics and statistics with regard to migrants.

If it is so important to have the figures of those migrating to the British Empire from this country, their age, sex and occupation, is it not equally important to have the figures of those who migrate to Europe? What is the reason for that exclusion? Is it the belief that in future there will be no migrants to Europe, and no persons arriving in this country by air from Europe? Are they to be excluded too? We ought to be told about that. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to Section 76 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, but there is an important distinction. There the burden of providing information in regard to passengers carried by shipping is placed upon the master of the vessel. In that Section all that is required is that: The master …shall furnish to such person and in such manner as the Board of Trade direct a return giving the total number of any passengers so carried, distinguishing, if so directed by the Board, the total number of any class of passengers so carried, and giving, if the Board of Trade so direct, such particulars with respect to passengers as may be for the time being required by the Board. I have not had an opportunity to ascertain whether the Board of Trade require particulars to be given by the master of the vessel as to the age, sex and occupation of the passengers. I should have thought that all that information could have been obtained from the forms which people have to fill in when they apply for passports. There the destination and the full particulars of the individual are given. The Parliamentary Secretary has produced no further adequate reason for placing this burden on each individual who is seeking to come to or leave this country by air. It may be that the pilot has now a multitude of forms to fill in but surely, in relation to every aircraft, there is another official at the airport who could see that this information, it was really necessary, was obtainable. I suggest that provision should be made for it to be done in that way, following more closely the model of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, rather than placing the obligations upon each individual.

The Parliamentary Secretary drew attention to the fact that in Subsection (2) the penalty was the same as in the Merchant Shipping Act. However, he did not seek to justify the heavy penalty provided by Subsection (3), a penalty which is vastly in excess of that provided in Section 76 of the Merchant Shipping Act, in the case of a person giving false information. In that Section the penalty is precisely the same whether the person refuses to give information or gives false information. I suggest that before this new Clause is read a Second time, we should receive from the Government an undertaking that the objects of this information will be specifically limited in the Clause. A more precise definition of the objects and purposes for which the information is required should be given. Nothing has been said explaining the purpose of requiring information from people arriving in this Island.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

We on this side of the House are completely puzzled, befogged and unable to see the reason why this Clause should appear on the Order Paper. I listened carefully to the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary. We did not get very much explanation of the real object behind this. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) has said, already in passports and under a whole variety of enactments we are obliged to furnish information in regard to our passage whether by air or sea. This new obligation would be asking a great deal from ordinary people attempting to carry out their ordinary everyday duties. In many respects the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is doing his best to enlarge and extend the activities of our export trade. He is not helping the export trade, however, by putting this rather frustrating condition upon people travelling between this country and abroad. I endorse everything said by my hon. and learned Friend. We ought to know something more about the real object behind this new Clause before it is accepted.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

I think that we have heard far too little about the immigrant or intake side of this new Clause. It appears to me from what I heard and from what one can see in the Clause itself, that we are being asked to put it into the wrong Bill and that it is being dealt with by the wrong Ministry. To take a practical case, are we not trying to centralise into the hands of the Home Office the duty of watching over those who come into this country? I should have thought that it was only common sense that we should do that. Would it not be only common sense for the Board of Trade to request the Home Office, if need be, to ask for certain information which could be given by the passenger on arrival by air? Surely, it is not beyond the wit of man to imagine that occasionally the Home Office might speak to the Board of Trade.

Of course, that may not be the position. I do not know. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us whether there is any exchange of information. Perhaps they do not speak at all, though I hope that they do. Let us encourage them to get together. Let us encourage the Departments of Government to work together. To attempt to put this Clause into the Bill would appear to be a fantastic over-complication of some of the steps which have to be taken already by people who want to visit this country by air. Is it suggested that in order to put this Clause into effect a special staff will have to be maintained at airports by the Board of Trade, wearing a uniform designed by the President of the Board of Trade and his Parliamentary Secretary? Who will handle this matter? Will it be sub-contracted to the caterers, or the Home Office? Will it be let off to the Ministry of Health, who, undoubtedly, will come along sooner or later and ask if anybody has got a cold when they arrive? If we accept this new Clause we are adding to the number of fences which must be jumped. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to reconsider the matter.

Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)

It appears to me that this new Clause undoubtedly is redundant. It is one of the rather typical Clauses that we are getting accustomed to receive, based on the idea that possibly something more might be wanted at a later date— In actual fact, at present, if the information required is as the Parliamentary Secretary says, it must be obtainable automatically from the moment when a passenger leaving this country by air arrives at the airport. He or she must give up a passport and in it there is contained his or her age, sex and occupation. Possibly the ladies arriving may feel a little nervous in future that a large penalty may be imposed if they do not give their ages correctly. It is worth noting that at the beginning of the passport the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs requests everybody to allow the holder of the passport to arrive without let or hindrance anywhere in the world. Possibly he might address his appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. This seems to me to constitute quite an unnecessary hindrance.

There is not the slightest doubt that this information can be obtained, if it is confined to the three points made, from the B.O.A.C. who make returns of their passengers in any case. The information is there. The passport is given up and details are taken from it. It appears to me quite unnecessary to have a Clause duplicating work which already exists. Of course, if there is a wider and large target in view than that which has been stated by the Parliamentary Secretary—and he did make some reservation that that was all they wanted at present—we might yet find ourselves in the position when we go to America of having to fill up an enormous form saying whether we want to assassinate the President and whether we are Communists. We might be asked why we want to leave this country— I suppose, to cease to be one of God's frozen people, after what we heard yesterday. In any case, everything that the Parliamentary Secretary has asked for is already obtainable by reason of the fact that the passport is given up at the airport. The three points can be copied down without any further fuss and without any need for a Clause of this sort.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)

I am also rather puzzled by this Clause and I do not see what it contributes that is not already in the Bill, The rest of the Bill is inviting traders to give information. Could not exactly the same result be obtained by asking the Corporations and charter companies to give this information? I appreciate that that would not cover the matter of the penalty on the individual giving wrong information, but what advantage is there to be gained in any case? As often as not it would be difficult to recover from the individual and very often it would be difficult to pin the matter down.

The only advantage I can see is that this Clause puts a security provision into the Bill; it is, therefore, different in character from any other Clause in the Bill. If a security provision is required, this is not the right place for it; it should be in a different Bill. Even if it is for ordinary information, ought it not to be in the Civil Aviation Act, or in the Air Navigation Act, which is comparable to the Merchant Shipping Act? The only other cases to be covered are of individuals flying their own planes, with or without passengers, abroad from this country. When an individual takes off, it will be quite easy for him to give wrong information as to his destination, and I, therefore, take it that if he gave wrong information that would be a security matter. If he went to the Continent when he said he was not going there, completely different remedies are available. I would like a much better explanation from the Government than we have already had to justify this Clause.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I was quite unable to make up my mind whether the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary was one of great innocence or great cunning. It was certainly nothing between the two. He made out that this Clause, which is a very wide one and may at some time be of very great importance, was just a small thing tucked in in case sometime or somewhere a little bit of trouble might arise arid the Government might want it. His whole case was that it was not very important and nothing to worry about but that the Government might want it for some useful purpose sooner or later and were really looking miles ahead in case they could prosecute someone at some other time. It is interesting to note that for a precedent they went back to the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906. In all probability that has been a fairly effective Act, but since that time there have been certain developments which have today come to the notice even of the President of the Board of Trade, such as wireless and other things, which make it very much easier to detect anything which is going wrong. Also the efficiency of the Home Office in dealing with these matters has increased considerably. I should hardly have thought that it was necessary to go back to such an old Act for a precedent.

The Parliamentary Secretary said he did not require this as far as the Continent was concerned, but I noticed that he very carefully left out Ireland. I would like to know whether the Government really need this Clause for some purpose in connection with Ireland. That point was diligently left out, and I wonder whether that was because he was cunning or innocent. The Parliamentary Secretary also said, obviously with sincerity, that the Government did not want to use this in the immediate future. That being the case, why bring in this new Clause now when the Government are telling us that because of the pressure of legislation they have very little time available? Even a Clause of this kind must take a little while to draft.

What really does astonish me is that we already have a complete passport system and we already have under Treasury control and exchange control a tremendous power for the purpose of dealing with people coming into and going out of the country. We, therefore, already have powers under two Government Departments to effect precisely what is needed under this new Clause. What is the good of giving a third Government Department very stringent powers when there are already two Government Departments using them? Is it because there is mistrust between the three Government Departments? Is it the case that the Government are going to abolish the other two Departments and that this is a preparatory measure, or what? Then there is this further extraordinary matter. The President of the Board of Trade seems to wish to speak. If he wishes to interrupt me I will quite willingly give way. However, it seems that he does not.

I feel sure that this must be the direct doing of the very clear legal mind of the President of the Board of Trade. In Subsection (2) we lay down penalties which apply in much the same way as in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906. That may be all right or not, but under Subsection (3) we are putting down an entirely different set of penalties. I believe that these are found in the Exchange Control Act. For very much the same object we apparently have two different sets of penalties, one very old and out of date and the other newer and more punitive. Surely it would be just as well to have one set of penalties running right through the whole of these crimes?

We really must look at this Clause. I nave been driven to look at it with grave suspicion, though on the surface it appears to be comparatively innocent. After the general proceedings on other matters, what leaps to my mind is that such Clauses are now being inserted in almost every Bill by almost every Ministry. They find that by this system they can get a little bit more power and add a few more civil servants to their staff. There also seems to be a growing dislike on the part of the Government of people migrating. There is a natural dislike of the free passage of people from this to other countries. That is a system which, under another regime, is known as the iron curtain, and this new Clause is really a preliminary fold in the iron curtain which the Government are endeavouring to build up to prevent ease of access between this and other countries. It will add to people's difficulties if they have to pass through one, two, three, or even four Ministries with the requisite number of forms before they can get out of the country.

That is contrary to the old spirit of what I believe to be the constitution of this country and the wishes of the people, that there should be freedom of movement at the present time for people in this rather congested island to go out into the world and develop it, as they have done so well in the past. I regret that there is no Subsection in this Clause which would enable people to go freely, without any interference, to and from the British Commonwealth and the Empire. Those are some of the reasons why I oppose the Bill, and why I think it is a pity that this new Clause should be moved giving such terrific powers to the Government and that they then come and say that they do not want them at the present time. I notice that the Chief Patronage Secretary is not here, and so does not know how our time is being wasted.

Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)

This a rather remarkable Clause to find added suddenly to this Bill, which was intended originally for quite a different purpose. The heading of the Bill says it is to Enable certain government departments to obtain more readily the information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends and for the discharge of their functions. Now the hon. Gentleman is introducing something which he himself agreed is for quite a different purpose, and therefore t is entirely inappropriate that this Clause should be put into the Bill. I should have thought, at a time like this, when our invisible exports are of such importance, the Government would do everything in their powers to encourage the tourist traffic. I do not think people will be encouraged to come to this country if they know that, on their arrival, they are likely to be subjected to the sort of cross-examination permitted under this new Clause. With regard to the penalties set out in Subsection (2), there is the usual abhorrent practice, which this Government has introduced, of throwing on to the accused person the onus of establishing his innocence. The wording chosen here, and it occurs similarly in another part of the Bill, is that it is an absolute offence unless the traveller himself establishes that he had reasonable excuse. Why the ordinary form of throwing the onus on those who make the charge has not been adopted, I am not able to under-stand.

I do not know where in the Bill it is proposed to insert this new Clause, because that will make a difference. In Clauses g and 12 there are various consequences which follow on words relating to the "foregoing provisions of this Act." If this new Clause comes before those, the consequences may be very different from what they will be if it comes afterwards. If this new Clause comes before Clause 12, then Clauses 9 and 12 will cover this new Clause; if, on the other hand, this Clause comes after Clauses 9 and 12, it will not. I put that forward as being a point of considerable importance in the interpretation of the new Clause, and also to show how inappropriate it is to add suddenly to a Bill of this character a Clause which is of quite a different purpose and nature from the Bill itself. If the hon. Gentleman thinks it necessary to have these powers, I suggest that the right way to do it is in a proper Bill which would be debated in quite a different way, rather than on the Report stage of a Bill of this kind.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Belcher

With your permission, Mr Speaker, and that of the House, I would like to reply to some of the points raised. I cannot help feeling that, as usual with Measures of this kind, a great deal more appears to be read into the Bill or into the new Clause than is there. I tried to explain the reasons why we wanted this new Clause and, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) I do not see any great difficulty about where the Clause is to be inserted, It is a self-contained Clause and can go in at the end of the Bill.

Mr. Marlowe

May I point out the difference it makes? Clause 9 says: no information relating to an individual undertaking, obtained under the foregoing provisions of this Act … That refers to an undertaking as defined in the Bill, but I want to know whether information obtained under this new Clause comes within Clause 9 or the penalty Clause in Clause 12. In Clause 12 there is no reference to an undertaking, and it might well be that the penalty Clause in Clause 12 would apply to this new Clause.

Mr. Belcher

I think I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that his doubts on that subject need not remain with him. This not an undertaking we are referring to, it is to an individual. I do not know whether you could describe the individual as a body corporate. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) wanted to know why the Board of Trade is seeking these powers. The answer is simple. The watch over migration has hitherto resided in the Board of Trade, which is the authority responsible under the Shipping Act of 1906. We foresee that in the future there may be a considerable volume of migration by air, far more than there is at the moment. Further, it is desirable to have information about movements of population in and out of the country in order that we may be able to plan our economic future. The country has already decided that it requires its economic future planned, and without the fullest possible information—and every economist is agreed on this—about movements of population from one country to another, it is impossible to do that properly.

Then the hon. and learned Gentleman wanted to know why we propose to exclude Europe from our considerations. There are two good reasons for that. In the first place, there is hardly any emigration at all out of this country into Europe and, secondly, there is a large number— and I imagine there will be an increasingly large number—of people who wish to travel from this country into Europe for many purposes. It was suggested by several hon. Gentlemen opposite that this information is already available, or could readily be made available, either from the records of B.O.A.C. or by reference to the passport application form, or to the passport. I am advised that the information required is not in the possession of B.O.A.C. at the moment, and a passport application form, so far as I am aware, does not indicate the precise ultimate destination of the person who applies for or uses a passport.

Mr. W. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman says it is not in the information of B.O.A.C. at the moment, but as far as the passport is concerned, the power to obtain information is in their hands.

Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)

Surely the passport is examined by the Home Office at the time of departure or arrival, so the information is obviously available.

Mr. Belcher

I am not quite sure, I do not think it is examined by the Home Office at the time of departure or arrival. In any case, the copying of the information from the passport would take at least as long, if not longer, than the filling up of a simple form.

There was some discussion about the penalty Clause, and it was said that while Subsection (2) of this new Clause adhered to the principle laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, Subsection (3) had a heavier scale of penalties. Of course, they deal with two separate offences. Section 76 (3) of the 1906 Act deals with the failure to make a return. Subsection (3) of this new Clause deals with the far more serious offence of knowingly or recklessly making a statement which is false in a material particular. In those circumstances, surely, no hon. Member would be prepared to argue that there should not be a higher penalty for knowingly or recklessly making a statement which is false in a material particular, than there should be in the case of an individual who does not make a return.

I was asked who will do the job. It is not envisaged that this shall be a job to be done in the immediate future. That is one of the details which can be worked out. But it certainly will not be done by an individual dressed up in a fanciful uniform either of my right hon. and learned Friend's design or of my own. I am sure hon. Members opposite would not desire a uniform of that kind. We are already accustomed to receiving assistance from other Government Departments to enable the Board of Trade to collect the information which it requires. We might use the Customs and Excise; we might ask B.O.A.C. to do it, but B.O.A.C. could not collect this information unless it had behind it statutory power to ask for that information. That is one of the reasons why we seek these new powers.

The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) wanted to know why we seek to introduce this Clause into the Bill if we do not require the information immediately. It is a perfectly sound and wise thing to do, to take this opportunity of introducing into a statistical Bill this power, even if it is not to be used immediately, rather than wait until the need does arise and then have more legislation. I thought it was the desire of hon. Members particularly on the other side of the House, to avoid legislation and, surely, it is far better legitimately to bring into a Bill of this kind a Clause to meet a future need, rather than wait until later and introduce a new Bill.

On the subject of information to be required, I am prepared to agree that possibly Subsection (1) is wide. [Laughter.] I do not think hon. Members opposite should laugh when I am prepared to be reasonable. I did mention three particulars which might be required on the form to be supplied; they are age, sex and occupation. We should also want to know the last permanent residence and the future permanent residence for migration purposes; but we are prepared to have a further look at this point and if, in the light of the discussion which has taken place today, some different form of words can be devised, we will be prepared at a later stage in the passage of this Bill to do what we can to meet the legitimate desires of hon. Members in all parts of the House. Having given that undertaking, I hope the House will be prepared to assent to the Second Reading of this Clause.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

I think we on this side of the House made a tactical error this morning at the commencement of the proceedings, Mr. Speaker, in inviting you to rule that this Clause was outside the Title of the Bill. I am not asking you, Sir, to commit yourself now, but I have a shrewd idea that if we had allowed the Parliamentary Secretary to make the speech he has just delivered, before raising this point, you might have been more inclined to consider that this Clause was definitely outside the Title of the Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary was very ingenious, but I am afraid that, not for the first time, he has fallen between two stools. He has been trying to argue that this is a most innocuous Clause, because all it does is to ask for some very minor particulars from intending migrants. He wants to know their sex, occupation, marital status, last place of residence and where they are going. If one is to believe him, that is all the information which is required. Quite clearly, those particulars are well outside the Title of this Bill; not only that, but I suggest they are completely outside what the Parliamentary Secretary himself, in his final speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, defined as the object of the Government. He then said: I am quite prepared to give the assurance that 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. Can any reasonable member of the public or of this House say what possible connection there can be between the interests of full employment in this country and knowing whether a particular person on an aeroplane is married or single? He went on to say; 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.] So far as migration is concerned, the Parliamentary Secretary said he would not ask for these statistics in respect of traffic to and from the Continent. He was apparently concerned only with people who were migrating from this country. I suggest that in the future, and, possibly, in the comparatively near future, it will be just as important not only to manpower but also to industry to have particulars about immigrants as well as emigrants. If we are talking about immigrants into the country then, surely, if we pay attention and respond to these compassionate appeals which have been made that to all countries of the United Nations, Europe is the one place from which we shall be expected to draw migrants into this country and open our doors to them. It is clear, therefore, that in this respect, the Parliamentary Secretary is talking with his tongue in his cheek.

What is the real object of this new Clause? I suggest it is something quite different, and is revealed by the obviously inspired comments in the Press last night which refer to the new "Customs snoops." I will not weary the House with the whole of it, but it says: The new. Cripps quiz for air travellers is to be put into the super-snoop Bill, the Statistics of Trade Bill, providing for census of production and distribution, which requires a great deal of form filling. Sir Stafford in the Commons tomorrow will ask for wide powers for the Board of Trade to question anybody.… The Customs comment today on the use of search warrants.…

Mr. Belcher: If

I might interrupt, the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that the statement he is reading, and which I have not had the pleasure of reading, is an inspired comment. I think he said it was obviously inspired. Does he think that an inspired statement from the Board of Trade would refer to "super-snoop powers "?

Mr. Hudson

No, but I suggest it is inspired because it refers to "Customs comment today." It is the result of discussion between the Press and some department of the Government—presumably the Customs—who pointed out that, owing to the difficulty of dealing with smuggling they wanted additional information. The position would be very different indeed if the Government would accept an Amendment drastically limiting the powers of demanding information to the broad points which the Parliamentary Secretary has indicated. If they do that, it will very largely reduce our objection to the Bill.

12 noon.

There is one final point with which I should like to deal in regard to the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary. At the beginning of his speech he suggested he merely wanted, in respect of air travellers, the same powers as were exercised under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, in respect of passengers going by sea to overseas destinations. When he came to answer a point made by my hon. Friend he suggested it was perfectly right and proper that there should be a differentiation in penalty between a person who failed to give information and a person who recklessly made any false statement. I think that was the point he was making. But if we examine that argument, it will be seen to be inconsistent with his earlier argument that he merely wanted the powers of the Merchant Shipping Act. If he looks at Section 76 (3) of that Act, he will see it reads as follows: If the master of a ship tails to make a return as required by this section, or makes a false return, and if any passenger refuses to give any information required by the master of the ship for the purpose of the return required by this section, or gives any false information for the purpose, the master or passenger shall be liable for each offence on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds. Therefore, the analogy of the Merchant Shipping Act is not applicable to this Clause, because in the case of that Act the penalty was the same for both, whereas we are being asked to make an innovation by a differentiation of the penalty.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

On a point of Order. I should like to ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. In this Session, a few weeks ago, the House passed the Air Navigation Act. Under Section I (2) of that Act: His Majesty's Government may, by Order in Council, make provisions— (f) as to the conditions under which passengers and goods may be carried by air. Under that, therefore, the Government can order the Corporations, their Corporations, to demand these particulars which are given by would-be passengers. The point upon which I should like your guidance is this: is it in Order for this House to be asked to legislate twice in the same Session for the same purpose? Should not the rule against repetition apply?

Mr. Speaker

I have had only 30 seconds' notice of that question, but I should have thought it was up to the House whether or not they legislated twice in respect of the same matter.

Sir S. Cripps:

I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) for what he has said. We do not want this to be misunderstood in any way or to embarrass anybody. However, there are certain material statistics which we wish to get in regard to migration. Perhaps it could be left to another place to put this in a form which is less embarrassing, or which will not be quite so wide. We should be quite prepared to leave the matter to be discussed there, and then the House could consider it when the Bill comes back.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

The right hon. and learned Gentleman withdraws the Clause?

Sir S. Cripps

No. I suggest that we pass the Clause, but that those in another place could consider any form of Amendment which might be suggested.

Mr. Hudson

I appreciate that suggestion. I should only like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would not be more convenient for the Clause to be withdrawn, and a new Clause embodying Amendments which may be thought necessary as a result of this discussion inserted in another place.

Sir S. Cripps

I think the method I have suggested would be the more convenient way of doing it. We have gone a long way to meet the right hon. Gentleman, as I am sure he appreciates.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

I listened with great care to the criticism of this Clause. I had a not unfamiliar experience. I was only half convinced by the criticism at the time, because I thought there must be something more to be said in defence than had appeared. It was only when I heard the Parliamentary Secretary that I felt convinced that the Opposition had made a strong case. I was brought up, under a cautious and restrained Administration, when Parliament's control was very real and effective, and I still find it difficult to believe that there is not some reasonable explanation of something which, on the face of it, looks to be foolish. However, I recall a remark of that wise political observer, Mr. J. A. Spender, when discussing a similar problem. Someone had said, "It cannot be as foolish as that," whereupon he replied, "After the experience of a long political lifetime I have come to the conclusion that, after all, things usually are as silly as they seem.' 'When I heard the Parliamentary Secretary I thought to myself, "This really is as silly as it seemed before he spoke."

What in effect did the Parliamentary Secretary say? He said, "We do not know yet quite what information we shall want or when we shall want it. We are therefore asking Parliament to give us powers which we may use later within a wide, and indeed"—as the Clause stood—" practically unlimited and undefined sphere if and when we want that information. This will reduce the volume of legislation of which everyone is complaining." On that argument, how much better it would be if, in order to reduce the volume of legislation, Parliament passed one simple Act saying that the Executive could on any matter do anything they wished. That is an effect not so very far from what I suggest the Government are asking us to do in a series of spheres in successive Acts with regard to particular matters with which each Department may wish to deal. Is it necessary to have these additional powers? My hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) has shown that in fact powers already exist to get the information which is essential for the declared purposes. Once the would-be acquirer of statistics has developed his appetite there is nothing at which he will stop. I remember once when I had to apply for a driving licence in Paris I was asked, in a form which I had to fill up, in what parish my grandmother was born. I confess, I could not remember, but I filled up the form on the assumption—as it proved, happily a justified assumption —that those to whom I sent the form would have no better information on that question than I had. It really is not right to introduce a Clause as widely drafted as this, when it looks as if there are already sufficient powers and machinery elsewhere for the purpose for which it is designed. The only answer we have had to the reasonable criticisms which have been made is: "Oh, well, we will see what we can do about it in another place." Is that really satisfactory at this stage of the Bill in regard to so fundamental a defect?

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I should like to add a few words to the very eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford Univer- sity (Sir A. Salter). Will this Clause really achieve the object for which it is designed? Apparently, it is not intended to deal with the tourist traffic, or to see what dimensions the tourist industry has reached. It is intended to deal with migration. Will it achieve the objects which the Government have said it will carry out? I do not think it will for a moment. Individuals leaving this country can put down anything they like on the form, because they are not coming back, so the fear of a fine or penalty will have no influence with them at all. Immigrants can only come to reside permanently in this country if they have a proper visa, and if other arrangements have been made for them by the Consul in the country which they wish to leave, so that the information is already available in the Consulates of the various countries granting visas to the immigrants. Therefore, I cannot see that the Clause will achieve the object for which it was designed.

Furthermore, we are told that no reference is to be made to short travel distances between this country and Europe. What about Ireland? I understand Northern Ireland is covered by the Bill. What about Southern Ireland? Anybody can go to Southern Ireland, and go on from Southern Ireland to some other part of the world. I understand that the Mauretania, now that she is recommissioned, is to resume her prewar calls at a Southern Irish port. What is to prevent a would be emigrant from taking a short trip to Southern Ireland and catching the Mauretania at the Southern Irish port? I should like to see the rejection of this new Clause for the following additional reason, namely, that it altogether fails to achieve the purpose, the very dubious purpose, for which it is intended.

Mr. Manniugham-Buller

By leave of the House, I should like to express my thanks to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the attitude he has adopted. I understand that he is going to put in words for the limitation of the information required, in accordance with the Parliamentary Secretary's statement. Y would merely ask him if he would also consider the question of bringing the penalties into line for travellers by sea and by air. The majority of immigrants will, presumably, travel by sea. I understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consider that question. If that is the case, we shall not divide against this new Clause, or move the manuscript Amendments to which I have referred.

Sir S. Cripps

We shall certainly consider both those matters.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.