HC Deb 03 December 1947 vol 445 cc483-537

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)

I beg to move, That the Registration for Employment Order, 1947 (S.R & O., 1947, No. 2409), dated 11th November, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 11th November, be annulled. This order is only part of the whole scheme of the direction of labour in peacetime which the Government are seeking to introduce in this country. I hope that tonight I shall have the support not only of all those who have opposed the direction of labour in the past, but also of all those Members who find this order in itself objectionable. I want to make a sincere appeal to the Minister of Labour about this order. I feel that a mistake has been made. I do not want to make it difficult for him to withdraw the order if he feels that, in justice, it should be withdrawn, but I hope the House will annul it for several reasons.

The object of the order is to compile a list of "spivs, drones, eels and butterflies," and to compel them to take up essential work. But there is no definition of any of these classes in this order. In the evidence given before the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders, Sir Harold Wiles, of the Ministry of Labour, said that what the Prime Minister loosely called "spivs and drones" were not easily definable, and that the Ministry would have to find, by trial and error, whether they were getting the people the Government were after. As a Liberal that made me shudder. The idea of trial and error—[Interruption.] I am entitled to shudder if I want to—or am I not? The Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders, in their Third Special Report, on page xxvii, drew attention to the undesirability of what is called "Five-tier legislation." I believe that this is vitally important from the point of view of the future of our Parliamentary democracy. The Committee stated: Your committee have sometimes had to take note of a pedigree of five generations—

  1. (a) the statute:
  2. (b) the Defence Regulations made under the statute:
  3. (c) the orders made under the Defence Regulations:
  4. (d) directions made under the orders: and
  5. (e) licences issued under the directions."
They then went on to say: Your Committee hope that, now that hostilities have ceased, Departments may find themselves able so to frame any order made under Defence Regulations that it will be selfcontained—in other words, to be content with the grandchildren of the statute and not to bring its great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren upon the scene. It is by no means clear that Parliament contemplated these cumulative delegations. They tend to postpone the formulation of an exact and definite law and they encourage the taking of powers meanwhile in wider terms than may ultimately be required. I believe that it is most important that the House should recognise a considered statement from the Committee. That statement, taken together with the words of Sir Harold Wills, which appeared in the White Paper issued on Monday, shows to what extent this order is at variance with the British conception of Parliamentary Government. Where a person's liberty is infringed—and whether hon. Members agree with it or not this registration is an infringement—the citizen has a right to know precisely what his rights and obligations are; to know exactly where he stands. He cannot tell that from the order as it is at present. That was quite clearly revealed in the evidence given before the Select Committee. It was also quite clear that the Government could not define the people they want to register. Hence this phase of trial and error. They will not know until this thing has been working for some considerable time and a number of people whom they do not want have registered, who it is they are trying to catch. "Trial and error" means indignity and suffering to some people. There is no provision made in the order for the conscientious objector to registration. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but there are people with religious views in this country, whose views one must respect, who have a conscientious objection to registering.

Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)

They are not being asked to fight.

Mr. Byers

An hon. Member opposite says that they are not being asked to fight. I did not say that they had a conscientious objection to fighting. They have a conscientious objection to registering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Spivs."] We have had the same results over the closed shop. We have people who sincerely hold conscientious objections. I am pointing out that there is no provision in the order to cover such cases. I feel that there should be such a provision. I say that no Parliament should accept the view that a Government should be given powers as wide and undefined as those which will enable the Executive to tamper with the lives of citizens upon the basis of trial and error, without reference to any principle whatsoever.

I think that we know the key to all this. It is to be found—and I hope that this will not be interpreted as a personal attack on the witnesses who gave evidence, because I do not intend that; they are very able and competent people—in the answer given by one witness, when he was asked: You do not feel any difficulty about this sub-delegation? His answer was: Administratively it is much easier. That is the danger, that administratively it is much easier if a notice can be put up defining the sort of people that are wanted, and if it does not do what is wanted, then another notice is put up. I do not believe that pays sufficient respect to human personality and to the individual. As I said, when I read the evidence given before the Committee, I shuddered, because here we have people saying that there is nothing new about it and that it is just the old system that we used during the war and we are just carrying it on.

We have heard a lot in the evidence about public notices, about which I will say a word or two in a moment. The point of the evidence given here is that there is no real respect for the individual. It is a question of putting up a notice and if it does not work the first time, then another notice should be issued and same other people should be called in, and so forth. I do not believe that that is the intention of the Minister himself. I believe he wants to be human about this thing, because if he reads this as I read it, I am sure he will realise that there is not sufficient attention paid to the individual in the evidence which was given.

I want to say a word about public notices which seemed to creep into this matter of the relation of the order to the individual. Having our attention directed to delegated legislation, we find people compelled to register not by an order but by a public notice. We are told that the public notices will tell everyone within certain age groups and categories that they have to go and register at the employment exchanges, and it will warn them what the penalties are. There does not appear to be any notice in the order about what the penalties are for not registering. Are the penalties to be exactly the same for not registering as for failure to obey a direction? I should like that to be cleared up. I did not think there would be such a penalty, but definitely it is to be put up in a public notice. Who the people responsible for the public notices are is not quite clear. One of the witnesses was asked to give a definition of what was a public notice. His answer was: A public notice is in fact a poster which is put up at Employment Exchanges, Post Offices, and so on. Secondly, a public notice is always given on the B.B.C., and it is announced in the national Press. Those are the three ways in which it is done. Would you consider that, say, some notice put up, shall we say, somewhere in London, would constitute a public notice?—No. Is it put up at every Post Office in the country?—I am not quite sure about that I cannot answer that. In other words the definition of a 'public notice' is somewhat vague?—Yes. Are we really going to allow legislation of this sort to go through? It is going to be important to the people who are called upon to register that they should know—they have a right to know—exactly what they are going to undertake. [Interruption.] This is going to affect hundreds and thousands of people, and if this House is not prepared to go into the details of an order of this sort, then we might as well pack up British democracy.

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what is the attitude of the young Liberals to this particular thing?

Mr. Byers

I regret I do not know what is the attitude of the young Liberals, but what I say is that the view which I am putting forward I believe to be right and I will challenge anybody on it. We do not go by counting numbers or heads; we go for quality. I want the Minister to look at the order in this light that psychologically it has now become extremely offensive, quite apart from the offence which is committed on the liberty of the people. Every person called upon to register now is, because of the Prime Minister's unfortunate speech, subject to the stigma of being a spiv or drone. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. I prophesy to hon. Members that there will be something disreputable about the people who are called upon to register under the order. This order has come to be known as the "Spivs and Drones Order." That appears in the evidence in the White Paper. It was mentioned by the Minister of Labour and it has been mentioned by the Prime Minister, and yet we are to proceed on the basis of trial and error.

I do not believe that the Government can go on now because of the way in which they have led up to this order. Some perfectly worthy people in all walks of life will be called up to register and give details of themselves—not just spivs and drones—because we are working on trial and error. That stigma is bound to attach from now on to the people who register.

The next reason for rejecting the order is that it leaves entirely in the hands of the Minister the definition of what is essential work. No Minister can answer that question. It is a matter upon which Parliament, and not just the Minister, must pronounce its decision. The matter must be defined by Parliament. It should at least be debated by Parliament. Essential to what? The decision as to what is essential—who is to judge?—cannot be left in the hands of the Executive. There is no definition covering that matter at all in this order, which merely says words to this effect: "for purposes of work which shall appear to the Minister to be essential." Who is to judge whether a man who sells antiques is essential? I put that question to the House.

Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)

That is a good question from a Liberal.

Mr. Byers

I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman can really call me, at my age, an antique.

Mr. Pritt

I referred to the attitude of mind.

Mr. Byers

I ask the House to look at an example to show the difficulty confronting the Minister in deciding what is essential. If a man who keeps an antique shop merely sells to British citizens, he is a waste of manpower, and is not essential. If an American happens to drop into his shop and buys something for £10,000 and pays for it in dollars, the shopkeeper becomes a national hero, part of the export drive, and one of the people who are vitally essential to the recovery of the country. Does anyone suggest that the Minister of Labour has the gift of prophecy and knows whether a man is or is not going to be a waste of manpower?

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)

Would not that question also apply to Parliament?

Mr. Byers

I suggest that Parliament should have the opportunity of debating the matter. I want every possible opportunity for debating matters which are going to affect the individual. The Government no doubt will say: "We have no intention of registering antique dealers or any other legitimate traders." They will probably say that they will not register artists—or will they? Who is to define whether an artist is essential and whether he is employed upon essential work? What about dress designers? Is dress designing an essential job? It depends not only upon the dress designer, but upon what happens later on to the dress. If the dress goes for export, of course it is essential. I have produced those examples because I think it is wrong for the Minister to take power to decide what is essential and what is not. Something which is essential at this moment may not be essential in a few months' time. We found that over the capital investment programme. Things that were essential a year ago are today, perhaps, not essential. All that ought to be debated, because it will affect the individual. I do not believe that it is a power that we ought to leave in the hands of the Minister without circumscribing it very carefully indeed.

The Government are, moreover, taking powers to register "classes and descriptions of people." That is a most dangerous phrase. What is meant by "classes and descriptions of people"? That is an extremely wide power. It can be used to register with a view to directing any class or description of persons merely by issuing one of these public notices to which I have referred. I do not want to be accused of following the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), but— [Laughter]—I want hon. Members to look at this point quite seriously because this may well be a turning point in democracy, as it was in prewar Germany. If hon. Members will look at the Measures passed under the Bruning Government, they will discover that they paved the way, not for any misuse by Bruning, but for a legal revolution by Hitler. I am not saying that will happen here, or that there is any intention whatsoever—I am sure there is no intention whatsoever—on the part of the Government Front Bench to do anything of that sort, but the power which the Minister is taking in this order could be used by an Unscrupulous government to stifle opposition in this country. That is true.

Powers very little wider than these are being so used today on the Continent of Europe. Under this order, with this power to register classes and descriptions of persons, political agents could be one of the classes of persons to be registered with a view to direction. It is no use the Government saying that is not their intention. I do not believe it is their intention, but Governments change. The power exists to direct all the employees of the political headquarters of a party one may not like. I do not think it matters at all that the power is in the hands of the present Minister of Labour.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

Would it be a danger if the Tories got back?

Mr. Byers

I believe that there would be just as much danger if that party got back as if the present party got back.

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

That contradicts what the hon. Gentleman has just said.

Mr. Byers

I was talking personally about the Minister of Labour and not about the Labour Party. There are some Members of the party opposite whom I do not trust one inch when it comes to personal liberty.

Mr. Tolley


Mr. Byers

We could give names without much difficulty. When we see the attitude adopted by certain hon. Members opposite to Continental regimes which have sprung up and are completely totalitarian, we ought to be extremely careful whom we trust in power. The point I want to make is that the power exists to direct people, and it can be used, and could be used by an unscrupulous Government, without any further resort to this House. There is power in this order to direct journalists. It may be said that there are too many journalists——

Mr. Follick (Loughborough)

There are too many in this House.

Mr. Byers

They are "classes and descriptions of people." There may be a feeling that there are too many journalists in one town. Under this Order they could be called upon to register with a view to being directed anywhere in the country.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

They could be directed away from journalism.

Mr. Byers

Yes, they could be directed away from journalism. It would be possible to break a newspaper. If I were an unscrupulous dictator, I would ask for very little more than the powers in this order to break the opposition. I do not propose to show hon. Gentlemen how to do it. There is a power in this order to register married men with a view to taking them away from their homes.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

Is that something new?

Mr. Byers

No, but the fact that it was going on during the war——

Mr. McKinlay

Is the hon. Member postulating that the only people who should be directed are the people who are hungry?

Mr. Byers

The hon. Member perhaps does not know that I was fighting side by side with the Labour Party in the interwar years, trying to remedy the very conditions about which he is talking. I spent my time up in Newcastle, Jarrow, and elsewhere, and then came back here trying to persuade people to do something about the miserable conditions. However, the mere fact that there was that unemployment and compulsion of labour in those days is no reason why it should be done by order today. I cannot understand hon. Members opposite who call themselves progressive. The only argument they have in favour of this order is that it happened before the war. That is Conservatism. In this order we take the power to register British people and foreigners. Have we had much success in getting Poles into the engineering industry? No. Some industries will not take foreigners, they will only employ conscripted British.

This order is offensive to the liberty of the subject in peace time, and it is no use hon. Members opposite saying that we are in just the same position now as we were in before the war.

Mr. Shurmer

No one is saying that.

Mr. Byers

A lot of hon. Members on the other side of the House say, "You cannot object to taking these powers because we are facing the same kind of emergency as we faced during the war." The point is that during the war we turned ourselves, quite rightly, into a totalitarian regime, and we all agreed because that was the only way to fight Fascism with a view to regaining our freedom.

Mr. Tiffany


Mr. Byers

Perhaps the hon. Member was fighting elsewhere, but that is what we felt. The object of turning the country into a totalitarian regime was to win the war and then get back to freedom. Therefore, it is no argument now to say, as was said by the witnesses before the Select Committee, "We are merely carrying on as we were during the war." That is no answer. We fought that war to restore our freedom, and yet our freedoms are now being taken away from us under various pretexts and guises. I say that this order paves the way for a legal, social revolution in this country in the event of any Government wishing to set up a totalitarian regime. I exonerate the right hon. Gentleman, but he must adroit that the power is there and can be exercised.

Not only is this order offensive, it is unnecessary. If the Government have no intention of offending against the ordinary principles of liberty, they do not need the order; if they have the intention of offending against the ordinary principles of liberty, then it should not be passed. Page 3 of the White Paper on Capital Investment in 1948, states that: During the last two years six million workers have been transferred from the Services and war production to peace production. All that has happened now is that we have discovered that the planning was not good enough, and steps are being taken to make it better. But if six million workers can be transferred to peace production in two years without the direction of labour, and without much difficulty, the case for attraction of labour against that for registration and direction is proved to the hilt.

Mr. Shurmer

A remarkable achievement.

Mr. Byers

Then why take your eye off the ball at this important point in our history and go in for this type of heresy hunting?

Mr. Shurmer

Because the spivs and drones of the country would all go through.

Mr. Byers

The hon. Member does not do himself justice, as usual. We have the authority of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Labour that it would take two civil servants to catch a spiv—that means lo register a spiv. That is reported in the "Manchester Guardian," from a Press Conference. I believe that to be an accurate and expert forecast. We have proof conclusive that we cannot work an order of this sort, and that it will take two civil servants to catch a spiv, which to my mind is proved conclusively by our experience over deserters. There are 21,000 deserters who have not yet been, caught. Is the right hon. Gentleman really expecting that, after all the appeals and exhortations, and the leniency which has been shown, when a public notice goes up on 8th December demanding—not appealing, but demanding—that deserters shall turn up at the employment exchanges, he will get many of them to do so?

The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that this order is rotten to the core. He knows it cannot be worked, and is going to be totally ineffective. Instead of increasing our manpower, it is going to waste manpower. It will mean that literally thousands of people will be taking their eyes off production in order to try to catch people who will be of very little use when we get them. Because people will fail to register, it will take up the time of enforcement officers, of the police, of the employment exchanges, and of appeal tribunals. It is going to take up the time of hundreds and thousands of people who should be better engaged. The House should have no hesitation whatever in annulling this order, which is offensive to the liberty of the subject, and because of the stigma which is now attached to it, is bound to be ineffective. We have expert evidence about that. It gives far too wide powers to the Minister, powers which should not be given to any Government. If a Government cannot govern without an order of this sort, they ought not to govern at all.

9.14 p.m.

Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

I beg to second the Motion.

The order is made under the Defence of the Realm Act Regulation 58A, which imposes a special burden on the subject. It imposes the burden of personal service. We are not concerned tonight with direction of labour, but with registration for the direction of labour. Whatever one's views about direction of labour, hon. Members will agree that no more onerous burden can be put on the subject than a demand for his personal service to the State. In what way is that burden placed on the subject? First, there is the Statute, then the regulation, and then the statutory order under the regulation. When we come to the statutory order, the House has but a limited power. The House has power of complete discussion of the Statute, but on the order the amount of attention the House can give is very little. All we can do is to pray for the annulment of the order and nothing more.

But this regulation does not stop there; it goes a good deal further. It says that there is to be a public notice before the conditions can be known. The public notice does not come before this House at all. We have no opportunity even of a limited discussion or an opportunity for the annulment of the public notice. That is a most important matter as far as this House is concerned. If it is borne in mind what I said at the beginning of my speech, that the most onerous imposition we can put upon the subject is a demand for his personal service, surely, if there is one matter which the House should be able to discuss it is that burden? That is one matter which we are precluded from discussing in these proceedings. As my hon. Friend pointed out, it is proposed in the worst possible form.

This order deals, in general terms, with general classes. If one looks at paragraph 3, one sees it stated: If the Minister from time to time by public notice so requires, any person of either sex who is at the date of the notice in Great Britain, or not having been in Great Britain at that date subsequently enters it, or any such person of any class or description specified in the notice. …. There is no indication in this order who the persons are, no indication of what class they belong to, no indication of the sex involved, no indication whatever as to whom the order is directed. Surely, the first rule of law is that a citizen should know what his obligations are, and that the law should be uniform? The subject should know, but he is not to know under this order—there is nothing to indicate to him—how his duties are to arise, what obligations he will be called upon to discharge. That is all the more grievous because criminal penalties follow. He does not know what his obligations are, but he is to be subjected to pains and penalties if he does not conform to the order. If the Government are to impose penalties, surely, they should make the duty clear and well defined, and the subject should know beforehand that he is involved, what classes are involved, what the obligations are, and there should be an opportunity given to this House to discuss that before any penalties are imposed.

There is no opportunity to discuss all that under the order. What my hon. Friend has said is very true. This is the beginning of dictatorship. It is the essence of dictatorship that the dictator can vary the law, vary the penalties, vary the class at will—that is the very essence of it—vary them as he thinks fit; he can introduce or vary them by notice. I wish to make one other observation, because the term has cropped up in the Report of the Select Committee, that when we begin to talk about spivs and drones in terms of moral obloquy, that notice, by giving a moral classification to, and making a moral animadversion upon, a class, by singling out a class and legislating for a class, is also the essence of dictatorship. It is exactly like the singling out of a race—the Jews—in Germany. That is to be deplored.

Not merely are the classes unknown under this order, but the form of the notice is unknown also. If one refers to paragraph 5 of the order, at the top of page 3, one sees: It the Minister from time to time by public notice or otherwise … He is not even bound by the public notice, he can proceed by means of any other form. When the Minister's representatives were asked by the Select Committee what "otherwise" meant, they had no clear idea, any more than they had any clear idea of what "public notice" meant. All they thought it meant was a poster which would be put up in the employment exchange, a poster that would be put up in the post office, or something one would hear about if one listened to the wireless. Are we to put a person's duties upon the chance of his listening to the wireless? It places obligations upon him which may involve him being fined or imprisoned on the chance of his having heard a broadcast on the wireless. That is what is in this order.

Surely, the first obligation is that the order should define the classes that are called upon to register. It should define them in clear, well specified terms. It should define the sexes and ages. What is the objection to it? The objection given before the Select Committee is that this is a convenient form of doing it. If it was put in the order, the Government would have to come to this House or face a Prayer for annulment if they varied the order. Therefore, they are trying to escape their responsibility to the public through their accredited representatives in this House. The administration do not like to have their activities discussed. It is much more convenient for them to carry out their activities without being open to Parliamentary discussion. That is what this involves. That is what this order does.

I am not discussing the legality of the order, because that raises another point. It may very well be disputed in the courts whether this order is valid or not. That is a different issue. Let me remind the House what perhaps is not irrelevant to this issue, that an attempt was made in this country at one time to legislate by proclamation. We know what a proclamation is. We do not know what a public notice is. I have done my best to find out the definition of a public notice, but I could not find any definition at all.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

There is not one.

Mr. Hopkin Morris

But I know what a proclamation is. Parliament has placed severe limitations upon the ability to legislate by proclamation. It has hedged it round, and gradually withdrawn one piece of the prerogative after another. An attempt was made in a time of famine in this country to place an embargo upon ships laden with wheat and flour. That was done at a time when Parliament was not sitting and the legislation was made by proclamation. If there was a time that would have justified legislation by proclamation, it was then when Parliament was not sitting, but, notwithstanding that, an Act of Indemnity had to be passed. That is how Parliament protected its rights.

I appeal to the Minister of Labour to withdraw this order. I am sure that he never intended the consequences of it. The Select Committee have rendered a signal service by drawing the attention of the House to this matter. The Select Committee have rendered a signal service to every labouring man and woman throughout the country. I wish that hon. Members opposite would look at it carefully to see what they are doing. This is an issue of our own right and opportunity to defend the liberties of the subject. If we have prohibited legislation by proclamation since 1776, except in wartime, are we now to hand it over to something called a public notice, with no better defence than that it was found useful in times of war? That is the only period—the last seven years of war—upon which justification rests. Is that what we are to do? Is that what this House wants, because that is the issue which we are called upon to determine? I hope that the House will not agree to that.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

I should like to associate myself very strongly with what the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) said in his appeal to the Minister to withdraw this order. Unapparent as it may seem, there is a very large measure of common ground and agreement between practically all hon. Members on certain points. The first point upon which there is general agreement is that direction of labour in itself is a hateful and intolerable thing. I think there can be very few hon. Members who do not agree with that. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was on completely unassailable historical ground when he said that the whole idea of the direction of labour was not only contrary to the general traditions of this country, but also contrary to the traditions of the Labour Party, and I think there will be general agreement on that.

There must be general agreement also on the second point, which is a question of fact, and that is that the opinions of the Government and of hon. Members opposite have been changing with kaleidoscopic rapidity. Not long ago, the Prime Minister said that he was opposed to the direction of labour, and the Trades Union Congress were opposed to it. The right hon. Gentleman himself was opposed to it then. He said that, if we had direction of labour, we would have very little of it and no one must be moved from his house. Then they would sometimes be moved. So that changes of view have taken place. The last tune we discussed this matter, the right hon. Gentleman said that nobody would be directed unless offered an alternative job, but it turned out a few days afterwards that a gentleman was directed without being offered an alternative job. When the matter was raised in this House, the right hon. Gentleman did something which always wins and will, I hope, always win, the sympathy of this House. He replied that there had been a mistake, he apologised and he said the mistake would be rectified. It is because he made that reply in that spirit that I make this appeal to him to act in a similar spirit on this much larger question that we are discussing tonight.

It is quite obvious that, since opinions are changing so rapidly, we cannot be content with mere assurances from the right hon. Gentleman or his Parliamentary Secretary that, up to the present, only a very small number of people have been directed. We cannot be content with that for two reasons. The first reason is that nobody in this House can be content with an assurance that an injustice has only been imposed upon a few. That is an intolerable proposition. An injustice is still an injustice, whether imposed upon a few or whether the number runs into five figures. The second reason is that we cannot be content with such an assurance because we cannot know what sort of a situation we are likely to face in future. At present, we are in a sort of half-way house, which is nonsensical. There is one point of view which is held on this side of the House, and it is that we object to the direction of labour at all because it attacks traditional British freedom. The other point of view is to incur the enormous odium of the decision to impose this new system on the country. It is absurd for the Government to impose the new system, incur the odium, and, at the same time, say that they are not going to use those powers.

Nobody can be content with the situation at present. If this particular situation is changing with kaleidoscopic rapidity, obviously, so also is the general economic situation of the country changing with equal rapidity. We have the word of Ministers themselves that there is a possibility of catastrophe facing this country, and, if that happens, one of two things may happen. Some people may say that this policy of the Government on the direction of labour had not only been tyrannical but futile, while some others may use the wholly contrary argument and say that, in this new totalitarianism an illogical compromise had been adopted in attempting to preserve some relics of the old freedom.

That being so, surely, the more sincere the right hon. Gentleman is about not wishing these things to happen, the more sensible it is for him to go very cautiously, and to take the House hand in hand in his policy, and not to take wide powers of which he himself does not in the least wish to make use. Instead of that, we find this order. Far from having delegated legislation, we have here a delegation of a delegation of legislation through this use of a public notice, a word which nobody can define, and of which a citizen is under obligation to know, though he may well not know of it. And if the interpretation of the hon. Member on the Front Bench is correct—and I hope that the Minister will tell us it is not—a man is to be punished if he does not listen to the B.B.C., and does not know that such a public notice has been issued. Instead of definite and intelligible obligations being placed upon citizens, we have absolutely undefined and unlimited obligations such as we find under paragraph 3 (b) or under paragraph 7 (d). Paragraph 3 (b) says: at any time and from time to time furnish to the Minister such particulars about himself in addition to any particulars already registered by him (whether by virtue of the provisions of this Order or otherwise) on such date, at such times, in such manner and at such places as the Minister may require. What is the use of debating any liberties when such powers are given to a Minister to impose these things by public notice, and when nobody knows what a public notice is? Similar obligations are imposed on employers under paragraph 7 (d), which says: give notice to any persons employed in the undertaking in such manner as the Minister may from time to time by notice direct of any matters that the Minister may consider necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with this Order or any requirement, direction or notice issued thereunder. Therefore, we not only have a public notice, but a notice under a public notice under an order under an Act of Parliament. Has anybody ever heard such an intolerable genealogy as that? When we speak of things that happen now and compare them with things that happened in the past, there are always some hon. Members opposite who are apt to remind us that we now live under a planned economy. As the Duke of Wellington would say, "If anybody believes that, they could believe anything." I could understand the position of some great dictator who had an exact plan in his mind as to how every person in the country should be directed and put into his appropriate hole, although that would be a horrible thing, a Dostoevski nightmare, to my mind. But the whole basis on which these powers rest is, as the Lord President of the Council told the House in August, that they need not be afraid of giving the Government these powers because they had not the least idea of how they were going to use them. That seems to be the most fantastic situation.

In one of the earliest Debates in this House, I recollect the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then the President of the Board of Trade, telling us, with that sincerity with which he always speaks, that he hoped this Government would do something which he frankly admitted had never been done before in human history. He said it was his sincere hope that the Government would be able to build a planned economy without direction of labour. That was a few years ago. Now we look round and what do we see? We see direction of labour without one vestige of a planned economy. We see a world of chaos, confusion, contradiction and slavery.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

I was grateful to the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Motion that they spoke to the merits of this order as it is before this House. I propose, if the House will bear with me, to follow them in that respect. But I must say also that I was grateful to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) for making it clear that, in the opinion of those of us on this side of the House, this is not simply a question of draftsmanship. It is a question of principle. I should not be reasonable or frank with the House if I did not say that everything I said the other night is still my opinion and my hope in relation to this order, as it was to the other regulation which we were then discussing.

I wish that hon. Members opposite would glance at the order which they are now going to be asked to support in the Division Lobby, if the Minister does not agree to withdraw it, and see what it is, what it can do and what are the objections to it. We are considering—apart from the great question of principle to which my hon. Friend has justly referred—this order, and, in particular, some of the arguments against it brought, not by the Tory Party, not by the Liberal Party, not by Independents, but by a Select Committee of this House. I beg hon. Members, and the right hon. Gentleman in particular, to look at the merits of this case to see what they are really doing here. If they do that, I cannot think there will be found a single speaker who can confirm the actual terms and provisions of this order.

The first thing to which I would draw the attention of the hon. Members is the fact that the order is admittedly an order for the registration of what are called—whatever these terms may mean—"spivs, drones, eels, and butterflies." That is the position. If hon. Members opposite will look at the first page of the Minutes of Evidence given by the two civil servants who were called before the Select Committee, they will see that Sir Harold Wiles said: It is true we might, I suppose, have put some of these classes or limitations into the order itself, but the point of that was that what the Prime Minister very loosely called 'spivs' and 'drones' are not very easily definable, and we shall have to find, by trial and error, whether we are getting the people whom the Government are after. That is a frank admission by the civil servant that the people who register under this order will be registering themselves as spivs and drones. I say to the Members of the Government that if they think that any sane inhabitant of this country is going solemnly to register himself as a spiv or a drone, they are going to be greatly disappointed. Nobody is going to commit that foolish act against himself, except those who are intolerable asses. Nobody is going to do this thing. The only people who are going to register under this order are the very meek and law-abiding people who, by definition, the Government do not want to catch. The real people, the spivs and the drones, are not going to pay the smallest attention to what the right hon. Gentleman says. I hope that, in addition, anybody who has the spirit of a free Englishman will take exactly the same line. So the first objection is that people are being asked and expected to do what anybody who has the true attributes of the English race will not be prepared to do.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

I remember that on the last occasion when the hon. Member was accused of being an agent provocateur in this matter, he denied the charge. He has now repeated the words which he denied he used on the last occasion.

Mr. Hogg

If the hon. Gentleman will look in HANSARD, he will find that he is entirely wrong. It is true that I used the same expressions on each occasion, and meant them on each occasion, and I shall use them again if anybody wants to hear them, but I am not going back with the hon. Gentleman into the particular misconstruction of them to which I objected a few nights ago, because that would be neither in Order nor profitable. What I said then is correctly reported on the pages of HANSARD.

The next question we have to decide is: whom are we going to ask to register? The answer is that nobody knows—not even the Minister. Nobody in the world knows who is going to be asked to register under this order, and nobody will ever at any stage have the right to debate it in the House of Commons. All we do know—and this takes me to the next point I desire to make—is what the order says about it. What the order says about it is: If the Minister from time to time by public notice so requires, any person of either sex who is at the date of the notice in Great Britain, or not having been in Great Britain at that date subsequently enters it, or any such person of any class or description specified in the notice shall register … I now ask the House to consider what the Minister has power to do under this order. For the purposes of this argument, I am not in the least impressed by any assurance which the Minister may give of the use to which he intends to put this power. If the power is not required it should not be demanded. If the power is required it ought to be defined. Does anybody who has read the order deny that under the order against which we are praying, without any further Amendment and without any further Debate whatever in this House, a Fascist Minister could order all Jews to register in this country? That is what he could do because they are persons "of a class or description."

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not mean to be unfair. Paragraph 4 makes very wide exceptions, and so far the whole Debate has been conducted as if paragraph 4 does not exist.

Mr. Hogg

Paragraph 4 does not except Jews.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas rose——

Mr. Hogg

I will not give way again. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a bad and foolish point, and he has had his answer. He is not going to be given a chance to make another until he speaks. Let me give another example. Does anyone doubt that people with red hair, like the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, whom I am glad to see on the Front Bench, are persons of a description? She is a person who, perhaps, is exempt for other reasons. She may be above the age limit for all I know—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I withdraw. She is a married woman living with her husband, so we need not inquire into the other more delicate matter. The fact remains that without any further Debate in this House, and without any amendment to this order, the Minister could order all persons with red hair to register for a particular job, by giving notice. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good saying "No," or braying like asses. It is no good howling like monkeys, because that is what the order provides; and because hon. Members have not read it and do not want to read it, is no reason why they should prevent other people describing what it actually does. Under this order the Minister could order all Roman Catholics to register tomorrow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Yes, he could: they are persons of "a class or description." He could order all Members of Parliament to register, and I sometimes wish he would, to see what hon. Members would say.

That is the power which is being given to the Minister under the order. If he does not want that power, why is he asking for it? If he needs some other and more circumscribed power, why does he not ask for some more circumscribed power? But the truth is he is asking for power to demand by public notice that anybody—whether British or foreign, provided he is ordinarily resident in this country—that anybody who corresponds to any class or description which he chooses to specify in the notice shall register under certain pains and penalties. I sincerely hope that this ridiculous decision will be disregarded by every man in his senses. That is the first, broad objection to the draftsmanship of this order—that it gives the Minister power to order, not merely persons who are not doing essential work, but any person of any class or any description to register under the order.

The first submission I make to the House is that it is manifest that such a definition is far too wide. I quite agree that there are certain specific exceptions in Article 4, but I have deliberately chosen as my examples, examples which do not come within any of those exceptions for that very reason. To pretend, as hon. Members do, or have tried to do, that that is not what the order says, simply, perhaps, on the grounds that they do not think that this Minister is in fact going to issue public notices in those terms, is simply intellectual dishonesty—or laziness; probably both.

The next point I wish to make relates to Article 5 of the order. The article which we were discussing, article 3 of the order, provides for the types of person whom the Minister can specify, and that is, any person of any class or description. Article 5 of the order provides the method by which he specifies them; and the method by which he specifies them is by public notice or otherwise. The first point about that is, that we do not know, we have not been told, and the Minister does not know—because his civil servant admitted it—whom he intends to specify. He has not the remotest idea.

Hon. Members who interrupted the mover of this Motion, when he said that such a notice, when it came, would be undebatable, were entirely wrong. If the provision were that the Minister could by Statutory Rule and Order under the regulations specify a certain class of person to register, then we should be able to pray against that particular order in this House, as we are praying against this order, and get a vote on it, and the House could debate it. But that is not what is provided. What is provided is that the Minister by public notice may do it, and the public notice is not susceptible to debate in this House. I challenge any hon. Members opposite to say it is. I challenge anyone to say I am wrong. The Minister could order all Jews in this country to register, and the House would be unable to debate the thing directly—unless somebody happened to get hold of some obscure order or Act of Parliament, or unless the Minister's salary happened to be under discussion at the time.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

Jews are included under article 4.

Mr. Hogg

Admittedly, elderly Jews over 51 could not be called to register, but young Jews——

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)

Under 18.

Mr. Hogg

Jews who can show that they are above or below the age limits are exempted, but the Minister can order all Jews as such and as a class to register.

Mr. Byers

As a class.

Mr. Hogg

As a class—and nobody in this House could debate it, because it would be done by public notice and not by Statutory Rule and Order.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I think the hon. Member will agree that any Jew in employment, no matter what his age, cannot be called upon to register. He is excluded by the order.

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Member is entirely wrong. If he will point to the provision on which he relies I am willing to give way. I repeat, if the Parliamentary Secretary will point to a single provision which justifies his most inept interruption, I will give way.

Mr. Tiffany

Read article 6.

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Member tells me to read article 6.

Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)

He is always wrong.

Mr. Hogg

Article 6 says: The provisions of Article 5"— not article 3, but article 5— shall not apply to a person carrying on an undertaking, or a branch or department of an undertaking, which undertaking, branch or department is engaged in essential work, and any such branch or department shall be treated as a separate undertaking. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that by mere inability to read he can acquire some remote kind of consolation for his conscience—which must be already direly stretched—all I can say is that the hon. Member should get a certificate from his constituents that he really can read and write. At any rate, public notice or otherwise, I shall maintain that the hon. Member is wholly illiterate unless he withdraws his interruption.

Mr. Tiffany

If the hon. Member reads article 6 he will see that it say: The provisions of Article 5 of this order shall not apply to a person … Obviously, "person" includes Jews, as mentioned by the hon. Member. I am merely suggesting that the whole of his argument is based upon a false assumption.

Mr. Hogg

I cannot conceive how any literate person could have made that interruption. I have read every word of Article 6, and how it can be said that Jews could not be ordered——

Mr. Tiffany

All Jews.

Mr. Hogg

Of course, they are entitled to the benefit of the age limit, the sex limit, the essential works limit, and anything else one likes. The Minister could specify Jews as such and as a class in this order, and do not let anybody make any mistake about it. There is no magic in their carrying on undertakings.

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

Are Jews all that the hon. Member is worrying about?

Mr. Hogg

And Gentiles could be specified, too. This is a nonsensical order which puts us in this position, that the Minister could specify that all Gentiles——

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

And Scotsmen.

Mr. Hogg

—and Scotsmen, or all Communists—one of whom I see sitting on the benches opposite—or all Tories, or all members of the Labour Party, or all capitalists, could be ordered by notice.

Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)

Or people with long noses.

Mr. Hogg

Or people with long noses. Anybody could be ordered so long as they be of a class or description. Any- body could be specified in this order, and if so specified he would have to invoke either the age limit, or the sex limit, or one of the other special exceptions in article 4. This is the order, and the House is debating tonight, whether or not it shall remain the law of this land. All I can say is that, if any hon. Member goes into the Lobby in favour of this order in its present form, he ought to be certified insane, and thereby debarred from any further registration.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Hogg

I shall not give way again. I have given way too often already. I am now passing to something else. When I was interrupted by the hon. Member for Peter borough (Mr. Tiffany), in his rather inept intervention, I was coming to article 5, which deals with the method whereby the Minister is proposing to exercise the power given to him under article 3. I had pointed out that whatever else the words of article 5 may mean—and they are almost unintelligible, as the civil servants found out—they certainly do not include a Statutory Rule and Order, which alone is the method appropriate to a matter of this kind, and which alone is the method which would give this House an opportunity of debating what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do.

Again, I challenge the Under-Secretary to point to anything in the order to show that I was wrong. When the civil servant was asked why he had to choose this method, this undebatable way of specifying whole classes and stigmatising them as drones, the only answer he could give was that the whole thing was so vague that they might want to change their minds, and that they did not want the inconvenience and odium of coming back to the House of Commons. They are afraid of this House of Commons, and afraid of the inconvenience their own idiotic decisions may make. No one will obey an order of this kind, because the whole thing is unworkable.

I come now to the words "public notice or otherwise." I particularly draw the attention of the House to the words "or otherwise." This is in article 5 of the order, on page 3. The words "public notice" are, as has been pointed out, both undefined and undefinable, and the courts will sooner or later have to decide what is a public notice; but members of the public will be jeopardised and liable to imprisonment, because they may have made a mistake as to what is or is not a public notice under the terms of this order. But what do the words "or otherwise" mean? I suggest that they mean a notice which is not a public notice. I cannot attach to them any other meaning than that. I am willing to accept any other possible construction which is put forward, but I have done my best, and the only construction I can put on these words is a notice which is not a public notice.

Let us see what that implies as a matter of legal consequence. It means, having designated people with red hair in his notice, the right hon. Gentleman is under no obligation whatever to make individual people with red hair know that a notice has been issued about them. It is possible that he may make an announcement on the wireless. He may issue a notice at the employment exchanges, and at some of the post offices, but he is under no obligation to do so, because he can do "otherwise," and a very good example of that is to write a note marked. "confidential" to the Archbishop of Canterbury. As far as I can see, under the terms of this Order as drafted, the right hon. Gentleman, having told all Jews to register, can make them do so legally—that is to say, they can be punished if they do not—by writing a letter marked "confidential" to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The fact of the matter is that persons can be rendered liable to pains of imprisonment and fine for not registering under an order which has never been properly brought to their notice. There was a time when there was some sense in the doctrine that every man is presumed to know the law; but the right hon. Gentleman has to go back to very ancient days indeed to find a precedent for what he is doing under article 5 of this order. He has to go back to the days of that ancient city, when the aristocracy, the Government Front Bench of those days, in order that the public should not know the laws, had them printed so high above their heads that no one could read them. Those were comparatively enlightened times compared with the present when orders like the present have to be seriously discussed.

But I do not mind if hon. Members walk into the Lobby like sheep behind their leaders in support of this order, because it is so unworkable and absurd that I prophesy that if it is not annulled tonight, it will be a dead letter within six months. Nobody will observe it, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot enforce it. What, after all, defeated prohibition in America, the 20 miles per hour speed limit in this country, the religious tests or the cruel punishments of the past? It was not that the people defied laws, which were silly and cruel. It was because all men of good sense simply disregarded them. The Minister will have to come to the House either to ask for more powers, powers for the right to machine gun the population, or put them into concentration camps, and the right to have secret police, or to confess that this order is totally unenforceable without the full panopoly of the powers of a totalitarian State. It is a sad commentary on the degradation to which this House has sunk in this Parliament that we should be seriously discussing tonight whether or not to annul an order which is so contrary to the principles of morality and commonsense.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Manchester, Hulme)

May we now hope that the House will agree to discuss this order against the background of the economic condition of the country at the present time? It is so easy to tear to pieces any kind of legislation from a purely academic point of view, and I agree with the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) that every Member of this House detests in any form the direction of labour. But I believe that there are many Members who prefer the direction of labour rather than that this country should go down in poverty, and our people never attain a decent standard of life. When we hear from Members opposite of their sudden desire to free the people we should remember that for two years, since the end of the war, thousands of our workmen have been under the Essential Work Order. We have never heard any protest from the benches opposite about that——

Mr. Hollis

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) pointed out that on two occasions we divided the House on that matter.

Hon. Members


Mr. Lee

I ask the hon. Member this question: Have the Tory Party or the Federation of British Industries ever demanded the withdrawal of the Essential Work Order?

Mr. Hollis

We divided the House.

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

Col. Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

On a point of Order. When the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) has asked my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) a question ought he not to give way, and allow my hon. Friend to answer him?

Mr. Lee

I asked the hon. Member for Devizes if he wished to answer a qustion.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sure that the Minister of Labour will recollect that in October, 1946, a Motion to annul the then Control of Engagement Order was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), seconded by myself, and taken to a Division. There was also another occasion, which I think the Minister will recollect, when we did the same.

Mr. Lee

The Tory Party or the Federation of British Industries will not ask the Minister to withdraw the Essential Work Order, embracing mining, agriculture, and foundry work.

Mr. Hollis rose——

Mr. Lee

Therefore, it is quite untrue for the Mover, or for other hon. Members opposite, to infer that we are now getting direction of labour for the first time in peacetime.

Mr. Hollis

Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to ask me a question and not to allow me to answer.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I understood the hon. Member to say that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) did not rise to answer the question when it was put.

Mr. Byers

The hon. Gentleman has been attacking the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway, and I have no objection to that, but he then goes on to say, "Therefore, the Mover and Seconder—". May I, for the purposes of record, point out that they were Liberals?

Mr. Lee

The hon. Member who moved the annulment of this order told us that we were now seeing the direction of labour for the first time in this country during time of peace.

Mr. Byers

I said "By order."

Mr. Lee

We have direction by the Essential Work Order, and have had it ever since the war finished. During the period of mass unemployment—I can speak personally on this issue—I could go along to the employment exchange and be handed a green card by the man behind the counter. He would tell me to go to a particular job, and if I did not go, I forfeited my right to draw benefit. Is not that direction of labour? Why is it now suggested that because of the concern of my Party and of the Government to pull the nation through this economic blizzard we are abrogating the rights of freedom, and the rights for which the trade unions fought? We have heard for a long time in this House complaints of a campaign of scarcity and austerity from hon. Members opposite. This is nothing more than an attempt to perpetuate the austerity to which they are objecting. I believe that the people of this country will recognise that if we do not obtain the correct numbers and proportion of labour in those supplying industries on which the rest of industry depends, then we can never hope to get through our.present economic difficulties. I am entitled to say that the only reason why hon. Members opposite are in fact now objecting to the direction of labour—[Interruption.] Can hon. Members tell me the time when they objected to the type of direction which I indicated—the man at the employment exchange who had to go to the job to which he was ordered?

Mr. Byers

Does the hon. Gentleman accuse the Liberal Party of taking that action?

Mr. Lee

I accuse the Liberal Party of nothing. The Liberal Party have both feet firmly planted in mid-air. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but they have not got a policy. Neither the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion nor his supporters in the Tory Party have given a single constructive alternative to the order which they are now opposing. The whole reason for the existence of this order is that the increase of productivity which is now taking place in certain industries demands that there shall be a far greater number of people in essential industries which supply engineering and other industries with the raw materials which they need. They know well that if the increased productivity which we need in these industries does not continue as is the case today, there will be unemployment in those industries within a few weeks. I believe that the country as a whole, or at least the workers, are perfectly prepared for the implications of this order.

We have been told for over two years that this Government have not, in fact, governed the country; that it is the trades unions which govern the country. It is significant that the objections to this order come from the opposite side of the House and the support comes from the trade union members. So far as hon. Members opposite are concerned, all they want is to see a revival of the prewar days of starvation. I am sure that unless we can get a balanced labour force in this country, then inevitably we face a serious position. Therefore, I believe that the working class movement, for whom I can speak, realise there is no alternative in a planned economy to an order of this type. I have no apology to make for introducing the word "spivs" to this House. I only introduced the name; I leave the rest to hon. Members opposite.

Sir Harvie Watt (Richmond)

Would the hon. Gentleman give a definition of the word?

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Let the hon. and learned Gentleman get out his mirror.

Mr. Lee

At one time essential work had to be defined in a Statute. I realise that what was an essential occupation at one time will, by the very success of production in another industry, eventually become important priority work. Therefore, I believe it is impossible for the Minister to submit to this House time after time that such and such an industry has now become essential. It would be contrary to our best economic interests and it would retard productivity. A basic industry, which becomes a priority, does so because of its success in production whereby it feeds other industries, and in that way it becomes an essential work long before a Debate in this House can, in fact, be held. The majority of the people of this country understand that only by taking measures of this kind in circumstances such as we now know, can this or any other Government pull the country through its present difficulties. I believe this Debate tonight will show that the austerity campaign of hon. Members opposite is reaching a more dangerous state, in that they are trying to stop the Government taking the only measures which can be taken to pull this country through the economic crisis in a short time.

10.14 p.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

The hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) who has just spoken, has indicated to the House that direction in one form or another has always been the intention of the Socialist Party. I want to call the attention of hon. Members to the contrary. I believe the order which we are debating tonight represents a milestone in the history of this country, and I am very anxious to try to get hon. Members to appreciate the very real seriousness of the trend of policy which has come over the Socialist Party in the government of this country at the present time. May I call attention to the background of this matter?

The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), who moved this Prayer, made some reference to the fact that direction of labour was necessary during the war. May I remind the House that it was then necessary for a particular purpose, to preserve ourselves from the armed might of other nations? We are now introducing direction of labour into this country when there is no army of another nation waiting 20-odd miles away from the shores of this country. For what purpose? Is it to preserve ourselves? Presumably, its only purpose is to preserve ourselves from ourselves.

Can hon. Members realise that the victory which we achieved has resulted in our seeking to introduce democracy among the vanquished, while we ourselves are adopting a policy which is bound to lead to just that very authoritarian regime which we are seeking to stamp out in Germany. I would also ask hon. Members to carry their minds back to the end of the war. At the time of the General Election, the election manifesto of hon. Gentlemen opposite said nothing about direction of labour or about registration for employment at all. On the contrary, it claimed that the Socialist Party were going to enlarge the freedom of the individual. I believe that every hon. Member sitting on the Benches opposite elaborated that theme to his constituents. Some of us challenged them during the election on the point that the Socialist policy of controls could only, in its logical result, lead to direction of labour. That was denied emphatically, in my constituency, and I believe in every other constituency.

I challenge any hon. or right hon. Member opposite to tell the House that he warned the electors of his constituency that the Socialist policy would lead to direction of labour in any form at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "They cannot."] They cannot do so, because, at the time, the Socialist policy on labour problems was based upon the National Government's White Paper on full employment. To that White Paper the present Foreign Secretary contributed greatly. There was no suggestion in the policy of full employment of any sort of control or direction of labour whatsoever. The policy was based upon co-operation between employers and employed, upon sound Budgets and upon a planned economy. It was based upon all sorts of matters of that description, but in no respect was it based upon the direction or control of labour.

I would again remind hon. Members of the next stage at which the Government have arrived on the slippery slope down which they are sliding the whole of the country at the present time. That stage was reached in January of this year, in the statement upon economic considerations, Command Paper 7018. Hon. Members will probably recall that the White Paper emphasised the maldistribution of labour in this country as it then was, and that it set out its policy for overcoming the difficulties. I would remind hon. Members of what it said in paragraph 21 in order to emphasise that the problem then confronting the Government was different only in degree from the problem at the present time. It says: How is this increase of production which it had emphasised as being essential— to be obtained? By ensuring that those industries which provide essential supplies are fully manned up. That is what every hon. and right hon. Member on the other side of the House has emphasised as being necessary at the present time. Now it is proposed to do it by direction and by control of labour, but at the beginning of this year there was no such suggestion whatsoever. It was to be obtained: … by maintaining full employment so that we can make use of all the manpower we can muster. In paragraph 26 of that White Paper the Government again emphasised that: The keynote of all our industrial activities during the immediate period ahead must be to steady the costs of production, to man up the essential undermanned industries and above all to step up production. Again there is no suggestion whatsoever of direction of labour or compulsion of any sort. I would again remind the House of the next step towards this milestone which we have now reached, and that was in the "Economic Survey for 1947" which came two months later. I want hon. Members particularly to realise what was said by the Government so short a time ago in a Paper which was accepted by this House. In paragraph 131 we have the categorical statement by the Government.: Now that direction of labour has been abandoned, there is no single measure which the Government can adopt to bring about these adjustments. It went on to outline the multiplicity of methods which the Government would adopt in order to bring about the adjustments which it was requiring to make with regard to putting right the maldistribution of labour. After all, not a very large adjustment was necessary: it was a matter of 278,000 people out of a total employed population of 18,500,000. What has happened we do not know. The only figure we have so far been given by the Government is that out of the saving in manpower it was intended to make from the public service of 80,000 by the end of this year, the Government have saved only 32,000. That figure was announced by the Minister for Economic Affairs recently and was greeted by his supporters with considerable cheers, but I wondered at the time if hon. Gentlemen opposite realised that in the public ser- vice which had produced a reduction of manpower of 32,000, there were included all the employees in N.A.A.F.I., the British civil employees in U.N.R.R.A. and also the Civil Defence. Therefore, in the natural course of events it is not surprising that there should have been a substantial reduction in the number of people employed in that category.

I would again remind the House of the Government's intentions as expressed earlier during this year. In the same White Paper the Government said that it: has no direct control over the way in which manpower moves; it can seek to influence the movement in a number of ways, but the ideal distribution of manpower would involve changes of such magnitude that it would be impossible to bring them about by any means short of complete wartime direction. Even if direction were used"— these are the words I commend to the House as the Government's opinion earlier this year— even if direction were used, the transfer of labour would be limited by lack of accommodation. There has been no improvement in that situation sufficient to make any change of policy on the part of the Government warranted. Because I want hon. Members opposite to realise how the policy of the Government in this respect has changed, may I also remind them of what the Prime Minister said in the foreword to that paper? He made it clear that the paper explained what had to be done to rebuild our economy, and he went on: The Government alone cannot achieve success. Everything will depend upon the willing co-operation and determined efforts of all sections of the population. Not one word about direction or control of labour, and yet only three months later we have that pamphlet on 6th August in which the Prime Minister took the first step for the direction of labour which has been taken in this country in peace time. The next step was taken by the Minister of Labour during the course of the Debate on the Transitional Services provision. It became quite apparent then. The right hon. Gentleman, who only a month before had made it abundantly clear that the powers he had were intended to be used for the Control of Engagement Order only, and that there was no direction of labour per se intended by the Government, said that only by the use of those powers of direction of labour could the Government meet the situation at that time. It was the most complete change of policy on the part of any Minister that has taken place in any Government of this country within a month.

For that reason I say that we have now reached a milestone, a milestone which the Government can stop at now or which they will be forced to pass, by circumstances over which they have lost control, down this slippery slope. They have no alternative, because of the circumstances and by reason of the economic facts, but to complete the authoritarian or totalitarian direction of labour throughout this country, and I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that whatever else the Minister of Labour may be controlling or directing, he has lost control completely of the direction in which he is travelling. I do not wish to detain the House, but I do want hon. Gentlemen to realise that already the hand of the Government is being forced in this respect. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary has had to leave his place for the moment, because I wish to put to him a report in the Press that he has stated that already 92 people have been directed to jobs, and of those, 19 have been directed away from their homes. I have no doubt that the Minister is aware of the figures and I shall be only too pleased if he will contradict them.

May I remind hon. Members of the occasion, nearly 20 years ago, when the Industrial Transference Board endeavoured to put into operation, on a far less compulsory basis, a change in the location of individual members of industry. It was a fiasco. Even then, when the people who were chosen for the experiment had expressed their willingness to be moved, had expressed their willingness to undertake fresh work, when the miners were moved down from the North of England to Kent, they went back in flocks and herds. Up to 49 per cent. of many of these groups who had moved down voluntarily and had expressed the willingness to be moved, went back to their own homes. Many walked all the way from Kent to Cumberland.

Since then we have had some 20 years of progress and we have had a war, but the character of this country has not changed so as to make individuals more submissive or more subdued and the spirit of independence which is in the people of this country will still resent any question of control of direction now as they did then. The right hon. Gentleman himself has called attention to the fact that a directed person "is not much use to his job, to his fellows or to himself." I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and I would add, he is not much use to his employer. Industry does not want registration or direction and the people of this country do not want registration or direction. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he will not get recovery in this country as a result of compulsion or direction or registration, and that such proposals as this are bound to fail and will not achieve the result he desires. I suggest that the Government should either find another solution to the problem, or else give way to those who can.

10.32 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)

I propose first to explain to the House the authority under which we are taking this action. I will later answer many interesting points raised in the Debate. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I explain the purpose and intentions of the order. Up to now we have heard a good deal about the intentions of the order and its interpretation, but we have heard nothing as to the need of taking some steps' to fill the great number of vacancies for men and women now existing in this country, the filling of which is absolutely essential if we are to meet the nation's need at the present time. Round about half a million jobs need to be filled. We must fill them somehow or those who work and do not work will find themselves in an unfortunate position.

In August of this year we passed the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act. This Act places on the Government the duty of making all services and supplies essential to the well-being of the community balance properly. It says that when we see the supplies and services available are or are likely to become insufficient to meet the essential needs of the community, it is necessary that the use of the powers conferred by these regulations should be directed more particularly to the increase of production and redressing the balance of trade. In Section 1 (1a) it is provided that for these purposes, the Transitional Powers Act is extended so as to be applicable for the following additional purposes that is to say:

  1. "(a) for promoting the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture;
  2. (b) for fostering and directing exports and reducing imports, or imports of any classes from all or any countries and for redressing the balance of trade; and
  3. (c) generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community."
Whether it is agreed that we are going about it in the right or wrong way, that is the purpose of this order and that is the way in which we intend to apply it.

I would now like to deal with some of the questions put to me. I am glad that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has taken his place. I was afraid that he was not coming back, and I wish to comment upon his speech. I will first deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). He made reference to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and what he is reported to have said. What my right hon. Friend actually said was that out of some 90 persons directed, only 10 were directed under this order. All the others were directed under the old order for the mines; of the 10 directed under this order not one was directed away from his home. With the passage of time a person's memory of what the newspapers have said becomes hazy, and, of course, one cannot always rely upon newspapers.

I can see nothing to which one can take exception in the manner of the speech of the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), who moved this Prayer, or the sincerity with which he put his point of view. I will answer many of his arguments as I go along, but there are two matters to which I would like to refer. I do not think that he really meant to say that indignity and suffering would be imposed on people merely by asking them to register. If he looks at HANSARD, I think he will feel that that is not exactly what he meant to imply. Millions of working people are registered now. All of them have an employment book and are registered. It is no indignity on them, and it ought not to be considered an indignity for others who may be called upon to register.

Mr. Byers

I think that is a legitimate point. What I really meant was, as an hon. Friend speaking later said, that this was putting an additional burden upon the people.

Mr. Isaacs

Well, do we not remember that it was the Liberal Party which first made us register? I make no complaint about that. I make no complaint because, through the registration of the unemployed, the country became aware of the terrible amount of unemployment. The hon. Member mentioned conscientious objectors. He was the only hon. Member to do so. I will state exactly what is to be done about such people. I have committed to writing many of these things because, as they will be the basis of much of the working of this order, I am anxious that they shall be stated in HANSARD so that they can be brought in evidence against us if necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "They cannot be."] I mean brought against us in Debate in this House. I am not a lawyer, and I am not speaking of the law. It is essential for the public to know what we have in mind. Frankly, I cannot imagine a conscientious objection to work. It has never been recognised by the State before. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about forced labour?"] It is all very well to twist it that way, but we have had plenty of argument regarding what kind of forced labour exists in this country now. This may not make it palatable, but we have had to put up with it.

We do recognise conscientious objection in regard to the kind of work. I hope that no one will object to doing civilian work to help the country. In so far as there are objections to particular kinds of work on religious and moral grounds, steps will be taken to recognise them. There may be, for instance, objections by teetotallers to working in a brewery. The position of such a person is safeguarded by his right of appeal. If any specific case is brought to our notice of a person claiming conscientious objection to a particular job, we will give it consideration; but we are not prepared to recognise that anyone has a right to conscientious objection to going to work, unless that person is prepared at the same time to say that he will not eat. Everyone should do his share.

Mr. Drayson (Skipton) rose——

Mr. Isaacs

I am anxious to make my case and tell the House exactly where we stand. I wish hon. Members would let me do that. I was going to say that the hon. Member who moved the Prayer asked, what is "essential work"? I can only say it is impossible to decide. Essential work changes from day to day and from week to week, and what may be an essential job today in the factory, may not be an essential job when that particular piece of work is done. I hope, however, that really essential jobs are the only ones to which in the long run, people are directed. There is one other thing which the hon. Member said and which I want to correct. He stated that the Permanent Secretary to my Ministry had stated, and that it had been reported in the "Manchester Guardian," that it would take two civil servants to catch one spiv. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sir Godfrey Ince."] Yes, Sir Godfrey Ince, and I must say that it would not be proper for members of my Department to speak like that. Perhaps the hon. Member would like me to tell him that Sir Godfrey Ince did not make such a statement, nor did such a statement appear in the "Manchester Guardian."

Mr. Byers

I would like, then, to withdraw without qualification the statement which I made, but that was my information.

Mr. Isaacs

On behalf of my colleague, I thank the hon. Member for that withdrawal because I am sure he would not wish a statement which was never made to be recorded as attributed by him.

The hon. and learned Member who seconded the Prayer said there could be no more onerous burden on a citizen than a demand for his personal services. I can only say, "Well I'm blowed"—to think that no greater burden could be placed on a citizen than to ask him to give his services to the State. I cannot accept that at all. Every citizen has a duty to his country and our citizens gave their services unstintingly during the war. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is peace time."] Do hon. Members opposite think that some of us did not do our share? If they are trying to lay their part in the war against that of those on my side, it might be well if we examined what some hon. Members opposite did in the war. I never had much chance of playing cricket, but I always understood that the batsman's job was to protect his wicket against the ball coming up, and that is what I am trying to do. The hon. and learned Member also made reference to the forms of notice concerned with the order, and I hope to give, a little later, more detail about that and to give some satisfaction to the House about the working of the scheme in this direction. The hon. Member for Devizes. (Mr. Hollis) said that we should go cautiously, taking the House hand in hand with us. That I hope to do. The hon. Member for Oxford stated that only a traitor to the State would register. Well, all I can say is that for a King's Counsel to make such a statement is something which prompts me to say that I will not pay another moment's attention to any remarks in his speech.

I would like to deal with some parts of the order. First, as to the provisions and purposes. On 11th November, an announcement was made in the House of the kind of purposes we had in mind. It was that we should ask people following certain occupations, within certain age limits, to register and, for certain occupations, employers to register their people. In that connection, I should like to remind the House that paragraph 5, which has been referred to as dealing with public notice or otherwise, is applied to undertakings and does not apply to persons—only to undertakings. Many Members have spoken to me about the word "otherwise." They have told me of their worries and complaints, and I have gone to the trouble of putting down in precise words, what this order does.

The order gives me power to do two things: to require persons specified in the public notice to register and to require undertakings specified by public notice or otherwise, to register particulars of themselves and their employees. The object is to obtain a register of the persons specified and a register of persons in undertakings so that we may know whether there is a field from which labour can be drawn. These people, when they register, will be asked to come to the employment exchange, and that is where we shall see the need for the further information we require. We shall ask them what kind of work they are doing, what capacity they have.

Once they come there, then they will be treated in precisely the same fashion as people who are affected by the Control of Engagement Order. They will be interviewed for particulars of employment. In exactly the same way, they will have the same rights of appeal and will not be directed unless in the final resort it should be necessary to direct them. It is only after the person is registered that we may take those steps. I quite believe that there will be a number of persons Who will not register, but there should be quite a number of others who will; and I believe that there are sufficient men and women of good spirit in this country who, realising that the nation needs their help, will come forward and give us their help. There are those who are engaged in occupations perhaps of no use to the community who might have to have a little pressure brought to bear on them. The country's need is paramount, and that is what we are trying to meet.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to give the House a precise definition of what he means by public notice——

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, I am coming to that.

Mr. Smith

—and by "public notice or otherwise"?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, I have already promised that I will. If at the end of my speech there is any point I have not covered, I shall be only too glad to give the information.

It is already known who are excluded. The most important of these exceptions are the age groups outside control; married women, a married woman living with her child and so on. Public notices will specify undertakings required to register—various forms of gambling including football pools, nightclubs and amusement arcades. Paragraph 6—I am going through the order as if it were a Second Reading of a Bill—precludes the Minister from requiring an undertaking engaged on essential work to register. Public notices will be of three classes. There is, first, a notice requiring street traders to register; second, a notice requiring persons not gainfully employed to register; and the third requires certain undertakings to register particulars about themselves and their employees. I will come to further details in my own time.

As to publicity, every effort will be made to acquaint the public with the terms of the order. We propose to publish what is, I think, known as a "quiz" leaflet. One has already been published in connection with the Control of Engagement Order. It has been welcomed and I have been asked to issue it more widely to hon. Members. A similar leaflet of this kind will be published, I hope, soon after Christmas. It is quite true that in the Select Committee it was not possible to give a definite answer about the Post Office. I am not at the moment in a position to say. We must consult with the Postmaster-General. It is intended to put this notice in every post office throughout the Kingdom. It will be put in all employment offices and it will be advertised in the national and provincial Press. The B.B.C. will be asked to make an announcement. It will not be merely by casually listening to the wireless that a person will be told to register. Every opportunity will be given to see that the fullest notice is given.

We shall begin by registering younger groups and we shall go on to the older groups as time goes on. It is quite obvious that if the registrations of the younger groups can produce sufficient man and women power to fill up the jobs that are vacant and are necessary to be filled, it should not be necessary to go on registering. Therefore we shall register a group at a time. During the Debate in the House on the Control of Engagement Order there was some confusion about the the nature of the order, and as similar confusion exists in regard to the Registration for Employment Order I think it is desirable to clarify the position. I can clarify it in one particular. The Post Office has now agreed that the notices be posted. There is speed for you. Five minutes ago, it was not done—now it is.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)

As Chairman of the Select Committee, I would like to put this to the Minister. When we asked a witness about notices being put in every post office in the country, the reply was that he was not sure and could not tell us.

Mr. Isaacs

I do not think I am in a position to say about that. Five minutes ago I did not know about the displaying of notices, but now the hon. and gallant Member and the House know the posi- tion. As this report has been mentioned, I would like to say in all sincerity that I appreciate this report. We must take care to see that the order is properly prepared, and therefore I am endeavouring to follow up the request of the Committee which says it must make use of the power conferred by the House upon it and then its form and purpose must be capable of elucidation. However inadequately, I am trying to give some elucidation of its form and purpose.

The opening words of the Defence Regulations 58A are as follows: The Minister of Labour and National Service or any National Service officer may direct any person in Great Britain to perform such services in the United Kingdom or in any British ship not being a Dominion ship as may be specified by or described in the directions, being services which that person is in the opinion of the Minister or Officer capable of performing. It means that we have to take into consideration the capacity of that person. Obviously it would be nonsense to ask a man to serve on a merchant ship who had never been on a merchant ship before. All I can say is that this is the regulation under which we are acting and under which we are hoping to carry out this duty.

I now come to the points more specifically raised by the Select Committee. They ask why classes or descriptions of persons required to register are to be specified by public notice and are not specified in the order itself. The main answer is that it is very difficult, within the confines of an order, to be sure that the classes or descriptions of persons or undertakings to be covered are accurately or sufficiently described. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I look forward to getting the assistance of the House in this matter. It might be that the original registrations failed to cover the classes of [...]criptions of persons it was desired to include. This can readily be done by [...] further public notice and registration, whereas a series of amending orders would hardly be appropriate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If every time an amending order had to be made, we had a delay for discussion in the House, the advantage of enrolling another class would be completely lost to us by the delay.

Sir C. MacAndrew

Is it not the fact that these orders take effect the moment they are made?

Mr. Isaacs

I admit that that is a point.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

A pretty good one.

Mr. Isaacs

At any rate, as I am trying to carry out an order made under an Act of Parliament passed by this House—an order which all, even those who criticise it, recognise as dealing with a very difficult problem that has to be faced—I am entitled to claim that I should be allowed to use some flexibility. I do not want to rest on the process of "trial and error." But, after all, errors are made at some time or another by everybody, and people who have never made a mistake in their lives never did a darned thing. It is much better to put the matter right by an administrative act, than to come to get an order.

The Select Committee also drew attention to the point that under paragraph 3 the requirement to register must be by public notice, whereas under paragraph 5 it may be either by public notice "or otherwise." The answer to this is that when dealing with undertakings—such as a dozen pools, or something of that sort—it might be more convenient and suitable to all concerned to give that notice to the firm or firms by communication directly. But it is clear—and I want to give the undertaking—that, if that form of direct notice is given—that form, instead of public notices all over the country—to affect a certain group of firms, it will always be done in a written communication. It will not be a question of going along and giving it by word of mouth. It always will be a form of written communication. Apart from the reasons I have just explained, people are used to this procedure, and there does not seem to be good reason for trying to devise a new procedure. We called up our young men for the Services by posting notices that certain people of certain ages were to register.

I recognise, however, that the House may feel that Parliament has no control over the subject matter of the notices, which are, in effect, part of the registration order. I am prepared to ensure that in every case a copy of the public notice will be placed in the Library. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members do not want it, let them say so, and I shall not put the copies there. That is easily done.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter rose——

Mr. Isaacs

No, I shall not give way. I give this further promise—if you want it.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

The right hon. Gentleman should address the Chair.

Colonel Dower

He is, and saying that Mr. Deputy-Speaker does not want the promise.

Mr. Isaacs

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I humbly apologise, and I thank the noble Lord for his continuous and courteous instructions.

I give this further promise. If any classes of persons or of undertakings, other than those announced, are to be required to register, I will inform the House before issuing further notices. It may be said that this notice is not an Order that the House can pray against. Questions can be asked and the matter can be raised on the Adjournment. A number of questions pass, I believe, through the usual channels, through which it is possible to claim a Debate. I am asking what the hon. Member for Chichester asked—cannot we all walk hand-in-hand? We want to get more people into work and we want this House to help us in that. We look with absolute contempt on the individuals who encourage people to disregard this Order. If we are to get these men we have all got to pull together. In this instance we are relying on the men and women in the factories and in the workshops especially, not the man at the bottom only but those in the draughtsmen's room and those in the managerial department. All those engaged in industry are needed to combine their efforts to get us out of the mess in which we find ourselves.

There are two or three announcements which I wish to make which I think will help the House and those who are concerned. First, there is an announcement about street traders. The public notices will apply to persons engaged in or assisting in street trading in the larger urban areas, and the local notices will indicate which are the areas affected. If anyone in an urban area should not be certain whether he has to register or not, he should, as invited in the notice, inquire at the local office of the Ministry to find out whether a particular place is one of the affected urban areas. These areas are as follows: In England and Wales—the administrative county of London and all county boroughs, together with those other boroughs and urban districts that have a population exceeding 20,000. In Scotland—the counties of cities, such as Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and those places known as large burghs.

Selling goods from door to door or normal delivery is not street trading. Street trading does, however, include not only the selling of articles in the street, but also singing, playing and performing for profit, shoe blacking, the taking of photographs of passers-by for sale and like occupations. I am sure many hon. Members in this House will be glad to dodge those photographers. The second' point is that it is recognised that many street traders serve a useful purpose. Indeed, some of their work is clearly essential, for example, reputable traders in recognised markets. It is not possible to exclude them from the need for registration by definition in the notice, but after registration, they will have the fullest opportunities to explain their circumstances and there will be no attempt to shift them to other work. Thirdly, street traders will be required to register at times convenient to themselves during normal office hours in the week ending 10th January.

In the second classification are persons who are not gainfully employed. In addition to the persons excluded from registration by virtue of paragraph 4 of the order, the notice will also exclude persons looking after relatives or friends who are unable to look after themselves; a person who is deaf and dumb; a person who is registered under the Disabled Persons Employment Act; a person who is a member of a religious community; a person in regular full-time daily attendance at school, college, university or similar institution; apprentices and articled clerks. It is recognised that there will be many persons other than those excluded from registration who are performing useful or essential services in an unpaid capacity. Such persons are required to register, but will be given a full opportunity of saying, "I am registering but I think I am outside the classification." Full recognition will be given to claims of that sort.

I want to make clear an answer to a Question which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), who raised the point relating to married women. In no circumstances will married women be directed under this order or under the Control of Engagement Order. Women may be performing unpaid domestic work in the home. Where it is claimed that this or any other domestic circumstances preclude a woman from undertaking essential work she can state that when she registers at the exchange. In that case a panel of women will be appointed, and they will discuss whether the case is one where she ought or ought not to be directed. In addition, whatever the panel of women may decide, the woman has the right of appeal against direction or against being expected to take a job apart from direction.

In the case of undertakings the employees have no obligation to register. It is the employer who is required to register particulars of themselves and their employees. The undertakings concerned are: (1) Businesses carried on at premises to which persons are invited to resort for the purpose of gaming or amusement by means of pin tables, automatic machines or similar apparatus, the gaming or amusement so provided being a substantial part of the business; (2) The carrying on of competitions for which prizes are offered for the forecasting of the results of future events or of past events the results of which are not generally known. I must admit that it is more suitable for a Dublin man than a Cockney to say that prizes should be offered for forecasting the results of past events; (3) The business of a bookmaker; (4) The provision of facilities for betting by means of a totalisator or for pari-mutuel or pool betting; (5) The business of a club or similar institution if intoxicating liquor is consumed on its premises and if the period during which such premises are open to members does not normally commence before five o'clock in the afternoon or cease before one o'clock in the following morning, but excluding any such business which is carried on by an undertaking engaged in any trade or business for the use of the persons employed in the undertaking. These undertakings are required to register particulars not later than Saturday 17th January.

I have gone into this at some length, but I am anxious that people who read our debates should understand what is being dealt with. After registration, and after the employer has registered particulars, the local offices of the Ministry will consider the position of those persons who seem by their age and circumstances to be available for other employment and will arrange for them to be offered other work of an essential character provided that they are within the scope of registration as individuals under the order. It is hoped that in many cases it will be possible to make arrangements to this end in co-operation with the employers. For example consultation has already begun with the Football Pools Promotors Association who are offering every possible co-operation to see that people not suitable for other work may be found employment. I hope I have dealt with all the questions asked.

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

The right hon. Gentleman has not referred to the numbers of ex-Servicemen registered with the Appointments Board. There are many thousands, and can we not have some indication of how they will be dealt with under this order?

Mr. Isaacs

To be perfectly frank, that point has not entered my mind. If they are within the scope for registration we shall endeavour to place them in the jobs they seek. I will look into the matter and see that it is covered.

I apologise if I have been long and tortuous, but it is the national need that is at the bottom of our minds. The great organisations of this country representing over nine million of the workers have stated they will accept the Control of Engagements Order. Their members will agree to be subject to that order, but they say that if they are to be ordered about, other people, too, should be called upon. We do call upon these people, and we feel that in the true British sense of justice which exists amongst the mass of our people they will come along and do their bit. If they do not come, then they shall be made subject to the pains and penalties of this order.

11.10 p.m.

Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)

The right hon. Gentleman in his last remark brought the House back to the Control of Engagement Order which we were discussing not so long ago. The House will remember, I think, that one of the defences put forward for that order being brought into effect was its limited scope and the narrow field which it covers. One thing is perfectly clear—we have seen by the introduction of this order, proof positive that when you take the path of compulsion, of forced labour and industrial conscription, you cannot alter that path but must slide down it with ever-increasing momentum and speed. This order extends to a measureless extent the duty to register, with, beyond the duty to register, in every case the compulsory power of direction under Regulation 58A.

The right hon. Gentleman in a forty-minute speech gave an explanation of the order to the House. I hope he will believe me when I say that I do not complain about the time for an instant, but he did not deal at all with the point which has been reiterated by the Select Committee and by every speaker on this side of the House as to why he takes powers which are infinitely greater on his own confession, on the confession of his officials and of his supporters, than are necessary to attain the objectives he has put to the House.

There has been no attempt—the right hon. Gentleman has not really told us why—to give definitions in any order which can be debated by the representatives of the people concerned with their liberty. There has been no attempt to give a definition of those whom he wants to reach by this order and bring into his net of registration today. He admitted that he had chosen the words specified in the notice as words which could not be debated by the House, and he gave the reason—it is within the memory of everyone—that he thought that even a Debate of this sort, a truncated Debate on a Prayer when there is no opportunity of amendment or for consideration of any of the details of the proposal, might slow up the operations of these orders. He knew, and a moment's consideration would remind him, that the orders come into force at once and when one deducts that empty reason he has already given, the only reason which remains is that he does not want a discussion of the specification and does not want a system by which the House can learn the methods adopted with regard to those to be affected by the order, and the reasons for it.

When last we discussed this matter the right hon. Gentleman used some phrase—I forget the exact terms—referring to my fustian or ersatz emotion about it. I do ask him to believe, not only for myself but for my hon. Friends behind me, that liberty to us is not a word, and that freedom for people in time of peace, is something which, rightly or wrongly, we hold dear and always shall hold dear, and will always come forward to defend. The right hon. Gentleman may talk about freedom, but in view of the applause that he gave to this order—which first leaves to the unfettered discretion of the Minister, not to be questioned by this House, how he is to specify the people who are to be called up, and then leaves to that unfettered discretion what particulars they are to give—I can only ask, is anything so bankrupt of forethought in matters which concern the people's lives as an order drafted in the way of saying, first, that they may be asked to give the information in the schedule, and then may be asked to give such other information as to the Minister may seem good?

The same applies to employers. The Minister has made his justification for being able to proceed by something other than a public notice. He has given no justification that I have heard for or against putting the request for information—for it applies both ways, to the employer as well as the workman—this additional and unspecified information that may be demanded. He has given no justification that I have heard for giving to his officials the right to enter, without warrant apparently, into any businesses in order that they may see—not for the past but for the future—that everything is going according to their desires. He has certainly given no explanation of this extraordinary provision in paragraph 7 (d): give notice to any persons employed in the undertaking in such manner as the Minister may from time to time by notice direct of any matters that the Minister may consider necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with this Order or any requirement, direction or notice issued thereunder. He takes powers to make an informer of anyone who may be employed and to whom he may give the notice.

Again I say, this is not good legislation. If it is the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues want, then for heaven's sake let them put it in a Bill, let them produce the Clauses so that Amendments can be moved, and let the right hon. Gentleman and those who have cheered him, have the privilege of voting in the Lobbies against Amendments to try to strike out proposals of that sort. They know that we have to accept this miserable order en bloc, or vote against it to the extent of our power. They know very well that if they put forward an industrial conscription Bill, and it were debated line by line, Clause by Clause, and Amendment by Amendment, hon. Members behind them would have to declare their votes, and afterwards face up to their votes on matters from which they would greatly shrink before the electorate.

I have listened with the greatest attention to the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee), who defended this matter on general grounds. There seemed to be a ring of remembrance in these general grounds and it came to me, not with great astonishment, but some surprise, that there is no argument on the general case advanced, that Wilberforce did not have to meet when he brought forward his proposals against slavery 140 years ago. We heard exactly the same argument: "You cannot get this produce unless you are going to use the work of these slaves. It is a great pity to take people from their families, but of course if we do not do it, the world will be without the priceless products of

their labour." They are not new arguments and they are not the answer to our case.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

Was he supported by the organised slaves?

Sir D. Maxwell Fife

The right hon. Gentleman did not harmonise this order which he has defended tonight with a document which, as he knows, the Government issued only a few months ago. I refer to the International Bill of Human Rights, which was put forward by the Government in a White Paper from the Foreign Office in June of this year for consideration by the appropriate committee of U.N.O. Paragraph 9 of that document is in two parts. The first part is, "No form of slavery shall be permitted." Part two, as we might well expect, consists of square brackets within which are the words, "A text on the subject of compulsory labour will be inserted here later." The right hon. Gentleman, I hoped, would fill up what is to go into these square brackets so that it would harmonise the attack on compulsory labour which the Government wav making a short time ago with their defence and furtherance of it tonight. That is what we are going to vote against and I hope we shall see this order annulled and this Prayer carried.

Question put, That the Registration for Employment Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2409), dated 11th November, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 11th November, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 178; Noes, 223.

Division No. 39.] AYES. [11.20 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Cole, T. L. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R Conant, Maj. R J. E. Gage, C.
Astor, Hon. M. Cooper-Key, E. M. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D
Baldwin, A E. Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Gammans, L. D.
Barlow, Sir J. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C Gates, Maj. E. E.
Baxter, A. B. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Glyn, Sir R.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Crowder, Capt. John E. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A
Beechman, N. A Cuthbert, W. N. Grant, Lady
Bennett, Sir P. Darling, Sir W. Y. Gridley, Sir A.
Birch, Nigel Davidson, Viscountess Grimston, R. V.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Gruffydd, Prof. W. J
Boothby, R. De la Bère, R. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)
Bossom, A. C Digby, S. W. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Bower, N. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A V
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Haughton, S. G.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Drayson, G. B. Head, Brig. A. H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Drewe, C. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Butcher, H. W. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Hogg, Hon. Q.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Elliot, Rt Hon. Walter Hollis, M. C.
Carson, E. Erroll, F. J. Howard, Hon. A.
Challen, C. Fletcher, W. (Bury) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Clarke, Col. R. S Fox, Sir G. Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.
Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C) Mellor, Sir J. Shephard, S. (Newark)
Jarvis, Sir J. Molson, A. H. E. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Jeffreys, General Sir G. Moore, Lt.-Col Sit T Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Jennings, R. Morris-Jones, Sir H. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Smithers, Sir W.
Keeling, E. H. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Snadden, W. M.
Kendall, W D Mott-Radclyffe, Maj C E Spearman, A, C. M
Kerr, Sir J Graham Mullan, Lt. C. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Lambert, Hon. G. Neven-Spence, Sir B Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Nicholson, G. Studholme, H. G.
Langford-Holt, J. Nield, B. (Chester) Taylor. C. S. (Eastbourne)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Noble, Comdr A. H. P Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Lindsay, M (Solihull) Nutting, Anthony Teeling, William
Linstead, H. N. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Lipson, D. L. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.) Osborne, C. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Peto, Brig. C. H. M Thorp, Lt.-Col, R. A. F
Low, A. R. W. Pickthorn, K Touche, G. C.
Lucas, Major Sir J Pitman, I. J. Turton, R H.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Vane, W. M. F.
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Wakefield, Sir W. W
MacAndrew, Col. Sir C Prescott, Stanley Walker-Smith, D
Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Price-White, Lt.-Col. D Ward, Hon. G. R.
Mackeson, Brig. H. R Prior-Palmer, Brig. O Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Raikes, H. V. Wheatley, Col. M J. (Dorset. E.)
Maclay, Hon. J. S. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C (Hillhead) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
MacLeod, J. Renton, D. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Roberts, H. (Handsworth) Williams, C (Torquay)
Macpherson, K. (Dumfries) Roberts, Major P. G. (Ecclesall) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Maitla.d, Comdr. J. W. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Manningham-Butler, R. E Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham) Winterton, Rt Hon. Earl
Marlowe, A. A. H Ropner, Col. L. York, C.
Marsden, Capt. A. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Sanderson, Sir F TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maude, J C. Scott, Lord W. Mr. Byers and Mr. Hopkin Morris.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Dumpleton, C. W. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V Dye, S. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Alpass, J. H. Edwards, John (Blackburn) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Janner, B.
Attewell, H. C. Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Awbery, S. S Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Bacon, Miss A Evans, John (Ogmore) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)
Baird, J. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)
Balfour, A. Ewart, R. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Bechervaise, A. E. Fairhurst, F. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J Fernyhough, E. Keenan, W.
Berry, H. Follick, M. Kenyon, C.
Beswick, F. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) King, E. M.
Bing, G. H. C. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Blenkinsop, A. Gallacher, W. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J J.
Boardman, H. Ganley, Mrs. C S Lee, F. (Hulme)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Gibbins, J. Leonard, W.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Gibson, C. W. Levy, B. W.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Gilzean, A. Lindgren, G. S.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Gordon-Walker, P. C. Longden, F.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Lyne, A. W.
Brown, George (Belper) Grey, C. F. McAdam, W.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) McGovern, J.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Mack, J. D.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Guy, W. H. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Champion, A. J. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) McKinlay, A. S
Cobb, F. A. Hannan, W. (Maryhill) McLeavy, F.
Cocks, F. S. Hardy, E. A. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Collins, V. J. Harrison, J. Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Colman, Miss G. M. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Cámb'well, N W.) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Mann, Mrs. J.
Corlett, Dr. J. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Crawley, A. Herbison, Miss M. Marshall, F. (Brightside)
Crossman, R. H. S. Hobson, C R. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Daggar, G. Holman, P. Medland, H. M.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Middleton, Mrs. L.
Deer, G. House, G. Mikardo, Ian.
Delargy, H. J. Hoy, J. Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R.
Diamond, J. Hubbard, T. Mitchison, G. R
Dobbie, W. Hudson, J. H. (Eating, W.) Moody, A. S.
Donovan, T. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Morley, R.
Driberg, T. E. N. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Shurmer, P. Tomlinson, Rt Hon. G.
Morris, P. {Swansea, W.) Silkin, Rt. Hon. L. Turner-Samuels, M.
Nally, W. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Neat, H. (Claycross) Simmons, C. J. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Smith, C. (Colchester) Walker, G. H.
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Oldfield, W. H. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Oliver, G. H. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Warbey, W. N.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Snow, J. W. Watkins, T. E.
Palmer, A. M. F. Sorensen, R. W. Watson, W. M.
Pargiter, G. A. Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Parker, J. Stamford, W. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Pearson, A. Steele, T. West, D. G.
Pea0rt, T. F. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, F.)
Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth) White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Porter, G. (Leeds) Stross, Dr. B. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Price, M. Philips Summerskill, Dr. Edith Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Pritt, D. N. Swingler, S. Wigg, George
Pryde, D. J. Sylvester, G. O. Wilkes, L.
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Symonds, A. L. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Randall, H. E. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Ranger, J. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Reid, T. (Swindon) Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Willis, E.
Robens, A. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Thomas, John R. (Dover) Wise, Major F. J.
Royle, C. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Woodburn, A.
Scollan, T. Thurtle, Ernest Woods, G. S.
Segal, Dr. S. Tiffany, S.
Sharp, Granville Titterington, M. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Tolley, L. Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins
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