HC Deb 07 November 1947 vol 443 cc2133-66

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

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

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

This Bill is concerned only with those Defence Regulations and emergency enactments which were prolonged until 31st December this year by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946. The main purpose of that Act was to prolong, with modifications, some emergency enactments and some Defence (General) Regulations to the number of about 50, that is, excluding mere machinery provisions, and the whole or part of some 26 codes of other Defence Regulations. Those regulations and enactments were all that remained of the Defence Regulations, except the corpus of regulations dealing with economic controls, preserved by the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. The Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, extended the Defence Regulations and enactments included in it to 31st December of this year. Those in the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act were extended to 10th December, 1950.

I had hoped, and so stated during the Committee stage of the 1946 Act, that, if it should be necessary to keep in force any of these regulations, we should be able to deal with them through the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Some doubt was expressed at the time whether this would be possible, and, after careful study, I have come to the conclusion, that that course of procedure must be abandoned for at least three reasons. The first is that it is not possible, in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, to make amendments in emergency enactments, and we do not desire to continue all those enactments in their present form. It is not possible to enact permanently in that Measure any Defence Regulations which we believe should now become part of the Statute law of the country. When we come to the Clauses I shall show that we are proposing that some of the uncontroversial regulations, which have been of great administrative advantage during their currency, should become permanent. Nor is it possible to repeal any of the emergency enactments which are included in the 1946 Act if we use the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill procedure. Therefore, we have introduced this Bill, which will, during the Committee stage at least, enable the reason for the continuation of any Defence Regulation to be debated, and will also enable Amendments, if it is desired that they should be made, to be put down to any of the Defence Regulations which it may be proposed to continue.

I have taken the opportunity afforded by this Bill to reach a quite definite conclusion on the present fate of each of the subsisting regulations, and to group them into broad categories, for each of which definite treatment can be recommended to the House. These regulations fall into four categories. First, there are those to be dispensed with at the end of this year. They number almost half of those which were included in the Act of 1946. Then there are some which are required for a short time longer and the reason for which will, in our opinion, not much longer remain. We have put those into a second category. In fact, some of them will be embodied in legislation during the current Session in Bills which will be introduced by some of my right hon. Friends when dealing with the subject matter which covers such regulations. Then there is a third category—about a score of those Defence Regulations which we think may be required for at least three years. Some of these undoubtedly will be embodied in permanent legislation during that period but, as they may raise controversial issues, I do not think that it would be appropriate to include them in this Measure for enactment as part of the permanent legislation of this country. Then we come to the fourth category, which includes those of a non-controversial character which have proved useful in administration. We propose to make them into permanent enactments with such modifications as are printed in the Second Schedule. When embodied in the law they will take the form which is provided in the Second Schedule.

The Defence Regulations form the major bulk of the provisions to be dealt with in the Bill. Also, we are prolonging certain wartime Statutory provisions and we are repealing a few. I shall deal with those during my explanation of the Clauses. There is one thing further to which I ought to call attention in this general review, and that is that any provision which is extended beyond the end of this calendar year can be further prolonged under this Measure for not more than a year at a time if both Houses support an Address asking for it. It will take the form of what is generally known here as the Affirmative Resolution. In order to prolong any of these Defence Regulations after the period fixed in the, Bill, it will be necessary for both Houses to ask that the Order in Council shall be made.

Clause 1 deals with the categories of Defence Regulations. Clause 1, (1, a) sets out the Defence Regulations and the parts of Defence Regulations which are to end on 31st December of this year. They are set out in Part I of the First Schedule. Each regulation is clearly set out and I have endeavoured to follow the same practice throughout. Clause 1 (1, b) deals with the regulations the need for which we anticipate will disappear during the year 1948, some because they will be embodied in permanent legislation during that period and others because we anticipate that the need for them will have disappeared during that time. Clause 1 (1, c) deals with those to be kept in force up to a date not later than 10th December, 1950. None will be kept longer than they are required. Some will disappear with their embodiment in permanent legislation. I think it is right to give notice now that others may be required at any rate beyond 31st December, 1948. There is a power in this Bill to revoke any of them the moment they become unnecessary. We have chosen 10th December, 1950, because that is the date up to which the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act of 1945 carries its own regulations. Therefore, on that date all the unexpired regulations, whether continued by this Bill or by the Act I have just quoted, will come up for consideration together.

In assigning each regulation to its particular category, I have considered most carefully what is the probable, length of time for which it will be required. During the Committee stage of the Bill, Ministers in charge of the Departments who use certain regulations will be present to defend the continuation of any regulation and the assignment of it to the category in which we have included it. I hope that we shall be able to arrive at some general agreement with regard to the proper assignment of these regulations to particular categories.

Clause 1 (2) continues the Defence Regulations as modified in the Act of 1946, that is to say, they are continued in the form in which they appear in the printed volume dated 24th February, 1946, with one exception and that is Defence Regulation 16. I assured the House, when the 1946 Act was before it in the form of a Bill, that this regulation would be sparingly used, and I think that an examination of what has been done under it will prove that that pledge has been carried out. It is a regulation which I have always regarded with considerable misgiving. As a Vice-President of the Common Footpaths and Open Spaces Preservation Society, I could hardly do otherwise. I sincerely regret that on occasions I have had to appear in the somewhat unusual guise of gamekeeper turned poacher, a most reprehensible form of activity, except when engaged in under the strongest compulsion.

I have further restricted the use to which this regulation can be put, and I have set out in formal terms in Part IV of the First Schedule the exact form that this regulation will have in future. The only person who will be able to use it will be the Minister of Fuel and Power. The power of making a new Order under this regulation is withdrawn from everybody except the Minister of Fuel and Power, and he can only use it for two purposes—that of working opencast coal or constructing or extending an electricity generating station. Under that power, he may make an Order providing for the stopping up or diversion of any highway passing over the land which is to be the subject of his operations. I hope it will be for the convenience of the House, in discussing this regulation, that it is set out so clearly in Part IV of the First Schedule.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Would the right hon. Gentleman say why he has given the power to the Minister of Fuel and Power, whereas it is the Minister of Works who does the requisitioning of sites eventually used for opencast coal mining?

Mr. Ede

Because the Minister of Fuel and Power is the person who can justify the use for which it is required. It is true that the Minister of Works may requisition the land, but he could hardly be expected to deal with any technical reasons there might be for wanting to close or divert a particular highway. I think it is desirable that it should be the Minister of Fuel and Power, but after all, in the form in which this is submitted, it will be open to anybody who thinks that another Minister other than the Minister of Fuel and Power should be vested with this power to put down an Amendment to that effect when we are in Committee. Clause 1 (3) continues various provisions of the Act of 1946 applying to Defence Regulations, and it carries over the provisions of the 1946 Act to those regulations which are continued. These include the provision enabling any Defence Regulation to be revoked.

Clause 2 enacts permanently a few of the Defence Regulations included in Part I of the First Schedule. These cease to have validity as Defence Regulations, and their purpose is achieved for the future by their enactment as permanent legislation in the modified form set out in the Second Schedule. Perhaps it would be as well, if hon. Members will turn to the Second Schedule, that I should say a few words in justifying the inclusion of each of these in the Schedule. The first paragraph reproduces Regulation 40AA of Defence (General) Regulations enabling the Admiralty, the Army and Air Councils to employ special constables in cases in which, under existing legislation, they cannot be employed. It seems an astonishing gap in the law that this should not be possible. It enables civilians to be used for some of this work which otherwise might have to fall on military guards, and as there appears to be no prospect of any legislation covering this point being introduced in the near future, it seems desirable that we should continue what has proved to be both efficient and economical. Paragraph 2 reproduces Regulation 9 of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, and authorises provost marshals and their staffs of any of the three Services to exercise the powers of provost marshals of the other Services. This again cannot be obtained by amendments of the Annual Army or Air Force Acts—

Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

Why not?

Mr. Ede

So I am advised by Parliamentary counsel. If it can be suggested, I am willing to consider the matter, but we have been advised that it is not possible to include it in either of those Measures and, of course, those Acts do not apply to the Royal Navy, which introduces a complication that arises also on the regulation continued in the third paragraph. This reproduces Regulation 10A of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations enabling documentary evidence of arrest to be given where a naval officer or seaman is taken into naval custody on a charge of desertion or of absence without leave, or where a naval officer surrenders. This provision is included in the Army and Air Force Annual Acts, and I am advised by the Admiralty that no injustice has been inflicted on officers and ratings of the Royal Navy by the operation of this Regulation during its currency, and we think it should now be embodied in permanent regulations.

Paragraph 4 reproduces Regulation 57C of the Defence (General) Regulations, and deals with an anomaly which we have been able to avoid during the currency of the regulations. Under the Explosives Act of 1875, explosives sent by rail have to be sent in special gunpowder vans, and not more than five are allowed in any one train. Curiously enough, however, these restrictions do not apply to explosives produced in Royal Ordnance factories. I do not know whether in 1875 they had misgivings as to the quality of explosives. I know that in the adjoining village to the town in which I was born there was a powder factory, and the boys in my town always used to taunt the boys of the other village on being responsible for the German victory at the Battle of Sedan because the powder supplied to the French Army was made in this adjoining village.

Mr. McAdam (Salford, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this prohibition did not apply during the war years?

Mr. Ede

That is the point of trying to continue the Regulation now. We think we should embody it in the law in the form we have here, which will grant similar exemption to explosives produced for a Government Department by a contractor. These are, of course, inspected before they leave the factories, and no difficulty has arisen during the transport of this material while the regulation has been in force. Paragraphs 5, 6, 7 and 8 reproduce, with drafting Amendments, Regulations 17B, 17C and 17D of the Defence (Administration of Justice) Regulations, 1940. They are useful additions to the existing law relating to affiliation and maintenance orders. They are designed to help the parties by providing means by which applications may be dealt with by the most convenient court, having regard to the residences of the parties and their witnesses. These proposals are outside the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Clause 3 deals with certain matters relating to agriculture. The Acts mentioned in this Clause authorises the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture to make grants of £2 per acre in respect of grassland ploughed up before 1st January, 1948, which land was either put under tillage crops or reseeded to grass, provided the land has either been under grass for three years or is in the third calendar year from the date of sow- ing. As part of the agricultural extension programme announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on the 21st August, the payment of such grants is to be continued for a further two years to ensure that land qualifying can be brought into production before the end of the four-year programme. The rate of grant for ploughing after 21st August is to be doubled. This Clause confers the necessary powers in these respects on the Ministers concerned. At the same time the opportunity is being taken of rectifying an anomoly in the ploughing grant conditions by introducing a new definition of "season" to make it clear that land sown to grass in 1945 can be eligible for grant in 1948. This Clause, if discussed in Committee, will be defended by my right hon. Friends or representatives of their Departments.

Clause 4 extends until 10th December, 1950, certain other emergency provisions relating to agriculture. These provide for the suspension of the powers of the Wheat Commission and their exercise by the Ministry of Food. They relate to land drainage, for example, thus giving the Ministry of Agriculture power over dams and sluices to prevent injury to agricultural land. Clause 5 continues six Sections of the 1946 Act, including the operation of seven Acts specified in this Section. I am quite prepared to mention them in detail, but I think it is a matter which might be left to the Committee stage of the Bill unless any Member requires justification of the inclusion of any particular Act at this stage.

Clause 6 deals with a difficulty that confronted us at the end of the war when it was found that local authorities were probably not armed in every case with power to enter on land to complete the removal of air raid shelters and other war works, and Section 12 of the 1946 Act was introduced to remove doubts as to their power in this matter. This Clause enables them to continue their work where it is necessary for demolition and removal and the making good of land. Clause 7 is one which enables any Defence Regulation extended by this Bill or any enactment contained in Part I of the Act of 1946 to be continued by the affirmative Resolution of both Houses. Clause 8 enables Colonial Governments to maintain the Defence Regulations until 10th December, 1950. Some of these hang upon the continuance of our own regulations. Clause 9 makes financial provision required for purposes of the Bill, including an increase in ploughing grants.

In view of the highly legalistic nature of some of the Clauses with which I have been dealing, I myself read Clause 10 as a layman with great relief. There is no doubt as to its meaning. The need for it has fortunately come to an end and there can be no doubt what the future of the Isle of Man (Detention) Act, 1941, is. In fact, if I said any more in explanation of it it is quite obvious that the explanation would be far longer than the Clause.

Clause 11 revokes Section 3 of the Ships and Aircraft (Transfer Restriction) Act, 1939, passed just before war broke out. This Section requires the sanction of the Minister of Civil Aviation to transactions in aircraft and parts of aircraft registered in the United Kingdom. It was enacted to prevent the weakening of the national war effort by the transference of aircraft from the British Register. It was not intended to put obstacles on ordinary commercial transactions between one British subject and another. In fact, the Section has not been strictly enforced since the war ended and it is now desired to repeal it and to provide for retrospective validation of postwar transactions, which probably in strict law would be rendered void by the Section. The date 15th August, 1945, chosen for the limitation of the retrospective effect, differentiates between transactions entered into before the end of hostilities and those entered into afterwards. This Measure, I understand, has had some quite unexpected influences on the validity of perfectly honourable and desirable transactions, and we desire that the whole matter should be cleared up. Here again, if there should be any desire to discuss this in Committee or to have the matter dealt with in any way we propose to have my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation present to help the House during the discussions.

The Bill is one which I hope will assist us in the task of getting rid of Defence Regulations which are no longer required. It will clarify the position with regard to the remainder and it does afford the House, in Committee, the opportunity of considering each of these Regulations if it so desires and of obtaining a justification for their continuance. I suppose most of us and probably all of us would prefer that this form of legislation should be brought to an end as speedily as possible. I regret that it is not possible at this stage to ask that all these Defence Regulations should be wiped out. The enactments which we propose to continue are embodied in permanent legislative form in this Bill and as such we shall be able to discuss this matter with as much clarity as possible. I hope that the House will agree that we have endeavoured to limit the duration of the powers for which we are asking as much as possible and that we are bringing their further continuance firmly under the control of the House.

11.36 a.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

The right hon. Gentleman has, to use his own words, explained the Bill that is before us with the greatest possible clarity, but that does not disguise from other Members of the House the fact that it is a very complicated and technical matter. The right hon. Gentleman in his presentation of the Bill to the House has emulated the non-explosive quality of the gunpowder made in the neighbouring village to the town in which he was born. It is not an easy Bill on which to make a Second Reading speech because it is in accordance with the custom of this House that on the Second Reading we should discuss the principle of a Bill leaving the detailed stages for examination in Committee.

This Bill is an extremely miscellaneous collection. It repeals some regulations; others it extends for a year; others it extends to the end of 1950; and some it extends for ever. So even in questions of time the Bill has the greatest possible variety from zero to eternity. When we come to consider the real subject matter of the Bill, which is only to be found by looking at the Schedule, we see an equally miscellaneous and unrelated set of provisions which it is very difficult to string together in one Act. Hon. Members who look there will see that we pass in rapid transition from the Chief Constable of Cornwall to illegal gaming parties and from the infestation of vermin to the opening of cinematograph houses on Sundays.

Another difficulty is that the Bill itself is a meaningless document unless it is read with the Act of 1946 and with the volume of Defence Regulations to which that Act and this Bill both refer. Even so, when one has armed oneself with all these documents the Bill itself remains obscure in parts because the last edition of the Defence Regulations published on 24th February, 1946, is out of date and it is very difficult to discover the precise force and form of the regulations as they subsist today. The outpouring of supplementary and amending legislation has been such that it has outrun the printing presses. We acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman has done us a service by placing at our disposal in the Vote Office a roneod sheet which does tell us how many of these regulations have been repealed or altered. But the fact that he has had to do so shows, as I say, how far the outpouring of legislation has overtaken the powers of the printing press in the exercise of its mechanical but invaluable function.

How difficult it must be now even for practitioners of the law to know the shape and form of the law of England, and how hopeless it is for ordinary people nowadays to know when they are on the right or the wrong side of the law. In the words of the Prayer Book, the ordinary citizen can say: Lord, who knoweth how oft he offendeth? One must remember that the regulations affected by this Bill form only a small part of the vast mass of subordinate legislation which now overhangs and presses upon the ordinary conduct of life. These regulations sprout out into innumerable orders made under them, and there is another hydra-like proliferation of regulations and orders under the Supplies and Services Acts. The result of all this is a tangled mass of inhibitory laws and controls which cannot even be printed in any collected or coherent form.

I appreciate the difficulties about printing and paper in these days, and I think the Government might consider one way of dealing with the problem. They might consider producing a small pamphlet containing a list of things which the ordinary man can do without the permission of some official. Such a list would not take up much paper or absorb much printing labour, and the cost of its production would not be great. It would have the effect of putting innocent people on their guard. If a man proposed to build a house or to go for a ride on a motor cycle—two purposes which in themselves, are not obviously criminal or immoral—and he found that those actions were not listed in my proposed pamphlet, he could take steps to find out what forms he must fill and what obeisances he must make before he can go ahead with those actions.

I am conscious that this little Bill affords a very slender peg on which to hang a discourse on the whole subject of delegated legislation. Perhaps another occasion may arise for this. I am bound to say that the Bill before us has two good points. The first of these is in Part I of the First Schedule where there is a list of Defence Regulations whose final extinction is promised for the end of the year. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on this little bonfire of dead wood. It is a pity that he is just two days late for it to be absolutely topical. I wish it had been a bigger blaze, but, such as it is, I have no objection whatsoever to joining hands with the right hon. Gentleman and dancing round it.

The second good point is contained in Clause 3 which, as the right hon. Gentleman explained, gives effect to a statement made, I think, on 21st August last by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture about the ploughing-up grant of £4 an acre. There has been a good deal of unfortunate vacillation by the Government on this matter, but now that we have this Bill giving effect to the statement, I feel sure that the whole agricultural industry, both masters and men, will do their very utmost to speed the plough in the national interest at this time. I only hope that they will have the ploughshares, tackle and spare parts for their tractors to enable them to take full advantage of this provision.

In connection with agriculture, I am sorry to see that the Bill proposes to continue until the end of 1950 Regulation 52, which gives very wide powers to the Service authorities and the Ministry of Supply to enter upon land for any of their multifarious purposes. This power, which was quite necessary in war, is surely out of date after 2½ years of so-called peace. Great damage can be done to agricultural operations by the exercise of these powers, and I should have thought that by this time the Services and the Ministry of Supply would have some plan or scheme as to their requirements for land so that there should be that settled continuity of tenure and freedom from interruption which are essential to the proper far-sighted development of any agricultural progress. The Bill proposes to continue many other regulations to which grave objection can be taken, but to refer to them all now would take much too long, and they, as the right hon. Gentleman said, can be dealt with seriatim at later stages of the Bill. In view of the good points to which I have drawn attention, I could not advise the House to reject this Bill on Second Reading, but of course I reserve to myself and to my hon. Friends all proper liberty of action at further stages of the Bill.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)

I should like for a very few minutes to join hands with the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) in dancing round this bonfire, because I am glad to see that some of these Defence Regulations have been thrown as fuel into the fire. I am glad to know that by the light of this bonfire there has been revealed material fit to be thrown into another bonfire as soon as possible. I would point out, however, that there is in this Bill matter which should be included in the bonfire now, although unhappily that is impossible. I do not want to make Committee points, but I would like to give one very pertinent example. It will be seen that in Part II, under Regulation 31A provision is made for the food, lodging and medical treatment of evacuees. Once again I want to remind the House that there are many people who were evacuated from their homes during the war still in evacuee areas, who wish to get back to their homes and who cannot do so.

I receive letter after letter—I have had some quite recently—from people who cannot get back to their homes. In St. Ives there is a hotel which could be very well used, especially nowadays, by people who want to take their holidays, but it is full of evacuees most of whom wish to return to their homes. In Penzance there are families who have written to me only recently saying that they wish to get back to their homes near London, but they are not allowed to do so. Only two days ago I had a letter from a woman who had been turned out under process of law, no doubt correctly, and goodness knows where or how she is going to live. We are continuing this provision until the end of 1948, but I hope this does not mean that we are going to sit quiet and allow this process to be continued right through 1948, so that these people who have been parted from their homes and who have not been able to get back to them all this time, are left where they are without any hope of relief. There are in the far West of England traditional memories of the Spanish Armada; we repelled it, and, as far as I know, there are few vestiges of it left. But two years after the cessation of the last war, the Minister of Health is still fighting that war in the far West of this country. I do hope that the process will now cease.

11.50 a.m.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I feel that the House ought to be a little on its guard in this matter because the Home Secretary, in his customary manner, has introduced this Measure with an air of sweet reasonableness, and rather in the manner of the family doctor, which, I think, does disguise the real potency of a number of its provisions. He has spoken of the necessity of dealing with certain matters in this way because of technical difficulties about amending certain Acts, and so on. I think we ought to have rather close examination of that, because it is a novel idea, to me, at any rate, that Parliament is impotent to amend any Act when the necessity for amendment is established. We really ought to look a little more closely, even on Second Reading, than we have yet done at some of the provisions of this Bill.

I notice that among the regulations to be continued for three years is Regulation 22, which concerns billeting. I do not think that that can be left only to be dealt with in the discussion in Committee on an Amendment to leave out Regulation 22 from the Schedule. This is a major matter which concerns, perhaps, not the liberty of the subject, but a liberty of almost equal importance, the liberty of the home. I do feel that next to the sanctity of the person is the sanctity of the home. In this Measure the Government are proposing to extend for three years the power of billeting, which was one of the most disagreeable necessities of the war.

When one looks at the bound volume of Defence Regulations one finds that Regulation 22 appears—it is the first Regulation in Part II—under the heading, "Public Safety and Order." I should hardly have thought it right now to describe billeting as a matter of public safety or order. I suppose the Government have in mind that they desire to use powers of billeting in connection with the direction of labour. I should like to know whether that is the purpose or not. The menace of air raids and that kind of thing is now a matter, presumably, of the past; and the Government desire to retain the power to billet for an entirely different purpose altogether from that which was the purpose in the war—an entirely different purpose. Therefore, I do not think that this regulation ought to slip through without considerable comment even on Second Reading.

The change of purpose ought to be fully discussed, and if the Government do intend to use billeting in connection with the direction of labour we ought to have a statement on the subject from the Front Bench in this Debate. I am rather surprised that the Home Secretary said nothing about it, and that is why I feel that the House ought to be very much on its guard against the sweet atmosphere of reasonableness which he undoubtedly succeeded in creating. Before the Debate ends we ought to have a clear statement from the Government as to exactly how they intend to use this power to billet in the next few years, because the power is really of a most drastic order. The Minister of Health can delegate this power to anyone he pleases, and any person acting under such authority may serve upon an occupier of any premises a written notice hereafter referred to as a billeting notice requiring the occupier of the premises to furnish therein"—

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry, but I think I must intervene here, because there is the principle of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. As the hon. Baronet recognises, we can leave to the Committee stage the details of the Schedules and the question of moving the deletion of regulations. I thought that the hon. Baronet was drawing attention to what he thought was an important feature, without prejudging, so to speak, the discussion which, no doubt, will take place in Committee on an Amendment to leave out this regulation. If he goes further than that, and if we talk about every one of these regulations which the Bill continues, we shall break the tradition concerning the Expiring Laws Continuance Act.

Sir J. Mellor

With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to give very close consideration to the point before you make that your final Ruling. I thought that the Government could not introduce this provision—I think the Home Secretary said so—in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and that they had to introduce it in another way, and that this is that other way which we are now considering. I would, therefore, respectfully suggest that the principle should not apply. This is not an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It is an Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill—

Mr. Speaker

I went carefully into this before. I think the same principle does apply with regard to the regulations being continued. The principle of the Bill is not in these individual regulations.

Sir J. Mellor

Surely, when a matter is of great importance, one is entitled to call attention to it on Second Reading. I did preface my observations by saying that I thought that this was an important point, because it did affect, not, perhaps, the liberty of the subject, but the freedom of the home, and was, therefore, of such far reaching importance that it was one that ought not to escape notice on Second Reading. I would respectfully submit, Sir, that where a matter is of such major importance, the mere fact that it can be dealt with in Committee, as matters always can, should not rule out discussion altogether on Second Reading.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that that is not my view. I take it that Clause 1 (1, a and b) revokes some Acts and extends some regulations for a limited period. That is the principle of the Bill. What the Clause extends are details which are suitable for discussion at the Committee stage. While I was quite prepared to allow the hon. Baronet to draw attention to various matters which he thought should not be extended, I do not think it is right that they should be discussed in detail on Second Reading.

Sir J. Mellor

I am very sorry, Mr. Speaker, I was only proceeding to draw attention to the extremely drastic powers involved in billeting. I do not know if I may continue to do so. Without the slightest intention of contravening your Ruling, I wonder if I may proceed to illustrate how drastic are the powers involved? I certainly would not wish to deal with the matter to the full extent to which I shall desire to do at the Committee stage. I would only point out, if I may, that the Minister has the power to enable anyone acting on his authority to require an occupier of premises to furnish, while the notice remains in force, such accommodation by way of lodging or food or both, and either with or without attendance, as may be specified in the notice. He may determine the price that is to be paid for such accommodation, and the penalty for infringement of a billeting notice is imprisonment not exceeding a term of three months, and if there is any dispute the matter is to be referred not to the courts, but to tribunals constituted by the Minister of Health.

There is a lot more which we shall desire to say, and I am gratful, Mr. Speaker, for your indulgence in allowing me to say just that much in calling attention to this really monstrous provision—for it is monstrous if it is to be continued in time of peace for an entirely different purpose from that for which it was employed during the war, presumably to enable the Minister to carry out the direction of labour. I very much hope that before this Debate ends we shall at least hear from the Government Front Bench how they intend to use this power of billeting, and whether it is in connection with the direction of labour or is intended to serve other purposes as well. On matters of this sort the House should be fully informed of exactly what the Government have in mind in asking the House to extend for three years the power of billeting which the Government had during the war.

12.1 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

The flickering bonfire of enthusiasm which greeted the introduction of this Bill seems by now to have been almost completely extinguished by the draughts of cold water that has been poured on my right hon. Friend by hon. Members opposite. My case is quite different from that of those hon. Members who have already spoken. I started by being very critical of this Bill, particularly when I read in Clause 1 that it was proposed to bring to an end the Defence (Administration of Justice) Regulations, 1940, which included very many desirable improvements in the practice of courts of summary jurisdiction. It was, therefore, with great relief that I noticed that in a later Clause it was proposed to continue in permanent form these very useful provisions, as a result of which it is possible for any aggrieved person to take procedings in relation to affiliation or maintenance orders in a court other than the court in which the proceedings had originally been initiated.

This means that at last, in some more or less permanent form, a wife, for example, who obtained a maintenance order in Newcastle but who has moved to London—and whose husband possibly has moved to London also—will now be able to take proceedings for variation or revocation of that order in a magistrate's court in London, without being put to the trouble and expense of travelling to the other end of the country for the purpose of obtaining justice in this particular instance. For this purpose alone I very much welcome this Bill, because it will extend in a more or less permanent form an administrative boon to large numbers of people who, if this particular Defence Regulation had not been continued, would have been subjected to a vast amount of needless trouble, worry, and expense.

12.4 p.m.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I should dislike to interrupt in any way the fairly even flow of congratulations which the Home Secretary has received this morning. He began his opening remarks with a statement with which almost every hon. Member on this side of the House would agree—that none of these regulations should be kept on longer than required. Without going into the details of any regulation, it is very easy to see that there is a great deal of difference of opinion between, say, myself and the Home Secretary, or between others and the Home Secretary, as to the real meaning of the word "required." Under this Bill apparently certain things are required. An illustration has already been given in regard to billeting, where there is a great deal of difference between this side of the House and the Home Secretary. Thus, although this is a very nice start for a Bill of this sort, it does not take us a very long way towards agreement when we reach a further stage of the Bill.

With regard to Clause I, the Home Secretary said that under Subsection (1, a) a certain number of regulations are to go. There is no dispute about that as far as this side of the House is concerned. But then, when we come to paragraph (b), we have those which are to continue and in due course we shall want to know why it is necessary to continue certain regulations for another year. There are regulations involved in these two paragraphs which undoubtedly will have to be dealt with at a later stage. Turning now to paragraph (c), without criticising too closely the details given by the Home Secretary—who I see has left us thus early in the day, after having, I suppose, bidden others to keep fighting—the fact that according to the Schedule so many of these regulations are to continue till 1950 seems to me to be making some of them of an almost permanent nature. When regulations of this kind, which were begun during the war, are to go on until 1950, something like five years after the war, it seems to me to create a curious position, because it means we expect this emergency—and this is the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill—to continue as long as that. I should have thought it might have been possible to have amended that and continued them only until, say, 1949. I make that as a suggestion with which we can deal later.

Clause 2 makes permanent certain aspects of the Defence Regulations. We had a fairly full explanation of the Defence Regulations, but they are connected almost entirely with the Services, and, although I see an Under-Secretary on the Government Front Bench, I should have thought we might have had a rather full explanation from one of the Service Ministers. I am not casting any aspersions on anyone, but when this Clause comes up for discussion—and I noticed that the Home Secretary said the requisite Ministers would be here for the purpose of replying—I hope we may have a fuller explanation than we have had up to the present moment, and that we shall have one of the senior Ministers to deal with this question. I trust that a note will be taken of that particular point.

The Home Secretary referred to Clause 3, which has a very wide scope and might almost be a Bill of itself. He passed over it, but it is a Clause which astonished me very much. But then, I am always astonished when something sensible is done by the Government. That is rare and occasional and has to be sought for very hard. I am glad to see that the position which I take up is fully shared by the Chief Patronage Secretary, but I will carry that reference no farther than drawing general attention to his smiling countenance and approval. On a matter of this kind, under which a basis for the development of agriculture as far as corn production is concerned is being laid down for a very considerable time, it is essential, and only right, that in the House this morning there should be very general approval expressed by those who really believe in it. I have no doubt that whoever winds up this Debate for the Opposition will have a good deal to say about this. It is not a matter which ought to be casually passed over. It concerns the ploughing up of land which is of great importance both inside and outside the agricultural industry. It is a provision which should be praised at this time, and I see no reason why we should not be glad that it is in this Bill. If this Bill did nothing else but this—and much of it is very bad—I should be inclined to vote for its Second Reading.

I now come to Clause 4, which deals with land drainage. I should like the Minister of Agriculture to take note of one important point. I want him to make certain that every facility is given to farmers and landowners to get ahead with these drainage schemes. I have come across instances where everything has been ready to get on with the work, which has been approved by one branch of a Department, but a vast amount of time has had to be spent in getting a permit from another branch of the same Department to carry out the operations. I can give an illustration in my own experience where that has happened. If you get on with the work without getting the necessary permission, then there will be no grant at all. I should like the Government to look into this matter, because this is delaying drainage schemes. Clause 6 concerns demolition works. I do not think there is any need to go into this in any great detail, but in order to save the time of the House, which I am always trying to do if it is right, I ask how much demolition work there is still left to do? After all, this provision is extended until 1950, and if things like shelters are not to be demolished until five years after the end of the war, it is pretty slow work even for this Government. I should like to know precisely where the Government stand on this matter.

The Home Secretary referred to the repeal of the Isle of Man (Detention) Act, 1941, and said that this provision was clear. I can at least see eye to eye with him on this. I suppose he drafted the Clause himself, and did not let any lawyer do it for him. The Home Secretary explained very carefully that under Clause 11 there is to be a complete reorganisation in regard to the ability to sell aircraft abroad. I welcome this Clause, as I welcome anything which cuts down prohibitions on the sale of British goods abroad. At the present time we have a Department saying that certain goods can be sold abroad, while another Department says that it cannot be done. I have always protested against anything in a Bill which is retrospective, but in order to protect myself on this occasion, I would point out that this is a case where retrospective legislation is all to the good; it will stop a lot of unnecessary work being done by our legal friends.

I recognise that I should be on dangerous ground if I went into the Schedules in any great detail, and therefore I will mention only one matter, and that is the question of footpaths. It is laid down that there can only be a stopping up, or diversion, of highways for purposes of open-cast coal and generating stations. As this principle has been conceded in this connection, I want to ask the Government what other steps they are taking for the protection of footpaths. For example, the Army have seized great tracts of land on Dartmoor which they are shooting across, thereby closing the footpaths to the public. This is a question of interest throughout the whole of the country, and it is a pity not to use this opportunity to extend the provision to protect all footpaths—it is in Order on Second Reading to refer to what is not in a Bill, as well as to what is contained in it. Therefore, I think it is a pity, as this Measure deals with so many subjects that it does not lay down the rights of the Service Departments in regard to the land they have seized all over the country As it is now over two years since the end of the war, this would be a suitable occasion to extend this principle, which in a sense is already contained in the Bill. The rights of the Service Departments in this matter of footpaths and so forth should certainly be laid down. I should like it laid down that where they have seized good farms, such as the Co-operative farms in Plymouth, they shall not continue to hold that land.

Although this Bill goes a short way towards eliminating certain matters, it is not a really important Measure in respect of which the Home Secretary can pat himself on the back—I notice that he has now left us to get on with it. The provision that the chief constable of Cornwall shall no longer be left alone to deal with the affairs of the Scilly Isles will not cause an awful lot of trouble. On the other hand, there are numerous regulations, about which none of us has the haziest idea, not dealt with under this Bill. It would have been better to have referred to this Bill as a Bill to continue many of the laws, but for my part I wish that it had been far shorter and had simply cut out most of the regulations which are now proposed to be carried on for another three years. In other words, it is not a matter of what is right, or what the nation desires; it is a question of what the Home Secretary desires. I am sorry that I have had to introduce into the Debate a note not quite in harmony with what has already been said, but I was rather stirred by a speech from the opposite side of the House. I hope that a lot of this Bill will be cut out in the Committee stage. Incidentally, I noted that the Home Secretary was careful not to say whether the Committee stage would be taken on the Floor of the House, or upstairs. That is why I said rather more than I otherwise should have done, because if it goes upstairs I shall not have any chance of dealing with it there.

12.21 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

This Debate has been conducted in an atmosphere of sweet harmony and good temper, and I should be the last to wish to interfere with that in any degree. I was much interested in the Home Secretary's observation that he had been able to reach a definite conclusion as to the time which each one of the Defence Regulations affected by this Measure should last. If the right hon. Gentleman were here I would like to congratulate him on the ability which he professed to possess, and, at the same time, to regret that he did not disclose to us the reasons which led him to say why one regulation should be brought to an end now, while others should last until 31st December, 1948, others until 10th December, 1950, and others should be made permanent.

I hope I shall not get on to thin ice in referring to the Schedules, but I must confess that when I look at them it is very difficult indeed to determine the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman has acted in separating these Defence Regulations. He said—and I welcome it—that on the Committee stage of this Bill there will be present on the Government Front Bench Ministers from each of the Departments affected by each regulation. That assurance was clear and unequivocal and, having been made, it does not make it necessary for me to deal in any great detail with the Defence Regulations. But does that mean—and the Under-Secretary must answer this question—that in view of that undertaking the Committee stage will be taken on the Floor of this House? It should be. In view of the new Standing Orders we passed recently, if that course is not adopted it would appear that the Standing Committee which would have to deal with this Bill, if it were sent upstairs, would on the Government side be packed with Front Benchers, and that back benchers would be absent. I am sure that the Patronage Secretary would think it wrong to take the Government Front Bench upstairs, thereby depriving back benchers of the opportunity of criticising these Defence Regulations. But, in all seriousness, we must have a definite reply to the question I have just asked.

I think the language which my right hon. Friend used about the First Schedule was rather exaggerated. It would not warm anyone, even the Minister of Fuel and Power. When we look through the Defence Regulations which are not to be continued we see that at least six, and may be more, are not to be continued because they are to be made permanent. Looking at Part II of the First Schedule I should like to know why Regulation 31 A, dealing with the provision of food, lodging, and medical treatment for evacuees, should not end now? Why is it necessary that this regulation should continue until 31st December, 1948? For what reasons has the Home Secretary put that Defence Regulation in that category?

There is another regulation of which I have more knowledge—Regulation 13 of the Defence (Administration of Justice) Regulations, 1940. That regulation deprives a man charged with treason or felony the right of peremptory challenge of his jury. He did not have to give a reason; he could simply challenge. That is one of the oldest rights that a man on trial in this country possesses. It was abandoned during the war. Why should not that regulation go now? What is the reason for saying that that regulation, depriving a man of that right, should remain, not permanently, or until 1950, but until 31st December, 1948? Perhaps we shall hear from the Under-Secretary the real reason why the Home Office think that the right of peremptory challenge, although not permanently abolished, should be suspended for another year.

When we come to Part III of the First Schedule I can tell the Under-Secretary that we shall require a case to be made out for the revision of each of these regulations when we get to the Committee stage. I hope that ample time will be given for that. I can understand the Government wanting to keep Regulation 2BA, dealing with the control of explosives, in force until 1950, beyond their insurable life, but a strong case will require to be made out for the retention of Regulation 12, which prescribes public access to wide areas of the country. The right hon. Gentleman made a reference to Regulation 16. I myself think it is wrong that the Minister of Fuel and Power should have the power to stop up highways for the purpose of opencast coal working, or constructing or extending electricity generating stations. We have seen, in recent controversy, the reasons why that should not be left to the Minister of Fuel and Power.

The right person to deal with questions of stopping up the highways, to be charged with authority in that respect, is not the Minister of Fuel and Power, but the Minister of Town and Country Planning. Wide powers to stop up highways were given to the Ministry of Transport under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. Wide powers already exist in other legislation, and I think this House ought to be particularly careful before granting any further extensions of such powers. I do not propose to say any more about Regulation 16, other than that we shall want to go into it very thoroughly when the time comes.

I only wish to refer to one other regulation in Part III—Regulation 20AB which deals with the retention of identity cards. Why is it necessary to keep identity cards going until 1950? Ought that not, if it is to be a permanent part of our code, be the subject of a separate Bill? Is there to be any really definite undertaking in 1950 that the system of identity cards will cease? The House must remember that under this Bill there is power to carry on these regulations by an Address to both Houses of Parliament, and although the Home Secretary may have excellent reasons for saying that particular regulations shall not end in 1948 but end in 1950, I think those reasons should be told to us, and that the House should have an opportunity of considering the matter.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) referred in some detail to Regulation 22. It is a most important regulation. I do not propose to say a word about the content of the regulation, but we are entitled to ask why the Home Secretary today said that he was able to conclude that that regulation should go among those lasting until 1950. Is the retention of that regulation due to the failure of His Majesty's Government's housing programme? Is it retained merely to secure accommodation for people who are to be directed away from their homes to distant parts of the country? Although we cannot go into details on that, we ought, at least, to be told his reasons why that regulation is to be retained if the Government have their way, for so long.

I would like to say a few words about the Second Schedule. I think that it is unfortunate that legislation which is per- manent should be included in a Bill entitled "Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions)". It is particularly unfortunate that legislation which deals with Army, Navy and Air Force matters should not be embodied in one code. It is much harder to find when it is tucked away in the Schedules of Bills entitled such as this. At first sight, I can see no reason why the passages in the Second Schedule dealing with the Navy, Army and Air Force should not be inserted respectively in the Naval Discipline Act, the Army Act and the Air Force Annual Act.

With regard to the provision in that Schedule for dealing with maintenance and affiliation orders, I think that system has proved to be satisfactory, subject to my observation that I should prefer to see it dealt with in another Measure, where one can put one's finger on it as a lawyer much more easily than one can when it is tucked away in the Schedule, and subject to the point that I am a little doubtful about what is required under these regulations by way of pleading from the complainant. On page 15 one sees with regard to the complaint that no action will be taken unless a summary is given of the nature of the evidence, the occupation and name and address of the complainant and the occupation and name and address of any other person proposed to be called as a witness. That struck me as a somewhat novel procedure which indicates a tendency for more forms, and I cannot see, at the moment, any advantage in it.

Representing, as I do, a constituency in which agriculture is actively pursued I, of course, welcome the parts dealing with the ploughing-up of grass. I would welcome them much more strongly if, in my part of the world, there had been anything like an adequate supply of ploughshares to enable farmers to get on with their work, and far more, too, if there was in fact any priority at all given by the Government towards the manufacture of agricultural machinery and the spare parts which are so urgently required. With regard to the other provisions, I will not say very much at this stage. This is really a Bill which is not correctly entitled. It is a Bill which contains, as my right hon. Friend has said, two good points, and in the hope that we can make it a much better Bill in the course of the Committee stage, we on this side of the House are not opposing its passage today.

12.36 p.m.

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

I think that it will gratify everybody on this side of the House that this Bill, which is the successor of a Bill of some 18 months ago which raised a good deal of controversy should have been so well and reasonably received. There were one or two preliminary rumblings which led me to fear that other issues, which, in my submission, would have been inappropriate, would be raised, but neither the right hon. Gentleman who opened for the Opposition nor any other speakers have seen fit to raise anything of a highly controversial nature, and I certainly do not propose to spoil that record now.

I am particularly glad that almost every speaker has approved the agricultural provisions which have been put into this Bill. I do not think that I need, at this stage, say any more about those particular Clauses. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) did not appear to be very satisfied with the explanation which has so far been given as to why each of these regulations and enactments is being continued for the precise period for which it is now proposed to be continued. That is a matter which can only be properly dealt with by going through the whole of the Schedules and Clauses one by one and giving the reason in each case. I do not want, at this stage, to take up the time of the House in anything approaching such a procedure, even if it were in Order, but perhaps I may attempt to place them shortly in categories in a way which may be helpful.

First of all, a very high proportion of the regulations, and some enactments as well, are to expire normally by the end of this year, in accordance with the 1946 Act. At the other extreme, there are a number of provisions which it is felt should become the permanent law of the land. These are divided into two categories; there are those within the scope of immediately projected legislation, which it is hoped to bring before the House very shortly, or which, in some cases, will be covered by the provisions of existing legis- lation, such as the National Health Service Act, when it comes into force. These are, therefore, only being kept on just long enough to ensure continuity until the provisions under these Acts take effect, and consequently they appear in the second part of the First Schedule, to continue to the end of 1948. The other enactments which it is thought should become permanent are ones which are in themselves of minor importance and believed not to be controversial, and which are not covered by any legislation immediately projected. It is convenient to make them permanent laws at once in this Bill, and, therefore, they appear in the Second Schedule.

Between these two extremes, the enactments that can go at once and those we propose to make permanent, there is an intermediary class, the proper duration of which it is much more difficult to assess. Generally speaking, these are the ones which fall within Part III of the First Schedule in respect of which the date 10th December, 1950, has been chosen. There are varying reasons why these regulations—they are mostly regulations—are to go on until 1950. In many of them, it is because the conditions to which they apply are temporary in their nature but one cannot quite say how long they will go on. An example of that would, for instance, be any regulation affecting food or clothes rationing. That would apply, in particular, to Regulation 20AB which the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned a moment ago with regard to identity cards. I think that that regulation only makes minor administrative amendments to the law, but I do not think it would be disputed that some form of national registration is likely to be necessary so long as it is also necessary to maintain rationing of various kinds.

There are others due to shortage of labour, or, in some cases, of paper. One or two regulations exempted certain undertakings from publishing frequent and voluminous reports; those were introduced in wartime, and the need for economy still seems to exist. In this category also comes Regulation 31A, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members—the one including provisions for evacuees. It is, unfortunately, the case that there are still some unaccompanied children for whom provision has to be made.

Mr. Beechman

Is the Minister aware that they are not really unaccompanied children; those to whom I was referring are adults? There are children, too, but there are adults in the evacuee areas who are being paid for as evacuees.

Mr. Younger

I believe there are others besides children, although I am informed that the children are the main continuing problem. Maybe, it is possible to criticise the fact that these people still remain and that it has not yet been possible to send them all back to their homes. However, that would, perhaps, be for discussion at another time. The fact is that the problem still exists, and is one which obviously has to be handled so long as it exists. My right hon. Friend thinks it reasonable that this should continue for a time. There are other matters of a purely temporary nature, particularly regulations in Part III of the Schedule, relating to such matters as the care of mental defectives, where the prewar position has not yet been fully re-established, but I do not think there would be anything controversial about regulations of that type.

There is another category which it is proposed to continue until 1950–matters where it may well be that some major decision embodying some kind of a permanent enactment will eventually have to be considered by this House. But they are matters which are, to some extent, controversial, and which should certainly not be decided and put on a permanent basis too hastily. The sort of provision I have in mind is the one mentioned in Clause 5 (2) (a) relating to the sugar industry. It may be that long-term arrangements might have to be made for that industry, but it would obviously take time to work out what should be the long-term arrangement, and I do not think the House would like to have an arrangement of that kind simply embodied as one of a number of miscellaneous provisions in this Bill. Therefore, it is considered that the temporary provision at present in force should be continued until the proper Measure is brought forward. The same applies under the Defence Regulations in connection with agriculture and fisheries, with regard to marketing arrangements and the white fish industry in particular, where prewar provisions were suspended, and where it will obviously be necessary to devise some long-term scheme.

Criticism has been levelled at the fact that the date, 10th December, 1950, should have been chosen. The reasons for the choice of that date are, firstly, that it seems clear that these regulations will, in the great majority of cases, have to be continued for longer than a year, and it is not possible to say at this stage just how much longer than a year. But it is considered that the end of 1948 would not be an appropriate date for this purpose. As we all know, in December, 1950, the whole question of the ultimate fate of Defence Regulations and other wartime enactments is likely to come up, and must come up, under the Supplies and Services—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to put one Question? Why is it required, or thought necessary, to retain the power to billet people in other people's houses until 1950?

Mr. Younger

I will come to that in a moment. If I may just finish the point I was on, I think it will be for the convenience of the House that the whole of this problem should be reviewed at the same time. There is, as has been already stated, power under the previous Act and under this Bill to revoke any of these orders earlier than the date mentioned, should it prove possible to do so. As I think the House knows, some have already been revoked before the time when they would have had to be revoked under the 1946 Act. I can assure the House that it will be the practice of the Government to revoke any particular order at the earliest possible date. But it seems that the time for another review—and the House is already having its second review within 18 months—could well be postponed until the whole problem can finally be dealt with once and for all. It is felt that that would certainly promote simplicity which, if I correctly understood hon. Members opposite, which is one of the objects which they desire to attain.

This is, of course, a complicated Bill. I have tried to mention the various categories, and to make it as clear as I can, but it is not, as the right hon. Gentleman said, an easy Bill on which to make a Second Reading speech and to discern underlying principles. But I do not think the effect of the Bill is quite as complicated as some people make out. By the end of next year, the whole of Part 1 of Schedule I will have gone; Part II will either have gone, or the provisions will have been incorporated in separate legislation under particular headings; and Clause 5 (1) and the enactments under it will also have gone. Moreover, the permanent enactments will have become the law of the land. There will be nothing more provisional about them. Although, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, it is sometimes difficult, even for lawyers, to pick out from a miscellaneous Bill all the different points included under it, I think that is a criticism which applies to a great deal of English law, and not merely to this Bill. It is really very little more difficult for a lawyer to pick out the Amendments under a Bill of this kind than it is to find his way through, say, the Rent Restrictions or Workmen's Compensation legislation. Eventually, the only matters which will still remain temporary at the end of 1948 will be those in Part III of the First Schedule and under Clauses 4, 5 and 6, and they are not really so numerous or so complicated as to make the thing impossible to follow.

I think it would also be quite misleading to imply, as some hon. Members have implied that the regulations which are being kept in force are, by their nature, unnecessarily oppressive, or even that they all give an enhanced power to the Executive. That was, of course, true of many regulations passed during the war, and it may be true, to a limited extent, of some of the provisions which fall to be continued under this Bill. But it is not a general accusation which can be made. There are, for instance, just as many regulations designed purely for the protection of the public. To single out a couple of examples, there is Regulation 60CC which is designed to protect Post Office savings, and to ensure that no employee of the Post Office can be obliged to pay out money until he is satisfied about the identity of the applicant. That is a type of thing that nobody could conceivably say was an additional power to the Executive.

Sir J. Mellor

That is for the protection of the Post Office, not of the depositor.

Mr. Younger

In either case it is for the protection of the public. Certainly there is nothing in any degree oppressive, and no penalties are involved. Although one has to produce a document, there is no penalty for not being able to do so, one is merely obliged to give satisfactory evidence of identity. I could give a dozen examples of that kind to show that it would be quite misleading, either in respect of Defence Regulations which are temporary, or those which are permanent to suggest that we were continuing regulations which only provided for wartime conditions.

Particularly I would mention Defence Regulation 22, which was the subject of much discussion last year. No one likes this Regulation, and I think my right hon. Friend will have no complaint that reference has been made to a point of principle being involved in the continuation of billeting. For a short time, however, this provision is required, though not so long as to the end of 1950. For a short time it may be required for the billeting of certain unaccompanied children in connection with Regulation 31A. But the need which is likely to continue longer than that is one which I know is not at all popular, even with the people who benefit by it. That is the need to billet civil servants. There is no doubt at all that until it is possible to re-concentrate such public offices as are to be re-concentrated, it is essential that in certain areas billeting orders should remain in force. I was asked whether this was intended for use in conection with the Control of Engagement Order. I am assured that that is not the case.

Sir J. Mellor

I do not see how it can be used in connection with the Control of Engagement Order, but I asked whether it could be used in connection with the direction of labour.

Mr. Younger

I am sorry, I should have said the direction of labour, and I am assured that there is no intention whatever of using it in that connection. Perhaps at this stage the House will be satisfied with that assurance, because the regulation will be fully discussed on the Committee stage.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Can the hon. Gentleman say quite clearly that the use of this regulation will be limited in all cases to the benefit of children and civil servants, and not for the benefit of other people?

Mr. Younger

I could hardly give such a categorical assurance but those are the principal purposes for which the regulation is required. I am bound to say I do not know of any other type of case in which it is alleged to have been oppressively used in the past, and I do not think I should be asked to give a categorical assurance that it will not be used for any other type of case. Other Bills are projected which will give certain powers to provide accommodation for children, which will make the provision in that respect unnecessary.

There is the question of the powers under Regulation 52, "Use of Land for Purposes of H.M. Forces." The fact is that no new order has been made for a considerable time. The need for this regulation to continue is to retain the validity of orders already made, pending a final settlement of the needs of the Armed Forces. This would not be the proper occasion to discuss in detail what the needs of the Armed Forces would be. Obviously that is a matter which requires very careful consideration before it is to be finalised. My right hon. Friend hopes that decisions will be reached at the earliest possible moment but it is impossible to say just when decisions will be finalised.

Mr. C. Williams

Would it be possible at some stage of the Bill to have a complete picture of what are the real needs of the Armed Forces? This has been going on for two years now and has been causing a lot of dissatisfaction.

Mr. Younger

I think it would be for you Sir, or for the Chairman of the relevant Committee to say whether the whole of that problem can be appropriately discussed on the Bill. Of course there will be a discussion of those aspects of the problem which fall within the scope of the Bill on the Committee stage.

On the question of whether the Committee stage of the Bill is to be taken on the Floor of the House I think the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) will agree that that is not a question I can answer here and now. No doubt his remarks, which have been noted, will be fully considered, and there will be an opportunity of discussing them, but it is hardly a question for me to answer.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's difficulty, but surely he can get guidance from his neighbour on the Front Bench. I fail to see how the promise of the Home Secretary that the Ministers will be present to deal with every regulation on the Committee stage can be honoured unless the Committee stage is taken on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Younger

I think I can confirm the assurance that Ministers will be present and the question of how to ensure that is a matter which can be discussed, perhaps, on another occasion.

The very complicated nature of this Bill is really due to the complications of the position from which we are passing, namely, the end of the war, when hundreds of regulations of a differing nature were imposed for differing purposes, some military, some economic and some legal. Some were inappropriate for dealing with the position after the war, and others were appropriate only to that position. It is quite obvious as a matter of simple administration that these regulations should be revoked at differing dates, and it is the complication of the position from which we are departing, rather than the ultimate position we shall reach, which causes the complications of this Bill. The fact that we have made so many categories in this Bill illustrates the care with which His Majesty's Government have examined every regulation. The Bill could have been simplified if the regulations were more roughly classified, without regard to the period of time for which they will be needed. I think it will be recognised that the requirements of the House in this matter have been reasonably met.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Richard Adams.]