HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1352-75

3.58 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, to leave out paragraph (c).

Clause 1 is described in the marginal note as having for its object the Continuation for further periods of certain Defence Regulations.

In the body of the Clause itself, there are various periods set for the continuation of the Regulations referred to. Paragraph (c), which my Amendment is designed to remove from the Bill, says that the Defence Regulations and parts of Defence Regulations specified in Part III of the First Schedule shall, unless previously revoked, continue in force until 10th December, 1950, and shall then expire. That means that the Regulations affected by Paragraph (c) are to continue in force if the Bill is not amended until 10th December, 1950.

The general principle involved in my Amendment is the undesirability of prolonging in time of peace Defence Regulations which owe their justification to the emergency of war. Putting it as briefly as I can, the general argument is that these Regulations are unsuited to a free democracy at peace. They do not have the tone and temper of a community living freely and not at war. Apart from their general unsuitability to a free and progressive peaceful society, the diffusion of these Regulations throughout a great number of documents, Bills, books of regulations and papers, which are not collated, results, as I have previously said to the House, in uncertainty as to the law. I conceive that to be a very bad thing for any community which tries to nurture citizens who are at once free and of their own accord law-abiding, because no one can keep the law if it is made difficult or impossible for him to find out what it is.

I know that in every individual instance of a regulation being extended, a case can be made out for it on its own merit, and the case is arguable, but at least some sort of case can be made out for continuing practically every regulation. The general point of this Amendment is that one can argue for this and that regulation being continued, yet the mass effect of this accumulation of continued regulations in peace time has an oppressive effect upon the conduct of society, and it is in the mass result, the accumulated result, of this continuance of these regulations that the real evil exists. The regulations themselves are uncodified, they are unascertainable, and they are mixed up with the grant of vague and great powers to the executive which only war itself can excuse.

The proposition which is embodied in this Amendment, and those consequential to it, is that every year Parliament should have the opportunity of reviewing the Defence Regulations which circumstances make it seem advisable to the Government to continue. That was the spirit of the Bill that we passed last year, the 1946 Act as it now is, bearing a similar Title to this Bill, and that is the reason why we have this Bill before us in this Committee. But I do suggest that it is a departure from sound practice to include in a Bill bearing the same name, not only the prolongation of certain selected regulations, but further provisions that will enable regulations touched by paragraph (c) to continue undiscussed up to the end of 1950. I conceive that not to be a departure for the better. I conceive it to be a whittling down of Parliamentary control over these regulations. If the Government want regulations continued, and can make a case for them in this changing transitional period in which we are at the moment, then let the Government make their case, but let it be our practice automatically every 12 months to review in the light of those then existing circumstances the regulations which have been continued, and say whether they should be continued or not.

I am aware, from the Second Reading speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that the reason why the date 10th December, 1950, appears in the Bill is that that was the date which was put in the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act. I remember the discussion on that Bill. The Opposition then protested against this remote deferment of the date when the regulations expired, and our view has not changed. We still think that they should come up every year. Lastly, in Clause 7 of this Bill, the Government are seeking for power to extend the Defence Regulations by Order in Council, in pursuance of an Address from both Houses. That is to say, that in any case in which the automatic expiration of a continued defence regulation might seem to the Government to be against the public interest, they have the power, under Clause 7, to come to the House and ask for it to be continued for another year.

We shall have certain things to say about Clause 7 when we come to it, but assuming it to be in the Bill, it deprives the Government of any excuse for extending a regulation for more than 12 months, because if that power remains, although we do not like it, it does give an opportunity for debate on the Address asking for the continuance of the regulation—for the merits of each particular regulation to be considered, even if it is late at night, and even if we cannot amend it. We object to the proposal in this Bill to continue Defence Regulations until 1950 without giving Parliament any effective opportunity to discuss them, and we think it would have been better to adhere to the system whereby these regulations, if continued, would come up automatically every 12 months for the consideration of this House.

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

I am afraid that the Government cannot accept this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), in moving it, has sought to show that the regulations included in Part III of the First Schedule, which under the Bill may continue until 10th December, 1950, are unsuited to a free democracy at peace, and that under the system of continuing them which is proposed by the Bill, Parliament is deprived of the proper means of reviewing them. I would like to deal with the second point first. As hon. Members are aware, all the regulations mentioned in this Bill were under discussion in 1946 at the time of the Bill which bore the same title, and at that time they were all open, not only to revocation or continuation, but Amendment, and a good many Amendments were made. I think those hon. Members who were concerned will agree that my right hon. Friend was extremely conciliatory and went a long way towards meeting the legitimate objections to these regulations, and made Amendments to them. At that time all the regulations underwent the full scrutiny of Parliament. Now, 18 months later, we have them again included in this Bill, and they are before us again for the full scrutiny of Parliament.

This is essentially a Bill dealing with practical administration, a Bill the object of which is to continue regulations, all of which were in force during the war, for varying periods during which they are necessary, and no longer. In such a Measure, it does seem reasonable at this stage, two years after the end of the war, to consider which of them cannot be dispensed with at the end of the third year. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that all these regulations should automatically come up for review every year. I appreciate that hon. Gentlemen opposite take a view different from that taken on this side of the House about the necessity for not wasting time in this House, but if the case is, as we hope to be able to show, that these regulations in Part III of the Schedule could not possibly be dispensed with within a year, or that there is no reasonable probability that they can be dispensed with within a year, then I think it is unpractical and unreasonable to ask that they should nevertheless be considered three times. This is already the second time.

I do not think I need deal in any detail with the choice of the date 10th December, 1950. That was fully dealt with on Second Reading. The proposition, as hon. Members know, is that if, as we say, it is the case that these regulations cannot be finally dealt with in one one form or another by the end of 1948, then it is reasonable to postpone the whole review of Regulations both under this Measure, and the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, until 1950. I think that proposition is very reasonable.

As to the second criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, that these regulations are unsuited to a free democracy at peace, that is a very short way of dismissing this long list of extremely diverse regulations. It is perfectly true that they all came into existence during the war and on account of war conditions, but I submit that it is not true that all of them are suited only to war conditions.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I would like to make sure that the hon. Gentleman, whose argument I am following very closely, appreciates the point I was trying to make. It was directed not against the particular regulations in this Bill, because we are coming to deal with them later, but rather to the general argument that regulations enacted in an emergency for the purpose of war should not, unless cause be shown, individually be continued in peace time in a free democracy.

Mr. Younger

I appreciated the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but I hardly think that that can be entirely divorced from the merits of the regulations. One has to consider what the regulations are, and I was just coming to the point he was making. I cannot quote his exact words, but I think he suggested that these regulations give very large powers to the Executive. I appreciate that he may legitimately put forward that argument as regards one or two of them—and it really is only a question of one or two of them, and not even of the majority. There are a great many which give no additional powers to the Executive, and as to which this question of the powers of the Executive does not arise at all. There are, indeed, many more which are purely practical provisions to deal with the temporary conditions arising out of the war. I do not want to quote many, but perhaps I might mention one or two examples of those regulations. There are some relating to the National Registration Act and to identity cards. That includes Regulation 20AB and Regulation 45A. The first of those, I believe, we may be discussing in detail later on its merits.

The point I wish to make is that those are not in any way oppressive, but are merely convenient administrative measures necessary so long as the National Registration Act has to continue and so long as identity cards are necessary. In other words, they are useful so long as it is necessary to have any rationing schemes at all, and it is not only rationing but other matters, such as the electoral register, which depend upon these regulations. There cannot be any possible argument on the ground of human liberty. The seaman wants his rations, and he has to have an identity card in order to get them. It is for that sort of purpose that these regulations are required.

There are others—Regulations 32A and 32AA—dealing with various establishments for the custody of persons of unsound mind and mental defectives. Those regulations are required because during the war people had to be moved from the regular named places where they were normally detained, and, for a number of reasons, including bombing, it has not been possible to take them back to those places, I am advised that if these regulations were to expire, there are many mental defectives in this country now living in premises to which they were transferred, who could not legally be detained. That is a matter which, I believe, will come up at a later time, but I use it as an illustration. There is Regulation 33 which facilitates the provision of midwives. We all know that there is a shortage of most types of trained people in this country owing to lack of training during the war. There is a shortage, among other things, of mid-wives. There is a great demand for them because, as we are all glad to know, the birthrate is rising. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that there can be anything objectionable in this regulation or, indeed, that it gives any increased powers to the Executive? Such a regulation must be continued because there is no prospect of the need for it coming to an end at the end of 1948.

Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that it is necessary from the point of view of constitutional principle that we should revoke such a regulation? Does he not think that this is a practical Measure, that we should put these regulations all together in a Schedule, entering a date not so long ahead, and certainly a date when most of us believe our economic difficulties are likely to be continuing, at any rate in some degree, and that we should then be prepared to come here and defend them individually if necessary? The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to be keen on attacking them individually. When one has regard to what these regulations are, and to the length of time for which it is almost certain they will be needed, one cannot really attack the proposition that they should be continued until the date specified. Therefore, I must ask the Committee to reject this Amendment and to include this part of the Clause which governs the third part of the First Schedule.

4.15 p.m.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I am not impressed by the Under-Secretary's reply. He said that a number of these regulations which have been put in Part III of the First Schedule are so placed because the Government have decided that they cannot possibly be revoked within a year. Does that mean that because they have been put in Part III to continue until the end of 1950, the Government are quite certain that they will be required until the end of 1950? Are the Government quite certain that there will be no need to revoke them before that date? Whatever view the Government may have taken, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) that Parliament should have power to review them before the end of that time. The Government have taken all Private Members' time, and it looks as if they will continue to do so. Therefore, there is very little opportunity for Members of the Opposition, or indeed of Members on the Government back benches, to call in question the continuance of these regulations. Once they are put in Part III and this Bill becomes law, Parliament will have no further opportunity of discussing them until the end of 1950, and then only if the Government propose to continue them under the provisions of Clause 7. Therefore, I feel that the Government's reply is most unsatisfactory.

The Under-Secretary said that many of these regulations give no power to the Executive. I cannot accept that suggestion. If they do not give power to the Executive I cannot see what purpose they fulfil, because if the Executive do not need the power, they can perfectly well do the job by purely administrative action. They will not require any legislative authority. I think, perhaps, the Under-Secretary did not exactly mean that. In many cases these regulations are used to over-ride some statutory provision. At this stage after the war, to use a regulation to over-ride provisions of permanent statutes, is constitutionally objectionable. Therefore, I consider that this Amendment should be supported.

Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

I wish to reinforce the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor). I can appreciate the point that some of these regulations may be necessary in time of peace, but it clearly cannot be the case that all the regulations in this Schedule, necessary though they may be in time of war, are necessary in peacetime. If they are, a separate case should be made for their continuance in time of peace.

Let me refer to Regulation 12, which is to be continued under this Schedule, and the point which the hon. Baronet has just made with regard to over-riding statutes. That regulation deals with access to certain premises and prohibited areas for the purpose of public defence. In time of war one can understand that a regulation of that kind is essential, because there are certain places which ought to be prohibited places and on which no authorised persons ought to be allowed to enter. Clearly, that is a special purpose, and a special order is necessary because of the special conditions of war, but ordinary precautions are taken in time of peace. On account of war conditions precautions were taken which could not be taken in time of peace. Peacetime precautions were not adequate in time of war. Three-fore, this special regulation is introduced, and special provision is introduced dealing with the Official Secrets Acts. The Official Secrets Acts were made to apply, by virtue of the regulation, in a way in which they would not apply otherwise. That was a special provision for war. What is the case today? The application of the Official Secrets Acts to those conditions is only made lawful because this regulation is continued under the provisions of this Bill.

Consider any of the regulations made under the Act. Consider Regulation 84, which states: No person who obtains any information by virtue of these Regulations shall, otherwise than in connection with the execution of these Regulations or of an order, rule or byelaw made under these Regulations, disclose that information except with permission granted by or on behalf of, a Minister of the Crown. That merely extends the power of the Executive and of Ministers of the Crown. There are adequate powers to deal with that in ordinary peace time. This is a special power applicable to war, and to war conditions alone. There can be no reason for continuing this regulation, much less for continuing it until 1950—no case whatsoever. Therefore, instead of all these very varied regulations being lumped into the Schedule, they should be examined separately and on their merits at this stage; and only those should be continued that are necessary in peace time.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I cannot quite follow the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris). He says that all these regulations ought not to be lumped into the Schedule, but each ought to be considered individually, on its merits. I see nothing to prevent the Committee from doing so. The Schedule is before us. Each one of them can be considered on its merits, and if anybody thinks that any one should not be continued beyond the end of this year, all he has to do is to put down an Amendment to take it out of the Schedule. I am entirely in agreement with the view that the Committee would be failing in its duty in accepting the Schedule as a whole. It is the duty of each one of us to look at the regulations put into the Schedule, and to exercise his own personal and individual judgment as to whether any of the regulations, and if so, which, ought to be continued.

I cannot see what that has to do with the Amendment. If it were passed we should have no opportunity of considering any of these regulations on their merits. The effect of passing this Amendment would be to do precisely what the hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) think we ought not to do—to take the whole lot out, lock, stock and barrel, without any opportunity of considering them on their individual merits. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman really wishes his argument to be effective, he ought to oppose this Amendment and then give the strictest possible analysis to the Schedule when we reach it—or, if he is wise, before we reach it, so that he can put down any Amendments that he thinks justified. The way to avoid doing that, the way to deal with the regulations holus bolus all in a lot, is to pass the Amendment and to leave out the regulations without any analysis, or examination or criticism of any kind.

It really is a quite irresponsible way of doing things. I am certain that nobody believes that the whole of the regulations in Part III of the First Schedule of this Bill ought to come to an end at the end of this year. I doubt if there is a Member of the Committee who has looked at all of them, who would commit himself now to saying, "I have seen them all, and I am quite certain they ought all to come to an end at the end of next month." But that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be saying. Then he said, "Let us look at each of them, one by one."

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

I think the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is trying to take his fences before he reaches them. I gather from what he said that he quite agreed that it was inadvisable that all these regulations should remain in being up to 10th December, 1950.

Mr. S. Silverman

I did not say that at all.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Perhaps the hon. Member will make his position clear; but I understood him to say that he was in agreement that that was not desirable.

Mr. Silverman

May I make it clear? I did my best before, and I shall do my best again, to make it plain. I said I was not in favour of leaving all of them in the Schedule unexamined, and that each one ought to be examined in turn. When we come to examining each one in turn, I may decide to reject the lot, or I may decide to keep the lot, or I may decide to keep some and reject others. What I decline to do is to do what the Amendment suggests—reject the lot unexamined.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I say again that I think the hon. Gentleman is trying to take the fences before he reaches them. The point of the Amendment is, surely, this: that instead of pinning down the Committee to the continuance of these regulations to the 10th December, 1950, we should have the opportunity of re-examining the regulations at intervals.

Mr. Silverman

We should not have any opportunity to do that.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The hon. Member had better wait to see what happens in the event of the Amendments being carried.

Mr. Silverman rose

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am not going to give way again. I am trying to make myself clear, and I hope that the hon. Member will listen to what I have to say. Let us assume that other hon. Members share the feeling of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and would like to examine this Schedule in detail. Why do they want to examine it in detail? Because they are in doubt whether all the regulations contained in the Schedule should, in fact, be continued at all beyond the fixed period. That is precisely the object of this Amendment—to see that Parliament is protected from making the mistake of keeping a regulation alive longer than it is really necessary for the community—longer than Parliament ought to allow it to remain alive, if it is getting in the way of the normal life of the people.

I am only a back bencher in the House of Commons, and I have always understood that, despite the fact that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne sits as near the Government Front Bench as he can, he is also, technically, a back bencher. I have also understood—and I have been a Member of the House of Commons for 14 years—that the prime function of the back benchers is to protect the people from the exercise of functions unfairly by the Executive. Sometimes the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne appears to forget that part of the duty. Still, let him remember it today. I am speaking as a back bench Member who is trying to protect the people from over-exercise of power on the part of the Executive, and I think I am quite justified in doing so.

I really must refer to the argument that was used by the Under-Secretary of State. He was rather selective in the regulations to which he referred. Did he not add to the evidence in favour of our Amendment when he quoted, for instance, the regulation regarding identity cards for seamen? Of course, nobody says that at the present moment it is unnecessary for seamen to have identity cards. The reason why it is necessary for seamen to have identity cards at the moment is, that seamen have to get particular advantages by way of drawing clothing cards and additional food. Is the hon. Gentleman really telling the Committee that right up to 10th December, 1950, it is absolutely certain that seamen will need special identity cards for these purposes? It is a grim picture.

Mr. Younger

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I was very careful on every occasion I used the words "absolutely certain" to add the words "or very probable." I did not maintain that it is absolutely certain. I should like to make it clear that there is, of course, every intention of revoking any of these regulations at an earlier date if it is possible to do so.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

That is all very well. The Parliamentary Secretary has put it quite charmingly, saying, "Of course, we should like to take them off as soon as we possibly can, but I will not guarantee that they will be absolutely essential." It is all very well to rely on the charming manner and good intentions of Ministers sitting on the Government Front Bench, but I would far sooner rely on the judgment of Parliament itself. I do not want to rely on the judgment of the Executive, and I do not think I am fairly protecting the people of this country from the false exercise of power by the Executive unless I make absolutely certain that Parliament retains the right to re-examine this power. That is exactly the point. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health seems to be getting excited about this—

The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)

Bored, not excited.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The right hon. Gentleman may be bored, but he is making his presence felt by means of all sorts of gestures. How excited he would have been had he been sitting on this side of the Committee when we were considering this. He would have been standing in just about the position I occupy, holding forth at very great length, moving the Adjournment, and all sorts of things. We all know that perfectly well. But let him forget himself for just one moment; let him come into the Lobby with us, just for once, on this issue, and re-assert the rights of the people in Parliament. It is a very reasonable Amendment. Candidly, I think it may contain the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—I do not admit that it does, but it may do—but let us deal with it from the practical point of view. Let us deal with this Amendment only, and then consider with anything which arises out of it when it comes along.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I regret that I have not heard the whole Debate on this Amendment, but it seems exceedingly simple to me. If this Amendment is accepted, we shall save the Government a lot of trouble, and that is always a good thing, because it means that Part III of the Schedule will not have to be discussed in detail. That is one excellent reason for accepting this Amendment. As I understand it, we shall then cut out of the Bill the words "until nineteen hundred and fifty," which will ensure these various regulations coming before the Committee next year. That, in itself, has many advantages, for it will enable the Home Secretary to say in 12 months' time that some of them will not be wanted again. We should also have the advantage of knowing that on this part of the Bill we are not voting blind for a series of regulations which it would be difficult for the Committee to consider one by one.

Having listened to what the Home Secretary said the other day on this matter, and having, with great care, provided myself with a copy of his speech, I appreciate that he was well meaning, but it would have been much better to cut out the whole question of 1950 and kept the number of regulations to a very much lower figure. For the simple reason that I object to giving power to carry on these regulations for three years, I say the best thing is to cut the whole lot out and have them up again next year, when we need pass only those which are necessary. No one can say whether they will be of any value then or not, and from the speech which the Home Secretary made the other day it appears that he went through these regulations in some way—I would not like to suggest which way—that certain of them were given varying periods, and that this particular batch—which is also mentioned in Part III of the Schedule—was given three years. For the sake of clarifying the Bill, for the sake of helping things on tonight, and for the sake of not over-burdening the country with unnecessary regulations, I ask the Home Secretary to accept this Amendment. It can only help him in the long run, and it will certainly give a great deal of pleasure to a large number of back benchers before the evening is out.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), in accordance with what is becoming his more or less usual custom, has used his ingenuity to read into this Amendment a meaning quite different from that which the Amendment really has. I would, of course, agree with him when he says that if the Amendment is carried it will not mean we shall be able to discuss and consider each of the Defence Regulations in Part III.

Mr. S. Silverman

Any of them.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Or any of them, I quite agree. It would then be for the Home Secretary to carry on any Defence Regulation if he wanted to do so, as I apprehend, by an Address under Clause 7, or by moving some later Amendment. The real point of this Amendment is not the avoiding of careful scrutiny, for we shall have that at some time even if the Amendment is not carried. The point is, not to avoid scrutiny of particular Defence Regulations, but to provide opportunity for this Committee to consider Defence Regulations at yearly periods. As the Bill now stands, what happens? We can have our scrutiny during Committee today, but from today until 1950 there will be no further opportunity in this Committee of considering the propriety of continuing a Defence Regulation. I think the Home Secretary will agree it is the case that, once we have parted with the Defence Regulations which are affected by paragraph (c), after the Bill is passed the Committee will have lost the opportunity of expressing a view on the continuation, or revocation, or otherwise of a Defence Regulation until 1950.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said, "Of course, saying that it will continue until 1950 does not mean that we, in the exercise of our discretion, cannot revoke it before that time." I concede that that is so, but that is quite a different thing from saying that this Committee shall "have an opportunity of saying—as it would have with an Address—that these Defence Regulations should not be continued. Under Clause 7—and I think I should be in Order in referring to it for a moment—there is power to extend Defence Regulations from year to year if the occasion warrants it. That will give the Committee an opportunity of considering particular Defence Regulations. On this Amendment I do not intend to discuss the details of any Defence Regulation; we shall have an opportunity of doing that afterwards, and I shall not follow the Parliamentary Secretary's example by giving illustrations, I am not complaining of what he did; I am merely trying to save time.

This Amendment raises the question of principle that this Committee should not part with Defence Regulations subject to the condition that they shall remain in force until 1950. This Committee should insist on having these Defence Regulations brought before it from year to year if it is the intention of the Government that they should continue in force. In the absence of any satisfactory assurance from the Government that we shall have an opportunity of securing before 1950, the revocation of Regulations which we do not think serve any further useful purpose—and under this Bill it does not appear that any such opportunity will be available—we on this side of the Committee have no alternative but to divide the Committee on this Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 230; Noes, 125.

Division No. 29.] AYES. [4.40 p.m.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Benson, G.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bacon, Miss A. Berry, H.
Alpass, J. H. Baird, J. Beswick, F.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Balfour, A. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Barstow, P. G. Bing, G. H. C.
Attewell, H. C. Barton, C. Blackburn, A. R.
Austin, H. Lewis Battley, J. R. Blyton, W. R.
Awbery, S S. Bechervaise, A. E. Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.
Ayles. W. H. Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Rees-Williams, D. R
Braddock, T (Mitcham) Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W) Reeves, J.
Bramall, E. A. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham. N.) Robens, A.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Janner, B. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brown, George (Belper) Jay, D. P. T. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T Jeger, G. (Winchester) Royle, C.
Burden, T. W. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Sargood, R.
Carmichael, James Jones, D T. (Hartlepool) Scollan, T.
Castle, Mrs B. A. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Scott-Elliot, W.
Chamberlain, R. A. Keenan, W Segal, Dr. S.
Chater, D. Kenyon, C. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Chetwynd, G. R. Key, C. W. Sharp, Granville
Cluse, W. S. King, E. M. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Collins, V. J. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Shurmer, P.
Colman, Miss G. M Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Cook, T. F. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Silverman, S. S (Nelson)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Leonard, W. Simmons, C. J.
Corlett, Dr. J Leslie, J. R. Skeffington-Lodge, T C.
Crawley, A. Lever, N. H. Skinnard, F. W.
Crossman, R. H. S Levy, B. W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Daggar, G. Lindgren, G. S. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Daines, P. Lyne, A. W. Snow, J. W.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) McEntee, V. La T. Solley, L. J.
Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S. W.) McGhee, H. G. Soskice, Maj. Sir F
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Mack, J. D. Sparks, J. A.
Deer, G. McKinlay, A. S Steele, T.
de Freitas, Geoffrey MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Delargy, H. J Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Stross, Dr. B.
Diamond, J. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Dobbie, W Martin, J. H. Swingler, S.
Dodds, N. N. Medland, H. M. Sylvester, G. O
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mellish, R. J. Symonds, A L.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Middleton, Mrs. L. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Mitchison, G. R Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Evans, John (Ogmore) Morley, R. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Evans, S N. (Wednesbury) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Ewart, R. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Farthing, W. J Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E Thurtle, Ernest
Fernyhough, E Moyle, A. Tiffany, S.
Follick, M. Murray, J. D. Tolley, L.
Foot, M. M. Neal, H. (Claycross) Turner-Samuels, M
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Viant, S. P.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Gibson, C. W. Noel-Buxton, Lady Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Gilzean, A. O'Brien, T. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Oliver, G. H Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Goodrich, H. E. Orbach, M. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywodd) Paget, R. T. Wigg, George
Grey, C. F. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Wilcock, Group-Cap. C. A. B
Grierson, E. Palmer, A. M. F Wilkes, L
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Parker, J Wilkins, W. A
Griffiths, W D. (Moss Side) Parkin, B. T. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Guy, W. H. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Peart, T. F. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Perrins, W. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Piratin, P. Willis, E.
Hardy, F A. Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Popplewell, E. Woodburn, A.
Herbison, Miss M. Porter, E. (Warrington) Woods, G. S.
Hewitson, Capt. M Porter, G. (Leeds) Wyatt, W.
Hicks, G. Price, M. Philips Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Holman, P Proctor, W. T Younger, Hon. Kenneth
House, G Pryde, D. J
Hoy, J Pursey, Cmdr. H TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Randall, H. E Mr. Pearson and
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Ranger, J. Mr. Richard Adams.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Byers, Frank Digby, S W.
Baldwin, A E Carson, E. Dodds-Parker, A. D
Barlow, Sir J. Challen, C. Donner, P. W
Baxter, A. B. Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G Drayson, G. B.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Drewe, C.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells) Cooper-Key, E. M Eccles, D. M.
Bowen, R. Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Eden, Rt. Hon. A.
Bower, N. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Crowder, Capt. John E. Erroll, F. J
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Cuthbert, W. N. Foster, J. G. (Northwich)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Darling, Sir W. Y. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Butsher, H. W. Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Gates, Maj. E. E. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Ross, Sir R. O. (Londonderry)
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Maclay, Hon. J. S. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Glyn, Sir R Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Sanderson, Sir F.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Manningham-Buller, R. E. Scott, Lord W.
Grant, Lady Marlowe, A. A. H Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Granville, E. (Eye) Marples, A. E. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Gridley, Sir A. Marsden, Capt. A. Smithers, Sir W.
Grimston, R. V. Marshall, D (Bodmin) Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Mellor, Sir J. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Molson, A. H. E. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Head, Brig. A. H. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Studholme, H. G.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C Morris-Jones, Sir H. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Hogg, Hon. Q. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Hollis, M. C. Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Neven-Spence, Sir B. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Nield, B. (Chester) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N
Hurd, A. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Touche, G. C.
Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Nutting, Anthony Walker-Smith, D.
Jeffreys, General Sir G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Keeling, E. H. Osborne, C. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pickthorn, K Williams, C. (Torquay)
Linstead, H. N. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.) Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Price-White, Lt.-Col. D. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Low, A. R. W. Raikes, H. V.
Lucas, Major Sir J. Rayner, Brig. R TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Commander Agnew and
MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham) Lieut-Colonel Thorp.

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 8 to 14.

This Amendment can be taken together with the Amendment to the First Schedule, in page 10, to leave out lines 34 to 43. The question here is whether or not Defence Regulation 16 shall continue in force, as amended by this Measure. Defence Regulation 16, in its original form, gave wide powers to Government Departments to close highways and footpaths. When the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill, 1945, was before the House on Second Reading the former Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, said of this regulation: It has been agreed between the Departments that no fresh order for the closing of a road will be made without the concurrence of the Minister of War Transport, and so far as it can be foreseen, the power will only be required in two special types of cases: (1) in order to facilitate opencast coal workings, it may be necessary to break up a footpath and then to open it up again to the public when the coal has been extracted from the land over which the footpath runs, and (2) it may be necessary to close a fresh stretch of road "near an existing closed road in order that the existing closed road may be re-opened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 242.] In the same Debate, the Home Secretary expanded his observations about this, and indicated that Defence Regulation 16 would be used only for those two cases, opencast coal workings and the temporary closing of a road where there is a Government dump nearby. Now we find that a third category is being introduced, that is, the closing of a footpath or any highway at the whim of the Minister of Fuel and Power for the erection of an electricity generating station.

In the Second Reading Debate on this Measure, I indicated that I thought it was wrong that the Minister of Fuel and Power should have this power, and not the Minister of Town and Country Planning. Bearing in mind the justification for Defence Regulation 16 under the original Measure, I am wondering how the right hon. Gentleman will justify its retention now, having regard to the fact that the House has recently passed the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. Under that Act power has been given to the Minister of Transport to authorise the stopping up or diversion of a highway, when and if he is satisfied that it is necessary so to do, to enable development to be carried out in accordance with the permission granted in Part III of the Act.

I should have thought that all the powers the Minister of Fuel and Power required with regard to highways and footpaths could be exercised under Section 49 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, if the consent of the Minister of Transport could be secured. Indeed, I suspect that the reason the Committee is now being troubled with this Defence Regulation is because one part of the Government does not know what another part of the Government has put in one of its Bills. Having regard to the terms of Section 49 of that Act, it is quite unnecessary for the Minister of Fuel to seek to obtain this extra power, when there is a power under an Act of Parliament—subject to the satisfaction of the Minister of Transport, and subject to its fitting in with the plan of the Town and Country Planning Act—to stop up highways. On that ground I suggest that this regulation is really not necessary.

I contend that it is a bad practice to give Ministers power to close highways, just to suit their particular projects, without the matter being related to town and country planning. Here, as I pointed out, instead of narrowing the operation of the Defence Regulation, because it was narrowed by agreement under the last Measure—as stated in the passage I have quoted—it has been extended a little, because now the Minister of Fuel and Power, if this Defence Regulation obtains, will have the power to close highways for the purpose of erecting an electricity generating station. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should have that power, just because it suits him, and, in addition, have the over-riding power possessed by a Minister. If we are to have a town and country plan in this country which will be effective and efficient, diversions must have regard to that plan. Only chaos will result if we have Ministers using rights under Defence Regulations which conflict with the plan which has been approved. In those circumstances, there is little need for these additional powers, and if any highway does require to be stopped, ample powers at the moment exist for stopping it.

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

I have listened very carefully to what the right hon. and learned Member has said about this Amendment, and I do not think he quite appreciates the effect that his Amendment would have. It would, in fact, restore Defence Regulation 16 until 10th December, 1950, in its original form, because, although there are two Amendments on the Paper, there is not one to leave it out of Part III of the Schedule.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I would immediately agree as to that effect, but the operation of Defence Regulation 16 would, presumably, remain in existence also until 1950.

Mr. Ede

I do not think that would be the effect. It could not be. I dealt at some length with this regulation on the Second Reading of the Bill. I have all along been very anxious to ensure that any stopping up of a highway—and a highway includes a footpath—should be very limited, and undertaken only in cases of extreme urgency. One of the difficulties which confronts us at the moment is the problem of securing adequate generating plants in the country. That is the reason we have put this power into the regulation. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that this power will be exercised in consultation with the other Departments concerned. If we rely on the machinery operated by other Government Departments, it is not possible, on occasions, to move in this matter with the speed that is desired. Quite frankly, I prefer the old fashioned way of dealing with the diversion or closing of a highway—going to quarter sessions. As a Vice President of the Commons, Open Spaces, and Footpaths Preservation Society, I regret that other means have, in recent years, been effected by which it is possible, outside the regulations, to get a footpath closed in a way that does not give nearly as much facility as quarter sessions' procedure.

5.0 p.m.

We have put this into the Bill on the grounds that it is an emergency, a transitional, Measure. I hope the Committee will feel that the very limited use to which we propose to apply these powers in future is one which the circumstances of our time can justify. We do not ask for it on any other ground from that. Fuel and generating capacity are two of the most essential things we must have in dealing with emergency conditions, and I hope we shall be given these powers. I decided to have the exact powers put into the Bill so that there should be no doubt about them, but if there is any feeling that the Ministry of Town Planning ought to know about these matters, I am sure the Ministry of Fuel and Power will consult them. Sometimes, however, in the erection of a generating station, it is necessary to close or divert a highway, and to go through the ordinary procedure when considerable speed is required would cause undue delay.

Mr. C. Williams

The Minister has undoubtedly put his case with moderation. I quite agree that there may be occasions when great speed is needed in these matters, and none of us wish to hold him up on that point, but in some ways there is an extension of powers here. More power is given in regard to what is required for opencast mining and the generation of electricity.

I noticed that while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking he was being carefully watched by the Minister of Health. In a short time the Minister of Health may want to do something of this sort for the purpose of obtaining slate or stone for building houses in an emergency. The right hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly casting his kindly Welsh eye on the Home Secretary, as if saying, "Here is an opportunity to get new powers in a comparatively short time." The Home Secretary shakes his head, but I have no doubt that the Minister of Health might wish to use these powers for what he considered was a good purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is a powerful personality, and I do not want to see these powers further extended on another occasion. Some Members might have been taken in by the kindliness and sweet reasonableness of the Home Secretary, but once this kind of thing is put into a Bill to meet special need, it is not long before other Ministries ask for those special powers. The Home Secretary, who proclaimed the good work he has done for the preservation of commons, open spaces and footpaths, should think twice before rejecting our Amendment. I warn him that others might use this stick to beat him—

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

The hon. Gentleman seems to be repeating himself.

Mr. Williams

I certainly will not repeat that; I do not think I have used the word "stick" before. In any case, I have just come to the end of my speech.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am sure the Committee will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation of this Defence Regulation. May I assure him that, in moving this Amendment, I did not seek in any way to challenge the proposition that there might be occasions when it was necessary to stop up highways, both for opencast coal operations and the building of generating stations? I appreciate that that may have to be done, but I hope it will be done in a very few cases. The Minister referred to quarter sessions' procedure, with which I am familiar. This can be carried out quickly, although I agree that at times there are difficulties. Apart from that, however, there is a new procedure in the Town and Country Planning Act, under Section 49. The right hon. Gentleman did not say a word about that procedure, although part of my argument was that there are very ample powers for the speedy closing of highways under that Act. If I am wrong then it is a criticism of that Act, and an implied criticism of the Minister of Town and Country Planning.

But I am not making that criticism. I suggest that the argument of speed can be somewhat over-exaggerated. In building an electricity generating station, a plan has first to be prepared. When that has been done, it will be known what highways or footpaths will be interfered with and surely, after that, it is a simple matter to operate under Section 49 of the Town and Country Planning Act, and get an order made to close the highway. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will have another look at this point, to see whether it will be possible to operate speedily under the Town and Country Planning Act, as I believe it will. If he will do that, then we will withdraw this Amendment, and have a short discussion, perhaps, on the Report stage.

Mr. Ede

I am always anxious to meet the Opposition when they approach a subject in the way in which it has been approached by the hon. and learned Member opposite. I have looked carefully into this matter, but I will examine it again in the light of what has been said. My own experience of working under old Town Planning Acts has been that they were very slow in their operation. I always regarded the power to close a footpath under a town planning scheme as dangerous from the point of view of the people who were interested in the footpath, because it was so easy to obscure the footpath by a dozen or so different colours on the map. I will look into the matter again, and communicate with the hon. and learned Gentleman before the Report stage.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, I have great pleasure in asking leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.