HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1407-10
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 6, line 10, to leave out "Transitional," and to insert "Miscellaneous."

Mr. Gallacher

Let us take all the other Amendments together.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Whether any time could be saved by taking all the Amendments together, I doubt. I am quite certain that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who puts forward that suggestion, would not be able to follow the argument if we did. This Amendment is quite a simple one which, I hope, he will be able to follow. It is the question of the Title of the Bill. I think that anyone who has read the Bill will agree that the present Title is really a complete misnomer—Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill. In the Second Clause we find that, far from the Bill being transitional, it is making a good deal of permanent legislation. The Second Schedule, which occupies a considerable number of pages of the Bill—pages 11 to 17 inclusive—is going to be permanent law of this land, a permanent part of a permanent Bill. Therefore, the word "transitional" is completely inappropriate. That part of the law may remain indefinitely.

7.0 p.m.

Is "transitional" the right word to describe a Measure which keeps in force a whole body of Defence Regulations until 1950, a Measure which provides power for keeping regulations in force after 1950? It does not sound awfully transitional to me—although I must say that I hope that a great many of them will come to an end before 1950, or, at least, very shortly after 1950. I know with what delight hon. Members opposite would like to see the retention of controls. That hope may well be short-lived, because 1950, at any rate, might be the last time this Government can conduct a matter of this sort—indeed I think it will be before that. I say in all seriousness that there is something to be said for having our Acts of Parliament correctly entitled. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport would welcome the suggestion that English should be used properly. The word "transitional" cannot, having regard to the content of this Measure, be regarded as in any way an apt word with which to describe it. I think the best word to describe it is "miscellaneous." It is miscellaneous, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now—because I do not want to take up any more of the Committee's time—accede to that proposal without any further argument.

Mr. Younger

I do not think this is a matter which makes a very substantial difference to the effect of the Bill. I quite see the force of the argument used by the hon. and learned Member, though I would not go so far as to follow him in his suggestion that the word "transitional" is not applicable to a period going on as far as 1950. I should have thought that, if the transitional period after a war such as we have been through lasted only five years, we might all congratulate ourselves. Nevertheless, I do see that a Bill containing many provisions which are to be permanent might be criticised on the ground that it should be called "transitional" at all. On the other hand, I should have thought—I put this forward for the consideration of the hon. and learned Gentleman—that if hon. Members opposite are anxious, as they have said they are, to have clarity and ease of reference in this matter, a Bill which follows on the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, and which deals only with the continuation or revocation of matters which appear in that Act, might well bear the same Title, even if that Title is, from the point of view of the purist in the English language, perhaps not strictly correct. I would remind the hon. and learned Member that the 1946 Act contained permanent provisions, too, but the word "transitional" was accepted in that instance. I put that forward for the consideration of the hon. and learned Member, but if he wishes to press this Amendment we do not challenge it, and my right hon. Friend would raise no objection.

Mr. Wingfield Digby (Dorset, Western)

I think it was the Home Secretary who, during Second Reading, pointed out that this was a Bill dealing with an enormous variety of topics. No doubt it almost passes human ingenuity to find a Title which would aptly describe the many things contained in this Bill. However, I do not think that is an argument for not making the description as accurate as we can. Frankly, I am rather puzzled by the word "transitional" in the Title. Presumably the transit is from somewhere to somewhere. Is this from war to peace?

Mr. Gallacher

From one period to another.

Mr. Digby

If we are not to have peaceful conditions until 1950, or, judging from what we have heard, considerably later, it does not seem to be a very sensible Title. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the best reason for keeping this Title is that we had a similar Title for the Act of last year. I do not think that is an altogether useful argument. That Act was passed only one year after the end of the war, but time is going on, and no doubt we shall have this appearing yet once again. Now is the time to make sure that we have the best Title, although we shall never get one to fit such a hotch-potch Bill as this.

Mr. Ede

I think the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Digby) could not quite have understood what the Parliamentary Secretary said. We are quite willing to accept this Amendment. The child is ours, and we gathered that hon. Members opposite did not want to be too closely associated with its paternity. However, if they desire to act as Godparents and name the child, we are very glad to welcome them into the family circle. We accept the Amendment.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Bearing in mind our assistance in trying to make the child a bit better does not really fasten parental responsibility upon us. I welcome the Under-Secretary's acceptance of this proposition. We do press this Amendment, because, even though it may be only a small one; it is not without importance, and this afternoon we on this side of the Committee are doing our best to amend this Bill and to make it better in many respects.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.