HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1396-407

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This Clause raises a question of general importance on the Bill. As the Committee is aware, the Bill is most carefully designed to put Defence Regulations into different categories so that some of them are eliminated at the end of this year, some at the end of another year, and some at the end of 1950. On the face of it, a very careful discrimination is being exercised as to the duration of a very large quantity of wartime emergency legislation. But Clause 7 destroys that neat pattern and introduces—or, rather, reintroduces—a considerable degree of uncertainty. It provides that where, under this Bill, a regulation would come to an end on a date specified in the Bill, that regulation can, none the less, be continued in force on a Resolution of both Houses requesting the making of an Order in Council. To begin with, that inevitably raises some doubt in one's mind as to the real intention of the Government to eliminate a great deal of this wartime legislation.

In moving the Second Reading, the Home Secretary certainly gave me the impression that he was sincere in his desire to get rid of as much as was administratively possible of these relics of the war. But the fact remains that power has been retained to keep all the regulations, which would otherwise go out of effect under this Bill, in full force and effect, subject only to resolutions of both Houses. Surely, before this Bill was produced, the Government must have had clear in their own minds which powers they wanted to retain, and for how long? They could not bring this Bill forward on any other basis. Therefore, I am doubtful as to the necessity for introducing this saving Clause under which they can change their minds at the last minute. It indicates an attitude of doubt as to the desirability of finally getting rid of many of these Defence Regulations.

There is a further point. I am perfectly certain that whoever replies for the Government will suggest that there is effective Parliamentary control because of the necessity for the address of both Houses. I am disinclined to be dogmatic on this point, but I should like to be told whether the Address asking His Majesty for an Order in Council to continue a Defence Regulation in force would be able to provide for the incorporation of a request that the regulation be amended for the purpose of its continuation in force. As I read this Clause—I am by no means certain that I am right—the only issue before the House will be whether a certain regulation is to continue in force or not. If that is right, it puts the House in the very undesirable position of either having to accept the whole regulation or to reject it altogether, thereby causing administrative inconvenience. I should be grateful if. I could be informed whether, by any procedural expedient or otherwise, it will be possible, when the issue of continuing a Defence Regulation is discussed under this Clause, to secure amendment to that Regulation, or whether it will be merely a question of taking the whole thing or leaving it.

I am certain that the attitude of the Committee on this question will be determined not only by the reply of the Government on the point, but also by the indication that they give of their intentions with respect to the use of the power generally to prolong these regulations. It is, of course, quite clear that a large-scale use of this power and the consequent continuation in force of many of these regulations would make nonsense of the whole of this Bill.

Mr. Ede

I think that I shall probably serve the Committee best if I answer straight away the question addressed to me by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). The regulations will have to be continued in their present form as they emerge from this Bill if an Address is presented asking for their continuance; it will not be possible to include an amendment. I gathered that, on the first Amendment which was discussed today, considerable merit was found in Clause 7 of the Bill. It was suggested that if we would drop out Part I of the Schedule, all we need do is to use Clause 7 between now and Christmas, and that we could continue by that means any or all of the numerous regulations in Part III. I, personally, do not object to all-night sittings, but I think that to look forward, as a preliminary to the Christmas festivities, to moving an Address on each one of these regulations in Part III would be a peculiar form of merriment. Therefore, quite rightly, we did not accept it. I hope that the same practical considerations will be borne in mind by the Committee when they consider exactly what this Clause implies with regard to the future of these regulations.

We have endeavoured to put into the first three parts of the First Schedule the existing Regulations under the previous Act allocated to categories which indicate the time at which we now think we can rely on their being no longer of value. In Part I we have put all those which we think can expire without any detriment on 31st December this year. Of course, we should have power, between the passing of this Bill and the end of the year, to continue some of them by this method of Address if we suddenly found it desirable so to do, but I think we can say that we are so near the event in those cases that that is exceedingly unlikely.

6.30 p.m.

With regard to Parts II and III of the First Schedule, we are endeavouring to exercise the gift of prophecy on remoter events. My experiences on Epsom Downs indicate to me that prophets whom one employs professionally are apt to be frustrated in their efforts to foretell the future within a very few minutes of the prophecy being made, and I am not claiming the gift of infallibility with regard to prophecy in allocating a regulation to Part II or Part III. I have used my best judgment, after consulting those persons who are responsible for the administration of these various regulations, but to anyone looking at the proposals we are making here, it must be quite clear that towards the end of 1948, or just before 10th December, 1950, it would be a work of physical impossibility almost for the House to pass, and the other place also to pass, Addresses dealing with all the regulations in the respective parts of the First Schedule, but there may be some regulation which it may be desirable to continue a little longer.

I have, for instance, included in Part II of the First Schedule, regulations which it is hoped will be embodied in permanent legislation during the coming year. It may be that such legislation may not be introduced or may not be passed. The House might desire to keep a particular provision on a temporary basis rather than to embody it in permanent legislation, although I think that is unlikely; but if it should be found impossible to produce or pass the legislation concerned, obviously it may be desirable then to have power to extend it one year at a time. The same thing applies, with even more force, to the regulations which are included in Part III. There may be some regulations which it may be desirable, for one reason or another, to continue after 10th December, 1950, and by bringing that date into play, we bring up for consideration together the regulations under this Bill, and the regulations under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act. The machinery we propose here is the same as the machinery which the House has already approved in the case of the Regulations made under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act.

I suggest that it would be desirable, when we are considering the two Acts together—the position for which we have designedly worded the Bill—that we should be then using the same machinery for regulations under these Acts. There is no sinister purpose in this. We could have put the House, and especially the Opposition, to the inconvenience of having to pray against any regulations we propose to continue, but the exercise of piety on the other side of the Committee has assumed such abnormal proportions, that we would not desire that they should have further difficulties in that respect presented to them. No regulation can be smuggled through, any more than I can smuggle through an arrangement for a Sunday cinema to be opened in the smallest urban district in the country. The Address will have to be moved in the House, and it will appear on the Order Paper in time for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to know that the matter is coming up. They will thus have the opportunity of discussing, and if necessary, dividing the House on each separate regulation. I hope the Committee will feel that the Government have endeavoured in this case to use the machinery which is best calculated to bring this matter before the House. The fact that it entails the consideration that I have mentioned is an indication that we do not expect to have to use it to any great extent when the times comes in regard to Part II and Part III of the First Schedule.

Sir J. Mellor

The Home Secretary has confirmed what we anticipated, that these regulations, if continued under this Clause for a further period of a year, would have to be continued in their precise existing form, with no possibility of amendment. I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said in dealing with the serious position that the House would not be entitled to introduce any amendments. I should like, also, to put it from this point of view. I feel that the impossibility of amendment introduces a rather bad form of temptation to the Government, because when the time comes at the end of 1948, or the end of 1950, as the case may be, most probably in changed circumstances and in the light of experience, it may be desirable to introduce some amendments to these regulations, perhaps to leave out some paragraph, or make some addition. At any rate, it is most probable that the existing form of the regulation will no longer be the best form.

The Government will be faced with this alternative: They can take the comparatively simple way of moving an Address in order to secure the continuance of the regulation in the form in which it exists, and so continue those features which may no longer be desirable, or else the Government can introduce a Bill in order to give the substance of the regulation enactment in a form in which it can be revised and, if desirable. Amendments introduced. That would be the choice before the Government. I think that is not a very desirable position because, as I say, the Government would obviously be tempted to choose the former method merely for the sake of Parliamentary convenience. I think it would be most likely that in many cases they would choose that instead of, perhaps, the more troublesome method which would secure the more desirable result.

This is an important matter. These regulations can be continued, and carry on features which are no longer appropriate, merely because of a desire perhaps to save Parliamentary time. If this Amendment is carried, and the Government are deprived of this power of extending for the period of a further year by means of an Address, then they will have to introduce a Bill if they desire the continuance of the substance of the provisions of the regulations, and when the Bill is introduced, not only can hon. Members—

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

Could the hon. Member say to which Amendment he is referring?

Sir J. Mellor

I must apologise if I referred to the Amendment. I am speaking on whether Clause 7 should stand part of the Bill. In my submission, if this Clause is not agreed to, then the Government will, if they desire the continuance of the substance of the provisions of the regulations, have to introduce a Bill. That would give hon. Members an opportunity to introduce Amendments and, at the same time, the Government would already have introduced into the Bill any Amendments which they considered appropriate. If they do not introduce a Bill but proceed by the other method, no Amendments whatsoever can be made, however desirable they may be in the light of the circumstances and of experience.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The Home Secretary has described to us his occasional lack of success in forecasting events at Epsom. I am rather surprised that he is not more consistently successful, because in his argument he showed a remarkable aptitude for having it both ways. In my argument on the first Amendment I did not claim that Clause 7 had a merit, but I did claim that the combination in one Bill of Clause 7 and Part III of the First Schedule is, in effect, a double demerit. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that our main objection to the procedure which he is following in this Bill is that by Part III of the First Schedule he is extending certain regulations, not for one year as was done last time, but for three years. Our argument is that all legislation by regulation ought to come up for review annually. Therefore, while we are prepared to extend certain regulations for a year, on cause being shown, we think that review ought to be annual, and we do not like the third part of the First Schedule.

The right hon. Gentleman comes before us, on the one hand, as a kind of Jack the giant killer. It is true that this particular "Jack" postpones the execution of each "giant" for three years; after three years their heads will be chopped off. But, at the same time, he has it another way, because by Clause 7 if at any time he repents of his giant-killing propensities, he invokes Clause 7 and the giant lives for another period of indeterminate duration. We on this side of the Committee do not agree with that position. It is true that the legislative device of an Order in Council has been used from time to time to prolong relatively uncontroversial matters. It is convenient, but its very convenience carries with it objections from a Parliamentary point of view. Those of us with experience of Parliament know that this sort of business is generally conducted very late at night after ordinary business, and that apart from very exceptional circumstances it is never given any pride of place in the Parliamentary programme. Consequently, there is a tendency for this business to be shuffled through, and, as a general rule, it does not get that scrutiny which is accorded to the first or second Order of the Day.

The other great Parliamentary disadvantage is the absence of any power to amend. Very often that places Parliament in a cruel dilemma. A regulation drafted in war conditions may, on the whole, have a beneficent purpose, but it may be disfigured by some heritage from wartime circumstances, which renders it very undesirable in present conditions. But Parliament, confronted with an Address of this character such as is envisaged by Clause 7, has no choice except either to reject the good with the bad—throw the baby out as well as the bath water—or to swallow the bad points with the good.

Mr. Ede

Swallow the baby and the bath water.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I did not say anything about swallowing the baby. I leave those cannibalistic tendencies to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Surely Parliament ought to be more flexible than that in dealing with these matters in order to correct what is bad, and cherish, keep alive and enact what is good. Indeed, the traditional Parliamentary procedure which We follow in this House has been evolved and designed with that object in view. We first of all discuss the principle. Then we go through the Second Reading, after which we consider the Bill in Committee, cutting out some things and preserving others, and we try to improve our legislation as we go on. We think that any extension of this legislation

by means of Order in Council carries with it the disadvantages to which I have referred, and when one considers that under Clause 7 it applies to a very wide body of miscellaneous regulations we do not think the Clause ought to stand in its present form. The objections from Parliament's point of view outweigh its convenience to the Executive. My hon. Friends and I cannot agree to the Clause.

Mr. Ede

I only intervene to say that I made a slip in the first speech that I made on this Amendment, and I would not like it to go uncorrected on the record. It is impossible to extend any regulation that is in Part I of the First Schedule by an Address at all. Between now and Christmas we have no power to do that. With regard to what the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) has said, the issue between us is quite clear. We take one view, which I have endeavoured to express with as much moderation as I can. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends take another view, and I do not think that if I were merely to repeat what I have already said it would advance the matter at all. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the clarity with which he has stated the point of view of his hon. Friends and himself.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 101.

Division No. 30.] AYES. [16.47 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Bramall, E. A. de Freitas, Geoffrey
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Brook, D. (Halifax) Delargy, H. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Diamond, J.
Alpass, J. H. Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Dobbie, W
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Burden, T. W. Dodds, N. N.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Donovan, T.
Attewell, H. C. Callaghan, James Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Chamberlain, R. A Durbin, E. F. M.
Awbery, S S. Champion, A. J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Ayles, W H Chater, D. Edwards, John (Blackburn)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Chetwynd, G. R Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)
Bacon, Miss A Cluse, W. S. Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)
Baird, J. Cobb, F. A. Evans, E. (Lowestoft)
Barstow, P. G. Cocks, F. S. Evans, John (Ogmore)
Bartlett, V Coldrick, W. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)
Barton, C. Colman, Miss G. M. Ewart, R.
Battley, J. R. Cook, T. F. Farthing, W. J.
Bechervaise, A. E. Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon [...] Corlett, Dr. J. Follick, M.
Benson, G Corvedale, Viscount Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Berry, H Cove, W. G Gallacher, W.
Beswick, F Crawley, A. Ganley, Mrs. C. S
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Daggar, G Gibson, C. W.
Blackburn, A. R. Daines, P. Gilzean, A.
Blyton, W. R. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Bowles, F G. (Nuneaton) Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S. W.) Gooch, E. G.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Goodrich, H. E.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Deer, G. Gordon-Walker, P. C.
Grierson, E. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Simmons, C. J.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Medland, H. M. Skinnard, F. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Middleton, Mrs. L. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Gunter, R. J Moody, A. S. Snow, J. W.
Guy, W. H. Morley, R. Sorensen, R. W.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Sparks, J. A.
Hale, Leslie Moyle, A. Steele, T.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Murray, J. D. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Neal, H. (Claycross) Stross, Dr. B.
Herbison, Miss M. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Swingler, S.
Hewitson, Capt M Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Symonds, A. L.
Hicks, G. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Holman, P Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
House, G. Noel-Buxton, Lady Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Hoy, J. O'Brien, T. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Hubbard, T. Paget, R. T. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Thurtle, Ernest
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Palmer, A. M. F. Tiffany, S.
Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Parkin, B. T Tolley, L.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Pearson, A. Turner-Samuels, M.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Peart, T. F. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Janner, B. Perrins, W. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Jay, D. P. T. Piratin, P. Viant, S. P.
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Walker, G. H.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Popplewell, E. Wallace, G. D, (Chislehurst)
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Porter, E. (Warrington) Wallace, W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Porter, G. (Leeds) Warbey, W. N.
Keenan, W. Proctor, W. T. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Kenyon, C. Pryde, D. J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Key, C. W. Pursey, Cmdr. H. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Randall, H. E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Leonard, W. Ranger, J. Wigg, George
Leslie, J. R. Rees-Williams, D. R Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Levy, B. W. Reeves, J. Wilkes, L.
Lindgren, G. S. Reid, T. (Swindon) Wilkins, W. A.
Lyne, A. W. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
McAdam, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Willis, E.
McAllister, G. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
McEntee, V. La T Royle, C. Woods, G. S.
McGhee, H. G. Scott-Elliot, W Wyatt, W.
McGovern, J. Segal, Dr. S Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Shackleton, E. A. A. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
McKinlay, A. S. Sharp, Granville
MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles) Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Manning, G. (Camberwell, N.) Silverman, J. (Erdington) Mr. Joseph Herderson and
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Mr. Hannan.
Amory, D. Heathcoat George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Baldwin, A. E, George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Morris-Jones, Sir H.
Barlow, Sir J Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester).
Bennett, Sir P Gridley, Sir A. Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)
Bowen, R. Grimston, R. V. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Bower, N. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Nicholson, G.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hare, Mon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Nield, B. (Chester)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hogg, Hon. Q Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hurd, A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Osborne, C.
Carson, E. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Challen, C. Jennings, R. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Keeling, E. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Raikes, H. V.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Linstead, H. N. Rayner, Brig. R.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lloyd, Major Guy (Renfrew, E.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Ropner, Col. L.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Low, A. R. W. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Davidson, Viscountess Lucas, Major Sir J Sanderson, Sir F.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Scott, Lord W.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Donner, P. W. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Drayson, G. B. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Spearman, A. C. M.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Eccles, D. M. Marlowe, A. A. H. Studholme, H. G.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Erroll, F. J. Maude, J. C. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Fletcher, W. (Bury) Mellor, Sir J. Touche, G. C.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Molson, A. H. E. Wadsworth, G.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D Moore. Lt.-Col Sir T Walker-Smith, D
Wheatley, Colonel M. J. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
White, J. B. (Canterbury) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord Mr. Drewe and
Williams, C. (Torquay) Commander Agnew.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 to 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.