HC Deb 31 October 1947 vol 443 cc1305-8

2.22 p.m.

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

I have listened to my three hon. Friends who have spoken since the close of the Debate on the Fish Order, which was originated by the hon. and learned Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), and I will see that the red herrings which have since been introduced are brought to the immediate notice of the appropriate Ministers. I will undertake that the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) shall be brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, and that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ncwcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) shall be brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. In dealing with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick), I should be helped if he would give me a list of the Ministers whose activities were not brought to my attention, because it will enable me to send a general note to all the others.

At an earlier stage in our proceedings today, the question of the Business for next Friday was discussed, and certain suggestions were made with regard to information that it might be possible for me to afford to the House in anticipation of that Debate. I have given further attention to the matter, and I think that some hon. Gentlemen are confusing Defence Regulations and Statutory Rules and Orders which were made under Defence Regulations. As far as I know, no one now has the power to make a Defence Regulation, but certain of them were continued in being by the Act of 1946. The Bill which we shall be discussing next Friday proposes to revoke some of those, and to continue, or to modify in some respects, certain others.

The only change which has taken place since the bound volume, the current volume—which I have arranged to have made available—is that certain orders have been revoked. I propose to have a list of those orders which have been revoked prepared, cyclostyled, and placed in the Vote Office for the information of hon. Members on Monday morning. It may, however, be to the convenience of hon. Members who desire to study this matter during the weekend if I now state the orders, so that they can appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and so that, when hon. Members get their copy of today's proceedings, they will be able to glance at the record and compare their volume with it. There are very few of them.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the revocation of certain orders which had taken place. Did he mean orders or regulations?

Mr. Ede

I meant regulations. I am sorry to have fallen into exactly the same error. Regulation 1, which deals with false fire alarms, was revoked by Section 31 of the Fire Services Act, 1947. The Defence (Administration of Justice) (Scotland) Regulations, 1940, has been revoked. Regulations 19 and 20 of the Defence (Agriculture and Fisheries) Regulations, 1939, have been revoked. The Defence (Amalgamation of Police Forces) Regulations, 1942, has been revoked. Regulation 4 of the Defence (Parliamentary Under Secretaries) Regulations, 1940, has been revoked, and so has Regulation 2 of those Regulations, so far as it provides for an additional Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury.

Paragraphs (1B) and (3) of Regulation 13 of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, 1939, have been revoked, and Regulation 2 of the Defence (Functions of Ministers) Regulations, 1941, has been-revoked. Inadvertently, it appears to have got into the Bill to be continued. As it has already been revoked, there is no power of resurrection, and an appropriate Amendment to remove this literary blot on the Bill will be placed on the Order Paper at the right stage. I hope this statement will be for the general convenience of hon. Members who may desire to study this matter during the weekend.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I feel quite sure that the House will greatly appreciate the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made. If I may say so, I think that it justifies the anxiety which was expressed from this side of the House, both this morning and earlier in the week, with regard to the arrangements for the consideration of the Measure to be taken next Friday. Even so, I do not think that the situation, even now, is quite satisfactory, because the anxiety which we were expressing was, very largely, based upon the insufficiency of the supply of copies of the existing regulations which are to be continued, and the difficulty which we were experiencing was how Members were to avail themselves of the exceedingly few copies which now appear to be in existence in order to study the matters which are coming under consideration.

Mr. Ede

Perhaps the hon. Member did not hear the statement which I made earlier today with regard to the arrangements that have been made. Thirty-one copies were placed in the Vote Office yesterday before one o'clock, 100 were brought here before noon, and I hope to make others available early next week.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I very much appreciate that, and I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for not having been able to be present this morning in order to hear his previous statement. I feel that what he has just reminded me of still further justifies our appreciation of the line he has taken, and of the merit of the questions which were raised the other day. I hope that it will be borne in upon the Government how dangerous it is to bring before Parliament, at such comparatively short notice, a Measure dealing with complicated matters without making adequate provision and taking adequate forethought so that we can consider it with due care and attention.

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

The Home Secretary has taken a great deal of trouble to be helpful in this matter. I wish to put to him one further difficulty which arises, and that is that as soon as the last printed volume of Defence Regulations was published in February, 1946, a good many of the regulations were amended by subsequent Statutes, and in particular by the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, which the House passed at the end of the last Session. As the volume stands, it is a little misleading, unless the Amendments are incorporated. I appreciate that there are certain technical difficulties in incorporating the amendments, and although I do not suggest that the Home Secretary can take action now, I thought I would take this opportunity to put the point to him so that he and his advisers may consider it.

Mr. Ede

The volume contains, of course, two sets of regulations—those continued by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, and those preserved by the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Acts. We shall be discussing next Friday those coming under the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill. I do not think that for the purposes of next week's Debate, the others will be very much in the picture. As soon as the House reaches a decision on the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill, a new volume will be prepared—I am assuming that the Bill next Friday becomes an Act—which will contain those regulations which have been continued, and all the regulations under the Supplies and Services Acts in the form in which they will be extant at the time of the publication of the volume. I hope that in that way hon. Members and the public generally will have available to them a complete statement of these regulations. I hope also to profit by the experience of the last few days, and to make certain that in future there shall be available, not merely for the House but for the general public, a reasonable supply of these important volumes for the benefit of those who have reason to take an interest in them.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-seven Minutes to Three o'Clock.