HC Deb 27 February 1948 vol 447 cc2277-9
Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 3, line 28, to leave out from "and," to the end of line 30, and to insert: before any such instrument is made, a draft of the regulations shall be laid before each House of Parliament, and the instrument shall not be made until that draft has been approved by resolution of each House. This is an Amendment to implement an undertaking to make the regulations under the Measure subject to the affirmative instead of the negative procedure, and the form of words is in conformity with the requirements of the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946.

Mr. Grimston

As the Under-Secretary has said, this implements an undertaking which the Home Secretary gave in Committee to put the affirmative procedure into the Bill. I wish to thank him again for meeting us on this point, which I think is a considerable improvement of the Bill, since it will ensure that the regulations have to be brought before the House by the Government. I wish to ask that, between the laying of the regulations and the bringing of the Resolution before the House, there shall be sufficient time for the regulations to be studied, and for any opinion on them to manifest itself. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can give me that assurance?

Mr. W. J. Brown

Like the hon. Member for Westbury, I very much prefer the affirmative Resolution method to the entirely unsatisfactory negative Resolution method, which appeared in the Bill as originally drafted. We are all familiar with the negative method of procedure, and we all know how much undesirable matter gets through the House of Commons under its operation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] To the extent that this substitutes the positive method, and that the Government have to put a Resolution on the Paper, it is an improvement. But, positive Resolutions can come up at all sorts of awkward times, and they demand the utmost vigilance of all hon. Members to see that an undesirable positive Resolution does not get through. I repeat that it would have been infinitely more satisfactory to put the issue beyond any kind of doubt, leaving neither the negative nor the affirmative Resolution method, but putting the essential Clauses of the pensions scheme into the Bill itself. This provision, like the new Clause we have just discussed, is better than the original provision, but still, in my view, does not meet the essential requirements of the situation.

Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)

On behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House, I wish to express pleasure that the Under-Secretary has seen fit to incorporate this Amendment in the Bill. I must dissent from the observations of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). He complained that under the affirmative procedure it is necessary to exercise vigilance in order that these Resolutions may receive proper attention. I should have thought that, in view of the vigilance which the Police Force exercises in the country, such vigilance would come automatically from Members of Parliament.

Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)

I wish to associate myself with much of what was said by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). I, too, would like to see much more in the Bill itself, but I congratulate the Government on having gone this far to meet us, which I think is generous of them. It is a good example to other Government Departments, and one that I hope they will follow in the case of other Bills.

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

I agree that the change to an affirmative procedure constitutes an advance on the original proposals, but it is only a halfway house. There still remains the disadvantage that it will not be possible for the House to amend the regulations. While, joining with other hon. Members in congratulating the Government on having bowed to opinion on both sides of the House, I would add that I hope the House will appreciate the disadvantages even of this procedure. The main advantage of the affirmative over the negative procedure is that there is more chance of the matter being discussed in the daylight hours and not in the middle of the night, but even that is to some extent at the discretion of the Government. The first regulations which it will be necessary to table, and which I understand will be on the lines of the White Paper, will be most important for the Police Force. They will be very elaborate and detailed, and I hope that the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary will stand up quite firmly to the Leader of the House, and insist upon full and adequate time, at least one day, being given to the discussion of those regulations when they are tabled.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

We are gratified at the reception which has been given to this Amendment, and I should not have risen but for the assurance which has been asked for by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and the observation of the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that the House should have time to discuss the regulations which are required to be affirmed by it. We will certainly bear in mind what has been said. We hope that the Amendment meets the objections that have been made. I would add that the regulations can only be made, as hon. Members will see if they look at Clause I, with the general consent of the Treasury "and after consultation with the Police Council." I do not advance that as a complete answer, but it ensures that the police authorities will be fully aware of the contents of the proposed regulations.

Amendment agreed to.