HC Deb 18 November 1948 vol 458 cc676-704
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 10, line 16, to leave out from beginning, to end of line 17, and to insert: (b) he is satisfied that the use of the apparatus in question is likely to cause undue interference with any wireless telegraphy used for the purposes of any safety of life service or for any purpose on which the safety of any person or of any vessel, aircraft or vehicle may depend.

The Chairman

It will probably be convenient to the hon. and learned Gentleman to discuss this Amendment and the next three Amendments together. In page 10, line 20, leave out from "notice," to second "the," in line 21, and to insert: which may be the date of the service thereof. In line 26, leave out from beginning, to end of line 43.

In page 11, line 3, leave out from beginning, to end of line 8.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I think that would be for the convenience of the Committee, Major Milner. This is a Clause of great importance, perhaps the most important Clause in the Bill. It is the Clause which enables the Postmaster-General, by service of a notice, to prohibit the use of any piece of apparatus by any individual. It may be, on the one hand, that machinery of the sort referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) can be prevented from operating by the service of such a notice at the instance of the Postmaster-General, not on the grounds of interference with signals affecting the safety of an individual, but purely on the ground that they affect the reception of broadcasting or television. Going to the other extreme, the Clause enables the Postmaster-General to prohibit the use by any housewife of any electric iron or other domestic electrical implement normally used in houses. That is a power the like of which has never been possessed by any Minister in this country before, at any rate in recent history.

I want to make it quite clear that the Opposition do not object to the Postmaster-General having these powers of prohibition when a case is made out that the use of the apparatus is causing undue interference and that is in itself endangering human safety. The Amendments in no way cut down or limit the powers of the right hon. Gentleman where safety is involved, but their effect is to extinguish his power to prohibit the use of any domestic appliance, bought perfectly innocently and lawfully, merely because it is interfering with a neighbour's television set. We recognise that interference with wireless and television reception exists.

We recognise, too, that something may have to be done about it. However, we do not believe that to prevent that interference these drastic powers should be possessed by His Majesty's Postmaster-General.

We were told in the course of the Second Reading Debate that the sole aim of Part II of the Bill is to give the Postmaster-General powers to take effective action in the case of the few selfish people who will not play, even when it is made clear to them that their appliances are causing interference with wireless reception. To take effective action in the case of the few selfish people, the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to take power to prohibit the use by any motorist of a car or by any housewife of an electric iron, electric cleaner, or any other piece of electrical equipment, and it may be, if the view put forward by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is right, that this power would prevent the use of electric wiring in that house.

I venture to suggest that the fact that there may be a few selfish people who do not respond to persuasion is really not sufficient to justify the Government taking these extensive powers. It is true that, having been served with a notice prohibiting the use of the electric iron or kettle, after 28 days the householder is entitled to serve a counter notice which may, where safety is not involved, postpone the operation of the prohibition until the matter has been determined by the tribunal.

I do not know what expense will be involved to the householder who wants to go on using the electric iron, in bringing the matter before the tribunal. It may be that considerable expense may be involved. I possess little technical knowledge on this, but I should like to be told whether it is or is not the case that, if a suppressor is fitted to an electric iron for working it off a plug which is earthed down by the floorboards, it will still be necessary to fit another kind of suppressor if one wants to run that electric iron off the electric light plug. If that be the case, a great deal of difficulty will be encountered in preventing undue interference.

The point of these Amendments is to stop the Postmaster-General taking powers, which in our view are excessive and entirely unwarranted, for the purpose merely of preventing a few selfish people from not taking action to prevent interference by their instruments.

Mr. Turton

I urge the Committee to consider that the Bill is approaching this problem from the wrong angle. I am quite certain that not only the majority but nearly everybody in this country would fit suppressors voluntarily, and that there would be no need for this method of compulsion except in certain cases where compulsion would throw onerous financial burdens on the people and put them to considerable inconvenience. The types of interference with television and radar are, I believe, limited to cars, diathermy, and to the radio amateurs we talked about in Part I of this Bill.

Mr. Hobson

And industrial machinery.

Mr. Turton

And, of course, industrial machinery. Domestic utensils such as the electric iron, the electric razor, the Hoover and the electric blanket do not affect television or radar.

Therefore, on the housewife would be thrown all the penal provisions of this Bill primarily to suit the convenience of somebody else who has a television set as opposed to a sound receiver. That is very unreasonable, especially when we consider that we have been 13 years before taking any steps in this matter. I should have thought that the Government would be content for the present with their powers under Clause 10 and would refrain from taking the powers of enforcement until they find that revolutionaries are trying to oppose the more peaceful method of obeying the Government regulations.

Furthermore, I do not believe that at present these suppressing devices are really effective. Therefore, we shall have the Postmaster-General issuing regulations ordering devices for suppression which either will not work or will work only with great inconvenience to the housewife. Take the example of the electric iron. If the Minister attacked the problem the other way and asked manufacturers to insert such a device, the results would be effective and there would be no cause for complaint. The electric iron at present costs 39s. 6d. and when we add to that the cost of the suppressor —given by the Assistant Postmaster-General during the Second Reading as 30s.—the cost will be nearly doubled. In addition, it will not be possible to use the iron properly because the suppressor, which has to be on the flex, will get in the way. To be effective, the suppressor must be close up against the iron. No housewife will be able to iron conveniently with the suppressor close to the iron.

Mr. Hobson

The hon. Member is not quite correct. The suppressor can be placed at the plug point, which would not impede the free use of the iron.

Mr. Turton

Other Members of the Committee went to the demonstration and saw the effect of placing a suppressor at the plug point. They found that it hardly mitigated the interference. The makers of the suppressor stated, in fact, that unless it was fitted within two feet of the iron—in other words, at about knee height of the person using it—it would not cause any reduction in interference. We do not have a suppressor device which is sufficiently advanced to become effective as a means of enforcement. It is wrong, therefore, for the Postmaster-General, on mere grounds of convenience, to introduce this harsh method, which will result in fines, and the right of search which comes later in the Bill.

Let us consider the question of expense. One new wireless set, which will cost £10 to screen, may put neighbours to very much greater expense. I believe that to suppress an electric lift will cost £30 to £35. All this is extra expenditure which is going to be thrust on us. Every electric iron will cost 30s. Other appliances will cost 10s. for each suppressor. It is wrong that the Government should impose this financial burden on housewives and parents at a time when prices are going up and the cost of living is as dear as it now is.

I ask the Minster, therefore, to accept the Amendment. It gives him all that he really requires. On the important question of saving life he shall have every power he needs. Directly the notice is served, he can say that appliance shall no longer be used. When dealing with the mere convenience of other citizens, it is quite wrong that one should harry the housewives, as this Bill provides.

9.15 p.m.

The Attorney-General

The hon. baronet is riding off on and rather flogging his favourite mount the housewife—

Mr. Turton

Which hon. baronet?

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

Is that the New Years' honours list?

The Attorney-General

I am sure that must be intelligent anticipation. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is riding off again on his favourite mount, the housewife, but the housewife is not running in this particular race and is not interested in this particular matter. She need have no fears about this Clause, particularly so long as it will be under the beneficent administration of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. The only person who need be troubled about the possible operation of this Clause is the selfish person who knowingly continues to use apparatus which is causing interference with the use of apparatus belonging to other persons. I do not think we need be especially concerned about the position of persons of that kind.

It is only in the case of the very few selfish people who, disregarding the comfort, convenience and well-being of other users, knowingly continue the use of apparatus which is causing inconvenience that there will be any need to exercise the powers of this Clause. But, in the absence of powers under a Clause of this kind capable of being used against selfish persons of that kind, there would be no way in which this new form of nuisance—because that really is what it is from a legal point of view—can be dealt with. I do not think hon. and hon. and learned Members opposite have suggested any effective alternative method of dealing with the selfish people who, having been told that their apparatus is causing interference and annoyance, fail to take—as they easily can take—steps to put an end to that interference or annoyance.

This Bill has been designed to deal with interference which not only prejudices the effective operation of those wireless telegraphy services and other wireless aids and devices which give safety at sea and safety in the air, but which prejudices the efficiency of the ordinary broadcasting services, the communication services used by the police, the signal services used by the military, the telephone service, telegraph service and private wireless communication services which have been set up all over the country.

We are compelled to resist this Amendment, which would delete from the Bill the one Clause which enables the Postmaster-General, in an extreme case, to proceed against the selfish person who is interfering with the efficiency of those services. Some of these services, although they do not directly affect questions of safety of life in the air, or at sea, are important administrative services and others give great pleasure to countless millions of people. We are not prepared to restrict the provisions of this Bill which will contribute to the efficiency and the utility of those services and the pleasure they can give to those who use them.

It is true, of course, as the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said, that the Clause enables the Postmaster-General to serve a notice prohibiting the use of particular apparatus, in those cases where that apparatus is causing a nuisance to other users of wireless apparatus in the neighbourhood. But that is by no means the end of the matter. That notice having been served, if the person against whom it is served still wishes to pursue the selfish course on which he has hitherto been set, and to continue using the apparatus, without fitting a suppressor which will cost him a few shillings, he can go to the tribunal and appeal.

It is an expeditious, economical and simple procedure. There is no need to employ counsel unless it is desired. The housewife who has a flat iron which is the subject of a notice can go herself and make her simply, homely appeal to the judge or experienced lawyer who will be presiding there; or the more wealthy person who is more seriously concerned with the notice which may be served upon him, can through the appropriate channels, instruct the hon. and learned Gentleman to represent him before the tribunal. I am quite sure that in those circumstances, having heard the housewife or having heard the hon. and learned Gentleman, the tribunal. composed of quite competent and commonsense people, will be able to come to a conclusion which is not unjust to the person against whom the notice is served, and which, at the same time, promotes the convenience, efficiency and comfort of the great mass of people whose services have been interfered with by the selfish conduct of the person against whom the notice has been served. We cannot agree to accept this Amendment.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

I appreciate the force of what the Attorney-General said so far as it related to the words which the Amendment proposes to insert. It may be that these words are not free from criticism, but this Amendment seeks to delete Subsection (1, b). The Attorney-General said that this provision will apply only in the case of the selfish person whose apparatus is causing interference or a nuisance. That is not at all what the Bill says. If one reads it, one sees that the words used are, that the use of the apparatus is likely to cause undue interference with any wireless telegraphy,… As I understand these words, they mean that where it is merely a case of the Postmaster-General thinking that the nature of the apparatus is such as to be likely to cause undue interference with any wireless telegraphy, these powers will at once be brought into use—which is quite a different thing from what the Attorney-General propounded in the course of his speech.

If the Attorney-General could say that the intention of this Clause is only to deal with the person whose apparatus is already causing interference, I should have at least some sympathy with that part of what he said. But I think that he has based his argument on entirely false premises. When one uses the word "likely," one does not imply the sort of consideration which he used, when one finds that it relates to "any wireless telegraphy" without specifying that that wireless telegraphy should even be in existence at the date when the Postmaster-General forms the opinion. These words are far too wide, and even if the Attorney-General cannot accept our Amendment, I consider that this part of the Clause needs to be seriously amended.

Sir I. Fraser

Even if that suggestion were accepted, and words provided which confined the operation of this to the selfish few, I should still object to it on entirely different grounds. It is not a question of whether this is to apply to many or a few or whether they are people whom we like or dislike. It is a bad principle to make the consumer conform to a particular standard in order that he may enjoy that which he wishes to enjoy.

Wireless is a new thing coming into a world which has had electricity for many years. Television is newer still. It is for them to make their way in the world, and citizens in large or small numbers should not be compelled to change their domestic habits in order that wireless may be received. It is for those who wish to sell wireless or television to provide some kind that will get into our homes and come out to our ears in an agreeable way, in spite of the environment and circumstances of this complicated society. It is not right to protect these infant industries from the technical difficulties from which they suffer. In that way they will be discouraged from themselves overcoming those difficulties.

There are hon. Members who can remember the early days of broadcasting in this country, when there was a manifestation—I think it was called reaction—in the old-fashioned radio set, when one coil was pushed near another and it whistled and howled. The consequence was that the receiver became a transmitter which made unpleasant noises in the receivers of neighbours. The engineers of those days made appeals over the wireless night after night saying, "Please do not do that," and made demonstrations to show what was being done. They did not succeed with their appeals and it was the trade itself which realised that unless it made sets that would not make those noises, it would not be able to sell its radio sets. The most effective check on the radio industry is that if it does not make sets which are satisfactory, it will not sell them. It is infinitely better to rely on that fact and the good economic law to operate than to shelter the industry from the interferences which now exist and which may arise with other and new technical developments.

Mr. George Ward (Worcester)

During the Second Reading of this Bill, several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and myself, raised the important question of whether such powers have been found necessary in other countries. In my view that question was never satisfactorily answered. Although the Assistant Postmaster-General did make it clear that in America and Denmark legislation has been necessary to deal with interference with wireless telegraphy, the House was not told whether either of those countries, or any country, had imposed powers of entry.

9.30 p.m.

The Assistant Postmaster-General went so far as to read an extract from the American law dealing with this subject. I would remind the Committee that it provided that no person should use or operate any apparatus in the transmission of wireless signals by radio within any State when any interference was caused. There is nothing there to suggest that compulsory powers of entry have been imposed. All it says is that if there is any interference, something will have to be done to stop it. That is the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth). It seems to me that although, of course, we need not model our laws on those of other countries, although there is no need to follow them, at the same time we can learn from other countries which have been faced by this phenomenon. One of the first things to do, in drawing up a Bill of this kind, is to find out what other countries have found it necessary to do. I think that, even now, either the Postmaster-General or the Assistant Postmaster-General ought to tell us whether or not any other country has taken these compulsory powers, because I feel that is a most important matter.

Mr. H. Strauss

I cannot think that the Attorney-General's argument on this occasion is quite worthy of the general standard he maintains in addressing us on this Bill. It is preposterous to say that a person caught by this Clause is necessarily a selfish person. There may be a comparatively poor person who lawfully bought useful apparatus lawfully manufactured, that complied with every regulation in force at the time of its manufacture; and he or she may be using it in his or her home for a lawful purpose; and then, because some neighbour buys an expensive television set, the poor person lawfully using his apparatus may be suddenly confronted with a demand that he should either incur expenditure or cease to use the apparatus altogether. That is the effect of this Clause.

I concede entirely to the Government and to the Attorney-General that, of course, this is a difficult question. I also concede to the Attorney-General that the mischief aimed at has some resemblance to what is known in law as a "nuisance," —though it is an exceptional sort of nuisance when a person—perhaps a whole neighbourhood—has been using a certain type of apparatus, quite lawfully, and beneficially to himself and the community, and is suddenly, on account of a new invention, confronted with a demand that he shall cease to use that apparatus or incur expenditure.

What should be the normal way of dealing with this new problem? I agree with the Government that it is a new problem, and I sympathise with them in their desire to solve it. Surely, the only way to solve it is to make a regulation under which, first, all new apparatus has to be so designed and constructed as to be no nuisance; and, secondly, under which those who are called upon to alter their existing apparatus should be paid what it is necessary to spend in order to effect that alteration. To take, not an exact parallel, but a case somewhat akin: when anybody has his electric supply converted from direct current to alternating current and much of his apparatus is suddenly made useless, he is paid a sum by way of compensation in order to get apparatus that will suit the new conditions.

Why is not the arrival of television similarly a new condition which ought to enable those who have to adapt apparatus hitherto perfectly lawful to the new condition to be compensated for making the change? I should have thought that the sensible way of proceeding would have been to provide that those requiring the change of apparatus lawfully manufactured and acquired should pay the cost of that and, if necessary, recover it from the interests selling or buying the new apparatus the enjoyment of which requires a change in the older apparatus.

If we are to deal with selfishness, I wonder which selfishness causes more suffering in this country at the present moment—the housewife using some simple electrical apparatus like a kettle or an iron or people using loudspeakers at all hours of the day and night or using them in their gardens, thus preventing all serious work or recreation of their neighbours.

It is true that there are certain provisions of the law to deal with such nuisance—either by by-law or by the law of nuisance—but nothing of an equally drastic character to that which is laid down in this Clause. I am surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about people selfishly refusing to fit apparatus at a cost of a few shillings. He made two mistakes about that. The first mistake is that it may cost a great deal more than a few shillings, and the second is that there are many homes in this country which cannot afford the expenditure of even a few shillings in this way. Hon. Members opposite, in many other Debates, have not said that people should readily submit to new taxation or expenditure, and I believe that this Clause may cause very great hardship indeed.

I admit fully that the Government have a real problem to meet and that they wish too meet it, but in not providing any sort of recompense to the person suddenly subjected to this new expenditure, they are doing something which is oppressive and wrong.

Air-Commodore Harvey

The Government should tackle this problem by easy stages. I do not think that by bringing in hasty legislation in this form they will solve the problem at all. As the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) said, there are many ways of dealing with this problem—one is by fitting new equipment with suppressors, and another is by persuasion, so that we may see how we are getting along; but the bringing in of this Bill will not solve the problem completely. I ask the Postmaster-General how his Department can always detect the one who will not give way to persuasion. Is it possible to detect the using of an electric article, say, an iron, in a block of flats or hotel? I question whether it is.

I commend this particular Clause from the point of view of safety of life. That is the really important thing in the Bill, and it should be the first consideration. Legis- lation to that effect must be brought in without further delay. We are now in the middle of the worst weather and we have aircraft coming in at night, frequently in deteriorating weather conditions, perhaps short of fuel, possibly with engine trouble and with up to 40 passengers and crew abroad. Their safety requires immediate legislation, and this Clause will give it. It may be that a householder is using electrical apparatus within a certain distance of a marker beacon on a blind approach system, which may cause an aircraft to overshoot its mark and not effect a safe landing.

I recommend the Government to accept the Amendment and approach the whole question in easy stages. When they have tried out their experiments and discussed them with the manufacturers, they can then, if they have not had the success which they think is necessary, come to the House again and discuss the problem of bringing in further legislation to meet the difficulty.

Mr. Grimston

I think it has already been made clear that this series of Amendments is designed to prevent this power from being used in the case of apparatus which merely interferes with other people's enjoyment and imposes what may be considerable hardship on people by their having to incur expense in meeting a notice. We concede to the Government that we will give them all they want with regard to safety. That we consider is absolutely necessary, and I do not think there can be any argument that any Measure that is required to see that safety signals are not interfered with must be brought in and compulsory powers used, if necessary.

But when it is a question of taking compulsory powers merely in order that certain people may enjoy their amusements the better, it is quite a different matter. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that all the selfishness is on one side? Suppose the reception by an expensive television set is being interfered with by a neighbour's electric iron; who is the more selfish, the person who says, "I do not see why I should have to pay 15s. to use my iron in order that the television may not be interfered with," or the owner of the television set who says, "I want my neighbour com- pelled to spend 15s. on her iron in order that I may enjoy the use of my television set without interference"? Certainly the selfishness is not all on one side, so I dismiss that argument.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that the Postmaster-General has set about this problem—and there is a problem—in the easiest and the most dictatorial way. He is not giving himself time to see whether other methods will suffice—methods of persuasion, of attacking the problem at the manufacturers' end, and so on. This is really a typical example of the compulsion complex to settle every problem. Well, that is the method adopted by dictators. The Minister has referred to awkward people. Let us remember that awkward people have played a great part in preserving our liberties. Consider the awkward people in the House; people who are not liked by the Whips' Office—and I have been a Whip myself. It is very often the awkward chaps who get up below the Gangway here—

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

On a point of Order. Is my hon. Friend in Order in making a personal attack on me, by referring to "awkward chaps" and pointing at me? I trust I have never been awkward at any time.

Mr. Grimston

I apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend for having inadvertently pointed at him. I was merely making a gesture indicating the position from which the awkward people very often rise. It is the awkward people who very often preserve the liberties of the House, which the Government are often anxious to take away. I have seen it with every Government—not only this one. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman talks about the few awkward people, let us remember that it is very often the awkward people to whom we owe a great deal.

I was not particularly impressed with the remarks of the Attorney-General, that although the Government are taking this power they will not use it; that his right hon. Friend is kindly and benevolent, and that he can give an assurance that no housewife will be harried as long as he is there. I am sure that is quite true. But the Attorney-General is not able to say that his right hon. Friend will be in possession of his post the day after tomorrow. When the Government come to this Committee and ask for powers, saying, "Although they are very wide powers they will not be used, therefore give them to us," that is the sort of argument which ought always to be resisted by Parliament; it is an argument quite unworthy of the case.

The Government ought not to take what is the easy method of compulsion and a bludgeon to get everything they want. We give them all the powers required for safety; but let us have time to see if apparatus which causes interference only with amusement, cannot be dealt with by one of the methods which we have already discussed during this Committee stage. The problem has been there for some time, but the Postmaster-General should give more time to see if it cannot be dealt with, as far as amusement is concerned, without taking these enormous powers which impose burdens on the people and even involve, later on in the Bill, search of their homes.

9.45 p.m.

The Attorney-General

The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) suggested that we should proceed with this matter on the basis of easy payments, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) suggested we should proceed by easy stages. I am afraid that we cannot adopt the method suggested by the hon. and learned Member. It would be really impracticable to set up the enormous administrative machinery that would be required in order to ensure that everyone requiring an appliance at the cost of 1s. 6d., 2s. 6d., or perhaps 9s. 6d., obtained compensation. The suppressors involved in this matter are inexpensive and will, no doubt, become increasingly so. It would be quite impracticable to do that, and it would be quite without precedent. It would involve the establishment of an extremely complicated, burdensome and expensive administrative machine.

The proposal of the hon. and gallant Member is more attractive, that is, to proceed by easy stages, which is precisely what we are going to do. My right hon. Friend has already indicated that he is considering, with a view to putting down an Amendment on Report stage, the possibility of taking specific powers, if there is the need under the Bill as drawn at present, to make regulations requiring manufacturers who deal with new apparatus to fit the necessary suppressors. As far as existing apparatus is concerned, it has already been bought and can only be dealt with, if it is to be dealt with at all, in the hands of the users. These powers will not be used in any case—and this must be perfectly clear to Members on both sides of the House—until the fact be that the apparatus is causing interference, can be stopped causing interference by the use of a simple technical device, and is not being stopped because the user neglects to take the simple step which would put an end to the interference.

I am quite ready to consider, if it meets, and to some extent it does meet, the view put forward by the other side, the possibility of trying to find some form of words which will ensure that, save in cases where safety of life or vital communication services are involved, a notice shall be served only where the apparatus is causing actual interference. It is not easy to find a form of words to do that, but we shall try to do it, because that is the intention when we put this Clause down and the intention in operating the Clause.

There is the possible case of someone who has commenced to set up, perhaps at considerable expense, some form of apparatus likely to cause severe interference to a wireless station. It might be possible to stop that by the serving of a notice before the expense is incurred, rather than to wait until the apparatus had been constructed and then serve the notice. That is a kind of case we had in mind when we used the word "likely" —and Members opposite have used it in their Amendment. We shall look at that again to see if we can confine the powers, where neither safety nor vital communication services are involved, to apparatus, the use of which is actually causing some degree of interference. We shall look at it and see if we can do something on Report stage.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Instead of saying "actually causing some degree of interference," should the Attorney-General not say "actually causing an undue degree of interference"?

The Attorney-General

I think we have that there already. I am not suggesting that we should depart from the standard of interference. I was merely saying that we would seek to provide some form of words to confine the use of the powers under Clause 11 (1) (b) to cases where actual interference was being caused, save where safety of life or vital communications were involved. I cannot give any undertaking that we shall, because I do not think it will be easy to find appropriate language, but we shall look at it and see if we can do it.

On the more general nature of the Amendment itself, the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) suggested that all we were seeking to do in the Clause is to protect those who use wireless services for purposes of enjoyment. That is not so. The Amendment would go much further than excluding from any protection under this Bill those who use wireless merely for the purposes of enjoyment and the administrative services or communication services, which I enumerated when I addressed the Committee before, would be left entirely unprotected if the Committee agreed to this Amendment.

Even if it were merely a question of protecting the ordinary wireless user, as countless millions of people derive great pleasure and benefit from this wonderful new invention, I should still be prepared to defend this Clause as it stands. The truth of it is—and I do not think that the Committee can get away from it—in practice it is only the selfish person who needs to fear the operation of this Clause.

If I may, I should like to pursue the case put by the hon. Gentleman, who referred to some humble, modest housewife whose flat iron was causing interference to the wealthy owner of an expensive television set next door. The answer to that, of course, is that in the first instance that would probably not be a case of undue interference at all and no Postmaster-General in his senses—and one can be assured that any Postmaster-General representing His Majesty's present advisers will always be in that position—would serve a notice in such a case.

Sir I. Fraser

On that technical point I should like to ask the Attorney-General, is it not a fact that in this connection the word "undue" must mean a measure of interference? If the iron next door so interferes with television that the owner will not be able to see the television programme, is not that undue interference?

The Attorney-General

No. I think the word "undue" means that regard must be had to all the circumstances of the case. If the position is that there is one piece of apparatus which is being otherwise lawfully used but is causing interference only to one other piece of apparatus, it is most doubtful whether a Postmaster-General would think it a proper case for serving a notice at all, assuming that the question were one merely of amenity and comfort and not of vital communication services. I do not think that the Postmaster-General contemplates using this Clause merely to protect the user of one piece of apparatus by imposing obligations on the user of another piece of apparatus.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

If that is the limited intention of this Clause is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to insert words in the Clause with that meaning? That would mean a very great difference and certainly removes it a good deal from the Clause as drafted, both in the definition of "undue" by the Attorney-General and interference affecting one individual as against another.

The Attorney-General

That is a reasonable, proper and sensible interpretation of the words "undue interference" in the context in which one finds it. However, as one says so often, one must assume that the laws of this country will be administered with a certain degree of reasonableness by those who for the time are entrusted with their administration, and that those who are invested with these powers will not use them oppressively. It might well be that to use powers in the kind of case put by the hon. Gentle-opposite would be an oppressive use of them.

Suppose there is use oppressively in that sense. The remedy then which the humble, modest housewife and owner of the flat iron has is to go to the tribunal, and it is very simple, very expedient, very expeditious and very inexpensive. If the tribunal thinks that it is unreasonable in all the circumstances, and is unfair to the modest housewife, that she should be asked to incur an expenditure of 1s. 6d. for a suppressor to the advantage of the wealthy owner of the television set next door, the tribunal will say so. It is a sensible tribunal and is composed of ordinary, rational beings who are not likely to agree to the imposition of unjust burdens upon the modest housewife or to the use of the powers of the Postmaster-General in an oppressive way.

The reasonable and unselfish person is amply protected by the tribunal even if he or she is not sufficiently protected by the fact that normally our laws are administered in a reasonable way by those whose duty it is to administer them. If they are not, the tribunal is there to give directions to the Postmaster-General with full power and control over him in the matter to see that he does not exercise his powers in an oppressive or unreasonable way. So the reasonable person will go to the reasonable tribunal and get a reasonable decision in regard to the matter in all the circumstances of the case.

We do think that it is necessary to deal with the selfish person who is determined to go on in the use of apparatus which causes an undue amount of interference to other people who are entitled to get the maximum benefit from this great new amenity which science has given to the people of this and other countries, so we cannot, I am afraid, agree to the Amendment.

Mr. H. Strauss rose

The Chairman

I hope that the Committee will agree to make progress.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

This Amendment is perhaps the most important Amendment that we have had under discussion. I think I am entitled to make some observations upon what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. He has made clear to the Committee that, whatever may be said for the Clause, it does not really carry out the intentions of the Government. In his first speech he made an error with regard to the Clause, and it was pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman now says frankly that the Government will try to find a form of words which will bring the Clause into line with what the view expressed in the first speech he made; that is to say that action will only be taken if apparatus has been causing undue interference. I recognise that that is a drafting improvement which brings the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman into line with the Bill.

The Attorney-General

The other way round, I think.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Or the Bill into line with the speech, whichever way the right hon. and learned Gentleman likes. The improvement does not go far to meet the points which we raised. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has engaged in some very skilful pleading to try to meet the points, but his arguments were not at all convincing. He says that notices will be served only upon a very few selfish people, at little cost to them, to cure undue interference. I am not in the least convinced that little cost will be involved, and we have yet to hear what will be the position of the individual who cannot afford that little cost.

10.0 p.m.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, when trying to defend the words in Subsection (1, b), that they were inserted in that form in order to stop in advance, perhaps, the erection of a most expensive piece of machinery. Does he really say that this notice will only be served where little cost will be involved to comply with it? If that were so, perhaps one's view would be different. He then tries to say that this Clause will not be used to harass one housewife for the benefit of one television owner, but I am

sure he will agree that it could be so used. I dissent entirely from the interpretation he sought to put on the word "undue." I do not believe that it could possibly be held in the courts to have that very extensive operation—to take into account all the circumstances in the case.

The Attorney-General

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that there should be no legal powers to deal with undue interference?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I was not suggesting anything of the sort, but I am suggesting that the interpretation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is clearly wrong when we look back to Clause 10 and find similar words. We are told that at any rate the housewife can go to the Tribunal. It would be more consoling to be told that the Tribunal could go to the housewife and see the electric iron in its situation. That is not the sort of argument which can justify the Postmaster-General's having these most extensive powers. We would grant these powers willingly where any question of human safety is involved, but we think that the granting of these powers in all the circumstances is totally unnecessary and a great interference with the liberty and freedom of the individual, and we shall support this in the Division Lobby.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes. 188; Noes, 67.

Division No. 9.] AYES [10.3 p.m
Acland, Sir Richard Collins, V. J. Gibson, C. W
Adams, W. T (Hammersmith, South) Colman, Miss G. M Gilzean, A.
Attewell, H. C. Corlett, Dr. J. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Austin, H. Lewis Cullen, Mrs. A. Grey, C. F.
Awbery, S. S. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Grierson, E.
Ayles, W. H. Davies, Harold (Leek) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs B Deer, G. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Baird, J. de Freitas, Geoffrey Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)
Balfour, A. Delargy, H. J. Guest, Dr. L. Haden
Barton, C. Diamond J. Gunter, R. J.
Battley, J. R. Dodds, N. N. Guy, W. H.
Bechervaise, A E Donovan, T. Haire, John E (Wycombe)
Benson, G Driberg, T. E. N. Hale, Leslie
Blyton, W. R Dugdale, J (W. Bromwich) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R
Boardman, H. Dumpleton, C. W Hardy, E. A.
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford>
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Hobson, C. R.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Evans S. N. (Wednesbury) Holman, P.
Burden, T, W. Fernyhough, E. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
Carmichael, James Foot, M. M Hoy, J.
Champion, A. J Forman, J. C. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Cobb, F. A. Freeman, J. (Watford) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)
Collick, P. Ganley, Mrs. C. S Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen. N.)
Collindridge, F Gibbins, J. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Steele, T.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Noel-Baker Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Stross, Dr. B.
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Orbach, M. Summerskill, Dr Edith
Janner, B. Pagel, R. T. Sylvester, G. O.
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Symonds, A. L.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Palmer, A. M. F. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Pargiter, G. A. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Keenan, W. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Kenyon, C. Paton, J. (Norwich) Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Kinley, J. Pearson, A. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Lee, F. (Hulme) Peart, T. F. Thurtle, Ernes
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Perrins, W. Tiffany, S.
Levy, B. W. Porter, E. (Warrington) Timmons, J.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Pursey, Comdr. H. Titterington, M. P.
Lewis, J. (Bolton) Randall, H. E. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G.
Longden, F. Ranger, J. Turner-Samuels, M.
Lyne, A. W. Rankin, J. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
McAdam, W. Reid, T. (Swindon) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
McEntee, V. La T. Rhodes, H. Viant, S. P.
Mack, J. D. Richards, R. Walker, G. H.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
McLeavy, F. Robens, A. Warbey, W. N.
MacPherson, M. (Stirling) Ross, William (Kilmarnook) Watkins, T. E.
Macpherson, T (Romford) Royle, C. Weitzman, D.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sargood, R. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Segal, Dr. S. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Mann, Mrs. J. Sharp, Granville Wilkins, W. A.
Messer, F. Shawcross, Rt Hn Sir H (St. Helens) Willis, E.
Middleton, Mrs. L. Shurmer, P. Wills, Mrs E. A.
Mitchison, G. R. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Woods, G. S.
Moody, A. S. Simmons, C. J. Yates, V. F.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Skeffington, A. M. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Morley, R. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Zilliacus, K.
Moyle, A. Skinnard, F. W.
Murray J. D. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Nally, W. Smith, S H (Hull, S.W.) Mr. Popplewell and
Neal, H. (Clay Cross) Snow, J. W. Mr. Richard Adams
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Prior-Palmer, Brig O.
Astor, Hon M. Grimston, R. V. Rayner, Brig. R.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells) Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V. Ropner, Col L.
Bower, N. Hollis, M. C. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W) Smithers, Sir W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J. G. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Studholme, H. G.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Sutcliffe, H
Channon, H. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirrat) Taylor, C S. (Eastbourne)
Clarke, Col. R. S Low, A. R. W. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Crookshank, Capt Rt. Hon. H. F. C. McCallum, Maj. D. Turton, R. H.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. McFarlane, C. S. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Darling. Sir W. Y. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Davidson, Viscountess Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Digby, S. W. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Dower, Col. A V. G. (Penrith) Manningham-Buller, R. E. York, C.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Young, Sir A S. L. (Partick)
Drayson, G. B. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Drewe, C. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Odey, G. W. Major Conant and
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Colonel Wheatley
George, Maj Rt. Hn. G Lloyd (P'ke) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 11, line 21, after "heard," to insert: 'either in person or by counsel or solicitor. We put down this Amendment because we think there may be a number of people who are nervous and hardly competent to make their own case before the Tribunal. We think that such people should have the advantage of having their case presented for them by counsel or solicitor. The hour is getting late and I do not wish to labour the point beyond saying that we think this provision should be included in the Bill.

The Attorney-General

Paragraph 6 of the Schedule enables the Tribunal with the approval of the Lord Chancellor …the Lord President of the Court of Session … or the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. to make rules determining the procedure before the Tribunal. One of the matters that should be dealt with, and which is intended should be dealt with, under those rules is the question of representation of the parties. What is contemplated is that the parties should have the right to appeal by a solicitor or counsel if they wish, but not that there should be an exclusive right of audience. It may be that in a particular case where technical questions were involved, for instance, they would want to be represented by an engineer, and we think that is right; but there will certainly be provision for professional representation.

Mr. Grimston

I am obliged to the learned Attorney-General. I think his explanation meets our point. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

I beg to move, in page 11, line 35, to leave out "the Postmaster-General or."

This Amendment and those to lines 37 and 38 go together. They are designed to meet a point raised at an earlier stage and which I promised to consider. During the earlier Debate the feeling was expressed that where the Appeal Tribunal had ordered the Postmaster-General to revoke a notice, it would be wrong for the Postmaster-General, by reason of the proviso to Clause 11 (4), to be able to issue at a later date, by virtue of the same facts, a fresh notice prohibiting the use of the same apparatus. These Amendments are designed to remedy that position.

Mr. Grimston

I am obliged to the Postmaster-General. His explanation appears to meet our point that, where the Postmaster-General has issued a notice which has been revoked by the Tribunal, he shall not immediately issue another one, which hitherto appeared possible under the proviso he has referred to. I take it that, following upon his Amendments, where the Postmaster-General considers there has been a relevant change and issues another notice, the further notice will again come under the procedure of review by the Tribunal.

Mr. Paling

Yes, Sir.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 37, leave out from "under," to "subsection," in line 38.—[Mr. Paling.]

Mr. Paling

I beg to move, in line 38, at the end, to insert: and shall not, where the Postmaster-General is of opinion that there has been a relevant change in the circumstances, prevent the Postmaster-General from giving a further notice under Subsection (1) or Subsection (2) of this Section.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

What has the Postmaster-General in mind in the term "relevant circumstances"? Does he, for instance, mean a change in the occupation of the property? We have had some father strange definitions by the Attorney-General of the word "undue," and it would help the Committee if they knew what the Postmaster-General meant by "relevant circumstances."

Mr. Wilfred Paling

A notice is served under certain conditions, but the conditions might have been altered and after a time there might be interference again from the same apparatus. In those circumstances, there would be different conditions from those on which notice was given on the first occasion. Notice could be given again in those circumstances.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 12, line 9, at the end, to add: and, unless the parties otherwise agree, in the same county. The Committee will see that this Subsection refers to the fact that the Tribunal shall sit in England and Wales, in Scotland, or in Northern Ireland. We think that that should be amplified. In an Amendment we discussed recently, the Attorney-General made some play to the effect that it was extremely easy for the housewife to put her case to the Tribunal. We suggest it would not be easy if the Tribunal were to sit 200 or 300 miles away from where she lived, and we have put down this Amendment in order that the Tribunal shall sit in a place where it is convenient for her to attend.

Mr. Paling

I agree that it is rather difficult to ask a person to travel a long way on this business—

Mr. Grimston

And very expensive.

Mr. Paling

—and very expensive, and it is not our intention that she should do so. We are not quite sure that we could alter the provision so that the Tribunal would sit in the same county, but it is my intention to put in words something like this: unless the parties otherwise agree, shall sit in some place which, in the judgment of the Tribunal, is reasonably near to the place where the apparatus was, as aforesaid.

Mr. Grimston

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, who has been good enough to say what he proposes to do We will look at it between now and the Report stage and in the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 12, line 12, to leave out "or permits."

The Committee will see that the Subsection says: Any person who, knowing that a notice of the Postmaster-General under this section is in force with respect to any apparatus, uses that apparatus, or causes or permits it to be used, in contravention of the notice, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. Those words "or permits" appear superfluous. On the Second Reading an hon. Member opposite said that someone might visit him and allow him to turn on the wireless knowing that a notice was in force. Obviously it is not intended that that should be an offence. The case of an officer of a company or corporation, seems to be covered by Clause 13, (2). We cannot see any reason why the words, "or permits," should not be deleted from this Subsection in order to cover points raised by hon. Members from all parts of the House on Second Reading.

The Attorney-General

I think that there has been a misunderstanding of the legal significance of the word "permits" in this context. If I stand by and allow someone to play a discordant record on an electrically defective gramophone I no more "permit" that defective apparatus to be used, than I could be said to have "permitted" the hon. Gentleman to have made the speech which we have just heard. The word "permit," in law at all events, connotes the legal right to prohibit or forbid. One cannot be said to permit a thing unless one is entitled to stop that thing from being done. There is a good deal of authority on this point. There was a case in 1941 in which the matter was considered, and the word was considered, and it was laid down in the most specific terms. One can start from the proposition that this Clause would have no application except for the cases in which somebody who could stop the use of apparatus failed to do so and permitted it to be used.

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about Clause 13 so far as companies are concerned. But they are not the only case. There is the case of the use of the flat iron or wireless belonging to one person by another person—a servant or an individual in the house, etc. That use could be prevented by the occupier of the house or the owner of the apparatus. It is in that case that the Clause would come into operation. It certainly could not operate at all in the kind of case contemplated during the Second Reading Debate, in which a person merely stood by and watched or listened to the use of apparatus which he had no power to control. In these circumstances I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel that it is not necessary to make this Amendment.

Mr. Turton

I hope that my hon. Friend takes a different line. I should have thought that nothing was more undesirable than to put upon a tenant the onus of looking after what a sub-tenant in the house is using in the way of electric appliances. Surely the Attorney-General has everything he wants in the words "causes or uses"? What is to happen in a maisonnette when the lady upstairs has a defective electric iron and does not want to pay the extra 30s. The Attorney-General seeks to impose that not only she can be chased and harried by him but also her tenant below. It is unnecessary to have these words in the Clause. There is abundant power in this Bill to annoy people, and I hope that we adhere to this Amendment to have these words deleted.

The Attorney-General

May I take the first opportunity which I have to apologise to the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and at the same time to congratulate him on the fact that I mistook him for the hon. Baronet the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) who spoke immediately following him on a previous occasion?

In the observations which I made about this matter, I did not mention the case of a sub-tenant. I do not think that this provision would apply. I do not think that the landlord would have any right to intervene in the case of the use of apparatus by a sub-tenant. The hon. Gentleman has introduced a person to whom the Clause really has no application. I dealt with the case of a person who is perhaps the owner of some apparatus or who has the right to control it for some reason or other. If that person permits that apparatus to be used illegally, it seems not improper that he should be legally liable for the offence he has committed.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I will put to the Attorney-General the case of a company owning a large block of modern flats which are completely equipped with electrical apparatus—electric irons, refrigerators and everything of that kind which is normal in a modern household. These are owned by the company which owns the block, but they have no right of interference with them as the liability for maintenance of the apparatus is upon the tenants or lessees of the flats themselves, the users of the apparatus. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is surely not seeking to say that it would be reasonable in that case that the owners, who would be the persons who would legally permit the offence to be committed, are the people who should be liable to the penalties imposed by this Clause?

The Attorney-General

I do not think, from what the hon. Gentleman has said, that that would be a case where it could properly be said that the company was permitting. The hon. Gentleman postulated that the company would have no right to interfere with the user of refrigerators, and so on. If the company has no right to interfere, it cannot be said to be permitting the use. That has been laid down in case after case. One can only permit a thing if one is entitled in law to forbid it.

Amendment negatived.

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

Mr. H. Strauss

I wish to call the Attorney-General's attention to two points which I hope he will look into further. In dealing with the question of "undue interference" in line 16, page 10, he seemed to imply that the Tribunal could reasonably consider the convenience or hardship to persons. I am convinced that if he looks at the words again he will see that the words: … likely to cause undue interference with any wireless telegraphy, imply an objective test and exclude such considerations. I think he will find that my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) was making a perfectly true point when he said that, if one iron made a television apparatus wholly ineffective, it would come within the words, whatever the hardship might be to the owner of the apparatus and whatever the number of apparatus interfered with.

In dealing with my point about possible payment to the person whose apparatus has to be altered if it is not to be discontinued, he said that that would be impracticable and involve an elaborate system of compensation. I would ask him and the Government to consider this more limited point. Could not the Tribunal make it a condition of making an order for the alteration of apparatus that some contribution should be made to the person owning the apparatus? The right hon. and learned Gentleman could enormously increase the possibility of fair action and the sort of action he wanted from the Tribunal if it were within the power of the Tribunal to make their order dependent on some payment.

The Attorney-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman means some compensation by the person whose apparatus has been interfered with.

Mr. H. Strauss

Either that, or the Government should re-constitute the Bill in some way that will secure that some payment is made. It may be from other sources. The point is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman laid great stress on how much possibility there was of this Tribunal doing substantial justice and avoiding hardship. Unless he makes some provision of that sort, the Tribunal will not have the sort of power which he indicated that he would like it to have.

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