HC Deb 06 December 1949 vol 470 cc1767-91
Mr. Parker (Dagenham)

I beg to move in page 5, line 44, at the end, to insert: (2) Subject to the provisions of this section a justice of the peace shall be entitled to receive payments by way of compensation for loss of earnings suffered by him by reason of absenting himself from his employment or occupation for the purpose of performing his duties as a justice, at a rate not exceeding one pound per day or more than two pounds in any one week. This is a matter on which many of us on this side of the House feel strongly. We regret that the Government have not seen fit to include in the Bill a provision for payment for loss of time for people who serve as justices. To put shortly the points which I made on Second Reading, we feel that in order fairly to select justices from all sections of the population we must be prepared to pay for loss of time. At present a large number of justices are retired people, married women, people of independent means, or people in business on their own. A certain number are trade unionists, working for their living and having to give up time from their jobs in order to sit on the bench. We feel that many of these people cannot serve as fully as they would like to do because the time they would lose represents a sacrifice of their income, and that many more people would be prepared to serve if they knew that any loss of time would be made good to them.

We have been told on other Amendments that it is difficult to get justices to serve. That was one of the reasons advanced for not retiring people at the age of 75. Payment for loss of time is one of the ways of ensuring an adequate supply of justices, and would help to fill the gap. It is essentially a point of principle. If we are democratic, we must be prepared to see that our justices are drawn from all sections of the people, irrespective of means. I can see no reason why we should be prepared to pay councillors for loss of time but not be prepared to pay justices for a similar loss.

When the House agreed that councillors should be paid for loss of time, strong arguments were advanced that Members of Parliament should not have been prepared to vote for an increase in their own salary without being prepared to see that other people in public life were recompensed for loss of time in carrying out their public duties. The same argument that was used to secure payment for loss of time to councillors applies equally to justices. There is no logical reason for any distinction between one group and another.

The Royal Commission on justices of the peace recommended against this proposal for very peculiar reasons. As I see it, their main argument was that it would destroy the independence and impartiality of justices. That is absolute nonsense. The Royal Commission went on to say that such a step would create some new kind of stipendiary magistrate. What is wrong with that? The Bill is introduced with a view to creating the extra stipendiary magistrates who will be required in various parts of the country. I do not believe that there is any strong argument in favour of that recommendation of the Royal Commission.

In the evidence which was given before the Royal Commission, the Labour Party—the party which the Government profess to represent—the Trades Union Congress and a great many other bodies all gave evidence which would favour my proposal. Why should the Government not be prepared to carry out party policy? This is a matter on which we on this side feel very strongly. Governments have frequently been prepared to set aside recommendations of committees of inquiry. Recently there was a good deal of commotion when a Member of another place, a Minister of the Government, set aside such a recommendation. There is no reason whatever why the Government should not be prepared to set aside this recommendation of the Royal Commission, whose recommendations the Government are not bound to accept if they disagree with them.

We on this side want to see party policy carried out in this matter of Socialist principle, on which we feel very strongly, and we intend to divide the Committee on it if necessary. I ask the Government, if they are not prepared to accept the Amendment, to introduce elsewhere in the Bill an alteration which will achieve the same purpose.

Mr. Royle

My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) has rendered a service to the Committee in bringing this matter forward. It is a very old point of principle. During recent years there has been a tremendous growth amongst lower-paid workers in accepting public work. It is the duty of the Committee in this case, and of the House generally, to ensure that that service does not demand too great a sacrifice. This principle was first approached when the House discussed the question of the payment of salaries to Members of Parliament and from time to time since then the principle has arisen as to which type of public service should be remunerated without sacrifices being involved. It was very many years before the country was prepared to accept even the principle of meeting loss of wages for members of local authorities.

I feel I am right in saying—I hope this is not an unfair statement, because I want to be perfectly fair—that the benches have for many years been heavily weighted by justices who were not drawn from the wage-earning classes. As days have gone by, there has been a tendency, which is now very apparent, for valuable magistrates to come from the wage-earning section of the community. Sitting here today, I have been trying to remember whether anyone who could be described as a wage-earner had regularly attended court as a magistrate on week-days, and particularly mornings, rather than on Saturdays, and from my own experience I have had difficulty in recalling any instance of a wage earner who took his place on a bench of magistrates on a working day during the week. This is a definite indication of a shyness, or coyness, on the part of wage-earners to accept the responsibility of the office of justice of the peace. We must face the fact that courts meet mainly on mornings and in mid-week, which makes the attendance of wage-earners very difficult. For these reasons, there is great strength and power in the Amendment.

A change is now taking place in the composition of benches of magistrates, and the time has come when we should extend the principle which has been accepted in the case of Members of Parliament and of local authorities and should ensure that the sacrifices we ask people to make in performing a very important public duty should not be so great as to affect their standards of living and to punish them for the duties which they perform. It is because of this that a keen examination of the situation is necessary, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Gallacher

I should like to add a few words to what has been said, because I think it is obvious to everyone that the demand which is now being made should be met. Subsection (1), after which it is intended that the Amendment should be added, deals with the necessity of payment for travelling expenses and lodging allowances. Clearly, that provision is contained in the Clause because the Government are prepared to meet any cost involved in the carrying out of his duties by a justice of the peace when travelling is entailed. Obviously, any justice of the peace who is working in a factory or an office—there are many good and desirable justices in such circumstances—who has to travel and obtain a lodging allowance must necessarily stay overnight and, therefore, may incur a loss of two working days.

6.30 p.m.

That is a very serious matter for anyone who is anxious and willing to serve in such an honourable occupation. I know many who are justices of the peace who are engaged in various forms of employment and already suffer considerable hardship. If one is receiving a weekly wage and has a day off now and again in order to carry out one's duties this means a very heavy loss. Frozen wages do not mean that they are frozen at the rate of £5 per week if one has a day off. If one has a day off, the wages melt and in these days when prices have gone up and wages have not gone up in comparison, this is a very heavy burden on such people.

I appeal to the Home Secretary to accept this Amendment, put forward with the backing of every section of the Labour movement. There has never been any question in the Labour movement that expenses should be paid for those who lose time in carrying out these duties. I have no personal interest in this because I have never been a justice of the peace, although on many occasions I have been a disturber of the peace. I make an earnest appeal to the Government to accept the Amendment, or, if not, to consider the matter again and bring in something at a later stage. I hope that some concession will be made.

Mr. Proctor (Eccles)

I feel there can be only one objection to this proposal. There can be no objection to the principle of payment; the only objection can be on the grounds of cost. I appeal to the Home Secretary to give further consideration to this matter. It is manifestly unfair for us to agree to pay the cost of a motorcar to take a magistrate to court and the cost of lodging and travelling allowances, but not to agree to pay the cost of the wages a man has lost in carrying out his duties.

There is a special feature about this matter which Parliament should consider. I raised it on Second Reading, but received no reply. In the Labour movement and in trade unions, on numerous occasions and in many instances, payment has been made for time lost by members who have sat on councils and done various other work. The trade unions have felt it very doubtful whether they ought to meet the cost. In a special sense, so that a justice of the peace would not feel in any way bound to any private organisation, we feel that the State should accept the cost in this case and that no organisation should reimburse a man for time lost in dispensing justice on behalf of the whole community.

I hope that the Home Secretary will agree to look at this matter and will at least say whether or not it is desirable, permissible or legal for anyone to pay a magistrate for the time he loses when performing duties in court. I think there is an overwhelming case for adopting the suggestion that time lost should be paid for, and I believe that regulations could be framed in such a manner as to make it not too costly for the community to bear.

Mr. Pannell

I think it was John Stuart Mill who said that an unpaid legislature and an unpaid magistracy are forms essentially aristocratic. I believe that he went on to plead, as nine-tenths of the people of this country are those who work for their living, for a paid legislature and a paid magistracy. There is no argument which has been adduced against payment of magistrates which could not be adduced against payment of Members of Parliament, because we are the supreme court of the land and many of our functions are in themselves judicial.

If one takes the analogy of the local government service, there is an overwhelming case. I will not enter into the subject of the ex officio people who go on to magistrates' benches, but earlier today we have been saying that magistrates should retire at the age of 75. One of the reasons for that, quoted from the Front Bench, was that we should put younger men on the magistrates' bench and make it possible for younger people to go on the bench; otherwise, we would leave the bench automatically to the retired, professional and business interests.

I believe an argument was adduced by Compton Mackenzie when he referred to the type of persons sitting in a judicial capacity who, having reached the age of three score years and ten, drink in fresh draughts of life from the sheer misery that they can wreak upon others. We want to get rid of that mentality and make it easier for younger men to come on to the bench. There should be no difficulty about this, because the Minister of Health has devised regulations in the sphere of local government which could easily be used for cases such as these. No one will suggest that £1 per day is likely to destroy the essentially voluntary service which is given in all parts of the country. This Amendment limits the amount to £2 per week, and my experience in local government was that when all expenses have been paid it does not really equate to a skilled man's wage for a day.

It cannot be suggested that because a man accepts £1, which is a remuneration for lost time, that is an inducement for him to become a magistrate. The proposal leaves an essential element of voluntary service in the magistracy, and to refuse this proposal is inconsistent because we have gone beyond the stage of local government and are already making such payments for quasi-judicial functions such as courts of referees and military hardship tribunals. In all sorts of legislation which this Government and previous Governments have passed, the claim for £1 a day has been admitted.

I also feel that the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) is a good one in so far as it is the policy of the party, and, broadly speaking, it is not only the mandate but the spirit and intention of the party at the election which should prevail. It is an overriding principle and this is an extension of something which Parliament has continually, although perhaps cautiously, affirmed, that no man should be kept out of office by means of poverty, or by means of the fact that the sacrifice is too great to enable him to discharge that office. If the argument against this proposal is taken to its logical conclusion, it is the argument which was used against the payment of any Parliamentary salary We are asking so little in this regard and it is so completely inconsistent to except this one form of public service from any payment whatever, and, for the reasons my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) gave in regard to paying people who use motor cars, this proposal should be accepted.

If we are to get a better type of younger magistrate, are we to say that he is to be limited in respect of the times on which he may sit on the bench? Speaking of the regulations in regard to lost time in local authority service, the Minister of Health has said that the payment should be received for any approved duty. If any hon. Member reads those regulations, he will see that no councillor even from Ebbw Vale, could get around that. I therefore suggest that the Home Secretary should look at this matter again and act at least in accordance with the spirit, aim and purpose of the party to which we belong, and that in extension of the principle to which I have referred, he should meet this just claim.

Mr. Ede

The case for this Amendment has been put with great force and clarity by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and others drew an analogy between this service and that of councillors. I am bound to say that I think there is a considerable distinction between service as a member of a council and service as a justice on the bench. In the first place, magistrates as a rule perform their duties by rota, and there is not that call for continuous and almost daily attention to duties which would take them away from their ordinary vocation which quite frequently falls on members of town councils, particularly in cities. Therefore, I do not think that that analogy is one that can toe prayed in aid too far.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Salford (Mr. Royle) said that he could not think of wage-earners who attended on days of the week other than Saturday. That is not my experience, and I have been a member of an advisory committee for 20 years. I have never known a suitable person among the wage-earning class who has been approached decline to accept the position of a magistrate on the grounds that he could not afford the time to attend to the duties.

Mr. Royle

The argument that I was adducing was that the wage-earner had of necessity to choose Saturday morning because mid-week was inconvenient to him and cost too much, and that therefore the benches were not properly balanced.

Mr. Ede

In my county there are only two benches at most whose regular day of meeting is a Saturday. I repeat that I have never had this particular reason adduced to me as a reason for a person not accepting an appointment.

The Royal Commission examined this question with great care. They expressed the greatest sympathy with the objects of the proposal and they pointed out that it might appear anomalous that members of local authorities should be entitled to payment for loss of remunerative time while justices are not so entitled. I agree with the conclusions which the Commission subsequently reached. I think it would be found that there would be insinuations against people who regularly attended the bench, particularly benches such as those which my hon. Friend has in mind, which meet on more than one day per week, if it were found that a magistrate who was a wage earner was to be found more frequently on the bench than persons in other ranks of life who shared with him the position of a justice of the peace.

We have gone a long way in this Clause. We have met the question of travelling expenses and the question of lodging allowances, which are not unimportant factors for those magistrates who desire to attend quarter sessions in counties which are fairly extensive in area. We have also extended these provisions to the attendance of magistrates at courses of instruction in connection with their duties as magistrates. These are concessions which have never previously been made to magistrates, and we think that it is as far as we ought to go, having regard to the duties which fall upon men and women who are appointed as justices. We do not regard those duties as being analogous to those which fall on persons who serve as councillors or as Members of Parliament.

6.45 p.m.

I remember that there was some effort made to run this party on a rota principle late at night. I am not sure that it was a good principle because I have never placed myself on such a rota.

Mr. Pannell

Will my right hon. Friend deal with the point that this principle has already been admitted in connection with quasi-judicial functions in respect of courts of referees and bodies of that kind? I think those are more apposite examples than are councillors, and those concerned are on rotas.

Mr. Ede

I do not think that such persons can be regarded as being in quite the same position as magistrates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If my hon. Friends will allow me to continue—

Mr. Gallacher

The right hon. Gentleman has all night.

Mr. Ede

No, I have not. We rise at ten o'clock, and I would remind supporters of the Bill that we are not making such progress as to make it desirable that an undue amount of further time should be spent on these earlier Clauses.

I do not regard the kind of tribunals which have been mentioned by hon. Members as being in the same position as a magistrates' court. The latter is a body which meets in public and in regard to which it is highly desirable that no question as to the remuneration of the persons who attend should enter into the mind of anyone who has to appear before the bench. In the case of the other bodies, the people concerned are discharging far more a sectional than a public function. A person sits on such a tribunal as the representative of a particular interest and not as a representative of the public at large. I therefore do not think that they are in any way analogous bodies.

I know how strong is the feeling on this matter, and I should very much have liked to be able to give way to the blandishments of my hon. Friends. I am bound to say, however, that for the reasons I have given the Government think it inadvisable that payment for loss of time as distinct from payment of travelling expenses and lodging allowances should be made in the case of justices of the peace.

Mr. Gallacher

If two justices, one moderately well-to-do and the other a worker, go on duties which entitle them to lodging allowances, and the moderately well-to-do magistrate goes to a hotel which costs 30s. a night, can the worker receive an allowance of 30s. and go to an hotel which charges 10s. a night?

Mr. Ede

He certainly cannot do that. It may be in accordance with the hon. Member's principles, but let us be quite certain that no one will be allowed, even under the Clause as it now stands, to draw more in the way of expenses than he actually has to expend.

Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

There is a serious anomaly here, when one looks at the position in England as against that in Scotland. I am thinking of the City of Glasgow, where the magisterial work is carried out by councillors who are elevated to the bench for a period of three years. Under the Local Government Act, that magistrate as a councillor, would be entitled to claim for loss of time while sitting on the bench. Obviously, if he is permitted that right under the Local Government Act my reading of the Act would be that as a councillor he is entitled to claim for lost time and it does not say in the Act that he claims for any specific job which he may be undertaking. I am completely ignorant of anybody having made any claim. He cannot sit on the bench unless he is a councillor and most of the cases in a city like Glasgow are conducted by the magistrates and not by a J.P. court.

In other parts of the country, particularly in England, it is quite common for those cases to come to the justice of the peace court. Here we have payment being made to the magistrates in Scotland sitting on the bench in a city like Glasgow, and yet apparently the Government at this stage are resisting the application of the same principle to justices of the peace. That matter should be made clear. It will probably be found that there is an anomaly and that I am right in my reading of the Act.

Mr. Pritt

I feel dissatisfied with the speech of the Home Secretary. There were several points which he made. The first one was that he did not know of a case in which a man had refused to accept the position of a justice of the peace because he felt he would find it difficult to attend except at a financial loss. Of course not. When people are offered such a position they regard it sometimes as an honour for themselves and sometimes as an honour to the people among whom they work. They may even accept it without realising that it is necessarily going to take them away from their work, and as a result they sit on Saturdays if they happen to be near a bench which sits on Saturdays.

The Home Secretary said that the Government have gone some way in matters like this. I do not believe in the principle of seeing what is right and going half way. It is much better to go all the way. The rest of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was a long and rather careful examination of whether there existed a parallel between other functions and the judicial function, but never did the Home Secretary face squarely the merits of it. The merits of it are that it is desired that people should serve as justices of the peace and should not be debarred by financial hardship from doing so, if they are otherwise fit to do so. Then we learned of a very terrible thought, that the voluntary system could in some way be invaded and somebody might actually be paid for loss of time.

After all, a very great number of judges in this country are paid. All those before whom I have practised invariably are paid, but they seem to do their work tolerably well. There is one school of opinion which feels that if one is paid for the job one does it better. What earthly catastrophe for the country will follow if a voluntary justice is told, "You are a voluntary justice, you will never make a penny out of it, but we will make sure that you do not lose £1 a day by the time you lose?"

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

I hope that the Home Secretary will look at this again before the Report stage. When we were discussing the question of juries it was never then put forward as a reason against paying them that people would think that they were prejudiced or that people would crowd on to the jury in order to get the payment. What we really wish to secure here is that there should be a regular attendance of justices of the peace and that each justice should feel equally able to attend. There are certain people who, when they leave their job, lose money as a result of it. There are others who can be absent, like Members of Parliament, for a whole year, and still continue to draw their salaries. All that is desired is to put on an equality those people who are penalised for doing their duty and those people who are the salaried classes and continue to draw their salary at the same time as they are sitting on the bench.

My right hon. Friend said that possibly people would think that someone was on the bench because he was paid. Is it really thought that a man who is prepared to lose a day's work in order to sit on the bench, and draws £1 for doing so is going there for that purpose? Surely not. Under this Clause, so moderately drawn by my hon. Friends, a justice of the peace could not do it for more than two days in the week. Is it really suggested that a man who has sufficient public stature to become a justice of the peace will adopt the position necessary for him to engage in some sort of underhanded action in order to absent himself from work for two days to sit on a bench?

What we wish to do is to get a regular attendance of justices. I do not think there would be any harm in having a compulsory rota to make certain that justices do serve when they accept the honour. But if anything of that sort is done we must not penalise the working-class man as against other members of the community. I hope that in those circumstances my right hon. Friend will look at this again.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I ask the Home Secretary to look at this again, otherwise a large section of the population will be penalised. Earlier in our discussions there was a demand from both sides of the Committee that younger magistrates should be appointed. Younger magistrates will have a greater family responsibility the younger they are appointed, and as a consequence they will be unable to make the sacrifice which they will have to make if they lose time, as they do now. Before coming into the House I was a railway signalman. I never had any difficulty whatever in getting leave of absence from the railway company who employed me, provided I was not being paid by the company when I was absent.

It obviously follows that any working railwayman, particularly those on shift work who attend magistrates' courts, are faced at the end of the week with a loss of one-sixth of their income. That is the plain and simple fact. Surely it is not unreasonable to argue that if these people are doing a job for the community they should be reimbursed for the loss of wages they incur for doing a public duty. It seems to me, therefore, that if we are to recruit the large number of younger magistrates which the Lord Chancellor wishes to recruit in the not too far distant future, some provision must be made to reimburse them for the loss of remunerative time. They are not being rewarded, they are being paid the wages which they lose.

I cannot see the difference which the Home Secretary sought to draw between the courts of referees, hardship tribunals and magistrates' courts. After all, both sections of the community are represented on the Ministry of Labour tribunals. Both are reimbursed for loss of time if they incur it. The chairmen are usually legal gentlemen who draw their fee at the end of the day, and I have not noticed that they have done their job any the worse because they drew their fee. The Royal Commission seem to me to have drawn a completely false conclusion. In paragraph 207 they state: If we had thought that the lack of remuneration was depriving the public of the services of any considerable number of able and suitable persons, we should have recommended the adoption of the proposed change. We do not doubt that there are many persons, especially among the younger members of the community, who are prevented from accepting appointment as justices because they cannot leave their work. That may be true in certain instances, but in a large number of occupations in this country it is not true that they could not be relieved from their jobs. The plain fact is that, because they would be deprived of one-sixth of their weekly income if they did remain away from their jobs for one day, they do not accept the position. If we are to have this increased number of young magistrates, this Amendment ought to be accepted. I hope that the Front Bench will have second thoughts and agree to have another look at this problem.

7.0 p.m.

Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)

As I said during the Second Reading Debate in support of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), that I thought that on balance it was wiser to have a broad cross-section of the community as justices rather than forgo that opportunity through the inability of certain members of the working-class to serve because they could not afford it, I should like to record my support for this

Amendment. I hope that the Home Secretary will re-examine the matter.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 6; Noes, 183.

Division No. 299.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Bing, G. H. C. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gallacher, W. Piratin, P. Mr. Parker and Mr. Royle.
Hollis, M. C. Pritt, D. N.
Acland, Sir Richard Hall. Rt. Hon. Glenvil Paget, R. T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Attewell, H. C. Hardy, E. A. Palmer, A. M. F.
Awbery, S. S. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Pargiter, G. A.
Ayles, W. H. Haworth, J. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Herbison, Miss M. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Bacon, Miss A. Holman, P. Pearson, A.
Barlow, Sir J. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Battley, J. R. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Price, M. Philips
Berry, H. Hoy, J. Pryde, D. J.
Blackburn, A. R. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Randall, H. E.
Blenkinsop, A. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Ranger, J.
Blyton, W. R. Hurd, A. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge) Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Rhodes, H.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Jay, D. P. T. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Jeger, G. (Winchester) Sanderson, Sir F.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jenkins, R. H. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Scott-Elliot, W.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Segal, Dr. S.
Burden, T. W. Keenan, W. Sharp, Granville
Burke, W. A. Kenyon, C. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Butcher, H. W. King, E. M. Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Chamberlain, R. A. Kinley, J. Simmons, C. J.
Chater, D. Lavers, S. Skinnard, F. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lee, F. (Hulme) Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Cobb, F. A. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Snow, J. W.
Collindridge, F. Lindgren, G. S. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Comyns, Dr. L. Lipson, D. L. Sparks, J. A.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Steele, T.
Cullen, Mrs. Logan, D. G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Daggar, G. McAdam, W. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Daines, P. McGhee, H. G. Sutcliffe, H.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. McKinlay, A. S. Symonds, A. L.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Deer, G. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Delargy, H. J. Mainwaring, W. H. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Dodds, N. N. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Driberg, T. E. N. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mann, Mrs. J. Tolley, L.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Turton, R. H.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Mellish, R. J. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Messer, F. Usborne, Henry
Fairhurst, F. Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Fernyhough, E. Molson, A. H. E. Walker, G. H.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Morgan, Dr. H. B Watson, W. M.
Follick, M. Morley, R. West, D. G.
Foot, M. M. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Wilkes, L.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mort, D. L. Wilkins, W. A.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Gibbins, J. Murray, J. D. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Gibson, C. W. Nally, W. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Neal, H. (Claycross) Woods, G. S.
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Wyatt, W.
Grenfell, D. R. Nield, B. (Chester) York, C.
Grey, C. F. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Grierson, E. Noel-Buxton, Lady
Guest, Dr. L. Haden O'Brien, T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Guy, W. H. Oldfield, W. H. Mr. Hannan and Mr. Bowden.
Hale, Leslie O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 6, line 36, at the end, to insert: which shall be subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament. Here again we get the question of whether a Statutory Instrument should be subject to a Prayer in the House, and I rather think that I can pray in aid some of the arguments used by the Attorney-General in resisting the previous Amendment, because this is not a question of rules, but one of regulations. It appears to me to be more than a matter of mere machinery implementing the decisions of the House, because in Clause 6 we provide for the payment of travelling and lodging allowances, though not, we note, for the loss of time; but nowhere in the Clause is anything laid down as to what shall be paid as travelling and lodging allowances. That is all left to the regulations, and, as the Bill now stands, the regulations which are made cannot be subject to a Prayer in the House. If the Committee will look at line 28 on page 6, they will see that the Regulations may make provision as to the manner in which this Clause is to be administered, and in particular … for prescribing the rates of allowances. When it comes to rates of allowances, which may, of course, affect the burden on the rates, a strong case exists for saying that a Statutory Instrument should be capable of being prayed against in the House. Subject to what may be said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the omission of these words in the Amendment, in view of what he said on a previous Amendment, would appear to be rather an oversight, and so I shall not seek to take up any more time in moving the Amendment, in the hope that the Attorney-General will accept it.

Mr. Ede

This Clause is very analogous to the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1948, for the payment of allowances to members of local authorities, but whereas it was urged by some of my hon. Friends that it was analogous in all respects, I think it is analogous only in some respects. So far as this part of the provisions is concerned, we have followed the precedent which was then created. The Statutory Instruments to be made under that Act also dealt with the question of actual payments to members, and those Statutory Instruments are not subject to annulment by the House. I think that is a fairly sound precedent on which to base ourselves, though I do not think that this particular matter, which, after all, compared with the other matters in the Bill, is of a minor character, should be subject to this procedure. I do not think we should depart from the precedent created by the Local Government Act, 1948, and I hope that the Committee will be prepared to accept that precedent.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I think that is a very unsatisfactory reply, because the right hon. Gentleman has done no more than say that, under a quite recent Act dealing with local authorities and their members, there was some similar power and that perhaps attention was not drawn to the question of making such Statutory Instruments without providing that they should be prayed against. The right hon. Gentleman has given no reason whatever why the Statutory Instruments made under this Clause should not be dealt with in that manner, and I should like him to say what possible objection there could be in his view to providing that the House should retain some degree of control over the steps that are taken to implement the provisions of this Clause.

If the House were not satisfied with the rates of lodging allowances laid down in the Statutory Instruments, it could do nothing about it unless this Amendment is carried. If this Amendment is carried, and the allowances are right, no more Parliamentary time will be taken up, but if, in the opinion of hon. Members, they are laid down wrongly, then if the right hon. Gentleman has his way, hon. Members will be unable to do anything about it, because we shall not be able to pray against the Statutory Instrument. We may pray against the Minister, but our prayers may not be answered as quickly as we would like them to be.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat this Amendment a little more seriously and say that he will consider the matter again. If he cannot do that—and he appears to be unable to do so—will he put forward an adequate reason for resisting the Amendment?

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman should think that I have not treated this matter seriously. I say that these regulations, as a matter of fact, are less sweeping in their scope than those made under the Local Government Act, 1948.

This is a matter that can safely be left to the administration of the Department concerned, and if the House felt that an administrative mistake of a serious character had been made, a Motion to reduce the salary of the Minister concerned could always be put down, and the matter could be raised. I do not think we want to cheapen the power of the House to deal with such instruments by unnecessarily extending the power to annul them in cases where it does not appear to be necessary. I should have thought myself that the analogy which I quoted of the Statutory Instrument under the Local Government Act, 1948, was in fact quite a sound one, because that Statutory Instrument deals, in addition to the matters now in the Clause. with a matter which the Government have just successfully resisted being added to the Clause.

Sir J. Mellor

I really cannot see why the Home Secretary should argue that the House would in any way be cheapening its control by admitting the right to annulment in a case of this kind. It would make no difference at all to the exercise in other respects of the powers or rights of the House to annul if it thought fit. This case can be considered entirely by itself, and I do not see why the Home Secretary should seek to rely upon precedent. If we are to take this course because there has been a precedent for a Statutory Instrument being made unaccompanied by any right of the House to annul it, then we shall gradually lose the power and narrow the rights of the House to supervise delegated legislation.

I think the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman on this Amendment, and that taken by the Attorney-General on a previous Amendment, should serve as a warning to the Committee. We should never lightly allow a provision in a Bill for regulations to be made to pass without having attached to it a provision for the right of hon. Members to move the annulment of the regulations when they so desire. Otherwise, we shall gradually have the right of the House to supervise delegated legislation whittled away.

Therefore, I think that we should insist on this Amendment.

The Home Secretary said, "Oh, but it is quite easy, if you do not like what is done under a regulation, to move to reduce a Minister's salary," presumably on a Supply Day. Our opportunities of debate on Supply Days are very limited. What happens is that there are whole hosts of subjects—administrative matters—to be raised in the House on a Supply Day, all of a great variety of character which bear no reference to one another, and it is quite easy for the Minister concerned, when he replies to take the ones he wishes to answer. He finds it very easy, having taken up the time at his disposal, to say, "I am very sorry, but there are many other points with which I have not been able to deal." We know that if there is a difficult point for the Minister to deal with, it is extremely difficult to get an answer.

Therefore, I think that we should insist upon this right to annul regulations of which we may disapprove, because it is one of the few procedures in the House by which we can really get to the point. There is usually only one point, and the Minister has to answer it. As I say, I hope that this Amendment will be insisted upon.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has not said his last word, because the whole of this question of the control by the House over the actions of Ministers is a matter on which a great many hon. Members—and not only on one side—feel very strongly indeed. It is no argument to say that it was not done last year in the Local Government Act, because it is possible that that Act was wrong. It certainly does not entitle the Home Secretary to be freed from the necessity of justifying his responsibility with regard to this point on the actual facts of this particular matter.

There is one aspect that has not yet been mentioned, which is that this does affect the expenditure of public money. The scales to be prescribed by these regulations will directly affect the amount of public money expended. Surely, if there is one matter on which the House is entitled to insist, it is with regard to the expenditure of public funds. To leave that matter in the hands of a Minister of the Crown is, quite frankly, the sort of argument which cost the Ministers of his late Majesty King Charles 1 their heads.

There is the other and broader aspect. I should have thought that the Home Secretary was convinced by the discussion on the previous Amendment that many people feel anxious lest financial difficulty should prevent suitable people from performing these duties. It may be that the scales which the right hon. Gentleman will prescribe will deal adequately with that point. On the other hand, it may not. We do not know what the scales will be. It is wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will prescribe and that other hon. Members of this House shall have no say in the matter, because in practice that is what it means. It is a little disingenuous for a right hon. Gentleman who is not only Home Secretary but Deputy-Leader of the House to say, "Oh, all you have to do is to move to reduce my salary and to debate the matter."

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the practical difficulties to* which the hon. Baronet referred. If this matter is dealt with under the ordinary Parliamentary power to annul Statutory Instruments, it is possible, because the Business is exempted Business, to have a discussion upon the particular matter of the regulations without any possibility of that discussion being crowded out. The right hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that that is the most satisfactory method of doing it. I ask him to look at it from the point of view of his hon. Friends. Some of them may dislike the scales prescribed, but it would be difficult for them to put down a Motion to reduce his salary. They may think that in other respects he is a good Home Secretary—there is no accounting for opinions—but they may wish, none the less, to deal with this particular matter. To force them, just because they want to deal with this matter, to launch a frontal attack upon his position is really putting them in a false position.

The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself to be a good Parliamentarian. I hope he will understand that there are a great many hon. Members who feel that the House should not vote away its rights to Ministers of the Crown in the manner proposed in this Clause. It would be perfectly simple for the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment. It would not involve any of the waste of time about which those of us who are anxious that this Bill should be got on with are concerned. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say that he will accept the Amendment and give the House the right and the responsibility of dealing with this highly important matter.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not turn a deaf ear to the very reasonable request that is being made to him that in this matter he should reserve the right of the legislature to review the scales which he may make. I do not believe that if he were to accept this Amendment it would cause him one minute's more work or anxiety than he is likely to have if he declines it. Indeed, I think that we are likely to spend more time in the Committee stage on this particular point than is likely to be spent in several successive Parliaments in examining the scales. I believe that this is one of those essential rights that must rest with hon. Members. It gives us an opportunity, on behalf of our constituents who find themselves, on the one hand, in difficulty about the scale, or who, alternatively, feel that the scale may be too large, to bring the matter before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself, in very many matters connected both with this Bill and in his present office, one of the best Ministers on the Government Front Bench. I should like to say something nicer about him because I realise that that is not very high praise. I will go so far as to say that in the 1941 Government he was one of the most successful Ministers of the Labour Party at a time when there was acute competition among many brilliant Ministers. But I think that at the present time he would be very wise, for his own sake, for the sake of this House, and, indeed, for the sake of the Bill, to accept this Amendment.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter, because I think he will agree that my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself have not been unreasonable in our attitude towards this Bill. We have tried to help, and we are anxious that it should go through. But on this point, as I indicated in an earlier Debate which we had on an Amendment that is within the recollection of the Attorney-General, we try to act on principle, and, as we believe, on grounds on reasonableness with regard to delegated legislation.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out to the Committee that the provision which we were discussing a short time ago was merely a matter of machinery, we accepted it and withdrew the Amendment; but here, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has said, a matter of public money is concerned over which, I believe, the House should keep the right of control. I agree with my hon. Friends that the probability of the need for exercising control may be slight, but on the question of principle the House ought to keep that control. What harm would that do to the working of the Bill? If the right hon. Gentleman had shown any serious danger of interference with its useful working, I would have paid the greatest attention to him, but I think he might meet us on this point because it is one which I think, on reflection, he will see is not made in any frivolous way. It is made to support a principle which we feel strongly, and we feel that it is one that Parliament should try to maintain.

7.30 p.m.

I am not entering into the delightful pastime of picking out the resemblances of the right hon. Gentleman to the late Lord Strafford, although there would be many such resemblances of which he would not be ashamed. Despite that entrancing by-way, into which I am not going to stray, let me come back to the original point; I ask the right hon. Gentleman to have another look at this, because it is a reasonable principle. It is very difficult to get principles when dealing with subsidiary legislation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, but I suggest that this is a reasonable principle which, unless there is some very good reason to the contrary, the Committee ought to maintain; namely, that when the disposal of public money is involved there ought to be the right of recourse to Parliament so that the views of Parliament can be expressed.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this point, which is not put forward in any fractious or contentious way, and that he will say that he will have another look at this proposal before the next stage of the Bill.

Mr. Ede

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the approach which he has made to the subject, for it is rather more easy for me to deal with it than with some of the remarks which were made before. If I were really so great a person as has been made out, I could at least claim that, in support of any attitude that I might adopt. But I am more modest.

I am quite willing to have another look at this point between now and the next stage of the Bill, and to see what we get involved in as we go through the Bill. I am one who pays Members who come here to pray, the courtesy of listening to their Prayers. This has become the most pious Parliament since the days of the Commonwealth. No Parliament since the days of the Commonwealth has engaged in so many Prayers at such length as we have had in the course of this Parliament. In the very distant future there might be a possibility that I should sit on the other side of this Committee, and then, with my strong Nonconformist and Puritan ancestry, I might be putting terrible temptations in my own way. But I do not conceal the fact that I, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, do not desire Parliament to lose its control over essential finance. Sometimes, however, by paying too much attention to detail, we may very well lose the opportunity of dealing with the bigger issues.

I will, however, examine this Amendment with some others which still appear on the Order Paper, and perhaps between now and the next stage of the Bill it might be possible for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and myself to have a conference with the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) on those cases in which this may be regarded as desirable and those in which we may get agreement that such provision is unnecessary. I hope that with that suggestion we may be allowed to get on with the Bill.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am sure that all of us on both sides of the Committee are glad to hear what the Home Secretary has just said. He referred to the frequency of Prayers at this time. I would say that never has there been such cause for Prayers as there has been during these last four years. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has adopted this attitude. I hope that before the Report stage we shall be able to secure agreement as to what Statutory Instruments under this Bill shall be prayable against. In view of what he has said, and so that we can get on with our next business, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.