HC Deb 25 January 1949 vol 460 cc805-23
Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 10, line 5, after "line" to insert: not in a private dwelling house. We have put down this Amendment to try and get an explanation on a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who drew attention to the fact that on page 10 there is a reference to apparatus as a term including any form of electric line. We want to know whether that includes a line in a private dwelling house, and whether the Postmaster-General can make regulations regarding the wiring of private dwelling houses. If the right hon. Gentleman has had time to look into this, I should be glad if he could tell us the answer.

Mr. Hollis

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Paling

The answer is: Yes, it could refer to an electric line or an electric cable in a private dwelling house. If a line or a cable in a private dwelling house were in such a condition as to be emitting sparks, which in their turn caused interference with a wireless receiver, then, if only from the point of view of safety from possible fires resulting from such a broken or defective line, it would be necessary to do something. In the circumstances, if our people went in we might be able to give the householder valuable advice about something which wanted doing in any event, apart from any question of interference.

Amendment negatived

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 10, line 6, at the end to insert: Provided that. except where safety considerations arise, no such regulation shall apply to any factory, as defined by the Factories Act where such factory was in operation prior to the installation of any wireless telegraphy apparatus, notwithstanding that there is any such apparatus in that factory which might cause interference with wireless telegraphy. This Amendment is regarded as of some importance by the Federation of British Industries. What is feared is that when these regulations come into force, a factory which is already in existence and has been operating for some time may have to instal such expensive anti-interference devices as to render it almost impossible for that factory to continue to operate, because it will raise the cost of the product so much, or may even mean that the factory will have to move. We think that there should be some safeguard against that sort of thing happening.

Previously this evening it was argued that if the Battersea Power Station interfered with a lot of wirelesses it might have to be moved, or suppressors might have to be installed at enormous cost. That idea was ridiculed. This Amendment would make quite certain that no such ridiculous thing could happen. It is possible that under regulations which may be enforced under this Bill there may be serious inconvenience, not to say loss, imposed on businesses which have been operating for a considerable time.

It is not possible to discuss the question of compensation in any form, because that is outside the terms of the Financial Resolution; but as things stand, a firm could be put to considerable expense, and might even be put out of business without any compensation or redress at all. For those reasons we con- sider that safeguards should be provided for existing factories which may not be able to suppress interference except at very high cost. Particularly is that necessary when one remembers that what they would be asked to do would be merely to stop interference with an amenity, and not for other reasons. I hope I have made the point clear, and that in the circumstances the Amendment will be accepted.

Colonel Haughton

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am concerned with this, not only from the factory point of view, but also from the point of view of supplying electricity to the factories. In Great Britain the supplies have been nationalised, but in Northern Ireland they are still in the hands of a public utility company. Except on the consideration of saving life, it seems wrong that the Postmaster-General should order changes, which might be very expensive indeed, to the supply lines and electrical installations of factories, or even order that the factories should be eliminated altogether. It is wrong that the whole onus should be put upon the factory or the supplier of electricity to make these changes at their own expense. and that the Postmaster-General should bear none of that responsibility. For that reason I support this Amendment.

Mr. Hollis

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept this Amendment, because it will merely increase the balance of the Bill in one respect in particular. We are falling into the danger of being almost disproportionate, in that we have set out with the very laudable purpose of freeing from interference people's wireless listening, but sometimes we are in danger of falling into the mistake of talking as if that were quite the most important thing in the world, and that every sort of sacrifice of British tradition and habit should be made in order that people's wireless listening should not be slightly interfered with. This Bill would seem much more balanced if recognition, by acceptance of this Amendment, were given to the fact that while we will take a certain amount of trouble to enable people's wireless listening to be clearer, we do not think that is the sole purpose of human life and that every sacrifice must be made for that purpose.

Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

I should like to reinforce what has been said. It is the batting order which concerns me. I have seen industries grow up and develop from small beginnings, without any form of nuisance to those around them. They are now liable to find themselves unintentionally creating a nuisance, for which they are to be penalised. Let me give a hypothetical example.

In my own neighbourhood, in the Midlands, there is to be a new television broadcasting station. My own company has a small factory within a couple of miles of the site. That factory is there because during the war it was established to use the labour of the district. The people are most anxious that it should remain. It is an electrical works which uses electrical testing apparatus. I have not the faintest notion whether that causes interference, but if it does, I imagine we shall be asked to move. No doubt, I shall have to do it on personal grounds, because if any factory in which I am interested interfered with everybody's television, my life would be a burden.

If that factory had to be moved my company would not go "broke" because of the expense. On the other hand, it might easily happen that a small factory on its own, with limited financial resources, would suffer a very grave hardship if it had to stop production and transfer elsewhere. I would not have said anything about this matter, but for the fact that there is not a word in the Clause about compensation. Such firms who are giving work to the people of a district are to be penalised and are not to have any chance of compensation. On those lines I suggest that the whole question should be looked into again.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The more one looks at the Bill the more one is convinced that the most careful administration of its provisions will be needed. I find it very difficult to see any logical grounds at all in the Amendment. First of all, it proposes to differentiate in favour of a particular factory, because it has been in operation prior to the installation of wireless instrument or equipment that might be the cause of the interference. I find it difficult to see that as being a reasonable ground for making a distinction between such a factory and one which was started after this Bill is passed and then introduces the installation of some wireless implement which may have the result of creating the interference which this Bill is designed to eliminate. If what the Amendment suggests is right, it means that to be really logical we should have to have exempted areas, because if one factory is going to interfere seriously with wireless telegraphy and is not to be eliminated, what is the use of dealing with any of the other factories? They might as well be left there, because there would still be this field of interference from the factory which the Amendment proposes to cover. No purpose would be served in that case in eliminating the other factories.

There is, of course, another aspect of this matter. A nuisance is a nuisance, in whatever form it comes, and if the objective is to get rid of interference of such a substantial nature that it is absolutely essential in the public interest to do so, how can an exception of this kind be made? Either the cause of interference is to he stopped or it is not. If it is to be stopped, then the mere fact that a factory was there before another factory, or the electrical installation causing the trouble, cannot possibly on any grounds of sense affect this particular issue.

Moreover, it is making a rather serious invasion in the law of nuisance. I should have thought it was a very serious thing in a Bill of this kind, apart from the other considerations to which I have alluded, to put a provision into it which would in any way restrict the courts in the exercise of their judicial authority. When it comes to a matter of a public nuisance, the interference envisaged by the Bill, is undoubtedly in that category. The degree, of course, may be of a very great extent. It is impossible by importing language into this Bill to mitigate or quantify the extent or the nature of the interference. The test is—is the interference such that it is proper for the Postmaster-General to interfere in the way he can do by this particular provision as it stands? In all the circumstances, I should have thought it was not only inadvisable but totally illogical to make the alteration which this Amendment is designed to do.

Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

The hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) raised a much wider point than he imagined. He gave us the example of his plant, which he says is near the proposed television transmitter in the Midlands. He seemed to have in his mind that because he was near the television transmitter any electrical disturbance which his plant made would vitally affect the transmitter. He is wrong as regards the site of his factory. This serves to illustrate what drastic power the Government are really taking. The point is that the further away a plant is from the television transmitter the more attenuated the television signal will be when it reaches the television receiver and the greater will be the interference.

If, therefore, the plant of the hon. Member were 30 miles away from the television transmitter the same amount of interference from his plant might affect an area of 10 or 20 miles around, whereas if he were near the transmitter the signal would be so much stronger that it would be affected much less. It follows that as soon as television spreads over an area of 40 or 50 miles—the line of sight, more or less—then that area may be vulnerable, and the further away from the transmitter the more vulnerable. Consequently, to be effective, this power will have to be used in the most widespread way and will affect a number of industries.

Sir P. Bennett

If the hon. Gentleman maintains that the plant which is only a couple of miles away will be less dangerous than one 30 miles away, I might say that we have eight factories within a 30 miles radius, so that I am going to get it very badly if that is so.

The Attorney-General

This is a short point and one to which we have given careful thought, but I am afraid that we cannot accept it. The real principle underlying the Amendment is that if something which is objectionable is established in a particular area before other people to whom it is objectionable come along, then under this Amendment it may be permitted to go on for ever, notwithstanding the fact that circumstances have entirely changed the character of the surrounding area and people, perhaps in very large numbers, have come to live in the district and may be incommoded by what is going on. In other words, if this Amendment were accepted there would be large areas in which ordinary householders would be unable to get proper wireless reception, because they would be areas of permitted and privileged interference. That would be quite contrary to the principle of this Bill, and, indeed, quite contrary to the ordinary principles of law.

6.30 p.m.

When we were discussing this matter at an earlier stage, I said that this question of interference with the reception of wireless broadcasts and television was really a new form of nuisance. To some extent, one has to look at the old principles of the law of nuisance in deciding what it may or may not be reasonable to do in regard to the matter in the Bill. In the ordinary law of nuisance—I think this is right—it has never been part of the principles governing that branch of our jurisprudence that any recognition is given to this kind of prescriptive dog-in-the-manger attitude, and we cannot admit it here. If the apparatus and machinery in a factory, however long it has been in use and however long the factory may have been established, is causing substantial interference to the discomfort of His Majesty's lieges in the neighbourhood, it may be reasonable to require that factory to take the steps which can be taken to put an end to that interference, and to allow His Majesty's lieges to listen to their wireless, if they desire to do so, without undue interference.

It may be reasonable. Whether it is reasonable in the circumstances of a particular case is a matter for which we do not seek to provide by legislation covering all cases, but it will have to be considered by the appeals tribunal in the circumstances of the case. If in a particular case the appeals tribunal found itself confronted with, on the one hand, the old established and very important factory of the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) and, on the other hand, merely one householder whose wireless reception was perhaps a little less than perfect because of the existence of that factory, no doubt the appeals tribunal would say, "This is not a case in which to interfere; it 4s a case where it would be unjustifiable and unreasonable to enforce any regulations against this factory." If, on the other hand, all round the factory hundreds of thousands of people had their wireless reception gravely interfered with because the occupiers of a factory were neglecting to take measures, which they might quite simply and inexpensively take, to suppress the wireless interference, the tribunal—it would be essentially a matter for the tribunal—would say, "We think the regulations ought to be applied."

As I shall seek to say on the next Amendment, we have sought to provide a most elastic system which can be enforced in a commonsense and just way, and which will not operate to cause difficulty for a factory unless that factory is causing substantial interference to a substantial number of people. In those circumstances, I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment.

Sir P. Bennett

Will the tribunal bear in mind the difficulty which would be created if closing a factory meant moving a lot of workpeople? When we close a factory and move it to an area which we are told is more desirable, we have an awful lot of trouble about the labour which is likely to be displaced.

The Attorney-General

I am satisfied that that would certainly be a matter very much in the minds of the tribunal. I am assured—I have no knowledge of it; it is a technical matter—that there could be no question of moving a factory, and that it would merely be a question of installing the technical apparatus —the suppressors—which prevent the electrical interference. That is the problem which will arise in the ordinary course. If it were a question of moving a factory and putting workpeople out of employment, or transferring a large body of workpeople, obviously that would be a major consideration for the tribunal to bear in mind.

Mr. Grimston

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate the fear about the moving of a factory? He says that apparatus may be inexpensively installed to suppress interference, but is he aware that in the case of some machinery it would be a very expensive matter to instal protective apparatus, and in such a case the management might have to say that they could not afford to instal the apparatus because the expense would put them out of the market and their only alternatives were to close down or to move? It is in that sort of case that apprehension arises that if there is nothing in the Bill, it will be left completely to chance. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in those circumstances, give an undertaking to look at the matter again—I gather that he has looked at it—to see if these fears can be dealt with in some way? I do not think that he has grasped the point about the moving of a factory.

The Attorney-General

I appreciate the point. On the advice I have, I cannot think that it would ever be less expensive to move a factory than to instal the apparatus.

Mr. Grimston

The factory might have to close down.

The Attorney-General

If that situation arose—I am told that it is highly improbable—that would be one of the considerations—I should think, an overwhelming one—in the minds of the tribunal. I hope to persuade the hon. Gentleman when we come to the next Amendment that the tribunal really will discharge a most important function in deciding on the merits of each case, weighing up interference with television or wireless reception and setting against that the interference with the economic life of the country and the employment of labour in the neighbourhood.

Weighing up considerations of that kind, the tribunal will have to decide whether it is reasonable to enforce the regulations against a factory in particular circumstances. In the circumstances which the hon. Member for Edgbaston put to me, it is difficult to conceive that a tribunal could possibly say that it was reasonable to do so. Moreover, there is the additional safeguard that in such a case if that really were the position, the Postmaster-General would probably not take—if he had taken it, it would be open to question in this House—the preliminary step of serving an enforcement notice against that factory.

Colonel Haughton rose——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can ask a question, but he has exhausted his right to speak.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 10, line 6, at the end, to insert: (4) Before any regulations are made under this Act, the Minister or Ministers making the regulations shall publish in the Gazette and in such other manner as he or they may think best adapted for informing persons affected notice of the proposal to make the regulations, and of the place where copies of the draft regulations may be obtained, and of the time (not being less than twenty-eight days) and the manner in which objection may be made to the regulations. (5) If any objection is duly made and is not withdrawn, the said Minister or Ministers shall, before making the regulations, either cause a public inquiry to be held or afford to any person by whom any objection has been duly made and not withdrawn an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the said Minister or Ministers for the purpose, and shall consider the objection and the report of the person who held the inquiry or the person appointed as aforesaid before making the regulations. (6) Notice of any such inquiry as aforesaid shall be given in such manner as appears to the said Minister or Ministers to be appropriate for the purpose of informing the persons affected, and the provisions of subsections (2), (3) and (5) of section two hundred and ninety of the Local Government Act. 1933 (which relate to evidence and costs) shall apply in relation to any such inquiry as if for any reference therein to the Department there were substituted a reference to the said Minister or Ministers. The Amendment has considerable bearing on the new Clause introduced earlier today whereby the Postmaster-General has taken power to make regulations concerning the manufacture of articles which are likely to interfere. it is very important that the manufacturers should be brought in at an early stage in making the regulations in order to save much trouble afterwards. I want to quote something which the Attorney-General said on the Committee stage. It may be recollected that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) spoke on this matter, and he explained that the appeals tribunal did not come in until after the damage was done, so to speak, and that it was better that the manufacturers should be brought in at an earlier stage in the formative process of the regulations rather than when a regulation has been made and they have contravened it and wish to appeal against it. On that occasion we tried to introduce the special Parliamentary procedure, and in the course of this discussion the Attorney-General said: We shall certainly give further thought to the matter but it is difficult to find a half-way procedure which is not so cumbrous and dilatory as the special Parliamentary procedure proposed here. We will certainly consider it from the point of view proposed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 659.] Naturally, we understand that the Attorney-General has given consideration to it, but evidently he has not found a satisfactory halfway house because no Government Amendment has appeared upon the Order Paper. Therefore, we have put down this Amendment as, in our view, a satisfactory halfway house. I will go briefly over its provisions.

Before any regulations are made the Minister must publish in the "Gazette" and in such other manner as he may think fit for the information of persons affected, notice of the proposal to make the regulations. "Persons" here will apply to persons or firms. Secondly, if any objection is made, and is not withdrawn, the Minister shall cause a public inquiry to be held. This is a much less cumbrous procedure than the one we proposed previously, but it will make it obligatory upon the Postmaster-General, before he frames regulations which perhaps will have considerable effect on manufacturing processes and the export trade, to bring in the manufacturers and get their assistance—I am sure he will get it readily —and co-operation in framing regulations which will be reasonable and fair, and will carry out what is intended, without too great an interference and upset of the ordinary processes of manufacture.

Various hon. Members have made remarks about this matter, and it has been pointed out that when one is to interfere with the production line, one has to be careful. It is true that we on this side have asked that the problem shall be attacked in that manner. We do not want it to be done in any high-handed fashion, and we want to give the manufacturer every chance to come in in framing the regulations in order that there is as little interference as possible with production processes. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) reminded the Committee that we must not lose our sense of proportion in these things. It is pleasure with which this Bill is concerned—all these regulations ensure that the pleasure of people should not be interfered with when they are looking at television or listening to their wireless sets —but we should take every step we can to see that industry and the export trade are not interfered with unduly simply in order that someone may get more enjoyment than he would have otherwise out of a radio set.

Bearing all that in mind, and bearing in mind the pledge given by the Attorney-General that he would see if a halfway house to our previous proposal could be found, I move this Amendment as that halfway house and as a means of bringing in the manufacturers during the framing of the regulations, and not at a later stage when the damage might have been done.

Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)

I beg to second the Amendment.

6.45 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I cannot accept it as a reproach against this Bill that one of its objects, although by no means the sole one, is the promotion and protection of pleasure. I am a great believer in the promotion and protection of pleasure, and we do not always have quite enough of it in these days. His Majesty's present advisers, while they are doing what they can in other fields to restore and build up the economy of the country, try when they can to promote the simple pleasures of the people. I think it is important that, in regard to this great modern invention which brings an extraordinary new pleasure to people who sometimes have very little pleasure in their lives, we should do what we can to see that that pleasure is not interfered with unduly.

None the less, I approached this problem with a great deal of sympathy and we gave further consideration to it after the speech which the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) had addressed to the matter on the Committee stage. Indeed, we gave most careful and sympathetic consideration to the problem when the Bill was drafted and we wondered, as the hon. Member has wondered, whether it would be possible to transpose into this Bill the machinery—which is in fact the machinery in his Amendment—which was embodied in the Radioactive Substances Act. After giving the matter that careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that it was impracticable and undesirable to take that course, and I hope I shall be able to carry the hon. Member and the House with me in concluding that we were right in that view and that the present provisions of the Bill meet the position which the hon. Member has in mind.

It may well be asked, if there is a provision of this kind in the Radioactive Substances Act, why not reproduce it in this Bill? The House will hardly need to be reminded that the problem dealt with in that Act was of a wholly exceptional nature and had to be dealt with in a wholly exceptional way. The great difficulty there was that it was impossible to find any adequate definition of what were radioactive substances. The result was that the powers which were being given to the Minister by the Bill might have been applied to almost any substances. For that reason it was necessary to provide quite extraordinary limitations and safeguards against the misuse or excessive use of the powers which were given to the Minister, particularly bearing in mind that a failure to comply with any regulations made under that Act became immediately a criminal and penal offence.

Here the problem is in substance really a different and much simpler one. It is not simply the question of whether some particular apparatus like the electric iron, or something more complicated, is causing wireless interference which could be avoided by a suitable suppressor. That is a problem not very difficult and quite capable of solution by the expert committees which will consider this matter. It is different also in this respect, that a breach of the regulations under this Bill will not immediately give rise to any criminal or penal consequences, and that is one of the vital distinctions between this Bill and the Radioactive Substances Act.

That brings me to explain what is the real machinery of the provisions under this Clause because the point has not been appreciated sufficiently outside. The machinery under this Clause seeks to provide a safeguard for the citizen which I believe is almost unprecedented in the machinery of our law in matters of this kind, and one which ought to secure that each case will be treated individually, not in accordance with some set of regu- lations binding in every case without regard to particular circumstances, but in a just and common-sense way on the merits of that case.

May I just remind hon. Members of the scheme of the Bill? First of all, before any regulations are made—it is at this stage that the manufacturer of apparatus will have his initial protection —the Minister is required to consult with an advisory committee. We have discussed the composition of that committee and the House will remember that it consists in part of persons who are affected by the regulations which are likely to be made and in part of technical people and manufacturers of the apparatus concerned. It is perfectly true that at that stage there is not, under the scheme of the Bill as opposed to the scheme of the Amndment, any formal right to object to the regulations in the sense of having the right to do so in some public inquiry in a legalistic and formal way. Whilst the regulations are in draft, however, and before the Minister finally makes them, he has to consult with this committee on which the manufacturer and other interested persons will be represented.

I know that there are exceptions and I do not want to make a bad point. but in the ordinary way, where the regulations will probably be expressed in scientifically technical language, the exact effect of which is unlikely to be appreciated by ordinary users of electrical apparatus, the right to object formally at the draft regulation stage would really be wholly illusory. The housewife, the motorist or the ordinary user of the common or garden electrical appliance that is becoming so popular nowadays will not really know or understand at the draft regulation stage whether or not the regulations are likely to affect him. When he will understand that is when the time comes, if it comes at all, that any attempt is made to enforce particular regulations against him. It is at that stage that we get the protection which, in my submission, is really of a far more fundamental and useful kind than would be any right to object at the draft regulation stage.

Mr. Grimston

I would remind the Attorney-General that in framing this Amendment we had the manufacturers more in our mind than the user as regards the making of regulations. That is what I said, I think, at the outset of my remarks on the new Clause which has been accepted today. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman to a very large extent about the domestic user and so on, but this question is of very much greater concern for the manufacturers as far as the regulations to be made under the new powers are concerned.

The Attorney-General

We hope that the manufacturer will get what in practice will be an adequate protection at the stage when the Minister consults the advisory committee and takes practical advice before any regulations are made at all. It is a statutory obligation that he must do that. True, it is not a statutory obligation that he must be bound by that advice, but the Minister, after all, must realise that these regulations can be enforced only if the appeal tribunal in a particular case thinks it reasonable to enforce them. He is not likely, therefore, to make regulations which his technical advisers—the advisory committee and, no doubt, the other persons from whom he will obtain technical information—have told him that it is really impracticable to enforce regulations of the particular kind that he had in mind.

The manufacturer, like the ordinary user of the individual piece of apparatus, will, of course, be protected at the second stage. The second stage is this: The regulations having been considered by the advisory committee in draft, the Minister makes them; it is then found that some particular piece of apparatus is causing interference in breach of the regulation. At that stage what will happen is that representatives of the Post Office will go along and discuss the matter with whoever is using the apparatus: that may be the manufacturer or someone to whom the apparatus has been sold or transferred. In 99 cases out of a 100 that will be the end of the matter. It will be pointed out that the apparatus is interfering and that some quite simple remedy can be applied. I know that the 100th case may be the difficult one, where a large expenditure is involved, but the great majority of these cases will, in fact, be of small pieces of apparatus like the flat iron, the vacuum cleaner or the refrigerator, which can be dealt with quite simply. A visit from the Post Office engineers and an explanation will probably result in the whole thing being put right. That is the second stage.

If, in fact, the user of the apparatus, whether manufacturer or somebody else, is unable, for one reason or another, to take the advice of the Post Office engineers as to how the interference may be suppressed and the interference continues, then the Postmaster-General has to consider whether or not to serve an enforcement notice. He is not bound to do so. No doubt, had it been represented to him at that stage that it was unreasonable and impracticable to suppress the interference and he thought there was a good case to that effect, he himself would accept the responsibility of not serving an enforcement notice, knowing of course, that his action is always open to question here.

Supposing, however, that the Postmaster-General serves the enforcement notice. Then one gets to the third stage, to which I ventured to refer on a previous Amendment, where the user of this particular class of apparatus, whether he is the manufacturer or some subsequent user, says, "The enforcement of this regulation against me in respect of this particular class of apparatus is unreasonable. I am going to the appeal tribunal." Then the appeal tribunal, the "12 men on the Clapham omnibus," reasonable people who can take a broad view about the matter in the circumstances of the particular case, will decide whether or not it is reasonable to enforce that regulation in that case in respect of that apparatus. If they think it is not reasonable or just they will say, "Although this may be a very good regulation and one which ought to apply generally, we shall relax it in the circumstances of this case, because we think the harm done by the interference is outweighed by the good done by the use of the apparatus, or because we think that it is not really practical to suppress the interference because of the type of apparatus to which it is sought to apply it." That, we think, is the real safeguard which, in the last resort, will be available to any person, whether manufacturer or user, against whom it is sought to enforce under the appropriate regulation.

Mr. Grimston

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is all very well in the case of a person, for example, but let us consider a firm manufacturing, say, 5 million flat irons, or whatever else they manufacture, in a year, suddenly being faced with a notice, "You are not to sell these things," under a regulation during the preparation of which they have had no chance of stating their case. There may be many considerations in a case of that kind which may not be grasped by a technical committee or with which a particular firm may have difficulty. Under the procedure which we suggest, however, a firm manufacturing on that scale would have some opportunity to say, "Now, you realise what this regulation will do to us."

Under the procedure proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, they may know nothing at all about the regulations then being proposed. In cases of that sort would it not be very much better for the firm to have a chance of coming in on the regulation-making stage? I agree very largely with what the Attorney-General has said about the small case, but here we are dealing with the large manufacturer who, under this procedure, may suddenly be visited with an order from the Postmaster-General to say "You are manufacturing ten million pieces of apparatus. You are not to sell them until you have done so and so." That will be the first notification which the manufacturer has had.

The Attorney-General

I appreciate the point which the hon. Gentleman has made. We think, however, that in a case of that kind the manufacturer who is producing goods on any large scale will be in touch, either directly or through his trade association, with the advisory committee, and will know in advance exactly what regulations it is proposed to make. I believe it is correct to say that all manufacturers of this kind belong to trade associations. If the manufacturer hears, either directly or through his technical association, he will be able to make such representations as may be made in advance before the regulations are made. The difference between us here, I think, really is a question of form. The Amendment seeks to give a more formal method to representations for which the Bill really provides in its existing structure. But, in seeking to give a more formal method to the objection at the draft regulation stage we think it would introduce a rigidity into the machinery of the Bill which would be most undesirable.

7.0 p.m.

It would be difficult to have both systems working side by side. If we had the draft regulations stage with the formal public inquiry and objection and if we followed that procedure, we would have to say that that regulation was binding and a breach of that regulation would be a criminal offence. We do not do that here, but say, "Make your objections at the draft regulations stage through the advisory committee, and the Minister will consider them and give effect to them." He is more likely to give effect to them because he knows that a breach of the regulations will not in itself be an offence and he will be able only to enforce them if the tribunal thinks it reasonable to apply them in a particular case.

That is an important safeguard to ensure that Ministers do not make regulations without advice and consultation beforehand and that if Ministers make inappropriate regulations they cannot be enforced unless in the view of the appeal committee in a particular case it is reasonable to enforce them. In the case the hon. Member puts one would think an appeal committee would be unlikely to say that it was reasonable to enforce the regulations when a firm quite innocently produced 5 million such articles without knowledge of the particular regulations. We have established a form of machinery here which is quite new and which give, in a way I, as a lawyer, very much welcome, a commonsense application to the law, which one does not always see in Acts of Parliament.

Mr. C. Williams

I have listened to the Attorney-General with very great care and I am inclined to think that what the Government are aiming at is not to get regulations which are too formal and rigid and in that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has our sympathy. But early in his speech he referred to the fact that in 99 cases out of 100 there would be no difficulty whatever, but in the 100th case there might be difficulty. That is exactly the trouble which comes from legislation when a thing is passed on the assurance of a member of the Government that in almost every case it will be all right, but that there might be an occasional case where it will not be all right, or will be more difficult. I do not know whether there will be a Division or not, but I do not think it unfair or unreasonable to ask the Government to go into this a little more fully when the Bill goes to another place, as the Attorney-General has admitted that there will be that one per cent. of difficult cases. We ought to be quite sure before the Measure becomes law that everything possible is done to provide for difficult cases. It would not be unfair if the matter were gone into in another place, in case there is some other form of Amendment which might get over the difficulty.

Amendment negatived.