HC Deb 27 June 1950 vol 476 cc2229-44

9.58 p.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite - Eyre (New Forest)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Regulations, dated 9th May, 1950, entitled the Gas (Pensions Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations, 1950 (S.I., 1950, No. 742), a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th May, he annulled. The House will remember that under Section 58 of the Gas Act the Government were given the right to approve any schemes put forward either by the Gas Council or an area board to take over a pensions scheme that was in existence before the nationalisation of the gas gas industry. They were given carte blanche either to approve or not to approve any scheme then in existence and to accept whatever schemes they might feel fell within the ambit of natural justice and, of course, the terms of Section 58.

These powers were exercised and presented to this House in Statutory Instrument No. 744 of 1949, and as far as I know the powers under that Regulation have been exercised well and no complaint has been raised to their use. In fact, I think it would be true to say that those who were subject to schemes taken over within the ambit of that Statutory Instrument have been well satisfied with the treatment which the Government has given them.

But these Regulations introduce a new element and something which is outside either the terms of Section 58 or of the regulations which could be prescribed under Statutory Instrument No. 744 of 1949. Indeed, if a new element had not been introduced there was no need for this specious proposition that members of the Gas Council and of the area boards had to be covered by a special regulation.

The regulation produced in 1949 gives the Minister power to approve any scheme which affects any member within the industry. Those are the terms of paragraph 1 of that Regulation. That is quite right, but just as in private industry if someone joins the board of a firm he is entitled to take part in whatever pension scheme may be available, so one would naturally expect that anyone who joins one of the gas boards or the Gas Council should automatically be entitled to benefits that are available under a Statutory Instrument. But we have something quite new here, something which I think is being pushed through with no reference in the Explanatory Note and which demands an explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary. I refer to the words in line 3 of paragraph 2 (c) of the present Regulations "or entitled to rights," and to where it says later that in lieu of those rights they may make some arrangement with the area board or with the Gas Council.

It is fair to say at the outset that the only possible reason for the introduction of these words is that the Ministry wish to go outside the terms of the Statutory Instrument they laid before the House in 1949, and wish to include some new category of persons whom they could not justify under any scheme taken over under Section 58 or, indeed, under any terms of the Gas (Nationalisation) Act. If that be true, then there are only two sets of circumstances in which this could happen.

The first one, which I do not think is likely to occur, is where the Ministry have decided that in relation to people who are not covered by Section 58 they will now wield the big stick. That is in relation to people, for instance, who, two years before the Act was passed, were approached to take service once the industry was nationalised, who took the opportunity for one reason or another, who joined in good faith, whose pensions were in excess of what could be provided under Section 58, and who are now faced with an ultimatum by the Ministry that unless they reduce the terms of the pension claims they have they will not be allowed to have any part in any scheme that the Minister has put forward.

That is the first possibility and, of course, it can only apply to those people who are least fitted to meet such a burden for instance, members of a trade union who are serving on an area board or on the Gas Council. They might have certain minor claims which would be absorbed within the major emoluments they are now receiving from an area board. It might well be that the area board is trying to beat down the claims of those people to a pension when they retire. I do not think that is likely, but it is a possible interpretation.

The only other interpretation is, from the viewpoint of the Ministry, a far worse one; that is, that they have now found that they have signed contracts with people to serve either on a board or the Council which involve them in commitments for pensions which they cannot justify under any scheme under Section 58; that, in fact, we are getting the story of Sir Leslie Plummer all over again; that this time the Ministry are not waiting until they have to pay up but are now trying to shelve their responsibility by making provision beforehand. That, from the point of view of the Ministry, is a far worse interpretation of what these words mean.

Particularly is that so if one considers what the ordinary person who had to be compensated under the Gas (Staff Compensation) Regulations had to put up with. I ask that for a few minutes the House should think back to the terms with which people had to contend under those Regulations. They had to be over 18; but I do not think that that is a hardship as far as a member of an area board or the Gas Council is concerned. They must have served eight years before they could get in. Is the Parliamentary Secretary certain that there is no one serving on an area board or the Gas Council who cannot claim a pension compensation unless he serves eight years? I should be very doubtful whether the Parliamentary Secretary could give me that assurance.

Again, under the original regulations it had to be proved that 30 hours a week were served in the service of the gas industry. How many people who are to be covered under this new exception would be able to prove that? The Parliamentary Secretary knows as well as I do that because of the composition of the Gas Council and the area boards, most of the people concerned are on a part-time basis. Is he going to say that the regulations are to cover only those people who can prove that they have served 30 hours a week? Again, I doubt that very much. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say above all, that the restriction which was made before, that a person is not allowed to serve in any other capacity whatever if he wants compensation, will be observed?

One of the things that strikes me as very curious is how fond the Government are of introducing restrictive covenants in matters for which they are responsible, and how righteous they are in wrath when those restrictive covenants are not produced by themselves. Of all the intolerable pieces of smugness, the difference between the treatment by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Lord and Black case and what the Parliamentary Secretary is doing by these Regulations, in ensuring that restrictive covenants are to be part and parcel of his pension compensation terms, is something of which all Members of the House should take note.

I should like to know how many people who will be covered by this new phrase in the Regulations have had applied to them the four tests which I have mentioned, and how many are covered by them. Then, has this new test, or this new escape clause, which I think is a better term, been introduced merely to cover people who have been brought in from outside the industry and who are not covered by the Act and, therefore, special provision has to be made for them because they cannot be ground up under the terms of the Gas Act?

If that is so, and I think that it is, then surely it is all wrong that the House should pass, whether it be right or wrong, one set of pension regulations to cover people who have been in the industry, and to have a completely different set of pension regulations for people who were brought in from outside the industry once it has been nationalised, and who are allowed so much more scope and so much more benefit. That seems to be entirely wrong.

It appears, looking at the Regulations, that as we have said before, nothing is too bad for those who were in the industry and have made the industry and who are expropriated by the Government, but that nothing is too good for those who are brought into the industry who happen to climb on to the Left band wagon and obtain some sort of position on a board or the Council; then, a regulation is immediately introduced to exempt them from all the provisions which govern private enterprise and the people who are taken over by the Government.

Once they have managed to get on a board or the Council any rights they may have are accepted, considered and made exemptions to what is considered good enough for other people in the industry. I think that of the many regulations we have seen, this one is open to the gravest exception because it shows once again how little the Government care about justice and how much they care about looking after "the boys," once they are under their charge.

It is for these reasons we bring forward this Prayer. We feel that those who so often stand at that Box and condemn the extravagance of private enterprise should be the last to introduce measures to which they dare not even put a limit in terms of cash, merely to satisfy their own requirements.

10.11 p.m.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)

I beg to second the Motion which has been moved so effectively by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre).

There is disquiet in the public mind on the subject of appointments which seem to be covered by the particular paragraph to which we are referring, and a measure of the disquiet may perhaps be judged by the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has also put his name to the Motion to annul these Regulations. I notice that the hon. and learned Member is not present. He may be on the Terrace or elsewhere—

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

He may be going on a gas board.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

He may already be on a gas board for all we know. It is interesting to know that the hon. and learned Member is so disturbed by these Regulations that he wishes to see it annulled and is joining his Tory colleagues in seeking to get that done. On the other hand, there is just the chance that he is not so interested in that as to make sure that his Tory colleagues do not postpone the Regulations from this particular date to some other date. I do not know, but it would be interesting to hear the hon. and learned Member on the subject of this Prayer, and I hope that he will be here shortly.

I do not think anyone wants to stir up trouble, but it is important that we should have an assurance, or at least an explanation, from the Minister of what is the real purpose of bringing forward these Regulations. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, it seems to us that the previous Regulations covered all the cases which seem to be required to be covered but in these Regulations we find that certain people entitled to rights—not pension rights, but other rights—are to be considered for some special treatment in connection with their service on an area board or on the Gas Council.

I feel sure the Minister will tell us quite frankly the type of person to whom that is expected to refer. The Regulations cannot have been brought forward merely for fun, but must have been brought forward with some particular class of person in view whom the Minister thinks are not covered by the previous Regulations and it is to ascertain that information in the interests of the country as a whole, and of the taxpayers who, after all, have to produce the money, that we move this Prayer tonight. I hope we shall have a clear and succinct description and explanation of why the Regulations are considered to be necessary in view of the existence of the previous Regulations.

10.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)

I have listened carefully to the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) and the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). I am somewhat puzzled to follow their line of reasoning. Indeed, at one stage I felt that the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest was really talking about regulations for compensation for loss of office. This is a very simple set of regulations which refer to quite specific people. They propose that where there is a man who was in the employ of a gas undertaking before nationalisation, and who then became a member of an area board it is a fair, right and proper thing that when the pension scheme which is provided for in the previous regulation to which the hon. and gallant Member referred, No. 744, is prepared and in operation he should then become a member of that scheme if he so desires. Those concerned are not forced into this scheme in any way, and if they have other better rights under the main Act they are perfectly free to pursue those rights.

These Regulations mean that a man would, if he became a member of an area board, be then allowed to calculate the whole of his service in the undertaking in which he was in pensionable employment as part of the terms of membership of the new scheme together with the period which he serves on the area board.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The Parliamentary Secretary said that these Regulations cover only people who were in the industry and then became members of an area board. Could he say where that is mentioned in the Regulations?

Mr. Robens

That is what I am saying. It covers only those persons who were in the gas industry. That is in the Regulations. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member does not wish me to read out the whole of the Regulations. If he will allow me to finish what I am saying I will return to the point and indicate the lines in question. I am trying to answer some of the points which hon. and gallant Members opposite have raised. They have asked me what these Regulations mean, and I should like to say what they mean. We can then get down to details if hon. Gentlemen wish me to do so. All we are doing is to enable those people who were in the industry prior to nationalisation to have that period of service computed in the new scheme together with any service which they serve as members of an area board.

Mr. Bracken

Would the Parliamentary Secretary show us where in the Regulations there appears what he has told us, because there is nothing about it in this particular piece of ill-contrived language at which we are looking? Would the hon. Gentleman also oblige the House by telling us whether, in calculating pensions, the basis of remuneration is the inflated pay of a board member or the salary or wage paid to that person before he joins a gas board?

Mr. Robens

The right hon. Gentleman is running a little before he has learned to walk. I am amazed at hon. Gentlemen opposite should ask me to point to the part of the Regulations which proves the point I am now making. The whole of the Regulations say it but I will read the relevant part, because it is apparent hon. Gentlemen have not been able to read it—they probably have not had the time. In the Regulations they will see: (2) For the purposes of any such pension scheme as aforesaid"— that should appeal to the hon. Gentleman— the service of any person as a whole-time member of an Area Board or the Gas Council may be treated as if it were service in the employment of the said Board or Council, if that person"— then follow three provisos. The first contains the subject matter of what I am now saying, that if that person was subject to the scheme in question immediately before becoming such a member. If hon. Gentlemen will allow me to proceed and finish this broad case it will be revealed to them in complete simplicity. If I may be pardoned for repeating what I have already said, those persons employed in a gas undertaking immediately before gas nationalisation, and who became members of a gas board after nationalisation, will be able to join the new scheme provided for under Regulation No. 744 and compute all those years of service in the industry as part of the new scheme.

Those persons who were appointed to area boards before the vesting date will be in precisely the same position, provided that they were in pensionable employment within the gas industry. I think the House will agree it is perfectly clear that in these public corporations many men will rise from the ranks, and in due course, as ability determines, will become members of area boards. It would be quite wrong to say to an area manager, "We would like you, because of your great efficiency and the work you do so well, to become a member of the board; but if you do become a member, you will forfeit all your pension rights for the 30 or 40 years which you have had in the gas undertaking." The men would not regard that as promotion, and obviously, for financial reasons, they could not take it.

We feel it not unreasonable to say that when they have promotion they may commute all these years of back service for the purpose of a pension, together with their service on the area board, and I am certain that no one would say that that is not a right and proper thing to do. That is all that the Regulations do. They do not apply to anyone else, they apply only to those persons who are members of an area board or the Gas Council and who have former employment with the undertaking with pensionable rights. With that explanation I think hon. Gentlemen opposite should thank me, and agree to withdraw the Motion.

10.23 p.m.

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch)

Far from thanking the Parliamentary Secretary, we have to confess to you, Mr. Speaker, that in the fairly long experience of Parliament which most of us have had, we have never heard such a strange explanation from a Minister.

Mr. Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

We shall hear a stranger one from you.

Mr. Bracken

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt?

Mr. Poole

All I said was that if hon. Members wait a little while, they will hear a very much stranger one from the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bracken

The wit of the hon. Gentleman is the least admirable quality which he possesses.

The Parliamentary Secretary was described by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) as a donor of "jobs for the boys." I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend was absolutely accurate. He ought to revise his language and say "therms for the boys" and take out the "h." This is a monstrous piece of jobbery, let us face up to it—

Mr. Messer (Tottenham)

What a line bit of wit!

Mr. Bracken

The Minister has made secret arrangements with certain persons connected with the Gas Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, he has, and he is anxious now to alter the Regulations so that he can fulfil arrangements which have never been scrutinised by this House—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh. I suppose they think we are talking about humble people. But no, I know of cases where people are being paid very large salaries indeed, salaries even outside the scope of these Regulation, and I know the reason for the Minister bringing in these changes in these Regulations. He wants to legalise something unknown to this House, something which is thoroughly—

Mr. Poole

What is it?

Mr. Bracken

The hon. Gentleman will hear, if he does not interrupt. That great democrat, the Parliamentary Secretary, tells us that he is anxious to look after the youngsters about to rise to great positions in the gas industry. I am all for that, but in this particular case it is not the youngsters who are being rewarded; it is a number of quite elderly gentlemen who are seeking cushioned retirement.

Mr. Robens

It would be quite wrong if the right hon. Gentleman were permitted to get away too far with this. These Regulations apply to none of the people to whom he ascribes the term "jobs for the boys." They are all people with big positions in the gas industry. I do not want to bring politics into this Debate, but I doubt very much if any one of them was a supporter of my party. The fact is that these Regulations are only for those who were in the gas industry. Not one of them applies to anybody coming from anywhere else, who is a member of an area board.

Mr. Bracken

Now we have had a confession. These Regulations are apparently to look after the people who were what the Minister calls "big" in the gas industry. There are tens of thousands of small people who have been "bilked" of their profit-sharing arrangements by—

Mr. Speaker

That has nothing to do with these Regulations.

Mr. Bracken

I was led into my error by the Minister. If the Minister will give us another opportunity of discussing his strange confession, we will gladly take advantage of it. We have had the real reason given to us now. I must protest very strongly about the conduct of the Minister in coming to this House with Regulations which abound in jargon and and which pass all understanding, recommending them to us as necessary to promote youngsters in the gas industry to great places, and finally confessing that it is to reward the "quislings" who served him so well.

Mr. Robens

That is a shocking thing to say.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I will not detain the House for more than a few moments, but I think that the opinion which some of us hold of the spectacle we have just witnessed ought to go on record. Perhaps "spectacle" is too kind a word. For sheer irresponsibility, we have had the classic example tonight. The right hon. Gentleman who graces the Opposition Front Bench—[HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraces."]—has had the audacity to make assertions that the Minister is introducing Regulations to cover up something Which his Department has done, which is entirely illegal and which he seeks to legalise. He told the House that the evidence would be forthcoming. I am at this stage prepared to sit down for the right hon. Gentleman to give to this House that to which I feel it is entitled—the evidence on which he based a charge so foul that he ought either to substantiate it here tonight or have the common decency to withdraw it.

Mr. Bracken

Certainly. The Minister himself confessed that these Regulations are made to look after the big boys in the gas industry. That is exactly what I say, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman's constituents will remember his performance tonight in helping these "quislings."

Mr. Robens

I want to make it quite clear for the record. What in fact I have said is that these Regulations provide for the promotion of those employed in the industry from the humblest position to that of an area board member without loss of pension rights. When the right hon Gentleman referred to all these people—

Mr. Bracken

Not all.

Mr. Robens

—who were big people in the gas industry—general managers and so on—as "quislings" I thought that was a very bad thing for an hon. Member to say in this House. Nevertheless, the fact is that people who are on area boards from the gas industry are the people who were general managers and others. The point I made was that they could not be regarded as political supporters of the party on this side of the House. I said that in response to something else which the right hon. Gentleman had said.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)

I never like to add heat to a friendly Debate such as the one we are having tonight. I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary most carefully, as I always do, and I noted that he did not meet all the points raised in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre). The Parliamentary Secretary was not using the ferocity which he used the other day—as he is now engaged in a conversation. I will be silent until he finishes. I am always courteous to the Government; I never interrupt a conversation. Now I will continue. A very powerful speech was made by my hon. and gallant Friend, but I will not deal with any of the matters he touched upon, because I am always moderate.

I understand that the object of the Prayer was to ensure that nobody would slip in under these Regulations because he had been in the industry before. The reply of the Minister was that he was not attempting to let anybody in. What I am still not satisfied about is paragraph 1 (2, c). I agree that under paragraph 1 (2, a) we are dealing with anybody who was subject to the scheme in question immediately before becoming such a member. That is clear; and 1 (2, b) is also clear. But I should like to know why paragraph (c) appears at all, if in fact we are not going to slip in persons who would otherwise be outside. Paragraph 1 (2, c) says: (2) For the purposes of any such pension scheme as aforesaid, the service of any person as a whole-time member of an Area Board or the Gas Council may be treated as if it were service in the employment of the said Board or Council, if that person— (c) is, by virtue of the Act and any regulations relating to pension rights made by the Minister under section fifty-eight thereof, subject to another pension Scheme, or entitled to rights, in relation to any Area Board or the Gas Council and agrees with the said Board or Council that in lieu thereof he shall become subject to the scheme in question. I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman is misleading the House, but if his reply is right, that we are dealing with nobody who was not in the scheme beforehand, they are covered by (a) and (b) without bringing in (c), which seems to lay open the possibility of persons being worked or slipped in for other purposes than the fact that they were engaged in this operation before the beginning of the scheme. I only ask for information. It is likely that my right hon. Friend is correct. I know that when we are dealing with fuel and power many surprising things are either said or hidden for the time being by the Front Bench. I want to be satisfied that it is necessary to bring in paragraph (c), instead of leaving it to (a) and (b). Why is it necessary at all, unless there is some object of slipping in a certain number of what are called "big boys"? I will now sit down in the hope that the Minister will enlighten me.

Mr. Robens

The reason for this is fairly simple. Each area board will have its own superannuation scheme. If a man is transferred from one area board to another it is right and proper to transfer his pensionable rights, and paragraph (c) enables us so to do.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

I think that of all the explanations which the Parliamentary Secretary has given of paragraph (c) that is the most unconvincing. If the hon. Gentleman looks at it he will see, to start with, that he has tried to limit it to transference of a servant from one area board to another. He will see that the Gas Council is mentioned in the same line as the area boards. That, I think, destroyed his arguments. If he will try to construe the paragraph a little more carefully, he will see that the word "rights," which he uses in the third line, cannot apply altogether to pension rights. Paragraph 1 lays down the purposes of the Regulations. It says: … (which authorises the establishment of pension schemes by Area Boards and the Gas Council) … As I said earlier, if it is only desired to deal with pension schemes operating within the gas industry before nationalisation—and I would make that point abso-lately clear—the hon. Gentleman has complete power under the regulations of 1949. There is no need to introduce supplementary regulations. I asked him that question. It was one of the first questions which I did ask. The hon. Gentleman has refused to answer it up to now.

Mr. Robens

Regulation No. 744 refers to those people in the employ of the area boards. Members of area boards cannot be in their own employ, and, therefore, one must make a special regulation to deal with the members of area boards.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The Parliamentary Secretary is misleading the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] Perhaps hon. Members who shout "Withdraw" so readily will allow me to read from the Regulations. They say: Any Area Board, or the Gas Council may, for the purpose of paragraph (a) of subsection 1 of Section 58 of the Gas Act"— That is the paragraph which allows them to take over any pension scheme— establish and administer any pension scheme which has been approved by the Minister. There is no such limitation as the Parliamentary Secretary suggested when he interrupted me. Do hon. Members still wish me to withdraw? I do not think so. The fact is that there is every power in the original Regulations for any pension scheme, whether it affects the youngest or the oldest, the richest or the poorest, in the gas industry, to be administered. These Regulations seek to do something new. These words can only, by definition, refer to something outside the Gas Act, and Section 58 thereof and schemes approved under it.

Mr. Robens

The hon. and gallant Member is overlooking the fact that we are not providing pensions for every member of a board. Therefore, in Regulation No. 744, the previous Regulation, the pension scheme relates to those in the employ of the area boards. That would exclude members of area boards. Regulation No. 742 merely brings in members of area boards who have previous service in gas undertakings, and pensionable service at that.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

That was the point which I made when I opened this Debate. I then said that there was nothing in Regulation No. 744 to prevent an area board, or the Gas Council, doing exactly the same as is done in private industry, where a director is entitled to take part in any pension scheme of his firm. The Parliamentary Secretary has not contradicted me, except in the last half-minute.

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if he looks at the Regulations again he will find that the terms of reference are perfectly clear. The area board or the Gas Council might carry on any scheme which has the approval of the Minister; it does not say, "any person who is under the board, or a member of the board." What we are saying is concerned with para- graph 1 (2, c) of these Regulations. The Parliamentry Secretary has not tried to answer the main point as to why paragraph 1 (2) covers only those in the gas industry. There is not one word to support it, and he knows that to toe true. As he has said, the first object of this is to cover people who have been taken over from the industry under nationalisation under the terms of Section 58, which cannot be substantiated and for whom special provision has got to be made. He is talking of the "big boys"; the people who are brought in from industry. I shall be only too glad to accept the hon. Gentleman's assurance, if he wishes to intervene.

Mr. Robens

It is impossible for me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to go on reading from these Regulations, and, if I may say so, if hon. Members opposite had read them, they would see that this can only apply to those who were in schemes. It says so quite specifically.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The hon. Gentleman says that, but we have a divergence of view, as we sometimes have in this House, as to What words mean. It is always the practice here to explain what a particular phrase means, but the hon. Gentleman has not done that. He has read out the initial phrase, but when he was asked to comment on the words "or entitled to rights," by my hon. Friends he failed completely to comment on them. He ignored them completely.

It is a very slipshod method of treating the House for the hon. Gentleman merely to get up and say, "I am getting bored" or something like that, when he has a perfectly valid case put to him which he cannot answer. It would be far more helpful of him to say, "I cannot answer this, but I will look at it." Here is a phrase on which a certain interpretation has been placed and which is designed, by the Parliamentary Secretary's own admission, to cover the "big boys," and which according to our interpretation—

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

On a point of order. How many times is the hon. and gallant Member allowed to repeat himself, Sir?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The hon. and gallant Member is trying to make his point.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

If I have made a point too often, Sir, I apologise. If I have wearied the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) there is nobody more sorry than myself.

Surely a regulation should be so closely worded so as to make certain that it covers only those things which the Minister responsible wants to cover and which are justified in the national interest. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite are always so concerned with the national interest. Whatever may be the Minister's interpretation it has not been borne out by the arguments which we have had put before us this evening.

Mr. Bracken

It is cruelty to animals.

Question put, and negatived.

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