HC Deb 03 April 1951 vol 486 cc39-88

3.38 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out "and always to have included."

This Clause of the Bill is indeed its most important one. Perhaps I may read out the part in which these words appear: The purposes specified in subsection (1) of section one of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, shall be deemed to include, and always to have included, the purposes of— This Bill extends the powers under the previous Supplies and Services Act to certain defence purposes. I heard it described in very much those words last night on the B.B.C. If the words which we propose to delete are left in the Bill they whitewash and legalise anything which may have been done by any Minister in the past under the previous Acts, even though it was not proper. We challenged the Minister on this subject on the Second Reading and said that if we were not given a satisfactory answer we should probe the matter to the full. The Minister was making very heavy weather with his reply, as the House will remember, when a life-line was thrown to him by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) who asked whether the words were not restrospective but declaratory. The Secretary of State for Air, who was replying, seized hold of that life-line with great eagerness and said that the hon. Gentleman had put it even better than he could have done himself.

I suggest that this description was not entirely accurate. These words may to a certain extent be regarded as declaratory, but they are certainly retrospective as well. Probably the hon. Member who threw the life-line did not appreciate at the time that the words cover not only the 1947 Act but the 1945 Act as well, and certainly the purposes described in this Bill could not possibly be regarded as being covered by the 1945 Act. These words go right back to the beginning of the complicated legal history of the Supplies and Services Act.

Therefore, I think we can take it that these words are retrospective as well as declaratory. Indeed, I am emboldened to argue further on that point, citing the Foreign Secretary himself, who, introducing the Bill on Second Reading, said: We are satisfied that if existing powers can be used for those new purposes…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1316.] "Those new purposes." Therefore, I suggest that to say that these words are merely declaratory is not strictly accurate. They are certainly retrospective as well. We on this side of the Committee frankly do not like retrospective action, and especially do we not like retrospective action in a Bill which gives such sweeping powers to the Government, and we want the clearest proofs of the necessity of any Clause such as this before we can agree with it. Certainly, we had no such proofs on Second Reading from the Secretary of State for Air. Indeed, we had nothing of any value whatever, if I may say so.

I ventured to quote on Second Reading the words used by the Foreign Secretary when he introduced the 1947 Bill. He referred to Ministers using these sweeping powers—or who might use these sweeping powers—improperly for purposes which had not been strictly defined in the previous Act. Let me repeat the relevant words to the House. I think they are of some interest. This is what the Foreign Secretary said: We do not want Ministers to stretch the meaning of the law in the framing and administration of Defence Regulations. It would be unconstitutional, undesirable and thoroughly objectionable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1796.] It would be unconstitutional; it would be undesirable; and it would be thoroughly objectionable. If that is the case, then we challenge the Minister to tell us which of his colleagues has been responsible for acting in this remarkable way; or if, on the other hand, no Minister has acted in this thoroughly undesirable and objectionable manner, why then are the words necessary? The Secretary of State, in reply, announced over and over again that none of his colleagues had in any way acted unconstitutionally or improperly. I would quote some of his words: I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we have no reason to believe that any Minister has done anything which requires an Act of indemnity…. There is nothing in the Bill which is in the nature of an indemnity And so on. He went on to say: All I can say is that there is nothing new in inserting in a Bill the words to which I have referred."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1375–7.] He maintained, therefore, that no Minister had in any way exceeded the powers granted by any previous Act. We asked him, but got no reply, why on earth these words were inserted in the Bill if they were not necessary. I say we got no reply. An hon. Friend of mine has referred me, and I should like to refer the House, to a passage in that classic story called "Through the Looking Glass," because that is the only world in which one can find any examples which correspond to the action of the Government, and of the Secretary of State for Air, who replied for the Government, and gave the excuse for the introduction of these retrospective words. These were the words used by Alice in the story: I was wondering what the mousetrap was for," said Alice. "It is not likely that there will be any mice on the horse's back." "Not very likely, perhaps," said the White Knight, "but if they do come I do not choose to have them running all about. You see, it is as well to be provided with everything. That is the reason the horse has all those anklets round its feet." "But what are they for?" Alice asked. This is worthy of the Secretary of State for Air. To guard against the bites of sharks," the White Knight replied. "It is an invention of my own. 3.45 p.m.

I do not think these words are an invention of the Government's own, but the only excuse that the Secretary of State for Air gave us, in virtually the last sentence of his speech on this subject, was: "All I can say is that there is nothing new in inserting words of this sort in the Bill." Of all the lamentable excuses for bringing into a most important piece of legislation giving sweeping powers over the subjects of the Crown, a retrospective Clause going right back to the beginning of the whole series of Acts based on this principle! To say, "All I can say is, there is nothing new in it," is not really sufficient for this House.

It is outrageous that the Government, in a Bill of this sort, should come down and put in words of this character—retrospective words: if I may say So, offensively retrospective words—when they proclaim that there is not the slightest necessity for them. They have not even the excuse that they are words of their own invention. They are put in not because they are words of their own invention. There is no need for them whatever. We hope the Minister will reconsider this matter, and will agree with us that this retrospective Clause can be omitted, and that we can get on with our further business. I am sure that something very much better than what was put up to us on Second Reading will be necessary before my hon. Friends will be willing to pass a Clause of this sort.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

As I understand the argument that has been addressed to us today, and, I think, the argument that was addressed from the opposite benches during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, it really amounts to this: Hon. Members opposite, in effect, say, as I understand them, "If this is purely declaratory—in other words, if all you are doing by these words is removing doubts about what the pre-existing legislation means—then we do not mind its being retrospective." On the other hand, I think they are saying, "Suppose by this Clause you are giving some additional powers to those which are already possessed by the Government, then we object to the powers being made retrospective, and in particular do we object if the effect of their being made retrospective is to give an indemnity to some Minister who, in the past, has exceeded the powers which he has." Well now, I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept that as a fair summary of their argument.

Mr. McCorquodale

We accept the second part of it but not the first.

The Solicitor-General

May I qualify what I said then by saying that I now assume that they object to its being retrospective in any event. But I think they will probably go this length with me, in saying that they do not mind so much its being retrospective if it is purely declaratory, as that they do object to any Clause which gives powers in addition to those which were previously possessed.

Let me answer that argument. We feel—and we felt—that it is certainly arguable that the existing powers under the 1945 and 1947 Acts do cover all that is required; but, particularly in relation to two categories of action, we think that there may be some reasonable room for doubt as to whether they do go as far as that. The Foreign Secretary, in opening the debate on Second Reading, indicated what those two cases were. One related to the requisitioning of ships for the hostilities in Korea, and the other related to denying to potential enemies services and supplies which might be useful to them.

With regard to all other defence purposes we felt that the existing Acts went far enough, but with regard to those two categories of action we thought that, although it was arguable whether existing Acts covered them, there was real doubt as to whether the existing Acts were wide enough to embrace them. In those circumstances we thought it necessary, as the Foreign Secretary explained, to be quite certain that we were acting within the four corners of the law in taking that kind of action, that kind of action being action which was indispensable for the preparation of our defence system.

I therefore address myself now to the first question put to me this afternoon. It is rather difficult to say whether this is purely declaratory or whether it is not. If we were right in thinking—as we were rather disposed to feel—that the existing legislation goes far enough, it follows that this new Clause is simply declaratory, simply removing a possible doubt. If, on the other hand, our caution is justified, and we are right in thinking that perhaps the existing legislation does not go as far as that, then obviously this Clause gives additional powers to those we already possess. That is how the matter stands at the moment.

Proceeding to the other point under discussion, I have looked into the matter and I can assure the Committee that, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Air said during Second Reading, there is no question of giving any Minister retrospective indemnity. We are not conscious of doubt having arisen about whether any action taken by any Minister with regard to this class of legislation can be called into question. Therefore I can relieve hon. Members opposite of any anxiety in that respect. We are not trying by a side-wind to indemnify any particular Minister in respect of any action he has already taken. That is not our purpose in making this provision retrospective, whether it is declaratory or whether it confers additional powers.

We are making this provision retrospective because if we did not do so we would be importing a doubt as to what the pre-existing legislation means. Hon. Members who have had cause to consider drafting problems will be very familiar with that kind of question. In a subsequent Act of Parliament wording is introduced, and as a result doubts begin to arise as to whether action which was thought to be safe and within the four corners of the pre-existing legislation is in fact covered. We thought it desirable to make this provision retrospective because we felt that if we did not, if in 1951 we suddenly began to indicate for the first time that defence measures were within the provisions of these successor Supplies and Services Acts, we would begin to raise all sorts of doubts in the minds of those who are already administering these matters under the terms of the previous Acts.

I hope hon. Members opposite will agree that it would be most undesirable to give rise to those sorts of doubts. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) was Attorney-General at one time, and he will know perfectly well the danger of that kind of thing arising. If in 1951 we suddenly started enacting that, in effect, anything to do with defence is now for the first time to be included in this scheme of legislation, we should immediately begin to give rise to doubts in the minds of those who have to consider the pre-existing legislation as to how far it went.

Hon. Members will be familiar with the 1945 and 1947 Acts and will know the general terms of the purposes embodied in those Acts. The relevant purpose in the 1945 Act is for the purpose of so maintaining controlling and regulating supplies and services as—(a) to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community. Those words, which go very far, are supplemented by the further words in Section 1 (1, c) of the 1947 Act, which deals with ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community. Now, of necessity it is not possible to put any precise limit on those words. During Second Reading, hon. Members opposite gave expression to their general view on these enabling Acts. Those broad questions of policy are not immediately relevant to the rather narrow issue we are now discussing, and when they see our purpose in making this retrospective I hope they will feel it would have been very foolish not to make it retrospective, whether or not it is declaratory.

I have indicated the difficulty I find in answering the question whether, strictly, it is declaratory or whether it goes further, but I hope the Committee will agree, on looking at it, that from the commonsense point of view there is no alternative but to take the course we have in order not to give rise to the innumerable doubts which would make it extremely difficult to implement this Bill and the other two Acts. It is for that reason that this provision is put in. In particular, I hope their anxiety that this was really a side-wind device to give indemnity to some Minister without indicating to the Committee that it was being done will have vanished. We are not doing so. We are simply making this provision retrospective for the purpose I have indicated, and I hope the Committee will accept it.

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)

In listening to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said I had in front of me the main provisions of the old Acts, and I am bound to say it comes as a shock to me to think that under those provisions it would be legally possible to requisition on a large scale ships to take troops and supplies to Korea. That seems to me to be stretching the words of those Acts beyond any possible legal interpretation. When speaking of supplies and services, to say that the phrases to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community or their equitable distribution, or their availability at fair prices, and generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community, authorise a general requisitioning of the mercantile marine to take troops and supplies to Korea seems to me almost beyond the belief to which any party in this Committee could come.

In those circumstances, the existing retrospective legislation, if it is to cover those actions, becomes obviously necessary; but then the Committee has been completely deceived by what was said by the Secretary of State for Air when he told the House that it was not to cover any action of that sort, which clearly went beyond the law as it exists. Therefore it seems essential that the Committee should realise that it is not a question of possibility but of very great probability that this Committee is being now asked to make legal what was illegal six months ago.

It is something which obviously the Government have got to do, but the Government should have come here straight away, when they would have got those powers, as this House always gives powers for anything which is essential to defence or anything of that nature. But to have this Bill introduced, as the Foreign Secretary said, as a matter of minor importance giving only a few unessential powers, when anybody who took the trouble to read Clause 1 would see that it was for conferring vast additional powers on the Executive, then to be told by the Secretary of State for Air that there was nothing of this sort in contemplation, then to listen to the speech we have just heard from the Solicitor-General, to look at the phrases in the old Acts and then to be asked to believe that nothing substantial is being done by making this Bill retrospective, is to my mind beyond what reasonable men should be asked to accept.

4.0 p.m.

The Committee should realise that it is essential that the Government should have these retrospective powers to justify what has been done in respect of Korea, and it is up to the Committee to make up its mind in the circumstances whether they are going to grant them. If the Government had come to the House immediately the Korea affair started and informed the House what powers they required in order to get forces and supplies to Korea and had said that there was a perfectly obvious doubt about the matter, I do not think that the learned Attorney-General or the learned Solicitor-General would have had the slightest hesitation in advising that the House should give the Departments the powers essential, so that they could have clear powers to do what they wanted to do.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) is a very distinguished member of a profession to which I in a humble capacity also belong, but I must say that I found that the argument which he addressed to the Committee extraordinary. If he is right, it means that all that has been done since last June to carry out our obligations to the United Nations has been done without any legal powers—

Sir P. Spens

Under the existing Acts.

Mr. Silverman

I am wondering when it was that the hon. and learned Gentleman found that out, because, so far as I know, there has not been a single question during all these months directed either from the Opposition or from this side of the Committee to the Government about it What has the hon. and learned Gentle- man been doing all that time? Has he known about it all that time and kept silent, allowing the executive to do things which it had no legal power to do at all?

Sir P. Spens

If the hon. Gentleman really wants an answer, it is this: The attention of the House was not drawn to the matter at all until this Bill was introduced. The present Foreign Secretary said that there was nothing in this Bill of any importance. The Secretary of State for Air said that there was no question of validating anything that had been wrongly done in the past.

The Solicitor-General

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is under a misapprehension for which, I am quite sure, I was responsible. No ships in fact were requisitioned. I say quite frankly that I think that the previous Acts would not have covered requisitioning. The doubt was whether the previous Acts would have covered requisitioning. I think that probably they would not have done so. The fact was that these ships were not requisitioned for that purpose; they were chartered. The necessity may arise to requisition ships, and it is in order that power should be clearly within the existing powers that we are introducing this Bill.

Sir P. Spens

If the Government require new powers they can get them without this retrospective action. They have done nothing wrong in the past.

Mr. Silverman

If they have done nothing wrong in the past, there is no reason why the hon. and learned Gentleman should have made his speech at all.

Sir P. Spens

I confess at once that I understood from the learned Solicitor-General that ships had been requisitioned since the war in Korea began. I understand now that none has been requisitioned. All I can say is that that makes the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech for retrospective legislation far weaker than it was.

Mr. Silverman

I thought that what the Solicitor-General was doing was to make this declaratory and not retrospective. I thought that the difference between declaratory legislation and retrospective legislation was this: In the case of retrospective legislation, one was legislating in order to make legal an act done that was illegal when it was done; whereas declaratory legislation makes clear the legality of an act if it is done, though the actual act has not in fact been done.

Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)


Mr. Silverman

I think that is perfectly clear, and if the hon. Gentleman will exercise his very real intelligence, which he does occasionally though not often in his contributions to the Committee, he will see the point which I am making. Whether a particular phrase in a particular Act of Parliament is retrospective in its effect or declaratory in its effect depends largely on whether acts have been done or not, and if there are any invalid acts to validate.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman was thinking of the requisitioning of ships then, of course, he could have no complaint or objection to the declaratory phrase which the object of this Amendment is to remove from the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman no doubt clearly sees that if the Committee were to accept the Amendment, on his argument, there would be no power to requisition ships to take troops to Korea or to bring them home.

Sir P. Spens


Mr. Silverman

Is that not right? If not, perhaps he will explain. I thought that what he was saying was: Of course the Government ought to have power to requisition ships. If under the old Act they had not the power to requisition ships, they ought to take that power to requisition ships. If, in the words in the Bill, as the Government have drawn it, they will in future have that power, of what is the hon. and learned Gentleman complaining?

Sir P. Spens

If these words are left out, the Government will take and will have in the future, the powers which they want.

Mr. Silverman

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman must make up his mind. If his point is that the words now in the Bill give the Government powers which they did not have before, then it is impossible to regard his objection as anything but empty rhetoric. If, on the other hand, he thinks that the words now give the Government power which they had not before, and if he concedes that the Government ought to have that power, then it is impossible to think that he will oppose the Bill. He did not go so far in his speech as to say that he supported the Amendment. Perhaps the explanation of that is that he carefully avoided saying any such thing because it would be completely inconsistent with his argument.

That seems to me to dispose of the non-political side of his argument. When we come to put it into its political context, then perhaps his argument is not so difficult to understand, coming from where it does. Hon. Members opposite have always had a limited view on the well-being of the community. His argument was that the words "well-being of the community" were not sufficient to cover us. There may be a difference of opinion as to how far this kind of action should take place and when and in what variety of political conditions; but to say that the question of the peace of the world is not contained in the idea of the well-being of the community is an idea which could only be put forward from that side of the Committee and which would never be accepted on this side. I should have thought, if there was any doubt, "the well-being of the community," as properly understood, would certainly give the Government powers to deal with all the matters that have been in dispute between the two sides in the course of this discussion.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

Is not the hon. Member putting forward a case in direct contradiction to that put forward by the Solicitor-General, who said that it was necessary because he had some doubts? I take it that the hon. Member does not have any doubts.

Mr. Silverman

I do not think it very important whether I have any doubts or not. What I am saying is that if there are any circumstances, or any persons, or any set of facts which might import into this phrase any degree of doubt, if it was argued in any responsible quarter that there is some doubt, then it is surely a very good thing to have that doubt removed, especially if, at the same time, it is conceded the law is not being altered.

Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)

I understood the Solicitor-General to say that in his opinion the previous Acts did not cover requisitioning.

Mr. Silverman


Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I should like to get it clear.

The Solicitor-General

On balance, although I think it is arguable both ways, I think the previous Acts would not cover requisitioning.

Mr. Silverman

That is the exact situation in which a declaratory Clause is obviously the appropriate course to take when there is a new Bill. If there is a balance of argument, if some may interpret one way and some another, then those are ideal circumstances in which to have a declaratory phrase to resolve the matter. The alternative is to leave the doubt in every one's mind, leaving it to be argued and challenged in the courts, and leaving, if the Solicitor-General is right, the balance of the argument on the side where every one does not want it to be.

Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

The hon. Member says that there is doubt and that all we need is a declaratory statement to resolve the doubt. The doubt is about the requisitioning of ships.

Mr. Silverman

It never happened.

Mr. Hopkin Morris

Then whether the doubt is there or not is quite immaterial.

Mr. Silverman

I think that the hon. and learned Member has inadvertently missed my point. Suppose that in future we wanted to requisition ships. We are back again to the point I thought we had disposed of—the difference between declaratory and retrospective legislation. It is desired that the Government shall have power to requisition ships. There is doubt whether under the old Acts there would have been any such powers. If the Government had in fact requisitioned ships, then in those circumstances this phrase that it is sought to delete would have been retrospective legislation. But since these acts did not take place, these words are not retrospective legislation but declaratory legislation to which there cannot be any objection.

4.15 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Bristol, North-West)

The Committee is working under a certain handicap, in that the Ministers who first paraded this Bill on Second Reading have disappeared from the scene. We are now confronted with a change of bowling at both ends. At one end we have the Minister of Labour, always a versatile player, who looks to me as if he would rather be over here ridiculing these words—he would enjoy himself greatly—and at the other the Solicitor-General who, I imagine, is loosening his muscles prior to the lengthy spell he will shortly be having on the Finance Bill—I imagine that he has been put up to introduce that soothing atmosphere which he always imparts to our discussions.

I was glad to hear the Solicitor-General say one thing, which will now be on record, namely, that he and his friends disapprove of a general indemnity for something that has happened in the past. He feels, with us, that where a Minister takes action which is not covered by legislation there should be a special Bill to indemnify the Minister for that action, rather than have it put into a Bill of this kind by a side wind. We agree that there should not be restrospective legislation of any kind without some compelling and good reason.

I followed the right hon. and learned Gentleman so far, but it was when he moved to his next point that he confused me. That confusion has been added to considerably by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that the retrospective aspect of these words was to remove some doubt which existed in the mind of the Government regarding their powers under previous legislation. I take that to mean the Supplies and Services Acts of 1945 and 1947, which were of course a hang-over from the sweeping powers taken during the war and were revised in the aftermath of the last Parliament.

The Solicitor-General went on to say that nothing has gone wrong since; that no Minister has committed any act which requires indemnity. Nothing has gone wrong, and because nothing has gone wrong we must take retrospective powers about the future. That is where, in my lay mind, I begin to feel how right it was that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) introduced the simile of the adventures of Alice in "Through the Looking-Glass." Therefore, this Bill is surely concerned only with the present or the future. That seems inescapable.

Then came my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), who, with his great legal knowledge, stressed much the same point about the powers which existed under the Acts of 1945 and 1947 and reminded the Committee, as did the Solicitor-General, that the necessity for all this arose to a considerable extent from the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, which has become an almost universal umbrella for all kinds of unpleasant happenings, such as the rise in the cost of living—it now has a close rival in the battle of Waterloo after Saturday night.

Nothing has gone wrong over the requisitioning of ships, we are told, but then the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne rises and says that it is all right as it is purely declaratory and we must make quite certain that nothing could have gone wrong since July last. But if nothing has gone wrong since the Korean aggression in June, and we have now got to the month of April, 1951, without any improper action by the Government then what we are now trying to do is to arm the Government with the necessary powers for the future and for the present. That is surely the first object.

I cannot follow the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, who is so anxious to have these words included. There is no one to indemnify, and, therefore, they are unnecessary. I am sure that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman were sitting over here he would say that the words were redundant and even otiose. The Government would lose nothing by accepting the Amendment. They would lose no powers of any kind. They would still be fully equipped. I do not believe that the Solicitor-General has made out a case for the retention of these words, because they are no longer necessary. I cannot see how one can deal with the future in retrospect. If the Government want to avoid making themselves ridiculous in yet another field, they would be wise to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

From the discussion that we have had it seems that the Opposition do not know what they want or the reason why they are putting forward the Amendment. I hope that before the debate is finished the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) or the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will give us their opinion whether or not it is necessary for these words to remain to cover anything that has been done since the beginning of the episode in Korea.

Shortly before the defence powers under the Supplies and Services Acts were due to expire in December, we had a debate on 23rd October as to whether or not the existing powers under the Supplies and Services Acts of 1945 and 1947 should be renewed for another year. In October the events in Korea were very much in everybody's mind. The Leader of the House indicated why the existing defence regulations under those Acts should be renewed for another year; arguments were put forward based principally on the situation in which the events in Korea were taking place, the great debate we had had about the defence of the country, and the fact that we were committed to certain measures of re-armament, and so forth.

Both sides of the House agreed that for the purposes of defence and preserving peace it was essential to renew those Acts. The only point on which any divergence occurred between the two sides was whether it was necessary for those wide powers to be retained by the Executive in peace-time. We thought they should, but the Opposition were opposed to it. But the Opposition conceded, because of the critical international situation which had then arisen, that it was essential to renew those powers for a year.

The odd thing was that not a single hon. Gentleman opposite said—as presumably some of them will now say if they are honest in supporting the Amendment—that merely to renew the existing defence powers was not enough and that we needed to go further and to extend the purposes for which the defence regulations existed. It was assumed all round that the existing powers under those Acts were fully sufficient for all the purposes for which they were wanted and particularly for Korea, requisitioning ships, dealing with military preparations and so forth.

The Government have now introduced this Bill, and particularly this Clause, with what is called "retrospective operation" because there may be some doubt as to whether what everybody agreed in October was or was not the case. The Opposition are very prompt in criticising the Government on what they are pleased to call "retrospective legislation," but there is nothing of a retrospective character in the words proposed to be left out by the Amendment.

I do not entirely agree with the distinction drawn by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) between retrospective legislation and declaratory legislation. Retrospective legislation, which the House has agreed is normal and proper in certain circumstances, is designed to legalise something which was quite definitely illegal at the time it was done. Declaratory legislation is intended to declare, so that there shall be no doubt whatever in future, something about which there was a doubt and which may or may not have been legal at the time it was done.

Opinions may differ as to whether or not what the House assumed to be correct in October was or was not so. The only possible object of the declaratory words in the Clause is to give effect to the state of the law as hon. Members on both sides of the House assumed it to be in October last. For that reason, there seems to be no substance or sincerity in the Amendment.

Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)

I hope that one immodest legislator may forgivably thrust his way in where there have been so many modest lawyers, because I think that even my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Lieut-Commander Braithwaite) is in this matter a kind of a sea-lawyer, and I am bound to admit that when he spoke I did not think he was as good a sea-lawyer as I had supposed before, because he persisted in talking about side winds as if they were indecent, which I assure him—and so would anyone who has been "in sail" as they say—is not the fact.

I really was puzzled by the Solicitor-General and a good deal more puzzled by his reinforcements from below the Gangway. Of course, it is true that no absolute and unadulterated good can be done except in eternity and by omnipotence. The nature of human life—I am speaking with the utmost seriousness, and all amateur theologians present will, I am sure, agree with me—is that the human mind cannot conceive, still less execute, what is wholly good. We really must not be taken in by arguments of hon. and even learned Gentlemen who say that, provided they announce beforehand, "This is for the good of the people, or the well-being of the community, or the equitable distribution of material goods," they thereby put it out of court that there should be any criticism or resistance. As far as I could gather, that really was the substantial argument from below the Gangway.

4.30 p.m.

That the words in fact are retrospective seems quite plain to a layman on the face of it and, as I understand it, this was not merely admitted but asseverated by the Solicitor-General. He made it quite plain in terms that the Government had decided that it was necessary to make this provision retrospective. They cannot have thought of that merely to fill in some logical but not practical gap. I can quite understand the motive for making a provision that one's great grandfather was legitimate retrospective, if one wanted something to happen, legally, between the date of his unfortunate conception and one's own miserable appearance upon this sublunary scene. In the present case, the proudest boast of those who are responsible for its conception is that nothing ever came of it. That leaves one slightly puzzled.

Although I am putting this point in a form which appears risible I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will take it seriously. If they are going to start laughing at me then my pride will compel me to go on until I have convinced them that this is a serious point.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)

I am not laughing at the hon. Gentleman, but with him.

Mr. Pickthorn

I know. I was not grumbling about it, but merely trying to get the flattery down in HANSARD.

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Gentleman will find it very lonely.

Mr. Pickthorn

Perhaps I might go back for a moment to something which was said from a point so far above me in station, from South Kensington (Sir P. Spens.) The Committee will remember the argument which came to us from South Kensington. I think that it had an important corollary which I do not think was specifically made. It is that upon the argument used by the Solicitor-General, and still more upon the argument from below the Gangway, it is difficult to see how in future Parliament is ever going to give powers for any at all general purpose without giving them for every other benevolent purpose. I do not know whether the Solicitor-General can bear to listen to this point, because I expect he has already seen it. If the argument used by himself and the fears from South Kensington are right, how in future is the House of Commons ever going so to draft a Clause as to give an at all general power without the generality becoming a universality?

If it is to be said that for any general estimable purpose we could not do any good and do it wholly well without reaching all the other estimable purposes too, and that therefore because the general power was given in order to improve, say, the character of children or the distribution of milk, and because those things are all tied up with importing coarse grains from Manchuria or what not, and that therefore all other good purposes must be held not only to be, but always to have been, subsumed under and in the general power—if that is the argument—it is a serious matter for consideration whether we are not really making it impossible for Parliament in future ever to grant the Executive a general benevolent power for a highly estimable, in itself, unchallengeable object, without thereby granting those powers for all other estimable and hardly challengeable objects. The point I have been making seems to make the general argument against retrospection very much more difficult to remove in this specific case.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)

I apologise to the Solicitor-General because I missed his speech, and because I do not normally intervene in a debate, even for a short time, without having heard the speech of the Minister. I want to reinforce some of the things which have been said, and in particular to answer some of the arguments of the two hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who thought that the Amendment was unwise. The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), kept speaking of "what is called 'this retrospective provision'." I wonder why he can never understand a retrospective provision or recognise one when he sees one. One thing which is admitted in every quarter of the Committee by those most competent to speak is that this is a retrospective provision. It may be wise or unwise, but that it is retrospective cannot be doubted.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), to whose argument I listened with care, as I always do, thought that the provision was not retrospective on the ground that it was declaratory. I think that, on reconsideration, he will probably agree with me that you can only call a provision in a statute "declaratory" if it declares what is believed to be the law. In so far as the Clause contains the words which we are attacking, it declares—to adopt the hon. Gentleman's phrase—as law in the past something which the Solicitor-General has said he believes was not law in the past. To say that we can describe as "declaratory" a provision that makes a false declaration about the law is an abuse of language. We can only describe a provision in a statute as declaratory if it declares what in fact is believed to be the law.

Mr. S. Silverman

That cannot be quite right, can it? If a provision resolves doubts about the interpretation of a statute because a subsequent law has altered it, that is assuredly retrospective. If it is conceded that there is a doubt whether the law might be declared to be this or to be that then the law which declares it to be this or that is assuredly declaratory.

Mr. Strauss

I do not think that the hon. Member is quite right in thinking that the words "declaratory" and "retrospective" are mutually exclusive. I think that he is labouring under a slight confusion. If we want to excuse what is at first sight a retrospective provision by saying that it is only declaratory, my submission is that that is only tolerable if what we declare to be the law is what the best authorities in the law declare was the law. The Solicitor-General has said, in so far as the words which we are attacking are concerned, that the effect of adopting them in the Bill is to declare that to have been law in the past which in fact was not the law in the past.

My next submission, in which I hope most hon. Members will agree with me, is that to do any such thing is wholly improper, unless an absolute necessity for doing it is proved. To declare that something has been the law which the Law Officers of the Crown advise us was not the law, seems, unless some case is put forward for doing it, a quite intolerable thing for the Committee to do.

Mr. S. Silverman


Mr. Strauss

From the moment when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the Government will have all the powers that they desire. The Government have no reason to think that there will be any act which they will want to cover, considering what has happened in the past and what will happen in the period between the present moment and the time when the Bill becomes an Act. Nevertheless, they ask us to pass these extraordinarily wide words, which will cover anything. There is no reason to think that there will be anything that the Government will wish to cover, but if something does occur, for which the Government need some indemnity, then it is surely better for them to come to this House and to describe what it is they want covered and for this House in a proper case to give an indemnity.

To give an indemnity which will cover anything at a time when the Government have, in fact, nothing to which they can point as needing to be covered seems to be an intolerable abuse of the process of legislation. It is really reducing the care of Parliament for the rights of the citizen to an absolute nullity. We are taking no care at all. At the moment there is some doubt about the power which the Government may want in the future, and so the Government say, "Not only shall we have this power in the future, but it shall be deemed that we have always had it in the past." That is an intolerable situation. It is far better to come to the House and ask for an indemnity for specific matters if such indemnity is needed, than to put in such wide words as would cover everything, and then come to this Committee and ask for those words to be made law.

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

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), was good enough to address a question to me. He asked whether in view of the Korean situation I or any of my colleagues favoured the giving of the powers provided by this Bill. In so far as I am in order in answering that question on this Amendment, the answer must manifestly be "Yes." However, that does not conclude the matter of this Amendment as he appears to feel. We have had assurances given twice in this House. We had an assurance from the Secretary of State for Air six weeks ago, and another today that there are no acts taken by His Majesty's Government, which require the cover given by the retrospective provision of these words, with which alone at this moment the Committee is concerned.

If the hon. Member for Islington, East, will allow me, I would say that he was barking up the wrong tree when he introduced the Korean war into this matter. I believe that defence is a legitimate purpose for using Defence Regulations. Indeed, I might be tempted to suggest that other purposes were infinitely less legitimate, but when we are assured that there is not one single act taken by a Minister of the Crown for which the provision of these words is required to give a legal cover, it is making nonsense of the legislative process of this House to provide a cover of indemnity for acts which we are solemnly assured have never taken place at all.

It is a harsh thing to say, but I think that the Solicitor-General did even worse than the Secretary of State for Air. He said that the object of these words was to remove a doubt as to what pre-existing legislation means. To leave it like that was a little bit unworthy of him. If there are no acts with which pre-existing legislation is concerned, what does it matter if there is an academic doubt suitable for discussion over senior commonroom tables? It is no purpose of the legislature to indemnify academic doubts existing in the past. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to do that, he might try retrospectively to amend the Statute on Treason, and he would have a great deal of fun over that.

4.45 p.m.

If there are no acts taken in the prosecution of the Korean war or for the purposes of defence needing to be covered by this provision, which we are solemnly asked to believe is an academic provision, it seems to me that it is not morally right for a Committee of the House of Commons to give its assent to it. Surely it is our duty only to assent to Ministerial legislative proposals where practical need for them is made out by a Minister of the Crown. When these proposals are commended by a Minister of the Crown on the unique ground that there is no need for them whatever, it seems to me to be the duty of this Committee to reject them.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

After the discussion which we have had I hope the Government will agree to accept this Amendment, because during the time we have been discussing it no one has suggested a single reason for these words being in the Bill. We have been assured time and time again that nothing has been done which is outside the purview of existing Acts. My point in regard to this form of legislation—I am sure the Minister of Labour will consider seriously the point that I am making—is that in order to use it the Minister must put his hand on his heart and say, "The act which I am now operating is necessary for the purposes laid down in the Act." Whether that act is intra vires or ultra vires depends on the purposes outlined. Here the position and the intention is to include a new purpose.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had come to this House and said, "We are extremely sorry, but in the sudden emergency with which we are faced, certain acts have taken place," that would be a matter which we should have to consider. It is an important thing that if one is asking for an indemnity, it should be in the form of an indemnity, and that is what we should be prepared to consider. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman has come to this Committee and has told us that there are no acts of which he knows which are ultra vires. Then he says, "Of course, if we had done certain things they would have been ultra vires." Do not let us be in any doubt about this—the Opposition are prepared to help the Government in regard to future acts. If we omit the words, and always to have included", there remain the words deemed to include", which means that from the date of the passage of this Bill full powers are given, and everything that the Government want is given.

Hon. Members may put to us the query, if that is the position what is the harm in leaving the words in? If this Committee is going to leave in a Bill words with retrospective effect without any cause being made out for them at all, we are abdicating our position, and I know very well that if right hon. Gentlemen opposite were on these benches they would not tolerate that form of legislative procedure. In all the 16 years that I have had the honour to be in the House I have never known any party in opposition—indeed, on many occasions I am glad to think Government supporters have joined in refusing it—allowing retrospective legislation unless a case is made out. The essence of the approach of the Government today is that there is no case for it. Therefore I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of the position of this House as a legislative body, to reconsider the position of the Government.

I do not want to traverse the ground which my hon. Friends have covered so well, but I want to make the following point. The framework of this Measure is based on the words "deemed to include"; that is, we are adding to the old purposes some new purposes and saying that the old purposes shall from this date be deemed to include the new ones. That makes it perfectly clear, on any construction which I have ever heard, that up to this time they do not include the new purposes.

Therefore, to suggest that this can be slipped in, that we can salve our consciences with the ideas that we are merely passing declaratory legislation, is not only wrong, but is clearly manifestly wrong, from the very basis of the Measure we are discussing. In fact we are not only doing something which is useless, we are proclaiming ourselves to be fools and idiots by doing it. To put it shortly, either give us a reason for this, tell us some acts of which the Government are afraid, or else accept this Amendment. Unless that is done, I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the Committee on this point.

The Solicitor-General

I should like to reply shortly to the debate. I am sure it is entirely my own fault, but hon. Members opposite have attached too much importance to one part of my argument and have almost overlooked the other part of it. I instanced the requisitioning of ships and the denying of supplies to potential enemies as being two things which we thought on balance were outside the purview of existing legislation. I said that we had not, in fact, requisitioned ships, but I added that we might want to do so at any time and therefore we have to be certain that we had the power to do so should the occasion arise.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to interrupt? We cannot be at cross purposes in that. If I may say so, I know him and his attainments too well. He has these powers from this Measure by the words "deemed to include" and they operate from the time the Act is passed. We are quite prepared to give him the powers for the future, but we want to know why it is that he requires these powers in the past.

The Solicitor-General

The right hon. and learned Gentleman interrupted me when I was just about to give the reason, good or bad, which I had given already in the course of my arguments because hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think, have not appreciated the importance that we attach to it. In my earlier remarks I said that the reason which actuates us is that we are frightened that if we do not make this provision retrospective a number of doubts may arise on various matters as to which at the moment there is no doubt. May I indicate why? The 1945 and 1947 Acts are undoubtedly primarily directed towards economic rehabilitation—if I may use that as a broad expression.

But we have always thought that, with the exception of those two matters—the requisitioning of ships and the denying of supplies to potential enemies which, of course, may arise hereafter—we could say that defence was one of the services essential to the community. Therefore we have always thought that the Acts as they existed, broadly speaking, covered the requirements of defence.

The reason why we make these provisions retrospective is because, there being on the Statute Book two statutes primarily directed to economic questions, if we now in 1951 proceed to extend them in terms to defence matters, doubts may arise and may seriously perplex persons who have administered the previous Acts as to whether defence questions were ever within the purview of those Acts. That may be a fear which is justified or not, but it certainly actuates us. That was the reason I gave when I first addressed the Committee on this subject.

Whether hon. Members opposite agree with the reason or not I hope they will agree that the case has been made. Having listened to the arguments adduced, I would not be disposed to advise my hon. Friends to accept this Amendment.

Mr. Marlowe (Hove) rose

Mr. R. J. Taylor rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 225; Noes, 197.

Division No. 65.] AYES [4.58 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Brown, George (Belper) Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)
Adams, H. R. Brown, Thomas (Ince) de Freitas, G.
Albu, A. H. Burton, Miss E. Deer, G.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Delargy, H. J.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Callaghan, L. J. Diamond, J.
Ayles, W. H. Carmichael, J. Dodos, N. N.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Castle, Mrs. B. A. Donnelly, D.
Bartley, P. Champion, A. J. Driberg, T. E. N.
Benn, Wedgwood Clunie, J Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W Bromwich)
Benson, G. Cocks, F. S. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Beswick, F. Coldrick, W Edelman, M.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Collick, P. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich, E.) Cook, T. F. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Blenkinsop, A. Cooper, John (Deptford) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
Blyton, W. R. Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
Booth, A. Cove, W. G. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Bottomley, A. G. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Ewart, R.
Bowden, H. W. Crosland, C. A. R. Fernyhough, E.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Crossman, R. H. S. Field, Capt. W. J.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Cullen, Mrs. A. Finch, H. J.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Daines, P. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Follick, M.
Brought, Dr. A. D. D. Darling, George (Hillsborough) Foot, M. M.
Forman, J. C. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lindgren, G. S. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Logan, D. G. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Gibson, C. W. Longden, Fred (Small Heath) Simmons, C. J.
Gilzean, A. McAllister, G. Slater, J
Glanville, James (Consett) MacColl, J. E. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Gooch, E. G. McGhee, H. G. Snow, J. W.
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. McInnes, J. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Mack, J. D. Sparks, J. A.
Grenfell, D. R. McKay, John (Wallsend) Steele, T
Grey, C. F. McLeavy, F Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mainwaring, W. H. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Gunter, R. J. Mann, Mrs. Jean Stross, Dr. Barnett
Hale, Joseph (Rochdale) Manuel, A. C. Sylvester, G. O.
Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hamilton, W. W. Mathers, Rt. Hon. G. Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)
Hannan, W. Messer, F. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Hardman, D. R. Middleton, Mrs. L. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Hardy, E. A. Mikardo, Ian Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Hargreaves, A Mitchison, G. R. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Harrison, J. Moeran, E. W. Thurtle, Ernest
Hastings, S. Monslow, W. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hayman, F. H. Moody, A. S. Ungoed-Thomas, A. L.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Vernon, W. F.
Holman, P. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Viant, S. P.
Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Wallace, H. W.
Houghton, D. Mort, D. L. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Hubbard, T. Moyle, A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Murray, J. D. West, D. G.
Hughes, Moelwyn (Islington, N.) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. (Edinb'gh, E.)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Oliver, G. H. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Paget, R. T. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Wigg, G.
Janner, B. Pannell, T. C. Wilkins, W. A.
Jay, D. P. T. Pargiter, G. A. Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)
Jeger, George (Goole) Parker, J. Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Jenkins, R. H. Paton, J. Williams, David (Neath)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Pearson, A. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Peart, T. F. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Poole, C. Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S) Popplewell, E. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Porter, G. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Pursey, Cmdr. H. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Keenan, W. Rankin, J. Wise, F. J.
Kenyon, C. Rees, Mrs. D. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Wyatt, W. L.
Kinley, J. Reid, William (Camlachie) Yates, V. F.
Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D. Rhodes, H.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Mr. Royle and
Mr. Kenneth Robinson.
Aitken, W. T. Bullock, Capt. M. Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond)
Alport, C. J. M. Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Burden, Squadron Leader F. A. Duthie, W. S.
Arbuthnot, John Butcher, H. W. Eccles, D. M.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Eden, Rt. Hon. A.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Erroll, F. J.
Baldwin, A. E. Channon, H. Fisher, Nigel
Banks, Col. C. Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Fort, R.
Baxter, A. B. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Foster, John
Beamish, Major Tufton Colegate, A. Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lonsdale)
Bell, R. M. Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Corbett, Lt.-Col. Uvedale (Ludlow) Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Bennett, William (Woodside) Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Gammans, L. D.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Cranborne, Viscount Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)
Birch, Nigel Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Gates, Maj. E. E.
Bishop, F. P. Crouch, R. F. Gridley, Sir Arnold
Black, C. W. Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Blackburn, A. R. Cundiff, F. W. Grimston, Robert (Westbury)
Bossom, A. C. Davidson, Viscountess Harden, J. R. E.
Bowen, E. R. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Boyle, Sir Edward de Chair, Somerset Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Braine, B. R. De la Bère, R. Heald, Lionel
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. Gurney Deedes, W. F. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Donner, P. W. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Browne, Jack (Govan) Drayson, G. B. Hinchingbrook, Viscount
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Drewe, C Hollis, M. C.
Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Maude, Angus (Ealing, S.) Snadden, W. McN.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Maudling R. Soames, Capt. C.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N,.) Mellor, Sir John Spearman, A. C. M.
Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport) Molson, A. H. E. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Hurd, A. R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Nabarro, G. Storey, S.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Nicholls, Harmar Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Hutchison, Colonel James Nicholson, G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Nield, Basil (Chester) Studholme, H. G.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Summers, G. S.
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Nugent, G. R. H. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Nutting, Anthony Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Odey, G. W. Thorneycroft, Peter (Monmouth)
Linstead, H. N. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Llewellyn, D. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Touche, G. C.
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (King's Norton) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Turner, H. F. L.
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Turton, R. H.
Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Osborne, C. Vane, W. M. F.
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Perkins, W. R. D. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Pickthorn, K. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
McAddon, S. J. Powell, J. Enoch Watkinson, H.
McCallum, Major D. Prescott, S. Watt, Sir George Harvie
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Webbe, Sir Harold
Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight) Profumo, J. D. Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Raikes, H. V. White, Baker (Canterbury)
McKibbin, A. Redmayne, M. Williams, Charles (Torquay)
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Remnant, Hon. P. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Roper, Sir Harold Wills, G.
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Ropner, Col. L. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries) Russell, R. S. Wood, Hon. R.
Manningham-Butler, R. E. Savory, Prof. D. L. York, C.
Marlowe, A. A. H. Scott, Donald
Marples, A. E. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Smith, E. Martin (Grantham) Mr. Digby and Mr. Edward Heath.
Marshall, Sidney (Sutton) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 225; Noes, 196.

Division No. 66.] AYES [5.8 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Cooper, John (Deptford) Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Adams, H. R. Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham) Gibson, C. W.
Albu, A. H. Cove, W. G. Gilzean, A.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Glanville, James (Consett)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Crosland, C. A. R. Gooch, E. G.
Ayles, W. H. Crossman, R. H. S. Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Cullen, Mrs. A. Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)
Bartley, P. Daines, P. Grey, C. F.
Benn, Wedgwood Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Benson, G. Darling, George (Hillsborough) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Beswick, F. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Griffiths, R. J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) de Freitas, G. Hale, Joseph (Rochdale)
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich, E.) Deer, G. Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)
Blenkinsop, A. Delargy, H. J. Hamilton, W. W.
Blyton, W. R. Diamond, J. Hannan, W.
Booth, A. Dodds, N. N. Hardman, D. R.
Bottomley, A. G. Donnelly, D. Hardy, E. A.
Bowden, H. W. Driberg, T. E. N. Hargreaves, A
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Harrison, J.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hastings, S.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Edelman, M. Hayman, F. H.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Hewitson, Capt. M.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Holman, P.
Brown, George (Belper) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Houghton, D.
Burton, Miss E. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Hubbard, T.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Ewart, R. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Callaghan, L. J. Fernyhough, E. Hughes, Moelwyn (Islington, N.)
Carmichael, J. Field, Capt. W. J. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Finch, H. J. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Champion, A. J. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Clunie, J. Follick, M. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Cocks, F. S. Foot, M. M. Janner, B.
Coldrick, W. Forman, J. C. Jay, D. P. T.
Collick, P. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jeger, George (Goole)
Cook, T. F. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Jenkins, R. H.
Johnson, James (Rugby) Mort, D. L. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Moyle, A. Sylvester, G. O.
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Murray, J. D. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Oliver, G. H. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Keenan, W. Paget, R. T. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Kenyon, C. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Pannell, T. C. Thurtle, Ernest
Kinley, J. Pargiter, G. A. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D. Parker, J. Turner-Samuels, M.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Paton, J. Vernon, W. F.
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Pearson, A. Viant, S. P.
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham. N.) Peart, T. F. Wallace, H. W.
Lindgren, G. S. Poole, C. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Popplewell, E. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Logan, D. G. Porter, G. West, D. G.
Longden, Fred (Small Heath) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. (Edinb'gh, E.)
McAllister, G. Pursey, Cmdr. H. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
MacColl, J. E. Rankin, J. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
McGhee, H. G. Rees, Mrs. D. Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.
McInnes, J. Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Wigg, G.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Reid, William (Camlachie) Wilkins, W. A.
McLeavy, F. Rhodes, H. Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Mainwaring, W. H. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Williams, David (Neath)
Mann, Mrs. Jean Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Manuel, A. C. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)
Mathers, Rt. Hon. G. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Messer, F. Simmons, C. J. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Middleton, Mrs. L. Slater, J. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Mikardo, Ian Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Wise, F. J.
Mitchison, G. R. Snow, J. W. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Moeran, E. W. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank Wyatt, W. L.
Monslow, W. Sparks, J. A. Yates, V. F.
Moody, A. S. Steele, T.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Mr. Royle and
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Mr. Kenneth Robinson.
Aitken, W. T. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Alport, C. J. M. Crouch, R. F. Hollis, M. C.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley) Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.
Arbuthnot, John Cundiff, F. W. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Davidson, Viscountess Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hurd, A. R.
Baldwin, A. E. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Banks, Col. C. de Chair, Somerset Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Baxter, A. B. De la Bère, R. Hutchison, Colonel James
Beamish, Major Tufton Deedes, W. F. Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Bell, R. M. Digby, S. W. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Bennett, William (Woodside) Donner, P. W. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Drayson, G. B. Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Birch, Nigel Drewe, C. Linstead, H. N.
Bishop, F. P. Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond) Llewellyn, D.
Black, C. W. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bossom, A. C. Duthie, W. S. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)
Bowen, E. R. Eccles, D. M. Low, A. R. W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Erroll, F. J. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Braine, B. R. Fisher, Nigel Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. Gurney Fort, R. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Foster, John McAdden, S. J.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lonsdale) McCallum, Major D.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Bullock, Capt. M. Gammans, L. D. Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh) McKibbin, A.
Burden, Squadron Leader F. A. Gates, Maj. E. E. McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Butcher, H. W. Gridley, Sir Arnold Maclay, Hon. John
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Grimston, Robert (Westbury) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Channon, H. Harden, J. R. E. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Colegate, A. Heald, Lionel Marples, A. E.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Heath, Edward Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Corbett, Lt.-Col. Uvedale (Ludlow) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)
Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maude, Angus (Ealing, S.)
Cranborne, Viscount Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Maudling, R.
Mellor, Sir John Profumo, J. D. Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)
Molson, A. H. E. Raikes, H. V. Thorneycroft, Peter (Monmouth)
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Redmayne, M. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Remnant, Hon. P. Touche, G. C.
Nabarro, G. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Turner, H. F. L.
Nicholls, Harmar Roper, Sir Harold Turton, R. H.
Nicholson, G. Ropner, Col. L. Vane, W. M. F.
Nield, Basil (Chester) Russell, R. S. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Savory, Prof. D. L. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Nugent, G. R. H. Scott, Donald Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Nutting, Anthony Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Odey, G. W. Smith, E. Martin (Grantham) Watkinson, H.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Watt, Sir George Harvie
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Snadden, W. McN. Webbe, Sir Harold
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Soames, Capt. C. White, Baker (Canterbury)
Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Spearman, A. C. M. Williams, Charles (Torquay)
Osborne, C. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.) Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Perkins, W. R. D. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Wills, G.
Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Storey, S. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Pickthorn, K. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Wood, Hon. R.
Powell, J. Enoch Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) York, C.
Prescott, S. Summers, G. S.
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Studholme and Major Wheatley.

Question put, and agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 2, line 13, at the end, to add: (3) Nothing in the said Act or in this section shall be held to authorise the making of any order under Regulation fifty-eight A of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939. This Amendment would make it impossible to reintroduce the direction of labour by Statutory Instrument. My object is not to discuss the merits of direction of labour on this Amendment, even if you were to allow me to do so, Sir Charles; it is to discuss the method by which direction of labour should be introduced, whether, as under this Bill it should be introduced by Statutory Instrument, or whether a different method should be adopted. I want to make it clear that I am not going into the merits of the question.

Before asking for elucidation of the view of the Government, I wish to put the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself on this matter. First, we say that the direction of labour in any permanent enactment would never be countenanced by those on this side of the Committee. Second, we say that the direction of labour in peace-time in any form could not be agreed to, unless it were shown to be quite indispensable for re-armament. Third, we say that, even if it were shown to be indispensable, it should be introduced by statute, so that the justification would be made clear in the Second Reading debate and Amendments would be able to be introduced in Committee. That being our basic view, it follows that we think that Regulation 58A could be dispensed with and that no orders should be made under it in peace-time, even for defence purposes, and this our Amendment provides.

The difficulty in which we are arises from the contradictory statements that have been made by members of the Government. Prima facie the fact that orders may be made for these new purposes makes it more likely that the Regulation will be used. Therefore, we have to examine rather carefully what the Government have said. I begin with a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 23rd October, 1950: I could not honestly and conscientiously say that within the next 12 months it is quite out of the question that we should need to make orders under this regulation. He was referring to Regulation 58A, the one dealing with the direction of labour He continued: The reason for it, of course, would be in connection with the defence programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2588.]

Mr. Bevan

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman mind reading the last part of that quotation again? He seemed to me to put something in parenthesis, as if it were a comment.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sorry. I was explaining that these words, which were actually those used by the Chancellor, referred to Regulation 58A. As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I did not intend to add any colour to the Chancellor's remarks.

I cannot give the exact words of the next statement for a reason that will be obvious to the Committee. The essence of the next Government statement was that any provision which conflicted with the freedom of the individual, such as the direction of labour, should be left out of any permanent Bill placing these powers on a permanent basis; and that if such a provision was needed, owing to difficult circumstances, the Government would come to Parliament "with an express Bill." I ask the Committee to note the words "with an express Bill," because that is very like the position which I have already declared to the Committee to be that upon which my hon. and right hon. Friends stand. That is the effect of what Lord Jowitt, the Lord Chancellor, said in another place on 2nd November, which was a few days later.

That, naturally, aroused considerable hopes that the two sides of the House might be coming together on this point. But then, five days after, there was a debate in this House in which the matter was taken up—including the statement which was made by the Lord Chancellor—by the Minister of Local Government and Planning, who set himself the task of making the matter pellucidly clear. After reading a column of what the right hon. Gentleman said, I cannot say that the clarity became any more pellucid to me, but at all events we have the advantage of his gloss upon the Lord Chancellor's statement.

It is interesting to see how he put it, in view of what I have already summarised as being what was said in another place, because the right hon. Gentleman began by saying that both the Lord Chancellor, to whom I have referred, and he himself, were speaking with the full authority of the Cabinet. He again said: the Bill we shall introduce"— that is, the permanent Bill— will not contain any provision for the direction of labour. We do not have it in mind to introduce a Bill providing for the direction of labour. He then went on to say that if there occurred some misadventure or crisis the Government would have to consider it again. Then he repeated: But we have no intention of introducing, in this Bill or in any other Bill, a provision providing for the direction of labour. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to make a fundamental mistake, because he said: A few months ago we dispensed with them,"— that is, the orders under the Regulation— to the great chagrin of the Opposition, who were looking forward to a debate which was, unfortunately for them, disposed of by the fact that a few days before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour dispensed with those powers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 889.] That was a mistake because, of course, the then Minister of Labour had not dispensed with the powers. Regulation 58A was still in operation. What he had dispensed with were the orders which he had made under the Regulation, and the Minister of Local Government and Planning was under a complete misapprehension in stating to the House that the powers had been dispensed with.

That brings up the story to a point which the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite and I remember, because I am sure it will be the only occasion in my life in respect of which the right hon. Gentleman will ever say that, after a speech of mine, his first intention and necessity was to reduce the temperature of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has the occasion in mind. He said, in the course of letting the mercury run down in the tube, that he would deal, if I might put it in this way, with both employers and employed, and he said that the measures that would be taken by the Government would deal equitably with both.

May I again make clear the reason why, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I am doing this? I am not arguing that point; I fully appreciate that there might well be circumstances in which that was a necessary policy for the Government. During the war we saw the necessity for concentration as well as for the direction of labour. I am not arguing whether the time is ripe or when the time would be ripe—that would not be relevant. But I do say—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman may think it—that to deal equitably with any aspect of this problem it should be done by legislation and not by regulation, as can be done under this Bill.

The Secretary of State for Air, who dealt with this matter on the Second Reading of the Bill, did not seem to have had the advantage of the opinion of the Solicitor-General, which the Committee has had this afternoon, because the Secretary of State for Air said flatly: all I can say is that they"— meaning the Government— have powers under the Regulations to do so"— that is, to bring in direction of labour— in any circumstances and spheres that they think necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1378.] Of course, the whole purpose of this Bill is to give the Government power for the purposes and in the sphere of dealing with defence matters.

5.30 p.m.

We feel that a problem of this perplexity, which has an effect on personal liberty, ought to be dealt with by statute. I have given the first reason. If a Bill is introduced the Minister has to justify the need for the Bill by a speech on principle on Second Reading. Our support of this Bill, which I reiterated a short time ago, shows we should be prepared to consider, on the merits and according to the circumstances of the time, whether or not there was a need. But if hon. Members in all quarters of the House required a Bill for compulsory military service, so that they could deal with the aspects of the problem which the needs of their constituents underline, I cannot see why they should not require the same method of dealing with it when it is a question of directing to jobs people who remain civilians, but whose efforts are so important to the country.

I would put it on two grounds. First, the requirement for a reasoned justification to us, wherever we may sit, on Second Reading. Second, that we ought to have the opportunity of introducing Amendments to deal with special cases. It is only when we come to the House on Committee stage and hear somebody who has special knowledge of one section of industry, or some occupation, that we begin to appreciate the special problems. I consider, therefore, that amendment is essential in a matter of this kind. The alternative is making orders which can be prayed against, but cannot be amended, and that is wholly inadequate to the subject matter.

I apologise to the Committee for dealing with the matter at some length, but hon. Members will appreciate that it was necessary for me to take that line about Government statements so that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to see the difficulties which are in our minds and could attempt to clarify them for us.

Mr. Bevan

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for having stated the position with such clarity. At the same time, he said that it is not necessary—although I think it would be in order—to discuss the merits of the direction of labour. I hope that what I shall have to say will make it unnecessary for us to go into that question to any great degree.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted a number of my colleagues on this subject. As he said, it is possible to put a different tangent of interpretation upon various statements which have been made, because the whole position is not so clear as it might be. Indeed, I think the Amendment itself shows that there is a certain lack of clarity in the position; because it would be assumed from the Amendment that the power to direct labour arises from an order made under the Regulation. That is not the case. The power derives directly from the Regulation itself, and not from an order made under it. I quote here from the first paragraph of Regulation 58A: The Minister of Labour and National Service (hereinafter in this Regulation referred to as 'the Minister') or any National Service Officer may direct any person in Great Britain to perform such services in the United Kingdom or in any British ship not being a Dominion ship as may be specified by or described in the direction.… So we are not here dealing with powers taken by the Minister under an order. We are here dealing with powers conferred upon the Minister by regulation, and that, I think, is the reason for the slight confusion which has arisen among those responsible for the Amendment.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

May I put this point? During the war a great many documents were issued entitled "directions" but they were, nevertheless, Statutory Rules and Orders.

Mr. Bevan

The only point I am making, to clear our minds about it, is that the power is there and can be exercised by the Minister by means of directions; either by himself or by an officer acting on his behalf. Therefore, it is not necessary to have an order to bring those powers into existence. I merely make that point to get the technicalities right. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the real point here is whether the House of Commons considers it is desirable that power over the individual, the liberty of the subject, should be taken by the Government by an instrument that can only be prayed against; or whether such powers should be exercised in peace-time at all. That is the issue.

I take the view that, except in very exceptional circumstances indeed, it is not desirable, in peace-time, to direct labour. I also take the view that if it is desirable to do it, it ought to be done by a Bill; and that we ought not, it seems to me, to give to the Executive such extraordinary powers over personal liberty except by statute, in which they can be properly defined and in which the House can put whatever safeguards it considers necessary. I would, therefore, like to put on record this statement: no further use will be made of the powers given by Regulation 58 A either (a) to direct men or women to perform specified services or (b) to require them to remain in specified employment unless and until an immediate attack on this country is anticipated. If, for any other reason, such powers are deemed to be necessary, legislation to obtain them will be introduced.

I am afraid, however, that that does not entirely dispose of the Amendment. I believe—I hope I am correct in saying this—that the Opposition have moved the Amendment on this point only. But there are powers under Regulation 58A that we shall need. For instance, in addition to the power to direct labour it gives power to make orders to require workers to register themselves, or the employers to register particulars about their employees. It also gives power to make essential work orders; and to require employers to keep necessary records and to give information; and for inspectors to enter premises and inspect with a view to securing compliance with directions given under the Regulation. In our opinion those powers may be absolutely essential if we are to carry out the re-armament programme. They are not powers which constrain the liberty of the subject, but they are powers which I might find it necessary to use. I am advised that if the Amendment were carried all these powers would be killed, and I am quite sure it is not the desire of the Opposition to do that.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

My right hon. Friend refers to the retention of powers relating to essential work orders, and, earlier, in his prepared statement, he said that he had no desire to retain people in industry. Would he make that a little clearer?

Mr. Bevan

Yes, certainly. It may still be necessary to identify a certain industry as essential and then to direct the employer that he should take on no more workers there. That does not interfere with the liberty of the individual. It does not say to the employer, "You shall work here or you shall work there" or, to the employee, "You shall work here or you shall work there." It is merely power to concentrate production for the purposes necessary for defence. It is also power to secure that the defence programme itself does not eat too substantially into the necessity for exports.

So, we have these two purposes which, I suggest, are dominant purposes. The first is to maintain the export drive in order that an unfavourable balance of trade may not jeopardise our position, and the second is to carry out the re-armament programme. Suppose that we have said to an industry, "You are necessary for the export drive." As hon. Members know, industries produce for the home market as well as for the export market. Suppose, in the allocation of raw materials or in the right to employ larger numbers of workers, something was done on the ground that the industry was producing for the export trade, and then we had cause to suspect that what was being given for the extension or for the maintenance of export trade was, in fact, used for production for the home market. In that case we must have powers to inspect to find out whether the purposes were not being violated by the employer.

That, again, is not a power over the liberty of the subject. It is a power to secure that we get the necessary information and that the necessary disciplines are applied to keep industry moving in the direction which it is nationally desirable that it should move. There are various powers, all contained in Regulation 58A, which it may be necessary to use. I am sure, from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that the Amendment moved by the Opposition does not desire, as it were, to decapitate the powers, but only to secure from me an undertaking of the nature I have already given. That being the case, I hope that the Opposition will be satisfied with the statement and will withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The announcement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made is, as he is very well aware, one of very great importance. It justifies the efforts against direction of labour in time of peace which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has made over a number of years. The right hon. Gentleman, after some four years of effort against him and his predecessors, has largely met the points which were urged in vain in this House when there were 400 Members on the benches opposite.

I appreciate the technical and mechanical difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman would be in if he were to accept this Amendment. I do not know what my right hon. and learned Friend will do, but, if the Amendment is to be withdrawn without any further assurance, we shall be left in the unsatisfactory position that Regulation 58A will still be there in full effect, and that it would always be possible for a successor of the right hon. Gentleman to make an order under it. I am not casting any aspersions upon any right hon. Gentleman who may occupy the office which the Minister now holds, but where we are concerned, as we are here, with the liberty of the subject, it is not a wholly satisfactory position.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this suggestion. Why is it not possible for him to accept the Amendment and then to introduce—I imagine that it would have to be by statute—the necessary provisions which he wishes to save from Regulation 58A? That would then give the House an opportunity, now long overdue, to review a good many of the subsidiary provisions of Regulation 58A. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, these provisions are a good many years old. The time has come when many of them could be reconsidered. An opportunity for that would be given if the right hon. Gentleman could do something on those lines.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Bevan

If the hon. Gentleman reads my announcement, which he cannot do now, he will see that I said: unless and until an immediate attack on this country is anticipated. We are living in unusual times. I have not given an undertaking that in no circumstances whatever will these powers be used. Let us take the case of an unexpected air attack. We might have to act at once. Therefore, I could not give the undertaking in such precise terms as the hon. Member indicated. I think that it would be most unusual to refuse to accept an undertaking from a spokesman of the Government made in such precise and particular terms. Indeed, I cannot imagine the House of Commons allowing the Government to take these powers except in circumstances that would justify them after such an undertaking being given.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In the disastrous circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman has envisaged, clearly it would be necessary for a great deal of emergency legislation to be put through, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall that it was put through in the first days of September, 1939. Speaking for myself, I cannot see why it should be impossible to put through, if it be necessary, direction of labour at a time when other emergency legislation would have to be put through. I cannot see what the difficulty is.

Mr. Bevan

I cannot imagine in such circumstances any Minister waiting even for the House of Commons. He would act first, and these would be the powers under which he would act. Then he would have to justify his action by the circumstances of the time. It is not good enough to say that in face of action of that sort, he could come to the House of Commons for emergency powers. The House would expect him to take emergency action and justify it afterwards.

Mr. H. Strauss

I know that the right hon. Gentleman will not think that I am for a moment questioning his bona fides if I give reasons why I should prefer something in the legislation rather than a mere undertaking, but I agree with him, in part, in what he has said about the technical objections to our Amendment as it stands. The two points I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman are these: first, I think it is always difficult critically to examine the form of an undertaking which is read to the Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman very usefully read it. Nevertheless, my first impression was that it was generally satisfactory. If he would allow me to make one criticism, which I assure him is not frivolous, I am sorry that he used the word "anticipated" when I think he meant "expected." I think he will find that his undertaking would be better if he said "expected" instead of "anticipated" in the place where it occurs. There is a difference between the two. I say that to the right hon. Gentleman with the less hesitation, because I know that he has himself some appreciation of the accurate use of language.

But the whole of the undertaking he has given would be capable of being placed in this Measure. I do not think that anything drafted by amateur draftsmen would be wholly satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am certain that his own draftsmen could draft the undertaking he has given in satisfactory form and incorporate it in this Measure. The second point is that, apart from the emergency in which he might, for the reasons he has given, want to retain even the power of direction of labour, all the other powers he mentioned as those which he might wish to retain arise, I think, under paragraph (4) of the Regulation.

I think that either of two methods of drafting could give more satisfaction than the undertaking in the Minister's speech has given. He could set out in the Measure either those things which he wishes to retain or those things which he is quite content to abandon. Therefore, while in no way quarrelling with the general tone and purpose of his speech, as I understood it, I would ask him to consider whether his undertaking could not be incorporated in this Measure which we now have before us, because, if so, I think he will agree—and on the basis of his past speeches he certainly ought to agree—that it would be much more satisfactory to hon. Members in all parts of the Committee who have some concern with a possible invasion of human liberties.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not want to stop any of my hon. Friends who have any particular points on which they want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that he will appreciate my feeling that I ought to rise now to signify a course which seems to be right to me. Whether or not I ask now, Sir Charles, for leave to withdraw the Amendment, you will understand that that is what I intend to do. In intimating that to the Committee, may I say that the right hon. Gentleman has expressed quite clearly—and, of course, he was speaking with all the responsibility of his position—the view that he does not like, and does not intend to have, the direction of labour in time of peace, and he has also indicated what he means by "time of peace" with sufficient clarity for my purpose and approach. Further, he has acceded to the principle that, if direction of labour is introduced, it should be introduced by statute.

I feel that it is most important that, when the two great parties, through their spokesmen, come to an agreement on an important point, it ought to be accepted, and that I ought to say that here is a point of agreement which we should ask everyone to support. Therefore, I felt that it would be right at an early stage to intimate to you, Sir Charles, that I shall, at the proper moment, formally ask for leave to withdraw the Amendment on the undertaking and explanation which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman. But, of course, I am anxious not to stand between my hon. Friends behind me and any specific questions which they may desire to ask. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

Mr. Watkinson (Woking)

There is one point which I should like to put to the Minister. I think that this afternoon, we may have done something of great value to industry. It is quite obvious that the only way of getting over our difficulties in the next few years—and there is no difference between the two sides of the Committee on this question—is by achieving a greater degree of productivity.

The point which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman—not having had the benefit of reading and carefully considering the statement which he has made—is whether it will be made quite clear to those who work in industry that any threat of the direction of labour is now removed from them—unless, of course, a Measure for that purpose is introduced in the House—except and until we are actually on the threshold of a fighting war. The particular point about which I am concerned is this. Let us suppose that there is an intensification of the cold war, and we have other adventures like Korea elsewhere in the world. Would that be taken to be the anticipated threat—"anticipated" was the word the Minister used—that might cause any Minister to bring in an order under Regulation 58A, or will it only be the direct threat of hostilities against this country itself? It is a small point, but it is essential that industry as a whole should have its mind clear on these things, because if they can feel that, in going to do this job, they are acting of their own free will and not under any direction from a Minister, we shall get very much better production results.

Mr. Marlowe (Hove)

The only point which I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee concerns the value of dealing with matters of this kind by legislation. For a long period, we have been seeking the withdrawal of Regulation 58A, and, in effect, that has now been achieved, because the Minister says that, except in particular circumstances, he will not exercise his powers of direction of labour which exist in that Regulation. This is a power which we have been endeavouring for a long time to abolish, and we have used every method of doing so, including the use of the Prayer. When we get legislation which comes before us on the Floor of the House, the effect is achieved. I hope that hon. Members will remember this very valuable lesson, and will also remember that it is better to legislate by means of a Bill than by decree.

Mr. Bevan

I really must ask the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) not to make the suggestion that Regulation 58A has been withdrawn.

Mr. Marlowe

I did not say that. I said that it no longer contained the power for the direction of labour.

Mr. Bevan

It is much more. I must not run the risk, later, of exposing myself to an attack of bad faith. All that I have said, and I repeat the language, is this: No further use will be made of the powers given by Regulation 58A either (a) to direct men or women to perform specified services, or (b), to require them to remain in specified employment unless and until an immediate attack on this country is expected.

Mr. H. Strauss

Thank you very much.

Mr. Bevan

If for any other reason such powers are deemed to be necessary, legislation to obtain them will be introduced. All the other powers of Regulation 58A remain. I said that it may be necessary to use all or some of them, but they will not be powers directly relating to the liberty of the subject in the way that the direction of labour does. I do want to assure the Committee that the language is precise. I could not do what the hon. and learned Member for Norwich, South (Mr. H. Strauss) suggested, because it would still be necessary, even if I were to take out the powers from this Bill, to put them back again.

In these circumstances, I think the assurance I have given is more useful than the Amendment would be. It is always difficult to try to put into a Bill all kinds of concrete circumstances that might make it necessary to do this. For example, an attack on this country might be made by means of directed missiles or anything else. We should find the greatest difficulty in defining the circumstances in which it might be necessary to act, and I think it is better to leave it in this way, in view of the unprecedented circumstances in which we are placed.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

6.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

There is one matter which I desire to raise with the right hon. Gentleman. We have now disposed of the question of the direction of labour, but there is another aspect of the powers contained in this Clause to which an oblique reference was made during the debate both by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and the Minister of Labour himself. Could the right hon. Gentleman say a word to us on the powers dealing with the concentration of industry to which he referred in his speech a few moments ago? We had considerable experience during the recent war of the operation of this procedure. The right hon. Gentleman told us that it may be necessary to use these powers for a variety of reasons. Dispersal is sometimes necessary, and concentration may be necessary for reasons of production and strategy.

The most likely case is where there is such a shortage of a raw material affecting an industry that it is necessary to have some sort of central organisation or pool from which various factories concerned in that particular form of production would have to draw. In the event of our having to re-concentrate certain sections of industry, I should like to know whether, broadly speaking, he would be prepared to follow the procedure adopted in the recent war by which a scheme of concentration was prepared within industry itself and submitted to the Minister for his blessing or approval or any criticism.

That would mean, of course, the right hon. Gentleman retaining the right and power to say, "This scheme is no good and I propose to proceed along different lines as advised by officials at the Ministry who have experience of these matters." But I think he will agree that, broadly speaking, during the recent war schemes of concentration which were put up from within industries and largely administered by committees of persons from within those industries, worked satisfactorily. That is the kind of line we ought to follow should it become necessary again. I think that this might be a suitable opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to say a word to the Committee on that subject.

Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)

I should like to refer to the effect on another aspect of our life of powers conferred by this Clause to take possession of land and chattels and to use land in any way that is desired. I am certain we all recall that during the war the grim necessity existed to take over premises or land at very short notice indeed. Great hardships were imposed upon many owners or occupiers of land and buildings and those people incurred great losses.

Regulation 51 confers power to take possession of any land and to make such use of it as a competent authority thinks to be expedient, and no period of notice is specified at all. Regulation 52 enables any land to be used for Army, Air Force or Naval purposes and again no period of notice is specified. Regulation 53 enables chattels to be requisitioned, including ships, whether they are in this country or outside this country, if they belong to British owners. Regulation 54 gives power to permit nuisances, and in that case there is a period of notice.

It seems to me that there is an essential difference between giving these powers for defence purposes and giving them for civil purposes. We all appreciate that where defence purposes are concerned there may be circumstances in which great urgency will arise, but I should have thought it possible so to draft the Bill as to give the Minister power by declaration to re-enter into certain powers which he himself had abrogated, as it were. The Minister has said that he will not use certain powers under Regulation 50A except in certain circumstances. I hope he will give the same kind of assurance on the period of notice and the circumstances in which he will take over land and chattels.

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The hon. Member is now discussing an Amendment I did not select.

Mr. Macpherson

I think I am entitled to refer to the powers that are conferred by this Clause. I do not desire to refer to any particular remedy. In point of fact, the remedy I have suggested was not the remedy suggested in the Amendment—not precisely at any rate.

The Deputy-Chairman

It does not make any difference whether it was in the Amendment or not. It is not in the Clause and therefore it is out of order.

Mr. Macpherson

May I make reference to the effect of this Clause as far as the regulations to which I am referring are concerned? I was dealing with the degree of notice required by these regulations and I trust that is in order. I was about to say that, for example, under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act, 1947, periods of notice were laid down for what was considered urgent procedure. A period of notice was provided which enabled representations to be made within 14 days of publication in local newspapers. There was no public inquiry but there was power for a Minister to consider any representations made against the notice.

Under the powers given in this Bill no notice is required. Therefore, there can be no possibility at all of protesting against any action that the Minister or those whom he authorises may take. This is a very important point. We all recognise that in the case of imminent danger urgent powers would be required. But in the period of cold war or the sort of twilight in which we exist at the present time, it seems that so far as these regulations are concerned powers might be modified, at any rate in such a way as to limit the possibility of applying them in full until certain most serious circumstances arise. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say how it is intended to apply these powers.

Mr. Bevan

I think the hon. Member has misunderstood the purpose of the Clause. It does not confer any new power whatsoever. It only widens or re-defines the purpose for which existing powers can be used. If the hon. Member will look at the Clause—and I do not want to resurrect the previous discussion—he will find it merely makes it quite clear in this Bill that the powers that exist already can be used for the purposes defined in the Clause.

It would be quite impossible to give notice of requisitioning for defence purposes. It might be possible in certain circumstances, but it is very difficult indeed to define circumstances in which notice must be given, or circumstances in which it need not be given, because emergency action is necessary. Indeed, it is very much in the national interest that action should be taken without notice quite often, because notice to do something for military purposes is not only notice to the owners of the property but it might be notice to the enemy of what our intentions were.

Therefore, it may very often be necessary to consummate the act simultaneously with the notice being given. I think it would be quite improper here to modify the conditions in which requisitioning could take place. That would apply to ships as well as to land and property. It certainly would be undesirable, for example, to give long notice to the owner of a vessel that that vessel was to be subject to requisitioning. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not press the point.

With regard to the concentration of industry, these powers are conferred upon the President of the Board of Trade—not upon the Minister of Labour—under Regulation 55, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take the view that where concentration is necessary the higher the degree of the voluntary element in that concentration the better. I should not imagine that he would be at all loth to consider any schemes put up in order to bring about that concentration with the least disturbance to private interests. But, as will be recognised, I can give no undertaking at all of a precise nature at the moment. We do not know how this is going to alight on any particular industry, because not only are there the additional requirements for rearmament but there is, of course, a shortage of raw materials in certain cases which would very much complicate the matter. But I agree that where we do have concentration it is far better to have it by a scheme satisfactory to all concerned.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.