HC Deb 01 March 1951 vol 484 cc2407-11
The Deputy-Chairman

I think it would save time if the next Amendment, in page 8, line 10, were discussed with the Amendment in Clause 5, page 8, line 36. If necessary, hon. Members could divide on them separately.

Mr. Nlanningham-Buller

With respect, these Amendments involve rather different points. I feel that the discussion is more likely to be shorter if we take these Amendments separately. There is a certain difficulty with regard to Clause 5—I do not wish to take up time explaining it—and I think it would save time if these Amendments were taken separately.

The Deputy-Chairman

I only made the suggestion with a view to speed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move, in page 8, line 10, at the end, to add: and if either House of Parliament, within the period of forty days beginning with the day on which the regulations are laid before it, resolves that an address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the regulations be annulled, no further proceedings shall be taken thereunder after the date of the resolution, and His Majesty may by Order in Council revoke the regulation, so, however, that any such resolution and revocation shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under the regulation. The effect of this Amendment is to subject to the negative procedure of Parliamentary control the regulations made under this Clause. As the Clause stands, the regulations have to be laid before this House. There is nothing else this House can then do about it, other than to admire the handiwork of the War Office draftsmen. The purpose of this Amendment is to subject these regulalations to the negative procedure. The regulations to be made under this Clause are not without importance to the men concerned. They relate, among other things, to the computation of travelling time, the power to recall the man if he arrives too late for one period of training and other analogous matters. They are matters of some importance affecting the rights and liberty of these men, and it seems to my hon. Friends and myself proper that this House should seek to retain a certain degree of Parliamentary control.

We have proposed the negative procedure, which involves no delay to the Service Department making the regulations. I hope it might not be necessary to move any Motion to annul any of these regulations, but I think it is right that in a matter of this importance the House should retain effective control, for use if necessary.

Mr. M. Stewart

It had originally been my intention to ask the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) to withdraw his Amendment so that we might put down a manuscript Amendment, but as that procedure was received rather coldly by the Committee on an earlier occasion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—well, it was coldly received in certain quarters of the Committee—and since it is a procedure which requires the unanimous consent of the Committee for its adoption, I do not on this occasion propose to follow that course. I would invite hon. Members who are concerned in this Amendment to consider the alternative which I shall suggest to them. On this point, Sir Charles, I should like to have your guidance on a matter of procedure. If I am able to persuade hon. Members opposite that the alternative I shall put forward is preferable, then I think the proper course would be to invite them to withdraw the Amendment and for the Government to put down an Amendment at the Report stage.

The Deputy-Chairman

The Bill having been amended, there will be a Report stage and that procedure will be in order.

Mr. Stewart

Having cleared up that point, I will now explain what it is that we propose in place of this Amendment. We would propose an Amendment, in Clause 4, page 8, line 8, to leave out subsection (5) and to insert: The power to make regulations conferred by subsection (3) of this Section shall he exercisable by Statutory Instrument and any such Statutory Instrument shall be subject to annulment by a Resolution of either House of Parliament. The effect of that is that it does for regulations made under subsection (3) what the hon. Member's Amendment would do for all regulations made under this Clause. The point upon which I am inviting the agreement of the hon. Member and of the Committee is that there is a distinction between the regulations to be made under Clause 4 (3) and those to be made under Clause 4 (2). One cannot entirely explain that without referring to matters in Clause 5, but I shall endeavour, Sir Charles, to keep strictly in order while doing so.

The point, I think, is this. Regulations to be made under Clause 4 (2) relate, for example, to what is a reasonable excuse when a man turns up late. I think it will be agreed that that is very closely allied indeed to the matters referred to in Clause 2 (3)—what is a reasonable excuse for not turning up at all. The regulations which are to determine that matter—what is a reasonable excuse for not turning up at all—will be regulations made in virtue of Clause 5, and I think the regulations about what is a reasonable excuse for not coming at all and those about what is a reasonable excuse for turning up late ought to be treated together. However they are treated, they ought to be treated together.

The reason for not regarding them as a Statutory Instrument is that they are very similar indeed to King's Regulations and Territorial Army Regulations; they will be part of a body of comprehensive regulations dealing with a wide range of subjects—for example, the bounty. They will be closely similar to Territorial Army Regulations which, as hon. Members are aware, in virtue of the regulations made under the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, are not subject to either the affirmative or the negative procedure in this House. As the hon. Member stressed. the House can do nothing but admire.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Or not, as the case may be.

Mr. Stewart

I was making a more optimistic assumption. I believe, however, that it would be possible to refer to matters within these regulations if hon. Members were dissatisfied with them—possibly by means of Questions, and possibly by the use of the Adjournment: the House would not be entirely devoid of opportunity. However, that is a side issue. The main point is—

Mr. Leslie Hale

Surely, use could not be made of the Adjournment? If it requires an Act of Parliament to bring the regulations into force, surely it will require an Act of Parliament to bring them out of force, and therefore, the Adjournment could not be used? Then, as to King's Regulations, are these regulations to be as readily available to members of the Forces as King's Regulations are? Can my hon. Friend say whether, as a serving member of the Forces, he ever tried to get hold of a copy of King's Regulations?

Mr. Stewart

I think they would be as readily available. However, the House has, after careful consideration of the matter, decided that it is not desirable that King's Regulations should be treated as a Statutory Instrument, and for that reason I invite the Committee to accept the view that regulations under Clause 4 (2), which are closely comparable, should also not be Statutory Instruments. Similarly, I ask the Committee to take the same view of regulations made by virtue of Clause 5. But regulations to be made under Clause 4 (3) deal with rather specialised matters relating to this particular call-up and to this particular group of men and for that reason I quite agree that it would be quite proper to treat them as Statutory Instruments and make them subject to annulment by the House, and I hope that that suggestion will be agreed to by the Committee.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that the argument of the Under-Secretary of State is very reasonable. The main point, so far as my hon. Friends are concerned, is to achieve Parliamentary control over this computation of travelling time, because, after all, that does affect the duration of the call-up from the practical point of view of the men. Although I might be on another occasion desirous of entering into an argument with the Under-Secretary of State as to whether it was right or wrong to insulate from Parliamentary control the general corpus of King's Regulations and so on, I quite agree that it might be anomalous to make that part of these regulations which applies to these men subject to Parliamentary control while the others were not, and that that might make confusion worse confounded. Therefore, while incidentally expressing the pious hope that the statement of the Under-Secretary of State, that Parliamentary Questions can be asked about King's Regulations, will be noted in the appropriate quarters, and on the understanding that this Amendment he has forecast with reference to subsection (3) will be introduced on the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.