HC Deb 23 November 1951 vol 494 cc835-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order. Is it the intention, Sir, of the Government to proceed with this Bill at this late hour?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member, if he waits, will see.

3.56 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I am not entitled to ask for the indulgence of the House, but I hope I may be allowed to ask for its sympathy and forbearance in having to put before it a Bill of this importance on my first appearance at this Box. I am very conscious of my inadequacy, and particularly so when I recall an incident in which I figured just before the end of the last Parliament in connection with the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). He has very kindly agreed to my mentioning this although he is, unfortunately, unable to be present today.

We had rather a lively discussion during the course of the Committee stage of the Forestry Act and I am afraid that in the course of it I rather annoyed him. I see that he said, according to HANSARD: ‖ my one consolation is I do not think we shall ever hear him"— That is myself— reading a brief from this Box. I am reported to have replied: I shall be able to do without it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July. 1951; Vol. 490, c. 967.] Well, we were both wrong.

The right hon. Gentleman was a bad prophet, but I was equally wrong because I realise today that when one has a difficult task to do in difficult circumstances it is certainly not only desirable but absolutely necessary to have a brief from which one can read if necessary, particularly when one is dealing with such a difficult subject as this.

The Bill with which we are concerned is neither long nor complicated, and it certainly needs no lengthy introduction. Indeed, I would hope it might be regarded as an agreed Measure because it represents the fulfilment of a pledge which was given by the late Government. That pledge was given by the Lord Chancellor on 18th July in quite plain terms, and the Bill carries out that pledge exactly. Therefore, I hope and believe that I shall have the full support of hon. and right hon. Members opposite on this Bill.

It has been indicated today that certain hon. Members opposite are to express other views, but I hope and believe I shall have very valuable and strong assistance in resisting anything they may say. I believe that any detailed reference to the Clauses of the Bill would be out of place at this stage—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It may be that later, when we have heard what is said with regard to them, it will be necessary to deal with them in detail. I propose to confine myself to one or two general points of principle in dealing with—

It being Four o'Clock, further proceeding stood adjourned.

Bill to be read a Second time upon Monday next.