§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
Despite the opinion that seems to prevail in some parts of the Committee that the purpose of presenting this Bill to the House of Commons is so that it shall not be discussed and examined, it is right that we should scrutinise the Measure and examine it Clause by Clause.
That is the purpose of the Committee stage. We do not expect such a point to be understood by the Patronage Secretary, but we do expect it to be understood by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who probably has a better respect for the rights and traditions of the House of Commons. Indeed, in fairness to him I ought to point out that in his reply to the debate on Clause 1 he did make an effort to deal with the points which had been raised by my hon. Friends, even though he was probably a party to the manoeuvre which prevented other points from being raised, which, in my view, might have been discussed on that Clause.
Happily, as no doubt you, Sir Charles, yourself foresaw when you accepted the Motion for the Closure, several of the same issues arise on Clause 2 as were involved on Clause 1. Therefore, the Committee need not be deprived of the rights of which the Patronage Secretary 474 intended to deprive us when he moved the Closure in the unseemly fashion which has now become characteristic of him.
The subsection of this Clause to which I wish to refer is subsection (4). I may say that this matter is one which I would have raised on Second Reading. Indeed, many of my hon. Friends, if they had wished to delay the passage of this Measure into law, would have raised these points on Second Reading and we should then have had a full debate on these matters. But I think it was considered by many of my hon. Friends—and it was certainly considered by mysel—that some of these points were more appropriate to be raised in the Committee stage, which is why we are raising them now.
It would, however, be a most unfortunate precedent if it were considered that because hon. Members on this side of the Committee were agreeable to letting the Government have business go through speedily on Second Reading that, therefore, we were to be denied the rights of discussion on the Committee stage. This is a point which could perfectly well have been discussed on the Second Reading of the Bill but which, of course, is more specifically relevant to the subsection of the Clause which is before the Committee at present.
Subsection (4) of Clause 2 says:As from the eighth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty-two,and goes on to list the provisions which shall result as from that day if this Bill is passed into effect. Of course, there can be no objection to a Measure coming before this Committee on 22nd July—or 23rd July as it now is—proposing that if the Measure goes through all its stages with sufficient speed it shall come into operation on 8th August. It does not leave very much time for another place, but that is the custom with the various Measures going through Parliament at the present time.
Therefore, it merely fits the normal pattern of legislation which is being provided by Her Majesty's Government in these circumstances—
§ Mr. Mikardo
If I am merely anticipating the point my hon. Friend is going to make, I apologise. I understood him to be arguing that in this Clause we were leaving the other place very little time to consider matters because we were tying them to 8th August. If my hon. Friend will look back to subsection (6) of Clause 1—
§ Mr. Mikardo
—he will see that we have left them less time still, because they will have to finish their deliberations by "the eighteenth day of June," which was five weeks ago, which means they will have to move in Einstein-like fashion.
§ 1.45 a.m.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
May I call attention to another matter? This is retrospective legislation with a vengeance. To get it from a party that objected so strongly to retrospective legislation is astonishing.
§ Mr. Foot
That is the point I was proposing to make. I do not complain about my hon. Friends' interruptions, because I realise that the only way in which we can make speeches at this stage, in view of the interventions of the Patronage Secretary, is to interrupt speeches. Otherwise, under the Government's new constitutional practice, it might not be possible to take part in the discussion at all.
We should like to know from the Financial Secretary why, in the Clause under discussion, we find the date is 8th August, whereas in subsection (6) of the previous Clause there is a reference to 18th June. This Bill reeks of retrospective legislation, and it is retrospective legislation applying to a whole list of unnamed and unknown persons. When we had retrospective legislation applying to Mr. Black there were long debates in the House. We were told it was an outrage to the Constitution—a most shocking thing; but, of course, there was no Closure then.
It was a perfectly legitimate argument for the Opposition to raise at that time, but here is a whole list of persons who 476 have been presumably carrying oil to the Isle of Man. They are going to be subjected to this duty; indeed, they have already been subjected to it, according to the nonsensical reading of this Bill, since 18th June. No one knows whether they have been subjected to it or not; and if this Bill does not go through they have been subjected to it wrongly.
The Bill may not go through in the form in which it is presented to the House. Or was there an agreement between the Government and the authorities in the Isle of Man that it would go through exactly in the form in which it was presented? If so, it provides a more charitable explanation why the Patronage Secretary is so fiercely applying the Closure. That explanation would be much less discreditable to the Government than the matter of the Bill we were discussing yesterday.
I hope that the Government will not have any fear in owning up to such an arrangement with the Isle of Man, if it is the case. Did the Government say to the authorities in the Isle of Man, "You need not worry about the House of Commons. We know you have had plenty of time and have had three resolutions, even though the Financial Secretary is not able to reveal what was discussed. Do not worry—we have our own methods of getting these things through, and if by any mischance we find there is going to be any lengthy discussion we will have a Guillotine for you. We shall not treat you any less fairly than we treated the brewers. We shall not let you down. We are the Government that gets things through."
But what if they should raise the question of the Transport Bill?
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
There is one qualification. If the Government get the Bill through it must be on the sole condition that it is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
I would most respectfully ask the hon. Member to confine himself to this Clause. He has been speaking for 10 minutes and has hardly touched on it.
§ Mr. Foot
With respect, Sir Charles, I have referred to this Clause and the matter which is before the Committee for debate. I am inquiring whether there has been any agreement with the authorities in the Isle of Man that this Bill shall go through precisely in the form in which it was offered to the House of Commons. The reason I ask is because of this date in the Clause which we are now discussing—8th August—which is only a few days away.
If, indeed, it is a fact that this is the date on which this Clause is to come into operation then it does not leave very much time either for the House of Commons or another place to discuss this Measure. My argument about this part of this Clause is reinforced by the even stronger argument which applied in the case of Clause 1 (6). If we take the two subsections together, I contend that it indicates the possibility that there may have been an agreement between the Government and the authorities in the Isle of Man. Indeed, that was the sense of the speech made by the Financial Secretary in reply to the debate on Clause 1.
We should like to know what is the nature of the agreement and whether, in fact, it is possible for the Government to have a series of Amendments passed to this Measure. If they have such an agreement with the authorities in the Isle of Man then, at least, the Government should have had the decency to disclose that fact on the Second Reading of this Bill. That might have saved a lot of trouble in the Committee stage.
This state of affairs makes hon. Members all the more determined to examine such Measures as this with care, especially when they discover the kind of manoeuvres that the Government resort to on the very first Clause discussed in the Committee. It is becoming such a 478 familiar procedure. It is true that the Patronage Secretary was only just a few minutes behind the Home Secretary in the Committee which we discussed during the debate yesterday. This is becoming much too familiar a process. The more eager the Government are to move the Closure on such Bills as this—
I hope that that is not a reflection on the Chair. If I accept the Closure I think that it is entitled to be accepted.
§ Mr. Foot
I was not reflecting on your acceptance of the Closure, Sir Charles. If I wished to reflect on the way in which you or Mr. Speaker accept the Closure I should put down a Motion on the Order Paper, which I did on a previous occasion when I believed that the Speaker of the House had been wrongfully accepting the Closure. I should have thought that I was perfectly entitled to criticise the manner in which the Patronage Secretary, who takes the initiative in these matters, has sought to limit discussion. Presumably the Government know the purpose of the Bill. It is not for the Chair to know what is the purpose behind a Bill.
Therefore, when the Government seek at such an early stage to obtain the Closure I believe that it is justifiable for hon. Members to say that there may be some intention behind the eagerness of the Government. It is not any reflection on the Chair, but is an accusation against the Government for the way in which they are using the machinery of the House.
I hope that we shall have clear answers from the Financial Secretary on this point. Will he tell us whether there has been such a backstairs agreement with the authorities in the Isle of Man, and will he explain why there is reference to 8th August in subsection (4) of this Clause and to 18th June in the previous Clause, and how he defends the introduction of such retrospective legislation as this without even attempting to give any explanation of it to the House on Second Reading?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The effect of this Clause, which, as the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) quite accurately says, has certain similarities to the previous one, is simply to withdraw the rebates on heavy diesel oils used by road 479 vehicles. The effect, of course, is to subject diesel oil so used to tax and, there, fore, to put the position with respect to such oils used in the island on the same basis as oil so used in the United Kingdom. It is founded, as was the previous one, on a resolution of Tynwald and seeks as did the previous one to carry out the wishes of the Tynwald in this respect. That is its effect.
I want to deal with two further issues raised by the hon. Member for Devon-port. First, he asked whether there was an agreement, presumably with the Isle of Man Government. I ventured to explain—indeed, I think I was on the verge of incurring your displeasure, Sir Charles, in so doing—the position which has arisen on this Bill as it has on this annual Measure for a great many years. That is to say, the Tynwald passes its resolution expressing its wishes, and unless some very good reason affecting the United Kingdom prevents it, it has been considered for many years the proper function of this Government to present this Measure in the form of a Bill to this House. In no other sense than carrying into effect the well understood constitutional practice is there any sort of agreement such as the hon. Member for Devonport appears to have in mind.
The extraordinary thing was the intervention of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). He described this Bill as retrospective legislation. I meant no discourtesy to the hon. Member for Devonport when I said I did not think he understood how these matters were handled, but the right hon. Member for Colne Valley must know, because he has handled several of these Bills. He knows perfectly well that there is no element of retrospection here at all.
The hon. Member for Devonport referred to the fact that in Clause 1 18th June is mentioned. That is mentioned because it is the day subsequent to 17th June on which the Tynwald resolution was passed. That resolution comes into effect in precisely the same way as the Budget Resolutions in this country come into effect. Therefore, this Measure subsequently validated the Tynwald resolution in exactly the same way as our own Finance Bill subsequently validates the Budget Resolutions, and is no more 480 retrospective than is our own Finance Bill carried through every year in this country.
The hon. Member for Devonport asked why 8th August was inserted in the Clause we are discussing as compared with 18th June to which he and I referred on Clause 1. The Tynwald would have been within its rights in embodying within its resolution that Clause 2 should come into effect on 18th June had it so wished. In fact, it requested that the date be 8th August because hon. Members will easily see that the withdrawal of these rebates involves the administrative aspect and imposes heavy duties on dealers in diesel oils. Therefore, it was thought right by Tynwald that some time should elapse between 17th June, when the Tynwald resolution was passed, and 8th August during which dealers in these oils could make the necessary arrangements. That is the reason for the difference in the dates. It is a practical and administrative reason and I can assure the Committee that there is no element of retrospection in this Bill any more than there is in the Finance Bill and the Budget Resolution.
§ 2.0 a.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."
I am surprised that so much time is being taken up on the Clauses of this Bill. It seems to me to be perfectly clear that it is an absolute outrage for hon. Gentlemen opposite, at this hour of the night, to carry on in this way.
§ Mr. Crookshank
It was not we who brought it on, because we facilitated business for the Opposition earlier. It was a Supply Day, and they unexpectedly asked for a Motion to be taken, and the Government agreed to that procedure.
It was part of the intention that this Bill should be reasonably debated, but not at great length, and certainly not at this hour of the morning. This is a formal Bill, it normally follows the Finance Bill; there is nothing unusual about it, and I do not see any reason why the Committee should be incommoded at this hour, and made to sit longer to allow hon. Gentlemen opposite 481 to make considerable speeches on matters which they know are purely formal. In proposing to report Progress, therefore, and suggesting that this Bill should be put down on another day for its remaining stages, I would point out that we are getting near to the end of the Session, and if hon. Gentlemen do want to sit over the Bank Holiday and on the Bank Holiday—
§ Mr. Crookshank
The hon. Gentleman asks why not? I should be surprised if other hon. Gentlemen who are not present, and who sit on those benches, particularly on the Front Bench, would be anxious to sit over the Bank Holiday. We are anxious to avoid that inconvenience not only to hon. Gentlemen, but to all those who would be involved—members of the Civil Service, who have to be in attendance when the House sits, messengers, members of the staff, the police and others.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I am not threatening anybody. We might as well report Progress now, as it is past 2 o'clock, and resume discussion another day. I hope that, on further reflection, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have spent all this time on this purely formal Bill, will reconsider the wisdom of their actions. The consequences of what they are doing will undoubtedly be to prolong the Session unduly before the holiday, and deprive many hon. Gentlemen, the staff of the House and everybody else, of a Bank Holiday to which they are looking forward.
In moving to report Progress I propose that we should resume discussion oh the Bill at a later date, but I hope there will be no late Sittings after today and that we may get through our business, which is what we all want. That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who, I presume, is in charge—
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has abdicated his responsibility. I do not know who is in charge. Presumably, someone is in charge of the Opposition, and as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) shakes his head, I do not know who is. Perhaps it is the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who has been promoted to this honorary position.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
Is it not an outmoded assumption that anybody is in charge of the benches opposite?
§ Mr. Crookshank
I am sorry that I am so old-fashioned. I hope, Sir Charles, that you will accept this Motion, that the Committee will report Progress, that we may now cease this discussion and get on to such other business as is required. But I do point out once again that I and my hon. Friends consider—
§ Mr. Crookshank
No; when I lose my temper the hon. Gentleman will know it quite well. This does not happen to be one of those occasions. But there are certain Parliamentary arrangements which are made, and I do not see why a handful of Opposition Members should break them and treat the Committee in this way.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I beg to second the Motion.
Perhaps, Sir Charles, you will allow me to make one or two observations. In the first place, I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should describe this as purely a formal Bill. We have heard that it has been the custom for some time for the accounts to be submitted in dummy form, and that last year an hon. Member opposite took objection to this procedure, as a result of which somt changes were made. The relation between the dates of the accounts and the dates of this Bill—a whole series of different dates—is a very germane matter.
I will not pursue that point now, but I hope at a later stage to pursue it when 483 we reach Clause 3 and when we reach an Amendment in my name on Clause 4. I make the point now only for the purpose of adducing that one piece of evidence, and I can adduce much more to controvert the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that this is no more than a formal Measure.
The second thing I wish to say is that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in holding the Oposition responsible for the late hour at which we are sitting. It was he and not we who decided that this Committee stage should start at 10 o'clock, and when he said that that was only because he was seeking to accommodate the Opposition, he was not being fair to the Committee and he was not up to his usual standard of cogency in argument.
The fact that the right hon. Gentleman agreed to business before 10 o'clock being taken on a Motion instead of as a Supply Day makes no difference to the fact that 10 o'clock is 10 o'clock, and whether it was a Supply Day or taken on a Motion, the business would still have finished at 10 o'clock. Whether it was a Motion or whether it was a Supply Day, the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that when he put this business on after the transport debate it certainly could not have been taken until well after 10 o'clock, especially as he had to take one of the stages of the Civil List Bill as well.
I hope I may make this last point without being in the least offensive; I certainly have no wish to be offensive. On occasions like this we rely on the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to provide all the offence. I would be the last to be offensive to the right hon. Gentleman or to anyone else, but I beg him to stop this schoolboy practice of throwing out threats to the effect that, "If you little boys do not behave yourselves you will not be allowed to go home at the end of term for your holidays." He is not talking to schoolboys and he does not frighten anybody. He is not putting a halo round his head when he pretends to be the only person who has any consideration for Civil Servants and officers of the House. We all equally have that same consideration—does the hon. Gentleman want to say something—
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
A dozen Members on the Labour side of the House have no consideration for the staff of the House.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I have a shrewd suspicion that the hon. Gentleman's indignation is not motivated by any feeling for the convenience of the staff, but by the fact that he himself wants to get home. So long as that is so I pay little attention to his observations, especially as this is the first occasion during the debate on which he has inconvenienced himself by coming into it.
§ Mr. Mikardo
If he says he has been here for some time I withdraw and deeply regret that his contribution to the work of the Committee has been such that I have not noticed it.
§ Mr. Mikardo
If I may resume, I must recapitulate in order that the Committee may take up the thread of my argument again. I am sorry it is necessary. It will involve loss of time. But the hon. Member is responsible.
I was saying that it really wil1 not do for the right hon. Gentleman to threaten us as schoolboys looking forward to the end of term or to pretend that he is the only person with concern for the servants of the House if one takes his argument to its logical conclusion, if one says, "Here are a dozen Labour Members keeping the staff of the House," I have no doubt that the staff of the House would like to get home at six o'clock in the evening and go to the pictures. If one were to follow out the right hon. Gentleman's argument we would knock off at six o'clock every day.
But we have our duties as well as the need for consideration for other folk. We all have a sense of our responsibility for not unnecessarily inconveniencing any servants of the Government or the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] Does the hon. Gentleman want to say something? If he does not perhaps he knows that the rules of the House are that he should remain silent as long as he is sitting on his seat. I fear that I shall have to recapitulate again because, otherwise, the Committee will lose the thread of what I 485 am saying. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to threaten us or to pretend he is the only one conscious of the inconvenience that may be caused.
We all have a duty and our duty must come first; and if it is necessary, in the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman, to complete proper consideration of the Government's business, to sit over the Bank Holiday I want to say that I for one will accept his judgment without any question or reservation at all. There are not many matters on which I would accept his judgment, but this is one of them. If he says the choice before him is either letting important Measures go through without proper examination or sitting here a day or two or a week or two longer I shall have no difficulty in making my choice.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will accept the Motion moved by the right hon. Gentleman in spite of the very feeble arguments with which he moved it.
§ 2.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. Gentleman, in moving this Motion, made some observations about myself. I am always here while the House is sitting, and probably spend as much time in this Chamber as any other hon. Member. I like listening to hon. Members on both sides, and endeavour to find, thereby, a line of argument which will give me some intellectual exercise. But the right hon. Gentleman did make some observations to which I think it is desirable that I should make reply; because they do not accord with my recollection of recent Parliamentary history.
On the last Parliamentary day—that is, the day before yesterday, by the sun—the right hon. Gentleman announced that there had been a change in business in that Her Majesty's Opposition had asked that Supply should be taken formally in order that the Government might move a Motion on the transport debate, originally announced as the business for Supply. It was last Thursday that the Leader of the House announced that the Committee stage of this Bill would be taken tonight; and, so far as I know, without having any part in the usual channels these days, I do not think that an arrangement for the taking of a Motion formally, rather than having it taken in the Committee of Supply, had anything to do 486 with the position of this Bill on the Order Paper.
I say that because his words might have been taken to imply that there was some arrangement in the matter. If there was, I know nothing about it; and I should be very surprised to learn that the taking of Supply formally, and then having a Motion, was the basis for any arrangement at all, apart from that which I have mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was Opposition time, and the Opposition had agreed to do the thing this way.
I merely say this because I know how difficult it is for those considering matters through the usual channels to get their arrangements carried out after they have been made. I sat over on the other side, and the present Leader of the House, and the present Patronage Secretary were over here, and sometimes had to get back benchers to agree to arrangements which had been made.
Like the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), I support the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has moved; and I assure him that, if there should be any trouble on the back benches about getting it through, such forces as we have here this morning are at his disposal in getting it carried. It has always been the custom since I have been a Member of the House for it to be assumed that a Motion to report Progress—which is generally a dilatory Motion; it is included among the dilatory Motions—is allowed to run for at least an hour before the Closure is accepted.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how it can be a dilatory Motion when I moved it and he says he agrees with it. That is the end of it, surely. What is dilatory about it?
§ Mr. Ede
Arrangements made between the two Front Benches are quite frequently suspect by the back benches on both sides and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman not to get both of us into difficulties by making the back benches feel that there is some collusion.
I compare the statements made by hon. Members opposite tonight with what they were saying about 16 months ago. Did the right hon. Gentleman then, when he was assisting the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) in his campaign, think 487 of the civil servants and the servants of the House? Not a bit. I hope that the Motion submitted by the right hon. Gentleman will be carried. I want to assure him that as far as I know there is no breach of any agreement that has been made. I am quite certain that there was no bargain about getting a Motion instead of having the ordinary Committee of Supply business on Tuesday.
§ Mr. Bing
I wish to join hon. Members on both sides of the House in welcoming the initiative of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal. We all feel that he has done perfectly right in seeing that rather more time is to be given—at a possibly more convenient hour—to discuss the affairs of the Isle of Man. I think that we all sympathise with the Isle of Man for being the first victim of the brewers. It is, indeed, peculiar that the Isle of Man, where the beer duty is lower than anywhere else, should have had the discussion of its affairs sacrificed by the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to devote all yesterday to forcing through brewers' legislation.
The Government, who approached this House because they considered it was desirable to examine the resolutions of the Tynwald, must not treat the Tynwald as though it were the Brewers' Society, whose views must be pushed through the House without any discussion whatsoever.
I must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that on the Motion to report Progress the discussion must be confined to the reason for or against reporting Progress and not the legislation which we have recently been considering.
§ Mr. Bing
Exactly. I was replying in precise terms to the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, who said that this was a purely formal Bill and should be allowed to go through, and that some offence had been committed by this side of the Committee because hon. Members had dared to debate a Measure put before them by the Government. That is a most extraordinary theory which I thought applied only to Measures which had received the imprimatur of the Brewers' Society—and the Tynwald is not yet in that position. That was the argument which I was addressing to the right hon. Gentleman.
488 Surely it is the duty of hon. Members to look at Measures which are submitted to them and to decide, in regard to any particular matters—and with you in the Chair, Sir Charles, we are quite certain that if anybody strays from the path of order he will be called sharply to his duty—what should be done about them. Surely it is very wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to come forward now and say that there has been an offence committed because hon. Members have dared to discuss Clauses which you have seen fit, in normal practice, to put before the House?
Speaking for myself, and for hon. Members on this side of the Committee, I hope I may say that if it is necessary to discuss the business of the House on any day, at any time, we are prepared to put our Parliamentary duties before holidays. We are not the least concerned to have six weeks' Recess in which to think about things. We appreciate that the Government has wasted so much time that it may be necessary to sit throughout August.
If it is necessary to sit on the Bank Holiday to pass this Measure, why should we have wasted yesterday discussing a Guillotine Motion? If the right hon. Gentleman has got his programme into such a muddle that he does not yet know on which day the House will rise he was premature in introducing the Guillotine on the basis that the House was going to rise, come what may, on Saturday. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that if he cannot get the Bill through we shall have to sit another week. If that is so, I think the people of the country will appreciate that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will look at every piece of legislation introduced by right hon. Gentlemen opposite to see where it is leading.
Another point in favour of postponement is that we have not had the Isle of Man accounts. This might afford an opportunity to get them, or at least to have the resolution of the Tynwald put into the Library. We have had to take it from the right hon. Gentleman, that the resolution was passed. He has not had the courtesy to see that it was put into the Library, or to quote it. The latest record from the Tynwald which is in the Library concerns the time when the late Government of this country went 489 out of office. The fact that we have a Conservative Government seems to be no reason for cutting ourselves off from the Isle of Man.
If we have two or three days before this Bill is considered again, it ought to be possible to get into touch with the Isle of Man and arrange for the papers to be here, and even for us to have a forecast of the accounts. Then the Committee could proceed in a more rational way to discuss this Measure. I think I speak for hon. Members on both sides when I say that we welcome the initiative of the right hon. Gentleman. I only wish that his initiative was more often shown, and that he took a more commonsense view of other matters, as he has of this one. Also that he would realise that for us to attempt to discuss such matters as this without having the facts before us is not necessary. I hope that we on this side of the Committee will agree to support the right hon. Gentleman's Motion.
§ 2.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Personally, I do not dissent from the proposition which has been put to the Committee by the Leader of the House that we should report Progress, although, unlike my hon. Friends who have already spoken from these benches, I do not feel particularly enthusiastic about the Motion, because I have been sitting here a great many hours and I was hoping to catch your eye, Sir Charles, in order to make a few observations on Clause 3, which I think is by no means the least important Clause of this Bill.
Speaking for myself—and I have no doubt for a great many other hon. Members—it is not particularly convenient to have it announced one day last week that we were to consider the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill in Committee today, to sit here from 10 o'clock until 2.30 a.m. hoping to catch your eye on Clause 3, and then to find that when we were in the midst of a discussion on the Question that Clause 2 should stand part we have the Leader of the House moving his Motion to report Progress.
As I say, I do not think it is particularly convenient but I do not complain of that because, like a great many other hon. Members, I have by now got used to this kind of muddle and confusion in which the Government conduct their business.
490 Some of the reasons given by the Leader of the House for this proposition at this hour did seem to me extraordinary, and I think that it would be wrong for the Comittee to allow the reasons given by the Leader of the House to pass without a few words of comment and disapproval from these benches. May I first of all point out to you, Sir Charles, that in my limited experience here it is a novel matter for the Leader of the House to get up and move a Motion to report Progress immediately after a speech from the Government Front Bench.
I can understand the reason, because it was a most lamentable performance on the part of the Financial Secretary, and I can only assume, as I think all hon. Members will assume, that the Leader of the House was so—I was going to say disgusted, but that would be the wrong word—affronted, so—
§ Mr. Fletcher
—so exasperated by the lamentable performance of his hon. Friend, by the complete confusion in which his hon. Friend threw the Committee, by his complete failure to explain to the Committee the significance of Clause 2, and by the complete misconstruction that was put upon the phrase in Clause 1 about 18th June and in Clause 2 of 8th August.
I think that the only justification for the Leader of the House proposing this Motion was that after the Financial Secretary had made that speech he had no other course to take. It would have been impossible, in my submission, for this Committee to have continued to discuss Clause 2 if that was the best performance we could have from the Government 491 Front Bench on Clause 2. I think that the Leader of the House had no other course to take. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman, like the Financial Secretary, is a great authority on retrospective legislation. We have had speeches from both of them over the last six years—
§ Mr. Fletcher
—tedious speeches, about the vices of retrospective legislation. If there is one subject on which in the last six years I have heard both the Leader of the House and the Financial Secretary wax eloquent it is on this subject of delegated legislation.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
Is my hon. Friend sure that he is using the right word when he terms those speeches eloquent?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not want to he put off, because I am addressing a serious argument to the Committee.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
On a point of order. I distinctly heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) say that you are doing nothing of the sort. Could I be told what it was you were doing, Sir Charles?
§ Mr. Fletcher
Picking up the threads, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that this is a dilatory Motion. Necessarily so, because the Leader of the House cannot help being dilatory, and it is essential that he should be dilatory in view of what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said. Here was the Financial Secretary, who, in the last Parliament, was the professed advocate against delegated legislation, trying to persuade the Committee that a Bill which, in Clause 2, said that—
§ Mr. Herbert Butcher (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury) 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, 105; Noes, 20.493
|Division No. 222.]||AYES||[2.35 a.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Crouch, R. F.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)|
|Ashton, H, (Chelmsford)||Deedes, W. F.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Fisher, Nigel||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gage, C. H.||Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Graham, Sir Fergus||Mellor, Sir John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Heath, Edward||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Black, C. W.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hollis, M. C.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hope, Lord John||Osborne, C.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Partridge, E.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Horobin, I. M.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Channon, H.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cole, Norman||Hurd, A. R.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Redmayne, M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kaberry, D.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lambert, Hon. G.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Russell, R. S.|
|Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Summers, G. S.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Scott, R. Donald||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Tilney, John||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Touche, Sir Gordon||Wills, G.|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Vane, W. M. F.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire. W.)|
|Stevens, G. P.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)||Mr. Butcher and Mr. Drewe.|
|Studholme, H. G.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Nally, W.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oswald, T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Thomas, (Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Hudderfield, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foot, M. M.||Manuel, A. C.||Mr. Popplewell and|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mikardo, Ian||Mr. George Wigg.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.
§ Mr. G. Brown
On a point of order. Are we to understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the two agricultural Orders for which great urgency exists in the farming industry, as the Minister knows, are not to be dealt with tonight? The civil servants concerned have been kept here until 2.30 a.m. and the House is ready to deal with them, but the Patronage Secretary, in a fit of pique, is determined that they shall not be taken. Is there not some way in which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, can protect hon. Members and the farming industry against such scandalous treatment?
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Redmayne.]