HC Deb 26 June 1952 vol 502 cc2652-6

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

Mr. Bing

As we have two representatives from Northern Ireland here, I want to ask again whether this legislation had the assent of the Northern Ireland Government. The purpose of this Clause is to give the Northern Ireland Parliament powers they did not previously possess. There may be some very good reason for having the same ploughing grant scheme for both England and Northern Ireland and quite different schemes in regard to international vehicles, but we ought to know what is the attitude of the Northern Ireland Government on this matter—whether the Northern Ireland Government have seen fit to communicate to the hon. Members who are supposed to represent Northern Ireland here what they think about the Bill, or whether anybody bothered to consult Northern Ireland at all.

It is a little hard that it should be left to Members on this side, who do not even represent Northern Ireland constituencies, to press questions of this kind. I hope that the Minister will let us know whether the Northern Ireland Government were consulted, whether they had made representations that they should have these powers, or whether the Government here suggested they should have them.

What, any way, is the point of having different arrangements in the two areas? I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing, on a previous Amendment, to reconsider procedure in the Northern Ireland Parliament, but it seems strange to make an alteration for the purpose of giving Northern Ireland powers they did not have before.

Mr. Braithwaite

I can once again soothe the hon. and learned Gentleman and expedite the Committee's business. There has been full consultation, agreement, and clearance with the Government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hale

I am glad to hear that. The Parliamentary Secretary, who has been so courteous throughout the debate, was a little discourteous to me on the previous matter, because he made no reply to what I consider the essential point I raised.

It seems incredible that in an international agreement we should lay down two separate systems. I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has rather come round to my point of view in this matter. I think he has, because he takes the view that, on the whole, there is really no occasion for this Committee to authorise special legislation of this kind to be conferred on the Government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Is not the only purpose of this Clause to enact that this Act should be deemed to have passed before the date appointed for the purpose of Section 6, Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and is not a general discussion on two different systems in different parts of the United Kingdom out of order?

Mr. Bing

I think the Minister is not speaking with that detailed knowledge one would expect from him of the Government of Ireland Act. This form of Clause is always put in for the purpose of authorising the Government of Northern Ireland to perform an act which otherwise they would be unable to perform by law. Therefore, in my submission, we have every right to ask why it was inserted.

The way in which the matter arises is that Section 6 of the Government of Ireland Act did not allow the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws in regard to any matter affecting Northern Ireland after the passing of that Act. We have to have this rather complicated system by which it is deemed to have been passed at an earlier date in order to control the legislation of the Northern Ireland Government, and, therefore, the whole purpose of this Clause is quite clearly for that reason.

The Deputy-Chairman

That may be true, but I do not think it is in order to do what I think the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) is doing—repeating arguments we have heard before on a previous Clause.

Mr. Hale

On that point of order. The Clause is designated "Powers of Parliament in Northern Ireland," and it is so designated for the reasons which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has given. If this Clause is deleted from the Bill, the Parliament of Northern Ireland will not be able to make a separate scheme for international control of motor vehicles. That is precisely the point we are discussing, and to which I have directed my observations.

It is an almost incredible and unprecedented thing in the history of this coun- try for a Minister, who absented himself from a vital debate which lasted some time, to rise to a point of order to seek to put that in the Bill. It is quite unprecedented. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has paid a tribute to the patience of the Parliamentary Secretary, and it is rather a tragedy that he was not allowed to continue handling the debate in the way he did. The Minister means well, but I think that both sides of the Committee deplore the fact that he does not succeed.

I am not convinced that we ought to go outside the terms of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and confer special powers in this matter, which is what this Clause is doing, to enable the Government of Northern Ireland, for some reason or other, to pass a scheme which will allow cars to go down the middle of the road instead of the left-hand side. I am not suggesting that they will, but it is pure nonsense to say, when talking about the desirability of having a scheme which will enable drivers to know what their obligations are, that there will be two separate schemes for two separate sections of the United Kingdom. It is quite fantastic. If you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, had had the advantage of hearing the arguments in the Welsh debate——

The Deputy-Chairman

I have heard the arguments of the hon. Gentleman at least once before.

Mr. Hale

I am very much obliged, and I apologise. I do not like being repetitive, and it is only because the Bill is Iepetitive in respect of two separate Clauses that it is necessary for me to repeat on the second Clause the arguments which I advanced on the first. What would have happened if the Welsh hon. Members had been here tonight? We should have had Welsh Amendments——

The Deputy-Chairman

Order. Wales is not affected by this Clause.

Mr. Hale

I am very much obliged; I am not suggesting that at all. I am merely suggesting that we should delete the reference to Northern Ireland, because it would be an affront to Scotland and Wales not to give them these powers. However, I will not pursue the matter. I hope we shall be told why it is necessary to separate these powers.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.