HC Deb 20 November 1952 vol 507 cc2184-212

Defence (General) Regulations, 1939

Regulation two BA (Control of explosives).

Regulation sixteen (Stopping up or diversion of highways for purposes of open-cast coal).

Regulation thirty-three (Exemption of certain women from Acts relating to midwives).

Regulation forty-five A (Issue of identity cards to seamen).

Regulation fifty-two (Use of land for purposes of Her Majesty's forces).

Regulation sixty C (Amendment of s. 4 of Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926).

Regulation seventy-six (Handling and conveyance of ammunition, &c., in ports).

Regulation eighty-two (False documents and false statements).

Regulation eighty-three (Obstruction).

Regulation eighty-four (Restrictions on disclosing information).

Regulation eighty-five (Entry upon, and inspection of, land).

Regulation eighty-seven (Permits, licences, &c.).

Regulation eighty-eight (Fees for permits, licences, &c.).

Regulation eighty-nine (Use of force in entering premises).

Regulations ninety to ninety-three and ninety-five to one hundred and five (which contain general, administrative, legal and supplementary provisions).

The Third Schedule (Manner of instituting proceedings).

Other Defence Regulations

Regulations seventeen E and twenty of the Defence (Administration of Justice) Regulations, 1940.

Parts I, II and III, Regulations twenty-five A, twenty-six, twenty-eight A, twenty-nine and thirty, and Schedules I, II and VI of the Defence (Agriculture and Fisheries) Regulations, 1939.

Parts I and II and Schedule I of the Defence (Agriculture and Fisheries) (Northern Ireland) Regulations, 1940.

Regulations one and six of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, 1939.

Regulation one and paragraphs (4) to (10) of Regulation five of the Defence (Burial, Inquests and Registration of Deaths) Regulations, 1942.

Regulations one and two and paragraphs (3), (4) and (5) of Regulation three of the Defence (Patents, Trade Marks, etc.) Regulations, 1941.

The whole of the Defence (Sale of Food) Regulations, 1943.

The Defence (Trading with the Enemy) Regulations, 1940, except Regulations eight and nine thereof.

This matter can be put quite shortly, and I would point out that the procedure involved is the same as in the case of the first Motion, except that the Order in Council to be made in pursuance of the Address does not require to be laid before Parliament after it is made, because in this case it is a question of retaining the powers set out in the Schedule to the Motion on the Order Paper.

Since the House last considered the matter contained in this Motion, two Regulations of this kind—Regulation 20AB and 60CC, relating to identity cards—and one whole code of Regulations—the Regulations of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Defence—have been revoked. It is now proposed to discontinue the seven separate Regulations and the three codes of Regulations which are set out on page 5 of the White Paper.

Again, three further Regulations and one code of Regulations will be revoked on the passing of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, but in the meanwhile they must continue in force, and this is provided for in the Motion before the House. It is also proposed that the powers shall be continued for one further year, and what I said on the last Motion also applies here, that it will be open to the Government to propose the revocation of any of the Instruments in question at any time.

In view of the fact that a number of separate powers are covered by Amendments, I am dealing with this matter shortly. I have set out what I hope are the essential facts.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

I move this Motion in order to ascertain from the Government what their intentions are with regard to the continuation of the present Sitting. We have had an amiable debate on the first Motion, with as near to a satisfactory result in the Division Lobby as one could have expected at this hour of the evening. It is evident from the figures that there is no enthusiasm on the other side of the House for the Motion which has been submitted to the House. I have no doubt that the telephone wires are now burning.

I should have thought that, as we have disposed of the first Motion, it might be possible to arrange for a rising of the House at a time which would not unduly inconvenience anyone. In view of the way in which the debate has so far been conducted, I hope that the Leader of the House will feel able to make a reasonably satisfactory response to the appeal which I have made to him.

10.26 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and, although I have not been able to hear all the debate this evening, the fact remains that we are offering more time on Thursday next week. The Government must get the debate on these Addresses concluded by then.

Mr. Ede

Not "by then"; "then."

Mr. Crookshank

We must get the Addresses concluded in the time allotted today and next Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I had to say that there was some other Government business which would also have to be taken that night. I also pointed out that tonight, in order to get on with the Transport Bill proceedings, we must get the Report stage of the Money Resolution, which may be formal for all I know. I do not think there is any reason why we should be particularly late tonight.

To some extent I am in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. He knows what our intentions are. We have offered next Thursday for an extension, and that has never taken place before. The normal procedure all the time he was in office, and last year, was that this debate took only one day, but in view of the interest shown in this—and rightly shown; I am not complaining about it—we made it possible for the debate to be continued next Thursday. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks it would be more convenient not to sit very late tonight and to take more of the business next Thursday, perhaps we could have a little consultation afterwards behind Mr. Speaker's Chair. I recognise that we have had one very late Sitting this week, though not through any fault of the Government, and we also know that late Sittings on Thursdays are not universally welcome because so many hon. Gentlemen have to go to their constituencies on Thursday nights.

If the right hon. Gentleman would like to have a word with me about how far it is reasonable to go tonight, I should be glad to discuss it with him, but I must make it clear that we desire to get the Report stage of the Transport Bill Money Resolution and that we must conclude the debate on this subject by Thursday next week as well as taking whatever else may be outstanding, although it may not be very much and we may have cleared it up before then, as I announced earlier today. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts that, we might as well continue for a little longer now and clear up some of what we have to do before we get to the end of these debates.

Mr. Ede

By leave of the House, I should like to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. Do not let anyone try to apportion the blame for late Sittings. It can pretty generally often be shared by both sides, and I am not going to accept the view that it was not the Government's fault the other night. But, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I think we could have a few minutes conversation, and I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)

While I appreciate the value of these conversations which take place behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, this is a matter for Parliament, and I thought the House had seldom been treated to a more cynical speech than that from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. It would be quite wrong for us to part from this Motion without condemning that cynicism. The right hon. Gentleman has been lecturing the country and the House of Commons for years on the need for giving proper examination of these Regulations. His argument was that nothing was more important than this. Now his argument is that it must be subordinated to a great deal of other business which is quite unimportant and quite unnecessary at this time. It would be wrong for us to decide just like that without giving a little consideration to the priorities and what hon. Gentlemen opposite consider to be the right way Parliament is to exercise its time. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of his words two years ago, when he said: I do not know what Administration will be here in 12 months' time … I suppose he did not have the success of his own party in mind, but it happened to be him. He served notice on the Administration: we expect the Administration to make a firm review of these Orders, rules and Regulations and to say which ought to be made at once a matter for legislation—some very important legislation and some eminently suitable for Fridays. If there is no change at all in 12 months' time, then the House of Commons will be very critical of the Administration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2517.] I think it is the duty of the House of Commons to take advantage of this Motion to be very critical of the Administration, and to say that this is a real and a large scale organised hypocrisy. That was what hon. Gentlemen said when in opposition, and now, when in power, they suggest the whole thing can be dispensed with by some little conversation behind Mr. Speaker's Chair. I have still to learn that democracy functions. [Interruption.] I am not ashamed to admit it, nor was the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because he admitted that the Speaker's Handbook had been written in complete ignorance of the true facts. He did not only learn the facts about prosecutions, but the party also learnt from a speech from the Lord Chancellor that dogs were not able to read. These facts were not apparent to them up till then.

To come back to the question, I have still to learn that the processes of democracy take place on the far side of Mr. Speaker's Chair. They take place on this side. If there is going to be discussions of this sort, then the Leader of the House should tell the House what he thinks. He should come out and say, "I made a mistake when I said we should discuss them fully. When we asked for the people's vote this was a stupid mistake. We have all learned the facts of life. We have learned that dogs cannot read and there were no prosecutions." That was the sort of thing we should argue out, and I hope we shall have some contribution from the Liberal Party on it.

There are many hon. Gentlemen sitting in this House who made a bargain with the Tory Party on the strength of this promise that they were going to deal with controlled legislation. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), and there is no more honourable Member in this House, would never have agreed to an arrangement by which he went forward and got the Conservative vote if he had not really believed what they said in "Britain Strong and Free," if he had not really believed that they were going to carry out their promise.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I think this is going a little beyond the Motion.

Mr. Bing

With respect, I am about to address myself exactly to the issue with which I am dealing, as to whether or not there should be sufficient time given by the Government for this matter, even though it means the abandonment of the Transport Bill Guillotine. And it is only right that the Liberal Members should have the right to say, and their constituents demand that they should say—or I hope they do if there are any Liberal constituents left—whether they are going to facilitate tonight the passage of legislation dealing with all these rules and controls, against which they conducted their campaign in order—[interruption.] Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman wish to interrupt me?

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

I merely wanted to say to the hon. and learned Gentleman that I hope to be invited by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) to accompany him behind the Speaker's Chair.

Mr. Bing

That would be a very good arrangement indeed. All of us could, no doubt, stake a claim to be present at this conference. But I do not think that was what the Leader of the House had in mind. Perhaps we might hear from him as to how many are to be invited. Are the Liberal Party to be excluded, or are they to be allowed to come in and discuss for a few moments the one thing on which they agreed that they would go in with the Conservative Party and give them their votes?

The question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman should answer on this side of the Chair is whether or not, as the Leader of the Liberal Party, he is going to be a party to an arrangement by which the House is able to discuss Supplies and Services—according to his own election address a most important issue—late at night in order to give time for a Guillotine Motion? Is that Liberalism? If that is Liberalism, there ought to be at least one other speech made on this Adjournment Motion expressing the new Liberal doctrine towards this point of view.

It really is quite an impossible position. I hope I shall have the support of some of my hon. Friends on this. The Leader of the House has said for years how important are these controls and that adequate time should be given for their discussion and that they should not be pushed through. In a moment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I shall put a point of order to you, and if I indicate it now it might assist the right hon. Gentleman in his conclusion as to when this debate should be adjourned. I do not know whether you or Mr. Speaker have made any decision about what Amendments are to be selected. But if not, if there is any Amendment to leave out any Regulation—

Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the point about the conference behind the Speaker's Chair, will he make a plea that both parties on his own side of the House be invited to it?

Mr. Bing

I am perfectly prepared to make that plea. I should like to see the Liberal Party represented at this conference. And if I have the support of the hon. and gallant Gentleman I am very glad. I am glad that we have some support for the Liberal Party, even from the other side of the House. Therefore, before I continue with what I was about to say, may I just put this proposal to the Leader of the House, that the Liberal Party be invited to join this conference, and that a unanimous decision be secured. They should not be ignored just because there happens to be a few of them and most of them happen to have got in on Conservative votes.

My second argument about why it would be desirable to adjourn the debate is that it may well be that some Amendments have not been selected. If that is so, then there will be no opportunity of discussing some of these matters. As has been said, as these Regulations have all to be continued by means of a Schedule, there is no arrangement for a Prayer to be put down. It would be wrong for the House to lose Parliamentary control over these matters. It appears to me that the simplest answer would be to secure from the Chair, if possible, some knowledge about which Amendments will be called and which will not, if any such distinction is to be made.

Hon. Members could then prepare themselves to address the House on the Motion in regard to those Regulations mentioned in the Amendments which are not to be called. Otherwise, we shall have no means of discussing those Regulations and I am certain that that is the last thing which the Home Secretary would desire. He and his right hon. Friends have been addressing audiences up and down the country asking that they should have the opportunity to see that Parliament should discuss every one of these Regulations.

I was not so ill-mannered as to remind the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who was a little bit in difficulties, of his pamphlet, "What do you think about bureaucracy?" Had I done so, he would have recalled at once that one of the comments he made was that Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing every Regulation. I am sure that the Home Secretary does not want to take advantage of some technicality in the affairs of the House—some technicality in the rules—which would exclude discussion of a number of important Regulations.

In many cases circumstances have changed and different conditions apply in respect of the Regulations. For instance, one could refer to midwives and why we should prolong that Regulation when so few midwives are affected. The issue is quite different from what it was last time this question was discussed. Supposing that were not one of the Regulations mentioned in the Amendments selected, then there would be a debate ranging over midwives and the various other somewhat disjointed subjects not subject to special debate.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and learned Gentleman is going rather beyond the Motion, "That the Debate be now adjourned." He is anticipating what we are going to do.

Mr. Bing

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the decision not to adjourn the debate and that he will bear in mind that hon. Members on this side of the House are determined to put their constitutional duties before the convenience of some right hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on the Front Bench opposite. If we find that our constitutional duties conflict with what they think is the proper arrangement of business, we shall put our constitutional duties first.

10.44 p.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

I am most anxious to take advantage of the suggestion that we might have what I think was called "a short time of conversation." There is serious ground for me wishing to speak now. A most friendly offer has been made to me tonight from the other side of the House. I was to have the key of the wine cellar. The hon. Gentleman who suggested that from the benches opposite was told that the key might prove to be a hatchet if I got it. Indeed, I am waiting anxiously to use not a key but a hatchet. I hope that we shall be able to discuss one matter which is of such a character that it puts the Tory Party in a hopeless situation.

I am only suggesting in a few friendly words why it is advisable to adjourn. I am going to show that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has committed the whole Tory Party on one of the issues from which the Tory Party is running away tonight. I am going to show, further, that the Tory Party is bound hand and foot to the liquor trade. The liquor trade has been sending round telegrams. Hon. Members are at this moment being dragged up by telephone. Hon. Members on the other side of the Chamber are none too sure of the situation which will arise through Regulation 55C and other matters. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen on the other side that it is in their interest that we should be willing to adjourn this debate at this moment.

Mr. George Odey (Beverley)

Will the hon. Member be kind enough to inform me what is in the telegram, because I have not received it?

Mr. Hudson

If I am the only one—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Whatever the contents of the telegram, I do not see how it affects whether we adjourn.

Mr. Hudson

I am just offering friendly advice to hon. Members opposite that there is a case, from their own point of view, for an adjournment at this moment in order that they may get their cohorts up on a more convenient occasion. I want to get this thing discussed in the light of day when proper attention can be given to it. I hope the suggestion that there should be an adjournment now can be accepted, as we may get on better with the matter at the time to which I thought the right hon. Gentleman was feeling his way, namely, some time next week.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Crookshank

If I may reply by leave of the House, I would reiterate that I am trying to meet the general convenience of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) suggested that we should now adjourn the debate. In reply, I said that we had allocated Thursday, subject to the necessary business being obtained afterwards, for the purpose. I thought perhaps that we could discuss it to see whether the Opposition had views on how best to allocate matters between the two days. One hon. Member has said that he had still to learn this and that. If he is successful enough to get on to the Front Bench he will still have to learn that it is quite a normal procedure, when there is the possibility of a late Sitting, to see whether some accommodation can be reached for the general advantage.

No one wants to sit unduly late. Everyone wants adequate time to discuss this. I was only pointing out that we have already, according to records of previous debates on this subject, outrun the normal time given to it in any year since the war. It is not a case of a weak Opposition, but rather that in the past the Opposition has recognised the facts. I am not complaining about the matters being discussed. I am merely making the point that more time has been used; and by the statement I made at Question Time still more time is available next week.

The right hon. Gentleman did, in fact, respond to my suggestion that we should see how far it would be for the general convenience of the House that we should go tonight, and how much should be left for the next occasion on which the matter comes up. We have already given sufficient time. We are offering twice the time which any Government, including that of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, ever offered for this purpose. I think that, on the whole, the House will probably think we have given a generous allocation.

What we are now discussing is not the general allocation, but the sub-division within the general allocation—how far we should discuss this matter tonight and how far next Thursday. I think I have the right hon. Gentleman with me. That is why I suggested that, for these few minutes, we should deal with that position, come back to the House and make some agreed suggestions. I thought that, in the meantime, we could get on with the matters which hon. Gentlemen are so anxious to discuss, and make some progress now.

As the right hon. Gentleman sought to withdraw the Motion, I hope it will be withdrawn, and that we can see how far it is reasonable to go tonight. That is all that I think the circumstances require me to say. I do not think I can make a more generous offer, and I hope that it will be accepted in the spirit in which it is made.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I think the right hon. Gentleman was a little ingenuous when he referred to the party opposite, when in Opposition, as knowing the facts. The last speech which we heard from the Despatch Box told us that the only reference to these Regulations in their Election literature, which was precisely the opposite of what they are asking now, was because they did not then know the facts.

But, to deal with the issue now before us, the right hon. Gentleman told us that there was no discussion as to the general allocation of time; the only discussion was as to how the time should be allocated within the general allocation of time. The suggestion has been made that this debate should be adjourned now, and that we should proceed on Thursday to deal with the second Motion. That is the suggestion which has been made from these benches, and I want to ask why, publicly in the House, the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us whether or not he accepts that proposal.

I am in the greatest difficulty. Of course, there is often convenience in consultations behind the Chair, but why here? The proposition seems to me so simple. The right hon. Gentleman has, in his wisdom, allocated two days to this, and he says that he does not mind how the time is allocated between those two days. We suggest that the Adjournment should be moved now, and it is for him to say whether he agrees with that or not, and whether we should go on. We are very willing to do so, but it is for him to make up his mind about it.

I would point this out to him, because it is a matter of very great importance. We do not know yet if any of the Amendments to the Schedule which we have put down have been selected. If any have not been selected, we shall take the opportunity to discuss the not selected ones on the Motion. If we proceed with the Motion, not knowing which Amendments are selected and which are not, we shall find that we are discussing a great many on the Motion which could be more conveniently discussed when they are called as Amendments. Surely, there is every argument of convenience for taking this interval and deciding at this point, whether it is convenient to deal with the various items which arise during this debate.

Why cannot we be told? Is that convenient to the Government or is it not, because they certainly seem as a Government to deal with this matter of Regulations with a great deal of contempt. After all, on the last Motion they asked the House to renew a great many Regulations, the business of a large number of Departments, but they did not put up a single spokeman from those Departments to tell us why these Regulations were needed or why they were not. Not one spokesman from the Departments concerned was put up.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think we can discuss something on which the House has already come to a decision.

Mr. Bing

Surely, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is in order for my hon. and learned Friend to suggest—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

My Ruling was that we cannot discuss something on which the House has already come to a decision, and therefore nothing further can be said on the matter.

Mr. Bingrose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is my Ruling, that the House, having come to a decision on the matter, the Motion cannot be further discussed, and it is not going to be further discussed.

Mr. Paget

I would not dream of debating over again that which has already been debated. The only thing I am pointing out is that I hope that the second half of this debate will be more satisfactory than the one we have already had. On the first Motion, quite obviously, the Government were not fully briefed. Their Front Bench spokesman told us quite frankly that they had not the faintest idea what were the powers for which they were asking. I am suggesting that that is a very good reason for adjourning so that when they come to deal with the next lot they may be fully briefed and may have some idea what they are talking about and be in a position to give the House proper information as to the powers for which they are asking and which this Opposition insist on hearing, instead of going through the performance which we had before when they were unbriefed and quite ignorant and quite unable to give information for which we asked.

I very respectfully submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that those are good reasons for pressing the Motion to adjourn the debate. One has to consider when it will be more convenient to deal with the other half, and it will certainly be very much more expeditious to deal with it when the Government are in a position to answer the questions which will be asked. They were not in a position to do so before. Therefore, let them take the opportunity of the time till next Thursday to get to know something about the business they are conducting.

10.58 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

I wish to support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on the question of whether this debate should be adjourned. It is really extraordinary that the Leader of the House should appeal to us to be reasonable in discussing these Regulations when we know full well that were we to comply with his request we should find ourselves faced with another Allocation of Time Order. The procedure of this House has now been—

Mr. Crookshank

There is no question of an Allocation of Time Order in anything I have said. The question of allocating time in two days was an unofficial phrase which I was throwing out to the right hon. Gentleman. It must certainly not be regarded as a technical term in anything I have said tonight.

Mr. Benn

The right hon. Gentleman is a little sensitive on this. I was speaking about the Allocation of Time Order on Monday.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If that is so, then it is out of order now.

Mr. Benn

The point I am making, very simply, is that as an Opposition it is our responsibility to examine the Regulations presented to this House as fully as we feel necessary.

It really is no use the Leader of the House coming to us and taking time, whether today or on Thursday when we know that Parliamentary procedure is now revised so that every Bill after First reading is guillotined on the Second reading, in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading. It is not reasonable that we should have to do what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have said should have been done over the past six years, and then be prevented from so doing it.

I should like to refer to a very important contribution made by Mr. Speaker, when a Member, when the Transitional Powers Bill was presented, in 1947. He said then: How difficult it must be even now for the practitioners of the law to know the shape and form of the law of England, and how hopeless it is for ordinary people nowadays to know when they are on the right or the wrong side of the law. In the words of the Prayer Book, the ordinary citizen can say: 'Lord, who knoweth how oft he offendeth,'."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2143.] I only mention that to show—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] If it is a breach of the traditions of the House to call in the name of Mr. Speaker in this respect, I most sincerely apologise. Perhaps I may presume to say that that view is one that I share myself.

I find it a little surprising that the Leader of the House should have joined with his hon. Friends so often in saying that time was inadequate for the discussion of these Regulations and then, when we do discuss them, to say that we have already had more time than ever before, when the whole burden of his argument at the Election was that the time in the past had been inadequate.

I recommend my hon. Friends, as an individual, that those interested in specific Regulations should oppose the adjournment of this debate and that those not concerned with specific Regulations should go home—and should not offer the convenience of normal arrangements to hon. Members on the other side who, in the past, have always demonstrated their anxiety to be present when these Regulations have been discussed. I cannot see how the Leader of the House can expect us to co-operate with him over these Regulations when, next week—and, no doubt the week after—we shall have to devote a whole day to gagging ourselves.

11.2 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I have a particular point to put to the Leader of the House which involves a request and a question to him. He will have noted that there are six and a half pages of Amendments on the Order Paper and the question is whether we shall tonight, or even soon, discuss each and every one of them. This information—from any source whatsoever—would be most useful to all of us. The three hon. Members from Stoke had made arrangements to be here at 11 o'clock tomorrow—needless to say, they are in a minority now so far as the feeling of the House is concerned.

I am sure that the Leader of the House should give the House an opportunity of full discussion on every point raised. I think he must agree that the criticism of the Opposition, so far as the Government is concerned, is a very simple matter. It falls into two parts. On the one hand there are the orders that we feel should have been revoked but still remain on the Statute Book and those which, while remaining on the Statute Book should, we feel, be revoked. We feel that we have an absolute right to ask for full and proper discussion but, in particular, all of us would like to know what is to happen before next Thursday and, if possible, tonight.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

I feel that the Government should consider favourably the suggestion that we should at this stage adjourn the debate. We have, after all, spent much time already today discussing delegated legislation. Without trespassing on the Ruling you have already given, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) I would say only that it did appear from some of the replies we got that the Members of the Government replying to the House on the Regulations were not entirely fresh and alert in their approach to the problem. Is it reasonable, therefore, at this late hour of the night to embark on what must be not only a serious but a very varied discussion?

If we glance for only a moment at the type of Regulations which we shall now be embarking on, and their range, not only in importance, as in the number of the persons affected, but in their subject matter, ranging from the use of land for the Forces to minor matters affecting certain permits, topics ranging as variously as from explosives to margarine, we see that, in consequence, we have in front of us a various array of Ministers. It is one of the advantages, perhaps, if it be an advantage, of discussions of this kind, that we are able to get a representative sample of the Government all at once there on the Treasury Bench, in a way that happens very rarely on any other Measures. And so there they all are, each with his own little prepared piece on his own Regulation, waiting for it to come forward.

If we go on now some will be in the most jaded and depressed state before it comes to their time, and we really shall not get the matters discussed with that freshness, vigour and alertness which is necessary if the House is to give serious consideration to this matter. The Leader of the House has compared this with what happened when the late Government were in power, but surely there must be given consideration occasionally to the alleged political philosophy of his own party, and one of the views they have put forward very frequently is that it is of the greatest importance for the House to give the most careful scrutiny to delegated legislation.

That is one part of their beliefs. Another part of their beliefs is that, on the whole, the less legislation we have, the better—that appears to have the agreement of the Under-Secretary of State for Air—the less legislation we have the better, a point of view put before us very eloquently earlier by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who, I am sorry to say, is no longer with us. If we add those two points, that the less legislation we have the better, and that the House ought to give the most careful scrutiny to delegated legislation, surely they add up to this conclusion, that the Government should without any hesitation say now, "It is quite unreasonable to begin this important discussion of examining the whole of this varied chapter of delegated legislation at a time when the Ministers are obviously not in their best and freshest form."

If, as a result, some of the legislation had to be dropped, what does that matter to the party opposite? They have now shown that they are not attached to the idea that we should try to get a lot of legislation through in a Session. Here is an opportunity for them to do two things in which they believe—to allow time for the scrutiny of delegated legislation, even if it postpones legislation, for they do not think it is desirable to bring forward too much legislation of any kind in one Session. So let us proceed, as, I am sure, they would wish to do, at a pace, perhaps more leisurely, but also with greater regard for the importance of the variety of the business before us, and the convenience, health and general welfare of the array of Ministers we see before us on the Front Bench.

11.9 p.m

Mr. Ede

By leave of the House. I regret having to intervene again. I made the proposal to adjourn some half an hour or more ago now. I want this to be made quite clear. I resent very much the suggestion that if I get behind the Speaker's Chair with the right hon. Gentleman I should make a deal with regard to next Thursday's business that would be not in accordance with the wishes of this party. I was anxious that hon. Members, irrespective of party, should be put to as little inconvenience as possible tonight. I made a recommendation from my position here, which I did not think merited the reception it received in certain quarters.

My advice to the House still is, if I may be allowed to tender it, that we should agree that this Motion to adjourn should not be carried at this stage, but that there should be an opportunity of seeing how the convenience of hon. Members could be met. I must say that I think voluntary agreements entered into—and I have more than once expressed from both sides of the House my willingness to enter into voluntary agreements—are far better than fixed Motions, which prevent, sometimes, proper points being developed at a particular time when the House has decided that something has to stop.

I hope it may be possible yet to make some arrangements with regard to tonight that may meet general convenience.

Question put, and negatived.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I beg to move—

Mr. Paget

On a point of order. Is not the first Amendment to delete Regulation 2BA, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend, the Member for Edmonton (Mr. A. Albu), to be called?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Speaker did not select that Amendment.

Mr. Paget

With great respect, I gave notice of this point to Mr. Speaker. The Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend deals with a specific Regulation.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Speaker's selection cannot be queried or talked about at all. This Amendment is not selected, and nothing more can be done in the matter.

Mr. Paget

I gave notice to Mr. Speaker that I would be raising this point. My point, which I shall develop in a moment, is that Mr. Speaker has no power of selection under this Act.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot allow anyone to say that. Under the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker has the power of selection of Amendments to the Motions.

Mr. Paget

My submission will be that the Act does provide for it. Section 7 of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, provides as follows: If at any time while any Defence Regulations specified in Part II or Part III of the First Schedule to this Act, or any enactments contained in Part I of the Act of 1946.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am very reluctant to stop the hon. and learned Gentleman. I am not a lawyer, but I am governed by the Standing Orders of the House. Standing Order 31 reads: In respect of any motion, or in respect of any bill under consideration either in a committee of the whole House or on report, Mr. Speaker, or in a committee the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the Deputy Chairman, shall have power to select the new clauses or amendments to be proposed, and may, if he thinks fit, call upon any member who has given notice of an amendment to give such explanation of the object of the amendment as may enable him to form a judgment upon it. This Amendment has not been selected, it has not been called, and the matter will not be further discussed.

Mr. Paget

The matter to which you refer, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have given my Ruling as clearly as I can, and I now call the hon. and learned Member for Kettering.

Mr. Bingrose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have given my Ruling, and nothing more can be said.

Mr. Bing

I was going to address you on another point.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Nothing more can be said. Mr. Mitchison.

Mr. Bing

May I raise a point of order with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Would it be possible for you to indicate to the House which Amendments are likely to be selected? Hon. Members are in this difficulty. As I understand the position, we are entitled to discuss at some stage the Motion, either as it has been amended or unamended. The difficulty is that this is the only occasion on which we can discuss these Regulations; they are not subject to Prayer, and if an Amendment is not selected—and I am not arguing that point at all—the only way in which we can discuss it is, as it were, on the main Question when we are dealing with it as a whole.

Therefore, if you could indicate at what stage there will be some general discussion on the Motion after such Amendments as are selected have been disposed of, then those who are interested in matters which are raised or will be raised by the Motion, and which are not discussable on any Amendment, would be able to prepare themselves for that occasion and to speak at that time. I think it would be for general convenience if it were possible to indicate the Amendments that are to be called, for then we could see how best to fit our discussion in on the other matters.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I quite appreciate the point the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised, but he will realise that I am only Deputy, and therefore I might prejudice something which Mr. Speaker may wish to do on his return to the Chair, which would inconvenience him. As is well known, hon. Members do come to me and have an indication from me here, quite unofficially, what the intentions are, but I should be very reluctant to say in advance what Mr. Speaker intends to do. I am sorry, but I am not my own master in this matter.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

In that case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would it be possible for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to raise the point he sought to introduce a moment ago, but which you in your wisdom decided to rule against and to hear no further argument about? Perhaps I might put this to you. I understand that when my hon. and learned Friend put this to Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker indicated to him that it was a fit and proper matter for him to raise when these particular Amendments were reached. In that case, and had you not been in the Chair, it would have been open for my hon. and learned Friend to raise it. If he now loses his right to do so—and this point really is one of substance—hon. Members on this side of the House, as you can very properly see, may feel aggrieved. Would it be open to my hon. and learned Friend to raise this point when Mr. Speaker takes the Chair presently, seeing that you yourself feel that you cannot entertain it?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot answer for what Mr. Speaker will do on his return to the Chair. I am sorry. Mr. Mitchison.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn, East)

Further to that point of order. I understand the reasons why you feel you cannot indicate to us at this moment which of the Amendments are going to be called, but you did not answer the other point put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). That is to say, you did not indicate at what point those of us who have put down Amendments which may not be called will have an opportunity of discussing them on the main Question. Could you make that clear to us?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The main Question will not be put until the Amendments are disposed of. I may or may not be in the Chair then, and I cannot possibly give a Ruling in advance. If I am in the Chair when the time comes, that is a different matter, but I cannot say in advance. I am only Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Mitchison

By the Amendment to leave out Regulation 16, we seek to leave out from the process of continuation Regulation 16, which deals with the stopping up or diversion of highways for the purposes of opencast coal—or at any rate, it is so described in the Motion. When we look at Regulation 16 in the form in which we have been invited to look at it in the handbook of Defence Regulations, we find that it appears to provide for the stopping up or diversion of highways, not only for the purposes of opencast coal, but also, when it is considered necessary, for the purpose of constructing or extending an electricity generating station. This Regulation has had quite a history, and I must in one sense apologise, and in another not particularly apologise for referring the House to the more recent part of that history. In October, 1950, when a similar Motion was brought forward by the Labour Government to extend various Regulations, including this one, a Motion was put from those on the benches opposite to discontinue it. I wish to quote from some of the arguments which were put forward then and to adapt some part of them.

Mr. Paget

On a point of order. When your predecessor, Sir, was in the Chair I sought to raise a point of order of which I had given you notice. Your predecessor ruled that it was something which he could not deal with. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) indicated that it would be raised with you on your return. My point is this: the first Amendment to the Schedule, which deals with an entire Regulation, was not selected. My submission is that for two reasons there is no power of selection in dealing with the schedule of this Motion. If I may first refer to Section 7 of the Emergency Powers (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1947 it states: If at any time while any Defence Regulation specified in Part II or Part III of the First Schedule of this Act, or any enactments contained in Part I of the Act of 1946, are in force, an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament praying that this …

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

I can only take one point of order at a time.

Mr. Paget

… by each House of Parliament praying that those Regulations or enactments, or any of them"— And these are the important words: should be continued in force for a further period not exceeding one year from the time at which they would otherwise expire, His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the Regulations or enactments to which the Address relates shall continue in force for that further period. The schedule to the Motion put forward in pursuance of that Section is a separate exercise of the power provided by it for each item which is put down. It is a power to renew each item and the words which were used in the debate when the Bill, now an Act, was read a Second time were seriatim. That, in my submission, is just what Section 7 says.

If I may refer to the Standing Order 28, in which the powers of selection are set out, I agree that the Standing Order is in wide terms, but it is subject to the practice which can be found in Erskine May on page 455 which reads: This power is exercised by the chair in such a way as to bring out the salient points of criticism, to prevent repetition and overlapping, and, where several amendments deal with the same point, to choose the more effective and the better drafted. This Amendment deals with an entirely separate matter, a Regulation whose subject matter is totally different from anything else which is appearing here. Therefore, in my submission, we cannot bring out salient points of criticism by omitting the only thing upon which criticism can be directed. We cannot prevent repetition and overlapping, because there cannot be repetition and overlapping in dealing with a different Regulation on a different subject.

On this Motion there can be only one Amendment, and that is to omit, which is the method provided by the Act for giving notice of that particular Regulation if the House wishes to discuss it. In my submission, there can be no power of selection here, where the House is simply exercising its right given it by the Act to put a particular Regulation down for discussion.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. He did mention it to me, and I am obliged to him for doing so. But, in fact, his point is directly contrary to the words of the Standing Order which governs the power of the Chair to select Amendments, that is Standing Order No. 31, and not No. 28, as the hon. and learned Gentleman, I think in error, mentioned. The words are quite clear. It says: In respect of any motion … Mr. Speaker or … the Chairman … shall have power to select the new clauses or amendments to be proposed …". There is nothing in the legislation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred me which is against that in the slightest.

He referred me to Section 7 of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Powers) Act which provides that if a prayer or an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament a certain consequence will ensue. But such an Address cannot be presented to His Majesty save on the Resolution of the House and such a Resolution could not be passed except in decision of a Question proposed from the Chair and therefore the power given to the Chair in selecting Amendments in Standing Order No. 31 is quite wide.

I may say that it is not customary for the Chair to give reasons for the selection of Amendments and I do not do so. But I go through the Amendments with great care, and it is my duty to choose those which I think are of most substance and of most importance to both sides of the House. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will review fairly the selections I have made he will see that the Opposition rights have been fully safeguarded.

Mrs. Castle

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. While not wishing in any way to challenge your Ruling on this matter, may I ask you what opportunities are open for those of us who are concerned at the continuance of some of these Regulations, and have down Amendments which you may not see fit to call, of drawing the attention of the House to the dangers which we think will result from the continuance of the Regulations?

Mr. Speaker

The answer to that is that there is a general debate on the main Question when questions of that sort may be raised.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Crookshank

I beg to move, "That the debate be now adjourned."

My only endeavour is to try to suit the convenience of hon. Members in all quarters of the House. The Government are prepared to have this debate adjourned on the understanding that, as I announced after Questions today, it will be brought to a conclusion next Thursday as well as the other business which I detailed. I hope that that is agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I move the Motion on the understanding that on Thursday next we shall conclude this debate.

Mr. Speaker

I have just re-entered the Chair after a short absence. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) finished his speech on the Amendment? The adjournment of the debate cannot be moved except in between speeches.

Mr. Mitchison

I had only just begun it: I had not finished. If I might raise the matter as a point of order Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the law does not bother about very small matters. It was a very small beginning of a speech. Perhaps it was not heard, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member. I gather that he was moving an Amendment. It will require to be seconded formally.

Mr. Mitchison

I think that, rather than have a formal Amendment, I had better explain it as succinctly as possible. I will put my point—

Mr. Paget

On a point of order. My hon. and learned Friend had only just started his speech. Is not the position that when we resume he can resume his speech?

Mr. Speaker

I have to put our proceedings in order. I am trying to safeguard the rights of hon. Members. It would be in order, if it is agreeable to the Government, if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House moved the adjournment of the House.

Mr. Crookshank

I am rather at a loss. Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman in possession of the House should we resume the debate next Thursday? I moved "That the debate be now adjourned" on the understanding, which I hope will be honoured, that we conclude the debate next Thursday. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman would be in possession of the House, would he not, and everything would be in order? I hope that that is the position. I moved the adjournment of the debate, leaving whoever was in possession of the House to carry on next time, but I was doing that—and I want to have it confirmed—on the understanding that at our next resumption of this debate next Thursday we should conclude the debate and also get the other business which I announced for next Thursday.

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

I should have thought that that was wrong, Mr. Speaker. I was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House moved "That the debate be now adjourned" or "That this House do now adjourn."

Mr. Speaker

The Question is "That the debate be now adjourned."

Mr. Bowles

I think you were right, Mr. Speaker, when you said that the right hon. Gentleman could not move that Motion while my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was on his feet. Then I thought that the right hon. Gentleman changed the Motion to the one "That this House do now adjourn."

Mr. Crookshank


Mr. Bowles

Why not? That seems to be the solution.

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir. I moved the adjournment of the debate, not the adjournment of the House. I announced about half an hour ago that there was another item of business to be taken this evening. As the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) knows, it is not my normal function to move the Motion "That this House do now adjourn." That is usually left in other hands. I moved "That the debate be now adjourned."

Mr. Bowles

I still do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is in order in moving "That the debate be now adjourned" so long as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is in possession of the House. I make that submission to you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) had already moved "That the debate be now adjourned."

Hon. Members

That Motion was negatived.

Mr. Speaker

There have been two Motions for the adjournment of the debate. There must be some intervening proceeding which involves the moving and seconding of an Amendment. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has moved and withdrawn a Motion for the adjournment for the debate.

Mr. Ede

That is not quite accurate, Mr. Speaker. That Motion was negatived, without a Division.

Mr. Speaker

Before the adjournment can be moved again there must be some intervening proceeding, so I ask the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to move his Amendment formally, and that someone shall second it.

11.36 p.m.

Mr. Mitchison

In that case, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, to leave out Regulation 16 "(Stopping up or diversion of highways for purposes of open-cast coal)."

I will put the matter as shortly as I can for the general convenience of the House. The points which I wish to raise are these. This Regulation appears, in its printed form, to cover the stopping up of highways for the purpose of mining opencast coal, and for purposes in connection with the erection of generating stations for electricity.

The history of the matter is that when the Labour Government were in power, those who are now the Government, including particularly the Leader of the House and the Solicitor-General, pressed fervently for withdrawal of this Regulation so far as electricity generating stations were concerned. I am not quite clear what they meant, for I know of no power to amend this Regulation under this Act, though there is power to take that step under the Supplies and Services Act.

That was the first step. The next step was for a similar request to be made to the present Government last year. It is clear, from the history of the matter, that this Regulation is no longer required, or used, in connection with electricity generating stations. If that is so, why retain this useless power as regards that matter when it can be dispensed with by taking this Regulation under the Supplies and Services Act and amending it to exclude that purpose?

The next question is with regard to use of the Regulation for opencast coal mining purposes. We were told last year, I think by an hon. Member who is now the Parliamentary Secretary, that a saving in coal would be effected by the use of this Regulation instead of by stopping up or diverting highways under the Highways Act or the Town and Country Planning legislation, both of which are measures covering diversion or stopping up. That may be so. If that is so, surely it will continue to be so for some considerable time, and it would be a simple matter to put into a permanent form the power to stop up highways temporarily in connection with opencast coal mining. There is no real reason for not doing it. Surely it is wrong in principle and practice to continue an emergency power to deal with opencast coal mining requirements when these are likely to continue for some time. If, in fact, they are not likely to continue for long, the Regulation surely might be dispensed with.

Lastly, I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever is to reply, whether it is not the case that he knows that there is other opencast mining going on. Opencast mining for ironstone working goes on all over the country, particularly in my own constituency, and we have acres and acres devastated there, and path after path stopped up. Why is it necessary to have a special power for opencast coal mining if, in fact, opencast ironstone mining can be conducted on that scale without it? It seems to me that if opencast ironstone mining can be done in that way, it ought to be possible, somehow, to do exactly the same thing with opencast coal mining, which, if anything, presents rather simpler problems, because the area of ground disturbed in proportion to the product obtained is much higher in regard to ironstone than it is in regard to coal mining.

I repeat my questions. Why has the Regulation not been amended so as not to relate to electricity generating stations? If it is to be continued, why should it not, for opencast coal mining purposes, be put into permanent legislation, since no one knows how long we hay have to go on with opencast coal mining? If we want it for opencast coal mining, why do we not want it for opencast ironstone mining; or, better still, if we can dispense with it for opencast ironstone mining, why cannot we dispense with it for opencast coal mining?

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I beg formally to second the Amendment.

Mr. Crookshank

I have already explained why I have moved, "That the debate be now adjourned" and I do not think I need say any more, unless it is absolutely necessary.

Mr. Mitchison

In view of that Motion, shall I, in due course and at some time, receive a public answer to my questions?

Mr. Speaker

That will not prejudice the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Ede

My personal position is now somewhat different from what it was a few minutes ago. I shall be in this building until 4.45 a.m., and I would sooner spend that time in the company of hon. Gentlemen opposite and my hon. Friends, but I realise that they would not be as keen on my company at this hour as I am on theirs. Therefore, I waive all personal considerations in the matter.

I would suggest to the House, and particularly to my hon. Friends, that it would be as well to accept the Motion which has been moved. Of course, this is exempted business. When we start next Thursday, it being exempted business, there is really no limit to the time to which the debate could be extended, but I am quite certain that, having due regard to the proper discharge of public business, it would be the desire of everyone to conduct such a debate in order to cause a minimum of discomfort to everybody concerned. I advise my hon. Friends to accept the Motion.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.