HC Deb 24 February 1953 vol 511 cc1954-94
The Solicitor-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

I beg to move, in page 21, line 45, at the end, to insert:

product. One object of this Amendment is to secure that such an investigation can take place in an appropriate case. The investigation can only take place where it appears to the Minister to be necessary, and then, under this Amendment, he has to authorise someone to make the investigation and to inspect the books, records and other documents.

But, as the Committee will see, that inspection of books, records and other documents does not extend as far as authorising or enabling an inspection of books and other documents relating solely to activities other than the production or sale of iron and steel products. When the Minister has appointed a person to make an investigation under this subsection it will be the duty of the person in charge of the premises where the documents are kept to produce those documents for inspection and to provide facilities for making copies of and extracts from them. The subsection also provides a penalty for failure to comply with the requirements of the subsection.

I have indicated the extent of this Amendment in relation to the Board's power to determine maximum prices under Clause 7, but the Committee will see that the power given to the Minister to authorise the investigation also extends to cases where a requirement has been made by the Board under Clause 5 in relation to development. It may be thought that that power is not very likely to be used in cases of infringement of the Board's requirement regarding development, because, if development of the magnitude which may be prevented by the Board's decision is taking place, it is most unlikely that the Board would be unaware of that fact, and, indeed, it is perhaps unlikely that the Board would require to inspect invoices and documents in regard to such development.

But we are taking power to make such an investigation because in some cases it may be useful to see what is exactly contemplated in the way of development. So the power under this subsection extends to both these matters in the Bill—the Board's determination of prices and the Board's requirements as to development; and this power is exercisable solely in relation to the enforcement of these two matters. I hope that I have made the scope and application of this Amendment clear to the Committee.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, after "necessary," to insert: for the performance by the Board of their duty under section three of this Act or. If I may I will discuss at the same time the following four Amendments to the proposed Amendment—to lines 9, 10 and 14 because they all hang together. They are:

In line 9, after "undertaking," insert "and any property forming part of the undertaking."

In line 10, leave out "or documents," and insert "documents or property."

In line 10, after "to," insert "or used in."

In line 14, at end, insert "and for the inspection of such property."

I am afraid that I have to widen considerably the discussion on the Amendment which the Solicitor-General has moved because this is the only occasion on which we can discuss what we think is a matter of great importance. It is in our view right that the Board should inspect not only the books but the property of the iron and steel makers whenever they feel it necessary to do so in the exercise of the duties imposed upon them under this Bill.

In discussing the Amendment, the Solicitor-General limited himself to the narrow legal aspect of the proposal which he put forward. I invite the Committee to consider the matter from a broader aspect and to accept the view that we regard an Amendment to the Government Amendment as exceedingly important. I also invite the Committee to accept the view that if the Government do not accept our Amendment they are making a farce of the powers and status of the Board as the alleged supervisory body in this industry.

When the Bill was first drafted and brought before the House of Commons, the Minister had in it a simple Clause 13 which to our mind, and I think to the minds of most independent people who considered this matter, was satisfactory. It gave to the Board full powers, for any purpose necessary to them in carrying out any of their duties, to look at the books of any of the companies which came under their control and, if necessary, to inspect the property of any iron and steel producer.

We found, however, that at a later stage the Minister decided to delete that general power of inspection of books and property. Instead, we now find this Government Amendment to Clause 27 whereby books may be inspected for certain purposes. Together with that, we have also a new Clause under which the Minister may ask for certain information, also in certain limited circumstances. The position of the Board, therefore, in finding out what is happening in the industry has been immensely weakened as a result of the changes brought about by the Minister and incorporated in the Bill.

It seems to us a principle to which nobody could object that if a body is to be set up which is to have any authority whatsoever over the industry to carry out effectively its supervisory duties, the first authority that that body must have is authority to find out exactly what is happening in the industry, to enable it to check any possible abuses and to make comparisons. It must have power to look at any books relevant to its duty and, also, it must have power to inspect any property so as to be sure that its duties are being carried out properly.

5.45 p.m.

Under this Government Amendment the Board may only examine the books of companies which come under their alleged authority if they want to check up development schemes which a company may be proposing under Clause 5, or if they want to check maximum prices. But for no other purpose are the Board entitled to examine the books of a single company that comes within their jurisdiction, and in no circumstances whatever is anybody authorised by the Board entitled to look at any works which come under the authority of the Board.

We say that this bar on the Board, which prohibits them from examining the essential facts which they ought to have in carrying out their duties, makes the position of the Board entirely farcical. Anybody outside the political arena must say that in banning the Board from seeing any works or books which they may require for the purpose, the Government are doing something wholly ridiculous. I do not think that the Government can expect anybody to take the Board very seriously if it is debarred from taking such actions.

We were told that this Bill is being set up in fulfilment of the Government's promise to put the iron and steel industry under public supervision. Later on, when we moved Amendments to ensure that the Board should carry out their duty in the public interest, we were told that it is not their function, that they have not the knowledge and that they cannot carry out the duty of supervision in the public interest. We have been told that only the Government could do that. So there is no public interest element in the activities of the Board.

When it comes to supervision we find that there is very little supervision which the Board can do. They are not allowed to look at the industry at all. So there is no "public" and precious little "supervision" in this public supervisory Board. Therefore, it is entirely ridiculous and false for the Government to pretend that this Bill carries out the promise which was put in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that this industry would be de-nationalised in such a way that there would be an effective form of public supervision over it. Instead of public supervision, all we have is a limited form of private inquiry.

When we were discussing this matter rather tentatively on an earlier occasion, it was argued by the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown), who is not now in his place, that there is really no need to give to the Board any authority to look at works and to examine them to see what is happening there because, he said, any works or plants will be only too ready to welcome any authorised representative of the Board, and they will show him round and let him see whatever he wants to see. That may or may not be so.

When the Minister first drafted this Bill why did he put into Clause 13 the specific authority—which he has now deleted—for a representative of the Board to visit any property belonging to an iron and steel producer? Presumably that Clause was put into the Bill for some purpose. Why has it now been deleted, so that no authorised servant of the Board has any authority to look at iron and steel works if he is not invited to do so? What pressures have been put upon the Minister to induce him to take away that power, which common sense suggests the Board should have.

What objections can there possibly be to a representative of the Board visiting works to examine the books of companies not only for the two objects specified in this Amendment but for the purpose of carrying out any or all of the duties imposed on the Board by the Bill? We ask the Minister to give us some information why the powers previously afforded to the Board in this respect have been whittled down and why the power to examine works has been removed altogether.

In the first of this series of Amendments we seek to ensure that the authorised agent of the Board should lave authority to look at the books of any company not only for the purpose of carrying out the intentions of Clauses 5 and 7 of this Bill but for the performance of their duty under Clause 3. We mention Clause 3 because it is that Clause which lays down the general duty of the Board. It is a very broad duty, which reads in an impressive way. They are to have a general supervision over the iron and steel industry with a view to promoting the efficient, economic and adequate supply of iron and steel products.

If that is the duty which has been imposed on the Board why are they not allowed to have information which is obviously essential to the carrying out of that duty? How can they be sure that the industry is carrying out efficiently the duty of producing iron and steel products unless they are able to look at the books of the companies, to examine the works, to make comparisons and to do all the other things which any body charged with ensuring the efficiency of an industry or group of industries must do before it can carry out its duties?

We know that the Minister has not given the Board power to impose their will on the industry; but he should give them some authority and status so that they can find out what is happening and can include in their annual reports informed comments about the state of the industry. But we are told that the information contained in the books must remain a secret and that the Board may not look at them under any circumstances except in those two which are specified in the Amendment which the Solicitor-General has moved.

If we look at another part of Clause 3 we find that it is the duty of the Board to make arrangements for the promotion of the safety, health and welfare of persons employed in the iron and steel industry. Everybody agrees that that is very desirable, but why should the Board be prohibited from going to some works where they think things are not quite satisfactory and looking for themselves at the situation? It must be remembered that it is not only the very big iron and steel producers who come under the Board. There are 2,400 firms and the Board are specifically charged with the duty of seeing that there are adequate arrangements for the promotion of the safety, health and welfare of the employees. They cannot carry out this duty without these powers.

The Board are also given the duty of seeing that the arrangements for the promotion of research and the training and education of persons employed in the industry are satisfactory. In that case, it is very desirable that the Board should be able to go into some of these works to see if all these arrangements are adequate or whether something further is required.

The limitations imposed by the Amendment which has been moved by the Solicitor-General are wholly unnecessary. Does not the Minister trust the Board? Does he think they may misuse any information which may be given to them as a result of their inspections, or is the situation that some of the firms whose premises and books might be inspected are suspicious of the Board and think they will use the information for wrong purposes? Is this Board a really trustworthy Board which can be relied upon to act in a proper and reasonable way. and to whom all the firms concerned can confide their secrets without anything untoward happening?

The Board must have authority if they are to have any standing. If it is to consist of people who are untrustworthy, the Minister should not appoint them. I am assuming that they are a worthy and decent body, consisting of important people carrying out important duties, who can be trusted with the information disclosed to them in the way we suggest. Without these powers the Board will be nothing more than spectators—and very limited spectators. They will be collectors of limited information and much of the information which they put into the annual report to be presented to the Minister and Parliament will be useless.

If they are honest, at the end of their report they will have to say, "This is what we believe to be true as a result of information which has been supplied to us, but we have not been allowed to check any information by going to works ourselves and seeing if it is correct." It is ridiculous for Parliament to deny such a body the essential facilities for carrying out their duties.

It may be that these powers have been accidentally omitted by the Government. It is unlikely, but it is possible. In that case, we shall be delighted if they will accept our Amendment in our own words or in some other words. If they are not prepared to do that we ask them to tell us why they have withdrawn from the Board their original power to look at the books of all the companies and inspect all the works whenever they thought it necessary to do so; why there has been a change of mind; and what pressures have been brought upon them to justify that change of mind?

Unless we receive very satisfactory.answers to those questions my hon. Friends, who feel very keenly about this matter, will pursue it and probe the mind of the Government, and if we find the Government adamant we shall have to expose their true intention. This is a real exposure of the hollow sham of this Board which the Government propose to set up to control this industry, and we await with interest the Government's answer. We do not demand anything revolutionary. We demand that the Board should be given some reality, that they should be enabled to look at the job they are supposed to be carrying out, as this is obviously essential if they are to carry out their duties under the Bill.

6.0 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

>: It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I answered the right hon. Gentleman straight away. He has, indeed, broadened the debate on this Amendment. I make no complaint of that, but I should like to emphasise that our proposed Amendment is of a limited character, dealing with the enforcement of the Board's requirement and determination as to prices.

The right hon. Gentleman has sought by his Amendments to broaden the discussion to cover the entire exercise by the Board of their functions under this Bill. In the course of doing that he made some slight passing reference to the proposed new Clause—[Furnishing of information to Board and Minister]—standing in the name of my right hon. Friend, but he did not deal in any detail with what it contains or the powers it gives to the Board. It is not very easy to reply properly to the right hon. Gentleman without making a passing reference or two to that new proposed new Clause, and I hope that I shall not exceed the bounds of order in seeking to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman said that if the Board were to have any authority at all they must have authority to know what is going on, and the requisite power to enable them to know what is going on. In our view, under the terms of the proposed new Clause that power is given to the Board. I cannot properly discuss that in any detail at present, but if the Committee look at subsection (1) of that new Clause it will be seen that the Board are given wide powers of obtaining information to enable them to discharge the general duties laid upon them. It is true that that new Clause—and I come now to the specific point made by the right hon. Gentleman—does not give power to inspect property or books; but it does give power to obtain information which the Board require for their varied purposes. Our proposed Amendment, to which the right hon. Gentleman has moved an Amendment, is concerned solely with enforcement

The right hon. Gentleman takes the view—and I think he will agree that this summarises what he said—that the Board must have general unlimited power to inspect all the books and other documents of any company at any time they wish, for the purpose of performing their functions and also the power of entering upon the property of any company whenever the Board wish to do so for the purpose of seeing what is going on. I think I am not stating the right hon. Gentleman's argument unfairly. That would mean that there might well be a substantial body of officials, authorised persons, arriving at premises with the right of admission to the premises and I can well see that it would not be very long before there was considerable criticism on the ground that these representatives of the Board were nothing more nor less than "snoopers."

That is not perhaps a very forcible argument. But I can see, too—and this is more weighty—that if the Board are given this power of enforcing the inspection of the property and any books of companies whenever they wish, it is certainly not likely to promote the relationship which should and must exist between the Board and the members of the industry if this industry is to flourish.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why there had been this alteration in the Bill from its original form. I can answer that quite shortly. It is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take wider powers, either for themselves or for a Board of this character, than they consider to be essential. While we consider the powers of enforcing inspection to be essential where there may be a breach of the Board's requirement or determination, we do not consider that for the purpose of the other functions to be exercised by the Board it is necessary to provide a right of entry on demand to a company's property, or individual property, or a right to inspect their documents, books and other records. We do not believe that those two things are essential in any sense for the proper performance of the Board's duties.

The right hon. Gentleman also made some reference to safety, health and welfare, and argued that this power of entry should be given for that purpose. He well knows that under the Factories Acts inspectors can gain admission for that purpose.

I have dealt with the right hon. Gentleman's arguments fairly shortly, but I hope not too shortly. My answer to him is twofold. His first Amendment, which would extend our proposed Amendment to Clause 3, is quite inappropriate, because the provision of information in relation to Clause 3 is dealt with in the new Clause and not in this subsection which, I repeat, is limited to the enforcement of determinations and requirements of the Board.

With regard to the extension to property, my answer is twofold again. It is not necessary, for the purpose of enforcing the Board's requirements and determinations, to have power to inspect property. So far as the other functions of the Board are concerned, we consider that the right of inspecting property is also unnecessary. We do not want this Board to interfere—as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want them to interfere—in the day-to-day running of the business. I do not think he goes as far as that; but he wants to have this right to demand entry and admission.

I believe that with the Bill in its present form there is great force in the view expressed on a previous occasion by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown), to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It is the intention and desire that the members of the Board and their staff should have very friendly relationships with the members of the industry; and it is the intention that they shall from time to time pay visits to various works and premises. But their reception and treatment will be different and the effect of what they say is likely to be considerably greater if there is a friendly relationship rather than the relationship which is likely to arise as a result of someone presenting himself at the premises, authorised, it may be by the Board or it may be by the Minister, to demand entry as of right and entitled to look at every single book, document or other paper that the company has in its possession.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Looking at Clause 2, I think the Solicitor-General will agree that the main purpose of this particular Board—the foundation of its being—is that it should have powers of supervision. On that aspect of the matter, I am trying to follow his argument. How are the Board to have effective supervision if they have no power of entry or inspection? Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will develop that point.

The Solicitor-General

I think I can deal with that point very shortly. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at Clause 3 again he will see that it is the duty of the Board to exercise a general supervision over the iron and steel industry. That general supervision can, in my view, be properly exercised if the new Clause is added to the Bill, without giving the Board the right to secure entry upon the premises of any individual or company—upon the property of that company—and without giving the Board and its members the right of inspecting every document in the company's possession.

I think general supervision can be exercised without that. We have considered the matter very carefully, and the new Clause gives adequate powers, and I hope that when we do come to the near Clause the hon. and learned Gentleman will be satisfied that the powers are adequate for the purpose of exercising general supervision.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The difficulty I find is how the Board can have effective supervision if we leave the position optional and capricious so far as the companies are concerned, because they can in those circumstances allow or disallow, at their own whim, entry and inspection by the Board. They can do that all along the line of the Board's duties. There is no provision here at all to enforce any requirement of the Board. The supervision by the Board cannot, therefore, possibly be effective unless they can enforce that supervision.

The Solicitor-General

To enable the Board to exercise general supervision the Board must know what is going on; the Board must receive information; they must be able to obtain information. In the new Clause it is clearly provided that the Board will be able to obtain information, and if they do not get the information they require there is a criminal sanction. That is one thing. It is a quite different thing to say that the Board should have power to send people down to look at books, documents, invoices of a company whenever they wish, and for the Board to send people down to demand entry as of right at any time on the premises of a company or individual.

We do not consider that that right of entry upon property is essential. We think that, so far as we provide it in the Amendment that I moved, the right to examine documents of the character I have described for the purpose of seeing whether or not the Board's requirements and the Board's determinations have been or have not been infringed is all that is necessary in this connection.

Mr. Jack Jones

I rise to support the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend. I submit to the Committee that the Solicitor-General has really over-emphasised and distorted what our Amendment seeks to do. There is not the slightest intention on the part of anybody in the Committee—certainly not of anybody on this side—to have a board that sets out to be an "awkward squad" at any moment, with power without notice and without courteous acknowledgements to enter various works. What we have in mind is a board able to do the job the Government say they are setting up the Board to do, that is, to supervise the industry—not to supervise it remotely through a telescope from London, but to take positive action in the industry.

6.15 p.m.

This idea that the Board would fail to make friends with various companies because there was a desire to have a look at the books seems to be all the more reason why our Amendment should be accepted. If we have to depend on the good will of the companies about to come into operation, by leaving their books unlooked at and their works unseen, that, to a very innocent sort of person, is all the more reason why should pursue our point of view.

What we have in mind is that there should be a set-up whereby from time to time the Board will receive from the companies they are supposed to be supervising—we have now got to the supposition of supervision—returns showing, for instance, what firm A, with 6,000 ton, of steel capacity per week, has accomplished. The Board think, on seeing the returns, and comparing them with those of another firm with similar capacity. that there is a great difference between the firms in production, and in price, and in quality, and so on. We want the Board to have some power to go along and say. "What has gone wrong? What is happening?" We know something about this industry, and we know that firms vary. The very fact that the Board have this right, if not the power, to have a look from time to time if they so desire at the companies' costings, their supply of raw materials and what is happening to them—the very fact that that is in the Bill—would, in our opinion, be conducive to keeping the firms concerned on their toes.

The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) and I have already had an exchange of views about the visits of the steel men. He said there would be no let or hindrance to people coming from the Board or anywhere else to have a look round the works. Of course there would not if the visit were just a social visit—just a look round, then a meal, and a fun fair and a cigar, and what have you. But it is a completely different picture when the Board arrive with an intention of making an analysis of the production of the place, having regard to the facts that have come into their possession; not because they have any time to waste, not because they want to snoop and to be pin-pricking and making things awkward, but because, as is suggested in the Bill itself, they have the public interest at heart.

That is what it is the Board's job to do. They would go to firm x or firm y and say, "We see from your own records that there is a difference between these two companies, and we should like to know how this has been brought about." There are many aspects in which firms differ, or by which differences may be brought about—in production, by discounts, by wastage, through the percentage of production from the raw materials supplied to the works. The hon. Member for Esher knows the tremendous difference that obtains between different works—the percentage obtained of good steel made from the raw material received.

I repeat with emphasis that long-range telescopic supervision does not appeal to us at all. Why the original intention of the Government should be superseded by this new Clause we cannot understand— unless it is because the big hand has been at work. "Why should we let our books be looked at?" they say. Why should there be any fear of the books being looked at? Why should there be? "Why should our production records be examined?" they ask. Why should there be any fear if everything is fair and square and above board? What about managerial costs? Tonnage production per managerial costs varies from firm to firm a tremendous amount.

There may be a firm having in its employ very qualified steelmakers, more than they need to have. There may be a firm in need of a good, qualified man. Why should not the Board make the suggestion that the firm with more steelmakers than it requires should allow one or some to be transferred to the firm in need of that assistance, in the interests of efficient production? The idea of the Board being kept in London, and their representatives making an occasional social visit to firms, does not appeal to us at all, and makes us all the more desirous to press our Amendments. We want to be assured that what the Government say they intend to do, they really mean to do.

The public read these debates and they think that here is a Board being set up with no powers or right of entry. We are not saying that there should be admission on short notice—of rushing into the works and putting someone on the carpet. That would be sheer nonsense. But we do say that if the Board are not satisfied, and have reason to believe that things are not as they should be in the public interest, they should have the right to go along and make the necessary suggestions in a proper way to ensure that the things which they believe to be wrong are put right. We ask the Government to accept our request in this matter.

Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)

I accept the attitude of the Solicitor-General on the right of entry into works. We do not think that the Bill should have a Clause of such an arbitrary character in it. I ask the Solicitor-General to confirm that, in his opinion, as in the opinion of any reasonable Member of the Committee, it would be a very unusual company which refused to allow a visit at the proper request of the Board of any member or representatives of the Board in relation to any matter on which there was doubt. I think that, in practice, such an attitude would raise such grave suspicions that it would be perfectly justifiable for the Board, in considering price-fixing for that particular section of the industry, to say, "We are sorry, but we cannot approve the price-fixing in the way you do it, for the reasons we give." The power which could be exercised in that direction would be tremendous.

As the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) knows, there is not a single manufacturer in the steel industry whom one could imagine would ever, under any circumstances, refuse a reasonable request by the Board to allow their representatives to visit the works for the inspection of plant or equipment, or in connection with any other powers given to the Board under any section of the Bill.

There is one other point which I should like to mention. There are proper and adequate provisions in the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, covering and giving additional powers in this matter. The question of the examination of books is a narrow point related specifically to certain sections of the industry, apart from steel operating and other capacity I do not think that it is the purpose or duty of the Board to concern themselves with operations outside the iron and steel industry. I am quite satisfied, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) and his colleagues are satisfied, that any books or figures required could be obtained willingly and freely, and if they cannot be, there are sufficient provisions in the Bill to see that they are obtained.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman realises that there are 2,400 firms concerned and that many have expressed the greatest indignation against coming under the supervision of a Board of any sort. They consider that anti-social and undesirable. Does he not appreciate that it may well be that one or more of these firms, when the Board request permission to examine their works, will say, "No." I would like to ask him, in particular, why he supported the Bill when it was first published and had this power in it—no one objected to it—and whether he can tell us whether he is one of those who brought pressure on the Government to modify the Bill as it was originally drafted?

Mr. Jack Jones

I should like to put to the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown), who is one of the practical men on this Committee and whose opinion we value, this point. Here we have a Board which have to make determinations in regard to expansion or extension or in respect of completely new plant. Assuming that we have six plans put forward to the Board for expansion from six of the well-known companies, and the Board have to make a determination that expansion shall be only granted to one or two, they will want, in the public interest, to be in possession of information to enable them to grant the applications for expansion to firms where steel can be most economically produced at the lowest possible price and in the highest quality and quantity. How can the Board determine which of these six companies shall have permission for ex- tension or expansion unless they have access to the records, books, costings, and so on?

Mr. Robson Brown

I will answer that point. My attention has been drawn to the new Clause 5, relating to the furnishing of information to the Minister and the Board. I think that that covers that point very completely. Obviously, the Board must have the right to make these inspections and arrive at their decision in the light of the judgment they derive from the facts available at the works.

What we are really debating is not the broad points between the hon. Member for Rotherham and myself in relation to the steel industry as such, precisely as we understand it, but the foundry industry and that part of the Bill. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is burning to get on his feet to speak on that matter and, therefore, I will leave it to him.

Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)

It is almost an anti-climax to break up the friendly atmosphere that exists between my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) and the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown). Both are practical steel men whose knowledge, I am sure, is of great value, particularly that of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham.

Both the hon. Member for Esher and the Solicitor-General have attempted, in resisting these Amendments, to evade the issue by drawing attention to the new Clause and to the provision contained therein that the Board shall have power to call for information. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that not very long ago there was an attempt by an external authority to control a steel industry upon the basis of information supplied without adequate physical supervision, and that was the attempt of tripartite control over the German iron and steel industry at the time of the Ruhr Authority.

There was then all the power in the world to demand information, and information was supplied in duplicate and in triplicate with Teutonic thoroughness, but there was not adequate physical investigation and supervision. What happened? Whereas that industry was supposed to be working at a maximum production of 11¼ million tons per annum, it was found that it was producing at the rate of 14 million tons per annum. Yet the information had been provided and all the forms filled in.

I remember under this form of supervision going round some German steel works with Mr. Harry Douglas, the Assistant General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Federation, when he discussed with great expertness the plants and facilities available in some of those works, and where he was told glibly by some of the production managers that particular furnaces or battery of furnaces had only a production of x thousand tons. I do not remember the figures, and I have not had time to look them up because the point only occurred to me while I was listening to the debate.

As a steel man of some long experience, he took leave to doubt and challenge these figures and to investigate them. As the result of the on-the-spot investigation, he was able to get a confession from the German steel managers that, in fact, their production was some 25 per cent. per annum more than that which they had filled in on their returns and sent in on the basis of the information requested. It simply does not work.

6.30 p.m.

We are not suggesting that the Board should have the degree of restrictive control over the British iron and steel industry that the tripartite control attempted to have over the German iron and steel industry, but the illustration which I have given makes the point that behind the doors and gates of a steel works a great deal can go on which can only be disclosed as a result of on-the-spot investigation. I am prepared to accept, as I am sure the Committee is prepared to accept, all the assurances given by the hon. Member for Esher that doors will be thrown wide open and people will be taken round when they so request.

However, the hon. Member for Esher, who speaks with all the authority that he has upon aspects of the steel industry, does not speak for the steel industry. He does not speak for the recalcitrant section of the steel industry. He speaks, perhaps, for an enlightened section of the industry, and that fact makes his contributions so much more welcome in the Committee but not all steel people see precisely eye to eye with him and he is not empowered to commit them. Therefore, we feel that, despite his offers, we really must ask for firmer statutory provision.

As a result of our debates, the Board is an anatomical monstrosity. The Government professed to give it muscle and then cut the tendons so that it cannot move its arms or legs. The Government professed to give it sensibility, but they neglected to provide a nervous system. The Opposition have made attempts to give it teeth, but hon. Gentlemen opposite are content that it shall remain toothless. One thing at least which the Government did in the original draft of the Bill was to provide the wretched animal with eyes, but in their second thoughts they have carefully gouged out the eyes of the Board to blind it completely so that it is now not only immobile and without sensibility but even without eyes to see what is happening.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I find my view to be somewhere between that of my hon. and learned Friend and that of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not agree that the form of the Amendments would fulfil the object of the Bill in so far as the Board is envisaged to be a supervisory body, and, as was made plain when other Amendments were rejected, not a controlling body. On the other hand, it might be open to argument whether there should be some final sanction, for that appears to be somewhat lacking.

To cite an instance, there was the example of the weakness in the Board's supervisory power over the arrangements for safety and welfare. It was said that these requirements could be fulfilled under the Factory Acts and the Clause would be superfluous because it would be unnecessary to state that this was one of the functions of the Board. It seems to me that between now and the Report stage an attempt might be made to find a form of wording which would give some sanction to the Board beyond the mere inspection of documents. I do not think the Government could properly accept the Amendments tabled by the Opposition because they would tend not merely to give the Board greater powers but to give controlling powers. Nevertheless, there should be some improvement upon the powers now provided by the present drafting.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

The Solicitor-General has spoken on two occasions, counting an intervention that he made, and he speaks with the authority of his legal knowledge and we know that his hearing is pretty good. Why is it that he has constantly evaded the question put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss): What happened to the original Clause 13?

Mr. Nabarro

Sunk without trace.

Mr. Lee

That is what we are worried about. Why does not the hon. and learned Gentleman come to the Box and answer that simple question? I will gladly give way to him if he will tell us the answer.

The Solicitor-General

I answered it in my speech dealing with the Amendment.

Mr. Lee


The Solicitor-General

Indeed, I did. I said that we have come to the conclusion that the powers taken in the Clause were more extensive than necessary.

Mr. Lee

Now we have the answer. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is accusing his hon. and learned Friend of being a Socialist.

Mr. Nabarro

My intervention was intended to convey that the powers inherent in the original Clause 13 represented the quintessence of Socialist regimentation.

Mr. Lee

That reinforces what I said. In other words, the hon. Gentleman is accusing his hon. and learned Friend of being a Socialist of a particularly high order. However, that does not happen to be quite so. The opinion expressed on Second Reading by the Opposition that the Board to be set up under the Bill were nothing but a sham and a fraud is now proved to be correct by the Solicitor-General himself. He told us in his intervention that the original intention was to give the Board some degree of supervision but that in the meantime a voice has breathed o'er—not Eden but another member of the same Government.

In Clause 3 there are one or two provisions of extreme importance to the workers in the industry. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Clause provides certain powers for educational purposes, and subsection (1, f) provides arrangements for joint consultation between the steel producers and their employees. If the members of the Board are not to be permitted to examine what arrangements which are being made or are not being made within the ambit of Clause 3, I suggest that the workers are not being allowed the facilities which they are apparently given in the Clause. The whole idea appears to be a kind of supervision by helicopter. If the Minister of Supply had to supervise the Ministry of Supply without being allowed to enter it, how could he possibly be answerable to the House for what occurred?

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

Surely the hon. Member has read the Clause we are discussing. It gives adequate powers for the Board to enter.

Mr. Lee

It is just because I have read the Clause that I am worried about it.

Mr. Roberts

>: It gives adequate powers.

Mr. Lee

No, it does not. It has been pointed out that our Amendment is being refused because the Government did not consider that the members of the Board should be permitted to enter premises when they wished to do so, and that reinforces the opinion we held on Second Reading that the Board are a sham and a farce and have no powers whatsoever to supervise the industry. When we moved an Amendment some time ago to introduce the word "control," no wonder the hon. Member for Kidderminster almost fainted at the thought and was quick to ask his right hon. Friend under no conditions to agree to its insertion.

The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) told us that we could always rely upon it that those who owned the steel industry would be very happy to meet these people on a friendly basis. How does the hon. Member know who will be owning the steel industry after the sale of the assets? I have already suggested that those who previously owned the steel industry will not be the future owners. I do not believe that many former owners will want to buy back their shareholdings. It will be the speculators who will be willing to take a gamble on getting a decent price before a Labour Government returns to power and re-nationalises the industry.

The hon. Member for Esher is not in a position to say that the steel industry will always be willing to welcome the members of the Board to inspect their premises. The Government are now confronted with a straight issue. They should say why they have withdrawn Clause 13 or they should admit that they do not intend to give the Board the slightest power whatever, and that this is simply a confidence trick which they have perpetrated against the people of this country.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

This is a matter which I am sure the hon. and learned Solicitor-General will look at in a friendly and sensible way. I have considered this question most carefully and I intervene only because I am profoundly disturbed by the point in issue. I submit that as the matter stands it makes completely nonsensical legislation. Clause 3 very properly sets out the various functions of supervision—I stress the word supervision —which are conferred upon the Board. The Board are given very important duties in connection with productive capacity; arrangements for procuring and distributing raw materials; prices; arrangements for the promotion of research; the promotion of the safety, health and welfare of the different people involved; and joint consultation.

Either those are real functions and the intention is that they are to be carried out by the Board, or the provision is just a farce. It is certainly rendered a farce by what the Government are now seeking to do, I ask the Solicitor-General to consider this Clause and the Amendment and their effect. Is not it a fact that the Board would have to go to the court before they were entitled to enforce any or all of the supervisory duties purported to be conferred on them? If the Board wanted to see the books of any company or firm in question and there was a refusal, they could not see them. They would have to go to the court first. The same applies to every other duty vested in the Board by Clause 3.

This means that the Board are to be dragged through the court before they can exercise any of their fundamental functions. There is no power of enforcement inscribed in this Bill except through the jurisdiction and the order of the court. These duties are certainly conferred upon the Board but, at the same time, it is equally true that the Board cannot exercise any of them without going to court first, so that to perform their fundamental duties they have to be dragged through the courts. That is reducing legislation to a state which is absolutely ludicrous and intolerable. I do not think that any of these animadversions on either the Clause or the Government Amendment can be denied. If they cannot be denied, something ought to be done quickly and effectively to put the matter right.

6.45 p.m.

Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)

I am sure that the Solicitor-General will have appreciated from the speeches which have been made the strength of feeling which actuates my hon. Friends. The Board should be provided with adequate powers to discharge their responsibilities. When this Bill first saw the light of day such adequate powers were contained in Clause 13. Those powers included the right to go on to premises and to inspect property. That right has now been taken away from the Board.

The Solicitor-General says that we should look at the new Clause where we will find that the Board are given what they need. The new Clause does not give the Board that power. The Board are not given that power in any other part of the Bill although they had it. The Solicitor-General, in those well modulated tones in which we so much delight, says that this proposal by my right hon. Friend savours of snooping. He holds up his hand as if there was something indecent about it. He made a most appealing case to that effect.

But if this is indecent now why was not it indecent on 5th November, 1952, when this Bill was presented? Why was not it indecent during the many months of cogitation on the part of the Government which ultimately produced the Bill? Many of us thought that the Government had given it up as a bad job. Apparently they had not, and ultimately the Bill came to life with Clause 13 in it. If ever there was a case of Philip sober condemning Philip drunk, this is that case. We are all delighted to recognise a commanding intellect in the Solicitor-General, but had his intellect ceased to command on 5th November, 1952? Had it ceased to command right through November, through December and through part of January until at long last an Amendment was put down cutting out Clause 13?

The Solicitor-General has been asked by one after another of my hon. Friends what have been the comings and goings which have led to the truncation of the Board's necessary powers. He has not told us. What he has said is that he thinks that the powers are unnecessary. If he thinks them unnecessary now, why did not he think them unnecessary before; or is this a case of dormitat Homerus and through all these long months was the Solicitor-General slumbering in blissful ignorance on this matter? I cannot believe that that is the case. We feel that there is something indecent and suspicious about this. [Laughter]. Hon. Members opposite laugh but what is the state of affairs?

This Bill received the fullest consideration. I have not the least doubt about that. Ultimately, after being forged and fashioned in the minds of the Government for months and months it came to life, and the Board were constituted by it. They were charged with most important functions. There was Clause 13. It saw the light of day for some weeks, and nothing was done by the Government; but, suddenly. the Clause was taken out.

We find it extremely difficult to account for such a sudden change of heart on the part of the Government. Why is it? What initiated it? Why is what was right and proper before suddenly so wrong and improper now that the Solicitor-General thinks that it is quite indecent and snooping? This is extremely serious. Unless they can go on to premises and inspect property, it will be impossible for the Board to discharge the functions vested in them in Clause 3, as well as in Clauses 5 and 7.

We were most disappointed by the answer given by the Solicitor-General. We feel extremely puzzled as to what moved him to initiate this change. We feel still more puzzled as to the almost complete bankruptcy of the argument which he advanced to support it. That argument was simply that he did not like it. He has not given any reason why he does not like it, and why he liked it before. I hope that my hon. Friends will take this matter to the Division Lobby to express their disapproval at this change of heart and lack of courage on the part of the Government when somebody got at them and said that this Clause ought to go.

The Solicitor-General

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has done his utmost to convince me of the strength of feeling on his side of the Committee with regard to this Amendment. I do not question it. The issue between us lies in determining what are adequate powers for the Board in the discharge of their duties. The right hon. and learned Gentleman sought to castigate me because the Bill, in its present form, differs from the Bill as originally introduced, but I have never heard it advanced as criticism against a Government that they tried to amend or alter and improve a Bill. Listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, one would think it a criminal offence to try to improve or make an alteration to a Bill after it has been introduced—unless the alteration were made by the Opposition. That is a most untenable proposition.

I have said, and I repeat, that when a Bill has been introduced or re-introduced we can consider it and seek to improve it, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, right up to a very late stage. I have seen it happen time and time again. This Bill has been considerably improved since its original introduction.

Let me come to the arguments which have been advanced and deal with them as shortly as I can. I do not believe that there is anything unpleasant or suspicious behind me [Laughter].—looking round the Committee I see no ground for suspicion—or behind this alteration. There is no force in that argument. Where we differ is in considering what are adequate powers for the Board. We consider that the powers which we propose in the Amendment I have moved to be necessary for securing enforcement under Clauses 5 and 7. The right hon. and learned Gentleman—and I make no complaint about it—seeks to extend our Amendment to cover Clause 3 and the rest of the functions of the Board.

The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) asked me a question, which, of course, I must try to answer. He suggested that we could never get information as to what was happening and that the Board would never be able to obtain it from a reluctant company without dragging the company through the courts. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at Clause 27 again he will see that recourse to the courts relates only to breach of a requirement under Clause 5 or as to determination of price under Clause 7. There is no power for injunction proceedings to be brought in connection with Clause 3.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The functions contained in Clause 3 could not be enforced, even if there were a direction from the Minister, unless the Board had recourse to the court and in that way obtained an order.

The Solicitor-General

I differ from the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not think there would be any power to go to the court to get an order. The Amendment I moved relates solely to Clauses 5 and 7. The proposed new Clause deals with the Board's powers in relation to Clause 3 and other Clauses. I do not want to say anything to minimise the importance we attach to Clause 3, but we feel that the powers we have given to the Board in relation to Clause 3, and which are contained in the proposed new Clause, and in relation to other matters, are adequate to enable the Board to exercise general supervision. I dare say that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not agree with that, and there may be others who do not, but that is our view.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Putting aside a mandatory injunction, which, of course, is a civil proceeding, and means going to the court in any case, would not the Solicitor-General agree that even as regards Clauses 5 and 7 none of the functions could be enforced without going to court, either by way of injunction or by way of order under summary jurisdiction?

The Solicitor-General

I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman means by "enforced" in that connection. The Amendment deals with the enforcement of the Board's requirements. The proceedings taken under Clause 27, if the Amendment is accepted, will enable the Board and the Minister to secure that the requirement and the determination are complied with.

I come back to the Amendment. Hard words have been used by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) and there was some reference to confidence tricks which was completely inappropriate. The proposed new Clause gives sufficient power. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) what would happen when five companies made an application and the Board wanted further information. I cannot imagine for one moment that a company applying for a determination in its favour in relation to its functions would be reluctant to supply the Board with the necessary information that the Board required in support of that application.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

That is begging the whole question.

The Solicitor-General

I do not think it is begging the question in the least. I do not think that the power of entering into property as of right, or the power of compelling inspection of books, would be in the least necessary in relation to an application made by a company for liberty to expand. The question of the hon. Gentleman almost answers itself. There was great force in what my hon. Friend the Member for Esher said when he suggested that it would be a very unusual company which resisted any suggestion made by the Board which was likely to promote efficiency, good conditions, or anything of that sort.

The sole issue is whether the Board should have the right to demand entry for any authorised person at any time to inspect any document of a company or any premises belonging to a company. We say that the right to inspect documents is necessary in relation to enforcement under Clauses 5 and 7, but we do not believe that the right to demand entry as of right is essential or necessary for the Board's other powers.

It is putting it quite inaccurately to say that the Board has no powers. The Board have powers and it is putting it inaccurately to suggest that the Board will never be permitted to visit premises unless they have a statutory right to demand entry. We have considered this matter very carefully and we have come to the conclusion that if the Committee accept the Amendment it will give the teeth required to this Part of the Bill while the proposed new Clause will give the teeth that are required in other Parts of the Bill.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The Solicitor-General has tried to get away with it by saying, "After all, anybody can change their mind; any Government can move Amendments to their own Bill and there is nothing wrong in that." As a broad statement of principle one would agree with that, but in this case we are entitled to know what it was that moved the Government to change their minds.

We must bear in mind what happened. This Bill was produced, and the moment we saw it, we said that the Government were trying to set up a Board which were a sham in order to pretend that there was to be public supervision over the industry. On the other hand, people in the industry and many Conservative supporters said, "My word, it is possible that this Board may be a reality. They might interfere with us. We know we shall be all right under a Conservative Government. Of course they would not dare to do anything. But there is a danger that there may be a Labour Government one of these days and they would seek to use the powers of the Board, to interfere with us, to examine our efficiency and to stir things up. We do not want that to happen."

At that stage there was a tremendous volume of criticism and of opposition, in particular from the foundries, who wrote to every Conservative and Labour Member of Parliament saying, "We must stop this Board, which will interfere with us, look at our works and even at our prices, and do all sorts of things." All sorts of negotiations took place behind the scenes between the Minister, who must have been worried by the opposition coming from his own side, and his own industrial supporters. It is clear that somebody said, "What we want above everything else is that this Board should not be allowed to look at our works to see what we are doing because, when there is a Labour Government, they might see all sorts of things and want us to do things that we do not want to do."

Therefore, we ask again, was it Steel House which was frightened that a serious Board might do something, was it the industry as a whole, was it the foundries, was it the 1922 Committee? Who was it that came along and made the Government run away from their previous decision? Remember that that decision was arrived at not after some months of consideration; more than a year elapsed between the time that this Bill was announced and its publication. So great consideration must have been given to it. We have not been told and we shall not be told what made the Government change their minds on this point, whether it was Steel House or the Conservative Party here.

We say again that it is making the thing a farce to say that a body which is supposed to exercise public supervision is not allowed to look at any works under any circumstances, whatever inefficient practices the Board may consider there are in those works. A short time ago the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers), who speaks to some extent for the steel industry, said that he conceived of the Board as a kind of policeman to look after the public interest. That is a simile we are prepared to accept, and it is accepted by the Government that there must be a body to look after the public interest. But that body will do this job without any serious power. [An HON. MEMBER: "And blindfolded."] And blindfolded, as my hon. Friend says.

We say it is a ridiculous situation, and when the public realise how restricted the Board will be in that they are forbidden to look at books except for limited purposes, and are forbidden under all circumstances to visit one of the works over which they are supposed to have authority, the public will realise what nonsense this Bill is. In order to save time we shall go through the Division Lobby only once, but we do so with a greater conviction than on any previous occasion that our Amendment is justified, and a greater conviction than on any previous occasion that the Government have made fools of themselves in resisting our Amendment.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

The Solicitor-General said that the only thing between us was the question of the powers of the Board. That is not true and he knows perfectly well, having listened to this debate. For some time we have been trying to convince him that there was something else, and all he has done has been to say, "We have changed our minds," and has refused to answer our question as to what made the Government change their minds. That may be excellent practice in a preparatory school debating society but it is not good enough for the House of Commons.

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that there was nothing sinister behind him. We think there is something sinister behind him in this matter. We have seen the Government refusing to accept Amendments designed to bring into the light of day the transactions in regard to the disposal of assets. We have seen the Government refusing to accept Amendments designed to bring into the light of day the influence of Steel House. They have refused all these things, and we know that the Government's own political party refuses to disclose its own political funds and the sources from which it gets them.

All these things we have seen, so of course we think there is something sinister in what is going on in the minds of the Government. We think there is a close association between the Government and Steel House, which is perhaps the most sinister political conspiracy at the present time. It is just a ramp, as was another silly control on a previous occasion—"a damned ramp with big cigars and nothing to do," if I may nearly quote the words of a noble Lord in

another place. That is what it will be again—it will have nothing to do because the Government will not allow the Board to do things effectively.

Now I want to leave the Solicitor-General and come to the right hon. Gentleman sitting next to him. Does the Minister really think that it is a courtesy to this Committee to sit there mum and not even answer the questions which have been put to him again and again from this side of the Committee? Are we not entitled to know what were the reasons for having put in the Bill originally the power to inspect property and then subsequently taking away that power? There must have been some reason. There has obviously been a change of mind. It is not enough to say that there has been a change of mind, because we know that. Are we not entitled to common courtesy and to have the reasons given to us?

If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept our Amendment, I appeal to him at least to get up now and give us a short explanation of the reasons beyond saying, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the Government have changed their minds. Surely at this last minute he can treat us with courtesy?

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 236; Noes, 254.

Division No. 108.] AYES [7.9 p.m.
Adams, Richard Castle, Mrs. B. A. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Albu, A. H. Champion, A. J Fernyhough, E.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Chapman, W. D. Fienburgh, W.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Chetwynd, G. R. Finch, H. J
Anderson, Frank (Whilehaven) Clunie, J. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Collick, P. H. Follick, M.
Awbery, S. S. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
Bacon, Miss Alice Cove, W. G. Freeman, John (Watford)
Balfour, A. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Crosland, C. A. R. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N
Bartley, P. Crossman, R. H. S. Gibson, C. W.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Cullen, Mrs. A. Glanville, James
Bence, C. R. Daines, P. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.
Benson, G. Darling, George (Hillsborough) Griffiths David (Rother Vakkey)
Beswick, F. Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Blackburn, F. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)
Blenkinsop, A. de Freitas, Geoffrey Hamilton, W. W.
Blyton, W. R. Deer, G. Hannan, W.
Boardman, H. Delargy, H. J. Hardy, E. A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Dodds, N. N. Hargreaves, A.
Bowden, H. W. Donnelly, D. L. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Hastings, S.
Brockway, A. F. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hayman, F. H.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Edelman, M. Healy, Cahir (Fermanagh)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hobson, C. R.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Holman, P.
Burton, Miss F. E. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Houghton, Douglas
Callaghan, L. J. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Mort, D. L. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R R.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moyle, A. Strachey, Rt. Hon J
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Murray, J. D. Strauss, Rt. Hon George (Vauxhall)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Nally, W. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Swingler, S. T
Janner, B. Oldfield, W. H Sylvester, G. O
Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Oliver, G. H. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jeger, George (Goole) Orbach, M. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Oswald, T. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Padley, W. E. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Paget, R. T. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Pannell, Charles Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Jones, [...]ack (Rotherham) Pargiter, G. A. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Jones, T. W (Merioneth) Paton, J. Thornton, E.
Keenan, W Pearson, A. Timmons, J
Kenyon, C. Pearl, T. F. Tomney, F.
Key, Rt. Hon C. W. Plummer, Sir Leslie Turner-Samuels, M.
King, Dr H. M Popplewell, E. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Kinley, J. Porter, G. Viant, S. P.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Watkins, T. E.
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Proctor, W. T. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Pryde, D. J. Weitzman, D.
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Pursey, Cmdr. H. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Lewis, Arthur Rankin, John Wells, William (Walsall)
Lindgren, G S. Reeves, J. West, D. G
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Wheeldon, W. E.
MacColl, J. E. Reid, William (Camlachie) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
McGhee, H. G. Rhodes, H. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
McGovern, J Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Wigg, George
McInnes, J. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Wilcock, Group Capt. C A B
McLeavy, F. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.) Wilkins, W. A.
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Willey, F. T.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Ross, William Williams, David (Nealh)
Mainwaring, W. H. Shackleton, E. A. A. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertllery)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Mann, Mrs. Jean Short, E. W. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Manuel, A. C. Shurmer, P. L. E Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Mayhew, C. P Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Mellish, R. J Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Messer, F. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Wyatt, W. L.
Mikardo, lan Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Yates, V. F.
Mitchison, G. R. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Younger, Rt. Hon K.
Monslow, W. Snow, J. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Moody, A. S Sorensen, R. W. Mr. Wallace and Mr. J. Johnson.
Morley, R. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Steele, T.
Aitken, W. T. Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Doughty, C. J. A.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm
Alport, C. J. M Brooman-White, R. C. Dragoon, G. B.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Browne, Jack (Govan) Drewe, C.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Bullard, D. G. Duthie, W. S.
Arbuthnot, John Bullock, Capt. M. Elliot, Rt. Hon W. E
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Bullus, Wing Commander E. E Erroll, F. J
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Burden, F. F. A. Fell, A.
Astor, Hon. J. J Butcher, Sir Herbert Finlay, Graeme
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Fisher, Nigel
Baldwin, A. E Campbell, Sir David Fort, R.
Banks, Col, C. Carr, Robert Foster, John
Barber, Anthony Channon, H. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell
Barlow, Sir John Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Poll[...]k)
Baxter, A. B. Cole, Norman Garner-Evans, E. H.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Colegate, W. A. Glyn, Sir Ralph
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Godber, J. B.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Gomme-Duncan, Col A
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Cough, C. F. H.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Cranborne, Viscount Gower, H. R.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C Graham, Sir Fergus
Bevins, J. R. (T[...]xteth) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Gridley, Sir Arnold
Birch, Nigel Crouch, R. F Grimond, J.
Bishop, F. P. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Black, C. W. Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Bossom, A. C. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Harden, J. R. E.
Bowen, E. R. Deedes, W. F. Hare, Hon. J. H.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Digby, S. Wingfield Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harris, Reader (Heston)
Braine, B. R. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Harrison, Col J. H. (Eye)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Donner, P. W.
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Russell, R. S.
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Maciay, Rt. Hon. John Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Maclean, Fitzroy Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Hay, John Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Heald, Sir Lionel MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Heath, Edward Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Scott, R. Donald
Henderson, John (Cathoart) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R
Higgs, J. M C. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Shepherd, William
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Hirst, Geoffrey Markham, Major S. F. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Holland-Martin, C. J. Marples A. E. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Maude, Angus Soames, Capt C.
Holt, A. F. Maudling, R. Spearman, A. C. M
Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Speir, R. M.
Hornsby Smith, Miss M. P. Medlicott, Brig. F. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Horobin, I. M. Mellor, Sir John Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Horshrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Molson, A. H. E. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Stevens, G. P.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Nabarro, G. D. N. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Nicholls, Harmar Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J. Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Storey, S.
Hurd, A. R. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Nield, Basil (Chester) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Nugent, G. R. H. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Oakshott, H. D. Teeling, W.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Odey, G. W. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Jennings, R. O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N) Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Kaberry, D. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare) Tilney, John
Kerr, H. W. Osborne, C. Turner, H. F. L.
Lambert, Hon. G. Perkins, W. R. D. Turton, R. H.
Lambton, Viscount Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Peyton, J. W. W. Vosper, D. F.
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wade, D. W.
Leather, E. H. C. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pitman, I. J. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Powell, J. Enoch Walker-Smith, D. C.
Linstead, H. N. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Llewellyn, D. T. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Profumo, J. D. Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Raikes, Sir Victor Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Longden, Gilbert Rayner, Brig. R. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Low, A R W. Remnant, Hon. P. Williams, H. Dudley (Exeter)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Renton, D. L. M. Wills, G.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Robertson, Sir David Wood, Hon. R.
McAdden, S. J. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) York, C.
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Robson-Brown, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macdonald, Sir Peter Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Mr. Studholme and Mr. Redmay[...]e.
McKibbin, A. J. Roper, Sir Harold

Question put, and agreed to.

Sir F. Soskice

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 17, to leave out from "to," to the end of line 20, and to add: imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to both such imprisonment and such fine and, if the default in respect of which he is convicted is continued after the conviction, he shall be guilty of a further offence punishable as aforesaid, except that the fine to which he may be sentenced shall be a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or five pounds for each day on which the default is so continued, whichever is the greater. The object of this Amendment must be perfectly apparent. It is to restore the penalty which was originally provided in the late lamented Clause 13 which has now gone out of the Bill. We feel puzzled about the change that has been made with regard to penalties. The powers now vested in the Board by the Government's proposed Amendment are far less drastic than the powers that were originally vested in the Board under Clause 13. They are, therefore, much more easy to comply with on the part of the company and there is therefore very much less excuse for non-compliance.

That being so, one might have thought that the penalties for non-compliance would have been greater, or at least would have been as great as they were before in Clause 13. But, contrary to that, which would seem the common sense approach, for some reason which we cannot divine, the penalties have been considerably lightened, and the purpose of our Amendment is to restore the old penalties.

I know it is not much good asking the Solicitor-General why the change has been made, because I can easily divine his answer, which will be: because he has changed his mind. I know it will not be much good asking him why he has changed his mind because the answer to that will be: because he has changed his mind. I hope that there will be some sign of repentance on his part.

Although we have discussed in principle the general changes that we want to make in the Government's Amendment, I am moving this last Amendment to the Government's Amendment in the hope that the Solicitor-General, although he may have changed his mind, will once again change it back and realise that, in fact, it is illogical to create by the Government change an offence for which there is much less excuse and to provide lesser penalties for the commission of that offence. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will see the force of our suggestion, which is that in the case of this offence, for which there can be very little excuse, he should restore the penalties which the Government themselves put in their own previous Clause.

In that case, the penalties were far from drastic. When he has taken spiritual sustenance from the Box, I commend to the Solicitor-General his own Clause 28 where, for offences which do not seem to be any more serious, a far more serious penalty is provided—namely, a penalty of imprisonment for a considerable time. I hope he will agree that in this Amendment, at least, we are right. I hope he will say not simply that he has changed his mind but that he proposes to accept our Amendment.

The Solicitor-General

I should like to make it clear at the beginning of my remarks that I see nothing of which to repent and that I do not intend to repent of anything which I have said. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a great many comments upon the sinister significance of making any alteration in the Bill, but we are always seeking to improve it where we can and I shall not be deterred from seeking to make an improvement in the Bill by his observations in the course of our recent discussions.

It is quite right that the original Bill contained a penalty of imprisonment. On reflection, we think that, for refusal to allow an inspection of documents which is necessary to secure enforcement under Clause 5 or Clause 7, it would be right to provide for a possible penalty of im- prisonment. There is nothing between us on that point. I think I am right in saying that our Amendment is now modelled, in the penalties involved, on the Statistics of Trade Act, where the circumstances are somewhat comparable.

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw the Amendment for this reason. We should like to give further consideration to the amount of the financial penalty. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that in his Amendment the maximum fine for the first offence is a fine not exceeding £100. and there is the same maximum for a second offence and the same maximum term of imprisonment. Under our Amendment, on Clause 27, he will see that the maximum fine for the second offence is a fine not exceeding £200. We should like to give further consideration to what is the right maximum penalty both of imprisonment and of fine. I think a little further consideration is also required of the drafting in relation to the default clause. It is not easy to see how a default clause can operate de die in diem in relation to price determination.

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment. We will seek to table an Amendment to provide for these matters, I hope to his satisfaction, before the Report stage.

Mr. Robson Brown

I was very pleased to hear the Solicitor-General's observations on this Amendment, with which I am very much in general agreement.

Sir F. Soskice

I should like to thank the Solicitor-General for his speech, which was extremely helpful. In order to see what the Government put on the Order Paper, I will withdraw the Amendment. I am obliged to the Solicitor-General. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment agreed to.

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

Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)

This Clause lays down a novel procedure for dealing with breaches of regulations made by the Board under their powers of control over development and price fixing. The procedure in connection with development is adequate. It seems to me that where development is undertaken in contravention of a mandate of the Board, then the penalty of an injunction restraining it is likely to be a very heavy one. In fact, it is almost inconceivable that any major project— and this applies only to major projects should be undertaken when it is known that an injunction will be obtained ordering that project to cease, and, if necessary, ordering any work which has been done to be undone.

The remedy in the case of price fixing is perhaps not altogether adequate. My hon. and learned Friend argued quite persuasively against the imposition of criminal sanctions in connection with a breach of the price-fixing arrangement, and I must say I thought that argument appealed to all of us on this side of the Committee, who are opposed to the multiplication of economic crimes. Nevertheless, it would be distasteful if a wrongdoer in this respect—a person who charges prices in excess of those permitted by the Board and thereby reaps a profit—should be allowed to retain that profit. Is it not possible, without invoking the criminal law, to use the civil law to obtain the recoupment of the unjustified profits?

I do not know whether it would be possible for the court having the power to order an injunction to order, at the same time, the repayment to the Treasury of such a sum as represents the profit which the producer has made by charging prices in excess of those permitted.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Bowles)

The hon. and learned Gentleman is not discussing the Clause as amended; he is proposing, as an alteration, that there should be not a penal punishment but a purely civil remedy. That is not in order on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Simon

With great respect, Mr. Bowles, my remarks are directed to the part of the Clause which gives a power of injunction. I am suggesting that any Chancery court which has a power to order an injunction might, at the same time, as part of the Clause, have power to order repayment to the Treasury of the sum involved.

The Temporary Chairman

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman can advise me. The fact that a Clause gives a court power to grant an injunction does not necessarily give the court power to order damages as well or recovery of certain money. Is not that the case? If I am right, the hon. and learned Gentleman is going outside the Question.

Mr. Simon

I would certainly not presume to advise you on such a matter, Mr. Bowles. I am saying that the Chancery court, in ordering an injunction, normally have powers, as part of their normal civil functions, to order damages. The remedy I suggest is a remedy in the nature of damages.

The Temporary Chairman

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that legal advice, which I have no doubt is perfectly right. But if the court already have the power where it has the right to grant an injunction, then there is no need to do more, if it is implicit in the Clause as it stands.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Simon

I would not be absolutely certain that it is implicit in the Clause as it stands.

The Temporary Chairman

Then, clearly, the hon. and learned Gentleman is out of order if it is not in the Clause as it stands.

Mr. Simon

I accept your Ruling, Mr. Bowles, without any question, but having said what I said, even though it is out of order, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will think it proper to consider that point and see if something can be done along those lines.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The hon. and learned Gentleman has indicated that it might be in order because it is inherent in this Clause that the Chancery court or any other court in granting an injunction could, at the same time, order that the excess profits should be paid back. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman really mean that, or is he merely hazarding a guess?

The Temporary Chairman

I think that that is quite enough on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Sir F. Soskice

I may not he strictly in order in following a little way along the path trodden by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), but I must confess that I should like to support what he said. If I cannot do that within the rules of order, perhaps I might achieve a similar object by asking the Solicitor-General whether the effect of this Clause as it stands now is that a person who did overcharge or may have been overcharging for some considerable time would remain in possession of his ill-gotten gains, and whether, under the Clause, there would be any method of forcing him to disgorge them. If the Solicitor-General agrees that that is a true construction of the Clause, would he not also agree that that is an undesirable state of affairs? If he agrees with that, perhaps at a later stage he may give further heed to what was suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West.

The Solicitor-General

The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) has echoed the sentiments expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), but has managed to phrase them in an interlocutory form to get me on my feet. I am always willing to get on my feet provided that when I do so I can keep in order on the subject under discussion. We have had this problem under consideration, and it is to be hoped that directly the Board hear of a price infringement they speedily will take the necessary action. Therefore, there would not be a long period of time during which the wrongdoer could accumulate excess profits.

But there is force in the suggestion made that the court, before whom proceedings are taken, should have the power to make an order ordering that the excess profits should be taken from the person who has infringed the Board's determination. I think that would meet the situation, and if that could be done it would be the right thing to do. But there are certain technical difficulties, by no means small, but we will give further consideration to this between now and the Report stage. We hope to find a way in which the technical difficulties can be satisfactorily surmounted.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

It is perfectly clear that the Clause in question, as framed, affords no power of any sort for the Chancery court or any other court to grant either damages or make an order that any excess profits that have been made and which are lining the pockets of the wrongdoer must be returned. The Solicitor-General said the Board would be expected to act expeditiously and effectively, but there might very well be a case where, over a prolonged and systematic period, a wrongdoer had put into the pockets of companies charging excess profits sums which they were not legally entitled to charge.

It is perfectly clear by the machinery of this Clause that that money could not be recovered. That is a scandalous state of affairs, particularly so if it were allowed to go on. Public opinion would demand that if this Board is to act as a policeman, as has been said already this evening, then it should be required that the law should be carried out and not flouted and that any of those most important breaches of the law in the matter of charging excess profits should be dealt with by the Board and that these people should be made to return the ill-gotten gains which they have received. Therefore, I hope that the Solicitor-General and the Government will see to it that this omission this casus omissis as I am sure it must be—will be put right.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.