§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
If I might say a word about the principle behind the Bill, the thread that binds together the diverse subjects dealt with in it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to tidy up the delegated legislation contained in the various parts of the Defence (General) Regulations and their associated codes. The Bill makes permanent a number of the provisions subsisting under emergency powers to which two qualities apply; first, experience has shown that they meet some permanent need, and, secondly, they could not be revoked without hardship, inconvenience or injustice to someone.
The House will appreciate that under the stress of war conditions many regulations, and orders under regulations, were made which later experience has shown to serve a valuable continuing purpose. The temporary form of these provisions resulted from war conditions, but they cannot continue on that basis indefinitely, and the Government believe it is right that such provisions should be put on a permanent basis rather than be allowed to continue as part of subordinate legislation originally designed 2224 for a war-time purpose. I confidently believe that I shall have support from all quarters of the House for the principle underlying the Bill.
It is inevitable that the provisions in the Bill should be a miscellany. Indeed, their diversity makes it difficult for me to deal adequately with each of them within the compass of a Second Reading speech. I shall try briefly to explain the effect of each Clause, but I respectfully commend to the House the suggestion that discussion of the subject-matter should, for the most part, take place during the Committee stage. It will be possible then to consider in detail each of the important subjects with which the Bill deals and, on certain subjects, for Ministers directly concerned to explain and expound and, if necessary, to defend certain aspects of the Bill and the administrative, legal and other consequences which flow from the Bill's provisions.
Before I come to the Bill itself I should like to say a word about the wider process of which the Bill forms a part. We have in hand a systematic examination of emergency legislation as a whole and to this task we are devoting considerable effort at the present time. Each emergency regulation is being carefully examined. Already this year 16 regulations have been revoked, besides the Defence (Price Control) and the Defence (Recovery of Fines) Regulations, and more will follow as the review proceeds.
The annual renewal of surviving powers in the autumn will provide the occasion for me to inform the House in detail of the results of activity going on in this field; but it is right that I should emphasise to the House that the Bill now 'before it represents a significant step in our efforts to deal with the legacy of wartime delegated legislation. If, as I am sure is the case, to some people the diversity of the Bill's contents makes it unattractive considered as legislation, I want them to accept and understand the principle which we have followed and which I ask the House to endorse today. It is simply to cast into permanent form such of the surviving emergency powers as need to be retained and for which no other suitable legislative vehicle is likely to become available.
It may be looked upon as paving the way for other Measures in a later Session 2225 replacing more substantial parts of the surviving regulations than can be dealt with in such a Bill as this. The House will understand that I cannot commit my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in this matter. But I can say that it is our intention to proceed with the elimination of emergency powers as rapidly as circumstances permit. When it is practicable, outright revocation of Defence Regulations is to be preferred; but no such simple solution is available for many of the surviving provisions, and permanent legislation will be an important part of the process.
I now turn to the individual provisions of the Bill. First, I hope it will be convenient for the House if I deal with Clause 1 and the First Schedule. They provide a clear illustration of the kind of thing that the Bill does. Subject only to minor adaptations and the addition of essential transitional provisions, they provide for the permanent enactment of certain Defence Regulations. Thus, paragraph 1 of the First Schedule enacts as part of the permanent law a useful provision permitting people between 17 and 21 years of age to drive an agricultural tractor on the highway instead of their being restricted as at present, under Section 9 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, to the farm itself. As a matter of history, this easing of the permanent law in the interests of farmers has been renewed from year to year since April, 1943, as an emergency provision without any prejudice to road safety. The House will, I think, agree that it would not be right to withdraw it.
Similarly, paragraph 2 of the Schedule removes a difficulty about the towing of what is called an articulated vehicle when this breaks down. Legally, an articulated vehicle comprises two units —the towing vehicle and the trailer— and the law at the moment does not permit a heavy motor vehicle or a motor car to tow more than one trailer so, if an articulated vehicle were broken down, it would not be possible to get a lorry to pull it away.
Paragraph 3 of the Schedule extends the time for instituting proceedings under the Separation and Maintenance Acts and that will benefit people such as members of Her Majesty's forces or merchant seamen serving away from this country. Paragraph 4 of the Schedule 2226 makes permanent a provision which has been generally welcomed by agricultural interests concerning the tenancy of cottages on agricultural land.
Paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 make amendments to the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act and the Compensation (Defence) Act, and they introduce a different principle about which I should like to say a word to the House. Amendments having the same effect were made in wartime by emergency powers. Although the statutes themselves will have a limited duration, they will be needed for some time and for as long as they are needed they will be needed in the amended form. I hope the House will agree that it is right in principle that their modification ought to be by way of statute law and not under delegated powers.
Paragraph 8 makes good a defect in the powers of the Minister of Supply. It was discovered during the war that the Minister of Supply had no power to make byelaws in respect of land not belonging to the Minister which was being used by the Ministry as a firing range. That defect was made good by Defence Regulation 52 (4), which now provides the basis for paragraph 8 of the Schedule.
Paragraph 9 simplifies the procedure for getting rid of surplus documents held by the Public Record Office. Let me at once assure the House—and particularly the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whose historical predilections are well known to us—that adequate safeguards against the destruction of useful historical material will remain. This power will help the Public Record Office to make the best use of its storage space.
I now come to Clause 2 and the subject matter is another example of what I mentioned a few moments ago, namely, the amendment by means of wartime regulations of a permanent Act. This Clause seeks to take the Defence (Trading with the Enemy) Regulations, which make a number of amendments to the Trading with the Enemy Act, out of the annual continuation procedure for emergency powers. The regulations are not set out in detail in a Schedule to the Bill, but hon. Members can find them on pages 123–130 of the 20th edition of the Defence Regulations. The 2227 winding-up process of the Act is necessarily a slow one, and the effect of this Clause will be to put the amendments to the Act on the same statutory basis as the Act itself.
Clause 3 invests the Secretary of State with the power by order to control the use of gunpowder and safety fuses. These powers are supplementary to those in the Explosives Act, 1875, and in wartime they were expressed in Regulation 2BA. The need for some control remains in order to reduce the danger of explosives being used for criminal purposes by making it more difficult for persons of criminal intent to obtain them. I hope it will also serve to protect people from harming themselves by rash handling of explosives, particularly young people who try to make their own fireworks. I hasten to assure the House that the Order-making power under this Clause is less wide than the power in the Defence Regulations. The Orders contemplated will be less restrictive to traders and others pursuing their legitimate business, and the penalties are much less severe than under the Defence Regulations.
Clause 4 is perhaps of greater interest than some of the others: it gives power to continue the issue of cards to British seamen. These cards were first introduced in 1942 and are not to be confused with the identity cards for the civilian population generally which have been abolished. We have to recognise that in many countries seamen are not allowed ashore unless they can produce documents such as these, and until these restrictions go it will be in the interests of our men to have them. It is not the practice, as the House knows, for seamen to carry passports, and, therefore, something of this nature is needed. May I add a fact which will be cheering to the representative of the Treasury? The cost of issuing the cards will be borne by the shipping industry, which also finds the cards useful in connection with its employment arrangements.
Under Clause 5 it is proposed to continue the arrangements by which local authorities are able to let as allotment gardens certain land occupied by them notwithstanding statutory or other restrictions. This is the kind of point on which the House might well ask, why is the power being continued? I want to give the House some idea of the importance of 2228 this provision. It will appear from this fact, that at the end of October, 1952, there were no fewer than 35,000 of these gardens in existence.
Clause 6 makes permanent a part of Defence Regulation 72, which removed a difficulty about licensing certain vehicles carrying farm workers at harvest time. The need for special arrangements arose during the war, but we made thorough inquiries and were assured that some such arrangement will be of permanent value to the agricultural community.
From the harvest and the open air I must bring the House back to the more rarified, if less airy, atmosphere of the Chancery Division of the High Court. Clause 7 deals with the powers of the Chancery Division which will, I am afraid, be of more interest to members of my own profession. I see the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells), who is one of them, urgently acquiring knowledge of the subject. I may be able to help him on the point. The general effect is that it gives power to the Court of Equity to order that payments with regard to management and the like which would in the ordinary way be made by the person having the income, may be paid by the trustees out of the capital when the person having the income has been put in a difficult position, either owing to circumstances of war or taxation. I will not say more except that the judges of that Division have found these powers useful and think that they should be made permanent.
Clause 8 makes permanent the power conferred on certain naval officers by the Lord Chancellor's Order made in 1940 under the Evidence and Powers of Attorney Act, 1940, to take affidavits. The House will remember that similar permanent powers were given to officers of the Army and the Royal Air Force of corresponding ranks by the Army and Air Force Annual Act of last year.
Clause 9 is an echo of a most interesting feature in our industrial history during the war. It is a saving Clause, dealing with the carrying on of what are termed "offensive trades," such as fat melting and fellmongering. The House will remember that during the war some businesses engaged in these trades were closed under our "concentration" policy in order to economise labour and 2229 materials. The law provides for penalties for those who, having discontinued an offensive trade for 18 months or more, resume it and, having resumed it, carry it on without the consent of the local authority. The purpose of this Clause is to protect those whose businesses were closed down under the war-time schemes by providing that the period of interruption shall not in the future enter into any calculation of an 18 months' period for the purpose of the normal law dealing with offensive trades.
Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of the House, may I say that it is the intention of the Government to propose in Committee the addition of two more Clauses. One of them will be designed to regularise the position of a small number of midwives at present covered by Defence Regulation 33 which can be revoked if the Clause becomes law. It deals with those midwives who voluntarily retired and were therefore debarred. Their re-employment was allowed by this Defence Regulation and it is the desire to keep them on while any of their number remain.
The other will provide for the continued suspension of the heavy goods vehicle driving licence system until a day to be appointed by the Minister of Transport. There is a requirement, imposed by Section 31 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, that a person wishing to drive heavy goods vehicles shall satisfy certain requirements and obtain a special licence. The House may remember that this provision was put in abeyance during the war by an Order under Defence Regulation 72 (1). It may be some time before it is possible or desirable to reintroduce the special licence scheme. When the time comes, there will be a large number of people driving these vehicles who do not hold the special licence and must be provided for during any transitional period. This Clause will enable the Minister of Transport to reintroduce the scheme without dislocation of services.
I apologise to the House for dealing seriatum with these very differing points but I thought it was my duty to try to indicate in a sentence what effect each has, so that the House will know clearly what I was asking it to do. I now ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill, accepting it as an earnest, and 2230 only an earnest, of our intention to introduce as quickly as Parliamentary time will allow, Bills to make permanent such Emergency Regulations as should still remain. We want to remove what can no longer be shown to be essential, and to put on the Statute Book such provisions as are of permanent value. I hope the House will agree that those I have mentioned are, at any rate at first sight, of permanent value and will accept the Bill today.
§ 11.28 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Let me assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there was no need for him to apologise for the manner in which he has presented this Bill. If I may be allowed to say so without offence, it seemed to me to be an admirable way of dealing with a difficult subject. Although one cannot exactly describe a Bill such as this as a rag bag, there are some valuable pieces of material in most rag bags and this is no exception to that rule.
The general purposes of this Measure will commend the approval of all hon. Members of the House. It is desirable that where emergency laws have been shown by experience to meet some permanent need—possibly a need that has arisen in the altered conditions which two great wars have made in the life of the nation—I do not think that there is any need to suggest that any of the provisions here fail to comply with that requirement. I understand that when we get to the Committee stage of the Bill each of its provisions, whether in the Clauses or in the Schedule, will be capable of Amendment in the way that they would be in any ordinary Bill.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe indicated assent.
§ Mr. Ede
I say that because I want to make it quite clear that we do not regard the words of Clause 1 as limiting the scope of any Amendment that we might wish to move to the matters which come within the First Schedule. When they get before the Committee, we shall regard them as being capable of Amendment as if they were Clauses in a Bill that was being submitted to the House for the first time. It may be unlikely that there will be any serious point to raise under that head, but we ought to safeguard the position.
2231 We are glad to know that systematic examination is in hand with regard to the remainder of the emergency laws and regulations made thereunder, and that when a Motion is moved—some time. I think, before 10th December, 1953— there will be an opportunity for considering again those regulations which it is proposed to continue. I hope that if we do our duty this year, as we tried to do last year, it will not be regarded as a special sign of original sin, as it then was. It may be necessary, of course, to ask the House at that time to include certain regulations and orders which the right hon. and learned Gentleman may wish to discontinue.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary, with regard to one or two regulations and orders that were dropped last year, whether it will be possible to ask that they be included in the First Schedule; or does the fact that they were dropped in December, 1952, and are. therefore, no longer part of this corpus of the law, preclude them from being moved now as an Amendment to this Measure?
There was, for instance, one that we on this side regarded as being very important, which dealt with the control that a Minister had over the use of residential property for other than residential purposes. That was dropped last December. We tried to get it included in the list of regulations to be continued, but a majority of the House at that time decided against us. Does the fact that it has since disappeared from the powers of Government preclude it from being moved now as an Amendment to the Bill? I hope that we may get an answer on this point.
There was another regulation on which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) was particularly keen, one dealing with the licensing of new clubs. I am quite sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman recollects it. I understand that my hon. Friend might wish also to have that included in this Measure if possible. It is another example of the same process, although I am not to be taken as indicating that anyone other than my hon. Friend would desire to move this Amendment. However, as we were reminded yesterday by Mr. Speaker, free speech is a very 2232 valuable property of this House, and my hon. Friend's known views with regard to the licensing trade are, at any rate, capable, as he has so often proved, of being voiced in the House with acceptance on the question of the manner in which they are advocated, if the matter of his argument does not always appeal to a majority of the House. I hope that we may have a statement about that.
I do not think I should serve the interests of the House if I were to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman through his description of the various Clauses. I accept his explanation as indicating the scope of the Clauses. I understand that the Bill will go to Committee upstairs, and I have no doubt that there we shall be able to examine in some detail the various proposals.
There was, however, one thing that the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned to which I should like to refer: that is, the power to destroy historic documents. The difficulty, of course, is for us living today to know what will be regarded as an interesting historic document 300 years hence. After all, some of the most valuable historic documents have been preserved almost by accident, giving us some account of the way of life and the impact of contemporary legislation and public affairs on the lives of private citizens.
I have no doubt that all of us in our own personal experience, without suggesting that we are very historic personages, know the way in which we have destroyed a document which we regarded as having ceased to have any value or relevance and then find a couple of years, or 10 or 20 years, afterwards that it was a thing that ought to have been preserved. I hope that while we give appropriate people the power to destroy documents that are in their keeping, they will always have regard to the fact that there should be a good case for the destruction rather than merely saying, "This does not appear to be of any great interest."
It is a good thing that young people should be safeguarded when they try to make their own fireworks, an occupation which certainly has very distressing effects on the after life of young people who maim themselves. At the same time, one 2233 does not desire to do anything that would destroy the love of adventure, the speculation and the investigation that some of these experiments entail; but, undoubtedly, some of the things that were prevented by the regulations that the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to preserve were very well worth while.
As representing a great seaport, I welcome the retention of the power to issue seamen's cards. There is no doubt that the National Union of Seamen and the various officers and men of the Mercantile Marine regard these cards as being very valuable and would have been greatly perturbed had at any time the power to issue these cards been withdrawn. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, so keen is our shipping industry on this matter that they have made arrangements whereby there will be no cost on the Treasury. That should prove to the House that these are documents which do not interfere with the liberty of anyone within this country but confer considerable liberties on these people when in foreign ports. I sincerely hope that these will be continued.
With regard to the two new Clauses that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said he proposes to introduce during the Committee stage, we certainly welcome the first. I understand that the ladies who come under it will be a steadily diminishing number, but in the present state of recruitment of the nursing profession, it is very desirable that we should not unnecessarily exclude any one who is really a skilled practical practitioner from carrying on her calling; and there will be no opposition to that Clause. I am not certain about the one dealing with heavy goods vehicles, but when we see it we will examine it on its merits and will then consider how far we think it should be added to the Bill.
All the Measures that are included in this Bill are things of which we have had practical experience in their actual working and they have proved their value during an experimental period. It might perhaps be of advantage if on some other Measures we could have an experimental period before we get the legislation into the form that is regarded as permanent. Most of us know in our experience that Measures with which we have been 2234 associated do, when they come to actual application, reveal unexpected weaknesses. Amendment is sometimes urgently needed but, owing to the pressure of business in the House it is very often long delayed. Here we have the advantage of having had some years of practical experience of each of the subjects submitted for reconsideration and we shall be able to review them in the light of that experience.
I hope that although our proceedings in Committee will be detailed they will not to be too long delayed and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be able to get his Measure before the close of the present part of the Session. Then we shall at least have done this much in tidying up this particular branch of our legislation. I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the lucidity with which he explained the various Clauses of the Bill. If I have not followed him in detail in all of them it is for the reason I advanced—that we shall have an opportunity of doing so in Committee. I sincerely hope that there, if any further inquiries have to be made, we shall get the same lucid answers as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has certainly given to any queries that were in our minds before we started the debate this morning.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
I do not want to detain the House more than two or three minutes, and I certainly do not wish to challenge the principle of the Bill in any way. Nor do I wish to embark in advance on what are proper subjects for discussion in Committee. May I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I am not anxious to fish in the troubled waters of the Chancery Division. I very seldom do that unless the right hon. and learned Gentleman is there to instruct me and, on other occasions, he has been very kind in doing so and our fees have been somewhat more satisfactory than any remuneration we are likely to receive for this morning's work.
The point I want to draw to the attention of the House is enshrined in Clause 2 of the Bill. That deals with the Defence (Trading with the Enemy) Regulations. Those Regulations and the principal Act have become a code of almost, if not quite, equal complexity with the Rent 2235 Restriction Acts. The Regulations are matters of great importance; they confer wide powers upon the Executive and they affect in their incidence people coming to this country and people having commercial transactions with this country.
If one looks, for instance, at Article 8 of the Defence (Trading with the Enemy) Regulations, 1940, one sees that it confers upon the Board of Trade powers to require by notice in writing information as to a great number of securities which that individual may hold, or be interested in. It is the kind of power which this House scrutinises very jealously—with proper jealousy—when we are considering the Finance Bill each year.
I do not for a moment question that such a regulation may be necessary in time of war, or in certain circumstances in time of peace, but I do suggest that this kind of regulation should be brought very directly under the control of this House. It should not only be brought very directly under that control because presumably under the Bill as it stands it would be possible to pray against any particular action which the Executive chose to take, but the question when it is intended to rescind or to continue regulations should not be left solely with the Executive when the Bill leaves this House. It should be a matter of strict Parliamentary control and in my submission in time of peace—although we shall have to go on as we are for a year or two—in a very short time the powers it is intended that the Executive shall retain should be set out in a statute.
Of course that statute would have to contain powers to issue further regulations, but those would deal not with the situation as it exists now, in the clearing up of the effects of the last war, but with any further emergency that may arise. My doubt is whether Clause 2 does not leave too much to the Executive, and whether it does not leave with them powers that should now, or in a very short time, be taken by Parliament. I think it will be necessary in Committee to scrutinise very carefully indeed the content of those Regulations before agreeing to this Clause in its present form.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcos Lipton (Brixton)
Had the Leader of the House still been in his place I should have felt it my duty to congratulate him on having so arranged the business of the House as to provide us with an opportunity of discussing these emergency laws provisions at a much more civilised hour than we did in November, 1952, when, on the Motion for the Address, we went on all night until 8 o'clock in the morning. As the right hon. Gentleman is not here, I hope that the Home Secretary will convey our gratitude to him for his improved conduct of our affairs.
The Home Secretary, in the speech with which he introduced the Second Reading of the Bill—which was characterised by his usual thoroughness—gave us a full account of the intentions of the Government. He said that where a regulation met a permanent need, or could not be revoked without hardship, injustice, or inconvenience, it was the policy of the Government to put that regulation into permanent legislative form. I am very interested to know that within the short time which, presumably, has elapsed between the drafting of the Bill and today, the Home Secretary has already had a couple of second thoughts and on the Committee stage is to introduce two new Clauses. I hope he will not weary in well doing because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out, there are some of my hon. Friends who would like to incorporate one or two provisions in the Committee stage to help to improve the Bill.
The first is the regulation which used to make it difficult for owners of property to change the user of that property from residential to business purposes. That was a very useful regulation; it was found most useful by all local authorities. It was abandoned in the face of the unanimous dissent of all the local government associations. I hope that it will be found possible to re-introduce that regulation. I know, and I am prepared to grant at the outset, that there are other provisions under the Town and Country Planning Act which enable local authorities to achieve much the same result. Their disadvantage, however, is that the procedure under 2237 them is much more costly and cumbersome and takes far longer, and is, therefore, not really a satisfactory alternative to Regulation 68CA—I think it was. I hope that that matter will receive favourable consideration during the Committee stage because in the London area this transfer of property from residential to commercial use is proceeding apace and should be checked, at least so long as there is such a shortage of housing accommodation.
If we apply the same test of meeting a permanent need, and not revoking anything which might cause hardship, injustice or inconvenience, the question of another regulation abandoned last year is raised. It was abandoned although some of us fought very hard for its continuance. It has been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields— Regulation 55C, the object of which was to control the establishment of clubs in London and the provinces. That regulation contained a provision by which new clubs were compelled to give particulars of their membership, proprietors, those who had a financial interest in the running of the club, details of the premises to be used and, not least, the antecedents of those proposing to found a new club.
Unfortunately, the plea that was put forward in November, 1952, for the continuance of that regulation, a plea strongly supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, was not accepted by the Government. My right hon. Friend has said today that he expects that a similar proposal will be put forward in connection with this Bill. I hope that his expectation will not be falsified, but I view with a little disquiet the fact that he has contracted out to some extent, that is to say, he does not pledge himself to vote for the insertion or continuance of Regulation 55C. He voted for its continuance in the Division Lobby in 1952, and I hope that nothing has happened in the meantime that has caused him to change his mind or which would deprive us of the support which he gave us on that occasion.
§ Mr, Ede
Quite obviously I was speaking this morning merely in an individual capacity. That Regulation has never been the subject of party decisions 2238 and it would have been quite wrong of me to appear here this morning as if I were pledging the party to something which it has never considered as a party.
§ Mr. Speaker
Further to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I would point out that it is not mentioned in the Bill and I doubt whether any discussion of it is in order. A reference to it is one thing, but to attempt to argue the merits of the matter now would be out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman's query was quite in order, but discussion of the merits of this particular regulation is out of order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
In view of what you say, Mr. Speaker, I shall curtail what I should otherwise have brought to the notice of the House on this occasion.
I hope that what I have said will help to consolidate the position to the extent that it will perhaps amplify or strengthen the notice that has already been given to the Government that some of us on this side of the House may seek to introduce the continuance of the objects of Regulation 55c during the later stages of the Bill. It is quite obvious that it raises an important problem which we cannot discuss in detail today but on which the regulation had a very useful and salutary effect during the time it was in operation. During the time of the operation of this regulation the number of clubs registered in the Metropolitan Police district—from 1940 to 1951—was 57, whereas from 1929 to 1939 the number was 1,046. That is a point which might perhaps be borne in mind during the later stages of the Bill.
Subject to those comments and qualifications, I have no doubt that the Home Secretary may expect that this Bill will meet with a more favourable response on this side of the House than some of the other Measures with which he has been associated since October, 1951.
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I am another of the truncated unfortunates who, in view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, must not go very far into the matter to which I wish to make reference. I promise that I shall keep in mind your Ruling, but I shall have now made plain to the Home Secretary what it is that I wish to say. I wish to express my regret to him that through circumstances which I could not control I was late in coming into the Chamber and missed what he said. I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for putting a query, which is all that I am doing, on Regulation 55C, to which further reference has been made.
This is the point which I wish to ask the Home Secretary. During the debate on Regulation 55C there was an admission by the Home Secretary—I will not say a pledge—that there was a general defect in the permanent law regarding clubs which would still have to be dealt with after the House had excluded Regulation 55C. The Amulree Commission made a unanimous recommendation for legislation to deal with clubs. Nothing has yet been done about that permanent law. I should have thought that as the Home Secretary could now find an occasion for satisfactory permanent law on one or two other questions, he might find an opportunity not, I repeat, to keep a pledge, but to carry out the suggestion which he made during the debate in this House very late one night some months ago when Regulation 55C was got rid of.
I would assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is deep feeling about this matter. As the Minister for Wales he may know that the deepest resentment is felt in Wales against the unsatisfactory nature of the permanent law regarding clubs, and the loss of Regulation 55C. They feel that there is a special need for tightening up the general club law, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be able to offer some sympathetic consideration if we are able to introduce an Amendment along the lines hinted at by my right hon. Friend.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that I have obeyed your Ruling, though I have been skating as near the edge of the subject 2240 as I can. I want the Home Secretary to realise that we are very much concerned about this issue.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I wish to raise a point regarding Clause 2 which relates to a body of regulations affecting the business community and which, I think, the right hon. and learned Gentleman in another capacity will agree are difficult to find. It is difficult to know what is the regulation at any time. The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested introducing two further Clauses on Committee stage. I suggest that he might introduce a Clause or a Schedule incorporating the Defence Regulations, so that we might have somewhere to go for easy reference. Of course, we have to retain the right to vary them, but it would be a great convenience if the existing body of Defence Regulations were codified here.
I see one possible objection from the Government's point of view. If they are put in here they become amendable in detail, which would provide a wonderful opportunity for obstruction. There are occasions when an Opposition desires to hold up Government business, but this is not one of them. I think I may assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he need have no fear about that.
It does not mean that one cannot suggest certain alterations which might be an improvement. That is the function of this House. I do not ask for a reply today, but I should be grateful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would consider the matter.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of Stale for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
There is little I need say in bringing this debate to a conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made a helpful speech, but it is clear that the questions he put must be answered by the Chairman of the Committee in due course. They are matters of order rather than questions which may be put to my right hon. and learned Friend. I shall assume that what he has said is in the nature of staking out a claim and giving notice to the Government that he wishes these questions raised if possible within the rules of order.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Although I am tempted by the right hon. Gentleman, I should be out of order if I replied to him, certainly before the Committee is constituted.
The points which have been raised are regarded by those who raised them as matters which it would be proper to discuss in the Committee. The hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) thought Clause 2 left too great power with the Executive. All hon. Members will sympathise with that view. No one wishes to give to the Executive greater power in these matters than is necessary. But these are dying regulations, and we should consider this matter with that in mind.
The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) confined themselves to the question of clubs. That is a matter they will have to raise, if they can, at another stage of our proceedings. Having regard to the general welcome given to the Bill, 2242 I hope that it may now have a Second Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.