§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "Her Majesty may" and to insert "the Attorney General shall".
§ The Chairman
It would, I think, be convenient to the Committee if, together with this Amendment, were taken the following, all dealing with the same subject:
In line 9, leave out "Her Majesty may" and insert "the Lord Chancellor shall".
In line 9, leave out "Her Majesty may appoint" and insert "there shall be".
In line 10, after "may", insert:on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor".In line 12, leave out from "Registrar)"to end of line and insert:Every Registrar shall be appointed by and shall hold office during the pleasure of the President of the Board of Trade".In line 12, leave out from "Registrar")"to end of line.
In line 12, at end insert:(2) Subject to the preceding subsection, the Registrar shall hold office for such period not less than three years as may be determined at the time of his appointment and shall be eligible for re-appointment:Provided that:
- (a) the Registrar may at any time by notice in writing to the Lord Chancellor resign his office;
- (b) the Lord Chancellor may, if he thinks fit, remove the Registrar for inability or misbehaviour.
§ Sir John Barlow
The Bill is obviously likely to be a controversial one in various aspects. It is, I believe, the first Bill of its kind that this Parliament has ever discussed. For that reason, it is arousing great interest, and the fact that there are over 40 pages of Amendments shows the extent of the interest on all sides of the House. I propose, therefore, to be very brief in my remarks.
225 In any consideration of the main elements of the Bill, it is of the utmost importance that the balance should be held fairly between industry, distributor and consumer; in other words, that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, should deal fairly with the public interest from all points of view.
This legislation is being put through at an exceptional period, a period of over-employment, a period when many so-called restrictive practices exist, practices which arose as a result of the difficult times of 20 years ago in the middle 1930s. The House will recall that at that time there was great unemployment; industry was largely unorganised; and all the economists, together with, I think, the Board of Trade, advised industry most strongly to get together and rationalise production, prices, and so forth. That process took many years to achieve; it matured only very gradually, but it is the basis from which arise the so-called restrictive practices of today.
This period of over-employment is the very opposite of the period in which these practices were started, and we must take the greatest care to see that the Bill will work fairly in all circumstances, and especially in normal circumstances.
The point I wish to make is directed particularly to the appointment of the Registrar. In his Second Reading speech on 6th March, the President of the Board of Trade said, with great profundity and sagacity:If we are to have a register, we must have a Registrar".With that I entirely agree. He went on to say:The task of the Registrar is twofold. First of all, it is to keep the register".We all agree with that; but then the right hon. Gentleman seems to add somewhat to the burden by saying the task of keeping the register is quite a large and difficult administrative task, adding that the second task will be to initiate proceedings before the court. He continued:The Registrar will be advised by the Treasury Solicitor, and will be represented before the court by counsel nominated by the Attorney-General."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1956; Vol. 346, c. 1943.]That seems to me to be a very curious mixture. First of all, the Registrar is to be appointed by the Queen. What 226 exactly is meant by that? Is he to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor? Is it to be on the advice of the Prime Minister, or who is to be the nominator of this individual? Secondly, he is to be advised by the Treasury Solicitor, and apparently the Attorney-General will provide counsel, so that three different people are involved in the one office of the Registrar. That seems to me far too complicated.
Why should not the Registrar be appointed by the Attorney-General and be answerable through him to the House? The Registrar will be a man of immense power and it is fitting and right that he should be directly answerable to the House. I have no doubt that he will be a man of very high qualifications, although, there again, I see no qualifications set down in the Bill.
It seems to me that far too many people are involved with the Registrar, and I urge most strongly that he should be appointed by the Attorney-General and should be answerable, through him, to the House. As the Bill stands, it might be most difficult for hon. Members to know to whom they should address Questions. That ought to be made much clearer. If three different people are involved, as they are at present, it will be most difficult for hon. Members to table Questions when they wish.
I cannot emphasise too much that it is essential that such an important official shall have the confidence of everyone in the country. This is a new type of legislation. We do not wish to make mistakes. It is essential that industry should have confidence in this individual and that he should not remain the hyphenated individual at present outlined in the Bill.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I gather, Sir Charles, that you wish me to put the arguments for the Amendments standing in my name, in line 9 to leave out "Her Majesty may appoint" and to insert "there shall be"; and in line 12, to leave out from "Registrar)" to the end of the line and to insert:Every Registrar shall be appointed by and shall hold office during the pleasure of the President of the Board of Trade".)With many of the arguments which we have heard from the hon. Baronet the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) I am inclined to agree. I would certainly agree with him that there 227 is great public interest in the question of restrictive practices, and I would entirely agree with him that it is a matter over which we must keep the maximum Parliamentary control. I would also agree with him that the rather mysterious formula in the Clause for the appointment of the Registrar is one which requires more explanation from the Government, and I would therefore support him in the probing efforts which he has made to find out exactly what the Government have in mind in adopting this unusual formula for the appointment of the Registrar.
We on this side of the Committee have made our position on the Bill perfectly clear. We quarrel with the whole concept behind the Government's machinery for dealing with restrictive practices because we do not think the question as to which restrictive practices are or are not in the public interest is a legalistic question at all. We believe that it is a matter of economic and political concern. As the President of the Board of Trade himself so excellently put it in an earlier debate, there is nothing "either criminal or even morally repulsive" about these practices. Theymay be good, bad or indifferent from the economic point of view, but no one can say that they are a sin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1955 Vol. 543, c. 1940.]Our attitude, therefore, in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, is that the decision on these practices is economic, and if this is true about the adjudication of the practices themselves, it is even more true about their registration. We believe it is imperative that the activities of the Registrar should be subject to the fullest scrutiny and control by Parliament, and I frankly admit that we are suspicious that, in adopting this formula for the appointment, the Government are trying to take the question of registration out of politics and out of the field of Parliamentary control and to make it very difficult for us to ask questions in the House to discover whether the process of registration is being conducted properly and quickly enough.
Let me give an example. In Clause 11 the Registrar has power to discover whether agreements which ought to be registered do, in fact, exist. He has a job 228 of research and detection, and whether or not he is doing it properly is surely a matter which ought to be subject to the scrutiny of the House and about which we ought to be able to ask Questions. By adopting the Government's formula for the appointment we get back to the legalistic approach to the Registrar, as though he were in the same category as a High Court judge, above the political battle and above detailed Parliamentary control. From our point of view that is not good enough. We cannot understand why the President has not adopted the same methods as, for instance, in the case of the Registrar of Companies. What is so different about the Registrar under the Bill that his appointment should be one for Her Majesty, advised in some mysterious way which is not disclosed.
We see the Registrar as part and parcel of the job of tracking down restrictive practices in pursuance of the policy agreed by the House—a policy for which the President is responsible to the House. We therefore say that the President should appoint the Registrar and that the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility for answering in the House for the Registrar's activities is very clear.
What is the purpose behind the Government's formula? What does the President see in the status, activities and responsibilities of the Registrar that he should be selected in a special manner? What will be the practical effect of the formula that he shall hold office "during Her Majesty's pleasure"? Does this mean that if some think that he is not being active enough in tracking down what agreements ought to be registered, we cannot query the Registrar as being an unsuitable appointment and one which ought to be changed? We feel that there are some important answers which the Government must give in this matter.
Is it that the President of the Board of Trade is looking on the Registrar more as an initiator of proceedings before the Court and that he must therefore have this more judicial status? If so, that means that we are here once again paying the price for the Government's having adopted a Court procedure instead of a tribunal procedure and a legalistic approach instead of an economic and a political approach. We shall certainly make it clear to the President that we do 229 not foresee the future of the control of restrictive practices in this country as one in which we have a Registrar above the political battle, a court of legalistic status, with Parliament nowhere in the picture. We intend to keep Parliament in the picture all along the line, and we are pressing our suggestion as a first step.
§ Sir Lancelot Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
On all sides of the Committee there is considerable agreement that it would not be fair for Parliament, in initiating this new procedure, to become divorced from its responsibility by not having someone on the Government Treasury Bench responsible for answering for the Registrar. To that extent I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). From that point I depart entirely from everything she has said. She has completely misconceived the object of the Registrar and the general approach of the Bill towards the registration of restrictive trade practices. I do not propose to pursue the line of argument which she put before the Committee.
I should like to pursue the line of argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow). He and I have views in exceedingly close accord, and, in fact, I will adopt and accept all his arguments save one. That one is that the Attorney-General is the proper Minister to have the responsibility of appointing the Registrar. There is not a great deal of practical difference between my hon. Friend's view and my own, because if my proposal, that the Lord Chancellor should be the Minister responsible for the appointment, is accepted, the Attorney-General, as his spokesman in this House, will still be responsible for answering Questions about it, should any Question be put down.
The important point, as was stressed by my hon. Friend, is that the Registrar himself must be not only independent, but must be seen to be and recognised by industry as a whole to be independent. If he is an appointee of the Attorney-General, I greatly fear that that recognition of his independence will not be apparent to industry as a whole. To take but one instance it is the Registrar who is required to instruct the Attorney-General's nominees about matters which 230 appear before the Court, and to prepare and present the case before the Court.
If the appointee of the Attorney-General instructs the nominees of the Attorney-General, there is a considerable chance that the public will come to the conclusion that it is the Attorney-General himself who is doing what is being done. That is undesirable, and the Registrar would be placed in what would become the invidious position of being confused with the advocate who is to lay the matters before the Court. To take a simple example; every hon. Member is exceedingly anxious that there should be no question of an appearance on behalf of the Registrar being in the nature of a prosecution.
The duty of counsel is to lay facts before the Court fairly and squarely for all the parties who are represented. It is not his duty to take sides. But if—and I say only if—a nominee of the Attorney-General who was appearing as an advocate were to slide into the position of being a prosecutor, then inevitably the Registrar, if he was responsible to the Attorney-General would be tarred with the same brush. I see no reason why that risk should be run.
I therefore consider that it is essential that we should get the responsibility for the Registrar away from the Attorney-General if we are to do what I think is universally desired to preserve the Registrar's independence and the semblance of his independence as well. The Government themselves have recognised that need in the way in which they have drafted the Bill. They have inserted in the Bill the provision that the Registrar shall be appointed by Her Majesty, than which nothing could be more calculated to ensure the recognition of his independence.
However, we cannot do that, because, as I have said, this is an entirely new venture. Parliament is setting up not only a new procedure, but a new Court and a new approach towards the whole of the inquiry into this kind of business. Having set up the machinery, Parliament cannot possibly divorce itself from all responsibility. Accordingly, we must have available to the House a Minister who can accept responsibility to Parliament.
231 The question is, who is the appropriate Minister? I do not concur with my hon. Friend that it is the Attorney-General, for the reasons I have given. I certainly cannot agree with the hon. Lady that it is the President of the Board of Trade. That would inevitably be calculated to introduce the worst possible relations between industry and that Government Department. The third and last suggestion is the Lord Chancellor. That suggestion is contained in an Amendment which I hope to have the opportunity of moving later.
The Lord Chancellor may well be regarded as an unusual person for this purpose, but he already plays a very big part in the Bill. He is a desirable person to have the responsibility for this officer. The Lord Chancellor nominates the English judges to their appointments. He recommends to Her Majesty the other members who are to form the Court with the judges; he removes those other members; he appoints the officers and the servants of the Court; he determines the fees of the Court and he makes the rules of the Court.
He therefore already has a very substantial part indeed to play in the existing organisation. If the Registrar can also come under his wing, so to speak, he will not only have the dignity, which he ought to have, of being comparable to the judges of the Court who are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, but he will also gain benefit by that degree of independence which the Lord Chancellor always sheds upon all the appointments which he makes. For those reasons the Registrar should be and, in fact, must be responsible to the Lord Chancellor and therefore appointed by him.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
The Committee will appreciate that the Bill gives very extensive powers to the Registrar. Just because that is so, great importance attaches to the question of the status which he is to possess and to the responsibility for his appointment. It is quite clear that the Registrar will first of all keep the register. He is to decide as among agreements which come to his knowledge which are to be regarded as being subject to registration. He will also initiate the proceedings which are to take place before the Court. That is to say, he will determine which agreements coming to his knowledge 232 and appearing on the register are agreements whose effect on the public interest should be brought before the Court for consideration. Finally, he has the power to go to the Court, after a determination has been arrived at, and to move for that determination to be reviewed. So the powers that we are discussing are very extensive and very important.
I do not think that their full extent will come entirely within the knowledge of the Committee until our discussions have proceeded further and until, in particular, the full effect of the provisions of Clause 5 have been explained by the Government. What the Committee is doing in setting up this appointment of a Registrar in Clause 1 is, in the field of restrictive practices, to appoint a public prosecutor. That is what he will be. He will take the initiative, and he will be responsible for determining which restrictive trade practices in the country are to come before the Court and receive the attention of the Court.
I should have thought that on both sides of the Committee it might have been agreed that we were making a sufficient innovation in our legal system in inviting judges of the High Court to apply their minds to issues of public interest in matters of trade and commerce without introducing the additional startling innovation of creating an officer who is to fulfil, as I have said, this rôle of public prosecutor on such matters. He will have to apply his mind to controversial questions of policy affecting trade and commerce. The problems will be often of a very controversial and difficult character.
That seems to me to be a factor which makes the question of his appointment one of very great importance. It is upon his application, under Clause 15, that the Court will exercise jurisdiction in any particular case, and it is rather important to observe that under Clause 1 the Board of Trade's powers are confined to issuing directions as to the order in which the proceedings are taken. In other words, there is no provision for the Board of Trade to issue directions that particular proceedings shall be taken or that a particular restrictive agreement shall be brought before the Court.
The express powers conferred on the Board of Trade are confined, it appears, 233 to the sequence in which proceedings are taken. What is the consequence of all this? The consequence, as it appears to me, is that unless the Registrar is made quite clearly and explicitly responsible to the Board of Trade there may be a most serious conflict between the Government of the day and the Registrar upon matters of prime importance affecting the development of trade and commercial policy.
We can easily have, if the Bill goes forward in its present form, a situation in which the Government of the country think that a given restrictive practice is contrary to the public interest and the Registrar thinks that it is not contrary to the public interest, and the Government, as the Bill stands, will be powerless in that context. That seems to us on this side of the Committee to be a good reason for writing into the Bill an express provision to make clear the responsibility of the Registrar to a Government Department.
In the last analysis, the determination of what is in the public interest is with the electorate. The electors' altered views on policy are reflected by a change of Government and a change in the person who is holding the office of President of the Board of Trade. That being so, it is, in our view, entirely wrong to set up a Registrar who can entirely disregard these changes of opinion about what is the true public interest in terms of commercial and trade policy. What we are doing, unless we are very vigilant, is to set up an important official with very great powers—a public prosecutor, as I have ventured to describe him—in the field of restrictive trade practices, whose distinctive feature, because he is not answerable to any Government Department, will be that he will be able entirely or very largely to ignore changes of policy which the electors at General Elections have expressed to be desirable. We regard that as a considerable risk.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Registrar ought to be subject to every political wind that blows and every political pressure?
§ Mr. Irvine
I am not suggesting anything of the kind. I am suggesting that if there is a change of Government, if, in other words, there is a different conception 234 of where the public interest lies in matters of trade and commercial policy, it is reasonable that the Registrar should have regard to it and should take account of it. It appears to me that he is much more likely to do that if he is answerable to a Department. I am not suggesting anything so extreme as the hon. Member suggests.
What is happening in this Clause is perfectly clear. It is that an overworked and overburdened Executive are referring certain matters which are appropriate to their own field to the judiciary. That is what is occurring. It is not merely handing what should be their own burden and their own responsibility over to the judiciary, but it is also handing a separate part of the burden over to this official. What the Executive are saying to the court is, "These are problems which we should decide, but we have not the time and capacity and therefore we are giving them to you to decide."
In addition, it is giving to the Registrar the freedom to determine what questions shall be put to the Court. We regard that as giving to this officer too great a power. We say that if he is to have power to anything like this extent, he should be quite clearly and explicitly responsible to a Government Department. The matter of the initiating of procedure before the Court appears, on the whole, to be the most important factor to be borne in mind, but, of course, it is not the only one.
Another Clause empowers the Registrar to serve notice upon any party to a registrable agreement requiring him to make good his failure to register. The same conflict and cleavage may occur under this head between the Government and the Registrar. A Government Department, such as the Board of Trade, knowing perfectly well of the existence of what it regards as an undesirable restrictive trade practice, and being quite satisfied, from its knowledge and experience, that an agreement exists which should be registered, may be powerless to persuade the Registrar to serve a default notice, under Clause 8, upon a party to that agreement.
Again, under Clause 17, the Registrar is given the power to which I referred earlier, namely, to go to the Court in cases where it has determined that there is an agreement contrary to the public 235 interest and has made an order, and to ask the Court to review and change the order because of some change in circumstances which has occurred.
The Board of Trade may have good reasons of policy for desiring that a decision of the Court should be reviewed under that Clause, but it will be entirely powerless in the matter because the Registrar is not responsible to it, and, applying his own individual judgment to these complicated and difficult matters year after year, may choose not to bring matters forward for review by the Court. He may go on insisting upon this, utterly regardless of what the electors have said and of the opinion of the Government of the day.
It seems to me that the object of this Clause should really be twofold. If the Registrar wants to serve a notice, or to commence proceedings, and the Board of Trade does not want to do so, the Registrar should be free to do it. Equivalently, if the Board of Trade wants to serve a notice or to commence proceedings, it should be obligatory upon the Registrar to act accordingly.
All that one can say about the Bill is that it does not make any such provision. It leans towards the fault of giving the Registrar too wide a scope and too great a freedom to ignore Government policy. The Registrar will be a very important official, and we say that the Bill will make him too important. In our view, explicit limitations should be placed upon his power and a much clearer indication given as to where his responsibilities will lie.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I do not want to spend too much time trying to discriminate between the legal niceties raised by the two Amendments which have been put down by my hon. Friends, as between the powers of the Attorney-General and the Lord Chancellor, but I want to make two comments upon speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite. First, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) wanted the Registrar to be made dependent upon and subservient to the Board of Trade. Throughout the whole passage of the Bill we must watch very carefully that we do not tend to alienate industry and commerce from the Board of Trade. Industry and commerce now 236 tend to regard—and should tend to regard—the Board of Trade and the President thereof as their friend and helper, and to identify the Board of Trade with action which comes very near to prosecution will be damning to the relationship between the two.
The arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) were the most curious arguments in favour of what he proposes that I have listened to. Time and again he emphasised that the Registrar would be a very important man, and should carry on his work independent of what the electors said at General Elections. He has just now conceived, however, that the Registrar could be swayed by the winds of political fashion, and indicated that he thought that the Registrar should be so swayed. That is a very dangerous innovation to introduce into our form of Government. If we want to make a change in legislation, Parliament should do it, and we should not rely upon a Registrar, standing apart, to try to interpret the will of the country. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will accept either of the two Amendments in the names of my hon. Friends but will reject those put forward from the Benches opposite.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I oppose the Amendment. It seems to me that the question at issue in each of the Amendments which we are discussing is whether the Registrar should be appointed by a political officer, or, in time-honoured fashion, by Her Majesty. My first Amendment provides that he should be appointed by the Crown, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. I oppose the Amendment which has been moved because it tends to diminish the status of the Registrar; because it is a break with precedent and tradition, and because it may reduce the efficiency of the Registrar. It is common ground here that the Registrar will be a very important official; as important, in his own way, as a High Court judge. Therefore, in my submission, he should be appointed in the same manner as a High Court judge, namely, by the Crown, upon the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
The reasons which have been given in favour of the Amendment seem to me to be quite inadequate, and do not deal with the questions which I have just 237 adumbrated about the status, efficiency and usefulness of the Registrar. I am in agreement with everyone who has spoken so far about the importance of the office of the Registrar and the duties that he will have to perform. In my submission, that makes it desirable to accept my Amendment. It accords with usage and practice; it is upon the same lines as is the appointment of a High Court judge, and it accords with the manner in which Clause 4 provides for the appointment of certain members of the Restrictive Practices Court, as it is in the Bill, or, as I hope it will be, the tribunal, when the Bill becomes an Act.
It is obvious that the Registrar will have very important duties to perform. Some speakers have suggested that he should be appointed by somebody who is answerable to the electors. That kind of argument could be applied to the appointment of a High Court judge.
§ Mr. Hughes
Are High Court judges to be appointed by persons answerable to the electors? That is a false argument.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am discussing the difference, not between an advocate and a judge, but between the Registrar and a judge. My argument is that the Registrar will have such important duties to perform, and will be so exalted a personage, that he should be appointed in the same manner as a judge—by persons who are above politics. He should be appointed not by the Lord Chancellor or the President of the Board of Trade, but by the Crown, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
It is the settled practice by Statute that holders of very high offices are usually appointed by the Crown, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. My argument has much precedent behind it. Any variation from this practice usually depends upon the lower status of the particular office. The fourth Amendment on the Order Paper is the one which I hope the Minister will accept, namely, that the Registrar should be appointed by the Crown, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
It might be convenient if I said a few words at this stage. We are considering a series of Amendments containing a variety of suggestions on who ought to advise about the appointment of the Registrar.
Some hon. Members think it ought to be the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), in a very forceful and clearly reasoned speech, made out the case that it ought to be the President of the Board of Trade. There are quite logical arguments for that view. Other hon. Members think it ought to be the Attorney-General, and among them is my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow). Others, again—they have the advantage of being on both sides of the Committee—like my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks) and the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), think that neither of those previous suggestions is right and that the correct person is the Lord Chancellor.
The Bill says that the Registrar shall be appointed by Her Majesty, but hon. Gentlemen know that that means Her Majesty advised by the First Lord of the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I say to some of my hon. Friends that I do not know that we should get greater security by giving the job to me rather than to the Prime Minister. We cannot go very much higher than that in the appointment of an officer whose duties, it has been rightly said, will be extremely important.
Two distinct issues are running through this discussion. One is whether anybody should be answerable for the exact policy in the arguments that will be put forward in the Court. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester North-East (Sir Ungoed-Thomas) shakes his head in dissent, while his hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn nods, and it was to her speech that I was addressing myself. No? I am sorry. I thought the hon. and learned Member shook his head.
There is a second issue, which concerns very deeply some of my hon. Friends. It is that the conduct of the appointment should be in the highest traditions of the English Bar, so that no criticism whatever can be directed to the 239 way in which the case is presented and the cross-examination goes on. I share that view and I think that it would be shared by all sides of the Committee. Indeed, I can help hon. Members who feel that way not by accepting any of the Amendments—which, I hope, will not be pressed—but by saying that these cases will, in fact, be conducted by counsel nominated by the Attorney-General. Legal advice will be by the Treasury Solicitor, whose staff will have to be enlarged to deal with this side of the work.
Whether it is strictly necessary or not, I am prepared to write into Clause 18 the fact that the cases will be conducted by counsel so nominated. That will demonstrate that if there is any misconduct in the handling of any particular case it will certainly not occur on more than one occasion.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
Is there not another and even more important matter than the conduct of the proceedings, the reference of the matter to the Court at all?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I will deal with that point in due course.
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn made absolutely plain the reasons for her Amendment. She wanted a Minister to be responsible because she wanted him to be subjected to questioning in the House of Commons. We have to choose between a judicial and an administrative solution to these problems. I have always admitted that there was a case for either. I listened to the very able arguments on the Second Reading in favour of an administrative tribunal. I will not discuss them now because we shall come to that point on Clause 2. We must now assume that it is to be a judicial tribunal for the purpose of the argument.
We cannot have both. It is illusory to imagine that we can have debates in the House of Commons and Questions to Ministers, whether to the Attorney-General or to the President of the Board of Trade, on policies which are being pursued, at the same time as these matters are being discussed and argued on criteria laid down under Clause 16 in a judicial way and in front of a judicial court.
§ Mrs. Castle
How then does the right hon. Gentleman describe the activities of the Registrar in discovering whether agreements exist or not? Surely that is an administrative matter.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Certainly that is an administrative side and we shall come to it in Clause 8, when we discuss how it should be discharged but no Departmental Minister should be examined as to the policies which are being pursued.
The matter was even more clearly put by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine). I ask my hon. Friends to pay attention to his speech, because that is the logical end of some of the Amendments which they themselves have put forward, although it is not their intention one bit. Their intention is one which I fully share: it is to ensure that these cases are properly conducted, and I agree with that.
The logical end to making a Departmental Minister responsible is that which was so much desired by the hon. Member for Edge Hill, namely, that the policy should change with each Election and that the whole conduct of these affairs should be subjected to the pressures which can be exercised in the House of Commons. I am not complaining about pressures in the House of Commons; it is right that there should be. If we decide that something is to be judicially decided we cannot have it decided by pressures in the House of Commons. The two are quite separate and clearly distinct.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
I am following with great interest the case made by the right hon. Gentleman, but it depends entirely on how far the case is justiciable.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I agree. That is a fair point and we shall discuss it either on Clause 2 or Clause 16. It does not prejudice the hon. and learned Gentleman's case to assume for the moment that the Bill is as it is and contemplates a judicial solution. If we are to have a judicial solution, these other suggestions are inimical to the judicial approach.
The hon. Member for Edge Hill asked other questions. He said that the Registrar was in the same sort of position as the Director of Public Prosecutions or a public prosecutor. That is wholly misconceived. That is not the position of 241 the Registrar at all, who has not discretion about bringing cases forward. In principle, all the cases which are subject to the Orders made under later Clauses have to be registered. There can be discretion but, in principle, the cases have to be registered. Having been registered, they have to be called up. There is no question about that; there is no discretion there.
There is discretion with the President of the Board of Trade. It is laid down that the President of the Board of Trade will have the power to give directions as to the order in which these particular cases should be heard, for the obvious reason that if there were some particular ring or an agreement which happened to be of special interest or special importance it would be possible for the President of the Board of Trade to issue a direction that it should be taken next or that it should be taken early. Similarly, another limitation on the powers of the Registrar, and something which is firmly and quite rightly kept in the hands of the House of Commons, is which group of practices should be registered. We could decide, when practices were registered, the order in which they should be called up.
Thirdly, as to the procedure in the Court, that is subject to the rules of the Court. We are proposing to accept a later Amendment that will make these rules subject to the negative Resolution of the House of Commons, so that we shall have some control there. Similarly, with regard to the arrangements affecting registration, these, too, are within the proper control of the House of Commons, in so far as the House of Commons can approve or disapprove of the rules laid down, and that seems to me to be the right rôle of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I should like to get the provisions of the Bill quite clear. It is true, is it not, that the Registrar, and he alone, can ensure that a certain agreement is brought before the Court?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is the Registrar's responsibility. He is the only person who can initiate the proceedings, but the President of the Board of Trade can issue directions as to the order in which cases are taken. Therefore, if there is a particular case which the President of the Board of Trade thinks ought to be taken early, either because he thinks it is a 242 social evil or because it could set a precedent for many other cases, that might be a perfectly good reason for asking that that particular case should be heard early. He could ensure that it was the next one to come before the Court in that way, and, within the limits of the Bill, the powers are retained.
I am bound to make plain what I feel and what is laid down in the Bill—that I would regard any system which made a Departmental Minister responsible for answering day-to-day Questions in the House of Commons as to what was or was not being done by the Registrar, or what arguments were or were not being advanced, as something which was quite contrary to the important principles laid down here.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
There is this fundamental aspect of the matter which the right hon. Gentleman has not touched upon. Why should Her Majesty, in making the appointment, be denied the assistance which the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor could give her?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Her Majesty will be advised by the Prime Minister, and in this Government I feel fairly confident that the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor will probably be of one mind.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
I am bound to say that the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, if I understood him aright, has, if anything, increased rather than diminished our anxieties about the extent to which he is taking this business out of parliamentary accountability. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is using the device, which is no doubt a perfectly proper and customary one, of advice by the Prime Minister to the Queen about a new appointment as a method of making it almost impossible to ask a Question in the House about this business at any stage.
May I say, for the sake of clarity, that I understand that for procedural reasons we cannot carry this matter to a Division on the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), as we should have preferred, and that, therefore, we have selected the Amendment we are actually discussing now and which, from our point of view, is only second best.
243 This is an important debate. The hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) said that it was vital in all this that the Board of Trade should be regarded as the friend of industry and commerce. I agree with that, to some extent, but I think that we on this side of the Committee approach the whole matter from this point of view. We think that it is essential that this Bill should above all set out to protect the consumer and the ordinary housewife from exploitation, and it is the duty of the Board of Trade in all this to function as the protector of the consumer.
That is why we wish to see rather more teeth in the Bill; and I should like the Bill to have some large teeth, like the wolf in the fable of "Little Red Riding Hood," but I am afraid that the President's Bill at present resembles the grandmother rather than the wolf. It seems to us to be most essential that the Bill should contain some direct form of parliamentary accountability.
§ Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
For the sake of accuracy, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it was the wolf that got killed, and that the grandmother was saved?
§ Mr. Jay
I am well aware of that, but I am afraid that in this case the Bill in its present form is more likely to be devoured by the monopolists than vice-versa.
Our view is that there should be accountability to Parliament and that one Minister should be responsible. In reply to the speech of the President, and accepting his view that for the moment we must assume that there is to be Court responsibility for deciding actual cases, the argument is still perfectly legitimate, even though there is a Court, that the Registrar should be appointed by and be responsible to the President of the Board of Trade and not, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, by the Sovereign. I think that parliamentary responsibility for this Registrar, from the point of view of the consumer, is especially important for these reasons.
In the first place, as we all agree, the first main job of the Registrar is to initiate the proceedings. The Bill lays down in Clause 1 that the Registrar is charged with the duty of initiating such 244 proceedings, and the actual order in which it is done is a matter on which the President can be prodded, if I may use that word.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Surely the first duty of the Registrar is not to initiate the proceedings but to maintain a register, which is a different matter.
§ Mr. Jay
That is quite clear; I said that it was his first important duty, but I will not argue that with the hon. Gentleman.
What is worrying us is that, though the President can instruct the Registrar as to the public interest or the order in which he takes these proceedings, he has no power to say that these proceedings shall be taken at a particular rate. It is true that he can say that case A should be taken first, followed by B and C, but we wish to see these cases taken in five years, not fifty years. On that point, it seems to us that there is no adequate power.
Secondly, in Clause 15, I think the President will agree, the Registrar has the power—and I left out this part in the Second Reading Debate in trying to trace it out—after the Court has decided that a particular practice is against the public interest, nevertheless to say that nothing further shall happen at all, because it is only on the application of the Registrar that any action can actually be taken to stop what is going on. It seems to us that that is a very vital power in the whole process, and if there is no full accountability, I think the President is rather in danger, though I am sure that it is not his intention, of setting up an official of immense power, almost a dictator, over a large field of industry, but with very little accountability to anybody at all.
I think it would be preferable to place the responsibility for the appointment on the Lord Chancellor or the Attorney-General, and there is no very big distinction there—rather than have the arrangement which the President is proposing. Nevertheless, we on this side, with the possible exception of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), prefer that if we are choosing between one Minister and another the responsibility should fairly and squarely be placed on the President of the Board of Trade.
245 Briefly, the reasons for that are as follows. After all, the right hon. Gentleman represents the Department responsible for industrial policy in general; that has always been the settled rule. He is responsible also for protection of the consumer, which, I emphasise again, is the main objective of the whole of this enterprise. We might sometimes think that the right hon. Gentleman is not responsible for the protection of the consumer, because Ministers in the present Government are fond of repudiating responsibility for all kinds of things—for example, exports and full employment, and I do not know what it will be next. But we hope that the right hon. Gentleman still regards himself as responsible for the protection of the consumer.
Throughout the whole of the legislation of the last few years, the President of the Board of Trade has had formal responsibility for the subject of monopolies and restrictive practices. As several hon. Members opposite have said today, we are in danger of getting into a complicated administrative muddle. After all, the Monopolies Commission is still in existence, and we are to have the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General coming in. The Registrar is now to be separated from the Board of Trade and, of course, we have continuing responsibility by the Board of Trade itself.
I find it very difficult to believe that we will get a smooth and effective procedure in that extremely complicated setup. We could at least simplify it to some extent if we placed the main responsibility firmly on the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Peter Remnant (Wokingham)
We all agree about the need to protect the consumer. Will the right hon. Gentleman later be suggesting that "consumer" should be substituted for "public interest"?
§ Mr. Jay
What we will suggest, although it is probably not relevant or in order at this stage, is that there should be more consumer representation among the non-legal members of the Court, if the Committee decides to proceed with the proposal to have the Court.
Before we finally decide this issue, can the President of the Board of Trade tell us what exactly is implied by the statement 246 that the appointments will be made by the Prime Minister? What sort of Questions will it be possible to ask in the House about the whole business? Will it be possible to ask Questions other than those to the Prime Minister about why he appointed a certain individual as Registrar rather than somebody else? Obviously, I take it, that much will be possible.
Will it be possible to ask why, although the Board of Trade has designated a certain class of practices for registration, several months have elapsed and practically no proceedings have been taken by the Registrar? Will it be possible to ask why the whole procedure is moving so slowly? Will it be possible, by some parliamentary procedure, to urge the President to speed up the whole process in the interest of the consumer?
Will it be possible to ask a Question concerning the Registrar's functions under Clause 15? If it happens that after this very long process, which we examined on Second Reading, the Court finally decides that a certain practice is contrary to the public interest but that a substantial period elapses and no further action is taken by the Registrar, will it be possible to put down a Question—presumably, to the Prime Minister—on that subject? A great deal turns on whether we can have an assurance that there will be at least a reasonable measure of parliamentary accountability and the opportunity for hon. Members to ask Questions on all these major points.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I listened very carefully to what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said and I was impressed by his advice to the Committee. He was right in saying that the greatest concern, certainly amongst a number of my hon. Friends on this side, relates to the conduct of proceedings and to the guarantee, of which my right hon. Friend himself spoke on Second Reading, that all sides would be heard and all parties properly represented. I quite agree that from that aspect the appointment of the Registrar is not really a very relevant or important factor.
If, as my right hon. Friends says, that matter will be dealt with by the Prime Minister, and if the Prime Minister deals with it, as no doubt he will, on the basis of appointing a man who would be able 247 to exhibit independence and confidence in himself—although, of course, it is not possible to ask that the Registrar should be given the same status as a High Court judge or anything of that nature—I think the House would probably be prepared to accept the position that an appointment of that kind would be a guarantee of independent action. I quite agree with the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), however, that it would be desirable to make clear the position as regards the extent to which Questions will be permissible.
Having got so far, I agree with my right hon. Friend that the most important matter is the guarantee that proceedings will be conducted in a fair and impartial manner, but what he has said so far—that he proposes to provide that counsel shall be nominated by the Attorney-General—is really no guarantee whatever, for the only concern of the Attorney-General would be whether a proper person had been appointed.
If any hon. Member wanted to ask a Question, the only Question he could ask would be why Mr. X had been appointed when he was not perhaps a suitable man for the job. The Attorney-General would be able to escape from any difficulty or criticism by saying, "I am not concerned with what the man says when he gets there. I am concerned only with whether a fit and proper person is appointed." Therefore, although it would be out of order for me to discuss it now, in hoping that I will have the opportunity later to move a subsequent Amendment which appears in my name, I am bound to say that my hon. Friends and I will press very strongly for something much more on the lines that we indicate in our Amendment.
What my right hon. Friend said today covers only part of the undertaking that he gave to the House on Second Reading. He then referred to the task of the Registrar in initiating proceedings, and he said:The Registrar will be advised by the Treasury Solicitor, and will be represented before the court by counsel nominated by the Attorney-General.So far so good, but my right hon. Friend went on to say:It will be the duty of the Registrar to ensure that all relevant facts are placed before 248 the court, and he will consult the Attorney-General, through the Treasury Solicitor, on any matters of doubt or difficulty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1943–4.]From my experience, I assure my right hon. Friend that nomination does not carry with it any such obligation. Therefore, we really must ask my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to think again about this.
Subject to that, having heard the speeches from both sides, and particularly, one might say, having heard one or two of the speeches from the other side, I think there is a great deal in what my right hon. Friend has said about the constitutional position. I personally would be prepared to let this matter go on the basis that my right hon. Friend has suggested, on the very clear understanding that we want something much more definite as regards the conduct of the proceedings.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
The main difficulty about this batch of legal Amendments, from both sides of the Committee, is that in their respective ways they are typical of a deep division of opinion as to how this whole business is to be tackled. On one side there is the judicial approach and on our side of the Committee there is the politico-economic approach. It is impossible to bridge that gap by any purely legalistic conception of who is to do the appointment of the Registrar.
What we have in mind in our whole approach to the matter is that, once appointed, the Registrar shall be the sharp end of the nation's machinery to deal with restrictive practices. He will not be simply an amorphous bureaucrat sitting at the seat of custom. He will not be part of the judicial structure of the country. He will be the sharp end of a political and economic instrument designed to achieve political and economic aims.
The danger into which hon. Members opposite are falling is that they are trying to place these problems in the same kind of category as the common law. In other words, they suggest that it may be possible for us to say, "It is wrong to steal"; and it is then possible for the Government to say, "It having been laid 249 down that it is wrong to steal, we now step out of the operation and leave it to the judiciary to punish people who are caught stealing."
For that simple analogy the purely judicial approach is right and proper, but what we are saying, in effect, in this Bill is that it is wrong to commit certain practices but that on investigation we may decide that some of those practices are quite proper. There is therefore no blanket objection or condemnation; there is imposed upon a general category of condemnation a value judgment which enables somebody somewhere to say that, although the whole series of restrictive practices is wrong, some are right and we will allow those which are right to continue.
We argue that these are not justiciable issues; those are political and economic issues. That is why we are anxious that the Registrar, who is to be the sharp end of these operations, should be answerable politically to Parliament in some way or another.
The President has over-argued his case to some extent in that in part he has accepted the need for some political supervision. When we asked for a definition of what was meant by the statement in the Bill that the Registrar would be appointed by Her Majesty, the President was quick to point out that in effect it will be a recommendation and an appointment by the Prime Minister, who is the highest political authority. In trying to meet our argument, the right hon. Gentleman was therefore so quick to shelter himself behind the fact that, in effect, it would be a political appointment, that he implicitly accepted our case that some political supervision over the activities of the registrar is necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, indeed. When we asked whether he would leave the appointment to Her Majesty; like a flash he replied, "Of course not; it will be the Prime Minister who will make the appointment and he is the highest political authority. What are you grumbling about? There is a degree of political control and supervision."
Later, in response to another argument, he said that the Prime Minister would obviously be in agreement with the Lord Chancellor upon the matter. But he still did not answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for 250 Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). If, in effect, it is practically a Prime Minister's appointment, through whom are we to exercise some political supervision in the House? By the right hon. Gentleman's nods and head shakings we gathered that we were to have some opportunity, although not a right, to question the appointment, but not the way in which the appointee fulfils his functions.
It would be naïve to assume that the President will be a complete political neuter in these matters. It is obvious that, whoever appoints the Registrar, the President's Department will constantly have to refer issues to the Registrar and will have to have discussions and contacts practically week to week, if not day to day, with the Registrar in the exercise of the President's political functions. If the President is not to do that he will opt out of the whole business altogether.
I am afraid that, in effect, there will be some degree of political supervision and some degree of political contact between the President and the Registrar but that when we in the House seek to press the President on the methods which he is deploying, upon his tactics and his general approach, we shall be faced with an iron curtain behind which the right hon. Gentleman will say, "You may not question me on those matters because this man is not my appointee." So the President will get the best of all possible worlds. Unless he is prepared to abdicate a wide field of responsibility to this appointee, he will have to maintain some kind of executive connection with the Registrar; but at the same time he will not be answerable to the House about those negotiations and talks. Thus he will be enjoying a degree of power without accountability which we think is not sustainable.
That is why we ask that he should put firmly in the Statute what we think will be effectively the case, and that he should give Parliament the right to question him. That is why we propose this approach. It is nonsense for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that hon. Members will be seeking to put down Questions while cases are coming before the judicial tribunal and before the judiciary.
The functions of the Government and the whole of the machine are clearly divided into two parts; one is initiation 251 and the other is the judicial action following that initiation. If we may use such an analogy about any judicial body, the second is the sausage machine; but the most important matter is the rate at which things are fed into the sausage machine. We do not accept for a moment the President's case that on the basis of the Bill this is to be a judicial operation; but assuming for one moment that we do accept it, is there any reason at all that there should not be some political supervision of at least the rate at which things are fed into the judicial sausage machine, its scope and direction?
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I have been following this very able argument with considerable admiration. It seems to me that once the Minister has handed a matter to the Registrar we shall not only have no new rights to criticise but we shall be deprived of our old rights to criticise. We may find ourselves unable to raise issues of great national importance because the President will say, "This has been handed to the Registrar and it is up to the Registrar, in the exercise of his quasi-judicial functions, to decide when and how it should be dealt with."
§ Mr. Fienburgh
My hon. Friend is right and I was perhaps too elliptic in the argument, when I envisaged an iron curtain coming down. It would come down not simply on the particular matter being discussed at the moment, but as an iron curtain behind which the President could shelter quite happily from a whole range of questions dealing generally with restrictive practices—questions which we are allowed to put on the Order Paper at the moment.
Before we go much further with the debate, the President must answer the questions put to him by my right hon. Friend, which I have tried to emphasise. Is this or is it not in any way to be a political appointment? The right hon. Gentleman sought to imply that in effect it would be a political appointment. If it is to be a political appointment by the Prime Minister, what questions may we ask the Prime Minister upon it? Are we to be allowed to question him only upon the name of the appointee? Are we not to be allowed to question him upon the methods of operation of the appointee?
252 We are not discussing the B.B.C., nor the appointment of bishops. We are discussing the creation of a new type of technical economic instrument which should have far-reaching effects upon the economic structure of the country. Although it may be arguable that the Prime Minister should appoint the chairman of the B.B.C. and should not be pressed on his administration after the appointment has been made, that analogy cannot be sustained for one moment when we are examining the creation of this new economic instrument.
Are we to be allowed to probe questions further? Are we to be denied rights of questioning which we have already on these matters? Before we go much further we must really winkle the President from behind the iron curtain and ask him to reply to this question. In so doing, we must emphasise the main point—that there is a fundamental difference between us. That will be admitted. There is a judicial approach, on the one side, and a politico-economic approach on the other, but, given those differences of approach, the President of the Board of Trade surely must be as concerned as we are that he shall not create—perhaps inadvertently—a new type of structure which would deny to Parliament some measure of political control which it has at the moment.
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)
I do not quite follow all the arguments of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), although in general I support the right to question someone on the Front Bench on the activities of the Registrar. It does not seem that he will have an opportunity to exercise politico-economic judgment because his duties are laid down. I cannot see what discretion he is to have, but possibly he will have some discretion as to whether he takes a decision a year later or not. At all events, I do not want to detract from the argument of the hon. Member, but to add another argument.
It seems to me that to a certain extent the Registrar will be a civil servant, because he will have certain administrative duties. He will have to collect facts and figures for registration to lay before the Court. Under Clause 11 he is to have the same sort of powers which the police might have—the right to walk into 253 a firm's premises, to examine its books and take photostat copies of invoices and that sort of thing. What is more, he is to have the right to do all those things without the authority of a court and can do it off his own bat. Supposing he does something which is considered by the firm concerned to be objectionable and the firm thinks it is being imposed on by Gestapo methods used by the Registrar? Has the firm no right of redress? Cannot a Member of Parliament ask a Question of a Minister about the activities of the Registrar?
I am very concerned that industry generally should have some confidence in this man. At the moment, I am frightened that very soon he may become known not as the Registrar of Restrictive Trading Agreements, but the Commissar of Restrictive Trade Practices, and that would not be a good thing. Therefore, I would support the right of questioning the President of the Board of Trade, at any rate on the administrative activities of the Registrar.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will note that every speech made so far, with perhaps the one exception of the former Attorney-General, has urged upon him to do nothing in the Bill to take away the rights of Question and Answer in this House.
I think it was unfortunate that today the President began proceedings on this Bill with one of the oldest Parliamentary tricks in the book by replying very literally to the Amendment, which was a paving Amendment, to build up a series of points. The President addressed his remarks almost exclusively to the fact of the appointment of the Registrar. Of course, we realise that the appointment will be exercised on the advice of the Ministers of the day. I am sure that on this side of the Committee and on the other side there are no doubts that a fit and proper person will be appointed as Registrar, but the point of the Amendment, linked with others on the Notice Paper, is to preserve some ministerial responsibility over the Registrar. That is not because we believe that he will be a man who has to be watched day by day by the Minister concerned, but simply to preserve the rights of hon. Members to put Questions on the Order Paper.
254 5.15 p.m.
Some of my hon. Friends expressed doubts whether Answers would be obtained from the President of the Board of Trade, but I am in doubt whether we would even get Questions on to the Order Paper in the first instance if the Clause goes through in the form in which the President wants it to go through. Many hon. Members opposite have, over the years since 1945, spoken against the practice, which is all too prevalent, of taking matters outside the power of this House—outside the elected assembly. Whilst we may differ about which Minister should answer at the Box, I hope we are all agreed that there should be some Minister responsible for answering Questions on the jurisdiction and conduct of the Registrar.
We might perhaps be able to resolve the difficulty when the Question is put from the Chair as, presumably, it will be in the form, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause." Whether we think the Attorney-General should answer Questions on this matter, or that it should be the Lord Chancellor or the President of the Board of Trade, we can go into the Lobby to vote against the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." I do hope that when the matter is pressed to a Division we shall have a large number of hon. Members opposite with us in the Lobby seeking to preserve the rights of hon. Members of this House.
In view of the debate, it may well be that the President or the Parliamentary Secretary may have second thoughts on this question. Let it be quite clear that we are not concerned, and never have been concerned, with any suggestion that some quite unsuitable, disreputable person might be appointed as Registrar. What we want to preserve and to have written into the Bill is that there should be sufficient ministerial responsibility so that we can put Questions to a Minister, should the need arise.
I feel that the debate has been fogged by what in several cases seemed to be a complete misrepresentation of what the functions of the Registrar are to be. It was suggested by several hon. Members that he should be completely independent and exercise a judicial function. Some one unfamiliar with the terms of the Bill and listening to the debate might think that he was to be the judge in the Court. 255 As the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) pointed out in a very powerful intervention, we might consider, when we debate Clause 11, that the Registrar has too great administrative powers. There is certainly no question in my mind that he should have nothing but administrative duties to perform.
If we are to build him up as someone beyond Parliament, appointed at the pleasure of Her Majesty and completely independent, for what do we want all the paraphernalia of a Court? The whole point of having a Registrar is to see that the administrative provisions of the Act shall be complied with. It may well be that, not through any lack of diligence, but because of certain policies pursued by the Registrar, we may want to put Questions and raise matters in this House.
As a parallel, I would remind the House that all hon. Members will, at some time or other, have had correspondence with the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance concerning the powers and statutory duties of the Minister under the National Insurance Acts. We then get the kind of Answer, which is probably quite proper as the Acts stand, that the Minister can do nothing about some question because of the statutory provisions of an Act and because of his powers under it. We should all object very strongly if, because the Act said certain things, we were not able to ask Questions of the Minister concerning his responsibilities under the Act. He can only do things in so far as the law permits him, but we want to be able to raise matters affecting constituents, even though—unless the law is amended—the Minister cannot meet our point of view.
The parallel arises in this instance. Under Clause 11 all sorts of matters can arise. Constituents may expect their hon. Member to raise matters in debate, but the Member, as I understand the Clause, may be forbidden even to put a Question on the Order Paper.
There is a large body of opinion on the benches opposite, and unanimous opinion on this side of the Committee, that at least some Minister should be responsible to answer those Questions. I do not think it matters quite so much which Minister it is. I was surprised by the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison), who suggested that manufacturers and commerce generally would 256 look with disfavour on the Board of Trade if the Board of Trade were the responsible Department in this connection. I should have thought that the only ground on which commercial interests would object to the Board of Trade would be if the Board of Trade were slack and lazy in applying the powers of the Bill to abolish restrictive practices, because commercial interests, believing as we are always told, in the efficacity of free competition—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)
The hon. Gentleman is going a little wide now. I think that he should come back to the specific point of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mulley
I was trying to show why the Board of Trade would be the appropriate Department. Rather than lose the confidence of manufacturers by pursuing the vigorous policy which we want the Board of Trade to pursue, I suggest that that attitude would gain confidence. For reasons which have been expressed more powerfully than I could express them, I am sure that the Board of Trade would be the appropriate Department. However, rather than lose the right of hon. Members to put Questions, I think we would all settle for the Attorney-General. I ask the President of the Board of Trade to give consideration to the point so that we do not, through arguing which of the three Ministries should be involved, lose the principle of the right of hon. Members to put Questions.
§ Mr. Doughty
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) spoke of Questions being answered in the House, but other hon. Members opposite gave the secret away. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said that, of course, the Bill was designed to protect the public. That is entirely true, but one does not protect the public by exposing the industries that supply it with its goods, be they big or small, to the changes of the political wind, which may change rapidly or slowly. From year to year, or from week to week, the industries would not know what their position was and what their powers and limitations were if they were subject to this political wind. Therefore, it is necessary, desirable and most important that some body should be set up that can try these matters in a calm non-political atmosphere.
257 The Court which it is proposed to set up and to which the Registrar will refer these questions is far and away the best tribunal for the purpose. The Registrar is a man of immense power over industry, and if he is to be directed and counter-directed by Presidents of the Board of Trade giving him political directions, it will be quite impossible for him properly to carry on with his job with any sort of continuity entirely from the political arena, and his duties should be confined to what is set down I the Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
That is exactly what the Board of Trade can do. It can go to the Registrar and say "We have a lot of Tory members who are interested in beer and we do not want this matter to be raised. Deal with something else nice and quiet, like tin tacks. Put that first ad beer at the end of the list." The only power given to the Board of Trade is the power to take the big thing out of the list and shove in a little one.
§ Mr. Doughty
There is nothing about beer or tin tacks in the Bill. Obviously, the hon. Gentleman has not read it. That is exactly what the President can be questioned about. My right hon. Friend has the power of direction, and he can be questioned as to directions which he has given or failed to give. The hon. Gentleman is not correct.
§ Mr. Jay
Is not my hon. Friend perfectly correct, and is it not true that the hon. and learned Gentleman has not read the Bill? Does not Clause 1 say that the order in which proceedings are initiated is the one responsibility of the Board of Trade? Clearly, that means the question as to which type of case and which type of industry is taken first.
§ Mr. Doughty
The right hon. Gentleman did not follow what I said, which was that was exactly the type of question which could be put to the President of the Board of Trade: namely, why or why not a certain sort of industry, be it beer or tin tacks, has been put down for discussion higher up on the list. That being so, I am in entire agreement with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who said what we did not want day to day administration, the day to day lack of administration—if that be alleged—the day to day decisions and conduct of inquiries made the subject of 258 Questions, Adjournment debates and all the proceedings of the House of Commons which can be used.
However, there are matters dealing with the speed of administration, etc., on which it would be advisable for somebody to be answerable in the House. Therefore, if the Lord Chancellor were to appoint this Registrar—and here I am in agreement with my hon. Friend he Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks)—then he Attorney-General would be answerable, to a limited extent, for his behaviour, though not for questions of detailed administration. So far as that goes, I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The whole Committee, and in particular the President of the Board of Trade, will agree that although this is in a sense a narrow mater it is one of the greatest importance. The Registrar, obviously, will pay a pivotal part in the new structure the Bill seeks to create. He is to have very important functions, and it is most important that he should not in the end turn out to be an instrument of camouflage. It is because of the functions that the Registrar has to perform and because of the nature of the whole subject of restrictive agreements and so on, that the question of his appointment—who is to appoint him and what Parliamentary control there is to be over him—is of the first importance.
One feature that strikes the eye straight away is that there are to be proceedings to go before a Court, and the Registrar is to be the fist stage in getting a grip on those proceedings; that is to say, that the proceedings will be initiated by him. The first point, therefore, that must be considered is how soon is the matter to be sub judice and to what extent. When is Parliament, the public and he Press or anyone else to be precluded from raising the matter or asking any question about it? That is why I say that it is most essential that the appointment of Registrar should not in any way be an instrument of camouflage.
The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) referred to the conduct of proceedings. I agree that it is quiet elementary that if anyone is appointed by the Attorney-General as counsel in these proceedings he would obviously be a competent person. Clearly, 259 the Attorney-General will not appoint anybody who he believes to be otherwise, but I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that is merely a preliminary function. Apart from the choice of counsel, it does not decide what course the proceedings should take or how the proceedings are to be conducted. It is no good closing our eyes to the fact that these proceedings cannot be divorced from political considerations. I mean political in the best sense of the word; political in the sense of protecting the public interest. Everything that is concerned with protecting the public interest is political.
I suppose that our sole and main purpose here is that we should, in everything we do, seek to protect the public interest. Therefore, this matter of trade restriction, in its whole scope, is obviously something which impinges on the public interest. It is brought here to be dealt with because the public interest has been so evaded and outraged for years that we have to try to do something about it. Public interest obviously goes to the very heart of the matter, and whether it is before a court of law or before any other tribunal or functionary the issue involved must be political. That being so, the question of who appoints the functionary and what control there is to be over him does, undoubtedly, become very important.
What will happen as matters now stand is that if an hon. Member puts down a Question he will be told that nothing can be done about it because the matter is sub judice. That is exactly what will happen, not because the President of the Board of Trade—or the Government—wants to go out of his way to adopt that attitude, but because this Act of Parliament by its provisions will set up a screen which will stand between the Member of Parliament, the public and the Press and an investigation by Parliament into any of these agreements.
That is a very serious matter, because, instead of providing machinery and means for the public to attack and investigate these outrages, these restrictions, this Bill, when enacted, is to be a door that closes itself upon the public in that very respect. This matter is because of that 260 really much more important than the President would have us believe.
The President of the Board of Trade is a very reasonable fellow as a rule, and I am sure he will not deny that what I am about to say is the fact, namely, that this matter is really striking at important vested and political interests. There is no doubt about it that big business and commerce have their grip upon articles, commodities and trade to such an extent that the public has had to raise its voice and the Government have been forced to bring in a Measure of this kind. Does the President deny that these special interests are involved? Of course he does not and he cannot do so. And the very fact that interests of that kind are involved makes the position of the Registrar such that the character of his appointment and his status and functions becomes very important.
It is said that the appointment is to be made by Her Majesty, but that terminology means only that the appointment will be on the recommendation of the Prime Minister to Her Majesty. The effect of that is that the appointment is entirely taken away from any definite Government Department. It is made a matter personal to the Prime Minister, and it will really become impossible in detail either to question the appointment or anything concerned with it or its performance then or thereafter.
It would be another matter, of course, if the President of the Board of Trade were associated with the appointment. If it was his preferment and the officer had to function under the President there would obviously be a right all the time and from time to time as matters arose to put Questions on them to the President of the Board of Trade. But what is being done by this Bill—deliberately, in my submission—is that the Registrar is being appointed not by the President of the Board of Trade, but by the Prime Minister in order that that facility that Parliament should have may be obviated. That is really a very dangerous course to adopt from the point of view of the public interest.
The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey said that in the course of the conduct of the proceedings under the Bill it would be necessary to make sure that all sides should be represented, and that the matter should be carried out in a full 261 and fair way. One of the great difficulties in connection with the functions and the appointment of the Registrar is that the one party who matters, who is really concerned and whose vital interests are wrapped up with the reason why this legislation is introduced at all is the public, and there is absolutely no machinery through the Registrar for the representation of the public at all.
As I understand it, the Registrar, whoever appoints him, is to be appointed for the purpose of having restrictive agreements registered. That is to be his function, and on that head alone it is very important who appoints him from the standpoint of Parliamentary control.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
It does not seem to me that the purpose for which the Registrar is appointed comes under this Amendment.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Yes, and with great respect that is exactly my point, and it becomes important whether it is an appointment by a Minister or by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
The Registrar has to initiate proceedings. He is not bound by this Bill to bring any proceedings. Why I say that this is germane to the Amendment is that if there were political control that could be dealt with by this House, but as there is not to be political control—because there will not be appointment by any Departmental Minister—that in my humble submission that is not only relevant, but very paramount indeed. I am perfectly certain that the President wants to protect all these matters, and he therefore really must look at them again.
Another thing in which Parliament would have been interested—and about which it might be that Questions would have been asked had Parliament had any control over the matter and if the President had made the appointment—is as to whether the Registrar is to be both prosecutor and also counsel for the defence. As I have said before, I do not see how 262 the public is to be represented at all. That is why it is interesting in this connection to note that this idea of registration is actually against the majority view of the members of the Monopolies Commission.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
With respect, Sir Rhys, my submission is that every argument which affords a good reason why there should be appointment by the President of the Board of Trade so as to bring the matter under supervision by Parliament is relevant to this Amendment, and all these arguments appertain to that. It seems to me that these are the only arguments that can be usefully advanced in this case, and my submission is that they are cogent ones. They are the only arguments that can be advanced to underpin the contention that the appointment as provided for in Clause I is wrong and that the Clause should be amended in order that the President of the Board of Trade or some other Ministerial personage other than the Prime Minister should make the appointment so that control can be kept by the House of Commons. However, I need not pursue the matter any further because I think I have made the points I wanted to make.
There is the further question which the Committee will have to consider in connection with the Registrar, namely, that of informal and industrial agreements which have not to be registered. In conclusion, I would therefore ask the President of the Board of Trade to look at the whole matter again to try to remove the obscurity that there is about the status, the functions and the appointment of the Registrar, and to take good care that the appointment shall be made in such a way that the objective which the Bill is supposed to have and should have, namely, the public interest, is fully and effectively served.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
I have been trying to remember what we were talking about. I have been distracted a, good deal. I thought we were discussing who should make the appointment. The really important thing about that, apparently, is that the person who makes the appointment or recommends the appointment should be a person who can 263 be examined in the House. That seems to me to be the issue. I do not understand that there is any dispute on either side of the Committee that we certainly want somebody of whom we can ask some questions.
I am not quite sure of the explanation that the President of the Board of Trade gave, but he indicated that some Questions might be answered, if the appointment were made on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, by the Prime Minister himself. Whether that would be a good, effective or sufficient thing or not seems to depend on what the Registrar has to do. There has been a good deal of discussion about his having an important job, about his having to be very careful, and so on. Somebody described him as a political spearhead or a commissar. What has he to do? It seems to me that one should first think what he has to do before one can best answer the question about who should appoint him.
This Clause indicates broadly but clearly what he has to do. He has to maintain a register, and then he has to take proceedings.
§ Mr. Hale
On a point of order. This difficulty in Committee has been growing consistently in the last few months. The President of the Board of Trade dealt very fully with this matter, and the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) was allowed to make a speech about Clause 11, because we were discussing the two matters, the appointment of the Registrar and the question whether the Registrar should be a judge or a company official or a policeman, and that is obviously relevant to the question who should appoint him. If under Clause 11 he is to be a policeman, it would, I should have thought, be a matter for the Home Secretary. We have sat for an hour and a half and heard several Members discussing this matter at very great length 264 and now, with a temporary change in the occupancy of the Chair, several hon. Members who have been waiting here to speak and who have matters of value to put forward on what has been so long debated learn that they are out of order.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I made no comment at all about what has been discussed, but it seemed to me that the point of the Amendment is a simple one—who should appoint the Registrar. That is the only thing to discuss on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Jay
I think it is relevant, Sir Rhys, to the question who should appoint the Registrar to consider what he has to do. Throughout the debate so far hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have quoted various other Clauses in which important powers of the Registrar are set out, and I submit that it was in order for them to do so, and that the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) was in order in what he was saying.
§ Mr. Bell
I am embarrassed by my friends, Sir Rhys.
I was saying that before we could decide who should appoint and, therefore, who should answer Questions, we should take a quick look at the Registrar's functions, which, I suggested, were divided into two, first the maintenance of the register and then the taking of proceedings. The Registrar has, apart from waiting for custom, to stir it up if there is not enough custom. That appears later. The Registrar may, perhaps, not understand a practice, and may be in some doubt about it; and he has the power to take the opinion of the Court. So far, his duties are in a certain sense administrative.
I should think that in these days the question whether a practice should be registered or information given about it is not the sort of matter with which we should burden the Prime Minister, by compelling him to inform himself about those details. These little details about why the Registrar did not go to the Court before he accepted a registration, or why he did not accept it, are not 265 things with which we should burden Prime Ministers in these busy days. Prime Ministers, from whichever party they may be drawn, have already enough to do without informing themselves in detail about the administrative technique of the Registrar. That is all that this amounts to.
The second of his duties is the taking of proceedings. It may be said—I hope, not so seriously—that there might be some jiggery-pokery about that. It might be said that he was unwilling to take them or delayed taking them, or that he had a friend involved. Some suggestion might be made that the Measure broke down because of the obstinacy of the Registrar, and it might be said that this was serious, destroying the effect of the Measure, and must be dealt with at the highest level by the Prime Minister. That is possibly a tenable view why he should answer on that part of the Registrar's functions, but, even so, we must consider all that is involved in somebody informing himself of the facts. He would have to be a lawyer. The taking of proceedings involves legal machinery and legal acts. Therefore, it would seem to me that there must be an overwhelming reason shown why the Prime Minister should have to inform himself about the details of the proceedings having or having not been taken.
I think we can exaggerate the importance of the position of the Registrar. The Prime Minister already recommends the appointments of bishops and other very highly placed people. The Registrar has a nice, comfortable, snug appointment—I am not denying that—but is it really so big and so magnificent that the Prime Minister should be brought into the making of the appointment? I am sure people would have equal confidence in an appointment made by the Lord Chancellor or by the President of the Board of Trade. At the moment, I am not overwhelmingly convinced that this is an appointment which must be made on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. I feel that there are strong objections to the appointment being made by the President of the Board of Trade, but the Lord Chancellor who makes so many of these analagous appointments would seem to be the obvious and proper person.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will reconsider this matter in the light of the very cogent appeal made to him from both sides of the Committee. I listened very carefully to what the President said. I do not think that he had really understood the force of the arguments adduced on both sides of the Committee in support of the Amendment.
I am not particularly concerned whether the appointment is made by the Lord Chancellor or by the President of the Board of Trade. The issue is whether there should be some Minister responsible for the appointment and therefore answerable for the conduct of the Registrar. As the President of the Board of Trade said, there is an issue between us on whether the machinery whereby the whole of this process should be dealt with should be a court or a tribunal. We are not concerned with that issue here, but the position of the Registrar is quite different. The Registrar is the person who initiates the proceedings. I do not agree with the President that there is no responsibility upon him to initiate.
I should like to remind the President of what he said on Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman said:… on the question of the Registrar, we shall listen with close attention to any comments which the House should make,"—The right hon. Gentleman has had a great many comments made to him from both sides of this Chamber before and since he made that remark. He added:and express our determination that the proceedings and procedures should be both effective and just. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1944.]Whether the Registrar is appointed by the Prime Minister or anybody else, his independence and integrity will not be in doubt. We are not concerned with that.
We are concerned with the effectiveness of the steps which the Registrar is to take, because we believe that the whole success—if there is to be any success—of the Bill, will depend upon the energy and the drive which the Registrar puts into carrying the Bill into operation. That is why we think it so important that the Registrar should not be some person removed from all possibility of control, questioning and examination but should be somebody for whom some Minister 267 should be responsible, so that if there is any delay and any lack of drive or energy on the part of the Registrar in taking the multitude of steps which he will take under the Bill, Questions can be put to the Minister responsible. That is not an unreasonable thing to ask.
The functions of the Registrar will not be judicial, they will be administrative. There is plenty of precedent in our constitutional arrangements for asking Ministers of the Crown why a certain initiative has not been taken in starting certain prosecutions and inquiries. Questions are put to the President of the Board of Trade almost daily about how many prosecutions he has inaugurated under such and such an Act, whether it be the Films Act or the Merchandise Marks Act or any other, because the public, and Members of Parliament as their representative, are concerned to see that there is drive and energy on the part of the Minister responsible for seeing that the law of the land is carried out.
It is no whit less important, but, on the contrary, far more important, that there should be some machinery to enable Members of Parliament to ginger up the Government of the day in seeing that the Registrar gets on with his job. As I read the Bill, there is no obligation upon him to take any steps to bring any particular agreement before the Court at any particular time.
§ Mr. Fletcher
We have Amendments on the Order Paper to make it quite clear that it shall be the duty of the Registrar, when agreements are registered, to bring them before the Court, but the Bill as it stands merely says that he is charged with taking proceedings and does not say when or where. All we are asking for is that a Minister of the Crown shall be responsible so that Questions can be asked about the speed, efficiency and activity of the Registrar.
I am sure that the President would agree that he has given himself power in the Bill to give directions to the Registrar as to the priorities. Therefore, presumably, under his own Bill the right hon. Gentleman can be questioned about those directions. Surely, it cannot be any more embarrassing or any less desirable that he should be asked questions about the energy or the speed shown by 268 the Registrar in taking proceedings at all before any question of priorities arises.
The object of the Amendment is not, as the President seemed to suggest, to enable the Registrar always to be pestered on questions of detail as to what he is doing. He has very responsible functions to fulfil, but so have a great many other people who are responsible and answerable to the Minister of the day in relation to Parliamentary Questions. We believe that the rôle of the Registrar will be essential to the success of the Bill, and I believe that the Amendment really marks the acid test of the sincerity of the Government's desire to make the Bill work. We all know that the President of the Board of Trade has had a good deal of difficulty with some of his ministerial colleagues and back benchers about the Bill as a whole. I am prepared to accept the President's own words on Second Reading, that he wants to make the Bill effective and is prepared to listen to suggestions to make the rôle of the Registrar effective.
I do not particularly mind whether it be the President, the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General or the Home Secretary, but unless some Minister is made responsible and answerable for questions of this kind, I think that the President stands convicted at the outset of our discussion of depriving the Bill of the first vital element which will enable heart to be put into it and enable Parliament to maintain control of the degree of energy with which the Bill's provisions can be made effective.
I put these suggestions forward in the most constructive sense, and I hope that, coupled with the arguments put forward from the other side of the Committee, they will lead the President not to close his mind but to accept one or other of the Amendments which we are discussing.
§ Sir J. Barlow
In view of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
On a point of order. Sir Rhys. Before we proceed to a Division, should I be in order in asking the President of the Board of Trade several questions arising out of his speech? First, 269 under the plan which he proposes, supposing that an hon. Member of this House thought that the Registrar was not proceeding sufficiently quickly in initiating proceedings, or supposing he thought that the Registrar was exceeding his powers in the way indicated by the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), would it be open to him to put down a Question in this House either to the Prime Minister or to the President of the Board of Trade?
Secondly, if that is not so, in view of the fact that questions on restrictive practices under the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, are admissible in this House, would not the effect of this legislation be to take the whole matter much further away from Parliamentary control? Thirdly, in view of the almost unanimous opinion of speakers this afternoon that there should be clear responsibility on one Minister or another, and in view of what the right hon. Gentleman himself said on Second Reading, which has been quoted, will he either accept one of these Amendments or else undertake now to reconsider the matter?
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I will certainly answer those questions, taking the big point first. It is true to say that if we accept that responsibility for deciding some of these great and important issues is to be moved right out of the sphere of the Executive and handed over to that of the judiciary, plainly the appropriateness of Parliamentary Questions on certain aspects is sensibly diminished. That is a fair answer to the question, and I put it as clearly and specifically as possible. I will not elaborate that further because on a later Amendment we shall debate the real issue about which many of us have been speaking.
If the House really wants the President of the Board of Trade to be responsible, the answer is not to ask him small questions about the administrative functions of the Registrar. The answer is to make him responsible, and there is an Amendment down to that effect, providing that instead of judicial procedure there shall be responsibility through the Minister.
With regard to Parliamentary Questions generally, it is not for me to say precisely what Questions would or would not be in order, but I can say, broadly 270 speaking, that where ministerial responsibility exists, as it does on a number of Clauses in respect of timing and order and the particular cases to come forward, it would appear at first sight that Questions could probably be put. Parliamentary control also exists on a number of other matters through the negative procedure and through the rules of procedure both of the Court and the Registrar, etc.
The big question which the right hon. Gentleman fairly put to me is how far a Departmental Minister can answer for these matters. The answer is that it will certainly be less in so far as this is a matter for the Court rather than for the House of Commons.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
It would mean then, would it not, that no Question could be asked in the House about the speed at which the Registrar was bringing forward cases before the Court, and that no Question could be asked as to the behaviour of the Registrar in conducting the wide powers given to him under Clause 11?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not think that that would be quite correct. As I say, I shall not commit myself as to what Questions would or would not be in order, because that would not be a proper thing for me to say. The Board of Trade has powers as to the order in which these cases are brought forward, and it is plain to me at any rate that if there are cases of special importance for one reason or another, the President could be asked why he had not issued directions for a certain one to be taken first.
§ Mr. Hale
The President of the Board of Trade has made a reply and I have no intention of intervening, but, with respect, his reply was based on a misapprehension of the situation about Parliamentary Questions. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if he thought that there was no power in this House to raise Questions on judicial matters. No one has suggested that it is desirable that a power should be given to raise questions which arise upon cases that are being heard by Her Majesty's judges.
No one would suggest that this House should have power to put down Questions asking whether a verdict was right or whether a plaintiff was properly represented, or questions criticising the procedure in any court. Yet the President of the Board of Trade said that once 271 this matter becomes quasi-judicial it ceases to be a matter for the Executive and passes out of the control of Parliament.
We have the fullest power of asking Questions here about Her Majesty's judges and we have the duty to put Questions. We have a right to question whether the business of the courts is being carried on speedily or not. We have a right to know whether there are too many cases in the Chancery Court for the number of Chancery judges. We have a right to know whether they are having too long holidays. Indeed, we would ask questions about that if we were not conscious that we are as big sinners as they are—
§ Mr. Hale
But, Sir Rhys, the right hon. Gentleman made an intervention in which he was purporting to reply to a debate which has lasted two hours. The Minister said that if we accepted the position that the appointment of the Registrar is a judicial appointment, then it follows as a matter of course—
§ Mr. Hale
Well, is of a judicial nature. I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wants to correct what he said, but I understood him to say that. If he did not say that, he did not say anything, because the tenor of his argument was that once we have accepted the fact that the Registrar is a person acting in a quasi-judicial capacity then he is not a member of the Executive and he is not subject to the questioning that applies to the Executive. I say that this House of Commons cannot afford to fritter away its rights of questioning without finding out from the Minister whether he has taken the trouble to ascertain just what the Bill means, just what its effect would be, and then what the effect of the Amendment would be.
When I was a young and exceedingly innocent Member—probably even more innocent than I am now—I was persuaded to vote in Committee on the coal nationalisation Bill for a proposal that we could not ask Questions about coal nationalisation here. I can remember that I was greatly impressed by the 272 arguments, and I was as naïve as possible. It was said that we would not want to put down Questions asking why Bill Jones had his car in Scarborough on a Saturday morning when he ought to be working at the Coal Board.
We can ask Questions about every little postmistress earning 30s. a week if we wish. Of course we ought to have the power, but it must be wisely exercised. The point is that in the course of this debate the President has not given the slightest indication of the number of agreements which he thinks exist. [An HON. MEMBER: "He does not know."] There is practically nothing that the right hon. Gentleman knows, but there may be matters about which he has some inkling. We may be getting to the point when we shall not get much measure of agreement. The President has said that we are now discussing the question of whether we can question agreements until the office is opened.
But there are a lot of agreements, and, therefore, the first duty of the Registrar, sitting, as my hon. Friend so brilliantly described him, as an amorphous bureaucrat, on something—presumably a bottomless pit—on his first morning in the office, with or without a body and with or without a seat, will be to consider a mass of agreements, each of which will need to be inspected and each of which will need to be recorded. Indeed, his first duty, namely, the order in which he puts them in the book, is of some relevance.
It is true that under Clause I the Registrar has power to take these things out of their order. Here is a man who has power to appoint assistant registrars. He can breed, so to speak. Apparently, with the permission of the Treasury, he can breed without control and to any extent he likes. Surely this is not a matter which should pass out of our cognisance. As you have so wisely said, we cannot discuss Clause 11—
§ Mr. Hale
I appreciate that, Sir Rhys. I am very often accused of being too wide. My doctor told me the same thing only yesterday, and I have some pills which, I hope, will do something about it.
273 The position is this. Here is a gentleman who is to be placed in a position such as no one has been placed in before. I am not against that; there is a great deal to be said for it. I am not here to criticise. I understand that those who made observations about Clause 11, when they were in order, were doing so from a quite different point of view from my own. I know that. But here is a man who is going to be one-third policeman, one-third judge, and one-third Executive—a 100 per cent. amorphous official.
The President really should answer. With some ingenuity the right hon. Gentleman has referred to Clause 11. This is precisely the matter we are discussing, and I am keeping myself very closely within the bounds of order. He said that this very Clause merely says that the Registrar shall be appointed by Her Majesty.
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. Who removes him? Is it Her Majesty? The President has said that we all know what that means. This was his whole argument some two hours ago, and I am now replying to it. This does not actually mean that the Crown will act without the advice and assistance of those whom, in the old days, we used to call—I rather like the phrase—the personal servants of the Crown. He said that the principal personal servant, the Prime Minister, is there to appoint him in the first instance, even though the Registrar may appoint the assistant registrars. He said there is no one higher. Technically speaking, according to the table of precedence, that is not true, but one cannot go much higher than that, and I am sure Richard Strong will agree. There it is; the Prime Minister appoints.
When we come to the other Clause which I should be out of order in developing, it does not say that at all. Somebody is named. It is the Lord Chancellor who advises the Queen. It is all put in. We all recall how that is done; we have had explanations about that. A former Lord Chancellor, I think Lord Halsbury, said, when asked why he had appointed two men to vacant places on the bench, that it was much less serious for everybody that there should be two judges who did not know much about the law than that there should be two Tory Members who 274 finished up in the Bankruptcy Court. We have some fair indication of the sort of considerations which will operate in the mind of the Lord Chancellor in respectfully tendering the advice which would be necessary to implement this Bill.
We still come back to the point which has not been answered. My right hon. Friends have put it quite specifically, and I apologise for repeating what they say. I do it because I would like an answer, not because I do not think they put it with more ability and cogency than I could hope to command. If we accept this Clause without amendment, what is the position to be? Can we put down Questions and ask whether there has been registration in the register of a restrictive agreement relating to the Motor Garages Equipment Manufacturing Association—I think that is the correct title, speaking from memory—upon which I questioned the right hon. Gentleman some months ago?
I do not regard the privilege of questioning the right hon. Gentleman as one of very great value, because I do not remember ever getting any information as a result, except the useful information that the right hon. Gentleman did not want to give information. But there it was; I put the Question down.
Once this Measure is passed, shall I be able to ask, "Has this agreement been recorded?" This is vital. If it has not been recorded, shall I be able to ask whether the Registrar will exercise his powers under Clause 11 and look into it? That is vital. If it has been recorded, shall I be able to ask when it will be brought before the Court? That is vital. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say we have two or three hundred agreements involved here. It must run into hundreds. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thousands."] I should not be surprised. In the course of the last three years in Parliament, I have ceased to be surprised at anything, even telephone charges.
Can we ask those questions? Does the right hon. Gentleman know? I always have a personal regard for the right hon. Gentleman. He is always so charming, so kindly, and so uninformative, that one feels a certain tenderness 275 towards him. There can be only one theory now after three hours of debate; either the President knows and will not tell us, which appears to me as a possible theory, or he has never troubled to inquire into this extremely important matter at all, or he has inquired and nobody is quite sure.
The situation is not a very dignified one for this Committee. Questions are put time after time. Why are they not answered? One may talk about the responsible Minister; indeed, I felt like moving at a later stage a Clause to suggest that the nominated Minister exercising such responsibility as he now enjoys, or exercising those limited powers which he enjoys—
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged, Sir Rhys. I am grateful for that invitation, and I shall remember it when we come to it. The President really should deal with this. The question has been put to him with complete courtesy and it is a matter of importance. Are we to be in a position to ask about these agreements or not?
§ Sir L. Heald
Is it in order for hon. Members to applaud themselves even before they have sat down?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is difficult enough to deal with this actual Amendment, without going into that.
§ Mr. Hale
I shall not sit down before I have finished. My clap, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was referring, was a gesture by which I was trying to apply a little modest emphasis to my remarks, because I thought I had reached a point of some importance, after a little delay perhaps in getting to it. Shall I be able to put down that Question about agreements, and to whom? Will there be an attempt to say this is a judicial matter, a matter entirely in the courts and therefore passed out of the control of the Executive? The Committee should have that answer before this discussion is concluded.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I can put the answer rather more shortly than the question. There would be no need to ask the Question because all the hon. Gentleman would have to do would be to look at the register.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 248, Noes 212.279
|Division No. 136.]||AYES||[6.19 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr, P. G.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.:|
|Aitken, W. T.||Burden, F. F. A.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Fell, A.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Campbell, Sir David||Finlay, Graeme|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Carr, Robert||Fisher, Nigel|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cary, Sir Robert||Fletcher-Cooke. C.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Channon, H.||Fort, R.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Chichester-Clark, R.||Foster, John|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Fraser, Sr Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cole, Norman||Freeth, D. K.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Barber, Anthony||Cooper-Key, E. M.||George, J. C. (Pollok)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Gibson-Watt, D.|
|Barter, John||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Glover, D.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gomme-Dunan, Col. Sir Alan|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Crouch, R. F.||Gower, H. R.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Cunningham, Knox||Grant, W. (Woodside)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Currie, G. B. H.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Davidson, Viscountess||Green, A.|
|Bishop, F. P.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Body, R. F.||Deedes, W. F.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Gurden, Harold|
|Braine, B. R.||Drayson, G. B.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||du Cann, E. D. L.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Malden)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bryan, P.||Duthie, W. S.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick&L'm'tn)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||McKibbin, A. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Russell, R. S.|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Maddan, Martin||Sharples, R. C.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Shepherd, William|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Marshall, Douglas||Speir, R. M.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Mathew, R.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Mawby, R. L.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'h'gh, W.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Teeling, W.|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Neave, Airey||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Noble, Comdr, A. H. P.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Osborne, C.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Kaberry, D.||Page, R. G.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Keegan, D.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Partridge, E.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Kimball, M.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Kirk, P. M.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pott, H. P.||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Powell, J. Enoch||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Leavey, J. A.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Profumo, J. D.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Redmayne, M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Remnant, Hon. P. Renton, D. L. M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Rippon, A. G. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Robertson, Sir David||Mr. Oakshott and Mr. Godber.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Champion, A. J.||Fletcher, Eric|
|Albu, A. H.||Chapman, W. D.||Forman, J. C.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Clunie, J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Anderson, Frank||Coldrick, W.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Gooch, E. G.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Balfour, A.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Bartley, P.||Cove, W. G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Benson, G.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Beswick, F.||Cronin, J. D.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Grimond, J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hale, Leslie|
|Blyton, W. R.||Daines, P.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hannan, W.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Dodds, N. N.||Hastings, S.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Donnelly, D. L.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Healey, Denis|
|Brockway, A. F.||Dye, S.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Holman, P.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Holmes, Horace|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Holt, A. F.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Carmichael, J.||Fienburgh, W.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Finch, H. J.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Monslow, W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moody, A. S.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mort, D. L.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hunter, A. E.||Moyle, A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Mulley, F. W.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oram, A. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Irving, S. (Dartford)||Oswald, T.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Owen, W. J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paget, R. T.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thornton, E.|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pargiter, G. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parker, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Parkin, B. T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Kenyon, C.||Paton, J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pearson, A.||Weitzman, D.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lawson, G. M.||Popplewell, E.||West, D. G.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Proctor, W. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pryde, D. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Randall, H. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Logan, D. G.||Rankin, John||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson||Redhead, E. C.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Reeves, J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Rhodes, H.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|McGovern, J.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|McLeavy, Frank||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Mahon, Simon||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ross, William||Woof, R. E.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Royle, C.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Mason, Roy||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Messer, Sir F.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Skeffington, A. M.|
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Remnant
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, after "Registrar")", to insert:who shall be a barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years standing and".
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It might be for the convenience of the Committee to deal, at the same time, with the Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), in page 1, line 12, after "Registrar)", insert:who shall be either a practising barrister or a practising solicitor in either case of not less than ten years' standing and".
§ Mr. Remnant
I hope to deal briefly with this Amendment, Sir Rhys, partly because I intend to keep within the rules of order. My Amendment seeks to make the Registrar a barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing. What I am saying is largely interrogatory. While the duties of the Registrar are referred to and described in various parts of the Bill, and will no doubt be the subject of further discussion as the Bill proceeds through Committee, there has not been, as far as I am aware, any indication of the type of qualifications or 280 characteristics which will be sought in the gentleman concerned.
However, there was a remark in the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade earlier today which made me think that perhaps he was coming to the same conclusion as my hon. Friends and I have reached. He referred to the desirability of the proceedings before the Court being in the highest traditions of the English Bar. We will all agree with that. A number of us think that if the Registrar had legal qualifications, and was of sufficient standing, that might make a material contribution towards the high level of the proceedings before the Court.
It is easy enough to decide what type of man is not required, but it must be remembered that this is obviously a key post from a number of different points of view. He will be largely responsible for seeing that the Bill works satisfactorily, and that it has a chance to work and whether it continues to retain the respect of all the parties concerned in the judgments of the Court. I do not lean over quite so far towards the consumer 281 interest as did the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), although I will gladly accept that the consumers" point of view is important. I prefer the expression "public interest," which has a much wider scope.
One obviously wishes to exclude from this position any man who has held a high executive post in industry, or a high post in trade union circles. Their functions, as set out in Clause 4, will be as members of the Court, where they will have a very useful and helpful part to play. The primary essential requirement of the Registrar is complete impartiality so that he will have the respect not only of all those appearing before the Court and giving evidence, but of those who will be affected by the judgments of the Court.
I am afraid that that will probably rule out an hon. Member or right hon. Member from being appointed as Registrar, but I do not believe that the Registrar's position will suffer from that. An analytical mind, a knowledge of proceedings and an ability to sift facts and opinions, must be some of the cardinal essentials in the Registrar's make-up. He should have a legal qualification or an accountancy qualification and I prefer the legal one. I assure hon. Members that I am not getting paid for this brief.
I am seeking to inquire from my right hon. Friend whether he will give us an indiction of what type of man he intends to seek to hold this office. I want to go rather further in the segregation of this individual and the Court from the political atmosphere by not wanting someone who is trained in the Civil Service.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
The hon. Member's argument is most interesting. I am as concerned as he that the right man should be appointed to the key position. However, is not the logic of his argument in favour of another restrictive practice, to create a sort of closed shop in this sphere? Does that not seem incongruous in the rest of the Bill?
§ Mr. Remnant
The hon. Member is quite right in that, but he is speaking in the belief that all restrictive practices are bad. That is an opinion with which I should not entirely concur, otherwise they could be wholly banned without the procedure of the Court. I hope that my 282 right hon. Friend will be able to tell us what qualities he seeks in the man to be appointed.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I agree with many of the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant), but I have a numerical or mathematical difference with him. Instead of seven years, I suggest ten years. I profoundly disagree with the interruption of my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) about a closed shop. It is a question not of a closed shop, but of having a man fit for the job. I can put my argument very briefly, especially in view of what has been said by the hon. Member for Wokingham. The Registrar is obviously a person who should have legal qualifications, expert training and long experience. It is on the length of the experience that I differ with the hon. Member for Wokingham. One has only to look at Clause I (2) to see the nature of the functions which the Registrar will have to discharge and the qualities of mind and experience which he will need to apply to them.
I shall put my argument under three heads, which, I hope, will become a lawyer. The first is that the Registrar should be a barrister or a solicitor. Clause 1 (2) shows the kind of duty which he will be called upon to perform. It says that heshall be charged with the duty of maintaining a register of agreements. …That requires a modicum of legal knowledge and training. The agreements are to besubject to registration under this Part of this Act. …That requires a construction of the terms of the Act. He has the duty of taking proceedings. We get more and more legalistic as we go along. The duty of taking proceedings obviously involves having a lawyer. Those proceedings are taken(subject Ito such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade with respect to the order in which such proceedings are to be taken) in respect of the agreements of which particulars are from time to time entered or filed in the register.It does not require much argument to satisfy any normal mind that the qualifications which a barrister or solicitor enjoys will be useful in discharging those functions.
283 I turn to the second aspect, which is practising. Here, I begin to differ with the hon. Member for Wokingham. The Registrar should be not merely an admitted solicitor, or a called barrister, but he should be in actual practice.
In the olden days, and indeed today, many a young man was called to the Bar for the purpose of getting sufficient knowledge of the law to enable him to manage the estates that he inherited. That is not the kind of person who should be appointed Registrar. He should be a person who is actually practising and whose knowledge of the law is sharpened and brought up-to-date, so that he may deal with the exigencies of the situation in which he will find himself. Therefore, he should be practising and have been practising for a reasonable period of time.
That brings me to my third point. I submit that seven years is too short a period. It should be at least ten years. On these grounds, therefore, I ask the Committee and the Minister to accept my argument and the Amendment, which will provide that the Registrar shall be either a practising barrister or a practising solicitor—I concede that to the other branch of the profession—in either case of not less than ten years' standing.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I would thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) and the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) for having put down and supported this Amendment in order that we may search our minds as to the sort of man we contemplate for the important post of Registrar. Although I would urge them not to press for this Amendment, I can assure them that I am not far removed from what either of them has said as to the type of man who is required for a post of this character.
A lawyer, or a man with legal training, obviously has very considerable qualifications for this type of post. To say that we could have only someone with legal experience is, of course, a restrictive Amendment. It would restrict not only my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, or myself, or whoever is doing it now, but it would restrict in the future any change, and, as someone, I think, said on the last Amendment we were discussing, no one has any doubt whatever that every 284 attempt will be made to have the best qualified man we possibly can for the job.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is straining the word "restrictive" when he says that. Would he say that it is restrictive to provide that a surgeon in a hospital should be a practising surgeon?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The hon. and learned Gentleman must not be too indignant with me. I did not mean that it was restrictive within the meaning of the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill. I meant that it would restrict anybody in the appointment of a Registrar to someone with these particular qualifications when it might—I do not say that it would—be important, either now or some time in the future, to appoint someone else very well qualified for this particular post. Of course, the Registrar must have, as my hon. Friend said, the qualifications of an analytical mind and fairmindedness, and he must also have, if I may say so, not inconsiderable administrative skill, because this is quite a big administrative job.
He should have, if possible, some knowledge—I am inclined to agree that we cannot pick an industrialist—and experience of this immensely complicated field, to put it no higher, which would be a considerable advantage in discharging this particular function. I only mention these matters to indicate that there are other factors than those enumerated which, I think, anyone responsible for the appointment would have to bear in mind.
Whoever is appointed will, of course, have very skilled legal assistance at his disposal. I have said before, and I say again, that the Treasury Solicitor himself will be responsible for giving legal advice to the Registrar, whether the Registrar has legal qualifications or not. He will be there for that purpose. Of course, the conduct of the case in Court will not be by the Registrar in person; it will be by skilled counsel nominated by the Attorney-General.
I am in general sympathy with what both hon. Members have said. I hope that they will not press for this Amendment, but will leave it free to whoever makes this appointment to choose the best man possible for the task.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will not make up his mind that he is too much in sympathy with what has been said by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). I hope that he will not be convinced until he has read the report in HANSARD. I understand that the hon. Member for Wokingham's argument was that he would not like to see a civil servant doing this job. Why would he not like to see a civil servant doing it? If we are looking for people with keen, analytical, fair minds, why should not we look to the Civil Service?
Why should not we look outside the realms of the legal profession? If we are to go to the most restrictive profession there is in the country, we are going to people whose minds are not always as open as one thinks they are. Indeed, the fact that there are more Conservative lawyers than Socialist lawyers in the House of Commons shows how unprogressive the lawyer is.
I think that it is far too dangerous a proposition to ask people who have very close political alliances to find someone from their ranks who may well have to take quasi-political decisions. I would rather that we had an industrialist or a trade unionist, and would certainly like to have a distinguished civil servant in whom this country has reposed the greatest confidence. We should not go to people who, by their very nature, are not the right sort of people for the job. I am not convinced by the hon. Member for Wokingham and certainly not by my hon. and learned Friend, who has put up the most bigoted and restrictive argument that I have ever heard him make. I am sorry to say this to him because I admire his legal mind so much, but I think that on this occasion he really has gone over the edge.
I ask the President of the Board of Trade not to listen to the arguments which have been put forward, and I hope that the Committee will express its decision in the Division Lobby against the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, after "charged", to insert:(subject to such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade)".
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss together the Amendments in page 2, line 1, leave out from "Court" to "in" in line 3; and in page 2, line 4, at end insert:(3) The Registrar shall take such proceedings subject to any directions of the Board of Trade under subsection (2) of this section in respect of every agreement as soon as practicable after the particulars thereof have been registered under this Part of this Act.It will be for the Chair to decide whether we have a Division on them separately or not.
§ Mr. Holt
The purpose of the Amendment has been extensively covered by the earlier debates this afternoon, and I do not wish to go into it in the detail which I might otherwise have done.
The Liberal Party has accepted, on balance, the idea contained in the Bill that these matters should be considered by a court and not a tribunal, but although we agree that there should be no interference with the activities of that court we see no reason why the Registrar should be put into a similarly inaccessible position. We feel that it is taking far too great a risk to put him out of the reach of Parliament. That is the purpose of the Amendment, which is linked with the Amendment in page 2, line 1, in the names of hon. Members of the official Opposition, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) and myself.
Earlier this afternoon the attitude of the President about Questions which might be put in relation to the Registrar was a little alarming. I was also alarmed by some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite in regard to their idea of what Questions might be put to him, and also about the pressure that might be put upon the Registrar through him. We have to take the risk that political pressures, designed in some cases to slow down the activities of the Registrar and the Court, may be brought to bear—but I hope that other pressures will also be exerted to hasten those activities. No Government can escape that responsibility. When they have designated a restrictive practice and submitted it to the Registrar, who has registered it, we cannot interfere with the decision of the Court when it considers 287 the matter. That is something which we must reluctantly accept.
I should like the Minister to devote some time to explaining in detail the kind of Questions which the Government consider to be acceptable. They should say frankly whether or not they want to have any Questions asked of them except in the limited context to which the President has already referred. We shall then know where we are. One of the President's hon. Friends asked whether, in the event of proceedings appearing not to be progressing quickly enough, the Government considered that a Question upon that point could be asked in the House, and the President could do something about it. It is essential that the House should retain that power. If the Amendment is badly worded, or goes too wide, and it is thought that Parliament would be interfering in the work of the Registrar in all kinds of ridiculous ways, which would in the end only defeat the purpose of the Bill, let us be told that, and we shall be ready to alter the wording, or put down another Amendment.
When a certain practice, such as level tendering, has been brought to the notice of the Registrar, and all firms who engage in this practice have been told to register with the Registrar, if an hon. Member hears that a certain firm is indulging in this practice and has not registered, can that Member raise a Question upon that point? Can he ask what the Government are doing about it? Can the President either look at the matter himself or tell the Registrar to go into it? Secondly, when a firm or group of firms has registered this practice, can we inquire why—if it should so happen—that that matter has been on the register for so many months or, perhaps, so many years and has still not been before the Court? Do the Government agree that such a Question can be asked?
Finally, has the House of Commons sufficient control over the momentum of these proceedings') If we consider that it is too slow, can we ask Questions about it? Has the President or the Government the power to speed up the proceedings? I believe that hon. Members should have the right to ask Questions which will help to get the thing moving.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
I support the Amendment. At the same time, I want to say a 288 few words not so much about the Amendment in page 2, line 1, which is, in a sense, consequential upon the Amendment which we have been discussing during the last two or three hours, but rather about the Amendment in page 2, line 4.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) that our object in putting down these Amendments and probing the intentions of the Government on this Clause is to test their bona fides, and the extent to which they wish to make a success of the Bill. I liked the phrase used by the hon. Member for Bolton, West. We want to make sure that the momentum of these proceedings is maintained with the maximum efficiency.
Everybody who has taken an interest in the Bill has noticed that almost every section of the Press—including The Times, the Manchester Guardian, the Economist and the Observer—distrusts the Government because it feels that they do not really seriously intend to make the Bill work effectively and speedily. This series of Amendments tries to strengthen the Bill—to put teeth into it—so that when it is passed into law there will be no opportunity on the part of the Registrar or the President of the Board of Trade, or, indeed, anybody else, to slow up the proceedings which may be taken under it. It is common ground between us that the time is overdue for these restrictive practices to be cut away and abolished if British industry is to be free.
I hope that we shall have a better response from the Parliamentary Secretary than we got from the President. It was very largely as a result of speeches made by hon. Members on this side of the House during the Second Reading debate that we were able to extract from the Parliamentary Secretary a promise that within two or three months he would see that there was registration of common prices, level tendering and collective discrimination. That was but a little advance upon anything that was said by the President or any other Government spokesman, but it was a start in the right direction. I very much hope that, as a result of the pressure which we shall continue to bring to bear, and which is being supported by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate the necessity of closing many of the existing loopholes 289 in the Bill, to which we have drawn his attention in these Amendments, and upon which the Press have commented.
Let me take the Amendment in page 2, line 4, which was put down to make it explicitly the responsibility of the Registrar to take the appropriate steps without delay as soon as agreements were registered. The obligation put upon the Registrar under the Bill to take proceedings strikes me as nebulous. The Clause says thatThe Registrar shall be charged with the duty of … taking proceedings.That is not clear. I know of no precedent which uses that language. I should prefer to say, as we suggest, thatThe Registrar shall take such proceedings subject to any directions of the Board of Trade under subsection (2) of this section in respect of every agreement as soon as practicable after the particulars thereof have been registered under this Part of this Act.We recognise that a great deal of work might have to be done after the Bill is passed, but we see no reason why there should be delay. We appreciate that administrative arrangements will have to be made. There is no reason why they should not be made on such a scale and with sufficient forethought to enable proceedings to be taken where necessary very soon after the agreements are registered.
One result of the Bill may well be, as has been found in other countries, that the mere fact that legislation of this sort exists will deter many companies and industries from carrying on restrictive practices that hitherto have been lawful. One result of the Amendment would be to make it known that public opinion is entirely against monopoly. There may not be so many agreements to be registered under the Bill as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) foreshadowed, but whatever the number may be we want' the Registrar, his department and the Board of Trade to be fully equipped to deal with the situation as soon as it arises and as soon as agreements are registered. For those reasons I hope that this particular Amendment will be accepted.
In the Amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Bolton, West we are back on a subject related to the one 290 we were discussing before the last Division. We support these Amendments. By refusal to accept our proposal that the Registrar should be appointed by the President of the Board of Trade the Government have denied the full right of Parliamentary Questions to Ministers to which we are now entitled. We want the maximum possible interrogation of the President of the Board of Trade about the activities of the Registrar.
I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us the object of the insertion of the words in brackets in lines 1 to 3 in page 2 of the Bill, giving the Board of Trade power to give direction about the priority of proceedings. What degree of interference with the activities of the Registrar does the President of the Board of Trade envisage? Is this consistent with the claim that the right hon. Gentleman made a few moments ago that the Registrar should be removed from politics and from any contamination with the President of the Board of Trade? I know that the right hon. Gentleman did not use that language, but I could not think of the words he actually used. I hope I am expressing the sense of what he said.
The right hon. Gentleman resisted our proposal because he wanted the Registrar to preserve independence, but he cannot have it both ways. We want the fullest possible momentum of action by the Registrar. We fear that the President of the Board of Trade is not merely denying to Parliament the opportunity of stirring up the momentum of action by the Registrar but is holding back action which the Registrar, left to his own independent judgment, might want to take. We are afraid that the Registrar, who would otherwise get on with the job and refer to the Court agreements which he found vicious, will be hampered by restrictions from the Board of Trade. That would be quite wrong.
I am glad to think that if that happens we shall have the opportunity of Parliamentary Questions, but that is only second best to us. We should prefer the Bill to be rewritten so as to ensure it is the express duty of the Registrar to bring all registered agreements to the Court and of the President of the Board of Trade to stir him up in doing his job, while we can put down Parliamentary Questions to that end. We do not want the President of the Board of Trade to have any right, such as is now in the Bill, to hold 291 up the proceedings by changing the priorities and perhaps override a decision which the Registrar might have taken.
§ Mr. Mulley
I support the Amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). There is no need to emphasise the point, which was made very forcefully from both sides of the Committee, about the importance of maintaining parliamentary control over the administration of the Bill.
Having failed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East said, to persuade the Government on the last Amendment, despite considerable vocal but no voting support from Government benches, we hope that the Government will accept these Amendments. They will give the Board of Trade a much wider field of activity and control than will the very restrictive words in page 2. I hope that the Minister will explain why the Board of Trade wishes to interest itself only in the order of proceedings. This fact arouses very great suspicion.
The only purpose which one can imagine for restricting its activities to the matter of the order is perhaps to delay some items which might be politically embarrassing. Despite what was said earlier about the Registrar and the whole practice of the Bill being outside parliamentary and political control, it seems that by sticking only to the question of the order of the proceedings, it might be for defensive rather than aggressive reasons that the Board of Trade wishes to have this particular power. If it wants to see that the practices are dealt with as speedily and as effectively as possible, surely it would prefer the words of the Amendment, namely,(subject to such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade)without imposing upon itself the very restrictive provision of confining its powers to the order of the proceedings. Even if it is thought that the problem will arise only in respect of the order, I still cannot see why the Board of Trade should want that written into the Bill, and why it does not trust itself sufficiently to be given wider powers so that if need be it could use them.
We are all venturing into rather uncharted seas. This is an entirely new 292 departure, both from the point of view of the law and that of the practice of business and commerce. We do not really know, until registration takes place and until the Court begins to function, how the Act will work out, and it seems to me that by restricting themselves to this very small point, the Ministers at the Board of Trade are probably presenting themselves with problems for the future. For that reason, I hope the Government will at least accept the first Amendment.
I do not think there should be any need to commend the third of the Amendments we are discussing, which proposes to add words to provide that action shall be takenas soon as practical after the particulars thereof have been registered under this Part of this Act.Whatever the Ministers' views may be about the other Amendments, surely if they believe in the object of this Bill, they would want to see written into it some words of that sort. It might well be said that they are satisfied that all reasonable speed will be pursued by those responsible for taking proceedings, but if that is their intention and if they want things to go through as speedily as possible, what possible harm could come from having the words written into the Bill itself?
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not fall back on the line of defence that this is not really the kind of language which the Parliamentary draftsmen would like to see in the Bill. Of course, we on this side of the Committee are handicapped because we do not have the very skilful and very technical advice which is available to the Government, though I should say, in making that observation, that I am casting no reflection on my right hon. and hon. Friends, who have worked so hard to prepare these Amendments.
We hope that the Minister will say that he will look at the words of the Amendment, and, if he finds that they are not suitable, will take the opportunity of finding suitable words for the Report stage.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)
The Committee will be grateful to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) for drawing attention to these points in so clear and concise a 293 manner. As the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) pointed out in a sort of preliminary intervention, these Amendments raise very different issues.
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) would give a further power to the Board of Trade in regard to directions, whereas the first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, East would take away from the Board of Trade the power of direction which the Bill at present contains. The third Amendment which we are discussing in this series really only derives its force and significance from the second of these Amendments. It only adds anything to the Bill or alters the effect of the Bill if the power of the Board of Trade to give directions under the Clause is taken away, as is suggested in the second of these three Amendments.
In regard to the first of these Amendments, that in the name of the hon. Member for Bolton, West, it was suggested by him that, as the Clause at present stands, the Registrar is out of reach of Parliament, to use his somewhat far-reaching words, and he says that the Registrar should be placed in an accessible position. Then, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, suggested that the Board of Trade was interested only in the question of the order of the proceedings. Of course, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman, it is a clear non sequitur to say that, because that is the only matter in which the power of giving directions is taken in this Clause, it is therefore the only matter in which the Board of Trade is interested or in which there is accountability to Parliament.
Similarly, in answer to the point put by the hon. Member for Bolton, West, if, as I am sure he has done already, he will go through this Bill, he will see that there are statutory provisions in it which give guidance to the Registrar in regard to his duties, and that with that statutory guidance there is also provided appropriate accountability to Parliament.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
Is it not quite clear that there is no power of directions by the Board of Trade or by any Government Department to the Registrar to initiate proceedings?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman knows very well that such a provision would be otiose. Where we have a statutory duty placed upon a person by Parliament, we would not also have a power to give directions to precisely the same effect by a Minister or Government Department. That would be redundant, and the statutory duty is quite clearly spelled out in the Clause.
If I might refer the Committee to the guidance which, in fact, is already contained in this Bill, I should like to say that it has the effect of leaving the matters with which the Registrar has to deal without guidance within a very narrow ambit indeed. Apart from the Clause with which we are at present dealing and the power to give directions as to the order in which proceedings shall be taken, which is the power which the hon. Gentleman wants to omit, the hon. Gentleman and the Committee will see that in Clause 7 of the Bill the Board of Trade determines when agreements will be registered. Clause 8 defines the particulars which are to be registered, Clause 9 gives the Board of Trade a responsibility in regard to the special section of the register, and Clause 10 provides for the procedure for the rectification of the register. All these important matters are governed by the guidance contained in the Statute, and so, in effect, the discretion of the Registrar and the ambit within which he moves without a precise statutory guidance is confined to the matters governed by the regulations which he is empowered to make in respect of detailed matters under Clause 14.
Those regulations—I am sure that the hon. Member will welcome this—will, in fact, be made subject to parliamentary control, because there is an Amendment to that effect on the Notice Paper, in Clause 14, page 13, line 7, leave out from "be" to end of Clause and add:subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament".which we propose to accept. Therefore, at each stage the Registrar will have the appropriate statutory guidance and there will be the appropriate degree of parliamentary supervision and control. That being so, I hope the hon. Member will agree that it would be unnecessary and would be prejudicial to good administration to add to all that the detailed 295 executive supervision of all these minutiae of the Registrar's functions by the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Holt
In case the hon. and learned Gentleman is not specifically answering my questions, do I understand him to mean that because of the provisions in Clause 8 it would be possible to ask the President of the Board of Trade why a certain agreement to which several companies were party had not been registered when that type of agreement had been ordered by the Board of Trade to be registered?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
That kind of procedure would be rather like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Let me take a hypothetical case. If the hon. Member considers that he has reason to believe that a company which is party to an agreement has not registered an agreement which ought to be registered within the provisions of the Bill, one would have thought that the simple and obvious duty of the citizen, whether a Member of Parliament or otherwise, would be to say so to the Registrar. If a person chose to say so to the Registrar through a Minister of the Board of Trade, I have no doubt that his information would be passed on with the maximum of celerity. Then, there is a statutory procedure whereby the Registrar is able to see whether his suspicions are well founded. It is a matter of quite simple administration and it really does not raise these rather larger and wider constitutional issues with which the hon. Member is seeking to invest it.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It depends upon what the hon. Member calls "an unsatisfactory answer." The Registrar would either say—I am taking the least likely hypothesis first—that the hon. Member was mistaken and that the agreement was, in fact, registered. In that case, there would presumably be nothing further to do about it. Or the Registrar would say that the company had not registered the agreement but that another party to it had registered it and that, therefore, the agreement as such was 296 registered and, in due course, proceedings in regard to it would be taken. Or he might say that the agreement was not one which in his view fell to be registered. That is a question of law, and it must be a question of law as to whether a specific agreement falls within the definition. It is not a question upon which much illumination could be cast by the process of Question and Answer in the House at Question Time.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I thought I had substantially answered the question by indicating that whatever the position might be, there would be no point in taking that course because a much more simple procedure would lie ready to hand. As to whether the hon. Member could put a Question on that point, I would echo what has already been said by my right hon. Friend: it is not for me hypothetically and in advance to define what Questions would be accepted by the Table and what Questions could be asked in the House. It has already been mentioned this evening that these are matters which, as experience of the nationalised industries has shown, can only be worked out, according to the procedure and practice of the House, as we go along.
§ Mr. Mulley
The hon. and learned Gentleman was good enough to give the sequence of events up to the point of registration of an agreement. Does he now say that automatically every agreement which is registered will go to Court? Has the Registrar no discretion whatever in whether he submits agreements to the Court? That is a vital point to which we need to know the answer.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am obliged to the hon. Member, who is, however, moving ahead a little fast. I was coming to that point, which more properly belongs to the later Amendment, but since the hon. Member has put it I will, if convenient to the Committee, take it now.
297 The Clause lays upon the Registrar the statutory duty of initiating proceedings in regard to registrable agreements. The statutory duty laid upon the Registrar would not, in my opinion, be satisfied if there were registrable agreements in respect of which he could initiate proceedings and which were not subject to any direction by the President of the Board of Trade under the Clause. If the Registrar failed to initiate proceedings within a reasonable time in respect of an agreement in those circumstances, he would no doubt be in breach of his statutory duty. In other words, if there was a queue of registrable agreements waiting to have proceedings taken and if the Registrar simply sat back in his office and did not take any proceedings whatever, he would be in breach of his statutory duty.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
This is very important. Is the Parliamentary Secretary now saying that, a number of registrable agreements having been registered, the President of the Board of Trade would give directions that some of them need not be brought to court before a whole series of other agreements had been heard and disposed of?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
This illustrates the inconvenience of taking the argument out of its logical sequence in response to the interventions of hon. Members opposite.
What the Clause does is, first, to place upon the Registrar a statutory duty to initiate or take proceedings before the Court in respect of the agreements of which the particulars are filed in the register. His duty in that regard is governed at any particular time by any direction he may receive from the Board of Trade as to the order of those proceedings. There is nothing sinister about the desire of the Board of Trade to have power to give directions. It is obviously necessary and useful that, more particularly in the early stages of these proceedings, there should be that power.
To take the most obvious instance, it would obviously be desirable in the early stages of this jurisdiction to have machinery to secure that an appropriate representative selection of cases reached the courts first, with the object of dealing first with the matters of prime public importance and also of seeking to establish a helpful corpus of case law. That is the primary reason for the power to give directions as to orders. If the second 298 Amendment were carried—I hope that it will not be pressed, but if it were carried and that power were omitted it would no longer be open to the Board of Trade to give those directions and so establish that useful course of proceedings.
It is, of course, true that even if that power were not vested in the Board of Trade it might, in theory, be possible for the Registrar himself to arrange his list—if I may use that term—on that same principle, but I think the Committee will readily apprehend and agree that, certainly in the early stages of this matter, the Board of Trade is more likely to have the knowledge to enable it to do this by these directions than will the Registrar in the early phase of his conduct of his important duties. That is why the power of direction is there but, subject to that, in principle, all registered agreements will, in due course, come for judicial examination on the initiative of the Registrar.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am anxious to get this procedure right. May we take it that those directions will be made public and announced in the House, so that Members of Parliament will know what directions are given from time to time by the Board of Trade to the Registrar with regard to this priority and order?
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman replies to that question, perhaps I can ask this one. I am fairly new to this. I have tried to study it but I am in rather a fog, and other hon. Members may also be interested in this point. Are the Government now saying that every trade agreement that falls to be registered is automatically to be transferred to a Court to be examined judicially to see whether it is, within the meaning of the Act, anti-social? If that is so, I realise that some order has to be given as to the sequence of a mass of agreements which will be rapidly registered. Manifestly, no Court—or sets of Courts—could speedily deal with what may amount, perhaps, to thousands of agreements.
On the other hand, I frankly admit that it had never occurred to me that every trade agreement that comes to be registrable will necessarily be assumed to be anti-social. It seems to me that there is bound to be some doubt, and I had thought that where there was doubt it was 299 the duty of the Registrar to refer a doubtful trade agreement to the Court for judicial decision. I may be very simple about this, but I should like that cleared up.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I would not say that the hon. Member is simple at all, but he is rather going ahead—and when he uses the term "anti-social" he is rather paraphrasing the contents of the Bill. We are here really only concerned with the relatively narrow point of the procedure and machinery. I was seeking to explain why this power of direction was given, and then I was asked whether it would be a public power of direction.
As the Committee sees, there is nothing in the Bill which compels directions to be public. Directions are no new things in statutes. Normally, there is nothing to compel them to be public, but there is no reason at all why such directions should not be divulged. There is, on the face of it—subject to the cautionary words which I used before, and which my right hon. Friend used earlier—no reason why the President of the Board of Trade should not be asked a Parliamentary Question about an order for direction. Certainly, there will be nothing to hide in regard to those directions which will be made for the sort of reason which I have just enunciated.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I have given way rather a lot, and the hon. Gentleman did go so wide when I gave way before that I feel that if I give way to him again we may be carried forward in the Bill, Sir Charles, further than you would wish in the discussion of this rather narrow Amendment.
Perhaps I may just deal with the last point, which is whether the language of the third Amendment adds anything to this Bill. The position is this. The language of the third Amendment only has a real effect on this Bill if the second Amendment is carried and it is allied to the taking away of the power of the Board of Trade to give directions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) shakes his head but, with respect, it is so, because, as I have just explained, in principle all these agreements will come for their judicial examination by the Court on the 300 initiative of the Registrar, and there is a statutory duty imposed upon him to initiate those proceedings.
Where a statutory duty is laid in an Act of Parliament upon any person, it is quite clearly implicit not only that he shall discharge that statutory duty but shall discharge it with reasonable speed and efficiency; indeed, I might say with the highest common factor of speed and efficiency together. That is why I tell the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, Park, that there is no need to write that into the Statute. It is not merely, as he seemed to think, an unreasonable draftsman's prejudice. As I am sure he knows very well, it is contrary to the canons of construction to put into an Act of Parliament any language which is otiose and unnecessary.
§ Mr. Mulley
Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman is not saying that he understands, as a lawyer, that "reasonable" amounts to exactly the same thing as "as soon as practicable". Would he advise someone who was under an obligation to do something in a reasonable time that he was to do it as soon as practicable or as soon as reasonable? There is a distinct difference.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
"As soon as practicable" would, in my view, mean in a context such as this "as soon as reasonably practicable". Is it suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite that a statutory duty should be laid upon the Registrar to push ahead having regard only to the criterion of speed and disregarding all other criteria of efficiency and fair dealing? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman suggests?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It is already implicit in the language of the Bill, and it is really not necessary to write in these words unless, as I say, the power to give directions is to be done away with. If the power of direction remains then, of course, the taking of the proceedings will be governed by those directions. But, subject to that, there will be the positive duty to take the proceedings, and the implied duty to take them as soon as reasonably practicable.
In those circumstances, that Amendment does not add to the intention and 301 effect of the Bill. So far as the other two Amendments go, I hope that in the light of what I said earlier the hon. Member for Bolton, West will not wish to press his first Amendment and that the hon. Member for Islington, East, now agrees that the direction-giving power of the Board is a useful one and that he will, therefore, not wish to press the second Amendment.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
The emphasis which I put on the last Amendment of this group of which the hon. Gentleman was talking is that every agreement is affected. Are we to understand now, as I thought I had understood from the hon. Gentleman's reply, that in the case of every agreement the Registrar must take proceedings? As I read subsection (2) it seemed to me there might be a discretion left to the Registrar whether to take proceedings or not.
I appreciate exactly what the hon. Gentleman said about the general duty of taking proceedings, and that if proceedings must be taken that duty must be carried out. We gained the impression that there was the duty on the Registrar to take proceedings in respect of every agreement that was registered. As I understand the hon. Gentleman, there is that duty, and I should like him to confirm that or to qualify it.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am sorry if I did not make it clear, but I hoped that I had made it clear that there is a statutory duty upon him to take the proceedings, and that, in my view, he would be in breach of the statutory duty if there was a registered agreement and there was a vacancy in the list, so to speak, and the Court was idle and he did not initiate proceedings before it. The power of the Board of Trade to give directions may mean that reference to an agreement will be deferred, but this will have no effect on what, I think, the hon. and learned Gentleman called the main momentum of the proceedings.
§ Mr. Usborne
The Parliamentary Secretary should not think he can save time by refusing to answer questions which I put or anybody else puts. I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) came to my aid and extracted the answer from him which I 302 was unable to get myself. This is a vitally important point. If it is true, and if it is the intention of the Government that every registrable agreement shall automatically, having been registered, be referred to the Court, it is abundantly clear to me that the Government do not mean the Bill to be implemented, because there will be so many agreements registered, many of which will be manifestly not anti-social at all; and if they are all to be turned to the Court it is in order that some which may be anti-social shall be kept a long way back in the queue, while those which are perfectly in order shall be used to take up the time of the Court.
It cannot be true, and I cannot believe it to be the practical intention of the Government, that every registrable agreement shall automatically be referred to the Court or to any other tribunal, with the difference only that the Government shall decide priority on occasions whenever the President of the Board of Trade wishes to exercise his power. It does not seem to me at all likely, to put it mildly. If this be so, if in practice every registered agreement is not automatically to be turned over to the Court for examination, and if that is the way in which the Bill is to work in practice—I am sure it is the only way it can work—it seems to be more than ever important that at this juncture, now, on this Clause, there is a point of view, which should be thoroughly ventilated.
I am prepared to admit that the Parliamentary Secretary, in making his first reply to the case for these Amendments, made a case which was fairly convincing, to the effect that the insertion of these words is not necessary at this point, because, as he said, later there is an Amendment, which the Government are prepared to accept, which would make it perfectly clear that Parliament would have influence; in other words, Parliamentary Questions could be asked so that public opinion could be brought to bear on a trade agreement which appeared al any given moment to the public to be anti-social.
If the Bill is to work and is to be effective it will be effective not because it instigates successful prosecutions. Personally, I hope that in due course there will be very few prosecutions. I hope that the effect of the Bill will be that traders 303 will be made vividly aware that restrictive trade practices are not popular with the people of this country. The traders will always be asking what at any given moment is an anti-social restrictive trade practice. The view of what is an anti-social restrictive trade practice varies with the climate of public opinion from month to month, from year to year, from decade to decade. I hope that the Bill will have a deterrent effect. I think it will have failed if a large number of prosecutions have to be undertaken. What we hope is that the traders will not do these things, will not make anti-social agreements which we are now trying to stop and to prevent from happening.
Because the Bill is a piece of preventive mechanism, rather than a method of raising revenue by imposing fines, it seems to me most important that the state of public opinion about anti-social trading acts should be able to be clearly and quickly and easily reflected by Parliament so that at any moment traders may know what public opinion is. There are traders who continuously stay at their own desks, and are totally unaware of the state of public opinion. One may draw their attention to the nature of a series of trade agreements which they have made, and, after a time, they are thoroughly shocked by the anti-social nature of agreements whose character, hitherto, they had not even noticed. I have spent some of my time on that job myself, and I know that that is not uncommon. It seems to me, therefore, very important that Parliament should be able to bring its influence to bear on the agreements.
If it is made perfectly clear that the Registrar can be influenced by public opinion, reflected through Parliamentary Questions, I shall not cavil any more; I shall not worry too much if these Amendments are not made; if these words are not inserted in this Clause. But I want to be perfectly certain that Parliament will be able to reflect public opinion, and that the Registrar shall know exactly what kind of restrictive agreements are at any moment regarded as anti-social, so that he may feel urgently the obligation to refer those agreements to the tribunal.
304 Although the Government reserve the right to arrange the order of reference in certain circumstances, I suppose that the Registrar, being human, may occasionally let his opinion be known to the relevant Government Department in order that the priority may be altered. I should like to extract again an answer to this question, because it is crucial: is it really the intention of the Government that every registerable trade agreement is automatically and immediately as soon as practicable, to go to this tribunal for investigation? If that is the intention the public had better know it now.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am prompted to speak by what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said about Parliamentary Questions. I can well understand that there is a case for excluding the Registrar from Parliamentary Questions altogether. It would probably be most undesirable, for instance, if Parliamentary Questions were continually asked about the Director of Public Prosecutions. The President of the Board of Trade has indicated that that may be the Government's view in this case, but the case for allowing Parliamentary Questions about the general work of the Registrar is a strong one. Above all, I feel that we should be fairly clear about the Government's intentions in this matter.
The Parliamentary Secretary pointed to certain subsequent Clauses in which Parliamentary Questions and control are clearly envisaged, but when he came to answer the specific questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) he was unclear. He answered the point by saying that the kind of information which my hon. Friend mentioned could be obtained by direct application to the Registrar.
We cannot allow that to pass. If it were always said that where information can be found in other ways Parliamentary Questions are unnecessary, many enjoyable hours would be lost to hon. Members. After all, a very large proportion of Questions asked in the House could be answered by research, but the fun is in having the right to have a Minister at the Dispatch Box to answer them. We cannot have this provision ruled out because answers to Parliamentary Questions might be found in the Encyclopaedia 305 Britannica. If the Parliamentary Secretary has any doubt about that, let him look back on past experience in the House when in opposition, and study the words of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) on the subject of Parliamentary Questions.
Apart from specific matters in which Parliamentary control is envisaged, I should like to know whether the Government believe that the Registrar's work should be something that can be brought up at Question Time in the House and examined. On the whole, I think that it would be a good thing. The last word on the subject belongs to Mr. Speaker, but when we consider the muddle we have got into in the case of the nationalised industries, it would be as well to have clearer light thrown on this subject by the Government before we part with the Amendment.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The President of the Board of Trade and his Parliamentary Secretary are lawyers, and I observe that sitting very near to them is the Attorney-General. Their presence is very timely, and I hope that it will be helpful in relation to the question which I wish to pose to them. I heard the Parliamentary Secretary, apparently with great conviction, inform the Committee that there was a duty on the Registrar to bring proceedings in connection with all agreements that were registered. With great respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I wish to doubt that and would draw his attention to certain words which are the foundation for that doubt.
Let me say, first, by way of premise, that the words of subsection (2) are in no sense comprehensive or mandatory. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to apply his mind again to them, and cogitate for a moment or two about the scope of their meaning. Let us study the efficacy of these words. The Clause is no use unless the words are so comprehensive and mandatory as to put it beyond a peradventure, as we have been told, that every agreement registered will undoubtedly have to be subject to proceedings in the Court. Let us see whether the subsection will have the strength to carry it all that distance. I suggest that it will do nothing of the sort.
306 The Clause says that the Registrar will be charged with the duty of… taking proceedings before the Court … in respect of the agreements of which particulars are from time to time entered or filed in the register.The Clause does not describe completely and comprehensively or in any mandatory form what the proceedings are to be. I do not know whether the duty of the Registrar will be discharged as long as he takes some proceedings, whatever they may lack in efficacy with regard to doing anything of practical importance in respect of these agreements. In my submission, the words are not even as good as that. They leave discretion with the Registrar but do not say that he has positively to do anything. The President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary appear to be shaking their heads in unison, but the shaking of their heads does not shake my opinion.
The words are so indeterminate and indecisive that they certainly do not conclusively assert that the Registrar must bring proceedings in every case. The Clause states that a duty will be imposed upon the Registrar to bring proceedings, but the duty is of a nature which requires the person concerned to consider, what, in his discretion, ought to be his discharge of it. If the Registrar thinks it inconsistent with his duty to bring these proceedings, not only will he not bring them but it would be in derogation of the very words of the Clause for him to do so.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that if the Registrar interpreted his duty as my hon. and learned Friend interprets it, and decided that he had discretion and in some cases should not proceed, nobody could do anything about it and there would be no sanction exercisable against him by anybody?
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
With that intelligent anticipation for which he is noted, my hon. Friend has mentioned the point I wish next to make.
It is perfectly clear from the language of the Clause, which seeks to impose a duty upon the Registrar which he must exercise with judgment and discretion, that where he uses his discretion and does not in some cases bring proceedings which he ought to bring, there is 307 no method whereby his action or inaction can be questioned in any way. There is absolutely no doubt about that, and I notice with great satisfaction that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary is now shaking his head.
There is not the slightest doubt about it that if anybody went to court in such a case the answer would be non tui negotii, that is to say, "It is none of your business." There is not a single person, including even that potent ministerial personage the President of the Board of Trade, who would have any power whatsoever to intervene in the matter to see that the Registrar's duty was being carried out.
So the matter is left in this way, that the House of Commons and the Government are completely disarmed by the Clause. Unbridled power is put into the hands of the Registrar to dictate, either wrongly or rightly, whether any proceedings ought to be brought in these matters. That cannot be right. My submission is that it is wrong, and can only be condemned as a legal situation in a matter of this importance to the public interest.
Therefore, notwithstanding the gay assurance of and the conclusive assertion made by the Parliamentary Secretary—about which the hon. Gentleman does not look quite as happy now as he did before—I put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to his overlord the President of the Board of Trade, that this is a matter which terminologically must be looked at again. I accept that both the right hon. Gentleman and his Parliamentary Secretary—and, in a kind of flanking way, the Attorney-General—desire that the Registrar should not only be able to bring proceedings but that he must do so in respect of each and every one of these restrictive agreements. I concede that they no doubt both want to do that, but I point out to them that the wording of this subsection does not enforce it, and that it should be their duty, as well as their wish, to so tighten the language of this subsection that there can be no shadow of doubt about it.
§ Mrs. Castle
I followed with great care the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, but I was not satisfied at the end that the hon. Gentleman had answered the points and arguments about the three 308 Amendments which we are now discussing. It seemed to me that he was trying to have it both ways. The issue between us is one of the parliamentary accountability of the Registrar. That was the point which the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) argued specifically in connection with his Amendment, the purpose of which was to give parliamentary oversight to all aspects of registration and to all aspects of initiating proceedings.
§ Mrs. Castle
The hon. Gentleman nods, so I am interpreting aright.
What was his reply? He did not say, as his right hon. Friend had done earlier, "But such parliamentary accountability is undesirable". On the contrary, he changed his ground. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade was out of the Chamber at the time because he might want to repudiate the statement made by his hon. Friend. Indeed, we find sometimes that the Minister says something, then pops out for a cup of tea, and that the Parliamentary Secretary says something entirely different. This is extremely hard on those of us who are trying to follow a consistent and logical line of thought. That is what happened this afternoon.
I jotted down what the Parliamentary Secretary said to the hon. Member for Bolton, West. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, "There is no great substance in this. You are arguing about a pinpoint, because in all the later Clauses of the Bill there are statutory provisions governing the activities of the Registrar", and he listed Clauses 7, 8. 10, etc.
§ Mrs. Castle
Even the President of the Board of Trade is nodding his head as though to indicate that he likes parliamentary accountability by the Registrar. I do not know where we are getting.
However, to return to the Parliamentary Secretary, he said that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bolton, West was not needed because the later Clauses contain statutory provisions which make the Registrar subject to parliamentary accountability.
I listened as carefully as I could to the illustrations given by the hon. Gentleman. In trying to follow the complicated 309 arguments put forward this evening on these Amendments one thing seemed to me to emerge clearly. It was that there is parliamentary accountability for the order of procedure but that there is not parliamentary accountability for the speed of action or for the initiation of action.
That is the important distinction between us because order of priority is not the same as speed of action. Nor is it necessarily the same as thoroughness of action. It would by no means meet our point, which is that we want Parliament to have the right to query the speed with which the Registrar is acting, both in the process of registration and in the process of taking proceedings, as well as to be able to query the order of priorities.
We go further than that. I ask the President of the Board of Trade to follow carefully what is being said because it is the substance of our argument, which is advanced with seriousness and not merely to score a debating point. If it is said that the Registrar has a statutory duty to take proceedings for which he is not accountable to Parliament through the President of the Board of Trade, but is accountable under the law because he will be in breach of Statute if he does not take proceedings; if, on top of that, it is said, "Oh, but we will give to the President of the Board of Trade the right to interfere with the proceedings of the Registrar by fixing priorities, and in that respect there will be Parliamentary accountability", then we are getting the worst of both worlds. That is so because if somebody can call the Registrar to account in breach of Statute, he will be in a position to claim that he is not a free agent because there are fears of interference by the President of the Board of Trade as to the order in which he carries out his work.
It would appear to me, therefore, that it would be possible so to confuse the situation between these two positions that we should get neither legal sanction against the Registrar nor Parliamentary sanction. This is the case which we on this side of the Committee are making, and which the hon. Member for Bolton, West was making, namely, that Parliament must either take complete control of the registration process and the procedure activity or it must get out of the picture altogether. If Parliament and the 310 President of the Board of Trade have no control over the speed of action, I suggest sincerely to the right hon. Gentleman that to put into Clause 2 power for the President of the Board of Trade to fix the order of proceedings is bound to create the suspicion that the purpose is not speed but slowing up.
After all, what is a priority? A priority means pushing something back in order to push forward something else. If something goes to the top it means that something else has to go further back. Therefore, if the President of the Board of Trade is not accountable to Parliament for the speed at which the machinery works, then for the right hon. Gentleman to have delaying powers by fixing the order of priorities is to get the worst of both worlds. So I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to meet the legitimate anxieties which have been expressed from this side of the Committee, he must take these three Amendments together and must accept them together. He must accept the first one in the name of the hon. Member for Bolton, West, which gives the power of Parliamentary control over the process of registration and of the initiation of proceedings.
This, therefore, becomes in substitution for the dangerous parenthesis in page 2, line 1—in our view a dangerous parenthesis if it is there only in isolation. We want to have that parenthesis taken out, not in order to remove any Parliamentary control at all but in order to substitute a more nearly complete Parliamentary control such as we find in the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bolton, West. Then, when we have done that, we take the second Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), which has the advantage of laying down an obligation for speedy action, subject to the directions of the Board of Trade, which then become the sort of directions which can be given under the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bolton, West and not merely the directions envisaged by the parenthesis in subsection (2).
If, in view of the President's notorious hostility to Parliamentary Questions on this matter, the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to accept the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member 311 for Bolton, West, he really must accept the second Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East. If the President of the Board of Trade refuses to take responsibility for speed of action in this procedure, and can therefore say that we cannot question him in the House of Commons as to the speed with which the process works, as to the speed of registration, as to the speed with which the taking of proceedings follows registration, then we must turn to him and say, "If we cannot, once this Measure is passed, question its administration in the House, let us now have a few more guarantees of speedy action in the Bill itself".
If we are to lose control of the administration of this procedure once the Bill is passed, then the Bill must be a great deal more specific as regards the rate at which the whole job is tackled. That is what the second Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East, ensures. It can stand alone; it has a great deal of virtue in its own right I should prefer it to be linked with the other two. Failing willingness to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bolton, West, then I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he will stand very much under suspicion if he does not accept this second commitment to put in the Bill itself a specific obligation that the Registrar shall take such proceedings as soon as practicable.
Having listened with all the care and respect I could to the Parliamentary Secretary, I am still not satisfied as to the reasons why he will not accept these Amendments. I believe that there are many hon. Members on the other side of the Committee also who are deeply unhappy about the situation. We are finding a strange kind of hybrid legislation coming before us now in which we do not know who is the final arbiter. We want to ensure that the House of Commons has the final word.
§ Mr. Jay
The more I hear from the Government in this Committee, the more disappointed I am and the more concerned about their intentions in regard to this Bill. I was particularly disappointed at what the Parliamentary Secretary said tonight because we did; on Second Reading at least, succeed in goading him into eventually giving some undertakings 312 which the President was apparently unable to give earlier in the debate.
Tonight, however, the Parliamentary Secretary on being asked by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) just what parliamentary responsibility there was in this matter and what Questions could be asked, said, first of all, that we could find that out in some way other than by means of Questions. Then, when pressed further, he said he really did not quite know tonight what sort of Questions one would be able to ask, but it was not really a matter of great importance.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
Very well; the Parliamentary Secretary said that he was unable to answer that question.
However, this Committee is being asked to take a decision on these matters tonight and before taking that decision we ought to hear relevant answers to the relevant questions. With all respect to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) this is not just a matter of fun in parliamentary Questions, as I think he will agree. It really is a question of parliamentary accountability and of precisely what power we are here giving to which Government Department.
I support both the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bolton, West, and the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). Both those Amendments stand up after the criticism made of them by the Parliamentary Secretary. The Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East does this—if the words are not precisely correct, this is, at any rate, the intention: first, it says beyond any doubt that the Registrar shall take proceedings; secondly, it says that he shall take them as quickly as practicable. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that that means "as quickly as is reasonably practicable", and I am quite prepared to accept that amendment anyway.
The Parliamentary Secretary's only argument against this proposal was that all those provisions are implicit in this Clause in any case. If it is implicit, why not make it explicit and put it beyond any shadow of doubt? There is at least some 313 shadow of doubt here. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) took a different legal view from that of the Parliamentary Secretary. Whoever may be correct, there is some doubt. Why not, then, accept this Amendment and put the matter beyond any reasonable doubt?
The hon. Member for Bolton, West, whom I think in this matter I can call my hon. Friend, wants to give the President an indubitable power over the rate at which these proceedings are taken. I entirely support the Government in wishing to have power over the order in which matters are handled; we do not object to that at all, but we think it is not enough. They should have power both over the order and over the rate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said, the rate is a very different matter from the order. I believe that the geological ages occurred in a certain order, but they also occurred at a very slow rate. We do not want to see these proceedings under this Bill going forward at any sort of geological rate.
When one looks at the Bill and asks what is really going to happen, one of the weaknesses which strikes one is that it is not clear what is to happen after registration. What impulse is there, what momentum is there, as one hon. Member said, to make sure that the Registrar really moves quickly? Surely, this question of momentum and the rate at which the whole operation moves forward is essentially one for Government and for Parliament, and, indeed, in the last resort, for the electorate.
Certain hon. Members opposite have said tonight that we do not want political interference or the behaviour of the Registrar altering with the swing of different Governments. That may perhaps he true in the judicial treatment of individual
§ cases and individual parties, but surely the question of the rate at which this whole operation proceeds is essentially something which we want the electorate to decide. Some hon. Members opposite have spoken tonight almost as if they wanted to take economic policy out of the hands of the electorate altogether.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary's next statement was that it was all right because the Registrar would go ahead under the provisions of the Bill and that if he did not, he would be in breach of his statutory obligation. No doubt that is correct, but before we part with the Amendment we should like to know what happens if the Registrar is in breach of his statutory obligation, who does something about it, what can be done about it, and what action the House can take to ensure that somebody does something effective.
§ After all, if an official of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance suddenly and arbitrarily ceased paying benefit to someone who was entitled to it, it would be the task of the Minister to step in and ensure that the official carried out his statutory obligation, and if the Minister did not do so it would, in the last resort, be within the power of the House to prod the Minister into doing so. Why should not there be similar procedure in this instance?
§ If there is some ministerial procedure which will come into force to ensure that the Registrar does his job, may we be told what it is? Unless the Parliamentary Secretary can satisfy us on this point, I advise my hon. Friends to press both Amendments to a vote.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 204, Noes 243.317
|Division No. 137.]||AYES||[8.22 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Blyton, W. R.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Boardman, H.||Carmichael, J.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Champion, A. J.|
|Anderson, Frank||Boyd, T. C.||Chapman, W. D.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Chetwynd, G. R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Brookway, A. F.||Clunie, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Coldrick, W.|
|Bartley, P.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)|
|Benson, G.||Burke, W. A.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Beswick, F.||Burton, Miss F. E.||Cove, W. G.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Cronin, J. D.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Randall, H. E.|
|Daines, P.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Rankin, John|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pnos, S.)||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Rhodes, H.|
|Deer, G.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dye, S.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, William|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. G.||Kenyon, C.||Royle, C.|
|Edelman, M.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Short, E. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lawson, G. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lewis, Arthur||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Finch, H. J.||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Forman, J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McGhee, H. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McGovern, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Gibson, C. W.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McLeavy, Frank||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Grimond, J.||Mason, Roy||Wade, D. W.|
|Hale, Leslie||Mellish, R. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Messer, Sir F.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hannan, W.||Monslow, W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Moody, A. S.||West, D. G.|
|Hastings, S.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mort, D. L.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Healey, Denis||Moyle, A.||White Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Mulley, F. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oliver, G. H.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hobson, C. R.||Oram, A. E.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Holmes, Horace||Oswald, T.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Holt, A. F.||Owen, W. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parker, J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parkin, B. T.||Woof, R. E.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paton, J.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pearson, A.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Popplewell, E.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braine, B. R.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bryan, P.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||du Cann, E. D. L.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Burden, F. F. A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Duthie, W. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Campbell, Sir David||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick & L'm'tn)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Channon, H.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Barter, John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Fell, A.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cole, Norman||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Fort, R.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Foster, John|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crouch, R. F.||Freeth, D. K.|
|Body, R. F.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Cunningham, Knox||George, J. C. (Pollok)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Currie, G. B. H.||Gibson-Watt, D.|
|Glover, D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Godber, J. B.||Leavey, J. A.||Redmayne, M.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Gower, H. R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lindsay, Martin (Sollhull)||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Green, A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Russell, R. S.|
|Gurden, Harold||McKibbin, A. J.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Shepherd, William|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maddan, Martin||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Speir, R. M.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Marples, A. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marshall, Douglas||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Mathew, R.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maude, Angus||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mawby, R. L.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Thornton, Kemsley, C. N.|
|Howard, John (Test)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nairn, D. L. S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Neave, Airey||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Oakshott, H. D.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Osborne, C.||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Page, R. G.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Partridge, E.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Kaberry, D.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Keegan, D.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Pott, H. P.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Kimball, M.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Kirk, P. M.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Colonel J. H Harrison and|
|Lambton, Viscount||Profumo, J. D.||Mr. Barber.|
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, after "of", to insert "preparing, compiling and".
This Amendment speaks for itself. It is very simple and I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to accept it. It is obvious that one of the duties of the Registrar will be to maintain a register. He cannot maintain a register unless he compiles it. My Amendment logically provides that he should prepare and compile as well as maintain a register. One has only to look at subsection (2) to see how important this is. The register is the foundation of his job. He cannot do his work unless he has the register. He has the duty of maintaining the register, without the duty of compiling or 318 preparing it. Something is obviously lacking and my Amendment supplies that which is lacking.
It is the foundation of his work, because he maintains a register of agreements which are subject to registration under this part of the Act. That is tremendously important. It is the basis not only of his jurisdiction, but also of the prosecution which it may be necessary for him to bring. He also has the duty of taking proceedings before the Court, subject to such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade. It is perfectly clear that the register is no mere unimportant appendage of his work, but its very foundation. I hope that the President will agree that my Amendment supplies in logic and common sense that 319 which is missing from the subsection and that he will accept it.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) for putting down this helpful Amendment. I think there is no reason why it should not be accepted and incorporated in the Bill. There is no doubt that the Registrar will have the duty not only of maintaining but preparing and compiling the register.
I think that perhaps drafting purists might say that it is unnecessary, but, at the same time, I am happy that these words should be inserted, the more so
§ because I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have shown willingness to press on with the Bill, and I think that most of us would like to see whether we can get Clause 1 tonight.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed: In page 2, line 4, at end insert:
(3) The Registrar shall take such proceedings subject to any directions of the Board of Trade under subsection (2) of this section in respect of every agreement as soon as practicable after the particulars thereof have been registered under this Part of this Act.—[Mr. E. Fletcher.]
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 203, Noes 244.323
|Division No. 138.]||AYES||[8.36 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Albu, A. H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Fienburgh, W.||Logan, D. G.|
|Anderson, Frank||Finch, H. J.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fletcher, Eric||MacColl, J. E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Forman, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Balfour, A.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McGovern, J.|
|Bartley, P.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Benson, G.||Gibson, C. W.||McLeavy, Frank|
|Beswick, F.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mahon, Simon|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Blyton, W. R.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mason, Roy|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Grimond, J.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hale, Leslie||Messer, Sir F.|
|Boyd, T. G.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hamilton, W. W.||Monslow, W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hannan, W.||Moody, A. S.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Healey, Denis||Mulley, F. W.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Herbison, Miss M.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hobson, C. R.||Oram, A. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Holman, P.||Oswald, T.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Holmes, Horace||Owen, W. J.|
|Carmichael, J.||Holt, A. F.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Houghton, Douglas||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Champion, A. J.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hubbard, T. F.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Clunie, J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paton, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Peart, T. F.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Hunter, A. E.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Randall, H. E.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rankin, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Daines, P.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Reeves, J.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Davies, Stephen, (Merthyr)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Deer, G.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Robinson, Kenneth, (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Ross, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Royle, C.|
|Dye, S.||Kenyon, C.||Short, E. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edelman, M.||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lawson, G. M.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Sparks, J. A.||Wade, D. W.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Warbey, W. N.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Stones, W. (Consett)||Watkins, T. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Weitzman, D.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Swingler, S. T.||West, D. G.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Sylvester, G. O.||Wheeldon, W. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Taylor, John (West Lothian)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Woof, R. E.|
|Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Wilkins, W. A.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Willey, Frederick|
|Viant, S. P.||Williams, David (Neath)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Simmons and Mr. Pearson.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Finlay, Graeme||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfieid)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fisher, Nigel||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fort, R.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Foster, John||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Freeth, D. K.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Atkins, H. E.||Gibson-Watt, D.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Glover, D.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gower, H. R.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maddan, Martin|
|Barter, John||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Green, A.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Marshall, Douglas|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Gurden, Harold||Mathew, R.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maude, Angus|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Body, R. F.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfd)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Bryan, P.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Neave, Airey|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Holland-Martin C. J.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Carr, Robert||Horobin, Sir Ian||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Channon, H.||Howard, John (Test)..||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Osborne, C.|
|Cole, Norman||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Page, R. G.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hurd, A. R.||Partridge, E.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pott, H. P.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Norhwood)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Redmayne, M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kaberry, D.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Keegan, D.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kerr, H. W.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kershaw, J. A.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Kimball, M.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Kirk, P. M.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick & L'm'tn)||Lambert, Hon. G.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lambton, Viscount||Russell, R. S.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leavey, J. A.||Shepherd, William|
|Fell, A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Soames, Capt. C.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Speir, R. M.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Touche, Sir Gordon||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Turner, H. F. L.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Studholme, H. G.||Vane, W. M. F.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)||Vickers, Miss J. H.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Vosper, D. F.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Teeling, W.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Walker-Smith, D. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Wall, Major Patrick||Mr. Godber and Mr. Barber.|
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
Resolution agreed to.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Sir L. Heald
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end to insert:(3) The preparation and presentation of any proceedings so taken by the Registrar shall be conducted under the directions of Her Majesty's Attorney-General by the Treasury Solicitor whose duty it shall be to ensure that all relevant facts and circumstances are before the Court whether they tend in favour of or against the interests of any party to any such agreement.The Amendment has achieved more importance as the result of our Committee debates. We have accepted the principle that the actions of the Registrar are not to be questionable by Parliamentary Question to Ministers. There is no machinery in the Bill which would enable anyone to secure any kind of control over the way in which the Registrar carries out his functions. The function with which we are now particularly concerned is that of taking proceedings, under Clause 1.
When the matter was before the House on Second Reading my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was emphatic, as indeed he was this afternoon, about the importance of ensuring complete confidence in the manner in which the proceedings are conducted before the Restrictive Practices Court. Let me quote what my right hon. Friend said:The task of Registrar is twofold. First of all, it is to keep the register, which I may add is quite a large and difficult administrative task, and, second, to initiate proceedings before the court about which I shall speak presently. The Registrar will be advised by the Treasury Solicitor, and will be represented before the court by counsel nominated by the Attorney-General. It will be the duty of the Registrar to ensure that all relevant facts are placed before the court, and he will consult the Attorney-General, through the Treasury Solicitor, on any matters of doubt or difficulty.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1943.]The part of that statement dealing with nomination of counsel by the Attorney-General is very satisfactory as far as it 324 goes, but it only means that the Attorney-General will be responsible for seeing that suitable and competent counsel are instructed. It says nothing at all about the nature of the instructions or the way in which counsel conduct the proceedings, so long as they do so in a proper manner. Therefore, it would be entirely wrong and illusory to suppose that a provision limited to counsel being nominated by the Attorney-General provides any safeguard about how the proceedings should be conducted. We know that it is not the intention that there should be anything in the nature of a prosecution, but normally, when counsel appear in court, they are instructed to represent a point of view.
If we leave the Bill as it is, counsel will represent the point of view of the Registrar, who is custodian of the register. His business is to see that the register is in order, is maintained in its proper, pristine virginity and is in every way in order. If nothing else were put into the Bill, the ordinary and proper job of counsel appearing on behalf of the Registrar would be to see that agreements remained on the register and were not taken off. Looking at the thing in the most literal way, if the Registrar lost all of his cases it is clear that he would have nothing left on his register.
Therefore, the normal thing would be for the Registrar to be there represented by counsel defending his decision, in effect, that these things should be maintained on the register. That is the reason why we thought it was desirable that this matter should be ventilated, and when it had been ventilated my right hon. Friend made the matter quite clear in these words:It will be the duty of the Registrar to ensure that all relevant facts are placed before the court, and he will consult the Attorney-General, through the Treasury Solicitor, on any matters of doubt or difficulty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1943.]325 As the Bill stands, there is no provision of that kind, and there is no justification for consultation with the Attorney-General. It just is not provided for. As I understand it, from what my right hon. Friend said a short time ago, it is intended by the Government to propose an Amendment in due course which will provide that counsel are to be nominated by the Attorney-General. That will not have the effect which has been stated by my right hon. Friend, and it cannot possibly have that effect. The mere nomination of counsel by the Attorney-General will have no such effect at all.
There is no reason whatever, first of all, why the Treasury Solicitor should be concerned in the matter, though he can, of course, be directed to represent anyone whom it is thought suitable that he should represent—and he represented the Archbishop of Canterbury in some famous proceedings. There is no reason why he should not be brought in, and I do not suggest the contrary for a moment, but as regards consultation between him and the Attorney-General on the conduct of the proceedings the mere nomination of counsel will have no effect whatever.
That is why we have put down this Amendment, which proposes the following words:The preparation and presentation of any proceedings so taken by the Registrar shall be conducted under the directions of Her Majesty's Attorney General by the Treasury Solicitor whose duty it shall be to ensure that all relevant facts and circumstances are before the Court whether they tend in favour of or against the interests of any party to any such agreement.There is nothing novel about that language. It is actually taken from the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Accidents) Regulations, which were produced in 1951. As some hon. Members here this evening will, I know, remember, these amended regulations were produced to meet certain criticisms which were very much on the lines of those with which the Committee is concerned this evening.
It had been pointed out that in the investigation of aircraft accidents there was not adequate provision for the safeguarding of the interests of all parties concerned. There were occasions, for example in earlier inquiries when it had not been possible to ask questions on behalf of the dead pilot, and it was said—I do not say it was justified at all—that 326 accidents were sometimes put down to the inefficiency of the pilot who was not there to answer, whereas if the matter had been properly investigated, it would have been found to have been due to a different cause.
It was as a result of that criticism that a Parliamentary committee was appointed and this procedure was laid down. Perhaps I may be excused—I do not mind pleading guilty to it—for being prejudiced about this, because this is the procedure that was used, for example, in the Comet inquiry, when I think it was generally agreed that good results were obtained, the presence of the Attorney-General and his general control over the proceedings being taken by everyone concerned as a guarantee of impartiality and fairness.
I should be very surprised to find this evening that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General thought that it was something to be objected to or to be resisted, when everyone was very anxious to have the guarantee of his benevolence and impartial supervision of this matter. No one, therefore, should suggest that we are imposing anything upon him. We are merely asking him to exercise a power which has been exercised by Attorney-Generals for hundreds of years, which is a guarantee to everyone, if I may so put it, that the game will be straight. I see no reason whatever why anyone should object to undertaking the duties laid down in the proposed subsection.
If we are told that the fact that counsel are nominated by the Attorney-General should be sufficient guarantee that everything will be in order, from a moral point of view we know that that is so. We are not, however, dealing now with moral issues but with an Act of Parliament. In enacting that Act of Parliament, especially when dealing with an entirely new form of procedure, we surely are entitled to have the matter laid down in black and white.
I feel convinced that the Amendment would impose nothing on anyone. We are doing nothing except to pay a great compliment to the office which is held by my right hon. and learned Friend in saying that if his name is associated with the matter in this way—not the mere naming of counsel, which would involve no guarantee as to what would happen when they act apart from the fact that 327 they would behave properly—we would be giving to everyone a guarantee that proceedings would be fair and square and above board. This, I hope, my right hon. and learned Friend will be prepared to accept.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
I am very puzzled by the real object of the Amendment. I take it that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) wants the proceedings to which the Clause relates to be conducted in the proper way. We are in complete agreement with him on that; everybody, on all sides, wants that to be done. I followed his speech with the very greatest care to ascertain exactly what he had in mind, in what way he considered that these proceedings would not be properly conducted, what specific fear he had about them, what he was afraid would happen, and against what precise eventuality he wanted to provide.
Therefore, although we on this side of the Committee are exceedingly anxious, first, that the proceedings should be immaculately conducted, and, secondly, that there should be the fullest Parliamentary responsibility, as we have pressed throughout the discussion on the Clause, yet when I come to consider the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, which he has put forward with every intention of improving the Bill, I am at a complete loss to understand what the phobia is against which he is trying to provide.
The Amendment falls into two parts, the first dealing with the preparation and presentation of proceedings and the second with ensuring that all relevant facts are put before the Court. I will deal with the two parts quite separately. To deal with the first part, relating to the preparation and presentation of any proceedings, of course I accept at once what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that that is not the same as having counsel nominated by the Attorney-General. Nomination by the Attorney-General is one thing. The preparation and presentation of proceedings is an entirely different matter. Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to provide against some fear which is not provided against by nomination by the Attorney-General. I really fail to understand precisely what that fear is. Preparation 328 and presentation of proceedings is not the same as nomination by the Attorney-General. Consequently, it is not the same as initiating proceedings.
We have been very much concerned in the debates which have taken place on earlier Amendments that there should be a speeding up of these proceedings and Parliamentary control of the pace at which the proceedings are brought. But this Amendment does not help in that respect at all. Therefore, none of us on this side of the Committee is going to be seduced in favour of the Amendment by any thought that it is going to help to speed up the proceedings. The Amendment deals with an entirely different matter from the initiation of proceedings, namely, with the actual preparation and presentation of them after they have been initiated. It does not affect the pace of the proceedings in any way whatsoever.
If this Clause is agreed to, the duty will already have been put upon the Registrar to take the proceedings. That duty is imposed upon the Registrar by subsection (2). But, although he has the legal duty and the statutory obligation to take the proceedings, nevertheless it is sought to inject, at a later stage, another person who is to be responsible for the preparation and presentation of the proceedings.
It is a very odd conception that when there is one person upon whom Parliament is imposing the duty of taking the proceedings, we should interfere with him in the performance of that duty by saying that somebody else shall be responsible for the preparation and presentation of the proceedings. Surely if a Parliamentary duty is imposed upon the Registrar to take the proceedings he must clearly be the person who pursues them to a conclusion. Therefore, under this Amendment we merely have, as it were, interference by another person with the course of duty of the Registrar.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—and this was the crux of his argument—that he was concerned about the way in which the proceedings would be conducted. Let us just examine that statement. Whatever it may mean on analysis, that, I gather, covers the right hon. and learned Gentleman's concern in regard to this Amendment—the way in 329 which the proceedings are conducted. We have here counsel nominated by the Attorney-General, a Registrar appointed by the Queen upon whom is imposed a statutory duty by Parliament, and we have, or shall have unless our Amendments are carried, a High Court judge presiding over a court before which these proceedings are to be conducted. We have here rules of court which will be drawn up for dealing with this matter.
Is it really going to be suggested that with this overwhelming mass of respectability there is going to be some fear concerning the way in which the proceedings are conducted? If I understand the intention rightly, that really amounts to an aspersion which is almost intolerable. What kind of proceeding is this, and what really is the concern of the right hon. and learned Gentleman? Perhaps we see something of the concern in the second part of the Amendment, to which I am now coming, relating to the person… whose duty it shall be to ensure that all relevant facts and circumstances are before the Court …Let us be a little careful about this. I would agree at once with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and so, I am sure, would the Attorney-General, that when counsel is nominated by the Attorney-General—for instance, in Revenue cases and anything of that kind—that counsel must conduct proceedings with the utmost candour, must hold nothing up his sleeve and must, of course, be completely frank with the Court and suppress nothing in his presentation to it. We expect from counsel a degree of frankness and candour which is completely unexceptionable.
It is a very different matter to make it the statutory duty of the person responsible for the proceedings to put all relevant facts and circumstances before the Court. That means that he has to find out all the relevant facts and circumstances: it means that the duty is on him to ascertain and to provide all the relevant facts and circumstances. Consider, then, what the effect of that is on, for instance, the onus of proof contained in Clause 16.
Clause 16 provides that the onus of proof shall be on the person who is responsible for the restrictive trade practice, but this Amendment says that although the onus of proof in Clause 16 lies upon the person responsible for the 330 restrictive trade practice, nevertheless all the relevant facts and circumstances are to be brought before the Court, not by that person but by the Registrar or by the person acting on his behalf. In other words, this Amendment goes very far towards torpedoing the onus of proof established by Clause 16, and which, as the President has said, is crucial in his approach to this Bill.
Let us consider the matter just a little further. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to consider that this Court should somehow or other be in much the same position as an inquiry into a Comet disaster or something of that sort. I should feel a good deal of sympathy with his approach if in this case the Court were merely a court of inquiry, and if the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission had been preserved as a method of inquiry into whether or not a restrictive practice was subject to objection. There would then be a great deal to be said for this Amendment.
What the President of the Board of Trade is putting forward in this Bill, however, is not at all the approach of an inquiry. It is the very opposite approach—the approach of a court of law, and it is crucial to his presentation of this Bill that there should be a court of law. As we have understood him on Second Reading, and as he has reiterated in the course of Committee—we are opposed to him on the point, of course—it is on the footing that there is a court of law.
If there is a court of law we are not dealing with Comet inquiries. We have no fear of the interested parties not being represented, because interested parties would be covered by rules of court. All provision of that kind would be looked after by rules of court. We are dealing here with what is deliberately made an action inter partes before a court of law; an action between two parties, by one against another—not in the nature of a criminal prosecution, of course; we know that perfectly well, but a civil action between two parties in which one will be the Registrar whose duty—it is essential to the whole of this conception of the Bill—is to put forward the public point of view on the one hand as against the point of view put forward by the person who is responsible for the restrictive practice.
331 It is the very essence of court procedure in this country that there should be one party on the one side presenting his case as strongly as he can from that side and another party on the other side presenting his case from his point of view, and that there should be a judge—in this case, there is to be a High Court judge—to decide between them, having heard both sides, fully and properly represented.
§ Sir L. Heald
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree, then, with his hon. Friend who earlier today said that the Registrar should be regarded as a kind of Director of Public Prosecutions? Would he agree with that?
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
No. I do not agree. It depends on the use of words, of course.
I made it perfectly clear on Second Reading that we do not take the view that there should be a criminal offence, and, therefore, there is no suggestion of a Director of Public Prosecutions in the technical sense of the term. What my hon. Friend doubtless had in mind was that there would be one party on the one side and another on the other.
There is no question of a criminal offence involved here; nor do we on this side of the Committee hold that there should be a criminal offence. We are simply dealing with an action inter partes, and in it the Registrar's duty is to present one side of the picture as vigorously, as fairly and as properly as possible. That is the whole essence of court procedure in civil actions. That does not involve any unfairness and it does not involve any jiggery-pokery. For these reasons, we on this side of the Committee consider that this is a dangerous Amendment, and we are opposed to it.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) make me think there is more in the Amendment than I at first thought, and I should like one or another of my right hon. Friends to say whether they agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman—as I gather they do, judging from the way they received his remarks—that the duties of counsel appearing for the Registrar are by no means as impartial as those which my right hon. and 332 learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) would wish to see.
The nub of the Amendment is surely that there shall be in the instructions given to counsel all relevant facts and circumstances. Whether the Amendment is accepted or not, there is no question, of course, that counsel will not be perfectly candid within the limits of his instructions. We all agree that everything counsel knows and considers relevant he will bring before the Court, if only to seek to show that it is not as important as his opponent will, no doubt, make it out to be. However, the question here is, what is in his brief? That is a vital matter, and it becomes more vital when we consider Clause 16, which, for this purpose, we must do.
In Clause 16, there are stated factors which are peculiarly within the knowledge of the Government. I refer to paragraph (f). It is within the knowledge of the Registrar, because of the powers he has of discovering things, whether, for example, the removal of the restrictionwould be likely to have a serious and persistent adverse effect on the general level of unemployment in an area. …That is to be an issue, and that is a matter of which the person seeking to defend the interests of the public has far greater knowledge than has the representative whose agreement is impugned, and he has far more direct ways of finding it out.
Similarly, there is the final and overall requirement… that the restriction has not operated and is not calculated to operate to an unreasonable extent to the detriment of persons not parties to the agreement …That is something on which I should have thought there might be a good deal of knowledge and evidence in the possession of public authorities which it would be much harder for the party whose agreement is being impugned to find out.
All that is intended is that it should be a duty upon the Registrar in preparing the case, and it should be a duty in preparing the brief for the counsel nominated by my right hon. Friend, that the Registrar should not ignore those matters but should do his best to find out what they are and that they should be brought before the Court by counsel 333 appearing for the Registrar. I do not think that the Amendment goes beyond that. If so, it seems to me that we should like to hear from one of my right hon. Friends whether, in the Government's opinion, that would automatically follow without the Amendment.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
Let me say at once to my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) that I hold the view that the Amendment goes a good deal further than he appeared to imagine in his remarks, and that I share the view of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) that this would be a dangerous Amendment to incorporate in the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and I are really agreed about what at least, understood to be the main objective that he had in mind, which was that these cases, or call them what we will, should be fairly and properly conducted.
I believe that that is a principal factor in the views of hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. In an attempt to meet his view, I suggested earlier to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey that I would incorporate in a later Clause an actual provision that counsel appearing should be nominated by the Attorney-General. I gather that he was not particularly impressed by that proposal. I am still prepared to do so if he thinks that it would help him in any way, but surely the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East is right.
If we have a Registrar appointed by the Queen and we have rules of court laid down with all the care with which rules of court are laid down and incidentally—under an Amendment which we intend to accept—scrutinised by the House of Commons; if we have counsel appearing in cases, and we have cases in which a High Court judge not only decides the case but presides over what is taking place, surely he will not tolerate any sort of impropriety, malpractice or misconduct in the way in which cases are brought before him.
To put into a Statute that in some way or anotherThe preparation and presentation of any proceedings so taken by the Registrar shall be conducted under the directions of Her Majesty's Attorney-General …334 seems to me to be turning the Attorney-General into a sort of solicitor for this purpose. I do not believe that that is a right and proper thing to do. I agree that there are examples which could be given, such as aircraft inquiries, but they are not on all fours with the proceedings under this Bill. This will not be a roving inquiry; this will not be an inquisitorial approach. It will be a proceeding before the Court, in which there is an issue to be decided.
That brings me to the second part of the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Darwen asked me how impartial counsel would be, or some question of that character. The job of counsel will be to put the facts fairly and squarely before the Court. Let us be clear that there is an issue before the Court, and the House of Commons will determine what that issue is. We may have a lot of argument about it, and it may be controversial to arrive at what is the issue. However, I have made it plain in my speeches that in this issue the onus is to rest squarely upon the shoulders of those industries or parties which wish to maintain the agreement.
If the onus is to rest upon them, it would appear that they may have to say something themselves in the first instance in order to discharge the onus which Parliament, if it so desires, places upon the shoulders of such parties. I do not say that these words necessarily shift the onus, but certainly they blur the question considerably. Let us take an imaginary case in order to show the essential part of the onus of proof. Suppose there was a case in which no evidence was given upon either side. If the onus of proof was against the agreement, the decision would be against the agreement. If, at this stage, however, we write into the Statute terms specifying that one of the parties is responsible for bringing all the facts before the Court, we shall effectively blur what I regard as one of the essentials of the procedures laid down in the Bill and, in my view, a necessary concomitant to a judicial approach to it.
We all agree that if, in the conduct of proceedings counsel in such a position is seized of some knowledge which comes to his attention through the careful inquiries that have been made, it is his duty to produce it. I have not had the same experience in the courts as either 335 the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East or as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey, though I was a barrister and practising for some time. Yet all of us know that in these cases it is the duty of counsel to behave with the utmost frankness and candour. If there are facts which could be helpful to another view, they should certainly be disclosed and, of course they will be disclosed.
However that is a very different thing from putting upon counsel a statutory responsibility to deploy the full facts on both sides before anything else has happened. So, whilst fully appreciating the motives which my right hon. and learned Friend had in mind in putting down this Amendment, and the manner in which he has argued it, I do not believe that there is much between us. I think he is as anxious as I am that these cases should be properly conducted. He is anxious that counsel should behave with frankness and candour. I can give him full assurance upon that matter, and I hope that, with those assurances, he will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I am glad that the President of the Board of Trade has expressed the view that this is a dangerous Amendment. It may not be so intended by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), but it raises serious and important issues. One of the reasons for the uneasiness expressed earlier this evening on the question of accountability arises from uncertainty about the nature of the office of Registrar which is being created under the Bill and uncertainty about the functions of the Registrar. It seems to be assumed that all that is required is to set up this machinery, to create a register and a Registrar, and to give him the duty of bringing these proceedings.
The Bill only sets up machinery; what really matters is the way in which it operates and the persons who are to have the duty of operating the machinery. The Registrar will be a person of very great importance. Either during the debate on Second Reading, I think, or in an earlier debate, the President of the Board of Trade made it clear that he did not wish to take upon his own shoulders the task 336 of carrying into effect the primary object of the Bill; he did not wish to be involved himself in bringing cases before the Court. The Registrar was to be appointed to perform that duty.
It must be made quite clear that someone must have this primary duty of ensuring that the objects of the Bill are carried out. That duty involves more than just being a Registrar. I am not at all sure that the term "Registrar" is not a misnomer. It seems to imply that all he has to do is to keep a register, although, of course, it is provided that he is to bring these cases before the Court. He is more than a Registrar. He has these extremely important functions of presenting a case to the Court.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member seems to be dealing with an Amendment other than the one on the Paper.
§ Mr. Wade
I am obliged, Sir Rhys; I am coming now to the point, and I was just using the expression which is used in the Amendment, "the presentation of any proceedings". It is surely most important that the Registrar should have the task of preparing the brief and presenting the case. I need not labour the matter further, because the President of the Board of Trade has already expressed his view. I am quite convinced that he is right in asking the right hon. Gentleman not to press this Amendment.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I oppose this Amendment because, in my view, it is redundant, almost tautological, and would complicate and delay proceedings. It would delay the initiation, the presentation, the conduct, and the decision of proceedings contemplated by this Clause. By subsection (2) it is provided that it is the duty of the Registrar to take proceedings subject to the directions of the Board of Trade. This Amendment would contradict and reverse the procedure contemplated by subsection (2).
The expression "take proceedings" which we find in subsection (2) is very wide. It includes every phase of the proceedings and does not mean merely the initiation of them. It includes the collecting and presentation of evidence. Yet this Amendment would seek to do in another way, a contradictory way, that which is already covered by subsection (2). The two things are inconsistent.
337 If this Amendment be not passed, what is the alternative? We must rely upon subsection (2). Subsection (2) is explicit; it says that the Registrar shall be charged with the duty of maintaining a register of agreements subject to registration, and shall take proceedings before the Court, subject to such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade.
The Amendment seeks to alter that and to provide thatThe preparation and presentation of any proceedings so taken by the Registrar shall be conducted under the directions of Her Majesty's Attorney General by the Treasury Solicitor.Therefore, instead of proceedings being initiated and carried out by one individual, the Registrar, or by his Department, other Departments are to be imported into the matter. Under subsection (2) the Registrar has to conduct the proceedings under the direction of the Board of Trade, but the Amendment would also bring in the Attorney-General and the Treasury Solicitor.
The Amendment seems to be entirely redundant and unnecessary. As I appealed successfully to the President of the Board of Trade to accept an earlier Amendment, I now appeal to him to look at this Amendment in a commonsense way and reject it.
§ Sir L. Heald
My right hon. Friend said that he did not think there was very much between us, but I am afraid that I must disagree with that statement. I believe there is a very great deal between us. There is between us a matter of very great fundamental importance in the way of principle.
After a great deal of debate, we have agreed that the Registrar should be created as an entirely new kind of official, not answerable to Parliament in any way for the manner in which he carries out his duties. When I raised the matter with my right hon. Friend, I understood him to say and to mean—it was on that basis that I did not discuss the matter further—that he intended to provide that the proceedings would be conducted in such a way that we should ensure that we should not lose anything by our inability to ask Questions in Parliament. 338 I must say that I was misled in accepting that view. I should have pursued the matter much further earlier upon Clause 1 if I had thought that the attitude would be adopted, as apparently it is now, that the proceedings are to be regarded as proceedings in which the Registrar has to go as hard as he can, subject to counsel behaving in the usual proper way, to get these things kept on the register.
The alliance disclosed this evening between my right hon. Friend and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) causes me considerable concern, and I believe that that concern will be felt in the country when people appreciate what is being done.
If it will not be possible for the Registrar to be questioned about his actions, supposing that he were to be conducting his proceedings in a way which was not thought to be entirely fair, it is wrong—it would, indeed, be misleading if it were persisted in—for my right hon. Friend to suggest that a sufficient safeguard is the fact that efficient, competent and reliable counsel are employed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) pointed out, it depends what is counsel's brief, and there is nothing whatever in the Bill to compel the Registrar to put in counsel's brief anything which will be of assistance to the other side.
Under Clause 16 one of the things that has to be done by the person whose agreement is being investigated is to prove a negative, that his agreement has not operated, and is not calculated to operate, to the detriment of other people. Who will know the facts about that? The man himself cannot possibly know them. If there are facts which are to his benefit, they can only be known to the Registrar if he has made proper inquiries. I am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend appears to contemplate that the Registrar should not bring those facts before the Court, because my right hon. Friend is objecting to a provision that both sides of the case should be brought forward. I regard that with great regret and I believe that it will be so regarded all over the country, if he continues to hold that view.
339 I am glad to find one right hon. Gentleman opposite, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), agreeing with me. I have disagreed with him over many things, but I have agreed with him over some of the things which I think most important, like the liberty of the subject. I believe that he agrees with me in this serious and important matter. I do not believe that even on this side of the Committee its importance is fully appreciated. Obviously, for any one in my position to embark on dividing against the Government will not help anybody. Fortunately, it is not necessary to vote or to divide the Committee in order to express one's opinion. I can do so in a very strong way, and I have done so this evening. I believe that the Bill can be made into a good Bill, but what has been done this evening in refusing this Amendment will make it not a good Bill, but a bad one.
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) said that he and I have very often differed. Whether as a Minister of the Crown, or as a leading member of a great local authority, I have always believed that it is the duty of those who appear for the public to see that all the facts are before any tribunal. They are representing not merely those who have briefed them, but the man on the other side and, indeed, the whole public. Until a decision has been reached, they owe as great a duty to the man on the other side as to anybody else.
It is only on the second part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment that I wish to speak. It is only with the utmost reluctance that I differ from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), but on a matter of such fundamental justice it is essential that one should preserve a reasonable amount of independence. I understood the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey and my hon. and learned Friend, who are both lawyers, to say that it would be the duty of counsel to see that all these matters were put before the Court, but then the President of the Board of Trade seemed to think that because the onus of proof lay in a particular way in this particular case, that would remove that liability.
340 It is always a very risky thing in the House of Commons to reverse the ordinary burden of proof in a Measure. Having reversed it, it becomes all the more important—and I speak as a layman—that those who appear for the public should represent all the public. The Registrar is a public official, no matter with what else he may be charged. He is placed in an astounding position, because no matter how much the House may object to what he does or does not do, he can be removed from his position by Parliament only by an Address passed by both Houses of Parliament. That puts him in a very strong position. All that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey is asking is that the Registrar, placed' in a highly-privileged position and with the powers that he has, should make quite certain that he serves all the public all the time. That, I should have thought, was the duty of every public official.
I am not prepared to argue about the first part of the Amendment—that is a matter upon which the lawyers can have, their own field day—but on the latter question, which, I believe, is fundamental to the liberty of the subject, I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey is right. It is the duty of everyone to see—as learned counsel conducting a prosecution for murder is always careful to say in his opening speech—that all the facts shall be brought before the court, so far as he knows them.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
I have not disagreed with a single thing which my right hon. Friend has said. I think that we are in complete agreement as to the candour and duty of counsel to put everything fully before the court. The danger of the Amendment is not that at all. It is that it torpedoes the onus of proof provided under Clause 16, which is an entirely different point.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. and learned Friend appears to be agreeing with himself and with me at the same time, because I devoted some time to saying that I regarded the question of shifting the onus of proof as putting an additional liability on those who conduct the case. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, if he cannot meet us on this tonight, will agree, between now and the Report stage, further seriously to consider this matter.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
I think there is very little difference between what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said and what the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) said. I should like to make quite clear that it is my view, too, that without this Amendment being in the Bill, it will be the duty of counsel appearing for the Registrar to put before the Court all the facts in his possession which will tend to assist the Court in the task which it has to perform; and if the Court wants further assistance on any point or any information it will be the duty of counsel, so far as he can, to give that assistance.
I cannot conceive for a moment any reason to suppose that counsel conducting a case for the Registrar will not do so in conformity with the highest standards of the profession and with a desire to assist in the administration of justice. That will be done, in my belief, in these proceedings without any Amendment of this sort. Everyone wants it to be done. But the last part of the Amendment goes a good deal further than that.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman failed to appreciate from the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech the objection which he had to that extension as provided by the last part of the Amendment. The last part of the Amendment does not alone deal with the duty of counsel or with the duty of the Treasury Solicitor. The Treasury Solicitor, of course, provides the information for the conduct by counsel of the case in an aircraft accident inquiry, and no doubt the Treasury Solicitor will do all that he can to find out all the relevant facts for use by the Court. The Amendment puts a statutory duty on the Treasury Solicitor to find out all the relevant facts in relation to a restrictive agreement and in many cases that would be almost an impossible burden to discharge.
I would say, in conclusion, that I do not myself think that there is any justification whatsoever for any fear that these cases will not be conducted properly and in accordance with the traditions of the 342 Bar on behalf of the Registrar. I feel certain that any relevant facts which are known to the Treasury Solicitor or the Registrar will be put by counsel before the Court.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
It seems to me that the difficulty which the Government find themselves in and the criticism which they are receiving arise from the fact that the Court is only a partially judicial body and that the matters which it has to consider are matters which some right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee obviously do not consider to be capable of proof in a court of law, in the way in which matters normally are decided in such a court.
I am fairly innocent of court procedure—thank goodness—but I have always understood that it was the business of counsel—while certainly assisting the Court to the best of their ability—to do their best for their own clients I should have thought that if counsel on either side were in any way to pull his punches in arguing his case the court, rather than being assisted, would find it more difficult to come to a decision. When the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) asked how the public was to know whether cases would be fairly conducted, he cast a reflection on the Bench which I have never heard cast in the House before.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I never said any such thing. The hon. Member must be referring to somebody else.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
The question I asked was whether it would be the duty of the Registrar so to draw instructions to counsel appearing before him as to ensure that all the relevant facts are put before him.
§ Mr. Albu
I am sorry, but the hon. Member quite clearly used the word "fairly". I have always understood that it was the business of the judge hearing a case to ensure that the facts were put 343 to him and the court. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then how does any court ever know whether all the facts are being put before it?
In recent debates we have had many discussions about the degree to which the truth can be discovered in a court, and surely this is exactly the same case. The Government are asking the Committee to agree that a judicial court, with a judge as chairman, should decide upon the facts—and I have always understood that the best way of arriving at all the facts was for counsel on both sides to put their cases as strongly as they could. I cannot see how a court can arrive at any decision in any other way. If counsel on one side is putting one and a half cases against counsel on the other side it seems to me that it is very difficult for a court to come to a decision.
I cannot understand the arguments which have been put forward. They seem to derive from a complete misconception of the objects of the Clause. The Court is not being asked to decide upon practices which are considered to be wrong from the point of economic policy. The Court is being asked to consider whether there should be exceptions in certain cases. It seems to me, as the President has said, that this is an occasion upon which those who wish to continue these practices should themselves be made to make out a very strong case to the Court. As the President also said, they should be made to take the initiative. I cannot understand the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend, which seem to derive from a misunderstanding of the real intentions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Remnant
I should not like it to be thought that because some hon. Members on this side of the Committee have not spoken in support of my right hon. and learned Friend there are not a considerable number who support him. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) rather wondered what all this was about. I can give him the analogy of the hallmark on silverware. I am speaking entirely from the point of view of somebody concerned in industry whose agreements may come before the Court.
In the same way as a piece of silverware is of greater value if it bears a hallmark so, from my position in industry, I 344 feel that if the Attorney-General would accept this rôle, the decisions of the Court would be much more respected by the industries concerned. I am not thinking of the technicalities, or whether the whole thing is right or wrong. I beg my right hon. Friend to have a very close look at this point before the Report stage. I support the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who asked whether some improvement cannot be made in this respect.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant). In the Second Reading debate my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made a statement that all relevant facts would be placed before the Court. The Amendment, as I understand it, merely puts that promise into words. I am not convinced at all by the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend. This is a very important point, and I very much hope that the President of the Board of Trade will look into it again.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Government supporters feel so strongly on this matter that I hope they will divide the Committee. It seems a little odd that they should express themselves with such vehemence, but apparently are not prepared to test the Committee on the subject. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will not give way.
There is only one answer to the points which are put forward. The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) appeared to think not only that there might be some lack of candour on the part of counsel conducting a case but some difficulty in getting at the facts on the part of the Treasury Solicitor instructing counsel. The right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to think that there were certain cases in which the facts would be particularly within the province of the Registrar. I imagine the answer to be that the opposite party to any proceedings will have the fullest opportunity of obtaining from the Registrar any facts relevant to put before the Court, under Clause 16.
345 Surely it should be the duty of the opposite parties concerned, rather than of counsel for the Registrar, to elicit in the preliminary stages, by the process of discovery laid down in the rules of the Court, all particulars and relevant facts. Presumably no difficulty will be put in the way of the other side in obtaining those facts. Therefore any failure to obtain full discovery would presumably be the fault of the other parties to the proceedings and not that of the Registrar.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
We have had a considerable debate, and have already disposed of Clause 1 and are about to move on to Clause 2. We shall be starting substantial debates on Clause 2, and perhaps, in these circumstances, it would be a convenient course for the Committee if we were not to proceed further this evening.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
If I may say so, I think that that would be a sensible course. We have made progress, we have disposed of Clause 1, and I am quite agreeable to the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman has proposed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.