§ Sir P. Spens
I beg to move, in page 4, line 1, to leave out subsections (I) to (3) and to insert:(1) If at any time it is resolved by the House of Commons that the First Schedule to this Act be amended, whether by the addition or omission of any office or the removal of any office from one Part of the Schedule to another, or by altering the description of any office specified therein, Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend that Schedule accordingly.This is a much more substantial Amendment. When we considered the scheme of the Bill in the Select Committee we came to the conclusion that if we were to have lists of offices which would disqualify either totally or locally it was clear that they would have to be altered from time to time as new offices might be created; or because some of the offices which we think should disqualify at present might not be so important in the eyes of our successors. We put into the Bill Clause 5, divided into two parts, so that certain alterations in the list could be made under the affirmative Resolution procedure in the House and certain others, not so important, by the negative Resolution procedure. It is rather a long and complicated Clause.
It was then pointed out that we had passed a Clause using the phrase, "office under the Crown" the whole way through. It was pointed out that it might well be that some offices which we might consider incompatible with a seat in this House might not be offices under the Crown; for instance, an official of an area railway board. Under those circumstances, it appeared that the Clause was not quite in the form it ought to be.
The matter has been reconsidered and it has been suggested that I should move this Amendment, which is in a shorter and more elastic form. But the important thing is that every alteration must depend on a Resolution of the House and on the affirmative Resolution procedure. 1052 In that way, the House keeps an adequate control over any alteration of the list.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
I cannot agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens). I agree that this is an Amendment of some importance, but I have several objections to it. First, it would enable the House of Commons, by a Resolution, to override the expressed provisions of a Statute. Where an office comes into existence otherwise than by a Statute I agree that it would be appropriate to deal with it by such machinery as is provided for in the Clause. But where a Statute provides that the office should carry disqualification, or should not, I think it wrong that the House should be able to overrule that provision even on the day after it was passed. There is no difficulty in the case of offices created by Statute. It will be possible hereafter to deal with such offices in the Act which creates them.
The Amendment requires a simple Resolution of the House of Commons only. It leaves out subsection (3) of the present Clause. The Committee will see that under that subsection, if the House has passed a Resolution, an Order in Council can be made giving effect to it and under the subsection it will be open to either House of Parliament to require that the Resolution shall be annulled. In other words, as the Bill is drafted, it is open to either House of Parliament to maintain control over this legislation. Were the Amendment of my right hon. and learned Friend adopted, it would leave the matter exclusively to the House of Commons. I submit that that is constitutionally wrong.
As my right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, Clause 5 refers to "any office under the Crown." Under the original Bill, which was introduced during the last Session, an office under the Crown had to be defined because, of course, there were genera} words in the Bill. There are no general words now and it is not necessary to define that expression. It will be for this House to interpret those words when considering Resolutions under this Clause. Therefore, the words are usefully drawn because they are conveniently wide, but they are not as wide as all that.
I understand that it would be necessary for any office to be at least in the nature 1053 of public employment. But if the words proposed by my right hon. and learned Friend were accepted, any office could disqualify. For example, it would be possible for this House to pass a Resolution to say that no company director might sit as a Member of this House. That Resolution would at once become effective. Or it might be that no trade union secretary could become a Member. I do not think that the House contemplated taking such wide powers as that. I think it essential to retain some words which limit the extremely wide scope of the Bill.
Clause 5 requires some grounds to be given for adding an office to the Schedule or taking one out; that is to say, under the Clause, as drafted, the office must be said to be incompatible or to have ceased to be incompatible. The word "incompatible" is fairly general, but nevertheless, it requires some particular justification to be given. I accept that in time a code will be built up as a result of the series of Resolutions passed under this Clause. That will be used fairly often and when the code is built up the House will be able to see what offices are or are not to be included fairly easily. If no such code is built up, the Clause will haunt not only us but future generations of hon. Members.
No reference to any of this appears in the Amendment of my right hon. and learned Friend. So far as the Amendment is concerned, any office can be included in or excluded from the Schedule without any reason being given. I should prefer to see a rather more detailed definition. There certainly should be included some such word as "incompatible". For that reason I do not like the Amendment. The Clause needs some Amendment and there is no Amendment on the Notice Paper dealing with the point. I wish to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the fact that there is no power in the Clause, as drafted, to alter Part IV of the First Schedule, which is that part dealing with disqualification for particular constituencies, and I think that some such power is desirable. Again, there is no power to transfer between one part of the Schedule and another although that is dealt with by my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment.
§ Sir P. Spens
The Amendment states… whether by the addition or omission of any office or the removal of any office from one Part of the Schedule to another.…
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That is quite true, and with that part of my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment I agree. I think it will be desirable, therefore, that this Clause should be amended, but I am afraid that is the only part of his Amendment with which I do agree. For these reasons, I hope that the Committee will reject this Amendment, and that it will be possible, at a later stage, to incorporate that one point in another Amendment.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
I think it is just as well that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) has drawn attention to the constitutional importance of this Clause. At the same time, however, I cannot agree with the argument, although I know that he holds his view very strongly in this matter.
I do not think that there is any possibility of advantage in trying to limit the future discretion of this House by putting in the word "incompatible". If, at any time in the future, this House wants to change the composition of this House of Parliament, it will do so, and it will not be deterred by any words which we choose to put in now, just as in this case we decide in our own contemporary judgment the people who should be excluded from membership of this House. Nor do I feel that the omission of the Upper House from the alteration of the Schedule is a very important matter. I should be very surprised if this Bill comes back to us from another place with any important alteration. Nor do I think it likely that another place would think it appropriate to try to control in some respects the membership of this House.
Therefore, I think myself that the procedure of amendment by Resolution of this House is appropriate as well as convenient, and it seems to me that my hon. Friend, in referring to offices created by Statute, overlooked the main purpose which I think my colleagues in the Select Committee had in mind in suggesting this. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) had it in mind in 1055 moving this Amendment, namely, the inadvertent omission from the Statute of any provision whereby the holder of a new office should or should not be disqualified from membership of this House.
If a Statute were to create new offices and not deal with that question, it would be very inconvenient indeed if we had to go through the whole operation of an amending Bill to alter the Schedule, whereas in any other case we could do it by a simple resolution. Of course, my hon. Friend, in stressing the constitutional aspect, was saying that we could pass an Act one day dealing expressly with whether the holder of a new office should be in or out of the House, and the following day, by Resolution, reverse it. I think he will agree that it is a very academic point. After all, this House had to consent to the Statute, and it is almost unimaginable that it would one day, by Resolution, do the reverse of what it had just decided.
The broad effect is to cover inadvertence, and I think that my hon. Friend, on reflection, might probably feel that it would be illogical to have this Schedule capable of amendment by simple Resolution in every other case, and that only in the case where there was an inadvertence in the Statute, and there only, should we have to go through the whole business of passing a new Statute to meet the case.
§ Mr. Wigg
At the risk of impertinence, being the only non-lawyer yet to have spoken in the debate, I wonder whether the learned Attorney-General would tell us what this Clause means, what the Amendment means and what the observations of the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who opposed the Amendment, also mean, because, quite frankly, I do not know. I am not sure that I understood it to start with, and I am quite sure that I do not understand it now.
I want to be a little careful before I assent to anything at all here that will strengthen the Crown or the Executive against the control of the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) may think it more or less tidy to do it by Resolution, as against legislation, but there is a little difference, and, at least, the Attorney-General, if an inadvertence had been committed, would have to come 1056 to the House and explain himself, or endeavour to do so, as on previous occasions, and that seems to me to put the brake on a little.
Perhaps I may be permitted to limit my remarks until we have heard what the Government have to say, and then perhaps I may be able to supplement them at a later stage; but I should be much obliged if we could have explained to us what the Amendment sets out to do.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I think I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth)—certainly, in the main—but rather more surprisingly perhaps also with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I ought to understand this better than he can because I sat on the Select Committee, but I have such a capacity for forgetting that I should hate to be cross-examined at this moment.
I cannot believe, although I may be wrong about this, that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) is right in his explanation to the Committee. He said that this House will not be deterred anyway. If it really is to be argued that if the House had wanted to do something by mere Resolution which this Statute plainly intended to debar, nevertheless the House would not be deterred by that, that again seems to me to be a good argument for giving the House power to do something by mere Resolution, and that—I think I am within the recollection of the Committee—was exactly the indication which was given to us by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South.
§ Mr. R. Bell
I merely referred to the word "incompatible", to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South had referred. Of course, what is considered incompatible is always a matter of opinion, and I doubt whether anything would be gained by putting it in.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
It would not matter. My argument would be exactly the same if the hon. Gentleman had referred to "fiddle-de-dee" or anything else. "Incompatible" may be difficult to define, but so is "reasonable," and we are all accustomed to relying in Statutes on the word "reasonable," and, to some extent, to rely on the word "incompatible."
1057 The point is that the intention here should be not excessively to strengthen the power of the House to act by mere Resolution. I feel that every hon. Member must agree about that, and it must be a bad argument to say that, even if a Statute used words plainly intended to have a limiting effect, the House would see the Statute damned first and do as it pleased. That, it seems to me, must be a bad argument, and I think that it has added considerably to the weight of proof which ought now to be discharged from the Treasury Bench if we are to accept the Amendment.
I do not quite understand my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), who moved the Amendment. He used the passive tense very frequently, and that is always apt to lead to difficulties in debate. It was pointed out to us that it has been reconsidered. I am not quite clear who is meant by "us," although I would not hang a dead dog on my memory, and I do not know who "us" were, but not the Select Committee, as far as I know. This has been reconsidered, but by whom has it been reconsidered?
It is now about to be reconsidered by the House of Commons in Committee of the whole House, and I have not yet sufficiently understood it to feel sure that the Amendment is important. I am inclined at present to think that the right line would be to promise reconsideration before a later stage, and to let it be dealt with finally then.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I hesitate to intervene, and merely say that I find the Amendment simpler and more elastic, and, therefore, more suitable, than the Clause. If the House of Commons resolves on a matter of this sort there is no need to preserve the possibility of a negative annulment by either House, or certainly by another place. On a question of this sort, for the House to pass one Resolution is ample. The other argument seemed somewhat unconvincing. I am glad to see the word "incompatible" out when simpler language will suffice.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The Committee ought to be very careful not to give power by Order in Council to reverse or alter in any way an Act of 1058 Parliament. It ought to be very reluctant to do so. There was similar power in what is now known as the "Henry VIII Clause", which has fallen into disuse for many years.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) that the Amendment is much too wide in its scope. Look at it. It says:If at any time it is resolved by the House of Commons that the First Schedule to this Act be amended, whether by the addition or ommission of any office or the removal of any office from one Part of the Schedule to another, or by altering the description of any office specified therein, Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend that Schedule accordingly.That gives tremendous power and relies upon the vigilance of hon. Members in the House of Commons in regard to Resolutions brought forward without any qualification.
I do not like the words in Clause 5, but they are limited, at any rate. They say that certain matters shall be taken into consideration when the subject is brought before the House of Commons. As the Amendment is much too wide I prefer the Clause as it stands.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
I must advise the Committee to accept the Amendment for the reasons that have been advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).
The first merit of the Amendment is that it makes the Clause very much simpler. The Clause proposes two different procedures for Amendment of the Schedule, one depending upon the affirmative Resolution procedure and the other upon the negative Resolution procedure. The Amendment is simpler because it is a single and stronger method of Amendment, in other words, by affirmative Resolution of the House of Commons.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) put forward four objections to the Amendment. The first was that it proposed a simple Resolution to over-ride the express provisions of the Statute. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) rightly drew attention to the constitutional importance of that.
1059 It is a matter which the House of Commons will always regard with care and scrutiny. I am bound to point out that that is already implicit in the Clause as unamended. It is in each case a Resolution of the House of Commons.
The second objection was that it is a Resolution of the House—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If my hon. and learned Friend will look at the Clause he will see, in paragraph (a), these words:that any office under the Crown constituted after the commencement of this Act otherwise than by an enactment of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is incompatible with membership of that House.In other words, it will apply only to an office constituted under an Act of Parliament.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon
It is still an Amendment of that Act of Parliament by a simple Resolution of the House of Commons. In that respect there is no difference between the Amendment and the Clause. In each case it is a Resolution of the House of Commons to override the express provisions of a statute.
The second question is whether it shall be by Resolution of the House of Commons only. I think I am right in saying, in the presence of eminent constitutionalists, that the accepted doctrine is that it is a prerogative of each House of Parliament—and pre-eminently the prerogative of the House of Commons—to determine the qualification of its Members. Therefore, it seems consistent with constitutional propriety that the Resolution should be by the House of Commons in this case, as indeed the Select Committee recommended, as one sees from the existing state of Clause 5 (1).
The third objection was that whereas the Clause refers toany office under the Crownthe Amendment leaves the matter completely at large. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) gave reasons why the limitation to an office under the Crown was inappropriate. There may be offices which are excluded. He gave the example of an area railway authority. That would not be an office under the Crown, and yet it might very well be that the office should be excluded.
1060 The question arises, whether, if that is inappropriate, one should leave the matter at large. Even if one used the words "public employment" one would not be very much further forward, because the Resolution of the House of Commons would over-ride any such limitation. One comes back, in the end, to depending upon the good sense of the House of Commons in determining what is a proper office to be signified under this procedure.
Lastly, my hon. Friend said that whereas Clause 5 required some ground to be given for adding or taking away an office the Amendment left the matter at large, and he would like to see the word "incompatible" included. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South, seemed conclusive as to that. The use of the word would not tie a House of Commons. It is very much better to leave the matter to the good sense of the House of Commons which has to determine the matter.
It seems to the Government that the Amendment is an improvement on the Clause. It is very much simpler and more flexible and enables a transfer of offices from one part of one Schedule to another.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The Clause and the Amendment are undesirable and unnecessary, because they tend to take away from the House of Commons the power to alter the law. The House of Commons has an inherent right to alter this Bill at any time. The Clause proposes two ways of amending legislation by Resolutions of the House, after it has been solemnly passed. Both Clause and Amendment are undesirable.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
I am not an expert on this subject and I was not a member of the Select Committee; but after listening to the discussion, I agree more with the views expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) than anyone else. I cannot see the point either of the Clause or of the Amendment and the Bill would be very much better without either. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will support me when we come to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" we could join together to 1061 divide against it. Problems that arise after the Bill is passed can all be dealt with in the new statutes as they come along.
The other type of case that has to be dealt with is that which my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) called "cases of inadvertence". If we look at the Schedule and the astonishing list of people, and at the Amendment to come, which adds more names, I cannot believe that there can still be cases of inadvertence and, if there are, we should take a chance on them. I think that when we do find such a case—if we ever do—it would be very much better to have a new Act rather than to make it too easy, by a simple Resolution of this House, to make alterations which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) says could very well, on a future occasion, make some very grave distinctions which might not be in the interests of the House or of the country.
§ The Attorney-General
The Committee will recollect that when the first Bill on this subject was introduced it contained the tests that had to be applied to determine what kind of office disqualified for membership of this House. The House then expressed very strongly the view that it was desirable, if possible, to set out in a Schedule the list of the disqualifying offices, and the Select Committee endorsed that view. The result was that the Bill was completely recast by the Select Committee.
The inevitable consequence of having a list of offices is that there must be some provision for alteration of that list as time goes on. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) has just said, "Well, why not leave it to the new Statutes, as they come along, to make the alteration?" The short and complete answer to that argument is that not all new offices which the House would regard as disqualifying offices are created by Statute. Therefore, we must have some machinery left to the House to secure that the holder of a particular office, whether or not created by Statute—in particular, to cover the case where it is not created by Statute—can be de-dared by this House as being disqualified from its membership.
1062 That, in my submission to the Committee, is inherent in the structure of the Bill; that we should have some kind of novel—and I admit that it is novel; it may be called Henry VIII, but it is inherent in this system—method of flexible adjustment of the Schedules to the Bill. Clause 5 as it stood gave, it is quite true to say, a limited power of adjustment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) welcomes the power which is given by my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment of transferring from one Schedule to another, which did not exist in the Clause as originally drawn.
In my submission to the Committee, my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment really has not such radical consequences as were suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South. For each case there has to be a Resolution of the House of Commons, and one has only to look at the beginning of Clause 5 (1) as it stands to see that that Resolution starts the matter off. In my belief, it is the only way in which we can leave the House of Commons in control of matters of this kind, which should be in the control of the House of Commons.
If we are to have our lists and our Schedules, the House of Commons should have the power to initiate action, it may be as a check, to secure either that there are additions to Schedules or transfers from the Schedule to another or, in a proper case, to secure that the Schedules are amended by the deletion of something already there. It is with a desire of securing that flexibility and that control by this House—because it is a matter which does intimately concern the House—that we feel that it would be right to advise the Committee to accept the Amendment, which, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has said, is clearer and shorter, and, so far as its practical effect is concerned, limited, in my view, in conferring the power to transfer from one Schedule to another, which does not exist in the subsection as it stands.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes rose—
§ The Attorney-General
The hon. and learned Member is about to interrupt, but I will not reply to what he said because I do not honestly think, if he will forgive me for saying so, that he had fully appreciated the effect of Clause 5 (1).
§ Mr. Hughes
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the only difference between procedure by Resolution of the House followed by Order in Council and by legislation on this point is the difference of time? The first procedure is more expeditious than the second, and I ask the Attorney-General, why the hurry in so important a matter?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am grateful to the Attorney-General, who, I thought, was very clear, but I should like him to clear up one point which he did not deal with at all, and that is "office". Is the word "office" limited here in any way? It is not enough to say that the House of Commons went off its rocker and excluded chaps because they held office as assistant secretary of a bowls club, because they are relying on the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), who has knocked that support from under them. We should indicate what "office" does mean.
I should like to say one other thing. Surely we should be more cautious now than I thought twenty minutes ago, because of what the Under-Secretary of State said. He seemed to me to put higher than I think it has ever been put before the right of each House to judge of its membership. I do not think that matter has ever before been put higher than the right of each House to be a court, to do a judicial act in this matter—and that was claimed and asserted by this House on very false grounds, I submit, but we do not want to go back on that, because the House has had it now for generations. Nevertheless, the words which my hon. and learned Friend used seemed to mean that each House was entitled to decide at any moment, by any procedure, how its membership was to be made up, and to legislate on the matter.
I think that that would be a great betrayal of the liberty of the subject. It is all very well to talk about the House being interested in this, but we know very well that when it comes to getting a Resolution passed, "the House" means "the Crown", which means whichever party has a majority in the House. It is highly desirable, therefore, that we should be extremely careful not to enlarge beyond what is necessary—and I entirely 1064 accept the Attorney-General's explanation of what we are trying to do—any kind of claim by this House to legislate for its own membership. The Rump Parliament did that, and the Rump Parliament was treated as it deserved in the end. It took too long.
§ The Attorney-General
I am substantially in agreement with what my hon. Friend has said, but I would say to him that once we insert in the Clause the words "under the Crown" we are getting back into that field which has given us so much trouble in the past. If we limit "office" to "office under the Crown" in this context, we then really have to go on to consider whether it is, in fact, in law, an office under the Crown, although there could be common agreement between all Members of this House, and the public outside, that the office is of such a character that its holder should be disqualified from membership of the House. An example which occurs to me straight away is that of the Chairman of the British Transport Commission. I do not think that could, be properly regarded as an office under the Crown. Many other examples could be taken.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
That is another example. The Chairman of the British Transport Commission, although not holding an office under the Crown, holds an office the tenure of which this House and people of the country would regard as incompatible with membership of this House. I think it right that we should give very careful consideration to this subsection because I do not think anyone wants the House to have wider powers of amendment or alteration than are absolutely essential. At the same time, I think the Committee requires to see that the House as far as possible should have control over this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) said that in these days so much depends upon whether the Government have a particular view of a particular office. That may or may not be the case, but I venture to think that if the opinion of hon. Members was that tenure of a certain office was incompatible with membership, most Governments would feel compelled to give way to that 1065 feeling on what really is a House of Commons matter.
I apologise to my hon. Friend for not dealing with the point about "under the Crown" when I spoke earlier. There is a valid reason for leaving those words out and not fettering the power of this House in that respect, while we must rely on this House and its successors exercising wide discretion in adding to, or altering, or taking from the contents of the various Schedules.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Attorney-General has convinced me three times over. Having convinced me thrice, he has left just a slight element of doubt in my mind. That is because of the convincing way in which he announced his conversion to the great radical principle of the control of the House of Commons over its membership and its affairs. I am going to test the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If he will be good enough to say that the question of this Bill is a House of Commons matter, and exclusively a House of Commons matter, not a matter for the imposition of the opinion of the Government—in other words, that all the Amendments appearing on the Notice Paper today are to be left to a free vote—I will believe him. If he cannot give me that assurance I shall not believe him.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman seized upon a radical instinct of every hon. Member. Many hon. Members opposite whom one would not suspect of having that feeling do feel that way. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman seized on that argument, I wish to pry a little into the history of this Amendment. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), for whom I have the greatest respect, moved it and I thought that I understood the Amendment. Then we heard the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), and I was quite sure that I did not understand a single word of it. Then we had the Under-Secretary, the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), who spoke with great clarity. If ever I am charged before the courts, and I am innocent, I shall employ him. He laid the facts out, but I was a little suspicious because of the alacrity with which he accepted the Amendment in the name of his right hon. and learned 1066 Friend the Member for Kensington, South.
That made me think for a moment that that Amendment did not appear on the Notice Paper quite by accident. The right hon. and learned Member had performed a very important function on behalf of the Government in putting that Amendment down—why? I quite agree that it is highly desirable that the House should have control over its membership and, therefore, if at any time the Schedules have to be altered that would be better done by Order in Council, although I am suspicious of any more accession of power either to the Crown or to the Executive, which for this purpose, as has been argued, is one and the same.
For the life of me I cannot see why the Government did not spot this earlier and particularly why the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South did not spot it. He was Chairman of the Select Committee and this Bill has been in existence for a long time. Why, at this late stage, are we faced with this Amendment, which clearly does something I should like to see happen and yet, for some reason which I do not think we have yet been told, avoids the inconvenience which might come to the Government if they had to ask the House for legislation as opposed to the simple procedure of a Resolution?
What I think has happened is that the great radical principle of which the Attorney-General has been convinced this afternoon, like Paul on the road to Damascus, had its origin, not in the conversion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to radical principles, but in the Whips' Office. The Patronage Secretary looked at this question and said, "Heigh-ho, these might be a string of these cases. What happens to our timetable then? This Bill had its origin late on a Friday afternoon. It has taken a little time since then and might be another time waster." If I had anything to do with it that would be so, because it seems the function of a back bencher to control the Executive.
I therefore make this offer to the Attorney-General. I will go shoulder to shoulder to the Division Lobby with him on one side and with the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West on the other side—as an escort—if the Attorney-General will say that his conversion to 1067 these great radical principles is not one of expediency but a determination that membership of the House of Commons and control by a Bill like this should not rest with the Executive but on a free vote.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has persuaded me that the original Clause needs more amendment than I first thought, but he has not altogether persuaded me that this Amendment is the Amendment we require. He seemed to think that we shall deal with these cases in future each singly and on its merits, without regard to the generality of other similar cases which we are considering. In fact, of course, we shall consider a whole series of these cases. Each will tend to be judged in relation to our decisions on the other cases.
My right hon. and learned Friend picked out the case of the Chairman of the Transport Commission. Having taken the Chairman, we might then take the Vice-Chairman, then the Deputy Chairmen, then any director, and so on, down the line, until, in time, we should find that we precluded from membership of this House anyone employed by the Transport Commission. We would not get that situation if we had some limiting words because we should reach a point at which the Executive would say, "That would be going beyond the spirit of the Statute." My right hon. and learned Friend knows perfectly well that a Government are never willing to go beyond what they deem themselves authorised to do by an Act.
In this case, there would be no such limit and the practice would always tend in the direction of adding cases. At the moment there is a clear decision that we ought to exclude the senior executives of nationalised industries. As they are excluded there will be no one in this House to speak for them and, therefore, there will always be a tendency to keep out the next lot. I believe that taking off these limits would, in the long run, add very greatly to the disqualifications. That would be an unfortunate tendency.
I am not at all happy about this Clause. I do not like either proposal. The Amendment will probably be carried, but I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter and, on Report, table an Amendment to cover the objec- 1068 tions which have been raised in all parts of the Committee.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Simon
I beg to move, in page 4, line 29, to leave out from the beginning to "be" in line 31, and to insert:Upon the coming into operation of an Order in Council under this section, a copy of the First Schedule to this Act as amended (whether by Order in Council under this section or otherwise) shall".The Amendment is not of the same constitutional interest as the last one. It is only a drafting Amendment. Clause 5 (4) requires the Clerk of the Parliaments to prepare for reprinting by the Queen's Printer copies of the First Schedule as amended by Orders in Council under the Clause.
The Amendment is designed to secure that when the Act is reprinted from time to time the First Schedule shall be reprinted as amended not only by any Order in Council which has been made under the Clause, but also by any legislation of the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland Parliaments. In other words, the intention is that it shall be kept currently up to date whenever it is reprinted. The Schedule may, of course, be amended by legislation abolishing old offices or setting up new ones or altering the names of offices specified in the Schedule. Therefore, it is desirable that each reprint of the Act should embrace all the Amendments to the First Schedule made up to the date of reprinting.
§ Mr. Mitchison
We have no objection to the proposal in principle—the Amendment is, indeed, drafting—but there is one small point at which I should like the Government to look. Some of the Orders in Council may be operative in the future. Indeed, the Bill is, to some extent, operative in the future. The date given is that for the coming into operation of an Order in Council. It seems to me that the right date would be that when the Order is made, if necessary with a note of the date upon which it comes into operation. While I agree that hon. Members who consult the rolls of Parliament are few and far between, this is nevertheless the date which determines the printing of the Schedule, and for that reason it has some practical importance.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.