§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. F. J. Erroll)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
A few days before the outbreak of the Second World War—to be exact, on 24th August, 1939—the House of Commons passed the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act through all its stages in one day, and waited only 50 minutes to hear that it had passed all stages in the Lords and received Royal Assent. I am sure that none of the hon. Members present on that occasion could have thought that more than nineteen years later we should be considering a Bill whose subject matter stems directly from what was started on that day.
The history of emergency legislation is a fascinating but complicated subject, but I do not propose to dwell on the past today. However, it is necessary for me to refer to what has come down to us if hon. Members are to follow more easily the construction of the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Bill and what is contained in it.
Under the original Act and Orders in Council a number of Defence Regulations were made which gave extremely wide powers to the Government. These regulations, in turn, enabled the Government to issue a very large number of Statutory Instruments, or Statutory Rules and Orders, as they were called in those days, covering almost every aspect of the life of the country.
After the war the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act was replaced by the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, and by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act of 1946. Subsequently, year by year numbers of Defence Regulations and Statutory Instruments have been revoked, but certain Defence Regulations still remain.
Perhaps the most important of these are three Defence Regulations: No. 55 which gives general power to control industry for wide purposes; No. 55AA, which empowers the Government to 414 secure the necessary information for these purposes; and No. 55AB which gives power to impose price control of goods and services. The scope of these was limited in 1954, but wide powers to vary that scope still remain.
Although some important powers are still exercised under these regulations, they represent a very small fraction of the sweeping powers which are still potentially available under the regulations. Perhaps the House would like a snapshot of the position as it exists today. Here, I should like to refer hon. Members to the White Paper, Cmnd. 563, which was issued at the same time as the Bill, as I shall be mentioning certain paragraph numbers to avoid making my speech too long.
There are three main branches of emergency legislation, if I, as a layman, might so describe them. The first of these stems from the Supplies and Services Act, 1945, with amending Acts passed in 1947 and 1951. This branch now consists of the 11 Defence Regulations listed in paragraph 11 of the White Paper. and of Section 6 of the 1945 Act. Section 6 extended the powers of the Minister of Supply and is referred to in paragraph 14 of the White Paper. The second branch stems from the Emergency Laws Act, 1946—amended in 1947 —and now consists of the two Defence Regulations described in paragraph 12 of the White Paper. The third branch consists of three emergency laws passed at the beginning of the war, and listed in paragraph 16.
These three emergency laws vary considerably in scope and importance. The Import, Export, and Customs Powers (Defence) Act provides the whole of the powers under which we exercise control over imports and exports for all purposes. The Ships and Aircraft (Transfer Restriction) Act makes it unlawful to transfer or mortgage any ship or to change its port of registry without the consent of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. The Government and other Stocks (Emergency Provisions) Act makes it permissible for certain stocks to be transferred by instrument in writing and extends the time limit for the payment of coupons.
The Government has been reviewing these powers and has reached the following conclusions: first, most of the specific 415 powers must remain; secondly, the wide general powers which have not been required for many years can now be swept away; and, thirdly, those powers which are still required should be specifically re-enacted now, and given a strictly temporary life of five years. During this period the powers can be reviewed, and separate legislation submitted to Parliament, in respect of those which should have a permanent place on our Statute Book.
Before I describe how the Bill achieves these objectives, I should like to remind the House how objectionable it would be for all of us to see emergency legislation, originally passed for wartime purposes, continuing indefinitely in peacetime. Not only does such legislation confer wide and unspecified powers on the Government, but Parliament itself cannot control at all adequately the specific powers which are actually taken under the general powers.
The Bill is therefore an exercise in constitutional propriety. It helps to restore to hon. Members their proper degree of control over the Executive, which ought to be their right in peacetime. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that this is the correct course for us to pursue. No hon. Members will want the House to reconcile itself to the indefinite continuance of wide powers which are kept in reserve by the Government, even though they are not actually used.
Of course, little use has been made of these wide powers for a long time, and this has taken the urgency out of the need to put the powers on a proper basis. Successive Conservative Governments have devoted their energies to reducing controls rather than to revising the powers under which they have been exercised. I said a few minutes ago that the Government had been reviewing the present powers. They are a mixed collection, and although some of them are extremely wide, the powers actually exercised at present are very limited.
Here I should remind the House that all the existing powers, with one exception, will remain in force, by virtue of the Motions which were passed by the House last week, for a further twelve months, or until the present Bill becomes law. The powers which we propose to 416 retain permanently are listed in paragraphs 21 (b) and 22 of the White Paper. That list is a convenient summary of the various powers. I shall describe them in rather more detail when I discuss the Bill itself. In paragraphs 24 to 27 are described the proposed revisions to Section 6 of the Supplies and Services Act, 1945, which dealt with the activities of the Minister of Supply. Our proposals for the three emergency laws are set out in paragraph 23 of the White Paper.
Briefly, we intend to retain the Import, Export and Customs Powers Act unchanged. That is a very important Act. It provides power to control the import of goods into the United Kingdom and the export of goods from the United Kingdom, for whatever reason may be necessary. The replacement of such wide powers by permanent legislation would be a major undertaking.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I do not mean to be tiresome, and I interrupt only to save time in later debate. In this connection, a great many words are necessarily used in a technical sense with which my hon. Friend and some hon. Members opposite have become familiar in the course of their duties but which are not so familiar to the rest of us. It is the business of the House to make sure that it is possible to understand what is happening. For instance, can my hon. Friend tell us exactly what "control" means in the terms of paragraph 23 (a) of the White Paper?
§ Mr. Erroll
I shall be referring to this matter a little later, but I should make it plain that we do not intend to change that Act and so there will be no reference to it in the Bill. Discussion on the control of import and exports would come within a debate on that Act.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
There is some ambiguity about this. I refer the hon. Gentleman to paragraph 16 of the White Paper, which says:… there are three Acts of Parliament which will be terminated individually when an Order in Council is made declaring at an end the state of emergency which led to the passing of that particular Act.Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that no Order in Council will be made declaring at an end the state of emergency which called these Acts into being?
§ Mr. Erroll
No. All I am saying at the moment is that we intend to retain this Act unchanged. Therefore, at present it could be brought to an end only by the procedure mentioned in paragraph 16 of the White Paper, namely, by an Order in Council. I am speaking of the Import, Export and Customs Powers Act, because although we propose to retain it unchanged, it is one of the important parts of our emergency legislation, and no discussion of emergency legislation would be complete without some reference to it.
As I was saying, the replacement of these powers by permanent legislation would be a major undertaking. For instance, it would involve definition of the various purposes for which import and export controls were at present exercised and which might be economic, strategic, or humanitarian. It would also involve a review of all the commodities at present subject to control. It might make it possible for me to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) if I point out that we are not proposing to make any change here, so it would not be appropriate for me at greater length to discuss the exact meaning of the word "control" in relation to this Act.
I emphasise that in any case we shall have to review the present legislation when negotiations for a Free Trade Area have been completed in order to take account of the new situation which would then arise. It would obviously be premature to undertake new legislation on this subject until we know the outcome of those negotiations.
We propose to retain permanently the provision in the Government and other Stocks (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, which enables transfers to be made by written instrument. This is a help to those dealing with certain stocks rather than a Government power. The other provision of that Act, which relates to the time limit on coupons, will be repealed. The third Act, the Ships and Aircraft (Transfer Restriction) Act, 1939, will be severely pruned, the powers being limited to purposes of defence. I will return to that Act when I am dealing with the Bill in detail.
I expect that so far this has been heavy going for hon. Members. It certainly has been so for me, but I hope that what I have said so far will make an explanation of the Bill itself somewhat easier. The 418 Bill gives no new powers and restores no emergency Acts or Defence Regulations which have already been done away with, apart from two small and relatively trivial exceptions. The House need therefore have no fear that Amendments can be tacked on to the Bill in any way to restore the powers which Parliament has already done away with. Thus, for example, controls on building have been done away with and can be restored only by new legislation specifically for the purpose.
Mr. Niall Macnermot (Lewisham, North)
That was so before this Bill. It should be made clear that it was quite unnecessary to pass this Bill in order to make it necessary to come back to the House to bring in new legislation on building control.
§ Mr. Erroll
I accept the hon. Member's point. Controls on building were maintained by Defence Regulation 56A, which was revoked in 1954, and there is no power to make a new Defence Regulation. I mention this only as one example of the type of thing which could not be written back into the Bill during a later stage of its passage through the House.
§ Mr. Erroll
It would be a matter for the rules of order and certain other processes.
Although I have given an example of a control which could not be restored, I would remind the House that, on the other hand, capital issues control, import control and foreign exchange control are maintained by other powers and are not affected by the Bill.
I hope the House will agree that the simplest way of referring to the powers that we propose to retain will be to mention them in the order in which they appear in the Bill, because I can then describe the construction of the Bill and the powers that we retain in a logical sequence. The powers that we propose to retain are listed for convenience in paragraphs 21 to 23 and paragraph 27 of the White Paper.
I now turn to the Bill itself. Clause 1 repeals the substance of the Supplies and Services Acts, and the Emergency Laws Acts, together with the Orders in 419 Council made under them. That done, the Bill proceeds in Clause 2 (1) to specify the five substantive Defence Regulations which nevertheless must remain in force, together with the ancillary regulations referred to in Appendix A of the White Paper. But in subsection (2) the Bill imposes limitations on the powers which may be exercised under these regulations. These changes are all set out in the First Schedule.
Subsection (3) specifies that the regulations shall accordingly have force in the amended form set out in the Second Schedule. This Schedule is really for convenience. In it are all the regulations in the form they will have if the Amendments in the First Schedule are approved by the House. Once the Bill is law, there will thus be no need for anyone to refer back to previous regulations or earlier legislation. The Second Schedule will be the new and limited body of regulations specifically passed by Parliament. It will be possible to make new Orders under the legislation so enshrined in the Second Schedule. Subsection (6) therefore specifies that such orders would be subject to negative Resolution. There is one exception to this, to which I will refer later.
I might best describe Clause 3 as being the Ministry of Supply Clause. It continues temporarily in modified form, the powers of the Minister of Supply conferred on him by Section 6 of the Supplies and Services Act, 1945. The subsections of this important Clause enable the Minister to supply defence material to overseas Governments—the reference being subsection (2) paragraphs (a) and (b)—and allows him to dispose of the surpluses of any Government Department—paragraphs (c) and (d).
Paragraph (e) permits the Minister to undertake civil work in the Royal Ordnance Factories. The Minister of Supply already has powers under the Ministry of Supply Act, 1939, to seek and undertake such civil work as he may need to keep together labour and management that must be retained for defence purposes. In addition, the wide powers under Section 6 of the 1945 Act have enabled the Minister to make Royal Ordnance Factory capacity available to supplement a shortage of capacity in industry. The Bill continues this power, but subject to certain safeguards. These are, that the Minister must be asked to 420 undertake the work by a producer of the goods concerned; the work must be within the existing capacity of the factories, and the Minister must be satisfied that it is in the public interest for the work to be undertaken.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
The hon. Gentleman says that the Minister must be asked by a producer, but is it not the case that a customer can ask?
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Could the Minister explain why it should be "producer" and not "customers"?
§ Mr. Erroll
In order to supplement a shortage of capacity in industry. The people who are in the best position to know that there is a shortage of capacity are those engaged in a certain industry.
§ Mr. Erroll
It means what the words say.
Perhaps I may continue with the important part of paragraph (e). It also gives the Minister of Supply additional powers to undertake civil research. The research and experimental facilities that the Minister has to maintain for defence purposes may not always be fully employed on defence work. Some of these facilities are not matched elsewhere in this country, and it is obviously in the public interest that any temporary surplus of capacity should be used, wherever and whenever it is needed, for civil work that will benefit industry. The proposed new powers will enable this to be done.
Although I said that this was a Ministry of Supply Clause, it also affects the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Paragraph (e) defines what civil work the Minister of Supply may carry out. Is there any- thing there which would apply to price 421 control? Can he carry out work in competition with civilian producers, irrespective of the price that he charges and irrespective of the fact that the buyer may be able to buy much cheaper elsewhere?
§ Mr. Erroll
The safeguard in this matter is that the Minister must be asked by the producer to undertake this work.
The interest of the Board of Trade in Clause 3 arises because the operations of the Jute Control are also authorised under Section 6 of the 1945 Act, the power having been transferred from the Supply Ministry to the Board of Trade under the terms of the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act, 1946. The Bill leaves unchanged for a further five years the present statutory authority for this control. This is the only power which the Government propose to retain under emergency legislation to trade in commodities.
In Clause 4 we turn to ships and aircraft, or rather only to ships, since the Ships and Aircraft (Transfer Restrictions) Act now applies only to ships. The reason for this is that the licensing of aircraft is now carried out by the Board of Trade and the power in this Act has been repealed. The Act is now to continue only until the end of 1964, and not as at present until such time as an Order in Council is made bringing it to an end. The effect of this Clause is to permit freely the transfer of ships to and from the British flag, unless there are overriding reasons of defence. This is an important change which, we believe, should be welcome to all shipowners.
I should now like to interest the House in the First Schedule. Paragraph 1 limits Defence Regulation 55, that is, the regulation which gives general powers to control industry, to four specified topics. I will mention them in order and then refer to them in more detail one by one. They are strategic controls of overseas merchanting transactions and of the construction of ships; hire purchase; welfare food services including the school milk scheme; and the control of any commodity in the event of the interruption of supplies from overseas.
The strategic controls supplement those which are exercised over exports from this country under the Import, Export and 422 Customs Powers (Defence) Act. They enable the Government to control sales by merchants resident in the United Kingdom of goods which do not touch this country at all. They also enable a shipbuilder to make sure, by obtaining a licence, that he will be able to export any ship which he builds to foreign order.
As the House knows, the previous restrictions on hire purchase agreements were removed a fortnight ago because in the present climate of easier credit they had become unnecessary. The power to reintroduce them must, however, be retained in view of their importance as part of the machinery for the control of credit. The control over welfare foods is necessary so that they may be distributed to particular classes of beneficiary, either at subsidised prices or without charge. These foods comprise liquid milk, National Dried Milk, concentrated orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamin tablets.
The fourth power is a precautionary one which the Government feel they must have. The House will realise how dependent we are in this country in respect of vital commodities of more than one kind on supplies from areas which have been afflicted by the international political instability which has prevailed since the war—[ Laughter.]—I took a lot of trouble over that one.
Supplies might be interrupted without warning and some form of restriction might have to be exercised quickly. Nevertheless, because we have insisted on affirmative Resolution in this case, Parliamentary control in such a situation is ensured by the provision contained in Clause 2 (6, a) of the Bill that any order made in the exercise of this power must be approved by Resolution of each House.
§ Mr. Erroll
No, it is not amendable.
Paragraph 6 of the First Schedule deals with Defence Regulation 55AA, which empowers the Government to secure information. It specifies in paragraph (b) that information may be obtained only for those powers which will be exercisable under Defence Regulation 55 and Defence Regulation 55AB as limited by the Bill. Additionally, information will be obtainable from those 423 supplying medical supplies and services under the National Health Service Acts in order to enable fair prices and reasonable remuneration to be determined. These powers have not been used. Our aim has always been, and will remain, to proceed by negotiation. But the information is necessary to the administration of the service and the power to secure it must therefore be retained.
§ Mr. Jay
May I ask what this means in plain English, because the hon. Gentleman has not really explained it. So far as concerns price control under Regulation 55AB, does this mean that the power of price control is now abolished in all cases other than that of milk and welfare foods specified in the previous order?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am coming to Defence Regulation 55AB and I hope I shall be able to deal with that point.
Defence Regulation 55AB, gives the Government power to control prices. I invite hon. Members to look at paragraph 9, because that paragraph of the Schedule restricts this power to welfare foods, medical supplies, liquid milk and any commodity which may have to be rationed because of an interruption of supplies from overseas. These will be the only powers of price control still remaining.
Price control of welfare foods and of any rationed commodity is, of course, linked with the control and distribution exercised under Defence Regulation 55, and I have nothing to add to what I have said about that regulation. The two, naturally, must march together. It is necessary to keep in reserve the power to control the price of medical supplies although, as I have said, our aim is to proceed by negotiation.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
Will my hon. Friend say what the Government would do if some supplies were too expensive? What happens in that case?
§ Mr. Erroll
As I have said, the control of the price of the items I have mentioned will be the only power of Government price control which will remain.
§ Mr. Erroll
It is necessary, as I say, to keep in reserve the power to control 424 the price of medical supplies, although our aim is to proceed by negotiation.
The need to control the price of liquid milk arises from the existing price guarantees. The Milk Marketing Boards are guaranteed a fixed return on a standard quantity of milk. Effective control is necessary to ensure that prices are fixed at levels which are fair both to the Exchequer and to the consumer.
I have not yet referred to the remaining two of the five substantive Defence Regulations which we propose should remain in force. Defence (Finance) Regulation 2A enables the Treasury to control transactions between residents of the sterling area, and also transactions in gold and Treasury bills held in the United Kingdom for residents outside the United Kingdom. These powers are supplementary to those given by the Exchange Control Act, 1947. The Regulation is kept in force by Clause 2 (1,b) of the Bill.
Lastly, there is Defence (Armed Forces) Regulation 6, which gives power to employ troops, if necessary, on agricultural or other urgent work of national importance. This regulation is kept in force by Clause 2 (1,d) of the Bill.
I am sure that the House will not expect me in a Second Reading speech of a Bill covering so many diverse topics to argue the case in greater detail for each of the particular controls and powers retained. I have tried to outline the purpose behind the Bill, to explain its structure, and only to refer briefly to the individual powers which are being retained. When my right hon. and learned Friend, the Solicitor-General has seen the course the debate takes, he will, in his winding up speech, explain the need for such powers as have been most referred to by hon. Members during the debate.
Before I sit down, perhaps I may be allowed to quote from a speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) in this House on 3rd September, 1939. His words are very apposite today.
§ Mr. MacDermot
Will the hon. Gentleman say a word about the Import-Export Customs Powers Defence Act, 1939? A point on this was raised by his hon. Friend earlier.
§ Mr. Erroll
I thought that I had gone straight on to deal with that point. I 425 turned round and indicated that what I had further said would, I hoped, be of assistance to him.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford said then:In these last few days the House of Commons has been voting dozens of Bills which hand over to the executive our most dearly valued traditional liberties … we look forward to the day, surely and confidently we look forward to the day when our liberties and rights will be restored to us …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 3rd September, 1939; Vol. 351, c. 296.]It is in this spirit that I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading today.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I think that this is the maiden speech of the Economic Secretary in his new capacity, or am I wrong?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
His maiden major speech then, if that is not a mixture of metaphor which is rather dangerous and I should like to congratulate him, very much on the fact that he has achieved the almost impossible feat of making a non-controversial speech on a very controversial Bill. He achieved this by doggedly telling us what was in the Bill without venturing on any explanation of why it is in the Bill, or, indeed, of defending or explaining anything. By this means one can contrive to be non-controversial, and we are very grateful for the trouble he took to put the legalistic aspects of the Bill before us. I hope that his right hon. and learned Friend will not confine himself to telling us what the legal language in the Bill means but will tell us why some of the things are being done, because there are points which we shall raise. There are sharp differences between the two sides of the House on this Measure. Perhaps, to clarify these differences, I had better start by saying what I think is the element of common ground between us.
We are in favour of all emergency powers being put into a statutory form, and we are also in favour of the exercise of any emergency power being brought in appropriate form before Parliament for discussion and consent. On these general principles we are in agreement. 426 It is not on that that we object to the Bill. We object to its motive, purpose, method and the results which will flow from it.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
No, we do not like it.
As to the motives, the most advertised motive was, of course, that given by the Lord Privy Seal at the annual meeting of the Central Council of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, when he said that it was the intention to prevent:a Socialist state being brought in. as it were, by the flick of a switch".This is the most advertised motive. The right hon. Gentleman's metaphor irresistibly calls up a picture to me of a mischievous little boy sneaking off to the cupboard under the stairs to pull a fuse in order to throw the grown-ups in the front room into darkness. That is the picture he has painted of himself, forgetting, of course, that it is very easy to replace a fuse.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I do not suppose that that was the right hon. Gentleman's motive, but it may have been.
This argument of the right hon. Gentleman about a flick of the switch, of course, presupposes a Labour victory. There would be no point in doing this if he were not sure that the successor Government would be a different Government, and we are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for revealing, in this way, the true state of mind of the leaders of the party opposite. This argument that it is right to try to tie and hamper a successor Government is typical of the arrogant Tory assumption that they have a divine right to rule, however the people of the country vote. They used to rely on the Lords to do this for them, so that they could go on with a great deal of control of things when in opposition. Their Lordships' wings have been somewhat clipped and now the Government are attempting to do this by using this method.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
When hon. Members opposite are in office they are the masters, but what the Conservatives are trying to do are to be the masters when they are defeated. Of course, the Government of the day are the masters. That is our proposition, but the Government, when they have been defeated, are no longer the masters.
The Economic Secretary used one extraordinary phrase about the Bill. He said that it was an exercise in constitutional propriety. One thing which is fairly well agreed in all quarters who have been commenting on the Bill is its constitutional impropriety.
The Times, in a leading article on the 29th October—and its criticism here is of some significance, because it favours the main purpose of the Bill—went on to say:But to declare that they are doing this to prevent a Socialist Government, should they have been voted in, from carrying out their purpose is to give a bad reason. If a Socialist Government were returned to office, it would have been by the will of the people. And however wholeheartedly the British voter fights the party battle at Election time, he is experienced enough to know that the country has to be governed. He is not inclined to like Government moves designed purely for the purpose of making things more difficult for a possible successor. We have heard far too much about the ' flick of the switch ' which the Conservatives are going to make possible.This attempt to tie the hands of a successor Government is not only unconstitutional, but it will be ineffective. Parliamentary democracy is far too tough and flexible to be tied up and shackled in this way, and frustrated by these mean little demands of the Lord Privy Seal.
The basic principle of our parliamentary democracy which distinguishes it from other types is that the will of the people is very quickly and smoothly translated into effect. This Bill as the Manchester Guardian pointed out is only a matchstick of a lance, but it will not work from the point of view of trying to stop us doing the things when we come in which the people have returned us to do.
The main motive for the timing of the Bill, and largely the motive for the Bill at all, is, of course, due to the General Election. It is very hard to find anything these days which the Government do that is not due to short-run election calculations. If they had a really genuine desire to deal with all this emergency 428 legislation and to put it into constitutional form, it should have been done much earlier.
There is no reason why what they are doing today should not have been done two, three or four years ago if they had had a genuine desire to do it. They have suddenly discovered that it is urgent to do it, because they think that it will help them in preparing their propaganda for the General Election. There is a good deal of window-dressing in this Bill and the White Paper and about the guidance which the Government are clearly giving to the Press. They have deliberately tried to give the impression that very much more radical changes have been made than are, in fact, in the Bill. The White Paper is peppered with phrases likesweep away emergency legislation.The effort has been to paint the Conservative Party as a liberty-loving party which will take great risks for liberty and all the rest of it.
First, as the hon. Gentleman said, exchange control is maintained intact, import-export control is maintained intact and hire purchase is maintained intact. Of the 13 substantive Defence Regulations with which the White Paper deals, 10 are to be either retained or replaced by other legislation. Only three are lapsing under the Bill, and the only really important one of those three is the Order which will get rid of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, which is a very bad decision on the part of the Government and about which I want to say something later. That is what the liberty about which the Government are talking amounts to.
The Government are sweeping away the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. That is the purpose of the whole structure of this Bill and out of that they are trying to create the impression that they are a great liberty-loving Government. Some of the powers which they have retained are most extraordinary. Why do we have to retain by Defence Regulation the power to allow the presumed 1 lb. loaf to contain only 14 oz. thirteen years after the end of the war? To have this legislation in order to allow such a fraud to be put over is a most extraordinary thing. I do not know how it squares—
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
It is the result of the bread rationing introduced in the days of the Labour Government. Seven goes into 14 or 28, and it is necessary to have these divisions because the machinery for doing it was devised to conform with the bread rationing of that time.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Since that time we have had a long period of Conservative rule. I should have thought it proper to allow the 14 oz. loaf to be called a 14 oz. loaf. The effect of the Order is to pass it off as a 1 lb. loaf. That is why the Government are retaining the power thirteen years after the war. It is something which, had we been in power, we should have swept away long ago.
The purpose of over-painting the liberalising effect of the Tory Party is to try to paint the Labour Party as one which wants restrictions and controls, which wants to push people about and wants to impose restrictions on personal liberty. This aspect of the Bill, as the Manchester Guardian pointed out, is reminiscent of the Gestapo speeches of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—this is not my comparison; it comes from the Manchester Guardian—which helped us so much in 1945. Of course, the attempt of the present Bill to do the same thing will have the same boomerang effect.
Although we must dismiss the attempt to pass the Bill off as a great charter of liberty, it is, none the less, for doctrinaire party reasons, a Measure that will do a great deal of damage to the interests of the nation. One can illustrate this by a great many provisions of the Bill, and I do not doubt that my hon. Friends will take up a good many of these. Indeed, we shall have to take them up very much more closely during the Committee stage.
I want only to deal with two of the provisions before I come to the main cleavage betwen us on principle. The first is the apparent removal of the power of the Government to conclude any bulk purchase or long-term agreement with a Commonwealth country. As I understand, this power will cease to exist when the Bill becomes law. Any Government of the future will be denied the power to conclude such agreements. The fact that the Government are deliberately 430 taking away this power from themselves and from their successors illustrates the great gap that exists between the words and the deeds of hon. Members opposite about Commonwealth development.
The other point is the ending of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. That can be attacked from many points, and I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends who know much more about it than I do will attack it from many points. As I understand, there will be a later occasion on which we can debate the matter, because an Order will be necessary.
The Minister of Labour has flouted the long-established principle of his office in this connection. The right hon. Gentleman has a duty to both sides to show impartiality and to bring both sides together in any disagreement. All this he has violated. The Trades Union Congress has publicly complained that there was not full consultation of the sort which it expected and which it was used to. For eight months there was not a word from the Minister about this, and then, suddenly, there is an announcement that he has decided the matter on the side of the employers.
As regards the merits of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, it seems to be beyond doubt that it has been an extremely valuable supplement to the normal methods of collective bargaining. It has done a great deal to enhance respect for constitutional methods and procedures. There have been very few references to the Tribunal. [Interruption.] Most of these problems, as no doubt the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) knows, are settled by free collective bargaining. This is a supplement, though a very important supplement. It has not led to wild demands, as shown by the actual decisions and awards given by the Tribunal. The compulsory arbitration is specially valuable to various kinds of trade unions. The National Union—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
In reply to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), is it not worth while stating, too, that no decisions of this Tribunal have given rise to actual industrial disputes, or have been ignored or turned down by the trade unions concerned?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is very important. They have helped to avoid the danger of disputes on a number of occasions.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not think that my remarks were heard upstairs? What I sought to say was that the existence of a compulsory arbitration tribunal award is a direct invitation to the organisers of a wage claim to put in a more or less irresponsible claim knowing that about half of it will be granted under the compulsory arbitration award.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
It would have been better, I think, if the noble Lord's words had not been heard upstairs. To attack a responsible Tribunal in this way without any evidence is really a highly irresponsible thing to do. The noble Lord reflected gravely on the Tribunal, and on the people who take issues before it. None the less, there is no doubt that for some unions this method is of particular value and that its withdrawal, if it is withdrawn, will affect them very gravely.
There is the National Union of Public Employees and there is also the National Association of Local Government Officers, which has made very powerful cases for its retention. The benefits of the Tribunal have also been recognised by the local authorities who have made it clear to the Minister of Labour that they would like to see compulsory arbitration continued in the field of local government.
This Order has given some help to unions like the National Union of Bank Employees, who very often still have to meet behaviour and attitudes on the part of their employers that disappeared over the greater part of industry years ago. The Order has enabled the union, in some cases and to some degree, to get recognition when it has organised a substantial number of employees.
The most important aspect of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal's work has, of course, been the issues procedure by which recalcitrant minority employers can be brought into line with national agreements arrived at. The Trades Union Congress attaches immense importance to the maintenance of the issues procedure.
432 The Minister has indicated his intention apparently to go on talking, but he has not given any hint of a change of mind. It is clear that there will not be time to introduce a new Bill on the Industrial Disputes Tribunal during this Session. Therefore, when this Order runs out, the Tribunal is bound to lapse and there will not be time to replace it with a Bill that could take its place. This makes it look as if the Minister is just trying to talk out time.
The Times, on 10th November, gave a very significant report in its own words, when it said:The Trades Union Congress are suspicious of the Minister's motives in keeping the issues question open. They feel that to go on talking will enable the Government to avoid the odium of having abandoned the principle but can lead to no results.That such an attitude as that has been allowed to grow up is a very grave reflection on the way that the present Minister of Labour is conducting his duties. This is a grave example in an important field of how a Minister of Labour ought not to behave.
The major issue is not, as Conservatives will try to make out, whether there should be controls or not. Great powers of control remain, such as exchange control, import and export control, and hire-purchase control. They are all physical controls. It is no good the Government saying that they do not believe in physical controls. They have kept power for physical controls and have, until recently, been using one of the most powerful physical controls, that on hire purchase. This fact destroys the main doctrinaire argument of the Government. If they keep these physical controls in hand, why should there not be others? They cannot maintain that it is wrong to have physical controls at their disposal. They are themselves keeping these physical controls in reserve.
The true argument is not whether these powers should be in reserve, but whether it is right, as in this Bill, to abrogate the power to vary the Defence Regulations that remain. The Bill retains these five important Defence Regulations, but takes away the existing power to vary them by issuing a new Order under them. That is the real purpose and the whole paraphernalia of the Bill. It freezes the powers under these regulations in their present form.
433 This, in general principle, is very dangerous. It is impossible to foresee situations that may arise. The present Government introduced Suez petrol rationing and hire-purchase control under Defence Regulation 55. Those were classical examples of Government by a flick of the switch. At the flick of a switch there was hire-purchase control, and petrol rationing after Suez. If the Government had introduced this Bill two or three years ago, before Suez, and before there was need for hire-purchase control, they would not have included those powers, because the powers would have been frozen at their then existing level. The Government would have said, "These are the powers we are using and the only powers we shall need to use". Then, if they had produced their Suez petrol rationing and the need for hire-purchase control, they would not have been able to put them into force.
The same situation can arise again. No Government can be so sure about what sort of power of this kind they may need if there is a sudden emergency, not only for external but for internal reasons. The need for hire-purchase control did not arise from external reasons, but from things that were happening primarily in this country. All Governments must have powers for dealing reasonably quickly with such situations, as the Government did with petrol rationing after Suez. They should be based on legislative and statutory foundations and there should be proper means of obtaining the consent of Parliament. To take those powers away altogether is dangerous in principle.
We object to the Bill not because we want unlimited powers; we certainly do not want them. We think that these emergency powers should be embodied in legislation and limited to the purposes laid down in the legislation. On the other hand, the Bill is a deliberate attempt by the Government to hamper, as far as possible, the next Labour Government. We do not want powers to govern by decree—that does not worry us; those powers do not exist, in any case—or to impose restrictions on personal freedom or the private lives of people. What we want is a few key controls which are necessary to expand the economy with 434 stable prices and to develop the economy of the Commonwealth. We want that power, which is being taken away by the Bill.
We want any powers that we might use to be subject to parliamentary discussion and consent, but we want powers that can be used quickly if they have to be used quickly. There certainly should be a reserve power to control certain prices, perhaps temporarily, to preserve price stability. There might be some temporary factors which affected price stability, and price control over a short period might well be able to preserve that price stability. That cannot be done under the terms of the Bill. We should have to go all the way up and down again, and it might need weeks or months. Every Government should have power, properly defined, for price control in those conditions.
I see that the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South is writing. He has probably written down, "If you have price control you have rationing."
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
That is absolute nonsense. If the noble Lord intends to use that argument let me give him two reasons why it is nonsense. Bread was long price controlled without being rationed. Milk is price controlled today without being rationed. It is not in the least necessary that there should be rationing because there is price control. It is one of the Conservative myths.
§ Mr. Osborne
This is a rather important matter. The two examples given by the right hon. Gentleman are commodities the demand for which is not dependent on price. It would be idiotic to ration them.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Of course it would be idiotic to do so. One would use price control on commodities where it would be sensible to do so, but not where there was a wholly elastic demand. One would be sensible. No one would use price controls over a whole lot of 435 fields. I am saying that it is possible to use them and not to be involved in rationing. I can assure the hon. Member for Louth that we would be very sensible if we had to use price control just as the present Government are when they use it on milk.
The chief reason why we want these new powers is to get away from the only two alternatives that face the present Government because of their refusal to use the controls which they have retained the power to use. Those alternatives are either the uncontrolled boom of the Lord Privy Seal, or the damping down of everything and the economic stagnation of the last three years. We do not want one alternative or the other. We want to get away from them, but we know that there is no way to do it except by a number of key, selective controls which will enable us to distinguish between different sorts of economic activity and therefore to expand, without the whole economy getting out of hand and out of control.
Some of these powers already exist, of course, and are not to be affected by the Bill. We will probably need power to license industrial building. This is necessary for a balanced economy, and necessary, also, if we want to direct labour into the pockets of unemployment. There is not a more efficient lever to do this thing. If the Government wanted to do it—[HON. MEMBERS: "To direct labour?"] I beg hon. Members' pardon. I meant to say "direct industry". I am sorry that I said "labour". I meant the factories where labour is out of work. I am grateful to hon. Members for pointing that out.
We are certainly opposed to the Bill and we will fight every detail of it very strongly on Committee. We think that it restricts powers which are needed to maintain full employment, with stable prices, and which will be needed if we want to develop the Commonwealth economy. We think that the Bill attempts to deny to the Labour Government that will follow this Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that is the purpose of the Bill—powers that will enable us to restore full employment and that will increase and not hamper individual freedom and liberty.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I can follow the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) for a short time, but it would be a waste of the time of the House to debate here who will follow the present Government. We on this side of the House are certain we know. We think it will be many years before hon. Members opposite come across to this side.
§ Mr. Doughty
In part of his speech, the right hon. Member for Smethwick gave away what I think is really in the back of the minds of the Opposition in this matter. He started his speech in a moderate way and said that substantially the Opposition would not require a Government to have a lot of Emergency Regulations. Then we heard the old words trotted out which we have not heard for many years, price control, control of industrial building and bulk purchase. It is perfectly obvious that once a Government starts on a course of price control they have to have controls and rationing. In order to make that work, they have to have subsidies as well throughout the length and breadth of the economy.
Once that is combined with the Government going into business and buying and selling commodities under a longterm contract—which after all, is what bulk purchase means—we get State trading and the Government of the day having to come to the House to obtain the necessary finance to pay for the losses they invariably make upon such misguided efforts. We always knew what Socialists meant and we have been reminded by the right hon. Member today of the fallacies which lie, and continue to lie, in that philosophy.
It is really rather extraordinary that thirteen years after the war we should be discussing measures of this kind. The powers which were originally given to make these Regulations were given under an Act of 1939, which was many years ago. It was no doubt very necessary that during wartime the Executive should have powers to make sweeping regulations controlling all aspects of life in this country. It was very necessary, 437 also, that they should be able to do so without having to come to this House every time to get a Bill through Parliament; but that does not apply in peacetime.
Is the Opposition going to oppose this Bill in the Division Lobby and have it said, as it will be said, that it likes government by regulation? It will be said that it likes making regulations without having them discussed in the House—regulations of the most sweeping kind. That is the obvious corollary if the Opposition votes against the Bill. We much prefer, where necessary regulations and restrictions are required, that they should be fully debated in this House and only passed if the House approves.
At the end of the war, in 1945, there were hundreds of these regulations, and no doubt they were very necessary. Often it was difficult to follow them because they covered every aspect of national life and national trade. In October, 1951—a very important date in the history of this country—there were still no fewer than 215 Defence Regulations in force. It has always been the policy of this Government to reduce that number progressively as fast, as reasonably and as properly as that could be done. In December, 1957—less than a year ago—there were only 42 in force and now there are only 13 in force. Although the White Paper points out that there are 25 ancillary Defence Regulations, which are of no importance, substantially there are only 13 in force.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Does the hon. and learned Member overlook the fact that his Government introduced two new Defence Regulations in 1955–56?
§ Mr. Doughty
They were very necessary at the time. If the hon. Member does a little elementary arithmetic, he will see that the reduction from 215 to 13 represents a very rapid and considerable diminution. Of the 13 now in force, five will be replaced by proper legislation which will cover the questions involved. Three of them are to lapse, and this Bill is concerned only with the remaining five.
I say at once that although I have read the Bill, like all hon. Members I suppose, it is only with the assistance of the White Paper and the very clear explanation given by my hon. Friend that one is able 438 to follow this matter closely because so many regulations are referred to. Therefore, to help us to get the full meaning of the matter, we are very grateful for the White Paper. Of the five remaining regulations the three which really affect us very much in this country are Regulations 55, 55AA and 55AB. If one looks at the substance of those regulations one can see what powers any Government would have to take if those regulations were taken away. Regulation 55 provides among other things:… for regulating or prohibiting the production, treatment, keeping, storage, movement, transport, distribution, disposal, acquisition, use or consumption of articles of any description' and ' for any incidental and supplementary matters for which the competent authority thinks it expedient for the purposes of the order to provide '.Does anyone seriously suggest that those all-embracing comprehensive powers are necessary for any Government today, or that they will be in the foreseeable future? Regulation 55AB Provides:… for controlling the prices to be charged for goods of any description or the charges to be made for services of any description and for any incidental or supplementary matters for which the competent authority thinks it necessary to provide.I am sure that no Government would seek to do so, but under those two regulations a Government could go into business on its own account and at, the same time, control the prices of competitors in the same line of business. That does not make sense, at least not to hon. Members on this side of,the House. The White Paper says:Regulation 55AA empowers a competent authority to require the keeping of such books, accounts and records and to furnish such estimates, returns or information as it may prescribe. Until the passing in November, 1954 of the Defence Regulations (No. 9) Order these powers were, broadly speaking, unrestricted: though Regulation 55 and 55AA had to be used for the purposes specified in the Supplies and Services Acts of 1945, 1947 and 1951, those purposes are themselves extremely wide, Para 1 (1) (c) of the Act of 1947 sums up the economic purposes by specifying that the Regulations may be usedThat is, of course, according to the views of the Government of the day and that would cover any single matter.'generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community.'
§ Mr. Doughty
On anyone's view, and it may be one view to close down any section of work. This appeals to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but I am sure that it appeals to no one else.
It is necessary to retain a very limited number of those controls. I am sure I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but, as I understand it, the only ones now retained are strategic controls. We know that, unfortunately, that is necessary today. I hope, as every hon. Member hopes, that the "cold war" will come to an end and that we can then remove strategic controls, but, so long as it continues, any Government will require to keep controls upon the export of strategic materials.
§ Mr. Doughty
Because we do not want people who at the moment are not particularly friendly to us to have the means by which they can demonstrate their unfriendliness.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
So the hon. and learned Member concedes that where the interests of the community are concerned in wartime the powers are necessary and advisable for a Government to have, but where the interests of the community are concerned in peacetime he wants to abandon the lot.
§ Mr. Doughty
I hoped I was going into some detail on those I want abandoned and some I do not want abandoned. So far I have covered some we want abandoned and perhaps the hon. Member will listen to what I have to say. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that I began by saying that in wartime the very widest powers are necessary.
§ Mr. Doughty
They are necessary in order to win the war.
The control of hire purchase is one of the financial controls which, so long as we have the financial difficulties that we have had in the past, it will be necessary to retain, though I hope that in the course of a few years we can remove that 440 one as well. Again, the controls on welfare foods and on essential goods from overseas, when the supply is interrupted, as in the case of oil supplies from abroad, is necessary. Similarly, in the case of the sale of school milk in one-third pint bottles, and another one in regard to the special weight of bread which, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman opposite, is a relic of bread rationing under the Labour Government. With allocations of two oz. or four oz. a day, since seven goes into 14 and 28, the appropriate machinery was installed for that purpose in the bakeries, and, short of the bakers obtaining new machinery, it is necessary to retain this power.
§ Mr. Doughty
Private enterprise can install new machinery, but the present machinery is working extremely well, and it does not seem necessary to incur the additional capital expenditure.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The hon. and learned Gentleman does not realise that this has nothing to do with machinery. It has to do with whether we can call a 14 oz. loaf a 16 oz. loaf, and what the Government are taking powers to do is just that. Why not sell a 14 oz loaf as a 14 oz. loaf?
§ Mr. Doughty
I am sure that if anybody asks they would be told what the weight of the loaf was.
The limitations of Regulation 55AB are limitations on price control only on articles that are enumerated in Regulation 55, including liquid milk and medical supplies. I have nothing to say about medical supplies, but I would remind hon. Members opposite, who seemed surprised when my hon. Friend said that these were to be retained, that he said that he intended to do it only by negotiation. If we are to negotiate, it is always clearly to the national advantage to be able to say, "If you do not agree, we have the power to make an Order regulating these prices." On matters of that kind, where the Government are directly concerned, it is important, because we are paying some of the cost.
By the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, any Government or Ministry can buy, sell or manufacture a very wide, and indeed almost 441 unlimited range of goods for anything they wish to do, and that power is, in fact, going. While I have no doubt that there is no danger of this being done by any Government, these powers should be cut down as far as possible.
There is one further small point that I should like to make. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend, when he winds up the debate, will tell us why It is that in Clause 3 (2,f) of the Bill it is necessary to maintain control on—jute, jute bags, jute cloth and jute yarn.I am sure that there is a good reason, but, as I do not know it myself, I should like to know what it is.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Harry Hylton-Foster)
I should like to dispose of that at once, because I doubt whether the House desires to discuss that separate topic. It is, quite frankly, for the protection of the jute trade, and has been given, pending some other way of protecting it. As far as I recall, the House accepted that proposition quite a long time ago.
§ The Solicitor-General
I should not like to answer more than one hon. Member at the moment, but, if necessary, I will do so at a later stage.
§ Mr. Doughty
I am very much obliged for that prompt reply of my right hon. and learned Friend to the query which I raised.
I welcome the Bill and I hope that the House will support it on Second Reading. I welcome the abrogation of every Defence Regulation which is possible, because I think that if any Government want to impose restrictive controls of any kind upon the people of this country, this is the place where we should have the opportunity of deciding whether or not it should be done, and that it should only be done after discussion, certainly not in peacetime behind the scenes, when we have no power to criticise, on any particular matter, a Government which lays clown such restrictions. For these reasons, I welcome the Bill and will certainly support its Second Reading.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Lewisham. North)
I feel sure that we are going to find a great difference in the presenta- 442 tion of this Bill and its contents to the country in the propaganda of the party opposite from that which we have had from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury today. The hon. Gentleman, by sticking very closely indeed to his brief, by his brief sticking very closely to the Bill and by introducing a minimum of comments, was able, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, to be non controversial.
I think it right that we should address our minds to what is the real object for which the Bill has been introduced, and my submission to the House is that the presentation of the Bill and its objects, certainly to the public at large, is—I do not like to use the word "hypocritical" —certainly highly misleading, that it is quite unnecessary in its timing, and is, to a serious extent, irresponsible in its contents.
First, let me deal with the matter of the presentation of the Bill. We are told, and it is stated in the White Paper, that the object of this Bill is to sweep away war-time legislation and absolute emergency powers. Of course, the Bill does nothing of the sort. To start with, the most absolute powers are those which are left intact. The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) interrupted the Economic Secretary, who opened the debate, asking precisely what were the powers under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. These powers are quite unrestricted. The actual wording of the effective part of the Section is:The Board of Trade may by order make such provisions as the Board may think expedient for prohibiting or regulating … the importation into or the exportation from the United Kingdom …of all goods or goods of any specified description.One could not have wider words than those, and here is a power which the Government wish to retain. When they want to retain a power, there is no nonsense about cutting down its purpose or confining themselves to specific powers for specific purposes. They retain it in an absolutely unrestricted form.
When we turn to the Defence Regulations, or to the thirteen effective regulations of which the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) spoke, we see it stated in the White Paper that eight of them have been allowed to lapse. Four of them have already been 443 replaced by legislation which was passed last Session—the Land Powers (Defence) Act and the Opencast Coal Act. I have some knowledge of the second one, and it certainly gives very wide powers for further delegated legislation. Another is to be replaced this Session by the Factories Bill. Three others are being allowed to lapse—one on the carriage of goods, one that will have the result of abolishing the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, and the third on the control of cultivation and the termination of agricultural tenancies.
What is not stated anywhere in the White Paper, and, I am sure, will not be stated anywhere in the Conservative Party's propaganda, is that this Bill was entirely unnecesary to achieve any of those purposes. The Government have power at any time not merely to allow a Defence Regulation to lapse, but to revoke it by Order in Council, and as soon as they do that the regulation is dead for all time. It cannot be revived at any stage. The point was made by the Economic Secretary in relation to building controls; when we are returned to power we shall have to introduce fresh legislation if we wish to reintroduce building controls. Exactly the same applies to all these eight Defence Regulations which have been allowed to lapse. Nothing which the Bill does sweeps away controls in that way.
The real point of the Bill is to cut down and restrict the purposes for which those Defence Regulations which the Government are using at the moment may be used in the future. It is not in the true sense a repeal Bill at all. There is nothing in it which is being repealed in the way of emergency powers. What is happening is that certain powers are being allowed to lapse while others are being continued; and unless provision is made from time to time for their continuation, they lapse and expire automatically. This is another Emergency Powers (Transition) Bill and not a repeal Bill. The claim that it is a repeal Bill is just propaganda.
It is also claimed that the Bill and its contents are an affirmation of the principle that Parliament should be asked to grant only specific powers for specific purposes. If this were seriously intended, it would be an extremely serious matter raising important constitutional issues on 444 the proper sphere of delegated legislation. Much water has flowed under the bridge since the days of the Donoughmore Report and it might well be time to review the matter. There are important constitutional issues involved, and if it were the Government's serious wish to review the matter I presume that there would have been discussions in the first place with the Opposition and with outside bodies.
If the Bill had been presented in that form, then the suggestion that this was an exercise in constitutional propriety is a claim which might have been justified, but to put forward that claim in relation to the present Bill is mere propaganda.
It is interesting to see from the Bill what are the powers which the Government feel they will want to use, and now they retain plenty of elbow room in the use of those powers.
I have already mentioned the position under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. If we look at the powers in relation to exchange controls under Defence (Finance) Regulation 2A we find that the powers are as wide as can be in defining the purposes for which they are to be used. The regulation readswhere the Treasury are satisfied that action to the detriment of the economic position of the United Kingdom is being taken or is likely to be taken by the Government of or persons resident in any country or territory outside the United Kingdom.One can hardly have words wider than that. They cannot be claimed to be specific powers for specific purposes.
Consider, too, the credit controls and hire-purchase restrictions. The only limitation on the purpose for which they are to be used is tautology. It is said that they are to be used for "restricting excessive credit." One could not use hire-purchase controls for anything but restricting excessive credit. This is a control which the Government feel that they may want to reintroduce and they therefore leave it intact in its widest possible terms. When they want powers they forget their high-sounding principles about having specific powers for specific purposes.
When we see what the Bill does to the admittedly more important regulations, its irresponsibility is clear. What has 445 happened is that the effective powers for the control of industry, for obtaining information and for price control are limited to a miscellaneous hatch patch of purposes. No principle lies behind this at all. It is a matter of pure expediency, a mere enumeration of the purposes for which at the moment such powers are being used or for which in the recent past the Government have found it necessary to use them.
As was demonstrated in the "flick of the switch" speech of the Lord Privy Seal, the object behind the Bill is to try to deprive the next Labour Government of powers to fight inflation in the way in which we have stated that we should fight it, and, as we believe, the only way by which it can be effectively fought while maintaining full employment at the same time.
This is probably the main issue dividing the two parties and it is perhaps the main issue on which the next Election will be fought. When, as we believe, the Labour Party is returned to power, it will be with a clear authority and mandate to tackle this problem in the way in which we believe it can effectively be tackled. In these circumstances, for the Government in power, at the end of their period of office, to introduce a Measure the sole purpose of which is to try to make it more difficult for the Opposition, if and when they are returned to power, to do that which they intend and want to do, is, in my submission, irresponsible in the extreme, and can hardly be called an exercise in constitutional propriety.
§ Mr. MacDermot
As my hon. Friend says, in any event it is ineffective. A moment's thought will reveal that. As was said a moment ago in relation to building controls, we shall have to introduce a Bill giving ourselves the necessary powers in any event as soon as we return to office. The sole purpose of the present Bill is propaganda outside the House. That is the main point which I am seeking to make.
The second way in which this action by the Government is highly irresponsible is that they are depriving themselves of powers which they may need to use in the future. Our economy and the whole situation of this country is still desperately precarious. If the experience of the 446 last few years shows anything at all, it shows that at any moment we may suddenly be confronted with an emergency and with a threat to the whole security of our economy which was wholly unanticipated by anyone and that steps may have to be taken very quickly by the Government to deal with that emergency. It is because it was recognised that that situation not only existed during the war but continued after the war that these emergency powers were continued in force. For a Government to sweep them away for propaganda purposes outside the House is, I suggest, irresponsible in the extreme.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Will the hon. Member deal with this simple point? The Labour Party had in full all the powers which they are asking to be retained from 1945 to 1951, during which time they plunged from crisis to crisis. unable to make use of the powers effectively.
§ Mr. MacDermot
That is an example of the propaganda purpose of the introduction of the Bill and of this debate. I am sure that we shall hear many more speeches today in the tenor of the noble Lord's intervention. After the war and in the emergency situation we had to deal with many crises, as have the Government during the period when they have been in office.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The point has been made that if it were not for the disastrous consequences of the Government's Suez venture we should never have had in the Bill wording to be found in paragraph (1) (d) of Regulation 55, as it is to be re-enacted.
It is only as a result of that experience that we have it in this form. The Government cannot foresee, nor can anyone, what developments may result, either from the further follies of the Government or from actions for which they are not responsible. Whichever way it be, these powers, in our present condition, should still be retained, and it is an irresponsible act for the Government to sweep them away in this way, purely for party political purposes.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
I should like, first, to congratulate the Economic Secretary on the way in which—in, I think, his maiden major speech so far—he introduced this Bill. Although some of his explanation was a little difficult for the layman to follow, nevertheless he went to great trouble to tell us what the Bill was all about. In the main, this Measure, as such Bills so often are, provides an opportunity for a real field day for the lawyers. However, I support it as an ordinary person because it gets rid of yet more controls.
As this debate has developed, it will be obvious to the country, if the people do not already realise it, that a real fundamental difference between the two parties is that the Labour Party wishes to retain controls and will, if that unfortunate day comes that they return to power, bring back more controls, while, on the other hand, Conservatives, believing in the freedom of the individual, desire to rid our people of as many controls as possible.
We heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), and this was repeated by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot), that price controls in various ways would be brought back under a Labour Government. We were also told that this would not mean the return of rationing, but can any hon. Member opposite say that the bringing back of certain price controls would not bring back rationing? If so, it is just wishful thinking—
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
My hon. Friend must be aware that in 1951 —which is only a few years ago—Mr. Attlee, now Lord Attlee, said that if rationing was good in war time it was equally good in peace time.
§ Mr. Harris
Yes, certainly I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick instanced today's price-controlled milk as an obvious case in which rationing has not followed price control. Surely we all remember, for instance, what happened with sweets. When price control is brought in, rationing is almost bound to follow, especially with commodities and materials that quickly get into short supply, and commodities which the 448 public may believe will soon be difficult to obtain.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that the Labour Party would bring back certain economic controls, and further made reference to the restoration of industrial building control. If this debate has done nothing else, it will have brought home to the country once again what the Labour Party would do in regard to controls if it won the next General Election. In the same line of thought, today must be quite a sad one for the Opposition, because in the Second Reading of this Bill tonight—and I do not doubt that it will be given a Second Reading—they see something happening with which they themselves are far from pleased, namely, the abolition of more controls.
One of the controls that is being retained, however, is that of the price and distribution of food under the welfare services. The Economic Secretary has given details of the commodities affected, and I will not repeat them, but one seriously wonders whether it is necessary to retain a control of this kind. Surely, such purchases could be made on a competitive basis and supplies so safeguarded as to remove also the necessity for this control. A control should be retained only if there is some real purpose behind it and some real need to use it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick referred to the control on the sale and weight of bread. I should have thought that very soon there would have been no difficulty whatsoever in sweeping away this control too. There seems to be no absolute necessity for it.
I was particularly concerned over the retention of the control of medical supplies and prices. Now that we have private enterprise competing, one manufacturing firm with another, the Ministry should be in a position to obtain all its supplies on a competitive price basis without controls. I should also like to know how the Ministry will continue to exercise this control. What happens if a supplier is not in a position to comply with the price control regulations? Will the Ministry say, "Very well, we will not take his goods?"
Here, again, we should not retain a control unless it is absolutely essential so to do, and I cannot really see the need for 449 this one. Surely the medical supplier or manufacturer will say to the Government, "My price has to be so and so. These are my costs, and if you want my supplies you must buy at my price." If need be the business should then be thrown open to competition, and the Ministry will get its supplies on the usual competitive basis—
§ Mr. C.. Pannell
Has not the hon. Gentleman heard of the recent litigation in the Restrictive Practices Court and of the price-fixing arrangements of interested people, who in the main, I suppose, support the party opposite? Even the Government are forced to maintain control here, and the hon. Gentleman's argument seems to show that he has not read the newspapers.
§ Mr. Harris
I certainly have, but I still believe that the Ministry should be able to obtain their supplies competitively at proper prices without the Government having to exercise job price control in this way.
I must make it plain that I am only expresing my own personal view on this. I do not myself see why it should be thought that these medical manufacturers as any other manufacturers would not be fair in their costings and prices. After all, the eventual purchaser in the main is the Ministry of Health, and that Ministry can surely decide whether or not a price is fair without exercising this control.
I am also interested in and concerned about the retention of the control over certain exports, particularly those to the sterling area and to the Commonwealth and Colonial countries. To continue this control seems a little unnecessary. I suppose the difficulty is that it cannot easily be prised away from controls in respect of exports to other overseas territories. At the same time, it seems quite unnecessary to regulate our manufacturers' exports to the sterling area and to the Commonwealth countries—such business should be absolutely free of control.
I am naturally in full support of the Government in bringing forward this Bill. Since the end of the war, the total of some 251 Regulations is now down to a basic 13. I still feel that those regulations which are left, a few of which I have referred to, should be looked at again very closely to see whether it is still absolutely essential for them to be retained. 450 In my view, controls of this kind should never be retained unless they are to be fully utilised; if not, it is not necessary to retain them at all. I certainly hope that the day is drawing nearer when even more of these regulations can be eliminated in accordance with the views I have expressed.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury certainly never mentioned the lapsing of the regulations with regard to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, and whatever arguments may have been put by hon. Gentlemen opposite who followed him none of the reasons adduced for this Bill applies to the question of the ending of compulsory arbitration. They had nothing whatever to do with it. I can fully understand why hon. Gentlemen of the party opposite, who have made much propaganda about controls, have not properly got down to consider the position of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
I said just now, in an intervention, which nobody challenged, that the Industrial Disputes Tribunal has been respected. There has not been a major strike against its findings and it has carried peculiar authority in the industrial world. We are dealing here with the termination of a piece of useful machinery which has commended itself to both sides of local government.
I usually speak in this place as one with very close affiliations with one of the great industrial trade unions, but, in my time, by virtue of being in local government, I have been the leader of the employers' side on one of the regional councils which used to meet in the constituency of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) in dealing with the administrative, professional and technical grades of local government. I imagine that no body of people is more affected by this decision of the Government than the National Association of Local Government Officers. I speak today, therefore, as one who has had to oppose its point of view many times in the past.
What was the position in local government prior to the war? Hundreds of authorities in the country appointed their servants often according to caprice and sometimes by nepotism. One of the most 451 remarkable things about local government during the last twenty years has been the way in which there has been built up a series of salary scales, and professional qualifications which have gone with salary scales, without which advances would not have been possible. Perhaps, taking the example of the Civil Service, the local government service has attempted to make itself into a profession. I do not think that any student of industrial affairs would deny that the prime responsibility and credit for that must go to the National Association of Local Government Officers.
The Association, a trade union of over 250,000 members, represents, curiously, everyone from the town clerk down to those on the lowest rungs, if one may put it in that way. It represents, from the reverse point of view, everyone from the office boy upwards, and, indeed, it has been an embarrassment to local authorities from time to time to find their chief officials, who should be representing their point of view, on the other side of the table.
Because the service is analogous to the Civil Service, the National Association of Local Government Officers has never had a strike clause in its constitution. It has never affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. Hon. Members will understand, of course, that I consider that it would be to its advantage if it did affiliate to the Trades Union Congress, as many other professional organisations have done; but it has decided to remain outside the ambit of politics and not to encourage strikes. One can almost say that a strike in the local government service is unthinkable.
If one bears in mind the jungle of varied interests in local government before the war, the fact that there was no relation between what was paid by one authority and another, and the fact that many local authorities were situated in places where there was, so to speak, no trade union climate at all, one can understand what the Industrial Disputes Tribunal has done for local government. During the war, under Order No. 1305, I think, it was generally held that, where there was an agreement between two bodies representing employer and employee which could be judged by refer- 452 ence to a tribunal, that, in effect, had the force of law. That was the position during the war.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman think that we still ought to have compulsion? That is the point.
§ Mr. Pannell
I can only ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to listen to what I have to say. This is a matter about which he probably knows nothing.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Member for Heeley (Sir P. Roberts) has not been sitting there all the time. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) and I have. The hon. Member for Heeley comes here with a closed mind on the subject.
§ Sir P. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman has referred to me. He made a remark about my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton, East, and said that he did not know anything about the issue. All I said was that I know perfectly well that he does. I have been here long enough to know that.
§ Mr. Pannell
All I can say is that the hon. Member for Heeley knows everything and understands nothing.
What I am saying is that conditions in local government are completely different from conditions in industry generally.
§ Mr. Pannell
Of course, my trade union, the engineers, does not need this machinery; it has, over the years, faced its traditional enemies with the final showdown of a strike, and this is written into its constitution. But the newer forms of trade unionism which we find, for instance, in local government and the Civil Service, have never contemplated that sort of action, and, in the main, of course, we do not want them to.
I say, therefore, that we must give them appropriate machinery in which they can function. They have become used to this kind of machinery since about 1940, and anybody who has read their opinions will know that they feel very strongly about it. The National Association of Local Government 453 Officers is not as weak as it was in the old days, and it now feels that, unless some tribunal such as this can be given to it, it will have to reconsider its whole attitude to industrial action.
There is no doubt that this piece of machinery has saved us from a considerable amount of industrial trouble. It has been used not only by the National Association of Local Government Officers, which is a very powerful body, but it has been used by all sorts of trade unions, particularly by those who find it very difficult to hit back. Incipient trade unions, such as those representing bank employees, where there are old-fashioned attitudes towards the recognition of people's rights to collective bargaining, are the sort of organisations which have used the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
None more so than the hon. Gentleman's own A.E.U., in the way it has exploited the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman did not hear the beginning of my speech, otherwise he would have heard me refer to the terrific authority that this body has carried. There has been no major strike against the decision of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
§ Mr. Pannell
Before the hon. Member jumps in, he should make sure that he is not confusing it with the Industrial Court.
§ Mr. Pannell
At any rate, the hon. Gentleman perhaps will give me an example of a strike against a decision of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. He cannot give me one.
§ Mr. Pannell
Nobody will suggest that the engineers have ever relied upon this body at all. I have made it perfectly clear that in the main this is a body to which other organisations without strike clauses have had most recourse. If one takes the number of cases which have been referred to the Industrial Disputes 454 Tribunal one will find that in the main they are of that class. It is no use the hon. Member trotting out observations without giving proof. I have challenged the House three times to find the cases where there have been strikes against the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. They have not been forthcoming.
The Trades Union Congress feels that the Minister has been partial in his attitude and that he has not held a balance between employers and the Trades Union Congress. There were dilatory negotiations spreading over eight months. If there has not been bad faith, there has been that degree of procrastination that does not give any confidence to the Trades Union Congress.
I do not want to go into the realm of these other matters, because, as I say. I have yet to hear any hon. Member opposite get up and give a justification why a useful piece of machinery should be wrecked. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) still speaks in the same way as the Prime Minister speaks from time to time, as if, somehow or other, the Tory Party had come to power only in the last two years. The fact that they have been in since 1951 should at least colour the opinions of back benchers.
I should have thought that anyone who has been a member of this House since 1945, such as the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), would know the conditions that this country was in immediately after the war. The suspension of Lend-Lease. the American loan, rationing, the Berlin airlift, and devaluation were the sort of things that one could not have legitimately levelled at one party. These were moments of crisis, and the Labour Government carried on until 1951. I should have thought that anybody would agree that the economic climate of this country has been very much more relaxed since 1951, not by anything that we did here, but by the march of world events, particularly since the end of the war in Korea. Therefore, for hon. Members opposite to bring in the question of bread rationing and the 14 oz. loaf is showing an ignorance of the facts.
I believe that the majority of the people appreciate that we have to have different devices for different times. Nobody believes that 1945 can return again. All 455 I am saying is that the Labour Government, in pursuing the path that they did, and having the courage to take the steps that they took, brought our country through a very severe economic crisis.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman can still talk about that, but our reserves are not anywhere near back to where they were when we left office in 1951.
Nobody would doubt that as we go on we not only want an increasing standard of life but a greater degree of personal freedom. When we speak about personal freedom, I remember the words of Philip Snowden, who once said that Socialism is individualism' properly clothed, which means that the State, on occasion, has to protect the individual from the rapacity of the people who, in the main, are the paymasters of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), not that I suppose I dare hope to escape rebuke any more than anybody else. Still less do I dare pose as an expert on trade union questions and matters of arbitration, but even before the hon. Member spoke I had meant to deal a little bit with that subject. I will begin now by so doing, after one or two preliminary sentences.
I know that we are on Second Reading and not Third Reading, and that we can talk about what ought to be in the Bill and is not. But I think that I will omit most of the stuff about which side made the worst hash, they in their first seven years or us in our first seven years, or whether I would have made ever so much more a hash of it if I had charge of things myself. I have never thought that men were fit to govern each other, and that is the reason why, if the hon. Member will listen to me for one moment—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That is the reason why would wish to see my countrymen governed as little as possible by men and as much as possible by general rules, arrived at by very public and rather lengthy discussion. Those are the reasons for opposing delegated legislation, and temporary legislation of one sort and another.
456 We have heard a good deal from the other side about people on this side being hypocritical. Except perhaps in August, 1939, I have never ceased to do my best to oppose Governments taking powers which they could not demonstrate they absolutely needed at that moment, and I have never ceased to press Governments to give up any powers which they had and for which they did not see any immediate need. Both in public and in private I have never ceased to do so. The effect perhaps has been nil—[Laughter.] Nobody who has sat in this House for many months would dare to deride anyone else for being ineffective. Let us be governed by law and not be decree. That is the real reason for, on the whole, welcoming this Bill. I quite agree—and I will come back to this—that there may be things in the Bill which we do not altogether like.
I was rather nervous about speaking today because I used to think at one time that I had a certain small expertness in this matter. However, I long ago lost it. I have sense enough to know when I have forgotten a thing completely and even to realise that when I thought I understood it all I probably did not. I was rather dubious about speaking today, but I am bound to say, if I may, without being excessively contentious, that most of the speeches to which I have listened have, on the whole, encouraged me in that respect. I do not propose to limit myself to explaining simply the exact legal effects of the words in the Bill, and I hope at the end—although perhaps I may have been quiet earlier on—I shall not deserve the rebuke which the Minister and some others on this side have received from the other side for not being contentious enough.
To come back to Regulation 58AA and the statutory authority for the Industrial Disputes Order. I beg hon. Members to believe—and this is in no sense false modesty—I quite understand that this is not the sort of thing on which anybody would listen to me as an expert. I was troubled yesterday by the question whether I did not know so little about it that I ought to leave it out altogether. On the whole, however, I thought that that would not be right, and I endeavoured to find out as much as I could quickly,
457 The hon. Member for Leeds, West, who always debates fairly and whom I do not for one moment accuse of consciously leaving out anything, did, however, leave out some factors which are important in this matter. We all do it. We cannot include all the factors, even if we speak for an hour and a half. I am told that in the original wartime Order, which, I think, was fairly early in 1940, the provision for compulsory arbitration was then the obverse of a coin, the reverse of which was the prohibition of strikes and lock-outs.
Therefore, quite apart from the general argument under the Bill that that which is done for war purposes is done on a strong presumption against being kept on in the same form and on the same authority for non-war purposes, which believe to be a sound principle—on top of that there is also in this case the remembrance that when it was originally done it was as part of an arrangement part of which was that there should be no strikes or lock-outs. I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Leeds, West and his friends would not wish to see that part returned now.
It was made clear at that time that the Government upon inquiries from either what I hate calling sides, but from either wing in industry, that the Order should be discontinued, that then the Government would review the matter immediately. That was in 1940. It is true that things have changed in various ways since. The most important way in which things have changed has been that the prohibition against strikes and lock-outs has now gone.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Yes, but I do not promise that I will pay any attention to the hon. Member's question. I generally try to do so, but I am not confident that if I allow myself to be pushed off the line which I have only half prepared at the best I shall not be completely lost. But the hon. Member can have a go.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am not trying to push the hon. Member off his line, because I know that he is so close to the brief that he has built up that he will not be pushed off anyway for anything I may say. I would only say in fairness for the record 458 that the hon. Member is right in the general assumption he has made. He will, however, know that a general assumption cannot be made without qualifications. What I tried to point out in my speech was that this machinery, which was devised for one thing, has been found particularly useful for a great sector of the public services and that that which started as a war-time prohibition has become a useful piece of machinery and I have heard no good reason why it should be destroyed.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I now at least half understand the hon. Member's mind, and he would be more near to understanding mine if he would listen a little longer. I had got as far as that and I was upon that point.
If the hon. Member will accept the principle—it is not merely a doctrinairism, but is a principle in itself and defensible—I do not say that everybody is always to be governed by it. It is a respectable principle that with what is done, and at the time is said to be done, in order to make it a little more likely that we win a war which we appear very likely to lose, if that is why the thing is done, it should, within a generation, be undone, even if it ought then to be redone. [Laughter.] Certainly. If the hon. Member for Leeds, West was ever a soldier or a sailor—I have forgotten whether he was—and ever got lost in his navigation, as I have done, at sea, on land and in the air, more than once, he will know that the luckiest thing to happen to him is if he can get back to some spot where he went off the line; then, he gets a chance again.
Whatever there is to be said about this general principle, all I am saying for the moment is that it seems to me to be particularly strong in a case where there was a very big quid pro quo in the wartime and the quid is not there any longer. We all know that quids are not worth much now, but that kind of quid is still worth something. That is the main point, and it is a real point.
I agree with the hon. Member in being worried about the grievance that may be left for some people, N.A.L.G.O. particularly, and I agree with what one of his hon. Friends said earlier about what are called, rather absurdly, "issues"; but I have inquired about those and I am told that the Minister is engaged in dealing 459 with the issue question and that he is engaged—or, at least, his higher officials are engaged—in discussions with N.A.L.G.O. and similar institutions. I am not saying that there ought not to be some arrangement like the arrangement which there is now. All I am saying is that it ought not to subsist and persist now any longer, even with the amount of new legislation which there has been since, upon the basis of the war regulation made in 1940.
I should like to go to rather more general and, perhaps, not more controversial, but more contentious, matters. I could not altogether approve of some of the things that were said by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. There is an awful tendency, when something has been in existence for thirty or forty years, or even for only fourteen or fifteen years, to think that it is there for good and ought to be there for good. It will not do to say, as was said by the Minister this afternoon, that the fact that Governments for the last ten years, and particularly this Government for the last three or four years, have been very moderate and have hardly at all used these decretal powers that has been said more than once—has taken the urgency out of the task of erasing the unnecessary powers. Whatever Socialists may think or feel, Tory Ministers should always remain convinced that they are always under an urgent duty to erase whatever powers may have been taken and may not be demonstrably necessary in the immediate future.
It will not do to argue, as did the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), that all that the Bill is trying to do is to hamper the successors of the present Government. We must face the fact that our constitutional development, if that not be too kind a phrase for it, has landed us now in a situation in which the ordinary process of legislation can wholly alter both the political constitution and the social arrangements of our country. That being so, there is not necessarily any feeling of partisanship in the mind of a man or of a Government who thinks that, where-ever there are powers in a Government's hands which were put into Government's hands and cannot now be shown to be immediately needed, there should 460 be the full procedure of statute before that power should be continued. I feel no doubt whatever that that is a perfectly proper and, indeed, an indispensable constitutional principle, because without it we are left with no constitution at all except simply an immediate majority.
I do not wholly dissent from the arguments we have heard—and we have had many—from the other side of the House against the 14-oz. loaf being called 1 lb. I do not promise that I will bring the Government down in support of hon. Members opposite; but I am quite willing to press for a good deal more explanation than we have had of why anybody should be allowed to go on calling the 14 oz. a pound. The Government should put up a much stronger and more complete case than they have done. The one thing. however, which I will assert about a 14-oz. loaf, which seems to have escaped the attention of the right hon. Member for Smetwick, is that even with a 14-oz. loaf, half a loaf is not only better than, but more than, no bread.
It really is not an argument against us on this side to tell us that this Bill is a bit of hypocrisy because it is not wiping out all the delegated legislation which is left and doing it immediately. Nor is it very clever, if I may say so to the right hon. Gentleman who knows best—I for get where he comes from: Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I think —of him to say that we have no right to be doing this now and that doing it now is a piece of gross hypocrisy. I am sorry. I rather think I am putting some of the sins of his friends on his shoulders, and I will say, nor would it be very clever of him to say that because we ought to have done it two years ago, therefore we ought not to do it now. That one will not do either.
The complaint by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West was that there had not been sufficient consultation between the T.U.C. and the Ministry of Labour. What sort of person ought to be Minister of Labour and what sort ought not, if, indeed, there ought to be a Minister of Labour, which is extremely dubious, and what his relations ought to be with the trade unions, are not easy questions to settle, nor can they really very profitably be merely laughed off. What I should like one of his hon. 461 Friends to point out to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West, is this. He wants there to be more discussion between the T.U.C. and the Minister of Labour. There has been a good deal of that, I think. However, I want there to be more discussion between Ministers and this House and the people in general than there has been before Ministers either get or keep abnormal powers. I think that upon the principles upon which he attacks us he really ought to reflect and make sure whether he ought not to come in on our side.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite ought not to use the word "doctrinaire" in this connection as a term of abuse. One of the arguments from Smethwick, which was really a Brummagem one, I think, if I may say so without starting a provincial civil war—one of the Brummagem arguments was that we were only being hypocrites in doing this, getting rid of some bits of delegated legislation or some controls, because we were not getting rid of all of them. That is the essence of doctrinairism to the nth, that argument that one must never do anything of any one sort unless one is prepared immediately to do everything of the same sort. And that argument was used.
I nearly missed the last one I always like refuting. But fortunately the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) blew in for a few minutes' entertainment, and, I suppose, guessed I might be getting up very soon, and very wisely blew out again. He produced this argument, that what was wrong with people on our side was, he said, that we were prepared to see everything, all principles, sacrificed to the public interest in time of war but we were prepared to see all public interests sacrificed to our doctrinairisms in time of peace.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite find it very difficult to grasp the simple distinction. War is the simplest of all operations. Any fool, if he can stay there long enough, can be a success in war. It always comes right in the end [An. HON. MEMBER: "Montgomery?"] Certainly. There is no limit to the resources we can call upon, and the end is either success for the person in charge, or ruin for everybody. It is the simplest of all operations, war; the most dangerous and uncomfortable, quite agree, and it frightens me out 462 of my life even now to stop to think of it. But it is the simplest.
In time of war almost everybody wants to see our side win: almost everybody; and almost everybody thinks that is more important than anything else. And that is the public interest. In time of peace no two people agree about what the public interest is, and the only person I have ever known who is always conscious that he knows is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison)—not the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) who spoke today, but the other.
In fact the public interest in time of peace cannot be known, and the only chance there is—and this is the justification for democracy —the only chance there is that we shall not get that which is most hostile to the public interest is that we should have the fullest and the most widely noticed discussion of any change before it happens. That is why we do not like decretal government, and that is why we welcome this Bill.
Incidentally, I believe the learned Member from Lewisham, the hon. Member for Lewisham, North—not the infallible Member from Lewisham but the learned one was mistaken in saying that all the decretal powers which the Government are now dropping by this Bill could have been dropped by mere lapse. I believe he is mistaken in that. I believe it does not cover Clauses 4 and 6. But even if he were right about that, it would not really affect the point. It would not really be a justification for denying us the longest, the most solemn, most publicly noticed way of doing these things, and either adding decretal powers or diminishing powers should so far as possible be done by statute, and that is a very good reason for welcoming this Bill.
I have been conscious of being a little disjointed, but I hope I have made plain which side I am on, and I hope I have made it reasonably plain why I am on that side, and I hope I have argued fairly. I am quite certain that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, really deceive themselves when they think it is in their interests to say, whether they say what is half of their argument, that these matters are still very important, or 463 whether they say, as they do in the other half of their argument, that these matters are very fiddling matters; in either case, I believe, they deceive themselves if they think they do themselves any good by saying that these matters which many of us did, I did, many of us did, with the utmost regret, not trusting hon. Gentlemen opposite in the least if they should have office either wholly or in a coalition, nor very much trusting hon. Gentlemen of this party—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—not very much, for I do not think anyone should be trusted very far. We most unwillingly created decretal powers which, when they got into office by the accident of politics partly, they used, and boastingly used, not for the purpose of winning the war, not for the purpose even of making peace out of the war—for this was a unique situation: the greatest victory there ever was and no peace made, and no peace made yet—not for the purpose even of looking after the people who really suffered during the war—some hon Gentlemen always spend their whole time in peace saying war—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
No, I shall not finish the sentence. It is a great mistake to suppose that speaking is the same as writing. Now I have forgotten what the sentence was about.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Yes. In time of peace many continually tell us that war should never be an instrument of policy. The moment war comes some have to be bought, it is thought, by being told that the war shall give them, at the end of it, all the objects of their policy. [Horn. MEMBER: "Shocking."] Oh, yes. Over and over again I have seen it. Thereby to fact it is made dead certain that the post-war world will be bitter, because war is wasteful and not creative, and there is less to distribute after war then before. But they used decretal power among other things to make a social revolution.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
They used it in that way. I have always been against decretal 464 powers if used for any purpose except absolutely plain national emergency, and that to me means war, and therefore I am in favour of any diminution of decretal powers by statute.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Before he reached the end of his speech I was going to congratulate the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) on making one of the most attractive speeches that I have ever heard him make.
§ Mr. Albu
The hon. Member's arrogance is, of course, well known. Equally is his passionate attachment, which many of us would share, to freedom, though in his case an anarchistic freedom which would include abolishing his own Ministers. The hon. Member's suggestion that Labour used decretal powers for social revolution is absolute nonsense. They were used for one purpose and one purpose only, and that was to ensure that the people of this country received an adequacy of the goods which at that time were in short supply because of conditions which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who was Prime Minister during the war said would make the country bankrupt by the end of it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not say that the words which the hon. Member has just used do amount to a revolution, but does he not think so?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Of course hon. and right hon. Members opposite boasted that it was a revolution that the people should receive an adequacy of goods.
§ Mr. Albu
Nothing of the sort. Very substantial social changes were made but they were made, of course, by legislation. The National Health Act, the social services, the nationalisation of industry were introduced by ordinary constitutional procedure by the passing of Bills through Parliament. As far as I know, absolutely none of the decretal powers were used except for the important and urgent purpose of controlling the economy to ensure that we achieved recovery after the war from the appalling conditions in which naturally we were 465 when the war ended. And hon. Members opposite, when they came to power in 1951, reaped all the benefits of the enormous recovery which British industry had made by that time, including a very substantial increase of production and an increase of exports in physical terms of three-quarters. Do not let us ever forget it.
The whole of the basis on which the economy has since been running has been built on the platform created by the Labour Government at that time. Every intelligent observer understands that perfectly well, and decrertal powers were used for those purposes alone. The measures which the hon. Member for Carlton considers a social revolution were introduced by means of Bills and the hon. Member knows that perfectly well. The hon. Member seems to have little confidence in the British people, in the British electorate and in the House of Commons when he expresses himself in these terms of extreme anxiety, because there is not only the good sense of Governments from both sides of the House, but the very substantial powers that remain in Parliament and the fact that it is obviously impossible to govern the country against the will of the majority of the people. Those ensure that there is not an excessive use of delegated powers. The hon. Member for Carlton wanted us to go back in our legislation to where we came in at the beginning of the war, and by what I suppose he means that he wants us to go back to 2½ million unemployed. On this side of the House we have no intention of doing so.
The trumpet call to freedom blown by the Lord Privy Seal has not called up a very large army from the benches opposite to support the Bill. This is not very surprising in view of the fact that the Bill is so difficult to understand that even the Economic Secretary in introducing it had to stick to his brief, and whenever he went off it to respond to a single question had to say that that would be dealt with later.
The Bill is the result of the schizophrenia on the Government Front Bench. One half of the Government's mind, led by the President of the Board of Trade, is pursuing doctrinaire policies of laissez-faire, free trade, currency convertibility, and so forth. The other half, 466 whom I would have said, if it were not for the Clause in the Bill about the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, was represented by the Minister of Labour, perhaps realises that this is not possible in this changing world.
Free trade, laissez-faire and convertibility are going or have gone over most of the world. Even the formation of a Common Market in Europe and a Free Trade Area is not likely to make a great deal of difference to the world as a whole and may increase restrictions on international trade rather than enlarge it. A country like Britain, with our industrial history, our shortage of raw materials and the changing economic conditions in which we find ourselves today, needs positive, not negative, economic policy.
The result of the schizophrenia on the Front Bench opposite is this Bill, accompanied by a publicity hoo-ha which conceals very largely from their supporters on the benches opposite that the Government intend to keep a very large number of physical controls; and by physical controls I mean those which can be used in a discriminatory sense, as most of these controls can be used. Among the controls which they still keep, and quite rightly, are currency controls. But here dogma has led them to weaken the controls so much that every two or three years we are put in serious financial danger.
The Government claim credit for having increased our gold and dollar reserves. It has been pointed out time and again that they have still not got back to the 1951 level and are still today only one and a half times the figure for 1939, although our liabilities are 6½ times higher and the value of world trade done in sterling is many times higher. In fact, the figures for the reserves are still quite petty and impose the need to continue controls over the transfer of currency.
One of the widest powers of control which the Government are keeping are controls over imports and exports under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. This is an Act which gives the Government power to introduce delegated legislation by Order over a wide field and with practically no limitation whatever. Another control which is not in the Bill and has not been mentioned today is the control 467 on new issues by the Capital Issues Committee. It is a discriminatory control which we support and which the Government apparently intend to maintain. There is also control over hire-purchase, which is again discriminatory and can be put on and taken off at a moment's notice, with serious, disturbing effects on industry, on production, and on individual freedom of choice. But the Government apparently believe that they must keep it.
The controls over industry, however, are now to be limited and even these apparently are to be maintained only because of the Government's experience over Suez. But conditions for these controls, under Defence Regulation 55, are not now very clear, particularly the control which is to be exercised when there appears to be a shortage of articles due to some action outside the country. I do not really fully understand what this means and I should like some explanation of it when we have a reply to the debate. In terms of economic dogma, there is no such thing as shortage, unless there is none whatsoever, because surely supply and demand always come into balance at a certain price.
How are the Government to judge when there is a shortage? If prices rise, to what level must they rise before the Government decide that there is a shortage and that they will have to introduce controls under this regulation? Also, what are the special circumstances that have to arise in another country? I am referring to the special circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 (d) of the Schedule. Obviously retaliatory action by another Government, as in the case of the Suez disaster, is one of them, and, I presume, export restrictions imposed by another Government would be another of them. What about such actions as price support by another Government or output restrictions which raise prices; and at what level would the Government consider that action by another Government on these lines had so raised prices as to create a condition of shortage under which they would introduce Orders under Regulation 55 and in accordance with this paragraph.
Why are these powers only to be used in case of actions outside this country when there may well be actions which are not necessarily due to the Government? Because let us face the fact, the know- 468 ledge and ability to carry out economic planning are still being developed by both sides of the House and by all Governments, and not always entirely successfully. So there may be situations arising inside a country where the Government will want to use these powers.
The main power that the Government are throwing away is that of price control. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been making most play with this in their attempt to build the propaganda they will use in the next General Election. I do not believe, however, that the country objects to the use of price control where a clear necessity is seen for it, and nobody will introduce price control just for the sake of doing it. But, after all, the Government have not found the answer to inflation, or certainly not the answer to inflation without industrial stagnation and rising unemployment. It may be that even they, and certainly we when we get back into office, will want to use some controls, even if only temporarily, to ensure that we can once again get our economy expanding at the rate it was expanding under the Labour Government, in place of the three years of stagnation we have had recently, and without inflation.
It might well be then necessary to hold wages and prices temporarily by means of, for instance, subsidies on some articles combined with price control in order to give a breathing space to the economy during which production and output could rise so as to cover wage increases. But the Government are now throwing away this power and, as has been said by several of my right hon. and hon. Friends, they have also been trying to hamstring the Labour Government from using it when they return to office next year.
This necessity to hold the cost of living, possibly by price control of a few articles for a short period, may arise if and when full employment returns and when world production begins to rise again and world productivity reaches a really high level. It seems to me generally in keeping with the economic dogmatism of the Government that they should abolish this power, just as, with much the same effect, they are abolishing the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Carlton is not in his place because his 469 main arguments were on the basis of individual freedom. It is interesting that the powers which the Government have retained, and intend to retain, are powers which interfere with individual freedom and with persons. It was surprising to me to discover that exemptions to the Factories Acts are still in being which allow women and young persons to be employed for longer periods than would otherwise be legal under the current Act. I realise that this matter is to be dealt with in the new Factories Bill which has been presented, and we shall certainly want to examine the Clauses in that Bill in great detail to see whether or not the conditions of employment in factories are being worsened.
I was surprised the other day to get the answer that there are still 1,665 exemptions current under the Factories (Evening Employment) Order and the Cotton Factories (Length of Spell Exemption) Order and that there are 667 individual Orders current exempting par-titular factories from the various provisions of Part VI of the Factories Act. Another protection for the individual is the inspection of boilers, and there are still 170 exemptions that lengthen the time before which boilers need inspection. There may be good reasons for this, but it is interesting that many years after the war these protections for the individual are still in suspense.
Another of the powers which the Government retain against the individual is that of using troops in the case of a strike and without having to bring in regulations under the Emergency Powers Act, which would have to come before Parliament. So I do not think this Government can claim that in this legislation they are abolishing decretal powers over the individual because they are keeping many powers which they think necessary.
One of the important areas in which the Government are abandoning their powers is in obtaining information from a large part of industry. No doubt some of these powers can now be found in other Acts; for instance, the Census of Production Act. However, a lot of the information the Government are obtaining from industry is still given voluntarily arid is inadequate. We all remember the Prime Minister's reference to having to operate the economy on last year's 470 Bradshaw, and it is most extraordinary that at a time when the Government say they want more information about the economy, they should give up the powers which enable them to compel industry to keep certain figures and information and to provide these for the guidance of their economic planning.
I want to say something about a Clause which has not been dealt with very much so far. Clause 3 deals with the powers of the Ministry of Supply. This, of course, is a nice juicy piece of political nonsense rather along the lines of the accusation made by the hon. Member for Carlton. It is guaranteed to provide a comforting feeling of security among Tory old women against the bogey of Socialism being introduced by the flick of a switch, but this is on the assumption that the Clause has some effect on the nationalisation of industry.
We on these benches certainly accept the argument that if the Government are taking over industry from private individuals or companies in order to nationalise it, this must only be done by the introduction of a Bill and all the procedure of turning a Bill into an Act of Parliament. But this Clause deals with nothing of the kind. This Clause merely refers to powers, which the Government have at present, to use their own factories, which are now faced with serious redundancy because of the reduction in the defence programme, to help the general economy. The powers which the Government have got they are now restricting in such a way that it will be much more difficult to use the existing equipment, skill and plant for these purposes.
It may he that there are good arguments which can be used by hon. Gentlemen opposite who prefer private industry to public manufacture, but many of us think that these matters should be settled on pragmatic grounds. The Clause seems to me to represent a doctrinaire, anti-public industry policy—the idea that under no circumstances shall Government establishments, such as Royal Ordnance Factories, be used in competition with private industry, because that interferes with the profits that might be made by private shareholders.
As I now understand Clause 3, it is rather more restricted than I had thought it was. It lays down that only when a 471 producer of articles asks the Government to make them in Royal Ordnance Factories or other public factories can the Minister do so. As I originally read it, I thought that the Clause also applied to the customer. I thought that people who wanted goods could ask for them to be made, but, apparently, only the producers can do so. This means that under no circumstances can the Government ever do anything which will compete with existing groups, monopolies, individual firms or industries against their will.
This will prevent, for instance, Royal Ordnance Factories from undertaking the manufacture of machines, although there may be a real need for them and even though a number of consumers of the machines demonstrate the need and ask the Government to make them. The Royal Ordnance Factories could not, for instance, be used for research and development in respect of machine tools, an industry fairly backward in this country, as any manufacturing engineer will confirm. This could not be done because the Minister would be empowered under the Clause only to do this if the industry asked for it and not if the consumers of the industry asked the Government to do it. It seems an extremely restrictive Clause.
Another restriction is that the work can he undertaken only if it can be done without expanding capacity. Does this mean without the provision of new buildings or that a factory cannot take on more skilled labour, technicians, draughtsmen and so forth? If so, it is extremely hampering. All other conditions being met, one might have a factory manufacturing a certain article which might find it necessary slightly to expand capacity in order to increase output. A small expansion may often produce much more than a commensurate increase in output. Presumably, under the Clause, the Minister would be debarred from allowing that to take place, which is a piece of doctrinaire nonsense.
The truth is that where the Bill is not pure publicity-mongering it is largely based on doctrinaire conceptions. I do not believe that the electorate will be deceived in any way. I do not believe the electorate is frightened of the controls which are necessary to maintain full 472 employment in an expanding economy. I do not believe that in present conditions, with rising unemployment, increasing insecurity, continuous stagnation and a fall in output the electorate will be worried about proposals to use some of the controls which were employed when the economy was expanding, when there was full employment and when our exports were continuing to rise. Those ideas are well understood. The electorate is not so economically illiterate any more as to accept the doctrinaire views of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. For these reasons, the electorate will fully understand why the Opposition intend to divide against the Bill.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
Now that the rapid fire has ceased for a moment I shall try to collect my wits and talk in some sort of sequence or order. I shall discard party vituperation, broad sweeps of economics and all the paraphernalia of party talk.
I should have thought that back benchers on both sides of the House would have been united here. This is not a Bill about which control should exist, or which should not exist or whether one should continue, or should not continue. This is the age-old struggle in which both Front Benches must always be condemned, and ours is now repentant and a little humiliated by the record of the past Tory Governments. It is the age-old struggle between liberty and government. We ought not to waste our time with gibes about winning the next election and about the electorate being clever.
As back benchers we ought to be agreeing to get at the rogues—I use that word in a familiar way—on both Front Benches, because it is not the Opposition Front Bench only which has legislated by confused, arbitrary Orders in Council. Governments, long before the Labour Government, usurped our powers. Back benchers ought to unite to keep to a minimum the encroachment by the Executive on the legislative and judicial fields.
It is all very well saying, for party reasons, that the Bill does not set the people free, that it is all bogus propaganda, that the people like rationing or controls. The Bill and the White Paper make clear that there is a constitutional 473 issue. Of course, it can be argued that what is being retained and what is being abolished is good or bad.
But I should be interested to know whether hon. Members opposite subscribe to the principle in paragraph 8, which says:The Bill itself does not complete the process of reducing or revoking emergency powers …There is no nonsense about "sweeping it all away."… though the powers still exercised are few. What it does is to establish that powers should not exist in peacetime …Not "all; powers" and there is this further qualification:… unspecified as to their scope and purpose, which a Government …Not any particular Government—… might use at its discretion without the explicit authority of Parliament. It represents an affirmation of the principle that Parliament should be asked to grant only specific powers for specific purposes.Let us know about that! Do we back benchers stand together on that? That is the issue. It may be that the Bill keeps the wrong powers in existence, or ought to get rid of some others; but do we agree on that principle?
I said that there had been encroachment by the Executive, and I want, neutrally and not on a party line, to show some examples which must be familiar to many of us who have looked at these matters. We can start with the party ones. There were 2,263 Orders made in 1946 as against 1,483 in 1944. Though the war was over the delegated legislation was increasing. It was not only increasing; as pointed out in the Select Committee's Special Report, it was breeding, for the Statute gave birth not only to Defence Regulations but, in turn, to children. That is Orders made under those regulations, directions made under the Orders and licences made under the directions. Not unnaturally, the Select Committee moaned about the five-tiered legislation which was carrying delegated legislation even further than had at first been imagined.
There has been some reference to a "flick of the switch". A good point was made about how some regulations could be used to do something which it was not known they could do when they were introduced. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said that 474 petrol rationing at the time of the Suez trouble was brought in by a "flick of the switch". It is a had thing that we should have "flicks of the switch".
There was a much more serious example in the case of the Regulation of Employment Order, 1947. A great number of Government back benchers complained that it was industrial conscription and that it should not be brought in by means of a Statutory Instrument or Order under a regulation. Nobody ever thought that it could be used for that purpose. To their credit, back benchers on the Government side, Socialists too, protested against the Order being brought in in that way. They were protesting against delegated legislation and using general powers for important specific purposes.
That sort of thing is not new; it happened in 1930 and in 1925, well before the war. There were Acts like the Road Traffic Act and the Rating and Valuation Act with which the Minister winkled out of Parliament in those days, not only wide powers but powers to amend the Acts under which he was acting. In other words, Parliament even handed over its legislative power to a Minister. That was going very far, and I suggest that it is something which back bench Members on both sides of the House should unite in opposing.
It is sometimes assumed that because an hon. Member is a Conservative he is opposed to all delegated legislation. That may be true, I regret to say, of some backwoodsmen, but it is not an official point of view nor is it practicable. Pressure of time, the technicality of managing a civilised State, unforeseen circumstances, and the necessity for flexibility, even for experiment, and for power to deal with an emergency necessitate that there must be delegation. What we back benchers must do is to see that it is kept to the minimum, that the powers themselves are specified and that they are limited to some sort of ambit.
It was pointed out in the Donoughmore Committee that what was necessary in delegated legislation was clear terminology; some system in laying Orders—that is to say, that instead of a positive, or negative, regulation, or none at all, or a varying requirement that the Orders be laid for 21 days, or for 100 days, there should be a consistent system; it should 475 be the law that, generally speaking, orders should be subject to judicial control—that is, the courts, not the Minister, should decide whether they were ultra vires; and that there must be always exceptional grounds for the delegation of exceptional powers. I thought that such rules would appeal generally to back benchers. Despite the valuable work of the Select Committee and its Reports, made from time to time, clearly, even to this day, greater consideration needs to be given to the form of delegated legislation.
I am not advocating what I think the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) described, as far back as 1946, when asking questions of witnesses before the Select Committee, "the traditional view." I do not know whether he meant that this view was that there should be no delegated legislation. Certainly, I am not arguing for that, nor are my right hon. or hon. Friends. I think that there must be some delegated legislation.
With all the long lectures on economics which we have had and the personal remarks such as, "You know nothing" and "You are ignorant"—that charming schoolboy stuff which must dignify this assembly so much to the world—I should like to know the true attitude of the Opposition to the Bill. If they vote against it, as it appears that they will, will they vote against it because they object to particular Clauses, or because certain Acts have been retained or because certain regulations have been abolished, or will they have some deeper reason? In June, 1931, when delegated legislation was being considered by a Select Committee—Parliamentarians were worried about it even then—a gentleman called Sir Oswald Mosley said that the first act of a Government of Action should be the presentation of a General Powers Bill to Parliament conferring on the Government wide powers of action by Order in relation to economic problems.
Is that the sort of thing which hon. Members opposite believe in now? For that, in different words, is what we find in "Problems of a Socialist Government". It said, by the mouth of Sir Stafford Cripps:The Government's first step will be to call Parliament together and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day.476 Those are brave words, not inconsistent with democratic Socialism as it is practised abroad! Indeed, as I think I heard one hon. Member opposite say sotto voce, those brave words were carried into effect in the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, supplemented in 1946 by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, which, unlike its predecessors, was to continue for five years instead of being renewable annually.
Best of all, as my right hon. Friend mentioned with admirable restraint, in panic, and despite some vigorous protests from their own supporters, the Government of the day rushed through, in a few hours, the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Bill containing the notorious Clause which is set out in paragraph 19 of the White Paper, which meant that the Executive could enforce full Socialism overnight. A point which my right hon. Friend did not mention —and I hoped there would be a Liberal Member to appreciate it—is that it took a Liberal Amendment to exclude from the proposed powers the power to suspend or suppress a newspaper. That had to be expressly excluded because the powers were so wide.
I do not know whether hon. Members opposite still subscribe to the theory that they should have unlimited powers for unspecified purposes. Do they still agree that the important point is "not to do things with the most scrupulous regard to the theories of democracy or to exact constitutional propriety, but to get on with the job?" I should be interested to know whether anybody likes to commit himself to that point of view.
I and many others prefer the views of our elder statesman, the infallible Member as I think he has been rather unkindly described—the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) —in his book "Government and Parliament", in which he said that when he was in office, before the 1951 General Election, he thought that legislation should be introduced which would enable Parliament itself to determine in reasonable detail the scope within which and the purposes for which such regulations should be made. He further observed that he was anxious to see that regulations should be made respectable by embodying them in Acts of Parliament.
477 Do hon. Members opposite subscribe to that view? Or can they spare a moment from party propaganda and rather stale village hall speeches to face up to the facts? I welcome, and I hope that the right hon. Member for Lewisham. South welcomes, the new respectability which the Bill is giving to Regulations 50, 51, 51A, 52 and 59, which are being replaced by existing Acts—the Land Powers (Defence) Act, the Opencast Coal Act and the new Factories Bill. I hope that at least the right hon. Gentleman will welcome Clause 2 (2) of the Bill as determining in reasonable detail the scope of those regulations which are to remain and that he and other back benchers on both sides will be satisfied with subsection (6). which deals with the procedure for laying Statutory Instruments. I hope that he will subscribe to the principle to which I have referred and which is set out in paragraph 8 of the White Paper.
The final categories in the Bill, apart from those which have been given respectability or which are having their claws cut, are some which are being abolished, some which are expiring and some which, in one form or another, are being retained. The most interesting regulation, on which observation has been made, is that which is in Regulation 58AA. As I understand the position, when the prohibition against strikes or lockouts was removed by the Government of the day in 1951, a review was suggested but no agreement has been reached as to how the tribunal should be replaced. I understand that there were compulsory provisions, which were not justified in peacetime, and that at some time or other the tribunal had to go. I think that it can be replaced, and if there is the necessary will voluntary arbitration can easily take the place of this Tribunal.
I welcome the Bill not because I believe that it sweeps something away, or because I think that it is good Tory propaganda, or that it will be so thought but because I am a back bencher and I do not trust any Executive. I like to see its claws being cut, because I believe that to be the traditional job of ordinary Members of Parliament.
Parliament is a living organism, and we must not give Ministers a blank cheque in respect of the responsibilities we ourselves carry. I do not know whether 478 hon. Members opposite have such unlimited confidence in their leaders that they want to give them blank cheques. We like and admire ours, but we still do not want to give them a blank cheque.
Parliament itself cannot be concerned with every individual matter. Some things have to be delegated, but the days have gone when, as in the twenty-second year of the reign of Henry VIII, the House could spend its time passing an Act for the boiling to death of the cook of the Bishop of Rochester. I do not know whether it was because the cook had failed to poison this saintly man, or because he had poisoned him.
§ Mr. Bell
It was passed. We cannot. I say, get back to subjects as detailed as that, but neither should we get back to the other Henry VIII Statute of 1539. We do not want a Statute or Proclamation. No form of Statute or Proclamation could be satisfactory, except to Members of the Front Bench. The respected elder statesman to whom I have already referred said, in one passage in his book. to which passage I subscribe:It is as well for Parliament to keep a watchful and even a jealous eye on it"—that is, delegated legislation—at all stages.This Bill recognises that. It has endeavoured to circumscribe the powers. It has not done much about setting a standard in the laying of Orders, but it has done something to acknowledge that only in exceptional times, for exceptional purposes, is it in keeping with the English tradition that the Executive should have wide powers. We have had much trouble with the Executive in this House, Mr. Speaker, as you and your predecessors know. We have to watch it and raise the cry of privilege when it endeavours to obtain wider powers. Apart from questions of detail, which can be thrashed out in Committee, I remain astonished that this Bill does not receive the support of back benchers on both sides of the House.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) has given us a very interesting and very carefully prepared essay—with a great deal of 479 historical background—upon the relations between back benchers and the Executive, and I am glad to have an opportunity to reply to it. Many of his illustrations were quite out of date. The issue here is not whether delegated legislation is a good or a bad thing; it is far more subtle than that, and it cannot be dealt with in that very superficial way.
In a sense it is right that all back benchers should be united in trying to restrain the powers of the Executive, but, although that may be a proper exercise of the duties of back benchers, it is quite wrong for the hon. and learned Member to claim —as a great many hon. Members opposite do—that that function is exclusively fulfilled by hon. Members of his party.
§ Mr. Philip Bell
I made a particular point of trying to be generous. I said that when we had industrial conscription many hon. Members on both back benches objected to it.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Then I apologise to the hon. and learned Member, and acquit him of having claimed for the back benchers of his party any superiority over ours in their vigilance in that respect.
If the hon. and learned Member were logical he would object to the Bill. If his abhorrence of delegated legislation is as great as he professed in some passages of his speech, he would be against the retention by this or any Government of the powers that they are seeking to retain. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) explained, although the Bill is called the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Bill it is really an Emergency Laws (Continuation) Bill. The effect of it is to re-enact and delegate to the Government a considerable degree of power to introduce all kinds of Measures under what had hitherto been Defence Regulations, but which are now perpetuated in another form.
The hon. and learned Member has pointed out that during recent years there has been, with the consent of both sides of the House, the abolition of a large number of Defence Regulations which were in existence during the war. That 480 is not a matter for which the Government can claim any credit, for they were abolished by mutual consent. The Defence Regulations which gave the Executive power to circumscribe the activities of the individual—such as Defence Regulation 18B—may have been justified in wartime, but they are quite inexcusable in peacetime, and have long been abrogated. The regulations which remain operate in the economic sphere.
The issue between the parties today is far more subtle than the hon. and learned Member would have us believe. He asks us whether we are in favour of retaining these powers. What strikes me as very odd is that in his analysis of the powers which the Government have retained and the powers that they are giving up he, as a back bencher, happens to agree precisely with the proposals of the Government.
The Economic Secretary said that the Bill was an exercise in constitutional propriety. In my submission, it is an affront to constitutional decency. It is an attempt to hoodwink the electors, to hamper the next Labour Government and to defy the wishes of the electorate. The hon. and learned Member spoke in very opprobrious terms about the Supplies and Services Acts of 1945 and 1947. I forget whether he was in the House at the time—
§ Mr. Fletcher
—but his party voted against the 1947 Act. The hon. and learned Member did himself and his party less than justice in overlooking the fact that if they had been sincere in their professions they would have made some attempt to sweep away those Acts long before this. It does not lie in the mouth of the Tory Party to challenge the Labour Party as being the party which believes in controls; it is the Tory Party which, although it voted against the Supplies and Services Acts, 1947—
§ Mr. Philip Bell
I never mentioned anything about controls. I ignored all the arguments about that subject. I was talking about delegated legislation.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am talking about delegated legislation, and I want to answer the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He objected to the 1947 Act. His Party voted against it. He cited the terms 481 of that Act as in paragraph 19 of the White Paper—and expressed his disapproval. The hon. and learned Member should remember that during the last three or four years this Tory Government have invoked the 1947 Act when it suited them in order to introduce new Defence Regulations.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am glad that the hon. and learned Member acknowledges it. But I am not now concerned to argue whether it was monstrous or not. I am concerned to argue that it is inconsistent and hypocritical for this Government, having made use of the 1947 Act when it suited them to do so to introduce far-reaching and entirely new Defence Regulations, now to condemn the whole of the machinery of that Act and to deny any further Government from using, when necessary, similar powers.
As was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), the House should remember that, owing to the state of emergency to which it reduced the country at the time of the Suez crisis, this Tory Government had to take action and introduce new Defence Regulations; not merely new Statutory Instruments but to make far-reaching Defence Regulations which are quoted in the Blue Book. Otherwise they would not have been able to have introduced petrol rationing. A year or two ago they had to introduce new Defence Regulations to obtain power to enable them to introduce controls on hire purchasing and credit restriction agreements.
The odd thing is that, having used the machinery of these emergency Acts when it suited them to do so, the Government have, in the last few months of an expiring Parliament, come forward pretending to be the advocates of Parliamentary supremacy in order to select which powers shall be possessed by future Governments and which shall be discontinued. The House and the country should ask why have the Government left it so late? They have exercised all the controls they wished to exercise under this machinery for the last four or five years. Why should they want to circumscribe the machinery under which future Governments may work, and do so during the last few months of the existence of 482 what is a dying and decadent Administration? There can be only one possible explanation. If the Tory Party felt any confidence at all—obviously it does not —in its ability to win the next Election —I see that the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East is leaving the Chamber. I do not want him to go. I want him to stay and listen to the argument.
Were it the fact that the party opposite had confidence in winning the Election, there would be no need for the introduction of this Bill now. It could be introduced after the Election. But if it is thought— as hon. Members opposite must think—that there is a good chance—I will not estimate the chance—of the party to which I belong winning the next Election, is the introduction of this Bill by this Government a legitimate exercise of Parliamentary power? Is it legitimate for them now to circumscribe the powers of a future Labour Government and take away powers which the present Government have exercised?
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East quoted paragraph 8 of the White Paper, on which he took his stand. But I am not sure that he analysed that paragraph fully or satisfactorily. The paragraph deals with the relation between Parliament and Government, but there is something else which is equally important; it is the relation between Parliament and the electorate. It is all very well for we back benchers to talk about the supremacy of Parliament and to say we should be more vigilant in the control which we exercise over the Executive. I am entirely in agreement with the hon. and learned Gentleman about that, but we should not overlook the other issue. I am not talking about the legal sovereignty of Parliament. I appreciate as well as does the hon. and learned Member that there is no limit to the legal sovereignty of Parliament. But, by long-established tradition and convention, there is a limit to what a Parliament, in the last weeks of its existence, should do in relation to the electorate. The accusation we make against this Government is that by this Measure—
§ Mr. Fletcher
It is no use the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) shaking his head.
483 The accusation we make is that this Government at this stage are deliberately introducing this Bill for two subtle purposes. One is to try to deceive the electorate and the other to frustrate the electorate. They are trying to deceive the electorate because they are attempting to pretend that the Tory Party, which has exercised all the machinery of controls that it has wished to do for the last four years, is the party which is trying to reduce controls. Hon. Members opposite are trying to say something which cannot be substantiated, and at the same time they are trying to do something which will hamper a future Labour Government from giving effect to the wishes of the electorate, as, for example, in ensuring full employment.
§ Mr. Mackie
I know that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) was not a Member of this House during the 1935 Parliament, nor was he present on that 24th August, 1939, to which reference has been made, when the Emergency Regulations then deemed necessary by the Chamberlain Government were rushed through this House. On that occasion my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who then represented Epping, made a short speech before he went into office in which he said—I quote from memory, but I know that I am right—that we were entrusting these emergency powers to the Government well knowing that they were temporary and would be removed at the earliest convenient opportunity.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I yield to no one in my admiration for the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). He has made many memorable speeches and has rendered valuable services to this country to which no mere back bendier, as I am, can pay adequate tribute. But it is fair also to recall the record of the right hon. Gentleman in relation to the matter which we are now discussing. Since he introduced the subject, may I remind the hon. Member for Galloway that—
§ Mr. Fletcher
I have looked it up and I have here the report of the speech made by the right hon. Member for 484 Woodford on 8th August, 1947, as Leader of the Opposition. He was then opposing the Second Reading of the Second Reading of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill of that year. It is this machinery under which the Tory Party has been operating for the last four years and on that occasion, in dealing with a Measure which has proved so necessary and beneficial not only to the Labour Government but subsequently to the Tory Government, the right hon. Gentleman used language which he would now recognise—as I am sure the hon. Member for Galloway recognises—was completely extravagant. He said:These powers are the negation of British freedom and our way of life in time of peace.The right hon. Gentleman also referred to them as,… the complete abrogation of Parliament and of all our dearly-bought and long-cherished liberties and rights."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August. 1947; Vol. 441. c. 1801–5.]If that is right, then the Tory Government ought to have taken powers long ago to remove these Acts from the Statute Book.
When the hon. Member for Galloway interrupted, I was trying to drive home the point, which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick, that the real object of this Bill—which takes away from the Government of the day powers which have hitherto been exercised in order to meet various emergencies at the time of Suez and the financial emergencies that arose subsequently—is an attempt to deprive a future Labour Government of the benefits of being able to use those powers if necessary to meet any future emergency, or to ensure full employment.
There is no doubt that that is the motive behind the Bill. That was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I wondered, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) wondered, why it was that this Bill is being sponsored by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and not by the Home Office. All previous Bills of this kind, as my right hon. Friend pointed out to me, have always been sponsored by the Home Office. It is quite obvious why this Bill is not being sponsored by the Home Office. The Home Secretary 485 and Lord Privy Seal could hardly have the face and the effrontery, in view of the speech which he made a few months ago, to justify it. He let the cat out of the bag. He said that the Government intended, as he put it, to prevent a future Labour 'Government from introducing Socialism by a "flick of the switch".
The right hon. Gentleman also said. when he was commending the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill tc us the other day that people must be judged by their motives. He has given away the motive for this Bill. There is no use the Government now trying to conceal it. The motive is partly to hoodwink the electorate and partly to frustrate the wishes of the electorate. The Government must think the electorate very stupid, because their attempt to deceive the electorate in this way has been revealed. It has been criticised by The Times: it has been condemned— speak subject to correction— by the Economist and by the Manchester Gqardian. The Times pointed out in very moderate language the other day, censoring the introduction of this Bill:If a Socialist Government were returned to office. it would have been by the will of the people. And however wholeheartedly the British voter fights the party battle at Election times, he is experienced enough to know tint the country has to be governed. He is not inclined to like Government moves designed purely for the purpose of making things more difficult for a possible successor,I hope that I have said enough to prevent the Tory Party being able to make party political propaganda out of a specious claim that it is the party which believes in the abolition of controls.
The Bill retains some controls and abolishes others. This Parliament, in my submission, has no moral right, no constitutional right, at this stage to decide which of the existing controls should be repealed and which retained. That will be a matter for the next Parliament to decide. If it is the wish of the electorate, as I believe it is, that there should be a Labour Government after the next Eection, armed to deal energetically with the economic problems facing the country, it must be right for this Parliament to endeavour to ensure that that party and that Government have all the necessary power to give effect to the wishes of the electorate.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Having sat through the whole of the debate, except for going out for one short telephone call, I should like to say that I cannot quite understand what all the pother is about this Bill. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say that it does not free the people to anything like the extent that some of my colleagues would like to suggest. I think that that is true. On the other hand, it is not the wicked piece of legislation that some hon. Members opposite would like the House to believe.
Having listened to all the speeches, I should like to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell), who is not here at the moment, on his speech. I think that it was the most balanced, sensible and thoughtful contribution made so far. and I am sorry that he is not here to hear what I have said about it.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) in his speech, appealed to me, and I should like to reply to the point which he made. He said that those of us who were here in 1945 remembered the post-war economic problems which faced the Government of the day, and that with the sudden ending of Lend-Lease, world restrictions and shortage of foodstuff and raw materials, the Government of the day had to have certain powers to protect the life and industry of the country. Of course they had. I entirely agree that such powers were necessary.
The hon. Member went on to say that the economic position was easier. Of course it is easier. When we had finished the devastating war, our economy was in a dreadful condition and whatever Government succeeded in 1945 would have been faced with problems such as had never faced any British Government before. I agree with that; naturally, 13 years after the war our position should have been easier for whatever Government was in power.
Just as he argued that we required emergency powers to deal with the problems which the war left with us, so, on his own showing, I should have thought, since things are easier and not so pressing now, not so many of these powers are required and, therefore, he might have supported this Bill. My hon. and learned 487 Friend the Member for Bolton, East said, in his very wise speech, that back benchers on both sides of the House had a duty to watch the growth of the Executive's power and to see that it did not abuse it. That is the basis of free democracy. He based his case on Clause 8, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House, reading that Clause, would not feel that the Bill is anything like so terrible as hon. Members opposite suggest, or anything so wonderful as some of my hon. Friends might think.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who opened the debate for the Opposition, said that there were sharp differences between the two sides of the House, and that the Bill brought out those differences. It is living in a world of fantasy for anyone to suggest that we want every control abolished, or for anyone on this side of the House to suggest that hon. Members opposite want controls for controls' sake. We are living in a mixed economy. We want fewer controls and they may want a few more. It is only a matter of degree; it is not a matter of extremes in one case or in the other. I think that the differences between the two sides of the House are not nearly so great as some hon. Gentlemen opposite have suggested today; nor are we trying to bring in this Bill for electioneering purposes.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick said that the Bill abolished only three restrictions and that ten others which were obstensibly being abolished were being retained in other forms. He said that because of that we were not the freedom-loving party that some people might think. The "flick of the switch" argument has been overplayed on both sides. After the next General Election. whichever party the people decide for will have all the power necessary to do what it thinks right for the country. Therefore, if hon. Members opposite feel that they will then be returned to power. it follows that they will be able to do exactly as they want, and it is right and proper that they should carry out the programme that they have put before the country, and which the country has accepted. I entirely agree with that.
On the other hand, that argument can be used for this side, too. At the last 488 test, with free elections, we were returned with a majority, and are, therefore, entitled to carry out what we believe the people returned us to power to carry out. Perhaps, one day, the other party will come back to power—but I hope that it will not be for another twenty years. However, the argument that we are doing something that will prevent them carrying out their programme, if they are returned, is just shadow-boxing, and both sides of the House know it—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
But the Leader of the House said that that was the reason for it. He introduced the phrase, "flick of the switch." He said that that was the reason.
§ Mr. Osborne
This is my speech. I am giving my point of view, and follow-mg up what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton, East said, that we back benchers should watch over the liberties of the individual and see that the Executive, no matter which party is in power, does not encroach on those liberties. That is our traditional function, and I am trying, though imperfectly. to carry it out.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick also complained that the Bill would prevent a future Labour Government from being able to restore full employment. He thought that certain of the powers that we are said to be abolishing are necessary if a Labour Government are to guarantee full employment. That is one of the most dangerous misconceptions that is held in the House and in the country today. No amount of restriction, no amount of control—no matter by whom exercised—can, in a free society, guarantee eternal, complete and full employment—
§ Mr. Osborne
Well, we shall see.
Ordinarily, the right hon. Member for Smethwick is a very responsible speaker, but I say that the greatest fallacy current today is that, somehow—by legislation, by controls, by restrictions—any party, in a free society, can do what the right hon. Gentleman said his party would do—guarantee full employment.
It cannot be done, and it is a terrible deception of the ordinary people to pretend that it can be done. If I may say 489 so with respect—and I do not say this in an abusive way—if right hon. and lion. Gentlemen opposite go to the country with a tale like that it will be rather like getting votes by false pretences— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members say "Oh", but I believe it to be true because in a free society they cannot, even with the greatest imaginable controls, guarantee full and complete employment.
Perhaps I may give one or two examples to illustrate why it cannot be done. In The Times today there is a very good article on the Lancashire trade problem, by its Industrial Correspondent, one aspect of which rather startled me. The article says:Another small manifestation of the problem, in another field, is to be found in the appearance in Britain of sewing machines assembled from Japanese parts in Ireland, imported as Commonwealth products and selling with electric motors included for from £10 to £11 each.Built in this country, those machines would cost about £45. I know that, because in some of my factories we use many hundreds of them. With prices like that, no regulation or control in the world can prevent unemployment in that section of the engineering industry that produces those machines. Under such conditions, I defy any hon. Member, using any restriction, to promise full employment.
I have another example—and this, I think, is the heart of the problem. As The Times article points out, the Lancashire people are feeling intensely the competition from India. What regulations, in a free society, can guarantee full employment to all the people in Lancashire, remembering that, low as the prices are in India, the Chinese are now offering equally good textile goods at 10 per cent. below Bombay prices, no matter how low those Bombay prices may be? I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House and the country how, in those conditions, restrictions and regulations of any kind can guarantee full employment.
I have a last example. Three years ago, I was in Poland, in Warsaw, talking to their Director of Economic Affairs. He wanted to buy a big group of Leyland motor buses, and to spend about £60 million on the electrification of one of his 490 railways—the orders to come to this country, and thereby provide employment. One. of his main sales then was coal to the National Coal Board. But this is a changing world, and as a result of the substitution of oil for coal, the more economic use of coal, the beginning of competition by nuclear power, we now have 15 million tons of coal than we can neither use nor sell.
Therefore, we are not buying any more coal from Poland. Because we will not, cannot, buy Poland's coal, Poland is no longer in a position to buy those Leyland buses and the railway electrification equipment. That is why I say that, in such conditions, nobody can guarantee work, eternal and full, either to the miner or the engineer, and it is a fraud of the first magnitude for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to claim, even though sincerely, that, somehow, the restrictions that we are taking away will rob a Labour Government of their ability, in a free society, to guarantee full and complete employment—
§ Mr. Osborne
I will agree with that, but I am speaking about the absolute claim. If the right hon. Gentleman will read his colleague's speech in HANSARD tomorrow, he will see what was said. It is to that that I am trying to reply. And this is a problem that faces both sides.
Another case will interest all hon. Members who represent coastal areas. The shipbuilding industry, only a few weeks ago, said that the total number of foreign orders had fallen and, for the first time in our history, at a level of 250,000 tons—
§ Mr. Osborne
I have not finished my sentence. Foreign orders had fallen to 250,000 tons, and, for the first time in our long history, we were net importers of ships rather than net exporters. Why? The Japanese and the Germans can produce ships either more quickly or more cheaply—sometimes a little of both.
There is nothing taken out by this Bill which could enable right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to tell the shipbuilders around our coasts that they 491 could make the foreigner buy British when Japanese and German ships were available for them to buy so much more cheaply. We do a disservice to our people in pretending that there is so much politics in the Bill, or in pretending that we can do so much for them through the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary said that Clause 3 was the Ministry of Supply Clause. After I had read it, I looked up the Imperial Calendar and Civil Service List. I commend this to hon. Gentlemen on both sides. The Ministry of Supply, to which Clause 3 is given or dedicated, has, practically 80 double-column pages in this Calendar devoted to the names of its senior civil servants, at salaries from £1,500 to £4,500 a year. This is, as I hope, a temporary wartime, Government Department. In all seriousness, I say to my right hon. and learned Friend and to my hon. and learned Friend on the Front Bench that, instead of the Ministry of Supply being given more work and more powers, it should be wound up. Could not its work be put elsewhere and a good deal of what is revealed by this Calendar saved?
I shall support the Bill not because it will do an immense amount, and not because it will deceive the electorate. I shall support it because, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton, East said so well, in a mixed society we have to accept a certain amount of control, but the less control we have, the better type of society and the more freedom we have to live our own lives in our own way, controlling our own affairs, the better will it be for us as citizens.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
This Bill is largely concerned with Acts of 1945 and 1947, and I think that in every case I moved the Second Reading of those Measures in the House. I am asked, therefore, to witness, if not the slaughter, at any rate the considerable mutilation of some of my children. That is a prospect which not even the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department can imagine that I view with much glee.
It is quite clear from the way in which the debate has developed that we are 492 really dealing here with some of the essentials of the liberty of the subject and the constitutional rights of the people. It is astonishing, therefore, that, except for a few brief minutes when the Minister of Health was here, not one Member whose name appears on the back of the Bill has honoured us with his presence. If hon. Members will look at the back of the Bill, they will see that the Minister of Health is the only one who has been present at any time during our debate.
§ The Solicitor-General
I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply was here, at a time when, I think, the right hon. Gentleman himself was not here.
§ Mr. Ede
That must have been for only a very few minutes indeed when I was dealing with some matters which related to my former tenure of office at the Home Office, as the Joint Under-Secretary will know. However, if the right hon. Gentleman was here, I will certainly make that allowance. Neither the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate nor the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply has his name on the back of the Bill. I do not think that that is treating the House with the respect it deserves. If Ministers put their names on the back of a Bill, they ought, at any rate, to show some interest in the proceedings in the House.
At the end of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), I came to the conclusion that the proper summary was, "What is the good of anything?—Why, nothing." He clearly demonstrated, to his own satisfaction apparently. that no matter what any Government did, our own internal economic conditions would be at the mercy of the other countries of the world which had low standards of living. I do not hold that doctrine at all. I believe that there is a great deal more to be done through international effort on some of these matters, and I am quite certain that no one on his own Front Bench will say that the Government of this country are as powerless when economic disaster might be approaching as he tried to make them appear.
§ Mr. Osborne
All I was trying to show was that no powers can alter what I call the international economics of the world. 493 Since we have to export 20 per cent. of all we produce to pay for our foodstuffs and raw materials, and sell the things in competition with low-cost producing countries in the world markets, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how he suggests that these powers can help.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not trying to prove that the powers retained or abolished by this Bil1 would do that. What I am saying is that I am quite certain that any Government in power in this country, if they thought the position was as desperate as the hon. Gentleman tries to make it appear, would come to the House with proposals, either to exclude goods from their markets or to arrange some international conference, just as we recently had within the Commonwealth, to see that those matters were put right.
I do not share the hon. Gentleman's view that the industries which he named are incapable, given proper Government support, to deal with any situation which may arise. In 1945 and 1947 our position was a great deal more desperate than it is today. We had to take certain powers which we used and which we said we would use—I do not shrink from answering what the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) said— and by the help of which we carried through a peaceful social revolution which in some respects will be to the lasting credit of this country.
The matter has been so closely argued on both sides that I do not intend to go over the ground again, but I believe that in the end, in the modern world, it will be necessary for a Government that desires to see even-handed justice done in the country between the various interests and sections that there shall be some governmental power and direction that will ensure that there shall be some central guidance about the way in which the economic resources and manpower of this country can be used so that useful people get the opportunity to exercise their usefulness inside the community.
After all, the Government have had no compunction about using the economic powers that they like when they want them. No legislation gives the Government the power that this Government exercised of putting the Bank Rate up as high as 7 per cent. when they think the occasion demands it. That was done as recently as September, 1957, and the 494 Government, faced with what they regarded as an emergency, had no compunction then about altering hire purchase systems, of making the lives of many people of moderate means very miserable, of applying a credit squeeze with very shaky legislative backing which gave plenty of small businessmen, employing a few men, the gravest anxiety and putting a great deal of anxiety also into the minds of the people employed by them.
Do not let us pretend that when there is a crisis to be faced whatever Government is in power will not apply what it believes to be the appropriate remedies. I do not think the remedies which appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite are the remedies that are always suited to the particular illness with which they are trying to deal. I frequently think it is one of those cases that if the doctor only left the patient alone it is probable he would recover from his own internal vitality.
This Bill is one of the preliminary steps to the withdrawal of the protection of Order No. 1376 from a very deserving section of the community whose incomes have to some extent been safeguarded by its existence. I received a letter from the National Union of Bank Employees in my constituency saying that it regards the Government's action as being very detrimental to its future prospects. I do not think that people would regard bank employees and people of a similar social and financial status as being likely to vote in overwhelming numbers for the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Ede
That would show that they have even less political acumen than I was giving them credit for. An astounding thing is the way in which the Government have not merely neglected the interests of that group of people in society but have been actively hostile to them. I was astonished when I got letters from the people in the Health Service who wec.e adversely affected by the refusal of the Government to implement an award that they had received. Nearly every one of the letters came on headed notepaper with a telephone number. That is some indication that they belong to about the same social group as the people in the banks and in the local government service who are interested in the repeal of Order No. 1376.
495 I hope that these people will realise that when we get down to harsh economic facts this Government could put them among the working classes and treat them as though they were workers. All they do is—
§ Mr. Ede
No, I did not. It was the hon. Member who hinted that.
I appeal to the Government, on grounds of social justice, that if they are withdrawing the protection of Order No. 1376 from these people, they shall provide alternative protection that puts them in a reasonably equal position with their employers when it comes to bargaining about salaries and the conditions under which they carry on their professions in which they work.
I have some idea that this matter was going very well until there was a change of Minister at the Ministry of Labour and National Service. In certain negotiations that I was having with the Minister of those days, who is now Lord Monckton, we appeared to be getting on very well and I received some comforting assurances. As soon as the change took place, however, I discovered that one of the people who had been most hostile to granting any extension of Order No. 1376 was the Minister who had been Minister of Health and who became Minister of Labour and National Service, because as Minister of Health he was anxious that some of the better-paid people, so I am informed, who were in his employment as Minister of Health should not get the benefit of Order No. 1376 and be able to take him to the Industrial Court.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
My right hon. Friend has mentioned the Industrial Court. I am sure that he means the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
§ Mr. Ede
I thank my hon. Friend for putting me right on the exact technical term to apply to this tribunal.
496 I hope that the Solicitor-General will see to it that some effort is made not entirely to deprive these people of the none too strong protection they have already had without giving them something which, I hope, will be even stronger. I shall vote against the Bill tonight, if for no other reason—
§ Mr. Ede
That is not for me to decide, although I know what I shall shout when Mr. Speaker puts the Question. I shall vote against this Bill tonight, because without entering into all the arguments that have been used, I consider that the case against it has been amply proved in the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John C. Bidgood (Bury and Radcliffe)
In following the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I must first of all apologise to him for being one of these people who are in at the strangulation of some of the babies to which he referred in his remarks. In very graphic terms the right hon. Gentleman explained to us the programme of legislation which was carried through by the Government of 1945 to 1951. While we have no doubt about the antecedents of the children, the Bills to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, we know that he had a great part in the paternity, but if he tries to bring in the question of the paternity of the Bill that we are debating tonight I am afraid I must cross swords with him, because those Measures were carried through, and that child was born and nurtured, on a dual paternity, on the paternity of the Canadians and the Americans who subscribed sufficient money in the form of loans to enable that programme to be carried through.
Most hon. Members of my own age will, I am sure, not disagree with me when I say that almost from the time when I began to take an interest in current affairs as reported in the Press there has been a continual campaign by most of the newspapers for the repeal of the Defence of the Realm Acts. I can remember when I was quite a young boy the popular Press constantly lobbying for the repeal of those various Acts, the old D.O.R.A.
It is interesting that when the Defence of the Realm Bill was debated in 1914 497 the then Home Secretary came into the House without a draft of the Bill and only half a page of notes in his hand. That was because the Measure was so urgent, and had to be rushed through very quickly. We all know that, despite the short period of time in which that Act was born, it survived far too long.
Then we came,to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill of 1939. The then Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, regretted that the Home Secretary had to come to the House after twenty-five years asking for powers which, to use his own words,trench on many of the most cherished liberties and practices of his fellow citizens."— [OFFCIAL REPORT, 24th August, 1939; Vol. 351, c. 63.]I maintain that in 1958, after a further period of nineteen years, this or any other Government need have no regrets at continuing the process of restoring these cherished liberties and practices to which that Home Secretary referred in introducing that Bill nineteen years ago.
I have made reference to the continuing process. Hon. Members will know that for this Government it has been a continuing process. Today we are at a very advanced stage of the process of eliminating this emergency legislation. The exercise commenced in 1951. At that time there were 215 Defence Regulations in force. As has been explained to the House today, these have been reduced to thirteen, and most of these are to go.
It is interesting to note that the Second and Third Readings of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act in 1939, to which I have referred, took two and three-quarter hours. It has taken us nineteen years to get round to the Second Reading of today's Bill which will take about twice that length of time in debate, and we are still left with five substantive regulations. It is truly said that it is quicker to get legislation on to the Statute Book than to get it off.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) suggests that the Bill is not a charter of liberty, but will do great damage to the nation. He asks why, if we had a genuine desire to do it, WC did not complete this process three or four years ago. I should remind the right hon. Gentleman that four years ago we had reduced the number of Defence 498 Regulations from 215 to 69, and the process has continued. What surprises me most about the Opposition is the result of the comparison that one must make between its attitude today and the attitude which it took up when the Act was first put on the Statute Book in 1939.
During that debate, on 24th August. 1939. the then Home Secretary said:There is another point to which I would draw attention. Hon. Members may say to me, ' Here you Members of the Government are asking for a free hand to deal with matters that trench upon the lives of every individual in the country. You are asking for emergency powers. What safeguard is there that, having obtained those emergency powers, you will not continue to enforce them when the emergency is past?' This was a point put to me with great force and very legitimately by the leaders of the Opposition with whom I discussed the provisions of the Bill. I am anxious to meet these suspicions.He then referred hon. Members to various Clauses and added:I hope that this provision will make it quite clear to every hon. Member that we have no intention whatever of using these emergency powers for peace-time purposes.
§ Mr. Bidgood
The then Home Secretary made these comments in deference to the wishes of the Opposition at that time. Later in the same debate he said:… I ask that this Bill should go through with no undue delay, and that we should make it clear to the world that we are prepared to arm ourselves with powers to meet any emergency, and that if for the time being we are setting in abeyance the liberties and privileges that we have prized so much in the past, we set them aside, not as a result of any dictation, but as an act of our own volition, and as an insurance that in setting them aside for a short time we shall retain them permanently in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th August, 1939; Vol. 351, c. 66–9.]Certain Opposition Members said at a later stage during that debate that if they did not challenge a Division it was because they were taking a previous Division as having shown their general opposition to the Bill. Now the Opposition apparently wants the cake and the penny as well.
The Opposition did not approve of the legislation which we are repealing today when it was enacted nineteen years ago. Opposition Members were fearful at the time lest these powers should be used for peace-time purposes. In view of the undertaking given by the then Home Secretary, it would be a breach of faith on 499 the part of the Government if this Bill were not brought in. It is indeed a charter of liberty and, what is more, another example, if one were needed, of a Conservative promise kept.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North-West)
The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Bidgood), and indeed, nearly every other speaker in this debate, has laid great emphasis on the issue of freedom involved in this Bill, to which we are asked to give a Second Reading tonight. It is right, of course, as several hon. Members have emphasised, that such a matter should be discussed very fully before further steps are taken to increase or diminish the powers of the Government in relation to the subject—or perhaps we should more appropriately say citizens when considering the question of freedom.
All of us are anxious to preserve the maximum freedom of the individual in this country. In practice, perhaps, we shall never succeed in sustaining as much freedom as has existed unless we are continually seeking how to enlarge the freedoms of the citizens of our country. The only way in which we can keep this concept of freedom up to date and alive is by keeping it relevant to modern life and to the daily lives of our constituents.
It is natural that we as professional talkers, perhaps professional controversialists, should be fully aware of the importance of free speech, and so perhaps there is no danger that this House would ever neglect that kind of freedom, although there have been accusations flung about from time to time. I can remember one allegation in 1950, when my Conservative opponent went round on polling day with a loudspeaker declaring that this was the last opportunity his constituents would have to vote in a free election. Certainly that is one of the most crucial freedoms. All experience seems to show that a Government responsible to a freely elected Parliament is the greatest and strongest of safeguards for free speech.
However, these kinds of freedoms have been debated more fully, and people have struggled for them for longer than some of the others which affect more closely the poorer members of the community. Do we give enough importance to the question of a free choice of occupation, 500 of where one lives, of what one eats and of what one wears? Those freedoms are important to many people but are perhaps more difficult to achieve—and therefore more crucially important—to the poorer of our constituents than is sometimes recognised.
Those freedoms are enormously increased in a community which is fully employed, where people then have real opportunities of changing their employment if they wish to do so. Indeed, a change of boss is often one of the most urgent needs of an individual for his self-respect; also a change of home, which depends often on whether a chap has got employment and on the size of his income. Therefore, for many people the range of free choice available in their daily life, in things other than talking, depends a great deal on the prosperity of the country, and it is not irrelevant to the cause of freedom to insist that the country should use its resources to the full. Not only the manpower but the plant and machinery and the natural wealth of the country must be fully utilised for production. That is an essential part of enlarging the freedoms of our people to the utmost extent. In particular, full employment gives the maximum opportunity of a free choice of employment.
In practice in recent years we have been finding that full employment, as might have been anticipated, is difficult to combine with a stable currency, and the more the controls, the planning machinery, inherited by the Labour Government from the war and by the Conservative Government from the Labour Government, have been gradually dismantled the greater has been the difficulty of combining full employment and an expanding economy with a stable price level. At this time, when Ministers themselves recognise that unemployment is bound to increase further, to a little over 600,000 in January, it is surely rash to be dismantling more of the machinery by which the problem might be solved. This is at a time when it is most visibly and obviously failing to be solved.
There was a time under Sir Stafford Cripps when we had a fairly stable price level in a world of inflation, and when we also had a very high level of employment, which some called over-full employment. We certainly had a fully employed 501 population, a rapidly expanding production and a rapidly expanding export trade. At that time, it might well have been argued that we could afford to relax some of the machinery that had been thought necessary for organising the economy. Indeed, the bonfire of controls associated with the name of my right hon. Fr end the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) occurred about that period, and it was apparently accomplished without affecting the continuing expansion of production which went on until the Korean War and then the Conservative Government disrupted it.
This is not a time like that. Production is lower than last year, and it has been stagnant for a long time. There is no doubt that more people are having difficulty in making ends meet. There are people who have been dependent upon overtime which is no longer available to them. Some people are on short time, some people are actually unemployed, and some people are faced with the threat of unemployment. This is no time to be dismantling further the machinery by which employment and production could be expanded without the danger of inflation.
I do not believe that one can in practice reconcile these two things without some control of prices. It is mainly to abolish the power of price control that the Bill is being introduced, and it is mainly for that reason that I think it ought to be rejected. This will not very much affect the present Government. The Bill is intended to clip the wings of the next Government. I trust it will not take very long for the Labour Government to reequip itself with the necessary powers. However, I think it may be a little reluctant about it.
I can assure hon. Members who may have doubts that there is no excess of enthusiasm among my right hon. Friends for slapping on price controls on all sides. I fear that my right hon. Friends may be a little too reluctant to recognise the necessity for controlling prices fairly widely in order to get the maximum expansion of production without danger to the currency. I think that it will, in practice, quickly be forced upon my right hon. Friends—that they will proceed too gingerly with expanding production to take care of prices without controlling prices, and they will find that by con- 502 trolling prices fairly widely they can go much further and expand production and trade much more rapidly, to the great benefit of the country.
I plead that the Bill should be rejected and that the power of price control should be firmly retained. Indeed. I shall be surprised if in a decade or two's time it does not become usual for Conservatives, too, to say that price control by Governments is one of the necessary operations in the framework of a prosperous national economy. If there are Conservative Governments for any appreciable part of the next two or three decades, I think they will find that it is not a vital part of the freedom of the individual that manufacturers should be compelled to spend much of their time haggling about prices instead of expanding production, cutting costs and finding more efficient ways of production.
That is what it seems to me happens today, for prices are largely settled by trade associations or, in the absence of such associations, informal rings have to be constructed and business men may have to spend much time in settling prices. In practice business men have to spend much time on the question of prices and in getting the best price as the best way of increasing the prosperity of their business, often at the expense of loss of production.
Trade associations could assist in negotiations with the Government in settling prices. In that case both the public interest and the interest of the manufacturer involved would be taken into account in the settlement of prices and business men and managers of industry would be free to devote more of their time and energy to organising production efficiently so as to get the maximum turnover, at the price already settled on recognised principles between the Government and the trade associations. They would be free to obtain the maximum profit through the maximum turnover, and by cutting their costs as far below the fixed price as they could. That is the way to produce the most prosperous economy. In that way price control can help to obtain an expanding economy, and, so far from restricting freedom, it is an enlargement of the liberty of the manager in industry in giving him greater freedom to get on with the job which he prefers to do.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The new Economic Secretary today made a maiden speech of almost maidenly innocence. He gave us a detailed and legalistic explanation of all the things that are in the Bill, but he gave no reason why the Government have put them there. All that has been left to the Solicitor-General.
I could not help thinking that the very fact that the Economic Secretary was so reluctant to tell us why we have the Bill in this form might imply that the reason for it was not such a reputable reason, After today's debate there is not much left of the claim that the Government have been inspired by pure-minded zeal for civil liberty in introducing the Bill, The present Government are perfectly willing to balance civil liberty against economic expediency when it suits their purpose.
What the Bill does, stripped of its legalities, is to weaken the power of future Governments, Tory or Labour, to prevent rises in the cost of living, to maintain full employment or industrial peace, to achieve expansion without inflation or to develop Commonwealth resources as quickly as we ought to develop them. The Economic Secretary protested great enthusiasm for what he called constitutional propriety in placing these emergency laws, as a matter of principle, on a respectable permanent basis.
We entirely agree that powers which are retained should be put upon a proper permanent legislative basis. But the Government have taken seven years to carry out these virtuous principles. They are making an honest woman of themselves after seven years' legal twilight, during which some of the children have grown to a quite advanced age. It was the Manchester Guardian, and not I, who described this as a deathbed repentance, whose real object was to spite the heir rather than to right a wrong. If this hasty deathbed conversion is all done out of a new-found conviction—as the hon. Member rather suggested—I do not see the purpose of the Lord Privy Seal's recent speech, when, in one of his characteristic bursts of candour, he talked about this as a flick of the switch. What did he really mean?
504 Moreover, contrary to the impression given by the Economic Secretary, and contrary even to what the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) seemed to think—although I hesitate to suggest that he is ever fallible or wrong about anything—the fact is that the Government are not putting the remaining emergency powers upon a permanent basis. The Bill, for the most part, is merely continuing certain Defence Regulations and other emergency powers, as temporary powers, until 1964, very much as the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, continued them for five years, until 1950.
As for the constitutional propriety of the matter, the Bill is neither more nor less respectable than was the 1945 Act. Nor is it the slightest good for the Government to pretend that they object upon a ground of high principle to economic controls as wicked and tyrannical invasions of the liberty of the subject. That pretence has not survived this debate. The Government are themselves retaining, and in many cases operating, a whole battery of economic controls—and I think that they are doing so rightly in respect of foreign exchange, imports, hire purchase, and the price and distribution of certain welfare foods, and they are also retaining them for the supplies allegedly interrupted by overseas Governments.
It is not the principle of controls to which the Government object, or in respect of which the two sides of the House are divided today. What really divides us is our respective valuation of the aims which made it worth while to exercise these powers. The Government believe that the limitation of imports and the control of hire purchase, for instance, are worth the trouble of the restraint imposed upon individuals by those controls.
We attach equal importance to full employment, price stability, the strength of sterling, industrial peace, and Commonwealth development—none of which was mentioned by the Economic Secretary this afternoon. We value full employment, price stability, industrial peace and the rest so much more highly than the Government that we are willing to incur the trouble and sacrifice which they regard as necessary for other purposes, but not for this.
505 Leaving aside the legal framework, what substantial powers does the Bill propose to abandon? If I am right, price control over almost all kinds of goods is abandoned, as is control over the production and supply of a large range of goods. Compulsory arbitration, and many of the purchasing powers of the Ministry of Supply and the Board of Trade, and a few others, are also abandoned.
No impartial person who understands the Bill can deny that the sweeping away of all those powers must at least make far more difficult the practical job which every speaker in the economic debate a fortnight ago recognised to be the most crucial issue facing us in internal affairs— the job of achieving expansion without inflation.
If, for instance, we abandon these powers of price control altogether, even the power to use price control temporarily in certain circumstances, we have little power left to stop a rise in the cost of living; except by slowing down the economy and experiencing the sort of stagnation policy which we have had in these last three years. On the evidence of the last ten years or so, I do not believe that very many price controls should normally be necessary to keep living costs under control, provided that import prices are not rising.
That is why, incidentally, it is doctrinaire nonsense to say that price control need involve rationing, because, were price control applied at all, it clearly would be applied in those instances where rationing was not involved. But to throw away the power to use price control altogether in any circumstances is surely to force us into the dilemma of having either low prices or vast chronic unemployment.
Even during this past year we have had a 2-point rise in the cost of living, with our industry heavily under-employed and a 10 per cent. fall in import prices. That is not encouraging to the theory of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is why I believe that this Bill in its present form will make stable prices and full employment more difficult to achieve. I agree with the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) that no Government can guarantee full employment always in any circumstances with any certainty. But we say that they can do 'some things which makes it more 506 likely and many things which makes it less likely.
The Government are also virtually abandoning all the general powers of control over industries and supplies contained in Defence Regulation 55. Certainly, those powers, so far as they are retained, ought to be enshrined in permanent legislation. Certainly, they ought to be very sparingly used and probably normally only in the case of essential goods where Parliament, by Statutory Instrument, specifically judges that to be necessary. But to sweep away virtually the whole lot is, in our view, going much too far and will again make any priorities, or planned use of resources in difficult times in the future, far harder to achieve.
In the past few years the present Government have, for instance, at times rationed both steel and oil. Under the provisions of the Bill we shall not be able to do either of those things even in a period of shortage. I agree that the Government have not been able entirely to blot out of their mind the memory of Suez. What happened then? It was not until 31st October. the clay after the Suez ultimatum, that the Government thought of laying an Order before the House to take emergency powers to safeguard our oil supplies. But they would not be able to do even that under the provisions of this Bill which says that such powers could be used only if the shortage of essential goods was caused by measures taken by the Government of any country outside the United Kingdom. The shortage of oil after Suez was not the result of measures taken by another Government. It was the result of measures taken by this Government.
I suppose that the learned Solicitor-General may tell us that the Government have at least learned that lesson and will never commit a folly like that again. But Lord Hailsham is still a member of the Government and he has one unique distinction in British politics. He was an enthusiastic defender of both Munich and Suez. That is a distinction which even the Lord Privy Seal would not claim to rival, because he was somewhat lukewarm about both.
The Bill also severely limits the power of the Ministry of Supply to produce civilian goods. In my view, that is another blow to employment in Scotland. Wales, Lancashire and other areas 507 affected by unemployment. It virtually abolishes, apart from jute, where, again, the Government admit that there is nothing wrong with the principle, the power of the Ministry of Supply and of the Board of Trade to purchase the produce of Commonwealth countries, such as the West Indies, West Africa, Ceylon and India. That in itself is a blow to employment and the development of those countries. I do not think that we can do that sort of thing and then complain when Commonwealth citizens come here in thousands and expect employment in this country.
There can be no doubt that the Bill will make it more difficult to break out of this stagnation policy, which is at present costing the country about £2,000 million a year of income. What extraordinary folly and waste this stagnation policy of the Tory Government is, because while production here stands still, it is going ahead not merely in most of the countries of Western Europe, but in Russia and China and many other totalitarian countries as well.
Of course, the Economic Secretary tries to imply, although he had not quite the face to say it, that under the wise management of the present Chancellor we have virtually overcome all the temporary postwar economic difficulties and so can dispense with all these unusual powers.
The Chancellor himself, last week, boasted of his luck, and he gave me the impression that, in his view, it would be by faith rather than by works that he would guide the economy from now on, That did not inspire me with a great deal of confidence. All Chancellors of the Exchequer tend to suffer from a sort of delusion, not of grandeur but of virtue, that thanks to their own personal purity and sacrifice the country has at last overcome all its economic difficulties and can cast away all defence and restraints.
If the Chancellor is now fitting that halo on to his head, and that is his one 'reason for sweeping all these powers away, let me remind him and the Government of one or two facts before we pass from the Bill tonight. Consider, for instance, the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, the one that we do not mention, as my right hon. Friend called him. Incidentally, he seems to have become not merely unmentionable, but invisible this 508 Session. It almost seems that the Patronage Secretary has hounded him out of the Chamber altogether. Wherever he is, the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), said in his Budget speech in April, 1957, that expansion must be our theme. He thought that most of our troubles were over. Yet, by September, 1957, we were in the worst exchange crisis since the war and the full employment policy was virtually abandoned by the Government.
Out of the last four autumns, we have had three severe exchange crises. We all rejoice at the inflow of gold into this country since 1957, but does the Government Front Bench recall, for instance, that gold flowed into this country every month from September, 1949, to June, 1951, that was not 14 months but 21 months, and the reserve in June, 1951, was very much higher than it is now?
That, I believe, is a warning against assuming that our difficulties can be too easily overcome. Again, if the Government still deceive themselves into thinking that these powers are no longer necessary because everything is running smoothly, let me remind them of this one fact. If import prices had moved between 1957 and September, 1958, as they moved between 1950 and 1951, we should now have not a balance of payments surplus of £400 million, but a deficit of about £1,000 million. I think that that, again, is a warning of the kind of thing that can happen. Therefore, I believe that we should show a little more humility, modesty, and caution in the face of economic fortune, and not throw away the steering wheel when we have barely climbed out of the ditch for the third time in four years.
I myself hope that it should not normally be necessary, in future, to use more than a few carefully selected controls, temporarily, at certain times, to achieve expansion and stability at the same time. Indeed, as is well known, the Labour Government got rid of a great number of controls in those six years. Nevertheless, to throw away altogether even the power to impose price control in certain cases, building control, and control over any other supplies generally is, in our view, imprudently flying in the face of recent experience.
The Government have now been giving an exhibition, for three years or more, of 509 trying to drive the economy without a steering wheel. They have landed the country three times in the ditch in four years. Throughout 1958 we have been standing still for fear of moving too fast, and we fear that this Bill will make it even more likely that either stagnation will continue for a number of years further, or that we shall be in the ditch again before 1959 is over.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Harry Hylton-Foster)
This debate has certainly ranged wide. While I was listening to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) I thought that I was back in an exclusively economic debate. Other hon. Members have been concerned with medical services, baking bread, the Ministry of Supply, in various aspects, and a good deal with labour matters. Indeed, it could hardly be otherwise, because when we are cleaning up, in part, some remanet of emergency powers, the discussion, obviously, will range widely.
On the other hand, there was an eccentric moment this afternoon when words were being exchanged across the Floor of the House on the subject of omniscience. Fortunately, I was not involved in that and I at once disclaim any omniscience in dealing with all the aspects of the different activities discussed, some of them depending on, or relating in some way to the Bill, and others not. I would, however, beg the House to remember that this Bill, which is said not to be a sweeping-away operation, is, of course, not that. It is essentially a holding operation, but it is not to be regarded in isolation.
During seven years we have been working steadily away at the process of getting rid of unwanted emergency powers, or translating wanted emergency powers into some kind of more permanent state. At the risk of boring the House for a moment, perhaps I might remind it just how much has steadily been done in this process. I want to do so because, tonight, we are, in part, accused of performing some operation for an electoral purpose, at some late moment.
That is really quite untrue. If we look at what we have been doing, we will see that this is another step in a perfectly consistent process that has been going on all the time we have been in 510 Government. I ask the House if this is not just enough in itself?
There was, of course, a great deal done in the past. In 1951, for instance, we got rid of the remaining controls on building materials.
§ The Solicitor-General
I accept that building controls went in 1954, and they form some part of an argument I wish to address to the House a little later. So as to save time, I will, if I may, read as a list what was done to abolish con. trots during 1952: soap rationing; the the utility clothing scheme; the manufacture and supply of floor coverings, pottery, containers and packaging, flaxseed, textile bags, domestic and certain commercial electric appliances; the distribution and use of copper and copper alloys, lead and zinc; sales by auction and tender; the hire of building contractors' plant; the use of electric light for advertising and certain other purposes; the freeing from licensing control of food retailers and tea wholesalers; and the removal of price control on a range of articles—jute yarn, pelts, newsprint, mechanical printing paper, coffee, biscuits, tea, bananas, lead, aluminium, brass, cupronickel and other metal scrap, carpets, hollow-ware, domestic pottery, children's non-Utility clothing, perambulators, candles, domestic woodwork, typewriters, furniture, clocks and watches, and all remaining second-hand goods, laundries, and wholesale coal.
The point is made against me that this is done at the last moment before an Election, and I desire to make a sound point, if it be one, that this is steady progress over the years. In 1953, there was the abolition of sweet rationing; the abolition of controls on the manufacture and supply of netting, silk yarn, glassware, pianos and organs; on the manufacture, distribution and price of animal feeding stuffs; on the distribution and price of home-grown grains; on the distribution of sugar, invert sugar, glucose, syrup, treacle, dried fruit, starch and dextrine, zinc, pig iron, iron and steel products. aluminium and alloys, copper and nickel; on timber, bristles and fertilisers; on the licensing of food canning, the manufacture and use of confectionery, 511 soft drinks, milk and cream; on trading in milk; on check trading; on registration of ships built in the United Kingdom; on the requisition of space in ships and aircraft; on the requisitioning and sale of foreign securities—and another batch of price controls, sausages, sausage meat, cereal fillers—[Laughter]—I want to complete the case.
In 1954, as the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) reminded me, there ended the control of building work, all remaining food rationing, powers controlling the manufacture and distribution and price of goods of all kinds reduced to a limited number of specified commodities. Utility furniture, and certain other goods, the processing and distribution of oils, fats, bacon, and so forth. I really am not entitled to weary the House more.
§ Mr. Jay
Does the Solicitor-General not realise that he is answering the wrong charge? The charge against him is not that he has waited until just before an election to get rid of controls, but that he has waited until now to put the remaining ones on a proper and permanent legislative basis. Every word of what he has just said is irrelevant.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am content to abide by a reference to HANSARD for what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). I do not question the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North any more than I question my own. I am content to be bound by a reference to HANSARD. I assert that this is a continuing operation which we have been carrying on across the years, in which the present Bill represents a further step. It is not more than a further step, because we continue by it those powers which we think are necessary for the good government of the realm.
Even as to those powers which are continued by the Bill, we set them a term, a life of five years. We set that term because we believe that five years should give sufficient opportunity to place all of them upon a firm and proper statutory basis. How much the powers retained by the Bill will, in future, be required, I do not know and do not speculate. But we believe that by setting 512 a term of five years to their life we at least will bring succeeding Governments, whether Conservative or Labour, up against the necessity of considering, aye or no, whether they do not think that what remains of this war-time emergency legislation could not then be put into permanent statutory form. If one looks at what has been done, I do not believe,hat anyone in this House would think that we could conceivably have found the time at any stage to do more in this direction than we have done already and now do in this Bill.
I will seek as best I may to answer the questions which have been addressed to me. I have had to be absent from the debate for short times, so that I did not hear all the speeches. I heard as many as I could and when I could not hear the rest I endeavoured to read the writing of the notes that others took for me, in which I may have been indifferently successful.
I must make one apology to the House A number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, such as the right hon. Member for Smethwick, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in particular the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn)—in a speech which, if I may say without impertinence, I thought was one of the most delightful of many that I have heard him deliver—have all been speaking urgently about the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. I recognise that these are serious pleas and arguments about the continued existence of that Tribunal.
I am sure the House would not want me, a mere lawyer, dealing with an Emergency Laws (Continuation) Bill [An HON. MEMBER: "Emergency Laws (Repeal) Bill."] I said that it was a holding operation, and it is. I am sure that the House would not want me to try to deal with serious arguments and considerations relating to that Tribunal in a few moments of a winding-up speech. I know that the House would wish to hear what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, in particular, has to say on this topic. I know the House knows what the true position is regarding a certain Order at the moment.
My right hon. Friend has made an Order the effect of which, if it is not 513 successfully prayed against—if I may use that phrase—will be to bring to an end on 1st March next year the Order on which the Industrial Disputes Tribunal rests. I understand, however, that agreement has been reached through the usual channels that a whole day shall be devoted to that topic in the near future, and I thought it probable that the House would think it right to deal with that matter on that occasion and treat it as one deserving of a full day's debate, as evidently is the agreement between both sides of the House. I hope that the House will allow me to take this course. It is not that I do not think that it is an important matter, and it is in no sense a discourtesy to hon. Members who have raised the matter.
A number of relatively small points were raised. There was. for instance, the rather painful concept of the 14 oz. loaf. The right hon. Member for Smethwick asked about it, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking about it I began to think that he was asking for the retort which he got, which was, "If this thing is such a naked fraud, permitting bakers to perpetrate a naked fraud continuously, why did you not do away with it?" [Interruption.] I am not sure whether the right lion. Gentleman would think that that was right because it really is not one of those glorious pretences that are made regarding the contents of bottles. It is necessary because of the law.
There is the Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926. It is no good saying that we should amend it. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had a great many more years to amend it and they did not bother because of this very convenient operation. Incidentally, the provision of the particular weights and measures Act is that if a person is selling a loaf more than 12 oz. in weight, he may only sell it in units—I do not quote the words, because I do not remember them—of 16 oz. or multiples of 16 oz. That proved to be inconvenient at the appropriate time and so—mark the literary form of the name of the Order—the Bread (Amendment) (No. 2) Order, of some wartime date, which I forget, suspended the operation of that provision and made it legal, for the first time, to sell loaves of 14 oz., rising in 14 oz. multiples.
514 I assure the House that no kind of fraud is perpetrated on the public. The 14 oz. loaf is not sold as a 1 lb. loaf. Anybody who goes to try to buy one asks for a small loaf as opposed to a large loaf and gets one. Unless one is rather ill-trained in these matters, one knows that what one is getting is a 14 oz. loaf. There is no kind of fraud, as it appeared when the right hon. Member for Smethwick was describing the process that we have sanctioned for so long.
If we were to change this position suddenly, we would be upsetting an industry whose production has been geared to the 14 oz. shape of loaf for something like twelve years. It does not seem to be a very large or serious matter of anxiety and we propose for this moment and for this purpose, and for the spell of this Bill, to retain that power That is the reason for it.
Then, my hon. Friend and other hon. Members asked why it was necessary to retain the price control power in relation to medical supplies and the power to get information concerning them. My hon. Friend asked why the Government cannot simply trust the ordinary competition of trade to get them the right price and not bother about control. The difficulty is that the service is financed by the Exchequer, but the Minister of Health is not a party to the contract between the supplier and manufacturer and the wholesaler and the chemist. The chemist—I speak in the presence of those who know much more about it than I do—has no practical incentive to drive a hard bargain, because his remuneration in this context is determined by some kind of cost-plus system; he gets something over and above the assessment of cost.
It is necessary in the public interest to retain the power of price control and the power to get information to see that the cost is being rightly arrived at. Although we would always hope that we would not have to use the powers any more than, I suppose, our predecessors have had to use them in that direction, it seemed to be necessary in the public interest to keep the power of price control and of getting that information.
Another complaint which was made was not so much against the Bill as the operation in which we are here engaged. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) drew attention to the 515 extent of the powers that we were keeping and how wide they were. He pointed to the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act. He forgot the Exchange Control Act, but it goes into his point. Adding to that the Defence (Finance) Regulation 2A, which is here continued and which makes an even further extension, the hon. Member asked how wide were these powers that we are keeping.
We are not frightened at the wide powers if we deem them to be necessary and required for the public good. I quite accept that there is a great difference of political philosophy between the two sides of the House. The point I am meeting is that there is no inconsistency in our retaining our view just because we do not share the view of the party opposite. There is nothing inconsistent about it.
§ Mr. MacDermot
Surely there would have been no need to cut down the other ones unless the Government thought they would cease to be the Government.
§ The Solicitor-General
I will come to the other ones in a moment. Let me deal first of all with the hon. Member's point.
The Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act would be a formidable Act to amend, to slice or to prune in any way. I think the whole House would agree that we need these powers at least for the moment for the purpose of strategic control, and to substitute a new Act, which is something I dare say we should all like to see in due course— I do not know—is a major legislative operation which clearly ought not to be undertaken, I would submit to the House, till we know where we are in relation to things like the European Free Trade Area negotiations about which the Economic Secretary was talking.
So far as the Exchange Control Act is concerned, which this Bill does not touch, everybody, I think, would agree that it is right to keep that in its entirety. We need it. Clearly we are going to need it, and we need the supplement we get in relation to those kinds of transactions dealt with in the Finance (Defence) Regulations. Frankly, I have some difficulty in understanding the protest of hon. Members opposite about the fact that we have here selected as we have.
There is one incidental point I could perhaps conveniently deal with at this 516 stage. I am very sorry I had the misfortune to miss the speech of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu). I am very sorry, but there were other obligations which made it necessary. If I rightly read the note of his speech on which I am depending he was asking for an explanation of the kind of events which the Government were contemplating would render necessary the powers under paragraph (d) of Regulation 55 (1) as it will be after this Bill. I hope I have the point rightly. It appears from the wording at page 13 most conveniently.
If I may take him to task without impertinence, I thought, with great respect, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) simply was not making the point fairly just now on this matter, because he was saying that the power to deal with the interruption of supplies, as it might be, which here appears, would be dependent upon some action of a foreign Government. He made the point by leaving out the other words which raised the problem which, I think, was in the hon. Member's mind. The words are:or as the result of other special circumstances arising in any such country".That is, in a foreign country. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman may not have meant to put it as he did, but he put it solely on the first set of words, and, of course, it makes a difference.
I hope we shall not be chided for drafting in wide terms because at other moments we are chided for risking too narrow a foresight in this field, and that is why we have used wider terms here. The sort of thing we have in mind is that a country has put a ban on supplies, a political act of a foreign Government. We have to maintain supplies against interruption for other reasons, civil war, unrest—[An HON. MEMBER: "Suez."] Suez, if you please, somebody sitting on our line of supply by Governmental action, if you please, or for things like had harvests or a series of bad harvests.
I do not think I could give any exhaustive list of what from a lawyer's point of view would be covered by these words. I suppose that "other special circumstances arising in any such country" would be construed on the basis of what lawyers call the ejusdem generic rule.
I would submit that it is right not to 517 draw that too tightly or we may tie ourselves too narrowly on the circumstances in which we could exercise that power. We do not put domestic crises into this, as opposed to foreign crises, because, we hope that if we—or any other Government in this country—needed to deal with a domestic crisis, then Parliament would at once give the Government the powers for which they asked.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
is the right hon. and learned Gentleman really saying that Parliament would give powers if a great emergency arose over something abroad but would not do so for an emergency at home? Surely that is an extraordinary argument.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am not saying that. I am thinking that, or rather we were thinking that—[Laughter.]—the foreign crisis. of which one does not get warning or any opportunity of anticipating, is an emergency probably requiring greater speed of action. It is for that reason that we have this reserve power and we do not think that it would be the same in relation to a domestic crisis. That is the distinction.
Hon. Members opposite complain about the fact that we select some of these powers to keep and some not to keep. If one sets about the operation of pruning from time to time those powers which do not depend on legislation going through the House, one has to make a process of selection. One makes it according to one's political line, and we do not expect the Opposition to make the same selection as we would make.
This is not, as someone has said, a fancy hotch-potch. It is a careful selection after working through all the Government Departments to see what we must keep in the form of decretal legislation in order to ensure the good government of the Realm. It is puzzling to hear the argument that all this is presented as some kind of spoiling operation, something which is to hamper the Socialist Government that is to succeed us. That was the phrase used by one right hon. Gentleman.
For the first time in my life I have heard today one of my colleagues chided for not being sufficiently controversial. I do not want to be controversial. I wish to develop the argument. I do not wish to enter into the slightest controversy 518 as to who will be the Government after the next Eleotion or the Election after that or the next Election after that one. But supposing, just for the purposes of argument, that it were in my mind that hon. Members opposite should be voted on to these benches next time. How very inept this Bill would be as a spoiling operation.
I was greatly obliged to the hon. Member for Leeds, West, whom I regret I do not see in his place at the moment. When one of his hon. Friends was developing this point the other way round, the hon. Member for Leeds, West said Ineffective". Why he should assume that the Front Bench would not also have got the point that it would be ineffective I do not know. But how very ineffective it is. It is sometimes very difficult to discover the intentions of hon. Members opposite. I understand that their many pamphlets in certain quarters have been said to make no impact whatsoever and that they are having to produce some shortened document to explain them.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The difference between the pamphlet sent out by Transport House and pamphlets from the Conservative Party is that that was not sent out in an envelope marked O.H.M.S.
§ The Solicitor-General
I wonder whether it would have made any greater impact on Socialist supporters had it been so. I think that I read somewhere that this document made the impact of a soggy pancake, but let me revert to my serious argument.
When I wanted to see, in this very imaginary situation, whether we are trying to spoil what we can suppose will be a Socialist Government next time, this is what I read:Planning does not mean a return to detailed controls. Direct controls over consumer goods and raw materials were necessary after the war, mostly because of conditions of extreme scarcity, and are unlikely to be needed again in the future.
§ The Solicitor-General
I can read on, but it is not relevant to my point. Nor is this famous pamphlet being used in any way unfairly in the context. I do not distort the text by not reading further.
Assuming that is the pattern I was supposed to accept as the policy of hon. Gentleman opposite, there is nothing 519 whatsoever in this Bill which spoils that operation, absolutely nothing. What else do they praise in here or attach importance to in here? I made a list. It is not for me to expound the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I have to see now true this accusation is, and if I misrepresent their policy, I hope they will correct me.
These are the other matters to which importance is attached apparently: import control—left entirely unaffected by this Bill; exchange control—left entirely unaffected by this Bill; capital issues control—nothing whatsoever to do with this Sill in any sort or kind of way; building control—that is true, but it is nothing to do with this Bill because it has gone already, in 1954. I would add investment control, but that also is nothing whatsoever to do with this Bill.
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman in due course, but I shall be much obliged if I may develop my argument in its present state. Now I find that it is not exactly as it is presented in that pamphlet, unless I misread it. It is said today, "Oh, but we want to retain the power to control prices". What power do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite want to control prices? Are they asking that they should have, and have kept for them, the hill powers conferred by Regulation 55AB plus the power to vary, which we have been reproved for abrogating? Incidentally, of course, we have to abrogate the power to vary else we do not reduce the power to make regulations in any sense. But are they really asking to retain these powers:A competent authority may by order provide for controlling the prices to be charged for goods of any description or the charges to be made for services of any description …"?There is a whole range. If they are not desiring to keep that power, precisely what power are they desiring to keep? And what are they worrying about in the event— the unlikely event as I believe—that they should be voted back into power? What are they frightened about? The House of Commons such as it would be then, if it put them back into power, 520 would scarcely be likely to deny them any power they wanted, assuming of course that they could put forward any decent reason for wanting it.
Really I do not appreciate how this can be presented in any way as some kind of spoiling operation, because on the face of it this is clearly designed not to interfere with any of those matters with which according to their documents and pamphlets, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were on paper relying when considering what their economic policy should be for the good government of this realm.
"The flick of a switch." That is a very good interrupting theme of hon. Members opposite. They were not my words, and if I assume to interpret the phrase I would have thought it was quite a good phrase to use to a non-technical audience, instead of using some pompous phrase like "going through the full legislative process" as distinct from making some order under a power conferred by Parliament.
I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will now allow me to commend this Bill to the House on what I believe is its true principle. It is a holding operation and merely another step in a process which has been going on for seven years, and it is not doing anything to which I can conceive any hon. Member of the House basically objecting. The fact is that we here are, as we ought to be, the prime protector of the citizen against the mischievous activities of the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion may be, and the way in which we exercise that protection—a number of right hon. and hon. Members have been doing it all today gleefully—is by public discussion and debate of the legislative proposals of the Government of the day.
There come times of war, times of emergency and times which are the aftermath of war and emergency, and then the Government of the day come to the House and receive at the hands of the House, if they make a good and true case, very wide powers to legislate by delegation, whether by Statutory Instrument, order, rule or regulation, whatever fancy name is attached to the process, including an Order in Council. That is what happens. But when the House grants those powers it makes on every occasion a surrender of its own, of its 521 ability to protect the citizen against the Government.
It would be easy, I suppose, if these powers did not have great administrative convenience, to get rid of them, but I suspect that there is no right hon. or hon. Member present who has been concerned in any way with government who does not know the truth of this, that they have a persistent and powerful way of living on
§ on their own because of their administrative convenience.
§ I commend the Bill to the House because it represents another step in the reassertion of the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 229.525
|Division No. 5]||AYES||[9.57 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Deedes, W. F.||Hope, Lord John|
|Aitken, W. T.||de Ferranti, B. R. V. Z.||Hornby, R. P.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Horobin, Sir Ian|
|Alpert, C. J. M.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Drayson, G. B.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||du Cann, E. D. L.||Howard, John (Test)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Dugdale, Rt. Hn, Sir T. (Richmond)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Duncan, Sir James||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Duthie, W. S.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh,W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Errington, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Barter, John||Erroll, F. J.||Hylton-Foster, Rt.Hon. Sir Harry|
|Batsford, Brian||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Fell, A.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Finlay, Graeme.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fisher, Nigel||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Forrest, G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Fort, R||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Freeth, Denzil||Kaberry, D.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Keegan, D.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gammans, Lady||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Gibson-Watt, D.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bishop, F. P.||Glover, D.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Black, C. W.||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Kimball, M.|
|Body, R. F.||Godber, J. B.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Goodhart, Philip||Lagden, G. W.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Gough, C. F. H.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Gower, H. R.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Braine, B. R.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Leavey, J. A.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||Leburn, W. G.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gresham Cooke, R.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grimond, J.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bryan, P.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col, R. G.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gurden, Harold||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Lleweilyn, D. T.|
|Butler, Rt.Hn. R.A. (Saffron Walden)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Carr, Robert||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Cary. Sir Robert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Loveys, W. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth W.)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Cole, Norman||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cooke, Robert||Hay, John||McAdden, S. J.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||McKibbin, Alan|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hesketh, R. F.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Crowder, Sir John (Flnchley)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Macleod, Rt. Hn, Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold (Bromley)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Holt, A, F.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Maddan, Martin||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Hornoastle)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Teeling, W.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Profumo, J. D.||Temple, John M.|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Ramsden, J. E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rawlinson, Peter||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Redmayne, M.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Renton, D. L. M.||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Mathew, R.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Mawby, R. L.||Rippon, A. G. F.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Medlicott, Sir Frank||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Roper, Sir Harold||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Russell, R. S.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wade, D. W.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Sharples, R. C.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Shepherd, William||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wall, Patrick|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Noble, Michael (Argyll)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Speir, R. M.||Webster, David|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Osborne, C.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Page, R. G.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Partridge, E.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Peel, W. J.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woollam, John Victor|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Storey, S.||Yates, William (The Wrekln)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Studholme, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Pitman, I. J.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Mr. Oakshott and|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Mr. Edward Wakefield|
|Pott, H. P.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Deer, G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Albu, A. H.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Delargy, H. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Diamond, John||Janner, B.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dodds, N. N.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Donnelly, D. L.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Baird J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)|
|Balfour, A.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Bellenger, R. Hon. F. J.||Edelman, M.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Benn, Hn Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E)||Edwartls, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield)|
|Benson, Sir George||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Bevan Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Blackburn, F.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Kenyon, C.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Finch, H. J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Boardman, H.||Fitch, Alan||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Fletcher, Eric||Lawson, G. M.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Foot, D. M.||Ledger, R. J.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Forman, J. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Gibson, C. W.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Gooch, E. G.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Greenwood, Anthony||Lewis, Arthur|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Logan, D. G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grey, C. F.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||McCann, J.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hale, Leslie||MacColl, J. E.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne valley)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Carmichael, J.||Hamilton, W. W.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Champion, A. J.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||McInnes, J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hastings, S.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hayman, F. H.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Clunie, J.||Healey, Denis||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Coldrick, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Herbison, Miss M.||Mahon, Simon|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Holmes, Horace||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E,)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hoy, J. H.||Mason, Roy|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield. E.)||Hunter, A. E.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Monslow, W.||Redhead, E. C.||Timmons, J.|
|Moody, A. S.||Reeves, J.||Tomney, F.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Reid, William||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Mort, D. L.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Moss, R.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Moyle, A.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Ross, William||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Royle, C.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Short, E. W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Oram, A. E.||Skeffington, A. M.||Wigg, George|
|Orbach, M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Oswald, T.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Padley, W. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Snow, J. W.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sorensen, R. W.||Williams, Rev. Llyweiyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Parker, J.||Sparks, J. A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Spriggs, Leslie||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Paton, John||Steele, T.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Peart, T. F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Pentland, N.||Stonehouss, John||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Popplewell, E.||Stones, W. (Consett)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Prentice, R. E.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Woof, R. E.|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Swingler, S. T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Probert, A. R.||Sylvester, G. O.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Purvey, Cmdr. H.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Randall, H. E.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
|Rankin, John||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).