HC Deb 18 April 1967 vol 745 cc401-27

Lords Amendment: No. 4, in page 22, line 35, at the end to insert: () Tie Chairman at any such inquiry shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor and shall be a barrister, advocate or solicitor of not less than 10 years' standing and shall be assisted by such members of the Commission as the Commission may nominate.

Mr. Hoy

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Hoy

I cannot understand that, because the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) argued on the previous Amendment that it was better to wait to hear the argument before making up one's mind. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite should have made up their minds before they heard the argument.

I apologise for having to say considerably more than I normally say, but I believe it to be right on this occasion. I have every sympathy with the spirit that prompted this Amendment. Indeed, if the facts were as the speeches of the movers of the Amendment in another place suggested, I should be the first to support it. But they are not. Unfortunately, there has been considerable misunderstanding of the Clause, perhaps ever since the Bill was first published. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will bear with me if I comment fairly fully in order to get the facts straight.

The Amendment would have the effect of requiring that all inquiries held by the Commission under Clause 21 must have a legal chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and I should like to draw attention to what this would mean in practice.

Subsection (1) empowers the Commission to hold such inquiries as it considers necessary or desirable for the discharge of any of its functions. Without this subsection, the Commission would not be authorised to hold any inquiries, whether or not they involved any use of the compulsory powers described later in the Clause to summon witnesses and take evidence on oath. In other words, subsection (1) is the only authority provided in the Bill for the Commission to undertake inquiries of any kind, however informal.

There could be, for example, technical fact-finding inquiries into how the industry works, how particular sectors operate, how different kinds of meat are treated, and so on—facts about which there is likely to be no dispute, but which are essential if the Commission is to be able to do its job in an informed and proper way. The majority of these inquiries—and perhaps even all of them, because we envisage that the compulsory powers will need to be used only in exceptional circumstances—will probably be held on an entirely informal basis, without any recourse to the compulsory procedures.

But the effect of the Amendment would be to require that all of these inquiries, no matter how informal and how limited, must have a legal chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor. I have no hesitation in saying that this arrangement would be unworkable, and that I wonder whether the mover of the Amendment really intended it. Even the most passionate advocate of the Amendment must surely recognise that a legal chairman would be inappropriate to the kind of informal inquiries into technical matters which I have already mentioned.

These are in themselves sufficient reasons for rejecting this wide Amendment, but I want to deal fairly with the question whether a legal chairman would be appropriate to some particular type of inquiry which could be held under this Clause. I do so because it seems to be widely and mistakenly thought that, even if most inquiries were innocent, there could be some in which the Commission would be both plaintiff and judge in its own cause. But how could this be so? Where in this Clause is there any power for the Commission to pass judgment or to take any other kind of decision? How, therefore, could there be a cause? There are powers to hold inquiries to obtain information, and only to obtain information.

If this is accepted—and if it is not, then I must ask any hon. Member who differs from it to specify what other powers are included in this Clause—then the fear must really be that the Commission might take and implement a decision under some other Clause on the sole basis of information obtained at an inquiry. I recognise that the possibility of inquiries under Clause 21 being held in connection with development schemes under Clause 9 has been worrying those in the trade, and I want to answer their fears. The answer is in two parts, because there could be an inquiry either, first, in connection with the formulation of a scheme, or, secondly, in connection with a scheme already made.

Dealing, first, with the use of the powers of inquiry where no development scheme has been made, I certainly do not dispute that the Commission could use these powers to obtain the facts before considering whether or not to prepare and approve a draft development scheme. But this process of acquiring information would not put anyone out of business—this is equally true whether the information is got from an inquiry, or through consultations or in any other way; nor would the Commission be committed to any particular policy at this stage; and it is difficult to see any justification for imposing a legal chairman on one particular type of fact-finding operation.

If a development scheme were subsequently drafted, when perhaps the Commission could then be said to be com- mitted, the draft scheme would have to pass through all the procedures listed in Clause 2 and Schedule 2, which are there to safeguard the interests and to ensure fair play. The House will not wish me once again to repeat this long list of procedures and safeguards, but I would like to point out that if an independent inquiry seems necessary before Ministers can satisfy themselves that a scheme is desirable, I am advised that they are empowered to appoint such an inquiry.

The second aspect was the possibility that a compulsory inquiry might be held in connection with a development scheme already made. For example, it has been suggested that an inquiry could force a trader to give information which would reveal that he was in a category adversely affected by a development scheme. Without entering into the merits of such a case, or considering whether the presence of a legal chairman would make any difference to it, I would suggest that the critics are forgetting that a draft development scheme will have to set out very precisely what is to be done. So if the scheme was one where the Commission would need to obtain information for its operation, it ought to be clear at the draft stage how the scheme would fit in with the Commission's other powers and duties.

Any omission or ambiguity in this respect is a matter to which the interests concerned, the Ministers and Parliament will all be particularly sensitive in the course of the preparation of a scheme. So no question of the unforeseen use of the Commission's powers under Clause 21 for this purpose could arise, and any safeguards which were thought to be needed against misuse of these powers could be included in the scheme.

For these reasons we do not see any justification for saying that some inquiries held under Clause 21 should have legal chairmen just because Clause 9 is also part of the Bill.

I have spoken at some length on this Amendment because I wanted to clear up some of the misunderstandings which seem to have arisen on the Clause. No one in the Government, or indeed in any Government, would wish to be a party to a provision which might lead to injustice being done, but Clause 21 is not such a provision. The Amendment proposed would impose a requirement which would without question be unworkable. If the requirement were limited only to inquiries at which the compulsory powers were used, it would still be unnecessary and inappropriate to the purposes for which the powers of inquiry could be used, and it would interfere with the efficient operation of the Commission.

For all these reasons, I ask the House to disagree with this Amendment.

Mr. Stodart

This subject interested us upstairs in Committee and it interested another place. It concerns the qualifications which ought to be held by the chairman when the Commission holds an inquiry. I thank the hon. Gentleman for going to the length he did in explaining the matter but I must tell him that I myself remain perhaps not so unconvinced as I was but by no means convinced by his argument.

When we discussed this upstairs, his colleague, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie) said that what was wanted in the chairman was an honest-to-God layman who knew all the 'acts of life and not a legal luminary who required people to get up when he came n and gave the impression that, as it were, a court was sitting.

In the House of Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Walston rather repeated that argument. He was asked what sort of things would be inquired into. He gave two examples. He said, first, the cuts of meat proposed as being required for a particular area and, secondly, possibly the retail margins which were being charged. So far as the first of these examples is concerned, there can be no possible need for a summons to be issued, for witnesses to be put on oath or declaration or for allowing someone who is summoned to appeal to the High Court against a demand by the Commission for any particular document. If these were all that could be inquired into, the Clause would not exist.

The hon. Gentleman has squarely faced the fact that the scope for inquiry is much wider. It could be held into anything which the Commission thinks desirable for the discharge of its functions, which include classification of carcases, labelling and pricing of meat in shops under Clause 6, powers to meet future developments in Clause 9, the introduction of develop- ment schemes, the compelling of extra capacity to be eliminated and a reduction in the number of undertakings.

8.45 p.m.

These are serious enough matters for evidence to be given on oath, but these matters, which are not the only ones which can be inquired into, are ail too serious for the chairman of the body which has taken what must be controversial decisions, in that someone will not agree with them, to preside over the inquiry to which wtnesses are summoned with all the formality of the law and can be put on oath.

It would be much better not only for the Commission but for its chairman if he gave up his seat on these occasions and therefore rid himself of any possible charge of partisanship. For what I think are good reasons—though I would not expect the right hon. Gentleman to be convinced yet—I would not take the advice or listen to the plea of the hon. Gentleman, eloquent though it was.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Nothing has contributed more to public disquiet about marketing hoards than disciplinary cases, when the chairman has had to preside in a way which may be thought by the uninformed and even the well informed to be that of a judge in his own court. I am thinking particularly of the lamentable history of the Tomato and Cucumber Marketing Board, now defunct. Nothing did more to undermine confidence in it than those disciplinary cases at which particularly Mr. Jack Merricks championed the individual liberty of the subject. The last thing any of us want is for the Commission to be in the kind of predicament which that board faced. If we reject this Lords Amendment we will at once be running a grave risk of this happening again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) rightly cited some of the powers in addition to those listed in Clause 9. Consider, for example, the powers under Clause 2 and the obligation on the Commission, in the course of exercising its functions, to refer to the Production Committee, if what it is doing may be disadvantageous to producers, to the Distribution Committee, if it may be disadvantageous to distributors, and to the Consumers Committee, if it may be disadvantageous to to consumers. In addition, an inquiry may be set up under Clause 21.

The more one examines this matter the more certain one becomes that the chairman of the Commission will be in the position of presiding over a case when he is the principal officer being challenged. Since the Joint Parliamentary Secretary feels that it would be unwise to insist on having a lawyer presiding over one of these informal inquiries—and I particularly noted the word "informal" —why does Clause 21(9) enable anyone who so wishes to insist that the inquiry take place in private? This does not exactly smack of an informal, but of a public, inquiry.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary probably thinks that this is a safeguard for the individual concerned, but is it? Suppose that the individual is not legally represented—which he has no obligation to be—and decides to present his own case, as it were. I have always thought that one of the greatest safeguards in a case of that kind is that the British Press is represented. If we are suddenly to have a closed court there will be nobody to report to the public what has happened during that phase of the inquiry. Before we know where we are, we will have a secret court on our hands.

If we are moving into the age when we are so disturbed about public administration that it is thought necessary to create the office of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, we should be on our guard before multiplying the number of quasi-judicial courts that already exist, I believe, in over-abundant numbers. Inevitably, the development of this trend would place the Commission in the most intolerable position.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

What has all this to do with the chairman of the Commission? The hon. Gentleman is referring to a matter which surely has nothing to do with the chairman.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Having had some experience of taking the chair at various meetings—

Mr. Baxter

So have I.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

—I should have thought that the more legalistic an argu- ment is likely to become, the more vital it will be that whoever takes the chair is experienced in dealing with lawyers putting points to the chair. I can think of nothing more intolerable than having a legal case argued out at an inquiry, with lawyers presenting their points, and with the chairman not necessarily having any knowledge of the law. That, surely, is the great danger of leaving it open in this way so that an inquiry can be set up without any obligation for the chair to be taken by someone with legal experience.

Mr. Baxter

Surely that is quite common practice in Britain. Even in a court of justice, cases are heard by a justice of the peace who does not necessarily have legal experience, and people before him can be represented by legal minds. That does not only happen in that sort of case, but in inquiries involving local authorities and in county valuation committees.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am well aware of the procedure adopted on the bench, but I wonder what magistrates would do without the clerk to the justices. There is always a trained legal adviser available to the bench—

Mr. Baxter

It depends on the calibre of the clerk.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

There is nothing written into this Clause to insist upon that—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) wants to hear my answer to the point which he has put to me or to carry on a dialogue across the Gangway.

As I read the Clause, there is no obligation upon the Commission, should it decide to hold an inquiry, to have a legal adviser present. I should have thought that that would make it even more important that the chairman of the inquiry should be a person with legal experience.

The more we tend to move in this direction, the more certain it becomes that dubiety starts to be introduced where it should not be present. Whatever disciplinary machinery we set up under the Bill, I should have thought that it was essential that it should be known to be, seen to be and respected as being beyond reproach. When one looks back at all the quasi-judicial bodies which were set up in connection with agriculture in the past, I should think differently from the way that I do if I thought that it could be said that there has never been any doubt that a hearing was fair and that the individual was treated equitably. The more one looks back, the more certain one is that there have been all too many occasions when there has been doubt about the position of a person under the law and one has wondered whether true justice has been done. I can see it all happening again, especially when I look at the multitude of functions which the Commission is to be given.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that there is no question of anyone being put out of business under this Bill. Reading Clause 9 (2,a), I say without hesitation that, legally, there is no doubt that that entitles the Commission to put someone out of business. As long as the power exists, it is imperative that any disciplinary machinery which is set up should be set up in the certain knowledge that the utmost rectitude will obtain from a legal point of view.

I have no alternative, therefore, to say that I cannot agree with the Parliamentary Sec7etary in his proposition. I should like to see the Lords Amendment embodied in the Bill.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills

In spite of what the Minister said, he has not convinced me on this subject. I still think that there is a very strong case for an independent chairman. If such an independent chairman were appointed that would help to create the right climate. Goodness knows, after our discussion on the first Amendment we need some encouragement to be given to the Commission. I do not think that the Minister realises or understands the point about creating the right climate. There are very real fears about this matter, especially when it comes to questions of inquiries and courts. It is essential that we should have an independent chairman.

Mr. W. Baxter

I presume that if he does not recollect, the hon. Member will have read about the executive committees which were formed under the 1947 Act and which did yeoman service. They did not have legal chairmen, but they were composed principally of agricultural people.

Mr. Mills

That may be so, but this Commission will be far more complicated and will have very far-reaching results.

Mr. More

My hon. Friend will remember that after the war agricultural tribunals were set up to determine difficult questions affecting landlords and tenants. They were found to be so unsatisfactory without legal chairmen that the whole procedure had to be revised.

Mr. Mills

That answers the point far better than I could have done. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More).

The Minister said that it was ridiculous to have a legal man who would have to take part in every little inquiry. That may be so; by having an independent chairman we might be overdoing the matter, but it would make clear that fair play was being observed. That would satisfy farmers, the trade, those concerned with slaughterhouses and the public, who have much at stake in any sort of inquiry of this kind.

I should have thought that the Minister would desire this safeguard. In reply to any criticism he would be able to point out that there was an independent chairman. It is very sad that he brushes this aside. The idea of an independent chairman is right and it is important that he should be a legal man. I do not think that I have ever advocated before that a legal man should take a prominent part in our affairs, but in this case this is necessary because of the conflicting interests which are bound to be found.

The marketing boards have learned by experience of this sort of inquiry and disciplinary committee how important it is to have an independent chairman. I support what was said in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton). He thought it would be a good idea for the Minister to consider the possibility of setting up a permanent judicial board to which all marketing boards or similar bodies might refer this kind of inquiry or disciplinary action. That would be a very wise move. I am sorry that the Minister has forgotten that suggestion and is not even prepared to have an independent chairman.

We on this side of the House accept that it is necessary for inquiries to be held, but there must be safeguards. All those interested in the matter must have faith and trust in a committee and its chairman. For these reasons we need the safeguard of an independent chairman. This is a reasonable Amendment. I should have thought that even at this late hour the Minister might reconsider his attitude and start to create the right climate for the Commission.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

My hon. Friends have made a devastating case against the Government's proposal to reject the Amendment. I am surprised that the Bill should have been allowed to reach this final stage without it being realised that it is unsatisfactory to found every inquiry that the Commission may wish to make on this one Clause.

The Clause, to say the least, is full of conflict. It is a grave error of judgment to seek to deal in one Clause with informal inquiries and inquiries of a nature which may be contested. There is all the difference in the world between an agreed fact-finding exercise, which may in no way be disputed and which, therefore, can be done informally, and the type of inquiry which will be resisted out of fear or suspicion that those inquired into may be being asked to reveal, for example, commercial information which may be of the greatest advantage to their competitors either in this country or overseas.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

We are not dealing now with the type of inquiry which can be held under subsection (1). That does not arise on the Amendment. We are dealing on the Amendment only with the question as to who the chairman should be.

Mr. Hill

With respect, we are trying to determine, not who the chairman should be, but whether the chairman should be legally qualified. This is essential in the case of an inquiry which may be contested. I was seeking to suggest merely what I think would be a common reason for anyone wishing to resist an inquiry or, at any rate, to be afraid of the inquiry.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We cannot go back on the question which has already been agreed as to the nature of the inquiries which can be held under subsection (1).

Mr. Hill

I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the fact is that, as the Bill stands, any inquiry, whether accepted or resisted, must come through this procedure. There is the rather odd feature in the Clause that the Commission may take the initiative by summoning someone by legal process to produce all evidence. There is nothing informal about that. If, as my hon. Friends have suggested, a witness avails himself of the right to be represented by counsel, it is essential, in the Commission's interest, that there should be someone in charge of the inquiry who has proper legal qualifications.

In an ideal Bill some provision for informal inquiries might well have been made separately. I am surprised that the Government have reached this late stage without realising the obvious difficulty. Why cannot the Commission be enabled to carry out uncontested inquiries by another and simpler procedure? Once an element of contest or objection enters into it, the case for a legally qualified chairman becomes overwhelming. Some alleged misbehaviour during the course of the inquiry—the attitude of the chairman might have a great bearing on the behaviour of the witness—might result in further procedure which could, under the Clause, lead to imprisonment. Subsection (11) provides for a sentence of imprisonment for certain matters of misconduct by witnesses.

In a contested inquiry it is, therefore, essential, where, as my hon. Friend for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has pointed out, there may be a very awkward and hostile witness, one who is just appearing before the Commission so as to be troublesome, that the chairman should be armed with legal knowledge and experience, so that neither he himself nor the Commission may be exposed to the damage which might result from the chairman's, through inexperience or lack of knowledge of the law, taking some steps with regard to the witness which may be unfortunate.

As the Government have not made adequate provision for informal inquiries before this late stage of the Bill, as I wish they had, they must accept this Amendment. If it would cause a certain amount of over-formality or difficulty in manning inquiries, then, at a later stage, the Government may need amending legislation to relax the discipline of the inquiry. But to go forward with the provision as it is would lead to the possibility of grave injustice and great damage both to the witnesses themselves and to the very conception of the Commission's duties which the Government wish to support.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will, though reluctantly perhaps, accept the Amendment.

Mr. Hawkins

I hope to persuade the Minister to accept that the whole industry wants the chairman to be independent and disinterested in cases of this sort. I am an agricultural arbitrator, and on one occasion, after I had appeared before an agricultural executive committee, the chairman said to me that he greatly wished that he did not have to appear in such a case in which it seemed that he was judge and jury at the same time. I am convinced that these gentlemen do not like having to do this work. It throws an additional burden upon them. I believe, also, that those who are likely to be brought before any such inquiry feel themselves put at a disadvantage. For this reason, although I do not consider that it is essential to have a legal gentleman in charge, I beg the Minister to accept that the chairmen should be someone who is independent and disinterested.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) reminded the Minister that the Cucumber and Tomato Board was put out of business largely because this procedure brought it into disrepute. Something similar has happened in other cases. I have heard members of the Egg Marketing Board, for instance, say that they wish that this procedure could be taken out of their hands so that they were relieved of this type of business.

Throughout our proceedings on the Bill, the Minister has agreed with me—I put the point to him many times and he recognises that I am sincere in it—that if we are to have this Commission and it is to start off on the right foot, there must be a good climate. This Amendment gives the right hon. Gentleman one way of giving the industry proof that he wishes the Commission to start off on the right foot. I am certain that he will undo all the good work which he has done if he does not allow it to do that, and this is one small way in which he can show the outside world that he wants, as I know he does, justice to be seen to be done as well as to be done.

The livelihood of many people in business could be affected by the evidence which they were compelled to give, disclosing to their rivals and neighbours some of their own private business affairs. I am sure that the Minister realises this. I can only urge him again to accept the Amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I was impressed by the seriousness with which the Parliamentary Secretary tackled this Lords Amendment, but I have not been impressed during the debate on it since by the seriousness with which the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary have listened to the arguments from this side of the House. They have been reading books, laughing or smirking. [Interruption.] Perhaps the Minister thinks that I have just come in, but I have been here all the time. The Minister has been reading a book.

Mr. Peart

The hon. Member cannot be aware that there is on the Table a biography of Members, and was checking on the hon. Member. I merely wondered who he was.

Mr. Crouch

I had already deduced that that was what the Minister was doing, because I was not a Member of the Committee. Anyway, the Minister has a benign expression on his face and I hope that he will continue to have it as he listens to our argument—and I hope that he will be able to hear what we say.

The point here is not only that we need to have an inquiry headed by a competent chairman but that the inquiry should be headed by a lawyer who is also impartial. Having decided to call for evidence and to summon someone before them, the Commission and the chairman are in the position of a plaintiff. If the chairman of the Commission is to take the chair at the inquiry he will then be both plaintiff and judge in his own cause, as has already been said by my hon. Friends.

We heard from the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be "unworkable" for the inquiries to be conducted by a lawyer. Why should it be unworkable? There is much more at stake than finding out information, and the Bill mentions how much might be at stake for the person summoned before such an inquiry, which is a serious business.

Subsection (2) says: … the Commission may by summons require any person to attend … Subsection (4) says: Within fourteen days of service of a summons under this section, the person served may appeal to the High Court on the ground that any of the evidence, or any document, which he may be required to give or produce in pursuance of the summons is not reasonably required by the Commission for the execution of their functions under this Act, … That subsection refers to the serious legal possibilities with which the person summoned before the inquiry might be faced.

Subsection (6) says: No person shall be compelled for the purposes of an inquiry under this section to give any evidence or produce any document which he could not be compelled to give or produce in proceedings before the High Court. It is recognised that a legal problem may be involved for the person appearing before the inquiry.

In subsection (8) it is stated … the Commission may take evidence on oath and for that purpose administer oaths, … Again, a legal background and atmosphere are seen to be about to be established.

Subsection (9) says: … the Commission shall exclude the public from the hearing while that person gives his evidence. if it is decided that that should be so.

Those five quotations show that we are treading on ground where the advice of a lawyer, not sitting behind the chairman as a judge advocate might sit behind the chairman of a court-martial, but sitting in the chair, would be a great advantage to the Commission and to the person summoned before it. Subsection (10), which describes the procedure for such an inquiry, says that any person appearing thereat shall be entitled to representation by counsel, solicitor or any other person. Again, we have there an admission that we are faced with a legal situation. Finally, at the end of the Clause, we are reminded that if a person summoned before the inquiry does not appear, or suppresses some evidence, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds … I admit that these inquiries will be for the benefit of the agriculture industry, the Commission itself, the farmer, the butcher, and the meat trader generally, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) said, it is important that they should start on the right foot. I implore the Minister to think seriously about what we have been trying to put to him tonight. We want the Commission to be a success, but we feel that there is so much of a legal nature at stake for the persons appearing at these inquiries that the Government should consider whether it is not unwise and injudicious that the chairman of the Commission placing a complaint before someone summoned to an inquiry, should himself sit, as it were, in judgment on his own cause.

Mr. More

I would like to echo most warmly the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), and to say at once how much I regret the aspersion which the Minister attempted to cast on him by saying that he had not been present during the debate. More than once earlier today I had occasion to speak to my hon. Friend, and I can vouch for the fact that he was in the Chamber. I think that anybody listening to his speech must acknowledge how completely he has grasped the essentials of the issue which we are considering.

There has been only one small possibility of disharmony on these benches. I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) that I regret his view that it is more important to have an independent chairman than a chairman with legal qualifications. Everyone is always very unkind about lawyers, but the fact is that non-lawyers never recognise the true function which lawyers should perform. Whenever, in this House, something comes up which has a legal sound about it, for instance the Criminal Justice Bill, or something of that kind, everyone says, "That is a matter for lawyers. Leave it to them". When we have something like the Meat and Livestock Commission, the natural thing is to say that this is a matter for people who understand the meat trade.

This is all wrong, because the truth of the matter is that when discussing criminal procedure, or how things should be conduced, what we want are not lawyers, but laymen with common sense, and speaking as one who has been upstairs for some weeks as a member of the Standing Committee considering the Criminal Justice Bill

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to suggest that someone in the meat trade should be on the Criminal Justice Bill, he is out of order.

Mr. More

Coming back to the meat trade, it is a fact that as soon as one gets off the subject of the law, and one has to have an inquiry into any other subject, the essential thing is that it should be presided over, not by somebody who knows the topic in question, but by somebody who has legal qualifications. This is because the object of being a lawyer and of being trained in the law is not simply to know the law, but to know how to elucidate the facts. When one reads in newspapers that a judge trying a case has solemnly asked, "Who is Jayne Mansfield?" and everybody says, "Silly old man"—

Mr. Speaker

With great respect, Jayne Mansfield is out of order on this Amendment.

Mr. More

I apologise, Mr. Speaker.

Coming back to the meat trade, a legal presiding officer asks, "What is a meat cut?", and everybody says, "Silly old man. He does not even know that."; but the answer is that he is merely trying to get the essential facts elucidated. That is the object of having a legally qualified chairman in matters which to all appearances are not legal.

I need not reinforce the cogent observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury on the subsequent subsections of this Clause, particularly subsection (7)—my hon. Friend called it subsection (6), which is what it was when it left this House—about giving evidence or producing documents which a witness could not be compelled to produce or give in proceedings before the High Court. That alone impresses one with the importance of having to preside over these proceedings someone who has some idea of what the rules of the High Court are.

If it is said that there will always be legal guidance in this kind of inquiry, that is to fall easily into another very unsatisfactory state of affairs. If a layman is conducting what is largely a technical legal inquiry, and is faced with that kind of thing and has to have a legal assistant, first, that legal assistant has to be paid, which is a cost to the taxpayer, and, secondly, one falls into the position of the lay members doing what they are told by their legal adviser.

I appreciate the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), but I reinforce what all my other hon. Friends have said about the importance of having at the head of an inquiry of this kind someone who is legally qualified and who, while he may appreciate the advice of a legal assistant, is nevertheless able in his own right to say how the proceedings should be conducted, what the scope of the inquiry is, and how evidence should be adduced and documents produced.

Mr. Jopling

I understood the Minister to say that it was only under Clause 21 that the Commission would have an opportunity to hold inquiries. I do not quite understand why that is so. Clause 21(1) says: The Commission may hold such inquiries as they consider necessary or desirable for the discharge of any of their functions". I well understand that, but the functions of the Commission are set out in Schedule 1, of which paragraph 13 says that they are Promoting or undertaking investigations and research as to—

  1. (a) the production, marketing and distribution of livestock,
  2. (b) the production, processing, manufacture, marketing and distribution of livestock products,
  3. (c) the demand (whether in Great Britain or elsewhere) for livestock and livestock products and connected matters, including prices paid for livestock and livestock products."
I will not read any more of this, but it seems that it is one of the specific functions of the Commission either to get someone to do this, or to do it itself, and to have investigations and promote research into all these matters covering, in a few lines, the great proportion of the functions of the Commission.

Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that this point is covered under paragraph (13) of Schedule 1. I do not quite understand why this point that Clause 21 is the only part of the Bill allowing the Commission to hold inquiries into the discharge of its functions, was made. This is covered, and I suggest that this point is not valid, and, therefore, all the excellent points on the legal matters made by my hon. Friends have full force, and are not diluted by the points made by the Minister.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Godber

I rise only to reinforce what my hon. Friends have said, because they have put some very good points, which need little support from me. I hope that they will have their effect on the Minister and cause him to revise his view of this Amendment. I was sorry that the Minister said what he did about my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), and I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) responded to that. The truth is that there have been so many hon. Members present on our side that it was easy for the Minister to miss one. Had it been an hon. Member opposite it would have been very remiss of anyone not to have noticed because there have been so very few present during the debate. That is probably the reason for the Minister's unfortunate oversight.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends for what they have said about this important Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary has not really measured up to the point made. He said that he would like to hear the arguments and having heard them I hope that, with the authority of his right hon. Friend, he will feel able to reverse the recommendations made. A very strong case has been spelt out by my hon. Friends for this Amendment. The Amendment concerns the type of chairman that there shall be at an inquiry. The intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) illustrates the uncertainty that there is about this Clause. Perhaps we should have taken this up at an early stage in Committee. It is really the use of the word "inquiry" in the first line which can lead to a certain degree of misunderstanding. The line reads: The Commission may hold such inquiries as they consider necessary … It is the use to be made of the word "inquiry" which is causing concern. Obviously the Commission may make inquiries of any type at any time. This is the point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland was directing his remarks, that presumably the use of the word "inquiry" is to indicate a more formal inquiry. That is the only justification for the other subsections in relation to this Clause.

If this is so, and if it is to be a formalised type of inquiry, as these other subsections make it appear essential, then there is great validity in his claim for a chairman of the category specified in the Amendment. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have not measured up to this point, that if an inquiry is to be in these conditions, and if it shall be a question of persons being summoned to attend, and that there shall be all the provisions laid out in these various subsections, including that which gives the powers to the individual to be represented by a solicitor, counsel or any other person, it is surely envisaged that there will be a formalised inquiry.

That being so, it is not unreasonable for those summoned to expect to be able to appear before someone with legal training. If I understood the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary it was not feasible or possible to do this from the form and type of inquiry that was intended. It was said that it would break down if there were a legal chairman. There is provision for the informal type of inquiry in the normal working of the Commission. It is only when the inquiry is precise and formal that Clause 21 operates.

No case has been made out for not giving the protection which a chairman with legal training would be able to provide. The Government's arguments are not adequate, and, unless they produce much better arguments in response to the debate, I shall be bound to advise my hon. Friends to vote on the Amendment.

Mr. Hoy

We have had an interesting debate. I do not wish to get too involved in an argument about the number of Members present, but it was rather peculiar that when the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) made a comparison of the attendance in the House there were 17 Members on either side. It may well be that hon. Members opposite cannot see as well from their side of the House as we can from ours, but we cannot be blamed for that. This sort of argument does not take us very far.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) was kind enough to thank me for what I said in endeavouring to explain the Clause. He even went so far as to say that he was not as unconvinced as before. I was grateful for that. Then he went further and said that he was still not convinced although he had got halfway along the road.

The hon. Member went on to deal with certain examples given by a noble Lord in another place about cuts of meat. I quoted a few examples which I thought were relevant. The hon. Gentleman chose not to use them. I was pointing out the sort of thing which could arise if an inquiry were held which did not call for the skill of an advocate of 10 years' standing, appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Even the hon. Gentleman would agree that we would not want the skill of a Q.C. to tell us how to define a cut of beef.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) had some things to say about secret courts. He painted a very lurid picture of people meeting in secret. He admitted that he came into the Chamber halfway through my speech. I do not object to that; he is entitled to be out of the Chamber. But, having been out during half of my speech, he is not entitled to seek to represent what I said.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

The moment the hon. Gentleman's name went up on the annunciator, I came into the Chamber.

Mr. Hoy

I am not objecting. The hon. Gentleman spoke about secret courts, and so on, and when I make a simple reply to him he gets very touchy.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely went on to use—and another hon. Member opposite fell for his argument—the analogy of a marketing board and referred to Mr. Jack Merricks. The com- parison with disciplinary boards under a marketing scheme is invalid, because there are no disciplinary powers in Clause 21 or elsewhere in the Bill which would permit the Commission to be the judge in its own case. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's analogy falls completely.

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and I have met on occasions. On the last occasion, his argument was much stronger than the argument which he adduced tonight. He fell for the argument of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely. Every subsection of the Clause which he quoted was a protection for the individual.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman then talked about this being the next step into the secret courts. He knows that to be quite untrue. I noticed that he missed out a very significant line in one of the subsections he quoted. He had obviously failed to notice that the inquiry is to be held in private only when the person giving the information requests that it be in private. It must be done at the request of the person concerned. Only when the person concerned decides that it should does the secrecy come into play.

This is right, and I was a little surprised when this argument was used, because the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) said something about having to disclose trade information. That is why I say that this provision is right. The person concerned is not on trial, he is not being disciplined or anything like that, but he may be helping the Commission with information that he wants to keep from his competitors. This is what the argument is about. All I am saying, and I insist on saying it, is that there can be no secrecy unless the person concerned requests it for himself.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

But can the person demand secrecy, or can he only request it?

Mr. Hoy

If he requests it, the request will be granted, because, as I say, he may want to help the Commission without disclosing his own business to his competitors.

I was a little surprised when the right hon. Member for Grantham said that he might have taken the matter much further in Committee. He will remember that the point was raised there, and that we were asked to take steps to protect the people concerned. That is why we did so. All through, what we have sought to do has been to give protection to the individual concerned—

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Hoy

No. I have listened for a very long time, and have given way on a number of occasions—

Sir H. Legge-Bourke


Mr. Speaker

Order. There is at the moment almost a record number of interventionists. It is a matter for the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor to decide whether or not he will give way. Mr. Hoy.

Mr. Hoy

As I think the House will agree, I have been very generous in giving way—as, indeed, I was throughout the Committee stage—but I must have the right to reply as I wish in order that the House may understand what we are doing.

The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said, "The Parliamentary Secretary has not convinced me"—but that was not any information. If he had said that I had convinced him that would, indeed, have been information. The hon. Gentleman used that argument so often during the Committee stage—and we had about 39 sittings altogether, and two Second reading debates—it is no longer surprising.

But the hon. Gentleman also said that we do not get support, and he referred in this connection to the first Amendment

on the Notice Paper. I will not go back to that Amendment, but he sought to say that the only support the Minister had on the first Amendment was from the N.F.U., as though the N.F.U. today did not count. I have never taken that view. The hon. Gentleman might be a little more temperate in his language about the N.F.U., although it is not my job to defend that organisation.

What we have sought to do all along, and we have debated this fairly fully and comprehensively, has been to give protection to the individual. In these inquiries we do not always require a legally qualified person of 10 years' standing appointed by the Lord Chancellor. I know a good many laymen in many parts of the country and in this House capable and willing to undertake such work.

I am just a little astonished that hon. Members opposite should pay so little respect to the laymen who are prepared to give their time to do such jobs. These laymen are doing first-class work. The Amendment is unnecessary. I repeat that it would interrupt and hinder the work of the Commission. It is because of that that I hope the House will reject it.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has sat down.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 146.

Division No. 308.] AYES [9.46 p.m.
Abse, Leo Brooks, Edwin Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)
Albu, Austen Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Alldritt, Walter Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Allen, Scholefield Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Dell, Edmund
Anderson, Donald Buchan, Norman Dempsey, James
Archer, Peter Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Dewar, Donald
Armstrong, Ernest Cant, R. B. Dickens, James
Ashley, Jack Carmichael, Neil Dobson, Ray
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Carter-Jones, Lewis Doig, Peter
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Dunnett, Jack
Barnett, Joel Coleman, Donald Eadie, Alex
Baxter, William Concannon, J. D. Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)
Bence, Cyril Conlan, Bernard Ellis, John
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Faulds, Andrew
Bidwell, Sydney Crawshaw, Richard Fernyhough, E.
Bishop, E. S. Cronin, John Finch, Harold
Blackburn, F. Cullen, Mrs. Alice Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Boardman, H. Dalyell, Tam Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Booth, Albert Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Floud, Bernard
Boston, Terence Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Ford, Ben Lomas, Kenneth Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Forrester, John Loughlin, Charles Probert, Arthur
Galpern, Sir Myer Luard, Evan Rankin, John
Gardner, Tony Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Reynolds, G. W.
Garrett, W. E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Ginsburg, David McBride, Neil Robinson, W. 0. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Gourlay, Harry MacColl, James Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Gray, Or. Hugh (Yarmouth) Macdonald, A. H. Rose, Paul
Gregory, Arnold McGuire, Michael Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Grey, Charles (Durham) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Rowland, Christopher (Merlden)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Mackie, John Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mackintosh, John P. Sheldon, Robert
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maclennan, Robert Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Hannan, William MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N 'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Harper, Joseph McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Si'kin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McNamara, J. Kevin Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Haseldine, Norman MacPherson, Malcolm Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Hazell, Bert Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Slater, Joseph
Heifer, Eric S. Mapp, Charles Small, William
Henig, Stanley Marquand, David Spriggs, Leslie
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mason, Roy Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Hooley, Frank Mayhew, Christopher Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Horner, John Mendelson, J. J. Symonds, J. B.
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Miller, Dr. M. S. Taverne, Dick
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Thornton, Ernest
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Molloy, William Tinn, James
Howie, W. Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Urwin, T. W.
Hoy, James Moyle, Roland Varley, Eric G.
Huckfield, L. Neal, Harold Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Newens, Stan Watkins, David (Consett)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby,S.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Hunter, Adam Norwood, Christopher Weitzman, David
Hynd, John Oakes, Gordon wellbeloved, James
Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,8.) Ogden, Eric Whitaker, Ben
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Orme, Stanley Whittock, William
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W. Oswald, Thomas Wilkins, W. A.
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Owen, Will (Morpeth) Williams, Clifford (Abertiliery)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) padley, Walter Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Page Derek (Kingis Lynn) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Paget, R. T. Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Lawson, George Palmer, Arthur Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Ledger, Ron Parker, John (Dagenham) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Winterbottom, R. E.
Lee, John (Reading) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Woodbum, Rt. Hn. A.
Lestor, Miss Joan Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Pentland, Norman TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Mr. Charles R. Morris and
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Cunningham, Sir Knox Harvie Anderson, Miss
Astor, John Dalkeith, Earl of Hawkins, Paul
Baker, W. H. K. Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire,W.) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Batsford, Brian Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Higgins, Terence L.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hill, J. E. B.
Bell, Ronald Eden, Sir John Holland, Philip
Bessell, Peter Elliott, R.W.(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyno, N.) Hooson, Emlyn
Bitten, John Eyre, Reginald Hornby, Richard
Biggs-Daviton, John Fortescue, Tim Hunt, John
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Foster, Sir John Hutchison, Michael Clark
Black, Sir Cyril Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Iremonger, T. L.
Body, Richard Gibson-Watt, David Jopling, Michael
Brahie, Bernard Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Kershaw, Anthony
Brewis, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Brinton, Sir Tatton
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Bruce-Cardyne, J. Clover, Sir Douglas Langford-Hott, Sir John
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bullus, Sir Eric Gower, Raymond Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Burden, F. A. Grant, Anthony Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Campbell, Gordon Grieve, Percy Loveys, W. H.
Carlisle, Mark Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Lubbock, Eric
Chichester-Clark, R. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. McAdden, Sir Stephen
Clegg, Walter Gurden, Harold MacArthur, Ian
Cooke, Robert Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) McMaster, Stanley
Corfield, F. V. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maddan, Martin
Costain, A. P. Harris, Reader (Heston) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Marten, Neil
Crawley, Aldan Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maude, Angus
Crouch, David Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Mawby, Ray
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J, Pym, Francis Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Quennell, Miss J. M. Wall, Patrick
Miscampbell, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R. Walters, Dennis
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Ward, Dame Irene
Monro, Hector Russell, Sir Ronald Weatherill, Bernard
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Webster, David
Murton, Oscar Stainton, Keith Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Stodart, Anthony Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Onslow, Cranley Summers, Sir Spencer Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Osborn, John (Hallam) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart) Worsley, Marcus
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wright, Esmond
Page, Graham (Crosby) Temple, John M. Wylie, N. R.
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Peel, John Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Percival, Ian van Straubenzee, W. R. Mr. Jasper More and
Pink, R. Bonner Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)