HC Deb 11 July 1967 vol 750 cc555-621

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)

I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 3, line 33, after 'order', to insert: 'in respect of an award or settlement'. If I may hazard a guess, I would think that one of the reasons why you have seen fit to select this among all the Amendments which you have selected,

Mr. Speaker, is that it raises a question of principle which has not hitherto been discussed in our proceedings, either in Committee or on Report. That question of principle arises from the fact that this is the first Amendment which seeks to treat an Order in respect of prices different from one in respect of wages—

It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put, That the Proceedings on Government Business may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]

The House divided: Ayes, 215, Noes, 126.

Division No. 443.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Jones, T, Alec (Rhondda, West)
Anderson, Donald Eadie, Alex Judd, Frank
Aroher Peter Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Kelley, Richard
Armstrong, Ernest Ellis, John Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Ashley, Jack Ensor, David Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, M.) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Evans, Ioan L. (Birmingh'm, Yardley) Lawson, George
Barnett, Joel Faulds, Andrew Leadbitter, Ted
Beaney, Alan Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Bence, Cyril Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lee, John (Reading)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Ford, Ben Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Bidwell, Sydney Forrester, John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bishop, E. S. Freeson, Reginald Loughlin, Charles
Blackburn, F. Gardner, Tony Luard, Evan
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ginsburg, David Lyon, Alexander w. (York)
Boardman, H. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. p. C. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Booth, Albert Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) McBride, Neil
Boston, Terence Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony McCann, John
Boyden, James Gregory, Arnold Macdonald, A. H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mackie, John
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maclennan, Robert
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hamling, William MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Cant, R. B. Hannan, William McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Carmichael, Neil Harper, Joseph McNamara, J. Kevin
Carter-Jones, Lewis Haseldine, Norman MacPherson, Malcolm
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hattersley, Roy Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Chapman, Donald Hazell, Bert Manuel, Archie
Coe, Denis Heffer, Eric S. Mapp, Charles
Coleman, Donald Henig, Stanley Mason, Roy
Concannon, J. D. Hilton, W. S. Maxwell, Robert
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hooley, Frank Mendelson, J. J.
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Horner, John Mikardo, Ian
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Millan, Bruce
Dalyell, Tam Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Howell, Dents (Small Heath) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Howie, W. Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hoy, James MoHoy, William
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Huckfield, L. Moonman, Eric
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Morris, Alfred (Wythershawe)
Delargy, Hugh Hunter, Adam Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Dell, Edmund Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Moyle, Roland
Dempsey, James Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Neal, Harold
Dewar, Donald Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Dickens, James Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Norwood, Christopher
Dobson, Ray Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oakes, Gordon
Doig, Peter Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) O'Malley, Brian
Donnelly, Desmond Jones, Dan (Burnley) Oram, Albert E.
Driberg, Tom Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Orbach, Maurice
Dunnett, Jack Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Orme, Stanley
Oswald, Thomas Rosa, Rt. Hn. William Varley, Eric G.
Owen, Will (Morpeth) Rowland, Christopher (Meriden) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Ryan, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Palmer, Arthur Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Parker, John (Dagenham) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Weitzman, David
Pavitt, Laurence Shore, Peter (Stepney) Whitaker, Ben
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Whitlock, William
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Short, Mrs, Renée(W'hampton, N.E.) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Skeffington, Arthur Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Small, William Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Price, William (Rugby) Snow, Julian Winnick, David
Rankin, John Spriggs, Leslie Winterbottom, R. E.
Rees, Merlyn Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Reynolds, G. W. Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Woof, Robert
Rhodes, Geoffrey Taverne, Dick Yates, Victor
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Thornton, Ernest TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rodgers, William (Stockton) Tinn, James Walter Harrison and
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Tuck, Raphael Mr. Charles Grey.
Baker, W. H. K. Gower, Raymond Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grant-Ferris, R. Neave, Alrey
Batsford, Brian Gresham Cooke, R. Nott, John
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Grieve, Percy Pardoe, John
Bell, Ronald Gurden, Harold Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Bessell, Peter Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Peel, John
Biffen, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Percival, Ian
Biggs-Davison, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Peyton, John
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harris, Reader (Heston) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pink, R. Bonner
Body, Richard Hastings, Stephen Prior, J. M. L.
Bossom, Sir Clive Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Pym, Francis
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Higgins, Terence L. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Holland, Philip Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hornby, Richard Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Howell, David (Guildford) Ridsdale, Julian
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hunt, John Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Burden, F. A. Hutchison, Michael Clark Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Campbell, Gordon Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Royle, Anthony
Carlisle, Mark Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Russell, Sir Ronald
Cary, Sir Robert Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Sharples, Richard
Cordle, John Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Costain, A. P. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kitson, Timothy Summers, Sir Spencer
Crouch, David Lancaster, Col. C. G. Tapsell, Peter
Dalkeith, Earl of Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dance, James Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Taylor, Prank (Moss Side)
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Lubbock, Eric Teeling, Sir William
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Vickers, Dame Joan
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McMaster, Stanley Wainwright, Richard (Colne valley)
Doughty, Charles Maddan, Martin Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Drayson, C. B. Marten, Neil Wall, Patrick
Eden, Sir John Maude, Angus Webster, David
Elliott, R. w. (N c tle-upon-Tyne. N.) Mawby, Ray Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Emery, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Errington, Sir Eric Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Eyre, Reginald Mills, Peter (Torrington) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Farr, John Miscampbell, Norman Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Woodnutt, Mark
Fortescue, Tim Monro, Hector TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Montgomery, Fergus Mr. Anthony Grant and
Glover, Sir Douglas More, Jasper Mr. Bernard Weatherill

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Mr. Mikardo

I feel a bit like the Sorcerer's Apprentice. A few moments ago you were good enough to call me to move the Amendment, Mr. Speaker. I began to address the House in my usual tones of dulcet moderation, but before I had said a dozen words a number of hon. Members opposite became very excited and started shouting "No". Bells started to ring and our proceedings were upset.

However, now that we have resumed I repeat that the Amendment raises a new question in our discussions on the Bill. It is the first which seeks to apply different treatments to an Order made in respect of a wages award and settlement—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have the Amendment discussed against a background buzz of conversation.

Mr. Mikardo

The Amendment seeks to apply different treatment to an Order made in respect of an award or settlement of a wage claim from that of an Order which imposes a standstill on prices. Hitherto in all our discussions such changes as have been sought to be made in the Bill have applied equally to Orders about wages and Orders about prices.

Therefore, I think that I am under an obligation to explain why my hon. Friends and I seek to make this differentiation. The subsection puts some limitation upon the time within which an Order shall be made after a reference to the Board. It is not necessary for me to go into great detail, because the subsection is very clear, unlike some others. The effect of the Amendment would be to apply that limitation to an Order made in respect of an award or settlement without its being applied to an Order made about prices.

In our debates on the Bill a number of my hon. Friends have criticised the Government's prices and incomes policy or, as we said last night, its so-called prices, productivity and incomes policy. I say "so-called" because productivity has been carefully excluded from the Bill by the Government's own action.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I, too, know the Sorcerer's Apprentice. The hon. Gentleman must keep his broom inside the Amendment.

Mr. Mikardo

I shall try to do so, Mr. Speaker.

A number of my hon. Friends have criticised the policy which the Bill seeks to put into effect on the grounds that whereas it is called the Prices and Incomes Bill, as was its predecessor, and the policy is ostensibly one for the control of incomes and prices, in our opinion the Government's action over the control of incomes has been more widespread, more comprehensive, more thorough and more direct—

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to take note of what I said. We are not discussing the Prices and Incomes Bill. We are discussing an Amendment about the differential in certain time limitations.

Mr. Mikardo

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, that is precisely my point, to explain why it is that those of us who are responsible for the Amendment think it right to invite the House to treat Orders about prices differently from Orders about wages. The reason is that we feel that under the father of this Act, some of which is enshrined in its son, the present Bill, the action taken in implementation of the provisions about prices has been more thorough, more direct and more effective than that taken about incomes. Therefore, we seek to have the Amendment in order to redress this imbalance. The Clause speaks of references made and Orders made about prices and incomes—

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Surely my hon. Friend means that his emphasis is on the fact that the Act as it is at present operated is being more effective against incomes than against prices?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have managed to get the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) back into order. The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) must not tempt him to get out of order again.

Mr. Mikardo

I can always deal with my enemies. I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker, from my friends. We have had—as you know, Mr. Speaker, because you have stayed up late with the rest of us on more than one occasion—many debates in the House after 10 o'clock at night about Orders made under the parent Act under the provision parallel to the one that we are now discussing in Clause 2 limiting wages. We have had only one such Order limiting prices, and that a totally ineffective one—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair never seeks to cramp debate as long as the debate is in order. If the hon. Gentleman will look at his Amendment he will see that he must address himself to the question of the differentiation between the two groups that he is talking about so far as the six months is concerned. We cannot discuss the whole attitude of the hon. Gentleman to the Bill. [Interruption.]

Mr. Mikardo

I thought that that was precisely what I was doing, Mr. Speaker, and in all humility I still think that that was precisely what I was doing. Notwithstanding the neanderthal belly-rumblings of the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), I still think that that was what I was doing. If I may recapitulate, the purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that Orders about prices are treated differently from Orders about wages in one respect which I need not detail. If it had been—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to help the hon. Member. It is the one respect that matters. This is what we are discussing.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)

Keep in order.

Mr. Mikardo

Very well, Mr. Speaker. Since you insist, I will spell it out. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that, whereas there is a limitation of six months in the time after a reference in which an Order can be made about prices, there will be no such limitation in respect of any Order made about wages.

The effect of the Amendment would be to make it easier for the Government to introduce orders about prices than orders about wages. We seek this objective in order to correct the imbalance which has existed in the opposite direction. I hope that, in spelling it out I have kept, as I believe I have, within the rules of order. There has been an imbalance and the contrary imbalance we seek to introduce by the Amendment is designed to correct it.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Poplar (M r. Mikardo), because there is obvious difficulty in propounding the arguments for the Amendment without going into greater length than might be implied by the wording. The point of the Amendment is to do exactly what was brought out under your guidance, Mr. Speaker, in the final passage of the hon. Gentleman's speech. It is to give a specific and different aspect in the treatment of orders affecting prices from the treatment of orders affecting wages.

The problem is that the hon. Gentleman presupposes, without any specific argument, that there has already been a differentiation between prices and wages and that it is the wages aspect which has suffered. I do not believe this to be so. Many people consider that there has been as much, if not greater, activity—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot rebut that part of the argument of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) which was out of order. He must now come to the Amendment.

Mr. Emery

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. But I was rebutting that piece of the hon. Gentleman's argument that you suggested he should put. I hoped that might be in order. In other words, it concerns the argument that the Amendment is needed because of the different treatment there has been between wages and prices. The Amendment can only be logically argued if there has been differentiation. If there has been no differentiation, the Amendment should automatically fall. I am trying, on this narrow point, to stay in order.

If there is no differentiation, the Amendment would create a specialised class. I therefore want to ask a number of questions of the Government about the possibility of a specialised class. Do the Government accept the argument that there is this differentiation?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must be fair to both sides of the House. The argument before us is whether the six months restriction in the passage which it is sought to be amended shall apply to one group rather than to both groups. The hon. Member must address himself to that.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

On a point of order. If you, Mr. Speaker, insist on making it impossible for hon. Members trying to take part in the debate to point to any experience that there had been a heavy concentration on the control of wages and far less on the control of prices, the debate would become impossible.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) can address himself to the Amendment without discussing his opinion of the whole Bill.

Mr. Emery

Mr. Speaker, I accept your direction. If it appears that I was getting out of order I will start from the initial steps again. The position on the Amendment is whether there should be a differentiation between two classes of people. The argument is that there is a stronger case for this proposal than there is for prices. I am sorry if I mention prices, but it is the only other aspect in the Bill.

Do the Government consider that this legitimate argument is based on enough reason for the Amendment?

Mr. Mikardo

Of course they do not.

Mr. Emery

I thought I knew the views of the hon. Member for Poplar before he gave them to me.

Would not the Minister agree that the aspects of the control of wages are much easier to control, whether the six months period applies or not, than those affecting prices? This Amendment, is a means to try and create a specialist class because of the difficulties in the minds of certain people on the control of prices.

Supporters of the Amendment nod. However we are not in complete agreement about the action which should be taken, but I am propounding the Amendment as they would wish. Therefore, it is right and proper to ask the Government whether they consider that the argument propounded by the hon. Member for Poplar is sufficient to create the specialist class. That is a fair question to put before anybody comes to a decision about this proposal. Although the wording may not be the exact drafting that the hon. Gentleman would want, but would he consider including a reference to productivity in an Amendment which he might draft to meet the point? I will not go over the whole of the arguments which we had previously.

Mr. Speaker

It would not be in order to go into them. We have dealt with that subject.

Mr. Emery

I will demonstrate how I can stay in order by mentioning pro- ductivity. If there is no productivity aspect to the Amendment, it must be defeated, and that must be the strongest argument for defeating it, but if it would give special treatment to a special category because of productivity arrangements, that must be a strong argument for it.

10.30 p.m.

The Amendment deals with a differentiation between two classes and creates a specialist section. I would support the Amendment only if it could be shown that the benefit resulting from any increased productivity would accrue to the whole community, and the Bill is an attempt to benefit the whole community. If it could be shown that would happen as a result of increased productivity—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must try to keep to the Amendment. The Amendment separates two classes; it does not separate them at all in respect of productivity.

Mr. Emery

Of course I realise that, but—

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman cannot keep to the Amendment according to the rules which I have laid down, I must ask him to sit down.

Mr. Emery

May I continue with the Amendment, Mr. Speaker, because it is important? I suggest that it creates two classes. It is impossible to argue that we should create a specialist class without referring to the other. If that is not in order, I do not know what possibly can be in order in this debate.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mere noise does not affect the Chair at all. What the hon. Gentleman has just said is a statement of fact.

Mr. Emery

At least I can be in order by stating fact.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

Not all facts are in order.

Mr. Emery

That may be so.

The Amendment can be supported only if it is shown to be necessary to create a specialist category, and the only reason for doing that would be to produce an increase in productivity which would benefit the whole community. I do not want to refer to any further reasons for propounding support of the Amendment.

The second question is whether greater imbalance between the two sections, one would now be made a specialist section, would result from the Amendment? If it is the Government's view that the imbalance would be greater, that would be relevant to considering whether to support the Amendment.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if we have come into conflict. That is the last thing that I would want to do. I have attempted, as much as is humanly possible, to pose two specific questions on this Amendment, because I earnestly and sincerely believe that without the answers we cannot come to a decision. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour can give me these answers.

Mr. Orme

As I see this Amendment, and I appreciate the difficulty of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) in keeping in order, its purpose is to place the emphasis on prices as opposed to incomes. We seek to delete the effect on incomes but to leave the powers in respect of prices. We do that, and this is where we differ from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have seen eye to eye with us on occasions, because we are of the opinion that prices should be dealt with separately.

Many of us are in favour of punitive Clauses against prices, but not against incomes. Let us state the facts as they are. During the whole of our proceedings we have spoken frankly on this issue. Our argument is that when one is dealing with prices, one is dealing with commodities, whereas with incomes, one is dealing with individuals. That is the basic difference.

We would like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to tell us the number of orders issued against prices in the previous Act, as opposed to incomes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I can understand the general statement that the hon. Gentleman has made. He must now come to his own Amendment, which seeks to make a specific differentiation between prices and incomes on the one hand and awards or settlements on the other in respect of the six months.

Mr. Orme

The effect of this Amendment in relation to the six months is to throw the emphasis on to prices, as opposed to incomes. It would delete six months in relation to incomes, but retain it in relation to prices. It is on that basis that I support the Amendment.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I will certainly do my best to speak to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). I can understand the Amendment. [Interruption.] Whether I can make the Chair appreciate that I understand it and keep in order is another matter. This Amendment makes it clear that its supporters wish to keep prices down and allow wages to rise. This is an incredible economic philosophy, even for hon. Members opposite. There are people who are in favour of a prices and incomes policy with a certain amount of compulsion, there are those in favour of a policy which is mainly voluntary, and there is the Leader of the House with a prices and incomes policy that is almost all compulsory.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The hon. Member is now embarking on a general discussion of prices and incomes. He cannot do that on this Amendment. It is concerned with six months' policy in relation to prices on the one hand and salaries and wages on the other.

Mr. Lewis

After the Rulings given when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair, you will now understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if we were uncertain when we started to speak on this Amendment we now completely understand what we are supposed to be speaking about. If I have to make a case against the Amendment, I must attempt to persuade the House of what would happen if it were passed. This is important because we have to vote either for or against the Amendment. If it is passed it will be in the Bill and we have to know what will happen if it is included in the Bill.

I have the word of hon. Members opposite to the effect that if it is in the Bill prices will be dealt with much more harshly than wages. There will be a position in which wages are allowed to rise for six months without any let or hindrance, whereas prices will be kept down.

Mr. Mendelson

This is the background of a voluntary wages policy as organised by the Trades Union Congress.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

Will my hon. Friend give way—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must take one intervention at a time, Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Burden

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend gave way to me. In those circumstances, with great respect to the Chair, I am sure that the Chair will agree that I have a right to be heard.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It has not been the practice of the Chair to allow two interventions at the same time, with great respect to the hon. Member. He may make an intervention later. I am sure that his hon. Friend will allow him to make it in due time.

Mr. Lewis

I shall be happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) in due course. In answer to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) we cannot accept a blank cheque. We do not know whether the voluntary system will work either on prices or wages. I certainly hope that it will, and all of us on this side of the House are agreed that this is the system we prefer. If this Amendment is included in the Bill, three things will happen. First, if we allow wages to rise and keep down prices, inflation will become rampant. Hon. Members opposite may want this, but the country will very soon be in a very serious balance of payments situation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that what the hon. Member is saying may be important, but it has nothing to do with the Amendment, which is that in one case orders must be made within six months and in the other they may be made after a longer period.

Sir Edward Brown (Bath)

On a point of order. Because of the difficulty over this Amendment and the debate which will follow, could the Chair give some guidance as to how wide or narrow the debate may be?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think the Chair has been striving to indicate very definitely in the last 20 minutes that the scope of debate on this Amendment is very limited indeed.

Mr. Burden

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the difficulty of the House in understanding this Amendment shows what an absolute nonsense the whole Bill is?

Mr. Lewis

I would not cavil at that. Within the limits, and I am trying to keep within the limits, I have to project what would happen if this Amendment were carried and included in the Bill. I have said that inflation would be rampant. I go on to the next result of the Amendment being included in the Bill. The next result would be that profits would disappear. Hon. Members opposite may think that this is a very good thing.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

This has nothing to do with whether an order is made within six months or not, which is the only purpose of the Amendment. I am afraid that Mr. Speaker was quite definite in his Ruling, and I think it would be very unfair to other hon. Members who have not been allowed to widen the debate if the hon. Member were allowed to do so. If he does not speak to the Amendment I am afraid he must resume his seat.

Mr. Lewis

If because of this Amendment there is a situation where prices are kept down, which is the wish of hon. Members opposite and the purpose of the Amendment, but wages are allowed to rise—which is what hon. Members opposite want, which is what they have themselves said—then wages can come only out of profits, because they will not come out of rises in prices.

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Gentleman has not read the Clause and has not begun to understand the Amendment. May I just tell him that, far from what he said, if the Amendment is carried as many orders can still be made against wages as against prices, and just as tough; they just have to be made a bit quicker, that is all.

Mr. Lewis

That is the time difference which would create the kind of situation which I have suggested hon. Members opposite wish to secure through their Amendment, and whether they wish to secure it or not, this, at any rate, would be the result. If profits disappear, then, of course, the Chancellor does not get his money; the Revenue suffers; taxation then has to go—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must insist that the hon. Member comes to the Amendment. What he has just said has nothing to do with the Amendment at all.

Mr. Lewis

If I may conclude, this Amendment seeks, as we understand it, to create a difference between the treatment of wages and the treatment of prices. I cannot think that such an Amendment would be of any assistance in improving the position of the workers, quite apart from an improvement in the general prices and incomes policy, and I hope that we shall have a better case than has been made up to now for the Amendment, because I am beginning to wonder whether hon. Members opposite understand their own Amendment. We had two very short speeches on this Amendment, and since you have been so restrictive in allowing us to develop our arguments, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is not the Chair which is restrictive. It is the Amendment which is restrictive. I hope the hon. Member will conclude his remarks.

Mr. Lewis

In so far as we have been confined within the narrow limits of this Amendment, it would help us if we had a better explanation that we have had hitherto from hon. Members opposite.

Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)

This obviously is an Amendment which does cause a certain amount of concern and possibly equivocation in the minds of hen. Members, perhaps in all parts of the House, and therefore I should like to offer my interpretation of it, perhaps to find that there may be some broad, unexpected agreement between myself and the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), if for possibly different reasons.

This Amendment seeks to amend a Clause which has as its title Imposition of standstill after publication of Board's report. The subsection to which the Amendment applies reads as it now stands: … nor shall an order be made as aforesaid more than six months after the date of publication of that reference. … The reference refers to the action of the Minister assigning the task of an investigation into a price or an income to Mr. Aubrey Jones, and there is the widespread assumption always that the answer will come up within the six months' period, anyway, because the standstill will be automatic during the period while the proposed change is under investigation.

As I see it, one consequence of the Amendment would be to say that, by inserting in respect of an award or settlement", hon. Gentlemen opposite rightly question the ability of the National Board for Prices and Incomes to conduct the kind of detailed investigation which very often the determination of an income requires within a period of six months. This is not a false proposition, because we have much experience of the time taken by the Board in the case histories which have been established already, and the whole kernel of this Amendment concerns time.

There are one or two past references to the Board which help us to understand the validity of the arguments of the hon. Member for Poplar. The pay of industrial civil servants was gazetted on 26th October, 1965, but it was submitted to the Minister only on 17th June, 1966. That involved a period of seven months. What every hon. Member has to ask himself is what moral pressure will be brought upon any employer or trade unionist not to anticipate the findings of the Board and go ahead with an agreed claim, notwithstanding the fact that the six months' standstill period has expired because the National Board for Prices and Incomes has not yet reported. I believe that the Amendment has a very real bearing on the problem, and the silence of the hon. Member for Poplar confirms that my interpretation is correct.

When one thinks of complex issues such as the pay of those employed in the retail drapery industry, one is right to have a lively sympathy with the Amendment. But I ask my hon. Friends not to be too generous in their charity to hon. Members opposite, because, by including just the words in respect of an award or settlement", they assume that the complexity in determining the problems of an increase in income in some way is easier than that of determining an increase in price. Again, reference to the case histories established by the activities of Mr. Jones and his consultants tells us that this is a false distinction.

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said that, under Part IV, there had been only one order laid against prices, and, of course, that was in respect of laundry and dry cleaning charges. But that is an interesting case, because it was one of the price increases which were put to Mr. Jones and his aides. The date of gazetting was 7th January, 1966. It was submitted to the Minister on 5th September, 1966. A period of eight months elapsed there.

That is not the only one. I have here the distribution costs of fresh fruit and vegetables. It was gazetted on 6th October, 1966, and submitted to the Minister on 20th April, 1967, again a period of just over six months. Therefore, though I have every sympathy with the motives which have prompted the hon. Member for Poplar to move the Amendment, in as much as he rightly sees that the time which has been allotted to the Board may create a situation in which, inevitably, the Board will take longer than the standstill period of six months, I think that hon. Gentlemen are being unfair to seek to confine their good intentions to awards and settlements. Although they are right in saying that this legislation contains penal provisions against wage increases, there is scope for retrospection in wage increases, as agreed in the article in the New Statesman. I do not want to pursue this any further, because I have kept in order so far, which I think is miraculous. Throughout all these proceedings there is instinctively a desire to try to ensure some parity of misery. There is only one answer to the Bill—its total repudiation.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

I hoped that I could begin the debate without going through in any detail the consequences of the Amendment, because I understand very well that the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) is to debate a system whereby the treatment of prices should, might, or could, be different from the treatment of incomes.

I think that the nature of the debate makes it essential that I spend at least two minutes saying what I think—indeed I know—the Amendment means, because there has been a good deal of confusion about its meaning. If I thought that there was any need for clarification, I was confirmed in that view by the speech of the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen).

Mr. Biffen

Every word that I said was in order, and therefore it cannot have been totally irrelevant.

Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that every word he said was in order, but, equally, every word that he said was wrong, and I want to explain why. Not even that early intervention will prevent me from saying what I wanted to say from the moment the hon. Gentleman sat down, namely, my sincere conviction that if he got the details of the Amendment wrong there is some obligation on me to clarify it to the House, because I understand his interest in and understanding of these things.

The hon. Gentleman knows, and I am sure that the House does too, that the Clause refers to a standstill which comes about after a reference has been made to the Board on voluntary terms, and where the increase in price or wages has been implemented in a way which is not in conformity with the Board's report.

That standstill, put into operation under those terms, is limited by two precise qualifications. First—and this is the point which totally invalidates everything that was said by the hon. Gentleman—the Board must, under Section 19(1) of the 1966 Act, report within three months. If the Board does not report within that time, the standstill cannot go ahead. I am sure the House will understand, therefore, that any argument based on the principle that the time for submitting reports will be more protracted than three months is irrelevant, though in order.

The second qualification, which is relevant to the point my hon. Friend seeks to make, is that the Order must be made within six months of the reference to the Board.

Mr. Biffen

The burden of the case which I argued, if not at great length this evening, certainly on other occasions, is that the whole power of so-called moral persuasion will be to oblige trade unions or employers to standstill their prices if the Board is unable to meet the deadline of three months, or even of six months, so that point stands.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Member does well to refer to the speeches he made on other occasions rather than the one he has made this evening. I shall try to meet those points as I reach the end of what I hope will be a comparatively short speech. The Amendment simply seeks to alter the powers, in terms of date, whereby the reference can be made to the Board. My hon. Friend, by wishing to add the extra words, qualifies it in such a way that an Order can be made in relation to a Board report which is made prior to the Clause coming in to operation, and because of the nature of the Amendment—because of the words he seeks to insert—the net effect would be that an Order which refers to prices could be backdated indefinitely. The House will understand that in a sense we are discussing the potential powers of retrospection that the Clause involves.

The results of the successful amendment of the Bill, in terms suggested by my hon. Friend, would be that a question referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes during any time since the passing of the parent Act—during the time since 12th August, 1966—could now be the subject of an Order. If the Amendment is not carried a reference to the Board would have to be dated, in terms relevant to the Act now under discussion.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

The Bill now under discussion.

Mr. Hattersley

If I did not say "the Bill now under discussion" I should have done. Hon. Members will be aware that other Clauses enable the Bill to be made operative from the time the Bill passes through this House. Therefore, the distinction that my hon. Friend seeks to draw is that whilst references to the Board, in terms of wages, earnings and incomes can be made into standstills if those references were made between the period of enactment of the Bill and the end of its life, references to the Board which concern price increases could be turned into standstills and used for prolonged standstills when references to the Board had been made at any time since 12th August, 1966.

That is why I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety to talk about Orders made during the time he seeks to make retrospective powers apply to the Bill. I understand why he wants to extent the powers of the Bill not forwards but backwards in time. He seeks to extend them backwards because he feels that there have been omissions and deficiencies during the period which he now seeks to extend. I understand that the omissions to which he refers are those which he believes will be apparent when the House or when he or the Government review the omissions during the retrospective period to which the Amendment is related—omissions which he believes are revealed by comparisons between Orders relating to prices and Orders relating to incomes.

Last night I was invited by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) to concede on other Amendments that the purpose and intention of putting them down was honourable, sensible and intended no more than to draw the attention of the House to the legitimate fears and interests of the hon. Gentlemen whose names appeared against the Amendments. I am glad to make that concession—if it is a concession. I am glad to acknowledge that state of affairs once again and to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar that I understand very well that his argument on the Amendment is not only serious but totally consistent. One of the happy events last night was the sight of my hon. Friend hurrying into the Government Lobby in order to support the Government's belief that the powers under this Bill should be concerned with retail prices as well as with many other matters which it is designed to control. I think that our happiness would have been complete had the hon. Gentleman actually managed to vote with the Government instead of being locked out two moments before his attempts to come to our aid in our time of trouble would have been successful. However, he was frustrated by the rules governing our procedures.

I hope that the consistency which he has shown will be reflected in the attitude of the hon. Gentleman when he comes to speak about the Amendment.

Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)

Stop lecturing the House.

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. Gentleman is enough of a didactic Member, and, now that he been good enough to arrive—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has told me that, if he wants to sit here till tea-time, he will. I hope that the House understands that decisions about the Bill and as to the time we should take in considering it ought to depend on a rather more objective criterion than whether or not the right hon. Gentleman is temporarily annoyed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting a little away from the Amendment.

Mr. Hattersley

I return to the point I was making. The hon. Gentleman is entirely consistent in his attitude towards prices and in his enthusiasm for making sure that, during the period which he now wishes to cover, the retrospective period stretching from now back to 12th August 1966, parity between the Government's attitude to prices and their attitude to incomes should be achieved. The Government's contention is that, while we sympathise with his point of view, and while we understand it perfectly well—

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am finding it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He keeps referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) as the hon. Gentleman, and I understand him also to refer to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) as the hon. Gentleman. I thought that he was his hon. Friend the Member for Poplar. Is he not?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is an intervention, not a point of order.

Mr. Hattersley

The Government believe that, while my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar is right in expressing some concern about maintaining parity during the retrospective period under review, the Amendment is unnecessary and inappropriate. In our view, during the retrospective period under review, parity or equality has, in fact, been maintained. In examining the retrospective period under review, one should examine it not in terms of Orders made during that time but in terms of prices held down as opposed to wages held down. Throughout the twelve months to which the Amendment refers, it has never been the Government's case that judgment of our success in terms of holding either wages and incomes or prices should be, or could be, measured in terms of the Orders which were made formally to limit them and the Prayers made against those Orders and debated in the House.

Mr. Mikardo

Or the number of Orders withdrawn.

Mr. Hattersley

My hon. Friend knows that 14 Orders were made restricting wages or salaries during the retrospective period which he seeks to cover, and, equally, he knows that only one Order was made against prices during that period. But I hope he knows also or, if he does not, I hope that he will begin to remember—that during the same period my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has been successful in holding down prices in a rather less obvious or visible, but no less important, fashion.

On at least 170 occasions, my right hon. Friend, by his intervention, has persuaded manufacturers or retailers—

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we have your guidance as to whether the hon. Gentleman is in order? The speech of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) in moving the Amendment did not discuss retrospective Orders at all. He said in terms that he wanted to redress the balance in the months to come over what had happened in the past. The Parliamentary Secretary is now dealing with the past and with retrospective Orders which are not relevant on this Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understood that the hon. Gentleman was addressing his arguments to why these should be treated similarly, and that is the purpose of the Amendment. Nothing that the hon. Gentleman has yet said has been out of order, although I was listening to him very carefully.

Mr. Hattersley

I sincerely apologise to the House for my constant reiteration of "during the period referred to by the Amendment", but I do it to remind myself that it is that period to which I must refer, and that it is that period that keeps me in order.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar will recall that only a moment ago I told him that very many price stabilisations have occurred during that period through the personal intervention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and his predecessor, and they have come about in a way which, while not as obvious as the Orders which have limited wage and salary in-et eases, has nevertheless made a significant contribution towards stabilising the cost of living and to achieving the right balance of incomes and prices policy.

It is our essential contention that if the prices and incomes policy is to work the two elements—prices and incomes—must he treated equally, that it is not possible to organise a successful policy which does not offer the same equality of treatment—what the hon. Member for 03westry chooses to call "equality of suffering"—of prices on the one side and wages on the other.

Mr. Biffen

As the hon. Gentleman has referred to "the right balance", are we to assume from his argument that the right balance—the one that he at any rate accepts as right—has been the upward movement of retail prices as measured by the Retail Price Index over this period and the almost flat, if not downward, movement of wage earnings as measured by the Ministry of Labour over the period? Is that the right relationship which he hopes to perpetuate in future?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I ought to say that I think the hon. Gentleman will get out of order if he goes into an analysis of price and wage movements in that period.

Mr. Hattersley

The right balance certainly is to preserve equality of treatment. It is to make sure that any manufacturer understands that he is subject to the same rules, regulations and penalties, which, if not the same, are intended to produce the same element of deterrence, as any trade unionist, any individual and any executive who chooses to increase his wage or salary in defiance of the prices and incomes policy.

Therefore, while we principally suggest that the retrospective element contained in the Amendment which allows us to make Orders against price increases stretching back to 12th August, 1966 is unnecessary because we have been just as keen to hold down prices as wages—perhaps in some ways we have been a good deal keener to hold down prices than wages—the other argument that we put forward is that it is not possible to advance during the next year on terms which would clearly make our policy directed much more solidly, severely and determinedly against price increases than against wage increases. If the prices and incomes policy is to be a success, it will be because it has twin arms doing the same jobs simultaneously in a way complementary to each other. It must be visibly the case that we are operating the same rules, compulsion and holding operation against prices as against wages.

Mr. Mikardo

Tell that to the G.L.C. electors.

Mr. Hattersley

I understand very well that there have been occasions when my right hon. Friends and I and the Government as a whole have not done as much as we should do in making clear how successful our intervention in the prices field has been. I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that one of the new aspects of our policy—

Sir E. Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I rose to question with you how wide and narrow the debate should be, and you gave me some very clear guidance, that, while you could not express an opinion on the Amendment itself, the debate was narrow in respect of it. I respectfully remind you that at the present moment we are listening to a wide dissertation on the Amendment by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am trying to apply the same rules to all hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman will probably have seen me sitting on the edge of my seat, about to intervene in the Minister's speech. The Minister was getting rather wide of the Amendment.

Mr. Hattersley

It may happen that one of the changes in the policy will be for actions against prices to become more obvious. However, the Government could not contemplate a change which invoked making our attitude towards price increases different from our attitude towards wage increases. Since the essential element in this policy is one of equal treatment between the two arms of the policy, and since the Amendment would discriminate in one specific respect, I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Higgins

This has been a remarkable debate. Anybody who thinks that the ordinary man in the street, employer or trade unionist, will know for what he is volunteering, is not aware of the realities of the situation. Seldom have I heard the Parliamentary Secretary less comprehensible.

There was some discussion between the Parliamentary Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) about how long we were likely to proceed with the Bill tonight. I wish to make it abundantly clear that my hon. Friends and I will continue to debate each Amendment and provision in detail, as we have done throughout the Bill's stages and as we did when debating the parent Measure last year. The House has a duty to examine the complexities of this type of legislation and to stress the ambiguities in it.

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that 14 Orders had been made under the 1966 Act. I remind him that four of them have been nullified as a result of the bad drafting of that Act, caused by the House being pushed into discussing the Measure, like this one, at great speed. It is difficult for the House to give this sort of legislation the attention it needs when faced with the time-table introduced by the Leader of the House, whose disorganisation has placed Government business in this mess.

With respect to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), his explanation of the Amendment was not all that good. He did not illustrate the detailed complexities of this matter and he failed, where my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) succeeded, to get to the crux of the problem, which is the timing. Instead, he sought to make a distinction between the Government's attitude to price and wage increases. Certainly there has been some imbalance, as the figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry, and a number of Orders made under the Act, revealed. But does this mean that we must alter the emphasis at present placed on the two arms of the policy? My hon. Friends and I are totally against the policy, on both arms, because it introduces discrimination between the two sets of increases.

Even the side-head to the Clause is not accurately worded. It reads: Imposition of standstill after publication of the Board's report", but a later subsection refers to the imposition both before and after, so it is not surprising that consideration of the Amendment has been difficult.

The Clause introduces retrospection, which we oppose, as we do other aspects of the policy. The period of retrospection for wages as against prices should not be altered, because this would suggest that the Board would take longer to reach a decision on one than on the other. This is an odd Clause for the hon. Member for Poplar and his hon. Friends to use to mount a major attack, and this would not be a sensible Amendment. We completely oppose the policy, but to amend the Bill in this way would make it an even greater nonsense. Whether this would be better or worse, I leave to hon. Members, but I hope that my hon. Friends will not support the Amendment.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

There is a great difference between wages and prices and totally different criteria apply. If the Board decided that a manufacturer could not raise prices, he could stop production because it was no longer profitable, but if it said that a wage increase was unjustified, that would have to be accepted, because wages are what a man lives on. This significant difference has not been made sufficiently clear by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. One is a necessity and the other an argument. The argument is about whether it is profitable to continue production because of a Board decision on prices, but workers must accept the refusal of a wage increase because their future depends on that income. Under the Amendment—[Interruption.]

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Order. Keep quiet.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will leave the question of order to the Chair.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

I could not hear whether you were reproaching me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. They were talking deliberately and I could not hear my hon. and gallant Friend.

Sir D. Glover

I never have any fears when addressing the House when you are in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you will always give me a fair and proper hearing. If I might say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), the hon. Member for Ormskirk has never been gallant. I have never been returned to this House as a gallant Member. I have never wished to take credit for something which happened just because there happened to be a war on. I have always been returned as Mr. Glover, or later as Sir Douglas Glover.

Hon. Members opposite may be as rude as they like, but they are not being rude to an hon. and gallant Member.

All of us find the Bill technical and difficult to understand. We are trying to assess what is going to happen to prices, incomes and people. With the exception of the hon. Members on the third bench below the Gangway, there are only a few hon. Members here tonight, or who were here last night, who realise that we are talking about people. We are talking about people and their incomes and their standards of living, about what they are going to do and how their families are going to get on.

Sir E. Brown

Would my hon. Friend agree that the test of sincerity of the seven wise men who put down the Amendment is whether they are prepared to go into the Lobby to support it.

Sir D. Glover

I do not think that that is a test of sincerity. Most of us are old Members of Parliament and know that it takes a good deal of courage to oppose one's party when it is the Government. I have enormous admiration for the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and some of his hon. Friends.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that it would be a test of sincerity of all hon. Members if they listened to the debate.

Sir D. Glover

I have great admiration for the hon. Member for Salford, West, and the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). It takes a great deal of courage to oppose the Government when one is supposed to be a Government supporter. I speak as one who has been in the House for many years, much of the time on the Government benches. I do not criticise any hon. Member who does not carry his opposition—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We would all share the hon. Member's sentiments, but I am afraid that they do not come within the scope of the Amendment.

Sir D. Glover

I accept your rebuke, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it was necessary for me to make some remark of that kind.

As hon. Members opposite, probably as a Parliamentary operation, have broken the tenor of my speech, I suppose that they are happy. If I go on for a considerable time collecting the threads, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

11.30 p.m.

I have much sympathy with the attitude of those hon. Members opposite who have moved a number of Amendments, because I do not like the Bill and believe that it is based on a false premise—for in a free society we cannot do these things by legislation. Those hon. Members opposite are nearer to my views than are the Government Front Bench. It is therefore with some hesitation that I say that I cannot support the Amendment. I say that because the Amendment introduces an element of retr6spection, and I have always opposed retrospection in legislation. If the Government have made a mistake, they ought to stand by it and not try to put it right retrospectively by an Amendment introduced a year later. Although in this case there may be some sympathy for the proposal that we should go back over the ground, it would be a dangerous precedent and would make it more difficult to resist retrospection in other matters about which we felt strongly.

I believe that the original Bill was a nonsense. In this Bill the Government are trying to create order out of chaos, and I am afraid that the Amendment would create less order and more chaos.

Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

It is with some diffidence that I enter the debate at this stage. My reason for doing so is that I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) saying that a matter of substantial principle was involved in the Amendment, but not having had the benefit of serving on the Standing Committee on the Bill, even though I listened as diligently, I think, as did any other hon. Member, it was not until the Parliamentary Secretary intervened that I understood the purport and effect of the Amendment. May I comment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if hon. Members who move Amendments are to be restricted by the rules of order in saying some of the things which they feel they are entitled to say, it will be easier for those who have not served on the Standing Committee if the effect of the Amendment is explained clearly at an earlier stage than on this occasion.

It seems to me that three questions of principle are involved in the Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the issue of principle on which the Government took their stand was that the two arms of the policy—prices and incomes—should be evenly balanced. This was a clear declaration of Government policy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) queried the validity of that principle on the ground that it was possible that the examination of the two aspects—prices on the one hand and wages and awards on the other—might take different lengths of time. Having produced interesting factual evidence of the operation of the Board under the Bill, he refuted the argument on the ground that, in both cases, it could be shown that a greater period than six months was involved.

In his turn, the .Joint Parliamentary Secretary refuted my right hon. Friend's argument on the basis that this would not arise under the Amendment. I have been waiting for one of the supporters of the Amendment to reinforce the argument of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), who always speaks with good Lancashire clarity and directness on these matters. The point of principle he raised was that we were not comparing like with like, as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary suggested, and that to compare prices and wages as being like with like was to compare a commodity with a human element.

If I were in any sympathy with the Bill and inclined to try and improve it, I would feel happier if an Amendment on these lines were acceptable to the Government so that they could indicate that there was some difference in their attitude towards the rewards of individuals, which represent 100 per cent. of the sum of happiness of the family, and prices of commodities, which represent a management problem for a commercial undertaking but are a minor element in the budgets of a great many citizens.

The substance of the Amendment is that it shows at least that here one is not dealing with a whole series of cyphers in mathematical calculations but that the Bill affects prices and the rewards of human labour and the return enjoyed by a family. I hoped that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, admittedly beset by rather wide arguments, would indicate the reasons why the two arms of the policy—affecting commodities and commercial transactions on the one hand and the reward of human effort and total disposable family balances on the other—would balance to the same degree throughout the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the Amendment. He is getting into a general debate. He must confine himself to the question of the six months.

Mr. Hall-Davis

I will not trespass further, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The case for the six-month period is that the family must have a term put to uncertainty but that it should not necessarily be as short as the term of uncertainty to which commerce is exposed. I believe that I have accurately assessed the feelings of the supporters of the Amendment and am happy to leave the argument at that point.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Higgins

I beg to move Amendment No. 27, in page 3, line 34, to leave cut from 'reference' to the end of line 38.

We have already had some discussion as to the exact purpose of the Clause. However, it may help to focus the debate on the Amendment if I refer to what tie right hon. Gentleman said on Second Reading. Outlining the Bill, after dealing with Clause 1, he said that it was possible under Clause 2, which we discussed List night, for a price or wage increase which had been made to be set back to tie level prevailing before the Government took action. He went on: A similar situation could arise, dealt with by Clause 3, where, to begin with, possibly the parties have proceeded in a voluntary manner, have notified the increase and it has been referred to the Board, but then, either before or after the Board has reported, the increase has been put into effect despite the fact that it is not supported by the Board's report. In these circumstances, also, the Government will have power under Clause 3 to put the price or wage back to what it previously was."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1967; Vol. 748, c. 331.] That was the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's exposition of Clause 3. It would be helpful if we could have a little more elaborate explanation. This is an extremely complex Bill and this is a particularly difficult Clause.

We have had a number of debates on prices and incomes Orders in which hon. Members on both sides of the House have taken part. I understand that one of the functions of the Clause is to facilitate a particular aspect of that policy under Part IV. In essence, what the Government have sought to do under previous Orders has been to ensure that the Orders would not only freeze prices or wages for the same six months' period to which they hoped others would agree voluntarily, but actually to claw back, as the jargon which we have evolved has it, some of the additional payments which had been made.

Therefore, the Orders have not extended for only the six months' period which would put the particular case on a comparable basis, as the Government would have it, with that of voluntary cases, but also provided that the freeze should be continued for more than six months, so that the increase which had been paid could be drawn back and so that those who had gone against Government policy should be put on what the Government regarded as a fair basis.

Sir D. Glover

Does this mean that if a wage or price increase has taken place and an Order is then issued, there will be power for that wage or price increase to be rescinded?

Mr. Higgins

This is a fairly difficult point. It did not actually happen with price increases, for the only Order concerned with price increases was that dealing with laundries and dry cleaners. It therefore applies only to some specific wage increase. But it is not, as in Clause 2, a matter of lowering a wage increase which has taken place. It is rather that instead of merely freezing the increase for the period covered by the Order, for six months, the Orders which we have had under Part IV have been for rather more than six months, so that the amount which those concerned have received has been clawed back.

This has been the basic principle of a number of Orders. There are, for instance, the Orders concerned with Birmingham Corporation Transport Department supervisors, Thorn Electrical Industries, the Metropolitan Police, draughtsmen and a number of others which were not taken to court.

11.45 p.m.

Some of these cases have been affected by the fact that the Government have lost cases which have gone to the Court of Appeal and therefore the Government have not succeeded in achieving the objective which I have outlined. In other cases the Government clearly did not have sufficient powers under Part IV of the 1966 Act to achieve that objective, and therefore there is a follow-on period, when they feel that they must take powers, under this Bill, which would enable them, if necessary, to freeze events for six months.

This is the one point covered by the Clause. The object of this Amendment is to delete a particular part of the Clause which says: … this section shall apply notwithstanding that the Board's report was made, or the relevant increase of prices or charges or implementation of the award or settlement took place, before the coming into force of this section or the passing of this Act. As we understand it this means that, even though this House has not yet approved this Bill, nor even approved this Clause, none the less it will be possible for the Government, under this Clause if the Bill is eventually approved, to apply this Clause to impose a standstill after the publication of the Board's report on particular increase, where the Board's report was made, and the increase in prices took place before this Bill came into effect?

We seek to remove those words so that the retrospective aspect of the Clause shall not have effect. It has been a major point of principle in our debates on this Bill that we feel that the element of retrospection introduced by the Government is not merely becoming an unfortunate lapse from time to time, but is becoming a nasty habit. It is an essential part of this policy that the Government seeks to impose action retrospectively with particular wage or price increases. It is particularly because we object to the element of retrospection involved in this Clause that we move this Amendment.

I hope that the House will feel that this is something which is not an unreasonable restraint on this policy. Many of the cases covered by that policy have already been over-ruled by the courts. The whole idea that the Government's policy is universal, fair and equitable has been shown, because they have failed to produce any statistics on the subject, be-because of the decisions of the courts and because of the anomalies created by Clause 2, to be false. To ask for retrospective powers of this kind in order to keep up the pretence, and to maintain the facade that it is universal seems unjustified. For this reason I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will support this Amendment.

Sir D. Glover

The House ought to be very suspicious and doubtful about any aspect of retrospective legislation. The State today is a very powerful body and the individual citizen is always at risk. I am not saying that there may not be some particular case where, perhaps in the interests of national security, or something of that sort, retrospection would not be justified.

The whole of the Government's policy is not bound up with retrospection. The basic aims of the policy in this area will still proceed, more or less unscathed if the Amendment is accepted. There is not only a danger to our democracy and the individual, but in the long run there is a danger that Parliament and our system of democratic government will lose their status when citizens feel that, quite arbitrarily, the Government can decide to put a mistake right—this is particularly so in this case—by retrospection, by deliberately acting against the interests of a small segment of the community.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will understand that I am speaking with sincerity. I could understand the Government refusing this Amendment if accepting it meant that the whole pattern of prices and incomes policy would fall to pieces, but that is not the case. As a result of accepting the Amendment one or two people might get through the net, but the fact that one or two people or organisations got through the net would be far less important than that the public should see us prepared to use the power of the State arbitrarily to alter something which they thought perfectly legitimate and suddenly discovered that by this Clause the law was retrospectively altered. This is a dangerous field of expansion of power of the Executive over the ordinary citizen.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will view the Amendment seriously and realise that there is a constitutional element in it. The State should not go back on its previous pattern whereby ordinary citizens who have done something which, however right or wrong, was at the time within the law and then, because the Government decide that it is convenient to alter the law retrospectively, it is made unlawful.

That is very much adverse to the influence and status of democratic government. In the long run it is detrimental to the status of the House of Commons. I do not think that a very vital principle is at stake, but the status of the democratic assembly is heavily involved. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), in the very clear and cogent observations he has addressed to the House, said that this Amendment raises important constitutional implications, and so of course it does.

It is a prime consideration of English Statute law to seek to avoid retrospection. Over the years I have been in this House I have on several occasions raised my voice, right through the days of the Attlee Government, against proposals to introduce a retrospective element into our Statute law. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will probably confirm that it was rarely done so blatantly in the days of the Attlee Government as in the four lines which this Amendment seeks to remove from the Bill. I have rarely seen retrospection proclaim itself so nakedly and unashamedly as in this Bill as drafted. The Government should have regard to the violence they are doing to well-established principles.

It rests, of course, on very basic and elementary considerations, the feeling that we do not, in English Statute law, or British Statute law, legislate retrospectively. In the first place, it offends against the doctrine of certainty. In this country people are presumed to know the law—an increasingly irrational presumption, in some ways, considering its growing complzxity—but nevertheless it is still a maxim, Ignorantia legis haud excusat. If there be not certainty in the law, then that maxim goes, because nobody can be presumed to understand that which is not fixed but is still liable to be changed against him hereafter.

The other reason is that it does great violence to the doctrine of the sanctity of contract and of accrued rights, and so on. This is put very clearly in the leading textbook on the interpretation of Statutes, Maxwell on the "Interpretation of Statutes", page 204 of the eleventh edition: Upon the presumption that the Legislature does not intend what is unjust rests the leaning against giving certain Statutes retrospective operation. There then follows a very telling sentence in Latin which at this late hour and in the absence of the Attorney-General, who seems to have withdrawn for the time being, I will not—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Would my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that if the Minister without Portfolio could be woken up he might understand it?

Sir D. Walker-Smith

My right hon. Friend is quite correct. The right hon. Gentleman has a distinguished academic background, but he was, as I have reason to know, a history don and not a classical don at Christ Church in the days when my right hon. Friend and I were seeking to assimilate knowledge.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

He is also asleep.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

My right hon. Friend is tempting me into fields of retrospection, and even his persuasiveness must fall short of success in that.

But I therefore endorse what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk, that there is a very considerable constitutional point here, and that it is very sad and serious that the Government should progressively take it for granted that they can introduce these retrospective provisions into Measures such as this, dealing, as they do, with people's incomes and with prices which they pay, things which touch very nearly the heart of our social and economic existence. I would warmly second what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk, that the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, should think again, and, in order to expedite our progress in this rather wearisome night, think again quickly.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

This is the first time I have spoken on this legislation. When I have come in and listened I have found myself more and more baffled, but I had, with the Minister responsible for this legislation, considerable correspondence only recently about retirement pensions and the effect on retirement pensions of the prices and incomes standstill. As I have listened this evening to the proposals of the Government, which would, of course, be amended if my hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted, so that the retrospective action of this Clause would be taken out, I immediately thought, what would be the effect on retirement pensions which had already been agreed, which were already linked to a particular pay settlement, if there were a piece of retrospective legislation which affected the incomes of persons and the relationship of the retirement pensions to those incomes which those persons had hitherto been having? This was brought to my attention in some recent correspondence with the Minister responsible about a case affecting a certain number of railway pensioners.

12 m.

The Prime Minister had promised an overall increase of 5 per cent. which was to be implemented in two parts. One of the unfortunate retirement pensioners with whom I was in correspondence retired during the period when the first part of the pay increase had been implemented. However, the second part was held up. As a result, my constituent's pension was linked only to the 1½ per cent. increase. The effect of the standstill was that he did not get his full entitlement by way of retirement pension, and I understand that he will never get it.

Sir D. Glover

When we were debating this last night it became clear from both sides of the House that the difference could be anything from £13 to £100 a year for the rest of a pensioner's life.

Mr. Temple

In the case of my constituent, it amounted to 8s. a week, which would be under £25 a year, but my hon. Friend underlines the point that I am trying to make.

I would like the Minister to clear up the position of the retired person whose pension had probably been agreed but who, due to the retrospective action of this Clause, would be denied the retirement pension which had been awarded him. This is becoming a more and more thorny problem, and the Government must face up to it. People are already suffering grave injustices. I do not think that either side of the House would wish the injustices to be perpetuated, and they will be made substantially worse if the Clause is not amended.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple), this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to dip a toe into the chilly waters of this legislation. As I have listened to these debates, I have been struck with the utter futility of any Government attempting to try to interfere with the highly complex matters by which men govern their affairs in the way that this Bill sets out to do.

The lines of the Clause with which the Amendment seeks to deal are an example of the sort of measures to which the Government have recourse in an effort to try and close every loophole in their efforts to control the wages and prices which are paid for services and goods.

I endorse everything which has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) about retrospective legislation, but I want to draw attention to a curious anomaly which contrasts with the efforts that the Government are making by the closing words of Clause 3(2). They are attempting to impose retrospective legislation in order to catch a recommendation which may have been made before the corning into force of this Act. Yet they are leaving the parties free, retrospectively and by agreement, to adjust any agreement which may have been made to compensate themselves for the delay which has been introduced by reason of the reference of the increase to the Board. My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) drew attention to this in Committee when he quoted from an article in the New Statesman of the 9th June, which said: Having delayed a wage bargain for seven months while it is investigated by Mr. Jones' team, the Bill leaves it entirely open to the bargainers to arrange retrospective payment to make up for the delay. Retrospection, Ministers blandly admit, could wreck their whole scheme; yet their Bill makes retrospection a respectable trade union objective in every wage dispute. When commenting on that, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: The point that he is on is one of real substance. Probably it comes under Clause 4(2) better than here, but in examining which powers we should seek it was of course possible that we would have asked that there should be no retrospection. This would have meant far more stringent powers than we are asking for."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A; 29th June, 1967, c. 217.] The point which I am seeking to make is that the Government, by the right hon. Gentleman's admission, recognise that it is impossible to take account of every variation, every vagary in human behaviour, as it would affect the matters covered by the Bill. They have therefore k ft the parties free to compensate themselves, or for the employer to compensate the employees, retrospectively for any delay which may be occasioned by the reference of the matter to the Board, yet here they seek to introduce legislation which will have a retrospective effect on any recommendation made by the Board before the Act comes into force.

This seems to be an utterly ludicrous distinction. Why should the one be left, and the other be attacked? How can it be said that the few cases—and there cannot be many—in respect of which the Board makes a recommendation before the Act comes into force are very important and more worthy to be legislated against than the very much larger number of cases which could arise in which, after seven months have elapsed, the parties could agree to compensate themselves for the delay by making retrospective payments?

This seems to be a curious and utterly illogical anomaly which, as strongly as any of the other constitutional arguments which have been pressed on the House, establishes that the Amendment most assuredly ought to be carried if we are to avoid retrospection.

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) prefaced his remarks by saying that this was his first intervention in these debates. Alas, I cannot say the same for myself, but I am very pleased to speak in support of the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), and eloquently endorsed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).

My right hon. and learned Friend was generous enough to say that it was still a principle that we were presumed to know the law, but the Bill proceeds on an assumption that we are presumed to know the intended wishes of the Government's White Paper, and it is precisely this potentially devastatingly dangerous distinction which lies at the heart of so much of the opposition which unites certain elements on both sides of the Chamber, although the unity is never consummated in the Division Lobby.

I support the Amendment. [Interruption.] It may be distasteful to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), but at least my remarks about his interjection will ensure that one comment from the Liberal Party is recorded.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

I assure the hon. Member that the matter to which I referred as being distasteful is not the matter to which he has just referred. This is not the only occasion on which I have been present to hear the debates on the Bill. I had the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member make the same speech last night.

Mr. Temple

As many hon. Members did not have the pleasure of hearing the interjection, may we know what interjection has been referred to?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It would be wiser if the House did not go into that.

Mr. Biffen

After that unexpected squall I should like to return to the point of considerable substance which arises from the Amendment, not in the general principle but in the very likelihood of its application. Already two or three references are before Mr. Aubrey Jones, and may well be the subject of a Board's report before the passing of the Measure. There are two, in particular, to which I wish to refer. The first is that concerning the fabrication of Aluminium Semi-Manufacturers which has been before the Board for some time. The House is entitled to ask itself whether the manufacturers would have co-operated so willingly with the consultants who were appointed for the subcontracting work had they known that this report might be used as a regulatory value by the Government for controlling prices for the next 12 months. They undertook commitments and promised co-operation for a situation which clearly they did not foresee, and could not have foreseen, because the point of time of this reference was so far back.

The second was the recent reference to the Board of the prices of Fletton and non-Fletton bricks. This took place on 26th May, 1967. Some hon. Members might argue that the Board cannot conceivably produce a report before the passing of this Measure. This can only be supposition on our part. It must depend on the skill and amplitude of the consultants at the disposal of Mr. Aubrey Jones.

But so much of the case of the Government has been based on the supposed voluntary co-operation of these very manufacturing interests. The House might be interested to know of a report mentioned in a Financial Times of mid-June to the effect that A deputation from the National Federation of Clay Industries, which represents manufactures of non-flettons, complained to the Minister"— that is, the Minister of Public Building and Works— yesterday that his recent reference of brick prices to the N.B.P.I. had been made without consulting the industry, although it had cooperated in the early warning system". So much for the much-vaunted voluntary contact which the First Secretary is always anxious to assure the House exists between him and his advisers and the representatives of trade associations. If a report is published "before the passing of this Act", it will have resulted from a reference in regard to which, certainly in the eyes of the trade association, the expected consultation did not take place, and that report of the Board could become a matter of price standstill.

Those are specific examples of the kind of retrospection which could flow from this legislation unless the Amendment is made, and I cite them in support of the principle which has been elaborated with such force by my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Hattersley

It is with genuine trepidation that I essay the task of arguing with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) on the constitutional proprieties of the Bill, and I hope to postpone my Armageddon a little by speaking first to the point made by the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) in regard to what he described as "clawing back." One of the many achievements of the hon. Member for Worthing in our debates has been his insinuation of the term "clawing back" into our vocabulary. It is his term, not ours; but, though it does not adequately describe the position, I cannot pretend to invent anything which trips so lightly off the tongue, and I shall, therefore, remind the House of what clawing back means when the hon. Gentleman uses that term, with pejorative intent, to describe our actions.

Clawing back during the period of Part IV of the 1966 Act has had one purpose and intention: where, by one means or other, a party to either a price increase or a wage increase has somehow frustrated the purpose of the prices and incomes policy by avoiding a period of standstill, on the voluntary principle, the Government have chosen to operate an Order which lasts for an equivalent length of time. It is clawing back, in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman uses that term, because it is not necessarily for the actual period for which a voluntary standstill would have been appropriate. It may not be the six months of the period of severe restraint; it may overlap by six weeks. But it is an equivalent period in time, and it is intended to compensate by means of a compulsory Order for the exact amount of time where there should have been a postponement of implementation on a voluntary basis.

The hon. Gentleman asked how that principle will operate in terms of this Clause. He knows the principles on which the Clause itself operates. My right hon. Friend, having seen a wage or price increase which is not in conformity with a recommendation made by the Prices and Incomes Board and which stems from a voluntary standstill which precedes, or perhaps runs at the same time as, the examination of the case by the Board, is then entitled to make an Order which can last for a period of six months. But, the hon. Gentleman is right to imply that if a voluntary period of standstill has operated in a series of ways, it is conceivably possible for the Order, when added to a period of voluntary standstill, to produce a situation in which a party had its price increase or wage increase limited for longer than is the intention. I emphasise that this is possible only if one element of that limitation is a voluntary element. It is not possible if the entire operation were one organised under Order. The life of the Order there is circumscribed and limited. But, if there is a voluntary element at the beginning of the Order's life, it is conceivable than the limitation might go on for rather longer than the clawing-back principle—to use the hon. Gentleman's term—would justify.

I give an absolute assurance that, if that situation does arise, the only purpose and intention of the Government is to equalise the period to make sure that the compulsory standstill only lasts as long as the voluntary standstill would have done had the parties chosen the path of voluntary co-operation. I am sure that he understands that within the terms and principles of the Bill if we are able to make Orders against people who, once having had their case referred to the Board on a voluntary basis, then choose to implement an award which does not conform with the recommendations of the Board, we must have the ability to operate an Order which lasts for the full period. But I hope that he w ill accept my absolute assurance that if there is a voluntary element of standstill to be added on to it it is certainly not our intention to allow it to operate in such a way that one of the parties will suffer more than the compensatory period warrants.

I turn to the points raised by three hon. Members about the retrospective elements in the Clause. I suggest—I do not do more than suggest—to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the retrospection which appears in the Bill is perhaps not retrospection in the normal sense of the word. Any Order made under the Bill cannot become operative until 12th August. None of the penalties —if that is the word that hon. Members would choose to use—that stem from the operations of the Order could possibly be operated until after 12th August. The retrospective element refers not to the powers but to the datum periods on which the powers are based.

The retrospective element simply refers to the dates on which the prices are increased. It simply refers to the dates on which references to the Prices and Incomes Board are made. The Bill makes plain that if on the basis of the date the wages or prices were increased and the date of reference to the Board it seems appropriate that an Order should be made, the Order cannot be operative until 12th August, and it is operative simply for the period to which it refers in terms of the original intention, not in terms of its operation. There is a substantial distinction there. It is a distinction which is much more substantial than that between retrospective operation and the alternative in the Amendment discussed before this one. There the retrospective element would have gone back a good deal further and included some of the elements that the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the vice of retrospection and the reason why it is normally considered to be incompatible with our statutory position in this country, is that it applies a state of law to something that has already happened which was not the state of law at the time that it happened? That is the vice of retrospection, and that is in the Bill.

Sir D. Glover

Would the hon. Gentleman allow—

Mr. Hattersley

I must, with respect, try to deal with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point first. I understand very well the point that he is making. He is too kind to give this example. There is little distinction between saying "While it is not a capital offence at the moment to commit offence A, B or C, the element in the Bill is not retrospective because we do not execute you till after 12th August." I understand that point and accept the force of it.

The distinction between the two cases is that there are already a substantial amount of powers available to the Government under Part IV of the Prices and Incomes Act. All we are doing is organising a transition between the operation of Part IV and the operation of Part II. All the people who might contemplate between now and 12th August putting up their prices or implementing a wage increase must know that the prices and incomes legislation, including Part IV, is in operation, and although they may not until they consider the deliberations of the House tonight understand that they will be subject to a reference to the Board and an Order made after 12th August, they should know that they are liable to the operation of Part IV. All that the Clause is doing, and all that the words that the Amendment seeks to delete are doing, is organising a reasonable transition from one element of compulsion to another. The accusation of retrospection is in some ways mitigated by my suggestion that already many of the powers that the retrospective element suggests, perhaps in a more violent or a more positive form, are available to the Government and that all we are doing is changing them.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

The hon. Gentleman's remarks puzzle me because if all these powers are contained in Part IV, and if Part IV continues in operation until 12th August, what is the purpose of the Clause?

Mr. Hattersley

This provision is necessary because Part IV lapses on 12th August. We are now trying to organise a sensible transition period between the old and the new powers to ensure that we move smoothly from the period of severe restraint—when there existed very much more substantial powers than those we are discussing—to the period when the powers are considerably less substantial. This transition must be organised on a sensible basis.

For the sake of this argument, let us assume—as one must assume in these circumstances—acceptance of the Government's policy and the need for orders occasionally to be made to change, prohibit or postpone wage increases. Suppose that there is a wage or price increase, or a reference to the Board, on 10th August. I should have thought that, in terms of having a sensible incomes policy, it was absolutely right for us to apply the same rules, regulations and obligations on those increases and references as on similar increases and references if they occurred three days after that date.

If the Government wanted to be devious about this, references to the Board might, in certain circumstances, be postponed until after 12th August. But the Government have no intention of getting round the Measure in that way. We want, fairly and clearly, to operate Part II and to organise a suitable run-up arrangement which will enable us to have a reasonable and sensible transitional period.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin rose

Mr. Hattersley

No. I have given way a great many times. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would rather make their own speeches, rather than listen to me for too long.

I wish to underline the point I have made in relation to the remarks of the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), who asked what sort of assurances and information had been given to the consultants and staff of the Board who are examining the two reports to which he referred. He asked if they realised that they were producing a report which might possibly have the effects outlined in the Clause. While it is unlikely that the powers contained in the Bill were known to the Board—to the consultants who carried out the investigations, if consultants did that work—they knew that they were producing a report which could be the subject of Part IV orders, involving a system of wage and price restraint a good deal more positive than the system we are now discussing. There is no suggestion that they were inveigled into carrying out an operation which they would regard as unattractive. They were engaged on the production of a report, on the basis of which the Government could make decisions about the prices and incomes policy and, I hope, on the basis of which we are organising a smooth transition from the powers of Part IV to those of Part II after 12th August.

Mr. Temple

The hon. Gentleman has said not a word about wage-related retirement pensions.

Mr. Hattersley

I did not comment on the hon. Gentleman's remarks because this does not operate in the retrospective way he suggested. The period of literal retrospection, between now and 12th August, will not operate in the way he described and will not work detrimentally for pensioners.

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

The Parliamentary Secretary made an extraordinary speech. I am sorry for him because, on an issue of this importance, the First Secretary should have answered the debate. This topic raises issues which are even more important than the general issues raised by the Bill. The hon. Gentleman did his best, but it was not good enough.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that this is not the normal sort of retrospection—by which, I suppose, he meant that it was not the normal sort of retrospective legislation produced by the present Government. All that the provision did, he said, was to date transactions back to certain dates before the Measure came into force. It is the essence of retrospection to make something an offence which was not an offence when it was done. For him to say, "This is all it does," shows that he does not appreciate the enormity of the Government's actions. The argument that it does not not matter because it will not happen until 12th August could apply to almost any grouse because it will not be shot until then. It is on about the same level as the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), that the Minister without Portfolio could not understand Latin because he was a historian. Even the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was a don at Christchurch does not justify so damaging an attack. However, as the Minister without Portfolio was asleep when my right hon. and learned Friend spoke, I will waste no more time on the Sleeping Beauty of the Government.

12.30 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary did not give us the practical reason for these words. He is no doubt assuming—I do not know whether he is right—that, despite the incompetence of the Leader of the House, the Bill will soon be law. If so, how many cases would be caught by the Bill which would escape without these words? The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that he is asking the House to do something which in principle is repugnant to most of us—

Mr. Hattersley

I want to help the House in what I admit is a difficult issue for me. An answer is not possible, because it depends on a number of variables, one of which is the wage or price increases which might be implemented up to 12th August. Unless we can predict these increases by reading many minds, it is not possible to say how the powers over the retrospective period might or should be used.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That is a curious answer, because a Minister at the Ministry of Labour should have some idea. Under a Conservative Government, Ministers at that Ministry had some idea what claims were coming forward and which were likely to be met in the limited period of a week or two. But now a Minister at the Ministry of Labour whose duty it is to be in touch with these matters—and never more so than now, when wage restraint is of the greatest importance—has not the faintest idea. If that is how the Ministry is being conducted now, one begins to understand how the wages problem has got out of hand and why the Government think that they have been driven to the crude expedient of compulsion. His answer would have been reasonable had I asked about the next year, but I did not.

I hope that he realises now that he is seeking unusual powers of retrospection, even under this Government. Yet he blandly tells us, with a helpful smile, that he does not know what he wants them for or whether there is a serious number of cases. The Government blunder on with this proposal, without knowing whether it has any justification. It is absolutely typical of the blundering incompetence with which the legislation was conducted last year, which got the Government into the mess which the Court of Appeal showed up the other day, and which, if the Government go on trying to force through legislation at the last minute and late at night, they will get into again. I hope it will be noticed outside that this has been said. We have a provision which must seem offensive to all who care for the rule of law and the proper regulation of these matters. It is now being put forward without the Minister concerned being able to tell the House that there is a single case that would be better handled if the Government had these powers.

This is quite an extraordinary position. I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary, for all the glib assurance of his manner, has understood why it is that so many hon. Members who are not necessarily concerned with the prices and incomes policy are here and opposed to this proposal for retrospection.

It is a serious thing for the House to decide that an act or acts which were lawful at the time they were done should be made unlawful by subsequent Act of this House retrospective to that date. No one is saying that when there are grave matters of public security or safety it should not be done, but surely we all agree that it should only be done when there is a proved necessity for it. Now we know from the Parliamentary Secretary's unhappy intervention that he does not know if there are any cases at all.

This is the wrong way to legislate. It leads to what I hinted at a moment or two ago—a situation in which the First Secretary has to come to the Box and, in reply to a question of mine, say that because he had been seeking to exercise powers which he did not have he had had to withdraw four Orders he had purported to make. This will again be the position if the Government go on in this way. The Courts were rightly critical in the Thorn case, when it was said that it must be clear that Parliament intended it, for the Government to be empowered to interfere with agreements already made. The Government are now asking for the same power and they have produced this ill-drafted and obscure passage with no justification for it. They do not know of a single case which will be affected by it, yet they come forward with a proposal which is plain and blatant retrospection of a kind the House has always opposed, save on proven grounds of real public interest.

This is bankruptcy of Government. It is an appalling attitude for a Government to take and to seek to do it under the cover of night in the hope that it will not be reported is an indication of bankruptcy not only of economic policy but of the morals of the Government.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I have one serious reservation about the Amendment. If it is passed it may save the First Secretary from embarrassment. It will be within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was sacked by the Prime Minister for coming to the House and offering similar retrospective powers to the House. If the Amendment were carried it might save the First Secretary from suffering a similar fate at the same hands. That is the only disadvantage which I see in the Amendment, which has been so excellently advocated.

The Bill has been sold to one section of the community as giving, broadly speaking, equal justice by applying equally to prices and to incomes. Does it do so? How can the retrospective part of it be applied to prices which have already been paid? Unless every shopkeeper notes the name and address of every person who makes a purchase in his shop, and also notes the price increase paid, how is it possible to apply the Bill with the same vigour, retrospectively, to sales as that with which it has been applied to people who have received pay increases and whose names, by definition, are known? I offer that as an example of the way in which a false prospectus is attached to the Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary muddled the words "prices" and "incomes" as a sort of formula of respectability, but he has given no evidence that the prices side of it can be applied effectively with retrospection. The point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is very fair. If the Minister asks for retrospective powers, particularly powers which affect the criminal as well as the civil law, surely he has an obligation to quantify to the House the necessity for these provisions, and no such quantification has even been attempted.

How much better it would be if the Parliamentary Secretary or the First Secretary had the grace to say that he knew of no reason for believing these powers to be necessary and that therefore he would accept this entirely reasonable Amendment? Would it not be better for them to say that they know of no reason for needing these powers, which possibly by oversight or possibly through some more sinister reasons they have written into the Bill? We are entitled to a much more convincing reason from the Government for accepting what many hon. Members on both sides of the House feel to be a fundamental breach of principle, and one which attracted such severe censure not so long ago on the right hon. Gentleman who endeavoured to put it over in the House that he was dismissed from his office.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is a very powerful debater and the House has just listened to a very powerful speech by him. But I am sure that, on reflection, he, would agree that he was perhaps slightly unfair to the Parliamentary Secretary, who is doing his best with an impossible case. The attack which my right hon. Friend delivered with such eloquence would really have been aimed at other targets. The Parliamentary Secretary has been cast by the Government in the rôle of Sisyphus, alone, in absolute solitude, in almost eternal disappointment, pushing the stone of the prices and incomes policy up the hill, usually deserted by his right hon. Friends. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not think that I am detracting from the skill and accuracy of his speech when I make this rather lame attempt to defend the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

My hon. Friend will recall that in my observations I said that it was wrong for the Parliamentary Secretary to be entrusted with an Amendment of this importance. I think that it is the First Secretary's duty to address the House on the subject, and I still nourish the hope that my hon. Friend's eloquence will get the First Secretary to his feet to take the responsibility which rightly lies on him.

Mr. Peyton

That is the very point on which I differ from my right hon. Friend and on which I believe that he is unfair. It is the Parliamentary Secretary's skill and practice which has won him his place at the Dispatch Box tonight, and the two right hon. Gentlemen sitting beside him—and even the presence of the President of the Board of Trade—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member will not be out of order if he comes to the Amendment.

Mr. Peyton

I accept that the mention of the President of the Board of Trade was a grotesque and unforgivable irrelevancy on my part.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It was jaywalking.

Mr. Peyton

My right hon. Friend says that it was jay-walking—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I said lightly but now seriously that the hon. Member must discuss the Amendment.

12.45 a.m.

Mr. Peyton

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has made the best of a bad job, and I am sorry that neither of his right hon. Friends was here to give him moral support, which is the only support they could give him. We were told that this was not retrospection in the normal sense of the word in that it does not refer to the powers but to the dates. Then the hon. Gentleman confessed that all that was being done by these innocent words was to organise a transition between now and 12th August, that mystical date which for some reason has got written into the prices and incomes policy. I want to laugh about it, but I should hate to introduce any note of flippancy into this grave matter.

It is odd that we should not be given any estimate by the Government as to how many cases are affected by these words. They are taking an unusual step and it is their duty to justify it. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary's speech was the best that could be made by any Minister, let alone a junior Minister, in such circumstances. I have conceived a healthy respect for his ability. He has justified again and again the totally unjustifiable and it would be wrong not to give him credit for it.

The hon. Gentleman was concerned to show that there is really no distinction between the results which attend the voluntary and the compulsory. We have got into an extraordinary argument about semantics. Apparently, under the Socialist Government, the words "voluntary" and "compulsory" are coming to mean much the same thing. It is not only confusing but a dangerous confusion and we ask the Government to think again.

Now that the First Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are here, I hope that one of them will feel stirred to claim his place in history by accepting that these intolerable words should be deleted from an intolerable Bill, which would thereby become slightly better. It would be a worthy achievement on his part.

Mr. Webster

I share my hon. Friend's slight doubt about my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I was disturbed when he mentioned a difference of value between historians and lawyers.

Mr. Speaker

Can the hon. Gentleman speak up? I want to hear whether he is in order.

Mr. Webster

I shall endeavour to speak up, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that if there is any trouble with the transmission arrangements, it can be put right.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames will not make pejorative remarks about historians who are constitutional people and who have taken a great deal of care about the retrospective situation here. I support his request to the Parliamentary Secretary for figures. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary, who has been very courteous to the House, has not sent for those figures. How many people are expected to be affected between now and 12th August? How many trade unions are expected to be affected? I am glad to see that a Parliamentary Private Secretary has been sent to the Box.

Mr. Hattersley

I am anxious to preserve what I hope has been my courtesy to the House and it will be even better if I deal with that matter before the message returns. The reason why I have not been able to give a quantitative answer to the question put to me is that no quantitative answer is possible. The hon. Gentleman understands very well that for an Order to be made in the circumstances laid down by the Clause a number of things have to happen. One is that reports must have been requested from and made by the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The second thing is, after a period of voluntary restraint, for the recommendations of the Board then to be flouted and an increase given over its head. The hon. Gentleman will understand that while it is possible to say how many references are in the hands of the Board at any one time, it is impossible to say what the reaction of the parties will be when the reports are finally made to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Speaker

The Parliamentary Secretary will have an opportunity to speak later; interventions must be brief.

Mr. Webster

What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that he does not know how many citizens who do not now believe that they are breaking the law might be found to be breaking the law later. It is these people whom the House must protect. What percentage of the gross national product will be affected? By what percentage will the cost of living be increased in this mammoth exercise between now and grouse shooting day? These are matters about which the hon. Gentleman ought to be able to give a good deal of clarification. There is no justification at all for these extraordinary words in five different lines of the Clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) spoke with great learning. He seems to be the greatest living expert in the House on the extrusion of aluminium.

Mr. Biffen

indicated dissent.

Mr. Webster

My hon. Friend shakes his head. He is an expert on the extrusion of aluminium, on various processes on aluminium, on the inert gas fabrication of aluminium by various processes, and then he got on to the obiter dicta of Mr. Jones, to bricks, and then again to the conflict between voluntary and compulsory.

In this Amendment we are dealing not only with retrospection, but with the difference between voluntary and compulsory and throughout the whole of the Bill and the activities of the D.E.A., the distinction between voluntary and compulsory seems to be blurred. This is another constitutional matter which the House would do well to think about.

We are told that if restraint is not voluntary, it will be compulsory. This is sheer blackmail of the most dangerous order, and if the House lets this go through without another thought from the First Secretary, we shall have created a very dangerous precedent. This is another of the now frequent examples of law-abiding citizens finding themselves brought into conflict with the law for reasons which they do not understand, about matters which bewilder them and which concern their livelihoods, and these are dangerous matters which the House should consider before deciding whether to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Higgins

The answers which we have had from the Government Front Bench during what has been a very distinguished debate, especially as regards the contributions of my hon. Friends, are not in the least adequate. The Parliamentary Secretary has certainly given the impression of trying to be helpful, and I believe that he has genuinely tried to be so. He assures me on "claw-back" that it is not the Government's intention under this Clause to do more than equalise the period of other people whom he considers, volunteered for the Government's prices and incomes policy.

He must be clear that this assurance will mean that the Government will be proposing to make orders which we regard as having a discriminatory element of compulsion and which we have been consistently against throughout these debates. It also involves a considerable element of retrospection. When we came to the debate last night we had some metaphysical distinction from the First Secretary about whether something was voluntary or fully voluntary. We now seem to be in a position where some things are fully voluntary, and others are merely retrospective.

The position put forward very clearly indeed from this side of the House is that we regard the whole of this retrospection, and its use as a normal tool of government—as against an exceptional event—as something to which we should be totally and utterly opposed. The second point is that the Parliamentary Secretary has said that there needs to be a reasonable transition period between the operation of Part IV and the operation of Part II. It is still a reasonable transition between the two periods which we regard as singularly unfortunate. In both periods there is still a very considerable element of compulsion. The fact that the transition from one period to another is regarded as reasonable by the hon. Gentleman does not make us feel, that this is a reason for withdrawing the Amendment.

We come to who is likely to be affected by the Clause if the Amendment is not accepted. The hon. Gentleman has again given the appearance of trying to be helpful, and said that it would depend on how many references have been made. He does not attempt to specify which references have been made and which are likely to fall within this Clause. This is an unfortunate lapse, and I hope that the First Secretary will intervene briefly to give us this interesting information. If not we are forced into the position, pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) of feeling that the Government have not the remotest idea of who is affected by the Clause.

If this is so, a very important consequence follows. Effectively, what the Government are doing is to take retrospective powers which will enable them to impose all the restrictions which they had under Part IV in the case of actions that took place when Part IV prevailed. In other words, what they are really doing under this Clause, is to perpetuate Part IV of the principal Act. They can impose the full weight of their policy as it was under Part IV, retrospectively on price or wage increases which took place in the period covered by Part IV. This is really the point which emerged from what the Parliamentary Secretary said, even to my surprise, and I have become a little cynical about the Government's policy.

The Government are perpetuating Part IV, which this House was assured last year would not be perpetuated beyond the mystical date of 12th August. On these grounds I very much hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will vote with enthusiasm for this Amendment. I hope that before we do so we may have some reply from the First Secretary about the actual references.

1.0 a.m.

Mr. Hall-Davis

I wish to reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) that the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs should clarify the position. It appears that the words which the Amendment seeks to leave out would perpetuate Part IV, about which specific pledges were given a year ago that there would be a definite term limit to this Section.

As I have listened to the debate I have come to the conclusion that unless these words are omitted the impression will be given—which I think will be accurate—that at a time when the Government are saying that they are moving to a voluntary phase of prices and incomes policy in fact we see a strengthening and continuation of the powers ruling under the 1966 Act. I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary's explanations. It seemed clear that up to 12th August the position must be covered adequately by the 1966 Act and that there can be no reason to think that for this period of 20 or 21 days the Act is inadequate. By putting in what appears to be a retrospective Clause relating to the period of the 1966 Act, the Government are in effect extending the Act itself.

I do not regard the Bill as at present before the House as a tapering-off measure. The addition of these words giving retrospective power to the Government is not a tidying up or transitional phase to a voluntary policy, but a direct extension of certain powers in the 1966 Act to which strongest exception was taken by us a year ago. I think it fair to say that many hon. Members opposite would have pressed their opposition much more strongly if they had not felt able to accept assurances given by the Government that these aspects would lapse on the specific date to which the powers referred in the Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that it is impossible for him to judge how many breaches may occur because he does not know what the course of price and wage adjustments may be, but by looking at the Act he must know how many more reports are likely to come before 12th August. It would appear from what he said and the fact that he feels unable to give an indication, that he is taking powers to refer not only price increases and wage increases which may follow a report published between now and 12th August, but to continue powers to take action in respect of reports which may be published at a very much advanced stage subsequent to that date. Many of these reports take a very long time.

Two questions are involved. One is the question of retrospective legislation, to which many hon. Members have taken exception. There is also the clear extension of the powers of the 1966 Act, not just the ability to take action which should have been taken in the last two or three days which it was not possible to take. Unless this Amendment is accepted, these words amount to a breach of the undertakings of a year ago on the powers of the Act under the guise of being a retrospective power as if this were a transitional and minor matter.

Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)

I am by no means certain whether the First Secretary wants to make progress or not. We are quite prepared to fall in with him either way. A request has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) for a reply on a matter which we regard as of very great importance indeed. By this Amendment we seek to leave out of the Bill four lines which offend, as we see it, the principle that there should be no retrospective legislation except in the case of proven public or national need. I would have thought the case had been most formidably made by people of great experience—for example, in the law—by two of my right hon. and learned Friends, and by many other people on this side of the House, and yet we have had only a very cursory answer from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, an answer which we found entirely unsatisfactory.

I understand, of course, his difficulty in this matter, but I cannot understand why he says he has either little or no knowledge of how many wage claims there may be, how many breaches there may be, between now, when we are getting on to halfway through July, and the classic date of 12th August, which is looming ahead. I simply do not understand it, because I know very well from my experience of his Ministry—and I imagine it is the same still—that every fortnight there is a schedule prepared of all the wage claims at whatever levels they may be, right from their inception, which may be months before the date of a settlement.

The inception, as we know, is very frequently at the Easter or Whitsun conference of the union concerned, and, as many people on both sides of the House will be aware—I do not think I am giving away anything which I ought not to —it is made available to Whitehall, to the Ministries which are concerned. I simply do not understand how the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour of all Ministries can say he has no knowledge of what may happen in this very critical field between now, 11th July, and one month away, 11th August, before the axe comes down.

I would ask the First Secretary whether he would like to reply—or, indeed, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, if he wishes, by leave of the House, for I have no doubt leave would be given him to dc so. I would say seriously to them that we have been discussing this Amendment longer than I thought we would, because we found the answer of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary absolutely trivial in response to some extremely cogent and well argued speeches by my hon. and right hon. Friends. I hope that the Treasury Bench will treat the representations which we make with rather more seriousness as this night wears on, otherwise we shall not make very much progress.

I make this quite clear to the Government. If they want to make progress, well then, they must listen to and answer the serious points which we put forward. I do very much hope that either the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, by leave of the House, or the First Secretary, who does not need leave to speak because he has not spoken yet on this Motion, will answer some of the points which have been made from this side of the House, because we do regard these four lines with very grave suspicion indeed. We see no reason why the Government should wish to retain them in the Bill. As we have made clear, we wish to remove them, if we possibly can.

The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I rise in direct response to the request of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). I did not do so earlier because one of his hon. Friends rose and I did not wish to interfere with anything that he might wish to say.

I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, since his hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) emphasised that, in his view, the Parliamentary Secretary made as good a reply as the facts warranted. What is it that the right hon. Gentleman complains of? Does he complain that he does not like the Clause, which is one thing, or does he complain that my hon. Friend did not treat the House seriously in his reply? Quite clearly, the hon. Member for Yeovil does not make that complaint—

Mr. Peyton

I congratulated the Parliamentary Secretary upon his gallant attempt to defend the totally indefensible, and, of course, I reflected upon the fact that the First Secretary had the discretion to absent himself from the unpleasant task of explaining this intolerable Bill. It was—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions must be brief.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman now seems to be contradicting himself. I gathered that he thought that, in view of the nature of the Clause, the Parliamentary Secretary made a good reply.

Mr. Iain Macleod


Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman does not think so. It is a matter of opinion. But I do not accept his strictures on my hon. Friend's reply.

On this use of the word "retrospective", it is true that orders can be made under this Clause to have effect after 12th August which suspend price or pay increases which were implemented before that date. This is an entirely valid reason for saying that it is not retrospective in the sense in which the term is commonly used, because those price or pay increases would have been made in contravention of recommendations by the Board which were available before that date.

There is no question of people acting in complete ignorance of what was expected of them, and then being told afterwards that they were expected to do something different. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) must accept that what we have here is not the same as saying suddenly that something which a person had no reason to suppose would be called in question is now to be called in question—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Surely there is still the basic objection that something which is lawful at the time that it is done is made unlawful by legislation passed subsequently.

Mr. Stewart

Now the right hon. Gentleman is repeating what he said earlier. He is not attempting to contravert the point which I have made, that the price or pay increases under discussion would have been made at a time when there were clear recommendations making it clear to those who made the increases what the position was.

Suppose that a price or pay increase is made on 20th August. It seems to me that the case for being able to act upon it, if it is in conflict with the report, is basically the same whether that report was made on 1st, 12th or 13th August. Similarly, if a report is made on 1st August, it seems to me that one ought to be in a position, in justice and common sense, to take the same action whether the increase in price or pay in contravention of the report is made on 10th or 16th August. I give those dates as particular examples.

The effect of the Clause is to produce that result. The effect of the Amendment would be to upset it and produce a far more anomalous situation than the one which prevails in the Bill.

1.15 a.m.

On the question of the quantity, for the reasons given by my hon. Friend we cannot give an absolute quantitative answer. There are only three references to the Board so far which have been made at a time which will enable the powers in this Clause to be exercised after the enactment of the Bill, on the assumption that the Board takes three

months to reply. There could, of course, be other references to the Board before the 12th August. Further, for the reasons given by my hon. Friend, this question of the number of references cannot, by itself, fully describe what the quantitative scope of the Clause might be. It will depend on the reactions of the parties to the reports.

I have dealt with the two main points which were raised, the question of what we mean by retrospection, and the question of the quantitative operation of the Bill. If the Amendment were made, we would get a result which was more anomalous, more inconsistent, and gave less coverage than any reasonable person might expect, than if we leave the Clause as it is. It is for this reason that I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Higgins

Is it not a fact that the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument on this depends on the word at the end of line 35 being "and", whereas in fact the word is "or"?

Mr. Stewart

I cannot accept that point.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Silkin) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 150, Noes 121.

Division No. 444.] AYES [1.18 a.m.
Anderson, Donald Dewar, Donald Hazell, Bert
Archer, Peter Dobson, Ray Heafey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Armstrong, Ernest Donnelly, Desmond Henig, Stanley
Ashley, Jack Eadie, Alex Hilton, W. S.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hooley, Frank
Barnett, Joel Ellis, John Horner, John
Bence, Cyril Ensor, David Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Howie, W.
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Faulds, Andrew Huckfield, L.
Bidwell, Sydney Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Bishop, E. S. Ford, Ben Hunter, Adam
Blenkinsop, Arthur Forrester, John Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Boston, Terence Galpern, Sir Myer Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Boyden, James Gardner, Tony Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hul1, W.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Ginsburg, David Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Gourlay, Harry Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir EIwyn(W.Ham,S.)
Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Cant, R. B. Gregory, Arnold Kelley, Richard
Chapman, Donald Grey, Charles (Durham) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Coe, Denis Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Concannon, J. D. Hamling, William Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hannan, William Ledger, Ron
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stratford) Harper, Joseph Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Haseldine, Norman Lee, John (Reading)
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Hattersley, Roy Lever, Harold (Cheatham)
Luard, Evan Palmer, Arthur Small, William
Lynn, Alexander W. (York) Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles Snow, Julian
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pavitt, Laurence Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Macdonald, A. H. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Taverne, Dick
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Maclennan, Robert Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Thornton, Ernest
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Price, Christopher (Perry Bar,) Tinn, James
McNamara, J. Kevin Price, William (Rugby) Tuck, Raphael
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rankin, John Varley, Eric G.
Mendelson, J. J. Rees, Merlyn Walden, Brian (AH Saints)
Mikardo, Ian Reynolds, G. W. Watkins, David (Consett)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Richard, Ivor Whitaker, Ben
Moonman, Eric Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Whittock, William
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Moyle, Roland Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Neal, Harold Rowland, Christopher (Meriden) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Phitip(Derby,S.) Ryan, John Winnick, David
Ogden, Eric Sheldon, Robert Yates, Victor
O'Malley, Brian Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Oram, Albert E. Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Orme, Stanley Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Oswald, Thomas Silverman, Julius (Aston) Mr. Harold Walker and
Owen, Will (Morpeth) Skeffington, Arthur Mr. Neil McBride.
Awdry, Daniel Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Baker, W. H. K. Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Neave, Airey
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Glover, Sir Douglas Nott, John
Batsford, Brian Goodhart, Philip Osborn, John (Hallam)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Grant, Anthony Pardoe, John
Bell, Ronald Grant-Ferris, R. Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gresham Cooke, R. Percival, Ian
Bessell, Peter Grieve, Percy pike, Miss Mervyn
Biffen, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Biggs-Davison, John Hall-Davis, A. C. F. Prior, J. M. L.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Pym, Francis
Black, Sir Cyril Harris, Reader (Heston) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Body, Richard Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bossom, Sir Clive Hastings, Stephen Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Heard, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Rees-Davies, W. R.
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Higgins, Terence L. Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Holland, Philip Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hornby, Richard Royle, Anthony
Bunk, Antony (Colchester) Howell, David (Guildford) Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Campbell, Cordon Hunt, John Sharpies, Richard
Carlisle, Mark Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Sinclair, Sir George
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Summers, Sir Spencer
Cary, Sir Robert Jones, Arthur (Northante, S.) Tapsell, Peter
Cordls, John Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Costain, A. P. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Temple, John M.
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Vickers, Dame Joan
Crouch, David Lubbock, Eric Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dalkeith, Earl of Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Macfeod, Rt. Hn. Iain Wan, Patrick
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry McMaster, Stanley Webster, David
Drayson, G. B. Macmillan, Maurice (Famham) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Maddan, Martin Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Eden, Sir John Marten, Neil Winstanley, Dr. M, P.
Elliott,R.w.(N'c'tleupon-Tyne,N.) Maude, Angus Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Emery, Peter Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Woodnutt, Mark
Eyre, Reginald Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Worsley, Marcus
Farr, John Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Fletcher-cooke, Charles Mltchell, David (Basingstoke)
Fortescue, Tim Monro, Hector TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Foster, Sir John Montgomery, Fergus Mr. Timothy Kitson and
Gibson-watt, David More, Jasper Mr. Bernard Weatherill.

Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—

Division No. 445.] AYES [1.28 a.m.
Anderson, Donald Barnett, Joel Bishop, E. S.
Archer, Peter Bence, Cyril Blenkinsop, Arthur
Armstrong, Ernest Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Boston, Terence
Ashley, Jack Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Boyden, James

The House divided: Ayes 141, part Noes 121.

Bray, Or. Jeremy Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Henig, Stanley Pavitt, Laurence
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W) Hilton, W. S. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hootey, Frank Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Cant, R. B. Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Howie, W. Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Chapman, Donald Huckfield, L. Price, William (Rugby)
Coe, Denis Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rankin, John
Concannon, J. D. Hunter, Adam Rees, Merlyn
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Reynolds, G. W.
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Richard, Ivor
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir E1wyn(W.Ham,S.) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Delargy, Hugh Jones, T. Aleo (Rhondda, West) Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Dewar, Donald Kelley, Richard Sheldon, Robert
Dobson, Ray Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Donnelly, Desmond Ledger, Ron Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dunnett, Jack Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Eadie, Alex Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Skeffington, Arthur
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Small, William
Ellis, John Luard, Evan Snow, Julian
Ensor, David Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Taverne, Dick
Faulds, Andrew Macdonald, A. H. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Ford, Ben McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Forrester, John Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Thornton, Ernest
Freeson, Reginald Maclennan, Robert Tinn, James
Galpern, Sir Myer Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Tuck, Raphael
Gardner, Tony Mitchell, R. c (S'th'pton, Teat) Varley, Eric G.
Ginsburg, David Molloy, William Walden, Brian (AH Saints)
Gourlay, Harry Moonman, Eric Watkins, David (Coneett)
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Whitaker, Ben
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Grey, Charles (Durham) Moyle, Roland Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Neal, Harold Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Hamling, William Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Hannan, William Ogden, Eric Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Harper, Joseph O'Malley, Brian Winnick, David
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oram, Albert E. Yates, Victor
Haseldine, Norman Oswald, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hattersley, Roy Owen, Will (Morpeth) Mr. Harold Walker and
Hazell, Bert Palmer, Arthur Mr. Neil McBride.
Awdry, Daniel Eyre, Reginald McMaster, Stanley
Baker, W. H. K. Farr, John Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maddan, Martin
Batsford, Brian Fortescue, Tim Marten, Neil
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Foster, Sir John Maude, Angus
Bell, Ronald Gibson-Watt, David Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Bessell, Peter Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Biffen, John Glover, Sir Douglas Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhart, Philip Monro, Hector
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Grant, Anthony Montgomery, Fergus
Black, Sir Cyril Grant-Ferris, R. More, Jasper
Body, Richard Cresham Cooke, R. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bossom, Sir Clive Grieve, Percy Neave, Airey
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hall, John (Wycombe) Nott, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hall-Davis, A. C. F. Osborn, John (Hallam)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Pardoe, John
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Harris, Reader (Heston) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Percival, Ian
Campbell, Gordon Hastings, Stephen Pike, Miss Mervyn
Carlisle, Mark Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Higgins, Terence L. Prior, J. M. L.
Cary, Sir Robert Holland, Philip Pym, Francis
Cordle, John Hornby, Richard Quennell, Miss J. M.
Costain, A. P. Howell, David (Guildford) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hunt, John Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Crosthwalte-Eyre, Sir Oliver Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crouch, David Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dalkeith, Earl of Jones, Arthur (Northants, SO Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Royle, Anthony
d'Avigdor-Goidtmid, Sir Henry King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Drayson, G. B. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sharpies, Richard
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Sinclair, Sir George
Eden, Sir John Lubbock, Eric Summers, Sir Spencer
Elliott, R.w.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Tapsell, Peter
Emery, Peter Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Temple, John M. Webster, David Woreley, Marcus
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Vickers, Dame Joan Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wainwright, Richard (colne Valley) winstanley, Dr. M. P. Mr. Timothy Kitson and
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Wait, Patrick Woodnutt, Mark