HC Deb 25 June 1968 vol 767 cc298-321


Where following a reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes an order is made under any of the provisions of the Prices and Incomes Act 1966, the Prices and Incomes Act 1967 or this Act to require reduction of prices or charges, to defer wages regulation orders or agricultural wages orders, a petition may be presented to either House against the order within twenty-one days from the day on which the order was laid.

The petition shall be referred to the Chairman of Ways and Means or the Chairman of Committees and may either—

  1. (a) pray for particular amendments to be made to the order, or
  2. (b) object generally to the order.
  3. 299

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

May I digress for a moment before launching on this Amendment to thank you, Mr. Speaker, from this side of the House for your consideration of the further Amendments.

This new Clause is headed "Appeal procedure". I am not sure that that is quite the right title but it is a nice, succinct one. It deals with the Parliamentary procedure on the exercise of the Ministerial power to make Orders under this Act, and indeed under the two previous Prices and Incomes Acts. When I say that it deals with Parliamentary procedure, that means that it deals with the rights of right hon. and hon. Members, especially with their rights to represent the views of their constituents and, on occasion, to protect their constituents against the Executive.

A characteristic of many of the Orders under the Prices and Incomes Acts of 1966 and 1967 has been that they affect particular interests. They are not so frequently Orders affecting everyone in the country, but they deal with particular interests, employees or firms making certain charges.

In new Clause 4 and in offering a proposal for dealing with this type of Order, we have in mind those which deal with separate interests. Under the previous Acts, the House will remember that we have had such narrow Orders as that dealing with the employees of Rockware Glass, that dealing with the pottery employees of Joseph Bourne & Son Limited and that dealing with laundering and cleaning charges, all of them narrow Orders dealing with particular interests.

For a matter of 500 years it has been a principle of legislation in this House that, when we are dealing with a Bill —and I recognise that we are dealing with Orders in this Amendment, but the principle is similar—if it is a Bill which affects a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interest of other persons or bodies of the same category or class."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1962; Vol. 669, c. 45.] it should be treated as a Private Bill. Those are the words of Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster.

What is meant by treating a piece of legislation as a Private Bill and applying the Private Bill procedure to it is that the individual who may be affected by the Bill has the right to have his case heard by Parliament through the Private Bills Committee, and it is necessary to go through all the procedure for Private Bills so that one ensures that anyone affected to a greater degree in his private interests than others has the right to petition Parliament and have his case heard. Standing Orders go so far as to prevent the House from proceeding with a Public Bill if it includes some infringement of private interests and is what we term a Hybrid Bill.

We have no exactly similar procedure for the greater number of Ministerial Orders which are approved by the House from time to time. In a Statute, normally we give the Minister the power to make an Order by Statutory Instrument and, if that Order affects private interests to a greater extent than it affects the general public, there is no right for the individual to petition the House which he would have if it were included in a Private Bill. In another place, there is a special procedure for referring private interests in an Order to a special Committee to consider the effect of the Order. We have no such procedure here except by an Act giving a Minister power to make Orders.

When Ministerial Orders are likely to affect private interests, the parent Statute in many cases had said that the Minister must make his Order by a special Parliamentary procedure which is laid down by the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, as amended by the Act of 1965. Under that procedure, no Order is made until certain publication of it has been made and the service of notices on those affected, until objections have been considered and possibly until a public inquiry has been held. When the Order is made and laid before Parliament, those affected may petition Parliament within 21 days, and their petition will be heard by a Joint Committee of both Houses.

With that form of procedure, we recognise what Parliament has recognised for 500 years in relation to Private Bills; that is, the right of the individual who is affected by legislation to petition Parliament so that his case is heard. That is the sort of procedure which we on this side of the House think ought to be applied to Orders under the Prices and Incomes Act.

Up to the present time, the special Parliamentary procedure has been used mainly in connection with encroachments on property rights, certain compulsory purchase orders, and the acquisition of minerals, coast protection, and so on. However, in Orders with which we are concerned under the prices and incomes legislation, how much more are private interests concerned, as we have seen in the Orders in the past, when it is not merely a matter of encroachment on property rights, but of encroachment on the rights to produce and to earn?

In paragraph 30 of its Sixth Report, the Select Committee on Procedure recommended to the House in the following words: The attention of Your Committee was drawn to a discrepancy in the procedures of the two Houses in the treatment of Statutory Instruments that specially affect private rights and interests. The House of Commons has no procedure for considering petitions from affected parties against such hybrid instruments, and Your Committee recommend that a Joint Committee should be proposed to consider whether a procedure similar to that for Special Procedure Orders might be applied to these Instruments. That is exactly what we suggest in new Clause 4. We suggest it by saying that the parent Statute can do exactly what the Select Committee recommended to the House and provide a form of procedure whereby there will not only be an inquiry before the Order is made, but a chance for the person affected by the Order to petition the House and make his case known.

The procedure does not delay the effect of the Order. If this Bill is to operate effectively, I appreciate that the Minister may have to make an Order quickly which will be effective at once. This form of procedure does not prevent that. The Order can come into force and effect at once. The procedure merely provides an opportunity for the individual to make his plea to Parliament that the Order be annulled or amended. That plea will provide the House with the facts and arguments upon which it can eventually decide whether the Order should stand or be annulled.

It must be true that Orders under the Prices and Incomes Act are, in an unprecedented way, affecting individual interests rather than the public in general. That is the whole point of the Orders which are made under the Act. They are to stop a certain firm, group of individuals or number of employees or employers from breaching the principles laid down in the legislation.

It may be that this form of legislation cannot operate without Orders which affect particular private interests. If that be so, I ask the Government generously to recognise it. They will lose nothing by that recognition; they will cause no delay in the exercise of their power to make Orders. Here is an opportunity to adopt the recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure, without damage to the principles of the Bill but with recognition of natural justice and the rights of the individual which the procedure of Parliament has always sought to preserve.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Emery

Certain aspects of an appeal procedure or the possibility of appeal against Orders made by the Government were briefly discussed in Committee, and we have drafted this new Clause in an attempt to overcome the arguments which the Government then advanced. We accept that, under the Bill as it stands, an individual may make an approach to Ministers, but tthis is nothing like good enough. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State said, What safeguards are needed are there". That was his view, but the only safeguard is that the aggrieved person may put in a written representation to the Minister, the very Minister who has agreed that the Order should be made. It was suggested that inspectors should be appointed, and the Under-Secretary's response to that was to say, …hon. Members would not like the inspectors any more than they like the N.B.P.I."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 30th May, 1968; c. 440.] I did not accept that argument at the time, but one can see at least some fairness in it. Therefore, to overcome that objection, we have attempted to provide a procedure by which the appeal is made to the House and can be considered by the House. From that point of view, it makes sense.

I emphasise that the proposed appeal procedure would not stop an Order coming in or allow the House to refuse it. However, if a Committee of the House reported against it, there would be strong moral persuasion, I imagine, and the Government would probably think it right to take action themselves. But control is left with the Government. I should like the new procedure to be more forceful, but I recognise that there would be no chance of the Government accepting it in that form. With the idea of persuading the Government to accept the principle of what we propose, we have put down the new Clause in this form, still leaving power in the Government's hands.

The new Clause applies only to the new matters introduced in the present Bill, not to those dealt with in the previous Acts. I should be happier if the appeal procedure could be applied to everything, including the matters dealt with in previous Acts, but the new Clause refers specifically to Orders requiring a reduction of prices or charges, or deferring wages regulation orders or agricultural wages orders. Although we make the general point that we should like it to apply to everything, the new Clause is specifically limited to those three matters which are new in the present Bill.

Mr. Paget

Is it the conception that the petitioner should be represented by counsel before the Committee and that he should call evidence?

Mr. Emery

Yes, that is the view. We want the procedure to follow as closely as possible the present Special Procedure Order procedure.

We believe a right of appeal to be essential because, for the first time, the Bill will give punitive powers to the Government. An Order to reduce prices, made purely on a recommendation of the Prices and Incomes Board, could affect a company's profitability and its ability to stay in business. Arguments put before the Board might be misunderstood. If a recommendation were made by the Board in such circumstances and an Order to reduce prices followed, the company could go out of business. Yet there is no appeal which the individual can make save that he may write a letter to the Minister. The Minister does not even have to give a statement of his reasons for rejecting the written representations. As this Order-making power could be punitive, and as the Government would be over-riding a decision, for instance, of the Agricultural Wages Board which had gone into the matter in the fullest possible way, the individual must have a right of appeal.

The criteria on which the Prices and Incomes Board give a verdict and then make a recommendation for a reduction in prices can be altered by the Government by Statutory Instrument. The Government are able to alter the law by which someone may be ordered to reduce his prices. They have only to change the criteria or introduce new ones by Statutory Instrument subject to 90 minutes' debate in the House. To take a reductio ad absurdum argument for a moment, it would be possible for the Government to decide that anyone who had had a price increase in the last five years should automatically be allowed no further price increases. The Minister shakes his head, but that is possible.

If a decision of that kind were made by the Government in exercise of punitive powers against the individual in any other sphere, there would automatically be a right of appeal, not just an appeal by letter to the very Minister who had made the Order. There is good sense in ensuring that the laws of natural justice should apply so as to allow the individual to come to Parliament and put his case.

There could well be a weakness in the wording of the Amendment. We are not the most expert draftsmen, and nobody will want to press it if the Government will accept the general principle behind it. If they will accept that we do not believe that an appeal merely in the form of a letter to the Minister is enough, and will make any alterations they feel necessary in the Amendment and introduce it in another place, I should welcome that.

The Prices and Incomes Board cannot be controlled by anybody, once the criterion has been set. Therefore, if it recommends a price reduction and the Government follow the recommendation through with an Order, it as fair and proper that people should have some right of appeal. That is entirely, and only, what the new Clause sets out to do.

Mr. Paget

The suggestion in the new Clause is misconceived. It is an attempt to impose a judicial decision on what is in effect an executive decision. I do not say that that does not sometimes happen, but it is wrong in principle when it occurs, and it is nearly always a piece of whitewashing.

The Prices and Incomes Board is not a judicial body. It must take an executive decision. It must decided whether an increase is justified from an economic point of view, and that is a value judgment. To have a Committee of the House to sit judicially upon that executive decision would not work. One would be trying to impose a worse judgment on a better one, and with no real basis for arriving at that judgment.

Mr. Emery

The whole of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument falls to the ground, as this procedure is already used in planning. An appeal can be made to such a House of Commons Committee under the Special Procedure Order on certain planning matters.

Mr. Paget

And does it work? That is a singularly bad example, which one should not take any further. I cannot think of any instance where that procedure has had a beneficial result. I think that I shall have the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on my side in saying that. It has never worked, and it is not a particularly happy example to take here.

I do not know to what extent the new Clause has been thought out. The petitioner could apparently be heard before the Committee, and that means that he must be heard through counsel and must call evidence. Who is the respondent? Is it the Prices and Incomes Board? Is the Board to appoint counsel? Is it to call evidence? Will there be a judicial procedure in which on the one side there is the appellant petitioner and on the other side the defendant? How else would it be worked? If it is not the Board which will be the respondent, how will there be a trial? This is a half-baked and ill-thought-out proposal.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Emery

The hon. and learned Gentleman is using some strong arguments, which are partly misplaced. I do not wish it to become a judicial body, and I am not suggesting that. We make it quite clear that it is an administrative tribunal dealing with an executive decision.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on Report. The hon. Member must make a brief intervention, not a speech.

Mr. Emery

I wish it to be a brief intervention, Mr. Speaker. We suggest that if anybody is to be the respondent it is the Minister. Under the Clause, he or she shall deposit the memorial which the Committee shall consider, so it is not the Board.

Mr. Paget

But if on the one hand one has the petitioner represented by counsel and calling evidence, is one to have on the other merely a written representation, which is not by the Board—the people who made the Order one is opposing— but by the Minister? If so, how does the appellant cross-examine the witnesses called? How does he present his case? Is a written memorandum deposited either before or after his case has been presented a sufficient answer? That is what I mean by saying it is a half-baked Clause.

Sir D. Glover

It is not usual for me to quarrel with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), but I think that his was one of those speeches in which one puts up an Aunt Sally deliberately to knock it down. I agree that perhaps the special procedure is not the most ideal way of dealing with those people who feel that they have not had justice. All that is sought in the new Clause is that virtually the same procedure shall apply for cases referred to the Prices and Incomes Board as has applied in planning cases. The hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to say that the present arrangements about appeal to the House in planning are not good. I think that I should agree, but at least the procedure is the best we have; it may be inadequate, but it is the only thing we have.

I congratulate my hon. Friends on the new Clause. If they could start from scratch and produce an entirely new system they would probably like to suggest it. But they probably very rightly decided that on Report that would not have much chance of being accepted by the Government, but that the Government might conceivably accept something parallel to an existing procedure. The Government could with reason say that they would accept the Clause because it would do no harm. It would introduce an appeal procedure, and they could accept that some form of appeal procedure is necessary.

One of the things that worries me is the increasing power of one gentleman who used to be a Member on this side of the House, Mr. Aubrey Jones, the head of the Prices and Incomes Board. Bill after Bill, and document after document give the Board more and more power. As far as I can see, he and his staff are working without any control from Parliament or anybody else. Whatever rulings they give appear to have the writ more than of law, of Holy Writ. They are beyond argument or discussion.

It is only sensible and right, when the Board will make a great many decisions under that Bill, that the House should produce procedure for appeals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) said, a firm might be put out of business. Are we really going to say that Mr. Aubrey Jones and his Committee— because that is what I will call his Board —can issue an instruction that will put a firm out of business and that that firm will have nowhere to make an appeal, apart from writing to the Minister, who may not even grant it the courtesy of a reply? Is this new organisation—it was created only three years ago—to grow and grow and become more and more powerful untrammelled by any appeal machinery whereby people can get things put right? Is the House to have no way by which a person can petition it for redress of wrong?

If the Government do not wish to see increased the atmosphere which is already present of their being a dictatorial Government, they will say that they accept what the Opposition are trying to do and agree on the necessity for some machinery of this sort. Behind your very distinguished Chair, Mr. Speaker, there is the Petition bag. We have that because any member of the public has the right to petition this House for the redress of wrong. But we are building up outside organisations which have more direct power than many Government Departments, with the general body of the people having no appeal against their decisions.

Whether or not what is suggested in the new Clause is the most ideal way of dealing with the matter, I am not prepared to argue, but I do argue forcefully that the Government have a case to answer, and I hope that they will answer it by saying that they accept what the new Clause is trying to achieve, that there is reason for disturbance and that they will see that this part of our fears will be taken care of.

Mr. Biffen

I support the arguments of my hon. Friend, particularly to underline the apprehensions expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) about the activities of the National Board for Prices and Incomes and the necessity to give to the subjects or the firms affected by its reports some kind of redress. We do not live in an ideal world. This is not an ideal new Clause. But this is not an ideal Bill. When dealing with a piece of legislation of such general sloppiness as this, one is driven into a whole series of second-best considerations and palliatives.

The most one hopes for from this legislation is that it will not degenerate too much beyond being nonsense. One fears that it may degenerate into being arbitrary and tyrannical, picking out small groups of people. But that is what our experience of this kind of legislation tells us is what usually occurs. The commanding heights of the economy can be impaled by the activities of 15 engineering draughtsmen of Beckman Instruments. Their case was heard in an Adjournment debate. I am sure that Mr. Clive Jenkins would be anxious to use procedures which would be available under the new Clause to challenge some of the interpretations, arguments and inferences of the Prices and Incomes Board.

If ever one wanted the case for the new Clause, it was at least hinted at by the extraordinary proposition that perhaps the individual salary of Mr. Hambros is about to be investigated. I find this almost too absurd to consider but that is what this legislation means. It means the picking out of individuals.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the whole Bill. We are discussing new Clause No. 4, which advocates a right of petition against a decision of the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

Mr. Biffen

It is because of the narrowness and intensity of the effect of the Board's recommendations that there should be a right of appeal. Without wishing to stray further into the generality of the subject, which would incur your wrath, Mr. Speaker, I underline the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk about the necessity for some kind of appeal against the judgments of the Board. If ever there was, as it were, an over-mighty feudal baron it is Mr. Aubrey Jones. I quote from a highly respectable source of comment to sustain that argument. Commenting on the Board's Report No. 60, the Royal College of Nursing and the National Council of Nurses of the United Kingdom said: The Royal College of Nursing Council regrets that the National Board for Prices and Incomes involved itself in matters outside the sphere of prices and incomes. It is not the first time that kind of comment has been made, and when people's commercial livelihoods are endangered by the consequences of recommendations of the Board, accepted and enforced by the Government, the least this House can ask for is the maximum opportunity for legal appeal.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

Before I turn to the attractive arguments put by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), I want to deal with the more general arguments advanced. A word has been used, perhaps in error, which should not be allowed to go unnoticed. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) talked about the Government exercising "punitive" powers under the Bill. He knows very well that punitive powers are powers exercised for the intention of punishment. He also knows that nothing could be further from our minds. Whatever else these powers are, punitive they are not.

Mr. Emery

If the hon. Gentleman does not consider that it is punitive to make a firm or company reduce its prices, he does not understand how industry and business consider this matter. They think that this is a punitive factor.

Mr. Hattersley

No doubt they will be encouraged to do so if the hon. Gentleman goes on repeating it, but if he thinks for a moment about the proposition he will realise that, whatever else is in the Government's mind, the idea of punishment is far from it. Our objectives, irrespective of disagreement about whether or not we are likely to achieve them, should surely be agreed as having nothing whatever to do with punishment.

Mr. Biffen

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the sudden interest in the salary of Mr. Hambro is not punishment for his having said rough things about the Government?

Mr. Hattersley

I say that entirely. I remind the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) that, for a year, he has been asking us about what attitude we are likely to take towards individual salary increases. Since he has spent so much time urging us to be consistent about them as well as about group increase's, he should be the last to complain about what my right hon. Friend announced yesterday.

7.0 p.m.

The second argument deals with the powers of the Prices and Incomes Board, from which hon. Members opposite conclude that it is especially necessary that some sort of appeal machinery should be set up. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) described the National Board as a board that can be controlled by nobody. The hon. Member for Oswestry drew attention to those occasions when it has been claimed that the Board went outside its terms of reference. As I understand the intention of the new Clause, it is not to prevent the Board from making comments which might be controversial, embarrassing or just plain wrong. It is to prevent Orders from being made which have a positive and definite effect.

It is therefore essential to understand that what we are considering is the procedures that have to be followed before an Order is made. Whether that Order is the result of a report which contains other items which the hon. Gentleman, or perhaps the House as a whole, regards as controversial, extraneous or wrong, is irrelevant. We are interested in the Orders, and in the Orders alone. We are certainly interested, as the hon. Member for Honiton said, in their application to individuals and the possible detrimental effects they might have on individuals.

There are, I suppose, two possible hypotheses as to how Orders might affect an individual company. The individual company needs the right of appeal, so the hon. Member for Crosby said, lest it be put out of business by the decisions of the Board. The first hypothesis is where an Order is made which affects a specific company and where it is known when the report is written that the company is near the margin of profitability and that a reduction in price might result in its bankruptcy. It is inconceivable that this will happen, but I will come to that later.

I suspect that the hon. Member for Honiton fears that a more likely case of bankruptcy, and therefore a more appropriate case for appeal through this machinery, is where an Order is made reducing prices throughout an entire sector, in which there may be individual companies imperilled by that general Order because they are nearer the margin than other companies.

If that is what the hon. Gentleman is saying, I am sure that he will concede that there are many occasions when Parliament takes a general industrial decision which affects disastrously people at the margin of profitability. I will take what I believe to be the hon. Gentleman's favourite Bill—the Resale Prices Bill, 1964. That Bill put out of business many retailers at the margin of profitability. I take an example which is particularly potent, because it is the converse of the case the hon. Gentleman quoted. I take the case when an agricultural wages Order is made, not under the regulations written into the Bill, which I hope will become law, but under the regulations now operating. This is an Order which is in no way susceptible to Parliamentary process. It is not made by my right hon. Friend. It is made by the Agricultural Wages Board. We hope that we shall be granted powers to postpone the effect of such Orders, if that seems to be appropriate.

When such an Order is made insisting that farmers throughout the land pay a new level of minimum wage, I am sure that many farmers complain that, as a result of the Order, which has been the subject of no scrutiny whatsoever, they are likely to be put out of business. It is of the nature of general industrial decisions facing large sectors of the economy that those at the margin may well be affected in this adverse way.

Sir D. Glover

Surely in farming cases it is an agreement right across the board. Here we may be dealing with one firm.

Mr. Hattersley

I said that there were two arguments. One concerned the industry and one concerned individual companies. I said that I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that the arguments are different in those two respects. I hope in a few moments to turn to the arguments in so far as they relate to individual companies.

Having said that and having, I suspect, at least hinted that I am not altogether enamoured of the Clause, perhaps I should say why I describe it initially as attractive and attractively proposed by the Opposition Front Bench. I say this because I hope that the House will accept that the Government are sensitive to our obligation to preserve the civil liberty aspects of the prices and incomes policy and certainly anxious that there should not be the sort of breach, the sort of hardship, and the sort of difficulties, which hon. Members opposite have feared might be the case.

I ask my hon. Friends to reject the Clause, because I believe that the civil liberty aspects to which the hon. Gentleman referred are in no small degree already covered. I turn again to the duties and powers of the National Board and to our obligation towards them. It cannot be said too often that, except in two very special cases to which I shall refer, when the National Board makes a recommendation—let us say that a price should be reduced or that a standstill on wages should be prolonged—then that recommendation can be given effect to and enforced only if it is supported by an Order made by the Government. That Order is subject to all the negative procedures of the House.

The final responsibility must be with my right hon. Friend. Her responsibility must involve hon. Members opposite, and occasionally some of my hon. Friends, drawing her attention to what they believe to be the shortcomings of her decision, exposing her to whatever criticism and ridicule they think are necessary and appropriate. There is this very potent and, qua Parliament, fundamental safeguard that the Ministerial decision to make an Order, which must supersede a report by the National Board, is subject to those potential embarrassments, potential difficulties, and potential limitations that the negative Order procedure puts on my right hon. Friend.

I will remind the House briefly of what those procedures are and how they relate to the Bill. The hon. Member for Honiton said specifically that the Clause was intended to cover only the new powers we are given in the Bill. I rather assumed from the hon. Member for Crosby that he intended the Clause to cover all orders and that that is why the Clause mentions the Acts of 1966 and 1967.

Mr. Graham Page

By reference to Clause 4, whose rubric is Power to require reduction of prices or charges we refer back to the previous Acts.

Mr. Hattersley

Having had at least one of my suppositions confirmed by the hon. Gentleman, I will remind the House of the procedures which must operate if an Order prolonging a standstill is to be made in that way. If the Government wish to operate a standstill, and if they wish to prolong it as a result of their investigations, they first must do so as a result of a published report by the N.B.P.I. This, in itself, puts the Government right in the line of public opinion. They are operating on criteria which are published, reported and known. Not only that, but that report is subject to limitations. It must be a report written within the terms of the Government's current policy on prices and incomes, a policy which is established as a result of an order which can be, and often is, debated in the House. In this case it was debated for eight hours in Committee.

Even the criteria by which the Board operates are subject to Parliamentary control. When the Board has taken a decision on those criteria, if the Government choose to make an Order prolonging a standstill because of an adverse report after a case has been examined against those criteria, once again that Order is specifically subject to Parliamentary control and can be debated, and invariably has been debated, in the House.

Mr. R. Carr

We have heard much about the safeguards of the negative procedure. In particular, the Undersecretary has just said that the criteria which the National Board must use must come before the House. He will recollect that so crowded was Government business that we had no opportunity to pray against the current General Considerations Order, which lays down the criteria. So what safeguard is that?

Mr. Hattersley

Although the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that no Prayer was laid against that Order—

Mr. Carr

It was laid. There was no chance to debate it.

Mr. Hattersley

In a previous year hon. Members opposite forgot to table a Prayer against the General Considerations Order. There was a debate on the criteria this year, however. The right hon. Gentleman took part in that debate. It took place in the debate on devaluation or in the general Budget debate—one of those debates which goes on for day after day, one of which was devoted to the criteria, whether the White Paper was published in its previous form or not. He had many things to say about 3½ per cent. and the other criteria. If the House has not debated the White Paper, it has certainly debated the criteria included therein. That is only one of the safeguards.

There are other safeguards which the hon. Gentleman asked the House to consider and which the hon. Gentleman says are perhaps inadequate. But these offer the individual who may be affected by an Order the opportunity to make representations to the Prices and Incomes Board and to the Government, and require the Government to publish their intentions in the appropriate gazettes in order that individuals who feel that representations are appropriate are given notice and warning that the time for representations has come, apply not only to the extension of standstills under previous Acts but to the entire apparatus for price reductions under this Bill. They apply under paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 4(2) and under Clause 4(3) and they list very carefully those procedures which must be gone through before a prices Order can be made and which are intended to safeguard the rights of the individual.

That leads naturally to the point about which the hon. Member for Honiton asked—the case of the individual company or firm about which the Prices and Incomes Board might make an adverse report and about which the Government might make a price reduction Order. This is legitimate debate, but it is reasonable only if we assume that the Government and the Board would take decisions according to the most bizarre principles. The Board is required to examine all cases according to criteria.

If a company is so near to the margin of profitability that the requirement that a price reduction should be made would put it out of business, for the Prices and Incomes Board to recommend a price reduction would almost certainly be going outside the criteria. I cannot believe that the extreme case which the hon. Gentleman suggests could or will happen. I hope that the House will not consider the efficacy of the new Clause on such a wild hypothesis.

I hope that hon. Members will consider the very reasonable point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He said —and I must agree with him—that he could not visualise a Committee of the House being an appropriate body to make the sort of inquiry and investigation which these individual cases imply. They are not simply matters of civil liberty. In fact, in the event, they would turn out to be something very different. They would turn out to be the examination of economic principles, of industrial statistics, of the state of the market and of people's views on where productivity was to be found and how prosperity was to be achieved.

The examination of such a set of principles seems to me an operation which a Committee of the House would not do to best advantage. It would not be in the interests of the House, nor in the interests of the people who made the appeals. We are conscious of the need to safeguard those people who may, because of the operation of this policy, feel that they are at least potential sufferers. We hope that that safeguard is in the Bill. We hope that the ultimate safeguard is the obligation to debate each Order if the Opposition choose to debate it and that the House will rest content with that.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I do not think that the Under-Secretary has removed our anxieties, which were the reason for the new Clause. The Bill makes no provision for appeals.

I understand the hon. Gentleman when he says that it is in the nature of general industrial legislation of this kind that people at the margin may find themselves in difficulties and may get hurt. But this is an important thing for us to understand when we represent people at the margin who may get hurt. I appreciate the argument that the big organisatians in industry have powerful associations which can put their case. I am much more concerned with the small firm and individuals in a small way of business.

7.15 p.m.

I accept that the hon. Gentleman is sincere when he says that he has not the slightest intention of using the powers in the Bill in an oppressive way. But it is interesting that our new Clause, which makes provision for appeals, should be debated on the day when, perhaps unluckily for the hon. Gentleman, his right hon. Friend has referred an individual under the powers which he already possesses.

Mr. Hattersley

I did not wish to pursue this point, but since it has been raised a second time perhaps I should deal with it. The right hon. Gentleman should not be confused by the headline in one newspaper. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said yesterday that the report made to the First Secretary would be examined. He did not say that it would be referred to the Board. Those are two very different things.

Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps there is a difference, but it is clear that the hon. Gentleman did not say that his right hon. Friend had not the power to do this. It has been shown that she has the power to do it. It is widely accepted in the country that she has the power to do it. My point is that the new Clause proposes that, if she did it and if the body which was mentioned earlier took a decision which, whatever the Parliamentary Secretary says, was penal in its effect on individuals or small firms, there would be provision for an appeal. Whether the Order results in an enforced reduction of income for an individual or in an enforced reduction of price for a firm, particularly a small firm, all the elements which the hon. Gentleman mentioned might be relevant, but for the individual it would be penal. It is like an enormous fine. We have heard of fines large enough to put a business right out of operation.

I referred earlier to the case concerning Hambros Bank in which an individual is powerful. This is where the question of appeal might arise. This is a man who can defend himself, but, nevertheless, the comment throughout the Press has been that action has been taken by the Government because he attacked the Government and made a substantial contribution to the funds of the Conservative Party. It may or may not be right, but because we feel that there should be the right of appeal to an impartial body the new Clause is very important. The abuse may not be so great in the case of a powerful personality who can rely on powerful elements in the body politic and the City of London to rally to his defence. But what about the small man in the provinces of whom nobody has heard?

This is the danger of operating this gigantic system of control which the Government are erecting in a way which may stifle the business life of a man and yet provides for no appeal. This is why I support the new Clause.

Mr. Graham Page

With leave, may I briefly answer some of the points made by the Under-Secretary.

The procedure which the hon. Gentleman outlined of representations to the Board, to the Minister, and so on, is a procedure of appeal to the Minister, Ministerial body or administrative body. That is quite distinct from what we are asking for, namely, the right of appeal, when an Order has been made, of an individual particularly affected by the Order. Written representations to the Minister are wholly insufficient. It is for the House to protect the individual by applying a procedure which is already recognised. It is no good saying that the individual will be protected by the Minister, who is judge and jury in his own cause.

Another point made by the hon. Gentleman was that the procedure for annulment of an Order is sufficient. I agree that if the Order is of general industrial application it is right that the House as a whole should debate it. Indeed, it would no doubt do so by way of a Prayer against the Order. But the negative procedure is a matter of hit or miss in this House at present. There are occasions when it is impossible to get the time to Pray against an Order. It may be that if the Order affects only one small firm or one individual the House will not find time for a Prayer against it.

We are proposing a special procedure which is already in existence, which has worked, despite what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and which has been extended in recent legislation: the Water Resources Act; the Countryside Bill; the Gas Act; the Pipelines Act; and the Forestry Act. This procedure has been used in connection with property interests, but how much more important it is to use it in connection with private interests affected by this Bill. This is not, as the hon. Gentleman said, a procedure to prevent an Order being made or for anything to be done before an Order is made. It is to apply an appeal machinery which is already recognised by Parliament. This is not only a matter of Parliamentary procedure. It is a matter of constitutional importance that the House should continue to preserve the right of the individual to protect himself against the Executive.

Question put. That the Clause be read a Second time: —

Division No. 239.] AYES [7.22 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barktton Ash) Glyn, Sir Richard Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Monro, Hector
Astor, John Goodhart, Philip Montgomery, Fergus
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Goodhew, Victor Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Awdry, Daniel Gower, Raymond Mott-Radcliffe, Sir Charles
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Grant, Anthony Munro-Lueas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Grant-Ferris, R. Murton, Oscar
Balniel, Lord Gresham Cooke, R. Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grieve, Percy Neave, Airey
Batsford, Brian Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Curden, Harold Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Bell, Ronald Hall, John (Wycombe) Nott, John
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Onslow, Cranley
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Biffen, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Biggs-Davison, John Harris, Frederic (Coryodon, N. W.) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Blaker, Peter Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hastings, Stephen Peel, John
Body, Richard Hay, John Percival, Ian
Bossom, Sir Clive Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Peyton, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Pike, Miss Mervyn
Braine, Bernard Heseltine, Michael Pink, R. Bonner
Brewis, John Higgins, Terence L. Pounder, Rafton
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hiley, Joseph Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hill, J. E. B. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hirst, Geoffrey Prior, J. M. L.
Bryan, Paul Pym, Francis
Buck, Anthoy (Colchester) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bullus, Sir Eric Holland, Philip Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Burden, F. A. Hordern, Peter Rawilnson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hornby, Richard Rees-Davies, W. R.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Howell, David (Guildford) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hunt, John Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Channon, H. P. G. Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chionester-Clark, R. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, Henry Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Robson Brown, Sir William
Clegg, Walter Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Cooke, Robert Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rossl, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Royle, Anthony
Cordle, John Joplin, Michael Russell, Sir Ronald
Corfield, F. V. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith St. John-Stevas, Norman
Costain, A. P. Kaberry, Sir Donald Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerby, Capt. Henry Scott, Nicholas
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver Kershaw, Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Crouch, David Kimball, Marcus Sharpies, Richard
Crowder, F. P. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Kirk, Peter Silvester, Frederick
Currie, C. B. H. Knight, Mrs. Jill Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Dalkeith, Earl of Lancaster, Col. C. G. Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Dance, James Lane, David Speed, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Langford-Holt, Sir John Stainton, Keith
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stodart, Anthony
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Ceoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield) Summers, Sir Spencer
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Tapsell, Peter
Donnelly, Desmorld Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Doughty, Charles Longden, Gilbert Taylor, Edward M.(C'gow, Cathcart)
Drayson, G. B. Loveys, W. H. Teeling, Sir William
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lubbock, Eric Temple, John M.
Eden, Sir John McAdden, Sir Stephen Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) MacArthur, Ian Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty) Tilney, John
Emery, Peter Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Errington, Sir Eric Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain van Straubenzee, W. R.
Eyre, Reginald McMaster, Stanley Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Farr, John Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fisher, Nigel Maddan, Martin Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Marten, Neil Wall, Patrick
Portescue, Tim Maude, Angus Walters, Dennis
Foster, Sir John Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Ward, Dame Irene
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Mawby, Ray Weatherill, Bernard
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Webster, David
Gibson-Watt, David Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Whltelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mills, Stratum (Belfast, N.) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Glover, Sir Douglas Miscampbell, Norman Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 300.

Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Woodnutt, Mark
Winstanley, Dr. M. P. Worsley, Marcus TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Wylie, N. R. Mr. Jasper More and
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Younger, Hn. George Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Abse, Leo Edwards, Robert (Billton) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Albu, Austen Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ellis, John Lee, John (Reading)
Alldritt, Walter English, Michael Lestor, Miss Joan
Allen, Scholefield Ennals, David Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Anderson, Donald Ensor, David Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Archer, Peter Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Armstrong, Ernest Fernyhough, E. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lomas, Kenneth
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Loughlin, Charles
Bagier, Cordon A. T. Foley, Maurice Luard, Evan
Barnes, Michael Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Barnett, Joel Ford, Ben Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Baxter, William Forrester, John Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Beaney, Alan Fowler, Gerry McBride, Neil
Bence, Cyril Fraser, John (Norwood) McCann, John
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Ffeeson Reginald MacColl, James
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Galphern, Sir Myer acDermot, Niall
Bidwell, Sydney Gardner, Tony Macdonald, A. H.
Binns, John Garrett, W. E. McGuire, Michael
Bishop, E. S. Ginsburg, David McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Blackburn, F. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mackenzie, Cregor (Rutherglen)
Blenklnsop, Arthur Gourlay, Harry Mackie, John
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mackintosh, John P.
Booth, Albert Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Maclennan, Robert
Boston, Terence Grey, Charles (Durham) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McNamara, J. Kevin
Boyden, James Griffiths, Eddie MacPherson, Malcolm
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)
Bradley, Tom Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Manuel, Archie
Bray, Dr. Jermy Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marks,, Kenneth
Brooks, Edwin Hamling, William Marquand, David
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hannan William Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Buchan, Norman Hatterley, Roy Mendelson, J.J.
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hattersley, Roy Mikardo, Ian
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hazell, Bert Millan, Bruce
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Healey, Rt Hn. Denis Millan, Bruce
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Heffer, Eric S. Miller, Dr. M. S.
Cant, R. B. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Carmicheal, Neil Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Cartor-Jones, Lewis Hilton, W. S. Molley,William
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elystan (Cardinganshire)
Chapman, Donald Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Coe, Denis Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshawe)
coleman, Donald How le, W. Moyle, Roland
Concannon, J. D. Hoy, James Mulley, Rt. Hn. Fererick
Conlan, Bernard Huekfield, Leslie Murray, Albert
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Neal, Harold
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Newens, Stan
Crawshaw, Richard Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Cronin, John Hunter, Adam Oakes, Gordon
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hynd, John Ogden, Eric
Crosoman, Rt. Hn. Richard Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hilt) O'Malley Brian
Cullon, Mrs. Alice Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Oram, Albert E.
Dalyell, Tam Janner, Sir Barnett Orme, Stanley
Darling, Rt. Hn. Ceorge Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald Thomas
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jeger,i George (Goole) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jeger,Mrs.Lena(HIb'n&St.P'cras,E.) Page Derek (Kins's Lvnn)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Palmer Arthur
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) park Trevor
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Danenham)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull W.) Parkin, Ben (Paddlngton N )
Delargy, Hugh Jones, Dan (Burnley) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Dell, Edmund Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.) Pavitt Laurence
Dempsey, James Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Dewar, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Peart., Rt. Hn. Fred
Dobson, Ray Judd, Frank Pentland, Norman
Doig, Peter Kelley, Richard Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Driburg, Tom Kenyon, Clifford Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Dunn, James A. Kerr, Mrs. Ann (R'ter & Chatham) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dunnett, Jack Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Price, Thomas (WesthoughtonV
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lawson, George Price, William (Rugby)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Leadbitter, Ted Probert, Arthur
Eadie, Alex Ledger, Ron Randall, Harry
Rankin, John Skeffington, Arthur Wellbeloved, Junes
Rees, Merlyn Slater, Joseph Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W. Small, William Whitaker, Ben
Rhodes, Geoffrey Snow, Julian White, Mrs. Eirene
Richard, Ivor Spriggs, Leslie Whitlock, William
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Steel, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Wilkins, W. A.
Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Robertson, John (Paisley) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as) Swingler, Stephen Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Symonds, J. B. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Rodgers, William (Stockton) Taverne, Dick Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Roebuck, Roy Thomas, Rt. Hn. George Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Thornton, Ernest Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Rose, Paul Tinn, James Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Tuck, Raphael Winnick, David
Ryan, John Urwin, T. W. Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Varley, Eric G. Woof, Robert
Sheldon, Robert Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Wyatt, Woodrow
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Walden, Brian (All Saints) Yates, Victor
Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.) Wallace, George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Watkins, David (Consett) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Silverman, Julius Weitzman, David
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