§ Brought from the Commons; read la, and to be printed.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, notice was given by my noble friend Lord Crawford yesterday of my intention to move this afternoon at the commencement of business the Motion which stands in my name and which appeared on the Order Paper this morning—namely, that Standing Order No. XXXIX be suspended in the event of a Message being received from the Commons that they had passed the Emergency Powers Bill. That condition has been fulfilled, and I should, therefore, be quite prepared to make the Motion which stands in my name. On the other hand, not having, unfortunately, been here myself yesterday, I noticed in the papers this morning some remarks winch were made both by Lord Buckmaster and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with the general spirit of which I was in hearty concurrence. Both those noble Leeds represented that, 98 willing as your Lordships always are to waive your rights and privileges in the event of an occasion of national necessity and to meet the Government, as you have so constantly done, you yet felt anxious to maintain your rights of discussion in cases where such an urgent necessity was not shown conclusively to exist.
While I should prefer to make this Motion and to carry the Bill through all its stages to-day, I am quite prepared, if the sentiments expressed by the two noble Lords reflect those of the House in general, to ask your Lordships to proceed only with the Second Reading to-day and to meet to-morrow to take the remaining stages of the Bill. Of course, we could meet to-morrow at any hour that the House liked, but I do not think there would be any necessity to meet at other than the usual hour. Therefore if that proposal meets with the general acceptance of the House I will make the Motion in order that we may take the Second Reading to-day, but on the distinct understanding, if my suggestion is accepted, that we go no further than that stage this afternoon. I should then submit the Motion again to-morrow and ask your Lordships to take the remaining stages to-morrow afternoon.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for this day's sitting so that the Emergency Powers Bill may be passed through all its stage.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, the noble Earl has perceived that the House was somewhat taken aback by seeing the Notice on the Paper yesterday, and that surprise was by no means diminished when we saw it on the Paper again to-day. We awaited, of course, the explanation that would be offered by the Government of the presumed extreme urgency which would justify the House in agreeing to a Motion of this kind, which is so contrary to our usual practice, and which, as the noble Earl cordially agrees, deprives this House of its power of discussion. The noble Earl has, however, somewhat modified the position by the statement he has just made.
The noble Earl still apparently regards the measure as so urgent that it is necessary that it should receive its Third Reading to-morrow. Perhaps we shall hear from the noble Viscount Lord Milner, the reasons 99 for this extreme urgency. So far as I was able to judge from what passed in another place, the Government carefully dissociated itself from the idea that the measure had any particular bearing upon the industrial crisis through which we have just passed. It was stated that it had been prepared months ago, and the Labour Party were especially asked to observe that it was not intended to deal with the particular dispute in hand.
A great deal of discussion took place as to how far the introduction of the Bill was or was not provocative, and the Government safeguarded itself by saying that it was a most ordinary and necessary measure, and apparently its introduction at this particular moment and the speed with which it was pressed: merely represented a series of not very fortunate coincidences. I do not desire to oppose the Motion of the noble Earl in its modified form, subject to the possibility that some noble Lords may desire to introduce Amendments which can hardly be ready by to-morrow. The measure is one which evidently needs close examination and possibly full discussion by your Lordships' House. That will, no doubt, take place on the Second Reading to-day. But I hope the noble Earl will agree, if it is found that noble Lords desire to move Amendments which might take some time for consideration, to defer a little longer the Committee stage and the passing of the Bill which he desires to take to-morrow.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I think that the noble Marquess has pushed my remarks certainly further than they were intended to go, and, if my recollection is right, further than they actually did go. What I said was that I was quite prepared to limit the application of my Motion, if it was accepted, to the Second Reading to-day, and to put down the Motion again to-morrow on the understanding, with which I hoped all noble Lords would agree, that the whole of the remaining stages of the Bill should be taken tomorrow. To that I adhere; those are the conditions under which I made my proposal. I did not mean—and I must be quite explicit—to encourage noble Lords to lengthen the discussion by producing a series of Amendments which might take us over until next week, and might prolong, I will not say indefinitely, the further stages of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords, if they are good enough to 100 accept my suggestion, will interpret it in the same way that I have done.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his appreciation of the reasons that led me to enter a word of caution and protest yesterday against this Motion. I am not quite certain that I understand exactly what attitude the noble Earl desires to adopt to-day. He says that if the First anti Second Readings are taken to-day the rest of the stages should and ought to be taken to-morrow. I can well understand, if he gave us any reason why that should be done, that the House would be extremely anxious to meet the convenience of the Government in the matter. But he gave us no reason at all. The only suggested reason which has been brought forward for granting at this stage of the session exceptional treatment to this Bill was the fact of the deplorable industrial difficulty through which this country has recently been passing. But we are informed that that trouble has gone. What is it that is going to happen between now and next Tuesday to render it essential that this House should alter its procedure in order to pass this Bill? That is what I am anxious to be informed upon.
This is matter of the procedure of your Lordships' House, and no one would be anxious to insist on principles of procedure which have no material value. To my mind the question of procedure is really only of secondary importance here. What led me to protest yesterday and also leads me to make these observations now is that I am extremely anxious that it should not appear to the country that your Lordships regard this Bill, brought forward in these circumstances, as a Bill the passage of which is a matter of course and not a matter to take place after full and, if necessary, elaborate discussion. It is, in fact, speaking as a lawyer, one of the most serious measures that I ever remember being introduced into Parliament, and it is impossible to over-estimate the danger that might arise if it were thought that we were treating it as merely a trivial thing which could be passed through all its stages without regard to the forms of procedure and to which this House as a matter of course would consent. The suggestion which was made about putting down artificial Amendments was not, of course, made seriously.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
The suggestion was that if the concession was granted noble Lords might avail themselves of it and put clown Amendments which might carry the Bill over to-morrow. I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Earl. Whatever offences have been urged against your Lordships' House it has never been suggested that you have engaged on one side or the other in the obstruction of a. measure that was to pass; and any Amendments that will be put down—I speak for myself and I am satisfied I can also speak for other noble Lords who may want to table Amendments—will be moved for the purpose of seeing that this Bill does not impinge on the liberties of this country further than the circumstances render necessary.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I apologise for speaking again, but really the protest with which the noble and learned Lord concluded is quite unnecessary. I was merely following the line of argument pursued by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and who, I understood, pleaded that noble Lords might require greater time to make up their minds as to Amendments than would be provided if the discussion was to be concluded to-morrow, and it was with reference to remark that I spoke of Amendments carrying the discussion over to next week. The noble and learned Lord has, I think, quite justly and fairly vindicated the right of your Lordships' House to give due attention to a measure of this sort—a measure obviously of very great and capital importance—but I submit, in reply, that his conditions will be satisfied, and amply satisfied, by a discussion lasting over two days.
The noble Lord put another question which again I think was quite fair. He said, "Is there anything in the circumstances of the case or in the altered circumstances of the case which leaves the question of urgency as prominent as it was before? "I think the answer is in the affirmative. What the precise terms are of the agreement that has been concluded or that it is hoped has been concluded I do not know, because it was only just now before coming down here that I heard it was hoped that such an arrangement had been arrived at. I enquired at the same time whether all 102 risks and chances of trouble were eliminated, and I was told "No." There are other factors in the situation besides the leaders of the miners to which I need not refer, but the existence of which is well known; and the fact that an agreement is believed to have been reached with the miners by no means precludes the possibility that there may be difficulties elsewhere, or in any way mitigates the necessity for proceeding with this measure without delay. Those are the reasons why I ask your Lordships to pursue the course that I have indicated, and I venture to think in the circumstances of the ease that they are not unreasonable.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (VISCOUNT MILNER)
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and in doing so I greatly regret the absence, for reasons which we are all aware of and deplore, of the Lord Chancellor on this occasion. He would be the member of His Majesty's Government who, under ordinary circumstances, would naturally take charge of a Bill of this character, lying, as it does, directly in his province, as it certainly does not in mine. The Bill I take it will be challenged, if it is seriously challenged at all, on points of detail by noble Lords learned in the law, of whom there are a number in this House, and for whom, on points of law, I certainly feel that I am no match. I hope I am justified in saying that it is only likely to be challenged on points of detail, for, as I read the discussions of the Bill which have taken place in the House of Commons, I find that the necessity for the Government being armed with powers of this description is one which was admitted by almost all parties in that House—by leaders not only of the Liberal Opposition but even by the Labour Party. The necessity for such powers, and, more than that, of their being kept permanently in reserve in case of emergency, was admitted on all sides, and the discussion turned almost entirely on the question of opportuneness. It was urged over and over again that, however desirable it might be at some time to arm the Government with the powers which the Bill confers upon it, the introduction of such a measure at the present time was calculated to imperil the negotiations which were in progress for the settlement of the present strike. I think circumstances have proved that those fears were ill-founded.
103 It is, I am afraid, too soon yet for any of us to say that we are definitely out of the wood as far as the present strike is concerned. I hope we are, but the situation is still a very uncertain one. At mid-day yesterday I think almost everybody believed that the trouble was over, but in the evening and until the middle of this day an entirely contrary impresson prevailed, certainly among many members of the Government. Now indeed, so far as I know—though I know nothing for certain—the prospect is again a much more cheerful one, but the situation is still in doubt. What I particularly want to call your Lordships' attention to is the fact that, whatever may have happened during the last twelve hours, it is evident that the introduction of this Bill has not had an unfavourable effect, or any effect at all, upon the progress of these negotiations. To the best of my belief, in the long and critical discussion which has taken place between representatives of the miners and members of the Government the Bill has not even been I referred to. I do not believe that its introduction at the present time has had any unfavourable effect whatever upon the course of negotiations.
A Bill of this kind will never be admitted to be opportune. The time never is the right time for introducing a measure of this kind. If it is introduced at a time when there is no trouble someone is quite certain to say, "Why cannot you let sleeping dogs lie? It is surely unwise to set people thinking about industrial strikes at a time when everything is quiet and when ideas of that kind are not in everybody's mind? Why cannot you leave it alone? Wait till you need it." On the other hand, if it is introduced when trouble is actually upon us or is imminent then it is certain to be said that the introduction of such a measure is provocative, that it is calculated to inflame passion and to bring about the very evils against which it is intended to guard. As I say, nobody will ever admit that the time is opportune whichever way it is, and all that any Government can do in the circumstances is to see that the measure is so conceived and that the exceptional powers which are asked for are so safeguarded that no reasonable person is justified in taking exception to them. That is what I claim with respect to the present measure.
I claim that the exceptional powers that the Bill confers are so hedged round with 104 safeguards of every kind that it would be practically impossible for any Government to abuse those powers, even if any Government was likely to be disposed to do so. Look at what the provisions of the measure are. In the first place, the Government cannot be armed with any powers at all under this Bill until after a Proclamation that a state of emergency exists, and the conditions under which such a Proclamation can be issued are very clearly defined in the Bill itself. They are very strict, very grave, and exceptional conditions. The Proclamation can be issued only if it appears to His Majesty "that any action has been taken, or is immediately threatened, by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on such an extensive scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or other necessities, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life."
§ LORD PARMOOR
In the copy of the Bill that I have, which I thought was a correct copy, the words "or other necessities" do not occur.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
I beg your Lordships' pardon; the noble and learned Lord is quite right. I was reading from the original Bill. The words in the Bill as amended are "… by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or with the means of locomotion …"
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
I thank the noble and learned Lord for his correction, which has possibly saved me from other errors as I had the wrong document in my hand.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I should not have interrupted the noble Viscount but that I thought those words were of importance.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
They are of importance. My contention is that those words are descriptive of a state of things which has rarely existed in the past, which we hope may rarely or never exist in the future, but which if it does exist is a condition of extreme national danger and emergency and one which does clearly justify and indeed demand, the exercise 105 by the Government of very exceptional powers. As I have said, in the first place before any power can be taken by the Government under this Bill there must be a state of things of this gravity and a Proclamation by the Government that an emergency exists.
If you will permit me, at this stage I should like to give your Lordships some information which has just been put into my hands with regard to the actual state of the present negotiations, a knowledge of which, I think, is material to your Lordships' judgment of the position. It is that the agreement which I am glad to say has been arrived is between the Government and the lead ors of the Miners' Federation, but it has to be submitted to a ballot of the miners, so that in the meantime the strike continues. Unfortunately experience has shown that it does not always follow that the result of a ballot is in accordance with the advice of the miners' leaders. The situation, therefore, though certainly greatly improved, is not by any means an absolutely clear situation or one in which we can a ford to dispense with any precautions that otherwise might be, necessary. Returning from that digression, which I hope your Lordships will forgive—
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
—to the main course of my argument, I want to point out that after the Proclamation has been issued according to the Bill it is then within the power of the Government by Order in Council to issue Regulations, and, of course, it is the Regulations which are the essential thing. It is only by virtue of the Regulations that the Government is armed with whatever exceptional powers may be necessary to deal with the particular emergency. Then if the Proclamation is issued and Parliament is not sitting at the time it is issued, Parliament must be summoned within five days.
In the next place—and this is the most important point of all—any Regulations which may be issued under the Proclamation must be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made; that is, practically immediately. They must be laid before Parliament within a day or two after they are made. So that if Parliament is sitting Parliament will be seised 106 of the whole matter and able to deal with it within a couple of days. If it is not sitting, the Regulations must be laid before Parliament as soon as it assembles, and it will have to assemble within five days. Therefore, as it seems to me, it is impossible that at the most more than seven days can elapse before Parliament is in a position to be seised of the whole matter and to deal with it.
More than that, the Regulations made under this Proclamation lapse automatically unless within seven clays from the date at which they are laid before Parliament both Houses of Parliament have passed Resolutions providing for their continuance. Therefore what it comes to is this, that whatever exceptional powers the Government may have under the. Proclamation to which I have referred, they cannot possibly exist for more than fourteen days altogether from start to finish, unless they have the approval, not of one, but of both Houses of Parliament. I ask your Lordships whether it is reasonable to suppose that both Houses of Parliament will approve of the continued exercise by the Government of such exceptional powers if those powers really transcend the necessities of the case. Parliament is the natural and rightful defender of the liberties of the subject. Once granted that conditions exist which may make the exercise of exceptional powers by the Government necessary, I do not think it is possible to provide more stringently than this measure does for the absolute power of Parliament to control the exercise of those powers in the interests of the liberties of the subject.
It is hardly necessary for me to argue at great length at this stage of the Bill in favour of the principles of the measure. That is all that on the Second Reading we are really concerned with. The criticisms that may be raised by noble Lords as to this or that point; in it are proper matters for another stage, and I must do my best to meet them as they arise. I think it would be wasting your Lordships' time were I to dwell at greater length upon the scope of the measure. The Bill is very short and very simple, and it is a very intelligible Bill. We maintain—and that is our justification for introducing it—that conditions exist which admittedly may make the exercise of exceptional powers by the Government necessary for the protection of the community.
107 This is not an offensive measure; it is a defensive measure. It is admitted on all hands that there are conditions of industrial strife which, even without that being the intention of the parties engaged, do involve great danger to the life of the community. We had an instance of it last year. Without the exceptional powers which the Government at that time possessed under the Defence of the Realm Regulations the strike last year could not have been successfully got over. I believe it is generally admitted that those exceptional powers which we then possessed were temperately and effectively exercised. I do not think there has been any serious criticism of the use the Government made of the exceptional powers which it then had. I venture to say that without them the community would have been exposed to very much greater hardship and sufferings than those which it actually had to face. Those powers no longer exist, or at any rate it is doubtful whether they exist, and, even if they existed, I think there is very general and legitimate objection to the continued exercise of powers granted to meet the necessities of war for any other purposes than those for which they were originally granted. I think it will be admitted that, if the Government ought to be armed with certain special powers for emergencies of a civil character, that ought to be done by a Statute providing directly for the case, and not in a roundabout way by the use of the Defence of the Realm Regulations, which were meant for purposes of war.
The course which we are pursuing in bringing in a measure to meet a new set of circumstances is, I think, the only proper and straightforward course. If it is admitted that there are dangers arising from industrial strife on its vast modern scale which must be guarded against, then I say that I do not think it is possible to guard against them in any manner less subversive of the liberties of the subject or more calculated to maintain the power and authority of Parliament to protect the subject than is done by the provisions of this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Milner.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I do not in any way purpose to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I am in 108 agreement with the noble Viscount—and I believe the whole of the House is—to this extent, in the belief that some permanent powers have to be given to the Government of the clay, whatever it may be, to meet the particular dangers named in this Bill. It is no doubt true that the character of industrial disputes and of strikes has materially altered within quite recent memory. It is no longer a matter of disputes arising between a single employer and his employees or between a body of employers and the men whom they employ. The ramifications of an industrial dispute in these days may be infinitely wide. They may affect the whole life of the nation, and it may be that those who engage in such a strife have in their minds not merely the improvement of certain material conditions in their industry, a rise in wages, a shortening of hours, but have in view social and economic changes which may affect the whole structure of society. Therefore I do not for a moment dispute the necessity for some permanent legislation of this character.
The noble Viscount said, with reference to the still existing coal strike, which, as we hope, will be fortunately terminated, that we are not yet out of the wood, That is true, but, as the noble Viscount frankly admitted at the close of his speech, the Government are still in possession of the special powers given to them under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. He argued that it was undesirable, so long after the formal close of the war, to rely upon an enactment which was passed in war time and meant to deal with war conditions.
I hope the noble Marquess will forgive me for interrupting him. I am afraid that I did not make myself quite clear. I did not admit that we are still in possession of those powers. I said that it is a matter as to which there is considerable doubt among person more competent than I am to judge of a legal point of that kind. There is considerable doubt about it.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I need not inform the noble Viscount that if he is not competent I am at least equally incompetent to express an opinion en a point of that kind. But I certainly had believed that the Government were at any rate still in possession of considerable powers which they could use if need be 109 But they argue that it is preferable to rely upon a permanent Statute than upon such powers as those. I cordially agree, once it is admitted that the permanent Statute has had full and complete consideration. That, I think, is where the argument of urgency has to be carefully considered. In my opinion it would be wiser for once to rely on the possession of temporary powers, assuming they exist, than to hurry through an ill-digested measure without the full consideration of Parliament. There is a balance of disadvantages, but I think that the latter course would involve the greater disadvantage.
The noble Viscount slated that this Bill really bristles with safeguards for the public, and that no possible hardship or injustice could arise as it is framed. I am not going to attempt to discuss the details of the Bill. Some other noble Lords may find points to which they object, and upon which they will be prepared with an. Amendment. But I should like to say this—that all the concessions, all the principal safeguards, which the noble Viscount mentioned were, without exception, I think, concessions introduced in another place and altering the original form of the Bill, and that, if the public are so safeguarded as the noble Viscount boasts, that was not the original mind of the Government; every one of those, unless I am greatly mistaken, represents changes grade by His Majesty's Ministers at the request of other people in another place. The Bill there was in the hands of two most adroit and courteous Ministers, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, and, so far as I can judge from looking at the debate, they adopted a Host conciliatory tone throughout. But practically all the safeguards were Amendments; in the first place, that of saying that no Proclamation should have life for more than a month but would have to be succeeded by a second Proclamation the terms of which Parliament would of course consider; then the calling together of Parliament in five days instead of fourteen; and also, I think, the laying of the Regulations on the Table at once, instead of within fourteen days after the meeting of Parliament. Those, I think, are most valuable changes. As the noble Viscount said, the matter now does become a subject of immediate consideration by Parliament, whereas in the terms in which the Bill was introduced it might have taken a month from the 110 time of the issue of the Proclamation before Parliament could have any say in it.
Then, again, other safeguards referring to the possibility of the introduction of some compulsory industrial or even military service were, at the instance of the representatives of the Labour Party, introduced. It was also provided that the terms of the Trade Disputes Act relating to peaceful persuasion should not be abrogated, as they conceivably might have been, by Regulations under the Act. Those are all material safeguards. I have no detailed criticism to make on the Bill, but those who regarded it with the greatest alarm on its first introduction I have no doubt all admit that its terrors have been greatly reduced in its passage through the House of Commons. Whether any others are considered to remain, I have no doubt we shall hear as the debate proceeds, but I have no doubt that your Lordships will be willing to give the Bill a Second Reading, and then the question of its amendment will no doubt be considered in due course.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I do not think that anyone in this House, and certainly riot the noble Viscount who introduced this Bill, will attempt for a moment to minimise the far-reaching character of its powers. Indeed, I gathered from what the noble Viscount said that he himself regarded the Bill as a very important change in our existing law, but one that was justified by the very important events through which we have recently passed, and which we may have to encounter in the future. It is in the light of that that I desire to say the few words of criticism that I wish to address to your Lordships this afternoon.
In the first place I would beg your Lordships to remember that this Bill, though it applies to circumstances which must be transitory, is a permanent measure, one which will always remain on the Statute-book and will be always available for every succeeding Government to use as they think fit. Nor, I think, is there to be found in the Bill itself any definite protection against an unreasonable or excessive use of its powers. If an emergency is declared to exist the whole of this Bill becomes operative at once, and the declaration of the emergency must, as it seems to me, rest in the uncontrolled opinion of the Government, whatever it may be, 111 that is for the moment in power. That is a very grave thing, because some Governments are more nervous than others, and no one can speak as to what the character of the Governments of this country may be in the next twenty years. No one can tell how those powers may be exercised, and the protection that is derived from the necessity for the consent of both Houses of Parliament may be entirely removed. No Government, of course, can act unless it has a majority; it will have the House of Commons behind it; and the protection of your Lordships' House, so far as I can understand, will be very shortly removed altogether. The consequence is that all hat will be left will be the wish of the Government and the assent of the majority which that Government may command in another place.
I have said this simply in order that your Lordships may realise that this is not merely a Bill to clothe with powers the existing Government in the face of an existing crisis nor any Government of the nature to which we have hitherto been accustomed. This Bill will remain as an instrument for whatever Government that may be called upon to assume command in this country in the indefinite future. I think your Lordships will agree that those considerations render it necessary that the powers which the Bill confers should now be carefully examined; because, if not, we know quite well that the amendment of those powers in the future may be a very difficult thing indeed to effect. In the very short time available I have acquainted myself as well as possible with the provisions of the Bill. Indeed. I have watched with care its progress through another place, and there are two things that I want specially to urge upon the noble Viscount with regard to which I propose to put down Amendments which I trust will receive his assent, but I shall feel obliged to insist unless I can obtain satisfaction by some equivalent words.
The Bill will place in the hands of the Government the power to legislate by Order in Council. It will clothe them with precisely the same powers that were used during the war under the Defence of the Realm Act. I do not say the same powers in extent, because that is not so, but the same powers in kind. Everybody knows that when once you proceed to work under these powers and avoid the necessity of obtaining Parliamentary sanction for all 112 that you desire, there is a tendency to strain the powers and sometimes to exceed them. I do not hesitate to say that in the course of the war that temptation was felt by nearly every Government Department, and that not a few of the Government Departments succumbed to the temptation. I believe we all felt that it really did not matter so much while the war was on; that everybody realised the overwhelming importance of the peril itself. It seemed such a little thing to quarrel about restrictions that were being used by Government Departments which we all assumed, and rightly assumed, were after all trying to do their best. But there was a tendency to stretch those Regulations, and that they were stretched, nay more, that they were broken, I do not for a moment doubt. And I say that the temptation that is placed in the hands of any Government when once you enable them to effect their will by the stroke of the pen and the assent of their own majority in the House of Commons is a very strong temptation which needs to be carefully and jealously watched.
There is one form of mischief to which I think these Regulations are peculiarly susceptible, and it is this. Trouble breaks out, violent speeches are being made, men become the object of suspicion, disorder creates the very necessary and natural anxiety as to the existence of dangerous gangs of people in our midst who, it may be believed, are provoking to improper and lawless conduct, and if these Regulations enable the authorities to seize these men upon suspicion and to imprison them because it is feared that if they are left at large they may be exercising a dangerous influence on the community, I have a very uneasy feeling that circumstances may arise in which that power would be very freely and very wrongly exercised. I therefore propose (and I sincerely hope the noble Viscount, on behalf of the Government, will meet me in this matter) to add a provision to one of the clauses to secure that no Regulation made under this Bill shall enable any man to be punished by fine or imprisonment without due trial, and that it shall not be open to the Government to alter existing forms of legal procedure for the purpose of enabling those offences to be examined and dealt with.
I trust that your Lordships will think that this is not only a reasonable but a very wise precaution to make, and I hope 113 the noble Viscount will so regard it that he will not tell me what he will forgive me for saying I have been sc accustomed to hear—that there is no danger of its being done, and that the Bill already provides ample safeguards. This danger is so great that you cannot sufficiently provide protection against it except by words that exclude it in express terms. We know quite well that at this very hour, under Regulations issued under the Defence of the Realm Act, people in Ireland can be arrested and may be imprisoned without trial and without a charge being formulated against them. This is merely the exercise of the provisions that were required for the purpose of protecting ourselves in the time of national emergency. Therefore I am not dealing with an imaginary case, but one that might very well arise, and I trust that the noble Viscount will see that it ought certainly to be prevented. It ought not to be possible, under Regulations such as those, to deprive any man, when we are not at war, of his clear right to have his charge stated and his trial held.
I hope that your Lordships will not think that in this matter I am insisting on something of little value. It would be a grievous thing for us if we regarded so lightly the liberties and rights which after all have been won for this country by very determined action on the part of our ancestors, and that we should give up, even in the fear and apprehension of a great national emergency such as this Bill contemplates, the privileges which for centuries our ancestors would never have yielded without a very bitter and prolonged struggle. That is one thing upon winch I am anxious to be assured.
The next point is this. When it is provided that "the Regulations may provide for the trial by Courts of summary jurisdiction of persons guilty of offences against the Regulations," I want to secure that there is no other method of trial provided. When it is said that the maximum penalty which may be inflicted are those mentioned in the Bill, want to provide that it shall be tile maximum penalty for any offence against any of the Regulations. For that purpose I shall propose the introduction of words, and perhaps I might state my Amendment now.
I shall propose in subsection. (3), Clause 2, after the word "penalty" the insertion of 114 "for any offence against any of such Regulations." The subsection will then continue—"… so, however, that the maximum penalty for any offence against any of such Regulations which may be inflicted," and so on. That will make it quite plain. The exact words of the other Amendment, have been borrowed from me and I regret to say have not up to the present been returned, but it would take the form of the addition at, the end of subsection (3) of Clause 2 of words providing that no such Regulation shall alter any existing procedure in the trial of criminal offences or permit the punishment by fin or imprisonment of any person without due trial. Those really are the two main matters to which I am anxious to direct your Lordships' attention. There are other smaller points upon which it might be possible to raise a discussion, but my intention in speaking on the Second Reading was not to discuss smaller matters and to point out how they might have been altered a, little this way and that.
I recognise what the noble Viscount said, that some Bill of this nature is necessary. I understand thoroughly that in the national crisis through which we might have been called upon to pass if the difficulties with which we have recently been confronted were not happily solved it would be essential that the Government should be able to act either by rationing food, controlling transport, exercising orders as to light, and even by exercising orders compelling people in certain areas to keep within their houses in certain times. I thoroughly recognise that the Government ought to possess such powers as these in a moment of national emergency, and I raise no objection at all to the Bill being introduced or to its main provisions, but I hope that your Lordships will find that the matters to which I have called attention are not small and that they will receive the due attention of the Government.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, I endorse the remarks of Lord Buckmaster as to the necessity of taking care over this Bill, and the Amendments he has suggested to make it more difficult to put these Regulations and Orders in Council into force. The noble Lord truly said that this Bill may have to be administered in the future by different Governments and by different Ministers. During many years there have been a great many strikes. I have been glancing 115 through the record of the strikes from 1900 to 1919 of which I knew the details behind the scenes in one form or another. I do not think in any one of those strikes that there was any case in which strong use could reasonably have been made of any of the provisions that could be well put down in an Order in Council, except possibly in the case of two strikes in Ireland—and Ireland is excluded from this Bill; they were strikes connected with a revolution or rebellion in Belfast in 1907 and in Dublin in 1913.
But among the strikes from 1900 to 1919 there were many where an unreasonable exercise of powers under an Order in Council would probably have prevented a settlement and have had a very bad effect. We might have a Home Secretary who would listen to advice given to him from one side or another, or who would become alarmed by the reports of the Inspectors of Police. Under this Bill he could at once issue an Order in Council which would embitter a settlement in the dispute that was going on. There is also this difficulty. The Home Secretary might be bombarded with requests for an Order in Council in circumstances in which it might be unwise that it should be issued. If the dispute is in London it is possible for the Home Secretary to consult those engaged in the attempt to settle it or confer with the employers and employed concerned. But if the dispute is in the Provinces—at Hull, at Glasgow—no such consultation can take place, and from the Midland towns will come complaints that they have been deprived of fresh salmon or fresh eggs or, as happened in 1911, that ice could not he got through in hot weather. Alarmed by these notifications, and without any chance of a personal interview to find out what the condition of affairs was, the Home Secretary might easily be led to issue an Order in Council which would have disastrous effects.
It was said in another place that one of the chief reasons for this Bill was the existence of what is called the Triple Alliance. The Triple Alliance was suggested to be an alliance under which the miners, as most able to hold out longest, should come out first. If coal was then handled in various places in the country it should be treated as "tainted goods" and the railways should come out second. Then if the railways were no longer in use and carts or motor ears were used for the 116 conveyance of coal, or if coal was attempted to be imported from America or abroad, that then those who were in the ports—the transport-workers—should come out last. That arrangement was suggested as the one that was most likely because, as has been said, "labour marches upon its stomach," and the transport-workers would be able to hold out least. With a view of meeting the requirements of the stomach it was also suggested that the co-operative wholesale societies should supply the strikers with food, either for payment or on credit. Whether that has come to any further head at the present moment, it is difficult to say. It has been denied that it has been so. There is certainly not an alliance with the co-operative societies at the present time. But this is a very old report, and I cannot conceive anything more likely to bring it to a head than the promulgation of this Bill.
As long ago as 1913, when there was a dispute about a man named Larkin in Dublin, there was a special Trade Union Congress to decide as to the assistance that should be given to the Dublin strikers. Mr. Larkin spoiled his own case. He issued fulminations against the trade unions of this country which they did not like. But an amendment was brought forward at that Congress that there should be an immediate general strike. The railwaymen would have nothing of it, and the miners, represented by Mr. Smillie, made a protest against it. These are the words Mr. Smillie used at that time—They had not gone there that day with a mandate on the question of the extension of this fight to other trades. Neither were they in a position to vote on the question of a general stoppage. There might be a difference of opinion as to how best to fight the capitalists, whether by localising a strike or by extending it. That was a matter which would have to be seriously discussed in the future. It did not arise here and now, but when the time came either to hue a general strike or to take action which the miners' organisation was tending in the direction of—that was, the knitting together of the miners, the railwaymen, and the transport-workers for common action—it would not require to be done in a slip-shod fashion. It would require to be done after full discussion and negotiation between the representatives and the rank-and-file of those organisations. So that if such a step was taken it would have to be the final step by which they would win.That was in 1913. The Government has had a good deal of time which to consider whether they would require to bring in a Bill of this kind.
117 What has happened since 1913? As I said, the co-operative societies have not agreed to provide food. In 1919 the railwaymen went out. Mr. Smillie and the miners did not support them. Now the miners have been out. The railwaymen have discussed whether they should support them. The miners have requested them not to do so; they have felt that interference by the junction of their forces at the present; tine would be inadvisable and would hurt conciliation; and no alliance has taken place between the executives with the approval of the rank-and-file. It takes a long time to have ballots and to get tare approval of the rank-and-file in a matter of this kind. It is an open thing, and the whole of the country would know, and it has not taken place up to the present.
At this juncture the Government have brought in this Bill. There have been seven years during which it was possible to bring in a Bill of this kind. Of course, the war intervened, and the enactments under D.O.R.A. may have had some effect. But there have been seven years during which it would have been possible to bring in a Bill conferring these supposed necessary powers. The Government say that this Bill is necessary in the future. I think every precaution should be taken that the liberty of the subject is not unduly infringed by the use of the powers that are given to the Government. Further, care should be taken that an unreasoning Home Secretary should not have too much power, and should not be able without due notice suddenly to interfere in the midst of a strike. Such interference in the midst of an attempted settlement might embitter feelings and possibly prevent a settlement.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I do not rise to object to the Second Reading of the Bill. I wish to state quite frankly that the Bill appears to me to have been drafted generally in a reasonable manner, but there are three points upon which I should seek to raise questions in Committee. I am not quite sure how far those points have already been cowered by what has been said by Lord Buckmaster. I should, however, like to give notice now, because the time is so short. In the first place—and I understand this was part of Lord Buckmaster's criticism—there ought to be provision that no new Court of criminal jurisdiction can be established 118 by Regulations made under the terms of the Bill. That is a very important matter. Secondly, I think that there should be no. imprisonment without trial; in other words, that the ordinary principle of habeas corpus should be preserved, for that principle has been looked upon as the sanction of our legal liberties in this country. Lastly—and I think this was also a point to which Lord Buckmaster referred—no penalties should be imposed other than those which are provided for in subsection (3) of Clause 2. On these three points I wish to give notice now that I shall put down Amendments for the Committee stage.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
My Lords, the Second Reading having been passed, I think it would be in accordance with the understanding which was arrived at at an early stage in the evening that we should adjourn and take the Committee stage to-morrow. I have not the least wish in any way to depart from that arrangement, but it occurs to me that as the only Amendments which I understand are to be moved are Amendments that the Government are prepared to accept it might be for the convenience of the House if we took the Committee stage at once. Supposing we got through the Committee stage without difficulty, we might then conclude the proceedings to-night. If in the course of the Committee stage we found that the agreement was not as complete as I believe. it to be, I should myself propose the. adjournment. But I should think we might discuss immediately the Amendments which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, wishes to propose. I am really not considering my own convenience in the matter any more than that of any other member of the House.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, if any consent on my part would facilitate the conduct of business in your Lordships' house or save the necessity of re-assembling to-morrow, that consent would be very readily given, and, speaking for myself, the acceptance of my Amendments would remove all reasons from my mind for asking for a further adjournment till to-morrow. Having followed what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, said I think he will find that my Amendments cover al1 his 119 objections as well. They deal with three things—no alteration whatever in criminal procedure; that is to say, no opportunity for establishing a new Court; no chance for saying, "Well, this man has been seized and he shall be tried by anybody von like to name." The existing criminal procedure is to be preserved. That is one thing. The maximum penalty is to be limited for all offences; that is another thing. And nothing in the Regulations shall permit interference by way of punishment through fine or imprisonment without trial. Those are the three things which the noble Lord referred to, and those are the three things in my mind. They are all accepted, as I understand, by the noble Viscount. Therefore if your Lordships are willing I shall be perfectly prepared to proceed with the further discussion of this Bill to-day in order to save the necessity for reassembling to-morrow. I may add that there are certain members of your Lordships' House who discharge judicial duties at other hours of the day who would be very glad indeed if your Lordships would proceed with this Bill to-night.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Those three points have covered my objections. They are practically the same three points.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
In the circumstances I am in the hands of noble Lords opposite. I cannot press them to go into Committee to-day unless they think proper.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am in this position, that as far as I know no Amendment is going to be moved from amongst those noble Lords who generally act with me. I am not aware whether the noble Lord who addressed the House a few moments ago proposes to move an Amendment.
§ LORD ASKWITH
I have not drafted any Amendment, but I should like very much to ask what is going to happen in regard to these Proclamations when Parliament is sitting. The Bill seems to be designed to deal with conditions when Parliament is not sitting.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We are all most anxious to study the convenience of the Government and of your Lordships. What the noble Viscount has just said is that if we consent to waive our 120 privileges—privileges confirmed, at any rate, by the kind promise of the Government at the beginning of business—and if it is found in the course of the discussion in Committee which would then ensue that there are points which require further consideration, he would not then oppose the resumption of the House so as to put off the further proceedings until to-morrow.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
In that case my noble friend Lord Askwith will be able to put his question when the proper moment comes, and if he found that he had no satisfaction the pledge would operate and the proceedings would then come to an end. If I had known of any other Amendment which was going to be proposed by noble Lords with whom I generally act I should not have felt it possible for me to have said this; but, as things are, I do not want to stand in the way of an arrangement which seems to me for the mutual convenience of all your Lordships.
§ Moved (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.— (Viscount Milner.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL Of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Emergency regulations.
§ 2.—(1) Where a proclamation of emergency has been made, and so long as the proclamation is in force, it shall be lawful for His Majesty in Council, by Order, to make regulations for securing the essentials of life to the community, and those regulations may confer or impose on a Secretary of State or other Government Department, or any other persons in His Majesty's service or acting on His Majesty's behalf, such powers and duties as His Majesty may deem necessary for the preservation of the peace, for securing and regulating the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, and other necessities, for maintaining the means of transit or locomotion, and for any other purposes essential to the public safety and the life of the community, and may make such provisions incidental to the powers aforesaid as may appear to His Majesty to be required for making the exercise of those powers effective.
§ Provided also that no such regulation shall make it an offence for any person, or persons to take part in a strike or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike.
§ (2) Ally regulations so made shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and shall not continue in force after the expiration of seven days from the time when they are so laid unless a resolution is passed by both Houses providing for the continuance thereof.
§ (3) The regulations may provide for the trial by courts of summary jurisdiction of persons guilty of offences against the regulations; so, however, that the maximum penalty which may be inflicted shall be imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term of three months, or a fine of one hundred pounds, or both such imprisonment and fine, together with the forfeiture of any goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed.
§ (4) The regulations so made shall have effect as if enacted in this Act, but ins y be added to, altered, or revoked by resolution of both Houses of Parliament or by regulations made in like manner and subject to the like provisions as the original regulations; and regular ions made under this section shall not be deemed to be statutory rules within the meaning of section one of the Rules Publication Act, 1893.
§ (5) The expiry or revocation of any regulations so made shall not be deemed to lave affected the previous operation thereof, or the validity of any action taken thereunder, or any penalty or punishment incurred in respect of any contravention or failure to comply therewith, or any proceeding or remedy in respect of say such punishment or penalty.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER moved, in subsection (3), after "inflicted," to insert "for any offence against any of such Regulations." The noble and learned Lord said: T beg formally to move the insertion of these words in the said subsection.
Page 2, line 29, after ("inflicted") insert ("for any offence, against any of such Regulations").—(Lord Buckmaster.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I move to insert a proviso to subsection (3). It runs: "Provided that no such Regulations shall alter any existing procedure in criminal cases or confer any right to punish by fine or imprisonment without trial."
At end of subsection (3) insert the said proviso.—(Lord Buckmaster.)
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
Personally I have no objection to this Amendment, but I should like to be sure that it meets the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think it does. I asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, to show me the words of the Amendment. The only question I had was whether the word "court" as well as the word "procedure" ought to be introduced, but I am satisfied that the word "procedure" would go far enough to meet my point.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ASKWITH
Perhaps it would be convenient if I asked my question now. Apparently the Bill is drafted largely to deal with cases arising when Parliament is not sitting is this Proclamation or Order in Council to come out and all the executive action to be taken when Parliament is sitting, without any opportunity for Parliament to express an opinion beforehand? Or why should it not be brought before Parliament so that Parliament might come to a Resolution that in their opinion it was desirable that the Order in Council should be issued?
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
I am not quite sure that I perfectly appreciate the point raised by the noble Lord. I do not know how Parliament can express an opinion upon Regulations without seeing them. The mere Proclamation does nothing and has no effect. It does not give the Government of the day any powers. It is the Regulations that give the powers. The moment the Regulations are made, if Parliament is sitting, they are put on the Table. The words in the Bill are "as soon as may be," and I understand that to mean at once. If Regulations are made to-day and Parliament is sitting they would be laid before it to-morrow.
§ LORD ASKWITH
The moment the Regulations are made Parliament can object to anything that is in them?
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, can rest satisfied about that. It seems to me that this provision is reasonably plain. If Parliament is sitting then the Proclamation 123 of an emergency is immediately communicated to it; the provisions in the Bill which provide what will happen in case Parliament is not sitting at the moment are the only provisions that deal with the interposition of those few days. In either case, once Parliament has reassembled the procedure is exactly the same; there is no difference at all.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ Amendments reported.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question Bill read 3a and passed, and returned to the Commons.