HL Deb 07 June 1926 vol 64 cc258-64

My Lords, I beg to move, That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 29th day of May last, shall continue in force, subject, however, to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act. As your Lordships are aware, the Order in Council as it stands only lasts for seven days unless and until there is a Resolution carried in both Houses of Parliament in support of the Regulations, in which case they last for a month. It is in pursuance of that provision of the Act of Parliament that I put the Notice on the Paper.

The Regulations, as they lie on your Lordships' Table, are exactly in the same form as the Regulations which followed upon the last Order in Council, with one exception—namely, Regulation 13A. That was passed by an Order in Council before the end of the General Strike, but it was not persisted in because the General Strike came to an end. Now, however, that we have found it necessary, in consequence of the prolongation of the coal strike, to have a further Order in Council and further Regulations, we seek to enact them in the form which they held on the last occasion with the addition of Regulation 13A, which was never approved by Parliament before. Regulation 13A is that dealing with the transmission of money from abroad, money which, in the words of the Regulation, may be imported "for any purpose prejudicial to the public safety or the life of the community. In that case power is given to the Home Secretary to control it. With the object of passing these Regulations, of which this is one, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.

Moved, That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 29th day of May last, shall continue in force, subject, however, to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, I do not rise to contest the action of the Government in promulgating these Regulations. Under the Emergency Powers Act of 1920 the Government are given authority to make such Regulations and to bring them before Parliament. They have done so, and it has been done not for the first time. Almost every Government of recent times has had to promulgate some form of Emergency Regulations. The result is that they have grown into a very complicated and far-reaching set of provisions, and a set of provisions which carries things far beyond what is known to the Common Law. But it is for a state of emergency that they are designed and it must necessarily be for the judgment of the Executive Government of the day as to what they require in order to carry out their duties. In those circumstances the matter does not lend itself to a great deal of criticism.

Regulation 13A, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, is a wholly new provision. It is intended to stop money coming in which might be used for prolonging the strike. I do not think it is very likely that there will be a great deal of that in the future. There has been a considerable amount in the past, and, unfortunately, this Regulation has come too late to be of any use. That is the worst of these Regulations: they are usually made too late, the situation not having been foreseen, and then they are not only useless but irritating. On the whole, I would rather not see Regulation 13A here, because I do not think it is likely to be of any great practical importance. But it is here, and the Government have chosen to put it here, and they must take the responsibility. As I said at the beginning, the matter is one for the judgment of the Executive authorities, and the Executive authorities have got power under Statute to form that judgment and act upon it.


My Lords, I have sent a private notice to the Lord Chancellor, informing him that I desired to ask him a question, really of a non-controversial character, which arises in connection with these Regulations and was raised in connection with them in another place. No doubt, in the opinion of the Government, these Regulations are necessary, but, as the noble and learned Viscount has pointed out, in many respects they go far outside the principles of our Common Law. I think it is of great importance that, having regard to that extension of principle, the magistrates, in the difficult duties thrown upon them of administering these Regulations, should abstain from what has been called extra-judicial pronouncements, that is to say, pronouncements generally of a political character, which are entirely unnecessary for the determination of the particular point which has been brought before them. The only point for their determination is whether, on the facts as proved before them, there has been such an intervention or neglect to comply with these Regulations that an offence has been committed.

In another place, when this matter came forward, the Home Secretary made a statement of very great value indeed, with which I am certainly entirely in accord, and I want to ask the Lord Chancellor, speaking with the great authority that he would on these subjects, whether he would adopt the same statement as a guidance to magistrates who have to deal with this difficult subject. The Home Secretary, in another place, speaking in reference to what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, said: — I entirely concur with what was said by the Leader of the Opposition as to the remarks of an extra-judicial character made by magistrates. I take the very strongest view in regard to remarks made from the Bench, whatever Bench it may be, which are unnecessary to the decision of the case before the Court. Then he stated what is specially applicable to stipendiary magistrates, but would not be applicable to magistrates generally. It is, however, an important statement. The Home Secretary made this statement: When I have exercised the very onerous and responsible duty of appointing stipendiary magistrates, I do not mind telling the House that since I have been in office I have invariably seen the magistrate whom I have proposed to appoint, and I have quite definitely told him that I would not appoint him to the office unless he gave me an undertaking not to indulge in the kind of outside remarks which have been too common in the Press of the country during the last few years. The Home Secretary no doubt made the statement in general form, but I think it is in every way specially applicable where emergency powers have to be administered by various magistrates. He went on to say what is perfectly true and all magistrates should bear it in mind:— There is no need whatever—I am glad to have the opportunity of saying this—for any Bench of magistrates or any Judge to go outside the strict lines of the law and to make observations of any kind, whether of a political character or otherwise, beyond those that are necessary for administering justice in the case before the Court. That I say quite fully, with the responsibility that attaches to my office, and I am quite sure that I shall have the assent and approval of the whole House in asking magistrates to deal with that very difficult work of administering justice on the lines of the remarks made to-day by the Leader or the Opposition and myself. I do not assume that there can be any difference of opinion or controversy as to the great importance of the statement made by the Home Secretary. Personally, I entirely agree with him.

He mentioned particularly stipendiary magistrates because they are immediately appointed by the Home Secretary. The great majority of magistrates are not, of course, stipendiary magistrates. The great mass of magistrates, although in a certain sense they are under the Home Office, nevertheless obtain the right to exercise their duties through a recommendation from the Lord Chancellor to the Crown. As regards the private notice that I sent to the Lord Chancellor, it was to ask him, first of all, whether he concurs in the extreme undesirability of those extrajudicial statements made particularly on Emergency Regulations, and, secondly, whether, by a statement in this House or otherwise, he would urge the necessity upon the lower magistrates of clearly observing the limitations which, in the case of stipendiary magistrates, the Home Secretary had attempted to make obligatory by personal communication before their appointment.

It would not be in order to refer to the cases, nor do I desire to do so, without giving notice in a matter of this sort. It is not a question of impartiality—that is not the point I am raising—and it is certainly not a question of maladministration of justice. But human bias is very strong on some of these questions, and it is prudent to recognise the strength of it and that magistrates should do their best to put their human bias on one side in matters of this kind and certainly not to make extra-judicial statements which may be very irritating to one party or the other. We do not want any extra agitation in connection with these Regulations. We want the whole country to feel, as they do feel generally in regard to our legal system, that the people can absolutely trust the impartiality of the justice which is administered. I ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack if he could make a statement in reference to the private intimation that I have already given to him.


My Lords, I heard with very great regret the observations of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, in regard to the provisions of Regulation 13A. If his objections to that Regulation are to have any weight it means this, that he has no objection to monies coming into this country from our enemies abroad "for any purpose prejudicial to the public safety or the life of the community." I am sure that could not be his intention.


That is not what I said.


The remarks of the noble Viscount would lead in the direction of that impression. May I shortly read to your Lordships the provisions of Regulation 13A? It says: — Where a Secretary of State has reason to believe that any monies, securities or credits have been or are about to be transmitted from outside the United Kingdom to the United Kingdom. or are about to be applied in the United Kingdom on instruc- tions from outside the United Kingdom, for any purpose prejudicial to the public safety or the life of the community, he may by order prohibit the bank or person to or with whom the monies, securities or credits are or are about to be transmitted, deposited or established from paying, transferring or otherwise dealing with any such monies, securities or credits.… We know that on former occasions, and indeed not remote occasions, very large sums of money have been sent, not for the purpose of benefiting this country or the Constitution of the country, or any industrial interest in this country, but for the express purpose of undermining the Government of our country and inflicting the utmost injury that can possibly be done, and when the Government, the executive authority of the country, upon their responsibility produce a Regulation of this sort for the purpose of meeting and dealing with a pressing and urgent danger of that sort, I am surprised that there should be found any one to object to such a Regulation. I can only say that if the noble and learned Viscount had the courage of his convictions and would move to exclude this Regulation, your Lordships would probably know how to deal with it.


My Lords, I have no difficulty in answering the question put to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor. I agree entirely with the statement made by my right hon. friend the Home Secretary in another place. I think it should apply not only to stipendiary magistrates but to all magistrates in the country. It is plainly undesirable that justices called upon to adjudicate in a particular case should make general observations going beyond what is required for the decision of that case and, of course, especially undesirable that a magistrate should say anything which might lead to the least doubt as to his impartiality in the matters with which he has to deal. While I say that without hesitation, I must not be taken as assenting to the view that there has been in this country anything like a substantial departure from the rule which has not only been laid down by me but by others for many years past. I believe our justices have been fully conscious of their duties in this respect. I may say that, although I have had hundreds and thousands of communications, I have only hail one instance in which my attention has been called to observations by a justice of the character to which my noble and learned friend referred and I am enquiring into that case.

I want to add one short word in order that what I have said may not be misunderstood. It is sometimes the duty of the Chairman of a Bench, when he has information that a particular offence is prevalent or is likely to be prevalent in his district, to give some sort of warning to prevent that offence from being committed. I know of cases where a warning of that kind, given with all the responsibility of a Bench to possible offenders, has had its effect in checking offences. I do not say and I do not mean that any such warning was needed in recent days, because we all know, speaking generally, that the conduct of our fellow-citizens of all classes in very difficult conditions has been wholly satisfactory. Therefore I do not think that during the recent troubles any such general warning against offences was needed or, indeed, has been given, and I only mention this matter so that if such a warning should be required on any future occasion my observations may not be misunderstood.

On Question, Motion agreed to.