§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Brought from the Commons; read 1a; and to he printed.
§ Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 28):
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It has given rise to considerable political controversy and excitement, and I am bound to say 1282 that, speaking for myself, I welcome one thing about the discussions very heartily: that is, that it is obvious to all of us that the right honourable gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, has once more returned to his duties in absolutely first-rate fighting trim, and for that, at any rate, we are all heartily glad. On he other hand, this Bill has been so bedevilled by politics and, if I may use the expression, it has become such a "Donnybrook Fair," that this little Bill which was intended to resolve some legal doubts is treated as though it were a matter of tremendous political importance, as inch ed it would have been if we had not already had and passed the Act of 1945.
Reading such parts of the debate in another place as we have been able to read, I am very much impressed with the fact that there was a complete and absolute misunderstanding as to what the doubt is and as to how the trouble has arisen. If I can do nothing else, I can at least, I hope, make plain to your Lordships what the trouble is and why we have thought it necessary to introduce this Bill. In considering these Bills—and there is a succession or family of them—I do not suppose that I need pretend that I like them very much, but I must not say toe much about that; I was rebuked for it before! First of all, there was the 1939 Bill, then there was the 194o Bill at the time of Dunkirk, then there was the 1945 Bill, and now we have the 1947 Bill. When considering this class of Bill (or Act as most of them are now) two points must be borne in mind: the powers which they confer and the purposes for which those powers may be used; and unless one keeps that distinction clear in one's mind, I venture to think that the result will be a state of complete: mental chaos.
Purposes and powers. When I discussed with your Lordships the 1945 Bill, in regard to which we had considerable controversy, I referred to the powers as being immense. I think that one adjective is sufficiently accurate. The powers are immense, and these powers now have effect by virtue of the Act of 1945, and there cannot be a shadow of a doubt but that the Act of 1945 is a valid Act of Parliament. It was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent. It runs for five years. It received the Royal Assent, I think, in December, 1945, and, therefore, its powers run on for five years from that date. As to the 1283 nature and extent of the powers thereby given, they are, indeed, very formidable. Regulation 55 is the one which deals with direction of labour, and under Regulation 55 any person can be told to go to any place and work at any trade, or anything of that sort you like.A competent authority, so far as it appears to that authority to be necessary for any of the purposes specified in subsection (1) of Section 1 of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, may, by order, provide—and there follows a formidable catalogue of things dealing with general control of industry. There is power to give directions as regards any industry. A Controller can be appointed and, if the Controller wants any further powers he can, by Regulation 78, be given the powers to buy out all the shares of the undertaking which he is controlling.
So that if you wanted to be politically thoroughly dishonest—because that is what it would be—and to utilize these powers to nationalize a whole industry, you have the powers. You appoint a Controller, and then, having appointed the Controller, under Regulation 78 you can buy all the shares in the industry. Those powers are there, and, further and more objectionable than that, perhaps, is the power of Regulation 58A. That is the power relating specifically to labour, and it is the one I referred to just now. You can require any individual to perform "such services"—and I am reading the words of Regulation 58A—"in the United Kingdom, as may be specified by or described in the direction." If you want to direct what I think are called "Spivs" to go and perform any particular work, if you want to direct anybody who lives at Land's End to go and work at John O'Groats, you have the power to do so; it is all in Regulation 58A.
Having obtained these powers, which I have described as immense, I claim some little satisfaction from the fact that, although a host of these Regulations were made, any one of which could have been prayed against, there certainly has not been one prayer in your Lordships' House, and, so far as I know, there was no prayer in another place. There has been none because there has been no claim that there has been any improper, or undue, or unfair, or excessive exercise of any of these Regulations. I do claim that as a matter of importance.
1284 So much for the powers. Now what about the purposes? May I use an analogy to show your Lordships what I mean by the distinction between the purposes and powers. Supposing you have a machine which can do all sorts of things when it operates, but before the machine starts to operate you have to turn on the switch. The purpose comes in in this way, that you can only fairly turn on the switch for certain particular purposes, and in this case it is fair to say that the Courts have very little control over the Executive. They have very little control for this reason: All these Regulations are worded "where it appears to His Majesty" which, of course, means to the Minister concerned; not where it is the fact, but where it appears to be the fact. In a case decided in the Court of Appeal in the year 1940, I think—I was Solicitor-General at the time, and I argued the case—the Court of Appeal decided that they could not embark upon the question as to whether the particular Regulation there in issue was or was not required or requisite; all they had to consider was whether it appeared to His Majesty's Government that it was requisite, which is obviously a very different thing. Although, of course, it is the fact that if the Minister exercises his powers in what seems to the Courts to be a wholly unreasonable way, the Courts can control him. In the recent case concerning Stevenage—and may I emphasize the fact that the first syllable of that word is long?—the trial Judge, as it turned out afterwards, was in error. He decided that he could control the Minister, because he thought the Minister had not acted properly. The Appellate Court took a different view, but, subject to that sort of point, what the Minister does is a matter for which he cannot be called in question in the Courts.
It may be said that that is a reason for the Minister taking a somewhat lax view. I take exactly the contrary view. I take the view that the fact that the Minister cannot be called in question in the Courts is all the more reason why he should be scrupulously careful to see that he is not using these vast powers for a purpose which was not authorized by the Act of Parliament. It is over that issue that the doubt has arisen. In the original Act of 1939, the purposes for which this great 1285 engine might be put into motion were set out, as your Lordships all know, in these words:… His Majesty may by Order in Council make such regulations … as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.Those were the purposes, arid, so long as a Minister could lay his hand on his heart and say, "I am making use of these powers for one of those purposes," then the Courts could not interfere. At the time of Dunkirk, when this country was in mortal peril, the purposes were somewhat enlarged, and the critical words there are in the recital:And whereas by reason of the development of hostilities since that date—that is since 1939—it has become necessary to extend the said powers in order to secure that the whole resources of the community may be rendered immediately available when required, for purposes connected with the defence of the realm,and so on. Those are the Dunkirk words, which are, to some extent, reproduced in the present Bill.
The worst of these words is that they are regarded as symbolic, and they are symbolic of two different things to the two different sides in Parliament. They are symbolic to the one side of the fact that, faced, as we were then, and as we are now, with very great difficulties, we determined to work our way through them and not to surrender. On the other hand, they are symbolic to the other side of serfdom and of the introduction of totalitarianism. Now I am one of those who intensely dislike totalitarianism. I should not care to live in a country where the individual was regarded merely as a sort of ant in an anthill. On the other hand, I am intensely determined that this country, faced as it is with great difficulties, shall surmount those difficulties with vigour and determination and shall not hesitate in the task.
When in 1945 I introduced this Act to your Lordships' House I realized, indeed we all realized, that we might want the powers. But we also realized that the purposes which gave rise to the exercise of the powers were, of course, no longer appropriate, and we put in in 1945 these 1286 purposes. It is very important that your Lordships should appreciate what these are because the whole doubt and difficulty arises on these words:If it appears to His Majesty to be necessary or expedient that any Defence Regulation to which this section applies should have effect for the purpose of so maintaining controlling and regulating supplies and services as—I think the important words are in (a) and (c)—maintaining, controlling and regulating supplies and services so as to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community, and sc on, and to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce.
- (a) to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices; or
- (b) to facilitate the demobilization and resettlement of persons and to secure the orderly disposal of surplus material; or
- (c) to facilitate readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace; or
- (d) to assist the relief of suffering and the restoration and distribution of essential supplies and services in any part of His Majesty's dominions or in foreign countries … ."
It is only when the Minister can lay his hand on his heart and say that he is acting for one of those purposes that he can fairly put into force this vast engine with its immense powers. At that time I had in mind—indeed we all of us had in mind—primarily and mainly, the internal situation. I do not say that I had not in mind also—indeed my words show it—something of the difficulty of the dollar exchange. I am bound to confess, for I am always frank with your Lordships, that I am not one of those who find that the existing words of the 1945 Act are not wide enough. I believe that they are, that the Act gives us all the particular powers that we want and that this Bill which we are now considering does not add to those powers. Having said that, I am bound to tell your Lordships that there is a different school of thought, and that those whose advice I habitually accept on these matters—they are just as well qualified as I and probably better—do take a different view.
The point is this. Supposing that confronted as we are with this new situation we want to develop some industry, may be a new industry, which is going to bring us dollar exchange, are we entitled to say that that is one of the purposes under the 1287 1945 Act? Let me give an illustration. It is a fanciful one but I think it shows clearly my meaning. Suppose there were a chance of getting hold of certain industries which Germany used to have. The toy industry was one and the manufacture of Zeiss glasses at Jena was another. Suppose we believed—I have no reason for saying that it is possible; this is mere hypothesis—that there was a real chance of getting into the American market with expensive children's toys and Zeiss glasses. The merit of that, if we could do it, would be that we should, of course, get dollar exchange, and those dollars would be very useful to us in a hundred and one different ways. You cannot of course specify how a precise dollar will be used because a dollar is not ear-marked. The doubt expressed is as to whether, under the 1945 Act, we could say to the factory: "Stop making what you are making to-day, and make instead expensive children's toys and race glasses." Personally, I believe that we could do that.
It is not that the powers are lacking. The powers are there undoubtedly in the Regulations I have read. The question is would it be a fair exercise of the purposes? This is the argument—and I am arguing against the view which I myself hold. The argument put forward by others—and they are very responsible people—is that the existing powers under the 1945 Act are to maintain supplies and services so as to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community, and that to start a new industry like that of children's toys could not possibly be said to be maintaining supplies, nor could you say that it was to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community. But the rival school of thought, to which I belong, says that you do maintain supplies essential to the community by making children's toys so that with them you can get dollar exchange with which you may obtain necessary and essential supplies.
As I have said, there are two schools of thought, and it is idle to deny that the views to which I have referred are held by responsible people. It seems to me to be the fact that where the Minister is operating the switch and putting into gear this great engine with its vast powers there should not be any hesitation or doubt as to whether or not he is doing that which the law allows, or, if not that which the 1288 law allows, at any rate that which Parliament pledged. That is the problem—and it really is, if I may say so, stated accurately—to get rid of existing doubt. Here are the powers of the 1945 Act, and genuine doubt has arisen. We think it desirable to give this House and the other place the opportunity to state frankly their doubt and to take steps to resolve it. That is what we have done. And that is what has brought about this terrific excitement.
Let us look at the new Bill. It is not—your Lordships will follow if I make myself plain, and if I do not I am greatly to blame that we are dealing with powers at all. They are there. They are in this formidable bock of so-called Defence Regulations. It is purposes with which we are dealing, and it is because of our desire to clear up ambiguity about purposes, and to make this matter crystal clear that we suggest that there should be three new purposes which enable you to use the existing powers. The first is this; for promoting the productivity of industry, commerce, and agriculture. I do not suppose that anyone will have the slightest objection to that. As a statement of purpose it seems unexceptionable. The second is for fostering and directing exports and reducing imports, or imports of any classes, from all or any countries and for redressing the balance of trade. I do not suppose that anyone would have any objection to that purpose. Now it is the third one—paragraph (c)—in subsection (1) of Clause I which has given rise to all the controversy. The argument has arisen as to whether this is a legitimate purpose:generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community.If we did not have that it seems to me the danger would be this. Suppose you contented yourselves for the sake of argument with (a.) "for promoting the productivity of industry," I can conceive there may come a time when you may want to say to some manufacturer, say of private motor cars, "Stop the manufacture of motor cars and make tractors instead." This is not entirely fanciful; it is possible. I do not say it is actually being considered; I have no knowledge of it; but it might be considered. Could you do that under the purpose simply to promote the productivity of industry, industry generally, industry as a whole? I doubt it. I therefore suggest to your 1289 Lordships that some words like (c) are necessary to make it plain that we must have a discretion. In considering what is to be clone, we must have regard to the necessity of "ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use … in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community."
My right honourable friend the Minister of Food, Mr. Strachey, the other day announced that he was going to export from this country biscuits, and he was careful to explain, because he thought this might lead to misapprehension as people might think we were in a strong position if we could export food, that he was exporting biscuits in order to get exchange—I do not know if it was dollars—to pay for less luxurious but more essential forms of food. That is an example of the sort of thing you might have to do. If it proved a profitable line of business, you might have to instruct some industry to go on to biscuit making and export the biscuits to build up dollar exchange. Can these things be done? I do stress that it is desirable, whatever powers we have, that they should be powers which can be exercised on an occasion and for purposes with regard to which there should be no ambiguity. I cannot think anybody is going to gain if there is ambiguity, because when a man does not know whether he has to obey the instructions he gets under one of these purposes, he is going to argue that the purpose is not one of the authorized purposes.
What I feel about these purposes and powers is this. I have already said that since the 1945 Act was passed there has been to my knowledge no complaint as to the way in which these powers has been exercised, and I would say the justification for having these powers is perhaps best to be found in this, that they never have had to be exercised. It is the fact that these powers exist in the background which makes it possible to arrange things by agreement and by normal give and take. The fact that these powers may not be exercised is no reason whatever why we should not bring in a Bill conferring these powers.
In another place, if I may say so with the greatest respect to everybody concerned, there was a complete confusion as to what the doubt was. Some people 1290 seemed to think there was a doubt as ID whether the Act of 1945 was a valid Act of Parliament. Of course it is, and the Regulations in this formidable book take effect by virtue of the Act. There is not a shadow of doubt about that Act. Others thought there was some question as to whether the transition from war to peace was finished. It was pointed out that technically we, like a good many other nations, had not signed a treaty of peace yet. The transition is still going on. That is not the question. The question is whether the phraseology used in the 1945 Act is wide enough in defining the purposes to extend to those purposes for which we may require powers today. So stated, there really is, I venture to think, nothing to get wildly excited about. If we were attempting for the first time to introduce powers of this sort which were not in the Act of 1945, I say at once that there would be a great deal of feeling about it. But if I am right in my apprehension of this matter, the point on which doubt has arisen is a very much narrower point, and therefore that is all the more reason why we should come to the House frankly and say that doubts have been expressed. That being so, the straightforward, honest and candid thing to do is to cone to Parliament and say we want to resolve the matter by making it quite plain that the purposes for which we may use these existing powers include those purposes which are relevant to the present grave emergency. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this Bill now be read 2a—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, many members of this House spoke last weak in the debate on the economic situation. I was not one of them, nor do I intend to look now into the causes of our present distresses. But in this Bill, as the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has explained to us, the Government are asking for powers to do things now or in the immediate future for purposes for which it is said they already have power. In his speech to-day the noble and learned Viscount referred to some doubts which were expressed in another place. May I point out one little way in which that might have been caused? He may not have noticed that when it first went to another place the 1291 Bill was headed "Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers)." Its title, however, was afterwards altered to "Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes)." If the noble and learned Viscount will look at the side note to Clause r, both in the original Bill and in the Bill now before your Lordships, you will see that it says "Extension of powers under." If there were misapprehension in another place that might have had something to do with it.
The Government are asking that they might have the power for additional purposes, but they have only told us in the vaguest possible outline what they intend to do. Without any of the provisions of this Bill, they can try to get the miners again to work more than the strictly five-day week; they can get the steel industry to increase its output, provided that they find sufficient coal and other fuel with which to do so; they can help the transport industry to get its rolling stock back up to its pre-war standard, if only they will curl) the gentlemen at the Board of Trade who insist on sending a lot of our capital goods out of this country when we ourselves are in dire need of them here. They can secure the extra agricultural production if they approach the farmer in the right way, for it is especially important that it should be done at once if a complete new year is not to be missed. They can, in fact, do all those things which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, referred to, I think, as the more concrete measures, which he outlined to us the other day, and which simultaneously the Prime Minister was describing in another place.
Indeed, one of the most amazing things about the present situation is that we are completely in the dark as to what the Government intend to do under this Bill—"this little Bill," as the Lord Chancellor has termed it. In another place the Lord President used these words: "We have no preconceived notions as to how precisely we propose to utilize it. All we need is the power to utilize it." Having been in power for two years, the Government quite frankly say that they have no preconceived notions how to deal with the crisis which all of us knew was coming upon this country at some time. After two years, on the confession of one of their leading Ministers, they have no preconceived notions how to deal with it! 1292 In this House, on numerous occasions during the last two years, speeches have been made in all quarters—at any rate from the two Opposition Parties—drawing attention to this crisis that was coming. What a confession from a Government who received their mandate from the people because things had to be planned, who claimed that they were going to be the Government which could and would plan them! Here we are, right on the brink of this crisis and the Lord President says that he has no preconceived notion at all—he has no plan.
I never like making just a destructive speech, and perhaps I may be allowed to make a few additional suggestions. I had something to do with planning in the earlier part of the war. I happened to be cast for the role of Chairman of the Materials Priority Committee and of the Production Priority Committee, a matter to which my noble friend Viscount Portal was good enough to refer in addressing the House the other day. The first thing we did—and I believe that if I performed any service to this country during the war, this was the best thing I did—was completely to scrap the whole system of priorities which had been worked out before the war. We found that there were blue forms and green forms, red forms and yellow forms, forms numbered Ai to 1,000, B1 to 1, 000 and C, and so on. We scrapped all that and came down to a simple matter of the allocation of what materials we had, so that there would be no hasty scramble on the part of one Department to get ahead with everything, and every Department would have their proper share of the "cake." The "cake" was cut up in the right proportion, so that what remained of our civil economy—and there were a certain amount of exports could go on despite the war-time pressure for munitions.
I am told that all that has been scrapped, and that now the Cabinet, from time to time, just lay down a priority, with the results that we see to-day. We see masses of houses started when there is not sufficient material to complete them, just because the material has not been properly allocated, and because there is not that co-ordination between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Works, and the Ministry of Labour whereby labour and materials would flow to the job in equal proportions. My Lords, we 1293 have to come back to the kind of system I have outlined if we are to have any planning whatever, and therefore I do beg of the Government—I know I am giving good advice—to get back to a system of allocation instead of a system whereby one Minister after another, following pressure in Parliament, is saying that he must have priority for this, that, and the other, which, when it is obtained, probably puts out somebody else's programme—and then does not give him what he wants.
With regard to our export trade I had the privilege last week of listening to the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, when he addressed your Lordships' House and spoke largely upon this matter. The sellers' market will not last for ever, and we must get back to a better quality of goods in this country. We have the designers and we have the craftsmen. Already I am told that South Africa is over-stocked with consumer goods, and other countries will soon be getting into the same position. It is no good relying on increased exports to get us out of our difficulty if we cannot sell the goods when we have made them. We must get back to the good quality and good finish for which this country's goods have always had a reputation, and to do that we must get out of people's minds—both the managers and the craftsmen—that utility furniture, utility fabrics, utility this, that, and the other, are the be-all and end-all of manufacture. I am not at all sure that the time has not come when we ought to abolish all the utility lines. Most of the people for whom they were brought into being have now re-equipped themselves—people who were bombed out and large masses of people demobilized from the Army. If furniture and fabrics were to cost a bit more it would help to encourage the extra incentive which we want for more work. The wife will certainly say to her husband, "We want some curtains. You go to it and' work the extra clay or two next week in order that I may be able to re-equip the house with the extra things we both know we want."
The third point follows up the simile made by my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury last week. He was likening this nation to a man who had used his savings and borrowed from his friends in order to get successfully through a surgical operation and the necessary after-treat- 1294 ment. In the case of a nation, if I may follow up that simile, as in the case of the individual, the time comes when a variation in the treatment may become necessary, when the doctor has to decide that if the man stays any longer in hospital or nursing home he may get more and more depressed, that the time has come for a change of treatment. This country is getting more and more depressed under more and more controls, and really I believe, although it may be taking a risk, that the time has come to scrap a great many of these and to give the people of this country more freedom and a change of treatment. I believe that given that at this time we shall get more production out of them than by extending the controls, and at the same time it Will be possible to release, I hope, a large number of these additional people who are required to work these controls, in the Civil Service, or in local government service, or, people whom we often forget, those extra people in industry needed in order to complete the mass of forms now demanded from everybody. Those people are not doing any productive work at all. If the Government ire calling for more production from the nation—as, rightly, they are doing—let them set an example by getting rid of some of these surplus people and allowing them to find their way back into production.
While I am on this matter I would like to refer to the question of Mr. Strachey and his biscuits for export. When I was the Minister of Food, l did not say much about it, but we exported biscuits. We did not need a control to do it; we merely asked the biscuit manufacturers whether they would make up some special biscuits for abroad. Then it was largely to keep our trade lines on the markets, looking ahead to the situation when we wanted once again to expand our exports. Although there was very little food which I let go out of this country, I did let those biscuits go. They brought in some hard currency exchange, and kept our lines before the Americans and other consumers, so that we could go back to them after the war. I think that was the right kind of policy. But to say that you need this Bill in order to induce our biscuit manufacturers to export is, if I may say so, complete nonsense, because they will quite well do it if they are given the lead, 1295 and are told that it is in the best interests of the country.
The next point I want to make is that we should not export more of our vital capital goods which we urgently need ourselves until our wants are fully supplied. I have in mind electrical power production machinery. How much of that did we send to Russia before our breakdown of electric power last spring? A lot went. A lot of agricultural tractors have also gone abroad. I would send them abroad to our Colonies, and to countries which are sending back the foodstuffs; but I would not send them anywhere else, as long as there is a risk of shortage of food in this country. Nor would I send any other machines essential to our export trade.
Then there is the question of this programme of building vast new factories. Ought not that to be looked at again, since we have not the materials to keep going at full-time the factories which we already have? I see that since the debates in your Lordships' House and in another place the Minister of Town and Country Planning has said that we are going on full blast with our satellite towns. I think one of the things that amazed this House more than anything else when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was addressing us was his saying that we were reducing our target for timber. We did not understand whether it was the target or the amount of timber that was to be reduced, but I think I may take it that he meant we are not going to get as much timber as we at one time hoped we should. In that case—although the satellite towns may be extremely good things—is not that the kind of thing which ought to be held up, and all attention devoted to building the extra houses for the farm workers, for the miners, or for the people in the essential industries? I think the Government must give a lead in this way if they are going to convince the country that they are in earnest in saying that something really should be done.
I feel bound to say one word on the matter of agriculture, although my noble friend Earl De La Warr dealt with it very fully in the economic debate. It really does sadden my heart when we are told that we have got to reduce our food imports by £12,000,000 worth a month. That is a terrible cut. It saddens my heart that nothing whatever has been 1296 done in the last two years in regard to implementing the White Paper entitled Post-War Contribution of British Agriculture to the Saving of Foreign Exchange, which was produced by Mr. Hudson and myself in January, 1945. Agricultural production has gone down since then, not up, yet here was a White Paper for all who could read to see the way it pointed. That was a White Paper which the present Government inherited from the Coalition Government, and which we produced as Ministers of Agriculture and Food respectively. It saddens my heart now to hear the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, say that we have got to make an extra effort with our farmers, and to see that the extra effort is below the target that we set in this White Paper in 1945. That something on these lines has not been done before, again, I think, shows the incompetence of the present Government.
Quite frankly, this Bill seems to me to show completely the incompetence of the present Government. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has been quite frank with us to-day—as, indeed, he always is, and we all like him for it—as to what his views are on this Bill. He referred (and I am going to refer to it rather more fully) to what he said when introducing the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill in 1945. On the Second Reading he said:Your Lordships are, of course, all aware of the difficulty which we have by reason of the shortage of supplies—the shortage of foodstuffs, of clothing and so on. I think we shall all agree—at any rate it is the policy of His Majesty's Government—that so long as those shortages continue the principle of fair shares ' must go on. It is not only a question of foodstuffs and clothing; there is a very great shortage of raw materials of all kinds, and the difficulty of getting the necessary raw materials is very closely bound up with the manifold difficulties relating to the dollar exchange. It is obvious that we must continue to produce at home everything that we can, both in our fields and in our factories. It is obvious that we must concentrate our production upon the most essential things; first things must come first.Further on the noble and learned Viscount said:Having said that, I do not conceal from your Lordships for one moment that we are asking for immense powers to face them.That is, to face the problems that he had just outlined.
I do not think you can put the case stronger than that. The Government got 1297 those immense powers for those matters, one of which was to deal with the difficulties of the dollar exchange. My complaint is that, so far as I can see, except the omnibus Regulation to which the noble and learned Viscount has referred, the Government have done practically nothing about it since they got those powers in. December, 1945. More than that, it has taken them two years to realize that the powers were not wide enough to deal with the very matters that they ought to have been dealing with all this time. It really does show frightful incompetence. I believe it was Saint Paul who railed against spiritual wickedness in high places. I am not accusing the Government of that. I wish it were only that, because wickedness is curable; but incompetence is an incurable disease, and that is what we are suffering from in our Government at the present time.
The Prime Minister may ask us on the wireless to have faith and to have vision. Any faith which there may have been in the present Government is fast evaporating—and why? Because they themselves have not shown the vision, and have not the vision, to see and to do in time the things they ought to do. At a late hour they bring in a measure like this, and it is only after the Conservative Party in another place, and the leader of the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House, insisted upon debating the economic situation before we adjourned that the Government after two years, suddenly say, "Have we the powers?", and then produce "this little Bill." I only hope that they will go ahead, and go ahead in this way.
This House has consistently acted, during the past two years—I have no doubt that this House has always within recent history acted in this way, but I mention two years because I have had the privilege of being a member for that time—for the good of the country as a whole. That is how we have acted, and that is how the Government ought to act to get us out of our present difficulties: not to please this or that section of their followers. Whether or not they take that line will be the real test of the Government. If they try to act under this Bill, and under the previous measure, in a Party spirit, then their national appeal is bound to fail. It is only by the whole nation standing together at a time like 1298 this that we can pull through, and it lies with the whole Government—I particularly use the words "the whole Government"—so to speak and so to act that they secure a national result. We shall wait and see. The whole country will wait and see, and indeed practically the whole world will wait and see how they act and in what spirit they act. If they can and will drop Party politics and Party programmes, they will have the country behind them; then indeed they will get the results.
If at this time, when they want to increase the target of steel to 14,000,000 tons, they split the steel industry and nationalize a part of it, then they will fall short of that programme. There is not the slightest doubt of that. If, however, they deal with the steel industry in the way we dealt with it during the war—and I had quite a lot of dealings with it—and say, "We want so many extra tons" and if they give it an incentive by saying that if it produces this 14,000,000 tons it will not be nationalized at all I would take a bet that, provided the steel industry had the necessary coal, they would get their 14,000,000 tons. But if the Government insist on going in for Party politics when we must unite together as a nation, the verdict will be that they deserve to rail.
I hope that we shall not do anything in this House to hamper them in anything that they think necessary, and in the. powers and purposes for which they think they want those powers. But I still hope they will use those powers for wide national purposes on a national appeal, and will show that that is the way they mean to use them. If they do that, if they will really lead the nation and not attempt to drive it—because the British do not like being driven—only then is there the likelihood of the nation working together to get us out of our present grave difficulties. As long as we are properly. led, it is to that end that we should apply our efforts. And if we are properly led in that kind of national spirit, that is the way in which we, at any rate, shall all act.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, most of us in our youth have taken part in a debate on a familiar theme about the House of Lords: That the House of Lords is useless and dangerous, and ought to be abolished. To-day this House finds 1299 itself faced with the problem as to whether the Bill which has just been introduced to them is more useless than it is dangerous, or more dangerous than it is useless, and upon which of those two alternatives the Bill ought to be read a second time. Let me say that my position is clear—and I think it is the same as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack—that the Bill is more useless than dangerous.
I am sure that every one of your Lordships is deeply indebted to the noble and learned Viscount for his clear exposition of the purposes of this Bill. I cannot help feeling that if another place had been fortunate enough to have him explain the Bill there, and if they had listened with the same care, then they might have spent last night in bed instead of in another place. I feel that we must thank the noble and learned Viscount most deeply for the very clear exposition of what this Bill is about. As he has pointed out, the existing powers are immense, and this Bill is only concerned with a fresh definition of the purposes in the Minister's mind for which the Minister may use those powers. It is admitted that the existing powers are immense, and this raises a point which I think ought to be made clear in this House, which is that the negative power contained in this Bill of a Prayer against an Order in Council is of no avail to protect the Bill from being misused, if such is the intention. As the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has explained, there are existing Orders in Council which give immense powers and no existing Order in Council can be prayed against; it is already the law of the land. Therefore, anything that can be done under the existing Orders in Council—and what can be done is immense—can be done.
The argument which was used in another place—which I am glad was not used in this House—that the negative power of praying against Orders in Council is an effective check against misuse of powers under this Bill, was not used by the Lord Chancellor. It does not apply. But that very fact makes any question of the extension of the purposes for which these powers are asked a serious matter. Provided the Minister is satisfied that he is honestly acting for the purposes named, the fact that nobody else could possibly 1300 come to that conclusion does not invalidate his action. That is the position.
What are the purposes for which these great powers can be used? The existing Act of 1945 says that any Defence Regulation can be madefor the purpose of so maintaining, controlling, and regulating supplies and services so as—(a) to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the well-being of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices.That is paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Clause 1. Then there is paragraph (c) which says:to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace.That Act can remain in force for five years. It is very relevant to read the debates which took place on the Bill in 1945 in the other place. The purposes which apply to the present crisis were present in the minds of Ministers in 1945. The Government in 1945 resisted firmly any cutting down of the period of the Act's operation from five years to two years. They said the country must not be misled into thinking that we should be out of our difficulties in two years, that it would take at least five years to overcome them. Both the Home Secretary and the Lord President of the Council emphasized the vital importance of adjusting our international trade, of maintaining the balance of payments, and of controlling imports. All those purposes were named then; and that makes it even less necessary to re-define those purposes afresh. I cannot see any conceivable difference between the existing purposes under the Act of 1945 and at any rate the first two of the three purposes named in this Bill.
This Bill is really quite unnecessary; at the same time it might, I think, be dangerous, in particular in respect of the purpose contained in paragraph (c). That purpose is expressed in totalitarian terms. It is to ensure that "the whole resources of the community"—the community means men and women—are "to serve the interests of the community." That is totalitarian. I feel that the Bill would have been better without that paragraph. But that does not alter the main conclusion that the Bill is in itself not necessary. The Government, in their difficulty, are doing the one thing at which they are really good—getting Acts of Parliament passed through both Houses.
1301 They are getting this Bill passed without really knowing what it is about. Reading what the Lord President of the Council said in another place the other day, I was reminded of a gentleman who was talking to a charming lady and was asked by her to explain the meaning of a Greek quotation. He said: "My dear lady, I just could not tell you"—suggesting that he knew, but that it would be improper to tell her: the real fact being that he just did not know. And the real fact is that the Government do not know in the least what they mean to do with these powers. This Bill is just a piece of window dressing addressed to the Left Wing of His Majesty's Government.
I suggest that this Bill is dangerous for other reasons, and that is that it is diverting attention and energy from the real problem. The real problem is desperately serious. It is the question whether next year and the year after we, in this country, can avoid serious want and devastating unemployment. That is the problem which we ought to face. I want to say at once that I do not think that that problem is the product of the Labour Government. I would like to quote what was said by a Senator in Coriolanus:For the dearth,The gods, not the patricians, make it.It is the gods, and not the patricians on the other side of the House, who have made this dearth. But that does not mean that we proletarians on this side of the House are altogether content with the patricians. After all, it is the Government who have got the facts before them. Had they been keeping continual watch they must have known what was going to happen before it did happen. If they did not know, they were asleep on their watch. Now they come and tell us about this coming danger, two months before the American Loan is about to run out. That really is an inexplicable position. They must have known what was happening, not only here but in other countries, with regard to the dollar position, and so forth, and the drain on the American Loan. But at the last possible moment, two months before the American Loan is going to run out, they come and tell us of the difficulties; and they go on making Acts of Parliament.
We plebeians have another complaint against the patricians on the opposite side. It is as to the utter inadequacy of 1302 the proposals they are making to-day. The Prime Minister has not told us how far the cuts proposed would go towards filling the gap. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did give us some idea in saying that the cuts proposed would cover about one-third of the yawning gap of £600,000,000 between our imports and our exports. I say the Government should know what to do much better than anybody else. But let me suggest some things that they should not do. They should not go on as at present. Fundamentally we are in this trouble because we have run too long in the wrong direction. The whole country has been running on wrong lines, very largely, so far as this Government is concerned, under the misguidance of those excellent people the trade union leaders. The trade union leaders have thought that they could get an easy time for all. They have pressed for more and more leisure, and not only leisure for the people who want it but also a compulsory five-day week for people whether they want it or not. That is what they have been pressing for.
They have been pressing for higher money wages, and the Government, not controlling them in any way, are now trying to boost the National Savings Movement in order to deal with this surplus of money for which there are no commodities. We have been running on wrong lines. We in this country have been led for a long time to believe that we could have a better time than our fathers but with doing less work than our fathers. The real position is that the economic position has so altered that we cannot live as well as our fathers did unless we work more effectively than they did. We have got to change the whole direction of our policy. We must reverse our engines. There are very hard times ahead. If the country is going to reverse its engines, ought it not to get a lead from the Government?
If everybody is going to be asked to sacrifice something, ought not the Government to set an example by sacrificing something? I am not suggesting that they should sacrifice office. I do not believe that we should have a Coalition Government; I am as much against that as are the Conservatives and Socialists. That is not what is wanted. I do not suggest that the patricians should surrender any of their Socialist principles, but I suggest that they might put them into cold storage 1303 for a little time. I ask the Government to hold up some of their cherished schemes for a year or two, until we have had time to adjust our balance of payments.
I would like to support what was said by Lord Llewellin upon that point and to follow it up with one or two practical illustrations. I think that the Government—it is too late now—might have made a great gesture of reversing engines by not proceeding with this Transport Act; at least, they might not put it into force at once. I heard the Prime Minister the other day talking about the necessity of making transport more efficient, but 'even if the Act will make it more efficient five years hence, just think what it is going to do next year to the transport industry, when everybody will be filling up forms instead of running lorries and all the people with lorries will be unable to run them as before. That is what the Act will do. It would have been a magnificent gesture for the Government to say: "This is the thing we want, but we will not have it until we can enjoy it, and we can all enjoy a good time later." The same remarks apply even more strongly in regard to the Government's attitude to the steel industry. I cannot really imagine that the Government are going on with what would be the folly next year of nationalizing, or attempting to nationalize, the steel industry.
May I make one more suggestion in regard to what seems to be the kind of thing the Government might do? There is another measure which has recently been passed into law—the National Insurance Act. Under that Act, in the course of the next year, if things proceed as planned, there will be a complete ending of all the approved societies and a tremendous scrambling of their staffs. That will involve a waste of manpower during that year and the year after. It may be the right thing to do in the end, but there is no doubt that carrying through that reconstruction of the administrative machinery next year will waste manpower which could be used otherwise. I do not think anybody who really sat down with the approved societies, the friendly societies and the insurance companies and asked them what this Act was going to do next year to their staffs would have any doubt that it would entail a waste of skilled manpower. I ask the Government to go back on their decision. 1304 If the Government say, "We are not going to hurry this year," it would be good in itself and it would be a sign that they would be reversing engines, as the whole country has got to reverse engines for the moment, but not permanently. The Government should set the example of sacrifice for a common purpose. If they will dedicate themselves for the next year or two to the purposes upon which the whole country is agreed, then we may all live to fight one another most heartily another day.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am going to intervene for only a few moments. I am going to address myself to one single topic, and to be bold enough to make a proposition to the House. I think we all feel that the House is in a great difficulty in dealing with this Bill at the present time. It is alleged—and I accept the Lord Chancellor's account of the Bill—that the object of this Bill is to remove doubts as to whether the Government were or were not entitled to use all the powers of the Act of 1945 for the purposes of this economic crisis. I am bound to say that in the Governments in which I have served, we have generally gone to the Lord Chancellor for our legal advice in Cabinet. In those days we trusted our Lord Chancellor to give us a legal opinion on a legal point, and when he told us definitely that we had the powers, we did not bring in a curious Bill at the tag end of the session. I think, respectfully, that the Lord Chancellor's view is probably right, although I do not understand why, if the Government's purpose was merely to do what he said, this curious paragraph (c) was tacked on to Clause I, unless it was to fly a flag which might rally a few doubtful supporters in the Division Lobbies. But let us assume—and I am assuming—that this is an enabling and legalizing Bill. Assuming that, no one certainly would dissent from the Lord Chancellor when he said that the powers of the Act of 1945, even without this paragraph (c), are extremely wide and the Government promulgated what one might describe as an all-embracing regulation.
Undesirable as the form of this legislation is—and no one has criticized it more formidably than the Lord Chancellor himself—what matters much more, I submit to your Lordships, is the use which is to 1305 be made of the powers which are to be taken and how those powers are going to be exercised. We all accept to-day the need of delegated legislation, but I thought we all, sitting at the feet of the Lord Chancellor, had also accepted the essential principle of delegated legislation: that you should not in delegated legislation take more powers than it is necessary for you to exercise. The Act of 1945 certainly does much more than that, as the Lord Chancellor himself admitted when he was moving it, and he said again and again how much he disliked it. It must be very distasteful to him to have to espouse so many distasteful causes, but he justified the very wide powers which were taken under the 1945 Act by saying—and there was complete logic and some force in his argument—" The Act of 1940 is running out. We have before some date in February to decide what powers and what regulations we are going to retain, and if we want to make a now regulation we must make it at once. We have to do this distasteful and far-reaching thing because, quite frankly, we have not the least idea what we shall find ourselves compelled to do, or what we shall want to do during the course of the five years this Act is in force."
The trouble here, as the economic debate showed, is that the Government themselves do not in the least know how they are going to deal with the economic crisis, for which they ought to have had all their plans prepared months ago. What we ought to have had, not at the tail end of the session, but some months ago—and I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, said about these academic but damaging Bills—is some constructive measures. If we had had such measures, the crisis might by now he in hand; at any rate, we should all be going forward on a course which we had fully debated and, I have no doubt, by common consent, moulded and approved. That is the mischief here. We have this Bill because the Government have no 'plan. The planners have no plan. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when he was introducing the 1945 Bill, tried to meet that kind of issue as fairly as he could. The powers are given, but the powers are exerciseable only by Orders or the like—what I think he called, and what I believe in the Act itself are called, subordinate instruments.
1306 On that occasion I moved an Amendment, which in fact was unnecessary in its words, but which drew from the Lord Chancellor, on behalf of the Government, three specific undertakings of the most important character. Those undertakings were these. In the first place, the preservation of the power of Parliament, that each House would have full authority to approve or to reject such Orders, the subordinate instruments. I want to be quite fair. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, made it plain that that would apply to what he called "Orders in the nature of general acts." The difference made was whether an Order was to be of general application or whether it was a direction, say, to an individual firm to sell something to a particular place or at a particular price; everything which was in the nature of a general order or directive was to be brought here. And the Lord Chancellor very fairly said that if there were a borderline case, where there might be a doubt whether it fell within the general or the particular, then that would rest with himself and Mr. Speaker to decide. He said it was so important to preserve the control of Parliament that, in any case where there was the least doubt, he would say that it should be general and would be laid. That was the control of Parliament.
The second undertaking was, that every such subordinate instrument would be laid, so that each House would have an opportunity of considering it if they wished, and either approving or rejecting it. It does not require an affirmative Resolution, but there would be the opportunity, if it were desired, to discuss it or to throw it out. Either House would be able to say to the Minister: "We do not think it will do in that way, but if you produce it with certain Amendments we are prepared to pass it." That right of each House was to be fully preserved, and I think that is most important. The Lord Chancellor gave, as the third undertaking, the promise that the Order would he made and laid only when the Government required the power contained in that Order, and could justify both the scope of the Order and the 'way they meant to use it at the time when they brought it in. The time factor was vital. They did not know then, as the Government do not know now, what they were going to do. They will not make 1307 general orders but they will make executive orders—these subordinate instruments—when they know exactly how they are going to carry out their powers; and they will then bring the Orders here, or lay them, so that we can have the proposed action justified when that action is said to be necessary.
If you are going to have this kind of legislation at all, those undertakings, which the Lord Chancellor gave most fairly—I will not read them because they are all recorded in Hansard, in Volume 137, give Parliament as effective a control as can be devised. The essential thing is that Parliament should be able to exercise that control at the right time, and the right time is when the Order is made, and when the Government say that they wish to act in a particular way and intend to act in that way. These Orders, as I have said, are not the subject of affirmative Resolution, they are negative; they have to be prayed against if they are objected to. That is not a very material difference, or not a vital difference if Parliament is sitting. It is a vital difference, however, if Parliament is not sitting.
It is proposed, although I have not seen the Motion and I suppose it will be on the Order paper to-morrow, that we should adjourn until some date in October, I think October 21. It would be intolerable in my view, and I believe in the view of nearly all your Lordships, if important Orders giving effect to plans which neither we nor the Government now know anything at all about, were made and acted upon during the recess, and Parliament was impotent. I believe the country would not stand for that. What are we here for, as a Council of State? We have no right to do any such thing. There is an obvious way of avoiding this. An adjournment Motion in difficult times has always been effected so that the House shall adjourn until such and such a date, but that in our House the Lord Chancellor shall have the power to call the House together if circumstances require it. The House, under such an order, can reassemble at short notice, and can consider any activity of the Government or any Order that has been made. But I say, frankly, that that should not rest, nor would it be fair upon the Government to say that it should rest, entirely with the Government.
1308 There is a simple way of meeting this issue. We are the masters of our own procedure, and can so order our adjournment that the House can be regularly in session, adjourning from time to time, meeting at relatively short intervals. Then if, in the meantime, an Order of importance has been made, if the Government have devised a plan and are putting it into execution, then that plan and that Order—whether the Order has been actually laid or not is, in a sense, immaterial though if it has been laid it can be prayed against—will have been made and published. The Government will have acted upon it, or will be about to act upon it, and this House would then take cognizance of the Order as made, and of the plan as proposed, and would be able to give it full consideration and criticism at the right time, the time when debate in this House would be effective for the purpose of influencing the course of action. In that way, I suggest to your Lordships, we can give the Government the enabling powers which some lawyers think they need, but which the Lord Chancellor thinks they already have; and, what is much more important, we shall keep control over the use of these vast powers and keep that effective control which, as the Lord Chancellor last time said in much better language than mine, it is so important that Parliament should exercise and exercise at the right time. That is the simple proposition which I wish to put before your Lordships for your consideration.
Now I have a question which I wish to put to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. I apologize for not having given him notice of this particular question, but we have not had a lot of time to study the Bill. He, himself, was only instructed at two o'clock, and we were not instructed as to what was to be in a Bill very long ago. I can put my point very simply. It is this: Could the Government by Order under this Bill, or even under the 1945 Act, override or alter a previous Act of Parliament—I mean a public Act? Let me take a specific instance to illustrate what I mean. In 1946, we passed the Bank of England Act which nationalized the Bank of England. Your Lordships may remember that when that measure was passing through this House a controversy arose as to what was the meaning of a 1309 very important clause in it. The clause was one about instructions being given to the joint stock banks. I, advised by able lawyers, contended that as the Bill was drafted it meant that the Treasury could order the Governor of the Bank of England to order the banks to do something. The Governor of the Bank of England said that it did not mean anything of the sort. I said to him, with great respect, that I valued his opinion as a banker enormously, but as a lawyer I valued it no more than my own.
I made an appeal to the Lord Chancellor to say what the Bill meant, and he said that the Bill meant exactly what I was contending and not what the Governor of the Bank of England thought it meant. And, very rightly and properly, the Government themselves introduced an Amendment to make it perfectly plain that there would be no such right in the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give those instructions, that the instructions had to come from the Court of the Bank to the banks. What I want to know is, whether by virtue of any power under this or the 1045 Act the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, could override that specific provision which Parliament has inserted into the Bank of England Act and, going counter to it, give orders direct to the joint stock banks or order the Governor of the Bank of England to give such orders. I ask whether that is so, and I trust that the answer will be: "Of course he could not do anything of the sort." But if it could be done, would that be in the nature of a general act, or a special order? I hope sincerely that the answer to that question which I have just posed, will be that I have started a very bad hare, and that there is nothing at all in the point. I am sure that your Lordships will all agree that it would be clearly undesirable that power should be taken or used in an enabling Bill to vary legislation which Parliament has considered moulded and passed in a particular form. That is a specific question which I put to the Lord Chancellor. I do not think that he will have any difficulty in answering it during his reply, because obviously it is important that we should know what the answer is to that before we enter upon the Committee stage of this Bill tomorrow.
1310 But my main point, in which I feel sure that I shall carry the whole of your Lordships with me, is that we must retain, so far as we can, control of this situation which is so fluid at the present moment, and that we should on our Adjournment Motion make sure that we automatically reassemble from time to time. If the Government have done nothing then, may be, we shall be able formally to adjourn again for another fortnight, though it may be that it would be a very good thing that there should be some question put as to why there has been inaction, because there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. But certain it is, I submit, that we should be in a position at frequent intervals, and at the correct time, to criticize and, I hope, it may be also, to approve, bet certainly to consider fully and effectively any powers which are taken and put into operation under the Bill now before us.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, I rise to-day with the utmost reluctance. During the six years that I have been a member of this House, I have been true to my resolve never, in any way, to intervene in discussions on internal politics, but to speak only of those things which I know—international affairs—and if today I seem in any way to depart from that resolve it is because the course of affairs at home has just begun—I would not put it higher than this; you will get no dramatization or exaggeration Loin me—to remind me a little uncomfortably of the course of some affairs abroad in the inter-war period. Even so, I shall de cart into no legal argument or political controversy, which is the province of others. I know and I welcome my limitations, but, merely as evidence of dispassion, perhaps I may point out to noble Lords on my left that for the past two years I have done my best to support the foreign policy of this Government. That said, I depart on my brief excursion.
I knew much of Hugo Preuss the draftsman of the Weimar Constitution. His son is a friend of mine. He was a good German if ever there was one, and the Weimar Constitution was a good enough Constitution—on paper. But it contained one vital flaw, and that Has Article 48 which enabled the Government in times of emergency to govern by decree. Now I am quite sure that Preuss 1311 and his associates would have indignantly and sincerely disclaimed any idea that that Article could ever be abused. But I think that they would have done well to remember one of the world's most cogent sayings, which is that appetite comes with eating. Within a comparatively brief measure of time Dr. Bruening had discovered an abiding emergency, and had slipped into the habit of government by decree. We all know that that was followed by something much worse. I do not suggest for a moment that anything of that nature will happen here, but I do rather dread lest, in the course of time, we may be gradually drawn further along the road of government by decree—further, perhaps, and imperceptibly.
I know that the Government have assured us that they have no sinister designs. I am equally sure that those assurances are given in all good faith. At the same time, I noticed last week that the Lord President of the Council had declined cross-examination. As an independent observer I would have thought that people who asked for such extensive powers for one Party in peace time, must expect constant and close cross-examination, otherwise, again in the course of time, it might be possible to drift into some pre-totalitarian precedent. Now while I accept the assurances of the Government, I cannot accept the assurance of a large body of their followers, and for the very good reason that they have given none. On the contrary, they have used language which seemed to me rather in contradiction with that of the Government. I do not doubt that these are men of transparent sincerity but they are also men of transparent aims, and to the independent and dispassionate observer, which I claim to be, it seems that during the past year two very clear aims have emerged. One has been to weaken or oust Mr. Bevin, whose policy I have supported. The other is to divorce us from the United States and wed us to dependence on Russia. I think there was an unworthy exhibition of that in another place yesterday.
That policy will always bring me into the field and it seems therefore important to examine both the intentions and interpretations of this large body. As to the intention, I think it is set forth by fifteen of them, in their pamphlet entitled: 1312 Keep Left. I do not propose to comment in any way on their internal programme. I have done my best to make sense of the chapter on foreign policy, and have not been very successful, because while I rate Mr. Bevin at test form this seems to be village cricket on a bad wicket. Their interpretation differs considerably from that of the Lord President of the Council who represented this all-important clause as rather a matter of clarification.
Take the case of Mr. Crossman. He said that we are at the turning of the ways. That is rather a curious expression. Perhaps he meant at the parting of the ways. Perhaps he may be right. I devoutly hope not. If he were right I suppose he would mean we were at the parting of the ways between true democracy and some more drastic or semi-totalitarian interpretation of it. And I was rather confirmed in that apprehension when I read on and found that he regards these drastic powers as a permanent cure for unemployment. That is practically word for word what Hitler said. And might I remind your Lordships that Hitler did cure unemployment? But at what a cost! Furthermore, he went on to say that our natural markets were not in the United States but in Eastern Europe and Russia and there he came clear into the field in which I operate. But some of his friends went further still. One of them, for instance, said that these powers would be appropriate for seeing that we were integrated not only into Western Europe but Eastern Europe and Russia.
I make no implication of ill-faith in this description of how these powers might be used. I simply say that people who speak like that are unable to see what is going on under their noses. For the past two years Russia has been more closely interlocking the Eastern bloc and rendering it more exclusive and rigid. That purpose has been feverishly speeded up during the last few months. Into that Eastern bloc is now to be integrated Soviet Germany. In future we shall make a mistake in talking of Eastern Germany; Soviet Germany is the more appropriate expression. The intention is to increase the trade of Soviet Germany with Poland and other satellite States who have recently lost their political and economic independence. The purpose of all that 1313 is very manifest: it is to exclude so far as possible western trade and render it unnecessary. Are we to wait for the balance of trade to be redressed until this impossibility has been achieved? How can sensible people talk about integrating us into a system like that!
Your Lordships may wonder why I dwell on that point but the reason is perfectly clear. A large body of Government supporters obviously regard these very drastic powers as a permanent lever not only in home affairs but also in foreign affairs, and that is where I come in. The fear is that we may be asked to accord these vast powers which less mature minds may inherit. In any case, I would have thought that, however men may speak or vote or profess, it is difficult indeed for any democratic conscience to accept the granting of such sweeping powers in peace-time, without some apprehension. When I was a young man I remember that a French philosopher once said to me: "That which is superfluous is dangerous." I did not pay any attention to him at the time, but I am not sure that, after all, there may not be something in what he said.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD KERSHAW
My Lords, in my view it might be a wise thing if this debate had been comprised only of the speeches of the noble and learned Lord Chancellor and of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. It seems to me these two speeches dealt with the relevant matters that we have to discuss to-day. For my part I am intervening only for a moment to urge the Government to control and direct labour in the fullest possible sense. There are two points in that which need to be considered separately. One is as to the effect on the individual and the other is as to its effect on the community as a whole. I may say in passing that I had intended to urge the adoption of the control and direction of labour as long ago as last March and circumstances prevented me at that time from making any contribution to a debate.
I would say at once that the agitation for mere output per man is usually made with more heat than knowledge and very often is more extravagantly made in the middle of the week at the 19th hole. We know that the responsible leaders in industry, both on the employers' side and on the workers' side, will urge the 1314 workers to higher output but they urge it with a knowledge of the physical limits of the particular job. It is a mistake to regard restriction of output as the invention of the devil, or of the Communists, if you prefer it. I remember only too well during the last war the effect of incentives on the health of women in munitions. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, is not here now but he would be able to confirm what I am about to say. During the First World War, in consequence of incentives in munitions factories on the North-East coast, women were encouraged to work what they called "doggy," double doggy, triple doggy and quadruple doggy. Many of your Lordships will remember that in those days the Press was full of the spendthrift nature of women in that part of the country—fur coats, grand pianos and all that kind of thing were in every house. But I had something to do with the health of women for many years after that and l assure this House that the country has been paying a very heavy price for the incentives to women in industry at that time. I do hope that, whatever the Government may do on this occasion in the need for more manpower, they will take the greatest care to ensure that incentives have some regard to the physique of the workers.
As to the community as a whole feature of the present situation which is incontrovertible is that we just cannot afford the luxuries and amenities to which we have become accustomed. There must be a reduction of both. Persons engaged in non-productive trades and services and those not occupied at all must be directed into essential trades. The White Paper which we discussed in March rejected the idea of the control and direction of labour, and many of our politicians of all Parties have applied to the control and direction of labour terms which, to say the least, it is extremely unwise to use. We have heard to-day the word "totalitarianism." The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who is not present at the moment, said in this same connexion that he did not like what he was pleased to term the "slave State." Whether we like it or not we have arrived at the point at which we shall require to have control and direction of labour in a very large measure. There is a good deal of humbug talked about the freedom of the individual. Some of us are disinclined to believe that the workers always had 1315 freedom to choose their job. A very large proportion of wage-earners never were able to choose their jobs and many more were unable to choose their jobs in time of unemployment. Therefore let us be clear what we mean when we talk about the freedom of the individual to choose his job.
So far as the White Paper went—I believe the Government have now gone a little further—the remedy for our economic evils in part was to rest upon priorities and the rationing of raw materials. I look upon the imposition of priorities and the rationing of raw materials as another method of directing labour, but an indirect method. There will be concealed unemployment and concealed direction in all industries and trades which are not regarded as essential. Without the complete direction and co-ordination of labour and industry there is bound to be a gradual paralysis of the non-priority trades. There will be uncertainty and worry for both employers and workers. Good employers will keep their men on, hoping for the best, long beyond the point at which it is economical for them to do so. A time will come, however, when the employer will have to say: "I am very sorry, I have no prospect of getting raw materials, I must put you off." And at that point, and at that point only, does the system of control of engagements come into force. Thus you will have under-employment and a very considerable and serious lack of direction of labour which is so important at this time, and even then it will be weeks before the stubborn worker will be able to be directed into the job to which you want him to go.
I am speaking, with due modesty, from some experience of the machine which does this work. For twenty years I have been concerned with the Courts of Referees which deal with the recalcitrant worker. During the war I was also chairman of the Appeal Boards under the Essential Work Order. There I saw at first hand where the shoe pinched, and I have no hesitation in saying that the workers will not be against direction of labour if—but only if—it applies to everybody. The direction that I envisage need not be quite so rigid as the war-time direction, and I would limit the power of the Man-power Boards if it is intended to resuscitate them. One other point in con- 1316 nexion with this direction of labour that I regard as extremely valuable, and which in my view will be of enormous service to the nation in the times before us, is the educational value of the appeal boards, both to the employer and the worker. Employer; sitting on those boards realize some of the difficulties that create mischief between employer and worker in a way they would never otherwise have realized it.
But it is not only the direction of labour that will automatically flow through the employment exchanges that I am concerned about. There is a great reservoir of potent al labour which without some new registration will never be amenable either to control or direction. Under the social insurance scheme mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, a little while ago, a new phrase appeared, I think for the first time, in legislation—the term "gainfully occupied." It would ill become me to suggest who is not gainfully occupied in this House, but I would not say that all the "Spivs" referred to are men with padded shoulders and narrow waists if "Spiv" means, as I understand it to mean, people living by their wits. The net in that case could be drawn very wide indeed.
We are sometimes charged with fostering class warfare. Could there be a more mischievous example of fostering class warfare, in a time of unexampled anxiety to the nation, than the speech of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday in another place? "Serfdom in time of peace"—that is not my phrase, it is his. "Any one of you," said Mr. Churchill, "may be taken from your homes at any moment and from your employment, and sent off wherever some obscure official .. . may decide you are to go." I would welcome the Government using their powers of direction ruthlessly, but I would paraphrase Mr. Churchill's bogy in these words: "Any of you may be taken from your street barrows, and your clubs, and your extravagant receptions, and your racecourses, and your idleness and profligate way of life, and sent off to do a decent honest job in the interests of the nation which hitherto you have exploited for your own ends." It cannot be denied that there are great numbers of people who are not usefully occupied at this time—people who ought to be registered and brought into the national scheme of service.
1317 I conclude by begging of the Government two things. The first is not to induce the mothers of young children to go into the factories until every able-bodied man has gone into them. I happen to be Chairman of a Bench in this Metropolitan area, and I do not want to see any further effects of children being left without motherly care during the day. My last point is that I hope the Government will, as I have said, ruthlessly control and direct labour and industry to the common good. I have no fear as to the wage-earners in this matter. In so far as I have contacted the wage-earners (and I have contacted great numbers since March), shop stewards and ordinary decent working men, they do not mind the direction of labour provided that it is applied thoroughly and without fear or favour to every section of the community. I do hope the Government will take courage and at: once get on with that job.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I begin by saying that I think this Bill is completely unnecessary, and I propose to give your Lordships a number of reasons for holding that view. Some of your Lordships will remember that as long ago as 1944 I began to agitate a little with regard to looking to see what was going to happen to the economic state of our country in the future. Subsequently, in February, 1946, on a Motion of my own, I raised the whole question again: I would like to read to your Lordships an answer I got from the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, who was replying for the Government. This is one of the things he said:May I, before I leave Lord Teviot, say this. He wanted an answer to one thing in particular. He said he did not expect me to give an answer to-day but he hoped we would give one presently. I am going rather to surprise the noble Lord by giving him an answer to-day. He asked, would the Government set up a Royal Commission to go into the whole question of the debt and the expenditure of the country? I am prepared to give him an answer straight away, and the answer is No.Your Lordships see the sort of response one got from the Government when one tried to warn them of what one was quite sure was going to happen.
Then let me read two other short sentences, in which the noble Lord referred to prices:There then was a scramble for goods"—1318 he is talking about after the First World War—which the Government of the day did not control, and as a result prices rocketed upwards.Then, again, he says that, after what he calls" the shooting war in 1918,"prices increased by an additional 100 per cent. over those which prevailed before the war.What are they now? One hundred per cont. is nothing to the price increase to-day of many of the goods which we all want. There is another quotation which I would like to read, and it is a remark made by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. He said:Lord Teviot questioned our policy to pay for the commitments upon which this country is entering. My noble friend, Lord Cherwell, viewed with apprehension the future.You might just as well be talking to a brick wall. Not the slightest attention was paid to all that.
I am going to read a further quotation, for in May, 1946, I had a Motion down on the subject of nationalization. I begged the Government to wait until they saw the result of one instance of their nationalization policy, to see whether it was a success or not. I said:I wish that if in future what we anticipate does take place we shall be able to say that we have expressed to the Government our belief that within a year or eighteen months there will be a very serious crisis in this country as a result of the policy pursued by the present Government.That was in May, 1946, and here we are faced with this crisis. I seem to have been very punctual in having made that prophecy, and we are in this appalling situation. With regard to the question of this being totalitarian, I do not know whether any of your Lordships noticed, but in The Times, I think of yesterday, that great supporter of the Government, Mr. Victor Gollancz, wrote a letter in Which he said that, in his view, undoubtedly this Bill has totalitarian potentialities. I do riot think anybody for one moment can think otherwise. I have suffered from being jeered at, not only in this House, but by the Press, for having been the most gloomy man who ever spoke. Yet here we are; unfortunately, and alas! I was perfectly right.
I am now going to suggest a few reasons for saying that this Bill is quite unnecessary. I do not suppose for one moment 1319 that what I put forward will be carried out, or even considered. I think the Government are puffed up with their own policy to such an extent that they will not consider anybody else's ideas. As the Yorkshireman says, "What's to do?"; and, as Mark Twain said, "We all talk about the weather, but what are we going to do about it?". I propose to say a word or two on that. I would like to refer to the utterances and writings of one or two prominent Government Ministers. It will be in the recollection of many of your Lordships that in 1933 Sir Stafford Cripps wrote a book called "The Problems of a Socialist Government". Curiously enough, he referred to a Bill which he called the Emergency Powers Bill, to be passed through all its stages on the first day. He wrote these words about it:It is probable that the passage of this Bill will raise in its most acute form a constitutional crisis.It seems to me that the Government went into this with their eyes open, and realized that a storm would be produced in all walks of life, and probably all over the world. Let me now quote the Prime Minister, who wrote a chapter in that book:I am envisaging a period of the first Socialist Government in power as one of crisis. Indeed, the whole transitional period must be viewed from this angle. The atmosphere will be comparable to that existing in this country at the beginning of the Great War. The important thing is not to do things with the most scrupulous regard to theories of democracy or exact constitutional propriety, but to get on with the job.That is pretty clear thinking, and it is what is happening now.
I believe that many on the Government Benches are beginning to realize, and are beginning to get a bit shaky as to whether their policy will really achieve the things they thought it would. But apparently Sir Stafford Cripps thought so, because he said on August 7 in another place:We cannot abandon these long-term aims because of the immediate difficulties, and, indeed, the difficulties are the reason for intensifying and not for abandoning… .That terrifies me, because it is quite evident that the Ministers are learning nothing, as the result of their policy, as to the state the country is in.
Can anybody, looking back at what has happened already, say that this economic crisis has been relieved at all 1320 by the nationalization of the Bank of England? Can anybody say that the wrecking of the cotton market of the world in Liverpool has done anything to help the economic situation of this country? Did the removal of Cable and Wireless from that great institution which had been built up, which was full of experts of the highest quality who are now doing nothing, help the economic situation of this country? I understand that now, if you want to get a cable sent efficiently, you do not go to Cable and Wireless, but, if you are a business man, to the Western Union. The last two industries I have mentioned were instrumental in bringing into this country a great deal of foreign currency which has now gone. Therefore, I do not think anybody can feel that any legislation which has been put through has been any good at all in helping us in the dire situation in which we find ourselves.
Those of us in touch with all walks of life among our people know perfectly well the confusion and uncertainty that has been caused by town and country planning, and by the nationalization of transport and electricity. One noble Lord—I forget who—said: "For goodness sake let us delay these things, because, whether they are right in the long run or not, it is not the time to embark on the terrific upheaval they are going to cause." I do ask the Government to consider that. In the debate which I raised I did beg them to wait; but they would not wait. In the course of my remarks I said that I knew of no country which had nationalized an industry which had been a success. The noble Lord got up at once, and said, "I will tell the noble Lord of one—the General Post Office."
§ A NOBLE LORD: The telephones.
§ LORD TEVIOT
That embraces the telephones. But to put that up as an industry—one of the greatest monopolies that has ever been created—shows the type of mind which is completely unable to realize the situation we are in. Now, it seems, the tremendously complicated industry of iron and steel is to be nationalized. The upheaval there will be worse than in any industry I have mentioned. There is one question I want to ask the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said the other day that 1321 we had £250,000,000 of the American Loan, about £125,000,000 of the Canadian Loan and about £600,000,000 in gold reserve which we could count upon. I want to ask a question about this gold reserve. Does all this £600,000,000 really belong to us? I ask this because I understand that in that amount there is a certain amount of foreign money, and I would like to know to what extent that £600,000,000 really is an asset of our country.
I must touch upon the question of coal. I raised this in a debate six or eight months ago, or it may have been at the beginning of this year. There are two things, and two things only, on which we are going to exist in this country, coal—and I will refer later on to a proposition I want to put to the noble Lord on that subject—and food. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is not here, but no doubt he will be back in a minute. I was rather distressed the other day by his remark that the Government were investigating the placing of Poles to work in our mines. Another thing he said which distressed me a good deal—I nearly interrupted him, but I hate interrupting anybody who is speaking—was that the miners' leaders were going into the matter. I want to know who is governing this country, the miners' leaders or the Government. We have a right to know that. It is quite right to negotiate with the miners' leaders in these matters, but if they are to decide whether or not it should happen, then the Government are not accepting the responsibilities of office.
I am delighted to hear that my Motion on foodstuffs—which was accepted by the Government, though not to the full extent—has now been adopted. My Motion laid it down that we should grow £100,000,000 more foodstuffs in this country. But why put it off until 1951? I raised this matter in your Lordships' House in the spring of this year. A great deal could have been done which has not been clone in the last six months, and I do urge the Government to insist that we give every facility, as soon as possible, to those on the land to increase their animal population, particularly in regard to pigs and poultry. That is not a very difficult proposition. We know both of 1322 them to be the most prolific and the best fertilizers that one can get.
There is a matter which is very grave indeed, which I saw reported in The Times yesterday, and that is with regard to fertility. There is no doubt that the crops this year will not be as good as they ought to be, and I saw in The Times yesterday figures of what they call "harvest yields." I will not go into many of the figures but it means, by and large, a 14 per cent. drop from a nor red harvest. That is due to no other cause than the want of fertility, tired land; and that is caused by the want of animal population. Let us get busy on pigs and poultry as quickly as possible. Let the Government realize that although you have to feed them on a certain amount of food which can be consumed by human beings, you will get far more food in the end by so doing than by having this very poor number of animals on the land.
However, I believe this Bill to be quite unnecessary, and I shall not go over the ground which some other noble Lords have covered. The Government appear to have no plan at all. In their attempt to strangle the profit motive it seems to me that they have sandbagged the economic life of the nation. I wrote some of this speech last week, before Mr. Churchill spoke in another place and he very nearly said what I had written. lie used the words "blank cheque." What I am saying now is that it seems to me that the Government are asking for a blank cheque against an account which is already very much overdrawn. That is the real situation.
Now I come to the first of my constructive ideas. For goodness sake, do not let us go begging for more money outside our own Commonwealth of Nations. I believe it to be quite unnecessary. I believe my late friend Viscount Bennett said in your Lordships' House, at the time when the Loan was being discussed, "Let us have a family party." I beg the Government here and now to go round the whole of the Empire, to ask the responsible members of the Governments of the Dominions and Colonies to meet, to get them over here, and to put all the cards on the table; and I believe if we were to get that family party it would disclose many easy ways not row apparent of getting over our difficulties.
1323 I wish we had the late Lord Snowden as Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day. Your Lordships will remember that Lord Snowden went to the Hague and to some other foreign countries, and when they tried to "put it across us" he stood up to them. We should not owe money to any country in the world. We saved the world. We fought for the world—for nearly two years alone. And yet Egypt, for instance, wishes payment from us, with Alamein almost at the front door of Cairo! All these countries are now demanding money from us because we took certain things from them to save them from utter destruction. I should like to see immediately initiated the question: Who owes whom? I believe that when it is all worked out, the blood we have expended, the riches we have spent—of course for our own good but for the rest of the world as well—it will be generally agreed by the nations that we ourselves should receive a very large sum as our due.
I am going to borrow a word generally used by some trade unionists, and that is to "demand" things. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has thrown a little light to-day on some of this Bill, but in the other place the Lord President of the Council, so far as I can see, when he was pressed on the question which I am going to put, said that there was no answer. That is not the way to treat responsible members of Parliament, either in the other place or in your Lordships' House. I believe we have a right to know the answer to this question: To what purpose and how are these totalitarian, Hitler-like powers to be used? I feel so strongly about this, that nothing would induce me to vote either for the Bill or to remain in your Lordships' House and not vote. I should like to see a Division challenged on this Bill—I believe it would enhance the prestige of your Lordships' House—but I know it is not going to be done. Therefore, before this matter comes to be put to the question, I shall leave the House. I do not want to have on my conscience any responsibility, either directly or indirectly, for the passage of this Bill.
With regard to coal, I have a suggestion to make. The Government have set a target of 200 million tons—or 220 million tons; it does not matter, for both are entirely worthless. The "planning" of 1324 the past two years has produced the present chaos, The "planning" that is now proposed is synonymous with parsimony. We are to wear less, to eat less, and to spend less; and we are to produce more. Is that likely? There is no incentive anywhere. If the Government would set at this serious moment a high target of 400,000,000 tons of coal to be produced in the next year, and go out into the highways and by-ways of Europe, where plenty of people would be found willing to come and work in our mines, import displaced persons from Europe, and employ the Poles as the French have done, it would raise output to that level. They could give the miners a guarantee of full employment for a period of not less than five years. I believe that if the Government would put up that target they would reach it, because they would rouse such enthusiasm for the big thing. As to the question of the importation of foreigners, I was distressed to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that no decision had been arrived at with regard to the Poles and that no decision had been reached by the miners' leaders. I thought I saw signs of worry in Lord Pakenham——
I can assure the noble Lord that any worry of which I gave evidence was not due to the contents of my speech but simply to my unfortunate physiognomy.
§ LORD TEVIOT
I could never look upon the noble Lord and take that view of his appearance. It would, I believe, create in this country and in the world an enormous feeling of hope if, by some miracle, we could wake up in the morning and find that Mr. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister here and was followed by his team of intelligent men, to deal with the economic situation. I believe the whole world from East to West, from North to South, would say, "Thank God, we are at last going to have the British Government taking the lead"—instead of, I am afraid, a Government which is just tinkering with the situation. I have been, I hope, not altogether critical. I have tried to make certain constructive suggestions; and I would end with a paraphrase from a famous utterance of Mr. Churchill: "Never in the long history of Parliament have so few done so much harm so quickly to so many."
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the longer this debate goes on the more perplexed I am as to what this Bill exactly means and why it is necessary. I am quite unable to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, in making any constructive suggestions, because as the debate proceeds I doubt more and more whether the Bill is necessary. But the fact remains that this Bill has been produced and laid before Parliament partly as a first indication of what is going to be done in order to remedy this very serious state of affairs, and in that light I would like, if I may, to look at it. If one looks for an historical parallel to the Bill one has the choice of two occasions—1931, when an Act was passed which I think was called the National Economy Act (and there was another Act at the same time for the abandonment of the gold standard), and 1940, the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act. Those two Acts had this in common with each other: that they were both passed at a time when there was a very much greater measure of national unity than there is at present.
That brings me to my first doubt over this Bill—whether it is right or proper that any Bill of this sort containing such sweeping measures should be laid before Parliament when there is not anything like the same measure of national unity as there was on those two great occasions. As regards those two occasions, 1931 and 1940, so far as I can judge from the speech we have heard from the Lord Chancellor in this House and the speeches made in another place which I read, the parallel is intended to be that, as in 1940, the Bill is to be presented as a war-time measure rather than as a peace-time measure. I would like to consider that for one moment, because here I again doubt whether this is the right and proper method of presentation. I ought to admit that I have, perhaps quite wrongly, an instinctive aversion from too many Dunkirks and too many Battles of Britain. This is not the first we have had since the real Dunkirk and the real Battle of Britain, and I am not at all sure how far we ought to make a habit of making comparisons between our own domestic crises and those occasions when we were fighting the King's enemies, when many of our countrymen paid the supreme sacrifice. But perhaps I am over-sensitive on that point.
1326 May I therefore put it in another way? We can either look at this Bill, at this situation if you like, as the last stage or as the nearly last stage in the war and its consequences, or we can look at it as the beginning of a new chapter, the beginning of our facing up to our economic problems on a peace-time and not on a. war-time basis. For my own part, I believe that the peace-time approach is better than the war-time approach. I feel we can describe ourselves much more accurately now as being at the beginning of a new chapter than at the end of an old chapter. I feel that this Bill represents the beginning of a new chapter in the doings of His Majesty's Government. I find it very hard to convince myself that this Bill was part of the plans with which the Government came into office in 1945. I do not believe that: if one looked at the two gracious Speeches one 'world find anything to encourage one in that belief. But, apart from that, surely we are now at the beginning of a very long period of very difficult times. If in our discussions on this Bill we make it appear to the public that we think that we are at the end of one phase and that good times are just around the corner, instead of our being at the beginning of another very long and difficult phase when Party politics should be put aside and the greatest measure of national unity should be secured, then I think we are creating an impression which is some. distance from the truth.
For that reason, I feel that the Fill and the appeal with which it has been surrounded are rather too dramatic to be really businesslike. Perhaps quite wrongly I feel that it is not a very good plan to make these constant appeals to the nation to give an extra spurt, and so on and so forth. Anybody who has rowed in a racing boat would know perfectly well that if the captain of the boat constantly called on his fellow oarsmen to "give her ten" the race would rot be won by that boat and confidence would soon be lost in the captain. It seems to me that we are having these appeals and I begin to wonder, perhaps very wrongly, how much public relations have to do with appeals of this sort. One of these days, when times are quieter, it seems to me that it might be of profit to this House if we debated a Motion for Papers calling attention to the growth of 1327 the public relations service and its influence upon the conduct of public affairs. I feel that that would be justified if only from the circumstances surrounding this Bill: And for this reason: that, from what I have gleaned of the work of public relations services, there is always a tendency to make everything as dramatic as possible and to create as much news as possible. The taking of sensible decisions well in advance under quiet conditions capable of producing thought and in ordinary office hours is not usually news at all, whereas rush and hurry and doing things in the middle of the night or standing on your heads, if you like, is much more like news. Therefore, it seems to me that sometimes people yield to the temptation to create the appearance of the dramatic rather than possibly the less exciting methods of carrying on our business, the methods more likely to deliver the goods in the end. It may be entirely wrong that we should be debating this Bill so quietly in your Lordships' House. I wonder if we ought not to set about it differently, take the vote, if there is to be one, in the middle of the night and possibly adjourn to the bottom of a coal mine. I can only throw out suggestions.
However that may be, we come to the other objections to the Bill which I am not going to speak about in detail because my noble friend Lord Beveridge has described them so much more ably than I can. We recall the fact that neither the Bill nor the debates which have so far accompanied it give us any indication of what plans, if any, are to be produced in order to deal with the state of affairs which by common consent is before us. We are back again in fact, I think, at our old friend which we met and battled with in the Transport Bill—the plan to have a plan. I do not think that we have got any further except that in this Bill we have produced something so totalitarian—for the moment I am not dealing with the question whether the powers could be used or not; but there they are—that I do not think anybody in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy would have despised such powers had they been given them. But we have not got beyond that point, and, as we have not got beyond that point, I do not think it is unfair to look round and see what the previous powers which have 1328 been given by Parliament to the Executive have so far produced.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to mention a very popular show which was on many years ago in London. Mr. H. G. Pelissier put on a show called "The Follies" and in that show I remember that someone was talking about making a violin. This was said to be very easy to do, because all you had to do was to make the "S" holes first, and then put the violin together around them, and there it was. This Bill seems to have made the "S" holes very successfully, but I still do not know how you build the violin, and I wonder if the noble Lords opposite know that either. So we must judge of affairs as they are. Have the measures already taken by His Majesty's Government to deal with the crisis which has been coming on us for some months, as witness the debates in this House, given noble Lords on these Benches such confidence as to justify conferring still greater powers? I can only speak of things I know about. If I were to speak as an agricultural landlord for one moment, I would say that never in the twenty-five years that I have been concerned with such things have I had to go and beg a single bag of cement from my suppliers as I did last week-end. Before I leave agriculture, is it unfair to say that, although there have been plenty of opportunities, we are still confronted with those three blots on the agricultural plan, as I see them, those three drops of blood, as it were, on Bluebeard's key, which you wipe off in one Bill and which recur in another—the failure to deal with the Hobhouse Report on the housing of rural workers, the Ridley Report on rents as a whole, and that supreme nonsense, quite unrelated to actual farming, the tied cottage? There they are. They can be removed in an instant. But no.
Now let us look at industry. I am not a person to speak about industry like other members of this House, but I know for a fact that every time greater powers are taken, powers to switch allocations and priorities of raw materials from this job to that job, the unfortunate manufacturers of goods are kept in a state of conditional dither and uncertainty as to whether the suppliers for whom they have contracted to manufacture goods are going to have the priority taken 1329 away from them. And, if this Bill does anything it adds to that uncertainty and does not take away from it, and will not take away from it until the good intentions of this Bill are translated into concrete plans. It the deterioration in these matters, which I am sure is there, is any sign of what is going to happen if we pass this Bill, then I feel that, as matters get worse and more of these Bills are passed, so the immediate effect of this Bill will be to make matters worse and not better. I shall be only too pleased if I am proved to be wrong. But, taken by and large, I shall be very sorry to see this Bill go on the Statute Book. I shall be very sorry because I think it has been wrongly introduced in a war mentality. I shall be sorry because it removes the control of Parliament just at a time when one would have thought there was every necessity to strengthen it. And I shall be sorry because, so far as we have yet heard, it does not in itself herald any concrete plan to deal with the sad state of our affairs.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I feel, like many others in the House, that conscience compels me to register as briefly as I can my strong feelings. I remember, on the occasion of the action which this House was asked to take on the American loan, that there were many who had not the courage that Lord Wootton had, to express emphatically his plea that we should be better off not to accept that loan. To-day it would seem that most of us will associate ourselves with what has so clearly been said by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, that we are profoundly dissatisfied with the intentions expressed by the Government in order to meet this crisis. It would seem that we should do better, in our discussion, to confine ourselves to making suggestions as to what should be avoided in the future, rather than to making criticisms of what has been done or omitted in the. past. My noble friend Lord Beveridge laid emphasis on that point.
I suspect that when the debate on the Motion for the Second Reading to this Bill is analysed, it will be decided that a personal success has been attained by the Lord Chancellor. His pleasurable candour, disarming in its frankness, will have allayed many of the anxieties on the 1330 technical aspects of the Bill. That does not lessen the feelings that most of us have as to the inadequacy of the Government proposals. I want just to ease my conscience by emphasizing, as my noble friend Lord Teviot has just said, that a saving of £200,000,000, as suggested, does not go very far to bridge a gap of £600000,000. So much has been said on the economic aspects of the matter that there is little purpose in retracing the ground. But I would refer to just two points. One is, the anxiety that remains in relation to whether some gap exists which has not been blocked with regard to the convertibility clause, arid the other is miscalculations with regard to our exports.
In the discussions last week we had two outstanding contributions, one from the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, on the longer range problem, and one from Lord Trefgarne on the nearer problem. I do particularly want to associate myself with that aspect covered by those two speeches, particularly that of Lord Bruce, who speaks with such experience arid knowledge. He dealt with the longer rang problem, as to whether we really are going to find that our capacity is adequate to make sure that the long range gap will be bridged. The other speech was that of Lord Trefgarne, whose plea was that we are intending to bridge this gap by increasing our exports to all parts of the world. Those of us who have been in industry all our lives have a vivid recollection of the 1930's and the crisis of 1931. Would it have been sensible to think that we could increase our exports under those conditions? Of course, the, thing was, impossible. Lord Trefgarne made a particular point, however, as far as the United States was concerned. If, as has been prophesied by many speakers in another place, the United States is herself faced with difficult times in the future, she will not be a ready recipient of our exports.
There is the question of subsidies, which was referred to in another place with such emphasis by Sir John Anderson, an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. He laid stress on the fact that there should be a reduction in the amount spent on subsidies of food, and I will go as far as to say that I am sure my noble friend Lord Pakenham will agree that, in spite of the burdens of Income Tax, his Ministerial salary will assure him of such 1331 affluence that he needs not to be in the privileged position common to all of being able to buy wool apparel at the cost of the taxpayer. The sooner that that can be changed the better.
Equally, I feel that there is not sufficient in the recitals with regard to the requirements for this Bill. I do not think that enough has been said with regard to restrictive practices, whether by employers or workers. The Prime Minister, in his broadcast on Sunday night, referred to this matter in one sentence, and that related to the movement of workers. The handicap on production which results from restrictive practices is something which I suggest that the Government should review, since their limitation of some of these practices would do a great deal to increase production, which is the aim of all.
With regard to the American Loan many of us feel that, whatever is being clone now with regard to such things as films, tobacco and petrol, fantastic sums were spent on them last year. I am told that the expenditure for the year 1946, was at the rate annually: on American films, £17,000,000, on tobacco £44,000,000 and on petrol from £26,000,000 to £30,000,000. That expenditure could surely have been drastically reduced much earlier. A relatively small proportion of the loan was spent as it was intended to be spent, in getting re-conversion equipment from the United States to make our own industries more efficient. We should be much further along the road of saving ourselves by our own exertions if more had been spent in this way. I appeal to the Government to permit more generously the importation of essential equipment from the United States to make our own industries more efficient.
With regard to coal, I would like to give an illustration from the industry which I know best—that is the wool textile industry. The position is that we have had the Government pinning their faith to an increase of £60,000,000 in exports of textiles, and at the same time coal is not being provided to enable that to be accomplished. The coal allocation to-day is on the basis of 1946 consumption, but industrial activity to-day is substantially greater than it was in 1946, and the target for present production cannot be balanced against the coal allocations. Appeals have already been made by my noble friend 1332 Lord Llewellin and others for a delaying of the Government's nationalization programme. Long residence in the United States has convinced me that one thing which is going to make it difficult for us if we have to seek concessions from the United States Government, whether in respect of existing undertakings or of matter, in the future, will be adherence to the present nationalization programme. Continuance by the Government of the carrying out of that programme is calculated to do us great harm, so far as the United States are concerned.
I will not weary the House with my own views, but I am going to ask your Lordships' indulgence while I read two quotations from the' American Press, The New York Times says that Britain isguilty either of having made a serious miscalculation in setting up her schedule of successive annual export 'targets,' or of failing to provide the political leadership required to live up to that table of expectations—or both.The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, a journal of great influence in the Middle West, says thatit's probable that there will be strong opposition in this country to the further expenditure of American funds in support of a system of government planning which has resulted in such an outstanding failure.For that reason the Government, as has been suggested by other noble Lords, should postpone seeking the fulfilment of their aspirations, their ideologies, doctrines and wishful thinking with regard to their long-range policy. Particularly, I think, should they postpone it with regard to the nationalization of the steel industry, because if the Government embark on manufacturing steel consumer and durable goods of which the Americans are themselves large exporters, inescapably that will bring us up against the most bitter competition of the United States, the very source from which we seek to get concessions, present or future. In any case, I cannot see why the Government want to nationalize everything. To a minimum of 5o per cent. they are partners in all industry now.
There is one further question which I wish to put before I sit down. Unfortunately, the Lord Chancellor is momentarily not present. I must, therefore, put it to whoever is going to represent him. I wish to refer especially to paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 1 of the 1333 Bill, which states that one of the purposes is "generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use …" It has been said by a previous speaker this afternoon, and not resisted by the Lord Chancellor, who was present at the time, that that would include the whole man-power and woman-power of the nation. The question I particularly wish to ask is whether an assurance can be given that this will not in any way result in an order or a regulation being made the effect of which would be to restrict the free movement of men or women to any country to which they might desire to emigrate. I put that question because—and I am sure that other noble Lords will agree—this is a matter which is causing great anxiety among very many ex-Servicemen and others whose ambition it is to emigrate—to follow the footsteps of their forefathers who emigrated and built up our Empire. I seek an assurance that it is not the intention under that paragraph to set up any impediment to the free movement of any who seek to emigrate.
§ 5.58 p.m.
My Lords, I rise for a few moments, as one of the elected Scots' representatives, privileged to sit in your Lordships' House, to make a solemn protest against this Bill as being unnecessary and a surrender of our hard-won liberties. The dangers inherent in the Bill have been well set out previously in this debate by another noble Lord—like myself an independent member of your Lordships' House—Lord Vansittart, in illustrating what occurred not long ago in another country. He saw the tragedy from the angle of the Foreign Office. I saw it from the angle of Weimar; but our conclusions were the same.
We Scots are few in numbers but we will fight as ever before for freedom. Our freedom, by the measure of this Bill, is being gravely challenged. More than that, it is being removed. When the Scots Parliament sat in the Abbey of Arbroath in 1320, a. desperate situation faced our forbears and a plea was addressed to the Leader of Christendom in which we find these words:For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honour, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life.We have to fight an economic Bannock 1334 burn. Before that historic battle The Bruce, addressing the Scots Army, said, in words of our National Anthem:See approach proud Edward's power, Chains and slavery.This is a "chains and slavery" Bill. I beg leave to oppose L.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, your Lordships' House last week had a most interesting debate for two days on the general economic situation. There was a considerable measure of agreement as to the causes of our situation. There was complete agreement in all quarters as to its gravity; meantime, time is running on and our credit balances are running out. The Government have two powerful antagonists facing this battle: one is the calendar and the other is arithmetic. The impression left upon our minds by the declarations of the Government, in Parliament and out of it, is that what they say amounts to this: "We do not know what to do, but we are absolutely determined on doing it." Hence this Bill. And if the preamble of the Bill were candidly to state what its purposes are ought, in truth, to run in some such terms as the following:Whereas His Majesty's Ministers have no adequate plan for dealing with the present grave economic situation but are under the necessity of impressing the nation with an appearance of energy and resourcefulness, now therefore be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty by and with the advice and consent …and so forth.
I must say that this is not the explanation given to us by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. He put the matter on quite other grounds. He told us that the Bill was intended partly as a measure to clear away legal doubts that had arisen as to the powers of the Government under existing Statutes and partly to extend the purposes that they were authorized by law to pursue. But when the Government are asked what the new definition of "purposes" is intended to include, and for what reason it is inserted in the Bill, they resolutely refuse to give any answer. It is permitted in this House to quote ministerial statements made during debates in another place, and I would quote a few words used yesterday by the Lord President of the Council who was in charge of the Bill. 1335 Answering a speaker from the other side of the House, he said:The real point he raised was, first, 'What are you going to do with this provision?'"—That is the much-criticized paragraph (c) in subsection (1) of Clause 1—My answer is the same answer as I gave on Second Reading, that is, no answer. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!]"—which is not surprising—All I have got to show is that there is a prima facie case for this paragraph in the Bill.The right honourable gentleman went on:It is a reasonable thing for which to ask, and if I were to set out in a speech all the purposes for which this provision is to be used, I should at once circumscribe the action of His Majesty's Government under the Bill.To that an honourable Member replied: "Give us one," and Mr. Morrison's answer was: "I am not going to do so." That is where we stand, and that is the full extent of the information which has been given to us. All this causes a considerable measure of anxiety. I am not an alarmist. I try to speak in no exaggerated terms, but the anxiety arises from the fact that the Government have been engaged in a large programme of Socialization which they have been intending to extend further in the coming session of Parliament; the anxiety is whether this Bill is worded in such wide terms as to make it possible for the present Government to use it as the engine for carrying that policy into effect.
This anxiety springs from the very constitution of the Party whose representatives are now in office, for the constitution of the Labour Party has as its first purpose:(1) To organize and maintain in Parliament and in the country a Parliamentary Labour Partyand then later, in paragraph (4)To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of every industry or service.This is not merely a document of long ago, passed and perhaps forgotten; this is reprinted in the Report of the Labour Party Conference every year. And the anxiety arises from the fact that there 1336 may be the temptation for the present Government, perhaps under pressure from a section of their supporters, to use the crisis, if it became more severe, as a justification for taking further measures in that direction.
August is a dangerous month for crises. We remember August, 1914. I remember very vividly the crisis of August, 1931, and it was in August, 1939, when war became certain. While he would be foolish indeed who would seek to prophesy the course of events, no one would deny that it is at least possible that our present economic situation might be greatly worsened, perhaps owing to events not occurring here but in the United States of America. And if the power existed in the hands of the Government to carry out some sweeping measure, allegedly in the interests of economic progress and recovery of the nation, the temptation might be too strong to be resisted. There are some who would wish to profit by such a crisis to upset the Government, and I spoke in deprecation of that when I introduced a Motion a week ago, but there are others who might be tempted to seek to profit by the crisis in order to carry out the whole programme of their Party quickly, by whatever means lay at their hands.
They may be acting on that most fatal of all doctrines, that the end justifies the means, the doctrine which will prove to be the ruin of the Communist Party—who are the modern Machiavellians—and has brought to destruction every movement in every country through every age that has practised it. In particular, it has been stated by leading members of the Government that they propose in the next Session to press on with the nationalization of iron and steel. The question we specifically wish to ask is whether there is anything in this Bill which would confer fresh powers on the Government to carry out a measure of that sort without passing independent legistlation.
I happened to listen this morning to the eight o'clock news on the radio, and there I heard that in the later stages of the sitting in another place the Lord President of the Council had given an assurance; in answer to a question, that that would not be so, and that there was nothing in this Bill which would be used (I do not know whether he said "could" or 1337 "would" be used) to effect the nationalization of any particular industry. We have not yet had the Hansard Report of the debate; therefore I would ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, if, when he replies, he would repeat the assurance which it is alleged has been given in those terms—I am dependent on my memory of what was said on the radio as to the exact words used. If he would do so it would relieve our very real anxiety lest these powers should be used for that particular purpose.
There is another question I should like to address to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. It relates to the question whether the measures taken under this Bill, when it is passed, can be the subject of what in our strange Parliamentary jargon is called a negative Prayer: that is to say, an Address asking His Majesty to disallow or to revoke an Order in Council which has been made or is to be made in draft—I am not seeking to define it in precise legal language. Here again a statement was made in the other place by the Attorney-General, who used these words:If we regarded paragraph (c) in isolation, and apart from the wide powers which already exist in the 5945 Act, paragraph (c) would contemplate a pretty wide purpose for the exercise of the existing powers and regulations. It is a wide purpose, and it is intended to he. It is a purpose not dissimilar from, although not quite as wide as, the power which was conferred on the Government by the Act which was passed unanimously by Parliament in 1940.Now comes the point to which I wish to draw special attention:But wide though the purpose is, its exercise is, of course, subject always to the important safeguard in case it should be misused, of the Parliamentary check by way of negative Prayer.That would be very reassuring. But my noble friend, Lord Beveridge, gave some reasons for thinking that that might not apply as widely as was suggested. Any regulations made under the 1945 Act are still in force, long past the period when a negative Prayer in either House would be admissible, and if any fresh action taken by the Government were made by regulations under those Orders in Council, would they be liable to a Motion in either House praying for annulment? That is a question I would wish to address to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. As he would naturally desire that the assurance given by the 1338 Attorney-General to the other House should be implemented, if there is any doubt whether any measures taken under this paragraph in the new Bill are subject to the procedure of the negative Prayer, I should like to ask whether he would move an Amendment to-morrow to put the matter right. It would be very difficult for any of us who have not the expert assistance of Government draftsmen to be sure that cur Amendment was in the right form. As what I am asking would be merely carrying out the avowed and declared intention of the Government, I hope your Lordships will agree that it is not improper that I should venture to suggest to the Lord Chancellor that if the wording of the Bill does not fully carry out their intentions the Government themselves should take the initiative in making the necessary Amendment.
Another point—and it is my only other point—relates to a suggestion made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on behalf of noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench. He urged that Parliament should not adjourn for two months if——
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I beg his Lordship's pardon—that this House should riot adjourn for the proposed period of rather more than two months in view of the fact that some great crisis might arise, that the Government might be taking very drastic action, and that some of us, or many in this House, and many people in the country perhaps, might object to that action. The Government itself, as his Lordship pointed our, would have no reason for summoning Parliament in order that Parliament should oppose an action which the Government themselves were proposing to take. He suggested that in those circumstances we ought to adjourn for a period of no longer than three weeks, in order that at the end of three weeks, if no such contingency had arisen, the House should sit for a formal session and straightway adjourn for another three weeks; but if, on the contrary, any considerable body of this House thought it essential that there should be debates in Parliament, we should, as a House, meet and discuss those matters of grave moment. For my own part. I should support that proposal. It seems quite reasonable, and I cannot see that His Majesty's Government need have any 1339 objection to it. What the other place may do is, of course, not our concern, and it would be disrespectful on our part to make any suggestion with regard to it. But our own House is within our own control, and for that reason we may be well advised to adopt the suggestion made by the noble Viscount.
For the rest, we on these Benches shall not be disposed to refuse a Second Reading of the Bill which has been passed by the other place, but we must make it quite clear that this House, as indeed the nation as a whole, will keep the most careful and continuous watch on the mode in which its provisions will be applied.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, on the last occasion on which I had the privilege of addressing your Lordships, during the debate on the economic situation, I said that I hoped and thought that that would be the last important debate of the Session. That, unfortunately, has turned out not to be true. In the last days and almost the last hours of the Session, before the Summer Recess, the Government have faced Parliament with a measure of a most controversial character and with very wide implications, and I feel bound, with all deference to noble Lords opposite, to protest most strongly that legislation of this character should have been thrown at us at the last minute with no proper time for considering it. It is not in accordance with the traditions of Parliament. If this legislation was necessary it should have been brought forward weeks ago.
I understand from what the Lord Chancellor has said, and from what was said by other Government speakers in another place, that they do not regard this as an important Bill. I think it was suggested that it was a merely technical measure—the Lord Chancellor called it "a little Bill," and he said that the Government already have extensive powers under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. I gather that this Bill was not intended by the Government, and is not intended by them, to widen those powers, but merely to apply the existing powers to new purposes necessitated by the new circumstances of the present emergency. As I 1340 understand it, I think that is a fair statement of the Government's case. That is their contention and, on the face of it, it sounds very innocuous indeed.
But, surely, this differentiation between power and the purposes for which power is used is a very strange and legalistic one. It may seem valid to the Government, but to the ordinary man I should have thought it must seem that, by widening the purposes for which powers are used, you in fact automatically extend those powers themselves. If I might take a very simple analogy, under the Common Law of England the justiciary may condemn a man to death by hanging for murder. That is a power. If that power to hang were to be extended to cover, say, opposition to the Government, would anyone contend that the power of the law had not been extended? It seems to me—and I believe it would to any ordinary, normal man—that the power and the purposes for which that power is used are not two different things at all but are merely different facets of the same thing. If you extend the purposes for which you use power, you automatically extend the power which you are giving the Government. To attempt to argue anything else, I should have thought, was a mere juggling with words.
In this present Bill the extended purposes for which the powers of the 1945 Act are required are, as your Lordships know, incorporated in three categories under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Those categories are what may be vulgarly called the "guts of the Bill"; they are really the only thing in the Bill. Paragraphs (a) and (b) seem to me—I speak personally—comparatively harmless. They relate to certain spheres of the public economy which are of vital importance at the present time. They are clearly defined and, to that extent, limited. I should have thought that it might quite clearly be argued that they were not unjustifiable. The Government made it clear in the economic debate last week (the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, himself made it clear) that they wished to increase the productivity of agriculture, of industry and of commerce. Those propositions received, I think the Government will agree, the general approval of your Lordships' House. The only doubt was as to whether the measures proposed 1341 were adequate. I should have thought it not unfair that the Government should ask that, for the comparatively limited spheres of paragraphs (a) and (b), the powers already granted in the 1945 Act should be extended for the purposes for which they are now needed. I do not personally complain very much of that.
Equally, the Government, as your Lordships will remember, stressed the importance of redressing the balance of trade. Personally, as your Lordships know, I have not very much confidence in the efficiency of Government Departments taking over from experts the conduct of our foreign trade. I know the Government think that public officials do it much better, but the results hardly seem to coincide with the anticipations of Ministers in that respect. Noble Lords on this side of the House believe that it is far better to leave these matters, so far as possible, to those who understand them. Therefore, on matters of that kind—redressing the balance of trade, and so on—I should think that most of us would agree that what is needed, broadly speaking, is less interference and not more interference; and for that no additional powers, either under this Bill or any other Bill, are necessary. At the same time, to be quite fair, no doubt it must he said that in the situation in which this country is at present some controls are still necessary. I believe it is, at least, arguable that Parliament might fairly grant to the Government—who, after all, have the responsibility of our affairs, until the country kicks them out, which personally I hope will be fairly soon—powers to apply the existing powers of the 1945 Act for a strictly limited and defined purpose.
I feel that we must look at this Bill with an objective eye. There has been a great deal of political heat raised on both sides over it, but I think we must try and look at this Bill objectively. Had this Bill been confined merely to paragraphs (a) and (b), I do not think it would have aroused the opposition that it has aroused. It is on paragraph (c) that the main controversy is raised. That is the paragraph which I think Mr. Churchill called "a blank cheque." It gives powers to the Government to apply regulations for very wide purposes indeed. It has been quoted so often this afternoon that I will not weary your Lordships by quoting it 1342 again. In any case, I think it may be described as "a blank cheque" with a vengeance. It enables the Government to apply these powers to what the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has said are certain extended purposes. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the Bill gives them powers of a very strong order. It may be that the Government do not intend to use these powers in a very extravagant manner. We have had the noble and learned Viscount's assurance as to that.
If I may say so to the noble and learned Viscount, he made so very balanced a speech this afternoon that I thought the position he occupied on the Woolsack, exactly half way between the two sides of the House, had a symbolic significance. I am quite certain that if the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, were in the saddle, accompanied by some of his more responsible colleagues, we need not fear as to the practical application of this Bill. But we are bound to ask ourselves this question: Are the Government in reality masters in their own House? Personally, after the events of recent months and weeks, I gravely doubt it. They have a very strong and extremist tail, and one knows very well from what has been said in another place that that tail interprets paragraph (c) in a very different manner horn the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. In fact, it would be almost unbelievable to anyone arriving from Mars that the noble kind learned Viscount's speech and, say, Mr. Crossman's speech applied to the same thing. In his speech in another place on August 8, Mr. Cross-man, the Member for Coventry, did not describe this as "a little Bill." On the contrary, he described it, as has been said this afternoon, as "the turning of the ways," whatever that means, and as a mandate for full Socialist planning. He added at the end of his speech: "This is not a question of dictatorship. This is inevitable in the modern world.
Those are, indeed, rather different words from those used by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack this afternoon. They might well mean, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, said to us in the very moving and powerful speech he made this afternoon, that if Mr. Crossman and men of that type—and there are several cantering about another place at the present time—had their way 1343 it would mean, in fact, the end of Parliamentary government as we know it in this country, and the substitution for Parliamentary government of sectional dictatorship, and sectional dictatorship by a minority of the elected. Can we be absolutely certain that, however moderately minded the head of this dog may be, it will not be wagged by the tail? I do not think we can. We have had some very disturbing examples of this in recent months. There was, as your Lordships remember, the question of military service, and the reduction of the period of service from eighteen months to twelve months. Everybody knows—there was-hardly any secret made of it—that that was forced upon the Government Front Bench by the more belligerent Back Benchers. I do not think any secret was made of that. The Minister of Defence let the cat out of the bag, and he tried to pop it in again by the second statement. There is no doubt that Parliamentary pressure and Party pressure was brought upon the Government, and the Government gave way to that pressure.
Noble Lords will be able to remember many other instances of that kind. Can we be certain that the same thing will not happen again as a result of pressure from Labour Party meetings which appear to be going on in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster at almost every hour of the day? It is quite clear that the Government themselves—that is to say, the Cabinet—do not yet know, as has been pointed out by many speakers, what they intend to do with the powers for which they are asking in this Bill. I will not quote the Lord President's remark again, because it has already been quoted several times this afternoon; but the gist of it is that they have at present no policy and no plans. They have—I think the Lord President's words were—"no preconceived notion," which is a more euphemistic way of saying the same thing.
But if the Cabinet do not know how they intend to use the powers given to them in this Bill, the more extreme section of their supporters know perfectly well what use they mean to make of them. They mean to use them, so far as they are able, to destroy Parliamentary democracy, and to substitute, in effect, something in the nature of a dictatorship or, at any rate, to push the leaders of their 1344 Party just about as far as they can along that road. Is this a time, as the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, said, to give the Government a blank cheque to take the control of our affairs out of the hands of Parliament? I cannot believe that it is; and I think that noble Lords opposite would themselves do well to take full account of what the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, said about the Weimar Constitution.
One always assumes that what has happened in other countries will not happen in one's own, but it is not unwise, when one is in power, to take note of what has happened to other Governments in the past. If it is suggested to me that the same powers which the Government are seeking now were asked and given by Parliament to the then Government in 1940, I would answer—if it is necessary to give an answer to that—that those powers were given to a National Government, representing all sections of the population and all political opinions; and, as we all know, a Government of that character, if it is widely enough composed, contains its own automatic brake against extreme action, either by the Right or by the Left. This Bill is brought in by a Party Government, a Government not representing the majority of the electorate, and carrying out a policy of an extremely controversial character. I am sure, therefore, that noble Lords will agree that that is not quite the same thing as was done in 1940.
Surely the right course, in circumstances such as this, is for the Government to ask Parliament for powers, if they need them, for certain clearly defined purposes. That is what they do under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) of Clause r of this Bill. If it turns out that those powers are not adequate, then is the time for them to return to Parliament and ask for further powers, and justify them in debate. If they could prove that those powers were genuinely needed for the welfare of the country, I am quite sure they would not receive a negative response from any Party in this House or in another place. That is the constitutional course. That is the course which, as your Lordships know, we have followed, with only slight sporadic interferences, for the last seven centuries. It saved this country from civil strife and disorder; it has made 1345 our Parliamentary system the admiration of the world; it has preserved our liberties against dictatorship either by the Court or by the barons. I really do not think we ought, by any form of legislation—and this applies to noble Lords opposite, as well as to those who sit on these Benches—to consider sacrificing those liberties to give dictatorial powers to the sort of pocket Hitlers who are now attempting, if I may say so, to capture the Labour Party machine.
I am quite certain that that is not the intention of the more responsible members of the Government, any more than it is the intention of those of us who happen to belong to other Parties. But it is time for those moderate and responsible people to take their stand. I said something of the same sort on the debate on the Address at the beginning of this Parliament, and I was rather scoffed at by Government speakers. But, honestly, the moderate men, unless they are firm and strong always tend to be hustled and bustled out of their position by the more irresponsible extremists. This Bill gives power to the extremists to take unconstitutional action, and they will certainly take advantage of that power unless they are firmly stepped upon by the more moderate and more sensible members of their Party. Therefore, I do urge upon this Government and upon the whole House, that on this Bill, as with all other legislation which is likely to come before Parliament, Parliament must be earnest and determined to maintain its constitutional powers over legislation.
I have tried to be moderate this afternoon, and to make it clear that I do not think what the Government are asking for in this Bill is legitimate. Parliament must maintain its constitutional power to watch over, and if necessary to amend, that legislation. It is, therefore, for that reason that, with great deference, I would commend to the whole House the proposal of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, which he made in the debate this afternoon, arid which he made with my full approval. I would commend that to all noble Lords, because it seems to me exactly to meet the requirements of the situation. Do not let us—and I say this to noble Lords who sit on this side of the House—oppose this Bill on the Second Reading. Let us allow the Government to introduce such proposals as seem to 1346 them appropriate to deal with the difficult situation which we all know exists to-day. But let us put in the Motion for the Adjournment for the summer recess a provision that this House at any rate shall not adjourn itself for nearly three months, but shall meet after three weeks to consider any Order that may have been enacted by the Government and decide whether or not, in our view, it is in the interests of the country.
If there is nothing necessary for us to discuss—and very likely that will be the case—then the meeting will be merely formal, arid we can adjourn for a further period. But it does seem to me that there is a vital obligation on us to make ourselves available in case we may be needed. Only so, I suggest, is it possible for us to maintain the authority of Parliament over the executive. If the otter House is not willing to take such a course, that, as the noble Viscount:, Lord Samuel, said just now, is entirely their affair and it would be a great impertinence on our part to comment on it in any way. But we in this House must regard ourselves as trustees of the liberties of the British people. And I am quite certain that we shall all, in whatever part of the House we sit, conceive it to be our duty to do what we can to see that no step is taken which is detrimental to the country's welfare while Parliament is in recess. Unless, therefore, a better alternative is produced of achieving the same result, we on this side of the House propose to stand by the proposal which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, put to your Lordships this afternoon, and I hereby give notice that we shall table such a Motion when the Motion for the Adjournment comes before the House.
I hope that it will be agreed by your Lordships that I have tried this afternoon to speak in no controversial tone. I e o not believe this is a time for unnecessary controversy; it will do our country no good, either at home or abroad. I know that the Opposition in another place moved the rejection of this Bill on the Second Reading, and I myself fully recognize the strength of their preoccupations, which certainly have not been allayed by the debates which have taken place during the passage of the Bill through that House. But personally do not propose to recommend that course to noble Lords this afternoon. I do not 1347 like the Bill, if 1 may say so, any better than the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, does, though I am rather sorry to have to speak in such very strong words. But I believe that that is not a case for the rejection of the Bill by your Lordships' House. After all, it was only last week in this House, in the debate on the economic situation, that we urged upon the Government greater activity; and we cannot surely logically at one moment tax the Government with not doing enough and at the next moment refuse them any additional facilities to enable them to do more. What we can do, and what in my view we must do, is to ensure that they submit all orders made under this Bill, or regulations for particular purposes in detail, to the decision of Parliament, whose servants they are. That, we can and must require, and that is the course which I should have thought would be acceptable to them. At any rate, by their readiness to welcome it I am certain they will be judged both in this country and by the world.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, we have had a very interesting discussion on this Bill, and at least we can say this: that though I am afraid the advice of the Walrus has been taken very much in that we have talked of many things, we have managed on the whole to keep a good deal nearer the point than some other people I know; and we have managed to keep there without any undue heat or undue controversy. For that I am grateful. I would like to deal with some of the misgivings expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and I would say this: please do not consider the Bill as though it were the first essay in this sort of thing. The position is this. There is in force now an Act of Parliament of 1945. That Act of 1945 authorized the continuance of certain Defence Regulations. They continue under that Act for five years from that date. No further Defence Regulations can be made. I do not think that is always realized, but it is the fact.
It is not possible to make any further Regulations; all that can be done is to keep to those existing Regulations. If it is desired to apply these Regulations to any particular set of circumstances it would generally have to be done by an 1348 order—that is, by a subsidiary instrument. The Act of 1945 provides that that subsidiary instrument must be laid. It is the fact, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, correctly stated, that we are now hopelessly out of time for praying against the Regulations. No one did so. There was an Order in Council; everybody knew all about it, and nobody prayed against the Regulations. The time for praying against them has now passed. But I repeat, that if it is desired to apply those Regulations to any particular set of circumstances, it would be done by subordinate instrument, and that instrument has to be laid. And against that subordinate instrument a Prayer may be made.
Let me give your Lordships an illustration. I have already referred to Regulation 55, which is the Regulation concerning the general control of industry. The words of that regulation are "A competent authority … may by order provide." Your Lordships will notice that it is done by order. If the order is an order merely referring to some individual you would not lay; but if it is an order which, by any stretch of imagination, is analogous to an Act of Parliament it would be necessary to lay such an order. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, asked me a question about the Bank of England. The answer is this, that none of these Regulations in any way applies to the Bank of England, and there is no power to make any new Regulation. A fortiori you cannot make an order applying to the Bank of England under any Regulation. We have received under the Act of 1945 vast powers set out in that book; and we are told by the Act of 1945 the purposes for which we may use these powers.
Those purposes, be it observed, are not purposes which, speaking generally and broadly, can be decided in the Courts at all, for the reason that the noble Lord understands. It is a question of the Minister putting his hand on his heart in the privacy of his own room and saying: "I am doing it for this, that, or the other purpose, being one of the specified purposes." When it is realized, for the reasons I have given, that there is a genuine doubt about the extent of those purposes, then surely the Minister, as a conscientious man, ought to come to Parliament and say: "This doubt has arisen and therefore I am not going to stretch 1349 these powers myself; I come to you who laid down the purposes, tell you of this doubt, and ask you to extend the purposes."
So far from that being a totalitarian frame of mind, I do not think we have received the praise which we assuredly deserve. I am not an expert on totalitarianism, but I believe that totalitarian people do not stick at trifles. If they can satisfy themselves by simply saying: "Well, never mind; I can use these powers given for certain purposes anyway, and whether it is for this purpose or for anything else, I will use the powers." The Government, however, have come back with the Bill, to put ourselves frankly before Parliament. We have stated the difficulty and we have said that in view of it we must have extended powers. It is, of course, a fact that by extending purposes you do extend powers in this sense: that you enable yourself to use powers, because otherwise you would not be able to use them. But it is important to observe the distinction between purposes and powers. I think the illustration which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, gave was not a happy one. At the present time there is power to hang for certain offences. If you were to extend that, and were to hang for all sorts of other offences—I think the noble Marquess suggested being critical of the Government—that would undoubtedly extend the powers; and the analogy would be altering these Regulations. That we cannot do and do not want to do.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hesitate to differ from the noble and learned Viscount, but hanging is the same thing for whatever purpose it is done. It is all the same to the "hangee"! The only difference is the purpose for which this penalty is exacted. I cannot see that there is any extension of principle. It is an exact analogy with what the Government are doing in the matter of the extension of these powers.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot agree that it is an analogy at all. If so, it would be an analogy extending the things in this book, and that is what we cannot do.
The noble Marquess was good enough to refer to the fact that there is some small significance in the fact that the 1350 Woolsack is in the centre of the House. It is quite true that I am one of those who would very much like, at this time of crisis and difficulty, to have rallying round me the support of all the people. in this country, all sections and all classes, all determined to do the best they could. Like the noble Marquess, I am no economist; I only know that economists are very plausible gentlemen who always differ from each other. The only way out of our difficulty to-day is to get increased productivity. I think it is the case that everyone in the community ought to contribute to that productivity. Having said that, I want to register my respectful protest about the suggestion that I very often hear, and hear made in the utmost good faith by your Lordships, and that is this: " If you want our help, just for the time being stop your projects of nationalization. Just carry on arid let things go along. Remove these controls, stop making utility furniture and let everybody go out for themselves." That is your Lordships' conviction.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
But, on the other hand, it is not fair to ask us who believe something quite different, to put our ideas into cold storage and to accept your ideas, and then to say. "Now see how friendly and impartial we can be." Your Lordships must also advance and see what you can contribute towards our programme if you want u to do that. That is by the way. The noble Marquess said that he regretted that there should be unnecessary controversy. I cannot help saying that 1 think the tone and temper of the discussions on this Bill have not advanced that harmony for which I, as your Lordships. know, personally stand. I think it a little hard that, after what was said last night and on similar occasions about this Bill, I should receive admonition—I quite agree it was in the friendliest way, but still admonition—about the desirability of my Party always being sweetly reasonable. Before you throw out the beam in the other fellow's eye, look and see if it is in your own.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It was not the noble Marquess who said that. There are one or two other main points with which I want to deal. I was asked about the iron and steel industry and whether we were or were not going to use the powers under the existing legislation to nationalize iron and steel. Let me say emphatically that I do not know what Mr. Morrison said at eight o'clock this morning; I was not there; but I am quite certain that he would have said this: "It would be grossly improper to use these Defence Regulations which were entrusted to us by Parliament for a wholly different purpose, to carry out a major scheme of nationalizing that or any other industry." So it would be. But, be it observed, the powers existing to-day enable a controller to be appointed to any business and, having been appointed, the controller can then take over the shares of that business. Therefore we have had for the last two years, or nearly two years, the power to do it in that hole-and-corner way. When we decide to nationalize an industry, we shall come to Parliament with a straightforward Bill and say exactly what we propose to do. I should think it grossly dishonest to use these powers, which are meant to apply to individual difficulties, to foist upon the country a major measure of that sort, without seeking Parliamentary approval.
The other important question was whether this House should or should not adjourn for the long vacation. I say quite frankly that I had not known that that point was going to be discussed and I had not considered it, but I am very ready to meet the noble Lord and discuss the suggestion and see what difficulty there may be in regard to it. I do not know about this, but it is my impression that we have never before acted in a different way from the other House. However, I suppose there is no reason why we should not do so if we so desire. It is a matter about which we might have some discussion.
Then there was much criticism about the absence of the plan which we are supposed to have. This is really not the occasion to discuss this. This is a Bill to remove a difficulty which has arisen in regard to the possible inadequacy of powers. When you go on a dangerous voyage or when you are likely to be beset 1352 by wild animals, whether two-legged or four-legged, you take a weapon with you; and if you are asked why you take that weapon, the answer is, "To guard against all sorts of dangers which may arise." We are taking powers in this way to guard against difficulties and dangers which may arise in the forthcoming months.
The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, referred to many other matters, such as utility furniture, exports, and so on. I feel that it is absolutely essential that the Government should have the power, the absolute power, to control what is being made and where it is going. If we can, as we generally can, get the good will and the consent of industry, then there is no need to exercise our powers. Our powers are there, and the fact that our powers are there is the best guarantee that we shall not have to use them. To Lord Vansittart's observations I pay, as all of us always do, the greatest attention. Directly the noble Lord sees me beginning to grow like one of Hitler's satellites, if he will tell me privately I will watch my step even more carefully than I do today!
The noble Lord, Lord Kershaw, in a most interesting and authoritative speech, referred to the question of direction of labour. I am speaking on the spur of the moment about this and I have no knowledge about it. Personally I confess that I dislike and distrust directing labour if I can possibly avoid it, because though you can take a horse to the water you cannot make him drink. The danger seems to me that if you direct labour you may not get good work. But I do think it is intolerable, for instance, that there should be a large number of young people working in the "Pools" whilst the textile industries are lacking labour. I believe everybody would agree with me there, and I think, regrettable though this necessity may be, it is a matter which obviously will have to be considered. I cannot say more than that. I do not know more than that. But obviously one must not shrink from considering this very serious matter just because of the not unnatural healthy prejudice which we all have against it. There are times—I am not suggesting that this is an analogy—when people have to leave a ship and get into a lifeboat under the command of one of the ship's officers, and it does not matter whether you bring the bottle 1353 of water or the biscuits; you will properly be called upon to give up your bottle of water or your biscuits for the common good, and you will be told to take your turn at the oars and work as hard as you can in conjunction with the others. It is surely right that whenever our country is in difficulty the Government of the day should have the right to call upon all sections of the community to contribute of their best.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am coming to that. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, made an interesting speech. He criticized us for having no plan and then, in almost the next breath, he said that we were puffed up with our plans to such an extent that we would not listen to anybody else. He gave us some plans of his own. He longed for Mr. Snowden to be back; he hoped that Mr. Churchill would be Prime Minister to-morrow and that we should get 400,000,000 tons of coal next year. As I listened to him, I wondered why it was not a substantially larger target.
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, criticized us and said he wanted to know what are the plans. He said that the agricultural plan had three blots on it, which he then proceeded to develop in a most interesting speech—albeit some way removed from this Bill—and I am afraid that the noble Viscount will have to address further observations in regard to that matter to the Minister in charge of agriculture. But he did say one thing which is very much my concern. He said that this Bill removed the control of Parliament. I cannot understand what the noble Viscount meant. I do not know what Parliamentary control has been removed. I have devoted a good deal of time to the study of this Bill and, quite honestly, I have not the least idea what he means.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
If I may interrupt the noble and learned Viscount for a moment, surely the control of Parliament is removed whenever a subject is a matter of an Order and not of legislation in Parliament. That surely is an argument which has been used many times in this House; that is what I meant.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is done by the 1945 Act, and that is fie position under which we are living today. The noble Viscount's proposition is that this Bill removes the control of Parliament. This Bill, however, leaves the control of Parliament just where it was before the Bill was introduced; that is to say, under the 1945 Act.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The powers under the Bill are not extended. The purposes are extended, and the purposes are not subject to control, either by this House or by the Courts, because the Minister merely has to say for what purpose he is going to use the powers. If the noble Lord will consider it, I am sure he will come to the conclusion that there is no existing control which is removed by this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, asked me a question about emigration. If only the noble Lord had communicated wit a me beforehand I might have been able to give an answer, but I do not think A is very near this question, and I cannot give an answer, because I do not know. However, from what I do know, I would say, quite frankly, that I think it almost inconceivable that we should stop emigration. After all, these people are going to emigrate to the Dominions, and if they want to go and if the Dominions want them, are we to say to the Dominions that they must not have them? That would be a poor return to the Dominions for al the help and assistance they are giving to us. I cannot say more than that. I cannot give the noble Lord any undertaking at the present time, but I think he need not be unduly worried.
That then, my Lords, is this Bill. I claim, and I maintain, that in coming to Parliament as we have done we have done the right thing. We do not want any further argument or difficulty about the facilities which enable us to use the powers. The Attorney-General in another place, in his forceful and I thought correct speeches, tried to put this matter quite plainly. I find myself, and it is only fair to say if, in complete agreement with the Attorney-General in spite of the fact that he was said to be talking "stuff." I can only say I thought it 1355 very good stuff, and if I could remember it I would gladly incorporate it in my speech.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
You had better ask the Attorney-General himself that: I really do not know. I will state my opinion to your Lordships. But whether the Bill is unnecessary or not, the point really is that a genuine doubt, a real doubt, has arisen. Surely it is only sensible to take steps to clear away that doubt. With regard to paragraph (c) it seems to me, with due respect to the noble Marquess, that paragraphs (a) and (b) would not be enough. Those paragraphs—to which he does not take any objection, I think—would leave you in this position. You may be challenged again, and now that this controversy has arisen I am sure that "purposes" will be challenged. It might lead to this difficulty. If you used simply paragraphs (a) and (b) it might be said, "You are not entitled to be selective with regard to your industries; you are not entitled to say, You must damp down, and you must work harder.' You are not entitled to say, Stop making pleasure motor cars and make tractors'." That is the danger of having only paragraphs (a) and (b); and that is why it 1356 seems to us that you want paragraph (c)—general words to make it plain that the purposes for which the Minister may use these great powers are those purposes therein expressed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Does the noble and learned Viscount suggest that paragraph (a) means that you must promote productivity of industry, and that paragraph (c) really means that you must discourage productivity of industry?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Paragraph (c) means this: that in promoting industry you may be selective. Industry embraces a whole mass of things, some of which are, and some of which are not, important. The danger is that if you simply said "promoting industry," that means industry globally, industry as a whole. We all agree that what we want is the promotion of the essential industries, even though it means some slowing down or perhaps stopping of non-essential industries. That is the position. I have tried to put this Bill frankly and fairly before your Lordships. Your Lordships have listened very well, and I am grateful to you for the way in which you have received me.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes past seven o'clock.