HL Deb 02 December 1947 vol 152 cc1029-48

3.14 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time. This is the third "go" I have had at introducing Kills to deal with the mass of regulations which form part of the Defence Regulations. In saying that, I am not counting the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, which dealt with purposes rather than with particular regulations, but which gave rise to some little discussion between us shortly before we adjourned for our Summer Recess.

When the war ended we found ourselves with a whole mass of regulations, I have never troubled to count them; but you cannot merely look at the number, because they are expanded" through A, B, and C, and so on. A vast mass of them came to an end in February, 1946; and this Government or any other Government would have had to consider how to deal. with them The first Bill I introduced, which afterwards became the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act of 1945, dealt with the regulation of supplies and services for essential goods; and that Act gave us the* right to make Orders in Council before February, 1946. It also gave your Lordships the right to pray against any order, or against any subsidiary instrument made under any order. But, in your Lordships' House no one prayed (by that I mean against the Order). None of us doubts the efficacy of a Prayer in this House; but that there was none is a tribute to the fact that we have used in a sensible and orderly manner the powers which Parliament conferred upon us.

There was some little controversy at that time whether we were right in extending our powers until December 10, 1950—which is what we in fact did—instead of having a yearly review. But your Lordships gave us that provision; and of course it is under that Act that there was passed the Order dealing with the direction of labour which has given rise to some discussion in another place recently. I merely mention these matters to show that they have no relevance to the Bill I am now introducing. When I introduced that Bill, however, I did point out to your Lordships that I should soon have to introduce another Bill to pick out from the mass of regulations then existing a series of unrelated and unco-ordinated regulations on various topics which it was necessary to continue for the time being. In accordance with that promise, or threat, I did shortly afterwards introduce a Bill which became the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946. It is to amend that Act that this Bill is introduced.

When I introduced that Bill I expressed in no measured terms my intense dislike of it. I called it a "mixed grill," and I referred to the mixed grill as being of such a heat as none of the vegetarians could possibly engender. But it was, as I submitted to your Lordships, necessary that we should have it. We had some little discussion about mental nurses, and I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that we were able to dispense with that regulation before its due time.


That was not concerned with the Government?


No! I remember being mildly rebuked by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, on the ground that I was being a little too gloomy about the future. I confess that then, as now, I thought the country was in an exceedingly difficult position and would have very great difficulty in maintaining anything like the pre-existent standard of living. I think that more than ever to-day. I said at that time that I hoped never again should I have to introduce such a Bill; and yet here I am at it again. That Act, the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act of 1946, extended the provisions of some sixty regulations until the end of 1947. Shortly after that Act was passed, we started a review, which has since been going on, to see how we stand with regard to this matter. I had thought about the possibility of using a device like the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and your Lordships had told me that I must be very careful of my step if I did any such thing. Your Lordships will see that your advice has been taken. I am not resorting to any such device, and I feel I want to say, with little Johnnie Horner," What a good boy am I! "It is very easy to criticize the draftsmen, as I did on the last occasion and as I could on this occasion, but, really, if you are dealing with purely unrelated matters and you have to pick out some of them, it is exceedingly difficult to see how you could do so except in the way that has been adopted.

What we have tried to do is this. We have tried to categorize the regulations—for the moment I am dealing with the Defence Regulations—to put them into three or four categories. First of all, there are those with which we can dispense, and we think we can dispense with some twenty of the sixty at the end of this year. There are some seven, I think it is, a small number, which we think we shall not want after the end of next year, and we think so because we hope that the matters with which they deal will be picked up and dealt with in a regular way by permanent legislation in the meantime. Of course, there is a risk that that cannot foe done, and, therefore, we have a provision to which I shall refer presently. But, with regard to the balance of some thirty or thereabouts, we feel quite confident that we shall want these down to the year 1950. Accordingly, we have taken as the date on which those regulations shall expire December 10, 1950, which is the date of expiry of the regulations under the 1945 Act, in order that, when that date comes, a general review of the whole position may be undertaken.

When we come to consider these various regulations and bear in mind that the date for revision will be, if this Bill is passed, December 10, 1950, it is obvious to your Lordships that that Bill for extension may be introduced either by a Conservative Lord Chancellor or a Liberal Lord Chancellor or a Lord Chancellor who combines the best qualities of both Parties, or even possibly a Lord Chancellor who is a member of the present Government. I mention that fact because your Lordships should realize that, whatever any of us say may be used in evidence against us when the time comes for reviewing this Bill in 1950.

Briefly, this Bill does eight things. Firstly, it sets out in Part I of the First Schedule those Defence Regulations which are not to be continued after the end of this year. It is quite true that those regulations would come to an end by virtue of the Act of 1946 if not now extended, but we thought it well, for purposes of clarity, to set them out specifically in this Bill. So far, I am sure that I shall have the approval of all your Lordships. Secondly, the Bill provides in Clause 1 (1) (b) that a small number of regulations shall be continued until the end of 1948, and shall then lapse. Those regulations are set out in Part II of the First Schedule. Thirdly, there are some thirty Defence Regulations, together with the machinery provisions attached to them, which are continued until December 10, 1950, by Clause 1 (1) (c). Those are set out in Part III of the First Schedule. As I have already said, we chose that date because that was the date up to which the regulations under the Act of 1945 are continued. Fourthly, a few regulations are made permanent by Clause 2, and those are set out in the Second Schedule to the Bill. If it may be thought that it is odd to make permanent provisions in what is called an Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, I would point out that this Bill is merely designed to review and deal with the provisions contained in the Act of 1946.

Fifthly, a procedure is provided, by Clause 7, by which any Defence Regulation can be extended for further periods not exceeding one year at a time without fresh legislation. I may say that we should not have been able to put some of these regulations into the category which expire at the end of next year unless we had given ourselves the protection and the right of coming to Parliament and asking both Houses of Parliament to move an affirmative Address—your Lordships have it completely in your power to refuse to do so if your Lordships desire—giving us an extension if we so wish. Sixthly, the Bill also provides, in Clauses 4, 5 "and 6, for the extension of certain emergency enactments which were continued by the Act of 1946, and the repeal of others. Seventhly, provision is made in Clause 3 for the doubling of the grant which may be made for ploughing up grassland and the extension of the period for the payment of grants so as to ensure that land qualifying can be brought into production before the end of the four-year programme announced by the Minister of Agriculture on August 21 last. I should explain that this matter, like the others, is dealt with in this Bill only because the war-time Act under which the grants have been made is at present continued in force by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946. Finally there are consequential provisions as to emergency legislation in the Colonies by Clause 8, and finance by Clause 9.

This Bill was accorded its Second Reading in another place without a Division. When it came to the Committeé stage, oddly enough the main point for discussion was not anything which arises under the Bill, but was, the point of the direction of labour which, as I have told your Lordships, arises under the Act of 1945. If your Lordships would be good enough to glance at the long title of this Bill, your Lordships will see that it is as follows: An Act to make further provision with respect to the Defence Regulations continued in force by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946 "— that is so far as Defence Regulations are concerned— and with respect to certain emergency and temporary enactments extended by or contained in that Act; to repeal certain other emergency enactments "— that is, primarily concerning the Isle of Man and the internment camp on the Isle of Man— and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. So, if it be said—it is for your Lordships to decide these) natters—that it is necessary or relevant for us to have a debate here and now on this Bill for direction of labour you could do it equally in an attempt to repeal the Act of Union—I do not want to put nasty thoughts into the minds of our Scottish friends—or indeed on any other Act. But I suggest with all respect that the Chairman of Committees in another place, who allowed the discussion, as he said, with hesitation, on condition that it was short, was really erroneous.

Then there was some criticism of the provisions of Clause 7, that is to say, the clause which allows us to come to your Lordships and ask for an extension. If I may say so, that is not a very reasonable criticism in view of the fact that our right to get an extension depends on an affirmative Address being passed by both Houses. Then there was some criticism of the proposal to extend these regulations until December 10, 1950. With regard to that, I can assure your Lordships that we have been at great pains to make a very careful review of these regulations, and if we can repeal any of them at an earlier date than 1950 we most gladly will do so.

Now, my Lords, the difficulty of making a Second Reading Speech on a Bill which concerns a number of unrelated items is very obvious. Of course, on the Committee stage we can discuss any of them that we desire. I think those most likely to call for consideration from your Lordships will probably be Regulations 20AB, 22 and 16. I will say just a word and only a word, as to these. Regulation 20AB is the Regulation under the National Registration Act, 1939, and what it does in the main is to relax the rigour of the Act of 1939. If you do not pass this regulation then you will go back to the Act of 1939 without any relaxation, and I think you will find that, although the regulation may chastise you with whips, the Act of 1939 will chastise you with scorpions. Therefore, I would suggest that your Lordships will probably agree that it is wise to leave this regulation in.

Regulation 22 deals with billeting, a subject matter of which we should all like to see the last as soon as we possibly can. The Minister of Health has already given a most categorical pledge that the regulation will not be used either for the housing of foreign workers or for any purpose connected with the direction of labour. But there are three purposes for which, as it seems to us, we shall have to continue to use it, and, in view of the restriction of the housing programme, as far as we can see we shall have to use it for several years to come. Those three purposes are these. First of all there is a considerable number of orphan children, children orphaned by the war, who have to be housed somewhere and, at the present moment, we have to use the billeting powers in order to see that these children are properly looked after. Secondly, there are some 1,700 civil servants to be provided for. It has been an idea of mine for a very long time to try to move some of the large Government offices out of the Metropolis. I am sure that is the right thing to do, but at the present time, until the requisite Government offices can be built in places, you have to be able to billet your civil servants, and there are some 1,700 civil servants for whom we have to provide in this way., Finally there are a number of nurses, some 200 I think, who unfortunately at the present time have no nursing homes. They are doing most excellent work in various parts of the country and, in order that they can continue that work and live near the hospitals, we must continue to have resort to this Bill, the powers of which, if we find we can, as I have said, we will end earlier. Then there is Regulation 16 which has been very carefully limited. That gives power to the Minister of Fuel and Power to close the highways, for two purposes and two purposes only. One is for the purpose of open-cast working of coal which, unfortunately, remains necessary to-day, and the other is for the purpose of building generating stations. That is a summary method of doing it, and it has been used in some score of cases already.

My Lords, that is the nature of the Bill, and those are some of the matters to which your Lordships may desire to call attention. As I say, when we get to the Committee stage I shall be perfectly prepared, that is to say if I have notice beforehand, to deal with any individual regulations and to try to show your Lordships that there really is a case for extending them in the way we suggest. I claim that this Bill is a sincere and honest attempt to deal with the difficulty of getting rid of Defence Regulations by putting them into their appropriate categories, and, as I have said, I am perfectly willing to consider whether we have put any particular regulation into the wrong category. That is all I desire to say now about the Bill, except again to remind your Lordships that it received its Third Reading in another place, as it received its Second Reading, without a Division. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a Second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for giving us, as he always does, a very clear account of this proposed legislation. He made an observation at the beginning about the drafting of the Bill. I must say that, having regard to the difficulty of the subject matter, I think the drafting is very good. It is almost impossible to deal in any simple way with this mixed grill of regulations referred to in the First Schedule. I remember that when Mr. Baldwin introduced the Safeguarding of Industries Bill into the other place some years ago he referred to the Schedule as resembling a marine store dealer's catalogue. It is not the draftsman's fault, or indeed anybody's fault, that the Schedules here should consist of an extraordinary variety of matters. Picking out one or two, I notice that there is a regulation about the functions of the Chief Constable of Cornwall; and then there is a regulation about the opening of cinematograph houses on Sundays. There is a regulation about infestation by vermin, and there are regulations about illegal gaming parties and all sorts of other subjects of a miscellaneous kind.

What the draftsman has done—of course, the Lord Chancellor is responsible and, if I may be permitted respectfully to say so, he is entitled to have the acknowledgment of it—is a very sensible thing. He has tried to put the Bill in some sort of order and in Clause 1 has divided the things he is going to deal with into three categories—regulations which are not to be continued any longer (or which are to stop at the end of this year), regulations which are to last until the end of 1948 (unless, of course, Parliament does something in the meantime), and regulations which will continue until 1950. All that is an effort to sort these things out into appropriate groups. I must say, knowing a little of the labours of draftsmen and of their work, that I think it is has been very well done.

Clause 2, by its very nature, gives me some qualms, and I do not think it would be easy to find any parallel to it in our Statute Book. This clause provides that the regulations that are referred to in the Second Schedule to the Bill shall have a permanent effect. I do not like that. It seems to me odd that it should occur in a Bill called the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. We all realize that during the war and, for some purposes, after it there had to be this method of making a regulation through an Order in Council, at the suggestion of a Minister, without the passing of an Act of Parliament directly dealing with it. I have always admitted frankly, within limits, that that was inevitable at the time. But to make a regulation which, of course, has never been the subject of discussion, on Second Reading, Committee or Report stages in either House, and then to say that this Regulation shall have permanent effect is, I think, a very unfortunate way of adding to the Statute Book.

I cannot help thinking that it is a pity, if we are going to enact a change in the permanent law, that we should not enact it in the proper way—I will not say in the constitutional way, but in the ordinary way, toy having an Act of Parliament to say so. That is a comment which may, or may not, appeal to others, but I make it without any sort of prejudice to anyone. I regret to think that any part of the collective Statute Law of this country, the permanent Law, should ever have to be ascertained by searching in this appalling volume of Defence Regulations. My noble and learned friend, the Lord Chancellor, is, I am sure, most anxious to promote Statute Law revision, and I hope very much that we shall be able to get rid of this most intricate and, I think, most awkward way of changing the permanent law of the land.

The most serious comment which I have to make on the Bill, however, is not in regard to what it contains but in regard to what it does not contain. I could not help being a little amused by the efforts, the reiterated efforts, made by my noble and learned friend in his opening speech to warn us against having any discussion on Regulation 58A. I thought he went a little far when he said that in his view it would be as far away from the point as if any of your Lordships were to seek to raise a discussion about Regulation 58A in connexion with the repeal of the Act of Union. Everyone chooses his own analogy, but I would point out that Regulation 58A is a regulation made by Order in Council under authority of an Act of Parliament, and. that this Bill—though I agree it deals with Defence Regulations—is dealing with regulations made by an Order in Council under Act of Parliament. While the noble and learned Viscount is correct, if I may presume to say so, when he says that if one reads strictly the title of the Bill a regulation which owes its present force to the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, is not a Defence Regulation, I think I am still entitled to make this comment, and I hope that your Lordships, or some of you at any rate, will think it not unreasonable. If anyone had wanted to get rid of Regulation 58A for the direction of labour, nothing would have been simpler than to tell the draftsman that the Bill was to be so drawn as to include it. At any rate, it is quite obvious that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is most anxious that there should be no more reference to it than he can help. I well understand the reason


Will my noble and learned friend forgive me for interrupting him here? The long title here deals with Defence Regulations continued in force by the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946. Therefore this regulation is not continued in force by that Act.


I am well aware of that. Moreover, I think I may safely assert that the form of the title has been most carefully drawn in order, if possible, to avoid any reference to Regulation 58A. However, there was a considerable discussion on the subject in another place, and I do not think your Lordships will feel that we should avoid it altogether. At any rate I propose to refer to it. Regulation 58A which itself, as my noble and learned friend pointed out, is a Defence Regulation, is in these terms. The Minister of Labour and National Service … or any National Service Officer may direct any person in Great Britain to perform such services in the United Kingdom or in any British ship not being a Dominion ship as may be specified by or described in the direction, being services which that person is, in the opinion of the Minister or Officer, capable of performing. Of course, that is a regulation included in the Defence Regulations, though at present authorized, as my noble and learned friend points out, under a different Act. But if anyone had wanted to put an end to that regulation, which I declare without fear of any future consequences, to be an abominable regulation, they could quite easily and quite usefully have done it by modifying the title and the contents of this Bill.

Let us see where we stand about this. Is there any country, except Soviet Russia or Hitlerite Germany, which has ever sought, other than in actual time of war, to direct a man or woman as to the job to which he or she is to do, as to the place in which he or she is to go to do it, and, for all I know, as to the wages which he or she is to be paid? There is not the slightest doubt in the world—any competent lawyer would stake his reputation on what I am saying—that the regulation I have just read to the House does authorize that very action, not merely by a Minister of the Crown but, what is much more surprising, by any National Service officer. And such officers are to be found all over the country; they have certain local jurisdictions. They are, if I am not mistaken, the people to whom one may apply in connexion with unemployment. There is not the slightest doubt that this regulation, for which I presume the Minister of Labour is primarily responsible, but for which the whole Government must take responsibility, is, in fact, a regulation for industrial conscription.

I will not delay the House by quoting them, but it would be easy to quote endless declarations, both by Ministers and by their supporters, that they were determined against industrial conscription. But here it is. It is no answer, even if it be true, to say that it is not intended to make very extensive use of it. The point is much simpler than that. There has hitherto been a general consensus of opinion that British men and women have certain rights as individuals and that they are not in this free country to be subject to penalties as criminals if they do not obey the order of the Minister or any of his local officials to do a particular job in a particular place in particular circumstances provided the person giving the order thinks the person capable of performing it. I do not wish to use—I do not think I do habitually use in this House—unduly strong language; but is it really a misrepresentation to say that this is the introduction of a slave State? The fact that we may be assured that gentleness and moderation will be applied does not affect the position, which is laid down in these Regulations in the widest and most absolute language.

I do not wish to call anybody by hard names, but it is both interesting and illuminating to consider how closely the defence or the criticism of this Regulation calls up, as an analogy, the arguments for and against personal slavery. Let nobody suppose that there were not very good arguments advanced in defence of slavery. On the contrary. It was said," There is work essential to be done, which cannot be done unless we force our slaves to do it." The planters in our tropical islands said that nobody but their slaves could do the work, and unless they were able to force them to do it the plantations would be idle and their products would not be forthcoming. That argument was used constantly to Commissions and to Parliament, as anyone who knows the history of the subject will agree, and it was that argument which had to be. resisted over a whole generation by the reformers who got rid of the system.

And what was the argument on the other side? It was this: that apart altogether from its morality and the invasion upon an individual's own rights, this proposal was wholly ineffective to secure the result desired. Forced labour is not going to increase the productive strength of the country and you cannot, in this free land, in peace time, make people do the work you want them to do, merely because you threaten them with penalties if they do not do it. All this, indeed, is admitted by the Government and their supporters themselves. I venture a quotation. The Minister of Labour, speaking at Brighton, some time ago, said very truly that "a person who was directed was not much use to his shop, his fellows, or himself." I would give another quotation. An experienced miners' representative in the House of Commons said the other day that in the case of industry generally and the coal mines in particular, directed labour is not useful and is not likely to add to efficiency of production.

I say with great deliberation, and I hope with calmness and without extravagance, that with this Regulation deliberately preserved in this volume of Defence Regulations, whatever be the Statute under which it has been made, we really cannot congratulate the Government on their effort to clear out regulations which are no longer justified. I could quite understand a regulation made in war-time which required certain people engaged on certain work to go on doing it. I think we started with special constables and that sort of thing. We had our controversy, which I remember very well. I remember, too, the part the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, played about the compelling of women nurses in mental institutions to continue in these institutions whether they liked it or not, and your Lordships may recall with how much concern and anxiety, not limited to one side of the House, that single provision was regarded.

But this Regulation is as wide as a barn door. Not only the Minister, but any one of his subordinate National Service officers may make this order in respect of any man or woman of any age to go to any place he dictates and there to work at the work he chooses, provided, he says, that in the opinion of the Minister or the officer this person is capable of performing it. I really do not think I exceeded the licence which I know this House permits when in connexion with the Second Reading of the Bill I express my extreme regret that it had not been so framed as to get rid of that obnoxious order. Its retention is quite certainly not going to do the Government any good. And looking at it as par: of the contemporary history of our own country, I cannot say how much I deplore that we should find this Bill introduced without that most obnoxious order being here and now knocked on the head. The Government are a Government of planners. They are always planning, whether successfully or not I will not pause to inquire, but if this is planned economy, if the direction of labour is part of that planning, then the prospect for our citizens, and especially for young men and women, is bleak indeed. I quite understand the Lord Chancellor's point—I hope he will forgive me for calling it a technical point—which he made at the beginning of his speech and at the end of it. He hoped by every means, it was obvious, to escape discussion on this subject. I shall be much interested to know which member of the Government will get up and say this Regulation is justified. Let us observe which of them does it, and if none of them does it and we are fold it has nothing to do with this Bill, we shall be able to draw our own conclusions.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps the most reassuring point in the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, was that in which he appeared to assume that in 1950 there would still be an occupant of the Woolsack, whatever particular nuance in politics he might adopt. It appears to follow from that statement that your Lordships' House in some form will still be in being three years from now.

This Bill is on the face of it a somewhat neutral measure but it has, I think, certain mildly objectionable features, apart from the particular omission with which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, dealt. Like him, I dislike Clause 2 of the Bill. It seems to me undesirable in principle, and inconvenient in practice, that you should use a Bill of this kind in order to make permanent a very mixed collection of regulations on various matters, which anybody pursuing any of those matters in the future will need to search out before his documentation is complete. I think also, in principle, it is undesirable that a Bill of this kind should be used to increase the sphere of the Statute law by bringing in regulations in this form.

I was interested when the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack was making his speech to note at how early a stage of it he put up the defensive barrage in regard to Regulation 58A. For my own part, I cannot accept the argument which he advanced, that we are not entitled to say on a Bill of this kind that we are going to raise this subject, because we know that it is not included in the Bill, and we think that it ought to have been included in the Bill. Surely, when we get a long list of this kind of matters which are included, it is perfectly open to this House to say at any stage of the discussion on the Bill: Whatever we may think about what you have included, we propose to call attention to certain matters which you have excluded; matters which we think ought to be within the four corners of the Bill, and which we believe you have excluded for the very good reason that you were not anxious to have a discussion upon them.

As to the point that the title of the Bill in its present form is confined to one type of regulation which would not embrace this particular regulation, I do not think that is a very cogent argument. After all, the title of a Bill is not sacrosanct, and had it been desired to bring in this other regulation, as it should have been brought in, the draftsman would have had no difficulty in so enlarging the title as to make it applicable to this particular Regulation. The result of this Regulation being continued in existence, and not discontinued, as it should have been under this Bill, is, of course, that it is possible to introduce this system of compulsory direction of labour by means of Orders and not by means of a Bill presented to Parliament. If I understand the procedure aright, that has, from the Government's angle, an additional advantage in that you cannot amend an order, whereas you can amend a Bill. The form in which this Order has been presented certainly requires a good deal of attention and amendment, as your Lordships may have noticed from the criticisms upon the form of the latest Order by the Committee charged with inquiring into such matters in another place, who have called attention to the omissions, obscurities and lack of definition in the terms of this particular Order. Surely this Order of all Orders should have attained the highest degree of precision before it was ever presented to Parliament, because it closely affects the liberty of a great number of people.

Those of us who sit on these Benches detest the principle which lies behind these Orders for compulsory direction of labour. Sometimes one wonders What would have been the reaction of noble Lords on the other side of the House and their supporters in another place and the country, if a Government of a different colour had come to the country and said: "These steps are necessary in the interests of the country." The whole air would have reverberated with the thumping of tubs. We should have been told that this was an attempt to oppress the working class of the country; that it was sectional; that it was in the worst traditions of the evil days of the past; that it was a re-introduction of slavery—as it is—and a great many other things. Yet now they come and blandly present these measures to the House. If I may say so, it must have required something of a mental effort to adjust their minds to the new dispensation, because only at the end of May the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was informing the Labour Party Conference that they could not accept a particular resolution because "it might in some circumstances appear to indicate that we favoured the direction of labour." He went on to say: "We do not. We favour a differential wages policy." That is one of the most heavily conditional sentences that I have ever seen—" It might in some circumstances appear to indicate that we favour the direction of labour." Yet within a few months they come forward with these two orders.

It is a little interesting to look at a different document, the International Bill of Human Rights, which was presented by the Government in a White Paper from the Foreign Office in June of this year for consideration by the appropriate committee of U.N.O. If one looks at that particular document, one sees under Part II, which deals with the definition of human rights and fundamental freedoms, a not uninteresting and perhaps not wholly inapposite argument. It is Article 9, which has two numbered paragraphs, only one of which is so far completed. Paragraph I says: "No form of slavery shall be permitted." Paragraph 2 consists of square brackets, within which are the words: "A text on the subject of compulsory labour will be inserted here later." One wonders how much later, and which particular members of the Government are concerned at this moment in devising the ingenious text which is to fill up the space at present occupied by these words.

I quite realize that when they talk about compulsory labour in that context, it is meant to apply to the kind of compulsory labour which was unfortunately prevalent during the war in the countries conquered by Germany, and which took place, perhaps, in some other countries, too. But the principle is no different whether you press a man into a job under conditions of that kind, or whether you do it under a regulation of the kind which is now being brought into force. The principle is the same: you are taking away from a man the free choice of the direction in which he shall use his labour.

I do not want to elaborate this point unduly at this stage, but I think it would have been wrong if we had let this matter pass without indicating our deep regret—I do not say disappointment because I do not think we ever expected it—that the Government did not take the opportunity to remove this regulation which entitles (hem, and which alone entitles them, to make the kind of order with which the country is now being afflicted, and therefore to throw upon them the onus of bringing forward proposals of that kind with all the objectionable features which are inherent to them. The proper way would be by a Bill which could be considered in detail and at length by Parliament, and Parliament, I believe—if it were able to exercise, free from all compulsion from the Whips or anybody else, the opinion which, in their hearts all Members retain—would say that this is a deplorable backward step in the history of the country and one which we can only continue fervently to regret.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, there is just one aspect of this measure which has not been fully alluded to by either of the noble Lords in their devastating condemnation of it, although the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, did just touch upon it. It is that it lies within the power of any person who has been directed to make that direction null and void, not by refusing to go where the Minister or his official chooses to send him, but by accepting the employment offered and then making himself an intolerable nuisance therein, so much so that instead of the firm and industry deriving any benefit at all by his presence, not even is he merely a cypher but he is an active encumbrance and does active harm. A clever man can so conduct himself as not to infringe the actual Statute but to make his presence in the pit, works, office or wherever he may be, such a cause of dissatisfaction to his fellow employees and such a nuisance to his employers that they will do anything to get rid of him.

That being so, the Government find themselves on the sharp horns of a very painful dilemma. Either they are prepared to see this regulation set at nought by determined people—as I have just shown it can be done—or they must be prepared to slide somewhat further down the totalitarian slope in their Gadarene descent to implement their regulations by the only possible remaining methods—namely, recourse to the concentration camp, the lash or, if need be, the execution squad. It is not surprising that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack was anxious therefore, if one may most respectfully so put it, to burke discussion upon this point. It is not surprising that one who has such an acute appreciation of justice should have worn for the past few minutes an expression indicating that he is suffering from acute moral indigestion.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I should thank your Lordships very much for the cordial way in which you have received this Bill. I have never had a more cordial welcome, because there has been no criticism at all of the Bill itself, and noble Lords have dragged in something which everybody who reads this Bill knows perfectly well—whatever may be its rights or wrongs—has nothing to do with it. That is the fact, and anybody with any sense of relevance who can read the long title can see it for himself.

I do not want in the least to burke discussion on this issue and I would be delighted to have a discussion on Regula- tion 58a and the direction of labour. If anybody would put down a Motion dealing with it I for one—and no doubt many of my colleagues—would be perfectly willing to take part in it. But my sense of order is such that I really must protest. It is no good noble Lords laughing—it is the fact. If I had been Chairman of Committees in another place, I should have unhesitatingly ruled—I cannot rule here—that the matter was out of order. As this Bill is drafted, it is drafted for a specific purpose, to bring up to date and alter a particular Act of Parliament of 1946, and it is so expressed. This subject has nothing whatever to do with the Act of 1946. It arises under a different Act of Parliament altogether, but I do not in the least want to burke discussion upon it.

If your Lordships will do me the courtesy of listening to what I say—because after all we govern ourselves in these matters and for that reason we do not want to stray from the straight and narrow path of order—if your Lordships think there is substance in what I say the only way to deal with the matter is to put down a Motion. That, I suggest, is the proper course; but whether your Lordships prefer to take this course or drag in a regulation which has nothing to do with the Act of 1946, and which would have been quite out of place in this Bill in any case, I or other colleagues would be ready to agree to discussion. So far as this Bill is concerned, I can thank your Lordships in this way, by saying that to find some criticism you had to go outside the Bill altogether.


The noble and learned Viscount must remember that both the noble Marquess and I took objection to the making of permanent laws by perpetuating Defence Regulations.


I quite realize that the noble and learned Viscount is anxious to find something relevant in the Bill. He did raise that point, but he did not suggest that any one of the regulations which we seek to make permanent was not a most useful regulation. I quite agree with him that of course it is desirable in due course, and when time permits, to deal with them in the ordinary way and to pass an Act dealing with them in their appropriate place. If there is any valid criticism about any of these small matters I would take a different view altogether, but if, as I believe, everybody completely agrees that they are useful additions to our permanent law, then I say let them be until such time as we can put them into our ordinary legislation.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.