HL Deb 09 December 1947 vol 153 cc101-6

7.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The Viscount Mersey in the Chair.]

Clauses agreed to.

First Schedule [Part IDefence Regulations not continued in force]:

Lord ADDINGTON moved to omit from the list of Defence Regulations not continued in force "Regulation thirty-three A (Diseases associated with infestation with vermin)." The noble Lord said: My first two Amendments to this Schedule may be taken together. They concern the operation of these two Defence Regulations 33A and 33B which, under the terms of the Bill, are due to expire at the end of this present year. These two Regulations, which deal respectively with the control of scabies and some skin diseases, and with venereal disease, have been found to be of considerable value by local authorities who have enforced these Regulations and made considerable use of them. The Association of Local Authorities are, at the present moment, considering whether it might not be wise to have similar provisions permanently enacted. In those circumstances, I suggest that these provisions should not lapse at the end of this year but should be continued, at any rate, for a certain period longer. It does not necessarily follow that they would remain in operation until the end of 1950 but, of course, they could be brought to an end when any permanent legislation was introduced or if it was found that such legislation was unnecessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, leave out lines 16 and 17.—(Lord Addington.)


The noble Lord has touched on two Amendments, to leave out lines 16 and 17 and to leave out lines 18 and 19 of Part I of the First Schedule. I cannot help saying that I have some sympathy with the noble Lord from a practical point of view. I have no doubt that these powers have proved themselves useful. But what are these powers? The first deals with a case where you have infestation by vermin. You can, under the Defence Regulations, enter the house and you can make people undergo medical treatment. Then you can make them submit to that treatment in order that they may be cleansed from vermin, and so on and so forth. As I have said, there is a good deal to be said for it, from the practical business point of view. May I address these few remarks to the noble Lord who sits on the other side of the House, and I wish that there were more noble Lords opposite present to hear what I have to say. This is a case in which we are being pressed to extend these drastic powers which arise under the Defence of the Realm Act. It is hard to resist the temptation to say more than this, but such is the anxious care and solicitude which His Majesty's Government show in order that there should not be any possible infringement of the freedom and liberty of the subject that I must regretfully tell the noble Lord and the Party he represents that we feel it our duty to say that we must content ourselves with the powers of the Statute Law apart from these Regulations. Therefore, I regret to say, both in regard to infestation by vermin and also in regard to venereal disease, that I cannot accede to the proposition that these powers should be indefinitely continued.


I am extremely glad that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has resisted what must have been a very strong temptation, as indeed he has told us in the course of his speech, but I should like to disabuse the Lord Chancellor's mind of the idea that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was speaking for our Party in putting down these Amendments.

Several Noble Lords: Oh!


I rather fancy that it may be that some local councils would still like to preserve these powers; but, at any rate, the Lord Chancellor and I are at one in being very glad to see them being got rid of. I only hope that, in future Statutes introduced by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, we shall have even more of these Regulations being got rid of. I should like to congratulate the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, on going as far as he has and to encourage him to go even further. I would even encourage him, if I may say this, to get some of his colleagues in the Cabinet to let him go even as far as he would like to go.


In those circumstances, I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ADDINGTON moved to insert among the Regulations not continued "Regulation 39 (Control of Police Forces)." The noble Lord said: This is a contrary suggestion, showing that one is quite impartial in these matters! This time one suggests that this particular Defence Regulation should lapse at the end of this year instead of being continued up to the end of 1950. This Regulation confers very wide powers on the Home Secretary for control of the police force. For instance, I believe, by paragraph 1, he can give instructions providing that one police force should go to the assistance of another. I suggest that, although these powers may have been very necessary in time of war, they should not continue in time of peace. We have just had a new Police Act in 1946 which reorganizes the whole of the police force and gives it a new charter and new provisions. It was felt there that it was indeed quite unnecessary that these war-time powers should be retained in this connexion with regard to that force. I therefore beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 19, at end insert ("Regulation 39 (Control of Police Forces)").—(Lord Addington.)


The object of this Regulation is this. Sometimes one police force wants to go to the aid of another police force. Maybe sometimes it is simply a matter of lending a skilled man, a detective, or someone of that sort, to track down some particular crime; or, it may be, of course, a considerable body of men in the event of disturbances or trouble being expected in a particular area. That can be done with the consent of a number of persons. I am bound to say that in England and Wales the consent has almost always been given and it is easy to work that machinery. Therefore, there has not been the necessity to use this power, as things have been, in England and Wales. It is merely a reserve power which it is useful to have in case people are cantankerous and do not agree.

In Scotland, on the other hand, there is a very real use of this power, because unfortunately the machinery which they have for making voluntary agreements in Scotland is much more cumbrous and difficult to operate. It is primarily for Scotland that we desire to keep this machinery in being. The Secretary of State for Scotland now has powers; he has worked out a regular basis on which those powers are used, and you can cut through a mass of red tape. If you go straight to the Secretary of State and ask him to use his powers, he does so. In Scotland this power is used when you do want to help one area by using the police force of another. The noble Lord, of course, will agree that it is very desirable to extend that help. For that reason, although we do not think we shall have to use the power in England and Wales, we wish to keep it in reserve for Scotland, because it may be found necessary to use the power there, since there is no other equally convenient machinery by which it can be done.


I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. He seems to agree with me to some extent with regard to England and Wales, and I cannot speak with regard to Scotland. I see that there are no noble Lords from Scotland present, and in those circumstances I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ADDINGTON moved to add to Part IV (Modified form of Regulation Sixteen of Defence (General) Regulations, 1939): Provided that no such Order shall be made in relation to any road maintained by a highway authority, other than the Minister of Transport, except after consultation with that highway authority. The noble Lord said: This, again, is an Amendment that concerns a Defence Regulation, No. 16. This, in its original form, gave the Government wide powers to stop up highways in or near defence works, and it was widely used. This Bill proposes to continue those powers until December, 1950, but in an amended form. It will be exercisable only by the Ministry of Fuel and Power with regard to open-cast coal. I am glad that the limitation of power is being provided for, and it is appreciated that the discretion still left with the Minister of Fuel and Power may be very necessary for his own functions.

I would, however, urge that, in time of peace at any rate, no highway should be stopped up or diverted without consultation with the highway authority responsible for its maintenance, and particularly responsible for the provision of communications necessary for the neighbourhood. I know from experience that the stopping up of highways by defence works has caused great inconvenience to inhabitants of the area affected. It might again be decidedly inconvenient if a road conveniently used, and very necessary, had to be stopped up by the Minister of Fuel and Power without any consultation and perhaps without adequate consideration of the needs of the inhabitants. I would urge that in those circumstances the highway authority should be consulted, at any rate in these cases, so that the interests of those inhabitants should be fully considered. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 43, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Addington.)


I cannot, I am afraid, agree fully with the noble Lord and accept his Amendment, but I can give him an assurance which will go some way to meet him. The Minister of Fuel and Power is perfectly prepared to give an assurance that he will not exercise his powers under this regulation, in such cases as are mentioned in the proposed Amendment, without consultation with the highway authority. That will, of course, generally be done through the Ministry of Transport—as. the noble Lord realizes. He might say to me "Why do you not pat that in the Bill," and the answer is that there are a large number of other people who might have to be consulted and who ought to be consulted on the matter. I take, for example, this simple illustration. You are stopping up a road, and it may be the only means of access to somebody's house. Obviously, you ought to consult that person. You ought to consult the local authority; and in many cases you ought to consult the police. I am quite prepared to give the noble Lord an assurance with which, knowing him as I do, I hope he will be satisfied.


I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

First Schedule agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without Amendment.