HL Deb 18 November 1948 vol 159 cc496-9

5.21 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. I believe it is usual in this House to move the Bill formally, which I now do. However, if noble Lords have points on any of the Acts which they wish to raise, I will do my best to answer them, while not guaranteeing that at this stage I shall be able to give detailed replies to every conceivable question that might be put on the nine Acts and their amending Acts, with which we are concerned.

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


My Lords, we on this side of the House do not wish to detain your Lordships many minutes, but I feel that we cannot allow this Bill to go through formally and without certain observations being made upon it. In this Bill there is a Schedule of Acts which are to be continued for one year. Amongst those are measures which we feel should not be continued, but which should be re-incorporated in new Bills, which could be discussed properly in this House and in another place. I refer, in particular, to The Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, which was debated, to some extent, so far as the limits of rules of Order would allow, in another place. That Act gives very wide powers to the Home Secretary. By Order in Council, it is possible for the Home Secretary to do almost anything with an alien. An alien can be prohibited from landing and from embarking; he can be deported; he can be required to reside in a certain place; he can be stopped from residing in a certain place; he can be required to reside in the United Kingdom; he can be requested to change his abode; he must register, and he must fulfil various other requirements.

Those powers were taken after the 1914–18 war, in order to continue _into peace time powers which were considered necessary between the years 1914 and 1918. Year after year they have been re-enacted. I do not in any way suggest that the Home Secretary does not require those powers now, just as much as ever before. I would like to make that perfectly clear. But I do think it is wrong and an anomaly that such wide powers should be continued in this way by an annual re-enactment of something which was promoted for circumstances which have long passed by. Surely it would be better to take a new Bill through all its stages, to confirm, to amend; or, if necessary, to expand the powers in the light of the needs of to-day, rather than to go on year after year, as we have done for thirty years. The temporary basis is a camouflage for something which we all know must be permanent.

In connection with The Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, which will disappear from the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, the Government spokesman in another place, referring to the new Wireless Telegraphy Bill, said: The Government have introduced this Bill because they recognise that it is an anomaly that the Expiring Laws Act should be used year after year in this way and because they feel that the legislation requires bringing up to date. I cite the Government, and the noble Lord's own colleagues, in support of my contention that it is fundamentally wrong that Ministers of the Crown should have these powers prolonged in the way they are prolonged under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act year after year, without an opportunity for Members in another place to debate those powers, unless a Home Office vote is put down. I hope that between now and next year the Government will consider whether they should not bring forward a Bill, which I am sure would gain general support on all sides of the House, which will dispose of this anomaly.


My Lords, I will, of course, convey what the noble Lord has said to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I must not, however, be understood to hold out any immediate hope of a change in the sense indicated, in view of the refusal of the Under-Secretary to give any firm assurance on that point in another place. I quite appreciate the implication of the observation about my colleagues. The noble Lord will not misunderstand me if I say that there are those who can quote their Scripture for their own purposes—I need not specify them more closely. It is true that in the case of The Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, legislation is under consideration. As regards The Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, I was glad that the noble Lord did not question the necessity for those powers at the present time. I do not know that it is so certain that they will always be necessary and, therefore, I am not so sure as the noble Lord that the case for permanent legislation is made out. On that subject, I would only point out what is already well-known to him: that the legislative programme is very full, and that is one reason for not introducing permanent legislation just now. There is also the point that if we did pass permanent legislation there would not be the same opportunity that we have now for this annual review of the Act and any Orders made under the Act.


The noble Lord is under some misunderstanding. In another place they cannot discuss the administration of an Act when considering the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. That can only be done if a Home Office vote is put down.


I am always glad to be corrected by the noble Lord, if he finds it possible and helpful to do so. I am not sure that I am the one who is mistaken on this occasion. To the best of my recollection, I did not actually say —I may have slipped up—that it can be discussed on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I said there is opportunity for annual review. I think that is conceded by the noble Lord, and perhaps his interruption was a little hasty. However, I am grateful to him for putting forward those constructive suggestions. In the light of this discussion, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

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