§ Subsection (1) of section three of the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946 (which, as amended by section four of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, extends certain provisions of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, relating to wheat and land drainage).
§ Section nine of the said Act of 1946 (which extends certain emergency enactments relating to legal powers).—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I think this Motion shows another vice in this system of legislation. I do not believe that, with the exception of the Lord Chancellor, one single person who is sitting in this House listening to me has the vaguest idea what we are being asked to do—not one. I have tried to find out—I admit not for a very long time—what we are being asked to do. The only conclusion I have come to is that this first regulation in the Schedule which we are now being asked to pass is nowhere to be found in this green book which is our "Bible" in dealing with this matter. So it is apocryphal from that point of view. Let me read part of the Schedule, because this shows so well the vice of the whole thing. We are asked to extend for a yearSubsection (1) of section three of the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946 (which, as amended by section four of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, extends certain provisions of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, relating to wheat and land drainage).If there is anybody, with the solitary exception of the Lord Chancellor, who can stand up in this place and honestly say that he has any idea at all what we are being asked to do, I will most gladly give way to him. I shall be very surprised if anybody accepts the challenge. I have no doubt that it is a most admirable 684 provision, but I cannot find it; it is not in this book and I do not know what the provision is.
It is absolutely wrong that the "food" should be served up to us in this sort of condition. Put down in simple language the reasons why we are asked to extend and we can all understand it; but it is not right—I protest about this; there is something serious in this—that we should be asked to extend a regulation couched in language which allows no one, with the exception of the Lord Chancellor, to understand what we are asked to do. In this particular case I am perfectly certain there is no evil intent behind it, or anything of that sort; but as a matter of principle it is wrong. If you come to this House and ask that this House should extend a regulation for a year, you ought to make it possible for a reasonably intelligent member of the House, who devotes a reasonable amount of time to trying to understand what he is being asked to do, to understand what it is all about. I, at any rate, am not in the position of knowing what it is about, and therefore I do not attempt to criticise the regulation. I do not know what it is or what it does, or anything about it at all. I say no more, but I hope your Lordships will in future support me in refusing your assent to regulations couched in this language that no one can understand.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, perhaps I maybe allowed one word, although I said that I would move this Motion formally. I hope that the noble and learned Earl will add to the one person who, he says, understands this—the Lord Chancellor—the ex-Lord Chancellor who moved it on so many occasions.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Having said that, may I ask the House to absolve me from a further speech upon this Motion? When I opened the debate on all the Motions, including this one, on the last occasion, I did refer to the substance and terms of this regulation—indeed, some of your Lordships, much to my gratification, congratulated me on the clarity with which I did it. Therefore, may I crave your Lordships' 685 indulgence and not repeat what I said on the last occasion, but simply put the Motion to the vote?
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.