HL Deb 26 November 1953 vol 184 cc749-55

6.50 p.m.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty under section eight of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, praying that the said Act, which would otherwise expire on the tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-three, be continued in force for a further period of one year until the tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-four. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Motion stands in my name on the Order Paper together with four other Motions. Formally, I think it will be necessary to take the vote of the House upon each Motion, but perhaps it will be convenient if I address your Lordships in one, I hope, short speech dealing with all those matters. This is a matter which last year and the year before I brought before your Lordships, and last year I thought it would be right to go at some considerable length into the very complicated and difficult machinery by which these several sets of regulations and Acts are preserved. I do not think it will be necessary to do that again, because it is useless to repeat what I said then, which I think was accurate, and can, if necessary, be found in Hansard.

The most convenient way—because this is a complicated subject—will be to ask your Lordships to look at the White Paper. Your Lordships will see from the first paragraph of the White Paper that on December 10 next a number of emergency enactments and Defence Regulations will come to an end unless they are continued in force by Orders in Council made in pursuance of Addresses to Her Majesty. They are there set out. First of all, the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, and the Defence Regulations which are kept in force by the Act; then certain other Defence Regulations which had originally been kept in force until December 10, 1950, under the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, and the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, which is there referred to. They are kept in force by annual Emergency Laws (Continuance) Orders. There is also Section 3 (1) and Section 6 of the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1946. which extend respectively Parts I and III of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, and the Sugar Industry Act, 1942. Then, again, there are certain temporary provisions in Section 49 of the Patents Act, 1949, and the First Schedule to the Registered Designs Act. 1947. Motions will be put before the House in regard to all those matters. They all deal with the emergency regulations which were passed in or after the war.

It has been our constant endeavour to reduce the number of those regulations as much as we possibly can. While the present Government were in Opposition they consistently attacked Her Majesty's Government for being so slow in reducing the number of regulations, and since Her Majesty's present Government have been in office we have been consistently attacked by the Opposition. I think that in the course of last year the Government have done much of which they may well be proud. We have consistently aimed at reducing the regulations, upon this principle: that it was not sufficient merely that there should be administrative convenience; it should be a matter of sheer necessity that the regulations should be preserved. They should not be preserved merely because they were useful in an emergency and were, therefore, still retained to meet an emergency which might or might not arise. We aimed at a less comprehensive range of control, and finally we have done this. Many regulations were passed which, in happier times, might well have been embodied in substantive legislation but were conveniently passed in the form of regulations. As time has passed, experience has shown that it is necessary that those regulations should be embodied in permanent legislation, and that has to some extent been done, and to a further extent will be done in the course of the ensuing twelve months.

If your Lordships will be good enough to glance at the White Paper, you will see that in 1953 no fewer than seventy-six regulations have been eliminated and seventeen more have been partially eliminated. No less than one half of the regulations which we inherited in 1951 have now gone, and I hope that your Lordships will think that that has been a satisfactory rate of progress. If your Lordships will look at paragraph 4, you will find set out the list of regulations which have been eliminated. There were one or two to which my particular attention was called last year, and I remember that I promised that I would give my personal attention to them. One in particular was Regulation 89 with regard to the use of force in entering premises. I believe that both the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Milner of Leeds, who is not here, were particularly anxious about that. Those are the Regulations that are gone.

If your Lordships look at paragraph 6 of the White Paper you will find there a summary of the progress which we have made. I do not want to boast unduly, but I think it reflects a great deal of credit, not only on Ministers but on the Departments which have been concerned, that we have been able to make this progress. Now the Motion on the Order Paper, under Section 8 of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, proposes that that Act should be continued, and the regulations which are set out in the White Paper beginning with number 46 and going on to 105 should be continued for one year. After the rather emotional de- bate in which we have for so long teen employed, I can only think that your Lordships will not want me to discourse at any length on these matters. I would rather, if I may, and if the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others, agree, simply stand upon what is in the White Pager; and if there is anything further the noble Lord wishes to know, I will do my best to answer him.

The other matters have not been formally called on, but your Lordships will see from the White Paper that we ask also for the continuance of certain other regulations under the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, and we ask also that certain regulations under the Patents and Registered Designs Act should similarly be continued. I may say in regard to those that it will not be necessary to preserve them for long, because their subject matter is being embodied in legislation. This is a matter which was raised last year, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster. I told him, and it has turned out to be correct, that this matter would be embodied in legislation. I think I am right in saying that the Bill is in draft. I do not want to be disrespectful to the House in any way. These matters are important enough, I know, but we have the general background in previous years, and the details appear sufficiently in the White Paper. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not think that I am failing in my duty if I now move the Motion standing in my name. I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty under section eight of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, praying that the said Act, which would otherwise expire on the tenth clay of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-three, be continued in force for a further period of one year until the tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-four—(The Lord Chancellor.)

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I can assure the noble and learned Lord that he has in no sense been disrespectful to the House and that the explanation which he has given to us of the Motion before the House is entirely adequate for the occasion. I cannot pretend that the matters before the House at this moment have the drama and excitement of those which we have just been discussing, but I would suggest to the House that they are no less important. I do not propose to interrogate the Lord Chancellor upon the contents of the White Paper, and especially on the particular regulations which have or have not been repealed. The noble and learned Lord rather congratulated himself on the extent to which the then existing regulations have been revoked in the past year or are being revoked. I find there are still ninety-seven regulations in force as against 217 two years ago. At this rate it will take some years before they are finally disposed of.

But there is a somewhat disturbing feature about these regulations which your Lordships may have overlooked. One of the regulations which is being revoked is that dealing with food and drugs, and this is being reimposed in permanent legislation in the Food and Drugs (Amendment) Bill which was before this House on Tuesday. In this Amending Bill, powers are taken to submit no fewer than twelve different regulations in the place of the one which we are revoking. If it is thought that by means of revoking regulations we are putting an end to them, I can only say we are doing nothing of the kind. We are, in many cases, simply multiplying them, but placing them in permanent rather than temporary legislation. That is not a matter which is particularly relevant to the subject before the House to-day, but it is something we ought to bear in mind. If all the powers under that Bill, which seeks to make permanent existing regulations, are taken and regulations introduced, we shall have multiplied the number of regulations by twelve. I realise that the House is not in any mood to go into detail on this matter. We on this side accept the Prayer. We will watch closely the efforts of Her Majesty's Government in the coming year, and we hope that next time these regulations come up it will not be in this rather rarefied atmosphere and that we may have an opportunity of discussing the matter in some greater detail.


My Lords, I support the Motion and thank the Lord Chancellor for what I take to be a virtual promise that by this time next year most of these orders will have gone into the form of permanent legislation.


My Lords, if I said "all" it was under a mis- apprehension. I should have said "most of them." We shall continue to tackle this matter and I think a great many more of them will certainly have gone altogether, or be embodied in permanent legislation. It is a matter of degree.


For that I am sure we are all most grateful. I do not wish to detain the House, but I do notice the clumsiness of the procedure, particularly in the Patents Order of 1953 and the Registered Designs Order. I do not doubt the necessity for continuing these Orders, but it seems that your Lordships are asked to express the opinion once a year that there is a state of emergency, when possibly no emergency has arisen. That is rather clumsy and I suggest that the whole thing should be taken into the purview of the Government.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Rea. The number ninety-seven is a little alarming, but the great proportion of those ninety-seven are administrative provisions and not of a substantive character—and they are not in the least, I think, offensive, They are necessary to make effective the other and fewer substantive regulations. We shall certainly take notice of what Lord Rea has said.

On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.