§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Report of the Amendment received (according to Order).
§ Clause 3:
§ Extension of powers of White Fish Authority and Herring Industry Board to make grants
§ 3.—(1) The powers conferred on the White Fish Authority by section one of the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953, and on the Herring Industry Board by section six of that Act (which sections respectively empower the Authority and the Board to make grants in respect of the acquisition of new fishing vessels and new engines for fishing vessels, but limited in each case to vessels not exceeding one hundred and forty feet in length) shall be extended and shall have effect in accordance with, and subject to, the following provisions of this section.
§ (2) The expenditure in respect of which grants may be made in pursuance of a scheme made after the commencement of this Act under either of the relevant sections shall be expenditure incurred in the acquisition of any vessel to which that section applies, or in the acquisition, installation, modification, renewal or replacement of any part of a vessel to which that section applies, or of an engine, or any part of an engine, of or for such a vessel, or of any relevant equipment required for, or installed or used on, such a vessel:
§ Provided that no grant shall be so made in respect of expenditure incurred in the acquisition of any secondhand vessel, engine, part, equipment or apparatus, or for the acquisition of a vessel, engine, part, equipment or apparatus built outside the Commonwealth.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM) moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), to leave out "or for the acquisition of a vessel, engine, part, equipment or apparatus built outside the Commonwealth". The noble Viscount said: My Lords, before I move the Amendment, may I say how glad we are on this side of the House to see the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, back in his place. It is certainly a great pleasure to us and I hope he is now fully restored to his customary vigour and health. The purpose of the Amendment which I now rise to move is to restore the Bill to the condition in which it was when your Lordships received it from another place and before the carrying in Committee, by one vote, on June 5, of the proviso to subsection (2) of Clause 3 of the Bill in the words:
or for the acquisition of a vessel, engine, part, equipment or apparatus built outside the Commonwealth".
§ The effect of passing this Amendment is not merely that of restoring the Bill to the condition in which it was when we received it from another place but of restoring the same wording which every similar Act of Parliament from 1944 onwards has employed.
§ My Lords, I would not ask the House to reverse its previous decision without very careful consideration or without giving full and careful reasons for the course I propose. I do not, however, think it is altogether irrelevant to point out to your Lordships that the decision of which we now seek the reversal was arrived at by the comparatively modest majority of one in a House of 89 actually voting.
§ I do not rely on the fact—for which I can only apologise to your Lordships—that on the occasion in question I myself and my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire were both absent electioneering in West Derbyshire, and that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was performing functions of great public value in Virginia. These are idle regrets, if indeed they be regrets, but they do add force to the proposition that the issue, warmly contested, could easily have been decided the other way. Therefore it is not inappropriate, I think, that the House should be given another opportunity of considering the matter.
§ I am fortified in this belief by the conviction I have that, quite apart from the merits of the case, which I will seek to discuss in detail, the House was, in two particulars, seriously misled—although of course entirely innocently and in the best of good faith—by two of the noble Lords who supported the Amendment, Lord Williams of Barn-burgh (whom we are all so delighted to see back in good health and taking such a vigorous part in our debates) and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who supported him. Both noble Lords attempted to lead the House to believe, and, indeed, I am advised, with some success, that there was something sinister and improper—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
—in the announcement by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in another place on May 18 of a change in the terms on 824 which grants, both under the previous Bill and under the present Bill, would be made available as soon as the new schemes were made under the present Bill—we hope in July of this year.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, spoke of a "constitutional irregularity or impropriety", of which he "did not recall anything quite like it". He spoke of a "conspiracy of silence" and "cool calculated deception". The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, used even more extravagant language. He said that the Government were guilty of "trickery", and that the Government were not "honest with Parliament" at any stage. I am bound to say that if I took them entirely seriously I should resent these attacks upon my colleagues and upon the honour of the Government; and, in any event, I consider that they ought not to have been made.
My Lords, I shall endeavour to show that these charges are without foundation of any kind and, indeed, that the smallest reflection would have persuaded both noble Lords that this was so. I can remember that when I was a very young man the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, obtained great fame and just popularity with his constituents by standing on a barrel of red herrings in Milan or Turin seeking to sell the products of his constituency to the descendants of Scipio Africanus and St. Ambrose. He never stood on a bigger barrel of red herrings than when he made these charges in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, the subsidies to which the section relates have been part of the law of the land since 1944 and have been enacted from time to time, the last time being, I think, in 1953. In each case the language of the Statute has been identical with the language proposed by the Government here; and, because it contains no words discriminatory against foreign vessels or engines, this form contains nothing in it which is contrary to our international obligations. The only relevant point at which the present Bill differs from previous Bills is in the size and type of the vessel attracting the grant. The most recent limitation of size written into the Bill was, I believe, one of 140 feet, written into a Bill in 1953. The purpose of the present Bill is simply to remove the 825 limit of size to enable grants to be given for processing and transport vessels, as well as catching vessels, and to extend the time for which grants are available. It also removes (although I think this is irrelevant) a distinction which has hitherto existed between a working and non-working owner. The Bill has never contained, nor has any of its predecessors, any mention of discrimination against foreign vessels.
The actual administration of the subsidies has been by delegated legislation or by administrative arrangements. The statutory schemes of grant under the 1953 Act, which this Bill amends, have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament by Affirmative Resolution. Therefore, no change can take place in these schemes by stealth or without the fullest discussion in both Houses of Parliament. That is the form which Parliament has decreed that the schemes should take, and though there are, of course, both advantages and disadvantages in delegated legislation, I am bound to say that I have not so far heard it suggested that this was an inappropriate use of it. In fact, the schemes so passed by Parliament have hitherto contained a prohibition against the use of grants for foreign vessels. No alteration in this provision can be made without bringing a new scheme to Parliament. The prohibition dates from 1944 and was based, so I am informed, on the conditions then ruling and subsequently on balance-of-payment considerations.
In 1947 we joined GATT, and the prohibition became technically contrary to our obligations under it. However, it seems to have attracted no protests at first, partly because only the smallest vessels were then included, and, of course, there is a high degree of built-in protection in the provision of these smaller types of vessel. At all events, the prohibition lingered on until March, 1960, when inquiries by the Swedish Government indicated that the prohibition might he open to challenge after our adhesion to EFTA, which has since taken place, since this Treaty also contains provisions against discrimination in addition to those of GATT. This challenge would be an unanswerable one, and would of course become serious when the grants become available, as they will under this Bill, without limit of size or type. Accordingly, it was 826 decided to remove the prohibition from the new schemes when they were announced in July of this year, and because a reasonable period of notice to the trade was thought necessary it was eventually decided to make our intention plain on May 18 this year.
It so happened that this was immediately after the Second Reading in this House, and in time to give an opportunity for debate in Committee. I offer no apology whatever for the first and I claim no virtue whatever for the second. From the point of view of the Bill the explanation of the announcement was unnecessary and it became necessary for the purely extraneous reasons which I have sought to explain, and this is the whole truth about this matter. The selection of a date might be criticised by one of our more censorious and enthusiastic supporters on the grounds that it afforded the supporters of what some of us think a wholly unmeritorious Amendment an adventitious and totally irrelevant support to bolster an otherwise unconvincing case. But it can hardly lie in the mouth of the Opposition to the Government to criticise us on this ground. The effect of our action has been to increase the opportunity of Parliamentary discussion beyond even that which Parliament has provided.
Though most noble Lords opposite—I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was one—sought to discover a constitutional point behind what was done, I would have said, with respect to the noble Lord, who is a master of such subjects, that this point was even more empty. Parliament has decided that power to pay these grants should be available for a period of ten years, and that schemes under the Act embodying changes among other things covering this purpose can be made by means of Affirmative Resolution at any time during those ten years. Unless it is going to be argued seriously that when Parliament said this it meant the opposite, and that the financial provisions of the scheme could not be altered at any time after the Bill had passed the House of Commons, there can be neither rhyme nor reason in this so-called constitutional argument. It is a mere figment of the ingenuity of noble Lords opposite. The plain fact is that if we had wanted to withhold information of the change till the scheme was launched we should 827 have been fully within our rights, and that by announcing it in May before your Lordships' Committee stage we voluntarily provided the Opposition with an argument which they would not otherwise have had but which has no relevance to the merits of the Amendment they were seeking to support.
I now come to the policy of the noble Lords who criticised the Government themselves. Of course, the House will, as I have explained, have yet another opportunity of discussing the policy when the scheme comes before it by way of a Motion for Affirmative Resolution. But whatever the merits of the policy of discrimination against foreign vessels may be, it is surely unarguable, I would have said, that the House should seek to insert in an Act of Parliament a provision not merely permitting but requiring the Government to break our Treaty obligations. It is also to my mind clear—and I would submit it was clear enough—that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this regard is not merely the only policy which we can honourably defend as signatories of GATT and EFTA and prospective signatories of the Treaty of Rome, of which such an eloquent supporter last year was the noble Lord, Lord Boothby—
§ LORD BOOTHBY
Can the noble Viscount point to any provision in the Treaty of Rome which requires one participating country to subsidise the industries of another?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I can point to a provision of the Treaty of Rome preventing discrimination of the kind the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has been supporting in this case, and that must be well within the noble Lord's own knowledge. But it is not only on these Treaty grounds that I would support the course we are asking the House to follow; it is the only rational policy to pursue in the interests of this country.
We still give a number of subsidies in this country. We give subsidies to farmers for ploughing and for building and other capital improvements. We give subsidies to the cotton industry for re-equipment with new machinery. We give a somewhat involuntary subsidy to the railways and the mines for their capital investment. We do not say to the farmer, "You must not use foreign 828 steel in your grant-aided building. You must not have an American plough." We do not say to the cotton manufacturer, "You must not buy Swiss or Swedish machinery". And, in point of fact, they often do. We do not say to the railways or mines, "You are confined to British goods". I do not doubt it is true when the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, says, as he did, that the British yards (I think he mentioned the Scottish yards) are efficient. If so, they have nothing to fear. They have the in-built protection of neighbourliness, convenience, proximity and national sentiment, which certainly in Scotland is not lacking. I am informed that in the class of un-subsidised trawlers out of 70 orders only about 7 went abroad, and that largely owing to difficulties of delivery, which no longer exist. But when it is sought not merely to remove competition but to remove also the chance or any possibility of competition, I would say myself that restrictiveness has gone too far.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, did quite certainly go too far when he said in his speech, which I will quote [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 241 (No. 90), col. 493]:I have a certain experience, extending over quite a long period, of the fishermen of this country, and they are passionately opposed to it.He certainly went too far then. His speech in your Lordships' House received an immediate and "dusty" answer from the fishermen of Buckie, who wrote the very next day in support of the Government's policy. The material part of their letter read as follows:The Government proposal is simply that fishermen should be allowed to go abroad to have their boats built. If the North-East Shipbuilders are competitive they would still get our orders; but, judging from the prices being charged today, many of us feel that it is about time that some outside competition was introduced. Why should Buckie fishermen have to shop in the dearest market?
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, that was a disgraceful statement and one which could have come only from Buckie.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I am afraid that I have two more "disgraceful" statements emphatically to read to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. Although in perhaps less rumbustious 829 language than the other fishermen they express exactly the same view. I now have a message from the Clyde fishermen, who have said:There has been a very definite feeling amongst our members, rightly or wrongly, that the prices quoted by British yards would have been a good deal cheaper had it not been for the grants and loans scheme.Only to-day I was shown a letter from the Federation of English and Welsh Inshore Fishermen, who have a certain importance, as well as the Scots. The writer of this letter says:Having some knowledge of the proposed Common Market I feel that this Federation is not against the Government's proposals in their present form.So much for Lord Boothby's accuracy, in his claims for the fishermen of the country who are passionately on his side!
I would say that subsidies nearly always need some justification. They are not always in the public interest. Where they are in the public interest it is surely when they promote efficiency and competitiveness. The supporters of the restriction appear to want subsidy irrespective of efficiency, and even where it would interfere with competitiveness. Of course the Government do not wish to encourage a perverse preference for foreign yards. Hence the provision which we have announced, which requires that British builders must be given an equal chance and also be invited to tender in cases where a tender from a foreign yard is sought; and hence, also, the statement of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place with regard to subsidised yards. Since what he then said may go far to remove some of the anxieties of noble Lords opposite I shall quote it later.
It is said that between 1947 (when we became parties to GATT) and the present day, the schemes contained a prohibition against foreign yards. As a fact, as I have already explained, that is true, although the schemes were then confined to the smaller boats. If this were to be used as a criticism of the Government for having remained in technical breach of our treaty obligations for so long, I would understand its relevance. But what I do not, with respect, understand is the attempted use of the argument in favour of perpetuating the 830 breach after it has been drawn to our attention.
Noble Lords may be perfectly certain that, after the publicity which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has attracted to this matter, eager eyes will be seeking to see what happens to this Amendment. I wish that noble Lords who support the Amendment would really apply their minds to the great damage to this country such an insistence on a continued breach could be, not merely as throwing doubt upon our willingness to keep our promises, but as cutting the ground from under our feet when we seek to enforce these promises against others. On balance, we suffer from discriminating practices more than most countries. How can we protect our own exports against foreign discrimination if, whenever a lobby can be found that thinks itself aggrieved, this House of Parliament is to be persuaded to insist on the Government breaking its obligations in order to gratify them? We are an exporting nation. Among other things we have exported, and wish to export, ships. Our interest is to end discrimination, and to build up a shipbuilding industry which can retain its rightful place in the international field. How can we do this if the policy which is being pressed upon us is followed?
There is another and more pressing argument. Obviously, where British builders are in the field and are competitive we want the work to go to them. But one of the main purposes of extending grants to ships of all sizes—that is, to distant-water trawlers—was expressed to be to help the owners of these fishing boats to break with tradition and to equip themselves with new types of vessels, such as freezer-trawlers which are larger and more expensive than the conventional distant-water trawler, and are not always available in British yards. Surely it is obvious that, while nobody wants these orders to go abroad, to restrict the use of subsidies or loans in the way proposed could have the effect of interfering with the very policy which the Bill is designed to encourage.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, as I have said, made great play at the last debate of speaking on behalf of the fishermen. I have already adverted to the accuracy, or want of accuracy, in the first part of the statement. So far as the 831 boat builders for whom he also claimed to speak are concerned, I should prefer the views of one of a deputation which came to see my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport about this very matter—quoted in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
On June 5, 1962. It was a report appearing in the Scotsman. It says that a deputation of of the Shipbuilding Conference and the Ship and Boat Builders National Confederation called on the Minister of Transport to protest. Their comments afterwards ranged from "fairly satisfactory" to "a very good meeting indeed". There was the further comment which I should like to quote:As one member of the deputation put it later, All we want is a fair crack of the whip and not to be put at a disadvantage by foreigners' … lest there is any misunderstanding about consultation with the shipbuilding industry I want to make it quite clear that this matter was dealt with in the meeting with the Minister.The fact is that those who support this prohibition are doing a poor service to British boat-builders by the suggestion implicit in their case that British builders will not be able to compete on equal terms for this business with foreign yards. As my right honourable friend pointed out in another place, orders from foreign yards by British shipowners have now dropped to a trickle. Nearly half the orders recently booked in British yards have been export orders. The smaller yards have, in addition, the immense advantage of local convenience and sentiment to which I have referred.
There is only one other point I would add. Fears have been expressed about unfair competition from foreign yards which have been subsidised. On this my right honourable friend gave an unequivocal assurance in another place on June 8 in these words:I can most certainly assure the House that we can and will ensure that our grants will not be used in such a way that the competitive position of British yards will be prejudiced by competition from yards abroad which can be shown to be in receipt of a material element of subsidy. I want the House to realise that this is an assurance which we can give quite deliberately and categorically, and I think it 832 should meet the fears expressed by my honourable friends who have dealt with this matter so cogently.My Lords, I should have thought that this was an assurance which should set at rest many of the doubts which were sincerely expressed on the last occasion.
In those circumstances, I would beg the House to have second thoughts about this matter. I do so without doubt and for the following reasons. It is surely derogatory to the honour of this country to compel it by Act of Parliament to break its international obligations (in EFTA and GATT, and its prospective obligations under the Treaty of Rome). Surely the maintenance of these obligations is essential to the trading interests of the country as an exporting nation and not least to the shipbuilding industry itself. Surely adequate safeguards are given by the Government in the shape of assurances that British builders will be, to quote again the member of the deputation:given a fair crack of the whip and not to be put at a disadvantage by foreigners.It is not, I believe, to the interests of British industry that it should be taught to rely on import restrictions and not on competitive efficiency for the sale of its products. It is to the interest of the fishing interests that they should use the financial advantages given by the Bill with due regard to national pride and patriotism but also in the purchase of equipment which will keep them in the forefront of efficiency against their own foreign competitors. My Lords, this is a relatively small matter. But small matters can often be of importance as testing our resolution to carry out a sane economic policy. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 4, line 40, leave out from ("apparatus") to end of line 42.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
The noble Viscount was kind enough to let me know that he might deal rather critically with my speech of June 5. I have to thank him for his "soft glove" attitude towards anything I may have said. It could be an ordeal to follow the noble and learned Viscount, if he had not worn gloves, but to have a threat hanging over one's head for two or three weeks as to what may be coming is rather more than a very 833 nervous young politician can bear. He certainly has been very slightly critical, but much more of my noble friend Lord Boothby than of me. I thank him again. Of course, the noble Viscount, as is usual, has used all his undoubted talents to persuade the boys of his own brigade from joining the wrong department, but I think to-day he has failed to justify the case for which he stands. In my humble opinion he has failed completely to provide adequate answers to the many submissions made on June 5, submissions that were provoked through lack of information and far too much secrecy on the part of the Government. I cannot blame the noble Viscount for that for, as I understand it, he knew little or nothing about it. He knows a little more about it to-day because he has read the same speech that I read, made in the House of Commons on June 8. But what the noble Lord succeeded in doing in his speech was to compel us to re-emphasise what we felt on June 5—and that was to undo what his Ministerial colleagues had done, or the opposite way round. He could not possibly have justified their inept muddle-headedness in handling this particular problem.
To-day the noble and learned Viscount, in a very short speech for him, really made three speeches rolled into one. At one moment he was prosecuting counsel, with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in the dock, and I beside him. At the next moment he was defending counsel, defending his colleagues; and, of course, he had to try to justify the Amendment. It is sometimes a very great pleasure to sit here and watch the noble Viscount enjoying "the exuberance of his own verbosity", and noble Lords opposite scarcely realise what they miss on odd occasions. We ought to pay for our seats here, since we get all the fun. To-day's performance was not quite the usual one, but was still worth seeing—a sort of mixture of self-inflicted physiotherapy and verbal jumping crackers. Quite obviously, the noble Viscount has decided to follow his own advice. If he cannot lead the Conservative Party from the front, well, he thinks it is better to whip them up from behind with all the Whips available. But it is a merciful blessing that not all noble Lords opposite are the patient 834 oxen that perhaps the noble Lord thinks they ought to be. In any case, with such special pleading as we have heard this afternoon, I think he failed to secure a conviction against those who voted for the Amendment on June 5.
I think he was unsuccessful also in defending the Government for their inexplicable fumbling with this minor problem, which could now be a major problem. Indeed, I fear that if the noble Viscount were paid on to-day's results he would be in debt. But if I exaggerated the force of what was expressed on June 5 (which I deny), or used intemperate language, it was entirely due to lack of information which only the Government could have supplied. But as they chose silence on this matter, they must accept responsibility for what happened on that occasion and for what I hope will be repeated here again this afternoon. I cannot accept the assumption of the noble Viscount that we were not entitled to reach conclusions and to express them, especially when they were based upon reasons which were fully and frankly explained to the House. Those conclusions may have been wrong, but they may have been right. At least we are entitled to express them as freely as the noble Viscount expresses his views on almost every occasion.
But let me restate the position as briefly as I can, as I see it. The noble and learned Viscount was, as your Lordships know, trained to see both sides of a case, and he can usually put both sides of a case, too, particularly the one that best suits him. But to listen to the noble Viscount on occasion one would imagine that my noble friends and some noble Lords opposite had been indulging in a conspiracy against the Government. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. What was the origin of the difficulty to the Government that occurred on June 5? Nothing for which my noble friends could be blamed, or, for that matter, any other Party. The Bill was welcomed in another place in November of last year; it received an unopposed Second and Third Reading on November 14 and on May 1 this year; on May 17 it received an unopposed Second Reading in this House. So far not a ripple on the waters: all were for the Bill, so far as they understood it, and there was no alteration. 835 After June 17 the chances were that the Bill would have been on the Statute Book to-day, but the Government had to intervene, and I will deal with that point in a moment.
To show the feeling of my noble friends and other noble Lords, I may point out that there are 38 clauses in this Bill and 12 closely printed pages of Schedules, yet only two Amendments were put on the Order Paper for discussion on June 5. This shows that Members in all parts of the House wanted the Bill; they welcomed it and promised to help it to the Statute Book as soon as possible. So there was no chicanery or conspiracy against the Government. But all this time, six months in all, members of all Parties were under the impression that grants and loans were for shipping vessels and engines built in the United Kingdom—merely an extension for ten years of what had been happening since 1944, except that, as the noble and learned Viscount said this afternoon, deep-sea trawlers exceeding 140 feet in length are now excluded.
Then, on May 18, the very day after the Bill received its Second Reading in your Lordships' House, the Government announced a new policy. And how did they announce that new policy? Not in the ordinary way, by recommitting the Bill to Committee so that a discussion could take place and an explanation be given, such as was supplied on June 8 in another place, and as we have had again this afternoon. Honourable Members of another place were not only astonished but utterly confused about the procedure that had been followed. The noble Viscount said this afternoon that it was the normal procedure. I am going to try to show that there was nothing normal in it at all.
During the six months that the Bill was passing through all its stages and securing its Third Reading in another place, and its Second Reading in your Lordships' House, not one word had been uttered about the new policy of providing grants and loans for ships and engines produced in foreign countries. Now the Bill had left another place and—this, my Lords, is very important—unless an Amendment was moved and carried in your Lordships' House, there could be no discussion in another place 836 on the new policy introduced by the Government. Whether the new policy was good, bad or indifferent is not in question at the moment. What I am concerned about is to show the procedure followed by the Government. The noble Viscount implied it was the right procedure, the proper procedure, the usual one, which I do not think is the case.
The Amendment was moved and carried, which made it possible to have a debate on the new policy in another place. Noble Lords are now invited this afternoon to pass an Amendment, which the noble Viscount moved, to prevent a discussion in another place on the new policy. That is what we object to. All we learned on that Friday when the announcement was made, after practically all Members had gone to their homes, arose from two Answers to Questions put in another place. One indicated that there had been no consultation with shipbuilding interests, because the Minister in answer said that there was no need for consultations. It is true, as the noble Viscount has said this afternoon, that there was a deputation to see the Minister of Transport, but only after the door to discussion had been closed in another place, when there was no possibility of receiving an explanation except on an Adjournment Motion, which took place on June 8 in another place. The second point was that the new policy was in the interests of our fishermen, and the observance of our international obligations. But there was no discussion, no explanation, and honourable Members in another place, as well as your Lordships, were in a state of confusion, because there had been no discussion at all.
I said in an earlier debate that the Government are quite entitled to amend any Bill in any way they like, so long as they secure a majority in favour of the Amendment. But what we deny is the right of the Government to withhold essential information from either House of Parliament, until it is too late to discuss it or amend it, should amendment be necessary. As I see it, it is a violation of normal Parliamentary practice. That is exactly what the Government did, and that is the real origin of this dispute. It was nothing that was done by my noble friends; only what 837 was not done by the Government itself—not providing facilities for discussion where the discussion should have taken place, and that is in another place. No discussion was possible at all.
If a change of policy was really necessary on economic grounds, or inevitable on international grounds, why did the Government not take Parliament into its confidence, explain the reason, rely upon the loyalty and good sense of Members, and recommit the parts of the Bill back to a Committee in another place? Why leave Members of both Houses of Parliament in ignorance of what the possible consequences of the new policy might be, either for good or ill? That is just what the Government did. They left Members of both Houses of Parliament in ignorance, no full statement having been made, until a Division had taken place in this House. What were the Government afraid of?
The noble Viscount passed by very gently the secrecy and the silence. I do not see why the Government should have been hesitant or afraid to tell the full story. After all, they have a majority of 100 in another place—and sometimes they have a majority in your Lordships' House. Were they therefore afraid of the Orpingtons, Middlesbroughs and lost deposits, and what might follow? It seems to me that the Government had everything to gain from telling both Houses of Parliament the full story, the story we have heard this afternoon, which was no more full than it really ought to have been. After all, to act in this manner is not government by the courageous and confident. It seems to me to be more government by the timid, doubtful and furtive, and the longer they linger in a state of dither the more West Lothians they are likely to get.
My Lords, I should like to say one word about the Amendment. If it is carried this afternoon there can be no realistic debate in another place. There can be no realistic debate in the sense that, following a discussion, there could be an Amendment. I repeat that if it is carried there can be no debate, and that was our charge on June 5 on the Committee stage, for that is what this Amendment this afternoon is designed to achieve: to prevent discussion in 838 another place. That is what noble Lords are invited to vote for, to create a gag in another place, which is supposed to be the place where the money is found. Despite what the noble Viscount said this afternoon, I still regard the procedure pursued by the Government as very doubtful Parliamentary practice, having regard to all the circumstances. As noble Lords are aware, an Affirmative Resolution must be passed by both Houses of Parliament, and there can be a debate. However, there can be no Amendments, whatever the House may feel about it; and to oppose the new policy would involve my noble friends, and perhaps many other noble Lords, in opposing something with which they agree up to 95 per cent.
I realise that this is supposed to be the normal practice, and that the words of this Bill are no different from the words of any other Bill of its kind. But this is not a normal case; I think it is abnormal in every sense of the word after what has happened over the last six months, when Members of another place have had no opportunity of discussing on Second Reading, Committee, Report or on Third Reading the new policy that was announced on May 18. To allow a precedent of this kind to be established could lead to every conceivable kind of political "jiggery" and "pokery", and the noble Viscount, whom I regard as a great Parliamentarian, is the last person in your Lordships' House whom I should expect to agree with this procedure. I remember an occasion many years ago, when the coal owners of Yorkshire and the miners were in conflict. The miners had the temerity to expect higher wages for abnormal work. Piece rates were always fixed for what was regarded as the normal coalface, but geological conditions can change rapidly. What to-day is normal can become abnormal to-morrow. In the High Courts in London, after a lot of legal argument backwards and forwards, the president of the Yorkshire Miners' Association was finally called into the witness box and was asked a very simple question: how would he interpret an abnormal place? The president of the Yorkshire Miners' Association said: "A place that is not normal"—and the case was over. The miners won their extra pay because it was abnormal, not 839 normal. This case is not normal, either. A Bill has been roaming around in another place for five and a half months, comes here and gets its Second Reading, and the door is closed to any discussion in another place. To that extent—whatever the words of the Bill may be—it is still an abnormal situation. I am afraid that if the noble Viscount had to justify his stand this afternoon in a court of law, he would be a failure. However, the noble Viscount seems to imagine that there is nothing abnormal in the procedure over the last six months. In my view, everything has been abnormal.
One final word about international obligations. I would ask of the noble Viscount the question that was put in another place: why change it at this particular moment? We have been in open breach of Article III of GATT for many years, presumably for balance-of-payments reasons. In another place the Secretary of State said on the 8th of this month [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 661 (No. 130), col. 851]:It is true that, as yet, there has been no formal complaint against us under either the G.A.T.T. or the E.F.T.A Convention in regard to this matter. Nevertheless, there have been inquiries …If the inquiries had gone further, could we not have applied for a waiver if it was felt necessary so to do? Or are we to take it that our balance-of-payments troubles are all at an end? And, if that is so, how does the noble Viscount still justify the pay pause and other painful restrictions, such as the 15 per cent. tax on toffee apples and ice cream? Surely the Government cannot expect to have it both ways.
The noble Viscount started this debate in a mood highly critical of some of the things that were said on June 5. He nearly bubbled over with righteous and unrighteous indignation; but I think he failed to sustain his attitude by logical and reasonable arguments for holding to the belief that there is nothing abnormal about the Parliamentary procedure adopted by the Government over the last few weeks. He failed, in my opinion, for one simple reason: because he had been given an impossible task. He was trying to cover up the inept, fumbling, dithering attitude of his colleagues. He was trying to defend a very dangerous Parliamentary precedent; and at the same time he was supporting a policy that 840 could be extremely damaging to some of our smaller shipbuilding yards. No, my Lords; I see no reason at all for retracting one word uttered on June 5, when the Government were defeated by that vast majority of one. To-day, I am more convinced than ever that we were perfectly right in our judgment on June 5, and we have no alternative but to proceed to the Division Lobby to register our protest here this afternoon.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, at the outset of the few remarks I propose to make perhaps I might be allowed to add a word of very warm welcome from the Gross-Benches to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on his return to this House fully restored to health.
My Lords, one of the few pleasures left to me in life is to listen to my noble friend, the noble Viscount who leads this House, when he is in a mood of high moral indignation. Some time ago I listened, fascinated, to him when he made a call for stern personal self-sacrifice at a moment when the "television boys", whose good fortune I myself could only envy, were raking in millions on a scale which had not been known in this country since the South Sea Bubble. To-day he has brought us sternly back to the course of duty with a reminder that we must abide by our international obligations, which the Government that he adorns have been happily breaking for at least ten years. There has been no change at all in the policy of Her Majesty's Government—and, indeed, of the Government which was its predecessor—since the grant and loan scheme was originally introduced. We never heard anything about GATT obligations—and we have been a member of GATT for twenty years; we never heard anything about EFTA obligations. I do not believe there has been any complaint from the Common Market countries about anything that we are going to do, or that there would be. This is a sudden invention: suddenly we have to stand by our international obligations. Well, if these obligations exist—and the noble Viscount has not convinced me that they do—no doubt we may have to do so. But I would say only that this grant and loan scheme, with which I am very familiar, has continued unchanged since the war without 841 any regard for GATT or for EFTA, and I do not believe that, if the truth is known, any specific complaints have ever been made by either.
Now, my Lords, what has happened? This Bill was passed through all its stages in the House of Commons without a word being said about the change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Five months elapsed. It was then given a Second Reading in this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barmburgh, has pointed out, again without a word being said. I want to submit to the noble Viscount (who is, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, has said, a great Parliamentarian) that the House of Commons has been denied an opportunity to pronounce judgment upon this question. Now I want to tell my noble friend the Leader of the House what charge will have to be met by those Members of Parliament supporting the Government in the fishing constituencies. They will have to meet the charge that Her Majesty's Government, of their own free will, are using the taxpayers' money to subsidise foreign boatbuilding yards, particularly in Sweden, Holland and Germany, at a moment when our own—
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Did he say that the Government would have to meet this charge from the fishermen? Surely it will be for the fishermen to decide whether the yards can produce what they want. There is no reason for them to go abroad.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
I was mentioning only the charge that Members of Parliament would have to meet from the fishing industry generally. The noble Lady knows as well as I do that at the moment there is great unemployment in the boat-building yards all around the coast, and particularly in Scotland—around the coast of Fife, right up to Aberdeenshire, and beyond. I could name fifteen to twenty places where the boat-building yards are empty now. They have not got anything; and they see these grants and loans made available for the construction of trawlers and of drifters in foreign yards.
It is a sharp change. If our own yards were bursting with activity and 842 prosperity and employment, I would say that it was not nearly so hard. But they are not. Our own boat-building yards are in a very bad way; and I repeat what I said on the last occasion: that it is not due to their alleged inefficiency. I do not think they are bad at all. They certainly view this proposition with very great concern and alarm; and it is certainly a question which these honourable Members in another place who represent, I will not say fishing constituencies, but constituencies on the coast, will have to face—and it will be a rough one to face. I can only submit to your Lordships, with unwonted humility, that this is a subject upon which the House of Commons should have the right to pronounce an opinion. They have not been given an opportunity to pronounce an opinion at all; they have been given no chance to face this charge.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, was so persuasive that I will withdraw the charge of trickery against Her Majesty's Government, and I will substitute the words, "devious tactics". I think that is what they have used in order to get this Bill through Parliament, without proper consultation with the House of Commons. Because I would repeat to your Lordships that the other place has never had an apportunity to discuss or pronounce its verdict or opinion upon this matter—and it is basically a financial question which, in my submission, it is their constitutional right to discuss. I therefore venture to suggest to your Lordships (I am not going into the merits of the argument again, because they are well enough known) that it is the constitutional duty of this House to give the other place an opportunity to pronounce a verdict upon this matter; and I shall then not hesitate to suggest that we should abide by the verdict of the other place.
My Lords, may I say a few words in support of the last part of the noble Lord's speech? It seems to me that the debate this afternoon has very much divided itself into two. The merits and the demerits of the Amendment which was carried by the Opposition, in general, are quite apart from the merits that we are discussing to-day. Perhaps I should disclose some interest, in that I am a director of a shipyard on the East coast of Scotland, and 843 therefore my political and my financial interests are rather sorely divided. But I am concerned not with the merits of this matter as they appear in the Bill, but with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby; that this matter has not been decided, and should have been decided, by the other House.
The Amendment was put to this House, quite properly, in Committee, where the Government happened to be beaten by one vote. The noble Viscount who leads the House told us why he could not be present; why the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, could not be present, and why the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor could not be present; but he has not really explained why any of his 800 other colleagues could not be present. Therefore, this decision having been come to, quite properly, in Committee, it is really rather dangerous that this procedure should be followed; that, because a decision did not suit the Conservative Party, the matter should be brought up again and perhaps 800 Members brought down to deal again with the same question and reverse what this House has already decided.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I did not understand the noble Lord's argument. Is he suggesting that neither on this occasion nor on the last occasion should the merits of the case be considered?
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us whether the Liberal Party still believes in Free Trade?
My Lords, I have not gone round to find out the opinions of the fishermen in my part of the world, but such notices as have reached me have assured me that the fishermen are whole heartedly behind Her Majesty's Government in this matter. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and also the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said about the constitutional issue, it seems to me that it is the duty of your Lordships, as a responsible House 844 of Parliament, to decide on the matters brought before it on their merits. It would be extremely undignified, and I think rather base, if your Lordships were to stultify yourselves in order to produce the effect asked for by noble Lords opposite. If the Government want to know, or other people want to know, what are the opinions of the Members representing fishing constituencies on this matter, surely they can arrange a debate on the subject in another place before the last stage of this Bill, or something like that.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me? Does he not think that the real basic issue here is that we want to know what is the opinion of the House of Commons on this matter?
My Lords, I realise that. In conclusion, I should like to say that I do not share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, of the people of Buckie, or of any of the Banff or Aberdeenshire ports, among whom I have been brought up and with whom the best part of my work still lies.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the situation is worse than the noble Lord Who has just sat down thinks. It has been established by my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh, as it was, indeed, in the previous discussion, that the obvious inference is that it was not until after the Third Reading of the Bill in another place and not until after the Second Reading in this place that it was announced, not verbally, not orally, but in answer to a Question for Written Answer on a Friday, that the course would be taken which is the centre of this dispute. So, my Lords, every precaution has been taken by Her Majesty's Government to sidestep and to cheat Parliament of its rights, and especially to cheat another place of its financial rights. Every elaborate precaution has been taken in order that that should be done; and I hope another place is appreciative of the action taken by your Lordships' House on that Amendment, with its majority of one, in order that the question could be raised.
Now the Government propose to reverse that decision in order, again 845 deliberately, elaborately, and with malice aforethought, to prevent another place from exercising its rights to control public finances—its exclusive rights to control public finances. That has been done deliberately. Listening to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, to whom I always listen with interest if not always with agreement, I must say that he made an able and forceful speech. In fact, he nearly convinced me that he meant what he was saying, it was so well and so persuasively delivered. But this is the situation in which we find ourselves: that if your Lordships, unwisely, as I think, carry the Amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the House, then the subject-matter will not be in the Bill when it reaches another place, and the Members there will not be able to discuss it. I think that is really a terrible thing.
But there is a still clearer point. If this Amendment is carried, then the Bill will pass this House in all respects exactly as it left another place, for no other Amendment has been carried. Therefore there will not be any question before another place that "This House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment." If there had been, I have sufficient confidence in the capacity and resource of another place to believe that Members there would have found some means of discussing this matter. So this is another fraud, and this is known: that the Government do not want this Bill again to be seen at all in another place.
My Lords, I really think that this is a scandal, and I still say that it is a constitutional scandal. For it is constitutionally not playing the game to take these elaborate and malicious steps to prevent the House of Commons, as the guardian of public finances, from having any voice in the matter at all. And now the Whips Department have been elaborately whipping up noble Lords who were not here before to vote on something about which they—or many of them—have heard no previous discussion. I would invite those noble Lords to examine their consciences as to whether they ought to stay. They were not here during the previous discussion; why should they be dragged here, by their necks, or their hairs, whatever it is, to reverse a decision in which they took no part previously? This is one of the things which used to bring 846 the House of Lords into disrepute, and I think it is a very great pity.
This House was nearly deprived of its rights, and it would have been if it had not been for the initiative of noble Lords on this side of the House. The House of Commons has been, up till now, completely deprived of its rights on this financial matter. It is said by the Leader of the House that we gain from the consideration of being non-discriminatory in these matters. But it is a new aspect of non-discrimination that we have to pay a subsidy to foreign shipyards in order to make them more effective in competition with us. Because that is what is being done. It is one thing to be equalitarian and non-discriminatory in the matter—though that is arguable—but if, in addition to the so-called nondiscrimination, we have to pay money into the pockets of foreign shipbuilders, this is a new brand of patriotism to come from the Conservative Party. I wonder what the late Joseph Chamberlain would have thought about this. He wanted protective tariffs to keep out foreign goods. This Government want to give money to foreign producers to bring ships into this country. It is a funny Government. I think it is a suicide club. It is a most extraordinary institution. I must confess I do not understand it.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the House said that this was reciprocal; that other countries had undertaken to be non-discriminatory as well. But have other countries agreed to pay subsidies to British shipbuilders to build ships in competition with their own production? Could somebody tell us that? I would give way, if anyone could give us an answer to that now. The noble Viscount does not answer. I do not blame him. There are some times when silence is golden.
This is more a straight-forward constitutional issue than it is a Party political issue. It is a question of the decent treatment of Parliament. It so happens that, in this instance, the House of Commons have a greater grievance than this House, because of their authority over public finances. I would appeal to noble Lords opposite to take the wider constitutional issue into account. This House has been getting on reasonably well with the House of Commons for 847 quite a few years and various noble Lords have the right to take credit for it. Surely, at this stage, we do not want to open up a constitutional issue of some significance, that is liable to cause trouble between this House and another place. For this Amendment must have the effect of preventing the House of Commons from having any voice on this financial matter. That is the purpose of the Amendment. I appeal to noble Lords opposite to think twice before they go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I even urge them, if possible, to come into the Lobby against this Amendment, in the interests of Parliamentary fairness and constitutional rectitude.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, I must join issue with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in calling this a constitutional scandal. No such thing as a constitutional scandal is possible. One must change the Constitution, if one thinks it is behaving in a scandalous manner. It is perfectly constitutional. That does not mean that I necessarily like it. I know that the noble Lord is a great Parliamentarian. In the past, we have been together for many years. But a constitutional scandal is a novelty to me—and a scandalous novelty. The noble Lord must change the Constitution, that is all. I would have spoken earlier, but owing to noble Lords sitting in front of me I was partly obscured, and there was the noble Lord's loquacity. As for the Government's being a suicide club, I do not think that the noble Lord is the right person to complain. I am the sort of person who ought to complain, because I wish they would stop cutting their own (something) necks. I am going to back the Government on this issue. As I said on June 5, I do not like giving money to foreign shipyards. If Parliament agreed to subsidising the building of a new Cunarder in a foreign shipyard, there would be considerable feeling.
I should like to ask again what I asked on June 5, and I should be obliged if whoever replies for the Government could help to enlighten me. Clause 1 extends the white fish and herring subsidies to vessels engaged in processing 848 and transporting white fish. Salmon are not white fish. Therefore, is it right and proper that our own boats should receive subsidies in order to drift net for salmon, which is not the purpose of the Bill as explained in paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, when I spoke briefly on this matter on Committee stage, I confessed that I was not particularly knowledgeable on that aspect which relates to procedure. I cannot make the same claim to-day, after the noble Viscount has spent the first fifteen minutes of his speech defending the Government against the charge which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has now reduced to one of "devious tactics". Though I ought to be more knowledgeable, I remain quite confused as to the merits the Government are claiming for their attitude. The noble Viscount said that he did not claim any merit for the fact that a statement was made in time to enable this House in Committee to discuss it. Perhaps it was just as well that he did not claim any merit, because he is objecting strenuously to the Committee's having exercised the right to debate it in the only way we could, by tabling an Amendment to alter the provisions of the Bill.
That the Government did not particularly anticipate that any discussion was to take place was obvious when the Amendment was discussed, because the Minister who then spoke for the Government was unable to give any information about whether representations had been made by any foreign Government against the procedure presently existing, or whether any representations had been made from fishermen anywhere in the country. The best he could do was to say that information would be available at the next stage of the proceedings in the House. It was obvious that the Government neither anticipated nor prepared for any discussion at that stage in your Lordships' House.
The noble Viscount said that it would be quite derogatory to the honour of this country deliberately to write into a Bill a provision requiring us to break our international obligations. Only two things can arise from that statement. 849 First, that from 1951 to 1960 the Government were breaking our international obligations because they were not aware of their existence. I cannot believe that a Government which includes so many distinguished Parliamentary figures are going to suggest seriously that from 1951 to 1960 they did not know what our obligations were. If they did not know, then the Government are laying themselves open to the second and. I think, the greater charge, that while it may be derogatory to the honour of this country deliberately to write into a Bill an intention to break an international obligation, there is nothing derogatory about doing it by stealth. In other words, the crime is not to do the thing; it is to be found out. Then, if I heard him properly, the noble Viscount said that the representation had been made by Sweden in 1960. I am not absolutely certain, but I think he said 1960. Am I right about that?
§ LORD HUGHES
If that be the case, would it not have been more in keeping with the point of view expressed by so many Members of your Lordships' House, if the Government knew as far back as 1960 that they were, in fact, in breach of their obligations, and that representations had been made against them or questions had been submitted which were going to compel them to alter their policy, if they could have informed Parliament of their intention to make an alteration any time after 1960, and certainly not wait until May 18, 1962, to make the statement?
The noble Viscount spent a great deal of the second part of his speech in answering the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and he said that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, had received a very "dusty answer" from the fishermen of Buckie. That, I think, is perfectly true. But the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, is not the only person who gets "dusty answers"; and some of us do not have to go to Buckie to get them; some of us get them here in your Lordships' House. In a debate on May 21, on a Scottish problem, when I raised the question of the unfair treatment which was being given to the North of Scotland in relation to transport matters, I received an answer from 850 the noble Lord, Lord Mills, which I would characterise as being a pretty "dusty answer". In fact, as we say in Scotland, I "got my nose cut" from the noble Lord, Lord Mills, when, in answer to my complaint about the treatment, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240 (No. 81) col. 822]:… I have become a little case-hardened over these unhappy pictures of Scotland. I meet them in so many connections. My own experience is that the Scots are very well able to look after themselves.Later on in the debate I said that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Mills, had been a little unwise to admit to this feeling. Many of us had suspected that Members of the Government are case-hardened to Scottish problems but it was the first time that any of them had come out openly and said that that was how they felt. But he proved he was right when he said that the Scots were well able to look after themselves, because the very first opportunity the Scots got after that was the West Lothian by-election. And what did they do?—they fined the Government £150.
I was a Scot before I was a politician, and if I regarded it as being important to support my Party, rather than to support my country, I should be perfectly happy that the Government should go on doing things like this, because it would be the quickest way of getting them out. But, after all, it is obvious that the Government are not going to hold a General Election any earlier than they find it convenient to do so; and I do not think it is a fair price that I, as a Scot, should connive at the Government doing this sort of thing to the boat-building industry in Scotland and elsewhere just because it will get them out a bit faster. I would much rather have this matter put right at this stage.
I am still in the position that I am not so concerned about the procedure that is being adopted, although I have certainly had a lot of enlightenment about that in these two days. I am more concerned with the merits of the proposal, and I think the noble Viscount who leads the House is being less than fair to your Lordships when he says that the proper procedure is to deal with the matter when the order comes before Parliament, and reminds us that the order will be subject to an Affirmative Resolution. He might have gone a 851 little further and told us what is likely to happen if we seek to have the order altered at that stage. We should then be told—and we shall be told if we seek to do so: "You will lose the whole order. You must take it or leave it; and if you seek to have it altered you risk throwing out the whole question of grants to the fishing industry." Because, as I understand it, the order cannot be amended; it has to be taken or rejected in its entirety. So I do not think the noble Viscount is offering a fair alternative to discussion by either House of Parliament on this issue.
It seems to me that this country and the northern part of this country (if that is a way of putting it which commends itself to those of your Lordships who do not come from Scotland), have enough to contend with these days without the Government going out of their way to make things more difficult. At one stage the Government spokesman suggests that the shipyards have nothing to fear from fair competition from yards abroad, and then the noble Viscount quotes as justification for his answer the letter which came from the fishermen of Buckie suggesting that the boatyards of Scotland are getting the business by gross overcharging and the fishermen are not having a fair deal. You cannot have it both ways; they cannot be paragons of virtue and, at the same time, pirates.
If there is a real international difficulty, I am sure that there are other ways of getting round it, and of getting round it in a proper fashion. Surely the best opportunity of finding that out is to permit this Bill to go back in the state that it presently stands to another place, so that they, with the financial responsibility and financial power, can decide whether they wish, in the knowledge of all the facts as they are now available, to restore the Bill to the condition in which they sent it to your Lordships' House. If they decide to do that, then I am perfectly certain that none of us on these Benches will seek to overturn the decision of another place. If, on the contrary, they think, as so many Members of your Lordships' House think, that they would not have sent the Bill in this form if they had had all the information, then I feel they are entitled to have the opportunity of saying so.
852 Finally, I would say that I thought it a bit unfair of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, to twit the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for not giving an explanation of the absence of some 800 of his colleagues. After all, looking from here at the Benches opposite one must admit that either the noble Viscount or somebody else has done his best to remedy the situation this afternoon.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, speaks on the subject, I should like to say a word. I was one of those who was prevented from attending the House when the Amendment was carried against the Government, but I do not mind saying that I should have voted against the Government on that occasion. But before I go further, am I not right in saying that, if this Amendment today is not carried, the Bill will go back to another place, and that the provisions in it which affect salmon cannot then come into effect in September? Perhaps when the matter is further referred to I may be made clear on that point.
My own feeling is that a bit of political manœuvring is going on. I cannot believe that all these accusations of malice, and the like, can really hold water; that Members of another place have had the wool pulled over their eyes, and that sort of thing. I propose to vote for the Government to-day for the reason that, although I, like a great many other Members of your Lordships' House, do not like the idea of subsidies going to shipbuilders abroad, whatever ships they may be building, we must face the fact, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House brought out, that subsidies in fact do place orders on the order books of foreign manufacturers in other industries. Although I do not like it, the fact remains that this is what happens. It has a good effect upon the efficiency of industry in this country, and also upon the design of machines in this country. I suggest that this is rather a storm in a teacup. If it is a constitutional problem, which I doubt, then I, for one, will vote with the Government if only for the reason that, by doing so and passing the Bill in the form in which they wish, it will enable the provisions controlling drift-netting to come into force at the earliest possible moment.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, looking round the House, it does not seem likely that many more Peers want to speak, and perhaps we ought to bring this debate to a conclusion because other business is to follow. I have listened very carefully to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, and I did not hear a single argument that I could honestly say would convince me of the Tightness of the position of the Government in this matter. I have been perhaps outspoken on a previous occasion. I do not make any apology for that, but I want to face up to one or two simple things.
The first is this. In my last intervention in the House on this matter I said that it was an insult to the shipbuilding industry of this country to pass such a measure and to send money outside to assist the building of ships in foreign countries. That remark was rather looked down upon; I seem to have hurt somebody's feelings in this House. But when I come to look at the debate in another place I find that on June 8 the Secretary of State for Scotland had to admit that, on the transport side of the matter at least, his right honourable friend—evidently meaning the Minister of Transport—had something of that kind in his mind. At the bottom of column 854 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for that date he said:It is true that at one time my right honourable friend was anxious about the ability of British builders to compete with certain foreign yards, but he has asked me to say that great change is taking place.I think that shows that the transport side of the matter, and action in this matter, sprang from the Ministry of Transport and, as the Secretary of State for Scotland said on June 8 quite specifically to the House of Commons, the Government had not been approached by either EFTA, by the shipbuilding industry or by the fishing industry. It was an act of Government. Upon whose recommendation? From this statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland, I find that it came from the Ministry of Transport. But, after all, he would be acting upon Cabinet authority and under instruction.
As I read through the debate, the speeches of noble Lords seem to bring 854 in every now and again that what is really wanted is a competitive industry and, therefore, if we put these subsidies abroad as well as at home we are likely to make the British industry more competitive. I hope that that argument is not going to be maintained this afternoon. What sort of an answer is it to the trade union case in the conference sitting on the East coast this afternoon?—the enginering industry, plus all the shipbuilding industry employees? What sort of case is that? I hope the Government are going to think over that again.
It was argued by the Secretary of State for Scotland in another place that of course completely normal procedure had been followed; that there was nothing unconstitutional, because quite normal procedure had been followed. Let us look at that argument. Under the appropriate sections of the Act of 1953, as under the 1944 provisions, in actually moving to a decision on what policy should be, and how much should be given, and when, you proceeded by statutory order. Therefore, it was said, because that was the case also in this Bill it was not necessary to inform Parliament what the policy was going to be. I must say that I can find many Statutes in which there is general provision for a certain financial policy to be undertaken and expressed by statutory orders. But never have I heard of a clause like this being put in a Bill without an argument in favour of the financial policy arising out of it. That is what happened in both Houses.
I put this point especially to the Leader of the House of Lords. There was not the slightest word in the House of Commons at any stage that there was to be any variation from the financial administration that was followed under the appropriate section in the Act of 1953. If you look at Clause 3 of this Bill it is fairly clear to me at any rate. Clause 3 (1) says:… shall be extended and shall have effect in accordance with, and subject to, the following provisions of this section.There is nothing in this clause which could have drawn the attention of any Member of the finance-controlling House to any change in financial policy, and there is nothing in any of the following subsections which would have justified that. Yet we are now told that a 855 statutory order is to be the process of doing it.
I wonder whether any learned former Member of the House of Commons in this House of Peers can remember a case in which grants, loans, financial gifts, call them what you like, have been administered by a Government on one of their own Bills passed into law, where what was proposed to be done was not given in detail to the appropriate House of Commons before any Statutory Order was issued. What are you going to do now? You will send this Bill back to the House of Commons, only to be ready for Royal Assent. There will be no Business done upon it. There will be no change to bring before the House of Commons. So it is a deliberate attempt, it seems to me, by going behind the decision of your Lordships' House itself to prevent any further discussion on the Bill arising in another place. I do not think that can be disputed. That is what arises out of any decision taken to-day to defeat the Amendment which was passed by your Lordships' House only two ox three weeks ago.
The third thing I want to say to your Lordships is this. I agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth that of late years there has been a considerable improvement in what I call relationships between the two Houses of Parliament. I attribute a great deal of the changed attitude on a number of questions and matters which arose first during the wax, and afterwards during the reign of a Labour Government, to the very conciliatory attitude adopted on both sides of the House, both by my respected and noble friend Lord Addison, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. Undoubtedly, in the difficult circumstances of that time, if there had been any sort of attempt to rush things, one way ox the other, without the proper financial authority of the House of Commons, there would not have been the progress that has been made in the relationships between the two Houses of Parliament.
I beg this House of Peers not to give what I heard again from my colleagues in the House of Commons when I was discussing it with them; that is, the opportunity of being able to say: "What has happened means that there 856 is a great change in the administration of a financial policy in a particular industry upon which we were never consulted in the passage of the Bill—no influence given—and upon which you in the House of Lords deliberately prevented us from having an Amendment before us which would give us a proper opportunity of debating it and casting our decision." I believe that that will be fatal to the development of future decent relationships between the two Houses of Parliament, and I beg all those who supported us last time to do so again; not now solely upon the point of the provision of our Amendment but upon the point of maintaining good relationships with the representative House and ourselves and giving them an opportunity to debate the matter afresh.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I do not think it would be desirable for me to speak at any length in exercising what I believe is the right of reply, as I moved the Motion.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, would the noble and learned Viscount advise me from his better knowledge? As this is an Amendment, I do not know that the noble Viscount has the right to reply.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I moved a Motion, and everybody in this House has a right to reply to the Motion which he himself has moved. Of course, if the House did not wish me to reply I would not do so, even though I have the right. But I have the right, because I proposed the Motion, and therefore it is appropriate that I exercise the right of reply, unless the House does not wish me to do so.
I am fortified, I think, in a desire to be extremely brief, because no really serious attempt has been made to answer the case which I sought to make in opening. It was attempted to be said that there was either the desire or the effect behind this Amendment to deprive the House of Commons of the right to discuss the policy. My Lords, that is precisely the opposite of the truth. The fact of the matter is that Parliament has provided that the financial policy under this Bill should be dealt with by an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses, and the policy will in fact be discussed 857 again in this House, but presumably first in the House of Commons at the appropriate moment provided for by the Act of Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will excuse me, I really cannot allow this to go on. Anyone would think that nobody but the noble and learned Viscount had any brains. What he is overlooking is this: that when the statutory order comes up, all one can discuss is the Order itself, accept it or throw it out. Nothing else. You are depriving the other place, the finance controlling House, of an opportunity to be able to move this Amendment and to carry it in the finance controlling House, when this sort of policy is announced, and not be left to the single issue upon the statutory order. The noble and learned Viscount knows that quite well.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
The noble Viscount is getting very indignant; perhaps he will allow me to continue the argument at the point where I was expounding it. It is precisely contrary to the truth to say that debate in the House of Commons on the policy is being prevented by this Amendment. A debate is necessary in the House of Commons on the policy before it can become law, a debate in the form in which Parliament of both Houses has laid it down in successive Acts, going over a series of Governments. Of course it is true, as the noble Viscount has reminded us in his interjection, and as noble Lords have said in the course of the debate, that an Affirmative Resolution should not in fact be amendable. It so happens that Parliament in this case has laid down that as the appropriate procedure. Personally, I am always unimpressed by the point whenever it is made, because most of us who have experience of Parliament know quite well that if a particular alteration in an Affirmative Resolution is made or desired by a House of Parliament it is perfectly competent to that House to make it clear that the Affirmative Resolution in the form proposed is unacceptable and why it is unacceptable. This is a pure piece of pedantry and there is no substance in it at all, and I can only describe it as a wholly misguided and even irresponsible attempt to try to blow up a constitutional issue between the two 858 Houses on a point which is plain almost beyond argument.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount keeps trying to overlook what was the procedure in the House of Commons on this Bill. He says that this has been settled by this Bill and the previous Act. But the Government did not give information on their changed policy, although they could have done so easily when the Bill was in another place, where Members could have moved an Amendment to the Bill and had it discussed. That opportunity will never be given to the House of Commons now unless you oppose the Amendment to-day.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I can assure the noble Viscount that I have overlooked nothing. He has now said three times that there was not the information available to the House of Commons and I have already explained three times that the reason for that is that this is dealt with by regulation and has been dealt with under successive Governments by Affirmative Resolutions when they are proposed.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount but I genuinely want to understand the point. I do not know the procedure under a statutory instrument in the House of Commons, but the noble Viscount told us in opening that the purpose of this Amendment was to avoid discrimination against foreign yards. I think that is quite good. Would the House of Commons be in a position to debate that issue of discrimination on a statutory instrument?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Most obviously that would be when an Order was before their House. I had hoped that I had dealt with that point. I must not overlook the extraordinary case of Liberal logic that we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Rea. He is himself a free trader, because his Party is notoriously, and has been for generations, a free trade Party. It follows, of course, that nothing could be more abhorrent to him than the policy which is contained in the Bill if it is not amended back to the form in which we received it. However, I think it went to his heart—because, of course, he is a 859 free trader—to support a protectionist Bill. He says, "Although I hate the policy, I am going to vote for it in order to give the House of Commons an opportunity to discuss the matter, which it would have in future under the Affirmative Resolution".
My Lords, I am not quite sure what the noble and learned Viscount means by that. I explained my personal dilemma, Which is why I did not support the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
If I misunderstood the noble Lord I can only apologise to him. I certainly understood from his speech this afternoon that he was proposing to vote against the Government on this Amendment.
The only other thing I want to say on the policy is that nobody has controverted the policy. Nobody has in fact suggested that this Amendment, if it were retained in the Bill, does not controvert our international obligations. It may be that we should be blamed for not putting the matter right before, but this can hardly be an argument against putting it right now. No one has really controverted the proposition that we are an exporting nation. Among other things, we wish to sell our ships abroad, and the effect of the policy of noble Lords opposite would be to make it impossible for us to prevent discrimination against ourselves. Nobody has really tried to controvert the argument
§ that I seriously presented, that it is a very poor service to British industry to try to make out that it can rely for the future not upon efficiency but upon artificial restrictions on foreign yards.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
The noble Lord knows perfectly well that we are not subsidising foreign shipyards by this policy. On the contrary, we hope and believe that the immense majority of orders will come here and that they will deserve to come here. I cannot help reminding the noble Lord of the complaint by fishermen, for whom on a previous occasion he claimed to be the spokesman, that a number of builders in this country depend on using the subsidy not for the purpose for which we are urging the Amendment but for helping them to boost their prices under cover of an artificial protection. It is for that status quo that the noble Lord has devoted this afternoon his undoubted Parliamentary talents. I must confess, frankly, that I consider this as a straight issue of intellectual integrity. There are no arguments I have heard to controvert the case I put before the House earlier.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 116; Not-Contents, 48.861
|Abinger, L.||Chelmsford, V.||Ferrier, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Chesham, L.||Feversham, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Coleraine, L.||Foley, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Colgrain, L.||Forester, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Colville of Culross, V.||Forster of Harraby, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Conesford, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Cornwallis, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Coutanche, L.||Freyberg, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Craigmyle, L.||Goschen, V.|
|Baillieu, L.||Craigton, L.||Gosford, E.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Crathorne, L.||Grenfell, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Davidson, V.||Guest, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Denham, L.||Hacking, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Derwent, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Devonshire, D.||Hampton, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Dormer, L.||Harris, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Dudley, E.||Hastings, L. [Teller.]|
|Boston, L.||Dundee, E.||Hawke, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Dynevor, L.||Hereford, V.|
|Brentford, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Home, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Effingham, E.||Horsbrugh, B.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Exeter, M.||Howe, E.|
|Carrinigton, L.||Falmouth, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Ferrers, E.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Ironside, L.||Merrivale, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jellicoe, E.||Mersey, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Jessel, L.||Mills, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Milverton, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Lambert, V.||Molson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Lloyd, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Soulbury, V.|
|Long, V.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Spens, L.|
|Lothian, M.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Luke, L.||Newton, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Lyle of Westbourne, L.||Rathcavan, L.||Swinton, E.|
|MacAndrew, L.||Reading, M.||Teynham, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Waldegrave, E.|
|Margesson, V.||St. Oswald, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Salter, L.|
|Addison, V.||Faringdon, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Greenhill, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Henderson, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Hughes, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Archibald, L.||Kenswood, L.||Swanborough, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Kilbracken, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Latham, L.||Uvedale of North End, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Lawson, L.||Walston, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Lindgren, L.||Williams, L.|
|Champion, L.||Listowel, E.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williamson, L.|
|Citrine, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Meston, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wise, L.|
|Darwen, L.||Peddie, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.