§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECERETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It proposes the continuance for a further period of twelve months of two whole Acts and parts of four others which would otherwise expire either on December 31 this year or March 31, 1967. The two well known, perhaps most important, are Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919, and Part I and the First Schedule to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. Your Lordships will recall that we had a very full debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, some two weeks ago in which these subjects were covered very well, and I feel you would not want me to say anything more about them now, particularly as nothing has happened in the last two weeks to alter what was then said.
I will content myself with making brief mention of the other four Acts. First, the Accommodation Agencies Act 1953 makes it an offence to charge a fee for supplying information about houses and flats to let. This Act was aimed against fraudulent house agencies which charged a fee for registering people's requirements and then supplied lists of so-called vacant accommodation. These lists were often inaccurate, out of date, and even unauthorised by the lessors. The kind of agencies at which the Act was aimed flourished, of course, where there was a scarcity of housing, and since, unfortunately, conditions have not yet improved 1388 to a point where the Act can be allowed to lapse—and this is particularly true of the London area and other big cities—it is necessary to continue it for another year.
With regard to the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955, I would simply say that the danger the Act was designed to meet, namely, a flood of "horror comics" which were coming into the country, is still as great as ever, and any relaxation of the law might well result in a recrudescence of a flood of filth. Hence, again, the Act's inclusion in the Schedule to the Bill.
Thirdly, the extension of Section 3 of the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act, 1959, has a two-fold function. It gives the Minister of Aviation powers to procure "articles required for the public service" in an emergency, and also retains in force the compulsory powers contained in Section 10 of the Ministry of Supply Act 1939, by which the Minister of Aviation can oblige firms who have accepted contracts at prices to be agreed to give him access to any documents or records relevant to fixing a fair and reasonable price.
Finally, I turn to Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964, which confers on the Secretary of State power to constitute a licensing planning area where there has been extensive war damage, and to establish for that area a licensing planning committee. The Secretary of State, of course, may bring licensing planning to an end in any area where he is satisfied that it has served its purpose. There are at present 18 licensing planning areas out of an original total of 33. The other 15 have been brought to an end over the years, with the local committees' consent, during the period from 1955 to 1963. The whole future of licensing planning is at the moment under consideration by Her Majesty's Government, but in the meantime it is necessary to continue the present Act for a further year.
My Lords, I have just briefly mentioned the intention. If I have not covered any points that noble Lords would like dealt with, I shall be pleased to answer them after I have heard what they have to say. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Stonham.)1389
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, as we had only the other day a very good and far-reaching debate on immigration, I certainly would not suggest that we need hold up the Second Reading of this Bill. I should like to press the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to tell us a little more, if he can, as to the time within which the Government will make up their mind on licensing planning. When I was Home Secretary I set up a Committee to consider the field of licensing planning. That Committee reported, if I remember rightly, more than a year ago, and I would express the hope that your Lordships will not be again asked twelve months hence to renew the existing provisions of the law without any indication as to when it may be put on a permanent footing.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, told us, I think, almost all that was necessary about the other measures that are to be continued, but I would remind your Lordships that the Accommodation Agencies Act, which has now been renewed annually for some twelve or thirteen years, was originally introduced in another place by my noble friend Lord Ilford, when he was there. I think he deserves a word of congratulation for having filled a gap in the law which at that time seemed liable to be only a temporary gap but has proved to be virtually a permanent one. I should have thought the Government might one day consider putting that Act, too, into the permanent law. Having said that, I welcome the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I desire to intervene for only one moment to thank my noble friend for what he has been good enough to say about the modest measure which I once introduced into another place. It is so many years ago that I had even forgotten its title. I was assured at the time I introduced it that it was unnecessary, and that there was no demand for the particular changes in the law which it made. The Act has lasted its time very well, and I am delighted to think that the noble Lord is proposing to continue it a little longer.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for his reference to the work of his noble friend Lord Ilford, 1390 in regard to the Accommodation Agencies Act. I can only say that it was necessary. It has the added great merit of having been about 100 per cent. successful in its operation. Whether it should be continued as a temporary measure from year to year or embodied in permanent legislation all depends on one's view of human cupidity and selfishness. If people did not attempt to take advantage of their fellows in this way there would be no need for this legislation; but it does appear, unhappily, that this Act will have to continue in this temporary form for some years to come, even if it is not embodied in permanent legislation.
With regard to Lord Brooke of Cumnor's mention of the Ramsay Willis Committee, it is true that they reported a little more than a year ago, because I remember that last year, when I had to move the Second Reading of this same Bill, we had not then had an opportunity to consider the Committee's report. The matter has been under very active consideration—a phrase with which the noble Lord will be familiar—during the whole of this year, and it is a matter we are still considering. The noble Lord will be aware perhaps that my honourable and learned friend Mr. Williams is proposing to introduce a Private Member's Bill in another place dealing with a particular aspect of this subject. On that, I cannot do more than repeat an assurance which has already been given in another place on behalf of the Government, that we shall give careful consideration to our attitude towards this Bill and take into account all the views that have been expressed upon it.
We are now about halfway, as it were, with the licensing authorities—18 are still in existence, out of 33. As the noble Lord will be aware, there are strong and divided views on this particular subject. But the Report of the Ramsay Willis Committee was of considerable value, and, while I cannot give any undertaking that I or some other noble Lord will not appear twelve months hence to perform the same task as I am now engaged upon, I can assure the noble Lord that we shall try hard to come to conclusions in this matter.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.